Music of the Month; Through Random Selection

The rest of the year is going to be rather chaotic, but when it has not been? Hence, the music has been selected via random play. I may regret it, but here we go.


When life gives you melons and all that. Or was it lemons?

Not the most season specific song, I admit, but hey, when it has been?  But let’s put the cards on the table.

Whatever this month’s mecha design post will be, it’ll be the last one that I try to make on a monthly basis, with transformation being the main emphasize again. The previous one about toys driving certain design consideration was part of the series, though for the sake of variety I wanted to cover its comparisons as well. After I’ve managed to collect few notable books, I’ll have to return to mecha design again. Next year’s theme is up in the air, and while I am extremely hesitant on showcasing any scribbles I may do, maybe doing a sort of showcase of personal approach on things would be best, refining be damned. If you want good looking mechas, visit ksen’s Twitter.

As for reviews, you’re in a luck. Remember that Laserdisc player I pent up for a whole year? Well, the player has now served its time and its power unit crapped on me. I’ve yet to track down why, but I have a new unit on the way. It’s a Pioneer LD-V4300D, if you want to check beforehand what it looks like. It’s an industrial player, not very high on the fidelity scale, weights almost thirteen kilos, but it has some good stuff going on for it I can make use of, for now. Most importantly, it runs both PAL and NTSC discs, the very reason I picked it. Not that I had much options, it was the only unit on sale at the moment that didn’t cost an arm and a leg, and I had to make a special inquiry for international shipment.

I’ve enjoyed doing controller review, and though that would mean I’d need to find a new and an interesting controller each month, I think I’ll try to make it a theme for the next year. If I fail, well… that’s on me then. I’m still on the side that I shouldn’t do written game reviews, unless the game is somehow obscure and lacks scans or the like on the ‘web. That’s a though challenge, unless I somehow manage to find a well paying job and start importing PC88 and X68k stuff.

As for Muv-Luv side of things, we’re all pretty much sitting down and waiting things to happen. With avex pictures now having majority ownership over ixtl, the company that manages everything âge related, everything’s been more or less on ice. While I doubted there would be any initial changes, ixtl taking control over Kickstarter from Degica is a sign of sorts of things moving onward. For those who are in the dark, ixtl is a company that essentially handles everything that comes to âge, with âge essentially being a brand front company. You can be sure that avex wants to turn Muv-Luv into an anime, and if you ask me, it’s just a question of time when such an announcement will be made. The real question just is what sort of anime will it be. Will it be an adaptation or something completely else, taking advantage of the setting and make it some sort of Attack on Titan with giant robots? There is potential, but seeing how not even the original company has managed to churn out anything successful since original release of Alternative, they’ve got some work to do. I’m sure avex wants to see some of that money back, sooner or later.

One requested post that I’m going to make when I have the materials collected is how I built a couple of arcade sticks and what went into their making. It’ll probably end up as one long post for the sake of keeping it together, splitting it in parts would mean that people would have to scrounge the blog for each sections, even if linked. It’ll have few versions included, including a stainless steel variation with a hitbox included. Expect it to be ready sometime in Q1 of 2018.

Next year should see an entry about Adventure! Iczer-3‘s audiodrama, once I’ve transferred it from cassettes to digital form and given it a good listen or five. It’s a completely different deal from the OVA version, thus some comparing and comparison needs to be done, especially in the visual department.

As for other stuff, you may have noticed that I’ve lessened on commenting the game news as of late quite the bit. This is partially because I burned myself out with it, following dozens of different sites and trying to keep up with each and every news I could pick up, and due to how I pace myself, some entries never got out because they became irrelevant within a day or two. I would emphasize longer life for the posts as highest priority, but seeing I have no clue how to that as of now, I’ll just keep going as usual and see what comes of it.

I’m also trying to get another voice on the blog after such a long time, this time talking about visual and design progression in Digimon. Call it a late 20th anniversary celebration post from him. We haven’t discussed what’s the word count, but I’m guessing it’ll hit somewhere above 2000 words, with some very specific examples picked throughout the years. I’ve done few of these in the past, most notable being the evolution of Metal Gear designs. Not the game’s, but the robot’s themselves. If you’ve missed it, you can find the link at Robot Related Materials above. It should be an interesting read, especially if you’re fan of the franchise.

Maybe I should do more of those. All long-running franchises have visual and design evolution throughout the years, and maybe Mega Man would deserve of getting one. For now, remember to sharpen your kitchen knives and oil them. It’ll make cooking so much more enjoyable.

 

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Mecha Design: Selling toys

I’ve touched this on multiple occasions before, but I still need to give it a single, emphasizing post: most robot franchises are there to sell toys. Transformers being the most prominent example of this, with the cartoon and comics supporting the toyline rather being a separate entities based on the toyline. Both the comics and cartoons had to adhere what Hasbro had to say, which resulted in death of numerous characters while loads of new ones being introduced in one panel. Writers can often try to tackle these as challenges, and while that has been less successful at times, it has given birth to a very rich franchise, with Beast Wars still contesting the place for the best written entry overall.

