What I'm Playing: Magia Record

A Puella Magi Madoka Magica mobage!

It's very cutesy, aimed at teenage Japanese girls and horny otaku boys, so I'm not likely to play very long, but I really did enjoy the anime series. If you haven't seen it yet, go watch that at the very least up to episode 4. Then it flips from "magical girls" to cute Lovecraftian horror and you'll be hooked to get to the end.

You don't play as the main characters from the anime, but entirely new characters. The main is very Madoka-like, except she took her contract, and the Homura-like Yachiyo antagonist/rival is great, a menacing rational magical girl. Kyubey is not yet a terrible existential threat.

There's the usual very long tutorial where you hit the buttons they tell you to. Eventually it lets you use the menu and go home and play around with the app. I don't even mind doing a campaign, but I want the ability to jump to home and change things, which tutorials prevent.

It's gachapon, and I haven't got enough for a 10-pull yet, so I dunno what the other characters are like. My free pull was a ★★★ tree-element flower girl, who's fine as long as she's not facing fire, which is like 50% of the fights where she's useless. I could reroll, but I never do that, I just grind a bit more.

Combat is turn-based, with 5 elements: Fire beats Tree beats Water beats Fire, and Light beats Shadow beats Light. There's a random selection of maneuvers that affect parts of an enemy formation or give bonus magia or damage, plus skills, plus limit breaks Magia Specials.

There's no equipment? But you can power up your magical girls with various gems, which seems much the same. It's a rich character development system, for sure. There's a bit of cheesecake in the costumes, which verges on lolicon already.

It's free to play, just don't buy anything from the store if you're not into blowing money on this kind of thing; you can apparently grind out most of the content free.

Evangelion Session 4: E11-12

Almost normal mecha show episodes: NERV HQ is shut down by unknown attackers by unknown means so everyone has to infiltrate the base and do a launch manually. Security really isn't very good when the power's down, three children are able to break into NERV. And then the orbital bombardment… Accurately understands the kinetic power of dropping things from orbit. The "miracle" of holding your hands up and wishing (OK, with an AT Field) is a little cutesy.

Maybe the NSA shut NERV down with STUXNET. You know in this setting the US espionage services would be incredibly perturbed at Japan having such an essential resource, we've seen "UN" ships with very obviously US-supplied Naval officers being pissy about it.

Misato's backstory and damage, similar to Shinji's and Asuka's, leaves her easy prey for Gendo's schemes. All the awkward people are excluded at the party, while the noisy ones make a mess. The phone call with Shinji and Gendo is just terrible, "Don't put him through ". Then later, all Shinji notices is that this is the first time his father's ever praised him. He can't even notice Asuka's abuse. There's long stretches of Asuka screaming at people I just tune out (and I know perfectly well why I react that way from my own psychological damage).

The Angel designs in this one are very goofy, the Johnny Quest-looking spider with dripping eye-chor, and the orbital happy-face thing. As we'll see later, there's not a universal leader behind the Angels, Adamic life doesn't seem to be able to coordinate or communicate with each other (and only occasionally with the Humans), they're just trying to reach Adam or Lilith, so each one comes up with its own plan and carries it out.

While sailing to the Antarctic recovering the Spear of Longinus, Gendo & flunky muse that Humans survive because of Science. I think it's more that a swarm of Humans collaborate, which beats the vastly superior solitaire Angels.

Evangelion Session 3: E08-10

Asuka strikes! The terror of the show. The worst Human who could possibly be one of the Children. Great T&A fanservice as long as you don't mind her terrible shrieking voice or brutal abuse of everyone around. So, the kind any project attracts. "Why is she so bossy?" "Why are guys always so stupid and horny?!" Gee, Asuka, I dunno, maybe it's because you strip-tease in front of them and then get mad when they look? It's impressive how Rei just shuts her down, though: "I'll be your friend if I'm ordered to."

Once there's more than one of the Children, the expression "First Children", "Second", "Third" seems weird; it's literal English in the Japanese script, but should have been "Child" or "of the Children" and then you'd ask "whose children? Why Gendo's?!" And speaking of, Gendo spends no time in the base; Rei would be lonely if she knew what that was. Shinji's used to his absence.

