Wild Arms 2 Part 09: The Kids Are (not) Alright

Previously on Wild Arms 2: Odessa, a group of big, mean terrorists, made the scene, and encountered our intrepid heroes. And then everybody ran away. How does Ashley feel about that?

Not great.

But the always helpful Irving notes that ARMS would also have other problems with a pursuit.

Yep! For possibly the first time in JRPG history, WA2 is actually going to make a thing out of random nobodies stomping all over the whole world like they own the place (which, come on, these guys are the player’s avatars. We literally do own the place).

#realworldproblems

“Gee, I don’t know, maybe because you’re gradually and quietly acquiring every weapon on the planet?”

But, sure, let’s make it sound poetic.

We’ll get into it much more as the game goes on, but I’ll outright state it here: Wild Arms 2 is all about loving everyone in the world, whether they be from another country or not. I’m pretty sure I didn’t start this Let’s Play in 2017 by accident.

“Anyway, uh, we can’t really fight invisible borders… so… take a powder…

The Joi of Tech

Warning: Today’s article contains spoilers for Blade Runner 2049. If you would like to go into that movie completely clean, please stop reading now. If not, welcome to my nightmare.

I’m a technology nerd. Strike that, I’m a technology professional, and I know damn well that so goes tech, so goes my life. This was never “the plan”, but, somehow, my life and income are now inextricably tied to the whims of one particular industry. If I refuse to learn “the latest thing”, I’m going to be out on the street. Should an errant electromagnetic pulse wipe out all local machinery, I’m either going to have to move, or start scrubbing toilets for a living. And I hope that toilet scrubbing wage can support my reckless addiction to videogames! These “ironically purchased” Bubsy games ain’t gonna buy themselves!

So, naturally, I can now only view the world through the eyes of my profession. Are more people using ipads now? What’s with people still subscribing to AOL? Dude, how many times has Steve’s email been hacked? He’s sending me emails from Bulgaria again, and it’s getting really annoying. I could make it better! Just say something, Steve! And speaking of nightmarish hellscapes of the modern era, inevitably, when I see a movie, I overanalyze every bit of tech involved. Would those terminals in Avengers really be able to run Space Invaders? Is that spaceship GUI in Thor: Ragnorak at all practical for average superhero use? Do I watch any movies that aren’t based in the Marvel Universe? Of course I do, because I recently saw Blade Runner 2049. Obviously, that was going to grab my attention, the entire premise of the movie is predicated on decades of potential technological advancement, and the effect that would have on humans and generally human shaped beings. That’s so far up my alley, it’s weeping over Martha and her lost pearls.

And, spoilers, I liked Blade Runner 2049…

You Can (Not) Watch Inuyasha

Now, thanks to some dedicated viewing, no one can say I haven’t watched every single episode of Inuyasha. And, as a result, I’ve determined I’ve wasted my life.

I think 200 episodes of an anime does that to you.

Let’s start at the beginning: Inuyasha is an anime that first premiered in the US on Adult Swim in August of 2002. At the time, I was a college student, not quite drinking age, and, oh yeah, a gigantic nerd. Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim programming block had started a year earlier, and with it came Cowboy Bebop, not only one of the best animes ever made, but possibly one of the greatest series ever released in any format (the absolute greatest being, obviously, Fish Police). On the buzz of Cowboy Bebop alone, I’m pretty sure I dutifully watched all Adult Swim anime through the next five years, expecting that, logically, another series must come down the pike that is at least half as good as Cowboy Bebop. That…. Never happened. But back in 2002 I didn’t know that, and Inuyasha looked like a contender. It’s got time travel! And demons! And it’s from the Ranma ½ author! This is gonna be great!

Inuyasha wasn’t great. Inuyasha was for babies.

I also ate it up with a spoon.

Actually, let’s go back to Ranma ½ for a moment. Ranma ½ was author Rumiko Takahashi’s previous manga that was adapted into an anime. It was an often hilarious story about a boy and a girl and the boy occasionally becomes a girl when splashed with water. It was a great little series, but it was nearly impossible to watch in America, because it wasn’t premiering on any television networks, and the age of the VHS was not kind to any bit of media longer than two hours. If you were lucky, one of your friends (the one with an unkempt beard, obviously) had some bootleg VHS tapes of the sub that he totally scored at one of those “con” things (or maybe on IRC). Otherwise, you were never going to see poor Ranma, and the best you could hope for would be a confusing SNES game or maybe some online discussion about what clearly must be the best anime ever.

