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indigozeal
26 June 2014 @ 07:14 pm
My apologies for being silent as of late here. I've been dealing with a Lyude-load of problems for the past couple months: a veterinary issue that ended both expensively and poorly; an unbalanced employee at a medical facility physically assaulting me, and the fallout; and a medical issue a family member doesn't want to treat that if left as-is might lead to not one but two amputations.  Plus, I'm trying to find a better-paying position, which is proving tricky.  I don't like to junk up this quality blog that focuses on hopefully happier matters with this sort of garbage  -  I'll probably delete this post after it's no longer current  -  but I just wanted to provide an explanation, however melodramatic, for the low content.
 
 
indigozeal
Sekai de Tatta Hitotsu no Basho e ~home green home~
(To the One Place in the World ~home green home~)


moshimo yume ni tsukarete   doko ka tooku e yukitai toki
futto omoidaseba ii   kono home green home

   If you tire of dreams   and wish to go somewhere faraway
    just think back   to this home green home


namida kawakanu mama no   sugao de
nimotsu nado wa motazu   hitori omoide ni notte

   Come just as you are   with your tears yet undried
    unburdened   ride alone on memory   


saa   kaette kinasai   koko e
hizashi ga ima   dakishimeru
rays of the sun
natsukashii yama   ano kawa
omae no koto o matte iru darou
ano hi no mama

   Oh,   come back   here, to a place
    embraced   by the rays of the sun
    those mountains so dear;   that river...
    I know they are waiting for you  - 
    just like that day


eki ni oriru omae o   kaze to   unazuku shiroi hana to
soshite watashi ga mukaeru   kono home green home

   When you arrive at the station   the white flowers   nodding in the breeze
    and I will greet you  in this home green home   


hito wa chizu ni nai basho   sagashite
tabi o tsuzuke   yagate kako o oite yuku keredo

  We all are in search of a place   not on the map
    we journey on;   at length leave our pasts behind  -  and yet...


moshi sabishii toki ni wa   koko e
haha no mune ni kaeru you ni
sekai de tatta hitotsu no
omae ga umare   yume o sodateta   kono basho e to
 
  If you are lonely,   come back   
    just like returning to your mother's breast
    to the one place in the world
    where you were born   where you nurtured your dreams   come back here


saa   kaette konasai   koko e
hizashi ga ima   dakishimeru
natsukashii yama   ano kawa
yasashii egao   soko ni wa mieru

  Oh,   come back   here, to a place
    embraced   by the rays of the sun
    those mountains so dear;   that river...
    a kind smile   waits for you there


moshi sabishii toki ni wa   koko e
haha no mune ni kaeru you ni
sekai de tatta hitotsu no
omae ga umare   yume o sodateta   kono basho e to

  If you are lonely,   come back  
    just like returning to your mother's breast
    to the one place in the world
    where you were born   where you nurtured your dreams   come back here

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indigozeal
30 May 2014 @ 10:57 pm
Brain Lord was an SNES action RPG produced by...er, Produce, the folks behind The 7th Saga and, later, Mystic Ark. It was released pursuant to Saga (the U.S. ad even touts its pedigree in that respect - did Saga sell better than I thought?), and I put it through a playthrough to see if any missing links surfaced between 7th Saga and Mystic Ark. They didn't, save for a few more items to add to list of character names Produce inexplicably fetishizes (more on that later).

The game itself is similarly unremarkable - it's got a couple good, challenging basic puzzle types up its sleeve (mostly involving maneuvering boulders and steel globes onto switches), but it repeats them too often. The graphical style is more or less lifted from 7th Saga but has less care put into it: looking at the fountain doesn't even make you feel better, for pity's sake. Though you're heading a one-man party, Brain Lord does provide a twist on Saga's apprentices in the form of other adventurers who tag along with you on jobs in a mostly cooperative spirit. They don't fight at your side, but you'll run across them as you navigate the dungeons, and it is amusing to run into them and have a chat and commiserate, collaborate on solving a puzzle, or just see their latest misadventures. The dialogue is hamstrung by a very choppy translation, though, and the plot is nearly nonexistent. Plus, there's a lot of aggravating platforming - it's not wall-to-wall horrible, and it's often even fun, but dang if those tough moments aren't controller-throwers. Overall, there's not really any reason to be playing this game in 2014.

