Hanmun, Hangul, and Humanism: Why Chinese Characters are a Big Deal in Hate Plus

[Author's note: This is an edited reposting of a blog I originally put up on my Tumblr. Given that text has been added and subtracted in some places, those interested in comparing the content can check out the source text here!)

As a longtime writer and even longer-time video game player, it's been interesting to spend these past few years predominantly on the argumentative sidelines watching people hash out the place and importance of language in video games. This discussion has likely existed since practically time immemorial relative to the medium's age; a quick trip to Google's BBS archives, for instance, will tell you just how long people have been debating the written merits of various localizations, particularly ones for Japanese games. But it feels like it's only been relatively recently within the history of games that people have started to tackle more ambiguous aspects of human language and how they affect gameplay experiences. The semantics of lines, the connotations belying a piece of writing, all of the things that we have to infer and read between the lines are all beginning to be evaluated as pieces that also contribute to a game's identity in addition to the old vanguard of gameplay, visuals, sounds, and control. It's a discussion that's especially heated in the realm of feminist issues, but it remains one that's also pervasive in other areas, most notably with regards to immersion and the obligations developers may or may not have relative to their audience's intellectual capabilities.

These are all exciting things for me to watch unfold, as I feel like the more people talk about these issues openly, the less confused games as a whole will ultimately become in trying to marry great game design with great proper writing. One thing that I still don't see manifest often in these sorts of discussions, though, is the grander idea about language and its tie to human culture. It's a really high level topic to be contemplated, to be sure, as it's normally the stuff of linguists, but when discussing what sorts of power words hold over players, I feel it's worth delving into regardless. Words and phrases have power and part of that power comes from belonging to a culture that provides context and substance to the underlying ideas that define them. Being cognizant on an existential level of those effects, I'd personally argue, would go a long way to producing more games with unique, distinct identities, ideally making players more culturally aware of the sorts of existences other people around the world lead. But that's a big step in a time where games are already trying to make big steps in all sorts of directions, so I've been willing to largely shelve those sorts of ambitions while we work everything else out.

Color me pleasantly surprised, then, when I found a game that tackled exactly that in Christine Love's Hate Plus, a visual novel/adventure game-hybrid and sequel to Analogue: A Hate Story, a game I deemed my personal GOTY last year. As an extension of the previous game's premise, Hate Plus tasks you with poring through old logs retrieved from the Mugunghwa, a derelict Korean starship in the far-flung future, in an effort to piece together the events and people that brought about its dramatic social decline. As a game, it's extremely unique to me in that it discusses that fundamental relationship between language, culture, and human identity not within the confines of English or a closely related Romance language, but rather within Korean. One of the bigger, but stealthier underlying causes for social tension within the history of Hate Plus' universe is the place of written Chinese characters, otherwise known natively as hanja/hanmun depending on context, in Korean language, society, and culture. As is the case with loan words and imported writing scripts for most any language, the varying extent of hanja in Korean and other languages over the years has subtle, but profound implications for today's speakers, as well as clearly those in the future. You can't have language without meaning and semantics and when you start importing language from non-native sources, you start importing cultural and philosophical ideas as a matter of consequence. As Hate Plus is keen to point out at times, sometimes these ideas might not be for the good of all people.

It's complex ground to cover, especially in a game originally released for an audience that isn't likely to know much about Korean, let alone the mechanics of its language. As such, while I feel that Love did a very admirable job trying to make such a dense political and linguistic issue as accessible as possible to non-Korean speakers and, more widely, non-hanja readers, I'd like to try to elucidate a little more for those who don't speak a major Asian language as to why characters like the series' heroine *Hyun-ae find the rise of hanja and hanmun to be such a troubling historical trend aboard the Mugunghwa, especially from a feminist perspective. The things that come to mind for characters such as *Hyun-ae when they think of hanja go far deeper than just conservatism and moral backwardness and it's my sincere hope is that I'll make that logic more clear for those who aren't already blessed/cursed with such literacy.

That being said, before starting, I'd like to point out quickly that while I don't actually speak Korean, I do speak Japanese bilingually. Much more so than Korean today, Japanese continues to make extensive use of hanja within day-to-day living. Given that Chinese is obviously the original source of those characters for both languages, it's not a stretch to say that Japanese people also have ongoing dialogues about the usage and connotations of their equivalent to hanja and hanmun in contemporary society. This includes their use as it applies to sex and gender, too, which is why I feel comfortable talking about this subject at all, even if I lack specific experience with Korean as a language. I also maintain extensive Korean contacts and have familiarity with Korean culture in general, so I'd like to believe that I'm not entering this discussion completely blindly. Regardless, I'm fully aware of how different Japan and Korea remain in terms of language, history, and culture, so if I make any mistakes along the way, you're free to call me out and I'll try to revise my work to reflect the new knowledge.

This is a discussion that will take a lot of preparatory work to get everyone up to speed adequately enough to get to the point where I can discuss these issues as they pan out in Hate Plus specifically. Hanja is one of those topics in foreign languages that makes intuitive sense to people who deal with them already but is otherwise generally impenetrable to outsiders, so my initial goal first is to simply try and evoke the rationale and logic that readers take when encountering them. Doing so will hopefully put patient readers in a decent position to be able to relate to the characters in Hate Plus as I proceed to walk them through what hanja would mean to them in what's supposed to be a post-hanja world. As my infamous essay on Catherine's title screen has probably made apparent, I'm one for long essays and this one definitely won't be any different. So as long as I can keep things relevant every step of the way, I'll consider that a victory in and of itself. Beyond that, I'll note that while I shouldn't need to delve into spoilers for the game, if you're still playing it yourself, there's always a chance I might always undervalue something you haven't chanced upon yet, so if you're concerned about that, hey, feel free to finish it first and come back later if you're still interested in this subject. Finally, it's also worth noting that I'll occasionally be typing out some hanja myself to illustrate various points throughout this piece, so if you don't want to see a whole lot of boxes where Chinese characters should be, it's probably in your best interests to go install your OS' Asian language fonts, which is thankfully easy to do these days. And with that, let's be off into the wonderfully scary world of 漢字!

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Before diving into hanja as it's specifically depicted within Hate Plus, I feel that it's wise to give an overview of how they operate and are utilized as imported Chinese characters in general. Doing so will hopefully provide a better idea to English-only readers as to their actual utility in modern languages. The best way to do so is to first quickly provide some clarification about how I'll be utilizing certain terms throughout this piece. When I refer to hanja, I'm talking about Chinese characters as they generally exist within the Korean language now. While uncommon, they can be used in tandem with hangul, a much more phonetically-based writing system that most Korean is exclusively composed in today. If you're familiar with Japanese, you can essentially think of it like kanji, which is also mixed in with the phonetic kana scripts in written Japanese to achieve similar effects. Hanja in Korean is a term that can refer purely to the idea of Chinese characters themselves and that's essentially what I'll be invoking when I utilize the word here as well.

One other term that I'll also be using to refer to Chinese characters in Korean, though, is hanmun. The key distinction between hanja and hanmun is that hanmun is a form of Korean writing that relies exclusively on Chinese characters. It's still written using Korean grammar, but otherwise doesn't use hangul and visually resembles actual written Chinese. The core set of imported characters are more or less the same; it's just that there's far more you actually have to memorize in order to be properly literate in using Chinese characters at that level of Korean. In English parlance, hanmun is often referred to as "classical Chinese," which is to say it's not a contemporary use for Chinese characters in Korean today. This initial section will deal solely with hanja since it's designed to get non-Asian language speakers up to speed on how Chinese characters are read and understood in simple terms. Still, that distinction is important to note once I actually dive into the opposition that some characters exhibit in Hate Plus. If the differences still don't make sense now, hopefully they will once I've provided some concrete examples of how they work in action later.

On that note, like with any writing system in today's world, there are some intrinsic tricks to reading hanja that make it possible to be literate with them in spite of the sheer number of them. The biggest factor that makes them decipherable to those who learn them is the fact that hanja characters are all built up what we in the business call "radicals," which are various miniature pieces that come together to make up a whole character. An easy way to think about it might be to compare radicals to building blocks like Legos; individually, one Lego piece doesn't hold a lot of worth or entertainment value, but when you put a lot of them together in a specific way, the charm of building them becomes more apparent and they become a complete, distinct set, a model of something with its own meaning and emotional significance.

Similarly, radicals don't often mean very much or hold power when they're isolated. Some of them operate as their own unique characters and those are highly important to know, but most don't otherwise exist simply on their own. However, when multiple radicals are brought together with other ones and constructed in certain ways, they as a set create an entire character that actually has that unique meaning and significance. They go from innocuous pieces with little utility by themselves to a part of a whole written character that carries linguistic weight. That's the point where hanja can be properly defined in some capacity. The ideas that the radicals themselves can contain tend to be pretty simple in nature, including things such as water, the sun, and more universally abstract ideas, with the actual complexity of many words and characters in part deriving from how those radicals come together.

When studying hanja, you don't have to be actively aware of individual radicals all that much to do well in memorizing and utilizing them. The main point to take away from all this is that radicals give hanja the ability to make their meanings apparent to readers visually. If I see the word 河川 in Japanese, for example, I can come up with the meaning of "river" because a lot of the radicals, such as the three dashes on the left half of the first character, specifically evoke the idea of water in a broader sense. The presence of those core radicals that make up a whole hanja together therefore get associated with the greater meaning of the hanja as a character, making memorization and application of them entirely possible given enough time and practice.

By extension, whole individual hanja characters carry overarching meanings when used in compound words with other hanja. This is important for Asian languages like Chinese and Japanese that still widely use hanja, as it allows writing in those languages to avoid confusion over homonyms and the like; the aesthetic distinctions make it clear when reading them the actual meaning and intent of the writer. Although it's not a comparison that's very often made, English and other European languages actually have similar mechanisms in their writing systems; the presence of phonics, roots, and suffixes is how we can easily determine the exact meaning of individual words in writing, even in case where there are multiple words that sound the same. The specific combinations of Latin characters is one of our techniques for knowing for sure which word is being referred to in every possible situation. "Cereal" and "serial" might be pronounced exactly the same, but it's their spellings that indicate to us whether someone is discussing some type of breakfast food or something that has repeatedly occurred. The same is essentially true for hanja in a broad sense; the complexity and large number of individual characters ensure that the ambiguity is minimized in at least a literal sense. 日, the character for "sun," and 火, the character for "fire," can sometimes be pronounced in exactly the same way in Japanese, but because they look so different just looking at them, it's impossible to mistake what's being meant in writing unless someone just isn't literate in even those basic characters.

The important takeaway from all of this is that full hanja characters like the ones written above come loaded with their own individual meanings and semantics. When they're brought together in tandem to form proper words or compound words, that's when their usage and meaning really become complicated and nuanced. The meanings of words and phrases that take up multiple hanja are as a result fundamentally derived from how a person understands and interprets each character being utilized. A word like 退学, for instance, might mean to "quit/leave school," but that meaning is achieved because 退 on its own indicates "pulling back" or "retreating" and 学 is evocative of "school." Non-native people tend to learn hanja and hanja compounds initially as just raw translations like "quitting school" because memorizing the core meanings of individual characters takes a lot of time. But, a native can understand the word on a more abstract level and derive the idea of dropping out simply because it's exactly those two characters being utilized and they know off-hand what each one means in isolation.

Hanja characters are sensible to those who know them, then, because they're all about visually projecting ideas one chunk at a time, with actual grammar and vocabulary providing the rest of the backbone necessary to turn them into proper language. That projection is powerful, but it also means that certain words and phrases inherently come with social and political baggage. They can combine singular characters and meanings in specifics ways that create loathsome results with far-reaching implications. At times, this has resulted in new words and terms being adopted in an effort to be more politically correct and socially conscious of how languages impact people's lives. To use another Japanese example, an older way to say "wife" is 家内. This is problematic because 家 means "house" or "home" and 内 broadly means "within" or "inside." Even somebody who doesn't speak a lick of Japanese or know a single hanja should be able to intuit why many women now take offense to the term; it's implicitly saying "women belong in the house." Hence, Japanese feminists have largely persuaded people to switch to more gender neutral terms so that contemporary women can be less shackled by the ways they're addressed in society.

People who speak languages that still heavily depend on hanja like Japanese and Chinese grapple with these sorts of problems in meaning and semantics all the time. One of the biggest reasons for this tension is a matter of age; hanja characters were inherited from a very different place in human history, making it a struggle to keep a very old part of those languages up to date within a very different and constantly changing world order, both socially and politically. No matter how much hanja might evolve linguistically within the societies they've been exported to, the reality is that their origins remain deeply Chinese in nature. To condense a very long and complicated history into a few sentences, hanja as we know it wasn't originally designed for mass consumption by ordinary people when it was conceived many hundreds of years ago. It was primarily employed by elite members of society, particularly those within government. This is as true for China as it was for Japan and I would imagine it was the case for Korea as well. Classism and social stratification meant that people who could read and write hanja often led very different lives than those people in other classes who weren't given the right to become literate, or at least to an easy degree.

