I’ve had some interest in Disgaea for a while. It’s a Tactics-style Strategy RPG, and I’ve never met one of those I didn’t like. I’ve heard tales of the grind involved in this game, the levels going into the thousands, the massive amount of time required, and well, that’s kind of a turn-off for me. A while back, though, AK did a series of his Deep Read posts on the Disgaea series, and certainly made them sound quite appealing. So, that, coupled with the promise that the grind wasn’t really that bad unless you’re going after the side content, convinced me to give it a try. So I picked up the first Disgaea. And added it to my copious PC game backlog. And there it sat. Because that is the fate of anything added to my backlog. Until, eventually, it gets pulled out, dusted off, and played with joy. And it was Disgaea’s turn for that recently!
I’m about 5 hours into the game now. I approached it with trepidation, but what I found there really wasn’t what I expected. And I found things interesting enough that I felt like sharing my experiences. So, we’re going to have this, half first impressions post, half after action report. Something similar to that first post of my Dark Souls Let’s Play. Except this one, I don’t really plan on turning into a series, but hey, we’ll see.
So, a bit of story to start us off. Our main guy is Laharl, son of King Hardtospelllongname, who ruled over the demon world. While Laharl was taking a two year long nap, his dad died, passing his rule down to him, except he kept sleeping, so his kingdom all split up into arguing warlords fighting for the scraps of it. Eventually, Etna, who super obviously has ulterior motives for it, wakes him up and sets him to go beat up all the other demons and put his rightful kingdom back together. Got it? Ok.
More Memorable Title: The one the MPAA rated PG for ‘Traditional Godzilla Violence’.
Usually, I lead into these things by talking a bit about the development of the film. This time, I’m going to take a bit of a different tack, and talk about getting this movie instead. Toho licenses the western distribution rights for the Godzilla franchise on a film by film basis. Which leads to tons of different companies having the rights to different films in the franchise, which, for a long time, made it rather difficult to just pick up and watch through the whole Godzilla series. It’s gotten better in recent years, with Criterion Collection securing the western rights of all the Showa Era films and making those readily available, and Sony holding longtime rights over all the rest of the Heisei era after this as well as the complete Millennium era and releasing some very handy and affordable compilations, but there’s two of Toho’s film from the pre-Reiwa eras that are still largely left out of easy accessibilty. There’s the Return of Godzilla, which has been out of print for a while but it seems Kraken Publishing still released enough DVDs to make them affordable today. And then there’s this one. Miramax licensed out a few limited runs of DVDs, but Toho eventually pulled the license from them, and now nobody has the Western distribution rights to Godzilla vs. Biollante. There’s no streaming of this movie, and the DVDs fetch a pretty high price, making this the absolutely hardest Godzilla film to get your eyes on. I managed to find it for what I thought was a reasonable price, but even then, I ended up paying more for it than you would for any brand new, modern day home video release.
So just keep in mind, what I’m about to relate to you is a rare Godzilla delicacy.
The Return of Godzilla was financially successful, but not wildly so. They wanted to do a sequel to it, but the minimal success there, coupled with the failure of some other high profile monster movies at the time, convinced longtime Godzilla producer Tomoyuki Tanaka to wait for a bit, until the market was better for such films. That ended up being a pause of a few years, before other goofy sci-fiish films, primarily Little Shop of Horrors, started seeing success. They chose the script for their upcoming film from a contest, taking submissions from a bunch of randos, looking for something that they could use for some traditional kaiju tai kaiju goodness that also took a different tack from the beastie brawls of the showa era. They ended up settling on the script submitted by a dentist, which was really recycled from a script he had submitted as a teenager to a similar contest for Ultraman and won there. Director Kazuki Oumori then spent the next three years changing and editing it, using his background as a biologist to correlate Godzilla’s typical anti-nuclear themes with the heavy genetic engineering themes seen here. In so doing, he also ended up creating and codifying what would really be going on in Godzilla’s Heisei Era. In a lot of ways, it’s always the second entry that defines a series, and that’s no different here, with Godzilla vs. Biollante’s heavy use of continuity, psychic characters, and CGI beam effects being establishments that would continue for the rest of the series.
In release, Godzilla vs. Biollante was doomed to repeat it’s predecessor’s mild success, leading the franchise to take another small pause before returning to more familiar territory with its next entry. Toho reportedly regarded this film as ending up having too niche an appeal. It is, however, a well regarded one among fans, with a lot of commentary saying it played with some really interesting ideas, even if the actual execution of them is subject to opinion. How does it fare in the most important opinion of all; mine? Let’s read on to find out.
I should say, heading into this though, this is a busy, busy movie. There’s a lot going on here. So many characters, so many events, so much stuff. I’m going to be selectively trimming things in a lot of this, so we’ll move pretty quickly, and there’s also going to be a lot of content I don’t touch. Because I don’t think anyone wants to read a giant summary of this, and I don’t have time for that anyways.
