[Review] Persona 5

5/8

Persona 5 felt like it could’ve been a masterpiece at more points than one, and simply ran out of fuel on everything almost before it started. Quality lasted longer in some areas than others, in ways that only highlighted how unfortunate the other pieces became. I really think I should give it a 3 for how glaring the holes are. But for most of the game itself I didn’t notice them, and I was just happily chugging along, thanks to a great overall feel created by a handful of exceedingly well-crafted elements.

I picked up this game because of the waifus and knew nothing about it going in other than that it had waifus, one which said “Let’s do it in the student council room”, and a character named after Mishima. I’ve never played a Persona or a Shin Megami Tensei game before, and in recent memory the only game of this “JRPG” genre I’ve played in recent memory was Neptunia Rebirth 1, which I am not going to complete. I used JP dub and EN sub and played on the PS3, final playtime was ~120 hours. HowLongToBeat average is currently a little north of 105, a number I believe is too low.

Persona 5 didn’t need to be 120 hours. Among other things videogames are unique in that they can provide such a long experience, allowing so much time and space to get invested into its world and story. Persona 5 did amazing in the first 1/8, then cruised fine until about the 2/3 mark, after which the quality disappeared conspicuously disappeared in huge chunks, only getting worse until the game finally ended. There were still a few shining bits, but they no longer made sense in light of everything else.

If you do plan to play Persona 5:

  • Read the manual, or if it’s no longer online by time of reading, search for “persona fusion chart”. That’s the important bit and it’s not explained ever in-game.
  • Dungeons, or “Palaces”, are completable in a single in-game day, and it’s important to do this to free up the other days to spend time with people.
  • The doctor gives a discount after a certain point, the fortune teller and shogi player have good abilities, and the maid will do your laundry and some other things to give more time.
  • It’s basically impossible to max relationship with everyone on a blind run. It might be possible with a guide, but even then it’d have to be really tight and even less freedom to do anything at all.
  • Maxing a relationship gives a little extra story per character at the end of the game, so go for 10s with your favorite characters over a few more 9s.
  • Upgrading to maximum armor isn’t the most important thing in the world.
  • Upgrading guns is not important at all.
  • It is better to capture lower level personas and merge them into something your level than to capture personas your level. This will always be the case.
  • Don’t read the rest of this review. You will enjoy it more if you don’t know how it works. This is true of most things, but for Persona 5 it crosses the border between barely being worth the time to arguably not at all. Arguments which I will make.

I learned a lot on how characters and ideas can be written, enjoyed the art and music immensely, and picked up a few waifus, and upon completion I thought for sure it was on the thumbs up side rather than not. But the more I thought about it the worse it got.

If it didn’t have perfectly voices with gorgeous characters, funny banter, generally fun music, and an amazing user interface – that is to say, if it didn’t have its production quality – it’d be a 3 for sure. It did have those though, and I can’t say they don’t count. Unfourtunately there’s not much I have to say about those, other than the user interface. I’m not aware enough about the implications or differences of using one voice actor over another, or a certain costume or shape for a character over another. They’re all perfect as far as I can tell. If you’re just looking to spend time with pretty voiced waifus, this game is not a bad choice at all.

What I can talk about is the writing and how time was distributed and spent.

And boy oh boy does Persona 5 have things to talk about.

> USER INTERFACE
> FLOW AND BALANCE
> — (Timeslots)
> — (Story Across Gameplay Loop)
> — (Real Time Quantified)
> — (Grinding)
> — (Combat Progression in SMT Games)
> WRITING
> — (Theme and Motivation)
> — (Plot Progression)
> — What was the story intended to convey?
> — (The Bad Ending)
> — (Characters, specifically Morgana)
> — (Characters: Akechi Goro)
> CONCLUSION

Continue reading

2017 Apr 23 ~ May 06

A rather long two weeks. Watched Kemono Friends (fabulous), Gabriel DropOut (barely not worth the time), played more Automata, partly to get screencaps and a second look for the review, partly for the DLC (it’s poop), and then basically a week of Total Shogun 2 to celebrate a friend’s graduation. It was nice. Not so nice for progress in drawing, but oh well. Such a cluster of things isn’t gonna happen again anytime soon.

