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Watching The King’s Avatar

Yes, even swamped with books, I can make time to watch Chinese cartoons. If only half an hour a day.

silly

This one is really good. I had it recommended to me based on the popularity of Sword Art Online combined with how much I cannot get into that anime. The pitch focused on their similarities while stressing that The King’s Avatar is the better show. Which actually does it a disservice.

All TKA has in common with SAO is that there’s a pro gamer who plays an online game. No stupid Battle Royale mashed together with .hack//SIGN and every other anime or manga with an MMO in it. There isn’t even any of 1/2 Prince’s bullhonky with a game world that is depicted exactly like a straight-up fantasy world but occasionally pretends to be a game. Glory looks and behaves like a fantasy MMO game, with the only (believable) conceit that professional players work a bit like actors or dancers. Youth is key, the company you work for is evil, and the level of celebrity you can attain is on par with athletes and pop stars.

The main character, Ye Xiu, is not like whats-his-face from SAO. He’s twenty-five, and acts like it. And while he’s quiet and not the most socially adept person ever, he’s not emotionally cut off or even standoffish. He is a bit mercurial in a noncommunicative way, but he always just seems like an introvert to me. Also, his boss, one of the people, that he interacts with on a regular basis, is extroverted and openly antagonistic. She also chooses what she will and won’t believe, facts be damned. He doesn’t waste time correcting her.

The premise is nice and simple. After ten years working for Excellent Era as a Battle Mage called One Autumn Leaf and the professional name of Ye Qiu (dubbed God Ye Qiu by his fans), Ye Xiu is canned and forced to hand over his character to a newer, younger guy who will be more willing to work with sponsors. He’s blamed for the lapse of success the company has had in recent years, and offered an insulting demotion that the boss knows he won’t take. But retiring means that Ye Xiu can’t take another job playing the game professionally for a year. When he’s 26, he’ll be considered out of date and probably won’t have a prayer at another job.

Why isn’t he rich? one might ask. Apparently he’s been supporting friends who didn’t do as well in the gaming community,  and so his only opportunity to support himself after this fall from grace is to take a job on the night shift of a nearby Internet café.

The show’s not over yet, and I’m barely on episode 5, but the original story is available to read in English on Gravity Tales. It should be about twelve episodes, I think. I may read the translated story if I get any kind of opportunity. Something tells me that it’d take a bit longer than my free 30 minutes a day. ^^;

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So I had some more thoughts after it was over.

Yesterday, my post ran quite long. I nearly cut the CLAMP-dissing convention story, but then just decided to leave it. Instead, I curbed my usual efforts to include all pertinent story information and used a briefer style to explain the premise. Which I liked.

More verbose:

This girl collapses, her soul fractured. Her best guy friend (unspoken love) pays a time-space witch to help him travel to different worlds to get back the pieces of her soul. The power to travel comes at a price–no matter how many soul pieces (memories) they get back, she will never again remember him. Travel is accomplished through the use of a magical creature. Two other men also request this travelling power of the witch for their own purposes–one needs to stay on the move, while the other just wants to get back to his own world.  After taking their payment, she convinces them to travel together.

That’s where the story starts. They just wreck it later.

The Hero’s Journey came up in comments, which made me think. My first reaction was to be kind of bemused, since I hadn’t noticed any Joseph Campbell worship in this story. Manga tends to follow the Dragonball-video-game progression of the hero. Level up, get stronger, become the best. The end. Zarking fardwarks, even Yakitate Japan follows this style of hero growth. There’s no call to adventure, there is “I wanna be the best Pokemon trainer, let’s battle in successive gyms until we get cancelled.”

My second reaction was, well, there are steps, so let’s have a look. I could be wrong. Let’s say that Syaoran is the hero. Spoilers ahoy, probably. They’re actually pretty funny spoilers, taken out of context.

