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Jack Ketch
27 December 2009 @ 08:48 pm
After Andrew WK linked to the Aleister X review here rather than on Awesome-Engine.com, I've decided to make some long overdue changes to the feed here.
  • Crossposts will continue for friends who like to use LJ as their content feed.
  • All future crossposts will now be friends-only so they don't get picked up in searches.
  • All future crossposts will have the comments turned off. Now Wordpress has improved its comments settings the one reason I had for crossposting is gone. If you want to comment come to awesome-engine.com and comment there.
With the links to the posts appearing in RSS feeds, twitter and facebook, there's less and less need for me to use livejournal as a broadcast outlet.
Jack Ketch
27 December 2009 @ 03:36 pm

Yes, the write ups of old Manga Mania issues are back, and now with pictures.

Issue 14, cover date September 1994, was all about Street Fighter II. But first, the big change in who was actually publishing the magazine now was brought up in the editorial. Manga Entertainment were now the publishers of Manga Mania. I vaguely recall this being a point of contention, but because I didn’t really get into anime until 1995, I never experienced it first hand. By the time I got round to purchasing the magazine myself, I think it was clear the magazine was just as full of puff pieces for all video labels as it had always been. And the rest of the content improved too, at least until the last few desperate issues where it tried and failed to find a new direction.

As well as the SF2 coverage there was an essay on CLAMP and doujin from Peter J. Evans as well as a Guyver article by many hands.


  • Manga Video were releasing Zeguy, more Guyver, Roujin-Z and more Tokyo Babylon on video. Appleseed was doing the rounds at the cinema.
  • Pioneer were launching with Tenchi Muyo and Moldiver in October.
  • Kiseki had the renamed Adventure Kids coming out as Adventure Duo. Also from them was Black Magic M66 and Urotsukidoji, Return of the Overfiend III.
  • Anime Projects had Bubblegum Crisis continuing to be re-released. And the first volume of Genesis Survivor Gaiarth.


  • Software Sculptors were releasing a Bubblegum Crisis screensaver. Unfortunately it doesn’t mention a price…
  • 20th Century Fox were planning a Gigantor movie.
  • There was a fair handed discussion of the Lion King / Jungle Emperor furore.
  • Trish Ledoux continued to gnash her teeth over the redesigned Dirty Pair in what was the 90s equivalent of the umpteen “moe is killing anime” posts being written right now.
  • From Viz: Ranma 1/2 Movie 2
  • From AD Vision: Cutey Honey 1 & 2
  • From US Manga Corps: Blue Sonnet 1, Project A-Ko vs Battle 1: Grey Side, Toward The Terra
  • From AnimEigo: Urusei Yatsura 15
  • From Osiris Communication: Ultraman 5 & 6
  • From Streamline: Akira Remaster, Dirty Pair: Project Eden.
  • No notable manga releases this month, just the usual chugging along of Viz & DH mainstays, “Amerimanga” and furry comics.


  • That seems to be gone from the magazine now.

There was also a fascinatingly awful advert from someone promising “hard to get” anime. Researching the retailer on the internet, it seems they eventually got out of anime and into pornography instead. Behold the typesetting skills of “Tenseah”:

Originally published at AWESOME ENGINE. You can comment here or there.

Jack Ketch
25 December 2009 @ 12:01 am

Originally published at AWESOME ENGINE. You can comment here or there.

Jack Ketch
24 December 2009 @ 01:01 pm

Remember what I said about Kevin Siembieda’s writing being like a fountain of mad ideas hitting paper? Rifts is that writ large.

Around 1990, an idea emerged in the games industry. It may have been born out of the sheer number of games on the market, or it may have come from the success GURPS enjoyed. That idea was a multi-genre, single setting, role playing game.

There were two main proponents of this approach. There was West End Games’ TORG, which I never played, but always wanted to. And then there was Palladium’s post-TMNT hit, Rifts.

Rifts is pretty much Siembieda’s previous games (Palladium Fantasy Role-Playing Game, Heroes Unlimited, Beyond the Supernatural and Robotech) thrown into a blender. You’ve got wizards, super powered aliens, Lovecraftian horrors and giant robots all inhabiting the same world.

Unsurprisingly, this means the game is horribly unbalanced. At least in the early editions. I have heard that the modern iteration of the game is more solid in its design. But back in the day you were dealing with a game system that got so out of control in terms of rules, character classes and settings that they ended up selling a separate index to the game.

That ran to two books.

They also produced a Rifts Colouring Book.

