Signal Boost: Insightful Article on the Themes inherent in Videogames and their Adaptations

screen capture of anime adaptation of videogame, where character is stating "our next issue is one of human rights"
A capture of one of the graphics from the article

Anime News Service is running a penetrating feature article on the adaptation of videogame mechanics into anime television shows. “Log Horizon, Undertale, and the Tale Game Mechanics Can Tell” details how game mechanics can convey meaning, and delves into how the anime adaptations dive deep into themes of the plurality of perspectives, gray morality, and human rights issues inherent in game play mechanics and tropes we all take for granted. The author’s and the adaptors’ themes intersect with Associate Professor Whitney Pow‘s analysis on the colonialism inherent in gameplay (mentioned in her 2020 Magfest presentation on The Glitch: Queer and Transgender Software History based off of an article of hers published in game history journal RomChip.)

The Saint’s Magic Power is Imposter Syndrome

US release cover photo of The Saint's Magic Power is Omnipotent manga
US release cover of The Saint’s Magic Power is Omnipotent manga

One of the most anticipated shojou/josei animes coming out this spring is an adaption of “The Saint’s Magic Power is Omnipotent.” Per the manga cover (released by Seven Seas) the story follows 20-something, workaholic Sei as she adapts to living in a new magical world after being (accidentally?) summoned to be a savior “saint.” Sei is dismissed as a spare by the eldest prince of the magic world, since a younger, innocent ingenue girl was also summoned during the same ritual. 

The readers follow Sei as she processes her new situation. From the first pages, Sei describes herself as someone who works very hard at her job, to the point of exhaustion. After sleeping for two weeks as a guest in a castle, she wanders into a new area that is the Medicinal Flora Research Institute where she eventually becomes an employee. Even though her new employment does not demand it of her Sei continues with her M.O. of overworking and needing to prove herself through her productivity. For example, even though for the first 2 weeks of her residence in the new world, she is a guest in the palace, waited on hand and foot by servants and put up in a plush bedroom, when she starts her “job” as a researcher, she says she’s “gotta work work if [she] wants to eat.” There is a dichotomy of expectations presented – the ones expressed by the locals who feel honored by her presence and welcome her to simply be in the palace (or as a token employee of the Research Institute), versus her expectations of herself, which is stated that she must work to eat and must contribute productivity to “earn her spot.” We see Sei’s self definition come from her work: After she makes her first potion, she states “That’s how I came to live here…not only as a medicinal flora researcher but as an inhabitant of [the] world.” 

With a light and fluffy isekai (read: magical world) framework, this story taps into and addresses a deeper transnational psychological trend, what is commonly known in the US as Imposter Phenonmenon (aka Imposter Syndrome). This phenomenon was coined in research in the 1970s on high-acheiveing women, but gained larger societal awareness as a buzzword in the 2010s. It is defined loosely as “doubting your abilities and thinking you are a fraud” (HBR) and “experience of feeling like a phony—you feel as though at any moment you are going to be found out as a fraud—like you don’t belong where you are, and you only got there through dumb luck. (VeryWellMind). 

This manga answers the questions that imposter syndrome poses, and the reader watches as Sei’s journey to accept herself and her impressive abilities improves her health and makes her stronger. This content and the light-heartedness and entertaining way it is communicated positions it to be relatable to audiences anywhere there is imposter syndrome, but for countries where that term is not used, anywhere where women are entering fields and achieving leadership in fields that are male-dominated. 

This leads to the drawback of the manga: As a comic, it would be targeted to teenage girls, but imposter syndrome is largely a college-age and employment-related phenomenon. To better fit a younger demographic, adaptation would need to highlight the some root symptoms of Imposter Phenomenon: the need to overachieve, the inability to recognize one’s own talents and skills, unrealistic expectations.  

On the whole, if executed well, the anime version stands a decent chance to garner international commercial success, and I’ll be interested to see how the production studios smooth over some of the rough edges of the light novel/manga (namely, pacing issues, some awkward word choices, and plot holes) and highlight the deeper emotional development of the protagonist to draw in and relate to the audience. 

For those who are familiar with Japanese demographics, Saint’s Power is a shojou manga that deals with josei issues.

For my fellow American otaku, if you liked “Boys over Flowers” (“Hana Yori Dango”) or “(Kaicho wa) Maid Sama” you’ll enjoy Saint’s Power, even though its set in a magical world and not a high school.

For European manga-fans, if you liked “Kimi wa Petto” you’ll enjoy Saint’s Power, which has a little less romance at the onset.