Between its odd translation and spotty storytelling, though, the game does produce a number of passing oddities. CutCollapse )
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indigozeal
26 May 2014 @ 07:50 pm


What you see above is the only good part of the Silent Hill movie. The sudden abysses in the highways that bound Silent Hill are truly awe-inspiring here, the clear product of a great and terrible unnatural, or natural, force - like the hand of God reached down and scooped the rest of the earth away. Cybil in the pic there might as well be standing on the side of a far-off mountain.

It's a shame about everything else. The biggest problem with the movie is that the producers, inexplicably, decided to play up a Deliverance angle, casting Silent Hill not as a psychic hotspot that exploits visitors' inner demons but as a pastiche of urban America's fears regarding the big bad countryside. Both of the Harry stand-ins have big elaborate run-ins with small-minded small-town cops who swing their metaphorical dicks and complain about big city folk, their claim on their meager authority far more important to them than finding a lost little girl, and overcoming the obstructive efforts of Sheriff Cletus and Officer Daisy Mae is presented as a far bigger obstacle than anything Silent Hill's hellscape can throw at our heroes. The cult is just a bunch of toothless yokels who cling to--well, if not guns, then at least religion; to help us draw the obvious comparisons, the symbols of the cult are changed from sigils to more-identifiable crosses, and the Order's focus has shifted from incubating a half-demon God within a child to harassing women with out-of-wedlock kids (which is an impressive 180, when you think of it). Instead of the visions of a brutalized girl's mind, you're just fighting the Westboro Church, which has a place in horror, I suppose, but is crushingly mundane given the alternatives. The movie's theme is definitively signposted when Wife & Kid make a stop in Brahms to gas up at Smitty's Restaurant, Variety, Tattoos, and Body Piercing, which is patronized exclusively by ZZ Top members and staffed by (gasp!) heavyset women in perms and do-rags. What a failure of imagination to take something so abstract as Silent Hill and do something this hackneyed with it.

A second, smaller problem is how the typical mass-market horror movie vocabulary kind of undermines the type of horror Silent Hill sells. Many of Silent Hill's best scares unfold with no fanfare:
Harry going down into the basement of the school clock tower and just walking into a spatial distortion, being shunted back to where he came; Pyramid Head appearing out of the corner of the player's vision on the hospital roof; Heather getting locked in with a giant mirror and its ever-more-malevolent mutating images; Henry going to his peephole and Walter walking up, just silently staring back through at him with a pleased smirk.
These moments derive their power from their refusal to announce themselves - the games don't give anything away beforehand, and the audience, left without rudders and tells, is more on edge. Other elements are approached similarly skancewise: combat is usually not a big, heroic confrontation, but something that's panicky and should be run away from. Story elements are usually implied or drip-fed, not hand-fed. Even with the more incidental disturbing material, it's often not clear what's going on - you're seeing something through bars, or blurred, or in some way where you know it's deeply wrong but can't identify exactly what it is. In movies, though, everything's gotta be a setpiece, and every monster's gotta be photographed in loving, barbed-wire detail, because, hey, we paid good money for this. Understandable, but it makes the material more disgusting than scary.

(Somewhat ironically, the film's horror effects open with an outright terrible CG rendition of the Grey Children. Even more ironic, the features that look the worst are their eyes and their stretchy Play-Doh mouths, features that the Grey Children didn't have and didn't need to be scary in the first place.)

The movie is scored by Akira Yamaoka music, but not original stuff - tracks from the games are recycled, and while it's a testament to the music's strength that it can stand inclusion in a major (more or less) motion picture, it's distracting to have pieces identified in my memory with such indelible moments from the games used for other, unrelated stuff - I grit my teeth when "Betrayal," the score to James's climactic emotional catharsis in SH2, was used to underline Wife finding a body in an alley, for instance.

