Branching Paths (2016) Review


Branching Paths (2016), directed by Anne Ferrero

Production Company: Assemblage | Length: 83 min || Rating: 9/10

Branching Paths is a documentary that follows the director’s in-depth examination of the Japanese indie game scene.  Throughout the documentary, which spans over the course of 2013 to 2015, you’ll see just how diverse it really is; all sorts of different people are introduced in Branching Paths.  Of course most are of Japanese nationality, but there is a swath of internationalism that makes its way into the documentary, with westerners creating a foothold in Japan and becoming part of the diverse fabric that makes up the Japanese indie game scene.

The director takes a low-key narrating role when needed.  Much of the narrative is pushed by the interviews and text that pops up on the screen saying what event we are at and what the purpose of it is.  A series of indie game events occur in Japan during the time span of the documentary, and we revisit the same events in different years, which shows the subtle changes, recurring faces and recurring games to see their progress.  Games we are introduced to pop-up throughout the different events: Million Onion Hotel, Downwell, and TorqueL among others.

Much of the interviews focus on the culture and market of Japan as a whole and how North America is the biggest market for their indie games despite developing them in Japan.  Because the PC game market in Japan is so small, it is important for developers to make their games available on mobile or consoles, whereas to appeal to the North American market they almost always need to be on PC.  Many games are crowdsourced or find their success in the North American market before being able to become successful in Japan.  We also see the progression of the promotion of indie games by big publishers such as Sony and Microsoft, carving out spaces at the Tokyo Game Show, and creating an event just for indies in the form of BitSummit.

Interviews with higher profile Japanese indie developers such as Keiji Inafune of Mighty No. 9, Lucas Pope of Papers Please, Dylan Cuthbert of Pixel Junk (Q-Games), and IGA of Castlevania fame also make their way into the documentary.  It is interesting to learn a little bit about the similarities between indie developers no matter their origins.  There are many other lesser-known/locally known people who add to the composition of the documentary.  A segment of the documentary also explores the blurring of the lines between traditional “doujin” (self-published) media like comic books and the indie game market.

We don’t really get to know much about the director herself other than she was born in France, and grew up on Japanese games.  It would have been nice to learn a little more about the director during the first part of the movie, but it was obvious they didn’t want to lose focus from what the actual subject of the documentary was.  The director is possibly on screen one or two times but her personal journey feels more like a disembodied journey as a result.  She narrates two or three times and the last part of the documentary she doesn’t make any other narrations.  The quality of the cinematography is quite good, and I was only frazzled by a couple of weird shots they kept re-using, such as focusing in on a person’s top half of their head and not seeing their mouth, or people’s fingers.  B-roll like this probably could have been better replaced by more video about that developer’s game or something.

Another thing to note about Branching Paths, is that it is subtitled about 90% of the time.  The documentary is interestingly multilingual as you’ll see most interviews in Japanese, a few interviews in English, and the bits of narration done in French.  If you aren’t a fan of subtitles, it might not be for you, but you’d have to be gifted in language to enjoy this without subtitles.  It would have also been nice if the documentary spaced out interviews a bit at times so as to not have to read subtitles while also having to read titling about events/dates.

Branching Paths is an interesting look into a niche market in the overall gaming industry.  A lot of focus has been put on indie gaming and mobile gaming in the past few years, and focusing on this area is a unique subject.  Most of what is learned in this documentary may be more interesting for people who aren’t particularly sensitive to the nuances of gaming culture/markets, but even I learned a few things from this documentary.  It held my interest throughout and didn’t really drag at any point.  Branching Paths is available on Steam for $9.99.

A trailer for the documentary can be seen below:


What Do You Know About Killumbus?

Killumbus was in his castle, counting his stacks of money.  Scholars have asked each other, “what do you know about Killumbus?” and their answers have always been “not much.”

What they do know, is unconfirmed at best.

What they do know is the following:

  • He might live in that big castle over there.
  • He might have lots of money.
  • He might have killed lots of people to get it.

Killumbus was once an explorer of nations.  He took his fleet of ships through the seas and found new people to kill.  He kept a room of massacred bones from magical peoples, living in self-imposed exile.  As his name might imply, he couldn’t stop killing.  Everyone.

Killumbus’ weapon of choice was the fan of knives.  He would throw knives up to 250 yards with deadly (that’s a pun) accuracy.  Once when he had visited the Exiled Land of Juziviel, Killumbus had already stuck a knife in 40% of the island’s population from the assaulting rowboats.  The massacre took only three days, and once the dead bodies had been deboned, they put them on the barges and shipped them to the next target on their map.

