Was Meruem’s criticism of humanity valid?

“I was born as the King of Ants, the crowning glory of life. All of your kind evolved solely to produce me. I am the culmination of generations of their unhesitating service. You are one of many, and no king. Of course you could never win!!
“Meruem, King of Ants, you understand nothing… of humanity’s infinite potential for evolution”

Note: It was infinite potential for *malice* in the manga but that’s a discussion for another day

How infinite is humanity’s potential to evolve?

Netero Laughing at King of Ants

Firstly, what an epic scene that was. Probably in my top 5 character deaths in anime.

So what struck me about his last words was “humanity’s infinite potential for evolution”. Something that I have pondered from time to time. So I guess this is me reflecting on humanity’s potential to evolve and whether we are making the most of our potential.

You may be wondering why reflect on human evolution now? Well we seem to be facing a broad range of issues: Overpopulation, climate change, resource scarcity, slowdown in technological innovation. We are running out of time to solve these global issues thus times like these when our existence is on the line we must…evolve.

Humans vs. The Next Threat

Parastye attempts to eat human's head off

Seeing how quickly the Chimera Ants became a significant threat, showed how easily our extinction could become an imminent possibility. I know it is “only an anime” but some say our imagination is just as important as what we know. And it’s not as if we haven’t seen such themes in entertainment before..

Take the Planet of the Apes movie series. One of the closest mammals to our own DNA, suddenly learns how to communicate through a human experiment and quickly drives the rest of his species into a new age. In theory, this is possible. We are just as likely to experience a scientific breakthrough as a scientific disaster as such.

This also reminds me of Parastye. An anime I recently watched where these alien-like creatures invade the bodies of humans and infiltrate the governing bodies with ease. If you haven’t noticed already, there’s a pattern. Every menace with the power to destabilise us, will use what we have already built to overcome us. The technology we have used to take us so far, can become the weapon that is our undoing.

The Chimera Ants evolved very quickly by imitating humans but eventually this backfired.They started to take on human traits that slowed their progression. Human individuality made them turn on each other, creating cracks in their defenses that allowed the hunters to fight back. The more human they became, the more vulnerable. How has revealed a fatal flaw in our own existence?

Is our diversity hindering the human evolution?

Gon of Hunter x Hunter Begins to Power up

The ecology of the Chimera Ant is focused on the endpoint of all evolution… on me. Humanity, with its messy diversity… its individuals… never had a chance.”

I think many would agree diversity is actually humanity’s best asset. Yuval Noah Harari in his “What explains the rise of human” TED Talk assesses that: “Humans control the planet because they are the only animals that can cooperate both flexibly and in very large numbers. While social insects, the bees, the ants — that can cooperate in large numbers do but their cooperation is very rigid”.

This probably explains the Ant King’s bias towards a less democratic form of governance. Although maybe there was some truth in what he was saying?

Human beings have stopped evolving after becoming the only species to “put halt to natural selection of its own free will”, Sir David Attenborough said, as he predicted the “cultural evolution” of the future. The current definition of natural selection is quite primitive for the 21st century so I have expanded it by including producing not only “offspring” but a workforce through education. And to incorporate not just the physical but intellectual traits. I.e. Surviving by passing on our intelligence onto the newer generations, producing offspring and workforce more adapted to their current and near-future conditions of their environment.

Why have we stopped evolving?

Mereum asks Why King in Power1Mereum questions talent and skill HxHMereum questions human ways

Meruem questioned our hierarchical systems referring to how we allow less talented minds to rule us.

It is reasonable and ethically human of us to demand a fairer society. One that has human rights, equality and balanced representation in positions of power. This is what political movements have been fighting for centuries. But my question is that whether this hindering us from evolving by no longer elevating the most talented to the top of our hierarchies? Are we maximising the intelligence within our societies in order to go onto better things?

I believe in diversity but I do question the idea of status quotas. I do question putting people into powerful positions in the name of diversity. This quote on a matriarchy society summarises one way of seeing the reserve of human evolution as we deprioritise our most talented and skilled citizens in key industries.

Diversity makes sense, but is it slowly clouding our judgement? I watched the Matt Damon interview where he was simply trying to say, he wanted to pick directors on merit first, rather than representation. The media didn’t miss the opportunity to throw his name through the mud but fortunately reddit provided a more balanced view of what transpired. The point is we need to have a fair society but we should not risk the losing our best minds in these agenda-driven rows. But obviously there’s more to life than evolving continuously.

A fairer or a more advanced society – Can we have both?

Meruem Komugi Relationship

“I understood nothing”
“Because of Komugi…I’ve learned that there are different forms of strength… Even on my way here… I killed a child. That child may have had the talent to surpass me in something… I trampled over that seed. For no reason at all… I trampled over it!”

Meruem eventually understood the beauty of life. Of what makes us humans, we can all be great. A black female scientist at MIT may finally find a way for us to explore the galaxy or even time travel, so representation of ethnic minorities and genders is important but we shouldn’t trample over seeds that are already bearing fruit. We need the most talented to help us survive once more, or we may face a threat far worse than a Chimera Ant King with an appetite for world domination.

Why Are Current Gen games not hitting the 1080p 60fps mark as expected?

Tomb Raider Definitive Edition

Since the release of the Xbox One and PS4 the discussions of framerate has been rampant. It was expected that these machines would deliver a consistent level of gaming experience i.e. 1080p 60 fps. In reality a lot of AAA game launches have failed to reach 60fps and even 1080p in certain cases. So when Bethesda announced Fallout 4 would also not reach 60 framerate per second mark, I decided to ask Reddit. And as per usual, my trusted community was able to come up with some plausible answers to my questions as I am a novice in these matters.

Taking some key pieces of wisdom from the “more informed”, I have attempted to breakdown the main reasons behind the lacking framerate within games on Xbox One and PS4.

The Trade Off

Both Xbox One and PS4 can hit 1080p 60fps on games and have. Don’t believe me? Here is the IGN breakdown. The problem is there is a trade-off. These consoles are more powerful than the last generation but they are not powerful enough to render particular games in both 1080p AND at 60fps. So the developers have a choice between graphical fidelity and framerate – aka looking pretty or running smoothly.

A case in practice: Witcher 3

Witcher 3 Screenshot PS4

Initially, there were cheers from PS4 camp as the developers announced it would run the game at 1080p on PS4 and 900p on Xbox One. But upon implementation, the PS4 hasn’t [to date] provided a better experience overall. And when your game is on patch 1.07 – which made things worst – you have to wonder whether you bit off more than you can chew. This shows that when you push consoles to the limit, you risk unfolding new problems that will surely impact the overall gaming experience.

Then there is the marketing perspective – the market responds better to graphics than framerate. As a developer you want to provide an optimum experience but are undecided on where to make the sacrifice. But before you even reach that point, you have to consider how you are going to sell the game first. PR would be great in promoting the capabilities of your 60fps game but consider the number of consumers who have the attention span to read articles about your awesome framerate to those who are inspired by screenshots/footage of your 1080p game. So when it comes to it, you do what sells more – business is business.

Wisdom of the Redditors

Here are some quotes – taken from my Reddit thread – that may explain the issues developers face in creating current gen games:

“For 30 fps, you have to render your scenes in 33ms or less. For 60, you have to do it in 16ms.”

“Technically devs could get every game running at 60 fps if they really wanted to, but they would have to cut graphical detail (simple polygon count) and fancier effects. For example, high quality shadows are notorious for being fps drains.”

“Some people argue that the PS4 is underpowered because it doesn’t do 60fps more often. But I’d bet that even if they gave it more power, many devs would use that extra power for even greater visuals and still run at 30fps.”

“Given X number of resources, you must divide those resources into: Fidelity, Resolution, and Framerate. Given more resources, should we use it to up resolution to 4K? Up framerate to 60? what about 120? Improve Anti-aliasing? Increase draw distance?”

