• In the Light of Dusk - AAR Review by Swaeft



    In the Light of Dusk – AAR Review
    By Swaeft


    Konnichiwa, (or Konbanwa, depending on your time zone) my fellow TWCers, today I’m very pleased to bring you a review of a Sengoku Jidai tale – In the Light of Dusk by Tigellinus. Rice cakes and sake are on the house this time, please grab a few, after which these samurai over here will show you to your seats.





    The Basics
    In the Light of Dusk is a narrative style AAR set in the mythical land of Japan, during the Sengoku Jidai, a period of time from 1467 – 1600 in which Japan saw almost uninterrupted military conflict. As far as I can tell, this AAR utilizes no mods, and initially starts off from the perspective of the legendary Daimyo Oda Nobunaga. This expands later on to include various other characters’ perspectives and their own take on events that have occurred. But in the end, this tale is mainly about how Nobunaga struggles to deal with loss, warfare, hard choices, and the future of his clan – everything you can expect from a Shogun 2 AAR set in this particular era.

    Brief Overview
    This review will attempt to analyse Tigellinus’ AAR and give you all a breakdown of what’s good, what can be improved, and what really caught my eye. In the Light of Dusk was authored in 2013, and has been reviewed before by the esteemed Merchant of Venice here, in the Critic’s Quill issue 43, should you wish to check that out.

    Reronicus did author a single chapter, the chapter in between Tigellinus’ chapters three and four (Reronicus calls it Shimazu – Chapter 1), however since the overwhelming majority of the AAR consists of Tigellinus’ writings and Reronicus hasn’t posted anything else, this review will focus largely on Tigellinus’ chapters.


    Writing Style

    Descriptions
    Tigellinus’ In the Light of Dusk is a haunting, evocative tale that utilises excellent writing and great descriptions to ensure that our dive into his world is a vivid and detailed one. Here’s an example from Chapter One:
    "The wind whistled around the courtyard, it was a low, hissing sound; like a katana being pulled from it’s sheath. The hiss of air as the blade slides from its scabbard, a sharp blade, made for killing. Around us the snows fell, heavily, covering the ground in an essence of white bliss. The flowers that bloomed in spring were now concealed by a thicket of snow, the burst of red from the flowers now coloured a gleaming white from the frost."

    Descriptions such as these that are prevalent throughout his AAR help to immerse the readers into the setting, which is important since the 15th and 16th century history of Japan isn’t as publicized and written about as much as, say, Renaissance-era Europe, and thus some readers may not have a good understanding of how Japan looked like in the period Tigellinus is writing about.

    Here are a few more examples that I believe clearly illustrate Tigellinus’ strong grasp of vocabulary and his ability to paint a picture of a detailed scene in our minds.

    Chapter Five: “The birds whistled their song, it was soft and sweet, though held a forlorn touch to it. The dirt road seemed to shudder and sway beneath my horses hooves. The grass seemed to whip with a fury, and the trees stood staunch.”
    Chapter Nine: Winter came and went, the icy cold being replaced by the kiss of spring. The air was fresh and warm, and the daylight made my armour gleam like fire.

    As I have mentioned before in my previous review, I enjoy reading comprehensive descriptions that aren’t overdone or under-par. I feel that Tigellinus has struck a nice balance between those two, and reading the AAR makes me go: “Wow, he wrote that scene really well. It’s flows nicely and is believable.”

    As is the norm, no AAR is completely free of mistakes. I’m pleased to report, however, that the more prominent mistakes in Tigellinus’ AAR are grammatical in nature, and not odd descriptions that may serve to potentially confuse readers. For example:

    Chapter Fifteen: My eyes opened wider in shock, and I must have made some sort of sound. For in a moment the healer was before me.” The first full-stop could have been a comma, as it does read like a continuous sentence, with the unexpected full-stop midway being sudden and jarring.

    It must be said that these mistakes were hard to find, and only stand out if you really sit down and spend a lot of effort reading through the chapters, so I can safely say that this does not detract much from the reading experience, if at all.

    With that being said, the one thing that did give me more than a tinge of concern was in Chapter Seven: "We met back at camp, the infantry bitter, and yet relieved at not having to fight that night."

    I struggled to understand how soldiers could be bitter at not fighting whilst at the same time being relieved that they didn’t participate in the combat. After re-reading it several times, I finally understood that Tigellinus most probably meant to convey that the infantry were bitter that they didn't get to participate in the glory and the plunder of enemy equipment, as the cavalry did, but were also relieved that they didn't have to die on the field. This dynamic probably could have been expanded on a little more in order to dispel any potential confusion that readers may get.

