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  1. Like
    Kenshin_sama reacted to sanahtlig for a blog entry, Nonconsensual scenes censored in Nutaku's Kamihime Project R   
    Nutaku has been caught censoring dialogues implying non-consensual sex in free-to-play ero-RPG Kamihime Project R, reneging on earlier promises.
    Rape scenes censored in Nutaku's Kamihime Project R
  2. Like
    Kenshin_sama reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Yoru Meguru, Bokura no Maigo Kyoushitsu   
    This game is the second project made by Samoyed Smile, a subsidiary of the same corporation that owns Softhouse-seal.  This is, incidentally, why the game has the really crappy lip-sync and sex animations so familiar from that company's works.  That said, this company is not a nukige company, despite the lateral relationship.
    The game starts with a young teacher, Haruki, teaching a class of dropouts at a night school.  Haruki, having had horrible experiences at his first teaching job, has a poor attitude at first, primarily because he was lured by his estranged father with the promise of the equivalent of $4M in inheritance if he succeeded in graduating the last three students at the night school.
    Haruki is unusual amongst VN protagonists for being an adult with at least some experience in life, and as a character, he is extremely well-written, his humanity laid bare for the reader to see.  The situation is also unusual, since VNs with the kind of atmosphere you start with in this game tend to end up as rape/despair spirals in most cases.  The heroines are all a bit loopy and the protagonist isn't much better, when it comes down to it (situation-wise). 
    Common Route
    However, the game's common route is actually fairly uplifting, once you get past the initial bumps in the road involved in the characters getting used to one another.  Haruki and the heroines slowly get to know one another and even form the beginnings of something like a bond of trust, which comes to a nice high point before the heroine routes split off.  I honestly felt that it was nicely orchestrated, though I did feel that they included an unnecessary number of choices, considering that the events in the common route don't change as a result.
    Koshimizu Hayate
    Hayate is a spiky tsundere who never fails to fulfill the best - as opposed to the worst - standards of the archetype.  She actually has justification for her attitude, for one thing... she came across her flaws honestly.  She is also, despite appearances, probably the most 'normal' of the heroines under the surface.  Hayate is a Japanese male name, which should give you at least some idea of why she hates having her name spoken or written. 
    Hayate's problem, like the problems of many runaways, is with her parents.  I won't spoil it for you, but it is a pretty deep problem... it reminds me of Fumika from Semiramis no Tenbin, except Hayate is a lot more aggressive and less gentle, lol.  Her path is deeply touching, especially as she and the protagonist manage to get over or around their traumas and make peace with who they are.  The student-teacher relationship thing doesn't take its usual turns (probably because the night school itself is too intimate for that kind of social drama to occur), so you shouldn't expect the 'oh they got found out, so he  might lose his job!' crap you see with similar protagonist-heroine relationships in other VNs.
    Kadokura Riko and Kadokura Ayako
    I'm going to be clear about something... I hate real lolicon content in every way, shape, and form.  If this path had discarded the H content, I honestly would have loved it, but the h-scenes in this path ruin it.  This is one of the few cases where I honestly think that sexual content is an active barrier to enjoyment rather than a mere annoyance.  That said, this path is well written... 
    Riko and Ayako are mother and daughter.  Ayako is a weak-mannered, weak-willed young woman who had Riko as a young teenager and is now serving as a single mother to her.  Riko, for her part, is a 'good girl' (think Sachi from Grisaia, though not quite that extreme).  However, there are lots of problems with those two... and the two biggest ones are Riko's 'illness' and Ayako's inability to see anything in a positive light.
    This path is all about the nature of human weakness and it deals more with the protagonist's issues with his mother, as opposed to the ones with his father (which were dealt with in the previous path).  That said, he is far more pathetic in his 'down time' than he was in Hayate's path, so that was another reason why I honestly left this path with a bad taste in my mouth.  The main ending (Riko only) is happy, but the other one is obviously a bad ending, albeit one that is probably pleasant in the sensual sense of things.
    Niijima Kina
    Kina is a sweet-natured airhead.  I don't mean this as an insult... it is an accurate description.  She has a definite learning disability, and she is a natural airhead on top of that.  That said, she is also determined to learn and the first of the heroines to take a shine to the protagonist, partially because he actually takes the time to create a personalized curriculum for her and partially because he doesn't look down on her after a few initial bumps in their student-teacher relationsip (say what you like about him, but he has to force himself to act like an asshole in most of the cases where he does). 
    Kina's path is about even with Hayate's for quality, overall... but when you find out the full reason why she's attending night school, I guarantee you will either wince or cry.  They go into specifics, and it is pretty nasty at times. 
    Kina's path also shows off her best qualities as a character... such as her capacity for love and her empathy.  However, it also shows off some of her negative points... such as being consumed by hatred and being just a tad psychopathic at times, lol.  Unfortunately, despite rumors to the contrary, she isn't a yandere (I thought she would be, but meh), but she comes close to it sometimes.  Probably, if they had a bad ending for this path, she would have gone down that path, since she definitely has potential.
    Overall, this game was a bumpy ride.  Is it good?  Yes.  Is it perfect?  About as far from it as possible while still being a good game.  Reading this game is a high-stress experience, and I actually found myself growing wistful for charage by the end.  Nonetheless, this game is of a type that is rarely seen these days, lining up with Yume Miru Kusuri for the heart-wounded heroines and screwy psychological twists.
  3. Like
    Kenshin_sama reacted to ExtraMana for a blog entry, Channel Awesome Retrospective #1| AVGN ft: NobleAbsinthe   
    Channel Awesome Retrospective #1| AVGN ft: NobleAbsinthe 
  4. Like
    Kenshin_sama reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Experimental book post: The Black Jewels Trilogy   
    This is a test post, based on the results of the poll I posted a few weeks back.  The win was borderline, so if I don't get a reasonably large response, I won't continue to post about my conventional reading.
    The Black Jewels Trilogy, by Anne Bishop is one of my favorite book series of all time.  It is a dark, sensual fantasy based in a unique universe, where a race of magic aristocrats called the Blood rule three worlds, Tereille, Kaeleer, and Hell.  The main characters of the story are a triangle surrounding one young girl whose very existence is their every hope and dream... for she is 'Dreams Made Flesh', Witch, the Queen of the Darkness.  Those main characters are: Daemon Sadi, a male pleasure slave that has been twisted by over seventeen hundred years of abuse at the hands of the women of Terreille, protecting himself from madness only by the prophecy given to him seven hundred years before, that Witch was coming;  Lucivar Yaslana, a slave and member of the winged Eyrien race, who has lived his entire life being called a half-breed bastard; Saetan SaDiablo, the High Lord of Hell, the High Priest of the Hourglass, who became a half-undead Guardian fifty thousand years before so that he would one day be given the opportunity to serve and protect the 'daughter of his soul'... and the father of Lucivar and Daemon; and last of all, the point around which the three revolve, Jaenalle, dreams made flesh, Witch, a kind-hearted young girl who wanders the Realms and is destined to one day rule from Ebon Askavi.
    First, I should note that the Blood are matriarchal, forming circles of obligation centered around natural-born Queens (a cast based on a genetic quirk that isn't tied to magical power but rather the nature of the female), who in turn form circles of males who serve to form a court.  The highest rank of male are the Warlord Princes, primal individuals who possess sharp, murderous tempers and an intense need to protect.  Ideally, the Queens hold their leashes lightly, and the first rule of Blood Protocol is to 'protect', then 'serve', and third to 'obey'. 
    Unfortunately, due to the influence of two ambitious Priestesses from the long-lived Hayllian race, the Blood in Terreille have become twisted and corrupt, the good Queens vanishing over the course of generations, leaving only twisted monstrosities of the human spirit in their place, women who know only how to use and enslave men... resulting in the men in their districts becoming ever more twisted themselves, as their experiences warp their reactions to their instincts, breaking them a little more with each generation. 
    It is into this Terreille that Jaenalle is born and Daemon and Lucivar have lived.  Saetan, bound by his personal honor, has not been able to protect his sons, and when the daughter of his soul, already wounded by the corruption in Terreille first appears before him, it is only his long experience and iron will that keep him from crossing the final line he has held to for over fifty thousand years.
    This series is a story of the trials and travails of the circle of relations that orbit the four points of the triangle, as the outer points try to protect the center, Jaenalle, so that the dream might one day become a salvation to them all. 
    Honestly, Anne Bishop's brilliance lies in her ability to intimately portray the emotional travails of the characters, the subtle and not so subtle dance of Protocol and power, and the unique nature of the Blood make this one of the single richest experiences out there for dark fantasy.  In a culture where murder is legal but rape is punishable by death, but where the rules are breaking down, the central characters are a bastion of sanity in a world rapidly heading toward horror and despair beyond imagining. 
    As Anne Bishop says in the forward in the omnibus edition, 'I started this world with Daemon, Jaenalle, and Lucivar, but it was Saetan who brought it to life.' She started out imagining a world where Darkness was, from the beginning to end, the dominant force, and in that darkness were both a vicious edge of violence, a terrible gentleness, and a primal, deep sort of love.
    The characters in this series are passionate, with deep wells of potential violence and compassion both.  Saetan, Lucivar, Daemon, and Jaenalle are all individuals possessing a near-infinite capacity for both love and violence... and above all, they strive to protect.
  5. Like
    Kenshin_sama reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Random VN: Zero Infinity - Devil of Maxwell   
    I've been saving a replay of this VN for years.  My original opinion on this VN was excessively influenced by the fact that this VN is filled to the brim with Masada and Dies Irae worship.  However, it is also the VN that, separate from that, defined the second Light team's style.  The base character archetypes, roles, and numerous aspects of their settings were almost universally drawn from Dies Irae, if you strip away the specifics.  This is the biggest reason I had so much trouble properly rating this VN the first time around.
    First, I should mention what is perhaps the most defining element of this team's VNs... there is at least one Mercurius/Reinhardt type in every one of their VNs.  I don't mean in the specifics... but in the sense that those two were 'spontaneously generated absolutes'.  Both Mercurius and Reinhardt were characters who, at the core, were already 'complete' from the beginning.  In each of this team's games, there is at least one character of that type. 
    The reasoning for including such characters is probably because 'absolutes' tend to create powerful emotional reactions in people and naturally become catalysts for conflict.  As a tool for progressing chuunige stories, they are an ideal element.  Since these characters are transcendent from the beginning, they tend to change very little during the progression of the story, further pinpointing their role as catalysts.  I could name each such character for you, but I'll limit it to this game... Akizuki Ryouga. 
    Akizuki Ryouga is the protagonist of Zero Infinity, a young man who has a rather... unusual philosophy and a mentality that is like that of a person born already close to achieving enlightenment.  Quite naturally for a chuunige, he gets dragged into an underground war between powerful cyborgs called Imaginators, rebels and hunters from Holologium, the organization that rules the world.
    The setting is 1967 Japan.  The Japan of that era had achieved a 'miraculous' economic recovery after WWII and was approaching its peak, its population recovering rapidly from the loss of the previous generation. 
    The structure of this story is identical to Dies Irae's, at least in how it handles the route order.  It gives you a choice of two 'initial routes', and if you finish one you can access the route of the first main heroine, whose path reveals the truths ignored or left untouched in the first paths, and after you finish the first main heroine's path, you can complete the second main heroine's path, where all the loose ends are tied off and you get an untainted good ending.
