A local question

Astro Boy, Gigantor and Eight Man are classic shows that have a place in American pop culture, even thou Eight Man is probably the most forgotten piece of the bunch. This was the 60’s, and a cartoon with robots flying in the sky, high-speed androids and robot boys fit the era fine. From what I’ve gathered from what people who grew up with these shows, nobody questioned their origin. They were entertaining shows on the telly and that’s all that mattered. I’d throw Speed Racer into the mix as well, thou it arrived just a tad later to the mix, but met with the same treatment.

Video and computer games have a similar history, all things considered. Nobody really cared where from arcade games came from, they just rocked the place. Not even the name Nintendo raised some eyebrows, it was just some exotic name cocked up in a meeting. Pretty much what Herb Powell did in The Simpsons.

Games had a shorter gestation period than robot cartoons when it comes to finding the source to some extent. US saw the mid-1970’s Shogun Warriors, a toyline that used wide variety of toys based on Toei’s show with some changed names to fit better the American market. The NES era is relatively infamous of its localised games, and much like how American reception of these Japanese cartoons ultimately was felt back in Japan, so was the localisations and changed made to games. Perhaps the best example of this would how Salamander became Life Force in its arcade re-release and effectively became its own spin-off from the base game.

This, of course, has been largely in America. Europe is a bit of a different thing, with France, Italy and Spain having their own imported animation culture to the point of Spain having a statue for Mazinger Z. I remember reading about a tennis comic that a French publisher continued after its end in Japan. This was done by hiring an illustrator who could replicate the original style and saw healthy sales for a time. Something that like probably could never happen in modern world, unless the original author has died and has made it clear that continuing his work is allowed. Somehow I can see titles like Mazinger  and Dragon Ball still gaining new entries to the franchise long after Go Nagai and Akira Toriyama have left for Mangahalla.

Sadly, I am not as well versed in pan-European phenomena when it comes to Japanese animation in the Old World, but there are numerous resources in both online and book format, often in native tongue. Perhaps worth investing time into for future entries.

While things like Robotech and Voltron made their names around the American landscape, the 1980’s saw a growing appreciation for the original, unaltered footage. This was the era of Laserdisc, and people were mail ordering cartoons solely based on the covers. Can’t blame them, LDs tend to have absolutely awesome covers. Whenever these shows were shown in a convention, a leaflet explaining the overall premise and the story would be spread among the visitors or a separate person would enter the stage and give a synopsis of the events on the screen. There were those who felt, and still feel, that localisation demeans the original work.

Similarly, game importing became a thing in the latter part of the 1980’s and in the early 1990’s with NES’ success, though it should be mentioned that Europe saw PC game importing across regions far more. The Nordic countries began importing NES games anywhere they could and specialised mail service stores popped up just to service this part of the population. It wasn’t uncommon to see Genesis and Mega Drive titles sold side by side in-game stores. Appreciation for the original game saw a rise, either because of it was simply cool to have shit in Japanese or from America, or because some level of censorship was present. However, more often it was because Europe was largely ignored when it came to releasing certain games. Importing unavailable games to a region is still relevant, perhaps even more so than previously now that companies are investing in English releases in Asian versions and region free consoles are becoming an industry standard.

The question I’ve been asking myself for a long time now, longer than I’ve been writing this blog, is that whether or not wholesome localisation like Space Battleship Yamato and Starblazers was a necessary evil of the time that we can be do without now, that we are grown culturally to accept the original work as a whole, or whether it’s just hubris of the people who are too close to their sub-culture and co-fans. A person who is tightly knit with music’s sub-culture doesn’t exactly understand the sub-culture of pinball or golf.

By that I mean that pop-culture in general doesn’t give jackshit whether or not panties are censored in a video game, it’s irrelevant in macro-scale. Even in a localised form a product can impact pop-culture in ways that the original couldn’t, the aforementioned Speed Racer and Robotech being highly impacting examples in American pop-culture. I guarantee that these shows would not have their impact without the localisation effort.

Is it a necessary evil then? Perhaps this is the subjective part with no answer. Those who value original, unaltered product without a doubt will always prefer the “purest” form of the product, whereas someone who doesn’t have the same priorities will most likely enjoy the localised version just as fine. It would be infantile to assume that people who don’t know better can’t appreciate the original piece or lack in intelligence somehow. It is merely a matter preference, and like assholes, everyone has one.

If it matters, I personally vouch for unaltered products whenever applicable for the sake of keeping the integrity of the product and the intentions of the creators intact. However, also see complete localisations having their valid place in e.g. children’s cartoons. While it would be nice to have two or more versions of everything for the sake of options, that’s not always an option for budgetary, marketing or some other reasons.

Perhaps that’s what could be argued; when it comes to Western culture, we are more acceptable to unlocalised products more than previously, but total localisations still have their place. Even without knowing much about the source, we can appreciate the intentions and look past the cultural difference.

Or at least we should be able to, and appreciate the differences and intentions without resorting to raising a hell for nothing.

The Force was woken up, but it asked for fifteen more minutes

I’ve commended Disney for pushing out new Star Wars movies each year. That’s what people seem to want and consume. I can’t fault that. However, there is a downside in all this, and that is that Star Wars will become mundane and yet another franchise that will be run to the ground by a big corporation if Disney intends to keep this pace up. This post, in the end, is more about personal view rather than the blogger view I aim to employ otherwise. Why? Because Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens is a boring disappointment to yours truly.

I recommend reading my initial reactions to the movie here, as I that should give you a base on things. It’s essentially a post on its own right.