    Attention to Detail
    Tigellinus pays a good amount of attention to detail, and it really shows in his writing. I like authors who write about the more minute details and ‘little things’ that we may deem to be inconsequential – to me, this shows that they are good at describing something and know exactly what they are writing about. For some context, Tigellinus describes a swordfight in Chapter One as such:
    “I stepped back, with a sharp twist of my wrist my Katana struck like a viper at Himichiro, his blade caught it with ease and threw me backwards with the momentum. As I pulled my sword back my world slowed around me, the timing must be perfect, I knew. My precision and speed must be unmatched. I aimed for Himichiro’s chest, maneuvering my feet so that as much force as possible would be put in the blow. My breath was a whisper in my ears, my Katana felt light in my hands, such as a feather would weigh. I closed my eyes, and opened them, I lunged with the fury of fire. My blade was aimed for his heart, I couldn’t miss . . .”

    This is a long quote, but I think it encapsulates nicely what I’m trying to say. In this paragraph, Tigellinus showcases Oda Nobunaga’s movements, emotions, thoughts and fighting style, whereas another author might have focused solely on describing the fight. That is not to say that solely describing the fight is a bad thing, it is up to the author to decide how he wants to portray an event after all, but this, in my view, is Tigellinus going above and beyond to inject detail into a fast-paced scene, and I think he does it really well.

    This form of writing is consistent throughout the AAR, which makes it a joy to read. Another example I take pleasure in highlighting would be from Chapter Eight:
    “The snow had fallen heavily the night before, and I had little sleep due to the cold, and my own fright at leading men to war. My horse left large holes in the ground, heavy and sodden it trekked through the snow. The men were less than excited to be marching in such cold weather. They were fresh, but the slog of marching through the snow, as the cold and wind both tore at them savagely, was disheartening.”

    Again, Tigellinus doesn’t just gloss over the fact that the army is marching through bad weather. Instead, he uses it to inform the readers how the characters are feeling and dealing with the cold, giving us insights into their state of mind.

    Authenticity/Immersion
    I must admit that I am not entirely familiar with Japanese history, so I was a little apprehensive when I began reading this AAR. I wondered if perhaps I would not understand what Tigellinus was trying to say, or if I would miss something that others better versed in Japanese history would pick up, but these fears have proven to be largely unfounded.

    Tigellinus uses the Japanese honorifics to signify the rank and status of various characters, and this is nicely done in my opinion. He doesn’t overuse them by putting these honorifics in every time a character is mentioned, for example, but they are there once or twice in a chapter as an effective reminder.

    However, in his attempts to further immerse the readers into the Japanese setting, Tigellinus might have gone slightly off track. In chapter eight, he writes that “The rain slid off my kuma” and mentions the word ‘kuma’ twice more. I take this to be some form of clothing, but I cannot find a reference of it by searching on the internet. In Chapter Fifteen, Tigellinus writes “A great crowd surrounded the Daimyo, he had ventured out with nothing except a kimo to cover himself.” Once again, I could not find anything clothing-related, but this is easier to interpret – it could perhaps be a shorter way of writing Kimono, though I certainly have not heard of it before.

    Character Development
    A really big plus for this AAR is the strength of its character development. Tigellinus has presented to us incredibly detailed, wonderfully fleshed out characters with feasible actions and reactions. This is clearly evident in the AAR’s main character, Oda Nobunaga.

    Tigellinus portrays Nobunaga as an idealistic, dutiful, protective man who wants nothing else but to serve his people and further the cause of the Oda…and who is also prone to fits of rage, though this is perhaps understandable once we take a look at the context of Nobunaga’s rule. As a teenage ruler, Nobunaga has had to, among many other tribulations:


    • Deal with the death of his father
    • Contend with ruling the Oda at a young age
    • Arrest his own uncle
    • Deal with the destruction and loss of his home province


    Anyone who has had the unfortunate fate of having experienced all those events would of course be affected emotionally and mentally, something that Tigellinus has a knack for writing. Nobunaga’s pain and sorrow can be felt in almost every chapter, but that is not all to the Oda Daimyo.

    Character development is important in any narrative AAR, and Tigellinus handles this brilliantly. Nobunaga is the perfect candidate to showcase this. Having experienced many life changing events and impactful situations, as well as taking on the advice of his betters, Nobunaga grows from a spoiled, brash child to a more mature, dutiful samurai.

    In Chapter One, Nobunaga thinks: “This is not some deal, between me and the commoners. I am Daimyo. “My name is Nobunaga, I am Daimyo of the Oda! I AM DAIMYO!” This is rather presumptuous of him, to demand obedience from the people whilst giving nothing in return. In Chapter Four, he admonishes: “This is my clan, you do not presume to tell me what I should and should not do!”

