Samurai Champloo

I know that in the previous post I talked about how I fell back in love with games but I also discovered something that made me love anime all over again. And that something was Samurai Champloo.

It’s hard for me to explain what made me love Samurai Champloo. All I know is that I adore the opening Battlecry for its blend of hip hop aesthetic and sound with traditional Japanese illustration. I also love the characters and the way the stories go from over the top to completely insane, to incredibly emotional.

The reason I wanted to talk about Samurai Champloo is that I wanted to take influence from the way the show uses traditional Japanese imagery and setting with modern inserts, i.e. the way it references hip hop records. I also wanted to mention it because this is one of my key influences and interests.

There’s something about anime that just captures my imagination more than most visual media. I think it’s because animation can achieve things that can’t be done with live action in way that just feels natural. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy other types of media and I do watch things other than anime and cartoons, but there’s something about them that hits the right notes with me and engages me far more than other things. There’s certain things that just wouldn’t work in any other medium and I think that Samurai Champloo is one of them.

These are the three main characters Mugen (left), Jin (middle) and Fu (right). The bold lines and high contrast shadows easily relate the aesthetic to the hip hop undertones and make the characters seem very dynamic and make them stand out against the background which takes on a far more traditional look.
Jin’s introduction in the opening credits.
The three main characters who are sometimes referred to as ‘the hungry three’ due to never having enough money for food.
Samurai Champloo HD Desktop Background
Some artwork of the trio that appears on one of the DVDs.

Light Part 1

Project Introduction

The latest project that I have been introduced to is a project called ‘Light’. I really like playing around with light and I have done quite a few projects that use light. Despite all that however, I was a little stuck on what to do.

I was thinking about the different aspects that make light interesting to me and I managed to break it down into three different things.

  • Functional lighting. This is fairly self explanatory; I’m interested in lights that look interesting but also serve a function.
  • Light and experience. I was thinking about how light can shape our experiences of things and that got me thinking about those restaurants that are completely dark because it’s meant to intensify the taste of the food.
  • Light and narrative. Recently I had watched a play through of a game that used light and colour in the most interesting way. I had also played a very different game that also used light and colour to great effect.

I decided that I would use these three things as a basis to go off of and see from there what I might do. I thought that I might explore a little bit of each and see how that goes but I’m not entirely sure.



Feeling Inspired

I am a massive fan of anime, manga and video games to the point where I must have the memorabilia, I go to conventions dressed as the characters and listen to the soundtracks just as much as I do with mainstream music (which is quite a lot). This will not be a surprise to those who know me well.

However I kind of feel that in the last couple of years I have been going through these hobbies somewhat passively or like I’m in a dazed state. It’s hard to describe, but despite getting excited for things, it feels like my experience just feels a little flat. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I haven’t had a major emotional response or feeling for video games, manga or anime as individual products or as a whole for some time.

That changed for me recently. It changed when I recently purchased the Sony Playstation 4 and preordered The Last Guardian by Team Ico. My game arrived about a week and a half later than my Playstation which meant I hadn’t done a whole lot with my PS4 because I didn’t have any games on it and I was determined for the first Playstation game I had played since the PS2 to be The Last Guardian. 

I didn’t know a whole lot about The Last Guardian before playing or even buying it. Whilst waiting for it to come out, I had watched a review that praised the game but had some criticisms about the AI and camera. The only thing I knew was that it was about a giant creature called Trico and a small boy who did not have a name. That and it was made by Team Ico who also made Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, both of which are regarded as masterpieces.

When my copy of The Last Guardian arrived, I put it straight into my console and booted it up. Now you may be wondering why I am building this up so much. But you could not understand the way this game makes me feel, even when just thinking about like I am now as I’m typing this, I feel enormous emotion and connection to it. It was a wake up to my dormant way of feeling towards my passions. It reminded me of what a game can be and why I fell in love with them so long ago.

The Last Guardian is a flawed game in two ways in my opinion. The main way is that the in game camera is frankly atrocious. Whilst it works a good portion of the time, there are moments where the screen went completely black because of  a wall or because of Trico or something like that. This made it sometimes tricky to climb obstacles or grab onto things. The other issue I had was with the controls which, like the camera worked fine enough although could be a bit annoying most of the time but really picked their moments to screw up. There isn’t really combat as such in the game, or rather the player doesn’t do combat, Trico does it for you. The best you can do is bash into enemies or try to avoid them to start with, but there were combat sequences that I got pretty frustrated with because the game seemed to get confused with what I wanted it to do. Whilst these moments were fairly few and far between, they were still far more frequent than I would have liked.