BARFAnd this was the bizarre world of the late 20th Century. Anime wasn’t kept overseas because companies (likely correctly) believed that there was no profit to be had in importing “Japanimation”, anime was unattainable because it was too adult for our stupid American minds. We got Sailor Moon, but did you know that the original Japanese version was gay as hell? Zoisite is a woman, and those “cousins” are a little bit closer than you’d expect. And Dragon Ball Z! I heard from a friend of a friend that Vegeta and Nappa totally kill people in the original! And Goku gets all bloody, too! And… and… and can you just imagine what those shows we didn’t get look like? Ranma ½ is totally about trans culture! We stupid, prudish gaijin wouldn’t understand!

But, having watched Ranma ½ as an adult years after the fact, I’m forced to admit that the series is merely “good”. It’s hilarious, fun, and occasionally really pretty, but it’s nothing revolutionary. The whole “transformation” thing is treated like a burden by absolutely everyone afflicted (whether they transform into a woman or a piggy) and the majority of the action is focused on the madcap hijinks and how every third man and woman on the planet is inexplicably attracted to Ranma. Aside from some vaguely homosexual notions (is it “gay” if a boy is attracted to a boy that happens to currently be a girl?) there is absolutely nothing earth shattering about Ranma ½, and it’s just… good. Ranma wants to be the best martial artist he can be, and Akane is his obvious match that just happens to have the ability to embarrass him at a moment’s notice with a splash. Story as old as time.

BARKInuyasha is basically the same setup: you’ve got the powerful man (half demon) who can kill anyone in the world with his magically powerful sword, and you’ve got the woman that he obviously loves, who incidentally has the power to bring him to heel instantly (“sit, boy”). And then it takes Ranma ½’s knack for creating a strong supporting cast, and transforms it into a JRPG. We’ve got a big bad that literally craps out clones with random and interesting-to-fight powers, and a party of support staff that is useful for monster identification, exorcisms, and the occasional gigantic spinning top. Throw in a saber tooth kitten that doubles as an airship, and you’ve got Final Inuyasha VII in a nutshell. It’s pretty typical shonen stuff, and the fact that it stars a girl just starting junior high should give you a tipoff to the intended audience.

But Inuyasha did not headline a children’s channel here in America, it was the latest from the very mature Adult Swim. You know, the network with that guy from Fiddler on the Roof complaining about his nipples? Totally mature. And this coupled wonderfully with Inuyasha’s completely insane pacing issues. Inuyasha is definitely an ensemble piece, but its first consistent supporting cast member is not introduced until episode 9. After the tiniest bit of teasing, the villain of the piece eventually arrives during episode 16. For a show that is airing an episode a week, that means approximately four months before the main conflict of the series appears. Four months! In that same amount of time, I’m pretty sure our esteemed president started seventeen nuclear wars! And you could easily make the argument that Inuyasha’s cast isn’t complete until the introduction of the Robin to Sesshōmaru’s Batman, Rin, who appears somewhere around episode 35. By that time, the series had already repeated about six trillion times, and we desperate viewers were convinced those Saiyans were never going to get off Namek! It was infuriating!

And, for some reason, I thought that was the most adult thing of all.

MrowWhen I was growing up, soap operas were derided as lowbrow claptrap. Granted, no one exactly talked about “daytime soaps” in the same way modern man derides anything involving the Kardashians, but it seemed to be constant undercurrent in our other media. I can’t tell you how many times I saw the gag of someone stays home from work or school for a few days, they get dependent on some fictional soap opera, and then everyone has a good laugh about this character’s new, fresh failure of an addiction. Liking soaps is so lame! And, around this same time, serialization was just starting to creep into “normal” media. Star Trek The Next Generation generally forgot its definition of gods, universes, and time travel from week to week, but Star Trek Deep Space Nine was lauded for carrying a cast of characters forward with deliberate callbacks and gradually accumulating motivations. HBO made a killing with The Sopranos, and it was based on intricate storytelling and some poor intern who had to remember which characters were dead at any given moment. And, from my own limited recall of the past, I feel like the first series I ever watched that really cared about continuity was Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the very mature story of a teenage girl jumpkicking vampires until everyone had feelings about everything. Mature storytelling isn’t just ongoing soap opera mush, it’s the elaborate weaving of a million threads that explain why Xander just made a fart joke (it’s because of daddy issues).

