The World’s Finest… Manipulator? Fiction, Mental Age, Maturity & Manipulation

Caution

This article contains discussion about the use of nonconsensual sex, sexual abuse, suicide, self-harm, manipulation, and general violence in anime with relation to minors. If you are particularly sensitive to any of these topics, please continue at your own discretion.

Introduction

Sekai Saikou no Ansatsusha, Isekai Kizoku ni Tensei suru (2021),  translated to The World’s Finest Assassin Gets Reincarnated in Another World as an Aristocrat, is from the same author as the now infamous Redo of Healer (2021). I wasn’t privy to watch that show when it aired and I don’t intend to watch it now. I’m not squeamish about the idea of portraying dark and mature topics in media. Conversely, I greatly appreciate a nuanced narrative that does cover such themes. The reason I don’t intend to watch Redo of Healer is what I gather to be the underlying motive of its main character’s actions. From what I gather, the justification of his actions, i.e., rape, is revenge. 

“An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth…” or so we all quote from Hammurabi’s Code. I understand why many people continue to uphold this adage as an example of fairness. It’s simple and straightforward. I would almost dare to use the word logical. Unfortunately though, many people either have never known the context of Hammurabi’s Code or choose to ignore it.

“The Code of Hammurabi is often said to have been based on the principle of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” – as if this were some fundamental principle of justice, elaborated and applied to all cases. In fact, the code reflects no such consistent principle. It frequently prescribes the death penalty for offenses that do not themselves cause death (e.g., robbery and accepting bribes). Moreover, even the eye-for-an-eye rule applies only if the eye of the original victim is that of a member of the patrician class. If it is the eye of a commoner, the punishment is a fine of a quantity of silver (Brittanica, 2010, pp. 17-18)”

It’s certainly interesting to think that centuries-old literature is what we popularly cite assuming ethics is static, unconcerned with the state of the world or humanity’s progression. We understand that humans are complex creatures and that our consciousness and morality are unique to us [Though this notion can be challenged with good argument and evidence (Midgley, 1985; Singer, 1989)], yet we treat them as a part of the natural world. Think what you will of modern philosophers, but it’s evident that the objective reality is very much distinguishable from our constructed viewpoint(s) including our self-imposed sense of morals. All that to say- man made concepts change over time and Hammurabi’s Code, even assuming the punishment doled out was equal, is flimsy at best. There’s a reason documents like the Constitution of the United States are referred to as “living”. 

In any case, that’s about Redo of Healer. Isekai Assassin, what I will be calling the obnoxiously long yet standard length LN title, has different problems. Nevertheless, ethics takes center stage regardless. First, we’ll talk about the ability to distinguish the real from the fictional via a brief critique about the use of child assassins. Next, we’ll discuss the discrepancy in mental and emotional age between the MC and his companions, preceded by a comparison to Youjo Senki (2017). Then, we’ll look at the MC’s manipulation of his companions and ultimately explain why his treatment or mindset about them, whether he regards them as tools or cherishes them, is irrelevant. Bear in mind that this discussion of Isekai Assassin only analyzes the story as portrayed in the anime adaptation. As always, expect citations which will be hyperlinked in-text if a PDF or web page of the article is available. Otherwise, see the list of references at the end of this article.

Analysis

Distinguishing Fiction & Desensitization

When consuming media at large, the ability to distinguish fact from fiction is important. The term media is too large in this case though. I speak specifically about creative works: novels, television, cinema, and the like. Key though is that we indeed distinguish as opposed to crudely separating. Creative works are not merely ways to relax or entertain. Social commentary has always been a relevant use and today’s authors are no different. Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and several of George Orwell’s works come to mind. That said, even renditions of the legend of King Arthur have historically functioned as an excellent tool. Wheeler offers a very quick and accessible overview at the Spokane County Library District website. For a more nuanced look, either see the books recommended at the end of Wheeler’s article or read Castleden’s King Arthur: The Truth Behind the Legend (1999). 

There’s no innate reason why a character being a child assassin is “bad”.  It’s no great feat to see that Isekai Assassin isn’t a means to provide social commentary. The use of child assassins isn’t indicative of anything in this case. There’s no inane argument trying to justify training kids to kill. Perhaps if there was a glorification of murder then a critique about its portrayl would have merit, but that’s a necessary qualifier. It’s a power fantasy plain and simple, directed at an adolescent audience; that’s why I take no umbrage with its implementation. A sane person won’t think that the MC or his role is a position to aspire to. Assassination Classroom (2015) was principally about a school of assassins that trained students to kill. It was met with very positive reception, but I seriously doubt there was any uptick in the assassination market. 

A year or two ago, I attempted to write an article titled Anime – Empathy or Desensitization, but it never reached completion. The goal was to see if anime, in this context Japanese animation and not animation in general, broadly portrayed violence in a way that could teach empathy or was correlated with desensitization. The problem is that I couldn’t find research done on this definition of anime specifically. There was research about cartoons and cartoon violence in shows for infants (Zhang et al., 2019) and there was research about violence in US TV for adolescents (Khurana et al., 2019). Yet, I couldn’t manage to find the middleground that I believe anime is. It’s quite possible that it exists somewhere, but as to exactly where I only wish I knew. What I want to make a point of though is that many things are a risk factor. That is to say, X does not cause Y. However, if a person is somehow predisposed to Y, X would be a factor to play a part in its manifestation. Could anime [not standalone] influence a particularly vulnerable individual to commit violence? Yes. So too could live action movies, television, novels, games, and a plethora of what is considered normal to consume. 

Age Discrepancy

Youjo Senki

There are actually a good handful of characters in recent years whose mental age and maturity are drastically different from their chronological (physical) age due to reincarnation into a younger body: Tanya from Youjo Senki (2017) and Rudeus from Mushoku Tensei (2021) for example. Interestingly, they represent an oddity in that their mental age and maturity are drastically ahead of their chronological age as opposed to facing a mental illness where the opposite would be true. Let me be clear by saying that I don’t have comprehensive knowledge about Mushoku Tensei or Rudeus’ character- I haven’t watched the show whereas I’ve seen Youjo Senki and so that’ll be my point of focus. 

In Youjo Senki, the issue of this discrepancy is largely sidestepped. What is there to sidestep exactly? On a social psychology level I propose: interpersonal relationships and mental health as a reflection of constant residence in an out-group. 

Tanya has an aptitude in magic and quickly obtained military knowledge in the world she was reincarnated into. Using this, she rose in the ranks as a proposed hero to some, devil to others. In addition, Tanya’s previous self adhered to a cold sense of logic and rationale. So long as it benefited them in the long-term, no sacrifice, even human, would be too great. Many viewers are of the opinion that Tanya exhibits psychopathic traits. I would go on to claim that those traits may help Tanya climb the ladder, but that’s a surprisingly tough claim to make. Whether it’s in the military or business, the research is actually a mixed bag despite popular belief (Smith & Lilienfeld, 2012; Landay & Frieder, 2018). That said, research determining psychopathy is difficult to conduct, partly because psychopathy isn’t actually a disorder and partly because businesses don’t readily jump at the opportunity to partake in these tests for obvious reasons (Babiak et al., 2010). The aforementioned cold logic would theoretically help in a military setting on the other hand. Coupled with a desire to do whatever in her power to better her socioeconomic standing and a degree of conformity to the military hierarchy, she seems like an ideal soldier in service of the Empire. 

I say all this despite my previous mention of problems with interpersonal relationships and mental health. Given that one typically congregates with people generally around the same chronological age, this then applies to mental age as well. When this isn’t the case, it’s easy to be singled out and potentially ostracized. Without peers: this is what I refer to as residing in an out-group. This doesn’t really apply to Tanya though. For one, in Tanya’s squad is another woman named Visha (Viktoriya). As fellow women, this develops quite a strong connection between the two, especially in an environment populated majorly by men. This pairing alone functions as an in-group that can’t be entered readily. Additionally, since Tanya is in charge of a squad of soldiers during a war where they’re actively engaging enemy combatants, the group naturally develops a strong bond with one another as they collectively fight for their lives. Thus, it’s another tight knit in-group. Moreover, Tanya isn’t the type of person to be drastically affected by the opinions of others. So long as it didn’t hinder her capacity to live a comfortable life, it’s no sweat off her back. 

Besides this, mental age and maturity also plays a role in the ethical dilemma of allowing what’s chronologically a young girl into the military. There’s a reason there’s a minimum age requirement for activities such as drinking or joining the military. The brain simply hasn’t matured enough and being introduced to the chemical effects of alcohol or the events a military deployment entails would understandably have a chance to cause the brain to develop or cognitively behave differently from the norm. In-universe then, it’s odd that Tanya is so young and that is mentioned on occasion; however, I don’t find it to be unfitting. A young hero serves such an exemplary role for advertisement and morale, both of which the military needs as the fires of war rage on. Besides, it isn’t as if what can be considered war crimes don’t come very close to fruition in Youjo Senki. Even if Tanya is so young, her skill far exceeds others and to not use her would be logistically foolhardy. It’s pragmatism that drives the brass and Tanya herself and so this is all in accordance with the core philosophy embedded in the show. It’s no wonder that Tanya is often described as a monster. 

Isekai Assassin

What of Isekai Assassin? Again, the reincarnation of an older man into a younger body applies. The difference between this show and Youjo Senki is the amount of events that become immoral at best when we consider what this means. To start, it’s obvious that there’s a fair amount of fanservice. My comments on this will be short as the inclusion of fanservice in anime at large is quite typical and so isn’t a critique specific to Isekai Assassin. Whether this is detrimental to the ability of a show to convey its narrative is debatable and rest assured debate does ensue appropriately. The same can be said about the effect of fanservice, which mainly appeals to a male audience and thus centers on erotic depictions of women, and its place in teaching traditionally accepted sex roles. The conversation becomes a bit more complicated when we consider the age of the characters [in Isekai Assassin] who all principally seem under 18. From one minefield to another, the age and physical appearance of characters in anime is a hotbed of controversy. So much so, that I intend to refrain from giving my own opinion on the matter. What I will state are arguments I’ve heard anecdotally from what can be considered “both sides” of the matter. Perhaps there are more perspectives, but very broadly the arguments are:

“Anime is fictional and the label of age attached is merely a means to ‘trick’ viewers into being further immersed into a world. Moreover, the anime aesthetic of a character is only loosely similar to their real counterparts [a real person] in a variety of ways. Therefore, attributing real-world preferences is a misnomer.”

