Monday, July 24, 2017

Robotech: Time to Let It Go, Harmony Gold

Well, assuming it actually gets finished and released, I fully expect this to go down like Hapless Pilot #12 vs. Roy Fokker.

The time for a Robotech feature-film was, oh, 1989. Not 2017, 2018, or whatever. Harmony Gold tried thrice to keep this ball rolling: Robotech: The Movie (where the Megazone 23 stuff got added), Robotech II: The Sentinels (it could've been good), and Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles (failed pilot). The problem is always the same: the original fanbase found the original series and transfered fandom loyalties to them, so they didn't care about the new stuff.

The music of the original series is superior. The stories of the original series are superior. The sequels for the one original series that actually took off, globally, are far superior. The only reason that the current tabletop RPG has any fans is due to the ease of using the product line as a defacto TRPG for those original series; the new stuff gets used only as fodder for those really into Genesis Climber MOSPEADA. (Or as fodder for RIFTS.)

In short, there's no "there" there anymore. No one who's come into anime since the boom of the 1990s will give a shit about this live-action adaptation. No one overseas will care either, so there's no market for it. This isn't a film project; this is a tax write-off that allows some folks to collect a check and discharge a contract. We just get a film as collateral damage.

The other reason this film project exists is similar to what Sony did with Spider-Man: make a film every so often to retain the rights. Harmony Gold benefits because they're single-handedly retarded the growth of Macross fandom in North American due to the contract they took out in the 80s as part of making Robotech. There's a termination clause in that contract,and both Bandai and Sunrise want to find a way out from under by using it so they can complete their conquest of the world by finally selling ALL the merch for Macross (including related stuff like Super Robot Wars games).

Harmony Gold needs to let it go. There will never again be a Robotech fandom worth a damn, and when this film either dies in production or flops on release that will be the moment to lay on all the pressure to stop being cocks and make way for the real star: the Macross franchise. (Yes, reasonable re-releases of Southern Cross and MOSPEADA will also be nice, restored and on Blu-Ray.) Then Harmony Gold can finally die off and go back to the '80s, where it should've stayed, and be put back in its place in history: as the catalyst for America's embrace of anime a decade later.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Totalbiscuit Is Burnt

John Bain, a.k.a. Totalbiscuit, has had another public meltdown. This time, at CoxCon, he lost his mind over someone throwing out an Internet meme as a question at a Questions & Answer session. That question was "Are Traps Gay?", which is a long-running joke now, and being Internet savvy John and his fellows there (including the founder, Jesse Cox) should've rolled with it. But John decided that Chan culture is wrong and threw the questioner out of the event.

Then he compounded the error by putting it out there on Twitter, and not taking well to the entirely-predictable reception that such a cuck move would generate. This is a pair of unforced errors, both on the grounds of (you guessed it) Social Justice, that would not have happened had John not been in charge of the social media accounts bearing his name.

John normally has a (paid) assistant handle the social media accounts. The reason? To prevent just this from happening. John's past shows repeated episodes of him not being able to handle the bants, freaking out, and attacking the very people who made his life (and his lifestyle) possible. For all his savvy with regard to gaming and the business hereof, he's still far more of an insecure normie than he wants to believe and it comes out when he feels stressed.

His assistant is not on the job because that assistant suffered a family tragedy, and John--being a decent employer--let him take the time off to properly handle the matter. Unfortunately, what did not happen is to have someone else step in to handle the social media accounts. (Genna, as Business Manager, that was your job to handle.) So this own-goal was not only predictable, it was wholly preventable.

And this is not the first time. While others comment on the very public berating John gave of his wife's voting decision after the U.S. Presidential Election (and yes, outing and shaming your wife on Twitter is just that; you might as well have done it at halftime during the Super Bowl), he's flamed out on other occasions in just as stupid a manner over just as stupid a reason. We have a consistent pattern of behavior here. One John knows--by his actions--to be detrimental to him and others.

The behavior cannot be tolerated anymore. This is the second time within a year that something of this sort occurred. Everyone knows how and why it happened, and those able to prevent did not do so in negligence. Once is an error, twice is stupidity, but more than that is--at best--chronic incompetence and I will not tolerate it. I withdraw my support, effective immediately.

No more money goes his way, and no more attention shall be directed towards him until he repents. I have options; I now exercise them. I shall encourage all others to do the same, under the same condition. Once he sees that he's going the way of Marvel Comics, maybe he'll fix himself. Or not; I no longer care either way.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

"Geek Gab" Talks Valerian, Dunkirk, & The Need For Good Storytelling

Today on "Geek Gab", Daddy Warpig and the gang discussed Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.

Some of us are on the hunt for alternatives to Star Wars now that The Mouse is pozzed and spread the disease to Lucasfilm. Valerian disappointed, and by comparison that film to Nolan's Dunkirk shows how important it is to not only cast your roles properly (which Valerian did not) but to know how your medium works when you tell your story. Christopher Nolan knows how the medium of film works. Luc Besson does not. It shows in the final product.

You also have to know your property, and that includes historical subjects. The director, writer, and producers need to know what the hell they're on about or the final product will be crap. Dunkirk shows that this is the case with Nolan's film, and that Besson's team dropped the ball.

