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

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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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A Place Further Than the Universe #9 and #10: Friends and Loved Ones

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We still don’t know who Shirase’s dad is. A Place Further Than the Universe seems infinitely less bothered with such banal biological technicalities than it is with setting Gin up as Shirase’s other parent. At this point, I think I’m going to shrug off my curiosity in favour of a metaphorical/mythological explanation that Takako made her daughter with her one true love, which is, of course, the concept of Adventure itself. Takako seems to radiate so much whimsy and power that it could be possible, and this explanation lets us dive in and focus on the relationships that the series clearly thinks are much more important. Because it’s all about relationships again this time around: the heartache and awkwardness of past ones, and the beautiful strangeness of trying to take new ones into the future. Continue reading

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Baccano! Vol. 3: A Delightful Trainwreck

baccano vol 3The afterwords of the Baccano! novels are always a delight. With what I now recognise as his trademark mix of self-deprecation and sincerity, Ryohgo Narita writes of his own books:

“It’s a pointless, dumb story… But it’s fun.” If [readers] said that, I think it would be the best compliment ever.

Which case, I have the best compliment ever to give these books. Apart from the “pointless” part, as I don’t think any story is pointless. But they sure are fun and dumb, with the madcap action, larger-than-life characters, and general ludicrousness continuing full bore into the third instalment in the light novel series. Instead of picking up where volume two left off, volume three—The Grand Punk Railroad: Express—loops back and covers the same events but from different perspectives. Whereas last time the reader was tugged along at breakneck pace following the stories of the criminal factions trying to take over the train, this time we sharpen our vision and sneak after the individuals who slipped through the cracks. Continue reading

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The Sleepy Structuralist: February ’18 Roundup

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They’ve got a word for everything in academia… and if there isn’t a word already, someone will spend a whole paper justifying why they’ve made one up. It fills the field with a dizzying bevy of -isms and -ologys. I had to reassure a group of new students this month not to worry if they don’t know which term fits their research, or fuss too much about remembering them all. After all, I had to Google what “structuralism” was recently, figuring that “huh, people keep saying this word in papers and stuff, I should probably try to figure out what it means”. Turns out that pesky “structuralism” thing is basically what I’ve been doing the whole time. So that was mildly embarrassing (though it’s nice to know that there’s a specific word out there for your thing and has been this whole time… it was like a way less exciting version of when I discovered definitions of asexuality).

Structuralism in literary studies is an interest in patterns and the way stories are put together, and how they relate to one another in bigger contexts like genre (post-structuralism extends from this into all sorts of fun stuff like text deconstruction and agreeing that there isn’t one “true” reading of a work). If you’ve been following this blog for more than a few posts, that probably sounds very familiar. The more I think about it, the more the hours I spent trawling TV Tropes in high school were neat foreshadowing for my eventual fascination with archetypes and narratives, which is what I’m now lucky enough to be researching and writing about as a job. If I were to make a separate blog for more hoity-toity high-concept academic stuff, I think “The Sleepy Structuralist” would be a fun name for it, as I am, it turns out, something of a structuralist researcher, and also very very tired. A PhD is a hell of a thing. But I’m having fun, don’t worry about that. Hopefully I’ll be able to bring some of my newfound know-how to the blog soon… though I promise not to drown you in terminology.

On the blog this month:

Coming Out of Your (World’s) Shell: Growing Up and Breaking Free with Cocona and Utena (in which I make my first foray into writing about the surreal and sapphic Adolesence of Utena, as well as returning to Flip Flappers to talk about their narratives of growth and escape)

Laid-Back Camp, a (Happy) Story of Solitude (in which I sing the praises of The Cute Camping Anime for its respectful treatment of its introvert protagonist)

The final Madoka episode review! My gosh, what a journey that was.

And episode reviews for A Place Further Than the Universe 5 & 6, and 7 & 8. This show is so damn good, guys.

Cool web content:

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DEVILMAN crybaby, Legacies of Queerness, and Diversifying Remakes – Vrai writes about the questionable history of queer rep in the Devilman juggernaut, and how its most recent incarnation does some positive things to bring it into the current day. For instance, hot tip: don’t have literal Satan be your only gay character.

(Side note: I did not watch DEVILMAN crybaby, but I physically cannot stop listening to the opening theme music)

Pop Team Epic – Interview with Producer Kotaro Sudo – a fascinating look behind the scenes of “the shitpost anime” (and I call it that in the most affectionate way possible).

The Ontology of ‘Boys’ in the McElroy Realm, part one and part two – having spent this whole month reading academic texts about Very Serious Business, it was possibly funnier than it should have been to read these two articles about something very silly in the exact same style of language.

Black Panther and the Invention of “Africa” – the kingdom of Wakanda isn’t real, but it does speak to a deep history of Africa as a “mythologized” place, and the efforts to reclaim that for the better.

Above is a neat video essay from Zeria discussing common misconceptions about yuri as a genre, ranging from myths about its gendered marketing to the trouble with subtext (a word often misused to mean “they don’t kiss, therefore it isn’t really a romance”). You can also find the transcript here.

The Diversification of Otaku in Japanese Media – another great AniFem piece, this time looking at the tangled and intriguing history of how otaku characters are portrayed in anime, from the ’80s all the way through the current day.

What’s Wrong with Heteronormativity? — Meg-John Barker is here to answer (and explain) that question. I recently read Queer: A Graphic History, which is a very useful (and fun) book that aims to lay out the history of queer theory and lever it out of that academic jargon I was talking about in the intro to this post. The author has a blog with all sorts of interesting stuff, but this is a particularly neat post that I wanted to share!

To wrap up, I don’t think I’ve ever linked to Caitlin’s Abuse in Shoujo By the Numbers series, so I’m going to correct that now. Week by week, she’s diligently working her way through an entire catalogue of shoujo manga with a rubric in hand to measure the abusive behaviour present in the main romances. Sometimes it’s romanticised, sometimes it’s complicated–she provides discussion to go with each ranking to clarify and summarise her numerical review, as well as talk about whatever else strikes her about that particular work (be that the good, the bad, or the ugly). You can start from the most recent entry and work your way back. If you have any interest in media representation, especially in romance, they’re a fascinating read.

That’s all from me for now! As always, take care, and thank you for reading.

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

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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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