Star Wars as a franchise could be described to have four distinct eras. The Classic era, which lasts from Episode IV to Episode VI, the 1990’s Resurgence Era starting with The Trawn Trilogy, the 2000’s Prequel-era and all the side materials that brought with it, and the current Disney-era. I would argue, from a personal point of view, that the two first eras were the best of times for Star Wars. The franchise’s birth was a massive popular cultural shift that we still and see to this day in franchising and how Hollywood changed, and the Resurgence era expanded the lore immensely and took advantages of all the existing ideas and properties, which Timothy Zahn engineered, sort of.

The Prequel era on the other hand brought in people who couldn’t be critical of Star Wars, and it shows. Stories suffered from ideas that didn’t hold much water. Prequels themselves too suffer from this. Lore expansions saw further retcons in favour of these new ideas, like how The Force Unleashed games changed things as well as saw the use of some discarded concepts of the original Star Wars. You may be thinking that I’m harping on this using unused concepts too much, but it tells you how little anything truly new modern Star Wars has to it. Recycling the same story frames has become a common thing, not to mention the aforementioned concepts. Can Star Wars really exist just by doing this? If the money has to anything to say, yes.

This is why I have no interest in the new canon to any extent any more. Episode VII was recycled trash that made no sense and had numerous glaring faults. People who grew up adoring Star Wars are now running it, and it shows. To say that the new stories read out like expensive fanfiction that got an official status would be correct to an extent, as often in fanfiction the writer doesn’t realize what made the original piece tick. To use an example from Episode VII, no character has an arc of sorts. Kylo Ren barely has one, but we only see the end of it. Finn turns into a sidekick after the first few minutes, Poe has no arc to speak of and neither does Rey. Poe’s sold like a new Han Solo or Wedge Antilles, but lacks everything that made those characters interesting. Hell, Wedge had less screen time than Poe and still had more character to him.

Essentially, people who run Star Wars, but don’t exactly get why the original trilogy is so admired. They’re no better than George Lucas, and it shows. The fact is that Lucas experienced how Star Wars fans are absolutely impossible to please, but they also think how things should be. I don’t claim that, but as an observer I can see that people writing these new movies and shows does seem to think that. I doubt we will ever see a Star Wars product that will have a brand new story that is able to stand on its own two legs with its concepts and ideas before Star Wars becomes mundane with nothing but forgettable trite, like it did during the Prequel-era. Rogue One is yet another telling of how they stole the plans for the Death Star. We’ve seen, read and played it already, the story itself is not important for Episode IV. If fans want it, then by all means do it. It’ll make you some money, like always. Big Star Wars titles will always sell, no matter what the quality is.

Disney has all the chances to make Star Wars something better, but as it stands now, it’s simply cashing in. Then again, perhaps that’s what the franchise needs to do, as there are those who seem to enjoy the Disney-era products. Each to their own, I can afford to miss all movies’ theatrical runs and wager them on their own later down the line, just like how I did with Episode VII.

McQuarrie’s designs recycled

What common element is shared between Star Wars and Star Trek? Well, the title spells it already. With the Star Trek Discovery test footage revealed, the first reaction to many was Is that the Enterprise from Planet of the Titans? Those who are into Trek at least asked, and for a good reason. The title ship does indeed look like it was lifted from McQuarrie’s concept design for the refitted Enterprise.

McQuarryprise uss disco

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Music of the Month; CHALLENGER + Review of the Month; Star Trek Beyond

I tend to have music selected few weeks beforehand for these, but this time I had none. You could call it a rut or something similar, but it’s not really that. Let’s boot the ol’ ‘tube and see what we come across.

I don’t put much personal stuff on this blog. Here or there you might pick up something or I mention situations making typing things down somewhat erratic. I don’t have a release schedule, I never had. A post early in the week and one later has been the standard for few years now. Things have become more or less a routine in this sense, and while that is not a bad thing, I find myself wanting to touch upon subject after subject beyond the scope I want to explore them. However, As this is a hobby, there would be no sense for me to write an entry every other day about every single thing that I want to. You’re not reading this blog for stuff like that.

For example, I had planned the failure that is the Themes in Godzilla for some time now, and despite it getting the summer special slot, it’s something that should’ve been more meatier rather than few sentences per movie. I had planned much more for the entry, it to be more grandiose and in-depth than what it ended up being, but I’m guessing it was also a topic nobody cared about. Godzilla is passé, despite Shin Godzilla gaining positive reviews in Japan.

Another example would be the latest brouhaha about the Nintendo NX design, it possibly being a portable and a home console hybrid of sorts, something that I would personally embrace fully. Ever since the DS and PSP were launched, I questioned the point of designing, developing and producing two separates consoles when the hand held consoles could muster good enough graphics, gameplay and controls as is. I am a broken record with this, but it is about the software. Seeing population is moving towards portable solutions with each technological iteration, it would make sense to emphasize that to a certain degree. Traditional desktop computers have made way for laptops and pads for a time now, and while I still am headstrong in my decision to stick with a more traditional wired Internet connection and a desktop computer, I can’t argue with reality around me. Full portability is where we’re going, it’s just a matter of when.

Perhaps the third and most pressing example of my conscious aversion of not writing âge related. This is not a blog just for Muv-Luv and Kimi ga Nozomu Eien. They certainly are a part of it and most likely the topics that have attracted most readers on the long run, but perhaps some of the 1990′ ideology of not-selling-out sticks to me at this point. The whole point of giving what the consumer wants fights against this, and I probably should start writing more about Muv-Luv in general not only for blog content, but for the simple raw reason to gain more views. I do intend to do a TSF comparison this month, as long as I can find good enough pictures of some TSF, F-16 Fighting Falcon being probably the strongest contender. This may be my own hubris, but I do see that there are topics and subjects that I am more equipped to discuss when it comes to Muv-Luv as a whole than others. Of course it’s my own hubris, both Type-94 (link on the right) and Chris Adamson do it better as is.

