The Rice Digital Friday Letters Page, July 16, 2021: Origin stories

The Rice Digital Friday Letters Page

Happy Friday everyone, and a very warm welcome to the latest installment of the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page!

I’m aware it all got a bit serious last week and I make no apologies for that — when attempting to improve a community you sometimes have to step on a few toes and even kick a few people out the door. The long-term benefits of doing so are well worth the short-term annoyances of dealing with persistent troublemakers.

Thankfully, things have only moved in a positive direction ever since, with a noticeable amount more interaction both from people on our Discord and down in the comments section. Keep up that great work — we love hearing from you, and together we can cement this place firmly as a great place to hang out for fans of Asian popular media and culture!

Don’t forget if you want to be part of next week’s Rice Digital Friday Letters Page that you can submit your messages at any time using the “Write to Rice!” widget over on the right of any page. If you can’t see the widget, click the little black arrow thingy and it should pop right out for you. As a reminder, no personal info is collected other than the nom de plume you choose for yourself, so please feel free to write to us with confidence.

And with that in mind, it’s on to this week’s letters!

The Rice Digital Friday Letters Page
Us, IRL. We wish.

Getting to know you, getting to know all about you

Hi Again!

Cheers for all those recommendations on games last time. May or may not have bought a couple. R.I.P my wallet. Oh well!

I wonder if there was any other way to interact with you guys. Like any other socials. Do you have any?

Hope you had a great week!


Hello Smiley, and thanks for joining us once again on the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page! We’ve had a lovely week when we’re not melting in the heat. Thank goodness for powerful fans and portable air conditioning units.

In answer to your question: why yes, yes there is! You can follow us on Twitter at @RiceDigital, and most of the writers have public Twitter accounts too. You can find your illustrious Editor Pete at @MoeGamer, Trent at @TrentLCannon, Conor at @_Conchan and Isaac at @MrRandom28.

We’re also on Facebook here, and we do also have an Instagram, though that hasn’t been very active for a while, I must admit. Likewise our YouTube channel is overdue an update or two — there’s only so many hours in the day and people on the clock, though! In the case of YouTube in particular, we’d love to hear what sort of things you’d like to see in video form, so do please let us know.

Probably the best means of getting in touch with your fellow sushi rolls — and the staff — is the Rice Digital Discord, which you can join by clicking here or in the footer of each and every article. You can chat in real time and everything — and even post pictures! The Internet sure is a strange and wonderful place sometimes. What will they think of next — anime girls driving trucks?

The Discord also plays host to giveaways and other events, and there’s even some game devs and publishers who hang out there if you want to pick their brains, offer suggestions or just offer gushing, adoring praise for working their creative magic with those new-fangled computer gaming devices.

Hope to see you — and anyone else reading this — around there soon!

Fan mail

Dear Rice,

Have you ever experienced burnout while writing for Rice or any other platform? Sorry if this is too personal a question, stay safe 🙂

Your number one fan

Hello our number one fan, and thanks for joining us on the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page! This isn’t too personal a question at all. In fact, I think it’s one eminently worth talking about, as the subject of “burnout” is one that comes up quite often for anyone doing creative things online, be they YouTube videos, streaming, writing, music or anything else that demands any sort of effort and creativity.

I can’t speak for the rest of the team, but to be honest I have remained mostly immune to burnout throughout my career of Doing Stuff Online. At least with regard to the things I write, the videos I make and all that sort of thing — I do often get burnt out on social media, but that’s a rather different topic not directly related to writing, I think. Although the various “algorithms” can be immensely frustrating if you just can’t get something you’re proud of seen by the broader population!

I’ve always taken the attitude that if you produce things that you would enjoy reading or watching, then an appreciative audience will naturally follow. If you produce something that you’re pleased with, then you’ve succeeded in a creative endeavour, regardless of any “results” that might follow in terms of numbers and whatnot.

The Rice Digital Friday Letters Page
Taking a break.

