Music of the Month; Ninjas

You know what we’re going to talk about again? That’s right, censorship.

For the last few days, Kenichiro Takaki’s interview on Inside Games have been making some rounds about the Internet. Pretty much everyone has covered this at some level, with Lewd Gamer having one and Censored Gaming having a video on the subject too. The topic that Takaki mentions is sort of side mention on the overall interview, but the core of it is as follows; the original idea for Senran Kagura 7EVEN would be impossible to release and the developers have to reconsider everything about the game itself due to the censorship policies Sony is currently employing. Furthermore, Takaki mentions that these regulations are trend that will spread further.

Imagine that, an entertainment many consider a form of art becoming censored to serve a view. The moment art has been perverted to serve a view by limiting what can contain within the art, it stops being art and becomes a vehicle for the ideology the censor upholds.

That is, if we consider electronic games as a form of art. Otherwise we might just have to face that the industry is a business where business sensibilities and winds of politics play extremely large role. I guess the late 2010’s and part of 2020’s will be remembered when Sony and Valve, and maybe some other corporations as well, begun to censor games harshly in moral panic about sexual depiction of fictional characters.

You may laugh at the whole thing, it is “only” Senran Kagura after all. Then let’s not forget all the titles Valve has banned from Steam, or the extensive censorship NISA employed within almost every title they publish (not to mention the sheer amount of bugs their localisations are known for, or the lacklustre as all hell translations they have going) or how Sony has effectively blocked titles from being published due to their risque nature. I’ve talked about these few times over. It’s not just a slippery slope we’re having here, it’s a no-friction glassy ice slope at 60-degree angle we’re trying to not to bust our tail bones on here, and we’ve got nothing but shitty shoes with hard plastic soles. The only way the consumer can effectively fight against this is by getting political and goddamn I know most of my readers hate that.

Thankfully, this time it’s easy. No reason to grab the flag of your political view and some Molotov cocktails, but simply to refuse to support or purchase any products from the offending companies, refuse to use their services and goods, and make sure that that they know it. Send ’em an email, go to a forum or whatever. Money talks more than empty promises or deeds gone cold. With the amount of entertainment and games out there, you will always have other options that will fill that niche. If that’s not the case, that’s a goddamn good time to start looking into alternatives that you didn’t know existed. Easier said that done, I know.

But why is that I keep talking about this titty ninja franchise? That’s something I had to ask myself when Takaki’s interview came out. Am I fan of the series? Do I just appreciate it? Despite the rather mediocre nature of majority of the games, what makes me coming back and revisiting the series time and time again? I’ve got no answer for you, and I can assure you its not not the front and back assets of the characters. I’ll be breaking some character as the blogger with this and rust up a post about how exactly I got involved with the franchise. It’s like that old ass Kimi ga Nozomu Eien post from years yonder (Jesus Christ I hope I’ve gotten better since then) but about a series that’s still relevant. No, I’m not going to put much trust in KGNE remake, especially now that Nekopara-style has vomited itself all over it.

Speaking of other posts for the month, or for the next two months depending how much I’m going to overwork myself, nothing definitive has planned outside the usual stuff I talked in January, but now you can add Iczer Robo’s visual history to that, where I cover some of the major illustrations and designs that the Iczer series’ mecha has seen. This’ll include some of the more obscure ones as well, namely the original comic version and its 1990’s counterpart, and the two animal themed mechas from Iczer-3 audio drama, because Iczer Dragon needs more love in general.

Both will take some time to finish. In the meantime, I’m to grab a bottle of whisky and celebrate my anniversary.

Music of the Month; Enormous Penis

Guess what’s theme for the month? Beats me, I was originally gonna put something from Senran Kagura on, but seeing I’ve been talking a lot about sexual themes being censored, I might as well go all the way in and put last month’s music in a theme song. People who like to over-analyse everything, you’ve got two balls’ worth of ammo. Anyway, lemme get some steam out, willya? I pity the poor bastard who thinks this the standard this blog usually goes for. You have standards? So I might argue.

I’ve posted a lot about censorship in video games as of late, partially because I personally have a strong bias against any sort of censorship, but also because it ties to the whole video game culture aspect the blog is partially about. However, discussing the censorship out in the open has been somewhat a challenge, as most of censorship we see nowadays is specifically targeting sexual themes. Tumblr just announced porn would be banned on their site, but we’ll see how long that’ll hold.

