JP On Gaming

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

[Review] Mobile Suit Z-Gundam

I was lucky enough to find a special sub'd version of all 50 episodes of Mobile Suit Z-Gundam. This series was originally shown in Japan in 1986-87.

Now when the show started, I expected something similar to the origanl series, with complex characters, both for the good and bad guys. Even if most of the villains were somewhat crazy with maniacal goals and short-term obsessions. But still, a few of the villains, such as the Zabi family and Char Aznable, had goals that could be understood. They may be evil but you can see how they do not see themselves as bad.

The basic story is ten years after the original series, with the defeat of the Principality of Zeon, the Earth Federation created a new group to ensure no group in space would grow powerful enough to threaten it, called the Titans. In the decade since, the Titans grow into a militaristic powerhouse that subsumes the Earth Federation Military.

And what happens when you give people all the best and latest weaponry and a decent dose of power?

You end up with a "Who watches the watchers" scenario where, on one side, the Titans want to assure and consolidate their power. And on the other, freedom fighters who oppose the move.

I won't go into the many twists of the series, but from the AEUG (Anti-Earth Union Group), the Earth Federation, and the Titans, we later add a group of Neo-Zeon trying to return to prominence.

Our heroes here are a gathering of random people from the latter group. Most have no ideological attachment to one side or the other. Some are there because of someone else. And others have a private reason to join one side. There are 50 episodes, so that makes a LOT of characters.

Of course, my favorite in Gundam-dom, appears here as a good guy. Char Aznable (going by the name Quattro) is a lieutenant in the AEUG and one of their best mobile suit pilot. His presence and participation in the events starts as something of a mystery but his charisma and intelligence shine through as the series progresses. He is Mr Cool throughout the series, keeping his eyes on the prize (most of the time). His reactions are very human and make him an endearing figure throughout the series.

The main character is Kamille. Many people make jokes that his is a woman's name (in French, it is a unisex name). At first, he is a petulant child, but losses and lessons hit him hard at the end.

One side plot involves the many women, on both sides, who try to prove themselves as pilots but also try to figure out their places as women. Their role is contrasted by the women who took on domestic roles. I found the questioning, the answers, and the doubts they went through to be surprisingly deep. They are not just eye candy (though some of their dresses in space are odd choices...). I found myself wondering about the two roles women have. I thought it was a well-presented dilemma overall.

A major element of the story has to be with the Titans trying to control the Earth Federation. The political aspect is important throughout the series because some characters like Char have to pull double-duty: pilot and politician.

Char's speech in Dakar is pretty powerful and one I thought was truly a highlight of the Gundam universe. (You can see the full speech on Wikiquote). It encapsulates everything that is right about Gundam. I copied the final paragraph because it speaks of a timeless truth, of a tyrant losing his grip on power and the extremes he will go to to keep that power.

The Titans have started a battle above us, disregarding the lives of the delegates of this Assembly. You can see the brutality of their actions for yourselves. They set themselves above the regular Earth Federation Forces, and smear anyone who opposes them as terrorists. But it is their own arrogance that is their greatest sin; it will be the ruin of humanity! Those of you who have been watching these events unfold on television must realize by now that this is who the Titans are. I admit, it was wrong of us to take over this Assembly, but what of the Titans, who are trying to destroy it with the representatives still inside? Would they even destroy their own supporters among them?!

Another thing the series does well is to draw in characters from the Original Series, give them a cameo role that plays into the bigger story. This is the case of Amuro Rey, of Frau Bow (now Kobayashi), and Mineva Zabi. These characters come in for a few moments or episodes before fading in the background as we focus on Kamille. Now I don't like "Uber good boy" Amuro but I liked that he stayed on Earth when Kamille returns to space. We touch base with him later when they return to Earth.

When we first meet him, I worried that we'd get a massive blob of characters, similar to the latest era of Doctor Who when fifteen characters all try to say something and everyone's plot gets drowned in noise.

The team of Z Gundam are not modern-day writers. They did it right. So much so, that I feel like a series could be developped around the adventure of Amuro and Hayato as they fight the titans on Earth. Their actions are important but do not detract from the gravitas of what we see. Though there is something there for sure. Well done team.

Now... one element that looks really odd has to deal with physical contact. Yes, some dudes just randomly grab the women's breast or butts and no subtly. They are quickly slapped but still it took me by surprise.

Another is whenever a subordonate refuses or challenges an order, the commanding officer slaps or punches the subordinate. Kamille gets his butt kicked a few times, especially early on.

Now... This series is ABSOLUTELY BRUTAL. I mean people die. A LOT. Named and unnamed characters meet their end. Their deaths are sudden, and even when a Titan gets killed, I felt sad about the loss. Long-time rivals like Jerid, Mouar, and Bask in particular.

The series ends on a sad note, with Kamille's mind getting completely broken. This series takes no prisoners and really lets you know that no one escapes war without serious loss. No one wins. Only, the Titans are defeated. A lot of people died.

