Media Months in Review – September 2014 – February 2015 – Games and Books

The intention is to post these monthly. Since I haven’t posted these in a while though, I’m going to split the last half year’s media consumption post into several parts. This one will focus on games(video games, board games, card games), and books (also manga and comics). I’ll give a paragraph or so for every show I have what to say of.

Video Games:

Diablo 3 4 Furnaces

Diablo 3 is all about the loot. Taken during patch 2.1.1, those 4 Furnaces, damn.

Diablo 3 – The big elephant in the room. I’ve spent over 800 hours on the game over the recent months. It had consumed me, at least for the first 2-3 months, where every single free moment of my time was spent on it. I barely watched anime, even. The drive for loot was strong. I’m now slowly winding down my time with it. Both because the gameplay isn’t all that good, and because I realize the only goal you play it for is to get items that make you faster at obtaining items. The “end-game” content is truly lacking, and the only thing worse than the end-game content is pre-end-game content, which just feels bad. Though the basic leveling in terms of levels feels good.

Continue reading

Sword Art Online – Books 5-12 and Adaptation Thoughts

Sword Art Online Phantom Bullet / Gun Gale OnlineSword Art Online was probably the most popular anime to air during 2012. It had and has many fans, and many detractors. I for one liked it a whole lot. I liked it enough that after it ended, still in the throes of desiring to know what happened next, I’ve actually gone ahead and read all of the Sword Art Online novels. Well, from the 5th novel onward, so I didn’t revisit material which the series had covered. My opinion of the series might be coloured by it, but hey, I strive to give information for you to make your own minds as well.

I’m going to try and avoid spoiling the novels by Reki Kawahara and their content in-depth, but will touch more about plot-structure, themes, and how I felt about the books/arcs in general – so broad brushstroke/theme spoilers, not so much particulars. Furthermore, the second season is going to begin airing this weekend, so I will give some thoughts on what I think the upcoming adaptation will cover.

It’s Still a Light Novel Series:

I wrote a post about how Light Novels aren’t the best-written literature out there, and especially how that is relevant when one adapts the light novels to anime. Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei, which I wrote a post about the first 11 novels of, is the perfect example of endless internal monologues which replace characterization and action, a lot of non-action, and purple prose that is so overbearing and ubiquitous as to drown everything out. As one could see, a focus on non-action and internal monologues doesn’t translate well to the visual medium – either you kill the pacing by delivering these things, or you’re left with an indecipherable world due to the lack of explanations, or actions that support said things.

Continue reading

Mahouka Koukou / Irregular at Magic High School: An Ode to Meritocracy!

I’ve warned people. I told them it’d be bad. I told them there’s a reason the messages in this show trouble me so. They thought I was just being overly sensitive. Well, episode 4 happened, so let’s talk about it.

Introducion: Weaponized Light Novels, Handle With Extreme Caution:

Plenty of media pieces convey opinions I don’t share. It’s not bad, it’s an opinion. An unexplored political opinion, a “normative message” (“this is how things should be”) is harmful. You can pick it up, but you should be aware of what its ramifications are, you should look clearly at what it’s actually saying.

Light Novels often contain an underlying subtext that is at best naïve and divorced from reality, and at worst poisonous. A lot of it can be chalked up to “wishful thinking” or “fantasies”, whether they are power fantasies where we get to do as we wish with our power, or ones where we’re smarter than everyone else and they despise us for it, or even where our moral superiority over others should give us more rights, affirming our deeply-felt belief that we are somehow better than those around us, who do not acknowledge us.

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei anime / The Irregular at Magic High School anime - Shiba Tatsuya is Dark Flame Master!

Many light novels and anime works, heck, many films, video games, etc. are appreciated not in spite of the subtext, but because of it. We all watch and play stuff for the fantasies they empower and engender within us; that’s fine. If anything, it’s the opposite of escapism, tackling things we cannot handle in life on our terms.

And then we have messages such as the ones in Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei, that seem benign, but are deeply insidious and had even caused much harm in the real world, and which make me shake my head mightily and cry out, “No. This is not fine.

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei begins with the usual stuff: Presenting a picture of a world where we are glorious, but others just fail to see it, and when they do they flock to us, without us needing to actually do anything about it ourselves.

But then the show takes it further, and argues that people who seek more equality, or dare to oppose the benevolent rule of Capitalism are defeatists who blame others, those who argue for “false equality”, and even terrorists, while trying to present its “Rule of the Inherited Might” as not just benevolent, but “fair”, while it is anything but.

Continue reading

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – Books 1-11 and Adaptation Thoughts

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei / The Irregular At Magic High School - Shiba Tatsuya, Shiba MiyukiMahouka Koukou no Rettousei, known as “The Irregular at Magic High School” in English is a series of light novels written by Tsutomu Satō, and is the high profile (shounen action) adaptation of the season, poised to receive the most hype, and perhaps garner the same sort of attention as its peers in the last couple of years – Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin) in 2013, and Sword Art Online in 2012. The first 11 books cover the first year in highschool, of the two main characters, so we’ll discuss that. Book 12 is the first book of their second year.

I’ve actually had numerous friends suggest this series to me over the past year or two, especially as I’ve been a big fan of Sword Art Online. Well,with it airing this season (tomorrow, actually), I thought it’d be a good opportunity to sit down and read it (though I dunno why, I prefer coming to material new, why consume it twice?). I wasn’t as enthused as my friends had led me to believe I’d be, and the series shares and exemplifies the woes I write of in my piece about LNs’ writing style, but I actually think the adaptation might be better than the book-series, and more fun, so don’t rule it out.

I’m going to try and avoid spoiling or describing the series in-depth, that’s never been of much interest to me, and I doubt it’d be very useful to you, as you can simply read the books or watch the series. I’m going to discuss the themes of the series, arc by arc, and things which stood out to me. I will also discuss some thoughts on the upcoming adaptations, which are only guesses and predictions, naturally.

Continue reading

Light-Novels are Poorly Written and Adapting Them Shows That

For those who don’t know, Light Novels are short books released in Japan, aimed at young adults, and would usually be considered to be novellas in the west. As a medium, they could technically have a variety of genres and tropes, and yet, just as anime has things we consider to be “genre-tropes”, the same is true for Light Novels. This article will try to pinpoint what some of them are, what people are referring to when they say “This is so LN-esque!”, and how they affect characterization of characters, and the effect it has when adapting them (and some western books as well).

The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya - Kyon narrates

Kyon narrates, wryly.

First, to get us started, here is something I consider a quintessential example of light novels, which isn’t actually from any given LN, but had been written by myself:

“He stared intently at her shapely leg, while thinking wryly to himself that he understood her completely in that moment.”

And if you think that this isn’t typical of action LNs, then to reinforce this is about style, here is another quote I whipped up in half a minute:

“He smirked, holding his sword confidently in hand. He could see the course the fight would take, if you could even call it a fight, as he was sure he knew all the moves his opponent would take.”

Light Novels not only would fail according to the Hemingway App (which redlines your text based on Hemingway’s style), and Stephen King’s advice in “On Writing”, but are very intensely modern, in the sense that they put the individual at the center. Well, time to break that down.

Continue reading