That Survival Movie

This Friday marks the American release of a movie which is based on an internationally loved novel. It is the famed story of a number of children who have been selected to become part of a gruesome game in which they must kill each other in the name of survival. In it, three of these children band together to aid each other in bucking the system – two boys and a girl. That’s right, I’m referring to the title which has previously spawned a 16 volume manga series as well as two movies from its native country: Battle Royale.

Shuuya Nanahara, Noriko Nakagawa, and Shogo Kawada in the new movie

I first heard of Battle Royale about 10 years ago, when my college had a showing of it. At the time, I was completely unfamiliar with the storyline and characters, so it all blended together for me. Some time later, I realized that there was also a manga series which was being published.

<Trivia: Battle Royale is not only the first manga I ever bought, but the first manga series I ever completely read and owned>

One of the best things about it becoming a 16 volume manga series was that the authors were able to delve into the mannerisms and backstories of each of the characters. In fact, my favorites ended up being the martial arts master Hiroki Sugimura and insane seductress Mitsuko Souma. In fact, now that I have finished both the manga and the novel, I feel like I am completely ready for the movie. However, I haven’t quite had an opportunity to see it again since.

I realize some of you may have seen all the hype for it and be asking yourselves, “what exactly IS this Battle Royale all about?” You see, Battle Royale was a Japanese novel written in 1999 about 42 classmates who are selected to battle for survival on an island. The game itself is called “Battle Royale” and it takes place in Japan’s near-future as a form of entertainment. The classes are randomly selected once a year and the participants generally don’t know they are selected until they wake up in a classroom and are receiving a lecture on the rules of the game. Each person is given a bit of food and water as well as an object to ensure their survival. This object can be anything from a tracking device or megaphone to an uzi or shotgun. The main characters of the story are Shuuya Nanahara, Noriko Nakagawa, and Shogo Kawada. Shuuya is a rebellious rock fan who tries to prevent playing the game and hopes to unite his classmates against the system. Noriko is a girl who has a crush on Shuuya and is inspired by his hope. Shogo is a mysterious recent transfer student who seems to know more about the game than he lets on. Of course, there are people who do choose to play the game, like Kazuo Kiriyama and Mitsuko Souma and Shuuya’s group must avoid them.

Shuuya Nanahara, Noriko Nakagawa, Shogo Kawada, Kazuo Kiriyama, and Mitsuko Souma from the Battle Royale manga

Much like any live action adaptation, the new movie seems to only keep only the essential Battle Royale storyline, such as the children being randomly selected for a survival game, the fact that there’s 2 boys and a girl, and that it’s being watched by millions across the country. However, I’m not too thrilled by the fact that once again, the characters (all of them this time) seem to have been completely whitewashed. Also, judging from the trailers I’ve seen, the movie almost seems to center around the Noriko character. Despite these changes, I absolutely plan to check out this movie as I am a huge fan of live action adaptations. In addition, I look forward to seeing how many more changes were made.

Hating on Love (of Cosplay)

Kristen Bell & Jay Baruchel cosplaying Slave Leia & Obi-Wan Kenobi in the movie "Fanboys."

I’m sure you’ve seen a movie or tv show featuring a geek and at some point, there’s a time where somebody (whether it’s a main character or background) shows up in some sort of costume. FanboysGalaxy QuestPsychRace to Witch Mountain, CommunityCSI, and of course, The Big Bang Theory are all examples of media where this might have been seen. When people dress in these costumes, THAT is called cosplaying. Cosplay is mostly seen at conventions, though people may also cosplay to movie/book premieres and at [pre-planned] public gatherings. Based on that information, it would seem like this is an activity that centers around having fun, right? What’s that? “Yes,” you say? Then that would be one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard in my life. Everyone who heard that is now dumber for having listened to you, you are awarded no points, and may God have mercy on your soul. No, that’s not me saying that, but it seems that there are people who actually believe this.

(Clockwise from top) An unknown cosplayer, HentaiGirl82, and Blikku cosplaying as Kanu Unchou, Ryomou Shimei, and Hakufu Sonsaku from "Ikki Tousen."

You see, as you might have seen on Community and its timeslot rival, The Big Bang Theory, whites aren’t the only cosplayers out there. Now apparently, this is a problem for some people – especially in anime fandom. I’ve heard many stories of snide comments made online and at conventions. It is supposedly because of the fact that most anime and video game characters are of a fair complexion that many people seem to think that people of color are unfit to cosplay anything but characters of color. While there are a good number of characters of color available and this site has a comprehensive list of many of them, though there are more that aren’t listed there, like:

  • Balrog/M.Bison from Street Fighter II
  • Barrett from Final Fantasy VII
  • Dudley from Street Fighter III
  • Elena from Street Fighter III
  • Jadakins from Tokyo Tribe 2
  • Kai Deguchi from Tokyo Tribe 2
  • Kaolla Su from Love Hina
  • Kevin Kotaro Abe from Whistle!
  • Mera from Tokyo Tribe 2
  • Octave from Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem
  • Takenori Akagi from Slam Dunk

My buddy, J Ryoga, as Tidus from "Final Fantasy X."

