Apocalypse Log: Part 2

Because using my snarking as an outlet produces content that works both for my social media here as well as the stuff I use my slave name for, here’s some more of those Facebook posts I’ve been putting out venting about the current Coronapocalypse.

Apocalypse Log: Day 8

As is standard, school is not in session during the post-apocalypse. This poses several problems, foremost of which is that it unleashes those Chaos Demons I had summoned into this world upon us, all the time. And while our bodies may be at risk from the mutants, the Infected, and the toilet paper hoarders from the outside, our very minds are at risk from the ever present threat of the Chaos Demons and their attacks on our sanity from the inside.

As is usual, I spend much of my weekends with the Chaos Demons alone. The smaller of them awoke at 5:30-ish in the morning, and rather than joining her elder sister in their traditional Saturday morning ritual of destroying my living room while I slept peacefully because who would be awake at that Godforsaken hour, she instead decided to spend the next half hour screaming at me for milk, then waiting long enough for me to lull back into the first stages of precious sleep before screaming again. When I finally relented and got her milk from the fridge, she took one sip before falling peacefully asleep.

I’ve changed my mind on what we’re eating first once we run out of food.

Apocalypse Log: Day 10

I managed to scavenge some fortune cookies. Given the current situation, the fortunes therein seem like the universe is truly mocking me.

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I ventured outside today. Not on a scavenging run, not seeking to make a preemptive strike in defense of the stronghold, just scouting out the landscape. At first, the thought of doing so without weapons gave me pause, but then I remembered that I had to get an open carry permit for my arms because our local government professionals declared that they were, and I quote, “total cannons”. The outside world is a surreal place. When the weather is warm, there are only children outside. No adults. When I go outside on a beautiful day, I only encounter those 18 and under, for whatever reason. The adults only seem to emerge in the snow or rain, when the children vanish. I assume that this is related to the mutations they’re all undoubtedly going through. Maybe its related to worms, only emerging into the open air when there’s precipitation because it enables them to breathe through their skin.. I’ll have to investigate this further. I did spot several adults out there in vehicles. I have been unable to ascertain their current state of physical form, whether mutant, Infected, or TP Hoarder.

My partner, for reasons unbeknownst to me, has doused the floor of my war room liberally with vinegar. I would like to assume that she’s doing so to purify any ghosts entering the stronghold, but we’re not at the point in the apocalypse that we’re at significant risk of that, and she did not concoct the vinegar solution with sufficient herbs to serve as a good purifying agent. I have to assume she would know better, but that leaves little reason that presents itself. I worry that isolation is beginning to have effects on her.

It has rained or snowed each of the past several days. With the way things have been growing, I’m just grateful that it’s not fire that’s falling from the sky.

We are out of port. Situation currently looks grim.

Apocalypse Log: Day 11

I fear I may have let my guard down today, with fatal consequences. Encouraged by my success at venturing outside yesterday, I went out for a run today. About halfway through my run, my body temperature started to rise, and some time afterwards, I felt rather short of breath. As I recall, those are both symptoms of the disease we’re all defending against. I fear my long tenure of successfully being a survivor is coming to an end, and soon, I shall join the ranks of the Infected. I will wait for confirmation before taking drastic action, but I remain prepared to cast myself out into the wastes at the slightest sign of this progressing.

I pray someone shall take care of my family once I am gone. Chaos demons and all.

Apocalypse Log: Day 12

There’s a time to be a hero. And there’s a time to be a survivor.

Today, I’m a hero. Yesterday, my employer, our local government, had set aside some money to help people in this apocalypse with nowhere else to turn. Today, my employer imbued in me the power over the lives of the people applying for it, charging me to approve or deny their requests for assistance according to my merest whim. Well, and also a set of guidelines and standards, but mostly my merest whim.

Most were denied. This aid is only for people with truly nowhere else to turn. Most were eligible for some other program that could help them, which fair enough, they probably didn’t know about it, so I hooked them up. Some went straight for this last ditch hail mary pass by their county without exploring all the other options available to them, which, sorry, we’re not paying for the things you can just make go away elsewhere. Some applied for help even though they’ve already got the savings and income coming to meet their expenses. At least they were honest about it.

You know who did get help? The people who already had their budget worked out, and knew just what bills they had coming, what resources they had available, and exactly where their gaps were. Those who didn’t weaken themselves with children that made them eligible for other (better, but shhhh!) programs. Those who were already committing their resources to fill their needs to the greatest extent they could, and needed solely something to take care of the rest. That’s right. Those most successful at this were the Survivors. Just like me.