Digital though had two unplanned uptake breakthroughs:

  1. I watched an old Ilya Kuvshinov I had and it completely changed my understanding on how to line. My understanding was /ic/’s, which was CtrlPaint’s: draw a line quick, starting before your intended initial point and ending after your final point, then erase the ends afterwards. Ilya seems to emphasize doing fewer lines, using pressure to control weight inbetween. In the end this appears to be a faster process. My interpretation of what I saw changed lining time of a face from ~1hr to ~5min. Marginally less clean results, but pretty great for a magnitude of increase in speed.
  2. Taping paper on top of the tablet. The problem wasn’t so much that the tablet was too smooth, it was that it was smooth for the stylus and not smooth for my arm. Oil or something had built up and couldn’t be cleaned off, and oil caused the material to change into something with very high friction, resulting in lack of control any time movement wasn’t from the wrist. Making paper the contact surface solved this and added a comfortable and familiar stabilization. There’s still some hand-eye coordination problems, but everything feels much better now.

Also finally saw the true advantage of digital: not Ctrl+Z, but Ctrl+H.

Need to be careful using it though, some really beautiful things aren’t supposed to work when flipped (e.g. hair parted left vs hair parted right).


A 17_04_29-30
Last time I had decided to try and put hands into everything, but it became obvious quickly that my understanding of hands was limiting enough that there weren’t many positions where I could expand much at all past a stick figure. So I explored hands a bit more.


A 17_05_01-06
Then I lost sight of what I was doing.

But I learned some things I’d been wondering about for a while in a pretty short timeframe, so I guess it was okay.

Long timelapse more because I was playing a weeklong session of Total Shogun with a friend.


B 17_04_24-25
More hair and drapery drilling from imagination.

Hair shape language/constraints don’t entirely make sense. Doing too few drapery folds.


D 17_04_23
I was told that I needed to do a bunch of lines and curves through points, so that’s what I did.

It wasn’t fun. I didn’t learn much either.


D 17_04_24
Watching an Ilya Kuvshinov video on his drawing process revealed to me that /ic/’s fawning over CtrlPaint had led me to believe the wrong thing: quick lines are NOT the holy grail, clean lines are NOT done by “temp layers”, drawing through, erasing, and they sure as hell aren’t done via vector or shape tools.


D 17_04_25
Testing out different stabilizer levels.

Difficult to control decline in pressure level across a stroke.


D 17_04_28_2-30
Not shown: tracing over a few hairstyles to get a better idea for shape language/constraints.
Also not shown: D 17_04_28_1, where I tried to draw something from reference and it went horribly wrong. When looking at reference my hand-eye coordination is on autopilot, and I really needed to calibrate it with a few faces first, faces being the best choice for calibration because they have the tightest natural tolerances.

Right before the first referenced hair, I decided to tape paper on top of my tablet.

Absolutely the best decision.

Tried out blobbing out values in the bottom right just to fill out the page. Interesting feeling, at least while adding. Not sure how to go about subtracting, or how to add lines to it.


D 17_05_02-06
Ctrl+H is God.

More faces. Feels fine now. Last one was way outside my skill range; animu faces with realistic proportions are wildly different from actual realistic faces in ways I haven’t bothered to understand.

I’m also not entirely sure when which lines should have more weight. I can figure it out if I stop and think about it, but I don’t really want to stop and think about it. They don’t feel sloppy or messy anymore, which is more important.

[Reviews] (various)

There’s a few things I’ve seen and played that I’d like to write about just a bit on my experience with them. Some are more recent, some not so much, some I’ve even written about at some length before, but for one reason or another I don’t think they’re worth posting about at length in individual writeups, at least at this time.

Especially considering how it’s been a month and I still haven’t written the one on Nier:Automata.

Currently I don’t have many reviews up so data points are overall lacking. These should give a clearer view on what the value of my opinion is.

Anime


Angel Beats: 6/8
Memorable characters. Gets a bit melodramatic at times, but it completes the job successfully, and no problems can be found with its overall presentation quality. (range: 5~8)

Amagi Brilliant Park: 5/8
The initial premise setup and its sense of urgency was done well, but for most of its runtime it felt like a mediocre variety show. Unlike its superb visuals, tonally it’s just all over the place. Maybe the original was better? I don’t remember much other than air fairy’s luscious back, the pervert pink mascot, and Sento’s sentos. (range: 4~7)

Code Geass: 8/8
Boy gains superpower and fights against the world. (range: 6~8)

Code Geass R2: 6/8
My powerlevel is greater than your powerlevel. Also not a cohesive story. It was an incredulous trainwreck which was fun enough to watch the first time, but the overall quality outside the animation was a downgrade from the original. (range: 4~8)

Cross Ange: 5/8
First half is simple but shows signs of good direction and writing every now and again. Second half is terrible no matter which way you spin it and a chore, but the character of Ange is enough to carry it… once. This is only worth watching because Ange is an interesting character type and it’d be interesting to see someone like her in a world which doesn’t simply bend over to whatever she or the plot wants her to do. (range: 1~7)

