That feeling is confusion, but confusion is often a key emotion when reflecting with artworks, it’s not a necessary one but it’s the one that holds you in the ‘what is going on?’ as you encounter art, which is part of the collection of feelings of sublimation that you can let art inspire. I’m feeling that going into level 9 of Ranko Tsukigime’s Longest Day, a 2014 sidescrolling game for the PS3 that holds together the threads between the several anime films in the short film series Short Peace and represents the project’s fifth instalment, an attempt to represent a contemporary Japan in the early 2010s.
The game’s cutscene animation has just taken on a new style, vibrantly textured rotoscoped digital painting that focuses on big facial expressions and an unsettling fluidity, feeling like experimental anime like Belladonna of Sadness, that develops into an absurdist take on the magical girl transformation beginning after Ranko and her friend have dealt with a series of occurrences –
you just killed a dragon, who was formerly your friend, and who murdered the hot guy whose bike you rode here and had a mech, because you, a 17 year old killer who lives in hi-tech shipping containers in parking lots, assassinated someone they loved. Maybe?
Anyway, you’re here because you’re on your way to kill your dad. Did I mention that? –
The shift in style is visceral, from the scene prior, the arrival at the fight, which used standardised TV/film quality anime style in which melodrama feels like home, to this, which ratchets up the elasticity of the characters’ faces while remaining rigid, and the vibrancy of the colours, into a distressingly compelling place that draws attention to its artificiality.
This is what takes Longest Day, a decent enough side scrolling action game, from being average into something harder to forget, the confusion being built in, trying to create around a series of films reflecting on young people and the fictionalisation of modern Japanese culture at its centre. In the threading together of short animations in various styles with gameplay, breaking them up with interaction that highlights the urgency from the protagonist’s seat, multiple ways to sit with Ranko’s journey as a contemporary image of the tired young woman wrestling with cultural legacy and representation appear, since it’s one that clearly includes being within a composite reality that keeps shifting.
Leaning into that confusion, the game ends with Ranko, having apparently killed her father and sister in another dimension in the future, announcing her spiritual destiny as waves determined to reinstate the base reality and returning to the real world to dance in a karaoke bar with friends. It’s been a long day, and the group of girls are portrayed dancing in the bar in live action as the credits roll, linking it all up to the physical realm of the actual young people the game is trying to think about.
It’s unique to see this bold and strange a vision in a console release, especially for a PS3 exclusive, and copies of it’s European release are elusive.
Oh to become energy, revere my friends and dance around at karaoke bar, knowing that the world is ending, and not knowing what else to do.