I worked hard at it. And as the fruit of 8 hours of labor between myself and others, we managed to complete most of the applications we had received in the first fifteen minutes that program was open. ……..this is going to be a long week, isn’t it?

Apocalypse Log: Day 13

My girlfriend has scavenged us up a bottle of port and Costco quantities of scotch, thus reminding me why I date her. It’s the little things in this apocalypse that touch you the most.

 

Apocalypse Log: Day 15

I’ve talked to probably around a hundred people the past two weeks, all of them either over the phone or on the other side of a webcam. Particularly with the cabal tightening their martial law and not allowing us out of the home but for certain, approved purposes, I barely even see anyone walking on the sidewalk outside, or come across them on my runs. The only people I talk to face to face are my partner and the Chaos Demons in my stronghold. I’m starting to get the strange sense, what if no one else is real? What if the apocalypse has been even worse than I feared, and the only ones left not mutated or, hopefully, Infected are those of us in my stronghold? What if everyone I’m talking to on the phone or chat is just a simulation put together by the cabal, to make us think that things are still mostly normal? How would I know?

An unrelated thought, although our organization-issued laptops come with webcams, almost none of my coworkers will turn them on for video chats. I suspect it’s to hide that fact that nobody changes out of their pajamas anymore.

Apocalypse Log: Day 17

Let’s play a game.

I live in a world where the government has mandated that we are not allowed to go outside. Nearly everyone’s lives revolve around multifunctional pieces of advanced technology that both the government and giant megacorporations with loose morals use to spy on us, which is widely known but generally accepted. Contact with other humans is hazardous to your health. Everyone carries a general air of depression about them. I spend my evenings hooked up to a virtual reality machine just so I can feel what being outside and talking to another person face to face is like, because I haven’t done either in so long I have forgotten.

Am I a character in a dystopian cyberpunk story, or am I Aether in the modern age? Is there even a difference anymore?

The Battlegrounds Right Here: Persona 3 Retrospective, Part 4-Setting

Part 1-Intro

Part 2-Gameplay

Part 3-Presentation

Persona 1 Retrospective

Persona 2 IS Retrospective

Nailing down the setting of Persona 3 can be a little difficult.  There’s a bit going on here.

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As is traditional for an SMT game, Persona 3 takes place over a much smaller geographic area than most other rpgs, in this case limiting itself to a single city, Iwatodai.  Iwatodai is a large coastal that is a major area of operations, although not the headquarters, for a major business megacorp, the Kirijo Group.  Much of the city’s landmass is made up of an artificial island, Tatsumi Port Island, that I would guess the Kirijo Group played a major hand in constructing.  It comes complete with all the major amenities you’d expect a large city to have; schools, shopping centers, train stations, residences, etc.

The Kirijo Group seems to have their hands in half of everything that goes on in Iwatodai.  They own the school, your dorm, the shopping mall, tons of businesses, probably your dog, some of the residents might be their slaves in disguise, it’s hard to draw the line there.  And we’re going to get into spoiler territory from this point forward, so watch that.  The Kirijo Group used to be a part of the Nanjou Corporation, of which one of your characters from Persona 1 and 2 was part of.  They went independent some time ago, but still maintain a pretty close partnership there.  Perhaps because of this connection, they became aware of the supernatural, particularly the persona that your crew use and the shadows that are newly introduced this game, and were experimenting on them, their owner eventually seeking to use their powers to create a ‘time manipulation device’.  Not a time machine.  A ‘time manipulation device’.

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Of course, as with every experiment ever conducted, this went wrong and almost destroyed the world.  Well, in this case, it ended up creating the whole dark hour deal that we mentioned earlier.  Whatever time manipulation magic they had going on there ended up inserting an extra hour into the day between midnight and midnight o’ one.  The experiment was conducted in what would become Gekkoukan High School, so, as that’s the epicenter of the event, it faces the most drastic transformation, becoming the dungeon tower Tartarus during the dark hour.  Everywhere else gets bathed in a sickening light, gets inundated with bloodstains, and sees monstrous shadows prowling all over the place.  So yeah, dark hour, not exactly pleasant times.  Although, you know, you can just stay in your dorm and get an extra hour of sleep.  So, on the bad side, people are either dying or having their desires consumed and becoming one of the Lost.  But on the good side, you get to be better rested.  So I’d say it’s really a wash.

