Crawler3333's blog

9:28 AM on 09.08.2013

Yume Nikki: A Journey Through The Dark.... in 32 bit

These are days in which graphics have great impact in the world of video-games, but it's safe to say that visual aesthetics had its role since this media appeared.Another major aspect that influences a game's success and impact is (obviously) advertising - no one is expected to buy a game if he doesn't know it even exists.

Now, the topic I'd like to talk about in my very first article here on Japanator is one which somehow defies these two very basic rules - a game which didn't have advertising and surely didn't possess a great graphic considering the year of its release (2005).An indie game called Yume Nikki (lit."Dream diary").

Before I continue with my "promotional" rambling, I would like to clarify a couple of things:
#1: I DON'T recommend anyone to download this game, because it's renowned for being overflowing with viruses who could simply destroy your PC forever - I'm not kidding.Go ahead and try if you want, but don't say i didn't warn you...
#2: I didn't play this game myself, but I watched all the "Let's play" videos on Youtube. If you'll keep reading this, you will (hopefully) agree that gameplay it's not what really matters here. Yume Nikki is quite a conceptual game, so it's safe to assume that it's possible to discuss about it by documenting yourself reading related articles on the wikia, wikipedia, blogs and so on.

Now that I made those points clear, let's get back to the real deal: the game.

Yume Nikki is essentially about exploring the dream world of a little girl named Madotsuki. The main purpose is to gather key items called eggs, which are 25 in total and are scattered through 12 "sub-worlds".Once obtained, each of these eggs will allow Madotsuki to use a specific effect, ranging from the very useful bicycle (whose purpose is to, well, move faster) to the most (and very often only) cosmetic ones (as turning into a ghost). Most of these effects are needed to proceed in other areas of the game and so obtain the other missing effects.
The game doesn't take place in the dream world only though: each session will begin in Madotsuki's room, where you will find a bed (which you need to enter the dream wordl), a TV with a console (both completely useless to advance the game) and the diary (the ONLY save point of the game).The room is also connected to a balcony (where nothing happens) and a door who would lead to the others rooms of the house but our lovely heroine refuses to open for unknown reasons.

Madotsuki's room.Lovely, isn't it ?

To die is impossible in Yume Nikki: the only things that can hinder the player's progress are getting lost (which can be quite frequent given the nature of your surroundings, as I will explain later) or stuck in a place with no exit. In both cases, the best solution is pushing the "pinch" button: Madotsuki will literally pinch her cheek to awake, and she'll go find herself back in her room.The various creatures the player will encounter in the game (which come with any shape and form) are pretty much harmless and the only "dangerous" ones are those who will teleport you in one of the above mentioned exit-less rooms if they get you.

Now, if the core of the game sounds even remotely interesting to you, then I really recommend you to keep reading, because it's just the tip of the iceberg (in my humble opinion at least).

The game is devoid of any kind of dialogue and filled with countless symbolic characters/creatures, backgrounds and situations.Combined with the dream-like premise, this gave rise to any kind of interpretations and theories.
One of the most noticeable things about Yume Nikki is how it manages to give a great visual and emotional impact by using such an outdated graphic engine.Even though the game uses the basics of RPGMaker and its "cutish" characters layout (which applies for Madotsuki and many other NPCs as well), all the scenarios have a dream-like, obscure and visionary tone.Madotsuki's dreams are most of the times dark and disturbing (I can't help but think that "Nightmare Diary" would have been a MUCH more appropriate title for this game), and the BGM surely play an important role as well.
Sure Yume Nikki can be considered an "horror adventure game", but the first term fits only partially to it.The fact that you can't die in any way takes away from you that sense of fear and thrill that games of this genre usually give, but that doesn't mean that Madotsuki's journey is more pleasant than Silent Hill's Harry Mason or Resident Evil's Leon Kennedy exploits.On the contrary, Yume Nikki gaming (or viewing, if you'll heed to my warning) experience revolves around subtler, and yet somehow deeper feelings.There is an inexplicable sense of solitude, anxiety and anguish in the places you visit.From vast expanses of grey landscapes to dark alleys populated by eyes floating in the darkness which just won't stop looking at you, it's very hard to don't feel "something" about the various locations you come across.

" ♪I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my biiike ♪"

The various levels are hard to navigate because the background often keeps moving even when you don't, and when you enter a new area (even if it's in the same stage) you might find yourself in another visually completely different one.This peculiarity doesn't just give the player the "feeling" of being in a dream (where things don't have to be coherent on a basis): it also pushes further the sense of bewilderment the games aims to convey.The player literally finds himself lost in a world of dark and twisted dreams, both phisycally and emotionally, until the very last egg/effect is found.
And on that note, I allow myself to take the risk of giving you readers a very, VERY minor spoiler (but also some kind of warning) about the ending: it's not one you will likely forget very soon.

