Digimon Design Evolution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bun
Bun the special baby.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shutumon

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

Omegamon 3D

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

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

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

Shoutmon X3

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

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

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

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

Agumon Tri

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

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

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Design comparison; Mega Man VS Mega Man

To say that the original design for Mega Man is iconic wouldn’t be wrong. The design of the character is synonymous of the game renaissance of the later 1980’s with Nintendo’s powerhouse of a 8-bit system and the many games it housed. The very sprite is revered in an iconic status similar to Mario’s or Simon Belmont’s and sees constant re-use. Hell, even the trailer for the 2017 cartoon has it, despite their design being vastly different.

Well, not exactly. The logo aside (it’s your run-of-the-mill logo, though I’m not a fan how they’ve cut the letters in an angle and don’t make the space between Mega and Man evident enough) the sprite jumping on it is a modified NES sprite. The earpieces have a glowing rim and a similarly glowing forehead gem has been added. The buster also has an energy line to it. The solar collector that runs from the forehead gem to the back of the helmet has been coloured black here as well.  Dunno what’s the point of using this modified sprite, but the intend is to appeal to the nostalgia. As I’ve said it previously, the 8-bit worship needs to end and this is the worst kind of retro masturbation.

Then again, using modern tools to represent an old character does something good at times. Mega Man 9 had great faux-retro renders of the characters

But let’s get to the business. I’m not going to compare original Mega Man to Man of Action Mega Man. Instead, I’ll be using another American redesign; the Ruby-Spears Mega Man. We’ll leave the Captain N version to its own devices. And oh, this counts as the Monthly Mecha design post, because row-butts.

Neat to see stuff like this turning up

The two American Mega Man redesigns are of two different school of thought. The Ruby-Spears redesign gives the main audience someone to look up to, someone they could become while growing up. Ageing the character from a ten-years old to a teenager was a necessity. Outside that, the core design doesn’t exactly veer too far from the original Capcom design.

I’ll just have to use this screencap from the trailer

The Man of Action Mega Man on the other hand aims to create a character the kids in the audience could identify with. A character that goes through similar issues and handles similar subjects, though maybe through a veil that is a Saturday morning cartoon, can offer kids new tools to handle difficult subjects. Somehow I doubt that’ll happen with the 2017 Mega Man series. Or as heavy handedly as in Captain Planet. I’ll refer this redesign as MoA from now on.

Kinda funny to see how the basic posing is still the same. I guess this is cultural influence to you.

The two designs are clearly from the same source of origin and thus share the same elements, and interesting, similar additions. To note some few of them; kneepads, changed forehead element and emphasized upper torso. Original Mega Man doesn’t have any sort of kneepads, the lower legs sometimes extend over the knee, sometimes it doesn’t. Depends on the revision. The earpieces on Ruby-Spears have red vents on the outside, giving them emphasize, just like how energy lines on the MoA redesign. The forehead element is probably the most baffling on Ruby-Spears, as it’s a diamond over a square. It doesn’t really mesh with the rest of the design, but then again the life gem stolen from Mega Man X on MoA’s redesign looks pretty much as terrible. Well, all the energy light lines do. Maybe those will change colours when another weapon than Mega Buster is equipped.

Let’s start from the top of the head and work our way down. The overall helmet is the same shape, but due to different styles, MoA’s big head is emphasised. MoA’s Mega Man also inverts the shades on the helmet. Classic Mega Man’s forehead element and solar collector are lighter shade than the main body. This is due to the colour pallet available on the NES. MoA chose to make the helmet’s main body about the same shade as usual, but the collector is almost black. The shade of blue, cyan even, used on the lighter shades on Mega Man is used on the edges of the cutaway for the face, directly lifted from Mega Man X. Ruby-Spear’s redesign sticks to notes from Capcom’s original, outside the whole diamond bit.

Furthermore, the cutaway on Ruby-Spears’ Mega Man is classical heart, whereas MoA’s opted to use a similar angular design to X’s, just with slightly less sharpness to it. MoA also added useless panel lining to the helmet. While face design may be different across the board, it should be mentioned that Ruby-Spears followed original’s round face closer that MoA. Both have blue eyes, just like original. It wasn’t until Mega Man X onwards that Mega Man main characters started having emerald green eyes.