This situation was kind of the endemic of the games market as a whole in the nineties, as games began to choke on their own settings. While bad decisions like Dragon Dice were more the downfall of TSR, the sheer number of setting and settings in those settings didn’t help. Likewise, the World of Darkness line choked on White Wolf’s attempt to maintain some sort of in game continuity.

So you went from a market in the 80s that was distinguished by masses of games which led to the multi-genre games, to a market that was now distinguished by masses of sourcebooks for existing games. Either way you had lots of people buying lots of game books that they never used.

Your typical Rifts book would be full of poorly laid out background material for a geographical location that seemed to only exist to add a ton more character classes, magic and equipment options into an already stuffed to bursting game. Oh, and some new monsters to kill. Or play as Racial Character Classes.

Not all these classes were balanced either in terms of power or material supplied, and you were best not mix and matching between books or you might find yourself playing a wizard or dragon surrounded by ninjas jacked to the gills on cybernetics who spent every session fine tuning their equipment lists.

Despite that imbalance and rules/setting bloat, the fact that there is just so much utter madness slung together makes it a fun game. I had a great time playing a Time Wizard, blowing up evil pyramids in Glastonbury by sending bombs into the future.

Like Mutant Chronicles, Rifts was one of those 90s games that had ambitions of becoming a multimedia franchise. It did eventually make it to videogames. Unfortunately the Nokia N-Gage was the platform.

One last note, back when I first got on the internet at university, there was this DarkWorld RPG that was mentioned on rec.arts.anime. It was basically an anime flavoured rip-off of Rifts, that started off hiding its influence in a thinly veiled fashion like Mayfair’s unlicensed D&D accessories, before giving up with this file that just went ahead and listed Palladium stats for The Dirty Pair, Lum and The Sailor Scouts.

It’s not that surprising that it existed given Palladium’s history with Robotech and Macross II games, but the amount of effort that had gone into it still leaves me gobsmacked today. I’m a lazy gamer and do as little prep as possible, preferring to improvise, so this sort of exercise in cataloguing a world and stats is alien to me.

I’m presuming that the Tony Figueroa who wrote it is the same Tony Figueroa who is now the chair of the Fanime convention. Can anyone confirm that?

Originally published at AWESOME ENGINE. You can comment here or there.

Jack Ketch
23 December 2009 @ 06:10 pm

Andrew WK’s been banging on for weeks about this track he produced for the mysterious Aleister X, and quite rightly too. It’s ace. Haven’t heard something so aggressively sleazy as this since the prime of Earl Brutus. Not mention it’s a song that is driven by a chant rather than a chorus, which is always great. It gives music a more primal feel.

Even when the chant in question is BANGERS AND BEANS / AND TIGHT BLACK JEANS.

Especially when it’s that.

Buy at Amazon.co.uk

Originally published at AWESOME ENGINE. You can comment here or there.

Jack Ketch

Back in June, when I last touched this strand of the site, I hinted that I was going to cover RIFTS next. Well it turned out that I’d forgotten to cover what was actually my first encounter with Palladium Books – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness.

Based on Eastman and Laird’s classic anthropomorphic Frank Miller & Chris Claremont parody, TMNT the rpg tapped into the same upswell in popularity that TMNT the comic had. It was a massively popular game, only suffering a down turn when the cartoon came along and the TMNT started to be seen as a kid’s thing rather than indie comic cool.

While it suffered a little from the Palladium’s somewhat perfunctory typesetting and layouts, it did benefit from being written by the late, great Erick Wujcik. While both Kevin Siembieda and Erick Wujcik’s books used the same rule system at heart, Wujcik’s are a joy to read, and feel like a complete product whose parts gel together. His own interest in martial arts really comes through and it feels like there’s a clear vision to his books. Siembieda’s on the other hand, often seem the work of someone trying to get every mad idea out of his head onto paper and not caring how they tie together. But more on that when we get to Rifts. Hoo boy.

I mainly played this during my teenage years, before selling it during the peak of the general Turtles craze in the UK. I picked another copy up later in ‘96 when it seemed that 50% of Travelling Man’s second hand game stock were copies of this game. I think I’ve played a few sessions of the non-licensed follow up After The Bomb – anthropomorphic animals in a post apocalypse, but they were too brief to get a grip on what that was about.

Originally published at AWESOME ENGINE. You can comment here or there.

Jack Ketch

I apologise, because you if you like to laugh, you should be watching it. You’ll need to be an American or able to convince the internet you are one to watch it, but it’s a great show that seems to find a happy medium between the three camera and single camera sitcoms.

Technically, it’s a single camera sitcom, but unlike most single camera shows of the last decade, it lacks decadence and is written with the economy of a three camera sitcom.