 

  1. Ordinary World: This step refers to the hero’s normal life at the start of the story, before the adventure begins.
  2. Call to Adventure: The hero is faced with something that makes him begin his adventure. This might be a problem or a challenge he needs to overcome.
  3. Refusal of the Call: The hero attempts to refuse the adventure because he is afraid.
  4. Meeting with the Mentor: The hero encounters someone who can give him advice and ready him for the journey ahead.
  5. Crossing the First Threshold: The hero leaves his ordinary world for the first time and crosses the threshold into adventure.
  6. Tests, Allies, Enemies: The hero learns the rules of his new world. During this time, he endures tests of strength of will, meets friends, and comes face to face with foes.
  7. Approach: Setbacks occur, sometimes causing the hero to try a new approach or adopt new ideas.
  8. Ordeal: The hero experiences a major hurdle or obstacle, such as a life or death crisis.
  9. Reward: After surviving death, the hero earns his reward or accomplishes his goal.
  10. The Road Back: The hero begins his journey back to his ordinary life.
  11. Resurrection Hero – The hero faces a final test where everything is at stake and he must use everything he has learned.
  12. Return with Elixir:  The hero brings his knowledge or the “elixir” back to the ordinary world, where he applies it to help all who remain there.

 

  1. Fairly common at the beginning of any story. Romance, comedy, horror. Whatever.
  2. I guess Sakura losing her soul bits could be a call to adventure.
  3. Not remotely. The time-space witch explains the problem, how to fix it, and really lays it on thick just how much it will cost Syaoran. He doesn’t even hesitate, just says, “I’ll do it.” Kid never wavers, either.
  4. Do these have to come in order? Because a character does become a mentor in fighting much, much, much later. Before that, he’s just that guy over there.
  5. Many, many thresholds are crossed.
  6. Every time, they have to learn the rules. This is what I think of as montage time in the movies, personally. But it happening over and over, and kind of being the point, I don’t think you can montage it.
  7. Hmm. It’s revealed that Syaoran is blind in one eye, and learns to sense people so that he can fight better. It doesn’t come up all that much after a certain point. It’s just sort of something he can do now.
  8. There are lots of these. Syaoran is a clone, the original takes his place after the clone eats someone’s eye and becomes a destroyer of worlds, then Sakura turns out to be a clone, she abandons them for some reason I never understood,  then both clones die, they find out that Fai has been in with the enemy all along, Kurogane has to cut off his own arm because of reasons, Syaoran broke the logic of the entire universe and now people are melting if they leave the time loop…
  9. Rewards do not tend to happen. After each ordeal, they can only plateau back to Mostly Okay until something else bad happens. Sometimes they don’t even have time to be okay. I guess relaxing in Nihon Country for a while might count.
  10. They return to Clow Country, but that’s glazed over. Drama drama drama resolution of drama, oh now we’re home.
  11. Resurrection Hero could refer to how the conflict is resolved, but the again, the order is throwing this all off.
  12. No elixir. He goes home and then almost immediately leaves.

Seriously, Syaoran’s reward is to learn that his father is actually his own clone, and the girl his loves is a younger version of his mother. Also, his parents are stuck in him and Sakura somehow, so he wants to go back to finding the soul bits and also some bodies. So… they get to the end only to realise that the beginning was the best part anyway.

And long post! ffffffff

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So that’s over with.

I finally finished reading Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle today. No surprise, it was incredibly disappointing.

At least they finished it. CLAMP is notorious for just not bothering. Which is funny, because they are super type A about other things. Like comparing themselves to others.

This is a story I have from my husband, so it’s both funny and depressingly true. He used to be really big into the convention scene, he was often if not always staff. He was also in an improv show called Whose Line Is It Anime? I gather that it had some behind-the-scenes problems sometimes, but it was a good show that was fairly popular.

At one particular convention, the show was more popular than CLAMP, who had come all the way from Japan. ….actually, it’s a little funny that in the land of my blog and like… the three people I know definitely read it, my husband is better known than CLAMP. Anyway. Not only did the improv attract waaaay more people (standing room only!), this group of four ADULTS were upset about it.

