Food Wars! is a great anime with one major downside: it’s impossible to watch without getting hungry. In this clip from the new Crunchyroll documentary about the making of the show, Dayna Akahara, who handles Food Wars!’s food design at the J.C. Staff studio, takes viewers through the detailed and careful process of drawing anime’s best looking food.
The series centers on junior chefs as they train to become the new cooking-world elite, and the young chefs constantly challenge each other to one on one competitions. Since the show is about cooks at the top of the culinary game the dishes they make have to be outstanding. Of course, since the series is based on a manga, the animators have a point of reference to go on, but static, black-and-white drawings of food, aren’t the same as J.C. Staff’s animation.
As it turns out the process of animating each food item starts with a mountain of research. In the clip, Akahara toils over an alligator ramen dish that appears in the series’ third season. She takes everything from the texture of each individually hand-drawn noodles to the colors of real-world broth into account when working on the dish. As for the alligator meat itself, she used the manga as well as real alligator to make sure it looked right.
Akahara explains that she views the food itself sort of like a guest star on each Food Wars! episode. Every time a new dish comes in it’s important that every piece is right so we can understand how the character interact with it. And most important, it’s critical that every new dish looks delicious. With all this intricate detail put into each dish, it’s no wonder they make viewers hungry. In fact, according to Akahara, that’s always her goal.
Guy “Dr Disrespect” Beahm has always put a ridiculous amount of production work into his streams. From cutaways to fake car chases, to mid-match music videos, the Dr Disrespect persona Beahm has created is all about putting on a show for viewers. But, now that Beahm has signed a deal with Skybound Entertainment, the production company co-founded by The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, he’s got the potential to take that showmanship to television.
As part of this new deal, which was initially announced by The Hollywood Reporter, Beahm and Skybound will develop a scripted narrative television series based on the Dr Disrespect character. The series would focus on “how the doctor became the doctor,” a sort of origin story for Beahm’s Twitch persona.
Beahm said to the Hollywood Reporter that the show is “pretty early in terms of creative and the direction we want to take it,” but he also noted that there have been, “some early discussions around animation.”
Before he started streaming, Beahm worked at Sledgehammer games as the community manager and later as a level designer for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. In 2015, Beahm left Sledgehammer to stream full time. His Dr Disrespect stream persona blew up around the launch of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds in 2017. While he has enjoyed phenomenal success since then, Beahm has been at the center of several controversies over the last couple of years.
Beahm isn’t the only streamer to take their persona to a medium beyond gaming though. Tyler “Ninja” Blevins has marketed his on-stream personality far beyond the world of Fortnite, and earlier this year released a narrative comic book. Something along those lines doesn’t seem outside the realm of possibility for Beahm either, as Skybound does work in comics as well.
For now, with Beahm’s Skybound show still in the early days of production, Beahm says that his focus will remain on streaming. While many content creators have moved to platforms such as YouTube, Mixer, or Facebook Gaming, Beahm will continue his stream on Twitch as he has for the last several years.
DC Comics has also assembled a veritable army of creators new and old to contribute to Wonder Woman #750, including Kami Garcia, Shannon and Dean Hale, Ramona Fradon, Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, Liam Sharp, Marguerite Bennett, Vita Alaya, Bilquis Evely, and, of course, current Wonder Woman writer Steve Orlando.
But just because this is an anthology issue, doesn’t mean it won’t have long-reaching repercussions for the Princess of the Amazons, according to Orlando.
I at the edge of what I can say, but if all goes to plan, Wonder Woman 750 will reinforce Diana’s mission, it’ll be the start of a new phase of Amazon mission, and by the end, every tool in Diana’s arsenal will be a powerful reminder of the heroic women that came before her… https://t.co/18KHLzG7nf
Black Friday has come and gone, but Amazon is keeping the holiday sales rolling with an up-to 50 percent off board games sale. The sale includes dozens of strategy games, including everything from card games to traditional board games to role-playing game miniatures.
Among the sale titles is Wasteland Express Deliver Service, a post-apocalyptic board game about making deliveries. The game is something like a cross between Borderlands and Mad Max, and tasks players with completing delivery contracts between the world’s competing civilizations and factions. The prices of the various items you might be carrying is constantly in flux so you’ll need to keep track of whether the citizens need food, water, or ammunition.
