Short Series Introduction: Kaizou Choujin Shubibinman

While NCS and Masaya are more well known for their strategy titles, mostly Langrisser, their library consists of multiple genres across the board. However, they are very different in quality, some topping at some of the best games in a genre, while others are outright trash. Kaizou Choujin Shubibinman, or Chbibinman if you want to use their own official romanisation, falls somewhere in between. All the three titles, and a spin-off of sorts, all fall into the same kind of 2D action as the genre’s golden standard, Mega Man, but due to numerous small issues the franchise never really hits the same stride. Not that it intends to, as one of the most peculiar, and perhaps series defining element, is that every game plays significantly differently.

For a 1989 PC-Engine title, Kaizou Choujin Shubibinman the game somehow looks pretty damn nice and has frustrating graphics at the same time. Some sprites hold up better than some, mostly the player and enemy sprites, but the game underachieves with inanimate projectiles, bland character portraits and some of the worst lava of the era. Colours tend to be muted and nothing really pops up despite being clear, but this means all the sprites are easily tracked. Can’t say the same about some of the stage obstacles though, some platforms are exactly the same grey and the background. All the sprites are showcased directly from their side without much dynamic posing or the like, making the game look cheaper than it really is. This doesn’t really help the sprites’ designs, as most of the stage bosses are effectively the same recoloured sprite with an additional dragon head. There are also only three stage archetypes that get used until the final boss stage, which overstay their welcome. Nevertheless, in comparison to most other 1989 PC-E titles, Kaizou Choujin Shubibinman does have tad higher calibre graphics, with flavour that fits more a Mega Drive game.

Music falls into the same category, with only handful of songs on the card, but outside of one particular stage theme, none of them are offensive to the ear. They all fit their designated stages, with with one or two of them being almost worth getting stuck in your head. Having relatively clear voice samples in a HuCard game is a minor achievement, and they’re sprinkled around the game in proper spots.

While the game looks more or less run-of-the-mill, it’s gameplay has some great elements that make it stand out. The game is split between a map screen and an action stage à la Super Mario Bros. 3, with shop and all. You can take a couple of different routes to the final boss stage. Each stage is effectively a type of a mission, flavour wise, with interactions with the city’s denizens popping up at proper times. The cash gained from enemies is spent on upgrades, which are your usual flare, ranging frontrols are what you’d expect, about as tight as the second games with few oddities herm more Life to a charged projectile attack. These upgrades are necessary in the long run, as the game likes to throw fast moving enemies at you all the while stage hazards move at the speed of sound. The player has to move carefully and with patience all the while he needs to push forward as fast as he can. The faster you can remove threats from the screen while dodging whirling spikes of death and jumping monkeys you can, the higher are chances to survive. It takes a bit of time to get used to how the game flows, as it is equal amount of split-second reaction and knowing what’s coming. The game’s design tries to emulate Mega Man to some extent in stage design, but it is significantly less on-point with its challenge-per-screen design. Oh, and the game has a time limit how much you can dilly dally in stages collecting gold for the upgrades. If you don’t beat the game in an allotted time, it’s an automatic Game Over.

The controls don’t exactly help any with the game, as player characters need to accelerate to their full speed every time you start moving, plus jumping is awkward at best. The jump arc feels rather unnatural and lacking, requiring somewhat precise platforming. With some stages having overtly bullshit hazard designs, enemies having jerky patterns and nothing really delivering satisfying feeling from being hit, the game feels and plays loose. However, it must be given props to the developer for allowing the screen to scroll forwards when the player is 2/5 from the screen’s left side, rather than other way around like in Valis series. This gives the player ample time to see and react to whatever the game is dishing at him.

Despite all this, Shubibinman went on to have three sequels. While the above seems to be all negative, as a whole the game comes together as a unique little title. It’s not exactly the lengthiest title, and allowing simultaneous two-player mode changes how the players have to approach the stages and bosses. While the two share the same Life bar, and the only difference between the two is their design and voices, the charged attacks become even more powerful when used in unison. All the things the game lacks in quality is met charm and personality. The game did come out during time when Japanese pop-culture media was going through certain kind parody phase towards 70’s and early 80’s media, especially old tokusatsu shows. Shubibinman, much like Battle Golder YUI, plays the whole android/cyborg angle that was the cornerstone of so many henshin hero shows and goes to have fun with it.

The game’s setting is, after all, about two cyborgs: Tasuke and Kyapiko. Tasuke was a fisherman before Doctor Goutokuji operated on him, much like how Kyapiko was a normal highschool girl. The two got mad over the doctor operating on their bodies, and promised to return both of them back to their old selves. Apparently the doctor is rather paranoid and predicted the incoming Akumadan invasion. With their modified superhuman bodies, Tasuke and Kyapiko venture forth to save the city, block by block. That’s pretty much all there is, but as I said, the charm-factor is strong. After every stage your chosen hero makes a pose and conveys its personality, and the same thing happens when being hit by a hazard and the like. Little things like that made the game go some extended ways, but you can easily tell that this game was NCS/Masaya’s first try at an outright action game, though development was done by Winds. The formula was interesting on its own already, and probably with some tweaking would yield a high-class action game, but seems like the staff didn’t manage to escape Mega Man‘s influence.

Kaizou Choujin Shubibinman 2: Aratanaru Teki (tl; A New Enemy) ditches the map parts from the first game and goes straight up level-by-level fare. Significantly more important is the complete loss of the sword and all close combat weapons, as the game goes for shooting action. Few stages do shake things up and are played like a standard vertical shooting game, though don’t expect them to play like Gradius or R-Type in terms of quality. The charge shot is still in there from the first game, with the player character yelling Shubibeam! every time its launched. It can get grating after a while. Pretty much everything from the first game has been upgraded, with graphics have more colour and variety in them, sprites having much better designs and animations all around. All the characters now showcase their persona much better, with some enemies being on point with the whole parodying things. Big eyed robots with silly faces are great, and they’d fit just fine with other games that parody tropes and genres, like Battle Mania.

Much like sprites, all the stages look pretty great with more variety in them. The shooting stages look significantly different from the action ones, though that can be said most of the stages and some of their respective areas. You go from cityscape to techno-mines and everything in-between. Some stages also scroll upwards, much like how Super Mario Bros. 2 did compared to the first Mario game. The layout design is not directly action, not all the time. The first game’s stages were almost all about the hazards and this has been carried over to some extent into the second game. They don’t pose the same head cracking challenge without any context though, outside few specific bits here and there. Many of the stages have dramatic moments built into their sections during play, but every stage also has a specifically designed spot to have story bits happening.

Music’s great, with more songs and some very memorable ones to boot. There’s not much to say about it, outside that the main theme of the game seems to be considered sort of unofficial theme for the whole series as it has seen the most remixes, with one of the famous one being in Dangerous Mezashi Cat’s 14th release, Newtype Destroyer.

In a straight up side by side comparison, Shubibinman 2 is the better game, but the play between the two is different enough to mention something about apples and oranges. Perhaps the improvements over the first game were enough to convince its release in the US a year later under the name Shockman. To modern players, and fans of the series, it’s less an issue whether or not one game plays better over the other, but which kind of play they like. The same could be said for the tone and the story of the game too.

While Shubibinman 2 still parodies, it does take itself tad more seriously. The whole silly side can be found in character’s expressions and enemy designs, as well in other silly matters, but the interactions are more serious in nature. This actually does follow up well with how the parodying was evolving in the early 90’s, peaking with comedic franchises like Slayers that don’t explicitly parody anything, but under the hood those in the know are having a good damn time. The story in itself is a cliché (intentionally though), with a new enemy and evil versions of Tasuke and Kyapiko, just because. Taking place some time after the first game, Tasuke is still working as a fisherman while Kyapiko is dealing with her classes. Despite his promises to put the two under the knife and return their bodies back to normal, Doctor Goutokuji has been putting that back due to him expecting a new invasion. After many wild goose chases, Emperor Ryo and his two Shubibinman Shades, Jeeta and Myu begin begin their attack. While Jeeta is played out like any generic black repaint rival that wants to destroy the original, Myu is that meek and somewhat forced in her role, wanting peace rather than war. Spoilers, but Emperor Ryo kills her bit over halfway into the game. Of course Jeeta thinks the player offed her, and after beating him and after some convincing, one of the game’s best moments hits when Jeeta joins the player for a stage, like you were playing with another player.

It’s hard to say whether or not the departure from the first game was met with split fandom, but whatever the case, the third game would mix things up again, this time with the power of compact disc.

By 1992, PC-Engine had saw the success in its CD ad-ons and so many games on the system took advantage of the larger space with CD-quality audio and animated cutscenes, and Kaizou Choujin Shubibinman 3: Ikai no Princess (tl: Princess of Another World) was there to fulfil the trope. It also changes how the game plays, though this time it’s a hybrid between the two first games. Fighting with a sword makes as return, and alongside the slightly numb feeling when you’re hitting an opponent. Shubibinbeam is still in as a charged attack, though this time it functions more like a magical projectile you have limited controls over, like how it moves up and down, left and right. However, keeping your character intact and moving the sphere around does require some skill. Controls are what you’d expect, about as tight as the second game, though some of the hitboxes can be wonky at times. The screen also scrolls only when you’ve passed the middle mark, making this one of those games where you can’t see where you’re going. The game also likes to employ the Japanese action game design of Throw everything at the player, where enemies spawn almost constantly and keep attacking until they’re defeated or the player scrolls far enough. This in turn makes the best strategy to keep hacking and moving forwards as fast as you can. If this sounds familiar, a lot of Japanese 2D actions games did this at the time. Luckily the sword swing hits both above and slightly back of the player character, so crowd control isn’t impossible.

