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CROSSOVERS FROM HELL, Part 1
Ficbitches
ficbitches

PANZER DRAGOON SAGA/RANMA 1/2 :: Avatar


SCORE
PLOT: -1/5 (There are some things Ghod did not intend to happen. This crossover is one of them.)
CHARACTERIZATION: 2/5 (Is this the Ranma I know? Is this the Azel I know? ...No and no.)
WRITING: 2/5 (Spellcheck is your friend, no reason to be afraid of it.)
DEGREE OF WEEPING INDUCED BY THE REALIZATION THAT NOTHING IS SACRED ANYMORE: 10/5

Today is a special day for SttH, as we are doing our very first stupid crossover fic review. I'm actually sort of surprised there hasn't been one on here already, as there's literally tens of thousands of horrid crossover fics floating around on the web. Maybe it's just the inherent fear of seeing two good series bastardized into one ugly mess which Should Not Be that makes us shy away from them on instinct.

Well, I might be exaggerating a little. Crossovers are not intrinsically bad. Some can be very good. However, there are things that are good to keep in mind:

- Just because you like two different series doesn't mean that they are two great tastes that taste great together. The series you're crossing over should at least have a few elements in common. This helps make the fic both feasable and more enjoyable. Example: Even before the games came out, people were doing Capcom and SNK fighting game crossovers. These generally turned out a lot better than, say, a King of Fighters/Final Fantasy crossover would.

- a humorous/parody crossover is a LOT easier to write than a serious one. Even then, it's sometimes hard to keep the humor from going to "genuinely funny" to "stupid/dippy". But if you are trying to do a serious crossover... Well, remember that it's an unbelievable stretch to make ANYONE consider something like a Sailor Moon/X-Files crossover seriously.

- Keep characters in character. In a crossover fic, some characters will be exposed to new situations they haven't seen/experienced before. Think long and hard about how they would react to such things happening before writing it. Don't break established canon for the sake of the crossover (ie. characters falling madly in love with those from another series, ignoring established relationships).

This fic follows NONE of these suggestions, and then some. Massive pain shall soon ensue.

A reader wrote to us once about being, and I quote, "traumatized by seeing a Harry Potter/Hellsing crossover fic." There's one crossover that should never, ever be. Now, after reading this, I believe I can fully understand the horrors she endured.

For those unfamiliar, Panzer Dragoon Saga was a game released in the dying days of the Saturn, and among those fortunate enough to have played it, is usually regarded as one of the best RPGs ever (in spite of its relatively short length). With an amazing story, truly memorable and well-developed characters, and some of the most innovative gameplay in ay RPG, PDS was the Saturn's swan song, and a gaming masterwork of the highest level. (Its quality, combined with its rarity, give it an almost $200 price tag on Ebay.) I still dig it out to play through again from time to time, and by the end of the game, I am always - ALWAYS - emotionally overwhelmed with a combination of joy, sadness, and amazement from just how damn good the game is. (In case you haven't realized already, I take my games very seriously.)

I've been playing lots of the latest Panzer Dragoon incarnation, Orta, on my XBox recently. It's an amazing game that expands upon the shooting gameplay of the first 2 PD games while having an excellent story that explains and continues some of the loose threads from PDS. Being in an enhanced state of Panzer affection, and thinking about writing my own fic, I decided to see if there was anything on FF.net.

Why, why do I never learn?

Here, we have an attempted crossover between two series which are running on totally different wavelengths. Panzer Dragoon is set in a beautifully rendered alternative world with a deep and complex mythology, political and spiritual drama, and sympathetic characters who grow, mature, and develop throughout the course of the games. Ranma takes place in modern-day Japan, and is full of goofy shape-changing hijinks, slapstick martial-arts humor, and a cast of dysfunctional and crazy yet lovable characters.

As a result, this fic is just painful. Panzer has a very, very special place in my heart as one of the most beautiful game series out there. Writing the Panzer universe into a bad crossover - especially one as nonsensical as this - is the equivalent in my mind of projectile vomiting on a Van Gogh piece.

This review contains some pretty big spoilers for both PDS and PDO, so I've decided to white them out. If you plan on playing these games (and you really should) but haven't yet, do NOT highlight the whited-out text. If you either have played the games or simply don't mind excessive spoilage, go ahead and run over the text to see what I have written.

