Archive for the Science fiction Category

Dangan Ronpa: Sakura + Hina, friends for life

Posted in Games, Science fiction, Young adult with tags on June 1, 2014 by Cara Marie

My Dangan Ronpa overview post turned into 2000+ words and counting comparing the game to The Hunger Games and Battle Royale. So I thought I would write about two of my favourite characters instead. Most of the characters in Dangan Ronpa are understandably standoffish – the premise of the game is that they have all been kidnapped and are being compelled to kill one another.

There is a lot of distrust and fear, but Sakura and Hina can’t be bothered with that shit. They are FRIENDS and don’t you doubt it. Sakura is the Ultimate Martial Artist and Hina is the Ultimate Swimming Pro – they bond straight off over their exercise regimes and love of protein shakes. They keep believing in one another, even in the face of the most startling revelations.

The strength of their friendship would endear them to me on its own – but also, here is a picture of Sakura, don’t tell me you don’t love her already:

An extremely buff young woman, with white hair and an impressive scar across her face.

Any game that has a female character that looks like that is alright by me.

Funnily enough, I am also predisposed to like Hina on account of her body type, although it is very different from Sakura’s. Hina is slim and busty, and I automatically feel protective of slim, busty characters (provided that it’s not just a function of the art style …).

Hina gets a fair amount of flack for being busty – notably from Toko, a character whom I find it extremely difficult to like. It seems as if Hina finds it easy to brush off the harassment – until a scene where Makoto and Hina are going swimming, and Hina gets embarrassed, because she only has a T-shirt to swim in. And she says something along the lines of, I don’t know why it matters, I’m sure it never used to. Which I found heartbreaking.

Hina has a warm, bubbly personality, but she’s also one of the most sensitive characters in the game. Which I can’t talk about without getting into massive spoiler territory – but this also relates to why I like Sakura so much, and the friendship between the two of them.

Read more »

Judge Dredd: Versace edition

Posted in Action/adventure, Movies, Science fiction with tags on April 13, 2014 by Cara Marie

Here are some things Judge Dredd (the 1995 movie) does well: it really truly looks like a 2000AD dystopia. The special effects are excellent, with a few exceptions (the mid-air chase scenes don’t stack up so well). There is a good robot (not in the moral sense). And I do believe there are some modern movies could learn from the number of women in the background of scenes.

On the other hand, who decided Rob Schneider needed to be in this movie? Who decided that Dredd needed a love interest? Why do studios think that erasing a property’s defining characteristics is the way to success?

(Maybe that’s unfair – I have seen a lot of really good adaptations, that took liberties without betraying the source material. On the other hand, I’ve also seen Stark Trek Into Darkness and The Dark Knight Rises, so.)

Also – the giant gold shoulder armor, why?! Read more »

I’m never going to be a judge (like you)

Posted in Action/adventure, Movies, Science fiction with tags on April 12, 2014 by Cara Marie

This post is about the Dredd’s ending: so big spoilers. Read more »

‘Who the hell finds robots?’

Posted in Action/adventure, Horror, Movies, Science fiction with tags on April 12, 2014 by Cara Marie

The premise of Battle of the Damned is that there has been a zombie virus outbreak in what is supposedly a city somewhere in South-East Asia. Dolph Lundgren has been sent in by a mysterious businessman, to track down said businessman’s daughter and bring her out.

Dolph Lundgren’s character is named Major Max Gatling (of course). I am now thinking of changing my name to Cara Gatling. Read more »

Movie night review

Posted in Action/adventure, Movies, Science fiction with tags , on January 26, 2014 by Cara Marie

I Love Maria

‘The most transhumanist film I’ve ever seen.’ – L

If you’re a gang leader wanting to take over the city, what do you do?

  1. Build a moderately sized war robot – let’s see the cops fight that off!
  2. Build a humanoid robot – more subtle, also you can impress your girlfriend by creating it in her image
  3. Build a really fucking big robot, like big enough to squash people
  4. All of the above; also, turn yourself into a cyborg – the human body is fragile

The cops are incapable, so it’s up to a group of misfits to become heroes and save the day.

