A Place Further Than the Universe #7 and #8: Chasing the Stars

Further Than the Universe (199)

When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die. 

I’m opening with a poetry quote. You know this show is starting to mess me up (in the best way). Continue reading

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Laid-Back Camp, a (Happy) Story of Solitude

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The opening moments of Laid-Back Camp show a soothing scene of a group of five girls gathered around a campfire, cycling through images of toasted marshmallows and little jokes, and ending with them all taking a group selfie. “Alright,” I thought to myself. “This is going to be one of those Cute Girls In a Special Interest Club series. Fun!” Once the episode proper begins, this introduction turns out to be (presumably) a flash-forward of sorts, as the audience is introduced to one member of the group and her established hobby of solo camping. Over the course of the premiere she meets one of the other group members (the selfie-taker herself) and they begin to form a sort of clumsy friendship. “I see,” I thought to myself. “So we’ve gone back in time, and this is the story of how the Special Interest Club is brought together. Inevitably, the solo camper is going to be dragged into the camping circle where she will, through many hijinks, come to understand The Power of Friendship and abandon her status as a recluse. Fun!!”

Though it has a waft of cliché about it, I would have been alright with this plotline—I’m watching Laid-Back Camp to relax, after all, so I didn’t go in with too many demands (the bar was set at the ankle-high “let the anime girls star in a sweet and fun story without the camera ogling them”, on which I’m happy to report Laid-Back Camp has delivered so far), and you know I’m a sucker for any kind of story about blossoming friendship. But I’m also happy to report that the show surprised me, by taking a perfectly justified but often unexplored—and thus unexpected—route in regards to its story of the solo hobbyist. Continue reading

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A Place Further Than the Universe #5 and #6: It’s Complicated

Further Than the Universe (139)

Not so long ago, the dream to travel to Antarctica was an abstract thing… but now that dream is becoming reality, with all the bizarre, wonderful, stressful experiences that come with it. In episodes five and six the gang get caught up in the mundane but dizzying whirl of packing, plane flights, hotels, new places, bureaucratic travel dramas, and, most importantly for this post, saying goodbye to the old friends they’re leaving behind and learning to live with the new friends they’re taking with them. Continue reading

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Madoka Magica #12: Not Today, Satan

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In a world that wants nothing more than for you to fall into despair, the greatest act of rebellion is to hope. Continue reading

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Coming Out of Your (World’s) Shell: Growing Up and Breaking Free with Cocona and Utena

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As I’ve noted before, adolescence is weird. This is why, I think, we’re so fascinated by coming-of-age stories, and why we so enjoy framing them through magic, adventure, and metaphor, to make sense of this strange time of life while also exploring it in fun and interesting ways. The growth from the familiarity of childhood to the strange new realm of adulthood is often portrayed as a physical journey, but today I want to discuss when that growth is portrayed as an escape. The young heroes of these stories are trapped in false worlds that are comforting but somehow wrong, and revealed with the right self-awareness to be magic-laced and malign—places that the heroes ultimately must break free from if they wish to grow, progress, and find their true place in the world (and kiss the girls they want to kiss). Continue reading

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The Gods Must Be Crazy: January ’18 Roundup

Further Than the Universe (5)

This month I took some time off before diving into the new academic year, which means in an absence of mandated activity I was effectively on “summer holidays” for the first time since high school. No shifts to work, no studying to do… just me, the sunshine, copious amounts of free time, and the crushing feeling of obligation to Get Things Done.

I’m sure this is a feeling we’re all familiar with in some way. Isn’t it a bastard of an emotion? Someone out there probably has a psychoanalytical explanation that this ingrained sense that we Must Be Productive is the result of capitalism’s slimy grip, but I think it’s also just the way my brain has come to work. When I realised January was half over already I felt the world spiral–my time was nearly up, and I hadn’t done enough!!

Of course, I don’t know what I’d officially define “enough” as. I did a pretty rad amount of writing this month, if I do say so myself (I have the blog queue stocked up quite nicely, and I finished my Madoka writeups, as well as impulsively starting a series on the currently-airing emotions-inducing A Place Further Than the Universe), but I think even if I ended up writing a hundred thousand words in my break I’d feel somehow like I hadn’t hit “enough”. And you know what? It’s a nonsense way for a brain to work. This concept of having to wring the productive potential out of every hour in the day will sap your mental energy when you adhere to it, and leave you anxious and unfulfilled when you don’t. Just do what you can, and remember that you’re allowed to just, like, chill out occasionally. Hours aren’t wasted just because you didn’t make something in them. Making stuff is hard, and you should be proud of anything new that you create! These are the mantras I’m trying to remind myself of, so I thought I’d pass them onto you guys as well.