It's odd, given Hollywood's affinity for sop, how completely absent love is from the relationships among the protagonists. Everything with NotCheryl is horribly done, starting with NotCheryl herself - she's creepy even before Alessa joins the plot, exists mainly to screech, and looks like she always has scleral contacts in. The wife and husband are going through some weird marital issues that the movie refuses to address - it acts like they're a normal couple, but she takes the kid to Silent Hill over hubby's vehement objections, and he cancels her credit cards to leave her and the kid penniless in the middle of nowhere, then calls the cops to have her arrested. The human relationships are supposed to be your anchor in Silent Hill horror, yet all the relationships here are weird and broken. But what isn't broken in this movie, really.
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indigozeal
08 May 2014 @ 10:26 am
This thing from Maren with Renaud and his religious beliefs leading him down the wrong path has gotten me thinking about the perspective certain games have on religion. Videogame examination of religion usually doesn't extend beyond stuff like the first Silent Hill's eeeeeeevil cult business; religion and gods are a form of authority, which in fantasy written for a largely high-school/college-age audience exists to be refuted or toppled to facilitate the development and independence of the reader stand-in. I can think of a few games, though, that have interesting perspectives on the subject.

- I've found the Angelique franchise's take on deities intriguing: gods are not immortal superbeings but rather human beings who become the incarnation of a natural force for a limited, transient time (at the end of which they go back to being regular people). In a parallel universe where the natural order has gone awry, in fact, one manifestation of the disruption of the natural order is that one person has maintained their grip on power for an extended period of time.
Also, the high goddess of the universe needs to take an exam on government - an exam highly influenced by petty bribery in the form of dates and gifts, mind you, but an exam nonetheless - to assume her position. The gods of the franchise's central universe are, from what we can see, not worshipped; and in the "bad" universe where the gods are worshipped, it has led only to a pack of massive lies and trouble. Gods do not exist to be adored; rather, godhood is a job required to keep the universe running, one that requires a lot of sacrifice on the part of the "chosen ones" (they're forced to leave their homes to help manage the cosmos and, thanks to differences in the flow of time throughout the universe, usually come back hundreds of years later, after everyone they knew and loved is long dead). That's a rather pragmatic view of divinity, which is probably the first time the word "pragmatic" has ever been applied to Angelique.

- Lunar's take on religion is curious due to its trumped-up role of its god as parent. Althena, we are told, saved humanity from destruction at its own hands at a time that it could not save itself; while various city-states may have regional rulers, she is the supreme authority on the planet. She is viewed as a wise, loving goddess, and certain actions taken by her that judged on their face would seem immoral - her condemnation of an entire race and region to a squalid half-existence long past its parents' crimes, for example - are excused (at least by the game and her people) by divine fiat. Althena, however, must ultimately step down from her post as god, not only because, you know, she met this totally hot guy (Angelique parallel?), but because "her children" have grown beyond their need for her, and she would be stifling them by staying. The game seems to be saying that gods are to some extent necessary - and encourages absolute obedience to them during that time frame - but beyond a certain point, that role will necessarily become abusive and must be abolished.
This becomes more curious if you look at this particular plot strain, which came into its own in the 32-bit games onward, in light of Ghaleon's objections to Althena's perceived abuse of her servant Dyne in the earlier Sega-CD version of Silver Star. Though TSS itself seems ultimately to dismiss Ghaleon's concerns, the eventual metamorphosis of the plot in subsequent versions seems to indicate that the creators eventually concluded that his argument against deities' wanton abuse of their power and its effects on their subjects had more credence that they initially admitted.
(Another odd point: though it does ultimately conclude that Mom needs to step off, Lunar's fawning adoration for Althena and strident reinforcement of her right to rule is really strange considering how juvenile power-fantasy everything with the hero and his friends is, even for the genre. The young stepping up to take charge of the world from their parents as the main theme of the game is really explicit and heavily emphasized. You'd think that would breed some resentment for its main parental figure, but I guess that falls by the wayside when an incarnation of said parental figure is the main love interest. Which actually is creepy in its own right, now that I think of it. Geez, the adopted-sister thing was problematic enough.)

