Fight! Iczer-1 series celebration

These posts were originally posted as a Monthly Three, as well as Iczer-1’s 30th anniversary celebration series. They are now here collected for easier access. This post covers introduction to the history and the Original Video Animations the franchise has seen.


Rei Aran

If one doesn’t find much sources about Hariken Ryu in English (his career with Godzilla gives him a lot of leverage over other of his contemporaries, Aran Rei is barely recognized in any degree. While Aran is known as one of many people who made up the best era of Comic Lemon People, and thus one of those who influenced then-current Japanese popular culture, and to that extension modern Japanese pop-culture, his name is all but lost in the Western front. He was at his most active in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, having an influence over stylistic sensibilities as well as contributing to the OVA scene.

Born in 1960, Aran’s first published work was Fairies of the Star in Comic Lemon People #6, 1982. Whether or not he had released doujinshis before this is unknown. The one work he seemed to like the most and kept working on  between 1983 and 1993 is Galaxy Police Patrizer-3. If any of his works, it is this one that shows how Aran refined his self-taught skills within one decade to a whole new level.

Continue reading “Fight! Iczer-1 series celebration”

Advertisements

Greymon Design Development

Welcome back to guest-post hour, I’m your host, the digi-destined A9. Since we left off at Agumon, it makes sense to go to his most commonly known evolution: Greymon. So let’s not waste any time.

Greymon Prototype

Wait a minute”, I might hear you say. “That’s not Greymon! That’s Rhydon, or Nidoking!” And it’s true, all of those have a very similar shape. But consider this: it’s a rough dinosaur sketch, that’s all that was needed at the time since Greymon wasn’t exactly a poster boy for the Digimon Pendulum series. That spotlight went to Tyrannomon, the true and honest evolution of Agumon. Still, the most prominent features are there: fat belly, three horns and a tail. The only thing that’s missing is the skull that the other versions are wearing over their heads, so let’s take a look at those, shall we?

Continue reading “Greymon Design Development”

ADD – Agumon Design Development

Hello again, guest post writer A9 here again, bringing you more Digimon goodness. This is a followup on my previous post, Digimon Design Evolution, but it’s not required reading or anything. It’s a free country, man!

In an ever-changing franchise, a design is never final. No matter how iconic a character may be, it will change over the years for better or worse. Pikachu got slim, Batman tried on different suits and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles got fucked up.

But this post is, as the title suggests, about Agumon. I already touched a bit upon his changing designs in my previous guest post on here, but now it´s time to take a more in-depth view of this yellow dinosaur over the years. In this post I’ll mainly look at video games, the anime series and the various movies with an other source now and then wedged in. Please note I won’t review the games and such, just the designs.

Agumon PrototypeDuring the production of the Digital Monster toy, sprites were drawn first, followed up with drawn artwork. Only the most basic shapes are recognisable, and they’re so-so as well. The sprite has a big head, but with what looks like a beak. It has quite small arms as well, and no tail can be seen. With the first prototype drawing his head and feet are already fairly similar to his final design, but he’s not as menacing. A friendly upright standing crocodile that lost its tail.

His official design enlarged the arms by adding forearms with large claws for hands (just like his feet in the prototype), giving the feet a little more bulk and giving the head the detail it deserves for it to become a dinosaur-like creature. The nose is raised a little above the rest of his jaw and the head itself is more thick. The eyes clearly have sockets, and has more room at the brow for that dinosaur look. Additionally he got very small ear holes which is always kind of amusing to me even though is makes perfect sense. Such a logical addition, but easily forgotten as most other Digimon don’t have clear defined ears. To finish the design off, add a very small tail (or more like a stub) and send the lad to the gym for some weight training. Huzzah, we got our official Bandai art version of Agumon.

This official art will keep in use over the years (especially merchandise such as the trading card game), but different artists create different Agumon. Imagine, that when his final design was being developed another artist had a crack at it? That’s what probably happened when the publisher of Weekly Shōnen Jump (Shueisha) made a small manga to teach kids how to take care of their Digital Monsters.

Agumon 1997 Manga

Forget dinosaur, welcome dragon. Way bigger, cuter eyes along with a more round face. Thanks to the shape of his head Agumon can still be recognized, but his body is totally different. His chest is white and his arms are miniature sized and on top of that he’s left with a three-fingered claw as hand. This Agumon also went to the gym however, but really seemed to like leg day, almost having rabbit-like features if it weren’t for the actual tail. All in all, I’d say this was a way more conventional design for dragon-like creatures instead of the western comic based one we got.

It was time for a new medium, however. So when the Digital Monster Ver. S got released on the Sega Saturn in 1998, they reused the pixel art from the tamagotchi release, but made a new drawing of Agumon to put on the cover.

This Agumon completely forgot to go to the Gym and looks way more like the prototype. No muscle, no veins, a cute smile and a round body. Perhaps even the only cute thing on the cover at all, as the rest of his fellow Digimon look a lot more like their final designs.

