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Archiv der Kategorie ‘pinocchio’

Electric Pinocchio V: The Mute King

Mittwoch, 1. August, 2012

In the previous installments I illuminated different kinds of Geppettos and Pinocchios: creator and puppet, creator and robot, game creator and game character, parent and child, player and player character, bildungsroman and reader, game and player…

The Beginning of Dragon Quest

In this installment we will look at another one of these pairs: king and hero, as portrayed in Dragon Quest, the starting point of the Mario myth turned JRPG. The hero, being an avatar for the player, is mute, so the player can give him his own voice. The king on the other hand, being the most important non-player character (NPC), does talk. The function of the NPCs is to tell the player what to do, they are the voice of the game creator(s) explaining how the game is played, the king being the first one the hero meets in the original Dragon Quest (1986).

The king also commands the most authority, obviously, and can both save your progress and also tell you how much experience points you and your fellow party members need to reach the next level of your bildungsroman. In the Mother games (1989-2006) by ITOI Shigesato, where the Dragon Quest formula is transferred to a contemporary setting, the king in this function is replaced by an absent working father only reachable over the phone; in the later DQ games christianity-esque priests (fathers) serve these functions.

But at the end of their quest of becoming the legendary hero, the heroes themselves get to marry the princess and are crowned king. The hero of the sequel Dragon Quest II (1987) being their son. Finally in Dragon Quest III (1988) we get to play as the original hero Roto (or Erdrick, as he was called in the early NES Dragon Warrior translations), that served as a role model for the hero in DQI. In game he ends up being named what the player chose to name him, sent off by his mother to go out into the world and to again fulfill the king’s missions:

(mehr …)

Electric Pinocchio IV: The Origin

Sonntag, 11. Dezember, 2011

What was it like to work with director Yoshinori Kitase?

I have been working with him since Final Fantasy V. When he joined Square, he told me he initially wanted to become a film director, but that he thought this would be impossible in Japan. The previous version of Final Fantasy could be called puppet shows compared to this one. It’s a real film requiring innovative effects and various camera angles. His experience studying cinematography and in making his own films has contributed a lot to the making of the game. He is the director of this game. (From an interview with Final Fantasy VII producer SAKAGUCHI Hironobu.)

SAKAGUCHI comparing the Final Fantasy games previous to VII to puppet shows is interesting both when looking at the plot twists outlined in the last installment of this series of articles and when looking at the in game character presentation. FFVII indeed applies many cinematic techniques which hadn’t been possible in the predecessors but the characters themselves look more like puppets than ever, a fact that was „remedied“ in the next sequel, Final Fantasy VIII, where the characters for the first time are realistically proportioned at all times.

Bunraku

I have drawn connections to the one particular Western puppet that is the namesake for this series of articles but of course the Japanese have their own puppet tradition that predates any influence Pinocchio could have had. The traces of Pinocchio we find in the works presented here mix with this older tradition and it’s time to have a look at bunraku, the traditional Japanese puppet theater.

Chūshingura

As we can see in these youtube videos, the movement of the puppets is very life like but the facial expressions are lacking animation mostly. FFVII has a similar presentation and aesthetic, using very fluid motion compared to the 2D sprites of earlier FFs but hardly animating the facial expressions (except in some more detailed pre-rendered cutscenes), which was the most important way to express emotions in the 2D FFs. Instead body language is emphasized as in bunraku plays.

Bunraku players have to train ten years as the feet before moving up to controlling the left arm. Another ten years before they finally „level up“ to become the main actor who controls the right arm. (from a Japanese TV show about bunraku)

The themes of the bunraku literary tradition also found their way into FFVII. One of the most popular bunraku pieces, the Chūshingura, tells of the 47 rōnin of Akō who follow their lord into death, by having their revenge on the daimyō who ordered him to die. This story is heaviliy entangled with the ideas of bushidō, the way of the samurai, being loyal to your master and prepared to die for them.1 Of course it also questions where this loyalty lies exactly, to one’s immediate lord or the lord of one’s lord. As it favors one’s immediate lord it can also inspire rebellion so the events portrayed in this story weren’t exactly welcomed by the rulers of the country. All these bushidō values are questioned in FFVII, the game has the player confront a part of their tradition by turning them into a bunraku puppet and ultimately dispenses with some of these traditional ideas.