The fic begins where PDS leaves off, as Azel is mostly living the life of a nomad. As she tries to sell and buy food and goods at town, some ex-Empire soldiers see her clothes (those of Seekers, a generally not-well-regarded group) and decide to beat up on her. She takes it in very good stride, but suddenly, out of nowhere:

Azel felt a gentle hand on her shoulder, carefully shaking her. She gambled, and looked up into slate gray eyes, an unusual color for the people of the desert land. His voice was gentle, once again speaking in the strange tongue that she didn't understand, as he offered her his hand in assist.

"Don't worry, they ain't gonna be bother'n anyone for a while," Ranma said, taking another glance around at the jerks who were about to beat up on an innocent woman. The woman he saved looked around her and blinked in surprise.


Immediately, this begins to bother me. Azel is not this completely weak, weepy little thing. It was only after Craymen died that she got really emotionally distraught - hey, if you had been sealed away for thousands of years and developed your first emotional attachment to the guy who "rescued" you, only to see him violently murdered in front of your face, you'd be a wreck too. Up until then, she and Atolm were out and ready to kick some ass. Hell, I still think she could kick some ass if she needed to - she was built to assist in overthrowing the Ancient regime, after all, and could have hidden strength we (and possibly she) don't even know about.

And now they're going to coincidentally get sucked into a plot which involves the plans of the new Emperor ascending to the throne of the severely damaged Empire. You know this isn't a bad concept, really, but apparently this author decided Panzer Dragoon would be, like, 10 billion times BETTER with tie-ins to completely unrelated series!

So, anyway, on with the plot. I'm going to make points throughout the show the ways in which canon and plausibility have been twisted to suit the needs of this fic. Keep track of them, there will be a quiz on Monday.

Azel and Ranma travel around a bit, Azel wanting to take him to the capital to see just who he is and where he came from. Along the way, they rest for a night. While training, Ranma stupidly wanders into a cave in the desert. Azel sees him gone, gets worried, follows him, falls down into the cave and gets hurt. Suddenly, they both get attacked by a monster. Shock. Ranma proceeds to save Azel's ass and fights using unbelievable martial-arts skills:

The creature quickly brought its winged arms foward to guard its face, and Ranma would have been impressed if he weren't so enraged. Ranma's fist was enveloped by the largest concentration of ki he could muster, and slammed it into the monster's guard. His fist held against the thick armor with his battle energy rumbling between the impact; they stayed in against each other for several moments, like a magnetic attraction built from their collision. Ranma smirked as he felt the hardened shell give slightly, and pulled away to land back onto the sand coated cavern floor.

Ranma landed hard kneeling, kicking up an enormous cloud of dust and sand that gave his enormous battle aura a mist-like quality. The expression of the pigtailed boy through the haze of particles and energy showed he was far from satisfied, as now he was determined to bring down this monster in vengence for the young woman he had only known for a day or so, but could tell deserved so much better from the hard life she must live.

...

He defiantly shoved two of the building tall projectiles out of his way as if they were tall grass, and took purposeful and prideful strides foward. The young man looked up towards the hovering creature, as if daring it to do its worst.

Azel's breath was caught in her throat; never had she thought it possible for anything less than a dragon could take a Gidra in full fighting mode. It was just impossible. But the cyclone earlier, along with the brilliant light her companion was glowing with that was lighting the whole cavern like an underground moon was beginning to show Azel just what this boy named Ranma exelled in... the impossible.


POINT 1: When did Ranma ever become this competent? He goofs up. A lot.

Since Ranma is so incredibly powerful, according to the fic, Azel begins to believe that he is an ancient drone like herself.

POINT 2: His power rivals that of ancient, possibly godlike bioweaponry. Riiiiiiiiight.
POINT 3:- Doesn't Ranma tire out from being some superhuman-god-power-boy? A quote taken from a review on Toastyfrog, a quite fun little site:
If you'd like to be able to tell a real Takahashi-written story apart from a hack job like this, here's a good starting point: in hack jobs, Ranma can casually pull of his ultimate moves like he was a Street Fighter character or something. While Takahashi makes it clear that these special skills require great concentration and effort on Ranma's part, Nihao My Concubine (or in this case, this fic) shows him blowing through the crust of an entire island with a laser beam-like effect that seems to require about as much effort as scratching his butt. Well golly! You mean he spent an entire episode trying to lure Happosai into a Hiryuu Shotenha when all he really had to do was give a dramatic speech to Akane and stick his hands out?

