This episode is all about Halo Legends. Anthony made Brian spend THREE POUNDS of your Earth money on a DVD that was certainly an anime anthology about the videogame Halo. Has Anthony pulled a reverse Pugyuru? To find out, use your ears to listen to the newest episode of Dynamite In The Brain.
N.B. We do not reveal what a “Reverse Puyuru” is in the episode. Or even mention it.
I’ve been thinking over this piece for around a fortnight now, written a bunch of words, deleted a bunch of words. I knew there was a connection between the popularity of the NES/Famicom and the trend towards stumpier character designs in anime, but was having a hard time articulating it. Then, when stretching my arms, it clicked.
Nintendo characters circa 1990 were trapped in a box.
The limitations of the sprites on the NES meant they were trapped in either a square or rectangular box. The square box has a pretty obvious parallel with super-deformed designs, squatness is forced on you if you are designing within a square.
Now a rectangular box would surely give an opportunity to design a character with more human proportions. That may be true, but these boxes were quite small. If you had a sprite 16 pixels high (and you weren’t combining spirites), and you go on the assumption that the ideal adult human proportion is eight heads high, you’d only have 1 or 2 pixels to draw a face.
For instance If you take Mario, he has a 7 pixel face on a 16 pixel body.
And his roided up incarnation, Super Mario, has a a 12 pixel face on a 32 pixel body.
So rather than taking up an 1/8th of their height they are taking around 1/3-1/2 of their form.
Now let’s take a look at some anime characters to see how their proportions compare.
The eternal presence that is Doraemon is more head than anything else, taking up more than 50% of his height.
Hat, the hero of Magical Hat, has a bonce that consumes 30% of his height.
Musashi likewise has a 30% head (more if we included all his headdress)
Meanwhile in the world of OAVs, Yang Wenli of Legend of the Galactic Heroes head was pretty much falling into the 1:8 ideal.
Now lets look at some of the videogame outings for these guys around this time:
As you can see in the above video, Doraemon is clearly identifiable in his NES version. Is the rest of the game in the tone/look of the franchise? Probably not, but your money maker is the Doraemon iconography.
Even though he benefits from the Megadrive’s increased capabilities, Magical Hat’s design, is more squat than the anime’s. He’s still identifiable though, and maintains all the design elements. It’s worth noting that the manga design resembles the game more than the anime.
Karakuri Kengo Den Musashi Lord really displays exactly how miniaturised character designs might end up during this era. Is our stumpy samurai still recognisable in this head-heavy form? Just about.
The LOGH guys were confined to home computer strategy games for a while, eventually making it the SNES in 1992. While the portraits of the characters look a lot like the originals, they are just that, portraits. The game itself is still a text heavy strategy adventure for spods.
If you check the blog, CHOKOCAT’s Anime Video Gamesyou’ll see that there was a vague divide to the sort of anime, the sort of game and systems they appeared on. Anime that appealed to otaku and had designs that were more realisticly proportioned, tended to appear on home computers in adventure and strategy games. Anime that appealed to the mass market and had more cartoony designs tended to appear on NES (and eventually SNES & Megadrive). Somewhere in between was that wooliest of consoles, the PC Engine.
It’s not a hard and fast rule, you’d see things like that LOGH game above on the SNES and even on the NES you’d have more realistic proportions attempted. But those attempts tended to be fairly horrific, this Sakigake!! Otokojuku game for example:
Obviously, as “Visual Novels”, the home computer anime game market survived past the deaths of the many systems that supported them during this time, and the death of the OAV market. In fact I wonder if it surplanted the OAV market to a degree? Someone who knows and cares more about those two topics should look into that.
What I do know is that we do see that market now feeding the late night/DVD/BD anime market segment with the various Visual Novel adaptations we’ve seen over the last 15 years. It strikes me as odd that a medium that developed as a way to ape anime designs more accurately, ended up decades later with character design trends that frequently translate so poorly into animation.
One video game company who do get animation character design right, is Level 5. Which is why I was quite happy for this historical post suddenly turn topical the other week when it was announced they’d be developing the new Gundam project, Gundam AGE. Obviously games systems today don’t have the same design constraints as two decades ago, but Level 5′s designs have varied proportions and more importantly they aren’t overly designed. They should transfer easily from game system to game system to animation to toys to merchandise with little need to compromise with each move.
Compare that to evolution of SD Gundam, starting as simple capsule toys versions of Gundams, the design ethic ended up frequently being more complicated than your full sized robots as they became a flurry of shiny attachments.
OK, this is drifting now. It’s like when I bought a 360 last year, all of a sudden I felt like was being called on to have an opinion on videogames again. My interest only stretches so far. Next time – TV anime, not videogames and the year 1991.