With Transformers, a lot of the things that goes in the designs can work in the toys, and sometimes Hasbro mandates things. However, that being said, Japan still likes to design toys first and foremost based on gimmick ideas to implement in the shows themselves. This is rather clear in modern Kamen Rider, where the themes and gimmicks have been decided beforehand and designed based on these. Sometimes, the concepts can be to counter previous seasons’ concepts, or based on research on what kids may like. The usual stuff really, and this is part of the whole research part when designing something for purpose use; find what it needed and wanted, and then fill those.

But enough intro talk, let’s talk about a Super Sentai mecha first.

These photos are from greenflour5757.blog96.fc2.com/blog-category-53.html I recommend giving it a look, there are a lot more there

Studio PLEX is a company that is under Bandai Namco holdings, and their main task really is to design and realise toys. GoTaurus above is one of their creations for Gingaman, and does exhibit a lot of their design ideas from the get go. I’m sure everyone can see how its transformation is essentially just to stand up. The reason this is of course; toys.

Most, if not all, Studio PLEX designs are not driven by technology, lore or the like, the things I’ve been praising with harsh bias all year around. The very core their designs are driven is to make the toy sturdy for kids to play with, and to look neat and accommodate all the necessary gimmicks. There are no flimsy bits to bob around, no sharp corners to speak of to pop one’s eye out. Real world concerns for child safety and sturdiness have driven the design, but that has not not impacted it. Certainly, GoTaurus may not have the most interesting design, and the relatively low production quality of the toys often can demerit it, yet ultimately the design is very eye pleasing due to the used colours and shapes.

The chains do seem a bit arbitrary, but they work in both modes

It is designed and build with intention. All the joints too are big and relatively heavy-duty compared to modern, more adult-oriented toys, where joints could be build from metal or have somewhat more complex design in a small build. Because the intent and use of Super Sentai toys is very different from what adults want to do with their toys, either just pose them on the shelf or hotglue them, there’s not much put into low-cost production and high sturdiness. At times, it feels it is the exact opposite, with high-cost productions with extreme detailing, but with even one hit or the like, the toy’s bust.

The A3 toyline of Tactical Surface Fighters from Muv-Luv Alternative is a good example how the toys were made with rather  high detail count and decent paint application, but everything else tended to be terrible.

This is, of course, because the TSFs were not designed to be toys in the first place, but that doesn’t necessarily mean their toys need to be terrible. The joints were designed from ground up, and ended up being very loose. The used plastic is either too soft and has warped, or lacks toughness and breaks easily. All these combined make the A3 line very flimsy, and knowing how to repair broken bits is pretty much required. As the line went on, some of these issues were fixed, but in the end the A3 was a disappointment. The franchise moved on to the Plastic Model field, but even there the TSF models were costlier and of lower quality than competition, especially when compared to Gundam models. That may be a bit unfair comparison, considering what sort of gold mine Gunpla is for Bandai.

Speaking of Gundam, while the series is know for its giant robots and relatively good storytelling in general, it should be noted that it is very much driven by its model sales above all. Adults and kids alike find building their own toys fun, after all.

The one core thing that allows Bandai to roll out loads of different sort of varied designs like the above BG-011B Build Burning Gundam is the use of general use frames that you can slab armour on.

A generic frame, nothing specific

Bandai often reworks this frame. Certain series and eras themselves have a certain set frame, which may have an extra part to add a function or the like, but largely what makes the most difference in the model is its outside appearance. Part swapping is easy, as generally Bandai wants to make things modular within the series to a certain degree for their own benefit in mould reuse. It also makes kitbashing easier, when everything uses standardised parts.

Gundam as a franchise is freakish in the sense that it doesn’t serve the toys all the way, despite Bandai being the end-of-all being that dictates the final design. It allows the designers to work within the fiction, and this often results in a design that functions within pre-existing model limitations and fiction’s demands, as the paradigm in Gundam design emphasies using all three at the same time. Rarely you see a Gundam that could not be realised in model form, and even then it’s more common to see a modern redesign that makes them fit that box.

Gundam began to use transformations when the technology became cheap enough for it, and after Macross had made it popular. Looking at the current lineup of Gunpla, we can always see one or two models designed just around the shape changing gimmick. Thus, in a mainline Gundam show, the transformation has to work, toy accurate if possible. Because this mind set shifted only after later, mechas like Zeta Gundam had to come around its complex and nigh impossible transformation schemes (for toys) to the point of Bandai making a Zeta Model that, for in-universe reasons, had a simplified scheme. Namely, the MSZ-006 Zeta Gundam Wave Shooter Equipment Type. Nowadays, moel engineering and plastics have evolved to the point of pretty much anything is possible.

Though even when everything has become possible, it also has a cost. A simple design like with GoTaurus won’t cost too much to produce, but a more complex piece like a Zeta Gundam will due to complex mould needed. Considering the needs of the toy first yields a very much different design than considering the in-world or technological points. Toys, after all, exist.

Music of the Month: Second Dream

There are times when you just want to have something smokey, something classy, something with good brass sound. Ah to hell with it, hit it Jason.

If you know Sora Aoi is, ’nuff said.