Fate/Zero: 7/8
Just like the original VN, this story is largely carried by amazing standalone scenes which make the rest of the “actual story” pale in comparison – but this time, “the rest” is also pretty good. The second half feels rushed compared to what feels like a very carefully planned and arrange first half, but other than that it’s a good experience. (range: 6~8)

Gabriel Dropout: 4/8
Great ED, terrific characters, good animation, plenty of funny reaction faces, but in the end, there’s no reason to watch this over something else. In the end, in any media, the writing cannot be allowed to be the poorest contributor. It feels like something made just to make ends meet, for an audience that just wants something to watch. Which is okay. But for me it missed the cut. (range: 3~6)

Heroic Age: 7/8
Generic story with a generic premise, filled with generic characters using generic writing. A couple of the music pieces aren’t so generic. Overall consistency in direction, though, is not generic at all. (range: 4~8)

Kobayashi’s Maid Dragon: 5/8
Ravioli Ravioli Dragon Loli. Largely a visual experience, KyoAni really knows what to animate and how to color a scene. First ~third move things along, but the rest of it feels like disjointed filler, and the final episode had people out of character for the sake of wrapping things up. (range 3~7)

Madoka: 6/8
Madoka was really annoying and I only put up with because everyone was talking about how it was that decade’s Evangelion. Madoka both the show and the character; as far as I’m concerned all she did for the first 9 episodes was cry. Episode 10 was great, and definitely it wouldn’t have had as much impact if not for the first 9, but couldn’t we have done just a bit more with ~180 minutes worth of time? And how am I supposed to accept that conclusion? There’s some pretty strict logic explicitly established about magic, and as far as I can tell it’s contradicted. I can imagine how it was a groundbreaking anime, but even as of today I haven’t watched another magical girl anime so I don’t know. Perhaps one day I’ll rewatch it and see why it’s so great. Maybe I judged too much too early. But for now, from what I remember, not so much. (range: 2~8)

Infinite Ryvius: 8/8
Lord of the Flies in Space, except this time, there’s more than one lord, there’s an overarching plot and world tying it all together, and there’s as conclusive an ending as can realistically be, with fantastic music and voice acting. (range: 7~8)

No.6: 1/8, incomplete
I wanted to see something about utopias and societal structures’ effects on individuals and cultures. I got homosexuals wasting my time. (range: 1~4)

Psycho-Pass: 8/8
I wanted to see something about utopias and societal structures’ effects on individuals and cultures. And that’s exactly what I got. (range: 7~8)

Shirobako: 7/8
It could’ve had a better series-spanning story. The main character got less development and focus than the other supporting characters introduced in the beginning. That being said, everything else about it was perfect. (range: 6~8)

Steins;Gate: 8/8
This is the only anime which I don’t remember a single dull episode. Every episode had enough to keep me on the edge of my seat for the next. Its story has parts which don’t make sense, its art is undeniably terrible, but the writing, visual composition, timings, and music worked. Things kept moving, and they didn’t stop moving. Common wisdom says things should be changed up every now and then to keep everything fresh, that’s why fighting games have slow simple puzzles in them. Perhaps there were slow periods in Steins;Gate? If I really slowed down and thought about it, they’re probably there. But everything was arranged so that the story felt like it was always flowing. (range: 8~8)

Terra e…: 1/8, incomplete
3 episodes in and we have a protagonist who is actively aware of his superpowers and spends 2 of them saying “yadaa”, i.e. “I don’t wanna”. Like, that’s what he does. His lines are “yadaa”, “yadaa”, and “yadaa”. There’s no interesting visuals or thoughts which justify him to the audience. He just doesn’t want to be involved in something dangerous, even though he’s been helped and he can’t go back to the way things were. No reason. So I found no reason to continue. (range: 1~4)

The iDOLM@STER: 6/8

With worldwide economic depression and population/demographic instability on top of blank check ideology saying change is good with corruption and hypocrisy showing through the cracks at every other turn, moe rises because of a critical “new market”. It’s the oldest “market” for storytelling there is, but one that has been disdained and thrown away by the public because of how overused and exploited it’s been in every field. In a sense the genre’s distinction shows it too is a last-ditch exploitation, as it relies on the image of innocent young girls in order to function.

Moe sells “hope”.

