Forceful franchising

There has been a slew of bombs in the box office as of late. The latest Terminator met a dark fate of its own, and that reboot of Charlie’s Angels was a disaster to the same extent. If we were to got back few years, you can fill Star Wars into this as well. There are more flicks that fall among these three, but outside having a certain kind of political message to them, all three also had a second common factor; they were all forced.

By forced I mean that whatever the writers, directors etc wanted to do was forced on the franchise. It wasn’t just the political message that what forced, but the whole franchise is mangled and twisted to fit that mould. This forcing square peg into a round hole doesn’t need to be political though, it can range from that to a story that simply doesn’t work. Take the Terminator for example, a two movies series that, at its core, was about how we can choose to live and change the future. Any sequels to Terminator 2 would render the whole point of the two movies completely moot, which all of them did. Any and all stories set after the second have been nothing but microwaving the same leftovers over and over until nothing is left, until someone throws some goop on it to remoisturise it. Ends up being a terrible meal, just like Terminator: Dark Fate ended up being. Future War, the war against the machine seen in the two movies, would’ve made great material as a sequel and prequel at the same time. Showcasing the future that was prevented in all of its post-apocalyptic glory would’ve made great material, worth a trilogy of its own, but the closest thing we ever get to something like this on film was Terminator Salvation and that was terrible. For whatever reason, the franchise’s writers have some kind of hardon to shit on John Connor. Destroying a legacy character that is considered a major part of the franchise to any significant extension rarely goes well with the audience. You don’t need to look any further than Star Wars for another example of this, where all the Original Trilogy characters and concepts have been intentionally eradicated. Killing John Connor in the latest Terminator movie just for someone else to take his spot is not just an insult to Terminator 2, but a slap to the audience’s collective faces.

If you’re doing an entry to a franchise, you don’t get to tell your own story. You have to fit whatever you are intending to tell in that readily made setting without contradicting it too much. Otherwise it will not only cheapen the franchise as a whole, but also take away how believable your work is. Fanfiction writers are a good example for both better and worse, where some can write stories that don’t contradict the pre-established works but also supplants them, raising the overall value of the writing. Sometimes these people get to write new stories for their favourite franchise or similar, but on the other hand, you got the writers who intentionally disregard the pre-set world and proceed to write whatever is cool for them. The whole Mary Sue issue nothing short of common problem, something we see more often in ‘official’ franchise works nowadays. Star Wars again is a sad example, though I’ll cite The Force Unleashed‘s Galen Marek as an example here, as he has a lot of common with Rey, Both are “inspired” by Star Wars’ prototype material and both end up being very powerful in rather unassuming circumstances all the while making large and significant effects to the whole story despite not really having any reason to. I admit though that Marek/Starkiller was trained by Darth Vader, but that alone should raise some hairs. Sure, the whole thing about Sith backstabbing each other wasn’t anything new, but retreading the ground of What if Vader had an apprentice? was rather weak, especially when it turns out Marek ultimately played a large party in setting up the Rebellion… rather than, y’know, the people who clearly set up the Rebellion in Episode III and in previous materials.

I guess the success of the latest Rambo movie should show something Hollywood is missing most of the time. Reheating an old franchise is OK, as long as there is a point and doesn’t serve as a vehicle for something else, be it for an ego project, a trophy project or a political message as its main driver. In (John) Rambo we saw the titular character returning to home after all these years of seclusion and staying away, and while I’d consider that as the definitive end for the character’s story, Rambo: Last Blood visits the character’s everyday life once more, and to show that he can’t escape violence. The audience score on Rotten Tomatoes is rather positive 82%, and apparently most of the movie goers were women, if reports are to be believed. Much like how the gaming press writes to the developers rather than the customers, the movie reviewing professionals tend to review films for Hollywood, and often with an angle. Their score for the movie is 27%, which either shows that the larger audience has completely different taste in movies than the industry, or that the reviewers and Hollywood have lost all touch with the audiences. Most likely it’s partially both, and considering reviewers nowadays are dependent on the studios for review copies and favours, they are more inclined to give positive reviews than not. Ah, to be independent and burn bridges by trying to be honest.

That is not to say that you can’t have your own story or political message in a franchise work. Rather the opposite, but it also requires working the opposite way. Rather than slapping it on the surface like it was some sort of sticker, Hollywood (and games industry) is missing how it needs to be weaved as a part of the natural workings of the framework. Something like Jurassic Park is able to get away with its environmental message by having it as the major part of the work, but also balance it with everything else. Even during the dinner scene, where characters discuss the nature of genetics and whether or not it is for human to meddle with nature, we’re not left with just one side as we continue to marvel all that what has been criticised has left us. Star Trek rarely took the easy path during its more difficult episodes, especially during the best seasons of The Next Generation, while Discovery does the exact opposite, ridiculing and laughing instead of, y’know, taking the hard route and showcase characters as people rather than caricatures. Episodes like Darmok, Inner Light and Chain of Command didn’t only challenge the actors, but also the viewers. The Measure of a Man of course falls into this category as well, putting an ethical dilemma on the forefront, balancing on the issue without directly taking one clear side. While there is a story resolution, the episode still lingers. It is, ultimately, how well something is made. It’s like a good gravy; if you fuck it up, the lumps will make it terrible.