Naturally, this lead me to believe Inuyasha’s glacial pace was some apex of sophistication and art. Despite the fact that basically everything you would ever need to know about the series happens in the first two episodes (Inuyasha and Kogome secretly love each other, the cast will be happy forever after we kill every last monster in feudal Japan), I kept watching Inuyasha for… something? I guess I thought they’d eventually reassemble the sacred jewel and then… I don’t know… go to the beach? Or start a new, more interesting plot that wasn’t just Adventure Story #1 (collect all the shiny things)? I don’t even know what I wanted from Inuyasha, I just wanted to see that story move forward and… end. Hey, maybe I didn’t enjoy the show at all! Maybe I just wanted to check off another box on the ol’ “list of shows I done watched”. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Inuyasha consists of 167 initial episodes, and an additional 26 that were produced three years later. With weekly viewings, that all adds up to too damn long to spend on any one piece of media. I moved on. … Or I just let my cable subscription lapse.

What?But, because I am a completionist at heart, I decided to take another stab at it. I decided that I’d watch Inuyasha from start to finish, and see how it all really ends. For anyone curious, here are the bullet points for how Inuyasha’s overarching plot:

  • Kagome travels back in time, and encounters Inuyasha, a half-demon dog that was formerly smitten by Kikyō, who was reincarnated as Kagome.
  • They fall in love and form a kinky dom/sub relationship immediately.
  • Inuyasha picks up a magical sword, which is coveted by his brother, Sesshōmaru, who incidentally has his own magical sword that can freaking raise the dead (but is only used, like, once).
  • Kagome and Inuyasha gain three allies: Sango the demon huntress, Miroku the lecherous monk, and Shippō the walking stuffed animal. They are additionally joined by an unevolved litten, and the occasional fleaman.
  • Kikyō is revived, and, drama bomb, Inuyasha has an undead ex wandering around.
  • Naraku eventually shows up. He’s basically Kikyō’s jealous “nice guy” ex, except he possesses the ability to absolutely never die.
  • Nothing happens for 130 episodes.
  • Inuyasha’s sword turns into a dragon (?) that can puke Hell (?).
  • Naraku, the villain who will not die, dies.
  • Kagome gets a new school uniform.

MROWAnd that’s a ball game, folks. About 20 episodes of actual content, rising action, and consequences, followed by roughly 150 episodes of everyone standing around saying, “I really want to kill that one guy, but hoooow?” I’m going to lie and claim that I don’t mind “filler” episodes, but only when they’re actually entertaining. Your average filler Inuyasha slots into three categories:

  1. A random demon/furry is causing trouble, time to kill it
  2. A random demon is causing trouble, but it is disguised as someone that needs help. It takes a couple episodes for the gang to notice Team Rocket at it again.
  3. The We Hate Naraku Support Group sits around and shares stories about why they hates that varmint so much.

And that’s it! I’m pretty sure Naruto at least had ninja in its filler episodes, here you’re lucky if you go a whole three episodes without exploring an eight year old’s love life. Against all odds, the most interesting episodes wind up being the ones where Kagome visits her home time period and Inuyasha has to fight a bicycle. It’s absurd, it’s ridiculous, and it forsakes the entire premise of the series, but it’s actually entertaining. This might be the one anime in history that makes “the school festival” remotely interesting (step it up, Persona). It might not actually involve a single demon, but Kagome’s beleaguered friends attempting to interpret her ludicrous love life (which involves a dog man and a wolf man) is always a good time. And it only happens about ten times over 200 episodes. Inuyasha is … let me get out that calculator… crunch a few numbers… 0% good!

