Monthly Archives: April 2015

The Childhood Sweetheart Trope as Interpreted by 999 and Danganronpa

One of the most predictable and used tropes for anime, and in general other media, is the Childhood Sweetheart Trope (CST). A pre-ten year old boy and girl meet each other for the first time, acquire puppy love, and then are tragically separated due to extraneous circumstances before they meet up again as young adults. They fall in love again through a series of mishaps or adventures and then get married. There can be some fidgeting with this but for the most part this is basically the sub or main plot for a lot of romantic/semi-romantic anime ranging from the humorous Love Hina to the very gruesome Elfen Lied.

I am critical of this trope though for several reasons besides its foreseeable conclusions. One is that the characters, especially the female ones, are quite dull or one sided and have no overall personal goals or conflicting feelings that paint them as actual people. Two is that we as the audience already expect them to get together and thus when we see the boy or the girl dating someone else we know it will end badly. Three is that the trope has a very predestined feel behind it, especially if the boy and girl make a marriage promise, as the girl and boy are fated towards this end result no matter what they do. Finally, the girl characters are treated like rewards or trophies for the boy, especially if we primarily follow the boy’s POV, and not as actual humans.

Now I know this is not always the case (e.g., Elfen Lied) but CST is certainly prevalent in the story telling community. As such, I want to discuss two stories, the DS game 999 and the visual novel game/anime Danganronpa, and their unique interpretation of this dry trope. These two stories have an interesting approach to this tired theme and I wanted to gush why I think these two nailed it (and of course, spoilers).

Lower row, directly in the middle is Makoto and to his right is the blue-haired Sayaka. Image from http://www.egmnow.com/articles/reviews/egm-review-danganronpa-trigger-happy-havoc/#

Let’s start with Danganronpa, our main character, Makoto Naegi, likes Sayaka Maizono, a pop idol girl, whom he became acquainted with in middle school. The two hadn’t seen each other until the events depicted in Danganronpa and they hit it off well as they’re the only people they’re familiar with in the whole cast of characters. There is an implied mutual attraction and support between the pair.

Though they didn’t know each other before middle school, this is still the CST at heart as they were separated at a young age before being reacquainted several years later. When the terrible events of Danganronpa unfold, the story seems to set up the notion that their relationship will only get stronger before they become an actual couple.

However, this does not happen as a fellow student murders Sayaka and as such, we see the first twist Danganronpa offers for the CST. Makoto and Sayaka’s relationship will not blossom but Sayaka now becomes a martyr for Makoto, a beacon to for Makoto to triumph in the end.

Although Sayaka’s death may be inspirational, she is still a rather flat character. That was the case until an episode after her death revealed her hidden intentions. Sayaka, in all her innocent goodiness, was planning on murdering a fellow student and then frame Makoto for it. Of course, the murder doesn’t go as plan and she got murdered instead. This shocks both Makoto and us the viewer. We are set up at the beginning that Sayaka would be an innocent, loving girl and yet her actions had proved otherwise. Why did she do it? Well, we’re shown in the previous episode that her band members were severely hurt/already dead and probably would not be saved unless she murdered someone and successfully got away with it.

This…is awesome.

Her reasons for murdering actually seem sensible (besides, you know, the whole murder thing). Her band members are in grave danger and she has known them for years, they’re probably like family to her! Seeing them in peril prompted her to act the way she did so she could try and save them. She tricked Makoto into switching rooms with her, lured a student to the said room for the promise of teaching him music, and then attempted to murder that student and blame it on Makoto. Since she barely knows Makoto, she didn’t have any strong emotional attachment to him and thus didn’t have a problem in framing him for murder. I actually want to see an alternate universe where she did murder the student and and how Makoto would react to that.

Though I kind of thought she would be the first one to get murdered, I definitely did not see her ulterior motives coming and was nicely surprised by it. These first few episodes definitely set the tone for the rest of the series. Well played, Danganronpa.

Guy in the middle frame with the blue vest is Junpei and to his right is Akane.  Image from http://zeroescape.wikia.com/

Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors just takes this trope though and blows it out of the water. Now, this game has so many ideas, themes, and morals behind it that I try to find any excuse to talk even just one of them. In this case, I want to talk 999’s interpretation of the CST as it’s just amazing.