And yes, the head office as Lucasfilm shows by their own words and deeds that they too do NOT comprehend their property. Lucas had the excuse of trying something new; Kennedy and company aren't even doing that- they're deliberately rehashing old stuff and turning out sanctioned fan-films, as if they decided to take the worst of the old Star Wars Adventure Journal and pour in additional pozzing.

They failed to remember that you have to tell a good story to keep a property thriving and profitable, and you can't do that if you subordinate that fundamental requirement for success to the service of an ideological agenda- and that is exactly what Lucasfilm did once the ink on the purchase dried. This is why there's a move to "make our own Star Wars", to fork it, and return to a dissatisfied audience that which they found in the Original Trilogy.

Right now, we have one series of books that aim to serve that audience. Nick Cole and Jason Anspach co-wrote the "Galaxy's Edge" series: Legionnarie, Galactic Outlaws, and the upcoming Kill Team. There are others, some available for sale and some still in the works, and as they come to my attention I'll give them space either here or at the Study.

In the meantime, I think I'll pencil in time to see Dunkirk.

Friday, July 21, 2017

My Life in Fandom: Yoko Kanno - Goddess of Music

Japan has a handful of living masters coming out of their entertainment business. Westerners get told all about Hayao Miyazaki (the current God of Animation), but in terms of music we Westerners hear a lot of great stuff coming from that country without knowing who made it.

Of the most notable musicians, Yoko Kanno is the mistress whose mastery is not confined to creating classical-style film scores to rival John Williams, Hans Zimmer, and the late James Horner. This woman is the genius behind the music of Cowboy Bebop; she can, she has, and she shall continue to rock, groove, jive, wail, and croon for years to come.

She's now in her 50s. Like her colleagues of similar acumen and accomplishment, she's got a proven track record of success as well as quality. Just hit up the TV Tropes page and see what she's worked on in the anime world alone; a lot of the shows she did are emerging as classics in large part with the power of her music; take it away, and the show or film immediately weakens precipitously. (Compare how dependent Star Wars is on its music.) This is no fluke or accident; she's the Goddess of Music just as Hayao Miyazaki is the God of Animation.

Because of Yoko Kanno, we got The Seatbelts. Because of her, we got the late Origa (best known in the West for her two theme songs for Ghost in the Shell: Stand-Alone Complex). She's the one that took an ordinary pop idol track (for Macross Frontier) about a girl's love for a man and turned it into this incredible song and live performance featuring May'n and Megumi Nakajima. (Kanno's the bandleader on the keyboard.)

Yoko Kanno w/ May'n & Megumi Nakajima: "Lion" from Macross Frontier

If I ever get a chance to have something I write adapted into an anime series or feature film, I want Yoko Kanno to be in charge of the music. I think that highly of her, and once you get familiar with her body of work you'll see why I hold that opinion of her; it's rare to seem anyone who's mastered any style or genre of music, nevermind multiples, but she's done it and that achievement is to be celebrated. She's earned her accolades, and is due the respect for it. Long may you reign, Yoko Kanno.

Yoko Kanno w/ Origa (vocals): "Moon" from Turn A Gundam

(Yes, that's Kanno directing the orchestra. I told you that's she's mastered multiple styles & genres.)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

My Life in Fandom: Sword of the Stranger

I wrote a follow-up to my first post at PulpRev this past Monday, giving some recommendations on movies with the spirit of the Pulps in them. I tried to stick to things that new people and normies would not struggle to find, but I had to make one concession for my fellow anime and manga fans: Sword of the Stranger.

This is a fantastic story, told in a fantastic manner, with fantastic skill in all aspects. The TV Tropes link to the summary can spoil it for you, so be careful when reading it, but I don't think that's necessary. This film is a demonstration that storytelling is not just how you use words, and that even in an animated work choreography matters as a storytelling tool.

To give you a good sense of how good this film is, you need to see one of the fantastic fight scenes that drive the plot and do a lot of the storytelling. The final fight that everyone who sees this film loves and adores shows this in spades. Allow me to share:

You do not need to know who is the villain in that scene. You can tell without any prior knowledge. Likewise with the hero. What the stakes are may be a bit murky, but the presence of the boy and the dog give you what you require to figure that out (along with where this fight takes place).

The writer, director, animators, and actors took pains on multiple levels to ensure that the most subtle of details--things you notice, but your conscious mind misses--are in there. It does not insult you or lie to you. The hero ain't no angel, but he still does the right thing. The villains are individuals with comprehensible motivations, but they still do (or support) abhorrent deeds in pursuit of them (and the goal they pursue is arguably evil in itself). The result is a Japanese story that is Pulp to the core.

Find a stream, borrow a copy, or take a risk and buy one from Amazon. This isn't the usual anime bullshit. This is Miyazaki-level stuff, and it deserves a place in your library. Study this one if you're a storytelling, no matter your medium, because you will learn something. It reminded me of Robert E. Howard's historical fiction tales, favorably so. Of course the score is fantastic. Have a listen:

(Note: For those sensitives reading this, the dog lives. You're welcome.)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

My Life as a Gamer: RIFTS & Me

The flagship line for Palladium Books is RIFTS. First published in 1990, and building upon all of the company's catalog to date, this game became the flagship due to one explicit purpose for putting on the shelves: to allow the users to put anything together at the table and run it in your campaign.