Sony’s stance on the censorship they’re practicing right now is supposedly based on global standards, which is all sorts of bullshit as the savvy reader you are knows. There are no global standards they speak of. The US has the ESRB, Europe has PEGI with each nation adding their own standards and rules to the mix, Australia has their own, South Korea has its own and China’s draconian as hell when it comes to how they set standards. Furthermore, the regulations and standards Sony has been applying have been widely inconsistent, with titles like Sengoku Hime 7 being more or less completely unaltered, passing their standards. There is no one accepted global standard, and I hope there never will be. Homogenization of cultures across the world would only diminish the richness we have, and assuming one sales region, or even a nation, shares the same standards as the one next to them, is utter nonsense and insanity.

Sony knows they have a PR bomb in their hands, and the less they say or put information out is better for them. Better keep things hidden and silent, because the modern era of constant news barrages and outrages will sweep these away until the year rolls over. You’ll hear these news from time to time, but just like everything else, Sony’s censorship will be treated as a passé topic and something you just have to live with.

Atsushi Morita’s statement about balancing between freedom of expression and safety of children is absolute horse shit. If you take it by face value, it means Sony regards their consumers, especially the parents no less than idiots who can’t look after themselves or their children, allowing free consumption of all media content. If you don’t, you know it is about money and politics, just how much and in what ratio. Sure, Sony wants to be a hit in the Chinese market and that market wants pretty much everything to conform to their standards, just like the American extreme left with their utter nonsense. I hate to bring politics into this blog like this, but even my dumb ass can see that the American modern left has become more and more like what the religious right used to be. If it’s not one extreme being puritanical about content, then it’s the other. Being in the middle is almost suffering, trying to balance things.

It doesn’t help that discussing about sexual materials have become harder with time. My family wasn’t ever really open about sexual topics, but my mother’s mother was. The key moment where I realised that sex and sexuality was completely natural was during a boat trip, where I was laughing at a couple buying condoms. My grandma told me to shove it, and asked why I was laughing about something so natural and mundane thing as sex. Her reaction of me telling how shut things were at home surprised her, as she never had been close minded about human sexuality. She told me to ask questions, and she answered straight up, in a grandmotherly way. That realisation that if we lack that kind of everyday sexuality in our daily lives, we’ll begin to handle it the wrong way and grow up as skewed individuals and as a society. Otherwise you’ll get people wanting to screw animals and those who want to spread STDs to other people, outright screwed bees and flowers concepts. Sex and sexual themes in Western society almost became a thing that we didn’t have to hide from not too long ago, but now we’re pulled back and every single thing with sexuality of men or women are being called out. Follow the advice of EA when it comes to content; If you don’t like it, don’t buy it.

If Sony really wanted global standards to apply, they’d open a global shop and allow the global market to decide. That’s how you get standards, not by decided by some committee. If there is such a thing as gaming culture, people who take part in that culture belong to that loose society of people, and it’s global by all means. That global force is the only one that should allow standards to be determined as they are the only ones that are affected by them. Mostly. Am I making a stretch? As much as any of these yahoos trying to justify their own views and practices, included that one guy who wrote the Game Manifesto despite ignoring the core history of electronic games and solely concentrated on the existence of digital games.

I hope during this Christmas, as always, parents will take time to be with their kids and buy their gift on time. If you’re buying a game as a present, please make sure that your kid can handle it. I don’t want to hear the Nth time how a mom buys her son GTA or the like and then bemoans the violence in a game intended for adults.

I don’t even know what I’m going to do this month. You’re gonna get that Top 5 games of the year on the last day of the year, which will count as a review. I’m not even going to amuse myself guessing if I’ll manage to do any Muv-Luv related posts or anything like this, because holy hell I’m already missing some good night’s sleep. I hope, hope, that I won’t have to talk too much, if at all, about censorship this month, because I’d really like to return talking about design stuff.

But goddamn Sony, you fucked service design like a limped dicked asshole.

Also, remember to sharpen and oil you knives. Cooking is safer with sharp knives.

