We're Alive S.3 Ch.26- Who Overcomes... [SPOILERS]

You don't know what they took- you don't know how far I'll go to get her back.
- Saul

            Please, excuse how unforgivably late this is, I've just been banging my head against the screen of my computer for the last several days, for being so damn stupid. Yup, there's nothing quite like realizing the answer to a question you've been torturing yourself over for about half a year was right in front of your eyes, to make you feel like you may well have been dropped on your head as a child. Though before I go any further I suppose I should probably just lay it out there right now, SPOILERS. SPOILERS ALL UP IN THIS REVIEW. Spoilers growing off of the goddamn trees. So if you've got something against spoilers, then kindly GTFO, my friend, this article was meant for wiser eyes than yours.
            Alright, now that the riff-raff's gone, let's shift our focus back to what we're all really here to talk about- The Army, Chin-Wei (nothing like a foreign name to make me feel self-conscious about my spelling), and KULANI. KULANI, KULANI, MOTHERFUCKING KULANI.
            I mean, excuse my French, but... just wow. It's because of things like this that I have to give all kinds of respect to the writers of We're Alive, for keeping the plot focused on one big question that's basically driving Saul and Victor's storyline forward, only to pull something like this out of actually nowhere (just when my guard was down), and something so amazing too! I mean, you can fully measure how complicated and intricate the plot of this show is by moments like this, where only the possibility of an answer is given, and yet that in itself opens up a whole 'nother wormhole of questions and possibilities.
            But I'll get more into that later (must save the best for last, must save the best for last, must save the best for last...), for now let's focus on our good pal Michael. Now kids, Micheal's been having kind of a rough time of it lately. You see, about 2/3rds of the people he's met in the last year or so have just been massacred by a mad gang of psycho, RPG carrying, escaped prisoners, in an enormous 9/11 style attack that destroyed almost everything he'd been clinging too for sanity, in a world turned so fucking nuts, that dead people are walking around eating people, and all civilization has just about collapsed.
            Oh yea, and all that death and destruction- potentially his fault. Sooo basically he's got a pretty bad case of the Mondays, and may or may not be driving himself insane with despair and anxiety.
            Honestly, it's a serious testament to how incredibly intriguing this story has gotten that the state Micheal is in now is not the most interesting thing on my list, especially after this episode. As I said last time, it struck me as a bit odd how Micheal was so unusually lax on Riley after her little incident, and this chapter does nothing but strengthen the argument that yes, emotionally, Micheal is more messed up than a five year old trapped alone in a room with a Chinese finger-trap. He’s belligerently tired, totally unsure of himself or his abilities anymore, and is only just coming to terms with the complete amount of crapola he’s gotten himself into (and just scares the willies out of him).
            Hey, things are looking up though right? Not only is the base safe, but the Army’s there! Micheal’s people! Hooray! Oh wait, that’s right, it’s the Zombie Apocalypse, which apparently means that every time something nice finally happens, the world has to add a big ‘ol rotten cherry on top just to ruin everything- I am of course talking about Corporal Puck.
Okay, so he’s not exactly the worst instance of this ‘rotten cherry effect,’ (I like to believe the time they had their party crashed by insane, gun-wielding maniacs might take the cake there) but come on, that zombie that hung onto the chopper the whole damn time made a better first impression than that out-of-line jerk. Micheal held his ground admirably though, reassuring the audience that he hasn’t completely lost his touch as leader, a fact you can’t truly appreciate until afterwards in the bunker, when even Pegs being all adorable and nice (I mean more than usual, of course) can’t keep him conscious (okay, it’s an assumption, but really, find me a more deadpan example of a completely ambiguous ending, go on, I dare you).
All in all, a pretty good story for the Tower Gang this week, though to be frank, it was more of an intense dialogue scene split into two parts than a real story, and was largely Micheal centered. Ordinarily this would not be a complaint, but after last week, only having two or three mentions of Riley the entire episode seems somehow unfair, though reading this back to myself, I have to admit I do sound kind of like the spoiled child in the supermarket preparing to throw a fit because he can’t have both toys to play with.
