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.

Another Eden

Finally available and patched, let's see.

It's very cute. The characters aren't quite chibi, but not realistic either. They move a little silly, like puppets waving their limbs around. Each area is a side-scroller, you can only move west or east, but there's a lot of things to tap on and they interact or give you loot, and then swipe up or down to move north or south. There's a minimap and a world map, but not really a middle ground where I can scroll around a big path map.

Opening is very, very cliché. You wake up late for your first day at work as town guard. Mysterious backstory of you and your sister abandoned in the woods. Peasant village has a bunch of wells you can climb down into and there's loot or events. Some running around to teach fighting Goblins (sigh) and gathering sparkly things in the woods. Then obviously monsters attack your beloved peasant village and kidnap your sister, because of course women only exist to be put in refrigerators. You get a literal sword from a stone that makes you a "hero". SIGH.

I got a couple free character pulls (pre-order bonus of Miyu, ★★★★ sword girl who is stats-wise literally the main char gender-swapped, and Bivette, ★★★★ mage with regen and fireball, so that's nice), and spent some "free gems" for a third (Urania, a ★★★ pugilist furry) so I have a full party, but they don't back me up in the story event.

Characters have a lot of skill-ups on an Ability Board, the first board is linear, but the second and later ones give you multiple paths/tech trees. After half an hour I still have no equipment, though, lots of materials but the shop won't make me anything.

Combat's a standard turn-based thing, though so far only attacks and Switch (to change out party), no defense, items, or other actions. I've certainly seen better, but it's functional. There's giant monsters in the woods that are FAR out-level, they just one-shot me, so I guess I get back to those much later. They remind me a bit of the dungeon bosses in Etrian Odyssey, being marked on the map even when you can't see them.

Finally I beat the mini-boss in the main quest and reach the actual title sequence, and get to the time-travelling part.

I didn't level-grind enough in the woods, because now I'm a little under-level for fighting robots in the future, but that'll fix itself soon enough.

What I'm Playing: Langrisser, Another Eden

Langrisser's a long-running series of tactical RPGs, later succeeded by Growlanser. The mobile game is very similar to the PSP Growlanser remake, or to Fire Emblem Heroes. Move around a map and fight battles with usually 2-5 heroes chosen from 10 classes with rock-paper-scissors interactions (Infantry -> Lance -> Cavalry loop, Holy -> Demon, Archery -> Flyers, Sailors, Mages, and Assassins are neutral). This has the usual mobage stuff of arenas, "Magic Rift" areas to grind because there's not enough content, gachapon to get more heroes and equipment. There's less blatant "waifu" T&A exploitation material in Langrisser than FEH or many others, there's a few but it's a more serious game.

The combat UI is excellent, maybe one of the easiest to control and see movement and combat ranges. Every character has a band of soldiers with them, which act as a sort of HP buffer, extra damage before you take damage and die; you can swap out what kind of soldiers to change your combat interactions! The scenarios are modestly hard sometimes, not Final Fantasy Tactics hard, but decent tactical puzzles, and many of them have bonus "Feats" like killing optional targets, finding a chest, and so on. Far better than FEH, which bored me to death, it never got interesting.

The main screen is the world map with a bunch of buttons around the edges, better than a blank button-filled home screen like most mobage, but it still has some annoyances. 3 or 4 places you have to tap every time you log in or do anything to collect all the little rewards.

Levelling up characters is absurdly complicated but I kinda like that. You increase "star" rating by collecting soul fragments in gachapon and quest events, but the overall rating of N, R, SR, SSR doesn't change, except for three of the main-story characters; you don't really want to use anything below SR. You also add experience levels, mostly by spending EXP potions, they only gain a little bit from combat. You also upgrade classes, first getting more abilities, then progressing to a more advanced class along a 3-5 stage tree. Equipment starts out scarce and at level 1, and also has to be increased by absorbing "hammers" and other equipment, and eventually by adding enchantments. After 3 days on and off, I have the main-story characters at R, and three SR characters (Imelda, mage, T&A BDSM waifu; Lance, flyer, stern badass; Silver Wolf, assassin, masked mystery man) almost fully equipped, levelled up, and I'm doing fine in the arenas. I have a lot of junk R characters who I wish I could recycle their souls for EXP or something; the only one I've used at all is a pirate captain.

I'm not sure how long I'll keep at it, but there's a lot of depth in the game so far; but I say that a lot just before I quit playing these mobage.