I’m struggling to think how I can describe this movie without going into overwhelming detail. So instead, I’m just going to put this trailer here.

Mandrill

The main thing I learnt during this film was that L and H are such HUGE GEEKS. I mean I knew this already, but WOW how much time can you spend discussing colour timing? In turns out that when you’re not especially engaged in a film, you can discuss colour timing a lot.

The main thing I learnt from this film is that the way to a woman’s heart (read, her pants) is to compliment her five weaknesses: her eyes, her hair, her mouth, her skin and her scent. ‘At least it’s not negging?’ we decided.

So, this movie is basically Batman if instead of becoming a caped crusader, Bruce Wayne became a bounty-hunter who modelled himself off James Bond (the movie has an in-universe equivalent).

Ok, actually, I’m doing Bruce Wayne a disservice – Bruce is motivated by a sense of injustice. Mandrill is all about the revenge. Which means that when he has the opportunity to kill the man who murdered his parents, he takes it. Even if it means breaking the heart of the woman he’s just fallen for.

I actually quite liked the love-interest-come-villain in this movie. Mandrill has been trying to seduce her (so he can get to her father, the parent-killer), but she’s not buying it. At least, not until he wins her over with SILLY DANCING. I think he’s meant to be harking back to a scene in the James-Bond-equivalent movies, which they are both giant geeks for.

After dancing, they gallavant about the city, laughing, and stealing alcohol even though she’s a casino-heiress who really ought to just pay for it, and finally making out. Then they go back to her room and have sex.

OH! I forgot that the previous night he killed/incapacitated a bunch of security guys so he could sneak into her room. I’m not sure why he was sneaking into her room, but he discovered that she had his mother’s locket, so he stood in the corner of her room and had a little cry, and then presumably left.

So, the day after they have sex, he kills her father in front of her. BANG! How rude. He feels really bad, because that’s the moment he decides he’s in love with her. But it’s too late; she puts on a slinky black dress and becomes evil.

She then:

  • sleeps with his uncle
  • manipulates him into killing said uncle
  • SHOOTS MANDRILL DEAD instead of letting herself be properly overcome by romantic feelings
  • collects the bounty on his head and drives off into the sunset.

It probably says something about unsympathetic a protagonist Mandrill was, that we found this a satisfying ending. And then they spoiled it. Because instead of our heroine checking  he was properly dead and putting him in the body bag herself, she let her lackey do it. So of course, when the bounty collector checks the bag (after she’s left), it turns out it’s the lackey in there, and not Mandrill at all. COP OUT.

I guess we were meant to want Mandrill survive. But he was an awful person, and so we didn’t.

7 Seeds – the anti-grimdark post-apocalypse

Posted in Manga, Science fiction with tags , on January 3, 2014 by Cara Marie

7 Seeds is a post-apocalypse story for people who:

  • like to read about human cooperation and resilience
  • don’t like reading sad, grimdark tales of how awful humanity is or how doomed we all are.

Sometimes the story is heartbreaking, or horrifying – but it’s never pessimistic. Read more »

A Natsu appreciation post

Posted in Manga, Science fiction, Young adult with tags , , on November 10, 2013 by Cara Marie

I’ve recently been reading 7 Seeds, which is Tamura Yumi’s other post-apocalyptic manga. The basic conceit is that five groups of seven people wake up in the future to find that most of humanity has been wiped out, and we follow each of the groups at various points, and watch as they come together.

Natsu, who is our first protagonist, is very shy.

Natsu is telling herself off for not being able to talk to another character – she tells herself, 'Stop it. He's a kind person.' Her narrative text then reads, 'I want to say something, but I can't respond properly. Always, always ... I'm ...' and the final text is over a white panel.

