About The Afictionado

Fledgling academic, book lover, overthinker of superheroes and anime, and generally just here to have a good time

Magical Mondays: Flying Witch and Magical Realism

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(screencapped from Crunchyroll)

Flying Witch did for witches what Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid did for dragons: just had them be kinda there, going about their daily business instead of getting wrapped up in some sort of epic fantasy plot. Makoto, the protagonist of Flying Witch, is a young witch completing her training, but is she rollicking along on some sort of Harry Potter-ish adventure attending a haunted magic school and defeating evil incarnate? No, she’s just doing the gardening. Occasionally she unearths a howling mandrake and disturbs her friends and neighbors, but otherwise she lives a relatively conflict-free existence, sitting where she does in the place where the “supernatural” and “slice-of-life” genres meet. Which is, it turns out, pretty near the dreamy land of magical realism.

Spoilers for Flying Witch Episode 11 beyond!

Flying Witch is not a show you watch for conflict and action—it’s quite literally just the day-to-day goings on of a girl’s life in a rural town, including high school cooking classes, vegetable planting, and long conversations about the history of the pancake… oh, with the occasional bit of magic woven in. There’s no overarching plot, no tension, no mysteries or intrigue as we glimpse the magical world. The witches in this universe don’t have a statute of wizarding secrecy so much as just keep to themselves because they like it better that way, which pretty much tells you all you need to know about the series’ casual tone and casual acceptance of magic. Apart from some initial shock when Mako floats on her broom for the first time (and some comedic reactions to the yelling plant), the existence of magic is basically accepted by the cast and by the story without anyone batting an eyelid.

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The Bittersweet Taste of Orange

If you could write a letter to your younger self, what would you say? “It will get better”? “Don’t stress too much about fitting in”? “Yes, what you’re feeling is love, and that’s okay”? “The future is awful and sad and I want you to work tirelessly to make sure you don’t end up a regret-stricken wreck like me”? Orange takes this last approach, and the result is a series that I have a barrel full of mixed feelings about.

Spoilers and content warning for suicide ahead.

On the first day of the new school year, protagonist Naho finds a strange letter addressed to her, which was apparently sent from herself, ten years in the future. Naho is confused and dubious that such a thing can be real, but then the events the letter describes start coming true: the letter tells her that a new student, a boy named Kakeru, will be joining their class that day, and he’ll sit next to Naho. Naho’s friends will attempt to be welcoming and invite the new kid to hang out once school is over, but, the letter warns, they should absolutely not do that. Not that day, at least.

Naho soon realizes that the letters are full of specific advice from her future self, chiefly about things that Future Naho regrets and wants to change. These mostly concern Kakeru, since, as Naho is shocked to find out, ten years in the future Kakeru is no longer alive. In Future Naho’s world, Kakeru died—in an accident later discovered to be suicide—when he was seventeen, and she’s sending these letters back in time to try and stop that from happening.

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Web Crush Wednesdays: Trash & Treasures

Web Crush Wednesdays

“A bunch of friends who might not be film experts, but sure do have funny opinions, watch bad movies and rag on them” is a podcasting trope by now, if such a thing can exist. How do you wade through the sea of cinematic chit-chat to find one you know will be good? That’s not actually a question I can answer, since I was lucky enough to stumble into Trash & Treasures sideways, but I can help by assuring you that Trash & Treasures is one worth checking out.

Trash & Treasures is where self-described “three weirdos”, Vrai, Dorothy, and Chris, watch movies and sometimes TV series that have been lost down the back of the pop culture couch. Maybe they’re a product of Disney’s awkward and edgy dark era where the company was low on funds and fighting with Don Bluth, maybe they’re an obscure single-release piece of queer action cinema, maybe they’re… just plain bad. Each episode is devoted to a different piece of media, and the trio discuss the plot, context and history of how this movie came to be and how they came to find it, and which parts of it are terrible and which parts are actually, maybe, kind of good.

