Fairy Tales and Flowerbeds: Messing with Genre in Revolutionary Girl Utena and Yurikuma Arashi

Utena 6-800x

Everyone has a “brand” in their fiction, and the longer I think about it the more my brands seems to be “magical and metaphor-heavy queer girls’ coming-of-age stories” and “anything that messes with genre in a meaningful and interesting way”. Fortunately for me, this seems to be Kunihiko Ikuhara’s brand as well, as seen most obviously in Revolutionary Girl Utena and his more recent work Yurikuma Arashi. Both stories begin framed very obviously within a certain genre, only to have those familiar genre framings interrupted… and then the story itself becomes about dismantling that genre and pointing out how restrictive it can be.

Spoilers for the end of both series (including Adolescence of Utena) ahead! Continue reading

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A Place Further Than the Universe #13: The Girls Are Alright

Universe8

Guess who’s about to get all sappy about animated girls in Antarctica? It’s me! But it is the last time, so I may as well go all out. Continue reading

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The Fault in Our Starscreams: March ’18 Roundup

starscream getting hit in the face

March marks the one year anniversary of my first post on AniFem… something that’s kind of funny, given that the article of mine that went up this March probably couldn’t be about more different subject matter if it tried. It’s interesting to see that my dark magical girl piece–one that apparently caused quite a stir and quite some discussion, most of which I missed from a) not being on Twitter yet and b) being too nervous to check the comment section–is the only one of mine in the “Discourse” tag, and the rest are all more in the “here is something I think is cool and interesting” vein. You can see a similar pattern stretched out across my personal blogging, too. My “Things We Need To Stop Doing” category is gathering dust these days, where once it was an active volcano of my gripes with fiction.

It’s not that I’m no longer interested in writing critically about things, it’s just… well, I think I’ve reached a point of what you could maybe call sage wisdom where I would rather spend my time watching/reading things that make me feel positive emotions and don’t give me much to be grumpy and critical about. If I don’t like something, these days I’ll just not engage with it, in favour of picking up something else that I enjoy more. While I can see the appeal of hate-watching and the beautiful scathing writing that can come out of it, it’s just not something I have the emotional energy for in this mad world we live in. So generally you’re more likely to see a “I found this interesting and cool” analysis of mine than a “here are all the awful problems in this piece of media” analysis, these days. Generally. There is at least one critical “this was bad, yo” post on the way, but even then it’s a comparison between two pieces of media, so at least half of it is still positive reactions.

Here is some sage wisdom: life is too short to engage with media that makes you feel negative emotions, especially when you’re tired from work and stressed out about the broader madness going on in the world. Surround yourself with positivity. Write about your passions. Watch cartoons about robots and friends going camping.

On the blog this month:

2018-02-17 (1)Baccano! Vol. 3: A Delightful Trainwreck (cryptids, gangsters, and not-so-great handling of otherwise badass female characters)

Starscream’s High Heels and the Androgyny of the Trickster (mythic archetypes, gender, and a very pointy robot)

Words in Deep Blue: Poignant, Poetic, and Only a Little Pretentious (grief, young love, and some really dumb high school tropes)

Plus A Place Further Than the Universe episodes 9 & 10 and 11 & 12! In the interest of neatly having one post per week, episode thirteen and a general series writeup will go out next Thursday.

On Anime Feminist:

Pop Team Epic and the Value of Letting Girls Be Absurd (still thinking about Hellshake Yanno? I know I am. I’m also thinking about how nice it is that this wacky show gives its comedic leading roles to girls)

Cool web content:

 

Pop Culture Detective is back calling out positive portrayals of icky male behaviour in film and TV, this time with the trope of Nice Guy heroes following girls around until they fall in love.

Red Sparrow is Male Gaze as Female Empowerment – I thought this movie looked just sort of boring and clichéd, but after reading this plot synopsis and analysis I am actively disgusted with it. The Mary Sue makes the case that we should stop having our female characters be traumatised, sexually abused, and beaten up in order to show how “powerful” they really are, and I have to agree.

I Love Black Panther with All My Heart, But I Deserve to See My Queer Self in it Too – did you know Okoye was going to have a girlfriend but it got cut from the film, following a long tradition of queer erasure between Marvel comics and their movie adaptations? I do now, and it feels like daylight robbery.

New Game! and the Trouble with Women in TechNew Game! was a silly little slice-of-life show about women working in a male-dominated industry… that wasn’t as empowering as it could have been. Elisabeth sums up both the fun and the problems I had with this show with this: “In an all-female utopia free from toxic manly chutzpah, women can be successful creators of sword and sorcery games. But only if they’re cute or alluring, and only in a way that would be entertaining and inoffensive to men if one ‘just happened’ to be watching through the wall.”