Sadly, all of the bosses are one-trick ponies and none of them really pose any threat. They just take time to beat. Combined with the numb game play and lacking level design, the game is rather boring in the play department. Hell, there’s exactly one spot in the whole game you need to walljump, but you wouldn’t know that unless the game told you to do that. Whether or not the game was rushed is an open question, but the game lacks specific stage hazards that had defined the first two games. It’s also probably the easiest game in the series.

Visually, the game is more or less standard PC-Engine CD quality, though it does look significantly better than its two predecessors. Most characters are now built from multiple sprites that give them some extra movement and looks rather damn nice. Sprites are bigger to boot, which does give them more detail and appear more lively. The animated FMV sequences are nothing to write home about, but at least they’re fully voiced. Just like the game, the FMVs are middle of the road. Stages use colours to a large extent and the overall is very pleasant and crisp. Sadly, the stage’s designs themselves aren’t all that interesting, as most of them have been stripped of any platforming. Few of them feel like run-through fares. Still, the background and enemy designs do stand out, even if its a fantasy fare in a SF series. Some of the enemy designs are absolutely gorgeous though, and for a 1991 title, the game does look rather impressive.

As for the sound, the levels are a bit off, effects seem like they’re taken from stock archives and music’s surprisingly muted. Despite this, the soundrack is very much what you can expect from a PC-Engine game, full of synth rock and chips in the side. You’ll probably find something to like if  you have a preference for Falcom’s PC-Engine games’ soundtrack and the like.

It appears Hitoshi Ariga worked at Winds at the time. Ariga is better known for his comics, especially of his Mega Man Megamix series. Note the translation done,

As you’d expect from the title, the story is a generic another-world tale. Shubibinman are summoned to another world during their beach vacation (androids do find appreciation in vacations, apparently.) Shubibinman end up fighting the titular princess’ forces after being summoned due to misunderstanding (hilarity ensued), until they’re thrown into the underworld to fight Demon Lord Kargan and his troops. Right after Kargan is defeated, they’re thrown back to the beach, and the princess and her goons want that technology to gain more power. Even for a series that doesn’t put much emphasize on story outside comedy, this is rather out of place. The Shubibinman Shade, rescued at the end of the second game, only appear as an omake during the credit sequence.

Whatever transpired between the third and the fourth game has never been revealed, but Kaizou Choujin Shubibinman Zero was finalised in 1994, but was released in 1997 for Super Famicom’s Satellaview service, where users could download games and other material off a special online service. The game is, in all essence, a reboot with only Doc returning from the previous games. Tasuke and Kyapiko have been replaced with Raita and Azuki, and their designs look painfully mid-90’s anime. Columbus Circle’s recent re-release makes them look much better. Tomomi Seki’s designs usually are on the spot, but for whatever reason this time they’re a miss with the in-game graphics.

The game’s play of course is nothing like the previous titles’. Instead of characters only being visually different, now the two characters play differently. Raita smashes through generic mooks with his diamond tipped boxing gloves, while Azuki plays closer to classic Shubibinman heroes with a sword. Both still have Shubibeam as their charged projectile, but that’s pretty much the only thing that was carried over. In terms of play, the game plays like a one-lane 2D brawler, a beat-em-up, with a focus on platforming at places. The controls are tight, the best in the series, and the same goes for the level design. Most of the enemies are, quite literally, grey mobs you just hack through, with some interesting level specific enemies here and there. Bosses are much better than in the previous game, but they’re a joke if you’re doing a two-player run, as the Super Shubibeam is overpoweringly strong, taking care of some bosses in one shot. You also gain experience from defeated enemies, which upgrades your health meter

Sadly, this being a Satellaview game, as well as a Super Famicom game, the sprites have been toned back. There is a nice use of colours, but both characters and stages lack in detail, and this is due to size of the sprites themselves. Shubibinman 2 and 3 made great headway how the sprites look, but Zero had to take a step back and make them look like upgraded NES sprites. Some stages use a nice green, but there’s also an overuse of brown in couple of them. That said, some of the sprite designs to convey the characters’ personalities through just fine, though not to the same extent previous two games.

The soundtrack suffered as well, with some memorable tunes here and there, but Super Famicom always sounds like it’s played through a tunnel. Some samples are very Capcom-y in places and can even get you in the mood, but the overall soundtrack doesn’t really stand out too much from the rest of Super Famicom library.

The story doesn’t go out of its way to impress, concentrating on BB Gang’s criminal activities stealing stuff left and right while blowing stuff up, and Shubibinman are there to stop them. BB Gang has their own trump card in Kagemaru, a response of sorts to the Shubibinman, while Galko, the gang’s leader, is your classic high-class lady in hi-heels ready to whip and command every and all mooks.

While there is a minor resurrection with Masaya’s IPs, with Langrisser I and II remade, Kaizou Choujin Shubibinman probably won’t resurface. Columbus Circle re-releasing Shubibinman Zero made the game properly available for the first time, and you can still pick up a copy off your favourite import stores. The rest of the games have been easily available everywhere, as PC-Engine games have been ported via emulation, like on PSN. They’re always cheaper there than their original releases, as despite the overall mediocre quality of the franchise, Shubibinman did gain a strong following and is remembered as one of the better PC-Engine games overall. It might be an example of mediocre Japanese games, the kind of Japanese consoles are full of, but its charm and overall competence does make rise to the surface a bit more. It’s not an obscure or forgotten franchise, despite what Youtube might tell you. It’s just that many other games just did it better and it’s a perfect example of products of its time.

American localisation is global

With the recent hubbub NISA’s staff making statements about localisation in a stream and then giving respond statement, maybe it’d be time to open an issue about translation again. NISA doesn’t have a clean track record with their game releases, not by far. From game breaking bugs because of newly inserted text to removed audio all the way to completely inaccurate translations and renaming characters for the sake of memes and jokes, NISA’s translations are pretty much the Funimation of game world. Despite the translators mentioning that they need to localise the jokes to make sense in the culture they are translating them into, they seem to miss the point that NISA’s published games have very much targeted audience and a certain niche that isn’t culturally ignorant. These people don’t consider one bit that the English translation they’re doing will be used globally, not just in the US.

Of course they don’t consider this an issue. No English translator I’ve seen to date outside some small independent fan-translators do. NISA’s staff thinking that they need to localise the work they’re given to translate to be along the lines of the culture the game is being published in is laughable not only because that means they’re taking the original work and modifying its meaning and intention, but also that this culturalisation in the end means end-users have to think the games’ text from the point of view of American culture as these people see it. What passes fitting in the US or has cultural significance most often makes jack shit sense in the rest of the world. The British may speak the same language, but the culture is very much a different beast, and it only grows the more different a language goes. It’s distrusting the audience and considering them low-intelligence if you think you have to take special measures to make game’s localisation culturally fitting. If you’re going to that length, you might as well start calling rice balls jelly doughnuts.

Pokémon cartoon is an example where things were taken the whole way through and not half-assing it. Localising everything about a cartoon isn’t exactly uncommon, especially considering the target audience is children. Further down the line, other countries used the English translation as the basis for their translation, some opting to change English names to local ones. The 4KIDS version of the show was censored for sure, removing instances of violence, profanities removed, Japanese text removed and replaced (something the Japanese show runners became aware down the line and begun using in-world script) as well as banned episodes. 4KIDS localisations can be understood as their shows were for children, and children get special treatment in what they should consume. Certainly this went overboard in some cases, but again, children. Unlike with the games NISA is localising, which are aimed towards a more adult audience, despite some titles having lower age rating.

The audience that consumers games that NISA localises and publishes wants as close and accurate translations as possible without losing well scripted and idiomatic English. The same applies of Visual Novel fans, where the translation is even more important. Some video game fans seemingly take low-tier translations willy nilly, like how Bandai Namco’s Asian English translations begun with absolutely terrible quality, and how most translated Japanese mobile games use terminology that makes no sense.  Games as a standard have always had terrible translations, and NISA isn’t helping any with their takes.

However, understanding English doesn’t mean you understand the culture or its stances. In some cases, Americanisation, ends up being offensive to other cultures that end up having that same translation. Are these countries expected to understand this because the translators decided the Japanese original wasn’t fitting their culture? Should these countries then take the translation and make a new one to fit their own nation’s culture? That happens rather often, if we’re completely fair, but it doesn’t fix the underlying issue with the English translation still. This is surprisingly evident in Quiz games or games with quiz minigames that don’t get re-localised from their US translation. Too many times you come across quizzes that are very America-centric and pick up cultural motifs from there, disregarding most of the world. Mega Man Legends 2‘s quiz minigame is surprisingly good example of properly localised minigame, as it recognised the global release and has more questions about global history than anything specific to the Americas.

The Pokte Village Quiz is fun to do without any cheats because it isn’t stuck to cultural notions. Some questions may be a bit genre specific (like the ones about music), but overall it is surprisingly timeless. Also, the girl on the left was used for Yai(to) in the Battle Network series

This might not be a major issue in the end, but something I can’t see any American translator thinking about. When talking about localising text culturally, nobody has raised this global issue. We don’t have global culture. Even on the Internet, despite the unspoken etiquette there tends to be, it’s site-by-site what sort of culture of action there is. Other websites allow whatever to go free, while others require strict rules of behaviour and action. Even such small things as discussion groups via Skype or Discord have their own cultures, but none of these have one, all-encompassing culture.

