I’m probably posting at Coming Out of the Basement for now, so that’s probably a better place to look for posts. ^_^ Although, we haven’t been posting there for a bit either… hmm…

Movie, games and other excitement.

I spent this Memorial Day weekend alternately doing chores and playing Penny Arcade’s new game, On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness. It didn’t take too long to beat, but it was a whole lot of fun and I’m looking forward to the next several episodes. Pluses from a metagame standpoint: released for XBox 360, Linux, Mac OS, and Windows. Minuses: Activation DRM. Not as bad as some, and worse than others (live activation is generally a bad idea for the long-term). Any kind of DRM is ultimately self-defeating- especially for those of us interested in game preservation.

Picked up Age of Conan. Pretty good game, and would be a lot better if I had the system reqs to play it on my “normal” computer. As it is, I can only play it every so often, which is pretty defeating when it comes to playing with other folks. :P Well, City of Heroes Episode 12 is out, and that looks to have some pretty nifty features as well.

Offline, we’ve been playing Persona FES and Mario Kart Wii. I’m surprised I missed Atlus’s Persona the first time around- the Japanese fighting RPG/school/date sim is right up our alley. ^_^ Mario Kart Wii is also pretty darned fun.

We’ve seen a few movies recently. I’ll mention a couple that are in my head now for some reason.

Forbidden Kingdom – Saw this one when it came out, with a group of friends. I really enjoyed it. I find it amusing that they took out the kid from all the previews and made it seem solely like a Jet Li/Jackie Chan movie, but I knew I was getting into Neverending Story/Wizard of Oz territory from the earlier trailers. I very much appreciated all of the references to other Kung Fu movies- it was great seeing the Monkey King, the Bride with White Hair, the Shaolin Monk, the Drunken Master, the Golden Swallow, and all those characters from other movies in one film. ^_^

Indiana Jones – We saw Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull with some friends at its opening midnight showing at the Drafthouse South, and all six theaters were sold out. Like any Indy film, it was a ride. Although we both agreed that it was probably the weakest of the Indy films, I didn’t dislike it as much as Q did. I enjoyed that it took all of the crystal skull crazy mythology that’s out there and wrapped it up in one movie. ^_- (It was… not great in retrospect. A group of people came over from Spain to see it on opening night and they left a bit befuddled.)


Long time, no update. ^^

Work and school are keeping us busy, but we still have time to occasionally call home (yes, I’ve been bad the last couple of weeks, sorry!) and participate in a few games. I’m running Expedition to Castle Ravenloft for some of our friends, and one friend in that game is running City of the Spider Queen for his friends, including us. Somewhere in there, we’re also playing in a Mutants and Masterminds game with a GM in Japan, using RPTools and Skype. I’m also supposed to run a Changeling game using the NWOD rules. Somewhere in *there*, I’m playing City of Heroes. No, we can’t do all of these every week… but even so, there’s a lot going on just in the gaming world. Q is playing Professor Layton on the DS now, and every now and then I’ll peek at Oblivion or Lost Odyssey.

Whew. I’m tired just reading that paragraph.

We attended a Jonathan Coulton concert, and one of our friends put a lot of the show up on YouTube (with permission, naturally, although he uses a Creative Commons license for his works.) Just look up Jonathan Coulton here:

Geek love on TV

Oh, here’s a new tag: TV.

The TV season is over, and there were some greats out there for the geek community, many of which we didn’t see at all. ^_- (I hear Pushing Daisies is excellent, and I will check it out when I get the opportunity to do so.)

The second season of Heroes was decent, but it felt a bit off. I liked the inclusion of Kristin Bell- amazingly enough, it took me a few episodes to realize who she was, and I thought of myself as a Veronica Mars fan. Really, that’s just me not paying attention. However, the pacing of Season 2 was just odd. Hiro’s Japan adventure seemed to go on too long for what it did, as did Maya and Alejandro’s journey to the U.S. The last couple of episodes, in particular, seemed rushed- trying to stuff as much in as possible to conclude some of the season’s stories. Don’t get me wrong, I love Heroes, but I’m hoping for more in Season 3.