Knowing that Confucianism has also been a similarly pivotal backbone to Chinese development for an extremely long time, it isn't a stretch to say that hanja characters as they were originally created represented conservative worldviews that only resonated with the people it was ostensibly designed to read by, namely those historical elites. As more people were allowed to learn those characters and became literate, what happened wasn't that the characters dramatically widely changed meanings as they reached mass adoption, but rather those original conservative Confucian ideals imbued within them dispersed to society at large and influenced people's outlooks throughout the generations moving forward. Philosophy and literacy, to an extent, went hand in hand when hanja became ubiquitous, popularizing formally elitist ideas and influencing social development, often at the cost of broad, significant social groups. As issues like the use of 家内 indicate, these are problems that continue well into the current era, a testament to how conjoined hanja characters are to their associated meanings.

It's a pretty safe assumption to say that women have traditionally been one of the biggest targets when it comes to hanja being used to paint people in bad light. So far reaching is hanja's general distate for women that the core character used to express "woman" or "femininity," 女, often plays a critical role in writing negative words. This can effectively state that only women are harbingers of negative things in life and that they either invite bad things upon themselves or bring them to other people. In my own Japanese, for example, this is evident in everything from expressing that you "dislike" or "detest" something (嫌いな) to talking about "rape" (姦する). Contrast this with the character used for "male" and "masculinity," 男, where it's often used for positive actions and good virtues. "Courage" is a prominent example in Japanese, rendered by writing 勇気. *Hyun-ae herself even offers her own example of this bias in composition against women in the original Analogue by way of the adage "Men are honored, women are abased," or 男尊女卑. With that translation in mind, it should be easy to figure out how the second and fourth characters in the original hanja correspond to "honor" and "abasement." All of this isn't to say that there aren't instances where those roles for feminine and masculine characters are reversed, but women come away the definite losers in the positivity department time and again when it comes to words rendered in hanja.

While Confucianism is a philosophy that can and has been liberally interpreted for different causes at times throughout history, it's been far more common to use its core beliefs as a means of restrictively maintaining older social paradigms. Chief among these is the basic hierarchy that has historically informed China and other nations to favor elders above youth and men above women in both the home and society at large. The inability for the meanings of single hanja characters to quickly change and evolve in accordance with current social mores therefore helps enable the perpetuation of such negative interpretations of Confucian philosophy. Alterations of everyday language can therefore be an important strategy in successfully bringing about lasting, widespread social change in places like China and Japan that still use hanja. As I demonstrated earlier, if the roots of the original language used to refer to changing concepts cannot themselves be altered easily, then they must be worked around so that people are simply forced to conceptualize those ideas in a different matter entirely using the phonetic and visual strategies previously discussed. It's a complicated process and while Asian languages are hardly alone in this sort of conflict between semantics and politics, hanja add a unique dimension that complicates the process even further by virtue of their ubiquity.

At this point, it's probably become pretty clear that the squiggles and jagged lines that non-hanja readers take for granted carry a massive amount of symbolic weight for those who can decipher them. It's now possible to really start providing some specific insight into the minds of characters such as *Hyun-ae when they discuss their clear disgust for the existence of hanja in the Korean language. Actually, it may be more accurate to say that they have a disgust for hanja in part because it's largely disappeared from their daily lives as Korean speakers at that point in time. This is based on what's already true for the Korean language today; hanja still maintains a limited presence in Korean society, but it's largely confined to ceremonial roles such as formally writing up a person's name. From my own experience, the youth over there consider knowledge of hanja to be handy in limited situations, but are not otherwise deemed a critical educational asset to have, especially for foreigners learning Korean. For all intents and purposes, hangul is the linguistic name of the game for getting things done on a day-to-day basis, being much simpler to write and, to put it in very fast and loose terms, working like a rough analogue to our own Latin alphabet. Because of these characteristics, hangul places written Korean at exactly the opposite philosophical end of the spectrum compared to Chinese in terms of accessibility and several steps beyond Japanese, which continues to use a hybrid of hanja in tandem with two phonetic scripts of its own to this day.

All of these characteristics help make written Korean feel comparatively liberal in contrast to Chinese and its associated hanja. By opting to write based on a system that revolves around pure phonetics instead of pictographs attached to abstract concepts, written Korean no longer has to pay philosophical and cultural heed to its imported Chinese past in the same ways that other languages still have to. Hangul characters are comparatively innocuous in origin; it's much easier for the Korean language to be able to grow, evolve, and keep up with current trends in the rest of the world because there's no need to linguistically relativize new concepts within decrepit linguistic systems. When a new foreign word crops up that needs to be adopted, it can just be adapted easily into the bubbly hangul and be on its merry way. Chinese and Japanese remain fully capable of adopting new vocabulary, too, but their continued use of hanja subtly affect the dynamics of how those words can interact with the rest of their respective languages. It's not to say that Korean doesn't still run into stumbling blocks where semantics are deemed hurtful to certain groups of people, as much of the vocabulary is still on some level derived from or otherwise influenced by Chinese. The pronunciations of a lot of words haven't gone away simply because hanja has stopped being in vogue. But that devotion to relying on hangul for written communication is still key to granting Korean a unique identity as a language, enabling its speakers to have the power to turn the language into something that better reflects their own society and perspectives on life and the world. They get to use their language on their own terms and can choose to simply not answer to hanja anymore if they deem it unnecessary to remain in the picture, as they mostly already have done.

It's that sense of liberation that fundamentally compel the dissenting characters in Hate Plus to remain wary of a rise of hanja, or more technically hanmun, the all-Chinese character script that resembles proper literary Chinese as we understand it. While social dynamics are hardly perfect in Korea in our time, as well as the various periods *Hyun-ae has endured aboard the Mugunghwa, attempts by government officials on the ship to reinstate hanmun as the major writing script for Korean are seen to be deliberately regressive. As has hopefully been made apparent in the previous paragraphs, the perceived negative effects are substantial and wide-ranging. The most obvious of these effects is believed to be the impact hanmun adoption would have on people in the lower social classes on the ship. The difficulty curve that comes with abandoning hangul as a phonetic script in favor of hanmun neuters many people's prospects at literacy and education, preventing them from interacting with people outside their own socioeconomic sphere of influence. Hangul requires much less sheer memorization to master and had long since proven itself as a replacement that could satisfactorily fulfill the linguistic needs of Korean speakers without the need for complicated pictographs. A move back towards hanmun in that sense is seen as a detriment to a society that could use as many willing and able educated people as it can get to keep the ship viable. A western metaphor for the situation is easy to conjure; simply imagine a government abandoning the Latin alphabet in favor of Chinese exclusively as well and it should be readily understandable just how jarring of a transition it would be for Koreans to make as their exclusive form of writing in that day and age.

Classist oppression is merely symptomatic of a much greater problem that hanmun embodies in Hate Plus, however. Because of the traditional, old fashioned connotations that are associated with composing in hanmun, liberal-minded Koreans fear that a switch to hanmun means that there is an even greater switch taking place back to conservative social and political paradigms that serve to benefit only an elite few. As I wrote earlier, hanmun/hanji and Confucianism go hand-in-hand because each one developed and proliferated with the help of the other. Again, unlike hangul, it wasn't intrinsically designed to readily adapt to changing thought patterns and social dynamics, meaning it can't readily adhere to contemporary Korean thought. The end goal for the politicians eager to see hanmun reintroduced is, by extension, hardly liberal-minded in nature.

Hanmun can therefore be used as a stepping stone to revive other negative historical traditions that were once thought to be largely excised from Korean society on the Mugunghwa. Indeed, hanmun is brought back into the fold with other political acts like motherhood credits that are designed to make it more immediately profitable for women and their husbands to maintain traditional marriages and start up families than to pursue independent lives and careers. Superficially, this is all argued to be attempts at counteracting birth rate and population problems that the ship is facing, but what they really accomplish is creating the sort of hellish patriarchal society *Hyun-ae finds herself in later on as The Pale Bride in Analogue, the sort where hard-lined advocates of Confucianism thrive. Under such an order, social practices can keep women confined to very specific places and constrict their conduct, while the language embodied within hanmun can meanwhile be utilized to maintain a mentality that reinforces such a traditionally unjust balance. From the viewpoint of hanmun supporters, it'll ideally create a self-fulfilling prophecy where women are both overtly oppressed by society and by themselves by virtue of the linguistic capabilities they'll use to conceptualize themselves and the world around them.

Even for non-hanja/hanmun readers, it's still actually possible to see evidence of all these issues manifesting over the course of normal gameplay in Hate Plus. In the lead up to Year 0, some of the documents in Hate Plus already demonstrate the effects of a return to hanmun occurring as the Mugunghwa is undergoing a major social transition. Careful observers will notice that every message in the game has a classification printed at the top of message windows that states what language and/or script it was originally composed in, consisting of either English, hangul, or hanmun. These designations aren't assigned to the logs and letters without reason; they're subtle indicators of the background and, with regards to the native Korean letters specifically, level of education pertaining to classical writing for the authors. The texts that are originally composed in hanmun are predominantly political and institutional in nature, such as speeches and high level correspondences, limiting the authors to characters within the sphere of politics and higher education. They're therefore not coming from parts of society that commoners would have easy access to on the Mugunghwa, providing a quiet, yet pointed reminder that hanmun is ostensibly not for their consumption. Some characters shift back and forth between hanmun and hangul in the writing, depending on the context and their audience, a move that shrewdly illustrates even more so the gulf in status between those who write only in hangul and those who are also capable of writing in hanmun as well. Only those of the highest status get access to maximum Korean literacy by the standards of the new society being created by the conservative elites.

The reactions that *Hyun-ae, Professor Kim, and others have thusly come from a much deeper place than just an instinctual disdain for the old fashioned and institutionalized. They come from an understanding of a very real past that has existed in both Korea and China, one where ideologies like Confucianism contributed to the creations of societies that inflexibly defined people's roles and artificially determined their alleged "lot" in life, what they could ultimately be good for as contributors to society. For the men in Hate Plus that do actually find themselves concerned about the re-adoption of things like hanmun, they're demonstrably just as worried about the women since it reaffirms a system that's out to pigeonhole them as men in their own extreme ways. They might gain certain "perks" in the process like higher social standing than women, but when considering how men's class status and other arbitrarily designated factors still limit their prospects in other ways, they still would have to deal with their own fair share of existential problems in such a world.

In the eyes of those skeptics, a culture that embraces hanmun also embraces the traditional social dynamics that drove Korean society in that script's heyday, thereby explicitly rejecting modernity and the progress that has been made in giving both women and men true mobility in their lives and the freedom to express their identities in ways that are true to themselves. There is room for beautiful, loving same-sex relationships in a post-hanmun world; but in a time that still accepts hanmun, the Heo Seung-boks, Mimis, Mae Jin-as, and Heo Ae-jeongs of the Mugunghwa have no place, at least not if they want to be themselves. And what of the people that want to lead lives on their own terms regardless of their sexuality? Men who aren't being the domineering breadwinners who think with their crotch all the time aren't upholding their sacred duty to maintaining and progressing the legacy of family lines, while women like *Hyun-ae that have higher ambitions than just getting pregnant and making their husband's household their raison d'être are deemed insolent, whorish, and thoroughly ignorant of the ways of the world and why things need to remain as they are. Society in *Hyun-ae's native time and before the year 0 still isn't completely optimal, but a reemergence of hanmun and their near inability to change meaning, or at least do so in a timely manner, gives people an opportunity to return to old, repressive cultural instincts that were originally driven out at least to some degree for extremely good reasons.

The rocky relationship between hanmun and Mugunghwa society illustrate the irrevocably intertwined relationship that human language and culture possess. The values of one are inevitably mirrored in the other, since it otherwise becomes impossible to communicate in terms that are relevant in the present time. Such principles apply to written languages as much as verbal ones; it's why we have slang and also why older texts become increasingly difficult to read for many natives the earlier they were conceived before the current time period. This makes the current incarnation of a language a massively nebulous reflection upon the world, a statement being made by all the speakers about how they view and approach life and other people. It's evident in everything from vocabulary to even grammatical structures. As *Hyun-ae and the others don't want their world to stall and go backwards on the path of human progress, it becomes instrumental that they actively make strides to block and impede the spread of hanmun back into Mugunghwa's society. Oppression isn't accomplished by just language alone, but words do have power and understanding that is important when waging major social fights, including the sorts depicted in Hate Plus. Mass regression is possible once people lack the means to even articulate in their own minds the potential for things to be different and as Analogue and its referential Joseon dynasty indicate, there's already precedence for it in human history. The Korean language as *Hyun-ae and her fellow opponents speak it has to continue to portray the sort of world they would prefer to inhabit, for once hanmun enters the picture again and is adopted by the people, everybody slowly becomes prisoner to their own culture and their language is the warden with the keys to their cell.