With this, it could be argued that leaving the text to be more culturally related to Japan in tone, be it more sexualised for example, would be optimal way to go. It would sidestep most of criticism NISA and other similarly translating companies get, but also would trust that the main audience, which in NISA’s case are people who are already relatively well acquainted with Japanese culture via other forms of media, but also would offer cultural enrichment for the rest of the mainstream consumers who might end up buying their games by happenstance. There should be nothing wrong in being exposed to other cultures and how they function and what their values are. Text might offend, but it doesn’t hurt. It makes business sense to localise and lessen any chances of people being offended, that makes more sales. It rarely hoes hand-in-hand with whatever artistic merit one might want to coin to translations. It’s not like translations should be treated as objective texts to translate rather than a platform to rewrite and insert translator’s own thoughts and ideas over the original author, but that’s exactly what localisation ends up doing. Translators often stand next to a slippery slope, looking down and wonder how small step it takes to become Funimation.

Artificial Intelligence’s self-awareness in Muv-Luv

The one topic I missed in my two previous posts about Artificial Intelligence in Muv-Luv is the question about personal perception of the AI. This was mostly because we have solid proof what kind of nature 00 Unit has as an AI, but the rest are less clear. The question can be asked relating to ourselves; do you consider yourself to be a mind driving the body, or do you consider yourself as one whole, mind and body together? It might do well to read the previous two, because I am going to use the same terminology as in them.

00 Unit as super intelligence was build on the personality of BETAverse’s Kagami Sumika. It works on the basis of emulating an existing persona and intelligence. If we take this 00 Unit as a standard model, 00 Units in general would require a replicated body for them to function properly. This is to avoid psychological issues, such as alienation of oneself. This is the same reason why Alex Murphy of Robocop still retains his face; in order not fracture the psyche inside the cyborg’s body. The super intelligence running 00 Unit bodies would effectively be emulated humans and could not be changed easily into another form of body. We can see Kagami Sumika’s psyche being completely broken and catatonic in its new body, partially due to complete sensory deprivation, Post-traumatic stress disorder and probably from her identity crisis. The 00 Unit body the intelligence inhabits is, after all, very different from the BETA violated one she last remembered being dissected. While the body was modelled after the original body, it most definitely was the idealised body Sumika’s memories had of herself. 00 Unit doesn’t become her “self” until she can resynthesize her broken ego, thus fixing her identity separation. 00 Unit Kagami Sumika may be technification of herself, but in the end the recuperated psyche is the same Kagami Sumika as before the original brain was destroyed for emulation. Ultimately, there is continuity between the pre-death and post-death consciousness without any separation or alienation between human Sumika and 00 Unit Sumika, which would indicate that outside physical matters, the ‘soul’ or self is the same.

Sometimes a fractured psyche can be healed with a help from an outsider. Sometimes with dicking involved, apparently

In principle it should be possible to overcome this psychological issue on the long run and allow 00 Unit to change bodies as long as the artificial brain can be kept running during the transfer, but the nature of human psyche would always mean that the mind and the body are considered to be one whole. The fact you could discard the body for a better one might take some preparations and not something to be done out cold.

We don’t really have much to go with the BETA. On the surface it might seem that they too seem to follow this pattern, but we don’t really know. Considering the BETA don’t consider themselves as a form of life, perhaps their AI considers itself as the driver of these biological machines rather than being a whole. Imagine their bodies to be cars that the AI drives. It’d be safe to assume that all different strains have a strain specific version of the BETA AI that’s “installed” during creation process. We’ve yet to see this process, but it’s easy to assume BETA are as they are from the moment they come online. Perhaps some of the BETA are birthed in specific chambers combined or even via Reactors, maybe some are specifically constructed. The Superordinate could be argued to be at least aware as a being, which would imply that it considers its body part of its whole.

These are very human-specific angles. In reality, we wouldn’t know how a general intelligence or super intelligence would think itself as. We can make some assumptions based on human psyche if we use brain emulation, but true machine intelligence would be a complete mystery, especially if it would be spontaneous. We should be able to control how AI considers its own personality, but at the same time a super intelligence should be able to decide this for itself.

In case of alien created AI we have even less basis to go by. The BETA might as well have intelligence to view their bodies as disposable ones that they inhabit but are not necessary part of their self. Perhaps a destroyed BETA with intact brains gets its brain reused as-is rather than needing to go through the recycling process that humans and other carbon based lifeforms have. Perhaps there’s a general psychic link that governs all strain-specific BETA units but acts on per individual level. BETA, when low on energy, do seek the closest Reactor automatically. How they recognise where the closest one is has been left unanswered, but let’s assume it is similar shared network that exists between Hives and Reactors. This would imply that the link is not physical, and we could assume that it has something to do with the psychic link the Superordinate could establish with Yashiro Kasumi, similar to what 00 Unit Kagami Sumika unwillingly and unknowingly shared with the Reactors. While there is no proof, the idea of a semi-universal artificial hive intelligence coordinating some BETA strains is an interesting thought. However, it is more probable that each BETA unit had their own intelligence in order to keep the whole point of reference with computer equipment and the TSFs.

Perhaps ahogemmunication should’ve been tried first before microwaving mushrooms

We can say for certain that the tool AI used in Tactical Surface Fighters doesn’t have enough intelligence to have a sense of self. This is expected, as the whole learning computer element is very much something that exists in Mobile Suit Gundam and is about as explored as in that franchise. However, we don’t know whether or not future TSF will have more general AI in them, and whether or not they would be tied to a Fighter or the learning computer. It would make sense that it would it would be both, being able to adapt to the pilot’s style and something that could be transferred between machines. This kind of AI probably would require some simulation time to learn a new machine. With this approach, this theoretical general intelligence would be similar to Knight Rider‘s KITT or Full Metal Panic!’s AL, as both have been showcased to be able to be transferred to a new “body” without much problems in end-functionality. It’d be just there to help the pilot, as well as converse. Depending on how advanced the TSF AI ends up being, it should’t be impossible to write a romance story between a TSF AI and an artificial person. Silicon love.

I doubt the series will ever address what kind of self-awareness BETA AI has if any, but that’s not really an issue that the franchise wants to concentrate on. Perhaps a small spin-off in the future could be build around the ramifications of creating super intelligence based on human brains harvested by the BETA. While building a working 00 Unit during what can be argued to be the most crucial moment in the human-BETA war, afterwards the issue of super intelligence monopoly and the psychic power elements it brings with itself are as crucial as the issue of necessitating killing a person for brain to be emulated. Arguments can go anywhere between committing a murder to giving a new chance in proper life. 00 Unit method of brain emulation also side steps an issue, where an individuals consciousness could be stored and re-used from a default state time and time again, as it necessitates destruction of the original brain and the artificial brain can’t be powered down without total loss of data. The BETA don’t have any problems about recycling materials, so whatever ethical protocols govern their actions do not apply. After 00 unit, the series should apply itself to discuss the morals of destructive brain emulation, if future of the franchise will see more of them. Depending the source of the intelligence, the end result may be total breakdown of he psyche, from which recovery is impossible. If that would be the case, would it be ethical to simply cut the power from the emulation, still try to work with the psyche, or maybe even try to change the emulated target itself? In principle, with enough understanding of the technology and how the brains work, it should be possible to modify the emulated target to circumvent any issues regarding self-awareness, which again opens a whole new can-o-worms.

 

Broken Luv

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Valve’s hard candy

Here we go again, talking about games being banned.

Despite Valve openly advertising their take on allowing any game that doesn’t break laws on Steam, this clearly has not been the case thus far. Few days ago, HuniePop 2 was announced to release in censored form on Steam. This shouldn’t be necessary, seeing how the game’s contents wouldn’t break any laws and Valve themselves shouldn’t have anything against it.

That is not the case, however. It is somewhat evident that Valve is practicing behind-the-scenes ruling based on whatever they wish rather than sticking to their guns. Visual Novels are included in these banned and removed games, whilst some are self-playing games like MaoMao Discovery Team. It would seem Valve is mostly covering their asses in case of someone might come down on them whether or not they’re selling titles with child pornography. The aforementioned MaoMao Discovery Team most likely falls directly into this category, seeing Maomao herself has a petite look, though this is more a stylistics choice in design. After all, the design does harken back to the 1980’s character designs, where a lot of adult characters were still portrayed as petite. It can go the other way around, with Pokémon being a good example how all the main characters are about ten years old but look older. Valve did confirm this one by telling the developer that the game exploited children, and thus they deemed to be illegal.

Outside the apparent visual design of the characters, a common element with some of the banned titles is the school setting. Usually this was circumvented by either removing any references to the characters’ ages, like they did in one of the Senran Kagura titles, or just up them to 18 and be done with it. However, Valve’s having none of that at this moment. An All-Ages VN named Hello, Good-bye got the banhammer brought down on it as well.

This raises a question I’ve hard tried to avoid; do games exploit children if they have characters that are younger 18 and in risque situations? Look at me trying to be all politically correct and not mention about games showing teens fucking.

There’s no one answer, there never is. Cultural differences are vastly different across the board, and what goes in Japan doesn’t fly in the US. Most of the titles that have been banned from Steam are Japanese made, and especially the Visual Novels tend to hit that tender ever-seventeen range with its characters. Arguably Muv-Luv should see some scrutiny as well due to Tamase Miki being an effective lolicon bait. In the US, some states legislation state any kind of depiction of children, be it real or fictional, in risque or sexual, or even just overall nudity situations counts as child exploitation. The same applies to numerous European countries, which do no make a difference between reality and fictional. Valve can’t juggle across the board, and most likely has a dedicated person who has been given the command to remove content that might offend any of the laws around. It is effectively a business necessity to cover their assess as one of the larger digital games platform. I discussed how Valve seems to follow the Washington state laws inaccurately, so read on that.

However, there are platforms who would rather fight this mentality. Some of the titles, like the aforementioned Maomao Discovery Team, has been re-released on JAST USA alongside Cross Love and Imolicious. You also have English language DLSite, which effectively gives you free pass to any and all titles that would be banned on Steam the moment they were submitted. This is stupidly evident by itself, but nothing else matters; if it looks wrong, it gets the banhammer.

