Warning: This post contains many plot spoilers for the film Mad Max: Fury Road. Please don’t read any further if you don’t wish to learn of major plot points and themes in this wonderful film.
We (Richmond & Andy) were lucky enough to catch Mad Max: Fury Road in Thailand a few days before most of the English speaking world. Here’s a quick brain dump on the themes and imagery in this fantastic film.
Mad Max: Fury Road is a story about human beings fighting against objectification in the most literal interpretation of the word. The desolate earth of the post apocalypse is a cruel place where simply surviving is a constant struggle. In this harsh environment people have been reduced to objects valued only for their utility.
The film opens with Max being caught by Joe’s henchmen as he is very literally driven to madness by hallucinations of past failure. Max is stripped down, shaved, and his back is tatooed with his nutritional information. We hear from the excited chatter of one of the captors that Max is a universal blood doner, which is important to the plot and also has great symbolic value (more on this later). He is very literally reduced to a commodity to be consumed.
We are introduced to Immortan Joe looking down on high from his mountain citadel upon hordes of disheveled worshippers. The peaks of the citadel are covered in lush greenery seen nowhere else in the wasteland, the only way to reach there is by a gigantic lift powered by children turning cogs. Within the citadel are stables full of women milked like cows to provide nutrition for a chosen few. Immortan Joe himself is part machine, kept alive by a breathing aparatus. In this world, the common person has been reduced to a literal cog in a machine while Joe sits on top and is very literally kept alive by this machine.
Just like Lord Humongous, Immortan Joe is also associated with military imagery
Our attention is then turned to Imperator Furiosa. Her name is almost certainly a reference to the classic epic “Orlando Furioso” which roughly translates to “Mad Roland.” She is a bad ass wasteland warrior like ‘Mad’ Max.
Furiosa is also ‘part machine’ with her prosthetic left arm. Her missing limb is painted on the left side of her ‘war rig’. Her mission in this story is redemption, to regain that humanity.
Initially Furiosa is on a mission to retrieve gas, but is secretly making a daring escape with Immortan Joe’s wives, also referred to as “breeders”, as they were chosen by Immortan Joe solely to create bear him progeny. When Joe learns of Furiosa’s deception and rushes to their room it’s shown that he keeps them in a humongous bank vault. They are his most precious “property”. The audience can see that before leaving, they painted a wall with the message “WHO STOLE OUR WORLD?” and “WE ARE NOT THINGS.” This is a very blunt statement of the movie’s theme of human objectification.
In the age of social media we tend to think of objectification as something that only happens to women, but Fury Road is an exploration of how anyone and everyone regardless of gender can be turned into a ‘thing’ and robbed of their humanity. It’s also a story of why that humanity is worth fighting for.
Next we are introduced to Nux, another central character. Nux is a “War Boy” one of many identically shaved and painted soldiers that make up Immortan Joe’s army. In their short lives they want nothing more than the approval of their god/father figure Immortan Joe and willingly aspire to become ‘things’, vehicles for Immortan Joe to control. The War Boys huff silver paint which stains them chrome like their vehicles. Nux takes this vehicular cult practice even further by scarring the form of a car engine on his chest.
Before War Boys head off to war they are given wheels in the form of Immortan Joe’s symbol, which act as booth a steering wheel and key to their vehicles. A steering wheel is a symbol of control. Keys are a common symbol of agency (“key to my heart” etc). Their lives are in the hands of Immortan Joe who decides when they can take the wheel or not.
War Boys are mentioned to have a drastically reduced lifespan with Nux ill and near the end, so he rigs Max to his vehicle to serve as a source of blood transfusion to extend his life just a bit longer to fight in the service of Immortan Joe.
A thrilling chase ensues and Nux and Max eventually catch up to Furiosa and crew. During these scenes Max is connected to Nux by chains and also by the blood transfusion tube. There is great symbolism in this. Humans are social creatures. Like it or not, even in the post Apocalypse we are bound to one another. This is where the best and worst of humanity arises. Chains that bind and enslave. Blood that sustains and gives life. This is a perfect visual summation of everything that happens in the film.
Max is able to find a bolt cutter to sever the chains. He keeps the blood transfusion equipment, cos hey this is the post Apocalypse, people are conditioned to constantly scavenge. But also, this foreshadows Max’s choice of compassion over cruelty.
As the pursuit continues it’s actually Nux who goes through the most development and fulfils the traditional hero’s journey arc. Nux’s maddened devotion gains the approval of his god/father Immortan Joe. A simple look from him means the world to this idealistic young boy (his jealous friend insists “he wasn’t looking at you, he was just scanning the horizon!”). Nux is not a bad person, he just craves approval and wants meaning to his life. He believes he will find that meaning in dying for his master.
When Max and Furiosa first meet, they see each other as potential adversaries and wind up wrestling over a gun. Max ejects the bullet catridge, and Nux immediately grabs it and exclaims “I got it! I got it!” because he’s just so excited to be helpful. There’s no cruelty in him, he just wants approval.
Max and Furiosa eventually join forces (though Max still refuses to give his name so Furiosa calls him ‘Fool’) while Nux fails in several attempts to thwart their plans.
In some of the oldest known tarot cards, The Fool is known as “Il Matto” which means “The Madman” and often represents the protagonist in storytelling
When he is personally addressed by Immortan Joe and given one of his pistols to finish off Furiosa, Nux screws up and sees his master looking upon him with contempt. To Nux, this is far worse than death, he is completely drained of his desire to fight after losing the approval of his god/father figure.
Nux is later found cowering and crying in the back of the war rig by one of Immortan’s escaped ‘wives’, Capable, who takes pity on him, possibly the only compassion Nux has ever experienced in his life. He is quickly and simply won over to their side.
In the end Nux is still committed to the idea of ultimate self realisation through utility and death, but there’s an important distinction: this is a cause he chose for himself. He dies a human with free will and not a tool.
In the final extended showdown Furiosa exclaims to Immortan Joe “remember me?” regaining and asserting her once stolen humanity, before Joe’s artificial face is torn off along with Furiosa’s artificial arm. Immortan Joe was kept alive by machines, created a society where people are treated as machines, and with him gone the machine-society he created can be dismantled.
Furiosa is also badly wounded in this fight. It seems she won’t make it, but she is saved by Max who still has the blood transfusion tube (. His blood, a literal product of his humanity is able to keep Furiosa alive. In regaining her own humanity, she has helped Max recover some of his own. Max tells her his name for the first time.
Furiosa returns home a champion. She lays the lifeless body of Immortan Joe on the ground, and the people declare her their new ruler. Her title was imperator. In its earliest usage, this word denoted a general in the Roman army. Eventually “imperator” grew into the word “emperor.” Thus Furiosa fulfills her destiny and Max disappears into the crowd.
Fury Road is a story with few words and great depth. DEEP visual storytelling at its best. There’s much much more to it, but this is what we got out of Fury Road on our first trip. We’ll definitely be returning to this film many times down the road. Thanks for reading. And thank you George Miller for making such a fine film!
In celebration of international women’s day, let’s look at some of the awesome women that defined the video games industry:
Kinu Nishimura: Artist behind many of Capcom’s flagship titles
If you recognize these characters you’ve played a game Kinu worked on
Kinu Nishimura has been with Capcom since 1991 with Street Fighter II and has worked on countless titles since, rising up to become the most senior artist in the whole company.
Designs for Street Fighter III: New Generation
I’ve also heard stories from Capcom staff on how Kinu was the most intimidating person in the studio, relentless in making sure the high standards of Capcom artwork were maintained by everyone, and an immense amount of respect was given to her in turn.
Many of the games that had a profound impact on who I am today and my career path in video games is directly related to Kinu Nishimura’s masterful designs.
Some of the girls of Capcom games, illustrated by Kinu Nishimura
Keiko Erikawa, co-founder of industry giant Koei and #34 wealthiest person in Japan
She must be from the same generation as my aunt ’cause they have the same fashion sense
Keiko Erikawa started off in the fashion industry but then co-founded the prolific Koei company with her husband Kou Shibusawa.
Keiko Erikawa is credited for getting some atypical games made, like the stylishly odd rhythm action game Gitaroo-Man, hotel cooking game Shaberu! DS Oryouri Navi Marugoto Teikoku Hotel, and deciding that Koei should pick up the Gundam license because in her words: “I want to use a Gundam in a Koei game!”
But one of her most notable accomplishments would be…
A very very very very very obscure to get title for English speakers, even the console it was on wasn’t released in the US!
Though video games is usually seen as a male dominated hobby, Koei’s female co-founder believed there was no reason women couldn’t be part of the core audience so she assembled an all-woman team to created what would be the first ‘otome game’ (lit. ‘girl’s game’, a genre of Japanese games which seek out women as their prime audience).
Koei at the time was most famous for hardcore strategy/kingdom building games like Nobunaga’s Ambition and Romance of the Three Kingdoms that starred macho mustached men of military history. With those roots Koei created Angelique (1993), where the protagonist is a young woman given the responsibility to rule over her own kingdom, if her kingdom thrives then she will inherit control over the world. Will she do so as a benevolent queen or martial despot? Such choices are up to the player to decide.