SpookyBut I’m not writing this article because I want to attack Inuyasha (lie), I’m writing this because I want to warn others. Let me be your canary, and listen to my last gasps of air. Don’t watch anime! Wait… no, that isn’t right, let me try again… Don’t watch anime that is hundreds of episodes long! It’s not worth it! Stories do not work like that! You’re just going to start logging every damn time Miroku can’t use his wind tunnel because of “Naraku’s poisonous insects” (91 times), and you’ll wish for death by the third season. Don’t confuse length for maturity! Don’t watch something just to say you watched it! Whatever ending you imagined, it’s better! I guarantee it! Don’t waste your life like me!

Anyway, article over, I gotta get started on Yu-Gi-Oh now.

Sex and Lies and Life

Trigger Warning: We’re going to be talking about some heady stuff today. Mostly to do with the rampant sexual harassment occurring on the national stage right now. So, ya know, if that’s not your bag, completely understandable. We’ll get back to the light stuff on Wednesday, but for now, I want to get this down while it’s still raw and honest.

So I wrote the first draft of this a day after the revelation that Louis C.K. had apparently been sexually abusing women, and then using his position in the industry to intimidate said women into keeping silent. This is a reprehensible act, and hours after the allegations came to light, HBO rightfully dropped C.K. from all of their programming. FX followed suit in short order, and, as if the show was really still happening anyway, we should kiss Louie, Louis C.K.’s original, semi-autobiographical series, good-bye.

And my first thought, god dammit, was, “Damn, I’m going to miss that show.”

And that absolutely makes me feel like a horrible person.

What must have been twelve billion years ago, my mother helped found a local abused women shelter. A short few billion years later, I was born, and shortly thereafter, my parents got divorced. My parents were both very eager to be present parents, and, as a result, I spent a lot of one-on-one time with both of them. This is an elaborate way of saying that I was raised by a pretty vocal feminist and -is there a concise word for this?- a woman who was very outspoken about sexual abuse. And, while I haven’t always had the best relationship with my mother (fun fact: when you’re a teenager, your parents have this tendency to become the most horrible people on the planet. They got better after a few years, though, so good on them) I’ve always internalized her lessons on what is right and wrong when interacting with women. The idea of hitting a woman revolts me, and the concept of even unintentionally sexually harassing someone fills me with a deep disgust. It’s part of how I was raised, and, honestly, I owe a debt to my mother for instilling in me lessons that so obviously missed the majority of my gender.

Oh, and my mother and I? We’re both huge Woody Allen fans.

The two of us spoke about this a couple of weeks ago when the Weinstein information came to light (incidentally, exposed by Woody Allen’s son/brother-in-law), and we both came to the same conclusion: we’re horrible people. Ever seen Midnight in Paris? It is a well-written, funny meditation on art and idols and the constant generational supposition that everything was perfect fifty years ago going back infinitely to the dawn of time. It’s also a movie made by a sexually abusive man that has used his wealth and fame to be untouchable. Talking about it with my mother, how merely enjoying that movie is in some way enabling this monster, we unanimously came to the conclusion that we won’t defend Woody Allen or what he’s done, we just agree that his movies are funny and speak to people with our generally neurotic personality types (shocking fact: I am mentally similar to the woman that raised me). And our problematic like is “justified” by the fact that everything we do is horrible. Sure, we’re giving money to a ghastly person, but my mother also just got a new computer for all of $300, and electronics are only that cheap because of borderline slave labor available in impoverished areas of Asia. In short, we’re going with a sort of “but there are children starving in Africa” approach to media consumption, and, while we acknowledge that we are supporting something terrible, at least everything is terrible. Can’t even see Lego Batman without accidentally backing the damn Trump administration!

Look, it’s not ideal, but it helps us sleep at night.

But Louis C.K.? That’s my burden to bear, and it’s a little different. If I’m going to claim that my mother wound up being a sort of moral compass for my own dealings with these issues, I also have to admit that I use her as a sort of excuse. I like Woody Allen, but she does, too! It’s okay! See! I understand women! I have wives and daughters (no I don’t)! But, no, my mother unfortunately has no opinions one way or another about Louis C.K. (okay, she probably does now), so I’m stuck going it alone on this moral quandary.