There are no nuances in the issue as far as Valve or numerous groups and national laws are concerned. To use an example where law was read by its letter, let’s take a look at a case in North Carolina from 2015. In this case, a couple was charged with making and distributing child pornography by sending nude photos of themselves to each other. The couple was sixteen at the time. To many this was a case of dysfunctional law, and was not put into force according to the spirit of the law. To some this was an example of law being exercised as it was written. This case did bring up the question whether or not babyhood and childhood pictures where people can happen to be nude would count as child exploitation as well, and if we go by this example, any and all such pictures would. The same would apply to many television commercials that have nude babies advertising diapers or such, despite having no depiction of genitals. A sensible person probably would dismiss most, if not all of these, as unnecessary noise about nothing and over reaction.

So why are we acting like fictional depictions of nudity count as any worse?

There really isn’t an answer. It might be how humans are creatures that constantly contrast themselves to everything around them in trying to recognise a pattern, like seeing a face on a power outlet, and seeing an immoral depiction of a character having sex or simply nude hits that center hard, forcing us to empathise with non-living entities and attributing them with human characteristics. We anthropomorphise everything by nature, and thus everything that has a human shape or depicts humanity fictionally automatically is given a human status. A drawing of an underage character is not seen just as a drawing or depiction, but as some sort of mirror to reality. This is doubled when it comes to realistic 3D models, especially if details are modeled in with care.

It’s almost as of we automatically install moral ideas and practices to what isn’t there. A drawing having sex is not real, but its depiction of possible reality as true. The more offensive and hard the fiction is, the more we think how wrong it is. That’s the point where we have to remind ourselves that vast majority of fictional characters are not real, nobody could ever exploit them to any extent.

That of course is mostly lost to us. Humans are strange creatures.

If you’d like to hear my own view on this, it’s as follows; you draw and publish anything you like. You should have no limits, as long nobody has been hurt in the making. Nowadays you can do wonders with 3D models anyway, no need for human models to be present.

There’s no real end for this post. While I’d like to directly argue how fictional characters and their situations do not count as exploitation unto themselves, that’s a rabbit hole very few can get out.

Music of the Month; Awakening After 1000 Years

I hope you had a good change of year, and that your first dream of the year was pleasant.

As I’ve mentioned each month for the past year, maintaining the blog in its current pace has become more difficult as life has taken its toll on it.  Thus, I’ve made the unpleasant choice to change how often the blog gets an entry; from now on, weekend (Sunday) posts are the only I can guarantee staying where they are, though the time they go online will go online will most likely fluctuate. Wednesday posts will be there if there is time to type them down, if there is interesting enough topics and if I have energy for it. In exchange, I’ll be looking more into long form posts when a subject so demands. This means the commentary posts will probably be shorter, but perhaps at the same time more to the point. In best case scenario, this means more shorter posts in bursts while I’m working on something else, but don’t count on this to any extent. The work I do is taxing on both physical and mental facilities. There are other projects elsewhere that I must give more attention to as well, namely continuing scanning of materials for archival, both donated and old materials that have been on the backburner for a long time. I’ve been asked to do an entry on scanning, and I’ll probably do that sometime this year.

I will also begin listing blog entries on Minds. While Twitter’s all nice and that, I intend to start updating things into Minds that don’t make a good blog, and probably will see more personal takes on things rather than from the blogger persona I utilise here.

Speaking of this year, I’ve come up some plans what to cover, though take all of what stands here with extremely small grain of salt. tl;dr version would be The blog’s post schedule will become more erratic and update schedules are thrown out of the window.

A Comic Lemon People retrospective has been in my mind for some, with examples and concentration on its golden era of the early and mid 1980’s, before the content changed in terms of quality , and then how ultimately the changes in the 1990’s landscape didn’t have enough room for it any further. While we are talking about a magazine that was drawn pornography in most cases, the stories, settings and cultural zeitgeist the magazine represented had an incredible impact on the Japanese popular culture to the point that the contents of Lemon People seem almost quaint nowadays as even the most standard evening show or comic aimed at teenage audience has rougher and more explicit content. While I have physical examples to take advantage, they can be used to infer events only so far. Actual research will be slow and painful, as there are very little English sources, and the few I’ve read throughout the years, have more or less died out due lack of maintenance. This one will take some time to get even started, and in the end might end up being just a showcase of what sort of magazine was rather than its publication history and difficulties.

The Themes of Godzilla post will get expanded. I’ve missed many chances to add Shin Godzilla at the end, but considering that post in itself was made to celebrate its upcoming original theatrical, it’d be only natural that it would be missing from there.  However, I wish to expand on the later entries as well, and make the post more robust overall, covering the movies in slightly more depth and expanding each entry rather than relying on few sentences to carry out what I’m trying to say. Personally, I consider that post to be relatively important, especially when we consider how much the Showa era directors put themselves into these movies and their thematic motifs. Well, at least before the late 1970’s. Antuarlly, this requires me to rewatch all of the movies again, so this project will be long-term and probably won’t be finished for some time.

If there’s going to be anything âge related this year is completely up to them. I haven’t been able to do some of the Tactical Surface Fighters comparisons thanks to lacking image materials, which in truth I have but not in a handy format, but the planned final entries from the original /m/ threads will be carried out. As for the rest, hell if I know if I’m being blunt. âge has not really said anything out in public about anything, but it’s clear that they’re working on something. That Kimi ga Nozomu Eien remake using Sayori of Nekopara fame as lead illustrator is coming up, which is something I have personally no interest in solely based on the style and visual design. It’ll be used as a comparison fodder down the line. However, considering âge has published nothing of worth for the last decade or so, with Total Eclipse enjoying marginal success at best and Schwarzesmarken being a total bombs with extreme lack of sales, it’s no surprise Avex managed to buy them from Acid and ixtl going through rebranding to become anchor. âge and ixtl have a history if mismanaging their projects, Muv-Luv and Muv-Luv Alternative being one of them, I’ve got little to no faith on whatever comes out.

âge held a poll aimed at the Japanese fans a month or two back, and it would seem that they are leaning on creating a new mobile game, which honestly doesn’t serve the franchise jack shit. The brand doesn’t lend itself well to the mobile game format, despite Strike Frontier attempting to solve the issue of every character in the BETAverse we cared about to a large extend being dead. A New Beginning from Exogularity magazines shows âge using clones to bring these characters back, which is a cop-out and shows how the staff is in a corner. All the new characters they’ve introduced in other works have been more or less unpopular, and as characters from side stories, they have no real base to stand on. While exploring the setting and expanding the history is all good and nice, it should have been clear that if they were to continue with the franchise, they should’ve continued onward with new characters in similar fashion how Muv-Luv continues off from Kimi ga Nozomu Eien, and how that continued off from Kimi ga Ita Kisetsu, by using the same setting and having some relation to the previous characters. Muv-Luv Alternative 2 could’ve showcased us a group that came after Valkyries, showcasing us  the impact their deed had, have certain major characters become a large part of the story in surprising ways and continue naturally from that. Bringing back Sumika, Meiya and the rest as clones or alternative universe selves is just bad form and lousy writing. Now, âge/anchor has lost their chances, the iron’s cold again. They need a popular animated series, a completely new entry into the franchise and shitloads of support to stay properly relevant. Be it as a VN corporation (which have gone down in numbers in recent years) or as a branch of Avex that push out Muv-Luv products to keep themselves from going the way of Hudson.

As the last thing, I’ve been interesting in seeing what makes the Senran Kagura series tick for me. While I still refuse to call myself a fan, you’ve seen the series pop in my Top 5 lists during these last few years, and considering I’ve been buying the games, I’m more and more interested to see for myself what it really is that keeps me with the franchise. No, it’s not the ninja tits. My first reaction to the game series was that it was nothing but titty service to the otaku masses, which it honestly is, but then somehow down the line the games’ play snatched me in. This Senran Kagura introspective will be small and relatively short, as I doubt people are interesting in reading what a personal view on the series is.

I’d also like to more controller reviews, but I haven’t come across many interesting ones as of late.

Enjoy your early year, by the time you’re reading this post I am already at work.

On the differences in brain functions between humans, 00 Unit and the BETA

It’s more or less safe to say that Muv-Luv does not represent real sciences very well as a franchise. Yoshimune Kouki has mentioned in few occasions that because a lot of things are imaginary, like giant robots, it is impossible to come up certain reasons or numbers for them, like the maximum speed of as a Tactical Surface Fighter. What sort of material super carbon is another, but these are more or less things that don’t ultimately matter on the grand scale. They exist for the setting and requires the suspension of disbelief. However, there are number of things that simply don’t jive with. A personal favourite to point out is the use of Mohs hardness to describe how hard BETA shielding structures are. Mohs 15 indicates that the substance is loads harder than diamond in that diamond can’t scratch it, but it can scratch diamond. That’s all there is to it. It does not describe toughness, and in Mohs scale, and as an overall general rule, the harder something is, the more brittle it is. This is straight up screw up, especially considering Mohs is mostly used for minerals only. It would have served the setting better if something like Rockwell hardness scale would have been used.

Similarly, a major cornerstone in the story is parallel computing in order to create full-body prosthesis with whole brain emulation. WHB is an assumption due to how it practically works, but this sidesteps another issue with the fiction. The fiction assumes that human brains and a computer’s central processing unit work the same or very similar way. This is an assumption made by AI researchers like Alan Turing that still persist. In reality, human brain and any computer work wholly differently, and even assuming that the brain ‘computes’ would be wrong. The assumption is that the human brain does the same work as the computer in fewer steps because brain cells work in parallel. A computer may be able to calculate mathematical equations faster than the human mind, but it will take longer to recognize a picture of a cat, because it has to refer to a library of and compare against that. An idea is that if it takes brains only ten steps to do the work, computers can shorten the steps by paralleling the computing ten times. This doesn’t actually lower the amount of steps, it simply means those hundred steps are made in parallel. The comparison however is not apt.