PS1 Digimon World

Welcome to the Playstation 1 era, welcome to Digimon World. This game brought the pet raising and the battles to the third dimension so here we have our first 3D model. The standard pose is relatively the same as the Bandai artwork, but there are some differences. First of, the most glaring one in my opinion, is his colour: a weird shade of yellow has taken over. The reason for this is unknown, it could either be hardware limitations or a design choice (as there have been other yellow Agumon. However, I’m inclined to think it’s hardware limitations since the Playstation uses 24-bit true color to render its colours, and that palette lacks a good shade of orange. Going with yellow is not a bad compromise in that case.

The other glaring difference is the slope of his nose towards the head. Before it was just a minor thing, but here it’s overdone in such a way that the whole skull looks different. He lost his thumb as well, and we won’t be seeing that again. Part of me feels they did away with it for simplicities sake, but one cannot be sure in these things. The earholes and teeth are also not visible anymore, also most likely due to hardware limitations. He is still a little jacked though and his arms are still buff.

Just a few months after his debut on the Playstation, Agumon appeared on TV in the movie Digimon Adventure and a day later in the series also called Digimon Adventure. Even though they were aired a day after each other they actually differ a bit because of the story and tone. As the movie was set mostly during the night and had to fill the role of introducing kids to the franchise on TV it was a bit more darker and mysterious. This was a dinosaur, no talking, just destructive fireballs. Very noticeable is his size though, as he’s almost twice the size of his series counterpart. If we compare this to his Bandai design, we can see he lost most of his muscle again and in exchange lost a little neck fat and received a toothy smile (in the series, at least).

TV Digivice

The anime was a big hit, and that means merchandise. A ‘real’ Digivice was released in which you had multiple Digimon to choose from to fight other Digimon. This toy had more screen space than the original Digital Monsters and along with the success of the anime came an updated pixel art design of Agumon. And really, what is there to say? They absolutely nailed the head, but in my opinion the arms are a bit weak. I don’t want to hammer in the gym references, but he wasn’t feeling it.

WC - Digital Monsters Ver Wonderswan

Enter the WonderSwan, Bandai’s own portable gaming device. Sadly never released in the west, because it’s filled with Digimon games. Digital Monsters Ver. WonderSwan was the pet raising experience ported to the WonderSwan with enhanced graphics. Clearly based off the Bandai art it’s nearly a replica with some very minor differences. Firstly, and I really need to address this: the eye. He’s either high as fuck, or he has seen some bad shit. Secondly his face seems to be a little less long. This could certainly be explained by the perspective, but it still feels a little different regardless. The last change are his veins yet again. His health is improving.

PS1 Digimon Card Battle

When I first laid eyes upon this monstrosity from Digimon World: Digital Card Battle, I felt severe disgust. Mostly because of the veins. Changing your medium really changes the look of things, since that’s all that has really happened, it’s almost precisely the Bandai design, except for the fact that he’s standing up a little more straight. Oh god, the veins.

WC - Digimon Anode - 2

Oh my God, what’s wrong with your face? In Digimon Adventure: Anode Tamer Agumon appears again, but I have to say that the art style in this game is a bit inconsistent. For some reason, his face is about twice the size that it should be in his introductory scene. This game is set in the same world as Digimon Adventure, so it’s no wonder the art style is the same. Besides that huge head.

Even after branching off into other media, the Tamagotchi line was not given up on. Why would they, since they were still successful? Meet Pendulum ZERO Virus Busters.

P Pendulum ZERO

An honest to goodness redesign of the Agumon sprite. Bigger and longer head plus longer arms. A very straightforward update and a lot more recognisable.

WC - Digimon Medley

Another WonderSwan game, Digimon Medley. I felt like this one was notable for featuring one very anime-like design (albeit very, very orange) and one squashed design. Most likely one is used for cutscenes and whatnot, while the other is used for gameplay. It’s still an odd choice however, since the head is actually taller than the full sized one on the left, but a little less wide. His arms and legs are both shorter, and his tail is also a little longer since it´s pointing upwards instead of to the side. In the end, most of these are probably due to gameplay mechanics and system limitations, but it´s still interesting to see.

Hello again, Playsation. Here we have a game with both 2D and 3D Agumon along with a cover appearance. The only reason I mention the cover is because for some reason Agumon’s eye is brown instead of green. Absolutely unbelievable. The 3D model is looking pretty good for the PS1 (if very yellow again and without veins), but the real highlight it the 2D sprite. So small and adorable (and in the right colours as well). Just comparing that to Digimon Medley, what a difference. And to think Digimon World 3 only got released one year later. I know it’s on different hardware and probably made by a different team. But still.