So... I did not have to deliberate very long about this one. The animation is dated, but the fight scenes still deliver, the story is good, and the characters different and each with their own subplot and the questioning it presents spot on.

This is the type of great entertainment that, had I seen as a child, I would have loved it. Mecha, missiles, action, girls, everything I like (still). However as I watch as an adult... the questioning and dilemmas become most important. Pixar did that on a few of its products too.

My rating for this is a clear 4/5. This is a solid and highly enjoyable anime that's more than firing missiles and laser swords.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Played Kanabo RPG - Mini Review

This past Saturday (Nov 12), I went on Warhorn and joined a random game that was announce to be "Bushido." I was interested and wanted to play that game forever but never got the opportunity (or when I did get the opportunity, there were other things I wanted to do more).

So the adventure was called "Kwaidan" - the same as the movie of the same name and that loosely translates to "Ghost Story". The movie is awesome and beautiful at the same time, presenting us with four tales of ghost. Many of them fairly well known today. One of the things I love about these old Japanese horror movies for their aesthetics.

But enough about the movies, on to the gaming!

Well... the game turned out NOT to be Bushido but a rules-light system called Kanabo by Monkey's Paw Games. Very story game.

Background of the setting (as presented) was a non-descript Japan where a major war ended about five years ago. The specifics were not important. Cool. Still in.

How rules light? You have 4 stats Earth (discipline, durability), Fire (aggressivity, speed), Water (inquisitivity, tranquility), and Wind (grace, intuition). D100 system (I have Ea22 Fi39 Wa26 Wi33), so someone who is aggressive and agile but without much consistency or insistence. Background generated through character generation elements. I was born in a castle and an artist by trade.

So I came up with a quick story: I worked as a painter in a village with my family. A drunk samurai set the house on fire while I was away. I plot revenge against him but am too much of a coward to actually do anything about it. So, in an effort to steel my (crappy) resolve, I became an adventurer/ investigator for hire.

One unique element of the game: if you die (and the system is pretty deadly), you make a new character the party encounters shortly afterwards. "Poor Hiro, he was a good friend... But hey there Tatsu the villager" We had one death that could easily have been more than that.

Okay already, I liked it. It was simple, quick and highly versatile. Setting and rules easy to grasp. I won't give you all the details of the adventure but it were confronted with some ghosts that gave us little chance. A great little story game.

My rating? It was a 3/5. I don't see this game as something I would like to run a campaign with. But it is a nice system, perfect for a one-shot: quick, simple, and fun.

Saturday, November 5, 2022

[Release] Races of the Planes: Githzerai

Now, you may know that I am working on a plane-hopping campaign, something that harks back to the days of Planescape - or perhaps more accurately to the days of its predecessor: the Manual of the Planes or the Tales from the Outer Planes. Therein, you got your party to go from one plane to another solving problems.

This adventure/campaign is going to be a loose sequel to Witches of Pikemaster which was published earlier this year. As I was writing WoP, I had a number of additional ideas and elements I had to cut in the interest of brevity. However, all that research would not get wasted as I came up with a number of potential products that would go great with it.

Race of the Planes: Githzerai is just the first of a number of small products meant to accompany this new campaign. Yet, they can easily be added to your home campaign. To add a touch of planar flavor. This product was purposefully kept short and small because of the vast amount of lore out there, and each edition giving them a slightly different flavor. Either clarifying or expanding the lore. I opted to let each GM define the full racial flavor and background.

Initially appearing in the Fiend Folio the githzerai were psionic slavers who hated both the mind flayers and their githyanki cousins. In time, the slaving aspect was drop to focus more their introspective aspect.

Want to get it for 50% off? Races of the Planes: Githzerai has been added to the FOE Character Option Bundle, giving you access to new character races, such as the Amazons, the Princesses, and now the Githzerai. A lot of goodies! And if you bought some already, you may actually get it for free or almost free! Check it out.

This product is now available on the DM's Guild.

Thursday, November 3, 2022

[Kinda Book Review] Showcase Elongated Man vol 1

I picked this one up during a big comic sale wanting to read something different. Having read about the Elongated Man while reading the New 52 (reviewed part 1/4, part 2/4, and part 3-4/4). He was one of the characters whose arc I was interested in. So why not go to the source and read the earliest appearances of the character...


The story starts with a few cameos in the pages of flash. These are stories from the early 60s by DC. They are trying to write "mysteries" but they fail. The stories all go the same way. EM and his wife are somewhere and find a "mystery". EM then stretches around, finds the goons responsible, beats them up and win.

In the 500 pages of comic in this book, in no case does EM face against a real super villain. He has no enemy, no recurrent opponent. And no real storyline. Other heroes show up as cameos, with their own villains and they do not do much together.

The line art is mostly good, but oftentimes when EM is fighting, he stretches odd parts of himself and that takes a few moments to understand what is going on.

So I rate it a 2/5. Weak stories and enough odd drawings justifies this. Yeah, I'm good with a 2.