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2012: The Year I Rediscovered My Love For JRPGs

Dec 17 // AdzPearson
Simply put, my old Xbox 360 died. As the 360 is pretty much my primary system for games, a huge chunk of my library was suddenly unavailable for me to play. While I also own a PS3, I only really buy exclusives for it, so there wasn't a great deal of choice for me from there. What I didn't have any shortage of was PS1 and PS2 games. Luckily for me, my PS3 is a launch unit, so both sets of games were available to me. Seeing as time was no longer an issue and I had nothing else to play, I decided to take the plunge and dive into...  I decided on FFV due to my past experience with Final Fantasy games. It's also one I didn't play a great deal of when I first bought it back in 2002 (as part of the EU edition of the FF Anthology). It proved to be the perfect choice, as the fun job system made it very easy to get into the idea of grinding. While I was going into primarily to learn new skills from a job, my characters were also levelling, which was very satisfying. I feel that my grinding ethic has improved a lot since I played through it. When I completed it, I also hit a personal milestone. It was the first Final Fantasy game I had ever completed. Yep, I hadn't even completed FFVII, which is one of my favourite games. Never expected my first completed FF to be 5, but I guess life surprises you like that sometimes. From that point on, I wanted to play more RPGs. Next up was Radiant Historia. Anything that combines time travel with a JRPG sounds like a good idea to me. While it was initially the time travel aspect that grabbed my interest (I love the concept of time travel), I also ended up liking the battle system. It's a system that rewards those who knock enemies into the same space, as you have the opportunity to cause damage to all of them in one turn. It even encourages chaining attacks together, as it builds up your special abilities. Much to my delight, I managed to complete it. It was already my joint most-successful year with RPGs (the other being 2006, when I completed both Suikoden and Chrono Cross). Hot on the success from FFV and Radiant Historia, I decided to go back another game from back in the day... Shadow Hearts really stood out for me because of the unique 'Judgement Ring' system. Basically, you must stop the spinning hand in the lit up areas to perform an action. You can also aim for the edge of these areas to make your attacks or spells more powerful. It really encourages a 'risk and reward' style of play. It can result in victory from the jaws of defeat or vice versa. Another thing I like about Shadow Hearts is the dark setting it has. Its visuals are akin to a survival-horror game. It also doesn't shy away from gore, which is always welcome in my book. I kind of wish the voice acting was better, though (especially due to their accents not matching their nationalities). The next RPG I tackled was Wild Arms 3, another PS2 game I bought a while back. Going into it, I was expecting much...but what I got was when one the best games I've played this year. The story went into directions I didn't expect and all the characters complimented each other very well. It felt like a bounty hunter anime in parts (such as Outlaw Star or Cowboy Bebop). The characters didn't always agree with each other, but they worked together regardless. It wasn't without its problems. The style of the dungeon crawling system meant that it was pretty tiring, so I only played it around 1-2 hours each day. It took me a while to complete. Overall, it was definitely worth it. If you're looking for something a bit different, it might be worth giving it a shot. Grandia was my next port of call. I had played a good chunk of it in the early 00s, but I didn't quite finish it off. This time, I was determined to finish it. It didn't take long to remind myself why I enjoyed so much the first time around. The whole game felt like an epic journey. I also found the battle system satisfying, as it allows for a lot of strategy. For example, there were moments where I had to decide whether to go for a powerful attack or block an incoming move from the enemies. It could be really tense at times. Sure enough, I managed to complete it. All in all, it was a great game. The voice acting was very unfortunate (pretty sure they just went out onto the street and found some random people), but it doesn't really mar it too much. My final completed RPG of the year was FFIV. Much like FFV, I hadn't played a lot of it before. I'd certainly heard it was regarded as one of the best FFs. Is it deserving of such praise? I'd say so. For a game of that era, the characters shined through very well (better than FFV did, which was a bit odd). The story, while clichéd, was also very interesting. The gameplay wasn't anything special, but it was certainly a lot easier without any additional levelling systems going on. Despite all my successes, it wasn't all good news. I had the unfortunate experience of playing... Yep. Dark Cloud. Never again. If the horrible taste of Lemsip became physical and could be played in a games console, it would result in that game. I gave it a fair crack (it actually had some things going for it), but it still turned around and bit me. Would I recommend the game? Sure...for masochists and a way of torturing your worst enemies. Otherwise, stay away from that game. Stay away. STAY AWAY, HEAR ME?! JUST STAY THE HELL AWAY! STAYYYYYYY AWAYYYYYYYYYYYYY! STAAAAAAA... *Many apologies, but it appears that we're having some technical difficulties. For now, here is the test card and some music...* ...ahem, sorry about that. It's still a very raw subject for me. I'm all better now... That brings my blog entry to a close. I've actually just started Persona 3 Portable, but it's pretty obvious I'm not going to complete it before the end of the year (unless I have some kind of crazy caffeine-fuelled marathon...hmmm...*ponders*). It's been a very successful year as far as RPGs are concerned. I'll definitely be playing more JRPGs next year. There's still so many I want to play...oh, so many... ...oh, and feel free to ask if you want more details about what I liked in the games I've mentioned. You can even ask about the infernal piece of crap I mentioned, but...just be gentle, okay? Thanks for reading. :D
A promoted article from AdzPearson!
[A wild Bloggers Wanted promotion has appeared! Fellow Britannian AdzPearson shows us that we have nothing on his ability to KO a JRPG without relying on back attacks! Hit the jump to see if the games he felled this year are ...

Best OPs and EDs of 2012

Dec 12 // jel x
The Best Anime Openings of 2012 5. "Try Unite!" - Megumi Nakajima (Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne) If you want to mix some pop music into your space mecha, you can't do much better than Ms. Ranka Lee herself. A collaboration with Swedish DJ and producer Rasmus Faber, "Try Unite's" smooth, lilting verses and playful, joyful chorus are a great fit for Lagrange's "Save the World and Have Fun Doing It" attitude. 4. "Platinum Disco" - Yuka Iguchi (Nisemonogatari) I really could have chosen any of the Nisemonogatari OPs for this list, but "Platinum Disco" is the one everyone is still going to remember by this time next year. As with all the -monogatari opening themes, Shaft does a great job crafting visuals that fit the character and songwriter Meg Rock finds a way to use the actress' vocal range in the most palatable, ridiculously catchy way. There is also a silly dance, and who doesn't love silly dances? 3. "To the Beginning" - Kalafina (Fate/Zero) At the opposite end of the spectrum, the talented ladies of Kalafina storm in to separate the women from the girls with "To the Beginning". Their modern brand of medieval/gothic harmonies are the perfect call to action for the Fate/Zero's historical cast. Add in UFOtable's cinema quality animation and visual cues chronicling our main man Kiritsugu's past and I am now wanting to rewatch this series. 2. "Tsurezure Monochrome" - Fujifabric (Tsuritama) AND NOW BACK TO SILLY DANCING. I absolutely adore the art of Uki Atsuya and Tsuritama just oozes his unique style. But beyond the cool art and surprisingly plot relevant Enoshima Dance, it's really the song that wins me over. Sounding something like the Pillows if they picked up a full time electric organ player, "Tsurezure Monochrome" is the kind of music I would actually listen to whether it was anime related or not. 1. "The Everlasting Guilty Crown" - supercell Egoist (Guilty Crown) "The Everlasting Guilty Crown" is an OP so good it actually got me to watch a few more episodes of Guilty Crown (zing!). Seriously though, it's one of the best classic style anime OPs I've seen in a good long while, delivering gorgeous renderings of the cast over a huge, driving pop rock anthem. There's no way former vocaloid legend ryo can hide behind his in-universe pseudonym: the relentless piano riffs and massive, massive chorus are unmistakably supercell, and that is a very good thing. The Best Anime Endings of 2012 5. "My Dream Within A Dream" - Masumi Itou (Humanity Has Declined) There's a certain creepy fairy tale vibe to "My Dream Within A Dream", appropriate considering "creepy fairy tale vibe" is exactly the feeling you get watching Humanity Has Declined. The off-kilter vocals and images of flowers, candy, blood, tears and death make this song the good kind of unsettling, again, right in line with the show. 4. "Vidro Moyou" - Nagi Yanagi (Waiting In Summer) The first solo single from former supercell songstress Nagi, "Viro Moyou" is a much more subdued, mellow song than her work with her former group. It's still a lovely showcase for her crystal pure voice however, and the note she hits at the end give me chills every time I hear it. The monchromatic art of the cast makes a nice visual backdrop, and the song's wistful tone works well for a series told as a flashback. 3. "Mystery Surrounding You" - Satomi Satou and Ai Kayano (Hyouka) Kyoto Animation historically puts special emphasis on their OPs and EDs (see header image), and the second ending for Hyouka is one of their best. In judging this list I put a much higher value on the music over the animation, but let's be honest, this is about the striking visuals. The song itself is a fun, catchy number, but this ending really grabs you with its bold yellow backdrop, swirling typography and adorable Sherlock Holmes outfits. It's almost like a mini stage play, portraying the relationships between the characters and emphasizing that they are the real mystery behind Hyouka. 2. "Above Your Hand" - Annabel (Sankarea) I must admit I couldn't get into Sankarea, but even without much context the ending song is gorgeous. I can confidently say it's the prettiest depiction of Cosmic Bowling I've ever seen, creating an intriguing, unique visual setting. The song itself begins with simple acoustic guitar and drifts off into a haunting, eerily beautiful mix of drum machine, mellotron, and vocal coos that I just want to hear again and again. 1."Wareta Ringo" - Risa Taneda (From the New World) I've been finding From the New World to be a bit of a mixed bag, but the ending song is a standalone work of art. The minimalist art style and vague Buddhist imagery is pretty but foreboding, exploding with a flash of fireworks and white light that time perfectly with the flow of the song. I was rather impressed that "Wareta Ringo" is performed by the series' lead voice actress and not an imported professional singer. Her voice soars through the dramatic call and response vocals of the chorus before the song crashes back down into reality. It's a very impressive work, and by far my favorite entry on this list.  
A promoted article from jel x!
[The first promoted article for this month's Bloggers Wanted! The wonderful jel x has given us what he believes to be the best opening and ending music from 2012! Hit the jump and see if they match your own, but if they don't...