“The sexualization of underage characters in anime is morally reprehensible. Fiction is a gateway to explore ideals and fantasy which, to an extent, correlate with mindset. Additionally, this type of fanservice seems exclusive to anime-esque content which may suggest a deeper cultural dilemma and further conformity of those who consume it.”

These are comments on fanservice and so are largely irrelevant to the actual plot. That said, I’d like to see psychologists try and formulate an answer, but that is exponentially difficult. At a base level, anime just isn’t a topic that sees a lot of research. Popularity notwithstanding, you can’t really perform adequate research about the topic in my opinion. To obtain a sample size of participants who [are offenders and] all share more or less the same background and experience for reliability and validity seems impossible. I suppose you could do a case study, but even then, the most you could posit is declaring a potential risk factor. The limit of what one could do with the mass population is to gauge their perception on this material which would be interesting, but not necessarily beneficial at large. 

However, Isekai Assassin’s use of underage characters is less fleeting than fanservice and instead they’re integral to the plot. It’s for this reason why I consider it noteworthy. The circumstances in which two female characters, Tarte and Maha, meet the MC and the end result of how that pans out is concerning. To give context to those who don’t know:

Tarte was a young girl formerly from a poor household. Given the onset of winter and the food scarcity it creates, it became a necessity to decrease the amount of people that needed to be fed. To that end, Tarte was thrown out into the wild and she eventually wandered long enough to end up starving and hunted by wolves in the region of Tuatha De. About to be killed and eaten, the MC Lugh, son of the lord of Tuatha De, saves her by killing the wolves and gives her food. 

In the case of Maha, she was an orphaned child who organized fellow orphaned or abandoned children to assist and give tours to tourists in the city they resided in. The profit would eventually lead to them being able to buy a house for proper living conditions. That never came to pass however as they were kidnapped and forced to reside in an orphanage. This orphanage was in actuality closer to a mixture of a sweatshop and human trafficking ring where the kids were forced to work, beaten, sexually abused, and sold off to those with money. Under an alias, Lugh saves Maha and the children. 

As an aside, Dia, Lugh’s teacher in magic, is also an underage character who comes to love him. The relationship is much better than that between Tarte and Lugh or Maha and Lugh considering there were no dire straits or obvious manipulation that led to a romance forming. It was relatively natural in fact, but the problem of age still does apply. The power dynamic is imbalanced. While the mental age is actually closer, there is still an insurmountable gap in emotional maturity.  

That surface-level summary is dark, but that’s fine. Once more, there’s nothing wrong with dark and mature themes and their depiction in media. What’s omitted from these summaries is the part I find, for a lack of a better term, problematic. Tarte and Maha’s emotional attachment from being saved develops into a romance and Lugh ends up having a harem. Thus, we have a large age gap in a romantic relationship. What can stem from this? Manipulation.

Manipulation, Disney, & Zugzwang 

To begin this talk on manipulation, we need to backtrack slightly again as I omitted another crucial aspect to the ending of Tarte and Maha’s backstory. In order for Tarte to escape her situation, i.e. being homeless, facing starvation, and physical danger (from wolves and other predators), her only perceivable choice was to join with Lugh. That alone isn’t grounds for purposeful manipulation, but Lugh goes a step farther with declarations like “I need you,” while maintaining that the condition of joining him meant aiding him in killing. When faced with this ultimatum, death or life, it’s clear that there wasn’t ever a real choice. It isn’t as if this wasn’t planned either, quite the opposite. Lugh’s internal monologue runs through the steps he took to secure her trust and submission while concluding it with the thought, “Brainwashing complete”. 

This can be seen as an expedited portrayal of Stockholm syndrome with Lugh as the captor. While children aren’t generally seen as a typical hostage, see an excerpt from Julich & Oak’s paper on grooming and Stockholm syndrome (2016):

“While the general public would not think of children and young people as hostages, they can be victims and they can be held captive… Their hostage situation exists in both material and subliminal form manifested in: their perceived threat to survival and belief the abuser is willing to carry out that threat, the victim’s perception of some small kindness from the abuser within a context of terror, fear of isolation and the perceived inability to escape. These elements are the four precursors or conditions that Graham et al. (1994) identified as the precursors for Stockholm syndrome and Julich (2001) analysed her interviews of adult survivors of CSA using these precursors as a framework”.

While Stockholm syndrome doesn’t apply to Maha’s situation, I do believe there’s a large level of manipulation, even if it isn’t overtly disclosed as was with Tarte. Before Lugh saved Maha and the rest of the orphanage, he simply went there under his alias to hire a suitable assistant for himself. When he arrives, he sees Maha alone in a building, crying to herself with a blade nearly piercing her eye. She appears to be attempting to either gouge her eye out or kill herself entirely. Lugh calls out to her smiling and says, “You’d be cuter if you smiled”. Then, hardcut to see the lineup of girls. He chooses Maha from their assortment who seems to have overcome her trauma in the time elapsed and finds herself swooning over Lugh. However, he must wait three days while she is prepared for him. Before these three days have passed, Maha is in transit where her captors attempt to have their way with her. She tries to run away, is caught, and subsequently saved by Lugh who she sees as a dashing prince come to save the day. 

There is a distinct possibility that what I critique now is the result of inconsistent writing and presentation, yet I continue to critique regardless as that is simply what the end product is. Lugh is explained to be quite smart. Is the audience expected to believe that he went to the orphanage simply to hire an assistant without knowledge of the location’s circumstances? If not, why else would he wait for Maha to be attacked? If we don’t accept his out of character naivety, we instead accept the fact that Lugh waited for Maha to be attacked in order to garner trust and devotion from her, thereby fulfilling her ideal of a prince coming to save her. This terminology is quite reminiscent from the controversy that stemmed from Disney movies which played a role in the adoption of traditional sex-roles with Maha being a damsel in distress in need of a prince (Coyne et al., 2016). The climax of it all is that Maha, after being saved from rape and abuse, is trained to be an assassin.

Zugzwang is a term most associated with chess and is essentially a position where a move is always detrimental (Winter, 1997). In my mind, this fits quite appropriately with Lugh’s situation. I’ve seen comments from the audience glad that Lugh is developing a more human side compared to his previous life, but that has little bearing on Tarte or Maha. At this point, when both his female companions are presented as loyal to the point of death, it appears self-evident that no action can be significantly helpful to them. Regardless of whether Lugh cherishes them or not, they will obey him completely. In short, the damage has been done and efforts to reverse that will largely fall short. 

Conclusion

There are clear actions on the part of Lugh in order to manipulate his companions. Yet, the story pays this little mind. When it’s discussed, such as in Tarte’s case, it’s a matter of fact. While it is possible to accept this as the MC simply being cold and manipulative, assumed to be typical of an assassin, the show also wants to humanize Lugh at the same time. This results in a contradictory sway with the narrative, hopeful that everything can be idyllic when the time comes to settle down without regard to the long-term effects of manipulation. In truth, manipulation has become the Original Sin, the bedrock of the story.

I would like to recognize that the intentions of the original author were most likely not to convey ill intent. This should not be seen as an attack on said author or any other individuals associated with the work as a whole. Neither should it be seen as an attack on the audience that enjoys the product. However, this article stands as a critique of the narrative, themes, and possible conclusions that can be made from a close analysis. Whether or not all shows need to withstand such close-reading is surely a topic of debate. Nevertheless, I believe that depictions of relationships in media do function as a learning tool, especially to those prone to influence (i.e. children and those with mental disorders). By virtue of being an anime tagged isekai and harem, having a male lead, and being rated PG-13, this puts it squarely in an audience of male adolescents. No, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that dark themes or even discussed examples of manipulation should be thrown out of shows for adolescents. I instead recommend parental guidance when it comes to consuming and properly understanding the implications of shows that contain the aforementioned. When parents can’t monitor their kids or if there’s no parental figure, what’s to be done? That’s a good question, but I don’t have the answer for you today.

Any comments are welcome, especially critique on this article. I didn’t find any controversy about Isekai Assassin which actually surprised me. I don’t often criticize anime for its oversexualization, but it just felt different in this show. Seeing as how I might be the only one writing long-form about it, maybe it’s just me. In any case, I hope the read wasn’t too formal and that you could still enjoy it.


References

Babiak, P., Neumann, C. S., & Hare, R. D. (2010). Corporate psychopathy: Talking the walk. Behavioral Sciences & the Law, 28(2), 174–193. 

https://doi.org/10.1002/bsl.925

Britannica, E. P. S. (2010). The history of western ethics. Rosen Publishing Group.

Castleden, R. (1999). King Arthur : The Truth Behind the Legend. Taylor & Francis Group

Coyne, S. M., Linder, J. R., Rasmussen, E. E., Nelson, D. A., & Birkbeck, V. (2016). Pretty as a Princess: Longitudinal Effects of Engagement With Disney Princesses on Gender Stereotypes, Body Esteem, and Prosocial Behavior in Children. Child Development, 87(6), 1909–1925. 

https://doi.org/10.1111/cdev.12569

Julich, S. J., & Oak, E. B. (2016). Does grooming facilitate the development of Stockholm syndrome? The social work practice implications. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 28(3), 47-56. 

https://doi.org/10.11157/anzswj-vol28iss3id247

Khurana, Bleakley, A., Ellithorpe, M. E., Hennessy, M., Jamieson, P. E., & Weitz, I. (2019). Media violence exposure and aggression in adolescents: A risk and resilience perspective. Aggressive Behavior, 45(1), 70–81. 

https://doi.org/10.1002/ab.21798

Landay, K., & Frieder, R. E. (2018). Cold-Blooded Killers? Rethinking Psychopathy in the Military. Occupational Stress and Well-Being in Military Contexts (Vol. 16, pp. 23–47). Emerald Publishing Limited. 

https://doi.org/10.1108/S1479-355520180000016002

Midgley, M., (1985).  Persons and Non-Persons 

Miller, A. (2000). The Crucible. Penguin Classics.

Orwell, G. (1948). 1984. Penguin Classics.