I think a lot of today’s sense of “burnout” from online creative types comes from the unhealthy obsession with “creating content” rather than “writing”, “making videos”, “playing music” and whatever. With the way online culture has developed over the course of the last decade or so, audiences have become very demanding and expect a continual stream of disposable, forgettable “content”; it doesn’t matter what it is, so long as it keeps coming — it’s often forgotten about the next day in favour of the next bit of “content” to “consume”.

We’re not really about that here at Rice Digital. Yes, we like it when our numbers go up and we get lots of shares and people laugh at our memeposting on social media, but all of us here are committed to putting time and effort into the work we produce. We research things thoroughly, we offer up our own experiences where appropriate, and more than anything, we like to think we produce stuff that is valid and meaningful for more than just the day it’s posted; to put it another way, we want everything here on Rice Digital to be a worthwhile read whether you’re reading it the day we publish it, or three years down the line.

Insufferable SEO types call that “evergreen content”, and I’ve seen time and time again that long-term, it’s a far more effective approach at building an audience and a community than daily strings of clickbait or, worse, hatebait. Continually producing clickbait and hatebait is exhausting, particularly when in the latter case in particular you inevitably have to deal with the “hate” part. It doesn’t do anything to foster a sense of community, either; you might get several thousand angry comments on one hatebait article, but very few of those people are ever going to come back.

I’m not saying everyone suffering from burnout is indulging in these less desirable “content strategies”, but the pressure to “create content” is definitely a big part of the issue here. Thankfully, we all love what we do here, and I hope that comes across in our collective work.

Rice: Origins

Hi folks!

I was just wondering: what was the show/VN/game/etc that got each member of the Rice staff to go down this rabbit hole of Japan-derived content?

For me it was probably all the Dragon Ball, Sailor Moon and Doraemon I watched as a kid.


Hi Dex, and thanks for the great question for this week’s Rice Digital Friday Letters Page! I posed this one to the rest of the writers to see what they had to say, as I’m sure everyone has different stories to tell in this regard.

“Luminous Arc on the DS!” says Lilia. “It was one of the earliest JRPGs I was exposed to, simply because no-one in my family played the genre. And the game only caught my attention because of the cover art. If it wasn’t for Luminous Arc, I doubt I would have gotten into visual novels and JRPGs as soon as I did.

“On the same topic as that,” she continues, “my first anime which was not Pokémon was Rumbling Hearts, which was… an experience as a kid, to say the least.”

Rumbling Hearts, if you’re unfamiliar, is a 2003 anime based on a 2001 eroge from the developers of Muv-Luv that, 20 years later, is finally getting localised. The anime is vaguely historically noteworthy for being one of the first anime series to be available via the iTunes Store and the Xbox Live Marketplace. Now you know.

The Rice Digital Friday Letters Page: Rumbling Hearts
Rumbling Hearts

“For me it was Chrono Trigger,” says Trent. “It was the first time I played a game that felt really Japanese, that sucked me in and never let me go. I loved the weirdness. The absolute waifus that it gave me. Ayla Waifu Wednesday when?”

When you write it, Trent. When you write it.

“Maybe Naruto for me,” says Isaac. “It was the first manga I read after it was added to my school’s library. Hard to really pinpoint it for games, though — I’ve never really stuck to just Japanese games.”

Naruto is definitely a solid, reliable way in to Japanese popular entertainment for a lot of people. Some people’s experience with Japanese pop culture begins and ends with Naruto, of course, and that’s absolutely fine — but it also acts as a gateway to an amazing world that many people are all too happy to explore further!

“Any of the anime that made it to UK television for me!” says Conor. “Dragon Ball, Naruto, One Piece and so on. Gurren Lagann is the anime that really got me into ‘anime’ though, and from there I would give any series a chance.

“Games-wise, for me it was the notorious Final Fantasy XIII,” he admits, bravely (though your Editor also likes FFXIII, I should probably add). “I loved it and from there played all the other main numbered Final Fantasies (except V, XI and XII) then fell in love with JRPGs and animu games. Oh, and Bible Black, of course.”

