Tatanga (Super Mario Land) for Super Smash Bros.

It’s been a few years since I dedicated serious time and effort to imagining new characters for Super Smash Bros. But with the announcement of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and the increasing excitement that comes with every nugget (or avalanche) of news, I felt compelled to go back to making more character moveset what-ifs. So here I am again.

For my first “Ultimate Era” character, I’ve drawn Tatanga from Super Mario Land. The final boss of Mario’s first Game Boy adventure, Tatanga is an alien who pilots a battle mecha called Pagosu, which Mario fights shoot-’em-up style. He makes another appearance in Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins in a different spacecraft.

Broadly, Tatanga is a super-heavyweight character who specializes in mid to long-distance combat. His close-range attacks are fairly slow and unreliable, but with multiple jumps and his special “hover” ability, he can create a wall of projectiles that’s difficult to get past. Hover is similar to Princess Peach’s “float” mechanic, but while floating allows Peach to move back and forth horizontally with ease while airborne, Tatanga’s hover lets him control his vertical height in the air with similar precision. It’s bad for spacing, but good for preventing juggles and mixing up projectile attack patterns.

For Tatanga’s special moves I’ve taken cues from both games in coming up with his special attacks. Spread Shot is a large projectile that splits into three smaller ones mid-flight, with the larger form being a KO move. Crescent Moon is a piercing move that can go through opponents and other projectiles, giving him the ability to stand toe to toe in any ranged battle. Space Bombard drops down, moves forward, then shoots up. The points at which the attack changes direction depend on the height Tatanga himself is at—great for using while hovering. G-Sweep is a standard stage recovery attack that swoops down then up. Pagosu Barrage shoots two massive beams that combine elements of all three of Pagosu’s projectiles.

While Tatanga’s ships in SML1 and SML2 are not quite humanoid, I’ve re-designed Pagosu to include retractable legs. I think it allows for a bit of extra animation flair for a model that would be fairly static otherwise. Combined with Tatanga’s expressions changing within the cockpit, it lets the character show more personality.

Previous Characters:

King K. Rool (Donkey Kong Country)

Princess Daisy (Super Mario Land)

Geno (Super Mario RPG)

Great Puma (NES Pro Wrestling)

Pitfall Harry (Pitfall)

Zoma (Dragon Quest III)

NiGHTS (NiGHTS into dreams…)

Thrall (Warcraft)

 

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Kio Shimoku’s Kagerowic Diary and Its Influence on Genshiken and Spotted Flower

A special edition of Kio Shimoku’s Kagerowic Diary (aka Kagerou Nikki) just came out last month, which prompted me to read an ebook of it I purchased ages ago. Having now finished it, I find myself reevaluating certain aspects of Kio’s more recent titles in Genshiken and Spotted Flower.

Kagerowic Diary is split into two parts. Part I concerns a female college student named Suzuki Touko (above) who seemingly has it all figured out but hides the fact that she’s a virgin from her friends. Part II follows a different woman in college, Tachihara Hatsuho (below), and the complicated web of sex, emotion, and deceit she finds herself in. To Genshiken fans, it can feel both comfortably familiar yet also exotic due to the strong emphasis on physical relationships.

Touko’s story shines new light on Genshiken, specifically the final volume of the first series. In the epilogue, the characters begin a discussion of how Saki, the sole non-otaku of the bunch and by far the most mature character, could be viewed through a moe lens. After some deliberation, Madarame says that she would have to be a virgin (Saki very clearly is not). When I previously read this scene, I thought the purpose was merely to show how Madarame’s mind works and to embarrass Saki. Now, I realize it’s actually a reference to Touko and Kagerowic Diary.

Hatsuho’s story, on the other hand, makes me feel that Spotted Flower and its adultery subplot are not as out-of-left-field as fans assumed. While it’s a far cry from Genshiken, the tangled web of love and lust in Spotted Flower is not unlike the plot of Part II in Kagerowic Diary, where Hatsuho sleeping with a male friend of pity and then discovering that her boyfriend cheated on her too (and probably has been for a while) It’s charged, it’s messy, it’s complicated. In other words, Spotted Flower is sort of a return to the old days for Kio, when writing realistic characters meant more than just realistic portrayals of awkward nerds.

In addition to Kagerowic Diary, there’s a special edition of Kio’s Yonensei (“4th-year Student”) out too. I intend to read through it and see how that other early work of his compares to his more famous material.

Gattai Girls 9: Darling in the Franxx and Zero Two

Introduction: “Gattai Girls” is a series of posts dedicated to looking at giant robot anime featuring prominent female characters due to their relative rarity within that genre.