For those who only started hanging around here in the past couple of years, I occasionally do an overhyped cooking post for the amusement of my family and friends on Facebook. It’s been a few years since the last one, but crossposting here in case anyone might be entertained by this.
It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these cooking posts. Not because I’ve stopped cooking awesome things, no. Far from it. I just haven’t really been sure you guys deserve any more of these posts. But, everyone says that God gives us a grace we don’t deserve, and now I’m doing the same thing to all of you. One of the very many ways in which you could say that I am god-like.
Our subject for today is ahi tuna steak. You may remember tuna from all those sandwiches you ate when you were a kid. That’s not what we’re making here. You may not know it, but tuna steak is one of the most hardcore foods there is. Full of protein, which you need to build muscles, which you may recognize as those things you use to slay your enemies. It’s also full of Omega 3’s which is helpful in keeping you healthy so you can continue slaying your enemies for years to come. And it’s also something we are going to fry to an extreme and eat raw like a caveman AT THE SAME TIME. Physics need not apply here. And not only that, but tuna steaks are way cheaper than many other cuts of meat, and this cooks up way quick, so if you play your cards right, this is a way more accessible meal than most.
Now, if you’re anything like me, you make the world a much better place through your mere presence. And if you’re not like me, you certainly wish you were. You’ve got a long way to go, but you can start being more like me by making sure to source your tuna properly. Lots of tuna are either overfished or caught using methods that also kill turtles and a bunch of other sea creatures that young women coo over, so you’ve got to use your big brain and probably that supercomputer you’re carrying in your pocket throughout the grocery store to make sure it comes from a place that’s safe to get tuna from. Otherwise, you’re making the world a worse place, and nothing could be less like me.
Anyways, once you get ready to eat your tuna steak, first step is to put it in your refrigerator. Because you bought that sucker frozen. It’ll need to wait in there for about a day before it’s ready for you, so you’ll need to plan ahead. Use that genius brain of yours to figure out “Hmm, I might want something awesome tomorrow” to let you know when you’ll be ready for it.
Then, an hour before it’s dinnertime (again, use your giant brain to figure out when that’ll be) you’re going to want to get your marinade going. Now we’re making Ahi Tuna Steak. Ahi is what the Japanese call the yellowfin variety of tuna. Which means we need to use Asian flavorings for it. Because if you don’t, then it’s just a Yellowfin Tuna Steak, and who wants that? Now, you may recognize Asia as the place where we get all the ninjas, kung fu, and highly stylized pop singers from. We’re going to bring a smorgasboard of flavors together on this, because my greatness knows no boundaries. Even in cooking.
So for the marinade, we start with soy sauce. Soy sauce is like the ketchup of Asia. Low sodium soy sauce, because we’re already extending your life by getting you those omega 3’s, we’re not going to shorten it by pumping you full of salt. It goes with everything, full of flavor, and carries a salt-forward flavor profile incorporating four of the five flavor categories in a pleasant balance. So maybe it’s nothing like ketchup, but shut up, we’re moving on. Then, you add in a bit of toasted sesame oil. This stuff is key. I will throw this in to all my Asian recipes at the slightest opportunity. It is so great, I want a candle that smells like toasted sesame oil. Sometimes I’ll just open the bottle to take a good whiff on its own, even when I’m not using it. It adds a good bit of umami flavor to our mix. Umami is the Japanese word for “this tastes good but I don’t know how to describe it.” Third key ingredient, whenever we’re making a soy sauce marinade, we want to add something sweet to balance out the saltiness of the soy sauce, as the marinading process will bring the salt forward more than the other flavors. Either brown sugar or honey are typically good counterparts to soy sauce. I went with honey in this one, but it’s really a judgement call. Just recognize that my judgement is flawless. And finally, I want a bit of a kick to it, so we add a bit of cayenne pepper, and to give it some more body of flavor to match the mouthfeel of the tuna steak, we’re going to crack some black pepper into it. A lot of black pepper. More than you think you’ll need. Trust me, its hard to have too much fresh cracked black pepper.
So you mix that all up. You’re going to have to work hard at that too. Because neither honey nor brown sugar dissolve into the soy sauce+oil concoction we’ve made easily. I have the strength of ten men, so I got it done pretty easily, but you’ll have to put some work into it. When you’re done, you pat your thawed tuna steak dry so it can absorb the marinade more readily, then put most of the marinade and the steak into a plastic bag together for an hour. Save a little bit of the marinade, though. You can use that as a glaze/sauce once it’s done.
