A franchise chilled

This and the two previous posts would’ve formed good ol’ fashioned Monthly Three I put into indefinite hiatus, though this time it’s more or less on an accident of sorts. All in all, these should’ve been one long post.

A franchise has to have quality that is expected of it or higher. A fluke here and there is expected, but overall speaking a title in a series has to deliver at least to its core fans. When it comes to games, each and every title seem to be important and a drop in sales will be taken seriously. Seeing how the game industry barely understands how to hit the Blue Ocean market (making games easy or dumbing them down for “accessibility” is laughably weak method,) it is understandable how a franchise can fail miserably when its quality is weakened by newly added elements that are supposedly aiming to expand some aspects of the franchise.

I’m not really sure how Mass Effect got where it is now. As a franchise it was hailed as one of the stronger new franchise introduced during the Seventh Console Generation. Overall, it had a good balance between hitting the census of the consumers of the era (economics have changed quite a bit during the last decade) to the extent of Mass Effect being considered as one of the bigger franchises in the industry on par of the likes of Metal Gear. These are of course up to contention, to my knowledge no Mass Effect game has not been perfect enough to be considered for pachislot conversion.

However, as things tend to be in the industry, game sequels seem to get more attention from those who put the money down on these things. Mass Effect 3‘s colour coded ending has become infamous, but if the rumours are to be believed, EA was the one that put their boot down with the deadlines and BioWare had to relocate the “real ending” to DLC. Whatever the case is, Mass Effect 3‘s ending (and some argue the whole game) is below the average quality the consumers expected from the franchise. The ending is just one of the examples why Mass Effect 3 was panned by the core fans, mostly regarding contradictions in the setting, and inconsistencies regarding BioWare’s statements during development and how the game ended up being.

And a franchise it really is. While here up North we barely get anything relating to the spin-offs or licensed products, Mass Effect 2 and 3 had a huge ad campaign in magazines, television and in stores. Comparatively speaking, game ads have all but dried out from the general media, telling more about how they’re marketed and what the targeted consumers are than about their success. However, pretty much all fans of the franchise I’ve known have talked me about the mobile games, books, comics and whatnot. Even a movie based on the franchise has been under works since 2010, but very little has come of it.

It’s no wonder Mass Effect would go to a small hiatus. The trilogy had come to its more or less natural conclusion and the final part didn’t exactly match up what was expected. At times like this companies tend to take a small break and return when there is renewed interest. However, it would seem the franchise has now been put in ice for the time being due to the lacklustre success of the latest game, Mass Effect: Andromeda. While we can debate the finer details why the game performed worse than expected, the first bit that sounded alarms bells with yours truly when with the announcement of the game running on a new engine, which means you will see, hear and feel Mass Effect like never before. That’s a direct quote too. Clearly they missed the part that games need to play better than any of these.

Andromeda took five years and forty million dollars to develop. That sort of money and time is expected to deliver higher profits and far better reception. Alas, they the developers couldn’t even put a gun the right way in. Then you have issues of gameplay being worse than its ten years older progenitor and animations being absolutely all over the place and the plot’s not all that good either. Effectively, pretty much everything that should make a game great is sub-par. Andromeda overall shows how lack of quality control and professionalism, opting for making whatever brew you think would work the best.

It’s no wonder after an abysmal entry, the games went under hiatus. Sadly, Andromeda is probably the best example of current Tripple A games in the industry. One has to wonder where did the money go during the development. It doesn’t show up in the final production. When a franchise’s fame has taken a hit two times in a row, with the second making pretty much everyone who was involved a laughingstock, it is a good idea to take a step back and put the things on hold.

To use an example with Godzilla, Toho has put the franchise into ice three times over. First one was after the second movie when they had no idea how to continue properly onwards, though I still want to see Bride of Godzilla? realised in some form. The second time was in the 1970’s when the movies stopped bringing in enough profits, though the quality had dropped a lot since then. 1995’s Godzilla VS Destoroyah was supposed to end the franchise in Japan and have Hollywood continue it, but alas that was not to be. Godzilla was brought back fast in 1999, after the American attempt failed, and then was put back into ice after Godzilla: Final Wars. 2014 saw a new American Godzilla, and 2016 showcased us what I’m going to call a the bets modern Godzilla made in form of Shin Godzilla.

