Usually when a politician is caught in a scandal and needs to get out of the public eye for a while, he'll call a press conference and say that he's stepping down to spend more time with his family. What a cheesy excuse, right? Unfortunately, thanks to all the sleazy politicians out there, this excuse has been ruined for the rest of us.
This will be my last Brain Diving column, but I'm not going to say that I plan to stop writing in order to spend more time with my family even though that is more or less the truth. To be completely honest, the schedule of keeping up with the column just hasn't been meshing with the other things I have to do in my life. In addition to my day job and my family, I'm also supposed to be working on a Ph.D. dissertation on anime and globalization, which I really need to finish up this semester. Plus, I have a number of ideas for some big projects that I'll get to one of these days once I have unlocked the achievement of becoming Doctor Ruh. Most importantly, though, this should free up some more time for me to spend making really bad puns on Twitter. So don't worry, I'll still be around, and Zac has kindly left the door open for me to return to the column some day when things are a little less hectic.
I've been weighing a bunch of different ideas for what I would cover in my final column. There are quite a number of books that I wanted to have a chance to discuss, but I thought I'd go out on a recent release that's quite fun – the Valkyria Chronicles Design Archive recently put out by Udon Entertainment. Another factor influencing my decision is that by making the book the subject of one of my columns, I can justify the money I spent on it.
For those of you who need an introduction to the series, Valkyria Chronicles was a video game originally released by Sega in 2008 for the PlayStation 3. Set in an alternative world designed to be reminiscent of Europe in the 1930s (called, oddly enough, Europa), Valkyria Chronicles told the story of a group of militia fighters who banded together to save their beloved homeland of the Principality of Gallia. The Europan continent had been suffering from the large scale conflict between the two major powers of the Atlantic Federation and the East Europan Imperial Alliance, but Gallia had been a neutral territory. However, discovery of new deposits of ragnite (a mysterious, naturally occurring mineral that in the game can both heal injuries and power tanks) in Gallia leads to the an invasion by the Imperial Alliance, and the country's peaceful inhabitants must take up arms and fight back.
I'll admit that in the lead-up to the game's release in Japan, I didn't really give it much attention until I read that Mamoru Oshii had compared it to Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaa. That seemed very intriguing, and was enough to get me to look it up. What I saw was very impressive – I quite liked the intentionally retro look of the game, the setting, and its character designs. A few glimpses were enough to turn me into a Valkyria Chronicles fan even before I played the game. Although, I must confess, I still have yet to play it. This isn't from a lack of desire, but rather from a lack of a PS3. I just haven't gotten around to getting one, so of course I haven't been able to check it out even after nearly three years.
Luckily, there have since been other ways of experiencing the Valkyria Chronicles universe (only one of which has been officially brought over into English, though). Valkyria Chronicles II, a sequel to the original game, came out for the PSP in 2010. Luckily, being the proud owner of a PSP, I have been able to play this one. There is also a third game in the series that came out for the PSP earlier this year; however, from what I've heard about the PSP being a “dead” platform over here (unlike in Japan) its chances of getting an English language release seem dim. I certainly hope that's wrong, although if it does get a translation it will be a pleasant surprise. As with most large Japanese properties these days, you can find Valkyria Chronicles in a bunch of other media as well, including anime and manga. Most notably, there was a 26-episode TV anime series based on the first game that came out in 2009 as well as a series of OAVs based on the third game that came out earlier this year. Unfortunately, none of the anime or manga has been officially released in English.