Ongoing Investigations: Case #146December 2, 2011
When Rango first came out, I was skeptical, but great reviews poured in. Finally, I got the chance to decide for myself. Rango is the story of a great big fake who becomes a great big hero. Amazingly, when we meet our scaly friend we don’t know his name, and actually still don’t know it, because “Rango” he makes up along with a series of amazing exploits that he sells to the folks in a little desert town called Dirt. This is a town in trouble as their water supply is drying up and the mayor is plotting something. Rango is the stranger who appears and changes everything. All things after the accident that puts Rango into the desert is a riff on the classic Western almost as if he has been thrown back in time (though of course he hasn’t). There is a clear knowledge of the reference material and it gives a little bite to some of the twists that you expect as well as great humor. The animation is all out incredible, there is a particularly flying scene that blew my mind with detail. Great film and certainly one of the best animated features of the year. Oh, and the owl mariachies are the best. I need a shirt with them.
I just read Princess Knight volume 1. When Narutaki and I read volume 2 we will probably do a full length editorial about the manga as a whole but I thought I would throw out a few thoughts before then. The oddest thing about Princess Knight was that Osamu Tezuka almost seems of have ADD with his storyline. I always knew that Osamu Tezuka liked to do episodic series like Black Jack and Astroboy. When I read the somewhat scatter brained plot of Swallowing the Earth I assumed that the fact that the plot was all over the place had to do more with Tezuka being new to Gekiga. But in Princess Knight jumps from plot line to plot line without really ever stopping for a breath. It is very clear to me that he is making up Princess Knight as he goes along while borrowing from Disney every step of the way. The main character goes from trying to hide her gender, to being a prisoner, to fighting a witch, to being on a pirate ship with hardly any transition. I think he clearly Tezuka had a beginning and an end mapped out but everything in between seemed to be decided as he was writing it. You can’t ever say you are bored by the book but it does feel a bit disjointed. Still the story is worth reading for the fact that it is a major milestone in manga history. While it was not the first shojo manga it was highly influential in the foundation of the genre. The book is just best enjoyed if you know going into it that the book reads very young and has a scatter shot plot. I think I enjoyed the book a bit more than Narutaki because I went in with a more informed view of the book and knew what to expect.
The new special Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown premiered on television Thanksgiving night. This story focuses heavily on Linus and his security blanket which most everyone is trying to relieve him of. Lucy and Snoopy are the biggest antagonists in this. Peanuts is built on a dry humor and mean-spirited undertone but I’m not sure this special hit a sweet spot. It just felt a little too torturous of everyone.
I finally finished Kara no Shojo. I was on a podcast with Greg about the game but I has not finished it at that point. What said Greg was right. No matter what happens you get a pretty depressing ending for a majority of the characters. Fortunately you can save the characters from Cartagra but otherwise everyone else except for one or two people you meet in Kara no Shojo is going to up dead or seriously messed up. Playing through the whole game did make me realize a few things. The first is that video game mysteries have a delicate balancing act even more than most mysteries. There is always the dance between showing the culprit too much and therefore making the mystery too obvious or not showing the culprit enough and making their guilt seem like it came out of nowhere. With any video game where you can run around and investigate it becomes even more insane. It is a hard enough to keep the culprit in focus the right amount when the writer has full control of the audience’s attention in a book or film. When the player has much more control of the camera it becomes insanely difficult to control how much they can see without the grand reveal seeming either cheesy or obvious. In Kara no Shojo there are three main murder mysteries. I felt that the two main mysteries were fairly obvious if you were paying attention. The grand mystery would really takes multiple play thorough to get unless you just happen to suspect one location of being up to no good and repeatedly go there to see a pattern. But actually the best way to play the game as a detective is to play through once and save before any investigation scene and then go EVERYWHERE using saves and loads. Then with all that information in your head play through again with a bigger picture of what is happening. But the game really demands several play throughs as it is. I still stand by my positive review of the game but it is not without reservations. Only after finishing the game did I realize it has an odd misogynistic streak. Most of the time if you pursue one girl in the series her sex scene is just before she gets murdered. That is not the case for everyone but it is still some really messed up sexual politics when you get right down to it. It made me really uncomfortable when I though about it. It is a good series, a solid mystery, and generally a more substantial than your normal eroge but the darkness will understandably turn some people off and that is perfectly understandable.
Sailor Moon vol. 2 reminds me how much faster this story moves than the TV series. That’s a good thing by the way. Our five main guardians have come together and now they are tasked with protecting the princess and finding out about the Moon Kingdom. There are a few parts of extreme expository dialogue thanks to this. This volume also propels the relationship of Usagi and Mamoru ten-fold and the melodrama is concentrated. As the true goal of Queen Beryl comes to light things become tense with less one-off “we are making humans into our minions” plots. There is an interesting balance of pure evil vs. manipulated to evil which gives some depth to the story.
As an old Sierra adventure game player I decided to check out The Silver Lining. It is a fan made game based on the King Quest series that attempts to be a 9th game that ties everything up. It is planned to be five parts long with four parts already being released. It is very much a fan made game for better and for worse. For a game that is entirely made by fans and is free it is quite an accomplishment. The graphics are impressive, there is full voice acting, and clearly a good deal of love and respect for the original series. On the flip side the puzzles in the first two parts are horrifically simple, the voice acting can be wonky and amateurish, and the story sometimes unmistakably reads like fan fiction. That said it clearly an insane amount of man hours went into this and it shows. As I understand the next two parts have much more complex puzzles because the only time I had any difficultly was because I did not notice an out-of-place necklace popping up in location I had previously been. In the end I suppose it is better to err on the side of simpler but understandable rather than challenging but nonsensical seeing is that is often considered one of the things that hurt the adventure game genre back in the day. I also know some people were complaining continuity and retcon issues with the game but I never noticed them. Then again it have been over a decade since I played the last King Quest game so I only remember the broad stokes of the plot and characters. The nit picky details are firmly lost on me. And this is coming from someone who used to own the King Quest Companion. If you are a fan of the adventure game genre it is worth playing if for nothing else a nice taste of nostalgia with a price you can’t beat. I am curious how it will stack up to the upcoming official new King Quest game from Telltale Games.