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Can I subscribe to a feed of your journal?
Yes, you can: nenena.dreamwidth.org/data/rss or nenena.dreamwidth.org/data/atom. If you want only Soul Eater-related updates, you can add my Soul Eater tag to the end of either of those options, like so: voilà et voilà.

More behind the cut. )
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Uchouten Kazoku / The Eccentric Family

I didn't have time to watch this brilliant gem of a show when it was airing in Japan last season, but I heard only good things about it. And boy am I glad that I finally got around to watching it now. It's funny, it's sweet, it's moving, it's gorgeously designed, and there are only a few spots where the family melodrama crosses the line into eyeroll-inducing cheesiness. And for a Japanese dramedy that is really saying something, because eyeroll-inducing cheesiness is normally the name of the game in this genre of shows.

The Mindy Project

Oh hey look the second season of this show took everything that I liked about the first season - namely, the fact that Mindy had a lot of female friends and that her supporting cast was really funny - and, well, got rid of it.

Goddammit.

This used to be the show I looked forward to the most every week. Now it's just become a pain to watch. Don't get me wrong, I love all of the humor from Mindy's serial dating escapades, and yes, I WOULD expect a show about a single woman's quest for love to be mostly centered around the heroine interacting with men... but that can't be the ONLY thing going on every. single. episode. What happened to all of Mindy's girlfriends? Why does Mindy have only one female co-worker whom she barely interacts with? (Technically there are three female co-workers in Mindy's office, but Betsy and Beverly have gotten so few lines this entire season that they might as well be non-entities.) And whose idea was it to transform Ed Week's hilarious character from Season 1 into the sad, unfunny schlup that we've got in Season 2?

Hey, you know what makes a sitcom funny? There has to be more than one source of situational humor built into the cast and the setting. The first season of The Mindy Project accomplished this brilliantly by givings its lovelorn heroine MORE than just her lovelorn escapades to get entangled with. Now the show has boiled entirely down to only two jokes: either Mindy conflicts with her male co-workers over some stupid sexist Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus bullcrap, or Mindy dates some dude and it's a hilarious disaster. Again, both of these things ARE funny... But they can also get very tiring when there's nothing else of interest happening in the show.

I still really love Mindy Lahiri as a character, but boy has this season been painful to watch so far.

Frozen

First off, somebody needs to fire Disney's entire marketing team.

Frozen is not the film that it was advertised to be. In fact, I think it's safe to say that Frozen should definitely join the pantheon of other great Disney films that were marketed absolutely horribly (Brother Bear still being the worst victim of Disney's flubbed marketing of all time, with Princess and the Frog and its terrible teaser trailer being a close second) because I am absolutely in awe of the way that they managed to take such an endearing character as Olaf and through the power of terrible trailers alone turned him into such an obnoxious twatcharacter that months before the release of the film he was mocked not just on the internet but on primetime television with a level of vitriol that I haven't really seen leveled at a CGI comic relief sidekick since, well, Jar Jar Binks.

Forget the trailers, though. Here's what you need to know about Frozen:

1. It's a much welcome, long-overdue return to the Disney films of my childhood. Like the best of the Disney Renaissance films, Frozen is scored by Broadway composers (with none other than The Book of Mormon's Robert Lopez writing the song lyrics) and cast almost entirely with powerhouse Broadway singers.

2. By the way, the songs are fantastic. Absofuckinglutely fantastic.

3. It is a beautifully, beautifully, beautifully animated film.

4. The story is all about the bond between two sisters and there is a stunning, brilliant twist at the very end of the film that completely deconstructs everything about the usual Disney Princess narrative and that sends a powerful, positive, and much-needed message to all of the little girls in its target audience.

5. And really, seriously, DO forget everything you saw in the trailers: Olaf is freakin' great. I mean, he's basically Ray 2.0 (sweet, brave, endearing comic relief sidekick who saves Our Heroes from several bad situations and who suffers from a quirky delusional belief that nobody else has the heart to correct him about), but hey, Ray was a great character too, so I'm not complaining. It also helps that Olaf is voiced by The Book of Mormon's Josh Gad, and since it's basically the voice acting alone that makes Olaf so utterly endearing instead of utterly grating, well there you go.

Of course the film is not without its flaws. Like nearly every other reviewer has pointed out: The costume designs are fantastic but the character designs are really blah, the songs are waaaaaay too front-loaded and the very noticeable lack of a finale song is actually kind of jarring, and - most unforgivably in my humble opinion - there's no villain song, despite the fact that the film had a PERFECT moment for there to be a villainous reprise of "For the First Time in Forever." But alas, the moment was wasted.

The most unflattering thing I can say about the film is that it really does feel like a not-quite-finished, workshopped version of a future Broadway musical. Not that Frozen being someday turned into a stage production is a bad thing - and heck, it's practically inevitable at this point - but what I'm trying to say is that it feels like maaaaybe this time Disney had their eyes on the Broadway prize from the beginning, and the animated film was treated like a stepping stone on the pathway to a lucrative Broadway megahit, rather than as an end in itself. That would explain why the score seems unfinished, why the settings and action sequences all seem carefully calculated to be executable onstage, and why it appears as though there was a ton more care and effort put into the costume designs than into the designs of the characters' faces. BUT that might also explain why Disney got Broadway composers to write the score and mostly Broadway singers to act and sing in the film, which were both A++++ MOVES WELL DONE DISNEY WELL DONE, and to be fair the film IS already perfectly situated to be expanded into a brilliant stage musical, so... I dunno.

But anywhoo, I really loved the film and y'all should go see it!!
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...and I reading over the Wikipedia entry for the TV show and now really, really looking forward to watching this. Because it's definitely not going to be the same experience as reading the book - like, at all - and as far as I'm concerned, that's a good thing.

Don't get me wrong. I loved every minute of reading that book. It was fast-paced, epic, sprawling, and utterly horrific in all the right ways. But the producers of the show are smart to recognize that a straight adaptation of the novel definitely wouldn't make for a good TV; if nothing else, the ending of the novel is far, far too grimdark for network television. So I'm about to head into this TV show fully expecting that the plot will be changed significantly, that most of the novel's cast will be reduced down to amalgam characters, and that the gore (not to mention the body count, especially where cute kids and the heroic elderly are concerned) will be toned down significantly.