Agumon X

And now we arrive at the fabled X-Antibody Agumon. All X-Antibody Digimon are essentially redesigns with some sort of focus in mind. For our orange friend, it was the dinosaur route, not completely unlike the odd 1997 manga design. He has gotten elements of the Greymon line already: Bigger claws on hand and feet, still no thumbs, a tail and the blue stripes across his body. It also has more than 4 teeth, which should make eating easier.

The similarity with the manga are pretty interesting, as it too has three ‘fingers’, a longer tail and a different coloured chest. I can’t help but wonder if they took a look at that design when working on Agumon X.

Digimon World 4 (or Digimon World X in Japan), released on the PlayStation 2 is certainly an odd one. I have no idea if the weapons make sense in the game in some manner, but I used to see this game on the shelves and it left me very confused.

The left image is from the Japanese game cover having a shorter head than usual and quite big eyes. In contrast with that is the western Agumon (also on the cover) with a longer head. What is it with this weird contrast? Also, big surprise, the ingame model is yellow again. At this point you cannot blame hardware limitations anymore so I’m having trouble determining why they’d stick with yellow at this point. Well, that and why in hell they made this a weird action game with weapons?

Agumon 2006

Happy new year, this is 2006. The year this haunting image was created. I’ll be honest, I hate everything about the redesign. He face got wider and more flat, moving the nose downwards and redesigning them like a power socket. His body is way more round and gone are the muscles, as he got some noodle arms and legs instead. The feet look like balls of clay with some sharp Tic-tacs (the breath mints) shoved in. The whole hand design is gone, and got replaced by a three-pronged claw with some red leather bands strapped around them. Finally, yet again, he’s yellow. According to the lore, this Agumon is still growing and thus weaker than the normal Agumon.

The final detail that I noticed are his teeth. In his previous designs, even with his mouth open you could only see a couple. When his mouth is closed, the traditional design usually shows four teeth sticking out of his mouth. This time, we got a mouthful, just like the Agumon X design.

DS - Digimon World DS agumon

Now that’s a vast improvement since last time. From Digimon World DS, here is Agumon yet again. In these games, Agumon can digivolve into either Greymon or Geogreymon and there is no distinction between the ‘normal’ Agumon and the redesign. Maybe that’s why this sprite is kind of a blend as well. He got some muscle shapes back, longer feed and the nose isn’t a power socket anymore. One thing that does become apparent with this sprite is his longer tail which has been all over the place by now.

Now it´s time for some 3D models from over the years. The Agumon most to the left is from the Japan only PSP title Digimon Adventure (yes, a very original name) which follows the story of, you guessed it, Digimon Adventure. It raises the question why he has the power socket nose and the multiple teeth however. Another mix of the designs? Does Bandai even know anymore?

The following two models are from the PC MMO Digimon Masters Online, which does feature two Agumon designs. The 2006 design looks a lot more like its original design with its noodle arms and smaller feet, but surprisingly it does not have the larger amount of teeth like it should have. To finish it off it’s even a little bit more orange than the original one.

The last render (excuse the seam) is from a multitude of games by now, from the PlayStation 4 titles such as Cyber Sleuth till the mobile game Digimon Links. By far most resembling the original anime design and throwing everything about 2006 out of the window, except for the somewhat weak upper arm.

We´re done with the game models! ..so let´s look at the game covers. Ha ha, I tricked you.

PSV - Next Order

Digimon World Next Order features a fairly normal Agumon, except for his teeth. I swear I didn’t expect to spend so much time about Agumon’s teeth, but he got one extra tooth on each side, and they got bigger. Why, we will never know.

Digimon World Re:Digitize Decode features an Agumon that almost looks like a plushy toy in contrast to Veemon. All of his features are vastly deformed± a smaller, shorter head with a smile, bigger and mostly wider hand and feet but with way shorter claws. I´m not sure which one is cuter, this one or the overworld sprite of Digimon World 3. I´ll let you be the judge of that. All I know his in game mugshot is not a contender. Did he get jacked up too much? Did he inject his forearms? Is this the sloth version? Is this an Agumon with a disability?

Agumon Tri 2

Let’s wrap this thing up with some nostalgia pandering in a very nice way. As a continuation on Digimon Adventure (and Digimon Adventure 02) comes Digimon Tri with a much older original cast and new art style, and that includes the Digimon. Agumon is a bit slimmer, and has a more pointy tail to compliment this. His neck did get a tad longer to keep the size of the head consistent and not turn him into a midget, but that begs the question why he doesn’t just start leg day. Hit the gym, bro! Overall, this design reminds me a lot more of the Adventure movie, albeit much, much smaller.

If only he’d hit the gym.

Digimon Design Evolution

What’s this? No Aaltomies? No! A guest post by some random internet dweeb. The name is A9 and I sometimes work behind the shadows to read some posts over from Aaltomies before they are published. A while ago he asked me to write my own thing, and after postponing it for a long time (sorry Aalt!) I finally wrote this down. I have probably forgotten a few elements, so please bear with me.

