So, like uh… I had a thing I was writing. Persona 5 Diaries for September 20XX. It’s about 1500 words, if you’re curious.

But, this show is something that needs to be seen. Because this Netflix J-Drama doesn’t have a massive following. Although you can’t gauge ratings on Netflix properly, If you look at the IMDB page, the show only has 137 ratings. This signifies, to me at least, that this show either doesn’t have a very passionate audience, or it hasn’t made a major splash yet.

But, what the hell is Dad of Light? Why am I talking about it when I don’t really discuss TV shows often?

Well, this J-Drama is special, because it’s about video games! Specifically, a father and son using Final Fantasy 14 to reconnect after 25 years of distance and tension in their family.

No, I’m not making this up.

Look, I’m not even going to assume that anybody has seen this show, so i’m just going to go through every episode, detailing the plot and weird oddities about it.

And trust me, there are A LOT of odd things about this show. Some are funny, some are cringe, and some are repugnant. We’ll revel in all of the embarrassment together.

What is Final Fantasy 14?

Before we begin the series, I suppose it’s best that I give some context on what Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn is all about. I will abbreviate it to FF14 to make it easier to type. FF14 is a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG for short. MMO for even shorter.) This means that it’s a game where millions of players interact in the same world. They level, they communicate, they develop an economy, and they become friends or rivals. The most I have played of FF14 is the free trial, which allowed me to only scratch about 15% of the game’s content, so my understanding of the content is superficial. That isn’t too important, because a lot of this show doesn’t revolve around FF14’s intricacies. Dad of Light uses the game as a way to bond the father and son, and even people with minimal knowledge of gaming can comprehend the jargon.

But, long story short, FF14 is an MMO where people from all over the planet can play together anonymously.

With this knowledge, let us delve into confusion and insanity together. Don’t expect this article to be articulate or anything. There will be yelling.

Episode #1: A Relationship Reborn

The show begins by having the main character, Akio Inaba, tell the history of his relationship with his father, named Hirotaro Inaba. When he was a child, they bonded over the original Final Fantasy on the NES, and they got along well. At first, Hakutaro bought the game for Akio, but he ended up loving it equally. But then, Hakutaro gets a promotion at work, and he becomes distant with Akio. He is no longer focused on his family or enjoyment, just forwarding his career. The Inaba family becomes distant.

I actually enjoy this beginning. It’s really heartwarming to see a father and son bond over gaming, and tragic to know that it was just a fad to the father, but something legitimate to the son.

But then, we cut to 20 or so years in the future, when Akio is now a 20-something adult working an office job selling photocopiers. I think. It’s really vague. It’s also really boring. Like, photocopiers aren’t interesting. Who would ever be fascinated by this?

Akio as an adult also looks like a 12-year-old boy compared to every other adult present. He’s also wearing super unfitting, loose suits that make him look like a boy trying to be a man. You aren’t Mulan, Akio. (I recognize that Mulan is Chinese, not Japanese. Plz no sue.)

Adult Akio

I’ve also tried to do research on this show, and I could not find anything. No interviews with any of the actors, no history on it, nothing. I will have to go to the deep web to get my answers. They will be next to the Minecraft Mods.

However, suddenly, shock, gasp, Hirotaro retires. He quits work altogether, and nobody knows why. Everybody acts like it’s odd that he’s retiring at 60, and I’m sitting here in my firm Canadian seat, asking why he didn’t retire earlier. Like, 60? How much of your life do you spend working? Japan is a crushing machine with the one of the highest suicide rates in the world.

So then we cut to Akio, and, oh boy. Here’s where the cringe starts.

So roughly one third of this show is shot using the in-game models for FF14. And it looks terrible. It looks, so SOOOOOO terrible.

Animations are incredibly janky, faces are inhuman, and they teeter into the uncanny valley. The Lalafell characters (the midget race) have these weird, soulless potato eye faces that haunt my nightmares.

The Lalafell faces

But the worst aspect of these scenes is the frame rate. See, cinematic shows are usually shot at 24 frames per second. However, the gameplay for FF14 can go to 60 frames per second if you have the correct display monitor. So, the footage in-game looks like it was recorded in 60 frames-per-second, but the editing software reduces it to 24 frames per second. Because of this, there’s this constant tearing and stuttering that happens, and it genuinely makes it painful on the eyes.

BUT IT GETS CREEPIER. Akio made a female cat-lady named Maidy, and he role-plays this character in-game to his friends. Like, all of the people he met online role-play as their character, instead of giving their real name. This leads to incredibly uncomfortable shots of Maidy having one of the Lalafell sit on her lap. Like, they’re pretending to be a family, when we know that Akio is a 20-something Japanese man, and not a sexy blonde cat lady. And, if Akio is lying, we can assume that the female Lalafell can be a 45-year-old Japanese man too! If one person is lying about their identity, then how genuine and real are their connections? How can they even trust Akio’s story? WHY IS AKIO EVEN TELLING RANDOM PEOPLE ONLINE THAT HIS DAD RETIRED? THIS ONLY LEADS TO POTENTIAL STALKING AND UNCOMFORTABLE SITUATIONS.

But the show paints them as genuine comrades and friends. Like, instead of meeting in real life at a coffee shop, they meet at a fictional one in-game, and role-play their problems.

I have no problem with role-playing. I love Dungeons and Dragons, but you need to learn to dissociate frames of reality properly. Don’t simultaneously lie about your name and identity, but relay your genuine, real life problems to strangers on the internet Akio. YOU GUYS DON’T EVEN KNOW EACH OTHER’S NAMES.

*ahem* Anyways, Akio, apparently noticing how open he is being online gets an epiphany. What if he gets FF14 for his retired dad? Since he has all this time now, why don’t they try to unite in the video game? I’d like to make fun of this, but I see it as Akio doing something nice for his dad. Like, he knows what made their relationship strong in the past, and he sees this as an opportunity to rekindle that flame. I’m cool with it.

This also leads to some really funny jokes. The dad is obviously clueless about FF14, so his character is just the default human character with black hair and a tattoo. He has hundreds of customization options, but he makes as little effort as possible. This reflects his no-nonsense personality well. This leads to an even funnier joke where his son suggests that he names his in-game character after a movie star, since they will be saving the world of FF14. So Hirotaro actually names his character “Indy Jones.” It’s probably the highlight of the entire series.

Once Hirotaro makes Indy Jones, Akio sprints upstairs to his character, Maidy, and follows him around, talking to him. However, Akio pretends he doesn’t know Hirotaro is Indy. I’m sure you can see where this is going.

Indy doesn’t talk in-game, because he doesn’t know how. So he’s mindlessly walking around. Maidy loses track of him, and just ends up talking to her friends. However, one of them tracked Indy, and found out that he, a level 1 character, is fighting a level 12 monster. Drama.

Maidy then comes to Indy’s rescue, which isn’t exactly heroic since Maidy is like, level 50, so it just dies in a few hits. Indy then turns, and looks Maidy directly in the eyes…

…and walks around Maidy 3 times then runs off. Okay.

The first episode ends with Akio saying he’ll keep his identity in-game secret, and not approach his dad at all about their common interest. He will continue to role-play as Maidy to Indy, and not genuinely connect as Akio to Hakutaro. This won’t backfire at all.

Maidy

Episode #2:

Episode 2 begins showing Akio in his workplace.

He’s a loser.

He’s socially awkward, he gets yelled at his boss for being submissive, and he lacks personal ambition and drive. He’s basically an employed version of Jerry from Rick and Morty.

This also leads to a new female character getting introduced. We will call her Girl. Why not her real name? Because I’m pretty sure they only say it once, and her entire role in the story is to be a girl. She is also the only one with any sanity. She’s the only person in this office who is a regular human being.

Trying to solve their HR issues

There’s also this really bizarre subplot about how female workers are quitting, and the office higher-ups want to find out why. They suspect Girl of wanting to quit, despite having no evidence whatsoever. Akio is then forced to work his non-existent charms on her, and get her to open up. But, as expected, he completely fails, and everybody reprimands him for it. Oh Akio. At least you’re a pretty good Monk in FF14.

