Celeste Overpowers Anxiety through Accepting It

Indie Game of the Year for 2018, Celeste stepped into the video game world and promptly cemented itself as a modern classic. It had no real competition for GOTY in the indie sphere at the time of its release, and so everyone was dialed in on this charming, harrowing adventure of a girl as she climbs a mountain. A couple of them, actually, though some are less material than others.

Without spoiling too much of this superb gaming experience, the main character of Celeste, Madeline, struggles throughout the game with a couple different aspects of anxiety and a foggy opinion of herself. Upon the magical mountain of Celeste, her negative feelings manifest as a dark, brash reflection of herself. Over the course of her climb, Madeline faces this dark side to embrace her greatest potential, and prove to herself that she can accomplish a meaningful goal, in spite of herself.

Read the Kotaku article below to see how Celeste not only chronicles Madeline’s misadventure through the dark swamp of anxiety, but the creator’s experience with mental illness, as well.

https://kotaku.com/celeste-taught-fans-and-its-own-creator-to-take-better-1825305692

Emotional Repression, and The Girl Who Would Be Tank


**I will refrain from using game-specific terminology in this post, as it would break the flow of the article.**

Presea Combatir is one of, if not the greatest example of a tragic character in the beloved Tales franchise of video games. In a gambit to make herself useful to her struggling family after her sister falls ill, she subjects herself to a malevolent experiment, wherein she gains increased strength at the cost of her emotional and physical growth being permanently subdued. As such, she turns into a shell of the child she once was, and by the time she is found in the game, sixteen full years of this repression have cost her much of her humanity.

Though technically twenty-eight, Presea appears as a twelve-year-old girl, with her emotional and social maturity being practically non-existent. She is in a routine of soulless labor, with no cognitive attachment or awareness for the world around her. Even when her father dies, she doesn’t notice or care, allowing him to rot in his bed. Her freakish nature and questionable history have turned her into a pariah within her village, completely ostracized from peers and adults.

When at last the main cast of Tales of Symphonia is able to recover part of Presea’s humanity, much of the damage cannot be undone. Yet, she begins to age normally again, and slowly starts to form new connections with the world. She remains blunt and distant to communication with others, and does not understand social protocols. This is occasionally endearing, but mostly it’s sad. It becomes quickly apparent that her lack of emotions was something resembling a boon, for now that they were coming in full force, they were almost all negative. She grieves the years she lost, the family she doesn’t have anymore, and suffers without a clear purpose in the world. At the core of her reservation and ongoing melancholy is the tantalizing perception that, even with her new friends, she is ultimately still alone in this world. It is the bulk of her character arc from this point until the end of the game that she must realize, through the actions of her companions, that she is loved and has a home. It might not be the home she originally wanted or remembers, but it is something worth cherishing and protecting.

Protection is Presea’s strong suit, even as a combat asset within the game. Her size and cute appearance are deceptive. With her aforementioned inhuman fortitude, she can shrug off harm that would critically wound her friends. As such, she operates best as a “tank” for the team. That is, she offers herself as the one who, when everyone else must play it safe, walks into challenges head-on. She has faced hardship and hurt and damage, physically and emotionally, and they have strengthened her in a way her companions don’t immediately recognize. So, she’s the tank in every sense. The one who endures injury, but never relents.

Presea is my favorite character from Tales of Symphonia. Her tragedy aside, she is a wonderful, quirky little girl, fascinated by animal paws and woefully ignorant to the innocent flirtations of others. She is lost in the world, but possesses a durability in spite of her loneliness that things will somehow get better. It’s these things that I want to see more in myself, and hope to inspire in others.

Podcast Spotlight — Anime Addicts Anonymous

Dedicated to making your anime addiction worse, the AAA podcast has stood the test of time in my gallery of weekly podcasts. Now a regular listener for nearly four years, I’ve seen a handful of hosts come and go, each contributing their own flavor to what the podcast would eventually become in the present. In my opinion, the series is as strong as its ever been. As one of the longest-running and most popular anime podcasts in the world, they’ve had plenty of time to come up with fun, interesting segments to engage the hosts and audience, as well as streamline the format into something digestible and concise.

