Red Mars

It seems that Takashi Miike is directing a live action film adaptation of the manga-cum-anime series Terraformars. This might be surprising for people familiar only with his art house work such as Audition or 13 Assassins, which feature extreme violence and sexual deviance, but the man has actually made quite a lot of commercial schlock: some kids’ movies, a few comedies, a video game adaptation. This news is of a piece with his earlier work. Plus Terraformars itself is pretty damn violent all on its own. I’d say this property is right in his wheelhouse.

But hey, Miike is apparently also making a Blade of the Immortal movie with a 2017 release date! I’m definitely looking forward to that one.

Happy Belated Glycon Day

Alan Moore, scraggly-bearded and wild-haired comics curmudgeon.

Yesterday was Alan Moore’s birthday. Yesterday was also when I learned that there is a Japanese doujinshi (i.e., a fan comic)  which answers the question, “What if Alan Moore were a teenage schoolgirl?”

The beardless wild-haired and be-ringed She-Alan of Earth-2.

The comic is only a couple of pages but it additionally answers the related question, “What if Neil Gaiman was also a teenage schoolgirl?”

Teenage Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman, thick as thieves.

I believe this comes under the heading Real Person Fiction (RPF), which is a thing I don’t understand at all. Every time I think I’m getting a handle on fan culture I come across yet another weird-ass thing like this.


Future Imperfect

I love point-and-click adventure games. I love walking around their worlds and clicking “look” on each piece of background scenery, I love talking to every character I come across, and I even love obtuse inventory puzzles that leave me wondering how the hell a rubber ducky is supposed to help me get on a subway train. This is not a rational love but one born from the nostalgia of a person who played a lot of Sierra adventure games as a kid.

But art does not exist in a vacuum. Audiences always bring their prior experiences with them when encountering a text. Keeping in mind my partiality toward its genre, I must say this: I like Technobabylon.

Said the cyborg bouncer with the mohawk:

Part police procedural, part conspiracy thriller, and wholly a sci-fi cyberpunk journey through a decadent city of sorrow and sin, Technobabylon is a pleasant return to the old adventure and puzzle gaming formula. You play as three main characters: a curmudgeonly police detective hostile to the newfangled AI that governs his city (like a white Bill Cosby, minus the rape), his younger and more enthusiastic post-op (actually post-genetic-engineering) female-to-male partner who’s down with the hacking and the tweeting and the bipping and the bopping, and an unemployed shut-in on welfare addicted to the Internet who subsists on protein sludge extruded from her shitty apartment’s food machine. Also there’s a murderous plot which could lead all the way to the top. Continue reading Future Imperfect

It’s a hell of a town

I finally saw the last two episodes of Blood Blockade Battlefront (a.k.a. Kekkai Sensen). The show is set in a near future New York that has become a gateway to a world of monsters and magic.

It’s like Hellboy as an anime, in that it’s interesting but overstuffed. I like the aesthetics but the story and the setting feels kind of like having a shotgun full of supernatural premises blasted at you. That, or it could be likened to hearing the story from Homer Simpson, or maybe Ralph Wiggum. “And then she made a truck come to life and eat other trucks! Did I mention she was a vampire? Well, she was. Also, there are 13 master vampires, but it turns out there are more, and there’s blood superpowers, and the psychic twins made the disaster happen I think. What was I talking about again?”

Self and sensibility

Well, holy shit but Selfie is hilarious. Or rather, it was hilarious, as it was cancelled halfway through its first season. I acknowledge that the pilot was kind of rough, most notably in the misogyny carried over from its source material. What else can you expect from an adaptation of My Fair Lady? But even by the second episode the quality shot up through the roof. I like how the series consistently showed that it was not just Eliza but Henry as well who needed to learn how to be a better person. John Cho’s standoffish workaholic and Karen Gillan’s shallow social media obsessive both reveal emotional complexity that carry their characters beyond mere caricatures. This is thanks in large part to the actors. It certainly helps that they look great together. And it’s sad that so much praise for the show revolves around the unconventional decision to make an Asian man the male lead in an interracial romantic comedy (white guy with Asian woman is far more common), just because it’s 2015 and it shouldn’t be unusual to show Asian men as desirable romantic partners.

The show just had so much potential. The supporting characters were strong and I can’t think of any weak actors in the cast. The show’s slightly cartoonish universe and the way that characters often spoke in rhyme make its world just a bit more like a musical, and the complex and layered allusions are all significant in helping decode what’s going on in each episode. It reminds me a bit of The Simpsons in how references can be both from high and low culture, mixing Gwen Stefani and Philip Roth together for audiences to laugh at.

The show was going places before its untimely demise. This bums me out. So long, Selfie. You were too good for this world.


I’m slightly alarmed now since Selfie is one of those great but cancelled shows that the Onion AV Club hive mind keeps mentioning. Does that mean all of those other things people yell about in the TV Club comments are also this good? Should I have already seen Bunheads and Terriers? I’m not even finished watching season 2 of Don’t Trust the Bitch in Apartment 23 yet! How could I survive watching so many great shows that were killed too soon? I don’t think I can take this much heartache.

Home for the holidays

After several years and many effulgent panegyrics from game critics later, I’ve finally tried out Gone Home for myself.

You play as a 21 year old girl coming home to Oregon in 1995 after a year of travelling overseas. The entire game takes place over one stormy night as you wander around the empty house wondering where your family is as you search for clues in their underwear drawers and spiral ring school notebooks.

I think it’s best to manage expectations, so let me enumerate what the game is not. It’s not a horror game, though the atmosphere may make it feel like one. It’s not an adventure game, as the puzzles barely deserve the name and one can progress forward in the game by practically doing nothing besides walking forward. It’s not a visual novel, as it offers a lot more space while at the same time having much fewer characters. But I think the visual novel is its closest comparison, as the game is essentially a 3D first-person visual novel. It’s not as simplified as a visual novel, where one can move the story forward by doing almost nothing more game-like than pressing a button over and over, but its interactivity and deliberately pared down choices certainly put it in the same narrative ballpark. Some may question whether Gone Home is a game at all, but if we can call a visual novel a game then I think we have to call this a game as well.

The narrative itself feels rather slight, and I agree with Eurogamer that the game’s story “would come across as deeply generic if it wasn’t told in such an unconventional medium”. I actually felt embarrassed on behalf of the characters when I uncovered the rather cliched teen rebellion portion of the story. The game has been lauded for its story by many gaming publications, but I think that its accolades speak as much to the low level of quality in video game writing than to Gone Home possessing an absolutely superlative narrative. I do wonder how well the game can come across if the player has no nostalgia for the setting, if the player has no personal connection to the material reality of the knickknacks and curios that continually thrust the setting’s 1995-ness forward.

I liked playing the game and thought it was a decent way to pass a few hours on a Saturday afternoon, but I concur once again with Eurogamer‘s assessment: “The Fullbright Company has built a fine house for intimate storytelling in games, but it hasn’t found the story to live in it yet.”