Guys and Dolls: A Fear of Intimacy

As humans we are no strangers to the complexity of relationships. They’re complicated, they’re scary, and they’re (very) disappointing. So when it comes to issues such as miscommunication, pride, and fear…it’s no surprise when things fall apart and sometimes don’t come back together.

What does the above paragraph have to do with artificial intelligence I talked about in my earlier post? Read on:

Instant AI (愛)

If there’s one thing I’ve noticed in media (namely anime) when it comes to guys interacting with AI and computer programs it’s that…the interactions with them come across as strange. The AI in question are usually female and the protagonist is male and when they meet, the trope Born Sexy Yesterday comes into play.

The woman (AI, robot, doll, alien) in question is usually fully grown, naive, attractive, but skilled. The man is usually ordinary, sometimes unlucky in life or love or both. And interestingly enough…he’s almost always white* (when portrayed in American media). And the woman in question almost always seems to love him in the end. The trope can be explored more in this video by Pop Culture Detective:

If you don’t wish to go through the 18 minutes of in-depth talk I can give my abridged version:

  • Born Sexy Yesterday absolves men from doing emotional labor in relationships.
  • The idea of taking advantage of someone who is naive and vulnerable is inherently predatory.
  • Unfortunate implications abound when this trope can also be seen as a basis for abusive relationships.
  • This trope is used as a romantic subplot and almost always only shows the man’s perspective without giving characterization to the female character. If character is given, it’s known that she serves to be the love interest.
  • The woman in question seems to already love the man without any explanation as to why.

The reversal sometimes shows up in media. Comics and manga like Eggnoid, Absolute Boyfriend, and movies like George of the Jungle do exist but are rarely seen as the norm. I suspect the reasoning behind this is that women who are sexually skilled and knowledgeable of the ways of the world are seen as intimidating, maybe

So the gist I’ve gotten is that being able to be someone’s first and teach them everything without having to develop yourself or consider the other person’s feelings or autonomy is what’s passing for love these days. And people seem to be wanting an AI that is programed to love them and only them without putting in any effort to be better versions of themselves. Do people even know what love is?

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Baby don’t hurt me.

Relationships Are Complex

I’m not going to go through the whole trouble of explaining what makes relationships work because everyone’s seen the Facebook drivel that oozes saccharine sentiments on just how you should love another person. So, in order to not insult the intellect of the masses I’ll reduce it to a few fine points:

  • Respect: relationships can only be built if you genuinely respect another person as another person. They’re autonomous beings outside of you and don’t exist for your benefit.
  • Honesty: While respecting another’s privacy is important, a certain amount of transparency and openness is required.
  • Communication: Actively listening and working on your communication skills are crucial to maintaining relationships, you can’t ignore this.
  • Vulnerability and Emotional Labor: Close relationships require vulnerability and emotional labor to be expended on all parties involved. Taking another’s feelings into consideration and

People are Afraid of Intimacy?

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Honestly, the idea of falling in love with a program that caters to your needs is downright uncanny because I know that real relationships with flesh and blood human beings is nowhere near as simple or easy. Relationships take time to develop and there are no shortcuts to earning trust. You cannot cheat your way out of emotional labor and expect to have a healthy and happy relationship with another person.

The downside to all of this hard work is that it can easily be all for naught. Relationships change over time, failure happens, and rejection is an ever present reality. It takes a lot to trust in someone else because vulnerability can easily be taken advantage of, and nobody wants that. It’s because of this that fear of intimacy is understandable: we simply live in a society where people don’t trust each other.

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A simple Google search reveals plenty.

So, what now?

So, we have all this knowledge, what do we do with it? We know AI are no real substitute for humans (please hold all Blade Runner comments). We also know that relationships are complex, full of complex factors (anxiety, abuse, isolation, ect), and are generally messy with no perfect or satisfying answers that every single person. Is it worth it to try and connect with another human being?

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Artists certainly think so,

While we have little control over the things that happen in our lives, we still have the ability to control our reactions to what is thrown at us. We can’t control people or how they initially respond to us. All we can do is take our experiences—both positive and negative—and use what we’ve learned in order to better ourselves. Your personal growth as a human being is important because one cannot understand others without first understanding oneself.

TL;DR: Artificial Intelligence is no substitute for human interaction and relationships and you are encouraged to seek out relationships and to better yourself.

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April Update: New Podcast!

While March was a decided Month of The Struggle I’m having a pretty good feeling about April. That said, I’m probably going to struggle this month too but that’s besides the point.