From some years from its debut (if you could call a beta version like that), it's safe to say that Yume Nikki stood defiantly the test of time. A quick search on Youtube and Deviant Art will show that works related to this game keep going as you read. The game also spawned a wide number of fan-made sequels and spin-offs (like a splendid 2D platform game version which resembles Castlevania:Symphony of the Night in many ways, with different characters and multiple endings !!).And if for some reason you want to pit Madotsuki against Goku, Kenshiro, or Naruto it's not a problem: she has even a M.U.G.E.N. counterpart.

One of the many strange but beautiful fan-made artwork you can find related to this game.This one is by BakaNekoChanSan

Finally, I suggest you, kind reader, to go watching the various "Let's play:Yume Nikki" videos you can easily find on Youtube and enter (at your own peril) the strange, disturbing yet astonishing and visionary world of Madotsuki's dark dreams... in all its glorious 32 bit.

P.S.:About my (possible) mistakes in this and other articles: I will be grateful to any who will point them out to me in a polite and positive way.But please, please restrain from harsh or (even worse) sarcastic comments: I already know how cool you are... whoever you are.   read

10:04 AM on 04.16.2013

Jojo: The Animated Series (2012) - Final Impressions

Back in 1987, one of the most awkward ("bizarre", as the complete title says) manga ever conceived made its debut in the pages of Weekly Shōnen Jump. My country (Italy) was lucky enough to see a translated release of the first number in 1993, but I remember the "what the... !?" feeling I had when I finished reading it like it was yesterday.

Saying that Jojo was a breath of fresh air back then is truly and understatement: it was one of the craziest, most innovative manga of that time. Yes, its visual style at his early stages was very similar to Tetsuo Hara, but even then it managed to give a different feel - much probably thanks to the awkward, impossible poses that the character assumed all the time.

If I had to define the animated transposition in one word, it would surely be "faithful". The only relevant change that David Productions made in the process it's a noticeable difference in the way the character are drawn. Pretty much everything else remains identical: not only the dialogues, but every single scene seems to be taken exactly from the manga itself. It's the most respectful adaptation I ever seen, and this is something that a fan of the original manga can only enjoy and be grateful of. Such respect also cuts half of my job to review this anime series: anime and manga are so similar, that this very review could be useful for both.

Jojo:Bizarre Adventures makes large use of the very same narrative devices that made the most popular series of the shonen of the 80's (Saint Seiya, Dragon Ball and such) what they are today. Just like the authors of those stories, Hirohiko Araki seems completely aware since the very beginning of the many flaws of his work, but instead of "correcting" them along the way, he exposes them so much to the audience that they become a trademark.

Insanely long comments and dialogues from the characters in the back, silly and over-pompous techniques names, non-coherent sequences: it's not just all in there - it has to be. If you don't find yourself thinking "how the heck could that character do that certain action in such a brief time !?" at least once in an episode, then you're probably watching the wrong anime.

I won't fool any of you, at any rate: Jojo's Bizarre Adventures (manga and anime) it's not for everyone. Some scenes are so gruesome and crazy at the same time that they seem to pop out straight from a horror B-movie. Coherence and character depth are out of place as much as fan-service here - and that's what actually make this anime so great. Each and every character, from the protagonist to the most unremarkable minion all have their moment of glory (or infamy), but it's up to you to catch it.

If not for anything else, Jojo deserves respect for "being there" for all this time and inspiring many other authors - and not just in the anime/manga department (Persona, anyone?). Together with the thirteen episodes long OAV series dedicated to Stardust Crusaders, Phantom Blood and Battle Tendency relive one of the greatest chapters of shonen's history... and maybe even more than that.   read

10:41 AM on 01.14.2013

Check This Out: Fortified School

I know, I know: Japanator blog tips states that you don't have to post stuff one after another. Since I just wrote that blog about dojikkos, I just should restrain myself from writing this recommendation - but "blogger wanted" they said, and here it's my contribute.

I want to seize the chance to talk you about a manga whose title gave no result when I pushed the "search" button on this website: a dark, gruesome and awesome manga called "Fortified School".

The premises of this manga are not the most cheerful ones: in the year 200X, juvenile crime became a major issue in Japan. The phenomenon became so rampant that the government decided to create a "special" institute whose purpose is to reform the worst individuals of the country. Unfortunately for said subjects, Kyokujito (this is the name of such institute) is actually a prison island from which is virtually impossible to escape - and rest assured, escaping is what every person in his right mind would try do as soon as he gets there. From sadistic teachers to crazy discipline commitee students, Kyokujito is something dangerously near to hell on earth itself.
In this scenario we meet our three unwilling protagonists: the bold and arrogant Gentaro Masuda, the clever Itsuki Takizawa and -last but not least- the mysterious, silent and quite unsettling Mei Mato. Our strange trio will have to uncover the dark secrets of the Kyokujito as they try their best to survive the inhuman "remedial program" that the insitute has in store for them.