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Lets talk about the Shadows a bit.  Persona 2 introduced Shadows already, although these are quite a bit different.  Like the Shadows from Persona 2, these Shadows were created by the collective unconscious, but that’s where the similarities end.  The Shadows fit a lot more fully into the Jungian Psychology mold the game series has been using, being manifestations of the parts of the emotions, thoughts, and feelings that people don’t want to acknowledge.  In Persona 3, they gather in the collective unconsciousness, clumping together until they take some monstrous physical form.  Which is then vulnerable to pummeling.  Most people will transmogrify into a coffin during the dark hour, which is apparently a defensive instinct, them playing dead so the Shadows will ignore them.  Not everyone does, though.  Some keep their form, and serve as prey for the monsters, their minds being eaten and forced into Apathy Syndrome until our heroes beat the big shadow boss at the next full moon, and temporarily drive the shadows back.  Some will endure the dark hour until they get taken over by their own Shadows, their physical form dissolving and being replaced by a Shadow themselves.  And some just do fine, there.

There’s not a whole lot in the game to dictate why people enter into the Dark Hour without transmogrifying.  I can make some conjecture, though.  Survival instincts can be simplified into being one of fight, flight , or freeze.  Transmogrifying into a coffin would be a pretty freezy habit.  It could be as simple as those who don’t transmogrify simply have another instinct take its place.  As Persona 3’s expansion, The Answer, and Persona 4 indicate, a Persona is a Shadow that’s been mastered and is able to fight against them.  So the Persona-users who don’t transmogrify would do so simply because they have the ability and the will to fight the Shadows.  Their survival instinct falls into the ‘fight’ category, so they don’t ‘freeze’ into coffins.  Those poor souls without that power who end up falling victim and becoming the Lost could well be those who are more given to flee than to freeze, whose instincts tell them to get out of dodge rather than hide or wait for them to go away.  Since running away hasn’t proven to be very effective against the shadows, it doesn’t typically end up well for them, as far as we can see.  Some people are able to calmly enter into the Dark Hour once they’re aware of its existence, and for those, I’d assume it’s because they don’t feel the need to trigger any of their survival instincts at all.  For that matter, we do see at least once that persona-users are able to get people out of their coffins and into dark hour awareness, although we’re not given much in the way of an idea as how they can do that.  I could theorize within the framework I’ve already established, but I’ve probably conjectured away from the base enough.

Persona 3 is strangely sparse on details of the Dark Hour.  Which is a little strange, given the series.  Personas 1, 4, and 5 were very clear on where their alternate world comes from, and 2 had everything taking place in its own world, and so didn’t need to bother with it.  3’s just not explicit.  Although the series has gone to the ‘collective unconsciousness as a physical location’ well before, and will do so again, that’s not the case here.  The Dark Hour is explicitly related to the existence of shadows in some way, and specifically related to Nyx, the shadow embodying humanity’s desire for death.  Perhaps it’s for that reason the death and blood imagery is all over the place during the dark hour, and that the dark hour is so draining to everyone within it.  After all, the depression and anguish that would be embodied in the dark hour would be rather draining.  It’s not explored whether the dark hour is a local phenomenon, or something that happens world-wide.

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Like much else, Tartarus, the massive tower that your school turns into during the Dark Hour, is super symbolic and representative of the game’s themes.  In this case, it’s representative of the theme of the developers desire to have a place for you to grind.  And that’s about it.  Really, as much as I will go out of my way to connect poorly arranged pieces of a puzzle in a story, I can’t find a fit for this one.  Tartarus is barely connected to the plot, doesn’t really seem to have a thematic fit outside of its reaching for the moon, and doesn’t really seem to deliver anything narratively.  It’s where you go to fight shadows when you don’t have a plot-related mission or anything to do.  Akihiko considers it a training ground, and we could say, given that it’s growing out of the spot where shadows were unleashed into the world, it’s a hive or nest for shadows.  Mayhaps this is where the new ones emerge into the rest of the world from.  It’s established that time flows differently there, as Fuuka was trapped in Tartarus for days, yet felt only a few hours passed.  It’s also the spot where Nyx is destined to make her descent.  Otherwise, it’s mostly a Macguffin.  It’s something the story tells you is important, but doesn’t really do all that much to establish it.  It does serve, however, as a massive call back to Persona 1’s Snow Queen quest, being a big tower made out of a school named Tartarus that has Nyx at the end of it.