- Phantasy Star, on the other hand, is notable for the absence of religion. You use churches of some never-mentioned religion for healing in 1, true, but by the time of 2 and its world of science run amok, there's no trace of religion to be found. You heal at hospitals and "resurrect" at clone labs. (I never used the clone labs. Even when I was 11, I knew that clones weren't the originals and I wouldn't be getting "my" Hugh or Amy back.)
Even in the distaff 3, ancient war heroes fill the niche that gods would would normally occupy - establishing societal mores, serving as objects of semi-worship or names to take in vain, etc. The lazy light-dark cosmic conflict the creators introduce in 4 never really seemed of a piece with the rest of the series for me, and this running theme perhaps helps explain it: despite the presence of recurring demon-like baddie Dark Force (who seems more of a...force formed from malevolent thoughts than a wholly sentient being or deity), Phantasy Star conflicts are very grounded in the actions of humans.

- Ultima is intriguing in this respect as well; in the early installments, while there are RPG churches and such, gods are entirely absent - most conspicuously in 4, where conducting oneself in a moral fashion is the game's entire focus, yet no divine guidance is offered. Many folks in the Japanese branch of the franchise have interpreted Ultima as inherently Christian - equating the ankh to a cross, the Avatar to Christ, etc. - but examining the material, its morality is remarkable for how humanistic and self-directed it is.

- I talked about this just recently, but the final portion of Silent Hill 3 gets a good amount of mileage out of its examination of how religion is sometimes used as a balm by people who have been battered by life to get through their day-to-day existence. Dealing with the here and now on your own (albeit in a rather joyless fashion) vs. relying on an external force to wipe everything away (though, obviously, that's not the proper way to approach religion) is part of the central dichotomy between heroine and villain in 3 - and considering how the conflict plays out, it can almost be argued that it's religion itself, or rather dependence on or absolute submission to it, that's the villain, not Claudia.
This idea of religion as a coping mechanism, and the dangers of overreliance on it to the exclusion of facing one's issues head-on, is taken up again in 4, with the examination of Sullivan's actions in light of his past abuse.
(Returning to 3, a series of subtle moments near the endgame - after remembering all the abuse she suffered, the memory of her "sweet and loving" adoptive mother being the last memory Heather regains; the means by which Heather is saved from her fate; that last little bit as Heather turns toward the light in the ending, and what the game hints she might have seen there - seems to indicate that there is some sort of absolute good in the Silent Hill universe, but it is found in the memories of others, not in a counterbalancing benevolent deity.)

- This isn't really an insight on religion, but after discovering the thread on the Lufia II prototype ROM and flipping through the early edition of the game's soundtrack, I hit up YouTube to search for one track I couldn't find, the awesome music that plays in the town of Narvick. Due to Nintendo content guidelines at the time, they use the word "super beings" when discussing the game's antagonists instead of "gods," and it's funny how transparent the writers are in crafting dialogue where it's obvious that they really mean the latter term. ("There're super beings and evil beings, right? So, if there're bad super beings, why no good ones?" "I've believed in super beings since birth. Why did the evil ones come, instead of the good?")
More to the point, though, it's interesting, actually, how malevolent the Lufia SNES games perceive the gods to be. No one worships them; no one's even ever heard of them - they just appear out of nowhere, these violent horrors, and fuck with people for no reason. This malevolence is underscored by the utter helplessness of the populace; the people of Lufia don't have magic academies or effective armies or any way to organize themselves to fight back or cultivate special powers in talented individuals to form a strike force (besides a recently-discovered "over 9000" soul-magic that appears randomly in certain people). They're just these little people living out little lives, with little recourse against anything stronger that happens along to hurt them. Even in Narvick, which is supposed to be the place that holds the Answer to Everything regarding the world's evil-superbeing infestation, most of the villagers can offer only horrified theodical exclamations and ask why this is happening to them.
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indigozeal
I got called on GameFAQs "one articulate rasta." We have a new blog title!

I like this 999 fic for its small scope, choosing to ignore VLR to deal with the aftermath of the first game for a couple of characters in a comfortable (?) slice-of-life vignette. Seeing Snake and Clover portrayed well here makes me even more aggravated that the original creators are going to compound the mistakes of VLR and fuck up Snake as well as his sister when the third installment inevitably gets made.

I'm not familiar with whatever the "YOGSCast" is, and this is another one of the "like, comment, subscribe" LPers - he even has a song at the end of his videos about it. But I've been watching the Cook, Serve, Delicious videos from this Nilesy, and he distinguishes himself by two traits: a) he's very good at just plain talking, and b) he has a relentlessly engaging and positve outlook. Also, he chose to main soup in CSD, of all things. That is hardcore.