The birth of Tetsuwan Atom

Cloud being manufactured to be a substitute for Sephiroth (although he ends up being one for Zack, by his own choice), him becoming an electronic puppet, this echoes the great superhero classic of post-war Japanese comics: Tetsuwan Atomu (Atom with the Iron Arm, 1952) or Astroboy, as he’s called outside Japan, was a substitute for Dr. Tenma’s son who died in a car crash. In this manga TEZUKA Osamu continues to draw upon concepts from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) which had already inspired his earlier work of the same name (1949). That one also had a robot protagonist but only in Tetsuwan Atomu the robot became a substitute for a deceased family member. Instead of the wife Hel it became the son Tobio that was „resurrected“ as a robot. But like Cloud by Hojo, Atom is judged to be a failure by his father Dr. Tenma and is discarded accordingly.

Hyakkimaru’s father sacrifices his son for his ambition (from Dororo)

One of TEZUKA’s later works, Dororo (1968), set in the sengoku era of the warring states, reimagines Atom’s story in the past rather than in a sci-fi future. The hero of the story, Hyakkimaru, is a pre-modern cyborg, born without 48 of his body parts claimed by demons who grant his father rulership over Japan in exchange. Hyakkimaru’s missing organs and limbs are replaced with prosthetics which make him actually stronger than any human but yet he seeks out the demons to reclaim his lost organs. Every time he defeats one of them a superhuman ability granted by mechanics is lost and replaced by an ordinary biological one. In a reversal of typical bildungsroman and RPG narrative Hyakkimaru actually grows weaker by seeking to become the human he was never allowed to be.

In this regard Hyakkimaru’s goal resembles that of Pinocchio who als wanted to become an actual human. It still is a bildungsroman in the true sense of the word, growing up to become an adult (or human, as children are treated as objects in the Pinocchio narrative). The story of Dororo ends prematurely before Hyakkimaru achieves this goal though. His sidekick Dororo, after which the manga is named, drops out of the story when she is revealed to be a girl cross dressing as a boy,2 Fußnotenauszug: Gender ambiguity abounds in other works cited here as well. Atom’s predecessor Micchi, hero of TEZUKA’s Metropolis, had a switch to change his gender at will. Cloud cross dresses as a girl to rescue Tifa from a brothel. And of course Pino in Wonder Project J is succeeded by a female version Josetto, just one of many female robots in Japanese comics, Gally and Arale having been our firs... with Hyakkimaru continuing his quest alone, his remaining bildungsroman untold in the pages of the manga.

  1. Of course it also questions where this loyalty lies exactly, to one’s immediate lord or the lord of one’s lord. As it favors one’s immediate lord it can also inspire rebellion so the events portrayed in this story weren’t exactly welcomed by the rulers of the country. []
  2. Gender ambiguity abounds in other works cited here as well. Atom’s predecessor Micchi, hero of TEZUKA’s Metropolis, had a switch to change his gender at will. Cloud cross dresses as a girl to rescue Tifa from a brothel. And of course Pino in Wonder Project J is succeeded by a female version Josetto, just one of many female robots in Japanese comics, Gally and Arale having been our first examples. []

Electric Pinocchio III: Mario Squared

Samstag, 19. November, 2011

One of the last big games Square made for the SNES in early 1996 before departing Nintendo’s consoles for the then new Sony Playstation1 The Playstation was released 2 years earlier in late 1994. was a collaboration with Nintendo and the first RPG to starr the mute hero Mario. It was also the first game in which Mario teamed up with his nemesis Bowser, as well as two new characters the designers at Square created for the Mario universe. One was a crybaby marshmallow who believed himself a frog2 The combination of frog and marshmallow reminds fans of previous works by Square of Glenn, a youth turned frog who’s nickname was marshmallow in Chrono Trigger, released in 1995. called Maro and the other a puppet come to life named Geno. Here’s the scene that introduces Geno:

Boy (as Peach): Mario, save me!!