What’s New:

I decided on a whim to start a podcast on Anchor.FM called Pretty Girl Scrub Squad. The pilot episode “The Podcast That Never Was” is just a straight-talk minimal structured podcast with my friend Keri about a game close to our hearts (no pun intended) Kingdom Hearts. While extremely rough around the edges I’m pretty proud of what we accomplished.

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If you don’t have matching fandom keychains is your friendship actually real?

The Podcast:

While I’m still working out the kinks and finer details such as:

  • Recording equipment
  • Scheduling
  • Script writing
  • Editing Software
  • Cover Art
  • Music

I believe things will progress as we go along. Nothing starts out perfect, but it gets better with time. I’m also hoping to have fun with this little project. Maybe it might become something super cool? Maybe it’ll just be something that exists. Who knows?

I’ll be covering a variety of topics that include:

  • Navigating the gaming world as a woman
  • Gaming as a millenial
  • My own personal experiences as a gamer
  • and more!

I think I have a lot to say in regards to the gaming world and my own unique experiences are something worth sharing with the world. Everyone is different and all sorts of stories need to be heard, mine included.

 

Mini Q&A

Will I be making a Patreon?

I honestly don’t see myself doing this in the near future. I see Patreon as something that would require me to have more content to share so I can’t use it. Instead I have a Ko-fi page where I can take small donations right here (see Buy Me Coffee link in header).

Do I have any merchandise available?

I actually have a Storenvy where you can purchase Pretty Girl Scrub Squad shirts and other specially designed merch here.

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And yes, I do wear my own merch.

When can we expect the next episode?

Well I won’t have time to record this weekend, so I’ll have to shoot for April 14th to start recording again.

Why Scrub Squad?

When it comes to video games, I’m not actually that good, as can be seen on my Twitch Channel. But that does’t mean I won’t play games just because I’m bad at it. I designed the Scrub Squad for people who love games, aren’t good at them, but play anyway. I usually hear the term “Scrub” used for someone who’s just bad and rage quits, but I wanted to give it a positive spin.

You spelled ‘Senpai’ wrong.

I know. Those shirts will be removed from the store and the designs will be changed. Those who bought the shirts now have limited edition merch!

Ecchi Review: Velvet Kiss

Romance, ecchi, hentai, smut, you name it, I’m all over it. The intrigue of romance and sex always makes for a good read. That previous sentence is an eloquent way of saying “I like porn with plot and plot with porn.” I’ll make it a note to share and review my favorites from now on because why not?

I discovered Velvet Kiss a few years back when I was going through Mangafox. I personally don’t recommend Mangafox as a reader because of the ads that keep popping up and ruining my reading experience. Now it’s available to purchase through various retailers, and I actually have the first volume…in German.

 

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I really need to read the product description before I purchase.

This story is one of my favorites to revisit because I enjoy the artwork, and some of the sex scenes are pretty hot. While no genitalia is drawn, the scenes still manage to be quite erotic. The character’s emotions are conveyed pretty well and seem most realistic, or at the very least interesting.

 

The Plot:

The story revolves around Shin Nitta who has suddenly found himself with an 80 million yen debt. In order to “pay it off” or at least stave off payments, he has to keep a wealthy young woman named Kano company. And by keeping her company we mean: be her errand boy and sex friend. No joke, the first day they meet she requests to have sex with him and he complies.

 

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The rest can be read here.

He also does various other errands such as: calling him in the middle of work to come see her, buying her and her friends snacks, picking up her laundry, and keeping her company. Between fetch quests and trying to keep up with her while also covering his tracks and making excuses for not being at work, there’s this underlying story about the Kuchiya’s–Kano’s family–and how they have been covering up some pretty shady business.

Over time, the two form an…interesting relationship as Nitta begins to genuinely care for Kano and in turn, Kano begins to defrost. Do they come to love each other? That sort of happens–but they realize there’s a distance between them and that might not be possible to overcome. The ending is fairly satisfying and I don’t think any more volumes need to be made.

 

The Problems:

Consent seems to be a bit of an issue here. The relationship between Nitta and Kano is woefully unbalanced. Kano is a rich woman who uses her status to get what she wants from him. Nitta is bending to her because he doesn’t want to be in debt. Their relationship is coercive, even if he enjoys being able to bang Kano on the regular.

