The Rice Digital Friday Letters Page, December 17, 2021 – Workshopping it

The Rice Digital Friday Letters Page

A good afternoon to you all, and a hearty welcome to the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page. After a long week full of peculiar happenings, it’s going to be nice to kick back with an espresso martini or ten and enjoy anime girls in their native habitats.

As always, you’re free to drop us a note at any point during the week, either by using the widget on the right-hand side of the site itself, or by replying to the Rice Digital Weekly Digest. We love to hear from you, so don’t be shy — get writing!

All right, let’s jump right into proceedings for today, shall we?

Fanart by Tucana. Original source no longer online.

Give a girl a cauldron

Dear Rice,

I would like to start the Atelier saga. Where should I start from? Thanks for your kind replies!

Kerift


Hi Kerift, and thanks for another great prompt for me to go off on one about something I like. Atelier eh? Well, as you’ve doubtless noticed, it’s a pretty sprawling and daunting series — but don’t feel like you need to tackle it all in one go. In fact, it’s rather conveniently split into smaller sub-series, each of which have their own completely separate world, theme and characters — much as individual Final Fantasy games simply share a few elements in common rather than being directly connected, Atelier mini-series also stand apart from one another.

Opinions vary enormously as to which Atelier games are “best”, because each one — even within an individual subseries — tends to be quite noticeably different from the last. Probably the most consistently popular subseries is the Dusk trilogy, though, which consists of Atelier Ayesha, Atelier Escha & Logy and Atelier Shallie. Of those three, Atelier Escha & Logy is probably most commonly cited as a favourite among Atelier fans, but it’s helpful to play Ayesha first for a bit of narrative context. Plus Ayesha’s final boss music will make you cry, and that’s always a bonus in my book.

A lot of people have a soft spot for the Arland trilogy, which, on its original PlayStation 3 release, was the birthplace of what we can think of as Atelier’s “modern age” — it’s when the series switched from using pixel art sprites to polygonal graphics. Interestingly, though, the structure of Atelier Rorona is closer to the very first (unlocalised) installments in the series back on PlayStation 1 — presenting you with strict time limits to accomplish specific objectives rather than being globetrotting adventures.

Letters page: Atelier Ayesha
Atelier Ayesha has one of the prettiest protagonists in the series.

If you have the hardware to play them — and deep pockets, since they can be a bit pricey today — the five localised PS2 installments (three Atelier Iris and two Mana Khemia) games are well worth playing; they’re actually some of my favourites in the series, though it’s perhaps worth noting that the Atelier Iris games in particular are not really representative of the series as a whole; they feel a bit more like “conventional” RPGs that just happen to have a crafting component. They’re good, though, and have some of the most beautiful visuals and music on the PlayStation 2.

I’ve been playing through all of the Ateliers in sequence for the past year and a bit and I’m presently halfway through Lydie & Suelle. So far my personal favourites have been Atelier Shallie and Atelier Firis — though in Shallie’s case the narrative needs the context of the previous two Dusk games, and likewise Firis benefits from having played Sophie first.

I am actually yet to get to the two Ryza games, but they’re pretty commonly agreed to be a good entry point to the series if you’ve never encountered it before, so if you really can’t make your mind up, starting with Ryza is a pretty safe option.

Or, if you want to go the whole hog and play all the ones that came out in English, you go Atelier Iris, Atelier Iris 2, Atelier Iris 3, Mana Khemia, Mana Khemia 2, Atelier Rorona, Atelier Totori, Atelier Meruru, Atelier Lulua, Atelier Ayesha, Atelier Escha & Logy, Atelier Shallie, Atelier Sophie, Atelier Firis, Atelier Lydie & Suelle, Atelier Sophie 2 (when it comes out), Atelier Ryza, Atelier Ryza 2. And add Nelke and the Legendary Alchemists into the mix if you really want the complete experience — though technically that’s a series fanservice spinoff rather than a mainline entry.