Boy (as Bowser): Gwahaha, Mario, I got your precious Peach!

Boy (as Mario): Bounce bounce… Super Jump!

Boy (as Bowser): Gawahaha, how could a wimp like you hope to defeat me! Gwahaha!

Boy (as Bowser): Hoho. Peach, you’re coming back with me to the castle!

Boy (as Peach): Eeek! Someone rescue me!

Boy (as Peach): Rescu… (sees Mario)

Boy: Ah!

Boy: Ma-ma-ma…

Boy: Mama! A customer!

Mother: On my way. Welcom… Oh, if it isn’t Mario.

Mario: (greets)

Boy: Mario!?

Boy: The beard and the hat, he looks just like him! Are you… the real deal!?

Mario: > (real deal), (you’re mistaking me)

Boy: You’re really the real Mario? It’s, kinda hard to believe… Prove it!

Mario: (jumps)

Boy: Wah! You’re really Mario! Hey Mario, let’s play Geno together!

Mother: Hey hey, Toydoe. Mario came to get some rest, don’t bug him like that.

Toydoe: But mom, you never play with me.

Mother: What am I going to do with you… Mario, could you please play with my son for a bit?

Mario: (nods)

Toydoe: Great! Since Mario just got knocked down, why don’t you play Bowser? And I play Geno!

Toydoe: Let’s go! We’ll continue where I left off! You ready?

Mario: (hops twice)

Toydoe: (also hops twice)

Toydoe: Ju-u-ust a moment!

playing

Super Mario RPG, released 03/09/1996

Toydoe (as Geno): I, the great Geno, will bring you down, Bowser! Hiya! (bumps into Mario holding Bowser)

Toydoe (as Geno): Make your move, Bowser!

Mario: (bumps into Toydoe holding Geno)

Toydoe (as Geno): Crap… If I don’t turn this one around I’m done for…

Toydoe (as Geno): Here I go! Shooting Star! Shot!

Toydoe: Oops, I hit the wrong one…

Mother: Eek! Mario, are you alright!?

(screen fades to black)

(screen lights up again, no one is in the room but the puppets)

(a star floats down, circling in on the Geno puppet, which suddenly comes alive and walks away)

Geno, which rhymes with Pino, is Square’s interpretation of a Mario-like hero player avatar as a marionette.3 Fußnotenauszug: They weren’t the first to make this connection though. The toads populating Mario’s world since Super Mario Bros. (1985) are called Kinopio in Japanese which is an anagram of Pinokio, the Japanese spelling/pronunciation of Pinocchio. So Miyamoto and the other designers at Nintendo probably already saw a connection between Mario and the word marionette. Mario at first didn’t have ... The boy imagines himself into the story by becoming Geno, one of the toys he uses to act out his fantasies. When he uses his puppets to play out his stories, he has to play all the roles. This is very similar to scenes in which the mute Mario relates past events by acting out all the roles. For example in this scene in which he returns to the castle after Princess Peach has been kidnapped yet again and he failed to save her:

Narrating: Hero

Narrating: Villain

Narrating: Princess

(mehr …)

  1. The Playstation was released 2 years earlier in late 1994. []
  2. The combination of frog and marshmallow reminds fans of previous works by Square of Glenn, a youth turned frog who’s nickname was marshmallow in Chrono Trigger, released in 1995. []
  3. They weren’t the first to make this connection though. The toads populating Mario’s world since Super Mario Bros. (1985) are called Kinopio in Japanese which is an anagram of Pinokio, the Japanese spelling/pronunciation of Pinocchio. So Miyamoto and the other designers at Nintendo probably already saw a connection between Mario and the word marionette.

