Chapter 0 is the very beginning, and as Julie Andrews once sang, that is logically the best place to commence any undertaking. First, though, let's get some housekeeping out of the way. I won't be talking through every single page of the comic, I'll be giving a general summary of what happens over the course of the chapter. I'll talk about major characters and events, and share my personal take on what they mean as far as character development and impact on the world. Throughout this series I'll be skipping over most of the Omake (side stories), DPD's (Dead Piro Days), and Naze Nani Megatokyo ("The How and Why of Megatokyo")and SGD (Shirt Guy Dom) strips. Partly to keep myself on-point, and partly to leave something for you to see on your own if for some reason you decide to read the chapter after
my post each week. Also to head off some potential confusion, Fred goes by Piro online, and that's what I call him when I refer to him most of the time. But for the purposes of this series I need to differentiate between the character of the same name, so I'll be referring to real-world Piro by his real-world name, Fred. That's about all I can think of right now, so without further ado...
Actually wait, Chapter 0 is kind of an odd duck in a few ways, so let's talk about some behind-the-scenes stuff first. Note that I'm not in Fred's inner circle, and wasn't yet reading the comic when all this happened, so everything you read here comes from Fred's commentary in the Megatokyo volume 1 paperback. Megatokyo was created by Fred "Piro" Gallagher and Rodney "Largo" Caston. From what I can tell, it was intended to effectively be Penny Arcade, but with continuity. This worked pretty well for a while, but eventually Fred got tired of having to have a punchline in every comic, so he started gearing the updates more towards plot than humor, eventually even changing the pages' layout so he could do more with each one. That's the same time that it was decided to break things into chapters, so he wrapped up the main plot threads and then bundled everything that had been done up to that point into "Chapter 0," and that's what we're covering this week. Alright, now
we can begin.
Things start our simple enough; Largo and Piro are a couple of gamers trying to sneak into E3 after discovering it's not actually open to the public. Sure, why not? I mean I wouldn't mind the chance to con my way into one of the biggest games industry events of the year. Along the way they meet up with their old friend Dom, who's now employed by Sega. Another old friend, Ed, is mentioned/seen in a flashback where he and Dom were competing with each other for the same job, and we discover that Dom is...let's say a bit less than what could reasonable be considered 'sane'. Later Dom's personality moves away from the psychopathic tendencies shown here, but that's a couple chapters later on.
The thing about this chapter is that the majority of it is spent getting characters in place for story beats. So yeah, Piro and Largo go to Japan and meet a ninja, spend too much money to be able to afford tickets back stateside, got to the Tokyo Game Show, and Largo breaks both his wrists before they get back to the apartment they're being allowed to crash at, but none of that is really terribly important. The first major development comes after all that, when Piro gets mopey and wanders off to a comic store to try and find a solution to their predicament by reading a bunch of shoujo manga. Throughout MT we see countless instances of Largo embracing his fantasy worlds, but this is one of the few times where Piro openly shows his own obsession with escapism. Ironically, Largo's fantasies end up being much closer to reality than Piro's (mostly) more realistic ones. But just like Dome and Ed, that's something to be discussed later on as well.
The real point to this sequence is the introduction of Sonoda Yuki and her acquisition of Piro's bag and sketchbook, which is the driving force between a whole host for plotlines...Once again, in later chapters. Yeah, that's starting to sound like a broken record, but hold on because there's still one more: While Yuki's busy being fascinated by the drawings in Piro's sketchbook, the man himself finds a panicked Nanasawa without enough money to afford a railcard. Piro gives her the one he just bought then walks off without a word, deciding to leg it back home. Turns out Nanasawa is an aspiring voice actress and was so flustered because she was running late for an audition. When she eventually makes it into the sound booth she ends up babbling on about what just happened at the train station and doesn't get the role. She does, however, catch the attention of one of the producers, who also happens to be working at a game studio...