Orwell, G. (1944). Animal Farm. Penguin Classics.

Singer, P. (1989) All Animals Are Equal

Smith, S. F., & Lilienfeld, S. O. (2012). Psychopathy in the workplace: The knowns and unknowns. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 18(2), 204–218.

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.avb.2012.11.007

Wheeler, C. (2019). The evolution of the legend of Arthur

Winter, E. (1997). Zugzwang.

Zhang, Cao, Y., Gao, J., Yang, X., Rost, D. H., Cheng, G., Teng, Z., & Espelage, D. L. (2019). Effects of cartoon violence on aggressive thoughts and aggressive behaviors. Aggressive Behavior. 45(5), 489–497. 

https://doi.org/10.1002/ab.21836

Isekai Shokudou Is A Perfect(ly Okay) Anime

Isekai Shokudou or Restaurant to Another World is exactly as it sounds and little more. Its title is literal, succinct, and as will be repeated: I think that’s fine. Doubtlessly you don’t need a plot summary as there really isn’t much to delve into. It portrays characters from a fantasy world finding a magical door to a modern Western restaurant, Nekoya, in Japan. There’s a lot of questions that could be raised when watching the show or reflecting on it. Several can be asked about the magical door itself. There’s also brief glimpses at the evolution of technology and agriculture as a result of customers emulating modern food and tech. What about the discrimination towards demons and half-elves? The wage gap? While fantasy currency is useless in the modern world, what about its purity and cost as a metal? I could go on and on, but the fact of the matter is that the show didn’t really explore these topics. 

Audience reception was generally positive, but Isekai Shokudou aired during the Summer 2017 season. For reference, Shokugeki no Souma was airing its third season in Fall 2017. As a result, I think there were some misconceptions about the show. Cooking anime don’t seem to be particularly prolific and so Shokugeki no Souma was the only point of reference for a lot of people. I suspect the anime community expected a bit more focus on action and fantasy in the vein of shounen while the show ended up being the exact opposite. Critique followed the train of thought that the show had no progression, main story, or plot as nothing happened. After reading the previous list of topics they could’ve written about in-depth, you might be inclined to agree that a larger overview of topics related to cooking should’ve been explored. Well, I actually disagree.

My argument here isn’t that Isekai Shokudou is an objectively great anime. I understand why it has a 7.35 on MAL and I think that’s a fair score. In fact, this article is barely an argument. I’m writing this to affirm why I liked the show and to explore the main theme because there was one integrated into every episode. It was never about large complicated ideas. Instead, it was about appreciating the small things. In this case: food and food culture. 

From the beginning of the show, it’s stated that Nekoya is not a traditional Japanese restaurant. While it does have Japanese cuisine to suit the local palate, it’s a so-called Western restaurant. In this case, they define Western not just as food from Europe and the Americas as is often associated. Instead, Western is closer to a term for foreign, defined as food not having originated in Japan. This alone is integral to the entirety of the series. By showing culturally diverse food, it holds up and embraces its interconnected nature. We shouldn’t be stringent in what we accept or negative towards foreign food as so much of what we eat doesn’t originate natively. Sometimes this is the case in recipes, but it’s also true when we look at crops themselves and international trade routes.

When it comes to food, no one is excluded. Elves represent this most overtly with their aversion to eating meat and dishes created with animal products: veganism. Even then, there’s still options available to them and they’re quite good. The perspective is not that veganism is exclusively a restriction either- it’s a push to further explore new tastes. SORTEDfood is a great channel that maintains the comedic nature of a bunch of friends while talking, teaching, and messing about with food. In the past, they’ve brought to attention and raised good points about traceability, food alternatives, and veganism to name a few. You don’t need to be particularly interested in cooking to have a laugh.

In a way, there’s also a subtle allusion to the unification that food can provide. Nekoya is often filled with multiple inhabitants from the other world, all varying species. Despite any barriers that may exist, that all fades away when they enter the restaurant’s door. No one wishes to physically fight in earnest fearing they’ll be kicked out. As such, it’s almost like they’re on sacred ground. The only argument that transpires there is about which dish is supreme. It’s a common occurrence, but it’s always friendly banter with the resolution that everyone has their own preference. Those arguments also serve to broaden the horizons of other customers, urging them to try other dishes.


The very lighting of the restaurant, or at least the warm colors used in its depiction, reinforce the homely nature of the environment. I’m sure everyone is aware of color psychology so we can sail past that. Interestingly though, when I looked to see if there were any articles written about lighting in restaurants specifically, there was one worth mentioning. Its title is Fast Food Restaurant Lighting and Music can Reduce Calorie Intake and Increase Satisfaction (Wansink & van Ittersum, 2012). Before I discuss it, I do feel that the title is irritatingly misleading. To me, it presents itself as some miraculous way to reduce calories while maintaining portion size and food consumption. That’s not the study at all. It merely observed the effect of lighting and music and its relation to how much people ate. Dim lighting and soft music caused people to eat slower and often less than the other extreme of loud music and bright lights which accelerated consumption (p. 231). Very generally, this (dim lighting and soft music) led to greater satisfaction with the food. There is other speculation about their data, but honestly it’s fairly flimsy and so I opt to forgo writing about it.

Usually, I’d apply a study’s conclusion to the anime I’m discussing- that’s the point of bringing it up after all. In this case though, I want to make a few points: 

  • The study was about fast food restaurants. That means it doesn’t directly apply to proper restaurants. It’s difficult and often faulty to generalize results that occur outside of a lab setting due to the amount of factors out of the researchers’ controls.
  • The study’s sample size consisted of 62 people. While that is decent and the results it concluded are backed up by significant enough data (large enough to not be a result of random chance), it remains a singular study. Despite this phrase being frowned upon since it’s self-evident within the science community, I say it anyway: “further research must be done.”
  • To you as a reader, while it may be difficult due to a variety of reasons, try and read a citation’s original text. At the least, skim it. While a writer may propose something, even with citations, don’t treat it as fact. Not all research is done well and you need to learn when to disagree with experts’ methodology or conclusions about their data.

All that aside, there are still other factors beyond the lighting which theoretically increase the homely feeling of the diner. For one, it’s the proximity of the dining room to the kitchen. While you’re seated at your table, you can hear the chef preparing your food. It’s one step away from watching your parents cook as you did as a child. You’re doing nothing physically, but you’re anticipating the meal and thinking about it in your head. You can smell the delicious aroma wafting from the back that causes you to salivate. The placement of the furniture and lack of separators between tables aids this. In an open room, you’re not only smelling what’s being cooked currently- you register all the sensory information from others’ food. You’re able to see their reaction, one of pure bliss, and you too come to expect that. Those other people aren’t just customers either. You’re all regulars at this lovely restaurant, nicknames given to each other based on your favorite dish. It’s truly a familial experience.

While it never explored the purity of coins, it did touch on the craftsmanship and advancements of the modern age. Episode 2 featured a treasure hunter and soldier baffled at the availability of free cold water and the presence of ice respectively. Episode 5 featured a half-elf who emulated a fridge with magic while wondering how the restaurant copied her writing perfectly to produce multiple menus. Episode 9 featured a dwarf who marveled at the craftsmanship of a beer mug. This is all a showcase of the little things we take for granted. Settings like the restaurant shown in the anime are personal favorites of mine. Whether they be cafes, tea shops, or bars, they all represent a peaceful place away from the business or action. It’s as if time stops and life allows you room to breathe. When you’re there, all you need to do is enjoy the atmosphere. Places like that transport you to another world. 


“Isekai Shokudou Is A Perfect(ly Okay) Anime” – There’s nothing exceedingly spectacular about it and that’s fine. Not everything needs to be met with raving reviews, heralded as a masterpiece for all to follow. It’s still filled to the brim with little details to appreciate and makes for both a pleasant and relaxing viewing experience. To like it is to recognize the little things that make it good, a successful passing on of the theme. Watch it on Crunchyroll, Funimation, or Amazon if you haven’t already. There has even been an announcement of a Season 2!

A Starlight Shores Analysis: Time & Ambiguity

Header Image from Starlight Shores.

Note that this analysis of Starlight Shores does contain spoilers for the story. As such, it will sparingly show screenshots from the game; however, they will not portray the integral story beats per se. Instead, I’ll be using them to convey what I believe capture some of the themes of the game. Still, if you only want to hear my thoughts without spoilers, this will summarize it:

Starlight Shores is a hidden gem masquerading as a writer’s first full-release. The dialogue is poignant, and the short-novel style fully utilizes the medium while playing into the theme of time.

No review copy was sent to me, nor was there any other incentive for writing this analysis. Starlight Shores was bought with my own money and my connection with the development team is limited to following them on Twitter and tweeting at them sporadically. 

Starlight Shores is available on both Steam and Itch.io

The development team as documented on the Itch.io page and in the game’s credits:

Sam Kerr- Creative Director and Lead Developer

Nanae Lia- Creative Director, CG & Character Artist

Tanuma San- CG & Background Artist

Alcaknight- Lead Composer

BackgroundTK- Outdoor Background Artist

Re.Alice- Logo Designer

A special thanks to Uncle Mugen, CC backgrounds were from his lemmasoft page!

Click Here for their Discord!


I don’t know what I expected from Starlight Shores (SS). I played the demo of Tidal Blossoms (TB) a while back, also written by Sam Kerr of Delphinium Interactive, and from what I can recall it was quite decent. I wouldn’t single it out as anything too spectacular, but I think it’s still important to bring up. The fact that they’re both in the same universe and SS is a sort of prequel to TB aside- from a writing perspective, it’s very interesting because the tones are perceivably different, or at least that’s my feeling.

Tone is something I’ve commented on before and even then I noted that I’m hesitant to do so because it’s such an ephemeral and subjective concept. It’s very easy for tone to control an author’s writing rather than it purvey throughout. As such, intended tones often come off heavy-handed and almost amateur in their application. Its role in Starlight Shores though is dare I say excellent. But before that, what is Starlight Shores? 

To quote the the short blurb on the game’s page:

“Starlight Shores is an island-themed romance game where you’ll visit the town of Seaside with your friends. Party under the stars, play games together, and remember that your choices matter!”