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This piece turned out to be a lot longer than I was initially anticipating. As someone who struggled for a long time to competently grasp hanja in Japanese, I come from a not entirely dissimilar background as characters like *Hyun-ae, having grown up in a society that mostly appreciates them from afar. In the case of Japanese, it's just a matter of course that you have to master hanja well enough or else you're just not going to get the most out of that society. Nevertheless, I remain thoroughly empathetic to those who continue to be negatively affected by its history and how prone to stigmatizing it's often been to people, especially women. Reading about the struggles against hanja in Hate Plus made me recall those experiences and reflect upon my own complex relationship with them. I'm not sure how many people will come away from the game actually wanting to know more about where such anti-hanja sentiments come from, but as someone who isn't limited to just one language for verbalizing my feelings, I thought I would try to do my best to make those sentiments comprehensible for those who don't have those same language skills. As I get older and Japanese and hanja become bigger and bigger parts of my day-to-day routine, I feel sometimes that I'm slowly losing touch with how monolingual English speakers approach life, so I'm not entirely certain how much any of this content will resonate with my audience. But if nothing else, I hope it was at least a decent learning exercise in a major aspect of Asian languages that's typically difficult to examine without learning the languages themselves.

My deepest thanks for reading if you've made it this far. As I've mentioned before, any critiques, questions, or what have you are perfectly welcome. I tried to vet some of this content through other Korean speakers, but I know it's still entirely plausible I could have messed up somewhere, so please, by all means, call me out on my mistakes if I've made any!

-Pepsiman

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Start to Wah-Wah: An Objective Review System for New Super Mario Bros. Games

Introduction

Nearly 13 years ago, God Hand and Sonic the Hedgehog fanfic enthusiast Eric Wolpaw devised the world's first completely objective review system for video games on Old Man Murray. Dubbed the "Crate Review System," this review methodology hinged upon the idea that a game's quality can be scientifically inferred based on how much time it takes a player to encounter a crate or an otherwise similarly ubiquitous container, officially recorded under the variable of StC, or "Start to Crate." The basic logic behind the idea is that since crates tend to be the one thing that most video games depict at some point during gameplay regardless of genre, it is possible to then empirically judge the merits of any game based on that universal constant. Therefore, the shorter a game's StC time, the worse it is in purely objective terms.

Knowing that, then, I feel that the basic principles of the Crate Review System can be implied on a more granular level to individual series, as they often have defining tropes that prove to be highly recurring throughout their various installments. In the case of New Super Mario Bros. games, this constant comes in the form of the series' music designs, which has songs that repeatedly rely on vocals that simply go "wah-wah." So pervasive is the wah-wah in the New Super Mario Bros. line that its existence almost inevitably dominates any legitimate attempt at discussing the games, making it a most suitable candidate for judging the quality of those games specifically without any other external biases. Although many other aspects of the series, most notably its artistic direction, tend to change very little between installments, wah-wahs win simply by being as pervasive in New Super Mario Bros. games as crates are within the video game medium in general. This isn't to say that that New Super Mario Bros. games lack crates, quite the opposite, in fact, but that wah-wahs verifiably appear more often than crates and as such better serve to be used as a measurement.

The basic principle of reviewing New Super Mario Bros. based on Start to Wah-Wah (StWW) time is mostly the same as the StC system. Using various walkthrough videos posted on YouTube as my sources, StWW will be determined by how long it takes for the first wah-wah to be uttered in World 1-1 of each game, with the time starting as soon as the level has loaded (ie: as soon as the Mario silhouette or another type of wipe begins to appear on the screen). Although wah-wahs likely appear earlier in each game thanks to menu music, I feel that evaluating StWW time in a gameplay context is the fairest methodology, as this is by far the setting in which any player will receive the most exposure to wah-wah in any New Super Mario Bros. game. As such, like in the original Crate Review System, a higher StWW time indicates an objectively superior game, while a lower one means that the New Super Mario Bros. game in question is demonstrably worse in quality.

Each game will be listed in order of their original release date, starting with the earliest game. At the end of this post, a separate section will be dedicated to ranking the games based on StWW time, which will then be accompanied by concluding remarks. Even if you're personally of the opinion that New Super Mario Bros. games are good and fun in their own right, in the event that you have trouble discerning the innate quality levels of individual installments, hopefully this system will finally provide you a solid basis upon which you can make your verdicts. For everyone else, hopefully this will enable you to have a more thoughtful discussion on the nature and purpose of wah-wahs in New Super Mario Bros. games thanks to the information I have provided here.

The Breakdown

New Super Mario Bros.

StWW: 3.510 seconds

Source

Notes: At least there's a slight build up towards the wah-wah before it first makes itself known.

Comments:

Pepsiman: As the first game in the series, this is what we in the science business would call the "control." Additional measurements with other games will need to be conducted to determine if this time reflects the series' average.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii

StWW: 2.085 seconds (First wah); 6.122 seconds (First full wah-wah)

Source

Notes: Either an approximately 74 percent improvement over the first game or a roughly 59 percent decline in quality.

Comments:

Pepsiman: The doubled player count over the original New Super Mario Bros. coincides with a doubling of time measurements. Since the system hinges on the Start to Wah-Wah, after all, the latter time is ultimately more important, but the first time is still worth noting since it shows some artistic experimentation on Nintendo's part with how wahs should be incorporated into the series' music.

New Super Mario Bros. 2

StWW: 2.259 seconds (First wah); 6.296 seconds (First full wah-wah)

Source

Notes: A marked improvement on virtually all fronts, be it the first wah or first full wah-wah.

Comments:

Pepsiman: Nintendo continues to innovate in the use of its wahs. Not only does this game's World 1-1 start with another half wah, but an entire series of them before finally relenting and playing the first real wah-wah.

New Super Mario Bros. U

StWW: 3.687 seconds (First wah); 12.029 seconds (First full wah-wah)

Source

Notes: Once again a marked increase on both measurable fronts.

Comments:

Pepsiman: The fact that it takes over 12 seconds for Nintendo to introduce the first wah-wah in the game's first level indicates a sense of creative restraint. On the one hand, the development team wants to evoke a sense of nostalgia in the player as they recall previous experiences with both the original NES Mario games, as well as the older entries in the New Super Mario Bros. series. On the other hand, using it too quickly in the song would make it look as though Nintendo has run out of ways to freshen up the games. This game clearly takes the middle road.

The Rankings

At the beginning of this objective review of the New Super Mario Bros. series, it was believed that the musical stylings found throughout the games were consistent enough to warrant just one universal time record. However, ever since the Wii version, Nintendo has clearly seen fit to commence every World 1-1 song with just a single wah before eventually proceeding to the true wah-wah that has become so representative of all New Super Mario Bros. games. This makes the process of ranking the games a conundrum, since the single wah appears often enough throughout the series that outright ignoring its times would paint an overly simplistic picture of this review system's findings. As such, two sets rankings will be provided below, one based on times for the single wah and another one for the complete wah-wah that originally inspired the conception of this system. Each of these will be ordered with the best game at the top of the list and the worst game at the bottom. Because the original New Super Mario Bros. for the DS does not have an official single wah time, its time for the full wah will still be used in consideration for its single wah time ranking, as every full wah-wah naturally starts with a half wah. There's simply no avoiding it.

Single Wah Ranking

1. New Super Mario Bros. U: 3.687 seconds

2. New Super Mario Bros.: 3.510 seconds

3. New Super Mario Bros. 2: 2.259 seconds

4. New Super Mario Bros. Wii: 2.085 seconds

Full Wah-Wah Ranking

1. New Super Mario Bros. U: 12.029 seconds

2. New Super Mario Bros. 2: 6.296 seconds

3. New Super Mario Bros. Wii: 6.122 seconds

4. New Super Mario Bros.: 3.510 seconds

Conclusion

The fact that each set of rankings changes dramatically depending on the wah categorization criterion indicate that the New Super Mario Bros. series are games that remain very much so in qualitative flux. As the StWW times indicates, New Super Mario Bros. games have generally become worse games over time in terms of the appearance of single wahs. Save for New Super Mario Bros. U, which has the highest single wah time out of all of them, the series has been visibly regressing since the original edition came out on the DS in 2006. However, the opposite can be said for the games if one looks at them under the original pretense of the review system, that of the full wah-wah rankings. In that regard, Nintendo has clearly churned out increasingly superior games with every new entry without a dip insight. In fact, when doing the math, New Super Mario Bros. U, the latest one as of this writing, in line with it being the fourth game, is nearly four times better as a game than the first one, taking approximately 3.427 times more time to have its first wah-wah take place.

Due to this split, it can be easily predicted that two new schools of thought will emerge with regards to how each game is subjectively evaluated. One school will naturally prefer tradition, seeing the full wah-wah as being intrinsic to the musical integrity of the series and as such only taking its time into consideration when examining future games in the series. These people will scientifically be of the opinion that given the current data trends established, the New Super Mario Bros. games will only continue to get better as time goes on and Nintendo continues to develop more games that feature wah-wahs in their sound fonts. Another school of thought, though, will prefer to judge each game in the series moving forward on the basis of their single wah times. These people will understand that the series' quality is generally unstable on that front, producing occasional brilliance in a sea of rocky ups and downs. They, too, can turn to New Super Mario Bros. U as the game to be topped, but will nevertheless feel that inconsistent quality will continue to plague the series to come. Nevertheless, they might very well appreciate that aspect of the games, as it lends them a pleasant sense of unpredictability that isn't always found in other Nintendo franchises.

As I wrote previously, I hope the Wah-Wah review system brings new insight and new talking points into the ongoing debates about the legacy and overall quality of the New Super Mario Bros. games. Although they are each understandably very contentious games in their own right, hopefully this data will now enable everyone to be more articulate and rational in how they discuss the series. As the system has demonstrated, some games are clear winners while others could have used a lot more polish. Anybody who denies those numbers and claims that objectively inferior games are actually superior on more nebulous merits such as personal opinion and fun are merely denying the reality of things. They serve to distract people from the truth and as such deserve to be completely ignored, as numbers are the only sort of truth that can never betray humanity.

-Pepsiman

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DELETE ME BAD FORMATTING WAH WAH

Introduction

Nearly 13 years ago, God Hand and Sonic the Hedgehog fanfic enthusiast Eric Wolpaw devised the world's first completely objective review system for video games on Old Man Murray. Dubbed the "Crate Review System," this review methodology hinged upon the idea that a game's quality can be scientifically inferred based on how much time it takes a player to encounter a crate or an otherwise similarly ubiquitous container, officially recorded under the variable of StC, or "Start to Crate." The basic logic behind the idea is that since crates tend to be the one thing that most video games depict at some point during gameplay regardless of genre, it is possible to then empirically judge the merits of any game based on that universal constant. Therefore, the shorter a game's StC time, the worse it is in purely objective terms.

Knowing that, then, I feel that the basic principles of the Crate Review System can be implied on a more granular level to individual series, as they often have defining tropes that prove to be highly recurring throughout their various installments. In the case of New Super Mario Bros. games, this constant comes in the form of the series' music designs, which has songs that repeatedly rely on vocals that simply go "wah-wah." So pervasive is the wah-wah in the New Super Mario Bros. line that its existence almost inevitably dominates any legitimate attempt at discussing the games, making it a most suitable candidate for judging the quality of those games specifically without any other external biases. Although many other aspects of the series, most notably its artistic direction, tend to change very little between installments, wah-wahs win simply by being as pervasive in New Super Mario Bros. games as crates are within the video game medium in general. This isn't to say that that New Super Mario Bros. games lack crates, quite the opposite, in fact, but that wah-wahs verifiably appear more often than crates and as such better serve to be used as a measurement.

The basic principle of reviewing New Super Mario Bros. based on Start to Wah-Wah (StWW) time is mostly the same as the StC system. Using various walkthrough videos posted on YouTube as my sources, StWW will be determined by how long it takes for the first wah-wah to be uttered in World 1-1 of each game, with the time starting as soon as the level has loaded (ie: as soon as the Mario silhouette or another type of wipe begins to appear on the screen). Although wah-wahs likely appear earlier in each game thanks to menu music, I feel that evaluating StWW time in a gameplay context is the fairest methodology, as this is by far the setting in which any player will receive the most exposure to wah-wah in any New Super Mario Bros. game. As such, like in the original Crate Review System, a higher StWW time indicates an objectively superior game, while a lower one means that the New Super Mario Bros. game in question is demonstrably worse in quality.