As you can see, it’s all about balance. If you increase one area, you impede another.

Will games eventually reach the 1080p 60fps mark consistently?

The Last of Us Remastered

On certain games, yes. Fighting, sports and first person shooters all require fluid motion and if you look at the IGN breakdown – linked above – you’ll realise this is already the case. The 60fps gameplay allows for more responsive AI, more fluid reactions and extra resolution for the details that matter. For example, these are beneficial when taking a sniper shot on an online gaming session of Battlefield. Every detail counts, whether it’s revealing the precise location of your enemy and timing your shot to a fraction of a second. Another case would be an intensive game of FIFA where every little movement could be the difference that wins the game.

Open World Games Will Proabably Never Run 60fps

Fallout 4 Deathclaw Screenshot

Although, this is different for open-world games. There are other more important factors such as the narrative and the graphical details that provide a more immersive experience. And even if you tried you are faced with new problems of scale. These two quotes from my fellow redditors explain this predicament:

In summary, the Witcher world would be less detailed if it ran at 60fps.

“Take Witcher 3. To have it running at 60fps, you’d likely have to remove a lot of the foliage, which would reduce how alive the world feels. When you’re in the woods, you’re surrounded by trees. Halve the number of trees and the effect would diminish quite a bit.”

With The Last of Us Remastered, they were able to run at optimum levels because:

“TLOU was a game that had only a few characters on screen at a time, that were pretty much carbon copies of one another, and they occupied small areas and it was able to run 60 fps flawlessly.”

Large scale games in 1080p will continue to operate at 30fps, even Bethesda is running Fallout 4 at 30fps. It’s just not worth whatever sacrifice it would take to reach such levels of framerate.

But really, does it matter?

Batman-Arkham-Knight- Gotham City

Based on my personal experience, it does. Having played Wolfenstein: New Order, I could tell instantly the difference in gaming experience at 1080p 60fps. Everything felt very polished and smooth. So when I read headlines that claim the vast improvements – like Uncharted – I see why.

In the end we want the best gaming experience possible (without buying a PC). Based on my personal experience, I am happy with 1080p 30fps games as long as it is stable. Certain games can still look and feel just as amazing at 30fps, like Batman Arkham Knight and (in my opinion) Shadow of Mordor. Witcher 3 is an amazing game, the framerate issues didn’t ruin my PS4 experience but I would have preferred a more stable one without the glitches even if it meant running at 900p.


5 lessons on greatness from One Piece’s Zoro

[Spolier Alert up to Mermen Arc]

Zoro_From_One_Piece-1 Wanted Poster

This guy will eventually be the greatest swordsman in One Piece, it’s pretty much destiny and we all want it to happen. The best part about it is that he would have earned it by the end of the series. It’s not that he was blessed with being naturally gifted or has some family secret passed down to him through the generations. It’s the way he conducts himself that will earn him that prestigious title. For an animated character in a manga who isn’t even the main protagonist, I unashamedly idolise him for his awesome personality traits (and the fact we both have a poor sense of direction).

So what makes this guy so great and what can we learn from him to apply to our own lives? Here are 5 lessons on being great from Roronoa Zoro.

Embrace Risk


Kitetsu Curse vs Zoro From One Piece

Zoro was about to purchase a sword when he realised it was cursed. Instead of letting it affect his decision, he took a gamble. He threw the so-called “cursed” sword in the air, stuck his arm out and put his luck to the test. He knew he needed the best swords possible, if they are cursed then so be it.

Zoro doesn’t run away from danger or risk, instead he embraces it. He also understands that luck has a part to play whether you like it or not. If he is not ready to put it all on the line how can he even fanthom the thought of being the greatest swordsman alive?

Life is full of danger, obstacles and “No Entry” signs. People will tell you, you cannot but if you want to leave your mark then you’ll have to get used to ignoring conventional wisdom and sticking it to the naysayers. If it’s meant to be, so be it. So aim high and be ambitious because it is those without fear who reap the biggest rewards.

Always challenge yourself to be better

Zoro_From_One_Piece_lifting_weights Getting Stronger

Zoro never turns down a challenge. He actively seeks strong opponents and rival swordsmens to battle in a bid to improve himself. I have never seen a complacent Zoro who ever rests on his past successes. This is very important if you want to stand out in your industry or become an expert in your field. You should always be pushing yourself to the next level so never stop challenging yourself to be better.

Find your code and live by it

“If you stand for nothing, you fall for anything”

When embarking on reaching a life goal you have to set yourself strict rules to follow in order to accomplish them. Zoro is a great example of someone who found his code and sticks by it.



Usopp recently duelled his very own captain and lost. At the mention of him making a possible return to the crew, Zoro firmly objected. He refused to be lead by a captain who allows his subordinates to walk over him and didn’t see their adventure as a “childish pirate game”. This showed his commitment to the Straw Hat Crew, his focus on the task at hand and the tough love he is willing to administer even to his own captain to ensure the crew become the best they can be.

Once you decide you want to be successful you have to be hard on yourself and sometimes even those closest to you. Understand the obstacles you have before you and drive yourself to meet them head-on. The greatest minds have codes they live by from Steve Jobs refusal to sell a poorly designed product to the great football managers who refuse to lose i.e. Jose Mourinho. Some call him a sore loser but look at his record, he doesn’t accept failure so nor should you.

It isn’t about the glory or praise, it’s about doing what you have to do.


Nothing Happened Zoro One Piece GOAT Epic Moment

It is easy to make excuses or to blame someone else when you are in a bad situation. Zoro doesn’t make excuses though, if an adversary is stood before him regardless of how injured he is, he will do what he is required of him.

Zoro was the last man standing (after sticking the butt of his sword in the back of Sanji, a little dickish but heroic in the end). He didn’t want his captain to be captured so he took on the burden of pain Luffy had endured during the last battle. The best part came afterwards when asked what happened to him and why there was so much blood, where – like a boss – he said “Nothing happened”.

He didn’t want no one’s praise, pity or sympathy and he even carried on to fight battle after battle with those fatal injuries.

If you’re doing it for the glory or looking for sympathy this walk of life isn’t for you. The greats do what is necessary to achieve their goals. So don’t turn down a challenge because you are not 100% prepared. Don’t always take the easy route every time it is presented. Be willing to walk through fire to get what you want from life. Be willing to make sacrifi…oh on to my next point….

Sometimes you have to sacrifice


Zoro_Begs_Mihawk_To_Train_Him_As_An_Apprentice One Piece

Zoro found out his captain had been through a great ordeal without his crew to protect or support him. After being cryptically given a two year extension by his captain to delay their meeting, Zoro realised he needed to get stronger, much stronger. The way him and his crew were overwhelmed at Sabaody Archipelago was unacceptable. So he did the one thing that went against everything that defined him and asked his archrival to train him.

What an incredible act of sacrifice. He put his pride on the line because he realised what he had to do. This was so out of character and you can imagine the humiliation he felt but there are times in our lives where we need to do the unthinkable and move in a completely new direction to get the result we want. When the time comes, be ready to put it all on the line.

Zoro is the Poster Boy of reaching greatness and we all know he will reach it one day (hopefully that doesn’t result in One Piece ever ending). Therefore, let’s take some of the lessons this great character has taught us and apply it to our lives so we can also be great.

Who Won E3? Analysing E3 2018 via Reddit Threads

As a small side project, I decided to analyse the E3 video game event held every year. Firstly, I’ve played around with different APIs including Reddit’s, YouTube’s and Twitter’s and finally settled with Reddit. The question I wanted to answer was:

Who Won E3?

The longer version of that is:

Which Publishers and Video Games gained the most positive coverage from the event?

