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blazblue-altermemory

Fighting game anime do not have the best reputation. While we’re not at the absolute depths of the 90s and such wonderful stinkers as Tekken and Battle Arena Toshinden, most of the time the individual stories you experience by playing each character one at a time in fighting games are all mashed together into a paste. The result is that characters do not even have enough screen time to properly showcase their already flimsy narratives, and what carries a fighting game anime to any kind of success is enough flair for the characters’ personalities to shine through in their limited actions.

BlazBlue: Alter Memory is not the worst anime in this respect. Based on the popular BlazBlue fighting game series, the fighters themselves are designed to be as bombastic as possible, and while the story is convoluted to no end it seems very intentional. The narrative and presentation of BlazBlue: Alter Memory revels in its anime aesthetic to the point that it ironically suffers from not being as beautiful in the animation department as its source material because they can’t be as meticulous compared with the intricate sprite animations used in the games. I have to admit that I’ve barely played the games, but from what I can read the anime successfully captures the fact that the story involves alternate timelines, powers that are ridiculously vague in their function, and a seemingly endless stream of little sisters.

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Ragna the Bloodedge is our white-haired, Sugita Tomokazu-voiced protagonist with a beefy sword. His little sister Saya was killed in the past, and he swears revenge against the man who did it. However, he keeps coming across girls that appear similar or even identical to Saya. There’s military police officer Noel Vermillion, who is arguably the series’ secondary heroine. There are robots that come possibly from the future (or something?) who have her face. Even one of the main villains turns out to have connections to Ragna’s little sister. I had a passing idea of the narrative of BlazBlue before watching, that time travel was involved, and that it is basically the Guilty Gear series with the anime dial cranked up to 13, but I didn’t realize that the story is basically Super Kyon (from Suzumiya Haruhi) and his deluge of imoutos.

When people use the term “anime fighter,” they’re referring to games like BlazBlue, and while it’s often associated with certain game mechanics such as air dashing and elaborate combos, the aesthetic is also important. BlazBlue, and by extension Alter Memory, takes all of the popular little trends in hardcore anime of the past seven years or so and throws them together to make something gloriously confusing. You have Catgirls and actual cats. There’s a 12-year-old looking vampire girl who’s a fan favorite. Yandere are seemingly everywhere. Angst and ninjas and flourishes of power are presented in such obtuse yet highly cinematic ways that Bleach creator Kubo Tite would blush. The sheer importance of little sisters in BlazBlue is not surprising, then, given just how increasingly prominent they have been in anime, manga, and light novels.

I think if there’s any major flaw of BlazBlue: Alter Memory, it’s from the fact that it’s an anime in the first place. This doesn’t seem like the kind of story you’re meant to experience by just watching. Rather, I think it’s supposed to kind of wash over you as you back in the aesthetic environment of the world and its dynamic characters. Maybe I should play the games more.

You can watch BlazBlue: Alter Memory on Hulu.

This post was sponsored by Johnny Trovato. If you’re interested in submitting topics for the blog, or just like my writing and want to sponsor Ogiue Maniax, check out my Patreon.

One of the most common pieces of advice when it comes to the internet is simply, “don’t read the comments.” Whether it’s arguments about Justin Bieber on YouTube music videos or angry and insensitive comments on an article about a sensitive topic, comment sections can become minefields. It makes sense that we’re advised to ignore comment sections. However, while that’s generally sound advice, I think that it’s a mistake to believe that comment sections do not matter at all, especially in our current environment where social connections (both strong and weak) are made through online media.

Nowhere is this more relevant than with sites that utilize live chat feeds, such as Nico Nico Douga and Twitch. The difference between watching a game on Twitch with and without chat is basically the difference between watching alone or watching with a crowd. For those who want to share in the excitement of something as it happens (like a virtual crowd at a pro wrestling event), it becomes a vital part of the spectator experience. At that point, it’s not just about wanting to see comments or not, it’s about being a part of a collective bonding.

If you want to know how important the live chat is to Twitch, you only need to look at one of their more recent developments: saved chat logs for VODs. In the past, if you wanted to see what the chat was like for a previously recorded stream, your only hope was that someone captured it with the chat in progress. Now, anyone can step in a week or a month after a broadcast and see what people were saying at the time, and in many ways it enriches the experience. Imagine watching an old football game or something and having the crowd muted out. It certainly wouldn’t be the same, and while I understand that by not watching it live the experience changes anyway, there’s now a middle point.