As great as Arrested Development was, the reason it failed was because it was too expensive per episode. The massive cast, the various locations and numerous outside shoots all added up. Same with My Name Is Earl. Better Off Ted feels like it’s learnt from those mistakes (and not just because Portia Rossi’s in the show too).

It’s a comedy about production development centred around a company called Veridian Dynamic who make anything and everything. Its level of absurdity calls to mind The I.T. Crowd and Dilbert somewhat, though the RPG nerds among you will probably see it as the rightful heir of the R&D gags from Paranoia.

The economy of the writing lies in that they tend to use only a few regular sets per episode (two offices, a meeting room and a lab), few-to-none outside scenes, and there are only 5-6 characters (the daughter doesn’t appear every episode).

Something else I’ve noted is that while they’ll use the 21st century’s favourite gag of “You remember the time…” they’ll tend to let the dialogue do the lifting on the gag, rather than cut away to flashback. And having seen cutaway gags far too often in the last 10-20 years, it’s refreshing to let the dialogue do the work.

Which is not to say it’s all dialogue heavy, there’s plenty of physical and prop gags, but they are in service of episode or character, rather than throwaway stuff put in to pad an unfunny story.

Originally published at AWESOME ENGINE. You can comment here or there.

Jack Ketch

use a layout that consumes half the screen of the average user. Everyone loves logos, links to other articles that belong in a sidebar, and imagery that’s been cropped and photomanipulated to the point of uselessness. They’re so much more helpful than having less content hidden below the scroll bar.

DO use a site background covered in pictures that makes the posts harder to read. It will weed out the weak from your readership, who might not be able to take your remorseless point of view.

DO force people to link through from your RSS feed, rather than read the article from the comfort of their RSS reader. You put all that effort into making your site as user unfriendly as you could, so why should the cool kids with their RSS readers get off scot free? Make them gaze upon the wonder of your photo manipulation skills and pictures of tiny robots that obscure the text.

Also, it will enable you to keep better track of them. The scum!

write in a style more suited to print than the internet. Specifically the print of an early 90s issue of the NME or a copy of VMax. Either is good.

DON’T use a style suitable for the internet. Inverted pyramid? What’s that? Short punchy paragraphs? Forget it! NEVER COMPROMISE!

DO complain as much as you can about everything you can’t stand about other anime fans, other anime blogs, the anime industry and cartoons you don’t watch. Only your uncompromising opinions of other people’s opinions can change the world.

DON’T spend as much effort talking about the cartoons you do like and do watch. I mean sharing your taste with others is what other anime bloggers do. If you are going lower yourself to their level, make sure it’s an OAV, never lower yourself to talking about TeeVee (© Ted Goranson).

Unless it’s complain about it, in which case go right ahead.

DO remember to complain about Evangelion and Gainax AT ALL TIMES. Bees do not leave bonnets without being harangued first!

DO remember that anime is only good at doing science fiction.

DO make sure the window to your glass house is OPEN.

DO remember your rose-tinted glasses.

And finally…

DO remember that you are the internet’s dad. And that you are very disappointed.

Inspired by this article on Colony Drop. As mean as I’m being here (their recent posts are much more internet reader friendly than some of their earlier, more colossal paragraphy posts), there are some genuine useful hints and tips contained in their post.

There’s what I’d consider some old media wrongheadedness too, but that’s the work-Brack talking. And he’s been fully indoctrinated in our glorious Web 2.0 publishing future, so pinch of salt and all that.

Personally, I would push people towards Jakob Nielsen’s Website if they wanted a better understanding of the basics on how to write on the internet. Then once they’ve got that right you can sweat the other details.

And finally, to whoever has actually registered wavemotiongun.com, I’m using the name here for satire purposes, not to stake a claim on your URL.

Originally published at AWESOME ENGINE. You can comment here or there.

Jack Ketch
21 December 2009 @ 06:00 am

Children pilot giant robots known as Evangelions Fafners to defeat giant aliens known as Angels Festum. Even at this point in time, Evangelion was still a huge shadow cast over robot shows, and this had the shadows of Evangelion’s imitators over it too (shades of Rahxephon with the living in a bubble aspect). I imagine its selling point was meant to be Hisashi Hirai’s design work post-Gundam SEED, but that’s never done anything for me.

Originally published at AWESOME ENGINE. You can comment here or there.

Jack Ketch
20 December 2009 @ 06:50 pm

Turns out, your Xmas number one was…

Originally published at AWESOME ENGINE. You can comment here or there.