With that said, don't fret to label this manga just as another needlessly gruesome story: Fortified School it's not just about the wailing sound of the cry of the wicked. Sure this manga it's obscure and twisted both visually and conceptually, but there is much more than that under its disturbing surface. Deep at its core, it's a tale about sacrifice and heroism as much as it's about madness and cruelty. It's a quest for freedom beyond the dark walls of imprisonment, of light beyond darkness.

P.S.: Being Italian, I had the opportunity to read this manga on my native language. On a quick search on the web, I realized there are no English translations of it (!?!). I hope this article will make somebody (anybody) who can read Japanese to fill this unbelievable gap. For the time being, allow me to express my shock and disappointment with a very well-deserved


3:05 PM on 01.02.2013

Random Thoughts: The Dojikko Effect

Each and every person has its own weakness, and I'm truly aware of mine - at least when it comes down to anime female characters: the dojikko.

For those who don't know, the dojikko it's a stereotype of female characters very common in anime that it could be summarized as "so clumsy that it's cute".

Now, I'd like make clear a couple of things: the dojikko it's that kind of female character that I find amusing and appropriate only in slice of life anime. Even if I don't necessarily dislike those characters in other genres, they're hardly my favorite ones. One other thing it's that I don't generally find these characters attractive. My ideal dojikko has to be lovely and funny, but has nothing to do with certain "appetites" that male viewers (and not necessarily them, if you get what I mean) might like in a female character. While being cute doesn't hurt for a dojikko, being outright sexy and appealing DOES in my humble opinion.

With that said, here is my top 3 Dojikko list:

#3: Ayumu "Osaka" Kasuga (Azumanga Daioh)
If I were to make this list basing it on rational thought and plain objectivity, then Osaka would be easily at number one. With her big round eyes always open wide as she ponders about the mysteries of the universe (or maybe just watching dust floating around), this lovable character earned herself the 7th place in Newtype Magazine's top 100 anime heroines of 2002 - and it's not such a big surprise. Osaka's spacey expression makes me smile just by watching her on screen and her dreams about Chiyo's ponytails became easily some of the most crazy and hilarious sequences in anime's history.

#2: Yui Hirasawa (K-On!)
The reason why Yui is at this place in the list it's pretty difficult to explain, but I'll give it a try. Just on herself, Yui is nowhere as funny as Osaka. What truly make this character noteworthy it's that the anime/manga she's in it's a "semi-realistic" one (at least more realistic than Azumanga Daioh) , giving her quirks a whole different feel. While Osaka it's just a little more weird than her friends (Tomo isn't a genius, either), I can't help but think that Yui shows signs of some mental disorder (ADD/asperger and even some kind of semi-autism) because of the behavioral gap between her and pretty much every other character in the series.
At this point I beg you all kind readers not to jump to easy conclusions: I'm not saying that throwing in a character with a mental disorder makes a story better. What I really love about K-on! it's that Kakifly and KyoAni never focused too much on this aspect. They successfully kept the story funny and light-hearted, managing to make Yui a lovable character with a deeper meaning that not everyone can see.
As I would have watched Azumanga Daioh without Osaka (it would have never been the same though, that's for sure), I would have never cared about K-on! if it wasn't for Yui.

#1: Yasuna Oribe (Kill Me Baby!)
At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if you all just stopped reading by seeing the first entry. "Why Yasuna, of all characters !?" - that's a very reasonable question, and it will be very, very hard to explain this one.
An important role in this was actually the very negative response this anime got. I always felt the strong urge to side with the unpopular ones, and sure KMB! it's a hard one to defend. This anime is not a very funny one- but in my humble opinion it's not even as hideous as many say (I'm talking to YOU too, Japanator). And when it comes down to poor Yasuna, my heart melts in a unreasonable mix of simpathy and affection.
Sure Yasuna it's an annoying, clumsy and naive brat who constantly makes silly, childish jokes. Her attempts to make her friend Sonya (and the audience) smile are so futile that they end up being pathetic - and yet there is some kind of greatness in that. Because Yasuna just wants to make Sonya's (and hers) life interesting, always trying something new, no matter how stupid can be. If Yasuna (and the whole series, at some extents) was a real person, she would be a misfit, unfortunate child no one cares about who just wants to be loved.
At the end of the hide-and-seek episode, everyone quits playing without saying her a word, leaving her hiding in a thrash-can as the sun sets in the horizon: it was one of the most unexpectedly emotional moments I ever seen in an anime - I rarely felt so sad for an anime character all of sudden. And when it was all said and done and the last episode's credits were scrolling, the only thing that came into my mind was: "Arigato, Oribe Yasuna".   read

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