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Today marks the 5-Year Anniversary of Ogiue Maniax. That’s quite a big milestone I think, especially when I consider that it’s probably the longest I’ve ever actively stuck to something, but because I actually reflect on where I’ve been as a blogger and where I might go every year, I find myself not knowing really what to say that I haven’t said before. So, I’ve decided that maybe rather than just reminiscing on being a blogger, I would kind of talk about my pre-history of blogging, pretty much how I came to be active in communicating on the internet with fans and such, and how I strongly believe those experiences shaped much of how I write and approach anime. I’ve talked about some of these things in part before, so those who’ve been reading a while may see some familiar things, but I hope you’ll be entertained anyway.
My very first experience with online fando came shortly after purchasing my video game ever: NiGHTS into dreams…. I remember saying to myself at the time, “I must be the only NiGHTS fan out there!” based on how none of my friends even mentioned it, so I was pleasantly shocked to find out that there were communities dedicated to the game, even sites where people wrote fanfiction based on the universe. And so I hung on those early messageboards, things that didn’t even have the luxury of sub-boards and convenient categorizations, and it’s where I first learned about what it means to communicate online. I made a lot of friends then, both older and younger than me, and while I don’t really talk to them anymore I do cherish those times. Amidst the webrings and such I learned how big the world is. I was actually amazed that I could communicate with people from the UK!
My next big steps in terms of internet community went hand in hand: anime and Pokemon. With anime, I of course visited the Anime Web Turnpike and tried to read through every single site with the naive notion that if I did I could learn about every anime in existence. I mean, how many could there be? Though that was a fool’s errand, my pursuit of knowledge of anime is still of a similar sort, which I think shows in my writing. With Pokemon too, I can draw a clear line to where I am today as a blogger, firstly because discussions of the anime back when it first came out were filled with everyone’s wild hopes and speculations and theories, but secondly because a lot of my Pokemon community experience was on the competitive side.
There were the war stories,” entertaining recaps of Pokemon battles you’d had both online and off, where you had to take a rather dry text log consisting of “Pokemon used Attack! It’s Super Effective!” and spice it up into something more engaging. And then there were the strategy discussions, where we rated each others’ teams and discussed the pros and cons of various strategies. By engaging in those discussions, I think I laid some of the early groundwork for some of my more argument-oriented posts today. Obviously I was less experienced then in terms of conveying my ideas, but I remember wanting to present my ideas not only intelligently but also in an entertaining and accessible manner.
The amount of forums I interacted on grew and shrunk depending on various circumstances, but that idea of writing for fellow forum readers stuck with me throughout. It’s the reason I cannot truly accept the idea that the internet fosters idiocy in its communities: I know in my heart that my writing style was forged on internet forums, and I strongly believe that I benefited immensely from these interactions, and not only because it influenced the way I write.
So that’s “Early, Early Pre-Ogiue Maniax.” What you see from me in all of my posts on Ogiue Maniax comes from years of getting into spirited but (hopefully) good-natured arguments with people on a variety of nerdish topics. In fact, the reason why I ended up wanting a blog (and started participating less on other sites) was that I would frequently write forum responses which I felt argued really good points about a certain topic, but it would forever be confined to just that small community. I wanted to write about ideas and thoughts I had on my own terms.
Actually, in writing this mainly internet-oriented summary, I realize that I’m leaving out all of the real life development I had at the time as well. Around the same time, I discovered friends in school who had as much if not more interest in games and anime as I did, and I think the combination of both friends who understood me well (and are still friends with me today) as well as enriching internet communication actually worked together to help instill in me some confidence as to who I am and what I love. Still, it wouldn’t be until many years later that I would truly have faith in my abilities, and though they weren’t around all the way back then, I still feel a need to thank those who support me today.
This review is a part of the Reverse Thieves’ Secret Santa Project for 2010.
Mobile Police Patlabor: The Movie is a film by Oshii Mamoru, director of Ghost in the Shell. Though it predates Oshii’s most famous film by a few years, there is no mistaking its pedigree.
