What I'm Watching: The Mandalorian

Bored by real life, and all done with ACNH until construction finishes tomorrow morning… so I wanted to watch something stupid. Signed up for Disney+ trial, even tho I loathe Disney. Gotta remember to cancel this in a week, giving them money is evil.

And they still don't have the last movie yet! I'll have to acquire it by other means. So instead I watch The Mandalorian, but I wanted something even dumber than space-trucker-and-green-monkey.

The musical themes are very obviously "Ennio Morricone but crappy Casio synth and plastic didgeridoo". And all the fake sets look like they're copied from Sergio Leone movies, but Sergio filmed in real dusty badlands, real worn-out mountains, and real poor shithole villages. This is all greenscreen cartoons around the actors, and I don't know why they bother doing anything "real". It's instantly obvious whenever scenes are fake, so all CGI cartoon would've at least been consistent. Or alternately they could've shot in real places for 1% of what this show costs. I fucking hate looking at this.

Sound editing is awful. They shoulda put a mic under Nota Fett's ("Mando" isn't a name, it's like calling a Human "Humie", so I gave him a new name!) helmet, because he is really hard to hear. Good thing for subtitles. They could've just redubbed in studio because you can't see his lips move. Sometimes the sets are live miced, maybe, or the foley is good; other times it's very obvious everything was muted and bad foley was added. I've rarely seen B-movies with sound design this bad.

The "shiny Mandalorians are the best" premise conflicts with Boba Fett, greatest of the Mandalorian bounty hunters, who was painted over in sort of camouflage, battle-scarred green armor over tan fatigues. The helmet really didn't make a lot of sense, you can't possibly see much. Here, Nota Fett quickly gets paid in a couple pounds of shiny steel which is apparently all he wants, and his helmet is even more useless than Boba's. It's especially obvious whenever he pulls out the little telescope, he's got no peripheral vision, no sight lines up or down. He glitters wherever he walks. I know Boba Fett also wore a cape, but it's stupid. "NO CAPES, DAHLING!" as another Disney-owned show (well, that narrows it down) says.

That all said, I like the Armorer and the Mandalorian survivor culture they're showing here. This is actually kind of good Star Wars mythology. I just wish the guy'd get a paint job.

Wernor Herzog is always entertaining. His Rick & Morty appearance gave real gravitas to a dick joke. Here, "The Client" (seriously what is Favreau's problem with giving characters names?) is a smarmy ex-Imperial jackass with filthy Stormtroopers (it's so hard to take them seriously after 40 years of fans cosplaying in white armor), and a whipped dog "doctor".

Carl Weathers as the bounty hunter boss is kind of decent. He's not a good actor, and his not-good acting is all on display here, but it's a thin, slightly menacing role which the guy can pull off. He's also the only black man in the Galaxy. Every other face in this except some villagers in E4 are so white, that vanilla yoghurt gets nervous they're gonna race-war it.

The bounty mission is inane, everyone has a "fob" (what? it's a radio receiver but somehow tracks the target without a transmitter?), and a replacement IG-88 shows up. The droids are as usual played for comedy, which is fine, but "Initiating Self-Destruct Sequence!" over and over isn't funny. Once is funny enough. I half expect a laugh track every time the droids come on.

It eventually gets to a long fight scene, and it's… long. There's a lot of blaster fire to little effect, nobody except Nota Fett can aim. Kills that should be violent and bloody just have people fall down or disintegrate, because Disney wants little kiddies watching imitation spaghetti westerns I guess. I loathe this Disneyfied "clean violence" as if murdering a bunch of people is just sterile fun where they vanish when shot.

An entire scene beat is wasted on figuring out that the giant cannon just used to kill everyone can open a door, too; but that's how all the direction and editing on this goes, very slow, dumb, deliberate. It's a master class in how to lose momentum and my interest by pandering to the slowest-witted children in the audience.

Baby Yoda (never actually named, again) is, as we all know, absurdly cute. Well, all baby muppets are cute! They only turn weird and pervy when they get old.

I just realized. John Favreau heard Clint Eastwood's role called "The Man With No Name" and that's why he doesn't name anyone. Except Fakero never watched these films, or he'd know Clint's character just goes by a nickname of "Joe", "Manco", or "Blondie", but everyone else does have a name.

The shitty-ass Jawas field-stripping a starship are great, and the crawler's a great junkpile tank. They deserve disintegration, of course. But then they have a ridiculous quest for Nota Fett to get his parts back, and the stupid CGI rhino, and hairy egg, and first plot reveal of Baby Yoda's amazing powers we never suspected except of course it looks like Yoda so waving his hand at things gives him telekinesis. Yoda needed hundreds of years of Force sensitivity training, but the baby can do it in just 50 years.

Then he turns in the bounty, has the usual double-cross, triple-cross shootouts, and again I'm disappointed in the clean cartoony violence on top of a show premise that's pretty grimdark. Pick one or the other, this is weird and dissonant.