(range: 5~8)

Videogames


Assassin’s Creed 2: 6/8
The characters aren’t the most interesting people ever, but they’re there, and the writers play them approximately correctly. Maps are varied enough in theme to keep things interesting, even though rooftop running everywhere feels about the same – none of them are slippery due to rain or something, for example. Boats were nice. Story is revenge and stumbling upon pieces of a grander mystery. The story-relevant puzzles sucked. But Ezio’s character sold the whole package in the end. (range: 3~7)

Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood: 4/8
I really liked this game the first time I played it, but after replaying it’s really just a bunch of side quests and menu mini-games in a less interesting map than its predecessor. There’s a story, but it’s sparse and forgettable. Horses and later fast-travel makes primary game mechanic largely obsolete. You also become a one-man army instead of an assassin. You also have an army. Game made entirely for fanservice. (range: 4~6)

Assassin’s Creed 3: 2/8, incomplete
A game whose primary mechanic is stealth freerunning in dense cities cities across rooftops decides it’s a good idea to put a lot of distance between buildings where there are buildings and long-range precision snipers on those rooftops with instant communication with every other sniper. There’s also a lot of space with no rooftops at all. Characters are who cares. Story is… not about anyone we care about. (range: 2~4)

Company of Heroes: 7/8
An RTS where you don’t need 300 APM! And the units have fun with you. (range: N/A)

Guild Wars 2: 1/8
I lost Fort Aspenwood for this. (last played Oct 2012)

LA Noire: 4/8, incomplete
The most boring and pointless open world I’ve ever seen, which you can thankfully avoid by telling the AI you don’t want to drive. This reduces the game to the interrogations and a little bit of clue-searching, which were not interesting enough for me to finish doing myself. I watched a streamer play it instead. Worth a watch. (range: 3~6)

League of Legends: 1/8
The game involves playing 20~50 minutes of mostly PvE to have the match be decided on, depending on the season and patch, 3~15 seconds of fighting, fighting which doesn’t necessarily involve you. This along with some other features make the game inherently “toxic”. Patches change how certain characters work entirely and come about at random, the developers won’t stop autofellating about how great and hard their job is, and there’s always, always new characters, which are just ever so coincidentally always overpowered on release. Also, it’s rigged. (last played Dec 2013)

MGSV: GZ, TPP: 1/8
This game sold a full price demo that was better than the actual game. It had a cutscene at the climax which is just two characters sitting across from one another, silently since the big song finished and it was too short, yours and the main villain’s, and you’re in a standard idle animation. In general it’s full of emptiness and false promises. Dropping a powerline and electrocuting people with it and various other “haha isn’t it funny how things can interact in that way” are the only things going for this game. The game’s map might as well have been procedurally generated, and the second “half” of the game is literally the same missions as the first half with a few extra difficulty conditions. Kojima is not a genius, he’s a hack. “Director”? Don’t make me laugh. (range: 1~4)

Remember Me: 5/8
The art, lighting, music, and world design (read: lore design, not level design) are top notch. The ass is ok. Everything else was unfortunately forgettable. (range: 3~7)

Rocket League: 8/8
An online PvP game which has a cheap box price where the devs implement continual microtransactions/patches that actually don’t screw with balance? And it’s fun? What sort of sorcery is going on here? That being said I don’t play it much because it really is physics based so experience is locked behind physical skill with a controller, which means many hours of practice – with a training mode that has lots of official and fan-made practice shots. Decent casual fun too. (last played Jan 2017)

Saint’s Row: The Third: 5/8
Yet another open world game where you get an arsenal of clothes, weapons, and vehicles, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously and has some fun. And it can be pretty fun.(range: 4~7)

Saint’s Row IV: 2/8
What’s the point in having an open world where there’s no meaning to any location, no meaning to any vehicles, no meaning to any weapons, and nothing can stop your momentum? Crashing into cars just moves them out of the way. Running into a building just sends you running up its side. The only thing which stops you are foot-sized objects, I can’t remember if they were curbs or parking blocks or what but something indescript of about that size were the only things that mattered. Enemies didn’t matter, world didn’t matter, story didn’t matter. Nothing mattered except foot-sized objects, and they were not the antagonists, though maybe they should’ve been. (range: 2~5)

The Stanley Parable: 2/8
This isn’t the first game I’ve seen talk Post-Modernism, but it’s definitely the worst. This gamename is only big because of marketing and lazy idiots who haven’t seen anything better. A waste of 20$ and a waste of 3 hours. Not worth watching either. (range: 1~3)