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Perhaps the most striking thing about Iwatodai, outside of all the supernatural stuff and hidden magic conflicts and stuff going on there, is the people in there.  Overall, it’s a pretty dour, selfish group.  And that comes through a lot.  This is a community that largely just leaves the Lost, people who have overall lost any ability to take care of themselves or do anything, completely alone, as long as they’re out of the way.  We don’t see them do much to help out the invalids right in front of them.  Moreover, this is also the same community that readily organizes into doomsday cults given little provocation and actively takes part in murder requests once the rumor gets out that they work.  Missing students get ignored.  The fact that the hospital can hold people against their will on behalf of the Kirijo Group is forgotten.  Students will whine about going to classmates funerals.  Scam artists can proliferate there with little reprisal.  The horrible things the town and the people therein are going through end up treated as little more than gossip to most.  Even in your social links, oftentimes you’re running across people completely self-centered, thinking only of their own path through life and not how they pave over others.

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And yet, even then, there’s glimpses of good in people.  Starting with your crew, who through all the traumas they’re going through, still keep their eyes on the common good and willingly sacrifice themselves for others, up to and including their very lives.  Many of your social links will see people come to a realization of just how self-centered they’re being, and turn around to make amends and improve other’s lives.  And, in the end, all your friends do come around for you, too.  It’s small, in the wake of the self-centered juggernaut that is the town as a whole, but you can find lots of people with real gems inside of them, you just need to brush off the dirt to get there with many of them.

Apocalypse Log

Hey folks!

Something a little bit different today.  I had planned to have the next bit of the Persona 3 retrospective out a week ago, but, much as I hate to be propagating the “All Coronavirus, All the Time!” of the rest of the internet, I work in a human services organization, my region’s the first and hardest hit of my state by viral stuff and lockdowns, and I haven’t had the capacity to be putting the usual post together.

Still haven’t yet, although things seem to be settling into more of a routine.  In the meantime, I’ve been blowing off steam about the situation by posting about this stuff on Facebook, and figured that might entertain you folks as well.  So, to follow, as I work on getting back to our usual personal entertainment-based content, enjoy my screeds on the Coronavirus social distancing measures we’ve been facing.

Apocalypse Log: Day 3

It’s been 3 days since our local government imposed martial law in response to the Novel Coronavirus outbreak, and the first working day we’ve had. I think we’ve adjusted rather well. Not that it’s been easy. There’s been a lot of changes. Never knowing who is a potential ally and who might be one of The Infected. The cabal-imposed shutdown of all services and businesses in the community. Our right to free assembly negated. But I’m a survivor, we adjusted, and our stronghold is relatively well-equipped.

Not perfectly, however. On paper, all seems well. We’ve managed to secure a comfortable stockpile of toilet paper from the horde. Our escape routes and contingency plans are starting to take shape. And, on paper, we have enough food to last an extended siege. But there are small flaws we’re still working on at every stage. The food issue is currently the biggest one. As I said, on paper, we have enough. We could withstand an 8 month siege just on our stockpile of girl scout cookies alone. But if we’re seeking to thrive under these conditions, we need to do better. We’re running dangerously low on key nutritional groups. We only have eight half-full bottles of wine and spirits, for example. And we’re almost out of both Frosted Mini-wheats and milk, and I fear for the state of the house once that occurs. Seeking to forestall that, my partner had gone out salvaging yesterday. She returned after several hours in the infected wastes with bagfulls of provisions and tales of store shelves nearly picked clean by the mutants. Most of this food was contaminated by the insidious poison, ‘sodium’, but I suppose that was to be expected in this environment. She did not return bearing the familiar shape of a precious gallon of milk, but she did return with a carton of a familiar shape. Wasn’t quite the quantity I hoped for, but my excitement grew, and I could already taste the white ambrosia in my mouth. That crashed to the floor as I turned the carton over, and read the word ‘oatmilk’. This is a cold hell this world has turned into.

To do: Talk with the kids about which pet to eat first once we run out of food.

Apocalypse Log: Day 4

There’s a strange dichotomy to survival situations. Twin impulses that work against each other, yet both must be considered. The one, the impulse to act, and act now, that something must be done and it doesn’t matter what it is. The other, that it’s safest to wait, to watch, to stay where you are like a turtle in its shell. People who aren’t survivors listen to one or the other without consideration. That’s not a strategy that will serve well in these dying times.