In the world of Mobile Police Patlabor, mankind has embraced the use of giant robots to help with large-scale construction and manual work. Referred to as “Labors,” it wasn’t long until some people started using them for less altruistic purposes, creating a new problem in the form of Labor-related crimes. In response, the police begin deploying their own Patrol Labors, or “Patlabors” for short. One such force is the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Special Vehicle Section 2, Division 2, a group of misfit officers whose ranks include a tomboy who names all of her pets Alphonse (her Patlabor being the latest), an overly aggressive gun nut, and a seemingly dull and lazy division chief. Nevertheless, they do their best to serve and protect despite their spotty reputation.
Given this scenario, you’d probably expect some combination of cop show drama and ensemble comedy with a dash of mecha, and you’d be right, normally. But while most of the Patlabor franchise falls along those lines, Patlabor: The Movie is instead a cerebral mystery. A recent string of “berserk” Labors threatens the completion of an important project and the most likely suspect, programmer Hoba Eiichi, is already dead, confounding Shinohara Asuma, the Division 2 member who has taken it upon himself to investigate. All the while, the film explores the continuing onset of technology and the eternal struggle of new vs old, with numerous biblical references strewn throughout. Given the tone and content, Patlabor: The Movie is like a stepping stone towards Ghost in the Shell and the eventual direction Oshii’s oeuvre would take.
The film still has a lot of the requisite elements of Patlabor; it has those same goofy characters (all of whom act as they should), robot fight scenes, and a personal feel to the setting. In fact, you need not have watched any of the previous material to understand the movie or to get an idea of the personality quirks and relationships of the characters. However, those aspects of Patlabor are either more subdued or less frequent in the film, instead putting the spotlight on the mysterious culprit, “E. Hoba” (Jehovah), and his motives. In this respect, it reminds me of another movie, Sengoku Majin Goshogun: The Time Étranger, a sequel to a super robot anime featuring a decidedly different tone and absolutely no giant robots, only Patlabor: The Movie is somehow both more extreme and less in its deviation. Patlabor: The Movie really feels as if Oshii (who also directed the Patlabor OVAs) was trying to push the franchise beyond the limits of its basic premise and bend it to his own personal will. It actually works pretty well overall, maintaining suspense throughout and giving quite a bit to think about, but I’m not sure if Patlabor was the place to do it.
In short, imagine Oshii Mamoru trapped in a giant paper bag called Patlabor, trying to punch his way through until he ends up wearing the bag like a Halloween costume, and you have Mobile Police Patlabor: The Movie. He’s pretty dashing in that getup.
Today, May 5th, is the anniversary of Japanese curry restaurant Go Go Curry, and to celebrate this auspicious occasion in Manhattan they’re making it so that ALL medium-sized curry dishes are $5. I think by now my feelings on Go Go Curry have been well-established, but just in case, if you’re in the area and have never tried it, I highly recommend you do so. It’s on 38th St between 7th and 8th Ave in Manhattan.
They’re also giving away FIVE free topping coupons on top of that. And I know that unless you really like the Go Go, five coupons is a bit much to use up in a month, but they’re great to hand off to your friends, especially those who have never tried it before (just keep in mind you can’t use them in the same day you order).
As for me, it doesn’t really matter what special they have for their anniversary, I’ll be there simply to celebrate its existence and to dine on the best Japanese curry around.
Incidentally, the other vital component of the day appears to have a similar effect on people.
Also, make sure to check out my Top 10 Favorite Confessions in Anime and Manga over at Otaku Crush.
MAKE PROJECT Z! DO IT!
For those who aren’t aware of Project Z, it was the proposed sequel to Gaogaigar Final that was included with the DVDs of Gaogaigar Final: Grand Glorious Gathering, which was a re-editing of the OVAs to fit the time slots of a TV broadcast. What was really cool about Project Z though is that not only was it to be a direct continuation of the GGG story, but it also was to incorporate elements from Betterman, which was this weird sci-fi horror series which took place in the GGG universe but hardly included any actual crossover with the main series.
It also gave off a very different mood. If Gaogaigar is CSI: Miami, then Betterman is CSI: New York.
So when last we saw our heroes in Gaogaigar Final, well, we didn’t, and the only ones able to return were Mamoru and Ikumi, the two children of alien origin whose abilities allowed them to purify the enemy. Once the kid sidekicks of the robot-piloting ultra heroes, as of Project Z they were to be teenagers where now themselves the heroic super robot pilots. It had the potential to be this real coming-of-age story akin to Gurren-Lagann.