    Now... one thing I love about this game is the way it humanizes the antagonists.  Setting aside the antagonist who is a heroine (Elizavetta), Ivan Strigoi, Alexandre Raskolinikov, and even Apollon leave a powerful impression.  Ivan is the only one I can talk about without spoiling things to a ridiculous degree, so I'll focus on him.
    Ivan Strigoi is something of a tribute to the Einherjar of Dies Irae (all the characters are tributes to Dies Irae ones... lol).  He is a man wrapped in bandages who has lived his entire life on the battlefield.  He is a believer in the value of heroism and loves those who strive (both in war and in everyday life) above all other things... including those who he kills or try to kill him.  Like Elizavetta, he is also a former Soviet soldier, turned into an Imaginator after death and recruited into Gears to hunt rogues.  I'll be straight... this kind of smiling warrior who loves with a passion all those who stand on the battlefield with resolve never once brought out negative emotions in me, despite all the crap he put the protagonist's side through.  It is just so hard to hate him, lol.
    As for the story itself... well, it is a Light chuunige.  Stripped of the irritation over the excessive tributes to Dies Irae, it is actually right up there near the top.  After all, this is the team that made Vermilion Bind of Blood and the Silverio series.  I will say that this game is significantly better balanced (lol to anyone who has read this VN) than the Silverio series, as that one put so much emphasis on the main/true paths that the neglect became painful in retrospect.  That said, its flaws are actually glaringly similar to a lot of the greatest of chuunige... the antagonists remain in your memory more strongly than the protagonist and heroines, lol. 
    Years after playing this the first time, I still remembered Alexandre and Ivan clearly, even though my memories of the heroines were getting blurred... and that is fairly typical of my experiences with a lot of the better chuunige out there.  There is something about the genre that demands a strong set of antagonists to bring the story to life, which is why chuunige with pathetic antagonists tend not to remain in memory.
    Anyway, this VN's theme is more than a little painful for anyone born into modern society.  The characters are rather blunt about their feelings about where society is going as a result of scientific progress, and it plays pseudo-prophet when it comes to the effects of the internet on people's psyches.  As such, the first reaction of some people when it comes to the philosophical ramblings of the characters (an inevitable side-effect of this being a chuunige) will probably be more negative than is the norm. 
    I could spend several days analyzing this VN... but I'm going to stop here.  For people who want a heavy chuunige, this is a good choice, but I wouldn't recommend it for anyone else, since it is  so blatantly a chuunige in every particular.
  6. Like
    Kenshin_sama reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, A Ramble: Various Random subjects   
    The Poll
    To be straight with you, this is a suggestion that has been brought up numerous times by the small number of people I recommend books (in English) to.  I am a bibliophile, with a focus on history, anthropology, fantasy, and science-fiction.  It has been suggested to me that I should add book reviews/commentaries to my blog in addition to my posts on VNs.  While this is in some ways a good idea... I'm unsure if it makes sense to post about non-otaku content in this blog.
    Fantasy VNs
    My first love has always been fantasy.  When I was a kid, I found reality to be boring and had my own bout of chuunibyou, which lasted almost to the end of high school.  That love of fantasy never went away, and I honestly have no desire for it to do so.  Fantasy VNs make up approximately fifty-five percent of the VN of the Month quality VNs I've read over the years... a fact that is partially a function of my personal tastes and mostly a function of the fact that fantasy is 'flexible' in a way that most other genres aren't.  To be blunt, the biggest selling point for the writer is that they can do whatever they want with a fantasy setting, as long as it is internally consistent. 
    For the reader, nothing beats the escapism provided by fantasy.  Fiction, to one degree or another, is about escaping one's own life to experience the life of another person or persons.  Fantasy is, in many ways, the penultimate genre for escapism... but in exchange, it demands certain capabilities of the reader.  One is 'suspension of disbelief', a skill/capability that allows you to take the setting seriously, as long as it maintains its internal integrity.  Another is the ability to see fantasy characters as people.  Sadly, some people are incapable of either, and those are the type of people who generally can't understand or enjoy fantasy... even the 'grittier' and more 'realistic' stuff.
    Science Fiction VNs
    There is that infamous Clarke's Third Law, that any sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from magic.  This is the primary reason why fans of fantasy and science fiction find it so easy to go between the two... and also why the two genres tend to be in the same aisle at bookstores.  Science fiction VNs again make up a disproportionate number of the best VNs out there, though to a lesser extent than fantasy (for the purposes of this argument, I relegate science-fantasy to the fantasy genre). 
    Science Fiction, however, is interesting to a much wider audience than fantasy, in some ways.  It is less flexible than fantasy, because the writer ignores established theories at his/her peril, and science fiction readers are often popular science junkies, leading to a somewhat higher standard when it comes to consistency at times.   The main reason for the popularity of this genre is that it is the 'genre of hope and despair', the Pandora's Box of fiction.  In the mind of an idealistic sci-fi fan, the visions given to us by sci-fi writers are prophecies of a potential future, and in the eyes of the more cynical, they are warnings against future perils.  Either way, this genre is immensely fun to discuss with others, and it can lead to some truly interesting... and long arguments. 
    The people who began producing the slice-of-life focused genre of VNs that eventually became the single largest umbrella genre in visual novels other than nukige have a lot to answer for.  Because this 'genre' takes in bits and pieces from other genres at need, it makes up roughly one quarter of my highest quality VNs list (most of them fantasy or sci-fi ones)... but, on their own, charage are a poison pill for the Japanese end of the industry. 
    To be blunt, as Japanese society has begun to shift its attitudes, fewer and fewer people are playing non-nukige VNs in general, because charage are the 'face' of the medium.  As older fans depart, fewer new fans take interest, and as a result, the medium itself suffers.  That's not to say the VN industry is doomed... it's not, in the short term.  Charage have momentum, and there is a solid core of people on the other side of the big salty puddle who absolutely adore even the most puerile moe-infested kusoge among them who will ensure the genre's survival for at least another decade.  Unfortunately, profits are probably going to continue to drop from the medium's heyday all that time.
    I do like charage... but the sheer mindlessness of a lot of the ones produced in the last four years or so has left me exasperated.  This genre sometimes produces some truly excellent games, but the sheer amount of filth I have to wade through comes very close to making it not worth searching. 
  7. Like
    Kenshin_sama reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Random VN: Gokudou no Hanayome   
    Gokudou no Hanayome was released by Galactica (a sister company of Baseson and one of the many subsidaries of Nexton) back in 2011.  I originally played it around the first time I started getting tired of charage... which was horrible timing, thinking about it in retrospect.  To be blunt, I hadn't yet developed my current style of evaluation, and I didn't have as much appreciation for the good points of charage at the time, so I basically judged it based upon what it wasn't... an action chuunige.
    Needless to say, judging what amounts to a love-comedy charage by the standards of a chuunige is fundamentally ridiculous.  The two genres are about as far apart as it is possible while both are still VNs.  However, at the time, I didn't have the right state of mind to properly evaluate this game.
    Gokudou no Hanayome centers around Gokudouin Yuichi, the soft-spoken heir to the world-famous Gokudouin yakuza family... of which there are only three members (his father, Tokiko, and himself).  Yuichi, having been distanced from the daily business of the family by his overprotective, somewhat yandere oneechan Tokiko, is living a relatively normal life until a young woman named Asahi, from another yakuza group that was once subordinate to the Gokudouin, arrives at his door, informing him that she is his fiance.  Soon after, she is joined by the Italian mafioso Fran, Yuichi's cousin Sarasa, and the airheaded American sniper, Amelia.  
    This VN tends to borrow the older style, with a combative relationship between the heroines (the current trend is toward friendly, non-violent rivals or 'only falls for him in her own path' styles) and a protagonist so dense he puts the anti-radiation shielding in a nuclear reactor to shame. 
    The heroine paths are split into three arcs... one centering entirely on the mafia/yakuza aspect of things, contains Sarasa's and Fran's path.  The second, mixing bits of science fantasy in, contains Asahi's and Tokiko's paths.  Amelia's path is... a bit out there.  Once you've played it, you go 'wtf', but I can honestly say I enjoyed all of the paths this time around.  While the romantic aspects are mostly limited (the girls are pretty obvious about their feelings in the common route, so I guess they felt they could ignore that aspect in the actual routes) that didn't really break the VN for me.
    Overall... this VN is generally amusing, with decent comedy (mostly slapstick) and a wacky story.  I honestly think that, with a little more attention to the details, they could have made this into a first-class VN, but as a charage, it is still worth playing.
    Edit: I meant to say this during the main post, but if I had to compare this to a VN or VN series, it would be the series that began with 'My Girlfriend is the President' by Alcot.  The generalized atmosphere and some of the back and forth between the characters is very reminiscent of that and Naka no Hito.   As a result, it made me smile more than once.
  8. Like
    Kenshin_sama reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, My odd experiences with Anime icons   
    Anime, if you limit it to Japanese animation (the actual word in Japanese refers to all animated shows, but I'm limiting the definition to J-animation), has been around since 1917, but anime as we know it, in its earliest distinct form, was born in the 1960's.  My personal experience with anime (where I understood it to be anime, as opposed to my Voltron experience in the mid eighties as a kid) began in 1992, with Record of Lodoss War (the OVA series, not the TV series), drawing me in and making me a fan instantly. 
    At the time, certain anime were considered to be 'icons' of the medium... Astro Boy, Dragonball, Ranma, Mobile Suit Gundam, etc.  After becoming a fan of anime, I was introduced to them, and by the time I moved to Austin in 1998, I'd already seen three of my old favorites achieve 'icon' status (The Slayers, Tenchi Muyo, and Yuyu Hakusho).  Now, it is really, really weird to see something you watched almost as it came out being referred to as 'iconic'.  Moreover, seeing something you liked become referred to as genre-defining (Noir, Love Hina, Ai Yori Aoshi) can leave you with complicated feelings... it tends for me to be an odd mix of pride and embarrassment.  
    Now, most of the time in the US, TV shows are generally only considered iconic when they've run for many seasons or won a number of academy awards... but most of the time, anime that are considered iconic are made so by fan acclaim, and the line where famous ends and iconic begins tends to be rather murky. 
    I doubt many with a strong knowledge of the last forty years of anime would fail to consider Legend of the Galactic Heroes or Tenchi Muyo to be iconic.  However, if you were to ask one who had lived through those times at what point they became so, you would probably just get a helpless shrug  in return.  Legend of the Galactic Heroes is considered by many to be the peak of the now-deceased anime space opera sub-genre (since only a few have been made since and none even came close to it in scale or quality).  The fact that it manages to maintain a massive fanbase amongst sci-fi anime fans despite its dated visuals says everything that needs to be said about the artistic value of the series.  Tenchi Muyo, on the other hand, is considered a genre-definer.  It combined one old and time-honored anime genre - science fantasy - with at home slice-of-life antics with a spice of romance, essentially pioneering the idea that action science-fantasy series could also have a strong basis in daily life comedy and romance (If you can't figure out how that has effected things to this day, then you aren't looking hard enough at the trends in otaku media over the last twenty years). 
    These are just two examples... even in the last ten years, I've seen anime that I watched out of boredom suddenly become idolized a few years after their release as genre pioneers or an example of what is best in a genre...
    In other words, this whole post is just a ramble about how I'm starting to feel old when I look back at how long my otaku live has been, hahaha.
    Edit: To be clear, anime was my first entryway into the otaku life as I knew it.  I love anime to this day, and while I'm sad at how the medium has stagnated (like most otaku media have stagnated in the last ten years or so) I have faith it will eventually recover.  After all, I find at least one new anime worth adoring with each year that passes.
