Izetta: Not in “Last” Place, but Definitely not in First

During the winter, not many anime could escape the vortex of Yuri!!! On Ice, and with good reason. Along with bringing figure skating to the forefronts of fans’ minds, there was this collective release of breath that for once a series didn’t destroy a healthy gay relationship by having one of them die, making it hideously tropey, or any other manner of eye-roll-inducing bullshit that non-straight audiences are unfortunately used to. While I’m definitely forever grateful for Yuri’s existence, I won’t lie: part of me was a little bitter that lesbian couples weren’t having their renaissance as well. However, I did manage to hear about two anime series that were being touted as having lesbian relationships front and center. Though continuously dubious about anime’s relationship with, well, any sort of relationships really, but especially lesbian relationships, I sat down and watched the first of the two series, Izetta: The Last Witch. Izetta’s dip into a magic-infused version of our world’s real-life past wasn’t exactly what I would call “fun”, but despite the numerous bad/questionable aspects of the show, I do believe that in the end Izetta is worth a watch.

Spoilers below.

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Magical Mondays: World War II in Fantasy Fiction

Ever since I finished my reread of the Percy Jackson books, I’ve been thinking about the way modern fantasy writers pull World War II into their magical settings. There’s an ongoing cultural fascination with this particular war, possibly because it’s the last major world conflict that we can paint as having obvious good and bad guys, but the way it’s utilized in fiction doesn’t always work or make sense.

Writers like to add some sort of magical twist into the real historical war, whether it’s giving hitherto unknown powers to actual historical figures, or running a parallel magical conflict alongside the non-magical one. Some of them do so in a meaningful way that does justice to the actual history they’re using; others, not as much.

via Business Insider (yeah really)

via Business Insider (yeah really)

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Theatre Thursdays: Life is a Cabaret, and Cabaret is Life

cabaret_logoCabaret is returning to Broadway next month for its ninth major production in one of the two greatest holy cities of theatre: New York and London. That’s right, nine times. Let’s count the ways: Broadway opening in 1966, West End opening in 1968, London 1986 revival, Broadway 1987 revival, London 1993 revival, Broadway 1998 revival, London 2006 revival, London 2012 revival, and the upcoming Broadway 2014 revival (not to mention a 1972 film adaptation). Whew! That’s not an accomplishment many musicals can claim. What is it about this show that makes it so enduring? What makes it a force that keeps popping up again and again, demanding to be seen and heard? Let’s take a closer look.

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Trailer Tuesdays: The Wolverine

As released in the middle of last month, ladies and gents, here is the trailer for The Wolverine. I’ll admit that I’m pretty psyched. I’ve long waited for a film which takes on Logan’s relationship to Japan, and the time that he spent there. When the film was announced, I was hoping for a film that would recount his time in Japan before World War II, with his wife, Itsu, and their son, Daken. Perhaps we’ve seen too much in the way of Wolverine fighting those who have the same powers that he does (re: Sabretooth, Lady Deathstrike), and I’ll accept that movies are going to be different than Earth-616.

World War II has James Howlett in Japan, performing his typical acts of self-sacrifice and heroism, saving the life of the man who would become Yashida, the yakuza boss and corporate magnate. It does seem, however, that the relationship established there has come to haunt his future, as Yashida seems keen to have Wolverine’s immortality for his own. He is, as the official synopsis has it:

Out of his depth in an unknown world…vulnerable for the first time and pushed to his physical and emotional limits.

It’s the intrigue around that fact that makes this trailer so exciting for me. What does Wolverine do when his defining ability, the source of some of his greatest triumphs and his most harrowing agonies, could be taken from him? How does he fight Yakuza enforcers and the deadliest assassins in Japan minus the ability to recover instantly from his wounds?

I think it will actually make for a more compelling story, overall. Wolverine is a man who usually only knows emotional and mental desperation. His healing factor means that he’s stronger, moves faster, can fight longer, and fatigues more slowly, and without it he’s going to come up against enemies who can challenge him physically, both superhuman and not. If the true measure of man is “how he stands at times of controversy and challenges”, or “how much of himself he can give,” then surely we will see a more intimate picture of Wolverine when he faces not only defeat, but death with his failures.

There are a few other things that this trailer has me excited about. I’m interested in how the film will take on Viper (whose character you might know as Madame Hydra). She’s portrayed here by Svetlana Khodchenkova (of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), who seems to have all the manipulative Eastern European femme fatale vibes necessary for the role. Director James Mangold has it that she “views Logan like a great hunter might view hunting a lion in his quarry. There’s kind of an admiration, a desire to destroy and a desire to consume and to have and to hold.”


That actually brings me to both of my other points. Between Viper, Mariko Yoshida (in the red wig), and all of the ninjas we see in this trailer, there’s going to be some pretty decent costuming. Now, that could go one of two ways. It could just make the whole thing seem cartoonish and overdone. But given the sources it seems to drawn on, inevitably including Tokyo street fashion and our popular conception of ninjas and samurai, I’m inclined to believe that those over-the-top elements fresh out of anime and comic books could be the right choice, with sufficient individuation to give us a sense of character through costume. That’s what I’m hoping for at least.