The show we really dug, though, was newcomer Chuck. Q was happy that Adam Baldwin came out, because she thinks he’s hilarious (and I can’t think of him without singing “Jayne- the man we call- Jayne” in my head). But for me, the show just clicked. I liked the action, the romance, the gaming reference, the geekery. I liked Chuck and Morgan’s interactions, and Chuck and Sarah’s confusions. I appreciate that Zachary Levi (Chuck) and Joshua Gomez (Morgan) went to conventions, and are gamers.
Of course, we’re such geeks that we wondered what was up with the Stanford Library using the Dewey Decimal system in the show- really, I’m sure they’ve converted to LOC by now. :P

Also, I started watching G4TV juuuuust a little bit. Honestly, I forgot that I had that channel after it merged with TechTV. Then someone showed me a show called CodeMonkeys. Hmm…

Disgaea made me do it.

For an early Christmas gift, I received a PSP, which I recently decided I had to have.
The reason I wanted a PSP? One word: Disgaea.

Disgaea, for those of you who don’t know, is a tactical game originally created for the Playstation 2, with anime-like animation, a great storyline, and some really memorable characters. The original PS2 game’s full title is Disgaea: Hour of Darkness. The new version for the PSP is Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness. The new version is a port with a few additions, and those additions are pretty darned good. One of them- keeping track if you’ve killed people on your side- is pretty darned important, and I would have *really* have liked to see that in the original. ^_^ (Hint: DON’T KILL YOUR OWN PARTY MEMBERS unless you’re trying to see of the “bad” endings.) So I’m pretty happy with it. Other changes include some multiplayer aspects (!), other records besides the one I mentioned before, and a place to “buy” and listen to songs you encounter through the game, which I appreciate.

One change I haven’t made up my mind about is that one of the English voice actors for a main character- Etna- was redubbed. The English voice acting for the original game was amazing- one of the best I’ve heard- so I’m not sure why they felt the need to redo it.

So yes, I still have my DS, but I’m pretty pleased with the PSP. It came with Battlefronts: Renegade Squadron, which was a lot of fun, but entirely too short.

Short reviews- Rozen Maiden, Last Exile, Negima, Le Chevalier D’eon

In honor of a comment, here are some of our recent anime forays.

Rozen Maiden
Wow. Here’s a DVD that I picked up just because I thought Quandri would like it, and I was very surprised by how much I really, really enjoyed it. Q has and is a fan of ball-jointed dolls, (BJDs, or ABJDs for Asian Ball Jointed Dolls, depending on the norms of the particular community). I’d seen that this series involved dolls, and she had seen that costumes from this series were relatively popular in the BJD community, so we decided to take a look.

I confess I wasn’t too enthusiastic at first. The background mentioned that dolls were fighting to basically become a “real” girl, and that alone didn’t appeal to me. Fighting dolls? Sounded like Angelic Layer.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Amazingly, Quandri and I both agree that the series is wonderful. The story is far more compelling that I’d thought from the cover, and the characters absolutely make the story. I started reconsidering my initial opinion as soon as I watched the opening. The song is quite good, and lyrics are strangely S&M-ishly subversive. The opening animation actually made me want to see what the imagery meant.

The story involves a school-aged hikikomori named Jun, whose obsessive Internet shopping for curiosities results in the arrival of a mysterious living doll, Shinku. (For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a hikikomori is basically a person who withdraws from the world entirely for some reason. Although a real-world occurrence, hikikomoris have been cropping up in anime for a variety of reasons.)

Shinku is, shall we say, a bit autocratic, and makes Jun her servant. Shinku herself is a Rozen Maiden, a living doll competing with other dolls in the Alice Game.

Shinku rocks.