The only obstacle is that I don’t care about the views as much as I should. Perhaps an argument could be made that I am not as passionate as I should be about the topics, that I don’t care what makes people read the most or that I lack ambition. It doesn’t help that my current situation is still in the gutters, but you won’t see me explaining how dire my situation is or how in the gutters I am professionally speaking. It has no other relevancy for the blog outside whether or not I am able to write.

I’m not sure how successful the Monthly Three series has been. I expected last month’s theme of Video game culture and history to go well, but it seems that it was something very few cared about, despite it being one of the core themes of this blog. I deemed those and Dizzy’s design comparison posts as one of the best examples of what I could write about and felt oddly good, almost proud, about them. Of course, reality sets in and none of them were really successful even in a limited fashion. The Guilty Gear design comparisons have been yet another views collecting topic, so I’ll most likely I’ll have to give those more weight in the future.

Usually I set some goals for the of the month in these opening rants, but this time all I’m going to say that bets are off for now. Despite being able to keep up reviews for a time now, I’d rather call off my reviews than resort on making a video game review nobody reads. Screw that, here’s a first impression review of Star Trek Beyond I wrote after I was asked how I felt about it via Twitter. That’ll serve well enough.

Perhaps, just perhaps I am at a burnout of sorts. I don’t feel that I am getting the best quality stuff I could, despite the aforementioned being something I feel good about. There are a lot of subjects that I want to touch upon, but there are no driving reasons for me to invest the time in them. Well, there are, but I have to reason on how I spend my time, and to be completely honest, I am not using my time well at the moment. I should either be polishing up what I know and what I can do rather than spent time on writing. Maybe the thing I need to do is to take some time off and get shit sorted out. Maybe try out a voiced version of this blog, discuss topics out loud rather than in text. You can vote here, if you’d care about a thing like that.

Maybe I need a break, but if I take one, it’s not this month. But I do need food, and because my kitchen equipment is unusable at the time, I guess I’m going to eat out today.

Themes of Godzilla

Each summer I have written a long, special theme post about a topic. These have varied from Kimi ga Nozomu Eien to the history Original Video Animation. This year I present you Themes of Godzilla in celebration of the theatrical release of Shin Godzilla.

Godzilla is not one monster or theme. Throughout its 62 years run in the movies Godzilla has represented many things from atomic weapons to heroes and Japan itself. The monster is a character that has been fitted into many themes and motifs across the ages. It could be even argued that the original film, despite being the originator, was disregarded at one point in favour of something else, something that fit that particular time. As such, if one argues what Godzilla, either as a character or theme, is based on a selection of media, you can argue otherwise using different selection. After all, we are talking about a franchise that has been running for more than a half a century with almost everything but porn being in the official line up.

Before we dwell into the movies and what they represent, let’s dwell a bit into where Godzilla originates. I will also use the official English name for the character, Godzilla, all the way through the post.

While Godzilla is usually traced to the Second World War, many make the distinction of King Kong and The Beast from 20 000 Fathoms being the film inspirations. King Kong is often seen as the start of the giant-monster genre, thou The Lost World predates it almost by a decade. Nevertheless, it’s the effects and the story that people remember from King Kong, and those two were exactly the things that drove Eiji Tsuburaya into the film industry. The Beast from 20 000 Fathoms comes into play as the movie that inspired Tomoyuki Tanaka to produce a similar movie. The story is that Tanaka was to make a movie in Indonesia that would ease the relations between the countries, but his crew was turned back, denying their visas. While returning to Japan, he was reminded about The Beast from 20 000 Fathoms, and with the S.S. Lucky Dragon #5 incident still fresh in his mind, Tanaka pitched an idea based on these two elements to the producer Iwao Mori. Tanaka grabbed the director Ishiro Honda to direct the film. Despite few pre-existing scripts, one being submitted by Tsuburuya, Honda and a writer named Takeo Murata wrote the final script in three weeks.

A final person between Tanaka, Honda, Tsuburaya and Murata was Akira Ifukube, a classical composer who gave Godzilla its sound and music. Without Ifukube’s compositions, the movie would’ve lacked in sound, as each theme emphasizes doubly whatever was happening on the screen. This is to the extent that both the film and music should always be one and the same and never be seen or listened in Ifukube’s mind.

The S.S. Lucky Dragon #5 incident is what births Godzilla in the original 1954 film. The incident was USA detonating their first hydrogen bomb named Castle Bravo. It was estimated to be about four to eight megatons in yield, but proved to be fifteen megatons due to lithium-5 becoming active in the explosion.  This spread the fallout far beyond what the estimates safe zone was, and caused the crew of Lucky Dragon #5, effectively giving them lethal doses of radiation.

The final element Godzilla had is tied to the nuclear weapons used in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and probably is the most known aspect about the monster, only second to it fighting another.

Let’s start with the themes in the movies. I want to keep comment on each entry in the franchise short and to the point whenever needed. Each movie would deserve a full-fledged post to dwelve deeper into them, but currently I’m not intending to start multi-year “series” that nobody wants. We’ll leave TV-shows, games and such out from the picture for now, they’re a massive undertaking on their own as is. There is so much history in Godzilla that I can’t touch upon in this one, but maybe in future I will elaborate on certain aspects if there is interest.