This brings me to what I really wanted to talk about: the degree to which Twitch chat can become an unwelcoming place, and the potential harm it can cause. For me, personally, I experience this when I watch a Smash 4 tournament, and the chat is inundated with comments about how boring the game is, and how people can’t wait for Melee. It doesn’t matter how interesting the actual game being played is, people are ready to criticize and diminish its value. I think Smash 4 is awesome, and to some extent the trolls are just being trolls, but it results in an inhospitable environment that can turn away people who potentially have interest in a game. Perhaps they see huge portions of the chat calling the game a snooze fest, and think, “If this many people are saying that, maybe it is boring after all.” Or perhaps they just don’t want to deal with all of the nonsense and would prefer to watch another game with a chat that isn’t secretly hoping for the clown from Showtime at the Apollo to drag away what’s currently on.

That’s only a “your game vs. my game” scenario, though. Consider the tendency for Twitch chats to explode with comments whenever a girl appears on stream. I understand, lots of guys are horny, and by connecting to Twitch through one’s own personal devices, be they computers, mobile phones, or whatever, there’s a sense that what you’re seeing is merely an extension of your private space. Talking with your friends about how that girl was incredibly hot isn’t a bad thing, but stream and chat become this nebulous space where private and public intersect, and it’s not surprising that women would choose to hide their identities in chat, or prefer not to participate in the zoo that is Twitch chat (though that zoo can be fun and positive too).

In fact, I think comments online in general are a kind of extension of private space into public territories that can be both welcome and unwelcome. In a way, this blog is doing the same thing, as is Twitter, Facebook, and wherever else people are placing a part of themselves into their words. Social media and the internet as it exists today is not a separate entity from the real world. Ignoring elements of “IRL” space can be done too, but it usually comes with the awareness that it is cutting you off from a certain experience and resonance with others. Doing the same online might be necessary at times, but we shouldn’t act like the solution is to just encourage everyone to turn their eyes away from the problems that exist. The problems themselves need to be addressed too.

If you liked this post, consider becoming a sponsor of Ogiue Maniax through Patreon. You can get rewards for higher pledges, including a chance to request topics for the blog.

 

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As we get closer to the premiere of Love Live! Sunshine!! I’ve been trying to get my analyses of the original μ’s girls out for you to check out. This time, I’ve written about Ayase Eli and the way the series utilizes her “Russian-Ness.”

Harasho!

granbluefantasy-lina

Granblue Fantasy is a Japanese mobile game that’s got tons of fans, and it’s so popular that it ends up crossing over with other franchises. Check out this small list of series that make guest appearances. As someone who got into anime in the 90s, I’m especially fond of the Slayers cameos.

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In my continuing quest to write small articles on all of the μ’s girls of Love Live!, I’ve written something on Nishikino Maki. I know she’s a popular one, so I hope I do you Maki fans justice.

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In related news, the English version of Love Live! School Idol Festival just added songs from both Aqours (the stars of Love Live! Sunshine!!) and A-RISE. I’ve been eagerly anticipating A-RISE’s arrival (Kira Tsubasa is a favorite character of mine), so I’m hoping to get her for my account.

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I count myself among the many who loved Mega Man 9 and Mega Man 10. The retro revivals of one of my favorite video game series of all time, they had the great gameplay, catchy music, and cool boss characters that I came to cherish from Mega Man as a whole. However, something always felt a bit off about them, like a meal that’s almost perfect, and I stated as such in my review of Mega Man 10 when I said that the game is poor at giving moments of respite to the player.

I recently read an interview between the original creator of Mega Man, Kitamura Akira, and the manga artist behind Mega Man Megamix, Ariga Hitoshi. They discuss a variety of topics and I highly recommend checking out the entire interview, but one comment in particular stood out to me, given my experience with the newer Mega Man games:

Kitamura: Making the last enemy encounter in the wave easier was a key idea. It leaves the player with a softer impression of the game’s difficulty. I think the reason that people don’t replay games—even good ones—is that when they remember playing the game, their minds go back to the extremely difficult parts and enemies, and then replaying the game starts to seem like tedious work. I wanted the player to feel like he was improving at the game too, and that was another reason to make that last enemy easier, I think.

Upon reading that, it all made sense. Mega Man 9 and 10 are really fun and exciting games, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve come to believe that they catered a little too much to that hardcore retro gaming audience that cherishes older NES-era games precisely because of their notorious difficulty and seemingly unforgiving gameplay. I’m not surprised that this is the direction they went, as it is those kinds of players who are the most ready and willing to dive into something like a Mega Man revival. I don’t even think it was all a bad thing, because the tighter and more complex and difficult level designs were something I found to be exhilarating, but what Kitamura says (about how people don’t replay games when it starts to seem like tedious work) strikes a chord. I know that Mega Man 10 implemented an easy mode to cut away some of the tension and difficulty, but the levels are clearly designed without them in mind, and it’s a constant reminder that you are playing a “lesser” version.

