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LONG BLOG

Anime, demons, and emblems, oh my! / Why the idols and aesthetics of #FE work!

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Man, people sure are upset about that new Atlus and Nintendo game. What was it called again? Bengay & The Rock Hashtag Jefe or something? Man, those crazy Atlus and Nintendos and their crazy titles, am I right?


Crazy.

Okay, but in all seriousness, it seems a lot of people are still hung up about the game for this reason and that, despite the fact that the more we see of it, the more it continues to look like a pretty solid lovechild of the two franchises it seems to be frantically shoving together like Barbie dolls.

Yeah, it was probably announced way too soon, and probably only at that to sell a few more Wii Us when they didn't have much else to sell to that crowd at the time, but what can you do? Start a mob?


Oh. I guess you can, huh?

The things people are upset about are, for the mob's credit, at least staying roughly the same, which is more than you can say about some angry internet mobs, as they'll often just latch onto the most recent "damning" point and abandon the rest, often because the rest probably were never that damning to begin with.

For starters, there's the whole "we were lied to!" bit, which seems a little silly now given that we're well past the point of that mattering one way or the other anyway. More importantly though, they clearly had nothing to show for the game, whereas now they do, so holding a trailer with no content and a poorly chosen title against them now when they actually do have a game to show, well, that just seems like a waste of time to me.

Next, there's the "it doesn't look like Fire Emblem OR Shin Megami Tensei!" bit, which just doesn't make sense to me. The more they show of this game, the more convinced I am that they are providing a game that does feature elements of both franchises, with "SMT" being taken to Megami Tensei games at large.

At this point, if not for the next two points, which happens to be the focus of today's blog, I'd struggling to see how people still can't see what's up with this game and how much it looks like the beautiful lovechild of both of these two franchises.

I mean, it's already making me wish we got more crossovers like this, and it's not even out yet! Sure, mashups are nice and all, but I want to see more fusions like this!

Oh well. Maybe I'll get into that in another blog. In the meantime, let's get to those last two points so I can get on with the main topic of the blog, shall we?


Insert TO BE CONTINUED arrow... here!

While both of these franchises are JRPG franchises, a common complaint about the visuals presented in the trailers for Genei Ibunroku #FE is that they're "too anime," that it "looks like a weeaboo game."

Randomly, in case people weren't aware, the J in JRPG stands for Japanese, Japanese meaning something of or relating to Japan, and Japan coincidentally being the country where anime comes from. Weird, right?

Now as for the argument that it looks too anime or like a weeaboo game, or even like a Compile Heart game, well, while I'm sure they would be thrilled to hear that, I think people tend to forget that anime hasn't always looked like it does now when making this assertion. What's more, Fire Emblem and Megami Tensei games have changed over the years too.


... or have they?

The very first Fire Emblem game that we got in the US features its lead heroine, and pretty much any female cast member, being flirted with in the opening chapters of the game. It even features some waifu shenanigans that, if you believed the internet, were exclusive to Awakening, which ruined the series. You have what is arguably a stereotypical moeblob that doesn't like talking to men in the same game. The original Fire Emblem even has Marth befriending his very own dragon waifu, who can still be found lusting after him thousands of years later in Awakening.

Even the darker and edgier Shin Megami Tensei games like Digital Devil Saga were often more in line with what anime was like at the time. Heck, don't take my word for it, just look: this is what anime looked like when Digital Devil Saga came out. Look at that for a minute, would you?

Paranoia Agent was just airing in Japan. Samurai Champloo and one of the Ghost in the Shell anime, shows people nowadays bring up when they say "they don't make 'em like they used to," were what people were looking forward to as new things to tune into and watch. Hell, the very first Yu-Gi-Oh! anime was only just ending! They're on the fifth one right now!

With all that in mind, with that being what was the norm back then, I think it's normal to expect that over ten years later, with so much having changed in that time, the games would look different and match what the new norm is now.


Better yet, line up the different Kamen Rider heroes in order and look at how the designs change with the times.

If you want my honest opinion on this, it's not that these franchises, once stalwart and noble in their goals, now have corrupted by otaku filth. It's that these franchises were always anime and weeaboo and whatever. This game isn't any different in that respect.