Many of the women I’ve worked alongside in the games industry have told me that their interest in games started with the otome genre that Angelique created, That is the difference that a single person in power like Keiko Erikawa can make on a whole industry.
Many industry marketing specialists today would say strategy/conquest games are a ‘man’s genre’ that would scare away women with ‘hardcore’ mechanics, but Keiko Erikawa proved that wrong over two decades ago!
Tomoko Namba: founder of mobile games juggernaut DeNA and #47 wealthiest in Japan
Tomoko Namba founded one of the world’s first billion earning mobile game companies (revenue of $1.8 billion in 2012) with many titles that have enjoyed a top 10 position in app stores across the world. The world of mobile games was changed forever when Tomoko Namba’s DeNA entered the fray (mostly because everything since has been copy-catting their innovations!)
Rage of Bahamut, DeNA’s first big hit on mobile
Mari Shimazaki: designer of the titular Bayonetta & contributor to Soul Calibur
Mari Shimazaki is best known as character designer for Platinum’s Bayonetta, a title regarded as the successor to the genre defining Devil May Cry. Her style is known for its stylishness in creating towering, larger than life personalities that dominate any scene they step foot in. She’s also contributed costume design to the long running Soul Calibur series.
Ayami Kojima: The artist behind Konami’s most beloved Castlevania title
It was back in 1997 when I first came across the hauntingly beautiful artwork of the genre-defining Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Gameplay and story wise it is among my favorite titles, but it’s Ayami Kojima’s artwork that gave it timeless longevity.
Ayami Kojima’s distinct hand painted style is the definition of gothic horror and beauty for an entire video gaming generation.
Rieko Kodama: creator of Phantasy Star and every other cool franchise from Sega
Interview from the Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection (PS3)
Reiko Kodama grew up passionate about archaeology but found her way into video games, starting off as an artist but also taking on the roles of writer, designer, producer. Her archaeological interests show in her work, such as the Phantasy Star series she created haing a strong focus on uncovering the mystery of lost civilizations among other themes.
Reiko Kodama’s diverse portfolio reads like a list of Sega best hit titles, because it is:
Where would Sega (or the games industry as a whole) be without Reiko Kodama?
Kazuko Shibuya: Founding member of Square’s Final Fantasy team
A photo of the team from 1986
Inspired by Leiji Matsumoto’s Space Battleship Yamato and Galaxy Express 999, Kazuko Shibuya’s first passion was in animation (she started animating for fun in Middle School) and after graduating worked on the Transformers TV show.When Kazuko decided that animation was ‘not as fun’ as she had hoped she quit her animation job and joined a then small company called Squaresoft as a graphic artist.
Kazuko Shibuya’s sketch book on display for Squaresoft’s 25th anniversary
Kazuko worked on various titles but is best known for being part of the start of the Final Fantasy series. Even back in the 8-bit NES era Squaresoft wanted to deliver an epic feeling so they had Kazuko create the very first ‘cut scene’ of Final Fantasy, a series now known for cutting edge highly detailed cinematics. She also contributed with pixel art, implementing designs from famed artists like Yoshitaka Amano as well as designing her own characters for a multitude of Squaresoft titles to follow.
“There were people who knew about me from before, but there also some comments like: “I didn’t know these were drawn by a woman?” There have never been many women working in the game industry, so I hope my work can serve as a small inspiration to them. Although, it can be a difficult work environment for a woman… (laughs)”
-Quote by Kazuko Shibuya from a very thorough interview hosted atshmuplations.com
She even designed the distinct UI (including big pointing finger that has since become a mascot of the series) that became iconic of the Final Fantasy series.
The beginning of a dynasty
Tomomi Kobayashi: Defining artist of Square’s SaGa series
Tomomi Kobayashi was the character artist that defined Squaresoft’sRomancing SaGa series of console RPG’s which stood out with it’s open world exploration and branching story paths with multiple characters
She also worked alongside Kazuko Shibuya, who implemented many of her designs into in-game pixel art. If you’re not able to read Japanese though it’s pretty difficult to experience her contribution to the history of video games.
Kaori Tanaka (aka Soraya Saga): graphic designer for Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, and co-writer behind Xenogears
From these two rare photos we can imagine what her unobstructed face looks like
Kaori Tanaka (田中 香), better known by her pen name Soraya Saga (嵯峨 空哉) got her start as a graphic designer with Squaresoft working on the Romancing Saga series alongside Tomomi Kobayashi and Kazuko Shibuya. For Final Fantasy VI Soraya created Edgar and Sabin Figaro. She and her husband Tetsuya Takahashi then submitted a script for the next Final Fantasy title, which eventually became the cult classic Xenogears(because they were told it was ‘too dark’ to be called a Final Fantasy title!).
Xenogears was one of the first video games that I’d hear people described as art and deeply philosophical with its themes of self-identity, human desire, and the function of religion in society.
Games, particularly RPGs are kind of like a journey, and game designers are like tour guides. Always be with players, walk a little ahead of them, but never leave them behind. Your work will be completed when players clear the final stage.
Xenogears can be downloaded from Playstation Network too
Ayano Koshiro: Artist and writer of the Actraiser series
The final battle in Actraiser II
Ayano Koshiro worked as a writer and character designer at Ancient, a company founded by her mother that also employed her brother Yuzo Koshiro as music composer so you could say games run in her family!
Actraiser II had it all on the SNES, playing as a mighty hero battling against devilish fiends in a vibrant world set to evocative music to tell a wonderfully gripping story one stage at a time. Actraiser II appeared as a straightforward fantasy action game, the story was that of a god that was not omnipotent or all powerful, yet struggled with all his might to protect his people from harm. The sequence leading up to the final end-boss sequence was such an incredible blend of gameplay and story elements that it had me tearing up, this was a game that showed me how powerful the story telling of a video game could be.
As far as I know Ayano Koshiro hasn’t given any interviews, but neverless her work has been a defining part of my gaming life.
Mutsumi Inomata: Character artist of the Tales series
Mutsumi Inomata began her artistic career as an animator (from Urusui Yatsura to Gundam) and manga author (GB Bomber
but is also known as a character artist for the ‘Tales of’series of role playing games, as well as contributing costume designs to Tekken.
Michiko Sakurai: UI designer behind Smash Bros & more
This picture of her eating ice cream was all I could find on google…
Though Michiko Sakurai’s husband Masahiro Sakurai is better known as the creator of the Smash Bros series, Michiko has always contributed to the series and other HAL Labs titles as UI artist and level designer to some of the most iconic stages in Smash Bros history.
As someone who has spent countless hours struggling to make functional UI for various games I look to Michiko’s designs for inspiration.
She’s since formed Project Sora, with her husband where they continue to make new games with Nintendo’s classic characters.
Emiko Yamamoto: Game designer that brought Disney magic to gamers worldwide
I didn’t see Mickey Mouse as a movie or TV personality, I first knew of him as a static mascot that occasionally appeared on backpacks and pencil cases. Emiko Yamamoto changed that with her adaption of classic Disney characters into hit games like Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse back in 1990, as well as Kingdom Hearts into the 21st century!
Castle of Illusion is also noted as the game which invented idle animation. We take it for granted today that game worlds are always alive and in motion, but back then if players didn’t input anything the character they controlled would hold still. Emiko decided though that, as Disney was world renown for lively animation, they could not have a static world for Mickey Mouse. And with a simple foot tap for the titular mouse, idle animations were born.
When I was thinking about what people remember fondly about the game … at the time, I think it was enjoying the thrills and getting the timing right when they played it. I think enjoying the game world, and experiencing the fantasy world of Disney were a big part of it, too.”
-Emiko gives her thoughts on Castle of Illusion
These are but a few of the women that have made the games industry what it is today. Stay tuned for further updates as we cover other great women in the games industry!
I recently saw The Last: Naruto the Movie in theaters. Thought I’d share some quick thoughts.
Warning: minor spoilers ahead!
Still with me? Good!
One of my favorite things about Japanese animation and comics is that on top of plot and characters, the stories tend to be very theme driven. And those themes are often reinforced with consistent symbolic imagery. One of the central images in The Last: Naruto The Movie is the “red thread of fate.” Longtime readers of Art-Eater (is there such a thing? :O) will already be familiar with this classical allusion when we first wrote about it as a central motif in Kill La Kill.
To recap: In Chinese culture, there’s a very ancient concept of the “red thread of fate” (姻緣紅線). It is an invisible string, spun by the god of marriage, Yue Xia Laoren (月下老人) whose name means “Old Man Under The Moon.” When two people are connected by this thread, their fates are inextricably intertwined and they are destined to fall in love. Over the centuries, this idea has spread to all East Asian cultures including Japan.
The red thread of fate makes its appearance in Naruto in the form of a scarf. It’s present in an early Flashback, where a very young Naruto attempts to save Hinata from some bullies. In the process they beat him up and tear up his red scarf. Naruto tosses it aside without a second thought, but it becomes a treasure for Hinata. And thus their fates are tied.
Years later, as an adult Hinata tries to work up the courage to confess her feelings to Naruto. She decides that she will do so while presenting him with a red scarf that she’s knitted for him. Things don’t go quite as planned as their village is attacked by an unknown enemy. The ensuing adventure takes them all the way to the moon, and throughout it all the red scarf looms, sometimes quietly in the background, sometimes violently at the forefront of conflict. It is discarded then recovered. It is stretched, torn, and burned, but eventually mended. And ultimately it binds the two together.