Another item on offer from Amazon are numerousbooster bricks for the PathfinderRPG that can add a little extra flavor to your next campaign. This Dungeons & Dragons competitor is a pen and paper RPG with an emphasis on tactics. Pathfinder’s second edition succeeds at refining the game’s complicated combat system into something a little more manageable, without taking away from its strategic depth.
For a few more recommendations on which games to pick up during Amazon’s sale you can check out our full rundown of some of the year’s most ambitious games from Gen Con 2019. Below you can find a short list of a few of the other games Amazon has on sale.
It’s not unusual for people to not know what “asexuality” means.
When friends talked about how they were sexually attracted to their partners, I had always pretended I understood. But the reality was that I never felt that way about anyone, even in long-term relationships with people I truly, deeply loved.
As I started to question how my way of feeling attraction differed from that of my friends, I discovered there were others like me: asexual people, or “aces” for short. For me, attraction is about aesthetics — personality, conversation, style, appearance, and attitude. I found that many other aces feel that way as well. According to the Asexual Visibility & Education Network, asexuality is a spectrum of sexual orientations and identities, all of which lack sexual attraction at some level.
“Asexuals are fully capable of being physically intimate and enjoying it,” an AVEN spokesperson told me via email. “Being asexual simply means you don’t feel sexual attraction. There are different types of attraction, not all of them sexual. Aces can feel desire or attraction romantically, platonically, sensually, among others.”
If you’re finding this difficult to understand, imagine how it feels to be on the other side of it. The world often treats us like we should inherently experience and understand sexual attraction, but some of us just … don’t. It can be confusing, especially when you’re young, because the subject of how we experience attraction is complicated and often conflated with sex, a complex subject which many parents and teachers have difficulty discussing in itself.
Many of us learn about asexuality after years of second-guessing ourselves, of trying to be something we aren’t. For me, it was such a relief when I finally understood my own orientation. It freed me to become more intimate with people important to me.
Knowing that asexuality is not a commonly understood orientation, I was disappointed, but not surprised, to see how it is represented in Death Stranding.
Death Stranding’s ‘Asexual World’ fundamentally misunderstands asexuality
In the week of its release, a screenshot from Death Stranding started circling on social media featuring a bit of in-game world-building text titled “An Asexual World.”
This is what it says:
Records suggest that the widespread aversion towards physical contact and intimacy was a phenomenon that had been observed even before the Death Stranding. One contemporary report, for example, details the increasing popularity of the “sexless lifestyle” among young people. A growing percentage of the younger cohort were self-identifying as asexual, claiming to be incapable of feeling desire or attraction. Accordingly, such individuals were less likely to have children or engage in sexual activity.
It should be noted, however, that many other unique sexual identities were being recognized during this period, such as demisexuals, who are incapable of sexual attraction without an emotional connection, and panromantics, who profess an attraction unrestricted by sex or gender — albeit one not necessarily sexual in nature.
One theory posits that the Stranding accelerated the proliferation of these sexualities. In a terrifying new world in which BTs roam and annihilation is an everyday occurrence, people have grown reticent to form emotional connections with others.
Although there has been no measurable decrease in human fertility, the birth rate has nevertheless dropped dramatically. Incidence of sexual harassment and assault have also seen a sharp decrease, which seems to suggest that sex could not be further from our minds, for better or for worse.
I must preempt myself by admitting that I do not have any empirical data with which to support the following claim. That said, it is my contention that, based on the aforementioned observations and others, the vast majority of the population could be categorized as asexual.
I cringed while reading the text. There is a lot wrong with this description of asexuality.
I asked Hideo Kojima’s company, Kojima Productions, what relevance the content of this letter has to the narrative of the game, but received no reply. I also got my hands on the Japanese version of the letter and can confirm, as a fluent Japanese speaker, that it is almost word-for-word identical to the English version. This wasn’t an issue of translation.
It’s also not a small thing: A lot of people may have heard the term “asexual” in the past few years, but may not understand what it means, or even that they may themselves be asexual. A well-written letter in a mainstream, popular video game may seem like it offers a few answers, or at least a solid conversation about the topic.