If I were to go back and play these two games, I would probably spend most of my time doing boss rushes because I love that sort of thing, but when I remember that obnoxious spike wall leading to the mid-boss of Jewel Man’s stage (or was it Jewel Man himself?), I sigh and lose the will to go through such ordeals. Maybe if that wasn’t such a “gotcha” moment, and maybe if there weren’t so many of those moments, then I would remember them even more fondly than I do now.

If you liked this post, consider becoming a sponsor of Ogiue Maniax through Patreon. You can get rewards for higher pledges, including a chance to request topics for the blog.

kotoriphotobomb

I’ve written another Love Live! character analysis over at Apartment 507, this time about Minami Kotori, aka Minalinsky Our Lord and Prophet. Where are my Kotori fans at?

Between showers, fools, and lambs, April is a month of change and transition. It’s only appropriate then that I try to evolve as well! As always, it’s with the help of my friends and Patreon supporters that I continue to try and improve Ogiue Maniax:

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Alex

Diogo Prado

Sasahara Keiko fans:

Kristopher Hostead

Yoshitake Rika fans:

Elliot Page

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

So, the first change I’m making is a small adjustment to my schedule. Since 2010 I’ve generally structured my weekly posting schedule to be posts on Tuesday and Friday with at least the occasional lighter post on Sunday, most typically a Fujoshi File entry. However, I’ve noticed that most of my readers come in on Sunday, and to give my lowest-impact content at that point feels like a shame, because if you’re coming to Ogiue Maniax I believe it’s to read something interesting. Because of this, I’ve decided to switch Sunday to being a main posting day, with either Tuesday or Friday being less heavy. I’m still on the fence on which one to use, but most likely it’ll be Friday. I hope you enjoy the change, and of course, if you miss the post it’s always there in the archives.

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A second possible change is adding another series other than Genshiken for me to review regularly. The title is Kimi xxxru Koto Nakare (“You Can’t Do That”), the new monthly manga by Okachimachi Hato (creator of one of my favorite manga, Fujoshissu!) about a high school romance between a male idol and a female celebrity comedian. The question is, how should I cover it? To help me with this, I’m using a handy dandy poll:

Keep in mind that this is just for feedback and the winning answer won’t necessarily determine what happens. Also, I mistakenly thought it was a weekly manga, so a previous Patreon post of mine mistakenly had weekly options.

As for what’s happened on the blog over the past month, the biggest event for Ogiue Manaix and all current Genshiken readers definitely has to be the latest manga chapter, which concludes the Madarame harem story. I won’t say much more, so go check it out if you’re curious as to what goes down and my thoughts on it. Also, I need to point out that a funky translation of Chapter 122’s contents has been going around, and it provides an inaccurate image of the characters. In response to this, I’ve also translated a couple of small but vital excerpts from the chapter in the hopes of clearing up the confusion.

As mentioned last month, I went to see a whole bunch of animated films. These include The Boy and the Beast, The Case of Hana & Alice, Beyond Beyond, Kizumonogatari Part 1: Tekketsu, Psycho-Pass: The Movie, and Long Way North. This means it was a pretty danged review-heavy month, especially because I also covered Please Tell Me! Galko-chan, the mahjong manga Saki, and the ever-successful Aikatsu! I’m typically more of an analysis and deep thinking kind of writer, but it’s not bad to have months like this either, and most of the time I my reviews are more half-review/half-analysis anyway.

Speaking of reviews, I also finally updated the Reviews section of the blog. I neglected it for about…a year and a half? orz

I also talked last month about my concern over stagnating as a writer. My smart and ever-perceptive friend David Brothers gave me some advice in response to one of my Apartment 507 articles on Yandere characters, which is that I should think about putting more of myself into my writing. I think that ever since I’d gone in a more academic direction it’s improved Ogiue Maniax in a number of ways. At the same time, that sort of more casual and personal feel, while still present I believe, might not be as apparent. Sometimes I have to be more friend than teacher.

Three final comments:

  1. Shout outs to Abadango for winning Pound 2016 using 99% Mewtwo (with a dash of Meta Knight). It’s the first major tournament in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U that has been won by a Mewtwo.
  2. Some cool and mysterious fellow recently published an academic article about the science fiction manga 7 Billion Needles in the journal Japan Forum. If you’ve got access and that’s your sort of thing, maybe check it out?
  3. This past weekend was the final Love Live! concert for the original μ’s girls. Love Live! forever! Hanayo banzai! Also, sorry about the April Fool’s joke (not sorry).
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Abadango vs. Ally Pound 2016 Grand Finals

This past weekend was the international Super Smash Bros. tournament known as Pound 2016. There, in the stacked, 500-man bracket for Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS & Wii U, a Mewtwo took home the gold for the first time ever at a major event. To a Mewtwo player such as myself, this is undoubtedly the most significant result thus far in the history of the game.