While this is not a blog about personal matters, I’ve made a tendency to mention if something more significant that might affect the blog is taking place. These month openers are the only spot where I can also step outside the writer persona, though I’ve pretty much merged the two during these years. Anyway, this year long process of getting myself some new academic papers is more or less coming to an end, which means new career roads have been unlocked, one of which may lead me to take position as a teacher down the line. I’ve already been asked to substitute if needed in the future, which is why I may take up on this chance, despite it being something I never really thought about. Nevertheless, I’ve been looking at the blog from those eyes, and I guess you could see how I like to share information to others. The previous post is essentially a guide what to do after you’ve finished Muv-Luv Alternative, and while I initially found making it somewhat unnecessary, the amount visitors just for it has been surprising. Thus, thanks to all of you for that, even few readers makes this hobby worth it all. Whatever comes in the near future, I’m sure to be on an empty spot first, needing to look into the options and doing some “freelance” before setting on a path again.

Though if everything goes to hell and my freelance time gets extended, maybe I can finally get off of my ass and start making those voice blogs I’ve been talking about the last six months. I swear, sometimes I feel like I’ve taken inspiration from âge how much time I take in delivering on things I’ve promised to type out. I think the Laserdisc player review took me a whole year and then some, and it actually gets hits on a weekly basis, because it seems to be one of the more common models on the aftermarket. A good player though, can’t complain.

Back to the blog’s business, last month I had to drop mecha design and review into one piece with the Mega Bots VS Kuratas post. This was unintended, but due to extremely tight schedule I’ve been under, I couldn’t muster the time to research a mecha design or gather something interesting to review. Things should be otherwise this time around, especially if you’re a fan of the Iczer franchise. I guess it’s only me, one old guy from the Middle East and two random Japanese from Twitter.

While I was intending to get a version of the Switch for Christmas, it now is looking like I need to pass on that due to those changes I’ve mentioned, but I’m still intending to review it and its controllers like I’ve done in the past with some other consoles. I may actually bust out Mini Super Nintendo and review it anyway for the sake of reviewing, even when it’s going to be a Christmas gift for my nephews.

On Muv-Luv front I can’t really do much anything currently, unless there would be demand to look back at older materials compared to newer ones. For example, more about TSF design in the context of real world design choices rather than what’s done in-universe. The first three TSF generations are based on real-world evolution of mecha design throughout the years, with each generation reflecting a decade of sorts. We’ve seen ripples of some significant changes going about, with Avex Pictures acquiring ixtl, the company that essentially runs everything Muv-Luv related and âge being a brand front. For example, the recent inquiry they had before TGS was not done Degica, the company who has been running the Kickstarter, but handled by the guys at ixtl/âge. You can check the results in a mirror Youtube video. This may have been something Avex kicked into gear, and we’re bound to see things change with this. I’ve amused the idea of Avex wanting to turn Muv-Luv‘s Alternative side to a similar franchise to Attack on Titan, the question is just how. An anime, however, is more or less a question of time at this point. One just have to wonder if this is how Koki wanted to see things go, as we all remember how well Hudson Soft was treated under Konami’s rule.

The year’s also closing by, with two months left. To me, this means I need to start gathering all the new games I’ve played this year and write down whether or not they get the desired spot in the Top 5 games of the Year listing. This year has been different from the past once in that I’ve spent less on classic games almost solely of modern games, which means the end result will just as skewed as always, just to another extreme. Not that anyone gives a damn, those Top 5’s are the least read posts, with Guilty Gear character designs slowly but surely rising to the top.

Which also reminds me that I intend to making a Guilty Guilty character design comparison sometime this month. If you’d be so inclined, I’ll be putting up a poll which character I should drag to the limelight next on Twitter sometime on Saturday, and leave it on for a day. I need to double-check which character is still in the limbo, but I’m betting both Zato-1/Eddy and Kum Haehyun are on the list. Y’know, Jam just took the priority over everything else.

But for now, I need to time this post to go online at 10:00 GMT0, open a bottle of beer and relax for the rest of the evening.

So you’ve finished Muv-Luv Alternative, and wondering what next

Due to circumstances, I haven’t had time to type out anything too wholesome to read for this Tuesday. Hence, I’ve prepared a small suggestion guide what to check next in the Muv-Luv franchise if you’ve finished Muv-Luv and Muv-Luv Alternative. This is a spoiler free listing, splitting between English and Japanese contents.

Official English language options

Muv-Luv Alternative Total Eclipse

Muv-Luv Alternative Total Eclipse TV-series has been officially licensed and released by Sentai Filmworks. While Total Eclipse has rather negative reputation among the fans, it was the first Muv-Luv related product that reached the Western shores. It offers a new cast of characters, with questionable production values, and takes place before the events of Alternative. You can read a larger take on the series here. It doesn’t offer the best the franchise has, but is an expansion to the world Alternative has introduced. It stands as an independent story from the rest of the franchise, like most of these larger sidestories, and its two first episodes are probably the show’s best ones.

If your Japanese is good enough, the PC version of the Visual Novel is a definitive pick, though some argue that the anime is better due to it lacking certain significant revelation.

