Queer YA Mini-Reviews: Unicorns, University, and the Underworld

YA recs U

And we’re back, with three more gloriously varied entries in the field of queer YA! This time we have a contemporary Australian coming-of-age story, a cheesy urban fantasy, and an exploration of trauma and yearning after coming “home” from a quest in a magical world. Take a gander and see if any call to you… Continue reading

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Of Cosmic Stakes and Personal Stories (Spider Verse, Infinity War, and Others)

spider verse miles

A confession: I haven’t seen Avengers: Infinity War nor Avengers: Endgame yet, and I don’t really plan to. I promise I’m not trying to be contrary or edgy with that statement—in fact, it makes me kind of sad. I love superheroes! I like the Marvel movies! So why aren’t I compelled to join in the hype for the epic, universe-bending crossover event?

In an unfortunate case of history repeating itself, I think I might be switching off from the MCU for the same reason I dropped Doctor Who back in ye olden days: the constant ante-upping required to keep the series fresh and engaging has led the story to cosmic stakes where the rules of time and space are being warped willy-nilly and the multiverse hangs in the balance, whereas the thing that drew me to the series in the first place was those more grounded, relatable, personal stories. When it comes to the MCU’s shift towards Big Crossover Events, Civil War (allegedly a Captain America standalone movie) was about as much as I could take in terms of world-altering stakes, an over-stuffed ensemble cast who couldn’t possibly all get the screentime they deserved, and “epic” tone.

I get it, superheroes need to save the world, and it’s a natural progression that they should save the converging, warping universe in an adventure that brings together characters from all across the wide-spanning story. I get it, but, well, ehhh. I’m willing to admit this is personal taste, of course—and I would just say that Crossover Events aren’t for me… but then again, I was really compelled to see, and really enjoyed, Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse. So what’s going on there? Continue reading

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Let’s Get This Bread: April ’19 Roundup

Janet

Gif via mingrose

And so passes the month of April: the seasons are changing, semester is coming to an end, I’m getting a cold right before I have to do a guest lecture (naturally), and I’m keeping up with Game of Thrones entirely through memes. What else was happening on the internet this month?

On the blog:

Fun with “Canon AUs” in The Good Place – a look at how the timeline-rebooting, universe-hopping, relationship-focussed series draws on fanfic techniques.

Bloom: A Graphic Novel That Made Me Cry About Bread – a review of a very sweet graphic novel about romance, growing up, and baking.

Other reading:

Having recently watched the 1986 Transformers movie myself, I feel like I’m obligated to share Hbomb’s take on it (yes, I know I opened with one of his videos last time as well, it’s just The Good Content). Given that the movie itself sort of washed over me in a neon haze, it was enlightening to hear someone dig into what it was actually saying amidst all that colour and noise–and it turns out it’s saying something pretty hopeful and powerful.

Listen Up, Bitches, it’s Time to Learn Incorrect Things About Someone You’ve Never Heard Of – a dissection of the genre of angry, flippant posts (or Tweet threads) that purport to aggressively “educate” the foolish masses about how historical figures were Problematic, Actually; a grating combo of fake history, callout/canceled culture, and the idea that putting a lot of swearing in your argument makes you correct factually and morally. I’ve seen a fair few posts like this, but never seen them discussed and typified before, so this was as interesting as it was cathartic.

Queerness and the Power of “Subtext” in Sound! Euphonium vs Liz and the Blue Bird – a comparison of the portrayal of two relationships in the same series, and how one is switched out for a heterosexual plotline partway through while the other lets a full romantic arc play out, ending up ultimately more satisfying for viewers.

Land of the Lustrous – Episode One – Nick Creamer embarks on episodic reviews of the acclaimed sci-fi/fantasy hybrid about living gems and delves deep into its core theme of “no matter how broken you are, you can be put back together”, how the show gets that across, and what makes it meaningful, in a very articulate and moving way.

It’s Not About Easy Mode: FromSoftware and the Question of Video Game Difficulty – with the release of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice came a whirlwind of discussion about the question of accessibility and difficulty in games, which I think this article sums up nicely.