Bloggers Wanted: Best of 2012

Dec 01 // Chris Walden
Definitely Phi Brain. Great for sorting my sleeping patterns.
It's finally December, so now you can go ahead and put up your decorations and play Christmas music in public. What, people have been doing this since late October? Way to spoil the fun! The start of the new month means we ha...

Ecchi with plot: The Ambition of Oda Nobuna

Nov 20 // Rank57
Japanese history always drew my attention, not to the point of making me study it more seriously, but at least making me check anime or games were based on it. What kept me away from The Ambition of Oda Nobuna were the images I saw from it and some quick reviews. "Cute girls as historical warlords. Yeah right, this is another harem hentai trying to attract the otaku crowd". That's what I thought, yet I decided to check a few episodes.  Man, was I wrong. Yes, Oda Nobuna hangs around with her bras showing, most of the main historical figures are represented as moe girls or big breasted babes, and the main protagonist is a teenage boy who came from the future. Even so, with this ridiculous premise, The Ambition of Oda Nobuna is a fine example of ecchi and moe used with intelligence, with a great plot as a background. Or perhaps it is cute girls as a background to an accurate historical tale?  Time for a strategy meeting. Yes, the generals are hot girls, but whatever Anyway, the show still portrays feudal Japan with a surprising amount of detail, without ever, EVER giving priority to show breasts. Oda Nobuna(ga) is still a warlord trying to conquer and unite the country, there is intrigue, war strategies well applied, drama and everything just works, although the 12 episodes made the plot seem rushed, especially towards the end.  Sagara Yoshiharu, the male protagonist, is the teenage student who came from the future, and one of the greatest things about this show. He is an avid gamer who knows everything about The Ambition of Oda Nobuna, a game that portrays the life and conquests of the one responsible for uniting Japan. The thing is that Saru, as he ends up being called by everyone, actually uses the fact he came from the future to his advantage. First, he saves Nobuna's life with the help of his cellphone. From there, he displays impressive amounts of knowledge, to economics to modern architecture techniques to war strategies. He just implemented what he learned from the game or copied what we use in modern days, but still, to the eyes of the feudal Japanese, it's impressive, and it's great to see how this advantage is used and portrayed. Using this kind of knowledge, Saru becomes one of the most reliable generals under Oda Nobuna.  Our intrepid hero The other characters follow the lead. There's a reason why Oda Nobuna is a tsundere, as she is a warlord and must keep her behaviour as such. Inuchiyo and Goemon would be the main source of moeness, but both help Saru with his plans and both are incredibly useful. Katsuie Shibata is the main big breasted girl, but her role as the strongest warrior in Oda's army is more accentuated (no pun intended). Every character fulfils their role, and no one feels forced or put there just for the sake of fan service. My only complaint is the usage of magic: Hanbe Takenaka's brilliancy as a strategist is outplayed by her magic powers, as she can overpower an army and put down a fire alone. This takes some of the "realism" the show could have had. To put it short: this is not a harem anime. Nor an action one, as there is no "PUT YA GUNS ON!" and people mowing an entire army with lightning (except for a quick Hanbe intervention). The battles and even minor conflicts are resolved with intelligence and strategy. The numbers make a difference in battle. All in all, The Ambition of Oda Nobuna is the most accurate historical anime I have ever seen, even if most of the important figures are replaced with cute girls. An example to the anime industry, as yes, it is possible for ecchi and moe to coexist with a good plot.
A promoted article from Rank57!
[How about another promoted article? Rank57 shows us that there is more to The Ambition of Oda Nobuna than just a gender-bending harem! Hit the jump and give it a read to see if he can persuade you to check it out! For the ch...

