I’ve had a beaten-up copy of The Shattered Court lying around my apartment for some time now, and I finally decided it was time to give it a read. The book is the opener to a series, and introduces a Britain-based country with its own unique magical system. However, my interest in the book quickly turned to frustration and disappointment as I learned more about how the magic worked. While the series attempted to say some challenging things about gender and magic, it fell down harder and harder every time it tried.
It’s now officially Fall! …Or that’s what the calendar tells me, but the unwelcome persistence of 80 degree weather (that’s 27~ degrees Celsius to you Celsius-using folk) is weaving a different tale. In an effort to prove that temperature doesn’t rule my life–even when I’m dying and making offerings for those crisp fall days to come the fuck on already–I’ve started to dive into that good seasonal content. Of course, that means witches and magic!
Back in March of last year I talked about how excited I was for the upcoming anime adaptation of the manga The Ancient Magus’ Bride, and just recently the three part OVA, Those Awaiting A Star, finished airing in Japan. Despite being unaware that an OVA was even happening, I eagerly dove into the three 25 minute episodes. It was advertised as a prequel story, so I was a bit hesitant that the OVA would be focusing mostly on the situation that brought heroine Chise to her living arrangements with her fiance, the titular ancient magus; doing so would almost certainly mean focusing on the neglect and abuse Chise suffered, and three episodes of that sounds kind of like the worst thing ever. It’s impossible to avoid that completely, as the episodes focus on Chise’s childhood, but if you share my concerns, I’m here to tell you that the OVAs didn’t turn into the Chise torture hour. More importantly, Those Awaiting A Star subtly shows off the environment Chise comes to thrive in as well as her relationship to Elias (the magus) in a way that quells the worries I, as someone who hasn’t read the manga, had about that too!
Spoilers below. Continue reading
It’s been ages since the last time I read the Seventh Tower series by Garth Nix, but I’d been meaning to read it again, so this weekend I sat down and blasted through all six volumes. (At around 200 middle-gradey pages each, they’re not a heavy read.) I did remember enjoying the series when I read it the first time—probably way back around when it was published between 2000–2002—but very little else. All I remembered was that I liked them enough, so they’d survived several cullings of my ridiculously large book collection until such time as I could reread them and rejudge.
Having finally done just that, I am happy to report that the series is definitely an enjoyable read, although I probably won’t be holding onto them for another round a decade into the future. I was impressed to see that The Seventh Tower uses magic and worldbuilding in a fascinating way that allows for a deconstruction of privilege that feels organic to the story, while providing us with a strong female touchpoint character as well. Although, given that it was Garth Nix writing, I probably shouldn’t have been surprised. Continue reading
The last thing I need right now is another game. I know this, but I also know full well that I’ll always, always make time for dating sims. I was pulled into this one by a couple of people from one of my D&D groups and was pleasantly surprised to discover that while I’m certainly easily swayed into trying dating sims by people simply saying that they’re good, this game is good. Very good. Follow me below the cut for a tale of murder, magic, intrigue, and most importantly, the Arcana.
As someone who sells artwork at anime conventions, one of the things I look forward to most is seeing everyone’s cosplay. Being able to dress up and put time and effort into bringing a beloved character to life can be a magical experience in the real world. What’s especially great is seeing people in the different costumes that a single character may wear over the course of a story.
Clothing can be a powerful narrative tool—sometimes certain clothes can give some character new and special abilities. Other times, the clothing can be a symbol of internal change, growth, and a renewed sense of confidence. This can be an especially important mechanic for video games, and my best experience with this was in Final Fantasy X-2.
Magic corrupts. Well, the real saying is “power corrupts”, but in many fantasy settings, having magic is the same as having power, so for our purposes, magic corrupts. Indeed, where would a fantasy villain be without awesome magical powers? And as villains are some of my favorite characters, this is a topic that has fascinated me for ages. Magic + amoral people is a surefire way to make me interested in a story.