But a game like Death Stranding isn’t a great place to engage with sexual education, and its content may actually spread misinformation about asexuality rather than educating people about it, or just avoiding the subject altogether.
What this letter gets wrong, and why it matters
We should be clear that this letter is meant to be a part of the fictional world of Death Stranding, so it obviously shouldn’t be automatically taken as a comment on the real world. However, the choice of the word “asexual,” and the way it is tied to behaviors that are not actually related to asexuality, is careless.
Among the misconceptions the “Asexual World” text contains are those that misrepresent how aces feel about sex, intimacy, and desire.
It begins by going on about “aversion towards physical contact and intimacy” and the “popularity of the sexless lifestyle.” But as described above, aces can enjoy physical contact and intimacy, and many happily engage in sex. The note defines asexual as “incapable of feeling desire or attraction” but again, aces do feel desire and attraction, just not sexual attraction.
One of the more egregious issues with “An Asexual World” is its third paragraph, where it talks about “the proliferation of these sexualities,” as if external forces guide who we are or aren’t attracted to.
“Just like any sexual orientation, asexuality can’t be spread from one person to another — even efforts to forcibly sterilize people have been found to have minimal impact on attraction,” an AVEN spokesperson told me. “While human sexuality can be highly fluid and subject to change, sexual orientations simply aren’t transmittable to one another, even in the case of large-scale societal change. The current ‘rise’ of asexuality, for example, has more to do with visibility efforts than individual identification.”
While it may seem like asexual orientations or identities are “new” and “proliferating,” even in our world, the reality is that, thanks to access to information about asexuality online and via outreach, asexual people are coming to understand themselves better. Identifying as asexual is about embracing the way that you feel attraction as a part of who you are, not something that stems from “growing reticent to form emotional connections with others,” as Death Stranding describes it.
You may be hearing the term more often because the folks who have always been asexual are hopefully finding it easier to learn about their sexuality, meet others who feel similarly, and talk about how they’d like to express the their sexuality in a healthy way.
That sort of support and information doesn’t create asexual people; it just gives people who may have already been asexual a better framework to think about something they’ve always felt. We’re not reacting to alienation or a lack of emotional connection — we just have a different way of experiencing attraction. Our emotional connections can be very strong, and we desire connection to others just as much as those with other sexual orientations. Once you realize that the difference is in the expression of love, but not in the emotion itself, asexuality will hopefully become easier to understand.
Getting asexuality right is a challenge worth facing
In the roughly 66 hours I’ve spent playing Death Stranding start to finish since seeing the screenshot, I haven’t seen any direct connection between the “Asexual World” text and the rest of the game. The story is essentially about “reconnecting” people who’ve become isolated from each other in a post-apocalyptic world, and this letter may have been an attempt to connect that theme with sexuality in some way. But if that’s the case, the note misses the mark by a wide margin.
Some asexual people may experience conflicts in their relationships because sex might not be important to them, but it doesn’t mean they don’t love their partners. In fact — even though it may be counterintuitive to folks who aren’t asexual — embracing their asexual orientation can enable aces to form stronger connections with friends and loved ones. Understanding how you experience attraction helps you look for a partner with similar needs, and can even help you be better equipped to articulate your feelings, desires, and struggles.
And again, being asexual doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t enjoy sex or the emotional connection it can bring. How any single asexual person feels about these things can vary, which is true of any sexual relationship. The first step toward navigating your own sexuality is understanding it and making peace with it, and that can be hard when there is so much bad information — like this in-game letter — out there.
Asexuality is about connection, not alienation. It shouldn’t be a prop used only to make your fictional world seem a little more dystopian to people who don’t understand what it means to be asexual, nor should it be used in world-building by people who may not understand the misinformation they’re spreading by doing so.
The good news is that gaming in general has multiple positive examples of asexuality. The AVEN team gave me a prime example: Mass Effect’s Salarians.
“Salarians are almost wholly asexual and manage to have a thriving society and powerful impact on the rest of the galactic community,” they said.
More recently, Obsidian Entertainment’s wonderful The Outer Worlds included an asexual companion character named Parvati. Parvati has struck a chord with players in general because she’s so relatable. But in addition, the game presents her sexuality as a natural part of who she is — something that makes her relationships different than most of the relationships of those around her, but not better or worse.
