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FGC #340 Tekken 3

King of the Iron Fist, AgainVideogames always move forward, but is the past really the enemy?

As I’m writing this, Mario Odyssey is just around the corner, which makes it an unknown. Will the game be good? Bad? Previews have lied before, it could be anything! There is technically just as much of a chance as seeing the next Mario Galaxy as Mario is Missing. But one thing we do know is that it won’t look like this:

GLUB GLUB

In much the same way you don’t want to show your naked baby photos to a date, the old days of gaming are fairly embarrassing. Okay, yes, there is nostalgia for the “8-bit style”, and every once in a while we get a great “throwback” game like Shovel Knight or Mega Man 9/10, but those adventures are few and far between. The lamest of cell phone games do their best to have “high definition” graphics, and even something like Pokémon Go, a game that barely requires graphics at all, looks better than most of the Playstation 2 oeuvre. Videogames move forward because they must, and looking back (or releasing a product that is actively looking back as an artistic choice) should be about as successful as scoring your bald-headed granny a gig with Insane Clown Posse (this is not to say your grandmother could not be a thriving juggalo, I understand that is a very warm and welcoming community).

At first glance, Tekken 3, the third Tekken game released on the Playstation 1 (I know that sounds obvious, but it’s not like there were only three Final Fantasy games on the Playstation), seems to follow this same line of thinking. Tekken 3 was a very deliberate reboot for the series… or… perhaps that’s the wrong word? Tekken 3 is definitely a continuation of the Tekken universe (so this isn’t some alternate universe or a situation where Spock accidentally nuked the space-time continuum or anything), but from a gameplay perspective, this may as well be a reboot. Tekken 2 featured 25 characters (or thereabouts, depends on how you count model swaps), which was a fairly significant roster for 1995. Tekken 3 featured 23 (or so) characters, but only six of those characters were familiar faces from previous Tekken entries. Okay, again, that’s kind of an exaggeration, as characters like King and Kuma are just “the next generation” compared to some previous characters. Kuma II technically isn’t Kuma I, and Panda certainly has nothing to do with any of that.

WooooBut, as ever, a fighting game is defined by its roster, and this roster makes an obvious comment about the “old” roster. It’s old! Paul Phoenix has gone from the Ken of the series to a glory-seeking has-been (who, incidentally, got beat up by a bear), Lei looks like he’s getting too old for this shit, and Heihachi Mishima is your super powered grandpa. The only characters that stay youthful are the cryogenically frozen Nina and Anna, and that was only because videogames are lawfully forbidden from featuring women over 40 (that’s the explanation, right?).

The rest of the roster, meanwhile, is youth in spades. The new main character is Jin, the son of two former Tekken characters who behaves properly like a genetic mix of the duo. He comes with a love interest and new rival, and, yes, they’re all in high school. Then we’ve got Forest Law, son of Marshall Law (God I love that pun), King Jr., the protégé of King Sr., and Julia, adopted daughter of Michelle. The rest of the new characters seem to emphasize youth, with Eddy Gordo as a break-dancing hip hop gangsta octopus[citation needed], and Bryan as one of those topless zombies that all the kids seem to love. And the big boss is an “ancient evil” that has been resting for millennia, so, yes, the final battle is absolutely going to be a teenager beating up the oldest thing he can find.

But there’s very little to complain about with the youthfulness of Tekken 3, as it’s an improvement to the franchise in every way. Tekken and Tekken 2 seemed destined for the Virtua Fighter graveyard of games that are 3-D, technical, and not very fun at all for some reason. Tekken and Tekken 2 weren’t bad, and, in fact, they might have been some of the best 3-D fighters out there… but this was also during the era that “3-D fighter” was a completely new thing, and competing with the raw love some had for really creative games like Street Fighter Alpha or Darkstalkers was no simple task. Yes, Tekken 2 had a boxing dinosaur, but did it have an enchanted succubus battling a giant bee from hell? Tekken 3 turned the weird up to eleven, smoothed out the basic flow of a battle, improved the graphics, and tossed in a magical wooden man (and woman!) for good measure. YouthfulTekken 3 rode that youth wave to conquer the fighting world, and you’ll still find 30somethings wandering around local arcades talking about the wonders of that Yoshimitsu.

But Tekken 3 didn’t quite forget its past.