The Soul of Dracula is an interesting fan game that poses the question: what if the Castlevania series had descended from the lineage of its arcade incarnation Haunted Castle instead of the NES classic? Like Haunted Castle, the visual style of The Soul of Dracula is grounded in dirt and mud, but it boasts an interesting variety of obstacles and careful level design and has a sharp sense of drama in a few places. That Frankenstein entrance!

Speaking of Castlevania: an examination of Pachislot laziness in recycling old Judgment footage.

I'm not sure it scans, but I applaud the effort: someone used Vocaloid to make a song about Mystic Ark out of one of its battle themes.

I'm not the biggest fan of Lufia II - I thought its story was done way better in the first game's fifteen-minute prologue - but this thread examining a ROM of the prototype is pretty good, if infested with a bit of jerkery and periodic spats over which SFAM emulator is best.

FF5 Amano artwork takes over a train station.

Bad finally, click at your own risk: not happy, but bewildered: I cannot believe someone made a porno DVD of a Flash animation of Nei seducing Eusis/Rolf in 2006.

Good finally: "I just want to play the bowling and the tennis!"
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indigozeal
01 May 2014 @ 11:46 pm
I'd been playing through Super Mario RPG as a distraction while I finished up Silent Hill 3 writing. I actually had a bit of a bizarre grudge against it around the time of its release, the reasons for which I can't exactly remember - something about Mario moving from dominance in the action genre to try to define what RPGs were, too, I think.

Playing it now, I'm struck by how forward-thinking it was. It embraces several innovations that would become widespread in the genre in the 32-bit era: breaking up traditional RPG gameplay by adding action sections that rely on dexterity; having enemies visible on the map (still relatively new in 1996); giving all characters, not just the ones in the active party, experience from battles; controlling character actions directly with button presses instead of just with menus; being piss-easy. There're also some unique systems that I think have big potential, such as everyone sharing a pool of MP instead of having their own reserves, and being able to customize your characters to some extent upon level ups by choosing to give a bonus to one of three stats, and getting a damage boost to your spells and attacks if you add another button press at just the right time in the action animation, though you have to intuit for yourself when that should be.

As an overall experience, though...well, for me, it was only OK. I think it clarifies for what I'm looking in RPGs, which is to meet neat-o characters and explore fantastic worlds. Being a Mario game, y'know, everything is friendly cartoonishness, both storywise and visually - RPG versions of concepts you've seen in the franchise before. That's all right - I mean, this is a beginner's RPG meant to be kid-friendly - but I wasn't that attached to what was happening, and even though the game is relatively short, it had worn out its welcome for me by the end.

I did enjoy the game's really witty lampshade-hanging of the "silent protagonist" RPG trope, with characters asking Mario why he's giving them the silent treatment and Mario having to pantomime his way through conversations (which gets pretty funny). Though the writers correctly skewer Mario's inability to speak as a big limitation, they still manage to give him a pretty strong personality: a quick thinker, sarcastic in spots, and actually really, deeply kind. I also liked Mario's two new allies, sweet anthropomorphic cloud Mallow (who attacks using weather-based spells) and child's-puppet-possessed-by-extraterresrial-being-of-light Geno, and I think it's a pity they can't appear in any future Mario games due to copyright issues with Square. Bowser is great as pathetic comic relief throughout - and great to play as - and there's a sort of childish ur-human proto-Wario who's charming in his utter skancewise bizarreness.

The problematic character is the Princess, who's not the vegetable-tossing hero from 2 or the politician & friend who sends you items and sit reports from 3 or the hostage who struggles free to throw Mario power-ups from World but...well, a self-impressed coward who hides behind others, has them do her bidding, and won't lift a finger to help herself or anyone else, her joining the party notwithstanding. And when she does join, she can do only 1 damage and is completely useless for anything outside healing - an interesting choice strategywise (do you want cheap healing? Then you have to give up a character slot), but, well. Peach has always been 100% pink 24-7, but she's also always been friendly and eager to help out her chums - baking them cakes, giving them items, etc. Combined with her use of tee-hee weapons like slaps and parasols and frying pans and her narcissistic fretting about how "it's HARD to be pretty!", her "helpless, useless, demanding coward" characterization is off-putting and more than a little bit sexist. I would've been way more tolerant of her wet-paper-baggishness in battle if she acted more like the sweet, proactive Peach from previous games and the whole thing didn't seem like part of a concerted effort to make her an aggregate of negative female stereotypes.