I’m not as shy as Natsu is, but a lot of her thought patterns are very familiar to me. And Natsu feels true to me in a way a lot of supposedly shy characters don’t. For example, in Tamora Pierce’s Provost’s Dog books, we are told repeatedly that Beka is shy – but Pierce does a poor job of showing it. The only time Beka’s social anxiety actually seems to affect her is when it comes to public speaking. And being scared of public speaking is not the same thing. It surprised me, actually, because Pierce wrote Kel’s fear of heights so well in the Protector of the Small books. But I guess she doesn’t ‘get’ shyness in the same way.

Tamura clearly gets it.

Natsu's back suddenly starts hurting, and she wonders whether or not to tell the group.

She can't bring herself to tell anyone, so she keeps on walking, hoping, willing someone to notice. Pretty sure I have had this exact conversation with myself.

Over the course of the series, Natsu learns to speak up, to do things she’s scared of, to relate to (and stand up to) her teammates. And this is just as important as is learning to survive in the future, in a hostile and unfamiliar environment.

Semimaru grabs Natsu, and she squeaks for him to let go. 'That's all I needed,' he said.

Semimaru there is a character I’m very fond of, even though he starts off as a complete asshole. He gets a lot better over the course of the series, to the extent that it’s a shock to look back and see just how nasty he was. Now his relationship with Natsu is one of my favourite things. Because, yup, social anxiety can make you very self-centred, and Semimaru will call Natsu on that.

Semimaru calls Natsu out on her habit of talking to herself, rather than making the effort to interact with her teammates.

It’s not easy for her, but she learns. She’s able to become far more of the person she wants to be.

7 Seeds is unusual amongst post-apocalyptic stories in that it’s actually optimistic. To the point that you think, despite the many life-threatening situations, some of the characters are better off than they were in the present day. And Natsu is one of those.

In the present day, Natsu would have gone on as she was, often miserable, never able to connect. In the future, she has to connect to survive, and she’s a lot happier for it. She’ll never be an outgoing, vivacious person, but she’s able to stick up for herself when she needs to, and apologise when she needs to, and be there for people when they need her.

Natsu climbing up something which isn't closely spaced enough to be a ladder, thinking that she'll take responsiblity for her choice, and reassuring herself that no-one is watching, so they can't laugh or get angry at her. 'I'm giving it a go,' she things. 'Please let this not be a mistake ...'

And then it turns out her two male companions do see her, and she has to rescue them as well. And one of them is judging her the whole time. (He has issues.) But she makes it anyway.

Natsu might not be the easiest character to like, but she’s certainly the one I appreciate the most. And I look forward to where Tamura takes her in the future.

Area-X – 3/5 of the way through

Posted in Fantasy, Games, Science fiction with tags on October 9, 2013 by Cara Marie

Area-X is a game that I have greatly enjoyed from a story perspective – and I love the characters and the art – but which I find frustrating from a game perspective.

I would describe Area-X as a visual novel with adventure game elements. For the most part, you are reading, and making some decisions about what to say or do. Occasionally there are puzzles. There are five basic routes, but only two of these are available to you at the beginning.

It’s the closing-off of the other three routes that I found frustrating.

One of the things I enjoy most about visual novels and similar games is making choices and seeing how they pan out. But I found it difficult to judge in Area-X which choices would lead me to which ending. This is something I don’t mind the first time I play a game, or at all, if I don’t feel like I’m getting dead-ended. But in order to open up the other routes, you have to not only complete the first two routes but get all four endings.

At which point, you stop playing the game naturalistically, and start meta-gaming it.

For two of the three routes I’ve played, the choices I needed to make for the good ending weren’t always obvious, but they all seemed like they were choices I could reasonably make. For the third route, I can’t imagine that I would ever play the game naturalistically and get the good ending. Which I could accept as an artistic choice – except that I had to get that ending to open up the next two routes.

And the way the story plays out, those second two routes aren’t just ‘nice to haves’. I can see why the creator chose to close off those routes to begin with – although I’m not convinced it was necessary – but I don’t think the implementation worked. It highlighted the arbitrary nature of some of the decision points, and honestly, I don’t think you should need hints to feel like you’re able to explore a game in its entirety.