An Open Letter to the Manga and Anime Industry

Nov 13 // CharismaJustice
The idea of cute girls and fanservice has existed in manga and anime since the conception of their respective media, and yet recent trends in media show a massive increase in the number of these various techniques being used, a trend which I find alarming. While many dedicated fans enjoy tastes of ecchi in their anime, and the use of moe characters, studios and artists seem to be basing works upon these things as opposed to creating something original and story based. It's incredibly worrisome in my opinion, and if not corrected soon could cause permanent damage to the medium. [embed]27172:1837[/embed] If this problem isn't stopped soon, every series will be K-On!, and that is not anything I'd want What do Soul Eater, Haruhi Suzumiya, Berserk, Gantz, and Slam Dunk all have in common? They're all regarded as masterworks in their respective media, and all feature ecchi scenes, or even full blown nudity. Ecchi, when used in moderation, is a perfectly fine thing to add to a manga or anime. However when a series is based around that, you end up with something that's almost softcore porn, series like To Love-Ru, Rosario Vampire, Kaichou Wa Maid Sama!, etc. The issue with manga like the ones I just mentioned is that they're all massively popular, and thus more people are creating series such as these, and it is the duty of the people who release these things to stand up to imitators and allow more original media to come about. It's a more financially responsible strategy, and its the right thing to do for everyone's psyche. The most financially successful manga have always been the series that innovate, because innovative and well told stories sell for much longer than books and DVDs bought for cute girls. This is because there will never be another Akira, but there will always be cuter girls, and thus ecchi and moe manga will typically lack the longevity of a successful manga built around other strategies. Sadly, I don't see any major changes in the mass media market for a long time, because until the publishers decide to take more risks with what is released, I imagine we'll come to see a 10:1 ratio of To Love-Ru's for every quality story based work. That's not something I, as a huge fan of manga and anime, would be a part of, and I certainly wouldn't want my children (your primary audience) to be a part of it either. Not only that, but by using ecchi and moe techniques you cut out the middle ground of your audience. The middle group of consumers consists of people reading manga for the stories, and doesn't consist of people who will buy no matter what (otaku and children), and it will alienate some otaku, as not all people like moe and ecchi in their manga and anime. [embed]27172:1838[/embed] This is To Love-Ru The same could be said for moe, as I see an increasing amount of big eyed girls at school in my anime, and that wouldn't be an issue if not for the fact that the majority of them are god-awful. I call into example Hikaru no Go; a semi successful manga drawn by Death Note author Takeshi Obata about a boy named Hikaru who meets a ghost that makes him good at go (a Japanese chess type thing). The series was fairly well written and the plot was pretty interesting at times, and yet Hikaru no Go is somewhat forgotten now. An eerily similar premise is found in the ridiculously popular Saki, in which a cute girl plays mahjong, and that's about it. The difference between the two series is moe, the way the characters look rocketed Saki to fame far past Hikaru ever dreamed of. [embed]27172:1839[/embed] This is Saki's opening theme, notice all the moe, the actual series is a mess. But appearance isn't the issue with the idea of moe and moe characters, the issue is the lack of originality this passion for moe has spawned. An average manga about high school students doing funny things wouldn't get serialized normally, but tack a few moe characters on there and you have K-On!. That's the issue, that publishers are more willing to publish the K-Ons of the world, and thus mangaka and anime studios are more likely to create unoriginal moe series. [embed]27172:1840[/embed] Haruhi and Madoka are examples of plot over moe, and yet the moe is still there Finally, publishers are responsible for the media they create, and the social effects that this moe and ecchi movement could have are massive. Children growing up seeing all of this could be hooked on moe and ecchi, but that's unlikely compared to the utter social exploitation of otaku that these two ideas create. The stereotypical otaku isn't exactly rolling in the ladies and exploiting this through media that they obsess over has risen to an almost criminal level, as many otaku cannot be fully to blame for their actions. While I am a strong believer that personal responsibility is the primary factor in media exposure, the manga and anime industries have reached a point where not encountering ecchi and moe just isn't possible, and I think a lot of them can't resist. As the second largest consumer base for manga and anime, these people have been and could possibly continue the moe wave as long as publishers keep riding it, and thus, the children could be suckered into the two due to the exposure in the mass market, which just isn't fair. [embed]27172:1841[/embed] Beelzebub contains quite a bit of oversexualized characters, and moe characters, and it's serialized in a magazine for boys (meaning 18 and under.....)(I still like Beelzebub) In closing, abuse of ecchi and moe techniques is damaging socially, critically, and economically to the manga and anime industries, and while not currently apparent, if these issues are not addressed then these two industries could be in danger. I like Azumanga Daioh, its brilliantly written and really well done, and original in its own right To anyone who plans on commenting; I would love to encourage intelligent discussion on this matter, however if all you plan on doing is hating or flaming, and not giving intelligent criticism or praise (preferably praise) please don't bother commenting, also I wouldn't mind seeing other blogs with a different point of view, get writing guys! Also, I am not gay (we all know how the internet can be, and I just don't like gratuitous use of ecchi), and I am not trying to portray otaku in a negative light, however the primary consumers of ecchi and moe are the otaku of the world, otaku do very positive things for media, in supporting quality anime, manga, and video games, and I call myself an otaku of sorts as well. Finally, ecchi, moe, and the school life genre are not necessarily bad things themselves, I want to emphasize this.
A promoted article from CharismaJustice!
[The first promoted article for this month's Bloggers Wanted! Charisma and Justice combine for a letter to none other than both anime and manga industries. Follow the jump and give it a read to see if you share the same thoug...

Can you smell that? It's the smell of a fresh, new month! That means it is time to change the Bloggers Wanted topic, so get those caffeinated drinks and start thinking of something cool to write! Oh yes, better explain what I...

Coming Back Again and Again: Cowboy Bebop

Oct 29 // Satisfaction
 Get ready! For the uninformed, Cowboy Bebop is an anime directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, about a crew of bounty hunters travelling throughout the galaxy, and running into trouble. Things never go well for the crew of the Bebop (their ship), as they typically encounter waaaaay more then they planned. The show is stylistically based around western movies, along with jazz music, and if you haven't seen Cowboy Bebop, make a new tab, watch the show, then comment your thanks to me on this blog.  And now, opinions! One of the reasons I think the show has such long-time success, is that its episodic in nature, and so it feels like a bunch of different shows, with only Spike and friends being there every time (or even more than once usually). Eco terrorists, casino hustles, insane killers on the loose, or even virtual reality religious killers, every episode feels fleshed out, stylistically different and yet the same. For instance, the episode where Jet is recovering a religious artefact with a girl from his past is oddly resemblant of an Indiana Jones movie, whereas the episode where Spike is tracking down a VR killer reminds me of Ghost in the Shell; two completely different series, styles, and yet the same vibe and that classic Cowboy Bebop style.  Cigarettes are pretty stylish. Bebop reminds me of a crime epic, mixed with a noir film, mixed with a science fiction epic, mixed with anime, and all of this adds up to a winning formula. There's a scene locked in my memory, where Spike is on Neptune (I think), and apparently Neptune is the physical embodiment of the blues; because rain is pouring down, and run down bars line the streets, and here's Spike listening to a man play a beautiful tune on the sax. Little did I know that the saxman is the fugitive he's after, cue climaxes, lulls, and a downfall, as if the episode is a music video to a jazz song. Incredibly, that's how most of the episodes feel, almost like listening to music, the plot just flows so well. The episodic nature makes no two episodes alike.  [embed]27105:1789[/embed] It was snowing, and Faye was in the bar, at least I was close.... The final piece of my memory puzzle, lies in Bebop's soundtrack, which, as hinted by the show's title, is a jazz epic. It is nearly always in sync with the show, which is absolutely incredible. Yoko Kanno deserves endless amounts of credit for her compositions for this show, as there's the perfect song for every moment. Whether it's a lonely saxophone playing in a seedy bar, or a western whistling tracks accompanying chaos from a wannabe cowboy, the soundtrack is 95% hits, 5% misses. When the action is in sync, it gets incredible, just mind blowing.  [embed]27105:1788[/embed] I don't know why I thought of this.  Now for the real answer, Cowboy Bebop keeps me coming back because of a little bit of all these things; there are episodes of Bebop I'm frantic to watch at times, because I love the plot so much, and these stand-outs blur my memories of other episodes, making those fun to watch too! Also the soundtrack paces the show perfectly, making so many memorable moments that I just want to see again, and the show's stylistic decisions suited a younger, more western oriented me perfectly. Perhaps that's the real reason why I adore Bebop, as the show really got an older me hooked on serious anime. Before I saw Bebop, I read what I've seen in Jump, and watched what I've seen on Adult Swim and Toonami, and that was it. Until I saw Cowboy Bebop, and then I wanted to know what others thought, then I saw recommendations, and now I'm a glorified otaku. Thanks Spike.  And I haven't looked back since.  Drop me a comment! What do you think about Cowboy Bebop, jazz, or maybe I just suck! Tell me how to suck less! And until next time..... 
A promoted article from Satisfaction!
[Yet another promoted article for the current Bloggers Wanted! Satisfaction is guaranteed as we learn just why Cowboy Bebop and his computer are so darn good. Seriously guys, this show is worth watching just to observe Spike'...