Actually, no, let me rephrase that. There is no moral quandary here. Louis C.K. did some rotten things (you know what? I hate articles where the writer dances around some obvious truth and never seems to actually make eye contact with the issue at hand. Let’s say it out loud: Louis C.K., unsolicited, got naked, whipped out his lil’ Louie, and masturbated in front of five different women on separate occasions. There. Got that out of my system), and the first people we should be considering right now are the women who have a long, difficult trail ahead of them. As we’ve seen time and time again, it is no fun accusing a powerful man (despite the “poor schlub” bits of his act, anyone that has their own production company clearly has enough power to create or kill an entire career) of sexual misconduct. The media and blogosphere and twitter are all very supportive now, but, when you consider your average court case takes years, not days, it’s pretty safe to say that the overt support will die down well before this is finished. HBO shows its support for the victims!… Has it been long enough now? Can we stop it with the moralizing and get back to promoting the final season of Game of Thrones now? And, in the meanwhile, there are lawyers, cross examinations, and every malcontent in the world that wants to spit in the victims’ collective faces because they were really looking forward to that one standup special. Oh, and this is ignoring everything these brave women had to go through in the first place, ie watching a private screening of Life with Louie and then being threatened with “repercussions” should they ever try to do something to curb this vile behavior. Could you just take a moment to consider being in that situation? Watching your rapist (unwanted sexual events don’t require penetration, and I’d say if a dick is out and proud, we’re in rape country) grow more and more popular, gaining awards and accolades for his “honest” showmanship and “woke” persona of a an approachable, understanding celebrity, and knowing all the while that he’s a complete shit that once threatened your livelihood for daring to defy the narrative of this “sympathetic” individual? I don’t know how these victims have the strength to get up in the morning, left alone finally reveal the truth. I become a despondent mess when I knock over a salt shaker! (In my defense, it was a salt shaker I really liked.)

But I suppose that whole “personable celebrity” thing is part of the problem here. Why did the victims not come forward sooner? Aside from the obvious (“the obvious” in any case like this doesn’t need to be restated in another paragraph), Louis C.K.’s general persona seems to naturally repel any and all contradictions to his carefully cultivated identity. Sure, he loves fart jokes, but he’s also a guy that gave over an episode of his series to the difference between the joys of being a fat man versus the dreads of being a fat woman. Horace and Pete was a triumph of fundraising, shattering the Hollywood elite production methods, and spent time showcasing the horrors of modern mental healthcare. He was “that nice guy” on Parks and Recreation, Brandon’s Dad on Home Movies, and the surprisingly sympathetic Horrifying Sweaty One-Armed Monstrosity on Gravity Falls. On camera and off, Louis C.K. seemed to be vulgar, yes, but also a genuinely pleasant guy who understood his own failings and did his best to do right by people he may have wronged. He wasn’t perfect, and he was likely to call your mom a fart monster, but he did his best.

And, yeah, going to go ahead and say that’s how I see myself.

Look, I’m an abrasive person. I try to be civil, I try to be polite, but I do like a good fart joke. If you’ve put on a few pounds, I’m probably going to make a crack about your jeans screaming in pain. I’ll regret it later (hell, I will probably regret it immediately), but it’s kind of how I’m wired. That mother of mine that I mentioned help found an abused women’s shelter? She’s also sarcastic and cynical as hell, and my father isn’t any different. It’s in my DNA to show affection through “gentle ribbing”, and, naturally, when I encounter another personality that does the same thing, I’m understanding. Much of Louis C.K.’s humor appeals to me on a personal level because, yes, I’m right there with you with loving my family but maybe acknowledging they’re driving me nuts. And, similar to my own thinking, Louis C.K. always seemed to be one of those “good” celebrities that wound up using his wealth and fame to make the world a better place. He might not be giving all of his earnings to charity, but the ways he has advanced national discourse through his own productions has been commendable. That’s how I would like to see myself were I that level of successful. I know that earning an assload of cash could easily lead to me lounging around my solid gold mansion in solid gold sweatpants all day, but I like to imagine that I’d use a weekly, half-hour program to progress discussion on difficult topics like war or the amazing world outside our country. In short, more than any celebrity that has recently been accused of sexual misconduct, Louis C.K. seemed more like someone that could be my friend. Or someone that could even be me.

