Something new and the countering culture

For some time now, I’ve criticised companies for rehashing the same old IP and the same old stories for a new product. Ever since we got The Force Awakens‘ first trailer really, when I had a post how they’re effectively recycling concepts from the cutting floor. 2016’s Ghostbusters is an extreme example of this in many ways, where it was beat for beat remake of the original. Well, so was Force Awakens and that’s the problem really. At some point all these big franchises that we’re now getting remakes and sequels of and to were something new, something ground breaking even.

Star Wars was born from New Hollywood. It was counter culture, much like how American Graffiti was before it. It something new, something that wasn’t done at the time. The 1970’s America was rather drab places, marred with controversies about war and politics. New Hollywood wanted to move away from what the establishment was doing, and as it tends to be with counter culture, it won and became the new establishment down the line. Goerge Lucas might’ve hated Hollywood and wanted to do this own thing, but during the production of Empire Strikes Back, he became a Hollywood producer himself in practice, and ultimately Return of the Jedi was more of the same, just like The Force Awakens. You have the Vietnam War parallels even stronger, you have the Wookies in form of Ewoks in the movie Lucas wanted in the first movie, but couldn’t have, you have another Death Star and a daring run into it to blow it up. The Force Awakens might “rhyme” with A New Hope, but it’s the second movie to do so in the franchise. It might be what people expected more, at first, but it’s also the deathknell of a franchise. You can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again. Franchises that keep revisiting and recycling are stale, and the revenues will diminish as more of their audience will turn away.

Star Wars as a franchise is the primary example of this, because it has revisited its stories so many times already. Rogue One was about getting the plans for the Death Star, something people who read the comics, books and played the games already had seen three times already, and it is something that had bled into the popular culture through osmosis. There is a trilogy of books of Han Solo’s childhood and backstory, a series of books that’s superior in every respect what the Solo movie was, despite it lifting elements from said books. In principle Disney made the right decision to purge the old Expanded Universe, as much as that made people disappointed, but what they proceeded to do was nothing new. They began to re-introduce old characters into the new canon, like Thrawn, rather than taking this chance and completely recreate something new. Disney, in effect, took the most popular pieces and simply made marketable works out of them. The short term revenues will be there, but will damage the brand and the franchise on the long run, just like The Force Awakens and the movies following it have done to Star Wars overall. You either have to be new to popular culture to consider The Force Awakens something new, or be a child who has no experience with culture at large yet.

That is an argument with some, that recycling stories for children is nothing new and older people should already grow up or move along. That’s a weak argument. Children more often than not will be entertained by something their parents are heavily invested in, that’s normal generational behaviour. New children’s franchises are successful and popular because they’re new a tailor made for that generation, be it either through tools or paradigms governing a given era. Repeated creation of the same ol’ thing without adding anything new to it will not create new content. It might be good business, especially if you have lots of IPs under your belt that you can reuse and recycle years on end, yet you will come to a point where that’s all the business will be. A competitor that innovates and puts out something new, creating paradigm shifts and shaking the industry standards, that’s where the money is in the long run.

The game business is not exactly analogous with Hollwyood. In Hollywood, things like Ghostbusters 2016 might fly in theory, and in practice fail simply because Hollywood can’t think anything new by itself. Hollwyood has a problem of thinking one-way and nothing else can enter its sphere. Hollwyood as a problem in diversity of thought, if we’re completely honest. You often see big movies like The Last Jedi including something about how capitalism is bad and evil, despite being the most capitalist engines on the planet with lots of gravy of nepotism. Woes is the world and its poor nations when big titles have larger budgets than some nation’s GDP. Hollywood has no touch with the general public or the world at large, it’s an insulated bubble that’s sold on one thing at a time and it shows in the movies. It’s no wonder China has become the main stage, when they’re making movies the general audiences don’t really care for. Certainly one-time event movies will make big bucks, like Avengers: End Game and The Force Awakens, but that works only once or twice. After that you have to introduce something new, something of high quality, something that shows We can do better, we can deliver superior produce. All big movie franchises have failed in this. More often than not, when things fail, the fans are called to be at fault, that their expectations and voices ruin movies and TV-shows, despite these people only hearing everything after the fact.

Look at Star Trek for another example. The nuTrek, the branch-off J.J. Abrams put out, are not Star Trek in its core element. However, because they effectively failed to captivate the audience and the fourth movie is on the chopping block, seeing nobody wants to fund the fourth movie, you got Discovery. If Star Trek Discovery had been affected by the fan reactions and backlash from the Abrams’ movies, it would have been very different show, more akin to The Next Generation if nothing else. Rather, the powers that be decided to make whatever the hell they wanted, and only after the reactions from the audience you began getting all those news pieces how toxic a fandom is and the like. Hollywood doesn’t care whether or not they make films and shows that are faithful to the franchise, or even well written. There are only few people who want to make movies for the sake of making movies, and people who want to produce something of actual worth. These people are going against the Hollywood grain.

Video games are a bit different as they are not just something you consume passively. You can drop an hour or two into a movie or a TV-show, watch something part of your streaming service or once in a whole buy a ticket or a disc from the store. There’s not much investment into a movie, it doesn’t take much of your attention or time. A game does, and a game requires something from the player in regards of skill and participation. Sequels and remakes to games are expected to expand on the play of the game more than on the story. Games that don’t do this languish and die out. Look at the New Super Mario Bros. series of games as an example. Massive first success with the DS title, the first 2D Mario game in years, and after that the series does nothing with it. Super Mario Bros. 2 and Super Mario Bros. 3 are great examples of game sequels that expanded everything about the predecessors. The Japanese SMB2 didn’t and it’s best left as Lost Levels, as it really is a great example of a lacking sequel.

Games like Resident Evil 2 Remake and Final Fantasy VII Remake are hitting the nostalgia boner people have. Nostalgia is extremely easy way to make money, especially with IP and franchises that are still running and popular. They’re safe for busainess due existing fanbase, there’s not much PR that company has to do to be a hit. At least that first few times. REmake2 and 3 only work this one time, and Capcom can’t go on remaking titles like this down the line. At a point customers, even new ones, will ask if this is all.

Popular culture, and culture overall, thrives when something of new worth is added to it. Star Wars originally was an amalgamation of ideas that Lucas had met before that point. Star Wars wasn’t a ripoff or copy of something, but an amalgamation of multiple aspects into one new whole. We haven’t seen this happening for some time now. Rather than having something new on the table, existing concepts are reused and recycled. Marvel movies, Disney Star Wars, 2016 Ghostbusters, that new Charlie’s Angels, New Super Mario Bros., Resident Evil remakes, Final Fantasy VIII Remake, four last Terminator films and so on are all creatively and conceptually bankrupt. None of them have added to the cultural scape what their predecessors did. They are hollow cases, filled with content that will taste sweet for a moment and rot away fast.

Something like original Resident Evil or Star Wars doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It needs someone to say I want to create something of my own and do it. Creativity doesn’t just happen, you have to work for it. You make your own environ and the sources of inspirations. You can’t make a great Star Wars movie if you only grew up with the media and culture surrounding it. You have to read into the world mythos and philosophy, watch old movie serials and films from different cultures, understand core concepts of human psychology if you are to make something that would be like the first Star Wars. If you only understand a story, be it a film, a game, a visual novel, comic or anything else, on its own, you don’t truly understand it all.

Capcom’ next year’s plans is to continue on the same path

Capcom’s yearly integrated report was out at the end of the quarterly year, so nab yourself a .pdf copy if you’d rather read it yourself. Otherwise, let’s see what this year’s report says and how the year has come to pass. Grab some snacks and a drink, this’ll be a doozy.

Right off the bat, the report states two thing; Monster Hunter World has been Capcom’s most successful game to date, though the state the number of shipped units rather than sold units. Shipped units just sounds better, as it always is a larger number. The claim for the game’s success is twofold; Globalisation and Digitalisation. The aim for Iceborne, the Ultimate or G expansion to the game, to push further sales. It should be noted that the two games are treated as two separate entities, as this sort of updated version of the base game has been the standard for Monster Hunter since the first game.

MHW made the series a global success. Despite 4U selling well on the 3DS, the truly wall-breaking moment was MHW. The game’s overseas sales ratio increased to 60% of total sales compared to previous 25%. Bulk of Iceborne’s sales are expected to be digital, and whatever data they gather from that will determine Capcom’s future plans. Considering how well the game has been doing on Steam alone, it’s probable that Capcom will push more of their games on digital frontier and cut down production of physical goods. This has been a trend for a while now, but this most likely will only matter for the Overseas markets, as Japanese markets still prefer physical goods over digital. If MHW was offered as a physical product for PCs without any ties to Steam, it’d sell just as well there.

