Fandom Is Good for You: The Educational Implications of Fan Engagement

Now that this semester of grad school has ended, I finally have time to write a post! It just so happens to be our last post before our holiday break, too, which tells you a bit about the craziness of my schedule…. You see, I’m a PhD student studying Learning Sciences, which is all about researching how people learn and how we can use those findings to reform the educational system. Trying to balance my online fandom life with my grad school life has been an ongoing struggle, but surprisingly, one of the things I’ve learned in my program is that many researchers in and around this field study the educational implications of fandom. Well, now I’m here to cross over between my offline and online life by sharing some of that work with you, as well as some findings from my own research!

It may come as no surprise to you that fans learn a great deal from engaging in fandom, whether they’re writing fanfics, composing meta, creating fanart, making cosplays, or heck, even writing essays from a critical lens like on this blog! But fandom still tends to be viewed dismissively by mainstream culture, and even we fans sometimes devalue our engagement as a mere “hobby”. Modern learning theorists now acknowledge the importance of learning outside of school, and are calling for in-school learning to be more like the interest- and peer-driven realm of outside-of-school learning, including hobbies like fandom. There are so many ways that fan engagement is related to the kinds of subjects people learn in school and to skills that are generally useful in life. And better yet, it’s in a context that people really care about, rather than the decontextualized content conventionally presented in schools, which can seem random and unconnected to students’ lives.

So, this fandom thing you’re doing right now? It’s totally legitimate, important, and socially responsible. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

irukas_classroom

Let Syng-sensei educate you!

Continue reading

Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon: The RPG

Sailor Moon the RPGHello all! More Sailor Moon goodies are popping up all over the place as the worldwide revival continues. We’ve gotten the new musical; the new anime starts in January; there’s an art book on the way; and piles and piles of new merchandise. Yet with all this new media, there’s only been one new video game released: the Italian Sailor Moon: La Luna Splende in 2011. Thankfully, some dedicated fans have been putting in tons of work to fill that gap and are creating Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon: The RPG, a massive, story-driven game which will be available for download upon completion.

According to the game’s website, the projected release is some time in 2015 which, agh, I know, feels like an eternity to wait, but looking at all they have planned to include, I’m willing to wait. Now, full disclosure, I am by no means a gamer. I don’t own any gaming systems and the most recent piece of gaming equipment I bought was my Game Boy Advance, which spends most of its time sitting in my nightstand drawer unless I get struck with a wave of Pokémon nostalgia. That said, I still look forward to this game a lot. From the screencaps released so far, it looks like a classic 16-bit game, which were always my favorites.

Sailor Moon RPG- ScreencapThe team plans to release a total of twelve games, six of which will be major stories relating to the five arcs of the manga and anime, and another six smaller stories meant to lead from one arc into another. The games can be played in order or separately, but when played in order, extra bonuses can be gathered to help with the following missions and saved data transfers from one game to the next. As a very casual gamer, this and most of the other features planned for the game go pretty high over my head, but it seems like the game will be straightforward enough for players like me, while having enough intricacies for more advanced gamers.

What I really look forward to is the story, more so than the game-play. I honestly never get tired of the Sailor Moon story and all the variations of it. I mean, I’ve seen the Dark Kingdom arc interpreted from the original manga version some six or seven times between the anime, live-action series, fan films, and musicals and I’ve loved it every time. A new presentation of the story I love is always welcome, in my book, and even though I’m not a very proficient gamer, I’m ready to embrace a video game version next.

Sailor Moon: Future Reunion

Sailor Moon- Future Reunion- CoverRight now a wonderful artist is writing a Sailor Moon doujin titled Future Reunion. The artist goes by the name Mangaka-chan on Tumblr, which is where I first found her work and fell in love. I had thought of doing a Web Crush on this artist and her story, but, as is so often the case with me, I started to fall behind on updates and didn’t feel I could accurately describe it for a Web Crush. The reason I’m writing about it now is because the artist is offering a great option for readers to catch up: a hard copy of the manga!

This is great for me because I prefer to read print rather than electronic works, especially for manga. From the picture of the cover, Mangaka-chan’s book looks like it will fit right in with Kodansha’s re-print of the series, which will also make me very happy because if it didn’t look right on the shelf next to the rest of my Sailor Moon series it might actually be a deal-breaker. Even though it’s a fan-made work the artist has put in the extra effort to make a polished product.