We then cut to Maidy and Indy trying to talk. Maidy is trying to teach Indy how to use the in-game chat, but he fails at it. So Akio, thirsty for his FF14 connection, sprints out of his home and buys Hirotaro a USB keyboard to plug into his PS4 so he can talk to his dad. Hirotaro also doesn’t know how to use a keyboard, which, makes absolutely zero sense. I know he’s old, but he also worked in an office and must have typed up documents and e-mails.

Deep down, it feels like there is a nice narrative hiding in this show. It feels like something heartwarming is there, but it’s layered in awkward dialogue, and a strange, MMO connection between father and son. Like, rather than Akio learning to be brave, he’s finding ways to avoid his connectivity problems with his father. Akio’s inventiveness enhances unhealthy habits. But they must uphold the ALMIGHTY FINAL FANTASY 14 DESU-KA.

Then there’s just, this, bizarre scene, where Indy runs for HOURS, REAL LIFE HOURS across the entire in-game world, not dying once. He goes from the starting forest city of Gridania, to the high-level Snow City.

But that’s not the worst part. The worst part, is he GETS EMBARRASSED THAT ALL CHARACTERS IN-GAME ARE WEARING LONG SLEEVES, AND HIS CHARACTER HAS A T-SHIRT ON. THIS IS REAL. THIS IS A REAL THING THAT SOMEBODY ON PLANET EARTH CARES ABOUT.

I REPEAT: HIROTARO ALMOST GIVES UP PLAYING THE GAME FOREVER, BECAUSE HE FEELS EMBARRASSED THAT HE DOESN’T HAVE A COAT YET. TEMPERATURE IS NOT A FACTOR IN THE GAME. IT IS PURELY COSMETIC. I WISH I WAS MAKING THIS UP.

Ready for more potentially sexist overtones? So, Girl finally opens up to Akio about the issue and why she was contemplating quitting. She says it was because she didn’t like the colour of the uniforms. This would be silly, but she even admits that her reason is petty, so I don’t mind it.

BUT AKIO HEARS THIS, AND THE BOSS GOES “OKAY. ONE PERSON DOESN’T LIKE THE UNIFORMS. THEREFORE, ALL GIRLS WANT THE UNIFORMS TO BE PINK! ALL WOMEN ARE THE SAME, RIGHT?”

And then he does it. And girls are much happier in the workplace. Because they wear pink, instead of blue uniforms.

I can’t even deal and it’s only episode 2.

Episode #3:

Episode 3, like the previous episode, shows Akio being terrible at his job. He’s working as a sales associate for Photocopiers. Around clients, he is very awkward, uncharismatic, and embarrasses his boss who is trying to help him.

Akio and his boss are at a restaurant, getting their client drunk. Their client loves baseball, so Akio’s boss just gets up, and starts doing these exaggerated hitting and pitching motions, and the client keeps naming the player he’s mimicking. Much like Akio, I am very uncomfortable that this is happening in a public place.

His boss then reveals that every company’s photocopier is the same, and does a dramatic walk-off. How does Akio deal with this criticism? Does he better himself? Does he reflect on his abilities and learn to take his job seriously? Does he learn to play into his clients interests more?

NOPE. BACK TO FF14 TO COMPLAIN ABOUT HIS LIFE.

Akio then goes to fight a boss with the group, including Indy, and he keeps losing focus and dying. Indy then tells him in the chat to never give up. This gives Akio so much inspiration, that he beats the boss, and regains his confidence in real-life.

Using this newfound lesson of “never give up,” Akio betters himself at his job, but it doesn’t even make sense. So, literally one day prior, Akio’s boss gave him the advice to give gifts to clients to suck up to them. Girl comes to Akio’s help, and gives him a list of presents every employee at their company likes because I GUESS SHE HAS THIS? WHERE? HOW? I don’t know.

Akio and Hirotaro

SO AKIO, A DAY LATER, GOES TO HIS BOSS WITH A GIFT HE LOVES. HE USES THE EXACT MANIPULATION TACTIC THAT HE LEARNT ON THE GUY WHO TAUGHT IT TO HIM. AND IT WORKS.

Then Akio runs up the their client (who works in their office apparently????) and he relays random baseball facts. Akio says he watched the baseball game last night (even though he was playing final fantasy 14), and provides a recap. This impresses the client so much for some reason. Like he’s a dog who hears BASEBALL and immediately freaks out. Akio then SOMEHOW, SOMEHOW HAS TICKETS TO THE GIANTS GAME FOR THE NIPPON BASEBALL LEAGUE, AND OFFERS TO INVITE CLIENT-SENPAI TO A GAME.

THEN IT GETS WEIRDER. AKIO’S BOSS GETS UP, OUT OF HIS CUBICAL. LOOKS AKIO DEAD IN THE EYE, AND STARTS DOING A PROVOCATIVE PITCHING STANCE. AKIO SOMEHOW, OVERNIGHT, BECOMES THE MASTER OF BASEBALL TRIVIA, AND RECOGNIZES THIS PLAYER OUT OF THOUSANDS OF POSSIBLE PLAYERS IMMEDIATELY.

The best part of this scene, is in the background, all of the other employees at the company look incredibly awkward. Like a bunch of actors realized they made a terrible decision to be in this show, while these three clowns get excited over nothing.

It’s here that I think the creators of the show are doing something very manipulative and intentional with the tone. They make reality incredibly mundane and crushing. They then offer Final Fantasy 14 as a respite, and a solution to all problems. How did Akio get over his personal hurdle? Indy gave him advice in the game. Not in real life. In the game. And that distinction is important.

So, thanks Square Enix, for trying to subtly manipulate the Japanese audience into playing Final Fantasy 14 even more! It is the drug that will solve all of your life problems. Just never face them and become a NEET!

Ready for odd, sexist overtones number 2? So Hirotaro and his wife, who we also never get a name for (WOMEN DON’T DESERVE NAMES IN THIS UNIVERSE), are sitting at a table at the end of the episode. Let’s call Hirotaro’s wife, Wife, since she doesn’t have a name, and that’s how Dad of Light rolls.

So Wife suggests that her and Hirotaro can go on a world cruise like they always wanted to when they were younger. Now that he is retired, they can finally spend more time together as husband and wife.

He refuses.

He says no.

He says no because he wants to play more Final Fantasy 14.

Hirotaro, says no to this world cruise, and, keep in mind, Wife says “like WE always wanted,” implying that this is a dream that the two of them had. And when he says no, she just smiles and laughs. LIKE IT’S ALL OKAY.

SHE’S LIKE I UNDERSTAND HONEY. YOU CAN SAY NO TO THIS CRUISE BECAUSE YOU WANT TO PLAY VIDEO GAMES.

Episode #4:

ALRIGHT THIS IS WHERE IT GETS REALLY DUMB. AND IT WAS ALREADY DUMB, BUT LIKE, INFURIATINGLY DUMB.

The episode begins with Hirotaro and Wife having a fight over him playing FF14 too much. Hirotaro gets scolded, and his playtime becomes limited to one hour a day. Although Hirotaro is having fun, I understand Wife’s position. Too much gaming is unhealthy for anybody, regardless of how much enjoyment they are getting. Hirotaro can be doing better things with his time.

But in comes Akio. Akio hears of this news of Wife trying to better her husband’s life, and Akio goes NO. THIS IS A CRISIS. I MUST GET HIM TO PLAY FF14 ALL DAY AGAIN. I MUST ENABLE AND FEED HIS BAD HABITS.

SO THE THING THAT GETS AKIO TO TAKE ACTION WITHIN HIS RELATIONSHIP ISN’T FAMILIAL LOVE. IT’S THE OBSESSION TO GET HIROTARO PLAYING FF14 AGAIN. Akio invites Hirotaro out to the bar to drink, trying to egg him on to apologize to Wife. But Akio doesn’t care about helping his family or his mother. He doesn’t care about the neglectful position she is in. He just wants his video game partner back. It’s so incredibly selfish, that it makes Akio incredibly detestable.

It’s also here, that we learn Hirotaro is a goddamn addict to FF14. He’s sitting in the bar, face staring forward, with empty hands held out. He is mimicking the controller movements, and envisioning fighting a boss with his in-game friends. He is having an actual hallucination.