So, how did the design of Digimon evolve over the years? For that, let’s look at the very first one created, the famous Agumon (and also a little at the often overshadowed Tryannomon).

As is often the case with any project: it changes over time. Kenji Watanabe, the longtime designer of the Digimon franchise revealed a lot about the series roots in a recent interview. Just like how Pokémon was more a dinosaur catching game called Capsule Monsters, the Digimon franchise started as a dinosaur themed tamagotchi aimed at younger boys (first named Otokotchi and then Capsule Zaurus). However, since these names would infringe on other companies’ products the name was changed to Digital Monster, which was then shortened to Digimon. This also marked the shift from just dinosaurs to the literal digital monsters, a real genre shift. There was a bit of a hurdle to overcome though: Pokémon had really kicked off and they would really have to differentiate themselves. A lot of designs, mainly of cute creatures with elemental colourings had to go due to this and this caused to have Watanabe free reign over the new designs. His inspiration: American comics such as Spawn.

Since these were the first designs, they were fully drawn, converted to pixel art, and then the drawings were tweaked again. In the future releases, the pixel art would come first.

As an example, let’s start with Agumon, since he’s undoubtedly one of the most famous of our Digital Pets. In essence, it’s a tiny dinosaur with oversized claws.

Quite the different look than we’re used to and very close to the pixel art look. This makes sense as the sprites were used on a very small screen, so making it too detailed would give you a pix elated mess. Something that was important though, was that even if some Digimon were cute, they had to have an element of fearsomeness to it. Otherwise it would just be cute critters beating each other up, which felt a bit sad to the development team.

The Virtual Pet proved to be quite successful, as they made five series of these between 1997 and 1998. Because of this, it sprouted two mangas and eventually an anime.

The series first had a one-shot in the 1997 summer issue of Akamaru Jump as C’mon Digimon: The capering monster BUN, featuring the still-popular Greymon, but also two Digimon who made their debuts. Now, even though these two haven’t been seen again since, they were both important building blocks for other Digimon.

Comparison Digimon
Design elements from Deathmon can be found in Evilmon and Gran Kuwagamon.

Let’s start with Deathmon, looking kind of different than the Agumon we’ve seen before. Deathmon, well, his design just screams ‘super evil’. In all honesty, it reminds me of a Super Sentai villain.  Deathmon can be seen back in Evilmon when you compare their mouths and general head structure, plus some nice spiky hair. The body, but mostly the arms and claws can be found back in Gran Kuwagamon. Obviously, it’s possible that this is a coincidence (since there are many, many different Digimon) but even if that is the case, it shows that some designs stick with the series.

Bun
Bun the special baby.

The other new Digimon is Bun, a small character with baby features (huge eyes and head), weird antennae and a weird dinosaur shaped torso with tail. According to its designer it was supposed to look a little bit like a very weird dog. But where does his design return? The serialisation of a manga.

That manga being Digimon Adventure V-Tamer 01, a creation by the aforementioned Watanabe and the artist Tenya Yabuno. Although a lot of Digimon were already made for the Virtual Pet series, this manga introduced new Digimon as well through the joint effort of Watanabe and Yabuno. For example, the V-dramon line which stemmed from Bun.

Zeromaru
Zeromaru the V-dramon. The cutest fat fuck in the whole universe.

Now, I can’t lie, this manga made me appreciate V-dramon to such an extent it’s my personal favourite at this point. As its designer, Yabuno explains:

I did design [V-dramon] using C’mon Digimon as a base, so the keyword ‘pet dog’ still stuck with me. […] The Digimon Kenji-san (Watanabe) designs usually sport solid-looking legs, but I designed V-dramon with the image of a small, carnivorous dinosaur in mind. I had initially wanted to design it like a fluffy dog as well.

At the time, most Digimon could digivolve to quite different forms regardless of initial form (Agumon to Devimon for example). During the run of the manga, many more Digimon were created such as Angemon and HolyAngemon. This kind of changed how some forms would really resemble the Digimon from it’s previous level.

While the manga was being serialized, the anime got the OK sign (Digimon Adventure) and was starting preproduction, just like its first video game for the PlayStation 1 (Digimon World). These media really needed references, final designs to base itself on.

Three pretty different forms. Two new versions with their own sets of restrictions. Digimon World was a PlayStation 1 game, so the amount of polygons was severely limited. It’s still quite close to the official art, except for the colour which I’ve always found very strange. Now, for the anime there is obviously a lot less detail as is usually the case. This did cause this version to have less muscle and veins, so it appears a lot cuter than the original design: much smoother and more flat.

So when the game released on January 28 1999 and the anime started airing on March 7 of the same year, merch started to be pumped out. Figures, plushes, a trading card game, you name it.

The TCG and most of the toys are based on the official Bandai art. As a kid this always surprised me, as I got interested into the franchise thanks to the anime. Nevertheless, I have always thought that the cards especially were very striking.

