9.29.2006

What Makes a Villain 2

Previously I mentioned that someday I would get around to discussing another villain from Xenogears.

Welcome to someday.



This is Grahf. He's not a nice man. He's also based heavily (and deliberately) on the Darth Vader mold. You see, he used to be a good guy. At one point he was the good guy. Unfortunately, the same turn of events that caused Krelian to decide he needed to "create god," brought about an entirely different reaction from Krelian's good friend Lacan.

Lacan was a very special individual. He has a very important role to play, and a part of that role is to be forever paired with a particular woman. This is more than a conscious decision. It's a destiny wrought through "divine" intervention and is played out in just about every "Episode" of Xenogears. Sophia is that woman, and they are both drawn to one another in a way far beyond basic affection. The only trouble is their widely differing stations in this particular stage of the timeline. While Lacan is a very gifted painter from a small village, Sophia is the leader of a faith and nation.

Lacan is commissioned to paint a portrait of the Great Mother. His overpowering urge to be near her causes him to drag out the process while simultaneously being unable to express the feelings he holds for fear of overstepping his bounds. Sophia battles all the while with similar conflicting emotions, wanting him near, but unable to shirk her duties. The War intervenes and Sophia is killed just before the painting is finished.

Sophia's last words before crashing her ship were, "Lacan, live." Lacan, a simple painter from the booneys, felt powerless to save her. But he was a religious man, and while Krelian decided she died because god didn't exist, Lacan decided that he must seek out power wherever he could find it and take vengeance for her death. He would challenge and kill god.

If not for who and what he was, Lacan would likely have been taking on a fools errand. Slight problem... That's actually what his role was always meant to be. His destiny was to eventually find the source of power that would make him strong enough to kill "god" (yes those scare quotes are deliberate), but when the time finally came to attain that power, his hate corrupted it. He was rendered unable to fulfill his role. His body died, but he had learned how to transfer his consciousness forcibly into others. He became Grahf, and spent the next 500 years searching for more power and the reincarnation of his own body.

It's at this point I think I should stop, before giving away much more. There is far more to the Darth Vader parallel than the fallen hero archetype, but to continue would spoil the plot even further for anyone interested in ever going back to play this gem.

I mentioned previously that Krelian had an assist in achieving his goal of creating god. Well, Lacan had an assist as well. He didn't just stumble across his source of power. While Krelian was the "villain" in Xenogears, he was at heart, doing what he thought was right. But he and Lacan were both manipulated by a villain more in the "force if nature" category, and that's who I'll talk about next (read: later).

9.22.2006

Random Randomness

For me, the hard part about coming up with blog content is getting past the urge to think, "no one would find that interesting." It's too easy to dismiss things you take for granted that other people may find interesting.

For example... One if the things I learned while working on my degree is that if you wanted to model traffic flow like a gas, you'd be better off using a supersonic model. A subsonic model would be a waste of time.

Why is that? It has to do with the way information propogates through a medium. The speed of sound in a gas is limited by how quickly vibrations and motion in one particle can be transmitted to its neighbors. This is information, information about what is happening elsewhere in the gas. It can be heating, movement, just about any disturbance in the medium.

Now, imagine you have a gas flowing slowly through a large diameter pipe. Some distance down the pipe, the diameter suddenly decreases. The law of conservation says that any mass entering the pipe must leave the pipe at the same rate. The gas accelerates as the pipe narrows to maintain the mass flowrate. This is possible because the low velocity of the gas allows information about the decreasing diameter to flow upstream to other particles. They all start accelerating when required. If the pipe later increases back to its original diameter, the particles all decelerate in an orderly fashion.

What happens if we push this gas through the pipe beyond its sonic speed? Think about what happens in heavy traffic. When two lanes merge (say for a construction zone), you get a back up. Humans aren't capable of instantaneous reaction. We don't want to hit one another, and you can't see very well around the car in front of you. You're not well informed about what's happening far in front of you. The same is true of the particles in our pipe. We're aproaching the diameter change faster than information about the change can travel upstream. In traffic you get people slamming on the brakes (and if someone isn't paying attention, an accident). In the gas, you get a standing shock.

Inside a shock all kinds of nasty stuff is going on. Particles are smacking into one another and generally getting pissed off. The result is an increase in density, pressure, and temperature. Sounds remarkably like a traffic jam doesn't it?

The flow behind the shock is slower than in front, and our traffic through the construction zone is also slower.

What happens when we finally get to the other side? A driver that's just spent a half-hour in one-lane gridlock looks at a five lane highway in glee. Everyone stomps on the gas and spreads backout. The same happens to our particles. An expanding supersonic flow accelerates. This is why rocket engines have gigantic nozzles. The burning propellants are forced to accelerate past their sonic speed inside the engine, then they are expanded in the nozzle to even higher speeds. The nozzle's exit diameter determines the final speed of the exhaust gas. It also affects the pressure of the exhaust gas. The expansion causes a decreas in pressure.