The report starts properly after this, listing Capcom’s Capcom’s method of business and ideology. Capcom shows itself as Creator of entertainment culture that stimulate your senses. Bits like this should remind you that company indeed is Japanese. Their net sales for the end of the year, that is March 31st, was 82.9 billion yen. This is their main bread and butter, counting home video games, PC online, mobile titles and DLC. Their multimedia net sales, that is all the merch in books, toys etc, movies, their arcade games and Capcom’s own arcade centres, events and eSports, netted then 17.0 billion.

Here’s the kicker though; Capcom lists four of their major franchises next, the ones you should consider to be the essence of Capcom at this moment; Street Fighter, Resident Evil, Monster Hunter and Mega Man’s sales are listed, tho after the report Mega Man reached another million units sold. The sales numbers in respective order is, 42 million, 91 million, 54 million and 35 million, now 36. Fiscal year 2019’s biggest hits were, unsurprisingly, Devil May Cry 5 at 2.1 million units sold, REmake2 at 4.2 million and MHW at 4.5 .MHW is noted to be a catalog title, meaning it is a game that was published earlier and not during the fiscal year, showcasing that a game can continue to sell for a long damn time as long as it is available.

The core idea of Capcom’s Single Content, Multiple Usage is effectively effective franchising. It all starts with digital content and with a popular video game. The core of this digital content can be expanded to PC online gaming, via multiplayer modes or similar as well as create spinoff titles or additional tools, wallpapers or whatever other applications for mobile devices. The base concept of something like Resident Evil can be put into use in arcades by using the same world and characters in different pachislot games or similar arcade games. Other business section is major, as that mostly includes third and second parties using that core game to expand the amount of uses. Books, comics, character toys, events, tournaments, eSports, television shows and movies are all part of this extremely expansive Other Business section Capcom is not directly involved with in most cases. All this leads into creation of a new game, that will be used multiple times over. The importance is in having strong IPs that can be used multiple times, that the titles have global popularity to ensure that these franchised elements will sell (though if we’re completely honest, most of the franchised stuff Capcom puts out stays in Japan) and then you have the movies. It is probable that Capcom has the most games made movies out of. We can question their quality in many ways, but they still make money. Every time Street Fighter the Movie is shown on telly, Capcom gets about a million yen.

This method of using single content is nothing special in of itself, yet the whole movie business makes it a bit special. Konami, for example, has a very similar multimedia approach to their business, though they are rather separate in most cases. Konami can have a successful toy franchise going on, but no real game or other media of it. Capcom recognises their main point is the games, and they aim to make a mass-appealing game they can franchise further. This ideology probably permeates the game design at its core level, where designers at Capcom have to ask themselves How can this be used multiple times down the line? This also explains why certain IPs, despite being strong previously, have not appeared in any modern form outside ports, as they can’t be used multiple times nearly as easily.

This method of franchising is dependent on the core quality of the game, however. Capcom’s quality in games was all over the map during 00’s and early 10’s, but after some financial problems they’ve managed to level out with increasing sales. Their Operating Incopme is up 13.1% from last year, Margin is 1.1 point up, a slow but steady rise from 2016. Their net sales are 5.8% up, continuing the trend from 2015, where their sales dipped. It should be possible for Capcom to reach their 2014 level of sales during this next fiscal year. After the slump of net income from 2013, Capcom has been doing much better with 14.8% rise from last year, about triple the amount since 2014. Research and Development costs have gone down a bit, mostly thanks to establishing their new engines and streamlining development, but it is expected to rise next year. The balance of work in progress for games went down major 34%. This was gained by closing down overseas studios and release of games that requires lots of works, i.e. REmake2 and DMC5. This is interesting though; Capcom split its stocks 1:2 last fiscal year, meaning the payout was decreased, but dividends increased. They’ve been managing to pay out dividends 29 times in a row. More people may have access to stocks, but payout per stock is smaller. Might’ve been a good chance to jump into the bandwagon at that point. Return of Equity, a.k.a. the  measure of how effectively management is using a company’s assets to create profits, is up one point. Should be noted that it barely beat 2009, meaning ever since 2010 Capcom was in a rut and had to fight hard to get back up.

With WHO recognising gaming disorder, something I’ve covered few times already (it has no basis), Capcom has Sustainable Development Goals, effectively meaning Capcom wants to showcase themselves as a company that balances their own economic growth with the sustainability of the society. In short, Capcom is supposedly trying to showcase themselves as a company that would not take advantage of people with gaming disorder. EGS, Environmental, Social and Governance form EGS material issues that come in four sections; Securing and Training human resources, Promoting diversity, Development of Solid Relationship with Society, and Enhancement of Corporate Governance. This needs a bit breaking down, as EGD and the four spots mingle slightly. All this is according to UN’s goals, which Capcom wants to go by. Furthermore, Capcom is to continue their 2011 program of supporting educational themes whenever a classroom requests such, meaning that Capcom has a program that would educate students about video games and career opportunities. However, this is largely Japan-only, though with Capcom wanting to globalise themselves further, they might want to tackle most major schools around the world in some manner, and maybe even send e-mails to smaller schools around the globe, offering some assistance in game studies.

Capcom is tackling Environmental issues with the usual fashion, like changing old light bulbs to LEDs to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and reducing paper resources by digitalisation. This has reduced costs, but also means that Capcom can showcase their push for further digital sales as part of ESG. Energy conservation will be their future goal.

For Social, Capcom is aiming to hire more non-Japanese employees and increase the number of women in management position, but an approach like this won’t serve well in of itself. All these people need to be competent in their work, as companies that will hire or kick up people into the higher up’s board for the sake of diversity does no good for the company itself. Whether or not this goal will be healthy on the long run will be seen. Forced diversity is not a solution, but that is the wind of the era. Capcom has been increasing the amount of women workers in their ranks, though in reality it shouldn’t matter what junk the employee has between their legs, just the quality of their work. It should be noted though that Capcom’s Relationship with Customers has a spot mentioning how they’ve monetised DLC without high-pressure microtransactions, something that a company like EA can’t say with all the lootboxes and whatnot. According to Capcom, games should be enjoyed for the entertainment value they provide with gameplay, not fir the thrills associated winning a lottery. Capcom intends to deliver core content for free for their games, with DLC being its own thing at a low cost. With their mobile games, they supposedly intent to continue have small as possible gacha elements. Localisation and culturalisation gets mentioned as well, and rather than talk about translation or localisation, Capcom wants to culturalise games so they’d be enjoyed in whatever locale. This sounds highly suspicious, but it also explain why mention of dragons got removed from Monster Hunter World in China.

Capcom is surprisingly effective when it comes to Relationship with the Regional Community, as they Capcom is involved with number of events in Japan, offering possibilities for cities and municipalities to make profit off of their own from these events and whatnot. This also doubles as an effect of Capcom getting their name out there to people who wouldn’t recognise it otherwise.

For Governance, Capcom has been increasing ratio of external directors and increased dialogue with the shareholders. Basically, Capcom wants to have more openness with their shareholders as well as be more transparent all around. Capcom even lists reasons why external directors have been selected, e.g. Masao Sato is expected to be able to contribute to the auditing and supervision of the Board of Directors via his experience and knowledge from serving the police administration. This is part of the whole “visible” governance, and we’re even given a third-party assessment of Capcom’s corporate governance. Capcom’s strength lies in capital efficiency and information disclosure, with Effectiveness being the lowest. This is pretty much as expected, as per the business culture Capcom resides in.

Rather surprisingly, Capcom has an increasing number of annual discussions regarding the market opinion. Whether or not these discussions with take true market opinion into count, or just what the gaming press wants the opinion to be, is wholly another question.

Regarding Capcom’s achievements for the year, there’s nothing much to cover. Their catalog titles i.e. older titles continued to sell decently, with MHW being still a top seller. Their two new releases, DMC5 and REmake2 sold extremely well, and apparently Capcom is satisfied with the sales of ports and such. As for arcades, Capcom apparently started an online crane game, and have been aiming to expand their target market towards middle-aged and the elderly. Plaza Capcom was opened in Hiroshima, which probably explain why they closed down one arcade and opened two new ones at different locations. Despite their five different Pachinko and Pachislot models sold reasonably, the changes they made in testing their equipment meant lower overall sales; 3,422 billion compared to last year’s 7,803 billion. Numerous events were held to maximise sales of games, as well as further use of eSports like Capcom Street FIghter League powered by Rage. Net sales increased and operating margin was 31.5%.

