After hearing the news that James Cameron would be helming a film adaptation of Battle Angel Alita next year, I decided to take a dive into the series and see what the fuss was about. I’d never actually read it, but after 15 years of anime convention-going I was sure I’d heard the name before. And since I like to be an informed critic, and am already strapped in and ready to critique the movie (with its tragically predictable almost-Asian-less cast) I figured there was no harm in familiarizing myself with it for dragging’s sake.
Well, after reading all nine volumes of the series, I can confidently say that while I can explain the story, I have no idea what the fuck it is about.
Recently, my fourteen-year-old self knocked on my window in the dead of night and asked me to reconsider demon butlers. Or, rather, I went to watch Black Butler: Book of the Atlantic (a movie adaptation of one of the later arcs of the manga) in the cinema with a friend, where we were both promptly reminded why we’d loved this series so much as teenagers. The Black Butler manga is more than ten years old and still going strong, and the movie reeled me back into this world of supernatural action and Victorian Era finery with enough force and finesse that I was compelled to revisit the first few volumes of the manga—the “Jack the Ripper” arc, the storyline I remember being my favorite and starring my favorite pair of villains—and dive back into this story to see if it held up. Is it still good? Certainly. Is it also riddled with problems I’m much more wary of and attuned to now that I’m older and wiser? Absolutely. Spoilers for the arc ahead!
(photo by me: the inside cover of my faithful, beaten up copy of Volume 2)
Good. God. I don’t know where to start with this. As soon as I heard about this I rushed to trade posts with Lady Geek Girl so that I could write about it. However, upon sitting down to do so, I realized that to write about it, I’d have to—ugh—actually watch the trailer.
If you know anything about me or this website, you can stand assured that I did not enjoy a second of it. This movie looks like it will be a disaster on every possible level, and on top of that, releasing it in the week after Iron Fist crashed and burned in no small part due to whitewashing complaints feels almost comically idiotic.
While I consider myself an anime fan, I only count a surprisingly few anime titles among my all time favorites. One that definitely makes the cut is FLCL. It is almost impossible to explain what exactly FLCL actually is (though our own BrothaDom made a truly valiant effort); the show is legendarily rumored to be a byproduct of writer’s block, spawning from a handful of unfinished ideas that some anime all-stars had been batting around. While that may be at least somewhat apocryphal, it certainly explains much of the show’s signature production style. One interpretation for it all that I cannot help wanting to explore, however, is that the entire story is a parable about adolescent sexual and romantic coming of age.
Quiet moments like this have more raw emotion than the apocalyptic action scenes.
Much of the plot is directly and explicitly just that: a coming-of-age story. It can be argued, though, that the more grandiose and surreal main story arc is all one giant metaphor for this as well. In addition to the protagonist Naota, almost every other key character (primarily the three women in Naota’s life: Haruko, Mamimi, and Eri) also deals with these themes and the extraordinary events that happen to them are all viewable as metaphorical (and/or metaphysical) extensions of those emotional struggles.
As the YA sci-fi and fantasy genres become more and more of a driving force in pop culture, FLCL is worth revisiting (again) for what it says about some of those same themes. It tells a complex and deeply layered yet easily relatable story about the nature of romantic and sexual self-discovery in a way that validates the emotions that young people (and everyone else) look to explore in this type of fiction; not only that, but it does so in a way that treats them with a sincerity that mainstream YA fiction sometimes tends to handle with melodrama and/or trivialization.
Trigger warning for underage sexual relationships below.
Pictured: most likely me when someone tries to explain this. (via PopKey)
One of the biggest mysteries of this season in my eyes is “how in the world have the Harry Potter films become a Christmas/holiday tradition?” Sorcerer’s Stone came out in November back in 2001, but the timeframe doesn’t instantly make a film a Christmas classic. Sure enough, though, every December I can turn the channel to ABC Family (or whatever it’s called now) and find each and every Harry Potter film nestled snugly in between other classics such as How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Polar Express. While this mystery may never be solved in my eyes, it got me thinking about a certain facet of the Harry Potter series that, in all its exploration of magic, seems to be woefully underutilized—a fellow holiday tradition, food.
