Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World- and Save Scumming

Management: This essay is meant to be less of a review and more of analysis of the show being examined. It contains plot spoilers for the Re:Zero anime.

So there’s a number of games floating out there that market themselves on their permadeath mechanics or ironman modes. A member of your team or party dies, you make a misjudgment that locks you into an end you didn’t want, or something otherwise unfortunate happens during your run. If he/she doesn’t want to start a new game, all the player can do in response is suck it up and plow forward. The appeal of these punishing features is a sense of engagement, a sense of challenge that’s absent in a system that would allow you to re-do a serious mistake.  If death gives life meaning, then its threat despite your best efforts at the time makes the lives of protagonists and friendly NPCs that much more precious, when combined with a narrative that makes them likeable, relatable. Of course, permadeath mechanics and ironman modes aren’t appealing to everyone. Not everyone sits down to play a game so they can get stressed from harsh challenges. Some of them want to relax. Some of them want to feel heroic.

My excuse was story. I’m not going to make a game unnecessarily hard on myself, I says. It’ll get in the way of me enjoying the narrative, I says. There are those games though, like Dark Souls, where the difficulty of the challenge and the appreciation of the story is intended to be inseparable from each other. Every normal playthrough of Dark Souls functions as an ironman-style run, and in the process of dying and reviving over and over during one of them, I began to scrutinize why I played like a save scummer. I would characterize myself as one. I often returned back to moments in games just before I made what I perceived to be a grave error. Thing was, though, the mistakes I made in Dark Souls never ended with a “Game Over” screen. The game would acknowledge where you perceived that you failed, resurrect you somewhere, and carry on — with all the consequences your failure would realistically entail. I wasn’t so much being locked out of the game’s narrative as I was stumbling into a new narrative branch, one where, for example, I did let someone die. Out of multiple narrative possibilities, that possibility became my narrative. Those kinds of narratives always troubled me though, and as I sought to reset the run, it occurred to me that, like Re:Zero’s Subaru Natsuki, I also tend to roleplay.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Buddhist Iconography in Land of the Lustrous

Management: This essay is meant to be less of a review and more of analysis of the show being examined. It contains plot spoilers for the Land of the Lustrous anime.

Introduction

Iconography is a powerful tool in storytelling. The power of icons belies and transcends the descriptor of them as being mere assortments of organized lines, shapes, and maybe colors. Even if audiences don’t fully understand their cultural context, icons hold a power over a people who are even just passingly familiar with them. The more ancient and fundamental seeming these icons are in a given culture, the more power they have over shaping the expectations of audiences when consuming a work of fiction utilizing them. Like money, icons are a currency that those in the know conduct exchanges with, with the medium of exchange being knowledge instead of paper or metal. For instance, the knowledge of whether or not your friend likes certain anime without asking him can be ascertained from the Homura figurine he positions on his writing desk or the Rem plushie he keeps at his bedside. The knowledge of your friend’s interest in certain religions can be deduced without direct inquiry based on the crucifix on her wall or the buddha on her nightstand.

Many storytellers set up expectations based on how audiences understand these icons in the real world. Religious iconography, even without much knowledge of doctrine, possesses the cultural currency of something deep and profound. Land of the Lustrous and the Evangelion franchise contain copious amounts of this kind of iconography. While Evangelion doesn’t demonstrate any deep or profound understanding of the Christian symbolism it mucks around in, audiences are nevertheless drawn to it by the iconography’s intangible appeal. Land of the Lustrous goes further with its iconography, exhibiting a more-than-passing understanding of the Buddhist symbolism it sculpts its characters out with. Most people watching Land of the Lustrous will at least recognize that some of its iconography is Buddhist in origin. Those with passing familiarity with Buddhism may find themselves attracted to these icons because of their pop culture associations with deep and profound powers or knowledge. Those with more educated backgrounds in the Buddhist religion may may also expect the themes of the story to unfold in ways that reflect a Buddhist worldview.