Promoted Blog: How to fix Capcom

Oct 26 // The-Excel
It makes me churn a little when I see people not caring about the quality of a cancelled game because they just want to play it. They're the ones who enable Capcom to make sequels that do not need to be. But I'm getting off point. This isn't about sequels, it's about what led to this pitiful milestone release. This has been a long time coming, because for all the wrongdoing Capcom has been pulling the last few years, they got off relatively scot-free, if not a little worse for wear in reviews. Now that the big name developers and directors have bailed, maybe this is all they're capable of doing with Mega Man anymore. Predictably, early impressions for Rockman Xover are not looking good. Despite this, for the last few years, Capcom has gotten the idea that they can act with impunity because 1. The people who are boycotting or otherwise taking a stand against them aren't doing it right 2. There aren't enough people doing so 3. Sales figures are still counterbalancing any boycotting efforts This is what happens when people don't properly punish a company that acts out of line. To this day, Capcom is getting money it should not be getting. Now everyone pays the price. By not completely starving Capcom of all profit, they are doing whatever they please and you all swallow it up (or so it seems to them anyway). When I say "you", I mean the gaming community as a whole, because the minority that knows what's what is being drowned out by the people who only talk in dollar signs. For all the people who complain, a few months later, Capcom announces some kind of remake or sequel of a series everyone used to like just to appease to the people calling them out. A shadow of their lofty greatness as opposed to the genuine article will restore their image, just like they did with Jojo's Bizarre Adventure and Darkstalkers and Marvel vs. Capcom recently, and no one learns a thing. Capcom will profit with this title (because Mega Man is still a big name franchise and "social RPGs" almost always make money) and the change that desperately needs to happen never will, because gamers are too short-sighted and selfish to effect any real change in the industry. If you don't like this, then buckle up because I'm going to tell you how to cause that change. And you have a lot of work to do. I've observed something during this console generation which applies to every major gaming company that missteps more than a few times. No matter what happens, Capcom has enough diehard fans and casual fans who don't know any better to survive the worst beatings that those in the know have to offer. I recall the Wii version of Okami as a particular sticking point with the community at the time over failure to properly credit those involved in that port and even those who worked on the original game. Gamers took offense and a number of them vowed to boycott Capcom for their flagrant disrespect for the hard work of the individuals who worked on this game, but in the end, nothing happened. Okami on the Wii sold well enough and everyone forgot about it by the time the sequels came out. (Funny how Capcom's scramble to fix the infamous cover watermark was viewed as a token of respect before word of this got out.) Earlier this year, there was a case regarding Dragon's Dogma where a junior developer was nearly driven to suicide, and people still bought the game even after the story broke. Whatever horrid working conditions caused that case live on because there's no incentive to change it -- that is, poor sales as a result of people boycotting Capcom out of principle, just like they didn't with Okami. Granted, this has more to do with Japanese business culture than Capcom and is on the same level as the people who refuse to shop at Walmart. I bet it happens all the time and this is a case that managed to make headlines. But since Capcom was outed for it, why not make an example of them? After those missed opportunities to make a change, the failing I'm seeing is that gamers are sayingCapcom should pay, but no one is doing anything to make them. People tell me that Capcom learned their lesson with Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Street Fighter X Tekken in regard to mishandling gamers' trust with their money (free 2013 update to the latter notwithstanding), and they also tell me I'm silly for thinking Capcom needs even more punishment. Yeah, Capcom has learned its lesson, which is why they're still going at it with these half-hearted cash grabs and suboptimal working conditions. Isn't that right, Yoshinori Ono? How is anyone going to learn anything with that kind of attitude? Actions speak louder than words, and for years I've been seeing a whole lot of words and barely any action. Forgive the hypocrisy on my part, but I can't do it alone. You can't do it. One person cannot do it. Nor can a hundred. Nor can a thousand. Nor can a hundred thousand, no matter how strong they all think they are as a group. VGChartz shows that Capcom-published games routinely push millions of copies, even the "bad" ones like Resident Evil 6 that still broke the one million barrier. That's how many people we need to do it. Capcom is big, and we need to be bigger. Gamers need to all stand up at once and give them the biggest middle finger a Japanese gaming company has ever seen for any change to happen, because we've been taking it in the rear for far too long. Unfortunately, with the way the industry is set up now, no one can communicate to the most important game companies and tell them off directly, never mind foreign companies. Community websites and Facebook pages are only for advertising, not for feedback. Yeah, bad feedback on social media has pressed Capcom to say they are reconsidering how they'll handle DLC in the future, but that's just more words. (Update about Resident Evil 6: I don't want to have to bring up the fact that it has on-disc DLC because development on it started long before Capcom made the claim that they'll rethink that policy. I don't care that the DLC is free; this should never have happened in the first place. That said, it was going to happen eventually, like all potential ways to abuse monetization schemes, so it just sucks that it had to be a company with such a fine pedigree as Capcom.) Speaking of words, petitions mean squat. They imply support for a cause other than the surgical extraction of everything wrong with a company, which in Capcom's case is probably no longer feasible. Let me digress here for a moment: Suppose a petition does work. We get one game, maybe a handful, the signers wanted. Then what? Does the company change in any meaningful way as a result of listening to the fans? Are more games in their vein promised immediately regardless of sales and the company's current direction just because the fans made their voices known when they should not have needed to in the first place? Or do the fans wait and write up another petition for the next game they decide is worth more than the company decides it's worth? Given how long the petition process takes, I just don't think it's worth the effort and I'd rather see that effort bettering the industry rather than racing toward short-term gains. That tangent aside, we need unprecedented backlash to make Capcom turn over a new leaf, because like everyone else, I desperately want this bad Capcom to go away forever and a good Capcom, or even theold Capcom that did cool things in the last console generation and before, to appear in its place. But Exy, you're being too hard on them! Why kill the whole company off? Capcom still does good stuff once in a while. I know. Capcom was very good just a few years ago. I know this because of the lengths they went to to spread Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars around the planet. No one saw it coming, and Capcom did everything they could to make it work, and it totally did. They fixed the original up and even threw in new characters just because. They listened, even though it wasn't the most anticipated game of its season, and now few people play it anymore. (I believe it's due to poor timing, but I'm told that it was because it was on the one console most of the target audience didn't have, but that's for another article.) I can't emphasize enough just how much of a miracle Ultimate All-Stars is, and I feel it's been wasted. Who knows how long it'll be before we see such a defiance of region boundaries again? Then something happened and Capcom got greedy. I don't know what that something was or how long it took, but here we are. Whatever trace of good is left in the current Capcom is being overshadowed far too heavily by the bad. The way the industry is set up, we can't help them differentiate. If we buy only what we want and not what we don't want, we will get more of the good. "Voting with your wallet," as gamers like to say, regardless of how fundamentally broken that concept is. (Gotta write that rant sometime.) Unfortunately, too many people buy everything regardless if it's good or bad. Since the undiscerning gamers who make up a majority of the paying customer base aren't being reached, this ideal has no chance of success. The people who don't know any better are voting with their wallets as well, and their votes outnumber yours. I don't care about what the reports say about games held up by DLC and/or gems, games farmed out to subpar contractors, and ill-advised cell phone remakes not selling well. That they're being developed at all means something is wrong higher up. Kenji Inafune and Shinji Mikami and now Seth Killian all jumped ship just before and even during this all went down, and people still held hope. That's all gone now. Speaking of regions, I need to go back to something that's very personal to me: Voting with your wallet. Sure, it works fine for the usual domestic competitions of highly-rated games versus not-so-highly rated mediocrity, but how do you vote for a game that's not even in the ballot? But first, how do democracies work? Correct me if I'm wrong, but a big part of it is being able to vote out the people who run a state badly and then vote in good people, yes? When was the last time that happened with a game company? Who's going to tell the CEOs who keep companies from being supportive of their customers to go away just because a few hundred thousand people on the internet think they're Jerky McJerkfaces? Does anyone even know what the names of those Capcom executives are? Are they as bad as Bobby Kotick or even worse? Let's ignore the fact that we non-Japanese gamers shouldn't even have any votes in a Japanese ballot, so to speak, or even the fact that I have yet to suggest giving this article to the Japanese since they matter more to Japanese companies like I usually do. The only thing that ousts bad executives is major scandal, and below-average sales is not an example of it. Super bad sales, sure, but there needs to be a string of those, or something really, really bad. I'm talking Virtual Boy bad. You're not going to be able to just vote the problematic executives out, the people who actually make development decisions--not with your wallet, not with Facebook petitions, and certainly not with your internet posts. If there is actually a way to vote executives out, by all means go do it right now. But get all the shareholders to vote with you while you're at it. I'm assuming the reader of this article is not a Capcom shareholder, so to go back to my previous point, the next best thing is to coordinate a number of people comparable to Capcom's VGChartz numbers to make a difference. The best example I can think of that many gamers working together to remove a problematic individual from gaming is Jack Thompson, and he's never even worked for a gaming company! Countless people contributed to his demise, exposing his misinformed attitudes on gaming, wearing away at his reputation and possibly his mental state, and culminating in disbarment. Why can't we use that synergy to fix a gaming company? Probably because unlike Jack Thompson, gaming companies can distract gamers from their cause with a game. It works every single time, as the biggest American game companies can attest. But that's a whole different battle. There's hope, however, assuming the problems with Capcom are really all about the money as opposed to any respect for the Mega Man name. A comment on the Destructoid post from Tubatic gave me an idea: "I propose a year long Game Jam in which people make tons of Mega Man sidescrollers. It's the only way to revive and reclaim it, I think. Capcom just isn't going there." To which I replied, why not go all the way? Not only do we stand up all together and tell Capcom off, we should blatantly tread all over their copyright and sell such games en masse to send the message that people are willing to pay for them, even if they don't come from Capcom. Capcom doesn't get to see a cent of that money for something that belongs to them. (They don't care about it, right? Is that what you're trying to say, Exy?) Gamers