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Sexualized Saturdays: Letting Boys Cry

One of the first things Yuri Katsuki does onscreen is cry. His establishing character moment is him weeping uncontrollably in a bathroom, the picture of vulnerability and hopelessness, after doing badly at the Grand Prix. And he doesn’t stop crying, either—his tears, and his anxiety, return time and again over the series, and while he eventually learns to handle this anxiety as his confidence is nurtured, the narrative never really presents this emotion and his expression of it as a bad thing or a weakness. Yuri is a highly expressive, emotional young man, and the show he’s in lets him be that. And that’s quite a rare thing to see in fiction, let alone from the protagonist of a sports anime—surely one of the most manly genres out there, given that they’re all about feats of physical prowess!

It seems paradoxical to have the protagonist of something in the action genre—be it sports or superheroes—cry, because crying is, well, such a non-masculine and non-heroic trait. Journalist Ben Blatt recently released the findings of a study on word use in books, which found that, among other things, women were commonly described as “sobbing” but men almost never were, especially when the novel in question was written by a man. The study suggests that “Male authors seem, consciously or not, to hold that if ‘real men don’t cry,’ then ‘fictional men don’t sob’.”

And yet there’s Yuri, sobbing—and not the only man to do so in that show either. Granted, a lot of Yuri!!! on Ice plays with and strays from what we would consider “manly” (dancing, themes of love, throwing away strict conventions of gender presentation with Viktor’s long hair and flower crowns, etc.), but this departure from gendered expectations is still worth noting. Usually, the perception is that boys don’t cry. Crying is a sissy thing to do, an unmanly thing to do, a girly thing to do, and society says the accepted and desirable alternative is to bottle up your feelings or project them outwards onto other people. This is one of the neatest examples of toxic masculinity you can find: being emotional is somehow feminine, and, of course, that that makes it bad.

Content warning for discussion of suicide after the jump.

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Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid: A Cute, Fun, Trashy Domestic Comedy… with Dragons!

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(via Nerdyshow)

“Slice of life with a sprinkling of the supernatural” has long been my favorite genre, though it’s harder to find than you might think. Most often fantasy authors choose to take things in an epic direction, flinging their protagonists out of their ordinary day-to-day existence into some sort of magic adventure, giving them high stakes to deal with. Granted, that’s generally what makes for an engaging fantasy story, but sometimes you’re looking for something that’s more relaxed and grounded in recognizable daily struggles. Sometimes you just want to see an all-powerful otherworldly monster do her grocery shopping without having to worry about a big scary epic background plot, you know?

If this is the case, you might want to take a gander at Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid. It’s cute, funny, follows the beats of a slice-of-life show to a T while managing to feel fresh, and while fantastical elements are interwoven inescapably into the plot, the main focus is not so much on magic but on interpersonal relationships and exploring the everyday domestic delights of a found family. Its sense of humor is sometimes incredibly skeezy (read: sexual harassment of minors played for laughs) and it may or may not be as gay as we all wanted (though it comes pretty damned close) but overall it’s quite a sweet and pleasant viewing experience. And there are dragons!

Spoilers (and content warning for said sexual harassment of minors) under the cut.

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Web Crush Wednesdays: Potterless

Web Crush Wednesdays

Harry Potter is a pillar of civilization by this point. What began as a series of children’s/young adult novels is now a virtual empire, with eight movies, several spinoff books, movies of the spinoff books, theme parks, and the website Pottermore to ensure that the franchise is constantly alive and being added to. Given the impact this series has had since its release in the ‘90s, you’d be hard pressed to find someone in the Western world who hasn’t been influenced by it—and it would be nigh-impossible to find someone who hasn’t read the books that have shaped a generation.

You’d think that, but you would be wrong—Mike Schubert, a twenty-four-year-old American man, has never read the Harry Potter novels that so defined the childhood of his peers. And so, in a grand experiment, he’s sitting down to read them all one after the other, and discuss them with his Potterhead friends in this week’s web crush: the Potterless podcast.

