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put her account into protected mode after people called her out on the bullshit she was spouting, but we can always use an archived version.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.

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 Current Format War

The last physical format war was HD-DVD versus Blu-Ray. HD-DVD met a rather quick defeat compared to the previous format wars, where you had more than one format existing side-by-side for different reasons. VHS vs. Betamax VS. Laserdisc was and interesting and long era, where only VHS and LD really had any place due to their nature of media. Way back in 2012 I had a post about what sort of role OVA had on the format war overall, and looking back at this post I should revise it a lot. Interestingly, history tends to rhyme and we’re seeing some of the same stuff taking place with the current format war, which isn’t between physical media, but between streaming services.

Unlike with physical media, digital streaming services are relatively easy to make. The standard for it is already there, embedded video that’s streamed to a device. Looking at the amount of streaming service there are, pretty much any larger company has one, from A&E to YouTube Red. Of course, Netflix is the most successful and well known of the bunch, and is expected to corner to market on the long run due to its overwhelming global popularity.

However, we are talking about a delivery method that does not require the purchase of a separate player and dedication to a form of media. The paradigm shift from television and prerecorded material to decentralised television and all-access services has transformed television as a concept altogether to something most traditional channels probably can’t handle without large shift in their business plans and structure. While physical media will not be phased out as fast as commentators and industry insiders have thought (we’ve been told the last fifteen years that in few years nobody will purchase physical media anymore), it has gone down progressively alongside abandoning the living room centric television. This has affected video games as well, as we’ve discussed, and is one of the major factors why the Switch is a successful console on its own right.  Everybody has a screen in their pocket, everyone has a television in their pocket.

Format wars have been won by having the most stuff on your format as well as capabilities that are not offered by your competition. Laserdisc was a great format for film enthusiast who wanted quality, but the sheer size of the discs and the costs over Beta and VHS later down the line were higher. BETA may have been better than VHS in quality, but it was more expensive and had Sony’s proprietary tech that cost more to license than VHS. VHS ultimately became cheapest option as mass manufacturing took root and home recording became accessible for the general audience like never before. The old tale of porn winning the format war for VHS is not exactly wrong, as it allowed so many small-sized studios and independents to release their products. YouTube and other similar sites that allow and partner with user-driven content creation would be the modern equivalent. However, this is a paradigm shift in itself, and user-created content, be it home mobvies, indies or recording stuff off the TV, ultimately has less to do with winning the format war this time around. It’s all about what professional content you have.

Shows like Star Trek Discovery, Devilman Crybaby, and Cobra Kai are all shows that were made to drive views and sales of a streaming service. CBS did not go and aim to make a great Star Trek show for CBS All-Access, they aimed to make a show that would drive subscriptions, and considering they’ve greenlight the second season and have boldly announced best results ever, it seems to have worked. World wide, Netflix was the one with STD under their belt, but unlike most other streaming services, they’ve been bringing original animation to the forefront more.

While a site like Crunchyroll streams and simulcasts cartoons from the far orient, Netflix has put more money into original creations, most of which have been largely popular. The aforementioned Devilman Crybaby raised quite a bit of buzz and gained some subs for Netflix, and the same thing can be said of their Castlevania adaptation. Netflix and Crunchyroll have a niche cornered. The only thing that can really affect the amount of money made is how much ads get blocked on free streaming sites and how well the consumer is treated. It’s not exactly rare to hear Crunchyroll shitting on their costumers or dropping the streaming quality for all users, including the paying subscribers, without earning. A site like them should know to keep the front and back of the counter completely separate, but with the advent of social media era, it’s seems to have become really hard not to try and piss people off of Twitter or Facebook.

While new and original content is the main tool in this war, nostalgia is also a grand factor. Something and something old usually work hand in hand. All examples here are really just nostalgia driven somehow. Star Trek is an entertainment institution on its won right, Devilman is one of the most important comic books created on the world wide scale, Castlevania pulls the NES kid out from you and Cobra Kai is YouTube Red’s weapon in this. Cobra Kai‘s a show that people would enjoy and Sony has been criticised for putting it to a platform with smaller consumer base rather than on something like Netflix, where the show could get its proper amount of views.

That is, of course, entirely the point.

Having just one provider for any service will easily lead into situation where the consumer has no other options to choose from and has to be satisfied to whatever products and services in whatever quality the provider gives in. The current format war won’t have one winning side, because there is no need for the consumer to dedicate himself to just one medium. What these providers now have to fight with is content, and the more content you have people want to watch and can’t be seen on other services, the more leverage you have. Disney of course will be an absolute juggernaut whenever they start their own services due to sheer size of their library, but we shouldn’t ignore the likes of Amazon Prime and their constant licensing of niche shows that aren’t available elsewhere in the West. While at face value it would seem beneficial for the consumer to have everything in one place, competition is always a driving force.

Of course, then there are digital luddites like me who just sit and wait for shows to come out on physical media.

On electronic games’ history and culture

This post is a collection of related subject, combined into easier access

A game is an interaction between at least two individuals under certain rules to achieve some sort of goal or achievement. These rules can be shared between the parties and can contradict one side. This idea has not changed with electronic games, and they are not the first ones to have a non-living party. Just like card games have a card deck as the opposing party alongside other human players, electronic games use their device as the party to oppose the human player. In the end, modern video and computer games use the same rules and point calculation methods used past games and plays, be it sports or card games. After all, Super Mario Bros. is just a continuation of our play culture.

Steve Russel’s famous By gosh, it’s a Pinball! is a good contrast how not even the first computer game was, in the end, nothing new. After the Second World War, game parlors had become the cradle of youth culture, and pinball game parlors (or game arcades) became the place where young men and their girlfriends could escape to from the world, essentially becoming their own little separate worlds from the oppressing reality. This world was from the reach of mainstream culture and its moral guardsmen, allowing the youths to let their suppressed side to blow out.

Originally released 1969, this song is iconic representation of the time

Pinball Wizard is an anti-hero, an abused young man who is shunned by the larger world. However, in the game parlors he is able to convey himself to his peers, becoming one with the machine.

As such, it should be no surprise that parents would be worried about these parlors. After all, penny arcades before had been seen as place of vagabonds and men with beaten past. A place where people with less fortune could come together and entertain themselves with cheap coin operated machines, while possibly making connections to the criminal world. Different leagues and mafias controlled these penny arcades at during the 1930’s America, and as such it’s understandable to see people shunning arcades well up to the 1980’s. That shadow never left these places where men could get together and play games. It could be argued that even the games we have nowadays are suffering from similar complains, where moral guardians blame games for ruining whatever they deem valuable. In this light it is interesting to note that it is more than probable that many parents bought computers and game consoles to keep their children out of the arcades later down the line to keep them away from entering the wayside paths of life.

While my text is largely based on American culture, it’s not to say that the rest of the world saw these parlors in any better light. In France, Jean-Claude Baudot banned all coin operated machines in 1937 to prevent the disease penny arcades were seen as. According to Baudot, this law was still in effect up to the early 1980’s, though the law had been eased and circumvented in all ways and manners. In 1981 Ferdinand Marcos, the president of Philippines,  banned all arcade video games. To enforce his rule he smashed arcade machines in public. This is the same man who banned Voltes V  and other similarly themed cartoons just before the series’ final episode. Both of these men echo events that had taken place during world history time and time again, and events like these would be repeated after them, like how Pokémon was seen as the tool of the Devil by some religious forces. In Colorado Springs, 1999, pastor Mark Juvera took a 30-inch sword to a Pikachu toy in front of 85 children and calling Pokémon poison, not to mention the claims of video and computer games causing players to be more violent. Neither of these points are anything special, they’re just continuing  the same backlash games and other media forms have experienced throughout the ages.

It is somewhat ironic to note that television was seen as one of the remedies to keep these rebelling young people at home, as the 1950’s saw it entering mass markets despite not many having the money to buy one. Television didn’t give solution to the problems parents saw game parlors to be, as the problem was social and parlors were not the originator. Turned out that these young people watched television and took themselves to play pinball with their mates. Basically everything that was seen a solution to a problem would later be deemed a problem in itself as well, as seen with books, movies, amateur radio and maybe some day with games too. The problems were real to an extent, they are always more about the stereotypical view the mass culture takes at them. Books, amateur radio, television and games share the same blame that they keep people, children and adults alike, inside rather than “allowing” them to go outside and play, or do something more worthwhile.