Buffy was one of my first fandoms, and I loved it. I also loved Willow Rosenberg, a Jewish witch who’s openly queer and unapologetic about her nerdiness, a great deal. Willow spends most of the series as Buffy’s best friend, constantly ready to help save the day with her powers. Unfortunately for Willow, things take a turn for the worst in Season 6. We learn that magic is addictive, and her powers start controlling her more than she controls them. As Willow loses herself to her magic, she turns to villainy, leaving her at odds with Buffy and the rest of her friends.
The recently concluded arc of Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, “The Smartest There Is”, opened on nine-year-old protagonist Lunella Lafayette learning that, thanks to her results on a test created by Bruce Banner, she is the smartest person. Not the smartest kid, or the smartest girl, or the smartest human, or the smartest being on Earth; she’s flat out “the smartest there is”, hence the name of the arc. The other people on the list (mostly adult men) are a bit salty about a little Black girl from the Lower East Side stealing their thunder, but none more so than one Victor Von Doom.
Doom sends robots to attack Lunella, and they’re unlike anything she’s fought before. Namely, they’re powered by Doom’s magic rather than by some kind of quantifiable science. So what does the smartest there is do when faced with something that defies scientific understanding? Attempt to explain it scientifically anyway.
Magic and sci-fi don’t have a great track record when it comes to pregnancy. I already talked about this in a previous post a while back, but thanks to Shadowhunters, it’s time to talk about it again. Shadowhunters is not a bad show. It’s not good either, not by a long shot. It’s based on a subpar book series, and although the show has taken a lot of creative liberties—most of which are for the better—the acting’s awful, and the story’s pretty campy. That said, it’s still a lot of fun, and as Noodle has pointed out, it’s giving us some great LGBTQ+ representation. It’s even used magic in some unique ways. All in all, it has my approval. At least, that was until I starting catching up on Season 2 and reached the episode “Dust and Shadows” and Shadowhunters went right into one of my more hated tropes—the mystical pregnancy.
I hate this trope so much. It’s steeped in rape culture, has numerous implications for worldbuilding, and is rarely handled all that well. Shadowhunters may do a really good job with some things, but this is not one of them, and it’s one of the few instances where the show is actually worse than the books.
Spoilers and a trigger warning for sexual assault ahead.
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t have much hope for the latest installment in the Star Ocean franchise. I wanted to be optimistic, the same way I wanted to be optimistic about the Assassin’s Creed movie or Final Fantasy XV—but near every time I go for optimism, reality has its ways of disappointing me. Integrity and Faithlessness came out after The Last Hope, and The Last Hope is anything but a good game. The plot made no damn sense, the characters are all unlikable, and the massive amounts of sexism and rape culture on top of everything made the game more than unenjoyable.
The Last Hope’s failure ensured that the budget for Integrity and Faithlessness was small, and it sure as hell shows. We only get to visit one planet, the monster designs are all reused from previous games, there are hardly any cutscenes, meaning that it’s possible to walk away from important dialogue, and the plot itself is a little lackluster. It’s not hard to see why the game only has three stars on IGN. Despite all that, though, Integrity and Faithlessness did a really good job with what it had. A lot of effort went into its characters, and following a group of well rounded people more than made up for any of the game’s other shortcomings.
Sadly, I still haven’t gone to see the new live-action Beauty and the Beast yet, but since it seemed timely, I decided to go back and revisit the 1991 animated film first. Ever since it came out, Belle has been lauded as one of the more feminist Disney princesses, especially in comparison to other older Disney protagonists such as Cinderella or Ariel. Belle is book-smart, curious, and outgoing, and she defies societal conventions by being completely unapologetic about who she is. So of course we see her as feminist, and it’s through the use of magic that Disney attempts to capture a feminist message in her narrative. However, despite all of Belle’s potential feminist characteristics, Disney still creates a world in which the only possible option for Belle and the other princesses is to fall in love with and marry a man. The magic in these movies exist to subvert some patriarchal values, but in the end, they adhere to others by continuously rewarding its protagonists with unwanted love interests.