Monday, October 27, 2014

Cross Ange Episode 4

Episode 4 of Cross Ange begins with Jill going over Ange's kill ratio for her first three missions and she's rather impressed, especially since Ange has been racking up the kills in the Vilkiss, which no other Norma could use without things going horribly wrong.

We then cut to Ange kicking ass and everyone else (especially Hilda) being still pissed off over how Ange's earlier actions got several people (Zola and Miranda especially) killed, and they refuse to work with Ange in taking down DRAGONS, but Ange has gotten to the point she doesn't give three shits what they think. We then cut back to Salia wanting to pilot the Vilkiss instead to prove she's more effective than the hated yet gifted newbie, but Jill tells her to drop the subject and Salia complies. Once the room just has Jill and Jasmine (the only woman on base who looks reasonably old and sensibly dressed) in it, Jasmine immediately calls Jill out on her manipulative tendencies and Jill owns up to it, admitting ultimately she's as screwed over as every other Norma, and while basically gives a shit about her fellow Norma somewhat, ultimately, she's just as concerned about keeping her own ass out of the fire as anyone else.

Before I go on, I have to admit that now that the plot seems to have found it's pacing and struck a decent balance between cheesecake and drama, this is good writing and really shows how cynical the series is, and is consistent with what we've seen earlier.

Anyway, after the intro plays, we cut to the base commissions office, where all the kills by various pilots are tallied up and they are paid a bounty based performance, kill ratio, and equipment expended, which strikes me as both thematically appropriate, and fits the penal battalion idea rather well, as IRL penal battalions throughout history (such as the Soviet Union's take on the idea) have used similar methods of evaluating performance. Ange winds up making the most out of everyone, to the jealous annoyance of Hilda and two other girls who used to be Zola's bed buddies, while Ersha and Vivian (two of nicer members of the cast) are merely appreciative of her skill.

Scene change later, Ange goes to change her uniform, and find her uniform has been shredded up by Hilda and her toadies as a "haze the bitch we hate" ritual, and even though Salia calls them out, they play all smugly innocent. Ange then shocks them by not giving a shit and changes into the shredded uniform without a visible reaction, basically trying to show she's immune to being trolled, then as the goon squad gets pissed Ange ain't mad, Ange lunges forward with her combat knife and returns the favor on one of them (Rosalie), calls her a bitch, then leaves without another word, leaving Vivian impressed at how badass Ange was.

Before we go on, this both better and worse writing. Better in the sense Ange is no longer the Spoiled Brat whiny asshole and has grown the hell up, and worse in the sense it is Cliche #2 from lesbian prison porno: "If I'm the toughest bitch around, no one will will want to fuck with me", which is a good idea for the most part, but Ange sure as hell doesn't seem to care about the corollary to that: "Make a bunch of friends just in case being a tough bitch doesn't work so I don't get shanked in the shower".

We cut to the mess hall where Emma is calling home to her father, telling him she's gotten used to her job, being around Norma doesn't bother her as much, and that she seems to be getting a good handle on keeping order.

Cue Ange walking by in her stripper like uniform and epic spit take by Emma, which I have to admit was rather funny.

Anyway, a now flustered Emma is dressing down Ange, who basically is tuning it out for the most part, and then when Emma tries to pull rank, Ange gives her a sarcastic salute and walks off, still in "toughest bitch in the prison", which is only further infuriating all of the enemies Ange racked up earlier.

Afterwards, we get a sequence of events where Hilda's goons keep trying to troll Ange and it keeps backfiring, such as trying to start a food fight and hitting the wrong girl (and the screen pans out while the sounds of a well deserving ass kicking play in the background as Rosalie gets the crap beaten out of her). Later, as Ange is in one of the combat simulators, they switch her water bottle for one with a laxative in it. She gets out, takes a sip, realizes what's it is, then she grabs the now smug Rosalie and kisses her (forcing all the laxative down her would be trolls throat), then disengages as Rosalie's stomach starts tying in knots and she has to visit the porcelain throne for awhile.

Later, as Ange is showering, Rosalie and crew are still trying screw over Ange, discovers her slutty looking underwear, and make rather loud plans to haze her by hanging them out where everyone can see them to humiliate her. Turns out they were Ersha's, who steps out of the shower rather pissed off, and Rosalie and co are dragged off screen as Ersha proceeds to make pretzels out of them wrestling style. As the ass beating proceeds in the background, Ange finally decides to get herself a new uniform.

