Guide to Gaming – Senran Kagura – Part 1 – Introduction

Hello, everyone. I am happy to begin a series of articles describing a number of incredibly entertaining video game series. This is something that I have wanted to do for quite some time now and will begin by introducing you to one of my favorite new franchises, Senran Kagura, which has quickly become a breakthrough hit in Japan and garnered a strong cult following in the West.

Senran Kagura, published by Marvelous Entertainment and created by Kenichiro Takaki, first debuted in Japan on the 3DS in 2011 with a side-scrolling beat-’em-up not unlike ’80s and ’90s classics such as Final Fight, Double Dragon, and Streets of Rage, but with a more tongue-in-cheek, cheesecake-y tone. The game told a story of five shinobi students, Asuka, Ikaruga, Katsuragi, Yagyu, and Hibari, as they battled against a rival school and began to discover the gray areas between good and evil, while also battling their own insecurities and anxieties. The game featured fast-paced combat, clothing damage, and numerous outfits for the characters to wear.

The game was followed in 2012 by an enhanced remake titled Senran Kagura Burst, which featured a new storyline from the perspectives of the protagonists’ rivals, Homura, Yomi, Hikage, Mirai, and Haruka. This group was initially presented as a team of evil shinobi, but eventually grew to be every bit as heroic as their rivals, further emphasizing a major theme of gray areas between good and evil. Senran Kagura Burst would later become the first game in the series to receive a western release when Xseed Games released an English version as a digital download on the 3DS eShop in 2013.

In later installments, the story elaborates further on the true nature of shinobi, revealing that both good and evil shinobi are meant to serve the same purpose of saving the world from calamity by slaying monsters known as Yoma, who are born from conflict and drawn out by the blood that is spilled in battles between shinobi. Those who are able to defeat Yoma are known as Kagura.

Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus, released for the PlayStation Vita in 2013 in Japan and 2014 in the US, served as a side-story and sequel to the first game, and introduced a competitive multiplayer component to the franchise, as well as ten new characters, Yumi, Murakumo, Yozakura, Shiki, Minori, Miyabi, Murasaki, Imu, Ryobi, and Ryona, and a revamped gameplay system allowing for greater freedom of movement.

In 2014, a direct sequel to the first game, Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson, was released for the 3DS. This installment features the addition of a system where two characters fight alongside one another, and the player can switch between controlling either of these characters on the fly. The story, set between the first game and Shinovi Versus, sees both Asuka and Homura’s groups working together to battle a force of Yoma. The game has been announced for a Western release in the Summer of 2015 by Xseed Games.

The most recent release in the series is Senran Kagura Estival Versus for the PlayStation 4 and Vita, released in Japan only two months ago, this game expands on the Shinovi Versus gameplay, adding elements from Deep Crimson, as well as enhanced Multiplayer options and the addition of cinematic, stage-based finishing moves. Estival Versus has not yet been announced for a Western release as of this writing, but I remain optimistic due to the strong success the series continues to enjoy internationally.

To conclude this article, I will state that underneath the suggestive, cheesecake-y presentation, Senran Kagura has a lot to offer, with frantic combat, lovable characters, and a fantastic storyline that are sure to leave you looking forward to more.

Later on, I will introduce you to the characters.

See you later,

-Dan Bordelon, Jr.

The Death and Rebirth of “Fandom”

For quite a while now, we have been watching the anime fandom take a turn for the worse. Now, before I begin, I would just like to say that I don’t intend to persecute anyone as I write this. Far from it, actually. Rather, I simply wish to call on you, dear audience to assist me in rebuilding “fandom” and restoring it to glorious life. So, that being said, do not take this as libel or slander. Rather, hear me out and listen as I discuss the ongoing in-fighting and online warfare that is currently being waged by those desperately clinging to the last vestiges of what they see as “deep anime”, or rather, what they personally see as “deep anime”, against those they blame for the supposed “death” of anime.

