Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Jason Schreier and George Kamitani are kinda' being dicks.


Above is the entirety of a Kotaku blurb made two weeks ago, complaining about the Sorceress's character design in Dragon's Crown.  The Sorceress is one of three female player-characters in the game, along with the slender, bow-wielding Elf and the muscled, battle-bikini'd Amazon.

The ladies of Dragon's Crown.

If you gaze upon the gymnastic twistyness of the Elf, the tight glutes of the Amazon or the supernaturally nipple-less mammaries of the Sorceress and find yourself offended, that's fine.  No one's saying you shouldn't feel that Dragon's Crown is perpetuating a world in which women are only valued because of their worth as sex objects.  

If, when you watch a trailer of Dragon's Crown and note that her bustier does lamentably little to assist with what must be excruciating back pain as her assets leap to and fro, you find yourself disgusted - that's fine.  

You can feel whatever you want to feel, but - for the record - I feel differently. 

I feel Kamitani's art is gorgeous.  I love the his watery, pale eyes and wonderful colors.  I love how big and dramatic and bombastic his designs are - I love the Sorceress's big, floppy witch's hat and billowing skirts, her long Pantene-commercial auburn hair, Jessica Rabbit curves and straight-up sexiness.  

I have no problem with her sexiness.  If you haven't enjoyed a Vanillaware title - in part - due to its sultry eroticism and romance, you probably haven't played a Vanillaware game. 

There's no nipples - I checked many, many times.

I'm not deeply troubled by how sexy Dragon's Crown is (or is attempting to be).  Perhaps because aesthetic beauty occasionally dipped in the sticky waters of lust is part of what I expect from a Vanillaware game; 

Muramasa: The Demon Blade (2009)

Perhaps because I enjoy aesthetic beauty spiced with sex.  But let one not suggest that sexism in character design isn't a thing.  It's totally a thing, which does genuine cultural and psychological damage.  

But neither am I prepared to suggest censorship or any variety of vitriol is the solution to it.  Neither am I prepared to suggest that the Sorceress could be any less of a victory for video game characters than Bayonetta or Juliet Starling - video game women who, like the Sorceress, where harshly judged and condemned based solely on their appearance, prior to any press or gamer getting to know them, and were subsequently revealed to be intelligent, charming, witty characters who were very much aware of their own sexuality, of the shallow-minded folks who would condemn them for it, and the uniquely feminine power it offered.  

I find nothing wrong with sexy as I find nothing wrong with chaste - but I find the sophomoric pissing match between Kotaku writer Jason Schreier and Vanillaware artist George Kamitani just plain disappointing.  

In response to the Kotaku blurb, Kamitani took to his Facebook account to post this: 


And, naturally, Mr. Schreier had a lot to say about that.  But this whole thing is just so disappointing and so immature for two people who really should be more invested in having an intelligent conversation on the subject.  Instead of an insightful exploration of the Sorceress's design, the conversation we have is this: 

Jason : "You like big titties, you must be a little boy going through puberty."

George : "You don't like big titties, you must be a gay person."

Me : "You're both being assholes."

[update] As things were cooling down, Jason reached out to George to actually have a dialogue on the art of Dragon's Crown, and George sent this email reply that paints things in a gentler light: 
Thank you for contacting me; I am George Kamitani from Vanillaware.

I’ll go into detail about the reasons behind some of Dragon’s Crown design concepts.

I believe that the basic fantasy motifs seen in Dungeons & Dragons and the work of J.R.R. Tolkien have a style that is very attractive, and I chose to use some orthodox ones in my basic designs. However, if I left those designs as is, they won’t stand out amongst the many fantasy designs already in the video game/comic/movie/etc. space. Because of that, I decided to exaggerate all of my character designs in a cartoonish fashion.

I exaggerated the silhouettes of all the masculine features in the male characters, the feminine features in female characters, and the monster-like features in the monsters from many different angles until each had a unique feel to them. I apologize to those who were made uncomfortable by the art’s appearance, and did not see the same light-hearted fantasy in my designs.

I don’t harbor any ill-will to Jason Schreier for the article he originally posted about the Sorceress or his follow-up. Although it may be negative feedback, I am very thankful for having one of our titles being covered. I do understand what Jason and the rest of the discussions on the internet are saying for the most part. I am not sure if I can implement the critiques from him and others around the internet into my future artistic creations, but I will definitely keep in mind that these opinions are out there and affect people on a personal level. I feel that any form of media content faces death when it doesn’t receive attention at all. So, be it criticism or support, I am truly thankful for the people talking about Dragon’s Crown and the people discovering Vanillaware for the first time.

In regards to the Dwarf image I posted on my Facebook page: This image was never intended to attack Jason. Originally, it was a promotional image that I created for my fan base in Japan, which I posted to the official Vanillaware Twitter account earlier.

We receive many requests from companies to create publicity illustrations for the game, but we never received any requests for the Dwarf. Also, as the game’s street date nears, most retail shops start requesting exclusive art for their retailer-exclusive bonus items. In Japan, these illustration requests can even be as specific as something like female characters in swimwear. In these requests as well, the Dwarf was nowhere to be seen.

