Still Gotta Catch ‘Em All


Pokemon is the second most lucrative videogame franchise of all time, topped only by the legendary Mario. How could something that seems like a simple game about capturing animal-like creatures and using them to battle other people’s creatures reach such success? Well, maybe it isn’t quite that simple. When the first two Pokemon titles, Red Version and Blue Version came out in 1998, they blew up instantly and the world had to acknowledge that these games were something special. Pokemon games, when you take a closer look, contain elements of appeal which transcend age, gender, and culture. They’re simple enough for a seven year old to enjoy playing through the main storyline without much difficulty. They’re complex enough for adult players to spend hundreds of hours forming, and perfecting their team for competitive battles with opponents from all over the world. There’s something to be said for a game that’s well balanced on so many levels.

One of the more obvious things people like about the Pokemon videogame franchise is the element which appeals to the collector in us. The original games had 150 unique and interesting creatures to catch (well 151 if you were in the know) but over the years, that number has increased to a somewhat intimidating 720! So you travel through a virtual land riddled with unique locations to explore. Each environment yields the potential to encounter some interesting new Pokemon specific to that place in the game world. Any Pokemon you find can be captured, thus becoming a new companion on your journey. The more you use your creature to battle against others, the stronger it becomes. Most Pokemon, after gaining enough experience in battle, or by a variety of other means, are capable of evolving. Evolution in the Pokemon world is when a Pokemon essentially transforms into a bigger, stronger, usually cooler-looking version of itself. So if you’re really into collecting, or just can’t seem to stop playing, you’re encouraged to find, capture, and evolve them all!

Another thing these games get right is the aspect which appeals to the strategist in us. There are so many Pokemon out there, and they all have their own unique attributes when used in battle. They all have their own strengths, weaknesses, special abilities, and a pool of attacks to choose from. A team consists of only 6 Pokemon, and with so many options out there, creating the team that’s just right for you requires a lot of thought and research. After you’ve put together a team you’re confident about, you can challenge all your Pokemon-playing friends to prove that you’re smarter and more of a tactical thinker than they are. You’re also able to go online and challenge other Pokemon trainers from around the globe.

When it comes to Pokemon, the possibilities are limitless. Jumping into a world with those possibilities, that’s also entertaining and intellectually stimulating at the same time, this is something that appeals to quite a lot of people. Having obvious merit to such a large group of individuals defines the pop culture aspect of Pokemon. As stated by Jack Lule, “Popular culture is the media, products, and attitudes considered to be part of the mainstream of a given culture and the everyday life of common people.” I believe that a franchise with such a solid foundation and such a wide appeal will absolutely continue to prosper for many years to come.

WTF Japan??!?!?!!!?

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This is probably the first thing you think of after finishing the music video Me!Me!Me! by TeddyLoid. A lot of people would automatically categorize this as some weird Japanese freaky fetish video and tune out the rest of it. Automatically casting judgment on it halfway through creating a skewed interpretation of something they didn’t want to understand. These people tend to not get past the shock value to really look at this video for what it actually is and the deeper meaning it has behind it.

A preview of the video was released on Nov 14th 2014 on the official Japan Anime Expo (if you click the EN at the top right cover of the page it will switch over to english) website with a description saying “You are attacked and ravished by many girls”. The website is a web series launched by the collaboration of Hideaki Anno’s Studio Khara (known for their work on Neon Genesis Evangelion) and the Japanese media company Dwango to show the work of up and coming animators. The man behind all this, Hibiki Yoshizaki, released the full-length version on the 21st. According to KnowYourMeme.com, the video was instantly met with high acclaims from viewers and critics alike. From it’s high quality animation to it’s catchy backtrack done by techno DJ Teddyloid.

Click here to watch the video but might I mention that it contains some nudity and is for a mature audience.

Now this video as of 01/28/15 has reached up to 259,000 plays on Vimeo and has been posted on forums with some reaching around 500 comments per thread. Now the meaning behind this video has come to a few different interpretations and the creators never really came out with one either. To me this comes down to an Otaku (the Japanese term for someone who has obsessive interests) who’s lifestyle got in the way of reality. This is the first part of the music video with the girl in blue hair dancing around. But this lifestyle ended up morphing into something that morphed into a monster that started to consume him. He tries to fight back (when he transforms in the video) and kill the monster that he created as well as get his reality back. But he didn’t realize how big his obsession actually became (Rave party) and ended up loosing his battle.70b This music video starts out one way with some guy dreaming about a fantasy of his and completely twists it into something else. It shows us what can happen if we let something that we enjoy consume our lives. It also shows that things don’t always go the way we plan when it comes to fighting back to try and get things back to the way they once were.