Tekken 3 was the final Tekken title on the Playstation 1. It might seem ridiculous now, but the original Playstation was kind of a big deal in its time, as it was Sony’s first foray into the videogame console market, and the first successful console to support CDs (sorry, Sega). And Tekken was right there at the start of the Playstation’s R U E adventures, complete with next gen, blocky as hell graphics and “a TV scorching 50 frames per second”. So it seemed only appropriate that Tekken 3 would find an apposite way to close out the generation (before kickstarting it again with Tekken Tag Tournament).

Tekken 3 included a pile of unlockables, as was the style at the time. Over half the roster is missing at the start, and then there is a Final Fight-esque beat ‘em up mode to be completed. And I’m pretty sure you had to do something ridiculous to score the one and only Tiger, too. But after earning the entire cast, you could beat the game with said cast, and gradually unlock all of their endings. And then, after all that was done, you finally earned a completed Theater Mode. And do you know what you could do with complete Theater Mode? You could pop in an old Tekken or Tekken 2 disc, and watch every ending in the entire franchise.

Never understood the shoe thingThis was unprecedented in videogames! This is still incredibly unusual! You, dedicated Tekken fan, are actually being rewarded for owning old games. In an industry that’s constantly pushing the new and… that’s it. Just the new. It doesn’t matter if the latest version is actually better than the previous game (or not), what’s important is that you buy the newest hotness, and trade in those old discs at Gamestop or some other wretched pawn shop. A game (and the people producing said game, obviously) actually remembering that older games even exist is amazing, and, simply a “theater mode” or not, it’s great to see a franchise remember its roots.

So, way to go, Tekken 3. In an industry obsessed with the latest thing, you managed to marry the new and old with aplomb. You truly are the King of the Iron Fist.

…. Whatever the hell that means.

FGC #340 Tekken 3

  • System: Playstation 1, though probably also available on every system produced by Sony. Vita? Sure, probably.
  • Number of players: Fight, fight, two players, always fight.
  • Yay Gon!Favorite Character: Gon is a precious angel that could only be on this Earth for a short time, and he will always be remembered.
  • Favorite Ending: Gon is a precious angel that could only be on this Earth for a short time, and he will always be remembered.
  • Favorite Game Mode: Tekken didn’t establish itself as Tekken until Tekken Ball, the only fighting match that requires a giant beach ball to win. Or… wait… did that happen in Dead or Alive?
  • Goggle Bob Fact: So, first of all, I managed to score my copy of Tekken 3 right before leaving on my freshman high school band trip to Myrtle Beach. Like, I literally bought it an hour before the bus left. So, since I naturally brought my Playstation along, our room was basically just all Tekken 3, all the time. Pretty sure the entire roster was unlocked before the second day. On the other hand, I distinctly recall my freshman crush looking over the instruction manual and noting, “Wow, that guy has a huge package”. “That guy” was Eddy Gordo, and I have been jealous of that digital beefcake ever since.
  • What is even happening here?Did you know? It sounds like a high school rumor, but Anna actually has two different endings. In America, Anna’s ending is a poolside bit of sibling rivalry where Nina has to watch her sister get the attention of all the boys. In Japan, the ending ends with Nina snapping Anna’s bikini, and we close on a triumphant Nina and a topless Anna. It’s true! It’s on youtube! My uncle told me!
  • Would I play again: There’s actually a Tekken 3 arcade cabinet in the retro section of my local arcade, and I’ve hit that a time or two. It’s a fun way to beat up a bear, so, yeah, I’ll play it again.


What’s next?
Random ROB has chosen… Yoshi’s Island for the Super Nintendo! Good! I needed an excuse to try out that SNES Classic! Please look forward to it!

FGC #082 Tekken 4

Iron fists and whatnotThe time has come to tell the tale of my Playstation 2.

I would like to say that I have had generally good luck with video game hardware over the years. My first hardware failure was a SNES Advantage that somehow got stuck in “slow mo” mode (aka automatic turbo start button) that I eventually disassembled and… thought I could put back together? Every once in a while, I’ll sort through old toys, and find an ancient, forgotten giant Y button. I played my first Dreamcast hard with Soul Calibur, and it eventually shut down and never properly booted again. Remember the Dreamcast boot sequence, with a little ball bouncing along the Dreamcast letters? Well, that little ball would get up to the “E” and, before hitting “A”, just infinitely wobble back and forth while the sound of a jackhammer trumpeted through the speakers. Luckily, Dreamcasts were valued at around thirty bucks six months later, so I didn’t go without for too long. And, like pretty much everybody, my Xbox 360 “red ringed” on two separate occasions, and just recently completely gave up properly outputting a video signal. Eh, I needed to upgrade the hard drive anyway…

But I still recall the most strange hardware issue of all.