Each of the hosts goes by a Japanese moniker (because, you know, weeaboo trash and such). This isn’t to preserve secrecy as much as it’s just fun. Mitsuki (also known as the Anime Pope within their thriving Discord channel), is the founder, moderator, and most consistent host presence on the podcast. He is the “old man” of the group, which is as endearing as it is occasionally annoying. He’s still a very fun person, and could probably bench press me into the ceiling. Kazuo is the resident goofball. They’re all different brands of goof, but if they were stuck in a horror movie, well, he’d die first. Mandi (that’s both her real name and host name) is the manga enthusiast and essayist of the group. She goes into the greatest detail in her reviews and lines of reasoning. Enzo rounds them out (also his real name) as the one who is arguably the most sentimental of the group (maybe) and thus engages listeners most on an emotional level. Mandi and Enzo are the two newest hosts, both starting at the same time about a year and a half ago, and each of them have personalized segments in “Mandi’s Manga Minute” (you can probably guess what that’s about) and “Enzo-Senpai’s Notice Me Corner” which has Enzo reading out a listener-submitted positive-report about things that are going well in their lives and requests for continued support. Both of them are some of my favorite segments in the podcast’s history.

The best segment is obviously “Does Mitsuki’s Mom Know?” But that only shows up every once in a while, which is fine, otherwise the novelty would wear off.

Every episode generally consists of a topic of discussion, submitted by the fan community, a weekly anime review, two news breaks, two pieces of trivia (in which you can win actual prizes), and otherwise a ton of natural shenanigans. There will occasionally be special interview episodes or guest hosts or any number of other variations, but what I listed above is the most common formula for their episodes, and it works like a charm. The AAA podcast is one of only two podcasts that I listen to as soon as it comes out. I can be in the middle of an episode of tv, a song, another podcast, whatever, and I’ll immediately stop and change to them. It is a consistent, reliable comfort in the growing bleakness of our modern landscape. Maybe I’m just getting old and jaded. Either way, it’s an aspect of the podcast I can’t overstate enough. They (and the Discord) make you feel welcome and at peace, for just a little while.

As for where to start, I’d suggest you listen to episode 466, wherein the entire cast is present to discuss their Spring 2019 anime selections to review. It is a recent example of an episode that holds all of the charm that defines this podcast’s popularity, and if you’re new, would be a good place to pick up the show. If you end up liking the hosts (which I suspect most people would), you can entertain retroactively exploring their older episodes and reviews at your discretion. Or, you can become a patron, as I have, and enjoy the bonus episodes of their After Parties and Hobby Addicts episodes, which are both a blast (THEY’RE AT THE BEGINNING OF A NEW D&D CAMPAIGN). There’s another tier for their Hentai episodes, which I suspect are hilarious in their own right, but that’s not my speed. To each their own.

If you like podcasts and you like anime, you can’t sleep on the AAA podcast. It offers the best of both worlds, quality and geekdom. The personalities are brilliant, the show is meticulously crafted, and the fun times show no sign of stopping.

Thank you for making my addiction worse.

Hard Friendship – Cowboy Bebop

I recently came across an article from the Bebop Attic (linked below) which explores the topsy-turvy, sometimes painful discourse of friendship that is the main cast of Cowboy Bebop. Being a long-time fan of Watanabe’s work (and CB, in particular), I am always delighted when I find a new angle on this classic anime. For all their casual disregard and generally laid-back, easy-going nature, it’s important to remember that Spike, Faye, and Jet are, at the end of the day, hardly more than active shells of the people they used to be. They are walking walls, keeping everyone around them at arms-reach, yet inexplicably can’t pull themselves apart from their meandering life together exploring the cosmos.

Take a look at the original article for more detail. And if you haven’t seen Cowboy Bebop yet, or it’s been a while since you last explored space with the crew of the Bebop, I encourage you to rectify that as soon as you have a chance. It ages like your favorite wine.

http://bebopattic.weebly.com/friendship-in-cowboy-bebop.html

“Area of Effect: Wisdom From Geek Culture”

Published by Mythos & Ink, “Area of Effect: Wisdom from Geek Culture” checked a lot of my boxes. Using pop culture and the wider community of geekdom as a vehicle, the writers within challenge the quagmire of life with subtle excellence. Regardless of what media is most endearing to you—whether it cinema, novels, anime, video games, etc.—there is bound to be at least a handful of insightful deductions that make you think, or personal tales that make you feel.

I know a small handful of the collaborators involved in this book. I worked with most of them, in one way or another, during my time as a writer and editor at Geeks Under Grace. But Area of Effect afforded me an opportunity to learn new things about each of them, both in their opinions on various stories, as well as formative events that shaped their lives. I think what was most impressive about this compilation, however, was the consistency of ‘oh‘ moments I had. I was challenged to think in new ways (I’d never considered what it must have been like to be an average citizen in the sociopolitical climate of the Fire Nation when Sozen decided to siege the world), and I’ve never understood the appeal of Buffy the Vampire Slayer until two or three different chapters addressed aspects of its story. Now it’s at the forefront of my list (along with Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse).