And yet still I'm reading the character list on the show's Wikipedia page and

Phil Bushey, a popular radio DJ


A HA HA HA HA HA

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA (*gross sobbing*)

Peter Shumway, Julia's husband


wait what

whaaaaaaaaat


On the other hand, I am really, REALLY looking forward to watching Dean Norris as Big Jim because a) it's The Goddamn Dean Norris and he is absofuckinglutely incredible in Breaking Bad and b) Big Jim is in so many ways the evil mirror of Hank Schrader, so this has got to be one of the most inspired bits of casting I've ever seen. If Hank's character arc is all about a man wrapped up in blustery arrogance and self-delusion who slowly discovers humility and the strength to be honest with himself, then Big Jim's character arc is all about a man wrapped up in blustery arrogance and self-delusion who slowly discovers that he does, actually, have the strength to murder whoever the fuck is standing in his way. At least, that was his character arc in the novel, that is. I guess I'll just have to wait and find out whether Big Jim in the television show bears any resemblance to Big Jim in the novel.

On the other other hand, though, I've heard that Horace the Welsh Corgi isn't in the TV show. And if this turns out to be true, then goddammit, Steven Spielberg and Brian K. Vaughan!! Because Horace fucking rules.
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Elementary
So this is officially the best version of Sherlock anything that I've ever seen, ever. Not hyberbole. It's that awesome. And that's not just because it has probably the best Watson of all time, either. I love this Sherlock, I love the complex relationship he has with his Watson, I love the mysteries, and I love everything about this show.

Hannibal
Damn, what can I say about this show that hasn't been said already? The casting is fucking amazing, the horror elements are incredibly disturbing and incredibly well-executed, the characters and their interactions are deliciously complex and complicated, and the atmosphere and cinematography oh my god. I don't care how many times I've seen it every episode, that shot of the swiftly-moving grey clouds on top of EVERY BUILDING that the characters ever step foot in never gets old. What I'm actually torn about, however, is whether this show is treating its viewers like they're smart... or like they're really, really stupid. Honestly, I think the answer is that it does both. On the one hand, it's a show that very deliberately broadcasts the fact that it wants its audience to feel like they're smarter than the average television viewer. Between the subtle acting, the dense visual symbolism, the refusal to neatly tie up subplots or character arcs in single episodes and let them simply percolate in the background until they show up again several episodes later, and the constant references to classical music and food porn (admit it, you've Googled some of those episode titles because you didn't know what they were, I know you have), it's a show that's meant to make you think as you watch it, and it's meant to make you feel clever and sophisticated if you really appreciate all of its layers, its nuances, its refusals to conform to the usual storytelling rules of serial television. BUT, on the other hand... It really is a show that you have to turn off part of your brain to enjoy. Half of this show wants you the viewer to know that it thinks you're smart and you should feel smart for watching it, but the other half of the show is also trying desperately not to reveal the fact that it also thinks that you, the viewer, are very stupid. Stupid enough to believe that Hannibal Lecter can teleport himself from Maryland to Minnesota faster than a speeding airplane (HOW????), stupid enough to believe that a teenage girl can sneak out of a mental hospital in Maryland and dig up a body in Minnesota and then be back in said mental hospital in Maryland in one night (again, HOW?????), and just in general stupid enough to believe that Hannibal Lecter can get away with his crimes for so long despite the fact that the show is set in contemporary times and that we constantly see the FBI applying modern forensic science to the murders. There's a LOT of suspension of disbelief required to really enjoy this show. And that's kind of disappointing considering that the show seems so invested in making you feel like you're a clever, smart, sophisticated television viewer when you watch it.

The Wind in the Keyhole
It's been a long, long time since I sat down with a Stephen King novel that was anywhere near as engrossing as this one. I know that Stephen King loves his high fantasy, but so rarely does he actually pull it off as beautifully as he does in this book. Plus there's actually a lot of interesting gender and sexuality things woven into the subplots of both of the meta-stories, and thankfully these themes are approached with a lot more maturity and sophistication than King usually exhibits, even despite the medieval setting. But really this is my favorite thing that King has written in a while just because it's everything that makes the best of King's writing great: great characters, creepy buildups, epic payoffs, and of course, interwoven stories that echo and mirror each other in very, very intriguing ways. I'd easily rank this one up there with Hearts in Atlantis as my favorite of King's novels, with the happy caveat that Keyhole is actually far better in the way that it handles sexism in its setting than Atlantis is.

Ava's Demon
I started reading this because friends were raving about it, and I love it. The artwork is gorgeous, the characters are intriguing, and the setting is pretty interesting so far, even if not terribly coherent. Yes, some of the writing is amateurish and some of the info-dumps are awkward. But I really do feel like the writing is showing signs of improving already. So this one is definitely a series that I'll be keeping up with.

Gunnerkrigg Court
Just to put things in perspective, this is a comic in which a non-sequitor gag about an octopus jumping off a cliff is presented as a visual metaphor for one of the two main characters finally becoming comfortable with embracing her homosexuality, and it's STILL by far and away the best comic that I'm reading right now, hands-down.

Steven Universe
YES YES CARTOON NETWORK THIS IS GREAT MORE OF THIS PLEASE PLEASE PLEAAAAAAAASE

Aku no Hana/The Flowers of Evil
I'm sticking with exactly four shows from the spring anime season: Attack on Titan, Hataraki Maou-sama, Precure, and Aku no Hana. Of the four, Aku no Hana is by far and away the best of the lot, even accounting for the difficulty of comparing apples to oranges. It's not just good. It's fucking great. I already wrote out my opinions about the animation style, the sexual politics, and the overall themes of the show on tumblr and I don't feel like repeating myself here, but I will say that the animation gets more and more gorgeous (and the actual message of the series harder and harder to ignore) with every episode.