Hirotaro is having fun, yes, but he is developing horrible habits. He is neglecting his wife and son’s wishes, and Akio is okay with it. In fact, Akio actively enables it. By being present in-game as Maidy, giving him help and encouragement, forcing his friends to help Indy integrate into their party, Akio is working to make sure Hirotaro never leaves. Keep in mind, Indy never played a game since the NES era, so unless his son was there to constantly prevent him from quitting, this addiction wouldn’t have formed.

Oh, but it’s okay! Look at how quirky it is! He neglects his family for people he doesn’t even know!

Okay, quick breather. We need to discuss Akio’s actor. Every character’s acting in Dad of Light is serviceable. They aren’t anything amazing, but they do a convincing job of becoming their characters.

But Akio does these weird gesticulations with his face that do not fit him whatsoever. He thinks he’s either Jim Carrey or an anime character. He bobs his head around unnaturally, and constantly makes these exaggerated, over-the-top reactions to everything. I wanted to look up the actor’s IMDB history, and his other most popular role is Gosei Red in the Japanese equivalent of Power Rangers. Maybe he’s the Red Ranger to hide his face (that was mean, sorry.)

Akio’s eyes

Akio has no charisma whatsoever. His character and actor are both pretty bad, so these quirks just come across as bizarre and uncomfortable. But not as uncomfortable as the in-game cut scenes.

We then cut back to Akio’s workplace, and we find out that two female employees who usually talk constantly are silent. All of the male higher ups are scared of women, and send Akio in to try and diffuse the situation. Of course, he makes it worse, and escalates their fighting. Ha ha. Women are so silly.

Thankfully, Girl approaches them and goes “guys just chill this will sort itself out” and she just walks away. Like I said, she’s kind of the only sane person in this show.

BUT THEN, ONCE SHE SAYS THIS, IT CUTS TO THE NEXT DAY, AND AKIO IS GOING DOWNSTAIRS FOR WORK. HE LOOKS OVER, AND HE SEES HIS PARENTS, MAKING UP, AND KISSING EACH OTHER ON THE CHEEK.

So the actual solution to this problem, was just to wait and avoid it. Let’s not take the healthy option and discuss the relationship issues like adults. Let’s avoid it like cowards too hung up on pride. Pardon me, but that’s a terrible lesson! For any relationship, if you’re scared to talk about anything serious, then it won’t blossom into happiness. Conflict will mount up between the two of you, until it explodes in a tension-filled bomb.

But, oh, it gets worse. I know I sound like a broken record, but I mean it. Wife ends up caving, and takes away the gaming restrictions she previously imposed. This essentially makes the conflict of the episode entirely pointless. It was all going to sort itself out in the end, no matter what. Akio didn’t learn anything. He didn’t get closer to his dad. Hirotaro’s FF14 addiction was just satisfied, because, to quote Wife: “I haven’t seen him have that much fun in years.”

And it’s just, so infuriating. It sends such a terrible message about family relationships. Rather than learn to be open, they reinforce their ideas about being reserved. They regress as characters! And this show is only 8 episodes long! This is halfway through! HOW.

Episode #5:

So at this point, the show realizes it hasn’t accomplished anything, so Akio fiends harder to complete his mission and find out why his dad suddenly quit work.

Hirotaro also suddenly takes a break from playing. Their entire goal in FF14 was to get to a high enough level and take down the super boss, Twintania. But all of a sudden, Indy isn’t playing nearly as much.

Twintania

We then cut to Hirotaro talking to an old business friend about potentially coming back to work for a better company. Hirotaro refuses, much to his friend’s disappointment.

The show at this point grinds to a halt. Not much happens. Besides all of the cringe and funny moments, there is a lot of boring, bland office talk.

One genuinely funny quirk is that Hirotaro uses every possible in-game emote when he talks. It adds a lot of personality to his character, and shows an interesting side of him.

Hirotaro 24/7

The episode concludes with Hirotaro revealing to Maidy, who is Akio, but he doesn’t know that, that he quit work because of an illness. This causes Akio to freak out, and pressure him to find out more. Indy also calls Maidy “Mayday” which is also humourous.

The final shot of the episode is Hirotaro’s friend narrating a Human Resources document that Hirotaro made for his company. He details that the company needs more unity and they must encourage their employees to be strong through the correct work.

It’s a strong message, but the awkward part, is there’s this epic FF14 boss music playing, and it is interspersed with footage of the group fighting a big boss. They learn teamwork through learning to party properly in FF14. No, I’m not making that up.

Hirotaro reforms an entire company’s employee standards and structure because of lessons he learnt playing a video game for a few months. It just feels so cheesy and awkward.

Episode #6:

So Akio knows his dad has an illness, but he wants to find out what that illness is. Akio’s coworkers begin to tell him it could be cancer given the described symptoms, but Akio wants to get down to the case himself. So, to “inspire” Akio, one of his coworkers tells him that he found porn in his father’s room. Instead of being grossed out by this, Akio infers that his dad must keep his deepest secrets in his room, and therefore, what his illness is!

Kill me.

Later on, Hirotaro says he’s going to go for a jog, and then Akio decides its time to stealth with his teenage body into his father’s room…and he finds the dumbest thing ever.

Akio finds a goddamn Final Fantasy 14 Strategy Guide in his dad’s room. But it gets worse. This strategy guide is littered with NOTES. IT IS FULL OF STICKY NOTES, THESE HAVE CLASS ROLES AS NOTES, IT HAS INFORMATION, IT IS FULL OF SMALL MACROS. HE HAS GOTTEN TO THE POINT OF HARDCORE ADDICTION. I DON’T EVEN GET THIS ENTHUSIASTIC WHEN I AM INTO A GAME.

WHY DOES THIS GAME CAPTIVATE HIM SO MUCH.

Then, just, absolutely out of nowhere, Girl magically falls in love with Akio, despite him having the appeal of a wet blanket. They’re one-on-one at a nice restaurant, when it was never established that they met there before. But Girl tries to lay the moves on Akio to invite him to a movie on Sunday.

AND AKIO GETS FLASHES OF FIGHTING TWINTANIA WITH HIS DAD, AND TURNS DOWN WHAT’S LIKELY HIS FIRST DATE EVER TO PLAY VIDEO GAMES WITH HIS FATHER. EVEN I’M NOT THIS CLUELESS. THIS SHOW NEEDS TO STOP PRETENDING THE LOVE FOR THE GAME IS QUIRKY. AKIO HAS SOMEBODY WHO CAN IMPROVE HIS LIFE RIGHT THERE, BUT HE’S LIKE NO. LET ME REINFORCE MY TERRIBLE ADDICTION AND HABITS.

The episode ends with, arguably, one of the most cringe-worthy scenes in this show, and that’s saying something. Akio has to work late, so he pulls up this paper thin laptop that can somehow run FF14 perfectly (Japanese technology or plothole? I don’t know.) Then it goes to a heartfelt reveal from Hirotaro that he has gained the courage to open up to people because of the wonderful friends within FF14. It’s a cute message, right?

Well…this is Dad of Light. And this reveal is done through melodramatic music, and the stilted, uncomfortable in-game models. And it’s just a weird thought, that a 60-year-old man would divulge this information to a stranger online. The in-game models are so inhuman that it takes away from a lot of the drama.

It also doesn’t help that the discussion in the game is interspersed with shots of Akio and Hirotaro crying in front of their Monitors. Like the show is trying to imply that this is a major tear-jerking moment. But…we know nothing about these characters. They connect through FF14, but we never ACTUALLY see any connection. We never see any chemistry between the two. Up until this point, there isn’t really any character development for anybody in this show.

Take the main character, Akio, for example. He should be the most interesting character, as this story revolves around him and his relationship with his father. But, all we know about him, is that he is socially awkward. Even when he gets inspiration to improve, he still remains socially clueless around others. From episode 1 to the final episode, he never changes at all. Any potential character development is brushed aside for “comedic scenes.”