At this point, there are already a ton of Digimon – but Bandai won’t stop, oh no. Even with its quite low budget, the anime was a good hit, and a sequel was made. I’m thankful I don’t have to discuss Digimon Adventure 02.

Let’s start with Veemon, the first critter above. He is in many ways a redesign of Bun from the one-shot manga and designed by working back from V-dramon and creating a more cute version. Heresy I say, V-dramon is cute enough.

One of the main themes of Digimon Adventure 02 was that Rookie Digimon could not digivolve thanks to the evil Digimon Emperor. Enter armor-digivolving, which give the Digimon.. armor. Usually very literally. Let’s not call it mecha, lets call it ‘tacking on random pieces on lengthened Digimon’. Wait, that’s the usual digivolve process now, isn’t it? Take a few pieces of the Rookie, put them on the adult, put it into the blender and presto.

All joking aside (mostly) the armor-digivolve process gave a different feel to the show, even if the show itself wasn’t all that great. Later in the show, everyone can normal digivovle again and Veemon can turn into.. oh, it’s XV-mon. No, no, that’s fine. Sure. Take away the stumpy legs and the big belly. Another redesign of sorts, more cool, more muscle. More importantly, more slim, no fatso’s allowed.

Moving over to the movies with unique visuals, the originally named Digimon Adventure (1999) and Digimon Adventure: Our War Game! (2000).

Both deviate from the main anime in their own way. As can be seen in these screenshots, the first Agumon is a bit bigger than in the anime (and for reference, that’s a baby so he’s not huge) and generally has a more scary, feral look by using more linework for detail in his arms, chest and neck. This is the case for all Rookie level or above Digimon in this movie. Our War Game takes a different approach, as they go for a lighter colour palette with an orange outline.

Now, a rather famous (or infamous) aspect of Digimon is born, the waifumon. Some would argue it would start with Renamon, but they’re a bunch of furries and I don’t want to talk about no damn furries.

Shutumon

Remember how Angemon and Angewoman were humanoids in Digimon Adventure? Yeah, now almost everyone is a pseudo-human. Thanks Digimon Frontier (2002)! Humans changing into Digimon! Bi-pedal, two arms, two legs, some very mild animal features and some element worked through in their design. Oh, and if its a woman, they have big tits. This trend will sadly continue for a while. I’m sure someone made a neat list of them, sorted by breast size.

Omegamon 3D

Another unique look, here is Digital Monster X-evolution released in 2005. Fully 3D, keeping true to designs but very, very far away from the American influence from where they were born. Not that I can blame them, it is more difficult to keep that style in a 3D environment. Also, I doubt that most people at Toei even like that style.

Talking about X-evolution also means talking about redesigns. In the extensive lore of the Digimon world, at one point there were too many Digimon so God decided to kill 99% of them with a virus. Certain Digimon managed to resist though, through the X-antibody, causing them to change appearance and power up significantly.

Take a look at these Metal Garurumon. The original design stems from 1999 and the redesign was made in 2003. And what a difference! It was important to really set the X-antibody line apart from the originals and give them a more unique look. In my opinion, they really succeeded with this one causing it to feel a bit more gritty. Overall, dinosaurs look more like dinosaurs, robots look more like robots, beasts look more like beasts. I don’t want to call it more realistic, but they are definitely set apart from the rest.

Shoutmon X3

Honest acknowledgement: I never watched this series, I just really didn’t feel like it looked like Digimon. Did someone mentioned Gundam yet? No? Good, cause Xros Wars (2010) looks like Gundam. Whole lotta robots, man-shaped machines, bug-shaped machines, but Digimon. Look, I like me some Gundam as much as the next guy, but I’ve lost the Digimon aspect here.

Agumon had many forms, in many games. Usually they look like.. well, a normal Agumon. Either more styled towards the anime, or the Bandai design. But sometimes.. sometimes it just goes wrong. Enter the PSP title Digimon Re:Digitised (2012).

Agumon (Re:Digitize)
“Please kill me.”

I like the shading and it looks like the original design. But why, do tell me, WHY is he slouching like this? Bad posture! Bad! Dragging his claws across the floor. He poses no danger at all, he’s a slouch. A sloth. Sloth Agumon to the rescue. Good thing the game is pretty decent.

Agumon Tri

Did someone say another redesign? Because Digimon Tri (2015) brought us another redesign and a very welcome one I have to say. More faded colours than the original Adventure, more scrawny arms but bigger claws. Not quite as bulky as the original Bandai design, but closer than before. A faithful remake, but I wouldn’t mind him looking a bit less friendly. Still, I cannot deny that I just love that cute little dinosaur.

Updated on 20-01-2018 to add the Gran Kuwagamon similarity to Deathmon (thanks Casp) and a small bit about the X-antibody Digimon that I forgot.

