Don’t Drill a Hole in Your Head: April ’17 Roundup

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What have I learned this month? Don’t leave your assignments to the last minute, don’t underestimate the power and influence of the Victorians, don’t drill a hole in your head, and for the love of goodness, don’t stick a spanner in an iconic character’s backstory just to justify casting a white lady to play her.

Blog content this month:

Cute Queer Webcomics for the Soul (exactly what it says on the tin. Every time Heartstopper updates I get stupid little flutters)

It’s a Metaphor, Max: Time Travel (in which Life is Strange is back on my desk, getting pulled apart in search of deeper meaning in the aspects of it that make no damn sense)

And ToraDora! episodes 22, 23, 24 and 25. We did it! Wrap-up post coming tomorrow!

On Lady Geek Girl and Friends:

Web Crush Wednesdays: Potterless (I’m just a podcast recommending machine now)

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid: A Cute, Fun, Trashy Domestic Comedy… with Dragons! (in which I introduce you all to my new Problematic Fave)

Sexualised Saturdays: Letting Boys Cry (in which it’s important for men to know they’re allowed to be emotionally vulnerable, which is why portrayals of fictional men–especially ones in typically ‘manly’ and cool roles–are so important)

On Little Anime Blog

My Favourite Anime: ToraDora! (want a more succinct post about why I love this show? Roll on over to LAB where I pitched in to provide content during the main writers’ hiatus)

Nifty Things to Listen To

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Let it be known that April is the month I began my official descent into the McElroy entertainment empire. This extended family is everywhere—you may know them from the seven-years-long-and-still-going-strong “advice” show My Brother, My Brother, and Me, or perhaps from The Adventure Zone or Monster Factory or whatever the hell this is. I’ve been listening to their shows of the “we love our wives so let’s give them a platform to teach us all about their passions” variety.

Shmanners features Teresa McElroy and her doting husband Travis, wherein they discuss modern day conundrums of etiquette, the social history behind them, and the evolution of “traditional” behaviour and customs of society—many of which aren’t as old as we may think. The episode on first dates is one I would definitely recommend, tracing the history of wooing romantic partners from its roots in medieval chivalry (if it actually existed, and wasn’t just something the Victorians made up in an attempt to romanticise that era) to 18th and 19th century courtship rituals to the evolution of “dating” as a concept (without your parents in the room! Amazing!) in the 1910s and ‘20s, all the way through the business of “going steady” in the ‘50s to the Free Love movement to modern day.

You can also learn about the history of the amusement park (thankfully we don’t have baby-viewing chambers in our entertainment alleys anymore…) and the public pool, which are equally fascinating. Especially when paired with the modern advice section that makes up the latter part of the episode, where you have to contemplate whether the ancient Egyptians bathing in the river Nile had the same problems with people flicking sand in their face as we do today… social history, man. Love it. And Travis and Teresa are a delight to listen to.

A quite different but equally fun dynamic is Dr Sydnee McElroy and her husband Justin in Sawbones, where they discuss medical history. I haven’t listened to as much of this as Shmanners yet (partly due to my notably weak stomach) but the episodes on “cinematic neuroses” (featuring infamous BBC mockumentary Ghostwatch, which terrified a nation and is an intriguing story in and of itself) and on the history of medicinal tea have stood out to me for pure fascination factor.

Ah, this family has so much to teach us. Or you can just watch them zoom around in tiny cars.

I also picked up Nancy two days ago (on Amanda from Spirits’ recommendation) and blitzed through basically the whole thing so far. This series about modern LGBTQ+ life is strangely engrossing, due to both its sound design and content, which focuses on personal stories and ranges from moving to hilarious to heartbreaking. There’s been a lot of focus on the L and the G rather than anything else so far, mostly I suspect because that’s how the two hosts identify, but hopefully they branch out a little as the series goes on. That said, it also has a big focus on intersectionality especially in regards to race since both hosts are Asian-American, which is always something good for my little mixed-grain-white-bread self to learn about.