The upper torso is where things get wild. Ruby-Spears’ Mega Man may be more muscular, but the lines added to emphasize this don’t break the core design. His neck may be exposed in this one, but that’s kinda business as usual as well. MoA’s Mega Man on the other hand opts for a leaner design, where the chosen elements break the traditional design. MoA’s Mega Man essentially wears a T-Shirt that has a stupidly high upwards arching cut in the middle, exposing his middle torso for no real good reason. Black lines coming underneath his armpits extent to his neck and extend the same way on the back. Underneath his arms he has two rectangle sections that have no reason to be there.

Is it just me or does all this stretching look strange? I just assume there’s fabric on top of parts that aren’t clearly metal, but then you have clearly metal parts warping. Eh, cartoons and animation

The arms are similar, only having real difference between gloved VS. gloveless hands. Due to how MoA exaggerates body dimensions, the arms are larger. However, because the upper arms (and the thighs) are so thin, MoA’s Mega Man looks more like a mix-match of a Sonic character. Ruby-Spear’s has a more traditional superhero muscle build to it, which looks a bit odd, but works considering the whole redesign is more in-line with American comic heroes.

Both buster has a similar overall design, but MoA decided not to include anything interesting and just added three glowing bars. Ruby-Spears opted two for button like squares. Ruby-Spears hits closer to the original yellow strip design. Both weapons seem to be tied to the left arm.

Considering that, the pants on Ruby-Spears’ are your plain ol’ whities coloured blue and with a belt. MoA opted to add an extra colour and separated power light lines in order to cut the shape downwards. Not really sure if they want to have their hero wearing pants like that, but these cuts are somewhat reminiscent of those that Mega Man X has, but again, just with curves.

Probably should post X as for reference. He has a big hand. Notice how his chest has an added colour on his… robobra? Anyway, his colours have accents that bring out each other and whatever the details there are, mainly the angles. The Life gem on his forehead is brought to attention because it simply stands out, but rather than breaking the scheme it works as a sole point of interest. That, and there’s red in his earpiece and at the tip of the buster. It’s a colour sparingly used for an effect, not slapped everywhere. Notice green eyes

The legs are the second busiest places after the Mega Buster. Well, that’s relative for MoA’s design, it’s so full of lines and lights everywhere. Ruby-Spear’s Mega Man have classic style legs, just with more muscle, clear kneepads, separated feet from the legs and lighter share at the tip of the “shoes” with black soles. MoA kinda went town with theirs. Darker kneepads, very clear ankle joints, separated feet and legs and darker soles. Everything covered in those damn light lines.

Let’s be frank, Man of Action Mega Man is overdesigned. The chosen colour scheme looks too dark to give the lights more emphasize and the sheer amount of them does make it look more like a Christmas decoration from China. A Mega Man knock-off. Yes, the original’s character sheet has tones about as dark as MoA, yet in-game and in other illustration work, even in Wish upon a Star, the colours are lighter and vivid. The darker tone balance is destroyed in MoA’s design due to added even darker spots and high contrast lights.

I had wishes that the design would grow unto me, but the inclusion of Mega Mini, worse song than Ruby-Spears’ opening and the constant use of Mega+suffix doesn’t install much hope. MEGANIZE ME! or IT’S MEGA TIME don’t have the same sound as ROCK ON! They’re actually more reminiscent of Captain N‘s Mega Man, who would shove mega into everything he was talking about. Hell, even in the intro he says MEGA HI! to the audience.

The design is also just too damn blue and uses too dark a scheme. Outside the insides of the buster, there is not splash of any other colour to give the blue a lift. Hell, the clothes he wears when he is just Aki Light are more interesting to look at. The design sure has become less rigid since we first saw it, but all the same eyesore points still persist.

Even the yellow inside the buster is broken ochra, not a vivid yellow. Why? To emphasize that neon cyan on the rims. The worst thing is that the wrist seems to have slightly brighter blue, but it’s all dull. That hand looks terrible though, but maybe it’s just the angle. Here you can see that the forehead “gem” is really just an intendation on the “solar collector” (probably isn’t a one in MoA’s version) and not a protruding gem

Ruby-Spears’ Mega Man is sort of the opposite, with less bells and whistles everywhere, and despite the changed age, he is visibly Mega Man American edition. He does have a dunce, round nosed face with weird eyebrows (not to mention eyes that are somewhere between Fred Flinstone’s and generic anime) and strangely bulbous legs overall, but these don’t really destroy the balance it maintains. The slightly overdone muscles does upset the balance to a point where the whole thing looks a bit off in an uncanny way. Whether or not one is better over the other is subjective, but the 2017 cartoon needs to be damn good to win me over.