Basically Trying to Be Dramatic Like This

Tonal dissonance is also a major problem for this show. I think the show’s creators realize how strange of a premise this is for a J-Drama, so they interspersed all of the serious conflict with a comedic tinge. That is fine and all, but once the show tries to be genuinely sad and fatalistic, the viewer gets whiplash from it all. I wasn’t ready to take any of this seriously, because the show’s premise and tone implied to never truly take it seriously. It comes across as light fluff that’s meant to distract you at one point, but then a serious piece of art the next. None of it works.

What makes it even more corny, his Hirotaro says that he now has the courage to open up because of his in-game friends. This is a super cheesy trope found in children’s media, and it makes this whole crying scene much less legitimate.

But anyways, Akio returns home, and it is clear that Hirotaro has stomach cancer. The episode then ends with the sad music.

Episode #7:

So, Akio’s dad has cancer. What does he do? Spend more time with him before his operation that may fail? Talk to him more in real life?

NOPE. IT IS TIME TO BEAT TWINTANIA IN-GAME. THEY HAVE A 4-DAY DEADLINE TO FINISH TWINTANIA, SO AKIO SPENDS ALL OF HIS FREE TIME PRETENDING IN THE VIDEO GAME INSTEAD OF ACTUALLY, GENUINELY SUPPORTING HIS FATHER IN REAL LIFE.

This then cuts to a completely pointless training montage with real life clips interspersed with the characters in-game doing training poses. It even shows Akio turn down Girl again in the middle of their office space, and when she asks why, Akio yells out “TWINTANIA!”

To which everybody in the office looks at him like a freak, and he runs out of work early.

Then…it cuts to another training montage of all of the characters doing emotes, when, they provide no actual in-game benefit. In fact, they even state that this is the final day to defeat Twintania, so they are effectively wasting time.

AND THEN IT SHOWS THIS “EPIC” MARCH WITH ALL OF THE CHARACTERS WALKING ACROSS A DESERT, IMPLYING THAT THEY ARE TRAVELLING TO TWINTANIA. WHEN, IN REALITY, THEY CAN JUST TELEPORT TO WHERE THEY NEED TO GO. AGAIN, KIND OF JUST WASTING SOME TIME HERE.

Of course, they end up prevailing and defeating Twintania through the power of love and friendship. Maidy decides to forget the facade, and calls Indy “Dad” in-game. Every person they are with does the “surprised” emote, and I got scared.

See, this entire series, I was waiting for when they would try to have the father develop romantic love for Akio’s character. I always figured that Indy would profess love towards Maidy. It didn’t happen, but I thought this was the moment where it might. I thought this was going to turn into some Lana Del Rey “There goes my daddy” garbage. I thought that Indy hearing Daddy would be some creepy romantic role-play.

BUT THANKFULLY THE DAD IS EVEN STUPIDER THAN THAT. HIROTARO GOES: “Dad? Is he somewhere in the game? Hahaha!” When Akio tries to actually reveal it is him, he doesn’t type in the chat “no dumbass, it’s me, Akio.” He just lets it be and laughs it off. Like, what? You finally confessed to your dad, it failed, and you’re fine with letting your identity be ambiguous?

But we then cut to the father in the hospital, walking triumphantly away from his family into the surgery room. He is literally walking into the light. He is now the Dad of Light. DO YOU GET IT?!?!?!?

But then it cuts to one year later. The atmosphere is silent and somber. Akio is still playing Maidy, and then his mom walks in. She is silent and stoic, until she eventually breaks into tears. And you think “Oh my gosh, did it fail? Is the dad dead?”

AND THEN 3 SECONDS LATER, HIROTARO WALKS INTO THE ROOM. HE ASKS WHY WIFE IS CRYING. AND AKIO SAYS IT IS BECAUSE A J-DRAMA START SHE LIKES GOT ENGAGED. THEY PULLED THE LAZIEST, POSSIBLE FAKE-OUT IMAGINABLE.

The show ends with the father and son reunited play final fantasy together again, and Wife looks at them smiling, when she should realistically be pissed at them.

Episode #8:

So you’re probably asking, how can there be an episode #8? That sounded like a definitive conclusion. And, I was asking the same question, until Netflix autoplayed the final episode for me. This episode was titled the “Special Episode,” and I was curious…

and it turned into an ad for FF14. I mean, the whole show was, but now it isn’t even hiding it. The final episode is a series of in-game cutscenes detailing the lore and history of the world. It’s acting like “OH, NOW YOU LOVE FF14 RIGHT? IT’S GREAT ESCAPISM. HERE, LEARN MORE ABOUT THE WORLD SO YOU HAVE SOME BASELINE UNDERSTANDING BEFORE YOU BEGIN PLAYING. BECAUSE YOU’RE DEFINITELY GOING TO PLAY, RIGHT?”

This show preys on human empathy by relating positive emotions to FF14. It’s a deceptive marketing tactic. It isn’t about what the game does for you. but about how it makes you feel. Dad of Light associates a heartwarming community and healthy relationships with a video game. And now it informs the viewer, who they hope is sucked into the narrative, to buy their monthly service. Buy our monthly addiction.

I made it 5 minutes into this episode before just shutting it off. Any pretense of wholesomeness was shattered. It was just another soulless product to please the advertisers. It was just another TV show.

And look, FF14 is a good game. Dad of Light does shw a lot of cool things in the game…but it is just propaganda. This is a product placement show. It’s a soap opera designed to sell a product.

The show displays highlights of FF14, and only that. They are at least being unapologetic with the graphics of the game, but they present it as a place for only epic team moments and unity. FF14 is shown as a paradise abstained from negative human emotion and desire. It’s like heaven in digital form, and that isn’t true. Every MMO community has horrible people, regardless of how it is painted. This show makes FF14 look TOO good.

Furthermore, the concept of bonding through play is endearing and it is very true. A lot of friendships can be formed via video games. But, the father and son are addicts, and their addiction is painted as humourous. The show treats their obsession with this video game as normal. Rather than being punished, they are rewarded with a healthy relationship. It sends a backwards message that isn’t good for anybody. It tells people to play video games to escape their problems, because you might have the off chance that the person you have tension with is also playing the same video game as you. It makes zero sense.

ANYWAYS FINAL VERDICT: 4/10. TAKE ALL LESSONS OF APATHY AND ADDICTION AND FORGET ABOUT THEM. FF14 IS KING. ALL HAIL TWINTANIA.

 

 

If you saw my previous review of Bloodborne, you’d know that I hated my initial playthrough. That’s because I had no idea what the hell was going on when the game acted like I needed to know everything. Every conversation was cryptic, every environment was dripping with convoluted item descriptions, and the game’s environment rapidly shifted between juxtaposing tones. It was a confusing mess.

It also didn’t help that the game was obscenely hard and punishing. Constant deaths and lost progress are not a good combo to encourage replayability. I wasn’t seeing the appeal of this game. I watched lore videos online, which were definitely informative (shoutouts to VaatiVidya) but I feel like I shouldn’t have to do external research to actually enjoy a game’s content. It isn’t school.

But then I picked the game up again, 6 months later. I knew the environments, used different weapons, and became attuned to them. The experience was actually fun!

But I still didn’t know what was going on. The game’s lore and story were lost on me, and the lack of easily understood exposition bugged me.

But then I found Upper Cathedral Ward. And the experience of exploring this level was like finally answering a thousand-year-old philosophical postulation. I became woke, as the youth of America say.

See, Upper Cathedral Ward is an optional area in Bloodborne. You never need to visit it. But, if you find the key in:

Y A H A R ‘ G U L T H E U N S E E N V I L L A G E, which is a village that is easily viewable from any point in the city. Solid name guys.

Y A H A R ‘ G U L T H E U N S E E N V I L L A G E (yes, it must be spelt like this everytime.)

you can then open a thick, locked door that was mocking you for the last 10 hours of gameplay. This door with its, stoicism, apathy, and general door-ness. You open that door, finally, slowly, and through the cracks of the separating doors, you see this image:

A terrace, with a strange creature in the right corner, trying to climb the terrace fence. This creature, resembles an engorged fetus. Okay.

Immediately, the first creature you see is different from any of the werewolves, infected villagers, and zombies you’ve seen before. This looks…mournful. It doesn’t attack you at all unless you provoke it. It just seems like it wants to escape its cage, but can’t, due to its physical abnormalities.

