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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Cozy Campfires, Bitter Broth: Female Relationships in Laid-Back Camp vs Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles

NoodleCamp 5

On paper, Laid-Back Camp and Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles sound quite similar. They’re both slice-of-life shows about girls with niche interests or hobbies, portrayed in loving detail—camping and ramen noodles, respectively. Each series also has a small ensemble cast headed by two standout main characters: a quiet, withdrawn girl with the greatest dedication to the special interest that is the subject of the show, and a more outgoing, effervescent girl who wants to be closer to her.

Alike as their premises may sound, the two shows go in very different directions in regards to this central relationship. In Laid-Back Camp, the main characters’ relationship develops over the course of the series and the show becomes a rewarding story about female closeness; Ms. Koizumi, on the other hand, sticks to the status quo established in its premiere, which creates a stale and repetitive story that perpetuates negative tropes about queer women along the way.

Jump to AniFem for the full post!

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Bear With Me: April ’18 Roundup

yeah horrifying

I don’t have a long preamble for this month–I am currently the world’s most boring person to chat with, since whenever someone asks “so what are you up to?” all I can say is “reading”. I think I’ve consumed more text in the last few months than ever before in my life. I’m crunching through entire books within days, something that’s so downright surreal that I made a Goodreads account just to show it off (and also to spend an afternoon not reading but still technically doing something productive). If anyone’s interested, I’m also considering making a page of book recommendations here on the blog for anyone interested in mythology, genre studies, queer studies, and the intersections of all three, since I’m finding a lot of cool stuff. Let me know if that sounds fun!

Now, enough about reading, and onto writing:

On the Blog:

Fairy Tales and Flowerbeds: Messing with Genre in Revolutionary Girl Utena and Yurikuma Arashi (in which Ikuhara anime deliberately plays with your expectations, and is also very gay)

Folklore, Worldbuilding, and Fun with Unreliable Narrators (in which the question of truth creates some spooky fun and depth of setting in Ash and Night in the Woods)

And the final episode writeup for A Place Further Than the Universe!

Fun Things Around the Web:

You know what’s fun, but that I don’t talk about a lot over here? Fashion history!

The entirety of BBC documentary A Stitch in Time is up on YouTube, so you can sit back and watch fashion historians, tailors, and costume designers puzzle out how to recreate outfits from famous paintings, teaching us much about their social context as well as their technical aspects along the way.

I love this sort of immersive, hands-on social history. The clothes people wore, the everyday objects they used, and the food they ate (incidentally, all of Supersizers Go is also up on YouTube at the moment) can tell us so much about day-to-day life throughout history. Fashion blogger Safiya Nygaard also recently completed a half-century-spanning series of historical fashion challenges to dig into these exact details, and the results are informative as well as very fun (and stands a better chance of not being taken off YouTube by the BBC…):

And now, articles:

Dear Marvel, Please Let Your Men Hug Each Other–come on guys, be afraid of Thanos destroying the universe, not of expressions of male affection!

Male Gaze, Female Eye: Comic Girls, Slow Start, Sakura Trick and Lewdness–if a show is made to appeal to straight dudes but a lesbian enjoys it, does that diminish the nature of the Male Gaze? Where do authorial intent and audience reception collide and/or cancel each other out? There is no simple answer.

Recently, I also discovered The Asexual, a web-published journal of creative writing and essays meant to showcase the ace community. Some personal favourites so far are journal founder Michael Paramo’s Beyond Sex: The Multi-Layered Model of Attraction“Meaningless Sex” by Heidi Samuelson, and My Waking Up by Adolfo Gamboa.

And it was the start of a new anime season, which means it was premiere review season! Head on over to AniFem’s collection of impressions to see if there’s a series there that sounds good!

And this month’s podcast rec is…

POL_HistoryofFun_Final_preview__1_.0

Polygon’s The History of Fun! More delightful social history, this time putting the magnifying glass over hobbies, games, and other things people do for fun, from the fraught path of Neopets to the surprising origins of roller derby (Victorian era marathons on wheels). It’s entertaining and educational, and of course packed full of nostalgia is that’s something you’re hankering for.

That’s all from me this time ’round. Take care out there everyone!

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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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Fairy Tales and Flowerbeds: Messing with Genre in Revolutionary Girl Utena and Yurikuma Arashi

Utena 6-800x

Everyone has a “brand” in their fiction, and the longer I think about it the more my brands seems to be “magical and metaphor-heavy queer girls’ coming-of-age stories” and “anything that messes with genre in a meaningful and interesting way”. Fortunately for me, this seems to be Kunihiko Ikuhara’s brand as well, as seen most obviously in Revolutionary Girl Utena and his more recent work Yurikuma Arashi. Both stories begin framed very obviously within a certain genre, only to have those familiar genre framings interrupted… and then the story itself becomes about dismantling that genre and pointing out how restrictive it can be.