The Moving American Dream

Why is Disney adapting their animated works into live-action? has been a question asked more time than answered. Money is of course the answer, and plays a large, major part in whatever decision Disney does, but it’s also about the good ol’ attitude of Animation isn’t enough. The film, movie, flick or whatever you want to call them, is still considered to be the top form of art in the American culture, which then has spread across the world to some extent. This of course does not apply globally, we know Japan loves its animation about as much as it loves its live-acted ones, but embraces them completely differently from a cultural point of view. Consider porn, for example. You got relatively large amounts of drawn and cartoon porn in Japan and very few will bat an eye to it, but in America, no such industry exist in the same way. The American culture couldn’t have created something like Lemon People in the 1980’s. Hell, technically the comic I compare it to, Heavy Metal, was originally French comic called Métal Hurlant. But when it comes to live performances caught on film, there’s nothing quite Hollywood.

What Golden Age of Hollywood sold to its public, and through that to the culture at large, was a window. What this window sold was glimpses to glory, to love, to murder, to horror and yearning the human soul is heir to. You can see the people through the window and embrace their stories as they’re shown, not told. When you sit a theater to watch a movie, you see through the window the faux-reality presented and you’re sold on it. It’s wish fulfillment, whatever it is. Perhaps we want to see how badly someone else’s life is through gruesomely realistic depiction of some wretched bastard taking another shot of heroin and beating the shit out of one’s family to have something to contrast to our own lives, or perhaps that one glorious, fabulous story about love between two completely opposite people in stance and personality ultimately break the accepted mould the society has set up, coming at the top and showing nothing can stand in the way of true love. The Hollywood film has sold its viewers thousands upon thousands of stories and emotion to the point of becoming the way to do so. Books are fine, but you can’t see the world, not really. Animation offers all the possibilities, but it’s animation, not real. Movies on the other hand, they show you that it’s (fake) real.

The reality of films is not created by just the actors, though the play the most important part. Even when the sets and costumes might be drab and the everything looks fake, as long as the actor can sell you the role and the emotions their characters are going through, you’re sold. Everything else comes after. The sets, the costumes, the special effects, all that is there to sell the reality of things. Even if it’s science fiction or fantasy, as long as you can see it on screen with people, you can believe what you see through that window. Add in the music, that more often than not is intended to support the scenes, pull your heart strings, make it beat harder, seed fear in to the back of your head or have your stomach hurt from laughter.

The live part is important, as that is the true connection we make through the window. While animation does have all the other elements, it lacks the real person on screen. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? doesn’t count, and neither do the Marvel flicks, despite being 90% of computer generated animation rather than the reality itself. That is strange in itself. The Western attitude towards animation became that it is only for children or child minded some time after the Second World War, and perhaps it’s Disney we should put blame on, because pre-war cartoons and animations were for all ages and adult animations were a thing. The cultural shift wasn’t a done deal overnight, or within a decade even, but a gradual shift as movies as a media matured. Perhaps that choice of word puts it in the right place when it comes to what happened; in the minds of people who grew up, things had to be more mature. Silly cartoons with silly characters doesn’t cut it, and the sentiment seems to have spread from there. Animation, despite allowing impossible depictions, just doesn’t stand up to the window of reality. With most big even blockbuster movies the animation has taken its role as depicting the impossible while you still have some resemblances of that window to reality. Superman told you that you’d believe a man can fly, and that was a massive special effects extravaganza for its time. Now, it’s quint, something anyone and their mothers could do via Windows Movie Maker’s special effects tab, or whatever the modern alternatives are.

Perhaps the example how the media are seen are best embodied with 1980’s films-into-cartoons groove, where movies like Robocop and Rambo saw Saturday morning cartoons made out of them. You could give any film franchise this treatment, like Aliens. Well, it never got made, but you had Conan the Adventurer to take its place. Perhaps it’s the fact that kids tend to watch more cartoons, but is that because cartoons are more made for kids? Or is that there aren’t cartoons that are made for adults in the same manner? Perhaps that’s what the Marvel and other comic book movies are, cartoons for adults. We can still call them live-action because there’s an actor on the screen and some live places, but majority of it is special effects and computer rendered backgrounds.

Whatever we call Hollywood to be, an empty and vapid cesspool of actors and directors living in a bubble, or peddlers of dreams and stories, it sold us the culture of film and they are perceived, for better or worse. The appreciation of film is at the top of the ladder. A comic isn’t enough, a book isn’t enough, a cartoon isn’t enough, a TV-show isn’t enough. It can be made into a movie. A million dollar production with bombastic soundtrack that shows the richness of the story and the depth of the characters with fully realised and believable world. All seen through that one window, the silver screen. The film is the end-all top of American art, where all other forms of art go become one unit. Movies have cultured a near religion around them, a modern myth of its myth and importance above all. No other form of media can compete with them. Well, except computer and video games that have larger markets.