What a beautiful boy

These enemies are called Celestial Larvae, and, even killing them doesn’t provide much of a reward. Their presence is the antithesis to all previous, aggressive enemies you’ve encountered. It’s a stark, deliberate contrast, that captures the attention.

After you meet this creature, you take a staircase upwards to your left, and find a cobblestone bridge. On this bridge are two of these lovely folks:

Church Servants

waiting to give you a nightly greeting and prayer. What’s interesting about these guys, is, they are enemies from much earlier in the game. They wander Cathedral Ward (regular Cathedral Ward, not upper) attempting to attack the player if they walk by. Earlier in the game, you also hear rumblings of the Healing Church, one of the biggest influencers of Yharnam, being split into three sects of power. Upper Cathedral Ward contains a group called “The Choir,” which attempted to communicate with the gods above. They wanted to study them and harness their power, to become gods themselves.

These Church Servants are the only humans you see in Upper Cathedral Ward, so seeing them previously mingling in the lower portions of Cathedral Ward, immediately signifies to the player, that their mission likely failed. They aren’t better than any other human. They are equally deranged as the monsters who attack the player. It’s the first bit of environmental storytelling in Bloodborne that resonated with me. Without saying a word, I pieced together a story bit all on my own, and I felt proud for it.

Church Servants lurking in Lower Cathedral Ward

As you read further into this article, you will learn that Upper Cathedral Ward is one of gaming’s best examples of having so much revealed to you through doing so little. This environment doesn’t have the best boss or enemies. In fact, it has very few opponents. It isn’t very long either, as it will probably take an average player about 30 minutes to complete the area. But the small environmental touches it does use to highlight the methods of the Choir, the loftiness of their dream, and the final punchline of the area, are what makes it so special.

After the bridge blokes are slain, you cross, and come across a massive, opulent gate. Around the gate, are slithering Celestial Larvae. These can be inferred as Choir members who attempted to reach godhood, but just became monstrous husks.

I think the fact that they do not provide much experience upon death also contributes to their narrative of failure. They’re fodder for you at this point, and while they may have been formidable fighters in their time before transformation, they threw away everything in their life for a lofty dream. It is somewhat admirable, and incredibly tragic.

After slaughtering the fetus friends, you book it up another staircase to the interior of a large manor, and the indulgences of The Choir become apparent to the player. While Yharnam, the previously area in the game you explored before has Gothic architecture, Upper Cathedral Ward has a fairly standard mansion with red carpets, chandeliers, and fine bedding.

This environmental change marks a tonal change through environmental storytelling. The world you knew, the city you knew, was not as it seemed. It is multi-faceted, it has hierarchies, and maybe, with the knowledge they gained from the gods, The Choir forwent the Gothic aesthetic for something more practical. But, that’s just wild speculation.

After some further exploration around the massive halls, you eventually open a door that leads to another terrace overlooking Yharnam. And you see this:

Surrounded by alien stone architecture, you see a fleshy skeleton-like figure, posing ominously. This pose is an attempt to make contact with the gods above. It’s a haunting image, because it shows that, even the act of communication has horrible ramifications on an individual. It shows that humans cannot escape their mortal shells and become anything greater than their physical capabilities. It’s either you fight during the hunt and live in the terrible, disease-riddled Yharnam, or die, attempting to achieve greater meaning in life.

It also gives you a glimpse of the player’s futility in this world. The entire game, the player has been building up strength and becoming a super powerful hunter. But seeing this? Seeing that, even attempting to converse with higher beings reverts you to this husk? Seeing The Choir members previously attempt to talk with the gods and becoming horrific monstrosities is chilling. You know that there is an almighty power above you, and you can never stop it. It will always have influence and greater power than you, no matter what. Maybe it influences your decisions. Maybe it grasps causality as well, and maybe, in the end, there is no meaning in life.

I mean, there’s no meaning in life for the Celestial Emissary. This is the stupidest boss in the game. It’s literally just a bigger version of the enemies around it.

But don’t worry, this isn’t how Upper Cathedral Ward ends, not at all. Because, if you break the window in the arena for the Celestial Emissary, you find that there is a little more to this area.

In the hallway after breaking the window, you find a dead Choir member holding a spell called, “A Call Beyond.” Here is the description of that item. Try to read it in the most over-the-top, Victorian way possible for maximum Bloodborne experience:

“One of the secret rites of the Choir. Long ago, the Healing Church used phantasms to reach a lofty plane of darkness, but failed to make contact with the outer reaches of the cosmos. The rite failed to achieve its intended purpose, but instead created a small exploding star,  now a powerful part of the Choir’s arsenal. At times, failure is the mother of invention.”

If you didn’t understand that Bloodborne-ese (not many people do, it’s an archaeic language), this spell is a result of the Choir attempting to reach another plane of existence. It also highlights the nihilistic themes present in the game. That, regardless of your efforts, you cannot escape your position. The best The Choir could muster is an exploding star spell, which is a goal that they never wanted. What makes matters worse, is this is the hardest spell to cast in the game. An exploding star is the best magical ability that humans can hope to muster. An explosion spell is the best humanity can do.

Further into the depths, you find a ladder, that takes you underground.

AND IT IS HERE, THAT YOU FIND THE FINAL PIECE AND GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT OF THE CHOIR, AND ARGUABLY, HUMANITY:

A big, gloopy, tentacle monster. Wow. really making major scientific breakthroughs Yharnam. This is the best we’ve got?

This creature is called Ebreitas, Daughter of The Cosmos. It is the method The Choir uses to communicate with the gods, called The Great Ones. They have this creature chained up and tormented here. It is just lost in the physical realm, and cannot return to its place of origin. It’s pretty depressing.

Ebreitas’ presence also makes light of a previous spell in the game called the “Augur of Ebreitas.” This spell is laughable, but it is literally you turning your arm into a tentacle, and flailing it. It’s nothing special. It further represents the theme that mankind are just physical shells, and that access to arcane, eldritch magic is such a lofty, terrifying goal. Like, people train their entire lives, to turn their arm into a tentacle.

Feel my wrath?

But Ebreitas’ mere presence also shows the limitations of humanity. Humans cannot comprehend what The Great Ones are saying, and thus, gain all their knowledge through dissecting Ebreitas and subjecting her to torment. Perhaps it was Ebreitas who turned all those Choir members into slugs at the beginning, but, that’s also wild speculation.

The fight with Ebreitas is also fairly unique. It’s one of the few bosses who attacks using arcane magic with light limb flailing. Most bosses in Bloodborne only flail their limbs, and you roll away from those crazy arms. Ebreitas saunters around, not really flailing. I appreciate that.

The arena is also beautiful compared to other locations. It has a blue hue to it, which juxtaposes the colour red, that represents the beasts previously seen in the game. It shows that, the cosmic beings you fight in the later portion of the game are vastly different from the first half. Using a subtle colour hint, it signifies the shifting tone that you experience.

The read sky I was referring to in Yharnam

Once you beat Ebreitas, you’re left with a feeling of revelation. You learn what humanity is capable of. You learn a lot about the mysterious events preceding the game, and you gain more insight into the world. And all of this is done using level design. Not a single spoken word conveys this information to you. And, to me, that makes Upper Cathedral Ward one of the best levels in video games.

I mean, to me at least. Some people think it’s just a building.

A typical bloodborne building

 

WARNING: THERE WILL BE IMAGES OF GORE AND NUDITY. THAT IS THE NATURE OF THIS MANGA. THERE WILL ALSO BE FULL SPOILERS FOR A LOT OF MAJOR STORY EVENTS. THESE DO NOT RUIN THE READING EXPERIENCE, BUT IF YOU ARE BOTHERED BY THIS, THEN PLEASE READ THIS ARTICLE ANOTHER TIME.

I have recently completed every available chapter in the gargantuan manga series: Berserk. As evidenced by my unhealthy bingeing, I loved the series. But, of course, it has its faults. People have gushed about how much they love the series, but I want to talk about the aspects of it that bothered me. I want to talk about what I cannot justify or defend.

So sit back, ready your pitchforks, and be ready to debate against everything I say, because these are the things I did NOT like about Berserk.