Now, you may be wondering why on earth I would start talking negatively about a game that has awakened such passion in me. Well this is the thing. For all the game screws up on, none of it outshines its absolute brilliance. And it is brilliant. The narrative is minimal but very engaging, there are no super long cutscenes to act as lazy info dumps and when the game does put a cutscene in, it is well considered and doesn’t do anything unnecessary like I would argue more than a few cutscenes in other game series do. The lighting is absolutely stunning. That might sound weird, but especially in outdoor areas, the way the light falls onto Trico’s immense stature is breathtaking. But you know what’s even more breathtaking? The environment. The scale of it all boggles the mind and yet you feel so trapped (especially during times Trico is absent) and claustrophobic. The soundtrack is awesome and so gentle and light but immensely powerful. And of course there’s Trico.

Trico has been a point of a little bit of contention. No one denies that it is a beautifully rendered and realised creature but I know that a lot of people have problems with his AI which I personally haven’t had issues with. They complain that he doesn’t do things straight away when you tell him to and to that I say why would he? He’s a wild animal and I actually love the way that the relationship I have with Trico is so reminiscent of the one I have with my cats. And I think that’s why I feel such a strong connection to Trico, because he feels so real to me. But it’s not just that. It’s the journey that you go on with Trico, the fact that you rely on Trico as much as Trico relies on you, which spoiler, is hell of a lot. I love Trico’s mannerisms, the way that he interacts with water, obviously hates being cooped up and runs around and stretches his legs when you go outside.

My favourite thing about Trico however, is how protective he is of the boy and how much they come to care about each other. For example I find it heart wrenching when enemies appear and seeing Trico get so angry that he has to be calmed down. The thought of the boy being in danger is so clearly not acceptable that Trico will take risks to save the boy and the most heart warming thing is that he always comes through for the boy. It’s so amazing to see the personal growth of this creature that you can’t really talk to or anything but you feel like you’ve known Trico all your life. There are times when the boy has to jump these distances that Olympic gold medalists couldn’t touch and Trico will always catch the boy. One of the most warming moments for me was when I was directing the boy to get down from a high wall but screwed it up and injured the boy’s leg which is what happens if you jump too great a distance and causes the boy to limp about for a little bit. This was the first time it had happened to me and I wasn’t expecting it but Trico saw the injured boy and walked over to nuzzle him and I just thought that was such a special thing.

The reason I really wanted to talk about this is because The Last Guardian awakened something in me. It made me feel excited about video games in a way that I haven’t felt for a long time.

The last time I remember feeling something like this was back when Pokemon Black and White came out because it was going to be a roster of entirely new Pokemon whereas the games before it had only built on the Pokedex that came before it. It was also exciting because there would be moving sprites instead of the Pokemon being completely still. The other thing that was really interesting was the fact that this game had a lot of very thought provoking themes and ideas. It was the first Pokemon game to directly ask the player if they really understood or have ever thought about what capturing and battling actual wild animals implies. It was so self aware and sensitive and had some amazing Pokemon designs to boot. I wouldn’t say it made me feel emotional like The Last Guardian but it did make me feel super excited and invested in the game.

I also loved the characters, specifically the gym leaders. It was the first time that I can recall gym leaders having any major plot relevance and gave them more fleshed out personalities. For example one of the gym leaders is a sophisticated model but worries that the public can’t see beyond her exterior and struggles with people not thinking that she has no personality and isn’t any fun. In Pokemon Black/White 2, the sequel to Pokemon Black/White, she has changed her appearance to brighter, more ‘electric’ colours and takes on a more outward and flamboyant  persona. Now I could write a whole essay on what is going on here but I will let you infer the themes being addressed here.

There were also the three gym leaders at the start of Pokemon Black/White, triplet brothers sharing a gym who felt the pressure of being the weakest gym leaders in the region, to the point where people couldn’t understand what they were even there for. A trio of villains visit their gym and basically talk them down to the point where they decide to stop being gym leaders. I was interested in this because you have to wonder how much resolve these guys had that was so chipped away that they lost faith in themselves that badly. It’s pretty sad when you think about it.

I guess what I liked is that you can imagine the characters actually having a life outside of what they immediately do in the game. Pokemon Black and White and their sequels were the last time that I was really truly invested in and loved because if I’m being honest, I thought Pokemon X and Y were dumpster fires. And don’t get me start on the Ruby and Sapphire remakes, whilst not terrible, I don’t think do enough justice to the original but did nonetheless have some good things going for it.

