Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Heart-Melters #3 - Seung Mina


Who is she?
Soul Calibur is perhaps one of the more historically inaccurate game set in a historical time period, but that's probably because Namco only came up with the individual storylines as a secondary thing to complement its deep fighting gameplay. Seung Mina (now known as Seong Mi-na) was one of the characters that came over from the prequel, Soul Blade. She was the 19-year-old daughter of Seung Han Myong, one of the greatest teachers of martial arts in Korea. Under her father's guidance, Seung Mina becomes well-trained in martial arts. With her Zamba-toh in hand, Seung Mina left to track down the Soul Edge, which she believes just may save Korea. Yet instead of finding the Soul Edge, her suitor Hwang Seung Gyung found her instead and brought her back home. When Seung Mina runs away again, she fights a mysterious enemy (then-Soul series newbie Ivy) and loses badly. Ashamed, she ends up training under a new master and learns a new set of fighting moves (similar to Kilik, another person in the Soul realm). After many years of fighting and other events in Soul Calibur sequels I rarely played, she came to realize that the Soul Edge was an evil sword, and played the role Hwang once played with another, newer character.

Seung Mina's Influence (July 2001 - Winter 2001)
My love life was in a bit of a turmoil between February 2000 and July 2001. During those 17 months, I was largely obsessing over a memory while getting somewhat attracted to most of my real-life classmates and then doing nothing about it. Perhaps it was a period of tremendous opportunity, but I saw it as a rather lackluster period. (The 22 months between the beginning of the Heart-Melter Era and the beginning of the Age of Seung Mina is the second longest period between new Heart-Melters. Interestingly enough, the longest period is the 28 months between the beginning of the Age of Tomo and now.) Anyways, the period soon came to an end thanks to my sister.

My sister had always been a fan of fighting games. She purchased a Dreamcast in early 2001 (for The Typing of the Dead), but quickly realized she'd be able to enjoy games like Shenmue and of course...Soul Calibur. She received the game as a birthday present in July of 2001. I feel that Soul Calibur is starting to gain a reputation of having sexy, busty female characters to go along with its deep fighting system, but all I knew about the game back then was that it received perfect scores from virtually every publication one can think of: IGN, Gamespot, Famitsu, EGM etc. Of course, I learned really early on that it had cute females. I took a liking to Xianghua (as opposed to fan favorites Taki and Ivy), even if she didn't look like somebody from Ming China. However, I remembered that the IGN reviewer for Soul Calibur had praised Seung Mina countless times in his review. I was curious as to what was so great about her, but I hadn't started using Google Images, so I did not find out what Seung Mina looked like until I had unlocked her. However, I was instantly blown away by her gentle features and silky smile. I hadn't come up with the idea of Heart-Melters in 2001, but I knew at the time Seung Mina was something special.

The Age of Seung Mina
Once I unlocked Seung Mina, she became the only thing that I really cared for in Soul Calibur. Sure, Seung Mina never really took over my thoughts like some of the other Heart-Melters had, but for a lonely and desperate 16-year-old that was more attracted to fictional characters than real ones, Seung Mina was as good as it gets. Seung Mina may be a lower ranked character in the Soul Calibur hiearchy, but I liked playing as her nonetheless. I did so originally because she was so cute, and I liked playing just to see her, but the more I played, the better I became at using her. Sure, it's just another example of practice makes perfect, but I achieved my fastest Arcade time using Seung Mina (I remember it was below 3:30) and I used her on the difficult challenges in Mission Mode. I even unlocked everything in the Art Gallery just for pictures of Seung Mina. Unfortunately, there weren't too many of those. (Heck, the Soul Calibur Wiki has a Seung Mina picture from Soul Calibur that I've never seen previously.)

And in the end, Seung Mina was not strong enough to overcome the natural force of change. While I ended up playing Soul Calibur more often than my sister (she didn't have anything to draw her back to the game like I did), it still didn't erase the fact that I was not really a fan of fighters, especially ones that relied on life bars of certain sort. The release of the Gamecube in December of 2001 led to the phasing out of the Dreamcast, and I eventually found myself playing Super Smash Bros. Melee, a fighting game that was more my style. My attraction to Seung Mina was largely tied to the game, and my attraction to her eventually faded by the winter of 2001-2002.

