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Archiv der Kategorie ‘Playstation’

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (Toki o kakeru shōjo) Part 6: Return, Reset and Finding That Person Again

Freitag, 25. Oktober, 2013

Spoiler warning! This article contains spoilers for Chrono Cross, Persona 2 Innocent Sin, Final Fantasy X, its sequel X-2 and Lost Odyssey.

With his movie ŌBAYASHI made the connection between The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and The Wizard of Oz. This children’s book classic represents a number of similar youth novels in which a protagonist from the real world travels to an unreal fantasy world. TAKAHASHI mentioned Narnia in his text on Mother; there is also Alice in Wonderland which comes to mind, or The Never Ending Story. This last example is interesting as the fantastic world traveled to is actually the narrative of a book, which emphasizes the common theme in these novels: The reader is supposed to identify with the real life protagonist and his journey to the strange world is actually the reading of the story. When the story ends, the protagonist returns to the real world.

Now let’s compare this to The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. Here instead of one (or few) real person(s) traveling from reality into the fantastic, one person from a fantastic future comes into reality. He does return but to make the fantastic disappear his influence has to be undone, so in place of a return for Kazuko there is a reset. Kazuko never leaves reality, cannot return in a spatial sense, instead she returns to an earlier point in reality, before the fantastic occurred.

Fushigi Yūgi

The cover of volume 14 of Fushigi Yūgi by WATASE Yū. It shows heroine Miaka and her lover Taka/Tamahome in the background.

The movie version of Oz has the same actors who play the characters in the world of Oz also play the people from Dorothy’s reality in Kansas. This indicates that fiction is based on reality, that the made up characters are reflections of people that live in reality. In Fushigi Yūgi, a manga for girls from the 1990ies, after going on an adventure by being sucked into a book that tells of a fantastic ancient China the story doesn’t end with the return to the real life setting. Instead there are several volumes dealing with a guy resembling the love interest from the fantastic part transferring to the school of the female protagonist and them falling in love again.

It is a more pronounced version of Kazuko meeting Kazuo again, minus the reset. Fushigi Yūgi’s Miaka doesn’t forget her Tamahome, instead she returns from the fantasy and meets his reincarnation Taka. I have talked about how The Girl Who Leapt Through Time influenced Final Fantasy in part 3 and how another video game, Mother, fits in with the same themes present in The Girl Who Leapt Through Time in part 4. There are more video games that share themes from it and I will give two examples that use the “reset and finding a person from the fantastic adventure again in reality” motif. Both came out for the Playstation and after Final Fantasy VII.

(mehr …)

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (Toki o kakeru shōjo) Part 4: The Mother Connection

Dienstag, 8. Oktober, 2013

I started this article series with The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and arrived at Final Fantasy in the last installment because that’s the chronological order the works were released in and could have influenced one another. But me personally of course I started by playing Final Fantasy and then discovering the older works that had influenced it. And The Girl Who Leapt Through Time was one of the last sources I discovered, thanks to the Famitsū interview with NOJIMA.

Glory of Heracles I had discovered earlier and even without KITASE saying so in interviews the parallels between GoH3 and FFVII were very obvious. Not just that, the common theme of saving the planet made another influence on these games also very obvious. Let’s take a look at Gaia from Glory of Heracles III:

planet_gaia

She literally is the planet all the characters from the game live on and like a kind mother she forgives the injury humans caused her.

Now let’s compare Gaia to Aerith from FFVII. Aerith’s name closely resembles the word earth, even would be an anagram save for one letter. She can talk to the planet, kind of speaks for and represents it.

She is slightly older than Cloud, by Japanese custom of relating everyone in terms of family members she would be an older sister which by the same logic hierarchically puts her on a similar level as a mother. Cloud even accidentally calls her mother in the movie Advent Children, her and Zack appearing like his parents, the older generation. Cloud comes to Aerith asking for forgiveness.

Now let’s take a look at Aerith’s first appearance in the game’s opening:

planet_aerith01

planet_aerith02

A similar pose, standing and holding her hand(s) to her chest, looking at the screen. A similar backdrop, a starry sky surrounding Gaia, sparks surrounding Aerith. The color green, decorating Gaia’s head and neck and lighting Aerith’s face.

(mehr …)

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (Toki o kakeru shōjo) Part 3: The Influence on Final Fantasy

Freitag, 27. September, 2013

I mentioned at the beginning of the first part that Final Fantasy VII was inspired by The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. Let’s take a closer look at what writer NOJIMA Kazushige had to say about that connection and how the game actually draws upon this source work.

Final Fantasy director and producer KITASE Yoshinori repeatedly said in various interviews that he thinks former director and producer SAKAGUCHI chose NOJIMA to write FFVII because of his critical acclaimed work on Glory of Heracles 3. He also said he wanted NOJIMA to make FFVII as mysterious and surprising as that game.

Asked by Famitsū about how Glory of Heracles influenced FFVII, NOJIMA mentions The Girl Who Leapt Through time as another influence on FFVII. From the Famitsū interview from issue 1224, 2012 5/31:

Famitsū issue 1224, 2012 5/31 page 58

About the Influence of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

Famitsū: Did you want to make FFVII into a mysterious story like the ones in the Glory of Heracles series, which you wrote before you came to Square?
NOJIMA: Even before I could decide something like that KITASE-san had already asked me to write it that way (laughs). Even though it’s a pretty straight forward story I guess you could say it uses mysterious imagery. With this as the base plot I added ideas from the database server [into which the other staff members uploaded their suggestions]. Speaking about these ideas, since the team was reading my half finished scenario they kept adding new settings and drawings so we were influencing each other during the writing process.
Famitsū: What kind of ideas did you use?

Famitsū issue 1224, 2012 5/31 page 58NOJIMA: Someone posted a setting about „mysterious men in black coats“, which I turned into the Sephiroth clones. I also borrowed imagery from movies. I especially took inspiration from The Girl Who Leapt Through Time starring HARADA Tomoyo. With FFVII, I wanted to recreate the impression of a „mysterious story“ you get from watching that movie. Of course I didn’t just completely copy lines and settings one to one. I simply borrowed phrases like „To the lab room on Saturday“ from the movie and using it as a motif turned it into „To the makō reactor 7 years ago“. …but no one seemed to notice that (laughs).

If you read the previous installments you of course know that going back to the lab room on Saturday, where it all started, going back to the root of the problem, or the Crisis Core in Final Fantasy VII terms, is what resolves the mystery of the story by TSUTSUI. The longer scene in FFVII in which the adapted quote comes up serves a very similar function and I want to revisit this scene to show how NOJIMA adapted motifs from TSUTSUI’s and ŌBAYASHI’s original works. Spoiler warning!