First, I will have to speak of early exposure of modern western audiences to anime. In the beginning, we didn’t get much. It was mostly either whatever could make it to kids’ networks over here or particularly violent action shows. When audiences got their first taste of Dragon Ball Z, Gundam, and Ghost in the Shell, they absolutely loved these shows. This is where they went wrong. Before I continue, I must first clarify that I do not think they are watching the wrong shows, nor do I believe they had bad taste. Certainly not. They simply got the wrong idea about anime. They started to believe that these shows represented the medium as a whole. However, the truth was that these shows were simply one part of a larger industry.

Over the years, anime localization has started to become more varied since then. More efficient, faster, and increasing in variety of titles. In particular, we are now becoming more exposed in particular, to elements such as cute girls, easygoing stories, and light-hearted humor that, together, have become known as “moe”. While some fines happily embraced this aspect of the medium with open arms, others did not.

Opponents of moe view it as a threat, so to speak. Because they did not know this aspect existed in anime, they deny that it did, and treat as a new thing and decried this ‘change” as a sign that they will eventually no longer see the types of anime they enjoy be made. A misconception created by willful ignorance. If this was the extent of their reaction, it could have been ignored. However, they did not stop there. They would go on to target the consumers of moe with ridicule, insults, and personal attacks.

From that point on, the “Anti-Moe Brigade” was born. The “Anti-Moe Brigade” is a collection of ideas that moe is a cancer that needs to be purged from anime and that consumers of moe are enemies to be mocked, insulted, and most of all, feared. Supporters of moe are labeled with such “glamorous” terms as “pedophiles”, “virgins”, and “basement dwellers”. Diagnoses of autism and aspergers are used as insults. The ultimate form of deliberate ableism. These attitudes could not be more gross and uncivil, and embody many of the problems described by Timeenforceranubis in his blog, She’s Lost Control Media, as well as the podcasts, NTR Radio and Otaku Midnight(formerly Podcast Zero). These problems also embody the “death”, for lack of a better term, of the anime “fandom”.

Now that the death of “fandom”, Let us talk about what can be done to restore fandom. It will be a long, difficult process. One that will require the effort of every willing anime fan to succeed. But it will also be a rewarding one.

The first step is to start addressing online warfare by its name, and start condemning it as the disgusting misconduct that it really is. We need more people fighting against online warfare. More people like Timenforceranubis, Kgods, and drawingirl94. We need more people who recognize warmongers for what they really are.

We will also need a lot more positivity in the community. As Timeenforceranubis has said, negativity is on the way out. We need to start looking optimistically to the future and quit with the cynicism. It’s time to say goodbye to pessimism, because nobody wants to hear from a doubting Thomas. Let’s can the insults and profanity and start being excellent to each other. Love makes the world go round, as the old saying goes.

We must afford no credibility to the notion that a certain group of people are consuming the “wrong” entertainment. There is no such thing as the wrong entertainment because entertainment is a purely subjective concept based in personal preference.

Well, there you have it. Three easy(?) steps to restoring “fandom”. It may seem difficult at first, but that is most likely because you have not done enough to help yet.

-Dan Bordelon, Jr.

Gamers Are Not Your Military

As you are probably already aware, the gaming community and the internet in general are kind of in turmoil.

It all started about a month and a half ago in August. I’m not entirely sure what the full story is, but a movement (if that’s what you want to call it) has been going on throughout all this time, and the division in attitudes, beliefs, and tactics is so astronomical, it’s kind of unsettling. I’m not going to mention the movement by name, but I believe you’ll know who I’m talking about.

The first problem with this movement is its lack of unification. On one hand, we’ve got people calling for ethics in video game journalism, and while I am certain that there are well-intentioned people who truly believe that this is what the movement is all about, these are not the voices with power in this movement. The people that do have power are the ones that we don’t want in that position.

The most powerful voices in this movement are using the fact that they have been playing video games for a long time as a means to garner sympathy for themselves and engage in online warfare against anyone who crosses their path. They deal in absolutes and have a “with us or against us” mentality stemming from a persecution complex.