However, while Seung Mina may no longer be at Heart-Melter status, her role as the second Heart-Melter chronologically still makes her quite significant. While I rarely think about the other Heart-Melters after my attraction towards them faded, I still go back to Seung Mina quite often. I still check out pictures of Seung Mina whenever a new Soul Calibur game is released, but I usually end up getting disappointed. Her concept art portraits have been quite cute, but her in-game renders usually leave more to be desired. Ironically, it was it was her in-game beauty that really endeared me to her in the first Soul Calibur game. Needless to say, I didn't play much Soul Calibur II and was never really interested in III and IV. And since it was the first Soul Calibur game that made Seung Mina a Heart-Melter, I'll continue to spell her name the way it was spelled in the first game rather than use the updated spelling in III and IV. I am stubborn like that.

Strength: 5 - Seung Mina may have been the person that jolted me out of a period of attraction towards real females (and started a string of seven Heart-Melters in three short years), but now that I think of it, I didn't really fawn over her as I did over Kaho and Shiori. Sure, I played Soul Calibur a lot more than I would have if I wasn't attracted to Seung Mina, but I didn't obsessively hoard pictures of her or dream about her at nights.

Duration: 4 - The Age of Seung Mina lasted from late July 2001, when I first unlocked her, to around December of 2001, a period of between four and five months. That may not be a very long time, especially now that I'm 24 years old, but the median length of Heart-Melters Ages is three and a half to four months. It sure feels a lot longer in the middle of an Age.

Recurrence: 2 - This is where Seung Mina shines as a Heart-Melter. She may not have had the strongest Age, but I can't quite forget her. I was still eager for new pictures of her even years after she lot the status as a Heart-Melter. In fact, I first found Shiori Fujisaki when I was trying to look for pictures of Seung Mina in April of 2002, a full four months after the end of the Age. I've had somebody comment that my #1 Heart-Melter would become upset by my "two-timing" after posting a picture of Seung Mina on the UVA Gamers message board. This was June of 2008, six and a half years after the end of the Age. She may not have had a second Age like Mona, but Seung Mina's persistence after all these years is enough for earn her the #2 spot.

Overall: 11 - Seung Mina's rankings within the Heart-Melters Gallery has shifted over the year. My initial ranking back in 2005 was chronologically, and Seung Mina ended up in the #2 spot. My next attempt to rank them came in 2006, and that was by strength alone. Seung Mina fell to #3, ahead of even Shiori and Kaho. When I ranked by three qualifications last year, I kept Seung Mina at #3, but I also realized that what made her such a high-ranking Heart-Melter wasn't because my attraction towards her was terribly strong, but incredibly enduring.

Next Up: Lizardbreath

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Heart-Melters #4 - Shiori Fujisaki


Who is she?
Remember the dating sim, the genre popular in Asia that allows men to satisfy some of their fantasies; a genre that included Sister Princess? One of the most popular dating sims is known as Tokimeki Memorial. Tokimeki Memorial has now become a series due to its popularity, but the original Tokimeki Memorial had been a PC/PlayStation/Saturn game in the mid-1990s. The game tells the story of a guy that transferred to a high school in which his childhood sweetheart also attends. That childhood sweetheart is none other than Shiori Fujisaki. The epitome of brains and beauty, Shiori Fujisaki is a painfully attractive straight-A student, and the most popular girl in school. She's got everybody going after her, except you have the advantage because your history with her, but it's going to be a challenge if you want to take it to the next level. You're better off trying to woo the other girls.