think they vote with their wallets, so I further propose that those people who are still deluded into thinking that gaming is a democracy vote for write-in candidates. Disgruntled fans with talent and a drive to see this franchise retake its place in the top game series of all time should steal the franchise and hold it for ransom. Then we'll see just how much Capcom cares about Mega Man. The fans would essentially be detaining Mega Man against his will, but better for fans to do that than Capcom. This will only work if: 1. A lot of developers participate in selling Mega Man "tributes" for profit 2. None of those developers give any proceeds to Capcom for any reason, be it respect, hope for a new good game, or anything else 3. A balance between such projects made out of spite to Capcom and out of tough love to them is made 4. At least one of them sells big and the developer openly brags about all the money he's making from aMega Man fan product That last point is the most important. A handful of the best Mega Man fan works needs to make bank and have everyone know it. After seeing Rockman 4 Minus Infinity, I have faith in the indie and hacker communities to make games good enough for this to work. As an even more compelling proof of concept, fans decided to make a playable mock-up of Rockman Xover in Flash based on currently available media and assets just to spite Capcom. This is exactly what I envisioned: People taking the fight straight to Capcom and not to the online forums where anything of consequence rarely occurs. It's like what the old Japanese proverb says--and I'm paraphrasing here so correct me if I'm off--if a whole lot of people all illegally cross the street, none of them can get in trouble because there's too many of them. The same mindset needs to be applied to this Game Jam idea to have any effect. It will end in either a lot of lawsuits, a lot of buyouts, or desperation on Capcom's part, but if it's construed as a mass rebellion, it's my best idea to get Capcom to panic and rethink their strategy. Some people suggest that Capcom should sell the rights to Mega Man to a company that cares more about it. If they take Mega Mangames to the heights seen in the best ROM hacks and fan games, then I would be for it. But the problem of Capcom being Capcom would still exist. It would be a half-fix: Mega Man gets a chance at redemption, while Capcom just has one less franchise to work with. I would rather all of it be fixed at once. Mega Man needs to be taken by force if it's to get any better. Of course, this is a horrible idea--mostly because Capcom always has their other departments to make up the slack, not just because it's stupidly illegal--but Capcom is clearly hurting for cash whether they actually need it or not, so let's hit them where it counts. The title of this post is about fixing Capcom, but I really think we need to tear them down. There are just too many issues with this Capcom to expect a few fixes to make everything right. If this Capcom falls, the shock will be felt throughout the entire industry, like when Sega stopped making consoles. Again, Capcom is big, but we are bigger. The best legal way to do this, of course, is to boycott. Let me tell you how. Three steps. A lot of customers have claimed over the years on news posts that they are through with Capcom for some mistake they made. To me, this means cutting off all financial support completely. It's simple, really. If they get any money, they win. They interpret that statement as meaning that their current strategy is profitable, so there's no incentive to change. What you need to do is say no. No more appeasements. No more second chances. No buying anything of theirs on Virtual Console or whatever. No buying incremental upgrades for fighting games just to stay competitive. Nothing. This step is the easiest, but it is by no means easy or even the most important, as I'll explain below. The next step is the most overlooked: Don't just stop buying anything Mega Man or anything Capcom, make sure everyone else stops too. Urge random civilians everywhere, in game shops, online, at gaming meetups, not to support Capcom. Educate them. Maybe we'll get a fraction of the millions of people needed to change Capcom this way. It's our best chance. I would predict a great many of them won't listen or won't help, but if you really want Capcom to change, you won't let that slow you down. This is what I took issue with most with Operation Rainfall. Their primary goal wasn't about convincing the gaming community at large that there needs to be significant change to the localization process, but rather about getting three games that appeal to JRPG and Wii owners. Now that they have them, they're resting on their laurels. And now people are questioning if the effort was worth it. Like I said in my spiel about petitions above, they should be focusing their efforts on fixing the industry, ideally from the inside out, not begging to it. Don't make their mistake -- Remember, this isn't about Mega Man, it's about the industry. Get everyone you can to join your cause. There is a lot more at stake here than a bunch of cancelled games and a hideous iOS "anniversary celebration." Why should we still have to expect mediocrity at this point? How can any of you get excited for Ace Attorney 5 when we're missing an entire game of investigating? Maybe it wasn't that great, but on principle we still should have seen a glimpse of it anyway. Now here's the hardest--and most important--part: Stand strong and don't buy anything from Capcom, no matter how good the games are. It sounds like I'm repeating myself at this point, but this is where a great majority of boycotts fail: The boycotters let themselves be won over by announcements of new games. A lot of would-be boycotters don't seem to understand that getting excited for a new release is the opposite of a boycott. Still others hold the "Damn you Capcom, I want to boycott you so stop releasing games I'm going to buy" mentality. Even if tongue-in-cheek, that mentality is pushing us two steps back for every step forward. Then the whole process starts anew. Enough is enough. Say you're going to boycott Capcom, then stick to your guns. Resist the temptation to give them a dime. Give that money to talented fans instead, just as long as that money doesn't end up in Capcom's bank account. This isn't a vote, it's a protest. When a boycott is done right, it hurts the executives and the other people poisoning the company from within, but it also hurts the programmers, it hurts the artists, it hurts the musicians, and most of all, it hurts you. It's sad and unfair to the hard-working employees and maybe even to you, the Capcom fan or ex-fan, but it's the only way -- after all, this is what boycotts do. There's going to be a lot of collateral damage, but it's that or allow Capcom to destroy themselves. This Capcom needs to know the suffering everyone involved had to put up with for years. Think about what they've gotten away with, all the people they hurt, all the disappointments and the times they cheated you, because they are not. No matter how painful it is for you, hurt them hard. Show no mercy, for they have none. If they announce a new game, hurt them by not caring. When the new game is released, hurt them by stifling week one sales. When DLC is announced, hurt them by not buying it. Every time this happens, hurt them again and again. Once they're on their knees begging for another chance, hurt them more. Hurt them because you love them. If you really care about Mega Man, then hurt Capcom for all the times they hurt Mega Man. If you loveStreet Fighter or Resident Evil or Devil May Cry or what have you, hurt them for what they did to those series. Hurt them for every old Capcom series you love that has not been given a chance this generation. If you care about Capcom, hurt them for all the times they hurt their customers and their employees. Hurt them nonstop until their bad influences are completely driven out, and then we can rebuild with whatever's left. Hopefully, the affected programmers and artists and musicians will take Kenji Inafune and Shinji Mikami's lead and find better companies that are more than willing to take them in, and then they can hurt Capcom as well. For all I know, maybe that's what a lot of them want. If you're a Capcom employee or ex-employee and you're reading this, I'm sorry if it made you feel bad. Most likely, this isn't your fault. But I'm not one for third chances. If it sounds like I'm saying Capcom is beyond hope, notice how I've been using the term "this Capcom" throughout this post. I believe this Capcom has been corrupted from the one I grew up with, the old one I mentioned earlier. I don't like this Capcom and it pains me to see Capcom fans supporting them. This Capcom is not Capcom. This Capcom is the enemy. This Capcom did not give the world Mega Man X,Street Fighter IV, Resident Evil 4, or Mega Man Legends. Instead, this Capcom gave us Mega Man X on iOS, Street Fighter X Tekken, Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D, and now Rockman Xover. This Capcom would never have given us Ultimate All-Stars. The only thing that will stop it is a mercy killing, not just a mild prolonged sting. If Capcom dies tomorrow, then we can start talking recovery tomorrow. Clearly, no one at Capcom is listening now. If alarmingly low sales is what they need to reconsider anything they're doing, then so be it. Something is seriously wrong with Capcom and it's not going away without a fight. We can only claim victory once the people who made Capcom what it is now leave Capcom forever, or ideally, retire from the game industry forever. Once they're gone, only then will Capcom be able to find new direction, pick up the pieces, and win any fans back for good. It will be a slow, grueling process, but it can happen. It can happen when everyone in the world wants it to happen. I want it to happen. Let's make it happen. And if you don't want to shoulder that responsibility, don't interfere with the people who want this Capcom to perish. [Original artwork by Darka22] But of course, none of this is going to work. I'm just as ineffectual at getting millions of people around the world to listen as the best games writers are, and that's to say nothing of speaking to Japanese gamers,even if some of them do agree already that this game is the beginning of the end. And for that, I am truly sorry. I'm sorry for wasting your time with bitter rambling and dangerous ideas. I'm just as naive as everyone else involved. I've asked too many questions and the few answers I gave are not very encouraging, but I felt they had to be said. I don't know if any of this has a chance of reaching out to the people who can fix Capcom or can get enough people to get the process started. All I know is this: Capcom used to be good. Now they are not. I refuse to accept that this Capcom is Capcom. They are an evil that must be slain by any means necessary. Boycotting is so hip these days, but no one knows how to do it anymore. Until they learn, everything is for naught. All things considered, this is probably not the last straw for the fraction of the fanbase that can make this plan go, which is truly tragic since this means that this sad story will only continue. But once you've decided that enough is enough, this article will be here for you. I've said it too many times already, but things will get worse before they get better, and they need to. If you don't think so, if you want to show me that not everyone has to suffer to make things right, if you want to be the change, then prove me wrong. I beg you. But at the end of the day, the real question is this: What is it going to take for gamers to snap and take an actual stand? How much lower can Capcom go? What will Capcom at its most pathetic look like? Are they really getting close to hitting rock bottom? I don't want to think about the answers to these questions. I want them solved before we ever get there. But then again, I am naive. Note 1: For the record, I just want to say that I'm not the sort who cares very much for milestones and anniversaries. They're great when a game released on an anniversary happens to be very good because we humans like assigning sentimental importance to nice, round numbers, but the pressure to not miss anniversaries for frankly unimportant things is like a big arbitrary deadline. I bet Nintendo did nothing forMetroid's big one this year because they didn't have anything good to offer in time. Better that than, say,Other M part 2. Note 2: I don't want to suggest that you bomb Amazon and Metacritic reviews with unfairly low scores for legitimately good games because I think that's extremely petty and unproductive, but if that actually hurts them, don't let me stop you.
A feature by The-Excel
[Community member The-Excel's got quite a lot to say about fixing up Japanese gaming giant Capcom, and a mind to share his thoughts with everyone. If you've got some awesome insights of your own to share that beg to be shared...

