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

Sexualized Saturdays: Teen Wolf and the Turmoils of Male Puberty

Teen-WolfUncontrollable urges, animalistic appetites and aggression, hair growing in new and unusual places: these are the trials and struggles of any nascent werewolf. Or teenager. In my eyes, the young lycanthropes of Teen Wolf provide a metaphor for the trials faced by any young man going through puberty, both socially and physically.

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Manga Mondays: Centaur’s Worries

When I started reading this manga I expected the usual fanfare of the slice-of-life genre. I did not expect the first chapter to be about the three main girls in this series comparing their vaginas to make sure they look ‘normal’. It wasn’t explicit, but… yeah. That’s how Kei Murayama’s Centaur no Nayami  (Centaur’s Worries) starts. Now I’m just staring at my word processor wondering how to follow up that statement. I mean honestly, who’s going to be paying attention after an opening like that? I feel that’s how Murayama felt too: how do you follow up?

After that first chapter, the storyline falls into the normal tropes of its genre. Yet, after the bizarre events of the first chapter, the tone just feels wrong. I have nothing against ecchi comics, but it just blindsides you—none of the sites that host this comic have it as a tag, even. However, I’m digressing. Let’s get to the meat of this manga.

Centaur no Nayami focuses on three classmates and friends: Kyouko (a satyr), Nozomi (an imp), and Hime (a centaur) and their progression through high school and growing up. Immediately, my thoughts go comparing this to other manga, such as Azumanga or Lucky Star, as there is no legitimate plot, a ton of side-characters, and each character takes on a well-defined trope. Nozomi is the tomboy loudmouth of the group, Kyouko is the straight man, and Hime is the airheaded beauty. If you’re well versed in this genre (and even if you’re not), you probably already know at least half of the storylines that will happen.

In addition, the art is cute, but nothing really to write home about. It has a simplicity to it that is clearly reminiscent of its doujin roots and a fanservice element to it that I wish it didn’t have. So if it’s neither the story nor the art that grabs me, why am I still reading it? Because of the lore!

Yes, the lore in this series is surprisingly great. I love how everything about these so-considered mythical creatures is so normalized, so common place, that they just discuss it as if they were discussing the prevalence of trees in a forest. For example, in one of the chapters Hime talks about getting her hair cut. This not only leads into a small section about how satyrs and other horned creatures have special brushes to take care of their locks, but also into a discussion of angels. Apparently in this verse, an angel’s halo is formed from their own hair and thusly can be cut off just as easily as any other piece of hair (but if it does get cut off, it could be considered a hate crime unless the proper paperwork is filled out). It’s obvious to me that Murayama has put great effort into not only the biology and physiology of each species in this series, but also the sociology of a world where angels and imps can live together and not be placed on a higher pedestal than the other.

So, if you can get past some gratuitous boob-age and fanservice-y uselessness, I would recommend this series as a fresh look into a lore that has maybe become a little stale in other canons.

Manga Mondays: Kare Kano

After last week’s foray into… whatever you would call that, I decided to give myself time to recuperate and return to a series that I really love despite the fact that I actually haven’t finished it yet (whoops).

If I were to put His and Her Circumstance, more commonly known as Kare Kano (short for Kareshi Kanojo no Jiyou), on the spectrum of genres, it would fall somewhere between Kitchen Princess and Honey and Clover: there’s no way it’s not shoujo, but it’s certainly more ‘slice-of-life’-y than a lot of other shoujos. The series starts out following Yukino Miyazawa as she goes through her school life acing tests, having a bunch of friends, being basically perfect in any way. What I mean by ‘starts out’ is that this image lasts approximately seven pages into the first chapter and immediately slips when the other main character, Soichio Arima, is mentioned.

You see, Yukino is living a lie, and it’s a lie that many of us know very well. At school and in public she is the image of high school beauty and brains, what everyone aspires to be. Yet at home she is a slob who lounges around in sweats all day and works her butt off to achieve that public image for the sole reason of being praised. She is a self-proclaimed egomaniac. However, all of her hard work is seemingly for naught when Soichiro becomes the class representative. Not only did he ‘steal’ this title away from her, oh no, he also seems to be everything she’s not. He actually is the perfect, good looking, smart person that she has to act at being. Needless to say, this pisses her off. It pisses her off even more when he catches her slipping up in class, and so she starts working even harder to throw him off his high horse. It all seems to be coming together for her after she scores higher than him, but the façade is ruined when he visits her at home.

