Manga Analysis: From Star Strings

Author: Akihito Tsukushi
Status: Concluded (one installment)
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Psychological
Localization: Not localized
Rating: Not Rated

(This analysis discusses plot elements, and thus contains spoilers.)

I was browsing the Made In Abyss subreddit the other day, when I found a topic linking to other works by author Akihito Tsukushi. Among the stories that I found was a short story written by Tsukushi in the manga format, called From Star Strings (links to MangaDex).

From Star Strings is relatively short; it’s a one-off one chapter work, about 70 pages long, that I read through in about a half-hour. It told a compelling story about a girl who lived alone, having a planet to herself, who set off on a journey. Like many of Tsukushi’s works, the artistic style is like a combination of that of Tony DiTerlizzi and Precious Memories, but with something of a dark edge.

I suggest following the link above to read the story for yourself, and form your own first impressions before continuing on with this article. There are spoilers ahead.

The protagonist this time is a young girl who doesn’t know where she came from or anything about her life prior to having an entire planet to herself, which conveniently simplifies her motives. She also knows little besides her own name, which is Kuroru, and how to speak, which is conveniently just enough for her motivations to be communicated to the reader through monologue.

But let’s not fall into the trap of asking distracting questions.

On her little world, Kuroru had a sprawling, Earth-like environment to explore. She had plenty to eat, little to no danger, and did not want for anything. Except for one thing: she was alone. And having explored her own world, she deduced that there was no one else there.

One day, Kuroru happened upon a red, glowing string. One end was on the ground, and the string extended into the sky, beyond the girl’s ability to see the other end. She imagined that there had to be another world like hers on the other end.

She worked up the courage, and began tugging on the string. Then, minutes later, vibrations returned through the string that stretched into the sky. It seemed as though she finally made contact with another person!

Over the course of days, the Kuroru would tug at the string, and await a response, which would come shortly afterward in the form of movement of the string. At one point, she thought to play music on the string. As before, she got a response.

One day, Kuroru decided that she’d meet the person on the other end of the string. But to do that, she’d have to climb the string to the other end. This would not be easy, as she had trouble gripping the string with her bare hands. What’s more, she did not know the distance she would have to climb to traverse the space between planets.

This page was selected to be representative of the artistic style of From Star Strings. Consistent with Tsukushi’s usual style, we see a cute character set in exquisitely-drawn environments.

So, she started preparing. She practiced going hungry to accustom herself to going without food, and dipping in water to accustom herself to holding her breath. She made herself a pair of gloves to help her grip the string. She packed food for the trip, carefully determining what she could preserve. And she even prepared a gift for the person she expected to meet.

And then, Kuroru began her climb. At first, the climb was difficult. As she ascended, she eventually saw the tops of the clouds. Then, her own world became a bright, round and shrinking light beneath her. With gravity relaxing it’s pull, the girl was able to make greater distance with her strength.

As one of the story’s fantastic elements, the girl didn’t have a problem with breathing in space, and her temperature wasn’t an issue. But as her equipment began to wear, and there was no end in sight, the girl was in a great position to appreciate the enormity of the distance between planets.

If you’re familiar with other works by Akihito Tsukushi, you’re likely aware that he’ll sometimes use dark elements in his storytelling, to convey a sense of danger, and the possibility that things can go wrong for the protagonists. Such is the case in From Star Strings, where simply dozing off or losing her grip could send the protagonist drifting through the unfathomable abyss of space, never to be found by anybody.

But, in time, a sphere of light appeared in the distance, growing in size as the girl drew near! So she pulled herself towards it, and as the light expanded, she began to make out the landscape!

However, she did not arrive gracefully to the new world, as she lost her grip and plummeted a short distance to the new world, being injured upon impact. Surveying the new world, the girl’s heart sank. She did not see the kind of greenery she saw on her own world. The ground beneath her feet didn’t seem dependable, and shifted in places. And, worst of all, there didn’t seem to be anyone else around.

The girl arrived tired and hungry to a world that was inhospitable. No food or potable water awaited her. And there was no company. The vibrations that returned to the girl through the string were apparently generated by the girl herself, having returned to her after making its course across the string. It seemed like a terrible end to a fantastic journey.

But it was not over yet.

In time, Kuroru learned to live on her new world. She was able to procure “food” to eat. Curiously, the stones were edible to her. The girl was even able to make a shelter for herself somewhere in the shifting landscape. And she recovered from her injury, though it initially seemed fatal.

It was different from her old home. But she was alive. She found her own way to survive and form a routine of sorts in the marginal world. And she made a doll for herself, a sad attempt to cope with her loneliness and disappointment. Each time a doll was broken, she’d make a new one. Interestingly, she gave any doll she made the same name as herself, as this would make it easier to cope if anything were to happen to them.

But then, one day, she found it.

A string. Not the same red string that connected the world Kuroru remembered to the one she was on, but a blue string intertwined with a thinner blue string. It was previously inaccessible due to the shifting landscape.

She made a determination to climb the string, to make it to the hypothetical world on the other side. She did not hesitate to make this trip in the same way as she did for the first one. It took her less time to prepare herself.

What’s interesting is that, if Kuroru could have made another, similar trip, she could have returned to the world she had come from. On her previous planet, all her basic needs have been met. All of them, that is, except one. She was all alone, and while her old world was hospitable, there wasn’t anyone waiting for her there.

To the end of fulfilling her strongest desire, she was willing to climb a different string, not knowing what awaited her, on the chance that a person would be on the other end.