Continue reading “Themes of Godzilla”

Harder they are, the better they shatter

Dick jokes aside, popular culture loves things being hard. This is the hardest sword around, this shield is so hard that it can stand any damage and so on. This is largely bullshit, to be honest. Popular culture just has the habit of buying the idea of diamonds being the hardest generally known substance to man and going with it, because it seems it is too hard to teach that hardness alone doesn’t add to anything worthwhile. You need toughness to go along.

Hardness in Mohs is how well a material can resist penetration of other material, i.e. scratched. In all fairness, this is rather weak scale and is mostly useful with minerals Mohs scale is intended for. For geologists and craftsmen, the Mohs scale is still relevant. The higher the item is on Mohs scale, the better polish it can attain, with some exceptions.

The hardest naturally occurring material known to man is lonsdaleite, or hexagonal diamond. It was first identified in the late 1960’s from a Canyon Diablo meteorite, where specimens were found in microscopic size. If you checked the provided link there, you may notice that when actual stuff is talked, the Mohs scale was kicked to the curb. Mohs scale is essentially useless for industrial use.

In a more industrial meaning, hardness relates how much material resits compression and changing its shape. When we go up to superhard materials like diamond, their modulus of rigidity are very high as is their bulk modulus, the resistance to uniform compression. They do not deform plastically either.

Think it like this; when you strike wood with a hammer, it just dents. It deforms to form a spot where hammer was struck while leaving the rest of the wood intact. Strike glass and it’ll shatter without deformation,  sending shards flying about.

There are numerous tests in which material hardness is tested with. Vickers, Rockwell and Brinell hardness tests are the most often used, followed by Mohs. Oustide the Mohs one, all the aforementioned use different methods to attain the scale of hardness and the results can be converted between each other. If you’re interested in reading further into this topic, I recommend giving this site a go.

But as said, hardness alone is of no real use when it comes to how popular culture wants to showcase it. Toughness is needed. As a general rule of thumb; The harder something is, the more fragile it is. For example,. despite diamonds being the hardest general substance, you can pick up your hammer and smash them to bits. They’re also common as hell, and nobody should be willing to pay the insane prices jewellery shops are selling them. You can put that on DeBeers.

Toughness is the ability of any said material to absorb energy and plastically deform without fracturing. This is the opposite of hard materials that have low toughness, as they do not absorb energy or deform. They fracture, sometimes in an explosive ways. Toughness is after all a combination of both material strength and ductility.

Just like how hardness has its tests, the Charpy V-notch test and Izod impact strength tests are the most commonly used measured. While Charpy  is more about the fracturing the tested material, Izod tests impact power.

Ultimate tensile strength needs to be mentioned in this context, as it is effectively how much a material or structure can withstand elongation as opposed of compressive strength. Materials like diamond would have a very sharp breakage, called brittle failure. Other that are more ductile in nature would malform in plastic deformation before point of fracture. Something like glass has Mega Pascal of 33, depending on the glass variety and so on, while something like diamond having 2800 MPa, which still loses to multiple other materials, like graphene at 130 000 MPa.

How does all this come together with our topic? Let’s take the Destroyer-Class BETA as an example. It has a shield on top of it that is said to be Mohs 15 in hardness. That is to say, it is harder than diamond.  To follow the rule of thumb, this material then should be relatively easy to shatter, especially with the large surface area it has. However, as the BETA are biological mining machines, and the fact that their shield’s can withstand considerable stress before penetration, saying that it is Mohs 15 does not actually mean anything. It’s the same with any other fantasy sword or the like that gets called harder than anything else. It it to give an idea of a tough, unbreakable object, which is rather far from reality, all things considered. But Mohs scale is simple and easy and doesn’t require studying. Saying that something is harder than diamond is enough to give a certain mental image.

What the Destroyer-Class BETA has, and all those other fantasy things, is high toughness and resilience to deformation. A sword good sword should be able to bend itself and conform to stress without breaking, something that Japanese sword don’t actually do that well because they were made hard. They were probably the hardest sword made, and thus far more brittle than swords that conformed and bent. The hardness contributes to the sharpness without a doubt, but sharpness alone can’t win a fight. Skill aside, sword’s shape, material, balance and toughness are all factors. Katana being so hard, materials like bone could dull them fast. The idea of a sword being samurai’s soul is gross exaggeration, as the katana was the least used weapon during wars over spears and bows, and were discarded if a better sword was in vicinity. Later on you got guns that made close combat weapons largely obsolete. Japanese swords are most likely the most romanticized swords  there are, mostly thanks to movies and comics, but there are sources that put things right.

With shields or general tools, you do not want it to be hardest. You do not want a hammer shattering into your eyes or shield breaking down when an enemy hits it. With shields, you want it to malform and take the impact’s force instead of breaking it and allowing the opponent to advance. The worst idea you can have is shattering armouring or shield.

In giant robot series, it’s not uncommon to see armouring shattering like it was made of bricks or glass. It’s much easier to understand and is more dramatic, but a good armour doesn’t shatter. At best, it’s ripped apart into shreds under massive power. After all, most metals can be chipped like wood with proper tools, unlike something like diamond.

All in all, this was a very long and convoluted way to that hardness is almost a fetish in popular culture and is far too often depicted in a very uneducated manner, especially when Mohs scale is mentioned. But hey, all of that is fiction. Let’s just say this sword is Mohs 25 and has intrinsic tensile strength 500 Giga Pascals and tell it’s made of bullshittium and all would be well.