Each game will be listed in order of their original release date, starting with the earliest game. At the end of this post, a separate section will be dedicated to ranking the games based on StWW time, which will then be accompanied by concluding remarks. Even if you're personally of the opinion that New Super Mario Bros. games are good and fun in their own right, in the event that you have trouble discerning the innate quality levels of individual installments, hopefully this system will finally provide you a solid basis upon which you can make your verdicts. For everyone else, hopefully this will enable you to have a more thoughtful discussion on the nature and purpose of wah-wahs in New Super Mario Bros. games thanks to the information I have provided here.

The Breakdown

New Super Mario Bros.

StWW: 3.510 seconds

Source

Notes: At least there's a slight build up towards the wah-wah before it first makes itself known.

Comments:

Pepsiman: As the first game in the series, this is what we in the science business would call the "control." Additional measurements with other games will need to be conducted to determine if this time reflects the series' average.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii

StWW: 2.085 seconds (First wah); 6.122 seconds (First full wah-wah)

Source

Notes: Either an approximately 74 percent improvement over the first game or a roughly 59 percent decline in quality.

Comments:

Pepsiman: The doubled player count over the original New Super Mario Bros. coincides with a doubling of time measurements. Since the system hinges on the Start to

Wah-Wah

, after all, the latter time is ultimately more important, but the first time is still worth noting since it shows some artistic experimentation on Nintendo's part with how wahs should be incorporated into the series' music.

New Super Mario Bros. 2

StWW: 2.259 seconds (First wah); 6.296 seconds (First full wah-wah)

Source

Notes: A marked improvement on virtually all fronts, be it the first wah or first full wah-wah.

Comments:

Pepsiman: Nintendo continues to innovate in the use of its wahs. Not only does this game's World 1-1 start with another half wah, but an entire series of them before finally relenting and playing the first real wah-wah.

New Super Mario Bros. U

StWW: 3.687 seconds (First wah); 12.029 seconds (First full wah-wah)

Source

Notes: Once again a marked increase on both measurable fronts.

Comments:

Pepsiman: The fact that it takes over 12 seconds for Nintendo to introduce the first wah-wah in the game's first level indicates a sense of creative restraint. On the one hand, the development team wants to evoke a sense of nostalgia in the player as they recall previous experiences with both the original NES Mario games, as well as the older entries in the New Super Mario Bros. series. On the other hand, using it too quickly in the song would make it look as though Nintendo has run out of ways to freshen up the games. This game clearly takes the middle road.

The Rankings

At the beginning of this objective review of the New Super Mario Bros. series, it was believed that the musical stylings found throughout the games were consistent enough to warrant just one universal time record. However, ever since the Wii version, Nintendo has clearly seen fit to commence every World 1-1 song with just a single wah before eventually proceeding to the true wah-wah that has become so representative of all New Super Mario Bros. games. This makes the process of ranking the games a conundrum, since the single wah appears often enough throughout the series that outright ignoring its times would paint an overly simplistic picture of this review system's findings. As such, two sets rankings will be provided below, one based on times for the single wah and another one for the complete wah-wah that originally inspired the conception of this system. Each of these will be ordered with the best game at the top of the list and the worst game at the bottom. Because the original New Super Mario Bros. for the DS does not have an official single wah time, its time for the full wah will still be used in consideration for its single wah time ranking, as every full wah-wah naturally starts with a half wah. There's simply no avoiding it.

Single Wah Ranking

1. New Super Mario Bros. U: 3.687 seconds

2. New Super Mario Bros.: 3.510 seconds

3. New Super Mario Bros. 2: 2.259 seconds

4. New Super Mario Bros. Wii: 2.085 seconds

Full Wah-Wah Ranking

1. New Super Mario Bros. U: 12.029 seconds

2. New Super Mario Bros. 2: 6.296 seconds

3. New Super Mario Bros. Wii: 6.122 seconds

4. New Super Mario Bros.: 3.510 seconds

Conclusion

The fact that each set of rankings changes dramatically depending on the wah categorization criterion indicate that the New Super Mario Bros. series are games that remain very much so in qualitative flux. As the StWW times indicates, New Super Mario Bros. games have generally become worse games over time in terms of the appearance of single wahs. Save for New Super Mario Bros. U, which has the highest single wah time out of all of them, the series has been visibly regressing since the original edition came out on the DS in 2006. However, the opposite can be said for the games if one looks at them under the original pretense of the review system, that of the full wah-wah rankings. In that regard, Nintendo has clearly churned out increasingly superior games with every new entry without a dip insight. In fact, when doing the math, New Super Mario Bros. U, the latest one as of this writing, in line with it being the fourth game, is nearly four times better as a game than the first one, taking approximately 3.427 times more time to have its first wah-wah take place.

Due to this split, it can be easily predicted that two new schools of thought will emerge with regards to how each game is subjectively evaluated. One school will naturally prefer tradition, seeing the full wah-wah as being intrinsic to the musical integrity of the series and as such only taking its time into consideration when examining future games in the series. These people will scientifically be of the opinion that given the current data trends established, the New Super Mario Bros. games will only continue to get better as time goes on and Nintendo continues to develop more games that feature wah-wahs in their sound fonts. Another school of thought, though, will prefer to judge each game in the series moving forward on the basis of their single wah times. These people will understand that the series' quality is generally unstable on that front, producing occasional brilliance in a sea of rocky ups and downs. They, too, can turn to New Super Mario Bros. U as the game to be topped, but will nevertheless feel that inconsistent quality will continue to plague the series to come. Nevertheless, they might very well appreciate that aspect of the games, as it lends them a pleasant sense of unpredictability that isn't always found in other Nintendo franchises.

As I wrote previously, I hope the Wah-Wah review system brings new insight and new talking points into the ongoing debates about the legacy and overall quality of the New Super Mario Bros. games. Although they are each understandably very contentious games in their own right, hopefully this data will now enable everyone to be more articulate and rational in how they discuss the series. As the system has demonstrated, some games are clear winners while others could have used a lot more polish. Anybody who denies those numbers and claims that objectively inferior games are actually superior on more nebulous merits such as personal opinion and fun are merely denying the reality of things. They serve to distract people from the truth and as such deserve to be completely ignored, as numbers are the only sort of truth that can never betray humanity.

-Pepsiman

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Now On Demand: Pepsiman's Dwindling Sanity vs. Evangelion 64

My Japanese fluency has increasingly resulted in me doing things I end up very quickly regretting. Take the video above. In preparation for a much-demanded live stream this week of Mizzurna Falls, a Japan-only PS1 game that's basically the direct predecessor of Deadly Premonition all the way down to the real-time open world gameplay, I've been stealth streaming on Twitch a few games at odd hours to test my hardware and software under different scenarios. I probably don't need to do that much testing since the game in question is pretty old and the software needed to get everything running is nice and stable, but if nothing else, it's getting me more comfortable with talking in an empty room to the Internet for hours on end. Yesterday, that test was the N64 adaptation of screaming robot anime series extraordinaire, Neon Genesis Evangelion, a game I bought while living in Japan mostly because I find cartridge games with FMV capabilities to be a morbid novelty. Long story short, I was translating what was on the screen live while I was playing what was mostly new content to me; pretty much everything beyond that first level was new territory for me, having only played it before the stream for about 15 minutes to ensure it would even broadcast properly in the first place. I won't attest to the potential quality of things like the commentary, though, especially since streaming is something I've only done sporadically up until recently, so I'll understand if you think you've seen better content out there.

As you can see above and in the other parts of the archive on YouTube, this was an endeavor I quickly came to regret. Evangelion is something I largely respect from afar, the recent movies being the only things I've actually found myself legitimately enjoying, but going into the game, I knew that the series has had nothing short of a rocky history when it came to game adaptations. The reason is probably obvious: Evangelion, in spite of its plot and themes largely derided the modern anime industry and the types of customers it attracts, does enormous business in Japan as an entertainment property. Given the huge number of adventure games, pachinko sims, and other miscellaneous versions of Evangelion available on pretty much every major Japanese hardware platform since the Saturn, apparently a lot of Japanese fans just like getting as much of those characters and that plot as they can get, even if both are often represented in games poorly. Evangelion for the 64 is therefore pretty obviously the end result of a cash grab that stems from the desire to exploit that profound love many people have for the show, especially in its heyday. There are interesting ideas in play, like how different Angels require different minigames to defeat, but as you'll figure out if you watch deep enough into the archive, a mixture of clumsy controls, a lack of tutorials for missions that do change those clumsy controls, and a generally poor presentation ensure the game doesn't ever elevate about the level of dreck. It may well have been a blessing in disguise when a glitch actually prevented me from seeing a series of control prompts necessary to move forward, forcing a premature end to a game I was otherwise morbidly intending to finish all the way.

I'm still ultimately glad I did it, though. As I discuss on here from time to time, I think it's important that games that never get translated from Japanese still get some sort of exposure in English. When we expose ourselves to games produced just in or even translated into our mother tongue, it's very easy to lose sight of the sort of creativity at play in the fringes of the medium and, in turn, not realize just how much potential for diverse experiences games have in general. For bad games like Evangelion on the N64, this is probably less true and, in this instance specifically, I'm definitely not the only person to have ever provided English translations and commentary on it. But the basic philosophy still stands. At the end of the day, while there are a lot of Japanese games you can brute force through without knowing the language by just experimenting with raw gameplay, having that linguistic knowledge can be critical in both catching on to certain subtexts that a game might be trying to convey and, in genres like RPGs, just understanding plot development and current objectives in general. That's ultimately why I like doing these sorts of videos and writing reviews of games that are only available in Japanese; as somebody who can bridge that gap between English-speaking and Japanese-speaking worlds, I like trying to provide insight into games for people that might not otherwise be able to play them, especially since there aren't otherwise necessarily a lot of other people around at my age with my specific education. Admittedly, live translation in front of an audience is definitely harder than just me sitting down and casually watching or reading something in Japanese by my lonesome, so that's hopefully something that will improve over time, but I hope my attempt at bridging that gap comes through in the stream archive at least somewhat.

I'll likely be doing a few more of these streams featuring more obscure Japanese games over the course of this week now that I'm on Christmas Break. As I mentioned earlier, Mizzurna Falls is at the top of the list and will probably take place at some point late Thursday afternoon. Like Evangelion, it's a game I've only barely played in order to become familiar with the basic gameplay, so much of the stream and my live translation will be of content that's as new to you as it will be to me. Like many Human Entertainment games, I think it's a really interesting experimental game that's definitely worth discussing more widely and since that game seems to have an absolute dearth of information in English, I hope that I'll be assisting that dialog at least a little. Details will obviously get more solidified as the time to do the stream gets closer, but like this Evangelion stream, I'll definitely be archiving it on YouTube after the broadcast, since I don't exactly want those translation efforts to be lost to the ether.

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On Title Screens and the Lessons Still Not Learned From Catherine

As Atlus games are regularly wont to do with me, Catherine is a game that I still regularly think about, a somewhat remarkable feat on its part considering more time has passed for me since I played it compared to the majority of the game's western players. Although much of what I had to say about the game was encapsulated in my review and the subsequent retrospective blog post, the contents of both of which I continue to stand by, there are still a few things I've left unsaid in the nearly two years since I last wrote about it in any major capacity. I've never actually discussed the mini-crisis I had in deciding the game's score, for instance, its last plot arc, like with many other reviewers, having left me feeling jarred and struggling to figure out whether it was sufficient enough to bump the game down to three stars or not. (It was never going to garner a five out of five either way, though, despite how much I may personally like it.) Likewise, I've never mentioned how one scene late in the game actually deeply disturbed me in a way I doubt few other games will ever replicate and how that scene's ability to tap into one of the darkest parts of my memory is one reason I find the game to be largely successful to me personally on an emotional level. The one largely unmentioned thing that still lingers in my mind most and what I want to focus on in this ever-so-rare new blog post, though, is Catherine's title screen.

From what I've personally noticed, whenever people discuss Catherine's visuals at any length, the dialog is usually centered on a few very specific topics. Chief among them, naturally, is the game's aesthetic style and the bemusing notion that the same engine that powered much of Fallout 3 and New Vegas could somehow be used to produce something that's so striking to see. Yet rarely have I seen the blog posts and forum messages delve much deeper beyond that and provide a proper analysis of the game's imagery. This could entirely be due to my own incompetence at finding the places where that's actually being discussed, but by and large the conversation on the artistic side of Catherine seems to focus only on its superficial style, rather than its substance. That's a huge shame since, like many of Atlus' other games before it, a deeper understanding of the symbolism behind the game's scenery is hugely beneficial to understanding it on a deeper thematic level. While I'd be happy to talk at length about a number of visual elements in Catherine, I feel its title screen in particular is important to note since it's very quietly subversive of a lot of video game standards when it comes to that element specifically. So much so, in fact, that if Catherine's influence isn't felt in future games as a result of its plotline and its attempts to meaningfully make a game targeted at an adult audience, then I hope at least some developers out there are taking notes about what its title screen has to say, for they show that they way things have to be done is hardly as fixed as it so often seems.