Arcades, as we now remember them, didn’t come from nowhere during the 1970’s. They are just those game parlors with a new name and new machines, just like penny arcades before them. We can trace these places back to the game events held before mechanical games existed. In Herrad von Landsberg’s manuscript from the 1100’s we can see a pair of knights fighting each other through controlled marionettes. While it would be easy to compare this to modern era Vs. fighting  game, that would be far too direct. We do not know whether this was a common event or not, nor whether or not this is a real depiction as intended.

Artikel_45890_bilder_value_1_augsburger_puppenkiste1[1]Street Fighter with dolls?

Nevertheless, the core idea of contest and games are still present, even in the physical games. In the same extension, cock-fighting has been compared to Pokémon and other similar games. This is not rare in any way, as all games have their roots in some form of other plays and games. Majority of first person shooters are based on war games, strategy games are war board games, platformers are adventures children have in forest and elsewhere and imitates jumping form rock to rock, fighting games are rooted in physical combat and so on. Plays and games the adults play do stem from the childhood games, and to certain extent adulthood work and politics are just grander, more serious form of these games. It should be noted that video games especially have stemmed from boy’s play culture (and still reside there due to the competitive nature of it), thou arcade games like Pac-Man and Breakout are more or less neutral in their approach.

But what are the original electronic or mechanic games that can be called as the firs physical grandfathers of modern computer and video games? Perhaps the first ancestral machines are the automata, with machines offering entertainment and awe to the audience. However, games require interactivity, and one of the first proto-interactive machines that allowed the user to dictate some elements of the entertainment was the mutoscope from the late 1800’s. It was deemed to cause moral decay and was blamed to corrupt the youths for the pennies they cost. Pornography was a thing, and mutoscope is most remembered for those kinds of movies. We shouldn’t forget shooting galleries and the like as one of the proto-interactive game machines, as Nintendo’s Zapper and the games it used are pretty much a straight continuation.

Perhaps the mutoscope’s history is closer to films overall. However, it’s slightly more interactive nature does make it a relative of playing

1900’s saw all these machines to become everyday objects, and despite the bad rap they got, they spread like wildfire throughout the world. UK created their own machines alongside Americans (a lot of mutoscope’s UK had were either destroyed or exported to the Denmark during coin change in 1971), France and Germany had their own similar history with coin operated machines and Japan had adult-only pachinko parlors in 1930’s Nagoya. It’s not a large step from these mechanical devices towards electronic games, and through that, into computer and video games.


While many of the fears from the late 1800’s and early-to-mid 1900’s still persist when it comes to electronic games, those who play games and are most enthralled by them has not changed too much since then. Things changed with the advent of Golden Era of games, especially with Pac-Man, a game that attracted both men and women to play. Pac-Man as a character was largely a non-descriptive blob despite the game’s and character’s name.

I’ve talked about Industrial revolution being the main dividing point between arts, crafts and design, but when it comes to games it also created a cultural point with boys’ and girls’ cultures. According to E. Anthony Rotundo (1994), the industrial revolution separated boys from their father’s work environment, leaving them for their mothers’ to take care of. Boys moved outside from there, as motherly care usually emphasised good morals, pampering and kindness. Boys’ games and plays often were almost the opposite of this with physical contact with surprising aggressive attitudes. Going against mother’s command was a way to show that you weren’t a momma’s boy, and building from that onwards is a sort of step towards independent manhood. Regardless of how wild these games were, boys would return home to their mothers. One could say that unlike the Freudian Oedipus complex, boys’ fight against their mothers’ culture.

Rotundo contrasts this against girls’ culture, which is tied to their mothers, which have lived in a sort of symbiosis with each other. While he boys’ “adventure island” had a confrontational setting, girls’ had their own place within the “secret gardens.” While girls tend to favour for more socially interactive game with less or not emphasize on competition and physical contact, the concept of secret garden, a secret place reserved only for them and their fantasies. It should be noted that a lot of books for girls are the opposite of this thinking, where their normal lives are broken by a fantastic individual of sorts and their lives see a change, often at the cost of that secluded place. The differences between classic boys’ and girls’ literature is that boys had the heroes travel far away, while the girls’ literature tended to emphasize on staying home. Through that the stakes were different; for boys the adventures were physical like their games, whereas girls’ adventures were more about the psychology and emotions.

It’s not hard to see why electronic games would end up seen as a boys’ hobby. It is far easier to create a game that’s based on competition and rules rather than a game that requires methodical interaction between characters. A game is easy to program to offer a direct challenge the player needs to achieve, like destroying alien invaders than it is to program to reply to inquiries in a naturalistic and sophisticated way to counter the player’s emotional state.

The question whether or not there is a difference between boys’ and girls’ is cultural at its core. American game developer Purple Moon was known for developing games aimed at girls of age 8-14, and their Secret Paths series could be used as an archetypical example of what is generally seen as a girls’ game.

Secret Path games showcases some traditional symbols and images associated with girls. The cursor in the example above is a heart or a ladybug, there is no physical conflict in itself, and whatever action there is leans on metaphysical than physical. Interestingly, despite Purple Moon’s games tend to be simplified in how things are presented, they still manage to make better use of progressive values than most games we have nowadays.

While Purple Moon’s games were designed to be more about places of relaxation, where girls could pour out their stress and observe things with their hearts, so to speak. Each character has their own secret, and it is up to the player to find the secret paths that are laden with gemstones and other artefacts that give social, emotional and psychological strength. These visuals and pathways are representative of the characters’ plight, and the stories these physical environments contain encourage the player to try things out in their own social life. It’s not hard to see why the founder Brenda Laurel called their games as friendship adventures.

Similarly, Theresa Duncan’s Zero Zero is another example of a game that ties to girls’ culture.

While Secret Paths can be regarded as a continuation to the secret garden idea, Louise Fitzhugh’s 1964 novel Harriet the Spy, is about another sort of play space for girls; the city. Within the book, Harriet observes her city’s, her microworld’s she creates, citizens and their complex interactions and how she changed them as she sees fit. This idea of creating a world and having total control over it is similar to SimCity. The difference between the two is how SimCity is more about playing god and micro-manage everything. To Harriet, creating this world is just the first step, and moves towards spying on the individuals to the point of breaking in real world buildings to understand adult interactions. The same contrast repeats here; there is no physical confrontation like there would be in boys’ novel, all the challenge comes from the human interactions and gaining information on the interactions.

It wouldn’t be too hard to see Harriet the Spy as a stealth game that has no combat. Zero Zero is essentially a computer adventure game version of the novel, where the player goes through the city and similarly seeks people’s’ stories. Despite this innocent sounding setting, Zero Zero and other games from Theresa Duncan do not try to be sleek and pat down the reality. On the contrary, Zero Zero‘s French are bored and tend to insult the player in a stereotypical fashion, as do the flowers. Women with strong make-up smoke freely and tend to flash themselves, promising an event in the Red Lights district.  The Sims has a considerable female fanbase, and in a way can be seen as a modern example of a game that allows the player not only play dollhouse, but also play god and decide the interactions.

Secret Path games and Zero Zero are good examples of two strong sides of traditional girls’ games. Secret Path games are very balanced and encourages the player to feel, so to speak. Zero Zero is an example of a game that shows the misshapen world in a very caricature fashion and encourages the player to seek knowledge and information that is hidden from them. Both are about exploring a physical space, but in the end both are about the players’ inner worlds.

Games like Pac-Man and Nights into Dreams are in neither space as such. Pac-Man‘s design as a character and game had no points to either direction, and as such I personally consider Ms. Pac-Man a needles exercise in hindsight despite it becoming extremely popular. Nights into Dreams on the other hand was designed to be androgynous from the get go, both in gameplay and character designs. It even has a boy and a girl character, Elliot and Claris, who have very different dreams for their life.

As games have evolved, contact between the two cultures have become more frequent. One could argue that open world games that contain as much non-physical social confrontation as they do physical are mixing these cultures. MMORPG’s and other games that offer larger interaction with real life people also supports the idea of supportive interaction between girls while offering brotherly confrontation and rivalry boys’ culture has. This sort of neutral space in gaming requires both sides giving something in, and in real life this can cause some argumentation and fighting between children.

Stereotypical girls’ games tend not to be remembered. Purple Moon folded in 1999 and merged with Mattel, and their games were not without criticism. Their games were called to be called sexist, stereotyping the characters and themes, a thing that can be extended to a lot of other girls’ games, especially Barbie games. The space where these games were set in was another major factor.