Killumbus’ Magical Map was a map that allowed them to find magical and mystical places that were hidden from the normal explorers of the world who did not want to kill everyone they saw.  Killumbus’ greatest conquest came in the form of the country of Debrine.

Debrine was a fantastical country full of prosperity and equality.  The culture of Debrine had evolved over centuries to become one of valuing your community and promoting self-worth.  As a result, Debrine’s streets were always clean and there was never any traffic.  Yes, life was good in Debrine, until its streets were full of blood.

Killumbus rode in on the coattails of the night, when many of the guard towers of Debrine had begun their transitional period of turning the lights on.  But since they didn’t have timers in their lighthouses, they always had to judge whether it was a good time to turn on the lights once the sun had begun to lose its light.  Killumbus and his elite squad of bad asses rowed in right underneath their noses, climbed up the infiltrated guard tower and chewed up the guard beyond recognition.

The country of Debrine was as big as a large metropolitan city, and to eliminate a city full of hundreds of thousands of people was going to take a long time.  Killumbus established the Guard Tower as his base of operations and renamed the beach into Killumbus’ Landing.  The Guard Tower was also expanded into a proper castle, in which Killumbus now resides.

The government officials of Debrine did not understand how an outsider was able to find their land, considering a magical sorcerer had enchanted their land with a hiding spell.  When one of the ambassadors came to open negotiations with the hostile force, he had met Killumbus in his base of operations – well before the castle had been created.

Not much has been publically released to Debrine as to what had transpired.  But this is what happened:

  • The ambassador of Debrine was led into Killumbus’ tent.
  • The ambassador of Debrine was instantly stabbed and began spewing blood.
  • The ambassador of Debrine had his intenstines removed.
  • The ambassador of Debrine was then choked with his own intestine.
  • The ambassador of Debrine’s lifeless body was hung outside on a pole for all to see.

Needless to say, Killumbus was one sadistic a-hole.

While the government of Debrine deliberated what they should do to repel the intruders, Killumbus and his crew fortified their position and eventually he built his castle.

Why was Killumbus such a sadistic bad ass?  Well, let’s start at the beginning.

It was recess in Kindergarten at Joy Flower Elementary school in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Killumbus’ original name was Christopher Kohlrhombus and he liked to watch cartoons.  His mother was a businessman and his dad was a female stripper.  Before you ask why you are so confused about the way the genders are referenced, maybe you should ask yourself why you are so gender-biased and re-evaluate the way you live your life.

One day at Kindergarten class, Mrs. Gallagher played the piano, signaling that it was time to stop having fun and start being real.  On their way in, Christopher and his friend Christopher put away their imaginary swords after re-enacting an episode of their favorite TV show Pensacoli Wily Weasel Fighters.  They always had fun running around fighting each other and they were good friends.  Poor Christopher Kohlrhombus never saw this friend again after that day, because when they graduated from Kindergarten they went to different first grade classes that never interacted with each other.  Christopher had built this relationship over the course of a year only to have it thrown away by society’s bureaucracy.  He might not have cared as much if some loser from 2nd grade said that going into 1st grade wasn’t that scary because he still got to hang out with all of his same friends from Kindergarten.  Why did he have to lie?  Instead of having the same friends he had NO friends because he didn’t see the same people he used to go to school with.  It’s not like his mother let him go anywhere during the weekdays, so the friends he did have stopped wanting to hang out with him.

Anyway, Christopher was in the backyard of his apartment building, digging at the ground because he had nothing else better to do.  He lived in an apartment complex and for some awful reason they planted two ugly trees behind the building.  A wizard by the name of Magister Buy1Get1Free was growing senile and had decided that very week to hide his map full of magical secrets between these two ugly trees because he thought the map would grow a more beautiful tree.  Don’t ask me why he thought that, he is senile for a reason.

Christopher spent all day digging, since he had no hobbies at the time, and found the map.  At first the little boy thought he had found a treasure map!   But really what it was is a map to a map.  And it was also a map to all the coin-operated laundromats in the city.

Not five minutes after having found the map, the asshole boy Fookfase The Asshole Kid started throwing ice cubes at Christopher!!  He pelted him pretty good this time because he caught Christopher off guard.  Christopher had to run home with ice scratches forming on his arms and legs.

Christopher, with map in hand, ran to get his baseball glove to run back outside to catch the ice cubes being thrown at him and throw them back.  But his mom asked him what he was doing.

“I’m going to go catch ice cubes and throw them back at that guy throwing them at me.”

“Oh no, you’re not.  That’s too dangerous and I don’t want you getting into trouble.  That’s why I took you out of tee-ball, I don’t want you getting hit by baseballs or ice cubes, for that matter!”