The thing is, in the end, that you can’t have a material that’s soft and hard at the same time, in general sense. A diamond like material can’t elongate itself and will experience fracturing instead. As such, in a case of Destroyer-Class BETA example, without any further information we can assume that the Mohs 15 hardness of indicative of other material strengths, making its shield very brittle. You don’t want your shuffle to be shatter the first time you hit a stone, you want it to be able to take the force from the impact. Of course, in-fiction it’s hard to penetrate with any weapon, where the whole deal with bullshittium steps in again.

Hard fiction often tends to step around these issues most of the time, as there are things like flexural strength and multiple others when it comes to material sciences, and simply relies on general terms and points of comparisons. General fiction on the other hand will simply play it safe and pull a diamond from its pocket and tell that this shit is hard, and that’s all you need to know.

Now let’s end this post with some great machining in slow motions.


“Almost sexual, isn’t it Smithers?”

Monthly Three: What’s in a name (of a remake)?

Remake get a lot of hatred, overall speaking. Unlike with remasters, remake takes something that exists, and rather than creating something new, it recycles elements of the previous product to create something new. Rather than creating something new or enhancing something old with new techniques and technology. Still, simply using the same core starting point with a piece does not make a remake. For example, the Transformers live action series are less a remake of any of the cartoons and more a different take on the work and story. Their quality is another thing altogether.

In film, remakes have become something to abhor, especially how the 2000’s was largely controlled by panned remakes of reheats of past franchises. From Clash of the Titans to Wolfman and whatever the latest horror movie remake out there is. That actually may be Godzilla Resurgence, which shows that remakes have their time and place as well, and that they can be done well, potentially. 1982 The Thing is an excellent remake that brought the story to a new generation with visuals and tone that still haven’t made obsolete. Similarly, The Fly from 1986 gave David Cronenberg a reason to do further body horror through a classic horror movie, and

That is the core idea of remakes after all; to take the old piece and recreate it for modern audiences. The problem is that not all pieces require a remake of any sorts. Wolfman is an example of an ageless classic that works more as a period piece nowadays, and much like 1934’s Dracula, works the best because of the era they were made in. This particular Dracula has never seen a remake, but further adaptations of Bram Stoker’s original book have been many, for lesser success most of the time.

The 1998 Pyscho is an example of a remake that remakes the original film point by point, almost replicating every scene of Hitchcock’s version. It’s a largely pointless way to make a remake, as it doesn’t do anything on its own, outside one added masturbation scene for shock value. The resources wasted on this Psycho could’ve been used for something better.

While we do expect remakes to do their own thing and add something to stand apart from their progenitor, often they just miss the point of the original piece. 1999’s The Haunting went straight up haunted house with being absolutely explicit that yes, there are ghosts about. The original film from 1963 is very subdued, never defining whether or not the main character is truly seeing ghosts or not, and works in allegories. It’s a subtle piece, something that the 1999 remake is not. It’s completely in your face remake with broken budget and has absolutely no subtely to it, not to mention it lacks any sort of legit scary moment. It stands apart from the original, and outside them idea basis, has nothing to do with the original piece and should’ve been named something else completely. Just like Gatchaman Crowds.

2010 A Nightmare on Elm Street on the other hand is just a bad movie outright, largely having worse special effects than the original 1984 and being explicit in everything it does instead of treating the viewer with respect.

In music, covers and different versions of songs are essentially the industry’s remakes. The basic beats and lyrics are the same, most often, but given completely new sound to them most of the cases, or simply taking it as it is and trying to do it better.

Remakes in music does offer much more freedom, in a sense. While a film remake can aim to change genre and stand completely apart from the previous work, just use it as an inspiration, in music you can take pretty much any song and give it a completely different take without much any hate. Game music is an example of this, with large number of songs being remade in rock, metal, symphonic, jazz and other arrangements. Companies themselves do this very often, Nihon Falcom having perhaps the largest selection of different pieces of each of their songs.

I’ll have to indulge myself just a bit here and list few of Yuzo Koshiro’s Morning Grow from the first Ys game, because the piece is simply one of my favourites in the series…





…Thou this dance pop version confuses me to this day. Provincialism Ys is a strange album

Unlike with films, cover songs in music are often less about the money and more about the love for that a particular song. The other side of the coin there are songs that are remade simply to be sold rather than about the song itself. Still, some authors and studios push remakes and covers of certain songs to ride on their popularity for simple monetary. After all, all remakes, film or music, are meant to be sold. However, in music remakes rarely obsolete the original piece, if ever.

In games all this is a bit mucked because companies tend to use remake and remaster liberally. Ducktales Remastered is an example of this, as it is a full-blown beat to beat remake and not a remaster.

Much like films, game remakes may get a cold shoulder from the consumers, sometimes because they don’t simply play as well as the original, sometimes because they have nothing new to them outside lick of new paint, or sometimes because they’re simply not wanted or needed.

CAPCOM tried to reboot the Mega Man franchise on the PSP with Mega Man Powered Up and Maverick Hunter X, but the main problem with both of them was that they were the exact same games CAPCOM had re-released for decade and a half at that point, solid two now. It didn’t help that they were on a system that wasn’t really all that successful, Maverick Hunter X ran slower and had more issues than the Super Nintendo original and only fans really bought MM Powered Up. It looked too cutesy and despite its addons offered nothing of real value, at least according to the bush radio. It didn’t help that it was a game aimed for a younger demographic on a system that was clearly meant for the older audience in the market.