Soul Eater
So we are now two chapters from the end and DAMN, this month's chapter is fucking finally doing what a big series-finale climatic battle chapter SHOULD be doing. Main character gets a badass powerup, supporting characters get their chance to shine with individual Crowning Moments of Awesome (even Gopher!!!), there's significantly less dumbass screaming about order and chaos than we've had to suffer through in previous chapters (man Ohkubo you actually used to be interesting in your treatment of those themes what happened?!), and wow some of those panels of Maka building up toward her finishing move are just fucking spectacular. My threshold requirements for What Would Make a Great Soul Eater Finale were basically "Maka should be awesome" and "it shouldn't drag on forever to the point where it gets boring," which are admittedly low expectations given how great Soul Eater was at its peak a few years ago, but hey so far the finale is delivering so I'm happy.

So obviously I'm not going to be recapping these chapters anymore - not for lack of interest, but lack of time, especially now that Attack on Titan has exploded all over the internet and I can barely keep up with that one fandom. I WOULD like to say that I really want to take time to recap the final chapter in August, but to be honest that's not terribly likely to happen considering that August 12th will be right smack in the middle of my last few vacation days of the year and I'm already making plans to spend that week visiting friends out-of-state. Plus I think that maybe like five people have actually been reading my recaps for the past few months, and although I appreciate the support, let's be honest, writing a recap post is a LOT of effort for little reward, and frankly I'm having more fun spending free time that I would previously have devoted to recapping Soul Eater to catching up my summer reading pile and to-watch list. So for those of you who enjoyed the recaps, thanks for sticking with me for all these years, and I'm sorry that I don't have time to see it through to the end!

But by far the most important thing here is that the Soul Eater ending is actually REALLY FUCKING AWESOME so far, so here's hoping for two more months of this level of FUCK YEAH from Ohkubo.
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This is going to be a short recap because I had a family wedding last weekend, I have a friend's wedding this weekend, my work schedule just blew up the past week, and dammit I really tried to do a proper recap for this chapter because it was fucking awesome but alas, real life just intervened too much. Thankfully, however, heejun123 already posted an excellent English translation of the chapter for y'all, which leaves me free to boil down the recap post to just my reactions.

Thus: Dear Ohkubo,

Please keep this up. Please please please. Please let the upcoming final chapter be as good as this one. To wit: Actual plot progression. Important shit happens. Great paneling. Great artwork except for the muppet faces. Great flow of action for the fight scenes. Symbolic themes that have run thoughout the entire series coming to a coherent and satisfying thematic climax. Great everything.

Now it would be super-great if you could stop with the muppet-faces and/or remember that Tsubaki actually exists, because either thing would really make my day come June 12th. But at this point either thing might be too much to hope for, although we'll see.

Since next month is the grand finale and I'll actually be off work at the time, I will definitely have a proper recap up for y'all! Until then, thank you for all of your patience, and see you next month!
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Television

Parks and Recreation is still easily the best goddamn thing that I watch every week. And it's been holding that position for a solid two years now, so. I don't think I've written about it yet on this blog and frankly I don't have a lot of things to say about it that haven't been said before (and likely better) by others, but: it's brilliant television and if you're not already watching it, you should be. (I'm of the opinion that the first season is totally skippable though.)

It took a few episodes to warm me over, but I am now officially in love with The Mindy Project. I think in many ways it's the spiritual successor to 30 Rock but (and please don't shoot me for saying this because I LOVED 30 Rock) in some ways done better. The lead is still a smart, successful woman who is damn good at her job even though her personal life is in shambles, there's still a wacky cast of co-workers (and a secondary male lead who gets his own secondary character arcs) that are in turn funny and/or poignant, and the style of humor is still that particular blend of surreal absurdist mixed with so-true-to-life-that-it-hurts comedy that seems to characterize all the best of the most recent television sitcoms. Where I think The Mindy Project improves upon 30 Rock's formula, however, is a) the fact that our heroine Mindy has more than one close female friend and that Mindy's interactions with her diverse group of female friends often play an important role in most episodes, and b) there's an awful lot less of the gross femininity-bashing and wink-wink-nudge-nudge-we're-only-doing-this-because-it's-ironic sexism that 30 Rock so often indulged in. Mindy is the character who would have been the butt of the jokes in 30 Rock (see: Jenna), but in The Mindy Project everything that she is and everything that she stands for is unabashedly celebrated without ever denigrating other flavors of femininity as being less desirable, less progressive, less feminist, less whatever.

Film

Recently watched and now firmly in the why-the-hell-did-I-wait-this-long-to-see-these-films-because-they-are-GREAT category: Pitch Perfect, ParaNorman, and Amour. "Great" isn't really an adjective that comes anywhere near close to doing Amour justice but hey, let's just roll with it.

Seen recently in theaters: Admission. Loved it. Tina Fey is always great, of course. But in the theater where I saw the film the audience actually burst into applause the moment that Lily Tomlin's character first appeared onscreen. Because Lily Tomlin is legitimately just that awesome.

On a recommendation from a friend I recently indulged in both of the Lyrical Nanoha movies, which at first I was skeptical about because I was mostly lukewarm on the series, but oh my god, these movies are really fantastic. Taken together they're five solid hours of gorgeously-animated magical girl badassery full of female friendships and family relationships driving the entire plot and just wow. Of course I share the same criticisms of the films that nearly everybody else in the universe has expressed so far: yes, the films are both so much more about Fate than Nanoha that they really should have been named after Fate instead of Nanoha (not that I don't love Fate but come on it's almost disingenuous to name the films after Nanoha when Fate is the real star of both), and yes, the transformation sequences with the detailed nudity on underage female characters (nipples and all JESUS CHRIST) are pretty damn inexcusable. Thankfully, however, the transformation sequences only happen once per each film, so they're easy to fast-forward through. And other than the transformation sequences there's basically zero fanservice on any of the underage characters, which is pretty damn refreshing to see in a magical girl franchise intended for an adult male audience.