And if there’s one thing I want to get across to people who may be confused about asexuality, especially after Death Stranding, it’s this: Asexuality isn’t about disconnection. It’s not about needing a hero to help connect you to others, or a way to draw away from the world in times of stress or calamity.
Being asexual doesn’t mean I’m cut off from other people; it just means my emotional and physical life may be a little different than yours. Or maybe you’re just learning that you may be asexual yourself! It’s about wanting or needing different things from your relationships, and finding people who can provide those things in a healthy, supportive way, while also being able to make them feel more complete and treasured.
And that’s the most important thing in any relationship.
2019 is nearly over, but we’ve got one more contender for your game of the year considerations: AI Dungeon 2, a text adventure created by developer Nick Walton that allows you to input any verb or action you desire.
Yes, you read that right. Anything. Where all games are limited by what developers program, this game uses OpenAI to create infinitely generated worlds that are only limited by your imagination. If that sounds lofty, well, give it a try. I promise that you’ll be amused. (Note that you might have to reload a few of times to get it to work — the game seems to be buckling under the increased attention.)
AI Dungeon 2 gives you a few different settings and roles that you can adopt, but from there, it pretty much lets you run wild. In my first playthrough as a scavenger in the post-apocalypse, I ended up seducing a man who took me to a mysterious cabin in the woods … where I got hooked on romance novels. But, players on Twitter are finding all sorts of hilarious ways to interact with the game. Want to become a deity? Sure, why not. (Click on the Tweet image to see the ridiculous play through in its full glory.)
Want to eliminate the patriarchy? You can do that.
Want to sleep with your enemies? Buddy: this game has got you.
Or maybe you want to just grab a drink with them?
But don’t drink too much!
You could always just try being nice to your video game enemies. Wild concept, I know.
Since all the responses are generated on the fly by a neural net, your problem solving options aren’t limited to what the game’s programmers could imagine.
Or maybe the only way to win is to not play at all?
Really, there is an endless number of screenshots I could show you of the things people are doing in AI Dungeon 2. It’s fantastic. There do seem to be win conditions, but depending on what you choose to do, your game might go wildly off course.
You might be wondering about the “2” in the title. Yes, this is a sequel to a game that used deep learning to generate its text, but in that iteration, the game gave you specific actions to choose from.
Note that, if AI Dungeon 2 takes a while to load, that’s normal — while this may be a text adventure, it’s still a fairly resource intensive game. When you get to this page, make sure to follow the “how to play” instructions.
As Little Joe hits theaters this week, we’ve resurfaced our review from the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, where the film first premiered.
If the Netflix series Black Mirror is “what if technology, but too much,” Jessica Hausner’s faintly sci-fi vision Little Joe is a biological companion.
The “Little Joe” is a new breed of flower developed by Alice Woodard (Emily Beecham), named after her son (Kit Connor), which emits a scent that induces happiness. In exchange for the aroma, the plant demands love — it must be talked to and tended to. As the date of Little Joe’s public debut at the Flower Fair approaches, however, something about the plant starts to seem a little off. Alice has cut a few scientific corners in order to ensure Little Joe is ready, as well as make the plant sterile and limit its allergens. It’s unnatural, one of her more antsy colleagues claims, and it seems that the plant is starting to fight back.
Any similarities to Little Shop of Horrors are superseded by similarities to Invasion of the Body Snatchers, as the story becomes less about a mutated plant and about the lengths people will go to in order to achieve happiness, real or manufactured.
Though the plant breeders are required to wear masks in the greenhouses until the plant is determined to be completely safe, some of Alice’s are colleagues end up breathing in Little Joe’s pollen anyway. The plant makes those who smell it happy, but that happiness appears to come at a cost — those who breathe in Little Joe’s pollen cease feeling any other emotions and become fiercely (and violently) protective of the flower.
Alice is reluctant to believe any of it until she notices similar changes in her son, for whom she’d brought home a plant for him to keep. He’s growing distant, becoming less willing to share anything about his life, or to talk at all. He even asks if he can go live with his father, for whom he’d previously expressed nothing but disdain. Is Little Joe actually affecting Joe, or are they simply growing apart as Joe enters his teenage years?