What do the consumers expect from game remakes? The general idea seems to be that keeping it true to the original, refining some rougher elements and adding more content seems to be the right thing to go with. However, with older games this can become a problem, especially if the title is required to move from 2D to 3D, a change that can screw up the gameplay.

a boy and his blob is an example of a remake that took the original game and worked it from the scratch up. It’s a pretty good game on its own rights, and rather than hitting on nostalgia cashgrab, did something good. It largely ignores stages and everything else from the original game. Perhaps this sort of ground-up remodelling of a game is beneficial, as it allows the remake to stand apart from the original game, and act both as an independent piece and semi-sequel/reboot.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have Metroid: Zero Mission, a game that remakes the NES original with seemingly the same maze layout while streamlining the experience, adding new content and forcing a story narrative in. Zero Mission is often called the better between the two, but it can’t be denied that it only stands on the shoulders of the NES original, removing large parts of the adventure the original game had going on for it, and perhaps even saying that Zero Mission tries to pander with nostalgia rather than stand on its own legs. It’s speedier gameplay is not necessarily better either, as original Metroid was very methodical, seemingly slow, and required a lot exploration from the player’s part instead of being directed to the next destination. In many ways, the Metroid is similar to Dark Souls in this rather than to its remake. To many the simple fact that Zero Mission is on a better hardware and plays more like a modern game makes it better, despite the fact that as a game it is a simple repeat, just like Ducktales Remasted.

Remakes have a place in every industry, despite their divisive nature. The good remakes show that you can use the same basis and narrative to create a new wholesome piece that can stand against the original without any problems, whereas the bad ones on the other hand show you how much certain works are largely timeless, at least for now. Remakes can work as a vessel for something great, despite their inherent repeating nature. Sometimes, repeating something is required to move forwards.

Monthly Three: Which is the true version; remaster or original?

When Predator: Ultimate Hunter Edition was released, it was largely panned by the fans due to its remastering. The original Predator has a lot of film grain and dust in its image due to the film stock used. The aforementioned BD release had gone through a heavy digital remastering, as for whatever reason the amount of grain and dust was deemed unacceptable by the higher powers whoever decided on these matters. The removal of dust and grain can have an impact on the film, and at times characters look like wax figures of themselves due to the smoothing. Another thing that’s usually done with remasters is colour correcting and brightening the scenes for further clarity. The AVS Forums has a rather expanded comparison with few selected screencaps.

The question is, is this the “real” version of Predator? The remastered one, or the original grainy one? The intention of the remastered version was to upgrade the movie to new generation and definition, and it can be argued that Predator has never looked so slick, but at the same time, the remaster is largely panned by the fans due to the remastering itself. To many, simply digitally remastering from the original film reels, i.e. basically post-process it again with modern techniques. The size of the film, the quality of the stock and how degraded it is affects the final quality quite a lot. Digital remastering didn’t become common until sometime mid-2000’s, and most of original release DVDs before that either had a second grade LD or VHS transfer on them. It’s not uncommon to find VHS and Beta tapes that look better than some of their DVD counterparts, and LD largely had better sound quality than DVDs due to the compression methods. One could argue that it wasn’t until LD’s quality became completely obsoleted, but neither LD or VHS are completely obsolete, as not even half of the movies that are on those two formats have seen digital conversion for either DVD or BD.

Similar applies to music. Original masters are taken and modernised for whatever chosen format. Loudness War began with the advent of CD, and this has impacted how your music sounds. The same applies to mp3, but mp3 in itself is a lossy format that music enthusiasts want to avoid. The louder the music, the less definition each individual element in the song becomes, with dynamics reduced. Rather than trying to explain it further myself, I’d better let higher authority to explain all this.

Like with films, enthusiasts look for older versions of released albums because they have better mastering, and modern remasters are too loud. If you have followed ARG podcasts I do occasionally with Alternative Projects’ people, you should notice that they are ultimately a little low on volume, as I do not turn up the volume for loudness.

Does a remaster look better with its visuals against the original is up to an opinion, but at the same time we should consider the age pieces have been made in.

Visual and sound technology advances constantly, sound less so. If you want to keep up with the best pictures, you’d need to purchase a new screen once in five years at least. With sound, you can run with a good set for a good decade and then some. Star Trek is a good example of remastering, as the BD versions comes with both original version and ones that have been retouched with newly recorded sound and CG to replace old effects as well as add new elements to the screen. Star Trek is old and was made to be seen on 1960’s television, not on 2016’s 4k screens. While the BD’s remasters look great after their proper remastering, you can see every single seam, scratch and crack on the sets and costumes.

Whether or not you regard the changes depicted in the video above to be valid or something to be desired, that’s completely up to one’s own devices.

With video games, old PC porting could be regarded as remastering the original code for a new platform, as a new platform always required a new level of coding. For example, the visuals, sound and controls between ZX Spectrum, Atari ST and NES versions of Double Dragon all differ largely due to the platforms themselves and the code in them.

Unlike with audio and films, porting a game usually required some sort of reworking, sometimes from the ground up, down- or upgrading, or completely reworking sprites and other assets from original version, be it arcade or whatever else. In modern era, most games are developed porting in mind for multiple platforms and everything from design and visuals mirror this, with PC version often getting shafted because of the cross-contamination of platforms.

HD Collection are the game equivalent of film and music remastering, as the original elements have been taken and given a sleeker look to them. Nevertheless, the code underneath the new visuals has been reworked in every HD re-release, for better or worse. Zone of the Enders HD Collection is a good example of a long-awaited port, which fares worse than its PS2 original. While the games between platforms are essentially the same game, the HD port suffers from constant slowdowns and framedrops, with some particle effects and the like losing to the visuals of the PS2 originals. With video and audio, one doesn’t need to concern themselves on the action of the consumer, as there is no interaction between the consumer and the piece, unlike with games.

