Manga Recommendation: Pompo: The Cinéphile

No fun screenshots of panels for this recco because I apparently didn’t save any of the PDFs.

I LOVE comics and zines that can entertain me while also teaching me stuff. A good diary comic like My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness can really scratch an itch of introspection, but my favorite are manga that go further in what an industry or hobby is like, such as Manga Diary of a Male Porn Star or the upcoming I’m a Terminal Cancer Patient, but I’m Fine. (I recommend both of these, by the way. I hope you’ll also join me in preordering Kate Beaton’s Ducks as well.)

Pompo: The Cinéphile isn’t a diary comic, but the amount of education involved in its creation is similarly as compelling. It’s a fictionalized tale that ruminates on an industry or culture from someone who clearly knows a thing or two about it. Similar recommendations for this kind of story from Seven Seas would be Blue GiantBL Metamorphosis (both which will get their own post at a later date)Young Ladies Don’t Play Fighting Games, or even My Brother’s HusbandTokyo Revengers, or Bride’s Story. Either based in personal experience or thorough education, these books speak like a teacher, and it rules. (At least, I think so.)

If you are into any of the above titles, you might also enjoy Pompo: The Cinéphile, which is a story where the titular Pompo (a producer) starts her assistant, Gene (an aspiring director) on the road of his dreams. The story walks the journey of the creation of a film from casting actors, shooting on location, cutting trailers, and witnessing a complete film as the culmination of all the work done by everyone involved.

It helps that the adaptation of the manga was done by Jay Trust, who I’ve been told is a director in their own right… though it appears they may be doing their manga adaptations under a different pen name than their directorial ones, as I can’t find them anywhere.

If you’re a nerd about filmmaking, I recommend reading Pompo. There are two volumes of the manga released so far and a third one on its way. It’s a dense read, but a joy.

The manga takes place in Nyallywood, which is obviously a fictional stand-in for Hollywood, but there are a lot of funny little Japan things all over the story. This manga has also been made into an animated film, which I haven’t seen! But maybe that is more your speed.

Either way, this is a definite recommendation from me. These are books I’m proud to have in my collection. I hope you check them out.

Manga Spotlight: Level 1 Demon Lord & One-Room Hero

Hello all! Long time no post. I started a new full-time job after 35 years of freelance in 2020, and I’m now a Senior Copy Editor at Seven Seas Entertainment! I read manga all day on the lookout for forgotten sound effects and other such things.

I love my job, but I have to read a lot of stuff I don’t like. But it also fires me up because there are a lot of comics I like a lot, and you will probably never read. So I’m going to make these Manga Spotlight posts now and then to highlight really special manga that I think you should check out. Some of these might be NSFW but this one is not. I need everyone to know about Level 1 Demon Lord & One-Room Hero.

The cover of a manga comic that reads "Level 1 Demon Lod & One Room Hero" volume 1. It has two characters standing in a room filled with clutter and trash, one wearing only a t-shirt and boxers, and a much smaller one with horns in a school girl uniform.
Cover pic stolen from the Seven Seas website.

I have to read a lot of isekai for work (and if you don’t know what isekai is, that’s a whole other blog post) so one of my favorite new tropes is “playful subversion of isekai and the fantasy genre.” Level 1 Demon Lord is one such book.

Ten years in the past, a classic RPG party went to save the world and killed the demon lord to save the day. The world settled into a comfortable peace, but demons have seven lives. The demon lord awakes ten years since his death, far too early and in an extremely weakened state. He runs off to find the hero that killed him years before to see what kind of future he’s made for himself. Instead, he finds a deadbeat who sleeps all day in his bachelor apartment, a man who has given up on life.

Screenshot from the comic itself. Three panels have the scruffy deadbeat guy from the cover saying "You want to know? It's simple. Heroes have no place in a peaceful world. We're not welcome anymore."
The hero, Max, is having a bad time.

Our hero, Max, is living a regular life in what appears very similar to modern-day Japan, but is still the fantasy land that was saved ten years ago. Our demon lord asks questions and struggles to understand why the hero isn’t living large in the way that he deserves. Max is cagey about answers. It becomes clear before long that the media has taken advantage of Max for his fame, twisting all of his actions into a scandal. He does as little as possible so he can stay out of the spotlight, but with a demon lord in his company, trouble has come to find him again.

This manga is mostly a gross fanservice comedy, but Level 1 Demon Lord doesn’t shy away from inter-country politics, corruption, and the tempestuous relationships of shitty adults who once were friends. It’s a bit about how fame is a double-edged sword, a bit about wrangling with depression and disappointment, and a little bit about how your idols are real people.

