Further updates on the wondrous discovery of Skeb: Funato's posted two more pieces of art in the past couple days, so she's still active on the platform, but commissions are still listed on her page as "stopped" (as opposed to "seeking," which I think is Skeb's version of "commissions open"). I hope that isn't just a placeholder for when you're not signed in to the system via Twitter; a stealth "you can't see actual commission status if you're not signed in" function would be very much in line with the Japanese internet's worst gatekeeping tendencies. Given recent events, I'm paranoid about missing one of the fleeting opportunities during which you're allowed to give artists money, so I'll have to sign up for the glories of Twitter today or tomorrow. (One of the benefits of having your own domains: you can create all the throwaway e-mail accounts for intrusive sign-ups you want.)
Another discovery: you name your own price on Skeb. The platform suggests an amount to offer, yes, but the actual bid for your commission is entirely up to you, and from what I can see, the suggestions don't take into account composition complexity, backgrounds, no. of characters, etc. like the tiered price lists in the world of Tumblr commissions do. I obviously am more than OK with erring way on the side of generosity here, but I know absolutely nothing of pricing in these matters, so I have no idea even what "generosity" constitutes in this case.
Given recent shopping experiences, I probably shouldn't use my own blatantly-Western name when ordering, should I. I feel guilty about that, though. It's Akari Funato! I don't want to lie to Akari Funato!
Back on topic: upon reflection, I realize that I might have only one shot here. There's a huge amount of love invested in that Ghaleon pic (compare the background to her other commissions), but Funato has pretty much shunned Lunar for over 20 years given the initial reception of what is the goddamn masterpiece of the series and overidentification by prospective employers of her own art with the franchise. Given that she's long since carved out an independent reputation as a mangaka, she might have limited tolerance for commissions related to her licensed work, particularly Lunar. So, cost aside, I'm most likely not going to be able to request every Vheen Hikuusen character. I might get through one request, if it's not considered excess after the KSK Ghaleon she posted.
What do I try, then?
Oh, daisies—I had a whole post written up about what's been keeping me away, and I have a 43,000-character translation of a government report on subduction zones due tomorrow evening and therefore absolutely do not have time for this, but in combing through old links on my breaks, and I wound up on Akari Funato's Twitter, where she was recently posting about a mini-artbook she was selling at a con, and I took a glance, and LO AND BEHOLD, WHO SHOWS UP:
This must be the first new drawing she's released of Ghaleon in over 20 years. I could not zoom to her Booth shop fast enough upon reading that she'd released a PDF on there, only to be greeted with the hair-tearing news that Funato had set her store to private (meaning, on vacation) in the interim. She was last promoting the artbook on July 30. It is now August 25. She has doujin compilations up on DLsite that have been on continuous sale for over two freaking decades. This artbook can't be on sale for one freaking month?!? My favorite mangaka, the poet laureate of my favorite fictional character of all time, swears off Lunar forever, but she gets back on the horse for one more illustration, and I miss it!?!?!
Ahhhh—I know one of the hard copies will turn up on the secondary market eventually, but I've been having bad luck with gatekeeping and Japanese game art lately. Last week, I placed an order at Suruga-ya for a few items I'd been chasing for a while, but I made the mistake of attempting to pay with my overseas credit card directly instead of through PayPal. After my card was rejected for not being issued from Japan, I registered to pay by bank transfer, which involved an exchange of e-mails, but, whoops—overseas bank accounts are also verboten. I ask (in Japanese, of course) to switch my payment method to PayPal (both involve e-mail exchanges, so it's all the same to the system), mentioning that I've been a customer in the past, and I'm clearly not a horrid reseller, as my 12-item order consists of stuff like 200-yen Angelique doujins, but no! I'm from overseas and clearly have nefarious intent, with my desperate attempts to give their company money! So my order was cancelled, and I'm currently waiting for the items to be relisted so I can reorder and pay correctly this time. It makes no sense—they have to go through the hassle of relisting the items and miss out on an immediate sale, and I have to wait around to do everything all over again. I know about all the cultural issues at play here—Japan is my literal job—but I can't say they don't get exasperating when you encounter them at times.
ETA: I LOOKED AT HER "SKEB," NOT KNOWING WHAT A "SKEB" IS, AND JACKPOT:
Skeb is apparently a commission platform. Praise be to the saint who commissioned this! The Japanese reads like it might be from someone overseas. I was the last one to know about this, wasn't I?!
—Wait. Skeb is apparently a commission platform. I could commission new Vheen Hikuusen art. What are the rates!? Oh, God, the shop's closed. Maybe this and the Booth problem are all just Funato being on vacation. Who do I commission now? I'm leaning toward Dyne or Morris, frankly. I could really rock the airship and ask for Zain. Will she take another Lunar commission so soon!? Good Lord, you have to have Twitter to use the platform, I think. For Vheen Hikuusen, I'm willing to make the sacrifice.
So much drama in the past hour! I can barely breathe! Back to hypocenter regions.