Schwarzesmarken

Schwarzesmarken was officially simulcasted by Crunchyroll, though for whatever reason they managed to misspell the title with a space. Set in the BETAverse’ 1980’s, the story is far removed from either Total Eclipse or Alternative. It has a more dreadful to it than Total Eclipse, with cold war between East and West still raging in Germany, all the while the BETA still push towards Western Europe. Half as short as Total Eclipse, Schwarzesmarken offers some look into earlier days of war against BETA, when not all tactics were put into stone yet and TSFs were heavy coffins. Opinions are split which one is worse, Total Eclipse or Schwarzesmarken, though I recommend watching both to make up your own mind. The two shows may have a connection through one certain character, though that has never been officially confirmed. If you want to read more about Schwarzesmarken, I have a full review of the series on the site.

The Visual Novel was split into two and didn’t sell all that well, but is a better piece of the two, if only by a margin. Only in Japanese though.

Rumbling Hearts

Rumbling Hearts AKA Kimi ga Nozomu Eien was localised by Funimation in the mid-2000’s and is available at their site for free to watch, though this is region locked. Nevertheless, the DVDs are common and cheap to pick up. Rumbling Hearts, while not exactly a prequel to Muv-Luv, shares the same setting as Extra, and certain character appear in their BETAverse versions in Alternative. However, unlike Extra, Rumbling Hearts is very much dead serious in its tone to relationships to the point of being probably one of the more realistic depictions of troubles in romantic relationships in Japanese cartoons. It is a fantastic adaptation, shrinking the core of the Visual Novel while still giving it some originality to it. It’s highly recommended if you haven’t seen it, regardless of your genre preferences. I have a podcast special with Invalidname, a huge fan of the series; Evan, one of the translators of Muv-Luv and all around pretty cool guy and Muv-Luv Alternative; and Doc who I dragged along because the show needed a third party opinion.

If you can muster the language, I recommend reading the Visual Novel as well.

Whenever the Photon collections gets released on Steam thanks to the Kickstarter, this spot will be updated with multiple entries when applicable.

~Unofficial~English Language Options

These option require you to acquire the discs themselves for you to patch.

Before the Shimmering Time Ends

Before the Shimmering Tim Ends is a sequel to Muv-Luv Alternative. This story can be found in the Muv-Luv Altered Fable and Photon Melodies collections. It is a common misconception that the story’s name is Altered Fable, but that’s just the collection’s name it comes in alongside Faraway Dawn and Total Eclipse Mini-ADV . Those who have finished Alternative should be aware of the last events changing things a bit, and this story takes full advantage of them. Alternative Projects has translated three of the routes in the Visual Novel of the PC version, and the required patch can be picked up from their site. The three routes are highly recommended to read, as it soothes the pains lingering from Alternative. Or makes them more exaggerated, depending on you, dear reader.

Haruko Maniax

One of the shorter stories, Haruko Maniax gives you what’s in the title. One of Evan’s spot-on contributions around, before the Kickstarter hit the ‘hood. If you liked Haruko as a character during Alternative, this is a must read. It follows Haruko’s little brother, who seems to have some fixation to his older sister. Filled with comedy and fantasy segments of erotic kind, it’s a fun little read while you’re waiting for other stuff to come out. You can pick up the patch from Alternative Project.

Muv-Luv Alternative Chronicles 01

Much like how Altered Fable is a collection, the Chronicles lineup of fandiscs (releases that are directed at the fans rather than as full-blown, Big Name releases) serves as a backbone to ixtl/âge’s expanding both Unlimited and Alternative through side stories. The Day After is a series that takes place after the events of Unlimited‘s end and offers a world that is very much gone to hell, with half of it turned into an ocean of salt, struggle against famine and BETA an everyday thing. Both Chicken Divers and Rain Dancers give further insight to the struggle against BETA from the viewpoint of your normal surface pilots. Once more, the patch can be picked up from Alternative Projects.

Muv-Luv Alternative Chronicles 02

Chronicles 02 continues where the previous one ended, though this time there are only two stories to read through; The Day After Episode 01 and MLA Chronicles Adoration. The Day After continues with the Unlimited timeline as previously mentioned, while Adoration having a lighter tone to it as it follows Imperial Royal Guard member Makabe Seijurou’s exchange in Euro Front’s Dover base. Not much need to be said about either one, except that Alternative Projects have a separate patches for TDA01 and Adoration.

Various Rumbling Hearts short stories

Evan, one of the Alternative Project’s translators I mentioned above, has a site up called Kiminozo Life, which contains his unofficial translations for numerous Rumbling Hearts and Muv-Luv related side stories. These include, for example, Melvina Maniax’s Kimi ga Nozomu Muv-Luv, which sees the two main characters between the two stories switching places, and True Lies, one of the more comedy filled entries in the KGNE/ML metaverse. There are no patches, as the translations are done through subtitled videos. You can also bother him on Twitter about anything.

Japanese options, for fun and language training

This is not intended as a complete list of all âge/ixtl’s products that have relations to Muv-Luv, but here are some specific picks for those hungry for more and have the language skills demanded.

Before the Cherry Trees Blossom -Muv-Luv After Episode-

A story set after Sumika’s Extra route, starting in February 2002. While having some janky writing, it is nevertheless the first direct continuation of an Extra route, and it’s a must read for those who want to see more Sumika, and how the cast graduates. If you absolutely hate her guts, you might as well skip this. Otherwise, it’s extra for those who like Extra. It can be found in Muv-Luv Supplement, alongside with rectal destroying card game Muv-Luv Duelist and few other stories.

