Vampire Academy: The Movie’s Vain, but the Protagonists Aren’t…

Vampire Academy movie poster

I don’t know about you, but this movie poster is rather off-putting.

Vampire Academy came out in February this year, and even though the film was directed by Mark Waters (who also directed Mean Girls), I hoped the fact that vampires were involved meant that it’d be a little thrilling. After recently watching the film with friends, though, I sadly can’t say that it was scary in the slightest. The moment the opening song started with “Live fast, die young, bad girls do it well…” I knew this wasn’t going to be a horror movie. By the time it ended, I was pleasantly surprised. While the story did follow typical high school problems (with vampires and romance of course), the two main characters were generally treated with respect. These leading ladies could fend for themselves and weren’t afraid to do it. Though the story wasn’t my cup of tea, I can appreciate what the movie did right: how they handled having two female protagonists.

Spoilers, and a trigger warning for animal cruelty after the jump! Continue reading

Tales of Xillia and Overcoming Love Triangles

I talk about Western games and game developers a lot on this blog, the most common one being Bioware. Despite my unwavering adoration for these companies, I admit it took a while to develop. My first love will always be the JRPG. Admittedly, from a Western American-centric mindset—which is the mindset I’m typically in—these sorts of games rarely ever come off as progressive or anything more than a fun romp through a fantasy world (with strangely religious undertones, as with my experience). Thought-provoking, sure, but not progressive. However, sometimes I’m lucky enough to find moments that give me pause and make me rethink my position of enjoying these games on a purely detached level.

Tales of Xillia BannerRecently my brother and I started playing Tales of Xillia, the thirteenth game in the Tales series. For the most part, the game is standard fare: big bad is trying to destroy the world and our party of heroes have to stop them. One particularly interesting thing about this game, though, is that the player has the choice to decide between two protagonists, Jude and Milla. I love that NamcoBandai finally gave the option to play through the eyes of a female-presenting character while not punishing the player for choosing either of the two (everything is still accessible, some scenes are merely different due to their different perspectives). But this post isn’t about gameplay mechanics: it’s about characters!

As I’ve only just finished the first act in what looks like a five act game—I’m avoiding spoilers at all costs—I can’t speak with the wisdom of someone who’s completed the game. This won’t stop me from speaking on something that Xillia handles better than a lot of other JRPGs I’ve seen: the love triangle.

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Why I Love Pochamani

Pochamani_Chp_1_001Shoujo is not the most respected genre in the manga world. On one hand, the plots, though often dramatic, are also simple. They usually involve a pretty but stupid high school girl and a handsome, smart, rich, and arrogant high school boy. This odd couple is usually thrown into some sort of situation that, while technically plausible, is very unlikely.

They include eye-rolling plot lines such as marrying for parents’ debt, working off a debt in the mansion, something else to do with a large sum of money and shitty parents, their parents got married so they are now step-siblings, etc. Whatever problems shoujo may have, though, there are more than a few gems in the genre, and even some that go against those pretty people. One of these fabled gems is Pochamani by Kaname Hirama. Continue reading

Sexualized Saturdays: Fruits Basket

A while back, I wrote a Manga Mondays on this series. In short, it’s about a group of thirteen people—one person for every animal in the Chinese zodiac legend—who are cursed to turn into their respective animal whenever they are hugged by a person of the opposite sex. While cute and adorable, Fruits Basket leaves a lot to be desired because it is written from a very heteronormative viewpoint. Not only is it heteronormative, it creates a world in which there is no one outside the gender binary. As far as I can tell, they do not exist in this universe.

fruits-basket--big--7As someone who more or less identifies according to the binary, I don’t often pay attention to whether or not stories are dismissive of people who don’t fit into it. However, Fruits Basket makes it impossible not to notice, since gender and gender roles are both a driving force of the plot and a gimmick to make the story “cuter”.

Spoilers for Fruits Basket after the jump.