And that scares the hell out of me.

Full disclosure: I was a shitty teenager. To be absolutely clear given the subject matter, I never masturbated in front of anyone, never raped anybody, or committed some other similar transgression. Aside from a little bit of reckless driving and maybe underage drinking (not at the same time, though), I’m technically rather clean of committing any crimes during that time. However, I was absolutely an asshole. Was there a girl I liked that I absolutely “nice guy”’d into oblivion? God yes. Did I ignore completely wonderful women in my life because I when I said I wanted “a girl to play Mario Kart with” I meant “a girl to play Mario Kart with… who has a nice ass”? Obviously. And when I did actually date someone, was I an emotionally manipulative shit? Yes. And I’m sorry. I’ve apologized to the people involved, and I’ve apologized to people in my general orbit from that time. And I know it’s popular to claim you were “a different person then” but what scares me is that I’m not a different person. I’m still me. I knew I was doing something wrong at the time, didn’t care, and let my wang lead me along. There was a time I would have told a woman I was the living reincarnation of Jesus if I thought she would believe it and I could cop like one more feel. Again, I knew it was wrong, but I did it anyway, because I was able to mentally justify that you’re only young once, you’re never going to see these “other kids” again after high school/college/whatever, and what’s the harm? I’m not doing anything illegal, and it’s her own damn fault if she believes my ridiculous lie. It’s a victimless crime!

And, while I feel like I’m “better now”… I should have been better then. And it scares me to think of what would have happened if I had a little more power. It still scares me if such a thing were to happen to me today. Look, I’ve never exactly wanted for love, but there are certainly women I’ve met that would rather lick a cactus than see me naked. And that’s fine! I know plenty of people that, for one reason or another, I am amazed people find attractive. Ben Affleck? Literally have never seen the appeal, and, celebrity or no, if he propositioned me for some reason, I would have to say no. Never mind that we’re both straight and tend to run in different social circles, I’m just plainly stating that I understand some things are never going to happen. But it’s hard to acknowledge that when you’re wealthy, because roughly 90% of our media promotes the hypothesis that if you’re rich and powerful, you can have anything you want, including people. And it’s very easy to surround yourself with yes men and believe your own bullshit to the point that you actually act on such a belief. Yes, what I’m saying is that I find it repugnant, but I completely understand why President Trump thinks it is okay to “grab ‘em by the pussy”. Power is seductive, and when you’ve got it, you want to use it. When you know the law and every male in the immediate area is never going to stop you, all you’ve got is your conscience.

And I guess that’s the crux of this: I thought someone I admired might have a conscience. I thought that someone who seems so apologetic and nice might actually not have five prominent skeletons in his closet. I thought that someone who is like me in a position of power might have that all-important conscience. And I hope that if I ever wind up “at the top”, that I will still have a conscience. It genuinely frightens me to even think of such a thing, but, I mean, if someone I venerate can be so easily tempted, what prayer do I have? As the mightiest of bosstones once said, I’ve never had to knock on wood…

I’m going to miss watching Louie, I’m going to miss enjoying Horace & Pete, and I’m going to miss listening to C.K.’s standup. I’m going to miss all of that. But it’s going to be easy for me to disregard the man behind it all. It’s going to be easy for me to sit in judgment of a celebrity I’ll likely never meet in favor of victims that will likely spend the rest of their lives being derided by lawyers and talk show hosts. It’s easy to say, “Louis bad man” and be done with it. It’s not wrong. Boycotting C.K. is the right thing to do, but it’s also easy.

It’s harder to be a better person, though. It’s harder to acknowledge you are similar to this shitheel, and you could be such a shitheel given the right circumstances. It’s harder to have that thought in your head, and realize that you have to live the rest of your life full well knowing that a random bout of horny could make you literally ruin people’s lives. It’s hard to acknowledge that you’re even capable of doing such a thing, but it must be recognized, because we’re all capable of hurting other people, and we’re all capable of being terrible.

To everyone reading this: be a better person. It’s hard, but be better. Be better than that man, be better than all of these men, and genuinely care for each other.

It’s an excellent way to not be a horrible person.