Muv-Luv ~Another Episode Collection~

Stuffed to Muv-Luv Supplement, Another Episode Collection also goes under the name of Heroine Short Story collection. These stories are set in before and during Extra from other character’s perspective. Also in Photon Flowers, so you can dust off that PS3 of yours, or sit tight and wait.

Kimi ga Ita Kisetsu

Kimi ga Ita Kisetsu is the whole shebang that started âge’s Kimi ga line of VNs, that lasted all two titles. Much like how Muv-Luv follows up on Rumbling Hearts, Rumbling Hearts follows on Kimi Ita. The title’s not anything special, if we’re honest, but does give an insight to certain characters that appear as their BETAverse counterparts in some Muv-Luv titles. There is also an updated version, if you find the late 1990’s style garish.

Chronicles 03 and 04

Chronicles 03 follows in the footsteps of Chronicles 02 and has two main titles: The Day After Episode 02 and MLA Chronicles Resurrection. Resurrection follows the exploits of one Silvio Orlandi. While the story opens up as a rather serious take on him praying in a church before he engages a mission, it quickly turns into a more light-hearted romp about him becoming a Six Million Dollar Man and is sent to infiltrate the Yokohama Base as a spy. It’s a rather lengthy story to boot, with multiple chapters and a change in visual style.

Chronicles 04 collects more stories than the two previous installments, with TDA 03 introducing a certain familiar face from the mainline trilogy. Let’s just say all those hours put into Valgern-On really paid off. Last Divers could be called a companion piece to Chicken Divers as the two share themes with each other, with the significant difference of Last Divers taking place in the Unlimited‘s TDA timeline. War Ensemble takes place in 1998, and unlike most other stories, it concentrates on the infantry. While we have TSF running around, the story’s main point is to show how inglorious it is to be a foot soldier, with few powered armours at your side, when a BETA assault lands on you.

And if you’re a fan of anthropomorphised BETA, Chronicles 04  has an episode of Haiburu.

Tactical Surface Figher in Action and other materials

Tactical Surface Fighter in Action, or TSFiA for short, is a series of short stories concentrating on the TSFs themselves and numerous events across Unlimited and Alternative timelines, crossing over with both Schwarzesmarken and Total Eclipse. These were essentially story advertisement for TSF toys and models, and dioramas were made using these. Some of them stories have been translated, but that was some years ago, with this being the latest version.

There are loads of books regarding Muv-Luv, from source books to comics. Some of the comics have been scanlated at least to some extent, and I’m sure you can locate some through use of a search engine. A special mention needs to be given to the Alternative comic, which has gotten a positive reception from those who have read it. Integral Works is also recommended, though its info is used in the upcoming Codex. TSF Cross Operation books are sort of expansions to Integral Works in that they contain expanded information and short stories, including numerous TSFiA ones.

Muv-Luv Alternative Faraway Dawn

Faraway Dawn are two sets of strategy games included with Altered Fable and Haruko Maniax. In essence, your job is to keep TSFs intact and their pilots alive through number of missions in rUGP powered STR. Expect high difficulty and lots of savescumming. The game plays on a field build on hexagons, and while all the menus are in Japanese, understanding them is a small matter of trial and error. It’s about as easy to get around them as it is with a standard Super Robot Wars, though there are more things to consider than in SRW titles.

Akane Maniax and AyuMayu Theatre

Akane Maniax is a name of a visual novel and a three-episode OVA. The OVA was meant to bridge Rumbling Hearts to Muv-Luv in animation form, but that came to naught. However, it is the first time we see Takeru & co. in animated form, and while it does lean on the comedy side of things, it’s a good fan service overall. You can pick the Japanese DVDs rather cheaply nowadays, or if you’ve got the dough, the BD set that comes with Rumbling Hearts, Akane Maniax and Next Season OVA with some other extras. You can freely apply fansubs to these versions, and there are specifically timed versions floating around the net. Next Season is effectively an optional end to the series, made to both advertise then-new Latest Edition of Kimi ga Nozomu Eien VN, and to appease raving Haruka fans.

AyuMayu Theatre, or AyuMayu Gekijouban if you’re so inclined, is an ONA based around making fun of both Rumbling Hearts and Muv-Luv, having cast from both series stepping and having comedy of their and the viewer’s expense. It’s really a recommended watch, and subtitles floating around can be put into good use as the DVD is dirt cheap nowadays. Seriously, it costs one yen if you know where to look and are willing to buy used. If you’ve grown fond of Ayu and Mayu, they got their own Alternative.

AyuMayu Alternative

The last entry on this short list is AyuMayu Alternative, a rather tongue-in-cheeck spin-off with more of the comedic characters from Rumbling Hearts and Akane Maniax getting a huge spotlight. It’s a fun read, especially if you’re a fan of old-school robot anime and Saint Seiya. However, if you’re in mood for something more serious, AyuMayu Alternative also hosts two Chronicles stories.