Space is a keyword here. The pinball culture if the mid-1900’s was very masculine and based on long-standing tradition of penny arcades. When these games began to appear outside their initially designated areas, e.g. pinballs in restaurants and shopping centres, it was seen as a positive progress as anyone, women included, could now access these machines. As games moved away from spaces that were largely seen as dominated by men like universities’ IT-departments and penny arcades, the view on them changed. Pinball is not associated with violent rebels any more, but as a classic game everybody can play. Similarly, the advent of Japanese games in arcades and the renaissance of electronic gaming after the second Video game Crash introduced further colourful and fantastic creatures to the electronic game culture. Pac-Man, Mario Bros., and their like, despite being competitive, offered visuals that weren’t all about blowing shit up, but also attractive colours and challenges that weren’t just about the abstract.

It should be noted that games like Super Mario Bros., Sonic the Hedgehog and Abe’s Odyssey garnered players from both sexes, and both games shows that in the end, the player character doesn’t really matter as people don’t tend to see themselves in the character. If there is a character creation, sometimes people make themselves, but often it’s an admired, a fantasy version of themselves. They create a fantasy persona, and similarly each player character out there is a fantasy persona that the player doesn’t exactly identify with. After all, the player character is largely unimportant, the game world is what matters.

Perhaps the only truly neutral game between the spaces and cultures is Tetris. Tetris wasn’t just a game that can be described a perfect game and neutral, but a game that was everywhere. It was on home computer where anyone could play it and it was on the Game Boy where everyone could carry it with them. There is no true confrontation in the game, and despite the having a competitive goal in form of scoring, the gameplay is from neither side particularly.

Escalation of moral maturity from game to game

One aspect that’s been part of boys’ play culture for as long as we can go back in written history with records of children’s play is the moral play between good and evil. One of the modern classics that display an everyday battle between these two extremes would be Cops versus Robbers. As we grow up, the stark contrast between good and evil usually begins to dim to the point where we can accept that good and evil are subjective, at least on philosophical level. The contest between the perceived sides still persist into our adulthood, more often than not shaded to the point of the perceived evil being more justified than the opposing side.

The traditional pen and paper role playing games stem from the myths of antique and the knight plays. I don’t think there’s one child in the world who has no played a role of a knight in some play. The knight I’m referring here is more akin the idea of local protector, hence why black knights are the opposing, equal power. Perhaps an allegory for the fallen angel of sorts on some level. Nevertheless, the early computer RPGs were largely digitised forms of Dungeons & Dragons games these people used to have, with Ultima being an example of such. If you look in late 80’s and 1990’s Japanese fantasy light novels and series branched from them, like Slayers, they’re largely based on the author’s own D&D games. With the D&D crowd, at some point they stopped playing knights outside in the nature, and moved indoors. Of course, Live action role playing, or LARPing has become somewhat popular, and is effectively just people playing like kids with far more serious intent and costlier props.

The aforementioned paragraph may sound rather negative, though it’s more an argument of natural change. Whether or not theatrical plays predated children play acting is unknown, but the two have a linear connection between maturity and playing. Play acting became a profession, something done so good that it could be made money with. The adult life is strongly reflected in children’s plays, as playing is often the best form of education and learning for the future. Kids trading stones and sticks on the playfield essentially prepares for commerce. Pokémon TCG was largely panned by parents in its initial release years, but one thing they learned about it was how it taught children the value of goods and trading. Modern world simply allows certain aspects of immature play to be present more than with previous generations. The concept of something being childish and for children only has seen a silent paradigm shift.

Perhaps the example of this is electronic games. While computer games were seen somewhat more mature compared to console and arcade games in the 1970’s and 80’s, they’ve been accepted as a media for all ages since the late 1990’s, with some grudges here and there. It’s still not all that uncommon to see some parents from previous generations to describe game consoles and computers as toys, which often yields a rather negative response due to associated immature mental image it carries with it. While understandable, toys are means to play. Describing a game machine a toy in this sense isn’t wholly inaccurate, as all it exists for is to play.

However, electronic games and machines they run on prevent any creative forms of plays. They offer a statistic, controlled and extremely limited form of play, which is more akin to adult overseeing a children’s play. This is currently a technological issue, as we’ve yet to see completely dynamic world that allows the player to enact whatever possible they want. One can’t build a hut and live in there for the rest of the character’s natural life in a Final Fantasy game, because the game is not prepared for that. It’s limited to the story the game wants to tell. Playing often requires the player to follow the rules, after all. Not all toys allow all forms of play either, after all. While calling video and computer games as toys might sting your ear, the association with play is completely natural and such naming shouldn’t be deflected from the get go. After all, we have adult’s toys as well, which children shouldn’t have access to before they are mentally and physically mature enough.

The same applies to video games. Grand Theft Auto and Skyrim are both games we constantly see people of all ages playing, despite the age recommendations being there. Being a direct descendant of Cops VS Robbers and knight plays, both game simply take the basic core and expand on it. GTA may have you play as the Robber, but the moral hues you’re given are numerous. The same applies to Skyrim, where the player character is a figurative knight on his route to slay a dragon. The means and toys have just changed from a stick representing the baton or sword to a plastic controller and readily set digital world.

The question how much industrially prepared playing via toys has affected modern world’s play culture as a whole is a topic I’m not ready to touch on. However, some examples how things simply change drastically with a toy would be Barbie. The toy is not a doll for girls who play with it, it’s a Barbie. Singling out a toy like this outside all others has grown to the point of almost all toys have been made their own rather than for overall playing in general. Perhaps the largest reason for this change is the successful franchising, where the association with a toy and a character is made so much stronger. A child is not just buying a transforming robot toy, he’s buying Optimus Prime and all the mental images associated with the character.

While the contest between moral sides in boys’ games has escalated since the 1950’s, similar escalation has been lacing in electronic games. This is due to all the aforementioned; electronic games are just part of it. The age-old discussion about boys’ and girls’ games is valid, and while I’d argue that a well made game does cater to both sexes, the truth is that one has more interest towards certain kinds of games over the other. That is the nature of things. However, nothing exists in a vacuum, and games experience as much mixing of these two play cultures as real life does. The Sims is still the best example of girls’ play culture being completely accepted by both sexes (the game’s essentially playing Home), as is Super Mario. Super Mario just happens to be perceived more immature due to the design choices and lack moral greys over something like Halo, which is perceived a a “big boys game.”

This is a point, as not all games, electronic or not, are for all ages. It is up to the parents to decide whether or not Little Jimmy is ready to handle mature concepts like interrupted penetration, self-mutilation in the name of love, the absurdity of how pointless life is or the sheer sexual tension between a man and a machine. Something truly is for “big boys.” The core play doesn’t change with maturity, but the concepts and themes that frame the act do.

Monthly Three; Plays and parlors

A game is an interaction between at least two individuals under certain rules to achieve some sort of goal or achievement. These rules can be shared between the parties and can contradict one side. This idea has not changed with electronic games, and they are not the first ones to have a non-living party. Just like card games have a card deck as the opposing party alongside other human players, electronic games use their device as the party to oppose the human player. In the end, modern video and computer games use the same rules and point calculation methods used past games and plays, be it sports or card games. After all, Super Mario Bros. is just a continuation of our play culture.

Steve Russel’s famous By gosh, it’s a Pinball! is a good contrast how not even the first computer game was, in the end, nothing new. After the Second World War, game parlors had become the cradle of youth culture, and pinball game parlors (or game arcades) became the place where young men and their girlfriends could escape to from the world, essentially becoming their own little separate worlds from the oppressing reality. This world was from the reach of mainstream culture and its moral guardsmen, allowing the youths to let their suppressed side to blow out.

Originally released 1969, this song is iconic representation of the time

Pinball Wizard is an anti-hero, an abused young man who is shunned by the larger world. However, in the game parlors he is able to convey himself to his peers, becoming one with the machine.

As such, it should be no surprise that parents would be worried about these parlors. After all, penny arcades before had been seen as place of vagabonds and men with beaten past. A place where people with less fortune could come together and entertain themselves with cheap coin operated machines, while possibly making connections to the criminal world. Different leagues and mafias controlled these penny arcades at during the 1930’s America, and as such it’s understandable to see people shunning arcades well up to the 1980’s. That shadow never left these places where men could get together and play games. It could be argued that even the games we have nowadays are suffering from similar complains, where moral guardians blame games for ruining whatever they deem valuable. In this light it is interesting to note that it is more than probable that many parents bought computers and game consoles to keep their children out of the arcades later down the line to keep them away from entering the wayside paths of life.