Going back to it: Summer Vacation

Oct 24 // Chris Walden
The start of summer vacation, August 17th, is still very vivid. I met a group of my friends at a local café to organise a plan of activities. While it looked like a lot of hassle and hard work was involved, it did mean I'd be with my friends for the whole holiday period. I live alone, but I'm usually fine with the simple company of a good book. I'm not sure how I felt about spending all of my time with them, but I'd assume it was something positive.   To kick off the long awaited summer, we made a trip to the swimming pool. It was pretty busy, but it wasn't so bad overall. I remember admiring the swimming costume the leader of our group was wearing, as it was a nice orange colour that really stood out. Actually, it was a bright pink costume with darker pink highlights. Or was it a multicolour swimsuit with hearts on it? I can't remember, but she does seem to have a large swimwear collection, so it's hard to keep track of these things. Whichever it was, it certainly suited her. I'm not one for swimming, but I enjoyed drifting around in my inner tube.  We also made sure to attend the Obon festival, where the rest of the group got up to their usual antics. I think I spent too much time figuring out which mask I wanted to buy from one of the vendors, but I was a little bit distracted. I know there was something I was trying to remember. Something really important that I needed to let everyone know. If I hadn't been sneaking sips of sake when their backs were turned, I might have remembered.  There was also a day where we all got temporary jobs. We all dressed up in silly costumes like those girls from K-On!, except we were paid to do it. I'm not really sure how we managed to get the jobs considering the lack of opportunities and local demand, but I get the feeling it had something to do with the unbearable heat at the time. I'm not bothered by heat (or much else, to be honest), but it seems the others weren't doing so good.  There were also the little things that helped make the whole experience that much more memorable. We went hunting for cicadas, played a little baseball and even went fishing! It was great to finally experience these things for myself, rather than read them from a book. I don't remember too much about the end of the summer vacation, but I do remember that one of the guys had some homework to do. It's a shame it was cut short for him, but homework is important! Really important! That concludes my blog post about my summer vacation. All of these activities made me really appreciate the close group of friends I have, and in some respects I didn't want the summer to end. It did feel a little bit longer than the school breaks usually are, but we had so much going on that I didn't mind at all. All I hope is that we have even bigger plans for the next holidays!
It's my favourite time of the year.
[Another promoted article for you guys! This one was sent to me by an anonymous lady, so check it out and leave a comment for her! Remember folks, the month is yet to end, so check out the guidelines for this months...

Coming Back Again and Again: Sket Dance

Oct 21 // Rank57
That's how it begins Comedy gold, charismatic characters, parodies, hidden plot, drama and laughter. Sket Dance has all of this, used with perfect timing. The story is about a school club that helps other students and even teachers to solve their problems. The SKET dan stands for Support Kindness Encouragement Troubleshoot. Given this summary, at first I thought the anime was about friendship, touching moments and helping other people. Well, it still is about that stuff, and some episodes are about the Sket dan helping people with serious problems, but the main focus is the comedy, and laugh you will. There are many anime that have characters who steal the show when they appear. Now, imagine when you combine a bunch of these show-stealing characters and put them inside the same school. What you get is something like Sket Dance. Let's start with the main 3 protagonists. Sketo dansu! Fujisaki Yusuke, or Bossun, is the leader of the Sket dan. His main "power" is concentrating, as he can gather all information and come up with a solution to most problems. He is one of the most versatile characters ever, as he can be the tsukkomi, the clever one who makes fun of the stupid situation, or the boke, the one who makes the weird situation. He can be a badass by delivering an inspirational speech, or a total child by getting all excited about a car toy. Onizuka Hime, or Himeko, serves as Sket dan's muscles. She is a ex-delinquent who can be gentle or a hothead depending on circumstances, and Shiraishi Ryoko's kansai dialect portraying Himeko is a total charm! Usui Kazuyoshi, or Switch, completes the team. He speaks through his computer. Normally he's calm and serious, but also like Bossun, he makes jokes all the time and gets easily excited, especially with his otaku hobbies. That censor All 3 main characters are loveable, and they are not the only ones. All characters in Sket Dance have an "automatic joke", like Saotome Roman's ability to transform everything into a shoujo manga, or Dante's (dubbed by Gackt!) difficult way of speech, or the "modern samurai" Takemitsu Shinzo and many, many others, including the lazy Chuma-sensei and his crazy experiments or Kunio-sensei's weird games. Each of them appear at the right timing to be funny and don't overuse a recycled joke; each appearance is as hilarious as the previous one. And then, we have the student council. At first, they appear as Sket dan's counterparts, even opponents. But as one would expect, each member is awesome with a unique personality trait. I just love every time Asahina displays her utter and total disrespect with people, sending them to die with her abbreviations! These guys deserve their own anime The parodies are constant, be it mocking battle anime, be it exploring clichéd scenes. Even the "otaku world" is portrayed in an awesome way, like when Switch presents absurd mahou shoujo anime like "The Angel of Extortion" or "Maternity Blue". The fourth wall is consistently broken, especially by Roman, and every now and then Sket Dance takes a break to develop the story, characters and relationships with some more serious episodes, especially when it shows the past of the 3 protagonists. And to top it off, the soundtrack. The show starts off with AKB48's subgroup French Kiss and The Pillows, have a go with Gackt and Evertset, but musically the main attraction is the band who was born with Sket Dance. There is an episode where there is a concert with various bands in school, and Bossun, Himeko and Switch end up forming "The Sketchbook". Well, the band actually exists and performs most of Sket Dance's openings and endings. There are many factors that make me love an anime, but the main one is charisma. Characters need to feel alive, inspire and be funny, and Sket Dance delivers those generously.
Promoted article!
[The first promoted article for the current Bloggers Wanted is here! Rank57 tells us all about Sket Dance, and why it's impossible to quit! I haven't seen the show myself, but doesn't it get you curious to try it out? Re...