There’s something for every geek in this series of articles and essays. Do you like anime? Plenty of that within these pages. Marvel films? There are at least four topics around those. Video games? Galore. Lord of the Rings? But of course.

I think it takes a unique frame of mind to connect the fiction we read to the lives that play out before us every day, and something even greater to learn from that connection. If you appreciate good dialogue on the merits of your favorite pieces of fiction, I implore you to pick up this book, available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback versions. I suspect you will not be disappointed.

NYT on Depression/Anxiety in Video Games

E3 2018 revealed a feast of new video games that we should expect to see throughout this year. One game that stood out to many people, myself included, was the sadly serene Sea of Solitude, developed by Jo-Mei Games and published by Electronic Arts. This waterscape misadventure, characterized by an aesthetic of over-saturated colors, braces itself against a narrative exploring loneliness. It is also Electronic Arts’ first major foray into supporting an indie story that focuses on mental health. Their support cannot be understated.

Laura Parker of the New York Times talks about Sea of Solitude in further detail below, as well as other video games that dare to explore the complicated waters of mental and emotional health in video game storytelling.

Top 50 Instrumental Songs (Part 5/5)

This is the fifth in a five-part series to be released daily, in which I unpack my favorite instrumental songs in the history of, well, ever. Narrowing this list down was obviously difficult. There were four “waves” needed to thin out the contestants from my library of thousands, and once we got below one-hundred it was like pulling teeth.

Yet, I stayed true to my original goal of fifty, for my own sake, and not compromise that number. I wanted to know for myself what I believed were my favorites among the gallery of songs I so dearly love.  This following list is the conclusion of those struggles.  They are not in order.  Simply getting a pool of them was hard enough.  I do wish to leave with my sanity.

Many are favored because of their execution and style, while others, because of a particular attachment or association they have with my personal life.  With each entry will be a short blurb, explaining why it belongs. And for a disclaimer: if I couldn’t understand what language they were singing in, I considered the vocals as their own independent instruments, and thus things like Gregorian chants do not disqualify songs from being “instrumentals.”

Enjoy.


#41 – “Atonement” by Masashi Hamauzu

My all-time favorite song, in-and-outside of instrumental music, accounting for all genres and all phases over the course of my nearly twenty-seven years of life. In the beginning, I didn’t think much more of it than “mmm, what a bittersweet sound,” but with time and repetition, it wiggled its way into the soft, squishy parts of my heart, and nested there.  I am not going to boast of its technical or emotional merits.  Just please do me the favor of listening to it a couple of times, and if you find it not capturing you right away, return later.  It is not for all moments of life, but imperative to a specific few which matter.  I hope you are fortunate enough to find this song in one of those times.

#42 – “Soul Battles” by Ryan Taubert

Similar to “Time” from Inception, “Soul Battles” darkly shines with a heavy, swaying sadness. It is the sound of somebody who is being overcome. I’m going to waylay my usual blurb for these entries.  Just let the music carry you away to the trenches.

#43 – “Kakariko Village” by Koji Kondo (performed by the Legend of Zelda 25th Anniversary Symphony)

This famous track from The Legend of Zelda practically oozes good feelings.  I feel safe when I hear this song.  I feel home.  This song precludes the adventure, showcasing the mystified daydreams of a hero-to-be, before he picks up the blade.  “Kakariko Village” is quaint, just like the village itself in every incarnation of Zelda.  I’m not the world’s biggest Zelda fan, but Link to the Past was one of the first games I ever played, and I would sometimes just leave my character sitting in the middle of the village to hear the soothing overture.  They brought perspective and optimism whenever I was feeling lost or uncertain in my direction.  It still makes me feel that way.  And for a song to be able to do that is nothing short of phenomenal.

#44 – “Kindred Spirits” by REEN

I think the image in the above video does a pretty good job of capturing my feelings towards this song.  “Kindred Spirits” is gingerly, romantically tragic.  An honest love, cracked down the middle by external powers.  Romeo and Juliet, except believable, and actually sad.  If I walked in on the scene depicted in that video, in that lighting…yeah, I can see how this song would fit.

#45 – “Friends” by Yoko Kanno

I have no idea what this show is about.  I’ve never seen Wolf’s Rain, but I discovered its soundtrack around the time I was reading a series called Bakuman.  A major theme in Bakuman is that of friendship and camaraderie, to which this song appropriately fits.  Yet, despite the earnestness of the track, it’s very clearly a song of bittersweet quality.  I suspect it originally plays in Wolf’s Rain to the scene of a friend dying, or having already passed and being reflected upon.  At any rate, that piano lacerates my strength.  I am made somber beneath its gentle might, just in time to be done in by the violins which follow after.  We approach the conclusion with a dirge of aching woodwinds, playing notes so low, they’re practically whispers.  Whispers between friends.  A promise to never forget one another.