1.) Edgelord Shock Value

Gore and Nudity are abound in Berserk, but these superficial aspects are not what engage people in a story. These factors act as a quick, easily explainable reason to call the manga “dark” and “adult”, while missing the heart and soul of the series. I doubt people have spent hours reading a story because of gore, and if they wanted that, they could find that in the SAW movies, or any other red-coloured fluff.

The heart of Berserk is its characters, themes, and conflicts. The conflict and duality between Guts and Griffith is the driving force for the story. The public’s perception of Griffith as an angelic hero who erected the holiest city known to man via magic, and opened his doors to anybody is seen as a god-like figure to the world, whereas Guts, who is constantly hounded by demons and other monsters, often receives little recognition or credit for his actions. You can write a whole essay just on the masses of people in Berserk, and the consequences of the two main characters’ actions.

People don’t enjoy the visuals of Berserk because of be-headings or intestines, they enjoy the minutia of character expressions from the wonderfully talented artist, Kentaro Miura. Miura can illustrate lush forests and desolate ruins. He can create hellish landscapes full of dead bodies, blood, and demons, but also the purity of a child’s smile. Berserk’s world is not one that is hopeless. There are strong individuals who live peaceful lives within the world of Berserk (I could not find an official name for it.)

But, the temptation to tell people that a series is coated in blood and gore is tempting. It’s like a prideful ritual, in which you proclaim your badassery for having read something so hardcore. There is the presumption that gratuitous imagery is “adult”, and it transforms people as wiser individuals for experiencing it.

However, in my opinion, gore, nudity, and shock value for the sake of being edgy, is the laziest, most childish way to garner attention. Sansa’s rape scene in season 5 of Game of Thrones is an egregious example of what I mean. It did not fit thematically with the story or her character progression. It simply existed for BuzzFeed headlines.

Berserk is, unfortunately, guilty of this edgelord shock value. It often plays into that identity of being known for being dark and blood-soaked. Because of this, there are unfortunately many story events that feel like over-the-top, gory, filler.

The biggest offender of this is the Trolls that appeared for, almost an entire volume. Long story short, Trolls kidnap women of the local village, Enoch, and murder anybody who gets in their way. In their hunt for trolls, two main characters, Casca and Farnese, get lost in the forest, and witness a few trolls raping the female inhabitants of the village. The female inhabitants then have their stomachs explode, giving birth to baby trolls.

I won’t post a picture of that scene for your stomach’s sake

This section is completely unnecessary, and I would honestly classify it as filler. The only thing that comes out of this mini-arc, is the reader becomes slightly more educated on how magic works in the world of Berserk, but, nothing else.

Another pointless example of shock value is when the group goes to a small village of faeries, and they begin engaging in “human activities.” To them, this means killing, burning, murdering each other and doing generally horrible things. This is completely unnecessary as well, as the activity they were doing previously was already unnerving. The concept of mimicking human activity already fell into the uncanny valley, and it didn’t need elaboration. This was here to mortify the reader, and nothing else.

Berserk as a whole uses its violence as a way to characterize its world. Keep in mind, these examples I’ve listed are outliers to the manga’s use of blood and gore, but they are important to bring up. As a story goes on, these stories usually try to one-up with something more obnoxiously edgy for the sake of meeting some imaginary quota. If the tone of the story changes to being more fantastical like Berserk has become, then focusing on slaying creatures and protecting people is what is important now. I’m fine with nudity and rape in a narrative if it feels appropriate and impacts the story and setting meaningfully.

I believe the Conviction Arc uses religious violence incredibly well, and works as a great reflection on religiously motivated terrorism. The gore and horrific imagery in torture chambers, and the mass plague ritual still resonate in my mind and leave me rattled. But, that was the intention. It was to make you feel uncomfortable for a story’s sake. It was to make you despise the new villain of that arc, Father Mozgus, and feel conflicted when that same murderous monster is shown engaging in acts of kindness. It makes you feel ambivalent. It is morality that is found in some of the greatest stories penned in the history of fiction.

My gripes with Berserk’s violence only apply when the story utilizes it for needless “stake raising,” or to appeal to the younger audience who believes more blood = more maturity. I just wanted to highlight that this fantastic series is guilty of this as well.

2.) Meandering Pace

So as a typical fanboy, I believe the Golden Age Arc to be the superior story arc when compared to the rest in Berserk. It has the most deliberate and intricate storytelling, and it ends on a phenomenal note that sets up the central conflict for the rest of the series. Griffith betrays Guts and his friends, rapes Casca, a woman who once loved him, and destroys her mind for good measure.

I’m going to need to censor a lot of this before I create the YouTube video

Then the story goes to random places. Guts, after surviving the mass slaughter of his comrades, swears to get revenge on Griffith and restore Casca’s sanity. But, Guts then abandons Casca to kill Apostles, which are demons who were once human. He goes and kills a bunch, but returns to the house Casca was staying at, to find out she has gone somewhere else. this is the beginning of the Conviction Arc. Guts is (rightfully) berated for this decision by the blacksmith who’s house he was staying at, and now he searches for Casca again.

As much as I love The Conviction Arc, and as much as it builds the world of Berserk by showing different factions and the religious politics of it all, it does feel somewhat unnecessary. All it forwards is the resurrection of Griffith into the Physical World after he become a member of the God Hand, but even that did not have sufficient build-up.

This is probably one of my favourite panels from the manga.

There is also the next arc after this one, which is called the:

F A L C O N O F T H E M I L L E N N I U M E M P I R E A R C

This arc is all about Guts wanting revenge on Griffith, but realizes that the dude is literally an assistant of God, and cannot be harmed by physical means. He then forgets about that goal, and focuses on restoring Casca’s mind. It is only then, that Puck, an elf that accompanies Guts, tells him that his queen can restore Casca’s mind…even though Puck had been with Guts ever since he went on that emo-loner journey and never thought to bring it up.

How long does it take them to find a boat to go to this island? About, 10 volumes or so until they ride a boat to Elfhelm.

But that’s not all! Once they boarded the boat, that is when the series decided to have major hiatus’. Now, I personally was not there to experience the pain of the “boat arc,” but according to the Berserk Hiatus chart, the main crew were on this boat for roughly 5 real-life years before readers saw them reach their destination. The fight with the sea god was very entertaining and intense, but it lasts almost an entire volume, and if it were cut from the story, not much would change.

I felt like more time could be spent during the F A L C O N O F T H E M I L L E N N I U M E M P I R E A R C developing Griffith’s conquest of Midland. His dynamic of being an incredibly overpowered monster who gracefully defeats all opponents in his path is pretty interesting, because not every character in his band are terrible people. The apostles he employs aren’t just demonic creatures bent on feasting on humans, but they have emotional needs and compassion.

One of humanity’s saviours?

Nosferatu Zodd is a horrible person, but he is also an interesting character with a strong internal conflict and suspenseful motivation. There are lots of little touches that work to build the world and make the experience more engaging and immersive, but there is, at least to me, a bit too much edgy black swordsman-dude swinging a big sword at everything.

3.) Mistreatment of Farnese and Isidro

Farnese De Vandimion (Yes, I had to look this up) is introduced in the third major arc of Berserk, The Conviction Arc. She is the most interesting character to come out of this story. She is a noblewoman who was forced to lead a prestigious group of religious knights, called the Holy Iron Chain Knights, or HICK’s, if you want an abbreviation. She was called to this because tradition dictates that a woman must lead, regardless of past expertise. Farnese was selected against her will by her father, as her noble family were major financial supporters of the Holy See, and thus, wanted more prestige within their family.

Farnese was a victim of emotional and mental abuse. Everytime she would show emotions such as lust, desire, greed, or anything seen as “sinful” in the eyes of the Holy See, her father would force her to repress those emotions. This led Farnese to have an obsession with fire, as she believed it was the only way to purify and cleanse anything. She burnt her house down, burnt property, and even engaged in burning heretics alive. Like I said, this arc has a lot of gruesome imagery. Religious killings make me queasy and enraged, what can I say.