Not only that, but there’s a weird little romance going on between the Level 1 Demon Lord & One-Room Hero. Is it gay? The demon lord, when pressed, won’t clarify whether or not he’s a man or not, though he proceeds to present as a woman more and more as the series goes on.

Several panels of the comic where the demon lord mentions that his outfit of choice is a school uniform, so he transforms into a female student. Unfortunately his outfit doesn't get larger, so it looks like he's wearing skimpy stripper clothes.
Our naked little demon lord turns into an inappropriately-dressed young lady.

I feel like it’s difficult to express the charm of this series because I’m trying to spoil as little as possible. But I look forward to every volume that passes my desk. It’s one of my favorites. I find the artwork charming and the story funny, and this post-fantasy land is devolving into war and terrorism with neighboring countries. Old allies struggle to get Max to take a stand politically, but he avoids it while also keeping his new allegiance with demons a secret. If the public finds out about the new company he keeps, he will be seen as a traitor to humanity and kick Max while he’s already down.

The stakes are high and hilarious… until they aren’t! Please read Level 1 Demon Lord & One-Room Hero. It rules.

Agatha Christie to Ryukishi07: Linear Whodunits as Games (For NarraScope 2020)

Beatrice and Battler in a screenshot from Umineko no Naku Koro Ni where she's telling him in the red truth that he is incompetent.

Hello everyone!! Here’s my talk on processing linear books as interactive mediums especially in terms of whodunits and detective fiction, as taught to me through Umineko no naku koro ni. You can enjoy the video above, or read the script below, although the two aren’t word for word.

Also a lot of my pictures are missing from my blog due to some aggravating webhosting errors on my part. Hopefully I’ll have time to fix that at some point.

What Fire Emblem: Three Houses Learned from Dating Sims (It’s not what you think!)

The cover of Fire Emblem: Three Houses with the protagonists arranged in a triangle.

“It’s the dating,” I hear you saying. “It’s the romance part that Fire Emblem got from dating sims.” Right?

Wrong! As a matter of fact, Fire Emblem’s support system was in use for Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem, released on the Super Famicom in 1994. This game was later remade for the Nintendo DS and was finally released in North America as Fire Emblem: New Mystery of the Emblem in 2010.

The first game that founded Dating Sims as a genre was Tokimeki Memorial, released in 1994, the same year as Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem. The first Dating Sim made was an eroge (erotic game) called Dokyuusei and was released in 1992, but did not have the impact of creating a genre the way Tokimeki Memorial did.

Regardless, neither of the above games have a mechanic that in any way resembles the support system in Fire Emblem, which operates on characters in a tactical strategy game fighting side-by-side. Tokimeki Memorial is about a protagonist in first-person making efforts to win over the girl of their choice, while Dokyuusei relies on the user being in the right place at the right time for scripted, timed events. 

Placing these games side-by-side, it’s hard to say that Fire Emblem’s original support system was influenced by early dating sims, since the mechanics involved are unrecognizable to the other.

No! What Fire Emblem: Three Houses (and its predecessor, Fire Emblem: Fates) learns from Dating Sims is: the power of Routes.

Yes, routes come from Dating Sims! Modern American Dating Sims often miss the mark when it comes to navigating romantic routes between different characters. In Dating Sims from Japan and other developers from Asia make it a habit of showing pieces of a larger narrative puzzle along the route of a certain romantic interest. The only way to get the full picture is to play through the story of each one, often because there is a “true route” at the end that is only unlocked through variables that are triggered in the code on completion of said routes.

To lay it out carefully: if you choose to date Eiko, you might see Biko get up to some mischief in the background because she doesn’t want to concern you. You’re having such an interesting romantic life now, after all! When you start again and date Biko, you find out what’s going on with her, but meanwhile, Eiko never gets up her courage to try out for the school play or whatever. You understand her, because you saw it through on a different route, but when you’re not on that route, her potential goes unrealized because you aren’t a part of it.

In hbomberguy’s video essay on Pathologic, he observes aspects of the multi-perspective structure and remarks that “When you aren’t in control of the character, he makes worse decisions than you did.” This is also the case when it comes to Fire Emblem: Three Houses. On their route, you support your student of choice and act as the heart of their community, pushing them on in pursuit of their own ideals of justice. Without you, they struggle, fail, or forfeit, and unless you’ve played through their perspectives, you won’t understand why.

I’m 200 hours into Fire Emblem: Three Houses and I’ve only played two routes, so a lot more stands to be found.

What’s up with Patriah?

(I made this post available to Patrons on March 6th, but for the sake of accessibility I’m now cross posting it everywhere.)