Most of the conversations about the rendered graphics revolve around whether or not they're dated. They looked fine to me technically, but what turned me off a bit was how the environments are very samey. If I visit a Rose Town, I want the buildings and walls overgrown with roses. Here, though, they just get the same two or three piddling azalea bushes you can find in any other town. The cloud-based kingdom of Nimbus Land, though, primarily its classical hanging-garden palace, looks rather neat, as does the beanstalk "dungeon" you climb to reach it - the predominance of bright greens and blues in the game's overall palette is very welcome. (The requisite RPG volcano dungeon also looks pretty cool here with the rendering.)

The music is ehh, though.

Frustrating combat bit: offensive magic is worthless, usually doing significantly less than a good timed hit and sometimes inexplicably even doing zero damage. If you're emulating, I also can't recommend playing without some sort of controller attachment; there are some jumping sections that, while not impossible, are aggravating with the keyboard controls. (The game's isometric perspective truly does not help in this regard.) The final dungeon reallllly dragged for me; the game's touchier reflex-based minigames, while meant to inject a bit of action into a traditional RPG, do get very wearying in a QTE way.

It's neat, though, to see the citizens of the Mushroom Kingdom go about their daily lives throughout the game, and there's a sweet subplot where you follow a mushroom couple through their wedding and honeymoon. I also liked the Star Hill, a spacey dreamland of fallen star-wishes from the citizens of Mario's world which had the visual and conceptual charm of the best parts of Earthbound.

Bonus: The ending parade is very sweet.
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indigozeal
Because no one's ever done that before.

Skeed & Vallye: Hawk's wings. (Note for them and all subsequent Alfard characters: yeah, I know most of them probably don't actually have wings.)
Ladekahn: Since he's supposed to be Mr. Archangel King of Cloud Castle, he probably has stereotypical angel wings. Maybe sunset-colored, to match Diadem's clouds? Softly so, not gaudily so. Or maybe he has those compound sets of wings that seraphim have.
Corellia: Dragonfly wings, I'd say, but if anyone knows of any insect-type wings that're more "beautiful in a natural, 'grotesque' way" rather than "beautiful in a natural but stereotypical, safe way," I'd like to hear about them.
Folon: I can see him being the one to have bat wings. That seems almost too stereotypical and not-weird for him, though? I was almost thinking pterodactyl wings, but they're too unwieldy and not-mobile.
Larikush: Owl's wings, maybe. Like these - barn owl's wings, mottled brown and white, with a rounded, subdued profile. (I had a better picture of the distinctive wing shape but lost it, dang it.)
Melodia: Large swan wings. Pure white and dramatically beautiful.
Giacomo: Rocket Boots here needs no wings (though considering how slowly he moves in them, maybe he could use the speed boost), but I think dragon wings suit him best - showy and aggressive, lacking the "softness" of feathers, all power.
Fadroh: I was going to say iridescent bottle-fly wings, something gaudy (and kind of little, Fadroh being a self-impressed but initially inobtrusive presence) but ultimately kind of filthy. But now I see that it's the body of the fly that's iridescent, not the wings. So I dunno.
Also, I see that some bottle-flies are more yellowy than deep green. Given Fadroh's outfit, I'm going for deep green here.
(Hey, now: there's also a "cuckoo wasp" that has a more reliably green palette. The wing shapes don't fit, but I think we can agree that something called a "cuckoo wasp" would fit Fadroh very well.)
Not Anna or Reblys but: There's this fish called the sea robin that sometimes has these side fins that're really colorful and wing-like. Might work for Anna? Someone from Nashira way needs them.
Calbren: I can't think of anything weird enough for the mayor of LSD Land, but I'd like to see it. I wanted to give someone moth wings, and while Calbren has the personality for them, they don't suit his domain at all.
Trill: Since she lives in Mira and everything's weird there already, maybe she has palmier wings, I dunno.

Also: someone needs luna moth wings. (Ayme came to mind, but the colors don't really fit.)
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