Valkyrie Anatomia: The Origin makes me doubt myself. I enjoy it, but I wonder if that’s because I’m hardwired to enjoy any Valkyrie Profile creation on some level. Am I having fun with Valkyrie Anatomia just as I did Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which lost me in the second half but still made me feel like a little kid gobsmacked by Return of the Jedi? Is it like a mediocre Lupin III movie that I watch only because it has Lupin slinking around while Jigen makes caustic remarks and never takes off his hat? Or is it more like ABC’s recently canceled The Muppets, a standard-issue mockumentary sitcom that I stuck with just to see Gonzo and Fozzie and Uncle Deadly going about their Muppet routines?
Should you trust my opinion of Valkyrie Anatomia? Can I even trust it? Probably not.
Well, here’s what I think anyway: Valkyrie Anatomia, as a mobile-game prequel to the rest of Valkyrie Profile, doesn’t form as well as its predecessors. Yet it has enough of Valkyrie Profile’s finest elements to draw me into whatever it’s trying to do to my spare time and money. For all of its failings, It knows what sets Valkyrie Profile games apart. I have irksomely sectionalized proof.
BLEAK AND MORBID VIGNETTES: Yes, mostly
The three Valkyrie Profile games tell of struggles between Norse gods and mere mortals: the first is about a valkyrie slowly reclaiming her humanity, the second about a rebellious valkyrie locked in mortal form, and the third about a bitter warrior seeking revenge on the valkyrie who spirited away his father. Yet their best moments are often found in the smaller tales about the warriors the valkyries gather, the valiant and doomed souls who earn a place in Odin’s army one way or another. The original game excelled at this while Valkyrie Profile 2 had weak side stories, but the third, Covenant of the Plume, remembered the importance of a strong supporting cast. And I will defend it everywhere I can.
Valkyrie Anatomia remembers as well. It’s just not as adept. The overarching story finds a younger (and possibly alternate-reality) version of Lenneth Valkyrie sealed in darkness, summoned out of it only by an equally younger version of Odin. He desperately needs warriors for the Aesir ranks, so Lenneth travels to the mortal realm with two raven familiars at her side. She recruits humans for Einherjar he same way the original Valkyrie Profile presented things: watching them in the days before their untimely demises, and inviting them to accompany her to the afterworld.
My limited knowledge of Japanese leaves me unable to comment on the nuances of Valkyrie Anatomia’s storyline, but I can grasp the tenor of it. It’s fragmented in quality, switching from a generic story about an all-too-perfect warrior to an intriguing chronicle of a homunculus mage’s final days. Most of the time, though, Anatomia strikes the right tone: morose, fatalistic, and yet hopeful for a life beyond. It’s easy enough to sympathize with Chloe, a dragon-hunter forced to save her sister’s life at the cost of her own, or Sena, an aspiring swordfighter who dies in a tavern brawl.
That’s where Valkyrie Anatomia lays down the same rhythm that made Valkyrie Profile so compelling. Each little vignette isn’t just about a pathetic mortal; it’s an introduction to a new archer or magician or broadsword-wielder for you to recruit and develop. Anatomia even goes beyond the introductions. Once drafted, an Einherjar unlocks extra dungeons that explore the characters’ lives after they’re turned into foot soldiers for Ragnarok. It’s an excellent flourish on the original’s formula, which tended to forget about most human allies after they enlisted.
Prototypes might be my favorite video game subculture. In this edifying realm, fans with too much free time root through early builds and pore over advance screenshots in search of things that were changed before games were released. Most of this archeology focuses on older titles, but I’m not going to wait when it comes to Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume, a game I absolutely love. I’m going to turn up speculative trivia while it’s still fresh and pointless.
This screen made the rounds when Covenant of the Plume was announced, and Wikipedia still has it on the game’s page. The curious part of it lies with the characters. The shadowed figure at the center is Wylfred, the one in orange-red armor is Ancel, the mage in the gray hood is Lockswell, the purple-clad girl is Cheripha, and the blue-haired soldier is a generic warrior. The portrait shows Ailyth, Wylfred’s infernally supplied assistant, chattering about the Norse underworld or feathers.
I’ve played through all three branches of Covenant of the Plume’s main quest, and there’s no point where all of these characters appear on the same map. At the risk of spoiling a plot twist, Ancel leaves Wylfred’s company before Ailyth, Cheripha, and Lockswell come along. I’m also fairly certain that the scenery here is from a courtyard that isn’t shown until the third or fourth chapter, when Ancel’s not around. The Seraphic Gate brings together all of the game’s major characters in a frivolous bonus dungeon, but its architecture looks nothing like that paved garden area.
So there’s one entry for the records of divergent early screenshots. And one for proving that I think too much about Valkyrie Profile.
I don’t plan on regularly extolling my column at Anime News Network, but last week’s edition may be of greater interest than usual, as it features my lengthy impressions of Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume. The short version: I digs it. It’s the first RPG in years that I’ve played through in its native Japanese, and only the promise of a North American release in March keeps me from starting up the import version again.