Our main character is Junpei, a 21-year-old college student who is found on a rigged-to-blow cruise liner and must play the “Nonary Game” in order to escape from it. He meets eight other characters after escaping from his cabin room, one of which is Akane Kurashiki (alias “June”), whom he knew when they were kids. IMMEDIATELY, when Junpei explained who she was I was like “Ah, crap, here we go, another Childhood Sweetheart story.” I was not looking forward to Akane and I actively avoided her early on in the game. She seemed like such a flat character, another one of those innocent, sweethearts or whatever.

Well, as you may know, there are multiple endings to the game. After the first time through (I died of course), I went a different route but this time I actively engaged with Akane more often.

Holy crap, she’s funny, and a bit crazy too. Her sexually suggestive quips embarrassed Junpei (lol) and her crazy metaphysical concepts made him question her sanity. I was happily surprised how untypical she was while I was playing the game.

In fact, the more I played the game the more I realized that there was something really special about Akane but I couldn’t figure out why.

And then, wham, I came across the true ending to the game and my mind was blown. It was revealed that all along she was the one behind the “Nonary Game” and it was all an elaborate setup to not only get back at the people who hurt her ten years ago but also to save her from her own death.

Okay, where to begin.

When Akane was a kid, she was trapped in a room that was going to burn her alive. Her only way out was to solve a puzzle that she didn’t know how to answer. Her only way out was to telepathically communicate Junpei and have him solve the puzzle instead. How? Well, this is the part where things get crazy. One of the themes of the game is that the past is set but the future has multiple paths laid out. Akane tapped into that idea by communicating to Junpei ten years in the future and have him solve the puzzle instead. Her future self created an environment that was exactly similar to her past’s environment. This allowed Past Akane to look into the different future paths and try to steer Junpei to the puzzle that she could not solve. This is why the game has multiple endings (which blew my mind, this game did that a lot for me), Akane is trying to find that perfect ending. Once Junpei figured out the puzzle in the exact same environment, he telepathically communicated the answer back to past Akane and then she was able to figure it out.

This is actually why present Akane would inexplicably collapse when she and Junpei were exploring their environments. If the player chooses a wrong path (i.e., the path that takes them to the life-or-death puzzle) then present Akane would become sick because Junpei is not exposed to the puzzle, which means he can’t solve it, which means he can’t communicate the answer back to past Akane, which means she will die in the burning room, which means present Akane will die as well. Wrap your head around that one.

There are internet articles out there that like to deconstruct this concept into pieces and explain why this is so amazing so I won’t go into that. But what I do want to say is that all of this…the telepathy, the puzzles, the multiple endings, and the character herself just utterly destroy the CST. Whether done intentionally or not, 999 builds up CST and then just tears it down piece by piece and I really liked that. It’s not often that a storyteller has effortlessly guided my initial opinion of a character into making me think one way of them and then pull the rug from me and reveal what truly lies there. So good.

Image from Amazon.com

Okay, so what do these two stories have in common?  Why do I like them both?

Both of them set up the boy and girl’s relationship very casually, almost as if they were simply cookie-cutting the trope into their twisted plots but still keeping true to CST.  In Danganronpa, Makoto and Sayaka would get out of the murder game alive and become a couple; in 999, Junpei and Akane defeat Zero through the power of a emerging love.  However, this does not happen.  We are given a scenario where both Sayaka and Akane have ulterior motives and are trying desperately to win no matter what the costs.  We see what makes them tick and why they acted the way they did.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that these two females felt like actual people to me.  They feared, they planned, they made hard decisions, and they are not defined by simply trying to find that special someone or being in love.  That may be a part of them yes but it’s not the full picture.  I really liked that but it’s unfortunate that these characters stood out to me because they directly oppose a rather flat trope.  Regardless, because of their actions, they are what help make 999 and Danganronpa great as they took this trope and punched it right in the face.  Now that is awesome.

Unapologetic Nerd will be on hiatus next week in preparation for an extensive Star Wars article for Star Wars Day.  It will focus on one of my favorite novels in the series.  Don’t forget to check it out!

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Pokemon in the Biology Lab

I’ve been teaching introductory biology labs for several semesters now and if there’s one thing that I learned it’s that you have a limited time to teach your students the current week’s material before they get bored. Most of the time, this is not an issue as students have already become familiar with the topic thanks to the lecture. As such, lab lecture is more or less reminding students of the material and less of teaching them something new. After a short introduction we get right into the lab and have some fun.