Then again, it doesn’t need to. It’s a show for a new generation of kids, and if they like, maybe that’s for the better.

Monthly Three: Freedom fighters are awesome?

Kids can’t become Robocop, but kids can become John Rambo. What the hell is he saying, kids can become a war veteran with a severe PTSD? That’s pretty much what I’m saying, yes.

Robocop was easy to understand why and how it became a cartoon few times around and why it never reached that R-18 status again. For the Rambo franchise, it dibbled into the cartoon region and then never returned, becoming a hard R again with John Rambo, giving the franchise a satisfactory end. The cartoon on the other hand just went nowhere. But let’s start from the point why they even made Rambo: The Force of Freedom.

In 1982 First Blood became a box office hit, and despite it got a mixed reception from the reviewers, its success could not be underestimated. First Blood wasn’t exactly fresh on its material, as post-Vietnam War America and the treatment of soldiers had become somewhat overused theme in war movies. It was nevertheless an intelligent action movie, especially in its changes and with the new ending, which deviated from the original novel’s ending. It didn’t force the viewer to think itself too seriously, but it’s events required some thought.

Rambo: First Blood Part II hit the theatres in 1985, and used the Vietnam War POW/MIA issue as its backdrop. As an action movie, it’s a classic and without a doubt one of the best and is the most iconic film in the franchise. It’s been parodied and ripped off more than one can count, and hell, even the cartoon’s first episode replicates some of its scenes pace by pace, just with less violence. While the critical reception was less than favourable, First Blood Part II was an international box office success.

Meanwhile, Hasbro had renewed their G.I. Joe toyline with the help of Marvel. Before the televised series in 1985, G.I. Joe saw mini-series that were essentially just vehicles for toy advertisement, much like what pretty much all multimedia franchises’ televised parts would be named as. Rather than going deep into G.I. Joe’s history, I recommend you to check first part of SF Debris’ Transformers History, because the two are linked to a large degree.

G.I. Joe was big in the 1980’s and changed popular culture much like how the two first Rambo movie had. Despite Vietnam War had made war toys a big no-no, but 1980’s was pretty much the opposite. Hasbro didn’t just learn from G.I. Joe’s success when creating Transformers and their other franchises, like My Little Pony and Jem and the Holograms. Say what you will, Jem and the Holograms was fucking awesome with good music and I hate the fact that I only see bits and pieces of it when I was a kid.

It wasn’t just Hasbro that learned from the success, as the competing companies saw potential in replicating Hasbro’s multimedia franchise hit. Despite Rambo being an adult only movie series at that point with plenty of violence and themes that kid’s don’t really get, somebody thought he would make a great lead for a fighting force themed series.

I get the logic, I really do. Especially in the context of the cartoon. Rambo III suffered from the perception that Rambo had become a soldier who would be summoned to do operations for the military, as he was the only man who could do it. The usual super soldier trope you have in Escape from New York and Metal Gear series. The cartoon dropped all the hard issues First Blood had brought up and essentially made no references to PTSD or Vietnam War issues. The cartoon Rambo was character at its stereotypical, a one-man army.

It ran 65-episodes and was essentially made for syndication. It’s one of those rare shows that allowed to have realistic weaponry and vehicles, thou to push toys some of the vehicles were very cartoony. Outside that, it’s a very non-descriptive piece, not very high in entertainment value. It feels and reeks like a G.I. Joe clone, and that’s what it is, with the exception that the character cast was smaller. Some of the plots were stupid as hell too, like General Warhawk raising the battle ship Yamato from the bottom of the ocean to conquer a fictional country of Tierra Libre.

In the cartoon, Rambo could be something Robocop never could; a sort of role model or something to aspire kids to become; a hero to fight evil forces in the name your own country and whatever ideology it upholds. It’s not a bad one either, just very damn generic one.

Generic is also the term you could give all the villains in the series, as their dime in the dozen designs would fit any and all fighting force cartoon from the era, and some even fitting in with the likes of Hokuto no Ken. The music on the other hand was licensed from the two first Rambo movies, and they give the series far more oomph than what it should have.