So finally the show's hit the main plot, presumably "Lone Wolf and Cub" crossed with "The Incredible Hulk", a powerful warrior with a baby going town to town solving local problems. E4 goes right into that, with a beloved peasant village being attacked by Space Orc raiders, mercenaries hired all "Seven Samurai" like. Hey, it's "Angrier Rosie O'Donnell" from Deadpool! She also can't act, but she's the best pro wrestler-turned-actor in years.

Except, they cast the raiders as non-Human, so is it morally justifiable to exterminate them all because they're raiders, or because you're committing xenocide against the Space Orcs? The great village battle is incredibly badly staged, just charging masses, no maneuvering, no cool samurai fights (nobody even has swords, just pointy sticks), and then it's over because the Space Orcs are all dead or scared.

Why were the Space Orcs here? What's their deal? Is this their native planet, that these Human assholes "colonized" and took? Nobody bothers to ask, or tell us even a comforting lie. They're just bad because they look different and steal so they can brew skooma or whatever it's called. Just like Native Americans were "redskin savages" in old westerns and it was Good and Right for honkie cowboys & cavalry to mass-murder them when they fought back, or when they didn't fight back.

The AT-ST artillery is slow and kind of useless, extremely vulnerable as always; Star Wars has no wheels, but they do have some tracked vehicles, imagine an AT-ST on tracks, they could call it a Tank and it wouldn't fall over. I do kind of like the grubby, poorly-maintained, "monster eyes" Space Orc owned look of the thing, and the irony of them using xenophobic Imperial gear.

Well. I might watch a few more of these before my trial ends, but I'm not expecting much good from them. They have no fight choreography, no dramatic sense, it's just recycled stories told badly by an idiot, and it's a moral void. Once in a while there's a scene that makes me go "hey, that was all right!", but it's rare.

I have zero problem with "go hunt down bail jumpers, dead, alive, or frozen" as a job. I love crime dramas where people get beaten or killed in lots of interesting ways. What I do object to is showing sterile violence where it's just fun to shoot people and then you never have to worry about it again, there's no conscience, no blood, nobody has families who miss them or swear vengeance. Zap, dead. I really have a problem with the open xenocide being practiced here.


(And yes, I'm aware of my hypocrisy, in that some of my games have sort of cartoony genocidal combat, only a little blood and dialogue sometimes; but few antagonists in them are "people". Umbra had hostile survivors and insane cultists, and even then killing them lowered your sanity, and killing innocent Humans drove you insane. Perilar has Orcs as part of the Harbinger Lord's armies, which may be genocidal but it's a fair war. PortalWorlds openly casts you as the villain/antihero, a thief & murderer.)

What I'm Playing: Animal Crossing New Horizons

After 2 weeks of delay, my Switch Lite finally shipped. I should've got it earlier, I know, but there was nothing else I wanted.

The device is bigger than I expected, not easily pocketable (unless you wear a ScottEVest windbreaker with giant cargo pockets like I do), the screen's nice, the sticks are a little stiff and the D-pad's very stiff, but all those will loosen with use. Good but not best Nintendo quality hardware. Power brick is awkward, I ended up having to put it on an extension cord from my power strip. I haven't stress-tested battery life, but 1 hour of Animal Crossing = 10-15%, which means I need a recharge whenever I'm not using it.

There's no security to the device, AFAICT: I would like it to require a PIN to start, but instead it just makes you tap A three times and then anyone can play with it. At least I have my password on anything in the shop, but do not let anyone have physical access to your Switch!

I'm unpleased with the Switch UI, but that's true of most consoles. Half the time it's easier to tap on the screen than try to use the buttons to do anything. The main UI is fairly annoying: A single bar of games, sorted in order you last played. No way to pin "favorites" at the front. There's plenty of room to have a 2-high grid, but they don't. There's nothing like the Wii Weather & News apps, alas. Nintendo keeps having good ideas then giving up on them.

Note: I'm going to abbreviate all the Animal Crossing games: ACWW (Wild World, on the DS), ACPC (Pocket Camp, the mobile game), ACNH (New Horizons, on the Switch).

I did a digital purchase for ACNH, and it took a while to install but it's a straightforward process. And I got 300 "gold" on the eShop, which I used to buy Tetris, NES, SNES, a jigsaw puzzle, and a mini golf game, just to have something else in my game bar. The only other thing I'm really interested in is the new Clubhouse Games, coming in June. I have the old one on the DS, and it was a great pack of minigames, I'm expecting the new one to be even better.

So finally ACNH finishes downloading.

The avatar is still not a full Mii. I don't understand this; Nintendo has a perfectly nice, universal avatar-creation system. You can use it all over the UI. You can't use it in the damned games, you have to pick from a handful of potato-looking faces on a single head. My aquiline nose is reduced to a flat triangle. No beard. The only long hair either has bangs, or is wavy; so I went with that. It's better than earlier Animal Crossing games which lock you down to male or female, tiny set of very conservative Japanese hairdos, facial features chosen at random, but it's not good. Not every game has to be Second Life or Elder Scrolls with 100 sliders for lip twitch and eyebrow fluffiness, but the Mii editor is RIGHT THERE. LOUDEST DRAMATIC SIGH POSSIBLE.