For the longest time I was looking for something in a game without even realising it and I think I have finally found it in The Last Guardian. The minimal story telling and direction made it feel like the first challenging game I’ve played in a long time and yet none of it feels like a challenge because it was ham-fistedly put there to challenge me. Everything I did just felt natural to the game and its progression. I liked that there was no tutorial or hand holding because the developer doesn’t think I can play games unlike The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword which I hate but the worst part is the companion character who can’t go two minutes without assuming you’ve forgotten how to tell Link how to so much as walk and feels compelled to remind you.

I wanted to write about these things because they are so important to my work. Aesthetically, games can get away with so much more than shows on TV can and that makes them so amazing to look at. I also think that games can take more risks thematically than other types of media. I have always been influenced by video games and anime aesthetically and thematically, so this is why I wanted to talk about it.


My Formative Assessment

I was dreading my formative assessment. This is because, due to illness, I have been really struggling on all fronts, physically, mentally and emotionally. What this ultimately amounts to was that I was very anxious about being behind and not having work turned in.

There were two pieces of work that I was not able to produce, one was a sheet with my final Siteless outcome because the printer was just asking to be smashed with a sledgehammer and the other one was the outcome for a metal workshop and this was because of my illness, I just wasn’t able to get there which was extremely frustrating. These were the main reasons why I wasn’t looking forward to the assessment because I was worried about what would be said about not having these things.

Thankfully it was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. In fact, it wasn’t bad at all. I was able to explain all my workshop outcomes and why I thought some were better than others.

The other thing I had been worried about was the reception of my Siteless outcome. This is because it was made from cardboard and it was the simplest thing and it was small to boot. I was sure I would be told it needed to me bigger or I should have made it using a more advanced process but it was received very well and I was pleasantly surprised.

I was also happy that I was understood much better when trying to talk about my Cited project. The ideas bounced excited me much more than the ones in the group tutorial and I found that I was on the same page for once. There were still a few things that needed to be thought through because I progressed but I felt so much happier about progressing and so I had a new found hope.

The one area I get frustrated with myself for and is an area that I really need to improve on is my attention to detail. I can construct things with a lot of different materials pretty well. My problem lies in the fact that I struggle to finish things off tidily and carefully and so they sometimes can look a little scrappy. I have found this problem most often occurs in textiles works and work that needs to be very precise.

All in all I was happy with how the assessment went and I know what I need to get done over the holidays.

Cited Part 3 – Group Tutorial #2

In between my last tutorial and my second one, I hadn’t done too much to advance the Cited project although I had prepared an ideas sheet. However due to my chronic inability to have a functioning memory, I left the work in a lecture theatre and could not procure in time for the second tutorial.

I tried to sweat it off and hope for the best but I have to admit that this tutorial did not go very well. Actually it was very frustrating. It was frustrating for a number of reasons, a couple of which I don’t really want to go into, but I will go into the two main reasons.

The first reason is that I suck at communicating. I find it very difficult to get my points across clearly. I tend to let my work to the talking for me but all I had this time around were some figurative drawings of quick ideas of humans that are warped with cybernetic features, those and my object which was only there because I had forgotten to take it home. It just wasn’t enough to convey the ideas that I had. I think the other thing was that I wasn’t even sure what I was doing so how on earth would anyone else? But at least in the last tutorial they had gotten the right end of the stick but I really didn’t think I was even in the right ball park this time around. And this leads to problem two.

I think part of what was upsetting me was that I felt like I was being cornered into doing a purely art project whereas I’m far more interested in doing a more design orientated exploration. I’ve never understood why, but just doing straight up art like you might find the art gallery has never sat well with me. I want more functionality in my work, I want it to fulfil a purpose even if that is just something like some graphic design for the sake of verisimilitude in a computer game or movie. The more I asked myself the terrified I got of thinking about just doing some figurative sculpture that ends up on a plinth.

The other thing that worried me was that I couldn’t help wondering if I had the entire project all wrong and to some extent even the entire course. I can’t help but be thinking of late that the course can be a little bias towards the straight art side of things and doesn’t seem to have as much room for the more craft based things or design and I’m not going to lie, that really concerns and borderline terrifies me.

