Broken Luv

One pastime I’ve seen Muv-Luv taking part in has been making up ways how the core story could be translated and adapted for animation. Everything from two cours (aka twenty-four episodes) to a series of movies, things have been explored a lot. However, very few of the discussions have been what I’d describe realistic. They’ve been best case scenarios after all. With the announcement of Muv-Luv Alternative in Animation, the issue has become less academical. I’ll be using that in Animation suffix when specifically speaking about the upcoming animation to make a clear difference. It’s not its official title or anything, but I like the sound of it. Sue me. Guesses are left and right what form the adaptation will take and how many episodes, what changes will be made, what studio will be working on it and how the air-intake hairs will survive. Looking at modern trends and the history of Muv-Luv in animation should give us some idea.

The main reason Muv-Luv  as a whole can’t be adapted for television or otherwise is because at its core the storytelling is broken. Fans know that Muv-Luv was originally supposed to be relatively contemporary piece to Kimi ga Nozomu Eien/Rumbling Hearts (which really should be Trembling but âge English is kinda like that.) It was not intended to be three-part sprawling venture, but as KGNE saw success, plans grew and bloated to the point where it had to be cut in half. Extra was meant to be its namesake, an extra chapter after you’ve managed to find the one true love that would prevent world from going to hell with The Day After, not a character-setting twelve hour comedy romp it became. Unlimited wasn’t supposed to be a thing on itself even, but more akin to different routes that lead to similar ending. After multiple read-through, perhaps needing to unlock all other endings or just few at first, you would be able to find the titular True Love route. With ML Alternative putting emphasis on Takeru being cycled over and over again with little to no memory all the while retaining physical attributes, the original core design of the Visual Novel was completely different what we got. Its scale was smaller, more focused and KGNE‘s running success changed that.  âge originally pushed back Muv-Luv to a 2002  release instead of its original 2001 as they revised its scale, but ultimately had to be pushed out in February 2003 due to the company running out on time and money. At that point, the story the original product was already split and broken. Alternative would definitely follow in 2004. It wouldn’t until February 2006, and in the meanwhile some smaller stopgags like Muv-Luv Supplement were pushed out.

Muv-Luv is often described as a trilogy, but in two titles. This still trips people up, which further shows that something went wrong at some point. Maybe making a difference between Unlimited and Extra was a mistake in itself and something better should’ve been implemented. Merch and spinoffs make good use of the labelling though, but only if you already know what’s what. There is no product separately sold as Muv-Luv Unlimited

Muv-Luv and Muv-Luv Alternative has been criticised for being badly paced, and that’s just one result of the work as a whole becoming so huge. The Genre Shift between Extra and Unlimited is a direct result of this as well, which has lead many people to dislike the now-first part of the three core stories. Multiple real-world events changed the plot-line here and there, like the 2005 London bombing. Certain event later in Alternative probably saw the most changes, as âge wanted to avoid accusations of portraying terrorism in a positive light. That wasn’t the only issue, during development âge always feared that their work would be be labelled as extremely right-wing, so the original version of MLA’s Imperial Japan went through revisions. Some hints to the original plotlines still exist in the final work, like having a tsunami at the end of Operation 21st, whereas originally it as supposed to devastate Niigata. 2004 Chuuetsu earthquake was the reason its results are largely glossed over rather than be a significant part of the story, where Kashiwagi was supposed to have a major role. Discussion whether or not real world events should be allowed to influence artistic integrity and vision like this may be relevant, but at the same time we also have to remember how Muv-Luv overall is a commercial product and companies have to be aware of how they depict things in order to avoid bad rap. It’s a careful balancing act, sometimes you have to sacrifice some of your vision for the sake of the product itself.

With numerous revisions that weren’t originally intended, bloat finding its way in with meandering bits here and there, it’s not hard to see where bloat sets in by itself (just like this post, amrite guys?). Things kind of just ran ahead of themselves as the scope grew, but deadlines are a bitch and you can’t delay a product indefinitely, no matter how âge would like to do so. All three parts suffer from spots where the story grinds to a halt. The VNs are somewhat infamous for halting the progress of the story to deliver information to reader in major sections as info dumps. Very few works have managed to drop an hour’s worth of info into the reader’s lap and expect the reader to absorb it, and Muv-Luv isn’t one of them. No matter how interested you’re into the characters and the world, being stuck in a literal school lesson for information that could have been worked in better is simply bad design. Lacrosse arc’s existence is literally just to foreshadow how the character dynamics will clash later in, and has an equivalent even later in the story, yet the arc itself is considered to be low point in the whole body of work. It’s dull and we already knew the character’s personalities at that point. It’s overly long and some people just skip it. Despite the story itself being damn well written at its core, the bloat shows itself here and there. Muv-Luv is at its best when it has a nice jogging pace with few moments to slow down here and there before the events hit a nitro boost. It likes to wallow in going on and on about things, especially during Alternative. Being invested into the characters is its saving grace, but that’s almost a coin toss.

If an animation would like to cover all of Muv-Luv as it stands now, from the very start of Extra to the very finish of Alternative, we’re too late for that. With the lack of success with Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse and near total disaster with Schwarzesmarken, I can assure you Muv-Luv Alternative‘s animation adaptation will not get more than one cours, twelve episodes. The IP may have been in a better in late 00’s when Akane Maniax was supposed to set Muv-Luv animation up, which never happened as the deal fell through, but now the IP is volatile at best, dangerous money waste at worst. âge has not produced anything that has made an impact since Alternative and I’d argue their most successful project after that was the Kickstarter. That of course attracted lot of attention and played large part in the future of âge. A million dollar crowdfunding from an internationally unknown company is bound to raise some attention. We know that something is always going on in the corporate background, and you can bet animation rights were discussed in the background at that time, culminating in in Animation. Avex’s obtaining âge from Acid and ixtl being terminated in favour of /restructured into aNCHOR are all results from âge’s media failures and Kickstarter’s success. We should put an emphasis on the Kickstarter, as it served as a cornerstone for âge’s real realisation that they got international fans and untapped market. Well, as untapped as you can get with Visual Novels, they’re not exactly a success in Japan either with handful of companies going bust each year. The media being sold as games harms it, as it does not represent its true nature as literature allowed by our digital age. In short; VN based IPs are pretty fucked at the moment, unless they can diversify themselves. âge’s both mobile games have failed and closed in about year after their launch, VNs sales have been lacking (mostly due to lack of products) and both television shows were effectively bust. âge might still have faith in the IP, but the surrounding companies will think twice or thrice before throwing their lot in.