An interesting aspect of the whole Project Z concept from a mecha perspective was that the main robot of Project Z was supposed to be an amalgam of the robots from Betterman with the technology of Gaogaigar into a single cohesive design. The robots in Gaogaigar are sentient beings created based on alien technology called “Super Mechanoids,” whereas the robots in Betterman are purely human creations devoid of thought called “Neuronoids.” Joined together, they would create GAOGAIGO, a “Neuromechanoid” whose co-pilots would have been Mamoru and Ikumi.
They actually got pretty far with this idea, even creating an action figure based on the design.
Cool, no? Another interesting to point out is that the Gao machines used in the transformation are the ones remaining on Earth. That’s why you have Gaofighgar’s Liner Gao II as the shoulder armor, but also Stealth Gao II from the second half of the TV series.
In addition, because the robots in Betterman were anything but super, Gaogaigo’s design ends up being a mix of real robot and super robot technology. It’d be like if you took a Scope Dog from Votoms and cross-bred it with Gurren-Lagann.
And here’s what would have been really amazing. The base robot of Gaogaigo, called “Kakuseijin Gaigo,” incorporates the Neuronoid ability to change modes and appearance depending on who is the co-pilot. So if Mamoru was in control of Gaigo when it turned into Gaogaigo, then surely when Ikumi was in control we’d get a robot based off of King J-Der. If you look at the Gaigo mode that has Ikumi in control, it even kind of looks like J-Der!
Ikumi’s Accept Mode Gaigo (top), Mamoru’s Active Mode Gaigo (bottom)
So that’s what could have been, or what perhaps could still be. I’m holding out hope that some day our heroes will return to us.
Recently I attended a friend’s birthday party, and encountered a most unusual social barrier. Now my friend is a geek through and through, loves to program, loves board games, science fiction, and has many other interests (though none of them are anime). He’s a good friend that I’ve known for many years and I was all too glad to attend his party (even if I’ve missed out on many of them in previous years).
Being the nerd-geek that he is, his primary form of entertainment at his party was games. Board games, card games, everything from old classics to new hotness with ramps and trick shots. As most of our friends over the years have been geeks also, and we knew him well, we understood that this was pretty much how he’d want a party to be and we accepted wholeheartedly.
The “problem,” though I hesitate to call it that, was that he invited a couple of girls to the party who were not exactly into this sort of geekery. Now the two of them didn’t seem terribly interested in games, and so my friend asked them what they usually do. “We talk,” was the response.
Conversation! We know how to do those! And while we might not have anything in common, that doesn’t mean we can’t talk, right? After all, my birthday friend for example may not like anime nearly as much as I do, and my knowledge of computer science is limited, but we can still talk about our respective interests to each other and enjoy hearing what the other has to say.
And so the first question asked was, “What are your interests?”
The response? “Nothing, really.”
At this point conversation almost died entirely. It managed to recover somewhat eventually, but right after their reply the questions that followed from us were things like “do you have any hobbies?” or “do you have any favorite books?” Our natural geekish tendency to relate to others who might not necessarily have much in common with us by seeing what they were passionate about backfired as the evidence presented to us all but implied that the two of them had no passion. An odd feeling came over me, where I said to myself, “That can’t be, right? People are usually into something, even if they don’t have the time or the resources to pursue it actively.” Even if a guy only watches sports casually, you can still find out what he likes about it and why. But when asking these two after they said they “kind of like sports” about what it is they enjoy about sports, again the answers fell flat.
Another problem that I could see in hindsight is that between us geeks and the non-geeks, we had two very different ideas about what a “conversation” is. Both are predicated on the idea the conversation is “natural,” but with geeks in general I feel like conversation is rooted in our mutual curiosity. We want to find out about subjects. In this case, the subject was these two girls. But for them, conversation meant something much less intense and less active. They still wanted to learn, but not as much as we had come to expect of “conversation.” It was as if for them, conversation was more about “feeling it out” than it was an opportunity to know more.
All of this made me think about the various conversations I have with my fellow anime fans on the internet. There are times when we may disagree vehemently on the very nature of anime and what dictates a “good” or a “bad” show, but we all know that on the other side is someone who has a passion to which they devote their attention. But here, it was like there was nothing in their words that we could take a hold of in order to carry the conversation.