Spoilers for the end of both series (including Adolescence of Utena) ahead! Continue reading

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A Place Further Than the Universe #13: The Girls Are Alright

Universe8

Guess who’s about to get all sappy about animated girls in Antarctica? It’s me! But it is the last time, so I may as well go all out. Continue reading

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The Fault in Our Starscreams: March ’18 Roundup

starscream getting hit in the face

March marks the one year anniversary of my first post on AniFem… something that’s kind of funny, given that the article of mine that went up this March probably couldn’t be about more different subject matter if it tried. It’s interesting to see that my dark magical girl piece–one that apparently caused quite a stir and quite some discussion, most of which I missed from a) not being on Twitter yet and b) being too nervous to check the comment section–is the only one of mine in the “Discourse” tag, and the rest are all more in the “here is something I think is cool and interesting” vein. You can see a similar pattern stretched out across my personal blogging, too. My “Things We Need To Stop Doing” category is gathering dust these days, where once it was an active volcano of my gripes with fiction.

It’s not that I’m no longer interested in writing critically about things, it’s just… well, I think I’ve reached a point of what you could maybe call sage wisdom where I would rather spend my time watching/reading things that make me feel positive emotions and don’t give me much to be grumpy and critical about. If I don’t like something, these days I’ll just not engage with it, in favour of picking up something else that I enjoy more. While I can see the appeal of hate-watching and the beautiful scathing writing that can come out of it, it’s just not something I have the emotional energy for in this mad world we live in. So generally you’re more likely to see a “I found this interesting and cool” analysis of mine than a “here are all the awful problems in this piece of media” analysis, these days. Generally. There is at least one critical “this was bad, yo” post on the way, but even then it’s a comparison between two pieces of media, so at least half of it is still positive reactions.

Here is some sage wisdom: life is too short to engage with media that makes you feel negative emotions, especially when you’re tired from work and stressed out about the broader madness going on in the world. Surround yourself with positivity. Write about your passions. Watch cartoons about robots and friends going camping.

On the blog this month:

2018-02-17 (1)Baccano! Vol. 3: A Delightful Trainwreck (cryptids, gangsters, and not-so-great handling of otherwise badass female characters)

Starscream’s High Heels and the Androgyny of the Trickster (mythic archetypes, gender, and a very pointy robot)

Words in Deep Blue: Poignant, Poetic, and Only a Little Pretentious (grief, young love, and some really dumb high school tropes)

Plus A Place Further Than the Universe episodes 9 & 10 and 11 & 12! In the interest of neatly having one post per week, episode thirteen and a general series writeup will go out next Thursday.

On Anime Feminist:

Pop Team Epic and the Value of Letting Girls Be Absurd (still thinking about Hellshake Yanno? I know I am. I’m also thinking about how nice it is that this wacky show gives its comedic leading roles to girls)

Cool web content:

 

Pop Culture Detective is back calling out positive portrayals of icky male behaviour in film and TV, this time with the trope of Nice Guy heroes following girls around until they fall in love.

Red Sparrow is Male Gaze as Female Empowerment – I thought this movie looked just sort of boring and clichéd, but after reading this plot synopsis and analysis I am actively disgusted with it. The Mary Sue makes the case that we should stop having our female characters be traumatised, sexually abused, and beaten up in order to show how “powerful” they really are, and I have to agree.

I Love Black Panther with All My Heart, But I Deserve to See My Queer Self in it Too – did you know Okoye was going to have a girlfriend but it got cut from the film, following a long tradition of queer erasure between Marvel comics and their movie adaptations? I do now, and it feels like daylight robbery.

New Game! and the Trouble with Women in TechNew Game! was a silly little slice-of-life show about women working in a male-dominated industry… that wasn’t as empowering as it could have been. Elisabeth sums up both the fun and the problems I had with this show with this: “In an all-female utopia free from toxic manly chutzpah, women can be successful creators of sword and sorcery games. But only if they’re cute or alluring, and only in a way that would be entertaining and inoffensive to men if one ‘just happened’ to be watching through the wall.”

Ready Player One: A Study in Why Tokenizing is Terrible – Ready Player One (the novel) heard people call it a white boy’s power fantasy, so it made a slapdash attempt at diversity by throwing in some very badly-handled characters. An adequate reason to call this movie garbage even without all the commercialism and nerd wank.

This hilarious thread asking what the world would look like if the media talked about movies with straight romance the way they talk about movies with queer romance.

As a bonus, in the wake of this season’s success with Camping Anime, Ramen Anime, and the like, I asked the folks of Twitter what hobby or interest they’d base a slice-of-life series around. The results were inspiring.

And we have podcast recommendations happening again!!

mythpod

In truth, I’ve been subscribed to Jason Weiser’s Myths and Legends for ages, but only recently have I dived in and started really enjoying it. He tells stories from all across the world (including a series on the Arthurian myths so long and in-depth that it might even get me to finally understand them) in an upbeat and engaging way, just as capable of being suspenseful as he is at being hilarious. You can find all the episodes on your podcast app of choice, of course, but the website has great, eye-catching artwork to go with each one. Some personal favourites so far are the Greek Oedipus (complete with an Arrested Development reference in the title) and this Scottish tale about kelpies (which are not fun at parties).

And that’s all for now! As always, take care.

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