It’s very straight-forward about being a romance game which is quite ironic in retrospect when we view the dynamic of Theo, Lena, and Will who is our main character. To start, while Will is the MC, he is by no means a blank slate to be puppeteered around completely by the player. His history is extremely relevant to the story as Theo was his close friend and their parting left a sense of longing and regret which aided in dividing the two. Being able to reunite after so long, it’s both a blessing and a curse. People change over time and without significant introspection, it’s difficult to consciously notice that change within one’s self, regardless if it was for better or for worse. After so long, will the memories they made remain consistent with who shows up at Seaside? 

That’s a good hook in its own right, but the personality and views of a person aren’t the only things that change with time. Our lives are never static. Conversely, they’re always in development and that brings new stories and new characters, even if we’re sometimes stuck in the past. That’s where Lena comes in, the new best friend of Theo. She’s affectionately referred to as Theo’s replacement best friend, a stand-in for Will, and that has very relevant implications. Top among them is the formation of a perceived romance barrier. Yes, Lena is not just a love interest for the protagonist. She too carries feelings for Theo and draws very significant parallels to Will as is mentioned time and time again. 

The dynamic of the previous two paragraphs is the crux of the story in a nutshell and your choices dictate your answer. All that was only to explain the premise but henceforth I’ll be talking about its themes. The themes which stood out the most to me were these:

Time & Ambiguity

I’ve already discussed time’s role in the synopsis, but I talked about it in a way which denoted inevitable change. I don’t mean to contradict that, you can’t stop time, but critical is what we decided to do within that context. We are not helpless bystanders that watch the world go by. Though our lives are fleeting, all the more reason to seize what we want while we still can. Carpe diem. But what does that really mean? Does that involve reconnecting with and romancing Theo? Does it mean to date Lena? Does it mean to reconcile that your feelings were not romantic but platonic?

If you date Theo, then you’re affirming that while both you and her have made mistakes in the past, you still love each other and vow to be there for one another in the future. That goodbye kiss, whether purposefully memorable or done spuriously, bound you two together in a relationship not to be confined by distance. Lena though? She’ll never end up with Theo who she loves dearly. She missed her chance by waiting too long. Maybe she can accept that, but can you? 

A similar conundrum persists if you date Lena. Perhaps you do contend that you love Theo in a platonic way and so you choose Lena. Well, she still loves Theo. Your choice is then to hook up with Lena for the night or abstain, in the case of the latter not knowing what will come from that choice. You can spur her on, but at this point all you can do is hope the future will prove fruitful for the two. Do you opt for sex for the sake of it, again hoping that a proper relationship will further blossom from that? Only time will tell.

And of course, when you maneuver a path to bring Theo and Lena together, for the most part, you step out of the picture. You’ll be there to support the two, but are you alright leaving Starlight Shores like that? You’re playing a romance game, so the game’s objective in theory is most likely to end up in a relationship. It’s your choice to walk away knowing that your preconceived goal wasn’t met, but perhaps this was the supposed correct choice. Or was an ending without a relationship between the player and someone else a waste of time?

I don’t have an answer, but I do know that there’s no correct choice. I’d posit that the author didn’t have a canonical choice in mind either. You find this string of text at various different endings: “This wasn’t the night that I expected, but I’m glad that I’m here.” Your choices are something you have to live with. You don’t always need to justify your actions and you won’t always know where you’ll end up. There’s nothing wrong with that though. It’s through the passing of time that we ourselves bring meaning to our choices and our lives in full. 

Throughout all of this analysis, there’s been a level of ambiguity present reflective of the VN. Sometimes ambiguity is frowned upon, but usually that critique is levied at a lack of information which prevents readers from formulating any cohesive meaning from a work. That isn’t the case in Starlight Shores. There’s undoubtedly ambiguity, but it’s tactful in its use as the meaning needs to be both ascertained by the player and the characters themselves. Take this for instance:

Besides the fact that it’s a beautiful line, the context of the scene is discussing the past of Theo and Will’s and if they were ever truly in love. The ambiguity here is not just well placed, but it’s accurate. Relationships and emotions in general are ever so complicated and sometimes our minds get a bit boggled trying to make sense of the events around us. It’s easy to second guess and doubt ourselves, especially when we’re in stressful situations and I think it’s fair to say that the isolation that came from moving away from a potential partner and the rigors of college life are significantly stressful. Moreover, the quote plays into the idea of personas and romanticization. We wear a mask to appease different social groups. Individual masks subtly alter our mindset and behaviour, though not too far from the cumulative average. These masks though are not only relevant when outward facing. When we view them all, our emotions must be consistent with them otherwise one of them must change. This conflict of memory and emotion, not knowing which is correct, leads to a downward spiral as one’s self is lost. 

I’d like to bring in an academic article titled My Time, Your Time, or Our Time? Time Perception and its Associations With Interpersonal Goals and Life Outcomes by Yu Niiya (2019). Niiya talks about the concepts of zero-sum and nonzero-sum time. The former is when time is viewed as a limited commodity or resource, usually taken up, taken away, or spent on another in an interpersonal relationship (p. 1440). A nonzero-sum on the other hand is when time is not perceived as property, neither given or taken away. Rather, it’s unowned and exists for everyone’s benefit. It’s argued that people most likely perceive time as zero-sum or nonzero-sum in different situations. The conclusion to take away from that article are the primary results about time perception, interpersonal goals, and life outcomes: In layman’s terms, people who wish to help others are more likely to have a nonzero-sum perception of time since they view the processing of helping to aid in self-growth resulting in no perceivable loss. Overall, there was a correlation between nonzero-sum perception and happiness (pp. 1451-1452).

These conclusions are considerable when we think about the dialogue contained within Starlight Shores. By not looking at time as a commodity, we stand to be happier for it. Thoughts about wasting each other’s time should cease, though that’s definitely easier said than done. However, this does happen at certain points in the game, principally select endings. It fits thematically as that’s the culmination of their life experience and conversations that transpire- learning to live in the moment, uncaring of judgement by others, wholly trusting, and only wishing to be happy with one another.

Parallel Timelines

Before I close out, it wouldn’t do to avoid talking about the “short story” romance style of the game. On a meta level, the player experiences the story through parallel timelines via their different choices. It’s through these different stories that we learn about different facets of individual characters’ lives. The background information is both relevant to understanding them and substantial when accumulated over multiple playthroughs. It’s even on a meta level that we once again return to the core themes of time and ambiguity. We can see that on certain routes, say when Will romances Theo, Lena is willing to grant them reprieve and essentially gives up on her chance with Theo by returning to the house. With this knowledge of character’s actions and mindsets, we can make a more informed decision about what we really want to do.

I think this is of the utmost importance to other developers who also develop their games in the “short story” romance style: consistency, and Starlight Shores does it well. There must be consistency in actions and if not, there must be a very good reason. Undoubtedly characters are dynamic and their words and actions should suit the situation, but they need to remain true to their personality. Otherwise, you run the risk of ruining players’ expectations of how a character will act, negating any sense of knowing that character on a deeper level. Breaking those expectations is no doubt useful, but that’s a tool to be used sparingly.

With that, we’ve reached the end of this analysis. Starlight Shores is a wonderful game that has somehow managed to claw its way into my list of favorite VNs. Admittedly, I didn’t expect that, but credit where credit’s due. The writing was superb, the artwork was beautiful, and the music a joy to listen to. Thank you for reading and I implore you to buy Starlight Shores if you haven’t done so already.

Critique

As I don’t review games as I’ve done in the past, I’ve opted to bundle my critique of the game here. Firstly: the amount of choices. It’s an odd critique to be sure, but I do believe it’s justified. At junctions, I sometimes felt unsure as to which choices were relevant. Couple this with the amount of choices, and there are quite a number of permutations to go through. I don’t feel as if it detracted from the experience, and as has been stated, there is importance even in the finer details of small junctions, but something to note nonetheless. 

I believe this problem of “getting lost” when searching for a new end doesn’t need to be solved by lessening those choices, though practical and aesthetically pleasing ways of doing so are difficult to think of. The most efficient and fitting way I can come up with at the time of writing is implementing coding which denotes that a choice has been picked before. Other mechanics to consider are a hint system or a flow chart that effectively serves as a chapter select after a certain amount of progression has been achieved. These two systems don’t seem very pleasing though and I’d opt for the initial recommendation. For all that, this is the critique and recommendation of one person. Other methods are available if the critique is to be agreed with in the first place. 

Two other minor critiques are the speed at which text fades in and the settings (preferences) screen. I think the fade-in is a tad too slow and could use a slight bump. Maybe allow that speed to be configurable in the settings. The settings screen itself is, and this really is the most minor of critiques, a bit plain. There’s nothing wrong with something default, but in the future and with a bigger budget, it’s a little detail that would be appreciated. 

Despite these critiques, I still vehemently believe that the quality of Starlight Shores is worth your time and money. 


The game’s credits and potential conflict of interests are listed again for redundancy:

No review copy was sent to me, nor was there any other incentive for writing this analysis. Starlight Shores was bought with my own money and my connection with the development team is limited to following them on Twitter and tweeting at them sporadically. 

Starlight Shores is available on both Steam and Itch.io

The development team as documented on the Itch.io page and in the game’s credits:

Sam Kerr- Creative Director and Lead Developer

Nanae Lia- Creative Director, CG & Character Artist

Tanuma San- CG & Background Artist

Alcaknight- Lead Composer

BackgroundTK- Outdoor Background Artist

Re.Alice- Logo Designer

A special thanks to Uncle Mugen, CC backgrounds were from his lemmasoft page!

Click Here for their Discord!

VN Barriers: A Comparison of Taylor’s Article+ [P1]

Header Image from Riddle Joker.

In this two-part post, I will be comparing the purported barriers I proposed in an old article of mine with the cultural barrier Emily Taylor proposes in her academic peer-reviewed article Dating-simulation games: leisure and gaming of Japanese youth culture (2007). Before I compare them in part two, let me first explain Emily Taylor’s article. I know a lot of people don’t have access to it via their institution so I’ll do my best to summarize her article. Note that her focus was specifically on Japanese dating-sims (of the bishoujo variety), not VNs as a whole.