(mehr …)

Famitsū-Feature Final Fantasy: Interview mit Kazushige NOJIMA

Freitag, 15. Juni, 2012
Famitsū-Ausgabe 1224, 2012 5/31

Famitsū-Ausgabe 1224, 2012 5/31

Anlässlich des 25-jährigen Jubiläums der „Final Fantasy“-Reihe enthielt die Famitsū-Ausgabe 1224, 2012 5/31, ein Feature über 32 Seiten, mit den Schwerpunkten Final Fantasy VII (feiert dieses Jahr sein 15-jähriges Jubiläum) und Final Fantasy XI (wird 10 Jahre alt) und zahlreichen Interviews. Drei davon wurden mit Schlüsselentwicklern von FFVII geführt, welche ich mir erlaubt habe, für electrolit zu übersetzen.

Erinnerungen des Szenarioschreibers

Erinnerungen des Szenarioschreibers an FFVII

Die mysteriöse Geschichte ist einer der Gründe, warum FFVII bis heute so viele Fans hat. Jede Figur hat ihre eigene Geschichte, die alle miteinander verflochten sind und große Wellen geschlagen haben. Dazu befragen wir Kazushige NOJIMA, der für das Szenario zuständig war, nach Episoden aus der Entwicklungszeit.

Kazushige NOJIMA

Kazushige NOJIMA

Zur Person: Kazushige NOJIMA

Verantwortlich für das Szenario von FFVII. Danach war er bei weiteren Teilen der Serie wie z. B. FFVIII, X und X-2 mit den Szenarien betraut. Derzeit hat er Square Enix verlassen und repräsentiert seine eigene Firma Stellavista.

Eine Spieleentwicklung mit Problemen am laufenden Band!?

– Ab welcher Phase wurden Sie für die Entwicklung von FFVII ins Team berufen?

NOJIMA: Ganz genau kann ich das nicht sagen, aber da ich bereits bei der Festlegung der Charakterzüge der Figuren mit dabei war, muss es recht früh in der Entwicklung gewesen sein. Es gab für FFVII einen Entwicklungsserver, auf den verschiedene Leute ihre Materialien, Designs und Settingvorschläge hochluden. Meine Aufgabe war es, aus dieser riesigen Anzahl an Storyelementen die verwertbaren herauszupicken, um sie im Plot widerzuspiegeln und als Szenario zusammenzufassen.

– Wie ich hörte, haben Sie nicht nur am Szenario, sondern auch den Bewegungen für die Figuren gearbeitet.

NOJIMA: Das stimmt. Eine der Szenen, die ich in dieser Funktion bearbeitet habe, war die in der Kirche, als Aerith dem abgestürzten Cloud hilft. Ich erinnere mich, dass ich seine Animation beim Aufstehen erstellt habe. Als die Animationsexperten ins Team dazustießen, wurde das aber alles ersetzt (lacht). Aber das Ergebnis sieht fantastisch aus, sie haben mir aus der Klemme geholfen.

– Ist noch irgendeine der Animationen, die Sie erstellt haben, im Spiel übrig?

NOJIMA: Ich hab sie alle heimlich ersetzt (lacht). Da fällt mir ein, die Laufanimation von Cid, die AKIYAMA-kun1 Anmerkung Famitsū: Jun AKIYAMA. Einer der Event-Planer von FFVII. erstellt hatte, fand so viel Anklang, dass für eine Weile alle NPCs in den Städten so liefen wie Cid, bis AKIYAMA-kun dagegen Einspruch einlegte (lacht).

– (lacht). Gibt es andere Ereignisse, die Ihnen in Erinnerung geblieben sind, oder Dinge, bei denen sie zu kämpfen hatten?

NOJIMA: Bei Red XIII hatten wir ein Problem mit seinem Schwanz. Dieser versank häufig in den Wänden, also mussten wir seinen Bewegungsfreiraum so einschränken, dass er nicht zu nah an die Wand laufen konnte. Aber als wir das in den Griff bekommen hatten, tauchte ein ähnliches Problem mit Vincents Umhang auf. Wenn er lief, überlappte sein Mantel an allen möglichen Stellen (lacht). Aber am meisten Kopfzerbrechen bereitete es mir, wenn ich nach späteren Ereignissen in der Handlung gefragt wurde, als ich das Szenario noch gar nicht fertig hatte. Weil die Arbeit der Kollegen ja nicht in Rückstand geraten sollte, musste ich da irgendetwas sagen, auch wenn ich eigentlich gar keine Antwort hatte. Aber das Faszinierende ist, dass während ich so ins Blaue hinein Auskünfte gab, das Szenario in mir drin wie von selbst Form annahm. Was mir noch sehr gut in Erinnerung ist: wir hatten so viele Materia ausgearbeitet, dass uns irgendwann die Orte ausgingen, wo wir sie verstecken konnten. Also kam es dazu, dass an einer Stelle am Wegesrand eine Beschwörungszauber-Materia einfach rumlag (lacht). (mehr …)

  1. Anmerkung Famitsū: Jun AKIYAMA. Einer der Event-Planer von FFVII. []

Famitsū-Feature Final Fantasy: Interview mit Tetsuya NOMURA

Mittwoch, 13. Juni, 2012
Famitsū-Ausgabe 1224, 2012 5/31

Famitsū-Ausgabe 1224, 2012 5/31

Anlässlich des 25-jährigen Jubiläums der „Final Fantasy“-Reihe enthielt die Famitsū-Ausgabe 1224, 2012 5/31, ein Feature über 32 Seiten, mit den Schwerpunkten Final Fantasy VII (feiert dieses Jahr sein 15-jähriges Jubiläum) und Final Fantasy XI (wird 10 Jahre alt) und zahlreichen Interviews. Drei davon wurden mit Schlüsselentwicklern von FFVII geführt, welche ich mir erlaubt habe, für electrolit zu übersetzen.

Erinnerungen des Designers an FFVII

Tetsuya NOMURA hat für viele Spiele der FF-Reihe die Figuren gestaltet. Bekannt wurde er mit FFVII, aus dem beliebte Charaktere wie Cloud hervorgingen. Wie sind sie entstanden und was waren die Absichten ihres Schöpfers? Wir bitten ihn, sich erneut für uns an damals zu erinnern.

Tetsuya NOMURA

Tetsuya NOMURA

Zur Person: Tetsuya NOMURA

Nach ersten Schritten mit FFV und FFVI übernahm er große Verantwortung bei FFVII. Auch danach zeichnete er weiter die Figuren für viele Teile der Serie, darunter VIII, X und XIII. Außerdem führt er Regie bei der „Kingdom Hearts“-Reihe.

Der Wandel auf der visuellen Seite

– Was hat Sie beim Übergang von FFVI zu FFVII am stärksten beeindruckt?