Dance Dance Evangelion ep is ridiculous, reminds me very much of the comedy filler episodes of Slayers. Synchronized tooth-brushing and dancing just so they can hit a target at once. But it does start to humanize Asuka, which Rei still hasn't had.

Magma bath has Asuka behaving slightly less awful. She's still a bossy prima donna, and her crush on Kaji is ridiculous but nobody's yet called her on it, but she actually steps up and does her job for once with a minimum of screaming hissy-fit. It won't last.

But here and the first Asuka ep we finally get to see the lifecycle of the Angels, or more accurately Adamic life, starting as Human-like fetuses but almost instantly developing according to genetic programming. Interesting parallel to the Perfect Being in The Fifth Element; designed to look like a person, but she's far far more than that, and can be regrown from just a few cells.

Back in the day, this is where the first sequence of bootleg tapes ran out, and there was a long interregnum, I think most of a year, before we got more. So there was an over-analysis of these, which isn't really helpful because so much more backstory was written later.

(I got the toy in a LootCrate. Obviously, I would much rather have had Misato or Rei; this one keeps yelling at me.)

Evangelion Session 2: E05-07

Stopped just short of Asuka. That's too much to leave as a cliffhanger for one day.

Rei's early appearances are even more stiff and awkward with everyone except Gendo than I'd recalled. She is an utter robot, not even autistic or depressed and withdrawn, but just not there. That weird smile is almost worse than nothing.

Misato in a towel, and Rei in a towel or nothing at all, the fanservice was a little heavy still, but less than the first few eps. Misato's morning ritual is how I lived my 20s, too, but sooner or later that catches up with you. Just coffee now.

The "Human weapon" ep… if you wondered how cold and calculating Ritsuko and Gendo are…

If you're missing the old ED music instead of Rei's theme, because the songwriter and 26 artists couldn't make a deal with Netflix:

  • Every "Fly Me to the Moon": I recommend watching it now, maybe youtube-dl if you want to keep it. (minor annoyance: It's in webm, so I now have 4 CPU cores on fire[^1] trying to convert it to mp4)

The reviews are in!

Netflix isn't providing subs for some of the text screens, but they're usually duplicated later in English (at second commercial break?). I can read enough kana to recognize things like the roommate chore board being all シ (Shi, for Shinji) and just a few ミ (Mi, for Misato), which is funny because she won't even do those days. This is really motivating me to get back to learning Japanese properly, because just reading nonsense words is frustrating. I accept that my calligraphy will always be shit.

1:

Evangelion Session 1: E01-04

In the distant future of 2015… after the Second Impact in 1999… SIGH. Those seemed like plausible "future" times when this came out, really.

Netflix defaulted to JP/subtitles for me, but I tried the EN dub for about 15 minutes. It's OK, maybe better/more literal than the old one? Nobody sounds goofy, Shinji's very mild, as he should be. But I went back to JP, at least for this first time thru. Might do a dub watch second run.

This is the Netflix English dub actors list:

Looking some of these up, they're interesting choices. Several also appear in the new Gundam dubs. The Shinji actor Casey Mongillo being a transwoman is very appropriate, given Shinji's gender ambivalence.

It's weird that Netflix changed the "Fly Me to the Moon" cover from the end credits, it's just incidental music now. Rights problems? I never felt it was really appropriate, but I only sit thru the end credits to see the "next episode" bit, which is A) Not very spoilery, and B) sometimes contains in-jokes. "More fanservice" is not so much a joke as self-awareness; there's a lot of T&A from Misato and even scientist Ritsuko in early eps.

I am just as much in love with Misato as I was when I first saw her. When she kicks her clock and wakes up looking like a storm hit. Whoo.

Get in the damn robot, Shinji. And follow Misato's orders, ya little creep. I'd forgotten about the blackout/flashback structure of E01-02. The dumbass schoolkids are great for illustrating how weird Shinji is, but they're an annoying distraction the rest of the time, and they mostly get dropped later.

The constant SDAT rewinding of tracks 25 & 26…

Only goes up to 22, so I dunno how he's listening to the last two eps (yes, I know Shinji doesn't have the OST to his own show on his SDAT. OR DOES HE?!)