    Mario at first didn’t have a name and was referred to as Mr. Video then Jumpman in Donkey Kong. He got his name only later from American businessman Mario A. Segale. []

Electric Pinocchio II: The Game

Samstag, 12. November, 2011
Super Play #28, pages 14-15

Super Play #28, pages 14-15: Fantasy Quest article by Nic de Costanzo and Zy Nicholson

The point of this series of articles is to show the influence the novel Pinocchio had on Japanese popular culture and the robot hero type common in manga and games. The examples in the last installment feature strong parallels with Pinocchio but it could be argued that these might be purely coincidental. This time I will showcase a much more obvious example of Pinocchio being reworked for a Japanese audience. The Wonder Project J games by Enix for SNES and N64 also have an original setting but the key characters inspired by Pinocchio retain the same or similar names as in the source work: the creator is named Geppetto and his puppet looking robot creation is named Pino.

The dancer Jichael

The dancer Jichael

I didn’t play the first game, Wonder Project J: Mechanical Boy Pino, at all but it got some coverage in UK magazine Super Play in its column presenting Japanese games, many of which were never localized. The N64 sequel, Wonder Project J2: Josetto of the Corlo Forest, also never officially localized, I bought used but also hardly played back then. In this sequel Pino is succeeded by another robot, this time a girl named Josetto (rhyming with her creator’s name). In both games the player takes the place of Geppetto as a substitute parent for Pino and Josetto. The games are adventures with a strong emphasis on raising simulation elements.1 The major game to start this genre would be Princess Maker by Gainax for Japanese home computers in the 80ies. A better known example would be the later Tamagotchi portable pet raising sim games. The player cannot influence the game world directly but uses a personalized cursor to try and teach the main character how to advance in the game world.

forced director

„But we have to make these movies. Otherwise who knows what they’ll do to us.““

In Wonder Project J2 this is done by giving the character items to use. Josetto will try and use these items to her best understanding and it’s up to the player to approve or scorn her actions. For example, she might eat non-edible items which were supposed to be used as tools or to be read. Or she might kick things or throw them away which isn’t completely without benefit though, as she becomes stronger this way. When she balances books or other items on her head this might also not be what the player wants her to do but in fact her improved balance does help to cross bridges in certain places. In this way Josetto learns from the player but the player also learns not to discourage everything just because it might not seem immediately useful, or well behaved.

Working in 3D

One of the many jobs takes Josetto to mine corridors rendered in old school 3D

Josetto also has to work to raise funds and buy more items which are needed to teach her. The more she learns the more varied the jobs she can take and the higher the payment. In this way progress of learning, by trial and error or studying with books is interdependent with work and career. Communication is limited to yes/no or good/bad comments by the player following Josetto’s actions or questions she addresses to the player. These have to be carefully considered as Josetto will react with a wide range of emotions which affect how well she will receive the player’s attempts of teaching her.

Orders

„This feels like being ordered around, which I don’t like but I guess it can’t be helped.“

In Pinocchio and works inspired by it the recipient is usually supposed to identify with the protagonist who serves as their avatar but this being a raising game they have to take the role of the parent. The distance between player character Josetto and the player themselves is accentuated by how Josetto and the player interact and communicate with each other, and Josetto knowing that the player is in another world which she cannot see.2 Fußnotenauszug: The player was first addressed and recognized as a person outside the game world in Mother for the Nintendo Famicom (NES) in 1989. In this game the absent father, who saved the game for his son Ninten whenever Ninten called him on the phone, asked the player for his name near the end of the game and thanked them for taking care of his son for him. The hero Ninten was also to be named by the player... She keeps running up to the screen as if to close the distance between herself and the player yet both remain trapped on their respective sides of the screen that separates the anime styled game world and the reality which the player inhabits.

3D flying into the 2D world

3D flying into the 2D world

The game came out on the N64 in a hardware generation which marked the shift from 2D to 3D graphics, yet it uses a very low amount of 3D elements in its mostly 2D anime world, thus ignoring its new hardware’s 3D capabilities for the most part, instead using the increased storage for more (and more detailed) animations but keeping the style of the earlier SNES generation predecessor. When polygonal 3D graphics are used they stick out, like a touch of realism that invades the hand drawn fantasy. On the other hand, when Josetto runs up to the player instead of left and right on the 2D game stage the hand drawn graphics are used for 3 dimensional movement that targets the player’s reality.