All this, and the current trends, tells me that Muv-Luv Alternative will be a one cours show with about twelve episodes. We’ve already seen numerous redesigns of the characters in Exogularity books, and modern take on the characters is effectively required. The show and the story must be retooled to fit the modern age, both in its core structure and in designs. I’ll argue that the Tactical Surface Fighters are the best designs in the franchise, as they’ve been designed to be largely ageless. They don’t really look like mechas from the early and mid-00’s. Hell, if anything the visual flavour TSFs are in has become somewhat popular. Sure, you have the paper thin waist and some oddities here and there, but largely TSF designs are made well enough to still look fresh. The same can’t be said for the characters, who look like they’re stuck in the change of millennium. Anime style has dropped geometrical (and puffy) hair in favour of sleeker, flatter hair. I don’t find anything offensive about the characters despite being an old fart who still buys 1980’s comics like they were new, yet we can’t ignore how each era has its own visual flavour. The above are not the animation designs or anything related to the animation in itself, but this is the direction we’re going to some extent. âge is a trend follower rather than setter in this. Despite Ban being 10/10 in visual style and I would want him to be employed 24/7 with everything I love, you should expect something different still. Something that’s already tested the waters and that is massively successful. Maybe the guy who did Girls und Panzers or the LoveLive guy will do the redesigns for the anime. Those have been popular shows, and something people would recognise. Hell now I want to see Sugimori-style Muv-Luv content just for the kickers.

One cours adaptation might be able to fix Muv-Luv‘s pacing as much as it probably will completely destroy it. If it gets more than one cours, hey that’d be fine too. However, what Muv-Luv Alternative in Animation needs from the original work is its core intention. The original form of Muv-Luv is still there, under all that extended plotlines and content, all that bloat and info dumps, under all the sectioned and split parts. Let’s take it as face value and consider the title as true; it will be just the Alternative portion of the package. This would mean both Extra and Unlimited would be relegated to being flashbacks and references. The series would be build on mystery about this one guy who clearly knows something bad is going to happen if things aren’t done the right way, but at the same time he doesn’t belong here. There’s a crashed giant robot outside his home, but somehow that doesn’t really phase him. Familiar faces, familiar places, but it’s not his home. Muv-Luv Alternative in Animation would have to build itself on the last cycle of the original design, and on Alternative we got, relegating Extra and Unlimited as necessary flashbacks, maybe even visiting those events. You could start the series with one episode of showcasing everyday comedy in Extra setting, then move into an episode ending cliffhanger with the BETAverse. In between this, show Takeru dreaming of all the other possible routes and events, all the misery and death the world would know if he didn’t put the foreknowledge be obtained from repeated deaths into proper and immediate use. While the Visual Novels build on the reader becoming invested into the characters and even falling in love with them, that is the result of the whole product having been restructured. It has become the VNs main strength and weakness. If you’re dedicated and invested in these characters, you will stand through the bloat and bad pacing. Hell, you probably won’t notice them all that much, because you’re heart and soul is in it. If you’re not, the rest will probably kill your interest before you get to the main dish of the whole story. Muv-Luv Alternative in Animation has to focus on the core and leave all what we now consider as set-up as something a mystery. Other characters will get emphasised, lesser ones will be cut. The same applies to events, and some will see modified, rest assured. Twelve episodes is enough to adapt Alternative with some Extra and Unlimited trickled in, but as said, it’s a delicate surgeon’s job. It will be familiar to the fans, but at the same time, this show really needs to be a hit with the larger audience. At this point, a Muv-Luv Alternative animation can’t serve just a commercial vehicle for the Visual Novels, we’re about a decade too late for that.

While we’re at it, go watch Ayu Matu Theater

I have no data why âge’s 20th anniversary stream didn’t put anything solid down on development and releases outside Project MIKHAIL. All we got We’d like to do this and We don’ have budget set. At face value you could almost believe that âge doesn’t have the money to put projects into full development cycle and publish their products. Maybe that rumoured Kimi ga Nozomu Eien translation got stuck due to the same issue, maybe requiring crowdfunding down the line or be split into two products like Schwarzesmarken was. SM VN’s sales were terrible, mind you, splitting a whole product like that is never a good idea. Except they kind of did that with Muv-Luv already. Still, the lack of sales would indicate this for sure, but at the same time I have to question if the fans have been the only thing keeping âge alive? If the fandom wasn’t so solid and willing towards the company, would âge have gone the way of the dodo already? That Kimi ga Nozomu Eien remake has been in the works on some level for at least five years now, and Muv-Luv Integrate seems to take elements from Strike Frontier’s second season but I’ll get to that whenever I write about Integrate. A new The Day After probably will most like maybe be done. Everything’s vague, outside that we’re going to get that animation, and that’s probably a linchpin in all this. If this is the third time a Muv-Luv animation fails, they don’t have much material to work on anymore. The core story where everything else stems from has to hit the mark, there really aren’t any other options.

Just as a quick tangent, what can they hope to do with Kimi ga Nozomu Eien‘s Reboot? The story doesn’t need more elaboration on, it is a full package unto itself. The only worthwhile addition I can see it happening to it if they’d actually make it more an actual game, with scheduled events, character stat management and Adventure game styled options to interact with each scene. I don’t have faith that modern âge can add anything worthwhile to the package. If it’s going to end up being similar to Kimi ga Ita Kisetsu remake, aka worthless waste of everyone’s time, I can say I’m not interested. I may be be a fan, but I’m not one to blow money blindly on products that can’t make their original versions obsolete. Sure, modernise it with new style, tweak the story a bit here and there to fix some of its problems, maybe add a scenario or two, but what are they going to do in order to add unique value? Tie it more to Muv-Luv? I’d consider that a major misstep. Integrate may be a project to bring all that together, but Christ if everything just ends up being Muv-Luv in a way or another, I’d like to have that early 00’s struggling âge back in order to force them to work with smaller scale titles and even more limited budget and staff. It’d be the very opposite of diversifying your product line. KGNE Reboot has to have value on its own, something that will both obsolete the original product and its Latest Edition iteration, and make it stand alone on its own two feet without resorting to nostalgia and other IPs.

It’s both rather funny and disheartening to consider Kimi ga Nozomu Eien to be âge’s breakout title, but also the title that made the company name to be reckoned with. As much as Muv-Luv Alternative is talked to have influenced this and that, like Attack on Titan, it still had less an impact that KGNE. Hell, at the time I was reading Japanese magazines claiming the title solely created so-called nakege, titles intended for the consumer to cry over due to its emotionally hitting writing and topics. Tsundere is often coined for âge and KGNE as the originator, which isn’t exactly all that correct, but sure let’s just go with it. It was also KGNE animation that broke through to the general consensus and people who didn’t care for VNs at the time were reportedly picking up the PS2 version just to check the it out. The sheer success of that one property was never replicated in later works, and ultimately âge became almost obsessed solely to make Muv-Luv related products, dropping their other sub-brands completely and all other types of products they were making. I don’t see this as a healthy way of doing  business. Visual Novel companies never had million dollar budgets to throw around, especially now that they’re a slowly dying niche. It is a small miracle Muv-Luv and Alternative were even made with in their current form, especially by a company who often gets criticised for mishandling scheduling and budgets.

I’m not worrying over Muv-Luv Alternative in Animation. If it fails, nothing has changed and the course of the company will stay the same. If it succeeds, âge should have more resources under its belt to get something off the ground again. While you can live on your core fans to certain point, with remakes, localisations and sequels, expanding that base is required if you want to do more and expand your company. Maybe building a full-fledged strategy RPG could do the trick, or an action game similar to Virtual-On and Another Century’s Episode could do draw in some attention. The setting surely allows all this. Perhaps finally create something new and not rely on Muv-Luv as the only piece they have to offer.