Scene change later, we cut to the base commissary, where Jasmine and Vivian are working out a business deal to outfit Vivian's Paramail with a new weapon when Ange walks in, ignores the two of them making remarks about the stripper look and tosses Jasmine a wad of bills to buy her a new uniform, and since money talks, Jasmine tosses her a factory condition outfit while mentioning how she carries practically everything in her "mall".

After Ange changes, they advise her to outfit her Paramail with some new weapons (and this section doubles as a shoutout to a lot of other mecha series, especially as they pan over what looks like Voltes V's Tenkuuken, during which Jasmine explains one of the few freedoms Norma have is to pimp their rides out with all sorts of bling, weapons, frills, and whatever else with any money they earn, which strikes me as rather dark humor on the part of those who have held the Norma captive, not to mention as a transparent excuse for the animators to throw in ton of mecha anime shoutouts (I recognized kit from various Gundam shows in the pan shots of this sequence, especially SEED, Zeta Gundam, the original, and others).

Ange doesn't give a shit, but Jasmine continues explaining Ange could use all that money she has to buy herself some friends if she spends it wisely (as in, use it to win herself to allies to prevent getting shanked in the shower), but Ange is still in "tough loner prison bitch" mode and promptly ignores this, lasping back briefly into her former 'fuck Norma" attitude despite being one, and her loner facade is revealed to basically be her way of coping with the reality she has to face, though in truth a tiny part of her is still trying to deny the obvious fact she's still no better than anyone else, which is rather realistic IMO.

We cut to Salia (who is senior NCO under Jill, for those who forgot) getting a little annoyed with Rosalie's BS, telling her she was willing to overlook some of the trolling as bog standard hazing, but it's starting to get tiresome as hell, and Rosalie whines she hates Ange because she still hasn't gotten over how three people are dead because of her (Zola especially). Ersha and Vivian are present as well, and Ersha reveals Ange was kind enough to buy all of their graves in advance (a rather morbid yet humanizing act on Ange's part) and adds Ange is no longer crying like a bitch about having to fight or die, basically telling Rosalie to drop the grudge already.

Hilda walks in, throws petrol on the fire, and basically admits she never intends to let the matter drop, basically feeling Ange got off light and decides to troll Salia by implying Salia is getting a thing for Ange and has already......ahemed her.

(Remember, Salia was one of the very first people willing to put a cap in Ange's face for attempting to desert and Hilda knows this)

This ticks Salia off, and she pulls rank as well as whips out her combat knife, just barely restraining the urge to shank Hilda on the spot, to which Hilda whips out her pistol and they have a Mexican standoff, as Salia is attempting to follow orders despite her own feelings by telling Hilda to leave Ange be (as Jill instructed), and Hilda eventually pretends to back down as Salia stands her ground and leaves with her groupies.

Later, back in the now late Zola's lesbian rape dungeon (that love hotel looking room she tried to have her way with Ange in around Episode 2), Hilda basically tells her groupies (and now her bed buddies) to leave everything to her along with a little lesbian prison porno flavored foreplay.

We cut to Salia and Vivian's room, where Vivian is nerding out over what looks like doodles of the main cannon of the Sazabi from Char's Counterattack, while Salia is at her desk, reading a training manual and trying to tune out Vivan's geekout.

Salia is still privately pissed she didn't get the Vilkiss, and Vivian decides to interrupts her reverie (in which it's implied Salia is rather close to the willingly intimate sense) by revealing Salia likes reading some somewhat trashy literature in her dresser (which has lines out of a bad romance novel apparently), which pisses Salia off to the point she promises to shank Vivian if she goes through her stuff like that again.

Vivian then heads off to the mess hall, where Ange is eating along until Vivian joins her, we learn Ersha is an excellent curry chef, and Vivian is trying to get Ange to be friends with her, and Ange is still deep in "loner prison bitch" mode and tells Vivian to piss off and leaves,

We then cut back to where Hilda and her groupies have obviously I have spell this out for anyone.....anyway, Hilda is now angsting over Zola (she has her cybernetic eye as a keepsake) while the camera is providing us a lot of fanservice shots of her naked ass, then she tosses the eye out the window, finally accepting she's gone, basically ending the scene with the implication she's going to take up the now late Zola's role.

Later, as Mei and the other Paramail mechanics leave the squad bay, Hilda sneaks in, and in what I consider the first genuine act of total monsterdom in the show, proceeds to deliberately sabotage the Vilkiss.