Travel with me now back to the time when the Playstation 2 was new, and not nearly 16 years old. This was the birth of what I’d consider “current” graphics, that is to say, no more weird looking polygons comprising every surface, object, and person, no more pre-rendered, completely static backgrounds, no more tinny midis in place of full orchestral scores. Alright, yes, all of those things could still appear, but look at the difference between Final Fantasy 8 and The Bouncer (which, let’s face it, both starred basically the same characters), and you’ll see the insane improvement between generations. This was a whole new world of advanced graphics, and the Pixar-level graphics that had previously been relegated to ending sequences were now fully functional and an absolute blast to play.

But you have to remember that someone enjoying these graphics firsthand may also have survived practically every other video game generation. Get it!?Comparing Playstation to Playstation 2 graphics is one thing, but when you compare it back to the Donkey Kong days of the NES, it was hard to believe this kind of thing was even possible. Once you leapt over that mental hurdle, though, you began to realize that the people making these games were likely the same or related to the people that actually were involved with Donkey Kong back in the day, so, while the graphics may be upgraded, there’s no reason to believe the “allowable” glitches wouldn’t still exist. Nobody puts their million dollar game on hold just because a character’s hair doesn’t look right for exactly one scene, so let’s just collectively ignore the fact that Vincent’s cape is clipping into another dimension while we’re supposed to be mourning Aeris. Accidents happen, and I can safely say, for now and then, that some games are better off just shipped as glitchy messes. Yes, I’d rather play a game without glitches, but given the choice between a glitchy Skyrim and no Skyrim, I’ll take the glitched version.

So, when it appeared I broke Hwoarang’s spine during a bout in Tekken 4, I thought nothing of it. “It’s just a glitch,” I told myself, and I moved on (or fought on, as the case may be). I should have known better.

Look at this, probably just a silly capture of one frame, right?

That looks like it hurts

Well, we could look at this in motion…

Really hurts

Maybe I’m just seeing things?

Months earlier, I had played through Final Fantasy 10, and while it was primarily glitch-free, there were occasions when a character would stretch and distort to the full size of the screen before awkwardly snapping back to regular size. The experience would always be quick, and, given this was from the same company that produced Vincent’s cape, I thought nothing of it. I mocked the random events with a friend whom I knew was also playing Final Fantasy 10, and he seemed completely unaware of such a thing ever happening. “Oh well,” I thought, “dude just doesn’t even notice that kind of thing.” I should have known better.

And then came Kingdom Hearts. To be clear, I had already played through Final Fantasy 10 at this point, and Tekken 4 I had borrowed from a friend and played for a solid week or so (In retrospect, I think we had a parasitic relationship where he had money, and I had the drive and skills to unlock all characters in a new game. Here’s your Tekken back, and I copied the data to your memory card just like you asked.), so I had already written off this issue in two games previously. In Kingdom Hearts, however, it was hard to ignore…

Now that's what I call goofy

Huh. That’s weird. Is that only in menus? Maybe if we look at just one character?

Think happy thoughts!

Whoa, Wendy, what happened to your leg? Maybe if we hit someone without legs?

You shouldn't be part of this world

Jesus Christ.

What you’re seeing there is a capture from my ol’ original Playstation 2. What’s happening there? Who the hell knows, but it happens to nearly every model in Kingdom Hearts 1. It only effected the gameplay in one location, where Sora glitched “behind” a gigantic Ursula, and thus had a really easy time of it just plinking the back of her neck to death. But while the whole experience may not have made the game unplayable, it was certainly… more than a little distracting.

So I want to say that my Playstation 2 has some kind of issue with polygons staying where they should. I’ve never heard of anyone else with this issue, but I haven’t looked very hard, so maybe it’s a known glitch? Maybe my Emotion Engine is sad? I don’t know. What I do know is that the stupid thing makes some games completely unplayable.