The gaslighting of Alice — her supposedly affected coworkers attempt to assuage her fears, and her talks with her therapist (Lindsey Duncan) aren’t of too much help, as she tries to talk herself out of and then into theories about the plant — is deliciously torturous to watch. Beecham, who won the top acting prize at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival for her role, is terrific, switching between conviction and doubt with frightening ease, and Ben Whishaw is well cast against his usual sweet type (he’s the voice of Paddington Bear, after all) as an office nice guy who grows increasingly sinister.
That sense of agitation is compounded by Hausner’s careful deployment of Little Joe — the flower blooms with an audible crackle. The scariest moments in the film (which banks on overall creepiness rather than jump scares) are those in which Little Joe’s bud is closed when a character looks away, and in full bloom by the time they look back.
The film is also impressively sparse, as characters only frequent one or two locations, and shots often simply pan across the room, prompting viewers to do some of their own detective work. Add a score by Katharina Wöppermann that contains slams, groaning strings, and the barking of dogs, and you get a potent recipe for chaos.
There is one thing, however, that keeps Little Joe from being a total slam dunk. Broadly speaking, the idea that people might be willing to take fake happiness over real sorrow is a compelling one, but Little Joe equates that to the use of antidepressants in a way that feels misguided. The use of pharmaceuticals to manage moods — here the use of Little Joe to feel happiness — is depicted as making people less than their true selves, and so protective of the catalyst of that change as to become violent.
The film pivots away from that idea, eventually, instead focusing on Alice’s uncertainties as a mother, but the metaphorical seed has already been planted.
Part of the success of The Mandalorian so far is the familiarity of the world. In each episode of Disney Plus’ series, audiences hang out with a familiar face (er, helmet) and a baby resembling Yoda. It’s Star Wars.
But they also get to go places in the Star Wars universe they’ve never gone before. It’s been an adventure into the dangerous unknown, with the laconic Mando as our guide. Up through episode 4, all of the fan service has been tucked into the corners of the frame. Chapter 5, however, slathers it on. The result is 30-odd minutes that play almost like a Star Wars parody, complete with a Han Solo cosplayer.
[Ed. note: This article contains spoilers for The Mandalorian chapter 5.]
“The Gunslinger” opens on a dogfight between the Mandalorian and an unnamed bounty hunter in deep space. I got a bad feeling about this episode when they cut inside the enemy cockpit to reveal an actor dressed in a flack helmet and a modern fighter pilot’s oxygen mask, like he was an extra from Sewer Shark. The overall production quality of episode 5 seems a bit lower than previous entries.
After the screaming is over, the Mandalorian radios down to Mos Eisley for clearance to land. When he does, Amy Sedaris (wearing hair inspired by Richard Simmons) is waiting to repair the Razor Crest. Trouble is that Mando’s come up short on credits, so he sidles on into the cantina — yes, that cantina — to find work.
For the next few moments The Mandalorian proceeds to ape one of the most iconic scenes in science fiction history, right down to someone sitting in Han Solo’s favorite spot with his feet up on the table. The creature work is excellent, truth be told, with a lizard-man and an ant-like thing in the background nursing drinks. But it’s all framed so precisely and so deliberately that it almost looks like a goof.
Inside the cantina our hero meets a rookie bounty hunter, played by Jake Cannavale, who needs help running down his first mark. The pair then proceed to mount up on two old-school, lean-back speederbikes and cruise out over the Dune Sea to hunt Fennec Shand, played by a woefully underutilized Ming-Na Wen. Just like inside the cantina, the camera work, the sound effects, even Cannavale’s flat delivery proceed to evoke the original movies. Except this time, it’s the worst moments from the prequel trilogy. The sight of Hayden Christensen, his Jedi robes flapping in the breeze as he rushes off to do some murders out beyond the Jundland Wastes, echoes through “The Gunslinger.”
The small scenes in between all these long digital crane shots is where Pedro Pascal’s performance blossoms. At one point he actually communicates with a pair of Tusken Raiders, the infamous “sand people” who have spent 40-odd years as Tatooine’s itinerant bad guys. But Mando actually speaks their language and negotiates safe passage for him and the rookie. There are so clearly other opportunities for storytelling to be found in the margins of the canonical Star Wars films.
