Singular Spooktacular: October ’19 Roundup

The Afictionado was nice enough to give my book a review and also link to my article on mental illness! Check this post for those goodies and a lot of other great stuff, both my her and people around the net!

The Afictionado

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I’m back, baby. (As you can see, I’ve been Very Busy and taking the hiatus was 101% a good idea)

On the blog:

Queer Allegory and Queer Actuality in Every Heart a Doorway – a recording of the conference presentation I gave in September, featuring queer reading strategies, genre studies, and a gay cat.

Man of Medan: All we Have to Fear is Fear Itself (and the Ocean) – a review (split into spoiler-free and spoilery parts) of a new interactive ghost story by the makers of Until Dawn.

Queer YA Mini-Reviews: Portraits, Premonitions, and Pink Hair – reviews and recs, starring I Wish You All the BestIn the Way of All Flesh, and The Summer of Jordi Perez (and the Best Burgers in Los Angeles)

BONUS: my presentation on playing with tropes in Life is Strange and Until Dawn is now published as a journal…

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Summer 2019 Anime Overview

Some reviews of the Summer 2019 anime I watched, hot off the Tumblr press!

Given

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Given is definitely going to be in the top five anime of the year for me. I say that with complete confidence even through the year isn’t over yet. That’s how good it is.

This is a story that combines band and music drama with high school boy romance drama and even throws in some grad school guy love drama for good measure. But it’s also an incredibly moving, well-executed story about coping with grief and survivor’s guilt. It can be very funny, very adorable and is often heartwrenchingly emotional.

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I adore the two leads and their relationship. Ritsuka is endearing from the second he bursts into the scene- He’s a dork who’s instinctively kind and helpful even as he blusters about it and complains dramatically. He can be bad at communicating but he really does try his best, bless him. He’s just a complete mess constantly overwhelmed by the feels he gets from this weird guy he’s crushing on.

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Mafuyu is equally wonderful- Ritsuka describes him as a “lost puppy” when he first meets him and, well, that’s not inaccurate.The kid is little awkward and taciturn, yet his strong emotions and high enthusiasm shine through all the time. Mafuyu is also a lot more complex than he initially appears. He has a TON of baggage and intense turmoil he’s going through underneath his sweet, spacey-seeming exterior.

Unlike a lot of characters in the BL genre (and teen romance in general lbr), Mafuyu has a romantic past, he’s well aware he’s gay and his ex isn’t some one dimensional evil caricature either. It’s also later revealed Mafuyu IS aware of how he comes off and gets sad about not being able to express emotions and socialize like “normal people” do. He’s a very resonant and well-thought-out character, and his journey is nuanced, fantastic and tugs on the heartstrings.

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Then there’s the two grad school guys, Haruki and Akihiko. They’re fun,interesting characters who’ve got some thorny romantic tension going between them. They both seem, realistic for their age. I mean, Haruki is  constantly burying his face in his hands and internally screaming, which is extremely relatable and absolutely accurate to my grad school existence at least. Their different relationships with their sexuality and feelings also have a touch of realism and nuance. One of this pair has been in relationships with plenty of guys and girls alike and is pretty comfortable with his sexuality-but he clings to some of his past in what might be an unhealthy way. On the opposite spectrum, the other man accepted his feelings long ago, yet never acts of them, seemingly deciding it’s hopeless.

When they’re not busy being disasters themselves, these two act as mentors and sorta big bros to our disaster teens. This honestly rules. As I said in my Bloom into You review, it’s my favorite thing when media reflects how different generations of people in the lgbtq+ community can help and support each other.

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In fact, there’s a really touching and realistic conversation where Ritsuka talks about his insecurities over his emerging crush with one of the older guys and shares a bit of his own experience to reassure Ritsuka. He lets Ritsuka know, no, there’s nothing wrong with him and  there are people who’ve been there and who understand. The whole thing is just really well done. It’s also great because it feels like the show is really trying to warmly reassure any viewers who might be struggling. It shouldn’t be a rare thing to feel like a story about queer romance is truly keeping the queer audience in mind, yet it is RARE. So it makes me happy to see this story reach out.

Given is on point with it humor, characters, romance, exploration of grief and deals well with issues- but it’s got even more going for it than that! It’s a really well directed anime. The pace is slow and contemplative, with an absorbing atmosphere that really draws the viewer in and makes them feel like they’re living day-to-day with the characters. The dramatic moments, the funny moments, the sweet moments- they all hit just perfectly. The care taken in telling this story really comes through.