    Edit2: A few more things... I've also seen treatment of anime fans by society change dramatically since I was a kid.  I don't remember the last time I heard the question 'Are you watching cartoons?' and if you shake three people in an urban area, at least one of them regularly watches the newest stuff on crunchyroll.  It is odd not to be an extreme minority in an extremely niche community, considered to be childish or strange for watching a gory fantasy anime rather than a sitcom, lol.
  9. Like
    Kenshin_sama reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Yuganda Uso to Koi no Letter   
    First, I should note that, despite how it begins, this VN turned out to not be a nukige.  However, it is definitely not a 'pure love' story from beginning to end.  A literal translation of the Japanese name would be 'The warped lie and love letter' with 'letter' being interchangeable with the word for a stereotyped reputation.
    Second, I should warn anyone who plays this to either do Saeko's path last or read only her path.  It is just too hard to pick another heroine after picking Saeko.  I did it, but I can honestly say that I felt like I was abandoning Saeko the whole time.
    This game's setting is like this:  The protagonist as a child was a little... mature for his age.  He and his girlfriend at the time (Saeko) even went so far as to have sex (without really understanding how society would see their actions), and eventually a rumor went around that he had raped her, even as she moved away.  This left him bitter and feeling betrayed, the rumors destroying his family life and isolating him.  The young man at the beginning of this story has basically accepted his false reptutation and chosen to act it out, forming relationships with multiple young women (who are the heroines of this story).  Then, Saeko returns, stating a desire for him to 'dirty' her again.
    A lot of this game is about the protagonist slowly overcoming his past and forming a more honest relationship with the girls despite the rather warped way it begins (thus the name of the game).  Saeko's path can be considered the 'main' path, because it deals most directly with the protagonist's past.  However, regardless of the path, the protagonist manages to get past his trauma and rise above it, if you pick the good ending, lol.
    Anyway, this game surprised me with its quality of storytelling.  I honestly enjoyed the interplay, and the protagonist's change of heart is portrayed with surprising subtlety for a Japanese writer (most Japanese VN writers tend to like the 'sudden overwhelming flood of emotion' way of doing things).  While there is plenty of h content in the game, it is not overwhelming, though it is definitely more than the average charage. 
    Overall, this game is not suited to someone looking for straightforward relationships and love with relatively pure beginnings.  The characters in this VN are all scarred or damaged in some way, which becomes obvious as you play.  Nonetheless, I found it an immensely enjoyable experience.
    Edit: Oh, and if you dislike sado-masochistic relationships, you should probably avoid this VN.  While it doesn't go to the real extremes like mutilation or electric shock, it does touch on more 'normal' SM activities. 
  10. Like
    Kenshin_sama reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Omokage Railback   
    First, I should mention that this review is split into two parts.  One covers the free prequel VN released back in May and the second covers the main game, which was released last week.  My personal advice is that you play the prequel first.  Both games are written in a really odd fashion (multiple narrators with the prequel and third-person with no insight into the protagonist for the main game). 
    The prequel covers the events eight years before the main game, filling you in on how Juri and Masashi (portrayed as the child, Koma) met as children and how Juri ended up on the path that led her to head up the Yoshioka Corporation.  To be blunt... this game is kind of frustrating.  The story is actually pretty fascinating, beginning as it does with a guy being asked to have sex with his best friend's beautiful wife (said guy being Koma's father, a vicious yakuza with an excessive fondness for fighting and drinking).  The story is told with varying characters being interviewed by a reporter serving as narrators, and they are, quite naturally, non-omniscient, knowing only their own viewpoints on what happened.  The biggest similarity in style between this and the main game is that you are never treated to the protagonist's stream of consciousness in either.  Both protagonists are the silent type, only rarely speaking their minds. 
    There is some violence in this one, and it deliberately skirts around the edges of the yakuza activities involved.  However, this, quite oddly, did not detract from the experience for m.  I can say quite honestly that the main game would be a lot less comprehensible if I hadn't read this.
    Main game
    Omokage Railback's main game is set eight years after the incident portrayed in the prequel, and Koma (Shimizu Masashi Jr) has become Yoshioka Masashi, having been adopted into Juri's family and made CEO of the company (though because of the unique structure of the conglomerate, the real power lies in the hands of some really warped older people and Juri).  His first job as CEO is to make a deal for development of the resources of Yagurana Village, a small town that once faced off against the exploitative tactics of the Yoshioka corporation and won.  
    I'm going to be blunt... the storytelling style of the main game is uncharacteristic for the VN medium in that it gives you almost no insight into the protagonist's inner workings or feelings.  The fact that I still found the game enjoyable is a measure of the writer's skill, but it was kind of weird playing a VN where the viewpoint kept switching between heroines and side characters rather than primarily revolving around the protagonist's point of view. 
    This game is kind of short... and, in my mind, this harmed the game's quality somewhat.  This game could have used a far more extensive stretch of slice-of-life character development, but, instead the game hurries things along in a way that felt a bit hasty. 
    Surprisingly, this game tackles some concepts that otaku media tends to avoid, such as transgender (non-comedic) and homosexuality (non-idealized), though obliquely through the acceptance of the said characters for who they are.  I did rofl repeatedly at the fact that the two hulking African-American bodyguards Juri has along with her were in love with Masashi.  The fact that you never get to know whether Masashi is actually aware of the fact that they've been stalking him (on Juri's orders) since he was taken in by the Yoshioka family was one of the many mysteries of the rather warped human relationships in this VN.  More serious is Asuka, the transgender maid who appears midway through the story.  Apparently, Masashi's reaction (or lacking of it) when finding out she was transgender was one of the major factors that led to her infatuation with him.  I don't call her a trap because she doesn't really fall into that 'moe-moe' characterization.
    Getting back to warped relationships... there are very few relationships in this VN that aren't warped.  Juri is obsessed with Masashi to the point of psychosis, Lemon gets high on housecleaning (not housecleaning products, but the actual act of cleaning the house), Juri's mother... well, let's avoid spoiling that one.   Even the seemingly innocent Iroha has Aya (another heroine) as her 'poison taster' (who is also required by Yagurana custom to 'test' a prospective lover first). 
    Overall, it is impossible to fit this VN into a single genre.  It also breaks Japanese VN conventions in about every way possible without abandoning the otaku style entirely.  That said, I enjoyed this VN, despite the isseus I also had with it. 
  11. Like
    Kenshin_sama reacted to ExtraMana for a blog entry, Blue Reflection: Activated Almonds Stream   
    Follow me on: ExtraMana Tumblr
  12. Haha
    Kenshin_sama reacted to Dergonu for a blog entry, Derg's life in Japan - Cockroach vs Pringles -   
    This is a tale of chips, bugs and DEATH.
    Last week I had the joy of seeing a cockroach in my bathroom. My reaction was obviously to scream, shut the bathroom door and flee into my bedroom, where I remained for 30 minutes, stunned by fear. After playing with the idea of never ever setting foot in my bathroom again, I thought to myself: "No! I have to man up and fight this thing!" Grabbing a plastic bag, I rushed into the bathroom, ready to trap the fucker and throw him in the garbage. But... he was gone. Now, there is absolutely nowhere he could have gone. My bathtub is stuck to the floor, so there is no crack to hide under, and I looked all over the tiny, tiny bathroom and he wasn't hiding on the ceiling, or in some corner. He was legit gone. This of course made chills run through my body, as I thought I had found a cockroach with superpowers. Scared to death, I went back to cowering in fear for another good 10 minutes, before I decided to just stop thinking about the fucker. I started brushing my teeth, getting ready for bed.
    Then, as I spat into the sink, and the toothpaste ran down into the drain, I saw something rush past me. Turns out, the cockroach had fled into the pipes, then hooked onto the pipes and sat in there. (They can do this with their hind legs, apparently.)
    The fucker was back, and he was almost touching me. Screaming, I ran out of the bathroom and grabbed whatever I could find that could be used to trap the fucker with. And there was... an empty pringles tube.
    I ripped the lid of the thing and slammed it onto the cockroach, trapping him inside the tube. Luckily, the roach was just perfectly sized to fit within the dimensions of a pringles tube, so no part of him was sticking out. I had him completely trapped. Rushing back into the bedroom, I grabbed another plastic bag and some duct tape. I then tried to push the roach into the plastic bag, but he almost escaped as I tilted the tube, so I had to improvise. Pushing the plastic bag against the tube, I stopped the roachs' escape, and shoved him further into the pitch black abyss. Once the whole bag was inside the tube, I taped it shut with duct tape, and threw that into another plastic bag.
    After a short victory dance, I brought the bag containing the defeated roach outside, and threw it into the garbage.
    Derg 1 Roach 0
    - Fin -
  13. Like
    Kenshin_sama reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Anniversary 2017   
    Well, the fourth anniversary of my VN of the Month series of posts is coming in another week or so... and to be honest, I'm a bit amazed at how long I've kept this going.  Four years of playing most of the non-nukige VNs that came out each month, writing something on them, then picking one to be VN of the Month (or not, if none met my standards)... to be honest, my opinion hasn't changed much since the last time this time of year came around.  VN of the Month is one of the single most grueling tasks I've ever set myself outside of work, and I can honestly say that there are a lot of times when I just want to put it all aside. 
    However, I inevitably find myself coming back and playing more VNs.  If I take a week off from VNs, I inevitably tear back into my addiction with insane glee, and it usually at least takes three or four bad VNs before I finally run down and need a recharge. 
    I thought about making a poll asking if I should stop, like I did the other years... but the results - and the suggestions - are always the same, so I'm really more interested in what people have to say about this whole thing.
  14. Like
    Kenshin_sama reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Playing and Replaying old VNs   
    First, I should define what I consider to be 'old' VNs.  I essentially define 'old' VNs by the 'ten year rule'.  When ten years have passed, generally the cultural references, the artwork, and even the sound styles have changed enough to be almost completely distinct from the most modern VNs.  At present, that means VNs made before 2007.
    Now, next I need to make a statement... I am not an art bigot.  One of the most negative issues I've run across in dealing with newer VN readers is art bigotry.  To be blunt, there are lots of people who won't read anything made before 2010 simply because the art style is so different.  To those people I say... 'every era has its own taste'.  While VN art has indeed gotten more refined in the ten years, to the point where it has gotten to where you hardly even notice the characters are drawn in the first place, I can straight-out say that quality art is quality art, regardless of the era.
    Now for sound... setting aside music, which really hasn't been refined at all in the last ten years (if anything, it has regressed, especially usage), voice-acting and sound effects have actually evolved a great deal in the last ten years... at least to the point that you are less likely run across the 'comical' sound effects common in a large portion of VNs ten years ago.  Voice acting has mostly evolved in the sense that people that once would have become pros don't make it anymore, so the industry has become higher cost (for the developers) and higher quality (for the consumers).  In that sense, I can understand some degree of prejudice.
    However, when it comes down to it... I'm a story addict.  Yes, I became an otaku because of the way the Japanese treated animation art.  However, it is the stories that have kept me going.  Now, in my less than copious spare time, I've been re-reading some old VNs... and I've noticed a few things I probably would have missed a few years ago.
    1.  Slice-of-life was less oppressive ten years ago-  I don't think I would have realized this if I hadn't taken this little trip to the past, but the excessively long slice-of-life scenes that define modern charage have been getting longer and longer per scene with every year.  Part of this is probably because of the nostalgia quotient rising for the long-time otakus in comparison with how it was previously.  However, it is a poisonous trend that is actually making the experience less pleasant and more tedious as time passes, unfortunately.