Also, I saw this one months ago but have neglected to rec it here: A Letter to Momo. Everybody should see this film. It's weird and beautiful and moving and funny and important in a way that I can't really describe in words. It may be sacrilege to say that this is an improved, better version of My Neighbor Totoro but... it really is. It deals with the same thematic setup (children move to a new rural home, encounter nature spirits, and deal with a crisis when one family member gets sick and another appears to be in immediate danger) yet in a deeper, more mature way that still manages to be appropriate for and accessible to a child audience. But the nature spirits in Momo are an entirely different breed than those from Totoro: much more in keeping with Japanese tradition, Momo's supernatural creatures are alien, dangerous, and frightening, even when they're trying to help out the human characters and/or providing comic relief. These are not the cute, fluffy, cuddly forest gods from Miyazaki's nostalgia-tinted view of Japan in days gone by. They are much stranger and darker but also much more interesting to watch, not unlike the human characters in the film as well. Anywhoo, this film is finally starting to garner some critical attention in the English-speaking world (I think it's playing in the Boston International Childrens' Film Festival this weekend?) so if you haven't seen it yet, you should definitely check it out. It is so, so worth it.

Relatedly: Little Witch Academia is basically perfect. Just perfect.

Comics

Zahra's Paradise is a graphic novel that deserves waaaaay more attention than it's getting. Of course it's a politically important book (Iran! Democracy! Political dissidence! Women fighting against oppression!) but in case you're the type of person intimidated by reading a "political" comic let me assure you: The pseudonymous authors use a brilliant, expressive, cinematic art style that makes the complex narrative accessible to any reader without ever once compromising the story or dumbing down anything for the benefit of knowing-approximately-jack-shit-about-the-Middle-East readers. In other words, even if you know approximately jack shit about the Middle East, you can and you should still read this book. It's a beautiful, painful story that will stick with you for a long time and it will be impossible for you to walk away from the book without a much deeper and better understanding of Iran than you had before opening its pages. Which is really the whole purpose of the book in the first place.

The Flowers of Evil continues to impress me with its so-true-it's-painful dissection of the wannabe-edgy, alienated teenage mind. Whether you think it's a "good" manga or realistic in any sense of the term (and I'm on the fence about both to be honest), it's still totally different from nearly every other shounen manga out there, and a fascinating read for that reason alone.

Hawkeye is still the reason that I give Marvel my hard-earned money every month. Young Avengers... not so much, not anymore.

Attack on Titan/Shingeki no Kyojin. Cripes where do I even start with this one. For a long time it's been clear that this isn't really a story about plucky humans fighting evil man-eating giants, the same way that Eureka Seven was never really a story about cool rebels fighting an oppressive government in giant robots (even though it took the main character half the series to reach that realization), and the same way that Evangelion was never really a story about plucky humans fighting giant aliens (even though in its original incarnation the stuff that Hideaki Anno intended for the series to really be about was so poorly-executed that yeah the giant robots and aliens really were the point by the end, hence everybody hating the original ending, okay this is a really bad example I should stop now). So then what the hell IS Attack on Titan really about? Without giving too much away, I'm going to riff on Batezi's brilliant post about the series and say that thematically it cuts straight to the heart of our two deepest fears in the modern age: the power of bass-ackwards organized religion as a force for regressive social stagnation, and the mindset that drives those who have been wronged to justify acts of mass terrorism as a way of striking back against the faceless enemy "other." In exploring these themes, of course, Attack on Titan dives into all sorts of dark territory about how the human mind and the human heart works, in a way so visceral and real that in terms of thematically-similar media I can come up with few truly comparative examples save for perhaps The Snowtown Murders (particularly with Bertolt's story jesus christ dude) and Harvest of Empire ("all of humanity is your enemy" until you get to know them and then they're not faceless others anymore and then uh-oh). But of course on top of all of this there's also badass giant-slaying action and fucking awesome characters all of that great bloody, gory fun every chapter. Attack on Titan is that rare, rare series that manages to do awesome grimdark bloody action horror really well AND blend it successfully with complex psychodrama that ISN'T shallow, pretentious, or poorly-written the way it so often is when clumsy attempts at human psychodrama rear their ugly head in your usual run-of-the-mill survival horror stories. Isayama isn't a clumsy writer, and Attack on Titan continues to be a brilliant series. Go read it now and spoil yourself silly before the anime starts airing this weekend. If you can stomach a story where most of the main cast gets eaten alive by giants, that is.
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James Purefoy just reached into a refrigerator and pulled out graham crackers and marshmallows.

Show. Show. Show, you're not even trying anymore.

Then again the whole smores-making sequence that follows (in which making smores is legitimately a part of Carroll's most diabolical plot yet) has got to be one of the absolute best so-fucking-stupid-that-it's-actually-kind-of-brilliant sequences that I've seen in a long time.

This fucking show, man. This fucking show.
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A GENUINELY SHOCKING PLOT TWIST: Changes everything that you knew or thought you knew about a character and/or their world. See: Justin Law. Or Darth Vader for a more classic and also somewhat more comparable example.

A GENUINELY BORING PLOT TWIST: Changes exactly nothing that you knew or thought you know about a character and/or their world. See: This month's Soul Eater. Low stakes (it changes nothing about the characters or their conflicts with each other) and very little accomplished in turns of plot advancement (again, just throwing the same characters into the same conflicts that they were already involved in).

But who cares about that boring plot shit because this month's chapter was still awesome for one reason: Black Star.

Petunia Powers are GO!! )

ETA: This month's Gangan Mobile bonus emoji!
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First SVU, then Shingeki no Kyojin, and now Batman Inc, which I somehow managed to stay totally unspoiled for and which thus subsequently basically emotionally punched me right in the face.

WHY IS THIS HAPPENING IN ALL OF THE SERIAL MEDIA THAT I FOLLOW.

And if I'm counting categories then it goes: television-check, manga-check, comics-check, and now the only medium left in which one of my favorite characters hasn't been killed and/or revealed to have been evil all along is webcomics.

