Posts tagged ‘Japan’

The fallible and the other Japanese ends of the world

In Neon Genesis Evangelion we never actually arrive at the knowable. The entire series runs on a series of unknowables that are never revealed, rather their strangeness becomes a force. The plot is perturbed by amongst other things polymorphic balls, crucified aliens, masked invaders, the series enemies are never quite knowable, they refuse to speak, and the plot line we get from them is so incomprehensible it may as well be surrealism. The feel genuinely alien. In Shingeki no Kyojin, settlers in a medieval village are facing inexplicable giants, when their science team comes back defeated, the tone is grim. A woman hysterically grand at them asking about her son, they hand her a solemn bloody cloth which she unwraps to reveal an arm, she immediately screams did he did defending their country, to which the sergeant replies of course before breaking down to admit, they don’t understand the titans, and they have been sacrificing men in vain. The Titans then proceed to tear down the walls.

The Japanese have consistently set up apocalypses of the inscrutable. The characters face a world alien from what we know, and are incapable of comprehending it. Powers far stronger than mankind make strangely realistic whims which often destroy huge swathes of human culture. In American the world is ending films we often find the protagonist with an exact idea of what is coming: a virus, an alien invasion, a zombie, or simply environmental collapse. Eva and SNK are unique in their use of the other as a apocalyptic device and it is peculiarly Japanese see a foreign invading culture that is not a mirror of ourselves. In Independence Day, for example, we discover the aliens have never discovered sustainable strategies for maintaing life on earth, hence they are like us: parasites who might have to leave home. In World War Z the enemies are Zombies, which as Sam Raimi famously once wrote: “they’re us!”. The apocalypse in Hollywood cinema is always familiar, it is never cultural, and it is often mundane. The reason the world ends it seems is to prove the masculinity of the hero, it’s a chance for a few brace men to mine an asteroid in faster, a fighter jet to take on an alien armada, or a Doctor to fend off the last vestiges of humanity from annihilation. A cure is always at hand or at least a rock to break a Zombie’s skull. What sets the Japanese apart is that they aren’t afraid to be humbled by the end of the world.

The scientists in Neon Genesis Evangelion never discover what makes the angels tick. They never figure out where they come from or why. Like the researchers in Shingeki no Kyojin, they are at a loss. Like the poor mother devoured by Titans in Shingeki no Kyojin, we feel as if the Eva pilots can sincerely fail, and they do. These films don’t see the apocalypse as predictable, neither is it empowering, the stories here disempower their characters to infantilism and then build them back up again. The apocalypse renders the world unlivable, but not by knowable forces, but rather by the whims of an alien culture. In this sense Evangelion can be seen as a post-colonial narrative, an undertow of colonial holocaust the author happened to unearth in Japanese culture, Hiroshima as coke machine and American inquest. However for it’s American fans Eva works as a metaphor for trauma, for all the bruises we acquire at the hand of others.

Shingeki no Kyojin is hardly the first Japanese work to introduce a new innovation on horror, the ring of course found demons in our video tapes and electronics. However, it is one of the few to realize how much pop culture needs disempowerment. Towards the end of his life J.G. Ballard predicted malls based on attrition and the worst of our needs. In Japan at least the stations seem to have already received the message, and we are being fed the anti-hope we require, the exact destructive fantasies the id needs to remake itself, just as the resident of Eva and Shingeki no Kyojin must remake their worlds too.


July 6, 2013 at 6:20 pm Leave a comment

Kickle cubicle, ZiGGURAT, Torchlight, ff xiii-2

In a house in a little area right by where Jandek lives a boy played a game for a day and fell in love. kickle cubicle was a brief dream for me. I still don’t remember why it had to be returned so quickly, but sitting in my brother’s room the game had serious charm. Zelda never quite pulled me in, Super Mario was frustrating, but Kickle Cubicle was my first experience with a game that’s logic seemed intimately familiar. From the way the kickle explodes out of a swarm of hearts to the absurdity of the engine, the game is a nonstop trance of puzzling machines that seem significantly more simple than their behaviors suggest. Emergence is the chemical process where in two or more things produce behaviors that the original ingredients don’t possesses (btw in the middle of delanda’s synthetic reason right now) Kickle Cubicle is often one of those games where the behavior of a slime, a hammer, and a spring can lead to numerous possibilities. I won’t say that Kickle Cubicle is great, but it did manage to marry post Zelda enemy bopping with the push and pull of genuinely engaging level design, but what I primarily remember is that it made me think, something that the puzzles in Zelda or the moments of lolo I played never did. The nes version is available online at the first link, the mame emulation of the Arcade version is also out there. I also like how the leader boards have queer names on them as if some gay couple ensconced in a Japanese hovel in the eighties collected the rom and made it available for mame to emulate.

P.s. have not tired Solomon’s key, but will soon. Also kickle cubicle and bomberman were main line examples of addictive game play when I was young.

