asiascape vistas

Techno-Culture, New Politics, and Philosophy in East Asia

Asiascape Vistas is a forum for discussion about the many and various dimensions of cyberculture found in or originating from East Asia. Its focus is on the interplay between these media and questions of politics & philosophy. Contributions are from the academic collective responsible for the core project, but other contributions will also be considered by that collective.
If you wish to contribute to Asiacape Vistas, please send an email using the form on the contact page.

How to build the perfect gaming PC for 2013 – and beyond

From The Guardian

There's little doubt that PC gaming is undergoing a renaissance at the moment. With the current generation consoles chugging interminably slowly toward retirement, frustrated gamers are switching to computers with quad-core processors and top-end graphics cards that produce visuals of breathtaking fluidity and detail.


But it's not all about graphics performance. While there are certainly detractors, Valve's digital download service Steam has revolutionalised the games buying experience, offering easy access to hundreds of titles, many at vastly reduced prices.

Meanwhile, increasingly popular online multiplayer titles like DotA, Guild Wars 2 and Tera are only playable on PC. Plus there's the explosive rise of the indie scene, with many small studios ignoring the console platforms altogether in favour of PC development. If you didn't have a PC last year, you had no chance of playing brilliant offbeat titles like FTL, Slender and Hotline Miami. You were out of the loop.

And while we're expecting huge announcements from Microsoft and Sony this year, we won't see a new console until October, with the PS4 more likely in Spring 2014. Even when these new machines arrive, current speculation suggests they're going to be built from the same sort of off-the-shelf components you could jam into a gaming PC – except with a gaming PC you can switch the key elements out a year later for something more up-to-date.

So if you're a new PC owner, or just want to upgrade your current machine, we've compiled a guide to building a decent gaming machine for 2013. I've asked several PC developers for their input, and we've tried to look at both high-end and budget options. Here goes... full article

Thoughts on the 3rd Mechademia Conference in Seoul

At the end of November last year, my colleagues and I attended the the 3rd Mechademia Conference in Seoul, South Korea. Focusing on Japanese popular culture, especially anime and manga, but also the long-standing relationship that Japan's animation industry has with Korea, the conference brought to my attention many specific areas with which I was unfamiliar. It also happened to be my very first time visiting Korea, so it was a new experience in that regard as well.

The conference had a number of rare opportunities. One was a showing of the first Korean animated film, The Story of Hong Gil-dong, recently restored, and another was talks with people working within the industries. Probably the biggest name was Ohtsuka Eiji, but it also featured interviews with animators Ahn Jae-ho and Watanabe Hideo. Watanabe was especially intriguing because of his long history in the animation industry, particularly with shows meant to sell toys, and I was able to ask him how this affected the ways in which they produced animation. Watanabe went on to explain about his time working on the anime Toushi Gordian, and how an unfortunate situation where the series director had fallen ill left him as de-facto director, and the resulting product amidst the chaos was predictably subpar. However, Watanabe mentioned, the toys sold well enough that they could keep going, and in the end the show finished at over 70 episodes.

For those who don't know about Gordian, think of it as an anime from the "giant robot" genre, where the hero gets into increasingly larger robots stacked on top, much like a matryoshka doll.

Watanabe and Ahn both talked about the Korean involvement in Japanese animation, and probably anyone who's bothered to look at the ending credits of an anime is aware of the fact that Japan has been outsourcing its animation work to Korea for many years. At the conference, one of the topics that a number of presentations either spoke about, whether as its main focus or as a brief point, is the reputation of Korean animation in the world.

The "dilemma" that faces Korean animation is that, despite its notoriety within the overall industry, with work not just in anime but also popular cartoons such as The Simpsons, "Korean animation" as a concept lacks the clout of other cultures' animated works. One presenter argued that animation made in Korea is too culturally odorless, while another attributed the problem to an unfair characterization of the Korean animation industry as one which lacks the talent to generate interesting ideas, a headless body of sorts. Overall, addressing this topic seems borne from the idea that Korea's animators deserve recognition, and I can respect that motivation.