I thought this was a sweet bit of visual poetry on top of a fun action film. Can you think of other stories where the red thread of fate is present? (there are tons!)
The latest trailer for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain uses the song “Nuclear” by Mike Oldfield to GREAT effect!
Just wanted to post some quick thoughts on the music choice behind the rad new trailer for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain that was just unveiled at E3 2014.
Here’s the trailer:
The song used for the trailer is “Nuclear” by longtime British prog rocker Mike Oldfield.
Oldfield is best known for his 1973 album Tubular Bells which was used as the theme of the classic horror film The Exorcist. This album also inspired a JoJo Stand.
Tubular Bells is one of the WEIRDEST stands to ever grace JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure (which is truly a feat if you’re familiar with the series)
“Nuclear” is a track from Oldfield’s 25th studio album Man on the Rocks which was released on March 3 2014, only a few months before the Metal Gear E3 2014 trailer. The song fits the trailer in an amazingly layered fashion. Aside from setting the perfect tone, the song’s lyrics very literally describe what’s happening on screen while also emphasizing the themes of MGS V: The Phantom Pain.
“Nuclear” is very clearly a song about war, which has always been one of the main themes of the Metal Gear series. The first stanza goes:
“Standing on the edge of the crater Like the prophets once said and the ashes are all cold now No more bullets and the embers are dead Whispers in the air tell the tales Of the brothers gone Desolation, devastation What a mess we made, when it all went wrong”
This perfectly describes Big Boss following the destruction of Mother Base in Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes. His life’s work has been destroyed. His comrades have been slain. Where he once fought for his ideals and the dream of a world where soldiers could determine their own fates, in The Phantom Pain he fights for revenge. The line “the ashes are cold now” has particular significance as it’s revealed that instead of giving his slain comrades a burial at sea (a time honored military tradition), Big Boss has their ashes compressed into diamond knives which are used in cold and violent fashion to avenge their deaths.
“This game will have more stabbings than a violent Korean Thriller” – Weigy Samakoen (follow him on Twitter! @Weigy)
The song continues:
“Watching from the edge of the circus For the games to begin Gladiators draw their swords form their ranks for armageddon”
This is pretty straight forward. These lyrics describe the apocalyptic mood of The Phantom Pain, with Big Boss rallying his men to increasing heights of violence.
Then the chorus kicks in:
“I’m nuclear I’m wild I’m breaking up inside”
The word “nuclear” is very significant since Metal Gear is a story that takes place after the Atomic Age. With the detonation of the first nuclear bomb in 1945, humanity achieved the ability to annihilate itself on a global scale. The title Metal Gear refers to the code name of a walking tank that functions as a mobile nuclear launch platform. Many of the Metal Gear games revolve around the hero attempting to stop the Metal Gear from falling into the wrong hands (they’re about MUCH MORE than this though!).
A shot of what appears to be a Metal Gear from the E3 2014 Phantom Pain trailer
“A heart of broken glass Defiled Deep inside The abandoned child”
These lyrics not only describe Big Boss, the protagonist of The Phantom Pain, they also describe every protagonist of a Metal Gear game.
Big Boss was abandoned by his beloved mentor, the legendary soldier simply known as The Boss (her real name is never revealed) in the events of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. He inherits his esteemed title from her.
Solid Snake, the original hero of Metal Gear is a black ops soldier who specializes in solo missions that are so secret that the US will disavow any connection to him if he’s ever caught. Following the “Shadow Moses Incident” (the events of the original Metal Gear Solid for PSOne) Snake takes the fall for the disaster and is branded a terrorist. He is abandoned by his country, though he returns to save it (and the world) in subsequent games. Snake is a clone of Big Boss. He never knew his “father” until he was sent to kill him in the events of the original 8-bit Metal Gear game
Raiden, the surprise protagonist of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty was a child soldier. His parents were murdered shortly after he was born and he was taken in and raised by the man who killed them.
The description of an “abandoned child” could also refer to any number of supporting characters in the Phantom Pain. For instance it’s very likely that a young Liquid Snake is in the game as well as a young Psycho Mantis, two characters with very strong parental abandonment issues.
The description also very aptly describes Kazuhira Miller, Big Boss’ second in command. Miller is the son of a US soldier and a Japanese prostitute struggling to get by in post World War 2 Japan. His father did not stick around. Miller grew up an outsider, abandoned by both cultures of his heritage. It was only until he met Big Boss on the battlefield that he found a place where he felt he truly belonged.
We’ve explored how the trailer reappropriates the lyrics of the song to fit the themes of Metal Gear. To add another layer to the mix, we can look into the original intention of the lyrics to “Nuclear”, which are about the author’s grandfather and his traumatic experiences with World War I. Here are Mike Oldman’s words on the subject:
“I never knew him,” he says, “So I hired a company to find out about him. It turned out he was a great character before the war but came home a very different man. My mum was one of ten or eleven kids and all the children born after the war had problems like hers. I wanted to see if I could spread my senses in the place he was. I travelled around Ypres and the battlefield museums and I saw the graves of his regiment: the Royal Munster Fusiliers. And I could feel it. Still there. It’s a blessing and a curse for those of us who have this extra sensitivity.”
The song is about how the trauma of one life can reverberate across many generations. This has always been a core message of Metal Gear, which spans many generations from the past into the future. This is especially relevant to the themes of The Phantom Pain, which Hideo Kojima has described as “race and revenge.”
The opening message to the trailer reads:
“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured”
This quote is from Mark Twain, famed American novelist and in the age of social media, even more famous as a satirist, with many splashy quotes popping up in feeds across the world. Lesser known is Mark Twain, the member of the American Anti-Imperialist League, founded in 1898 to fight against America’s annexation of the Philippines. Twain abhorred Imperialism and its cruel exploitation of people across the globe, justified by a sense of racial and national superiority. The scars of this era still pock mark our world today. And in many places these wounds have are still open and have only gotten worse.
Metal Gear may just be a videogame to most people, but it touches on some of the most important topics of our times in a way that resonates very deeply with me. I can’t wait to see how the next chapter unfolds.
“Nuclear” by Mike Oldfield sounds a whole lot like the classic King Crimson song “Epitaph”
Which is coincidentally also the name of another really rad stand from JoJo (the main guy is “King Crimson” while the little guy on his forehead is named “Epitaph”)
Epitaph is another classic song that ponders the concept of war and its aftermath. I think there’s a very good chance that “Nuclear” is based on “Epitaph” as you can practically overlay the songs on top of one another. Also the first line of Nuclear; “Standing on the edge of the crater, Like the prophets once said;” could be a reference to the first line of Epitaph; “The wall on which the prophets wrote Is cracking at the seams.”
Speaking of crimson things, the color red features prominently in this trailer. Obviously this is inevitable with so much bloodshed. But I think it also relates to the classic Japanese folk tale of the Red Ogre and the Blue Ogre.
The story goes that there once was a Red Ogre and a Blue Ogre who were friends. The Blue Ogre desperately wanted to befriend some human villagers, but they were terrified of him. The Red Ogre came up with a plan. He would pretend to attack the village and the Blue Ogre would fight him off and save the day. The plan works marvelously and the villagers accept the Blue Ogre as their friend and savior. Later the Blue Ogre receives a message from his friend. The Red Ogre tells him that he must say goodbye. They can never be seen together again as their plan might be found out, and the Blue Ogre would lose his new human friends. It’s a very bittersweet story.
I believe this might be the basic plot outline to The Phantom Pain. The game was originally codenamed “Project Ogre.” The main characters are Big Boss (Red Ogre) and Kazuhira Miller (Blue Ogre). Big Boss (who now has a horn and a red prosthetic arm) is the longstanding antagonist of the Metal Gear series. Miller is his second in command, though in the events of Metal Gear Solid 1 (which takes place decades after Phantom Pain) Miller is clearly back in the employ of the United States, helping Solid Snake fight against his former comrade. At some point during The Phantom Pain, I believe that Big Boss and Miller will orchestrate some kind of falling out in order to plant Miller back into the good graces of the United States. I can’t wait to see how this plays out!
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading. Apologies for the slipshod nature of this post. I just wanted to get my thoughts out in a timely manner. I might update this post in the future to clean it up and punch it up with more visuals. Until then, take care!
One more clue about the ogre imagery was just pointed out to me by a friend. In the trailer Eli (who is likely Liquid Snake) is wearing a shirt that says “Never be Game Over.” Under that image is an ogre with an eyepatch!
This is the strongest indication of the Ogre allegory yet!
May 12, 1999, 15 years ago to this day, the best game I’ve ever played was released into the world. That game is Street Fighter III: Third Strike, easily my favorite game of all time. I’ve spent countless hours on Third Strike over the last 2 decades and I’m still just scratching the surface of its depth. But beyond the entertainment value, this game has enriched my life in 2 immeasurable ways: it inspired me as an artist and it helped me make some of the best friends I’ve had in life.
The character art by Daigo Ikeno is masterful. The poses, the angles, the confident rendering, the way he simplifies forms, it’s all so ON POINT. So stylized and fun, and yet so subtle and subdued. And the sprite animation is just peerless.