When a notable franchise like Godzilla returns after a significant hiatus, it is usually with a new take that is intended to make an impact. If a new Mass Effect game would be done right now, it would carry the baggage of Andromeda for the worse. As much as fans would like to see a game made right away to remedy the situation, sometimes it’s better just to wait for things to settle down and let time give more perspective on things. Whatever was done, be it due to corporate or personal interests from the developers’, the game took a sledgehammer to the franchise and damaged it. A hiatus also allows the developers and publishers to look into other options and possibly put resources into new IPs, though my personal trust in EA or BioWare has never been worth mentioning.

What is apparent that whatever happened during production of Mass Effect: Andromeda, it’s clear that the no research was done on what the consumers really wanted or needed, and that’s probably the worst offence a provider can do; not giving a jack shit about the consumer.

Monthly Three; Space Punch!

This monthly three will be a bit different. I’ll be treading some grounds that I’ve been through in previous entries, but this will be more or less a more cohesive series. This series of three will be about how Fight!! Iczer-1 OVA came to be, starting with Hariken Ryu’s Gekisatsu! Uchuuken, then continuing with Rei Aran’s original comic of Fight! Iczer-1, and ending in image comparisons between the DVD and BD release. The problem doing this entry is that a lot of information is just unavailable on certain issues, and thus some conjecture is needed.

So, where do we start when it comes to the OVA of Iczer-1? We start a comic illustrator who liked live action shows a lot. Hidemi Miyata, better known as Hariken Ryu, made his debut in #1 issue of Comic Lemon People February 1982, with his Mad City 16 Beat.

Take a good look at the lady on the left
This is according to Gekisatsu! Uchuuken Vol.1. In reality, Hariken Ryu had already been published in Daya Publishing’s Comic DUMP #10 with his Parabola of Ecstasy

Continue reading “Monthly Three; Space Punch!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Themes of Godzilla

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading “Themes of Godzilla”

From art films to Dr. Pepper and forth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Approved recycling

I have this slight condition with certain approaches where I am unable to see faults or have them have any impact on my enjoyment despite being fully aware of them.

On a discussion some time ago whether or not movies should be enjoyed as they are. A point that one of the participants said of themselves is that they are not able to ignore the intent the director wanted out of respect for the director and take as meant. This is a valid argument and applies to the person who made the argument alone, just as one could argue that he enjoys movies as they are as entertainment rather than trying to find meaning that doesn’t exist in them.

However, more often than not it seems people are willing to take in the authorial intent as is with flicks they enjoy, opting to berate those that they don’t enjoy or see something wrong in them. This isn’t really doubethinking or anything like that, it’s as usual. Everybody does this, it’s a standard of human living to let things slide, unless you dislike something.

As mentioned, I tend to have an infliction that I’m able to enjoy things as long as they entertain me. I see the stupidity, I see the faults and yet I give them a pass because… I don’t really know, to be honest. Perhaps it is because I allow myself to be swayed by that authorial intent too much, and be taken by the movie. Well, most of the time. There are products that just make me want to grab a bottle, like Space Thunder Kids. Korean animations are the reason I drink alcohol so much nowadays.

To use an example, the Tristar Godzilla from 1998 is a movie that I can’t help but enjoy. Is it a good movie? No, not really. Is it an entertaining one? Most definitely. The same applies to the team Devlin/Emmerich’s previous two moves, Stargåte and Independence Day as well. They’re not really all that cleaver in the end, they’re a bit annoying but dammit they’re just nice popcorn flicks to watch now and then. The hype for all three movies was insane at the time, and marketing was very well realised in order to grab attention. For Stargåte you saw the gate and people stepping into it, but never saw the other side. For Independence Day you saw White House being blown up and some action, but outside that nothing else much. For Godzilla they went one of the most late 90’s ad campaigns around with the whole SIZE DOES MATTER take, which was both stupid and absurdly difficult to maintain as you couldn’t show the monster itself. I remember seeing the teaser for Godzilla before The Lost World, and it grabbed me. The teaser is famous for featuring no footage from the flick itself, but that never bothered me. While it’s not a good form, it tried to sold the theme of the movie rather than the movie itself. Then again, we’re the audience, not the execs. Sell us the movie, not the idea of a movie.

When I went to watch the movie itself, I remember coming out of it feeling the same as I did with the Nolan’s Batman movies; Well, at least I’ve seen it now. Enjoyed it, but know in my heart that it was a stupid movie. There are scenes that make no sense, like in the early on in the hospital where Philippe takes out a lighter to talk with one of the survivors. The scene overall is stupid, but I still see what’s being done here; the light is to take the survivor’s attention in a hypnotic way to make him concentrate. Of course, this may be me giving Emmerich more credit than he deserves and it could’ve been just to build tension, which I took in hook, line and sinker when sitting there. Just like with the hole in MetLife building. It’s awesome idea, but absolutely stupid one.