It’s a natural course of events that public utilities don’t last long in the apocalypse. And so it wasn’t unexpected that our stronghold lost electricity in the wee hours of this morning. A lesser person might have left the stronghold immediately to try and rectify the situation. However, this carries the risk of running into whatever mutants, Infected, or TP Hoarders caused the outage in the first place. Of course, the threat of whatever vile presence ended the electricity in the first place may have prompted a lesser person to remain in the relative, if dark, safety of the stronghold. That, likewise, would have been a mistake. After all, without electricity to power our devices and beam wifi into our stronghold, it was only a matter of time before members of our party turned against each other.

With calm calculation, I determined we could ration the remaining power retained in our devices for approximately 10 hours. Perhaps more than that if we used our wine and spirits to supplement that time. That gave me a framework to work within. This time was a resource to me. I made my plans, gathered my resources, girded my loins, and waited for the opportune moment. Too soon, and one would have to fend off whatever fiends still remained in the power plant. Too late, and one would had to waste energy on one’s own family. No, I armed myself, I planned, and I waited. There is a time to be a hero, and a time to be a survivor, and this was not the former.

As was demonstrated when power returned 40 minutes later. Undoubtedly, someone had entered the power plant before the time, and sacrificed themselves in returning electricity to all us stronghold hoarders. Although their impatience cost them much, I do have to respect, and honor, their sacrifice.

But still, I am a survivor.

Apocalypse Log: Day 5

I am given to wonder about the wisdom of splitting up our workers into their own independent strongholds. It seems a rather calculated risk. On the one hand, sure, you never know who is in the process of becoming one of the Infected and might soon unwillingly turn on you. On the other, it seems like at least my place of employment would be a lot more defensible than most people’s strongholds, and that’d we’d be a lot better poised to defend our collective bounties of toilet paper from the hoarders as a group.

My work is one I am technically able to conduct remotely, but doing it solely from the stronghold has been a strange experience. For one, the local economy getting screwed harder than a shop class 2’x4′ means I’m largely stuck with addressing my customer’s symptoms, not their cause. Sorry, we’re saving our beds for those most at risk, so stay at home, no testing for you, take these food assistances and unemployment insurances to make sure your condition is manageable, and wait for your symptoms to decrease. That’s not enough for everybody. Many of my clients are still reaching out to me. “Save us,” they plead. “Sure,” I respond. “I can’t meet in person, but let’s set up a phone call or google hangout.” Then, their fear shows. They react as if the phone lines are part of the Infected, that by calling, they will be exposed to the virus as well. They let this fear rule them. They are not survivors.

Luckily, I am.

Apocalypse Log: Day 6

Our complex dumpster has become a microcosm of the state of our fallen civilization. Somebody, who perhaps was attempting to ensure that they would eternally burn in Hell for their sins, threw away a dying smoke alarm that still had enough juice in it to beep incessantly over the course of the day. Anyone who thought they might have a relaxing post-apocalyptic afternoon had those plans crashed as an endless alarm bored into their safe strongholds. Somebody else had placed some small furniture in front of the dumpster, and the rest of our fellows, who apparently didn’t have the survival instincts required to sidestep a chair, started dumping their trash in front of the nearly empty dumpster instead of actually in it.

It is disgusting what our civilization has come to. I thought long and hard about correcting it, throwing the trash away or digging through the dumpster to find the fire alarm. However, with the threat of Infection omnipresent, it was too much of a risk. There are times to be a hero. And there are times to be a survivor.

And I’m a survivor.

In other news, my partner has scavenged both milk and Frosted Mini-wheats. In light of this, I have decided to forgive her for the oatmilk debacle. Supplies of wine and spirits are somewhat reduced, although we still have enough to last some time. Port has become the official drink of the apocalypse.

Visual Novel Theatre: Ame no Marginal – Rain Marginal

Yeah, it’s been a while since we’ve done one of these.  Let’s change that!

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Ame no Marginal, or Rain Marginal depending on how much of a Japanophile you want to be, is a visual novel by Tomo Kataoka, a VN author who got really famous for his work on Narcissu, which we have covered here before, some years ago.  Those of you who’ve checked that out will find a lot familiar here.  It’s made in the same engine, the storytelling style is much the same, and it’s still a big exercise in minimalist storytelling.  However, Rain Marginal, although marketed pretty heavily on that Narcissu collection and even containing a bonus chapter for Narcissu after you finish the story here, really stands on its own.  Its got its own concept, its own characters, and brings to bear a rather distinct set of themes from all the rest.