Clear enough for you? Probably not. Pick the one with the cutest girl on the cover and start there. Job done.

Top-tier character Mimimi

Dear Rice,

I see you’ve been enjoying Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki. Did you know Mimimi (best girl) has her own manga? Not sure if it’s available in English yet.

Tama-chan


Hello Tama-chan (nice) and welcome to the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page. Yes, while reading up a bit on the series as a whole the other day I happened to notice that Mimimi is getting her own manga spinoff. Apparently it’s coming west in March of next year — you can preorder it on Amazon right now, though there isn’t any cover art or info on the product page as yet.

Letters Page: Mimimi
Mimimi. Mi. Mi. Mi. Miiiii. Miiii! Mi.

Apparently it’s been available in Japanese since 2020, and there are two volumes at the time of writing — the second of which only came out in September of 2021. It’s written by Yuki Yaku, author of the Tomozaki light novels, and features art by both the light novels’ illustrator Fly and mangaka Bana Yoshida, the latter of whom has also worked on Hitoriyogari and Yano-kun ni Oshi Hen wa Dekinai! — these aren’t works I’m super familiar with myself, but perhaps someone in the Rice community has come across them before?

Anyway, I’m looking forward to the new manga — which will be known as Minami Nanami Wants to Shine (or possibly Nanami Minami Wants to Shine) — because, as you say, Mimimi is absolutely Best Girl in the Tomozaki series. She’s charming, she’s friendly, she’s supportive and she has her own things that she’s dealing with, making her an interesting character to get to know as the series progresses. I’m intrigued to see what she gets up to on her own, and I’ll be sure to report on her shenanigans at the earliest available opportunity.

Baka, ecchi, eropatissier, hentai etc

Dear Rice,

Thanks for covering some hentai recently, I feel like it’s a field that doesn’t get much in the way of meaningful commentary. In some cases, there’s not a lot to comment on, of course, but there are also plenty of hentai series (like Bible Black, which you brought up in one of your articles) that do some interesting things besides just being porn. Kind of like 18+ visual novels, I guess.

coffeebeast


Hi coffeebeast, and thanks for your letter. Yes, my feelings exactly — there are a lot of hentai artists out there doing amazing work, not to mention hard-working people localising this stuff for English speakers and often getting completely snubbed — and I feel it’s worth drawing attention to the things out there that are interesting and/or that might be of interest to Rice readers.

I was actually a little wary about posting that “best hentai anime” piece because it was a lot more… up-front about things than some of the other stuff we’ve previously posted on here, but the response I’ve had (to my face, anyway) has been nothing but positive, with a lot of people actually going out of their way to thank me for recommending some stuff they’d never heard of, and for treating the whole subject with a certain amount of respect.

Letters page: Hentai

As you say, some hentai is just dumb fun designed to be pure pornography — and that’s absolutely fine, because it’s often designed to get people off in specific ways by catering to particular fetishes. And you’ll often find even in the most sex-crazed hentai that there’s a certain amount of effort made with characterisation, character design and context — certainly more than you get in your average western porn these days anyway. I don’t think I ever want to hear the word “stepbrother” again.

But then you also have stuff like Bible Black, which is genuinely interesting to watch just… you know, to watch, rather than to bash one out to. Okay, it may not be something you talk at length about at the dinner table, but there’s still something meaningful to take from that series besides “my dicc hard” (or ladyboner equivalent).

So with that in mind, when the opportunity arises, we’ll do some more hentai stuff here. I’d like to explore the weird and wacky world of hentai you can get on Amazon further, because the very concept of that simply amuses me — but I also want to give some love to the people who are working hard to bring us both digital and physical copies of quality filth.

So watch this space, I guess. And if there’s anything in particular you’d like us to take a look at, be sure to let us know!


And we’re done for another week! Have yourself a thoroughly lovely weekend — and make sure you get that Christmas shopping done if you haven’t already, ’cause in case you hadn’t noticed, Christmas is next weekend!

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