Also scattered throughout the fics are hints, subtle and not-so-subtle, that Azel is developing an attachment of sorts to Ranma. That means... Azel is falling for him? Yeah, screw that whole determination-to-reunite-with-Edge thing!

POINT 4: So her only true love can be an incredibly out-of-place, out-of-character, superhuman shafeshifting martial artist. And the author is basically SHRUGGING OFF her feelings regarding Edge to serve the purpose of this mindboggling crossover. GH no like! GH RAGE! RAAARRRRRRRRR!

Actually, here's a quote from the fic that gave me a funny image when I read it:

Azel's contemplation was cut short, when a peculiar sensation began to overwhelm her at her companion's sincere concern.

I can imagine this in-game.

*sitting around campfire at night*
AZEL: Edge... I have... a peculiar sensation.
EDGE: Huh?
AZEL: Do you ever get... that "Not-so-fresh" feeling?
EDGE: ... I think it's time to hit the Caravan now.

This isn't the case all the time, though, because after the defeat the monster, they are left stranded and wandering in the desert. At this point Azel becomes violently angry at Ranma:

With this realization, came the feeling of infuriation... That feeling that he was obliviously pursuing something he knew nothing about, that would be a great deal of danger to all those involved. She felt the overwhelming need to scream, to... to...

::SMACK::

"Ranma, you IDIOT!" She was still extremely angry at the situation that they were placed in, but found her act strangely carthic.


POINT 5: More OOCness ahoy! Azel wouldn't smack anyone around by herself without a damn good reason, like being attacked. Hell, even when she got pissy with Edge, she didn't whack him upside the head. (She had Atolm for that.)

I think this was an attempt to try and capture the "wacky slapstick" that Ranma 1/2 is so well known for. In the Panzer universe, where such things are hideously out of place, it fails so miserably that it HURTS.

BTW, what the hell kind of word is carthic, anyway? Is it like a thung?

POINT 6: Later in the story it is mentioned that Ranma has selective amnesia, and can't remember anything that happened before he came here aside from his name, his martial arts school, and his skills. It would have been great if the author mentioned that, like, I don't know, when he first showed up, maybe? Is this even PLAUSIBLE? (Hint: no.) He makes references to people like Ryoga and Kasumi even later on, leaving a HUGE GAPING PLOT HOLE.

POINT 7: Ranma transforms later on somehow, but nobody - and I mean NOBODY, not even Ranma himself, seems to notice immediately. In fact, people still keep referring to Ranma as him. Jeezus, with a bust like Ranko's I'd think it'd be pretty damn obvious what was going on. "Oh, whoops, my selective amnesia had me totally forget that I change into a well-endowed girl when wet! Isn't THAT just a doozy, eh Azel!"

All these points contribute to my theory: This isn't really Ranma. This is a random original character the author threw in that has the name Ranma and can do a lot of Ranma's techniques, but has such a mismatched personality and ability that it cannot possibly be THE Ranma. (Maybe even a Gary Stu, but I don't think it extends that far.)

So, the concept of the fic may be a train wreck in slow-motion... but the writing actually wouldn't be horrible, as the descriptions are fairly good. That is, if it weren't for the rampant spelling and grammar mistakes. (The author actually has this in their profile: People, how many times am I *really* gonna have to say this? I DON'T BOTHER WITH SPELLCHECKING!!! Most of the time my spelling is adequate enough to get the point across, particularly since when I type, I tend to type phonetically (force of habit when typing 70-80+ wpm) So, being a l33t typist is apparently merit enough to not bother hitting F7 in Word? One extra keystroke and five minutes of my time is far too much!)

Oh, and the run-on sentences. Some of the run-on sentences in this rival that of I See Dead People. That's not something to be proud of. Though admittedly, they are far less in quantity.

Examples:

"His clothes are meticulous, you say he saved you from a group of hooligans on the outside of town?" the scholarly old man enquired, looking into the night sky, a midnight velvet cloth littered with liquid drops of crystal that fought against the dull glow of torchlights that rose from the ground.