The same was repeated with the latest Godzilla movie. I came out, but this time I took some friends with me so I could discuss the movie with. True enough they mentioned all the spots that bothered me.

The difference between the two Godzilla movies is that the Tristar one had an immensely troublesome production having its initial start in 1994, ten years after Henry Saperstein had pressurised for an American take of the monster. When thing fell apart with DePont’s Godzilla, Emmerich took over. While Emmerich gets a lot of hate from changing Godzilla for his movie, all the changes were approved by Toho themselves, so blaming just Emmerich is stupid. To argue Toho knew Godzilla better than the Americans, they didn’t even know how many rows of spikes Godzilla has on its back. Toho and fans went to full damage control after the Tristar Godzilla, and a lot of misconceptions about the name still persists.

The movie was so troublesome and threatened to gobble up all special effects houses of the time, that it could never have been a hit. If you want to read the whole history of Tristar Godzilla, both the original version and the later Emmerich version, Sci-Fi Japan has a large, in-depth four part series of articles dedicated to it. It’s a good read even if you’re not fan of Godzilla, as it shows how the industries were strangely struggling with artists struggling with businessmen, and craftsmen were in the middle.

Emmerich’s Godzilla wasn’t supposed to be the same Godzilla we know. If you hate this idea then you’d hate the rest of the movie. Sure, has only traces of original Godzilla in it, but then again Godzilla has always been changed with the time, even by Toho. Hell, one could argue that making him a hero character is absolutely retarded take on what essentially was a walking nuclear bomb. The 2014 Godzilla was truer than Tristar one, but it was by no means any better. The same applies to Godzilla 2000, and applies to a whole lot of different franchises out there.

Going through franchises from their inception to modern day, you notice that there to be a lot of repetition. It’s bound to happen. That shouldn’t be the norm thou. All that we have now used to be new. King Ghidorah, the fan-favourite enemy of Godzilla was new in 1964. After that we’ve got less high quality monsters for Godzilla to fight. What does it say about the fans and the producers when one of the fan favourite monsters next King Ghidorah is essentially a robotic copy? I applaud the 2014 Godzilla for adding a new monster Godzilla to fight. It would’ve been the best for them to continue with new creations, but it’s already confirmed that the old monsters would return. This is on both fans and the producers, as they are afraid to deviate from the established formula. Don’t break what works is a good idea to uphold, but even then there are always better options. This is one reason why it’s so ironic to call these people as artists, as they barely create anything artistic. They just recycle things with a new lick of paint and call it day.

My doublethink here is that despite Emmerich’s Godzilla is a bad movie on its own rights, at least it tried to be something different and in surprising ways was far more rooted to the original Godzilla than any of its sequels were.

I’m pretty sure I lost some credit with this post among movie enthusiasts and Godzilla fans, but take solace in that this doesn’t only apply to Tristar Godzilla. I like a lot of stuff I know is shit and not all that good, and I am able to admit to that. I would just love to see people do the same and get off their high horse from time to time.

They’re bringing the red cat ghost franchise here too

Youkai Watch has been stirring Japan for some time now, and I’ve been trying to keep my big yapper shut about it, but screw it. Jibanyan has been able to beat Pikachu in many fields for now, and the question is whether or not Game Freaks will tackle this challenger head on, or will they allow Pokémon franchise to grow old. The thing is, Pokémon was a great children’s franchise. Not so much anymore, where it’s a franchise modern parents remember from their childhood, or still follow strongly. The games have essentially stayed the same and the cartoon has more or less stagnated in many ways for some time already. Fans will of course argue that Natures and other little things have changed the game, but those barely make an impact to the now true and tested catch, train, get four attack slots and six monsters.

I’ll be frank; if Pokémon will not reinvent itself as a franchise this decade, it’ll end up in a sad state.

As I mentioned, Youkai watch has been successful in Japan. Immensely so. Youkai Watch 2 surpassed five million copies sold in Japan. Jibanyan has even replaced Pikachu’s central throne in the Next Generation World Hobby Fair. It’s safe to say that Youkai Watch has gained a strong position as one of the new main children’s franchises in Japan. A franchise that has not changed with the times in almost twenty years nor has reinvented itself at any point will have a hard time to stand against something new. New is not necessarily better, but when new challenges the old this hard (and topping it), the old is doing something wrong.