So, bored and shamed Christopher was confined to his room for the rest of the day playing video games and rubbing his scratches instead of taking revenge on the bully he had seen only once before.  Christopher looked at his map – it showed the path to a secret room in the apartment complex that may have been interesting.

Under the guise of night (at 7 pm), after his parents had gone to sleep, Christopher left with his map and started walking through the apartment complex.  He approximated the directions of the map and he came to a room which he had only seen once or twice before.  In reality, it was the senile wizard, Magister Buy1Get1Free’s apartment.  He pays 350 dollars a month on average for the room because half the time he’s able to make it disappear and make everyone forget about it, but since he’s getting older he forgets to hide his apartment from people’s minds on rent day.

Christopher touched the doorknob with his hand at which point the door disintegrated into magical dust and a dark room appeared before him.  There, on a couch sitting and staring into the dark room in front of him was Magister Buy1Get1Free.  His apartment was strangely decorated – there was two of everything; two TVs, two couches, two lamps, two dining room tables, and two microwaves among other things.

“So, you’ve found my map, have you?”

“Y-y-y-yes, sir.”  The young boy replied.

“That map you have holds special power, my young friend…  it allows you to see what is not there.”

Christopher looked with amazement at what he held in his hands.  The treasure was not what was ON the map, the treasure WAS the map!

“Let me tell you, young friend.  I am getting old.  I am not as sensible as I once was.  My years of extreme couponing and buying one item to get one free have taken its toll on me.  And my sanity.  Too much free stuff goes against free enterprise and the economic system we have in place, and as a result I have grown senile with guilt of taking advantage of those multi-million dollar corporations.”  Magister Buy1Get1Free rambled on.

Christopher didn’t understand anything the guy was talking about.  He was like 6 years old.

“I can grant you a power to destroy those whom you call your adversaries.  With that map in hand, you will have the power to end all of those bullies and assholes *I* encountered during my journeys.  I will use you to exact my vengeance…!”

With that statement, Magister Buy1Get1Free got off of his plastic-protected couch and waved his arm around.  Two staves flew into his hands and he waved them around.

“Young boy whom I do not know the name of…!!  You will now be a bloodthirsty maniac of the high seas and destroy the most sacred secrets this world has to offer, one by one!”

Christopher floated in the air and he began to shout as his thoughts became pure bloodlust.  Senile magic created a monster that would one day kill millions of magical peoples and destroy their civilizations.  He had created Killumbus.

Killumbus was given his magical Buy1Get1Free Fan of Knives set that allowed him to spawn two knives for every one thrown.  Hundreds of knives were at his disposal, and each were recoverable by encanting his retrieval spell.  Killumbus was one of the forefront killing machines ever created.

To set sail on his journey, he would need to acquire a crew of the most sadistic homicidal maniacs ever known.  Fookfase The Asshole Kid, with his special ice cube throwing skills, was immediately abducted and magically (literally) convinced to accompany Killumbus.  Other punk kids from the neighborhood, like Mark the Indian Burner, Carlo the Shark Biter, Stephen the Pincher, and Joy Love the Biker Bitch made up the core of Killumbus’ crew.  Their normal identities were erased from memory and Magister Buy1Get1Free conjured up ships for each of his core crew to command.  The Magister hid in the deep bowels of Killumbus’ Rhombus Destroyer.  The other ships were named The Friction Conviction, The Big Biter, The Ouchy Pincher, and Hell’s Envoy.  For the next 15 years, these ships had tracked down and destroyed one civilization after another and ended up on the shore of Debrine in the year 2012.

The Debrine campaign has just begun.

To be continued…?


The Control of American Culture

The control of American culture comes from the government, and those who have influence on our everyday lives.  For example, the government imposes dress codes, bans books, etc.  So that eventually one day these things will come into normal practice without second thinking their choice, as if these bans on laws on ridiculous things were never there.  With the dress code for instance, they intend to make everyone not wear certain types of clothing.

Since students can’t wear them, demand for them goes down and eventually is erased from existence, as habits are built on the next generation to not wear these types of clothing ever again.  This goes for anything else that is trying to alter the way we think or how we want to do things so that they will have more and more control over culture, and us, according to an unknown group controlling it all.


What is Culture?

Culture is a way of life made up of religion and values, languages, social, or qanizahms customs and traditions, artistic expressions, and economic orginizations made by stupid people, during stupid, untechnological times that probably cant explain what a piece of poop in a can of beans is doing there in the first place, or tell you why i’m writing this thing!