A Big Ol’ Pile of Anime Recommendations (2019)

Lustrous (3)

As we power ahead into the new year, it’s time for one last reflection back on 2019: anime edition. While my spare time skewed more towards reading this year, and generally there weren’t quite as many series that jumped out and grabbed me, I still watched some fantastic series that I want to share. So even if the “big pile” is a little smaller than it has been in previous years, I’ve still got a selections of little gems here that I want to boost! This is, as always, limited to series that I watched and completed in 2019, which disqualifies things I’m still currently catching up on, and of course things that are still airing and not yet complete. Let’s dive in: Continue reading

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A Big Ol’ Pile of Book Recommendations (2019)

skullface honda-san books

Guess who read an awful lot this year? With the amount of books that I enjoyed, I figured I’d put together a big roundup! This is divided into three sections based on the mix of things I was reading – expect to find manga, yuri, a bunch of good YA, and a sprinkling of genre studies. Continue reading

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Honk: December ’19 Roundup

goose loose

Here lies the last roundup of the year, which means it’s also the last roundup of the decade! At time of writing, I’m in the exhausted, cheese-filled haze that you get between Christmas and New Year’s, so I won’t turn this into a great introspective piece. But I will say that 2019 was A Lot, as I’m sure it was for a lot of people. It’s been a big year for personal growth and self-confidence, as well as career stuff: I’m now officially A Published Scholar, with two papers out; I travelled to two conferences and presented at both; I’ve been teaching all year; and I restructured (read: wrangled) the creative component of my creative research so it’s much less daunting. I suffered a wee bit of burnout in the middle of the year. I wrote a whole bunch of fiction that I wasn’t supposed to be writing, but was a whole lot of fun (and said to myself, hey, that’s still productive, even if it’s not the project I have real deadlines for…). I read a bunch. I’m going to see Cats this weekend and I’m ready to ring in the new year with friends and loved ones among art and chaos. All in all, it’s been wild, but it’s been good… and really that’s all you can ask for, isn’t it?

On the blog:

Stars Align, a Sincere “Underdog” Story – in which a little anime about an ailing middle school tennis team manages to legitimately tell a heartfelt story of marginalisation and hardship, when other YA-aimed properties can often miss the mark.

The Trickster Archetype in Popular Culture, Part Four: The Trickster is YOU! – these posts are back, this time feat. everyone’s favourite troublemaking waterbird!

Bonus: my favourite posts from 2019

Assassins, Outlaws, and Narratives of Autonomy and Vulnerability 

Bloom Into You (and Me), a Story About How Representation is Important

Headcanons, Queer Readings, and the Art of “Reading Too Much Into Things”

Land of the Lustrous as a Story About Burnout

Love and Also Monsters: The Emotional Priorities of Type-Moon’s Fantasy

Not “Just a Phase”: How Bloom Into You Challenges Common Yuri Tropes

Rewriting the Script: Revue Starlight‘s Rejection of Tragic Queer Tropes

And a shoutout too to all the queer YA mini-reviews, which were fun to write and hopefully helped someone out there find something that was fun to read, too! There will be more to come!

Cool web content:

You know me, I love some social history – and I’m a bit of a sap, so sometimes you will catch me loving weddings as well. Safiya’s fashion history videos are always well-researched, well-rounded, and very fun, and in this one she returns to the field with a special focus on the evolution of the wedding dress from the 1890s to the 1980s (what we learn: time is a circle, clothes can tell us so much about the everyday life of a past era, and wigs are a powerful ally).

As 2020 approaches, “x of the decade” articles abound – Polygon’s games of the decade roundup is particularly funny and charming.

“But why is Riverdale‘s writing so cringey?” Why indeed? This user attempts to break down the issues with the show’s bizarre plots, over-the-top dialogue, and the way it sassily acknowledges its own use of cliche while still clinging to them.

The Marvel Juggernaut: With Great Power Comes Zero Responsibility – an exploration of Disney-Marvel’s monstrous, all-consuming presence in the film industry, and how they’re squeezing out creative risk-taking as well as moves towards diversity; using a lot of the conservative choices from Endgame as demonstration.

Steven Universe Future is Doing Something TV Shows Just Don’t Do – a look at how SU’s continuation takes the time to address the messy, personal aftermath of the series’ big conflict and climax, where most other shows – particularly big-stakes sci-fi and fantasy ones – finish after the final battle and wrap things up swiftly (and sometimes haphazardly).

LGBTQIAP YA 2020 Preview: January – June – a handy-dandy roundup of forthcoming queer YA releases! There are so many!! Look forward to seeing mini-reviews of some of these in future, because I’m certainly excited to read them.

The Decade Fandom Went Corporate – how the way fans are seen by big companies has shifted over the past ten years-ish, and how (certain kinds of) fandom is increasingly being monetised.