Continue reading “Summer 2019 Anime Overview”

Spring 2019 Anime Quick Takes

I’m obviously posting this several months after I posted this on tumblr, but since my (more detailed) Summer 2019 anime retrospectives are going to reference it a bit, I figured I should copy it to this blog.

Spring 2019 Anime

These aren’t official reviews or overviews for the anime I watched, just messy general “did I like it” thoughts for each anime. not even telling you the premise! You’ll have to look it up yourself. 

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Dororo (end)

There was a lot of pretty interesting and strong stuff leading up to like, the last episode and a half… Hyakkimaru being consumed by obsession and not really being able to articulate why he wanted his body parts back so badly other than “because they’re mine”, his touching reunion with the person who raised him (he!!! called him mama!!! it was genuinely cute wtf), questions about what makes someone human, revenge, etc… but I felt the ending episodes were kinda a weak letdown in comparison- it felt rushed, the whole show was about building up Hyakkimaru and Dororo’s bond, then they were barely together for the last two episodes, despite the final ep being named…Dororo and Hyakkimaru. There was also a kinda awkward part where Dororo and everyone had a drawn out conversation where they figured out the themes of the show while all this other shit was happening that felt just a little stiff.

Also as I put it on Twitter:

Hyakkimaru’s mom: it’ll be ok hyakkimaru will be able to remain human bc he has that child by his side!!!

 Everyone: yeah!

 Hyakkimaru: *leaves dororo immediately* 

Priest guy: no see he had to leave you to go on a journey to regain his humanity

 Dororo: uuuuhhhh

And yeah, the series was as boring as possible with Dororo’s gender, very deliberately erasing a trans reading- I had a sinking feeling when they omitted Dororo’s “I AM a boy” line from the manga in the scene with the bandits (JUST that line too, it was so blatant), and indeed the last few seconds of the show make sure to assure us Dororo has grown up to be Appropriately Feminine. It’s so disappointing and insidious, they had the ability to update the story in a way that took out the gross gender essentialist comments from the manga while keeping a gnc/trans-coded character but instead they not only squandered that, but deliberately went out of their way to burn that bridge.

 And even outside “going out of the way to erase a trans reading” I’m so tired of scrappy afab children always shown to grow up to look ~appropriately~ fem in media.

Nice animation at least though.

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Fruits Basket Brotherhood- (ongoing) 

Watching this with a friend, so I’m behind, but it’s been fun so far. There’s some Questionable 90s Gender and Comedy Stuff they’re keeping intact from the manga, but overall its still a sweet, moving story to watch and the adaptation is pretty faithful from what I remember (and pretty lookin’!). And honestly I don’t remember a ton of the manga’s plot, just that there were Feels, so I’m ready to be surprised again. BRING ON MORE ZODIAC ANTICS, CRANKY CATBOY AND AWESOME GOTH AND SUKEBAN GIRL BFFS.

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Sarazanmai

I enjoyed it! It’s Ikuhara so it’s wall to wall Weird Queer Shit, gotta love that. PREPARE FOR MANY BUTT JOKES. the messy dramatic disaster teens that sucked me into their relationships by the end, and the adult mlm couple was treated very sympathetically, so I felt for them (plus I read the prequel manga and it was cute). The series was stubbornly optimistic in a way I appreciated in these troubled times, focusing on how hard it is to connect with others but how meaningful it is. Lots of interesting visuals too. I enjoyed reading everyone’s takes on it. I think it should have been longer (or perhaps not spent so much of its first half doing formula stock footage but THAT’S HOW IKUHARA ROLLS) and felt the last episode especially was a little rushed. It’s no Utena (what is) but it was interesting and I look forward to rewatching it sometime soon. Would probs be my pick of the season if we were actually ranking things.

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Carole and Tuesday (ongoing)

Cute girls playing music, a fun, diverse cast, some nice wlw guest starring for an ep- honestly, it hasn’t blown me away with the characters or plot or anything, but it’s a mostly relaxing series to watch with an interesting setting, the animation is very nice, and hearing all the english songs is cool. 

I am a bit concerned about where it might be going with its “martian androgyny syndrome (?)” subplot- I honestly have no idea what they’re trying to do with it and there’s some troubling implications with how they’re presenting the characters “afflicted”…but I guess we’ll see where it goes. That’s really my only big niggling concern there. 

 

My book, In the Way of All Flesh, is OUT!

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My book, In the Way of All Flesh is now OUT!

This dark fantasy about ladies in love is available in both Kindle and physical form!