Here, “prominent” is primarily defined by two traits. First, the female character has to be either a main character (as opposed to a sidekick or support character), or she has to be in a role which distinguishes her. Second, the female character has to actually pilot a giant robot, preferrably the main giant robot of the series she’s in.

For example, Aim for the Top! would qualify because of Noriko (main character, pilots the most important mecha of her show), while Vision of Escaflowne would not, because Hitomi does not engage in any combat despite being a main character, nor would Full Metal Panic! because the most prominent robot pilot, Melissa Mao, is not prominent enough.

— 

Darling in the Franxx is a mysteriously divisive anime, ripe for viewers of all stripes to interpret according to their personal values. Given a series whose messages appear to change depending on who you ask, it’s perhaps not so surprising that the main heroine of Darling in the Franxx, Zero Two, is just as much a whirlwind of contradictions.

Darling in the Franxx is a high-key sexually charged anime. If the doggy-style male-female combination cockpits weren’t enough, the series actively draws attention to the fact that the anime’s teen heroes live in a bizarre dystopia where their sexual energies are channeled into piloting giant mecha called Franxx. Covering subjects like love, sex, and marriage through both overt and relatively subtle metaphors, the anime is loved and hated in seemingly equal amounts on ways that contradict one another.

In Darling in the Franxx, Zero Two is the pilot of the robot Strelitzia. Far and away the most powerful weapon in humanity’s fight against the monstrous Klaxosaurs, Strelitzia would be their most reliable advantage if it didn’t come at a price: Any man who pilots with Zero Two inevitably ends up critically injured or dead. The protagonist, Hiro, ends up being the only guy who can survive Zero Two, and their combination becomes the key to turning the tide of battle. However, their connection ends up going back much further than either realize.

Is Zero Two an inspiring firebrand who lives by her own rules, or is she a fetishized sex object whose mere presence fulfills men’s fantasies? Is she an ideal girlfriend or a femme fatale? The answer is “yes.” She’s all these things and more, despite Zero Two being a difficult character to project one’s assumptions onto. She doesn’t have the appearance of an emotionless doll like an Ayanami Rei (Evangelion) or the “dishonest,” tsundere-esque feelings of a Souryuu/Shikinami Asuka Langley (Evangelion). She’s not an Asuna (Sword Art Online) either, who’s kindness and strength make her practically “good wife, wise mother” personified.

Zero Two is rebellious towards rules and authority, loyal to those she loves, and willing to do whatever it takes to achieve her goals. She can’t be pegged down or held back, and the only times she’s willing to show weakness are around people whom she truly trusts. She’s more than willing to take matters into her own hands, and has even rescued Hiro from being taken over by the enemy. Zero Two herself has never been damseled herself, and the only time Hiro had to reach out to bring her back was more in the metaphorical sense—diving deep into her mind and their shared past to keep Zero Two from going berserk.

Strelitzia itself is a fascinating piece of the puzzle that is Zero Two. The main mecha of Darling in the Franxx are feminine-looking, which goes against the tradition of primarily masculine designs. Those with a more feminine appearance tend to have attacks that draw attention to their “womanly” aesthetic as well, like how Aphrodite A in Mazinger Z shoots “Breast Missiles.” The Franxx are, aside from cute faces and a general feminine silhouette, not as overtly sexual on the outside. That being said, the workings of the cockpit mentioned above make it impossible to ignore sexual connotations, especially because the female pilots “become” their Franxx. Like the others, Zero Two’s facial expressions become Strelitzia’s, and when she talks to Hiro in fights, her display shows that robotic appearance instead of her own. Eventually, this integration of girl and machine gets taken further, driving home the theme of love in a way that both reinforces and defies the conventional cockpit setup.

Zero Two is strong and weak, cruel and compassionate, loving and spiteful. She’s a complete character in a certain sense, and a caricature in another. She is as much of what you want of her as you want, which means that on some level, she reflects the desires and/or anxieties of the viewer and their relationship with the world.

Real vs. Perfect: The Two Opposing Idol Values

1983’s Creamy Mami was the first idol anime, and it made an idol out of Mami’s voice actor as well. Watching her videos from back then, a 15-year-old Ohta Takako comes across as awkward and unaccustomed to the spotlight, even in “Love Sarigenaku” above, her most “grown-up” song. Compared to many of the slickly produced pop hits of later years, Ohta can come across as almost unprofessional, but that’s exactly where her appeal lies. When it comes to Japanese idols, there are two general directions: “unrefined and real” or “polished and perfect.”