    2.  A well-drawn line can be as pretty as any hyper-quality modern artwork if done right- This is something I always asserted in private conversations, but I wasn't sure if it was pure nostalgia until I went back and actually re-experienced a few old VNs.  Yes, the styles were somewhat cruder back then... but the aesthetics were, if anything, more distinct and beautiful in and of themselves.
    3.  Ero was weaker... except when it wasn't - To be blunt, the emphasis placed on erotic content and the effort put into it was far lower in non-nukige VNs ten years ago.  Less interest went into making heroines more erotic and more was put into making situations erotic, probably to let the libido-poisoned brains of the average male actually look at the characters before they saw them naked, rather than focusing on projection oppai.  That isn't to say the erotic situations weren't erotic... but there was a far stronger emotional element involved because of the way they handled the character designs outside of h-scenes.
    4.  A good story might age badly, but the ones that don't, don't- Some VNs lose all their attraction as they age and more modern VNs exceed them in every possible way.  However, there are still gems out there that are as awesome now as they were the day they were made.  Rejecting VNs simply because they are old is a short-sighted approach that makes me feel nothing but contempt, after my experiences of the last few months. 
  15. Like
    Kenshin_sama reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Random VN: Bishoujo Mangekyou - Tsumi to Batsu no Shoujo   
    For those wondering why I haven't posted recently (two weeks without a blog post is about the longest I've ever gone since the Fuwa blogs opened, save for the Fuwapocalypse periods), I've simply been too busy with work and playing Mask of Truth to bother.  This review was written up by Dergonu before then, and I only just got around to editing it. 
    Bishoujo Mangekyou -Tsumi to Batsu no Shoujo- was my first Mangekyou game, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect of it. The limit of my knowledge of the series was that it has nice art and animated scenes. In short, I went in blind.
    As I started reading, my first impression was that the game didn't feel like a nukige at all. The introduction felt like one you'd see in a story driven game. The writing, music and backgrounds set up a pretty heavy atmosphere, and the first real H-scene doesn't happen until quite some time into the story. Although H is definitely a central part of the game, I'd honestly say this reads a lot more like a "story driven game" than a nukige.  In addition, the game touches on a lot of things that doesn't exactly get your mojo going, like death, incest, rape and mental illness. Needless to say, the game was a lot darker than I had imagined. 
    The story is centered around the twins Yuuma and Yuuri. The main character, Yuuma, harbors some pretty complicated feelings towards his sister. He has spent the last year in a hospital, for reasons yet unknown to the reader, and during his stay, his feelings for his sister only grew stronger.  Clephas: Spoilers contained in the box below.  Since I generally don't post anything that can't be guessed or read from the Getchu or official page of a VN here in terms of actual details, I'm taking the liberty of sticking this section into a spoiler box.  These are minor spoilers, so don't feel like you absolutely have to avoid reading them.  I'm just doing this for the peace of mind of the more obsessive members.  
    The writing in this game was surprisingly good. It even felt poetic at times, and the true ending really had me thinking for a good while. As you might be able to guess by the title, (tsumi to batsu = crime and punishment,) the story delves a lot into morality. It's the type of story that gets you thinking about right and wrong, and how every person has a dark side hidden within them.  I'll leave it at that to avoid spoilers, but, in conclusion, there is a lot more to this game than what meets the eye.  So, I almost feel bad calling it a nukige.   I'd say this is definitely worth a read. (It made me very interested in the prequels. I'll go ahead and read those sometime soon. Hopefully they are as good as this game was.)
    Clephas Note: The Bishoujo Mangekyou series is only technically a nukige series, since it has too much h-content to deny it, but each game has a solidly-written and interesting story. 
  16. Like
    Kenshin_sama reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, An explanation of the "Golden Age of VNs"   
    Some veterans of reading untranslated VNs refer to the period between 2004 and 2010 as 'The Golden Age of Visual Novels'.  However, you shouldn't really take that statement at face value, as the meaning is a bit more complex than you'd think.
    There are some significant differences between VNs today and VNs during that period that both made it the peak of the medium's sales in Japan and produced the greatest ratio of quality VNs to crap VNs. 
    One of the primary differences was that, other than moege, there were no strict genre boundaries and genre conventions had yet to slide into place in the minds of fans and writers both.  Companies were mostly experimenters during that time, sometimes basing their projects on previous works (Tsukihime and the Key games got a lot of knock-offs during this time, of varying levels of quality) and sometimes forging out on their own.  
    Since there were few genre boundaries, companies were more likely to give the creative staff free reign as to what kind of story they could write, and  - ironically - this actually helped define the various genres in the years to come, as people explored the boundaries of how they could stretch a concept or theme in a story.  Some of these attempts were abortive (ie- thematic moege where all the heroines are of the same type, such as tsundere or yandere, generally didn't catch on) but others were immensely successful (ie- the definition of the chuunige genre and its gradual escape from gakuen battle mania).  However, the point is that the writers, directors, and producers of the time were allowed to fiddle with the formula a lot  more than they are now.  Most major companies nowadays have a 'signature style', that was formed during that period, even if their greatest successes weren't during that period. 
    This period also killed the 'pure moege' as a genre, ending the majority genre of the previous half-decade (moege having dominated during that period due to the Da Capo series and Key's games).  The rise of the charage, a demi-moege genre that was much wider in scope and more adaptable, occurred during this period, mostly unrecognized until after the fact.  At the same time, nakige, which had previously been enslaved to the moege genre through Key and others like them, came to define itself as a new, standalone genre that wasn't necessarily dependent on moe stylization.  Even Key itself moved beyond pure moe, though it didn't entirely abandon some elements of it (as the existence of Kud testifies).
    However, this age was already ending in 2009, as clearly-delineated genre norms began to form, and charage became the driver for the industry, taking us back, in spirit, to the age before that.  By 2011, the ratio of truly creative works to derivative works was overwhelmingly in favor of the latter, in comparison to the previous decade. 
    That isn't to say that the years since haven't produced some great works.  That is patently untrue in my experience... but the fact remains that fewer and fewer writers are able or willing to look outside the 'genre boxes' for answers as to what to write.  I sometimes refer to our current age as the Age of Stagnation, where there is an overwhelming industry pressure to stick to genre norms and those that break the mold are so exceptional they stand out more than they should.
    It is possible to create a charage kamige... but it is much easier to make a kamige out of a game that breaks genre boundaries, lol.
  17. Like
    Kenshin_sama reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Clephas Top 50 VNs   
    For the last two years or so, I've gotten repeated requests to unequivocally name my top VNs made up until the present, ignoring objectivity, my vndb votes, etc.  I've more or less just ignored most of those requests, because it is a pain in the ass to name a 'favorite' VN in the first place.  I've made lists of VNs I loved from various genres, and I've also made lists of VNs for a specific purpose.  However, I've avoided making a list like this one up until now, mostly because my 'favorites' switch out so often. 
    Let's get this straight for those who are going to criticize my choices... these are the VNs I like the most, not the fifty best VNs of all time.  I make no pretense to preeminence of opinion in this case, because I'm also discarding all attempts at objectivity.  What a person likes is ultimately a matter of personal tastes, not a matter of logic.
    Why did I make it fifty?  Because my number of VNs played, setting aside replays and nukige, is over six hundred already (with replays and nukige, it is closer to eight hundred...)... I'd be surprised if I didn't have this many VNs I considered wonderful. 
    Keep in mind that these aren't in a particular order.
    1.   Evolimit
    2.   Dies Irae (the one by Light)
    3.   Ikusa Megami Zero
    4.   Nanairo Reincarnation
    5.   Semiramis no Tenbin
    6.   Bradyon Veda
    7.   Vermilion Bind of Blood
    8.   Hapymaher
    9.   Tiny Dungeon (as a series)
    10.  Bullet Butlers
    11.  Chrono Belt
    12.  Ayakashibito
    13.  Otome ga Boku ni Koishiteiru 2
    14.  Chusingura
    15.  Draculius
    16.  Otome ga Tsumugu, Koi no Canvas
    17.  Silverio Vendetta
    18.  Konata yori Kanata Made
    19.  Grisaia series
    20.  Akatsuki no Goei series
    21.  Reminiscence series
    22.  Haruka ni Aogi, Uruwashi no
    23.  Harumade, Kururu
    24.  Soukou Akki Muramasa
    25.  Tokyo Babel
    26.  Tasogare no Sinsemilla
    27.  Komorebi no Nostalgica
    28.  Yurikago yori Tenshi Made
    29.  Izuna Zanshinken
    30.  Moshimo Ashita ga Harenaraba
    31.  Kamikaze Explorers
    32.  Devils Devel Concept
    33.  Suzunone Seven
    34.  Baldr Skydive series
    35.  Baldr Sky Zero series
    36.  Toppara Zashikiwarashi no Hanashi
    37.  Tsuisou no Augment (series)
    38.  Kikan Bakumatsu Ibun Last Cavalier
    39.  Shin Koihime Musou (series not including the original Koihime Musou)
    40.  Soshite Hatsukoi wa Imouto ni Naru
    41.  Tenshi no Hane o Fumanaide
    42.  Irotoridori no Sekai
    43.  Noble Works
    44.  Koisuru Otome to Shugo no Tate (series)
    45.  Kitto, Sumiwataru Asairo yori mo
    46.  Jingai Makyou
    47.  Sakura, Sakimashita
    48.  Abyss Homicide Club
    49.  Re:Birth Colony Lost Azurite
    50.  Owaru Sekai to Birthday
  18. Like
    Kenshin_sama reacted to Aizen-Sama for a blog entry, A rant about the translation scene and the community revolving it.   
    Hello everyone, Aizen-Sama here. I’ve been only around this community and forums for around 6 months by now, and even though I may not be the most knowledgeable when it comes to VN’s in general, I think that I possess enough knowledge about the translation scene. That’s right, today I’m not writing a post about Luna Translations, but one about my opinion on the translation scene, translation groups, and the community revolving them.

    Let us establish how this community and market actually exist in the first place. Piracy and fan translating, they are both mutually exclusive to each other and they are the foundations of what we consider as the “western visual novel community”.
    After some years where piracy slowly started to decrease and official releases started to be a thing I can safely assume that there are three types of people now, one who will support every single game localization and buy the Visual Novels instead of pirating them, one who will pirate everything and anything, or one that will mix between these two because either there is no other access to the game in Japanese to apply the English patch (in other words, you can’t buy the game legally because the Japanese market is already a very difficult place to access with Western VPN’s, mostly because Japanese publishers block them to not let people outside Japan buy these games online, which is usually the only way to get them in the first place) or the individual simply doesn’t support some releases or companies that release VN’s in particular (I’ll set people that want to buy legally a game with a fan-translated patch but can’t do it, so they have to pirate the VN even if they don’t want to as an example).
    This last example leads to another concerning issue, the relationship between translation groups and the community itself. It’s partly human nature; when a group establishes itself and releases a patch (no matter whether it’s full or partial) we automatically create what is called a “power level” between these two types of people, the users that translate and work on translating games in one way or another (editing, QC’ing, etc…) and the users that simply play the releases made by the first ones.
    This so called “power level” is what should be avoided at all costs, sometimes the community must remember that the people that belong to translation groups (whether they are official or not) are part of the community as well, and have their own stances and way of doing things.