The Fine Bros on YouTube did a react video of YouTubers watching the video and asking them questions on what they thought afterwards. The thoughts that most of them had right off the bat was that they didn’t like it at all with a few liking it on an animation perspective. But once they thought about what they just saw some were able to see the meaning behind the video. Just the reaction video alone had over 5 million views and over 15 thousand comments since it was posted on Jan 8th.

This video is a prime example of ‘What Monkey’s Eat’ when it came to how this gained traction. Linda Holmes says in her blog

“Justin Bieber, Duck DynastyBreaking BadGravity, and — yes — even Miley Cyrus twerking are all examples of what monkeys eat. Some good, some bad, some completely baffling. But all things that are making their way into a lot of people’s thinking, and provoking all kinds of conversations that we might not have otherwise.”

You have people posting this to their friends saying “Look at this weird video from Japan” and only really see it for the shock value. Then you have the few who are able to see past that and discover a message hidden in plain sight. Now my question to you is which one you’ll become?

The Book of Life Brings Life to Diversity

Book of Life movie poster

The Book of Life was a movie that came out last Halloween, directed by Jorge R. Gutierrez and produced by Guillermo del Toro. The Book of Life is an animated feature film about the journey of a young man named Manolo as he struggles with whether to follow the expectations of his family or follow his heart. The movie is a classic love/coming of age story, taking place during the Mexican holiday The Day of the Dead. The Book of Life encourages us to celebrate the past while looking forward to the future. The director, Jorge R. Gutierrez’s animations are intended to bring the Mexico he grew up with to the masses, and to get rid of harmful and inaccurate stereotypes. That being said, it took Gutierrez 14 years to get The Book of Life produced. Producers and studios had no interest in the film previously, and it was turned down everywhere it was proposed. The movie boasts a very diverse voice acting crew and most of the main cast is of Mexican or Latino descent. The movie is a refreshing change to how “white” the industry has always been. To Hollywood, having such a diverse cast, and a story about Mexican culture, sounded like financial suicide. It was far too big of a risk to make 14 years ago. So why does the movie work now, and how did the public react?

After the movie debuted, conversations about diversity exploded online.  Linda Holmes said, “The utter lack of importance of the underlying subject, in fact, is exactly what tells you how close to the surface and at how high a temperature these conflicts are simmering.” Even something like a cartoon can make people talk about what they are thinking; diversity, and representation of other cultures, is important.

Recently, the internet has become a very powerful tool in bringing people and ideas together . The internet gives us a window into the world that we haven’t always had. People are coming into contact with cultures they never would have without the help of the internet and are different because of it. Diversity is becoming a must-have for movies today. Just look at the disaster that Exodus: Gods and Kings turned out to be. The movie was panned hard by Twitter followers, as well as the rest of social media, over it’s lack of diversity, and the “whitewashing” of the main cast. Hollywood is finding that it’s audience wants diversity, and proper representations of cultures and ethnicities, and they want it now.

Excerpt of cast for Exodus showing the poor actor choice

 

In regards to The Book of Life, websites like Tumblr and Reddit brought up discussions about  the “whitewashing” of stories and lack of diversity and representation of other cultures on tv and in movies, cartoon or otherwise. People spoke up about how they wanted to see more accurate portrayals of different nationalities, and to see more roles led by people of color. They talked about stereotypes and tropes that were offensive to the cultures being portrayed, and how we could change this in Hollywood. Above all else, they talked about how much they loved The Book of Life, and how they looked forward to seeing more like it.

Even though The Book of Life came out months ago, people on social media still use it as reference for what movies about other cultures should strive to be. The topic of diversity and representation will always be a major concern for a culture such as ours, and The Book of Life is a good show of things to come. As we become more in touch with the people around us, this topic won’t be going away anytime soon.

The Land of the Remembered