Comparison to the West: A Tale of Two Monkeys

Oct 15 // Sideshow
Monkey VS Goku Monkey (Masaaki Sakai, voiced by David Collings) "Born from an egg on a mountain top. Funkiest monkey to ever pop. He knew every magic trick under the sun. To tease the gods and everyone and have some fun." Or so the opening suggests. There's not a lot I can say about Monkey that wasn't covered in the last post. He wants to fight, he hates being controlled and he has an extremely short temper. Despite that, he does have morals, a code of honour, etc. At one point he'll be expelled from the group for his violent behaviour and he'll go along with it, only to then come to his senses to "save the day". In episode 2, he starts wearing the Headache Sutra, which was explained in my last post. The difference however is there's an actual reason for Monkey to be wearing it. Tripitaka frees him and then he leaves, breaking his promise with Tripitaka. Makes sense. Goku (Shingo Katori) From episode one, I already know the differences here. Where Monkey is short tempered, Goku is lazy. Another thing I've noticed is Goku seems to be almost obsessed with pee. It became abundantly clear in episode two when he pees in a hot spring. Sure, this was to save Hoshi from being cooked in it but when you have one episode where 30% of his dialogue is fart related in addition to this scene, you tend to wonder whats going on an that little ape's head. There are good points to Goku, it just that it feels really plastic seeing them episode after episode. Goku makes a speech about friendship, Goku gets mad about the victim of the episode and flies off for "the final showdown". From a character perspective, he's the most noble of the four. Writing wise, on the other hand, he's just annoying and repetitive. (But I'll share my thoughts on that next week when we come to the 1/4 point.) The Edge: Monkey No, the nostalgia glasses are off. This choice was based on a personality level. The sheer randomness of his personality rather than the same thing episode after episode, is more appealing to me from where I'm sitting. Sandy VS Gojou Sandy (Shiro Kishibe, voiced by Gareth Armstrong) - Also known as the brains of the group. A fish spirit who banished from heaven for breaking the Jade Emperor's cup. Level headed and often speaking of philosophy. Sandy often states the obvious, things that the audience is certainly thinking. "What if this is a trap to capture you?", he asks Tripitaka, seconds away from an incoming ambush. He's such a well rounded character, there's not much else to say about him. His weapon of choice is hard for me to describe. Its a cross between a staff and an oar, in my opinion. Gojou (Teruyoshi Uchimura) - Upgraded to a pair of sai, Gojou is once again the brains of the group. Or at least that's what I would say. It seems that Gojou and Hakkai are either sharing or swapping personality traits. They both act as Hoshi's advisers, with Gojou being a little bit more aware of the obvious dangers.I said little. Hell, he's seen seducing or allowing seduction to happen from various women on the basis that he's simply told they fancy him. Its unexpected, is what I'm saying here. But its something that I'll accept with open arms as its feels like there's four main characters rather than three main characters and one wall flower. The Edge: Gojou Last week, I said that Saiyuuki's costumes are over detailed. This week, I'm making an exception with Gojou. His costume just looks so perfect for not only his character but his fighting style. Another thing that makes him stand out is the fact he is fighting with sais rather than a staff based weapon. His fight scenes are the most amazing to watch in Saiyuuki. Pigsy VS Hakkai Pigsy (Toshiyuki Nishida, voiced Peter Woodthorpe) - A womaniser and a glutton, hence the name. Also kicked out of heaven...but for feeling up the Lady Vega. And as you can probably guess, yes, this kind of thing does land him and the gang in a whole heap of trouble. In the third episode "The Great Journey Begins", Pisgy is woken up by a beautiful woman and follows her without question only to then be captured in by her spider-demon daughters and literally hung out over night. Its these scenes that make any non-fighting scene worth watching for it's comical value. On another note, I'd say that for a character whose suppose to be ugly, he certainly doesn't look that in the slightest. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that his costume is the most appealing out of the entire gang...nam style...ok, bad joke but you know what I mean. The simplicity of it. The only thing "piggy" about it, is his ears. I challenge anyone to say "he's hideous". Hilarious? Yes. Hideous? Not so much. Hakkai (Atsushi Ito) - Hakkai is the noble pig goblin. His behaviour can be somewhat compared to a young teen or child whose obviously getting picked on by the other kids. Wears his heart on his sleeve, etc. And before I go on about his personality, I'd like to take a minute and ask: "Does this look like a pig to you?". To me he just seems more like a cat than a pig. Getting back to base, for a pig character he certainly doesn't show these "pig" character traits as much as you'd think. Yes, he'll let any woman seduce him but rather than the Pigsy's: "Oooh! Beautiful lady!" tactic and pulls a Brock moment(Remember? From Pokemon?), Hakkai is more on par with the shy high school nerd who is asked by a pretty school girl if he wants to hang out with her. My other main problem I have with him is the lack of evolution from being expelled from heaven to now. We never see him overcome certain "pig" faults, lust, gluttony, etc. It feels like even if we've watched all 11 episodes and one movie, we've somehow missed Hakkai's personal character arc and this is the aftermath we're watching. The Edge: Pigsy Don't get me wrong, Hakkai's personality is great entertainment and certain scenes pull my heart strings like an elastic band. But lets face facts. In any Journey to the West retelling, the main characters are a Monkey, a Fish, a Pig and a Priest. So after 10 minutes of deciding, the question came down to: "Is this a 'Pig' character?" and if the answer for Hakkai is "no" then I'm sorry, the edge goes to Pigsy. Hands down. Out of the two characters, I'd rather watch the actual "pig" character. Tripitaka VS Sanzou Hoshi Tripitaka (Masako Natsume, voiced by Maria Warburg) - In all honesty, I've been dreading writing about Tripitaka and Hoshi. Simply because they're the exact same character. Word for word. So its hard to compare a character that's exactly the same (except for one thing we'll get to, don't worry). At least when comparing the likes of Monkey and Sandy, there's differences to point out. Anyway, Tripitaka was an orphan, adopted by a monastery. After finding his mother and "avenging" his father, he is told to go on a holy journey to India. The show maybe called Monkey but Tripitaka is the leader of the group. Now in most adaptations of Journey to the West, there's a common troupe with this character. The fact he's played by a female actor. I get that because the character is a boy priest and its easier for women to play younger men then grown men. (Fans of anime will know exactly what I'm talking about) But in this show they didn't really try hard enough to conceal that fact. An episode comes to mind "You Win Some, You Lose Some" where he's captured, again, and you start to realise that "Hey...Why are there lumps on his chest? Did the demons do that?" Sanzou Hoshi (Eri Fukatsu) - Same story as Tripitaka, a boy priest whose on a journey to India, leader of the gang, etc, etc. His kind heart and helping nature does become his undoing sometimes. Its also the reason why every episode they detour away from their Journey to India. The annoying fact about Hoshi specifically is something I've explained in the previous post. His "trust" in Goku is something that has got me shouting at my laptop, "Why rescue and travel with the one guy you obviously don't trust?". My plothole rantings aside, theres one point that is worth noting but its not on a character level. Its on an actor's. In keeping with tradition, Hoshi is played by a female actor. The reason for noting this? She shaved her head for the role. Now to some that doesn't say much however speaking as an actor myself, it takes a lot of confidence to be so committed to a production you would do something like that. And I certainly tip my hat to that. The Edge: Sanzou Hoshi Surprised? He may not be consistent with his trust for his fellow pilgram. His headache sutra prayer is enough is make me get my nostalgia glasses and shouting, "WROOOOOONNNNNNG!!!" but I'm going to stick my neck out here and give the edge to Hoshi on an actor level. I say this because both Hoshi and Tripitaka are the exact same character. It's hard to give an edge to two identical people. However I'll take this edge back the instant the show fails to cover up the fact that Hoshi is played by a woman. I.e. "Magical demon lumps" Wrapping up I present to you my personal choice of pilgrims for their journey to India. So what's you're thoughts? Given the information above, which four would you choose? When writing this, I've purposely left out certain facts like Pigsy's actor changes and the Horse becomes a main character in Monkey. Nor did I mention there are two reoccurring characters in Saiyuuki. These will take another post later down the line when we reach the halfway point. But for now enjoy today's post and look forward to next week's where we reach the 1/4 mark and the thoughts that surround my head about it.
The continuing saga of one community member's journey through classic literature!
[Here now is the next entry in community member Sideshow's awesome series of C-blogs about Journey To The West. In case you haven't been following it (for shame!) here's the first and second parts. And don't forget,...