I would answer this question by:

  1. Comparing the number of Upvotes each E3 2018 Reddit Submission had
  2. Comparing the number of comments each E3 2018 Submission had
  3. Comparing the total views each E3 2018 Trailer had on YouTube
  4. Categorising groups of Reddit Submissions by Game Title, Publisher and Conference
  5. Categorising groups of YouTube trailers by Game Title, Publisher and Conference

Based on the original question, the winners of E3 2018 via Reddit and YouTube would be:

  1. The game and publisher with the highest scores
  2. The most viewed or talked about game or publisher

The details of the report are below but here are the highlights:

  1. Cyberpunk 2077 had the highest Reddit Score
  2. Bethesda had the best Conference, running away with Elder Scrolls VI, Starfield and Fallout 76
  3. Best New Game goes to Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
  4. Biggest underperforming game goes to Anthem
  5. Biggest underperforming video game company goes to Ubisoft


  • The Reddit Extraction consisted of only the /r/Games subreddit between 10th — 13th June 2018
  • The time of Reddit data extraction was done 2 weeks after the event finished
  • The time of the YouTube data extraction done 2 weeks after the event finished
  • Submissions without the E3 2018 tag have been removed from the analysis
  • Bethesda Softworks / Bethesda have been merged as the same “Publisher” for the sake of this analysis
  • Sony / Sony Interactive Entertainment have been merged as the same “Publisher” for the sake of this analysis
  • A “Publisher” for the sake of this analysis includes all the AAA game companies that either had their own conference or showcased at the event.
  • The conferences of focus will be EA, Microsoft, Sony, Ubisoft, PC, Nintendo, Square Enix, Bethesda

Quick FAQ

  • How does /r/Games work?

“The goal of /r/Games is to provide a place for informative and interesting gaming content and discussions” — A Subreddit where gamers discuss video games. There is a bias towards consoles due to their popularity that should be considered when analysing the sub. Also particular tastes in certain game genres and animosity towards certain video game companies

  • What is E3?

The Electronic Entertainment Expo 2018 (E3 2018) was the 24th Electronic Entertainment Expo, during which hardware manufacturers, software developers, and publishers from the video game industry presented new and upcoming products to the attendees, primarily retailers and members of the video game press. The event, organized by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA).

  • How /r/Games manages E3

/r/Games did a fantastic job of having a plan to manage the event that consequentially made data analysis much easier. Particularly the E3 2018 tag that made filtering the relevant reddit submissions a lot more convenient. I was also able to use the extra pieces of information in the individual game threads to analyse YouTube trailers.

Metrics of Measurement

  • Reddit Upvotes
  • Reddit Score
  • Reddit Comments
  • YouTube Views

The extraction was done on 27th June 2018 and returned 105 post submissions with the E3 2018 Reddit Flair. After some filtering I categorised them into Game Threads and Publisher Threads. This allowed for the results to make more sense in terms of context. For example, it’s not beneficial to compare a Megathread discussing a conference of 20 games to a thread discussing one single game.

The results

Initial Thoughts:

  • As expected Cyberpunk 2077 is a clear winner but Elder Scrolls VI performed well considering all that was revealed was a 36 seconds trailer of a scenic view. One can assume Redditors enjoy speculating more than analysing the final product.
  • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was a huge reveal for Nintendo’s cult following and it’s growing Switch base. The trailer was brimming with information and a roster heavy release provided plenty of discussion points.
  • Trying to piece together Kojima’s mysterious concepts continues to be a high talking point as Death Stranding’s latest video gave us more questions than answers.
  • It’s not Bloodborne 2 but From Software’s Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice gave us a lot to chew on and even more so than The Last of Us 2’s enthralling demo.
  • You can already tell Bethesda is dominating the E3 2018 discussion without really showing us much. On the face of it, speculation seems to be the big winner here.


E3 2018 Press Conference Schedule
  • At face value, Microsoft Xbox seemed to have had the most eventful conference whereas Playstation seemed to have under-performed, falling behind Nintendo and PC but there is a lot more to unpack from the data.
  • Bethesda has done very well upstaging Nintendo and Playstation
  • EA getting an overall Reddit Score on-par with Playstation and more than Square Enix/Ubisoft and PC combined was a minor surprise.

Looking deeper into the Xbox Conference, I pulled the scores on the related Game Threads.

  • Cyperpunk 2077 with 18,591 Score swayed the Reddit Score in Xbox’s favour.
  • Most of the overall Reddit Score seems derived from non-exclusives with Cyberpunk 2077 (35.8%), Seikiro Shadows Die Twice (11.1%) and Fallout 76 (6.32%) making up more than half of the Score.
  • It seems weird for a lot of AAA titles to opt to be Microsoft’s Conference over Playstation’s. Were they scared of being overshadowed by their first-party titles?

I realised I could pull the YouTube views from the trailers uploaded to the subreddit and here are the initial results…

  • Fallout 76 has the highest views with 29,846,597
  • Second highest is 14,083,958 views (for some reason it says 13M on YouTube right now but the YouTube API can be rough at times) for Cyberpunk 2077.
  • The breakdown looks slightly different from the Reddit Score with Sea of Thieves being second highest but this may be due to how video trailers are distributed across multiple channels. For example, Fallout 76 Trailer from Bethesda’s official channel is way higher than the Microsoft Conference version.
  • I wouldn’t look too much into these results for now, I do intend to investigate further in another blog focused solely on YouTube trailers.

So how does this look side by side?

Firstly consider that video distribution is sporadic i.e. same videos appearing across multiple channels. This chart is only of the videos within the each Reddit Conference Megathread.

  • So Reddit and YouTube audiences show similar levels of interest. Even though this analysis limited I was expecting a bigger disparity for EA between it’s Reddit Score and YouTube views when compared to the other conferences.
  • I have had time to work out succint explanation to these numbers and why we can’t take them at face value. In short, Bethesda videos are concentrated on their official channel whereas other publishers have their videos distributed across other publications like Gamespot and IGN. This makes getting the full extend of Bethesda’s viewership on YouTube super easy.

Game Threads

The Upvote Ratio for the Game Threads was 0.8 with the top games with less than 0.01 between them. The upvote ratios are so close together that I thought it would be more beneficial to look at the bottom 20. In doing so, I’ve across a few surprise entries such as Anthem.

  • After recognising that the games with the highest upvote ratio were new game announcements I checked the lowest at the other tail end.
  • Anthem, FIFA 19 and PUBG were notable finds. The negative sentiment against Anthem has been very high since Bioware announced it. PUBG’s is a recent development coinciding with the rise of Fortnite and FIFA 19 is predictable based on the preferences of /r/Games.

Now what games generated the most discussion on /r/Games?

Note: When looking at Reddit comments quantitatively, it’s important to know the difference between top-level comments and all comments (that include replies to the top comments). As it is a discussion forum, a post may contain a lot of comments due to constant back and forth but hold less than average volume of top-level comments.

Now comparing the posts with the most top-level comments and the post with the most comments overall, I see a couple trends.

  • You can see the new games warranted new (top) comments of redditors giving their verdict on the announcement. For example, Devil May Cry 5 has the highest top comments followed by Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Beyond Good and Evil.
  • Whereas new information on games we’re already aware of, had Redditors discussing amongst themselves. Whereas The Elder Scrolls VI and Cyperpunk 2077 looks to involve a lot of back-and-forth but a few games buck this trend like Super Smash bros and The Last of Us II.


By adding up the reddit scores of each game thread and grouping them by publisher, I was able to calculate the sum total of each Publisher’s showings at E3 2018.

  • Bethesda performed really well, surpassing the likes of Sony and Nintendo
  • Sony performed a lot better when looking at the individual game threads rather than the conference thread
  • CD Projekt Red got the third highest score with one game thread whilst only being known for one game (Witcher 3). Their public perception is sky high right now and the anticipation for Cyberpunk 2077 is off the charts
  • I personally find it peculiar that Square Enix beat Ubisoft and EA even with the latter’s controversial reputations as they still put out popular titles such as Battlefield and Assassin Creed.

