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  1. Like
    Wonderfullyevil reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Kitto Sumiwataru Asairo Yori mo   
    First, I should probably address those who questioned why I never played this VN before... the answer is that I did try this VN 'way back when' and couldn't get past the prologue. To be frank, the prologue of this VN is pretty... unimpressive. However, once you get past that prologue, you are put into what probably amounts to the best nakige I've ever played.

    This VN is a kinetic novel, with only a single ending. It combines elements of mythology, mystery, fantasy, and psychological horror (relatively mild) into a single whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. For those who love Araragi (to be honest, I think all of those who read this VN love Araragi) more than Hiyo... my condolences. There is only one path and it is Hiyo's.

    The child-version of Hiyo in the pic above is part of one of my favorite early scenes in the VN and the scene that pretty much locked in my love of the characters as a whole. I'm a sucker for appeals to emotions like the ones in this VN, and there is very little in this VN that doesn't appeal to your emotions on some level. The warmth and kindness of the three girls closest to the protagonist and the dynamic between the four of them is central to most of the story. While Hiyo-love indeed has a big impact on the story, romance in this VN is ultimately merely one of many themes, ranging from the obvious 'love of art' and 'autumn', to 'the nature of kindness'.

    For those who have seen the opening song on youtube... you should probably be aware that the entire OST for this VN is on that level or better. Like many of the best VNs out there, the musical direction and the choice of music in general is superb... a work of art. There are many Chinese-classical and hybrid Japanese-classical themes mixed in with various other types, and this adds to the atmosphere created by the 'old Japan' design of the school and dorms where all the events of the story take place. These aspects, combined with the plentiful expressions and poses given to the characters' tachie, are used effectively to create the 'personality' of the VN as a whole.

    The most important way to evaluate VNs that fall into the 'nakige' category is how much they made you love the characters, thus giving you a reason to cry for them. In that sense, I can honestly say that it leaves almost every nakige I've played in the dust (including all of Key's). The lack of massive casts of heroines and multiple paths serves to make every occurrence in this VN feel 'real', adding more impact to the sorrow, joy, hope, and pride that continually break your heart. I can honestly say that I feel Propeller used the 'kinetic novel' format to its fullest, succeeding in creating a story with an impact far in excess of what it would have possessed if it had been a multi-path story.

    Now... I feel it is about time I stopped praising this VN and spoke about the one issue that bothered me, even after I finished it...

    ... it truly amazed me how bad the VN is during the initial stages. It feels awkward and forced, and that sense of 'eh, what were they trying to do here?!' is so strong at first that it was enough to make me drop this five years ago without a second thought. Of course, back then I hadn't been as thoroughly 'trained' by years of playing moege that are far worse than this... but it is still a flaw in an otherwise awesome VN. That said, once it gets started, this VN is really, really hard to put down.

    Overall, the only people I can't recommend this to are the extreme moe and dark fantasy fans. For all that the designs are most definitely moe, the degree to which the characters suffer in this VN will be a bit much for the soft-moe addicts. For the dark fantasy fans... you'll probably be a bit put off by a lack of action and murder. This VN has precisely one action scene that would interest that type... and it isn't that long (though it is important to the story in general). Everyone else? If you can make it past the prologue, I can guarantee you'll fall in love with the characters, even if other aspects bother you.
  2. Like
    Wonderfullyevil reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Rose Guns Days   
    First, I want to say thank you to those who patiently listened as I whined and complained about this VN as I played it. I should also explain what I was complaining about first, so that people don't get the impression that this is an awful VN, just because I have complaints about it. I'll place this in spoilers for people who don't care about my whining.

    Second, I should say that I have a firm belief that Ryukishi's VNs make better anime than they do VNs, because his scenario design is far better than his writing (not to mention his art). His love for torturing and killing his own characters is very similar to that of George Martin or Glen Cook, but he mixes it up with that peculiar disconnect from reality and surrealism that is unique to Japanese writers, especially when it comes to violence or sex, lol.

    The first part of this story looks like it comes out from a Japanese-colored version of our own film noir. To be honest, I found it pretty amusing and an overall fun ride. I cried and laughed with the characters, and I got to like the various people Rose and her crew met. The second part is somewhat less amusing, as it is mixed in with hope followed by a quick fall into despair, as things take a turn for the worse that never quite gets better. The third and last arc (there are four seasons but only three arcs, really) is devastatingly emotional and full of a despair far surpassing that of the first two. Friends die, others betray, and characters you have come to love suffer. In other words, it has all the ingredients you need for a good trilogy (which is what it feels like).

