Showing, Not Telling in Princess Principal

Princess Principal floating

I’ll admit it, I started watching Princess Principal because it just looked fun. Young women kicking ass as spies in a steampunk fantasy version of turn-of-the-century London, set to a jazzy soundtrack and wrapped up in science-magic? Yes, please. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to discover that this show that I picked up solely for its geeky Cool Factor is… actually really damned good, delivering consistently sharp writing, interesting and layered characters, and some wonderfully efficient and intriguing magical worldbuilding that makes fantastic use of that old writing adage “show, don’t tell” that paints a vivid picture of its fantasy world from its very first scene.

Because it did such a good job laying the groundwork and piquing this viewer’s interest, let’s look just at the show’s first episode, and the small but important details the premiere gives us (and how) that let us build a picture of the world… without leaning too heavily on narration, pausing or cutting into the action to explain what’s going on, or having an audience point-of-view character that others teach things to.

Head to Lady Geek Girl and Friends for the full post!

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Clancy of the Undertow: A Delightful and Unconventional YA Protagonist

Clancy

Remember how I said I hadn’t read any novels since the start of the year? Yeah, poor Clancy of the Undertow has been sitting, patiently, on my desk since literally February. Which is a damned shame, I tell you—this was a wonderful little queer coming of age story set to a wonderfully rich (but not overdone) backdrop of small town Australia, paring back what could have been a story all about The Hardships of Being Gay in a Small Town to an intricate and fun character study of our titular leading lady, Clancy. Though it was recommended (and loaned, by a generous person who now finally has their book back after seven months) to me on the basis of it being Some Good, Good Gay YA, Clancy’s sexuality isn’t the focus of the book nor the focus of her character arc. It’s much more than that, and Clancy is built into a detailed, believable picture of a girl that became one of my favourite YA protagonists I’ve come across. Continue reading

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Secret Women’s Business: Galko-chan vs Stigmas and Body Stuff

galko

Body-function-based humour is rarely the pinnacle of wit. To be fair, bodies are weird—whether we’re talking sex stuff or digestive system stuff or teeth stuff or whatever—so naturally as a coping mechanism, and perhaps simply because sometimes that weirdness is inherently funny, humans have been using their own bodies as a basis of comedy for time immemorial. Usually, though, the kind of candid and verging on gross-out discussions of Body Stuff and the humour that comes from that is a guy thing. There’s a stigma that girls/women just don’t talk about their bodies and the weirdness as much, when in turn makes girls/women feel it’s inappropriate to talk about that sort of thing. Which makes shows and movies that bring Body Stuff to the forefront, on the vessel of humour, from the mouths of women, subversive in their own strange way.

I talked a while ago about how Lucky Star somehow managed to walk the perfect line between relatable realism and whacky comedy while capturing the spirit of ordinary high school girls’ conversations, and somehow making that engaging. Well, Please Tell Me! Galko-chan is in much the same camp, but much, much more candid around the whole girl talk thing. Its main characters—each presented as a different archetype, with a matching nickname to pigeonhole them and everything—are friends who openly and frankly discuss stuff like periods, breast growth and soreness, pubic hair and safe sex. Combined with the playful subversion of the tropes the girls are initially pinned into, this is where a lot of the comedy of the show comes from. Not necessarily in an excessive and lewd way, though the fact it’s being talked about could come off as excessive to some—considering it’s not normally discussed at all. Continue reading

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No Problem Fun: July ’17 Roundup

we out

Hey everybody! I spent most of this month either swamped by moving boxes, or lying in a cold-medicine-addled delirium with the Mii creation screen music on loop in my head, or both. But I got some writing out there in the world, read a lot of enlightening reviews, and listened to an ace podcast I want to tell you all about:

Here on the Blog:

Overthinking Bargain Books: Hold Me Closer, Necromancer (It wasn’t bad, it just… I mean… it sure was something, but it wasn’t good)

Oxenfree vs Until Dawn, the Cage Fight (in which I compare the very different styles of two very different spooky games, and celebrate how they manage to be frightening in their own way)

On Lady Geek Girl and Friends:

Trailer Tuesdays: Life is Strange: Before the Storm (there’s an uncomfortable amount of colons in that article title, but there’s unfortunately nothing I can do about it. In any case, woo! Chloe prequel!)

Throwback Thursdays: Black Butler’s “Jack the Ripper” Arc (oh, Kuroshitsuji, my original Problematique Fave)

Love, Chunibyo, and Other Delusions: A Silly Yet Heartbreaking Story About the Power of Geekdom (this is actually the second time I’ve watched this series; I wanted to see if it punched me in the heart as much as it did circa 2013. Spoiler alert: it did)

Good Words:

2017-07-11 (7)

The summer anime season threw its premieres at the world this month, which means the blogosphere was awash with the joys and horrors of reviewing them. Vrai and Dee were at the helm of AniFem’s first impression posts, which was a delightfully entertaining time. Except for the fact that a significant number of the most promising titles are on Amazon Strike: a service whose clunkiness and grabby-handedness with big series could perhaps be forgiven if it didn’t lock all its content behind a double paywall that only Americans can use.

To add insult to injury, even Fate/Apocrypha, which dangled the exciting premise of a Fate thing I’m not already invested in in front of me, got eaten by Netflix and so I won’t be able to access it until they dump the whole completed series on there in November or so. Frog-kun says it’s pretty alright though, so I look forward to sitting down and bingeing that nonsense when it arrives. Oh, how quickly I became an entitled child of technology, simply expecting everything to be easily streamable…

In any case, Atelier Emily is doing a series of great meta posts on Made in Abyss, so at least we (read: me) can soak those up even if we (read: me) can’t watch the show itself! And if you can’t ride the wave of whatever international licensing sorcery Madman performed to get their hands on Princess Principal when it seems to be locked in Strike for the USThe Backloggers are reviewing it episode by episode. 

