Monthly Archives: February 2007

Kingdom Come

Reality may not be what we know it to be.

Look into my eyes...

In my own experience, life is history and things yet to come. We have childhood dreams as it is a function of the mode of existence that all human beings take: a linear progression of causes and effects.

The problem is in how we perceive our immediate reality. This blog entry details my revelation watching Manabi Straight episode seven from this perspective.

Ever wonder how God sees you? For an all-loving being who loves you all that he could, does he sees you for who you are, or does he sees you for how you see yourself? The super-objective observer, by some notion of Heisenberg uncertainty principle, is one that does not change the course of things by mere observation, unlike how we see things. Of course, God is not a super-objective observer; but neither is ourselves.

No, this is not about Noein; but that anime, too, share the same theme as Manabi Straight: your destiny is preordained by how you perceive your destiny. In fact, what makes Manabi, as a plot point, “stick,” is her ability to draw people into her world. It is awfully reminicent to me as to how Christians are called to bring people into God’s kingdom–to not see the world like how we see it, but how God sees it. Manabi (and crew) toiled away to bring her (and theirs) “world” into reality. They do so not with a dragon’s torque or fancy quantum computers, but through pure sweat and tears. It takes a lot of heart to be able to run that race and face the cooler, harsher “reality” that may have plagued Mei’s mind in an earlier episode.

The more down-to-earth(? LOL) description of reality is that it is a circle of mutual reaffirmation. Manabi or Mucchi may start the cycle, but for every soul they have blessed with their kindness and support, it perpetuate this cycle that Mei and Mikan blesses Manabi and Mucchi (and others). But I’m not even talking about that. I’m talking about where Manabi is mentally. She is absent minded, but that’s because the reality she sees is not just optimstic, but heaven-istic. She brings a piece of what’s good about this world to the people around her.

But that’s why UFOTable is so good! Your kingdom come, your will be done; on earth as it is in heaven. Can you see the reflection of heaven in her eyes, too?

The distance between them is more than 5cm...

Type-Moon Tycoon: Under a Frozen Sky

And so it ends: Part I and Part II, and this is Part III.

Saber & Rin

I took the pictures for Shiki and Aoko along with Rin and Saber. If I’m going to cuddle up with snow and ice and below-freezing temperatures, I might as well get it all over with at once.

Alter is a company that makes kits that have some very cool sculpting dynamics. But beauty has always been a function of the observer, and that’s the reason people are still buying Kotobukiya kits. What I’m trying to get at is that the Type-Moon FA4 set has diversity. The two Tsukihime heroines are very dynamic and the two Fate Stay Night heroines are a lot more traditional. Saber sports a solid, traditional but agressive stance (with very good footing versus lean), and Rin has her best foot forward (or she just shifting weight?) and secured just by her rear foot (like Shiki).

Still, in the end you’re paying $60 or so for 8 boxes of this stuff. It’s a great deal as each kit itself is worth probably $10 alone. I have PVC kits that were slightly more expensive and even worse crafted, even if it’s got more “material” to show for, at least. These feel good to have showing on your shelves.

Onward with the pictures. Of not-so-sad girls in snow…

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Type-Moon Tycoon: Ice Queens

LOL continuation rocks.

Wise Girl in Snow

I guess I really do mean it that it doesn’t snow in Singapore. Aoko-san must’ve frozen her ovaries off wearing that in this weather. Haha. Anyways…

The Fate Hallow Ataxia FA4 set has been released(?) and people love that stuff more. I can understand why; partly because the characters in this set are either so classic that they’ve gone Rei Ayanami, or too cool and obscure to draw a lot of attention. I guess some people like Aoko Aozaki and Shiki Ryougi? As you can tell with this entry, hopefully, that Alter has done a good job with the obscure girls as well.

On with the pictures. Burrrr.

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Franchising Abstraction and Open Endings

A simple existence

If you’re ever partial to nail-biting bickering about trivial nothings, we’re having a contest here. It’s on right now and have been for a little while, and will continue for the next month and plus some. The difference between this and SaiWhatever is that there’s promises of gift prizes at the end of the long, hard-fought road. Read the rules for what little details there are available.

But more pertinently, as people struggle to come up with every possible kind of incentive under the sun to get those swing votes, I’m just drawing out one point for further attention.

Let’s take Type-Moon’s Fate/Stay Night for example. It’s a good example because I have to remind myself of the pictures I still have yet to take (at least you don’t get snow in Singapore! lol. Jeff Lawson so should get a figure photo blog going…) and blog entries yet to be written about F/SN’s cast of characters. What do you get when you remove, say, Saber, from the context of the game/anime story? Who is Saber?

We know by the game/anime setting, that she is a magical being summoned to fight in a contest. She is also a heroic being, who died and now lives again for the purpose of this contest. We know it’s a she; we know she is a swordswoman. We know she has blond hair and blue eyes. We know she wears armor like nobody’s business–probably dating her to an age where wearing that kind armor was practical (disregarding anime’s crazy design licenses for impractical character designs). She speaks with a fairly solemn voice, and is a serious individual. Most of her official character art reflect that as well.