I was also wondering about Kano’s age that never gets addressed in-story. I had managed to gather that she had at least finished high school and hadn’t started any university. This put her at around 18-19 or possibly 20 years old. Her twintail hairstyle seemed like a childish choice but I think it highlighted her immaturity or unwillingness to grow up and take responsibility for herself. When she gets serious she changes her hair to a more mature style.

 

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Which saves us the problem of age.

 

 

 

A few subplots go nowhere and one villain goes free. We never find out what happens to Kano’s former flame Yuki and his aspirations. No talk of Nitta’s brother or the journalist either. We don’t know what happens to the rest of Kano’s friends once she ditches them. Maybe it’s for the better, who knows? The story kind of just ends and leaves the rest to our imagination.

 

What Do I Think?

While this is one of my personal favorites I will admit that it’s kind of a cheap thrill. It’s not the worst kind of smut out there. I’ve read much, much, MUCH worse than this and if you read shojou, hentai, or smut on the regular you will understand.

The sex scenes are pretty awesome. Exhibitionism seems to be a running kink in this story because Nitta and Kano; as well as a few other characters, get it on while risking getting caught in public and semi-public places. There’s also sex used as a bartering tool for information and sex used as recreation at parties.

I think the artist does a fair job trying to paint sex in different lights. Sex between Kano and Nitta is painted as antagonistic and uneven before finally becoming loving. Sex between villainous or amoral characters is seen as creepy and controlling. On the other hand, sex with the journalist and Nitta’s brother is painted as comedic and lighthearted.

I also feel like this novel captures a sort of “wish fulfillment” fantasy. This story is meant to be a fantasy and isn’t something you should hope to experience. This point is driven home by the reality that Nitta’s ditching work eventually gets him fired. Kano has to come face to face with her trauma. The two also part ways, unlikely to see each other again. It’s a whirlwind of emotion and not all of it is dealt with. The timeskip is the only thing that gives us any sort of catharsis and it’s a bit of a punch in the gut.

The artwork is fairly nice. It’s clear that Chihiro Harumi has a preference for large breasts and great fashion. Kano and various other female characters get some pretty sweet getup. There is some fanservice but it doesn’t feel forced. For instance: having short skirts but without thigh high stockings.

This manga will always be on the top of my most wanted list for years to come. It’s always one of the first I recommend to those new to the genre of ecchi.

Final Grade: 8/10

Available for purchase on Amazon

There’s also a live-action version that I’ve never seen:

 

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Maybe I’ll get my hands on it on day?

 

The Problem With Lunafreya

As A Character

I honestly wanted to like Lunafreya. I’m a fan of princess characters with mysterious powers who can communicate between Heaven and Earth. Lunafreya as the Oracle in Final Fantasy 15 was something to look forward to. I wanted to see her powers in action and just what she could be capable of.
And in the moment I got to see her doing something fucking spectacular…she gets Aerithed. Unceremoniously stabbed through the stomach like her predecessor and dying without serving any real purpose besides giving Noctis–her supposed beloved–the extra power he needs to fight the Leviathan.

 

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Seriously, what the fuck? She didn’t even stab anyone with that trident!

The worst part was I didn’t get to see her personality. I saw her in flashbacks and heard her voice on the radio but I all I could gather from her was that she was…a good person. She seemed very selfless and kind and ridiculously pure. And because of all those things, she fell flat. She fell into a mixture of purity/prop tropes:

  • 100% Adoration Rating
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold
  • Barrier Maiden
  • Too Good for this Sinful Earth

Granted, she’s a very important character. When I watched her tell off the Leviathan, I was proud of her. When she spoke up for mankind, I cheered. I actually really liked her portrayal and how she stood her ground and fought for what she believed in. And when she died I was actually more angry than sad. Was that it? Was that all she was good for?

 

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Okay she DID use it for something.

Granted, I’m not finished with the game, but since spoilers are everywhere and TVTropes exists I learned a lot about the game as a whole. I know there are lots of tie-in materials that expand upon her as a character that make her more complex. I do plan on reading and watching all the extra material; but even after all that I will probably still feel like she’s still a flat character and extremely shallow love-interest.

 

As A Love Interest

Let me get this out there: I’m a BIG fan of romance. I LOVE love stories. I love it when characters fall in love and get together. I am a sucker for that stuff. I get sick off of it. I like romance in video games…when it makes sense and it’s portrayed with realism.

 

Apparently in 15 Noctis and Luna are engaged to be married, but that’s okay because they were childhood sweethearts! Except we never really see that in-game. The two characters don’t interact with each other on-screen except for flashbacks which don’t actually drive home the point. They don’t communicate except through Umbra–Noctis’ pet dog–in a world where cellphone style devices are A CONFIRMED THING.

