Category Archives: And I Think That’s Neat

A Pile of YA Novels with Non-binary Protagonists (Part 1!)

For my thesis (which is now actually “nearly done” and will, come hell or high water, actually be submitted sometime in the middle of 2022) I analysed YA novels with non-binary protagonists. When I tell people that, often they’re surprised that there are enough books in that niche to make a study out of. And I get to say “yeah! There’s more than you might expect! In fact, I had to change the whole format of a chapter because there were too many to talk about all at once!”

So in celebration of nearly, actually, almost being done, and in celebration of the many fantastic books that have filled this category over the past couple of years (making said thesis, in its current state, possible!) I’ve compiled a pile of them for your perusal.

Please note this is only a handful of personal recommendations from within my studies: there are others I haven’t written about and others I haven’t read yet. Plus, this list is narrowed to non-binary protagonists (here defined as “a main POV character”) and if I included texts with non-binary love interests or ensemble cast members, there would be even more! More books exploring the complexity of gender in a variety of genres are being published each year, so no doubt I’ll come back and make more lists in future! For now, though, read on…

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Watching K-On!! for the First Time in 2022 (and Crying My Eyes Out)

Last year, I worked as an editor on two great articles: Marina Garrow’s ‘Reconsidering Moe Through a Neurodiverse Lens’ and Patrick O’Loghlen’s ‘Why K-On! Deserved Its Second Chance’. Very different pieces in aim, tone, and focus, but each with a commonality at their heart: an affection for the iconic KyoAni series K-On! and what it brought to the world of anime, even if (mainstream, internet-based, English-speaking) anime fans may not have embraced it right away. These essays got me feeling nostalgic. Ah, K-On! I remember my own feelings when I watched the series…

Wait. I’ve watched K-On! right?

Of course I’ve watched K-On! It’s a foundation of the modern slice-of-life, girls-with-hobbies-and-passions genre, and I love that stuff. I would have definitely watched K-On! No way I wouldn’t have.

…right?

Reader, working on these articles made me realise I had never actually watched K-On!

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The Unwavering Optimism of The Aquatope on White Sand

“Do what’s right, and everything will work out.” This is the prayer repeated throughout The Aquatope on White Sand, particularly by its two main characters, Kukuru and Fuuka. It’s an optimistic mantra, one that shows a sense of faith in the goodwill of the universe (or at least, the little local god to whom these prayers are delivered). Good things will happen to kind people, honest effort will ensure your dreams come true, and love will always save the day no matter the odds—that sort of thing.

It would be easy to dismiss this worldview as naïve or even childish, but Aquatope never belittles its characters for believing in this sort of cosmic kindness. Even when the series transitions away from the magic and whimsy of its first cour, it maintains a surprising and uplifting sense of optimism.

Read the whole article on Anime Herald!

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The Chaotic Heart and Soul of Eniale & Dewiela

I’ve mentioned my adoration for the series Witch Hat Atelier before, praising the gorgeous, expressive art and thrilling sense of magic. Like many people, I was delighted to learn that Atelier’s artist, Kamome Shirahama, had other work that was being localised… though a touch surprised that said other work was a chaotic comedy about the antics and rivalry between a fashion-obsessed angel and demon. Priests wielding missile launchers. Spa days at the Mouth of Hell. Giant unholy poodles. Small children summoning spirits due to failures in the American health system. It’s all there and more and it has no business being as good as it is!

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Heaven’s Design Team: A Celestial Celebration of the Creative Process

In the beginning, God created the sky, the land, and the sea… but when it came to creating the animals that would inhabit the world, He got tired and outsourced it. This is the tale of Heaven’s Design Team, which follows the trials and tribulations of the celestial design firm working hard to fill the Earth with all creatures great and small. Despite the religious framing, the presence of God and angels is little more than set dressing: the show is less about creationism and more about creative industries, showcasing and celebrating the imaginative process and all its ups and downs.

Read the full article on Anime Herald!