Here I added in a chart with the number of reveals per publisher.

  • Ubisoft (11 games, 7707 score), Square Enix(9 games, 8856), EA (6, 6181), Microsoft(8, 9581) had more posts but no quality “hits”. None of them even bridged 10,000 with their combined scores
  • *EA’s score looked a bit off so I checked and “Battle Royale is coming to Battlefield V” post with 7.2K Upvotes was not included in EA’s overall score. It’s an awkward one because it’s not a discussion thread in response to the Battlefield showing at the EA Conference but a separate tweet.
  • There’s a missing label between EA and Bandai Namco, those are PC games.

I decided to breakdown further these Reddit Scores sum totals…

Broken down further, you can see which games were most popular per publisher. A few things I noticed:

  • Beyond Good and Evil 2 (2142) was Ubisoft’s big reveal as it did better than Division 2 (743) and Assassin Creed’s Odyssey (1645)
  • Xbox still seems to be missing a big anticipated title as Halo Infinite is their biggest with a score of 3251 vs. Bethesda, CDPR, Nintendo lead titles all over 10k and Sony with 2 over 5k
  • Babylon’s Fall garnered a lot of interest with a score of 2598 which may have something to do with the positive sentiment from the runaway success of Nier Automata (the last collaboration between Platinum Games and Square Enix)

Winners and Losers of E3 2018 /r/Games


  • Cyberpunk 2077 anticipation continues at an all time high
  • Bethesda was the most talked about Publisher dominating even though the big announcements themselves contained little detail besides the mysterious Fallout 76 announcement


  • Anthem didn’t garner much attention or positive reception even with the combined backing of Bioware and EA.
  • Ubisoft — Assassin Odyssey and The Division sequels should have done a lot more but the skepticism of Ubisoft the subreddit seems to be ever-present.
  • Microsoft — For a console, it’s IPs are becoming more and more uninteresting. Leaving very little to analyse too.

Overall, all the big hitters happened in the Xbox Conference. Bethesda was the best performing Publisher by way of mystery. Playstation had a subdued one by its standards, but maybe they were holding back for the Tokyo Game Show and Playstation Experience Event later this year. Ubisoft under-performed considering the number of reveals they had, that may hint towards skeptism of their products, even more so than EA.

This is my first time doing anything like this so any feedback would be welcome.

The Power of an Iron-Blooded Child Soldier

Gundam is a series known for its mecha designs, space battles and intergalactical politics. Iron-Blood Orphans has added a new dimension to this historical formula by putting the conundrum of being a child at the forefront of the plot, whilst the political themes took a backseat. This show succeeded in addressing multiple controversial themes, including relationships, child abuse and war.

Raw Power and Unlimited Potential

“They are efficient with minds unclouded by years of experience” – Think like a Freak by Daniel Levitt

The main protagonist Mikazuki Angus is a child with untold potential and a human weapon like no other. As people encountered Mika, they eventually want to use him for themselves as he was the perfect weapon. Determined, powerful and unwavering. The story put Mika as the specimen that epitomes the power of a child. A force that can be fashioned for whatever purpose suits with minimum baggage whilst potently young.

Mika throughout the series maintained the most childlike behaviour which correlated with his power. His simple mindedness allowed him to make key, fast decisions during and outside of battle. I don’t think he had a single “weak moment” or lapse of concentration throughout the whole series. He truly had a soldier’s level of focus and made you wonder if he actually started to mature whether he would lose his distinct advantage over his peers.

By the end of the story you realised how tempting exploiting children as soldiers would be for someone ethnically unhinged enough to put aside their morals. This was a tale of a world filled with adults that were all trying to take advantage of the same kids they abandoned for their own selfish purpose. These kids would spend their lives trying to survive long enough to not be disposed of, making their unofficial title Human Debris cunningly, relevant.


This wasn’t Games of Thrones politics but manipulation on a personal, individual level. Orga, Mika and Kudelia were being manipulated simultaneously by many parties from all directions. Luckily they also had the mental fortitude to withstand the assaults on their integrity, but it wasn’t without many mistakes along the way. But when it was Tanaka’s turn to fall victim to the schemes of one, he lost entirely at a heavy price. This reminded the audience that these were still children in unknown territory without the guidance or experience to take on unforeseen challenges, especially once isolated.

Child Relationships – The Good, Bad and Ugly

For a Gundam series there was a lot more romance than expected. It is easy to forget that these kids develop feelings and have urges like everyone else even if they spend every waking on the verge of death. I was very impressed how varied and natural every single relationship felt. For example, the gay relationship between Eugene Sevenstark and Yamagi Gilmerton caught me unawares. Then what seemed a polygamous relationship between Mikasuki, Kudelia and Atra leading to his son having 2 mothers to raise him in place of his father. I don’t remember many shonen animes that explore romantic themes beyond the binary male/female contract so I can only applaud the progressiveness of how they were presented here.

But not all relationships were healthy. Child exploitation is something society fights everyday across the world and the show didn’t shy away from the consequences of children who fall to those who prey on them. McGillis Fareed upbringing was touched upon including his abusive father. It was a chilling inclusion illustrated in enough detail to capture the grotesque nature without feeling graphic. Fareed then went on to show his more empathic side with his handling of his engagement with Almiria Bauduin. It was an uncomfortable relationship to watch blossom considering she was 9 arranged to marriage a fully grown man. I personally spent the whole series questioning the genuinity of his intentions but cannot fault how it was depicted in the anime without appearing “creepy”.

The Price of War

When it comes to war the rulebook on humanity gets thrown into the bin. Human lives go from priceless and just another statistic. But there are exceptions, women and children. There’s always been something about being comfortable with the lives of men being taken away in battle but the unacceptability of women and children getting caught in the crossfire. And what better way to take on this issue but through the eyes of child soldiers. Isn’t it ironic that they are nicknamed “human debris” ie as disposal as a soldier in wartimes? The Gundam series have always had child soldiers but they have seldom been childlike physically or mentally. The Iron Blooded Orphans are both which makes watching them fight a war a bitter pill to swallow. They are treated like both children and soldiers making their situation hypocritical at its core.

The price of war was laid bare many times throughout the story but no scene hit home as hard as watching a crippled Mikasuki rallying Orga to use Mikasuki as nothing more than a weapon. The ultimate sacrifice.

Orga is conflicted over Mikasuki's current condition which has left him paralysed on the right side of his body. But Mika urges him to continue to use him even if it means his life.

I don’t think another anime will be able to take on such sensitive topics concerning children as well as Iron Blooded Orphans. It was done in a tasteful manner whilst remaining raw enough to leave a lasting impact.

Can Consoles become the new Master Race?


Predicting the Apocalypse of Consoles

Every once in awhile, the subject of video game consoles coming to an abrupt end is brought up. Every few years critics would claim that consoles are on their way out and will be replaced by PCs. Only to be proven wrong when the next generation is released into retail. Some are even being lead to believe mobile will also contribute significantly to the demise of video game consoles, even though they appeal to different target markets. Obviously such statements are open to interpretation. If we are talking dominance in revenues and profits, that is a worthy debate but one replacing the other? A rather sensationalist conclusion. Although many are convinced consoles’ end is a matter of time with PC gaming regaining its crown and the masses embracing the “master race”. But what I don’t see being discussed is whether it could work the other way round. What is to stop consoles – that are gaining more of PC’s main attributes – from sucking substantial market share from the PC gaming market in the near future?

With the market share between PC and console gaming evenly split, it’s hard to see either one gaining a significant lead over the other. Since the beginning it has always been plug-n-play convenience vs. sheer power and performance and neither advantage has had enough pull to create a big enough lead in recent years. This could be about to change as new trends are about to shake up both markets significantly and we will finally learn what matters to consumers the most.