While my text is largely based on American culture, it’s not to say that the rest of the world saw these parlors in any better light. In France, Jean-Claude Baudot banned all coin operated machines in 1937 to prevent the disease penny arcades were seen as. According to Baudot, this law was still in effect up to the early 1980’s, though the law had been eased and circumvented in all ways and manners. In 1981 Ferdinand Marcos, the president of Philippines,  banned all arcade video games. To enforce his rule he smashed arcade machines in public. This is the same man who banned Voltes V  and other similarly themed cartoons just before the series’ final episode. Both of these men echo events that had taken place during world history time and time again, and events like these would be repeated after them, like how Pokémon was seen as the tool of the Devil by some religious forces. In Colorado Springs, 1999, pastor Mark Juvera took a 30-inch sword to a Pikachu toy in front of 85 children and calling Pokémon poison, not to mention the claims of video and computer games causing players to be more violent. Neither of these points are anything special, they’re just continuing  the same backlash games and other media forms have experienced throughout the ages.

It is somewhat ironic to note that television was seen as one of the remedies to keep these rebelling young people at home, as the 1950’s saw it entering mass markets despite not many having the money to buy one. Television didn’t give solution to the problems parents saw game parlors to be, as the problem was social and parlors were not the originator. Turned out that these young people watched television and took themselves to play pinball with their mates. Basically everything that was seen a solution to a problem would later be deemed a problem in itself as well, as seen with books, movies, amateur radio and maybe some day with games too. The problems were real to an extent, they are always more about the stereotypical view the mass culture takes at them. Books, amateur radio, television and games share the same blame that they keep people, children and adults alike, inside rather than “allowing” them to go outside and play, or do something more worthwhile.

Arcades, as we now remember them, didn’t come from nowhere during the 1970’s. They are just those game parlors with a new name and new machines, just like penny arcades before them. We can trace these places back to the game events held before mechanical games existed. In Herrad von Landsberg’s manuscript from the 1100’s we can see a pair of knights fighting each other through controlled marionettes. While it would be easy to compare this to modern era Vs. fighting  game, that would be far too direct. We do not know whether this was a common event or not, nor whether or not this is a real depiction as intended.

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Nevertheless, the core idea of contest and games are still present, even in the physical games. In the same extension, cock-fighting has been compared to Pokémon and other similar games. This is not rare in any way, as all games have their roots in some form of other plays and games. Majority of first person shooters are based on war games, strategy games are war board games, platformers are adventures children have in forest and elsewhere and imitates jumping form rock to rock, fighting games are rooted in physical combat and so on. Plays and games the adults play do stem from the childhood games, and to certain extent adulthood work and politics are just grander, more serious form of these games. It should be noted that video games especially have stemmed from boy’s play culture (and still reside there due to the competitive nature of it), thou arcade games like Pac-Man and Breakout are more or less neutral in their approach.

But what are the original electronic or mechanic games that can be called as the firs physical grandfathers of modern computer and video games? Perhaps the first ancestral machines are the automata, with machines offering entertainment and awe to the audience. However, games require interactivity, and one of the first proto-interactive machines that allowed the user to dictate some elements of the entertainment was the mutoscope from the late 1800’s. It was deemed to cause moral decay and was blamed to corrupt the youths for the pennies they cost. Pornography was a thing, and mutoscope is most remembered for those kinds of movies. We shouldn’t forget shooting galleries and the like as one of the proto-interactive game machines, as Nintendo’s Zapper and the games it used are pretty much a straight continuation.

1900’s saw all these machines to become everyday objects, and despite the bad rap they got, they spread like wildfire throughout the world. UK created their own machines alongside Americans (a lot of mutoscope’s UK had were either destroyed or exported to the Denmark during coin change in 1971), France and Germany had their own similar history with coin operated machines and Japan had adult-only pachinko parlors in 1930’s Nagoya. It’s not a large step from these mechanical devices towards electronic games, and through that, into computer and video games.

Music of the Month; Basara + rant

It’s a late music of the month, so let’s get on with it already. Turn the bass up.

Ar Tonelico games are weird, but the music hits just the right spot with me.

It’s been surprisingly unforgiving weekend. The plans to write a larger, more elaborate entry got destroyed with turn of events that caused me to work twice as much as I usually do. It’s linked to the project post I made earlier in the week, but we can come back to that subject when we reach another deca-post.

Seems like the books I was to scan have now been lost in mail, or my friend hasn’t even sent the books. Either way, it’s a loss to those who were expecting these. Anyways, I’ve turned my head towards scanning some chapters of a more unknown series; Gekisatsu! Uchuuken.

You used to have awesome stuff with LPs. No, not Let's Plays,  Long Play Records
You used to have awesome stuff with LPs. No, not Let’s Plays, Long Play Records. This is actually a large poster

What is Gekisatsu! Uchuuken, I hear you asking. It’s comic by Hurricane Ryu, the man who later went on to be Heisei Godzilla movies suitactor. You may know him better as King Ghidorah, among others. The comic serialised in Comic Lemon People from its second issue on in 1982 and had somewhat humble beginning. Gekisatsu! Uchuuken, or just Uchuuken among friends, follows the kung-fu girl Lien Yun. Her adventures start from street brawls and escalate all the way to full blown city destroying fights against all the largest giant monster icons. The series is absolutely balls to the walls insane, using SM as its main sexploitation device and adding almost every character from the Japanese sci-fi pop culture at the time to the extent you had Lien donning a power armour that looks mistakenly similar to Macross’ Valkyrie’s FAST pack. The comic had a collected release, which is stupendously expensive and yet I’m looking for gain them. I’m sure those would have higher quality than the early Comic Lemon People issues. What made Uchuuken popular among readers, at least according to small snippets I’ve see on Pixiv and elsewhere, was the rough, high speed action combined with absolutely bombastic tokusatsu parodying from chapter to chapter. The series style improved slightly as it went on, but it does have a level of amateurish vibe to it, which will put a lot of people off. Especially when it’s 80’s stuff. That shit’s ancient in the eyes of young ones nowadays!

To fight a combination of giant monsters, you need a giant combiner of things that fight giant monsters. And Enterprise
To fight a combination of giant monsters, you need a giant combiner of things that fight giant monsters. And Enterprise

Here’s the kicker thou; Gekisatsu! Uchuuken was supposed to get a TV animation adaptation. It’s absolutely insane to think how this would have been done. It would’ve been toned down in content in order to attract younger audience, meaning removal of the sexploitation element and crafting more a family friendly approach. Still, the few paintings we have still show monsters getting slashed apart and a man standing on a machine armed with tentacles, so some of the origins would’ve been there. The adaptation might’ve been good for the series, in the end. While the comic is quite practically Reference the Comic due to its copyright infringing portrayals, the TV-series would’ve taken all these out and concentrated on the core characters and elaborated more on Lien herself, perhaps creating far more wholesome entity.

There was a record published before or after the project folded, which contains a sort of prototype to the opening music the series would have. Sadly, the instruments are very rudimentary and do no justice to the possibility the song has. The songstress carries the whole deal, really. You can listen to it on Youtube. Be sure to read the description. The rest of the LP has some similarly rudimentary tracks, but also radio drama. These radio drama bits are there to introduce the characters to us, and I admit I’m biased, but I liked what I heard. I’m intending to record the rest of the LP when I get my hands on a higher grade player, but in the meanwhile I can at least share some selected scans.

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Seeing they even released a record and had announced the series, I have theorised that there may exist some sort of short video. At least few minute snippet how it could look. Japanese economy experienced a boom from 1986 to 1991, after which everything just fell down. The 90’s and 00’s are know as the Lost Decades due to this. Uchuuken’s series would have been done just a tad too early. It’s no surprise that OVA’s based on Comic Lemon People series were produced afterwards; Iczer-1, Zeorymer and Cream Lemon. It wasn’t until late 80’s a TV-series based on Comic Lemon People came to be in form of Lemon Angel. Too bad it was just a series of short music videos that carried a set of separated character and their racy slice-of-life adventures. If you want to see them out of some interest, I’m sure Youtube can help you with that as well.

Now for the bits not everybody like. You may want to ready a translation side to software for few upcoming links.