AnotherEden

The more important game got pre-released today, and goes live tomorrow:

I have very high expectations of this. Masato Kato, best known for Chrono Trigger, Xenogears, Chrono Cross, and Final Fantasy XI, has been working on this. So, I know there'll be time travel, branching stories, characters making heroic sacrifices, and a ton of crunchy turn-based combat and level-up strategies for the characters. Apparently it's only going to be solo, no events, arenas, or other mobage stuff, but does use gachapon for adding non-main-party characters. A huge contiguous world, no loading screens or warping.

The quotes from the staff in the interviews are interesting:

"This game was created with love by myself and the other staff who were raised on JRPGs. I want everyone to feel the same emotion and surprise I've experienced."
—Takahito Exa, art director

"This is a game which expands on the possibilities of the JRPG genre. It feels nostalgiac, yet modern. I think it's a game not only old-school Japanese game fans will enjoy, but also something younger people can get into as well."
—Shinwoo Choi, character designer

"If I was stuck on a deserted island and could only bring three things with me, I would bring a smartphone, charger, and Another Eden. If I have those, I don't need anything else in my life. I want everyone else to feel that way about Another Eden, too."
—Conomi Akahori, animator

Poke Mon Questions

I'm as amused by Ryan Reynolds, middle-aged comedy/action hero, as any other unfrozen caveman would be, but this "Poke Mon Detective Pikachu" thing leaves me with many questions. The big ones are:

  • Why is it "Poke Mon" instead of "Poke Man"? Are they not men? Are they Devo? I seriously saw that second "o" as an "a" for decades, and the accent marker is clearly delimiting two words.
  • What's a "Pikachu"? Is that a species or the individual? Where are the packs or herds of these things? Final Fantasy has moogles with families and lifecycles.
  • Why is it now a talking animal in a deerstalker cap instead of a dumb fighting cock?

Seriously. I know very little about this whole genre. So here I will enumerate what I know about the poke mons:

  • Infants in the '90s had poke mons which were cock-fighting games and the yellow one is their… leader? I know it makes some sort of noise, and the trailer suggests it's "pica pica". The trailer also suggests it's able to electrocute someone? That's weird, right? Does it grab a frayed extension cord, or is it a fuzzy electric eel, or what?
  • It was a videogame first, a Dragon Quest ripoff; I never played it or saw more than a screenshot. Then a card game, a Magic the Gathering ripoff; I know these only from the booster pack wrappers left behind by prepubescent crack junkies, never seen a card. Then some badly-animated… I want to say Chinese or Vietnamese? cartoons, didn't look like even the cheapest Japanese anime; I've seen maybe 2 minutes of this and it was incomprehensible squealing and Hanna-Barbera-quality slideshow "animation". Then movies, a quick duck search shows there's 20 of these movies!!! That's fucking bizarre, I've never heard of them; admittedly, I haven't watched broadcast/cable TV since 1999 and I block all advertising online, so how could I, but you'd think someone would have said to me, "Did you know there are twenty fucking poke mon movies?!"
  • I know about the trap balls from parody references and Poke Mon Go (which I tried for a couple weeks but I live many km from any dots on their map). It's weird that a tiny ball holds a whole fighting cock in it. How does it breathe and eat (and other science facts) in there?
  • There's an enemy team named Rocket, with a hot pink/redhead chick (who I've seen in some parody porn), which automatically to me means they should be the heroes, and the team with the kid who owns the yellow one should be the villains.
  • I'm totally skeeved out by people doing even pretend cock-fighting or dog-fighting for fun. Taking a dumb animal and making it hurt another dumb animal for entertainment is unacceptable. You can kill (humanely, which ironically means not how we treat other Humans) and eat or process an animal for leather or other parts, fine; or make intelligent beings fight each other in an arena; but anyone doing it to animals is wrong.

"I Apologize for the Delay"

Anytime I feel bad about my slowness of production, the inconveniences in my life blocking me from getting work done, I remember the MegaTokyo Visual Novel, which I paid $50 for in 2013, and of course Fred never shipped, he never finishes anything. I knew I was throwing my money away then, and the $299,184 he raised may as well have been set on fire for all that'll come of it.

Today, MT rant has a bit of a status update, first one in a year.

So in comparison, I'm a fucking machine cranking out the awesome. Where's my third of a million bucks?!

What I'm Watching: Cells At Work

Most bizarre thing ever: Cells at Work. Your body as a city with every cell as a person. Paramilitary white blood cells and hapless red blood cells delivering oxygen, protecting their world (you) from horrible tentacled monsters (germs).

I've been watching some dull horror movies (The Strangers, among others) which I haven't blogged, and this is better paced and has better characters than all of them combined.

The world is a little too generic with street & industrial scenes, lazy animation, but overall a neat trick.
★★★★☆