Neither market will suffer handheld’s fate

Firstly, every game console has its place, even the near extinct handheld consoles. With Super Mario coming to iOS, the fate of handheld surely lies in the hands of Nintendo. Video Game consoles are dedicated machines and easy to use while PCs are for the enthusiasts who don’t mind tinkering with their machines. These markets will never disappear completely but their market share can experience a heavy downturn similar to their portable cousins. So let’s explore the trends that could contribute to such a scenario.

Trends in favour of home console gaming

The end of traditional console life cycles

Xbox and PlayStation are finally attempting to shorten the product life cycles which would allow their products to close the gap between them and desktops in processing power and gaming performance. Originally, upgrading every 6 years gave PCs too heavy of a lead which may now be mitigated with more frequent releases. This combined with computing power taking longer to evolve would mean consoles have a better chance of catching up. There will always be a gap in graphics, frame rates and performance but the smaller the gap, the less significant it is.

Consoles are not only becoming more powerful but also more similar to PCs in terms of architecture.

Moving to x86 means that Sony and Microsoft can do just this and make their next consoles with newer and more powerful components and still retain the same operating system, online services and games library –  The future of games consoles is evolutionary

The actions of the big console manufacturers is proof they are becoming more aggressive towards stopping consumers adopting PC gaming, hence why PS4 Pro was actually created.

Deeper Customisation, More Freedom

Buzz Light year mod on Fallout 4

The PC modding community has always been the biggest draw with games such as the Fallout series. With them now arriving on consoles, we could be seeing the beginning of a new trend. The best mods eventually arriving on consoles gives gamers more options and access thus providing a more expansive experience. It still has a long way to go but it’s a very exciting prospect that could also prove a great unique selling point for console manufacturers and game publishers. Although whether this gains traction across other games is dependant on the cooperation of the likes of Sony.

Frame rate vs Resolution

NiOh Alpha Demo Resolution Framerate Modes

Recently with the PS4 exclusive – NiOh alpha demo – there was an option for players to select between framerate and resolution. Also with the PS4 Pro, you can select such settings on Tomb Raider. If this becomes the norm with new AAA titles, it would potentially put to bed the heated discussions over what developers should prioritise with the limited power of consoles. By putting the decision in the hands of gamers, they can both empower them and also confirm what IS their preference if given the choice. Consoles are becoming more sophisticated at fitting the needs of gamers with attention to detail. An advantage that is known to be mainly reserved for PCs.

Neglecting the Master Race

You would think developers working on multi-platform titles would give PCs their best work. I mean they do love demoing on these high-spec machines during conferences. However this has not stopped Steam being plagued with bad ports to PC. No matter how superior PC is for their games, they are still seen as an afterthought to the more profitable console gamers.

It is not surprising if you consider that PC piracy is still an issue in 2016 alongside frugal customers who tend to hold their wallets for Steam Summer Sales. This all means smaller margins for developers and less incentive to deliver a quality product.

Trends favouring PCs

Cross-platform-play means more friends to play with

Rocket League Cross Platform

On the other hand, there is a lot more going for PC gaming. Firstly, cross-play between PC and consoles is officially a thing. A lot of PC gamers will tell you of the frustration of not being able to play with their real-life friends who have consoles. You can now play with your friends and also have access to bigger online communities.

Console games are no longer exclusives

Xbox Play Anywhere 2016

Playstation Now coming to PC is another move by Sony to cater to the PC market. Xbox Play Anywhere may have forced their hand but there is one clear winner either way. With access to the previously forbidden game libraries, it is another reason to not buy a console.

Who knows how far Sony will take PS4’s Remote Play? I wouldn’t write off the idea of streaming directly from the Playstation ecosystem on your gaming machine rather than needing the console itself. Microsoft for example are not shying away from these possibilities so once they lose their market dominance, Sony could be forced to follow suit.

Phil Spencer’s Vision

Head of the Xbox division – Phil Spencer – has a big vision for the future of Xbox that includes unifying Xbox and Windows 10 into one huge gaming platform. Meaning Xbox gamers moving to PC even faster without missing out on Xbox exclusives. This is fine with Microsoft as they have always been more of Software-As-A-Service business and are continuing this company strategy in regards to their gaming division. But their plans are not without resistance. PC gamers may grow uncomfortable with Microsoft’s attempt at dominating both console and PC if the economic benefits favours one heavily over the other.

Virtual Reality could create a new power struggle

Best Virtual Reality Gear

The tech industry is betting big on virtual reality and PC gamers are in prime position to embrace this new gaming experience. If it lives up to expectations, it would warrant investing in the hardware that can withstand high demands of virtual reality. It’s not as if consoles cannot compete effectively but this is completely new territory and forecasting who will win/lose/profit is very difficult. On the flip side, this pushes PC gaming’s price tag back up if VR becomes a must-have requirement.

Verdict – Console will eventually secure a big lead because economics

There will never be one winner but the advantage will eventually swing in one direction. Console manufacturers’ are almost giving away their main advantages over PC while also adopting the best parts of PC gaming. On the other end of things, PCs are becoming more accessible and affordable that may appeal to a growing tech savvy generation. Although if VR were to gain traction, it would prove how expensive the desktop experience can be. Many would say the ball is in the court of the gatekeepers – Sony and Microsoft and how much they wish to cooperate with these new industry changes but how the market moves is even more important. Console gamers remain the most profitable consumers and with everyone driven by economic incentives above all, market will dictate who reigns supreme in the end.

Is Noragami an illustration of how we deal with mental health?

Yato Final Rend

This was written as an entry to Anime Writing Reddit Competition. It’s an essay so this isn’t my usual style nor it is as comfortable to read if you’re not in the mood. Expect spoilers for Season 1 and 2 of Noragami (Aragoto).


Noragami is an anime based on the adventures of an up and coming God called Yato without a single shrine to his name and a schoolgirl – Hiyori – who changes his fortunes forever. The purpose of this essay is to explore how the anime illustrates how religion, spirituality and medical practices approach mental health in today’s society.

This anime is appropriately based in a country with supposed mental health issues linked to its high suicide rates, while potentially aimed at an audience who can relate to the circumstances depicted. It is based on a religion ingrained into the Japanese culture that is strongly tied to elements of spirituality. This can be seen as a double edged sword in combating mental illnesses as I’ll explain in more detail next.

Religion and spirituality are not the same especially when it comes to mental illness

Shinto Shrine

People are very unhappy nowadays in what is becoming a very atheist world in many parts. Organised religion is slowly taking a step back and Japan is a prime example of a country who is duly influenced by it. The first thing I’ll do is refer to is a survey based on 7,000 people in England that supports the basis of this argument. It identified that people who had “spiritual understanding of life” but not practicing organised religion were more likely to have a variety of mental health disorders than religious and atheists people. While looking into this, I couldn’t ignore the correlation. Japanese culture is technically not religious but it is instead spiritual as the dominant religions are either considered lax in dictating a way of life or lacking in a strict religious framework. This forms a rather thin connection between the mental issues in Japan and the Shinto religion – which Noragami is based on.

Going on this, some can make the assumption that having a spiritual understanding of life (without a religious framework of regular worship) somehow causes more mental health problems. This is all hypothetical because the survey doesn’t prove cause and effect. It cannot prove which came first: spirituality or mental ill health. But it may warrant further looking into.

This challenges a common assumption that spirituality (think mainstream rituals such as yoga and meditation) leads to better mental health. Although there is one consideration to bear in mind. I wanted to point out that the broadening of the term spirituality can imply mental health by definition. Such misconceptions make mental health more difficult to diagnose and cure if there are unsolved misunderstandings.

Now that the parameters of spirituality and religion has been defined, I’ll move on to the main event.