MLA Chronicles Atonement and Inheritance/Succession (it’s got two competing choices for a translation) follow a select two characters. In Atonement, we see Jinguuji Marimo‘s past when she was a cadet, at her Comprehensive Combat Eval. and her first sortie against the BETA. These expand on the character, and while I’ve seen some argue that it cheapens the character, others have countered that it expands and gives another meaning to the 7th chapter Muv-Luv Alternative; The Unforgiven. Inheritance concentrates on the immediate family of Captain herself, Isumi Michiru, specifically her little sister Akira. Set soon after the events on Sado Island, Akira meets with her sisters after a victory celebration, only to pass out due to PTSD flashbacks. Later, they learn about Captain’s faith. Towards the end, we see Akira taking part in Operation Sledgehammer in 2003, the third known successful Hive infiltration, and the first successful Hive capture for humanity without a need for weapons like G-Bombs.

There is lot more to Muv-Luv as a franchise than what’s on this list, especially if we take into account the rest of the expanded metaverse, but for now these should offer some ideas what to check out next. There is a lot more to come in the future.

Exogularity; F-47 Ishkur

To celebrate Muv-Luv Alternative hitting Steam, let’s talk about the future of Tactical Surface Fighters. Namely, the 8th Generation Tactical Surface Fighter F-47 Ishkur.

Needless to say, this be spoiler country.

 Ishkur is the Sumerian name for Hadad, the god of rain and thunderstorms of spring. A fitting name for mankind’s latest weapons against extraterrestrial threats: the BETA and their Silicon creators pose. While the previous generation of TSFs were defined in their G-Generators and system made possible through them; a decade of operation time without replenishment, TSF sized particle cannons and advanced Rutherford fields that could withhold Fortress-Laser Class’ barrage for fifteen minutes. Tactical Surface Fighter development became stagnant after the introduction of the 7th Generation due to mankind-wide civil wars. With the global unification of 2043, a project to face the creators of BETA was launched a year later, with a need for the 8th Generation following in suit. Three years later, the F-47 would meet with abilities such mission would demand.

The 8th Generation is redefines the role of a TSF to the point that it’s no longer “Surface;” Space is its main field of operation, but the F-47 has been designed to function from Zero-G to 3-G environments. Movement is attained by manipulating gravity, and as F-47’s main role is to function as an envoy to the space fleet aiming to contact the Siliconians, it boasts an impressive long-range particle cannon as its main weapon. Furthermore, the F-47 is able to engage in limited ranged warps and contains regenerating life-support systems, giving the unit ability for independent interstellar travel.

The name Ishkur represents this aspect of F-47 being able to rain down storm and thunder on whomever the pilot chooses to strike.

This rough design shows where we’re going. One thing that I didn’t include in the above description of the unit, is that Ishkur would be able to purge its damaged sections to continue to fight unhindered, at least according to Ishi Sho. Notice that the melee blade below is attached to the F-47’s right arm here, it’s not a lengthy cannon.

While the F-47 Ishkur sounds overpowered, the mook it is from, exogularity 01, hints that BETA tactics have evolved as well. Despite this, it does carry more traditional weaponry.

We can already see from these roughs that the two familiar weapons seem to be a mainstay still. The Assault Gun boasts rather functional design, probably to give emphasize how it has to function in variety of environments an interstellar mission might have. The Close Combat Sword we have here seems to have taken the handle idea from BWS-8 Flugelberte as it is arching to the wrong direction, but I’ll let that pass, as we’re talking about a giant robot and not a human hand. The lowest one is 8th Generation multi-purpose additional armour, a shield of sorts, though it is rather small for that function alone. It is missing from Strike Frontier render of the unit, and may have been dropped from the design for now.

As the F-47 is a completely new design, not based on any existing aircraft, its Jump Units are based solely on Tactical Surface Fighters’ own design language.

If you look too long at these, you may end up seeing a skull of sorts. That may just be me.

To summarise all this, F-47 Ishkur is what Tactical Surface Fighter line would naturally evolve into when materials, sudden surge in advanced technology and necessity for interstellar warfare all come together. It was Yoshimune Koki himself who jokingly said that it’s not longer “Surface” and that TSFs have now entered the realm of Super Robots, but he isn’t half wrong. Perhaps calling F-47 Ishkur Tactical Space Fighter would be more appropriate, even when it could function on Earth-like bodies. Tactical Multi-Environmental Fighter doesn’t have the same ring to it. I’m not ready to agree that this mecha fits in the Super Robot category straight away. It certainly is a compact and hi-performance mecha all things considered, but in a world where technology is being combined with extraterrestrial material that allows bending dimensional barriers through the sheer power of love, I’m reminded of Third Clarke’s Law; Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

The design itself is combination of two things; the designer Ishi Sho’s own taste and view how the TSF line is to evolve, and cues from Mamoru Nagano’s Mortar Hedds from Five Star Stories. However, I would also argue that there is an influence from Tomohiro Shimoguchi’s illustration works, namely Linebarrels of Iron. Furthermore, some elements, like the shoulder armours, do remind of Gundam AGE‘s Vagan designs, thought this is probably just my eyes tricking me. F-47 Ishkur is probably the first properly modern design in the franchise, as even the 4th TSF Generation still has visible vestiges of the early 2000’s mecha design. If I can be frank about my own view for a moment, Ishkur’s design does please the eye and probably does good to the franchise in that it is far removed from any real life fighter jet.