I hope I’m not alone in thinking how Muv-Luv and Muv-Luv Alternative together make a great story, but the way the story is told in the Visual Novels is not exactly a class in masterclass prose. Perhaps the original intention was worse, maybe it was better. Maybe all those revisions, all the work that, blood and tears that went into making its final form, flawed and lacking as it may be, allowed the title to be the very best it could. It might have become somewhat impenetrable to some. Muv-Luv may not have become a pop-cultural juggernaut, but its impact on different sects of popular sub-cultures can’t be denied. If Muv-Luv were ever to get a full-on remake, I’d wish the originally intended form to be implemented, that its original intention would be realised  in full-scale. in Animation has all the chances to fix the spots where Alternative faulters. It’s going to be a tough job, especially all the while it has to be modernised for completely new audience that wasn’t there in the early and mid 00’s. Expectations are high. We’ll have to sit tight to wait and see.

The Moving American Dream

Why is Disney adapting their animated works into live-action? has been a question asked more time than answered. Money is of course the answer, and plays a large, major part in whatever decision Disney does, but it’s also about the good ol’ attitude of Animation isn’t enough. The film, movie, flick or whatever you want to call them, is still considered to be the top form of art in the American culture, which then has spread across the world to some extent. This of course does not apply globally, we know Japan loves its animation about as much as it loves its live-acted ones, but embraces them completely differently from a cultural point of view. Consider porn, for example. You got relatively large amounts of drawn and cartoon porn in Japan and very few will bat an eye to it, but in America, no such industry exist in the same way. The American culture couldn’t have created something like Lemon People in the 1980’s. Hell, technically the comic I compare it to, Heavy Metal, was originally French comic called Métal Hurlant. But when it comes to live performances caught on film, there’s nothing quite Hollywood.

What Golden Age of Hollywood sold to its public, and through that to the culture at large, was a window. What this window sold was glimpses to glory, to love, to murder, to horror and yearning the human soul is heir to. You can see the people through the window and embrace their stories as they’re shown, not told. When you sit a theater to watch a movie, you see through the window the faux-reality presented and you’re sold on it. It’s wish fulfillment, whatever it is. Perhaps we want to see how badly someone else’s life is through gruesomely realistic depiction of some wretched bastard taking another shot of heroin and beating the shit out of one’s family to have something to contrast to our own lives, or perhaps that one glorious, fabulous story about love between two completely opposite people in stance and personality ultimately break the accepted mould the society has set up, coming at the top and showing nothing can stand in the way of true love. The Hollywood film has sold its viewers thousands upon thousands of stories and emotion to the point of becoming the way to do so. Books are fine, but you can’t see the world, not really. Animation offers all the possibilities, but it’s animation, not real. Movies on the other hand, they show you that it’s (fake) real.

The reality of films is not created by just the actors, though the play the most important part. Even when the sets and costumes might be drab and the everything looks fake, as long as the actor can sell you the role and the emotions their characters are going through, you’re sold. Everything else comes after. The sets, the costumes, the special effects, all that is there to sell the reality of things. Even if it’s science fiction or fantasy, as long as you can see it on screen with people, you can believe what you see through that window. Add in the music, that more often than not is intended to support the scenes, pull your heart strings, make it beat harder, seed fear in to the back of your head or have your stomach hurt from laughter.

The live part is important, as that is the true connection we make through the window. While animation does have all the other elements, it lacks the real person on screen. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? doesn’t count, and neither do the Marvel flicks, despite being 90% of computer generated animation rather than the reality itself. That is strange in itself. The Western attitude towards animation became that it is only for children or child minded some time after the Second World War, and perhaps it’s Disney we should put blame on, because pre-war cartoons and animations were for all ages and adult animations were a thing. The cultural shift wasn’t a done deal overnight, or within a decade even, but a gradual shift as movies as a media matured. Perhaps that choice of word puts it in the right place when it comes to what happened; in the minds of people who grew up, things had to be more mature. Silly cartoons with silly characters doesn’t cut it, and the sentiment seems to have spread from there. Animation, despite allowing impossible depictions, just doesn’t stand up to the window of reality. With most big even blockbuster movies the animation has taken its role as depicting the impossible while you still have some resemblances of that window to reality. Superman told you that you’d believe a man can fly, and that was a massive special effects extravaganza for its time. Now, it’s quint, something anyone and their mothers could do via Windows Movie Maker’s special effects tab, or whatever the modern alternatives are.

Perhaps the example how the media are seen are best embodied with 1980’s films-into-cartoons groove, where movies like Robocop and Rambo saw Saturday morning cartoons made out of them. You could give any film franchise this treatment, like Aliens. Well, it never got made, but you had Conan the Adventurer to take its place. Perhaps it’s the fact that kids tend to watch more cartoons, but is that because cartoons are more made for kids? Or is that there aren’t cartoons that are made for adults in the same manner? Perhaps that’s what the Marvel and other comic book movies are, cartoons for adults. We can still call them live-action because there’s an actor on the screen and some live places, but majority of it is special effects and computer rendered backgrounds.

Whatever we call Hollywood to be, an empty and vapid cesspool of actors and directors living in a bubble, or peddlers of dreams and stories, it sold us the culture of film and they are perceived, for better or worse. The appreciation of film is at the top of the ladder. A comic isn’t enough, a book isn’t enough, a cartoon isn’t enough, a TV-show isn’t enough. It can be made into a movie. A million dollar production with bombastic soundtrack that shows the richness of the story and the depth of the characters with fully realised and believable world. All seen through that one window, the silver screen. The film is the end-all top of American art, where all other forms of art go become one unit. Movies have cultured a near religion around them, a modern myth of its myth and importance above all. No other form of media can compete with them. Well, except computer and video games that have larger markets.

Movies are inherently passive, you are sitting there only to watch and listen, never participate. Games have been chasing movies in presentation and how they tell their stories since early on, never really realising that the player is the actor and his actions are the story worth, not the readily set scenes. The mindset we still have from movies and other media is that we are presented a story separate from the consumer, something we must observe. Games inherently break this, unless the game is stopped for that story to take place. There are attempts where these same scenes are set during play, where characters may yell stuff during a boss fight, but that’s still passively listening to a performance. Gaming at its core fights against this, as the core is still from wholly different culture of games, not of theater. Games are active storytelling; the mission to collect five coins is not the story, but the action of collecting of those coins is. In a movie, you’d get a montage or a music scene to skip the boring walking bits, but for a game those walking bits are the main story, and that main story changes with every player. No player plays the same way and films will never be able to have that. Whenever you replay a game, it will be a slightly different story. Perhaps your character is rogue instead of a knight this time around. Movies never change. You can not take a game and make it a movie without breaking it and vice versa. You can take the framing of the game and make that into a movie, but never the game itself. It’s no wonder streaming and eSports are popular nowadays as those could be argued to be the only true representation of games in passive form; they are live theater with no script other than what the game allows.