Capcom’s intention to build a strong business portfolio hasn’t changed any. Their aim, after all, is to make games they can make multiple uses out of. For the next year, Capcom seems to intent promoting their mobile games more and explore possibilities more, which is why we’re getting Rockman X DiVE rather than a home game release. Standard consumer releases are abound from major IPs. We already know REmake3 has been in the works for some time and will be out somewhat soon. Whether or not something else like DMC5 will be out is another question, tho Capcom would count MHW Iceborne on Steam a new title, and the base game a catalog title. Capcom also has to restructure their development to handle the new regulations Japan has made regarding gambling, as it impacts their pachinko and pachislot business. Business as usual, and in hindsight, REmake2 and DMC5 last year was Capcom reviving old IPs for new generation. Much less than what was expected, but the reception and sales of both titles speak for themselves.

Kenzo Tsujimoto’s section is up next, which is more or less a view on Capcom’s CEO’s commitment and look at the company’s history. Without much going in too deep, Capcom has six points in their philosophy, something we’ve already seen; Aim to become the best in the world, Compete with strong IPs, Stable long-term growth, Managing their IPs and companies properly to ensure the two aforementioned, enforce and encourage relationship with societies locally and globally as well as with stakeholders; and avoiding management risks with transparency. We’ve effectively covered most of these spots, but I’d like to give some spotlight on the third bit about stable long-term growth.

Capcom struggled most of the new Millennium to find their spot in the gaming market after the crash of the arcades, but their long-term growth has been better than most of their competitors. Their Operating Margins have been overall better than their main competitors’ with +66% operating income and margin being +7.9 points. While Konami may have +90% income, their margin is just below Capcom’s at +7.5 points. Contrast this to Square-Enix, who has -8% income and -3.3 points in margin. This of course could change during next fiscal year, when Final Fantasy VII Remake hits the store shelves. Neither Sega Sammy or Bandai-Namco can really compete with Capcom or Namco, as their respective numbers are -53% and +41% in Operating Income, with +1.8 and +1.1 points in margins. Effectively, Capcom has been making most of their last financial year’s success with just three titles, one of which was a catalog title. If they manage to keep both REmake2 and DMC5 selling well as catalog titles all the while rolling new titles as part of their main growth driver as per their management strategy, they should see further increases in profits and margins during 2020. Nevertheless, it seems that their most stable source of profit is still in arcade and amusement equipment with no real changes how well they’re selling.

Capcom will aim to increase profits with three-angled long-term plan. This plan consists of increasing digital sales on the global marketplace, preparing for the next generation of standards that will be rolling around during the next few years as well as focusing on eSports and aiming to popularise a new culture for content. First part is easy, overall speaking. All Capcom needs to do is release their new games via Steam alongside the usual home console market. That’s effectively what it amounts to. Capcom’s overseas games sales have increased drastically since 2015, while homeland sales have not really changed any. You could say that Capcom’s secret of being successful is to have IPs that are globally attractive. After all, Japan in itself is a very small market compared to the Americas, Europe and Australia, and the rest. China is of course a place they’d like to gain a strong foothold, but that’s going to be difficult still. Make digital the first option, and you’ll save in manufacturing costs. Capcom is also taking note of both Cloud gaming and Subscription services and are exploring ways to enter both of these. Cloud gaming, however, is still a pipe dream, while subscription services should be nothing new to them, technically speaking.

With new standards like 5G wireless, Capcom can’t help but make use of third-party outsider know-how. This is mostly for mobile market and most likely relevant only in Japan, but the underlying message does touch upon upcoming Microsoft and Sony consoles as well.

eSports was a major thing for Capcom last year, and apparently it netted some 1,096 million USD for them during 2019. That’s nothing to be scoffed at, and it is estimated 2020 eSport scene would net some 1,790 million USD. This is through the usual establishing of new leagues, analysis of trends and then promoting regional developments. As long as Capcom manages to establish a profitable and sustainable ecosystem, they should be able to maintain their practices. I’m sure this is part of the reason why Street Fighter V is the way it is, where the game is stable and easily accessible in various regions. The Marvel VS series, while superbly popular in the US, didn’t exactly have the same position in Europe, for example. Street Fighter V aimed to be very safe game and something they can build further revisions on easily, and it has been that. Certainly a success in financial terms, but not really a loved game in the series. However, in the next five years Capcom will assess if there is any more growth in eSports and whether or not it is profitable to continue promoting sales through it.

All this really amounts to Capcom’s plans to effectively follow 2019’s lead in terms of business. MHW has made them recognise that games can, and in future will have, longer sales periods than before. This is partially because digital marketplaces don’t run out of copies and are constantly available. On the long-term, if Capcom is to keep their current standards in visuals and sounds, the Hollywood look in their games, it will cost them more to research and develop. Something they are well aware. This probably means Capcom will put out only few new games per year, which most likely will be sequels or remakes, that they will bet on as their heavy hitters all the while ports and catalog sales are supporting them and making the risk of these big titles slightly smaller. Digital, however, is the thing that is being pushed further.

Interestingly enough, Capcom seems to aim to have their younger employees work on their popular IPs, meaning legacy IP in Capcom is a living thing. If there are more people like Yoshinori Ono, who want to revive a sleeping but still popular IP, in principle we could see some level of resurgence of some IPs down the line. This might be wishful thinking, but history has shown how legacy IP under younger employees can bloom like no other. Take Mega Man and Street Fighter as examples.

Rather than establishing new IPs, Capcom intents to expand new markets and find new customers. You can expect to see more remakes in the future, as games are considered to be obsolete after some time have passed. This seems to be their long-term plan; remakes and ports. At the same time, they aim to curb sales of used-games somehow as well as address piracy, especially in the Asian markets. Capcom loves to talk about their IPs, but at the same time the they’re not having new blood in their library. In the end, their aim is to expand into new territories they’ve yet to make an impact and raise global earnings. This applies to their arcade business as well, where they aim to attract new customers and enhance their lineup of titles.

Their analysis of game industry and market hasn’t changed, with general consumer and PC market overlapping somewhat and offering the most balanced place to be successful in. Mobile market may have large sums of money moving about, but the competition is extremely intense. Consumer market is 77% of all of Capcom’s net sales, followed up by mobile with 2%. PC online, like the crane catcher, makes double that at 4%. While they are in a good position to expand, Capcom currently has mostly high-risk options in their Value, Rarity, Inimitability and Organisational evaluation. Capcom doesn’t have as high competitive edge as they want to believe, as other companies possess all the same external edges as they do. Capcom being slow at making quick decisions probably have already bitten them in the ass couple of times, but the lack of direct competitors to their main selling IPs should be a concern. In Mobile market, however, Capcom is still at a complete loss. Then you have their directors competitors still rolling their IPs in the media and can easily overcome Capcom.

What is Capcom’s plan for the future then? To use their existing Intellectual Properties to make games and leverage them into further franchising. They are no intending to make new IPs at the moment, but deliver further remakes. REmake3 is the direct result of this. Long-term and steady growth seems to be their aim. Expanding their target market and find some new regions in Asia to make some more money. While all this probably will continue to continue kicking just fine, Capcom is not offering anything that could add to their existing strategies or IPs. Perhaps it could be said that Capcom intents to keep their current core customers happy while offering new generation of players the possibility to play classics in a remade fashion and in modern terms. Their plant to “make use of sleeping IPs” ultimately ended up being a remake and DMC5 with some ports. Maybe they could follow suit with some other of their sleeping IPs, like Commando and turn it into a generic Call of Duty clone or something similar. I don’t expect Capcom to expand IP library anytime soon. Now if they’d begin to remake games that would need them, like the original Street Fighter, rather than games that were already well made.

I mentioned Capcom Hollywood games, because it sounds what Hollywood blockbusters are doing; one or two big budget titles per year by using well established IPs carrying the whole studio. Smaller games are not even a thing really with Capcom anymore. Mega Man 11 seems to have been a sort of fluke, as the franchise was moved to mobile once again. All the small titles Capcom has been pushing out as of late have been ports and re-releases. Currently, it seems Capcom is not intending to launch a new IP anytime soon, but in long-term, that should be one of their priorities as well. After all, all of the IPs they like to talk about has to be established at some point, and it is necessary to have something that’s designed from the ground up to the current generation. However, the global popular culture has been marred with rehashes, remakes, adaptations and reboots for good two decades more than previously. Sadly, it must be admitted that relying on existing franchises and IPs with a built-in fanbase to revitalise business has been successful. However, as of late we’ve seen big franchises like Star Wars and Star Trek faulting during the run with lessening revenues and falling consumer interest. Capcom’s management has to work hard to avoid the same pits Hollywood studios have stumbled upon. Capcom has a history of falling on their face and success with this kind of approach, but there’s only so much they can use as existing material for remakes, unless there’s going to be complete and utter reboots.

