What are you reading?

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Warren
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Warren »

Ellie wrote:
28 Sep 2019, 21:41
Longtime Grylliaders will remember my critiques of Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, which contained a level of scorn only possible when one has not read the book and never intends to. :lol: :lol: :lol:

I hadn't thought about that in years, but I checked out three books from the library today (recommended by different sources but all variously related to poverty) and EVERY SINGLE ONE had a blurb from Ms. Ehrenreich on the jacket. I feel like when I read these, I will be giving her a point somehow, and she'll totally know that she is getting back at me :lol:
Point by point, nickle by nickle...
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Jennifer
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Jennifer »

I'm currently about 2/3 of the way through "Rhett Butler's People," which according to the dust-jacket cover is "The authorized novel based on Margaret Mitchell's Gone With The Wind" (read: "the Mitchell estate hired a writer in 2007 so they could cash in on MM's legacy before the copyrights and things expire"). It's basically the story of Gone With The Wind (book version, not movie), told mainly from Rhett Butler's perspective, with other viewpoint characters including Belle Watling; Belle and Rhett's illegitimate son; Rhett's sister; Melanie Wilkes; Ashley Wilkes; a handful of other peripheral GWTW characters and a few more invented from whole cloth for this book. I bought this a couple weeks ago at a thrift store which, as of that visit, had at least three perfect-condition hardcover-with-dustjacket copies of "Rhett Butler's People" for sale in its book section.

Of course, the main problem with GWTW (book or movie) is that by modern standards, its attitudes toward slavery and racial equality are not just appalling, but completely irredeemable. You can't even make excuses like "Well, of course Mitchell was racist by modern standards, but by the standards of her day she wasn't bad" ... no, even by the dismally low standards we'd expect of a genteel white-lady granddaughter of the Confederacy writing in 1920s Atlanta, Mitchell's views of race and the Ku Klux Klan in GWTW were atrocious (which is precisely why the 1939 movie expunged so much of it). There's one line in the book -- background information from Mitchell the Author/Narrator, not a comment made or thought by any specific character -- mentioning white Southerners' justified hatred for the "Yankee schoolmarms" who after the war came south to teach the n-words how to read.

Mitchell was a hell of a lot better regarding the matter of women's rights -- she herself was an early wave feminist, pro-suffrage before 1920, and all that -- and the parts of the book which are not-horrifying today include a comedy of manners deconstructing how ridiculous and downright vile the Old South's standards of "proper female behavior and decorum" were. GWTW's Rhett Butler is standard-bad for his day regarding slavery and race in general, but MUCH better than his day (and every other character in the book) regarding women and how they should behave and be treated -- though, again, by modern standards he remains pretty appalling.

However, in Rhett Butler's People, Rhett is portrayed not merely as "pretty good by the standards of his day," but basically as an enlightened early 21st-century American man who just happened to spend his entire life living amongst members of the late antebellum rich white planter class, somehow. (If RBP's Rhett were to join this forum today, and discuss such basic matters as "Slavery: good or bad?" or "Universal adult suffrage: yea or nay?" I don't think he'd say anything we'd find objectionable, whereas GWTW's Rhett most assuredly would.)

I'll admit I am enjoying the scenes that are identical to scenes from GWTW, only told from Rhett's perspective, and the scenes with other major GWTW characters portrayed recognizably ... but FAR less admirably than they were in the original book, let alone the movie. And so far, for all that I can't help eye-rolling at how modern and enlightened and all-around-admirable this 1860s white Southern maverick was, I do admire the cleverness required for the author (Donald McCaig) to retrofit such horrifying GWTW events as "Rhett admits he 'killed a nigger for being uppity to a white lady'" and "Rhett helps the entire Atlanta Ku Klux Klan get away with a murder raid" to make them palatable for modern audiences. (The black man he killed, for example, was his beloved childhood friend who was a "free colored" man even in slave days; the man had been falsely accused of attacking a certain woman, and Rhett shot him to give him a quick death rather than the slow torturous one the lynch mob would've given him. When the lynch mob got to the jail and realized the prisoner was dead they were furious that they wouldn't get to have their sadistic fun, and almost lynched Rhett instead, but Rhett saved himself with the argument that of course you can't expect a southern gentleman like him to not kill a nigger who'd been uppity to a lady. So the lynch mob made do with merely desecrating the man's corpse in barbaric ways -- and Rhett secretly saw to it that the man's widow and children were well provided for.)