But for the times when the lab is covering something new, things can get a little tricky. I heard somewhere before that you have five minutes to teach your students the pre-lab material before they begin to zone out. Five minutes, unfortunately, is painfully short and as such, I try to mix things up as best as I can so my pupils can continue to remain engaged (one time I even dressed up as a Eukaryotic cell and asked my students what each of my organelles do to keep me alive).

Such as the case two weeks ago when we tackled the vertebrate diversity lab. One of my favorite labs ever, the students were divided into three groups and each group dissected three different vertebrates; a lamprey, a dogfish, a perch, a mudpuppy, a frog, an anoles lizard, a turtle, a pigeon, and a rat. These animals represented the numerous broad groups of vertebrates; agnathans, chondrichthyes, osteichthyes, amphibians, squamates, turtles, archosaurs, and mammals. The overall message for that week’s lab, through the dissection of the nine animals, was that vertebrates have all evolved from a simple body plan to accommodate their environment and lifestyles.

Now, on the whiteboard, I had drawn a simplified version of a vertebrate phylogenetic tree as provided to the students by their lab book. However, as I was talking about each group of animals, I would slap on a printed-out picture of a Pokémon as an example of that animal such as Eelektross for agnathans.

pokemon phylogenetics, vertebrates, pokemon

Yes, I know this vertebrate tree is highly simplified but this was the level of education the lab was focusing on for the students. The class textbook goes into greater detail about the intricate relationships. All images are from bulbapedia.

Eelektross is always the first animal/Pokémon I would use as it represents the first branch off of the tree. Immediately, once I place this Electric-type Pokémon on the tree, everyone sits up and takes notice. I like to think that I have jarred them out of their sleepy, spaced-out zone and thrust them into something that they don’t know about (if they’re not Pokémon fans) or have much interest in (if they are Pokémon fans). Even if they’re not familiar with Pokémon, I would give my students a real life example of that animal it represents (lampreys) and then explain what sets this animal apart from all the other animals in the small phylum. After doing so, I would continue to the other animal branches and elaborate what makes them so special all the while continuing to slap on example Pokémon on the whiteboard.

Besides doing this for comedic sake, I like to use Pokémon for two reasons. One, using Pokémon is a way to get students interested in the subject manner at hand. Many of my students are pre-Med or pharmaceutical majors and that’s totally fine. But here, at the doorstep of all that is biology, where students are exposed to so many different topics that they will never tackle again in their future, I try my damnedest to show them how awesome those weird and unique topics are even if they may be as seemingly uninteresting as plants or population genetics. I know I will not convince many of my students to change their chosen path in life but if I have just one student that just stopped and ponder briefly whether they should pursue another topic in biology because of my lab, then I have succeeded. Using Pokémon is just one of many ways I try to generate excitement of all that is biology (paleontology is another one as well, of course).

The second reason why I like to use Pokémon is that I try to encourage a friendly, welcoming environment in my lab. I like to have a lab where people can be themselves. My icebreaker question even sets the tone for my labs as I ask each of my students what they’re nerdy about. Let me tell you, this question is great as I get to learn so much from my students and I get to relate to them for that particular hobby at hand or a hobby that’s close to it. I even like to chat to them as the semester progresses about certain news that may pertain to their nerdy hobby such as a recent episode in Game of Thrones or a movie update for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Be yourself and be open to new ideas. As gimmicky as these may sound, I adhere to them like a barnacle on a hard substrate. I don’t know how well these two ideas have been picked up by my students, but I will say that they…I don’t want to necessary say “enjoy”…but certainly like my labs judging by my evaluations. I hope though in the long run, maybe 10 or even 20 years from now, they’ll remember my lab lectures and one day recall, while playing Trivia Pursuit, that Mantine is a manta ray and all manta rays are chondrichthyes and then they’ll win the game! But I’m just fantasizing at this point.

One Year Anniversary for Unapologetic Nerd (with my favorite articles)

One year ago to this day I published my first article for Unapologetic Nerd. This blog was a test. A test to see if I could publish an article every week for one year. So many blogs on the internet become inactive after only a few months of use. I resolved not to let that happen. And I’m happy to say that, beside a few minor exceptions, I was able to keep that promise! Today marks the 70th article of my year long blog.