There’s some things I want to get out. #GamerGate has been seen some shit going on with it, and locally we’ve finally seen some news of it. Somewhat actual news, not just clickbait blog posts from people going with the narrative the press is making. Yet, the news we’ve seen do go with the narrative. That’s surprising, as I’ve though the local media and people would’ve taken more objective view and balance the issue’s sides, both from the journalists’ and customers’. However, this has not happened and I guess now that we’ve got the official statement from IDGA-Finland and Neogames Finland that they stand against any sort of harassment against game developers and gamers. This is great, because #GamerGate does support that exact same stance. However, the news is more or less baffling due to the fact that it calls #GamerGate out on the death threats and harassment it has directed towards game developers and gamers.

This is interesting because this is the first time I see anyone telling the movement is harassing gamers as well. I’m not sure what it tells about IDGA-Finland’s statement or the level of journalism the author of this article practices. The normal namedrops are made, and it saddens me that it is apparent that no actual research on the subject has made.

But wait! There’s a game researcher who states that the movement does not represent all the gamers out there. This second article has more balanced narrative, the little there is. The movement is still blamed on all the harassment that has been going on and has emphasize on the developers while ignoring the whole journalism side. It’s apparent that the writer has basically written what has been told to her, which makes a man sad.

It’s understandable, if you look at the movement from a distance. Because the movement is against a media, it is completely expected for the media to strike back and have that unbalanced view on the events. However, when you do have something like YLE, the Finnish equivalent of BBC, not making any research to their news, it seriously causes some amazement. On one hand this is treated as an American event, but that would mean that the journalists at YLE have even better option to do some journalistic research and see whether or not the allegations on either side are valid. I’ve had some good discussions about the movement and its goals, but most people seem to go into the press’ narrative more. Then again, often this narrative is shoddily built, but same minded people often buy to a narrative they want to see fit to their world view.

For this reason alone, I would recommend any #GamerGate supporter to keep yourself outside the comfort bubble and see the countering arguments and keep an objective view. The same should apply to everybody, really.

Let’s take a look at OVAs Part 2; The Couragous and the Pretty

There’s few frameworks that we have to lay down before we start speaking of good OVAs. I’m mostly speaking of same things as every other person when it comes to good animation and storytelling, but when it comes to OVAs we have the luxury of observing the coda, execution and uniqueness as well. TV-animation is meant to be sold to a wide variety of audiences and to expand the market (or at least it should be, otherwise something’s seriously wrong) while OVAs are meant for the niche audience. In this sense a good OVA is a completely different product from other animation works, even from movies as they’re more comparable to short stories from literature whereas movies and TV-series are more akin to whole novels.

As such all the series presented here might not be what you’d call masterpieces. Some of them are actually pretty meh or even bad at most levels, but excel at being what OVAs should be. I’ll be skipping the most known series just for variety, such as Aim for the Top! Gunbuster, Mobile Police Patlabor, Dirty Pair and such. There’s slew of recommendation lists out there, and while you can take this post as one, I’d suggest you to take this list as something like a glance at more uncommon and yet good shows. OVAs do not play with the same set rules as other works of animation mostly due to niche nature they have. While the overall quality can be determined by the sales (sales always determine the quality of the product over opinions, as rough as it is) OVAs have the small lax in this rule; an overlooked work might have had a small spread and print, affecting its sales overall.

The first example perhaps I can offer you is Cosmos Pink Shock, which I already mentioned in the Part 1. It’s a good 40min show about a girl crossing the universe inside a hyper-rocket that can achieve near-light speed travel in order to find her childhood sweetheart who was abducted by aliens. Cosmos Pink Shock has very nice animation, very nice designs, good music and overall the quality is up there. It only saw tape releases, even thou the animation alone would have demanded an LD release. It’s a beautiful little work that never really spread anywhere. A group called BOX actually searched for this kind rare releases for wider spread. The group has ceased to exist , but their work has been nothing short of remarkable. I’d almost call this a cultural preservation act, as they have subbed such works as Superman Locke and Queen Millenia, which both have had more than slight impact on Japanese animation and comic culture, thou their effect has become near extinct since the end of the 90’s. While BOX’s site has dead MegaUpload links, I presume my dear readers are smart enough to add “bakabt” to their Google search. Nevertheless, give Cosmos Pink Shock a shot. You might not want to stop at there thou.

Speaking of gorgeous animation, go watch DAICON III and DAICON IV from Youtube now. Never mind the quality, it can’t be helped.

There’s schlock, but then there’s good schlock, and then there’s schlock that’s like Cyber City Oedo 808.


To be honest, Oedo isn’t really bad. It’s an OVA that’s completely in spirit of the 80’s OVAs at its best; not really good, but goddamn if its not entertaining as hell. Oedo’s an example of well done Japanese cyber-punk without going all babbling like Ghost in the Shell, or all coffee on you like the Humanoid. It’s far more action packed and is more subtle on its questions on humanity and such, thou they can be dismissed quickly by the characters’ nature. It’s very dystopian, and some have drawn similarities with Judge Dredd and Robocop in certain feel to Oedo, thou I’m not sure whether or not I should agree. Oedo is unique enough to stand on its own to feet, and this is mostly because it’s well animated, has decent voicework and its execution is nothing short well paced. The story in Oedo is more akin to not-so generic cyberpunk detective/murder story, but somehow I can’t put my finger why the plot was decent. Honestly, it really doesn’t matter; Oedo’s a ride that is meant to be enjoyed, not to thought through.

If you want something more cerebral, wait one more entry when we enter the 90’s as promised. But for now, enjoy one of my personal favourites; Birdy the Mighty.


Birdy the Mighty is one of those OVAs that never really saw an end, and neither did its later 00’s TV-series. Birdy the Mighty is nothing short of your generic sci-fi detective story, but that’s not a bad thing. Birdy has a lot of charm both as a series and as a character. I’m partial for her 80’s appearance because fuck yeah 80’s. Still, the plot’s pretty simple; Birdy accidentally kills a young boy while chasing down a fugitive criminal, and to save this boy’s life her superior commands her to allow this boy’s soul into her body. When this boy, Tsutomu, is in control the body they share looks like his, but when needed Birdy can and will take her own form back. As such there’s an interesting duality going on all the time, but sadly it’s not well thought out or even used. It’s kind of there, but as with most OVAs there really wasn’t time for it. The 00’s series does it a bit better, but the show was too slow for its own good and didn’t really grasp the audience to have the final third season. As such, Birdy the Mighty OVA is flawed and could have done a lot of things better, but it’s nowhere near bad. It’s not even OK series, as the animation, acting and the concepts lift the OVA above most others even if the execution is partially sloppy. It’s the concept and idea that is Birdy’s mightiest point.

To follow with the path of good concepts and ideas, let’s move to the 90’s, and to the one of the last true OVAs that was made during that time. Enter JaJa Uma! Quartette, known as Wild Cardz in the West.

JaJaUma! could be described as a two-part pilot for a full TV-series, or so it has always felt like. The world a lot of content and is fleshed out reasonably well in relatively short period of time. A lot of things are shown and not explained, the pacing is tight and fast, and the story is honestly well written and never loses its goal. There’s also a bit of mystery in there and not everything is explained outright, which shows Studio Ox’s trust in their viewers. The worst thing JaJaUma! Quartette has going for it that there’s not nearly enough of it anywhere. Sure, it was adapted from a comic and there’s few radio dramas and a YouTube: PlayStation game but goddammit there’s a lot of wasted potential in here. With more development this series could’ve become phenomenal, and while that can be said about a lot of things, JaJaUma! Quartette has the same kind of charm that a lot of other female character driven series have had during the past ten years and beyond. There’s a lot of love and labour in here.

Now I promised something more cerebral, and here it comes; Giant Robo the Animation. I can’t do enough justice to this series, but what I can say that while I recognize it as one of the best animation works to date, it’s not what OVAs should be. Yasuhiro Imagawa is a good director and I like his works, but it took ten to twelve years to finish Giant Robo. Fist of all, it’s seven episode series, and while that’s not bad, it took most of the 90’s to finish this work. It was always late, the staff went over budget and it wasn’t successful at all. Anyway, it’s still recognized as one of THE animation works out there for a good reason.

Let’s move to the 00’s where OVAs are mostly dead and TV-animation is facing dire times.

I’m cheating a little bit with this one, but might as well as this counts as Original ‘Net Animation; Kyousogiga.


