What’s it about? Before Aimoto Rinku moved away for her parents’ zoological work, she had the chance to attend an open-air concert where she heard a song that captured her heart. On her first day at a new school in Japan, she’s startled to hear that very song from her childhood playing over the PA system. Chasing the sound, Rinku finds herself in the exciting world of performance DJing.
I’ll be honest with you, AniFam: at this stage of the premiere review season, at this stage of the work week, at this stage of the year, I’m feeling pretty tired. But lucky for me (and lucky for you) D4DJ is like a swig of energy drink. It’s fun, colorful, high-octane, and I can already tell I’m going to have Rinku’s beloved dance track stuck in my head for the whole weekend.
He laughed again and hid his face under the blanket. “Why are you so nice to me?” “Because I’m an angel.” “You are.” He stretched out his arm and patted me on the head. “And I’m platonically in love with you.”
Alice Oseman, Radio Silence (2016) p.108
In 2017—somewhere on the stumbling journey to identifying myself proudly and loudly as asexual—I read Alice Oseman’s young adult (YA) novel Radio Silence. When I reached the passage quoted above, I stopped in my tracks. It was the first time I had seen those words put together to such an effect. Friends could say they loved each other, of course, in a fleeting and fluffy sort of way. But to imply that you could be in love with someone in a purely platonic way? That you could refer to something as a love story even if it was about characters who were “just” friends, who never even thought about dating one another? It was a little bit revolutionary.
But that, of course, is the revolutionary heart of aromanticism and asexuality—the quiet, but resonant, revolution inherent in the articulation of different kinds of love, in the deconstruction of the dominant social narratives of romance and sex. As I kept my eye on Oseman’s forthcoming novels, it transpired that this revolution sits at the heart of her writing, making them deeply resonant for aro/ace readers even when not featuring the identities directly. And when they do feature aro-ace identity directly, the quiet revolution is front and centre, and the results are incredible and incredibly important.
What’s it about? Fifteen-year-old Sakura Ino moves to Tokyo to pursue her dream of becoming a pop idol… but when she gets there, it’s not quite what she expected. She finds herself in the Mouse House, a dormitory of washed-up child stars, unpopular models, and failed musicians. With the production company threatening to kick them all out and demolish the building, these misfits are forced to form an idol group in order to try and save their home.
Dropout Idol Fruit Tart, like the sweet treat in its name, is bright and sugary, but probably does not contain much nutritional value… and in fact might make you feel a bit off if you consume too much of it too quickly.
What’s it about? One day when they were both skipping class, Adachi and Shimamura ran into each another on the second level of the school gym. The two girls developed a routine, and an easy-going friendship: they meet there to play ping-pong, eat snacks, goof around, and try not to get caught by staff or students when a P.E. class is on. But is it possible that this laid-back relationship between two delinquents could turn into something more?
Adachi and Shimamura is the stylish adaptation of a series of yuri light novels (the English-language versions of which have just started coming out from good ol’ Seven Seas). My first impression of the show is a feeling of almost dreamy floating: the tone is soft, the art is gorgeous, and it’s never afraid to dive a step to the side of realism in the name of visual metaphor or setting up atmosphere. And yet, at the same time, this premiere is oddly and satisfyingly down to Earth. The dreamlike visuals go hand in hand with the subtle characterization, even if they—like the characters themselves—might seem at first like an odd couple.
What’s it about? Nakajima Nanao studies at an elite school for young people with superpowers—people known as the Talented who are training to fight mysterious monsters known only as the Enemies of Humanity. There’s just one problem: Nanao doesn’t seem to have much in the way of superpowers. This earns him the ridicule of his classmates, but when a telepathic transfer student named Hiiragi Nana arrives, she takes a special interest in him.
I have a tricky situation on my hands here, gang: as a reviewer, I want to give you as much information as possible to pique your interest and get you to check this show out if you think it sounds fun. However, the really intriguing factors are all woven into a twist that only rears its head in the final moments of the episode. I have to conduct this article as a delicate tightrope-dance, trying to let you know that I think this show was cool but without being able to 100% tell you why. I feel I’ve already said too much even with that, so let’s just continue from here.