However, from his end Soichiro genuinely admires her. He continuously wants to be near her and feels as though it makes him better for it. He even confesses his feelings for her at some point (she turns him down at first). After the incident at Yukino’s house, he uses his insight into her actual self as a means of blackmail and forces her to help him with his student council work, least she be exposed to the entire school. However, it ends up being just a ploy to have her spend more time with him in a manner where she could actually be herself. It’s a little underhanded, but ends up being a mutually beneficial arrangement.

From these two chapters—yes, this all happens in the first two chapters—the two of them begin reconsidering what they really want out of life and how to balance their “public” selves with their “actual” selves (spoiler: Soichiro isn’t actually perfect). As with Honey and Clover, this seemingly mundane task is what makes the rest of the series. Both of them go through school, deal with relationships (with each other and apart), and handle the drama that comes with them and we see how it shapes them into the adults they are in the last volume of the manga. Of course, what I find most interesting is how author Masami Tsuda creates such a meaningful, three-dimensional relationship from Soichiro and Yukino. Never do you feel that they aren’t their own people and never do they lose the strengths and insecurities that make them interesting. In such a long series (I think it’s about 21 volumes), it’s rather difficult to keep interest in a single relationship but by keeping the his/her style of storytelling the audience really becomes attached to the characters, so the relationship is actually a secondary thing.

I would definitely recommend giving this series a try. Yukiko is a hilariously awkward character and the friends they both make later into the series really round out the cast into characters that you may not like all the time, but you can respect their actions because they have purpose beyond building up the main characters, unlike many other shoujos.

 

Fanfiction Fridays: Howabout a crossover?

I avoid crossover fic like the plague. It just takes so much to be done right, and I have gotten finicky about what I’ll actually spend time reading these days.

So here’s the backstory to the discovery of this fic: When I was about 13, I read all the existing Les Miserables fanfic on the internet. Like literally all of it. A few months ago, I realized that the Archive of Our Own (aka AO3), being a relatively new fanfiction archive, might have untapped Mizzie fanfic for the reading, and I happily wandered over to their Les Mis section.

Imagine my confusion when, amidst all the sad stories of doomed gay revolutionary love, I discovered this title:

“The Host Club’s Refreshing Interdimensional Tour

It… it couldn’t be.

Did they mean… Ouran High School‘s host club?

Oh, yes, they did.

The premise of this beautiful work of staggering beauty: Tamaki, having been unfortunately allowed to watch some sci-fi, decides he wants a time machine. A staggering investment of Ohtori funds later, the club finds themselves with a dimension-hopping vehicle, which they dub “Super-Delicious Strawberry Cake, since no one can think of a good reason to object”.

They visit (among other stories) the Enterprise circa Star Trek TOS, Sunnydale, the Fire Nation, the Andes ofThe Emperor’s New Groove, and Amestris, wreaking havoc and leaving greatness in their wake.

This fic is great for a number of reasons: the characterization is spot-on, making it seem like this is just a lost episode of OHSHC that never aired. The writing is clever and often hilarious, and the situations presented are goofy but perfect. (Honey and Mori fight in the 1832 June Rebellion for the revolutionaries, with whom half-French Tamaki sympathizes extraordinarily, hence why this was tagged in the Les Mis section of AO3.)

Anyway, this fic is perfect and hilarious and you should all go read it now. Find it here at the Archive of Our Own.

Fanfiction Fridays: Are You There, God? It’s Me, Canada by Jekaro

Sometimes I would like to say I have taste in what I choose to fangirl over. Sometimes, I would like to say that I get into a series because of the meaningful plot and the deep characters. However, sometimes this is complete and utter bullshit. I know that some will argue that Hetalia has both of these traits, but you have to look exceedingly hard to find either in most cases.