No further questions.

The Rice Digital Friday Letters Page: Bible Black
See, Bible Black can be SFW.

As for me… well, there were several distinct “phases”, really. First was while I was a teenager, and anime first hit the UK as an exciting new “adult” form of entertainment. My brother was working on PC Zone magazine at the time, and the mag had been reporting on the brand new medium’s arrival in the UK — both via Manga Video’s numerous VHS releases and Megatech’s PC game localisation such as Cobra Mission.

I was particularly fascinated by the “adult” side of things, because it felt exciting and forbidden. As part of his coverage, my brother had been sent an enormous crate of promotional pre-release VHS tapes of many different Manga Video-published series, so one day when the rest of the family was out, I picked out a random 18-rated one and decided to watch it.

The video I picked was Urotsukidouji: Legend of the Overfiend, which, as anyone who has experienced it will tell you, is probably not something you would recommend to someone as a gentle introduction to anime as a medium. Still, despite being faintly traumatised by what I had just witnessed, I found the combination of extreme violence, eroticism and mature storytelling to be a fascinating juxtaposition with a presentational style that I had, until that point, associated with “kids’ stuff”.

From there, I watched a bunch more tapes — most of it quite a bit tamer — with standout examples that I still remember being The Heroic Legend of Arislan, Project A-Ko, Ultimate Teacher and Crying Freeman. I was definitely “into it”, but the fact that all these series seemed to be massively long put me off exploring things further for quite some time; as a teen, I didn’t have the money or the space to collect all those VHS cassettes.

I retained an interest in anime-style art, however — particularly the erotic side of things, with hentai sites consistently being rather more appealing to me than “real” porn while I was progressing through the horniest parts of my adolescence.

The Rice Digital Friday Letters Page: Paradise Heights
Paradise Heights: Wet.

When I discovered that a lot of the art I’d been… appreciating was actually from games, I was fascinated, and through a bit of exploration online I stumbled across my first visual novels, including Paradise Heights, Ring-Out!! and True Love ’95. The latter in particular ended up… widely distributed at university. Yes, my cohort was likely a significant part of the reason that Otaku Publishing went belly-up.

Alongside all this, I tried Final Fantasy VII on PS1 after my brother told me “it was the first game he’d played that he’d seen make someone cry”. I knew I wanted a part of that. I bought it, I played it, I cried, and thus began a lifelong obsession with console-style RPGs.

Finally, my modern interest — and specialism in — Japanese games, visual novels and popular culture in general can primarily be attributed to the freeware visual novel Katawa Shoujo. At the time this released, some friends and I were putting out a semi-regular podcast where we did deep dives into various interesting, overlooked and underappreciated gaming experiences — and Katawa Shoujo sounded so interesting and unusual that we knew we had to cover it.

What followed actually ended up breaking up the group altogether, because some people weren’t comfortable with the game at all, and were hesitant to even be associated with it. But others of us found it deeply, deeply fascinating and wanted to talk about it until the end of time. Guess which side I fell on?

The Rice Digital Friday Letters Page: Katawa Shoujo

After experiencing Katawa Shoujo, I decided to explore Japanese visual novels and video games — particularly those which were overlooked, underappreciated, abused or ignored by the mainstream media — in more detail. And I was very surprised to discover an enormous array of emotionally engaging, touching, involving, spectacularly memorable games. Games that were quite unlike the triple-A games I’d felt “obliged” to play in the early days of the HD era in order to keep up with my friends. Games that felt… special. And games that didn’t get talked about with anywhere near the respect they deserved.

The rest… well, here we are. That was a long story, wasn’t it? Go get yourself an ice-cream, you definitely deserve one after that.

And that’s your lot for this week! Hope you enjoyed that — and remember, if you want to get involved next week, just hit up the “Write to Rice!” widget over on the right!

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