Tag: Viz Media

Late to the memorial

Late to the memorial

Naruto was probably my favorite anime growing up.

I first watched 1986’s Dragon Ball, and I distinctly remember doing silly things like watching an episode at my neighbor’s house when Mom wouldn’t let me at home.

Shout out to Norm and Sue, wherever they are now.

However, that show never stuck with me like Naruto. I had a particular love for Gaara as an antagonist-turned-ally, Kimimaro as a villain with incredible powers and Hinata.

Some might argue she was my first “cartoon crush,” but I believe she was more my introduction to a beloved character pairing in Hinata/Naruto. That was the start of my downward spiral toward shipping.

Yet I never watched Boruto, the sequel series where that love was vindicated by their marriage. I also never watched much Naruto Shippuden.

For whatever reason I stuck to the original series.

Though my fandom did live on in video games. Namely Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 3 on the PS2, Naruto Ninja Council 3 on the DS (which became the basis for my sprite animation magnum opus) and Naruto: Clash of Ninja Revolution on the Wii.

Also one non-official fan game that captured my imagination more than any other: Naruto-Arena.

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Image courtesy of the Naruto-Arena Fandom Wiki

Naruto-Arena was a browser-based strategy game with three-on-three battles using ninja from across Naruto’s expansive history.

Each ninja had four moves that required different amounts of colored “chakra” energy, some of which were physical, ranged or simply granted invulnerability.

A few colored energies were accrued every turn, which meant the game played out with turn-based thought games like early Final Fantasy. It was important to track cool downs and lingering effects.

It’s funny how much the system reminds me of the upcoming Pokémon Masters.

I played the game early on in its life. Conversations were had around my elementary school lunch table, and I specifically recall playing during one of my trips to Dad’s office at CBS/KCAL (sometime between 2006 and 2009).

Like Realm of the Mad God, the game meant a lot to me growing up. I even thought about revisiting it a year ago:

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Because I never did, I wanted to try and write something for July 4 this year. I looked up the website hoping to get some work in for a more fleshed out reflection.

And in its place I found this notice on reddit about the game having shut down.

That… Actually hit me pretty hard.

The game was a relic of my childhood. I’m not naive enough to think it could have lasted forever, but it’s sad that I wasn’t cognizant of its death for so long.

However, being a year late does put me in an interesting position.

The reddit dedicated to Naruto-Arena is alive and well because of fan projects looking to replicate that original fan project.

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Check it out here!

I signed up for this particular new Naruto-Arena to give it a fair shot. It’s in an early build where all characters are available to test, and some key elements like character unlock missions are being implemented.

But it aesthetically nails the old look:

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Right down to the statistical layout on the right side of the scroll.

It didn’t take me very long to come into a quick game. Though the transition into battle was rough, battling itself hit my nostalgia hard.

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This remake replicates the way lingering technique effects stack beside each character, and the way your overall ranking changes their portrait’s accessories.

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I also have to give this remake props for proving to me that over 10-year-old muscle memory is just as potent as ever:

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I just did a quick game, but this new Naruto-Arena has a fairly fleshed out leaderboard to make up for features that are being implemented.

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If I start to tackle ranked battles, who knows where I could get?

Though… I’m not sure how much time I’ll spend on this version of Naruto-Arena. It needs a little more time to gestate, and has received updates as recently as June 10.

I’d like to at least have the satisfaction of unlocking characters before diving in.

Yet I really can’t complain. It may have hit me hard to find out a childhood favorite closed without my knowing, but that loss clearly affected a host of other people too. Enough that some of them went on to try and revitalize it.

That’s the truly powerful thing about fandom: A strong sense of community forged in the small, unofficial details.

I’m glad I got to be a part of that for a time.

RIP Naruto-Arena. Sorry I couldn’t be there for your swan song.


Featured Image courtesy of Afnecors via Wikimedia Commons

Gotta read ’em all!

Gotta read ’em all!

The Unova Region has enveloped a lot of my life over the last few days.

First there was the start of my fanfiction.

Then the locale of Pokémon Black & White came up again when I was wandering Barnes & Noble with my sister and discovered a book of Santa Harukaze comics, put out by Viz Media.

I put off buying it because money, but figured if I saw the book again I might give it another thought.

Then we went to a different bookstore and the fateful book was there too.

I’m not one to tempt fate.

So here I am, reading through 300+ pages of comedic manga-style comic strips about Unova Pokémon, ready to teach you the gospel.

Just consider this my equivalent of Brian David Gilbert’s Skyrim Book Report.

The first thing you need to know is these are “comedic” comics. Like Family Circus or any other traditional funny page staple, some of these one-off jokes are funnier than others.

It’s telling that the Stunfisk comic was my favorite of the bunch.

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That’s peak comedy.

This comic is emblematic of what 70 percent of the collection is: Jokes about a design element or Pokédex entry.

The appearance bits are usually blasé, like Galvantula having too many eyes to cover in case of a surprise.

But I quite like seeing aspects of these Pokémon that I’d always disregarded as innocuous details:

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Another repeat detail throughout these comics are Pokémon being treated meanly, often for no reason.

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Apparently everyone in Unova is a mischievous trickster like Scraggy or in the wrong place at the wrong time like Oshawott.

Though these are Pokémon, so it’s not very surprising that they battle and act aggressively. What is surprising is the way we playing with continuity.

The creatures spend a lot of time playing with or referencing human technology:

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Their confusion suggests these guys are still animals.

But… They sure do spend a lot of time talking and having personalities like in the Mystery Dungeon games.

So maybe these comics take place in that universe?

Except then this page comes along and ruins everything.

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Of course Nimbasa City exists here. Thanks, comic.

But then there’s the weird stuff.

Oh boy is there a whole lot of weird stuff in these comics. And it’s the best part.

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Some of these are far better out of context. Trust me.

One thing I don’t fully understand about the collection is how nonsensically ordered it is. Though the individual comics are segmented by focusing on different Pokémon, they don’t proceed through the book in number or alphabetical order.

It seems entirely random, and that’s compounded by the fact that two-part comics can appear pages apart.

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There’s a particular comic about Woobat and Yamask that’s referenced more than 50 pages later and has a disclaimer telling readers to go back.

Twice.

Why not just order the pages to avoid that kind of problem if there’s no sensible ordering scheme in the book?

Though there’s a much more important question buried in these pages.

Why is Throh the only Pokémon with a two-part comic in which he is the named focus on both parts?

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The. Only. One.

Why Throh of all Pokémon?

Like I’m glad the collection has cool tidbits and quizzes on the sides of each page where I can learn things…

But I’m not sure I can forgive Santa Harukaze for making me feel this tumultuous about Throh.

So, in summary:

Is it worth reading through every Pokémon Black & White Pocket Comic in an afternoon?

Honestly… Not really.

The world of Unova comics has highs are pretty high, but the lows are very, very low. So much so that I don’t think I’d recommend reading through all of them except that you can only find the true gems that way.

I suppose I’d still recommend the book as something of a coffee table read to put out if you have Pokémon-loving guests. But as a Pokémon fan, I’m not sure I would buy the Kalos edition after this one.

That’s a real downer note to end a Pokémon-related post, so here’s a picture of Alyson ruining my attempt to get a Featured Image.

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You’re welcome.

My Magnum Opus

My Magnum Opus

Ever since I booted up my old desktop Mac a few weeks back, I’ve written a few posts about some of the goodies I pulled out of it.

My personal favorite so far regarded the Super Smash Bros. wallpapers, which I tried to coincide with the release of Smash Ultimate.

Then I wrote about Armagetron Advanced, a game I really loved playing back in the day.

But I found a whole host of other things from the oughts and early twenty-tens, including elementary/middle school assignments, the first chapter draft of some fantasy novel I tried to write as well as memes or projects that provide a very distinct look at the kind of trash I loved growing up.

Oh, and when I say memes, I mean trashy memes all saved up on my desktop.

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True.

Comedy.

Gotta love those old Memebase pulls.

Sifting through the garbage brought me to something that I ultimately came to refer to as my magnum opus. A project with so much love and passion put into a creative route I’ve since abandoned that it was actually astounding.

In my “fun stuff” folder, I found these three files partitioned off:

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My immediate reaction was a hell of a cringe. Flashbacks to a true period of weeaboo sensibilities that left me doing things like watching all of Dragonball, Dragonball Z and Dragonball GT over the course of a few months in middle school.

True story.

Not only was there a “fan animation” based on Naruto, it was made in the primitive programming language animator Scratch.

Back in the day I used the program religiously, and even made some animations that went into official school broadcasts at Adams Middle School.

Also a true story, but for another day.

I couldn’t imagine anything good coming out of this animation from 2012 Jason… Yet I was blown away by just how great of a product I pulled together. So much so that I went through a lot of trouble to get the final (though unfinished) animation into a format where you all can see it today.

For your viewing pleasure, here it is:

First off, the fact that I didn’t remember spending a single second working on this until I found it again is such a travesty.

This was from that same era when I went to sprite animation camp like I talked about in the Smash Bros. wallpaper post, with all the sprites pulled from The Spriters Resource.

They were taken from a game called “Naruto: Ninja Council 3,” which to this day has some of my favorite sprite work in an old-school DS game.

I can say I confidently knew that because Ninja Council 3 is still a treasured part of my games collection:

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Now for those of you who don’t know, the video is based off the fifth anime opening to the original Naruto series. Crunchyroll has it uploaded here for you to see, and I’d recommend doing so to understand how much I tried to replicate.

It’s incredible to me how I actually grasped the concept of timing scenes to the music so well (mostly). I even went so far as to put the little floating heads in the sky to represent Sasuke thinking about his past!

I adore every second of it.

The journey to get this to you here today was far more complicated than it may appear, however.

It all began that night when I opened up the old Mac and watched this animation in Scratch for the first time.

As it turns out, the only way to pull projects off of Scratch was to go to the program’s website. Unfortunately…

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That wasn’t much of a possibility for a computer that hasn’t been updated since 2012.

Thus the true quest to save my magnum opus began. At first I attempted to record it externally with my iPhone:

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Needless to say I was not able to get the kind of quality I wanted out of this.

After a few more attempts, the best solution wound up being a QuickTime screen recording. That got the video in its purest quality!

However it wasn’t possible to do screen and audio recording at once through the older tech.

So… it’s a good thing I had the song file in that original folder!

Don’t ask me where I got it because I don’t know and it was probably illegal.

When I pulled everything onto my laptop, it became a 2 a.m. adventure to Frankenstein the video together with its original audio timing:

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In iMovie, naturally.

Mind you, it happened at 2 a.m. during Finals week. Big tests coming up and here I was laughing like a maniacal idiot, cutting together an old Scratch animation from 2012.

I’m glad I took a few weeks to get to this blog post because now that I’ve marinated on it, the whole situation is hilariously ridiculous.

But all worth it to finally get that finished project up on YouTube so I can show it off!

Except the process of getting it uploaded actually made the whole story even more ridiculous. Just thirty seconds after the video went up, I got this:

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Sony Music actually blocked my video in Japan and demonetized it.

Which is such a shame, I was really looking forward to the ad revenue out of that video… On my one subscriber storage channel.

It was interesting to be on this end of the YouTube algorithm for once. Gives me a bit more of an understanding of how terrible this must be for creators who have their livelihoods contingent on the site.

For me, it just means any of my readers in Japan won’t see my magnum opus. Sorry!

All this being said, I’m really proud of 2012 me. He’s the kind of man I wish I was now.

I’ll never not smile looking back at this, because no matter how many awards and scholarships I get for my writing as a journalist, none of it will truly be as personal as the actual fan animation I made surprisingly well back when I was 15.

Now if only I had finished the damn thing.