I’m very pleased with how well this first introduction to the army was pulled off, and am looking forward to future episodes featuring even more instances of this attitude those enlisted in the armed forces have taken up in this time of unbelievably harsh survival, and how those remaining from the Tower will come to adapt to it with the two strongest pillars of their small community now both festering in some very dark places.
But now to focus on a much different, though just as exciting topic: Saul and Victor! At one point in the chapter I just had to pause and stop myself from laughing when I just heard an old Southern Narrator in my head say “Now them Tower Boys had gotten themselves into a whole heap of trouble…”
Okay that sounds a bit weird, but it’s because of shit like that that I really admire this chapter, which seemed very focused on continuing to outline Saul and Victor’s relationship, and how perfectly imperfect they were matched together, Victor playing the good cop, Saul playing the bad cop, the Starsky to his Hutch, if you will, the Frodo to his Sam, the Tom Sawyer to his Huck Finn (tell me that isn’t exactly what you were thinking during the fruit orchard scene).
And both to stir up the relationship, and actually outline it perfectly, we have the addition of Chin-Wei, a very interesting new character, not just because of the fact that apparently she’s survived this long almost entirely alone, which is impressive in itself, but because she also has a mysterious (but apparently well documented) history with the dynamic duo’s number one most wanted, the Mallers.
Also quite interesting, her collection of cats, which I was happy to see matched up with the metaphor for cats and a survivor’s loneliness, which the chapter seemed to be hinting at the entire time. 
You’ll forgive me if I mostly focus on their first encounter with her, since, admittedly, the beginning of Saul and Victor’s story this week was rather dull. It’s very obvious how the writers tried to spice up their scavenging of the Tower ruins, but for the most part it felt both lacking in intrigue and far too drawn out, for what was an interesting, yet very unrewarding payoff.
But that’s not important anymore. None of it is. Wanna know why? One word, three syllables. KULANI. God, I’m sorry, but what a FANTASTIC way to end a chapter, I mean, THAT; THAT is how you make an incredibly exciting twist/cliffhanger. Really, I don’t know what I can say that hasn’t already been repeated before me on the forums (especially after all the time I took to write this up, once again, I apologize), the question as to who the hell has been spying on the Tower has been one of the most intriguing mysteries in the shows entire run, and this sudden reveal to the audience, out of the goddamn blue, it’s like being told your wife is pregnant for the first time.
EVERYTHING MAKES SENSE NOW, BUT NOW NOTHING WILL EVER MAKE SO MUCH SENSE EVER AGAIN. I mean, just, aw man, I really have to end here, because I am 100% certain that if I were to continue, you would have to get a carton of tissues to wipe up the fanatical nerdgasm I would spew all over this review. A Classy, just barely, but still a Classy.
Long live We’re Alive, and here’s to cliffhangers that make you just want to hang yourself, if only to stop the suffering of waiting for the next episode.


We're Alive S.3 Ch.25 - Inadequate Strength [SPOILERS]

Hard not to talk about death when it’s surrounded us as much as it has.
- Kelly
            I feel like I really shouldn’t have to say this again, but I will, just one more time, so all y’all get it through your (possibly) thick skulls: Beyond this point there be SPOILERS. While I would love to cater to the newcomers, and get you all interested in this be-goddamn-rilliant show, sadly (or fortunately, if you’ve been keeping up with it), far too much has developed in the plot for me to even attempt scuttling around the veritable mine-field of spoilers here, so, even though it pains me, I must kindly ask those of you who have yet to listen to, and be blown away by the Season 2 finale, The Harder They Fall, kindly get the hell out of here.
            We good? Alright, then let’s get this review STARTED. We’re Alive, after leaving us all typing big bold WTFs into our computers last July, has finally returned, and somehow quenched my personal thirst for auditory Zombie entertainment, despite answering maybe .01% of the questions I’ve been roaming the forums to try and understand for the past five months, and yet it’s that microcosm of answers that they do provide that make all the difference.
            Not to seem like a complete tease, but before I get to talking about where we are now in the story, I feel I must address the climactic fall of the Tower, which is, in my opinion, one of the most emotionally painful tragedies to the show, second only to the infamous ‘Datu in the Arena’ story arc from Season 1 (which I will admit, made me cry like a little bitch).