I could go on forever about Third Strike, but my words don’t really do it justice. So please enjoy this high resolution character art from Daigo Ikeno. If you have a copy of Third Strike, you should give it a spin. And if you’ve never tried it, well there’s no better time than now to start.
“Indeed… clothing is sin. When man ate the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge he became ashamed of his nakedness and covered his nethers. From the time humanity first gained free will as human beings it has been his fate to cover his body in the clothing called sin. Because we alone know man’s sin and create clothing for clothing’s sake!”
As Kill la Kill advances the plot at break-neck speed, the lore of its world comes out at an equally break-neck pace! While the early episodes delve into historic imagery of clothes (such as fascism), later episodes delve into the religious side of things:
Kill la Kill gives us the world-shattering revelation that it was not humanity which created clothes, it was clothing that chose the ancestor of humanity and spurred their evolution into a being that relies on clothing! This point is driven home with well known biblical imagery (Trigger is ex-Gainax after all!) but is there more to it?
There’s a sect of Christianity calledChristian naturalism that believes man’s natural state is to be naked and wearing clothes is the result of sin. To them, Adam & Eve were created pure in their nakedness until the serpent caused them to sin, so they covered themselves in leaves to hide their shame from God. God gave Adam & Eve animal skins, not for them to hide, but to show them that sin requires a blood sacrifice. Christian naturalists cite this event as the first time that bloodshed is known (an animal has to die for one to wear its skin) and all subsequent blood sacrifices, from common lambs to the Lamb of God (aka Jesus) is the price paid for this original sin.
While most Christian sects regarded the nudity the naturalists embraced as vulgar, the naturalists counter that nudity was an original state of human purity, it was when the body was covered by clothing that society began to regard nudity as lewd. Only by becoming comfortable with one’s own natural body could society’s shame be overcome.
Ryuko’s self consciousness holds her back
Only by embracing the kamui can its full power be unlocked
Nudist Beach’s naked struggle against the cosmic evil that is Life Fibers takes on biblical porportions, but can humanity really stand up to its own creator? What role will the blood fueled kamui play in the end? I can only find out by following Kill la Kill to its conclusion!
Nudists, Sin, Evolution, Sacrifice, Purity, Kill la Kill!
Here’s a random historic event I found while researching this article that’s very loosely related to the themes of Christianity and nudity (I highly doubt it has anything to do with Kill la Kill but it’s too interesting not to share):
“THE NAKED WALKERS”- On 10-11 February 1535 a number of Anabaptists had a meeting in the Zoutsteeg at Amsterdam, Netherlands. Suddenly their leader Henrick Henricxz Snyder threw his clothing into a fire and ordered his followers to also strip naked and do the same. They obeyed and together they walked out naked into the streets declaring their ‘naked truth’: “Woe, the wrath of God is coming over this city!” …they were later apprehended and executed for public indecency.
Completely unrelated image of Nudist Beach in power-walkers
Today, December 7, is the Rakugaking’s birthday. To celebrate, here is a small sampling of some of his pieces from his Hot Pot Girl’s exhibit (best show ever). Some of these original pieces are still available to purchase from Giant Robot here.
More posts about this show to come in the future.
In the meantime check out this previous Art-Eater post on Terada’s 2011 show, Terra’s Black Marker:
That was reaction to the first minute of watching Kill la Kill, the first fight of Kill la Kill, and the marathoning of every episode up to the latest (which you can watch online for free and legally here: http://www.killlakill.com/streaming/). Now I’m here to share with you my happy joyful feelings on this amazing show created by Studio Trigger (formed from ex-Gainax staff).
Dressed to Kill
When a show begins with a history lesson on fascism you wonder if it’s supopse to mean something. Luckily for us, the director of Kill la Kill, Hiroyuki Imaishi (of FLCL and Gurren Lagann fame) explains it outright: “When Japanese pronounce the english words ‘fashion’ and ‘fascism’, it sounds nearly the same.” and from there many more puns sprung forth and formed the key words to Kill la Kill’s plot.
To wear (clothes)
This is a story of fashion, fascism, and conquest through the power of blood soaked school uniforms.
Kill la Kill may be a fictional tale but it’s theme is one rooted in history. At the turn of the 20th century Japan was rapidly modernizing every fiber of its being, incluing its school uniforms and military. By 1932, their democracy ended in a bloody military coup (and attempted murder of Charlie Chaplin, but that’s another story…). Uniformed youth groups were a common tactic of fascist governments in molding the youth to be the soldiers of tomorrow. Today Japan is a pacifist nation that has disavowed war, but now there are talks of amending their peace constitution to rebuild the military, which has drawn criticism from prominent figures in animation such as Hayao Miyazaki. Could Kill la Kill also be commentary on contemporary Japanese politics? Am I reading too much into a pun? Who knows.
High school girls in seifuku wave to their classmate, a kamikaze pilot on his first and final mission.
Coming of Age
Our protagonist Matoi Ryuuko is introduced with her taunting a kid who has just stolen the lemon she bit into. For long time Gainax fans this seem familiar; the 1st episode of FLCL ends with Naota being offered a sour lemon drink from a girl that had already drunk from it, sharing an indirect kiss with her as his lips touched where hers were. Considering the director of Kill la Kill also worked on FLCL, it seems like an homage to the shared theme of ’coming of age’. In FLCL, Naota’s rejection of sour things showed his childishness, only liking sweet things while avoiding anything challenging. With Ryuuko, she bites into a sour lemon without flinching, this is a girl who faces hardship head on.
One of the most titilating (and controversial) aspects of Kill la Kill is the scanty outfits known as Kamui (神衣, lit. “God Clothes”) that feed on the wearer’s blood. It would be easy to dismiss it as cheap fanservice but Kill la Kill integrates it into the theme of ‘coming of age’, just as FLCL had with Naota’s head-teleporter/boner.
Strong imagery of puberty surround the donning of Kamui. When Matoi Ryuuko first awakens her Kamui by bleeding on it, she is embarassed by how it exposes her body to gawking men and the shame she feels becomes a handicap in battle. But her rival, the noble born Kiryuin Satsuki who rules Honno-ji Academy, fully embraces wearing the Kamui. To her it is merely an object of power which she wields with such confidence that no man dares to gaze at her without respect. Ryuuko is in turn inspired by her rival to truly embrace what it means to be comfortable with the Kamui, to acknowledge it as a part of her own body.
“This is the form in which a Kamui is able to unleash the most power! The fact that you are embarassed by the values of the masses only proves how small you are! If it means fulfilling her ambitions, Satsuki Kiryuin will show neither shame nor hesititation, even if she bares her breasts for all the world to see! My actions are utterly pure! -Satsuki shows Ryuuko the true meaning of purity and power
The Red Thread of Fate
The Kamui are made from “life fibers”, a mystic red thread which greatly enhance the wearer’s powers. ‘Red threads’ (紅線) show up in East Asian mythology as a device of fate by the Matchmaker God (月下老人 lit. ‘Old Man Under the Moon’ ) who uses the red thread of fate to tie people together by the pinky, making them destined to cross paths, as lovers or some other way that changes their lives.
Satsuki’s Kamui (Junketsu, 純潔 lit. ”Purity”) was referred to as her ‘wedding dress’, and has its counterpart in Ryuuko’s Kamui (Senketsu, lit. 鮮血 ”Fresh Blood”). It’s unknown who created Junketsu, but Senketsu was created by Ryuuko’s father, Matoi Isshin. Their family name Matoi (纏) literally means ‘tangle’, like say, tangling a thread…
The Road of Lords
Kiryuin Satsuki in particular stands out and is surrounded with imagery of regal power. She is the one who sits at the top of the heiarchy that is Honnouji academy and her lordly calibur is also expressed with her use of ancient Chinese proverbs:
The originator of that quote, Chen Sheng, was a child in a small village when he spoke of his ambitions to one day become powerful. When the villagers mocked him for his ambition, Chen Sheng responded: “Little sparrows cannot understand the ambition of a grand swan!”. He grew up to become a commander of the Qin dynasty, the first dynasty to unify China through military might, but his ambition continued to burn. Chen Sheng ultimately became the first man to rebel against the Qin, though it ended with his death. This lordly imagery surrounding Satsuki is also enhanced with a tie in to Japan’s most famous conqueror…
…in Satsuki’s ‘castle’, Honnouji academy. Honnouji is spelled with nearly the same kanji as Honno-ji temple, famous for being the lodgings of Oda Nobunaga as he planned his invasions. But Honno-ji is most famous as the site where Nobunaga was betrayed by a subordinate and killed. With references to warlords who ultimately failed in their ambitions, could this be foreshadowing Satsuki’s own fate? What role does the red thread that binds her with Ryuuko have in this? Whatever it is, I await every new episode of Kill la Kill with great anticipation!
Could Honnouji academy itself be some kind of gigantic Kamui robot? FLCL had its share of giant monster battling… we’ll have to watch and see!
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E3 has revealed to the world yet another stunning Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain trailer:
What speculation can we brew from this footage?