What makes it different is that, while, say, mainline Shin Megami Tensei titles might try more to stick to its roots, as it's a consistent series, newer branch MegaTen games like Devil Survivor, Persona, or, well, even this, they tend to adapt to how modern anime and tastes have changed, just like new Fire Emblem games have over the years. You don't want your games to feel dated, right?

So for the whole "it looks too anime" or "it's a weeaboo game" thing, that's actually both wrong and right. It's wrong because both franchises have always been that, so if they weren't before, this shouldn't change that now, and it's right because both franchises always have been that.


Sometimes literally!

Anime and the rest of Japanese media, and worldwide media as well for that matter, has all been changing, like it always has, and so the two franchises evolved their art styles to keep up with the times, like they always have. Just reminding players of their plays through the Fire Emblem Awakening DLC maps should be all the evidence I need to convince fans of that series as much, and as for MegaTen, well... Look up.

Certainly, things have changed with the franchises, that much is true, but as far as this specific line of thought goes, I think the thing that's really different now is that people know about the franchises in question much more and have decided they know what's best for them. There's also the element of nostalgia at work, which we can't forget, as well as the downright abnormal distaste for modern anime that perhaps is simply just an extension of nostalgia, but regardless, it is what it is.

Perhaps one might argue I'm doing the same thing, though? That I'm deciding I know what's best? Maybe! Maybe not! If nothing else, I am trying to understand, which is more than can be said about some members of many internet mobs out there. That's something not nearly enough people try to do, in mobs or otherwise, but especially in those internet mobs.

No, not all people in them crazy internet mobs are like this, certainly, but many, for sure. Not many even consider betraying the mobs...


no one will get this joke

Anyway, here's the real question, boys and girls:

Does this actually change anything?

Should this actually change anything?

The answer is that that is entirely up to you.

Perhaps you, hypothetical member of the internet mob I'm addressing, will disagree. Perhaps you will feel like you see the two franchises that birthed it in a new light, but ultimately still not like Genei Ibunroku #FE. That's cool. Totally okay.

I'm not saying anyone should come away liking it more or less based on this. For one thing, it's not even out yet. For another, I could be completely full of it.

So yeah, people don't have to come away from reading this with anything, quite frankly.

Personally, I think the kneejerk reaction people seem to have to modern anime and Japanese game trends, while admittedly sometimes warranted, could do with some evaluation, but perhaps it's just a symptom of age that can't be helped. Maybe I'll be saying the same thing in a few years, despite being older than some of the people that make these complaints. Who knows?

Whatever the case, now that I've said my piece on the game's visuals, let's wrap this up and close with the game's supposed themes.


Look at those nice and plump themes right ther-- Wait, this isn't a boobs image? But you people told me this game was nothing but boobs! ... What do you mean the protagonist has a pns?! I want my money back!

The last point people bring up is the idol aspect of the game. Compile Heart's Omega Quintet is brought up sometimes, as if Compile Heart and its Omega Quintet invented idols (I suspect at least someone at Bandai Namco must really regret not localizing [email protected] now), but I'm... really not sure what to say about that. It's kind of baffling.

Plus, Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem have had idols, singers, musicians, and entertainers of varying degrees in their games for ages anyway. In the case of Fire Emblem, entertainers have evolved over time, so fantasy entertainers, like dancers and bards, might be more acceptable in our Lord of the Rings and Dungeons and Dragons brainwashed minds, but it still certainly has them. They just changed.

If this is starting to seem redundant, don't worry! While this is somewhat of an extension of what I was talking about above, it's also what really inspired me to write this, since I had something of an epiphany about this game's idol stuff yesterday.

In other words, I went and saved the most important part for the bottom of a boring blog again. Woops!

Quick, get a sexy magical girl in here to distract them, stat!


Did someone call for a sexy distraction?

So, idols!

First off, while I don't believe it was posted here, there was actually an interview way back that actually addressed this topic months ago and should really have nipped it in the bud way back then, but as tends to happen with these things, I suspect most people haven't seen it. Here's the pertinent quote for those interested:

"Yamagami and Takada also explained why the game is so heavy on Japanese pop idol culture and why so many characters are shown singing.

