Final portion of “The Story of She-Ra,” the first Princess of Power mini-comic. Before anything else: Swift Wind’s unicorn horn looks so incredibly sad. Like the little ball at the end is some kind of overboard child protection measure. Don’t gore children, Swift Wind.
I wonder how we’re supposed to take He-Man’s initial dialogue to Catra on the first page. It feels really sarcastic, but there’s no way He-Man can know Catra is a villain since he literally just fell out of the sky in a blaze of rainbow colors and ran into her, so he may be acting genuinely polite there? Nothing says he can’t be The Most Well-Mannered Man In The Universe.
On a different note: I didn’t comment on this when Adora actually turned into She-Ra in the last set of pages, but… not only is the change between her two forms practically non-existent from a reader’s perspective, but Catra mistakes She-Ra for Adora in-story. Your ARCH-ENEMY can’t tell the difference between your secret identity and your superheroic self! That… that is a failure of the entire concept of secret identities! Mind, I am on-record as thinking alter egos for the Masters of the Universe protagonists are dumb anyway, and it’s not like the horse-riding blonde in the white dress exiting the Crystal Castle isn’t gonna be the horse-riding blonde in the white dress who entered the Crystal Castle a few moments ago, but… but… gah.
Anyway. With the entire raised-by-bad-guys plot point from the Secret of the Sword movie dropped (and not replaced with anything else), the story concludes with He-Man and She-Ra’s first - and only - meeting in She-Ra’s own comics. After this one, the focus is entirely on She-Ra and her allies facing off against Catra (and Entrapa), with no external MOTU references except apparently some Horde Troopers showing up in the final mini-comic… which I don’t own. I do have some of the other She-Ra mini-comics, though, and might scan them up if I can remember where they are…
(If you’re wondering why the Sorceress’ dialogue is suddenly red for one word balloon, all the She-Ra mini-comics have the moral of the story highlighted in red. Ehn.)
In closing, don’t stare at that final panel with She-Ra for too long. Her expression gets creepier the more you look.
Second portion of “The Story of She-Ra,” the first Princess of Power mini-comic.
So in the Secret of the Sword movie, Hordak and Shadow Weaver raise the kidnapped baby Adora, who grows up to be a captain in the evil Horde (without her ever realizing the Horde is in fact evil, but apparently she was pretty sheltered). It takes the events surrounding He-Man’s arrival on Etheria for Adora to renounce the Horde, become She-Ra, and take up with the Great Rebellion. Here, um… Adora’s deal is that she’s heroically guarding the Crystal Castle from Catra as an adult, despite the interdimensional kidnapping still being part of her backstory. How does that work? Did someone on Etheria kidnap baby Adora from the Horde and raise her for the job? It seems to undermine the gravity of Mini-Comic Hordak’s plan if his abductee is outside of his control and doing good when we first meet her. The plot point shift isn’t explained in the final portion of the story, either…
(Also, apparently Spirit the horse is female in this universe, since a caption box calls him a filly.)
(Also also, the Crystal Castle really looks like a repainted Castle Grayskull in that long-shot, but that might just be me.)
“The Story of She-Ra,” the first Princess of Power mini-comic. The opening pages sort of follow the opening to the Secret of the Sword movie, but as you’ll see, it quickly goes off that established path. Also, for some reason, the Sorceress is consistently colored pink here, which might be unique to this book.
[ At first sight, this new JAPANoFILES feature is a disastrous segue to the last UFO encyclopedia article. However, both share a similar status as games that are so unknown they even dodge the status of “cult games”. In a time when the film industry is increasingly dependent of game tie-ins in order to assure a greater profit, we go back to some of the first examples of how it should always have been done. This is, truly, one of the most unpredictable movie to game adaptations of all time where the drama of tax evasion meets with the interactivity a videogame adventure. ]
Movie aficionados who are keen on Japanese cinema will remember the year of 1987 as one of particular interest in the history of black comedies. It was in that year that the celebrated director Juzo Itami released Marusa no Onna (A Taxing Woman), one of his most popular movies which was not only a success in Japan but also a major triumph for film critics, having won various awards from the Japanese Academy and even a nomination for a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.
The film depicts the life of a divorced woman and tax investigator named Ryōko Itakura (played by the director’s wife and actress Nobuko Miyamoto) who works for the government investigating tax evading frauds and schemes. A parallel story is that of Hideki Gondō, played by Tsutomu Yamazaki, a businessman and owner of a love hotel. Both characters meet when Ryōko starts to investigate him for fiscal crimes.
One of the strongest scenes in the film unites the protagonists Ryōko and Hideki Gondō, the businessman who has been secretly evading the payment of millions of Yen’s worth of taxes.
More than an average picture about Japanese crime life, Marusa no Onna has a peculiar and underlying tone of comedy that make it an amusing satire rather than a realistic portrait of crime in Japan - something which has defined the director’s career. That, however, does not prevent his movies from addressing serious topics from his nation’s society, as it was proved by the Minbo no Onna incident: another comedy film depicting the Yakuza as a social class of thugs and bullies in a manner so insulting it led to Itami being beaten senseless by a gang near his own residence.
In 1988, CAPCOM and its prodigal game designer Tokuro Fujiwara (of Makaimura fame), approached Juzo Itami with the idea to take the movie’s success a little further. Their intention was to create an adventure game that would focus on the film’s events and characters but presenting an original new angle of the story in a completely new format. The notion of adapting this film in particular seems very inappropriate, however, seen that this is an adult movie with its share of mature references such as sexual comedy: indeed, a pattern of film-to-game adaptation, frequently related to either infantile/juvenile action and fantasy blockbusters or anime, was broken with the release of this 1989 Famicom cartridge sold under the same name as the movie inspiring it was based on.