However, let's quickly go over what your typical title screen achieves in terms of both visuals and functions to provide a better context of the general precedence that's come before and after Catherine's. Although I'm fully confident that anybody on this site reading this blog knows what a title screen is in at least basic terms, I still have things to say about what specifically constitutes normal ones and why those things are the standard bearers, so be patient with me if it seems like I'm initially discussing things that don't need to be reviewed. To begin, I've provided several examples of title screens in the image set above, one from each major console generation, plus one pre-NES era one in the form of Wizardry's. Title screens tend to exist for two specific purposes. The first of these has historically been to provide a common starting point for the game from a debugging and development standpoint; if a developer can guarantee exactly how a game will always initially boot up, that's one less variable that needs to be considered in figuring out why some part of a game has broken. (For perspective on the importance of this basic technical consistency, think of modern Grand Theft Auto games and how they always immediately start the player in the game world after the initial load with nary a proper title screen in sight and how very few other games, even today, attempt to emulate that practice; it's logistically harder to program than it may initially sound.) The second of these purposes, as we all know, is to introduce the player to the name of the game and, through its imagery, offer a basic idea about its actual contents. In the Call of Duty: Black Ops one above, for instance, it's not hard to surmise that the game is fundamentally about warfare, while the Super Mario Bros. one actually goes a step further and conveys to the player the fact that it's a sidescroller. Usually you'll see things such as "Press Start" on the screen as well and nowadays they'll almost always have a musical accompaniment, but as the gallery demonstrates, such things don't all have to be present for something to inherently qualify as a title screen. Then, naturally, once you do hit the start button, either the game starts or you're brought to a menu that lets you configure different variables before proceeding into the game itself.

I bring up all of these basic details about title screens to point out how prevalent they are regardless of the era in which they were created. What once initially began as a practical need in the arcade era to attract players and give game programming a consistent starting point has become a tradition that has remained largely unchanged at its core. This isn't a bad thing per se; title screens obviously have extremely important purposes and they've served the video game medium extremely well. But little meaningful change overall despite vast progress on most every other front in video games since the golden era of American arcades in the 1970s and 1980s says, to me, at least, that perhaps the greater potential of many title screens is being left untapped. From a functionality standpoint, this can't necessarily be helped and doesn't really need to be addressed for reasons already discussed. What's more damning is still how so few title screens have anything significant to say from an aesthetic perspective. To be certain, there are philosophical reasons why more time and resources aren't spent into making intellectually deeper title screens. As a part of the game that most players are naturally going to quickly zoom past so they can access the meat that is the actual game itself, it can be hard to justify putting so much effort there when, at the end of the day, often the quality of the gameplay mechanics and how fun they are will be the factors that make or break its reception for the vast majority of people. Again, obviously not a bad thing on its own and is perhaps how things should be with many games if resources are limited. But that perpetual emphasis on games as products of fun entertainment is also a rub in its own right, as it tends to result in much of its evolution and innovation being hamstrung into a few specific sectors of game design and technology, rather than outright challenges to just what can and should represent games and in what ways all of that is manifested. It's a common critique brought up in the discussion of games as art, but it's something that's also equally relevant to the discussion of other things that are normally as overlooked as well, title screens included.

Catherine, however, is hardly a game that's just about fun. To be certain, there's a segment of its player base, myself included, that found things such as the puzzle block mechanics to be genuinely interesting and thoroughly engaging, but when the basic idea behind its creation at Atlus was to make an adult game that went beyond gratuitous violence and purely titillating sexual content, there's no way fun can be the one and only almighty thing that keeps it together as a game and grants it integrity as a creative work. Catherine is a game about sex, infidelity, the place of both in relationships, and what all three can say about an individual person and the ways that they approach life. There are plenty of points where the player has to get serious in order to appreciate the game's contents and although people remain highly divided about just how well it accomplishes what it sets out to do, the point remains that Catherine draws its legitimacy as a game from a very different philosophical place than many others released today, especially in the physical retail market for which it was developed. It's from that contrarian identity that Catherine's title screen was formulated and, in turn, is the ultimate root behind its unorthodox nature and why it's so worth more closely examining.

I feel equipped at this point now to finally dissect Catherine's title screen. A good first step in doing so, then, is breaking down just exactly what we're looking at in the first place since, while there aren't necessarily a lot of things occurring visually on the screen, the elements that are present may not seem cohesively put together at first glance. As such, more likely than not, the first thing that likely attracts players' attention when looking at the title screen is the image of Katherine and Vincent. Hoisted up into the air by a black-and-white cubic object amidst a vast, hot pink sea, the pair might be physically close to each other, but are otherwise in completely different positions circumstantially. Katherine, for example, sits on top of the cube, sporting her normal outfit and casually leaning back, with the upper half of her face partially obscured along with her expression. She seemingly takes no particular notice of the surroundings around her, at most giving a cursory look in Vincent's general direction before turning her gaze elsewhere. Either she doesn't realize or just outright doesn't care that she also happens to be sitting on top of barbed wire.

Vincent, however, is strapped to the side of the cube by that same barbed wire, a pained expression on his face as he repeatedly tries and fails to attract his lover's attention. Although he calls out Katherine's name when the title screen first appears, this only occurs once; otherwise, he silently switches between vainly flailing about to break free while desperately looking towards Katherine and being resigned to his current predicament, staying still and not fighting what he can't overcome. Save for the parts where the barbed wire cuts into his skin, he, unlike Katherine, is completely monochromatic, practically blending in with the block behind him and wearing nothing but spotted boxer shorts and a curious pair of ram horns atop his short, dark, unkempt hair. On the opposite end of the image are two large symbols for the female and male sexes that are also dangling by chains, with the word “Catherine” illuminated behind them in a lighter shade of pink. In the bottom-right corner, the words “Press Any Button” are written in a font whose letters are composed of dramatically jagged angles and, to top the whole image off, sheep regularly fall infinitely in the background of the screen with a desperate bray while the trumpet and piano-laden theme song "It's a Golden Show" by Shoji Meguro plays nonchalantly.

In basic terms, Catherine's title screen contains virtually every basic element we associate with title screens. The game's name is clearly present, as are a variation of the iconic phrase "Press Start" and some imaginative decor in the form of Katherine, Vincent, and various other background elements. It doesn't abide by these practices, however, without breaking away from a lot of conventions during the process. One of the more apparent ways the title screen does this is through its placement and orientation of every element on screen. Rather than place the title and main imagery in the middle like in the examples above and as most title screens have been designed since the 1970s, all of the elements of Catherine's title screen are deliberately pushed off to the side, often rendered chaotically and contorted at an angle. This effort extends even to the phrase “Press Any Button,” which it should be noted, is usually written in a small, meek font not unlike this blog post and placed in the center underneath the game's name in a typical title screen. Instead, as it was mentioned before, it's depicted in a jagged manner and once again juxtaposed into a diagonal, off-center position, its clear, bright white, once again being more immediately noticeable than the lighter pink used to write the title. Meanwhile, the center of the screen is just a blank, hot pink space while the name “Catherine” itself has been unusually relegated to the upper-right corner. Still partially obscured by the gender imagery in front of it, the title, for once, is clearly not meant to be the center of the player's attention. That honor, instead, goes to the block-bound Vincent and Katherine, with the pair filling up a large majority of the vertical space available in their portion of the title screen off to the left. When players first start the game, they aren't necessarily supposed to know their exact relationship or even their names, but the fact that they're the first things that draw the player's eye implicitly indicates that they're set to play an important role of some sort in how the game will pan out and that they're therefore worth noting.

The anti-establishment nature of Catherine's title screen only get deeper and more interestingly cryptic from there. The basic color pallet of the title screen, for instance, when excluding the purposefully full-color Katherine, consists solely of pink, white, and gray. These choices constitute a stark contrast to the video game industry's more typical red, black, and brown varieties in other title screens. As we're all very well aware, such colors are often used by games to try and evoke a sense of grim bleakness in the player, a trend that, as we all know, has become so pervasive in Western games in particular during the last two console generations that such art directions are regularly derided as being unimaginative and lacking creativity. Catherine's color choices and usage are therefore a very clear antithesis to that precedent. The pink and white make clear Atlus' intentions for the game to be aesthetically distinctive from the get-go and reinforce gender dynamics as one of Catherine's central themes. As for the gray that's visible on Vincent and the block in contrast to Katherine and the rest of the scenery, it brings to mind that perhaps not all of the game is necessarily as bright and energetic as the pink and white may indicate, that there are more subdued moments awaiting the player, too.

But the subversive traits in Catherine's title screen lie not just in its visual design. It's also present in the sort of information it actually manages to quietly tell the player about the game's contents and narrative themes. That is to say, these initially disparate components combine to form a deeper agenda as a title screen than just something such as, “This game has soldiers and guns and you'll be playing as one to shoot a whole lot of the other” as in the Call of Duty: Black Ops one included in this post, even if the exist of a deeper undercurrent isn't readily apparent to a first-time player of Catherine. Obviously, the presence of the male and female sex symbols and the positioning of Katherine and Vincent on the gray block immediately indicate that the game deals in gender and sexual dynamics as one of its main themes. However, the details get more specific than that even in spite of the relatively sparse amount of imagery available. The expressions that both Vincent and Katherine wear, for instance, as well as their general circumstances, actually provide nuanced insight into their personalities and overall relationship. The fact that Katherine, for example, is able to sit on top of the block so casually and unrestricted is telling of her dominance over the relationship. Although she cares deeply for Vincent and the bond that the two have formed, she's still a deeply independent person at heart and is unwilling to compromise on that, whatever such a commitment to that value may entail. Hints of this reality lie even in the juxtaposition of a fully colored Katherine against the monochromatic Vincent and the block they both share. Deliberately depriving some areas of an image of full color is an easy, effective way to manipulate viewers' attention and give the impression that the colored portion is in some way more lively and important than its blase surroundings, with Okami being another game that uses this technique to iconic effect at times. In Katherine's case, this subtly alludes to her dynamism and independence, the fact that she understands herself and her being, and her willingness to stand out and be different for the sake of her own needs and desires, even if it causes conflict for her in the long run.

Compare all of that to Vincent, who, on the other hand, is a demonstrably different person in a number of dimensions by virtue of his title screen presentation. His pained, desperate face that yells out to his apparently apathetic lover and the barbed wire that pins him to the block to the point of bleeding point to a number of things. The contrast between his worries about the symbolic, irreversible weight of his commitments that he's made and may continue to make to Katherine are embodied by the barbed wire keeping him firmly attached to the block to the point of pain, his complacency with being around her and his ability to depend on her presence in his life foretold by his fruitless attempts at provoking her to do something about his plight before subsequently giving up and starting the cycle anew. His gray color pallet reflects his personality, representing a distinct lack of vivaciousness on his part and a lack of motivation and/or perceived need to change and grow as a human being. He is a man who is ultimately resigned to his fate and yet, as we can see with his struggling on the title screen, will come to resent that part of himself or, in trying to reach out to Katherine, either seek salvation through her or try to no avail to retain her as part of a normal life she increasingly wants to be less and less a part of with no clear emotional progress in sight.

The boxer shorts and ram horns, meanwhile, are a complimentary package, his shorts blatantly speaking of his ongoing infidelity with Catherine while his horns classically evoke both his libido and a certain element of biblical sacrifice. The former is explained when taking into consideration the ram's significance in both Western symbolic canon and the Chinese Zodiac, of which Japan is an adherent, as rams are regularly perceived to be intelligent, powerful animals that are driven by sexual passion and can persevere through life's trouble's. With regards to the more biblical elements behind Vincent's horns, much of their importance is tied to critical storyline spoilers that are best not discussed here for those who haven't cleared the game. Even so, what can be said is that sheep and rams are commonly depicted in the Bible as being the animal of choice for violent sacrificial rituals done in God's name. The story of Abraham and the near-sacrifice of his son features the most famous use of sheep in this capacity. If the player is able to make those connections, a lot of information can be derived about Vincent's ongoing troubles and the sorts of trials he'll come to face by the time Catherine's story wraps up. Obviously, this can be extended to the falling sheep that are seen in the background as well, with the blood-splattering death of one above Katherine and Vincent's block in the opening sequence leading up to the title screen proper commencing an infinite series of other plunging sheep in its wake. The jazzy musical number that plays in the face of all that chaotic trauma, like with Katherine's relative color saturation compared to her surroundings, serves to emphasize the psychologically dire nature of the game's contents by cheerily contrasting with what's on the screen, all the while giving players a subtle idea of the ambiguities that lay in store for them.