At its base, human brain uses memories as its base. High-school biology already taught us how there are different levels of memory, from sensory memory all the way to procedural and episodic memories. We gain experience as we grow up, and our brains refer to the memories each time we act upon something. The more you catch a ball, the more memories of catching the ball you gain. However, you don’t catch the ball the same way every time, as the brain is plastic; it changes how your arm positions itself as the ball comes in different ways. It does not analyse the angle of the ball, the speed of it, or its change in position in relation to you in time, but it refers to the last time you caught a ball. The more memories, i.e. experience, you gain in catching the ball, the better the brain is able to predict how to catch the ball. This is the cornerstone in human intelligence, where the human brain is able to successfully predict reality based on memory and acts upon it.

While other animals are able to predict as well, the sheer structural difference between other animals and humans lays in the function of the neocortex, which has the most layers in the animal kingdom. While other animals are a cortex, only humans are able to predict to the amount of creating writing and language in an intelligent fashion and build structures that allow us to travel into space. There is no true central unit that processes a core bulk of the input the brain gets from the senses. The brain is extremely plastic, and no area in the brain wants to be left unused. A blind person’s brain uses the area that would otherwise be wired to sight to something else, like reading Braille. This plasticity also means that you could re-wire brain to different senses, and due to how the neocortex has a common key “code” how to handle the input, different sections of the brain could analyse different inputs we usually key to them. A famous example from 2001 is the blind climber climbing Mount Everest by using BrainPort, a device that allows blind people to see via their tongue. All the brain has to learn is to interpret the sensation on the tongue as images, and with brain’s plasticity, it can do just that. This is due to the brain working under patterns and recognising them. : – ) looks like a smiling face to us, despite being only a series of three different marks. However, we recognise the colon as the eyes, the hyphen as a nose and the bracket as a smile because the brain is trained memories to recognise faces in this pattern. It can vary wildly, but this is the core reason we see faces everywhere. The brain loves patterns, and this has allowed humanity to create systems such as language to prosper further.

How does this relate to Muv-Luv? In my previous post about artificial intelligence in Muv-Luv, I sidestepped the reality of issues altogether. It was more or less assuming and explaining how things might work within the setting rather than taking things at face value, as there is not much meat to them as they are. The G Material based artificial brain 00 Unit uses is rather directly a consequence of parallel computing, but there is no deeper explanation given how it works or how the donor brain was adapted or modelled. Fans can come up explanations and expand on the topics, like how I’ve mentioned the concept of 00 Unit’s brain being effectively whole brain emulation. However, this introduces a conflict; if the artificial brain is a physical one-to-one emulation of the donor brain, then why is there need for parallel computing? The idea does not work against the fiction as its laid out. It exists solely because the theory of computers being able to match human brain if they had parallel computing, and thus maybe give way to general or superintelligence. I could theorise that parallel computing was not used to create the artificial brain itself, but used elsewhere in 00 Unit’s artificial body in order to keep the signals body movements in accordance to the brain’s signals, but this fails on the account that computer hardware is superior to brain wiring already, has been for few decades now. What comes to humans naturally is incredibly hard for computers due to the sheer amount of coding required. As 00 Unit goes, the fiction shows that the artificial brain uses parallel computing in order to run Kagami Sumika’s personality and is required to be powered on all the time. Why this is the case is a good question, something that’s more for drama rather than practical reasons. Whether or not this plot point will be repeated in future, when more 00 Units exists, is an open question.

The main point of making a 00 Unit is to make a being with zero carbon marks, zero life signs as we determine them. 00 Unit has demonstrated full-scale human ability in being as plastic, something that the BETA are not.

The BETA function has biological computers. The fact that they are made of what seems like flesh is largely inconsequential. Because the fiction assumes the similarity between human brain and CPU, it should be safe to assume that the creators of BETA (Siliconians or The Creators, reader’s pick in naming) have naturally formed what resemble our CPUs as their brain. Hence, BETA being posed against all CPU carrying devices and recognising 00 Unit as life. To step into theory zone, this seems to indicate that the Creators themselves are no plastic beings and are extremely rigid. They may have superior speed in thought and solving problems, but they’re unable to conform in a way human mind can. If the assumption wasn’t that CPUs and brains have similar core function, it’d be safe to say that they lack the human intelligence to predict.

The BETA themselves are not life. They are machines in flesh, lacking anything that makes core functions of life. They do not have self-preservation and they do not breed, they are machines to be used and discarded when needed, and manufactured rather than bred and born. I would argue that no BETA is sentient. Outside the Superordinate, the BETA behaviour is completely mechanical. Superordinate too only follows its programming and is not plastic in its functions or behaviour, unable to change its programming without having a direct input from a silicon based life. The BETA have a central processing unit rather than a brain.

This should colour the nature of their behaviour in proper light. Just like a computer, the BETA follow coded functions given to them. They are rigid beings unable to change them. Only when in a situation where Superordinate has direct input, in case of being bombed to hell or gains silicon based information via the Reactor network or otherwise, it is capable of changing its own or the rest of BETA behaviour. However, it should be noted that what Superordinate has done is not plastic nor did it devise something new. The tactics the BETA used in Yokohama to flank the base’s defences was based on human tactics know to 00 Unit, and the creation of Super Heavy Laser Class is based on available BETA building blocks, though it is more probable that it existed as a concept already set in its programmed memory. The way it could learn a human language and communication again is based on information the Superordinate was able to gain from 00 Unit.

The Superordinate is classed as Heavy Brain Class and described as a biological quantum computer. It would be safe to assume that it has a far larger series of cortices than the human brain does, but laid out in a completely different manner. Despite being carbon based, the chances are that it is more similar to 00 Unit’s artificial G Materials based brain rather than human brain are high. As I’ve argued before, the BETA’s most dangerous weapon has always been their superintelligence in Superordinate, but the sheer rigidness BETA programming has prevented any extensive use of it, only showcasing some glimpses of it here and there, like rolling out Laser Class early in a Hive’s development to function as anti-air weaponry. If used to any significant degree, the BETA would have eradicated all life from Earth in far shorter time than anyone could have guessed. Just to reiterate, the BETA are presented to the reader as biological computers, which has been wrongly interpreted as an invading life form.

Muv-Luv is not a hard science fiction series. Some would even argue that it’s fantasy, much like how Star Wars is fantasy due to Force. The ideas and concepts discussed here are mostly for interest, with some criticism and argumentation throw in there. However, most of the concepts, like brain and CPU being alike, have dropped in favour within the last decade by large margins, which makes the story show its age. However, the story does sidestep most of the grudges by simply not expanding or explaining the matters in clear-cut manners, mostly due to there being no explanation overall. These can be, and probably should be, rectified at a later date, but that most likely won’t happen. A fan theorising and creating possible explanations for the authors like the I’ve been for two posts now does not really showcase where the story’s main emphasize is, and that’s in the characters. The rest surrounding them is more or less framework and setting in service of them.

Artificial Intelligence in Muv-Luv

I feel this post needs some prefacing. The topic of artificial intelligence is well discussed across all media in all possible forms. The subject’s rather dry if you want to get technical with it, rather than just touch the surface with throwaway philosophical concepts. As a topic it’s part mathematics and part economics, as AI requires both strong scientific and engineering to succeed, but these two require running budgets and political decisions to be feasible. There has been a few AI winters, where the interest had become extremely low due to lack of progress. In truth, we have multiple functioning AI in our current era, ranging from dedicated chess computers to whatever Google’s cooking up. The AI science fiction often employs and what most people seem to regard as the end-product of AI is a machine intelligence superior to human, a super intelligence. That might be one world, but I’d rather not have the spellcheck to shit on me every time I type it. AI research is still ongoing, though it would seem that most prominent research is directed at tool AI rather than general intelligence. It is hard to predict when superhuman intelligence will come to existence, but depending in what form it’ll be in, it might be the last invention mankind needs to make for obvious reasons.

This post will concentrate on discussing three different AI in Muv-Luv franchise, all three which are distinctly separate from each other. There are more in the background we’re never told about, but clearly exist. I will also go the unconventional route and disregard some of the depictions in the narrative in favour of larger discussion, and touch on this wherever relevant, e.g. how TSF AI autopilot should be more autodrone-like rather than weak AI autopilot it has. To spoil some of the latter discussion, how AI is treated in the setting is rather generic and follows SF conventions very closely to the point of not really adding anything new to it. At the same time, how AI is presented in BETAverse setting, a term I use for the world that Unlimited, Alternative and most of the spin-off take place in, is rather unconvincing and even unrealistic on closer look, even when you take into account that the main weapon used again the BETA are giant robots piloted by people in high-tech latex suits. I’m no professional in Artificial Intelligence or the like, so consider this post as musings of a fan.

This post also assumed that you are at least familiar with the overall concepts and world of Muv-Luv, as I will not offer any expanding explanations on topics like Moorcock-Lechte Drive. Sources used for this post are the VNs themselves, as well as The Codex, hence Superordinate replacing the nomenclature for Superior.

 

Tactical Surface Fighter learning computer, a rudimentary seed AI?