Kyousogiga has similar problem as JaJaUma! Quartette. A lot of stuff is bashed into very short time and most of the details can go by fast. At its core Kyousogiga is shinto version of Alice in the Wonderland with some Mirror thrown in there. For modern animation it’s very detailed and lively, and actually manages to avoid looking all too plastic like 99% of the TV-anime out there. I presume that much like a lot of Studio 4°C’s works, Kyousogiga was thrown in as a potential TV-series, but never took off. Which is sad, because this could have worked, but perhaps they thought that it was too surreal for its own good. Now this sounds something I wouldn’t say, but if the anime industry is dying due to lack of new and creative (hrhrrh) works, why aren’t the likes of Kyousogiga given the Green Light? Well, mostly because the people in charge have lost the touch with their audience at large and aims only at lonely otakus who sit on their computers writing about OVAs. Expanding market means getting new viewers, not taking existing viewers from other competing products.

None of the mentioned series have done anything major alone. OVA as a whole was one of the driving forces behind the VHS standard due to its popularity at the time. Nowadays pressing DVDs is cheap, but costs to make a movie or a video original have risen far too much. The current situation of the economy doesn’t help either, and the fact that the TV and movies at large do not target large audience any more but fight over the same audience, much like the game industry is doing. It’s an unhealthy form of competition and serves only industries’ own destruction at best. OVA format filled a certain slot that was open. However, OVA can’t fill that slot, but it can’t fill the newly opened slot either. It’s a format out of its time, and OVA is barely alive mainly because it has been there since the 80’s. DVD did not have to fight any format wars or punch through same kind of think walls as VHS had to, and as such we’re enjoying the kind of consumer culture. There’s a lot of good and bad in the current format/s, but we’ll get back to HD-DVD and BD in few years.

Appreciation is kind of keyword here; people don’t need to like OVA format or anything other things that have moulded our current way of consuming entertainment, but if we can’t appreciate them and what they have managed to do, then we can’t appreciate what we have now, or value them at any level. This kind of attitude doesn’t just apply to customers, but to the industries as well. Abandoning what has worked for something that really doesn’t have the same punch but is cheaper and easier to produce just doesn’t work. Sometimes it’s also the other way around, as seen in the video game industry.

The best way to revive the current animation culture in Japan would be to start developing and creating TV-series that expand the market and clean their current image, and revive the OVA format for what it was made to begin with.

With this, I’ll end this summer’s theme of OVA history. These last two parts are mostly just extra, but what the heck, most of these deserve proper mentioning. Next week we’ll return to a more normal rhythm and discuss a bit more about designing.

Let’s take a look at OVAs Part 1; The bad, the terrible and the beautiful

This is an additional part to ‘From LaserDisc to DVD; how original video animation paved way for modern consumer culture’ post. It is recommended to read it first for overall understanding. Also, notice that I have started adding links of interest to the right side column for your pleasure

There’s a concept called shit 80’s OVA. At its core this encompasses all 80’s OVAs that are hyper-violent, make no sense whatsoever, most likely have sex scenes for no reason and plot is totally and completely all over the place. I’m talking about series that either take themselves way too seriously, or have been made in the most coke dusted animation studios the 80’s Japan had to offer. Some of you might be very familiar with these OVAs, as they were cheap to license and easy to get hold of when ADV and other companies started their venture into releasing anime, or have followed numerous Internet critics. I’m talking about OVAs like Hon Ran, Angel Cop, The Dog Soldier and Megami Tensei. All of these mentioned are bad shows on their own rights, but all of them are so bad that they’re enjoyable.

A certain movement has taken slight flight in the last seven years of watching shit OVAs for their own value. This began as a spinoff from the shit movie watching that has been rampart for years now (and won’t end until the film industry stops producing this much shit.) Well, it’s not a new phenomena or anything, but for this young sub-culture it’s what we old folks do when the new shows just don’t cut it any more. Anyway, the 80’s offer insane amounts of OVAs unknown to the West (or to Japan) that we need to see. Who knows, there just might be gems upon gems upon gems that the mainstream audience has missed. Like Cosmos Pink Shock!


Finding the film itself is harder than finding its LP

For this post we’ll be visiting few OVAs of varying but low quality. Some of them are just plain boring, but some of them are well animated shit with nice visuals, but otherwise they’re completely bonkers. All of the listed shows are recommended to watch, as they’re all unique and they have an entertaining coda in there, but otherwise they’re just schlock. Let’s start with Hon Ran; Crimson Wolf.

Hon Ran is one of the hidden pieces of garbage that is missed in most lists of shit anime. I mean, the main bad guys are bunch of Great Men of China’s history, like Mao, and the fights consist of flying in imaginary world and using tanks as weaponry. No, not using tanks’ weaponry, but tanks themselves. Hon Ran also houses perhaps the worst sex scene in anime to date, and believe me; I’ve seen some shitloads of animated sex scenes. The story is something about a Hon Ran, or Crimson Warrior, who is destined to rise against evil entities and defeat them. Honestly, I don’t recall much about Hon Ran, but dammit it’s somewhat entertaining in a weird way. Hon Ran’s also just as violent as any stereotypical 80’s OVA, so it’s recommended to have children with you to desensitize them as soon as possible.


Oh, more ultraviolence! Spirit Warrior (or Kujaku Oh) is directed by Rintarou, the man who is partially responsible of such shows as Doomed Megalopolis, X/1999, Harmagedon and the ’69 Moomins. In the series bunch of manly priest warriors first fight atavistic cryptofacists in Tibet, until the series reboots itself completely and the same men then fight some of the famous men of Japan’s history while saving bunch of ladies in distress. Honestly, this is pretty bad, but what Spirit Warrior has going is that it actually has good basis to exist. The comic is pretty decent and the game for the Sega Mega Drive is infamous for being one of the first games where people noticed that there’s both Western and Japanese version on the same cartridge. This kind of brainless violence is always fun to watch.

Now let’s leave the ultaviolence for a moment and let’s concentrate on awesome 80’s America as seen by drug filled 80’s Japanese animators.


The very first thing you might notice about California Crisis is how awesome it looks. This has to be one of the most expensive single episode OVA produced, as the amount of lines and the colours, as well as the general style used has to fetch rather high amount of time, but also love, to produce. I’ve got no idea how much cocaine the staff took while doing this OVA (hint; much less than in Dragon Half) but whatever; California Crisis is hilarious on its own rights. Basically it’s a story about two people going all around California with a space McGuffin while the government or some other highly organized people are chasing them. California Crisis is high on my list because of how insane amounts of shading it has, and how it looks. It’s a joyride and an attack to the senses.

Go Nagai is well remembered as one of the most influential person to the modern Japanese animation culture in general alongside other masters, but I’d argue that this dirty uncle was one of the first people to draw a porn comic for kids. Because, y’know, kids need to be educated on porn! Go Nagai’s Abarashi Family is an old and oddly warmly remembered series from this old bastard, which got an animation adaptation much like his other works.


Much like some other works from Uncle Go, one needs to have certain kind of cold and analytical attitude towards Abarashi Family’s abundance of violence, sex, teasing, sleaze rape and all those things. It’s entertainment as hell, because just sometimes you need to have fun made of these things, and somehow Uncle Go just makes them fun. No, not really, but dammit this much sleaze just has to be fun as hell. Mostly because it’s also completely insane.

On a more light-hearted note, Scramble Wars sort of prototypical cross-over OVA, which took a lot of influences from Hanna-Barbera’s Wacky Racers, where the animation studio just took shitloads of their licenses into one super deformed race of complete insanity.


Scramble Wars’ concept was later used in SD Gundam series and some other works, but Scramble Wars can be called as kind of stepping stone in this SD crossovers. It’s fun to watch after Abarashi Family has forced you to take a long, cold and cleansing shower.

80’s schlock OVA had a long lasting effect in both style and direction for better or worse. Certain hyperviolence stuck to the 90’s TV animation and movies and not only because the directors and animators got those jobs, but because the OVAs had such an effect. Their bold and insane effect can still be seen in the modern games, movies and animation in general. The generous amount of blood and gore, the certain stylistic approach that Obari and his masters were engineering and generally an attitude that never really seeped through anywhere else. While shit can always be shit, there’s also shit that’s beautiful to watch and entertaining.

One of the modern OVAs that have spirit of these shit OVAs is Mazinkaiser SKL. While not really shit, there’s unmistakeable amounts of similar elements there that the previously mentioned OVAs has, albeit in more modern form. I mentioned SKL to be the last of its kind in the previous entry to the History of OVA, but it demands repetition; as much as Mazinkaiser SKL is just “decent” it encompasses all the good and bad that the 80’s OVA had to offer, and it stands pretty much all alone in the 2000’s offering on OVAs.

At this point I have to give credit to Dr.Nick. His help on making these synopsis’ was a life saver.