NOMURA: Definitiv die Tatsache, dass wir Polygone verwendet haben. Was ebenfalls einen tiefen Eindruck hinterlassen hat, war, dass die unterschiedlichen Proportionen von Kopf zu Körper der Charaktere während der Kämpfe und in den Spielfeldern, sich als misslungenes Experiment erwiesen, das wir zwischen FFVI und FFVIII unternahmen.

– Ich hörte, dass es damals zwei Ansätze gab, entweder Pixelsprites oder 3D zu verwenden. Wie empfanden Sie diesen Aspekt?

NOMURA: Da ich ursprünglich für die Sprites zuständig gewesen war, befürchtete ich, dass ich arbeitslos werden würde (lacht). Danach wurde ich zwar im Umgang mit CG geschult, jedoch ging ich nicht den Weg des Modellers, sondern in Richtung Design und Inszenierung.

– Verspürten Sie denn keinen Druck deswegen, dass nachdem die Serie bis zu diesem Zeitpunkt durch die Illustrationen von AMANO-san1 Anmerkung Famitsū: Yoshitaka AMANO. Er erstellt Image-Illustrationen und die Logos für die FF-Reihe. repräsentiert worden war, mit Teil VII nun Ihre Illustrationen in den Mittelpunkt rückten?

NOMURA: Da ich meine Zeichnungen als das Fundament für die bisherigen Spritegrafiken betrachtete, verspürte ich keinen Druck.

– Was meinen Sie mit Fundament für die Spritegrafik?

NOMURA: Sie werden mir zustimmen, wenn ich sage, dass die Image-Illustrationen von AMANO-san und das Design der Spritefiguren nicht 100 %ig übereinstimmen. Für mich waren die Image-Illustrationen und die Sprites in gewisser Weise von einander losgelöste Kategorien. Für mich zählte bloß, dass ich den Teil mit den Sprites schulterte; ich hatte nicht das Bewusstsein, mich mit AMANO-san vergleichen zu müssen oder ihn zu vertreten. Durch Erwägungen der Firma kam es zwar dazu, dass mein Name aus rechteverwertungstechnischen Gründen in den Vordergrund gerückt wurde, aber anfangs war nicht einmal das geplant. (mehr …)

  1. Anmerkung Famitsū: Yoshitaka AMANO. Er erstellt Image-Illustrationen und die Logos für die FF-Reihe. []

Famitsū-Feature Final Fantasy: Interview mit Yoshinori KITASE

Montag, 11. Juni, 2012
Famitsū-Ausgabe 1224, 2012 5/31

Famitsū-Ausgabe 1224, 2012 5/31

Anlässlich des 25-jährigen Jubiläums der „Final Fantasy“-Reihe enthielt die Famitsū-Ausgabe 1224, 2012 5/31, ein Feature über 32 Seiten, mit den Schwerpunkten Final Fantasy VII (feiert dieses Jahr sein 15-jähriges Jubiläum) und Final Fantasy XI (wird 10 Jahre alt) und zahlreichen Interviews. Drei davon wurden mit Schlüsselentwicklern von FFVII geführt, welche ich mir erlaubt habe, für electrolit zu übersetzen.

Erinnerungen des Regisseurs an FFVII

Erinnerungen des Regisseurs an FFVII

Unter den zahlreichen Teilen der „Final Fantasy“-Reihe stellt FFVII den größten Wendepunkt dar. Yoshinori KITASE ist der Mann, der diese Erneuerung als Regisseur auf den Weg gebracht hat. Bis heute einer der zentralen Köpfe der Serie, haben wir ihn nach unveröffentlichten Details aus der Entwicklungszeit befragt.

Yoshinori KITASE

Yoshinori KITASE

Zur Person: Yoshinori KITASE

Seit FFIV1 Fußnotenauszug: Anmerkung Übersetzer: Hier scheint mir der Famitsū ein Fehler unterlaufen zu sein. In den Credits taucht sein Name erst ab Teil V auf. Ergänzung 29.06.2012: Wie aus einem Interview mit 1up hervorgeht, trat er dem FF-Team bereits vor Beginn der Arbeit an Teil V, also in der Endphase von IV bei. ... arbeitete er an zahlreichen Teilen der FF-Serie u. a. als Regisseur oder Produzent. Bei FFVII führte er Regie. Wie er uns erzählte, konnte er dank erfolgreicher Diät in letzter Zeit über 15 Kilo abnehmen.

Es fing auf dem Super Famicom an

– Können Sie uns zunächst ein wenig über die Umstände der Entwicklung von FFVII erzählen?

KITASE: Als wir mit FFVI fertig waren, begann die Planung für Teil VII auf dem Super Famicom2 Anmerkung Übersetzer: So heißt die zweite Konsole von Nintendo, das Super NES, in Japan.. Alle aus dem Team hatten bereits Ideen zu Figuren und Spielsystem gesammelt, aber dann mussten wir dem Entwicklungsteam von Chrono Trigger aushelfen, das etwas ins Trudeln gekommen war. Also wurde die Arbeit an FFVII erst einmal unterbrochen.

– Ich nehme an, dieses FFVII, das damals in Arbeit war, war noch sehr anders als das Endprodukt?

KITASE: Richtig, es war ein völlig anderes Spiel. NOMURA3 Anmerkung Famitsū: Tetsuya NOMURA, der Figurengestalter von FFVII. Ein Interview mit ihm ist auf Seite 56 zu finden. hatte ein Design für eine Hexe vorgeschlagen. Als wir die Arbeit schließlich wieder aufnahmen, änderten wir das Setting zu dem jetzigen, das sich um Makō drehte, aber NOMURAs Design-Vorschläge für die Hexe landeten schließlich als Edea in FFVIII.

– Verstehe. Und mit der Wiederaufnahme der Arbeit an FFVII kam dann also das stark Science-Fiction-gefärbte Setting zustande, wie wir es heute kennen?

KITASE: Damals waren die auf westlicher Fantasy basierenden RPGs in der Mehrheit und wir wollten uns einerseits davon abheben und andererseits eine realistischere Inszenierung erreichen. Außerdem waren die Story-Vorschläge von SAKAGUCHI-san4 Anmerkung Famitsū: Hironobu SAKAGUCHI. Der FF-Produzent schlechthin. eine Art modernes Drama mit starken SF-Anleihen.

– War das der Zeitpunkt, als Sie sich dazu entschieden, aus dem neuen Teil ein polygonbasiertes 3D-RPG zu machen?