    The themes involved will probably confuse about fifty percent of those who read this who aren't from Asia. I'm not kidding. Simply put, it requires the ability to appreciate the character, weaknesses and strengths of the Chinese, Americans, and Japanese at the same time. As such, the learning curve for fully appreciating this VN is a bit steep. In fact, in some ways it is more steep than I/O because the matters it deals with aren't matters of science but of culture and people.

    I suggest anyone who wants to fully understand a lot of what they say - especially the exchanges between the Chinese mafia and Rose's people - read up on current events in the relations between Japan and China, because this story has been heavily influenced by the recent mess in diplomatic relations between the two. A lot of it is mixed up with the usual emotionalism that defines Japanese writing, but the core arguments are based in current events, rather than just ones of the distant past.

    Is this a good VN? That's an excellent question, me. To be honest, it is hard to say. There are a ridiculous number of flaws to the setting, and the writing, while much better than Ryuukishi07's past efforts, is still less than poetic (and his event descriptions are still as weak as ever). However, if you just look at the fun factor...? This is a fairly enjoyable experience. Oh, for those who hate to see characters they like suffer or die off or who can't deal with concepts like prostitution, organized crime, or corruption as a matter of daily life this would be a hard VN to read. In some ways, this is far darker than his past VNs, because the actual daily events include no sense of fantasy, save for the setting itself. As a result, people who could enjoy Higurashi, Umineko, and Higanbana with no problems might very well show signs of rejection with this one. At the same time, people who despised the others might very well like this one, because - while it does share all of Ryuukishi's usual habits - both bad and good - it is outside of his usual ballpark in the subject matter.

    Edit2: Whoops, the last edit was a bit too... sharp. To avoid controversy I have sealed it behind a spoiler tag. Read at your own risk.

  3. Like
    Wonderfullyevil reacted to sanahtlig for a blog entry, A commentary on American exceptionalism   
    I'm from the US. We have a strong tradition of freedom here signified in the words of the US Declaration of Independence:
    All men (and only men, but not African men) are created equal. We have a right to Life (except if drafted into the army), Liberty (except when others disagree with you), and the pursuit of Happiness (except if you're a repressed minority).
    In addition, we enjoy unparalleled freedom of expression and as a culture we're strongly opposed to censorship in all its forms.
    We believe in democracy and the right for the people to decide their own government, both at home and abroad.
    We believe that America is a model for democracy everywhere, and that other nations should follow our example.
    American, and proud of it.
  4. Like
    Wonderfullyevil reacted to Darklord Rooke for a blog entry, And so we begin...   
    And so we begin...really really late. Sorry bout that but RL got hectic for a few weeks. PS: I cut this blog post down from 3,000 words, to less than 1,500. You're welcome

    Welcome to the start of my blog series. The way I’ll organise this critique is to go through different writing techniques first, and then showcase how they were badly used by Winged Cloud. Unfortunately due to very strict time-constraints I’ll have to split this first entry into 2 components, so in this blog post I’ll discuss the first writing technique, in the next blog post I’ll analyse how that technique was used in the game. Then in the blog post after I’ll introduce the next writing technique and so forth.

    Eventually I may even get to story, character, and the purpose of scenes. Bear in mind the following are my thought processes about writing techniques, which I assembled myself.

    A necessary Beginning

    What is “good writing?” “Good writing” is the flimsy excuse people on the internet use to give their criticisms weight. If you don’t like a book because the book isn’t for you, then the reason you didn’t like the book would lie on your shoulders. That sounds an awful lot like being your fault. People never want things to be their fault, it’s right up there with taking responsibility for their actions. Ew, who wants to do that? But if you said you didn’t like it because it was badly written, well, then the fault is the book’s and not yours. This is a much better feeling to have.

    But seriously, what is “good writing?” Well, "good writing" is what happens when you take on-board every piece of writing advice given to you over the years and produce a novel which is completely unsellable. That book could be said to have been written in a “good style.”