Patriah has turned into my white whale, in a way, where it’s very difficult to wrangle, but I’m very invested in getting it done. 

WRITING

So far, I’ve been doing all the writing that I can, which is frankly the most triggering part of it. Maybe I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve taken to writing this with the philosophy of the Patriah 100, which is a bit of a misnomer. It’s a commitment to writing 100 words, but given that I write the whole thing in Twine, it comes out to being a node or two. Maybe not 100 words, but… I don’t care, haha. Throwing myself at Patriah as hard and for as long as I can bear is not a healthy working relationship considering the subject matter, and is terrible for my mental health. Tiny doses are how this story is going to get done.

Wanna see the WIP?

The twine file is broken up into three because Patriah A was starting to get laggy. 

The Patriah A file contains two complete (albeit linear) routes: Joshua and Paul. This file is 17,500 words.

Patriah B is still a wip, but contains the complete Izzy route, and Samuel’s first two days are complete. This file, as it turns out, is 17,000 words. And it’s not done!

The “Patriah True Route” file contains only that, which is a single day per bachelor. As you can see, it’s pretty linear and will probably stay that way. (It’s a modest 1400 words, but only has a day for Paul so far.)

There’s a lot of repeating words thanks to me being lazy with nodes and variables in Twine in order to make my life easier, but I estimated after Joshua that the game would end up at about 50,000 words, and so far that seems to be the case.

What remains to write?

  • Samuel days 3, 4, and his True Route day.
  • Izzy and Joshua’s True Route days.
  • Character collisions. When you choose a different man on different days, the men respond to this in different ways, depending on quite a few variables. I’ll probably write these in as I code the characters into Ren’py.

So I guess the end isn’t too far off? Just a lot of coding in my future.

ART

I’ve been talking with my handsome wife about Patriah’s visuals, because they’re a designer and I am not. I trust Ella’s advice when it comes to making something pretty and accessible. It looks like the sterile white in the demo might end up looking a bit more like this.

This is a for funsies mockup and extremely unofficial.)

So I’ve been working on some inkwash backgrounds for the areas that weren’t included in the Joshua demo.

Inks are fun and I think they add a lot of character. Who knows what this will look like once we slap a bunch of heavy textures on top? It already feels so much more sinister!

That’s it!

Thanks for supporting me and looking forward to Patriah. I know I haven’t talked about it much, but working on it is a bit of an ordeal, and I want it done just as much as you do. I’ve worked really hard, and I want to show it to you. Maybe next year International Women’s Day?

[Metal Gear Solid] The Last Nine Years

The Last Nine Years is a collaboration between playerprophet and cephiedvariable. A look at the highs and lows of Otacon and Snake’s relationship between the scenes and throughout the years. 

To better understand the content, see the working title: “Emotionally Repressed Supersoldier and Annoying Nerd Try – and Fail – to Talk About Their Feelings”.

Order your hard copy here, or message me. I know the storenvy link is down right now…

I’ll never really forgive Jenn (cephiedvariable) for making me draw so many mustaches.

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[Hatoful Boyfriend] Broken Birds 2/2

THERE’S MORE!

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[Hatoful Boyfriend] Broken Birds 1/2

Nanaki Kazuaki and Sakazaki Yuuya are in the beginnings of a strange and unconventional relationship; they’re two birds who will always care about someone else more than each other. Could two people possibly be better off in a situation like this? 

Broken Birds is about healing in an unconventional relationship. The comic takes place in the world of Hatoful Boyfriend, right after the sequel, Holiday Star.

Now that this doujinshi is a few years old, I decided to put it up online for free. You can download the PDF on itch.io, or read it on AO3, or Pixiv.

Really the cheapest and easiest way to get image hosting from my domain is through here. I’m sorry for people who come here for narrative criticism.

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Death Stranding, and a little Healing

Content Warning: This post contains spoilers for the end of Death Stranding, and conversations about my personal experiences with abuse, neglect, and daddy issues. This is some very personal crap that does little by way of analysis or critique of the story.

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Save the World — Grow Fruit Trees from what you eat!

A 10-page zine collecting information on how to grow trees from fruit seeds. That way you, too, can help to save the world! While eating something delicious! I’ve been working on this zine a little while as a collection of information I’ve uncovered while foraging. After collecting sumac seeds and apple seeds, I thought I could share what I learned!

If you’d like to enjoy this post as a downloadable PDF instead, please access it here. Thank you!
Gumroad: https://gumroad.com/playerprophet#NQKck
itch.io: https://playerprophet.itch.io/grow-fruit-trees

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