KITASE: Als wir die Arbeit wieder aufnahmen, wurde immer ernsthafter über die Entwicklung für die Next-Gen-Konsolen diskutiert. Da diese auf 3D-Grafik spezialisierte Chips enthielten, erstellten wir eine erste 3D-Battle-Demo mit Designs von FFVI, um uns mit 3D vertraut zu machen. Bald kamen wir zu der Erkenntnis, dass für die Evolution von FF Filmsequenzen unverzichtbar sein würden, weswegen wir uns für die Playstation mit ihrem CD-ROM-Laufwerk entschieden, das dafür genügend Speicherplatz bot. (mehr …)

  1. Anmerkung Übersetzer: Hier scheint mir der Famitsū ein Fehler unterlaufen zu sein. In den Credits taucht sein Name erst ab Teil V auf.

    Ergänzung 29.06.2012: Wie aus einem Interview mit 1up hervorgeht, trat er dem FF-Team bereits vor Beginn der Arbeit an Teil V, also in der Endphase von IV bei. []

  2. Anmerkung Übersetzer: So heißt die zweite Konsole von Nintendo, das Super NES, in Japan. []
  3. Anmerkung Famitsū: Tetsuya NOMURA, der Figurengestalter von FFVII. Ein Interview mit ihm ist auf Seite 56 zu finden. []
  4. Anmerkung Famitsū: Hironobu SAKAGUCHI. Der FF-Produzent schlechthin. []

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. []

Megami Tensei: Novel turned game turned novel

Freitag, 24. September, 2010

NISHITANI Aya, born in 1955 in Mie prefecture. Graduate student of economics at Hokkaidō University. Mostly known for his Digital Devil Story books but also for other horror/fantasy light novels.

While the Megami Tensei series never quite enjoyed the same kind of success the other two big JRPG series Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy have, it still is one of the major RPG franchises in Japan, spawning many sequels and countless spin-offs which in turn often grew into their own series, like Devil Children for Game Boy or Devil Summoner for disc based consoles. The anime-heavy Persona spin-off series even surpassed the original series‘ success and also put Atlus on the Western JRPG publisher map during the Playstation era. After the first real Megami Tensei game published outside Japan, Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne, was released in the US in 2004 Atlus USA started slapping the SMT moniker on every spin-off title including the recent Persona games but not many Western players are aware of the roots of the franchise which is based on a light novel series by NISHITANI Aya published starting in 1986.

DDS1: Megami Tensei (1986)

Megami Tensei was actually the subtitle of the first book in the Digital Devil Story series1 Digital Devil Story might remind some readers of the Digital Devil Saga games for PS2 which were named to allude to the series‘ roots. which started as a trilogy but got an even longer running sequel. Like other light novels the DDS books feature manga-styled covers and both color and b/w illustrations, the former at the beginning and the latter spread throughout each volume, drawn by KITAZUME Hiroyuki. The story is a mix of SF, fantasy and horror and its aesthetics and subject matter strongly appeal to fans of manga and games which is typical of light novels. The original trilogy follows the adventures of genius programmer NAKAJIMA Akemi2 中島朱実. NAKAJIMA’s first name is sexually ambiguous, like many Japanese names it can be both male and female, this one being more commonly female. This fits in with NAKAJIMA often being described as effeminate and rivaling a girl’s beauty. The author’s first name Aya is equally ambiguous. and his female classmate SHIRASAGI Yumiko. NAKAJIMA writes a program that unleashes digitally summoned demons into the world, in part because, like any genius scientist who discovers something new, he can, but also because he wants to get revenge on two other classmates, the ruffian jock KONDŌ Hiroyuki and TAKAMIZAWA Kyōko, who instigated KONDŌ to beat up NAKAJIMA for allegedly harrassing her the day before. Realizing what he has done he rises to become the hero to fight the demons he himself unleashed. He gets help from the recently transferred3 Yumiko being a transfer student (転校生、tenkōsei) is linked to her being reincarnated by the characters used to write the word. If just one is left out tenkōsei becomes tensei, which means reincarnation. Yumiko, who not only becomes his lover but also turns out to be a reincarnation of Izananami-no-mikoto, an ancient goddess,4 Fußnotenauszug: Izanami-no-mikoto is also the mother of the world. In the Japanese world creation myth a human-like goddess gives birth to the world after discovering sexual intercourse with her husband, Izanagi-no-mikoto. This myth is much more concrete and founded in real life experience than the Judaism/Christian equivalent, i.e. in the bible world creation (by an abstract being) and discovery of sexuality (by... hence the title Megami Tensei (Reincarnation of the goddess).

Yumiko finds out about the demon summon program making her a target of Loki.

The demons lead by the norse god Loki aren’t willing to retreat from the world once summoned and soon endanger Yumiko. With her divine abilities and NAKAJIMA’s demon summon program they manage to fight back Loki, getting help from another demon, Cerberos, who NAKAJIMA befriends. The demons represent NAKAJIMA’s violent and dangerous feelings, resulting in Loki killing NAKAJIMA’s classmates, as much as his potential for heroism, wielding a flame sword and riding Cerberos. In the world of the DDS novels NAKAJIMA’s ability to program computer games that make professional efforts pale in comparison, as his friend TAKAI comments, is exaggerated in the fantasy narrative enabling him to summon real demons by simulating their every detail on his computer. The esoteric and mysterious sounding assembly code becomes actual spells, IT becomes the spiritual successor of Kabbalah and witchcraft. It seems like a childish fantasy but is actually an interesting allegory for how games can be perceived by the player. It’s like the gruesome scenes seen in some games have become reality. Every game has its hero fighting the cruel villain but NISHITANI actually acknowledges the programmer’s role in also creating the adversary, the adversary actually being a part of the creator.5 Fußnotenauszug: Hero and villain necessitating each other also is common theme in American superhero comics since the late 70-ies, when the mutant heroes of the Uncanny X-Men were becoming as feared as their evil counterparts. Should the victims be thankful of the hero saving them from the villain or the hero be thankful of the villain for making his adventures more interesting than saving cats from trees and cat...

Coming to the rescue

But the story is also one of coming of age and of sexual awakening. Like Yumiko NAKAJIMA is a reincarnation of an ancient god, Izanami’s husband Izanagi. Rescuing Yumiko from the demon attacks, like Loki’s tentacles, he often gets to hold her naked body aftwards. The aggressive sexual assaults of the demons are juxtaposed with NAKAJIMA’s own timid affection towards Yumiko. Unlike Kyōko, Yumiko is kind and doesn’t ridicule him for his effeminate looks, unlike his absent working mother she is there for him and stands by his side. A reincarnation of a kind ancient mother goddess she’s the one he chooses to protect, to be his lover.