It’s not surprise lots of film makers want to get into making games, but more often than not, their involvement has produced largely low-quality products. A movie doesn’t make a good game. Framing games in terms of storytelling like movies will end up with a lacklustre game. Viewed as a film it may be a good product, but at that point you might as well make your game into an animated feature, or take the same amount of money and produce a movie. It’d be outright laughable to say any story would be too weird or hard to make a movie out of. Hell, the amount of weird shit out there due to all the indie movies we’ve seen through the years beats games in the weirdness factor by a mile or three. Hideo Kojima probably won’t be making a movie, because Hollywood and film makers overall don’t understand how games truly tell the story, and this seems to apply the same with many developers. There is a deep contradicting element how games tell their story, and how they are made to tell the story. Part of it is because passive storytelling is glorified. Games are, after all, about choice. The passive approach stifles this. Some games manage to weave the story where the player is in-person all the time without any breaks in the way, while others intend to tell one story and one story only. In a game this can only be done by breaking the game itself and make the player passive parts, because traditional storytelling expects you to sit back and watch as the teller tells his tale. Thank God for Skip button.

Companies like Nintendo and Capcom consistently have taken advantage of movies and television as vehicles to promote their main products, the games. Street Fighter the Movies might be a terrible movie on its own rights, but it is an excellent vehicle to make the consumer aware of the brand. It doesn’t need to be accurate to the games as long as its remotely similar and the same names. The movie, when it comes to Capcom, is secondary. It’s not the end-all product. It’s brings in money and consumer awareness, both of which are turned to produce new games and that awareness is taken advantage. More people will be aware of Monster Hunter as a brand whenever that film comes out, despite MH World breaking series records. Yet Capcom’s stance on the movies is that they’re great marketing vehicle, just big budget commercials. Y’know, on the same treatment level as the detergent commercial on telly, just with more in-depth plot and characters with music to go with it. There has been a slow shift how movies are seen with new generations that have grown with computer and video games, and the older generations who value Hollywood and films more don’t seem to understand what makes a game tick.

Nevertheless, movies’ position hasn’t really changed in the last fifty odd years, and probably won’t change until something that could kick it off the pole. In many ways, movies took the place live theater had. Gaming probably won’t dethrone films despite being a bigger industry, as its origin and place in consumer media inhabits a different ecosystem. At some point a new form of entertainment will kick in, but much like how movies are successors to theater, I’ll bet the dethroning will be done by a media that will grow out from films. Same goes for video games. It might not be until technology advances to some unimaginable point in the future we won’t be alive to see, but progress can’t be stopped. Unless we manage to nuke ourselves back to the stone age. Better learn how to make pine cone animals while you still can.

The act of an Artista

I’ve been recently on a slight nostalgia bent with giant robots, and I decided to revisit a franchise I didn’t really have any interest to check out outside its designs, the 1986 comic Five Star Stories, (which is still running) illustrated and written by in/famous Mamoru Nagano. Nagano is somewhat a divisive person, mostly known for his extremely flowy and detailed mecha designs. Outside his own works, he’s known for mechanical designs for Heavy Metal G-Gaim, but his career includes fashion designing, making music, directing and writing. He tends to rub a bit wrong with some people, as a person he is strong willed to put it diplomatically, and is overprotective of his works to a fault. He has his own publishing company to make sure he has reins on Five Star Stories, called Toypress. He sounds like a person who just wants to protect his rights as an artist, but the stories from the animation and comic industry paints him an asshole at times, sometimes obsessively hands on projects to the point of detriment. Nagano’s visual style has always been heavy on the detail, and whenever he can, he won’t budge on the quality. Nagano considers that his works on L-Gaim were never incorporated properly, mostly due to his style being rather different. For something like L-Gaim this isn’t really as problem, but with a show like Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, you need to consider the existing motifs and design language, something Nagano understood only later on. Ollie Barder has rather extensive interview with Nagano Forbes that I warmly recommend reading.

Guess what time it is?

My nostalgia of course lead me to return to Nagano’s Gothicmade, an animated film he started making at least since 2006, perhaps even earlier. When it was announced, people were rather hype about it, as Nagano’s style and designs are still considered some of the best in the mecha genre. People were very eager to see what his new project would be like, with it taking to come out so long, when projects get stretched beyond their initial goals, people tend to find other things to occupy their attention. The movie finally debuted in 2012 in theatres, and has been rerun every now and then for limited time. As the first Japanese animated movie in 4K with D-Cinema 5.1, Nagano has stated that this movie won’t be leaving the theatres, because that is the only way he considers the proper form to experience his movie. As it happens with me, a lot of this kinda slipped out of memory, as things tend to do when you’re revisiting something you were hyping up over a decade ago.

Nagano isn’t the first artista, auteur, artist or whatever you want to name him to do something like this. All creators have an intended way for experiencing their production, which the consumer can break, much to the dismay of the creator. To use an old and worn out example, an elaborate set of dishes are often meant to be consumed in order and in particular fashion. Breaking the intended way of eating may, for example, produce the wrong taste due to incorrect order or because such. Similarly, a comic creator may only want his works to be read through printed medium, with specifically chosen paper and carefully curated choice of colours in order to ensure that not only his vision, but the accuracy of it, is best preserved for the reader. Then some slob just squirts ketchup from his hotdog and smudged shit up and glues the pages together. It happens. Some musician supposedly don’t like their music heard outside live concerts, and disdain recordings. That might be just the money issue, it’s a bit harder to pirate live concert in its best form than just ripping off a CD or music stream. Akira Ifukube didn’t want his compositions for Godzilla to be available separate from the movie until the 1980’s, as in his view the film and music had to be together to have the best effect; that the two complemented each other and both would be half as weak without the other.

Nagano isn’t the first one to argue for the sake of integrity of his work. While respectable, it could also be argued that home consumer technology has already passed Gothicmade. 4K image resolution has been passed some time ago with 8K screen being the new standard and we’re already seeing proper research and advancements made into 16K, with some production examples already being showcased, like Sony’s MicroLED display tech. When it comes to sound, home users can get fine sound, if not sometimes even better sound, from their home systems or headphones than what a theatre can offer. However, not everyone has the money, or want, to build themselves a home theatre to take full advantage of what they have. Screen sizes have become largely academical issue with screens and projects being able to throw image absolutely everywhere.

That is of course beside his main point. It’s not that home technology is well up to the task of showcasing Gothicmade to the home audiences, but that it is not intended to be viewed at home with any sort of system available there. You’re supposed to your way out there to get a ticket, then get into the theatre with other people of shared interest, sit on a cushion away from all the stuff you have at home, all the little mundane things that may scratch behind your dark unconscious mind, relax and take int the (supposedly) breath taking visuals on the screen, hear sound mixed as intended and proper volume and simply experience the marvel of the work. That is, if the work can actually deliver its intended effect.

Gothicmade was in the works for some six years because it was handled by Nagano himself and other small group of people. Nagano of course took the bulk of most tasks, and I recall jokes how he and three others worked the movie in his basement, which probably isn’t too far off the mark. Budget has never been revealed, but working in 4K in 2006 probably cost an arm and a leg, and then some. For all the reviews I’ve read throughout the years, Gothicmade has had the same criticism; it’s rather badly animated outside vast, spanning shots of the environment, it has pretty music and good voice acting, but action is very much lacking despite the detailed robot designs. The story is described something between trite and interesting, but ultimately dull. All this really shows in the trailers we’ve seen thus far as well, though most of them try to get around this and show the best bits.