When comparing the Japanese idol juggernaut AKB48 to the K-Pop sensation Girls’ Generation (who have been enormously popular in Japan), the latter visually comes across as a much more “professional-looking” group. While calling them idolsTheir dance and choreography are on point, and their music videos make them look like a million bucks. But while the girls of AKB48 have a kind of awkwardness about them, and many aren’t the greatest singers, there’s a sense of them “trying their best,” and this is exactly what the fans want. In other words, perfection isn’t necessarily desired. It can be, but that strain of inexperience and perseverance is just as strong.

These dual forces can be seen in idol anime in spades. In Love Live! School Idol Project, the main characters are the ragtag group μ’s (pronounced “Muse”), and the defending champions are the practically-professional A-RISE, who come from the richest high school in Akihabara. In Aikatsu!, Hoshimiya Ichigo is shown as having some kind of natural spark of genuineness that contrasts her from the seemingly unassailable Kanzaki Mizuki. And in Macross Frontier, the main love triangle features, as seen above, the humble waitress Ranka Lee (right) vs. the sultry Sheryl Nome (left). In every case, what causes the “small fry” to ascend isn’t that they transform into polished and perfect idols, but that even as they improve, that unrefined and authentic quality shines through. Perhaps it says something that the main heroines of these shows tend to lean that way as well.

And yet, as touched on briefly in the beginning, voice actors who play idols in anime actually end up being idols themselves. When the girls of Love Live! hold live concerts their flaws come out, but that’s part of the appeal of seeing them in person. When watching the characters in the anime or in music videos, that imperfection doesn’t come across in the performances so much as in the dialogue and supporting materials. A similar phenomenon exists all the way back with Creamy Mami. She comes across as much more “polished” than Ohta Takako does, yet they share the same voice.

An interesting case of the strange interaction with the 2D vs. 3D and real vs. perfect contrasts are those that toe the line, like Hatsune Miku or virtual youtubers. With Miku, her limitations—the fact that her voice sounds robotic—is considered part of her appeal. With virtual youtubers, the fact that there’s a person performing behind the character is much more obvious, and the idea that they start to break down or break character is what lends a sense of “realness.”

In this regard, California-born Japanese idol Sally Amaki is especially interesting. A member of 22/7, an “anime-style characters” idol group in the vein of Love Live!, she plays the bilingual character Fujima Sakura while bringing along her own fans as Sally. Not only does she perform the virtual youtuber role as Sakura, but her native English fluency brings an interesting dynamic that highlights a sense of “realness,” especially for English-speaking fans. Not only is there often a contrast between Sally’s “cute, practiced idol” voice and her Californian mannerisms when switching between Japanese and English, but she’ll mention something that only someone growing up in the US would know off the cuff. This lets American fans connect with her sense of authenticity in ways that they might not have been able to in the past.

In the end, “real vs. perfect” is not a true dichotomy by any means, and every idol/idol group approaches that divide in different ways. Whether you’re an idol fan or not, which do you prefer?

Kon Kon Otakon Iroha: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for August 2018

It’s August, and another opportunity to express appreciation for my supporters on Patreon and Ko-fi. I try to live up to your contributions!

Thank you to…

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Alex

Diogo Prado

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

August means one of my favorite times of the year: Otakon season! Hopefully my wait-listed panel will magically get in, but in the meantime I’ll be on Patz’s Mecha Fight Club panel on Saturday at 9am in Panel room 7. Come by to hear me and others nerd it up about giant robots.

There is a more serious matter when it comes to Otakon, however, and that’s the fact that a white nationalist rally is going to be held the same weekend in Washington, DC. My fellow con attendees, please remain safe, and pity these idiots for putting so much energy into anger and hate.

Speaking of dealing with racists, I’ve recently begun revising my informal policy when it comes to blog comments. It’s not like I receive tons of comments these days, but I’ve come to realize that the concept of “let the ideas do the talking” only really works if the goal of everyone talking is to actually learn something. The alt-right/white nationalist agenda tries to feign actual debate but just wants a podium to posture and look strong. So if I see anyone arguing in bad faith, I’m basically deleting their comments. Simple as that.

But if you want to argue in good faith, here are my favorite posts from July.

Darling in the Franxx: Thoughts on a Divisive Anime

A show that people seemed to either love or hate, I give my own thoughts on a show where viewers can’t even agree what it’s about.

The Important Lesson Nadesico Teaches Us About Entertainment

One of my old favorites has an important message in these current times, about the strengths and pitfalls of pop culture entertainment.

Precure: The Crossroads of Voice Acting

A look at how a 15-year-old franchise brings veteran and newbie seiyuu alike.