This is my debut novel, and I put seven years of hard work into it. It’s a story that’s heartfelt and dramatic and full of suspense, thrills and messy feelings. It comes from a lot of my experiences as mentally ill queer woman who struggled a lot with my mortality and identity when I was younger, and it’s a story that I hope can help other people find hope and healing. Here’s the summary:

Gloomy teenager Manee Srikwan wears long sleeves and keeps her hands to herself for a good reason–whenever she touches a person for the first time, she sees a vision of how they will die. Manee’s weird powers cause those around her nothing but misery and she’s long resigned herself to a life of loneliness. But her vivacious classmate, Stephanie Pierce, changes all that. She smashes through every wall Manee puts up and overturns every expectation.

As the girls grow closer, Manee’s feelings for Stephanie blossom into love. She yearns to be more intimate but is anxious about breaking her all-important “hands-off ” rule. When she finally gives in to temptation, she sees a terrifying future where Stephanie is murdered — and Manee is her killer! Now Manee has a choice to make— will she fight this fate or let it rule her?

I really want to see this book reach people who might enjoy it, if you can help me out by spreading the world, you’d get my eternal gratitude. There’s a lot of cool stuff happening related to this book right now, so here’s a list of things you can participate in:

-Want to get the novel through a venue other than Amazon? Buy the books through Regal CrestBella Books,or Barnes and Noble!  Support radical indie bookstores and get the novel through Firestorm Books in Asheville!

-Leave a review on Goodreads! Leave a review on Amazon! I can’t overstate how important reviews are! I want your honest feedback!

-I’ve launched my new author website, where you can find out more of the book and join my newsletter to keep up with all the events, interviews and so on rolling out!

-Check our my interview with Regal Crest where I give behind-the-scenes-info on the book! And check out my guest post on LGBTQreads,“How ‘In the Way of All Flesh Got Gay: Death, Desire and Self Discovery” where I talk about the themes of this book and how it reflects my own queer journey!

-Join my Patreon and get exclusive behind-the-scenes info and perks!

-And, dare I dream it, if you really like the book, spread the love through fanfic and fanart and let me know about it!

‘My Brilliant Friend’- a retrospective

I was commissioned via my patreon to watch and write a piece on My Brilliant Friend. Below are my thoughts.

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My Brilliant Friend is an eight episode HBO series based off the novel of the same name by Elena Ferrante. The series is set mainly in a poor neighborhood in 1950’s Naples, Italy. It centers around the bond between two women- Elena Greco and Raffaella (‘Lila’) Cerulo. It follows Elena and Lila’s relationship from childhood to young adulthood, showing the tumultuous changes their lives go through and the many trials they face.

The story is dense and thematically rich, but at its core it’s about two young women struggling to live their lives and be there for each other in a society that wants to break them down and tear them apart. Gender-based and class-based oppression is shown to shape every aspect of the girls lives. It dictates their interactions with their families, friendships, romantic relationships and life paths. The show does an excellent and heartbreaking job of showing how omnipresent these rigid systems are and how utterly impossible it is not to be complicit in the systems.

It’s a depressing watch in many ways, but the audience is forewarned. We know from the beginning this story- or at least a large part of it- will not have a happy ending. The beginning of the story shows us Elena in her early sixties, apparently living alone. She gets a panicked call from Lila’s son telling her Lila has disappeared. Elena sharply tells him Lila made this choice and he’ll have to look after himself now and then, with some anger, decides to write down the story of her and Lila’s relationship.

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Continue reading “‘My Brilliant Friend’- a retrospective”

Telling the Rival’s Story: March comes in like a lion vs Teppu

I started thinking about the similarities in March comes in like a lion and Teppu, of all things. They both deliberately tell a story with main characters who fit the “rival” archetype in sports anime much more than they fit the protagonist archetype. They both tell a story from the Classic Anime Rival’s point of view, and because of that, the story feels unusual and a lot of the classic sports anime tropes are messed with.

And this isn’t supposition.

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March pretty much acknowledges this reversal in the scene where Nikaido frames himself as a shonen protag who needs to defeat his rival Rei and… well, when you think about it, that is essentially correct.

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Rei is aloof, cynical, super talented and winning constantly because of it…but his heart isn’t really in the game. He doesn’t get along with his peers very well. He’s definitely Classic Anime Rival material.

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Meanwhile Nikaido is the scrappy underdog fueled by undying passion and the power of friendship who will keep playing until he collapses and inspires everyone around him.  He gets along well with others. He WOULD typically be the main character.