Note how the trailer faps at the pretty robots by hammering home with the line How beautiful robot

There has been numerous theories why Gotchimade was kept in such a small team. Most often it’s assumed that Nagano doesn’t exactly like his works being adapted, after he was disappointed in the 1980’s movie adaptation of Five Star Stories, despite that movie has praised to heaven and back how beautiful it is. Incidentally, that movie will last the test of time better, as digital video dates itself extremely fast. Five Star Stories, for being on film, will ultimately find itself being remastered in higher resolutions as long as the original masters are intact, and even then magic can be made happen to up the quality. Unless Gothicmade‘s raw material is done on something that scaled at will, for example if everything was done with vectors. Somehow I doubt that. Five Star Stories was criticised to be pretty to look at, while light on story, but if we believe the reviews, Gothicmade fares no better, if not stumbling worse.

Then again, maybe Five Star Stories looks too detailed and overtly animated for its own good. Boatloads of cash and cocaine went into making these scenes, probably killing an animator or two. Nothing in Gothicmade‘s trailer comes even closer to this in terms of quality

Nagano probably is well aware of the criticism he has received from the viewers. I doubt any of that has affected his view on the work, as he has retconned Gothicmade as a major part of Five Star Stories comic, which some have found detrimental while others take it as a breath of fresh air, renewing the IP’s vigor. Part of me can’t help but wonder if Nagano is not willing to let his movie out of theatres because he knows of its value, or the lack of it, but wants to keep it as closely guarded secret as possible. Something that is kept limited from others has more perceived value after all, it makes people want it more. This of course ups the perceived value, and the holder of course gains more vertical value in eyes of others. This sort of thing can be seen on the Internet in various communities. Someone might have an image of a rare game and is refusing to share it, as that want adds value to the holders and others in the community. The same applies to scans and other materials, licensed, copyrighted or not. Perhaps Nagano knows that Gothicmade is rather lacklustre movie, but holding it at bay will keep its value up. Perhaps I’m blowing shit out as usual, maybe he really believes it to be a masterpiece and simply doesn’t want anyone to experience it the wrong way, though I am sure there would be licensing firms willing to simply sub the movie and have a limited run in local theatres or festivals.

Then again, Gothicmade‘s music and artwork has been released for home consumers with CDs, books, magazines, model kits and toys. Nagano is willing to license the work for other products, but home release is denied seven years after its initial debut. Hey, it gets asses into seats and apparently makes money that way, no reason to pay further distributors. You might argue that it’s not about the money, but it’s always about the money. Artists are just shit with finances by default and often won’t admit it or can’t even ask the proper sums before learning lack of finances the hard way. Does this serve the product itself to any significant extent? Perhaps it’s not about the movie experience. Considering how worshipping Nagano’s fans can get, perhaps Gothicmade would be best treated as some architectural painting you can’t see elsewhere but on the spot, a painting on the wall or a building itself. Something worth a mundane pilgrimage, or to be checked out when you’re around the neighbourhood.

If a media hurts your feelings, don’t consume it

Recently a Twitter user under the handle insatiablejudge got mad at earrings. Of course it’s a user on Twitter, and I’ll refer her as “the user” for the sake of my own sanity. What it is time? A motif on a character’s earrings supposedly uses Japanese Rising Sun motif, which then the user associates this with Nazis, imperialism and cultural genocide. Naturally she promotes censorship to remove the motif, which isn’t there. We can’t see the original post, because of course she has put her account into protected mode after people called her out on the bullshit she was spouting, but we can always use an archived version. Let’s take a closer look what image she was using to promote her push.

I could be petty about forgetting to use capitalised letters, but why do that when I could be petty about more important things. For example. the Rising Sun flag is still being flown by the Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force and hasn’t been retired from usage in total. The Japan SDF and Japan Ground Defence-Force use a different design with gold trims around the edges, so that’s one miss. Furthermore, it’s not the same design as the flag itself. The character’s earrings stem from Hanafuda cards’ design. There are no red sun rays from the red core. We can take a closer look at the design in comparison to the flag.

While an honest mistake could be made that the earrings represent the national flag, the design is very much different. As mentioned, it is based on the Hanfuda card design, which is why a set is being used the featured image. It is not a direct take on any of the cards per se, but rather using the visual themes and motifs. This much is confirmed by the series itself to boot. This would make the earrings themselves harmless, but of course if you don’t know the origin, or even properly see what’s drawn there, you might make some honest mistakes.

Whether or not the flag itself is controversial in South and East Asia (I think she mistyped and there), that should have nothing to do with the earrings themselves. The fact that nationalists use Japanese flag doesn’t really impact any arguments, as nationalism in itself is rather healthy in proper doses. It becomes a problem only at its extremes, whichever political ideology is using it. We shouldn’t abandon symbols simply because some unwanted or disliked group might be using a common symbol. For example, we should take the swastika back from its German National Socialist Party’s use and embrace its much older, far more positive and culturally significant meaning instead of leaving it to one sec only. We should also make strides to recognise how a Nazi swastika is a unique piece, standing on a tip at a 45-degree angle and “spinning” to the left, while .e.g. the Manji flat on its side, like this 卍.

An example of swastika used on a Viinikka’s church from 1930 before the German use even came to be.

I should probably mention that while some people might find themselves considering the Japanese flag, any version of it, associated with the World War II atrocities, the Japanese don’t. They associate the Imperial Rule Assistance Association’s symbol with the Nazi regime, as the para-fascist organisation formed in 1940, which aimed to create a totalitarian regime during wartime Japan. Even this is slightly skewed, as the organisation took some ideals and cues after the Nazis, but full-blown Nazism was not embraced or even desirable. It would seem the organisation has been somewhat dug into the ground, as many foreigners seem to either forget it existed, or didn’t know such organisation was a thing in the first place. There’s a whole history behind these guys, and a small post like this isn’t enough or even the place to dwell deeper into the Japanese wartime history in itself. That said, they got a really neatly designed symbol. What’s with these parties and appealing design sensibilities? Hugo boss still makes damn nice clothes too.

Of course, the user represented everyone in equal measure, which netted her loads and loads of South and East Asians coming in and stating that they don’t really give a damn. Y’know, the whole issue of someone stepping in and representing large sections of people without their consent. People like this should really ask consent before doing so, just like you have to have consent before sex.

All that said, the user seems to think that people who would get offended by the more classical Rising Sun flag wouldn’t get offended by the current one. These things run deep with certain people and associate any of a nation’s symbols with the worst. Some simply hate and abhor the sheer thought of Japan or Russia, despite the current state heads and most of the people within the nation having nothing to do with wartime events. Mulling over the past can only do so much good, sometimes the hatred for a nation can be driven by other kind of national pride or simple sheer unrelenting hatred.  Reasons are many and the politics are somewhat complicated, but at some point word just has to move on.