In order for any HD port to make their original versions obsolete, it has three core criteria; it has to run at least as well as the original with no drops in FPS count that did not occur in the original, the visuals need to be clearer and in higher definition and the sound mixing needs to be on the same level. Some HD remasters simple don’t do it, running worse than the original, and very few get a chance, like ZOE did. Konami essentially reworked ZOE HD Collection‘s code to run the game better, which is a rarity.

With remasters there comes the question what is the definitive version of each works? Is the original, untouched version of Predator the one true version over the BD digital remaster? Remasters rarely try to actively change the product, but with the likes of Star Trek you have sound, backgrounds and visual effects changed completely. Is the original, unaltered footage the true version of the series, or is the new reworked footage that contain alterations? Furthermore, Metropolis‘ BD release didn’t simply see a remaster, but almost complete restoration of missing footage that was edited out due to how badly the original cut of the film was received.

While Star Trek’s footage was tweaked, the episodes themselves have not altered in story or pace, and whichever version is the definitive one is up to opinions. However, with Metropolis this is not the case. Because of Channing Pollock’s cut altered the story and the pace of the movie to a large degree to the point of altering Fritz Lang’s original vision, some argue that it is not the definitive version over the restored one, despite Pollock’s cut being the one that defined the film in history. Rather than calling on cut more definitive over the other, I would call the restored one being more in-line with Lang’s vision of the movie, in all good and bad, and Pollock’s cut being the more iconic one. SF Debris reviewed Metropolis recently, and goes over some of these elements in more depth.

Whatever one’s personal view is on remasters, they have their place due to the constant advance in technology and formats. Remastering in itself is not the thing to be worried about, but the methods, intentions and goals that remastering has. At times, remasters will see something like with the Predator, trying to fix and upgrade the original to new standards with rather lacklustre results. Other times, the remaster is simply stays true to the original look and intention of the piece without mucking around with it, like with the recent Fight! Iczer-1 release.

Monthly Three: Of remakes and remasters

The difference between remakes and remasters to some is cosmetic or about marketing terms, but when you look at the examples, there’s a bit more to them. A remake is based on a previous work, a new piece of product that recreates the original piece somehow. Another meaning of course is that something is taken and remade anew, like reconstructing a knife. Remaster on the other hand is completely tied to the original piece, like video or audio, and then improved on it somehow. For example, the recent Fight!! Iczer-1 Blu-Ray release was a good one, containing a properly digitally remastered version of the original.

NES remaster

Unlike what the package says, Ducktales Remastered is a remake. Nothing really is taking from the original game outside the overall stage designs. The musics have been remade, the graphics are remade and so on. If WayForward had remastered Ducktales, the two screenshots would look the same, except the resolution of the remaster would be higher. Digital things are pretty neat in that way that in principle as long as you have the source code and assets, it should be relatively easy to adapt those to a new machine. This is essentially doing a higher resolution ports, but I’m leaving HD “remakes” for next week.

Remasters on the other hand would look something like this.

dvd_28_09.57.35] screenshot016

The first one is from the Anime Works DVD, the second being the recent BD release. The difference is rather staggering, with higher definition bringing the line work out much more and showing more detail in form of dust specks and the like. For more colour, check the examples for these two stitches, first being from the DVD, the second being from the BD.

A remaster can bring new life and vibrant dimensions to a product that didn’t really have it before. An original master may have all the elements in there, but for whatever reason it could not be put into use. The LP-records  could not contain as much data as the compact cassette could, just as the compact cassette couldn’t hold as much data as the CD could. A CD on the other hand lost its place to digital sound formats that can, in principle, be as large as one wants them to be, even to obscene amounts.

While having as pristine version of something is desirable, the fact is that at some point there is no point of trying get any higher version of that piece. It could be even argued that the screenshots of Iczer-1 above is too highly defined, as it was never intended to be seen at that resolution. That goes for anything in audio and visual department, as in case of Star Trek, sixty years of development in television technology show every bit of those sets, costumes, double actors and the like, which were never visible before thanks to the lower standard definitions. This can have a largely negative effect on the piece from some, as they will point out and laugh at how cheap some of the things look nowadays. Can’t really fault them for using the best technology they had available at the time, which would be a good thing to keep in mind.

Another thing that pops up from this is that now that we can see absolutely everything, we can enjoy and even research the way some of those sets Trek used were made and so on. In animation we can admire all the fine lines and colours that were put in there by the animators and painters, things that we didn’t see before because of the lower definitions.

The necessity of remakes can be questioned, as in film their quality has been largely dubious. From making remakes cult flicks like Nightmare on Elm Street to remaking television series like Charlie’s Angels and Kamen Rider (The First is an atrocious movie with great suits), none of these really all the well received. The idea is solid; take an existing franchise and update it to a modern audience with modern techniques and technologies. However, rarely these remakes are made for the benefit of product and aim for pure nostalgia grabs instead. Very few remakes stand against the originals because of this, like the 1982 The Thing against 1951’s Who Goes There?, and 1986’s The Fly against its 1958 counterpart.

It’s often argued that remakes miss the point of the originals, and that the excess use of CGI elements do not stand up to the originals’ practical effects when it comes to films. Simply put it, it can’t hold the candle in direct comparison. This can be up to opinion to some extent, but it is true that CGI ages faster than practical, so take that as you will.

Maybe the most pressing argument against remakes is that they do not add anything new to table. While everything we produce nowadays is more or less a remade variation of pre-existing myths, stories and legends, exact remakes in and out of entertainment media don’t even try to create a basis for something new or expand into region less explored. An example of starting with a similar core idea and making it its own piece could be made in comparison between Star Trek and seaQuest DSV. On the surface, the both shows have similarities with their missions and overall idea of a top of the line ship send to the unknown for exploration and research. Yet, both shows stand apart from each other because of their themes and how they were handled, adding something to the cultural view in ways that a simple film remake never could.