Past the abstract, Taylor first includes a section which justifies her study of dating sims. She asks the main question of why dating-sims aren’t popular abroad and brings up the lack of spotlight dating sims have in academic literature. This is despite the frequency of articles seeking to study otaku and hikikomori. She emphasizes the point further by pointing out that dating sims encompass three important categories of study: “(1) Japanese dating and personal relationships, (2) Japanese gaming and leisure, and (3) obscenity and pornography in Japan” (p. 193). Thus, the overlap which dating sims represent should call for further research.

The next section will not be summarized as its purpose is to define dating sims. I expect, and I don’t believe that this is unreasonable, that those who are reading this already know what they are. Once again though, I will reiterate two facts she puts forth. The first being that the focus of Taylor’s article is on bishoujo dating sims. The second that dating sims represent a significant proportion of the Japanese gaming market’s sales as opposed to overseas in America and Europe.

The subsequent section lists the four dating sims which “reveal the complexities and possibilities of the genre…” with summaries of them (p. 195). I opt to directly quote Taylor here as I find the phrasing interesting. The following then serve as the bedrock of the article:

  • [Touching Fan Favorite] Kana Imouto(加奈~いもうと)
  • [Eroge] Sensei 2(せ・ん・せ・い2)

[Author’s Note] There are some discrepancies between the English titles and the redirects to JAST USA, specifically with Kana Imouto and Tottemo! Pheromone. Kana Okaeri is a revamped version of the original Kana Imouto. Target Pheromone on the other is a discrepancy I cannot explain.


Taylor then classifies dating sims- what she terms an “ambiguous genre” (p. 197) and makes the important connection between dating sims, video games, anime and manga, and Japanese pornography. She begins by calling dating-sims overall a type of video game given their availability on consoles as well as computers. The extended length of time between choices within dating-sims evokes an atmosphere similar to anime- Besides a similar structure, e.g., anime and dating sims both containing an animated opening and transitions using still frames there are also shared story elements between dating sims, anime, and manga. For the comparison to poronography, she similarly lists shared tropes. 

An example of transitions.

“I propose, therefore, that dating-sims games be considered interactive anime/manga with erotic content, a classification recognizing that dating-sim games combine both the voyerusitic aspect of (pornographic) anime or manga with the participatory aspect of video games” (p. 198).

Next, a very important part of the article, explains the common appearance and nature of male characters in dating-sims. Usually they’re young enough to be in school, high school or college, and heterosexual with a realistic daily routine. Their physical features are generally Japanese (“usually dark hair and light-colored skin” p. 198) with the caveat that their facial features are rarely shown. This is exemplified by hair covering the eyes. On the basis of personality, they’re rather plain and serve as a self-insert. While not many dating-sims allow for players to change the name of the main character, the name itself is quite generic. 

Source

Interestingly, male characters are characterized by Taylor as “the opposite of shōjo” [少女 shoujo or young girl] (p. 199). 

“[D]ating-sim games protect otaku from the risk of being labeled as shōjo, a pejorative appellation that is a result of being feminized through watching romance-comedy anime and from being sexually inexperienced, unmarried consumers” (p. 203).”


[Author’s Note] Contemporarily, in the western anime scene, shoujo is recognized only by its literal definition. Usually it’s referred to in conjunction with other mediums: shoujo manga or anime, denoting the audience they’re aimed at.  


Shoujo in this context alludes to a lack of sexual experience and, to an extent, femininity or rather a lack of traditional masculinity. Therefore, male characters are actually portrayed as quite sexually experienced compared to the females. This holds true even if the female character is older and has had sexual experience before. Additionally, male characters rarely show outbursts of emotion.

More on female characters, Taylor concludes that they’re quite contrary to male characters. Even in physical appearance, they’re quite exaggerated and rooted in the realm of fantasy with colorful hair and eyes. Moreover, they’re typically written to be weak characters: submissive and subordinate. Therefore, all female characters can be described as shoujo, even if they’re quite mature, due to their portrayal as sexually inexperienced and emotional.

“Thus, in dating-sims, women are presented as either being defenseless playthings for the male character or are reduced to such by the end of the game, essentially reverting to a childlike, shōjo state” (p. 202).

To summarize and finally conclude:

“Additionally, as the otaku figure is becoming increasingly feminized, dating-sim games, through their control and exploitation of weak, shōjo characters, allow (or even encourage) the player to affirm his identity as a non-shōjo, or masculine, thus empowering and reassuring him” (p. 205).

“With these deep connections to Japanese society and culture, therefore, we should not be particularly surprised that such games have not yet been well received abroad. Perhaps gradually increasing levels of popular awareness of Japanese culture in the West will enlarge the market for Japanese-style dating-sims among certain populations abroad; or perhaps producers of dating-sims will modify their approach- the very premise upon which dating-sim games are built, and the very premise that makes games so quintessentially “Japanese” – for foreign markets” (p. 206).


I realize that some people may find speaking about femininity/masculinity in relation to otakus weird. Due to that, let me touch very briefly on a paper that you can find online quite easily: Acquisition of Cultural Competence through Visual Media: Perceptions of Masculinities in Japanese Society by Kaori Yoshida. It looked at three films:

Shichinin no Samurai (Seven Samurai, 1954)

Jingi nakai tatakai (Battles Without Honor and Humanity, 1973)

Densha otoko (Train Man, 2005)

  • Historically, Seven Samurai was released post-defeat in World War II.
  • Battles Without Honor and Humanity was released during the rapid economic growth that occurred in Japan between the 1960s and the early 1970s. 
  • Densha Otoko was released after the rapid economic growth which subsequently caused female employees to be sought out due to growth in the service industry.
From Densha otoko TV series (2005).

To summarize the article succinctly:

The first film portrayed Japan as a nation that had been feminized, forced to submit, by the US and a collapse of patriarchal authority. The ending however displayed the resilience of Japan and the survival of traditional masculinity, also associated with physical strength,  persisting even its defeat.

The second film portrayed the yakuza and internal betrayal which was analogous to the sentiment of salarymen in Japan. While salarymen worked hard for their company, other individuals sought to pave their own path and abandoned the group in favor of profit. Loyalty and chivalry, also an aspect of traditional masculinity, have been abandoned as well.

The third film portrayed a story of an otaku’s romance, based on a supposedly real story which originally circulated online on Japanese forums. It shows the changing perception of gender norms and the move away from traditional masculinity. 

Finally, since otaku’s are the main focus here, I’d like to supplement both Yoshida and Taylor’s article with some points from Susan Napier’s Where Have All the Salarymen Gone? Masculinity Masochism, and the Technomobility in Densha Otoko (2011). Napier talks about how traditional masculinity which values physicality has instead been replaced by technical skills; otakus represent high-level knowledge of cutting-edge technology. Moreover, despite not being muscular, standing up for others is still valued by otaku. Therefore, as more traditional masculinity, represented by the salaryman ideal, is slowly being phased out in Japanese society, new forms of masculinity as represented by otaku, among others like “bishōnen (beautiful boys), aggressive young entrepreneurs… or the creative ‘cooking man’…” (p. 133), are replacing it. 


I hope you enjoyed this look at three academic sources! It was a joy to write and a bit of a delve into science communication and practice in academic summaries. I’m sure all of you can draw a lot of ideas from these and of course feel free to do so. References to said sources in APA format below. Part 2 to follow.

REFERENCES

Napier, S. (2011). Where Have All the Salarymen Gone?: Masculinity, Masochism, and Technomobility in Densha Otoko. In Recreating Japanese Men (1st ed., p. 154–). University of California Press

Taylor, E. (2007). Dating-simulation games: leisure and gaming of Japanese youth culture. Southeast Review of Asian Studies, 29, 192–208.


Yoshida, K. (2012) “Acquisition of Cultural Competence through Visual Media: Perceptions of Masculinities in Japanese Society,” Journal CAJLE, Vol. 13, 135–152.

Visual Novels: Completion And Internalization

Firstly, I’d like to credit the blog Intermittent Mechanism. I was perusing the WordPress Reader this month looking for interesting articles and lo and behold, I saw an article about Katawa Shoujo. Cited in it was the academic article by Emily Taylor which kicks off the post you’re about to read. Apparently that KS article was written by a university student in Ian Bryce Jones’ class where Katawa Shoujo was, in part, a required read. That alone should interest you and so I encourage everyone to explore that site.


I read an article by author Emily Taylor titled Dating-simulation games: leisure and gaming of Japanese youth culture (2007). It’s a fascinating article which talked about the popularity of dating-sim games in Japan, what it says about the culture and playerbase, and why that popularity hasn’t translated overseas. I’d love to talk about the findings of her peer reviewed article and compare it to what I wrote early on about VN popularity, but not today. Instead, I want to chime in on a particular few sentences she puts forth about game completion in dating-sims. 

“Intuitively, one would think that players would aim for good endings, but such is not always the case. The only way to ‘beat’ the game is to play it numerous times, experiencing all the endings. After playing through the game, players can go to the main menu and check their ‘status,’ which shows how much of the game is finished. To reach a status of 100 percent, signaling completion of the game, all endings must be reached. Essentially, the only way to ‘lose’ when playing a dating-sim game is not to get a bad ending but to get the same ending twice, since doing so prevents players from making any progress toward game completion” (Taylor, 2007, p. 195).  

Overall, I think that’s a brilliant explanation. In fact, when I reviewed VNs, I adhered to this concept of full completion before writing a review. Each segment of the story, irregardless of whether it’s a good or bad end, tells you so much about the characters. In fact, bad ends are fascinating in that they often portray the side of a character you may not see if you’re aiming only for the happy ending. Take Katawa Shoujo (KS) for example. Hanako is perceived to be a shy and timid girl. During her route, one could name a number of things that would cause her anxiety or distress, but what about anger? It’s a magnitude more difficult to picture and it’s not portrayed outside of the bad end. Furthermore, on a simpler level, bad ends may also contain exclusive CGs. Therefore, a game completion stat of 100% based on both good and bad ends is perfectly reasonable and should contemporarily be considered what beating a VN means.

After all that, what if I told you that I believe completing a VN isn’t getting that 100% stat? You beat the game, but you didn’t complete it. How does that sound? Obviously I’m referring to completion in a different context to Taylor. In this case, I’m talking about something more akin to internalization. The American Psychological Association’s (APA) definition of internalization is this: “the nonconscious mental process by which the characteristics, beliefs, feelings, or attitudes of other individuals or groups are assimilated into the self and adopted as one’s own” (n.d.). 

