This Week’s Topics:
- An educational breast feeding manga
- Winter 2023 TSF anime
- The 2023 creative writing schedule
- A domestic abuser behind a popular show
- Ubisoft’s managerial failings
Rundown Preamble Ramble:
Natalie Read Chichi no Jikan
Oh snap! I’m bringing back the Efu Efu Efu borders for Rundowns where I use manga panels now? Yes! I decided that I wanted Rundowns to have a more uniform look, and putting the title in the header sure helps!
Anyway, this week’s featured image comes from a TSF manga that Natalie.TF reader Cassandra Wright showed me. Chichi no Jikan by Shirota Kuronosuke. Which translates to Breast Milk Time! The comic centers around a college student who is tasked by aliens to nurse a human baby for a year, or else the world will be destroyed. Simple enough… Except the protagonist is a male student, incapable of generating breast milk, so the aliens give him a Famicom controller that he can use to change his sex for an hour.
Oddball premise aside, the story itself pretty quickly falls into a routine and develops into a slice of life comic with at least one prominent display of breasts per chapter. The student teams up with his neighbor to raise a kid, they meet a boob-loving YouTuber who wants to use the kid for clicks, and other malarky. However, the actual weird thing about this comic is that it was apparently created for educational purposes. At least according to the English translation.
The comic offers a lot of information about the potential issues that people have when nursing children. Illustrates various techniques that children are breastfed, including various holds and peripherals such as nursing covers and nursing pillows. And sees the cast deal with the general labor that comes with caring for a newborn. From cleaning up after them, trying to put them to sleep, and even bringing them along while attending university.
It all made for a pleasant hour or so of reading, and what’s there is pretty good. The story is tropey with its characters and situations, but in a way that feels warranted and deliberate considering the whole educational angle. The artwork is cute and pretty high quality all around, with more than a few screen-grab worthy sequences and adorable expressions.
However, I would say that it’s not a good TSF story, as the whole ‘changing into a woman’ thing is barely registered by the protagonist, and does not affect his life outside of a few gags. Which is still WAY better than dozens of particularly blasé hentai comics I’ve read.
Natalie Rambles About TSF Anime – Winter 2023
So, I was made aware that this new season of anime is seeing something of a burst of new ‘gender bender’ anime coming out. Now, I’m not really big on anime for a variety of reasons, but seeing as how I talk about TSF a bunch, I figured I should still comment on some of these series and at least acknowledge them.
The first on my list is Reborn to Master the Blade: From Hero-King to Extraordinary Squire. Which sounds like an isekai, but is really about a hero-king reincarnating as a female knight in order to master ‘the blade.’ However, just from taking a whiff of this premise, and watching a trailer, I can tell that this is just a generic fantasy action series with cute girls and a vague TSF premise that means very little. I have tiredly read enough comics like this to know how these things generally work, and I am not a fan.
I remember hearing some buzz about Ayakashi Triangle, which is a long-running series where a male protagonist is trapped in a female form for a prolonged period. It’s drawn and written by the illustrator of To Love Ru, which I have seen brought up in TSF communities more than a bit, as it was the trigger for a good number of transformation fans. Which makes sense considering all the body swaps and transformations that have been floating across YouTube the past 14 years.
Anyway, looking through a few random chapters of the manga, I have reached the impression that Ayakashi Triangle is two things. A romantic comedy built around a harem of female high schoolers with a protagonist who does and doesn’t want to have lesbian funsies with everybody who’s into her (i.e. everyone). And a shonen action series with ninja magic, ghost demons, and ecchi battle scenes. It overall seems fine, but I have the impression the series is not so much about the transformation as much as an excuse to have a ‘female lead who behaves like a boy.’ I could of course be wrong, but that’s the impression that I get.
Then there is Onimai: I’m Now Your Sister. A series following an eroge enthusiast who is transformed into a 12-year-old girl, and engages in various slice of life activities with his little sister. All while becoming less of a hikikomori, learning to embrace their femininity, and getting into cute low-key adventures. …At least two of which involve the protagonist growing a penis and getting aroused by other 12-year-old girls which is… yeah.
I occasionally mess around in the margins of what is and is not acceptable, prime examples being PS 1985 and TSF Series #005-2, but I have very hard limits for what is okay, and this ain’t it, chief! Maybe don’t write stories where a grown man’s attraction to teenage girls is presented as cute and innocent. If you are going to be perverted like that, at least be honest. Be more like JK-ka Refle 3 by Kouji!
Anyway, there are a lot of examples of these ‘grown man restarts life as a cute girl’ stories, and a lot of them run into the same problem. The works grow disinterested in their premise, plot, or general purpose, and devolve into a series of ‘cute girls doing cute things.’ There is no shortage of that in the world of anime, and while I once enjoyed this genre thoroughly, I kind of had my fill of it back in my teens. Nowadays, I like more structured stories. …Which ongoing manga series normally SUCK at, because they need to meet constant deadlines, and unless you plan things in great detail, it is hard to avoid filler.