Music of the Month; P-O-L-O-N

For some weeks now I’ve been trying to tackle how would I write about the death of one Hideo Azuma. He was a major force in the Japanese comic industry during his golden ages in the 1970’s and 1980’s. He worked alongside with such giants as Monkey Punch of Lupin the 3rd from very early on. His humorous gag comics made him relatively popular, and he increased his following by making science fiction comics in the mid-70’s. Azuma is credit for the first mainstream lolicon work Umi Kara Kita Kikai or The Machine that Came from the Sea. This is the kind of classical lolicon I described in a previous post (I highly recommend reading the linked post for context), not the twisted understanding world has now. Azuma’s works became increasingly erotic in nature, and could be said to be one of the forerunners of the styles and themes that coloured the 1980’s Japanese pop-culture, starting with the late 1970’s doujinshi series Cybele, culminating in motifs found if magazines like Manga Burikko and Comic Lemon People. When Osamu Tezuka created Prime Rosehe stated that there was only one person he considered to be his rival and equal to beat in both themes and visuals, and that was Hideo Azuma. He was already a household name, but with his 1977 comic Ochamegami Monogatari Korokoro Polon already having a TV-adaptation, the effect Azuma had on both media and otaku culture in the 1980’s should not be underestimated, he had become a giant.

Azuma’s increasingly larger workload from the past twenty odd years and larger amount of works in numerous big name magazines would cause him to fall into alcoholism and neglect, ultimately making him simply vanish from his work and home for months end, sometimes over a year, with at least one attempted suicide. During these excursions he would live as a homeless man, finding food wherever he could, sometimes finding an odd job he would take to make some kind of living. Ultimately he would be forced into an alcohol rehab centre. Azuma would create a semi-fictional biography of this time with Disappearance Diary, the only work of his that has been translated in English. Some European countries would see the aforementioned Pollon and Azuma’s most famous work, Nanako SOS, localised, but the rest of his library of works has yet to be officially translated. I warmly, and strongly, recommend picking up Disappearance Diary and give it a good read. It should still be available, as the book got reprinted few times over.

Hideo Azuma continued working with comics, never stopping to draw a new comic. The last pages he ever draw were done on his deathbed, the two last pages on a manuscript that probably will never be published. He died of esophageal cancer at age of 69 in October 13th. He had been treated for it for some before, but ultimately there was very little that could be done at the stage the cancer was in.

Hideo Azuma’s works could be described to he humorous, but that’d be disservice. He has a lot of gag comics under his belt, just as he has numerous erotica, science fiction, fantasy and slice-of-life published. He wasn’t limited by one genre, though during the 2000’s and 2010’s people would call his work moe, a term Azuma himself disliked, feeling that would box him into a unnecessarily small range. It could be argued his works paved the way to modern moe, but that would be disservice. His storytelling ranged from very clear cut and straight, like the aforementioned award winning Disappearance Diary, to something that’s almost like a dream, with landscapes and characters floating through the story as if the pages weren’t really there.

This short concept video shows so much of Azuma’s style and looks, but also slightly touches on other works his was inspired by. There is also footage of him working on an illustration, which in itself is a small marvel

Azuma should be considered among the giants of the industry alongside other of his contemporaries. His works may be largely unknown in the West due to the modern stigma on his 1980’s productions, yet the aftershocks can be seen in the current generation of cute comics and shows. Not even the expanded edition of Disappearance Diary has made its way to the Western markets. With the current market, and how most consumers of Japanese comics tend to be on the adult side, Hideo Azuma’s works might find its market. That said, if Tezuka’s works have a hard time making it through the layers, there’s very little chances a publisher will take a chance with Azuma’s work that isn’t an award winner. There are numerous recommended collections of Azuma’s works that shouldn’t take too much effort to publish, but I’m guessing a Western publisher might want to revise some of the covers.

To tell you the truth, I can not do justice to Hideo Azuma’s life and work. It is so expansive and filled with detail I can’t even begin to scratch, as I’ve always put getting into his works aside every time something else has popped up. It’s as if I am too late now, and though becoming a fan of works after author’s death is nothing new to me. This, however, is a case where I’ve consciously been eyeing Hideo Azuma on the sidelines for several years, waiting that best of times for me to jump all in. That of course never came, and perhaps that’s what I learned from him, and from his Disappearance Diary; you have to make it yourself, nothing will wait for you.

To quote someone who knew him better; Rest in peace, king of lolicon.

The creator doesn’t matter, but the creator matters

One of the tenants this blog upholds is that The creator doesn’t matter, meaning that the consumer should not concern themselves over the product’s creator as long as the quality is up to standards. While we can only hope to fight brand loyalty, or even recognise we’re leashed by one, we nevertheless willingly recognise that as consumer we are willing to make illogical and outright stupid decision in regards of purchases as long as it is something we value. Like anything from a company that hasn’t produced anything noteworthy since 2007 or thirty years old comic books that would land you in jail in due to dated contents. Of course, the value may not be just on the product, but the prestige it delivers either vertically or horizontally, that our peers value these purchases in equal amount. It really sounds like bran loyalty ultimately is kind of secret dick measuring contest, sometimes a bit too practically.

Company products are always easy to see as mass of pieces anyone can produce, despite so many times a face is attached to certain brand or franchise for obvious reasons. Video game producers and directors are of course one of the best examples of this, as they have a full team underneath them, and in reality is that the actual work is done almost everyone else. It’s like having a model claiming the work for a painting. Overtly simplified and harshly reduced, but that needs to be done sometimes. Then again, as long as there is a clear models and blue prints how a game is designed and build, something like how a Super Mario Bros. or Metal Gear game works, others can easily surpass previous entries. This has happened time and time again with games, films, comics and so on, which really is the core where the take The creator doesn’t matter stems. While it would be a bit overzealous to claim “anyone could do it,” the reality is that anyone can’t really do it without proper experience, training, know-how and skills. All these can be attained, and sometimes it is worth getting someone with different sets of skills and experiences in order to gain a more improved product. I’m sure you can quote a story or two, or a game or three, where change of developer team, director or perhaps even company altogether resulted in a superior game in your opinion.

Within certain creative fields it isn’t rare to see people hired to replicate a style of visuals and/or writing. China, for example, is brimming with people who just plagiarise classic works for pay as close as possible. It’s pretty huge business. Asian countries overall seem to favour studying the visual arts via copying works of art, which then helps people to spin off to their own direction. This is rather apparent with Japanese comic industry, where assistants learn the ropes and ways to work from their boss, and often end up visually similar style before they begin to develop further. Sometimes they don’t. Of course, we have people who write, draw, colour, letter and do their whole comics themselves. Stan Sakai of Usagi Yojimbo fame is one of them, doing everything himself from the start, something the likes of Stan Lee were surprised and appreciated like no other. Don Rosa is another, though he is far more a victim of how Disney runs their comic business. Disney themselves has never produced comics as-is, they’ve always had some other company under the produce them for themselves. They’ve got companies for different markets, like Egmont that handles parts of Europe.

A competent illustrator/writer combo/individual could replicate either aforementioned man’s work just fine. In actuality it wouldn’t be the same, but at least the spirit of the work should be. Depending. It might end up being rather terrible, but the way images are drawn and stories told might be on the spot, but it might still end up being terrible for bad story overall or other factors. Hardcore fans might crucify such works, but as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has shown multiple times during its comic runs, people can make the core justice, even if it isn’t the same. Hell, that argument should apply to Don Rosa as well. Nevertheless, the point still stands; a creator can be replaced, it just matters with whom and what the results will be.

That’s half of but the creator matters from the title. The other half really is that despite the consumer shouldn’t need to concern himself with the creator (after all, the product should always be the best it could be [fat chance it ever being though]) the whole brand/creator loyalty thing aside, the industries and providers themselves really should care about them, but not in the manner the consumer does. To use Don Rosa further as an example, he is one of those comic creators who was, and still is, massively popular in Europe. He is known as the only true heir to Carl Bark’s legacy regarding Disney Duck comics, for his detailed and heavily worked illustrations, as well as incredibly well written stories standing atop historical accuracy and Bark’s legacy in comics. You’d imagine him and his works were treated like golden goose, a money printing machine, which they seemingly are considering Rosa’s Duck works constantly get reprinted. However, one of the many reasons why Rosa quit drawing in 2008, other being his heavily damaged vision, is because the comic industry, especially if you have to deal with anything with Disney, tends to fuck you in the ass. In his Don Rosa Collection Epilogue from 2013, Rosa tells how badly he has been treated by pretty much all the companies he has ever worked with regarding the Duck comics. His works gets published without permission, his name got abused without his consent to the point he had to trademark his name to prevent such thing, the sheer lousy money he was being paid per-page, a system as archaic that Carl Barks worked under it since the 1950’s and of course the stress all of it brought. Imagine if a musician would be paid per note or something, and the moment he gives the song to be pressed, he loses all rights to it and would never see a dime from further releases or any royalties from radio plays and the like. An archaic system like this, with work-for-hire and losing everything you do for the company, is one of the reasons why the Image team Marvel in 1990’s to form their own comic studios. We are talking about people not even getting their original comic pages back from the prints. If the editors felt like something would’ve been better changed, the author most likely found out only when he bought the magazine himself from the comic stand.