Literal objects

Think if your favourite character or the design this character has both in appearance and in character. The hair, its colour, the sex, clothing, accessories, nature, roughness and so on. Think also about the fact that many other people like the design as well, perhaps even more than you to the extent of wearing the character’s clothes and acting like this character. It’s all made to draw you in and please your eye.

It’s the same basic principle as with Sex sells. Characters are created to sell larger products, often product families, and are part of the content any entertainment product has. This is nothing out of ordinary and is something we all do; we buy stuff we like to look at. Be it pottery, cutlery or any product ever, we buy them because they attract our eyes and please our visual centres.

As with the previous post about character designs, it’s natural to aim for perfection. Imperfection doesn’t sell. To use a classic example, Lara Croft was created to be a perfect woman because it could be done and because it is something we look for. If Lara Croft would have been a massive blob instead of that fit one we got, Tomb Raider would have seen shit sales despite the well received gameplay.

As said, characters are made to sell products. They are part of the whole content. To compare to a painting, the frames are there to hold the content, every stroke and every colour, every character and every shape. They need to be in balance and complete each other in some way. The whole will suffer if part of the content simply sucks.

Lara Croft is also a woman who got better looking with age. She will never look ugly or old, and she never should. She is a fictional being and characters in fiction have very little reasons to age if they are timeless, like the Simpsons family or most comic book characters. Each new game sanded Lara’s image more towards that attractive perfection, but you can see her change to reflect time as well. It should be said that attractiveness sells, not sex.

Then again, I never found Lara's design to be all that attractive, but everybody have their own likes and dislikes
Then again, I never found Lara’s design to be all that attractive, but everybody have their own likes and dislikes

It has been said that Lara Croft encourages objectification of women. This, of course, is largely bullshit. If this was the case, then the same would apply to almost any and all characters that were designed to look like men, as they are grossly exaggerated in perfection. Much like with how games cause violence it has been argued that they cause all sorts of objectification and hate towards the farer sex. Again, this is bullshit. It takes a person that is easily influenced or otherwise already possessing some kind of mental illness to be influenced to that level. If children can see through this fiction and take as fiction, why can’t adults? That would be because certain kinds of people want to over analyse everything and see hidden meanings and messages that simply are not there.

Senran Kagura has seen its farer share of shit thrown at it from the Western media. For example Swedish news magazine Aftonbladet crucified the upcoming European release of Senran Kagura 2 because of its fanservice. How the article reads can be summed as Tits and ass are bad, which is all sorts of strange. You’d think nowadays we could already celebrate any sort of glorification of human body and sexuality, but lately there has been this strange pushback to make things less attractive. Let’s come back to that a bit later and concentrate on this Aftonbladet article for now.

Anime doesn’t sell in West. It is a product of a different culture, and that’s OK. Western stuff sees the same fate in Oriental regions as well to similar extent. These are differences we should be celebrating and indulge ourselves in. There is no valid reason to change other culture’s products to fit your own culture in order to make it less offensive. With the same effort you might as well produce your own product. Wallet voting works the best still, and those who don’t like the cute sexiness Senran Kagura has in its design are completely free to choose not to buy any from the product family. There is no reason to push your own views and agendas and keep such product from being produced and sold. The article mentions how the author sees no parody or comedy in the whole sexy ninja thing, but this person is looking too deep. Senran Kagura has always been rather mindless when it comes to the design. It’s about schoolgirl ninjas getting in racy situations, and it’s turned to eleven. It’s a cleaver parody in a way that it’s in your face and you are supposed to laugh at it. It’s tits on 3D screen after all, it’s something everybody thought of after hearing about a 3D screen. On the other hand, it is done well enough that people who do want this sort of thing are free to take pants off and pleasure themselves.

The Collector's Edition is a prime example of stuff that only a hardcore fan would enjoy. The mainstream wouldn't want to own any of these
The Collector’s Edition is a prime example of stuff that only a hardcore fan would enjoy. The mainstream wouldn’t want to own any of these. There’s also a Happy Boobs edition, which seems to churn some people

However, the author makes a misstep by assuming that people who enjoy a good pair of tits and ass, cartoon or not, have some sort of degenerative view about women. I don’t know any person who enjoys a good pair of T&A that think any less of women than people who don’t enjoy T&A. It’s so damn asinine, especially when it comes to video games where these are objectified representations of ninja girls with anime style.