Next time we’ll take a look at bunch of good OVAs from the 80’s, and if we’re lucky I’m going overboard and putting in some 00’s shows as well.

 

 

 

From LaserDisc to DVD; how original video animation paved way for modern consumer culture

This is a text adaptation of a presentation given at Kawacon 2012

Direct-to-video has a bad reputation these days. Back in the very late 70’s and up till mid-80’s direct-to-video productions were not regarded as lower quality production, but were seen as competently produced products. However, there is a section of direct-to-video products that have arguably always stayed as somewhat of quality products of sorts and have not really dropped into same hole as most other of their brethren; the OVA.

OVAs, or Original Video Animations are one of Japan’s unique product. They came to be because the animators and writers who worked in the major studios in 70’s wanted more freedom in the products they wanted to make, and that the 80’s Japan had a large economical boom that allowed vast amount of money be spent on such trivialities as funding animation videos.

Before we wonder any deeper to the subject and formats, we have to get clear what an OVA is. There are numerous different variations of said term;

OVA = Original Video Animation
OAV = Original Adult/Animation Video
ONA = Original ‘Net Animation
ODA = Original DVD Animation
OBA = Original BluRay Disc Animation

For all intents and purposes the most used one is Original Video Animation. OAV was coined by the fandom to separate it from “kiddie” animation. All the rest are terms that were tried to push in, but only ONA has made a small breakthrough. However, all others are either purely fanbased terms or one-use words that nobody uses.

OVAs are usually seen a hyperviolent robotsfests with lots of bare skin and filled with sex. Some of them are, and anime in was regarded like this due to the massive amount of OVAs licensed to the West. Anime in general wouldn’t be as known as it is in the west without the OVA of the 80’s, but the same boom also created home video markets in Japan and also affected same markets in the US, which also contributed to the victory of VHS over LaserDisc and BetaMAX. OVAs, as in any medium, has large variety of content; OVAs also had touching romance, historical stories and simple children’s stories. Overlooking the stigma they have is important.

In the most basic sense, OVAs are movies, or series of movies. The contents could be anything the staff wanted it to be, as OVA had no restrictions what it could and could not have unlike TV animation. As in their heart, OVAs should exhibit property of being original, as in the story and animation within is created for this product, and is not adaptation from anywhere else. Needless to say OVA soon became a way to animate obscure comics and stories that would’ve never seen daylight in other mediums otherwise. After the initial boom had started, some of the big companies like Sunrise started creating their own OVAs as well, most notables from them being the Gundam side stories 0083: Stardust Memory and 0080: War in the Pocket. Other smaller companies also did their fair share of OVAs in the 80’s, and one of the most loved and well known has to be Aim for the top! Gunbuster.


Gunbuster also got a sequel in the 00’s

After the 80’s ended and the 90’s began the economical boom that kept OVAs afloat died. Many of the projects that were meant to be OVAs were turned into TV-series of variety of length, and thus gave birth to 12-episode series. This also began the trend of having long series with nothing really happening in them, leading into pacing problems and underwhelming series, as most TV-animations do have much higher limitations what can be shown and what can’t, thou that didn’t seem to stop anyone back then. The anime we have nowadays is a bastard child of the 90’s TV and 80’s OVA, where pretty much nothing happens but there’s still unnecessary fanservice. Similarly as OVAs were targeted towards certain niche group, the TV series have nowadays do the same and this is both illogical and stupid. OVAs as well changed from original stories to direct adaptations with higher budget and extra contents or episodes. As such, the 80’s OVA can be considered dead and it has been replaced with neo-OVA of sorts, which shares the sickness and many of the modern television shows in general.

The Formats

OVAs were released across the formats, but I’ll be concentrating on three main formats in the late 70’s and 80’s. Let’s start with LaserDisc.


Look at the size of that thing!


LaserDisc’s were originally invented in the late 50’s, but were released to the public in 1978. Techwise they reside somewhere between the DVD and LP discs, and the discs are actually the same size as your normal LP but are also twice as thick. LaserDisc was the choice of audiophiles for a long time, as it produced the most clear picture and the most crisp sound money can buy.

Your normal LD disc weights around 500 grams, and were prone to break from the seams between the two sides either due to manual breakdown or due to laser rotting, where the glue that held the sides together would lose it’s strenght. Speaking of the sides, each side could hold max. 30min or 60min of video, which was problematic. In the middle of a film you had to change the sides unless you had a player that could change the side automatically via rotating the reader.

There was also the problem that LD players could only play, not record similarly to most modern DVD players. For the time, LDs were rather difficult to use. While they were originally cheaper to produce than VHS or BetaMAX tapes, VHS tapes became much cheaper by the mid-80’s, LD players still cost more than your normal VHS players, and took more room, were noisier and all that. Because of combination of these, and the success of a rivalling format, the LaserDisc lost the format race of the 80’s. It never got popular in the US outside importers and audiophiles, but saw a limited success in Asia.

Nowadays collecting LDs is honestly something that is either really hard to do, or is borderline stupid to do. DVD remasters offer better quality than LD and is easier to get. European and American LDs tend to cost few bucks, but the shipping is just insane, and the second-hand players cost twice as much as they should. Internet auction sites and secondhand stores are your best option to purchase LDs, but you need dig some dough to be able to pay the requested prices.


The BetaMax tapes had less tape than VHS as well

The BetaMax was first developed in the 1971 and was developed by a small group of people who would split apart, and this development would lead into VHS as well. As such, both Beta and VHS are based on the same tech, but branched off from each other at some point. The Beta standard was released with full driving force of the 70’s SONY in 1975 and they sincerely tried to drive it to become the standard all film industry would use. Sure, the format had an early launch, but the machines and tapes were a bit expensive and difficult to use. The early machines could only record, which was seen as a drawback by the consumers. Because of this the Beta was somewhat difficult to use, not to mention the higher price of the tapes. LD was cheaper at that time.

By the 80’s the production of both VHS and Beta was cheaper than producing LDs, but the wider acceptance of VHS format the BetaMax became secondary format for making movies. Audiophiles wanted to use Beta because of its superior quality and ignoring its shortcomings, like that it could only hold 60min of tape, thou some later cassettes did have more time. However, Beta died in the 80’s as it was abandoned slightly earlier than LD because nobody used it. It’s still warmly remembered by fans.


GODDAMMIT WRONG BETA

I presume every single one of you who are reading this has used a VHS deck. I’ve got nothing much to add to what you already know of the format, as the major bulk of you grew with it. The VHS is the worst in quality, but it won because it became cheapest to produce by the 80’s, as producing one VHS cost one dollar, whereas one LD cost five dollars. VHS also had variety of lengths, which was part of the reason why it became so popular, not to mention it was also the easiest format to use and had more versatile functions out of all of the three formats. The maximum amount of tape a VHS can have is 420m, but the tape would be rather thin.

VHS was released 1976, and by released I mean that the first player was in Hotel Okura, and then it slowly crept around the world. While many people say that porn was the reason why VHS won, it’s really because it was the most multifunctional and easiest format to work with. OVAs drove VHS markets in Japan, as prior to that there was no home video market as we know it today. This is important, as OVAs were one of the major forces that made the home video industry realize that there is demand. Because of this demand many series saw VHS releases in the 80’s, and this effect could also be felt in the West. Movies and similar did see VHS releases as well, but before OVA came in shows like Balatack were not on VHS, unless somebody had taped them from TV.

This is how importing to the West worked back in the early 80’s. You had to have a contact in Japan to get your hands on these things on VHS. The other way was to have a store that would import them for you. Usually this means that you have a catalogue in Japanese with small 1×1 inch pictures of something. If it looked interesting, you bought it. VHS tapes cost around hundred bucks back then (taking inflation in to count, that’s around $213 for ONE VHS), and then you’d have to wait months to get something back. LDs were cheaper to import as they were around 70 bucks. Thus anime fans tended to import LDs and purchase expensive LD players. Of course, everything was in the devil’s language and very few people could translate the events on the screen for their friends.

In conventions the anime rooms had somebody explaining what was going on by pausing the tape at certain intervals. Otherwise you only had a paper that said what the story was about, or most often nothing at all. Fansubbing did not exist. In comparison I watched the live stream of Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse last night without any subs, and the subs were out this morning. The Iczer-1 LDs I purchased from Rakuten a week a go and they were delivered in five days. The times we live in are much easier, and we should be thankful for it.