When viewed as a complete, cohesive package, the point of Catherine's title screen being so important to me and why I feel it's worth emulating in other games is simply that it has a point and things to quietly say to its players in the first place. What's regularly perceived to be filler and a means to reaching the end that is actually playing the game with most other title screens is, with Catherine, a critical tool for immersing the player in its world and preparing them for the long, arduous, hugely symbolic journey ahead before they even press the start button for the first time. Whether the player even understands a fraction of what I'm able to discuss about the title screen in retrospect is irrelevant; coming from personal experience, at the very least, the title screen at its outset is evocative enough to establish a basic sense of the game's tone and, more importantly, its overarching thematic framework. Catherine isn't the first game even within this generation to achieve this, with Braid potentially being an earlier contender for the title, but it nevertheless stands out because of how relatively unblazed that trail still remains in this day and age.

If 30 years after Pong's release and the rise of Atari as an American cultural icon we're only just finally beginning to see widespread, concerted efforts towards games exploring facets of the human condition by changing the relationship between gameplay and the player to mean something more than pure fun, then there are even more places where the medium can grow in terms of how pure presentation is able to influence that mission as well. Catherine proves that even facets of video games as seemingly permanent and fixed as title screens aren't exempt from that scrutiny, either. Throwaway in terms of overall time invested by the player though the may be, the fact that they're also a guaranteed sight that players will encounter every time they turn on the game can actually be a justification for investing more time in their creation and better integrating them into the overall fabric of the game itself. In Catherine's case, this results in imagery whose meaning and significance to players can change and broaden the further they delve into the game, despite the fact that every facet of it will visually remain constant from the beginning of the game to its conclusion. And if that much can already be achieved at a point in the medium's history where the philosophical utility of a title screen still isn't widely recognized, surely other developers in the future can make title screens that take things even farther and are more deeply integrated with whatever underlying gameplay experiences they seek to create. It just requires taking that first step of acknowledging a greater utility for title screens is possible, something that goes beyond functioning just as a gateway to gameplay and makes it more than just a thing that "has to be there" for the sake of tradition and development logistics.

I think that lesson at least is something that can be universally taken away from Catherine's title screen regardless of whether you actually like, loathe, or feel ambivalent towards it as a game. Its accomplishments aren't nearly as pronounced as Catherine's themes or its visual fidelity and, indeed, it took me 40 hours, three endings, and a lot of post-game contemplation to even begin to realize they were there at all, but it's a testament to their impact that I find myself still able to vividly recall it and eager to pick it apart nearly two years after I finished playing the game. As someone who's about as academically distant from formal art and music studies as one can be, I don't doubt that there are even more things left to decipher and ponder over that I haven't been able to cover in this post. It's the fact that I find anything substantial in it to say in the first place compared to so many other title screens in video games, let alone to this unprecedented extent, that tells me that Atlus has uncovered an abstract aspect of video game design that's well worth investigating and refining moving forward. I don't think it's a path that every video game has to take or even should pursue, but with so few other games even attempting it up until now, there is, to say the least, room for growth. Catherine proves that even something as proven and set in stone formulaically as a title screen can, in actuality, be molded to serve other purposes and it's from that I hope that future games take heed and find the inspiration to explore what function means in video games beyond practical realms. Such things, after all, only truly stay permanent and fixed as standards for as long as they are allowed to do so.

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Analogue: A Hate Story: A Review I Maybe Shouldn't Have Done

I like games that try to make an active appeal to the inner writer in me. Typically, that appeal isn't made through the gameplay, although there are some interesting and hilarious exceptions to that. Rather, as one would typically expect, it tends to happen in the writing, ideally the type that sets up a framework and justification for not only the story I'm exploring, but even the gameplay systems I'm playing around with. It's the reason why I'm probably one of the few people who will actually take a closer look at some games if, say, the right localization team is working on it. Naturally, it usually takes an inherent interest in any game for me to actually go out and play it, but when I find out that such a game has passed through a company like Atlus USA, 8-4, or Nintendo Treehouse, it gives me a sort of reassurance that I'll actually be playing a game whose writing was actually handled by someone who knows their stuff. (Doubly so if the source material itself isn't even all that well-written, which is often the case.) Of course, that's equally true for games that are natively produced in English. I would have still loved Bastion for its gameplay, but knowing that Greg Kasavin was the one greasing the wheels behind the narration was a very appreciated bonus, for instance. A lot of people would probably agree with me on that specific and admittedly increasingly typical example, but it's still a very powerful and legitimizing example of the place good writing can and should have in video games.

I really, really like how Nier (actually) ended. I can throw that much of a bone to the game's fans.

In the end, though, most writing in video games have to take an inherent backseat to the gameplay. This is to be expected and is the way it normally should be. I appreciate the part of video games that lets me be proactive in the experience, whether it's linear, nonlinear, or something else entirely. Likewise, though, it means that, a lot of the time, I have to make my interests in seeing good writing a secondary matter. As much as I might like strong writing in video games, very rarely are they able, nor should they be able, to throw gameplay by the wayside and still come out as a positive experience through the sheer power of words alone, a lesson that I was very vividly reminded of while playing the highly contentious Nier. I got some chastising for throwing that game in particular under the bridge like "all the other reviewers" and for not seeing the light that regular "plebian gamers" apparently noticed as plainly as daylight, even if the writing quality itself, which I certainly liked in places, was never the target of criticism in that particular review. I did criticize the fundamental premises of the game itself, but that's not exactly something a localized edition should ever be expected to alter and was therefore a different matter entirely in that review. It was a game that, from what I could tell, tried hedging its bets on its writing and let the rest of its part suffer too greatly as a result. Different strokes for different folks, I suppose, given the game's reception.

It feels a bit strange, then, to put my weight behind Christine Love's latest game, Analogue: A Hate Story, in the form of a review. Much like her previous games, most notably Digital: A Love Story and Don't Take It Personally Babe, It Just Ain't Your Story, the crux of Analogue's experience lies in its narrative, which is told entirely through text. While many people mistake some of her games, particularly Don't Take It Personally, as being visual novels when they, in actuality, share more of a direct lineage with text adventure games, especially the keyboard-input sort that have long since fallen out of vogue, it doesn't change the fact that Love created those games with text first and foremost in mind. There is gameplay, yes, but your main modus operandi for reaching the end of her games is by doing a whole lot of reading. It's good reading, often very good reading as I hope my Analogue review makes at least somewhat clear, but it's more reading than "playing," like one would expect with other video games outside of its genre. It's hard to divine a whole lot to talk about outside of the plot in a regular video game review-style critical piece on a game like that without having it delve into book review-esque territory. I know that's certainly what I experienced while writing the review for Analogue, even if it otherwise took less time overall than most other standard reviews do. I don't even know if it's particularly successful as a review, as I tried going so far out of my way to avoid doing either a video game review or a literary review that the quality of the end result eludes me, even if I liked the change of format.

It's not exactly the sort of Korean video game per se I've been meaning to investigate more thoroughly, but the names and culture in Analogue are a start.

Knowing that, a lot of other people would probably have understandably simply opted to discuss Analogue within the constraints of a blog, free of the worry of review scores and the like. I probably even just raised a lot of red flags by saying I even attempted to go beyond that sort of coverage for Analogue in opting for a review. After all, even if I have the critical thinking skills necessary to subjectively evaluate it, again, I can't exactly do it on the same sort of playing field I normally would for most any other game. I could have said, "Analogue is a game that takes places on a desolate Korean space freighter hundreds of years in the future, tasked with piecing together the story of how things got so quiet with the assistance of two AIs, *Hyun-ae and *Mute, that are less than amiable towards each other, doing so by reading abandoned logs a plenty, talking to the AIs, and even interacting with the ship's computer interface directly." (At least I finally got that requisite synopsis out of the way.) I could have also discussed the graphics like I usually do and say something like, "The art style works well for what the game is trying to achieve, even if there isn't a whole lot of variety to it." (I do think this.) I could have dissected the sound design and music and said, "Likewise, the aural experience of Analogue is sparse, but ambient."(Also my opinion.) But doing a review that way would have been brazenly missing the point and that's reason enough for a lot of people to take it to the blogging format and discuss it in a more free-form matter. That much I understand.

I still went through with the review, though, because it all goes back to my inherent appreciation for good writing in a video game. The video games I like best are the ones where I can instinctively tell from the get-go what its intent and mission is and executes on all of that well. In Analogue's case, that mission was to take a good, thought-provoking narrative, and walk the player through it word by word. You have to provide some input to make progress in specific places, but it's very tangential. As I wrote in my review, Analogue lives and dies by its text. In doing so, I feel that the game is so respectful (perhaps "indulgent" is a better word) to my personal expectations and beliefs about the power of writing that, in my mind, it was sufficient enough to discuss it in a more concretely critical format. If the game's mission was to get me to take its narrative seriously with just the power of reading, which it certainly did, then I felt it was okay to take it more seriously and break it down through a review of some sort. That's just what I do when I either enjoy or was otherwise sufficiently provoked by a game.

Like my review for this game, the one for Analogue was a lesson in making sure my opinion didn't sound like the "end all that be all."

Not that the review itself is all that detail-oriented, or at least not in the ways that I typically write them. There is a score there, which I do feel that the text does enough in justifying both its existence and its value. It's probably less meaningful to a lot of people since the review and my handling of it is so different, but it still has meaning for me. It got me to think about just how much of impact Analogue's story really has made on me and just how well it compares to some of Love's other games. (If you want a brief synopsis I don't even provide in the review, I liked it a lot, but not quite as much as Digital. The score was hardly just the result of that relationship, though, especially considering I've never even reviewed any of Love's other works.) There's also a lot of written dissection conducted over the primary drivers behind Analogue's experience. I wrote that review a lot like I would a more conventional essay or, as some people are probably thinking, the blog I should have probably written instead of this. I feel like the review approach works, though, as it makes me more concretely commit to an opinion on it, much like the game was committed to take its writing seriously and, in turn, getting players to take that quality seriously. It's ultimately a matter of semantics, I suppose, since it's not as though a blog is inherently worth any more or less than a review. But I enjoy the hubris behind it and, admittedly, I have a knack for attracting more attention to myself through my reviews than my blogs, if ones such as this are any indicator. So there's that factor, too, and it's just as true of this blog.

Most of my actual thoughts on the game itself that I feel like conveying are covered in the review itself. I almost got overly personal in breaking down specific character-related issues that I thought I had, but held back on those after some additional contemplation that made me realize I might have been a bit quick to jump to conclusions. Like Digital and Don't Take It Personally, Analogue has a knack for getting you to think about its plot and characters after you've completed it. But this post is still here because the process of that review itself got me to think a lot about how I should be approaching reviews in general and I wanted to share that with this site. For a while now, I've been trying to experiment with how I handle my review formatting since they still, to me at least, feel overly formulaic and writing one on something a lot of people would probably (but disagreeable) argue is a bit of a non-game in some respects went far in outright forcing me to shake things up. Whether I succeeded, I'm not even sure. That review is filled with a whole lot of pretentiousness and writer-ese and is so deliberately ambiguous in places about the specifics of Analogue that I wouldn't be surprised if it's not really considered much of a success. It doesn't really matter either way, though; much like playing Analogue, there's something to be said for just going through the motions, regardless of how you come out in the end. In my case, I actually like how both things turned out, but you can sure both of them will still be on my mind for a while to come. The end has been reached for both the game and that review, but it's not the end.

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On Ramen and White Noise: Kiki Trick Preview Video Subtitled

As someone who's both a (hobbyist) Japanese translator and a gamer, the sorts of projects I like to take on when the two pastimes converge tend to skew a little bit strange and neglected, at least in terms of popularity. Whether it's literature, videos, or actual games, I tend to avoid the popular stuff not out of some stereotypical hipster dislike of the mainstream, but simply because it's already been done. Unless the existing translation has some serious errors or I can otherwise contribute new information in English, I usually find it to be a waste of my time to work on popular things, or at least to publish any work I might produce related to them. Instead, I like to work on stuff that not only is (at least relatively) obscure and lacking information, but I feel is worthy of better promotion and attention on a larger scale. I don't feel like it's quite a duty of mine to go out and translate things that nearly nobody aside from native Japanese speakers are likely to know about, but I take pleasure in at least giving people the chance to talk about new and interesting Japanese games by giving them information they can use aside from just guesswork based on visuals. It feels like it gives my skills at least some sort of purpose and reason to use them outside the academic contexts I'm usually confined to, although I'm hardly lacking in fulfilling work outside of that realm, either.

