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

Heaven's Feel Presage Flower

The Kara no Kyoukai movies (aka The Garden of Sinners) are a series of haunting, violent supernatural mysteries involving murderous ghosts, vengeful psychics, and a girl who can see Death… not that you would guess that from the first film’s opening scene. The first few moments of movie number one drop the audience not in a spooky cold open or tense action sequence, but instead into a quiet scene featuring two people hanging out in a small brightly-lit apartment. One of them has been to the convenience store and bought the other some ice cream he thought she’d like. They chat about the ice cream. The conversation is mundane and slightly bickery without underlying malice, giving the audience the impression that these two characters have known each other for a while. It’s only after this very domestic sequence that the narrative gives us a glimpse of ghostly goings-on, and then the opening credits roll.

In a lot of ways, this is a weird choice for the opening minutes of a gritty urban fantasy. Surely the first scene of your story ought to set up expectations for the audience: what genre are we in? What’s the tone? What’s the focus? What are we in for, as we settle in for the next however many minutes of screentime? This opening scene with Shiki and Mikiya hanging out in the flat is very slow and quiet, and does very little to establish any genre conventions that would locate the series anywhere near mystery or horror—in fact, if you hit play not knowing anything about the films, you might guess that you were watching some sort of quaint relationship drama and be very shocked by the appearance of murder and ghosts. And… unconventional as it might seem, you would be absolutely right. Continue reading

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The Monster Mash: February ’19 Roundup

promised neverland mood

Welp, there goes February! I don’t have too much to report nor wax philosophical about this time round. Summer has come to an end (though we all know the heat will continue stubbornly and spitefully into autumn) and school/work is back in full swing, meaning I am back to being pumped up on Learning and Mentoring and Knowledge!! and also back to being exhausted at the end of every day. I’m juggling a lot of big projects, which is daunting but very exciting. But hey, I still found time to blog! And here those blog posts are:

On the blog:

The Trickster Archetype in Pop Culture, Part Three: Tricky Ladies – another dive into myth and fiction, this time through Lori Landay’s concept of the feminine Trickster.

The Promised Neverland and the (Horrifying!) Ideal of Pure Childhood – a look at how the series uses Victorian imagery of the innocent, pastoral child who will never grow up for horror effect.

Cool web content:

This short video essay delves into the “adaptational attractiveness” trope and the tendency for characters to be way hotter than is reasonable in their screen versions… and how this is not just a problem with relatability and beauty standards, but how it can be symptomatic of a character’s flaws being wiped away in the adaptation process.

How Authentic is The Good Place Version of Australia? An Investigation – asking the big questions and revealing a wealth of puns I didn’t pick up on the first watch, this hard-hitting analysis dives in detail into the portrayal of my home country in The Good Place.

The Fractured and Famous: Celebrity Culture and Control in Perfect Blue – Priya Sridhar examines Perfect Blue and its psychological horror narrative next to the #MeToo movement and how the film has, horrifyingly, not only remained relevant decades after its release but seems to have predicted much of contemporary celebrity culture.

Marketing Representation in Dragalia Lost – is queer rep that’s mostly there to try and suck our money into a gacha game system still good queer rep?

1919 – 2019: Yuri From Then to Now – celebrating a century of the yuri genre, its foremost scholar Erica Friedman presents a brief, introductory look at its roots and its evolution.

The Five Worst Dates in Dragon Age – spicy hot takes, worded beautifully, about the lamest romantic encounters you can have in the fantasy RPG series. Endorsed by the creator himself!

Superhero Costume Design is Finally Getting the Recognition It Deserves – in the leadup to the Oscars, a dive into the evolution of superhero costume design in film and why it’s a lot more work than people give it credit for (and Black Panther won! So yay!!)

Kase-san and Pure Yuri – Abby muses on just what is so great about the Kase-san series, how it handles its love story, and how it leans away from the harmful tropey bits of both Class S and shoujo romance to create something fresh and new.

And that’s a wrap. Take care everyone!

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The Promised Neverland and the (Horrifying!) Ideal of Pure Childhood

promised neverland emma

When done right, there’s nothing more frightening than a bunch of Good Kids in mortal peril—making it perfect subject matter for a hybrid fantasy-sci-fi-horror story, and making The Promised Neverland my newest voluntary source of stress every week. There’s a lot to be said for how the show uses its aesthetic and composition to create a feeling of dread, but today I want to talk about a particular set of tropes and literary traditions that it’s tapping into. So what familiar imagery is at play in The Promised Neverland to enhance its horror… and what does Charles Dickens have to do with it? Continue reading

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