The Witcher 3: 3/8, incomplete
The graphics, Ciri, and Yen are great, and that’s about it. It took me quite a while to figure out what was wrong so perhaps it deserves some more bonus points, but the basic idea is that there isn’t really much to do. It’s open world, but you don’t have any good indication beforehand which areas are viable for you. I was taking what I thought was a shortcut through the woods to a certain sidequest when I got instagibbed after trying to run from an enemy I found that I couldn’t damage. The combat doesn’t pretend it’s more than two buttons and TTK is long. Weapon durability doesn’t add to anything. Never had money or anything I wanted to buy except healing and repair items. The writing was pretty good at some points, but there’s too little of it and too much crap inbetween. Probably would’ve quit sooner if I didn’t hear Sawashiro’s voice, probably would’ve quit later if I modded it to play as Ciri, but I would’ve seen the core stuff eventually. (range: 3~6)

World of Tanks: 1/8
It’s rigged. You are looking at models of tanks going through motions while after the game server flips a coin. (last played Mar 2017)

On Libertarian Morality

Economic Inequality Is Just A Cover For Anti-Rich Prejudice

by Don Watkins, for The Federalist, 2016 April 14

Regarding businessmen, for example, we should condemn those who lie, cheat, and steal. But we should condemn them as individuals for their dishonest and predatory actions.

Universally, all white collar crime gets punished multiple degrees of magnitude less than hood crime. Condemning one businessman and not all of them is a concession that a couple of years in a comfy cell for frauding millions of people out of billions of dollars is approximately the right response.

There’s value in condemning a dishonest businessman over a dishonest person. A person’s role matters. A negligent student is nothing, a negligent mother should mean something extremely serious but doesn’t thanks to a certain demographic in tandem with a certain political structure, a negligent father has a special derogatory word made up just for him. Businessmen of today are lords of the past. It’s one thing to say they should be able to get away with more – maybe they should? But that’s not the argument libertarians make. “They’re just the same as everyone else!”

Replace “the rich” with “Hispanics” or “women” or “Jews” in that sentence, and ask yourself: isn’t this precisely the sort of prejudice we object to when it is targeted at other groups?

Good thing this isn’t a problem then.

Actually being against prejudice is even more stupid than buying Hanlon’s Razor, which I’m pretty confident was created to cover for corruption. You are prejudiced that your key will turn on your car, the switch will turn on the light, the food you buy isn’t rotten, and that you won’t get assaulted just walking down a street, unless you’re in South Africa, Detroit, Berlin, Paris, or London, then maybe you would. And why would that be reasonable? Is it because of ley lines? Some miasma? Special ghosts haunting those areas? Some other magic? Maybe it’s global warming? But we’re all “just” people right?

Equality is just for show. Your ten fingers are all different lengths and your two eyeballs have different strengths, you treat your mother differently than you do your wife but we pretend we’re all equal because as a public narrative repeated ad naseum at no one in particular and only believed by initiates, “it’s good for business”.

That’s why libertarianism exists. “It’s good for business”. Full sentence: It’s good for millionaires’ business in screwing over fresh cheap labor. And, on occasion, it’s good for businesses screwing over other businesses. Full sentence: It’s good for some bigger businesses screwing over other smaller businesses. And there’s no world outside of business. Nevermind that there are other narratives which are better for everyones’ business. “It’s good for business”.

Everywhere outside America immigration is primarily a cultural issue, but here it’s terrible to think about closing borders because startups might suffer. You know, those small businesses whose entire purpose is to sell out so that its owners can strike it big and always results in all its employees getting laid off because the buyout was for purposes of obtaining patents and the “brand”? Forget any other discussions, forget the state of demographics in this country, or unemployment, how the current generation of young adults have no future except grinding a life of poverty living in a truck at the parking lot of their dream job. If we limit immigration, startups might suffer.

Oh. No. Not the startups. Anything but the startups.

Prejudice encourages dehumanization – it encourages demonizing “the other” so they are seen as less than human and therefore unworthy of respect.

Whose problem is this? Is this an appeal to me to be a better person at any cost to me all for the benefit of someone else? Come back with a billion dollars and a sentence to few years in jail and then we’ll talk about “dehumanization of the rich” or whatever you want. Of course, the billion has to come first.

Should have plenty of billions laying around. You did seize all those assets right?

No?

We need to ask ourselves: Do we really think of rich individuals as human beings?

I can tell you how rich people in this country think of poor people.

No, I don’t have any citations. No reputable sources. I guess I’m just making shit up.

Making shit up that’s just magically on the mark every time.

Do we ever so much as ask: Did they honestly earn their money?

Considering most people quit their bosses and not their jobs?

Did they gain it by dealing voluntarily with other people, through an incalculable number of win-win trades?

Inside systems with many involuntary parts that favor them.

Remember: Libertarians think taxation is coercion and theft.

This is prejudice, plain and simple.

Repeat after me: The end goal of knowledge is prejudice.

What’s worse, it is not directed toward traits that have no bearing on a person’s character, it is directed at something that is in fact a moral achievement.