ZiGGURAT is the latest game from Tim Rodgers and its a little surprising, because the controls suck. Ziggurat requires you swipe the bottom of the screen to rotate your character’s weapon or you can use an angry birds like sling shot mode. While with time I will probably get used to it, I just wanna touch the screen, have the gun track my finger’s x and y cords and then let go with my projectile of death. Sadly, this is more of an emulation of one of those pong paddles that came with the Atari 2600. Now please look I’ve been harassed by assholes before, and Mr. Rodgers will probably stumble upon this review so let me get to the positives, or what I like about ZiGGURAT. First the game essentially channels the moments of intense play in mega man in thirty second increments, which is awesome. Despite the control scheme I found myself playing it in the taxi this morning and even now it nibbles at the subconscious, a world of chaos is a click away. Two the chip tune music is nice too. I don’t actually understand why indie games are so often consciously retro, but Ziggurat is perhaps a nice example of this nostalgia, it doesn’t require you to spend tons of time playing a full length game to do your reminiscing, rather it gives you the pivotal moment of a mega man game in a seconds worth of game play. That is worth 99 cents. Btw do support it, Mr. Rodgers is quite passionate about his games and this is a step towards further friends based improvisations on the iTunes store and also be sure before you lick to hope that he gets a girlfriend, a hot lesbian girlfriend who dresses in anime outfits and makes out with her girlfriends in private moments before the tentacles strike….

Steam sale! Bought this with the 75% off coupon and just what like a month or two till torchlight 2 comes out and let me tell you… This game is annoying. You see unlike Lara Croft and the Gaurdian of Light which frees you from moving with the mouse torchlight restricts everything to the mouse… Except of course spell casting, item management, and everything else. Torchlight works like this, you left click to move or to attack, your right click for an additional attack or spell. The problem is that playing a ranged character becomes ├╝ber annoying because you run away with your meek ranged based archerer only to turn around and then if you happen to not quite click the enemy chasi you then RUN BACK TOWARDS THE GUY YOU ARE TRYING TO AVOID. This is a serious flaw, one that it turns out you deal with by holding shift, but then holding shift you can’t move and only aim. Compare this to Lara Croft in which you run around with the keys and then use the mouse to hurtle spears, bullets, what have you at the enemy. That control scheme works, Torchlight though, despite these short comings is what I usually play at home these days. Once you get past the carpel tunnel inducing click and play the game becomes at heart one of deep customization. My little archer started in an absolutely horrible leather cap which I replaced with a magically powered hair accessory before upgrading to an enchanting and enchanted Russian navigator’s cap. We now take down gigantic tree folks with ease and swing through lion hearted monsters while unleashing some impressive spells and saving select loot for the moment you get the matching accessories for them. Who thought that point of click of consumerism could be replaced by the shoot and gun of diablo? That’s what these games really are, they’re like magic packs, you open one you get a shitty rare u can’t trade but someone will buy it for nothing and maybe if you open a few more you’ll get the cards you need. Someone needs to make a mall based after Diablo where your hard earned cash is spent in blunt kicks and the swing of the mace. All that sweet schwag coming down on you. I guess I continue to play Torchlight for reasons very different than league of legends, LoL I keep finding new things in the play, Torchlight just gives me more to consume. A little strategy is involved with the enemies, swordsmen with shields need to run from, big spiders avoid and whittle down, but for the most part this isn’t really a game of skill or adrenaline, rather it is just shopping. It’s
Iike having a little mall in your pc, one that you wonder around shooting and maiming in, and then you rob the bodies. J.G. Ballard should have played this game.

Still trying to finish Final Fantasy 3 on iOS, watched the entirety of ff xiii-2 on YouTube and loved it! Really liked Serah and the romance angle the game is increasingly taking also the Snow ending was awesome. Going to pick up Chaos Rings Omega when I get a chance or my steam coupons expire… Also Ghost Trick which is now out on iOS is great and really enjoying the demo. Will probably get the full game. Anyway, my life through software increasingly seems to be me life, which brings up another thing. My coworkers have all been commenting on my iPad addiction, for the past two weeks I have showed up everyday with a Bluetooth headset and a YouTube full of final fantasy xii-2 videos. Not even playing the game, simply going through tetra ninja’s walk through took up at least 20 hours of my life. The game became a very real story and one that actually touched me in a way an anime hasn’t in years although it’s still at times cheesy. But what occurred to me is that we’re increasingly living in virtuality almost all the time. The cost of a nearly endless supply of world of Warcraft is small and as terra nova has noticed the total amount of work done in virtual worlds is increasingly reaching the same level of as the actual economy. Mmos aside, the rate of production of games now exceeds the time required to consume them. Watching ff xiii-2 took almost two weeks out of my programming practice and steam at home takes even more. Passions come and go and post final fantasy YouTube is bereft of anything to attract me for awhile, but games continue to rain in and their worlds still feel fleeting. This is where ff xiii-2’s endings come in hand, the game can actually end multiple different ways. While this has been tried before something in the variety of endings suggests the staggering possibility of the narrative. These possibilities also lend the game consequence, it begins to feel as if the narrative is weighty and full of holes, sockets, places to hang a spare lesson or two. What it also suggests is that the future of these games is story, ones where players spin off from each other and separate teams of digital weavers keep their audiences occupied all within a single virtual world, just one that splinters and portals into different experiences. Kinda like the historia crux itself, the act of playing many modern games creates parallel worlds, paradoxes, and other things. Consequence is important in a game, and in ff xiii-2 I believe u can still go back and get all the endings, in fact I know you can because if u get all of them u get a special secret ending, but the necessity of games to be likable often means that they don’t let players get locked into the consequences of their actions, we like replayability, the ephemeralness of the digital world, in skyrim I can still go back and kill the monk on top of the world if I so choose, but I have never made that choice, I wanted him to live, And the idea of replaying that much game is tedious. Anyway, ff is less a game and more the skin of a movie on which you surf. I like ‘m, but only because I like the stories (ff 9 I loved ff 7 bored me), it doesn’t quite have the open narrative structure that skyrim has, but what it does have is worthy of a game and better than many RPGs out there. I really wish they would release it on pc.

February 22, 2012 at 2:36 am Leave a comment


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