Neon Genesis Evangelion

There's lots of theories about what order to watch. Just watch it straight through, maybe no more than 2-4 eps per day because this is some heavy shit for what's ostensibly a "mecha anime". Definitely watch eps 25 & 26 and then the movie, End of Evangelion. Evangelion Death(True)² is a recap/remake which is entirely optional, but fine afterwards; I barely recall Death & Rebirth.

If you're very confused, that's fine, that means its working. Keep watching.

What I'm Watching: Appleseed (1988)

As I noted in Alphaville, Appleseed covers similar ground. Been a few years, so I rewatched it.

But back up a bit to the manga. Shirow Masamune's first manga was Black Magic, about a computer-controlled society of animal-people on a habitable Venus, 60 million years ago when the Earth is full of dangerous dinosaurs, and a powerful young sorceress and her friends who hang out at the Onimal bar fighting the AI throughout the solar system. Rogue AI death machines (in that case cute little "M-66" infiltration/assassination robots) are released, death and mayhem ensue, civilization falls because people lazily give up control to the machines. It's a fantastic book, but too silly at times for the message he wanted to send. There is an "M-66 Black Magic" anime about just the robots but set on modern Earth, incredibly dumb though it does have some T&A which young Mark enjoyed.

Appleseed's 4-volume manga is a reboot of similar ideas, set after nuclear war, with an artificial city controlled by an AI "Gaia", populated by bioroids (in the manga, they go into detail about just how artificial they are; the older ones are more machine than biological and tied directly into Gaia) as servants to a fraction of Humanity. But servants with power don't remain servants. Athena, city administrator biodroid, is torn between wanting to get rid of the Humans entirely, and fulfilling the original mission of the city; and ultimately she's just a tool of Gaia. Wasteland survivors have been brought into the city and haven't really been domesticated, but are trying to make the city work. And terrorists want to tear down the system.

The 1988 movie covers the first volume, sort of, and a bit of the others, and doesn't use the appleseed of the title. There's been a bunch of remakes, but the original's the only one that addresses the moral issues at all. The first two CGI films (Appleseed (2004) and Appleseed Ex Machina (2007)) are unspeakably bad action flicks with preposterous mega-boob physics and cartoon blowjob-doll face for Deunan (who is not so endowed in the manga or anime), and while I haven't seen the reboot CGI flick Appleseed Alpha (2014), it's a "prequel" which has nothing to do with the manga. There's also a TV series Appleseed XIII (2013) which is more action flicks about WOO DEUNAN SHOOT GUNS.

I wouldn't classify any of these exactly as "cyberpunk", because they're not about the street finding new uses for the military-industrial complex's technology; they're about the military-industrial complex. Hard SF, and in the original with a political axe to grind against AI.

I plan to reread Ghost in the Shell's 3 volumes of manga as well, and then I'll comment on the competent but over-simplified 1995 movie and the other junk around that franchise, which follows a similar pattern.

So, read comic books for big ideas, kids, don't look at fucking moving pictures. But I'll talk about the moving picture anyway.

Obviously, this is peak '80s. Like more '80s than the '80s were. Big hair, shoulder pads in women's suits, pastel colors, neon, sleek but sharp vehicles instead of little melted blobs, battlesuits that look like perfect Japanese motorcycles instead of piles of scrap metal held together with hot glue. The music is new wave and smooth jazz, what the Kids Today™ call "synthwave" but this is real, not synthetic, synth music. Cel animation is expensive and backgrounds are pretty static, there's none of this bullshit of using 3D CGI with light cel shading to pretend you're drawing something, no, Human animators toiled over every frame. If you don't like the '80s aesthetic, get the fuck out, you're not welcome here.

Cop Karon and artist Freya ("Fleia") are soon separated by her suicide, from feeling as trapped in a gilded cage as their pet birds, and as we see later in the film, the city's bioroid administration does not respond with kindness and care, but with clinical research on the survivor.

Cute but deadly Deunan (possibly modeled on Markie Post) and cyborg smoothy Briareus (Richard Roundtree in a cyborg bunny face?) are in ESWAT, cleaning up the messes normal cops can't, and a cyborg terrorist getting away and killing a few of their buddies gets them motivated to investigate, though on-screen that largely consists of them wearing trenchcoats, busting down doors, and body-bagging potential informants.