For a long a long time the creative industries have been struggling with the problem of giving the creators the respect they deserve as people who have made the products themselves, as people who have been the ones to rake in the money, and as people who work as the faces of these products and companies. It’s easy to say that it’s all the businessmen in the suits doing that, thinking only about money, which never really hits the nail properly. Creators themselves downplay other people they work with, their egos clashing and sometimes even running companies and businesses down to a rut. More often than not these artsy creators find themselves facing the reality of business themselves on the long, with George Lucas with the success of Star Wars facing completely new mind-shattering business decision during The Empire Strikes Back‘s filming and development, and Todd McFarlane becoming a hypocrite for not giving visiting creators the rights to the characters they created or respect over them, a thing that got him to leave Marvel. The rosy image of creators being oppressed by businessmen is apt only, after which the creators become oppressors themselves, or oppress other creators in the same house in various manners. Freelancers, despite having one helluva weight on their back, may be happier not being marred with built-in hell. Nevertheless, the least these could get, anyone in any given industry really, is respect from their peers and people they work for. The customer shouldn’t care, but too many times we have to ask if we want to pay for a product from a company who fucks with its consumers and own creators.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s in the pattern

In Star Wars, the Force represents drugs and staying clean. Much like how drugs are addictive and an easy way to get high and good feelings, so it the Dark side of the Force. Both are demons that lurk in the shadows of everyday life, something that seemingly shady people string other by promising a thing or two. You get a small feel for it, then begin to use more and more of the stuff until it envelopes you whole. Anakin found the Dark side through a promise and it consumed him, changing his character and nature to something completely other, much like a hard drug addiction does. Note that Dark side users tend to have visible effect in and around of their eyes, similar how druggies have certain look and sags under their eyes. To contrast this, the Light side is all about staying clean and true to healthy life style, trying to spend your time doing whatever normal healthy stuff you can to get similar feeling of good, be it going for a run or going to a gym. It keeps you straight and clear headed, doesn’t pull you into anything that might ruin your life. The fight between Luke and Darth Vader in Episode V is all about how home violence blooms in a household full of drug use, be it alcohol or drugs, and Vader asking Luke to join is the drugs trying to compel Luke into abandoning his healthy life and becoming an addict. The battle between the two in Episode VI in contrast is Luke’s total refusal of drugs to a point of almost falling into the role of violent abuser, as well as showing the traditional patriarchal role of brother needing to protect his little sister from evil. Luke’s battle also depicts an intervention, where Vader is thrown to become a cold turkey and has to choose between healthy lifestyle and continuing to be the Emperor’s drugboy.

All the above is, of course, total and utter bullshit.

Humans are masters at pattern recognition. We see things where there is none. A tree’s bark might seem like a face, and there’s always that example of seeing a smiling face in cars’ fronts or in electric sockets.


Sometimes, like with the cars, the designer plays us and uses that pattern recognition while designing the car’s front. We can’t help it, its a result of our natural evolution. However, the way humans think often leads into reading something that isn’t there, like that example of Star Wars and drugs. We can make sense of something in a completely irrelevant context and say that there is a correlation between the two patterns. We can say so, perhaps even claim that these things exist, but never really realise that this is what people call reading to deep into things. I like over analysation personally, but they’re really the same thing, giving meaning to matters through concepts that don’t exist in a body of work, but through either personal bias or misconception we tend to apply comparisons and themes to patterns that don’t exist. Like those sockets; there is no face of any king, but I am sure you all see two very happy sockets that just wait a plug to smash into their faces.

This has become somewhat an academical field, to view something from an angle that looks for themes and patterns that are not there. It has become rather profitable to apply social issue themes to some popular franchise, despite such thing does not exist in the work. To use Star Wars as an example again, nowadays the Empire is called a proxy for the German’s National Socialist party, the Nazis. This has been taken to the extreme of being applied directly into the First Order, where the it goes overboard and hits you in the head. However, in the original trilogy this does not exist. The thing with the Empire and Rebels is that it contrasts to an overall theme of overpowering superpower might over small, but extremely resistant group of fighters. The direct comparison is to Viet Cong and the United States during Vietnam War, a timely parallel. Episode IV doesn’t hit you in the head with this, but this is by design. Lucas did put the comparison in there by intention, but didn’t hit you over the head with it. Everything else was put before hitting the viewers in the head, unlike in the Disney era Star Wars where there are no subtle approaches. This makes seeing the themes much easier, but at the same time treating your audience like idiots has tanked the franchise rather harshly.

Seeing patterns and analysing them of course is fandom pastime. Neon Genesis Evangelion fandom is effectively build on analysing and seeing things that aren’t there, applying motifs and themes that seem applicable either because the patterns fitted into a motif make sense, or because there isn’t much to go that even the smallest leaps of logic require pulling stuff out from your ass. Then again, the Rebuild movies seem to be build on this idea and scatter hints and connections all around for these fans to put together. Then again, even then people will pull out comparisons and motifs of homosexuality between Shinji and Kaworu, despite the concept not exactly being applicable between a human being and a creature beyond us that doesn’t exactly conform to humanity despite being shackled into a boy’s form.

News media of course is worst in this, as they intentionally will play with pattern recognition bias either with selected footage, manipulated images via mirroring, cropping or otherwise, and of course with selected words that are meant to trigger associations. An important part of media education is to teach children to be aware of their own bias first and foremost and consider what has been presented and how. Appealing to the consumer’s own leanings is extremely common, and catering to these leanings is extremely large market, where people are offered bias confirmation as well as ways to assert their personal believes. Hence why Wikipedia should only be start of your research, not the end. Reading beyond what’s presented to you at face value should be a standard, not just a thing you do now and then.

Perhaps even more common is the refusal of trying to see things from multiple angles. While this sounds similar to seeing patterns that don’ t exist, seeing two sides of the same coin very different. Rather than forcing a view unto something, you instead take all the information you can and see from a view that wasn’t or has not been presented to you. Often biased news outlets will only showcase one biased view while completely ignoring, and sometimes even suppressing, more views because it might hurt the legitimacy of their agenda. For example, electric cars are now said to be the most green way to travel via car, but what’s not told is that producing those cars and their batteries consume resources and pollute as much as driving a gasoline car daily for seven years. Practically all news are like this, and even me mentioning it can be analysed to drive the agenda of promoting consumer self-education and awareness.

Possessive fans

I’m sure everyone of you have had this experience yourself, or act it out yourself sometimes; someone really likes a something, be it a comic, movie, a restaurant or even just a candy bar, and this person really doesn’t want others to get into it. He wants to keep to himself and keep the masses or normies, whatever the buzzword is today, out. This is petty at best and does not serve whatever it is being liked. The creator sees less success and has to consider whether or not it is worth to continue on this lane of production/existence, if it would be more worth to take things to a different direction that might change things around enough to turn the thing into something completely different. Every fan knows that to ensure their loved thing will see further success means money and exposure. That means each fan has to become a sort of piggybank, a paywhale for this little thing in order to keep it afloat and make sure the provider knows this, that he will continue to cater to him and his closest circle. The other option is to allow everyone else to throw money at this thing and have it exposed to the wider world world.

There are arguments made every which way regarding this sort of thing. Some argue that the fandom changes for the worse when more people get into this thing, that there’s a cycle that not only degrades the fandom, but also the product itself when it has to cater to more people. Warhammer 40 000 is probably a decent example of this. The perception in the mid-1990’s was that only fat, smelly nerds who have an awkward social life at best who never left their parent’s basement painted these itty bitty figures and then went to dedicated store basements that smelled like rotten cheese and boiling sweat for hours long sessions to play with their toys. Nowadays WH40k has become entertainment for the masses via Black Library books that tell the canonical story set in the game’s universe with the tabletop game itself enjoying more newcomers as well.