The last few panels suggest the kind of world that might have awaited Kuroru on the other end. However, the manga concluded before her journey ended. Did she make it to the other end? Was the world that we saw in the last panels the one she would have arrived on?

I don’t know. To take one from Tsukushi himself, let’s imagine.

From Star Strings was obviously intended as an allegory for those who pursued a path with hope, only to be disappointed. Yet, hope still does not completely disappear, because as we continue on, we may find another opportunity to go where we want to go, and for our wish to come true. The world can be harsh and unaccommodating, but we are not the world that we live in. And, in a sense, our world is something we can decide on for ourselves.

From Star Strings is recommended reading. And I give it a score of 8.5 out of 10.

You’re on a journey, aren’t you? But it’s not over, is it?

Feminist Turns Tables on Men, and Men Loved It

The following cartoon was brought to us by Twitter user Fight the Patriarchy. The feminist apparently got the idea that she could take the language that men direct towards women, which feminists find annoying, and turn matters around by showing a cartoon with women directing similar compliments towards men:

  • Heard it,
  • Heard it, except just towards me,
  • Heard a variant thereof,
  • Heartwarming, but still makes me glad I’m no longer a cashier.

Sorry, I got distracted with some fond memories.

The above comic was posted to social media with the idea that it would pwn teh pAtRiArChY, but something different happened. The idea of being complimented like that was something that men loved.

And really, who wouldn’t?

It would seem as though the answer to that question would be feminists, whose distrust of other people is so extreme that they assume a subtle sexual proposition in mere small talk.

Even if such a proposition were present, where’s the controversy? Just like men, women have the capacity to express disinterest at any point in any interaction, and to do so is a trivial social inconvenience.

When one person complains about an experience as a person of one gender, it seems to be the tendency of people to assume that there must always be an equivalent experience for the other gender.

But that’s not always the case, because men and women are different. Many of those differences are obvious, such as the fact that women can get pregnant, and when that happens, they spend nine months giving of their energy and nutrients to help develop the life that’s growing inside them. This being the case, women have a tendency to proceed with more caution in the courtship process, considering that the outcome would be a significant investment of their time and energy.

Though, from what I’ve seen, women have a tendency to take initiative. But I understand that not everyone has had the same experiences as me.

Men and women are different. And those differences should be understood and embraced as beneficial for society, rather than a reason to complain about oppression and play the victim, as the tendency of certain people is.

But even with those differences, I think society would be better still if a certain subculture, feminists specifically, were to learn a few things about taking compliments without assuming ulterior motives. But considering that the typical feminist is characterized by a distrust of those they perceive to be in the outgroup, they’re well set up to surpass expectations.

Townhall Investigated an LGBTQ Pedophile Couple

WARNING: The story being discussed is enraging. If you have anger issues or are susceptible to committing acts such as vehicular homicide, you might want to give this one a skip.

Once again, I’m absolutely not kidding. If you continue, the story in question might ruin your day, maybe even your entire week.

Townhall’s Mia Cathell did an excellent job investigating this story, which got almost no media coverage from the legacy outlets. What story am I talking about? You might want to sit down for this.

An activist gay married couple decided to adopt two boys from a Christian adoption company that focused on special needs children, so that they could sexually abuse them, use them to produce explicit material, and pimp them out to other pedophiles in Georgia.

What a lot to unpack. If you’re interested in reading the story for yourself, here’s a link to part one of Townhall’s four-part series. I won’t comment much on details of Townhall’s findings here, because you can just read them yourself. But I do want to make some observations.

Obviously, the corporate mainstream information media would only grudgingly run this story, if they did so at all, considering that the idea that a gay couple could also be pedophiles and get away with abusing a couple children that they adopted for as long as the Zulocks did would not fit the narrative.

But for the rest of us, when we see someone loudly boast of their sexuality as being their most important and public-facing aspect, it would not be surprising in the least to see that person go on to commit an act of sexual misconduct. Obviously, we would not want our own children to spend any amount of time around them.

But in the case of the Zulocks, they were to the point that even other pedophiles thought that they were going too far, and one of them decided to turn them in.

What I’m curious about is how the two men got the money needed to quickly build a mansion for themselves right after adopting the two boys. And not only that, they took trips to places all over the country. One of the two was a bank teller, and the other was a low-level government employee, so just based on that alone, the two would have lacked the means to live so extravagantly. Somehow, I get the idea that the answer would piss me off.

I know that when it comes to matters like this, the term “allegedly” is useful, especially if it turns out the accused were innocent. But the Zulock men had already confessed. Even if they were to plead “not guilty” to the charges, their confessions might come back to bite them.

When it comes to criminals like the Zulocks, it’s fun to think of creative punishments. But in their case, they’re facing life sentences, so no Sparta kicking them off tall buildings. But I think it would be sufficient to put them in with genpop and allow nature to take its course.

You Can Watch the Disgraced Pfizer Director Flip Out As His Career Collapses

You’re probably having a better day than Jordan Trishton Walker, the Pfizer director behind mRNA Scientific Planning. He was the guy who was the subject of a Project Veritas sting in which he was caught on camera saying that Pfizer was floating the idea of deliberately making COVID mutate so they could profit more off of their vaccines.

Here’s some fine entertainment:

One would almost feel bad for the guy. But not quite.

He’s evidently someone who never faced resistance in his entire life. But then, he realized that everything he built up was about to come crashing down.

Where most people would have realized that the best way to handle the situation would have been to clam up and say no more to incriminate themselves, Jordan instead attempted to take control of the situation, apparently unfamiliar with having no such control.