I pick my island layout, which cuts off the north and east just like my old ACWW island, and name it the same, Yama (technically Naraka is more accurately the Buddhist underworld, but I prefer the shorter name of the lord of the dead; I've done the Kami/Yama thing in my videogame names for 35-40 years now). The downside of my layout is early game I only have 1/3 of the island accessible, until I get a vaulting pole, which hasn't happened on day one/night one. But later, I'll have splendid isolation for my base in the SE peninsula, put all the villagers & services in the noisy SW area, and my groves up in the north.

The buttons are never fully explained, at least not in the digital version:

L stick: Move
R stick: Shift camera up/down, left/right does nothing
A: Action, Hold in inventory to drag items
B: Cancel in menus, Run while moving
X: Inventory
Y: Take Item
D-Up: Unequip
D-Left: Prev Tool
D-Right: Next Tool
D-Down: Unequip
+: Confirm
-: Save & Quit
Left: —
Left Lower (LZ): Nookphone
Right: Chat
Right Lower (RZ): Reactions (unlocked later)
O: Camera
Home: Quit

If you were playing ACPC, then once you've linked your account, you can get access to a special store from the Nook terminal of several ACPC items. Linking instructions. I've so far only bought the Campsite sign and Market Square flags, but I might just get everything once I have the bells. ACPC also gets 50 leaf tickets, but I've quit cold turkey a couple weeks ago, it's over. Nintendo sent out a survey which basically asked if you were ever going to play ACPC again, and I said no. This is a little unfair, in that ACPC is a slightly entertaining Animal Crossing-themed game, it's not terrible, but it's not as good as having your own unique island, and all the furniture and clothing you can only get for paid currency leaf tickets in ACPC is annoying.

My starting animal friends are Diva (purple, elegant frog) and Lyman (green koala); Diva's OK, she was a regular in my campsite in ACPC, I don't know Lyman but he's been friendly and not too stupid. I know they've lightened up a lot of the animal personalities from the old games, so I keep expecting cruelty or idiocy and they don't do it. Still, I'm pining for some of my favorites like Bunnie, Fauna, Cherry, Tex, or even dumb jock Jay, I wish we got some choices here.

The Nook shop/Resident Services is your main HQ for a while. You need to turn in fish and bugs to Tom Nook until he calls Blathers over. Then you can sell everything, or stack it up outside your house to wait for the museum…

Timmy Nook buys and sells items; one thing I didn't realize early on was you can hit R on the buy list, and go from some crappy furniture (an oil drum and a water cooler, in my case) to a screen full of tools! Including the slingshot! I saw a balloon with a present first day and couldn't get it because I didn't have the slingshot yet! He also has several recipes, flower seeds, medicine, and such. That should be the front screen of this shop. I'm so mad at this UI now.

The "DIY For Beginners" recipe pack he sells includes Hay Bed, Stone Stool, Old-Fashioned Washtub, Frying Pan, Wooden-Block Toy, and Ocarina. To get into any furniture like the stool, you just walk into them, and can then rotate around with the stick. It takes a little getting used to, but my campsite's coming along; tho I'll have to move it soon.

Tommy Nook is useless so far, he tries to give advice but it's all pretty obvious.

Fishing is much easier than ACWW, not as trivial as ACPC. There's some aiming and luring skill needed, but not much. You can't apparently scare them off easily. Bug catching is about the same as ACWW, but you can't scare the bugs off as easily either; ACPC was savage in that, you'd walk by a bug you wanted and it'd vanish. Catching my first tarantula was a bit of a Most Dangerous Game hunt, but it didn't get me. The damned wasps got me twice on the first day, but then Diva gave me the Medicine recipe, so I won't have to pay for the stuff at least.

Crafting starts out with very limited recipes, nothing like the Minecraft grid where everything is possible if you have the materials. But turn in a few fish & bugs to Nook, talk to the animal friends, find bottles on the coast, or shake trees, and you'll find more.

Getting materials can be a little tricky at first. For instance, trees drop one branch on first shake, then often none for a few shakes, THEN they drop up to 9 more. So I spent one loop around the island getting only one branch per tree…

Inventory management is a serious pain, you can't move items between slots like Wild World, you have to drop items, then pick them up in the order you want. Every time I break a flimsy tool, I'm back to sorting inventory out. You also can't split stacks, except one at a time; if you want to keep 50 weeds but sell the rest, pound sand.

Of course Animal Crossing follows real time. You can lie about your time zone or change hemisphere, or "time travel" by screwing with the Switch's clock, but I'm not going to do that. Today is today. With my night/day schedule, I can see morning daylight when I'm about to hit the sack and do my final play of the day, and my wake-up/grind part of the day will mostly be at night, which works fine. Just make sure I keep a net ready at all times to catch tarantulas, because Animal Crossing tries to kill night owls.

I'll get my friend code tomorrow and post it in the next update, and in my About page.

To get photos off the Switch is kind of a pain in the ass. You can transfer them to microSD, do a hard shutdown (hold down "power" 10 seconds), move the SD to your computer, extract, put it back, power back on. UGH. Or spam them 4 at a time to Twitter or Fuckbook, so my post-syndication-only Twitter is now posting ACNH screenshots irregularly, enjoy.