Artistic Prelude to What I’ve been working on…

I remember very clearly, one of the first times I played Wizards Unite. The highly-anticipated (at least highly anticipated for Potter fans) Harry Potter mobile phone game to be released by Niantic, a videogame design firm I knew from Pokemon Go (which I have never played) and Ingress (which I have.) Part of Niantic’s claim-to-fame is their ability to produce games that overlay gameplay onto google maps: to engage with the “game world,” you literally walk to locations in the “real world” and interact with game elements that are geo-tagged to be located there.


A few days into playing the game, I visited the National Gallery of Art for an exhibit on renaissance paintings. As I wandered into a different wing of photorealistic oil paintings, my attention had waned, and so I turned on the game to see if any Harry Potter creatures were geo-tagged to the museum. Several were.

I then began to surreptitiously play the game while in the sparsely populated area. I would look at a painting of the seaside while the game loaded, then battle an Erkling (a spindly, thin goblin creature.) Erkling defeated and map reloading, I turned my attention to a still life with water shimmering through a translucent glass vase, and then looked at my phone to rescue a Mooncalf (a short, stubby, blue-furred, llama-like creature with overly large eyes) from its shackled chain. I glanced up to see to portrait woman lounged on a settee with a book. I could almost smell the light dust of forgotten past and the pine oil pressed into the glowing wood of the table where her book rested. A howler harassed two goblins. I wandered by an oversized landscape painting, which was taller than me and yet so finely detailed. I could hear the ducks as they cause small splashes as they skitted across the distant lake. I could hear to munching and soft grunting of the moose in the foreground as they grazed on the forest greens.
Alternating between the flat yet layered experience of the game with its limited pixels and yet fluid movement, and the static but deeply rich and real oil paintings caused my brain to kick into a higher gear. While one would think that playing a game would distract me from the paintings, playing the game immersed me in them more. By stimulating my brain’s flow and triggering my imagination, the game opened my mind to receive and mentally create more stimuli than were present in reality.
If playing the game increased my brain activity to such an extent that static, artistic depictions felt, sounded, and even smelled more real, then what exactly is being communicated by that game, and what augmented realities are finding their way into my mind without my being aware of it?

In the coming days, I’ll publish “Wizards Dis-United: How the Harry Potter Mobile Game Augments Reality to Strengthen White Supremacy.” A colleague, Michelle Ledder, and I are premiering it as a presentation at the Chestnut Hill College Harry Potter Academic Conference this Friday, October 16, 2020.

Signal Boost: Haute Couture and Sailor Moon

US American reporter and translator Angelica Frey posted an article yesterday on “Sailor Moon’s Fashion from Christian Dior to Theirry Mugler” on Jezebel. This is a great read on the intersection of East Asian storytelling and graphic novels, European fashion, and the US American market in the 1990s. If just one of those topics interests you, I highly recommend her article on Jezebel.

Link:https://theattic.jezebel.com/the-haute-couture-history-of-sailor-moon-1844488914?utm_campaign=Jezebel&utm_content=1598886989&utm_medium=SocialMarketing&utm_source=facebook&fbclid=IwAR2uAsHH8vdbHWB7sklYKZbG1gB-8whTy69wU595Xu5apsZlqdI6NQdWcWw 

A stylized drawing of Sailor Moon wrapped in pink ribbons

BTS and #BLM: Kpop Fans are Not New to Political Organizing

BTS at the 2020 Grammy'ss

Last week, Kpop band BTS (formerly known as Bangtan Boys and Beyond The Scene) and its fans made global headlines as they raised over $2 million in donations to the #BlackLivesMatter campaign. The band itself donated $1 million and has been vocal about denouncing racial oppression. On June 4, they tweeted, “We stand against racial discrimination. We condemn violence. You, I, and we all have the right to be respected. We will stand together. #BlackLivesMatter” (Source) James Corden even covered how BTS fans are diluting white supremacy hashtags by drowning out hate with their love of the band.

Reporter Yim Hyun-su points out in a Washington Post article that Kpop fans have a well-established history of social justice initiatives and wield social media hashtags with lighting strike power. Their social media campaigns have not only a global reach but also activate global collaboration in a matter of minutes. The online activism of Kpop fans is not to be underestimated.

Hyun-su continues to analyze why the many stories of Kpop fans mobilizing don’t get the coverage that similar stories of streaming/vlogging fans or videogame fans do.  While acknowledging the often problematic landscape of fandom communities, he posits that the barrier to Kpop fans being recognized is classical sexism: the popular image of a “fangirl” is not in alignment with that of a social justice warrior.

Maybe one day, perspectives will mature to a more holistic comprehension of these fandom identities.

To read Hyun-su’s article, visit here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/06/11/surprised-seeing-k-pop-fans-stand-up-black-lives-matter-you-shouldnt-be/

Presenting Panels…again

Greetings Folks!