Eli- A youth who curses his fate
But the Lord spoke of Samuel’s sons: “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
Eliab was described as a tall and handsome man who looked every bit the part to be king. However David, his younger brother, was chosen to be king because he had a good heart and superior character. In Metal Gear Solid, Liquid Snake and Solid Snake are the “Sons of Big Boss,” clones created to be the perfect soldiers like their legendary father. The clones were inexact, with Liquid receiving Big Boss’s dominant traits (including making him a few cm taller) and Solid receiving his recessive traits, though Liquid would grow up with the misconception he possessed the inferior genes as he cursed his fate.
This wouldn’t be the first time Hideo Kojima makes a Bowie reference in Metal Gear, MGS3 had Major Zero going by the code name ‘Major Tom’, and Kojima wanted Space Oddity to be the end credits song.
Cunning insight or wild speculation? We’ll only know when the game comes out, but until then we’ll be wracking our brains in anticipation of Kojima’s next masterpiece.
*Special thanks to Weigy for his help on this post! *Richmond, Weigy and I will continue to pool our heads together and update this post as we speculate and maybe discover more
1 2 3 4 Watching the latest Dragon’s Crown trailer I was delighted by the density of historical and pop cultural references they managed to sprinkle into every shot. Dragon’s Crown is the latest game from Vanillaware, best known for Odin Sphere and Oboro Muramasa. Vanillaware is staffed by many ex-Capcom employees who worked on some of the best arcade games from back in the day, including Capcom’s Dungeons and Dragons: Tower of Doom and Shadow Over Mystara (my favorite beat-em-up next to Capcom’s Aliens vs Predator). Dragon’s Crown is very much a spiritual successor to these games, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the vast array of influences at work in this title. Here’s the trailer.
Now let’s go through shot by shot …
Walt Disney Presents … The trailer opens up with a glowing fairy flying by the Atlus logo. This is an homage to the iconic Disney introduction where Tinkerbell flies by and sprinkles pixie dust on the Disney logo. This is the first of many Disney tributes to follow.
I believe this animation was originally made for Disney’s first regular TV series, Disneyland which premiered in 1954 (predating the unveiling of the theme park of the same name which opened in 1955).
Disney has been using new variations on this animation ever since.
The Landscapes of Pieter Bruegel
Next up the Vanillaware Logo is overlaid on top of a backdrop that recalls the landscapes of Flemish Renaissance painter, Pieter Bruegel. The castle reminded me of Bruegel’s famous depictions of the Tower of Babel, which have provided inspiration to countless artists through the years. It’s not a direct analog to Bruegel’s Babel, however there is another castle at the very end of the trailer that is.
A similar spiraling tower also appears in Capcom’s Dungeons and Dragons: Shadow Over Mystara, a game which George Kamitani, director of Dragon’s Crown worked on.
While The Tower of Babel is very epic in scope, much of Bruegel’s work was very warm and focused on the mundane aspects of peasant life which was very unusual for a European painter of his time. This tendency was carried on by his eldest son who also became an accomplished painter. The work of the Bruegels provide a great launch pad for any artist aspiring to depict a medieval village. Much of Vanillaware’s background art is reminiscent of the paintings of the Bruegels.
Vanillaware art is always full of subtle authentic details
As the trailer continues the viewer is shown a dark corridor lined with Greek style statues of women. One of the figures recalls the statue of a wounded Amazon at The Met in New York.
The trailer continues with panning shots of more statues with strong Greek features.
Greek and Roman statues tend to have very strong nose bridges that go straight into the forehead
The shots of the crumbling corridor full of Greek style statues implies that parts of the game will involve exploring the ruins of even older civilizations. Intriguing!
Renaissance Portraits of the Rich and Famous
The trailer continues with a shot of a wealthy couple opulently dressed in Renaissance style garb. Each of them are brandishing a blue diamond, which could be an indication of royalty. The woman is holding a book, indicating a high level of education and refinement for the period. They look to be inside a castle overlooking a beautiful city. I am guessing that they will be your patrons on an important quest.
A good picture is worth a thousand words. There isn’t a single arbitrary design decision in this whole image; everything is in place to convey the emotional state, personality, culture, social status and worldliness of the subjects.
Medieval Knights and Longswords
Next up is one of my favorite images from the trailer, a ghostly knight brandishing a scroll.
He has been run through with a longsword wrapped in parchment with the message: HONESTA MORS TURPI VITA POTIOR. Translated from Latin, this means: An Honorable Death Is Better Than A Vile Life. His cape pin has a spade insignia (the strongest suite) and his helmet has a crown, both indicating royalty. As with almost everything in Dragon’s Crown, the ghostly knight’s proportions are hyper stylized, but the execution and details are very authentic. The style of longsword depicted here was first developed in England in the 1300s and primarily used by knights during the early days of the 100 Years War. By the 1500s it had fallen out of use on the battlefield, but continued to be popular as a weapon of sport and knightly duels. Perhaps this is the spirit of a great knight or even a king felled during a time of war.
Angels, Pomegranates and The Sacred Heart of Jesus
The supernatural imagery continues with a putto (a babyish angel or Cupid often mistakenly referred to as a “cherub” in modern times) holding a heart descending upon a desiccated corpse laid upon an altar draped in a funerary shroud.
The supine figure strongly recalls the beautiful Rococo sculpture The Veiled Christ by Giuseppe Sanmartino after a design by Antonio Corradini (who was initially commissioned for the piece but did not live to see its completion). This is one of the great works of western art and depicts the lifeless body of Jesus detailed with incredible sensitivity. The angel is holding a heart, perhaps recalling the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a Catholic devotion that originated in the middle ages. My friend and scholar Melvin originally mistook the heart for a pomegranate, a Christian symbol of resurrection. There are many classical paintings of The Christ Child holding pomegranates, symbolizing his future resurrection and the promise of eternal life. I’m willing to bet that this imagery is not lost on the folks at Vanillaware and this image will somehow tie into how you resurrect your characters in Dragon’s Crown should they die.
Continuing with the Christian imagery, the next character introduced is a man who is dressed very similarly to a Franciscan Friar, an order of monks founded in the 13th century. He looks to be holding a bible and has a statue of a figure that strongly resembles the Virgin Mary tied around his neck.
The Crusades The Christian references continue with the next character, a hulking knight dressed like a medieval Christian Crusader. His chest is emblazoned with a lion in the “rampant” pose, the most aggressive posture of the traditional European heraldry signs. I wonder if he was based off of the knight at the end of Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade? Their faces are very similar.
Conan The Barbarian
If you love Fantasy books and movies, then this next character needs no introduction. This mountain of a man is the spitting image of Arnold Schwarzenegger in his breakout role as Conan The Barbarian!
Trivia: the original script for the film Conan The Barbarian had Conan fighting mutant animal human hybrids, not unlike the classic pig-faced orcs lying defeated in the background of this image.
Conan the Barbarian put Arnold on the map and kicked off the Sword and Sorcery craze of the 80s leaving an incredibly deep impression on the young medium of videogames. The first Conan film is legitimately great. Penned and directed by John Milius (who also wrote the “all time great” film Apocalypse Now), it is one of the most iconic films out there–one of my absolute favorites. It was based on a series of short stories by Robert E Howard. The books are awesome and I enthusiastically recommend them to any fan of Fantasy or Literature (with a capital L!) in general. They may surprise you. Conan is one of the smartest characters I’ve ever encountered in fiction.
Frazetta Style Sorceress
You can’t have Swords and Sorcery without a buxom sorceress! This next character looks very much like a classic Frank Frazetta vixen.
*** Update: 5/13/2013 ***
Thanks to Hayato for pointing out that Frank Frazetta’s Sorceress was painted in 1994
She is dressed very similarly to Princess Teegra from the 1983 film, Fire and Ice, a collaboration between Frank Frazetta and Ralph Bakshi, a luminary of alternative American animation. Her pose and demeanor are much more fierce though, and recall Frazetta’s paintings of femme fatale sorceresses.
This is flat out one of my favorite homages in anything I’ve ever seen. This enthusiastic little fellow is a tribute to Mickey Mouse from the Sorcerer’s Apprentice segment of Disney’s Fantasia.
They’re both wearing the same iconic, pointy wizard’s cap and the warmly lit stairwell in the back is an especially nice touch.
Nike of Samothrace
Next we’re treated to another great icon of Western Art, The Nike of Samothrace (also called “The Winged Victory).
It’s speculated that this statue was originally made to commemorate a great naval victory.
The Films of Ray Harryhausen
The trailer continues with a collage of monsters straight out of the films of Ray Harryhausen, a titan in the world of special effects. As a child, Harryhausen saw King Kong (1933) and instantly fell in love with the “model animation” techniques used to bring its fantastic creatures to life. From that point on, Harryhausen dedicated his life to creating stop motion films that brought creatures and worlds only that only previously existed in imagination into the material world of film.
Harryhausen was very inspired by the burgeoning field of Science Fiction literature and was actually a close lifelong friend of another cultural titan, Ray Bradbury. Try to imagine a time when the terms “Visual Effects,” “Stop Motion” and “Sci-Fi” where not part of the vernacular. The work of Ray Harryhausen was crucial in bringing those concepts to a wide audience. From the 1940s through the 1990s Ray Harryhausen was responsible for some of the most fantastic and iconic creatures ever to grace a silver screen. These monsters left an indelible mark on film and surely inspired generations of game artists and developers as well. Mr Harryhausen, Vanillaware salutes you!