    Those “power levels” are automatically made, and they are the primary reason of this community’s fragmentation into several “sub-communities”, which is a problem mainly for the translation groups. What I’m trying to say here is that what is constantly happening right now is that what this “power division” has made is to categorize groups by number of patches released (the more they have released the more praised they are) and that has ultimately lead to two things; groups distancing themselves from the community, which is a very bad thing for both of the parties involved, and groups distancing from each other.
    What I mean by this last statement is that there is no communication between teams, which leads to what is happening in the actual society that we live in: the individualization of people (Tl-teams in this case). But regarding that aspect, some groups have managed to find a solution to this matter. Let’s put @Arcadeotic's (Euphemic Translation) and @oystein's (Elevator TL) groups for example; both of them have found a way to make the community feel closer to their groups thanks to their “Public Discord Server Policy” (that’s how I call it) and both of them are in the TL Leaders Discord Server (basically a group to try to unite translation teams more, an initiative from Arcadeotic and I). That group has opened my eyes in many aspects regarding team stances towards piracy as well as opinions about the community and it's relation with the Tl teams. This group has also helped me in getting to know people that otherwise I would have never met even if we were active members of this forum and interacted with each other sometimes, like for example Dergonu, Oystein, Kardororororo, and many more.
    What I’m ultimately trying to say is that banding together is a rare thing for groups now, and this is the first step to create a community feel again, something that, in my opinion, is being lost little by little and needs to be stopped.
    I’ll mention another issue that many people find itchy, and that is the topic of “the sense of entitlement of a loud minority”.
    I’d like to make myself very clear about this; I know that there is a silent positive majority, and that compared to the amount of people that complain about things about projects and English patches this majority vastly overcomes the “minority”, but the matter of fact is that this “loud minority” is what gives people that are new to the community a bad impression about it from the start.
    I’ll set two examples to demonstrate the last point I mentioned: firstly, I’d like to address the Koiken Otome Project, one that took approximately three years to finish. It’s a topic full of controversy, firstly because people firstly speculated that Flying Pantsu was going to “definitely sell out to the localization companies” and they made a ruckus about it.

    First of all, what if they really “sold out” to one of them? That is, in my opinion, a good thing (primarily because I belong to the “buy everything” type of guy instead of pirating unless it can’t be avoided and tend to support official releases), but mostly because, the fact of the matter is that they spent working on an English patch of a game that contains more than 40K lines three years, and the entire effort is theirs, that means that even if they decided to not release the patch for whatever reason, I would have been totally in favor. Why? Because it’s THEIR work and THEY did it, not the people that feel entitled to have the English patch.
    Same goes with the problem that revolved around the time of release. Again, I’ll repeat, the matter of fact is that they could’ve released that patch whenever they wanted because since THEY did the patch, they decide when to release it, simple.

    The second example I’ll highlight in this post talks about Shinku Translations and the controversy that revolved around the SakuSaku patch. If you don’t know what happened regarding this project I’ll quickly sum it up: Shinku Translations made a deal with Sekai Project to release the game officially, what ultimately made people who were waiting for a fan-patch very pissed. The comments on their website were mostly full of “sellouts” and “I already bought the game in Japanese, now I’ll have to buy it again, gg boys” and many more that blew my mind. That was the perfect demonstration of the entitlement that people slowly begin to have when a project is close to being finished.
     I’ll repeat myself once again, just like Koiken Otome and Flying Pantsu, it was THEIR work, so they had the right to make a deal with Sekai Project and do whatever they wanted to the patch. And, as Akerou explained in one of the comments, it could lead to more titles being localized, which, in my opinion, are good news!
     People have to start realizing that sooner or later, the entire scope if not most of the translation scope will shift towards official releases instead of fan-patches.
    As a last argument regarding this matter, I’ll mention a couple of YouTube comments that I found in the official OP video of SakuSaku published by Sekai Project’s YouTube channel, they basically said this:
    “That's a low punch SP. That's just low. The guy translating it is almost done. If you buy the translation from him and release it in the next 2 months I might forgive you. If you do it less than a month you are forgiven.”
    “Well just pirate the release when it comes out. This is one of the cases when piracy is completely justified.”
    These two comments are part of the “entitlement problem” that I’ve addressed before, and I hope they highlight what I’ve been trying to tackle (take into account that these comments are just the surface, just look at the ones in Shinku’s page and you’ll get a grasp of what this community broods sometimes).

    Last but not least, I’d like to address Fuwanovel as a platform for translation projects and my opinion about it as a Leader of a translation group (in this case, Luna Translations).
    Don’t get me wrong when I say that. I love Fuwanovel as a site. It’s one of the principal, if not the main responsible for the appearance of a community that revolves around Visual Novels in general. I love this site, and I appreciate the people that back this site paying monthly (I hope I can do it as well when I get the chance) and the mods for doing their jobs correctly and every other person that supports this site. But, I’d like to tackle the issue of trying to host translation projects in a forum-based website.
     I’d like to point out that the system created in Fuwa worked very VERY well at the beginning stages of the creation of this community. Basically, the “Fan Translator Skills” thread and the “Translation Projects” thread were probably very useful and effective back when the community was niche and not a lot of projects and teams crowded the scene (I’m not directing this towards the “Fan TL Discussion” thread, by the way).
    But, as a leader of a translation team (and I’m sure that many people will agree with me on this) I just think that Fuwa’s way of hosting projects is not as effective as it was probably two or three years ago.
    What I’m trying to say here is that, just like VNDB exists, a platform that focuses solely on helping teams and individuals to work on projects will certainly appear at some point, or at least needs to appear at some point. Summing up, Fuwanovel as a forum focused on the discussion of Visual Novels and the fan translation scene is a very good and positive website, and it’s totally needed for the community to keep growing, but! Fuwanovel (the forums) used as a platform to support projects and teams may have been very effective in the past but not anymore, since now the scope is very broad and more complex compared to when all of this started.
    Finally, to close this rant, I’d like to say that if I had to sum up things probably the most important issue would be that the community is losing the sense of being together, and groups, as well as individuals, are distancing themselves from each other, which is something that has to be avoided at all costs. I’ll personally try to do whatever I can about this matter and little by little this problem will hopefully be solved in the future, because together we can do great things.
    Let’s try to make the translation world great again, as Trump as it sounds.
  19. Like
    Kenshin_sama reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Pragmatic VN gaming: Some common sense   
    For better or worse, the VN localization industry in America and other Western nations is expanding rapidly, primarily due to the efforts of aggressive localization companies such as Mangagamer and Sekai Project, but also due to the increased interest on the part of at least some Japanese VN companies in making a few extra bucks through localization. 
    I say 'for better or worse' because the increase in localizations has actually begun to outline what some of the biggest problems with VNs are, for those living in the West.  What I've put down below is basic guidance... not all of which I follow myself, but which is mostly common sense (which a surprising number of new Fuwans seem to be ignorant of).
    Ethical/Legal problems
    1. Piracy- To be blunt, prosecuting consumers of pirated games is a waste of time, and most companies are quite well aware of this.  So, most of the fallout for this kind of thing is going to keep hitting the websites and individuals who promote the distribution end of things.  A few examples will most likely be made of outspoken pirate consumers (the idiots, in other words), but the problem here is almost entirely ethical for most.  Tell me, do you think it is right not to pay for content if you happen to have the money needed to pay for it?
    2. Lolicon content- Seriously guys?  When I saw that Maitetsu was getting a localization, even though it was an all-ages one, alarm bells went off in my head.  Someone is inevitably going to put up an h-patch for the game, and that is going to cause a huge amount of controversy later on that could be a huge blow to the industry, in the short run.  Loli content is one of the two nuclear bombs of Japanese eroge, and it is the one that honestly bothers me the most personally (not so much morally, as in a pragmatic sense).
    3. Rapegames- I'm going to be blunt... considering the degree to which Western culture has come to consider rape a mortal sin, do you really think games focused around rape and extreme sexual situations (ie the entire Maggot Baits game) are safe for the industry to localize, if you consider their potential to backfire?  There is no conceivable way that these games could be considered anything other than obscene by any reasonable critic (not a community one, in other words), and in the long run, games like these have an enormous potential to castrate the localization industry.
    4. School-based games- Sadly, the excuse that 'all the heroines are over eighteen' is only going to take you so far in some countries... to be blunt, a judge is unlikely to listen to that kind of protestation if, for whatever insane reason, you end up dragged into court.
    Common sense issues
    1. I don't think anyone has any business telling us we can't import Japanese games, including VNs.  However, as a matter of common sense, you should probably avoid importing anything with a lot of content linked to the numbers 2 and 3 in the section above.  I don't mean to piss on your bonfire, but if you are going to buy something with that kind of material, at least have the sense to use digital download purchases and/or don't display the packages for that type of eroge where casual visitors can see them.
    2. Figurines and other side-junk- Within reason, there is no reason why a fan of a particular bit of otaku media shouldn't order figurines, statuettes, oppai mousepads, etc to decorate their room or gaming space.  However, keep it within reason... I've seen otaku friends of mine go insane and overpurchase, even going into debt, over buying swag.  If you aren't rich, have the sense to focus on the main material first, then expand at a reasonable pace into the swag.  To an extent, the same can be said of the games themselves, considering the costs of the actual purchases plus import costs.
    3.  Anonymity is your best friend.  Don't pull stupid crap like linking your Facebook profile to your dlsite or getchu account... for that matter, don't link them to your Fuwanovel account, if you are a fan of 'deep' eroge content.  Leaving that kind of data around for casual skimmers to find is just plain stupid.
    4.  If you are a fantranslator, number 3 applies emphatically unless you are about to go 'legit' by handing your translation to a localization company.
    5.  During scandal times (like when the media is making a big deal over an eroge-related issue such as during the infamous Rapelay incident) have the sense to take cover and avoid conversing on rapegames and lolige publicly. 
    6.  Know the difference between being open about your libido and being excessive *remembers Steve*
    A final comment
    Needless to say, almost all the issues above revolve around controversial sexual content.  Part of that is that many people, both inside and outside the VN fanbase, have trouble marking the difference between fiction and reality when it comes to otaku media (an insanity that I can understand but am long past).  As a legal argument, it (as in the argument that figments of an artist's or writer's imagination, as opposed to real women, cannot be considered underaged and cannot be considered victims in any way, form, or fashion) actually has a lot of merit... but that doesn't mean that they'll rule in your favor, in the end, lol.  The West is prudish, to the extreme.  There is no telling when religious interests will slip a noose around our necks, and general moralists are just as bad.  I'm not perfect about taking my own advice.  I'm a VN junkie, and I really don't have any morals when it comes to my search for good VN stories.  I might be disgusted by some content, but that won't prevent me from experiencing the story, lol.  However, a lot of the people around me seem to be utterly unaware of the risks of being an eroge reader... and I felt I had to put this out there, for the 'public' good, even though I'm certain I've already pissed off the anti-censorship and pro-piracy parts of the community, lol. 
  20. Like
    Kenshin_sama reacted to Fred the Barber for a blog entry, What Is Editing? (baby don't hurt me)   
    My blog posts so far have mostly been about how to edit. That holds true for most every other VN editing blog I've ever seen as well. But I'm a really big believer in approaching any significant task from a "Why, What, How" perspective. So now, let's try to answer those first two questions.
    Even "What Is Editing" would be starting in too far (it made for a better title, so sue me). Let's start with this: why do translation projects, or even original fiction projects like novels, have editors?
    The goal of editing is to help the author achieve their goals.