There is, however, one major problem with the game, and I mentioned it only casually in the column. That problem is Wylfred’s double ponytail. Koh and Yoh Yoshinari do amazing characters designs, so I’m at a loss to explain why they made an otherwise respectable hero look like the Valkyrie Profile version of Tails from Sonic the Hedgehog. No one likes Tails.
Wylfred’s hairstyle can only be redeemed if he has some secret attack that involves him whirling his ponytails around like a helicopter, lifting into the air, and dive-bombing an enemy. Perhaps that shows up if you beat the game’s bonus Seraphic Gate twelve times without dying and use items only when the game’s timer shows a multiple of three in the minutes column. That would be less annoying than what the game already requires of you in order to recruit certain characters.
When Valkyrie Profile: The Accused One was first announced for the DS, I took issue with the official illustration that showed Lenneth, heroine and best-adjusted of the franchise’s three valkyries, with her dress blowing up in the air. I was joking. Mostly.
Little did I realize that an uproar was exactly what tri-Ace wanted, as proven by a Sofmap store in Akihabara becoming the scene of self-created advertising controversy last week. Clerks pointed out that the game’s official art seems to show Lenneth without due undergarments, as Tiny Cartridge reported from Akiblog, a site that sometimes conjures up an amusing story amid headlines like “Highlights of Kannagi Vol. 6: Armpit! Small Boobs! Thighs!” Apparently this is in line with “Not Wearing,” the Japanese anime-nerd scene’s collective terminology for fictional women who appear to be going commando but maintain a lingering sense of mystery about their lower regions. Yes, they’re that specific about the practice. There can be no hope for these people. Congratulations, tri-Ace. You’ve taken a game heroine who was once a bastion of dignity and reduced her to the same level as any other hand-drawn schoolgirl hiking up a skirt as she turns flat, viscous eyes on a socially backward expanse of Akihabara regulars. Fortunately, there will be far less of this when Valkyrie Profile: The Accused One comes out in North America next March, even if they’re calling the English version “Covenant of the Plume.” And in case you’re wondering: Yes. She does. Don’t ask how I know.
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As Valkyrie Profile: The Accused One‘s slightly delayed October release approaches, let’s all take a look at the work of Yoh (a.k.a You) Yoshinari. He’s not just the co-designer of the characters in the original Valkyrie Profile and The Accused One (and some of Valkyrie Profile 2‘s cast). He’s also active in the anime industry, where he’s designed monsters for This Ugly Yet Beautiful World and mecha for Melody of Oblivion, both of which are C-list Gainax series. Fortunately, he entered more prestigious circles by crafting the robots in Gainax’s recent and generally awesome Gurren Lagann.
Yet Yoshinari does some of his best work as an animator, as shown by this clip collection (or a MAD, as they call it in Japan). Yes, I know that fan-made music videos of any source are typically the filth of YouTube and proof that no one under 20 should be permitted online, but this particular video shows off one of Yoshinari’s key talents: he blows shit up real good. Even a terrible show like Mahoromatic looks fun when you’ve got Yoh Yoshinari handling explosions.
Koh Yoshinari, Yoh’s sibling and his collaborator on the Valkyrie Profile art, is an animator as well. I’m all but convinced that Koh is Yoh’s older brother, but some sources seem to think that Koh is Yoh’s twin sister, even though the Valkyrie Profile artbook shows that they were born three years apart. Until I get some direct, official word on this, I will choose pronouns carefully. Anyway, Koh also animates stuff, including creepy big-eyed girls and a possibly creepier rooster-thing.
On the subject of Valkyrie Profile: The Accused One, the official staff journal gives us a harrowing glimpse of how Ailyth would look when catering to the lowest form of anime fan.
This is not an emissary of the underworld, Mr. Director. This is everything Valkyrie Profile should never be.
At game shops across Japan, social retards and vapid schoolgirls alike are standing in line for the next available shipment of Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth. At every Gamestop and EB Games and doomed mom-and-pop gaming store across America, clerks are shoveling through piles of newly traded-in DS systems. At Nintendo’s headquarters in Redmond, Reggie Fils-Aime is sitting dejectedly behind his desk with tears rolling down his face and bouncing off his enormous chin. The PSP has won.
VALKYRIE PROFILE WEEK 2005 ends today, unless I come up with some sort of clever addendum that makes the whole thing worthwhile. Since I’ve exhausted my Valkyrie Profile merchandise, here’s an interview with some of the game’s voice actors.
It comes from one of the last issues of Gamefan—not the scattershot, grandly unprofessional Gamefan that Dave Halverson ran, but the Gamefan that started up after Halverson left in 1998. I never liked that version of Gamefan. While Halverson’s publication maintained a good-natured aura in spite of its frequent stupidity, the second generation of Gamefan was much the opposite: surly, posturing, and fixated more on dumb in-jokes and homegrown catchphrases than games. You can see it in this interview, where Gamefan wastes time with a potshot at one of the editors when they could ask, just maybe, something about Valkyrie Profile.
In fact, most of the questions have little to do with the game. It’s more like a glimpse into the actors’ careers circa 2001. But you can read Megan Hollingshead’s take on two of the characters she played, and her performance was easily my favorite from Valkyrie Profile.