We’ll probably buy Rozen Maiden, since I’m pretty sure it now appears on each of our respective favorite series. I sincerely hope that someone else starts distributing Geneon anime in the U.S., because they only released the first DVD of the second series before they halted all of their U.S. distribution. Although Q could just buy the Japanese version and watch it, I can’t. :P

Last Exile (spoilers)
Finally, after several years, we rented the last volume of Last Exile. It had been so long, we had to go back and go over summaries so we could remember a lot of the side characters- particularly because EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM has a cameo in one of the episodes. All in all, the series was decent. It probably says something that we waited so long to see the end, but that’s not so much a reflection on the series as a reflection on some of our priorities. That being said, there are definitely series that we would go out of our way to get, and this wasn’t quite one of them. Good, worth watching, but not brilliant in my opinion. Do I sound like I’m going back and forth enough? :P

It ends pretty much like you’d predict- except for the final fate of Dios, in my case. Pity, I liked him. The final episode was a bit anti-climactic, but everything was resolved.

Le Chevalier D’eon
I grabbed this one from the shelf for two main reasons, both of them because I thought that my lovely partner q would enjoy them. First, it’s a period series- specifically, the time of Louis XV in France. Second, there’s sort of a strong female lead. Sort of. After watching the series, that’s not as much of the premise as I thought it might be from the cover, but it is a part. As for my own reasons, it definitely looked like it had a strange interaction between ghosts and magic, which I usually think sounds worth checking out. ^_^

It’s a difficult time in France. Tension between nobility and commoners is rising, and a series of murders has the police- and secret police- scrambling to find the killers. A body is discovered in a coffin floating along the river- the sister of the titular D’eon, whose vengeful spirit seeks to right the injustices done to her and France, using her brother as her vessel.

We weren’t disappointed. The series is compelling and interesting, and you might learn a thing or two about French history if you’re not careful. Although I used to avoid history like the plague in my school days, I’ve come to appreciate historical stories quite a bit more. Even though this series has strong elements of fantasy and horror, the touch of history did add to the overall ambiance. If you liked the Three Musketeers, definitely check it out. All in all, recommended, and we’re going to watch more.

Ah, Mahou Sensei Negima. Before Negima, Ken Akamatsu was probably best known for Love Hina, one of my favorite of the “harem” anime, and this one sort of follows in that tradition. The anime is not *quite* as ecchi as the manga, although it occasionally comes close. In this case, prodigy 10-year-old Negima is the protagonist, teaching English to a class of Japanese girls as part of his training to become a full-fledged wizard, following in the footsteps of his missing father. He has to keep the fact that he can use magic a secret, but just about every student in that class has secrets of their own, from the vampire girl to the robot girl to the secret cosplayer to the ninja girl… etc. Fan servicey but fun, and the storyline gets better as the series goes on.

Wil Wheaton’s PAX Keynote

The King of Kong at the Alamo Drafthouse

This past weekend, Qyandri and I had the opportunity to see a fascinating documentary called the King of Kong: A fistful of quarters at our favorite venue, the Alamo Drafthouse. The Drafthouse held a Donkey Kong competition beforehand, and showed classic gaming shows and commercials as they are wont to do. And of course, there were special guests.

When I first saw the preview for the movie a few weeks ago, I thought it was a Christopher-Guest-type fake documentary. The setup was so perfect for that kind of tongue-in-cheek seriousness: for the last twenty years or so, a group of people have been obsessed with classic arcade games. This is their story.

In one corner, we have Billy Mitchell, the successful and seemingly arrogant title-holder of the record for Donkey Kong as well as other games.

“No matter what what I say, it draws controversy. It’s sort of like the abortion issue.” – Billy Mitchell

In the other corner, we have an everyman searching to triumph in *something* – Steve Wiebe, an all-around nice guy and father who seemed to be getting some rough treatment from the good ol’ boy insiders of the classic arcade world.

Steve is gunning for the title and to be in the Guiness Book of World Records, which has started accepting game scores.

“Some people sort of ruin their lives to be in it.” – words of wisdom from Steve Wiebe’s young daughter.