Hitomi, a bioroid who rescued the main characters and many more Humans from the wasteland and acts as their social worker, gets back into the city, in what might be my favorite view of any city: She wakes on a helicopter reflected in solar panels, rushes to the other side to see the city in light. It's only a momentary shot, but makes me think the city might not be so bad. Hitomi's the heart of the manga, and the anime tries its best, with limited screen time. The party at the Onimal bar (a relic from the Black Magic manga) is the only time her faux-Human relations really come up: She loves all her rescued strays, and her would-be boyfriend/pathetic stalker isn't really enough for that love.

The bioroids as machines isn't touched on much in the anime; those other than Hitomi are shown only as drones or would-be tyrants like Athena, and they're DNA-edited and grown in tanks, but just how much of a replaceable part most of them are isn't brought up until Athena tries to decide who lives and who dies.

The Human Liberation Front terrorists do eventually discuss their motives and objectives, to get hold of a giant spider-tank which is the prototype for a fleet of spider-tanks to be directly operated by Gaia; then Humanity will be totally cut off from power. But to get it, they have to lock out Gaia, and there's a key for that. A failsafe which, very deliberately, only Human sympathizers can use.

The action scenes in this aren't Gundam quality, and they're not bloody like many later versions, but they're fine for telling the story. The couple of times the terrorists fight up close brings home just how deadly Landmates (mecha) are in close combat and as mobile infantry/artillery. I'm not sure the "BAN LANDMATES" graffiti is ever visible in the anime, but it's constant in the manga, and kind of an in-joke for old anime fans. While the anime has cyborgs with various levels of replacement, there's no robots, which are a major element of the manga, as a thing even lower than bioroids but also threatening to replace Humanity.

Where this falls down is the final sequence inside Gaia; they have maybe 10 minutes to squeeze in half a volume of arguments and action. In the manga, this is a place where Deunan has to make a moral decision which will change the course of Human history: Free will and endless wars, or inhuman tyranny, or is there a third path? Here, it's just resetting a machine, and what the machines think of that isn't discussed.

★★★★☆, it'd be 5 if they'd ever adapted the rest of the manga, but nobody seems interested in making movies with political philosophy against AI control, I wonder why.

What I'm Watching: Anime Edition

Crunchyroll hasn't had a lot of good stuff in a while, but saved itself from unsubbing lately.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime is yet another "lost in a videogame-like fantasy world", but this time a total sad-sack loser is brought over with a bunch of dying wishes which turn him into an all-consuming semi-invulnerable slime. Anything he "eats" he can analyze and make part of his skill set or mimic. And he sets out to help monsters he meets. It's a very familiar world to anyone who plays generic JRPGs, hapless Goblins, evil Direwolves, stout worker Dwarfs, sexy porno Elves ("E.I.L.F." as he puts it), and rules like "naming things gives them power" are taken VERY literally.

There's nothing really innovative in this, except the joke is taken all the way, sort of like Pratchett's Discworld. And it has great pacing; Akashic Records of Bastard Magic Instructor and In Another World with my Cellphone were smarter shows, but slower.

★★★★☆


Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai is a romantic comedy, not, you may think, my usual thing. A guy sees a cute girl wearing a bunny-girl outfit in school, and recognizes her, a year older student with a sort of notorious past. Nobody else sees her or remembers her. So there's some widespread insanity, or very local insanity, and tragedy either way.

I like the hurt and shame in this show. I dunno how else to put that, it's emotionally raw, sarcastic, and everyone hurts. Reminds me a lot of Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day, but much more mature and less hopeless.

★★★★½

Yes More AnotherEden

The scenery in this game is lovely, as is the soundtrack. Another photo gallery at the end of the post.

Did another 10 pull, got Akane and Mighty who are top-ranked, and Soira got upgraded to ★★★★, but they have a lot of levelling to do to catch up. Currently I have a heavy party for fighting bosses, and a trash/RP party for clearing lower-level zones. Plus a creepy evil priest "Prai" who will never be in a party.