The chances the user suggest made to the earrings would remove the essence of the original design, contrary what she claims. The design consists of three elements; red circle, petal-like extrusions and ‘ground.” Removing any of these three would significantly alter the design’s essence. However, it would still leave the most offending part that most people associate with Japanese flag and its the red circle. The essence of the design would have been kept it the circle had been changed into burning orange or white, but of course it’s the petals that had to go, replaced by nonsensical lines. The red circle probably is the Sun, yet it is not the Rising Sun that it is assumed to be. Instead, it represents the character’s role as a successor to his father’s profession as a Hinokami Kagura, which would be loosely something long the lines of ‘Dancer for the Fire God.’ Then again, some Japanese posters claim it to be a flower, so take that as you will.

Claiming that pushing censorship isn’t controversial is outright bullshit. Whether or not it is easier to draw has nothing to do with her arguments. Whenever someone is pushing for censorship, especially when it comes to general arts, it is automatically controversial. Trying to kill a design, a drawing, a painting a message or whatever because it might be uncomfortable or injure someone’s sensibilities shows that lack of trust in people and how the consumer is treated like an idiot or an animal who can’t make heads or tails about the media he is consuming. Should we take into account people whose families got damaged somehow during World War II and change things for them? Absolutely not. Consumers should be aware what they consume. If you are consuming product created in Japan mainly for the Japanese market with clear Japanese motifs from the get go, you should damn well expect seeing Japanese imagery. Everything offends someone somehow. Hell, I’m offended by the user’s use of that particular grey with that red, green and white. Good job failing at Design 101; don’t fuck with viewer’s eyes if you’re intending to be informative; everything should be clear and easy to see, not feeling like you’re being stabbed in the eyes. If you can’t deal with something that you are not forced consume, you can either deal with it anyway, or consume something else. There is no reason for the creator or anyone else part of the creative process to capitulate and change their intended design and ideas to appease anyone else but themselves, or the targeted consumers.

Staying true to your work should always supersede giving in to censorship. Your main consumers are there for your work in its best, most pure form, not to see its altered, bastardised version no matter how small the changes might be.

Music of the Month; ななこSOS

Time to let out some steam. Month’s first post is, after all, a chance for random ramblings.

Unsurprisingly, due last week’s subject with sadpanda and the historical context of lolita complex in Japanese media history, few people asked if I had certain preferences, to put it diplomatically. Perhaps in the classical sense of having some infatuation with a cute character, but that’s more or less normal. People fall in love with inanimate objects almost as easily as they do in real people, or if life has shown that people are untrustworthy, the opposite seems to hold. In the modern, twisted sense? No. Then why would I spend any time on the subject than what I already have? It is solely historical interest. You know that one image macros, the one which shows how manly Japanese cartoons used to be, how adult and serious, and the Now shows nothing but cute stuff and shows with comparatively vapid content. Despite that image being a joke, it did launch an interest how true it really was. Reading history bit by bit via firsthand sources and consuming the media itself.

From someone who used to read history as a hobby, looking back at how consuming the media of old rather than just reading about it. Media can always be consumed, but events themselves can never be. However, much like when you’ve read enough history from multiple points of views, you begin to understand how everything tends to affects something, how events proceed from one to another. The similar effects can be said about media culture, where if you consume enough media of certain region, not just one kind but all kinds, you realise how much everything has worked in symbiosis, how cultural and historical trends in the media has raised its influential head here and there. It just has to be from relatively long period of time and understand the underlying trends. For example, just looking at the 1980’s anime scene with its OVAs and groundbreaking television shows is hard to understand without first without first looking at massive sub-cultural phenomena in the 1970’s like Captain Harlock, Mobile Suit Gundam and Urusei Yatsura. Those are major names, but only selected few with direct influences with 1980’s scene. Of course, the whole lolita complex, or culture of cute, should be taken into account as it was everywhere. If you go few posts back, I cover this a bit more there. Though I have raised myself a question that I have to find an answer to; where does Japan’s lolita complex, moe and culture of cute have original roots in? This requires some investigating.

To tell you the truth, I have been wanting to discuss this matter on the blog for a long, long time. However, due to difficulty and touchy nature of the subject due to its modern connotations, I have simply pushed it back and back again. I’ve talked about Comic Lemon People and series within in a lot, but never directly addressed it simply because there was never really a good angle to approach it with, and it seemed like time has made it ever touchier. However, Exhentai’s death (and rebirth) gave the perfect angle with archiving and its historical value, an angle I’ll probably stick with in the future when and if talking about the subject. On a side note, the alternative music just to continue with theme would’ve been this song.

In other news, Muv-Luv photonfloers* got released on Steam, so if you’re inclined to continue reading Muv-Luv related media in English, you might want to check it out. It is currently in sale at ~20 bucks, which isn’t a bad price overall when compared to the hundred bucks plus I paid for the PS3 limited edition. photonmelodies♮ is currently at works, and while we could discuss whether or not it was the right choice to call Before the Shimmering Time Ends as Alterd Fable, I should make note that the fandom kept calling the story by the collection’s name almost a solid decade, and âge themselves ultimately adopted that moniker for it as well. While I will keep referring it as Before the Shimmering Time Ends for the sake of accuracy and Altered Fable will refer to the collection. This really is like taking just Muv-Luv Unlimited from Muv-Luv and call it Muv-Luv. [5.8. Edit] I’ll be damned, the official title will be Altered Fable: A Shimmering Shard of Spacetime. I can live with that, and it caters to both people who simply use Altered Fable and autistic nitpickers like me. Sure, it may not be a direct translation, but keeps the original’s spirit with it as the first direct continuation to Final Extra.

Seeing this is port of the PS3 titles, I’d also urge you to get your hands on the original PC release to experience the minigames in their full, bloody glory as well as have the erotica included. I do still erotica in Muv-Luv to be relatively essential to characterisation and showing humane bonding between characters, but your taste probably varies and many VN enthusiasts would rather push a pillow in porn’s face. Then again, VNs themselves are a media slowly withering into a smaller and smaller niche with each passing year, so perhaps it doesn’t do all that well to forget one of the paramount aspects Japanese PC adventure gaming and Visual novels have carried with them. I’d hate to see a beloved media being reduced to mere pebbles, but the fandom could be proud that the things they love now has little to no smut. What a waste.

While I’m plugging titles with cute girls who get fucked, I might as well throw this Kickstarter in your face; Daily life with Konko, or as the devs decided to translate it, Your Waifu Foxgirl Konko. I’m not terrible keen on this translated title, as it tries too hard, almost trying to hit the Internet’s meme nerve. Why would I give a look at something like this? Truth to be told, I’d rather not say, but might as well; the Japanese version of the game helped get over few dark months earlier this year. While I won’t be getting into any details about that human relationship, having something that wasn’t cold and dead like the winter outside kept me floating. There’s a trial that run in a browser on there, though it does raise some issues with the translation. Teacher is left as Shisho, and whole stroking someone’s head isn’t really sexual, leaving the command as just Stroke does strike a bit hammy. The title really isn’t meant to be played hours on end, but little bit each day. Something to wind down a bit, let things slow down and your worries to fall out. The demo’s also lacking any music, and is far too short to give any proper idea how it works, but its something. It does pretty terrible works at depicting the actual gameplay really. Then again, don’t take my word for it. The Japanese fans funded Live2D version of the game on Campfire recently, with yours truly taking part in it as well via proxy, and Megamisoft didn’t just achieve its goal; they made five and half times as much money they aimed at. The Otaku crowd is crazy, sure. However, I do consider this title to be good therapy in the hectic lifestyle we have. Its good to stop, sit down, and a good cup of tea and pat a foxgirl’s head.