            The Tower’s demise to me seemed rather reminiscent of the destruction of the Prison in the comic series The Walking Dead, though while much of the trauma incited by the comic was due to the absolute massacre of almost all of the main characters, much the trauma provided by We’re Alive is from the fact that, to the fans, the Tower was one of the most essential elements to the show, and from the very first chapter onwards, it had become the lone symbol for hope and rebirth in the hell-on-Earth that is Zombie-infested LA.
            The fact that it not only survived for so long, but stood its ground in situations similar to the one that finally brought it crashing to the ground, such as the finale from Season 1, made the Tower seem only that much more impenetrable.  And even though in the events leading up to it’s destruction, it had become a forgone conclusion that the gang would be abandoning the Tower eventually, there was no amount of cushioning that could have prepared us for the absolute chaos surrounding the Tower’s fall, and how it would affect the future of the characters themselves.
            The story doesn’t waste any time in getting right back to where we’d left off last season though, opening with Saul and Victor just escaping the madness of the Tower’s collapse, only to get caught in a turret-toting truck by one of the Big Ones, which leads to an excellent action, turret-fire, chase sequence, which the show pulls off, like so many of it’s other action scenes, marvelously, the excitement and adrenaline it incited actually causing me to sit straight up in bed, feeling as tense as if I was watching a scene from a great shoot-em-up film.
            This was of course, interspersed with some rather (understandably) angry dialogue between the two, foreshadowing a complicated relationship in the coming future of the show. Still, on the other hand, the obvious distaste they each hold for the other is rather reminiscent of the relationship between Angel and Kulani, wherein they faced a situation very much like Saul and Victor, and after surviving together long enough, formed a bond of respect between themselves, though the prospects that Saul and Victor have to consider, however, are far more bleak, a fact that may also effect the strength of their partnership more than anything else.
            On the other side of the world (as it may as well be), Michael leads his helicopter of survivors to what could be, for all they know, a big dead end, or their very salvation, along the way scratching the surface of the incredible amount of FUCKED UP the presumed death of their loved ones has cultivated in the group. And while Riley may be the most noticeable offender in this respect (we’ll get to her in a second, just you wait), it’s also important to pay attention to Tanya, who has now just lost her only son once again, and so soon after reuniting with him, as well as Datu, who seems, somehow, even more distressed than his usual distressed self, the combination of the two spelling out a possibly very interesting plotline with Hope, of whom the two both share a very deep, and rather possessive bond (then again his may just be one of those cases where I’m reading far too much into it).
            But focusing in more on Riley, it’s impossible now not to imagine an episode coming soon, quite possibly even the very next one, where people will finally call her out on her shit. If you’ve been paying any attention to the show, then you know that all this, the drinking, the smoking, the emotional break-downs, are not some spur of the moment thing, this has been a growing concern for just about everyone close to her for a while now, and as evidenced by the little running away fiasco she just pulled, it’s becoming kind of huge problem.
            What makes it all the more painful is the fact that since she was first introduced, guarding Pegs in the flower shop, Riley has always been the tough, level-headed female character of the show, her thick French accent, and expertise in Archery, making her a strong, reliable, and rather alluring addition to the group, both on and off the battlefield. It’s knowing this that makes her deep, deep decline so much harder to watch, and at times, like this last episode, rather frightening, specifically, and this is speaking as someone with a close alcoholic relative, the short, almost unnoticeable little snippet of dialogue between Tanya and Michael, as Tanya tries to keep Riley stable during their second take-off, and asks Michael where exactly Riley got the bottle, to which he replies that she, “Must’ve stowed it away,” a sentence that gave me actual chills in my spine when I heard it.
 This really is exceptionally scary when you more thoughtfully consider the level to which this has come in realism, where not only can the group not keep track of her problem anymore, but even the listening audience is unable to, not to mention the fact that her stowing it away before they left means she considered that bottle of alcohol a necessity, ambiguously hinting that this may have been going on for longer than any actually realized.