    An author brings a whole lot of goals to the table: a story, characters with personalities and motivations, a setting, overarching motifs, style, ... probably a lot of other stuff I forgot. Anyway, you get the idea; there's a lot there which they're just trying to get out on paper (or bits, or whatever) and then into your brain.
    An editor doesn't bring any of that stuff. An editor instead strives to understand all of these things the author wants to communicate, finds the points where they can be better achieved, and refines the text to better achieve the author's goals. Although there's obviously some overlap, there are quite different skill sets involved in the raw writing and the editing, and thus the two roles are often fulfilled by two people.
    How about for a translated VN, rather than for, say, writing a novel? The story is roughly the same, actually. Although the translator has essentially the same goals as the editor in this case, the skill sets required are quite different, and thus differentiating the two roles is not uncommon and frequently beneficial to the project, for the same reasons as it is with original writing and editing.
    I'll also add that an original writer is usually considered "too close" to the original text to make a good editor. Even a writer who is also a great editor will benefit from having someone else edit their manuscript. I haven't heard the same thing said of translators, though, so that might not be relevant to this special case. But the skill set differentiation point still stands in the case of translation.
    Assuming you're satisfied with that explanation for Why, let's move on to What.
    Professional manuscript editing typically distinguishes four kinds of editing: developmental editing, line editing, copy editing, and proofreading. Those are ordered based on both the scope of changes they make, and also the chronological order in which you should do them: developmental editing is very macroscopic and happens first, while proofreading is very microscopic and happens last. Let's drill into each:
    Developmental Editing
    Developmental editing is, first, the act of identifying all of those authorial goals I mentioned, and second the act of cutting, rearranging, and adding large chunks (think: add this whole new scene, cut that whole character) in order to advance the author's goals.
    Obviously, that second half isn't applicable to VN translation. You're not going to cut whole scenes or change how characters behave. Those decisions have already long since been made by the original writers, hopefully with the help of an editor of their own ;).
    But the first half is essential, and is quite a bit harder in VN translation, since you generally can't actually talk to the writer. Read it all, understand the authorial goals, and build a strong, consistent interpretation of the plot, the characters, the motifs, the setting, the tone, everything you can think of. If you don't form an interpretation while translating/editing, you're liable to thwart the author's goals as part of your translation, and as a result accidentally obscure or entirely lose key points of the original intent. Of course, you'll occasionally make mistakes in your interpretation, resulting in mistakes in translation. But if you don't even form an interpretation, the result will actually be worse: you'll still make mistakes in the translation, and the resulting translation will certainly be internally inconsistent, but you won't notice those internal inconsistencies because you have no guiding interpretation. If you form a consistent interpretation and let it guide your translation, when the text goes against your interpretation, the resulting inconsistency means you'll notice it, correct your interpretation, and then go back and modify your translation to fit the corrected interpretation.
    Line Editing
    Line editing is about assessing and fixing the flow of a scene and the flow of a line. It's about logic, language, word choice, rhythm, the mechanics of a sentence, and the sound of human speech. It is not concerned with grammatical errors, punctuation, and spelling, but more with higher-level ideas like tone, emotion, and atmosphere. A line editor worries whether a sentence ought to be punchy or loquacious, not whether it has all the commas in all the right places.
    "Logic" probably seemed a bit out of place there, so let me give an example for that one in particular, since it's essential. For example, unless you're editing the VN equivalent of a Beckett play (and if you are, please point me to that VN, because I'm interested), one dialog line should generally be a logical response to the previous one. A canny line editor will ensure the logical flow from event to event, line to line, and even scene to scene, ensuring consistency of the narration.
    This is also where all that authorial intent mentioned above comes into play: an editor in this capacity should also be ensuring consistency of a line with those overarching goals. A good line editor will help ensure that characterization is consistent, for instance, or that a motif is not buried inappropriately. An editor, in their avatar as the keeper of consistency, is crucial to achieving those authorial goals.
    The prose side of line editing is also key simply because stilted speech, unnatural utterances, redundant repetition, awkward alliteration, and their ilk all kick you out of the immersion. Your brain wants to keep reading something when it flows well. And nothing hits softer than shitty prose.
    Line editing is the meat of VN editing. It's what most existing VN editing blogs are about, not coincidentally. If you're an editor for a VN, line editing is what you should be thinking about constantly.
    In addition to recommending other VN editing blogs, notably Darbury's blog (mostly about line editing, though all the punctuation ones are more about copy editing) and Moogy's now-ancient blog post (basically all about line editing), I'll also suggest you go read up on line editing in a general setting. A quick search for "what is line editing" will lead you to mountains of useful links. As a random example, this is one such useful link, and it's hilarious, well-written, and edifying: http://www.thereviewreview.net/publishing-tips/short-course-line-editing. There is a veritable sea of such articles on the internet. Read them.
    Copy Editing
    Copy editing is about the nuts and bolts of grammar, punctuation, and spelling. It's not the same as proofreading, but it's getting close. The copy editor typically should select and enforce an appropriate style manual (AP, Chicago, MLA, take your pick). The copy editor is the person who gets mad when you write "I baked 7 blackbirds into that pie." instead of "I baked seven blackbirds into that pie.", and who calmly, patiently replaces all your misused hyphens in the middle of sentences with em-dashes.
    You're unlikely to have a dedicated copy editor on a VN project; if you've got the "editor" role, you're probably it. I think this is along the lines of what most people think of already when they hear "editing" anyway, but really the line editing is the most important to the enjoyment of the text. Still, the picky people among us can get awfully uppity if you start putting in stuff like ellipses with four dots and inconsistent use of the Oxford comma (sidebar for the attentive: I'm for it, as you've already noticed). Copy editing is a particularly thankless job, since it's not like you can do an exceptional job of copy editing and really salvage a bad manuscript, but poor copy editing can certainly hurt an otherwise-good manuscript. So it's worth investing the time in doing it carefully.
    One important recommendation for copy editing: take notes and build up a style document and glossary for your VN as you go. Are honorifics being used? What about name order? If you're going to romanize some words, is your romanization consistent? Do you 1) always write "senpai", 2) always write "sempai", or 3) mix and match? I don't care if it's 1 or 2, but it better not be 3. Write conventions like this in a shared document and make sure everybody knows about the conventions and the document.
    Proofreading is the final stage of this pipeline. The role includes checking for grammatical errors, spelling errors, punctuation errors, typos, and perhaps some more exotic things like incorrect English dialect. It's straightforward and mechanical. Like copy editing, it is essentially thankless. It is, nonetheless, important. While you're making big sweeping edits doing all the stuff above, you're going to create tons of errors at this level. They need to be fixed. Make sure you have someone (preferably not the "editor", because they're too close to the text) do a proofreading sweep. You can lump it into QC if you like, but make sure that whoever is assigned to do this is looking at it carefully. Check. Every. Single. Word. There are errors in there, I guarantee you, and they're embarrassing. Getting the number of errors down to near-zero before you release your translation is going to make both you and your audience happier.
    In Summary
    There's not one editor; there are four. In an ideal world, with original fiction, you'd actually have someone separate filling each role. For a translation you don't need a developmental editor, leaving you needing three editors. In the non-ideal world you live in, you've probably got at least two of those roles to yourself. Push for someone else to handle proofreading, at least (call it "QC" if you have to), and make sure said person has the necessary ability and attention to detail. If you're the "editor", then you're almost certainly doing both line editing and copy editing. When that happens, make sure you keep a balance amongst all the things you need to do: for instance, spend 10% of your effort trying to understand what the author is trying to achieve, 88% of your effort on line editing (it's the meat, after all), and 2% on copy editing the little details like punctuation, romanization, etc.
    And If You Can Only Remember One Thing
    Focus on line editing.
  21. Like
    Kenshin_sama reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Tokyo Necro   
    OK, first I am going to avoid spoilers throughout this review, so I would like those who want to comment to avoid the same, even in spoiler boxes.  This is one of those games that is going to be harder to enjoy if you spoil it for those who come after, so I will personally eat anyone who spoils it.  This VN is by the same writer who did Sumaga (blech), Gekkou no Carnevale (yay), and Totono (a VN a lot of people here liked).  However, the style of story is much closer to that of Gekkou no Carnevale than to Sumaga, thankfully.  So, those of you who have heard me bitching about Sumaga need not worry that this is going to turn into a long rant on how horrible anything by this writer is.  First, I am going to give you an idea of the basic setting.
    It is 2199 and the world has plunged into a new ice age (this is actually one of the hypothetical results of global warming irl, if the Greenland glacier slides into the ocean early enough).  Up until a decade before the story, humanity was fighting over the warmest areas of the world, putting all their power into a war that was becoming increasingly meaningless.  In that war, there were many scientific advances... but the two that are most relevant to the story are Necromancy and the zombie-killing techniques developed by the protagonists' fathers.  Necromancy is undertaken by injecting a special type of nanomachines into the human brain after death, turning the individual in question into one of the Living Dead and the person who did the injecting into a Necromancer, capable of moving the undead results at will.  The zombie-killing techniques central to the story are the use of one vs many weapon techniques (the basic one is two pistols with muzzle spikes, which the male protagonist uses, though the female protagonist's basic fighting style is based off of the same) in combination with the EX-Brain, an analytical computer that fits onto a person's head and allows them to notice things their subconscious recognizes but their conscious mind doesn't (details the conscious mind filters out), thus allowing the person in question to fight more effectively.  Tokyo of the future is a dystopian hell, where refugees from all over the world have gathered, necromancers roam the streets with their armies of the living dead, and bounty hunters (like the protagonists) hunt them for their daily bread.  The city itself is kept alive by geothermal heat spread throughout the city by water-filled 'hot pipes' passed through the hot spot underground and circulated throughout the city. 
    Main Characters (protagonists, heroines, and main antagonist)

    Nagaoka Souun
    Souun is the son of a hero of the American-Chinese War, who was killed some years ago.  On the surface he doesn't show much in the way of emotion, and his fighting style is one where he uses the dual-pistols in combination with his EX-Brain to fight in the most efficient way possible, obeying the suggestions of his own subconscious like a machine.  Indeed, he himself isn't really sure he has emotion, and that is one of his major internal conflicts throughout the story as he deals with his personal issues.  He is a badass, to put it bluntly... the kind of guy who can re-kill thirty zombies in under a minute without taking a single scratch.  His body has been trained using both conventional methods and tailor-made nano-drugs to turn it into a weapon capable of perfectly obeying the EX-Brain's suggestions.

    Kibanohara Echika
    Echika is in just about every way Souun's opposite.   She is a rebel, preferring to use a chainsaw and shotgun and frequently ignoring her EX-Brain's suggestions in favor of her own impulses.  She believes emotions should be immediately be shown on the surface and indulged, and she is more than a little hedonistic by nature.  She is also a straight-out lesbian who has no hesitation going after pretty girls.  Her outright hatred for her father is the most obvious cause for her rebellious nature and her unwillingness to use her EX-Brain (the horns, as opposed to the full helmet Souun version Souun uses). 

    Hougyou Iria
    Iria is the main heroine of the story and the focus for most of the events in it.  She has extreme synesthesia (look it up), though she is quite functional despite that.  Her initial setting, amnesia, is one of the most obvious tropes out there, but it isn't the focus of most of the story.  In a world where people are rapidly losing their emotions, both positive and negative, she is a bright, cheerful young woman whose very presence makes people feel hopeful and light-hearted.  She is also an otaku. 