What’s it about? Many years ago, mecha-monsters known as the Huge began appearing and wreaking havoc on Earth. Hitotsuyanagi Riri dreams of joining the Lilies, the elite squad of teenaged girls who fight the Huge with a combination of magic and science. Lucky for her, she got on the waitlist for the prestigious academy where the Lilies are trained—and now it’s time for her monster-fighting debut!
Speculative fiction is at its best when it’s asking big questions, such as “is teen girls fighting mechs with oversized weapons the coolest thing you’ve ever seen, or what?”
It’s been another busy month, ensconced in grading, teaching, and wading through research! I had to take two days off to sleep the other week, but apart from that I’m holding it together and powering along!
In other good news, my brain is processing image-heavy media like comics again, so I’ve been consuming a lot of good good gay graphic novels.
Well, the live-action Mulan looks abysmal. But why? Let’s break that down with the help of author and Chinese meme historian Xiran Jay Zhao.
Dom is reading the Twilight books for the first time in the year of our lord 2020, with an open heart and open mind. So… are they as bad as they were said to be, back when hating Twilight was as much of a social movement as liking Twilight?
(Yeah. They’re not great)
“Costume blogger shreds movies for their inaccuracy” is a genre unto its own (and that’s fine) but it’s also cool to hear about what films got right about their historical set dressing and costumery. Hooray for Gentleman Jack!
Reading Romance While Demisexual – how fictional love stories can be alienating and resonant to demi readers in equal measures, and how friends-to-lovers slow-burn is the pinnacle of romance (a sentiment I can agree with).
How Bloom Into You Defies and Reinforces Yuri Tropes – the tangled love story of Yuu and Touko is groundbreaking in some ways, but also extremely tropey in others, and the exciting mix of these conventions is often overlooked in discussion of the series (I’m cited in this! Absolutely wild!)
Among Us Is Not Just the Game of 2020, It’s 2020: The Game – how the multiplayer hidden role game (unintentionally, but perfectly) reflects the emotional state of the year we’re having, but with the added catharsis of knowing the game will end and knowing that there is a chance to defeat the guy trying to sabotage your home.
WIP: Felix Ever After – Felixis being adapted into a TV show! Author Kacen Callender muses on the journey to this point, and the pragmatic decisions The Biz needs to make when choosing which titles to adapt.
Next month it’s premiere review season again, so I’m going to put my blogging energy into AniFem rather than making longform posts for here. Those will return in November. Stay tuned for some hot fresh opinions and some exciting stories!
The portal fantasy subgenre and its themes of displacement, liminality, and “strange” children coming-of-age in even stranger otherworlds, has been read queerly by many readers across its history. From foundational academics like Alexander Doty to contemporary authors like A.J. Hackworth, many have noted the thematic and allegorical undercurrents in the portal fantasy that resonate with, and provide valuable escapism and catharsis to, young queer readers.
Seanan McGuire’s 2016 novella Every Heart a Doorway takes a playful, metatextual approach to the portal fantasy, not only by interrogating its tropes and history but by unambiguously portraying queer characters in the genre. By giving her fantasy narrative to a cast of explicitly queer characters, McGuire acknowledges the queer resonance that has long been present in the genre and brings it to the surface of her work, creating a dual-layer of queerness in the text that interweaves magical metaphor with textual LGBTQIA+ representation.
Rainbow rep: a queer protagonist, a non-binary love interest, various queer side characters including a mentor character and his husband
Content warnings: depictions of panic attacks and other trauma responses, dead parents in backstory, chronic illness
Premise: magic (known as maz) is a physical resource that comes up from under the ground, but to access it you have to pay the big bucks to the corporation that has monopolised it. What if you want maz but don’t have the aforementioned big bucks? Well, that’s where Diz and her crew of thieves come in. For years now they’ve had a sweet side hustle where they siphon maz and bring it to the highest bidder. It’s a risky business, though, and Diz’s friends want to graduate and move on with their lives. So Diz (reluctantly) sets them up for One Last Job… but rather than this being the end of their story, the crew instead finds themselves in the midst of a corporate cover-up that is putting millions of lives at risk.
Night in the Woods is a video game about strange in-between spaces: between youth and adulthood, between a rose-tinted past and an uncertain future.
Released in 2017, it feels especially resonant in a time of COVID-19. Its themes of underemployment, decaying cities and youth disenfranchisement, combined with a mood of uncertainty about the future, presciently capture this moment.