But that is only the tip of the iceberg. Some of these people go far in their venting. Too far. They “doxx” their designated enemies by publicly revealing their personal contact information. This is then followed by rather violent, eerily specific threats of violence which drive these people out of their homes. Some directly mention the movement, and some don’t, but the targets are the same. Anita Sarkeesian, Zoe Quinn, Phil Fish, and Brianna Wu are among the people that have been doxxed and threatened.

This may not be the entirety of the movement, but it is the loudest, most prominent, most consistent group of people exploiting the movement’s hashtag. And they constantly create sock puppet accounts to continue the harassment, threats, and warmongering faster than anyone on either side of the conflict can do anything about it. More and more people are being dragged into this online warfare with each passing second and nobody is talking a stand to protect anyone from it. I have named the worst people in the movement “Galbadia”. Galbadia seeks nothing more than to pull the entire gaming industry, developers, journalists, and most specifically, other gamers, into their own private military, while branding anyone that doesn’t go along as a “social justice warrior”, whether they want to fight or not.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. The biggest thing that can help end online warfare is if pacifists unite to form a movement of their own to promote piece and civility and protect others from online warfare. But as the old saying goes: “United we stand, divided we fall.” I can’t keep innocent bystanders safe on my own. I need your help. And the way to help is very simple. Go onto Twitter and tweet your support for piece and civility in the gaming community and the protection of others from online warfare with #balambgamers, a hashtag of my own creation meant for peaceful discussion and the prevention of internet crossfire. If you want to know more about #balambgamers, I encourage you to follow me on Twitter. My Twitter username is @RyuubiGentoku2 and the account is registered under my real name, Dan Bordelon, Jr. I look forward to your feedback and support.

-Dan

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies – Review

Since the late 2000s, Warner Brothers has released a series of direct-to-video animated films based on DC Comics’ extensive line of comic book properties and characters that are closer to the comics than any of the more family-oriented TV series in animation known collectively as DC Universe Animated Original Movies. Superman/Batman: Public Enemies is the sixth film in the series, based on the Public Enemies story arc from the ongoing comic series, Superman/Batman.

Public Enemies does a stellar job of bringing a story that actually feels like an adaptation of the comics and offering to offer for others.

Public Enemies does a stellar job of bringing a story that actually feels like an adaptation of the comics and offering plenty for others.

The story begins with Lex Luthor being elected the president of the United States and revealing that all superheroes will be required to register with the government. Captain Atom, Major Force, Power Girl, Katana, Black Lightning, and Starfire have all registered, but two certain big-time heroes have failed to register. Superman and Batman are continuing to act on their own, and this leads to conflict with their former allies. Meanwhile, a large kryptonite meteor is on a collision course with Earth, threatening billions of lives. The film focuses on both story arcs equally.

The first thing I want to say about this film is that the visual style is really, really good. The character designs are very well-done and the art direction is a perfect fit for the film’s action themes and can only work in this sort of production. Indeed, this particular visual style can only work with an action-packed production like Public Enemies.

Throughout the film, we’re treated to a number of exciting fight scenes featuring a number of DC heroes including Captain Atom, Power Girl, Captain Marvel (Now known as Shazam), Hawkman, and also a wide variety of villains. All of the action flies by very smoothly without any visual hiccups or framerate drops.

Warner Bros. assembled quite the impressive array of voice talent, with Tim Daly, Kevin Conroy, and Clancy Brown reprising their animated series roles as Superman, Batman, and Lex Luthor, respectively. The musical is also impressive, and never seems strange or out of place.

The film’s writing is top-notch. It actually feels like a storyline from the DC Comics Universe and the lead characters never seem strange or out of character. Superman and Batman’s contrasting personalities of light and dark compliment one another very well and Luthor always seems like the manipulative, conniving scumbag he really is. This really is a genuine DC Universe production.

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies is a wild roller coaster ride full of exciting twists and turns, and I have no trouble recommending it to any superhero fan or action buff.