There are a few more, but I can’t remember the names. However, out of a few thousand anime titles, that still amounts to just under 200 names. Not only is it completely unreasonable to expect every darker-skinned person to stick to such a [relatively] short list of characters, but it’s absolutely ridiculous. Especially in a community where cross-playing is considered perfectly acceptable (Cross-playing is when a person of one sex cosplays as a character of the opposite sex). I should mention that I have absolutely no issue with cross-players, whether it’s a male cross-playing a female character or a female cross-playing a male character – just do it to the best of your ability. Cosplay is supposed to be about having fun and celebrating your favorite characters and/or series. If someone wears a good or bad cosplay, it shouldn’t matter if they’re black, white, fat, thin, male, or female. What matters is how the viewer likes the outfit. If you do, feel free to get a picture. If not, ignore it. If they’re not the same physical type as the character and they look amazing, praise them for doing so.

Any straight guys try to hit on this cosplayer, they're in for a shock - deviantArt's Manolo-kun crossplaying Utena Tenjou of "Revolutionary Girl Utena."

I find this whole behavior odd for a couple of reasons. Firstly, if you want to be technical about this whole issue, then outside of obvious European/non-Japanese characters like the Amestrans (eg: the Elrics, Roy Mustang, the Armstrong siblings, etc) of FullMetal Alchemist, Emma of Emma – A Victorian Romance, and Roger Smith of The Big O, there aren’t many “white” characters, either. Yes, there are far more than their darker-skinned counterparts, but the vast majority of fair-skinned characters in anime and manga are 100% Japanese born and raised. Even the majority of the characters who come to Japan from a foreign nation are of Japanese descent as well, but have simply returned to their home country (Minako Aino of Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon and Kanako Ohno of Genshiken are perfect examples of this). Therefore, according to their theories, they should not be cosplaying many of the characters they do.

The second reason I find this odd (and most importantly), is because if you’re involved in this activity, you’re more or less an outcast. Hopefully not literally in that you don’t have any friends at all, but an outcast in the fact that you don’t really have anywhere else to release this type of creativity. Perhaps you saw someone doing this in a movie or show and thought to yourself that this particular activity looked fun. Or maybe you’re a fan who was watching or reading a series and wanted to dress up as a particular character on Halloween, but just one day a year wasn’t enough. Point is, we’re all in this together. And when I say, “we’re all in this together,” I mean we’re all in this together.

(Clockwise from top) 'Chef' McElroy from "South Park," 'Might Suit' Naruto Uzumaki from "Naruto," 'Hunky no Jutsu' Temari from "Naruto," Kai Deguchi from "Tokyo Tribe 2" (Center) Eikichi Onizuka from "GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka"

A Love That Seems Not To Be

It's laughing at me 😥

One of the most anticipated games of the year is set to be released on Tuesday and despite my love for the series, I won’t be able to join in the festivities. I have both PS3 and Xbox 360 as well as the previous installments, and I could find some way to afford to preorder it despite my low income, so why won’t I be getting it? Because the Xbox 360 I have has been showing an error code 74 since March of 2010. For those who don’t know what that is, it is one of those infamous Red Rings of Death which plagued the original Xbox 360s. And mine happened just 3 months outside of the [extended] warranty, so Microsoft refused to extend any courtesies towards fixing it. What this means is that for a common problem that happens to Xboxes, I’m going to have to shell out $90. However, I am poor and have never made more than minimum wage, which means it will most likely take some time before I am able to get that done.

My prized Project D Skyline from Midnight Club: LA

Luckily, most of the games I play are cross-platform, so if I really wanted to finish a title, I was able to simply get that title on PS3. I was able to do that for Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2Wet, and Midnight Club: Los Angeles. And yes, I realize  that not too long ago, the Mass Effect series joined those titles which bridged across platforms. However, there is one extremely important difference which makes the Mass Effect series different from continuing titles like Elder ScrollsFalloutGrand Theft Auto, or even The Legend of Zelda. That difference is a feature which has been a staple of EA Sports’s football titles since the late 90s, but hasn’t really been seen elsewhere – the ability to transfer a custom character from one game to another. However, Mass Effect‘s version is a bit more advanced. See, in the original Mass Effect, Commander Shepard makes 3 major decisions which can change the course of the entire series including how s/he is treated and who interacts with him/her for the entire series. Not only that, but there are a number of smaller decisions made  during side quests which are continually referenced later in the series (for example, one particular hero-worshipper meets up with my Commander Shepard in ME2 and recounts how I punched him in the previous title. Punching him was a momentary Renegade option my character had taken despite him being a Paragon).

One of the subtle cool moments from ME1

So why am I griping about this instead of being in line for the midnight release? Because when BioWare made the Mass Effect series available for the PS3,  they only made 2/3 of it available. To make PS3 owners feel like they aren’t missing out, there was an interactive comic which was made as DLC and allows the player to make some of the decisions which should have been made to properly enjoy ME2. However, as someone who had a chance to play 1 & a bit of 2 on the 360, I feel robbed of an incredible opportunity to replay a series that I love. Especially since I do happen to know exactly the experience I’m missing out on. I want to re-experience that  hopeless firefight and get to the end only to realize I must sacrifice a crew member. I want to prove to the other races that humans are worthy of joining their ranks after experiencing the doubts of [Shepard’s] ability. Not letting me undergo the journey firsthand just feels like it cheapens the experience. And in this case, I can’t allow myself to settle.