So, yeah. I’m not really interested in any of these series and don’t have any plans to talk about them, unless I get a series of passionate requests from my readers. Because I’ll cover just about anything if I get a few comments about it. However, I don’t think most people would want me to try my hand at reviewing anime again, as I have a few general criticisms that I always go back to.
- The coloring and lighting of most modern anime are meant to imitate reality, which I find to be a bad choice artistically, as it often desaturates and muddies the colors. Taking vibrant character designs and casting them under harsh afternoon sun or night filters in an attempt to establish… I don’t even know what. This is the key reason why I have more fondness for anime from the 80s and 90s. Back when animators could not use as many filters to apply lighting or mood, and colors were generally more saturated. At least for characters.
- A lot of anime made for television typically has pacing issues, and to me it is pretty obvious when things are elongated or compressed for time. To me, it lacks the efficiency of manga, which I have come to prefer over anime for economic and creative reasons.
- I feel that a lot of characters in more mainstream anime tend to be rather archetypical, and not really advance beyond that or feel like developed people. Character archetypes are a great thing, but I feel that a lot of characters in anime serve more utilitarian roles. They exist to do what the plot, genre, and product demands of them. Which works, but it can lead to a lot of samey and shallow characters.
Instead, I would rather review or highlight TSF comics I particularly enjoyed, but I am reluctant to create a segment like that, as I have enough on my plate at the moment. Plus, if I really want to review more TSF content, I should just play more Student Transfer Scenarios, as I’m getting close to the one year anniversary of my review of Under the Skin.
Natalie Rambles About Her Creative Writing Releases for 2023
Despite struggling to maintain my usual level of focus these past few weeks, I was able to finish The Malice of Abigale Quinlan – Encounter Unlimited and everything related to it. This included the following tasks:
- Create, format, and proof a new Google Doc to compile this updated version of The Malice of Abigale Quinlan.
- Post the three new chapters of The Malice of Abigale Quinlan – Encounter Unlimited onto Natalie.TF.
- Update all 21 chapters on Natalie.TF to match the master doc.
- Update all 21 chapters on ScribbleHub, where I also hosted this novel.
- Use Docs to Markdown to convert the master doc to an HTML file.
- Use this HTML file to create a new ePub in Calibre. …Which itself will take 3 to 4 hours, as I need to clean up the metadata, formatting, and review everything in detail
- Upload the new ePub to my publishing Amazon account.
All of which is in addition to the whole writing of the 13,700 word story, the editing, and creating four header images. Drafting took me a day, writing took me 4 days, the images took me a day to make, and editing also took a day. So this was another week-long project for me, before all of this additional hoopla. Which I managed to power through and finish in a day, because I just wanted to move on to something new.
That new thing is TSF Series #016: Divinica Lust. A Dragalia Lost tribute/parody based loosely on a fan fiction I wrote back in 2020: Fan Fiction Funsies: Dragalia Lost – Chapter 14a: True and Terrible Pleasure. The deadline is Valentine’s Day— also known as Incest Day in my neck of the woods— and I just finished my outline for the story this past Friday, so progress is being made.
After that? Well, my next major creative writing releases are another two ‘novel extensions.’ The first is Psycho Bullet Festival: The Odyssey of Abigale Quinlan – Episode Alternative, dropping on 4/27/2023. This is not going to be an alternate continuation like the other three extensions. Instead, it will be an alternate take that differs greatly in tone, while recycling discarded ideas from my original outline of the novel. I anticipate the story lasting less than 10k words, but after Encounter Unlimited ballooned to 14k words pre-edit, I’m not feeling so great about my prediction game…
Also, as part of the release of Episode Alternative, I will not be re-editing Psycho Bullet Festival: The Odyssey of Abigale Quinlan. Why? …Because I don’t like this story. It is easily my worst novel, has a confused tone, and is just kind of boring to think about. While I have a deep connection to almost all of my other words, PBF just does not really draw me in or offer me much to think about. Which is a little strange because I spent 23 months on that project— almost three times as long as I spent on any of my other novel projects.
Seriously, let’s go over the development time for my other six novels.
- Verde’s Doohickey took 7 months.
- The Malice of Abigale Quinlan took 5 months.
- The Saga of Vincent Dawn took 8 months.
- Psycho Shatter 1985: Black Vice Re;Birth took another 8 months.
- Psycho Bullet Festival 2222 also took 8 months.
- The Dominance of Abigale Quinlan took 60 days.
- Verde’s Doohickey 2.0: Sensational Summer Romp… has not even started production, and the novel needs to be DONE by August 15th.