I’ll admit, I’m a little surprised at how Michael took this new development, especially all the trouble it caused, as this seems like just the kind of thing that he would crack down on, like so many other things in the past, yet instead he seems exceptionally understanding, which in this case, isn’t necessarily a good thing. Then again, Michael is still feeling the effect that the tragedy has had on each and every one of them, and if we are to remember for a second the last time he was so broken down by a compromise to the safety of those around him, then we’ll also remember that when Michael feels deep enough shame, he can lapse into an unsure, and rather dangerous personality, such as the infamous insecurity that lead to Michael at one point relinquishing his title as leader to Burt (which didn’t end well for anybody).
Luckily, Pegs is there, and as their little private conversation confirmed, their relationship is still a very interesting, and continually developing plotline, which is fortunate considering that at this point, the only other two strong romantic relationships in the series have hit (possible) dead ends, and even when they were still going, had far surpassed Michael and Pegs’, which at this point isn’t even really definable.
And now, so nearing the end of the review, I’d just like to discuss the title of the chapter itself, which, after philosophizing over it for a while, I realized fit the content of the chapter exceptionally well. The title, Inadequate Strength, refers to many different aspects of this installment, such as the fight at the beginning, pitting Saul and Victor against the horrifically large Big One, but at a more in-depth level, the title also refers to the new enemy the group must face, which is Survivors Guilt, the horrible feeling of being unable to save everyone, to the point of blaming one’s self, a fight against which Riley seems to be losing.
An excellently done chapter, yet I still must criticize some of the lack-luster, and at times pointless writing (for example, the goddamn dog, how the hell did that get on board, when actual people we're left behind to die? It's like that stupid cat in Alien), which I did try to justify, since in a show as grand and large as We’re Alive, it’s the little details that are most important, yet I can’t give it completely special treatment, and still must penalize it accordingly. An extremely high Dapper to the Season Three opener, I’ll be happy to see where the story will go with Fort Irwin, and what exactly that shot at the end means. Bravo.


Katawa Shoujo Review

 You are not alone, and you are not strange. You are you, and everyone has damage. Be the better person.
- Anonymous Game Developer
Alright, take it; just take it- take my man card right now, because at this point, if I have to hold in how much I goddamn adore this game one second longer, then I’m actually going to bite my own tongue off. Katawa Shoujo, which translates to, Cripple Girls, is a text based, Japanese style RPG, more of a virtual novel really, which revolves around you playing the male protagonist, who attends a high school of disabled young adults, the goal being to romance one of five different girls, each with their own individual personality, and disability. 
I know. Shit sounds bananas. And as blunt as it may seem, this is quite possibly the best description to give this game, if only for one important reason: it in itself acts as yet another form of the truly profound lesson the game seeks to impart on those who play it, a lesson that the developers show they wholly believe in, and for good reason. For while the initial judgment one may have towards the statement, and the game it describes, is amusement at the ridiculousness of it all, this is an improperly informed, and rather misguided view, based off of a lack of understanding due to the fact that one hasn’t played the game itself (this is not a criticism, simply a statement of fact, trust me, I have no desire to insult). 
Hell, after playing through it several times now, I have a hard time even calling it a game, to be honest, I would call Katawa Shoujo one of the most human experiences (ironically) I have ever come across in my admittedly short time on Earth, and I am glad (and wholly relieved, if I’m being honest) to hear this was not an isolated incident.
Almost immediately after my first campaign through it (after I spent several hours simply staring into space, blown away by the game of course) I looked it up on reddit, where I’d first heard about it, to find many others who happened across the game much like I did, or had been waiting patiently for the game to come out for many a moon, and, far be it from me to make far reaching and wild accusations, but I believe the general consensus is that this game is gonna make you weep like you need to use the world’s largest tampon, and also change the entire way you see the world itself- or at least those of the opposite gender.
But seriously, all joking aside, this game IS BRILLIANT, and for so many different reasons, almost all of them revolving around the fact that the potential this game holds to change those who play it for the better, is extraordinary. And while I would encourage you to play through the game multiple times, to continue to explore the vast world the creators have developed, I must admit that at least in my opinion, there will be no time the game will affect you more than in your first play through,  which may be for many reasons, though I’m pretty certain the ownership one feels and adopts after the first story may have something to do with it, that is to say, from the point you finish the first plot line onwards, Katawa Shoujo will always be that plot line to you, and always be the story of the girl you met in that first go-around.
