My Little Pony, Touhou, and a Corporate Doujin Culture

My god…A My Little Pony version of the 1st Cardcaptor Sakura OP. And it’s done perfectly.

What I truly love about MLP:FiM is the extent of the fanworks. I’ve seen some people say, “I watched a few episodes, but couldn’t get into it.” If they only watch the actual show, though, they’re missing out. Take this video, for example: all the characters in it are background ponies, who appeared in as little as 15 seconds of the TV show. Despite that, fanon has given them personalities, involved backstories, and miles of fanart. It’s like Koakuma, but on overdrive. MLP might even become the American equivalent of Touhou Project, if more doujinshi is churned out. Already, though, this simple children’s cartoon has been reinterpreted so many ways. It’s:

– A symbol of resistance against traditional gender roles.
– An endless source of memetic humor.
– A yuri ship-fest for socially maladjusted males to deal with their sexual issues in a cute, non-threatening way.
– A world of high fantasy, with epic roleplaying campaigns and historical chronicles
– A new call for optimism, sincerity, and interpersonal relationships in a consumption-driven world lacking all those things

There’s one difference I worry about, though. Doujin works like Touhou Project and Ryukishi07’s “When They Cry Games” are made by individual autuers. But My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is the intellectual property of a large corporation. They’ve been surprisingly lenient in allowing fanworks. They haven’t moved a finger against entire sites purely dedicated to My Little Pony fanporn, or a project for a My Little Pony dating sim. With ZUN cracking down on White Canvas for selling Touhou goods recently, Hasbro might be even more lenient than some Japanese doujin authors. And Hasbro might exert less influence on fan interpretations. With an autuer, fans are likely to accept new fanon-destroying canon without resistance. But with Hasbro, fans are less likely to accept a corporation’s canon as authoritative, as witnessed with the Lyra/Heartstrings controversy. But how long can this corporate lenience last? There’s a balance between the consumers they’d alienate by going all Cease & Desist, and the perceived brand damage from being associated with “creepy weirdos.” They might want to please the fanbase and keep the social media hype going, but the brony demographic is still a relatively small part of their profits. There are no hard numbers, but I couldn’t see it being much higher than 15 or 25% of MLP merchandise sales. For now at least, Hasbro continues to embrace the brony fandom. And hopefully they will long enough for us to see more awesome fan animations.

Master Merchant, Japan Does Dominion

Master Merchant (大商人) is a board game first sold at the 2011 Summer Comiket, just one more piece of, “No, Comiket isn’t just for porn.” Not only that, but it’s a board game that makes me go DO WANT.

Master Merchant is heavily influenced by Dominion, possibly my favorite tabletop game ever. Like Magic: the Gathering before it, Dominion created an entire genre: the “Deck Building Game,” or DBG. Unlike CCGs, with DBGs you ‘ll never spend your life savings on artificially-scarce chase rares. Instead of bringing a deck beforehand, you build your deck as you play. And instead of booster packs, all players draw from the same pool of cards, which changes every game. Dominion’s elegant gameplay won it the 2009 Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year), as well as many other awards. It’s also become huge in Japan, spawning everything from a licensed Touhou version to moe maid variants.

The same card, in classic Dominion and Touhou version. Superior?

Tanto Cuore, on the other hand, takes more liberties.

Master Merchant owes a lot to DBGs before it, but with real twists on the classic mechanics. First of all, there’s no random drawing from the deck, and no shuffling. Instead of drawing 5 random cards each turn, your draw your entire deck at once, and draw it all back from the discard once you run out. It’s really more of a “Hand Building Game,” in a sense. It gives the game a very different feel, since you can plan around your opponent’s moves with exact precision. For components, instead of huge piles of each Kingdom card, the most copies of any card is 4. That keeps print costs down, making it easier to release expansions (which hopefully they will). All in all, the mechanics seem to be much tighter and tactical. Although, they also risk making the game more solvable.

Luckily I won’t have to wait too long to see how they play out: it also has English subtitles on each card, alongside the Japanese. It’s still hard to import a copy, though. It’ll be sold at the Essen Game Fair 2011 in Germany, and hopefully get a wider international release after.