Rambo III hit the theatres in 1988. A this point people were more or less tired of the character and overall everything of like it. It’s overbearing anti-Soviet themes and lacklustre plot has given it the spot of being worst movie in the franchise. For whatever reason, I remember this movie being the one kids would see the most often see after it came out. It lacks any and all finesse First Blood had, and replaced all that with even more action and death.

Rambo III suffered from mediocre acting and bad script, but at least it wasn’t forced to be kid friendly. Even with all the blood and violence the movie had in it, it was mostly a harmless, slightly backwards movie for the time.

(John) Rambo was an independent release in 2008, closing the franchise. Unlike the third movie, Stallone’s performance here is excellent and he didn’t shy away from the core roots of the character. There was no overly political connotations thrown around or pampering around issues. The character of Rambo has grown old, and is more in-tone with the original novel, and the movie mirrors this. The character also is given a solid closure.

Both Rambo and Robocop were at their weakest when they made compromises to make either franchises more family friendly. Both franchises had cartoons that had the original points removed and tailored them for general consumption. It can work, like with G.I. Joe, but a tool should always be used for its intended purpose.

Generational growths

Comics and games share the same stigma of being kids’ stuff. Like any other, the people working in these industries wanted to show otherwise, despite both having more than enough adult material from the very beginning.

Let’s retrace this a bit. Back in the day when I was a wee lad, Masters of the Universe, Transformers and Turtles were the hottest shit around. Not at the same time, mind you. Despite Turtles having its indie comics, the cartoon was far more widespread and popular.

When looking at the modern renders at each franchise’s comics, I found them all catering to the thirty-something hardcore fans. While there is nothing inherently wrong, there is something wrong when that’s the only thing offered in the field of comics. Yet, the mainstream comics outside these three franchises have become something that barely sells and are supported by a similar, if not the same, thirty-something crowd.

It’s a sad world when I can’t even think about buying a Superman comic for my nephew, because I know how much murder and other unsuitable subjects it will have.

There are so many who feel that a franchise should not stay the way it is to become popular. They feel that it should always cater to only them, the people who are the hardest of the core fans, those who made it popular and who have been following a franchise for all their life. The forever basement dwelling virgin doesn’t even describe these people accurately.

These people and their parents have essentially doomed comics and video games in a weird dual movement, where the older generation has deemed and credited both media as nothing more but a children’s entertainment, and then the younger generation has been working hard proving them wrong. The current generation that has grown up with games want to make the games more mature and thoughtful media, but at the same time they’re killing the industry as they are pushing the games medium through storytelling rather than from what’s inherent to games; play. That is not to say that games can’t handle difficult matters, but that’s not what people play games for.

Games, be it computer, arcade or console games, are about a certain level of escapism. The same applies to comics. We consume these products to momentarily leave the everyday worries and politics behind for a while and enjoy something completely different. Games like Gone Home or similar will never be successful if they’re going to be mundane, uncool and force an agenda down your throat. Those games will never beat Super Mario Bros., because SMB is all about fun.

Both comics and games have stifled because neither of them are for everyone anymore. This is very, very clear with comics, but with games you still have the occasional title that still is a hit with everybody.

If you’ve ever wondered why once popular franchise has lost its gleam and fallen into obscurity, it’s basically this. Concentration on a diminishing market rather than expanding it to a wider audience can keep something alive for those fans only, but if a niche is open, it will be filled sooner or later. The new generations will have their own popular franchises the older ones will deem straight up shit and not worthy to compare to what they liked.

Pokémon is twenty years old, rounded up. It’s been a damn big hit with the kids because Pokémon has refused to change to meet the demands of the time. Most of its fans are adults who grew up with Pikachu. When you consider this, it’s no wonder how Yo-Kai Watch became so popular. It’s got a similar approach, much what Level 5 did was something that every single company should be aim to do; design. The main character of Yo-Kai watch was designed to be flawed and have the same problems that the modern kids have. He is not without his faults, but still aims to make the best of everything. The children can see themselves in the protagonist, and I would argue that this is also the very reason many adults can relate to the protagonist as well.

Then you have the fact that very rarely kids want to consciously be fan of the same thing as their parents, at least to the same extent. We can’t force our children to like the same stuff we did, and we shouldn’t. However, Transformers Prime and Nickelodeon’s Turtles cartoons are a proof that when you make your product universally appealing to children and adults alike, you have a golden egg. This exact same damn things applies to comics and games. You don’t need to make them mature; it is essentially cutting their flight short.