Siliconian the 13th

Siliconian the 13th

In this way the lines between real parent and imagined child become blurred, and the player might notice that in a way they they are teaching themselves, even if the roles are inverted. This furthers mutual understanding of parent and child side but there’s also a common enemy which is a oppressive authority, an evil villain version of the parent role. The Siliconians are occupying Blueland, the island the story takes place on, and the Siliconian leader is rendered in polygonal 3D, invading the 2D game world both in action and in visual representation.

invader movies

„If you’re interested in martial arts, go watch some of our Siliconian movies!“

Same as the player decides what books Josetto should read and what movies she should watch the Siliconians also tell the occupied Bluelanders what movies to watch and even to produce. This is a key element in the cut scenes early in the narrative. The Siliconian invaders are of course a distorted version of something from the game makers‘ reality and even though it’s exaggerated it does express an aversion against a perceived evil, an interpretation rooted in childhood as much as the visuals of the game. To escape being trapped in a child’s world the player has to become a parent and walk in the villain’s shoes, even if he will still seem rather heroic compared with the other fantasy invaders, the over the top evil Siliconians.

  1. The major game to start this genre would be Princess Maker by Gainax for Japanese home computers in the 80ies. A better known example would be the later Tamagotchi portable pet raising sim games. []
  2. The player was first addressed and recognized as a person outside the game world in Mother for the Nintendo Famicom (NES) in 1989. In this game the absent father, who saved the game for his son Ninten whenever Ninten called him on the phone, asked the player for his name near the end of the game and thanked them for taking care of his son for him. The hero Ninten was also to be named by the player and might even have had the same name as the player but at that moment they are clearly distinguished. This distinction reflects the menu style of selecting what the character should do rather than triggering their actions directly by dedicated buttons or movements. Added on 02/16/2012. []

Electric Pinocchio I: Brat Begins

Mittwoch, 2. November, 2011

As a child, once I had learned to read I was constantly grabbing books to read from libraries and people around me. But one of the first books I bought for myself was Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi. My mother had read it as one of her first books when she was sick as a child as well but didn’t keep the copy to pass it on to me. In my late teens I was reading less and less books and more and more comics, especially Japanese ones once I had discovered them. I also started to learn Japanese to read them in their original language, as well as play Japanese games.

One of the manga I read back then was Battle Angel Alita by KISHIRO Yukito or Gunnm (A Dream of Guns), as it is called in Japanese. Another one was Dragon Ball, which of course was preceded by the more light hearted Dr. Slump by the same author, TORIYAMA Akira. Dragon Ball, Dr. Slump and Gunnm were among the first manga I tackled in Japanese, although I was reading Alita in translation as well, simply because it was available which then wasn’t true for the TORIYAMA ones.

What did strike me was the similarity of motifs between Pinocchio and those android hero manga like Gunnm and Dr. Slump. Pinocchio being a world classic of children’s literature it’s not far fetched to assume that indeed Pinocchio could and must have influenced the latter two. I didn’t watch it much but in my childhood there was an animated TV series based on Pinocchio running in Germany which was made in Japan so this was already proof that the Japanese must have had some exposure to this classic.

