On Fire Emblem: Monshou no Nazo

oniichan
The absolute climax of the game.

Year 1990. Nintendo puts out a game titled “Fire Emblem: Ankoku Ryuu to Hikari no Ken” for the NES Famicom. Considered a medieval spinoff of Famicom Wars at the time, it was later called the originator of a new genre of video games, a genre I love the crap out of, the SRPG. Long live Fire Emblem and its divorced biological father, Kaga Shouzou. At the time, it must have been seen as a good, revolutionary game. But if you ask me, a 21st century human, it’s nigh-unplayable, just like most NES games, especially of the RPG-like kind. Too klunky to deal with. Fortunately, there is a way to enjoy this historical artifact in a more user-friendly environment. Mere four years after the original FE1 was released, the game got remade. Enter Fire Emblem: Monshou no Nazo (translated as “The Mystery of the Emblem” or “The Riddle of the Crest“) for the Super Famicom, also known as FE3. The game consists of two “books”, around twenty chapters each: the first one is more-or-less the same as Ankoku Ryuu to Hikari no Ken, while the second is entirely new content, never seen before 1994.

During my Fire Emblem-playing heyday, I’d wanted to beat this bad boy, but every attempt at playing FE3 ended in a surrender on my part, very early into the game. The reason being: my Japanese wasn’t even close to being good enough. I remember trying to read the intro about Anri the hero and despairing. I understood nothing. Okay, understood the first two characters in that chunk of text: ああ. Until the original FE was remade for the third time as a DS game in 2008, there was no way around the problem for me… unless you count translation patches made by amateurs. Those, however, would translate the game only to a tiny extent. It wasn’t even worth trying them out. So I gave up on FE3 for a long time, carefully hoping that I will be able to play the game in Japanese at some point.

Far future, year 2017. Bednorz returned to demand a rematch, his runemastery more potent than ever before… For he does not resign, he only puts things on hold. I won that long-ass fight relatively recently, in late 2019, so I’d better write down my impressions while they’re still fresh.

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Return to Babylon

cutiewithanaxe
fun show

Hi there. Yes, it’s time to get back to Babylon – the recently concluded TV anime based on a novel series by Nozaki Mado, everybody’s favorite non-ending wizard who you might remember from Seikai Suru Kado. For those who don’t know: I’ve written about its first volume. Babylon TV, one of those precious Twin Engine productions, had a bit of a weird release schedule. The first three episodes (covering volume one of the novel) came out all at once in early October, while the last, twelvth episode was released at the end of January. You could consider it a Fall 2019 anime then. I guess. Something’s telling me such shenanigans will be happening more and more from now on… But that’s a topic for another story. I’ll try to make this post short, please bear with me.

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On Mavar Nendaiki

mavar
The cover.

Right now, when I google “Mavar Nendaiki” (not マヴァール年代記), I get exactly *two* results. Looks like a task for Bednorz and his Weeablogue.

Mavar Nendaiki (The Annals of Mavar) is a historical novel set in a fictional land (kakuu rekishi shousetsu) by Tanaka Yoshiki. It originally was a series of three volumes, later gathered into a single book – only the first edition (started in 1988) consisted of separate volumes. You might have heard about Arslan or some other less known works by Tanaka-sensei, the creator of LoGH. But probably not this one. It’s rather obscure. How obscure? You see, my original intention was to pirate it. Except, I only was able to obtain the second and third volume. I found a way around it, however. I also found the “Mavar Nendaiki cassette-book” uploaded on Niconico. What is a “cassette-book”, you ask? It’s a strange hybrid of an audiobook and an audiodrama, with major voice actors of the late eighties reading out a little play summarizing the novel, available on tape. So, the plan was to consume the first volume in the form of this strange radio play thingy and to read the rest in form of pirated ebooks. But then, I listened through the cassette-book and said… Aah, screw it. I’ll just buy the damn thing. And so I did – I used a proxy service to buy a used copy off Yahoo Auctions. The book itself cost me 200 JPY – much less than expected. If you wanna win, you gotta play it smart. Since Tanaka-sensei prefers basing his fictional worlds off real ones, the Empire of Mavar is based on medieval Hungary. If “Mavar” brings “Magyar” to your mind… yes, it should. Or at least the proper nouns are based on Hungary. Tanaka-sensei seems to think he’s adding “local flavor” to his fantasy novels, but I’m afraid that’s not enough for Mavar Nendaiki to feel “Hungarian”. It has next to nothing to do with Hungary, which is kind of a missed opportunity. Anyway, “Magyarorszag” is the only Hungarian word I know. Or wait, I know “Lengyelorszag” too.