Homestuck, you'd better not pull any of that shit before tomorrow.
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I don't want to be one of those people who complains about the Oscars every year. But I've actually NEVER complained about the Oscars on my blog before, so I think it's about time I cashed in some of that restraint and indulged myself in a little Armchair Quarterback Kvetching this year. Because everybody needs to get a little bit of Armchair Quarterback Kvetching out of their system every once in a while.

To wit:

Seth McFarlane was boring at best, unfunny most of the time, misogynist at worst.

The media's treatment of Quvenzhané Wallis was horrid. I expected some level of badness, since she's black, female, and a child nominated in the Best Actress category, but I was totally unprepared for "I'll just call you Annie" and the Onion's twitter actually calling her a c*nt. Holy shit people. Is this really 2013? And this on top of everybody saying that she wasn't "really acting" in Beasts of the Southern Wild. Because children can't act or something. I suspect that at least half the people criticizing her for "not acting" never even saw Beasts of the Southern Wild in the first place.

Argo was the only one of the Best Picture nominees that I felt didn't deserve to be nominated, so of course it won.

And goddamit, I really did enjoy Brave on a lot of levels, but Wreck-It Ralph was a superior film in nearly every way. Including from a feminist perspective. And that is really saying something.

I think I would have liked Brave a heckuva lot more if it hadn't been marketed and praised as some great feminist film or whatever. As a beautiful piece of animation it's great, and as an adventure story it's great, but as a feminist narrative it just falls right the fuck apart if you really start to think about it, and with that on top of all of the sexism that went on behind the scenes it's just ugh. I'm tired of "feminist" stories that denigrate femininity and (intentionally or not) enforce the idea that the only way for women to be strong/free/happy is for them to be more like men because things like bravery and bodily autonomy and wanting to change your fate are somehow inherently masculine. Somehow.

Welp. Glad I got that out of my system.
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So I know that this is two weeks late. I know. But this is one of those months where an AMAZINGLY INACCURATE scanslation was somehow available on the interbutts a full day before Gangan even hit newstands in Japan, and since heejung123 already posted a breakdown of all of the wrong lines in the scanslation (which was like, oh, 75% of the dialogue, including Big Daddy's big plot-relevant scene at the end of the chapter) I didn't feel like there was a whole lot of reason for me to rush this month's recap. Also I've been busy. Also there were like about two thousand more interesting things for me to blog about than Soul Eater this month. I mean I enjoyed this month's chapter but still.

So anywhoo, here we go!

We open this chapter with a large panel of Crona, who is still obviously still alive, because DUH. If you were one of the people panicking about Crona being dead last month, then congratulations, you fell for an obvious fake-out cliffhanger that really shouldn't have fooled anybody older than Soul Eater's target demographic of twelve-year-old kids. On the other hand, if you're feeling smug because you didn't fall for the fake-out cliffhanger... Congratulations, you are smarter than a manga written for twelve-year-old kids. Or rather, congratulations, you are reading a manga written for twelve-year-olds. At the end of the day I think we can all admit that this is a bit more shameful than falling for a fake-out cliffhanger is. (*hangs head in shame*)

Shameful for not, I keep reading this shit anyway, so here's this month's recap! )
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So lately I've been asking myself: Self, why are you wasting time watching "The Following" when it is so clearly awful on so many levels?

The answer is because it is so, so bad that it actually manages to punch through the metaphorical wall of television badness and into something resembling pure, undiluted awesomeness.

In other words, it's like FOX decided to take every terrible shounen thriller animu from the past five years, distill it into its purest form, and air it on primetime television starring Kevin Bacon.

That's right. "The Following" is basically JUST LIKE MY KAWAII ANIMES and it is glorious.

To wit, we have:

- maniacal supervillian with insanely convoluted, cartoonish revenge plot,
- most shocking reveals accomplished when characters sit around and try to out-exposition each other,
- a genuine real-life moe moe yandere female lead character, and
- beautiful tortured gay pretty boys
- who are serial killers
- whom the audience is supposed to empathize with the most (even though they're serial killers)
- whose interpersonal drama and romantic relationship take up most of the airtime in each episode (even though they're serial killers)
- also there are no less than two ongoing love triangles so far
- no seriously most of every episode is like romance/romance/love triangle and the serial killer characters doing cute everyday slice-of-life things
- but with occassional ridiculous shock deaths
- and then there's also the adorable precocious genius kid
- and Shawn Ashmore bishounening up the screen as the prettyboy rookie cop
- and lots of pretentious literary references and ~*deep*~ intellectual posturing on the part of our aforementioned maniacal supervillian
- and on top of all of this, the goddamn Kevin Bacon.

So basically it's like if Death Note and Future Diary and Psycho Pass and oh EVERY OTHER terrible shounen thriller anime that you can think of had a lovechild that somehow mutated into a live-action American primetime drama.

This is the show.

This is kawaii murder animu brought to life.

Like I said, it is glorious.

(Oh, and spoiler alert: The black cop is the first cop to die. Good job, FOX. Way to be twenty-first century right there.)
nenena: (Devi - Is it stupid in here)
Shingeki no Kyojin chapter 42 is released on 2/9. In which my favorite character has a sobbing breakdown and confesses to [insert horrible spoiler here].

Law and Order: SVU episode 309 is aired on 2/13. In which my favorite recurring character has a sobbing breakdown and confesses to [insert horrible spoiler here].

Wow self way to pick 'em.
nenena: (Default)
Bob's Burgers is well into its third season now, so I figured it's about time I made a post about how awesome this series is.

Reasons why y'all should watch Bob's Burgers:

1. It's not a typical FOX animated sitcom.

If you're like me and you shunned Bob's Burgers during its first season because it looked too much like (and was marketed as) just another Seth McFarlane-flavored animated sitcom, well then you're as wrong as I was. The tone of the show is much closer to The Simpsons in that most episodes end in affirmative, heartwarming moments. There's also a definite lack of the "ironic" racist, sexist, ableist, and homophobic humor that McFarlane shows rely on. Having said that, though, the verbal humor flies fast and furious in most episodes - and H. John Benjamin's deadpan delivery of some of the funniest lines in the show makes them somehow that much funnier.

