Tombs=Raided, Hearts=Won; Tomb Raider Rocks

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I don’t usually wish that I paid more for a game.  But I liked Tomb Raider so much that I almost wish I hadn’t bought it on sale.  I want the people who made it to know how much I liked it, and I want them to put as much high-quality work into making the next one as they put into making this one.  Because there’s a next one.  I mean, even if I didn’t know that Rise of the Tomb Raider is coming, I wouldn’t have any real doubts (except, I suppose, if the studios involved fell apart or lost the rights, which would be terrible).  The end of Tomb Raider left it clear that Lara is nowhere near finished with being the awesome badass which she’s become, and that makes me very happy.  Watching the announcement trailer for the new game has reduced me to a quivering pile of enthusiasm.

Why am I so happy about all this?  Tomb Raider is a brilliant game, and does things with story-telling that remind me why games are such a fascinating medium in the first place.  It’s an adventure novel with audience participation, a new entry in a genre that I love, and it evades the problematic trappings that spoil so many other adventure stories for me.

Ok, spoil is a strong word.  I love adventure stories enough to enjoy them despite their frequent problems, but being able to enjoy one that isn’t so inherently problematic is a breath of fresh air.  It doesn’t hurt that this particular story is extremely well written, with characters who feel like real people, and who share history with each other that seems fitting and unforced.  It’s a little bit like someone crossed Tintin with Indiana Jones, turned the tone dial to ‘gritty and a bit bloodthirsty,’ and then put you through the Bildungsroman of Lara Croft as she goes from untested and unconfident archaeologist to self-assured and competent survivor and adventurer, hellbent on keeping herself and her friends alive.  Wait, no, that’s almost exactly what it’s like.  It’s glorious.

Look, you don’t have to take my word for it.  You can play the game yourself.  But if you want to read more of my thoughts on the topic, including the few reservations I have, please be my guest:  Continue reading

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Kill la Kill: Fashion, Fascism, and a Heroine’s Shonen

Kill la Kill is a bizarre combination of disparate elements.  It follows the genre expectations of Shonen manga, with semi-constant fighting, growing friendships, and that strange running theme of turning one’s previously defeated foes into new allies, but it replaces the normally male leads with female ones and does the same for many of the villains as well.  Despite this refreshing gender-reversal, the show still drips with male gaze and fan service; there are a few moments where the show mentions how ridiculous this is (as the protagonist rages against the stupidity of her outfit), but Kill la Kill still falls into the same visual patterns and doesn’t really change that paradigm.

Kill la Kill (careful, spoilers) excels at the absurd, as one might expect from the same creative directors who brought us Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, and offers a look at fascism and fashion.  Or maybe it’s fascism by means of fashion?  The story begins as one young woman’s quest to avenge her father’s murder, as she sets herself against the leader of Honnouji Academy, whom she suspects of having arranged his death.  This school is a fascist dictatorship in which power-augmenting school uniforms are used both as a reward and as a means of control.  Things only get weirder from there.  I think it’s quite enjoyable in the end, but you should probably read at least some of my mixed feelings below.

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