A potent example of her repressed sexual urges come when she is possessed by demonic spirits around Guts. This puts her into a delirious trance, and she begins to engage in intercourse with Guts’ massive sword, Dragonslayer. I’m not making this up.

It’s a disturbing image, but a powerful scene. It isn’t just W0AH DIZ MANGA IS EFFED UP!!!!! It hyperbolizes her inner feelings by bringing forth her repressed emotions via physical violence. She takes her complex emotions and translates them into physical pain. She explains complicated mental thoughts into a sensation, regardless of how unpleasant it is.

She was never enamored with the Holy See, and she even realizes the horrid acts she has committed as a child, and as a representative of the Holy See. She understands her privilege compared to the impoverished peasants of Berserk, and wants to do better for the world. By meeting Guts, she realizes how minuscule and selfish her world view is, and she desires to broaden her perspective on life, its beauty, its depravity, and its horror.

But, after she cuts her hair in an act of symbolic defiance and renewed identity, her complexity disappears, and you realize, as a character, she does not have much personality. My favourite part about her are her complex emotions and history, but when I consider who she is as a person, and how her mannerisms are compared to the rest of Guts’ group, she is easily the most bland character.

In the F A L C O N O F T H E M I L L E N N I U M E M P I R E A R C, she goes through another minor character arc of inadequacy when compared to Guts’ companions, and that is about all the development she receives. She visits her family again and there is an interesting dynamic there, but we as readers do not see her grow or develop into her own person. I can describe Casca as fierce, determined, but also socially awkward and loving of those close to her. I can describe Schiercke as somewhat prideful, but also innocent and wise. Farnese is bland.

In the second half of the manga series, Farnese’s most notable feat is being able to keep Casca calm and contained. She is a sidekick to a much more interesting character.

One may ask why I do not complain about how Casca’s character was viciously changed. There is a fundamental reason why Casca going from a strong woman to a braindead plot device does not bother me: Casca went through the most traumatic experience imaginable, and she had her mind broken because of it. Would you be fine if you saw everyone you ever loved eaten by demons in front of you, stripped by said demons, and then raped TWICE by them? She isn’t herself anymore because of a major story event, and her broken mentality is a major driving force for the narrative.

Rather than blossom into a fascinating character, she is mistreated, and turned into a bland girl who fantasizes about how Guts is such a cool dude.

Another character I didn’t care much for, and one I feel that has wasted potential is Isidro. In terms of backstory, Isidro is about as generic as you can get: he is a child who felt out of place at home, and left his parents in search of adventure. I actually don’t mind this backstory, as not every character has to be incredibly complex. He’s a nice relief to the other characters of Berserk.

His problem is similar to Farnese’s, in that he rarely grows or matures. Rather than blossoming into a responsible man, he stays as a short-tempered, comic relief character. His combat ability grows, but that doesn’t really matter to a story. In his defense though, he starts from nothing, and does become a reliable, competent member of Guts’ companions. But there is almost nothing to him, other than being a frequent punchline for jokes.

I feel that Isidro could have been an interesting insight into the common folk in Berserk. You don’t see much of the peasants, so having Isidro there could be a chance for stories of regular life, its mundanities, and its pleasures. But, Isidro never reveals anything personal, and he is always present, but you rarely notice him. He’s often in the back joking or being antagonized by Puck, and I feel he could be so much more.

My section on Isidro is much shorter than Farnese’s because, despite being in 200+ chapters of the story, there really isn’t much to this character, which, is a shame.

4.) Weak World

When I think of the best fantasy worlds, I think of worlds like The Continent from The Witcher, Forgotten Realms, New Vegas in Fallout New Vegas, Auldrant in Tales of the Abyss, and Arcadia in Skies of Arcadia. These places are all unique, have believable people and systems in place, and they all include memorable set pieces and locations. They have great lore and history as well, and laws of nature that govern its politics, magic, and conflicts. In short, great worlds feel lived-in.

Berserk, while excelling in some of these factors, is definitely lacking in others. Let’s run down the factors I just listed, and see how Berserk holds itself up. Yes, this will be a sub-list in an article which is a list. This is 2017, people.

Uniqueness

Some concepts endemic to Berserk are fantastic, while others are fairly generic. The Behelit, to me, is the most interesting artifact in the world of Berserk. When a person has desires strong enough, or they are brought to their absolute breaking point, they can activate the Behelit.

Doing so will give you the option to sacrifice the people in your life closest to you and become an apostle: half-demon, half-human. This is a symbolic gesture of ridding yourself of human love and happiness, and embracing your inner depravity. It is one of the most terrifying and fascinating artifacts in fiction.

But, other than the Behelit, there aren’t many aspects of Berserk’s world that differentiate it from any other fantasy setting. Which, admittedly, is absurdly difficult to do, given the glut of fantasy settings in the written sphere. A lot of Berserk’s creatures are taken from religions, folklore, or other settings and given a unique twist, but not unique enough to outdo the competition.

Although, the design for a lot of the apostles and horrific creatures in Berserk are very detailed. No two creatures look the same, and that takes an incredible level of talent, regardless of the production.

People

I love the commoner’s and peasants in Berserk. They are realistic and believable for a setting full of pillaging, murder, and rape. They search for any quick solution to their problem. In an impoverished setting, it makes sense why a villager would become enamored with faith. It makes sense that the starving parent sells their child into slavery, regardless of how horrendous that act is. It makes sense that the plague infested citizens view Mozgus as a god, when they see him sprout wings and fly, telling them to burn Casca.

Unfortunately, civilians in Berserk very rarely offer any world-building information. They are there to further the plot, and that’s a bit of a shame. Insight into the world of the everyman is, at least I believe, integral to building a powerful world. I love Fallout New Vegas, because it feels like everybody has a place there, regardless of how mundane it is. You meet hunters, farmers, and people trying to attain power.

Don’t get me wrong though, the named characters in Berserk are always interesting. They have motivations, personality, and goals to uphold. Overall though, the individuals in Berserk’s world are great.

Locations

This is where the world of Berserk begins to fall flat. None of the locations or warring nations in Berserk are very interesting. Other than the first arc, the Golden Age Arc, there is little exploration of the politics of kingdoms. Berserk is more so about adventures and conquering. It is more akin to Dungeons and Dragons, than it is Game of Thrones, despite its superficial similarities to Thrones.

But, aside from the gorgeous imagery, the world of Berserk doesn’t feel genuine. It just feels like a series of generic fantasy locations. Travel and conquest doesn’t matter if you don’t care for any place, or really know anything about it. I don’t know where a place like Midland is in relation to the Kushan Empire. I don’t know where Doldrey Castle is. I don’t know where Elfhelm is. There is no map, and you very rarely get any directions anywhere. It just feels like a lot of loose locations hardly strewn together with any cohesion, and it takes you out of the story. By having the locations of Berserk feel disconnected, the world feels fake and fabricated.

Again, all of the locations are illustrated beautifully, but few of them are memorable or striking. None of them have unique quirks or spectacular designs. I can’t tell you the difference between any country or castle.

It’s also damning that it feels like the world just has countries appear out of nowhere. The Holy See, for example, was never mentioned once before the conviction arc, and many years of story took place during that time. It especially seems off, since characters from Midland reference The Holy See in the Conviction Arc, which is strange, because it appears that the religious authority holds massive power over nobles. There is no concrete system, and the political climate seems to change rapidly off-screen. The politics of Berserk adapt conveniently to fit the narrative, and it just feels sloppy.

Lore and History

About the only history in this manga

There is almost no lore or history in Berserk. Other than a few text boxes describing the past of certain items or events, there is hardly anything. This is tragically a problem with the manga medium, as almost all of its story is conveyed through dialogue, and not walls of text, but a lack of history does not give Berserk’s world an identity. Berserk focuses more on the present, and history is made through characters’ actions. This unfortunately does not lend Berserk’s superficial medieval fantasy setting any advantage other than hellish monsters.

Laws of Nature

This category is kind of vague, but it is the physics, chemistry, and natural qualities of a world that help give it an identity. I genuinely enjoy the concept of magic in Berserk. Having a magic system that neccessitates preparation and extensive knowledge makes it seem so important, and allows spells to feel important.