Just so I don’t keep picking on Squaresoft, I’ll mention Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which, by and large, was free of this glitch. However! During one of the stalking missions (the one where you purchase a gimp suit… it’s a weird game), every time I would reach a certain spot on the road in my tracking, my car would glitch out, fall through the planet, and rematerialize right on top of my prey. Mission failed. Every. Single. Time. In a desperate attempt to complete the mission, I used cheat codes to pile up cars and tanks over the “soft spot”, but, no, every single vehicle just popped through the wormhole and onto my poor mission objective. That poor woman exploded so many times, under so much rubble…

And, yes, it was just a result of my Playstation 2, and not some weak Rockstar coding. I took the game and my memory card over to a friend’s house/Playstation 2, completed the mission successfully, and then returned home and didn’t experience anything like that again.

But back to mocking Squaresoft, here’s the most insidious application in Full Metal Alchemist and the Broken Angel. The whole game was pretty easy on the glitches on my run through, and I rather enjoyed the game (mainly because I like the franchise/pulling weapons out of nowhere), so I nearly completed the game. I made it to the final chamber before the final boss, and hopped on the elevator that would transport Edward Elric to the final challenge. What happened was… heartbreaking…

AHHHHH

Yes, Edward glitches up to where the elevator eventually stops, but, without proper footing, falls back down the shaft. The elevator, now devoid of a passenger, returns back down to terra firma. Edward lands back on the elevator, it slightly ascends, and the whole thing starts again.

Thus, on my Playstation 2, completing the game is completely impossible.

Yes, I certainly pursued the same “just do it on another Playstation 2” solution I found for my GTA issue, but, given this was the absolute end of the game, it was an aggravating experience. Way to go, crazy Playstation 2.

So, yeah, if I’m going to remember Tekken 4 for anything, it’s those first notions of, “wait, I didn’t see this happen at my buddy’s place, what gives?” The glitched PS2 would obviously go on to more radically affect other games, but Tekken 4, over everything else I could recall about the experience, well always be that game where Jin suddenly has a floppy skull for some reason.

Tekken 4 reminds me that I’m special.

FGC #82 Tekken 4

  • System: Playstation 2. That’s kind of important. Arcade, too. That’s less important.
  • Number of players: 2, as, ya know, fighting game.
  • NooooMaybe actually talk about the game for a second: I like Tekken 4, but it’s one of those fighting games that, after an edition that was wall-to-wall crazy and featured every character so the bear and the dinosaur could fight the sumo and the schoolgirl, “rebooted” the franchise and limited the roster to the more serious characters with more technical moves. I mean, at least the bear and the zombie got to stay, and we picked up a robot that would go on to hangout in Xenosaga, but I still miss the kangaroo, and Paul just isn’t the same after his hair fell down.
  • Favorite Character: Hwoarang is my main man when I just want to kick someone in the head hard and often, and Yoshimitsu is the reason I play Tekken games at all (that’s a story for another article), but, of the Tekken 4 lineup, Bryan (the zombie) is my favorite. He is just so… completely insane. I mean, I would be too if I routinely had to fight a bear, but he’s the only one in the cast that actually shows it.
  • Cosplay Corner: If I could dress as Violet every day, I would. I’d dye my hair and everything.
  • So, still use that Playstation 2? Nah, I replaced it eons ago, tired of getting mission-blocked by random glitching. I say “replaced”, but I couldn’t get rid of the ol’ girl, so she’s sitting in my attic, trotted out only on occasions when I want to capture the insanity for a global audience. Most of my Playstation 2 gaming gets done on a “launch” Playstation 3 nowadays, anyway.
  • Did you know? Kuma, the bear, has appeared in every Tekken game (also Street Fighter X Tekken and Playstation All-Stars), but he hasn’t been the same Kuma in every game. From Tekken 3 onward, Kuma is Kuma Jr., Da Bearsthe son of the original Kuma. Kuma Jr. is a very smart bear, and has won controlling shares in a worldwide conglomerate on at least two occasions. Fighting game plots are awesome.
  • Would I play again: Even including the original, I want to say that Tekken 4 is my least favorite Tekken. This isn’t because it’s a bad game, but, as previously mentioned with that “reboot” comment, this is the least interesting Tekken, and, really, that’s why I play Tekken. Tekken 4 is, at best, the Vassal of the Iron Fist.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Sonic Adventure for the Dreamcast (though I reserve the right to play it on the Gamecube). Are you ready for some high speed fishing action? ARE YOU!?! Please look forward to it!