A problem with fiction and AI is that it has coloured the whole concept. The aforementioned chess computer is perfect example of something that was thought to be incredibly hard to attain, simply because it was thought that beating a chess master required to have some sort of nebulous part of humanity with it. When Deep Blue, the successor of Deep Thought chess-computer, beat the chess master Garry Kasparov in 1997, it was deemed a pinnacle of AI, but relatively soon after Deep Blue was considered only a sophisticated piece of hardware dedicated on one task only. It would seem that once intended AI functions as originally intended, the goalpost moves automatically and previous breakthroughs are merely results of clever programming. Kasparov’s loss at the hands of Deep Blue has been downplayed for years, citing Kasparov having unsightly bad play on his part or generally downplaying the value of chess as a game as a measure of human intelligence, something that had been culturally significant part across the globe for at least few centuries already. The same of course can be attributed to the Chinese game of Go, where Google’s AlphaGo beat Lee Sedol, the 18-time world champion, in 2016. Deep Blue was, and still is, a rather weak artificial intelligence, intended for a single task. We’ve yet to achieve any level of general or super intelligence to compare to. However, it would appear that even weak artificial intelligence bests mankind at our own games.

The AI in TSFs is a sort of learning computer, a tool approached weak AI that’s intended to both assist the pilot as well as take take control whenever necessary. Just like Deep Blue, it is not a general intelligence capable of making aware decisions. It is an input/output AI through and though. Pilots are required to train and drill movements and patters to a memory unit within the Fortified Pilot Suit, which this pilot data can be transfers from TSF to TSF with the pilot. This would lead the AI to react to events and situations as indicated by the data, seemingly allowing the TSF to predict the pilot’s actions based on the thought interface based on the changes in the pilots thought pattern and muscle voltage. However, by default this would lead into each pilot data being usable only for certain TSFs with comparable performance and weapon layouts. and mixing data from e.g. F-4 to Phantom to F-16 Fighting Falcon should produce incompatibilities. This would mean the pilots would have to drill new pilot data in the simulators, or at least refine existing pilot data, for newer generation machines rather than directly jumping into them. The pilot data seems to be gathered relatively fast due to the thought control interface the TSFs utilise for faster man-machine interface. It should also be noted that TSF itself accumulates pilot data, meaning a new pilot needs to override the machine’s existing patterns with his own, or is newly rolled out, the pilot will have hard time piloting the TSF due to the AI expecting different input. This canon system is somewhat backwards, as it would make more sense for TSFs have a standard base AI, to which pilot data is applied to as the pilot enters the TSF. This would prevent pilots being tied down to one TSF for effective operation.

In-universe, a TSF at autopilot will have less reaction time and is weaker at close combat manoeuvres than human pilots. This seems to be a schizophrenic hardware limitation. Considering the pilot data is created to assist the pilots in their actions at any given time, from walking to close-quarter combat, the AI of the TSF is required to react to a threat faster than the human pilot in order to assist. If TSF already has the ability to avoid Laser Class’ shots faster than the pilot, then the narrative is faulty at some point. Let us assume that that the AI in the TSF requires input both from the perceived threat and the pilot in order to act, meaning that the pilot data would make the TSF’s actions smoother during the actions themselves. The pilot data then would serve to smooth out TSF motions, but this is largely countered by the fact that TSF base AI requires positional resets and can not accept overlapping commands to for a chain of actions.

It would not be a stretch to assume that despite being able to assist the pilot in some manner through pilot data, it would seem apparent that the TSF’s computational centre is not fast enough to actually use the the data by itself, hence why its autopilot functions are extremely lacking. Despite being able to perceive threats and assist the pilot, whatever CPU equivalent it has seems to be incapable of reacting and making proper decisions based on the taught data. Considering modern TSFs are OBL (Operation By Light) the input the TSF AI gains is effectively immediate. Thus, the bottleneck of the system has to be the CPU, and this is something XM3 can’t affect, meaning XM3’s most notable element isn’t that it uses Shirogane Takeru’s pilot data as its basis or allows chaining inputs, but that it has been optimised to the point of the CPU having enough time to make a decision based on the situation rather than dedicating the pilot to a manoeuvre. This is also why all XM3 equipped TSFs have revamped computing hardware, running parallel-computing computers in order to allow XM3 to function at all. However, if we assume that the CPU bottleneck was the reason why TSF autopilot had lower response time than pilot, the new parallel-computing hardware should also increase the old OS’ functions to a very large degree, allowing autopilot to use pilot data for far faster action. The main core difference between thus ends up being not just the smoother and more action-reinforcing AI, but the sheer hardware advantage parallel-computing has over the old hardware.

Assuming that with the advent of further hardware innovations other than parallel-computing, it should be relatively straightforward to create a drone-like TSF, where its functions are based on existing pilot data and environmental input. Considering the BETA on Earth are stuck on simple action patterns, even after then Alternative‘s events changed them to a degree, it should not be out of question to have these learning computers to learn directly on the field and choose the most proper output in a given situation. This learning would be extremely fast, as XM3 shares data across all the units, meaning all TSFs would share the end results of both successful and failed manoeuvres. This sort of dynamic learning would easily lead into autopilot TSFs easily matching, and then overcoming both their human and BETA opponents. With hundreds of hours logged into pilot data files, a TSF could in principle adopt the pilots manoeuvres and use that as the core base library, be it against BETA or humans. This might end up making the TSFs relatively predictable at first, but as data accumulates, the seed AI should learn to variate or even faint against human opponents.

The core function of TSF OS is effectively that of a seed AI that is being taught how to move and function as dictated by intention as a weak artificial intelligence tool, which in-universe seemed to have hit a stop-gap caused by computational technology hitting a snag. However, pretty much everything else around it is ready for the step to AI driven TSFs, as input/output technology is clearly miles ahead. Artificial muscles and fiber-optics allow at least near light-speed input from environment to be received, but decisions and sending commands back seems to be the issue. This is not the case with artificial limbs in their current iteration. Suzumiya Haruka had some troubles with her pair of limbs, whereas the 00 Unit full-body prosthetic had no obvious problems acting and moving like a natural human being.

 

Whole Brain Emulation, 00 Unit and super intelligence

Whole Brain Emulation is how the initial 00 Unit is gained its intelligence. The concept is solid; scan a brain from a given moment and use machine to replicate brain’s functions on some level to gain general intelligence. The level the brain must be replicated in order to have it properly function is not known, though in principle it should be enough to replicate the general function of the synapses rather than emulate the brain below cellular level. The advantage of successfully emulating brain functions is that we don’t exactly need to know the deeper functions as long as the brain’s state can be successfully emulated. As long as the emulation is low-level enough, the emulated synapses and other functions should take over by themselves. The hardware doesn’t have a control over them.

Another benefit in this is that the emulated intelligence can be tweaked to function faster, e.g. make the synapses shoot faster. As such, accurate emulation is not the intended end result if the end result is super intelligence, but whole brain emulation can be the first step towards to it. Emulated brains with tweaked functions would be able to think faster and more efficiently than normal brains as well as able to absorb far more information for further use. It is clear that the emulated brain within 00 Unit is not vanilla variety, but has hardware modifications applied. These include a level of ESP and general control over machinery either via ESP or unknown means. Furthermore, 00 Unit’s control and calculation abilities have greatly been boosted over her source brain abilities as per the intended usage as a communicator between the BETA and humanity. As such the Whole Brain Emulation we see in Muv-Luv Alternative and in the assumed future counts as super intelligence. Needless to say, 00 Unit is strong intelligence to TSF’s weak intelligence.

The emulation hardware the 00 Unit has is far superior than what TSFs use for their OS and functions, as if they were similar, it’d mean 00 Unit’s brain emulation would be pathetically slow. This of course is solved by having the solution brought from EXTRAverse, by having fifteen billion semi-conductors working in parallel to create an artificial brain build of material able to super conduct as room temperature called Grey Nine. This artificial brain is effectively a quantum computer in itself, and is able to quantum conduct. Effectively, it is a cross-dimensional quantum computer able to link itself to other worlds where 00 Units exists, effectively creating a pan-dimensional computing network. This is hilariously over the top in terms of processing power and science magic, well within the reach of accurately emulating every and all functions of a brain even at atomic level. The rest of the emulation, in order to cause disassociation with the emulated brain, is the body. 00 Unit is relatively traditional SF cyborg body, emulating all surface functions of a human, from breathing to function of sexual organs. Birth is apparently impossible, but with medical technology being this far, artificial wombs would be in the range of possibility. The egg might need to be donated elsewhere and inserted within the womb either through traditional means or already fertilised. The donor may be some other person, or perhaps the eggs have been harvested and frozen prior brain scanning.

The technology of brain scanning in Muv-Luv is destructive. The principle is that a brain is harvested at some point, probably frozen to some extent and then cut into extremely thin parts slices. These slices are dyed properly to map out each and every cell and their position, which in itself is an incredibly daunting task that required relatively advanced medical and analytical technology to replica in a virtual environment. It is probable that the same hardware that emulates the brain running 00 Unit was also necessary to even begin with the task of analysing the brain and its state. Considering we have the technology that are superior to our own eyes and ears, it would not be impossible to assume that perfect sight and hearing are a package deal here. It would also be completely possible to add strength and speed to the body, but the difference between the emulation’s original body and the artificial one would be more pronounced. Seeing that the emulation is perfect, as in it functions as the driving force rather than as a framework further software is run through, the emulated personality would have a relatively difficult period to accustom to their superhuman body compared if the cybernetic body would be human-like. Further upgrades of course can apply further post-human additions, from multiple arms to completely inhuman body.