The best part is how much this blog has grown since I first began. From April 7th to the 30th, 2014, I had less than a hundred views total. However, just last week on the 1st, I well exceeded that mark. I sympathize with a lot of bloggers out there who may get discouraged easily. Blogging is no easy task. Don’t expect instant and huge feedback. Even now, I’m still on the low end compared to a whole bunch of other blogs.

But I like to think it’s not about view count. I like to think that this blog has been an accumulation of me as a person, who I am and what I love and what I like to think about. I may write about what’s popular every now and then but I also like to write about obscure things that I’m a nerd about such as Columbo, Chrononauts, and Harry Turtledove even if they are my lowest viewed articles.

Honestly, the biggest reason why I started blogging was so I could become an intern at the national parks. The applications for them always have a section for electronic media experience, something that I’m woefully unacquainted with. But this past year, I became familiar with both blogging and podcasting. The results? It was a success! This blog, the podcast, my teaching, and much more have helped me become an intern at Fossil Butte National Monument this summer! Needless to say, I’m looking forward to it.

Now, will I continue writing? I like to think so. This website has slowly become less of a chore and more of who I am and what I do. I might take a break now and then to recharge or to make higher quality articles but I still have ideas and articles that I can still write. Even now, I have been forcing myself to write more thoughtful and thesis-like articles and less on reviews for video games or board games (even though they’re still fun to write).

However, my current thesis work has been challenging and time engaging and has forced me to move away from my blog. Again, I’m glad this anniversary has come up as I’m worried the quality of my articles has been lacking as of late. I want to make sure my thesis is of high quality even if it’s at the cost of my blog. Regardless, I will continue writing on here cause I love doing it and I love seeing other people read it even if I still get less than a hundred views a day, haha.

Without further ado, I want to list my favorite articles from the past year. These are articles that I think were written well, or a lot of people seemed to like or comment on, or even ones that seem to garner consistent readers. I aspire to continue to make quality articles like these and maybe even surpass them one day. Link’s in the description!

02_Our_War_Game

Digimon Our War Game: Dub vs. Sub and Summer Wars and Digimon: Our War Game are Both Great Films: Both of these articles were popular on the digimon subreddit and even one of my favorite podcasts ever, Podigious, commented how they liked my Sub vs. Dub article! That was definitely a highlight for my blog. They rank high on the viewership, got some great replies, and I honestly feel like I have given both articles some fair and comparative analysis. These articles are probably my favorite on my blog. Plus, it didn’t hurt that the source material these articles came from was great quality!

The Cartoon Network Renaissance: This is my highest viewed article without any subreddit influence. I really appreciate the layout of this article as it doesn’t start off with some exposition. That’s one problem I’ve been facing while writing articles, a boring introduction caked with exposition. But the exposition that is in there is well placed and continues smoothly. And I just like this article in general.

My Feelings on Over the Garden Wall (Spoilers): Another good article that has a great opening. I really poured my heart into this one. Also, a lot of my articles, admittedly, were written the night before and it certainly shows. Even though this article was also written the night before, it’s still pretty good! I like this one.

Nostalgia Filter Test: Jackie Chan Adventures: My first Nostalgia Filter Test article. It was fun rewatching Jackie Chan Adventures (except season 5…) and the show held up better than I expected it to. I also just like talking about Jackie Chan Adventures so any excuse to do so is a good excuse. I need to do another NFT in the future…I got one in mind but I’ll cross that bridge when I have the time to do so.

If the actual ref was here, the turtle ref would have been used in kart racing.

Why Turtle Science is Good Science: I mentioned before how science articles take a long time to write so I haven’t written that many of them unfortunately. They can also be convoluted or heavy if not written well. This one though, my first science article, is really slick and I got a lot of nice feedback on it. It’s really a great article I think.

He Died as He Lived: Karl Patterson Schmidt: The turtle article may be my favorite science article but this one still ranks up there. This article especially needed to be handled carefully since it does involve a death after all.  I like to think I handled the circumstances surrounding Dr. Schmidt’s death well while still pointing out the irony of the situation.  I also like how short and to the point it is. I also like how its featured on the first page of Google which is a nice bonus.  I have another HDaHL article in mind but I won’t publish it until I know it’s ready.

steghost

Ancient Animals and their Fakemon: Stegosaurus: And finally, save one of the best for last. There have only been three AAatF on this blog. I wish there were more but these articles definitely take the longest to make. Mary has to draw the fakemon while I have to write an accurate, up-to-date article about the animal at hand. We’ve been kicking around with a few fakemon but they haven’t gotten off the ground yet.