Fans of course remember the grand banquets during the sorting ceremonies and have fond memories of the pumpkin pasties and the chocolate frogs available on the Hogwarts Express, but all things considered, wizard food remains strangely mundane compared to Muggle food. Stranger still is how it seems that, in general, the more realistic the story, the more magical its food seems to be. Yet in a way this makes sense; these seemingly at odds representations of the magic of food serve to reinforce what the characters are looking for in their respective stories.
I’ve been on a quest recently to purge my book collection of books I don’t actually care for. This is a bit more difficult than it seems at first glance, as it’s been so long since I’ve read some of them that I have to reread them before I can make a decision. Lately my judgmental gaze fell upon the 2004 series Chrono Crusade, an eight-volume manga series that I first picked up about eight years ago. I remember liking the series at the time, but I can only speculate now as to why that was, as my reread left me headachey and confused in turns.
Magical girl anime and manga have been around for what seems like forever and have meshed with several other genres outside of their shoujo roots. Recently—for seemingly no reason—I was reminded of Magic Knight Rayearth, a magical girl series that combines the transformations and magic we all know and love with the sort of impending doom one might get from a Final Fantasy game, with a dose of giant robot anime on the side. The three protagonists—Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu—journey to a land called Cephiro to become the Magic Knights to save its Pillar (aka: Princess/Priestess) and learn how to harness their magic and mechas along the way, but the functionality of Cephiro’s magic is more explored through the series’s side characters (which makes sense, since the three heroes are from Earth and not Cephiro). While for the most part the magic is your typical elemental/summoning fare and the series utilizes several genre and character tropes, Rayearth does manage to surpass the limitations of some of these tropes. In the case of the character Presea, an older woman in a series focused on younger women, I found this to be especially true. Through both her character and her personal magics, Presea manages to become her own person rather than a character defined by her presumed role in patriarchal tropes.
If you read this week’s Trailer Tuesdays, this post shouldn’t come as a surprise, but for those of you who didn’t (and have no interest on clicking on that link), I’ll give a proper introduction. Gifs from the film Doukyuusei have been following me around for so long that I finally decided to give in and watch it, despite my trepidations about the yaoi/BL genre. And, well, it looked cute, so I figured I may as well give it a shot. Upon doing so, not only was I charmed by the love story between the two protagonists, I was so charmed that I actually looked up Doukyuusei’s after stories—Sotsugyousei and Occupation to Beloved–and devoured those just as quickly. However, while all of these stories are a sweet little taste of gay romance, none of them manage to completely leave the unfortunate yaoi tropes behind.
Though I’ve traveled through many different anime genres, I tend to stay away from yaoi/BL (boy’s love) series. I don’t have anything against the concept itself, but these series tend to attract a fanbase that not only is misogynistic, claiming every terrible thing that could be said about a woman is inevitably true, but also one that fetishizes relationships between men to the point where even gay men are uncomfortable. Furthermore, in the series that I have been exposed to, it seems like parts of these issues are incorporated into the stories themselves, and really, I don’t want to wade through looking for the one series that isn’t going to piss me off. However, pictures have been floating around on Tumblr about this one film that seems to be everything I could want in a love story that also happens to fall in the BL genre: something slice of life-y with relatable characters, a lack of sexual harassment, no bashing on women, and a banging soundtrack (if you like soft, acoustic music).
I’ve been slowly but surely trying to work through the backlog of books I have owned for years but not read. One particular harbinger of shame in this endeavor was the graphic novel on which the Studio Ghibli movie The Cat Returns was based, since I knew the single-volume manga with its self-contained story would only actually take me half an hour or so to read. Nevertheless, I only finally read it this weekend, even though I’m pretty sure I bought it when Borders was still a thing.
I liked but didn’t love The Cat Returns movie; for me, it’s one of Ghibli’s more forgettable options. Looking back, I’m not sure what about the film, save maybe a passing furry-ish attraction to the Baron character, led me to buy the source manga. And now, having at long last read it, I’m left questioning why this almost-too-simple story got a film adaptation at all.