DDS2: Mato no senshi (1986)

In the second novel Mato no senshi (The Warrior of the Demon Capitol) NAKAJIMA’s teacher EBARA, who was raped by Loki in part one, gives birth to Seth, another demon adversary, but only after killing NAKAJIMA’s mother before his and Yumiko’s eyes to get revenge for him slaying Loki. The demons infiltrate more and more of the world including the sphere of politics and the younger brother of Charles Feed of the MIT (a friend of Richard Craft who helped NAKAJIMA write the demon summon program) decides to use the demon summon program again even though NAKAJIMA chooses not to. Yumiko is summoned to a mythical plane to be trained by the real Izanami how to use her divine abilities while NAKAJIMA and his American friends keeps the demons at bay in their home town. They even go to outer space from where the demons start their big invasion.

Snake in Outer Space

When faced with the decision to either save the whole world from being overrun by demons or save Yumiko from dying he chooses to save his lover. After losing his mother, first to her career, then to his evil pregnant teacher (who in a way is the antithesis of his mother as the villains Loki and his son Seth are the antithesis to the heroic NAKAJIMA), he cannot bear to also lose the girl that is supposed to be her substitute, the reincarnation of the mother goddess.

DDS3: Tensei no shūen (1988)

In the last volume, Tensei no shūen (End of the Reincarnation), NAKAJIMA and Yumiko face off with Lucifer himself, whose advent to the human world is heralded by a spreading cult which the frightened humans succumb to. But first NAKAJIMA has to find a cure for Yumiko’s loss of her eyesight. NAKAJIMA seems destined to become the world’s Messiah but like Jesus he is seduced by Lucifer and unlike Jesus he cannot resist Lucifer’s control over his actions. Izanami has to kill NAKAJIMA as he turns on Yumiko. Of course the story doesn’t end with NAKAJIMA’s death, there’s a 6 volume sequel series, Shin Digital Devil Story (The New Digital Devil Story) which continues the battle against Lucifer.

Digital Devil Story Megami Tensei (1987)

The game adaption, which NISHITANI also wrote the scenario for, shares the same title as the first novel, Digital Devil Story Megami Tensei6 The only difference is that Story is written in Chinese characters instead of Latin or Japanese characters like in the novels but it still is meant to be read as Story. and adapts the story of NAKAJIMA. The game skips the exposition and depictions of real life Tokyo and instead starts right with NAKAJIMA and Yumiko entering the demon lair and is basically one big dungeon separated into five areas. NAKAJIMA and Yumiko have to fight off and negotiate with demons to make the needed allies to get through the dangerous mazes until their final confrontation with Lucifer. Unlike the book NAKAJIMA can become the Messiah this time. The series‘ mainstays like befriending demons and the fusion system to make stronger demons are already introduced in this first installment. Unlike most other original Japanese RPGs of the time it also used a first-person perspective and an alignment system differentiating along the axis of Good-Neutral-Evil, which both were common in Western RPGs.

Digital Devil Story Megami Tensei II (1990)

The sequel Digital Devil Story Megami Tensei II was made without NISHITANI’s involvement and continues the story established in the first game ignoring the novel sequels. It actually has a much stronger narrative than the first game and introduces another element typical of the later Megami Tensei games, choice. The player still can’t choose or in any way affect his alignment, which remains fixed at Good, but depending on a few choices at crucial plot points he can get a different ending than the standard one.

Blinded Yumiko, NAKAJIMA and Cerberos

The story is set in a bleak future after World War III. The atom bomb has been dropped on Tokyo and people hide in shelters. In one such shelter a boy and his friend, both named by the player, play a video game called Devil Buster7 In the ending Devil Buster is revealed to be the demon summon program written by NAKAJIMA Akemi.. It is very similar to the first DDS: MT game but with a top down perspective switching to first person for the battles, reminiscent of the Dragon Quest style of presentation. A male hero is coupled with a magician girl, like NAKAJIMA and Yumiko in the first game. They befriend demons to beat the boss of the dungeon. Once the boy and his friend clear the dungeon something weird happens. A demon addresses them and tells them about demons coming to their own reality. He explains to them how they can use the game soft to summon demons in the real world and that they have to use them to save the world. When they stop playing they find themselves in the shelter which is seen from a first-person perspective indicating their return to the „real world“. The Dragon Quest-style game fantasy has been replaced with the more realistic game setting of Megami Tensei again.

NAKAJIMA chooses Yumiko.

The boy’s friend takes the place of the girl from the game and they travel ruined Tokyo together. Until they make their way to Tokyo Tower where they meet the girl from the game in the real world.8 The girl in the game is of course a symbol and a projection of the hero’s image of women as based on his closest female reference, his mother. Finding her in the real world outside the game is an allegory for the shift from affection towards the mother to love for same age girls. She seems to know how the player can become the Messiah but the boy’s friend doesn’t want him to listen to her. The player doesn’t have a real choice here and must ask the girl into the party at some point which causes him to have to split up with his male friend. Who then becomes an evil demon summoner trying to stop the player from restoring the world.

Lucifer battling Izanami

At a later stage the player can show mercy to a defeated boss turned frog. This decision leads to the possibility of uniting him with another boss to restore the god Ba’al who then can join the player. With Ba’al in his party the player doesn’t have to fight Lucifer who instead explains to him that devils are just gods of other religions.9 The two demons reunited as Ba’al, Bael and Beelzebub, are actually both interpretations of the same god Ba’al as an evil devil. The player can then choose polytheism over becoming the Messiah of a monotheistic god. This is actually the true ending which leads to the world being restored. If the player decides to become the Messiah he helps build the biblical 1000 year kingdom in which according to the game only the strong survive.10 This becomes the law ending in the later Shin Megami Tensei games. This can be seen as an expression of the mixed feelings of the Japanese towards the patriarchal values of post war Japan stressing importance of education and achievements in school and the work place and the suppression of some more lenient Japanese values like maternal kindness.

Shin Megami Tensei (1992), PSX Version (2001) Opening

For the next installment developer Atlus chose to reboot the series and interpret the original narrative of NISHITANI’s novel in new ways. The title was shortened to just Megami Tensei but with the prefix Shin added. Shin usually means new, as in the New Adventures of or the New Tales of, but here it is written with the character indicating true. In the opening someone is entering cryptic computer code that turns into ancient spells and when he enters the title Shin Digital Devil Story the beginning part Shin is at first converted to the usual New, then to God and finally to True. Digital Devil Story is then converted to Megami Tensei making the title read The True Reincarnation of the Goddess.