By that I mean they are literal objects in the game environment. Almost anything and everything is objectified in a video game.

Senran Kagura won’t make high amounts of sales, because not everybody enjoy the kind of overblown parody about sexy ninja trope it uses, even if the gameplay would be actually pretty good. I wrote It’s similar how some people don’t enjoy Muv-Luv Extra’s over the top parody of romance comedies. Senran Kagura enjoys all the attention it gets and doesn’t shy away from the fact that it’s a tits and ass comedy. The general audience will give it a look and smirk at the series, thinking that it’s just another pervy thing Japan. The core fans in the west recognize this as well, and they’re not shy to enjoy the series to its fullest. Unlike some Dead or Alive fans.

Dead or Alive is another game series known because of tits and ass. It’s an older series for sure and ever since the first game graced arcades, Saturn and had a version on Playstion, people have known the series for its perfectly built physiques both in women and men. One of the more known elements, even among people who have never played the series, is the age slider that does something. Often I’ve heard it called as the boobie slider as the general idea is that it allows larger physics modelling on chest bounces. From gameplay perspective, Dead or Alive is just Virtua Fighter with a dedicated counter button. It’s never seen as good game as Virtua Fighter, but in the overall culture even VF was pushed down in favour if Street Fighter. What has kept DoA alive thus far is its sexy ninjas and the dedicated fanbase it has. The difference between the sexy ninjas in Dead or Alive and Senran Kagura is that Dead or Alive takes itself deadly seriously.

Then again, Dead or Alive 5 is getting Senran Kagura costumes. It would only make sense to have the two titninja series cross over properly at some point
Then again, Dead or Alive 5 is getting Senran Kagura costumes. It would only make sense to have the two titninja series cross over properly at some point

Dead or Alive has a definitive anime influence to it. The characters are more or less anime archetypes themselves and their designs reflect this just as much. Unlike with Senran Kagura, Team Ninja decided to aim for more realistic take, most likely after seeing the success both Virtua Fighter and Tekken.

The developers knew what they had in their hands and what they aimed for. The whole sexiness thing in Dead or Alive is as intended and is meant to attract the customers’ eyes. It is then incredibly stupid to see tournament people banning people for using costumes that are made to give the characters more attractiveness. Sure, after some complaining, the tourney people changed the outright ban to soft ban, which essentially is just a recommendation to not use said costume set.

The stance was first Think of the children! to which I ask Who the fuck buys their kids a game with boobies on cover and 16+ label on the cover? Then again, if you are able to raise your kids well enough and teach them about human bodies well enough, they won’t be growing into some sort of women hating bastards. Seems like this later turned into Think of the women! to which I can only say Women laugh at this. There is a difference between fiction and reality, and making one seems to become harder and harder to people nowadays. Hell, the only women who actually have commented on the tits are the ones with flatter chests while the more endowed ones have simply made comparisons between their bust sizes for laughs. Next one, the one we have now, is We must look more professional, to which we can all say You’re playing a fighting game with female ninjas with their tits bouncing everywhere with assess bare. If you want to look professional, don’t be an idiot and force incredibly stupid limitations on goddamn visuals. You won’t seeing people taking your more seriously if you begin to enforce your own made up shit because of some agenda. Actually, from the general view we can say that these people need to grow up and stop caring what other people think of their hobby and start enjoying it to the fullest. If they’re embarrassed by the costumes or how people giggle at the bouncing tits while they play the games, there’s a huge problem in their self-esteem and no bans can help in that.

If somebody feels offended by stuff on the screen, they have every single right to fuck off and enjoy something better. They clearly are not the target audience and they are completely free, once again, to vote with their wallets.

These handful of people who seem to rule on the tournaments that are not affiliated with the license owning company or have anything to do with the development team want their titty ninja fighting game taken seriously. You don’t show your distaste for sex appeal by limiting it from the userbase, you do it by voting with your wallet and making your voice clear by means that may effect the product rather than its userbase. These people do not reflect on the views of the whole community or the userbase the Dead or Alive franchise has. Even Team Ninja came in and said that they won’t remove the design elements that have existed in the franchise from day one.