The rest of chapter 5 is just okay, but it barely makes up for the cringes induced by the lead up. To be successful, The Mandalorian needs to keep going down the path of discovery. It needs to tell stories that run perpendicular the the famous films, branching out to show us something new. Simply walking along the well-trod paths that Star Wars fans have been ambling down for decades now isn’t going to earn Baby Yoda a second season.
Like Tumblr’s year-end fandom rankings or Spotify’s personalized playlists, YouTube finishes the year off by aggregating notable moments on the platform. Appropriately, this year’s “YouTube Rewind,” so it’s dubbed, starts off with a self-own.
Last December, the 2018 YouTube Rewind became the single most disliked video on YouTube, with creators and fans accusing it of being too corporate, highlighting brands and celebrities instead of the platform’s actual community. The video racked up 10 million dislikes in just eight days, and became a notorious example of the discrepancy between YouTube, the corporate entity, and YouTube, a community of creators on the platform.
This year, the company apologized.
The opening of the 2019 Rewind is full of clips of YouTubers cringing at last year’s video. The rest of the video returns to the straightforward top ten, highlighting creators, music videos, and other staples. But the YouTube community isn’t happy.
At the time of writing, the 2019 YouTube Rewind has amassed 2.6M dislikes compared to 1.3M likes. A brief scan of the comments reveals much discontent, along with the copy-and-pasting of similar comments (something YouTube cheekily responded to in the pinned commnet). Many in the comments say that while the video does highlight more creators than last year’s, it doesn’t actually feature them, instead relying on preexisting clips. Elsewhere, some point out that now it’s just a “thing” to dislike the YouTube Rewind
The first bird I saw when I opened Toriponwas a little green parakeet riding a Roomba vacuum. I crouched down to get a closer look, and the tiny bird zoomed past me and into the kitchen, its head swiveling as if it was getting a closer look at me. I turned the camera again to follow it and was both alarmed and delighted by what I had found: a round bird — purple and grey — waddling around the kitchen table holding a knife.
But the bird was not threatening; it was just hobbling around, doing laps around the small kitchen setup. Ironically, it was also not the first time I’d walked into an apartment with an animal wielding a weapon. Years ago as a dog walker, I entered an apartment and the dog was carrying around a steak knife as if it were a dog toy.
These two birds are unlike any I’ve seen as an amateur birder of sorts. These are not the House or American Tree Sparrows I see flitting around my backyard. However often I see birds doing amusing things just outside my apartment windows, I’ve never seen a bird holding a knife. Just a dog.
You’ll find all sorts of these little moments in Toripon, a bird photography game out on itch.io — it’s pay-what-you-choose from developer Victoria Smith, with additional programming by Zachary Williams, music by Akari Mizusaki, bird sounds by Mattias Lahound, and emoji by Dimitry Miroluibov.
Toripon is something akin to Pokémon Snap, the beloved Pokémon photography game that was released in 1999 for Nintendo 64. Instead of snapping Pokémon, it’s birds — almost 50 different types. The birds are spread out throughout a colorful, pixelated apartment. (You can turn pixelation off if you find it hard to see; I did at times.) Sometimes the birds are just hanging out doing bird things, like floating around in a bathtub. Other times, there’s a whole flock of them frantically pecking away at a keyboard, much like I do all day.
Once you’ve snapped a photo, it gets automatically posted to the game’s in-world social media system, Branch. This is where you’ll rack up likes and comments on your photos from a cast of Toripon’s social media characters, each of which will send along messages of encouragement about your photos, stuff like “cute borb.” It’s a very pure form of social media — a world in which no one is annoyed by the sheer amount of animal photos posted to my feed. From Branch, you’re able to share photos to Twitter, too. We can all agree that the world kind of sucks right now, and sometimes you need to look at cute animals.
The apartment space in Toripon isn’t large; it’s easy to walk from one side of the place to another in minutes. Even after I’d seen the apartments and the birds multiple times, I still felt like exploring — after all, after combing the place over I’m still missing quite a few birds from my collection. I’ve found that the rarer birds, like the blue duck I found in my bathtub, pop up at random, so there’s definitely an incentive to hopping back into the game just to check things out.
Toripon feels like a little space with a lot of secrets, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that the secrets are very, very cute.