Berserk has some fairly strong supernatural elements, but doesn’t do anything more complicated with them other than present them as fodder for Guts to swing his big sword at. Characters with magical abilities are also present, and the anime aesthetic lends itself to being more fantastical. But, like the world of Berserk, magic abilities seem to come to random characters completely unexplained.

The separation of planes of reality is slightly interesting, but it has been done in many fantasy settings before. Berserk does not try to expand on these concepts or innovate them, but rather, constrains its narrative by following them.

5.) Yugioh Battle Discussions

This one personally bothers me, but I feel there are too many Guts vs. any opponent scenes. My favourite battles are those where there are multiple participants, or those which have a lot of strategy behind them. Guts fight scenes are always over with him crushing his opponents with a few swings. There aren’t any memorable fights, but that’s okay, because Berserk isn’t about the individual battles. Combat is a means to an end to progress the story. Combat itself, does a wonderful job, in telling stories.

What bothers me, is when Guts has his fight scenes with any opponent, his motley crew are always on the side, gawking and providing commentary. It seems a little out-of-place for Berserk, and takes away a lot of tension from battle scenes. Having Guts swing a sword, and then a cutting to a character commenting on how well he swung that sword, doesn’t really feel necessary to me.

To clarify, I am not condoning reaction shots from characters. A lot of powerful moments are amplified when it cuts to characters being shocked about the strength of an attack. It lets the reader know that what they are seeing is not normal, and it keeps fights intense and exciting.

It feels odd that this happens a lot, because it invalidates a lot of Berserk’s side characters by forcing them to remain on the sidelines. Rather than participate and gain their own moments of glory, they are relegated to cheering on the main character man do his thing. It feels like wish-fulfillment for the reader. It’s a cheap and lazy tactic for the reader to cheer on Guts and feel like they too, are the super badass man XD.

6.) Harembae

Harem anime is the most basic, fanservice thing you can do. Make a male main character, and every girl loves him and wants to be with him for some reason. I’d be guilty in saying I don’t indulge in it. Persona 5’s confidant system enables you to develop a harem, there is no way around it.

But when a harem forms in a story that takes itself really seriously, it becomes extra noticable. Berserk has a lot of anime elements, but it doesn’t contain many cliches. The aforementioned YuGiOh battle cries in the background are one of them, and the harem is another.

Having Farnese and Shiercke develop crushes on Guts seems weird and out of place. I can understand Shiercke liking Guts because he shows her kindness when others barely did, but Farnese’s affection seems to appear out of nowhere.

Guts pretty much dismantles Farnese’s entire worldview, kidnaps her and uses her as ransom to escape the Holy See, and shows pretty much no care for her. He isn’t mean or dismissive of her, but he just does not seem to love her at all.

Shiercke’s affection could add a lot to her charcter if she was balancing her innocent kindness, adolescent crush, and respect for Guts. It would be a fascinating look into complex emotions of adoration and love that human beings, especially tumultuous teenagers, experience. But, it gets relegated to “she wants his big muscles.”

What makes it even more frustrating, is Guts clearly loves Casca. So much of the manga is spent developing their relationship, so the harem is ultimately pointless. Shiercke and Farnese won’t win Guts’ affection, and if they did, it would undermine the entire purpose of Guts’ journey. It would hurt the story if Guts stopped loving Casca and loved the others.

The harem also plays into the pointless and childish wish fulfillment method of making Guts seem like a better character. It allows the reader to think “Ooh! Since i impose myself onto big sword man, all ladies love me too!” It’s a superficial manipulation tactic, and it cheapens the story.

It ESPECIALLY hurts Farnese, because it takes away the strong character she was, and just becomes a token of affection for Guts. She becomes a friendzoned trophy wife, and it’s just childish.

BIG OL’ WRAP UP

I know it sounds like I hate Berserk, but that’s the opposite of the truth. I adore this series, and I would give it an 9/10. The issues I listed above don’t ruin the series, but prevent it from becoming that perfect 10 that it could be. But, the series isn’t over yet so maybe these issues can be rectified. Maybe there can be a bonus edition of the series that details the world, its lore, and its natural systems. Maybe now that Farnese and Shiercke know that Casca and Guts were intimate in the past, they will ditch their unrequited love and become stronger individual characters.

I wanted to highlight what I viewed as worthy criticism for this manga, as people continuously call it a perfect 10/10. It’s easy to get complacent and ignore issues as the story goes on. There are so many other factors that make me love this series, and I will continue to folow it until the day I die. Because it will probably take 50 years to actually end.

“Tom Nook is SOOOOOOO nasty and a crook! He’s a money grubbing Tanooki! He rips you off! He’s got a monopoly!”

I’ve had enough. Tom Nook has been given a bad rep by the gaming community, and it isn’t deserved. I will list key arguments and refute them to the best of my ability. My big balled boy needs some love.

Argument #1: He forces property on you against your will

THIS IS FINE.

When you first move into town in Animal Crossing, you are given a choice of where you wish to place your house. Tom Nook walks with you around town as you inspect which place would be best for you. You then erect a house, and Tom Nook charges you a mortgage for it.

The big complaint, is that you have no say in buying this house, and that you are signed off into debt against your will. Now, let me ask you a very scientific question that many people are unable to answer:

Where would you live?

In the very first Animal Crossing, Tom Nook even questions why you brought no money moving into a town that you knew prior you were going to. Your character had to have known that he needed money to live there, so why didn’t you bring any? You bring like, what, 1000 bells into this town? That’s less than what most bugs sell for in this game. It’s questionable at best.

Well, in your time of welfare, Tom Nook OFFERS you a place immediately, as long as you do some mundane chores for him. He gives you a home, and a place to sleep in when none of the other villagers would likely be willing to help you. They would see this unemployed bum move in, notice he’s a different species than him, and probably ostracize him for the rest of his stay in town.

Tom Nook does his best to accommodate you and make you feel like you belong in this tiny village full of weeds and people who think Sharks for Shirts is a fair trade.

#2 I’m Always in Debt!

This cannot be argued. This is the truth. Tom Nook, puts you into debt, and in every other game than New Leaf, he forces you to upgrade your house, putting you further and further into debt. However, this stems from the claim in my previous point: You moved into a town with NO MONEY, NO RELATIVES, absolutely nothing, and expected things to be perfect? Why didn’t you read the fine print or prepare for a massive decision like a move into a new town? Why did you even need to move? To avoid your debt collectors from your previous town, too?

But, yes, Tom Nook does put you in debt. However, can I ask you when you need to pay this debt off? What’s that? You have infinite time to pay your debt that you got yourself into off? This debt that Tom Nook NEVER pressures you to pay? This debt that can be ignored for days, months, and years at a time? The debt that I honestly forgot about when I realized that I could accumulate all of it, then pay it off?

The threat of his debt is never present, because there is never a deadline. There is no interest on it. Unlike student loans or a mortgage, you aren’t forced to make small payments towards your house cost. This means you can put your funds towards furniture, clothes, and gifts for your friends. You can focus on bettering your life before you are ready to make that commitment.

#3 He Makes You Live in a Tent In New Leaf!

Living Like Larry

Tom Nook puts you in a tent, because you weren’t expected to come. You’re lucky you were able to get any housing at all in your situation. While you selected a place to build your house, of course they need time to build it. These things don’t happen immediately, they happen overnight!

The tent is temporary, and honestly, you can pay it off in a day. And guess what? In New Leaf, you aren’t even forced to pay a house upgrade unless you really want it!

#4: His prices are extortion!

It’s called an economy. Supply and Demand. Tom Nook meets the villagers supply for silly shirts and tools. If Tom Nook was never present, you would not have been able to acquire the tools necessary to grow your town or your home. Without Tom Nook and his catalogue, how could anyboy alter their house how they desire? The player, and the animal villagers that inhabit need Tom Nook as a location to sell their materials.

If you think Tom Nook charges you too much for furniture and other necessities, go to Gracie’s store. 100000+ bells for a shirt? Do something smarter and use it to put a down payment on a house. Tom Nook provides affordable prices for all, and does not discriminate on species.

 

(Now that my ad for Tom Nook’s sign is done, maybe he’ll reduce my loan…)