You Can (Not) Watch Anime

See, there's this crab... oh nevermindTo be frank, this site started as a depository for my Kingdom Hearts FAQ posts, and the Fustian Game Challenge was merely an excuse to generate new content. Now, fifty FGC posts later, I’ve found I really enjoy the parameters of the FGC, as it encourages me to replay any number of games I could have likely ignored for the rest of my life. Super Mario Land is up next, and, spoilers, I really enjoyed replaying this game that I likely would not have touched otherwise. Super Mario Land is fun, but there are literally ten other Mario games I can name that I’d be more likely to play before it, never mind the glut of excellent NES platformers that at least have color, and then never mind the last thirty years of video games that have been released in the median. But, hey, the robot said to play the game, so I did, and I enjoyed it, and that’s about how this whole project has been going. From the beginning, I always knew there would be a point where I’d stall out and give up… like most every “hobby” project I’ve ever started… but the way things are going, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were another fifty posts. Maybe even a whole 52.

But, as I was saying, the FGC was just one of many ideas I had for what to write about for this site, and second runner up was basically the same concept, except with anime. Same basic rules: with streaming and other such services nowadays, it’s easier than ever to cue up a random show and view a random episode. So, watch an episode of any given series (whether I’d seen the series before or not was irrelevant), digest what I’d seen, and then write about it. Pretty straightforward.

Now I realize that, had I gone with that concept, I would currently be insane.

I’ve mentioned it before, but I like anime. If I think about it, I’ve always like anime, starting back before I even knew my own last name but knew the name of the defender of the universe, a mighty robot, loved by good, and feared by evil. Anime, though, is like any other entertainment medium: there’s about one good show every couple years, and the rest is a pile of nonsense either pandering to the lowest common denominator or mindlessly imitating whatever was popular last year. Sometimes both! So, as a result of there being a lot of trashy anime, I watch a lot of trashy anime. It’s not a matter of “wanting” to watch any anime that is 90% fan-service, it’s just a matter of the television is right there, it’s easy to try out any given weird show, and then watch five hours of it while grinding out EXP on the 3DS. I can do two things at once!

So, in memory of the fact that this blog could have been dedicated entirely to anime, I’m going to write a skosh about a few random animes I’ve watched over the last few… years? Seems like it’s been a while.

Infinite Stratos

This is the most recent thing I’ve watched, so it’s getting covered first. Also, it might be the most anime-anime I’ve ever seen. Boy is the chosen one, and he’s the only XY on Earth that can pilot (kinda) giant robots. So he’s sent to an all-girls school where he’s relentlessly pursued by the entire student body, particularly six main girls that cover the standard range of harem archetypes.
It’s pretty terrible.

Bunny ears, maid costume, yep.My main takeaway from the show is that, while I’m not usually one to think “oh man, I could do this so much better” about professionals who have likely been in their industry for years, I could probably write an entire season of harem anime in about a week. Episode one: introduce boy and main girl and general conflict. Following ten episodes: introduce a new girl and her new quirks once per episode, and have it continue into the next episode as their issues are resolved by Boy just in time for the next girl to arrive. Obviously, have each new girl bounce her “quirky” personality off of Boy and each of the established girls. As of episode eleven (well, the finale episode ten), introduce a major threat that you can claim was foreshadowed the whole time, threaten Boy or Main Girl, and then the whole gang pulls together to eliminate Threat. Episode Thirteen: Everyone goes to the beach!

Oh, and when I said each of the girls would have different quirky personalities? If rushed for time, just replace that with different bra sizes. No one will notice.

Good Luck Girl

I always find it hard to say this, but I don’t understand humor. I realize this is like trying to dissect a beloved pet to understand why “petting” is so soothing, but any time I try to analyze why I find X funnier than Y (or, more likely, I try to figure out why the likes of Everybody Loves Raymond or Monkey like bananaThe Big Bang Theory are apparently the most beloved comedies of the century while, say, early Community was treated like a dissected beloved pet), I come up empty. I find some things funny, I find other “funny” things atrocious, and I think I’ll live longer if I just don’t think about it too hard. This is likely why I’ve taken to writing about video games, because there have been six deliberately funny video games in the last three decades.