Comics of course are another example, which some would argue showcases how a great product can change and turn to absolute mess. While I would fully agree that both Marvel and Dc have gotten rotten at their core, I don’t agree that it is because of expanded audience. Just the opposite; Marvel and DC comics used to be mass entertainment in the US when they were sold in your normal groceries stores alongside Archie and such. The quality downfall of the Big Two was effectively when they begun to cater to a smaller audience that kept getting smaller with time. The sales the Big Two make now would get their books axed and the modern sales can only envy the numbers of past. It is not an exaggeration to say that when comics where entertainment for everyone, they were at their best. When they begun to cater to a smaller audience, and now even to smaller audience that doesn’t even really buy the books. Just look at the female Thor storyline Marvel put out in 2016. Its sales dropped more than 50 percent after the first issue. Even the long-time core customers didn’t want to buy that trash, and the people it catered to don’t buy comics. It is a common secret that comic book movies were the best thing currently since the first Iron Man movie. Were is the keyword, as it would seem that Disney is taking the same direction as with the comics.

There is also an argument for intrinsic value. The less people know and consume a product, the more intrinsic value it is perceived to have. The value is high when the audience is niche. The product’s perceived value drops the more people get into it and the more exposure there is. You’d think this some sort of stupid illogical reason, and you’d be partially right. It is an emotional reaction of course. Some people hoard stuff to keep it to themselves as that supposedly increases the value. To some degree this does apply to single items, but this feeling of value is very easily extended to emotional connections and how exposed something is. This is somewhat a basis for the stereotypical hipster culture culture, where you have people acting strange for the sake of being different, getting into obscure stuff that nobody else knows for the sake of standing out and at least claiming to value the piece.. The don’t really want their strange and unique things go mainstream, because then they’d be mainstream and not strange and unique. Funnily enough, while yours truly has been claimed to act like a hipster, I do pretty much the exact opposite; here’s this strange and obscure shit, like it so it might get more exposure and maybe more fans. I just don’t like being in a community of something myself.

What is interesting about this whole thing is that this ties to the argument Popularity is not the measure of quality. I bet most of you have been a fan of something small that blew up, with the object of fandom staying the same, but the old fans nevertheless left. This ties to the above, but also to the perception that anything that is largely popular could never be of high quality. Of course this can, and often should, be turned around that success is a measure of quality. Ultimately, it is rather absurd to argue that the masses know nothing of high quality or that only a smaller group would know about a greater value something holds. Entertainment has skewed itself to cater in certain way, always has really, and people often forget that even original ideas, small providers and something that are made with a passion, in the end aim to make some money. Nobody makes a production in hopes of losing money for the sake of making the product, unless they already have shitloads of money in the bank to burn. That’s why most trophy projects end up in the trashbin of quality, because they’re made only to attract the preferences of one.

Of course, some people just want to enjoy their preferred thing alone without much others getting in. The question really ends up being with this; why concern yourself with others? Do we really as a species need to dick measure everything and call out others on stuff they find value in? It would seem so, as opinions are really the only things we can argue over, and people will always argue, bitch and moan what people do or what they like, even when there’s zero impact on themselves. Alternatively, we could try see all sides and consider why the things we like are absolute garbage, while the things we dislike and others prefer are worth the time and effort.

Another Epic PR disaster

When the Epic Game Store came around the first time, I considered it an addition to the whole economy of digital games stores. There’s always more room to challenge Valve, GOG and the rest as long as the service is right, the price it tight and products stand out. The last bit Epic has been working on overtime, but not the way most consumers would want. Its not that Epic has put studios to work for unique games, but they’ve been doshing dough around like no other, picking up games off from developers from Patreon, Kickstarted products and such. Kickstarted products is the sore point, as many were promised either physical PC release or a Steam key, but with Epic bringing its bang to the table, these promises turn empty and they’re given Epic codes instead. While Kickstarter is not a store and changes are always going to happen, keeping tight on your delivered products. When things are like this, you need some good PR management skills to handle the situation. Ok, let’s be realistic; you need someone with excellent PR skill and background to manage the consumers and dampen all the possible damage. You never go in head first yourself, because you don’t have the skills or knowhow. You’d be an idiot to assume that consumers of any sort are a kind bunch. Outside already promised products e.g. via Kickstarter changing their form and direction, in principle there’s nothing wrong in Epic’s way of making exclusives. Personal opinion doesn’t exactly matter, when the majority has made their negative view on the platform rather vocal.

Consider why each and every successful corporation, company or individual businessman has a front while everything happens behind the curtains. That is to keep the consumer at an arm’s length away to keep some details behind the curtain while having proper discourse with the customer.

You probably already know ins and outs how Ben and his wife Rebecca have been working on a game titled Ooblets and how it became a timed-exclusive for Epic Store. I didn’t know about them two days ago, and apparently not many others had either. Still, Ben doesn’t mention his last name or sign with full title, so I’m going to call him just Ben, uncharacteristically. Sorry Benjamin, don’t mean to mix you with this Ben. After Ben announced the situation, he and his wife got some heavy backlash, which should have been completely expected considering how negative reception Epic has. Of course, being Ben he went on to Medium and wrote a long response. Archived version for your pleasure. We’re mostly going to concentrate on this, but you can jump on their Discord if you want to read how easily Ben is willing to take a shot at people for whatever reason. OneAngryGamer has some of them archived, just like his article is.

It really is largely trite to read through, as anyone who have followed any standard events regarding production of games from the start within the indie scene should know, especially the title has been Kickstarted. Most interaction with fans is positive, until you fuck up somehow. When you fuck up, that brings in the rest of your silent backers and other potential customers in like a lightning rod. Ben describes how their style has been jolly and non-serious all this time, which is the first error most of these independent creators do, because that means nobody can never really trust their info without analysing through the bullshit you’re spouting. Having a joke here or there to break the ice is great, but being tongue-in-cheek as your standard style of interaction is about as welcome as a rash on your ass. Sure its colourful and gives you attention, but in the end you want that clear and fresh feeling instead.

The Internet is nothing new when it comes to mad people. It is a misconception that the Internet brought us some sort of new era of hate messages or the like. No, hate mail has always existed. Before direct messaging and emails, people used letters published in news papers or sent directly to the provider, or simply calling by phone. The Internet just has democratised who and how they are able to voice their opinion. Ben listing some examples of people going over the board does show that there are people either genuinely mad, or that there are just people wanting to pitch in for good time’s sake. Neither really is constructive, but emotions tend to take over people very easily.

Ben makes clear that he doesn’t consider anyone a customer. He or his wife hasn’t sold anything to anyone, so there isn’t a provider-consumer relationship. He’d be wrong. The relationship that exists between the two and their audience is potential consumer base, which has effectively become their fanbase that they were nurturing. In the face of law this is the case, he can argue that. However, considering he team has a Patreon that is directly about funding the game. Still, they don’t offer any of the game there, just some merch when they begin to produce it. Maybe.

However, when you have a fanbase and interact with and constantly update them on your progress, you have a group of people you have cultivated as your main consumer base. There is a certain silent agreement between you and this group of people about a transaction and this has been going on for three years. If Ben thought for a moment that there wasn’t meta-transaction on an emotional level going on, he has been sorely mistaken. He can call people entitled all he wants or whatnot, but do remember that when you are promising a product to fans, and have given your word (despite this not being a binding contract), you’ve already made emotional connections and managed to tie the future consumer of your future product to your brand. That tongue-in-cheek nature nature of messages and updates is an element that backfires twice as worse in situation like these, as that tone is often seen as facetious and deceptive. At best it’ll be regarded as condescending, though often that’s the underlying tone. There has been implied promises going on for three years. Morally speaking, Ben and his wife do owe to these people. Furthermore, they owe their very current monetary situation and success to their fans and especially to their patrons.

Ben admits he has a PR disaster in his hands. Yet he blames this on a portion of gaming community rather than acknowledging  his own fuck-up. His business sense overrode the work he had done with his PR, where Epic’s offer for a timed-exclusive seemed a better option over long-term positive feedback. Even my sorry ass has heard enough tales of consumers and fans getting riled up over developers and publishers being swayed by Epic’s bucks. Any and all devs at this very moment should ask themselves Is my fame more worth than the money I’m currently offered? Hell, I’ll even argue that if a dev now would make a bold announcement that they have rejected Epic’s offer for exclusivity in favour if fans’ and consumers’ preference in a proper way, they’d be hailed, in words of an Australian, as fucking heroes.