First up is that most humble of videogame foes, the killer skeleton. It’s absolutely ubiquitous today, but in 1958 when The 7th Voyage of Sinbad hit theaters in the US it was a totally novel concept.
Sinbad would go on to become a sleeper hit (it’s score by famous Hitchcock collaborator, Bernard Herman, is considered one of the best in film history and also undoubtedly influenced many early videogame sound tracks), but the skeleton warrior would make a huge splash several years later when it reappeared (and multiplied!) in Jason and the Argonauts (1963), one of Harryhausen’s more critically and commercially successful films and his personal favorite of the bunch.
The scene where Jason fights the group of skeletons, with its intricate, near seamless interaction of live action and animation elements, is considered a defining moment in the history of VFX.
(this clip does not contain the original audio track, but it sure is cool)
Talos, the Bronze Giant
The next Harryhausen creature to appear is Talos, a giant animated bronze statue that also appears in Jason and the Argonauts.
In Greek mythology, Talos was a giant man made out of bronze who was created by Zeus to protect Europa, the first Queen of Crete (and his lover who he had stolen away while disguised as a white bull). Europe takes its name after her.
Harryhausen’s version of Talos was inspired by classical depictions of the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World.
Engraving by Marten van Heemskerck (1498-1574)
Medussa is another iconic monster that Ray Harryhausen helped to define in the global consciousness with his 1981 film Clash of the Titans.
In Greek mythology, Medussa was a Gorgon, a monstrous female creature often depicted with sharp fangs and snakes for hair who could turn men to stone with her fierce gaze.
The earliest depictions of gorgons show them as women with scary faces, often adorning temples in order to protect them from harm.
In AD 8, the Roman poet Ovid completed the epic, The Metamorphosis, which introduced the idea that Medusa had once been an incredibly beautiful maiden before being cursed and transformed into a horrible monster. However artists had already been depicting Medusa with a classically beautiful face as early as the 4th or 5th Century BC.
The Medusa Rondanini. This is a roman copy of a Greek statue dating from either the 4th of 5th century that is considered to be the oldest known "beautiful gorgoneion."
By the Renaissance onward this became the new norm for Medusa.
Ray Harryhausen returned Medusa to her roots depicting her as grotesque monster. As far as I know, it was Ray Harryhausen who first designed her with the lower body of a snake and other heightened reptilian features such as scaly skin and a rattler. Vanillaware plays off of this convention and even adds a striped pattern to her scales similar to that of a timber rattlesnake, though they’ve chosen to maintain the attractive face preferred by most classical painters.
The monsters called out in this trailer represent just a small fraction of Ray Harryhausen’s oeuvre. Ray Harryhausen is one of the most important fantasy artists of the last century and his visual legacy lives on in countless films and videogames. To learn more about Ray Harryhausen please visit his official website here:
The Rosetta Stone Amidst the montage of Harryhausen creatures, we get a brief glimpse at an ancient looking black tablet that recalls The Rosetta Stone, a fragment of an ancient Egyptian stele (an upright stone slab inscribed with important information) of incredible historical importance. The Rosetta Stone was uncovered in 1799 by soldiers in Napoleon’s army who were digging the foundation for a fort in the port city of Rashid, Egypt, also known as Rosetta. The stone provided the key for researchers to decipher ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, a language which at the time had been dead for over a millenium.
The Rosetta Stone was unique because it was inscribed with a decree from King Ptolemy V in 3 separate scripts: Hieroglyphics (the language of the priests), Demotic (the language of every day life) and Greek (the language of government). Over a period of 2 decades, by comparing the hieroglyphics to the other scripts, which were better understood, researchers were finally able to crack the code of the ancient Egyptian script which adorned so many cultural treasures, but had been out of use since the fourth century AD.
The appearance of the Rosetta Stone look-alike in Dragon’s Crown is intriguing. Although the game is set in the past, the arcane tablet looks to be some kind of relic of an even older mega civilization that’s long gone. Much of the game will involve adventuring through ancient ruins looking for treasure.
Greater Demons and the Legacy of Princess Crown
Later in the trailer, the characters are shown battling a gigantic demon that looks like a buffed up version of the Greater Demon from Princess Crown, the progenitor of all Vanillaware games.
Princess Crown was directed by George Kamitani and was released for the Sega Saturn in 1997. The title of Dragon’s Crown is an homage to Princess Crown, a fantastic game that was much ahead of its time.
Princess Crown featured the lush puppet style animation pioneered by Vanillaware and currently popular in many indie games and Flash based games, yet it was made years before Adobe Flash even existed. Princess Crown was ported to PSP in 2005, but unfortunately neither version of the game has ever received an official release outside of Japan.
The game had an incredibly progressive story, starring a young Queen named Gradriel who takes up the sword to protect her kingdom from supernatural evil, just as her mother, the legendary hero, had done years before. The game (much like Odin Sphere) actually plays out as a series of books within the game. In this case it is being read by a grandmother to her granddaughter.
Recently there has been an outcry among gamers for a Zelda game starring Zelda. George Kamitani essentially made that game 16 years ago! This was the first story he ever penned when he was at the helm! But more on that in a future post!
Back to the Demon!
As you can see, the Greater Demon in Dragon’s Crown shares the same basic design as the one in Princess Crown. Both have bleached bone skull heads on top of muscular, fleshy blue bodies with proportionally small wings and a bony tail. The newer Greater Demon has a significantly more muscular build perhaps taking cues from another boss from Princess Crown, Evil Leon. He also has long horns and more pronounced tusks, much like the final boss of Princess Crown, the Dark God Larva.
*** Update: 5/13/2013 ***
My internet buddy Hayato has pointed out that this demon also makes an appearance in Grand Knights History, Vanillaware’s strategy RPG for PSP which also never saw an official release outside of Asia.
As you can see this version of the Greater Demon is much closer to the one found in Dragon’s Crown. I guess this is a recurring character!
All these demons were also very likely influenced by the Dark Warrior, a boss character from Capcom’s 1993 arcade brawler Dungeon’s and Dragons: Tower of Doom, a game on which George Kamitani was a main designer.
The Greater Demon in both Dragon’s Crown and Princess Crown emerges from a summoning circle, also known as a pentacle.
This is a reference to The Lesser Key of Solomon, a 17th Century textbook of magic (also known as a grimoire) written from the perspective of King Solomon, which gave instructions on how to summon spirits through seals, incantations and other rituals.
Vanillaware built an entire game around this subject in their 2007 RTS game, Grimgrimoire.
That’s all for today, but there’s still much to cover in this trailer. Keep your eyes peeled on for more updates from Art-Eater on Facebook and Twitter as we look deeper into the world of Dragon’s Crown. Thanks for reading!
So the trailer the next generation of Pokemon is out!
I still remember the joy of getting Pokemon Blue on my birthday… and then I realize that was nearly 16 years ago. Pokemon has persisted since then, each generation bringing another 100 critters to collect (and more multimedia tie-ins), adding new gameplay elements, and also building upon its incredible lore. So let’s talk about that lore.
Every Pokemon generation has carried a core theme that shapes the story, setting, and legendary Pokemon to catch. But it’s the antagonists of each generation that really define what the game is about, and their theme builds upon the generation before them.
Pokemon Red/Blue and Gold/Silver is about coming into conflict to attain powerful WEAPONS. The pokedex is full of colorful quips about the violent power of Pokemon able to melt steel with their breath or reduce buildings to rubble with a swing of their tail. From the Koga ninjas to Lt. Surge, we’re shown that Pokemon have fought alongside humans in conflicts ancient and recent, though there is peace in the present day. The image of Pokemon is softened through a trainer program where young kids are given Pokemon to treat as their friends and companions.
Enter Team Rocket, an underground organization that holds on to the archaic view that Pokemon are weapons to be wielded, and use them against their fellow man. When scientists obtain the genes of the phantom Pokemon Mew, they use its immense genetic potential to craft the ultimate weapon, Mewtwo. But its immense power proves uncontrollable, and the scientists are destroyed by their own creation.
Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire is about coming into conflict to attain TERRITORY. The towns you visit are dotted among islands (some even manmade), past vibrant rainforests, through parched deserts, and even inside dormant volcanoes. The unique properties of each environment are cherished by its human occupants, for land is a finite resource and they respect what they have
Enter Team Aqua and Team Magma. Magma seeks the legendary Groudon, who can make land rise from the ocean depth. Team Aqua seek the legendary Kyogre, who can send landmasses sinking beneath the waves. Team Aqua and Magma battle to control them for they give their wielder the power to create new land by raising the earth, or making existing land scarce by raising the seas, power that would fundamentally change the human view of territory as set and finite.
Emerald adds a 3rd being, Rayquaza who dwells in the stratosphere, and the extraterrestrial Pokemon Deoxys. This generation’s movie centers around Deoxys arriving on earth as a meteor, which Rayquaza considers a violation of his territory. Conflict for territory is also within the realm of Pokemon.
Pokemon Pearl/Diamond is about coming into conflict to attain ENERGY. Towns in the game are themed after different energy resource such as wind power, solar power, and even coal mining, which is presented in a matter-of-fact way to show how humans harness energy.
