The One Safety of the Conquered

aku-una

. . . is not to hope for safety.

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here, for several reasons. One of these reasons is my preparation for a working holiday. In its (questionable) wisdom, my university has sent me to Cambridge for a month, to badger academics, raid libraries and generally gather enough material to write an impressive ‘Wot I Did In My Holidays’ piece when I return from the land of privilege. So far I can report that the land of privilege is efficient, friendly and just a little mad: there is, for example, a big white piano in my room. The room’s big enough that the piano isn’t inconvenient, or menacing, but it is there. Maybe I’ll attempt ‘Chopsticks’ once I finish writing this.

A more significant cause for my silence is the fact that for some time I didn’t watch any anime at all, because I was too busy playing Mount and Blade. This, the first computer game in a long time to keep me awake into the small hours, is a low-fantasy action title which involves riding around putting bandits, other nobles and anyone who looks at you funny to the sword. Weapon speed and direction have a lot of influence on the damage dealt by your attacks, creating a fighting system which is pleasantly intuitive though (thankfully) not too realistic, and great fun even when the relatively shallow Elite-but-not-in-spaaaace game that sits on top of it has worn a bit thin. Mount and Blade needs some morale mechanics, and perhaps more of a story to string together its addictive skirmishes for those of us with merely average imaginations, but then that’s what the (plethora of) mods are for.

But, for me, even the meatiest games wear thin after a while, and of course there were such gripping currently-airing anime as the new Mazinger Z and, erm, Sora Kake Girl and, double-erm, Hatsukoi Limited to retain my interest. I’m still pottering through Victory Gundam and Zambot 3, and I’ve just begun Saikano, which feels like an accidental, pre-emptive Serious Reply to Strike Witches.

Furthermore, subtitling work on Blue Comet SPT Layzner recently restarted, which is some compensation for the work on Dougram grinding to a halt (the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away). Layzner‘s a decent real robot story and I’ve heard rumours that the second half is a rather pointed depiction of Earth’s occupation by a foreign power, which ought to be interesting. The colonisation of Mars by 1996 must surely have been obviously an over-optimistic idea in 1985, which has made me think a little about Layzner‘s relationship with time: it could easily be labelled a nostalgia title, except that I’ve never seen it before and I wasn’t even alive when it first aired. And there’s a sense of recovery in the subtitling efforts for a show like this — you feel the presence of a shadowy body of as-yet-unseen (by most of us outside Japan) stuff waiting to be excavated.

Unusually, I’ve also been reading more manga: a chance visit to /m/, followed by some fact-checking here led me to Akumetsu. The story of one mildly deranged high school student’s revenge on those he deems responsible for the failing economy, Akumetsu probably isn’t very good (how would I know?) but reading it is, in the current climate, certainly cathartic. Most of the insignificant things like back-story or supporting characters found in other, more famous, yuppy-with-broken-dreams stories are cut away so that we just bounce from one drawn-out scene of violence and half-baked macroeconomics to another. As a result the best bits, like the sixty-eighth chapter’s money shot, have a spirit of gleeful, uncomplicated carnival. Comparing these moments to what I’ve glimpsed in Brack’s coverage of Violence Jack, I can see why David judged the Tabata/Yogo team behind Akumetsu suitable to adapt a Go Nagai property.

Returning to more traditional material, I’ve also gotten around to finishing Crossbone Gundam, which turned out to be remarkably cheerful, and kind to its cast to boot: in the course of the story an astonishingly large number of characters manage to not die. But then Crossbone‘s greatest strength may be its piratical mechanical designs, and it’d be hard to write a stony-faced story around those. While I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone, if you’re looking for a compact, less depressing Gundam experience featuring the usual giant robots fighting while their pilots yell at each other about their ideals (and someone quietly says a few more things about Newtypes) then this would be a good choice.

* * *

As for this blog, it seems that at present long thought-out posts aren’t possible — though of course my predictions have been wrong in the past. This would be disheartening if I thought I was working on some kind of project or programme, but since I don’t, it isn’t: blogging or not, the point is that I have fun. After spending time aiming to write at a relatively high altitude, I feel like lying down where all the ladders start for a bit, so posts here might get a bit shorter.