That's just as true as it always has been with the video for Kiki Trick embedded above that I decided to subtitle. You'll get the basic gist of the game and then some if you watch it and the banter between Nintendo president Satoru Iwata and longtime designer Yoshio Sakamoto, but it's basically a game that's all about how well you can apply your listening comprehension skills in unusual situations. It's a game that first caught my interest when I heard about it on the most recent edition of 8-4 Play, not the least because it's one of those rare video games that focuses on sound and not, you know, video. It's certainly not the first game to do that and it's not even the first game from Nintendo to have gameplay revolve so deeply around sound, but beings as sound design in video games is very rarely the crux of a game's gameplay, any game that does attempt to do that always has my attention. In this instance, there's still a lot of visual information to be had in Kiki Trick, too, but as you'll notice, it's used to enhance sound's place in the game and brings added variety to the minigames.

Of course, it's almost all but certain that Nintendo is never going to release a localized version of Kiki Trick outside of Japan. While the overall premise of the game itself is pretty universal and could be applied to virtually any language, the very fact that its design has to hinge on listening comprehension means that when Japanese was picked as the central language, the game was going to be designed explicitly around that language and its quirks. Indeed, everything from the game's title (as I wrote in the GB wiki, it's a portmanteau with an actual Japanese word) to even how you figure out the answers in certain spots (ie: when Iwata is referring to the beat of a sentence, he's explicitly referring to how words are deliberately, equally paced in the Japanese language) make the game intrinsically Japanese in a way that few games can really claim to be. Many of the actual minigames themselves would work fine in English if a lot of new content was generated for them in the same framework, but otherwise a conventional text and vocal localization is all but useless for Kiki Trick. The reason why I still translated the interview knowing that, then, is that I always feel that more information about a (probably) Japan-only game is always better than one, especially in instances where there might actually be something to like about the game. The game itself and its structure is probably more one trick than some of Sakamoto's other works like Warioware and Rhythm Tengoku, but as probably one of the very last Nintendo-published games in Japan this side of Rhythm Heaven Fever, I'm still certainly curious enough to pick up a copy and give it a whirl at some point. Nintendo has had a habit for a while now of sending off its hardware with games made by Sakamoto and his team, so if nothing else, it'll be nice to see how they usher in the end of one console before commencing work on the next one.

Hopefully this video is of use to those who might have been curious about Kiki Trick as a result of the Nintendo Direct conference in December. If you've got any questions about my translation work or any especially Japanese-centric linguistic aspects of the game, feel free to shoot me a question. Beyond that, this post has no real reason to exist other than to advertise my work and propagandize my general worldview about games. But that's also kind of the point when it comes to blogs on this site in general, no? Take that for what it's worth, I suppose.

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Eating My Enemies: The Dragon Quest Slime Meat Bun

I don't know if you've noticed this, but Japan is a delightfully capitalist country, its tendency to flaunt that fact matched only by the United States and (let's not kid ourselves) China. I say this only in half-jest because you don't have to walk very far here before you find iconic, lasting brands that, when they're also tied to entertainment, also tend to be merchandised to death because they can be. That should be readily apparent to those who read my previous blog in which I detailed the lengths Atlus would go to market one its more sexually iconic creations, but even those who didn't can easily find countless other examples. Persona 4, for instance, which was once just a lovely game, was turned into a manga, then into an anime, before finally reaching its logical apex in the form of a special effects-driven play. There's also Pepsiman the game, Pokemon curry, and god knows how many pachinko simulators, among many, many other bemusing, but ultimately frivolous goods and services.

I mention all of this to provide context for the next revelation: Dragon Quest is kind of a big thing here in Japan. Huge bombshell, right? I saw it firsthand a few years ago when I saw seemingly countless people playing through the then recently released IX while commuting on the train to and from school in Tokyo, but I'm sure even without that sort of eyewitness stuff, you were able to surmise that by some means or other. This year in particular is "big" for Dragon Quest because it's the 25th anniversary of the venerable franchise. 25 being a nice, big, and satisfying number and all, Square-Enix has taken upon itself to remind people just how much the games should matter in their lives with things such as that Wii compilation that's really just a compilation of the first three games. Technically, it's the first three games twice in that they included both the original NES games and then their SNES remakes. It was very considerate of them to do so. Of course, any sane person would ask themselves, "Why stop at a video game re-release to celebrate a video game anniversary?" and guess what, it's like Square-Enix predicted that and took the next logically conceivable step: they entered the realm of convenience store food.

Now I know what you're probably thinking now. "Pepsiman, the only way I want to celebrate Dragon Quest's 25th anniversary aside from playing it is to eat it, but what is that thing and why is it not a corn dog in the shape of cruelcumber?" Just bear with me. I know that's exactly how things would be handled in the States if 7-11 were ever going to be the patron saint of Dragon Quest festivities, but that's not how things are in reality. Let's just work with what we have here and that would be a nikuman, or a Japanese steamed "meat bun," in the shape of the series' mascot, the slime. Although Japanese meat buns look somewhat unique, even compared to the more iconic staples that have been imported throughout the world, in practice they're a lot like a meat pie or a cornish pasty. Basically, they consist of a doughy exterior that completely envelops a simple meaty interior. They're readily available most anywhere you can go given their simplicity, even if they're otherwise not as beloved here in Japan as other food genres (and probably rightfully so). That being said, given the spherical shape that nikuman takes, it's pretty easy to see why Square-Enix would pick that specifically to adapt the slime into a sort of food if they had to go with the slime at all and not the inherently superior cruelcumber.

Alas, though, I've spent the entirety of this blog up until now trying to justify why this slime-looking meat bun thing even exists. The burning question that I know is really on your mind is "Pepsiman, why the hell couldn't you just write more concisely and get to the point sooner?" "Is it worth my money to fly over to Japan and buy one for myself? Or should I just import it?" The answer to both of those questions is probably, "The economy sure would appreciate it if you did either one, or maybe even both!" But I know you're looking for hard-hitting answers so that you can discern the truth behind this edible, so I'll give you what you want: a montage of pictures that I took as I was eating the slime, complete with commentary! It'll be like you're reading my thoughts in real-time, but in retrospect. With that being said, there's nothing left to do now but take it from the top.

The way you buy one of the slime meat buns is a similar to how you'd order other specialty food from a convenience store in the US: You walk up to the clerk, admit to them that you want that not particularly nutritious-looking slime meat bun that exists only because suckers like you will buy them for gamer street cred, take solace in the fact that despite sitting inside that sketchy-looking heated cooking case on the counter you think it probably won't kill you, pay for it (hopefully you only bought one "it"), and bike back home so you can eat it in solace. It's a convoluted, psychologically trying process, I know, but one that you eventually do get the hang of after a while. Regardless of that, my slime came wrapped in some unassuming paper that was subsequently inserted into a plastic bag, most likely to drive home the fact that not only am I about to waste my own body in consuming it, but also the environment as well. At this stage, I'm not feeling anything in particular about the slime one way or the other. It felt warm, something I appreciated since the local weather has finally begun to accept it should be winter by now, and there were also no funny smells wafting from it. A decent start, to say the least.

Then I actually unwrapped the slime so that I could properly dive into it. This was when a few warning flags about its potential quality really began to fly (aside from the fact that, you know, I bought it from a convenience store). First and foremost was just the general state that the slime seemed to be in by the time I set it free on my plate. Maybe the bike ride home inside my backpack did a bit of a number on it, but the slime just seemed to be a little... emotionally unstable. As you can clearly see in the picture, its eyes simple starred blankly in two different directions and no sign of life was to be found in either of them. The smile, too, seemed to be disingenuous, borne either out of a psychological meltdown about its upcoming prospects or simply because it was mentally incapable of actually having a care in the world. It was also starting to melt, which only deepened my suspicions about its mood. In addition to all of that, the slime was very much so sweating, having steamed itself inside the wrapping on the way home. While this is to be expected given the sort of food that it is, it was still unsettling to be reminded "Hey, you're about to eat this hot slime that's dripping with... something and is 80 percent dough with blue food coloring mixed in." Truly, I was in for the delicacy of my life.

The moment of truth was here, folks. While I can't say I have much actual experience with the Dragon Quest games themselves aside from a few hours spent with VIII and several more with the otherwise thoroughly delightful Rocket Slime, I do know that your first rite of passage in a Dragon Quest game is to generally take out a slime in combat. I'm not sure whether Square-Enix wanted me to think I was accomplishing the same thing in real life in dissecting the meat bun, but if they did, it sure felt uneventful. Maybe it was because things like the exchange rate and my quest to find a copy of some game had already previously proven to be more arduous. Every journey starts with a step, though, as the cliche goes, so I didn't question things to deeply. I had deeper, meatier things to address right in front of me.

Well, I couldn't look back now. I'd both sliced and diced the slimey and still sweaty meat bun, so I had to commit to it until the end. As the picture indicates, I, of course, had to start eating it by going for the face. The sooner I got rid of that depressing-looking mug, the better, I figured. That slime had already lived a terrible life inside that convenience store oven for who knows how long and, if nothing else, it would find salvation at least in my stomach and intestines. Maybe one day it would get reincarnated as that cruelcumber corn dog everybody really wants.

While I'm glad I made the decision to euthanize the slime with my eating utensils, I wasn't as pleased, if that was at all possible, with how the actual innards of the slime actually tasted. Indeed, I can't say I set my sights particularly high at all with regards to how it might taste (I'm not even sure I set any sights at all), but what I was greeted with was complete blandness. Neither the dough nor the meat that constituted the slime's innards had anything that really resembled an actual flavor, although the dough was more overpowering on my taste buds just by virtue of how much it outnumbered the actual meat. I imagine this might have been on purpose on Square-Enix's part, though. Like defeating the first slime in a Dragon Quest game, I had overcome my first hurdle in a journey that would likely be filled with far greater challenges than I could ever conceive at the time. If I were to guess, those greater challenges would probably involve my stomach, but again, one step at a time. I was working my way through the slime and its anticlimactic-tasting innards. That was the important part.

In the end, I didn't end up eating the entirety of the face first thing. Maybe I was a sicko and wanted to see a least one half of that drab stare and disheartening smile suffer one last time as I ate the rest of the body, but what's done is done. The last part of the slime I ate was the remainder of the face. It was no better or worse than the rest of the meat bun, as it was as mostly doughy and slightly meaty as ever. And that's okay. I was never going to want to buy another one ever again, but it did reaffirm two beliefs I have: Japanese convenience store food is edible and it is not aggressively out to kill you. In the end, I accomplished my main goal and that was to not die, which, again, is sort of the whole point of slimes in the Dragon Quest games: to prove you can be the killer and not the killee. High falutin' philosophy and vocabulary, I know.

After I had eaten the entirety of the meat bun slime, I was left with what I had started with: the paper wrapping, having now revealed a generic message politely expressing thanks for all the years of Dragon Quest support and a hope for many more years of it to come. It was a fitting way to end things. I started off with basically next to nothing, with a slime being that in terms of power, ate a whole lot of nothing taste-wise, and finished with nothing. Much like my perverted desire to both rid the slime of its suffering and save at least part of its face for last, it was fulfilling in its own way. Or at least that's what I'll say until my stomach rejects it. Then it'll be fulfilling in that I lost weight. Either way, as a result of that nothingness, I'm not left with much when it comes to a conclusion. However, beings as this is a video game web site, if I were to review it, the by-line would probably look a little like this:

And that's how we wrap things up around here.

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Marred in Japan: Whispers of Sweet Somethings

So, for a while, I've been meaning to write a blog detailing what shenanigans I've gotten myself into since returning to Japan for this school year. Despite only being back for about a month, sights have been seen, adventures have been had, and (surprisingly coherent) Japanese conversations aplenty have been conducted. I was originally planning on telling you about how insane TGS was, for example, and how I ended up bumping into Yoshinori Ono, SFxTekken producer and anti-Namco troll extraordinaire. (Nice man and his game seems to be in good shape!) I also meant to tell you about my experiences with Love Plus and Ni no Kuni were going and how they're interesting DS games for completely different reasons. (Although they both do have some of the system's best soundtracks.) I was also probably going to talk at length about my profound love for the surprisingly plentiful mom and pop used game shops and how I've spent an unnecessarily high amount of money in them just because they had some classic I'd always "meant to play" for cheap. (Doesn't hurt that language barriers aren't really an issue.) Maybe I would have even thrown in a few thoughts about the Persona 4 anime that's airing here and over the Internet. (Man, that music mixing sure is terrible, isn't it?) Most of my time in Japan hasn't had anything to do with games whatsoever just by sheer virtue of the completely revamped schedule I've had to adopt, but what I've been up on that end has been interesting and thoroughly fulfilling.