This is the third of three reviews of films I caught at the BFI’s Anime Weekend. They run the weekend every couple of years and it’s well worth paying attention to as you’ll get a chance to see films you won’t at UK anime conventions (i.e. Mind Game in 2006, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time in 2008).
Luke and Professor Layton find themselves in a puzzle contest promising eternal life.
This film is not going to disappoint fans of the Professor Layton games, and there’s likely enough of those fans that it won’t need any other audience.
That being said, there’s only a couple of instances where familiarity with the games is intended, and frankly if you’ve only played the English language releases, they’ll likely leave you similarly non-plussed as the non-fans. You see, this film takes place after the fourth game in the series, part of a prequel continuity set before the games we’ve had translated so far.
That means there are a handful of characters it assumes you are familiar with, such as Layton’s other assistant, Remi Altava and Inspector Grosky, the ridiculously manly Scotland Yard detective, whose chest hair is always trying to escape his shirt. You won’t have met them yet unless you’ve played Professor Layton and the Spectre’s Flute, but with one exception you can easily grasp their characters within seconds of their introduction.
Otherwise, it’s easy to grasp what’s going on in the story, no matter how preposterous it gets. And it does. It is Professor Layton after all. However, like the writing on the games, it does such a good job of drawing you into Layton’s world, that it is still completely possible for you to guess the final reveal, even though it is completely outside of our reality. It makes complete sense given what you’ll have seen up to that point and it plays fair in giving you clues to that reveal. The Sherlock Holmes influences in the characters and the Lupin III influences in the game’s OTT set pieces, means it all transfers very well to the screen. Even the puzzle sections work well, and they even find a way to fit the games typography organically into the film.
Visually it continues the look of the OLM produced cut scenes and Level 5′s character design. This means you get a cast full of big headed grotesques and weirdos, who move in a very pleasing manner with some strong camera movements. I really, really like some of the running sequences in both the film and the game cutscenes. They are just so full of character.
Layton himself is probably the weak point, the would-be iconic nature of his design and particularly his dot eyes, leaves him rather plain in terms of expression when placed next to plucky Luke, the boisterous Grosky or the ass-kicking Remi. Though that might be just because he’s a British Gentleman as the script continually reminds you to comic effect. Though apparently being a British Gentleman means chatting during an opera performance and blocking the view of the people behind with your big top hat. He does get an action scene of his own near the climax that is quite fun despite the limitations in his character design.
Definitely a must see for fans of the games, but certainly worth a rental or visit to a screening when it becomes available whoever you are.
While I knew this show existed, I had no idea it had actually been released in English, along with the toys. Possibly because I’m not Australian. Or a child.
Like Yu-Gi-Oh or Beyblade, it essentially takes the target audience’s own experience with the toys and adds a layer of fantasy on the top of it. It’s a different relationship of the audience to both the toy and the cartoon compared to the toy based cartoons around when I was growing up. With Thundercats, He-Man, Transformers and the like there wasn’t a real viewer substitute in the cartoons (if there was, they weren’t the main hero), nor did the actual toys show up in the cartoons themselves. Instead the toys were representations of things in the cartoons and your relationship to them when playing was more director than actor. With a show like Crush Gear Turbo, you’re basically watching a kid, presumably your own age, play with same toys you’ve got (or will have if the advertising works!). You’re almost part of the show, part of the world of the show.
I think that’s where a lot of videogame adaptations come undone. You’ve got these toy shows adding a level of identification and immersion to the cartoons and toys, but in most cases a videogame adaptation is removing that. Pokemon gets it right by applying many of the “rules” of the game to the world of the cartoon, so you can identify with Ash and chums if you’ve played the game. Too often videogame adaptations are obsessed with the characters and game world, rather than the rules, despite the fact that whether or not they are conscious of it, the rules and mechanics of the game are what are most impressed on the player’s memories. That’s why Dave Chappelle’s Grand Theft Auto skit is better than 99% of videogame adaptations.
Late to the party, I was introduced to Hyadain via this song when it was posted on SWFBLOG yesterday. This version below is subtitled by enigmaopoeia. For people similarly late to the party Hyadain’s thing is to add hilariously literal lyrics to videogame music. Which is only the half of it, he’s also a great vocal acrobat and producer – all the vocals in his tracks are him!
I’m kind of resolved to not really being excited by the current generation of electronic game hardware, and my time to play WoW disappeared a couple of years ago when I started my current job. So I’ve been slowly catching up on cheapo PS2 games over the past year or so. And here is a post about that.