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The crux of Ame no Marginal deals with a separate, almost entirely featureless world where it’s always raining and time seems to stand still.  People within that world don’t age, heal injuries almost immediately, and never get hungry or thirsty.  Sounds cool, but as I said, almost entirely featureless.  There’s only one place in the world where you can get some covering from the rain, there’s a river that sometimes brings in the random broken down object, and there’s a place where you can get glimpses into the real world if you’re willing to walk a century or so to get there.  Aside from that, it’s all just flat stone.  And worst of all, most of the time, for years and years on end, there’s only one person inside of it.  Very occasionally, someone else will wander in, but the world will only allow there to be two people within it for up to three days at a time.

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The story itself has two plotlines going through it.  The first follows the typical featureless Japanese male visual novel protagonist, whose name is probably Jenner Rick or something like that.  Rick lives a pretty typical salaryman life, and he finds it utterly banal.  This brings him to depression, and we see some suicidal ideation coming from him on a regular basis.  One day, as he’s heading to his office, the elevator that normally takes him there has an extra button, another floor above the top.  He presses it, and finds himself in this rainy world, where he meets Rin, a bubbly and optimistic child who seems to have been living there for quite some time.  This line will follow along with him over the three days that he has there.

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The second line tells the story of Rin herself, some hundreds of years before she meets Rick.  And she didn’t live a happy life.  Brought up in feudal Japan as a slave to some religious institution that forces extreme restrictions on its girls as part of some measure of contrition to their god, she watches her sister, who always happily took part in this faith, get killed by these restrictions, and has them forced on her in her sister’s place.  Then bandits attack her shrine, she is set adrift, and she finds herself ending up in this rainy world, together with a seemingly carefree woman who exhibits strange powers.  Rin’s story kind of follows the same path as Rick’s at first, going largely over the interactions between the two characters there and Rin’s adjustment to the rain world, before it starts to take a different direction entirely.

One thing that I find really interesting about the two, two-and-a-half, however many perspectives you want to call it on this world is that they look at it in very different ways.  Rick actually seems to find a lot of comfort there.  He doesn’t say it outright, he acknowledges that this world would suck to be stuck in, but he does seem to find the whole experience very reflective.  With him, it appears that the world on the outside that he finds himself in shows him what the world he’s feeling on the inside is like.  Rin, on the other hand, seems to find the world to be an embodiment of her sin, although she doesn’t really understand that sin in the first place.  Her upbringing, trapped in that abusive religious institution and the horrors she saw there, left her with a very distinct mental structure for how things work, yet she doesn’t really understand any of the parts of it.  And she’s also there for a long, long time, which shows us quite a bit of how sort of thinking can progress.

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The story gets a lot of mileage out of those two perspectives as well, sometimes in some really thoughtful ways.  For example, in Rick’s chapters, we see two different versions of Rin, the bubbly, optimistic one we see in the daytime, and the fatalistic, rude one at night.  When we get behind’s Rin’s head, we find that neither of them really accurately depict Rin’s actual personality.  The daytime one seems to be a persona she puts on with the rare opportunity to spend time with someone else, and she might not even be aware the nighttime Rin is coming out of her.  And that’s just the lead to this.  Rain Marginal has some spots of really surprising depth, and I think I’ve gotten a lot more out of the story thinking about it afterwards than I did when I was actually in the midst of playing it.

It takes a certain type of patience to enjoy Ame no Marginal, however.  Even for being as short as it is, around two hours without the Narcissu bonus chapter, it’s a really slow moving story.  Which I suppose is par for the course here.  We’re talking about a work of fiction with only three characters of which only two can interact at a time in a world where the whole point is that there’s nothing going on and almost nothing ever changes.  There’s not a whole lot happening, and there’s a whole lot of introspection.  If you’re into thoughtful works, where you really have to slow down and focus on the little things, this could be your bag, but if not, I don’t see you getting much out of it.