For this installment of VALKYRIE PROFILE WEEK 2005, I’m going to plug Valkyrie Fight Tag, a homebrew PC fighter that’s probably known to anyone who liked or even played Valkyrie Profile. It’s worth mentioning again for the sake of the people who didn’t, just because Valkyrie Fight Tag is surprisingly solid, considering that it was likely made by a crew smaller than the PlayStation game’s cover design staff. Like a lot of “doujin” fighters, it’s simple in design, with three buttons, easily performed moves, and not much game balance. The programmer(s) replicate the PlayStation game’s sprites really well, making them just a bit larger, and the fan-art character portraits look better than some professional game illustrations. It’s all a pleasant diversion, especially for Valkyrie Profile fans.
VALKYRIE PROFILE WEEK 2005 continues with a look at another Valkyrie Profile comic I own. It’s called “Kami to Hito no Tsumugu Uta,” which I think translates to “The Spinning Song of Men and Gods” or “The Song Cycle of Gods and Men” or something like that.
I picked it up at an Ohio anime convention, back when I still went to such things. The dealer’s room had a corner entirely devoted to doujinshi. The vendor was a deceptively average-looking guy who had helpfully sorted his selection into the clean publications and the many varieties of pure porn. I walked by and saw a Valkyrie Profile book in the normal section. The art wasn’t amazing, but the author had apparently cared enough to use a unique, crinkled, and antiquated-looking cover, and it caught my eye.
Then some preteen girls walked by, and the dealer started yelling HEY LADIES GET YOUR HOT YAOI CREAM-FILLED MAN BUNS COMICS HERE and WE’VE GOT HARRY POTTER AND INUYASHA FOR ALL YOUR YAOI NEEDS and other things that might sound clever if you were a recently paroled sex offender.
I looked at the slim Valkyrie Profile booklet in front of me and realized that it deserved a better home. So I bought it and left. With haste.
I thought that the comic might be horrifying filth in disguise, but it’s clean. There are no scenes of Lezard and Mystina screwing in a magical academy’s broom closet or Arngrim and Lawfer exploring flowery knight love or the entire cast joining in a massive drunken pseudo-necrophilic Einherjar orgy in the halls of Valhalla. None of that.
Instead, you get two stories: one explores Lenneth and Lucian’s relationship just as the game did, and the other deals with Claire, Lucian’s common-law wife, as she figures out that, well, Lucian never really loved her. It’s a bit on the bland side, and the art, while serviceable, is never all that impressive.
I get the idea that the author, Misuzu Fujimiya, really liked Valkyrie Profile and wanted to do a somber and faithful story about the game. It succeeds there, but I find myself of the opinion that fan fiction is better when it’s just batshit crazy. Furthermore, I was disappointed to find a website run by Fujimiya, who’s apparently drawing creepier stuff now.
So there’s one-third of my vast doujinshi collection: a half-decent fan comic with a nicely textured cover and a reminder to avoid some or all parts of anime conventions.
In honor of the recent news about Valkyrie Profile 2, I declare this to be VALKYRIE PROFILE WEEK 2005 and promise daily discussions of the game and its related merchandise until everyone’s horribly fucking sick of it. Today, we look at Yuu Hijikata’s Valkyrie Profile manga, published in 2001 by Gangan Comics, for those of you who hunt these things. While a lot of legitimate game-based manga titles are collections of short stories, Hijikata’s work tries to span the game’s entire storyline in two 175-page volumes. This is not well-advised, yet it’s strangely entertaining to watch it all play out.
At first, it all goes well. The first book covers the initial stretch of Valkyrie Profile, introducing Lenneth Valkyrie, the Berserk-inspired warrior Arngrim, bratty Princess Jelanda, and Belenus, who was just sort of boring and got sent to Valhalla first whenever I played the game.
The comic is paced better than the typical tri-Ace story, and though much of it is a line-for-line recreation of the PlayStation game’s script, some differences emerge. Lawfer, whose death wasn’t shown in the game, buys it in the manga during a big dramatic face-off with Arngrim (there’s gay fan fiction in there someplace), and Lezard, who’s like Harry Potter grown up and gone bad, appears earlier. Hijikata’s art is fairly good, and I really dig the covers, even if they can’t match the illustrations that Kou and You Yoshinari did for the game.
Unfortunately, the whole thing pretty much stabs itself in the eye during the second volume. The project’s editors apparently stormed into Hijikata’s studio to demand that the story wrap up in five chapters, so that’s what happens. After a brief scene about vampires and the introduction of Lenneth’s past-life boyfriend Lucian, everything shifts into a fast-forwarded account of the PlayStation game’s last act, with Lezard and Mystina and Hrist and Loki all running around as the world ends. Granted, the original Valkyrie Profile‘s big finale is a deus ex machina in truest fictional form, but it was never as rushed and incoherent as Hijikata’s version.
The manga’s a fun curiosity for Valkyrie Profile fans, although its slavish adherence to the game’s plotline means that there’s not much to see if you’ve already been through the story on the PlayStation. But hey, geek merchandise doesn’t have to make sense.