Towards the end of the hour, get yourself a pan, and get yourself some oil, and make it hot. Very hot. Almost as hot as me. You want that oil furious at you as soon as something enters it. Because we are going to take that tuna steak, and we are going to sear the hell out of that bad mother. You want to cook it as hot as the passion that rages within you. You could even get a small amount of char on it, and still be doing it right. So cook it hot and fast on one side, for a couple minutes at most, then flip it over, and do it again on the other. Again, a few minutes max. Yes, it’s still going to be raw in the middle. That’s the point of cooking it so hot. That’s what makes this dish so hardcore. And also so delicious. When you’re done, you pull it off and let it sit for a few minutes, then slice it up, pour that marinade you saved over it, and marvel at yourself about how you made yourself an awesome dinner with like ten minutes worth of work. In fact, I’ve spent more time typing up this post than I did actually cooking it. You all better be grateful for this glimpse into my majesty.
As for serving it goes, you’ll want some sides to go with. I had it with a bed of white rice and some sigeumchi namul. I make a mean sigeumchi namul, but I’m not going into that recipe here, because see what I said at the top about deserving this. The white rice will add some carbs to this, make it more filling and probably remind you a bit of sushi, and will also make this dish pair well with a glass of sake on the side. Because rice, rice wine, they might have a flavor connection or something. You figure it out.
Anyways, at this, hopefully you have a better understanding of how awesome I eat. And as they say, you are what you eat. So I’ll see everybody in another year or two. Maybe I’ll grace you with something like this again, then.
Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin is apparently a thing. A joint effort between Square Enix and Koei Tecmo’s Team Ninja that’s apparently remaking the OG Final Fantasy as a gritty action game. E3 had a trailer for it, and the game… doesn’t really look all that good. But it does look incredibly dumb, which actually makes it pretty endearing to me. Let’s talk about that instinct for a bit.
If you’ve been around this space for a while, you know I like plenty of dumb things. Godzilla. Platinum’s action games. Your girlfriend. Like Final Fantasy Origin, there’s a certain quality to their particular implementation of simplicity and lack of complexity that makes them hit me so much better. And I’m struggling to place what that quality is. I believe there’s a certain amount of intention involved. I’ve said before, that I like dumb things, but I don’t like stupid ones. As for what makes the distinction between dumb and stupid, well, it’s really subjective. But I think with me, intention plays a lot into it. The media I classify as dumb aren’t necessarily trying to be dumb, but they aren’t trying to be super complex or deep. They’ve set a low bar for certain aspects of their stories, themes, or atmosphere, and they hit that. Things I think of as stupid tend to feel like they’re aiming way higher than they’re hitting. Like they’re trying to tell some great complex story, but they really don’t have the chops for it, or they’ve established a certain logic to the plot but don’t end up following its internal rules, or they really didn’t think things through as much as they acted like they do. But it’s mostly a feel thing, in between there.
The big thing about dumb media are that they seem to hit on a subconscious level, where you can get a visceral, instinctual enjoyment of the content at the expense of the higher thoughts or deeper meanings there. It works best when there’s some primary focus to the content that taps into the base emotions; often times pulse-pounding action, but it works just as well with horror, sexuality and plenty of other things that bypass the active conscious to connect directly one of those unthinkingly satisfying feelings. And as a result, this sense works exactly because its dumb, if they demanded more thought to it, they’d change the nature of the experience entirely. Watching Godzilla’s giant monster fights destroy half of a city wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable if you were getting a full-minded about it, rather, it’d be either tragic or terrifying, as you’re putting thoughts to all the lives lost or impacted by that devastation. Similarly, there’s a lot of video games that work because they tap into this for their action. Bayonetta would be horrifying, slaying angels by the hundreds as you summon torture devices out of nowhere and unleash gruesome acts on all of them, if it were higher minded, and that’d make it a lot harder to enjoy its well-developed action gameplay.
And frankly, there’s an element of relaxation to dumb things as well. I don’t know about you, but I spend all the freaking time thinking. My work requires a lot of mental labor, then I come home and friends and family are constantly demanding my thoughts and my attention, and even in my off time, most of my day-to-day pursuits require a fair bit of intellectual involvement. Which is not to say I don’t enjoy it, thinking is an awesome thing in all. Especially when you’re as genius as I am. And I am an ironman, but even so, I can’t be on all the time. It’s really valuable, sometimes, to get a quiet moment, get into something that just turns the brain off and bypasses the suspension of disbelief for a while, and connects without requiring any more of that Mind Work from me. It’s refreshing, leaves me more prepared to do all those things that do require more thought.
Even otherwise serious works tap into this phenomenon, too. The comic relief characters to provide those moments of levity, those jokes and one liners in the middle of firefights, the humor that would be ill-placed in real life but just seem to work in the context of the story? That all counts under this, too. It takes the mind away from an intellectual exploration of what’s going on and down into an instinctual sense of safety and levity. It distracts your mind, at least for a moment, and draws it from just processing into outright feeling. And, doing so, they manage the impact of their more cerebral moments, keep them from seeming too serious, too dangerous, etc.
So, let’s hear it for the dumb things. The things that bypass the conscious thought to deliver a feeling straight to the emotional level. And so doing, hit us in our hearts without bypassing our heads.