The player behind Mewtwo was Abadango, who at this point is a well-known name in the Smash 4 competitive community. He’s used a great number of characters throughout the life of Smash 4, and whether it’s been his creative Pac-Man, his dangerous Wario, his punishing Meta Knight, or now his Mewtwo, Abadango’s play turns heads. As someone who values deadly powerful combos and setups, the recent litany of improvements to Mewtwo have made the character an enticing choice for Abadango, though he has also expressed concern on his stream over its unforgiving nature. Nevertheless, Mewtwo’s worked out for him. Cutting through a sea of difficult opponents including VoiD’s Sheik and Ally’s Mario, Abadango made Mewtwo look deceptively simple, but anyone who knows the character is well aware that Mewtwo is anything but.

Mewtwo’s history in Smash 4 is a wild one. Designed from Day 1 to be a “glass cannon,” a character that is strong offensively but light and easy to KO, Mewtwo has benefited both from dedicated players pushing the character forward (such as LoF Blue, Mew^2, Killer Jawz, Rich Brown, and The Reflex Wonder) and from the “hand of God,” as the Genetic Pokemon might be the most buffed character in Smash 4. Mewtwo is now faster, hits more reliably, combos better, and more. The number of improvements that have been bestowed upon Mewtwo are nothing small, though it’s worth pointing out that among many fans of Smash for the past three months (since the buffs started happening) that people still doubted Mewtwo’s prowess. How could Mewtwo possibly be truly good, when the character is still very large, extremely light, and easy to juggle? The answer is, with an amazing versatile kit that allows Mewtwo to exert pressure at almost every point during the game.

Don't underestimate Mewtwo's Down Tilt

Don’t underestimate Mewtwo’s Down Tilt

Even in its darkest days, I never believed Mewtwo was truly a terrible character. Due to the unforgiving nature of its design (second lightest character in the game), Mewtwo makes you feel terrible for your mistakes. One wrong move and you can end up questioning your own existence. A Mewtwo played to perfection would still have been a force to be reckoned with even before the patches, but reaching that point and maintaining it was easier said than done. Now, I believe that a sub-optimal Mewtwo is still going to feel the sting of their mistakes (only Mewtwo now has more tools to avoid those mistakes in the first place), while a refined Mewtwo is easily high or even top tier. The fact that the top Mewtwo players present such a range of play styles—aggressive, defensive, technical, slippery, mind game-oriented—shows just how much potential the current Mewtwo holds.

That said, I think that the biggest change to Mewtwo that has come with the improvements both in the players and in the character is that Mewtwo now has access to a powerful ingredient that it lacked previously: fear. At first, Mewtwo could not instill fear in opponents, and that meant Mewtwo was always on the back foot because of how easy the character is to KO. Now, things are different.

It’s not just any fear, however, but more of a fear that’s mixed with the sweet scent of opportunity. When you fight Mewtwo, and you’re on your last stock while Mewtwo has a 60% lead, you’re aware of how good Mewtwo is at dealing damage and sealing stocks.

Then you remember, Mewtwo’s light and easy to kill. Opportunity knocks. “All you need to do is capitalize on one or two mistakes and the game isn’t just even, it’s arguably in your favor due to the weight disparity!”

The temptation is there, but so is the terror. Case in point, in an interview after winning the weekly tournament Wii Bear B-airs, LoF Blue mentioned that he switched from Sonic the Hedgehog to Mewtwo because the threat of Mewtwo’s myriad kill options forces the opponent to play differently at key moments.

A similar pressure is also placed onto the Mewtwo players, who are aware of how fragile their character is. If you’re down as Mewtwo it’s possible to make it back, and all you need to do is to not get hit, ever. A good Mewtwo draws strength from this tension, from teasing that glimmer of hope while still emanating a threatening aura.

If you’ve decided to pick up Mewtwo after Abadango’s win, I have one piece of advice for you: Be prepared to cry into your oatmeal as you die at 65% off of one critical mistake. Half the battle is a mental one. You have to maintain your composure as you’re getting bodied, or else the psychological damage you take just gets worse and worse. If you still stick with the character even after all that abuse (or maybe you’re kind of a masochist), then you’ll find a strong ally.

Also, if you’re interested in learning more, check out Dabuz (the best Rosalina in the world) and his analysis of Abadango’s Mewtwo:

If you liked this post, consider becoming a sponsor of Ogiue Maniax through Patreon. You can get rewards for higher pledges, including a chance to request topics for the blog.

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