This book is completely free of the slavery and slave-owner apologias Mitchell wrote -- in GWTW, the narrator mentions how supposedly, selling a slave "down the river" was considered rude and vulgar among white slaveowners, and polite society would ostracize you if you did, whereas RBP denies and deconstructs the hell out of that -- Rhett's own father would separate slave families purely out of spite, and even Ashley's father John Wilkes (super-noble as portrayed in GWTW) has cruelly and coldly broken slave families not for reasons of sadism, but sound practical matters of prudent plantation management. Ashley in GWTW mentions that his family's slaves weren't whipped or otherwise mistreated; in RBP, Rhett''s seemingly innocent questioning forces Ashley to remember that his father didn't need to whip disobedient slaves -- because he sold them instead. More than a few mentions of slave sales, slave auctions and slave trades, and Rhett's father is so cartoonishly evil that I'm reluctant to criticize him for fear of sounding like "C'mon now, even racist slave-labor-camp plantation owners with a mean streak weren't THAT bad."

But I'll say this: I've no doubt that for every evil thing Rhett's dad the slaveowner did, there actually was a slaveowner (more than one) who did just that to someone back in the day .... but I think it would've been difficult to find any one individual man who'd managed to personally do EVERY evil thing to his slaves and his own legal white children, that Rhett's dad manages to do before he finally kicks the bucket in this book.
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Jennifer
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Jennifer »

Finished the book. Jesus, that sucked. I take back whatever good things I said about it.
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Number 6
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Re: What are you reading?

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Andrew wrote:
23 Sep 2019, 12:22
JasonL wrote:
23 Sep 2019, 10:10
The Golem and the Jinni moves slowly but is trying to do something. It has American Gods themes of immigrants brining with them their myths to the new world and can all the myths and people survive. It has occasional episodes of beautiful writing. It’s worth a read/listen.
I've had that on my list for a while, but something about it has always made me find other things to read instead. Maybe I'll move it up the list.
This thread inspired me to pull the book from one of the dustier corners of my kindle and give it a go. I like it a lot so far, but as JasonL said, it's a slow burn. I usually enjoy a leisurely pace, but I am starting to wonder when the author is going to hit the go pedal.
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JasonL
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by JasonL »

I'm pretty sure We Are Legion / We are Bob series is the most autistic sci fi. Easily more autistic than the Martian / Artemis Andy Weir books that formerly held the slot.

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Painboy
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Re: What are you reading?

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JasonL wrote:
29 Oct 2019, 11:00
I'm pretty sure We Are Legion / We are Bob series is the most autistic sci fi. Easily more autistic than the Martian / Artemis Andy Weir books that formerly held the slot.
I read the first one, and while it was cute at times the good ideas seemed to dry up about half way through. Never really thought about continuing the series.

Also it's yet another sci-fi story where the US mysteriously becomes an anti-technology theocracy for no apparent reason (I mean other than the author's desire for the contrivance).

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Eric the .5b
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Eric the .5b »

Painboy wrote:
29 Oct 2019, 12:12
JasonL wrote:
29 Oct 2019, 11:00
I'm pretty sure We Are Legion / We are Bob series is the most autistic sci fi. Easily more autistic than the Martian / Artemis Andy Weir books that formerly held the slot.
I read the first one, and while it was cute at times the good ideas seemed to dry up about half way through. Never really thought about continuing the series.

Also it's yet another sci-fi story where the US mysteriously becomes an anti-technology theocracy for no apparent reason (I mean other than the author's desire for the contrivance).
Blame Heinlein for doing it once back in 1940 and the idea sticking around.. And the Moral Majority for freshening it up for a couple generations of SF writers. (I'm sure Trump hasn't helped, but I'll bet that's populated the filler stories in Analog with fascist dystopias more than theocratic ones.)
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JD
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Re: What are you reading?