Stuck in the past

What does Star Trek and Star Wars have in common? Both have slew of prequels to them. The idea really is solid; explore how things came to be and see what sort of stories could be made within a certain set of time. The problem with either franchise is that there are definitive elements within those worlds that dictate how certain things must be in their prequels, otherwise the stories would not make sense or even connect.

Star Trek Discovery is supposedly set ten years prior the original television series. One would expect them to follow how the series then should look, albeit updates here and there. After all, Star Trek is a pillar of modern western popular culture in many ways. However, pretty much everything was moved to the side in favour of visuals that follow more along the lines of the nuTrek movies, or the Kelvin timeline as its now called. For a common couch potato this all fine and dandy, and requires little suspension of disbelief. However, for even a light fan of the series, the visual just don’t sit right. All this is of course because the series is developed under a license intended for an alternate timeline Star Trek, not under one that’s meant for the mainline.

There is no problem in making a prequel in itself. The problems rise if the creators want to have freedoms that are not tied too much to pre-existing stories. Especially with stories that are set between set events. Essentially, you’re boxing yourself between a rock and a hard place when it comes to creative freedoms. If you’re not willing to utilise given tools and take advantage of the existing stories, then it’d be better just find someone who can.

This isn’t a hardcore fan’s perspective either. A story of any sorts requires at least some level of respect towards it, otherwise the end product will most likely end up being schlock at best.

A good example of a story shoved in-between two other stories would the Shadows of the Empire. While it was a well made marketing decision to create a Star Wars phenomena without a movie, it did stand on rather good story that utilised elements from Empire Strikes Back that would lead into Return of the Jedi. All the while creating something new.

Say you want to write a story for Star Trek without being hampered down by existing restrictions. That’s an impossible task, but the most freedom you would have if you were to create a sequel story. This would allow you to have pretty much all the freedoms to do whatever you want, with the only restriction being the overall history and relationships between factions. Nevertheless, you could still have Klingons as enemies with a good reason despite there existing an alliance between Federation and them.

Star Wars’ prequels movies didn’t exactly suffer from being boxed between stories, like STD does, but what they suffer from is spoiling and devaluing the original trilogy. For example, Empire Strikes Back has less impact when you’ve seen Anakin becoming Darth Vader. Vader himself changes as a character if you don’t make a mental distinction between trilogies.

Under Disney’s rule, we’re getting new prequels all the time, for the better or worse. Rogue One‘s story was something we’ve seen few times over already, and due to this SW‘s Expanded Universe had to reconcile how things went down between events and who really stole the plans. That, and you couldn’t have anyone alive at the end. That didn’t stop them mucking up the storyline though, as the end of the movie contradicts the opening of A New Hope.

The question that is required to be asked if we even need to see these stories unfold. The fact that Death Star’s plans were stolen isn’t an important story in the end, but what happened afterwards is. The same thing happened with Death Star II’s plans. We didn’t need to see many Bothans die on-screen to understand how heavy their losses were. Mon Mothma does that well enough on the screen with her acting.

For Star Trek, we don’t really need to see the Earth-Romulan war, despite plans existed for it during Enterprise and fans wanting it. There really isn’t need to see what happened between the period of the Original Series and the movies. These would be best explored in supplemental materials, where the fans could enjoy these events the most. This is due to the nature of Star Trek itself; it’s not a story about wars. Deep Space Nine being an exception rather than a rule. Even then, DS9‘s war was naturally developed aftermath of finding a stable wormhole.

Hell, if STD wanted to tell a grim story about Federation warring, the staff could’ve introduced a new enemy and make heavy questions if a society like Federation can exist in its high-horse haven like state when reality does not match it. The Original Series does this to an extend, especially with Kirk, who constantly has to fight to uphold his ideals in a human way. This is the exact opposite to early The Next Generation, where the cast was completely idolised without much shred of humanity. That all came down after the Borg invaded. In retrospect, it could be even argued that Federation was taken down a peg by the Borg and made them realise how their own society had moved towards a more terrible direction.

A natural progression of a story is forwards. Episode VII made the right direction to move forwards in Star Wars‘ canon, whereas we can debate if seeing a film about younger Han Solo was ever needed. If you’ve ever read Han Solo at the Stars’ End, the answer is Yes. However, those who know the book also recognize that Solo in this book is very much a different beast from modern Star Wars’ take on him, especially if the rumours of the solo Solo movie’s original take was to make him an Ace Ventura-like. Midnight’s Edge unsurprisingly has a vids up on the whole issue.

Boxing yourself tight into a prequel takes a certain set of mind, one that has to be able to to utilise given resources, not make up whatever shit you want. Whoever owns Star Trek in the end, be it either CBS or Universal, they really need to move forwards and do a new The Next Generation rather than trying to milk with remakes, prequels or reboots.

A Mega Man movie

The first question the whole thing raises up is Why? Mega Man as a franchise is not currently relevant to the game consuming crowd and has fallen into a niche. Yet, Twentieth Century Fox worked two years to acquire the rights. Exclusive news be damned, there’s something rotten in the land of Denmark.