Shiori's Influence (April 2002-Fall 2002)
I've known about Tokimeki Memorial since well before April of 2002, although source amnesia has erased all memories of what it could possibly be. I didn't know much about it, but I would soon find out more than I'd ever need to know. By April of 2002, the two other Heart-Melter Ages had come to a close, and I was back to dedicating my love life to a specter. I was trying to revive one of the Ages when I came across Tokimeki Memorial. Basically, I was searching online for pics and came across a German site known as GameBabes. The pics they had weren't anything I hadn't seen before, but I was intrigued, so I explored some of the other games they had. I noticed the title "Tokimeki Memorial," and because I've heard of it from somewhere, I decided to click the link. That was something that changed my life...for the next few months at least. I was introduced to some amazingly cute anime-style girls. I sat there admiring a few of the minor characters, but the ultimate treat came when I clicked on one of the four pages dedicated to Shiori Fujisaki. Actually, to be completely honest, Shiori Fujisaki did not initially stand out from a lot of the other Tokimeki Memorial girls. There were other cute girls vying for my attention...namely Yumi Saotome, Saki Nijino, and Ayako Katagiri. Yet in the end, Shiori's resemblance to the girl I thought I was in love with at the time finally won me over, and she became the crowning girl in Tokimeki Memorial.

The Age of Shiori Fujisaki
I suppose a more appropriate title for this would actually be "The Age of Tokimeki Memorial." Shiori Fujisaki may have been the central character among my interests, but she was not the only one. I did not dedicate all of my attention to a single girl. I had admired many of Shiori's friends as well. So when I went around saving pictures of the girls to satisfy my adolescent obsessions, I went across the scale and saved basically every Tokimeki Memorial pics that struck my fancy instead of pictures of only Shiori Fujisaki. Tokimeki Memorial was a dating sim, and since dating sims were built around images, it wasn't difficult for me to find a lot of great pictures. Within a month, I had saved almost 600 pics of the girls in Tokimeki Memorial. All this picture-saving probably is a little bit odd...but I've always been about seeing more of an individual I found attractive, even when the person was real. With people like Buttercup and Tomo, I satisfied my desires just by watching the shows over and over again. Tokimeki Memorial is a game I probably couldn't understand even if I was able to import it, so the only thing I can do is to save pictures.

Anyways, in late spring of 2002 (around the time I injured my knee pretty badly), I was as you can say...obsessed with Tokimeki Memorial. Shiori and her friends soon invaded my life in various ways. I selected a couple of extremely cute pics and compiled them into a collage, which I printed out and laminated to be able to look at Shiori and friends all day during class. I named my C++ variables in Computer Science class after various Tokimeki Memorial characters. It was truly something that dominated my thoughts. Yet this particular Age was somewhat short-lived compared to the Heart-Melter Ages that came earlier. One thing that really crippled my admiration of Shiori Fujisaki and friends and (and potentially kept it from becoming a crush) is the Age of Buttercup (or my obsession with the Powerpuff Girls). With two concurrent ages, the one that would come out on top is the one I have more access too. So even though Tokimeki Memorial dominated my thoughts, if only for a short period of time, the only connection I had towards it was the 600 or so pictures I had, so my affections slowly faded away.

I went to Taiwan during the summer of 2002, and I found a Chinese copy of Tokimeki Memorial at a bookstore when I was there. There was no mistaking Shiori Fujisaki or Miharu Tatebayashi, both of whom appeared on the box. Better yet, the game had Chinese text, so I'd actually be able to understand it! I eagerly convinced my mom to buy it for me. I played it as soon as I could when I got back the United States...but as you might expect, the game wasn't exactly what I had expected. First of all, it was a really old copy of the game. I was only able to install it on only one of my computers. And more importantly, the game itself was disappointing. It was perhaps 50 times shorter than the Japanese versions I had heard so much about. The game ends when you go on four dates. How can you win the love of anybody with only four dates? And you know what? The character you play as is a pervert! I mean, in one scene, he manages to secure a date with Shiori (or it may have been Saki), but as soon as he saw somebody with a revealing's nosebleed time! When you're on a date with somebody as attractive as Shiori or Saki, you'd best be focusing your attention on that person. The game sealed the coffin for the Age of Shiori Fujisaki. I went and deleted almost all of my pics, keeping only about 50 to remind myself of the weird and wonderful season, but all that's left for Shiori is a permanent spot within the Heart-Melters Gallery.

Strength: 4 - Shiori ranks high in this category since I was so obsessed with Tokimeki Memorial. In fact, I originally had her at the #3 spot ahead of Kaho, since my attraction towards Tokimeki Memorial was a lot stronger than my attraction towards Sister Princess. But then there's the question of force and pressure (force / area.) I was less obsessed with Sister Princess, but most of it was focused on one person: Kaho. I was more obsessed with Tokimeki Memorial, but my attention was spread out among many. So in the end I decided that my attraction towards Kaho was stronger than my attraction towards Shiori. After all, my sister told me that she thought I liked Yumi Saotome more. She never did that with Kaho. Still, a #4 rank is nothing to scoff at.