As it is, I feel like I was shoe-horned into consuming the story in a certain way – a way that made it feel less like a game, and more like an interlinking series of novellas. And I wanted the game. I wanted to explore the choices – but instead, I had to do as the author wanted.

Reading The Summer Prince

Posted in Books, Science fiction, Young adult with tags on August 10, 2013 by Cara Marie

Alaya Dawn Johnson’s The Summer Prince was, to me, as good as all the good reviews said it was. Looking on Goodreads after the fact, it seems like it has been pretty divisive. I find a kind of sick fascination in reading some of the negative reviews, just because what they got out of it was so different from what I got out of it.

The most bizarre being the idea that June was in a ‘love triangle’. One of the reviews says June was ‘toggling in her mind whether she should be with Enki or Gil’ [source], and I just don’t know where the idea that June’s love for Gil was romantic came from. (Actually, I know where. It’s because strong friendships between genders must be romantic; and also because June mentions that they lost their virginity together and sex cancels out platonicness for always and ever.)

It makes me sad, because the fact that June and Gil had this really intense, loving relationship, without it being romantic, was one of the things I loved about the book. It reminded me a bit of the Flora Segunda books, except that those did end up putting Flora and her BFF together romantically.

The other thing I found odd was the people who thought this was a dystopia novel. Am I a bad person because I don’t think that having a sacrificial king necessarily makes a society dystopic? It was a society with good aspects and bad aspects (you know, like the real world). I never felt like we were meant to be condemning it. But apparently some people did: ‘There is no destruction of the system that I had hoped would occur, no revolution to completely change the way things are in Palmares Tres.’ [source] Because a society that has bad elements, like any society does, needs to be destroyed altogether?

Or on the other end of the scale, ‘[I wanted] a more oppressive regime that was actually worth rebelling against.’ [source] Note that in this context, rebellion equals scandalous political art projects.

June faces a conflict in the book because she can’t put her name to these projects without threatening her future prospects (though her future prospects are better than many people’s regardless). So she has to decide whether or not the point of her art is more important than those prospects. Even if Palmares Tres is not that ‘more oppressive regime’. Even if June gets on pretty well in her society; even if she’s not the one suffering.

You hardly have to be living under a despotic regime to want to change the society you live in. And wanting to change your society doesn’t necessarily entail revolution or anarchism.

I found The Summer Prince to be refreshing in how un-dystopic it was, actually. It was nice to read a YA sci-fi novel with big themes and intricate worldbuilding that wasn’t dystopian. The worldbuilding in particular I thought was really well done; Johnson didn’t over-explain things, just gave you enough to go on, as much as the story needed.

I also appreciated that Johnson managed to portray June as being stuck in teenaged self-centredness (at least to start) without it becoming annoying. I found it easy to empathise with the intensity of June’s feelings, even when I could see her anger wasn’t always necessary.

Basically, I thought The Summer Prince was fabulous. Even if not everyone feels the same way.

The Citadel DLC

Posted in Games, Science fiction with tags on March 28, 2013 by Cara Marie

I started playing the Citadel DLC shortly after I moved into my new flat. Shepard’s apartment is cooler than mine. It was quite nice though; I opened up Anderson’s recordings and I unpacked my own things while they way were playing.

(I guess it says something about my priorities that my computer was set up and my internet and I still hadn’t unpacked everything.)

Anyway, Citadel is fun and silly. Your companions all have their own dance animations! (Traynor is the best dancer. Kaidan is even worse than Shepard.) Zaeed struggles with a claw machine! There’s fights and things! Miranda makes a dig about your fish-murdering habits! Shut up, Miranda, Shepard has a lot on her mind!

It’s fun and silly and then the party is over and everyone heads back to the Normandy. And Kaidan tells Shepard that she’ll find a way to win, and he’ll be waiting when she does … and there’s sad music playing …

Let’s just say it was very emotional.

I think I’m going to have to go back and actually play Omega now. Because it would be very sad if the only female Turian I ever saw was when I was trying to get Garrus laid!