Wednesday, July 27, 2011

King of RPGs Second Edition

King of RPGs volume 2 has fewer references to porno manga than the first, but since its ending seems like a suspiciously good break point if further volumes don't get greenlit, it seems like a good time for a closer look.

KORPG actually has some surprisingly complex structure given how broad the jokes are. I always get a kick out of structural metahumor; Thompson has a longtime interest in both RPGs and manga, and it's amusing how seamlessly he fits the conventions of tournament battle manga (childhood inspirations sparking lifelong obsession, villains almost more interesting than the heroes, each more powerful than the last, defeat means friendship) with the inside-baseball gamer humor of Knights of the Dinner Table, Order of the Stick, Darths & Droids, DM of the Rings, etc (satanic panics, LARPing, adversarial GMing, and some MMO stuff in volume 2). It's especially great when the two synergize, like referencing Death Note to emphasize the Game Master's control-freak nature.

The main idea of "Shonen Jump-style battle manga about Dungeons & Dragons" isn't a very pointed parody given that things like Yu-Gi-Oh and .hack have already played it completely straight, but this time there's the occasional undercurrent of absurd black humor from the tone clash of zany unrealistic plot elements uneasily butting up against the reasonably honest portrayal of the main character's emotional problems. It's either tasteless or ballsy to have the plot basically boil down to "Mazes and Monsters by way of Bastard!", but then Thompson always was fond of manga's transgressiveness, and "Jack Chick was right!" is pretty much the ultimate taboo in RPG circles.

And finally, there are lots of tiny throwaway jokes all over the place, from the blatantly referential to the obscure (like Shesh Maccabee's signature in-game weapon). The art's quite nice too; Victor Hao's got a nice, cartoony expressiveness that works well for the comedy and lends the proper flair to all the scenes and characters.

I'd be happy to see more of this, but frankly the odds seemed kind of against even getting as much as we have. I'm honestly not sure if you can fully appreciate King of RPGs without having spent way too much time both reading manga and playing RPGs (though actually we have a couple guys like that here on the blog), but if you are one of those rare no-life kings, you should definitely check it out.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Best news ever

This year being the 25th anniversary of Jojo's Bizarre Adventure and the 30th anniversary of Araki Hiroyuki's career, I was sort of hoping we might finally get a kanzenban I can't afford but would buy anyway.
Instead, we get Jojorion/Jojolion, the eight Jojo series, and a package designed for me personally -- three Jojo's Bizarre Adventure novels.
Written by Kadono Kouhei, Nisioisin, and Maijo fucking Otaro.
Kadono's, in typically eccentric fashion, apparently features Purple Haze.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Out of Context Theater Presents: Trust The Cybercactus

From Splatter: Naked Blood, which is actually less exploitative and more disturbing than you'd guess from the title. It's very Cronenberg actually, with a very sterile-surreal medical ero-guro vibe going on. It's unsettling in the way I was kind of expecting Lychee Light Club to be. I found it quite harrowing to watch, actually, don't let this benign cactus-voyeur interlude lull you the way it did me. BuyerNetflixer beware on this one.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

So-so Gothic & Lolita

After watching both Psycho Gothic Lolita and Geisha Assassin, it seems clear that Go Ohara is better at coming up with catchy, trashy titles than he is at directing the movies he puts them on. I'd hoped he'd avoid repeating Geisha Assassin's mistakes, but no such luck. In fact, I think this one may even be a step back.

Like Geisha Assassin before it, this is a revenge movie; our heroine wants payback, and spends just about every minute of screen time pursuing it. It's basically Kill Bill wearing more black lace, but unlike that flick, the tone is all over the place. The movie clearly wants to be goofy (like, there are cartoony zoom noises when severed heads go flying), but none of the gags are actually funny, or even jaw-droppingly tasteless enough to get laughs of disbelief. On the other hand, it also fails at being dramatic; it hits classic beats like the idyllic flashback shattered by violence, and the heroine confronting the monster that chasing revenge has made her, but those scenes are so lackluster that they don't add anything to the film besides putting another mark on the genre checklist. I'm not even going to get into the completely random twist in the final act, beyond saying that the nod to it on the cover makes it look much more central than it is.

Also, the budget is clearly super, super low. Certainly not a hanging offense, but it sure doesn't help either; at least one of the sets is very conspicuously re-dressed, and the splatter effects are pretty unimaginative despite being "supervised" by the mighty Yoshihiro Nishimura. There's a little wire work, but not only is it not very good, it's an integral part of what is hands-down the worst scene in the entire movie, a hellish combo of so-so action, mediocre special effects, and terrible, interminable humor. That scene is pretty much the entire movie's sins in microcosm; it tries to make up for its visual shortcomings with campiness, but it's not actually funny, so it just ends up being doubly painful. I'd actually prefer it if they'd just stayed sincere instead of trying to win audience sympathy with cheap laughs... which is actually what Ohara did in Geisha Assassin.

In the end, Psycho Gothic Lolita is a run of the mill B-movie, uninspired on every level and middlingly executed. There are crumbs of fun here and there (like the gunfighter who constantly talks on her cel during a running gun battle, and the multiethnic team of super acrobat delinquents), but this film is in dire need of a better script, direction, acting, and action scenes. I kind of hate to dump on Ohara, because he is clearly trying to make the kind of dumb-fun movies I like seeing, but I have flat-out been bored by both of his. I gotta recommend everyone avoid this one.

And speaking of cheap shots, I can never resist poking Media Blasters for their omnipresent typos. At least this time it wasn't on one of the menu options.