'This is why the characters are all entertainers: in Japan, similar to Greek mythology, there's the idea of the gods being connected to the arts," Takada said. "It's a shamanistic element that's been interpreted by Atlus. The idea is, Japanese priestesses would dance and the dancing would bring them closer to the gods. We wanted to spin this in an Atlus way, so all the characters in the game have some connection to the arts, and that connection and their ability to express themselves attracts the Mirages to them. People who are good at singing or dancing or acting have really strong bonds with Mirages.'
"

Seems pretty legit, right? Especially if you consider, if nothing else, even if you have no background and want to outright deny everything they say as simply trying to excuse their attempts to appeal to otaku or whatever, that what they're talking is actually true of characters in actual Fire Emblem games, even if they're not mentioning as much here.

So yeah, if you ask me, that seems pretty fair. In fact, in an ideal world, that should be the end of it! In fact... Yes, maybe it was...


And this was totally when Frieza died.

... except it wasn't, so people are still talking about it.

On the kind of cool side, though, because people are still talking about it, it dawned on me how the whole idol thing actually works really well with what they're trying to do, sort of. To me. Kind of.

What I'm saying is this next part is basically speculation, but hear me out! It's totes legit! #forreals

Why in the world would a Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem lovespawnchild suddenly focus on idols of all things? Besides for the explanation they already gave that actually does work pretty well as is, I mean.

I'm gonna poll the audience on this one: How would you go about presenting a Fire Emblem story in the modern day? What is something Fire Emblem games typically have before all else?


"Deep and complex combat!" "Blackness and despair!" "Grim and dark stories featuring the harsh realities of war!" "Tharja is best girl!"

You'd probably need lords... yes? Maybe? No? Well, okay, whatever you answered, we're going with lords. Leaders, heroes, you know, the good guys. That's sort of a big thing in Fire Emblem.

Unfortunately, thanks to Megami Tensei hijacking things to the present day, things aren't exactly that simple anymore, especially in this cynical, paranoid post-9/11 world we call our present day. If we're going for a modern setting, people probably won't be able to get behind a game about government officials or even modern day royalty like they can about fantasy princes and princesses and such.

Let's look at Fire Emblem again.


We can also look at one of my favorite image memes while we're at it.

The lords, and perhaps the characters in general, are people who lend themselves out to their countrymen. They're old school royalty. They have power, or may not depending on their situation, and while perhaps they've lived a very luxurious or sheltered life, they're doing what they can for their fellow person. Similarly, you've got the knights and so on doing the same and following after their lords like the good knightly knights they are.

Most people know who they are, even in other countries, even people who hate them, but even then, these people still know them at a glance, and the common person will probably trust them without question in most cases, to the point they might be easily fooled by impostors.

Now what in the world is the modern day equivalent to that that could still work for a hero consumers would be willing to go for and support?

It's not princes, and it's not even the super nice politicians.

It's celebrities, guys.


If Stephen Fry, Morgan Freeman, and Hiroshi Fujioka walked up to you and asked to hide out in your house until the bandits chasing them passed by, you'd let them, right?

Don't get me wrong here, because I know what at least a percentage of you are thinking.

Sure, there are sleazy celebrities too, but consider this: That's just as true of royalty. We see that exact thing in Fire Emblem. Likewise, not everyone reveres celebrities, but guess what, we see that with royalty in Fire Emblem too.

The fact is, the concept of celebrities being called modern day royalty isn't something I'm making up even a little. I'm sure most of the people reading this have already heard the phrase before. You might've even had a particularly cynical teacher in your lifetime that used the phrase before you could even hear it elsewhere, depending on your circumstances.

The more I think on it, the more it makes so much sense for a modern day game (made in Japan at that) drawing from Fire Emblem to choose entertainers as its representation of modern day "lords" rather than what one might consider to be our actual equivalent. After all, correct me if I'm wrong, but, uh... no one likes the actual equivalent we have, save some exceptions.

Politicians, lawyers, people who own big companies? Those are our stock villains nowadays, for crying out loud!


And not even just nowadays either!