GTA Vice City Stories
First things first, what a horrible port. I don’t know if the PSP version was this buggy, but until the second island is unlocked this game froze fatally for me many times. You’d be driving at top speed, turn a corner and the entire world would grind to halt.
Secondly, while the protagonist is probably the most pleasant of these games, the NPCs are far more repellent, being plain nasty rather than comically nasty. Once familiar faces start showing up the tone lightens, but good grief some of those early missions and cut scenes are depressing.
On the plus side there’s some nice gameplay improvements with a much expanded hand to hand combat system, options to rebuy your lost equipment in one lump sum, and at the core of the game a crime empire management game. And bar the final mission, there’s no unforgiving missions to stall your fun.
Once I got over the twin speed bumps of bugs and obnoxiousness, it was fun game to play with the usual mix of free thinking sandbox missions and OTT set pieces (the highpoint being the Phil Collins concert).
Dynasty Warriors 3
I’m a big fan of games that involve pressing buttons or mice a lot to kill a lot of enemies. So I don’t know why I had put off playing one of KOEI’s Romance of the 3 Kingdoms-based historical hack-a-thons for so long.
It’s a bit daunting when you start the first level and it tells you that you have one and a half hours to finish the level. ONE AND A HALF HOURS! I’d not sat and played a game for more than a hour in ages. And now I was expected to rapidly hit buttons for 90 minutes? Well it wasn’t quite that bad, but I have to admit it took me a while to work out how best to progress in the campaign/musou mode (namely level up the character before pushing on to the next level). But soon I was obsessed with unlocking characters, weapons, items and battles. Yes it does suffer from popup and slow down on some of the more insane battlefields, but ploughing through 10s of soldiers with your gaudily dressed general as he propels them flying with some kind of polearm, has a visceral thrill that only this “Gauntlet as wargame” franchise can give.
Manga Video were releasing Doomed Megalopolis II: Disaster, Crying Freeman II: The Enemy Within and Tetsuo II: The Bodyhammer.
Anime Projects had Hurricane Live 2032 & 2033 out.
And in computer games, ICE were releasing Akira for Commordore Amiga, CD32, PC and PC CD-ROM.
Maybe in a later issue Wil Overton will overrate it in his videogame review section. Good lord, the tat that got 7/10s in that section of the magazine, this issue has SD Great Battle II getting the videogame review “average”.
IN THE US of A:
There had been some Anime Conventions and they were briefly, vaguely, reported on:
Anime America (25-27 June 1993) – 1200 attendance listed. Guests: Haruka Takachiho, Monkey Punch, Kenichi Sonoda and Megumi Hayashibara. Described as having great events, but poorly run.
Anime Expo (2-4 July 1993) – 1800 attendance listed (wikipedia gives 1,693). Guests: Well I don’t know, it lists a load, then says four didn’t show, but beyond mentioning Haruhiko Mikimoto not showing, I don’t know who the other three who didn’t show were. Described as having poor events (presumably down to lack of guests), but well organised.
Depressing thought of the day: The biggest anime-based con in the UK is now roughly at the size of the Anime America of 1993 (and has been for the last few years), and it’s idea of a guest is Monica Rial.
CPM/US MANGA CORPS were releasing Venus Wars, Area 88 Act II
ANIMEIGO had Dagger of Kamui, Urusei Yatsura OAV Vol. 6
DARK IMAGE ENTERTAINMENT made with Devilman – The Birth of Devilman
US RENDITIONS released The Guyver Vol. 4.
Dark Horse Comics: Caravan Kidd, Version 2.2
Eternity Comics: Robotech II: The Sentinels, Robotech: Return To Macross, Robotech: Invid War, Ninja High School, Zilliion
Viz Comics: Battle Angel Alita, Maison Ikkoku, Ranma, Genocyber, Sanctuary, Pixy Junket, Crying Freeman, Sanctuary, Nausicaa, Guyver, Silent Mobius
New Society Publishers: Barefoot Gen: Out of the Ashes
Idol Defense Force Hummingbird
Erotic Beast High School “Climax Collection”
KO Century Three Beastketeers II – Chapter 3
NG Knight Ramune & 40 DX, Chapter 3 The Satoru Akahori script machine in full effect here.
Ah! My Goddess
Eight Man After
Epic Fantasy Ellcia
Chameleon 2 “Siblings From Hell”
Machine God Corps
No Need For Tenchi:Demon Emperor Ryou Special – The Night Before The Festival
Still loving that translation
Tsui Hark announced as directing the Mai the Psychic Girl live-action film.
Did this ever get anywhere? I remember at one point reading Sparks had the rights to make the film.