Whole Brain Scanning and its successful application in perfect personality replication opens some hard questions. If the personality emulation is perfect, and there is no dissonance between the human and artificial body, can be say that the 00 Unit is simply a machine continuation of the brain donor? After all, the experiences of the donor continue directly where the brain’s functions were stopped. Booting up for the first time might be a similar experience to waking up from a sleep. This can be contrasted to Star Trek‘s teleportation dilemma, which asks if the person who comes out from the porter is the same person who entered it, as Trek‘s technology requires destruction of the original particles in order to record them, and then an assembly of this data at the other end. Effectively, the person needs to die in order to be teleported. Few times in the show’s history old data has been used to reconstruct previous states a ship member had been to reverse some ailments. Additionally, the transporter can remove or add elements from the data. It would not hard to assume that tweaking the data it would be possible to further modify the pattern. Consider also that about every seven years a human has renewed their cell structure, effectively replacing all the old there was. This sort of idea of at what point a ship is a new ship, if all of its parts are replaced one by one in time. At some point, nothing of the old ship exists any more.

In-universe, there are two takes. Kouzuki Yuuko having no connection to the brain donor largely treats the 00 Unit as an intended machine, despite 00 Unit having its own agency and persona. Shirogane Takeru on the other hand takes the approach that as long as the memories and personality are Kagami Sumika’s, the 00 Unit and her are one and the same. The continuation of the personality, the awareness and consciousness, is what defines her as over the fact that she is artificial. It would also seem impossible to replicate Kagami Sumika’s brain pattern to a new body. Despite the fact that her body functions on extraterrestrial G-elements, it should be possible to record her brain pattern off from her body and upload it to a new body. However, the fiction seems to indicate that this is not possible, either due to lack of technology like having multiple hardware builds to house further 00 Units, or that the scanning and pattern upload procedures are simultaneous, effectively hard coding the pattern to the hardware. We can then assume that tampering of the hardware could lead into large damage or total shutdown, or that 00 Unit’s body works similar to some arcade hardware that require constant power to be fed in order to keep the data in memory. We can also assume that the brain emulation is completely dependent on the artificial brain itself, and would require another where to record the pattern to. It might be that in the end there were not enough resources to create another artificial brain at that point in time. All this seems to be driven by the narrative’s need to have drama over that practicality of whole brain emulation.

Considering the momentary existence of the 00 Unit, Japan was the only nation in the world with super intelligence, meaning their edge over other nation in terms of sheer computational power was unmatched. In-fiction, the 00 Unit was capable enough to fool sensory readings of large amount of TSFs all the while controlling the Moorcock-Lechte Drive and its Rutherford Field. If 00 Unit was to used for intelligence gathering from neighbouring nations, or nations with stranglehold on world economics like the US, Japan would have decisive strategical advantage. Instead, 00 Unit was used to spy and map out BETA structures, though for unknown reasons this spy connecting via a BETA Reactor, a Brain Class, was more or less bidirectional.

 

00 Unit waypoint to TSF machine intelligence?

As mentioned, even if normal human mind can’t create general machine intelligence, Whole Brain Emulated AI would easily have access to the necessary power to solve the equations. In Muv-Luv, 00 Unit’s extremely efficient quantum network would be able to create the necessary theories and solution in order to create general machine intelligence. This could be then applied to each sector that relies on AI support, such as TSFs. While I’ve painted a picture that even in-fiction TSF driven by tool super intelligence is not far, similar stories have been told in our real world. Since the 1940’s the advent of AI has been expected to take place within the next two decades, but it has been moved forwards with each win and failure, as the AI goalpost is being moved each time a successful weak AI has been implemented. Such is the case of Deep Blue.

TSF super intelligence would not need to be general AI. Quite the opposite, despite being super intelligence, it could be created to lack agency of its own. The solution to create new 00 Units exists and is being taken advantage of by 2040’s, meaning that general machine intelligence should be a thing to some extent. If we take this into account, it would be possible to downgrade the artificial brains to only emulate standard human brains without the quantum connection and install these as TSF’s on-board computers. This of course means you’d be giving a giant robot access to its own agency, which might end up badly. To take this even further, perhaps with enough materials and scanned brains it would be possible to excise cockpits as such from TSFs altogether and simply have pilots move have their conscious temporarily moved into the TSF shell. This would be a temporary upload, which would then upload itself back to the pilot body when TSF returns to its hangar. Death of a pilot would only mean that an iteration that was uploaded to the TSF would cease to exist, whilst the originator of that thought pattern would still be safe and could be used for further action. With XM3 sharing data across the TSFs, further developments might even be able to return the uploaded pattern back to the pilot’s body before destruction due to the sheer speed fiber optics allow.

This of course raises numerous ethical and existential questions about treatment of humanity and how we define what is to be human or alive. Though who knows, maybe F-47 Ishkur has some sort of on-board AI assisting the pilot.

The described AI TSF exists within the setting, though in somewhat different from and function. In MLA Total Eclipse, there exists a device that has a shape like a rounded coffin, which houses a live esper. When activated, a red aura emanates from inside of it, and engulfs the TSF in a similar aura. This red aura seems to denote malicious presence, as opposed to the blue aura other espers can envelope TSFs with. This aura is called the Nastroyka Effect, and its overall brightness and effect is linked to the esper’s Prafka, an effect which induces esper with a state that increases their ability to pilot. The П3 Plan, fully titled as Polnoye Zatmeniye Plan or Total Eclipse Plan, aimed to create TSFs driven by these esper pods for more efficient operations. By triggering the Prafka on these pods, each TSF equipped with them would have superior operational efficiency over other TSFs. A human pilot was still necessary to be present for command and control over the overall actions.

Because the esper pods would control the TSF via their psychic linkage, they could be counted as AI driven by biological compuers, the espers themselves. However, whether or not we should count living humans appropriated for such task as AI is an open question. However, it could also be possible that these espers were modified to function only in this manner via brainwashing or other memory alteration techniques, and the rest of their humanity was retarded to non-existence. This would mean they would not function in any other form. Considering the Soviet Union doesn’t think espers as nothing else but dolls to be used and discarded when their usefulness end, it would sound apt they’d remove all the “unnecessary” elements from their autopilots. The ethics of this plan are highly dubious, as birthing and raising humans to function as nothing else but biological AI effectively does seem to break numerous human rights.

 

Biological super intelligence

The fact that BETA are artificial beings mean their intelligence is also artificial, engineered by their creators to function in intended ways. Due to their alien origin, assuming anything on how BETA AI works can only be surmised from their actions. All the smaller strains, if not all other strains outside the Heavy Brain Class that sits at the core of Original Hive, seem to function on tool general intelligence. No other strain exhibits creative thinking or change in behaviour patterns despite few decades of warring. They are to serve a role in a larger function, and their behaviour is set up by the Superordinate a.k.a the Heavy Brain Class. Considering BETA tactics had no reason the change after the initial aerial barrages up until the first unknown contact with the 00 Unit via a Reactor a.k.a Brain Class. The reason for this is rather obvious, as BETA on Earth are resource collectors, recycling all materials they need for production. They have AI that has agency. It is assumed these refined materials are send to the BETA creator’s home world.

The fact that only Heavy Brain Class BETA can modify the AI of any other BETA, meaning change their original intended function like using the Laser Class as anti-air weaponry, the lower tier BETA follow very strict AI pattern that does not allow them to veer off course. While on the surface this code seems to be relatively simple and strict, BETA have exhibited large range of actions to achieve their goals, like a Tank Class BETA jumping in the air to land on a tank rather than the usual swarming. This sort of leeway allows the BETA to have dynamic actions on the battlefield in their point of view, while in comparison to human battle doctrines they have essentially no deviation. New BETA can only be designed at the Original Hive or in a Hive where a Heavy Brain Class exists, meaning there is a strict and archaic hierarchy within the BETA command structure. The Super Heavy Laser Class seen towards the end of Muv-Luv Alternative Total Eclipse is the most prominent example of Heavy Brain Class creating new Class to fight an opponent, though Soldier Class strain is most likely Earth-exclusive due to its resemblance to the human form.

Considering all this, the BETA are effectively super intelligence side in the war on Earth against them. The sheer raw computational power and ability to create new BETA strains to counter human tactics is even more significant than just their larger numbers. With enough input, the Superordinate would be capable of producing a single strain that would be end of mankind, with or without relative strategies. Of course, because BETA don’t have a tactic, they aren’t war machines after all, such devices would only be utilised at extreme situations. If the Superordinate would assess mankind a life form, and accept that it was with only one side surviving, it would most likely alter its largely inert behaviour and become an active participant.

Calling BETA biological machines would not be all that incorrect, considering the Superordinate requests Shirogane Takeru to reactivate then torso-shredded Tamase Miki. Machines can be re-activated even after some damage, something BETA seem to consider themselves capable of doing, hence they consider themselves as non-lifeforms. This definition carries to humans, as revealed by a psychic contact during Alternative 3 procedures, and can be assumed to extend to all other lifeforms based on carbon. This naturally means that the BETA aren’t exactly hostile from their point of view, but rather carrying out pre-ordered function to gather materials. They are effectively as much as a machine to their creators as cars and trucks are to us.

Ultimately, the fight between humanity and the BETA is effectively a story of humanity fighting AI. Similar how TSFs have a weak tool AI, so have the smaller strains. Similarly, 00 Unit being the humanoid quantum computer in silicon the Superordinate is a biological quantum computer, which probably explains why it has to sit atop a mushroom shaped reactor. However, for all intents and purposes, the BETA AI is somewhat humanised, for the lack of better word. While it seems alien and first, the fact that the whole functions similar to archaic computers. Even with human made general AI, not to mention super intelligence, there should be little reason to assume that it would function similar to human patterns or restricts itself to hardware routes, especially if it has any capabilities of self-enhancement. It is highly possible that the Heavy Brain Class is able to do this, as it was able to comprehend human speech and mind at staggering speed. Despite this, its innate programming may not have allowed it to expand further, unless necessary input was presented. The probability of a human being able to do this are largely nil.