Movies are inherently passive, you are sitting there only to watch and listen, never participate. Games have been chasing movies in presentation and how they tell their stories since early on, never really realising that the player is the actor and his actions are the story worth, not the readily set scenes. The mindset we still have from movies and other media is that we are presented a story separate from the consumer, something we must observe. Games inherently break this, unless the game is stopped for that story to take place. There are attempts where these same scenes are set during play, where characters may yell stuff during a boss fight, but that’s still passively listening to a performance. Gaming at its core fights against this, as the core is still from wholly different culture of games, not of theater. Games are active storytelling; the mission to collect five coins is not the story, but the action of collecting of those coins is. In a movie, you’d get a montage or a music scene to skip the boring walking bits, but for a game those walking bits are the main story, and that main story changes with every player. No player plays the same way and films will never be able to have that. Whenever you replay a game, it will be a slightly different story. Perhaps your character is rogue instead of a knight this time around. Movies never change. You can not take a game and make it a movie without breaking it and vice versa. You can take the framing of the game and make that into a movie, but never the game itself. It’s no wonder streaming and eSports are popular nowadays as those could be argued to be the only true representation of games in passive form; they are live theater with no script other than what the game allows.

It’s not surprise lots of film makers want to get into making games, but more often than not, their involvement has produced largely low-quality products. A movie doesn’t make a good game. Framing games in terms of storytelling like movies will end up with a lacklustre game. Viewed as a film it may be a good product, but at that point you might as well make your game into an animated feature, or take the same amount of money and produce a movie. It’d be outright laughable to say any story would be too weird or hard to make a movie out of. Hell, the amount of weird shit out there due to all the indie movies we’ve seen through the years beats games in the weirdness factor by a mile or three. Hideo Kojima probably won’t be making a movie, because Hollywood and film makers overall don’t understand how games truly tell the story, and this seems to apply the same with many developers. There is a deep contradicting element how games tell their story, and how they are made to tell the story. Part of it is because passive storytelling is glorified. Games are, after all, about choice. The passive approach stifles this. Some games manage to weave the story where the player is in-person all the time without any breaks in the way, while others intend to tell one story and one story only. In a game this can only be done by breaking the game itself and make the player passive parts, because traditional storytelling expects you to sit back and watch as the teller tells his tale. Thank God for Skip button.

Companies like Nintendo and Capcom consistently have taken advantage of movies and television as vehicles to promote their main products, the games. Street Fighter the Movies might be a terrible movie on its own rights, but it is an excellent vehicle to make the consumer aware of the brand. It doesn’t need to be accurate to the games as long as its remotely similar and the same names. The movie, when it comes to Capcom, is secondary. It’s not the end-all product. It’s brings in money and consumer awareness, both of which are turned to produce new games and that awareness is taken advantage. More people will be aware of Monster Hunter as a brand whenever that film comes out, despite MH World breaking series records. Yet Capcom’s stance on the movies is that they’re great marketing vehicle, just big budget commercials. Y’know, on the same treatment level as the detergent commercial on telly, just with more in-depth plot and characters with music to go with it. There has been a slow shift how movies are seen with new generations that have grown with computer and video games, and the older generations who value Hollywood and films more don’t seem to understand what makes a game tick.

Nevertheless, movies’ position hasn’t really changed in the last fifty odd years, and probably won’t change until something that could kick it off the pole. In many ways, movies took the place live theater had. Gaming probably won’t dethrone films despite being a bigger industry, as its origin and place in consumer media inhabits a different ecosystem. At some point a new form of entertainment will kick in, but much like how movies are successors to theater, I’ll bet the dethroning will be done by a media that will grow out from films. Same goes for video games. It might not be until technology advances to some unimaginable point in the future we won’t be alive to see, but progress can’t be stopped. Unless we manage to nuke ourselves back to the stone age. Better learn how to make pine cone animals while you still can.

The creator doesn’t matter, but the creator matters

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

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

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

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

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

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

Multi-disk/c

When looking back at these last few generations of gaming consoles, sometimes it seems like they have been exceptional in some ways. Not in terms of games, quality or the like, but the machines themselves. Outside Nintendo’s offerings, the HD Twins, as they were called, don’t really separate themselves too much anymore from what they do and how. Both Sony and Microsoft tend to push similar boundaries with their consoles without really doing anything special on the side. Microsoft has that whole Windows ecology to work with, and the Xbox brand has become their universal mark of gaming, more or less. Sony’s jumping the multiplatform cross-over play, for whatever reason, but I guess now that developers can make shit work across all major platforms is a positive thing to have in your back pocket. Then you have the whole upgraded systems thing, which hasn’t been a thing since the second generation of consoles, but came back rather hard with all the new upgraded consoles all the three major console companies have been pumping out. Guess the first modern example would be DSi.

One thing that seems to be making a comeback is games spanning multiple discs. Historically speaking this has always been a thing in gaming, with old PC games spanning multiples diskettes. I remember Beneath the Steel Sky coming on fifteen disks on the Amiga. X-Plane 10 supposedly spans eight DVDs. Everquest 2 was on ten CDs when it was released. Command and Conquer may have only come on two discs, one of each having campaign for the two respectable sides. Consoles didn’t have multi-cartridge games in similar manner due to how you can’t just yank the cart from the console without the danger of damaging both the console and the game. After all, there is a live current going through the cart, it is effectively part of the machine itself. Disk and discs are read and not part of the PCB, after all.