I'm going to save that for another day, though. I'd say a rainy one, but it's been raining a lot here lately despite it being October and I still find myself too lazy to commit to staying on that topic, so I won't quite yet. Instead, it's time for a tangent of sorts, if that's at all possible. I suppose this is actually going to be the main topic of the blog itself and not a tangent, but since it's a tangent to what I originally wanted to discuss, it's like a tangent by proxy, we'll say. Semantics. They're fun, right?

Irregardless of my English and its brazenly diminishing levels of fluency, there's been something of an odd trend I thought I should let you, the reader, in on. It involves your dear friend and mine, at least as a Persona fan, Mara. You know, that guy. The one that absolutely ensures that most every game he appears in garners a solid M rating from the ESRB just by sheer virtue of his physiology. Him. Anyway, a friend of mine who's also living in Japan for the school year passed along some Japanese fan-made comics about him that also serve as a pretty apt parody of the Persona 4 anime adaptation, judging by the use of some very specific imagery. I decided to whip up a quick translation of that because, well, I wanted to maintain my reputation of having great ideas that put my Japanese skills to good use. Part of this is probably true, but I'm not sure what. I've posted them below and I'd credit the original author if I could, but I couldn't track them down. That's probably the least of everyone's worries, though, judging by the content.

I'm sure this will be just as cherished as my work translating actual Persona 4 manga back in the day.
And that's how that story ends.

Of course, one event and a poor decision made as a result of it do not a trend make. Indeed, I was originally planning on just dumping these images somewhere on here nonchalantly, most likely without all of the self-indulgent pretext leading up to its presentation. No, what makes this the start of the trend is the fact that this comic was not the first and only time Mara would enter my life this week. On the contrary, he actually showed up for the second day in a row while I was roaming Osaka's Den Den Town. The area, despite often being likened to Tokyo's world-famous Akihabara because of its similarly numerous anime-related shops and maid cafes, has a bit of a different air to it. There's not nearly as much of a thriving video game culture when it comes to actually shopping there, although there are, at least, arcades with table-flipping anger management sims a plenty because that's how the scene stays alive over there or something. It's a fun place to visit, although it doesn't offer the best sights and sounds that Osaka likely has to offer.

Oh, right, you wanted to know how Mara fit into all of it, right? As it turns out, Mara is not merely a character within a video game, but also a piece of merchandise and I mean official merchandise. I'm not talking about dildos that could be used to easily impersonate Mara nor am I referring to fan-made goods that probably exist and were sold at Comiket. I'm talking about tangible goods that somebody at Atlus and/or its current owner Index thought was a good idea to manufacture and sell, ideally at a profit. To people that like Mara enough to actually buy something in his image, ironically or otherwise. In this instance, the goods came in the form of not one, but two separate figurines/statuettes that were just casually sitting inside a figure store's glass case in Den Den Town. Beings as I know you want proof in your completely pure, still unsullied pudding, I took pictures of them both. The lighting inside that part of the store wasn't great to cope with on my point-and-shoot camera, but I figured it was more important that the photos just existed in some form, rather than they look all nice and pretty. After seeing them, I'm sure you'll agree with me and understand why.

If it all makes you feel better about it, there was what looked like a Black Frost statue in there, too, but he was going for 9800 yen, an amount my wallet distinctly did not contain.
There were also Pixie and Ghoul statues, in case they were more up your alley or something.

Why there's a 2000-yen price different between them, I have no idea, but that's not the point. The point is that they exist and that capitalism has allowed this to take place. Think about it. Reflect on that for a while. I don't know what the future has in store for me, but at the very least, I look forward to seeing how Mara will manifest himself tomorrow for a third day in a row. They say all things come in threes or something.

And that was my first blog post on here since getting back to Japan. I have a good sense of what makes for good, reintroductory content.

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Famicom Rocky: The Series Nobody Wanted

MOST RECENT CHAPTER ONLINE: CHAPTER TWO

It's been a while, Giant Bomb. The last time I put out a Japanese-English translation here that didn't involve cartridge labels or achievements lists, we wound up with a Persona 4 fan manga about the game's definitive romantic pairing that, while relatively light on plot, was at least well-drawn and warmly received. Other translation projects of varying scales have since come and gone, although most have been for demographics other than what this site typically caters to, which is why, aside from an absolute torrent of Japanese status updates that only a handful of other people can read on this site, things have been quiet on the translation front for quite some time. That's all going to change right now, though, as I've finished translating the first chapter of a series that I suspect has, shall we say, inadvertent appeal to at least some members of this site.

I present to you all Famicom Rocky, the series that will probably wreck any and all goodwill I had built up from the Persona 4 manga a while back. For a brief description of what this series is actually about, feel free to stick with me and read the section right after the table of contents, which is designed for those who are already familiar with the series and just want access to the latest in "great plots." If you just want to jump into it like a crazy person, though, jump to the section after that one, which is where the first chapter will have a permanent home outside of the main gallery version. Underneath it will be the most recent chapter I've uploaded as well, which will change every time I upload new material. Beyond that, I'll have some additional concluding remarks about this series afterwards.

Also, if you're at all interested in helping me upload new chapters faster, head to the section titled "One More Thing." Assistance is, of course, voluntary, but as I explain in that section, it would be greatly appreciated.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter 1: The absolutely riveting opening to the classic series, in this chapter we're introduced to protagonist extraordinaire Yuki Todoroki, who, despite having never played a Famicom game previously, decides to master the Japan-only F-1 Race because he's just a nice guy like that or something.
  • Chapter 2: Having garnered the respect of the distinctly not nice guy in the previous chapter, Yuki's next challenger involves a former American Air Force pilot whose flying and shooting skills automatically make him an ace at the classic Namco arcade game Xevious. Yuki once again has no idea what a Xevious is, but that doesn't stop him from going on absurd training montages to prove that he's better at it than the dastardly Yankee.

What the hell is a Famicom Rocky, Pepsiman?

I more or less asked myself this exact same question when I first learned of this series' existence, third-person references and all. Famicom Rocky is as straightforward as it sounds, though. Created by Motoyuki Asai, author of other such potentially riveting series as Skateboarding Rocky (I'm seriously not making this up), Famicom Rocky is basically Rocky the movie, but with old NES-era video games. The series stars an ineloquent brute of a protagonist who has long, extensive training montages so that he can dramatically compete against vaguely imposing rivals who, for narrative purposes, are deluded into thinking they're better at video games than him. While I haven't finished reading the series in Japanese, as far as I know, there are no Survivor songs nor Russian Communist arch-enemies. As you will discover soon enough, such concepts might have been too complicated for the creator to handle. Each chapter focuses around the protagonist mastering a specific game in some dramatic fashion, often under unusual circumstances that can't really be replicated within the actual games themselves. There are narrative licenses abound in Famicom Rocky, in case you couldn't guess.

You've sold me, Pepsiman! Gimme chapter one!

This is a series best experienced rather than just thoroughly dissected, so below is chapter one of Famicom Rocky. We're introduced to the main cast who will comprise of the series' main trio moving forward and the "Game of the Day" is F-1 Race for the Famicom, a game that is not only not another Nintendo game for the Famicom Disk System titled Famicom Grand Prix F-1 Race, but also only came overseas in the form of a Game Boy sequel years later. We'll talk more about this chapter's actual translation work in the next section, though. Why don't you just bask in the gallery underneath instead and read it for yourself? Like all native Japanese manga, the panels and dialog are read from right to left, top to bottom. In case you want direct access to the gallery so you can properly turn pages and see larger versions of each image, you can go here.

Actually, I'm all caught up! Why don't you give me the latest and greatest on offer?

A couple of Giant Bomb's resident masochists, as well as some outside sites, actually condoned my work on the first chapter and expressed interest in further translations, so here I am with a second chapter. Now that Yuki Todoroki is a certified Famicom Champion(TM) despite only beating another grade schooler at F-1 Race, he now has pressing concerns, such as actually calling himself Famicom Rocky and taking on new rivals, as is par for the course in this sort of series. This time around, he's challenged to a gentlemanly round of Namco's iconic arcade game Xevious by none other than George, a former American pilot who's apparently able to translate his flying skills to the game pad quite easily. As in Yuichiro's case, George is, of course, crazy for thinking he could beat Yuki at a game he's never heard of, as Yuki and company take it upon themselves to prove him wrong. Hilarity (doesn't really) ensue! The gallery version is right here in case you want this chapter in a more readable resolution, but I'll also provide it below. I will note that, for whatever reason, the conclusion page appears first in the gallery; otherwise, everything else is in order.

The Aftermath

If you've finished reading this first chapter, there's probably one thing we can agree with: this series is pretty bad. As I mention in the credits/long-ass rambling page, Famicom Rocky is, by no stretch of the imagination, a good manga. It will not convince anyone that anime or manga is not for jerks and, in fact, if I were to judge the mediums based on this work alone, I'd probably agree that they are actually for jerks. The character designs are hideous, turning what are supposed to be kids of an indeterminate age into adults with profoundly strange proportions. The writing is so vapid and the plot so stupid that they take what might have been a good-dumb premise in better hands and just turn Famicom Rocky into abysmal-bad.

Drama like this is what you all have to look forward to if you tell me to keep going.

None of this really gets better as the series moves forward, either; in fact, the next couple of chapters already feature prominent amounts of recycling in terms of plot development and games featured. Honestly, there's not a whole lot to really like about the game other than the fact that it's profoundly idiotic, which is precisely why I've translated it. If people can laugh at it and take comfort knowing that they could probably produce something better, then I've done my job. Sometimes I take things too far for the sake of irony and I can only hope it's been of some use to the community in this instance. After all, I was only inspired to translate this completely irrelevant series after seeing it in an episode of the infinitely superior GameCenter CX, in which the host spent an entire segment reading it in a dingy cafe and laughing at its expense. It was so profoundly bad that I just felt the need to make sure people understood it was bad in another language.

However, should there be demand for me to continue translating this series, I will not hesitate to do so. The best parts of the series' stupidity have yet to be unveiled and I would be honored if the Giant Bomb community actually cared enough to join me on this completely unnecessary and intellectually devoid ride. It is completely understandable to hate this little project; I'm the one who has to stare at every page multiple times in Photoshop for hours on end, so if anybody dislikes Famicom Rocky and what it stands for, it's going to be me. But if people want me to keep going, then I will. This is a series that isn't well-known even in Japan and, at the very least, I always enjoy digging out obscure literature and translating it into another language for new audiences. It broadens the visibility of the original work, even if Famicom Rocky doesn't particularly deserve it in this instance. As additional chapters get uploaded, I'll edit this main post to accommodate them, as well as provide proper access to all other available chapters as well, as evidenced by the table of contents up top. Even if this series' translation stops here, though, at least it's given me a chance to use that Chie image again for that last page. I've always cherished having that be my unofficial mascot as a manga translator since first encountering it back in early 2010.

One More Thing

I mentioned this in the original post before I edited it, but aside from the original Japanese pages, which come from an anonymous source, I handle every aspect of this scanlation on my own. This includes everything from writing coherent English to cleaning up the art. This naturally takes time; bigger groups can churn out chapter after chapter within a matter of days thanks to the magic of collaboration, but since I don't have that luxury, it can take me a while to bring out new chapters. I love the work and will continue to do so since this has attracted an audience I'm keen on satisfying, but do keep in mind that as a result of this solo working environment, delays do happen, especially when my regular life is keen on intervening.

With that in mind, I'd like to once again ask for a little help on the Photoshop end. As I've said before, regardless of whether I get help, chapters will still come out. However, by having other people take care of cleaning up the pages while I work solely on the translation, these chapters can come out a lot faster. Specific details will be discussed via PM, but the work entailed is rarely more difficult than tweaking contrast levels and erasing dialog bubbles. That's not hard, right? If you like what you see and don't mind giving back a little, consider helping out. I'm not a tyrant and won't ask you to help out more than you like, but any and all assistance would be greatly appreciated.

Special Thanks (This is Actually the Last Thing)

Since I originally posted the translation for chapter one, this series has somehow gotten attention outside of Giant Bomb in some surprising places. While this pleases me, at the same time, I feel bad, since having other people notice this translation means that my work is being condoned and that's not what I wanted at all. Nevertheless, this section will be modified in the event that subsequent chapters somehow continue to not result in people driving me off of the Internet, but for the time being, I'd like to thank the following sites for taking time to look at this dumb project and (somewhat?) endorse it or at least acknowledge its existence. Of course, I thank my readers as well, but I have no way of tracking down who you all are and thanking you personally, so I hope you don't mind remaining anonymous here out of sheer laziness.

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