Y’know, we’re a bit early but this entry has turned more into Another take on customers in that some customers we see bunch of people ruining other people’s fun.

I can understand people writing to providers, I can get behind it. I can get behind the idea of doing your own thing to make a stance. What I will never support is to push one’s own view on the larger crowd and prevent them from using or enjoying a product any provider has sold.

What’s even more asinine in this case is that the banned costumes have no rhyme or reason to them. Often than not the default costume may be more revealing and sexy than a banned one. Hell, just take a look at Kasumi’s and Nyo-Tengu’s default costumes.

Because this is classy enough outfit to be used
Because this is classy enough outfit to be used
Fetish material, much?
Nyo-Tengu’s kimono may be revealing, but it’s also well designed. Those small bells on her tengu getas are small detail that I simply love

Then you have ninja body armours banned despite they covering more skin and actually having more logical choices as the costume. imgur has a gallery for some of the banned costumes, and they’re not really anything special. Most of them, if not all, are just standard fare for Japanese costumes, filling the quotas for swimsuits and Santa Costumes. One could make an argument for the bans in that they cater to certain fetish, but in that case the whole damn game should be banned. The whole ban list has something like 120 costumes and then some, and you can see all the costumes in the DoA wikia. Are they in good taste? They in just as good taste as the rest of the game franchise.

Some people say that the whole costume ban has been overblown in proportions. I call this bullshit. It  is a prime example of agenda driven people going their way out and limiting the use of full content of a product because it doesn’t fit to their views. When they’re on their own and with their friends, they are free to do whatever they want. When they come across the moment where they dislike the content the providers produce and have delivered, it’s time to stop giving them money and find something else to put money into. Games themselves are not serious business and they should not be taken as one, but games industry is nothing but serious business. It doesn’t help that the community was actually silenced in various sites regarding the whole DoA costume ban debacle, like on Reddit. It’s absurd to think people in charge of tournament scene are this small minded. They are there to serve the core consumers, not govern them.

Both Senran Kagura and Dead or Alive are extreme examples. They both employ character design that is aimed at certain audience and use recognizable shapes to emulate body shapes that people just like. Liking representations of certain body type does not translate to anything negative or positive, it tells something about people’s preference in terms of visuals and nothing else. Even that most likely won’t hold water, as most if not all people have wide variety of preferences across the board. Of course, these 3D objects in games are made to be oogled at. That does never translate into Women are to be oogled at. Y’know, because games aren’t real.

A customer holds power over the provider, but when another customer tries to push control over another customer because of their agenda, views of likings and actually has some level of power to do so, then we have a situation where a person is abusing their power. It’s not about growing a thicker skin, it’s about everybody having the freedom of enjoying their things without anyone taking it away from them. You don’t teach kids to take away toys from other kids and break them just because they don’t like that particular toy or the kid.

You don’t need to agree with what somebody is saying or enjoying, but sure hell you shouldn’t silence them or take their fun away. Illegal issues notwithstanding, of course.

If bikinis or swimsuits are too sexy, then why the hell people are allowed to sunbathe on the beaches or otherwise wear skimpy outfits during summer?
If bikinis or swimsuits are too sexy, then why the hell people are allowed to sunbathe on the beaches or otherwise wear skimpy outfits during summer?

We can discuss whether or not either Senran Kagura or Dead or Alive are in good taste. I would argue that Senran Kagura is definitely not, but that would be as intended and part of its charm. Dead or Alive on the other hand dances on the line, but not really making a definitive jump to either side. Then again, Senran Kagura is making fun of Dead or Alive to a large extent while still delivering similar content with a different paint.

Any and all character designs objectifications at their core. Not sexual or anything like that. While they may represent reality, they are like shadows in that they are not the objects themselves that cast the shadow. If you only look at the shadows, your world view will be twisted. Every character is an object made to make money. Very few things have universal appeal, and they are complemented by all the various niche designs that exist out there. Far too often these objects are seen as something we should be rather than what they are; fantasy. They are something we can be inspired by, or something we even admire, but very rarely something what we should be. Only a fool would think they should become a character either in their looks or nature.

Well, this post went far too long. Have some music to take the taste away.

Of course, there are those timeless characters that inspire us to become the best we could be and to see all the good we have