If you screw your PR like this and make widely unpopular move all the while taking a good shit on people who could have been customers, then still proceed to take numerous dumps on people, belittling people, don’t go cry over a massive backlash. While regrettable, it is also the harsh truth of business and maintaining your image. Ben’s and Rebecca’s first ride on the PR train and it getting off the tracks was, ultimately, their own doing. A reaction always requires something to start it going. Just to make sure, I didn’t say they deserve getting the worst of the rap that’s raining on them, but they are the source of this reaction, which could have been mostly avoided. Not the way Ben and his folks were maintaining their interactions though.

This whole deal shows basic lack of consumer research and expectations evaluation. Both PC and console consumers have been vocal about Epic’s misgivings and even more about how the developers and publishers seem to have lost all contact with the people who buy their stuff. I shouldn’t underline the bottom line with this repetition, but as a provider, albeit as one who has not yet delivered one product, everything hangs on the people who are willing give you money. Now, with their decision to handle things like this, not practicing good sense and proper manners when interacting with audience and not clowning around, they’ll probably see less success and a very tarnished reputation. That’ll take some polishing to fix.

Providers aren’t your friend. They’re in the field to get paid. Directly interacting with them won’t change this, no matter what sort of relationship and emotional connection you have with them.

The death of history comes when nobody is there to remember it

The title might sound like a bullshit sentiment, and it kind of is. Mostly because that is a personal point of view as someone who was a history buff in his teens. With the Internet’s sub-cultures still reeling on the loss of sadpanda, and that site-wide mirror being more or less a confirmed hoax at this point, it really made me think back how little we value history and its artifacts. Are you saying bunch of porn counts as historical artifacts? Very much so, especially if its older than decade or so. While most people will get stuck on the whole porn issue and what sort of porn it might’ve been, the same people don’t seem to consider what sort of sociological statements those pictures were making. For example, the much discussed (for better or worse) lolicon has gone through numerous iterations since the movement surfaced in Japan in the 1970’s. You can see its effects everywhere in the media in completely standard and normal ways, like Captain Harlock having having Mayu as a level of plot device, one of the reasons why Harlock still protects Earth from its inner deceit and alien threats. While Harlock could have numerous reasons, a character like this was surely influenced by the pop-cultural scene of the time. Similar things can be found in many other works in the era, culminating with Cybele Vol.1 seeing its Comiket publishing in 1979, and probably pushing itself to the mainstream popular culture with Comic Lemon People first issue hitting the magazine stands for all to buy in 1982. This magazine had such impact that modern Japanese popular culture wouldn’t exist without it in its current form.

Think what you may, White Cybele has a very classy cover

Much like everything in history, things are complicated. It is disingenuous to say that it is sexual objectification of children, but that’s what many seem to go to first. What lolicon was in the 1970’s and 1980’s was effectively what people understand with modern moe; the use of cute, young characters within works. Discussion during these eras were about affection towards these characters, and their desires. That must be emphasized; characters. By definition, a real person does not step into the equation. The age range of these characters was not defined either, like it is nowadays. These characters could be almost anything, as long as the visual style represented the idea of these cute, somewhat innocent characters and their visuals. The culture of cute is a very much a large component here, and with the 1960’s and 1970’s producing a generation that grew up on modern cartoons and comics in post-World War II Japan, it was more or less natural growth in terms of cultural landscape. Within this cultural scape, a lolicon wasn’t someone who had predatory tendencies towards children or pedophilia in any form; it refers for a preference for a certain style and look of the character. In many ways, the term moe has superseded lolicon as it carries largely the same connotation of cute characters. The historical background is largely the same, and even the marketing is similar. The term is simply more politically correct, perhaps to distance itself from how people consider lolicon to be only porn. I should also mention shotacon, which is more associated with female fans; the admiration of similarly cute, beautiful young men and boys. However, this term too is nowadays marred with its sexual connotations.

To put emphasize again; what determines these in the 1970’s and 1980’s is aesthetics. Young, cute looking characters that are the object of fan affection. As you’ve probably surmised, the Western use for the term is very different and based on different historical and cultural background, and partially reliant on intentional misinterpretation.

This is all terrible condensed, and needs its own proper post before I even attempt to cover the best years of Comic Lemon People, but one thing should be clear to most of my readers; the above isn’t exactly what what the Global, especially the Western, consensus is on the topic. We are talking about one nation’s rather major movement in popular culture history, which has been marred needlessly. Without reading around, listening to the people from the era from that specific place, reading and listening to first and second hand sources, you might think that pedophilia and lolicon are the same thing. In fact, they vehemently different; they are both qualitatively and fundamentally two different things. Drawn picture is not the same thing as a real person, or a photo of a real person.

Let’s assume we have lost fan made works from the 1970’s and 1980’s from the Internet and we can’t obtain physical copies anymore. The people who lived during that era are now dead and we can’t have their recollection from the era nor is there any properly documented interviews from them. Without first hand accounts, we can only rely on accounts that might or might not be correct. Writers may have an agenda and paint the movement in black colours, demonizing it to hell and back. Some sources might not even be in the same language as the target topic, misunderstanding major elements. Works that use sources that intentionally colour history is not uncommon, as history is full of propaganda. Be it political, religious or whatever, any and all events in history has different sides seeing different things. It’s like people watching a die from six different sides; they all see a different number. What we need to do is view that die from all angles and understand them for the whole picture.

LUM IS OVER is probably the best example of cross-cut of numerous creators from 1987 collaborating around Lum, with over thirty individuals pouring their affection in pin-ups and illustrations

It is not a secret that lolicon had a sexual element to it, but frankly everything has. It simply has been blown out of its proper proportions, probably because how influential Comic Lemon People was in the mainstream. Nobody seems to consider the 1970’s boy and girl characters as a result of this movement in itself, unless somebody directly mentions that shotacon was named after Tetsujin #28‘s main character, and that show had its inception in the sixties. Despite Elpeo Ple is cited as Gundam‘s household loli character (after all, she was named after Comic Lemon People, Kikka Kobayashi already was around in the first series. Hell, even Fraw Bow counts despite the character’s older age, but she still maintains that cute charm around her compared to most other female characters in the show. Don’t forget that Lum of Urusei Yatsura is considered the first real anime and manga sex symbol, and she is very much part of the lolicon culture of its era. Aalt, she’s too old for that. No, she’s the perfect age, because remember; it is about aesthetics of cuteness. Cuteness and sexiness do no exclude each other, as much as certain cultures think otherwise. Lum’s roundness, alluring eyes and soft body was in many ways first of its kind, trailblazing path to modern shoujo and even styles, where eyes got rounder and cuter with the time.

It’s not even Comic Lemon People that made its wake. While Lemon People might the one that’s on the tongue of most Westerners when talking about lolicon serial comics, Manga Burikko was its direct rival. Not only did it coin the term otaku, but its main editor Ouzuke Eiji wanted to produce shoujo manga, or girls’ comics, for boys. He called this New-Wave shoujo manga. His influence, as well as the whole era’s, is vividly felt in the 1990’s shows. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon is probably the most prominent example of this alongside Magic Knight Rayearth. In truth, the whole movement was well under within animation and comic industry in Japan in the mid-1970’s with Majokko Megu-chan being an early magical girl show that was prominently aimed at boys, much like Cutie Honey ended up being. By the 1990’s, lolicon as a style and aesthetics had become the mainstream visual flavour and style. This continues to this day, hence why moe was needed to surface as a specific and direct continuation. Historically speaking, lolicon and bishoujo fell under the same overall umbrella, with both having some differences but exactly the same aim in visuals.

I had two covers to choose from for Manga Burikko my archives, and this was the one that most wouldn’t find all that objectionable

It wasn’t just these two aforementioned comics; lolicon and loli was quite honestly everywhere with major companies and major magazines advertising and selling products proudly labeling their products with lolicon. This wasn’t about the porn, but again the style. Major players like Uchiyama Aki were publishing in standard comic magazines aimed at both boys and girls all the while he was working on adult magazines. He was publishing clearly labelled lolicon comic in same magazine as Ozaku Tezuka, and they were both doing characters that fit the same exact aesthetic description.

As you’ve probably surmised, lolita complex in Japan is very, very different from what it is considered as in North America and Europe. However, that definition crept into Japanese mindset as well in the late 1980’s and was more or less set in stone in the 1990’s, when the term mostly vanished from the common use. Perhaps the most commonly cited incident that put a negative tone on the term and its proper surroundings is Tsutomu Miyazaki kidnappings, where he kidnapped young girls, murdered them and not just raped their corpses, but also ate them. Moral panic is caused by lesser things, though Tokyo High Court ruled that he acted on his sexual fantasies rather, which of course was directly linked to his hobby as an otaku. The cultural backlash was understandable, but perhaps it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Discussion about loli and lolicon in Japanese context, in even Japan, does not consider its proper place as a mainstream style and only applies the bastardised understanding of it, partly influenced by the Western misconceptions, party by the intentional obfuscation and and partly by sheer misunderstanding. It is no wonder the term has different application nowadays, even when the whole modern Japanese comic and cartoon culture stemmed from it.