While I’m being straight with you, it wasn’t close that this post wasn’t made. Few days ago, I was more or less through with this. I intended to abandon the blog as is, but nevertheless came back to it. I’ll have to make some hard life choices pretty much right now, and most of it is about what I want to spend time on. Blogging takes surprisingly large amount of time, especially when I’m trying to follow multiple possibly interesting news and stories alongside what might happen with some franchises. It eats time, time that I could use for something else like being outside or practicing drawing. I have come to a point where blogging in itself doesn’t bring anything to the table anymore, unless I am to slightly change how I approach. Less commentary, news and popular culture discussion, more personal stuff and things surrounding them. Perhaps you’ve noticed that design comparisons and reviews have effectively stopped and that’s the reason; they just take so much time and are mentally exhausting. A Youtuber friend named Terry advised me to get a Patreon and see if that would give any reason to move forwards, but I haven’t made it public; I know it would yield no real funding to purchase a domain name or towards unique redesign of the and items to review. However, I’m not shutting that out from the equation, but I’d need a real reason to use it. As for the blog, I’ll still aim to continue for few more years despite the admitted drop in quality and content. Ten years isn’t far away at this point, and It’d be shame just to quite when a decade’s almost full.

By the time you’re reading this, my short vacation is over and I’ve returned to work. Sadly, I managed to get jack shit done during this time due to friends having their vacation at different times, so we had to juggle stuff a lot. Vacation seems to be busier and more hectic than work itself.

Iczer Robo: A Visual History

This is a part of series of posts relating to Fight! Iczer-1 franchise. Please see Robot related materials above for further content on the subject

The intention of this post is to cover main appearances of Iczer Robo and its main different versions and successors from the Fight! Iczer-1 franchise. This is not an exhaustive list of all appearances and images, but an overview on some notable ones. This post is heavy with images, so the click below for more.

Continue reading “Iczer Robo: A Visual History”

Battletoads is British Punk

I said I’d skip E3 this year and write nothing about it, but when something goes so wrong like Battletoads is being made into a modern Nickeledeon cartoon inspired style, something is really, really gone to the extreme wrong end. You know at what moment I got worried? Right from the start. Let’s just link the damn trailer and let’s continue from there.

 

Oh God. That’s chromatic aberration in the logo

Chromatic aberration is an error introduced by film in older animation and movies. In recent years it has made a resurgence in modern digital media as an effect, despite decades of work being done to eliminate it completely. Not only it looks distracting when overused, but its become a trope on its own already. It can be found almost everywhere and it almost never looks the part it was intended to. On top of that, it doesn’t help people with poorer eyesight or sight that gets crossed. It fucks ’em up even worse. Credit where credit is due, you can barely see it in the logo, but goddamn this leads into some hot neon pink shit I can already tell.

That’s a flipped double bird to the old guard in form of a fish

And this was the point where my first thought was They missed the cultural starting point for Battletoads and many of the fans will outright hate it. At this moment on the official Xbox Youtube video, it has 8,4k dislikes vs. 4,7k likes. However, what do I mean that the developers missed the cultural starting point with Battletoads? While everyone always touts and mentions how Battletoads is mostly a Teenage Mutant  Ninja Turtles knock-off with green skinned fighting frogs, the fact is that’s nothing unique. Late 1980’s and early-to-mid 1990’s saw numerous anthropomorphic animal mascots and franchises across the board, from Sonic the Hedgehog to The Mighty Ducks! and Bucky O’Hare. Biker Mice from Mars was pretty goddamn rad, and its Finnish dub made mediocre show into a masterpiece. It would be error to simply coincide Battletoads with its contemporaries just for convenience. TMNT might be seen as the starting point for the humanimal trend, but for Battletoads’ style, the roots are not across the pond, but in late 70’s and 80’s British pop- and punk-culture and tripzines.

Let’s use this Battletoads key art as a reference point. And oh, the main enemy mooks are goddamn punk rats

Much like many other NES game, Battletoads‘ art is amateurish, but at the same time so damn fine. It’s free, original and rough. Rough is the key here, as that serves as the main link to the tripzines. It might be rough looking, but that’s part of the charm. It’s not overly cute, is full of that early 90’s attitude and everyone’s pretty much colour coded how they’d appear in the game. The NES colour palette was limited, so designing character that in mind always helps. You can also tell the ‘toads apart from each other easily with little things like shades on Rash, dark eyeshade, belt and gloves on Zitz and Pimple just being bigass dude. Note how the names are part of the whole boys’ shock culture with their grossout names. All part of the charm.

The roughness of course comes from British cartoons like Danger Mouse and Count Duckula. This roughness is not exactly intended in itself, but unlike their American competitors, British animation houses had to work with tighter budgets and the end result often ended up being rougher than intended. This includes such shows as SuperTed as well, though at this point the Rare wasn’t bunch of kids anymore. Where the edge for Battletoads comes from are the numerous hard hitting tripzines, self-published comic strips analogous to Japanese doujinshi scene. UK Underground Comix! has numerous scanned copies, sometimes originals even. Some of them are rough, some of them are even great, and all of them are rowdy. Of course, I would be dismissive if I didn’t mention 2000 AD, the British science fiction comic from the British. Robo Magnus there in the middle, with its looming posture and metallic mask he wears.

Battletoads would fit with these guys just fine

I would also do a small crime against British comic publication if I didn’t mention The Beano, a Scottish children’s comic magazine that’s been running from 1938 to this very day. The Beano in many ways defined the British comic style for the century alongside with the aforementioned SF comic.

But of course, where would be in if we didn’t start with the royalty? The original Dark Queen was based on Elvira, Mistress of the Dark and it shows.

 

This being the UK, I bet having a small potshot at the royalty was there in the back of the head somewhere. The whole point of a design like this isn’t to objectify women, but rather give the dominant role over the ruled ones. The whole Dark Queen motif invites the ideas of things forbidden and evil pleasures. It’s a pretty generic but solid design, unlike her modern version.

And this one? This one looks like shit and here’s why; that it a dull outfit with a dull facial expression with dull colours. Sure, black suit isn’t exactly colourful in itself, yet it pops up better in a game that isn’t filled with pink and purple like the 2019 Battletoads’ trailer is. There’s nothing royal about her, she has no aura to rule with under that design. She looks more like some kind of communist general or a mad scientist than a Queen. To put it simply, this design has no power.

At least they kept her gloves.

Then again, the combat amphibians themselves don’t fare much better.

Hoo boy. Sure, the original Battletoads cast didn’t have the most dynamic idle stance, but Rash just standing there like some lanky bitch simply irritates. You’ll also notice that the ‘toads are of different colour than in the keyart above, and that’s because they went through colour changes until they set with these colours. Though why the hell they messed otherwise perfectly good designs to make them worse is anyone’s guess.