Dollars to doughnuts that they were saying things like, “These Americans are lame, they don’t know what’s really cool.” Or something about not getting it. That’s the usual fallback. *cough*FinalFantasy13*cough*

More understandably, they were probably upset when they were made fun of for banning photos. If you want a CLAMP photo, you have to pay for it. …man, they suck.

Seriously though, the comic is… disappointing really is the most suitable word. I’m not angry. By the end, I had nothing invested in it. It’s like I had invested plenty, and then slowly withdrew until I was just flipping pages.

But the phrase, “And not a f*** was given” doesn’t quite apply. I really like the beginning. Tired tropes and silly J-E translation traditions aside, it’s actually a compelling premise.

A young man goes on a journey across dimensions with an weird magical creature, an angry swordsman, and a cryptic magician to regain the lost magical items that comprise his sweetheart’s soul.

See? It’s pretty cool, right? Granted, every world they go to is just Japan. But it’s episodic, which manga loves, and it has old gold stereoty–I mean characters in an ensemble centred around the romantic leads.

Then it all goes into the toilet for some kind of death-defying, clone-infested, time travel bullcrap.

Every time there was major twist concerning the male lead, it was echoed by the female lead in an infinitely less interesting way and somehow at just the wrong time. I think “death-defying, clone-infested, time travel bullcrap” is spoiler enough without having to go into specifics. The name thing was just… boring and pointless, especially since this was supposed to be the CLAMP version of Kingdom Hearts.

I’ve read a range of CLAMP’s work. Clover was the first (Wikipedia says it’s finished, but it isn’t), Clamp Detectives made me vomit, Wish (finished, but the art is so bad that it looks like a name) Chobits (also ruined by too many twists and too much drama), Cardcaptor Sakura, Angelic Layer (another one that looks bad because it’s rushed and has almost no backgrounds).

But apparently none of that matters, because every single one of those works is only given a little bit of lip service. Characters show up, familiar faces divorced from their personalities and circumstances. Seeing Ora devoid of poignancy is kind of heart-breaking.

I’m glad it’s over. I may read just the beginning again. CLAMP is lame. Go finish Clover. I wanna know what happens to Ran and if his guardian is really his boyfriend or something.

…you know what? Also, do a real gay couple for once, instead of teasing.

1

Humanity’s Strongest Soldier

Not that I have seen Attack on Titan. I tried, and got kind of bored halfway through the beginning. Also, mystification averted my interest to another question. The same mystification that forced me to stop watching House. Asking why and coming up with real world logic that prevents the drama killed that show for me. I should not know more about legal or medical matters than people who write about them.

But I digress (as usual). What I’m on about today is to do with fictional heroes who are under the age of twenty, often under the age of seventeen. Some are nine. In particular, the Chosen. The characters who are not content to lead their stories, but who were created by people who think that for this character to be the lead, they have to have MASSIVE justification.

That justification shouldn’t be necessary. If you want to write about a group of people who save the whole world from an alien force, you get the Avengers. You don’t get the Junior Defenders. …and nobody got that reference, so just… trailer. It’s not an age thing, just have a reason. Why is a fifteen-year-old more effective than a regiment of men and women?

This stuff is particularly prevalent in anime. In that case, it’s probably that although a significant portion of the relevant consumers are over twenty, the majority of anime is aimed at kids and teens. There and elsewhere, people continue to think that kids and teens will not accept protagonists not of or near their age, never mind that adults do. (coughcoughHarryPottercoughcough)

Why do people think this? When I was a kid, I hated books about children. TV too, though probably to a lesser extent. Justin happened after I grew out of Power Rangers, but he was infamous. I started reading YA at seven or eight, adult fiction at twelve (if not before). It is only now, when I am in the adult fiction category that I read a lot of middle grade fiction. There has to be something in that.