This mecha, Ishkur, represents what will probably be the future of the franchise, if it has the chance to go that far. Things have certainly changed, with âge now more or less servicing as the brand and front for ixtl, Avex Pictures acquiring ixtl itself and both Muv-Luv and Muv-Luv Alternative being officially released in English. However, with both Total Eclipse and Schwarzesmarken being largely failures all around, the staff at âge/ixtl are in a position very few people would wish to be in. Whatever comes next has to strike true. Of course, with Avex Pictures now being the upper management, an adaptation of Muv-Luv and Muv-Luv Alternative itself isn’t far too far-fetched. However, it would have to be an adaptation that would aim to expand the audience, something the core fans probably would not prefer. It would be necessary for the health of the franchise and companies involved.

But for now, let’s enjoy what we have.

Listen, The wind is still, And far away in the night — See! The uplands fill With a running light.
Open the doors. It is warm; And where the sky was clear– Look! The head of a storm That marches here!
Come under the trembling hedge– Fast, although you fumble… There! Did you hear the edge of winter crumble
-Mark Van Doren, 1924

Plane elements in Tactical Surface Fighters; MiG-29OVT Fulcrum

While we’re probably going to discuss the base MiG-29 Lastochka one of these days, the main reason we’re going to have MiG-29OVT variation on the table today is because it had a significant antagonist role in Total Eclipse, and that I had the pictures readily available and didn’t want to do Active Eagle.

To save most of real world MiG-29’s history for Lastochka, I’ll shorten it here and see what we have on the OVT model. Which isn’t much, but we’ll get to that later. One of the major differences between the real fighter and the TSF is that all MiG-29 variants are known as Fulcrum in the NATO designation. The Soviets and Russian pilots adopted this name later on. NATO just adds a letter and a number after the designation to denote which variant we’re talking about.

The Fulcrum has a long history behind it. The fighter was developed in early 1970’s as a hi-performance, hi-manoeuvre light-weight fighter to tackle whatever the West was cooking against the Soviet nations. Indeed, it’s not rare to see enthusiasts to decree the Fulcrum to be an equal to Western fighters, especially due to it incorporating numerous technological advantages not in its Western contemporaries, the F-16 Fighting Falcon for example. The base model, Fulcrum-A, became operational in the mid-80’s and had a very high manoeuvrability. It could track ten targets at the same time with its cohere pulse Doppler radar at a range of 69km. Combined with a laser range finder and infra-red search and track, which all where linked to Helmet Mount Sight, made the base Fulcrum a very dangerous enemy in a close-in fight. It should also be noted that the Fulcrum has LERXs, or leading-edge extensions on its mid-mount swept wings. These small extensions improve and control airflow at high angles of attack.

The 29M and OVT are both Second Generation fighters and have enhancements everywhere, including evolution to the overall airframe in order to increase its thrust-to-weight ratio. As OVT is essentially just Fulcrum-M with thrust vectoring RD-133 engines, it shares all the same advanced avionics its brother does. To go slightly into the history of the Fulcrum-M, it’s development began in the mid-80’s with a new need for a frontline fighter that would be able to carry out multi-role missions. Due to shift in Soviet military strategy, the Fulcrum-M design saw constant updates and variants before it eventually split into MiG-29M and M2, denoting whether or not its a two-seater. It should be noted that the MiG-29M, despite sharing its name with its original variant, is completely redesigned version. External differences may be sparse, pretty much everything else was improved beyond the Fulcrum-A.

MiG-29OVT is more or less an acrobatic performer that mainly showcases the modern MiG-29’s capabilities rather than being a frontline fighter.

Remember to click for a larger version

In Muv-Luv Alternative‘s BETAverse, the Fulcrum is a given name to the advanced MiG-29. Based on MiG-29 Lastochka and shared technology gained via Project Prominence, the MiG-29OVT is an advanced variant that is supposedly able to go toe-to-toe with the American F-15 ACT Active Eagle. Changes from the earlier MiG-29 variants include upgraded avionics, improved Jump Units, Light by Light and redesigned shoulder blade vanes.

To reflect the thrust-vectoring capabilities of the real world OVT, the TSF OVT now has added thrusters in the shoulders and hips. This supposedly gives it 3rd Generation level manoeuvrability. It carries Blade Motors from earlier MiG-29 variants in its arms and legs, as well as the A-97 Assault Gun. Being on the side of close-combat, Fulcrum pilots tend to favour brutish tactics and acute-angle attacks on the enemy. One might even assume that the Fulcrum showcases the changes in Soviet’s doctrine against BETA and human targets.

In terms of design, the MiG-29OVT shares more with its in-universe brethren than with the real fighter. It’s chunkier than blockier to keep in-tone with the rest of the MiG-29 series. Similarly, while the MiG-29 has rounded and smooth corners to it, the TSF design has opted to angularise itself in many cases, like with adding more corners to the wings and fins. There are surprising amount of included elements from the fighter in the TSF, albeit the TSF elements govern the overall look of the unit.