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It’s the same for Natsuo and Yuzuko in Teppu, only to a different degree. Rei ‘s archetype is that of the more pleasant kind of rival who’s closed off rather than mean. He says he’s not the hero’s friend, but he kinda is even from the beginning. But Natsuo? She’s the nasty, hardcore rival archetype. She’s always been able to achieve the things others work at through effortless talent. She’s often “bored” by how easily she can get by and she constantly infuriates others with how lightly she takes them. She’s also violent, terrifying and has a personal mad-on for the hero.

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Meanwhile, Yuzuko is explicitly noted to be the classic protagonist who got where she is with hard work! passion! determination! She’s the underdog without much talent who bridges the gap with her effort and optimism. She pulls off those surprise victories.

So both March and Teppu allow us to experience nearly an entire story told from the rival’s POV, but what new insights does this shift in focus show us? For both Rei and Natsuo, it’s lonely at the top, but this manifests in different ways.

Continue reading “Telling the Rival’s Story: March comes in like a lion vs Teppu”

Winter 2019 Anime Overview

 

I enjoyed every single one of the five anime I watched this season: Dororo, My Roommate is a Cat, Mob Psycho 100 II, The Promised Neverland and Kaguya-sama: Love is War.

So here are my reviews! I’ve cut back on the anime overview a lot, so these are shorter reviews than usual (though not quite as short at I’d like. someday I’ll be able to restrain myself)

Since I liked all of the shows, these aren’t in a strict worst-to-best order or anything, but the ones I found most impressive ARE nearer to the bottom. So let’s dig into last season’s anime.

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My Roommate is a Cat

Premise: An antisocial writer in his early 20s adopts a cat and they both get their worlds expanded as they bond.

My take: Much like the kitty it centers on, this show is super cute, sweet and fluffy. If you’re a cat-lover and want to bask in some kitty adorableness, I encourage you to check it out. At first, I was afraid the main character Subaru’s grumpy misanthropy might be too much- I could certainly empathize with being socially isolated and avoiding people, but the way he was just rude toward others was grating. Fortunately, his character development is swift, so he quickly went from misanthrope to anxious-introverted-mess-who-awkwardly-muddles-through-social-interaction-for-the-sake-of-his-kitty, which I found EXTREMELY relatable. Subaru is coping with the loss of his parents and the fact he took them for granted while they were alive as well, so there are quite a few heart-string tugging moments.

The show’s central gimmick is that events will be told from Subaru’s point of view and then we’ll get his kitty Haru’s side of things. Yep, the cat narrates part of the show, which is how I knew I was in it for good. And Haru’s a very good cat! She’s adorable without being cloying, and at least realistic in how most of her thoughts revolve around food. Seeing her warm up to her hopeless human is just as sweet as seeing Subaru warm up to her. As a former stray cat, she has a rough backstory, so if even a restrained depiction of kitty death is too much for you, look out for that part. This show isn’t afraid to bring the feels, but it keeps things positive overall. Subaru’s friends are supportive and help a new pet owner out, and we even get a cute doggie in the mix. Overall, if you want a relaxing, nice watch with a simple, sweet story, you could do a lot worse than My Roommate is a Cat.

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Dororo (Episodes 1-12)

Premise: Thanks to his father making a deal with demons, Hyakkimaru has to wander Japan and fight monsters to get his body parts back. He meets up with a young thief named Dororo.

My take: Dororo is a very loose adaptation of the 1960′s manga by Osamu Tezuka, who’s known as the godfather of manga. I was familiar with Dororo thanks to watching the live action movie for an article when I worked at epicstream (it must not have left an impression bc I remember very little) so I was curious to check this out. I ended up reading the manga too, and overall, I find it pretty impressive as an adaptation. It does a lot to make a really dated and incomplete-feeling manga more palatable and cohesive for a modern audience. Maybe I’ll do a full post expanding on those thoughts sometime, because the changes really are worth examining.

Dororo is definitely not for everyone- it’s a grim, dark show with lots of death and destruction.The story is especially not kind to women, who tend to die or be demons. The exceptions to this (such as a lady demon actually being presented as sympathetic) are mainly anime-original. Actually, while the anime eschews the original manga’s cartoon-y, jokey tone to be more serious, it actually has a much lower body count and more hopeful tone than the original, a contrast I find pretty interesting. But “more hopeful” is still not very hopeful. The story has pretty strong anti-war undertones and criticism of how authority exploits people, and there’s a lot of “these are the horrors of war” scenes and even a scene where Dororo witnesses a woman engaging in unhappy, reluctant sex work.

Continue reading “Winter 2019 Anime Overview”