Stegosaurus (and Steghost) is the best among the three as it’s nicely polished, well fleshed out, and the fakemon was nicely crafted. Everything about Stegosaurus I talked about affected Steghost in one form or another. I like how Mary interpreted Steghost and gave it a nice spooky vibe. Thagomize also remains one of my favorite fake-attacks ever, it’s so awesome and I wish it actually existed. Hell, Steghost is just so cool that I would train the hell out of it, haha. This article is definitely one of my favorites and I always like it when an article comes out so perfect (and if there’s an ancient animal you would like us to do then give a shout!).

 

Well, that’s it for my list. As for the future, well that’s still up in the air. I know I’ll be writing for a long time as I still have article ideas but when the internship happens, I might place the blog on hold or I might not. Really, I’m playing it by ear at this point. But for you, dear reader, I thank you for reading this and I hope you have a wonderful day!

One Year Later: Evaluating my Super Smash Bros Predictions

One year ago, I was preparing to start my own weekly blog by prewriting several articles to ensure I would meet my self-imposed deadline. Unfortunately, my blog started much earlier than expected thanks to an ill-timed Nintendo Direct video. The unlikely article that was now forced to become my first article for Unapologetic Nerd was “Possible New Smash Bros Characters.” I want to look back now and evaluate how good were my guesses. Some of them I got right, others I got close to, while the rest I was completely wrong about.

The Ones I got Right

Only two characters from my list were correct and granted, this is pretty good all things considering! The Mii Character was the first one and although I envisioned Mii using a variety of everyday objects such as a tennis racket or a golf club as weapons, Nintendo surprised us with a diverse character that could be a brawler, a shooter, or a swordsman. Still though, the inclusion of Mii into Super Smash Brothers was still an obvious choice thanks to their ubiquitous presence from the past seven years or so.

Less of an obvious choice was Mewtwo. Like so many other fans, I hoped dearly that Mewtwo would make a return even though it seemed unlikely thanks to the large amount of Pokémon fighters. Initially it seemed like he wouldn’t but that changed thanks to the Super Smash Brothers-only Nintendo Direct and its great reveal of Mewtwo. And let me tell you, I’m super looking forward to playing him again!

Characters I almost got Correct

Last year, I strongly predicted that Chrom from Fire Emblem: Awakening would be a new fighter. I was…not quite correct…Lucina was the first new character but the more new interesting character was Robin. Robin answered my problem with Chrom as I thought of him as too similar to the other swordfighters. Robin, however, was more diverse using both magic and swords to fight his opponents. And hey! Chrom makes an appearance anyway in the final smash for Robin!

Completely Wrong

Last year, I was predicting many favorite Third Party characters that starred in Nintendo consoles such as Simon Belmont, Bomberman, Professor Layton, and Banjo-Kazooie. I also guessed characters from already-represented franchises like Ryu and Phoenix Wright (CAPCOM) and Tails (SEGA). Third Party Characters were unfortunately low this time but I still can’t believe I missed one of the most famous video game characters of all time, Pac-Man (who is super fun to play btw!).

King K. Rool and Paper Mario also unfortunately didn’t make the cut despite how amazing both of them would be. I’m especially sad about the King K. Rool as we definitely need more bad guy as well as Donkey Kong representatives.

But…

The best part about all of this though is that there is still a chance that these characters can be in the game! Ever since Nintendo revealed in their latest Nintendo Direct that you can vote for a new Super Smash Brother character, I have seen a wide variety of requests from various screenshots promoting many of the characters I have talked about here. What’s more, Nintendo allowing third party characters to be included has open the door for a diverse set of possibilities. Many of the developers and owners of these characters have already expressed interest for their character to be featured in the game including WayForward’s Shantae, TeamMeat’s Meatboy, and perhaps most exciting of all, Xbox’s Banjo-Kazooie.

If I were to guess, we probably won’t be hearing about character selection anytime soon. Maybe at the earliest they’ll be announced in Autumn but more realistically speaking I’m thinking we’ll know by early next year. Still though, if my blog were to continue on for another year, I’m pretty sure I’ll be writing another article evaluating my predictions from the new DLC characters and I hope this time, Bomberman will finally be chosen.

Tomorrow, I’ll post my one year anniversary article where I pick my favorite articles I have written and a little about my experience on the website. Thanks for reading!