The other thing was that worried me was that my way of working was just not accepted because it wasn’t a certain way. That is not to say that I think my drawing ability is all that, because it’s not. However, there is a huge difference between something being criticised because it is inaccurate or not quite right in some way and it being criticised due to stylistic tendencies and direction. Of course there can be valid criticism about art direction/style (I hate saying ‘art style’) if it simply isn’t appropriate. For example would Shadow of the Colossus be half the game it is if it looked like Animal Crossings? No, no it would not it would look ridiculous. However I would be perfectly fine if the criticism was something like ‘you need to work on your foreshortening’ because that refers to an actual technical issue that would throw off a whole piece and make it look stupid.

To put it simply, my work tends to take on a cleaner, clearer and concise aesthetic so that it is easy to understand very quickly. If my drawings ever look very scribbly and ‘expressive’ it is only because they are being done extremely quickly straight into pen and are not given as much thought or because I have been drawing in pen and I have made a mistake so I scribble over the correct lines to make them bolder and easier to see through the mistake. This way of drawing is likely the heavy influence of manga that shows in my work although having said that, as much as I love reading manga, I do not draw things in order for them to look manga. I just take certain simplifications that are the backbone of manga but I tend not to render the faces like that of a manga or anime character. This is my preferred method. I do not like to draw big unless something really calls for it and the things I draw don’t tend to. I do not like to ‘scribble’ when drawing certain things because to me, it removes the functionality or it just doesn’t need to be that way.

I’m sorry if this turned into a bit of a rant or it seemed unkind. It’s just I was left feeling very frustrated with myself. It was my failure to communicate anything properly. I was left more confused about the project than I was before because I don’t know how closely I am meant to hark back to this object of mine. I got the impression from my last tutorial that it was perfectly fine to cite the capabilities of my object rather than the object and it’s physical qualities but honestly I just don’t know anymore.

I hope to have a more solid idea in the coming weeks and hopefully I can feel a bit more secure and sure that I’m in the right place and am doing the right thing.

Cited Part 3 – Group Tutorial #1

The second step to the cited project was to take it to a group tutorial to share ideas and get some feedback on the credibility of my idea.

I found the tutorial very interesting and very beneficial and most of all I felt I was understood. I was able to communicate that I was more interested in the capability of the object than the object itself and that I personally use the internet a lot for gaming. It was suggested that I look into a gaming side of the internet, perhaps creating my own game world. I liked that idea but I also felt a little intimidated by it.

I was told to look at a bunch of digital modelling tools. I have used quite a few over the years but I was excited to learn how to use even more. I have always thought that learning who to use software very quickly is a very underrated skill but I like to think that it is something that I keep developing and improving on and already have some pretty good grounding in.

One of my favourite things about the tutorial was that I felt I could really branch out from my object because of it’s breadth and immense capability. One of the things that really excited me was that I could tie it into video games.

I love video games, I have since I first played the Playstation 1 at my friend’s house when I was around seven. When I was a child there was nothing I would rather do than be on a games console. I didn’t care which console it was, Nintendo, Microsoft Xbox series or the Sony Playstation series, I just wanted to play games. And a year or so later i realised that games can also be played on the computer and so I became obsessed with the strategy games that my dad got me. These would be things like Pharaoh, Stronghold and Cossacks: European Wars. However, this love for games was not a childhood phase, I still love playing video games and recently this passion has had an immense rekindling since I bought my Playstation 4 and played The Last Guardian which I will be talking about in a separate post. It may seem like a weird ramble to go on, but the thing is, gaming and the internet go hand in hand so this could be a good avenue to explore.

I left the tutorial with quite a few things going on in my head. I liked the idea of the gaming angle but I also liked the darker side of the internet and the idea of exploring how people put everything online.

I wasn’t at this point sure how this would all come together, but I would figure it out.



Cited part 2 – My Object of Citation

The Netgear Internet Router

This is an internet router. It’s a simple black object that, aesthetically I am not that interested in, however, what I am interested in is the immense capability that this black box affords me.

The internet allows me to overcome my shyness, it allows me to access incredible amounts of information and allows me to dive into worlds that could only exist because technology combined with human imagination allows it.

However exciting all these things are, the internet as a whole is far too big to make a project from without having to cut it down. This is the things that I am going to find the most difficult. I need to figure out what I want to convey about the internet and how exactly this will manifest. This is the thing that I am most worried about because I don’t really know what I’m doing with this and there were a couple of times I thought that it might be better to change but I have decided to stick with my project and use the modem.

Photos of my Object

Below are photos of my internet modem from various angles including the inside.