    Kijou Mitsumi
    Kijou Mitsumi is Souun's 'other' potential heroine.  She is, like him, a hunter of the undead.  However, she uses a katana and muscle-enhancing suit, along with her talent for mapping out the actions of enemies on the battlefield, rather than the style used by Souun and partially rejected by Echika.  To be honest, this is one girl who has a singular talent for getting herself into trouble... and a lot of it is caused by her somewhat single-minded personality.  She is very devoted to any cause or person she latches onto, but that also means she tends to become dependent on those she attaches herself to, which is the cause of her personal conflict.

    Aso Kiriri
    Echika's  adoptive older sister.   She is the most 'normal' person amongst the main characters, ironically, despite the fact that she is a high-ranking member of the Military Police under Echika's father.  She is kind-hearted and constantly worries about the broken relationship between Echika and her father, as she loves them both.  She also is very idealistic, believing that her duty as an officer of the law is the protection of Tokyo's people above all other things (an idealism almost unheard of in the somewhat tyrannical Military Police organization). 

    Kon Su
    Kon Su... is probably the straight-out weirdest character in the VN.  She is a hard M (with bold and italics for emphasis), and she has casual sexual relations with both protagonists.  She is a professional hacker, information broker, undead analyzer (dissects and analyzes undead bodies and brains to discover the individual styles of necromancers... sort of like forensics), and she is also one of Souun's and Echika's supporters.  Unfortunately, explaining her weirdness is not really possible without spoiling the VN, so I'm just going to drop it.  Incidentally, her path isn't really a straight-out heroine path, for reasons that will be obvious to anyone who completes one of the paths.

    Milgram is the charismatic leader of the Researchers, an organization of Necromancers that believe the only hope for humanity is to escape from emotion through death (extinction).  He isn't your standard nihilist, but the philosophy he espouses is.  This guy... is the single most powerful Necromancer in existence, which means he is also an extremely emotional person (emotion and artistic sensitivity being requirements for creating the best undead).  This guy is flat-out scary, eerie, and freaky.  However, in many ways he is a representative of one of the major aspects of the world the characters are living in.
    The Story
    For better or worse, this story has a ton of guro and is basically an action-horror story.  If you can't deal with heroine deaths, torture, zombification, and occasional rape, this definitely will be hard on you.  A lot of effort goes into portraying the most gruesome parts of the story in a way that will be as horrifying as possible, and the heroines don't always escape this particular treatment, so it is best to prepare yourself before jumping in.  The lighter points - mostly centered around Iria - actually only serve to enhance the sheer horror and bleakness of the setting, which is basically an extension and enhancement of what this writer did in Gekkou no Carnevale. 
    By nature, any story as full of zombies like this one is going to be dark, and this one really does go to the extremes of the dark end at times.  It is really hard to talk about this story without spoiling some of the primary elements (and because I figured out those elements too early due to certain hints, my own reactions were more ones of 'expected horror/sadness', so I'd prefer not to do that to you all).  To be honest, emotionally connecting with this story was hard at some points, but as I got deeper into the characters - usually near the ends of the paths - it became a lot easier.  In terms of action, this VN is full of it, but it is most emotional toward the end of the paths and in the true route.
    Kon Su's route serves a purpose different from the other routes, revealing elements of her past that are important to the story as a whole while showing the steel that lies beneath the stuttering, drooling do-M surface of that character.  Whereas the other routes have some element of romance, Kon Su's lacks that, and I honestly thought that was for the best (I honestly couldn't imagine any ending where she was romantically involved with either of the protagonists, as opposed to just sexually involved).  Ironically, if I were to say which of the routes (other than the true one) touched me in the most positive manner, it would be this one.
    I really suggest anyone avoid playing Iria's route until you've played all the other heroine routes.  It feels a lot more natural if you go into the true route straight after finishing her route, as the true route is in many ways wrapped up the most intimately with hers.  The other routes can probably be played in any order without a problem, but I do advise you take my suggestion above seriously.
    Normally, I don't talk about a VN's visuals that much, but because of the styles used here, it needs to be mentioned.  First, I should mention the action-scene styles.  The action-scenes are defined by a type of cell-shaded animation that is very similar to SMT: Digital Devil Saga on the PS2.  Literally, the action scenes are animated and combined with highly-detailed battle descriptions to give a degree of depth that is pretty rare even in action VNs.  I was doubtful at first, but this VN definitely benefited from using this particular technology (though it probably detonated a nuclear bomb under the budget).
    The regular visuals, as seen above, are more 'classic-style' Nitroplus, so if you've played a Nitroplus game made since Muramasa, you probably noticed that it is in the same general style.  As a result, there is no real need for me to discuss them... except that the way the designers used them was pretty amazing.  The dystopian feel of the pipe-wrapped city of Tokyo in 2199 is pretty eerie-feeling and definitely adds to the general atmosphere of the story.  The tendency to dress most of the characters in dark or harsh colors (except Iria) was probably intentional, to further add to this atmosphere.  This is one of the few times in the last year when I've actually felt that a company went above and beyond when designing every visual aspect of a VN.
    Musically, this game isn't really unique.  The BGMs all feel 'familiar', though they are used effectively to enhance the mood, so I give this VN high ratings for its BGM use, if not for the songs themselves.  Nitroplus's use of music shows a tendency to prefer unobtrusiveness and 'enhancement' as opposed to the use of music to 'define' the mood seen in a lot of other VNs (Hapymaher being one of the most extreme examples of the latter). 
    What really struck me is the wide variety of sound-effects, such as gunfire, cutting sounds, etc, and the use of those sound effects.  To be honest, the sound of zombies being blown apart by bullets in this VN is going to linger in my ears for quite a while, as is the sound of Echika's 'Rabbit Punch' chainsaw. 
    Overall, this VN is pretty impressive.  I can honestly recommend this... though not to just anyone.  To be honest, the 'average' VN-reader who prefers moege-variants will probably not be able to stand the darkness of this game.  If you don't have a reasonably high tolerance for guro and dark atmospheres, this is going to be a hard VN for you to enjoy.  Zombie-lovers will probably flock to this VN by the thousands if it ever gets translated, because it really does draw in a lot of what people like about the 'zombie apocalypse' style movies and TV shows, while giving it a uniquely Japanese/otaku media flavor.  However, this VN is emotionally draining, so I do recommend taking it in smaller doses than I did (every minute I wasn't working for the past four days).  In my opinion, this VN can be considered a straight-out kamige, but it is also a VN that picks its readers... simply because it is so high-stress.
  22. Like
    Kenshin_sama reacted to Fred the Barber for a blog entry, Writing more powerful sentences   
    Last time I talked about trade-offs in editing and high-level motifs; macro-scale stuff. This time, I want to talk about a micro-scale topic: how to make an individual line better. As before, I'll be demonstrating this with examples drawn from recent editing experience. Before writing this post, I went around looking for other people talking about similar things, and I found this reference: http://kristensguide.com/Writing/powerful_sentences.asp. Frankly, it's great; probably better than what I have, especially in terms of breadth of topics. Give it a read and get your editing learning on. For this post, I'm going to deep dive into one single topic mentioned there, though, for which I've been saving up examples: putting the first and last words of your sentence to good use.
    The first and last words of a sentence are powerful. They're memorable. Forgetting the middle of a sentence is natural, so put a word at the end of a sentence when you really, really want that one word to be remembered.
    Okay, so what did you get from that last paragraph. I hope it was "first", "powerful", "memorable", "forgetting", and "remembered", because that's the point of this blog post.
    Anyway, let's look at some examples from my recent edits to Majo Koi Nikki, some to the prologue patch we're about to release, and some later. I'll point out other things that I changed as well and why, but this one point is going to be the running theme.
      Looking in the mirror, she pondered for a second and answered with a shy smile on her face.
    Potential problems:
    - "on her face" is extraneous
    - that extraneous phrase is squatting on valuable real estate at the end of the sentence.
      Looking in the mirror, she pondered for a second, and then she answered with a shy smile.
    - drop "on her face" (for both reasons above - it's less verbose, and now I get "smile" as the last word in the sentence, which is great)
    - the comma after "she ponders for a second" is intended to give the reader that same mental pause as "she" has, to better set up the last part
    - "then she" somehow pushes you out of that mental pause and into the most important part: that shy smile, lingering at the end of the sentence.
      Tokeizaka-san irritatedly flips through the book, but her hand stops suddenly.
    Potential problems:
    - With the benefit of spell-check, "irritatedly" => irritably
    - "suddenly" is often overused
    I actually really like the original; if you left it alone, aside from the spell-check correction, I wouldn't fault you for it. The verbs are great, "irritably" is a good use of a modifier, and the sentence communicates multiple events very concisely. But there's always room for improvement.
      Irritated, Tokeizaka-san flips through the book, until her hand suddenly stops.
    - Drop "suddenly." "Stops" is strong enough to carry that feeling of suddenness on its own, so "suddenly" is only making things weaker. I've also noticed a tendency for raw JP translations to overuse "suddenly", which makes me especially biased to remove it. It's the typical problem of overuse: if everything is happening suddenly, it might as well all be happening normally.
    - Move those good words, "irritably" and "stops" to the memorable points of the sentence. "Stops" we got for free, "irritably" requires a small bit of juggling. Unfortunately, Tokeizaka-san's family name is a bit unwieldy at best; better to bury it in the middle of the sentence and let the nice, emotive words take pride of place.
    - Swapping "but" for "until" made for a clearer plot to the sentence, I thought.
    - The colorful beauty article are displayed neatly.
    Potential problems:
    - Engrish
    - Passive voice
    - Not flashy enough
    - Iridescent beauty products dot the shelves, arranged with flawless precision.

    On that last potential problem: normally my style is pretty spare. My typical goal is to drop adjectives and adverbs, and make verbs and nouns stronger to carry the weight of description, without going overboard on vocabulary. More often than not, I'm trying to make long sentences shorter and punchier.
    I didn't do that here.
    For context on why, it would help for you to hear the ridiculously high-brow BGM accompanying this scene and see the gorgeous background art. So, here:

    Equally important for context, you need to know about the surrounding narration: basically, the narrator is currently marveling at just how amazing this beauty parlor is.
    One of the benefits of generally being spare with your adjectives and adverbs is that they then work a lot better when you actually do pull them out. A good mental model is that you have a budget: don't spend your nice words if you don't need to. Only pull them out when you're going for the razzle dazzle. The analogy breaks down fast, but basically, if you're constantly using flowery language and overdecorating the ordinary scenes, nobody's going to be impressed when something extraordinary happens, just like the overuse of "suddenly" I mentioned earlier. Since this actually is an extraordinary moment for our narrator, I'm spending a few nice words now.
    And again, I want to call attention to the first and last words of the sentence. Those are strong places in a sentence (or, especially in the case of a VN, a line). Previously there were pretty weak words there ("The colorful" and "neatly"); now we've got "iridescent" and "precision". Good words in good places.
    One last thing to mention. I wrote each of these up in the middle of editing, and then later edited that up into a blog post. I made changes to the edited line itself in the process of writing all this stuff up, which made it better. In fact, I even noticed a problem while writing up this blog post and further refined the line. You'll never know what it was (probably). The point being, simply spending time reflecting on an edit, and especially writing down your observations and motivations for certain choices, will help you do better work. You don't have to be this thorough all the time (I certainly am not), but every time you do an exercise like that, you'll learn from it, and then you can write up your own blog post and teach me something.