All that aforementioned writing:

 

 

 

A Big Ol’ Pile of Anime Recommendations (2017)

A Magical Girl Education: Sugar Sugar Rune (the manga with a strong aesthetic, the Power of Friendship, and almost romanticised incest!)

Gods Behaving Badly: Shenanigans of Mythical Proportions (the novel that’s been called “the fluffy whipped-cream version of American Gods” where the gods of Olympus have to flatshare)

Madoka Magica episode writeups for 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11 (it was a month with a lot of Mondays, thus a month with a lot of Madokas)

A Place Further Than the Universe episode writeups for 1 & 2, and 3 & 4

Cool Content:

 

Hey, remember when I complained about Riverdale, but noted that I couldn’t judge it as an adaptation? Here’s someone who can! He says it’s Bad. (Bonus—respectful discussion of asexuality!)

It’s the start of a new anime season (again)! Which means it’s time to check out AniFem’s premiere reviews, all compiled nicely here, to see what looks good, what looks okay, and what looks like Anime Was a Mistake.

Sun, Moon & Stars: Cardcaptor Sakura Retrospective – Marion rewatches the magical girl darling and finds a renewed love for it (and a renewed critical eye for the skeevy aspects to some of the romance).

Recovery of an MMO Junkie: In Defense of an Anxious Protagonist – Black Nerd Problems celebrate the earnest portrayal of Moriko’s anxiety, and how it’s a nice change from the usual stereotypes on-screen anxiousness can fall into (for real, let’s move away from anything associated with Woody Allen, fictional character types or otherwise).

A Twitter thread from Vrai about the “take what you can get” gay character and why it’s a frustrating narrative (tying nicely into some of the problems Marion had with Cardcaptor Sakura).

Fantastic Video Essays by Women and Where to Find Them – on Film School Rejects, some recommendations of analytical video essays about film and media by ladies! Will definitely have to check some of these out.

The Written Word and more Victorian-Era Trappings in Violet Evergarden – looks like Violet Evergarden is the unwatchable (until it appears on my country’s Netflix) series that I’ll be keeping up with through meta posts this season. Emily writes knowledgably and beautifully as always, here about the power of the novel in the Industrial Revolution, and how this factors into Violet’s story.

Netoju no Susume – On Compersion and Virtual Identities – Another MMO Junkie analysis, this time looking into the phenomena of empathy for and identification with fictional characters, and how this influences both the audience watching the series and the how the characters within the series navigate their online relationships.

Weathering the Adolescent Storm: A Place Further Than the Universe and Liberation – everything Nana writes is beautiful, and this time Nana’s writing about freedom and coming-of-age in A Place Further Than the Universe.

Cool Pod-content:

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There was a glorious phase where I was catching a lot of public transport and thus had plenty of perfect opportunities to listen to podcasts. Nowadays that’s not so much the case, so the rate at which I’m burning through episodes and discovering new series has dropped. That said, I have, courtesy of CP, found FoodStuff, which is a beautiful blend of social history and food science. And it’s run by ladies, which is always nice! They’ve covered everything from the history of the toast to current food fads like flavour tripping (see, I didn’t even know that was a thing, but I have learned!)

Anime Is Lit is also on a valiant mission to help me understand what the hell a DEVILMAN is, and Shojo and Tell continues to be a delight, as does Trash & Treasures. I’ve been in a real “chill out and listen to people talk about things they like” mood, can you tell? It’s the summertime. In between the monstrous desire to be Productive, anyway.

That’s about it for now, one month into 2018. Take care out there, whether it’s in the heat or the cold!

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Madoka Magica #11: Absolute Destiny Apocalypse

Madoka ep11 (34)

Remember that Ancient Aliens show that hinged on the theory that beings from outer space are responsible for the development of human society? Is that still being made? As of this week’s episode, Madoka Magica has been revealed to run on similar logic, subscribing to the suggestion that the sci-fi creatures at the heart of the series have been integrated into humanity since it’s earliest days, retroactively attributing big moments in history to said creatures. In this way, Madoka is in the same category as the Michael Bay Transformers movies. I’m not really sure what to do with this information. I kind of hate it. Continue reading

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