Category Archives: And I Think That’s Neat

Adolescence, Anxiety, and Amanchu!

Amanchu (1)

Let’s talk about a cute little show about scuba diving, and what it gets right about the benign terrors of high school.

Adolescence is, for many people, defined by a lack of self-esteem and a haphazard quest to find your place in the world. This is something Amanchu! portrays with loving care, telling the story of two nervous teenaged girls finding confidence and community in their shared hobby with both heartwarming gentleness and heartbreaking realism. The different ways their insecurity manifests, the underlying stress they face about finding purpose and a sense of identity, and how they help each other grow more confident, felt at times painfully true to my own teenaged experience, as I’m sure it did to many other viewers. Amanchu!’s slice-of-life school club setting means this is not a coming-of-age story with high stakes or high drama: it instead gives weight and importance to these girls’ down-to-earth struggle, creating a quiet and poignant story about friendship, love, and finding your feet in the weird world of high school. Continue reading

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Folklore, Worldbuilding, and Fun with Unreliable Narrators

NITW is that you god

Coming up with a solid mythology, belief system, or set of traditions and folklore, is a key part of a lot of fantastical worldbuilding—making stories to go within the story, if you will, to make the world feel more fleshed out. After all, it’s human nature to tell stories, and any group of humans will inevitably come with their own folklore, be they creation myths or cautionary tales. But the tricky thing with stories, especially ancient ones passed down by word of mouth, is that even though they’re presented as historical fact, they may not be as true as they once were. Or, in the case of the in-universe folklore I’m talking about in this post, they might contain more truth than the characters hearing them first realised—throwing the nature of the stories into question, and making the world they’re in much stranger, richer, and more mysterious for the reader engaging with them.

Spoilers for the end of Night in the Woods beyond this point! Continue reading

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Laid-Back Camp, a (Happy) Story of Solitude

Laid Back Camp (18)

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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A Big Ol’ Pile of Anime Recommendations (2017)

Flying Witch (24)

Doing a lot of research means doing a lot of reading, which means the idea of doing more reading in your spare time kind of makes your eyeballs want to roll out of your head and boycott. So this year, when I felt like diving into fiction for fun, I found myself gravitating to visual media more than novels—and thus, as I’m sure you’ve noticed if you frequent this blog, I ended up watching a lot more anime than usual. It’s barely any compared to the people who routinely keep up with multiple shows coming out every season, but hey, from what I have dug through this year I’ve discovered some real gems.

It’s nothing as comprehensive as a Top Ten or a year in retrospective, simply series that I completed that I would (even with the caveats noted) recommend to other people. And without further ado, here they are: Continue reading

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URAHARA and the Crises of Creativity

Urahara creative crisis

Here’s a question for all you content creators out there: would you let yourself be turned into a cartoonish alien being and taken into space if it meant you were guaranteed endless praise and popularity for the things that you create?

At the heart of the pastel-toned magical girl adventure that is URAHARA is a story about the dilemma of creativity. Creators—be they writers, artists, chefs, designers, etc.—are an incredible breed because of their imaginative abilities, and their power to give the things in their imagination physical form for others to see. The great magical halo surrounding The Artist is their ability to do what they do purely for the love of it… but as I’m sure many of us know, The Love Of It can only get you so far. After all, what’s the point of creating if you receive no approval, praise, or recognition for your creation? Creating art for art’s sake often gives way to anxieties about creating the “right” kind of art, creating art that people will like, caught in an endless tug-of-war between trying to follow trends to get a foothold and trying to be “unique”. The very human need for validation, and the contradictory yet complementary need to be seen as different and individual, is a driving force in content creation, as it is the driving force behind the conflict in the middle arc of URAHARA. Continue reading

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Showing, Not Telling in Princess Principal

Princess Principal floating

I’ll admit it, I started watching Princess Principal because it just looked fun. Young women kicking ass as spies in a steampunk fantasy version of turn-of-the-century London, set to a jazzy soundtrack and wrapped up in science-magic? Yes, please. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to discover that this show that I picked up solely for its geeky Cool Factor is… actually really damned good, delivering consistently sharp writing, interesting and layered characters, and some wonderfully efficient and intriguing magical worldbuilding that makes fantastic use of that old writing adage “show, don’t tell” that paints a vivid picture of its fantasy world from its very first scene.

Because it did such a good job laying the groundwork and piquing this viewer’s interest, let’s look just at the show’s first episode, and the small but important details the premiere gives us (and how) that let us build a picture of the world… without leaning too heavily on narration, pausing or cutting into the action to explain what’s going on, or having an audience point-of-view character that others teach things to.

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

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Clancy of the Undertow: A Delightful and Unconventional YA Protagonist

Clancy

Remember how I said I hadn’t read any novels since the start of the year? Yeah, poor Clancy of the Undertow has been sitting, patiently, on my desk since literally February. Which is a damned shame, I tell you—this was a wonderful little queer coming of age story set to a wonderfully rich (but not overdone) backdrop of small town Australia, paring back what could have been a story all about The Hardships of Being Gay in a Small Town to an intricate and fun character study of our titular leading lady, Clancy. Though it was recommended (and loaned, by a generous person who now finally has their book back after seven months) to me on the basis of it being Some Good, Good Gay YA, Clancy’s sexuality isn’t the focus of the book nor the focus of her character arc. It’s much more than that, and Clancy is built into a detailed, believable picture of a girl that became one of my favourite YA protagonists I’ve come across. Continue reading

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