But the film is a real documentary, and an excellent one. In attendance at the Drafthouse were Steve Wiebe himself and Walter Day, the founder and head judge from Twin Galaxies, the organization responsible for verifying high scores. Also in attendance was one of the insiders unhappy with the film, Dwayne Richard from Canada, who frankly behaved like kind of a jerk by throwing in snide comments as people asked questions and not letting Wiebe answer a few during the Q&A period. In other words, he behaved sort of like the stereotypical gamer who feels that he and/or his friends have been wronged, and actually reinforced some of the criticisms implied by the movie. :P To some extent, I can sympathize a little bit with Richard’s frustration- some members of Twin Galaxies were not at all portrayed favorably, and *some* of that was probably due to editing and musical selection. At the same time, selective editing simply could not be responsible for many of the recorded statements and actions, and some of the implied criticism really does seem to be justified- even when looking beyond the film.

The film didn’t include everything. When Wiebe was initially robbed of his new title by Mitchell by a questionable videotaped entry acceptance by Twin Galaxies, Twin Galaxies gave the title back to Wiebe after a couple of days had passed, acknowledging that they erred in their procedure. The return of the record to Wiebe as Mitchell’s tape was being verified wasn’t in the film- only Wiebe’s utter frustration and “feeling like a total loser” as he went home from the competition (Wiebe’s words from the Q&A). On the other hand, although Walter Day was rather apologetic about the whole thing during the Q&A, the Twin Galaxies people weren’t quite so accepting of those concerns on their forums, which are a fascinating read for those of you interested in looking at past views of Steve Wiebe and current views of the documentary. ^_^ The absolute seriousness that the community portrays in the film portrays is dead on.

The film looks at that seriousness and examines obsession, self-worth, adversity, personal costs, and other subjects all in the context of the world of competitive classic arcade gaming. During Q&A, someone asked – “How many of you here could not relate to someone in this film?” No one in the sold-out audience raised their hand.

Just last week, Mitchell reclaimed the Donkey Kong title. Wiebe tried to top that after the two evening screenings at the Drafthouse, unsuccessfully- but I’m sure he’ll try again. ^_^

And rumor has it that the story is so much like a fictional narrative, well, people want to make it into a Hollywood movie. :P

Explaining Revolutionary Girl Utena

In what has become a grand tradition, I’m going to relaunch this blog with words by qyandri, who finally got me to understand a little bit about Revolutionary Girl Utena a couple of years ago. Her explanation is still the best I’ve heard- just add a couple of years since she’s seen the series. ^_^

Person X: Exactly how did Dios turn into Akio, and how can Dios’ power still come down into Utena during duels if Dios has become Akio?

Ok, look at it this way. Utena is the product of a mental breakdown. Akio, Utena, Anthy and all the rest of the cast are all aspects of Utena’s psyche and the whole world is one created inside herself to deal with her problems. The basic problem is one of nobility in an ignoble world. Each pair (Miki and Kozue, Juri and Shiori, Saionji and Wakuba, Akio and his fiancee, Touga and Nanami) represent a skewed relationship between two people. Utena desperately wants to be more than a sum of a dangerous relationship and this is why she eventually refuses Akio and Touga. In someways, I think that Utena is the self aware Ego, while Anthy is the overpossessed Super Ego, and Akio is the Id, out for his own power. Utena choses an unconventional path to join the self aware ego and the super ego over the will of the id, honoring friendship in the face of power. It is something most people have to struggle with as they attain success: will you betray your relationships to gain more power, or will you chose those relationships in the face of hardship? This is a particularly important question in Japan as they join the world economy. They are brought up believing in the group and putting those relationships first, but as business and western values enter their society, they are more often facing the idea of big CEOs sacrificing factory cogs for their own gain. On another facet, it is about women’s power and self value. In this way, Utena choses a woman over a man in refutation of traditional gender roles. That Utena and Anthy are the same person, I think, is hinted at in their similar relationship with Akio, and in the switch of Anthy and Utena in the coffins during the last episode. I won’t analyze everything right now (its been two years since I’ve seen the series) in the terms of Ego and Super Ego and the inner world, but Utena’s healing is finally acheived at the end of the story where she goes out into the real (not so messed up) world, the conscious self, and Anthy is soon to follow her.
Read the rest of this entry »