You may argue that language changes and whatever arguments for non-sexual use for loli or lolicon once existed doesn’t matter. Language may change, but its historical context should not. To use an example, the Finnish word neekeri is a direct loanword of nigger, but it had none of the negative connotations to it until the American negative connotations were associated with it. Before that, it was another normal way to name black people. However, with new generations fretting the term and its origin, censorship has forced books to remove the term and even candies change name. There is a chocolate pastry filled with cream that used to be called Nigger’s Kiss, but nowadays it has removed all branding from this and renamed itself as Brunberg’s Kiss. The past generations have demonized what was harmless word and such it is viewed as one, even in its proper historical context.

The point really being that I was making is if we lose first-hand information sources, we might as well rely on hearsay. However, when a historian has first hand information, recollections from an era from an independent person, it is a treasure of information that can be compared and contrasted to what is known from the era either from other first-hand sources or official records. However, when it comes to popular culture movements and events, official records are always dubious at best, unreliable at worst. That is why a place like sadpanda was such a treasure trove, because it contained not only author’s own works from forty years ago, but also serial comic magazines and self-published works, filled with fanart, letters, opinion pieces and news on politics and events that affected the pop-culture of the time. These sources are imperative to understand not just the lolicon scene we’ve been talking about, but the whole comic and animation culture of the time. That is only one view point, reading newspaper magazines and other sources is as important as well. Thus, losing one of them, any of them, will impact on how later generations are able to understand history. History just doesn’t happen; it a never ending movement forward. Most of what I’ve said about in this post has been by going through era specific first and second hand sources, some of which were on sadpanda.

Human history is fragmented at best. At worst, it is a puzzle that has lost an amount of its pieces. We should aim to keep every bit of history safe, even if we object to them. A statue of a South State’s general should be left as it is, to remind people that there is history and that it is a complex mess of human actions and perspectives. We should not allow destruction of any kind of resource, statue, book or whatnot, to be destroyed simply because it might offend sensibilities or it simply doesn’t fit modern culture. The moment humanity decides to ignore this in favour of some sort of one truth above all, history creeps toward its death. History is a tapestry painted with fine tipped brushes of endless shades, not with broad bristles in primary colours. Those who forget history are bound to repeat it may be an old saying, but it is a saying that will get repeated down the line, if people continue to be Brutus to history’s Caesar.

The Burning of Digital Alexandria (And Its Resurrection)

At this point, most people who are in any part of pop-culture scene regarding games or Japanese cartoons probably has already heard of Exhentai, that lovingly nicknamed sadpanda due to its front page showing a sad panda if you didn’t have an account and knew how to log in. Not that it matters at this point if you did, if we’re honest. The site died while I was finalising this post. For those who weren’t in the know, Exhentai was the backside of the more open E-Hentai galleries, containing very much all the most objectionable content you can imagine a comic creator thinking up. However, the porn and how it was represented was secondary at best with sadpanda, as throughout its existence it became a repository of fandom history, containing material from 1970’s to modern day releases, archiving millions of pages of thoughts, art and moments from specific eras. That what Exhentai ultimately became; a repository of pop-cultural history from the fans’ points of views.

Should’ve probably opened with this, but most of the links here are better opened outside workplace.

I have talked to some extent about scanning and archiving, and I’ve yet to finish that series. However, sadpanda dying in itself is nothing new, and the site was not the first of its kind. It won’t be the last either, but with its demise we will lose large chunks of history to bitspace. It was only a matter of time when the site be taken down, either though copyright infringement or because wherever the servers resided had laws changed. In this case, it was the latter. The servers resided in the Netherlands, and the owner of the site cited this specific law for his reasoning. Well that, and the rumour that some unsavory people decided to inform the police about sadpanda and its owner as a sort of joke. If this is true, a joke cost the world its Digital Alexandria of Fandom. Well, that’s not all that true either. Some reports say that the admin’s ISP lied to him in order to get the site pulled down. Whatever the reason is, we’re at an end of an era.

The whole argument of the drawn porn being illegal or whatnot, but that is beside the point. Hell, I’ll argue that isn’t even a point. Piracy worked a tool of archival here, allowing each of those blips to be archived. Certainly it would be nice to be able to purchase these books from somewhere, but trying to get a hold of an obscure artbook that was self-published in a comic convention in 1986 is rather step above the normal difficulty most people want to face. There’s a language barrier, budget, shipping, and these two are just the start. They’re the two big ones, and it just spirals from there to shipping issues, legislation, seller behaviour and so on and so on. You would also need some sort of resource to rely on for information what to look for, a some sort of library you could check information on and see the contents. There are optional sites that give you the raw information, like Doujinshi.org, but these sites don’t have the full contents of the works; they avoid archiving in of themselves. Piracy is really the necessary evil here.

Twelve years. Thousands of individuals contributing. The amount of data lost is insane to think about. Artists lost to history, only to be remembered people who lived through that era themselves. That is such a niche group that it makes me shudder to think that people who once were major names, if just for few respectable years, will be lost if mirrors, backups and dumps were not successful. Take the two names this blog has talked frequently; Rei Aran and Hariken Ryu. Aran was the original creator of Fight! Iczer-1 and nobody in the Western shores remembers him. Hariken Ryu, the creator of the most influential space kung-fu girl who nobody outside niche Japanese people remember. When these people are gone, and some of them are pressing over sixty at this point, and their memories and works go unrecorded, all the original pages lost for whatever reason, corporations owning the publishing rights slowly forgetting they ever had them, comics that simply can’t be published nowadays due to them infringing copyrights, modern sensibilities or whatever stupid reason you can think of, we will never have those back.

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.

It is a coincidence Rutger Hauer passes away the other, but his monologue as Roy Batty at the end of Blade Runner is fitting. Exhentai was a gallery you would not believe. The content it held was free of prejudice and restrictions, with more people coming together than apart. Funny enough, porn and archival bring people together like no other. Most of that is now gone, and will be gone when E-Hentai Galleries will eventually be taken down. Even then, E-Hentai is the weaker, much more subdued than its darker coloured sibling. I guess this is my less than subtle plea to archive, archive and archive some more. It would be easy to say that this isn’t an important part of human history, that this doesn’t matter. They were just pictures and pictures are being made all the time. In reality, every moment in human history is precious. Whenever a scholar years down the line tries to find sources for what happened during a specific time within a fandom, they could have had a source like Exhentai to bask upon; first hand sources of recollections and images to rely on.

Perhaps it is disingenuous of me to say that piracy of this level and scale is completely justified for the sake of archival it achieved. Perhaps its even sick to some to think that someone could feel loss over historical materials when it ends up being mostly porn. Well, we still marvel those dick signs from Ancient Rome and naked statues and potteries full of nudity from the Antique. Even heart shaped pupils have made a comeback to modern era. All of it is still history.

Something else will come along, either a replacement or something else that fills the niche. There is a demand for it, and it is human nature to fulfill a demand of this kind. Thanks sadpanda, you’ll be missed, even when your more safer option will live on, for now.

….

Not a day later, history is not so much lost as I thought.

Thought that might be an early celebration, seeing images are easily faked and the icon here is an empty folder. There’s no proof in itself that its true. Take that as a grain salt.

However, there is something with more to it; a project to resurrect whatever was lost has already sprung up; The Library of Exhentai. To quote; Since the untimely demise of Exhentai is upon us, it has been decided that it would be best to preserve the efforts of tens of thousands of uploaders by creating a somewhat cohesive archival effort, from the scraps of what has been retrieved. This is the Library of Exhentai. 

The historian in me is happy that these two probably will collide into a happy marriage, but the blogger in me laughs like a madman; for once I get on something relatively on time, only to come back and wish I had waited my usual time. Nevertheless, this is yet another fine example of global world history being on the mind of people and to what we compare things to. We should not forget history, no matter how we personally feel about it. Preservation is always the key, not destruction and forgetting.


2.8.2019 Update

Sapdanda’s back. According to Tenboro, the admin, he has moved hosts, which he was able to do transfer stuff around. Much like most people, I’m getting information second hand at best, but seeing how Exhentai just popped back and admin hopes this can be a permanent solution of sorts. If you’re a user, you should expect stability in the future and upgrades to the site.

Well then, popular culture history has been preserved, after all. Nevertheless, if there’s something people should’ve learned something about this, it is that online archives may get hit. My recommendation? Either use SSD drives or M-Discs and archive stuff on your shelf.