PriPri ranked very highly in Dee and Vrai’s reviews, which is great, since it looks to be the gem of the season for me–singing its siren song of crime-fighting teenaged girls, lush steampunk aesthetics, science-magic, and Baccano!-esque car chases and shadowy intrigue set to jazz (composed by Kajiura Yuki, no less!). Combine this with the anachronistic but oh-so-stylish character designs and it hits a certain Cool Factor that has my inner sixteen-year-old self sitting up and taking note. Watch this space for some potential posts on the subject…

For some less contemporary anime, er, fun, Watson and Artemis have bravely teamed up to review series voted Worst Anime of All Time to see if they really are The Worst. The brave souls.

Good Sounds:

So, a bountiful combination of having no internet and having to do lots of driving/menial tasks created a perfect catalyst in which I somehow listened to approximately 22 hours of CoolGames Inc this month. It’s a funny and creative hypothetical game design podcast, in which Griffin McElroy (my God, those boys are everywhere, and they haven’t disappointed me yet) and Nick Robinson receive prompts and suggestions for video games from Twitter, and work the best ones into hilarious and wonderful product ideas.

For a taste of their creative potential, I recommend checking out episode five, in which they conceptualise an edible, 3D-printed, randomly-generated game controller:

And for a taste of their goofy potential, I recommend episode thirteen, which features a lengthy discussion of guns that shoot salt, improvised Oompa Loompa songs, bartenders looking for love, and Griffin explaining how you can clip through to another plane of reality if you take sleep meds and anti-sleep meds at the same time:

That’s about it from me for now, gang. I’ve got another Adventures in Asian Drama post coming next month, a book review (I’m reading again! My God!) and hopefully another AniFem piece in the pipeline. Plus a creative thesis to finish and some IKEA shelves to assemble.

Thank you for reading, as always. Stay hydrated!

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Love, Chunibyo, & Other Delusions: A Silly Yet Heartbreaking Story About the Power of Geekdom

Love Chunibyo and Other Delusions

It’s a universal fact that everyone is at least a little bit embarrassed by what they did when they were thirteen. Was it a misguided and poetic emo phase? An overzealous leap into fandom, including indulgent fanfic or fanart? An all-consuming desire to be seen as mature in your tastes that ended up just making you look pretentious? Whatever it is, despite how much this passion consumed you at the time, you’d be happy if no one ever brought it up ever again—that’s how much it makes you cringe.

There’s a Japanese word for this: chunibyo, loosely translating to “eighth-grader syndrome”, the stage of life where a sense of self-importance and newfound independence combines with passion, imagination, and a desire to be seen as special, whether that manifests as a pretentious geek phase or believing you have magic powers. It’s this phenomenon that is the core of Love, Chunibyo, and Other Delusions—a show that begins as a wacky comedy about high school embarrassment and ends up punching you (or at least, this reviewer) in the gut with a poignant story about grief and growing up.

Head to Lady Geek Girl and Friends for the full post!

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Throwback Thursdays: Black Butler’s “Jack the Ripper” Arc

Black Butler vol 2 insider cover

Recently, my fourteen-year-old self knocked on my window in the dead of night and asked me to reconsider demon butlers. Or, rather, I went to watch Black Butler: Book of the Atlantic (a movie adaptation of one of the later arcs of the manga) in the cinema with a friend, where we were both promptly reminded why we’d loved this series so much as teenagers. The Black Butler manga is more than ten years old and still going strong, and the movie reeled me back into this world of supernatural action and Victorian Era finery with enough force and finesse that I was compelled to revisit the first few volumes of the manga—the “Jack the Ripper” arc, the storyline I remember being my favorite and starring my favorite pair of villains—and dive back into this story to see if it held up. Is it still good? Certainly. Is it also riddled with problems I’m much more wary of and attuned to now that I’m older and wiser? Absolutely. 

Head to Lady Geek Girl and Friends for the full post!

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Oxenfree vs Until Dawn, the Cage Fight

oxendawn comparison

In this horror game, a group of teenagers who kind of hate each other travel to a secluded environment with no mobile reception and only one safe passage in or out (because that’s always a foolproof plan for fun). Tension is high because they’re mourning the loss of the sibling(s) of one member of the group, and people are blaming each other for their death. Two characters kind of have a thing going on and the player has the opportunity to get them together or keep them apart. Spooky things start happening, the group gets split up, and what began as a sweet fun high school romp becomes a quest to survive the night and get safely home. Is it indie ghost story Oxenfree I’m describing, or my Problematic Fave Until Dawn?

These are actually two wildly different pieces of media, but on reflection they had enough similarities that I felt a compare-and-contrast could be interesting, if only because of the first thing they have in common: supposedly I don’t even like spooky fiction, weak soul that I am, yet I loved both of these games and find myself still thinking about them enough to write another thousand-or-so words months and even years after first picking them up. The second thing these two have in common is that it feels kind of incorrect to call either of them “horror games”: Until Dawn is more of an interactive horror movie, complete with a fully-loaded arsenal of stock characters and predictable tropes from horror cinema around which it builds its existence; and Oxenfree is more of a ghost story in the traditional sense. It’s this atmospheric shift that makes comparing them so interesting, since they both manage to be fantastically engaging and frightening despite the very different ways they build their worlds and attempt to scare the pants off you. Continue reading

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