Episode 1: How negativity spreads

The anime starts season 2 by recapping on the concepts of how humans fall prey to dark spirits requiring the intervention of “kamis” ie Gods such as Yato.

Scary Baby Face Mirror

“His longing created the vulnerability that brought the Phantom”.

In the first episode, what seemed to be a simple matter of babysitting turned out be something more sinister. The baby wouldn’t stop crying. This was a symptom of the vulnerability that drew a phantom. How this all came about becomes clearer a few minutes later when Yato looks in the mirror. It seemed the phantom was an image created by the baby in the mirror because he wanted someone to play with.

This is a concept in Noragami influenced by the Shinto religion – humans are made vulnerable by a circumstance which a dark spirit (or phantom) exploits. This perspective minimises accountability and emphasises sympathy with the plight of the “victim”. Sympathy is the key word here because we are more inclined to help someone rather than blame them for their erroneous ways. For example,  an unsympathetic psychiatrist would be very problematic if their patient happened to be deeply depressed.

Her humanity will be taken

“Unless we do something it will eventually possess his mother and take her humanity”.

There was also another concept I picked up on. In this scene, the mention of the mother eventually becoming possessed was glazed over when on reflection I saw it hinting at a bigger theme in the series. Simply put, negative emotions are contagious.

“Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” – 1 Corinthians 15:33

The World Ends With You

You can easily imagine how this story would work if re-enacted in a more realistic setting. A baby refuses to stop crying, so the mother takes out her frustration through violence (beating the child). Or worst, the lack of sleep causes dramatic mood swings at her workplace and her colleagues respond in kind. By the end of the week, the whole town has been affected by bad spirited behaviour. And this continuous cycle would have all started from an innocent place – a newborn child. Think the “Noise” and “Reapers” from The World Ends With You if you’re familiar with the game.

Episode 1 shows us how a simple scenario can be interpreted differently leading to a similar conclusion but different diagnosis. Remember that mental health is very murky and hard to quantify even for medical professionals. This creates a challenge for medical diagnosis counter arguing conclusions drawn by the illustrative nature of mythology and spiritual beliefs. Simply put, in many religion circles, a demon possessing your child is pretty powerful diagnosis rather than “he needs more company”.

Episode 2: The power of faith, the perils of doubt

She has long forgotten about you

In episode 2, the one who falls prey to dark spirits isn’t human but a spirit who befriends Yukine. What you’ll realise in Noragami, spirits suffer the same emotional issues as humans. The afterlife doesn’t grant them immunity to this. The spirit – Suzuha – was neglected by his God holding onto a promise by a human who could see him even though she was a living person. The promise was his cherished friend would come visit him again to watch the cherry blossoms, so he decorated the tree where the promise was carved. Thirty years and counting, he held on then Kugaha broke the news that he was abandoned. The phantom dogs then appeared to attack him at his most vulnerable state.

Suhuza is bitten by phantom wolves

Faith is at the centre of all that is religious and spiritual. We have all heard of people finding God in their darkest hour, finding hope when there seemed like none. On the brink of mental breakdown, faith in a higher power is literally a life-saver. Many people probably would suffer from deep depression if it weren’t for faith. It allows you to move forward into the unknown and acts as a shield against uncertainty, once removed your doubts resurface and you can become victim to negativity and temptations.

What we can take from episode 2 is the coping mechanism are the same. It could be denial, delusional thoughts, obsession or naivety. We turn to different sources to find a solution to the darkness in our hearts and prevent it consuming us. And this anime show does more than weigh on this – prevention.

Two methods of prevention

so many of regalias have died again

We have looked at small examples of dark spirits spreading their evils and the infectious nature of negative emotions. A remedy for this surfaces when looking at the God-Regalia relationships. In Noragami, Gods can be “blighted” (infected) by the impurities of the spirits under their care when their regalia commits a sin or is attacked by phantoms. The ramifications are laid bear when you see how Yato treats Yukine and Bishamon’s relationship with her numerous Regalias.  

Yato implores Yukine to talk to him

The lowly God on one hand always asks Yukine to discuss his feelings whenever he begins to sense ill-thought creeping in. In contrast, Bishamon had little interactions with her regalias outside the 9 combat ready shinki. This results in her suffering in isolation whilst relying on medication and her traitorous doctor who eventually abuses his position. This may have been a sly dig at the pharmaceutical approach (use of antidepressants) to mental health treatment. Either way it highlights effectiveness of two contrasting methods.

There’s a reason why having someone to talk to is highly recommended when facing mental health issues. Venting and expressing emotion is a remedy well illustrated in this series. Bishamon’s story is also reflective of how neglect can result in deep isolation a recent phenomenon in Japan called Hikikomori. Additionally, I find Gods being able to feel their regalia’s emotions is similar to how loved ones tend to sense your bad moods. A mother may not become blighted by her daughter’s transgressions but she is definitely affected when her children experience any form of emotional turmoil.

The Cure: The one thing they all agree on

“The two cannot be separated. To cleanse the body is also to cleanse the mind.”
Aiha successful endures ablution

When all else has failed, you call your psychiatrist or if you’re religious, your religious leader. In Noragami, there is an ablution. This is is a ritual held to purify a Shinki that has been committing sins and betrayed his/her God(s). It is a painful process of cleansing the impurities or blight attached on the body. You can draw direct parallels between an ablution, cleansing of sins or exorcisms of christianity and other religions. Unfortunately, this is too mystical for the medical profession but these processes are not completely world’s apart. A big part of dealing with a mental health situation is confession. Yukine had to confess his sins before the blight left him. Honesty with your psychiatrist is vital to proper treatment. I think this is the one thing, medical practices, religion and spirituality all agree on. Confess it, let it go and move on.

I think when it comes to mental health these can all be effective because the outcome is within the mind. It is what you make of it – a placebo effect in different shapes and sizes. For example, if I genuinely believe Pastor David just casted out a demon from my body, I would stop worrying and suddenly feel happy. And I’m the only one who can judge whether that’s correct. With the intangibility of such cases the concept of Gods and spirits may not look so far fetched after all.

We have advanced to the point, the human body is well documented and understood. But the mind is still rather mysterious. Noragami painted an interesting picture around mental health issues and gives us a new angle to view them. Even if there is nothing groundbreaking to be found on the surface, what’s to say inspiration cannot be found when addresses such challenges?


Japan has developed a reputation for high suicide rates so it doesn’t surprise me an anime show tackling mental health exists. The show touches on the potential causes such as neglect, isolation and lack of expression. It does a fair job of visualising the effects of mental illness even if unintentional. A child suffering from such issues could potentially find comfort in dark spirits being vanquished by good, down-to-earth duos such like Yukine and Yato. Drawn as symptoms of distressed souls but reflective of medical conditions rampant in Japanese society and all around the world. The more I read into Noragami and Japan, the more vivid the connection and real life analogies became.

Game sequels are as demanding as their customers

As we all know, long running franchises dominate the game industry. They are the cash cows for AAA publishers while juggling a sporadic relationship with gamers from one sequel to the next. Being emotionally (and financially) invested in them means that we always have a lot to say about them. Actually, moan. We love to moan about them.

When we experience a good game we tend to want a sequel. Then another and it turns into a series. The people get what they want, developers get rich, everyone lives happily ever af-ahh wait. It’s never that simple. Actually it’s a complex request – give me the same thing but slightly different.

The consumer is both demanding and resisting change at the same time but there’s nothing special about that in itself. Although when reflecting on the gaming community’s perception of different game series, it becomes more interesting and outright hypocrital at times. Using examples of the hottest and coldest franchises nowadays, I’ll look at what franchises are doing right and wrong.

The same thing over and over again.

The Soul series hasn’t changed much since Demon Souls. I know, I’ve been there since day one. The fighting style is the same, the game design follows the same concept of progression through shortcuts and an interconnected world design. As a player your approach to the game is the same – watch your enemies move, wait for an opening and overcome. The movesets of the bosses have become familiar and there’s been a lot ofasset reuse throughout the series. The type of the accusation that has been thrown at other franchises.

