The Strange Case of Zoo Corporation

Have you ever browsed Steam for awhile and ran across those strange Pretty Girls games? You know, those games that take established simple games like Mahjong and Texas Hold 'em and promise cute anime girls in skimpy outfits as a reward for beating them? The company that makes them, Zoo Corporation, seems like a no name oddity creating cheap yet polished games for a very niche market, like a group of anime loving western devs doing their own sleazy anime games. Except if you bother looking at the in-game instructions for most of these games, you'll find them incredibly poorly translated. That and the Japanese voice acting makes it clear Zoo Corporation is more than they initially appear, even with all the strange shovelware they also produce alongside the anime titty games. What I wasn't expecting, though, is to find their name next to Saints Row: The Third, Metro: Last Light, and a connection to the creator of Tetris.

Let me back up.


Was Studio Ghibli a Mistake?

The present-day anime industry suffers from many problems: high demand, limited resources, insane hours, weekly deadlines, crap pay and a lack of healthy influx of new talent. It seems like it could implode at any point in the near-future, especially as financial resources continue to be so sparse in relation to the content. It’s even gotten to the point where anime auteurs, like Hayao Miyazaki, have openly expressed concern over the industry’s future on numerous occasions. But could Miyazaki, and by extension his legacy, be part of the problem? Could the auteurs largely be to blame for this current predicament? Or, to put it plainly, was Studio Ghibli a mistake?


18 (Android)

If you've picked up a smart phone for more than a few seconds, you've probably played match three puzzle game. I've reviewed one in the past, but today's match three subject is in a different subgenre: The monster collector/sacrificer. Games like Puzzles and Dragons have popularlized this weird little type of game, where you go through puzzle stages with a team of monsters, sacrificing weaker ones to your mains to make them stronger. Most of these games are garbage, but 18 ended up being a nice surprise, both in presentation and game design. Imagine a mix of Persona 4 and Catherine, put into a match three structure from the producer of Rez and the Lumines series. It's a solid mixture of aesthetics and design.


Whitewashed in the Shell: A Follow-Up


A while back I wrote an article on Infinite Rainy Day discussing the live-action adaptation of Ghost in the Shell. In it, I stated the following point:
“The rumours of a live-action, Hollywood remake of the film have been going on for years. They’ve been circulating for almost as long as that of a live-action Akira, honestly. The film has been constantly switching directors, studios, cast members, the list goes on. It’s pretty much been in a constant flux of “production hell”, which sounds even worse when you consider that no one was willing to take it seriously. Still, the project seemed destined to make its way to theatres, so that's exactly what happened: Ghost in the Shell is slated for a 2017 release, with Scarlett Johansson being cast as the lead character, Matoko Kusanagi.”
Ignoring the obvious name misspelling, I then went off on how this was the wrong casting choice, how the role could’ve been better-suited to someone who was of Asian descent and how the movie would still probably be bad regardless. What I didn’t touch on, however, was what Scarlett Johansson herself thought. The reason was two-fold: on one hand, I didn’t know what she thought at the time, while on the other hand, I wanted to think there was a way of salvaging her casting via an apology. In hindsight…I was expecting way too much.


Crunchyroll Manga Sampler: Course Seven

It's been a while since we enjoyed our last sampler.  Since then, the number of manga on Crunchyroll just keeps growing, so the Crunchyroll Manga Sampler menu only grows bigger.  Today's trio is a rather dark and grim set of works.  In a way, it feels weirdly appropriate for the atmosphere of the world today.


Coping with Cowboy Bebop

On November 6th, 2008, my university’s TA union announced they were going on strike. I was initially confused by what this’d mean for me as a freshman, but as the days turned into weeks, and my mother kept insisting that I check the school website for updates, the reality began to kick in. For 50000 students over three campuses, this was a nightmare in academic form. The news of the strike spread throughout the TV and radio stations all-over my home city, and the newspapers kept posting updates whenever available. After 85 days, it finally ended, but the damage had already been done. I’d lost a third of my first year in post-secondary, and I was a mess because of it.

There were many ways I tried coping: I began reading more books. I started watching more movies. My video game library started growing. I took up volunteering at my local geriatric retirement centre. I became attached to my then-new laptop. I became more fascinated by my roots and took up praying twice a day. But above all else, I decided to take up a recommendation from a site called ScrewAttack and watch Cowboy Bebop.


Voltron: Legendary Defender (2016)

As an eighties kid who was literally rewarded a Voltron toy that separated into five hard plastic parts with sharp edges for being potty trained, you'd think I'd have far more knowledge and insight into the world of Voltron, GoLion, and other related topics than I do. I watched the show, I had the little pre-school readers, and everything else you could do in an era before corporate synergy. I am far from immune to nostalgia bug, and yet, Voltron left no imprint on me as an adult. I watched an episode or two when it streamed somewhere and it was kind of stilted and generic outside the concept of robots that combined into a super robot (This was all made well before the Power Rangers empire caught on in the West). The bits of GoLion I caught were a little better but not enough to really keep in my memory, and I never did seek out Armored Fleet Dairugger XV. Despite the obvious selling point of the combining robot, it wasn't... very good. A bunch of archetypes playing the same game over and over with a certain lack of charm, and age has not treated it well.

A few iterations later provides perhaps the best hope for the franchise to catch on beyond occasional references in pop culture with Legendary Defender. If its plain title doesn't promote confidence, perhaps the pedigree behind it will. Financed by Dreamworks, crafted by South Korean Studio Mir responsible for most of The Legend of Korra, and dotted with creative talent that worked on Avatar: The Last Airbender including Voltron's showrunners Joaquim Dos Santos and Lauren Montgomery, this has a fairly high ceiling with a potential 78-episode run to fully develop the universe and build upon the base of seemingly simple characters into something of more substance.


Otaku Queer: Queen's Blade

Since I brought it up with my last article, I figured I might as well get some more Queen's Blade thoughts out by looking at the franchise's odd relationship with queerness. What I mean is, since it's an ecchi franchise, it does fetishize lesbianism, but it also subverts some of the usual characterization that tends to come with that. Despite it being the poster child of everything wrong with ecchi anime, it's strangely manages to avoid some of the usual pitfalls, and even allows for genuine character development and arcs.


The Good Ones: Queen's Blade

Welcome to The Good Ones, a little series about appreciating good characters in less than stellar anime, manga, games and so forth. As a watcher of bad anime, I tend to notice that even the worst garbage has at least one salvageable character in its cast, and I aim to share some of those scuffed up diamonds in the pile of worthless, unclean coal. The basic idea is that I'll share some of the most notable characters, and have two rewards handy at the end. One will go to the best character, while the other will go to the most amazing character. You know, one of those characters that's not so much “good” as “wow this actually happened, huh.” I reserve the right to not pass out that second award if no such character meets the criteria, but I fully expect to find these characters regularly.

To kick this off, I decided to go with a series I have an odd soft spot for, despite it being pretty bad and also very gross. It's time to talk Queen's Blade.


Attack on Wish-Lists

With Attack on Titan’s second season premiering in under 4 months, I figured now was the best time to share some hopes and concerns. After all, it’s been almost 3 years since it debuted in the West, 4 if you live in Japan, and enough time has passed to process what it was that made it so popular. It’s also not every day that an anime series makes its way into the mainstream, to an extent, so if the show is to keep that up it has to appeal to old and new fans-alike. That’s a big burden, and I hope it does. Anyway, let's get started.