Enter Team Galactic, an organization that is studying the energy released when a Pokemon evolves and find that it disregards the law of conservation of energy, there is more energy being created than expended. They then investigate this phenomenon as a potential new energy source. Team Galactic’s research leads them to seek the legendary Dialga, creator of time, and Palkia, creator of space. To be able to create energy from nothing is the power of creating a new world.
Pokemon Black/White is about coming into conflict for IDEAOLOGY. Team Plasma believes catching pokemon is cruel, and will forcibly ‘liberate’ Pokemon from their trainers. Unlike previous antagonist teams, Team Plasma is actively preaching their message, and will even go to such measures as using Pokemon to enter people’s dreams to incept their ideology among the masses. Team Plasma is driven by intense righteousness and view the world in Black and White terms.
Their uniforms are based off the real-world Christian crusaders, who warred to spread their beliefs. The symbol of Team Plasma also bears resemblance to the “Chi-Rho”, a symbol used by the first Christian Emperor of Rome, Constatine. When Constantine was in a war of succession for control of Rome, the Chi Ro appeared to him in a dream. He put the mark upon the shields of his men and the next day they were victorious in battle.
Left: The historical Chi-Rho Right: The symbol of Team Plasma
The ideology of Team Plasma attracts philosophers from around the world, known collectively as the Seven Sages.
Their in-game dialog uses lines from classic Chinese philosophical works.
“I say… Know your enemies, know yourself, and know you need not fear the result of a hundred battles… “
-Sun Tzu, Art of War
“If you make a mistake and do not correct it, that is a second mistake” -Confucius
“When the Way is forgotten, duty and justice appear.” -Dao De Jing
Is the line Bronius speaks when you confront him at Plasma’s castle, but the complete verse reads as follows:
“When the Way is forgotten, duty and justice appear. Then knowledge and wisdom are born, along with hypocrisy.”
“Superior men understand what is right. Inferior men understand what will sell.” -Confucius
“There are not two suns in the sky, nor two sovereigns over the people.” -Attributed to Confucius by Mencius
“It is the way of the universe to take from excess and fill emptiness.
-Dao De Jing
“Those in accord with Fate are preserved, and those who rebel against Fate perish.” -Mencius
“We can only do our best and leave the rest to fate”
-Hu Yin, Song Dynasty philosopher
Despite this trend, their ‘leader’ Ghetsis never speaks any line from Chinese philosophy. It is ultimately revealed that the goal of Ghetsis was to seize all the Pokemon and rule the region unopposed. Ghetsis seeks the power of the Tao Dragons to fulfill his goal.
The lore of Black/White speaks that in the distant past, twin heroes created the Unova region with the aid of a mighty Dragon Pokemon. But the two brothers held different values in high esteem, the older believed in Truth, the younger in Ideals, and so they began to fight one another. The ideological war between the brothers split the Dragon thus split into two halves, the Yang Dragon Reshiram and the Yin Dragon Zekrom. The war of the brothers was inherited by their descendants, and their battles ruined the land until the dragons disappeared. But it had gone unnoticed that a third dragon also formed, one that embodied Wuji, the absence of Yin and Yang, Kyurem.
What is a ‘Hero’? The one who knows he is ‘right’! What is a ‘villain’? Anyone who stands in the way of your beliefs!
But… maybe lofty ideals are just an excuse for seizing power. Maybe the Ideals preached by your leaders aren’t actually the Truth. Maybe the world shouldn’t be viewed in Black and White terms.That is what Pokemon Black & White is about.
Power, Territory, Energy, Ideology, these are all things humans have used violence to attain.
Pokemon Training is taking force of violence, and transforming it into a sport which brings people and Pokemon, together in friendship.
That is what Pokemon is about. And we will see how Pokemon X/Y builds upon the lore.
Andy Lee is a historian and game designer working in Beijing China. Andy does much of the research that goes into Art-Eater articles. I highly recommend you follow him on Twitter, Tumblr and Quora.
If you enjoyed this article, check out the interview that Andy conducted with Wolf Smoke Studio, creators of Batman of Shanghai!
Wolfsmoke Studio! The dynamic duo behind Batman of Shanghai and Kungfu Food Girls.
The following is an interview with Wolf Smoke Studio, one of the most exciting young animation studios in the world today. Wolf Smoke Studio animated the highly acclaimed Batman of Shanghai shorts for Cartoon Network’s DC Nation block:
Art-Eater contributor Andy Lee recently caught up with the duo behind Wolf Smoke Studio at their home base in Shanghai. As far as I know, this is their very first English language interview! Thanks for the scoop Andy!
When I first saw Batman of Shanghai I was blown away. ‘This is amazing! Wow that Catwoman’s really cute! Who did this? Is this a Chinese Studio!?’ I had to know, and so I cast a bottle into the ocean of youtube comments. As fate would have it, the animators themselves responded! So we set a date to meet in Shanghai!
Introducing the dynamic duo behind the works:
Wu Yan: Writer, Character Designer, Color Designer; the stories spring fourth from her imagination!
Jin Roh: Director, Lead Animator; he hand draws the keyframes that bring it all to life!
When the two teamed up to form a studio they combined their names; ‘Roh’ means wolf and ‘Yan’ is a homophone for smoke so Wolf Smoke was born! Two people pursuing their dreams and raising the bar of animation in China, and the world. They took the time out of their busy schedule to sit down with me and have a chat.
First, the important stuff. What is your favorite food?
Jin Roh (Wolf): Anything spicy.
Wu Yan (Smoke): And meat, seafood… Too many!
What is your goal at Wolf Smoke Studio?
Jin Roh (Wolf): Make awesome animation and tell great stories.
Wu Yan (Smoke): Let other people see the beautiful scenes in our minds.
What are some of your favorite animated works?
Jin Roh (Wolf): Jin-Roh of course (laughs)! And the one with the white haired protagonist, Mushishi.
Who are your favorite animators?
Wolf: Nishio Tetsuya, Hiroyuki Imaishi, and Yoshihiko Umakoshi etc. Too many. We can use a whole night talking about it. Haha.
Tetsuya Nishio (西尾 鉄也): Ace animator on too many great shows and movies to name here. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably seen his work before. Tetsuya Nishio MAD
Hiroyuki Imaishi (今石 洋之): Heir apparent to the legendary Yoshinori Kanada and director of Gurren Lagann, Dead Leaves and Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt): Hiroyuki Imaishi MAD
Yoshihiko Umakoshi(馬越 嘉彦): character designer and animation director on Casshern Sins, Saint Seiya Omega, Precure and much more. Toonami – Casshern Sins Promo
How did you two, the founding members of Wolf Smoke Studio, first meet each other?
Smoke: A JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Chatroom, we both thought Jotaro was the coolest (laughs)
Oh, anther question which we need one hour to answer, lol. We love different style of music, heavy metal, new ages, Goth metal, old kungfu movie music, etc.
What is your favorite game?
Wolf: Street Fighter III [Andy: Hey that’s mine too!], Final Fantasy VII and XII. Other Capcom’s excellent games are also an inspiration to us. We’re fans of Capcom.
Did you always want to go into animation/How did you get into animation?
Wolf: I initially didn’t think I was any good at animation, so I studied traditional Chinese paper cuts (laughs)
Smoke: I wanted to be a Manga writer and put my manga online. After we met we thought, why not try making an animation? Wolf has a great sense of motion that he conveys in his animation, but he felt like his coloring skills were weak. I have experience with colors through doing manga, so we combined our strengths!
Is it hard finding talent in China?
Smoke: Most people that want to join us are students. They have passions and dreams, but are lacking in experience.
What are the animation schools like in China?
Smoke: Animation schools in china is bullshit, I can say that because I graduated from one! I totally understand what they teach, and they teach you nothing. When they join our studio we have to train them from scratch. Our skills are basically self-taught. This one [Little Big War] was made by two students of ours:
We trained them for about a year. Yes, hard to find talent, hard to hold on to people, people move to videogames cos it pays more. Talent is rare globally, even tried going to Japan to find people. We thought, with China’s huge population, that we’d be able to find enough talented people but we’ve looked for years. We’ve looked in Japan, but the quality of animation today is not as good as they’re in 90’s.
What kind of work do you do for Chinese clients?
Smoke: Companies approach us for animation sample. The (Chinese) Government gives incentives to open/fund studios, so through the high quality samples, the companies can get money from Government. 5:00pm – 8:00pm no foreign shows can play. [Editor’s note: this gives home grown shows a competitive edge] But this means many people only want to make very cheap products to get the government funds and that’s it.
What are differences between animation in China, Japan and America?
Smoke: Pixar, Dreamworks animators lead good lives because their movies make money so they can produce good work. Opposite of Japan; in Japan everyone works like a dog, but they produce good animation and are happy with it. But in China, you can get neither money or opportunity to making good animations. Haha. So we have to create the chance by ourselves.
Do you have a message for your American fans?
Smoke: We can animate more than just fight scenes [Andy: which they do incredibly well already!]. We want to do all kinds of styles of animations. We always want to try new things because if you stop running, you die.
As our meeting came to a close, they were also kind enough to leave me a hand drawn sample of their work!
In the earliest concept art released for the game, Asura is depicted standing ragged with his body pierced by various weapons adorned with Vajras.