In a series that has about one main plot and a million filler plot-lets—filler plot as in “wow, this is wacky/hilarious/cute/etc. but will have no lasting impact on the character”—and that each episode is divided into about three to four five-minute segments (in total, the episode is about fifteen minutes, content-wise), it’s hard to say that it said plot is in anyway ground shaking. Also, as far as author Hidekazu Himaruya is concerned, the characters are slightly flat and serve mainly as marketing tools which have served him well. Hey, I’m not going to lie: I got into the series for good looking boys and stayed for the…good looking boys (although the girls are pretty awesome too).

Good thing there’s fandom picking up the author’s slack.

Of course there’s a fair share of indulgent slash with no point what-so-ever, but if there’s one thing that this fandom has done better than a lot of other fandoms it’s creating fanon (fan-made character ideas that become so widely accepted that they’re like actual canon). I actually care more—or should I just say ‘actually care’?—for these characters because of what I’ve seen in fan works. So, allow me to introduce you to one of those works. Now, if you’ve read any of our ‘Fanfiction Follies’ series, you have an inkling of an idea of what types of fanfiction that I approve of and that I find “suddenly the characters are in high school!” fic to be for the most part stupid. This is a high school fic.

No, no, hear me out.

There’s a reason why Are You There, God? It’s Me, Canada works as a high school fic and that’s because the characters actually act like they’re in high school. A shocking concept, I know. There are actual teachers. Actual cliques that exist for more than just drama against the main character. Homework. Other students outside of the main character’s posse that have lives. It just exceeds my expectations in every way for this type of fic in general. Author, Jekaro, also makes the wise decision to not have all the main characters from the show be students. The older countries end up being teachers (IE: Germany, Italy) and parents. The younger countries are the students along with some other miscellaneous original characters.

The story itself focuses on Canada, and oft passed over character: in fact, in the show itself, it’s often joked about that no one even remember who Canada is, not even his pet.

Canada (who will be called by his human name, Matthew, for the rest of the review) lives with his two parents, England (“Dad”) and France (“Papa”), and his brother U.S.(Alfred). As a fervent FRUK family shipper, this made me too happy for words.

Mostly the story is about Matthew trying to find his own way through life, coming out from behind the shadow of his brother and being proud of who he is. Which is what high school is usually about. This story isn’t breaking new ground per say, but what really makes it is the wit and the relationships between the other characters. Holy shit, Matthew is hilarious. He is, of course, vulnerable and awkward as well, but his sarcasm is highly enjoyable. Take for instance this little nugget of gold he writes in his journal (NOT a diary) as his parents are making up after a fight.

Even later

Sakura petals
Falling on my hair in spring
My walls are too thin

Fields are made bright gold
Baked soft in the summer heat
Why are they so loud?

The fall air is crisp
Like breathing in ice cold clouds
Seriously guys

Winter brings the snow
Cold and clean like brand new sheets
Someone kill me now

And most everyone, even the highly welcomed addition of Seychelles as his best friend, has this kind of humor. It’s seriously great.

And as I stated earlier, relationships play a big part. Matthew’s parents must find a way to

relate to their son which is terribly difficult given how they’re so used to dealing with Alfred, the loud and bombastic jock that he is. And this difficulty the parents have is palpable and believable. Heartbreaking at times, but there’s always hope and humor. Besides that, Matthew not only has to deal with falling in love, but also coming to terms with the fact that he is falling in love with a boy…who looks like and dresses like a girl All the emotions Matthew goes through, all the thought processes, are realistic and it’s clear that Jekaro really thought this through rather than going straight for the ‘Hawt Yaoiz’ ™. I would have never considered the adorable Poland x Canada ship previous to this fic, but it’s really great. I just love it when a fan work can open my eyes to something I never saw before!

And so, dear reader, I offer this story up to you to enjoy. If you like slice-of-life with a dash of drama and a healthy dose of wit, this is your story. Read it here at the LJ Kink Meme (I’d give it a solid PG-13 rating, so don’t worry about the meme name…for this story.)! I should warn you, though, that the story never finished and it seems to have been abandoned. Alas! Perhaps someday they will continue. I’ll hold out for that day.