For one thing, he claimed that he was only lying about the possibility of participating in gain-of-function research in order to impress his date. I suspected as much, but that’s certainly better than him having told the truth, which is still a possibility. But even if he was just BSing, he still made his company look bad, and perhaps also violated some non-disclosure agreements. In either case, he loses.

But how insecure does a man have to be if, as a director for one of the wealthiest companies, he still feels the need to lie to impress a date? That’s really sad.

The way he attempted to take control of the situation says everything about where his mind was. He tried calling the police, because he was a victim in his own mind. He tried bringing race into it, which suggests that that’s the kind of thing he does to get what he wants.

Personally, I suspect that it was just before he seized James’ iPad and attempted to destroy it that he realized that his career was over. And not only was his career dead, it was just executed with the cruelest stroke.

At some point, the restaurant owner locked the door on the PV crew, as they were being pressured to by Jordan Walker. While that was a no-no, perhaps they could make the case that they were under duress by reason of Jordan’s behavior.

But hey, the cops did show up, just as Jordan wanted. However, they would have just arrested Jordan, if James hadn’t already left the scene. By the way, what was with Jordan running into traffic and trying to stop a car? I know that it was already established at that point that he was unhinged, but that was the thing of movies.

So, what does the future hold for Jordan Trishton Walker? I don’t know, but I suspect that Pfizer would fire him by reason of the bad publicity, then distance themselves from him as though he had a super-cancer that’s contagious. After that, an ordinary-person job would be the best he could hope for. And he doesn’t look like the kind of guy who would be happy with his work evident in his hands.

It’s rare for things to get so bad that they can’t be made worse by acting like a jackass. As bad as things were for Jordan Walker, he had more to lose, and he went for it.

Just exquisite.

Pfizer Director Admits to Possibility of “Directed Evolution” of COVID Virus for Profit to Undercover Veritas Reporter

Oh, man! Someone is going to be goatsed so hard. I’m talking having their cheeks spread from sea to shining sea!

Jordon Trishton Walker, Pfizer Director of Research and Development for Strategic Operations and mRNA Scientific Planning, just admitted to an undercover reporter for Project Veritas that Pfizer has been entertaining the possibility of creating new strains of COVID through gain-of-function research so that Pfizer could then profit off their mRNA vaccines. Except, the gain-of-function research would be spun as “directed evolution”. Because, as you probably know, to call it “gain-of-function research” would be bad for publicity.

How did this happen, you may be wondering?

The same way this keeps on happening: an undercover reporter succeeded in scoring a date. And the director, like many before him, saw the twenty-something and wanted some tube steak (he’s gay), so he tried to impress him. Then, his loose lips proceeded to sink the ship.

Yep. It keeps happening. Like Chris-Chan before them, Pfizer management keeps falling for the same ruse, over and over again.

If you have some people who are counting on you to keep some secrets, it helps to exercise some skepticism, even when faced with the prospect of some vertical smile. If you work for an intelligence apparatus, and some cute Chinese girl keeps changing the topic to your line of work, something is probably up.

Reportedly, the reporter identified himself as being with Project Veritas, to which the director responded by physically attacking the reporter. But by that point, the director had already dug his own grave.

The things people do when they realize that they’ve been played.

The report was such a bombshell, that some conspiracy theorists have floated the idea that Pfizer intentionally gave Veritas some misinformation to catch them. You know, the ol’ “start a negative news cycle surrounding us and cause our stock to drop just to own a Project Veritas reporter.” The classic 4D chess move.

If you’re wondering what I think might have happened, I suspect that the guy was just bullshitting to try to make himself seem more important and edgy than he actually is. The guy was presented with some beefcake to act as the dominant one, and he wanted to impress him. So, perhaps he just put on a performance.

Or, I suspect that there’s a need to impress, as women have an apparent tendency to reach for my stuff before asking any questions. But then, not every man may have had experiences like mine.

Still, the plot that Jordon gave up sounds so well developed, that it doesn’t sound like the kind of thing that someone would make up while drunk. He even outlined the process that would be employed, if Pfizer were to go about it, right down to how monkeys would be used in the research.

It’s because of this that it’s hard to entirely dismiss the possibility that he was telling the truth. Perhaps we’d benefit from shining the light on Pfizer.

Here’s an embed of the YouTube video. See it while it’s still up:

UPDATE: See the embed above? Looks like Google has once again proven themselves to be the book burners of the digital age.

The video is still up on Twitter, the recently-upgraded leadership of which seems to be sincere in a desire for a free and open marketplace of ideas, where earnest discussions of important matters can be held in good faith, and actual investigative journalism is no longer actively and deliberately suppressed.

You’ve changed, Google.

Get A Load of This: The Vaxxed Blame the Rest of Us For Not Warning Them

You know that one kid who, when the class was taking a quiz, the teacher would sit down next to her and help her through it? She now has a voice on the internet.

A writer at IQfy is now experiencing post-vax regret, and tried blaming those who warned her by pretending that they didn’t.

No, I’m not kidding. Here’s a link to the article in question.

As the world struggles to come to terms with the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, one question that continues to surface is why the unvaccinated didn’t do more to warn us about the potential dangers of being injected.

Could it be because it wasn’t their job? Or could it be that they, like myself, did warn you, and you ignored us? Or could it be that our warnings to you for your benefit were being actively suppressed?

Of course, it’s still possible that you’ve heard sufficient warning to discourage you from making the wrong move, but despite your belief in yourself as a free-thinker, you lacked the drive to inquire concerning the matter, and followed the crowd like a herd animal.