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How to Talk Dirty and Influence People: An Autobiography, by Lenny Bruce. It's pretty funny, as you might imagine. It drags a bit in the middle during the description of his obscenity trial, although there's some definite amusement value in how, while the authorities were trying Bruce for saying "cocksucker", they had to say "cocksucker" in the courtroom about a hundred times. But it's most interesting for the historical aspect - you can see how Bruce's career kind of bridged from the vaudeville era to the modern comedy era and covered a whole lot of social changes (can you imagine a comedian getting arrested on obscenity changes in San Francisco today?)
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Hugh Akston »

JD wrote:
30 Oct 2019, 12:47
(can you imagine a comedian getting arrested on obscenity changes in San Francisco today?)
No, today they would be arrested on hate speech charges.
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D.A. Ridgely
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Re: What are you reading?

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Bruce is the patron saint (or patron sinner) of modern standup comedy. Yes, there were other comedians moving at roughly the same time from the traditional model of an ex-vaudeville comic telling jokes someone else wrote, usually as the emcee between musical acts or on variety shows. Mort Sahl, Shelly Bergman, Bob Newhart, etc. were among the new comedians who were writing their own material and increasingly were doing acts that were the main attraction and that weren't "just jokes," but Bruce more than anyone else paved the way and paid the price. I think I read that book back in college and, as I recall, it alternates between actual biographical anecdotes and bits from his act.

I've been re-reading William Goldman's Adventures in the Screen Trade in which he offers his greatest truth about the movie business: nobody knows anything. Good stuff.

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Re: What are you reading?

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After seeing a production of Philoctetes I decided to read some Sophocles. I like Electra more than Philoctetes, but I admire both plays. Electra's emotions are fun.
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Re: What are you reading?

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thoreau wrote:
30 Oct 2019, 16:36
After seeing a production of Philoctetes I decided to read some Sophocles. I like Electra more than Philoctetes, but I admire both plays. Electra's emotions are fun.
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Re: What are you reading?

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I just paid full retail for Edward Snowden's book.
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Jadagul »

Warren wrote:
06 Nov 2019, 10:33
I just paid full retail for Edward Snowden's book.
You know the Feds probably get all the money, right?

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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Warren »

Jadagul wrote:
06 Nov 2019, 15:13
Warren wrote:
06 Nov 2019, 10:33
I just paid full retail for Edward Snowden's book.
You know the Feds probably get all the money, right?
Maybe, but they'll have to show their ass to get it.
Say what you will about Trump, before he fired White House counsel McGahn for not firing Mueller, McGahn put a lot of libertarianish justices on a lot of benches.
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Re: What are you reading?

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After punishing myself with The Recognitions, I took a break and read the 4-book AEgypt series by John Crowley. Overall worth reading, but it clearly got away from him (not a surprise for 4 books published over 20 years). The number of narrative layers is impressive, and there are few metafictional techniques he didn't deploy to good use.

Now I'm back to the punishment: I'm 550 pages into volume 1 of The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil. I'm enjoying it greatly, although it is slow going when it takes a turn into philosophy.
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JasonL
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Re: What are you reading?

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About halfway through Murakami's 1Q84. It's my first Murakami. I gather it's his style and not just this book, but the sort of roaming almost clinical focus that at times lands on fashion choices, then roams to several minutes of exposition on the shape of someone's ears, then to food then acts of nookie using the same kind of detached observer approach - it's definitely unique. At first I thought "man these characters focus on wierd things all the time, just like real people, how cool" but eventually it becomes so pervasive and using the same arms length dispassionate observer in each character's head, it's pretty clear it's Murakami himself. I like it, didn't know it was so closely linked to the AUM Shinrikyo cult that carried out the sarin attacks a year before I got to Japan. I kinda wish he'd be more interested in advancing the story or compressing his detours even though I can see the thematic points of most of the diversions.

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JasonL
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Re: What are you reading?