2. The main cast is perfectly balanced as comic foils for each other, and most of the humor is character-driven.

Bob is the straight man surrounded by over-the-top personalities. He takes burgers very, VERY seriously. His wife Lynne is dramatic, theatrical, and not unlike Suzumiya Haruhi is constantly on a quest to make her life more exciting. Their oldest daughter Tina is an awkward teenager who has no idea how to appropriately express her budding sexuality and the show treats her sympathetically. Middle son Gene is a wannabe comedian who's actually as funny as he is obnoxious. And youngest daughter Louise (voiced brilliantly by Kristen Schaal) is a too damn smart for her age so she channels her bored genius into becoming a manipulative, Machiavellian sociopath. The family is surrounded by a growing cast of characters that are all equally hilarious, although Bob's supervillain landlord voiced by Kevin Kline and the delusional school counselor deserve special mention.

3. Tina.

At first glance Tina seems like just another Meg Griffin-type character: She's a teenage girl, ugly, socially awkward, uncomfortable in her body, and desperate for popularity and a boyfriend. Does the show milk her pubescent awkwardness for humor? Yes. But is she constantly the butt of every joke the way that Meg Griffin is? NO. Like I said before, the show treats Tina sympathetically; we laugh at her as much as we root for her. Most episodes give Tina a happy ending and the show constantly validates her in going out of its way to show us that she DESERVES the things that she wants in life but that it's also OKAY for her to BE HERSELF. One of the best examples of this is in the season 1 episode "Cab, Bob?" in which Bob and Lynne go to extreme lengths to throw Tina a super-special thirteenth birthday party. Despite the fabulous party, Tina is depressed because all that she wants is to share a dance and a kiss with her crush Jimmy Pesto Jr., the son of Bob's archnemesis. Jimmy Pesto Sr. forbids Jimmy Jr. from going to Tina's party just because he hates Bob's family THAT MUCH. Without Jimmy Jr. at the party, Tina falls into a depressed funk and the party spirals into a disaster. Finally, however, we get the happy ending when Bob finds a way to blackmail Jimmy Sr. into letting Jimmy Jr. go to the party; the entire episode builds up to the triumphant moment when finally Tina and Jimmy dance beneath a disco ball and share their first kiss. Okay, so, how many other animated sitcoms (other than The Simpsons) actually have episodes like that in which all of the characters WORK HARD TOWARD, VALIDATE, AND ROOT FOR a teenage girl's fantasies to come true, rather than just using the teenage girl character as the butt of sexist jokes and tearing her down at every opportunity? Not that many, unfortunately. And that is one of the reasons why Bob's Burgers is consistently so fucking great in the way that it treats its female characters.

4. Louise.

The "precocious sociopath" is a tried and true staple sitcom character, and for good reason. Because smart, evil children are funny. And Louise is no exception to the rule, although she IS portrayed in a much more realistic way than many of her sitcom peers. The show is very clear in presenting her as a bully. We laugh at her antics but we're not supposed to want her to succeed, UNLESS it's one of the episodes in which Louise uses her schemes to protect/save her family from outside threats (which are really the best episodes). I hate to say this, but I see a lot of kids who are just like Louise in some of the classes that I teach: Hella smart but fundamentally insecure, and masking their insecurities by using their smarts to bully and manipulate others. Yep. I'm sure you all know people like that in real life, too. But again, the show is just great in the way that it presents Louise's character to the audience. Yes, we're supposed to be feel sympathy for her when we're finally shown how insecure she is or how frustrated she is when her intellect is devalued all the time. But no, we're not supposed to feel sympathy for her all the time, especially not when, you know, she's being a legitimately horrible person. Louise's real saving grace, however, is how loyal she is to her family, even if her loyalty often manifests itself in her extremely unhealthy quest to bully Tina and Gene into becoming better/stronger people. It's impossible not to see echoes of Vriska and Tavros in Louise's relationship with her shy, awkward older sister Tina. Louise is frequently horrible to Tina but in her mind she's just helping Tina become more self-confident. And you know what? This is hilarious to watch. (It's made hilarious because, as I mentioned above, Tina usually ends up having her true personality validated/having a happy ending, unlike poor Tavros.) But I feel it's also worth mentioning that in season 3 Louise finally gets a worthy opponent and a true character foil with the addition of Logan, a spoiled but intelligent bully who can actually match Louise scheme-for-scheme. Louise is great and all, but all quasi-evil protagonists need a good foil to keep their quasi-evilness in check, and it's about time that Louise got such a worthy opponent in her show.

5. "The Unbearable Like-Likeness of Gene."

This episode is so great that it deserves special mention here. So the plot starts out with standard sitcom fare: Gene has a secret admirer at school. The secret admirer turns out to be Courtney, the most obnoxious girl in the entire school: loud, awkward, and absolutely torturous to be around for more than a few moments. Courtney literally corners Gene and asks him to go out with her, and Gene is too cowardly to refuse her. Bam. So they start dating, and Gene hates every minute of it. So you'd think, at this point, that the rest of the episode is going to be standard ha-ha-look-at-this-horrible-overbearing-girl-torturing-this-poor-put-upon-nice-boy fare, right? WRONG. Gene's family is horrified to find out that he's dating Courtney despite not really liking her, so what do they do? They put the responsibility on HIM to break up the relationship, they blame HIM for stringing Courtney along, and they tell HIM that Courtney deserves better than a guy who doesn't really like her and that he'd better break up with her soon goddamit. WHO'DVE THUNK, RIGHT? I mean, our television and movies are FULL of examples of female characters being blamed and castigated for "stringing along" those nice well-meaning guys that they're just not really that into. But how often do you see the opposite, a male character being (rightfully) blamed for stringing along a girl despite not really liking her? And the show is very clear that Gene is the one who's really doing something "wrong" in the relationship despite also being clear that Courtney is a completely, totally obnoxious girlfriend. Courtney's only crime is being herself, whereas Gene's crime is lying to Courtney about his feelings. The show is very clear as to which crime is worse. And things take a decided turn for the horrible when Gene meets Courtney's father, who is a really awesome cool guy, and Gene decides that he wants to keep the relationship with Courtney going so that he can hang out with her dad. WHOA. Again, Gene's family is horrified to hear this and they VERY clearly call him out on his behavior. And, as predicted, things finally reach a climax when Courtney annoys Gene so much that he completely snaps and dumps her in the most humiliating way possible... at her own birthday party. Which causes Courtney to have a literal heart attack. "Um, do you think I ruined her birthday?" Gene asks as Courtney is loaded onto an ambulance. YES, GENE. YES YOU DID. But in the final few moments of the episode we get a) Courntey exacting a hilarious revenge upon Gene and b) Gene laughing sheepishly and agreeing that he deserved that (BECAUSE HE DID). Everyone reconciles, Gene learns his lesson, happy endings all around. And again: WHOA. How many other sitcoms with a storyline about one of the main male characters agreeing to date an obnoxious female character actually blame the male character for stringing along his girlfriend when he clearly doesn't like her? How many sitcom storylines about the "obnoxious girlfriend" let the girlfriend GET REVENGE on her crappy boyfriend and VALIDATE HER AS DESERVING SAID REVENGE while the male character actually hangs his head, laughs at himself, and agrees that he deserves it?!