My colleagues and I from Leiden also had presentations of our own. Mari Nakamura presented on the anime Appleseed and its ideas about the post-human, Martin Roth presented on the video game Shadow of Memories and how it played with notions of "time," and I presented on the manga Zettai Karen Children and how it expressed a political science fiction world through a focus on character. The Q&A made for a lively discussion, and I took a lot away from it.

On the comics side of things, one of the panels I attended focused on a topic close to mine, which is the ways in which manga are used in a political sense. In particular, I enjoyed seeing Takeuchi Miho and Olga Antononoka from Kyoto Seika University present on how the conventions of manga could be used to subtly convey strong political ideas, either by having the artwork itself belie a seemingly more banal aesthetic, or using existing tropes as metaphors for heavier arguments.

Attending the conference, I became aware of a recurring mistake made in academic discussions about the concept of kyara moe, or the visual features of a character which generate strong emotion in those who look at it, to put it somewhat succinctly. I want to actually elaborate on this in a future post, so I'll save my thoughts for now.

The last thing conference-related I'd like to mention is Yun Seongcheol's paper on an old Korean comic titled Rayphie (rhymes with "sci-fi"), which I found quite interesting. Unlike modern "manhwa" which can be roughly described as manga-esque, the older Rayphie (unfortunately I can't remember the exact dates, but it was somewhere between 1950 and 1970, I believe) is more of a hybridization between American superhero comics aesthetic and elements of Korean traditional art. According to Yun, the series enjoyed its own fair share of success, but a period of censorship killed it prematurely. While I don't think that current manhwa is simply trying to mimic the popularity of manga, I do wonder what the Korean comics landscape would have been like if comics like Rayphie had been allowed to persist.

As for the rest of my brief stay in Korea, my experience can probably be summed up as "food and comics." Whenever I travel I look forward to eating a variety of things, and this was certainly no exception, especially given the strong reputation Korean food has, and of that experience my favorite part must have been going to a night market and trying a variety of things. While I generally enjoy tteokbokki, chewy rice cakes in a spicy sauce, I was especially impressed by the liver I had there. Tasting more like actual meat than internal organ, it was probably the best liver I've ever had. I also took the opportunity to compare bulgogi burgers from McDonald's, Burger King, and Lotteria. My verdict is that Lotteria has the best-tasting meat, while McDonald's has the best sauce.

As for comics, I was sadly unable to visit the Manhwa museum in Seoul, but was able to make my way to a nice comic store in Hongdae called Booksaetong. There, I found it interesting that, unlike the US or countries in Europe, that the manhwa and the manga were all mixed together instead of given their own separate spaces.

So overall, visiting Korea and attending the Mechademia Conference was a learning experience, in more ways than one.

'Ghost in the Shell Arise' announced

The production of popular anime 'Ghost in the Shell' series’ new project 'Ghost in the Shell Arise' has been announced.

This 'Ghost in the shell' series is a cyberpunk based on Shirow Masamune’s popular manga which was released in Young Magazine Kaizokuban in 1989. Setting in the near future in Japan where technology has been advanced drastically, it tells a story about the members of 'Public Security Section 9', which was organized to oppose an epidemic of computer crime and cyber terrorism.

In 1995, its anime film adaptation 'Ghost in the Shell' directed by Oshii Mamoru was released, and Oshii also directed the sequel titled 'Innocence' in 2004.

Apart from Oshii Mamoru’s anime film adaptation, there has also been TV anime series 'Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex' (in 2002), 'Ghost in the Shell S.A.C. 2nd GIG' (in 2004), and 'Ghost in the Shell S.A.C. Solid State Society' (in 2006) directed by Kamiyama Kenji.


'Arise' will be animated by Production I.G, and Kise Kazuchika has been chosen as the general director. It was also announced that Ubukata Tow who is known for his novel 'Tenchi Meisatsu', will be in charge of the script and composition, and Cornelius will be in charge of its music. Moreover, the author of the original manga, Shirow Masamune will also participate in the new project.

No other details on 'Arise' have been revealed at this moment, but a press conference will be held at the Nicofarre in Roppongi on February 12th starting at 6:00 pm. At the press conference, more details including the format of the anime and a teaser will be revealed. There will also be a talk show by its staff members and guests. Reportedly, the press conference will be live broadcast on the official site (here).

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