Horror junkie that I am, I started playing Tecmoâ€™s Fatal Frame II for the Playstation 2 this morning.
Knowing the Japaneseâ€™s mastery of horror, I was expecting a thrill ride with this gameâ€¦ and I was not disappointed. Fatal Frame II is one of the creepiest games that I have every played. Yes, the Americans can also make good horror games (like The Suffering, Clive Barkerâ€™s Undying, Doom) but when it comes to consistency of quality, white-knuckle horror, and an almost cinematic pacing I doff my hat off to the Japanese. They have really got the formula right.
In fact, almost all the games that come from Japan boast of the kind of mastery of atmosphere and storytelling that always keeps me coming back for more. Games like Hideo Kojimaâ€™s Metal Gear Solid series (the first PlayStation title of which is considered as one of the most cinematic and innovative games of all time), Shigeru Miyamotoâ€™s Legend of Zelda, the slew of Final Fantasy games that virtually define the limits of in-game immersion every time one of the latest iterations is released, are just some of the many video games that are blurring the line between cinema and gaming as well as reinterpreting for the new millennium what story telling should be about.
I donâ€™t know what the Japanese videogame creatorsâ€™ inspirations are that make them continually push the boundaries of creativity in making video games. Every time someone from another country is proclaimed to have the edge, the Japanese just quietly release a slew games that are so jaw-dropping in its ingenuity, level of immersion, and quality that just leaves its competitors biting digital dust.
Posted January 28th, 2006 by geisha+ | Comment (0)
I was never one of those kids who got everything they wanted. When it comes to toys, my parents were quite firm in their policy of â€œtoys only for christmasâ€ and never the expensive ones at that. That is why I grew up not really getting the cool toys that most of my classmates or playmates had. This meant never owning a gaming console of my own.
The first console to capture the imagination of children was the Atari. The US-made gaming machine was THE toy to have in the early 80â€™s. Unfortunately, I only got to play it when I would stay over at my friendâ€™s house.
The next console that really captured the imagination of children the world over was the Nintendo Entertainment System. The 8-bit gaming monster in the ubiquitous creamy white and red combo was such a great departure from the flat, vector graphics of the Atari. This was also the first time that I and the rest of the world started taking notice of Japanâ€™s entry into the video gaming industry.
And what an entry it was. From then on Japan wrested the video gaming crown from the United States and continued its dominance in the industry up to the present.
What makes Japan such a global force in video gaming? Itâ€™s the double threat of making powerful gaming consoles as well as the creativity in making video games that are challenging and yet a lot of fun. Video gaming clearly shows the kind of forward-thinking ingenuity that has made Japan what it is today â€“ one of the most admired countries in the world.
Posted January 28th, 2006 by geisha+ | Comment (0)
Since my topic was Japanese cinema for my last blog post please allow me to talk some more about Japanese films, most especially the horror genre.
I have always loved horror movies. It was my guilty pleasure during my teen years. I would devour horror movies like they were caramel popcorn. Quality was never a criteria for me when it came to horror. B-movies, straight-to-video boobfests, Iâ€™d watch them with gusto. Of course, at that time everything was all about American horror because that was what the local video stores would carry. I got to watch Romero, Raimi, and Cormanâ€™s oeuvres, as well as the weird b-movie stylings of (the stuff).
But of course, Japanese horror â€“ once I discovered it â€“ blew all of those pretenders away!
What makes Japanese horror so good? Simple. The reliance on atmosphere and quiet foreboding, which is so far removed from the American horror formula of sudden surprises that are designed to make you scream. Japanese horror, to my mind, is so much more mature and really drives the elements of horror home. You rarely scream when you watch Japanese horror films â€“ yes, youâ€™d sometimes jump in your seat, or maybe even scream. But what makes Japanese horror stand out is when you turn off the TV or when you go out of the theater. Japanese horror is like some supernatural soot that attaches itself to your skin and is hard to shake off. It lingers at the back of your mind and plays tricks with it. The mind is the malleable plaything of Japanese horror.
Posted January 26th, 2006 by geisha+ | Comment (1)
I have always loved cinema â€“ world cinema, that is.
I have loved movies ever since I can remember, voraciously watching what I can in the theater near where I grew up. My dad would usually take us to watch a movie during the weekend. And since this weekly movie viewing habit was quite regular, we would watch whatever was showing in the theater. It could be an action movie one weekend, a horror movie the next. This meant that at an early age I was getting immersed in many different film genres.
But one film genre that I discovered for myself are foreign films. The rest of my family hated reading subtitles (as my sister used to say, â€œIf I wanted to read, Iâ€™d go to school!â€). From then on, my pursuit of foreign cinema became a singular passion, one that I can claim that is all my own.
As I said, I love foreign cinema, but if I can pick only one country that I would say really embodies everything that I loved about film and every aspect that embodies it, I wouldnâ€™t even think twice.
It would be Japanese cinema.
I think that Japanese cinema embodies everything that made me love films in the first place. Japanese cinema has a beauty and poetry to it that permeates all of its genres. Be it drama, horror, action, even comedy â€“ Japanese auteurs can convey that lush poetry on screen. Whereas as American cinemaâ€™s defining element is loudness, Japanese cinema is all about capturing poetic resonance on celluloid. From Ozuâ€™s ultra-minimalist directing style, to Kurosawaâ€™s masterful framing to Oshimaâ€™s subversive storytelling to Nakataâ€™s quiet horror â€“ Japanese cinema shows that you donâ€™t need to shout to be heard and that the subtlest touch can have the impact of the most powerful blows.
Posted January 25th, 2006 by geisha+ | Comment (0)
As a kid I was weaned on US-style cartoons â€“ most especially of the Disney and Hanna Barbera variety. These are the cute and cuddly cartoon shorts, that had pleasant and cuddly anthropomorphic characters â€“ the Bambis, the Poohs, the Dalmatians of our childhood.
Little did I know that Japan, the land of the Rising Sun and the homeland of sushi, had been for decades developing their own unique brand of cartoons that are so far off the US cartoon paradigm it looked like it evolved completely on its own. And they call it anime.
Ever since I saw my first Go Nagai anime (Mazinger Z) I have been hooked on the Japanese subculture of anime. Personally, I think anime is loads better than its US counterparts mainly because of the themes that are being tackled and handled in these â€œJapanese cartoonsâ€. Even the most mundane animes that are geared towards children tackle some very serious themes as a subtext. The fact that I can use the word â€œsubtextâ€ in explaining something as â€œchild-likeâ€ as Hayao Miyazakiâ€™s My Neighbor Totoro or Porco Rosso goes to show just how brilliantly made anime is. One of the milestones that I mark for my passion for anime happened when I was in my early teens. I was watching Macross and my mind was still working within the US cartoon paradigm. But then one scene completely shattered the whole US paradigm for me. This was when one of the main characters actually DIED in one of the episodes. For a main cartoon character to die right in front of you was unthinkable for me. That was like saying Snow White did not sleep but actually died eating the poisoned apple. That one episode of Macros defined anime for me from then on â€“ maverick, unpredictable and the coolest art form on the planet.
Posted January 23rd, 2006 by geisha+ | Comment (0)
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Posted January 1st, 2006 by geisha+ | Comment (1)