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 6 sheds new light on Akira, and is in certain respects the most interesting chapter yet. If you didn’t know Kio Shimoku has a new manga, now’s the time to read up on it!

Patreon-Sponsored

The Newest Nekomusume is the Obvious Character Evolution

What began in 2007 continues in 2018.

Closing

Otakon! Whoooooo!

The Fujoshi Files 179: Rulutieh

Name: Rulutieh (ルルティエ)
Alias: N/A
Relationship Status: Single
Origin: Utawaterumono: The False Faces

Information:
Rulutieh is the youngest princess of the vassal state of Kujuuri. Accompanied by her trusty companion, an adorable yet powerful giant bird named Kokopo, she winds up traveling with the amnesiac Haku and his guardian Kuon to the capital of Yamato. Though typically shy and softspoken, her passion can be roused by the thoughts of two men showing passion for each other. Rulutieh’s father is Oozen, one of the Eight Pillar Generals.

Fujoshi Level:
In the capital of Yamato, Rulutieh comes across a shop selling original editions of male-male romance art books. The uncharacteristic aggression she expresses at finding such rare treasures is enough to scare her friend and fellow princess Atui.

Sex, Sex, and More Sex: The Romance of Shima Kousaku and Oomachi Kumiko

Ask any Japanese businessman who Shima Kousaku is, and chances are likely they’ll tell you. The protagonist of the long-running Shima Kousaku manga series, he’s a businessman extraordinaire, having risen up the ranks from feisty young employee to veteran CEO—the “Goku” of salaryman manga both for his power and notoriety. One of his other characteristics is his James Bond-esque talent at bedding women, and his escapades have led him to having lovers (and illegitimate children) all over the world, which also led him and his wife having a divorce.

However, in 2014, after decades of dalliances, 65-year-old Shima Kousaku remarried. The wife: Shima Kumiko (née Oomachi), an on-again, off-again companion who’s about as sexually experienced with the guys as Shima is with the ladies, if not more. While Shima Kousaku is a pretty politically conservative manga overall, it is fascinating to me that his greatest partner is as far from “virginal ideal” as possible. In fact, if there was some sort of contraption to test her sexual “purity,” it would explode into a thousand pieces.

After their marriage, the publisher, Kodansha, released a two-volume Kumiko-only collection titled The Selection of Oomachi Kumiko, which helps provide an overview of their relationship, and it’s an interesting one indeed. There’s also a two-chapter spin-off called JK [High School Girl] Oomachi Kumiko, which showcases her early misadventures and her talent for manipulation.

Kousaku first meets Kumiko in his early days as a section chief at his company. While they’re both talking business at first, Kumiko is quick to present him a gift: hotel keys to her room. There, they make mad, passionate love, and then go their separate ways (as is usual for Kousaku). But then he learns that he’s hardly her only partner in the short term. Kumiko, it turns out, is a sex fiend. Having witnessed her mom have a threesome with two men when Kumiko was 14, her life changed forever into a constant pursuit of carnal pleasure. The only thing is, she tries to keep her true self on the down low, and her boss (who she’s also sleeping with) is realizing something’s amiss. It’s because Shima rocked her world so hard, she couldn’t control her voice that night. Of course.

Eventually, Shima Kousaku is able to solve the problem of her boss, and he only sees Kumiko once in as while, between other lovers. But every time they meet, the sparks fly all over again, and the sex is bigger and better than all else. And it’s of course implied that for every woman Shima has slept with between their lulls, Kumiko’s probably outdone him. This happens repeatedly until both are significantly older and decide to tie the knot. A part of this decision is that Kumiko reveals that she has cancer, which makes Shima realize how much he cares for her (she later gets surgery with his help to remove the tumor).

So in summary, the main romance of Shima Kousaku is as follows: Shima is a businessman who sleeps with women all around the world. He meets Kumiko, who sleeps with men all around the world. They keep doing this (and each other) for around twenty years until deciding, finally, that they like sex with each other best. “Childhood friend” Kumiko is not.

While ultimately Kumiko is rooted in a hyper-sexual, socks-rocking sexpot character type, what I find notable is that she’s still considered Shima Kousaku’s ideal partner even as she ages. By the time she becomes his bride she’s 45 years old, and a series like this whose bread and butter is male power fantasy could easily have the now-elderly Kousaku end up with a young thing in her 20s. The Selection of Oomachi Kumiko books call her Shima’s “everlasting sweetheart” and “eternal companion,” and it kind of works out, as theirs is a world where purity and sanctity take a backseat.