And unfortunately, while it does have a lot of thoughtful moments, I think this visual novel’s biggest failing is that those moments don’t really come together into a cohesive whole.  Tomo Kataoka has been a big proponent of the theory that it’s really up to you to determine what you get out of a work, what it means, what the themes are, what it has to teach you, all that jazz.  And it worked really well with Narcissu.  Here, though, it just doesn’t feel like there’s all that much substance.  There’s a lot of flashes of good work in there, but overall, it feels like a lot of not really connected ideas were just thrown together and called a day.  I’ve seen some posts out there trying to hash out what Ame no Marginal means to no real effect, but rather than because it’s just really subject to interpretation, I think it’s because there’s just no real intention behind the stuff here.  We see a few things as to what the world might represent, but beyond that anything else really means anything.  The story leaves a lot of questions with absolutely no hints of any answers whatsoever.  Why Rin has those two personalities, what the river is and why it seems to have portals to or from the real world at either end, the woman with mysterious powers that Rin encounters and why her experiences in the world are so very different from hers, so much and more gets absolutely no exploration and no sense there’s any greater thought behind it.  And it doesn’t help that the finale just drops happy endings on everybody out of nowhere with no sense of actually resolving anything.  I’m willing to give a lot of things the benefit of the doubt, but here, well, if the job of an author is to turn an answer into a question, this work seems like a lot of its questions never had answers in the first place.

And in a nutshell, that’s Ame no Marginal.  It’s quick, and if you’re in the right frame of mind, it can be enjoyable and make you think.  It doesn’t really stand up to deep scrutiny, however, and given the potential of the author and his way of writing, that’s a real shame.

Project G: Invasion of the Astro-Monster (1965)

Better Title: The one where Godzilla dances

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By this point in the franchise history, Godzilla was getting to be pretty big in America.  His movies were pulled from Japan theater, edited badly, then dubbed badly, and the American audiences were like ‘yessssssssssss’.  So one American production company decided that maybe they should try and get in on the ground floor of all that.  So they rolled up to Toho, started getting involved in some monster movies, then when it came time for another showing of Big G to pop up, they were like “Yo, here’s a giant bag of cash.”  And the rest was history.

With United Productions of America bankrolling half the cost of this film, they were wanting to make sure it’d do well with their target audience, so this is a bit more Americanized than most of the other Godzilla films are.  Godzilla usually has a rather slow build, with a lot of mystery and people just kind of chilling before it’s finally revealed that all the weird stuff happening is really because of the monster whose name is in the title and also Godzilla is there too and they’re going to fight!  Instead, here, the action starts right away.  There’s a decent amount of human action and romance, there, and there’s even a western lead character for the first time in the series.  And, probably a bunch of other subtle changes, too.  I’m not really a film guy.  I can’t really say much about the cultural differences in media there.  Maybe Red Metal can, he’s the movie dude.

In any case, this is Godzilla with an extra dose of AMERICA! In there.  Let’s see how that goes.

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Blogger Recognition Award

There was supposed to be another post here.  But I’m heading into one of those periods of life where time is at a premium.  So plans change.  But luckily, like a dreamy superhero, AK swooped in to save the day, nominating us for one of those social viral blog awards, providing a quick shot of easy content just when I needed it the most.  He may not be the hero we deserve, but he’s the hero we need.

And in an interesting twist, this is not an award I’d ever received before.  Which is strange.  I thought I’d gotten all of them already.  But no matter.  This blog’s path of award domination shall continue unabated.  Watch in awe, dear fellows, as I crush this award and all else in my path!

So, let us start by examining the rules that are foolish enough to challenge me.

  1. Say thanks to who nominated you and leave a link back to that person’s blog.

So, thanks to AK, of the gaming and other stuff blog, Everything is Bad for You.  You should check his work out.  If you’ve been around here for any length of time, you know I love writing long-form looks into the media I consume, and judging by the massive Disgaia post he’s sitting on top of at the time of this writing, he loves the same thing.  I find him to have some rather thoughtful takes on his chosen subjects, and he’s opened my eyes to some interesting things I wouldn’t have known otherwise.  He’s also been a common influence around these parts, both with his thoughtful comments and his other blog awards.  In recognition of his contributions, and in return for this award, I hereby bestow upon him the much coveted “Friend of Aether” award.  You may all commence your bowing now.

  1. Give the story or history of your blog.

So, here’s the thing; I don’t have a real big reason or anything why I started this blog.  There were a bunch of influencing factors.  I was following and a regular commenter on a bunch of other blogs, and kind of wanted to do that myself.  I had done a bunch of dumb posts on Facebook basically hyping up my cooking in a really over-the-top way, and a lot of people who read those kept getting after me about starting a blog.  And, historically, I’d been involved in a lot of forums, but had kind of stopped getting much out of those.  And really, I was at a point where I really wanted to reach out of myself, and do something that connected with other people.  So it had been on my mind for quite a while.