I’m also hoping for some strong fight choreography, something I often see as lacking in superhero movies, with The Avengers being a notable exception. I’ve certainly been disappointed by all of the X-Men titles in this regard. So the prospect that I’m going to get my wish with this film leaves me watering at the mouth, frankly. It seems unavoidable. With a cast of master assassins and martial artists, including Yukio and Kenuichio Harada, whom you may know as the Silver Samurai, artfully directed martial arts choreography seems implicit. I, for one, will be sorely upset if this is not the case.

The Wolverine comes out in the US on July 26.

Theatre Thursdays: The Imitation Game

The-Imitation-Game_cumberbatch_knightly_turingIf you haven’t heard, it seems that The Imitation Game (named for the famous Turing Test, an Alan Turing biopic, is in the works. Recent news (February of this year) has let us know that Benedict Cumberbatch will star as Turing, the troubled genius whose work helped to crack the Enigma Code and helped the Allies win World War II. Also confirmed is Keira Knightley, who will likely play Joan Clarke, a coworker of Turing’s within Hut 8 at Bletchley Park (the center of the UK’s WWII decryption establishment), and, briefly, his fiancee. I’ve also heard rumor that Matthew Goode of Watchmen fame will also star in the film.

There’s been talk of the script since 2011 when it was made public on The Black List, a survey of the “most liked” screenplays not yet produced. You can check out the 2011 list here, although the script has since been aggressively hunted and removed from the internet. However, over at ScriptShadow, there is a fairly thorough review of the screenplay, which is positive although it highlights a discomfort with Turing’s homosexuality coming off as a “quirk” in the film.

That being said, this is certainly not the first time Turing’s life story has been played in film. There is a lovely 1996 BBC television film entitled Breaking the Code, based on a play released a decade before, which stars Derek Jacobi (Turing) and Amanda Root (Pat Green, based on Joan Clarke).

derek jacobi amanda rootThe play itself was written by Hugh Whitmore and premiered in 1986 in London’s West End and then moved to Broadway in 1987. It cleverly links Turing’s work in cryptography, the mathematical protection of secrets, to the secrets he kept in his own life, primarily his homosexuality. Both the play and the television adaptation were lauded for their treatment of this part of Turing’s life, treating it as it was, a part of him which in his own lifetime would come to overshadow his greatest achievements. Receiving a GLAAD award, a Broadcasting Press Guild Award, and a pair of BAFTA nominations, Breaking the Code received near-universal critical acclaim both onscreen and on stage. In fact, stage productions continue to this day and are well-reviewed almost without variation wherever they are, including the Theatre Royal in Northampton and the Central Square Theatre in Cambridge, MA. While this is certainly to the credit of the respective production and performance teams, it is also a credit to Whitmore’s authorship.

At the Performance Workshop Theatre in Baltimore. Mark Horwitz as Turing.

At the Performance Workshop Theatre in Baltimore. Mark Horwitz as Turing.

Alan Turing was, of course, prosecuted for homosexual activities in 1952, as it was illegal at the time. He was convicted, lost his security clearances, and chose chemical castration in the form of diethylstilbestrol (a synthetic estrogen) over a prison sentence. Two years later, he would commit suicide. You can head over to Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal for a humorous take on just how incredibly bigoted and idiotic it was that Britain lost one of its greatest minds to institutionalized homophobia. Gordon Brown apologized in 2009. No pardon has been issued, despite calls from the public and scientific communities, though a bill has been introduced in the House of Lords.

Moving forward, this is my primary concern with The Imitation Game. I have no doubt that Cumberbatch can bring the character to life, though I’ve heard arguments that he will have to be careful to keep his Turing sufficiently distant from his Holmes. I worry that the film will play the thrill and genius of his work, and leave his homosexuality, his persecution, and the grand injustices that drove him to suicide a footnote, incidental to his academic talents. To ignore the homophobic betrayal of a talented patriot by his own queen and country, if you will, is to do a disservice to Turing’s memory, to LGBT persons everywhere, and to anyone who might benefit from the full, genuine telling of Alan Turing’s life story.

Breaking the Code can be found, in its full 90 minutes, on Youtube. If you’d like to learn more about Alan Turing (and I hope sincerely that you would), please visit the Turing Digital Archive. Lacking both the time and the talent to fully explain his genius and his contributions to the Allied effort and the state of the modern world, I recommend that you see his work for yourself.

Manga Mondays: Grave of the Fireflies

I trust Miyazaki. I trust that he will deliver a wonderful story that always has a hidden meaning. I trust that that story will be well executed. I trust that the animation will be superb. And I trust that the characters will be well-developed.

I do not trust that his stories won’t send me into uncontrollable sobbing fits.

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