To continue using Katawa Shoujo as an example, there are five routes encapsulated by five different questions on the KS webpage

“Can you face your fears?”

“Can you seize the day?”

“Can you see what I see?”

“Can you stand up for yourself?

“Can you tell me what you think?”

The correlation might be loose, but if you read KS’s story and choose options based on how you feel versus which character you want to romance, you’re led along to about where you should be. By the end of each route, the main character will have found an answer to the corresponding. More than that, you yourself will begin to think more about the question and its relevance. You may not have an answer as Hisao and his romantic partner do, but you’ll be one step closer to finding out. Thus, the ending of a route is a pivotal moment that marks you, the player, further reflecting on what has transpired. In truth, this self-reflection begins somewhere along the route itself when you begin to draw parallels, but I believe this step of realizing what you don’t know fully manifests near the end. This is further magnified as you complete each route and continue to reflect on the other thing you don’t know. 

The next step, after you’ve completed all the routes [and found all the bad ends], happens away from the game. A few days after, you’ve finished it and are off to do something else. Maybe you’ve transitioned to another game, VN or otherwise- Perhaps you’re driving along in your car to work or taking a shower. Nevertheless, you begin to think about the themes of that game unprompted. You begin to apply those themes to other aspects of your life, aspects that are different from the context of the game. The application has then shifted away from only applying to direct parallels. [I think this is the optimal time to write a review.]

The last step is the unconscious application of those themes. At this point, you might not even remember the plot of the game in full. Nevertheless, what you’ve learned from it has seeped into your life. That said, to phrase it like such is a bit of a misnomer. Stories, in my mind, don’t teach you; however, you still learn from them. 

So, where does that leave us? I’d say you’ve completed the game at step two, but is a game’s journey truly completed when it reaches this step? Actually, I’d argue that some are never completed, even when application is unconscious. This is due to how ideas fundamentally travel. If it truly did seep into the facets of your life, you’re more than likely to spread it via your own writing or other work. Take these two screenshots from a VN called Campus Notes – forget me not below. What really underscores the point is the state of the developer group 4th cluster, disbanded since August 10, 2018. Nearly three years since their disbandment, I’m referencing their work originally released on April 6, 2016. 

What’s the point of this article? Think of it as a bit of a mental exercise. What are some things that have influenced you- especially works that you haven’t thought about in a long time? I talked about visual novels and games in this article, but the sentiment spreads to any artform really. Whatever you’re doing, keep that question in the back of your head. You might rediscover something.

If you liked this article, I recommend the VN Chuusotsu! 1st Graduation: Time After Time. It’s a kinetic VN with Japanese voice acting which is centered around a group of three girls tasked with actively finding the answer to the question, “What makes a wonderful life?” 

The Soul of An Online Community ft. Vtubers

Header image by Nishilim!

In Sword Art Online, there was an arc called Mother’s Rosario. It told the story of a girl named Yuuki. Her life was a struggle from beginning to end, filled with sickness and bullying. Eventually, even her presence in the physical world began to flicker out. The only thing that kept her anchored was an experimental Medicuboid: a device created to treat terminally ill patients as well as provide them with virtual reality technology, a doorway to a world of games where they could frolick to their heart’s content.

When the time came for her to pass on, her death could only be described as beautiful. Through Alfheim Online (ALO), the final game she played, she made a permanent mark in two ways: (1) in the literal sense by defeating a Floor Boss and having her name engraved into the Monument of Swordsmen and (2) by inspiring the ALO community with her strength. In her last moments, all the players gathered around Yuuki and knelt down in admiration and prayer. This scene alone evokes such a potent image, but the reason it has stuck with me is because of how surprisingly grounded it is.

The unification of players under the pretense of send-offs and respectful mourning sounds magnificent, but you can’t help but think this is something that only happens in fiction. I’m happy to say it’s not. The first time I learned of a large-scale event was in late 2014 where the Final Fantasy XIV community gathered together to host a vigil for the late player Codex Vahlda. For the full story, please read Mike Fahey’s write-up on Kotaku. It’s a great read and a testament to how strong human empathy can be, linked loosely only by a mutual game.

I doubt this was the first player-held event in memory of someone, but I know for sure it wasn’t the last. In early April of this year, in the same game as before: Final Fantasy XIV, a funeral was held for the late player Ferne Le’roy. She had passed away due to COVID-19. Friends, acquaintances, and complete strangers came together to grieve and support one another online. I’ll leave two videos here and I encourage you to look at the comments on both. Some are from players who had interacted with her previously, giving their account of how kind she was. This Inverse article, written by Danny Paez, contains the full story of how players coordinated the funeral and I push you to go there as this small blurb hardly portrays it properly. 

I bring these examples up because it shows how tight knit a community can be. Even in the face of tragedy, or perhaps due to tragedy, people band together. Before I move on to my next point though, I need to make sure you’re aware of something. In all three examples, SAO and both FFXIV stories, what transpired to cause the death of the individuals was, in some part, unavoidable. It was a matter of sickness for two, and a medical improbability for another. In the subsequent topic I’ll bring up, what brings despair isn’t inevitable. 

I’ll praise what I believe deserves to be praised. At the same time, I’ll critique what I believe deserves to be critiqued. 

Let’s continue with the good and save the bad for a bit later in the article. On August 31, a Vtuber by the name of Mano Aloe graduated. In the context of idols, graduation is synonymous with retirement and is usually by choice as the person behind the avatar then goes on to work elsewhere. [For example, a common occupation taken up is voice acting.] 

A lot of fans showed their respect through an outpour of artwork and kind messages. However, after a graduation, all control of social accounts return to the Vtuber’s company (if applicable). Therefore, sent artwork may not get to her if only, say, tweeted at her. That’s why the community went a step forward. Kind souls over at https://manotomo.tk/ and https://manoaloe.jetri.co/#/ compiled all work in commemoration of her. Additionally, they collected any messages fans had and displayed that as well. They’re fantastic sites which encourage her return, even if not using the same avatar.

Now, you might have connected the dots already. Mano Aloe’s retirement was not by choice. She was pushed to the edge and made to jump. Through a series of rumors and a simple mistake, those who wished ill against her got their wish. Aloe debuted on August 15 of this year. A short 2 days later, on August 17, she received a two week suspension by her company for forgetting to privatize or delete a 2D model test stream. That made the day she was scheduled to come back August 31- the day she retired. 

There’s an argument to be had whether this was a matter of community. I think it was, at least in part. A crucial detail is her early suspension. This suspension doesn’t only entail a no-streaming policy, but a ban on viewing one’s social platforms. Usually, I would say it’s healthier for a person to be away from social media, especially when facing harassment as she was, but it might have had the opposite effect here. Given a brief 2-day window for interaction, her image of the Vtuber community wasn’t a pleasant one. Coupled with the fact that she was doxxed and actively getting phone calls, the two week suspension’s effect was essentially cutting off any positivity that was sent her way. The following video was her apology for leaving the test stream up, uploaded the day before her suspension.

Many people blamed COVER Corporation for their lack of response to this. It’s not the first time they’ve received flack either. Another Vtuber under them, Yozora Mel, was faced with a stalker and COVER’s actions in response were slow to say the least. See Hero Hei’s videos here for that story: 

I do believe this critique of COVER is justified. That’s why I’m very happy to see that they’ve released a way for the community to help them combat these harassers. Key to this though is indeed community. I discussed this previously in my first article about Vtubers, but old idol culture was incredibly toxic and not lenient. It would be unfair to call the current harassers vestiges of that age. Instead, I believe they use the guise of undertaking this old mindset to further undermine the image of the modern community. 

They were able to do this because of the heavy association the modern community still has with idol culture. It isn’t my place to say they should move away from the association. In fact, many of the Vtubers do see themselves as idols. Some were even people who applied for such positions in the past but were rejected. Therefore, it would be wrong to retroactively change them. What I believe should happen is a distinguishment of new idol/Vtuber fans from the old to cement the fact that holding idols to perfection is passe. 

The soul of the Vtuber community is so incredibly bright. That’s why contrast is so visible to me. Please, treat Vtubers as people. Whatever you say, good or bad, will affect them. Thank you for reading. Never forget Mano Aloe. 

The Efficacy of Anime Companies’ Response to BLM

I don’t actually need a preamble to this article. If you don’t know what’s going on in the United States, and even around the world, I encourage you to look it up. Regardless, if you’re on any social media platform, I’m sure you’ve seen many people voice their support for the BLM movement. It’s not limited to individuals raising awareness and voicing their support either. Companies have done so as well.  Four of which I follow are Sekai Project, Anime NYC, Funimation, and Aniplex of America. For the most part, people are receptive to their support. Not all though, and that’s what I’ll be talking about today. 

An argument I’ve seen is that what’s going on in the real world, politically or otherwise, shouldn’t affect games/anime. They don’t want to see publishers discuss it since players go to those mediums for an escape from the real world. True, escapism is a reason for consumption, but what does anime, at large, teach? Does it promote isolation from the world? No. In fact, anime is closer to rehabilitation to circumstances and learning how to move forward more than anything else. We can’t avoid the real world. Problems will always follow us until they are dealt with. Always, we’ve been shown that if we leave it be, it’ll come back to bite us. That’s why I want to see companies take a stand. The issues that plague the world, have plagued the world for a long time and will continue to unless real action is taken. Escape to anime when it gets tough, there’s no shame in that- But you need to return to the real world eventually. 

I know some people think it’s pointless for companies to show their favor towards the BLM movement. They either don’t see it as a controversial opinion to favor the movement or an easy PR move. If the latter, they may be right. Rather, I’m certain that some companies may be showing their support only because of PR. They may only just say something while taking no action. It’s certainly irresponsible, but it’s far from pointless. Even if they only express support, they’re recognizing the movement and therefore the injustices that occur. Those that support BLM are thankful to know that people are on their side. Furthermore, companies that do support the movement don’t go off scott free. While some people are of the opinion that all PR is good PR, companies will lose customers that don’t support the movement. Look at the replies to Sekai Project’s tweet to see that. There are those that state they won’t buy Clannad because of Sekai’s Project’s decision. Tweets even put forth ridiculous claims that developers will change the publishers they go to over this matter. 