I admit, maybe fifteen, twenty, twenty five years ago, it'd have been a different story, maybe, but now? Almost universally, people... generally love, or at least recognize, the good ol' celebs, especially the ones that are doing decently or are good people. With the internet, it's easier than ever to hear about the ones that are doing good with their status and power too. Kind of like our lords and ladies of Fire Emblem.

This is absolutely a stretch for sure, but I do think it's a a stretch that at least has some foundation all the same. You are still all free to call me insane for suggesting that Atlus and Nintendo aren't off their rocker, of course, but I try to have faith.


You may also insert a "foundation" joke of your choosing here.

Certainly, us gaijins have a disconnect from foreign celebrities and foreign celebrity culture, but as much as people want to complain about idols and their continued presence in Japanese media, I'm starting to feel like it may be getting to the point of the pot calling the kettle black, because it's not like our culture is without this kind of thing too.

We dress up kids and have our pop stars too, and it seems like more often than we don't, we drive our child stars (which we have plenty of over here too, despite comments about idols and underage girls seemingly suggesting the phenomenon is somehow exclusive to Japan) to the point of drugs and even suicide.

It's not pretty, but it's something we can't say isn't ours.

On the lighter side, and potentially more relevant at that, I also remember plenty of cartoons and even TV series from my childhood telling me how awesome it was to be a celebrity or rock star or whatever. Even Matt, or Yamato as some may know him, from an anime you might remember called Digimon went the rocker route.


A trend that continues even now with the likes of Sonic Boom's Justin Beaver.

Basically, much as I am readily conceding that it is very much a stretch, if Nintendo or Atlus were to come out and say they also chose idols and other entertainers to focus on for a reason like this, I think there's plenty of real life evidence to support that choice. The fact is, the very reasons people are turned off by the idea of its inclusion in a game are in themselves more reasons why this actually isn't all that farfetched.

Which, again, it is, no arguments there, but still. Lemme have my Game Theory here. Please?

No?

Fine.

If nothing else, I think do people could do with a reminder that while games about "idols" may be Japanese (for now) (so long as we pretend a new Rock Band didn't just come out), the concept of "idols" isn't even close to being as "Japanese" as people are making it out to be.

To that end, I think its presence in a game isn't nearly as much of a fault as people want to make it out to be. If we could work on how things being "too Japanese" is becoming a way to negatively describe media too, that'd be swell. How about it guys?

Well, okay. It's a start!

If we can't do that, then instead, let's sum up this entire blog in one sentence. Repeat after me, and as necessary whenever you see content in media that you subjectively dislike:

IT'S NOT THAT BIG OF A DEAL!

Sound good to you guys? I hope so!

Now let's get that sexy ass magical girl back in here and party!


Ohhhhh yeaaaaah!

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About OverlordZettaone of us since 10:34 AM on 07.16.2014

Hey there! You seem to have taken a wrong turn, friend. Front page is thattaway, and Zetta is currently on vacation, in a manner of speaking.

But hey! If you actually do mean to be here for some reason, then hello! Although I am not really here at the moment, when I am active, I go by Zetta around these parts, I am an enthusiast of all things Kamen Rider as well as most things Vita, as well as all sorts of other nonsensical nonsense. Good times!

When I'm not busy writing annoyingly long comments, you can find me here, writing annoyingly long blogs. I dream of the day everyone on the internet can get along and be friends, like an annoying anime protagonist...'s even more annoying love interest, and in the meanwhile, am dreaming of putting my wordliness to good use in something creative someday, lest my existence be completely wasted.

My console of choice is the Vita, my favorite Kamen Rider changes with the tide, and I really have no idea how to end this at this point.

Time for a pose!



ZETTA'S BEEN PLAYING...
- Pokemon X and Alpha Sapphire
- Umineko no Naku Koro ni

ZETTA'S LOOKING FORWARD TO...
- TRianThology
- Danganronpa 3
- Persona 5
- Pokemon Moon

ZETTA'S STILL WAITING FOR ANNOUNCEMENTS OF...
- Soul Sacrifice 2
- Persona 3 Platinum
- Mega Man ZX 3
- Devil Survivor 3
- Zettai Hero Project 2
- Kamen Rider Warriors
... and of course...
- MAKAI KINGDOM 2!