After PBF – EA, my next objective is Psycho Shatter 1985: Black Vice Re;Birth – The Day After, releasing on May 18, 2023. This is a direct canonical sequel to PS 1985 that will follow Vice as they return to their home the day after they laid ruin to the rural town of Murinova. The story itself will offer an insight into Vice’s past, their family, lay the groundwork for 2024’s Psycho Shatter 1988: APOLITICALGENOCIDE, and should be in the range of 10k to 15k words based on my current outline. I will also not be re-editing PS 1985 along with the release of The Day After, as I re-edited the novel back in November 2021, and I was pleased with its quality.
Afterwards, I intend on releasing chapters of Verde’s Doohickey 2.0: Sensational Summer Romp from May 28 to August 15. This wide release window is because I want the title to be released in real-time, making the story feel more akin to a diary chronicling the summary adventures of the characters from Verde’s Doohickey. …And characters who were alluded to, but who never actually appeared. Meaning the BASE character roster is 23 characters. And that’s before we get into the trans-dimensional cameos!
Every chapter will follow the events of a single day, and the novel will adopt a vignette model of storytelling, where the characters and setting will change from chapter to chapter. Meaning that, unlike Verde’s Doohickey, TMAQ, and TDAQ, the story will not center around Jad Novus. One chapter might feature Shiaka as the protagonist. Another might follow Vivi and Anita. And the next could follow Kenneth and Eleanore Flare, Maxxie and Terra’s parents.
This, more than PBF 2222, is my most ambitious project thus far, and will involve a lot of stuff I have never tried before. It could be an utter disaster… but I want to try it anyway. I want to broaden what types of stories I can tell, and I have a LOT of ideas for what I want to do with this world and these characters. Now I just need to actually outline this bloody thing and start actual production sometime in February… Ugh.
…It will all be worth it when Jade gets assaulted by a singing dildo and I turn the lesbians into a pair of gay boys. Because there’s not enough singing or gay shit in my stuff!
Ah Geez, Am I Going To Jail, Rick?
(Justin Roiland Faces Felony Domestic Violence Charges)
Typically, I am not too concerned about the personal misdeeds of individuals in the games industry— unless they are remarkable, eccentric, or come from a place of immense power. However, after seeing the discourse about this guy over the past few months, I feel that I should at least bring this up. Justin Roiland, co-creator of Rick and Morty, is currently facing felony domestic violence charges. This goes back to an incident in 2020 where he was charged with domestic battery and false imprisonment toward a woman he was dating. Butonly now is the case escalating to a point where Roiland could be in deep shit, and assuming all of this is true… he should be.
I am mostly bringing up this story because it strikes me as one of those ‘you could not write this’ moments, as this is coming after a years-long fall from grace of sorts for Roiland.
As far as most people are concerned, the story begins with Rick and Morty, which debuted in 2013, but did not really start to gain traction until 2015 with its second season. For a while, it was among the most highly praised and discussed animated shows around, and developed a devoted fanbase. …But then it became clear that the devoted fanbase did not have much media literacy and began a long tenure of making an ass out of themselves, birthing many memes in the process.
However, as is often the case, as something reaches heights of popularity, percolates in culture for a few years, and has a primary outspoken creator, it is customary for people to grow dissatisfied with said creator.
People believe that the creator’s behavior has been altered through wealth and personal success. People say their output got worse, when it is more likely that their creative energy went down after being met with success, urging them to focus on maintaining a baseline quality, rather than pushing new heights. People notice that their politics are veering in a more outspokenly conservative direction— as they have something they want to conserve. And people just start getting sick of their persona/style as they expand into new projects.
With Roiland, a vocal contingency started getting sick of his schtick with the lead up to High on Life. A sci-fi FPS with talking alien guns that was met with a more… mixed critical reception when it launched. However, it was still widely discussed, and became a pretty popular game throughout the tail end of 2022. Why? Well, December tends to be a dead month in the industry— because Black Friday and the early awards season— and it launched December 13th. It was a short AAA game on Game Pass, so it was a low commitment for a lot of people to try. And it was a game pretty consistently discussed around release, when there were relatively few new games to talk about.
As such, this represented a sort of ‘high’ for this story, where Roiland, and his studio, found broad success in another medium, but only now are these charges being widely circulated.
I have a somewhat… mixed reaction to this news. On one hand, if Roiland gets in big trouble, or sent to jail, that could negatively impact a lot of people. Between the game studio, Squanch Games, and the various animated shows he’s involved in, there are easily hundreds of creative types working under or alongside him. So if these projects were canceled, not only would that stop hundreds from advancing their career and their creative skills, it would put them out of work.
On the other hand, I don’t think someone like Roiland should be immune to the consequences of his actions. I’m not a corporal punishment type, but if someone is a felon who physically abused someone, at age 40, I don’t think they should have much power over anything.