That was a little off the point, but then, I don’t really write my blog to make points. It is a place to talk without being interrupted or challenged by people who haven’t listened enough to form an intelligible argument.

Shouldn’t a writer always consider the why? Take a bloody oath to first, serve the story. Your story is that a chosen person will come from the garbage planet, ascend to the sparkling silver city, and save its people from slavery so that the other garbage people can ascend and everyone can live HEA together. That’s a fun story. I’d read it. Let’s say you’ve decided the chosen is a child… twelve, maybe.

Now tell me why. Is it because minors are the only ones who have enough free time to explore, or that there are robot guards who ignore children? His father knows the way to the ascension station, but only the kid can fit in the tiny pod, designed for the very small citizens of the silver city? Give. Me. A. Reason.

Too many kids in fiction are the strongest, the chosen, the best at archery. Not just the best, but better than adults, including adults who have done the same things for much longer. I know it’s escapist fantasy. It doesn’t signify. Accomplishment has no value when there is no context. No one is impressive as the best with no realistic comparison.

Someone I knew once wanted to give a character the ability to imagine a picture and draw it exactly as she imagined it. This isn’t a great artist. It’s a wireless printer. And it would piss off anyone who actually puts freakin’ effort into their art.

On that note, I am going to click ‘Publish’ and have a cup of tea.

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Another Fuzzy Day

I’ve been re-reading The World God Only Knows lately, and I think I’ve only got about 40 chapters to catch up with it (it’s still ongoing) and it makes me think a lot. Not quite sure why.

In a way, this series feels kind of like an apology for all of the sameyness and even offensive tripe rampant in other manga. But as it goes on and gets more complicated, I start wishing it could have been a novel or series of same. I have no plans to read the light novel, and I don’t think much of light novels anyway. But even so.

The way that the manga industry works is so mind-numbingly self-destructive that it makes me cringe. It’s worse than a great television series getting cancelled because too few people appreciated it, or because it was broadcast in a detrimental timeslot, or an executive managed to kill what made it successful initially.

Much of what makes the manga industry such a mess owes to inevitability. Basically, the idea is to come up with some cool premise that will last for years before people lose interest. Ratings drop enough, and the creator is told, “Write the ending.” No ending could ever be satisfying.

Think about it. A story begins with a completely open-ended, self-perpetuating world, and then it’s over. Or it goes on for years, until the creator quite literally runs out of ideas, and then it gets a fatigued ending. Worse, the creator thinks of the perfect ending, tells it, and is forced to continue the story because the ratings never dropped.

Too many cancellations, and we lose the creator him- or herself. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. Instead of welcoming new talent and protecting old successes, it’s all about trying to hold onto a cash cow until it dies from exhaustion and then filling in the stable so that the number of livestock never drops or rises.

This is a crappy way to run a business about telling stories.

Formula, bad business, poor editorial decisions, unforgiving deadlines… It’s amazing that it ever worked at all.

You also tend to get only one or two kinds of stories. Exploration and escalation are super common themes. Foreshadowing tends to just not happen, or is very short-term.

A hero continually meets stronger enemies and allies, eternally stymied from a central motivation–or never granted one at all. Or only able to embrace a never-ending goal.

A heroine changes/improves the lives of everyone around her until she is so rightfully loved by all that the only things left to do are over the top drama like kidnapping (or killing) her or introduce new characters for her to work on. This character rarely has an interesting personal goal either.

There’s plenty of conflict and character development, but… Oy. I know people who refuse to read any incomplete manga because of these and other reasons. Quick cancellation is depressing. Long-runners get overcomplicated and boring. At least if a series is marked ‘complete’, there’s an ending.

Ask a writing class. Stories have a beginning, middle, and end. Not a pitch, ten years of escalating action, and a rushed conclusion.

Anyway, I just wrote this so that I could try to punch through the fuzzy fog. Feel free to argue with me, I know that lots of television series work just fine with a similar system. Although I ought to point out that an episode has a beginning, middle, and end, while even a manga chapter tends to be pitch, escalation, cliffhanger.