The text at the beginning reads: A tax officer shall take all steps necessary for prosecution when he discovers that an offense has been committed. National Tax Offenses Act, Article 12, Clause 2. In this intro, a woman calls on the phone with a tip for an investigation of a wealthy man who has been evading tax payments. The theme is adapted from Toshiyuki Honda’s brilliant OST.
The pixel version of actress Nobuko Miyamoto, the director’s spouse, was quite impressively done, not only capturing the short bob hairstyle but also the trademark freckles.
In order to convert the movie to a family game format, CAPCOM had to make several changes in the plot, toning down the characters to simpler versions that would not only fit the game environment, but also allow the game to be sold freely like any other without restraints. Characters as portrayed in the game become instantly recognizable, although their defining features have been watered down to more prosaic representations where it is easier for younger players to identify heroes and villains. The case of Gondō is quite striking: in the film, the character is defined in different scenes as a charismatic person that has exceptional talents to lie and deceive people. In time, he gains affection for Ryōko as he notices her complete devotion to her profession.
Eventually, the motivations behind the misdeeds of Gondō become clearer as he confesses his intention to build a solid fortune he could leave to his beloved son. Because of the character’s complex dilemma, its videogame counterpart has suffered the most with the movie adaptation, here assuming the shape of a classic ruthless criminal. Somewhere in this watering down process, the studio also decided not to include the character of the son in the game version so as to simplify the plot. Notwithstanding, other situations from the film are portrayed with great accuracy, namely the main character’s progression from research the books of a Pachinko salon to becoming a major tax investigator for the Japanese government, joining a team of top men who also share her obsession for the hunt.
While going about the town, Ryōko can enter most of the buildings. This isometric perspective reminds of a few scenes from the movie.
When a building or location is selected, we see this small interlude where the character - with the purse in hand - walks over to the entrance door. Some elements can be inspected outside the buildings, something which eventually becomes essential to the progression of the game.
Similar to other graphic adventures from its day - to a large extent derivative from games like Portopia Renzoku Satsujin Jiken - Marusa no Onna is based on a menu system of interactions where the choice of the action determines what is done next: menu options include the usual “talk” or “investigate” commands as required by specific game situations. That menu navigation routine is compensated by the greater dynamism of the exploration phases, where Ryōko can explore the numerous locations in the map, even walking on the streets or entering buildings in real time.
Even in the investigation areas, each of the screens (viewed from a perspective subjective) can be scrolled to reveal other parts of the locations that require further attention. Once activities are completed, the player automatically returns to the office where she can discuss details with her colleagues and type the retrieved data into the computer terminal. Because this is a simple game cartridge without battery saving function, the adventure can be resumed with a password that is presented everytime a major breakthrough has been achieved.
Some interesting aspects tie film and game together in a more spiritual way. In one of the most enjoyable scenes of the film, Ryōko accompanies the suspected tax evader Hideki Gondō to his house as she goes through all his books and bank account receipts. While accidentally entering the living room she finds Gondō’s son, Taro, playing Super Mario Bros. on a Sharp Twin Famicom (as hinted by the control pad). She is immediately drawn to the game screen surprised with what was going on there, hinting at the same time to the fact that she had played the game before - quite possibly in the company of her son, a character mentioned both in the film and game.
This entire scene seems to be dedicated to the sort of friendly relation that derives from videogame playing, as if all the other serious matters of law and justice were halted for a moment so the characters could gather in front of the TV - a truly healthy perspective suggested by Juzo Itami who was a confessed videogame supporter. Another aspect, purely coincidental, relates to the ironic bond between a Nintendo console game such as this and a film about the misconducts in Japanese hotels, since Nintendo was into that precise business at a certain stage of its history (after the economic depression of the Post-War period). Perhaps they, too, hid some of the books and had secret bank accounts to avoid heavy taxation?
The owner of the Pachinko parlor, Kudou Yoshiaki, is the first subject under investigation. There are heavy discrepancies between the numbers he declares and those which he secretly deposits in a fake bank account.
Like the movie that originated it, Marusa no Onna is one of the most inspired titles of its genre ever created in Japan. It is hard to envision how a game adaptation could have worked any better preserving so much from the original source and still being able to meet the demands of a full story-oriented adventure. In spite of the known limitations related to the console and its technology, CAPCOM has suceeded in recreating the environment of a busy life in urban Japan like very few other companies have back in those days: with graphics very appealing and detailed and catchy soundtrack themes. If the catalogue of essential Famicom games was already vast and varied, embracing dozens of essential titles that defined the industry of today, a new vacancy must be opened to welcome Marusa no Onna with open arms for it is not only a competent adaptation of a Japanese cinema reference, as it presents a refreshing alternative to traditional game themes.
A 1980s Capcom adventure game for the NES, based on an adult-aimed black comedy, where you play a female tax collector? What a fascinatingly unusual combination. (Mind you, the NES also had games based on the Three Stooges and the Domino’s Pizza mascot, so I guess it’s only so weird…)
French-Canadian copy of Marvel’s The Transformers #5, featuring Shockwave by M.D. Bright. Despite being the dimensions of a regular comic, some of the pages are turned sideways and printed side-by-side, which gave the publisher enough space to also reprint some of the Ann Nocenti/Art Adams Longshot miniseries (which was similarly affected). I want to say that some of the pages were also printed in black and white, but I might be conflating that with early era Marvel UK Transformers comics.