Oh boy, speaking of which, Ghost in the Shell came out at the very end of last month, and by now everyone has more or less forgotten about it except for the occasional internet grumble (partly because the live action Death Note trailer dropped, with almost comically bad timing, and focus shifted to include that nonsense in this overarching issue). Before the hype dies down, though, I urge you to listen to ANN Cast’s episode on it—it’s funny, thought-provoking, analytical in a very approachable and interesting way, and fills you in on everything you need to know without having to give this mess of a movie any of your money. Thanks, lads.

Nifty Things to Read (it’s all anime this month guys, sorry)

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Speaking of people watching terrible things so I don’t have to, I’d like to extend my gratitude and support to all the tireless bloggers who waded into the new season of anime premieres. My God, there’s a lot of trash out there. Artemis’ opinion is worth reading, as always, as is The Josei Next Door’s, and the dedicated fellows of Rabujoi are hard at work as usual, sometimes with analytical results, sometimes with hilarious ones.

For premiere reviews with a more distinctly queer and/or feminist lens, I would, as always, recommend AniFem. If only for some entertaining and thoughtful reading material—Amelia notes what makes a satisfying and well-rounded love story in a way that’s actually very helpful and succinct for writers while ruminating on Tsuki ga Kirei; and eloquently as ever has no time for the harmful burning nonsense that is Armed Girls Machiavellism or Akashic Records of a Bastard Magic Instructor.

Eromanga Sensei could have been a delightful exploration of grief, family, and art, if it were, just maybe, not entirely about the virgin-whore dichotomy and they’re-step-siblings-so-we-promise-it’s-not-incest incest; how promising World End looks kinda shows how low the bar is set for light novels; Royal Tutor is “a trash bag wrapped around a cinnamon roll”; Twin Angels Break just might be the best trans representation we’re going to get this season; Tsugomomo is a cool fantasy idea drowning in its slapstick slice-of-life setting; and Love Tyrant made Vrai embrace the inevitable heat death of the universe.

From general consensus across all these blogs, the most promising series of the season seem to be Sakura Quest, RE:Creators, and Grimoire of Zero. I’ll keep an eye out and see how they progress…

A few other readables:

And more academic papers. So many. I’m looking at putting together another thesis-based blog post a la my look at The Cauldron of Story and swan maiden theory once actual university shenanigans have cooled off, so stay tuned. There’ll be some spicy stuff.

Also, Thor: Ragnorak looks like it’s actually going to be really fun and possibly good. Could it be so?

YES THOR

Don’t drag me back in like this, Marvel.

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It’s a Metaphor, Max: Time Travel

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Back in the day when we were first picking Life is Strange apart (you know me, if I enjoy something, it’s going to end up in pieces on the floor), WB came up with a theory that kind of solved everything: the game is being literary, and anything that can’t be explained or doesn’t seem to make much sense is there as a metaphor. The tornado? A metaphor for the encroaching storm of maturity, the climax of a story that has been all about Max growing from child into young adult. Time powers that came out of thin air? A symbolic tool to help Max learn that actions have consequences in the real world and she should embrace this. The reoccurring deer? Well, they tried to explain that away with the concept of spirit animals, but that filled up with casual racism pretty fast; so let’s say the deer instead represents Max’s youthful Bambi-like innocence, hence why they disappear from her shirts by the end of the game.

Let’s zero in on the never-explained time travel powers for today. The Butterfly Effect doesn’t actually mean “shit happens” and Warren’s declaration of Max being a wizard adds nothing, so let’s run with the idea that the time powers aren’t actually trying (and failing) to be a logical plot device but are in fact symbolism for Max and her character growth. Continue reading

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ToraDora! #25: Heaven Help the Fool Who Falls in Love

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The end begins with Ya-chan bursting through the front door of her parents’ house, because Taiga left her a fake phone message saying Ryuji had been injured in a car accident. Ryuji is fine, and because nothing brings people together like casual deceit, suddenly three generations of his family are all stuck in one place where they manage to reconcile and grow. Continue reading