Skull and Bones and Delay & Ubisoft Underperformanced
(Ubisoft Delaying Games After Bad Holiday Line-Up Failed to Sell)
Moving onto a lighter story, the saga of Skull and Bones continues with another delay. For those who forget, Skull and Bones originally began life as a standalone expansion of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. However, the project was restarted, reworked, expanded, and remade oodles of times over the past decade into an original IP. It is a title that should have been canceled long ago, but an agreement with the Singapore government has kept the title afloat even as the budget ballooned well past a hundred million dollars.
I remember hearing its initial November 8, 2022 release date and thinking that the title finally met its contractual deadline… but then they delayed it to March 9, 2023. Right before the end of the fiscal year. But now, Ubisoft has delayed the title to a nebulous 2024 fiscal year release window.
Why did they do this? Well, Ubisoft’s latest releases did not perform as well as the executives predicted, and now the studio is bearish about their latest slate of titles. A move reminiscent of how the studio reacted after Ghost Recon Breakpoint underperformed, leading them to delay Watch Dogs: Legion, Immortals Fenyx Rising, and Rainbow Six Extraction.
Which latest releases did not perform well? Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope and Just Dance 2023 were their only big holiday releases. A sequel to a bizarre spin-off crossover, and a casual dancing game that only launched for Switch, PS5, and Xbox Series. …No wonder holiday sales were slow.
So, what did Ubisoft take away from this lesson? Well, they canceled three unnamed titles, committed themselves to building mega brands, instead of pursuing small-scale projects, and told employees that Ubisoft’s future financial success is up to them…
That last bit is almost painfully stupid. In the announcement of this underperformance, they said the games were well received by players and critics. The developers’ job is to make the game good, not sell it to the audience. If games fail to sell, and are met with high marks, then it is a marketing issue, plain and simple.
I would ask how Ubisoft could be so blind… but this is also the exact sort of thing I would expect a company like Ubisoft, which has fostered and protected abusers for over a decade, to do. Pressure employees to do better when the problem is clearly with management…
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“Then there is Onimai: I’m Now Your Sister. A series following an eroge enthusiast who is transformed into a 12-year-old girl, and engages in various slice of life activities with his little sister. All while becoming less of a hikikomori, learning to embrace their femininity, and getting into cute low-key adventures. …At least two of which involve the protagonist growing a penis and getting aroused by other 12-year-old girls which is… yeah. ”
Is there a reason why some of these seemingly wholesome “growing up” stories end up veering into borderline child porn and/or horrible grooming? Is it a Japanese thing?
That is an question that I do not have a full answer to… but the short answer is yes, it is a Japanese thing. It is more popular as a ‘fetish’ there, and is more ‘commercially acceptable’ for reasons well beyond my knowledge levels.
Sorry, seeing that rundown just reminded me of why I’ve stuck to the anime releases of both Usagi Drop and If It’s For My Daughter, I’d Even Defeat A Demon Lord, both of which veer uncomfortably towards child grooming later in the source material. The animes both cut it off beforehand.
I read the Onimai manga a good while back, and recall cute and innocent being a major element of its tone. Even though the main character is [at the beginning of the story] presented as having their sexual interests be a major part of their life, that drops off fast post-transformation. It still comes up from time to time, but is mostly played for laughs and the story had far fewer sexual elements than it initially seemed like it might. So it makes sense to me that same tone would be applied to all sorts of scenes (though I doubt the one mentioned will show up in the anime).
Context and presentation can really have a big impact on tone, and I feel like all sorts of things that would be unfathomable in real life can have a completely different tone in fiction (conversely, fiction can also excel at turning the seemingly-mundane into the horrifying). I suspect that cultural contexts can similarly contribute to the drastically different receptions that the same works can receive in different places and times.
Based on the length of Onimai, I kind of figured that it would focus less and less on the protagonist’s transformation as time goes on, and focus more on capturing a cute tone. However, I do think the context of the protagonist being a pervert, even if it was in a ‘previous life’ still has the potential to heavily impact the cute tone depending on one’s mindset. I could be mistaken of course, as I have not read the manga itself, and this is more of a ‘hunch’ than anything.
Oh, I entirely agree. The out-of-universe context of a reader/watcher’s own mindset can be just as important as the in-universe context of how a story unfolds and how it’s presented. One of the reasons why “Know your audience” can be really important. Two people can walk away from the same work with very different experiences, and that’s in addition to things like personal taste and preference.
For me, one thing that shaped my reading of the manga [if I remember correctly; it was well over a year ago] is the fact that power is very much not in the protagonist’s hands. Pervert or not, the events that take place are very rarely under their control, and when it comes to power and authority they most certainly aren’t in an advantageous position. And abuse of power/authority tends to be one of my lines (at least if I want to like and empathize with a character).