#46 – “Ascending into Naught” by Demetori

(Despite the picture above, this is not from an anime…just a video game with anime aesthetics.)

It was difficult to narrow down one favorite from the Japanese metal band Demetori, but, gun to my head, I’d have to go with “Ascending Into Naught.”  This song has been on my workout playlists since my friend introduced me to it in college. The colliding harmony of layered guitars—some riding power chords, the others flying through high notes— synchronize perfectly with the piano to create what sounds to me like a grade-A, final boss video game track.  You can even tell when the final boss would go on its last leg.  Near the 5:48 mark, a slaughtering drum-line breaks through a tasteful lull in the energy of the song, ushering it to new heights, in which the guitars and piano/synth run a gauntlet of increased stress and speed and rioting awesomeness.

This song is crazy, it’s epic, and it’s so much fun.  Just like everything Demetori does.

#47 – “Beyond” by Lorne Balfe and Hans Zimmer

When people describe something which is “epic,” they are referring to scope and magnitude.  If something is epic, it is of great consequence, usually world-altering in nature, involving hundreds, if not thousands, millions, or billions of moving pieces.

If I were to describe “Beyond” in any two words, it would be as the spiritual incarnation of “epic sorrow.”  This is the dirge which follows a long, hard-fought battle, and things did not turn out well.  As the siren-like strings slowly crescendo, they build into a drop which plunges your heart into your feet.  This song is the sound of hope dying, as all the world weeps.  It, and the game it comes from (Beyond: Two Souls) were the original seed from which my own story, “Doubting Puppet,” was founded.

#48 – “Between Worlds” by Roger Subirana Mata

I’m sorry the world is not what it should be—that the crack in your chest has held on despite all these years of trying to make it go away. I’m sorry people are not always patient, not always kind. I’m sorry that sometimes neither am I. I’m sorry you’ve lost friends, in however way that might have happened. Tragedy is not always necessary in losing someone important. I’m sorry your heart doesn’t always feel big enough or strong enough.  I’m sorry your mind doesn’t always feel as though it can persist through the gales of stress which blow your way.

I’m sorry people don’t understand, can’t understand, or won’t understand.  Please forgive them.  Please forgive yourself, because you know sometimes it’s hard for you to understand, too.  That’s not your fault, it’s just the way of things.  We do the best with what we have, and as long as you are doing all you can, no fault can be justly held against you.

#49 – “Farewell, Life” by Arn Andersson & Nights Amore

One of the saddest songs I know.  Dangerously sad.  It should not be consumed without caution, and definitely not over an extended period of time.  Beneath the heartbreaking rhythm, a seduction is taking place, a parasitic spirit of hurt which will slowly drain you of vitality if you’re not careful, and lead you into thoughts of obliteration, however hypothetical.  That said, it is beautiful.  The ocean in a grey morning, not a stir to be seen, despite the cool gust tossing your hair.  Froth on the rocks.  A quiet harbor town.

“Farewell, Life,” is a deathbed anthem.  It’s what plays in the miasma of the spiritual plane when one of our own passes over, eyes clicking shut for the last time.  Songs like this are important.  They help us remember death isn’t necessarily bad or scary.  But it is significant, and should never be forgotten.

#50 – “Super Saiyan 3” by Bruce Faulconer

80’s Hair-metal ain’t got nothin’ on this. ^^^

There is a special place in my nerdy heart for many of the Super Saiyan themes.  This one is arguably my favorite (there was much internal debating).  Where the theme from Goku’s original ascension carried with it the sound of a legend being born—mystical and slow—and Gohan’s theme from reaching Super Saiyan 2 showed him surpass his father—chilling and violent—the Super Saiyan 3 Theme is something else entirely.  In Goku’s own meme-ified words, it is “to go even further beyond.”

This is the song of the ultimate hero, one who has found the final ceiling of their own potential, and somehow managed to push through it.  When the heroes of Dragon Ball Z first reached Super Saiyan, they were quick to realize there was something beyond it, a perfected form.  Super Saiyan 2 was achieved: the natural end to their evolution.  But Goku, he invented a level beyond that, something he and only he had ever done.

Super Saiyan 3 was an impossibility, creating one’s own reality from just being that awesome.  While the transformation in-series had the least emotional build-up and impact, it was no doubt memorable for its sheer confidence.  This song helped craft that feeling, make it whole, and cemented Goku, for better or worse, as one of the coolest shonen protagonists of all time.  So it would be fitting to make his ascension to SS3 the bookend to this immense list.

Thank you for reading.  I hope you found at least one song you enjoyed.