Money and equipment is still a problem, but at least with buying one of each item for the achievements, and never being able to sell anything, I always have hand-me-downs for the lowbies. Slooowly upgrading everyone's stuff as I go; I really need to find a good gold-grinding area. Maybe I'm missing something?

Getting the books to upgrade ★★★☆ to ★★★★ is proving difficult. After a few hard mode dungeons, I'm about 10% of the way to ONE character. I guess if I don't do anything else with my life I can get that done in a week or two. In reality it'll be a few months.

Some kinda secret things:

Make sure to visit the theatre in Elzion (NE from the weapon shop) with Aldo and Riica (apparently Amy has another story there, but she's currently… uh… not available). Medieval savage and robot girlfriend out on a date, nice.

There's a guy standing around on Route 99 in the rain (which happens rarely when you enter), who'll sell you an item for 1,500 git; it's a Level 10 Leaf Bangle, which normally costs 2,300 git and a bunch of mats, so it is a good deal. If you don't have the cash, he'll reappear next rain. I dunno yet if he'll reappear with more stuff later.

There's a rumor (I don't recall which NPC; he's not in the water city's bar where I'd expect) about a red corpse. Turns out, in the Man-Eating Marsh, on the 6th map, there's a red skull at the far right. Tap it for a secret room.

There's a clue in a bookshelf in Miglance Castle to a secret area, but I haven't found it yet; I'm still grinding thru that area, so hopefully tomorrow.

Another Eden Protips

Just some random notes, and some screenshots at the bottom here.

You should be playing this, right now. It's one of the best JRPGs I've played in ages. It's not quite on par with Final Fantasy VII, or Dragon Quest 8, or Lunar 2: Eternal Blue, or even Chrono Trigger, but it's pretty close, which is just incredible from a mobage.

Characters in the back row of your party restore HP & MP every round of combat, so once someone's tapped out, switch them back, and pretty soon you can switch them forward, fully healed and ready to go. Once you have Robot Girl Riica and another healer, one of them can stay in the back all the time, while the other heals. You'll never have to run back to town!

But even then, you may run out, the volcano dungeon especially just took forever and ground me down. Hit Food on the main menu, and you can fully heal once. You'll get another food for free the next time you visit an inn.

Death isn't the handicap it used to be in the olden days. When a party member is KO'd, a cat comes on screen and pulls them off (!), and they revive after the fight. If you're TPK'd, you restart at the start of the area. Which I don't love, but there's no save points, it's just perpetual autosave. Certainly it fits the mobage experience better.

There are hidden passages in many areas. When you find a dead end, try to walk through it. Of course, sometimes this backfires and you fight a giant monster… I'm going to have to scour all the early areas again when I get up to level 30, assuming I can get back to them.

There's a flower-buying sidequest which is the worst thing in the game, after trying everything the horrible old woman tells you, and getting them wrong because I fell asleep mid-speech: mouseover for spoiler here.

Unsolved: My main party's Level 18-21, but the only high-level gear I have is a few Level 21 items I picked up in chests. The weapon shops are now at Level 16 gear, which I can't make because I don't have the mats from the next zone; most of the gear I can make and have equipped is Level 10 or 13. This is not optimal. I have at least 7 characters I need to equip with weapons and armor, and soon "Badges" (we don' need no steenkin' badges!). I hate falling behind.

There's a lot of Chronos Stones (premium currency) from Record events, but you can also get 10 free every day by hitting + and tapping the free offer link. No videos or any other scams, just a hidden freebie. This is a shockingly fair, non-ripoff gachapon game. Which means I do need to buy something to support them, but I dunno if they're going to make their money back on it.

I got to 1000 Chronos Stones, did a 10-unit pull, and got a really great ★★★★★ half-beastman pugilist, Lokido; a ★★★☆ (so she can star up, but starts weak) knight/tank, Soira; a spare ★★★★☆ druid healer, Mariel, who I haven't levelled yet, even tho technically she's better than my main healer; and 4 of 7 ★★★ "sisters" who all suck, and 3 of ? ★★★ knights who all suck. The character mix in this game is weird, and there's not much backstory yet; though they all have individual quests after I finish many chapters of the game, so maybe there's more there.