What’s my opinion on the matter at large? Do I support the BLM movement? Do I support the protests? Do I support the police? Do I believe all lives matter? 

Yes. Yes to all of it and please pay careful attention to what I capitalize. 

I support the protests, the meaning that they carry. They’re the culmination of a resistance to the racism that underlies law and policies. They happen now because previous attempts to stop racism have failed. My support of that is separate from the violence that occurs during it. I don’t support looting or the damage of property. No person should be harmed, regardless of opinion. Those in the protests that do cause harm, in any way, are not adhering to the core message of BLM. 

I support the police. They put their lives on the line to maintain order and carry out justice. That’s worthy of praise. Yes, officers have stumbled and should be held accountable. There’s no arguing that, but the police aren’t the enemy. Instead, the police and protesters are being thrown against each other repeatedly because the system that underlies the lives of those in the United States is broken. It always has been. That’s the difficult part though, isn’t it? There’s no physical enemy to fight against and those with the power to change things don’t feel a need to take action. More blood will be needlessly shed by both sides. 

I support the BLM movement and believe that all lives matter, not in the way that ALM is used as a retort against BLM.

Please, don’t belittle the money that companies donate. Don’t reply with the [Brand] template. Silence on the part of companies doesn’t mean being complicit with racism, but their approval of BLM is undeniable support against racism. Why shame them for that? Issues have remained pertinent precisely because there hasn’t been enough noise.

We’ve lost the loose connection between the protests and anime and I went on a bit of a tirade. Apologies. I’m not sure other anime bloggers are talking about this and here I am with a wall of text. If I ruined your day and invaded your anime bubble- Oh well. Here’s four anime. Tell me what they have in common. It’s relevant to the discussion at hand.

Code Geass
Maoyuu

Alderamin on the Sky
Arslan Senki

I’m sure you don’t need a hint, but here’s one:

When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace: Writing Outbursts & More

I’ve never seen When Supernatural Battle Becomes Commonplace. I don’t know if it’s good or bad, renown or not. And you know what? It doesn’t matter. The entire show could be utter crap and I wouldn’t care. No matter what, it wouldn’t take away from one scene which I just so happened to stumble across. 

I hold this scene in incredibly high regard since it’s so rich in quality on multiple fronts. Most obvious is Saori Hayami’s incredible voice acting in tandem with the script. The way her speaking exponentially increases in speed and pitch is beautiful. Along the way, her voice breaks more and more to accentuate everything. A lot of it goes against what you normally want from voice acting: clear readings which have a natural but not noticeable pause between strings of sentences. For emotional scenes, you can say you want to evoke emotions and to add sobs, gasps, pauses, and whatnot, but nothing I write can express how good Hayami’s execution was. There’s literally nothing I feel the need to critique about it. Actually, I don’t think I can find something to critique about it. 


The most amazing part for me is how well this scene can be portrayed between mediums. Remove the audio component (as heretical as that is) and there’s still brilliant ways of translating the weight of the words. For manga, you can increase the size of the type font and purposefully overlap dialogue boxes to serve as borders atop the illustration. This is also a great way VNs can portray outbursts:

It’s a literal wall of dialogue without periods that confuses itself by blending inner monologue to portray the character faithfully. It’s tough to read and hard to follow which is exactly the point if you know anything about Rin (She has difficulties understanding people and best expresses herself through her art). 

Here’s another way to portray outbursts and fast talking in VNs: abuse rolling dialogue. It has the same effect as the wall of text except, unless you look at the history, the player is forced to read and comprehend facts quickly lest they miss things (which is fine). I will say though, this should be done cautiously and may be why we haven’t seen it too often. Artificial full stops, half created by how we code dialogue and the other half created by players pausing to take in the info, is precious. It makes players think and can increase the weight of the situation in their minds. Think of it like playing a horror game versus watching a horror movie. The player is forced to move the conversation forward of their own will without external forces compelling them. 

The wall of text is a great addition to contemporary novels and stories too. Even before beginning to read the wall, the reader sees a large block which keys them into what’s going on. Bonus points if you leave a leading question at the bottom of the page so that the reader must turn it before seeing the block. 

Okay, that’s enough of that educational stuff for now. More breakdown of the original scene- 


The directing is rather good as well. This is where the visual medium of anime triumphs over LNs or novels. Quick cuts, close-ups, and dutch and low angles make it so thrilling and confrontive. When we get quick cuts between Hatoko’s face, our eyes are chasing after her desperately. At other times, she takes up most of the screen so that we can’t look away. We even get a great close-up of the mouth where we can see her gritting her teeth in certain frames. Other close-ups are of her hands which are gripped tight and shaking. 

Those dutch angles are basically when the camera is skewed and not on a normal plane (eye-level). They’re supposed to create unease since it’s slightly off from our usual perspective and it does. The low-angle is a great addition too since its function is to make the viewer seem small, us having to look up and inversely making everyone else look down on us metaphorically and literally. There’s also a great high-angle shot in this scene that’s at the very end; the only high-angle shot in the scene actually, which was a great way to show detachment. 

There are some minor gripes I do have though:

This low-angle is… I don’t know. It feels like it strays oddly into fanservice. And it’s not like they couldn’t make a different low angle shot work. They do exactly that a few seconds later. I don’t think it detracted anything from the scene in my case, but it doesn’t add as much as other low-angles would’ve. Confusing. And that’s not the only confusing thing. 

The weird low-angle…
The other low-angle.

The music and SFX are odd. I love the ambient sound of the pot’s contents boiling and her slam turning off the burner, but why add anything else after? It’s probably the biggest critique I have. There’s absolutely no reason to drown out the VA with somewhat melancholy music. The absence of any sound besides her voice was perfect. I’m especially critical of the “slamming” sound when she discusses Kanji. In fact, there’s no reason to visually represent that either. Look. It’s small in the scope of the scene, but I can say for sure it would’ve been better without it. 

Silence is strong.
They do have some neat quotes though.

They misstep on stuff like that, but then they succeed in amping up the sound for her tear droplets hitting the floor. You win some, you lose some I suppose. 

Now, that’s (mostly) everything great about the scene from a cinematography standpoint, but the actual message of the scene is phenomenal-

Let’s be honest with ourselves. We’ve all fallen into the trap that Hatako talks about. Some of the shit we spew as anime fans is ridiculous and we need to realize that. It’s an entirely different culture that people don’t understand unless they’re immersed in it as well. That’s why we need to take the time to explain things, even if we fear sounding stupid.

There’s loads of people who just don’t watch anime and that’s fine. They shouldn’t have to. In fact, for as popular as anime is, I dare say that we’re still the minority and I don’t foresee a change in that. We shouldn’t expect anyone to know anything about it and a good relationship with them shouldn’t be conditional on the fact that they like it too. Don’t get me wrong, anime is a great shared hobby and friends are often made through that mutual passion. Nevertheless, please don’t restrict yourself and most importantly don’t force your opinions on anyone.

Hatoko is a fictional character, but what she stands for in this scene is real. A person who wants to understand, evidenced by her being able to recall all the tropes, cliches, and terminology, only to be ignored and never given the chance to. 

This isn’t a critique of anyone in particular. In fact, everyone I know actually supports the spread of anime in a positive way, even if they don’t know it. That’s right, I’m talking about all you anime WordPress bloggers. You aren’t part of the group Hatoko is meant to criticize. When you talk about anime, you talk about its technical components, its themes, its plot structure, the culture around it, the community, etc. By doing that, you open up a hub where people from multiple specialties can come together and appreciate anime as an art form, even if they don’t necessarily watch it regularly. Good on you!

Stepping Into VTuber & Idol Culture

*Art by Ui Shig: Twitter, Pixiv

At the beginning of 2020, YouTube’s recommendations led me to discover a girl named Ars Almal. Little did I know that I would be stepping into an entirely new world I was yet unfamiliar with: the world of VTubers and idols. 

I’m sure you’re familiar with the concept of virtual youtubers. Kizuna Ai’s popularity soared years ago and I’d say that her name is pretty well known even now. Since then though, I never thought much of it. When I saw Ars, I just figured that another person was using a virtual avatar. It wasn’t that weird. Many streamers use (or have used)  face tracking software to function identically to facecams without giving away what they themselves actually looked like. So, what’s the difference? What’s this culture I’m talking about? 

Well, she’s not just “another person” using a virtual avatar. She’s part of a company that uses virtual avatars. To be even more specific, the company is actually an idol agency called Nijisanji. Are you keeping track of everything?

Nijisanji 「にじさんじ」consists of quite an extensive amount of idols: male and female. To take a peek at the cast, check out their site or watch their official music video. It’s actually mind boggling. I doubt I’d be able to name even 10%. 

That said, there may be a reason for it. There’s actually another company called Hololive 「ホロライブ」Can you guess what they are? Yep! Another idol agency that uses virtual avatars! You can check out the cast here: link.

Hololive and Nijisanji idols also have crossover streams sometimes. So far as I know, it’s not a business move (Though the companies may have to approve? The idol industry is scary. More on that later). Some people are just friends with each other and happen to be in different companies. There are also a bunch of other idol agencies besides those two that I don’t even know of. My limited knowledge of Japanese hampers me, but I’m learning, and sometimes watching them does help. 

Do I have a preference between either companies? That’s really tough to answer. If forced to choose though, I think I have to say Hololive. There’s a select few that I just love to watch, regardless if I can understand them or not. So, for some recommendations:

Korone

She’s just a ball of excitement. She does in fact have a unique dialect which I adore as well. Whenever I watch her, I fee; that she’s genuinely having fun. Moreover, the viewers aren’t just along for the ride. She interacts with her chat a lot and even tries to communicate with her foreign audience. 

Okayu

She’s always so relaxed that I feel comfy too. Even her outfit matches that comfy vibe she exudes. Moreover, her voice is really pleasant to listen to. Okayu often collaborates with Korone so their dynamic together is amazing. I’m sure you could tell by the previous video, but here’s another that shows how close they are.