I'll pause here for a moment to add there is a reason this is first act of actual unforgivable evil in the show: The first rape scene was pretty graphic, but it was revealed at the close of Episode Three to be part of a gambit by Jill to break Ange's arrogance and make her face her reality, so it was very twisted version of Cruel To Be Kind tough love in hindsight. Zola trying to rape Ange was also pretty bad, but Zola wound up dead by next episode, so she already paid for that, and since it was allowed to happen by Jill, it was also part of Jill's gambit to bitch slap Ange into reality. In the case of both, Jill was very much trying to make Ange either wake up to her reality or die from her refusal, and Zola never set out to deliberately kill Ange, so Hilda is the very first person in the show to actually cross the moral event horizon by deliberately trying to murder someone out of pure spite.

Next morning is another combat sortie, and just before Ange takes off, she sits on a tack, which she takes as just another shitty trolling attempt, and as she basically just wants to take off and forget it ever happened, the camera pans to where Hilda jammed the Vilkiss' throttles, just in case anyone didn't realize what she did the previous night.

As the combat sortie begins, Ange goes all lone wolf despite Salia telling her not too, and that's when Hilda's sabotage kicks in and shorts out her engines. Hilda chooses this moment to rub in the fact Ange is losing control, and even though Ange is telling her to fuck off, she's also realizing Hilda was responsible for her engine crapping out.

As a Scuna class dragon pulls the Vilkiss into the ocean with it, Ange starts to drown, and as the credits start, the scene cuts to Ange waking up in a bed with her hands bound to a bed, she's naked, and she freaks out as she looks over at the show's resident Kira Yamato expy (who is presumably naked in the bed with her).

The next episode preview show scenes of her getting better acquainted with the Kira Yamato ripoff (named Tusk, BTW), and some more scenes with the rest of the Arzenal crew, as well as some DRAGON attacks.

All in all, the writing is much better than the first two episodes yet still reeked of lesbian prison porno cliches, though it did have some funny moments and a nice ending twist.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

TV Tropes: where you have no privacy.

One of the things I find creepy and infuriating about TV Tropes is the fact Fast Eddie has full access to your private messages, quite possibly as you are typing them, whenever he wants.

For those who don't know why that's a bad thing, here's a hypothetical: He passes a decision you and a friend don't like, but you want to be smart and swap notes on how to peacefully object to the change and convince him to reconsider. He gets wind you might be a 'traitor", reads your PMs, and next thing you and your buddy know, you are suddenly "Google bounced" and can't even read the site, and you have no idea why.

If that sounds the slightest bit scary or disturbing, it should, because that means you have zero privacy, even though the feature is called "PRIVATE Messaging".

Now, to be absolutely honest, wikis are not platforms designed with privacy in mind, and even though most people are wise enough not to put private info on public pages, any private account info like passwords and real names are accessible via the database, which is still accessible by those with shell access to the wiki.

However, this is not usually a threat because most MediaWiki installs require very high privileges to even look at the database info (and that's encrypted), and those that can access that information are usually staff members who usually are forced not to reveal that info for any reason except to comply with law enforcement.

For instance, I have shell access to the Orain servers, and even though I only have limited access to the MediaWiki servers, I still have access to a lot of private info, but to get that private info access, I was forced to send proof of my IRL name, address, and contact info to verify my identity and so to give Orain something to hand law enforcement if I looked up private data without just cause. In fact, if I do look up private data without just cause, not only could I lose those rights, I could be in a crossbar apartment if I do anything illegal with that information.

That said, I am legally and morally answerable to Orain and laws protecting the privacy of our users. Further, I have a conscience and ethics, and causally accessing data that was never intended to be shared with me except under exceptional circumstances is something I'm not corrupt enough to do on a whim.

However, Fast Eddie has no such restrictions, and while he supposedly is the only one with these rights, TV Tropes is so secretive about the restraints put on their moderation you have no clue who actually has access to that data. On the other hand, organizations like the Wikimedia Foundation and Orain have clear privacy policies that have legal weight.

Worse, TV Tropes has, by Fast Eddie's own admission, NO SECURITY WHATSOEVER. They do not route through SSL, they do not use HTTPS, and even the passwords have no encryption whatsoever and are still stored in plaintext any unscrupulous turd could steal and thus hijack accounts with.

Why people would trust the private communications feature of a site where you have no guarantee against abuse of your privacy, I have no idea, but frankly, I find that disturbing, and given the amount of censorship this imposes on respectful dissent against the moderation (which I believe is healthy to prevent the moderation becoming god complexed egomaniacs), terrifying.