While Noctis is a fairly private person and doesn’t gush about her openly, I would at least hope to hear some inner monologue about her or see more tender moments between him and Luna. I want to believe he loves her. Their portrayal end game is something out of a fairytale.

 

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And they lived happily in the ever-after.

 

 

 

But Luna ends up as more of a satellite love interest. Her death is seen as a big deal and Noctis visibly suffers from depression because of it, withdrawing and shutting down. No real resolve is seen until the end where (depending on the ending and how optimistic you are) Noctis actually dies and is reunited with her in the afterlife. While I have no issue with this as an ending trope, it feels shoehorned in with no catharsis given.

 

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Does this remind you of anything?

 

The Alternatives

I can think of several ways that Lunafeya could’ve become the character that she deserved to be. I read no fanfiction to come about with these conclusions.

  • Fighting the Leviathan alongside Noctis. This is my personal favorite idea. The Leviathan Battle was the PERFECT opportunity to see Luna as a fighting character. Imagine her Oracle powers countering Leviathan strikes combined with Noct’s warping abilities. If I could animate this I would because it would have been EPIC. Luna was never a Lady of War, but it if she had hidden fighting skill, this could be shown off. If only she had ceremonial armor to wear instead of/along side of that dress of hers. And if she aboslutely had to die in the end, it would have been perfect for her to die after giving it her all in battle instead of getting knifed by Discount Sephiroth Ardyn.
  • More Flashbacks and Cutscenes with Noctis. In Final Fantasy: Advent Children we see Cloud plagued with memories of Aerith dying. A variation of that could have occurred throughout the game where Noctis sees things that remind him of her or writes in a diary. There are little things that can be done to build relationships between characters that we are supposed to believe have a connection without being on-screen together. He can look at cell phone pictures, send text messages, hold onto trinkets she gave him, have crushed flowers, humming her favorite music. Even flashbacks to memories of them holding hands, embracing, or admitting feelings can give the impression that they’re closer than the game actually showed.
  • Not Killing Her at All. Lunafreya didn’t need to die in this game. We didn’t need to see another Aerith death scene. We didn’t need to see a fanfic rewrite of Sephiroth stabbing her to spite the hero. She could have been more like Yuna from Final Fantasy X who ended up fighting and defeating Sin alongside her friends.
  • Not Making Her a Love Interest. In spite of her and Noct being connected and seeming like they can’t be seperated was making her a love interest really necessary? Arranged marriage aside, both parties agreeing to it out of sense of duty rather than actually being in love is a reasonable outcome. Noctis being relieved to be marrying someone he knows rather than a stranger is acceptable. Luna being willing to marry out of desire to fulfill her duty aside from romantic interest is an okay plot point. I personally ship them together, but they don’t have to be. She can still be meaningful without being a (convenient) love interest.
  • Making A Love Triangle. Could she be in love with someone else? Could Noctis be in love with someone else? I’d like to point out that Ignis loves Noct more than Luna does and it shows in the game. A love triangle seemd to exist in the actual game; and Luna getting killed off felt like a Die for Our Ship moment only to be overhauled by killing off Noctis and leaving Ignis by himself. I personally don’t like this idea as much, but it’s still better than what we ended up getting: a bunch of ambiguity and undertones that never get explained.
  • Making Her the Lead Instead of Noctis. Lunafreya is actually a very interesting character on her own. With games like Bayonetta existing in this world I’m surprised we didn’t have this game from a female perspective. I feel like this could be a coming of age story for her and it could be every bit as harrowing as the current game. If the roles were switched, Luna being the Crown Princess and Noctis being the Oracle, it would still make for an exciting game that MANY people would play.
  • Happy Ending. Any variation of Luna surviving to the end and her and Noctis getting married and Babies Ever After. All the guys get love interests: Prompto gets with Cindy (maybe), Gladio gets with Aranea, and Ignis and Noctis form a polyamorous bond with…Luna(?). Or Luna steps aside and lets Noct and Ignis be happy together.
  • Not Making Her Blonde. She looks like discount Naminé.

Conclusion

All in all I like Lunafreya. I just wanted better for her. I don’t like female characters getting stuffed in fridges. I hate manic pixie dream girl tropes. I hate female characters having to die to serve as a male character’s motivation. I don’t want women dying to serve as just a plot point and nothing more.

There’s always fanfiction though…