Duration: 5 - The incident with the game that ended the Age came in August of 2002, just short of four months after the Age first began. At the time I thought it was quite short, but now that I look at it, three and a half months is longer than more than half of the other Heart-Melter Ages.

Recurrence: 6 - Shiori remains my favorite girl in Tokimeki Memorial, and if I ever get a real version of the game I'd definitely go for her. However, my attraction towards the series is pretty dead. I have less than 10% of the pictures I originally had, and I rarely ever look at them. The chance of a recurrence is there, but it hasn't happened yet.

Overall: 15 - Shiori's stock has gone down since I started revisiting the Heart-Melters. In the past she used to be closer to the #3 spot, while now she's barely ahead of Kaho, the #5 spot. In fact, if I count the Strength category twice, which I've thought about doing at times, she'd be tied with Kaho. Nevertheless, Shiori is definitely one of the Heart-Melter Elites, and I think her #4 ranking can attest to that.

Next Up: The Heart and Soul Girl

Monday, March 02, 2009

The Heart-Melters #5 - Kaho


Who is she?
Although the genre is virtually non-existent in America, the dating sim is one of the most popular genres in Asia. Apparently there are a heck of a lot of desperate men willing to spend money to buy games dedicated to cute, anime-style girls. The dating sims range from mild, G-rated fantasies to sexually explicit packages designed to supply the real deal. Sister Princess is a dating sim that would be on the innocent side of the smut spectrum IF...IF it was not filled with incestuous innuendo. The general plot is that there are 12 sisters madly in love with their brother. It's not just the love one would naturally have for their family member. No. It's more than that. They WANT TO MARRY THEIR BROTHER! I've heard of brotherly love, but this is ridiculous! Kaho-chan is one of these 12 sisters, and she may be the second youngest. She's a lovable soul with a bubbly personality and a never-say-die approach to life. She's extremely clumsy and has nary a sense of balance. She trips on almost everything, but usually just laughs it off with one of her heart-melting giggles. She's just so innocently adorable. Oh yeah. Kaho is a cheerleader. Not a very good one, but cute.

Kaho's Influence (February 20, 2005-May 2005)
The story of Kaho's path to the Heart-Melters Gallery begins not long after Katsucon 10 in 2004. During that time, I was driven to compile a list of the 100 cutest anime girls in Word document known as Useless.doc. I'd go around to websites looking up different anime and judging the girls I see in cuteness before ranking them in my list. I should have known that this list would turn out to be useless, since list is just like any other list I tried compiling: I lost interest before I completed it. I managed to include 111 girls, although looking back, I can think of loads of changes I'd make. Maybe Misao shouldn't rank so high (6th.) Perhaps Faye Valentine is a bit too low (somewhere after 50.) However, what really killed the list was a particular anime known as Sister Princess. All 12 of the other sisters were amazingly cute. By the time I finished including all of the sisters, 10 of the 12 were on the list. Topping the list was a sister named Kaho. Yet I didn't feel it was right. I didn't even know Sister Princess existed only 30 minutes earlier, and now here comes all of the cute girls and they dominate (screw up) my list. It wasn't even a good anime. Most reviewers found it to be abysmal at best. And worst of all, the two people I found the cutest were the two youngest! (Their innocence really got to me.) I abandoned the project shortly afterwards

Fast forward to Katsucon 11 in 2005. It had been over a year since the anime convention that drove me to begin the useless list. Two things caught my eye while perusing the program: One is that they're showing The Cat Returns on Saturday at 6. (Disney refused to let them show it subbed). The other is that Sister Princess is being shown on Sunday at 12. I remembered Sister Princess as the anime full of cute girls that had disrupted my list. Yet I became rather intrigued. Was the show really as bad as people said, and are the girls really as cute as the pictures had suggested? On Sunday, I didn't make it into the video room until past halfway through the first episode because I was busy playing Mario Kart: Double Dash. The first girl I saw was pretty cute. I was thinking, "Man, that person is cute. I wonder where she had ranked on my list." Little did I know that she was Kaho, the apex of all Sister Princess sisters in cuteness! By the time my mind had clicked, I was already quite attracted to the adorable cheerleader wannabe in a green sweater and pleated skirt. (And in case you were wondering, the show is as bad as the review sites suggested. It was virtually incomprehensible. But the girls are cute all right...real cute!)

