Finally got around to trying the Yakuza games, because Steam was selling a bundle (Yakuza 0, Yakuza Kiwami, and Yakuza Kiwami 2) for $90. The game makes me miss visiting Japan: particularly Tokyo and Osaka, where the 2 stories are set. It's been fun moving Kiryu and Majima around, getting them to go to soba and ramen places, eating kaiseki in the Dotonbori area, going to the crab restaurant with the gigantic king crab on its facade. It'd be a long time more until I can visit Japan again, I think, so I have to get my substitutions in where I can.
The game itself is very much a product of its audience and presumably male-dominated development team, however. There are some parts of the game that were just plain uncomfortable to watch: at the start of Majima's arc, for example, you have to watch a graphic sexual assault of one of his hostess employees. Majima intervenes, but instead of having the perpetrator hauled off to the cops, he instead decides to let him off by getting him to pay everyone's tab rather than "ruining his life", and gives the victim a bonus for the night. In-character or not, it just reminded me of the ongoing problems in Singapore, where university students who assaulted women were given very light sentences. Because otherwise it'd ruin their lives, right? Never mind about the lives they'd already ruined.
As to the fanservice aspects of the game, welp, I guess when you play certain kinds of games you just expect what you'd get. I try to skip through them or avoid them where possible. The rest of the game: storyline, voice acting, the loving recreation of parts of 80s Japan – is beautifully done. Here's hoping that any future instalments to the series become more conscious that we're now in 2020.
I've also been trying out Raji, a gorgeous Indian fantasy setting game on the Switch:
It's very much a roguelike platformer, Prince of Persia style. Beautiful game. Difficult, though, at least for me: I'm not great at games that need timing and dodging.
Things I've Written
I have a number of stories out this month!
Other Life Forms are the Most of our Problems | free to read at Daily SF | This flash fiction was written at the start of this year, pre-pandemic, during Australia's fire apocalypse. Every day you'd wake up to a yellowing sky and toxic air quality. You'd see photographs of masked children on boats against a red horizon and think: surely the government, conservative or not, will finally do something. You look at reports of the three billion animals dead or displaced and think: surely people won't forget this. I think we have. Looking at what's now happening in California hasn't even raised much of a blip. The fire apocalypse will return to Australia at the end of this year. We are the most of our problems.
Seven Parts Full | free to read at Translunar Traveller's Lounge | The title is a reference to not over-eating, but this story was very much written to celebrate Peranakan feasting. Because I miss nasi ulam, kueh pie tee, sambal, and everything else. Yes, it's possible (I had to do the research!) to make vegan Peranakan food, but where possible for your preferences, try to find and eat the original. Come to Singapore and try True Blue over on Armenian St. Seok Kim, the main character, is very much like the Nyonya women I know: fierce, strong, and proud as hell of our food. Rightly so, too. As to Feng, she's loosely inspired by Jeong Kwan, who was featured in Season 3 of Chef's Table. Really recommend watching her ep if you can: it's about temple cuisine.
Loving Monsters | buy the anthology | A story about conservation, mangroves, and divine snakes, Loving Monsters takes a look at how progress, colonisation, politics, and local communities affect the preservation of species and habitats. As habitable spaces in our world grow smaller and smaller, communities have to learn how to preserve and live with nature, even as it comes knocking (or, in this case, slithering) onto our doorsteps. A story about how conservation is more than just collecting magical creatures.
Things I've Watched
Started watching My Country: The New Age out of curiosity and because it has only 16 eps, stayed for the weird love triangle between a tragic poor MC, his rich trash friend, and a rich trash prince. There's the usual het romance that you'd expect for a kdrama, but it's far less pronounced than the triangle. Also, Jang Hyuk, who plays the prince, is electrifying on the screen as Bang-won. Based on historical events, so if you know a bit about the founding of the Joseon Dynasty, you probably know what to expect of the plot. Jang Hyuk though. You get scenes like this:
Sadly the show's writing is at its worst where the women are concerned, even though they're all set up to have political agency. Overall though, it's a high production, action-packed historical drama. Watch it for Jang Hyuk if you have the time.
Things I've Read
I feel like my to-read list is just getting longer and longer – which is a good thing. Things read in August 2020 in between all the kdrama and video games:
Justina Ireland | Dread Nation | An alt-history zombie story where the Civil War ended because the dead began to rise, Dread Nation is a tightly written, gorgeously choreographed story about racial inequality, survival, and female friendship. The main character is bi and the best friend is ace, a fact that comes up naturally in conversation, and doesn't go on to dominate what the character is or becomes. Being on the ace spectrum myself, that's my personal preference for such characters. Loved the book, will have to pick up the next one.
Stephen Graham Jones | The Only Good Indians | I love Stephen's writing. He's an incredible author – his werewolf book, Mongrels, is one of my fave werewolf books. The Only Good Indians is an atmospheric, creepy, richly written story about tragedy, revenge, hunting, and loss, centred on and off a reservation, involving an elk hunt that went very wrong. Read it, and read all his other books too. Maybe don't read this one at night, though. Some of the gloriously gory parts of the books are going to stick with me.
Nicky Drayden | The Prey of Gods | This book was a bit of a wild ride. A what-if one God had been extremely active, making-kids wise, and so many, many people now are dormant or semi-dormant demigods? Entertaining read.
Caitlin Starling | Yellow Jessamine | I think this is the first novella ARC I've ever got to read, because I'm interviewing Caitlin for her book's upcoming launch over on Neon Hemlock. A gothic horror tale about poison and found families, fear and desperation, and the lengths that people will turn to when they think there's nowhere left to go. Gorgeous book. Check it out soon!
A Final Note
Still unable to get over how beautiful Ghost of Tsushima is, and it's been a whole month. Going to pick up the artbook (look at that beautiful binding!), and maybe the nendo. This game has been slow to release its hold on my soul.