 

The AI elements in Muv-Luv should be considered as standard SF fare. It is not the main focus or the point of the franchise. Yes, the BETA are effectively AI and cyborgs and what are successors of 00 Unit will appear later in the franchise, if the roadmap indicated by Exogularity Volume 1 is anything to go by. There probably won’t be any sort of fully AI driven TSFs despite the path now being completely open for them, though the BETA AI will probably be touched to some extent depending whether or not the Heartless One is human or BETA agent. While AI is more or less an afterthought, a sidestepped issue in all of the current stories released thus far, the current setup does allow the staff discuss the philosophy and concepts of Artificial Intelligence down the line, especially when the intention is to showcase mankind in a state where it is natural, posthuman and transhuman at the same time.

Muv-Luv: What is Exogularity?

Hoo boys, bronchitis is such fun. Every time I get it, the worse it hits. Please take care of your health, dear reader.

 

To save you time;

What Exogularity is; a source booklet series.

What Exogularity is not; name for a story or a setting within Muv-Luv franchise.

This should be relatively straightforward post, but considering the Muv-Luv fandom has a history if mislabeling titles with something else, with Before the Shimmering Time Ends constantly being referred as Altered Fable because Altered Fable is the name of the compilation disc it comes on, it’s no wonder the lack of language skills and information easily translates misconceptions that spread far and wide. Misconceptions, like with AF, that just can’t be uprooted anymore for whatever reasons.

Here’s Altered Fable’s main menu, with Before the Shimmering Time Ends being highlighted just under the disc’s title. Notice all the other good stuff that’s on Altered Fable

Exogularity is essentially rebranded Lunatic Dawn. Lunatic Dawn were a series of booklets or mooks self-published by âge at their Comic Market stands. LDs (not the confused with Laserdiscs in this context) have been collected into three larger books titled Allied Strike. Since 2017, Exogularity has taken LD‘s place as official source material for fans. If you consider this, both LD and Exogularity can be taken as sort of additions to Muv-Luv Alternative Intergral Works, which served as the core backbone for the Codex.

Sometimes Lunatic Dawns came with a name, like LD3  was titled Code: Rebellion. LD7 had a full title of Muv-Luv Alternative Lunatic Dawn 7 Total Eclipse, which is boring and unimaginative, but somehow fitting for Total Eclipse materials.

So, what can you exactly find in Lunatic Dawn? Each LD contains their own special illustrations, colour or not, with line arts of Declassified Tactical Surface Fighters. For example, LD3  showcased the Rafale and gave a blurp about it.

 

 

These books also consisted of staff interviews, rough sketches and designs, rough animation boards, jokes, short stories and such. At times, LDs covered future subjects or touched on titles in-development, though that was more what Agekunohate, âge’s official fan book, as for in general. Essentially, all these are major parts of the hype engine directed at the fans rather than any part of the larger public. It must be said, âge has some stupidly dedicated fans across the globe.

So, in what way is Exogularity rebranded Lunatic Dawn? Let’s take a look at contents of the first volume.


The first thirteen pages cover content regarding Strike Frontier, the mobile game DMM ran. The second part, starting from page 14 begin to cover plans for stories that would take place after Muv-Luv Alternative‘s, events. As these are merely plans and drafts, outlines at best, and should be taken as grain of salt to showcase that might come out in the future. Nothing is definitive before the actual product announcements and titles are rolling out, and knowing âge/anchor that’ll take some time.

That is not to say there is no validity here, as the first volume states, these are the Horizon of the next attempt. The depths of its creations. The latest material of âge. What we can assume with the first volume is framework, from posthuman characters to new generations of TSFs, from Operation Olympus and Moon War II to BETA striking back and TSF-like BETA being a thing, to the whole New Beginning with the idea of humanity going out there in space to meet the BETA creators with warp-capable TSF.

The tagline for the booklet is All converge points, and a new beginning. While we can overanalyse this and pull stuff from our collective asses, it would seem that âge/anchor are intending to do a sort of re-launch of the franchise. After Muv-Luv Alternative, âge/anchor (then ixtl) really haven’t managed to roll out anything that would’ve broken the bank. Total Eclipse as a side story failed rather hard, Schwarzesmarken tanked even worse. The Day After didn’t really see success in Japan and currently is left as is. Whether or not it’ll be collected in the future with some sort of definitive end is anyone’s guess, but seeing this is the timeline Takeru cancels with Alternative‘s events, the ending itself is more or less a moot point. Some would even argue that TDA in itself was a useless story.

If you look at most English-language resources for Muv-Luv, like the Wiki, they’re mostly lacking in mentioning any of the Strike Frontier stuff when it comes to Exogularity Vol.1. This is because nobody has cared a bit about the Strike Frontier stuff, it really was rather unpopular in overall terms. The second volume, published in the upcoming Comiket #94, is supposed to concentrate more on cut Strike Frontier content, and content that they never had the chance to put in the game. Whether or not it’ll have anything on the numerous post-Alternative settings Vol.1t touched upon is currently unknown.

But you know what I don’t see people talk about too often? The storyboards at the back of the first volume where we have Meiya-lookalike fighting one of those BETA-TSFs.

Also no post this weekend, and even this is two days late because I’ve been mostly sleeping or coughing my lungs out. Stay healthy and eat your veggies, kids.

Ignorant parent is child’s worst enemy online

Recently a 15-yers old teenager committed a suicide after reading the Visual Novel Doki Doki Literature Club. The title’s rather infamous for starting out as a normal cute-as-button story, and then becomes rather nasty in its themes and content. The VN does state that its not for everyone and is not suitable for children, the usual warning for software of its nature.

The news reporting on the incident on the Sunderland Echo reflects how poorly entertainment software, VNs or electronic games, are understood. Age doesn’t really change this, only education does. For example, Sue Kirby, the author, makes her first mistake in the title calling it an online game. Even if we give the leeway that VNs are counted as games, Doki Doki Lit. Club certainly is not online and does not contain any other “players” characters outside the reader, another mistake that’s made in the article.

The article is really all that and not much as else. Some statement from a coroner warning parents to look after their children, something they should already be doing, and neither he or the author describes any rhyme or reason why this should be an issue. Great many who commit suicide have done something before their final deed, be it watching television, listening to music or other activities. Perhaps the title did serve as a some sort of trigger for the suicide, but then its not exactly the driving reason to do so. There must have been something there already, a thought and drive, which has been the true underlying reason. A software doesn’t simply brainwash you do commit suicide, neither do any other sort of media.

Few other sites, like Fatherly, has almost the exact same article up, with no expansion on the topic itself, no research done for better or worse. I’m not even going to go through The Sun’s article on the topic, as their opening thinks it’s somehow negative that Doki Doki Lit. Club doesn’t require any parental checks. Last time I checked, you had to set things up via Steam’s client in Family View rather than title-by-title basis. Then again, it’s available on other sites as well, so maybe this particular kid got it from there rather than using the most popular game platform on the PC. The Sun’s on a witch hunt mode on the title and it shows.

A common theme among all articles is how there’s criticism how the game doesn’t enforce the suggested. How would the game do that? Are we now in need of Adult Gamer license like with the UK’s fap license nonsense and all games need to have it separately or something? Absolute nonsense.

Manchester Evening News at least has some more meat on the platter, an interview with the parents. The father of gives a statement that the game wouldn’t leave the player alone, as it resembles real life through interactions. Perhaps this shows that the teenager didn’t have the best relations outside virtual environment, if he was looking something better in a virtual environment to cope with it.

Jude Holmes from the Public Protection Division urged parents to check websites their kids are using, effectively encouraging them to break their children’s privacy. Smart kid will be able to wipe their history away anyway, or set up different User Accounts. Firewall settings don’t help much, as they’re easily circumvented just as much. Furthermore, we are talking about a title that’s on Steam as well, meaning the parents should be aware of their kids’ Steam libraries to boot. That wouldn’t show up in the browsing history.

Holmes doesn’t seem to be the Sherlock of the bunch.

Credit where credit is due, Manchester Evening News at least does to the research to describe Doki Doki Literature Club as a visual novel and how it functions. Yet, much like other sites, the author describes the horror twist in the game in a negative tone, as if a story within a game, or any story driven media, couldn’t be gruesome and showcase hard topics straight up.

At least nothing is said to directly connect the suicide to the visual novel, outside the parents’ words, but even the stupidest of readers can read the message between the lines. In truth, we probably will never know the real reason why the teen committed suicide, Doki Doki Lit. Club is just an easy target to put the blame on. Not knowing is the worst there is, and if parents aren’t up to their child’s life, there’s very little to go by.

Certain people are easy to be impressed and suggested by the media. The solution is not to cut out connections to websites or similar. There is no such easy solution for the safety so many parental and safety groups want. There are only hard and long solutions that would require parents to know the web environment well enough so that they’d be able to teach their children to become sensible users of the World Wide Web. An ignorant parent who doesn’t understand modern technology, and doesn’t want to learn anything about it, is probably a child’s worst enemy when it comes to the unsafe Internet. Even Andy Burrows, the Associate Head of Child Safety Online recognises this, imploring parents to have regular conversations with their kids, but what the hell are these parents going to talk about if they don’t know what to talk about? Don’t give your photo away online? Not applicable on the modern era of social media anymore, where everybody and their dogs have an account to post personal details for everyone to see.

There are lots of mays, maybes, coulds and mights. There is nothing definitive, but a mob doesn’t need solid proof to hang the accused. This won’t launch a new crusade against electronic games, or VNs for the matter, but it is part of the rising bad media and journalism that’s begun to permeate video games for the recent years, from calling game consumers are toxic to blame them to be reason for political downfalls. A moral panic over violence or adult subjects in games wouldn’t be nothing new, but it would be extremely pathetic.

After all, that makes better news than an objective view on the subject.