Not to say multi-disc games have been gone at any point really. The X360 used DVDs and many of its larger games came on multiple discs compared to their PlayStation 3 counterparts. Lords of Shadow is one, for example, and came on two discs. Blue Dragon supposedly required three. The Blu-Ray Disc, or BD, really allowed just to throw everything on the disc uncompressed. It’s sound files that most often take the space hungry spot, be it music or voices. Mostly voices nowadays. Because of practices like this, game filesizes have been increasing steadily to the point of stupid. Games that are several tens of gigabytes, or perhaps even hundreds, could be shaved down in size by compressing and packing things properly, but it seems that skill has been lost to modern game developers. Maybe it’s because all the tools and engines that are around are readily made and nobody really wants to tackle a problem nobody sees a problem, at least not in the industry itself. Consumers on the other hand tend to groan when they have to wait for several hours for their game to download when it’s a digital entry, not to mention shit has to be installed. I miss the days when I could throw a game inside a console and let ‘er rip, but nowadays I need to sit back and wait another thirty minutes it to install. There’s a damn good reason I keep playing Switch more than PS4 nowadays.

It’s strange to think that multiple discs per game would be a detriment in itself as it has been a standard practice, well, since the first floppy diskette couldn’t hold all the DnD characters some nerd had cooked up during his university days. Reading a bit around, I can’t really find any bonafide dislike toward multi-disc games, but there are some individuals here and there that seem to consider the industry is pushing for digital-only due to lack of space per disc, like Allie-RX, a Youtuber of some sorts. Should we consider multiple discs to be a valid reason to further a push for digital-only materials? Hard to say, but it might as well be one of the arguments, but with modern politics, the argument wouldn’t sway to the direction of lack of space. It’d be about how it is more environmentally more sound to have digital-only, that we’re going to save the planet by not printing all that plastic. Wording which is largely horse shit. As space limitation on the disc, BD XL has 128 Gb of space, and 4K Ultra HD BD discs offer some 100Gb. While we talk about terabytes and petabytes in modern computing as the standard large-scale units, we a game taking over 100Gb should raise an eyebrow and make you question what exactly is taking all that space. As mentioned, it’s largely the uncompressed data on the disc and the lack of know-how regarding compression and packing. We’re well past the era when developers had to develop new compression algorithms to shove everything to a disc or cut down the number of discs. For example, Capcom had to come up new effective ways to compress all sprite data of Mega Man X4 in order not to run out of space. The PlayStation really sucked for 2D sprite games with its limited RAM, and some companies had to come up clever ways to change the sprites in memory on the fly. Then you have companies that want to go for the flashy stuff, like Square and its FMVs in same era Final Fantasy games. Despite their quality and compression, these FMVs still took majority of the discs’ space. If you’d remove the FMVs from the games, each game would’ve fit into one CD just fine. That, I would argue, is where modern mindset comes from. It’s not that there isn’t enough space on modern discs, but that developers don’t need to concern themselves with limitation of space. Much like so many other aspects of game development, space is a thing that has lost its limitation and it is very easy just to let it bloat like a dead body in the water. So much rotten hot air inside, and the colour ain’t really healthy either.

Digital isn’t really a solution to the problem the industry supposedly faces. Not everyone has multiple terabytes of free space on their computers. Some people have the minimum required amount of space bloat on their PCs, some can’t even use external devices in of themselves to expand the memory. It’s a case where we may have all this space in our hands, yet there are surprising amount of consumers limited by it. An easy argument for streaming perhaps, but streaming anything has its own issues. It might be a solution for films, music, television and Visual Novels, but not for computer or console games. There is no real solution to any of this, though I guess HVD would be one if they ever managed to finalise this decade old tech and launch it commercially as BD’s successor, but BD still has life left to it. Still, 3.9 Tb of space on a single disc should be more than enough for all your needs regarding movies or games. I doubt people are willing to pay 100 bucks for a movie ever again, unlike what they did with VHS and LDs back in the day. Of course, the industry could also stop wasting space, but that ain’t happening.

It looks like a movie

For some time now, I’ve been wondering what has been the definitive line splitting the old Star Wars and the Disney ones for yours truly. Outside the whole thing that their quality is questionable at best, outright offensively idiotic at worst, the one thing that ultimately stood out was how things were filmed, and ultimately written. This will be largely personal musings without any writer’s approach I usually employ.

Lucas’ directing and camerawork is not suited for big budget movies, as we saw during the Prequel films. Nevertheless we saw evolution of both during those three movies, where characters gained more meat on them as people who trained the actors in acting and effectively pre-directed them were brought in. The scripts, however, were more questionable in quality, but their tone, intention and motions were almost always on-point the same; as if it were real things happening.

This is largely how Lucas has always worked with his films, from building the sets to how he writes them and directs. Filming too, if he can help it. The world as it would be if these things were real. While the movies have the familiar structures to them and certain beats are made, the documentarian approach Lucas used is largely absent from Disney’s Star Wars movies. This approach was costly to him in terms of budget, as special effects, practical effects, the sets and the actors all had to blend in one shot together seamlessly and naturally. For example, in Episode IV after Death Star blows up Alderaan, we get a wide shot from inside of Millennium Falcon, showing the insides of the ship, Chewbacca playing games with the droids and Luke training with Obi-Wan. This shot could have been done cheaper by tightly focused shots that excludes the background, but the way things were filmed, as if they were real rather than a movie, doesn’t allow such budget conscious choices.