Carole and Tuesday and How We Talk About Music – a dive into the themes of a sci-fi series set in a future where music is no longer created by humans, but instead by algorithms, what comments this makes about the real world, and how the characters’ simple desire to express themselves takes the usual story of “rebellion against an evil sci-fi dystopia” in a different and more personal direction.

Bloom Into You and Exploring Asexuality – a personal look at Bloom Into You from an ace perspective, and how Yuu’s messy relationship with romance not only suggests an ace reading of her character but accurately reflects the ace experience of growing up.

Spoiler Paranoia is Ruining Pop Culture – a look at the current “spoiler” obsessed marketing and fandom discussion around big events like Avengers: Endgame and Game of Thrones and how it’s a product of a very specific moment in history and culture (and marketing… because capitalism has to get its little hands on everything, huh?).

And of course it was premiere review time! Check out the pickings from this season of anime. (I’m not seeing much that calls to me… though admittedly it’s been very fun and fascinating to be involved in fandom while an Ikuhara show is currently airing. What will Sarazanmai throw at us next? Who can say?)

Let’s wrap up with a song, and one of the most indisputably powerful combination-lecture-musical-performance I’ve ever witnessed:

Take care, all!

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Bloom: A Graphic Novel That Made Me Cry About Bread

Bloom (1)

Bloom is a story about growing up, figuring out what you want, falling in love, and embracing the gentle catharsis of baking. It’s a sweet queer romance about two young people in weird transitory times in their lives, who are brought together by chance and, by even happier chance, end up being just what the other needs. It’s an all round delight to experience, capturing the magic of the graphic novel medium as well as everything I enjoy about YA. It also made me tear up and sniffle over sourdough starter, so consider that an endorsement of its emotional pulling power. Continue reading

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Fun with “Canon AUs” in The Good Place

TheGoodPlace_NUP_178291_0324

The celestial, “afterlife bureaucracy” setting of The Good Place gives its storytelling a degree of elasticity you wouldn’t find in a non-fantasy series—as of the recently-completed third season, I’ve lost count of the number of times the story-world has been reset, rewound, rebooted, or generally bamboozled. And hey, if you’re writing in the realm of the ethereal, why wouldn’t you take every opportunity to play with spacetime? It turns out, you can get some very interesting character writing done within that cosmic framework and all the divergent paths and “what if?” narratives you can play with as you stretch and squish the Universe. So today let’s sit back with a tub of frozen yoghurt and look at how The Good Place, with all its timeline reboots, raises questions of nature and nurture, of fate and destiny, and even of soulmates, all while giving its writers a smart exercise in consistent characterisation and its audiences an endless parade of alternate versions of the same story—in many ways tapping into the methods, and the appeal, of the good ol’ Alternate Universe fanfiction. (Spoilers ahead!)

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In Which I Am a Fate Blog Again: March ’19 Roundup

saber class blogger

March was a busy month for me, but with a slightly different flavour of busyness. I travelled to Sydney for some Serious Things but, while we were there, my friends (the famous CP and WB you see me mentioning from time to time across the history of this blog) and I took the chance to see the Australian premiere of the second Heaven’s Feel movie, Lost Butterfly, and check out the convention it was hosted by during the day. I hadn’t been to a con for maybe six or seven years, and at the risk of sounding cheesy it was sort of magical walking back into that world of concentrated pop culture love.

It was also deeply surreal, because a significant portion of said con was taken up by Fate; including a massive banner advertising Fate/Grand Order that crossed three windows in the convention space, a special booth full of Grand Order-related goodies including the opportunity to “summon” a Servant by pressing a big button, an interview panel with some voice actors and staff for the upcoming Chapter Babylon anime, and enough Fate cosplayers to populate a small town. And of course bucketloads of merchandise, including some plush toys I… may have purchased. How is this series so niche and weird and yet so ginormous and unstoppable?

In any case, it was an overall pretty fun and rewarding experience, and I basically walked out of the movie after a day neck-deep in Fate (only to be immediately caught in the rain and drenched… life imitates art, I guess!) full of renewed love for the darned thing. As I reflected on in my ‘Love and Also Monsters’ post, while there are a lot of problems with this series overall, I think I’m at the point to happily acknowledge that it holds a really special place in my heart and probably will continue to do so for a long time. It’s been sparking my critical and creative imagination for years now and I’m still finding new things to write about it, it contains some characters and themes are deeply important to me emotionally, shared interest introduced me to some really great long-distance friends, and it low-key got me back into mythology which is now a key part of my thesis a.k.a. my job. I’m married to this beautiful garbage fire, for better or worse.