However, the visual history is of American comics and cartoons, which does not fit the already established visual style of the franchise. It goes to the opposite direction, choosing to be family safe and effectively disregards what the previous games wanted to convey. Killer Instinct may have brought Rash into 3D, but holy shit it shows respect towards the series and its spirit in every single way this new game doesn’t.

You know what makes this incarnation of a Battletoad so damn great? It’s fun and cartoony, its mischeavous, it showcases childish humour and yet its rough, raw and has edge to it. There are no flip flopping with a goddamn fish, what you get is massive fisting and spiky booting. There are actual spikes, not whatever shit green shit Pimple’s redesign has on its wrists and belt.

They also use flipped sprites in an era where memory should not be a goddamn problem. This is best seen with Zitz’s, the middle one’s, arm thingies

That’s all good Aalt, but Battletoads was always kiddy stuff. That’s what many may want to think, but the arcade Battletoads showcases what Rare would do if they had pretty much no limitations regarding censorship.

This game shows perhaps the best what sort of core Battletoads have in terms of visual themes. Visceral violence and hard hitting head bashing with nothing held back. You smash your enemies heads in, you cut them off with an Axe kick, you split them with a spiky slam or kick them off the screen as they scurry off. It’s everything your mother would hate in games that look like they’re for kids. All that is lacking from the new Battletoads game and that is why there is a large portion disliking it. Rather than looking and feeling like a Battletoads game, it looks like a cheap knock-off.

It’s also so goddamn purple. It’s more or less clear that the game is being made for the new retro audience rather than to the people who played the originals and have been rooting for a new game for few decades. And what we get? A game that looks, and I echo so many others, like a bad FLASH game.

Credit given where deserved, the graphics look slick  in their intended way, animation is pretty good and all that, but it doesn’t look the part. The gameplay looks like an incoherent mess with plastic, cartoony deformation everywhere. Of course, can’t say much about the game play without playing it first, but this being Xbox One exclusive means that chances are I’ll never play it.

It’s really pathetic a game this awaited, especially by its fans, ends up looking nothing like it should have. That is not say that a more cartoony version of a classic belt scrolling action game could work, it just needs to be made in the same spirit with some damn respect for the source material. Like Streets of Rage 4.

Reviving for new ages is a challenge

Earthworm Jim is one of those franchises that had a momentary impact. After two good games, a decent TV-show and mediocre three-isue comic series by Marvel, it all went to the shitter. It’s a weird IP, tied to a weird era of television and culture in terms of design and visuals. Everything from the slightly scratchy and clearly hand drawn visuals to the slightly gross-out and weird designs that was hallmark of shows like Cow and Chicken and even Rugrats. You would think that making a heroic earthworm in intergalactic quest for peace with comedic overtones would be relatively easy to work out, but the sheer nonsense humour and how the games presented themselves didn’t really leave much room for the TV-show or the comics to flourish. Earthworm Jim 2 is even more nonsensical than its predecessor. Both of them are quality titles for the system they were released for, but adapting something like Earthworm Jim is just stupidly hard due to the lack of any cohesive world, and that’s kinda the point too. Sit back and enjoy the chaos and whatever ensues. EWJ is a like an acid trip that kept pushing envelope of What the Fuck.

Earthworm Jim, much like many other franchises and IPs, needs updating from time to time. Especially now EWJ is effectively being resurrected both in comic form and as a game for the upcoming Intellivision Amico. I agree, resurrecting Intellivision is a nifty move, but keeping the controllers like they were in original Intellivision won’t bode well. Hopefully optional controls will be a thing. One point that Intellivision should update itself to modern era. To use examples of IPs that kept renewing itself for new generations  are numerous, from The Transformers to Super Mario, most long running franchises have managed to find new ways to expand their consumers or find a new niche. Sometimes both. There are numerous examples of franchises getting screwed by badly handled renewals, like how Star Trek Discovery is less Star Trek than The Orville. Star Wars can be used as an example for an IP that war warmed up again and then revamped for the 1990’s with comics, books, games and whatnot. Let’s not talk about 2000’s and 2010’s Star Wars for now.

Very few IP can stay the same without any change throughout its existence if the owners want to milk it years on end. Something like EWJ was mishandled extremely badly after the second game was released. Some of the later Mega Man games were terribly handled as well, ranging  from utter garbage like Mega Man X 7 to series ending games like Star Force. EWJ revival is in good hands, seeing his original creators Doug TenNapel, David Perry and the rest of the motley crew are working on it. Doug’s handicraft especially is what has always given Jim his iconic look. While there are some who would rather not have Doug on-board, and that this blog holds the stance that original creators are not necessary in order to create great, if not even better, new installments to an IP, the history of EWJ games has been lacklustre without the original Shiny Entertainment team. Something like Metal Gear is relatively easy to approach, as the series’ core is easy to follow and has set tropes to the extent first few Solid games are just remakes of Metal Gear 2 in many ways. The weird humour EWJ employes is harder to trace down properly and replicate by someone else without it looking like a botched copy. It can be done, but it without a doubt would require people who are willing to let loose. Maybe be willing to have few magic brownies too. As weird as it may sound to people who didn’t see EWJ’s momentary popularity, it was on a straight road to stars, only to crash and burn.

EWJ can’t become a similar hit it used to be at this time with the current zeitgeist in popular culture and video games. Even with revising it’ll have the baggage of past games on it. It will be compared to the best of the franchise and expected to at least be on the same level. Beating Earthworm Jim 3D isn’t hard, or that GBC game, but it’s extremely easy to lapse how this new game is being handled. It’s just as easy to follow the first two game’s example and make a third entry that’s just an extension of one or the other, which would really would probably meet a positive reception, albeit lukewarm in reviews and be called a derivative work. It’d be just as easy just to do something completely different and unrelated, failing to understand why the first two EWJ games were so well loved. Nevertheless, it is easier to do a proper EWJ title nowadays than what it was twenty years ago. The IP is inherently 2D action. With 2D being again accepted as a valid, completely and perfectly normal view and gameplay angle, Earthworm Jim has a chance of becoming popular again. Anywhere between late-1990’s to mid 2000’s that’d been almost an impossible task, though even now 2D games often get the shaft.

However, the era of anthropomorphic mascots has been long over, with Sonic effectively being the only one left. Jim was immediate result of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle‘s explosive popularity, much like Battletoads was. What we have now related to anything of the sort simply doesn’t exist. Cartoons solely for kids in similar manner to the 1990’s are rather rare and cross-media franchising has changed. It’s not kids that are the main target of these cartoons and toys anymore. It’s still the same people who live with their parents and still buy the Spider-Man toys from the local store. You can’t dismiss these lifelong fans, but at the same time considering expanding the market, especially towards kids if the IP is originally a children’s franchise, is important. It’s a mess of a juggling act, trying to appease the long time fans that demand and rave multitude of things, trying to keep true with the origin and serve new possible customers while you’re at it all the while trying to make something new.

Sometimes it’d be the best to ignore everyone and everything and see what makes a worm tick, and follow those lines to perfection. Sometimes.