Games: Karoshi and Super Karoshi

played on: 22 & 23 May

Karoshi is a cute little platformer that you can get online. It’s rather morbidly derived from a Japanese word meaning “death through overwork” (trust the Japanese to have such a word, eh?? And don’t we all just love Sapir-Whorf jokes??), and the concept is that instead of “winning” each level by getting to the end, you have to kill the main character (I think he might be called Karoshi, I can’t remember).

Frankly, when I first heard the concept sometime last year, I thought it sounded stupid, because you’re just replacing a “victory” goal with a goal that looks like spikes and makes your wee man splatter blood all over the screen. But, well, as you might imagine, that’s very addictive. The first game, which I got for free when I was trying out the App Store (yeah, I know, sellout!), is a straight platformer with relatively set rules. Sadistic, for sure, but it follows those rules for at least most of the game. Super Karoshi, which I think is actually the fifth game, is the one that you can find on all the flash game websites and the one that I originally played last year, and has a slightly insane bent to its pre-existing sadism, with far more levels that require you to think outside the proverbial box, levels that alter the rules ad hoc and a series of fake endings. It also has its fair share of “normal” levels, and adds the mechanic of Super Karoshi, a superhero version of the character who can’t die but can fly, and must lead his comrades to their safety inevitable death.

So in comparison to Super Karoshi, which I already played a couple of times and is loads of fun, the original Karoshi is also fun, but feels quite boring by comparison. If I remember correctly, however, it has a few more challenging levels. And it’s definitely worth it, both of them.

Film #12: Smell

aka: गंध
director: Sachin Kunkaldar
language: Marathi
watched on: 22 May

Three short films, really, rather than one narrative, set in the Maharashtra region of India (near Mumbai), I think this film is kinda meant to be a sort of showcase of Marathi cinema and how it’s not Bollywood. The director was very eager to proclaim that he was influenced by Almodóvar and other famous arthousey European directors, and included a segment from All About My Mother midway through the movie. I didn’t like that, because I don’t really like being told by a director what I’m supposed to think of a film, which is what such directorial dedications ultimately do. But then, at least he was upfront about it.

The shorts, as per the title, were themed around smell. Already, that’s going to be difficult to pull off, although I’ll cut to the chase and say that I think the director did fairly well at this. But smell is not evocative in film; this is a simple fact. So while I can still remember what the third story was about (menstruation and how taboo it is in India), I can’t remember how this related to smell, or what smell they were trying to evoke… because you just can’t evoke a smell on a film.

But at the same time, this became a useful device in the first two stories, wherein the female character of each keeps smelling a smell – good in the first story, which was about a male love interest works in an incense factory to make ends meet, and is an incredibly cheesy love story – decidedly bad in the second story, about a broken marriage and a man with HIV who loses his sense of smell and can’t detect a dead rat, not until his wife comes to collect her things. In each, the smell was a useful way of keeping something mysterious from the audience until the big reveal shortly before the end.

It didn’t, as I say, work quite as well in the 3rd story, because I don’t remember what smell was important to the story; all I remember is that a menstruating woman has to teach her son/nephew in a very lying-to-children way why she has to stay in a different room and not be touched once a month. It’s possibly something to do with the smell of cooking.

Either way, it wasn’t evocative enough for the smell aspect of that story to make a lasting impression on me, but I was impressed by the cinematography. As with just about any film one will see coming out of India, it’s very colourful, but manages to do this without it being cheesy in a Bollywood style. And for that, I guess it can only be commended! But in future, I’d probably prefer to see a feature length film – while three shorts has the advantage that you don’t get as bored, and the advantage that the stories are developed very quickly without wasting time twiddling your thumbs waiting for something to happen, it also has the disadvantage of not staying with any characters for long enough to develop them properly…

Book #13: Moomin volume 3

Moomin volume 3, or Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip – Volume 3 to give it its full title, is a delightful little collection of Moomin strips that I borrowed from the library a couple of months ago. It’s really the first Moomin thing I’ve read, besides possibly reading the children’s novels when I was a child, so at the moment I’ll only be comparing it to the cartoon… basically, the strips seem to follow the exact same storylines as several story arcs in the cartoon, which pleases me, because it means that the cartoon was faithful to the original stories.

It’s worth noting that this collection of four stories doesn’t feel much like a coherent comic book, however, since it’s very much a straight facsimile of the original strips, which seem to have been originally published in the newspaper-style single strip format. So often each strip will look substantially different from the last in terms of visual style or background, or they will lead to the occasional non-sequitur. This is fair enough really, since I get the impression that Jansson devoted more of her time to writing the actual novels. But I’d need to research that a bit more – I’m really just not sure at the moment which came first, comic strip or novel. Basically, it’s not the same as Tintin, which was originally published in newspapers but later laid out in a less segmented fashion and recoloured and all the rest of it.

It was a very nice book, anyway, aside from the fact that it came from the library and had a stain on the front; it had very thick pages made of some kind of paper that was almost card, and there was a bonus essay on the back page about Jansson and the Moomins, although they could have done us a favour there and made it readable. As it is, if I remember correctly, it was set at about 8 points or something. Far too small for human consumption, and probably to make it fit on one page…

I quite want more now, but I haven’t been into the library in quite a while now, and I’ve never seen any other volumes on the shelves when I go in – they must have been taken out already. Too damn right.