While well intending citizens lined up, did the right thing, and received their COVID19 vaccinations — now seeming to do more harm than good — their unvaccinated friends stood by and let them do it. Some of them said too little. Some said nothing at all.

Even though they knew what we didn’t.

Don’t get carried away. We did warn you. Not only that, you had access to the same information that we did. You just poo-pooed it, dismissing the warnings as the ramblings of conspiracy theorists.

Now that you got the mRNA vaccine, you’re finding out that it’s not turning you into Spider Man. Instead, it’s causing you problems, and in some cases, it’s killing people.

You laughed at the people who warned you. Now, we’re laughing right back.

Our blood is now on their hands.

Those are strong words. But the unvaccinated had access to important information about the potential side effects of vaccines. They knew about the risks of severe allergic reactions, blood clots, and other serious health complications. They knew that vaccines did not immunize us. They knew it wasn’t effective, and that they can cause more harm than good.

“Our blood is now on their hands.” The battle-cry of the deceived.

Here’s a better idea: rather than try to take it out on the people who tried to warn you, why don’t you instead put your blame on the people who stuck you, which is right where it belongs.

If all these professionals are so smart, they’re the ones who should have known better.

They knew all of that, but instead of warning us, the unvaccinated chose to remain silent. They chose to look the other way and not speak out about the potential dangers of vaccines. They let millions of good folks who did the right thing (at the time) fall to death and disease, and many antivaxxers even gloated online about how their coin flip had been the right bet. The more diabolical even urged folks they disagree with to “get boosted.”

It has become all too clear. The silence of the unvaccinated was a dangerous, sociopathic, and irresponsible decision that has had serious consequences for those of us who received the vaccinations.

And silence is, after all, consent.

I remember that those of us who knew what was going on wanted to warn you, but we were being threatened. We wanted to warn you, but the establishment was doing everything they could to make sure that you went through with it, even going as far as threatening to shut down the social media accounts of those who would warn you, denying us a voice. And they went as far as threatening our livelihoods and careers, denying us a paycheck, as a possible price to pay for trying to warn you.

You should be blaming the establishment, or at least owning up to your own choice, which you made with agency. But instead, you’re blaming the people who tried to warn you? And on top of that, you’re pretending that we did not?

It is time for the unvaccinated to take responsibility for their actions and to work with the rest of us to find a solution to this crisis. We cannot afford to let their selfishness and lack of action continue to harm our communities. It is time for the unvaccinated to step up and do the right thing.

It occurred to me that maybe you deserved it. When presented with a choice, you went with the untested injection. When people warned you, you either ignored them, ridiculed them, or participated in ostracizing them. Even if you did none of those things, you had access to the same information that we did, but you weren’t inquisitive enough to seek it out. You were careless about what went into you, and now you’re paying the price.

Of course, if someone refuses to exercise proper inquisitiveness, it’s just a matter of time, and a question of how. In the case of many like you, it was an inadvisable medical procedure. They could have just as soon dumped all the money they saved into NFTs. Or they could have had 6-11 servings of wheat per day because the food pyramid told them to. Or they might think they could make their car more energetic by adding Mountain Dew to the gas tank. Or they might pick a fight with someone who was on the sex-offender registry, only to get shot in the face. Or they might attempt an SQL injection, only to somehow destroy their own home network.

In this world, people do stupid things. And sometimes, they try to shift the blame to someone else for not warning them not to do it.

The unvaccinated should by any moral measuring stick have done more to warn about the potential risks — to help us make informed decisions about our health. And they must now ask us for our forgiveness.

And, hand to heart, we may just give it to them.

Aw, how very gracious of you. But you have it backwards. Do you really not remember how the vaxxed ignored the people who warned them? Do you not remember how the vaxxed shunned them and threatened their livelihoods?

And you think we need your forgiveness?

Because we are good people. We took those injections because it was the right thing to do — until it wasn’t.

You’re not, and it never was.

Stupid is not malicious, but that changes when it tries to divert the blame.

Review: Made In Abyss: Binary Star Falling Into Darkness

Developer: Chime Corporation
Publisher: Spike Chunsoft
Genre: Action RPG
Rating: Mature
Platform:
 Nintendo Switch, PS4, PC

There isn’t usually much expectation that a video game based on a manga or anime would hold up when compared to the original source material. But when considering how beloved Akihito Tsukushi’s Made In Abyss is, one can hold out hope that the developer and publisher would understand just how important it is to the fanbase to do justice with Made In Abyss: Binary Star Falling Into Darkness.

While one may consider it a pleasant surprise when a game is released months ahead of schedule, if you’ve been following the game industry long enough to develop a little cynicism, you’d see it as a sign that the publisher decided to rush it, perhaps because funds were starting to run a little low. Or, as was likely the case with Binary Star, Spike Chunsoft wanted to rush the game to market while the recently-aired second season of the Made In Abyss anime is still fresh in the memories of viewers, and the game is in a better position to profit off the popularity of the license.

That’s not to say that Binary Star was a bad game. The skeleton of a highly ambitious project is there: great worldbuilding, an intriguing story, well-fleshed-out characters, and great potential for treasure-hunting mechanics. Of course, it’s easy to point out that these are owed to the source material, and that the follow-through would be in the efforts of the game developers. And that’s where things start to falter.

This game would be a blast if it weren’t for a few bad design choices that could have easily been decided against. The most notorious of which would be the repeatedly-spawning enemies. Normally, when a game character is placed in a sprawling, expansive environment, the player’s tendency is to take a minute or two to bask in the beauty of the scenery they are presented with. But don’t take too long doing that in Binary Star, because when you enter a new area, a timer ticks down, and when enough time passes, enemies start spawning. And they’ll usually teleport into existence right behind you, as though the game itself has a problem with you just wanting to chill.