Major story motives of the original, like the demon summon program (this time written by Steven, a man in a wheel chair), the death of the hero’s mother, the friendly demon Cerberos (who is created by fusing the hero’s dog Pascal with any demon), politicians controlled by demons11 In the game the American ambassador Thorman turns out to be the Norse god Thor who drops an atom bomb on Tokyo because of the Japanese millitary allying themselves with demons. Thorman (トールマン) is obviously a play on words; if one character is displaced it becomes Truman (トルーマン), alluding the ambassador’s decision to the historical bombing of Hiroshima in World War II. and cults spreading are reinterpreted. Also a new alignment axis is introduced: Good-Neutral-Evil is changed to Light-Neutral-Dark and Law-Neutral-Chaos is added12 These are the same two types of alignment also present in D&D, the original RPG to come up with the alignment system in the first place.. This latter alignment changes with the player’s actions. There’s also two more heroes, the law hero who is accused of having killed his girl friend and the chaos hero who is beat up by ruffians. The law hero actually dies and comes back to life after 3 days to become the actual Messiah13 The alleged murder of the law hero’s girlfriend can be seen as a symbol for war crimes the generation of the law hero haven’t themselves committed. The law player seeks to distance himself from this past and becomes a Messiah type hero. while the chaos hero seeks strength so desperately that he decides to fuse with a demon to gain its power14 Being frequently bullied the chaos player seeks a way out of being pushed around, resulting in radicalization.. Both try to convince the player to join their side but it’s up to him to remain neutral or choose either one. Law is linked to the Messiah church and chaos to the Gaia church, the former representing patriarchal systems like Christianity in which the mother only serves to enforce male values, the latter maternal goddesses of the world which are similar to Japanese folklore.

Choosing when to fight, choosing who to treat as friend or foe, choosing your own actions and ideology to follow, if the game is a virtual mirror of the real world then giving the player this kind of freedom must be empowering. Shin Megami Tensei also avoids associating either religious stream with light/good or dark/evil. In fact both the law hero and the chaos hero are aligned with light.

Shin Megami Tensei Jerusalem 1 (1994)

This element of choice made a big impression on the Japanese gaming scene and NISHITANI was inspired by this game to revisit his creation, writing his own version of Shin Megami Tensei (The True Reincarnation of the Goddess). The hero-heroine team of reincarnated ancient Japanese gods is replaced by a heroine becoming the mother of god and a secondary hero protecting her (or failing to protect her from the demon rape). In the afterword of the first volume NISHITANI explains his aim with this new novel:

I belief that no work of art is ever created by just one single individual. The music of Wagner for example could only exist because of traditional German folk tales, opera, the environment of his family and the harsh historical background he lived in.

The Pillow Book15 Makura no sōshi, written by court lady SEI Shōnagon in the Heian period. also is a literary work which could only exist because of the overripe culture of the nobility, the life at court and the author’s hereditary genius.

A great artist is like a priestess medium, sucking a certain something out of his era. The part emerging as a work of art is but the tip of the iceberg and in the depths of it there is a hidden huge core, of which the artist isn’t even aware.

The bigger this hidden core is, the deeper its layers and the more profound its meanings. The game Shin Megami Tensei seems to me like a large bloom coming out of the border line of such a core.

I’ve heard that most of the development staff of Shin Megami Tensei created the game leaning towards chaos or neutral.

Among the people close to me at least there is no one who played the game taking the lawful route.

As for myself, I only beat the game the lawful way.

Many people assume that the lawful hero route is, in a nutshell, just like any other RPG, but I don’t agree.

Law is not about doing what is right but believing in an absolute ruler and accepting the fate you’re given.

The conduct of a typical benevolent hero like the one in Ultima is not what you would call lawful virtue in theological theory. That is nothing more than a relativistic law. In fact Shin Megami Tensei is the only RPG that contains a lawful standpoint in the true sense of the word.

But there’s something severly missing from the lawful world portrayed in Shin Megami Tensei.

I’m speaking about „Mary“.

Christianity, which represents the lawful ideology, could only become a world religion because of Mary worship. The protestants deny Mary worship but in catholic belief Mary, who in theology is positioned only slightly beneath Jesus, sustains Christianity.

A few years back when I visited Jerusalem I went to a graveyard church built on mount Golgotha, the most holy of places.

The statue of Mary standing there didn’t smile gently like the depictions of the holy mother usually do.

She was grieving for her crucified son, shedding tears and calling to the heavens.

As I saw her sobbing expression all the doubts I had about Christianity were suddenly cleared up.

The world portrayed in the game is truly like the year 0. It’s the world just before Mary would give birth to the son of god.

Just like the prophets of old were telling of coming change this game is now telling of something being born.

I’m giving my all to draw out the lawful element in this.

NISHITANI understands that his novel has taken a life of its own, that it has grown into something bigger than what he created. His world is now shaped by the software developers he teamed up with earlier. So maybe he seeks to claim his part in forming this techno pseudo religion. But he also stresses that Shin Megami Tensei’s achievement isn’t just to provide an alternative to the standard good RPG hero. He points out that this law stance is unique to Shin Megami Tensei and that it might have more in common with the chaos stance than is first apparent. For NISHITANI law is still a viable choice and Shin Megami Tensei includes this option as well.

  1. Digital Devil Story might remind some readers of the Digital Devil Saga games for PS2 which were named to allude to the series‘ roots. []
  2. 中島朱実. NAKAJIMA’s first name is sexually ambiguous, like many Japanese names it can be both male and female, this one being more commonly female. This fits in with NAKAJIMA often being described as effeminate and rivaling a girl’s beauty. The author’s first name Aya is equally ambiguous. []
  3. Yumiko being a transfer student (転校生、tenkōsei) is linked to her being reincarnated by the characters used to write the word. If just one is left out tenkōsei becomes tensei, which means reincarnation. []
  4. Izanami-no-mikoto is also the mother of the world. In the Japanese world creation myth a human-like goddess gives birth to the world after discovering sexual intercourse with her husband, Izanagi-no-mikoto. This myth is much more concrete and founded in real life experience than the Judaism/Christian equivalent, i.e. in the bible world creation (by an abstract being) and discovery of sexuality (by humans created in god’s image) are split up into two stories. Izanagi and Izanami are thus at the same time similar to Adam and Eve and to the Jewish/Christian creator god. []
  5. Hero and villain necessitating each other also is common theme in American superhero comics since the late 70-ies, when the mutant heroes of the Uncanny X-Men were becoming as feared as their evil counterparts. Should the victims be thankful of the hero saving them from the villain or the hero be thankful of the villain for making his adventures more interesting than saving cats from trees and catching bank robbers? In the end both are projections of the comic creator. Same is true of novels and games. []
  6. The only difference is that Story is written in Chinese characters instead of Latin or Japanese characters like in the novels but it still is meant to be read as Story. []
  7. In the ending Devil Buster is revealed to be the demon summon program written by NAKAJIMA Akemi. []
  8. The girl in the game is of course a symbol and a projection of the hero’s image of women as based on his closest female reference, his mother. Finding her in the real world outside the game is an allegory for the shift from affection towards the mother to love for same age girls. []
  9. The two demons reunited as Ba’al, Bael and Beelzebub, are actually both interpretations of the same god Ba’al as an evil devil. []
  10. This becomes the law ending in the later Shin Megami Tensei games. []
  11. In the game the American ambassador Thorman turns out to be the Norse god Thor who drops an atom bomb on Tokyo because of the Japanese millitary allying themselves with demons. Thorman (トールマン) is obviously a play on words; if one character is displaced it becomes Truman (トルーマン), alluding the ambassador’s decision to the historical bombing of Hiroshima in World War II. []
  12. These are the same two types of alignment also present in D&D, the original RPG to come up with the alignment system in the first place. []
  13. The alleged murder of the law hero’s girlfriend can be seen as a symbol for war crimes the generation of the law hero haven’t themselves committed. The law player seeks to distance himself from this past and becomes a Messiah type hero. []
  14. Being frequently bullied the chaos player seeks a way out of being pushed around, resulting in radicalization. []
  15. Makura no sōshi, written by court lady SEI Shōnagon in the Heian period. []