Let’s step aside the fact that Hollywood reported used the wrong sub-series picture and managed to fuck up telling the premise of the games, as Rock is Mega Man’s non-hero name and he volunteered to be turned unto a super fighting robot. They are also using the Capcom method of counting the games, with ports counted as separate entities from each other.

The question we have here isn’t if the movie will be good. It’s almost guaranteed not to follow the little plot the original games had and will deviate from it like no other. All Mega Man adaptations have done this, for better or worse. What is relevant about this keg of horseshit is what will the approach be. Whether or not Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman will direct the movie is slightly less relevant on what the studio wants. I can see Twentieth Century Fox wanting to move forwards with video game adaptations in order to fight Marvel’s comic book movies, and adapting Mega Man is all about nostalgia, currently.

The original Mega Man is a children’s TV-show, essentially speaking. The same goes for the Legends series, which can be even played episodically like that with certain pacing. The X-series can be a cartoon for slightly older audience, but much like Zero-series, it could be adapted to a full war story, though both of them do offer interesting philosophical points about humanity and robotics. However, despite that, Mega Man as a whole isn’t about that, and a Hollywood adaptation most likely will miss the little point the games have going on for them.

Let’s not beat around the bushes, the movie’s probably not going to be very faithful to the games and will probably make the fans disappointed while the rest of the audience couldn’t give two shits. Saying this before any solid info on anything has surfaced is presuming a lot of things, yet that’s how it usually goes. Even decent game-movie adaptations tend to suck and have no impact whatsoever.

There is also a possibility for franchise confusion here. With the Man of Action cartoon coming out 2018, Capcom probably has been revving up to emphasize that as the main vehicle to resurrect the franchise. That’s all good and dandy, there is validity in resurrecting the franchise for children from a clean slate, even though it will piss off the older fanbase. However, all the current fans should recognize that they were catered when they were kids, and a kid’s IP should stay that way for future generations rather than change to be something it’s not.

These points worry me. It is possible that the movie will be aimed that older fans and the content of the movie will reflect this in content. This would mean the Man of Action’s take on the franchise could stay as the kid friendly entry, with all the toys and possible games aimed to cater them solely. An adult oriented Mega Man would not be a good idea, unless it specifically concentrated on the more mature aspects of the larger franchise, as mentioned.

That’s where I can’t trust Hollywood Reporter on this. They’re speaking of Mega Man all the while using image resource from X-series. Let’s suppose for a moment that Twentieth Century Fox didn’t just get rights to the Classic series, but for Mega Man movies in general. Then it would be possible for them to use any material from the franchise. I wouldn’t put past them to just use elements across the franchise rather than sticking to one, which Man of Action is kinda doing with their entry.

Chernin Entertainment, the company making the movie under Fox, has multiple action films under its belt,  like the reboot series for the Planet of the Apes movies alongside few dramas and comedies. Outside Parental Guidance from 2012, none of their production is something that would reflect positively on Mega Man. This bodes just as well towards a Mega Man movie as Fox as a movie studio. Their track record with game adaptations like Legend of Chun-Li is absolutely terrible, and while Tom Rothman is not working for them anymore, they’re not getting out from the low-quality swamp anytime soon.

Granted, Deadpool was a damn good movie, but Chernin Entertainment had jack shit to do with it. Telling me that fans that love Mega Man doesn’t carry any weight around here, and while Masayori Oka probably grew up playing the games, Fox is ultimately the ones to put the boot down.

Oka’s some sort of gleam of hope in all this, to be frank. In an issue of SFX Collection, he mentioned collecting Pluto, a retelling of sorts of  Tetsuwan Atom‘s arc The Greatest robot on Earth. It’s not terribly far-fetched to say that Naoki Urawasa’s works have affected Oka, and this influence could be seen in the Mega Man movie. That is, if Joost and Schulman won’t ignore their producer completely. More than a handful of movies have been completely and utterly destroyed by executive hands, like the recent Ghostbusters reboot or anything Rothman touched.

Knowing Capcom, they’re not going to care one bit either way. They have a long-time partnership with Hollywood ever since the film version of Street Fighter II came out, and movie adaptations of their games haven’t really gotten any better. Resident Evil is still going on, supposedly, and there were even Dead Rising films. A Mega Man to the mix is just a droplet in the river for them.

If this post reads like I’m losing all hope and faith in the product as I write this, that’s not too far from the truth. While the movie industry is pumping out products that sell millions at the worldwide market, they’re lacking in imagination. A movie about a boy robot fighting an evil scientist’s ambition to take over the world sounds like something that doesn’t carry itself. What works as a game doesn’t work as a movie, and that’s the crux that will nail the Mega Man movie’s faith to either direction.

