Browsing the archives for the Anime category

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complexes

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Anime, Culture, Technology

Via Digg.com I came across this article discussing, somewhat superficially, to be honest, the idea of avatars and physical form (chosen or not) in relation to an individual.

I probably shouldn’t be discussing this right now, but I’m two episodes away from finishing the 2nd GiG and I want to record my thoughts before they fade too much. Spoilers below, recommended to have seen the entire first season of GitS: SAC and up to episode 24 of GitS: SAC 2nd GiG.

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Ghost in the Shell: Girls and Dolls

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Anime, Culture

Spoiler-ish discussion of issues raised in the anime. Recommended to have seen the first season and up to episode thirteen of the second season.

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Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Second Gig: Fourth Subtitle

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Anime

It’s been awhile since I seriously watched any anime. I tend to be pretty elitist in my tastes and attitudes so I don’t bother with most of it, preferring to ride on trusted recommendations. Ghost in the Shell was an exception to that: I remember half-seeing an episode of Siskel and Ebert a decade ago, and about two years after that I found myself alone one night with nothing to do but watch a movie. I picked Ghost in the Shell and found it… The combination of the technological intrigue and philosophy and the music made it hypnotic.

The movie is a classic, no doubt, and I was extremely eager to see how the anime series would stand up when it was released in 2002-03. The first season of GitS: SaC wasn’t a disappointment so I’ve been eager to get my hands on the second season, “2nd GiG.” Aside from the rather absurd length of the title I’ve been enjoying it immensely.

One thing I’m really glad they did with this second season is go back to an art style consistent with the show for the opening credits. I don’t tend to care too much about the opening credits for most animes, but I loved the Inner Universe song that accompanied the first season of GitS: SAC that I watched it nearly every episode. The problem I had with the opening sequence for the first season is that the 3D animation just looks too poorly done, in my opinion.

I understand that they were probably trying to bring the idea of Matoko’s body being artificial and “doll-like” into 3D, but there’s really no excuse for having hands that look like they’re made out of silly putty or shark-like numbers of teeth in a mouth.

For comparison:

The 2nd GiG opening sequence has an amazing opening song as well. It seems to have more of a focus on green coloration throughout the opening, whereas the first season was more blue-dominant. The major difference, though, is obviously the apparently hand-drawn characters. No poorly done and distracting CG here, for which I am thankful. The sequence also includes, unlike the first season, some images of the other members of Section 9. I don’t mind when Matoko gets screen time but the show’s not entirely about her.

Dungeons and Anime

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Anime, RPGs

Having a DVR is largely a liberating experience, but as with all things there is a certain amount of obligation associated with a DVR, particularly in the realm of keeping it clean of trash. For those of you without a DVR, most of them seem to have a “Recommendation” feature that selects and records shows for you automatically based on viewing habits. It seems that most people turn this feature off, as it can clog up your DVR with unwanted shows. Instead of doing so, I’ve made the decision to train the feature and see how well it performs. Already I’ve found a few shows through the recommendation feature that I’ve enjoyed.

The DVR consistently tries to record shows from the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim program block. Most of these shows are bad. I’m not familiar with their current lineup, but it seems like it’s always an amalgam of the worst in anime — Full Metal Alchemist, Inuyasha, and Big O come to mind. I’m not terribly fond of Samurai Champloo, but it’s not horrible, I’m just not sure if I care enough about it to watch it. Cowboy Bebop, of course, is an excellent show (and I don’t quite know why Steven seems to have changed his mind about it — too much kawaii?) but I would never be able to force myself to wait a week between episodes.

To continue my story, I found myself cleaning out the shows that the DVR had selected for me last night and found Inuyasha among the lineup. Normally I wouldn’t waste my time watching this dreck, but I decided to anyway. I’ve actually been thinking a fair bit about this show recently, what it does right and what it does wrong, and how it relates to Dungeons and Dragons.

The cast:

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Inuyasha, the title character. He’s not exactly the main character, he’s just the one that male anime fans are supposed to envy. He wields a huge sword and is supposedly a half-demon. He’s a fighter.

Kagome, ostensibly the main character. She’s a schoolgirl in a mystical, feudal Japan setting. She acts as a general foil and love interest to Inuyasha. She’s an archer.

A monk character. He has a distinguishing characteristic in that he’s lecherous. He uses spells to defeat most of his opponents.

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Another female character, this time a love-interest for the monk. She uses a giant boomerang and sometimes rides around on a flaming cat creature.

The comic relief and mischevious character.

The villain. He uses monologues and well-groomed hair to foil the protagonists.

(Pictures culled from the Adult Swim website, visit them if you want more information on the show.)

Now, note that I’m not really delving into the background for all of these characters, or even giving them names. Mostly this is because I don’t even know the names for these characters. Even after having watched a total of five or six episodes of the show, apparently my mind finds it entirely unnecessary to remember their names. My secondary reason is because I see the characters in Inuyasha more as archetypes (or, to put it in a less high-minded fashion, anime tropes) than as characters. My general premise here is that the show is actually like one extended Dungeons and Dragons campaign, or, in a more general sense, that Inuyasha has something to bring to Dungeons and Dragons.

The show’s basic story is this: Kagome is a schoolgirl from modern day Japan (this is irrelevant) who is transported magically to this fantasy world where all of the other characters reside. Somehow she finds herself in an adventuring party which is seeking magical items called sacred jewel shards. I don’t know how many shards there are, but since this show has been going on for over 150 episodes we can gather that there are probably quite a few.

The thing that strikes me about Inuyasha, if seen from the perspective that it is a show about Dungeons and Dragons, is how well it works. The key here is that all of the player characters have the simple common goal of collecting the jewel shards and defeating the villain. I can’t but help of thinking of how frequently the common D&D falls apart because the characters share nothing in common. You meet in an inn. You have nothing in common, you group together out of the metagame consideration that you wouldn’t be playing the game if you weren’t in a group. Unless you’re gaming with people you know and trust extremely well, it’s unsafe to ever try and interact with other characters as characters, you risk the possibility of running into those nasty issues that plague games: You’re good, you’re evil, why are we grouping? or Why are we risking our lives for some small pittance?

Now, I’m not saying that Inuyasha is great, it certainly is not. But the reason why it “works” better than your average D&D game is that the players, as it were, are all on the same page. None of the characters in the show are deep, none of them are really characterized beyond quirky distinguishing gimmicks. The monk is lecherous, yet presumably in love with the boomerang-wielding female. This conflict leads to humor, not to serious character exploration. Inuyasha is half-demon wolf, yet it seems the only importance this carries is that Kagome can make dog jokes about him. Kagome is from an entirely different world, yet she takes everything in stride as if she’s been living there her entire life. The villain is bad because he’s the villain, that’s all you need to know.

I’ve been reading Bankuei and associated blogs off-and-on for awhile now, and he and other Forge affiliated role-playing-game theorists are frequently discussing things that I just have a hard time understanding — My entire experience with Role-Playing games comes from Dungeons and Dragons. Goals of play, styles of play, from an exclusively Dungeons and Dragons perspective these things are alien concepts. To this day I still feel very out of place when I read these guys, I just don’t know exactly what they’re talking about. I am starting to see though, between the game I’m playing in and the game that I’m running, some of what they must mean.

Unfortunately the issue isn’t quite as simple as sitting down and explaining to your gaming friends that you want to run a campaign with a particular type of play, or a particular theme. Although I consider myself largely to be a power gamer (or, Min-Maxer, if you prefer), I can enjoy role-playing intensive campaigns. I don’t know if your casual D&D players even have the vocabulary to articulate their favored style of play, though.