  23. Like
    Kenshin_sama reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Romanticization of War in Fiction   
    First, let me say this outright... I have absolutely no problem whatsoever with the romanticization of war in fiction.  I love bloody epic war stories even more than I love sushi and ice cream.  However, one thing I've noticed as I've read various historical fiction and fantasy is that the bloodier and more horrid a war is, the more it gets romanticized. 
    Western Examples
    The Hundred Years War- The Hundred Years War is perhaps the most obvious example of a war being romanticized in the Christian West.  Joan of Arc, the Black Prince... and dozens of other villains and heroes who have made their way from history into fiction and legend from that era.  However, the introduction of massive mercenary armies of this era scarred the continent for centuries to come, and millions died during this era from the war and diseases that spread as a result of the war.  It was also a period of the rise of French and English nationalism and the creation of professional standing armies, both of which are mixed blessings at best. 
    The Revolutionary War (US)- Now, I'm American... so naturally I instinctively take pride in our nation's war for independence... but as an amateur student of history, I am quite well-aware that the Revolutionary War was not a clear-cut conflict of freedom-seekers versus monarchists.  To be honest, just reading the original, pre-US constitution tells me everything I need to know about the motivations behind the delegates at the convention.  The self-interest, prejudice, and greed inscribed between the lines is fairly disgusting, considering the bluster that ended up in the papers at the time. 
    The Trojan War- This is a genocidal war that started because a married princess took a liking to a foreign prince, had sex with him, then ran away with him.  An entire civilization vanished because of this... a fact that I find unbelievably disgusting, looking at it from an objective point of view.
    World War II- I'm frequently fascinated by the degree to which this era is romanticized, despite the fact that there are still living witnesses to it.  It is the deadliest war in recorded history, but memories of the reality are already fading in some parts of the world less than a hundred years later. 
    Eastern Examples
    The Fall of the Han and the Three Kingdoms Era- This era is frequently portrayed as an era of military and civic heroes that eventually led to the rise of a great dynasty... but it was also a period that killed countless millions from famine, bandit raids, military plundering, and battles as massive as any seen in WWII.  In the last census taken before the fall of the Later Han Dynasty, there were over fifty-six million citizens of the empire... and in the first census after the rise of the Jin Dynasty, there were only slightly more than sixteen million.  This is perhaps the most romanticized conflict in history, and yet it is also the second-deadliest recorded war in human history as well (WWII being the deadliest). 
    The Sengoku Jidai- I've mentioned that this period of civil war in Japan is highly romanticized over there... and that is actually an understatement, when it comes down to it.  It was a period where power and influence were in a constant state of flux, with the Ashikaga Shogunate proven incompetent to rule and various warlords seeking to carve out their own pieces of the pie both for Clan and individual gain.  However, very few of the 'heroes' of the age are seen as 'evil'.  Nobunaga, while he was a social progressive, was also known for his ruthlessness and cruelty, as well as disregard for traditions and religion.  Tokugawa, while he was a repressive social conservative, was also a builder of cities and a brilliant administrator.  Hideyoshi, while he was a brutal conqueror, was also an example of a man clawing his way up from the cesspool to the heavens.  Similar contradictions defined most of the great warlords of the era, with the Imagawa being both military expansionists and great cultural patrons, and the Hojo being great architects and engineers as well as highly ambitious nepotists.  This is an era that has so many highly colorful characters whose actions were recorded in detail that it couldn't help but be romanticized... but the reality of it was that it was an era of starvation, desperate poverty, and immense uncertainty. 
    The Bakumatsu/Meiji Restoration- I don't think I need to go into the degree to which this era romanticized the samurai culture and fed Japanese nationalism, because its result was Japan's policies leading up to and during WWII.  This was essentially a large and brutal civil war between two factions (further split into many smaller factions) within Japan that disagreed violently over how to deal with foreign influence in the face of Ming China's rape-by-colonization on the mainland.  Assassinations, political terrorism, and brutal oppression defined this period.  In the end, what you got was a country who presented a strong face to the world but was still unable to come to terms with what it wanted to do at home. 
    As a conclusion
    Human beings have a fascination with war that leads to its romanticization, and I honestly am no exception to that rule.  I enjoy war period historical fiction immensely, and I have absolutely no objection to fantastical speculation on the capabilities and personality of individuals living in those eras.  However, the immense cost - both economic and human - of war is almost always forgotten afterwards... and I intensely dislike it when someone chooses to forget just what those costs are.  Fiction is harmless, but ignoring the lessons of history isn't.
  24. Like
    Kenshin_sama reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Random VNs: Draculius   
    I'll say it straight out... in my mind, Draculius is one of the top two vampire VNs in existence... with the other one being Vermilion by Light.  Meromero Cute was a company that had a tendency toward making... eccentric works.  Mahou Shoujo no Taisetsu na koto is particularly memorable for the cross-dressing protagonist who spends a ridiculous amount of time being reverse-raped in a magical girl costume...  It used the fact that nobody expects mahou shoujo stories and settings to be consistent to go a bit crazy...
    Draculius is a bit different... the protagonist, Jun, is the kind of guy who would be a hero in an otome game.  While he isn't voiced (a mistake in my mind, but one that is common) his narration and lines have so much personality that you never see him as a 'standard' protagonist.  There are precisely two paths in this VN... a 'joke' path where Jun doesn't make the full transition to a vampire during the story (focused on Rian and Zeno), and a true path, where Jun confronts the people hiding behind the curtains in the course of building his vampiric harem of a trigger-happy tsundere vampire-hunting nun, an ancient vampire who was once his father's vassal and lover, a vampire 'ojousama' whom everyone takes joy in teasing, and a loyal werewolf maid who makes  a hobby out of tricking her mistress into making a fool of herself.
    The action in this VN is actually a bit above the standard for chuunige of the era, though it doesn't match works by Light.  At times there are battles of wits, and there is enough comedy to make a lot of modern charage seem boring.  To this day, I've never met a loli in a VN that matches Belche for characterization (yes, I include stuff by Favorite).  The multitude of roles she takes on and the layers to her personality and viewpoint on life make her one of the few 'ancient heroines' who doesn't seem in the least bit fake. 
    One of the things that is most important in a vampire story of any type is the perspective... to be blunt, a vampire setting where the vampires don't drink blood or are fundamentally harmless is... boring, to say the least.  Vampires in Draculius are nothing of the sort... in particular 'Seconds', vampires made from humans, can only turn humans into zombie-like Roams (and can potentially do so just by biting someone), so vampirism is actually a legitimate threat.  Firsts, like the protagonist and Rian (also called Shiso, like the True Ancestors in the Tsukihime world), don't have any of the vulnerabilities of their servant vampires... and they can make vampires that are sane.  However, most Firsts perspectives are... warped, to say the least.  There is nothing worse than a justified sense of superiority to make people insanely arrogant, lol.
    The actual story of this tilts back and forth between the more absurd slice-of-life and the more serious parts, but this is one of those rare VNs that manages the balance nearly perfectly.  People die, the protagonist kills, and the enemy is ruthless (as is Belche, lol).  However, the slice of life in this VN tends to serve as a bright and amusing contrast to the darker elements, keeping it from becoming a purely serious VN. 
    Overall, replaying this VN has confirmed to me something that I had more or less guessed over the last few years... they don't make ones like this one anymore, lol.
    Edit: The pic is Belche just after she became a vampire.
    Edit2: ... for those who wonder, the h-scenes in this VN... are pretty unique.  Most of them switch between Jun's and the girls' perspectives...
  25. Like
    Kenshin_sama reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, The spirit of an older gamer: Why I play games and why other people play games   
    I've been playing video games more or less constantly for over twenty-five years. 
    That's a very simple statement that holds a surprising amount of meaning, considering how much video games have changed since I first began playing them.
    It began with the NES, for me... with Mario, Luigi, and the ducks.  I shot ducks out of the air, I jumped Mario across gaps and on top of turtles, without ever really understanding what was going on.  As a kid, this was fun, seriously.  Understand, this is the biggest point I am going to try to get across here... the difference between addiction and fun with video games.
    I played rpgs, primarily jrpgs, throughout most of my first ten years as a gamer, starting with Dragon Warrior (Dragon Quest), eventually reaching levels of true love with Final Fantasy II and III (IV and VI), Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, Secret of Evermore, and Ogre Battle.  When the era of cd-gaming came, I played D&D dungeon-crawlers on a shitty dos computer setup, and I played every jrpg I could get my hands on, with a lot of shooters, strategy games, and sports games mixed in. 
    Throughout all of that, I was still having fun.  Fun was my reason for continuing (I've always been a story-centric player, so I tended to stick with jrpgs, but I did play a lot of other stuff) and my reason for playing in the first place.
    It was in the PS2 era that I first came to recognize the difference between taking pleasure in playing something and merely being addicted to it.  I picked up FFXI and started playing it on the PS2 (yes, it was possible to play it on the PS2), and for the first time, I knew addiction... for the first time, I poured hour after hour, day after day, into a game that I wasn't having any fun at.
    I was constantly irritated, constantly driven to continue, whether for social reasons (friends I'd made in-game) or simply because I felt like I was 'almost there'. 
    Then, one day, I suddenly looked up and realized... I was immensely depressed and not enjoying anything about the game.  The sense of having wasted my time... sent me into a funk that lasted the better part of a year.  I still played games, but the color seemed to leech out of the screen even as I played them.  I realized that I was seeing bits of FFXI in other games, and that was enough of a reason for me to actively hate them.
    No game hit me this way more than FFXII... because FFXII's battle system is essentially that of FFXI with some tweaks.  Visually, it was a nightmare, and the weak story and characters only made it worse for me.
    Ironically, it was the realization that I honestly didn't trust Squeenix to provide pleasurable games anymore that led me to start playing a lot of the weirder stuff out there... such as Eternal Darkness for the gamecube and the SMT series.  Ultimately, because I'd become very much aware of the difference between pleasure and addiction, I lost interest in games that I would once have jumped onto simply because they were jrpgs or done in a style I found interesting.  I started abusing Gamestop's used game 'seven-day return policy' to demo games, and I slowly but surely came to realize that I honestly and truly hate multiplayer games that aren't played in the same room. 
    I am now an unabashed solo gamer, even outside of VNs.  I won't play most multiplayer games at all, and I hate games where the social element is as or more important than the actual gameplay or story.  Of course, if a game has an interesting concept, I'll try it... but if I feel that sensation I used to get from FFXI, I drop it immediately, cancelling all subscriptions and discarding all related materials without a second thought, even if I paid a good deal of money for them. 
    To be blunt, life is too short to waste on playing something that is merely addictive (this coming from a VN junkie, I know).  That sensation of false social interaction you get from online gaming and the high you get from winning in competitive games is highly addictive... but are you having fun, really? I wonder, how many younger gamers actually know what it is like to enjoy a video game, rather than simply being addicted to one?  This is a question that seriously bothers me, as I saw my young cousin playing Call of Duty (whatever the latest one is) online, unsmiling, for two days straight while we were staying at their place a few months back.  He really, really wasn't enjoying himself.  He was angry, depressed, and frustrated, but I never saw even a hint of a smile when he won, only this vague expression of relief he probably thought was a smile.  Was that relief that his team-mates weren't treating him like a worthless noob or an incompetent, or was it simply because the match was over and he could relax?  I don't know, because I didn't ask.  I know from experience that the difference between addiction and fun is fine enough that most people don't even recognize it is there until they are forced to.
    What are your experiences, gamers of Fuwa?
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