Furthermore, levity or jokes come from events and situations naturally. For example, C-3PO in Episode V often works as someone who brings some levity to the events and situation without breaking the tone. It comes through his natural being and interaction, unforced by external factors. For example, when 3PO breaks between Han’s and Leia’s tender moment within the Falcon, the audience doesn’t consider this as a forced joke. Rather, it is 3PO’s nature not to consider such things in his excitement. We saw some of this in Episode IV  as well, but how trusty he is with others to large degree when he has not foreknowledge. However, we should also consider him a strong diplomat, which 3PO shows rather well with the Ewoks in Episode VI. Sure, Lucas didn’t direct Episode V, or have much to do it with it creatively, but this just shows that Star Wars can be done right when in right hands. Nevertheless, the core story was still his.

The Disney Star Wars movies feel like they’ve been scripted and filmed like movies. The best example of this really is the start of The Last Jedi, where you have Your momma jokes shoved into a very deadly serious moment, breaking the tone of the scene and the whole sequence, especially when slapstick Force jokes are then put on the show when General Hux gets dragged on the floor in order to humiliate him. It doesn’t look natural, it doesn’t feel like what these characters would do if the movie was shot if it was real.

While we can always argue that the Disney movies are well made, that there is large effort to have the best look there is to them, the same can be said and argued for all the previous movies. It is easier and cheaper to make a movie look absolutely terrific, beautiful even, than what it was during making of Star Wars or Episode I. None of the modern CGI fests wouldn’t exists in their modern form if Lucas had not pushed the envelope in making his movies, something which ILM opened doors to other production to be lifted to new heights visually and technically, like Jurassic Park. The whole of Marvel movies would not just be possible without Lucas’ way to push technical limitations on the side, and at times it mostly seemed like Lucas was making movies to have something to edit or to try new tricks out. Digital filming broke its first grounds properly with the Prequels, for better or worse, but none of that really exists in Disney films. They’re rather safe to the point a fault. They are movies by the numbers, always using whatever trends currently are about, which is especially clear how Disney Star Wars and Marvel movies largely share the similar forced comedic, and the forced messages that are less than subtle.  Outside plastering Yoda’s face on a box of grapes, I can’t really think of any other way Disney has pushed Star Wars or film making onward. Sure, Lucas did franchise Star Wars like no other as well, but his was nothing compared to what Disney did. Well, maybe making Star Wars toys shelfwarmers should be considered some kind of achievement.

Remember when Star Wars somewhat subtle? Somehow I can’t help but think how Jar Jar’s comedy would be extremely fitting for Disney movies, seeing all the characters want to either act like a wall or a clown.

You could say that making Star Wars as by-the-books film should be enough, but it seems all the people who have been in the leading roles during Disney’s unwatchful eye, it’s a thing hard to actually pull off properly. Some would argue Lucas couldn’t with the Prequels, and with the media turning their tails on The Last Jedi, now calling it controversial instead of arguing how subverting it is, Star Wars is something that can be easily fucked up badly. Subverting expectations also have to lead into something of quality, something that would end in a positive net gain, which sorely is lacking with most stories that try to fail consumer expectations with some twist or another. Conventions and cliches exist for a reason. Denying them as sort of trash from the get-go is not only unproductive, but stupid. Not even a master storyteller can make a grand tale if all he does is fail the expectations of the audience. This doesn’t mean that the teller has to capitulate telling the tales and events the audience wants, but that he strikes with something even better, something that works even better than what they imagined. Unlike this blog.

Perhaps all this is really why Disney Star Wars feels so much like fan fiction. Not only are the new, original characters of the writers better than the original, they’re also eclipsing their roles altogether and failing to have any interesting developments and movements without the originals. Hell, I once argued that recasting all the characters with new actors should have been considered to continue their story after Episode VI, but if the rumours of Disney still paying royalties to Lucas due to him being original creator of most of these characters, it’s very easy to understand why they’d choose to opt killing the old cast in favour of their own. Also the reason why they excised the Expanded Universe, no need to pay any of the previous people anything when you can just push your own stuff. Just trickle an old character here and there as fanservice, that’ll keep the nerds happy. Now that Bob Iger’s autobio is out, we can see him throwing Lucas under the bus, as it states that George Lucas hates Star Wars. He isn’t the only one nowadays. Iger going on about how he didn’t appreciate Disney’s hard work on the new films and how Lucas didn’t like how all of his ideas were ignored reads like a hit piece. No matter how much hard work and effort you put into something, it can just a well amount to nothing. Well, in Star Wars case it has effectively become a tainted franchise thanks to Iger and the rest of the people from whoever that new Lucasfilm head was to J.J. You can’t blame Lucas for you own massive failures. They wanted to take the movies in their own direction, and that direction led to dropping revenues title by title. I can completely understand why Lucas would dislike Disney’s Star Wars, it’s really dumb after all. Most of the audiences seem to think the same way.

Well, can’t say I was there to begin with. The aforementioned Yoda branded grapes and the first initial shots and trailers we saw of The Force Awakens put me off a lot. It didn’t look right, the atmosphere was off, there was something in the back of my head saying this won’t end up well. That little voice of experience has saved me loads of money and headache, and I can honestly say that was the point when I bailed the ship. I wasn’t the only one, but lately we’ve seen more and more news about fans “quitting” Star Wars and kids being lost to other franchises. The franchise in itself is not at fault, but the way it has been managed, the way stories have been written, the goods and services that have been put out, are. I guess Star Wars is like a zombie of a long-past friend now, with some still flocking around for whatever reason, but the rest are just veering off due to the reeking, festering dead flesh.