It felt like the most difficult person for a geek to interact with is not “girls,” as the stereotype might say, but simply people who lack interests.
…is to be in more of a ROmantic Mode.
At least for the second half of the year.
That is to say, today Megaman is 22 years old. Happy Birthday!
Actually, had I known that his birthday was coming up, I probably would have saved my post about Megaman 10 for this occasion. Still, there’s plenty to talk about regarding Rock and the various mechanical adversaries he faces on a daily basis. One such topic is the art of sprites, and today I’m going to explain one of the interesting trends that occurred as the Megaman series progressed on the NES.
From left to right: Cutsman, Gutsman, Iceman, Bombman, Fireman, Elecman
If you look at the first Megaman game, the Robot Masters had the same basic physical frame as Megaman himself, Gutsman excepted. Over time however, the Robot Master sprites as a whole became larger and more detailed. No doubt this is to some extent due to the improvement of the technology within the NES cartridges, but there was a greater discovery that happened over the course of the series, one artistic in nature.
From left to right: Metalman, Airman, Bubbleman, Quickman, Crashman, Flashman, Heatman, Woodman
What makes larger characters like Airman and Woodman look less chunky than Gutsman? Take a look at their limbs, particularly in the legs. You’ll notice that they’re all colored black, at least before the knees and elbows. Some time in the production of Megaman 2, Inafune and the others working on the game must have discovered that by giving the Robot Master sprites black limbs, it would allow for Robot Masters with larger bodies to have arms and legs that did not look either overly thick or too spindly. It’s also what gives Quickman the ability to bend his knees better for cool poses. By the time Megaman 3 rolled around, every Robot Master had black limbs, and was designed to be larger than Megaman.
From left to right: Needleman, Magnetman, Geminiman, Hardman, Topman, Snakeman, Sparkman, Shadowman
The reason black has such a slimming effect on the limbs (outside of real world settings, I mean) is that the outline of the sprite is already black, and so when a different color is used our eyes tend to focus on that color and use the black as an outline, but when the limbs themselves are entirely black we view the entire leg, outline and all, as a solid block. There are still cases where a Robot Master might have non-black limbs, or cases where the arms aren’t black but the legs are, but you’ll notice in almost every case that it’s from a desire to make one set of limbs look “bigger” than the other.
Let’s use a more recent example, Plugman from Megaman 9, who has black legs and gray arms. I’ve altered his sprite twice, once to show him with black limbs only, and once to show his limbs as gray.
Plugman and Variations
You’ll notice that when I made his legs gray, it altered the perceived angle that his legs are bent at as well as making the outline around those legs more awkward looking, and also that when his arms are black your mind regards them as just a little bit thinner. It’s kind of subtle, but at the same time when it comes to something like an 8-bit sprite, one pixel can mean a lot, as in this case where it comprises about 25% of the width of a single thigh.
So there you have it. To another 22 years of Mega goodness, to another 22 years of smart and effective sprite work.
2009 has been a crazy year for anime, with ups and downs and all-arounds, but amidst a weakened global economy and an industry going through some serious growing (or shrinking) pains, I find there is still plenty to be thankful about.
I am thankful for…
Great shows being licensed or made available streaming so that when I say Glass Mask is a FANTASTIC SHOW, you can now go and watch it. And Monster is on TV!
Some stellar guests at anime conventions. Between Ishiguro, Tomino, and a whole bunch of others, this has been a highly informative and unforgettable year of conventions. Thanks to Ishiguro and Tomino as well, for telling me all about Nagahama Tadao.
An explosion of new blogs. As the years pass, they just keep coming and coming. Keep it up, the only way to improve your writing is to keep writing.
An industry which is still trying, despite what others might claim. There may be some “safe” shows out there, but we’re also continuing to see the mediums that are anime and manga being challenged and made better as a result.
An Eureka Seven Movie. Sure, it might not be quite what I’d like from an E7 movie, and it didn’t capture what made the TV series great, but I am still grateful that such a thing could be made 3 years after the original finished.
Genshiken 2 out on DVD! Get it as soon as possible. Ogiue is waiting.
The friends I’ve made and the people I’ve met through the fandom. Truly you have made this an unforgettable year.