A literal statement straight from the mouth of a libertarian that having more money is a “moral achievement“, and that this moral achievement also, simultaneously, has “no bearing on a person’s character“.

Cult of Entropy.

This wasn’t a waste of my time after all.

When I discuss unfair treatment of successful businessmen, I almost always hear comments like, “Oh, boohoo. What do the rich have to complain about? Look at everything they have!” This reflects a crass materialism, which amounts to the notion that money solves everything, and that no one can be hurt by or object to mistreatment unless he’s poor.

We live in an advanced technological society, and enjoy a level of wealth, health, comfort, and opportunity that our ancestors could not have dreamed of. What made it possible? The effort of producers, on every level of ability, but with the most credit going to the men and women of extraordinary ability: the inventors, entrepreneurs, and investors who drive progress – and earn a fortune in the process.

Materialism is good or bad depending on the intent of the author in that particular paragraph. Or maybe the author wants it both ways; insults people for being materialistic but believes that they probably still believe it anyways, why not use that too for a little extra cha-ching I mean, impact? Maybe the author doesn’t think of his audience as human beings.

Or maybe this is all “human being” means to him.

originally discovered and commented on Facebook, 2017 April 17
edited and added upon for better flow as standalone

[Review] Kemono Friends

8/8

tlstxpk

A literal children’s TV show massively elevated by good writing and good direction.

I’d heard about Kemono Friends being a top seller despite its animation being CGI (read: terrible), its production quality being poor, and its writing complexity being nothing to write about. Both of these were pretty big turnoffs despite the continual porn of one certain character constantly popping up; I’d written it off as Japanese My Little Pony.

Then I saw this image.

61sn6ybWhy would someone make crossover art of a children’s TV show and a horror game?

Cute fanart, sexy fanart, crossover fanart, these are all common. There are a few artists who really like drawing gore of cute things for some reason, but that’s not the case here either. Why would this exist? Why of all things a videogame from a different tone and genre that’s been dead for four years[1]? It could be that this was made by a big name artist who just happened to be a really big fan of this show and that game, but it resonated with me, and it resonated with others, so it couldn’t be cha-ching or marketing. What’s the show about? Why does everyone like it[2]?

mxf14sm

Kemono Friends definitely encompasses many different demographics; as an anonymous 2channel poster points out, it appeals to fans who like cute girls, animals, ruins, road trip movies, post-apocalyptic narratives, and whatever everyone else is watching. On one hand, it follows a familiar iyashi-kei formula: cute girls with simple, likeable and easily distinguishable personalities doing not much in a picturesque setting. Their cute clothing and art style and cheerful, innocent personalities (it’s still not clear what Serval eats or how she hunts) places them firmly in the moe category: girly and sweet enough to put the viewer at ease while sexy enough to keep older male viewers coming back or fantasizing. […] Yet unlike some other moe shows, Kemono Friends eschews fanservice to keep it family-friendly, as TATSUKI intended.

It’s an anime that can be enjoyed as a basic story with simple characters and a non-threatening atmosphere and as a perplexing mystery that discloses its secrets at a leisurely pace.

[Anime News Network]

The big reveals happen in the final few episodes, and there’s a few things which hint toward it sprinkled here and there throughout the series. The reveal’s contents aren’t really unique, and the way it’s primarily revealed is through a character who is from the very beginning established to be a plot device character. The rest again is a literal children’s TV show.

really good children’s TV show. It’s not about friendship, it’s not about self esteem, it’s not about learning about different animals and their environments, it’s an adventure. We’re told in the first 5 minutes what the purpose of the show will be and it trims everything towards that. Why the characters act like children is also explained in the story, but even if it was left just to “it’s a children’s TV show”, Kemono Friends uses that to strengthen its writing. Children don’t really need explanations and children are generally simple – or in other words, fewer obstructions to the adventure.

Kemono Friends doesn’t waste my time.

pwk1xj0

The blue character says that the bus’s battery is empty and needs to be charged. The orange character barely knows what a bus is, doesn’t know what a battery is, or what it means to “charge” something. But her reaction is “Does that mean we can’t play?”. They wanted a “bus” for “playing”, the explanation sounds like the “bus” has some problem, the first and only question that needs to be asked is: is it broken in the way which means “we can’t play”? That’s all she needs to know, that’s all we need to know. What do we need to do so that we can play? All the reasons inbetween don’t really matter.