There would have been few points that the MiG-29 could have stood out overall. The fighters are unique in that their intakes and nozzles, indeed almost the whole department, resides under the fuselage. The pilot also sits very high in the cockpit. Neither these aspects carried into the MiG-29 line. However, perhaps the TSF elements again override the fighter design points in this case.

Music of the Month; Just Begun

Ah, summer. What a time to work. Time to let some of this steam out.

An issue with the current time schedule I have is that all the plans I usually do for the blog in advance will be made sometime next week, hopefully. This means what will be this month’s review will be set into stone at some later date (though the most likely candidate are the two Silver Hawks that came with Limited Run’s Dariusburst Chronicle Saviours‘ limited edition box due to them being essentially re-run of Shooting Game History’s mould,) what will be the mecha design post (though it will be about transforming mecha in order to continue the theme of the year) and I’m pretty sure I’m missing something that’s a monthly occurence. Ah, I’ve got no plans for the music. I need to pick something that would fit this season of heat.

I admit that the A-9 Intruder post from earlier this week was a bit hastily put together. However, I did see a need to take another take on the whole simpler transformation sequence. These are the building blocks after all, and when we understand the 101 basics, we should be able to move ourselves towards more robust designs. This on the other hand is a challenge, as I do see a need for examples that I’ve done myself and then use an existing example. The problem here of course is that in order to keep everything as simple in visuals, and that takes time I don’t really have. However, perhaps we could do a simple combiner next time, or discuss how Japanese media has distinctive different styles of combiners. Super Sentai to this day uses a very robust, very simple combiners due to the necessity of them being build as young children’s toys first and foremost, and thus tend to en up as being bricks with very limited articulation. This isn’t the case with Transformers, but there we see terrible body proportions every which way.

As for other âge related stuff, I’ll probably put up a smallish review on the decals that are being delivered to those who backed up the Muv-Luv Kickstarter. While the time between updates has become rather long, things are going towards the end. I agree with the notion some have made, that seeing updates on the quality of the translation in screencaps and going over what sort of translation issues the translation team have faced would be interesting. Hell, having a bigger post that is all about the translation and the inner workings how and why certain terms and approaches were selected would be beneficial for the sake of transparency towards the backers. That’s the crux; backers are funders of this project, and in the spirit of things, backers should have the right to see the inner workings of the project they’ve invested money into. However, I do acknowledge most people on either side of the fence don’t see it this way, and Japanese companies tend to want to keep tight wraps on what goes in the background. To tell the truth, I doubt most people would even want to know the shit that goes behind the scenes with these corporations. It’s nothing enjoyable and often ends up being massively disappointing and depressing.

There has been some visible extensions of deadlines, to which the translation is probably the culprit. However, as this is a business in the end, there is a need of balance between quality, time and expenses. You can have two, but then you’ll lack the third. Cheap and quick with no quality and so on. While most high-end consumers and core fans of any field tends to say that they’d rather give a company time to finish their piece to perfection, this is stupidly unfeasible. Because these are products that in the end need to make profit, even a Kickstarted piece like Muv-Luv, there is a requirement for a definitive deadline for the translation in which the translation and code has to be brought to a point that is can be pushed out. Anyone in their field could fine-tune something to death if they were given the time, but resources are limited. We’re facing our good old friend Mr. Good Enough again here. It’s not a perfect solution, but a worker needs to be aware of the wants of the customer as well as the needs of the company he is working for, self-gratification be damned.

The exact same goes for any field. For a welder, one could spend a whole day by doing one seam the best way possible with pre-heating the contact points, welding in smaller sections, occasionally grinding and re-welding bits that didn’t go quite as well and overall spending time and money that nobody has. It needs to be up to the given requirements but also needs to be done fast and efficiently. That takes years of training and experience, a rookie can’t do it. Welding is, after all, part chemistry, part physics and part handicraft. It takes loads of experience in actual work to achieve the level where the aforementioned three can be balanced with each other properly.

To let that steam out now, I recently had to pick a new pair of spectacles due to change in my sight. But ‘lo and behold, a rogue spark managed to sneak past my safety goggles and burned itself on the surface. Had to purchase new ones, but at the same time picked up a subscription safety glasses for future work. This in itself shouldn’t be of any interest for you, but if you wear glasses, you should be painfully aware of the amount of money you’ll end up spending. A decent pair of frames usually got for 100€ to few hundred, depending on how much you want to put into the design. The lenses themselves add another hundred to the whole deal, but for whatever reason safety glasses always seem to be around 75€. This is a bit mind-boggling. Modern safety glasses are just as designed as any daily use pieces. Part of what keeps their cost down is that they have a set of pre-determined materials that need to be used and required to cover a larger surface area in order to be safe.

This pretty much begs me to question the profit margin eyewear companies are pulling from your average citizen. Much like with any medical field, these companies are providing a necessity, but at the same time are expected to deliver both fashion and function. While it could be argued that it is unethical to take a higher price from a consumer who is required to wear glasses, we are talking about corporations that aim to make money. Just as any, they’re not your friend, but an entity to create goods for your consumption in exchange of your hard-earned cash. The same really goes for any corporation out there.

There’s a distinct lack of video games in this post, so I’ll try remedy that next time around.