Yeah, well, um, yeah. About that.

Look, there's a hell of a lot to say about this game. I have a (dormant) blog all about that where you can read my opinions upon, and attempts to clean up, the mess Palladium publishes as their flagship game. I won't rehash it here, but instead summarize why I keep at it despite my dissatisfaction.

  • The setting premise is very friendly to interpretation, despite the droning of fanboys at the official Palladium forums.
  • The mess does mean some bitchwork for Game Masters, but that's manageable. However, doing it properly for the setting does mean telling the snowflakes to fuck off because this setting--at no point--is friendly to SJW insanity.
  • The game cleverly associates subgenres with geographic locations, making it easy for new GMs to isolate material to just what he wants to use.
  • The massive catalog of material is firmly in the Rule of Cool camp, exciting readers and firing imaginations, using iconic imagery and decades of comic tropes as shorthand to get the concepts across.
  • If there is an old-school game that's still in print (and never been out of print) that's firmly Pulp and approachable (and not old-school D&D), this is it. The mess creates a liminality that drives Mech Pilots nuts, filtering out the worst right there, but you need to beware of Fandumb and thus set your expectations clear and concrete up front for best results. It's also easy to run it in a Superversive manner, for those so concerned.

I can play and run nothing but RIFTS for the rest of my days and still not exhaust what this game has to offer, and that's just what's published and used as-written. Once you get comfortable and begin tinkering in earnest, you can see why this game has its loyal fanbase- such that some don't even play other Palladium games, nevermind other tabletop RPGs (or even other media).

And just using the core post-apocalyptic North America subsetting, featuring the Coalition States, I've got material enough for years of campaigning. If not for my interests elsewhere, I'd be running my version of the Tolkeen vs. Coalition war right now. (Hint: States that exist in economic scarcity can't win against post-scarcity opposition.)

The line is up at the Bundle of Holding this week, so if you do e-books this is a good chance to get in cheap and easy. Otherwise, find a Half-Price Books or some used bookstore like it; chances are good that you'll find it used and in decent condition there. Failing that, buy it new from Amazon or direct from Palladium's store. Love it or hate it, you'll find something good there to make it worth the scratch to have it.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

After Defiling the Honored Dead, This Is Nothing

My father was something of an Anglophile. He loved PBS, and because of that he introduced me to Monty Python, Blake's 7, and Doctor Who. Along with James Bond and J.R.R. Tolkien, he's responsible for most of my non-gaming fandom that doesn't involve anime or Star Wars.

He took me to my first fan convention--a very shitty Doctor Who convension in downtown Minneapolis, at the Armory--and paid for my membership in a fan society (The Whoniversity). He loved Jon Pertwee; that was his Doctor. Peter Davison was mine. When we got a shot at watching all of the older Doctors, starting from the beginning, back in the 1980s we made time to watch it together. Doctor Who was special for us. We were sad to see it go with McCoy, but we also didn't miss it thereafter.

The new series began five years after my father died. I stuck with it through to Capaldi's first series. The hit-or-miss ratio of the series skewed more and more to "miss" once Tennant and Davies left. Not that Smith (or Capaldi) were bad Doctors, but the rest of the show began veering more and more into the poz. After Danny and Clara, I tuned out and just kept an eye on it to wait out whatever bad writers they had until the inevitable sacking.

Then Moffat defiled The Brigadier.

Nevermind Missy! (That was a very bad move after a series of bad moves, but not a deal-breaker.) That final Cyberman story of that series, what rid the show of Danny Pink, also defiled the sole Companion of the classic series who forced The Doctor to be reasonable when the genius spilled into impracticality: Brigadier Sir Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart, of U.N.I.T., one of a handful of Companions so beloved as to be revived in the new franchise (albeit part of The Sarah Jane Adventures).

My father would never stand for that. There are lines you do NOT cross in this life, and Moffat crossed one by taking a beloved (and dead) character to be used for a cheap shot at the end of a story involving said character's inferior successor fucking it up. It was not only bad storytelling, it was not only Authorial Interference for political purposes, it was the willful violation of an icon of British manhood and masculinity in a series often devoid of it (both old and new).

That was the deal-breaker. After that, the incompetency in storytelling and show-running used to excuse politically-motivated propaganda in the new series--while disappointing--cannot compare to what had already been done. It is being shot in the arm with a squirrel rifle after having one's legs blown off from the waist by an anti-personnel mine. I feel nothing whatsoever about Capaldi's successor. Nothing. No well-wishes. No jeers. Nothing. At. All.

Because the worst had already been done, the corruption of a thing that once brought joy to my father and I, through which I kept his memory alive. I walked away a while ago. This thing that mocks the series I knew by wearing its clothes and aping its mannerisms is a stranger to me, and I care not if it lives or dies. I will, instead, find anew that joy elsewhere. Woe to those who dare pursue me hither.