    AHHH! WHAT IS “GOOD WRITING?!” Okay, okay, the concept is ludicrously straight forward. A story-teller has a story they wish to tell, and in a novel the writing is the method with which that story is conveyed to the reader. If the storyteller can convey vivid and engaging images of the scenes to the reader, then they have succeeded. If the images are not so well conveyed, they could still have succeeded. If the imagery and pacing have been completely screwed, then we can say the writing is not good. A writer’s goal will always be to maximise the impact of their writing so the image is conveyed in an impactful way. Language techniques will be the tools the writer will use, and this goal will consumer their lives.

    In a visual novel the concept is much the same, but less involved. The writer must still convey the bit that are not shown by visuals and sound to the audience.

    Simple, no? So now on to the first technique.

    Technique #1 - Show vs Tell, and when to use each

    Ugh, what a clichéd piece of advice to begin with. Well, there’s a very good reason I started here, and it involves a hat and some small pieces of paper. But let us delve into this "oft-dished-out" piece of advice.

    Everybody always tells budding writers to “show” and don’t “tell,” but the truth is if writers always followed this advice their work would be bloated, it would be boring, and it would be so weighty that nobody would be able to lift the damn thing. A writer will “show” some bits, and they’ll “tell” some bits. What technique they use at each point is a decision only the writer themselves can answer (this is part of a writer’s “style.”)

    So, what does it mean when a writer “tells” something. Well, what generally happens is the narrator observes the circumstances happening around them, but instead of funnelling these observations to the reader, the narrator funnels the conclusions they draw instead. These conclusions will tend to be short, categorical statements (like he was tall, or he was miffed) because that is what we humans tend to do, make a bunch of observations, condense these observations into a conclusion which fits nicely into a category, and file that information away. When this method is overused the problems it can cause are many - not enough information to produce a decent image (you’ve reduced the information so it fits into a bite-size statement,) each person categorises things differently (leading to incorrect images being formed,) and pacing issues (galore.)

    For example, if a reader is told a man is angry, this not only limits information and leads to a less detailed image, but people associate "anger" with different behaviours depending on their own experience and the environment they grew up in. So where the character actually clenched their fists and glared, the reader could have imagined him dropping to his knees, repeatedly whacking himself on the head with a tea kettle, and screeching to the heavens. This affects character development.

    But we humans tend to have very few stock images for each category, so what happens if more than one person in the story is “angry?” What happens if 4 people got “angry”? 6 people got “angry?” Then the reader will be imagining multiple people whacking themselves on the head with a tea kettle. And if everybody gets angry at once? Well, let's just hope there’s a hell of a lot of tea kettles.

    But it doesn’t stop there, every “chair” would be the same, every “2 story brick house” would be the same, every “table”, every “hand”. All “approaching footsteps” would sound the same, even if one of the characters had a peg-leg, and another was a fat, slobby, 4-legged centaur who cried great, soppy tears whenever he had to climb a set of stairs.

    And we’re still not done, because that’s not the only thing an overuse of “tell” does. An overuse of “tell” takes away the manipulation of pacing a writer wields at his disposal. By it’s very nature, the lack of description in “tell” automatically speeds up the pace of events, but during those periods where you want to denote a passing of time or during those periods where you want to slow down the story, more description is added to give the reader an actual and innate feeling that time has passed.

    When a writer “tells” a reader that "half an hour has passed," it doesn’t give the reader a visceral sense that time has, actually, passed. However, wondering about the significance of a man’s hitched up trousers for 5 or 6 very long paragraphs will impart a VERY visceral sense of time passing to the reader.

    So, does a writer need to "show" everything with their prose? No. Often you may not want much detail, sometimes you’ll want to speed up the pace of the scene. Maybe you want to employ default reader images somewhere in your story (here a writer can use “tell” to their considerable advantage.) Flip to any page of any published book and it will always contain a mixture of “show” and “tell.” What mixture you choose will depend on what style you want to employ. But the reason this piece of advice is so clichéd is because many people don’t put enough detail into their writing to impart a decent image to the reader.

    How this applies to Visual Novels

    Visual Novels are a different medium to novels, and with their inclusion of visuals and sound the prose doesn't need to be as dense. But unless the visuals and sounds paint a complete picture, like in The Walking Dead, some prose will still be necessary and standard writing techniques apply.

    Next Post: How Sakura Spirit handled this technique
    Next Next Post: Redundancy, bloat, and the value of precision.
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