I do remember deciding to take the plunge and actually start with it after one of the many, many games industry controversies happened, and there was nothing coming out about it that really reflected my thoughts on the issue.  I don’t even remember what it was, but I do remember that feeling.  Beforehand, I had been carrying the assumption that anything I had to say would have been said already by any of the millions of other journalists, bloggers, commenters, or video makers covering the industry, that there was no original thought under the sun.  And yet, there I was, with some particularly strong point of view that nobody else seemed to have.  So I thought there was room for me on the internet yet.  So I created this.

And this is a bit of an odd blog, isn’t it?  I mean yeah, there’s a lot of games content here, but really I just talk about whatever I want to.  And it’s kind of always been like that.  I used to think my niche was business analysis of the game industry, and sure, there’s still some of that.  But sometimes it’s amused me to muse about writing.  Sometimes I posted a small bit of that graphic novel I was practicing my art skills with.  Sometimes I write about wrestling.  Sometimes I do lets plays.  Sometimes I start up huge projects that I don’t see through.  Sometimes I get in deep with Godzilla.  This blog has no focus.  And that’s the way I like it.

  1. Give two or more pieces of advice for new bloggers.

Write for yourself.  Write what you enjoy, write what gives you meaning, write what makes your life better.  If you’re writing to pursue views, you’re likely to end up unfulfilled.  If you’re writing to try and make a buck off of it, you’re likely going to end up hating what you’re creating and getting less income off of more work than if you took that effort and put it elsewhere.  This is a hobby that takes an extensive amount of time, and a lot of thought, and a lot of your personality, and if you’re putting all that into it and you’re writing for something other than yourself, it’s not going to be worth it to you.

And be social with it.  I didn’t expect it at first, I was one of those ‘If I build it they will come’ people, but honestly one of the best parts, and one of the things that really keep me going, is engaging with my fellow bloggers.  Again, time is at a premium for me, so I can’t spend as much time reading and commenting and discussing as I would really like, and I’m not necessarily the market for every other blogger that comes across here, but what I can do does honestly make this whole experiment more worthwhile.  Connecting with my fellow bloggers is meaningful, and I wouldn’t still be doing this if it didn’t happen.

  1. Nominate 10 other bloggers and link their blogs.

Guess what?  I don’t play by your rules.  No, I think I’m so great, and I deserve this award so much, that I’m just going to nominate myself 10 times.  So take that, blogosphere.

But seriously, thanks to AK for opening up this content, thanks to all of you for being here, and I look forward to seeing y’all when our paths cross again.

Eyes on Binary Domain

So the Yakuza guys made a cyberpunk game, huh?

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Which immediately strikes me as kind of an unfair statement to lead in with.  Yes, this is made by the Ryu ga Gotoku team, the group behind one of my favorite video game series, Yakuza.  Yes, that fact is what made me pay attention to the game in the first place, and it one of the features that most makes it stand out in a market, but honestly, that doesn’t have a whole lot of bearing on the end product.  Some teams, studios, designers, etc stick to a really distinctive design.  Hideo Kojima makes a game, you know it’s going to be full of giant cinematic cutscenes, swap between the bizarre and the realistic freely, and you will be lectured on Kojima’s moral stands through the characters.  If Bioware makes a game (well, pre-MMO Bioware, who knows where their design sense is now) it’s going to have expansive dialogue choices and convoluted plots.  Platinum Studios makes a game, its action will be extreme and fast and tense, and its plot and visual design will be waaaaaay over the top.  You know these things.

Some developers and studios, however, don’t stick to just one thing.  They’ve got some variety to them.  You wouldn’t think Ryu ga Gotoku studios would, given that they have one franchise that they keep churning out on a regular basis, but as Binary Domain shows, they really do.  This game has very little in common with the Yakuza series that the studio is based around.  It’s a completely different genre.  It’s distinctly made for an international audience whereas Yakuza is extremely Japanese.  It’s in an entirely different setting, requiring a very different visual design, and is structured completely differently.  Its takes a completely different path of play.  It does carry through the overall ethos of character design, with people that include just the right amount of visual flaws to look super realistic, and the very appropriately placed product placement, but that’s really all I can pick up on that’s carried over from the Yakuza series.

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