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JasonL wrote:
27 Dec 2019, 09:11
About halfway through Murakami's 1Q84. It's my first Murakami. I gather it's his style and not just this book, but the sort of roaming almost clinical focus that at times lands on fashion choices, then roams to several minutes of exposition on the shape of someone's ears, then to food then acts of nookie using the same kind of detached observer approach - it's definitely unique. At first I thought "man these characters focus on wierd things all the time, just like real people, how cool" but eventually it becomes so pervasive and using the same arms length dispassionate observer in each character's head, it's pretty clear it's Murakami himself. I like it, didn't know it was so closely linked to the AUM Shinrikyo cult that carried out the sarin attacks a year before I got to Japan. I kinda wish he'd be more interested in advancing the story or compressing his detours even though I can see the thematic points of most of the diversions.
Oh haha this book meanders forever and goes not much of anywhere. There is an element of obtuseness for the sake of being obtuse. There is also ... something a little gross underlying one of the core themes. It may be redeemed later but there's something very peculiar about how hard the book tries to make certain things okay through mystical booga booga when those things not being okay were motive forces for the characters up to that point. 3/4 through it and I may be about up to my limit.

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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Hugh Akston »

JasonL wrote:
13 Jan 2020, 12:54
Oh haha this book meanders forever and goes not much of anywhere.
That's a thing with Murakami, at least in my experience. He is one of the guys who makes me think it can't be that hard to be an acclaimed serious litfic writer.
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Re: What are you reading?

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Hugh Akston wrote:
13 Jan 2020, 13:09
JasonL wrote:
13 Jan 2020, 12:54
Oh haha this book meanders forever and goes not much of anywhere.
That's a thing with Murakami, at least in my experience. He is one of the guys who makes me think it can't be that hard to be an acclaimed serious litfic writer.
I kind of blame the “novel as only allowable form” mentality of that world too. Most things aren’t novels. Write short stories on a theme and stop pretending.

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Re: What are you reading?

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I'm a big fan of Murakami's short stories.
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Eric the .5b
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Eric the .5b »

Painboy wrote:
25 Jun 2017, 21:34
What is LitRPG and why does it exist?

I saw some of this coming in the previous few years. It's been all over anime recently. I thought it was mostly something they were doing. Apparently it's showing up all over though.
Quoting this because I actually looked into the genre recently...and well, here comes a movie about the action video game version. (Well, and the last two Jumanji movies probably count...)

I have a theory that in this form, it's a natural evolution of the "portal fantasy" story, as a lot of the standard fantasy tropes were combined in their most common forms back in the 70s by D&D. Major fantasy works existed beforehand, but D&D mashed up Sword and Sorcery stuff with Tolkien, Kung Fu, Hammer Horror, and a pile of other things. And then people started writing a lot of fantasy novels, many of which treated this mishmash as a natural set of tropes. Meanwhile, fantasy computer RPGs started from a D&D-like base and then developed their own common conceits. And of course, tons of writers have done "protagonist is dropped into a D&D game/videogame/whatever" stories, from Andre Norton's 1978 Quag Keep forward. Formalizing the portal fantasy into "dumped into a game world" seems weirdly inevitable.

And yeah, anime. The Japanese isekai genre is apparently where it recently burst out, first in manga and light novels, then in animation. There, the standard formula was some guy getting hit by a truck—almost always a truck—and ending up in a fantasy game world, possibly with one sole "cheat" advantage over every other schlub. Then it caught interest in the English-language webnovel (prose serial) communities and ended up one of the more popular genres there.

A lot—a lot—of it is amateur and terribad and really does come across as someone writing a dull journal of their WoW/Guild Wars/whatever sessions. Bad characterization, no real plots, no real imagination, and, well, a spectrum-y absorption with the minutiae of playing a game. In my samplings, I've found all of two writers so far that have been any good:

* "Pirate Aba" writes a fairly well-known series called The Wandering Inn, which focuses on two young women (of an unknown number of people from Earth) dropped in the world. One is scared shitless of the danger-every-hundred-feet nature of the world, but works hard to survive and prosper as a mighty...innkeeper, while the other is an athlete determined to demonstrate how great she is without gaining a single level in anything...while doing a bad job forming any kind of relationship with people. Pity the website is kinda shit, as I haven't gotten around to reading past volume 1, which was on Amazon. (Apparently volume 2's out now, so I'll take a look.)