The three comics with that initial interaction between Piro and Nanasawa received some backlash, according to Fred's comments in Volume 1, because they were the first ones he did that didn't have a joke. Fans actually threatened to stop reading the comic if he ever pulled that again, but Fred stuck to his guns and told them "Fine. No one's forcing you." He didn't eliminate the humor altogether, but these pages mark the moment he started to emphasize plot over punchlines.
So, what can I talk about that actually gets resolved this chapter? Well, we get to meet Nanasawa's roommate, Hayasaka Erika, and get a basic sense of what their relationship is, i.e. Hayasaka acts as a rather protective older sister, and seems to know a lot about the voiceacting industry, giving Nanasawa advice about both work and her predicament with the random dude that gave her a railcard. We also get a little more of the Yuki/Sketchbook thread, with Piro seeing Miss Sonoda apparently having just taken the bag as her own, walking around tokyo with it, and deciding to follow her so he can (maybe) confront her over it. His failed attempts at being inconspicuous lead to him being roped into working at a comic/anime/game/cosplay/general-purpose-otaku store named MegaGamers. His new coworker, Hayasaka, has him man the register while she steps out, then the target of Piro's tailing walks up to the counter to buy some CD's. The two recognize eachother and Yuki bolts out the door.
Largo, meanwhile, has gone exploring the Tokyo sewers and apparently finds a cave holding a diabolical tome. He releases some kind of evil presence: a high school girl with implausibly arranged hair ribbons. This mysterious girl is Tohya Miho. I'm not kidding when I say "mysterious," we've only just now started to get a full idea of who she is in more recent chapters. So Miho wanders around the nearby area with Largo keeping a watchful eye on her under the assumption she's some kind of zombie queen. She eventually leads him to a dance club called "The Cave of Evil," and Largo mistakes all the dancers for zombies and freaks right the hell out. The authorities are called, and after Miho has a few cryptically taunting words with him, Largo's hauled off to jail while Miho tells the club DJ he's "interesting." This sequence makes for some interesting foreshadowing on a couple levels, and the first payoff for it happens in chapter 2. For the immediate present, this can be taken as an example of how lost in his fantasies Largo tends to get.
Back at MegaGamers, Piro's settling into his job when Tsubasa comes by to show off his new toy, and our final character introduction. Ping is a prototype PS2 accessory, a female robot meant to act out the female characters in dating sims and visual novels. Because in Japan they get to have those games on the console intead of just on PC. She also has an independent mode, where she's theoretically supposed to act as an amalgamated personality of the girls in all the games you've played with her (but that's not important because she's never actually 'played' with in the proper sense). Next Nanasawa comes by to meet with Hayasaka after work and catches Piro in a rather compromising position involving the cosplay outfit Hayasaka's making him wear as a uniform. Piro clocks out and as he walks away Nanasawa realizes that from behind, slightly slouched over, he looks oddly familiar...This is the first time Piro and Kmiko have an actual 2-way interaction, and it sets their tone of their relationship for the immediate future: awkward shy, not totally sure how to react to one another. If you know how their relationship ends up, it's kind of adorable.
The last bit of action happens when Piro and Largo (who was sprung from jail by the ninja) get back to the apartment to find all of Tsubasa's belongings except for Ping cleared out. She hands them a letter and explains that she encouraged Tsubasa to pursue his first love, and we close our Chapter 0 with our heroes ones again homeless in a foreign land. But at least now they have a cute robot friend.
Overall, there's not much to say about chapter 0. So much of it is spent setting things up for big story events, likely due to the fact that Fred was brand new to this kind of storytelling. So in lieu of any extra thoughts or commentary I'll leave you with a personal story you may or may not know. Right after Largo picked up his new best friend ninja, this comic
happened. See that last panel? Yup, if you've ever wanted to ask me "The hell does b4k4 come from?" This is your answer. Piro getting a stealth kill on Largo in Quake then mocking him with his own 1337speak.
See you next week for chapter 1!