Ideally, you want the pressure of the exhaust to match the pressure of the outside air. If your nozzle is limited to only one size (or a small range of sizes), there's only one or a small range of pressures where you are getting optimal performance. If the pressure outside is higher than your expanded flow (at lower altitudes and take off), the flow is "over expanded" and the result is the nifty shock diamonds you see coming out of jet afterburners. If you're at very high altitude, your nozzle may not expand the flow enough the equalize with the outside pressure, in this case, the flow is "under expanded" and in some cases you can also get shock diamonds. However, if you're exteremely high, the miniscule pressure may only just turn the expanding flow back in on itself (if ever). This is what you see in extremely long range shots of the Saturn V at high altitude.

9.21.2006

Belated happy birthday...

To Pixy

9.19.2006

What Makes a Villain...

Steven, and subsequently Shamus, are talking about anime villains.

There was a game released back in 1998/99 for the Playstation called Xenogears. Now, I know this isn't strictly an anime, but if you could turn a 26 episode season of your typical anime into a video game, this surely fits the mold.

The FMV's were animated by Studio IG, which instantly gives it the anime feel. It's frequently compared to Evangelion because of this, as well as the many other parallels. The basic genre is very similar. Extremely special robots, plus a rather cracked Japanese understanding and application of Judeo-Christian mythology.

I mention this because the main antagoist (I hesitate to say villain) in this game is an immensely intelligent, attractive, and driven man named Krelian.


He falls somewhat into the category of Trick Bosses, except for the fact that you never fight him directly. You spend the first third of the game oblivious to his existence, but he's the guy running the show behind the scenes and is damn well smart and resourceful enough to make sure you never quite stop him.

For anyone ever interested in playing this game, stop here because I'm going to go into some detail.

Xenogears has a plot spread out over thousands of years. The timeline is broken down into 6 "Episodes" of which the game you're actually playing constitutes the 5th. The extreme highlights of Episodes 1-4 are presented at various points in the game as the plot unfolds. Krelian is born in the time of Episode 4. During this time period, humans begin to manifest extra-normal abilities that are this world's equivalent to magic. Elemental alignments, healing, and all the other standard "magic" abilites begin to show up in limited numbers of the populous. The sets off tensions between the two major power on the planet, resulting in a war. There is a third party that is drawn into the fight at one point. Krelian just happens to be in love with the leader of this faction. Her name is Sophia.
The war doesn't go that well, and eventually Sophia mounts what is essentially a kamikaze attack on the enemy's main battleship with their own. Krelian is none-too-pleased with this. She is the political and spiritual leader of the Nisan Church and Nation and takes her duty very seriously. She won't be talked down. He's not a particualrly religious man, but he prays for her to somehow survive.

She doesn't.

It's at this point where he comes a little unglued. He comes to the conclusion that she died not because god refused to hear him, but that god doesn't exist. He decides that if god is not there to answer his prayers, he will create god with his own hands. The dangerous part is that, while he may be a little bit arrogant, he's a lot more capable. He's already been working with nanomachines recovered from a long lost Episode 3 era civilization, so he uses them to make himself ageless and proceeds to go about creating god. He gets a very necessary assist along the way from another more sinister villain and eventually succeeds. However, breaking with where you would normally expect this to go (based on the standard "I'll become god" cliche), he has no wish to become god, only to be with the god he eventually discovers.

So based on Steven's criteria:

1) Hubris: Yeah, he surely got that going his way. However, he still has to rely on a few key players.

2) Nemesis: Here we have a problem. He doesn't ever get his in the end, but he actually saves our protagonists in his "final" moments. (But he does do a whole helluva lot of nasty things to others to get to that point)

3) Comprehensibility: He's as cold and calculating as they come. Dangerously so in fact. You never best him.

4) Menace: Absolutely, but not in a direct way. For the most part, if he wants you dead, he has the resources to make it happen PDQ.

5) Attraction: He's a bit noble,in his own way, and there's plenty of yaoi fanfic out there to prove at least some "physical" attraction to the character.

Another villain is born on that same day in Episode 4, but he's of a very different sort. That's a post for a different day.


9.08.2006

Seikai Novels Hitting Shelves

After watching the Seikai series based on Steven's reviews, I started poking around to see what I could find out about the novels the show was based on...

There were a few places working on translations, but trying to read anything longer than a Bill Whittle essay online is like an icepick through the temple. What I did find were rumors that the novels had been licensed for translation.

Turns out it was Tokyopop doing the buying, and the first volume just dropped.

I'm curious to see how they handle translating the Abh language. Will they forge their own path or stick with Bandai's precedent? The fansub of Banner of the Stars 3 didn't make any real attempt to stick with Bandai's prior work (causing a bit of confusion viewing it the first time).

It's been out for over a year, and Bandai doesn't appear to be making a move to license the title.

I hope it doesn't turn out that the only way to get the complete story is through fansubs or waiting for translated novels. That would be less than optimal.

9.01.2006

Of Flying Whales and Awesome Music

The other day I found myself itching for some classical music, so I started scouring the tubes. Then, I remembered Fantasia 2000.

The Firebird Suite was the first to come to mind (mostly because I've played it before and it's a lot of fun)


The original song has been heavily truncated from it's original 22:49 down to 9:12, but it keeps the basic feel intact.

From there, I found a link to the Fantasia 2000 rendition of Pines of Rome. I'd completely forgotten this sequence. It's split up because of a ten minute limit I guess.

Part 1


Part 2



If they decide to do another Fantasia, I'd love to see what they come up with to accompany Elsa's Procession to the Cathedral, or maybe Festive Overture.