But the industry isn’t bored of it and praises it critically for doing the same thing over and over again. Why? Because that’s what we want, iterations of the same game. I’m not complaining but from an unbiased view why is this frowned upon in other cases?

Perhaps because 3 is the magic number?

It started with Far Cry 4 then became an on-going joke with Primal. Browsing forums and review comments, you see a lot of comments saying things such as “4 is Far Cry 3 reskinned/ Primal is Far Cry 4.5” which is sort of true. As stated above, this is probably not an isolated case. Putting aside the Ubisoft’s reputation, the series may have been harshly judged in comparison to From Software when it comes to asset re-use. The difference is one is 5 games deep, and the other 3. In my humble opinion, 3 is the magic number. Anything beyond that and you will most likely face similar accusations of repetitiveness. Good thing Miyazaki will close the chapter on no. 3 before the magic fades.

Too much change is bad thing right?

With the open world series facing the same accusations normally directed at its sibling – Assassin Creed – it seems appropriate to touch upon it. Ubisoft has been here before, it’s just this time round people are complaining about watchtowers and animal skinning. So like any good corporate organisation, it decided to innovate its product. With this sequel, changing the setting, time period and story wasn’t enough. So it added a new aspect to the gameplay and Assassin Creed: Black Flag was made.

The game sold and reviewed well but somewhere along the line you couldn’t help hear the groanings of the game being called a Pirate Simulator instead of an “Assassin Creed game”. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. It seems some gamers are either very picky about what change they want, don’t know what they want or simply hate Ubisoft. I say that as this same argument has been used against the recent third-person shooter, The Division. Apparently, the lack of stealth, online-only aspect and new premise doesn’t make it a “Tom Clancy game” (I wish I could find the link). The message is clear, people want change but not too much. For me, I loved Black Flag and thought Ubi hit gold ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) with the pirate aspect. The Division also strung a chord with consumers as it has sold a lot already. Whether you are for or against the publisher’s annualised releases, it would be fair to give credit where it’s due when it does actually creatively improve its products.

Uncharted revolution over collection

So I have recently finished the Uncharted Collection in time for the 4th and final installment. Playing it may have actually inspired this blog because frankly, the series is pretty repetitive. I get that it is one long story split over several games but the gameplay is practically unaltered. The only changes I can pick out are more to do with technological improvements rather than creative ones. It feels like Naughty Dog got a free pass amidst the hype of the Uncharted 4.

I guess if the storytelling is good enough gameplay stagnation is irrelevant. It could also come down to the studio’s good public reputation that makes it hard to criticise. Based on this, it seems you can get away with little to no change if you do everything else right. You can assume the same logic will be applied to The Last of Us 2 but do we just want a continuation of a great story and no gameplay changes? Looking at the contrast between the article and the comments section, we are pretty divided on that too.

There’s a risk in change

Change is risky and risk isn’t good business. You will get eaten alive by critics if the change doesn’t come off right regardless of your effort, impacting your sales and profits severely. Because remember, making games isn’t cheap.

I went to a Comic Con in London in 2015 and attended the Batman: Arkham Knight presentation by Rocksteady Studios development team. I was lucky enough to even ask them a question during the Q&A which was “What was the biggest challenge creating the game?”. The response was a long-winded (but interesting) lecture on how they created the Batmobile. During the explanation, you could tell they tried really hard to make it great and when the game was released, it got torn apart. They must have felt very deflated once the reviews came out.

The Batmobile was their big change to keep the franchise fresh. It was the change that defined this installment from the last. They could have given us the same thing but no, they tried something new. I’m not saying it wasn’t a bad move but critically it didn’t pay off (but financially it did – life is good).

Gamers are a tough crowd and they should be if you intend on making profit off them. Publishers will continue to attract criticism the longer franchises go on but hopefully, you can appreciate the complexity of balancing expectations. But hey, if I profited from beating a dead horse, I wouldn’t stop either.

Pride: The Double Edged Sword in Anime

Fatal lack of pride in your sword skills

What is “Pride” and why it is so common in Anime?

Pride has always been a common trait in anime series I’ve watched over the years. More common than any other character trait and also the one I’ve enjoyed the most when it materialises in key (and badass) moments within a story. So I wanted to talk about it as a driving force behind key characters’ development. Firstly, I wanted to establish what definition of pride I am referring to as there are multiple meanings to this.

“A feeling of self-respect and personal worth.”


“The Trait of being spurred on by a dislike of falling below your standards.”

Japanese Ritual of Seppukk

In this case, Pride is about how you feel about yourself. An important distinction because in a lot of cases, pride is measured by what you think others perceive you as. Initially I thought its common occurrence in manga was due to its prevalence in Japanese culture. But actually it is tied to a bigger cultural theme – a culture of shame and honor. In essence, you live to make your family proud, which is closely related but slightly different to self-respect and personal worth. It is possible that could be getting lost in translation of subtitles to this day. For example, a character could be referring to his “honour” in japanese but translate to his “pride” in english. This is simply food for thought and I won’t go further into this.

So back to the original question, why does “Pride” appear so often? I felt it had more to do with my watching preferences. I mainly watched shows based on shonen manga which focus on martial arts, competitiveness and battles. I don’t like using wikipedia links but it was all I could find to define “shonen” as a genre. I feel it encapsulates the main character traits seen in these series very well:

 For my pride as Warriorof Elbaph

Such manga often portray challenges to the protagonist’s abilities, skills, and maturity, stressing self-perfection, austere self-discipline, sacrifice in the cause of duty, and honorable service to society, community, family, and friends.

Shonen manga generally fall under the action and adventure genres containing elements of violence. Many portray a male team, whether a sports team or a fighting squad, working together for a common goal.

The correlation between shonen fighting and pride is obvious. And maybe we can give credit to Akira Toriyama for he contributed to the popularity of shonen manga with Dragon Ball. And by extension provided the blueprint for what personality traits future shonen character will have. And with that, I will look at a character of his whose pride is more than a trait but rather a way of life.

A Saiyan’s Pride

Majin Vegeta

“You may have invaded my mind and my body, but there’s one thing a Saiyan always keeps… his pride!!!” Vegeta resisting Babidi’s control.

Vegeta was without doubt the proudest character in the Dragon Ball universe. What looked like arrogance at first eventually became something more. He felt his royal blood destined him to greatness but he knew that this destiny came with a huge responsibility. On top of that, he was one of the only survivors of his extinct race meaning he couldn’t disappoint them even if they were no longer alive to judge him.

Seeing Goku, a Saiyan of lower class attain powers beyond comprehension was something Vegeta couldn’t live with.There were no Saiyans to mock him or question his royal status but it was his duty to reach such levels of power. His pride demanded it.

“Now it’s time to share that pride..pride in myself. I am a Saiyan who was raised on Planet Earth, and in the name of every single Saiyan that you’ve made suffer!…For them, and all the people of Planet Namek, too!…I will defeat you!” Goku right before his battle against Frieza begun

This led Vegeta to partake in a near-impossible training regime to become a Super Saiyan. This single goal was a compass that guided him towards being Goku’s greatest rival but it also led him astray. It had a dark side which was exploited by Babidi who tried to take control of the “Dark Prince”. Fortunately, it was Vegeta’s Pride that would always overcome any obstacle.

His character development is built around his sense of pride and has inspired many Dragon Ball fans to root for him over a rather cardboard cut-out protagonist – Goku. When I was a kid, I always remembered my dad coming back from work, seeing me and brother watching DBZ and he’ll always ask “where’s Vegeta”. That’s all he cared about. I think this was because he related to Vegeta as a man of great pride. As my father’s son, I feel the same connection too.