Music of the Month; Dogora

You probably did (not) notice that updating was a bit off last month. You know the usual song; stress, work, the two combined, twists in social life, lack of time and so on and so on. The month went by faster than expected, if I’m being honest. Missed some news I wanted to touch upon, situations and events passed by like they were air. Doesn’t exactly help that I’ve hurt my wrist, so I might end up being economical for the next few weeks when it comes to typing.

That said, why Ifukube music all of the sudden? For whatever reason, I began to listen Ifukube out of the blue this week, and his pieces played on during my off-hours non-stop. There were numerous pieces I never listened to, or took any notice really. Ifukube’s library of songs he composed for Toho alone is very vast, and this song above somehow stood apart. While Ifukube’s songs are rhythmically cohesive all around, something about Dogora VS Self-Defence Force playes differently, as if there are two parallel pieces going at the same time, but always meeting at key points. Ifukube felt that to fully understand movie and its music, the two should always be together, as separately they lose the effect and power they were intended to have. I fully agree with him on this matter. Be it games or theatre or whatever, when you have a scene specifically set to music, the lack of the scene or vice versa will always leave something to be desired. Then again, I still know jack shit about music, so this probably is nonsense babbling.

While this probably would make a post on itself, the whole situation with the leaked Dragon Ball English audio with the voice actors letting things rip like no other. If you want to check ’em out, if you already haven’t, there’s a Google Drive with them. While we could discuss ethics of the situation, like whether or not they were justified to use the soundtrack or the like, I really don’t see any point in this. People at work sometimes have to let some steam out by doing stupid shit and laugh after, or even during, hard work. It’s funny to have a character go balls-to-the-walls wack sometimes and make them say something inappropriate. These bits really are something that should never cross to the customer side of things, and people letting stuff out like this is nothing out of ordinary. It is an open secret that voice actors and people working with them often allow all sorts of stuff going on during sessions to ease things out.

This Dragon Ball example is just the latest thing, though before this the most famous one was the Thundercats leaks from way back when. Hell there’s a page dedicated to them. These two things are the same thing really, be it bloopers, outtakes, leak reels or whatever. The voice actor of original Lion-O, Larry Kenney, discussed that this happens. While some might find these jokes and skits offensive, the American voice acting culture at workplace more or less has it as a working standard. The Japanese working culture wouldn’t allow stuff like this, but at the same time, they often don’t give a damn how shit rolls in Overseas market. Just look at how terrible translations are across the board, be it books, games or movies. Then you have shows that were let do whatever, nobody cared. Cue for Ghost Stories English dub. It’s like a whole show of outtakes. Of course, Toei doesn’t really like this thing at all, considering they are paranoid about how Dragon Ball as an IP is handled, and with the Internet outrage culture making its rounds, Funimation probably will feel some results from this backlash. There’s a whole lot more with one of the VA’s suing Funimation after they fired him for reasons and such, but as I usually say; don’t care about the provider, care about the product.

What’s for next month? I can’t really say. That foxgirl Kickstarter got funded, though there’s not much to talk about it. I’m just glad more people will be able to get their hands on it now that it comes gets an English translation. However, I am pretty sure NijiGEN won’t get funded despite being halfway in, because it has sat there for a week now. Not much to talk about if it fails, but if it succeeds, I’ll be sure to keep tabs on it. Then again, with Ifukube being the music, and music sets the month, perhaps I should make time and rewatch Shin Godzilla in order to expand Themes of Godzilla post. I have found that the more I mull it over, the more stuff I consider I must touch upon. Better just cut my losses and get it done with. It’s just one weekend spend on it, whatever could go wrong? Of course, all the âge related stuff are completely open and I still have a folder on my desktop to remind me that there are few more TSF stuff and other subjects to touch upon. On one hand, perhaps I should cut blogging so that there’s one major post a week, and whatever small ones every time something interesting catches interest, but can’t really see that format working. Yknow, they’d be about as rambly if not even not more so than this post. I’m not going to ask for you to drop a comment if you’d like me to try it out, because let’s be real, nobody would comment anyway.

Remember to sharpen, hone and oil your knives. Sharp knife is much safer tool in the kitchen than a dull one, and the same goes for scissors.

It’s in the pattern

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Music of the Month; ななこSOS

Time to let out some steam. Month’s first post is, after all, a chance for random ramblings.

Unsurprisingly, due last week’s subject with sadpanda and the historical context of lolita complex in Japanese media history, few people asked if I had certain preferences, to put it diplomatically. Perhaps in the classical sense of having some infatuation with a cute character, but that’s more or less normal. People fall in love with inanimate objects almost as easily as they do in real people, or if life has shown that people are untrustworthy, the opposite seems to hold. In the modern, twisted sense? No. Then why would I spend any time on the subject than what I already have? It is solely historical interest. You know that one image macros, the one which shows how manly Japanese cartoons used to be, how adult and serious, and the Now shows nothing but cute stuff and shows with comparatively vapid content. Despite that image being a joke, it did launch an interest how true it really was. Reading history bit by bit via firsthand sources and consuming the media itself.

