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The Eaten One

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Painted over 3 evenings using MyPaint 1.2 and Krita.

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Few people put Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind at the top of Hayao Miyazaki’s filmography, though there is a sizable contingent who absolutely love the film. At the same time, while Miyazaki’s first original feature-length film has been eclipsed by what he made under Studio Ghibli, you can’t deny the importance of that first work in the pattern of his career. Nausicaä contains the seed for all the work that came after: the visual sensibility, the treatment and choice of characters, the pacing, and most obviously, the underlying themes. It has the mark of an early passion project that encompasses an entire creative vision: everything Miyazaki wanted to express poured into a single story, which would then grow and change and spread to his future creative projects.

It’s not as obvious in the film as in the manga which he had to draw and write in order to get his dream-movie produced in the first place. The manga of Nausicaä began in 1982, before the film’s earnest development and wasn’t completed until 1994, long after that film’s release. Considering the long timespan, it’s hard to hold up the complete run of Nausicaä as an “early work” in the way you would the 1984 film, but it still functions as an incubator for other ideas, a forgotten centrepiece (at least in North America) to his particular brand of visual storytelling.

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Inktober Postmortem

I took part in Inktober this year, a challenge created by artist Jay Parker. The premise is simple: 31 ink illustrations in 31 days, with an optional prompt list to provide some inspiration. The goal is to improve your inking skills.

I don’t know how much better I am at inking, but I did see subtle improvements in my art as the month wore on, gained a new appreciation for thumbnail sketches, and overall, had a lot of fun with the exercise.

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Interregnum Aesthetics

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Video games are often less than the sum of their parts. For me, all the time and effort that goes into crafting individual elements is often impressive but never seems to come together as a cohesive whole. However, sometimes one or two well-executed individual elements in a game can still make the whole thing worth playing.

Dishonored (2012) hardly counts as recent, but it’s the last title I played out of the modern game development era. While I enjoyed it as a dip back into the gameplay model from some of my favourite games, Thief and Thief II, the play experience hasn’t overcome my general antipathy towards AAA games. I could immerse myself in the stealthy gameplay but the narrative as a whole wasn’t as deep or meaningful as I’d hoped. Much has been made of the moral choices and framework in the game, but the nonlethal options that led to the “good ending” sometimes seemed worse than just plain killing the target. Though I do appreciate a game where you play an assassin but can complete the game without murdering anyone.

Where Dishonored (still) excels is in the material outside its narrative and gameplay choices—the meticulous worldbuilding and devotion to an atmosphere of industrial dread. Dunwall is well-realized through every detail: architecture, handbills, the class and social structure, the material culture of its whale-oil based technology. Background characters shine when you overhear their brief snippets of conversation. The plague of rats and infected citizens progresses as you play and the city itself transforms in subtle ways as you revisit the districts. I found myself standing on rooftops just appreciating the artistry of Dunwall as the sun sets over labyrinthine streets and tumbled-down ruins of urban decay. There’s a sublime beauty to this setting built around the exploitation of Lovecraftian whales despite the inhabitants having character designs that are often deliberately grotesque. Continue Reading »

Episode 35 – Unfinished

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In which we speak of books we never finished, or wish we had never finished. Normally, I would provide a list of the novels we talked about. But this time, I think it’s better if you go in blind.

Download the Podcast (archive.org page)

Marie’s blog

Cory’s blog

Source of our theme song

 

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Stalin, Stalin, wherefore art thou Stalin?

Part I

Alasdair: But even the Lodka cannot outrun Rizhin forever. As Lom searches the abandoned Lodka for Chazia’s secret archive, he is followed inside by Rizhin’s police agents, tasked by the President-Commander with demolishing the building. Despite the best efforts of the vyrdalak sisters, they succeed in their mission, and the Lodka, the final landmark of old Mirgorod, goes up in flames. And yet there is something curious about this event. In spite of the destruction of centuries worth of police files and confiscated artifacts, the novel emphatically describes the Lodka’s demise as “a good thing.” The immolation of the Lodka is another in the trilogy’s endless series of historical breaks, but it is one with a double meaning. On the one hand, it severs the last link Rizhin’s Mirgorod has with the Mirgorod of the Novozhd, the Mirgorod we were introduced to all the way back in Wolfhound Century. However, the demolition is also the first major act of Lom’s campaign to free the Vlast of the angel’s (and by extension, Rizhin’s) influence once and for all. Continue Reading »

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There is only the future

At long last, we’re down to the last volume in Peter Higgins’ Wolfhound Empire trilogy, 2015’s Radiant State, and Alasdair Czyrnyj’s back for another round of discussion.

Six years have passed since Truth and Fear and the Vlast is a very different place; the nuclear shenanigans have spirited away the multi-future seed of the Pollandore and changed its fundamental nature, but have also sealed the stone archangel within the borders of the endless forest along with its new aspect in Maroussia Shaumian. Forest and Vlast are now fundamentally alienated both in space and in time; the slow struggle between angel and forest continues to play out but the rest of world is left to the designs of Papa Rizhin, the Vlast’s newly-minted dictator. And his desires are to force the Vlast into a rapid, impossible technological leap that will make humankind oust the stone angels as masters of the stars. Continue Reading »