New Capital slowly progressed in being built, with first the palace constructed as the first of the magnificent buildings to tower over the smaller hovels of the workers, townsmen, and imperial employees were housed temporarily until the glorious capital could be restored.

What little moonlight that shined upon him gave a surreal shimmer to his clothes that along with his fluid and precise motions, made him seem like he was majority flowing liquid, or a smoothly morphing crystal that had been impossibly polished to roundness.

And the worst offender, as Ranma tries to learn Panzerese:

After that, he began to relate the main way sentences were structured between the different languages of Japanese and English; Japanese was a Subject-object-verb language, while English was a Subject-verb-object language (Not that Ranma catagorized them as such, just that he knew that Japanese whatever you were talking about came before whatever it was relating to, then followed what the thing you were originally talking about was doing, as how Hinako described English as you say what the thing you're talking about is doing right away after saying what what is going to be doing, and then to what or whom).

... was that really necessary?

Currently, this story is unfinished, and leaves off with a cliffhanger of Azel being taken away by mean nasty Empire people, and Ranma vowing to rescue her. Cliche, sigh. Also of note: this fic was started before the release of Panzer Dragoon Orta. Even with that in mind, it frightens me how, if the author continues it, they could try and tie it into the next game.

*inside Sestren*
AZEL: Yeah, I used some human DNA left over here in Sestren to make you. I thought of that Edge guy I had a thing for a long time ago for a moment, but then I figured the perfect daughter could only come from the genes of a gender-swapping freak who may also be inflatable. If I were you, I'd try and avoid hot water, OK?
ORTA: ... Thanks, mom.
ABADD: On second thought, maybe I don't want your body after all...


Actually, I really shouldn't bash this fic too hard. As bad as the crossover is, it actually isn't as bad as it COULD be. Ranma is the only blatant outsider in the Panzer World thus far... but just think about how things would become if Ryouga, Kuno, Happosai (AIIIIEEEEE) and the rest of the gang decided to chase after him. My brain shuts down as a safety function when I even TRY to imagine this.

Perhaps the saddest thing is that this author does seem to know and understand the Panzer world very, very well (aside from Azel being rather OOC). If he were to write some other Panzer-related fic, one that doesn't involve a totally misplaced and inappropriate crossover, and perhaps run it through spell check, I think it would turn out a lot better. It might even be pretty good. I definitely wouldn't try a different crossover, though, I cannot perceive the Panzer world as being receptive to outside series. (If someone wants to prove me wrong by writing a PD crossover that is thoughtful, well-written, and doesn't feel hideously out of place, be my guest.)

So, I think I'll save my LV-5 Bitch Wing Berserker attack in case anyone tries to write a lemon involving Orta. Now THAT will be a hellstorm.




UNRELATED SIDE COMMENTARY:

Fanficcers aren't the only ones guilty of dumb, out-of-place crossovers. If you've seen what Namco has planned for the home versions of Soul Calibur 2, you'll know that big companies can be guilty of it too. Apparently they're going to try and work Link (from Legend of Zelda), Heihachi (from Tekken), and Spawn (from, er, Spawn) into the official story. Probably by pulling a lame explanation from their ass. Personally, I think it'd be better if they were left story-less, or better yet, replaced with new, original characters that actually felt appropriate. But that's just my opinion.


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T & A

(Anonymous)
Actually, there was one part of the manga where Akane yells at Ranma while he's fighting Ryoga that he hadn't know he had changed.

I agree that I find it odd that he would notice the change, but as the manga implies, anyone watching would certianly notice.

How can you not notice, though? Its not just, 'my chest feels funny' Its 'my chest is suddenly bouncing, my crotch has dissapeared and my center of balance if off!' And with the red bangs in his face wouldn't he know immediately when his hair color changed?

In the manga, nobody has a particular assigned hair color. Since it's almost always in black and white, almost everyone has plain black hair (Ranma, Shampoo, Kasumi, etc). Also, it's difficult to cite the color images produced by Rumiko Takahashi because she frequently changes character's hair color - Ranma especially. In some pictures he'll have black hair, some of them red, some PINK, some BLONDE...it's just whatever color she feels like using at the time.

The anime gave female Ranma red hair so that the audience could recognize the change more immediately.

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