The DC Masters of Universe comic could have been great. It has awesome ideas, like Adam having to forge his own Power Sword based on King Grayskull’s, but from the very beginning it was something that wasn’t very MOTU. It is visceral, raw, crude and violent. It does not have the same appeal as the 80’s comics or the cartoon, it’s directed to the old fans only. Hell, the comic read like a fanbook too, but with a constantly changing visual style. It’s extremely jarring to read a comic when characters don’t even look the same, but change with each new story. House style should make a return to comics.

Don’t feel bad when you favourite thing will die out or be replaced with something new.

Recently Spider-Man became Tony Stark with Peter Parker becoming a head of a business and having Spider-Man as his bodyguard and company mascot. I kid you not, this is an actual thing. Luckily, Disney has finally started to make some rulings over MARVEL and we’re getting a comic that concentrates to Spider-Man’s young days, and this comic looks like it could be a hit. The title may be a bit stupid, but this comic is aimed at everybody, just like Spider-Man comics should be.

A question of reality and organics

If you look at movies made five years ago that have CGI you’ll clearly notice that they look, well, CGI. It might be that they look really plastic, too shiny or generally extremely unconvincing at best. At worst, they look completely CGI. Every year you see better and better CGI special effects, but even the most recent films can’t really convince the audience. Yes, they can entertain, but not really convince. Dark Knight Rises uses limited amount of CGI, and whenever you see it used it looks unnatural; inorganic. If the effects do not grow organically from the surroundings, then they look fake, and if effects look fake, the movie’s unconvincing, and if the movie’s unconvincing, then the movie is nothing short of stupid.

Believing in the world that is before you is essential. Whatever is showed on the screen has to make sense and work within their own setting. I’ll be frank; I couldn’t watch Avatar to the end. It was unconvincing CGI wankery which made little sense. For example; the flying mountains? If Avatar had been a fairy tale rather than a sci-fi story it would’ve made sense. And no, don’t start to tell me how it works, because it can’t work any way in the setting.

Take Ridley Scott’s earlier movie as a comparison; Blade Runner. Blade Runner is what you’d call an old-school special effects movie. Almost everything uses physical effects; buildings were costumed in strange devices, futuristic cars were build and matte paintings show the far horizons. Go watch the opening scene of the movie, and remember that everything in there has been physical. Few table models, a matte painting background and superimposed flames do not only look really good, but convincing. You believe in them. You see and believe in the world at large before you on the screen.

I’m not arguing whether or not physical /classical special effects are better than CGI, as there’s nothing to argue about; CGI will look inorganic and fake as long as they can’t match a good scale model work, like the ones in Blade Runner’s opening. However, CGI is the better option for modern film makers as it is cheaper and practically anyone can do decent CGI within few weeks. The tools at large are so easy to work an learn that CGI, and computer generated images in general, have become cheap and taken as something obvious and given. The same thing is going on in design, where people with nil-talent and wrong attitude as well as world view are punching through just because they’re good with computers. A designer who can’t make what he designs is worthless. In CGI there’s no limitation here; you create whatever you need in computer environment and that’s that.

Physical effects do not need an artistic take, they need a good craftsman, a master, to be pulled off well enough to convince the audience. Whenever I am talking about design and about my projects I seem to sway from the subject and talk about how it’s the craftsmen who do the art, not the artists, and it frustrates me. Currently there’s a confusion in the world who does what. Let’s use the convention where I had my showcase on Laserdiscs and such as an example.

The event’s organizers were stupid enough to have an artist to make all the images, designs and such. They also lacked certain kind of system that I call customer service. The artist sent pictures of her work as she was progressing with it, and the customers chose what looked the most ready to their eyes. Now, you see that there’s nothing wrong in this way to work, unless you’ve put even the smallest events that need proper papers and commercials. The blame can be put on inexperience over anything else, and I’m still feeling a little bad for the artist, as it wasn’t just the lack if information from the customers that made her work difficult, but the inexperience of the organizers as well. But I have high doubts that neither side knew what an artist should do when making commercials and flyers. Don’t put an artist to do a designer´s job. To put this in more common sense, don’t put artist to do craftsman’s work. I believe that this artist will become a master and crafter if she so chooses.