Update: Shortly after writing this, it was posted on their Ask the Tropes pages that ordinary moderators as well as Fast Eddie can read private messages.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Just watched the third episode of Cross Ange, pleasantly surprised.

After the first two episodes of Cross Ange gave us back to back rape scenes and badly executed fanservice, I was kinda wondering what they'd force us to endure with the third episode.

To my surprise, it was a LOT better.

The first half of the episode begins where the second episode left off, with Ange still wanting to haul ass even after getting someone killed in the process, and even though she almost does get shot for her trouble, the actual battle commences (and the mecha fight scene wasn't too bad, somewhat like Macross as interpreted through a Gundam lens), and Ange crashes into Zola in her fear of getting killed, they crash, and as Ange barely survives, she wakes up to find Zola's blood all over her, and in a scene I thought was quite dramatic, Zola's cybernetic eye lands right in Ange's lap.

The fanservice took a backseat and instead decided to focus on the "War is Hell" aspect, and wow, I was impressed.

Later, we get to see the banged up Ange restrained on a gurney (again, not played for fanservice) as Jill gives the after action review. Jill rubs in the fact Ange's desertion attempt caused things to go so horribly wrong,  Hilda's understandably mad Zola (her lover) is dead, and Ange is still in denial mode, but the denial is obviously getting harder to maintain.

Later, Jill breaks the bad news that the Empire Ange tried to return to has ceased to exist (the coup d'etat as the cause), and this further breaks the shell of Ange's denial (which is the point of Jill's reveal), and just before this scene we find out Ange was so freaking pampered and sheltered it's no freaking wonder she had a huge mind block against herself being anything other than a non-Norma princess.

We also get to see a scene where they are paying last respects to the fallen, and Ange gets a continued bitchslap concerning her reality when she realizes just how horrible the fate of a Norma basically is, and in a weak attempt at denial, tries to use Mana again and fails. Jill also continues being a hardass and tells Ange to realize her life is utterly fucked over as it was and that she needs to accept her fate or just get herself killed.

Sometime after, Jill is still pissed they are down several pilots and mecha, and apparently the only one they have left in storage is some problem child of a robot called Vilkiss (i.e. - that Super Prototype in most mecha shows that most people can't pilot worth a damn except the main character), and at this point, Ange has started to accept her reality to the point she doesn't want to live in it anymore, so she volunteers willingly to be the pilot, hoping she can die in a blaze of glory at least. Jill lets her, obviously figuring Ange will either kill herself off or harden the fuck up.

Latyer, part two of DRAGON hunting commences, and right off the bat, Hilda really wants to watch Ange get herself killed. The mecha fight again looks like Macross as interpreted through a Gundam lens (with a little bit of high fantasy tropes thrown in given the DRAGON's attacks), and just as Salia (the purple haired girl who was willing to cap Ange in the head for desertion) is about to get killed, Ange attempts a kamikaze run.

Self preservation prevents her from offing herself properly, and just as she finally looks like she's really gonna die, she flashbacks to when she saw Coco (the girl killed at the end of Episode 2) die in a cloud of gore, her ring (one of the last reminders of her former life apparently) reacts to the blood dripping off her still not completely healed wounds from earlier, and the Vilkiss glows all golden and gets a scene that had a Gundam SEED like debut of the Freedom/Justice vibe to it.

Survival instinct totally takes over at this point, she flips out, and not long after starts owning the hell out of the DRAGON, managing to vivisect it from head to waist.

As it dies, she snaps back to reality, realizes what she had to do, and while she doesn't want to accept the fact she had to kill to survive, the denial filter is totally gone now, and she finally accepts her former life is gone.

Jill was listening to her PTSD moment, and leaves, happy Ange hardened the fuck up and accepted her situation.

The next episode preview indicates the next episode with be a breather/fanservice episode for the most part, which I'm actually looking forward to now that they got some decent plot with good writing done first.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Something about shit the TVT mods can do that makes me rage

Warning: Angry post below.

I decided to see how TV Tropes viewed the anime Cross Ange after doing my little review of it, and I noticed several time when their moderators kept thumping certain posts because it discussed topics they didn't want discussed (like the ongoing rape theme in the show) even if the topic was utterly valid BECAUSE THERE IS A THEME OF RAPE IN THE SHOW.

I just want to say, right here, right now, I consider the TV Tropes moderators to be some of the most cowardly, bitchmade faggots when it comes to this sort of thing. Hell, they aren't so different from Something Awful moderators in this regard, as both sites have assholes who punish and censor wrongthink.