So, I decided to unofficially draw a sweaty Dwarf in a bathing suit, with a bit of cynicism towards those retailer requests. I drew 3 of them to show that there are character color variations available.

However, this image is something I created on my own, and will not see the light of day in any publication. I felt it was a shame to just throw it out, and thought I’d just post it on my own Facebook. That’s when I remembered Jason’s article and thought that I’d post it as a little joke with a comment. I used an automated translator to try and make a lighthearted joke in English, but clearly that wasn’t the case. I was very surprised to see the crazy aftermath.

It’s okay if it was just me who was criticized, but it is not my intention to cause problems for Dragon’s Crown publisher (ATLUS) and all the other people who are involved in this project. From now on, I will limit myself about transmitting something personal out in the public.

Also, it would be very appreciated if you could please contact Index Digital Media, Inc. if you plan to make anything related to this matter, including this e-mail, into an article.

Lastly, please tell Jason that I am sorry for causing him trouble, and also to please don’t let my actions cause him to shy away from Vanillaware products…

Good bye, and thank you."
I hope it's not weird that I'm kinda-really-happy Kamitani had long-before produced the Sweaty Dwarfs image as a sort of protest to all the requests from retailers requesting sexy pics of the ladies of Dragon's Crown.  

At least he's mindful - to a degree - of the same imbalance we find distasteful. [/update]

4 comments:

  1. i had a very similar reaction to hamilton's piece on infinite's violence. how could an article so well articulated be so bias and dismissive?

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  2. Kotaku is a trash site, remember that "FF Versus is cancelled" bullshit? Yeah they're weak and desperate for hits. Jason Schmuck got what he deserved for calling GK a 14 year old boy and purely insulting him over nothing more than what the man and many fans felt was good art. That article was just an example of lousy journalism and pseudo-feminism trying to criticize things that will persist as long as men have ballsacks. I don't cry about the fact that I look nothing like the hulking muscle men with foot-long penises who portray masculine heroes in various cartoons or the pretty boys in manga aimed toward women or the lean, suave male models in fashion ads.

    I DON'T LET MYSELF BE AFFECTED BY SUCH SHIT AND NEITHER SHOULD WOMEN BE SO DAMN CONCERNED ABOUT THE STANDARDS THAT POPULAR MEDIA MAY HOLD THEM TO.

    IF THE GUY YOU HAVE A CRUSH ON ISN'T SEXUALLY ATTRACTED TO YOU, DON'T EXPECT CHANGING THE APPEARANCE OF THE WOMEN IN HIS FAVORITE TV SHOW TO MAKE HIM SUDDENLY BECOME SEXUALLY ATTRACTED TO YOU, DAMMIT.

    DO I CRY TO THE MEDIA BECAUSE I'M NOT HOT ENOUGH FOR THE GIRL I LIKED? NO, I GATHER UP MY WILL TO MAKE SOMETHING OF MYSELF LESS DEPENDENT ON APPEARANCES AND MOVE THE HELL ON!

    I WANT WOMEN TO HAVE EQUAL RIGHTS AND EMPLOYMENT AND WAGES AND PRIVILEGES, BUT WHY DO THEY INSIST ON CRYING ABOUT SOMETHING AS TRIVIAL AS THE DESIGNS OF WOMEN IN VIDEO GAMES??? DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY ARTICLES SAY THE SAME THING ABOUT HOW IT'S DAMAGING BECAUSE IT AFFECTS THE WAY MEN LOOK AT WOMEN, THE WAY WOMEN THINK ABOUT THEMSELVES, BLAH BLAH BLAH, DO YOU REALIZE THAT IF I WASTED MY TIME CRYING AS MUCH AS THESE ARTICLES ABOUT WHAT AN UGLY MAN WITH A MEDIOCRE PENIS I AM, THAT I WOULD NOT EVEN HAVE THE WILL TO LIVE? QUIT YOUR CRYING AND DO SOMETHING PRODUCTIVE!!!

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  3. Unfortunately for nearly everyone on the planet, human beings are very easy to train. We cling to what we see. We will believe anything if we're told it constantly. None of this is about highschool-hookup drama and attracting a person we like you're suggesting. It's about the imbalances within our culture concerning the representation of both genders. It's about popular media, of which video games have recently become a huge part of, telling not just girls, but everyone that there is certain way you have to be to be of any worth.
    The focus on this site is of the imbalance from the female side; if you have qualms with that no one is forcing you to stay here. Popular media and video games in particular are constantly shooting the subtle message that women are here to be looked at. We are the sum of our appearance.
    Consider the effects that this constant message has on it's viewers. If you had been told through images, voices, and peer reactions that your worth as a human being was based on how "pretty" you were you would be pretty concerned with your appearance too. Equal rights do not nessesitate equal treatment, unfortunately, and while we're all thankful women are no longer considered property by most there are lingering imbalances in our representation as a gender based on that past.
    Calm down and consider why someone may be doing what they're doing before you condemn them.

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  4. I really should update this post with Kamitani's email response after it exploded. In fact, I think I will.

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