From someone who used to read history as a hobby, looking back at how consuming the media of old rather than just reading about it. Media can always be consumed, but events themselves can never be. However, much like when you’ve read enough history from multiple points of views, you begin to understand how everything tends to affects something, how events proceed from one to another. The similar effects can be said about media culture, where if you consume enough media of certain region, not just one kind but all kinds, you realise how much everything has worked in symbiosis, how cultural and historical trends in the media has raised its influential head here and there. It just has to be from relatively long period of time and understand the underlying trends. For example, just looking at the 1980’s anime scene with its OVAs and groundbreaking television shows is hard to understand without first without first looking at massive sub-cultural phenomena in the 1970’s like Captain Harlock, Mobile Suit Gundam and Urusei Yatsura. Those are major names, but only selected few with direct influences with 1980’s scene. Of course, the whole lolita complex, or culture of cute, should be taken into account as it was everywhere. If you go few posts back, I cover this a bit more there. Though I have raised myself a question that I have to find an answer to; where does Japan’s lolita complex, moe and culture of cute have original roots in? This requires some investigating.

To tell you the truth, I have been wanting to discuss this matter on the blog for a long, long time. However, due to difficulty and touchy nature of the subject due to its modern connotations, I have simply pushed it back and back again. I’ve talked about Comic Lemon People and series within in a lot, but never directly addressed it simply because there was never really a good angle to approach it with, and it seemed like time has made it ever touchier. However, Exhentai’s death (and rebirth) gave the perfect angle with archiving and its historical value, an angle I’ll probably stick with in the future when and if talking about the subject. On a side note, the alternative music just to continue with theme would’ve been this song.

In other news, Muv-Luv photonfloers* got released on Steam, so if you’re inclined to continue reading Muv-Luv related media in English, you might want to check it out. It is currently in sale at ~20 bucks, which isn’t a bad price overall when compared to the hundred bucks plus I paid for the PS3 limited edition. photonmelodies♮ is currently at works, and while we could discuss whether or not it was the right choice to call Before the Shimmering Time Ends as Alterd Fable, I should make note that the fandom kept calling the story by the collection’s name almost a solid decade, and âge themselves ultimately adopted that moniker for it as well. While I will keep referring it as Before the Shimmering Time Ends for the sake of accuracy and Altered Fable will refer to the collection. This really is like taking just Muv-Luv Unlimited from Muv-Luv and call it Muv-Luv. [5.8. Edit] I’ll be damned, the official title will be Altered Fable: A Shimmering Shard of Spacetime. I can live with that, and it caters to both people who simply use Altered Fable and autistic nitpickers like me. Sure, it may not be a direct translation, but keeps the original’s spirit with it as the first direct continuation to Final Extra.

Seeing this is port of the PS3 titles, I’d also urge you to get your hands on the original PC release to experience the minigames in their full, bloody glory as well as have the erotica included. I do still erotica in Muv-Luv to be relatively essential to characterisation and showing humane bonding between characters, but your taste probably varies and many VN enthusiasts would rather push a pillow in porn’s face. Then again, VNs themselves are a media slowly withering into a smaller and smaller niche with each passing year, so perhaps it doesn’t do all that well to forget one of the paramount aspects Japanese PC adventure gaming and Visual novels have carried with them. I’d hate to see a beloved media being reduced to mere pebbles, but the fandom could be proud that the things they love now has little to no smut. What a waste.

While I’m plugging titles with cute girls who get fucked, I might as well throw this Kickstarter in your face; Daily life with Konko, or as the devs decided to translate it, Your Waifu Foxgirl Konko. I’m not terrible keen on this translated title, as it tries too hard, almost trying to hit the Internet’s meme nerve. Why would I give a look at something like this? Truth to be told, I’d rather not say, but might as well; the Japanese version of the game helped get over few dark months earlier this year. While I won’t be getting into any details about that human relationship, having something that wasn’t cold and dead like the winter outside kept me floating. There’s a trial that run in a browser on there, though it does raise some issues with the translation. Teacher is left as Shisho, and whole stroking someone’s head isn’t really sexual, leaving the command as just Stroke does strike a bit hammy. The title really isn’t meant to be played hours on end, but little bit each day. Something to wind down a bit, let things slow down and your worries to fall out. The demo’s also lacking any music, and is far too short to give any proper idea how it works, but its something. It does pretty terrible works at depicting the actual gameplay really. Then again, don’t take my word for it. The Japanese fans funded Live2D version of the game on Campfire recently, with yours truly taking part in it as well via proxy, and Megamisoft didn’t just achieve its goal; they made five and half times as much money they aimed at. The Otaku crowd is crazy, sure. However, I do consider this title to be good therapy in the hectic lifestyle we have. Its good to stop, sit down, and a good cup of tea and pat a foxgirl’s head.

While I’m being straight with you, it wasn’t close that this post wasn’t made. Few days ago, I was more or less through with this. I intended to abandon the blog as is, but nevertheless came back to it. I’ll have to make some hard life choices pretty much right now, and most of it is about what I want to spend time on. Blogging takes surprisingly large amount of time, especially when I’m trying to follow multiple possibly interesting news and stories alongside what might happen with some franchises. It eats time, time that I could use for something else like being outside or practicing drawing. I have come to a point where blogging in itself doesn’t bring anything to the table anymore, unless I am to slightly change how I approach. Less commentary, news and popular culture discussion, more personal stuff and things surrounding them. Perhaps you’ve noticed that design comparisons and reviews have effectively stopped and that’s the reason; they just take so much time and are mentally exhausting. A Youtuber friend named Terry advised me to get a Patreon and see if that would give any reason to move forwards, but I haven’t made it public; I know it would yield no real funding to purchase a domain name or towards unique redesign of the and items to review. However, I’m not shutting that out from the equation, but I’d need a real reason to use it. As for the blog, I’ll still aim to continue for few more years despite the admitted drop in quality and content. Ten years isn’t far away at this point, and It’d be shame just to quite when a decade’s almost full.