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Clones or Copies?

Clones are physically identical and mentally separate. They are not rubber-and-ink stamps.

Things like Clone High and Afterschool Charisma are based on the annoying and annoyingly common misconception that clones are destined to be the same kind of person as the donor. (or sample source, whatever you want to call them)

I really wonder how this happened. When I was a kid, our school had a newsletter that had articles about stuff like popular books (e.g., Artemis Fowl), study tips, and science breakthroughs. I only remember two issues with any clarity. One of those had a cover story about cloning.

Of course, the article was about Dolly. There’s more to read about her, but that isn’t what I’m on about today. When I read that, I was probably eleven or twelve. And not once did I think that a clone would be exactly like the original in personality or even mental acuity.

Certainly not skill or (pfffft) destiny.

Where does this notion come from? Is it part of the immortality gambit, which itself stems from the fear of death? Are people so obsessed with the idea of “save as”-ing themselves as though human beings are some kind of computer file? Copy and paste Robert_Hayes.mhu into a new folder. That copy will be identical.

Oh, there it is. Maybe it’s simple word confusion. The idea that “clone” means “copy”.

Except for the tiny fact that humans are not two dimensional, nor pure data, and certainly not made on an assembly line. Are things like Clone High just built on the lame premise of trying to combine Histroy class with Dawson’s Creek? Just a sign of creative bankruptcy?

I have no idea why I keep phrasing things as questions. I don’t know the answers. It’s just annoying to see all of these clone stories set up as and playing out as less original and worse written than reincarnation and possession stories.

This all goes for Star Wars as well. And that one was actually one of the better.

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LFG

I’ve never really played online miltiplayer games. Most notably (and possibly just), Kingdom of Loathing  with my brother and Guild Wars with my husband. …my real one. Although I am not big on these games, I do know something about the culture. And I’ve read 1/2 Prince.

But I really like stories set in games like that. My favourite is Epic, because even though the game literally defines their lives, the player-citizens are completely aware that it is not reality. An important part of reality, that is not really seen as a game anymore. But the separation is nicely done.

In contrast, I have very little patience for MMO stories where the players seem to forget that they are playing a game. 1/2 Prince really straddles the line, but .hack//SIGN goes right off. In these kinds of stories, no matter how much game lingo or visual implications that the setting is a game world, all of the characters act as if the game world is the real one. The real world where it matters if things or people die, where ideals related to that world must be protected, and so on.

In .hack//SIGN, this makes me feel like I got stuck playing Star Ocean: ‘Til the End of Time. In a word: disappointed.

And all of that was a tangent caused by my dumb post title. Choose your words carefully, you might end up interrupting yourself.

For those who, like me, have to ask what some acronyms mean, LFG is apparently “looking for group.”

I miss collaboration. I’ve had a few collaborative projects go sour–once the other people involved not only concocted a nasty way to ditch me, but also stole a few of my ideas from a couple of our collaborations. But that can’t ruin collaboration for me.

But how to find a “group”? It’s not easy. For me, anyway. I’ve tried to interest different people in roleplaying, interactive fiction, writing projects. Nothing. It’s very discouraging, and it makes me feel like I don’t have anything to offer. Or maybe I just feel bad, and I’m beginning to infer things.

When I was actively involved in several collabs at once, it was the highlight of my day/week to write an update or read one. Now I barely feel like I have an audience. It’s no wonder that I can’t finish another novel. Sure, I enjoy writing for myself. But I’m not all that bothered about reading the ending sometimes.

Leave yourself alone for too long and your mind starts playing tricks. I think mine has access to a jokes shop.

I don’t think I have anything I want to accomplish in writing this post. It wasn’t fun, and now I’m not even sure of what it was that I wanted to say. It’s just…kind of depressing. Oh well. Better out than in, I suppose.