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Super Cub: Of Grief, Freedom, and Motorcycles

The most endearing anime of the season might be the one that’s trying to sell me a motorbike. Super Cub is the story of Koguma, an orphaned, painfully lonely girl whose world opens up when she buys a discounted Honda Super Cub—initially looking for a way to get to school more efficiently, but soon discovering a newfound sense of agency and freedom. Slowly, slowly, Koguma begins to disrupt her tight-knit, almost claustrophobic routine and step into the sunshine, making this a tale about the scary but rewarding process of overcoming grief and loneliness.

Like the titular motorcycle, this series is slow-paced, and maybe not as eye-catching as some of the others on the road that is the Spring 2021 season. In truth, I might have missed it if my pal Mercedez had not been championing it on as many websites as will let her. It’s a gorgeous, detail-orientated series that makes excellent use of its medium for visual storytelling. Owing to Koguma’s quiet nature, there are stretches of time where there’s simply no dialogue, and the animation, sound design, and storyboarding are left to tell the tale; and oh they tell it well.

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Together, Alone: How Laid-Back Camp Shows Companionship Through Technology

In Winter 2021, Laid-Back Camp’s cast of teenaged camping enthusiasts returned to our screens and to the lush scenery around Mount Fuji. Rin, Nadeshiko, and the rest of their friends set out for a second season of outdoor activities, with all the essentials in tow: tents, tarps, portable stoves, woolly blankets, cup noodles, and… smartphones?

In a show so in love with the great outdoors, the frequent presence of cell phones may seem like an oxymoron. After all, Nature and Technology are often presented as an incompatible dichotomy. So much of the language around camping, hiking, and holidaying in general—in advertisements, pop culture, and conversations where your parents worry that you’re working too hard—emphasize the idea of “switching off” or “disconnecting.” Yet phones are never far away in Laid-Back Camp—in fact, they’re integral to the story and to the growth of relationships between the characters.

Read the full post on Anime Herald!

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Podcast | Yuri Manga Variety Hour

I’m a true Millennial Content Creator now—I’ve co-hosted a podcast! Listen in to my debut on Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast, where I chat about manga where ladies fall in love with each other. We go through some recent series and recommend our favourite titles from the ever-growing catalogue of English licenses.

Listen to the full episode here!

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A Big Ol’ Pile of Anime Recommendations (2020)

What a year, huh? At least there was some good cartoons!

In all sincerity, 2020 saw the release of some very fun and intriguing series—and working for AniFem has enabled me to keep a closer eye on what’s coming out than ever before, and, with premiere reviews, check out and enjoy series I may otherwise have totally missed. So read on for my favourite anime that I watched in 2020, which include everything from soft sapphic romances, to murder and mind games, to a “reincarnated in a video game” story I actually liked, to anime about anime.

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Tell Me Why: A Beautiful Game About the Strangeness of Trauma and Memory

This story begins on a dark and stormy night, though it’s not quite the schlocky, ghostly horror setup that it sounds like at first. In the end, in fact, it’s a surprisingly kind story, with a lot of heart and just a little bit of magic.

[Content warning: this post discusses parental abuse and gun violence]

One stormy night in 2005, Mary-Ann Ronan pulled a gun on her children. As they attempted to defend themselves, Mary-Ann received an injury that ended her life. The incident left a fracture in the sleepy, snowy town of Delos Crossing: the children, twins Alyson and Tyler, were split up, Mary-Ann’s former friends were left reeling, and the old wooden house where this all happened was left to sit empty like a haunted castle deep in the woods.

Ten years later, Tyler and Alyson have reunited and returned to clean out the place, and to figure out—with the help of just a touch of a supernatural element—what really happened that night and why. Tell Me Why is a mystery, for sure, but for all the scandal and manslaughter it contains, it’s not a crime narrative nor a police procedural. And, despite the flickering figures that seem to be pursuing the twins, it’s not a ghost story, either. Not in the sense of poltergeists and trapped souls, anyway. Tell Me Why is a very personal story about the strange territory of trauma and memory, and how sometimes our ghosts aren’t so easy to define as good or evil.

This is one of those stories where the joy, intrigue, and catharsis comes from exploring the world yourself, and letting the mystery unfold around you as you work to pick it apart. So without spoiling anything, let me just try to tell you why I found this game to be so lovely and so meaningful.

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