On a similar note, one of the things I love about this work is how much it really does look and feel like an extension of Takeuchi’s original series. The character designs are very similar to start with, but on top of that the actual structure flows the same way the original works did. The expressions on the characters’ faces, the settings, the use of onomatopoeia, etc. all effectively emulate the style used in the official Sailor Moon and Codename: Sailor V manga.

The story of the doujin focuses on Chibiusa taking on the full responsibilities of a Sailor Soldier and leading her team as Neo Sailor Moon. Much like the original series, there is a love story, which, in this case, is centered on the romance between Chibiusa and Helios. Helios is the human form of Pegasus, who was a key player in the Yume arc of the manga and who shared a very close bond with Chibiusa. Also returning from the Yume arc is the Amazoness Quartet as Neo Sailor Moon’s team, the Sailor Quartet. The Sailor Quartet was introduced in the manga as Chibiusa’s team and appeared in one of the musicals, but never made it into the anime, so it’s exciting to see more of them.

Sailor Moon- Chibiusa's Team

Chibiusa’s Sailor Team

If this story sounds interesting to you, I highly encourage you to read it! If you’re like me and want to have a print copy, purchasing information can be found here.

Web Crush Wednesdays: MoonSticks

Guess who’s in a Sailor Moon mood lately? If you guessed me, you’re correct! Today’s Web Crush is one of my favorite Sailor Moon fan projects: Chibi Jen’s parody comic MoonSticks!

jr9fangirls1111Any fan of Sailor Moon knows that as awesome as the show is, there are many logical inconsistencies. Chibi Jen’s comic loves to point these out and lightly (and sometimes not-so-lightly) mock them:

The entire fourth season solved in four panels

The entire fourth season could’ve been resolved in four panels

If you’re the kind of viewer who watches a show and constantly finds yourself thinking “How is no one seeing the simple solution here??” chances are you’ll find many of your complaints addressed in these comics. For example, why did so many secondary characters disappear in the later seasons and why did no one seem to notice they were gone?

MoonSticks- Where's Naru-chanThe comics don’t only exploit the illogical aspects of the story, despite there being ample material for that. Sometimes they just take humorous looks at situations or characters from the series.

MoonSticks- A Sailor Soldier's PrideI love these comics. Not only are they funny and clever, the artwork is really cute and I never get tired of reading and re-reading them. New ones aren’t produced very often, but if you’re interested in keeping up with them, you can like the Facebook page or follow Chibi Jennifer on Tumblr.

Son of a Hundred Maniacs—A Fanfilm

I was browsing through some Nightmare on Elm Street videos to include in my final “Women of Elm Street” post about Nancy and came across some promos for this fanfilm that looks pretty great and worth sharing. The post on Nancy will be coming later; I just want to make sure I take time and do justice to my heroine.

The movie appears to be focusing on Fred Krueger prior to his death and eventual reincarnation as the dream killer of the official movie series. Judging by the contemporary look of the trailer, I think this may not be a timeline-accurate sequel, which I think would have to be set no later than the late 70’s in order to pre-date the original 1984 film. As such, I’m not sure whether this will be the backstory for the Freddy we know from the original film series or a brand new vision of the character. In either case, the production looks exceedingly professional for a fanfilm and I look forward to learning more about it.

The creators have designed a new glove for Freddy which leads me to believe that they are revamping the story rather than making a direct prequel to the original films.

Son of a Hundred Maniacs- Krueger's New GloveI really like the look of this glove. In the preview for the film, the actor is wearing a faithful replica of the original glove, so I’m not sure where or how this re-design will fit in to the movie, but it looks pretty incredible to me. One of the most noticeable differences I can see between this and the original design is the way the finger supports connect to the back plate. Rather than being bolted flat into their support as in the original, they have what appears to be some type of floating hinge which gives them more movement and I think will be really visually effective when in action, giving the glove more life than previous versions.

My only reservation about this film is the fact that Freddy was specifically known as a murderer of children in his lifetime and the only reason he killed teenagers in the movies was because they had grown older in the time between his death and eventual resurrection in the dream world. Now, it’s one thing to hint at or talk about the awful things he did while he was alive; it’s quite another to actually portray them. The official movies were, if not always exactly tasteful, at least restrained by what the Motion Picture Association of America would allow to be seen in theaters and the specifics of what he did to young children were always left in the dark.