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[Welcome to Bloggers Wanted, our way of asking you, our dear readers, questions, and checking out your insights, the ones too big for podcasts or mere comments. Deep thoughts like that deserve recognition, and this is where w...

Promoted Blog: Comparison to the West: The Journey Begins

Oct 08 // Sideshow
Monkey - Episode 1 (Monkey Goes Wild About Heaven) Now to be fair I've forced myself to watch Monkey without my nostalgia glasses. Why? I'm going to point at the common Sonic fanboy "arguments" and go "thats why". You'll see what I mean when we head over to Saiyuuki. First things first, 90% of the voice acting is fantastically offensive. The whole "oh! Daniel-san!"stereotypical asian accent reminds you of the kung-fu films of yesteryear which does fit with certain characters I guess. But I'll admit it does get offensive very fast. The narrator especially but I feel he is the only person in the show that justifies the accent simply because he is portraying an all knowing wiseman. Second thing is that the special effects are cheesy as all hell. Shots of Monkey cloud-flying comprise of a tiny figurine on a cotton ball. Summoning his monkey army can be recreated with still images of a single person, copied multiple times and animated on a moving plane in Adobe After Effects. Having said that, this IS a show made in the 1970's so I'm letting it slide. The opening to the show is by far one of the flashiest openings I've seen in ages. From the song alone, it gives the sense that this is the most epic story of all time. "Born from an egg on a mountain top. Funkiest Monkey to every pop." etc, etc. I highly recommend you track this song down just to see for yourself. (Its Monkey Magic by Godiego for those at the back of the class) Trying to recap all 43 minutes of Monkey in a single paragraph is extremely hard partly because its 43 minutes but mostly because I didn't do so well at english in high school. The entire episode is an origin story for Monkey, who made of stone and capable of magic, telling the tale of how he acquired the magic Wishing Staff and how heaven tried to control him as a precaution. So they hire him as the Heavenly Stableman. But he started fighting when he found out that's not a high status in heaven. And then they refer to him as "Great Sage, Equal of Heaven" in name only and make him a Gardener of the Heavenly Peach Garden. But then he ate all the peaches, thus making him immortal and then goes crazy and fights all of heaven. And this is from being told he's not invited to a heavenly party. All of these scenes are sown together with fight scenes. And it must be said that the "staff VS sword" fight scenes are decently choreographed to the tune of drums and bass guitar playing in the background making it almost addicting. They're no Mark Musashi (Kodama from Garo) but its close. Speaking of production, the visuals overall are something that warrant certain frames of the episode to be sent into an art exhibition with its beautiful costume and set designs. But getting back to the last bit of the plot... Desperate to stop Monkey, Budda appears in his female form, making a first in many gender reversals for characters in the series, and places Monkey under a mountain for five hundred years...harsh. Budda then turns to heaven and hints at a journey that must be taken to save man kind. If you're wondering why I haven't mentioned Sandy, Pigsy & Tripitaka yet, its because this episode isn't really about them. Hell, Tripitaka is seen in the last minute of the whole thing. I'll go into detail about them in my next post when I compare them to their Saiyuuki counterparts. Saiyuuki - Episode 1 (Land of Fire)  Monkey/Goku is blonde. (I just thought I'd start by saying that.) Saiyuuki gets right in the action with the Goku, Hakkai/Sandy, Gojou/Pigsy & Sanzou Hoshi/Tripitaka taking on a bird demon and an army of ninjas. Now if I said Monkey's fight scenes are close to Mark Musashi then Saiyuuki is Musashi's genetic clone. A battle royale of animal spirits and ninjas. I think the main reason they chose this as a way to start the show is because Monkey is a cult classic and assumes that Saiyuuki's audience already know how they came to be. And to be honest, if I was writing a remake, I would start like this to. The show's opening is something that I'm still confused about. It starts with a beautiful painting and has the traditional storytelling narrator. After that is a shot of the mountains with Goku spinning his staff and then the show's name and episode title are seen on the mountain side accompanied by modern-ish music. It gets confusing trying to pin point what tone they're going for. But one thing that doesn't get confusing is the comedic writing. You'll have a scene of Goku, Hakkai & Gojou fighting over who gets to drink their water supply when Hoshi empties his bottle on a plant and gets shouted at since that's the only water they had left in the middle of a desert. So Hoshi starts to cry while the rest of the gang try to calm him down by pretending to see a town in the distance. This is the only joke I'm choosing to ruin since it happens after the opening but there are better ones. After reaching a town they encounter Hoshi's former master whose faced with a problem. His daughter is marked as a sacrifice to keep a demon from causing more chaos in their town. Hoshi volunteers to help. Their plans immediately backfires as Goku discovers that Hoshi's former master offered Hoshi up to the demon so his daughter wouldn't be sacrificed. Resulting in Hoshi and the others to be kidnapped. Goku then saves bringing Hoshi's former master and his daughter into the demon's lair and once again, things don't go as planned as the daughter is left behind. Afterwards Hoshi demands why Goku did that. And after a heated argument with Hoshi trusting his former master than his own pupil, Goku leaves, expelled from Hoshi's travelling party. And this is where I start having problems with the show. The next scene is a discussion between Goku and a cook called Rin-Rin which is basically to frame a flashback to when Goku was trapped under a mountain. From where I sat if they didn't include this scene I would think "Well Goku is reckless. He's a danger. It makes sense not to trust him.". But to include this scene something was rattling around in my brain. "Why go through all the trouble of getting someone out of a five hundred year prison, travel with them for god...budda knows how long and yet NOT trust him???" Up to this point the show has portrayed these four pilgrims as brothers, close friends, etc. What I'm saying is that if you're going to travel with someone on a journey that would take years to complete, how could you not trust that person? Hoshi is kidnapped, again, and discovers out Goku WAS right. Goku finally goes to rescue him, in the form of cloud-flying, after a pep talk. And while I say "cloud" I really mean leaf. A giant leaf. To be honest, I like this change. Its different but I think what makes it work is the scene itself. Quick scenes of Goku flying on the leaf created with CGI rather than a figurine. People with CGI knowledge, tell the others how hard it would be to do that? Nice, gentle flying music accompanying it. Its certainly one of the things that keeps audience members intrigued. And while its not as cheesy as Monkey's special effects, its on par with shows like Garo and Kamen Rider......and Super get the idea. Then, a final showdown which pretty much runs exactly like how the episode started, with everything returning normal. But I'll share my thoughts on that later. Trust me, it's going to take me another post to explain that. Oh yes. And after all this, Hoshi tricks Goku to put the headache sutra headband on. A headband that hurts Goku when Hoshi recites a prayer, which I'll remain silent about that prayer because I'll have to put on my Monkey nostalgia glasses on. But I will say that after this whole trust plot has finished and Hoshi has to trick Goku to wear this precaution, seems to scream out "Hoshi doesn't trust Goku as much as you think.". And its one of the biggest slaps to the face. What makes Saiyuuki work is it's comedy and fight choreography. Its visual aspects (costume & set design) however, aren't as impressive. It seems that they were going for a bright and colourful costume set but its overshadowed by the massive amounts of detail they give them and the dullness of most sets. An over detailed costume for the likes of Goku or Gojou seems impractical. And special mention should be given to Monkey Majik, the band who wrote and sung the ending theme forSaiyuuki, further illustrating how much nostalgia the producers are trying to generate. (Around The World - Monkey Majik) The Edge: Neither After seeing the first episodes of both I'm struggling to see who has the edge, the upper hand, etc,Monkey has amazing costumes and the special effects are something that SFX students should study up on. Saiyuuki, on the other hand, has a simplified script (for an 83 minute episode) and amazing fight scenes. So lets just see what the rest of the series (50 episodes of Monkey, 11 episodes and 1 movie forSaiyuuki) has to offer as we continue our  Comparison to the West! ....Didn't think I'd write this much...  
Part two in an awesome community-written feature series!
[Community member Sideshow has been running a fascinating series of C-Blog posts on Journey To The West and its many influences on Japanese pop culture, and such amazing efforts deserve recognition - and promotion! If you've ...

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