zyuhanb

The opening image[3] occurred in the first 10 minutes, after two short scenes where the hat character slid down a sandy cliff and fell into water while attempting to jump rocks across a river. The hat character apologizes in a couple of lines across a couple of following scenes, and other than a few responses from the orange character along the same lines as the one in the screencap, it’s not touched on explicitly any further. In an average American children’s TV show, that line’s existence would mean the rest would be an entire episode about poor little hat character’s self-esteem, 10~15 minutes of moping around saying sad things, and then in the final ~5 minutes of the episode, oh there was no need to worry all along, I just had to believe in myself! Then the next episode is basically the same thing happening to another character, and then another character, until they run out of characters, then it’s back to the first one, until they eventually happen run out of episodes[4].

f0p9pz9

That doesn’t happen in this show. Things both big and small are given a short reaction, and then everyone goes on their merry way. There’s one extended reaction in all the 12 episodes near the end for the plot, which all in all is understandable and easily forgiven. And even then it’s fairly short. Basically the only thing which takes a long time is travelling or getting held up by some major event. There’s no long monologues, there’s no long conversations, and the lore reveals outside of the plot-related stuff near the end are also just a few lines here and there, perhaps with a little surprise from the great voice acting cast.

A lot of it is simply left up to the viewer. The lore and plot aren’t complex, and it’s not necessary to figure it out before the simple childlike characters do, but it’s easily doable, and it’s surprising how well it’s executed. I wrote off the haunted house episode as soon as I saw it was going to be the haunted house episode, and missed the chance to actually see the plot coming before it did. In a literal children’s TV show! I turned off my brain, the show kept chugging along like it always did, and then suddenly here’s the big one. Kemono Friends does hold your hand as you’d generally expect a children’s TV show to. No violence, no sex, everything’s pretty friendly, the aesthetic fits, the music fits… but for the satisfying stuff you need to do just a little bit of work on your own.

06cmcub

It made me realize how much work is generally done for the audience in most media. High contrast lighting, strong music, multiple buildup scenes: in every aspect, well-funded TV shows and films aimed at adults will telegraph exactly what you should be feeling and what you should be thinking at every second. These are held as inarguably better for storytelling, but the cost of always being perfect is the cost of this is loss of investment from the audience. They’re interested only because it makes them feel something; beyond that they’re just waiting for the next hit. Hit them too hard too often, your story is now “melodrama”. Don’t hit them enough, it’s now “boring”. One solution is to only hit them the right amount at the right frequency, but that still leaves investment at zero. Interest without investment creates buzz, not a memory.

Characters in a memorable story need to overreact to things which aren’t a big deal and underreact or not react at all to things which are a big deal[5]. There’s other things too, but in terms of the writing these are among the things which need to happen, and Kemono Friends has this in spades. The lore has a grand mystery, yet no character reactions to it, because it’s explained why they wouldn’t really know about it or be interested in it.  Trivial things which have happened before, here’s a special exaggerated reaction face cutscene anyways, because it’s a children’s TV show. For the important bits emotional alignment with the audience is critical; outside of that, seeking alignment isn’t the best use of resources. Kemono Friends did a spectacular job in this respect.

And it succeeded with this skill in writing and direction. Characters were cute, but the season it aired in was fairly moe-heavy, and none of the characters were more than what’s usually derided as “cardboard cutouts”. Voice acting was good, but no big names, and subtlety was lacking[6]. Lighting was, with a few exceptions, nonexistent. Music usage was pretty creative, the music itself sounded like it was stock off some public domain library. Animation was terrible. Story was simple even after the big reveal.

It’s not bigger than it is, yet it feels bigger than it is.

It’s not cute animal girls alone that are selling massive numbers of buckets.

ojho1k3

4haegbf

>a show with only 5 animators BTFO’d a Kyoani production in sales
Damn. Doesn’t Kemono Friends also have more merchandise that Maid Dragon?”

“They had a shop event that was supposed to last a few weeks that had to be converted into a “gallery” with original art and signatures from the staff because they went out of stock not even 5 days in.”

“Yes, mainly because they had to start creating merchandise on the spot simply to keep up with sales.

They took pictures of the VAs in both their character outfits and normal clothes and sold them in the store for 6000 yen.

And still sold out.”

“Are there kemono friends plushies?”

“none yet since nobody actually prepared for it becoming popular

They could only mass-produce plastic wash buckets with character logos which are funnily enough, sold out”

“Japs joked that it was an art museum by day 4.”

“I don’t see how other shows even come close when:

  • Kemono Friends labeled plastic buckets get sold out to the point that there’s a 5 buckets per person quota now
  • Kemono Friends broke on demand paid view records
  • Kemono Friends are doing collaboration with zoos nonstop, now with 5 municipal zoos running promo concurrently
  • Kemono Friends shop at Shinjuku ran out of things to sell in 3 days”

“Why the fuck would anyone buy 5 buckets?”