Oh Bob's Burgers, your unabashed feminism makes me so happy. And it is definitely no surprise that the most female-positive episodes of the show are all written by women. The show actually draws from a diverse pool of constantly-changing episode writers and directors, and that diversity of creative voices is clearly paying off in terms of just how goddamn great all of the episodes are.

Recommended episodes

Season 1: "Sexy Dance Fighting" (a great Tina episode), "Bed and Breakfast," "Burger Wars"
Season 2: "Beefsquatch," "Bob Day Afternoon," "The Belchies" (easily the best Louise episode to date)
Season 3: "The Deepening," "Tina-rannosaurus Wrecks," "The Unbearable Like-Likeness of Gene," "Broadcast Wagstaff School News" (a fantastic Tina/Louise episode and featuring some of the most erudite poop jokes ever put on television)

In short, you all should watch this show because IT'S REALLY GREAT.
nenena: (Fairy Tail - Yer a wizard Lucy)
Long story short:

I'm going to be teaching a unit on graphic fiction to my Art History students.

I've been working with our school librarian (who is AWESOME when it comes to comics) to curate a list of sample texts to use. I mean "sample texts" both in terms of texts that I will make the whole class read AND an approved reading list of comics for students to choose for their independent reading at the end of the unit.

Awesome Librarian and I mutually decided that list of optional comics for students to choose for their independent reading should include a least one representative example of puzzle-game-style-adventure-partially-generated-by-reader-input-type comic, since it's a format that's intriguing, interesting to the kids, and easy to use as discussion fodder for a variety of themes developed in the unit (that they WILL have to address in their final critique of their chosen comic).

And for our representative example of said type-of-comic-that-we-really-need-a-better-name-for, we really want to go with Rubyquest.

It's short, it's complete, and it's the best representation of reader-input-driven storytelling I've seen in the genre. I know that the content can be really disturbing, but it's an optional reading (one of over thirty titles that the kids will be able to choose from) and believe me I know that said disturbing content will definitely appeal to more than a few of my students. Best of all, it's available in a super-convenient format for us to use: these beautifully-compiled SWF files that WILL, believe it or not, play on the Sony pocketbooks that the kids have been issued. Complete with all the extras like the rejected reader commands and reader theories and fanart and stuff all nicely compiled together right there in the SWF.

Aaaaaaaaaaand therein lies the problem. The fanart that our intrepid TekStation compiled into the SWF files contains some Rule 34 and there is no way in hell I can give my students SWF files with bunny porn on them.

Yes, I am totally okay with putting a comic full of shockingly violent imagery and lots of body horror on my approved comic reading list. It wouldn't be the only comic full of shockingly violent imagery and lots of body horror on the list, either. (Swamp Thing, Akira, Sharaz-De, and Courtney Crumrin are on the reading list too.) But anything even mildly sexual is a huge no-no (hence me being unable to get administrative approval to add Craig Thompson's Blankets to the list) so it goes without saying that the fanart porn in the Rubyquest files has got to be removed. And to be totally honest I think that all Rubyquest porn is horrible weird gross and wrong, no I don't feel particularly bad being judgmental about that, and as far as I'm concerned it detracts nothing from the experience if you can't see that shit in the SWF files.

So I've got this great comic that somebody on the interbutts has already compiled into super-convenient SWF files for me, but said compiler also included some fanart in the SWF compilations and said fanart also happens to include some porn.

I've tried contacting TekStation on his deviantart to explain my situation and ask him if he would be so kind as to help a poor teacher out and send me (or post on the internet somewhere) versions of his SWF files with the porn removed. But that was over a week ago, I haven't heard back from him yet, and he doesn't appear to have logged into his deviantart account since last summer. So I don't have much hope there.

Right now my options, as I see them, are:

1. Edit out the porn myself.

But HELP I HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO DO THIS and neither the Awesome Librarian nor I are nearly tech-savvy enough to even know what program to use to edit SWF files I mean what program DO you use?! Can anybody recommend a good (free) program that would help a total SWF newbie like me edit a few images out of a file? Or is this not even a thing that can be done that easily?

2. Ask somebody else to edit out the porn.

Problem so far: None of my RL friends are tech-savvy enough to do so, and there's no way in hell I'm going to ask anybody that works for my school district to do it for me because, you know, it's bunny porn. Not worth losing my job over.

3. Find an alternative compilation/presentation of the comic.

Does anybody know of an alternative compilation/presentation of Rubyquest that they would recommend? So far Google has only given me TekStation's SWF files and this which is unfortunately just a horrible way to experience the comic.

4. Give up and settle for a different representative example of a puzzle-game-style-adventure-partially-generated-by-reader-input-type comic to add to the approved reading list.

I'm open for suggestions. Parameters: Works must be complete, not more than a few hundred pages long, and not contain too much sexual content. Gore is totally fine, though!