Continue reading

Hyouka: A Dying Land

Management: While my opinion of the show is generally positive overall, this essay, by no means, is meant to serve as a comprehensive review, but rather, as an articulation and analysis of some of what I feel is this series’ most integral and interesting themes. The piece takes primary reference from Episode 22, “The Doll that Took a Detour.”

Hyouka 7

It is the ending of an episode that ends this Japanese Hyouka season, “The Doll that Took a Detour.” It is the Hina Doll Festival’s end.

The many men responsible for the celebration, having proceeding from one village to the next by procession, allowed themselves feast and merriment for the duration. The women, formerly in ceremonial wear, have likely dressed themselves more casually for the after affair, dusting off the cherry blossoms that caught on them from the air, having put away the clothes and props they need for next year’s fare.

These people are old. The festival is old. The dispute that brought about the tradition of the festival is old. The momentary dilemma between the two villages that nearly disrupts the procession’s route… it hearkens from old.  As Houtarou Oreki and Eru Chitanda walk from the festivities back to their respective homes, the latter turns to the former within the vicinity of the cherry tree, blossoming out of season, to say something. She says something like this to him.

This land is dying.

Continue reading

Shigofumi and Death Parade: Empathy for the Living

Management: The issue and act of the episodes of these two shows, Shigofumi’s Episode 3: “Friends”, and Death Parade’s Episode 11 “Memento Mori” and Episode 12 “Suicide Tour,” is, of course, a rather controversial point of discussion in popular and private discourse, and so my intention, with this essay, is to posit Shigofumi’s and Death Parade’s musings on the subject in a thought-provoking way. Additionally, while I may hold a positive opinion overall of this show, this piece in no ways serves as a comprehensive review of the series, but rather an articulation and analysis of an interesting set of ideas brought up.

This piece also references a previous post of Shigofumi I wrote, which can be found here.

Death Parade 25

I published a little thematic piece on Shigofumi when I started out blogging. The piece is somewhat of a reflection of how far my blogging voice has come since. My writing then was less lengthy than it is now, by a considerable degree. It was more structurally rigid and emotionally reserved. Now, I’ve gotten to the point where I’m more confident saying a whole variety of different things. The Shigofumi piece ended up drawing some debate, and that debate pertained both to how I interpreted the show’s targeted message as well as the acceptability of the targeted message itself. I made no secret that I was supportive of that message.

That message was anti-suicide.

While it tells its a separate story, Death Parade makes the same message. It is critical of the reasoning that has driven many people to kill themselves. I understand that suicide is a sensitive topic for a lot of people, and what I will say will sound like suicide victim blaming. Consequently, I will make pains to clarify what kind of suicide these shows and I are calling out on. However, if the creators behind Shigofumi and Death Parade are willing to make these points unreservedly, then it would behoove me to not hold back.

Continue reading

Death Parade ~ A Rant About Why the Show Isn’t Going to Hell

Management: Unlike more formal entries, this post is just me kind of freewheeling some hate I’ve worked up on something or other. I intend they be civil, but they are rants. They are demonstrably more passionately accusatory towards something or someone, but the points I’ll make will at least be coherent. I won’t do these on a regular basis. They’ll just spontaneously spring to life one day in a conversation, and I’d rather at least the reasonableness, if not the rhetoric, of my sentiments aren’t forgotten.

Death Parade 1

Every Death Parade discussion that I’ve skimmed through had people dropping and arguing opinions. Not a whole lot of surprise there. It happens for most, if not all, shows. But there’s something about the type of opinion being expressed and debated in Death Parade that seems to be unique to it, special to it. This “specialness” is where the focal point of these opinions are concentrated: posts and polemics about good and evil and heaven and hell of all variations.

They frustrates me.

My public health professor posed a question about the infamous “Typhoid Mary.” People opined about who was right and wrong, while here I was, the only person in my class who thought this question about Typhoid Mary was dumb.

