Category Archives: And I Think That’s Neat

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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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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Fate, a Retelling About Retellings (and About Stickin’ It to the System)

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Fate is a story where a bunch of retellings of myths are jammed together and sent to bounce off each other like pinballs—where would be the fun if it didn’t get meta about the nature of retelling myth? Obviously you can see a lot of examples of this in the Heroic Spirits themselves: heroes reflecting on the way their story has been passed down, what impact they’ve had on the world, and all sorts of fun themes to do with legacy, tradition, and the nature of transformative storytelling. A Heroic Spirit, after all, is a myth given form and agency. Would they do things differently, if they could, with their new knowledge? Challenge the patterns of their past? Or would they stick to the “canon”?

I love when Fate plays around with this, but it doesn’t just happen with the kings and knights and monster-slayers: one of the best embodiments of this theme is Shirou, the original protagonist who started all of this, and who burst into the scene ready to break and remake the patterns embedded in the worldbuilding around him. Continue reading

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Creativity, Discipline, and Eizouken (or: Everyone Needs a Kanamori in Their Life)

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There is a pervasive myth of The Creative Genius: the great writers, or artists, or musicians, or filmmakers must receive divine inspiration, or perhaps are simply born with a unique knack for Making Art that mere mortals are not. Creators are still asked things like “where do you get your ideas?” as if a muse descends from the heavens and bestows them to a select chosen few. The idea of creation as work is, while more widely understood in today’s capitalist hellscape, still something a lot of people are wrapping their heads around. And yet, creative work is exactly that: work. That creative lightning strike is still part of the process, but you need to put in certain efforts to bottle that lightning and actually make it into something viewable by others.

In my last blog post about Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! I talked a lot about the sense of creative wonder, and I talked mostly about the characters Midori and Tsubame. This time, I want to talk about Kanamori Sayaka—the invaluable team member who actually wrangles that wonder and forces it to take shape, providing representation of an oft-understated aspect of the creative process: discipline. Continue reading

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Keep Your Hands off Eizouken: A Passion Project about Passion Projects

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Keep Your Hands off Eizouken! is an anime about making anime. The meta potential here is obviously off the charts, and people who know more about the industry than I do are having a whale of a time gushing about the stylistic inspirations, the obvious homages to famous works, and the general technical prowess of the show as it sets out to be a celebration of all things animated. But Eizouken can be enjoyed even if you’re not deep in the anime paint. While it’s clearly a love letter to the animation medium, above all else it’s just a love letter to the very concept of the passion project. It’s a love letter to creativity itself, to the magical act of collaboration and creation, to taking in inspiration from everything around you and transforming it, via the alchemy that is art, into something amazing. Continue reading

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Personal Space: Carole & Tuesday and the Charm of Quiet, Character-Driven Sci-Fi

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Often the most fun and fascinating worldbuilding details are the ones that come from very everyday situations. What do people do for fun, in this speculative setting? What do they eat? Where do they get that food from? What are folks buying and selling, and how are they going about this? What about all the background characters in those stories about saving the galaxy—what are those people doing day-to-day, what are they dreaming about, aspiring to, distracting themselves with to get by on their daily grind? While these are often incidental, extra details that pop up in (and enhance) the background of more epic adventures through space, they’re at the heart of Carole & Tuesday. Continue reading

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Community Season 3: A Study in Weirdness and Parody, Made with Love

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It’s always nice to rewatch something you used to love and say “hey, this is still real good”. I had that experience recently with Community, the meta-humour-heavy sitcom about a bunch of misfits attending community college and becoming unlikely friends, with plenty of shenanigans along the way. This premise would be enough to carry a perfectly fine comedy on its own, but Community always stood out for its ability to get a little bit abstract and absurd, often referencing or parodying some other genre works in the process. Season three is my favourite by far, and features some of the show’s best-written, most creative, and dare I say iconic episodes. The combination musical-horror-story-Glee-parody? The Halloween shorts? The documentary about the pillow war? The one that mostly takes place inside a retro 2D platform game? The Law and Order-style investigation into a smashed yam? The timeline-hopping “what if?”-exploring “Remedial Chaos Theory”??

But why did season three get so good, and why are the ones that take aim at a genre, show, style, or collection of tropes so good in particular? What’s the gold nugget at the heart of these wild, convention-skewing episodes? After some thought, I think I’ve figured it out, and it ultimately comes down to a deep amount of care for these creations… even while laughing at them. Continue reading

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Strange but Familiar: Fun with Intertextuality in Fate/Apocrypha

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I’m sometimes asked where one should start when diving into the (ever-growing) behemoth that is the Fate franchise, and, as a sub-question, if the Netflix-nested Fate/Apocrypha is a suitable jumping-in point. The answer to that question is that there is no wrong answer*, and if the epic-action-adventure tone and structure of Apocrypha is the one that most calls to you, go for it! I would say, however, that while it can probably stand on its own as a fantasy action thrill ride, the series does have an added layer of enjoyment if you’re familiar with other, earlier works in the storyworld. It’s a spinoff, for one thing, a canon alternate universe based on a “what if?” that diverts from the original formula. Even beyond the premise, though, Fate/Apocrypha’s bread and butter is intertextuality—it revels in its connectedness to other stories, making use of familiar aspects and then playing with expectations for all sorts of purposes within the show. Spoilers ahead! Continue reading

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