Looking at Wikipedia now Pinocchio was translated into Japanese as early as 1920, by NISHIMURA Isaku, who narrated the story to his 12 year old daughter Aya reading and translating word by word from a Western version of the book. Aya wrote the story down and it was published by Kinnotsunosha the same year.1 http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%83%94%E3%83%8E%E3%83%83%E3%82%AD%E3%82%AA%E3%81%AE%E5%86%92%E9%99%BA#.E4.B8.BB.E3.81.AA.E6.97.A5.E6.9C.AC.E8.AA.9E.E8.A8.B3, 31.10.2011 A more official one was published much later in 1970 by children’s story author ANDŌ Yukio1 http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%83%94%E3%83%8E%E3%83%83%E3%82%AD%E3%82%AA%E3%81%AE%E5%86%92%E9%99%BA#.E4.B8.BB.E3.81.AA.E6.97.A5.E6.9C.AC.E8.AA.9E.E8.A8.B3, 31.10.2011, decades after the 1940 Disney movie adaption of Pinocchio was screened in Japan in 19522 http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%83%94%E3%83%8E%E3%82%AD%E3%82%AA_%281940%E5%B9%B4%E3%81%AE%E6%98%A0%E7%94%BB%29, 31.10.2011. The god of manga TEZUKA Osamu adapted Pinocchio as a comic3 http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%83%94%E3%83%8E%E3%83%83%E3%82%AD%E3%82%AA%E3%81%AE%E5%86%92%E9%99%BA#.E6.BC.AB.E7.94.BB, 31.10.2011, also in 1952. And in 1972 the first anime adaption by Tatsunoko Pro Studios ran on Japanese TVs4 http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E6%A8%AB%E3%81%AE%E6%9C%A8%E3%83%A2%E3%83%83%E3%82%AF, 31.10.2011, years before the 1976 version by Nihon Animation that also ran in Germany5 http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%83%94%E3%82%B3%E3%83%AA%E3%83%BC%E3%83%8E%E3%81%AE%E5%86%92%E9%99%BA, 31.10.2011. So it’s fair to say that this world classic had similar influence on Japanese children as it had in the rest of the world.

Carlo Collodi’s 1883 original story portrays Pinocchio as a wicked boy, who keeps on disappointing his well meaning father Geppetto and to a slightly less degree also the fairy who becomes his mother substitute in the longer second half of the story. This certainly owes to it being written over a century ago but also to certain Christian ideas of man being inherently evil and having to be raised to be good. Dr. Slump’s robot girl Arale on the other hand is a perfect example of the Japanese idea that children are pure and good, as opposed to adults like her creator father Senbee, who are already corrupted by mature traits. Arale also is a bit mischievous at times and gets Senbee into trouble but she’s never portrayed as wicked rather than naïve and excessive in her usage of her super human powers endowed to her by Senbee. She’s certainly not put through harsh hardships like Pinocchio to become a better person either, instead Senbee is ridiculed for being much more wicked than his daughter. In 1980 Japan was also a much wealthier place than Italy in 1883, so the authors Collodi and TORIYAMA simply had different backgrounds to put into story. In Gunnm Gally and her ‚creator‘ Ido are even more idealized morally, both having to kill for a living in a bleak future where almost everyone has cyborg parts but neither being portrayed of bad character really. The setting does provide enough hardship and opportunities for character building to match Pinocchio in this regard though.

Pinocchio is of course also a novel of education, or bildungsroman as it is called in German, a term often used in reference to works of manga and games in Japan. Geppetto is an avatar for his author as much as Pinocchio was one for his readers, cursed to be a puppet which cannot grow up until it meets the high standards of its parents. Looking at and comparing some of the early motifs in these three stories I want to show how the relationship between parent and child is portrayed in these works.

(mehr …)

  1. http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%83%94%E3%83%8E%E3%83%83%E3%82%AD%E3%82%AA%E3%81%AE%E5%86%92%E9%99%BA#.E4.B8.BB.E3.81.AA.E6.97.A5.E6.9C.AC.E8.AA.9E.E8.A8.B3, 31.10.2011 [] []
  2. http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%83%94%E3%83%8E%E3%82%AD%E3%82%AA_%281940%E5%B9%B4%E3%81%AE%E6%98%A0%E7%94%BB%29, 31.10.2011 []
  3. http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%83%94%E3%83%8E%E3%83%83%E3%82%AD%E3%82%AA%E3%81%AE%E5%86%92%E9%99%BA#.E6.BC.AB.E7.94.BB, 31.10.2011 []
  4. http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E6%A8%AB%E3%81%AE%E6%9C%A8%E3%83%A2%E3%83%83%E3%82%AF, 31.10.2011 []
  5. http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%83%94%E3%82%B3%E3%83%AA%E3%83%BC%E3%83%8E%E3%81%AE%E5%86%92%E9%99%BA, 31.10.2011 []