    Many events in the AAR afterwards shape Nobunaga’s outlook on life, and when we arrive at one of the later chapters, Chapter Fifteen, Nobunaga thinks: “What right do I have? What right to ask them to battle for me?”

    This is a clear indicator of growth. Nobunaga has changed from a warlord who expects blind obedience to one who recognizes that it must be earned.

    Many words are dedicated to Nobunaga mulling over his actions and self-musings, which provide deep insight into his thoughts. There is no need to refer to particular quotes to show this, they are easy to find just by glancing at any of the chapters. However, to showcase that Nobunaga’s constant introspection and examination of his own actions doesn’t stop; here are two quotes from the early and late stages of the AAR.

    In Chapter Two, Nobunaga ponders over the ramifications of arresting his family members: “Am I doing the right thing? Or is I that is dooming the Oda? Is it I that am subjugating my people to a life of torture and anguish and slavery?”

    This shows that he isn’t just concerned about power and the rulership of his clan – he is actually thinking about the welfare of his common folk, the very people he is supposed to protect. “You forget, no amount of bloodshed can repay what I have done, I let them burn, Satashi-san. That is something they can never forgive, something they should never forgive.” This tells us that he is mindful of his failures and his duty to his people, pushing him towards wanting to regain their trust.

    Character Interactions and Impact
    Of course, a man so burdened and affected by his past would be ill-suited to lead his clan, and therefore Nobunaga has come to rely on his followers and advisors, chief among them Himichiro. Himichiro is portrayed as a wise and loyal man, and an almost fatherly figure to Nobunaga. It is clear that Nobunaga deeply respects Himichiro and his opinions, and constantly acts upon Himichiro’s advice.

    Chapter Four: “Silence, Himichiro-sensei, such words are not worthy of you, my friend.”

    When Himichiro apologizes for his failure to protect Nobunaga, Nobunaga brushes this apology aside as he greatly respects Himichiro and knows very well it wasn’t his fault. Immediately after, it is said that: “I smiled tentatively at my friend, my protector. So captivated was I by his loyalty and shame that I forgot about my anger, fear and the anguish.”

    This continues throughout the AAR, where in Chapter Eleven, Nobunaga says “I . . . I was disrespectful to you at Hima. I spoke out against good and wise counsel, and I should not have raised a hand against you, Himichiro-sensei. I am truly sorry.”

    It is not an easy thing for a Daimyo to openly proclaim that he has made a mistake and apologize. This clearly shows that Nobunaga holds HImichiro in very high regard. But why so?

    Loyalty is one of Himichiro’s biggest qualities, and it shows. When given an order he doesn’t like, Himichiro nevertheless carries it out. A good example is from Chapter Four, where despite having “a forlorn look upon his face”, Himichiro carries out Nobunaga’s order and executes two Oda soldiers. Himichiro’s loyalty is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt again in Chapter Nine, where Nobunaga contemplates committing a shameful and dishonourable act my assassinating an opposing Daimyo whilst under the flag of truce, and Himichiro says: “Such an act would be . . . questionable, Nobunaga-sama. But, shall you order it, I will see the deed done.”

    But loyalty is not all that Himichiro is known for. His wisdom and intellect has greatly assisted Nobunaga, and a good example of this would be in Chapter Nine, where Himichiro states that: “sometimes defending your people means kneeling to a foe, sometimes that is the only path you can take, the only path that will save your people.”

    In this age where surrender was considered dishonourable and death preferable to such an act of cowardice, Himichiro shows his wisdom by casting pride aside and accepting surrender as an option in order to play the long game for the Oda to ultimately come out on top. Although Nobunaga does not heed this particular piece of advice, he later acknowledges that Himichiro had given him wise counsel.

    One more example of this would be Himichiro cautioning Nobunaga against wanton violence against his enemies when he says “Remember your sorrow so that you may show kindness and mercy” in Chapter Ten. Nobunaga is visibly affected by this, and in chapter eleven when he stands before the Kiso people, he made the decision to note pillage their homes and destroy their lands. The credit for this, of course, goes to Himichiro, who understood that the Oda clan would not survive long if its Daimyo gains a bloodthirsty reputation and alienates all those he comes into contact with.

    Another good point to consider is that Himichiro was also the one who almost single-handedly got Nobunaga out of Owari while it was being raided, making him Nobunaga’s saviour.

    These are just some of the great examples of character development in this AAR. There's more to be found if you decide to read it yourself!

    Writing Techniques

    Pace
    This AAR is fast paced and action packed, with each chapter often having new scenarios playing out that are completely different from the previous chapters’. Even though there are some time gaps, Tigellinus explains everything in a succinct manner, which means you don’t really lose track of who’s doing what and where they’re at.