The Vajra is an iconic symbol of Buddism, but not as well known in the West.
In Sanskrit it means both thunderbolt and diamond and bears their symbolic properties as an unbreakable weapon that slices through any substance with irresistible force.
The Vajra is first mentioned in Indian Vedic texts (originating from 1700 BCE, predating Buddhism!), where it was wielded by Indra, king of the devas, to fight against the Asura, Vritra (often described as a dragon or serpent) who had swallowed up all the life giving waters of the world.
A Tibetan representation of Vritra. As you can see, he is strongly associated with Dragons.
This Asura had a specific boon (a wish granted by a god) where he could not be killed by any weapon forged of metal or wood, making him impervious to all known weapons and allowing him to take over Indra’s kingdom. In the quest to defeat Vritra, the great sage Dadhichi willingly gave up his life so that the devas could craft the ultimate weapons from his bones. Thus Tvashtar, smith of the devas created the first Vajra from Dadhichi’s spine (some sources say his thigh bone or skull). Wielding the Vajra, Indra struck down Vritra and restored water to the world.
Awesome Hindu painting of Indra striking down Vritra with the Vajra (depicted here as a sword)
The Vajra is one of the most wide spread Buddhist symbols. It appears regularly in Mahayana Buddhist art and is especially ubiquitous in Tibetan Buddhism, which falls under the Vajrayana School, which takes its name directly from the Vajra (“Vajrayana” literally means “The Thunderbolt Way”). Lightning strikes more frequently in the Himalayas than almost anywhere else on earth (second only to central Africa), so it makes sense that the Vajra would spring up as such an important symbol in this region of the world. The Vajra has become an important symbol in Buddhist and Hindu art the world over.
Tibetan's have an awesome custom of forging Vajras out of iron from meteorites!
In Vedic and Hindu art, the Vajra is depicted in many different ways including as a club, a sword or even a discus with a hole in the center. In Buddhist art (including that of India), the Vajra is very most often depicted as a hand held weapon that consists of a single handle with a trident on each side. The trident tips are usually curved inward, representing the Buddha symbolically bending the prongs of this ultimate weapon to turn it into a peaceful scepter.
In Tibetan art, the Vajra prongs can be closed or open, representing peace and wrath alternatively.
An excerpt from The Handbook of Tibetan Buddhist Symbols by Robert Beer. You can purchase this wonderful book here: http://goo.gl/M5MHm
There are countless depictions of Buddhist deities brandishing Vajras from every school of Buddhism.
An early Indian Buddhist stone sculpture
A 12th Century Japanese Esoteric Buddhist scroll painting of Brahma (right) and Indra (left) by Takuma Shoga. Brahma is holding a trident with the tips bent inward (closed Vajra tip). Indra is depicted brandishing a single-pointed Vajra.
Bonus Info – Siddham Script
A beautiful modern oil painting of Weituo, a Buddhist Deity dressed in Chinese armor who guards the grave of the historical Buddha. Weituo's Vajra is usually depicted as a giant spike, not unlike the spears sticking out of Asura in the concept art. If anyone knows the name of the artist that painted this, please let me know!
The above painting is by Beijing based artist, Zhang Kan (张瞰) from the Nepal and China Collection (尼泊尔中华寺收藏). It stands at 2 meters tall and is selling for 230,000 yuan ($36,415.44)! I’m glad this artist is doing well!
Nio Guardians (classic temple guardians) often brandish a single-pronged Vajra.
Vajras aren’t exclusively for demigods, some historical figures are also popularly portrayed holding Vajras.
Kūkai (空海), founder of Shingon Buddhism in Japan is often portrayed brandishing a Vajra
Tying It All Back To The Game – The Eight Guardian Generals vs Vlitra The very first boss in the game is a gargantuan serpentine monster named Vlitra, a reference to Vritra, the aforementioned serpent of Vedic mythology that the Vajra was originally created to defeat.
The Eight Guardian Generals are almost defeated by this terrible monster that destroys entire armadas of space ships with just a breath. However, when all seems lost, Asura is revived and empowered by his daughter, the priestess Mithra. In his charged up state, Asura sprouts extra arms and becomes…
SIX-ARMED VAJRA ASURA!!!
… and handily defeats the unkillable beast Vlitra!
As soon as I saw this moment in the game (and in the first episode no less) I knew the creators of the game were really doing their homework and I wasn’t crazy for reading so much into it!
My hat’s off to Capcom and Cyberconnect2 for putting together such a rich, well researched, immaculately executed narrative!
Thanks for reading this latest installment of A Buddhist’s Guide to Asura’s Wrath. Tune in next Wednesday for another installment!
Welcome to the second installment of A Buddhist’s Guide to Asura’s Wrath. First off, I want to thank everyone who read and shared Part 1. Because of your positive feedback and support, the article got the attention of Capcom and Cyberconnect 2 who reposted it on their website and Facebook page respectively. It feels pretty great to get such positive reception from the creators of the game!
The article then went on to be featured on Kotaku.
This has been very life affirming for me, so thanks for reading! Now on with the tour! Lets talk about Weapons!
Buddhist Weapons The characters in Asura’s Wrath wage war using a mix of ancient and modern weapons. You could say the characters are quite … well armed (haha that was terrible!). Many of the weapons depicted in the game have special significance in Buddhism.
Shakujo (錫杖) – The Bishop’s Staff
The debut video for Asura’s Wrath opens with Asura being struck by a rain of spears:
The shape at the head of these projectiles indicates that they’re shakujos.
Shakujos, also known as bishop’s staffs, monk sticks, xīzhàng (Mandarin) and khakkharas (Sanskrit) were originally walking sticks used by travelling monks originating in India. The sticks were sometimes adorned with jangling rings that were used in prayer and telegraphed the approach of a holy man. The sound of the rings could also be used to ward of dangerous animals and the stick could be used in self defense. Over time the shakujo was incorporated into various religious rituals with the number of rings corresponding to the rank of the wielder.
In the hands of Shaolin monks, the Shakujo was developed into a ritual weapon.
In China, the Shakujo has long been romanticized as the weapon of choice of warrior monks through hundreds of years of Wuxia novels and more recently movies, tv shows, comics and games. This practice lives on in Japan (Zen Buddhism is the Japanese form of Chan Buddhism, the sect of Buddhism practiced in Shaolin) where people still train in fighting with Shakujos to this day.
The Shakujo continues to enjoy popularity as a weapon in many manga, anime and videogames.
Left to Right: Miroku from InuYasha, Sakuyamon from Digimon, Caffeine Nicotine from Samurai Shodown; Senna from Bleach.
And now for your viewing pleasure, here is a real life, badass, one armed, Zen Buddhist monk shakujo master:
Pretas (餓鬼) – Hungry Ghosts
The enemies shown attacking Asura with shakujos are Pretas, also known as hungry ghosts (called “Gaki” in Japanese).
Pretas were greedy people in past lives, now reborn as disfigured monsters who roam the world filled with an unquenchable thirst (usually for something gross like poop).
Pretas are characterized by their thin limbs, distended bellies and pitiful expressions. Pretas inhabit the land of hungry ghosts, one of the 6 realms of rebirth, located just below the Asura Realm.
Their world sometimes overlaps with ours, though they’re invisible to the human eye and generally have no effect on mortal life.
In cultures that observe the Chinese calendar, there’s even a special holiday for Pretas called The Hungry Ghost Festival where people leave out offerings of food to relieve the constant suffering of Pretas and help them along to their next life.
Offerings left out for Pretas during the Hungry Ghost festival. Photo by Worldtripper from Webshots. http://travel.webshots.com/photo/1088295135042464673JfAlxQ
Pretas make very good enemy grunts as they’re pitiable low ranking spirits.
The idea that the Pretas in Asura’s Wrath are being commanded by a higher deity is also consistent with Buddhist tradition. Many Buddhist deities (particularly the fierce looking ones) command armies of reformed demons. These deities are often depicted standing proud, stepping on a vanquished demon as a base.
And just for good measure, here’s an old painting of a Yokai (not a Preta, but a Japanese goblin) dutifully carrying a shakujo.
That’s it for part 2 of A Buddhist’s Guide to Asura’s Wrath. Here’s a link to part 1 in case you missed it!
Illustration by my good buddy Weigy; http://blog.weigy.com/
That’s all for today. Tune in again this Wednesday as we continue our look at the historically Buddhist weapons employed in Asura’s Wrath.
Lightning fast strikes, flying kicks, incomparable lattisimi dorsi muscles, and the piercing warcry of “WATAAAAAH!”, few men have made as huge an impact on the very fabric of modern badassery as Bruce Lee.
Here is but a few of the many video game and manga characters we have thanks to The Dragon. What characters are your favorite Bruce Lee tributes? Tell us in the comment’s section!
On July 20th to the 21st a Dragon’s Crown art exhibit was held in Akihabara, and our pal in Japan known by the codename ‘The Professor’ (of the legendary Madman’s Cafe) was there to catch it! Here are his photos from the event:
Scenes of Adventure and Danger from the world of Dragon’s Crown
The Fairy gets deep in the cups… but who is dog?
Sorceress and Wizard outfits, for sale?
If you could have only one, which would you choose? (The answer is “all of them”)