As 80’s OVA boom was loosely a product of two things; animators and directors who wanted more freedom and change of pace, and the economical boom that Japan was under. The OVA saw certain kind of death when the economical bubble burst, and many of the OVA projects were converted into TV shows, which gave birth to 12 episode series. This also lead some shows to have somewhat limited content and plots that didn’t really go anywhere outside key episodes. As such the modern anime we have is a bastard child where nothing really happens and movie long stories are spread across 12 or 24 episodes. Then we have schlock like K-On! which has nothing happening in them.

OVA filled a certain niche in the 80’s and always targeted itself towards these niche customers. During the boom the most successful OVAs were like golden goose, but then there are many others that failed miserably and the time has forgotten them. The shows nowadays try to market themselves similarly to 80’s OVA and targets certain audience only. TV animation has gotten expensive since the 80’s and got even more expensive because of the HD standard, and thus most series are not making their money back. This is the key reason the industry is dying, not because of lack in ingenuity or the like.

OVAs also are the reason we have series released on DVD. DVD claimed VHS’ markets at the end of the 90’s, which saw larger series releases due to cheaper mass production values. As such we can either be grateful to OVAs for the VHS boom, or blame them for the same thing.

Here’s a nice piece of trivia before we go into the four first important OVAs; by 2012 VHS is still the most favoured recording format in the US due to the large number of VHS decks, and largely around the world as well. VHS has been slowly been replaced by digital recordings, but VHS is still the most common.

But now, let’s speak of OVAs themselves.

Dallos


Dallos was the first real OVA released in 1983 by Studio Pierrot. It was directed by Mamoru Oshii, who would later garner much fame with his movie adaptation of the Ghost in the Shell. It’s a four episode OVA with and extra episode, and even then the story is left unfinished. Dallos was put up by bunch of ex-Tatsunoko employees, and as such the style is clearly very 70’s, but there’s a hints of new winds, as one of the animators was none other than mr. Obari himself, who defined certain aesthetics all by himself. Well, almost.

So, what is Dallos about? Earth government oppressing people who live at the Moon surface and people there fight back at guerilla warfare until the fight for Dallos begins which is some sort of supernatural being or something. The plot’s not that interesting even if it has some potential. It conveys the same message as most of the late-70’s series, especially Mobile Suit Gundam, and it really hammers it in in the fourth episode.

Dallos isn’t bad as much it is dull. The animation is pretty mediocre except in action scenes, the colours of the world are bleached and the music isn’t anything to write home about. Most of the rips out there also suffer from bad translation. Dallos did see an English adaptation in ’86 named Battle for the Moon station Dallos, but reports say that its as like watching Warriors of the Wind over Nausicaä. Finding either of them most likely will be the exact same experience.

Sadly, Dallos also pioneered one of the bad points of OVAs, which is that it will be unfinished for all eternity. The series did get good in the fourth episode when they found their style and pace, but it was far too late at that point already. What Dallos did was that there was a market for direct-to-video animation, and launched a slow but steady start for the OVA boom. However, Dallos was soon forgotten for the time being when another OVA was released, and punched itself through like bullet.

Fight!! Iczer-One


A 1985 release, Iczer-One was Toshiki Hirano’s brainchild in the Lemon People magazine (we’ll get to that later on) and was animated by studio AIC, which also worked on bulk of the OVAs produced. Iczer-One was relatively successful and managed to pierce certain barriers about the quality of VHS and OVAs in general.

Iczer-One is one of the first OVAs in general, and at the time collected quite a lot of attention and was regarded as one of the highest quality OVA works, and Iczer-One still has a loyal group of followers. Recently Iczer-One got a spotlight of sorts for being in Super Robot Wars L for the Nintendo DS, but because of the economics in the 90’s and current disinterest in old series we’re never going to see the end of the Iczer-saga. It doesn’t help that Hirano seems to be lazy bastard who can’t end his works properly anyway, as evident by the dropped Iczer-One prequel comic.

Iczer-One is about a race called Cthulhu taking over the Earth, and only Iczer-One can stand between total annihilation of the human race, but only if one girl is willing to become her partner and give her enough strength, as well as push Iczer-Robo to its absolute limits.

Iczer-One has higher level of animation than Dallos, and the story is more coherent as well as focused. Iczer-One did receive full three episode (or short movies) and finished the story. It’s actually pretty funny to look at Dallos and Iczer-One side to side and notice how much Dallos is your low level OVA whereas Iczer-One nails every OVA trope there is; nudity, sex, ultraviolence, insanely beautiful scenes, gore, that 80’s music and story that is best not to think too much about. It’s short, it’s sweet and worth your time to be honest.

Cream Lemon


Cream Lemon wasn’t the first adult erotica OVA in 1984, as it was preceded by Lolita Anime by some months. However, unlike Lolita Anime Cream Lemon actually has some quality.

Cream Lemon stories are based on Lemon People magazine’s stories, which span between all genres from sci-fi to cyberpunk to fantasy to complete comedy and so on. In spirit it could be compared to the Heavy Metal magazine, except it’s even more explicit, but more harmless and concentrating on the cute side of sexiness rather than crude blackness. As such only handful of Cream Lemon stories have an ongoing plot from part to part.

Cream Lemon most likely encouraged Lemon People stories to be turned into OVAs, as happened with Iczer-1. Because of this such series as Project A-ko was also developed, but at one point of the project it was decided to that it should exist as its own product outside Cream Lemon. There are notable elements in the first OVA where Cream Lemon themes exist or is directly referenced at.

Cream Lemon was rather successful series and gained numerous sequels, and ultimately outlived its parent magazine. While some of the stories are lacklustre and downright bad, there are numerous gems and points of interest that still hold up to this day. However, I can’t but wonder why Pop Chaser is one of the most popular of the bunch.

MegaZone 23

Without much doubt it was MegaZone 23 that ultimately kicked the OVA boom into full flower in 1985. MegaZone 23 was created in the same vain and spirit as Macross and was meant to be a sequel to Mospeada, but the main investor withdrew the last possible second, leaving the staff with almost complete plot and many animated sequences. Thus it was decided to turn the series into an OVA and the rest is history.

MegaZone 23 is your standard high-class OVA filled with gorgeous animation filled with plotholes and explicit sex scene amidst everything else. It was popular and still stays popular in otaku culture. MegaZone 23 is a product of its time, showcasing the best and worst of 80’s Japan and rather interesting light. I recommend listening to ADV’s dub on it, because it really adds more 80’s feeling to it. [Suomalaisille lukijoille sanottakoon, että ADV’n dubbi vetää niin syvässä kasarihengessä, että allekirjoittanutta melkein sattuu muutamassa kohdassa nauramiselle.]

MegaZone 23 received two sequels; a two part OVA called Part II and one OVA movie in the early 90’s called Part III. The story in the first part is about people living their normal lives without knowing that they were aboard a spaceship, and all is controlled by a computer. Only high ranking high-ranking military officials were aware of this, until a motorcycle known as Bahamoud falls into the main character’s hands, and then he finds out that his world is a charade, and the computer controlling is also a superidol known as EVE. The first part ends where the main character loses.

The US importers found MegaZone 23 extremely exciting. It sort of launched massive amounts of imports, which also lead into localization of such series as Dirty Pair, which found more audience in the West than in Japan. It can be argued that MegaZone 23’s release was at the time when people were looking for something
and found OVAs to be that one thing; it was for a niche that wasn’t really a niche, but a large customer base.

The OVAs we have nowadays are a far cry from their ancestors. Majority of them are special slapped on discs or almost direct adaptations from novels and comics. The Originality does not exist any more. All that was once in the OVAs is now poured into TV animation where it doesn’t belong. Because of this the anime industry is dying, not because we haven’t had the Second Evangelion.

The 2000’s anime boom was partly because of bulk of licensed OVAs of varying quality. There is rather recent phenomena of reviewing what people call shit OVAs. I’ve got no problem with these, as bulk of them truly are nothing but crap. Well animated, but crap nevertheless. Movies like the Crimson Wolf (Hon Ran) and Spirit Warrior are prime examples of this kind of shows.

There’s one OVA that I’d consider to be one of the last of its kind; Mazinkaiser SKL.


While Mazinkaiser SKL is very loosely based on GO Nagai’s Mazinger saga, it is truly it’s own production and is far more original than any other OVA produced during the last five to ten years.

To put it short, OVAs were a phenomena that was partially reason of the victory of VHS and showed the way of Home Video in Japan. The current consumer culture where we have loads of series loaded on the store shelves can be traced back to shows like Iczer-One and to their success.