And that first go-around is also important as it will be the first time you’re view of the game evolves into what it was really designed to be about- let me elaborate. Going into this game, whether you’re familiar with virtual romance RPGs or not, you will probably see the whole point of the game as what it initially seems to be- a game where the goal is to click the right dialogue options so you can get the girl in the sack, and beat the game. Hoo-fucking-ray.
But when the story truly gets off the ground, and you begin to meet the different girls, and get deeper and deeper into their plot-lines, discovering more about them as you progress, you WILL begin to feel something… different. When you see the problems the girls face, the problems that will remain surprisingly ambiguous, even to the very end of the story, and the thoughts and feelings these girls manage to share with you, suddenly, you don’t even think about ‘nailing’ the girl you’ve chosen, romancing her, or even getting close enough to start a dating relationship, instead, the game will have you feeling something different- the desire to help the girl. What makes Katawa Shoujo so goddamn magnificent, is that it works it’s entire playability off of the most natural and universal of human instincts, empathy, the desire to care for someone other than yourself, the feeling of compassionate love for another human being.
And that isn’t to say the game manipulates you into feeling these things, no, it’s more like the game is apathetic to whether you feel connected or not, it simply concerns itself with drawing out these characters, and making them so life-like, that you do the connecting yourself. And what else is so ingenious about the game, is that the empathy it garners in you, is of the purest form, it is the feeling of being connected to somebody on completely equal terms, as you begin to see the girls you meet as no different than you, or anybody else for that matter, their faults and differences quickly washing away, their happiness becoming what is truly important to you as the player- and to say that the fact that the girls are disabled is only a feature of this wonderful message, would be an understatement.
As one of the creators stated about the girls and their disabilities, “They are not strange people – they are regular ordinary human beings who feel the way they feel not because they are disabled, but because they are ordinary. They are the universal allegory for humanity; the archetypal human; the mess you become when you feel sad and alone and unworthy.” 
I have no doubt in my mind, when I say that as a story based off of kindness, friendship, and understanding on the deepest of levels, Katawa Shoujo is the greatest romance story I have EVER had the pleasure to experience, and is, in all seriousness, (you can, and absolutely should quote me on this here) my choice for 2012 game of the year. Yea. Hows about that. Only two weeks into the year and I’m decided.
Listen, just please, give this game a shot; if you don’t already feel like downloading it right now (it’s goddamn free by the way), then I blame MYSELF for not explaining the game correctly, rather than the game itself for being unappealing. Laying my chips down on the line here, and sacrificing my very last holds to manly respect (I’m sorry Hemingway), Katawa Shoujo awakened something inside me, that I had believed to have been murdered by years of adolescent rejection, and average High School feelings of inadequacy.
Whatever faults the game has, such as the rather long-winded samples of text that don’t seem to go anywhere, or the rather whiny protagonist narrating the whole affair (this may also attribute to the former problem though), are like miniscule cracks on the surface of a brilliant work of art.
If you want to expand your entire view of the world around you, and the people co-inhabiting it with you, then play Katawa Shoujo. If you wish to gain a positive respect, as well as a healthy concern for those of the opposite gender around you, then play Katawa Shoujo. If you want to become a better person in general- well, fuckin Katawa Shoujo.
If, however, all this seems dumb to you, and you think the whole thing just sounds weird, and sad, and gay, like you believe all forms of romantic art are, then you should be forced to read every single goddamn piece-of-crap Twilight book Stephanie Meyers shits out of her manipulative, unimaginative, cunt-hole, you stupid, unappreciative fuck- whoa. Got a little out of hand there. 
Anyway, Katawa Shoujo earns an unheard of CLASSY AS FUCK, for being a once in a lifetime game, that I don’t believe I’ll ever be able to get out of my mind, and can honestly say has changed me as a person. As always, enjoy, and before you get any ideas about running off, I got the download link right here jack, you play that shit right now, and see why this game has been giving so many people straight-up emotional boners. And off the record, mad respect to you if you went with Hanako too. Mad respect.