Good Luck Girl is funny. It makes me laugh. I have no idea why this anime, over the many others I’ve watched, is that much better at being a comedy, but there it is. I do have to admit, the central concept of the show, that one girl has nothing but good luck, while her rival has nothing but bad luck, is pretty much the same concept as, say, every Roadrunner short ever, but modern Looney Tunes can’t seem to make me crack a smile, why does Good Luck Girl succeed?

From an objective standpoint, it’s even basically boilerplate anime, complete with the two female leads constantly squabbling over breast size (and every random guest star commenting on their physical differences). There’s a “bath episode” to take the place of the traditional “beach episode”, and there’s even a “serious” subplot about finding romance that does absolutely nothing new, original, or even interesting.
But I think I laughed out loud at least once during every episode so… good job?

Maken-Ki: Battling Venus

See Infinite Stratos.

RAWRLove Bullet Yurikuma Arashi

And this is maybe my favorite thing I’ve seen all year in any medium.

By all accounts, this should be terrible, as it’s an examination of society’s treatment of / individual’s own acceptance and reactions to homosexuality… coming from a culture that is still very much in the Dharma & Greg stage of homosexual acceptance. But Love Bullet actually comes through and tells not only an amazing story (and given the strong ties to Revolutionary Girl Utena, I shouldn’t be surprised), but one that makes it abundantly clear to even the more ardent homophobe that “othering” people and attempting to “build a wall” to keep out undesirables hurts not only the “others”, but the “ruling majority” as well. And it’s subtle enough that… wait… is that official art of two teenage girls licking honey off of the third? Okay, maybe the lesbian overtones are a little… superliminal. But I stand by my assessment that even people that would normally be frightened away by the gay can enjoy this series and maybe even learn something. It’s got bears, after all. Bears are macho, right? Or am I thinking of something else?

Absolute Duo

See Infinite Stratos.

Persona 4 The Animation &
Blazblue: Alter Memory

Ever play these video games? Good, then there is absolutely no reason to watch these shows. Next time you complain about a movie not being faithful enough to its source material, remember that there’s a terrible universe where that “movie” is five hours long, and offers absolutely no additional insight or ideas.

Steins;Gate

And speaking of adaptions, here’s an odd one. Steins;Gate is another damn harem anime, but the reason I paid it any real attention is that it contains a season-long time travel plot, and, seriously, you could shoehorn time travel into a porno, and I’d watch it attentively with notebook in hand (“Hm… so he’s traveling through time to make sure she’s not a virgin in the future when… wait… How does the pizza delivery fit in to all of this?”). The boy of this show is Okabe, a fairly detestable creature that, forgoing the “purity” of his harem star He ate her yogurt or somethingfraternity, is easily the least likeable member of the cast. This isn’t a matter of the main character being a boring protagonist, no, this is a matter of it being established early on that this is a “hero” who has essentially kidnapped two friends from the start, and has a third victim by the end of the first episode. He’s narcissistic, transphobic, misogynistic, and women seem to fall for him when he shows the tiniest glimmer of humanity.

But, seriously? I don’t give a damn, because I can deal with an unlikeable protagonist if the story is interesting. This is no Breaking Bad, but the science of the show coupled with its pacing and the fact that we’re basically dealing with a “time travel whodunit” is enough to hold my interest. It’s okay that Okabe is a jerk, because he’s supposed to be an eccentric genius, not Sir Galahad. He’s one unpleasant character in a cast of, what, eight or so? Doc Brown, godfather of time travel, was neat to watch, but I wouldn’t exactly trust him with my car keys. No big deal.

And then I discovered that Steins;Gate was all based on a video game. And that game is of the “visual novel” variety. And Okabe? That’s you. You are Okabe.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the scariest hell imaginable.

Watch. Do not play.

Upotte!!

I have no idea what this is, or who it was intended for, but if you ever find someone raving about this being their favorite show, please, please tell an adult.

Monogatari
Or whatever they’re calling it this week

There are some significant reasons to never watch this show. Among them:

  1. The fanservice is constant and unflinching. This is a series that opens with a thirty second panty shot. I know this because they literally put a clock on the screen as it happens.
  2. Two of the characters are Starfire-level exhibitionists, so, no need for a beach episode, you’ll see them near-naked before their introductions are over. A third character is prim and proper and reserved… but has a split personality that causes her to strip to her unmentionables. The most reserved character winds up with a malady that just happens to cover her body, so she’s gotta get naked for the investigation. This is not very subtle.
  3. There’s a thousand year old vampire… who is “influenced” by the (male, duh) main character into appearing like a preteen child. See any of my posts on Kingdom Heart’s Xion for details on how much I love the trope of “woman whose appearance is exactly what her man desires”. See also Meggan of the X-Men, assuming you believe this to be an exclusively Japanese thing.
  4. Perhaps worst of all, the protagonist has a pair of younger sisters that are confirmed to be sub-high school age and… you can guess where this is going, right? Yeah, they’re sexualized like hell, rapidly graduating from unfortunate camera angles to full-on partial nudity, with a particular emphasis on the youngest of the two. Unless you’ve got a… sister lolita complex? Is that a thing? Unless that’s your specific kink, there’s pretty much no way you’re making it through these scenes without being grossed out. Hell, I’m nauseas just typing it.

All that said? I’ll watch every episode of this show.

A long time ago, like, back in the age of Shakespeare, directors realized that watching two people converse was about as interesting as watching a puppy nap (“Aww, that’s cute… Okay, let’s go do something else now.”), so various tricks and techniques were developed to create the illusion of forward momentum even when nothing is technically happening. Fastforward to the age of television, and you’ll see even more refined methods for masking boring conversations. Consider that any one of the thousand procedural shows now on the boob tube are just a series of experts talking to each other about an event that already happened before the opening credits, but that illusion of momentum is maintained through camera angles and actors unnecessarily walking down hallways and through labs. I’m certain that every single episode of Law & Order could actually be produced using two sets and four actors.

Also note that the majority of video games ever produced do not understand this simple fact. Please enjoy these two static characters standing parallel while text scrolls along.

90% of Monogatari is just two characters having a conversation that is at least tangentially related to the central problem, but, rather than employ Smexyany of the old standbys of traditional drama, Monogatari seems to have opted for allowing the animators to go wild. The first I ever saw of this series was two characters sitting on a bed discussing the concept of love for fifteen minutes, which, by all accounts, should be the most boring thing ever produced; but, no, it was an interesting mix of styles and text and all sorts of crazy things. It really shouldn’t work, it shouldn’t be fun to watch, but it is, and it occasionally strikes an excellent emotional chord by flashing images of what the speaking character is clearly thinking, but doesn’t have the guts to say. It’s a neat trick, and does an excellent job of making each episode distinct and remarkable.

And the other chief reason I keep watching Monogatari? I haven’t seen a show that made me feel for teenagers this much since FLCL. Look, I’m not one to romanticize my own teenage years. When I was living it, I could nary believe some people refer to that age as “the best years of your life”. If anything, I consider high school to be the absolute worst time of my life. Not that it was that bad, mind you, simply that it was the first time in my life that I really felt like I deserved to be steering my own ship, but had absolutely no freedom to do so. When I really think on it, high school is likely the time period in my life I’d like to relive the absolute least. Do-over, yes, but not reexperience on its own terms.

But in some strange, honest way, Monogatari makes me actually feel nostalgic for being a teenager, and particularly the concept of teen romance. Maybe it’s a side effect of the animators so frequently, almost subliminally dropping into the protagonist’s head, but there’s a sincerity to relationship interactions in this series that is completely absent from the likes of shows like Infinite Stratos. So many harem animes claim their heroes are pure and good and the center of so much female attention because of their nobility, but all they ever do is save people when they’re in danger, which, congratulations, dude, you didn’t watch another human being die, here’s your damn medal (and six girlfriends). Mix that faux-nobility with a character that seems to be either wildly sexually repressed or downright asexual (despite being a straight teenage boy), and you’ve got the recipe for a boy that seems more mythical than giant robots and magic powers. Monogatari is wall-to-wall male gaze, but that’s exactly what that male is gazing at, and he makes no excuses for his own behavior, simply a, “I’m a teenage boy, what did you expect?” And, if I’m being honest, I envy that. I covet the time when relationships were new, when you didn’t fly into every new relationship with more baggage than could ever be stowed overhead, when it was just, “hehe, I like your boobs.” Yes, it’s wildly immature and problematic, but that’s exactly why I miss it. I will literally never feel that pure, animalistic lust about a woman ever again, and that’s a good thing for everyone involved, but that doesn’t mean I can’t miss those simpler, hormonal times. I wouldn’t want to go back, but I can feel for that lost feeling.

Monogatari makes me feel, and I feel like that’s important.

Highschool DxD

See Infinite Stratos.