The Age of Kaho
Kaho-chan may be one of the youngest sisters, but even then she may actually be 11 - about the same age as the tomboyish Mamoru. After I had gone back to my dorm following Katsucon 11, I began to think about Sister Princess, especially about Kaho. I knew this was something special, something like what happened with Misty in 1999, Shiori Fujisaki in 2002, and Elizabeth Patterson in 2004. In fact, I realized all of these attractions were strong enough to warrant their own title: the Heart-Melters. (I wrote the original Heart-Melters Gallery thread during the weekend of February 26, 2005 - less than a week after seeing Kaho at Katsucon.) Over the next few days, I began searching for Kaho pics on Google. Some of the ones I found were pretty blurry, but a lot of them were bloody cute, all of which justified her place as a Heart-Melter. Oh sure...her sisters are cute, but Kaho...Kaho...Kaho with her lovely smile and charming personality is definitely at the head of the pack. It was when making the list in 2004, and in the height of the Age of Kaho in 2005. Previously, when I was saving pictures of Heart-Melters, I saved numerous pictures of other characters, but in this case I was saving pictures of only Kaho. If that wasn't enough, I even got downgraded to a 56K connection by ITC while downloading episodes of the Sister Princess sequel Sister Princess RePure just to see Kaho. It was a worthy sacrifice...3/6 episodes were related to Kaho. (Kaho is obviously one of the most popular characters even in Japan.)

Yet as expected, the obsession with Kaho was only temporary. After watching all episodes of Sister Princess and every episode of Sister Princess Repure, I realized that there was nothing more to go for. The series weren't good enough to warrant a re-viewing, and none of the Sister Princess games were available in America. I was under pressure from more than one person to get over her, and I willingly relented. Even before summer vacation began in mid-May, I was saving pictures of her sister Yotsuba (not the cute but not heart-melting title character of the Kiyohiko Azuma classic Yotsuba&!) . I slowly stopped thinking about Kaho and began turning my mind back to the lovely AJN. By June, all of my previous admiration had faded away, and all that was left was a shell of a memory. I never did revive any attraction towards Kaho, but I kept all of the pictures as a sort of a memento to the short-lived bygone days. It's a reminder of the fact that even of people lose their status as Heart-Melters, they will always be in the Heart-Melters Gallery.

Strength: 3 - I don't often get so caught up in a Heart-Melter that I'd save their pictures incessantly, but Kaho is one exception. Not only did she dominate my thoughts for a period of time, but I also wasted a lot of bandwidth space on pictures of Kaho and only Kaho.

Duration: 6 - As I had discussed in the Tomo entry, the brightest stars usually die off the quickest. I've realized it doesn't really apply towards the Heart-Melters, because the correlation betwsen the Strength and Time rankings have been generally positive, but at just above three months, Kaho's time as a Heart-Melter had been relatively short.

Recurrence: 7 - Not only was Kaho's burn-out relatively swift, but it was also pretty complete. It seems that most Heart-Melters have a general "honeymoon" period that lasts two to three months, and if they want to continue as a Heart-Melter, they'd better offer something extra either in the form of a dazzling personality or a good source material. Kaho had neither. She was kind of shallow and Sister Princess sucked. So once Kaho's Heart-Melter status died off, I never had the urge to watch the show to revive the attraction. She's still my favorite sister, which beats some other Heart-Melters (like Tomo).

Overall: 16 - Because of Kaho's low recurrence score, she ended up with almost the same overall score as Sheena. This was quite surprising. I was far more obsessed with Kaho than Sheena, so I kind of expected it to be a lot higher than Sheena. (It shows you the flaws of compiling the overall score with a qualitative numeral figure like rank.) Either way, Kaho still finishes within the top half of the Heart-Melters Gallery!

Next Up: Forever With You