With Youkai Watch slated for Western release, the question that everybody asks if it can challenge Pokémon outside their native soil. After all, both of them have some Japanese culture in them, Youkai Watch is the one hard-rooted to the culture from the get go. In order for West to accept Youkai Watch in the same way Pokémon was, the localisation work needs to be spot on.

The otaku culture in West hates dubs, generally speaking. I’m not sure whether or not this is due to the stupidly purist nature at large, or because people simply regard Japanese better for their ears. Sure, there are differences in the quality of the dubbing, yet the arguments are from universal.

Dubbing is not destroying the original product or anything similar. Dubbing is expensive, costing about $10 000 per episode for a Saturday morning cartoon. Dubbing a movie can be even more expensive, and with each failed take the time ticks, spending more money. As such, dubbing historically has been done to series and movies that have been regarded high quality enough to get such treatment. Dubbing was and is still done to show respect towards the body of work, not the opposite. Dubbing also ensures that the largest possible audience will have an easy access to the product. While reading the subtitles has been in the local culture for a long time, this does not apply to other cultures.

The original Godzilla movie is an example where localisation did not only dub the product, but went their way to give it an extra localisation in form of Raymond Burr’s inclusion. This allowed wider spreading of the movie, but also lowered the bar for people to see the movie. The localised Godzilla movie is not a lesser product in any sense from the original Japanese production, but it is different enough to say that it is its own entity and a worthwhile entry. Unlike with some later dubs, it had both proper budget and approach to make justice to the film. Later in the line with Godzilla movies, budgets were cut and quality became a lesser concern. It wasn’t until later that purists and extreme fans began to regard the localised Godzilla as a lesser product, a thing that nobody though at the time, not even Toho. History has been rewritten by fans in this regard, and it is only rather recently that even the fandom has began to accept the localised version with the high regard it deserves.

Youkai Watch will be a show I will follow relatively closely in the beginning, because it requires similar approach as with the original Godzilla. The franchise is getting ready to be pushed by all fronts; Nintendo publishes the game, Hasbro manages the toys and Viz will push out the cartoon and comics. Whoever is/are in charge of the core translation have rather large responsibility to bring in a good translation. Not necessarily accurate to the word, but something that will go well with the Western audience. Youkai Watch is facing an uphill battle already, and doing a half-assed localisation will only yield lacklustre success.

I have peculiar history with Pokémon myself. Cyber Solider Porygon was aired in Japan on December 16th, 1997. The same day the news broke out about the epileptic seizures it caused, and I remember watching the news that day and seeing the footage. I’m not sure why this caught to my mind then, but about two years later sometime in 1999 I recall reading a magazine in a hospital about the incident and how the series would be coming to local television. Pokémon began to be pushed in the local market around the same, games actually hitting the shelves and so on. I find it weird to get interested in a series because a news piece on television stuck to my head.

After Pokémon hit the television and games became widespread, I too got swept by the mania and for a good reason. Pokémon was a big damn hit with long lasting effect, and proved to be a franchise that impacted the cultural mind. Pokémon was sort of last of its kind, a game that wasn’t a hit with the hardcore gamers and stayed in the Red Ocean. One thing that the series is being constantly criticised of is its unwillingness to change any of the core mechanics or implement all the changes from preceding games to the new ones. For example, the Generation 3 lacked the Day-Night cycle introduced in Generation 2. Then again, Game Freak’s staff is barely able to optimise Pokémon games for the 3D on the 3DS for stable framerate, a thing multiple third parties are able to do just fine.

I want to see Youkai Watch become a successful franchise in the West, to become a new Pokémon to in Pokémon’s place. Much like how I have grown too complacent with the shit I write, so has Game Freak and Nintendo become too complacent with Pokémon as a whole. I can’t fault them really, as the franchise has been able to bring in stable revenues. Digimon has been regarded as the only strong contender against the Yellow mouse machine, but even then Digimon has been mismanaged to large extend, and actually the Digimon movie is an example where the source material was not treated with respect during the localisation. I’m sure Youkai Watch was a surprise to Nintendo, even if it is a game that ensured software sales for their system. This may be a good enough reason for Game Freak and Nintendo to sit back and do their stuff and allow Youkai Watch to become the top dog, but then we can always ask if that is enough from them. Companies should want to keep their top dogs where they belong. It’s easy to do so when there’s no competition, but whenever a challenger appears, one should be willing to tackle this challenger to the fullest extent of their abilities.

In other news, Discotek Media has licensed Giant Gorg.