Now we look at Rin Tohsaka in the same way. Rin is a she, too; and also a serious individual. But beyond that the two quickly diverges. Rin is darker, and sports a design style that is a little gothic but also much more Japanese-schoolgirl. She expresses a variety of attitudes and feelings with her facial expression and body language that is missing from Saber. She has an attitude. In fact, she quickly reminds me (at least) of the Oujosama archetype.

The two of them, Saber and Rin, are characters in a franchise. We know a lot about them without knowing what happened to them in the anime or game. Such is sort of the mode of modus operandi of anime concept design and character design that we are used to and see in mainstream anime stuffs. Anime companies sell franchises, not just video on DVDs or ads on TV. They attach products to concepts, and be it story, character, or even just a name, this is how you make money selling from video games to cell phone straps to massager to maid cafe services.

And it is not so the case for every anime character under the sun. Take Youko Nakajima for example. To me Twelve Kingdoms is an awesome show that more people needs to watch because it captures the feel of a good high-fantasy with strong characterization. However it’s a fairly typical example how the characters don’t really live beyond the screen or pages of text that detailed their adventures. Sure, that doesn’t stop anyone from attaching stuff to these characters for $$$ (save maybe this), but in the minds of fans and readers, do these characters live on? Do they drive us into mad fans? Maybe. Is this the kind of fandom that makes us want to write slash fics and doujinshi? Maybe. Is the fandom dimension that makes all the difference between a character chained to the original work versus a character liberated?

I felt that Youko Nakajima is a character imprisoned by her story. Indeed the magnificence of her existence is really meaningful mostly in that context. And it isn’t like Twelve Kingdoms is lacking in interesting elements in the setting–it’s full of interesting stuff, in fact. The Shokei and Suzu arc, rather than building on an epic story of coming-of-age for a high school girl, puts it in the perspective of a life-long (in this case, could be hundreds of years) drama series serialized in juvenile fantasy novels. Could it be that Youko is chained to the serial nature of her story?

We want to know what’s up next with her. We want to take part in her character growth and the continuing discovery of the world of the Twelve Kingdoms. But to do that we can’t venture off on our own…

Alas. Is this yet another case to be made about the power of freedom of creative expression, a gift from creator to consumer, who in turn, become also a creator? It’s a content-layer concern that is very subtle and amusing at the same time.

So chalk one up for open endings!

Altered Reality

I read an article on BBC about Steve Jobs and his amazing power to alter people’s perception of reality. The details are not important but it got me thinking.

People Who Think Red Garden Is Ugly Needs To Learn What Ugly Is

KyoAni’s Kanon does very much the same things. Once you boil it down, Kanon is a protoharem, and many games (and ergo, anime from eroge) follow its footsteps. There’s not much magic once you get past its sad-girl-in-snow exterior and see what it is for yourself:  a parade of angsty pitiables that gives the audience what they want, with enough ambiguity and implications that drives the mind and satisfies the flesh.

And like reality, while footsteps in the show is clear and distinct, they’re too often just messy trails of indentations and slush. The successors don’t get it quite right. What is behind Yuuichi’s gradual recollection, Nayuki’s two famous lines, and Ayu’s plushie is not merely poignant plot devices that twist the dagger sticking out of the hearts of its audience. They’re ways in which the storyteller alters the perception of what is really going on.

To use a more concrete example: Mai and Shiori. We’ve seen how both of their stories unfold. The two makes good examples because they are both characters looking at the same kind of tragedy unfolding in their lives; one is someone directly influenced (in fact, Sayuri is easily the Kaori-equavalent in Shiori’s story), the other is a bystander but key to fulfilling the dying’s wish. Yet, why does it feel so different when Shiori reveals her inner struggle with us at the last moment, versus Mai revealing her inner struggle with us? Or if they feel the same, why doesn’t it feel different? After all, Mai came into the picture without her mother where as Shiori is literally dying.

Perhaps I ask these questions to try to figure out why I feel better about Mai’s story and feel worse about Shiori’s story? Shiori is the girl with all that she has to lose. Maybe it just means I feel better about Yuuichi and Kaori after seeing what Shiori had to go through?

At any rate, to take a step back from that, again, you can see that in reality the two are one and the same, but if you put aside your personal feeling about Mai or Shiori (as in, don’t think with your groin), we’re revisiting the same theme over and over again. What makes this repetition exercise fun is the Kyoani Reality Distortion abilities, and Kanon itself.

Much like how gentle but unending snow transforms the mundane landscape into “winter wonderland” and makeup can turn geek to gorgeous, such is the art they practice. The artisan makes not just footprints, they make pristine footprints. They don’t just make an alarm clock, they make an alarm clock that is more moe than the stash of anime porn you got hiding under your bed. They may lift real life landscape into their animation, but they transform the nine-to-five into five-to-nine.