Coco

Coco? She’s a bit different. She’s more lewd, vulgar, and satirical. One of her weekly shows is a news program where she goes over some Hololive stream fails and funny moments so that everyone can laugh together. Her grasp of the english language is really good (probably fluent?) and likes to curse. I’ll put two videos below that hopefully captures who she is. 

Nijisanji also has some members I absolutely love too! 

Ange Katrina 

Ugh. I talked about in my Waifu article how I loved deeper voices. Ange’s voice? Nothing more needs to be said. Watch the video. 

Dola, Yashiro, Kuzuha, and Himawari 

I’m gonna talk about all four of them together because their dynamic is amazing too. Since they’re all really close friends in real life, they’ve developed a sort of family structure, parents and children. They have no problem joking around and naturally mesh. I’ll put two videos here for them too because I can’t do them justice with just words.


I mentioned before that the idol industry is a bit scary. That’s not a lie or overblown. At the end of the day, these personalities are treated as idols and they have to follow certain rules: legal and cultural. I forget this a lot as a foreign fan and there’s a dark side to the fanbase. They can be demanding at times or wary of female idols having boyfriends. It sounds absurd even as I write it, but it’s true. That’s why I hope that if you find a VTuber you enjoy, please support them, especially when they’re at their worst. 

[It’s for that reason that Coco is actually really great. When she makes fun of mistakes, she does it so that the community treats it as what it is: a funny accident. That’s the brilliance of her satire.] 


One last thing before I send you off. Very recently, an idol named Chinami Achikita has recently graduated. If you don’t know, graduation in the idol industry means that they’ve moved on from being an idol. To be honest, I don’t know much about her. I don’t believe I’ve ever watched a video with her in it. Nevertheless, I wanted to mention her because I want to wish her good luck in her future endeavors. When she graduated, she opted to delete all her videos and now only one music video remains, swayed last minute on her final stream to keep it up. 

Despite not knowing her, I found this to be really saddening. Maybe it’s just because of my personal values, but the deletion of all that work and having no footprint is tragic. I hope her fans remember her and the entertainment she provided. A prayer that she moves on to bigger and better things. 


Hopefully you’re able to enjoy the world of VTubers and Virtual idols now. It’s a wild ride but a pleasant one nonetheless. Go forth to find a personality you love and report back! I want to hear who your favorite personalities are!

Fate/Grand Order – Babylonia EP 20 – Critiques & Physics

This article contains spoilers for Fate/Grand Order: Camelot, Babylonia, and Solomon. 

*Author’s Note Post-Writing: I worked a lot more on this article than I thought I would. I think it’s my longest article so far. Weird seeing how it’s an episode review. Kinda. It turned into a full blown analysis… Also, there’s some cool math down below.

An episode review? That’s a first for me, but I really want to talk about Episode 20. Is there enough material to even consider writing something for a singular episode (relative to how I usually write)? You have no idea. If you’re not too big a fan of Babyonia, don’t worry! This is probably my last article on it unless Episode 21 is exceptional. The third Heaven’s Feel movie and Camelot movies on the other hand… 

Listen. I loved Episode 20, I really did; but I wouldn’t be writing this if that was all. I have some major gripes as a general anime watcher and as an FGO player. Let’s get started.

What Went Wrong?

It hurts to critique, but there are some obvious flaws about the anime in general that are accentuated in Episode 20. The top two among them: the music and quality of art. These two things are fundamentally important and viewer impressions are based, in large part, on them. That’s why the Episode is such a mixed bag of emotions.

MUSIC

I’ll bang out the complaints about music straightaway since it’s a simple critique: there’s not enough variety. This might be because I’ve heard a lot of the tracks in FGO (they remix FGO OSTs or put in hints of the original score for some songs), but I still think they’re reusing some tracks way too much. It’s not like any of them are bad, but they’re far from standout. Prover and Tell Me by Milet work really well as inserts, but what’s the equivalent to, say, the Unlimited Blade Works track or The Sword of Promised Victory?

ART & ANIMATION

Same as the music, there’s not a lot of bad animation. It’s just that there were very noticeable dips which detracted from the overall experience. CloverWorks took an all-or-nothing approach and, in this instance, it didn’t work for me. King Hassan’s appearance was the most egregious. In fact, all scenes he was in lacked that impact FGO players loved him for. 

Compare this close-up shot from Episode 19 to the one in Episode 20:

They’re worlds apart and it’s really disappointing that Gramps doesn’t appear in consistent high-quality. He’s a Grand, a servant summoned specifically to fight a Beast. Yet, all he really does is apply the concept of death to Tiamat in a moment that goes by quickly. This isn’t the absolute, no-nonsense, powerhouse, master swordsman we know him to be. 

He clouded the skies in Camelot, completely nullifying the Gift granted to Gawain by Rhongomyniad. During that time, Gawain couldn’t lay a finger on him. Then, when Gramps cleared it as his assistance was no longer needed, Gawain still couldn’t touch him. The only reason he wasn’t killed was because of Gramps’ adherence to the Lord’s code. Do you know how powerful Gawain is? His swordsmanship is the best of the Round Table, matched only by Lancelot and far above Artoria. In Fate/Extella, under the light of the sun, only Karna can match him. Yet, Gramps doesn’t look great at all. 

Another scene that looked pretty bad was Fujimaru’s action scene, where you can tell that the budget was diverted. It doesn’t help that the scene the budget was diverted to occurs at the same time which results in the juxtaposition of high and low quality. 

Again, I’m not blaming CloverWorks for this, but I do find the lack of quality to be interesting. Isolate Fujimaru’s scene from Ereshkigal’s. If CloverWorks produces mediocre (or bad) quality scenes, it doesn’t usually look like that. From what I’ve seen in their Babylonia adaptation, they still retain flow even if they have to abandon detail. It’s peculiar that this is the exception.

I also had a slight problem with Gilgamesh’s Gate of Babylon, specifically when his Archer variant is first introduced and he’s firing downward upon her. It just looked like the projectiles were going too slow. (I have a picture a bit farther below) That said, it was an extreme wide shot so perhaps it’s merely perception. But I’m not satisfied with that theory so I decided to do some math.

In FGO Material IV, Tiamat is said to have a height of 60+ meters when in her draconic form. I’m uncertain as to whether this is her height while on her hind legs or on all fours. I’ll calculate both:

Assuming She’s 60+ Meters on Her Hind Legs

(Also Generously Assuming No Contraction of Her Legs)

To calculate the speed at which Gil’s treasures are fired, we can use the simple formula:

Velocity = Distance/Time

Speed is our unknown and the Distance is at least 60 meters. All we need now is time and we can find speed. 

This the scene I was talking about up there.

I recorded the time it took for a projectile to go off-screen, starting at the height of Tiamat’s head. These were the values recorded:

0.88 seconds

0.75 seconds

0.97 seconds

0.62 seconds

0.74 seconds

That gives an average time of 0.792 seconds. Put that into the formula:

Velocity = 60 meters / 0.792 seconds

Which gives us an approximate answer of 75.7576 meters per second. I’m not that used to the metric system for daily life though so let’s convert to imperial by multiplying by 2.237. That gives us 169.4649 miles per hour. As a reminder, that’s a minimum since her height is 60+ meters. Therefore, Gil’s treasures travel at a speed of >169.4949 mph or >75.7576 meters per second.

Assuming She’s 60+ Meters on All Fours

(Still Generously Assuming No Contraction of Her Legs)

This is a bit more difficult to calculate since we need to find the individual length of her legs. Difficult, but not impossible.

Using a CG from the game, I quickly scribbled and wrote up proportions.

Since green is her height in pixels, and we know her height in meters, we can convert. 

628 pixels = 60 meters

1 pixel ≈ 0.0955 meters 

Therefore, the length of her leg:

427 x 0.0955 = 40.7785 meters

Add those together in order to simulate her approximate height when standing on hind legs and we get 100.7785 meters.

Apply this once again to the Velocity formula:

Velocity = 100.7785 meters / 0.792 seconds

Which gives us an approximate answer of 127.2456 meters per second. Convert to imperial and that’s 284.6403 miles per hour.

That sounds really impressive. It is. But even more impressive is the fact that some of his treasures are able to achieve fighter jet speeds. Anyway, I concede the point this time. Gil’s weapons are really fast and it’s the extreme wide shot messing me up. Good job CloverWorks.

NOTABLE ADAPTATION DIFFERENCES

Fujimaru didn’t do anything in the mobile game. He commanded his servants, but he certainly didn’t STAB TIAMAT IN THE HEAD. That’s fucking ridiculous. And you know what? I don’t know if I hate it or love it. It’s a cool scene because we see Gil’s treasures are batshit overpowered and Fujimaru gets his own hero moment, but he isn’t that type of hero at all. 

Another thing I can’t make heads or tails about: Gramps biting the head off a Lahmu. WHAT?! That has never been hinted at. EVER. It’s absurd! He’s King Hassan! I know that’s a title given to him, but… WHAT?! What maniac would think Gramps bites things to kill them?!

On a less serious note, Fou. Fou is adorable and I love him, but we got to see him use his powers a little prematurely. Until the end of Part 1 of FGO, we don’t know what or who he is. We don’t even know he’s special in any way. For Fou to teleport Fujimaru is unravelling the surprise a bit too early. Oh well. Solomon probably isn’t getting adapted anytime soon though so maybe they just gave us that as a bonus. 

Lastly, Fujimaru’s conversation with Tiamat. Love it. Don’t care that it wasn’t in the game. Anything we get with a sane Tiamat is beautiful and she’s beautiful and I love her. 


Now, I could make this article extremely long and talk about what I liked in-depth, but I’ll just touch base on them.

GENERAL

Tiamat’s CG looked a lot better than previous episodes.

The SFX sounded great and a lot more varied.

SPECIFIC

Ereshkigal’s Noble Phantasm was well used.

Ereshkigal’s death was beautiful. 

Merlin using Excalibur and alluding to his training Artoria was lovely.

Merlin’s NP itself was great. (But I’ve heard that “incantation” so many times in the game that I hate it.)

Gilgamesh using Ea is always a win. No holding back!

The conversation with Tiamat was amazing!


Long story short, I liked the episode. I feel iffy about some changes and a bit sad about the inconsistent quality, but it was undoubtedly enjoyable. Did you enjoy Babylonia? Did you play the game? Is Tiamat a waifu?