I’m presenting  2 panels at Awesome Con this weekend in Washington DC.

#1 Friday, 4:00 PM – “Good Omen’s Good Theology” room 140

#2 Saturday, 5:00 PM – “Supernatural: Bible Canon vs Bible Fanon” room 140 again.

Both are with Rev. Will Green from Foundry UMC. (wgreen@foundryumc.org )

Hope to see you there!

PS Once the formal copyright comes through, we’ll have the material from these presentations published on this site.

New Method Created for Reporting of Sexual Abuse Related to Netflix TV Series

Yesterday, the Baltimore Police Department created a new webform for victims of sexual abuse to report “sexual offenses related to the Netflix series, ‘The Keepers’.” This form was promoted via their Facebook and social media with the tag “#TheKeepers”.

Source: RT article Netflix series prompts Baltimore Police to create online form for victims of sexual abuse

Syrian-American’s Pop Rap Music Video explodes on Tumblr while Syrian conflict escalates

While ISIS attacks in Syria escalate, a Syrian-American is dropping truth bombs in music form. Mona Haydar, a Syrian-American who first attracted international attention in 2015 with her “Ask a Muslim” interviews, recently released “Wrap my Hijab,”  a pop rap song with lyrics that invoke women’s empowerment and global sisterhood. The chorus lifts up “women [of] every shading,” while the final verse joins together “Somalis,” “Iraqis,” “Punjabis,” “Egyptians, Canadians, and Americans” who still “wrap [their] hijabs.” Tumblr is exploding with clips of the song and “Wrap my Hijab” is on track to become an anthem for unity and women’s empowerment.

While tumblr and social media are particularly resonate on the “make a feminist planet” soundbite and the lyrics are positive, upbeat and uplifting, the grating zurna accompaniment may be a barrier for this tune ever getting radio play or breakthrough popularity. On the other hand, this musicvideo echoes the call for peace and reconciliation not only in war-torn Syria, but in countries across the globe where culture wars continue to divide and destroy global citizenship.

 

 

Read more about Mona Haydar and her new single:

White Erasure of Racism and the 2017 Oscars

 

hidden-figures

“We don’t discriminate against people based on what countries they come from — we discriminate against them based on their age and weight,” Jimmy Kimmel stated in his opening monologue. His audacious claim whizzes right by racism and sexism– Racism being the elephant in the room that magically stole the card for “Best Picture -Moonlight” in an unprecedented Academy slight towards a critically-acclaimed film.

Despite the historic amount of “black” films being nominated (18, with 5 winning,) there is real, constructive criticism about how “black” these films really are. A look at the white directors, white producers, white writers, and a majority of white crew behind the cameras of these and virtually all the other films nominated reveals that we are not as far in fighting racism as we would like to see ourselves.

A perfect example of this racism erasure is the insertion of a fictional white saviour into Hidden Figures, as pointed out by Da’Shawn Mosley. While this film is acclaimed for its historical accuracy, the white screenwriter of Ms. Margot Lee Shetterly’s book decided to take creative license in making it more palatable to white audiences. In his adaptation, the boss, Al Harrison, takes a crowbar to the segregated bathroom at NASA and also invited Katherine Johnson to the control room to view the historic space flight. In reality, and in Shetterly’s book, these doors remained closed to Ms. Johnson for the entirety of her career at NASA.

While we have seen a sweep of nominations of films with black protagonists this year, I can only wonder if we will see a “white-lash” as we have recently in culture, politics, and society. First with the Hugo awards. Then with the post-Obama white-lash that carried and inflamed (still ignites) xenophobic violence across the US. Now we have a step in the right direction for Hollywood, and one can only hope that we do not see a similar pattern of push-back. 

Sources:

  • Transcript of Jimmy Kimmel’s opening monologue for the 2017 Oscars, http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/jimmy-kimmel-s-opening-monologue-transcript-oscars-2017-980304
  • “A discussion of Blackness in 2016 films and this year’s Oscars,” facilitated by Foundry UMC’s Racial Justice Ministries Team. Panelists: Tim Gordon, Oscar-winner Russell Williams II
  • “Hidden Racism” by Da’Shawn Mosley, https://sojo.net/articles/hidden-racism

 

 

Gloria Steinem coins the term P”rick” Flick

The journalist and feminist political activist submitted a scathing critique of the state of film today in its portrayal of women. This article ran today and raised eyebrows–and awareness– to the celluloid dismissal and demeaning of women.

Read the article: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/02/opinion/gloria-steinem-women-have-chick-flicks-what-about-men.html?smid=tw-share