* Eric Ugland has two ongoing series ("The Good Guys" and "The Bad Guys") about, respectively, an ex-outlaw biker and a disgruntled teenage burglar who, while dying or possibly dead, accept invites to what looks like a new MMO. They end up dumped into a fantasy world that runs on game mechanics, which they both roll with at first. Then, they find themselves dealing with people needing help, a rather more complex world than they expected, unexpected responsibilities, and dangerous Imperial politics. (Ebooks and Audible only, with oddly terrible summaries on the pages...)
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JasonL
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by JasonL »

Something happened somewhere to nerds. The idea of storytelling and its power to connect to emotions and themes and present them in ways we haven't seen, to create characters with complex motivations revealed with subtlety, that all got replaced with hyper literal fantasy fulfillment. I don't want a story about gods and men, I want a story about Thor, and not only Thor, the one drawn by this one guy and doing the exact things in Thor 239. I need to know the story, nevermind universal themes, I don't even want to be surprised by the plot. I want to see that moment on page 16 panel 3 where he holds the hammer and does the thing. No wait, I want to be that thor. Asking me to imagine anything is a bit of a buffer between my very very specific vision of what is supposed to happen to make me happy. Thor has strength 23. I need it to be clear that it's exactly 23 and that Loki is no more than 20. Maybe we can fight, but someone could come away with the wrong impression that my strength is only 22. Unless ... I had actual stats that were on each page. Perfect.

I don't understand this kind of nerd.

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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Painboy »

I'm not sure if anything changed as much as the breadth of media out there has revealed previously hidden or even unknown desires that were essentially always there. With niches becoming larger with the advent of the internet the resources are there to feed those desires almost endlessly.

With regards to the LitRPG I've seen out there it is mostly power fantasies. Some good, some bad. Almost all are of a simplistic nature where the protagonist is the one with all the answers. Even if no one listens to them something bad happens to those that didn't. Usually with the hero bailing them out a some point.

I will say one of the odder things I've noticed about this kind of stuff in anime is the weird bureaucracy and regimentation of everything. Even in the more standard anime fantasies like Goblin Slayer there is always some sort of rigid structure like an adventurer's guild that gives ratings or ranks to everyone and helpfully assigns difficulty levels to quests. Which are all helpfully pinned on a board to peruse. They even have customer service like people to explain things. It's like they think the conventions in video games are a good way to write things, despite the fact they were only done that way primarily because of a video game's limitations.

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Eric the .5b
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Eric the .5b »

Painboy wrote:
14 Jan 2020, 20:30
I'm not sure if anything changed as much as the breadth of media out there has revealed previously hidden or even unknown desires that were essentially always there. With niches becoming larger with the advent of the internet the resources are there to feed those desires almost endlessly.
Definitely. And the niches can be self-satisfying. Slapping up web novel installments on Royal Road or whatever is just as easy as uploading fanfic to AO3, so some of the people interested in some particular niche can provide supply.
Painboy wrote:
14 Jan 2020, 20:30
With regards to the LitRPG I've seen out there it is mostly power fantasies. Some good, some bad. Almost all are of a simplistic nature where the protagonist is the one with all the answers. Even if no one listens to them something bad happens to those that didn't. Usually with the hero bailing them out a some point.
Which is to be expected, as it's mostly an adventure genre, and science fiction and fantasy in general have a lot of power fantasy tropes. Portal fantasies in particular usually hinge on the protagonist being able to have an outsize effect despite being an outsider unfamiliar with the world, usually due to some Earthly intellectual quality or weird mystical quality they possess in the fantasy world. But there's definitely a fascination in the zero-to-hero buildup among the litRPG fans, from what I've seen. The idea that persistent effort really will be palpably rewarded.
Painboy wrote:
14 Jan 2020, 20:30
I will say one of the odder things I've noticed about this kind of stuff in anime is the weird bureaucracy and regimentation of everything...
I suspect some of that is Japanese culture as much as it is video games artifacts. Also, there's an element of humor to some things. Having the band of murderhobos trudge up to a job board is a bit of deadpan comedy, at least in lighter works.
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