Die Bühne der Geschichte

Mittwoch, 11. August, 2010

3D ist wieder zum Schlagwort geworden. Dank Kinofilmen wie Avatar, Sonys 3D-Fernsehern und Nintendos 3DS ist 3D in aller Munde. Aber waren Toy Story und die meisten Spiele seit der Playstation nicht auch schon 3D? Damals war damit noch die computeranimierte Darstellung in einem virtuellen dreidimensionalen Raum gemeint, heute wird uns eine andere Technologie mit demselben Wort angepriesen. Eigentlich ist das neue 3D stereoskopisches 3D, also zwei Bilder für jedes Auge, die dem Betrachter einen echten räumlichen Eindruck vermitteln und kein plattes Abbild eines virtuellen oder realen Raums. Die Täuschung wird also noch lebensechter, noch mehr Hi-Fi, um einen Begriff aus der Musik zu verwenden. Auch dort wird durch Stereo, dem Verwenden von zwei (oder mehr) Boxen statt nur einer ein räumlicher Eindruck erzeugt.

Die Leistung des „alten“ 3Ds bedeutete für Videospiele aber einen viel einschneidenderen Wandel, die 3D-Darstellung eröffnete nämlich den verstärkten Einsatz von filmischen Stilmitteln. Natürlich spielten auch die neuen optischen Speichermedien wie anfangs CD, später DVD, eine wichtige Rolle bei der Zunahme von Filmsequenzen in Spielen. Diese hatten auf die teuren Module älterer Konsolengenerationen einfach nicht in großer Zahl draufgepasst. Tatsächlich ist es aber die Berechnung der interaktiven Spielegrafik in Echtzeit, speziell des Hintergrundes, die filmtypische Kamerafahrten und Perspektivwechsel auch während des Spiels ermöglichen.

Als Spielegrafik noch überwiegend 2D war, also aus platten Ebenen bestand, die in 2 Dimensionen, das heißt an zwei Achsen, verschoben werden konnten, standen Videospiele noch dem Bühnentheater näher als dem Film. Ein Zuschauer im Theater betrachtet die Handlung immer aus derselben Perspektive und derselben Entfernung. Ortswechsel sind nur von einem Akt zum nächsten möglich, wenn Zeit ist, die Kulisse zu ändern, und die Größe und Anzahl der Orte ist sehr beschränkt. In diesen Punkten hat das Videospiel dem Theater einige Dinge voraus, das Wechseln der Kulisse geschieht äußerst schnell und die einzelnen Bühnen können sehr groß sein, der Sitz des Zuschauers wird praktisch in einer Ebene nach links oder rechts, oben oder unten verschoben. Es gibt also durchaus Kamerafahrten, nur eben in 2D. Es ist, als sitzt man gleichzeitig in der ersten Reihe und kann das Geschehen aus der Nähe betrachten, aber auch in der letzten, wo man die gesamte riesige Bühne sehen kann und jeden Handlungsort mitverfolgen kann. Die Kamera zeigt immer den Teil der Bühne, an dem das Geschehen spielt, aus nächster Nähe. Auch sind der Zahl der Bühnen nur durch die Größe des Speichermediums Grenzen gesetzt.

Da die Größe der Theaterbühne begrenzt ist, wird die räumliche Tiefe des Himmels oder eines im Hintergrund endenden Weges durch eine platte, gemalte Tapete simuliert. Auch Objekte in unmittelbarer Nähe der Akteure, wie Büsche oder Blumen, werden teilweise durch flache Aufsteller ersetzt. Diese sehen für den Zuschauer, die die flachen Objekte sowieso nur von vorne, nicht von der Seite, sehen, genauso aus wie die Originale, sind aber billiger, schneller aufzubauen, behindern die Schauspieler weniger und sind von einem Bühnenbildner angefertigt, dessen Kreativität die einzige Beschränkung der Requisiten darstellt. Die Bühne und ihr Bildner ist quasi einer der Akteure. Das Theater arbeitet wie die meisten Künste mit Täuschung, mit make belief. Was im Roman detaillierte Beschreibungen von Dingen sind, die man nicht sehen kann, oder im Kino die Spezialeffekte, die Künste arbeiten mit verschiedenen Techniken der Täuschung, es liegt an der Fantasie des Zuschauers, den Mangel an Echtheit auszugleichen. Die Art, wie das Theater den Zuschauer täuscht, hat viele Gemeinsamkeiten mit der Art, wie 2D-Spiele den Spieler täuschen. Mit dem Anbruch des 3D-Zeitalters ändert sich diese Art der Täuschung, sie ähnelt zusehends dem Kino. Wurde räumliche Tiefe bisher nur rudimentär angedeutet, wird sie nun bis in alle Details nachgebildet. Und durch die Perspektivwechsel fühlt man sich viel stärker ins Geschehen involviert, als stünde man nicht mehr vor, sondern auf der Bühne. Besonders wenn man dann noch Kontrolle über die Kamera hat. In diesem Moment lässt das Spiel den Film in Punkto Immersion sogar hinter sich.