Well, to both groups, I just want to say something:

Fuck you.

I do understand a possible reason for not wanting to allow that topic to be discussed on TVT, since it might piss off their advertisers, but if that's the case, the TVT moderators are even more pathetic than I thought for taking orders to 1984 their own forums so their boss can apparently pay his bills with money made on a website with illegally copyright violating material.

Anyway, back to my point, I think you should only censor death threats and criminal discussion only. Horrible opinions and controversial topics should never be silenced because it might offend someone, and especially if it's because your sorry ass decided to take it like a bitch from an advertising company.

Cross Ange, mecha anime in hideously bad taste

I recently decided to check out one of the newest mecha anime, Cross Ange, and while I was already leery given I heard it was a fanservice fest directed by the same guy who did Gundam Seed Destiny, I figured, what the hell, let's see what the first few episodes are like.

I saw the first two, and dear god, this makes Kill La Kill look good by comparison, and I thought that one was in bad taste as well.

We first begin with a brief mecha fighting sequence, which obviously is Gundam inspired, then after this in medias res scene we get on with the actual story.

The story is about some Magitek kingdom where everyone can use Mana (magic), and those that can't are considered third class citizens. The story goes at lightning speed in the first episode, when we just barely get properly introduced to Angelina (our protagonist), then her father is deposed in a coup, her mother shot, and she is revealed as a Norma (someone who can't use magic).

This whole scene sets the tone for the horrible writing that follows, as the coup goes off in front of everybody without a hitch, no one reacts to a murder and usurpation of power from the former king in a realistic manner (save Angelina, who is the only one showing appropriate shock/horror/outrage), and the scene ends with Angelina being carted off for her crime of being a non Mana user.

The scene changes to nighttime in a prison where a prison warden is basically letting Angelina know she's a third class citizen who will be fighting in a penal battalion, gets introduced to her commander Jill (also a prisoner), who initially goes good cop and tries to explain she's basically a prison bitch who has no choice in the manner.

Angelina is still suffering shock and outrage, so Jill switches to bad cop, rips her clothes off, and in what can be only be described as a lesbian prison rape scene, "breaks her in".

The whole scene is about as lightning fast as the first half of the episode, and has this bad aftertaste of trying to make the viewer aroused and trying to make you feel sympathy for Angelina (called "Ange" now by Jill to emphasize her third class citizen status), but fails on both counts by showing way too much of the rape scene (they could have panned the camera away just as the scene started and left the audio in and kept the same impact) and it happens so abruptly you barely have time to process what has transpired.

The episode ends soon after with the feeling of being uber rushed and an attempt at trying badly to go dark and edgy that went way too fast with bad attempts at trying to make the viewer jerk off.

Even as a guy with a functioning sex drive, I experienced no joy out of the experience due to the circumstances and the hideous pacing, so the fact it failed even at softcore lesbian porn is pretty telling,

Episode two has Ange hazed and shit on by the rest of the penal battalion for not accepting her prison bitch status, and while this isn't too badly written (fairly realistic honestly), they shove in another lesbian rape scene as well as an earlier foreshadowing scene with girl on girl action in yet more attempts at fanservice. The foreshadowing scene wasn't too horrible (it was brief and underscores how the junior prisoners are the playthings of their seniors), and the following scene where Ange is further broken in and molested was tacky, but does further hammer home how low on the totem pole she is, albeit obviously done to give the lowest common denominator something to jerk off to.

Later, we finally see another mecha fighting scene, and in what is actually better writing it's obvious team tactics are important, and when our still disbelieving protag decides to ditch this shithole in her robot, another prisoner tries to follow her, gets brutally killed for her trouble, and the escape attempt ends in obvious failure.

Two episodes in, not very positive on this crap at all due to bad pacing, lowbrow fanservice pandering, no one save Ange herself acting halfway realistic (even the penal battalion characters are acting out cliches from a softcore lesbian prison porno), and utterly gratuitous abuse of telling the viewer too much in too little time instead of letting us digest the plot.

I might continue watching out of disgusted fascination with how deep the rabbit hole of suck goes, but given how it was a struggle to stay interested for the first two episodes, I'm doubtful I'll even bother.

P.S. - Memo to story writers: When your work has an obvious "let's introduce cheesecake to make the viewer stick around even if they hate everything else" and you even fuck that up due to hideously bad taste, your story sucks.