“You mean 10. They limit it to 5 because people bought 10 of it.”

When I started writing I planned to score this show a 7/8. I like more complex stories, and I was constantly aware that I was looking at low production values. Everything is just really simple.

Upon review I have to admit it was a really tight simple. There’s enough examples out there where things have been simple and bad, and plenty more complex and bad. Or, unfortunately, complex and mixed, where it feels worse because of how mediocre some parts feel in relation to the rest. Kemono Friends, certainly due to budget in some cases, overall must’ve been intentionally created as a very cohesive narrative and experience. In many places lesser directors with poorer direction would’ve made a lot of things unnecessarily complex, taking up a lot more time, and whatever the solution that episode, ruin the flow of the story as a whole. As it is, nothing was larger than it needed to be. Problems simply didn’t arise. Simple to view is not simple to create.

Kemono Friends is not perfect.

But it is a masterpiece.

8k221an


[6] Not always a bad thing.

[5] I read somewhere that learning is a result of overreacting to a problem. Counterexample: you probably don’t remember how to solve any marginally complex problem which you googled an answer for and instantly got easily applicable results.

[4] Specifically: Dragon Tales. It’s a general problem with American TV shows, whose genetics arise from radio broadcasts, which were run and written by committees, whereas anime arise from manga, which are generally run and written by a single mind. I read this explanation somewhere a long time ago but I don’t remember where I read it.

[3] (image link)

[2] I feel this is the highest aim of fanart.

[1] There apparently is a reason, but I’m not interested in playing more Dead Space.

The Enemy of Good

I never learned to accept “okay” quality.

Everything always had to be excellent, or else it was trash, start over and do it again, do it again forever until it’s right. It’s right or it’s not. There’s no such thing as partial credit, designing a bridge 99% right kills 100’s of people. Even if it didn’t, why would you settle for less than perfect? Do you want to lose points? If you can be perfect, you should be.

It’s not like you have anything better to do anyways.

You can’t do the next lesson until next week, and if you do anything from any other class, or worse, something not educational, you’re a smart enough kid to guess what’ll happen.

2017 Apr 10 ~ 21

Gonna put my drawing stuff here from now on too. Older stuff can be found here or here.

Upload schedule is other week, usually Saturday, occasionally Friday or Sunday.


Digital lines are a pain. Asked around and was told there’s no trick to it, I just have to grind a couple thousand curves through pre-established points. Which sounds about right, since the answer can’t possibly be vectors, but I still don’t like it. Means that the problem here is mostly one of mechanical finesse rather than any sort of mental refinement.

Integrating down to calves and feet, though, is. Using head length as a unit the full body is ~2 units wide and ~8 units tall, or 1:4 aspect ratio. I’ve primarily been working in 1:1 to about 1:2.5; doing something so long just feels weird. There’s also the part where if I want to make it large enough to have the most basic of details in eyes and eyebrows so that 0.5mm doesn’t trip over itself, a 1:4 means I’d need to take up ~2/3 of the page’s height.

That being said, this is also not a problem one’d naturally associate with “learning to draw”. Just as digital lining is a problem between tablet and chair, foot integration is a problem between anatomical understanding and mark-making instrument. Neither are my favorite kind of problem.

Problems, problems, problems.

A 17_04_10-13
Wasn’t too clear what I needed to be doing. Saw that pupils/irises were on my to-do list.


A 17_04_14-16
I always thought of the long eye type as simpler, but somewhere along the way the tables flipped. Not because I got particularly worse at them, but because I got better at the other type, and I started to know what to look for.

Long type is more difficult because of the nose, which has lower tolerances because it’s more realistic.


A 17_04_17
Didn’t end up being all too difficult. Just took a bit of space.


A 17_04_18
Adding the head and eyes really tightens the tolerances.


A 17_04_18-21
Had the thought of enforcing some sort of minimum level of detail; if it’s just a head it should detail hair, eyes, expressions, if it’s just a torso the hands should be there or at least some drapery. There seems to be an infinite number of things to refine and since that’s my “comfort zone” mixing them in a bit before and after bigger ones feels pretty nice.

Let’s see if I can’t make myself put more things together this time.


B 17_04_18-20
Started with looking closer at some silhouettes, then looked at motion instead.


D 17_04_21_2
Took ~10 minutes to go from nothing to final on paper.
Took ~100 minutes to go over only this much in lines digitally. Did some lines, then erased and refined, almost every line had its own layer, the jawline had four… I was originally planning to do hair but no way in hell was I going to touch it with this complete lack of speed.

Definitely missing something.