Wie das Kino täuschen 3D-Spiele viel professioneller, der Rezipient erwartet auch immer mehr Realismus. War im Theater die Täuschung noch sofort zu durchschauen, basierte sie auf gutem Willen des Zuschauers, sich nicht an der Falschheit zu stören, ist der Kinozuschauer eher verärgert, wenn er die Illusion als solche bemerkt. Der moderne Zuschauer kann und will gar nicht mehr verstehen, wie die Täuschung zustande kommt, dazu ist sie zu komplex und zu sehr auf Realismus hin orientiert. Im Theater, wo die Täuschung noch als solche zu erkennen ist, können wir noch viel eher ihren Wert ermessen, verstehen, worin die Kunstfertigkeit des Bühnenbilds besteht. Wer einmal eine Kabuki-Inszenierung gesehen hat, wo Urgewalten von mythischen Gottheiten ein Gebäude erschüttern und zerstören, ein Ausmaß an Details und Spezialeffekten, die im Westen erst im Filmmedium praktiziert wurden, versteht den Reiz der kunstfertigen Täuschung. Sie ist in jedem Moment als solche zu erkennen, in ihrer detaillierten Ausführung aber ungemein beeindruckend. Im Kino hat die 3D-Computeranimation einer Welle von Fantasy-Filmen, beginnend mit dem Lord of the Rings, den Weg geebnet, weil die fantastischen Stoffe durch die neue Technologie erst in einer angemessenen Form für das Massenpublikum umsetzbar erschienen. In Japan, wo fantastische Stoffe schon immer das Theater beherrschten, wartete man nicht erst auf die passende Technik, sondern perfektionierte bestehende Techniken aus der Theatertradition und brachte so Bühnenbilder hervor, die man bei uns erst im Kino zu sehen bekam. Daraus wird auch deutlich, dass Fantasy in Japan ein zentrales kulturelles Anliegen ist und nicht nur eine Subkultur wie bei uns.

Vor dem Anbruch des 3D-Zeitalters waren japanische Spieleentwickler führend im Bereich Grafik und das hat auch etwas mit der Bühnentradition des Landes zu tun. Das kulturelle Umfeld stattet Japaner mit Kenntnissen über 2D-Inszenierung aus, die sie nur noch am Computer umsetzen müssen. Auch Anleihen beim Kino gehen oft auf ältere Theatertechniken zurück; Theater, Film und Spiel stehen in einer Tradition. Mit dem Anbruch des 3D-Zeitalters gerät Japan jedoch ins Hintertreffen, hier fehlt nicht nur der kulturelle Vorsprung, mit steigendem Massenappeal und entsprechenden Budgets schlägt Amerikas Kino- und Computerspecialeffect-Knowhow auch im Spielebereich voll ein. Nur wenige japanische Entwickler können mit solchem finanziellen Aufwand mithalten, und die, die es können, bedienen sich zunehmend westlicher Programmierer und Entwickler. Dass 2D noch nicht ausgestorben ist, liegt einerseits an kleineren Entwicklern nicht nur in Japan, die Spiele machen wollen, ohne dabei gleich ihre Existenz aufs Spiel setzen zu müssen, denn hohe Budgets bedeuten auch hohe Erwartungen. Andererseits aber auch daran, dass es nach wie vor Fans gibt, die die ganz eigene Tradition des 2D-Spiels zu schätzen wissen und auch ihre Entwicklung weiter verfolgen und unterstützen wollen. 2D ist tatsächlich wie Theater, ein Minderheitengenre, dessen lange Kultur geschätzt wird. Das sich aber nach wie vor neu erfinden kann.

Im Bereich Spiel und Film ist 3D vor allem ein Kostenfaktor. Nicht so im Bereich Comics. Der Erfolg des Nachkriegsmanga fußt auf einem Mann, TEZUKA Osamu, und dessen Innovationen in der Inszenierung stammten schon in den späten 40ern aus dem Filmmedium. Dynamische Perspektiven der Einzelbilder imitierten das Filmmedium und brachten den Comic formal enorm voran, alles aus dem Wunsch des Autors geboren, komplexe Geschichten in diesem Medium zu erzählen. Da jedes Bild einzeln gezeichnet wird und anders als im Theater oder Spiel die Kulisse nicht im nächsten Moment weiterverwendet werden kann bzw. muss, steht es dem Zeichner frei, jederzeit die Perspektive zu wechseln, allein seine Zeichenfertigkeit und der Abgabetermin setzen seinen Ausdrucksmöglichkeiten Grenzen. Dementsprechend konnte das Comicmedium Dinge realisieren, die in anderen Medien zu teuer gewesen wären und festigte seine Popularität gegenüber dem Konkurrenten Film. Das Zwischending Zeichentrick, einerseits ein sehr aufwendiges Medium, andererseits aber auch sehr geeignet, um nicht existierende Dinge darzustellen, die man nicht einfach abfotografieren kann, profitierte ebenfalls von den Techniken des Comics und verhalf Genres wie SF oder Fantasy zu Popularität, die bei uns lange zu einem Nischendasein verdammt waren.

Dennoch war auch TEZUKA von Japans Theatertradition beeinflusst. Sein Held Astro Boy, ein Roboter, in dessen Popularität sich Japans Affinität zu Robotertechnik im allgemeinen ausdrückt, verkörpert eine Tradition und ein Knowhow Japans, das ebenfalls auf das Theater zurückgeht. Außer Kabuki und Nō kennt diese außerdem das Bunraku; dieses verwendet kunstvolle Marionetten mit derart vielen beweglichen anatomischen Details, dass diese so lebensecht wirken wie ein vormoderner Roboter. Ebenfalls ein kulturell begründeter technischer Vorsprung eines Volks, das von täuschend echter Imitation fasziniert ist.

Für seine shōjo manga (Comics für Mädchen) ließ sich TEZUKA hingegen von einer eher jungen Theaterform inspirieren, dem Takarazuka-Theater, in dem alle Rollen, männliche wie weibliche, von Frauen gespielt werden. Eine späte Umkehrung von analogen Praktiken in älteren Theaterformen wie Kabuki und Nō, in denen alle Rollen von Männern dargestellt werden. Die westlichen Kostüme und Schauplätze aus den Takarazuka-Musicalaufführungen waren Vorbilder für die märchenhafte Welt von Ribon no kishi, dem Ritter mit der Schleife, einem Prinz, der eigentlich eine Prinzessin war. Die späteren Mädchencomics von weiblichen Autorinnen griffen viele dieser Takarazuka-Einflüsse auf, am deutlichsten in der Rose von Versailles (Berusaiyu no bara), ein Historiencomic vor dem Hintergrund der französischen Revolution über eine Soldatin namens Lady Oskar. So wie der König in Ribon no kishi einen männlichen Thronfolger brauchte und seine Tochter Sapphire als Jungen erzog, braucht in der Rose von Versailles von IKEDA Riyoko ein General einen Sohn, der in seine Fußstapfen treten soll. Nachdem er aber Mal um Mal nur mit Töchtern gesegnet wird, erzieht auch er seine jüngste Tochter als Jungen und nennt sie Oskar. Das Märchensetting weicht einem authentischen, wenn auch immer noch westlichen Historiensetting, doch anders als mit Prinzessin Sapphire meint es die Geschichte nicht gut mit ihren weiblichen Protagonisten, weder Oskar noch Königin Marie Antoinette überleben die französische Revolution, deren historische Chance im Nachhinein zwiespältig bewertet werden muss.

Vorsicht: Ab hier enthält dieser Artikel Spoiler zu Final Fantasy Tactics!

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