Final Score: 12 out of 15 (Excellent)

The Truth About Geek Culture’s “Mainstream” Status

Last night on Twitter, I was thrilled to find that my sentiments on nerd culture being “mainstream” were echoed. Allow me to elaborate further.

Timeenforceranubis tweeted about the topic. For those who are unaware, Timeenforceranubis is an African-American blogger who talks about the anime fandom, and in particular, the western fanbase. He brings up factors such as the clamor for more art, and contempt for fanbases for moe and ecchi anime. I have a very strong respect for his work, even if I may not agree with some of his viewpoints. I also believe that the points he brings up are relevant to the larger discussion. One that I now seek to have.

The truth is that the “mainstream” status of nerd culture is a manufactured image created by businessmen and not something that has actually been achieved. Indeed, the vast majority of “nerdy” interests remain niche. Animation is still generally seen as “kids’ stuff”, only a select few video game properties have achieved widespread recognition and approval, and while superhero films may be big in the box office, the comic books they’re based on remain fringe. In truth, geek culture has not been accepted. It has been assimilated. It has been subjugated. This is not an ideal image for a fandom as it gives a not-so-subtle message of “conform or get out”.

What this means is that nothing has changed. If you are a gamer, you have to enjoy Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto to be taken seriously, if you’re trying to talk about comics, you will get nowhere unless there is an accompanying movie adaptation, and above all else, you do not want to try to discuss anime with anyone. Never mind that western anime fans have constructed a hierarchy to place fans of certain shows on top. And when kids are still mocked at school simply for the fact that they like to read, the situation looks even worse as no geek can pass.

And that is the prime problem with nerd culture being assimilated. In this process, we only accept the people and things that are fit to be assimilated. That means that comic books, anime, and their fanbases remain out in the cold.

But we don’t have to buy into the media’s farce. As a matter of fact, one of the biggest things you can do to avoid fading into the crowd is to engage in discussion of the larger nerd culture, beyond the manufactured image of nerddom, and talk about what it really is. We are not a hive mind of drones that like all of the same stuff. We are individuals, each with our own unique interests and chosen media. We are not interested in assimilating into “normal” societal culture or helping to manufactured a false narrative. We are simply interested in discussing our hobbies in the same way that anybody else would. And remember that this is a two-way street, so if you attempt to derail someone talking about their interests with what the mainstream says we’re supposed to be interested in, then that makes us less likely to care about what you enjoy.

The Foolishness of #firerickremender

Let’s start calling political bullying by its name.

Last week, the release of Captain America #22 was met with controversy when the Falcon was depicted waking up next to Jet Black, the daughter of Arnim Zola. Although Jet appeared to be quite young at the start of Remender’s run, time flies by fast in Dimension Z, where Captain America spent twelve years, as did Jet. By the time the Dimension Z arc ended, Jet had turned 23. However, some readers who didn’t know the full story in the book misinterpreted the Falcon-Jet scene as a case of statutory rape. Afterward, people wanted Remender fired, and they wanted the rest of us to stop buying Remender’s books. There’s even a hashtag dedicated to getting Remender fired.

Look. I’m sorry, people, but you don’t speak for me, you don’t tell me what I can and can’t buy, and you have no right to whine to a conglomerate that doesn’t care about you and try to pressure them to fire one of their hard-working employees!

Getting into the comics industry is extremely difficult. There are certain hurdles that one must make it past. (I still need to write a resume, for example.) It’s not easy. Are we supposed to believe that your fragile sensibilities are more important than the difficulties surrounding the lives of others? Come on, all you tumblrinas! It can’t always be about you!

Furthermore, we are talking about a fictional story in a comic book. Trying to get someone fired over comics is hateful. It’s very simple. If you are participating in the #firerickremender campaign, then, sit back and think. Would you want to be the victim of a hate campaign?

Equating a fictional story to real-world crimes is highly insulting both to the story’s creators and real victims of crime. If I were ever asked “What more important, fictional characters or real people?”, I would promptly answer “Real people, of course.”

That’s all I’m going to say on the matter. See ya next time.

-Dan