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On Genocidal Organ

organ
The cover.

The first time I heard about this novel I was like “is it about a dude whose kidney popped out of him and started killing people?”. Genocidal Organ (Gyakusatsu Kikan) by Itou Keikaku, an award-winning SF writer. It was his literary debut, published in 2007, made into an animated film ten years later – one of a whole trilogy of Itou adaptations, alongside Harmony and Shisha no Teikoku. It was published in English in 2012 by everybody’s favorite label dedicated to nerdy Japanese fiction, Haikasoru.

Itou Keikaku is a bit of a big deal. He was honored with the Seiun award for his Harmony in 2009 and his career could have become more impressive if he didn’t die of cancer at the young age of 34. He was writing to the very end – he left behind an unfinished novel titled Shisha no Teikoku, which was then finished by Enjou Tou. In 2014, when the film trilogy was announced (which already speaks volumes about his importance), he was being presented as a genius. But is he really a genius? What if it’s a case of people claiming he’s one just because he died a sad death? That’s not unheard of. Maybe it’s only marketing? Guess we’ll find out. My first contact with the story was the film, in October 2017, but I’ve also read the novel twice, so I feel like the adaptation doesn’t really color my perception of the book in any way anymore. I got through the novel for the first time in March 2019 and then decided that writing something about it wouldn’t be a bad idea, and so, several days ago I started a reread of Genocidal Organ with writing this post in mind.

If I were to summarize this 300 pages-long novel, it goes like this. Near future, an unspecified year. Clavis Shepherd, an erudite and a near-future supersoldier is chasing a person called John Paul around the world. John Paul is a PR specialist with a secret – wherever he appears, civil wars break out. Genocidal Organ is a bit of a puzzle of a novel. Not in the usual murder mystery kind of way, though. It’s about figuring out what’s happening and for what purpose.

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On Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones

kouseki
got nothing witty to write here

April 2004. Fire Emblem: Souen no Kiseki, the Gamecube game now know as FE: Path of Radiance in the West, was announced. But, it wasn’t Ike and His Merry Mercenary Friends that was remembered by history as “Fire Emblem 8”. Between the first news about the game and its proper release, Intelligent Systems managed to crank out one more title. In October 2004, FE: Seima no Kouseki came out, the GBA game later (May 2005) published in the West under the subtitle The Sacred Stones. I guess that introduced some confusion in the numeration of the games. I remember seeing Japanese calling Seisen no Keifu “FE3”, claiming that FE Gaiden doesn’t count as “FE2”, cause it’s a “gaiden”, too. Anyway, I had followed the entire story of the game’s release together with my fellow FESSers centuries ago, in my busy middle school days. Beginning with that first scan from Shounen Jump. Then I played FE8 in Japanese upon release, with the help of my meager knowledge of most of kana, several kanji and amateur translations written by fellow FE nerds. Ah the nostalgia. Imagine that exhilaration of doing something nobody else was doing. And then The Sacred Stones came out in English and our little exciting boom in which a whole forum played one game at the same time… turned global. It wasn’t as fun anymore. But I still went through the game for the second time, of course.

And so it turned out that I spent Christmas 2019 playing another Fire Emblem game. Another replay of a game I’d spent a lot of time with in my Youth. Let’s see how it holds up, after over a decade.

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