The heart of this introspective ramble is that it actually feels really good to have a work (or collection of works) that I can be so passionate about, even with its ups and downs. It’s fun, it’s meaningful, it’s intellectually stimulating, and I honestly hope that everyone can find a story that inspires that feeling, whether it’s a novel or a piece of poetry or a game or a trashy fantasy-action anime franchise. We’ve all got That One Story, you know? I think it’s an important thing to have. Stories keep us afloat in this mad world we live in.

They also fill you with the spur-of-the-moment urge to spend money on replica swords, but… look, it sparked joy. And now I can, if need me, chase off a home invader with a replica of Caliburn. Anyway, what did I write this month?

On the blog:

Love and Also Monsters: The Emotional Priorities of Type-Moon’s Fantasy – just in time for said Heaven’s Feel movie to break my heart in the best way, I do some musing on how the Fate storyworld grounds its epic fantasy conflicts in personal relationships, and why that works.

Stranger Things‘ Problem with Female Friendship (and How Season Three Can Fix It, Please, For God’s Sake) – just in time for the hype surrounding season three, I gather my thoughts on the spooky-synth series’ issues with prioritising romance and not letting its lady characters bond.

Further reading around the webzone:

Let’s begin with some video content…

An analysis of the themes and personal politics that run through the content of the McElroy brothers, from their advice podcast to the narrative they construct in The Adventure Zone. A fascinating and ultimately heartwarming deep dive (which… really kind of makes me want to get into TAZ. People have been telling me to. It’s just a lot of hours, guys! I’m not denying that it sounds good! I’m sorry!!)

An escapade into the evolution of VHS technology and how it impacted the ways films were shot and stories were constructed. Funny and illuminating, and especially interesting to me given my recent-ish dive into the history of horror movies (for Until Dawn purposes). Hbomb is always good value.

While we’re digging into the ins and outs of pop culture history, have a look at this bizarrely enthralling ride through the evolution (and collapse) of a branch of Disney parks, couched in the mystery of a kidnapped animatronic. It’s got niche nostalgia, it’s got urban exploration, it’s got high-stakes police investigations–everything you could want!

White Hero, Sidekick of Colour: Why Marvel Needs to Break the Cycle – there is diversity within the MCU cast, for sure, but their non-white characters tend to fall into certain types of roles… something that is overwhelmingly obvious now that it’s a pattern across a decade’s worth of movies.

How YouTube Made a Star Out of a Super Smart Film Critic – an interview with/feature on Lindsay Ellis, which provides some interesting insights into her life and her work. Her first quote of the piece is also “which Starscream should I use?”, proving she is truly a woman of the people.

Boys Can Be Princesses Too: Challenging Gendered Stereotypes in Huggto! Precure – a look at the most recent instalment in the magical girl juggernaut, and how its main male character enjoys things and aesthetics considered traditionally feminine without this being a problem or an oddity.

And, as The Promised Neverland wraps up, do take a look at Atelier Emily’s analysis of its cinematography and visual language, which is as always fascinating.

Also: look at this April Fool’s crossover art between two of my favourite shows from last year!

Aaaaand hey… let’s finish on a tune. You ever get into a conversation that feels like chewing gravel, but can’t put your finger on why, until you realise It’s Just How That Person Is? Chris Fleming has a song about that.

Take care, everyone!

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Stranger Things’ Problem with Female Friendships (and How Season Three Can Fix It, Please, For God’s Sake)

Stranger Things frens

The trailer for Stranger Things season three is out, and I am slightly bewildered by how much hype it instilled in me. For the promise of new even spookier monsters, sure; for the atrocious psychedelic magic of the ‘80s aesthetic, absolutely. But what has me most excited is not any of that but a few small character-based cuts: images of Eleven and Max hanging out, being friends. And why does that excite me so much? Because it (potentially) heralds a shift away from one of the most frustrating aspects of the series: for all its focus on relationships, Stranger Things has historically been really meh when it comes to depicting them between women. Continue reading

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