A Soldier’s Pride

I lost my Pride Ein Dalton Iron Blooded Orphan

Ein Dalton was a dutiful young soldier, who held intense loyalty to both his comrades as well as Gjallarhorn – the organisation he fought for. Above all, he was extremely loyal to his mentor Crank Zent who died at the hands of Mikasuki Augus – the main protagonist. His story is one of pride and his honour as a soldier versus Mika – an orphan with none. Unfortunately, it didn’t end well for him nor his mentor who was the one that instilled these values.

You allowed me to rise again Gaelio and Dalton

From what I saw, pride was never the victor in this series but was a self-destructive trait that faltered when tested. Crank Zent didn’t have to go back and fight Mikazuki but he did it out of duty. It was his responsibility to preserve his soldiers reputation. Then he died for that and his student continued this vicious cycle. He became obsessed with vengeance and even put his life on the line for Gaelio who provided him another opportunity to restore his pride.

“McGillis. As a way to ensnare Gjallarhorn. You used Ein. You used his pride.”

But in the end, it was McGillis who used that against him for his own aims. What would be seen as admirable in many people’s eyes, was shown to be fragile and easily manipulated. Not everyone can survive a blow of this doubled edged sword like Vegeta.

The different forms of Pride

“If it is for the sake of my pride, there is nothing I won’t destroy.” — Byakuya Kuchiki 

When he said this, it seemed he had betrayed the Soul Society by siding with the rogue Zanpakutos. Eventually it was revealed that Byakuya’s true intentions were to stay close to Muramasa so that he could locate and kill his Soul Reaper Kōga Kuchiki for dishonoring the Kuchiki clan. This was a filler arc so you can take what you like with a pinch of salt but the reference to his pride (whether true to the manga or not) is interesting in how elusive it is.

Pointed at my pride Bleach

“My killing you is no other reason than the fact that you… Pointed your blade [view shifts to Rukia] at my pride”

Byakuya Kuchiki is the 28th head of one of the four great noble clans in Soul Society and captain of the 6th Division in the Gotei 13 so there’s plenty of reason for his prideful nature. But his is a lot less straightforward. I say this because it was this same pride that was for Rukia’s execution. He felt it was his duty as head of the Kuchiki clan to uphold the law even if it meant his adoptive sister’s death. Then in another arc, he refers to Rukia as his pride after saving her from the 7th Espada, Zommari Rureaux.

What you may take from these examples is that Pride can take many forms, whether it is a matter of honour, a sense of duty or virtue you live by such as protecting your loved ones. Essentially it is something you fight for even if it means putting everything else at risk, including one’s life.

Pride in today’s society

Lucifer falls from heaven

“Lucifer spoke thus. Pride took him from heaven, though he sat at God’s right hand. In the end, pride is the root of all evil.” – Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Pride has always had dark connotations but I can imagine it had a better reputation a few centuries back. Nowadays it is dismissed as hypermasculine or egotistic, I can understand why. The stakes are not so high, we are not soldiers and have no reason to fight nor do we have anything to prove to anyone. These values were reserved in times of wars or for people of power such as royalty. These things are less visible in a world of democracy and flatter hierarchies. You would struggle to justify a person possessing this trait as it is no longer needed.

Does Pride still serve any purpose?

Dishonour can be washed away with success

When I see a football (soccer) player dive, I question their sense of pride. Nowadays there’s no shame in getting the best outcome. Whether it is your team winning or doing wrong by your work colleagues for shareholder profits. We even applaud these actions as if it was for the greater good. Without the fear of public shame or anyone questioning your “honour”, such acts are more likely to happen. It makes me wonder whether pride has become so socially unacceptable, it’s facing extinction.

Maybe it is the rarity of it that makes characters with pride my favourite. It can send one down a spiral of darkness, as shown by the above examples but it can also motivate you to do what’s right and attain greatness. Isn’t the Pirate Hunter Zoro a prideful man? Didn’t he swallow his pride when it mattered for a higher purpose? For me it is a double edge sword worth wielding but not out of a honour or a sense of obligation. Simply because I want to meet my own high standards and be great enough to reach my full potential.


Eiichiro Oda’s World Building and Video Games

The Fictional World of One Piece

Doflamingo City.png

So I was recently catching up on One Piece having just reached the Dressrosa Arc where Luffy had entered the tournament at the Corrida Colosseum. When the contestants were being revealed both through the announcements and during the backstage drama something dawned on me. I don’t know if “dawned” is the right word because I have always known this deep down but it really “clicked” this time round. Maybe it was the long break from watching the series that made this realisation ever more clear or possibly the way this was presented to me in these episodes. Either way Oda has built one of the most expansive fictional worlds in existence.

This is probably both a sweeping and ignorant statement and I’m aware that this is not area of expertise but I play RPGs regularly enough, read books and watch shows based in fantasy worlds and I’m convinced it’s up there with the Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and War Hammer series’. Those who are not familiar with One Piece would disagree but those who are would understand why this is the biggest anime universe (and best). And that’s because of the characters. Oda builds his fantasy world through characters.

Poor Pacing or World Building?


I realised this when became frustrated with the (well-known) pacing of the episodes. As each gladiator was being introduced, I sat there thinking why the hell is still taking so long? I was questioning the how necessary all these side characters were in the grander scheme of things. A common rule in storytelling is making sure you only include information that matters. This is something One Piece’s creator seems not bothered about on the other hand this may be what makes this story great. Because side characters and minor acquaintances do matter. Each person that enters the screen or graces the manga panel is a seed. Whether that be a potential ally or enemy, a new obstacle for the Straw Hats to overcome or a conflict that our characters must address for them to grow further.

On top of side characters with their own agendas, the series has continued to add layers to the world. Originally you believed it was just Pirates vs Navy. Then you find out there are secret organisations, revolutionaries, actual islands and countries with their own kind of warriors. And alien species who hold grudges against each other and even other worlds (think Fishmen Island and Skypiea). This means more possible outcomes, threads, possibilities, conflicts alliances, enemies. This is something the likes of Naruto and Dragonball Z failed to do, the side characters eventually faded into irrelevance – it became all about Jinchurikis and Saiyans. The creators of these great series funneled their own creations and shrunk their potentials.

Every character matters


In One Piece, you don’t know whether a new character is simply another cameo or someone who will play a bigger role later on. We never anticipated how or whether Bellamy, Laboon or Coby would re-appear. The way the universe has been set up we don’t know who or what will impact the trajectory of this adventure. The world is filled to the brim with characters so maybe we are mistaking poor pacing with world building. This theory rather resonated with me upon reflection.

Necessities are things like gladiators in Dressrosa arc. They seem irrelevant and filler at first, but in reality are allies and future army that will aid Luffy either during a fight with yonko or during the final war. It’s something that has to happen and, for better or worse, is happening now.

Build games with characters not with quests


I believe this is a concept that can be applied to open world games. Many sandboxes claim to be expansive worlds that are more open and big but really most are empty. In 2015, I wasn’t expecting to take an interest in Assassin Creed’s next game then I saw the likes of Jack the Ripper and Charles Darwin in trailers. These characters who would provide quests with substance.

I know it’s weird for game designers and writers taking advice from a mangaka but the demand narrative driven gameplay and storytelling experience is growing ever stronger in gaming. A lot of gamers don’t want “stuff to do” or collectibles but stories on top of stories. Short stories, weird ones mixed with dark ones based on characters from all walks of life.

As a gamer and someone who enjoys immersing himself in fictional realities I ask game designers who are building their own worlds to try something different. Try not having “side missions or quests” instead add new characters with quests attached. Don’t add a location or a “challenge”. Add another character. Because every character has hopes and dreams, a place they came from and a place they are going to. Build around characters and deep dig into their personalities because it is the characters that leave a lasting impression on you not game trophies (unless it’s Platinum).