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Until Dawn and the Indestructible White Guy

mike11

(via the Until Dawn Wiki)

A while back, a friend and I attempted what we called a Maximum Chaos playthrough of the game Until Dawn. Until Dawn is basically an interactive horror movie, presented cinematically but offering its players the chance to steer the story in different directions based on character interactions, decisions, and quick time events in action scenes. The Maximum Chaos run involves picking the most risky choices, starting as many fights between characters as possible, and not hitting any of the QTEs, leading to the most exciting, dramatic, and gory story possible. Given Until Dawn’s “anyone can die” premise, this leads to some interesting and brutal action. But, as we learned along the way, it also reveals that certain characters are quite literally indestructible no matter what your button-pressing and narrative choices inflict on them, and some are far too easy to damage, which leaves the game with some unfortunate implications.

Spoilers for the game, character deaths and possible endings beyond this point!

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Cute Demon Crashers Set to Return with Cute, Comfy and Consensual Queer Content

Cute Demon Crashers start menu

Screencap of Cute Demon Crashers’s main menu (once you’ve completed all the routes… which I did, because I love)

I don’t normally seek out erotic visual novels, but if I did, I doubt I’d leap to describe them as “delightful”. But Sugarscript’s Cute Demon Crashers proved the exception in both of these, by not only getting me to play a sexy dating sim but leaving me with a warm fuzzy feeling that (you’d think) would be uncharacteristic of the genre. If you look at the creators’ mission statement, though, you’ll realize that was the point:

In our team, we felt there was a need of consent and safe spaces in 18+ VNs for women, and NaNoRenO 2015 was the perfect excuse to make a game to fit those needs!

Consent and comfort is a massive, integral part of Cute Demon Crashers. College student Claire (who the player can rename) accidentally summons three incubi and one succubus who sense that she’s lonely, and over the course of the game she can bond with them and learn about them, and, if she wants to, pick one to have sex with that night. Whichever adorable sexy demon she picks, the ensuing sex scene is sweet, gentle, sometimes funny, and each demon is lovely in their own unique way. Because consent is an integral part of the development team’s mission, it’s an integral part of the gameplay: plenty of options pop up throughout the scene, with Claire’s lovers asking her if she wants to do this, or that, or stop. And indeed, a big stop button is available in the corner of the screen at all times. If you hit the button or want to back down, the demons never make Claire feel bad about it, and they do everything they can to make sure she’s physically and emotionally comfortable throughout the whole process.

There are no bad ends in this visual novel. It’s entirely about having a good time and exploring sexuality in a fun, safe, and comfortable way, with the magical love demon aspect managing to be adorable rather than skeevy like it could be. The whole game was a delightful and fun experience, which is why I’m super excited that Sugarscript has announced that they’re working on a “Side B” sequel/spinoff for the game.

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Web Crush Wednesdays: Spirits

Web Crush Wednesdays

Mythology is super fun—though this is easy to forget when most of our access to it comes in textbook form. I’d love to soak up as many legends and stories from around the world as I can, but Wiki-walking can only get you so far, and often you can get lost in those walls of text and the academic language. Plus, how do you know where to start?

These epic tales of heroes, gods, demons and magical shenanigans were often meant to be told out loud, spread by word of mouth for the purpose of entertainment. A podcast, then, is the ideal modern medium to get yourself into these ancient tales. Today’s web crush Spirits is exactly that, and it comes with a bonus dose of friendship, feminism, and alcohol!

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Sexualized Saturdays: Moana the Mythic Hero-King

Moana was several different brands of delightful, but one aspect that captured my heart is that it draws its inspiration from mythology rather than from fairy tales—something Disney hasn’t really done since Hercules, and something that gives its heroine a very interesting dynamic. The movie features the trickster god Maui as one of its main characters and incorporates other elements of Polynesian folklore, but I was especially interested—and pleasantly surprised—to see that Moana herself has quite a traditional mythical hero’s character arc.

She is a leader, chosen by nature and destiny, who sets out on a quest surrounding an important magical object, where she ventures through the realm of the supernatural and tangles with gods. When it’s over, the balance of nature is restored and she returns to her people as a wiser and more capable ruler. It’s a quintessential hero-king quest narrative, which, incidentally, is also a quintessentially male narrative. But without so much as a shrug, Moana gives this archetype to its female heroine and sends her on her journey.

Spoilers for the whole movie after the jump!

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