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20 responses to “The One Safety of the Conquered

  1. I do look forward to any posts you do write about the mecha anime we both watch. A selfish desire, as posts I make in reaction to yours have a cheerful tendency to erm, write themselves.

    I will start reading Crossbone Gundam once I watch F91 that continues to stare at me every time I open my anime folder.

    • If my posts really make your posts easier to write, I’m honoured!

      F91‘s animation, music and foley work are very, very nice, almost nice enough to make up for that pitiable, stitched-together story.

      • I wasn’t able to finish F91 having succumbed to sleep and I was amazingly surprised at the excellent production values. Will complete it immediately.

        Perhaps I’m still too taken by these things, as well as the comfortably familiar plot line, to notice the flaws that elicited your verdict on the story.

  2. “blogging or not, the point is that I have fun.”

    Yes. :3

  3. Mount and Blade!

    If you get over the graphics and treat the whole thing as a persistent-army “Get into fights with horses and whatnot” then it’s a lovely game. Not much to do beyond that, even in the vassalage side of the Renown bucket, but lovely nonetheless.

    *Dealt 174 couched lance damage*

    I’ll admit that Rock Paper Shotgun got be to buy my copy back when buying beta meant getting the retail release for free. I do kind of wish commanding one’s troops were a bit easier, though I suppose it works given its limitations.

    • Thankfully I have a high tolerance for outdated graphics, and I think some of M&B‘s animations, at least, have a certain character to them.

      It’d be nice to be able to split your troops up in a more descriminating way than either ‘all infantry’, ‘all archers’, &c, yes. Though sometimes I’m too busy fighting to remember to use even the limited commands at my disposal . . .

  4. shin mazinger rocks. do keep following that!

  5. So, you’re in Cambridge? I like it here. It’s pretty small for a city, one could probably see most of it in a couple of hours, but that’s kind of why I like it too. Places like Cardiff, London and Manchester are almost too big to wrap my mind around, and whenever I visit them, I feel like I’ll get lost somewhere! (city claustrophobia, perhaps?)

    It’s nice to read a new post of yours, anyway. For what it’s worth, I’ve found that blogging in my case is linked to building a sense of momentum, or creating a ‘thread’ to carry into the future, so this post could well be the start of a new stream of articles! (No pressure, heh!)

  6. Emphasis on MOUNTED COMBAT? Thank you for bringing my attention to Mount and Blade! I’m just too stressed from work to keep on playing Medieval II: Total War regularly (not to mention that Catholic factions are severely punished for going to war with each other, such a pain…).

    As for Layzner, I want to check it out, since its appearance in SRW J is pretty good. Maybe there are HK subs that I could live on…

    • The subbing efforts on Layzner are progressing smoothly so far, and the subbers are coming up to halfway through the series, so it might not be too long before it’s all available, fingers crossed and sub ninjas permitting.

      Mount and Blade is often touted as the game which puts you at the ground-level of a Medieval: Total War battle, so it sounds like you might like it. Once you make it past the slightly inadequate tutorial and the initial learning curve, I think it’s the best mounted combat game I’ve played.

  7. I would recommend you also check out the rather varied list of full-on fan modifications to the Mount and Blade engine – there are mods that emulate the Lord of The Rings, the Sengoku period, and most considerably improve on the gameplay experience – but then perhaps we won’t see another post from you for years!

  8. Ahh! I was so looking forward to reading Akumetsu,it sounded like a interesting manga,but then i started it,to my surprise the story was not half as good as i expected,still maybe I read to few chapter but i doubt,especially after i read you opinion on it,that the the story will eventually impress me,at least i can’t complain about the action,it’s brutal and over the top.

    And Layzner…I am still waiting for a few more episodes to be released so i can finally start watching it.

    • Yeah, Akumetsu hasn’t really developed a complex story after the first seventy-two chapters, and I think that’s quite enough leeway to give anything. I’ll probably read some more if I feel another bout of Economy Rage coming on, though, so maybe I’ll find out.

      Releases seem to have slowed on Layzner lately. I’m hoping that’s a temporary thing.

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