Here I am now, thinking that these Death Parade discussions about morality were dumb.

Continue reading

Paranoia Agent: Strongest

Management: While my opinion of the show is generally positive overall, this essay, by no means, is meant to serve as a comprehensive review, but rather, as an articulation and analysis of some of what I feel is this series’ most integral and interesting themes. This essay, in particular, is about Episode 11 of Paranoia Agent, “No Entry,” though it does contain some elements of Episode 13, “The Final Episode,” towards the end.

Paranoia Agent 8

“Paranoia” is a term that could be described as seeing daggers in shadows where there are none. It’s a mental state where minor suspicion of the intentions of people and things, whether or not those people actually know who you are and whether or not those things are actually sentient, degrades to the point to a neurotic obsession. It becomes a plot against your life, a conspiracy where certain people, certain things, or all people and all things, are out to get you, to be cruel to you, to make you suffer.

“Agent” is a term could be described as something or someone being the perpetrator of something else.

The perpetrator of paranoia. The neurotically suspicious agent. For the first half plus of Paranoia Agent, the show plays around with who or what is beating everyone in the head with a bat. Or is there even someone out there like that? Is there a ‘lil Slugger? Is there a shounen bat? There wasn’t, and there is, and before where people were simply sent to the hospital, people are now being sent to the morgue. Shounen Bat has become the iconic equivalent to certain death in the show as the grim reaper is in pop culture (the bat’s bent in to parallel the bent nature of the scythe). It now kills everyone it ends up appearing to.

Episode 11, “No Entry” , pitches along, and it appears in the midst of this woman who you would think would be the easiest target to bludgeon into a crackly and pastey oblivion, at least compared to its previous victims. A woman with a fragile constitution and a weak heart, and yet alone she managed to survive, even when her house didn’t. It wasn’t luck though that she was able to make it out.

Continue reading

Of Epistemological Positions: Monogatari and the Death of Gods

Management: While my overall opinion of the Monogatari Series, is quite positive, this essay is, by no means, meant to be a comprehensive review. It is rather an articulation and analysis of what I feel are its most integral and interesting themes. Much of this essay draws from elements of Sigmund Freud’s and especially Friedrich Nietzche’s thoughts. That being said, the inclusion of those elements are not meant to be a total affirmation of everything they believe.

Monogatari Series 1

The Truth That Matters

When it comes to epistemology, broken down to its etymological roots as the study of knowledge, we ultimately end up having to ask or being asked some derivative of the question… What is truth?

What is it? It may be useful to inquire first truth’s opposite, namely, falsehood. Falsehood, in layman’s terms, are lies, and lies can be characterized as deceit, deception, and delusion. I’m asked why the sky is blue, and rather than answer “because it’s the oxygen in the atmosphere,” I reply “because it’s an ocean propped up by an invisible dome erected long ago.” That doesn’t work like that, or that never happened, or that is not. It isn’t real. So what does that mean for truth, and how is that meaning relevant to us, no less to a show like Monogatari?

Because what matters to us, boiled down, what we tend to say, what we tend to do, how we tend to lead our lives, is what’s real. It’s what’s is. Whether we are conscious of it or not, people orient themselves to the fulfillment of some meaning or purpose, of how we ought to live our lives. It’s the objective way of living. It’s what we feel will make us happy. It’s what’s natural. It’s what’s proper. It’s what makes us feel whole. In many organized religions, that means obedience and/or communion with some sort of deity or deities, constituting in sum things such as omnipresence, omnipotence, and omniscience… the highest rungs of what can be considered fulfillment or wholeness. It is the absolute, ultimate truth, and being part of that truth, theoretically, is supposed to make us happy. Philosophy trims the divine aspects of theology, but nevertheless leaves the theological concept, in function and even name, intact. Our absolute, ultimate truth is our god, and there is no god but ours. Truth’s naturally exclusive that way.

Continue reading