    Originality
    The relatively fewer Shogun 2 AARs out there (as compared to the other total war games) means that each AAR is slightly more unique on its own. In addition, considering the fact that this story is about a Daimyo on the run whilst simultaneously plotting to retake his home, this is about as original as it gets.

    Drama and Action
    As this AAR is fast paced, you’re guaranteed to see action in most of the chapters, which is really cool for those of you who love slurping up the fighting and the drama. There is also some political intrigue involved, but this occurs more on the non-Oda side of things (the Imagawa and the Takeda, for example). As a result, the chapters are exciting and encourage you to read on.

    The thrilling chapters in this AAR are effective at keeping us at the edge of our seat because Tigellinus effectively wraps the drama and action in the AAR around everything else. An AAR cannot be carried by action and high intensity chapters alone – drama and action are particularly useful in exemplifying other aspects of the story, such as when the author has created characters we are invested in through good, relatable (or at the very least, understandable) character development and growth. It allows us to think, “wow, that character has gone through so much. Can he take much more?” or perhaps, “The intensity of the conflict is very high. Is there a major point in the story coming up?”

    In short – drama and action, when combined with other aspects of the AAR that are polished and well thought out, serves to elevate the overall effectiveness and attractiveness of the AAR, and Tigellinus has done very well in this regard.

    Pictures
    This AAR doesn’t make use of any screenshots in its chapters, and although Tigellinus has stated that he has used a total of three in the entire AAR, I am unable to see them. It has always been my stand that pictures are not a necessity in an AAR – good writing is more than enough to seize my attention and hold it, and this AAR is a great example of that. However, for those who enjoy viewing battle pictures or scenic screenshots, this can be somewhat of a turn off. Shogun 2 looks amazing in my opinion, and to not make use of those wonderful graphics (they are beautiful even on low settings, I myself play on low) seems a bit of a missed opportunity to me. One thing to note is that someone else has reported being able to see the pictures, so it could be a technical problem on my end. Still, 3 screenshots in 18 chapters is a bit low for my liking.

    Presentation
    Tigellinus has done the bare minimum here, simply posting chapters inside spoilers or content boxes and leaving the rest to sort itself out. The transitions from one character’s perspective to another’s are inconsistent (sometimes they are separated only by character names, other times with a bunch of asterisks, and the font used to do so changes very often), the font used to type the AAR out varies from chapter to chapter as well, and there are numerous differences in spacing between paragraphs and chapter titles. These can be normally be written off as minor inconveniences, but since the AAR is made up of text alone, it can quickly become something of a headache, which might result in the unfortunate effect of turning readers away from this otherwise brilliant AAR.

    In addition, there is no character list for readers to look at if they ever forget who a particular character is. There is one in the first post, but it is incomplete and only contains one character. As a result, one has to go through all the previous chapters until they find a scene with the character in question before finally realizing who that is. Now to be clear, character lists are not a must, they are more of a ‘good to have’ rather than a ‘must have’. However, when your AAR features many prominent characters and has a somewhat lengthy downtime between chapters, it can become easy for readers to forget who is who, which is something an AARtist will have to address eventually.

    The length of the chapters are also somewhat of a concern. The word count can differ greatly between chapters, and some of them can be really long. There are pros and cons to having long chapters, of course, and the biggest among them would be long chapters turning away potential readers. I personally love sitting down and reading a good, long chapter, but others may not feel this way. Ultimately, this is really up to each individual AARtists, there is no right and wrong way of going about it, but it is something they should consider when writing an AAR. It is good to note that the followers of this AAR didn’t seem to have a problem with it, though.

    AAR-Reader Engagement
    Tigellinus seems to me to be a very open and approachable person, who is very enthusiastic about his AAR. He enjoys reading people’s comments on his work, and will always take the time to respond to them, often with a healthy amount of zeal. He is also respectful, polite, and always ready to take criticism. These are big plus points, so kudos to him for that.

    Conclusion
    Reading the AAR and writing a review about it has been a great pleasure for me, and I strongly recommend this to anyone who is thinking of delving into the Shogun 2 section. As you all might know, I love to see screenshots inside AARs, and the fact that I was able to read an AAR completely devoid of them should sum up just how good it is. One final note for you guys to chew on – this AAR was written when Tigellinus was thirteen years old! To me, the quality of writing is really impressive for someone at such a tender age, but you really should decide that for yourself – after reading it!
    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Swaeft's Avatar
      Swaeft -
      As always, I owe a very big thanks to Alwyn and Caillagh for their continuous support and advice throughout the duration of writing this review.