Round and Round Like Dancing Laundry – Carole & Tuesday – how the space-musical uses its music and lyrics to convey characterisation and emotion, even if those lyrics aren’t the most profound things in the universe.

Carole & Tuesday and Bad Representation – a rundown of aforementioned space-musical’s failings when it comes to queer rep, despite appearing diverse – particularly how it makes its LGBTQ+ characters villains in situations where, in reality, they’re more often victims.

#100 Days of Yuri – a bountiful pile of recommendations from the blog Yuri Mother, collated nicely in one hashtag.

Review: Sexiled! My Sexist Party Leader Kicked Me Out So I Teamed Up With a Mythical Sorceress! – exactly what the title implies, focusing on how the novel uses the “power fantasy” structure of its genre to tackle very real issues, giving it a lot more heart and heft than a lot of “teen boy goes on adventure and gets big sword” light novels.

Anime Feminist’s Top 25 Anime of the Decade – a definitive set of recommendations from the team… and some extra, personal favourites that didn’t quite make the list, too.

And so we roll on into 2020. This year, we’re making art, taking care of each other, and making sure we get enough sleep. Let’s make it happen, gang!

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The Trickster Archetype in Pop Culture, Part Four: The Trickster is YOU!

goose_screenshot-14

When I talk about “the Trickster archetype” here, I’ve been using it to refer to fictional characters, with “archetype” being essentially a synonym for “really old codified trope”. But this phrase has also been used in more psychological contexts, specifically those drawing from the work of Carl Jung, who played with the idea that we each have our own inner Trickster, a manifestation of our playful, childlike, perhaps even animalistic subconscious. Creativity can be considered a “trickster impulse”, as can the urge for rebellion (a combo of the two is perhaps the most powerful modern Trickery there is—Helena Bassil-Morozow talks about this a fair bit in The Trickster and the System). I keep saying that we come back to this character type again and again because it means something to us, and whether I intend to or not I’m being pretty Jungian with that statement: maybe Trickster characters have such a strong appeal because they scratch a deep subconscious itch, call to us on a fundamental psychological level, and are ultimately “fantasy figures who do what we cannot or dare not” (to quote Lori Landay), fulfilling an ancient and intrinsic yearning for power and playfulness, and, well, to be a bit of a shit now and then. Continue reading

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Stars Align, a Sincere “Underdog” Story

Stars Align (1)

[This post contains minor spoilers for Stars Align, and mentions of domestic abuse, bullying, and homophobia]

Earlier this year, Netflix released an original movie called Tall Girl. With the title describing the subject matter with almost light-novel-like precision, the film was about a girl who was tall, and how difficult her life was because of this. “You think your life is hard?” The Tall Girl asks the audience, in a scene now immortalised in meme form. “I’m a high school junior wearing size thirteen Nikes. Men’s size thirteen Nikes. Beat that.” Now, while there’s a valuable conversation to be had about how traditional beauty standards expect and demand that women be petite and delicate and thus a lot of taller ladies feel left out of the loop by this, a lot of people felt it was… perhaps a bit of a stretch to pass The Tall Girl off as oppressed for her height in the way the movie seemed to indicate.

After watching the trailer with my circle of friends, conversation immediately turned to the fact that she was still, as far as we could tell, cis (a movie about a trans girl who overcomes her insecurities about her height and finds love could make for a great inclusive cheesy rom-com!), straight (“why doesn’t she just date a girl? Sapphic girls love tall women!” – WB, paraphrased, but nonetheless spitting wisdom), white, and well-off enough to live in the American suburbs and attend a Hollywood-pretty high school (and of course afford those size thirteen shoes).

If they wanted to write a story about a young person dealing with the pressures and daily traumas of being a social Other… basically, they could have gone a million different ways, and having their hero be tall seemed like a bit of a cop-out. Again, while this isn’t to say that this character has no problems in life and should stop whining, the marketing material seemed to be working overtime to highlight a marginalised status for The Tall Girl that ended up feeling horribly insincere by the end of things. And, when you’re telling stories about young people struggling in the marginal place they’ve been pushed by societal norms, sincerity really is key. Continue reading

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Papers, Please: November ’19 Roundup

Carole and Tuesday (2)

At the very real risk of repeating myself, it’s been a busy month (I’m feeling a little like Carole in that image up there). But a productive and rewarding one! I failed miserably at my attempt to do a pseudo NaNoWriMo, but I did get all my grading done… finished writing a presentation on Tricksters… travelled to a conference and presented said paper to positive reception… and hey, I had some great conversations about the creative project I’d intended to add to every day, it just didn’t grow as many new words as I wanted it to. But there’s still time. NaNo was definitely invented in a timezone where November isn’t the end-of-year crunch time.