Ready Player One: A Study in Why Tokenizing is Terrible – Ready Player One (the novel) heard people call it a white boy’s power fantasy, so it made a slapdash attempt at diversity by throwing in some very badly-handled characters. An adequate reason to call this movie garbage even without all the commercialism and nerd wank.

This hilarious thread asking what the world would look like if the media talked about movies with straight romance the way they talk about movies with queer romance.

As a bonus, in the wake of this season’s success with Camping Anime, Ramen Anime, and the like, I asked the folks of Twitter what hobby or interest they’d base a slice-of-life series around. The results were inspiring.

And we have podcast recommendations happening again!!

mythpod

In truth, I’ve been subscribed to Jason Weiser’s Myths and Legends for ages, but only recently have I dived in and started really enjoying it. He tells stories from all across the world (including a series on the Arthurian myths so long and in-depth that it might even get me to finally understand them) in an upbeat and engaging way, just as capable of being suspenseful as he is at being hilarious. You can find all the episodes on your podcast app of choice, of course, but the website has great, eye-catching artwork to go with each one. Some personal favourites so far are the Greek Oedipus (complete with an Arrested Development reference in the title) and this Scottish tale about kelpies (which are not fun at parties).

And that’s all for now! As always, take care.

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Words in Deep Blue: Poignant, Poetic, and Only a Little Pretentious

words-in-deep-blue

There’s a unique sort of eccentricity and, dare I say it, magic, that surrounds second-hand bookstores. There’s also a unique sort of intellectual pretentiousness that surrounds novels about how great novels are. Cath Crowley’s award-winning Words in Deep Blue blends a bit of one with a little of the other and somehow manages to be poignant rather than snobbish and literary, weaving together a story about love, grief, and the strange power that words have to preserve moments and feelings that are otherwise gone. There’s a somewhat dull collection of straight teen love triangles clustered in there as well, but hey, you can’t have everything.

Rachel and Henry have been best friends since they were tiny, and because this is YA and they’re a boy and a girl respectively, we can reasonably assume where this is going. Just before Rachel’s family is due to move out of town, Henry starts dating the beautiful, air-headed and kind of nasty Amy (all optimal qualities for a romantic rival), and Rachel realises this is her last chance to tell him How She Really Feels. She leaves a letter confessing her love tucked into The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock because she knows it’s his favourite poem, then vanishes into the night. In all the letters he sends her at her new address, Henry never acknowledges the love confession, instead opting to write gleefully about his adventures with his super cool new girlfriend. Rachel, increasingly and understandably bitter, lets communication with her once-dearest friend sputter out, to the point where she doesn’t even tell him when her younger brother drowns. Continue reading

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Pop Team Epic and the Value of Letting Girls be Absurd

Pop Team Epic (1)

Pop Team Epic blasted onto our screens at the start of the winter 2018 season and has been confusing and amusing viewers ever since. It’s fast-paced, surreal, absurd, a little crude, entrenched in pop culture, and just plain ridiculous. It stars Popuko and Pipimi, a pair of schoolgirls who, in taking this wild and wacky spotlight, step into a role not often given to girls in comedy. Self-aware as the show is, the characterisation of Pop Team Epic’s leading ladies serves as a sort of metatextual raised middle finger to the concept that girls should be cute rather than funny.

Head to AniFem for the full post!

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A Place Further Than the Universe #11 and #12: The Ends of the Earth

Further Than the Universe (364)

I think it’s pretty safe to say that the theme of this fortnight’s writeup is “catharsis”. Emotional buildup is no good for anyone, whether it lasts over days, months, or years, and sometimes you just have to let it all out. But Universe emphasises that you don’t have to do this alone.

I’m still sniffling as I type this up. Bear with me. Continue reading

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Starscream’s High Heels and the Androgyny of the Trickster

Starscream prime

I like Transformers now, and I like Starscream. Who’d have thought? And who’d have thought it would lead me down a tangent about the mythological archetype of the Trickster and the blurring of the gender binary within?

It’s the high heels, is what it is. The Transformers property I’ve grown attached to is the 2011-2013 animated series Transformers Prime, which WB got me into, and in which Starscream is rocking a pair of stilettos built in to his very mechanics. Many of the characters went through a design overhaul for Prime, most notably baddies like Soundwave, who is no longer a walking boombox that you can slot other Decepticons into; and Starscream, who’s now delightfully spindly and spiky compared to his earlier, blockier counterparts, and who now has better-looking legs than me complete with those wonderful heels. To me, this look conveys his character well—one glance at this robot and you can tell he’s bad news, but you can also tell what kind of bad news he is. Continue reading

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