So anywhoo I would very much appreciate help with any of the four options above.
nenena: (My Little Pony - Rainbow Dash)
A Brony explains why fans say 'neigh' to Princess Twilight:

Shortly after EW broke the news of Twilight’s transformation this Tuesday, the fan community exploded into a flurry of commentary — most of it negative. [...] The backlash has been even worse on fan sites like Equestria Daily (where the original post about Twilight’s princessification has drawn over 2,500 comments) and Reddit’s pony-centric message board (where hundreds of fans have expressed fervent hopes that the royal metamorphosis isn’t permanent).

So why, exactly, are bronies getting their bridles in a twist? “It’s just your typical overreaction to something changing in your favorite series,” Equestria Daily founder Sethisto (real name: Shaun Scotellaro) tells EW. There is, however, a little more to this specific outcry: “I think the main thing is that it’s happening to a character so many people connect to. Twilight Sparkle, she’s more of a nerd. She’s like all of us, that geeky nerd who reads books and gets all excited about stupid stuff.” The prospect of the show’s audience surrogate getting all gussied up, then, sort of feels like a slap in the face to MLP‘s grown-up fans.


And that's it.

That's the meat of the entire article.

That's the reason.

So this is what it boils down to: Bronies identify with Twilight because she's nerdy, but princesses are terrible, therefore Twilight turning into a princess is terrible.

Because princesses are terrible. No other reason given. LITERALLY NO OTHER REASON GIVEN other than "princesses suck and we hate them." And why do Bronies hate princesses so much? Why is their favorite pony turning into a princess somehow the equivalent of getting a slap to the face?

Because princesses are girly things, and as we all know, girly things are just terrible.

Like I said before, there is literally NO OTHER WAY TO PARSE THIS BACKLASH other than to see it for the astounding misogyny that it truly is.

Over 2500 comments on the Equestria Daily article and not a single one of them gives a reason to hate the princess transformation other than princesses suck and we hate them. Not a single one of the comments gives a reason any deeper than that. Not a single one.

The EW article linked above goes even further in depth covering the backlash against Princess Cadence's appearance in the season 2 finale. And why was there complaining about Princess Cadence? According to Sethisto:

“Cadance was a pretty pink alicorn princess. That’s, like, the exact opposite of what we wanted.”


And why, exactly, would a pretty pink alicorn princess be "the exact opposite" of what Bronies want? Sethisto doesn't say, but I'll bet money it's because traits like being pink and being pretty and being a princess are (*gasp*) GIRLY!!!!1! Never mind the fact that Cadence is a fantastic character who was clearly set up as being powerful, important, and central to the story of the season 2 finale well before the episodes aired on television. In fact, I think that's what made the backlash against Cadence all the more vehement: How DARE a new character who's clearly set up to be super-powerful in the MLP fictional universe and super-important to the plot of the show be (*gasp*) pink and pretty and a princess oh noes!!!!

In short, Brony fandom has once again established that it is firmly entrenched in the mindset that all things girly are terrible and gross and wrong. Which is REALLY UNFORTUNATE considering that this is a fandom for a cartoon for girls.
nenena: (My Little Pony - Rainbow Dash)
Unless you're living under an internet rock, you've probably heard by now that the upcoming season finale of My Little Pony features our heroine Twilight Sparkle powering up to her alicorn form. Which means, in MLP terms, that she becomes a "princess."

Hasbro wisely chose to let Entertainment Weekly leak the news first instead of giving the exclusive to any of the Brony news outlets:

But don’t worry, Pony fans — though Twilight will undergo a physical transformation, her personality will remain the same. “What we didn’t want to do was change who she is as a character, because she’s certainly someone that everyone’s proud to know and love,” McCarthy says. “I don’t think becoming a princess really changes her; I think it’s going to introduce some new challenges for her.” Those challenges will include living up to that lofty new title. In MLP‘s Equestria, “princess” is a designation that’s earned, not freely given — and though princesses have specific leadership roles in pony society, being one really means “being a good pony who shares the gifts that they have been given with others,” according to McCarthy. “We’re building a very unique mythology around being a princess,” she continues. “Every little girl wants to be a princess, and not everybody can get to be a princess — but you can live up to the ideals that should come along with being a princess.”


The amount of raaaaaaaaaaaage that this news has generated from the male-dominated Pony fandom spaces astounds me. I mean, just look at the comments on the EW article for starters. Or better yet, don't look, if you don't want to raise your blood pressure. The comments on the promos that the Hub has posted to Youtube are hardly any better, and the comments on Equestria Daily are even worse. Over and over again we get: Twilight is ruined by becoming a princess, princesses are icky and gross, the only reason this is happening in the show is because Hasbro just wants to sell princess toys to little girls, and it's sexist for MLP to be selling the "princess" shtick to little girls. The fact that this last objection is so far coming EXCLUSIVELY FROM MEN trying desperately to appropriate feminist arguments in order to conceal their misogynistic revulsion because of the whole but-princesses-are-a-GIRLY-thing!!1! mindset makes it all the more hilarious.

But what really floors me is how many Bronies seem surprised by this - and how many of them decried the EW article as a "fake" when it first hit the internet earlier this week. Twilight becoming a princess should have been an OBVIOUS plot point from the first episode of season 3, if not all the way back in the very first episode of season 1. This has been foreshadowed for a really long time and it's the logical result of three seasons' worth of actual character development for Twilight.

But leave it to Bronies to have an internet conniption about a My Little Pony character getting an actual power-up. I mean there's just almost no way to parse the backlash against Twilight becoming a princess that doesn't immediately reveal the sticky, writhing mass of misogynistic goo underlying all of it.

Man, remember three years ago when Bronies were like, cool? And not disgusting?

I miss those days.
nenena: (Soul Eater - Have a nice dream!)
So we begin exactly where last month's chapter left off: with Kermit the Frog manhandling Soul and Tsubaki in their weapon forms.

Wait goddamit I mean Crona. Crona is the one. Who's doing that. Crona. Argh.

I hope y'all liked that Kermit joke because there is a lot more mocking of Crona's muppet-faces behind the cut. )