By the time you’re reading this, my short vacation is over and I’ve returned to work. Sadly, I managed to get jack shit done during this time due to friends having their vacation at different times, so we had to juggle stuff a lot. Vacation seems to be busier and more hectic than work itself.

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.

Fans expect big franchises to have a plan

If there’s something Hollywood and whatever entertainment industry you like to fellate should learn from Marvel’s Cinematic Universe is that you need a solid plan to follow from the get-go, or at least after its proven that you have something worthwhile in your hands. At this point, its not just recommended, the consumers expect it. We’ve come to a point where cinematic universes have become its own thing, despite stories continuing from entry to entry in TV and film have been nothing new since the early film serials. Hell, someone like me could even make an argument that Marvel’s films and series are nothing more than overblown, high budget film serials, but they had to have a more marketable name.

What’s one of the most common complaint you hear about the new Star Wars movies? At least one of them is that Disney and Lucasfilm had no clear plan how the story would advance, they had nothing planned in advance. Sure, the original trilogy didn’t have one either, but we’re not in the 1970’s and 1980’s anymore. The very rough outline of the Prequel movies did exist in Lucas’ head though, something that can’t be said about these Sequel movies. J.J. Abrams is infamous for making plots and stories with no planned advancement or end result. Stuff are just mystery boxes you figure out as you go along without any care. Who cares if it makes sense if it can create suspension and shit like that. It makes poor storytelling, and at worst, breaks immersion. No, not immersion, but sense. Disney had a chance to write sequel series to the most popular science fiction franchise in the history of global entertainment, the series that made their Marvel movies possible at all (Episode I effectively created the modern computer driven digital movie making everyone and their mothers use in Hollywood for all big bang budget event movies) and yet they just don’t plan ahead. Oh they planned ahead how many movies how many times a decade they’ll be making, make no mistake about that, but the content of these movies and what they were going to be about was unknown. Of course, this being Disney, adapting any existing work from the previous Expanded Universe was out of question. That’d mean they’d have to pay royalties. Don’t think for a moment that Disney didn’t abandon old EU just to abandon all needs to pay anyone anything. Now that they can make their own little canon, worse than what it was with the Sequel movies, they don’t need to pay anyone for their stories.

Take a look at Star Trek at this moment for a parallel comparison. Its in the trash at the moment. Netflix doesn’t want the third season of Discovery and is now forcing CBS balls deep into action if they want that series to continue. The Picard series was passed on to Amazon, and Amazon supposedly wants to back out from that series due to terrible pre-screening reception. I don’t blame them, if the rumours are true. There was a plan for Trek, and that plan was the Arbams movies to succeed. Well that plan got fucked when all three blew. Discovery clearly had no long-term plan, and got changed multiple times in direction and plot to the point of the Season 2 of the show having very different tone to it, and the goddamn Enterprise had to be shoved in there. I bet your ass that they took the whole thing into the future at the end of the Season 2 just to appease down people who kept saying that the technology looked too advanced for the time period, so now its in the future. Should work for you, eh? Not that canon matters anyway, but goddamn if its not one of the bet PR things they can market to audiences and core fans.

Of course, if your plan sucks and is failing, you should abort it and straighten the direction. This being billion dollar companies throwing money left and right inside their own little bubbles with no real contact with the grass root level consumers where all their money comes from, nobody should be surprised that they only realise how bad things can go afterwards. If there’s one thing we common folk should learn from Hollywood is that self-PR and bullshitting your way through everything makes big bucks. Just put the blame on everyone else and diplomatically tell anyone consuming your products to go fuck themselves. Pay PR firms to put out articles on sites how fans are in the wrong and how your product is for better fans who value superior products. Then you never really get them, or the money. Licensees don’t want to license your new show’s designs and other small things that eat away your profit all the damn time.

They say longform storytelling is the new TV-standard, but from all the Netflix shows and such, it doesn’t really show. Sure there’s a plot going through episode to episode, but vast majority of shows that use longform stories are still extremely episodic. You can skip a boring episode over and lose nothing. All you need to have is three episode, effectively; where the plot starts, where the twist happens, and the end. All others are inconsequential filler at best. Or in Discovery‘s case, have a two-parter that is worse than the worst episode of Star Trek to date about mushroom macrovirus living your brain and people coming back to life in mushroom dimension. No, it is even more retarded than it sounds.

If you want to make a cohesive long story that jumps from movie to movie, from series to series, in a given time when you’re making these movies and series by the dozens, it’d be a good idea to sit down with someone who wants to spend decade of their lifetime keeping things in leash.

Sure, many stories are very successful when told in parts, episodic and piece by piece rather than planned out. The thing is, they were planned as mostly self-confined pieces that allowed things to organically expand and grow from rather then deliberately set up something, or in most cases, planned to have seven movies right after year-by-year basis. Maybe its just these people running these franchises can’t do their jobs properly as providers and do whatever they want. Well, the result is as it is now, and things keep going south.