If this sounds like it might be an annoyance to you, you might want to go for the Steam version. Some clever players have developed a mod which prevents enemies from spawning in such a way. Otherwise, you might end up getting triggered at the sight of ferrets.

I get the idea that the game makers had a hard time deciding whether to closely follow Riko’s adventure from the manga, or give players a new, customizable main character to go on his/her own adventure. To the credit of the game makers, they decided on including both. However, it’s obvious that the meat of the game is in the new main character’s campaign, while Riko’s story (which only includes her adventures up to the second layer) acts as a kind of tutorial that’s a few hours long.

Unfortunately, to get to the better part of the game, to complete the tutorial first is mandatory. And as far as tutorials go, it doesn’t really work that great. Riko and Reg are likely to annoy you as they repeat the same lines over and over again while traipsing about in the Abyss. It won’t take long for you to get used to the fact that Reg “senses something” when he and Riko are in no immediate danger.

This is one game that isn’t to be judged by the first few hours.

While I’m complaining, I can also point out that the “strains of ascending” are a huge inconvenience. I know that it’s a huge part of the worldbuilding in Made In Abyss, but from a game mechanics perspective, it’s likely to bust your groove when you want to, you know, go up.

Let’s take a moment to appreciate the irony that some twisted jerk built a staircase in a place where the very act of ascending causes people to barf.

But as much as I can think of to complain about, I found myself enjoying Binary Star quite a lot, especially when I got to the point when I could play the main campaign. That was when I could finally create and name my own customizable character, and have him interact with the other characters in Made In Abyss. And the execution was compelling and addictive enough that I eventually developed a forbearance concerning the game’s shortcomings.

The story follows a child who joins Belchero orphanage alongside a group of other kids. At that point, it’s been months since Riko departed into the abyss in a quest to find her mother, and since then, the other children began to speak of her as a legend. You might have noticed a dark undertone in the reasoning for training orphans to mine in the abyss, as there’d be fewer people who would miss them in the event that an expedition turns tragic.

If you see tendrils bordering the screen, you might want to wait a few seconds to acclimate. If your character barfs, he/she can get hungry again in a hurry.

The action in the game takes place in the Abyss, where you’ll have to make careful judgements as to what dangers to brave and how far you’ll go, considering that at the end of an expedition, you’d have to make a return trip. As you journey, there are many things to account for, such as what supplies you brought, what healing items and food you brought, and the weight of the treasures you find, considering that there’s a limit to how much you can carry before your character is slowed.

In addition to the HP bar, you’ll also have a hunger bar, which decrements with time. Hunger is something to account for when making longer trips, as when the hunger bar is depleted, your character becomes helpless. There’s also an energy bar, which depletes when the character takes an action. However, it’ll completely restore when the character stands still for a few seconds, as long as the character is not starving. However, it doesn’t recover on its own when climbing a rock face, which places a limit on how much you can climb at a time.

It’s possible to cheese some of the more dangerous primeval creatures, if you’re patient.

There are also status conditions to watch for, such as two different kinds of poison. There are also arm injuries, which temporarily limits the actions you can take with your arms, and leg injuries, which temporarily decreases mobility. Special items heal these conditions in a hurry, which is great, because some of them can be a serious problem when a dangerous monster is upon you!

While the game isn’t heavy on delivering the tension, there’s still a sense that things can go horribly wrong, even from just a moment of poor judgement. Just slipping on a rock face can result in your character falling to their death. It seems that this game’s M rating is largely owed to how grisly some of the possible deaths are. In some cases, it seems a little gratuitous, but it’s not as though the Made In Abyss series was made for kids.

Evil ferrets.

Made In Abyss is one game where if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. While in Orth, you can plan for runs into the Abyss, with shops for replenishing your equipment, food, and medicine. There’s also a facility for selling off relics that you find for money. You also have access to your room, where there’s a chest where you can decide what to take with you. There are also many armor items, but many of the more effective ones add significantly to your weight allotment. It’s a judgement call as to whether it’s worthwhile to settle for a particular armor set, or upgrade for a set that might be worth the weight it adds to your gear.

It bears pointing out that your character doesn’t gain EXP directly from beating enemies, you mainly get those from selling relics and completing quests. Thus, it’s usually better to avoid dangerous primeval creatures unless you need their drops or you have some other reason for fighting them.

It’s generally better to pick a cap with a lamp, even if it’s not the highest-defense option.

As the story progresses, more main missions open up, the completion of which can lead to the player growing in rank, such as from Red Whistle to Blue Whistle. Growing in ranks grants access to more skills, which can then be unlocked with points that players accrue by leveling up. Some of these skills are quite significant, and can increase the number of items that can be crafted, and improve other skills, such as mobility when climbing or dodging, or even increase the bag’s weight capacity.

It’s a bit of an indulgence, but there is some enjoyment to be had in having your own customizable character interact with characters from Made In Abyss. You can even give your character heterochromia, if stereotypical OCs are more your thing. And like stereotypical OCs, you can proceed to have them befriend just about every established character in the series that appears in this game. Having said that, there are at least a couple established characters which, if I were to see them while walking down the street, I’d cross to the other side of the street.

There are a few boss characters, but with a few exceptions, they’re some pretty simple battles that can be cheesed. But this doesn’t bother me, as the boss battles aren’t really the main point of this game. Once you’ve completed all the boss battles and most of the game’s major objectives, you’ll come to a steep drop-off in reason to continue playing. Sure, you could continue to take on missions and develop White Whistle skills, but there isn’t much at that point to do with those skills.

While spawning enemies can be annoying, you can use them to your advantage. They can become a great source of food and other drops.

This is one game that can be pointed to as being highly ambitious, and having a lot of potential just from the source material, and while there are some redeeming qualities, the whole deal is held back by an apparent rush to an early release date, and some poor design choices that could have easily not been made.

I think an appropriate score for Made In Abyss: Binary Star Falling Into Darkness would be 6.5 out of 10.

This might be one race to the bottom that you could get behind.

UPDATE: Literally, update. Among the changes in version 1.0.3, you can skip the Hello Abyss mode and go right into Deep In Abyss mode, which is where the meat of the game is. That’s great for players who might lose their patience with the initially-mandatory pseudo-tutorial mode.

But that’s not all, they also changed the system that spawned in minor enemies when you spend enough time in one area. Not by eliminating that mechanic entirely, as I might have preferred, but by making it take more time for the enemies to spawn in. I gave the game another try, and I noticed that it took much longer to get attacked by evil ferrets.

It seems the developers at Chime were aware of gamers’ biggest complaints, and they addressed them. That’s great for those who are still on the fence on whether to give Binary Star a try. But the update came weeks after I already completed all the game’s major objectives, so they wouldn’t make that much of a difference for me unless I decide I want to give this game another go.

Missing a better initial experience with a game that ends up getting an update is one of the ways that the game industry, in its current form, would punish a gamer who rushes through a new release like a freak.

Review: Pokémon Scarlet and Violet

Developer: GameFreak
Publisher: Nintendo, The Pokémon Company
Genre: Turn-based RPG
Rating: Everyone
Platform:
 Nintendo Switch

I wanted to put off writing a review for this game. I was awaiting the hypothetical update that would take care of the performance issues. After all, once the problems were patched, any review that stated them as being the main problem would quickly grow obsolete. But the only notable update that came (aside from the day one patch) took care of a fun glitch that actually benefitted players. So, it looks like this game is going to continue to stand as being too ambitious for the dated Nvidia Tegra X1 chip. Either that, or the game devs were in a hurry to push something out for a strategic release date.

For most games, performance issues are enough to kill them. But oddly, in the case of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, that’s not the case. Somehow, the game manages to be so awesome that it overcomes the performance issues, which mainly have to do with dropped frames. Which would mainly be an issue for those who insist that their games be completely realistic, which is not much of an expectation when it comes to the Pokémon series.

Scarlet and Violet are GameFreak’s first attempt at an open-world experience for the Pokémon franchise. As one might expect, it doesn’t so much change open-world games as it does change the way Pokémon is played. Considering what we’ve been seeing out of Pokémon Legends: Arceus and Pokémon Sword/Shield, the series has been tending in that direction. Finally, the franchise has made a committed attempt at an open-world game, and it does not disappoint.

It’s a welcome change, as most Pokémon games up to this point have been strongly formulaic. Sure, some of the old tropes remain, such as that you still choose from three types for your starter, and there are still 8 gym badges to collect as part of a League challenge. However, the League challenge is only one of three main story routes, and the three culminate in a finale story, and in the case of the non-League stories, the writers really told some moving tales.

It starts out with the main character about to start his first day at an academy (the name of which varies on which version you’re playing). The academy director and a new rival direct you towards the academy, but there’s a diversion which involves the main character meeting a new legendary Pokémon, which serves as your ride Pokémon throughout the game. At the academy, you meet a bunch of new characters that will be relevant to you during the three branching stories.

Then, you’re set loose on the Paldea region, where you can take on any challenge that you want (aside from the central Great Crater, which remains off-limits until near the end). The region of Paldea is open to you, and you’re not compelled to go in any one direction. Any of the three main stories can be taken on in any order you wish, and you can put any of the three on hold at any time, either to further another storyline, or to run about and attempt to catch the Pokémon you set your sights on. Personally, I recommend prioritizing taking on the titans, since that path rewards you by increasing your mobility, enabling you to further appreciate your freedom to move about through the Paldea region.

As far as I know, the game doesn’t explicitly spell out a recommended order for its objectives. You can take on the gyms in any order you want, you can take on the Team Star bases in any order you want, and you can take on the titans in any order you want. Just be warned that the levels of most opponents don’t scale based on your progress level, so it’s possible to wander too far and end up overwhelmed by gym leaders you weren’t prepared for. But this also allows for players to, in a sense, set their own difficulties by pushing themselves as far as they care to at the game’s outset.

The core Pokémon games are, at their hearts, turn-based RPGs. Thankfully, this core aspect remains intact in the series’ conversion to an open-world experience. The overworld switches seamlessly to battle scenes by showing the battles as taking place in the overworld environment, in a manner reminiscent to Pokémon Legends: Arceus. However, Scarlet and Violet differ from Legends in that wild Pokémon battles are 1v1 affairs, with other wild Pokémon in the area looking on as spectators, which is a nice touch!

A new and welcome feature is the Let’s Go mechanic, where you can send your own lead Pokémon into the overworld, and it’ll passively seek out wild Pokémon to battle, and defeat them. It’s a relatively fast way to level up your own Pokémon, putting aside that EXP points are decreased when you battle with this method. But considering that you wouldn’t be constantly switching between overworld mode and the battle scene constantly, this may still be a fast way to level up your team. Also, your Let’s Go Pokémon won’t beat up shiny Pokémon with this method. Shiny hunters, rejoice! Just be warned that this style of battling doesn’t trigger evolution, so you might want to level up the old-fashioned way at some point to trigger evolution to occur.

As fans have come to expect with each new generation of Pokémon since X and Y, Scarlet and Violet introduce a new game mechanic that makes battles in Scarlet and Violet distinct, as compared to battles in other games in the franchise: Terrastilization. It’s an act which causes Pokémon to take on a crystalline appearance. The Pokémon will change its type mid-battle, and its moves gain a boost in power, depending on the type it takes on. It’s a neat little gimmick that adds spectacle to in-game battles, and is certainly something to account for for competitive players participating in competitions that allow for it.

Aside from competitive battles, much of Scarlet and Violet’s post-game content seems to hinge on Tera Raid battles. You can find some easier ones during the main playthrough, but you’ll eventually have access to five-star raids, which pose a serious challenge to players who intend to solo them. Afterwards, players can access six-star raids, which are a lot more challenging than the raid dens in Sword/Shield. In many cases, it’ll take a team of players with specific Pokémon and specific builds to be more likely to win.

The soundtrack, by the way, is the best in the series. No question. Whether it’s the upbeat gym leader tune which is almost as good as the gym leader tune in Sword/Shield, the atmospheric environmental tunes that switches to an alternate track when mounting the ride Pokémon, the recurring leitmotif, and the bangin’ battle themes that play during a few key battles, it’s various degrees of excellent. Toby Fox’s presence may be controversial, but it’s plain that he’s a positive asset, and Pokémon’s music direction benefits huge from his input.

The game isn’t without flaws, but those mainly come down to performance issues, which make it evident that the game was rushed. Yet, this is one case where the good greatly overtakes the bad, to the point that the issues with performance are actually easy to overlook, even if they do sometimes take one out of the experience.

I suppose another complaint that one can think of is that there isn’t much of a postgame for those who aren’t terribly interested in Tera Raid battles. Because, those aside, there aren’t many post-game battles that are much of a challenge. That’s a problem that might be resolved through a future DLC package, which would be great for those who are patient and willing to spend more.

But as for the game as it is, I feel like I definitely got my money’s worth. If it weren’t for the technical issues, it wouldn’t seem out of place in the running for distinctions such as Game of the Year.

But as they are right now, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet are deserving of high recommendations, and a score of 9.5 out of 10.

But if you’re a fan of the Pokémon series, you probably already bought it. Great choice.

An Image To Describe 2022

Fine then, I’ll do what I’ve been doing, year after year, near the end of the year. I’ll post an image that I feel describes the year pretty well.

Like the last three years, I’m just going to be lazy and share something that I found by using the internet, without bothering to shop it:

A theory that has gained popularity in recent times is the Strauss-Howe generational theory, which suggests that major conflicts occur in cycles of 80 years. When applied to the USA, one can point out that roughly 78 years separates the Revolutionary War from the Civil War, and roughly 76 years separates the Civil War from America’s involvement in World War 2. It’s been roughly 77 years since the conclusion of World War 2, so proponents of the Strauss-Howe generational theory are buzzing with the possibility that we are heading towards another major conflict.

Of course, the idea that major conflicts occur because they abide by a schedule is silly. Therefore, there must be something different to which we can attribute this apparent pattern (of course, the similarity in difference in time between these events could be mere coincidence). One possibility is that the difference in time (about 80 years) is the time it takes for most of the members of a generation old enough to remember a conflict to pass away. And without the benefit of the memory of a major conflict, younger generations won’t appreciate the urgency of preventing a similar conflict from repeating itself.

While the generation that fought in World War 2 is held in high regard, the sad fact is, most of the lessons that the western world learned in its light has been forgotten. It’s generally agreed upon that the Nazi Party was bad, but in a cynically unconstructive manner, many of today’s politically involved try as hard as they can to paint their rivals with Hitler’s virtues. In distorting what the dictator was really about, they play a huge part in unlearning the lessons of the war. There is a certain irony in that, mere decades after the Socialism of Hitler’s National Socialist German Worker’s Party (Nazi Party, for short) was overcome, that countless pseudo-intellectuals tout the benefits of Socialism in coffee shops and college campuses, mainly because they don’t want to work. What’s more, while the same pseudo-intellectuals decry racism, they’re overlooking that Hitler’s racism was the end result of following Darwin’s ideas concerning natural selection to their consequence, an evolutionary theory that the same people accept without question.

One might wonder what would cause a major world conflict, especially in today’s age.

Today’s uninformed like to pretend that most major conflict that has occurred over the course of history has been over ideology, with atheists in particular believing religion to be the prime driver behind conflicts. However, most people who have ever lived that weren’t Muslim wouldn’t care whether someone far off were to bow, kneel, and scrape before some graven image N times a day, so long as they themselves got to live in peace. The fact is, most wars that have ever been fought have been fought over resources.

In light of the ongoing war in Ukraine, this winter could prove to be a tad difficult, particularly for Europe. For one thing, Ukraine and Russia are energy rich (with Ukraine’s energy sector having been of particular interest for the Biden administration). In light of tariffs on Russian oil and disruptions in Ukraine’s energy supply, Europe may find itself on a strict energy allocation for the next few months.

What’s more, Ukraine has been one of the world’s top exporters of wheat, and the top producer of wheat for Europe, aside from France and Russia, the latter being the world’s number 1 wheat exporter.

To illustrate, the following chart from Wikipedia shows countries listed by export of wheat:

Wheat is kind of a big deal, as wheat is used to make foods that are substantial in calories, and calories are one of the major sources of energy that humans use to live. If a substantial source of calories, such as wheat, comes to be in short supply, more people could end up going hungry. And when people go hungry, unrest is an anticipated result.

According to the Strauss-Howe generational theory, when a major conflict does erupt, it usually involves the most powerful weapons that are available at the time. Based on this reasoning, we might think that we might be looking at the prospect of nuclear war. During World War 2, atomic weapons were being developed, and a couple of them were deployed.

But are nuclear weapons really the most powerful weapons available? Or has the communication age changed the nature of warfare, to the point that information has become a more powerful weapon?

In times past, wars could be won by kinetically attacking the civilian population, which would then lose interest in war, and no longer want to support the war effort. Thus, it was of paramount importance that the armed forces defend the civilian population. Today, there’s no need to deploy a nuclear weapon, as to weaken a country is as easy as producing a steady stream of bullshit that is designed to systematically destroy people’s minds.

The fact is, we live in an age of fifth-generation warfare, which revolves around the use of cyberattacks, misinformation, and psyops. While Alex Jones has become the right’s butt-monkey, he did have a point when he pointed out that there is a war for your mind. State actors understand pretty well that a demoralized population is less likely to get behind its government, and would tend more towards subversive movements, which could unsettle standing dominant economic powers.

Considering all this, I think that 2023 might be an interesting year. If you live in a big city, and have the means to get out of it, it might be a good idea to do so.

The “Mouse Utopia” Experiment That Fooled Your Parents and Grandparents

Dr. John Calhoun, pictured inside the Universe 25 enclosure.

Even with good intentions, what’s stupid is still stupid. So it is when one attempts to thwart a perceived oncoming crisis, but ends up doing more harm than good.

Decades ago, researcher John Calhoun set out to conduct a set of experiments which involved confining rats to enclosures, and observing them as they are continually provided with ample food, safety from predators, and allowing their populations to grow without interference.

The most famous of these enclosures was called “Universe 25”, which was notable for its capacity for housing upwards of 5000 mice. As the experiment progressed, the mice descended into antisocial and violent behavior, and the colony ended up failing when the females failed to care for their young.

This research came to be of particular public interest, as it came at a time when Malthusianism, the idea that the earth was nearing its limit for its ability to support humanity’s growing population, was widely accepted. In light of this, it’s easy to see why Calhoun’s experiments were interpreted to mean that consequences similar to what befell Universe 25 might also befall humanity, if humanity’s numbers were to continue to grow unchecked.

But there was a problem. Calhoun’s experiments did not concern limited resources, nor did it concern overpopulation.

The purpose of the experiments was to observe behavioral sink in rats who were not able to escape one another’s company at any time. This becomes evident when considering the fact that the colony did not want for anything to eat or drink at any time during the experiment, as it was all provided by Calhoun. What’s more, the Universe 25 enclosure came nowhere close to capacity at the point when the colony failed.

Nonetheless, the consensus was that the experiments gave us a glimpse into the future of humanity if humanity’s numbers were to continue to grow without check, further feeding into the Malthusianism that was popular at the time. In a sense, the Universe 25 experiment came to be the “mouse utopia” experiment which fooled your parents and grandparents.

As a case study concerning the National Socialists of Germany may prove, when any misconception becomes popular enough, tragedy is a potential outcome. While Malthusianism may have already been popular in the decades preceding Calhoun’s experiments, a popular misconception regarding them may have played a huge role in the movement’s further popularity. And, wouldn’t you know it, it was the following decade that saw the production of the now popular Jaffe memo.

That’s not to say that there’s no value to be found in Calhoun’s experiments. But to find that value, one would have to look at them in terms of the data that they actually provided. And if there is carryover between the observed behavior of rats made to live in close proximity and human beings, there is a concern which is applicable to today, rather than in a hypothetical future time when human population is far greater. After all, large numbers of humans live in close proximity, today.

The fact is, there is noticeable behavioral sink in rats who are made to live in close proximity, unable to escape one another’s company. Among what’s concerning is that the males in the experiment tended to become hyper-aggressive, often fighting each other, even when there’s apparently nothing at stake. They also tended to become hyper-sexual, with homosexuality becoming rampant.

The behavior of the females also became concerning. The females tended to become more masculine in their behavior, also becoming more aggressive and hyper-sexual. As matters continued, most of them failed to care for their own young, many of them abandoning their young, leaving them to die. And yes, we’re still talking about rats.

Also of interest was the emergence of a special category of male. These were referred to as the “beautiful ones”, because they avoided other rats (and thus fighting), and they devoted their time to self-grooming. Any time they fed, they avoided other rats, often by waiting until many of them were sleeping. These rats were so psychologically damaged that they refused to mate, even after being removed from the enclosure and placed in the company of ideal females.

I’ve been avoiding direct comparisons until now, but I’d like to indulge by pointing out the obvious similarities between these so-called “beautiful ones” and humanity’s MGTOW and Herbivore Men movements. If you’ve never heard of them, they largely boil down to being groups of men who have foregone relationships with women, often over bad experiences.

As large numbers of humans live in close proximity, it’s easy to see a certain disregard for one’s fellow man. Those who manage large numbers of humans tend to see less value in them as individuals, instead viewing them as statistics, and numbers to be managed. There is an Asian saying: “A frog at the bottom of a well knows nothing of the ocean.” Indeed, a limited perspective can lead one into making wrong assumptions, even as far as to interpret disparate data as supporting their own preconceived notions. Get out of cities.