I would wager that the bottom line is that some expect a remake to simply remake an original piece for the modern era, while some expect a remake to stand on its own two legs and be something more. There is a golden middle way, but not many seem to be willing to take it.

From art films to Dr. Pepper and forth

Localisation has become somewhat divisive word. For some it’s almost a curse, a method to taint the sanctity of the original work, be it whatever it may. To others it’s more like an overall way to tell you’re doing your best to bring over a work with a whole new translation thrown in there.

Localisation costs money, there’s no debate about that. In the years past localisation was only done to pieces that garnered that extra effort in order to maximise the exposure and consumption of the product in good faith. I’ve used Godzilla: King of the Monsters as an example before, as it’s a damn good example of localisation adding something to the piece while not taking anything essential to the story. While purists will always claim that Godzilla/Gojira/ゴジラ is the only true version of the movie, the Raymond Burr starred version was instrumental in the success of the franchise in the West and changed landscape in many ways.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters wasn’t a run of the mill dub, it was more and took itself seriously. Burr’s character was essential at the time to bring the events closer the American (and European) audience, as none of us experiences the A-bomb like they did. Not that the current Japanese society has, they’ve more or less inherited the cultural trauma, but with Fukushima accident being used as the background with Shin Godzilla, we have a good branching point with the whole runaway nuclear message. Burr’s narration and scenes added to the work, but never tried to take anything away from the core piece. It helps that Burr was an excellent actor.

Keep in mind that original Godzilla had hit the theatres in the US in a very limited way, and with equally limited success. It wasn’t until King of the Monsters was localised, or Americanized, the franchise made the cultural impact in the US as we recall the franchise starting as today.

New World’s Godzilla 1985 tried to replicate the localisation that the original had, but the less said about how largely they lacked the respect for the work and how much Dr. Pepper had advertisement in it, the better. One of the best bits that came from the disaster was Burr’s ending speech, which still can resonate with viewers. Not because it’s that well scripted, but because Burr manages to put some damn effort into it.

With movie companies getting more lax with their localisation, often just throwing in a dumpster-tier dub or the rare hastily collected translation, Nintendo tightened their grip with the games released on their system, removing religious tones, violence and gore. While Current Year is no argument for anything, you’d think that in these thirty years and some, Nintendo and other companies would’ve loosened up and stopped dictating what consumer can and can not take.

That is the crux between the current idea of localisation compared to the 1950’s. Rather than thinking How do we add to this piece so it can be enjoyed by a larger amount of people?,  it seems places like Nintendo Treehouse and 8-4 translations are in a stance of How do we change this so it won’t hurt anyone’s feelings while pushing an agenda? The agenda bit may seem a bit overbearing, but when you remember 8-4 turning a character into Tumblr pronouns in Gunvolt and changing Panthera’s name into Zonda, fucking the script and characterisations in Drakengard 3, Treehouse cutting in-game content and screwing up the translation in latest Fire Emblem and removed character modifiers in Xenoblade X.

The basic main intention is there across all the variations; to allow the piece to have as large exposure as possible to general audience. For Godzilla: King of the Monsters it was believed to be a movie worth the localisation effort because the movie was too good to leave to the smaller audiences. Then with Godzilla 1985 you had the deal with Dr. Pepper in there with the Cold War making an impact on the editing table. Now you have these companies not only localising these pieces, but doing intentional omissions and changes to fit certain world view, in some cases catering only on sort of audience rather than towards the general consumers.

You have to question whether or not it would be a good idea to cater to niche audience within niche audience rather than aim for the things that makes bigger bucks. For Fire Emblem, the audience is already within a niche, and as gaming consumers seem to demand more puristic localisations, if not just straight up translations with nothing else, you really have to sit down and think twice whether or not you want your core fans to throw their arms and call your localisation team on changing the content of the game. We should be asking why was Fire Emblem If… developed to have head patting minigame, but that’s as the developers intended and catered to the adult otaku audience, the crowd Treehouse didn’t seem to want to attract. Often a raging fanboy will just cave in at some point and nevertheless purchase the product they so vehemently opposed. Then again, Nintendo does whatever the fuck it wants without giving two shits about what the general consumer wants, so meddling with game content pretty much fits with that.

There has always been a sub-cultural movement to gain foreign products in their most unchanged form, but yet the overall cultural atmosphere e.g. in the US, Germany, Spain, Italy and France require almost everything to be dubbed, maybe even localised to a large degree. Japan themselves are not foreign to this either, but nobody in the West ever calls out them for dubbing or whatever Japanese equivalent for whitewashing is. We’re not even getting some games to West because of rampant feeling hurting imaginary bodies have on some, and the games we do get seem to always go through this sort of content removal and censorship process. Even now, games are being censored to keep certain age rating, like with the upcoming Western release of God Eater. This sort of changes are more understandable than outright omission of gameplay elements. Most people don’t have the option of importing either, due to lack of language skills or due to other issues, like local legislation on import goods or the like.

Of course, people have argued that games should be grown up and already do away with content that could hurt somebody’s feelings, but equally so these people should grow some balls and let things be as intended and allow people to enjoy them in whatever way they want without any bells and whistles attached with the localisers’ own interests. Then again, if it sells well, then it sells well. And then again, any company can save a lot of money on not spending resources on unnecessary changes and just give a title good and proper translation without taking anything else into count.