Mecha design: Animal transformation

While majority of the transforming  mecha are of vehicles, Beast Wars engineered biological transformations as we understand it nowadays. We did have transforming robots that had animal like modes, but these were always more or less mechanical in nature. Be it Transformers‘ Dinobots or Tobikage‘s Ninja Robots, organic transforming mecha were a rarity. Beast Wars didn’t just push toy engineering, design and manufacturing further, but also had a television show that is of high quality. It’s 3D CG looks outdated by modern standards, but we can’t blame the staff for not using technology from the future.

Organic transformations use the same idea as before; break down the individual components and reform those into new form. However, we can have two approaches to this, depending on what is our alternative, or Beast Mode. Well, Beast Form is more likely what Hasbro could use nowadays due to Marshawn Lynch trademarked Beast Mode for his clothing line.

The first approach is to have no excessive parts, no unnecessary shifting. To stay true to the idea that we are talking about a mecha that is so organically intertwined with its beast form that the transformation scheme flows from one to another. This approach can simplify the transformation quite a lot. To the point in which an animal pretty much stands up. Let’s use Boxtron’s brother, Anitron, as an example.

New canvas3
Animatron? You couldn’t come up with a better name?

I’ve broken down a generic four-legged animal into more geometrical elements. Breaking organics into chunks of irregular geometric shapes works better than oversimplifying them. This is assuming we want to keep some of natural shapes around, rather than mechanise the beast form completely.  To keep with the first approach, the easiest way we can have the first step in a humanoid mode is to make Animatron stand.

New canva1s1.png
Are you serious?

Four-legged animals are a very easy example due to them having somewhat remotely similar body structure to humanoids. It just needs some tweaking. Let’s throw the animal head back, push the front leg’s paw’s back while flipping hands out from the forearms and turn that tail into a gun.

New canvas2.png

There are multiple ways to handle the animal head. Here we see an example where it’s essentially a hanging kibble on the back. While it’s dirt cheap method, it has its use when handled properly. More often than not, the head of the animal is pushed to the front so that the face is on the chest. This gives the mecha a crest and a thematic approach. Take a look at Cheetor’s toy control art to see how they’ve flipped the head forwards.

BWRConcept01.jpg

Cheetor’s transformation is not the same as Animatron’s (there is more twisting of limbs and whatnot), but the point still stands. With a shorter neck, the head dangles on the chest. There is also an option to leave the animal head as-is and use that as the mecha’s humanoid mode head as well. You can also do what Voltron did and have the face be hidden inside the animal’s mouth, leaving the top of the animal head a helmet.

This approach is very straightforward and can be adapted to pretty much any animal shape, except to those that do not necessarily lend themselves for the humanoid two-arms two-legs form. In cases like this we need to start looking how to either break down elements in order to force them a new shape, or how we could create the animal form to function as a shell. Shellformers are a thing, and here’s the worst (best?) example; Break.

break.jpg
Cliffbee‘s review says it all, really.

You could really just pull all the penguin parts and have a robot with no forearms. The design’s not something that would win prizes, but not all designs are required to be of top percentage.

But let’s combine the shellforming and “standing-up” transformation for the second approach, where we have to tweak some things in order to work. A T-Rex is always a popular theme for robots, so let’s use that. An intentionally bad example, so I can touch upon this sort of volume-centric scheme later on.

New canvas111.png
Let’s try to have a smoother T-Rex than breaking it down to geometrical elements

A dinosaur like this poses two problems compared to the four-legged animal above; the forearms are short and can’t make humanoid arms, and tail is far too long to be integrated easily without adding too much bulk. In order to achieve a similar transformation, we need to add few more steps into the mix.

New canvas3131.png
Animatron is pleased, yes

In order to house human proportion arms, we can stash them inside the torso underneath the robot mode head. We turn the torso’s sides into shoulder armours and have the arms lower from there. Then we can have the neck take over now empty section of the torso all the while pushing the head down to become the chest. Straighten the legs and turn the tail into a turret attached to the pelvis, and shorten it by splitting it open and covering top and bottom.

There would have been multiple ways of achieving a transformation. We could’ve have gone the opposite direction and split the head and neck open to form legs, legs becoming hulking arms and tail becoming the weapon again. This approach, where elements are derived from the volume.

Volume-centric transformation schemes work best when you have enough volume to work with, where you can turn things inside out to reveal something that the mecha was hiding underneath. This isn’t transforming one shape into another anymore, like we did with Boxtron’s example. Here we are revealing completely new elements from within the mecha itself that have no relation to the beast form with the arms. I could’ve done this a lot more, like have the legs transform into more mechanised ones instead of keeping the T-Rex legs as-is. The tail-gun, which looks absolutely retarded above, is another far simpler example.

The two approaches are almost inseparable to some extent. More often than not, you need to use both volume centric and shape transforming approaches when it comes to organic objects due to the nature of the beast. In a way, an animal may force a smoother and flowing idea of a transformation compared to a machine, where industrial efficiency in shape and function reign.