ETA2: TO HELL WITH HYPOCENTER REGIONS IT'S NEI FROM PHANTASY STAR
(And on that subject.)
ETA3: Angelique Collet and Victor. Not subject matter worthy of the FONT tag, but I like that Victor, even though he's missing his scar.
Angelique Luminarise comes out tomorrow. Actually, given the time difference between Japan and the U.S., it's probably already out as of this writing. I am planning to download it - the fancy accoutrements accompanying deluxe editions of otome games can almost always be had more affordably on Suruga-ya a few months later, and I'm not yet sure I want tchotchkes of this cast at this point. I was planning on blogging about my playthrough here, but it's not looking like I'm going immediately to have the time.
I've been involved in trying to address a very pressing local problem, which has been the major reason for my absence. (I'll give details later, in a longer post.) That's nearing its end, whatever that end might look like, but I'm still very much enmeshed in it. I'm also planning on spending most of the summer 2,500 miles away from my current home in an attempt to determine where I want to live long-term - which certainly isn't here, in no small part due to the Ongoing Local Problem. Beyond that, I've been busier than ever in my professional translation career, to the point where I might have to start turning down work. All of that is going to take away from any time I have to play or document Luminarise, unfortunately.
The good news is that I've finished - "finished" - the first stage of translating the text from the original Super Famicom Angelique, the very first otome game. Now, the document linked does not represent a complete translation of the game's text: it's based on the Angelique Message Collection script compilation book, which focuses on the Guardians' dialogue and leaves out bits like Sara & Pastha's story, most of Rosalia's lines, and most interface text. It's 90% of the way there, though, and there are always pick-up bits when the translation is inserted into a patch - lines in the script dump you didn't find in your playthrough or other resources that will need translating. I had to make an executive decision to be content with the material from the book as is and proceed to the next step, pairing the translated lines with the original Japanese in a spreadsheet. It's a nearly-neverending journey, but at least no one has to start at base camp anymore.
You're looking above at a series of four doujinshi that together make up a fan sequel (not by Akari Funato) to Vheen Hikuusen Monogatari. The drawing is very rough, but the story, while altering VHM's plot in a couple respects, is an interesting and thoughtful consideration of Silver Star's events from another perspective that includes some very prescient character moments. (I wrote a very lengthy two-part synopsis of the series here and here if you're interested, and I am gradually working on translating the books.)
The story's not why I'm writing now, though. The title of the work is Ama no Kairou, or Heaven's Corridor. More probably Corridor to Heaven, or Corridor to the Heavens, though strictly speaking, that would be Ama e no Kairou. (Ama can also mean "sky," which obviously has its own relevance to Tales of the Vane Airship, but I think the more poetic interpretation is more apt.) The phrasing of the metaphor seems somewhat odd, but the intent makes sense, given the time in Ghaleon's life it depicts (his life post-KSK up to his challenge to Althena and death).
Right, so I was reading The Obscuritory, a very worthwhile website dedicated to obscure and intriguing PC games, and I noticed an interesting bit of text in an article on Comer, an ambitious yet extremely rare adventure game self-published by a Hong Kong dev:
As one of the commenters on the article notes, the large text on the side also translates to "Heaven's Corridor," and it uses almost the same text: 天國の走廊 instead of 天の回廊. The commenter notes that 走廊 is the Chinese version of "corridor," while 國 is the classical version of 国 (天国, or tengoku, being the more common word for "heaven"). The character の is Japanese-native, though Wiktionary is telling me it's sometimes used to add a faux-Japanese flavor to Chinese text. In any case, this Hong Kong developer felt inspired enough to go out of his way in what is reportedly otherwise exclusively Chinese & English box text to use a mix of Chinese and Japanese, or at least Japanese-flavored Chinese, to express...this same odd metaphor from the doujinshi.
So I took to the search engines, wondering if this was some sort of reference I was missing. 天國の走廊 (and 天国の走廊) brings up only the Obscuritory article, but 天国の回廊, a slight alteration from the doujinshi title to more common verbiage, brings up the Chiostro del Paradiso—the Cloister of Heaven—in the Duomo of Amalfi, whose name in Japanese is, evidently, "Tengoku no Kairou." The Chiostro apparently serves as the graveyard for Amalfi's nobility, though looking at photos, I'm hard-pressed to answer where, exactly, the nobles are buried. Maybe in the walls. The Chiostro's purpose, however, would suit its invocation in both the Vheen Hikuusen doujinshi, dealing with the demise of the magic-race "nobility" of Vheen, and Comer, which evidently deals with the long-futile efforts a succession of historical geniuses (Einstein, da Vinci) to solve "an ancient puzzle that will determine the future of humanity" and leads to a sea change in the planetary status quo. Still unanswered, though, is how Amalfi's Duomo got boosted to such visibility in Japan (and Hong Kong, I guess).
The Wiktionary definition of "cloister" notes such structures in religious architecture often showcase stations of the cross, which would be in line with all the Ghaleon turmoil in Ama no Kairou on top of his canon tragedy mire.
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