Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

71ywee7w-il

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.

(more…)

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

header

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. (more…)

Read Full Post »

stalin_birthday2

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. (more…)

Read Full Post »

radiant-state-1

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. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Part I

Nukes are Kind of Magic

Michal: Higgins is very clear that the introduction of nuclear weapons represents a cosmic-scale shift in humankind’s relationship with the supernatural. Up until this point, the citizens of the Vlast conceptualized power almost entirely through the stone angels. The remnants of their bodies are literally the source of the Vlast’s strength, experimenting with those remnants the primary driver of industrial development. The living stone angel is the apex for most of what power even means. However, not all focus has remained on the angels, and when scientists develop nuclear technology it upends the very idea of how power works in the Vlast. Before, the measure of power was how closely you communed with the stone angels, afterwards, we’ve flipped the hierarchy. Wolfhound Century spent so much time emphasizing the insignificance of the Vlast’s petty squabble when measured against the greater struggle between the angels and the forest. Here, humans suddenly grasp the power to destroy both and, if they choose, the Pollandore as well. When Chazia sees the destructive potential of this new technology she comes to recognize what Josef Kantor always knew; she can force the living stone angel to communicate with her instead of desperately trying to grab its attention as she had before. Kantor’s ambitions are greater but Chazia has the tools in place to accomplish her goals. Through scale of destruction humans can seize control of a higher place in the universe. (more…)

Read Full Post »

stacks_image_1891

Amidst the Ruins

As promised, I’m bringing back Alasdair Czyrnyj to continue our discussion of Peter Higgins’ Wolfhound Empire trilogy. This time, we’re taking on the middle volume, Truth and Fear.

Truth and Fear is in many ways a departure from Wolfhound Century while drawing on many of same themes and inspirations. While the first novel was mainly an atmospheric piece, here we have a much greater focus on narrative and on relating the actions of the characters to the thrust of the story.

In Wolfhound Century, the assassination of the Novozhd that capped off the novel seemed to be largely a side-event, deflated from significance by how peripheral it was to the journey of Vissarion and Maroussia, but here the full consequences of the assassination come to the fore. The power struggles in Mirgorod to fill the vacuum left behind by the beloved dictator actually have consequences over the cosmic backdrop of the struggle between the stone angel and the forest, even eclipsing them. The delicate bureaucratic framework holding the Vlast together has fallen apart; truths suddenly puncture through the ideological shell that enclosed its citizens, and as the title suggests, also begets fear. The war with the Archipelago, so distant before, spills through towards the capital city: the Vlast has been losing, and the unwanted perception of loss once hidden away makes military disaster a reality.

Finally, the Pollandore awaits, promising a different future than either humankind, the stone angels, or the forest can create.

Alasdair, you’ve mentioned that you liked Truth and Fear more than Wolfhound Century. Does this change in focus have something to do with that? (more…)

Read Full Post »

spread

A few posts back, I wrote that the closest antecedent to the classic western pulp market is East Asian “light novels”, not western e-publishing. Translations of these books are becoming more frequent, but there’s still a huge amount that’s yet to be licensed or officially translated and probably never will be. The insanely short release schedules and sheer volume of work, coupled with the general disinterest of western readers and publishers in tackling translations in the first place, dictates against us getting more than a small window into grab-and-go novels geared towards teenagers and people who want a quick read on their commute. Yet unlike other languages, Japanese, and to a lesser extent Chinese and Korean, has a dedicated and active fan translation community that brings out work we otherwise would never see. The legality of these projects is dicey, but oftentimes its the only way to read these works if you’re not fluent in the language of origin and the only way they’d ever come to the attention of English-language publishers in the first place.

What I found was that some forms of storytelling from older English pulp that has largely died out on this side of the ocean is alive and well in Japan, as well as a certain young adult ethos that characterized older middle-grade fiction but not the current predominate mode of YA. These features were especially noticeable in two series that I breezed through this year (both not officially translated, alas). (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »