Wherein I discuss: A sick skinsuit TSF comic. The end of ownership. Saudi Arabia’s continued influence over Gamindustri. Atlus trying to double-kill their own games. The re;birth of E3. The racist tendencies of one of the most lucrative games of the modern era. A peashy PC port. And the end of a non-subscription streaming service.
Rundown Preamble Ramble:
Fill This JK Flesh Sack With Man Meat!
This past week, I discovered a manga called Joshikousei ni Kigaetara (Changed Into a High School Girl) by Sasagawa Iko. A work that I immediately knew had potential after I clicked on it and was greeted with the heralded yellow screen of hype!
Which, for the record, is a bit overblown, but who am I to judge?
The series itself centers around a body thief with the ability to remove a person’s flesh from their skin. One who is presented as an otherworldly abomination and maintains a collection of female skins to call their own. The thief lures a masculine man, named Toudou, into his lair with the guise of his young female employee, Rikako, and you can imagine what happens from there. Toudou is shoved into the skin of Rikako, the thief takes Toudou’s life for his own, and Toudou needs to figure out how his body was stolen.
That is a pretty vanilla description, but there are quite a few things that made this series stand out to me. The first being the artwork.
The linework is unusually rough and thin, with many backgrounds resembling sketches, but it routinely impressed me with both its detail and its coloring. It captures a wide range of emotions and tones, from the colorful and comedic to the dismal and grotesque. All while painting a world with a texture that you do not often see in a lot of digital art. Instead of looking like it was drawn digitally, it looks like it was drawn using pen and markers, and this gives the comic a level of texture and color variety that I rarely see. It manages to convey tone and lighting in a way that most works simply don’t, and really speaks to the skills of its creator.
The next is its tone, which I can pretty aptly summarize as ‘creepy cute.’ This is a comic where women are drenched in blood and sheathes of sagging skin are presented in grody detail. …But also one with cute mascot costumes and super deformed comedic bits. While jarring to some, I personally adore this tone, and think it does a lot to make the story more digestible, offering levity to the reader without taking away from the serious moments.
The third was the story and underlying mystery, which… captivated me right until I reached the ending.
Joshikousei ni Kigaetara has a lot of wonderful ideas, but is highly restrained because it is only four chapters. It is frothing with ideas. It has the conceptual framework for what could very well be a sort of invasion story. One where human beings are being gutted from their skin and placed in the bodies of a subservient race of mascot characters. It ends on an open note of revenge, with a character vowing to get revenge after the bittersweet ending. …And this series originally ended in 2018.
It felt a bit rushed, but I thoroughly enjoyed what I read, and am tempted to basically make my own version of the story. I mean, it would not be the first TSF story that I shamelessly copied.
Originally I was just planning on praising the comic after reading the fan translation of the first three chapters by TSF translator Greenway Scans. However, in Googling to learn how long the series was, I found out that it was officially released in English. I found it on BookWalker and Renta, along with a butchered scrolling version on Coolmic and MangaPlaza. I am the most familiar with BookWalker (meaning I have heard of it before), so I spent about $5 on all four chapters. …And I also picked up all 8 volumes of the classic Ranma ½ clone, Futaba-kun Change!, for $14 while I was there. Because that seemed like a steal.
So I bought my comics, went to download them, and immediately realized that BookWalker does not take too kindly to the whole ‘downloading’ thing. Just like many modern eBook platforms.
Foolish little me thought that I could just download a high quality PDF like I can when purchasing things from Fakku, 2D Market, or DLSite. Or, in lieu of that, I could extract .webp files like I did on Lezhin for the comic version of When I Woke Up, I Became A Bagel Girl. Instead, I am currently looking for a third party extractor, because the corporations won, and they want you to maintain libraries in their ecosystems, and not on your gosh darn computer. And I say FUCK YOU to every company who does this crap. I gave you my money, and I want to own my gosh darn files.
I do not respect this ‘license to view something in our ecosystem’ bullcrap. I am a customer, you are treating me like a criminal, when you should be treating me like a queen. With 2255 x 3200 images that I can download in any format or language I damn well feel like. PNGs, ePub, CBR, or at least a basic PDF. Gimme the goods, or go shag a mutt.
It’s Time For Acquisitions to ‘Get Political’
(Saudi Arabia Is Planning on Acquiring a Major Game Publisher)
No proper acquisitions happened this past week, but Savvy Gaming Group, a company operated by the Saudi Arabia government, has recently announced their intentions to acquire a major video game publisher. If that sounds bizarre to you, then you probably forgot that Saudi Arabia has been sinking their tendrils across the entire industry. They own SNK, invested $3 billion into Activision Blizzard, own 5% of Capcom and Nexon, own 5% of Nintendo, 8.1% of The Embracer Group, and more. Needless to say, they have a strong interest in gaming, and that is… not good.
I do not like the idea of governments with royalty and shady human rights records having control over the gaming industry. It means that the games industry, as a whole, is more likely to look the other way when Saudi Arabia enacts future human rights abuses, or does anything that can be considered ‘bad.’ It means that Saudi Arabia has the power to influence or dictate which games get made. And it means that more money goes to the Saudi Arabia government.
Background aside, ‘Savvy’ is planning on investing $37.8 billion into the games industry, and is currently planning on investing $13 billion into an unnamed games publisher. This amount is insufficient to purchase the two biggest ‘third party’ publishers, EA and Take-Two. However, it is enough to buy just about every company smaller than them. Sega, Konami, Capcom, Square Enix, Ubisoft, CyberAgent— technically Embracer fits the bill.
…I do not like any of this. News like this, seeing world powers pry into the games industry like this, really does make me feel like bad things are going to keep happening. That games will further devolve into being products, that issues such as abuse, crunch, and corporate censorship will continue unimpeded and propelled by growth. And things will continue to get worse for customers.
Natalie (Mini) Rambles About The Video Game Crash of 1983
(Side Note That Got Out of Hand)
Seeing stories like Saudi Arabia increasing their stake in the games industry makes me worried about the future of the industry. But I want to make it clear that I am not worried that the games industry will ‘crash again.’ Mostly because the idea of a ‘games industry crash’ is kind of a false narrative. The video game crash of 1983 is often presented as something that affected the entire industry when… it did not.
Consoles and games were thrown into clearance bins. Stores refused to buy new games while customers were buying fewer video games than they had been in years. And the media used this as an opportunity to dismiss video games as a fad— as a worthless toy. These are all true… but only if you are exclusively talking about the United States video game console industry.
The North American PC gaming market was still going strong, or as strong as it could in the mid-80s. Europe was not affected by this crash, as they had their own growing PC gaming industry, with the Commodore 64 having come out in 1982. While Japan saw the release of the Famicom in 1983, which sold at a rapid pace and helped birth the contemporary video game industry.
Besides, the crash of 1983 only lasted… three years. Come 1986, the NES started booming in popularity, and from there, the industry only continued to grow. Now… now gaming is so damn big and diverse that it really cannot ‘die.’ Saying that the games industry will crash is about as absurd as saying that the ‘music industry will crash’ or the ‘book industry will crash.’ Major publishers or distributors might fold, but the industry is immune to crash.
…Gamindustri is not crash!
Atlus Hates Everyone And Does Not Deserve Anything
(Atlus Sues Fans Hosting Private Servers for SMT Imagine)
With every passing year, I put copyright law higher and higher on my ‘totem pole of evil.’ Not because I think the concept is wrong, just the execution. Copyright law is so often abused by companies as a tool to limit the distribution and preservation of their works. Which is why it is so frustrating that companies keep willingly destroying art for the sake of profit…
As the title of this segment states, Atlus has recently shut down a private server for their MMORPG, Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine. A title that is among the more obscure and opaque in the SMT lineage, because people simply could not play it or discern its value for themselves, as the game was only available from 2007 to 2016. Someone thought this was a shame, launched private servers for a small but dedicated community, and Atlus decided to forgo the usual DMCA route and just sue them.
On what charges? Well, skimming through the court documents, there are three things that stood out to me. One, Atlus claims that Imagine was an “enormous international success” as it was “downloaded by approximately one million users and generated revenues equivalent to over $13 million.” Which, um, is not an ‘enormous international success.’ That is pretty paltry revenue for any online game based on a major IP.
Two, the documents claim that various things “enabled Defendants to profit illegally.” I am not sure if the use of the term ‘profit’ is meant to be read in a monetary sense, as I doubt the defendant was charging for access to the private server. Which, by my metrics, is illegal, as they would be effectively selling something they do not own.
Three, the documents make a big deal over how the Defendant copied the original website… and added some text claiming that the game, or perhaps site, was copyrighted to them. Thus implying they have some level of ownership of Imagine. This was a relatively minor thing, but it is a mistake on behalf of the Defendant. In short, do not claim to copyright something unless you actually own it.
For example, with the ePub and Amazon versions of my novels, I have a copyright page claiming that they are copyrighted to Natalie Neumann. I do this because I wrote them by myself, and both the text and art assets within are my original creations. That is not the case here, and for the Defendant, it would have been better if they claimed to not own ANYTHING.
…So, I have four takeaways from this story:
One, Atlus is a bad company, and has been for a very long time. They have an old way of thinking and have chosen to fight against the modern digital landscape instead of embracing it. The streaming restrictions around Persona 5, delayed ports of beloved games, and general animosity toward certain fan content— it’s all a load of bull puckey.
I have been hoping that Sega, their parent company, would help modernize their way of thinking. Teach them the value of fan communities and how old-ass games being preserved, like the original Phantasy Star Online, does not cause “irrevocable damage” to a company or their IP. Alas, that has yet to happen, and probably never will.
Two, the person behind this fan server, known as Rekuiemu and/or COMP_hack, could have done a better job of covering their tracks. They should not have copied the website, copyrighted their server, or done anything more than release the private server and client. If they wanted to preserve elements of the original website, that could be permissible, but they should not have cloned it. When doing a project, it is best to emphasize how what you are doing is unofficial and to claim you own nothing you did not wholly create.
Three, this is a free-to-play MMO. What monetary damage is being done by resurrecting it? If Atlus wanted to make money off of it… they would still be hosting it and monetizing it. So, no, Atlus did not suffer any monetary damages. Because Atlus chose to stop making money from this game.
Four… private servers are not and will never be a definitive answer to the preservation problem rampant in the world of gaming. Private servers are life support, and while they can stave off the demise of a game, once they are gone, then the game dies yet again. Some might say that private servers are necessary to preserve an MMO, and I agree with that to an extent. However, the goal of a preservation project should be to ensure that the game can be run and played going forward with as few requirements as possible.
To me, if an MMO is going to be revived, a private server is nice, but the true end goal should be to make the game playable offline. I understand that might be significantly more work, or necessitate some weird workaround— such as a computer running both the game and a private server. But I view that as a better approach than forcing players to rely on a central server that can go down for any reason.
Why do I say this? Well, an MMO without other players will inevitably be broken to some extent. And an MMO on private servers will, most likely, fail to fully capture what the game was like during its peak. However, which would you rather have? A sorta busted version of a game that is available forever, a less busted available version for a few years… or both. Because what I am advocating for here is both. Both a private server and a… let’s call it ‘offline mode.’
That is the best way to preserve an online game, and I honestly hate how the end goal for so many projects is just a ‘private server.’ Because that is such an impermanent solution.
Also, Ross Scott covered this topic after I wrote the initial draft of this segment. As per usual, I agree with about 95% of what he says.
Also, assuming that Rekuiemu needs help with legal fees for this case, I would be willing to offer them $1,000. Simply because I believe this case could help establish a precedent for fan servers and help legitimize game preservation in the United States. Ideally, they would want to have users pay the legal firm directly— it’s the cleanest way for tax reasons— but who knows if this case will escalate to that point.
E3 2023 Is Happening For Reals!
(E3 2023 Will be Split Between Consumer and Industry Days)
Over the past few years, I have voiced how E3 is a largely unnecessary event. The announcements, demos, and hype can all be facilitated via digital events and distributions. By letting press play games remotely or at an approved facility. However, E3 is also a place for publishers and executives to have backdoor meetings, forge agreements, make connections, and network with their peers in the industry. This was always an odd dichotomy to me. How E3 is an event for press, customers, publishers, and executives. One part GDC, one part an electronic trade show, and another part PAX.
This dichotomy is being addressed by the new company running E3— ReedPop, the people behind PAX— who are planning on splitting E3 2023 as a dual event, split between business and public days. The business days will take place in one half of the LA Convention Center and run from June 13 to 15. While the other half of the LACC will host two public days on the 15th and 16th.
I think this is a far better approach, one that avoids many of the horror stories of people trying to work in an environment as crowded, hot, loud, and stressful as E3. But whether it will work will need to be seen. However, I have a feeling that things are going to be basically the same for those who enjoy the event without traveling. Big press conferences will start the showcase and garner the views. Afterwards, more information, interviews and previews will follow the next few days. All as the games press will work their butts off trying to make viral content.
They like Their Humans No Darker Than Tea-Stained Paper
(Natalie Complains About Genshin Impact and Colorism in Anime)
I have something of a love/hate relationship with Genshin Impact. It is a game that has the potential to be something truly incredible, but is held back by its status as a product. The summoning system is aggressive and has been used by the publishers to amass over $100 million a month. The game is designed to be played daily thanks to the implementation of an energy system, or at least demand dozens of hours from players every month. And while many of its character designs are incredible, they ultimately… appealed to the broadest market.
This is something I complained about back in my 2021 review of the game, but Genshin Impact characters tend to be of a fair complexion, with the only exceptions being individuals with an ‘ambiguous tan.’ A skin tone that a person of a natural light and pasty complexion could obtain with exposure to enough sunlight. A complexion that presents the possibility of diversity without shattering their notion of Whiteness. One of the telltale signs that a character was designed around this look is if they have tan lines. Something signifying they are truly White and that their complexion is just a ‘performance.’
I am highlighting Genshin here, but this is a problem with a lot of modern works with an anime aesthetic. They want to capture the look of non-Whiteness, without committing to it. Hell, even my beloved Dragalia Lost is guilty of it. Look at those tan lines!
But with Genshin, the recent stream of characters is where I find this to be particularly… irksome. As part of Version 3, they are rolling out characters for Sumeru, a region inspired by South Asia and the Middle East. A move that would insinuate that the new characters, from those playable to regular NPCs, would have darker complexions. But instead, they occupy a similar spectrum.
The marquee characters for this are Cyno and Candace, who look like… this:
Based on their clothing, their cultural influences are obvious but they have been divorced from their racial identity and turned into something that is, at most, ambiguously White.
Now, I get why they are doing this. Genshin’s biggest market is China. China has a preference toward those with a lighter complexion. And if something is being made for the Chinese market, it probably won’t feature many Black people. …Unless they are athletes. I know why they are doing this, but this is still representative of a problem with a lot of Asian-produced mass media that uses an anime aesthetic.
Despite not being made by or primarily for White people, anime character designs tend to be… White. You can argue that it is ambiguous, but that’s bullshit. Asian people do not live in a vacuum. They know what White people look like, they see them all the time in news, media, and film. There are Asian cultures where people try to whiten their skin so they are seen as more attractive. They are not immune to the lasting effects of white supremacy/patriarchy, nor are they incapable of things like whitewashing.
Sadly, there is not much of an incentive for MiHoYo to make darker skinned characters. If they don’t, people will bitch at them to do better and stress that diversity matters. If they do, racists will bitch at them for giving into ‘wokeness’ and start murmuring about how Genshin should be their escapist White-Only ethnostate. Because that is why a non-insignificant amount of Whites like anime. It is a safe White-Only space for them where the Japanese are seen as ‘close enough’ for they are ‘the Whitest Asians.’ Which is not true for several reasons, but racism does not operate on reason. It operates on irrational hatred.
Skull & Bones Just Failed Some Landmark
(Skull and Bones’ Decade-Long Development Continues to Take On Water)
Skull and Bones is a game that I’m 90% certain will be a complete disaster upon launch. A title that has gone through so many revisions, so much staff turnover, that the game is virtually unrecognizable from what it originally was going to be. It would have been canceled in any other circumstance but, per an agreement with the Singapore government, it had to be completed eventually. And after a decade of development, it was finally given a release date. But here, a month away from launch, it was delayed from November 8th to March 9th.
When delays happen this close to launch, it is usually an indication that some massive problem was discovered and the game needs another month, or two, or four, of development. I’m sure the developers are putting all hands on deck, drawing in whatever support they can to ship the bloody thing and get content prepared for the initial post-launch support.
…And that’s all I have to say. That the game is (probably) going to be a disaster and I look forward to seeing how badly Ubisoft management botched up what was supposed to be a simple standalone expansion.
Wild Hearts Will Be Broken
(Omega Force and EA Formally Announce Hunting Game Wild Hearts)
Two weeks ago I talked about how EA and Omega Force were collaborating on a new hunting game in Feudal Japan, and after a short build up, it was announced as Wild Hearts. A game that is… pretty much what you would expect. A Monster-Hunter-like, but with what appears to be a de-emphasis on the hunting and searching, in favor of a greater focus on combat. One where the monsters, the Kemono, are the typical menagerie of folklore-inspired creatures of a large and imposing size.
As for the gimmick/hook, it appears to be the ability to deploy Fortnite-like self-building contraptions. Things like bombs, pillars to climb up for elevation, and other weaponry to help damage these beasts. Which is definitely… a gimmick, but not as inspired as, say, a sword that is a gun that is also a demon that eats monster flesh. …I should play God Eater 3 eventually. I really liked the first two.
As it stands, it looks like something that will satisfy hunting game fans as they wait for Monster Hunter World 2 (Monster Hunter 6), but I do not see much of a ‘core competency.’ Something this game does better than other ones on the market. Perhaps this will be made clear leading up to release. But regardless, people will cast judgment on the title when it launches February 17, 2023 for PS5, Xbox Series, and PC.
Scope Out This Peachy Sack!
(Sackboy: A Big Adventure is Coming to PC)
Sony’s continued dedication to the PC platform has taken the surprise out of many of their releases. They have become routine, and it would take a FromSoftware port to really ruffle some feathers. Alas, that is not in the cards at the moment and instead they are bringing over the LittleBigPlanet spin-off, Sackboy: A Big Adventure to PC on October 27. The go-to first party family-friendly platformer of the PS5 generation that would have been praised and covered widely if it was on Switch , but it wasn’t. That, and it was considered less noteworthy than Demon’s Souls (2020). Which is a testament to FromSoftware’s power.
Tangent aside, what immediately strikes me as odd about this port is how the trailer presents the PC version of this PS5 launch title as the ‘definitive’ version of the game. It supports 4K, 120fps, a 21:9 aspect ratio, DLSS, and things that the PS5 simply cannot do, and probably will never be able to do. Regardless, Sackboy: A Big Adventure is set to release soon on October 27, 2022. Which would be an odd time for re-releases, except this is one of the lightest Q4s in gaming history, so I guess people might find time for a game like this.
Gamindustri Has Been Saved From a Streaming-Only Future
(Google Stadia Will Shut Down on January 18, 2023)
Throughout the span of its life, the Stadia platform has been heavily criticized by all strata of the gaming community, and for good reason. While streaming is fine as a supplemental way to access games, similar to the Xbox Cloud and GeForce Now services, streaming-only gaming is… terrible for a litany of reasons. Streaming only is anti-preservation, anti-ownership, anti-mods, and anti-consumer in general. It is a convenience in certain circumstances, but the audience, game library, and pricing structure just were not good enough for the service to maintain a large user base.
It was clear that the days for this service were numbered after they shut down their first party studios in 2021. But with the infrastructure established, there was reason to believe that Google would eat the costs for the time being, keep the store up, and do the bare minimum to promote it. …Instead, they announced Stadia was shutting down on January 18, 2023.
This raises the question that many had before Stadia came out— what will happen to the games that users purchased? Well, the good news is that Google is offering full refunds for all games, DLC, and hardware purchased. However, they will not be offering refunds to Stadia Pro subscribers, as they already paid a monthly subscription.
Leading up to the product’s end of service, users will still be able to play games in their libraries and enjoy them for the next 3.5 months, but the ecosystem has been effectively closed. The store is no longer accessible, no games can be purchased and, presumably, no games can be released on Stadia. This might seem self-explanatory, but… Google didn’t tell developers this.
While I am glad that Google is doing the right thing and offering full refunds to all users, I have to question their handling here. Based on what certain developers are saying on Twitter, Google simply issued no warning, and now developers who were relying on Stadia for revenue are just kind of screwed.
As when any storefront shuts down, it is important to highlight which games are being lost. Normally, with things like Nintendo’s eShop, these losses are mitigated by emulation and the fact that people can download them however they wish. But with the Stadia exclusives, those games are just gone until the publishers decide to re-release them.
Currently, the only exclusives on Stadia are as follows:
- Gylt – a horror adventure game from Tequila Works (who are partially owned by Tencent)
- Hello Engineer – A machinery-based spin-off of streamer sensation Hello Neighbor
- Outcasters – A cutesy multiplayer battle game that looks like a low budget rip-off of Fall Guys
- Pac-Man: Mega Tunnel Battle – A 64 player Pac-Man battle royale game that was kind of undermined by Pac-Man 99
- Pixeljunk Raiders – a poorly received third person roguelite with a cool aesthetic
While I consider this list to be small enough to be ‘acceptable casualties,’ none of these games should be lost to time. Sadly, preserving them falls into the hands of the developers. They need to move them to new platforms, re-launch them, and make any changes necessary to how the game functions or use Stadia’s cloud processing services. They are already running on Linux, so a PC port should be fairly simple, but you never know how companies are going to react.
Also, good on Ubisoft for transferring users licenses of Stadia players to Ubisoft Connect. Because the products are being refunded, they did not need to do this, but it is a good gesture. The company still sucks and is filled with abusers, but, you know, they can do some good from time to time.
Steam’s Guidelines Are Flawed, but the PC Port Still Lives
(Steam Will Not Allow Chaos;Head Noah on Their Storefront)
To close off this week with a follow-up, Spike Chunsoft has released a statement regarding the Steam release of Chaos;Head Noah. A Science Adventure visual novel that is currently set to be released on Switch on October 7th, marking the title’s first official English release. Back in August, people learned that the title was rejected by Steam, but this marks the first time Spike Chunsoft themselves acknowledged the situation.
Their statement was simple: “Steam’s guideline-required changes to the game’s content. Spike Chunsoft, Inc. believes these changes would not allow the game to be released to its standards.” Rather than just let the title go unreleased though, Spike Chunsoft claims they are “looking into delivering the title through alternative storefronts.”
It is downright stupid that Steam is denying a game rated by PEGI, CERO, and ESRB on their platform, and their standards are clearly biased against anime games. However, I already bitched about the stupidity of this situation, and now… I’m just happy to hear that a PC release is still planned.
Personally, I think it would be hilarious if Epic Games Store took this as an opportunity to snag the distribution rights for ‘a game too extreme for Steam.’ But realistically, a GOG release is probably pretty likely, as NIS America, XSEED, and JAST have all used the platform in the past. Sure, I would like to have the game on my Steam library… and I just realized that I have not played a game on Steam for nearly three months. And it might be over a year until I do so. Huh.
Ends and Updates:
The Down Low on Dragalia Lost – 2022-10-01
Progress has been slow because of tax season, and shall remain so for the next 2 weeks, but I am still chipping away at the project during the evening and finally downloaded the recordings by Hunter’s Lodge. As such, the majority of the ‘regular quests’ have been recorded, and my primary goal will soon shift to the campaign quests. In fact, I might just finish this project by October 31st, which would be nice.
- Adventurer Stories: 1,480/1,480 – Archived mirrors of Hunter’s Lodge story videos. Want native recordings of Yukata Cleo, Kimono Notte, Sharpshooter Sarisse, Summer Mitsuhide, Yukata Lathna, Vania, and Saiga from community members.
- Castle Stories: 52/52 – Completed by the communal archive team. Some videos were replaced for consistency purposes.
- Dragon Stories: 266/266 – Completed by the communal archive team. Some videos were replaced for consistency purposes.
- Event Stories: 503/505 – Archived mirrors of Hunter’s Lodge event stories. Missing Mega Man Chaos Protocol prologue and EX Story for Post-Mortem Panic.
- Main Campaign Story Recordings: 265/265 – Completed by the communal archive team.
- Main Campaign Quest Recordings: 125/250 – Teams curated. Need to record.
- Kaleidoscape Recordings: 15/64 – Need to assign 1 to 2 hour chunks of time to record gameplay.
- Event Compendium Recordings: 0/28 – Teams curated. Need to record.
- Regular Quest Recordings: 176/259 – Teams curated. Need to record.
- Additional Recordings for representation of all Adventurers: TBD. Began doing dailies as under-represented adventurers at the moment.
Also, fun fact, the story content of Dragalia Lost is, doing some rounding, over 260 hour long. Meaning that Nintendo and Cygames made 260 hours of story content, about 110 hours of which were fully voiced in Japanese, and they are just throwing it away. Yeah, I am going to have some terse words for them come November 30th…
This Post Has 7 Comments
I always enjoy reading your blog. Your writing is excellent.
Thank you! ^^
Well,as a chinese,I have to say that most people in China have great prejudice on people with black skin.For example,in a random video whose content is that a black people committed a crime,the most review of which is “Correct skin color”(hope you can understang its meaning,I think it is a venomous prejudice.)
Thank you for sharing your personal observations. Sadly, they align with what I have heard about how the Chinese population perceives Black people, and it is very unfortunate…
I’ve seen this argument across the internet various times and not once has it ever made since to me. How can people believe that japanese character designs are “white”? It seems to me that you have to project your own racial stereotypes on to the art to reach that conclusion. The overwhelmingly vast majority of japanese characters have light skin just like every Japanese person has. The only differences between the art and what every japanese person looks like in real life is the hair color and the stereotypical asian eye shape. 90% of all hair colors in japanese art are unnatural anyways and are therefore irrelevent. So it all comes down to eye shape? Is that what makes a character look “white”? All the characters are japanese people with wild hair colors and exaggerated eyes.
You’re talking about a society where, statistically, black people don’t exist. They are such a tiny minority that they basically don’t show up on any demographic data. It’s about the same as their closest cultural counterparts around the region. Eastern Russia, the Koreas, China, Thailand, the rest of SE Asia, Taiwan, and the Pacific Islands all have virtually no black people from a statistical perspective. They’re not whitewashing anything. They draw characters that look like more than 99.9% of people in their country with wild hair colors and exaggerated eyes. It is also very imprtant to note, before we start throwing accusations of racism around, that the main function of those features is to help the reader differentiate characters quickly because the art is otherwise so simplistic. A character with big red eyes and a big main of white hair is really easy to differentiate from another character with tiny blue eyes and a blue bowl cut. If every character was drawn accurately as a japanese, you’d barely be able to tell the difference between. Thing about a manga in black and white, every hairstyle would just be a similarly shaped black blob on the page.
Like I said, you have to project your own racial stereotypes on to their art to see things that way.
The overwhelmingly vast majority of japanese characters have light skin just like every Japanese person has.
Just doing a casual glance at the concept will tell you that Japan has valued the whiteness of one’s complexion for over a millennium, and skin-whitening products have been used for about as long. Japan has a deeply ingrained culture where light skin is seen as desirable, if not superior, to darker skin. Darker skinned Japanese people do exist, it is just that they are often not given as large of a platform, as they are often seen as less attractive or appealing.
As I say in the article itself, this dichotomy is relatively common across many Asian countries. While one could try and form an argument that this is not a racial issue, and it is merely a western perspective that makes it into a racial issue, the effect is the same. The idea that ‘white is beautiful and should be the standard’ and ‘black is ugly and should be seen as deviant’ is spread, and it changes how they look at races of people with lighter skin and races of people with darker skin.
The only differences between the art and what every japanese person looks like in real life is the hair color and the stereotypical asian eye shape. 90% of all hair colors in japanese art are unnatural anyways and are therefore irrelevent. So it all comes down to eye shape? Is that what makes a character look “white”? All the characters are japanese people with wild hair colors and exaggerated eyes.
Across most Asian and African cultures, hair color has very little variety, and the only major racial group with a wide variety of natural hair colors is white people. Hair color in and of itself is therefore seen as racial, with things such as lighter or more colorful hair colors having historically been associated with white people. If you do not believe me, when I say a ‘blonde woman,’ ‘man with brown hair,’ and ‘redheaded child,’ does your mind imagine a white person, or a person of another race? If they are of another race, would you say their hair color is natural? Natural colorful hair is a trait that, especially by a white audience, is interpretted as white.
As for the eyes, the phycial quality most often applied to Asian people is a different eye shape, and this is how white people viewed Asian people for centuries. This was reflected in how Asian people were depicted in cartoons produced in Japan prior to the popularity of artists such as Osamu Tezuka. Also known as the father of manga.
You could say that relatively light skin, dark hair, and… what is the bloody term for the eyes— epicanthic fold— are the three most discernable physical traits of a Japanese, or East Asian, person. If you change the fold on their eyes to make them appear bigger and give them a brighter hair then… yes, they do look more like white people. Also, ask yourself a question. In anime, how are White people and Japanese people distinguished? Because chances are, the differences are minor and possibly non-existent just by looking at the designs alone.
You’re talking about a society where, statistically, black people don’t exist. They are such a tiny minority that they basically don’t show up on any demographic data. It’s about the same as their closest cultural counterparts around the region. Eastern Russia, the Koreas, China, Thailand, the rest of SE Asia, Taiwan, and the Pacific Islands all have virtually no black people from a statistical perspective. They’re not whitewashing anything. They draw characters that look like more than 99.9% of people in their country with wild hair colors and exaggerated eyes.
One, just because a country does not have a large number of a certain ethnic group does not mean that people are oblivious to their existence. They have the internet. Mass market media is exported to them. And virtually every person in the first world would be able to tell you what a black person is. Practically everyone in the first world watches American movies and listens to American music at least some of the time, and claiming that these cultures operate independently with no outside influence is… incorrect. The true scale of that infleune is debatable, but its prescence is not.
Two, there are groups of people with darker complexions in virtually every country, and few are as monoethnic as you claim them to be. Most of these groups are small, but to claim they don’t exist is very telling. These groups do, in fact, show up in demographic data, and you do not need to go much further than Wikipedia to find a decent spread of ethnic groups for every one of the countries you listed.
Three, you are presenting the idea of there not being any ‘black people’ in these countries as the norm, and something that should not change. Personally, I am of the belief that every country should open immigrants of all people, and the belief that a more diverse society is an inherently better and wiser one. But I doubt this comment thread is the place for such a conversation.
If every character was drawn accurately as a japanese, you’d barely be able to tell the difference between.
…And you just insinuated that all Japanese people look the same. There are myriad ways to differentiate characters who are the same race. Outfits and fashion senses, facial shape, age, hair style (exaggerated or otherwise), and so forth. If you look at enough manga, you will find a lot of works that feature casts of people with near exclusively dark hair and realistic hairstyles. To insinuate that it simply cannot work without exaggerated hairstyles is… wrong. Instead, it would more more accurate to say that exaggerated hairstyles are a tool to help characters look extra unique, and make them more appealing for marketing purposes. Because if you can give a character a unique hairstyle, it is easier to identify them and sell merch of them.
I always appreciate a thoughtful response, so thank you.
With regards to skin whitening, I just don’t think the idea holds up to any real scrutiny. If the idea is that societal skin brightness preferences are evidence of, or are a contributor to, racial bias, then you would have to recognize and agree that, in the United States, there is a decided anti-white bias along the same lines. The tanning industry makes billions of dollars a year across the US. Tens of millions of women, and many men, intentionally darken their skin to appear more attractive. They want to look more like people of brown races in order to be more attractive. The “pasty white” stereotype exists and is frequently negatively associated with mainstream beauty standards. Is that evidence of racial bias towards brown or black people and against white people? I don’t buy it. Skin brightness preferences exist cross-racially and cross-culturally on every continent. It exists among artists in Japan and among models in Subsaharan Africa. It even exists across wide swaths of the Animal Kingdom where more attractively colored animals are more likely to mate. Is that racism or an inherent aspect of sexual selection?
With regard to hair color and physical features, that’s hardly a fair question. Why don’t you also ask what comes to mind when I say “blue-haired boy”, “pink-haired woman”, or “lamia with blue scales and green hair”? When you ask those questions the first things that come to my mind are characters in Japanese IPs. If Japanese artists were by and large only drawing people with “naturally colored” blonde or brown hair, you may have a fair point. But they don’t, the hair colors used are often far more fantastical than that. So fantastical, in fact, that they are divorced from reality. To read into these creations of the imagination, with the idea in the back of your head that only white people have large hair color variations so these characters are white-adjacent, is to bring your own racial bias into the process where it otherwise wouldn’t exist.
As to the distinguishing features between Asian and white people, fair point. There is often very little physical distinction depicted artistically. But that is mirrored by reality. How different is the stereotypical white and Asian person in real life? They can both be any size or shape, hair color can be any shade of the rainbow, and skin color will generally be the same (especially with the limited color palette of a typical anime). So the only distinguishing features you could possibly draw would be their eyes. Should they do that and lean into the eye shape to clarify who is what race? How should they distinguish them? Should they even distinguish them at all?
With regards to differentiating between Japanese characters, that was not my insinuation. My insinuation was the art form itself is limited in its ability to draw easily differentiable faces. It is because of that limitation that artists so frequently resort to wildly outlandish features, particularly hair and eyes. Of course, they can use others, but when you’re drawing girls and boys in matching school uniforms, you’re options are limited. When you have 25 pages due every week and only 1 color to work with, your options are limited. The underlying point I was alluding to is that the features you discussed, the features that seem to make the characters appear like white people, actually have an underlying purpose and function. I think it is disingenuous to just chalk that up to a white racial affinity without acknowledging that.
With regard to demographics, you’re misrepresenting my arguments. I never claimed that other ethnic groups don’t exist or didn’t matter. That’s obviously not true and not what I believe. The reason I brought that up in the first place, although I didn’t expand on it (my mistake, it was late), was to hint at the idea of “fair representation”. I’m Mexican-American and I know I would certainly like to see more people that look like me in the media I consume. However, there is a reason that’s a problem in the United States. That’s because 1 out of every 7 people is black, and more than 1 out of every 5 is of some Latino origin. More than 40% of the country is not ethnically white. So when 90% of characters in some form of media are indeed white, it’s problematic because there are vast gaps in what should be considered “fair representation”. It’s Systemic Racism. The demographics of the populace create an obligation for fair representation of racial, sexual, and gender minorities.
Now apply that to Japan. What is a fair obligation for character inclusivity? I really don’t know. If you have 10 characters in a Manga, or even 50, how many should be black when less than 1 in 1000 people living in the country are black? Should there be one in every manga? How do you increase inclusivity without tokenizing and stereotyping? With so few black people in the country, how can the average Japanese person, turned author or artist, depict an accurate black experience?
I obviously agree that inclusivity and diversity are good things we should all strive for, but I also think that we should reserve criticism for where it is warranted. Some criticisms of Japan as a whole are fair, they are generally not as accepting of outsiders as other countries have been, no doubt about that. But in my experience, that’s much less of a white/black thing than it is an “everybody who isn’t Japanese” thing. But the “whiteness” problem is an entirely different set of circumstances.
The ultimate point is this. I don’t think it’s fair to force our standards and ideals onto other cultures. The United States (i presume you’re American like me) has its own problems because of its unique history and it requires its own unique solutions. Projecting that onto another culture with a completely different history, completely different groups of people (racially), and completely different circumstances is its own form of cultural imperialism.
Even though we seem to disagree on this, let me take this opportunity to thank you for your content. I followed you for years, starting when I found your flow charts. I’ve grown to like and respect your other content as well. We actually agree on most things, just not this. You’re one of the better tastemakers I’ve found in this space. keep up the good work!