I love the Ryū ga Gotoku/Yakuza games, though I've always found them more Yakuza-adjacent than actually playing a character that's in a yakuza family. They often have great plotlines, highly compelling characters, absurdist yet fun side stories, and a massive amount of detail that make it clear that the games were lovingly made by people who live and understand the culture and settings. I'm glad they're changing out the series name to "Like a Dragon", which is a closer approximation of the Japanese title, Ryū ga Gotoku, and the spirit of the games, though. In any case, the latest Like a Dragon is really a remake. Ishin is one of the two feudal Japan Ryū ga Gotoku games, set in the infamous Bakumatsu period and following two of the most famous historical people from that era mashed into one alt-history persona–Sakamoto Ryoma and Saito Hajime of the Shinsengumi.
Ishin is worth playing if you have any interest in feudal Japan whatsoever. The game is beautiful, the combat is fun, the main story is great while playing fast and loose with actual history, and the characters are both familiar and unfamiliar. Most importantly, unlike some other samurai games I could name, the experience of being a samurai in Ishin is extremely steeped in feudal class systems, restrictions, and the social agony that comes out of having to live life ruled by people who don't always see you as human.
Plus, it's fun being able to rock the iconic blue captain's haori. The game also doesn't shy away from how bloodthirsty and messed up the Shinsengumi were.
Once you're done with Ishin, I recommend Yakuza 7, the game's sole turn-based series and a story that seems to be about how nobody will get to eat Peking Duck ever. As usual with the games, great storyline, compelling characters. I did mod mine to change Kasuga's hair, though. And as with all the Yakuza games, I love walking into the kombinis. Damn. I miss Japan.
What I've Been Writing
My short story with Haven Speculative, Sharing a Meal at the End of the World, was shortlisted for Best Science Fiction Short Story at the Aurealis Awards 2023! Sadly I'd have to miss it this year, because I don't think I can make it to Canberra in June, but I'd have loved to see everyone again. The last time I attended an Aurealis Awards ceremony for Eight Step Koan, it was great meeting new people–and editors I'd already been able to work with. Also, I got a post-it note autographed by the amazing Shaun Tan, one of my favourite illustrators.
Earth Dragon, Turning has also been selected for the Year's Best Fantasy anthology Vol. 2, due to be out later this year. This story was a fun one to write, put down to text while I was craving some good bak chang. It's in great company too, so pick up the anthology if you have the time.
My cat vet visit-inspired short story, A Routine Vet Visit, is now on CatsCast. Written now that my older cat Russ is quite senior (15 years), suffering from IBD and having to visit the vet fairly often for solensia injections, the opening is quite true to form on how he tends to behave during a routine vet trip. Hope it gives you a laugh!
Speaking of Cats
Russ is 15 this year, and Pascal is 5. Neither cared particularly about their birthday celebrations–presumably, to a cat, everyday is their birthday. Neither were allowed to eat the cakes, though after Pascal was no longer held down for his photograph he tried to headbutt one of his.
What I've Been Watching
Dororo | 2019 | MAPPA adapted Osamu Tezuka's manga of the same name into this gorgeous, gory, tragic, heartwarming found-family story about a boy who was sacrificed by his daimyo lord father to demons for a break in a devastating famine, losing his skin, eyes, nose, limbs, and senses. He embarks on a journey to gain them back by killing the demons who ate him, and meets a young child (the titular character) along the way, learning how to become more human. It's a beautiful story, a masterful adaptation of a story by the Godfather of Manga, worth a try.
Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves | I went into the film expecting nothing and wow. That was an awesome watch. Great even if you have no context I think, but fantastic for fans and for people who play D&D. The spellcasting system was handled well, the classes and characters were done great, and lots of entertaining in-jokes for those in the know about the Forgotten Realms. Worth a watch, especially if you know anything about the game. I especially love Jarnathan.
What I've Been Reading
I've fallen back into the rabbithole of reading popcorn Chinese novels I confess, but other than that I've recently caught up with the Boku no Hero Academia manga (My Hero Academia) by Horikoshi Kōhei. It's as though someone decided to take the rough concept of a Marvel universe (heroes being part of society) but making it so much more detailed in terms of worldbuilding. It's so good, with amazing characters, and a storyline that's at times heartwarming, hilarious, and will also break your heart. It's in its final arc now, so if you hold off a year or so it'd likely finish soon, but I also recommend trying the anime if you'd rather watch than read. Probably one of the better shounen manga out there, and a fantastic worldbuild about powers.
Other Personal Stuff
I've had to ask editors to change a few author bios this year because I've left the ad agency I was in to go in-house at Yamaha Music Australia. So far it's been a fun and relatively relaxed experience with great colleagues and exciting new challenges, working with a brand I pretty much grew up with and people who love it – I got to Grade 7 when I was in my teens on a Yamaha upright piano. My family also had a clavinova, one of the synthesizers, the drums, the saxophone, the guitars... ... I sort of feel vaguely obliged to pick up an instrument again, if only because at work especially closer to lunchtime someone's always playing an instrument somewhere in the office.
Adjusting to the new job and some other personal stuff have put my writing schedules further out of whack, but I do have at least one other short story coming out later this year, and I hope to submit a few more (and another manuscript!) later this year. Happy Easter break everyone!