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Manga Mondays: Blank

Amnesia is an issue that’s tackled quite often in manga, whether it be through subplot or the main plot, and usually it’s trite as hell. When this convention shows up, it’s usually safe to assume that the memory loss will stay long enough for the characters to suffer a breakdown, but the memories will all somehow return at the end of the story / arc so that there can be a happy resolution. Wanting a happy ending isn’t something to be faulted for, and even writing something about the mysterious healing powers of love, while usually uninteresting, isn’t something to get angry over. However, the mention of memory loss in a romance carries with it the warning of tired tropes that don’t endear a work to me. It’s no wonder that when I read that Furiko Yotsuhara’s Blank dealt exclusively with the issue, I wasn’t overly excited to read it. And how was it? Eeh.

Blank Continue reading

Manga Mondays: Prism

I’ve read manga series that have simply faded off the plane of existence with nary a warning. That’s always the worst because it’s not until months later, when you’ve already wiped the series from your mind, that you figure out that yes, that was where the story ended, for some arbitrary reason. However, this manga is the only manga I remember reading that had actually gotten cancelled. And it’s simple enough to understand why it did: there was evidence of tracing within the work. However, I would argue that the premature end of Shou Higashiyama’s Prism is no big loss to the manga scene or the romance genre.

PrismWhen main character Megu was in grade school, she spent a summer at her grandmother’s. During this time she fell madly and hopelessly in love with a young boy, Hikaru. Her feelings for her first love remained so strong that Megu didn’t allow anyone into her heart during middle school. Now entering high school, Megu has vowed to find love and attempt to wipe the grade school love affair from her mind.

When she arrives at school, a mysterious and beautiful new girl approaches her with more excitement than Megu knows what to do with. Understandably confused, everything becomes clearer when the girl introduces herself as Hikaru. The very same Hikaru from all those years ago.

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Manga Mondays: Like a Cinderella

After the disappointment of the last manga I read (that being Hideout), I decided to return to my guilty shoujo pleasures. From first glance this manga seemed to hit two of the notes that I really love in any genre: sweetness and having a tie-in with fairy tales. With a title Like a Cinderella Coverlike Like a Cinderella, it was easy to imagine a pauper to princess type of story, but what I found beyond the cover page wasn’t quite so fantastical.

This short comic—it’s two chapters long with each chapter having roughly twenty pages—by Fuuka Mizutani follows a young girl, Chiaki, who, after an appointment at her dentist’s, finds that someone has left with one of her shoes, leaving her with a mismatched pair. Luckily for her, the shoe not belonging to her is still her shoe size so she’s able to return home despite looking a little strange. Chiaki does want her shoe back—it’s her only pair—but the nature of the shoe intrigues her and causes her to think of the girl that walked off so easily with the incorrect shoe. As opposed to Chiaki’s ratty old sneaker, the assumed elegance of the woman who left her heel behind allows Chiaki’s mind to wander. And more and more she dreams about meeting this woman in real life.

Luckily, the dentist’s office is more than willing to help. The receptionist tells Chiaki that the woman happens to have appointments scheduled a while after her own, and if she is willing to wait Chiaki can meet her in person. At first, Chiaki is thrilled by the idea. However, after thinking about it she becomes worried that she’s not pretty enough and the woman will think of her as nothing but a nuisance. In an attempt to combat these feelings on the day she’s supposed to meet with the mystery girl Chiaki dresses up in a fancy dress and goes out of her way to look like she imagined the other girl would. The pressure is too much though, and she ends up running home, embarrassed.

Like A Cinderella ShoeShe gets over this fear quickly when she recalls that this other girl already knows what she looks like. How does she know that? Because Chiaki put up a “have you seen this shoe” poster in the dentist’s office with her face on it. This girl already knew what Chiaki looked like and still wanted to meet with her—she also told the receptionist that she wanted to meet Chiaki in person as well. So with renewed resolve Chiaki waits for the mystery girl, the comic ending right as they meet.

The second chapter in this series merely covers the series of events from the other girl’s point of view. And indeed like Chiaki thought, she is a bit of a princess, but a charming princess. Though short, I feel like Like a Cinderella has a lot of heart in it. The characters are really relatable and the simple art style has an air of normality and comfort to it. Even though it didn’t exactly have the fantastical elements that I usually expect in my fairy tale-themed romance comics, it still shows that sometimes seemingly fantastical things can happen even amongst the daily grind of life. I’d recommend a read through should you get the chance: it’s cute enough to make you smile, but short enough that you can read it in under half an hour. A pretty good combination if I do say so myself.

Like a Cinderella Meeting