Seeing the behind-the-scenes fiasco the event was, I hope that the organizers learn from their errors. That, or ask from people who have been organizing events longer. There’s nothing wrong in asking question, but there’s nothing but stupidity to stay ignorant and fulfil your own artistic desires.

My dad usually gives the same response to my thoughts; there would be need to resurrect the old master-pupil institution, and I agree. I’ve said many times that Da Vinci wasn’t just a master craftsman, but an inventor and genius. He was an artist in his early days when he was a pupil, but a master has no need to be called an artist. This just makes me wonder why would anyone wish himself to be called as an artist, a pupil when they’re something more and beyond those initial steps. This also leads into question why so many wish to stay in that state of being nothing more than a pupil.

CGI special effects, as computer in general, really doesn’t demand you to become master any more, but that shows everywhere and in anything one does. What I call special effects are what people would call old-school special effects, physical, analogue or any other prefix that nominates other than CGI is just special effects to me. It would be wrong to call them any other than special effects, as they’re special and effects. However, CGI special effects are not special in any form, so we call them just CG effects.

Let’s use Godzilla films as an example of master craftsmen creating worlds. Take an hour long break and do watch the following documentary. It’s worth your time.

I have all the respect on Tsuburaya’s works (even thou I blame him on how Godzilla became children’s hero that he wasn’t) as he was a master craftsman. If you looks his films before Godzilla, the ones that tell about war, you see the insane amount of detail and care put on those details. Nowadays it would be unthinkable to create a physical model for a space rocket when you can make it in 3D, and make it more unconvincing. In the end of the film you see the explosion that they’re going to re-create, and what they do looks great. While the cheapest Godzilla films do look fake (as per diminished budget) the best of them will always look more realistic than anything that CGI can pull off. The reason to this is two things; CGI aims for real visuals (what special effects are by their nature) and that CGI is either not created organically from the scene, or inherently is inorganic. It’s an argued matter if CGI is inorganic by its nature or not, but that doesn’t matter if the artists working on them simply refuse to do them properly.

While special effects might look fake and pop out just like that, in most cases they’re completely convincing, because they are there physically. That itself adds to the movie’s world, and allows the actors actually act according to what’s there. One reason why the Prequel Star Wars trilogy is awful piece of trash is that the actors have nothing to act to. Even parts of the romance scenes were put together from different takes where the actors do not even talk to each other. Explains why there’s not chemistry between actors. The same is with physical effects, or in some cases source and cause of effects. For example, there’s a famous scene where King Ghidorah flies over a bridge, the bridge just falls. There was supposed to be a special effect where the monster’s gravity beam destroys the bridge. This scene might’ve been a failure in that sense, but it’s an interesting scene where you can see some of the workings behind the set itself.

From Western shores I’d we can talk about the original Star Wars trilogy, but to have far more camp and something to laugh at (because of awesomeness) please refer to the 1980 Flash Gordon movie. It’s a beautiful film in special effects, props and all that. It was made my masters, even if the superimposed scenes were a bit poppy. It’s really a sincere movie that needs more appreciation than it has had during the years.

And if you want honestly cerebral and interesting film with good technical execution, see The Man from Earth.

There is a place where CGI does work as a natural effect, and this is in a movie which is nothing but CGI, like the Toy Story. However, I’m afraid the CGI movies are misused and going the same direction as vast majority of animation as a whole; plastics. Avatar could’ve been one of the first and proper CGI film for adults, but it was not to be. Animation has incredible history of adult films, mainly the ones made by Ralph Bakshi and Don Bluth, which utilised the medium in a whole new level and elevated animation to a different status. While Fritz the Cat is pretty bad film, I have to admit that it’s really an important one and has some good images and uses the medium very well. None of the CGI movies thus far have done that, as the film industry has concentrated on making the CGI better rather than using it in ways that elevate full-CGI movies from their kiddie status to something recognizable. Sure, kids stuff can be recognized as we’ve gone over before. In all honesty, the only real thing that CGI movies thus far have been recognized is how good graphics they have.

I find it kind of laughable that people are watching a Avatar and then calling Godzilla a kids movie, when it’s then other way around; Space Pocahontas (Disney version no less) VS the very embodiment of abused science awakened.

The death of master-pupil institution left a serious impact on every field, and in film industry you can see it by the lack of physical and real props, and it doesn’t help that current culture almost abhors master-pupil relationships and encourages staying as an artist. The question really is how can one create something real when he doesn’t even work with reality?