Making independent online movies such as this gives filmmakers a blessed freedom from those bureaucratic standards, but with that freedom comes the possibility of going too far for some people’s comfort levels. I’m not saying that these creators don’t have the right to push the envelope, just that I personally may not be able to handle the outcome.

Despite my unease at the possible content of this film, I am very interested to see more. According to the writer/director the project is in post-production, so hopefully it will be available soon. In the meantime, we can keep an eye on their Facebook page for updates!

Theatre Thursdays: A Very Potter Senior Year

What else could we possibly be talking about today??

Yes, as we all hoped when we heard about the reading at LeakyCon, A Very Potter Senior Year has been uploaded to YouTube! The third and final musical in the series by Team StarKid makes its way into the lives of eager fans—and it’s a bittersweet moment, to be honest. The show is as funny and energetic as we expect, but there’s a sadness in knowing that this is the end which is actually part of the show’s theme.

While the previous two entries were hilarious madcap romps, I would say this is the first time one of the musicals has a theme or message and that theme is directed to all of us as fans and says that it’s OK that Harry Potter has come to an end, that we can move on to other interests without forgetting or betraying all that the series has meant to us. The theme works its way into the story by showing that the wizarding world, including Harry’s peers at Hogwarts, have forgotten all about him and his accomplishments now that Voldemort and his followers have been defeated. This disregard for Harry is hastened by the arrival of new book crazes such as Twilight and The Hunger Games written by none other than Gilderoy Lockhart.

As Lockhart’s presence would indicate, the structure of this musical comes primarily from The Chamber of Secrets, but of course it has bits and pieces from the rest of the series mixed in and a healthy dose of its own original plot.

Ginny receives Tom Riddle’s diary and unintentionally revives Lord Voldemort, Harry keeps trying to regain his popularity but only sinks lower and lower in the eyes of his friends, and Draco Malfoy becomes the new most popular boy in school. What can be done to save the day? You’ll have to watch to find out, because I’m certainly not giving any spoilers here! Continue reading

Sailor Moon the Movie

Yes, it’s yet another Sailor Moon fan film! Actually, this is one of the earliest movies to have entered into production (at least it started releasing info earlier than the others). I think the first time I saw a trailer for it was in 2011, maybe 2010. Despite that fact, however, it was beaten to the punch by both Sailor Moon the Movie (Independent Short) and Dead Moon Circus, which both debuted ahead of it. Part One of this movie debuted on YouTube in November; no real word on Part Two yet:

Thus far the movie is mostly a remake of the first season of the English version of the anime with a few lifts from the live-action series. Since this movie has had a much longer gestation period than either of the two I’ve shared before, I had some higher expectations for it and in some ways they were met. I like the actresses who play Sailors Moon and Mercury. They capture the essence of their characters and bring a charming vitality to the roles. I appreciate that MaryBeth Schroeder doesn’t shy away from portraying the extreme familiarity bordering on obnoxiousness that is definitely part of Serena.

I was less impressed with the script, though. The story is very much a melding of the first and fifth episode of the anime in which Serena and Amy become Sailor Moon and Sailor Mercury, and there are a few elements which are handled rather clumsily, mainly the Dark Kingdom and especially the Rainbow Crystals.

Do you know what they are? Well, the script doesn’t really tell you, so hopefully you do; otherwise they’re just some Mineral MacGuffins and the villains have a pretty unclear motivation or intent.

Really, the inclusion of the Rainbow Crystals is questionable anyway. Since they were an invention of the anime to help pad out the story for more episodes, including them in a condensed movie version seems ill advised, and their hasty introduction makes them seem like an afterthought. They’re mentioned, the bad guys already have more than half of them, and they have something to do with another crystal and/or gathering energy. A script supervisor or some revision over the lengthy production period probably would have helped their inclusion to be much less awkward.

What the extensive time spent on the movie has helped, however, are the visual effects which are really pretty good for the most part. When the movie tries to imitate the anime’s stock footage for transformations and attacks it’s pretty disappointing, but when it shows the effects of the attacks on the real world it’s very effective. Also, the digital scenery is incorporated very well and looks like a good deal of time and effort went into it.

Overall, it’s not my favorite of the fan films and with how long it’s been in production I’m less forgiving of its incomplete status, but it is fun. This one is definitely made for fans, and the enjoyment comes from seeing familiar characters and scenes portrayed in a new medium, rather than from any new ideas or thematic approaches to the story.