Oh, and I entered something akin to a berserk state and bought far too much manga/YA at a giant bookstore. That’s productive and creative, right?

On the blog:

Personal Space: Carole & Tuesday and the Charm of Quiet, Personal Sci-Fi – a “please watch Carole & Tuesday” post focussing on how the show tells a very personal, grounded story in a futuristic sci-fi setting.

Headcanons, Queer Readings, and the Art of “Reading Too Much Into Things” – a look at the blend of fandom and academia that is the “queer reading”, which could just be a fancy word for a headcanon (and why they’re good!)

In RoundTable

Let’s Talk About Love, Tash Hearts Tolstoy, and the Asexual Coming-of-Age Story – academic publication number two, focusing on ace representation in the media and how these two books break free from the stereotypes and misconceptions that have historically defined depictions of asexuality in pop culture. Extremely proud of my work on this and how it turned out – and it’s free to read online!

Around the web:

Have I finished having thoughts and feelings about Life is Strange? No. In all likelihood I will be 90 and living in my robot body and still be having thoughts and feelings about Life is Strange. So here is a video essay about Life is Strange that explores how the game actually inhabits two different genres and how the different endings uniquely suit each of them.

Nonconforming in the ’90s: How Pokemon‘s Gender Variance Caught the Heart of a Generation – a great in-depth piece from Dee about the diverse gender roles, upending of gender stereotypes, and representation of gender nonconforming characters in the Pokemon anime, and how this was impactful not only personally but culturally.

Queer Eye: We’re In Japan! Gets it Right – a review of the recent Queer Eye special that sees the Fab Five working their reality TV magic in Tokyo, and how it manages to avoid a lot of the orientalist and “weird Japan” stereotypes that American travel shows often fall into (also, highly recommend the series – made me cry like a goof, especially the first and second episodes).

The Middle Ages Have Been Misused by the Far-Right: Here’s Why it’s So Important to Get Medieval History Right – a rundown of some of the ways popular conceptions of “the middle ages” have been misinterpreted, misused, and appropriated for the support of violent and conservative arguments, and why it’s important that people in different disciplines talk to each other so we get our facts straight across the board.

Meet the Activist Debunking Asexual Stereotypes – an interview with aro-ace model Yasmin Benoit that serves as a good roundup of the work she’s been doing to increase visibility and take apart misconceptions.

Who is Allowed to Speak Their Pain? Demon Slayer, Empathy, and Nezuko – a neat articulation of the biggest criticism I’ve seen for this otherwise hyped-up show: its main female character is literally silenced by the narrative, effectively removing her agency and any part she could play in the show’s empathy-focused plot.

In Way of the Househusband, a Former Yakuza Goes Domestic – a review of the very funny and delightful manga, now out in English, with a particular focus on how it gives its scary, badass male protagonist typically feminine interests without making this the butt of the joke.

And now, dear reader, I sleep. Take care and I’ll see you next time!

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Headcanons, Queer Readings, and the Art of “Reading Too Much Into Things”

this cat

The nature of media is that we will all look at it a little bit differently—we all have different brains in our heads, after all, and we’ve all had different life experiences that will frame and shape the way we perceive things. A result of this may be that you’re watching a TV show with your pal and you spot what you see as the blossoming of a beautiful queer romance, but when you mention it to your friend they blink in surprise and say they hadn’t noticed that at all. “Are you sure?” they ask, sincerely but bemused. “They just seem like good friends to me.” Maybe they’ll suppress a sigh, maybe they’ll laugh it off. “Not everything has to be gay all the time. You’re overthinking it.”

Damn, you think, suddenly unsure. Maybe they’re right. Maybe I am reading too much into this—maybe in my hunger for queer representation, for stories and relationships I could genuinely see myself reflected in, I’ve developed a habit of digging too deep and seeing things that aren’t there. Not everything has to be gay all the time, you think, even though you’d actually been headcanon-ing both characters as bi, though that feels like a technicality that will take too long to explain to your already-sceptical buddy.

You settle back on the couch, feeling kind of dumb. But then you hear another voice: there is a flash in the corner of your eye, and though you can’t quite see it, you get the sense that there’s a little human figure sitting on your shoulder, like an angel in a cartoon: a voice of reason.

The figure speaks, and he says:

Queer readings aren’t ‘alternative’ readings, wishful or wilful misreadings, or ‘reading too much into things’ readings. They result from the recognition and articulation of the complex range of queerness that has been in popular culture texts and their audiences all along.

“Wow, you’re right,” you say, smiling. “Thanks, influential queer pop culture scholar Alexander Doty!

Your friend says “What?” and you say “What?” and you get back to watching the show. Continue reading

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