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Letting Boys Cry

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One of the first things Yuri Katsuki does onscreen is cry. His establishing character moment is him weeping uncontrollably in a bathroom, the picture of vulnerability and hopelessness, after doing badly at the Grand Prix. And he doesn’t stop crying, either—his tears, and his anxiety, return time and again over the series, and while he eventually learns to handle this anxiety as his confidence is nurtured, the narrative never really presents this emotion and his expression of it as a bad thing or a weakness. Yuri is a highly expressive, emotional young man, and the show he’s in lets him be that. And that’s quite a rare thing to see in fiction, let alone from the protagonist of a sports anime—surely one of the most manly genres out there, given that they’re all about feats of physical prowess!

It seems paradoxical to have the protagonist of something in the action genre—be it sports or superheroes—cry, because crying is, well, such a non-masculine and non-heroic trait. Journalist Ben Blatt recently released the findings of a study on word use in books, which found that, among other things, women were commonly described as “sobbing” but men almost never were, especially when the novel in question was written by a man. The study suggests that “Male authors seem, consciously or not, to hold that if ‘real men don’t cry,’ then ‘fictional men don’t sob’.”

And yet there’s Yuri, sobbing—and not the only man to do so in that show either. Granted, a lot of Yuri!!! on Ice plays with and strays from what we would consider “manly” (dancing, themes of love, throwing away strict conventions of gender presentation with Viktor’s long hair and flower crowns, etc.), but this departure from gendered expectations is still worth noting. Usually, the perception is that boys don’t cry. Crying is a sissy thing to do, an unmanly thing to do, a girly thing to do, and society says the accepted and desirable alternative is to bottle up your feelings or project them outwards onto other people. This is one of the neatest examples of toxic masculinity you can find: being emotional is somehow feminine, and, of course, that that makes it bad.

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

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My Favourite Anime: ToraDora!

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There’s a certain giddy rush you feel—partly validation, partly just reborn joy—when you rewatch something you loved when you were younger and discover that it’s actually still good.

I first watched ToraDora! approximately nine years ago, in a very different time of life, and something about its themes and characters was so emotionally resonant that it burrowed into my heart and has stayed there ever since. I recently rewatched it, and was a little relieved to see I hadn’t overhyped it in my memory—while it’s not a perfect show, it’s still poignant, funny and relatable, even though I’m no longer in high school myself.

In some ways watching while older made it more resonant, since I was able to look back with a degree of self-awareness I couldn’t the first time. And hey, you don’t just have one coming-of-age moment and then wake up as a fully functioning, emotionally sorted out adult—it’s a constant process, which explains the pulling power of a show like this. That, and the romantic comedy shenanigans, which are pretty damn great.

Elisabeth and Dominic are taking a hiatus from the Little Anime Blog, so I’m pitching in and contributing to the My Favourite Anime series! Head over there for the full post.

My regular, more long-winded ToraDora! posts will conclude next week. Who’s pumped?

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ToraDora #24: Boy, That Escalated Quickly

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It’s happening, people. It’s happening. Continue reading

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Cute Queer Webcomics for the Soul

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I think we can all agree that the Tragic Sad Dead Gays genre isn’t welcome these days (not to say that it was ever totally welcome, but given the progress of time and sensibilities, this sentiment has become much more mainstream). Instead, a whole bunch of creators are embracing the idea that LGBTQ+ folks are just as capable of being protagonists in stories with happy endings, and stories across an exciting range of genres. This week, we zoom in on the romantic dramedy—tales of love, growth, and shenanigans set in a world recognisable as ours. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, it’ll change your life—or, maybe you’ll just enjoy some sweet queer content, able to relax with the knowledge that a respectful handling and happy ending is in sight.

As I’ve said before, I feel weird writing about stories that aren’t yet finished, and as all the webcomics below are ongoing, I can’t review them in good conscience because I haven’t seen the full story. Consider these not reviews, then, but recommendations of a few little gems I’ve found this year that I find particularly delightful so far, and that I invite you to jump into and come along for the ride as they progress. Continue reading

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