Imagine: Kenneth Parcell as an adorable, fuzzy lollipop alien, traveling the galaxy to help people alongside his grumbly best friend (think Amethyst with a side of Marceline); never visiting the same planet twice, and constantly thwarting the fairly inept galactic conquest of a hulking, bratty skeleton overlord and his halfway-between-Spongebob-and-Ice-King right hand eyeball; all imagined through the lens of the guy behind The Powerpuff Girls and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. With Disney’s animation budget behind it as a trade-off for the equally Disney diabolical airing schedule. That’s Wander Over Yonder, an absolute treat for any longtime fan of animation.
I’ve been thinking lately about the shelf life of “groundbreaking” characters: where their place in the narrative intersects with how well whatever “unusual” part of their makeup is portrayed, whether they were meant to give the underrepresented group someone to see themselves in or to give the normative viewer a heads up that other people living other lives exist, and how progress has done all kinds of tricky things with the bar for success. The depiction of queer characters in visual media has made a staggering amount of strides from the early 20th century to now (I believe I’ve recommended the documentary The Celluloid Closet before but really can’t do so enough), to the point where we’re beginning to see same-gender relationships normalized in children’s media – something I frankly thought I’d make it to old age before seeing. So why am I left feeling so out of sorts? Continue reading
The Woman Called Fujiko Mine is both the most nudity-heavy and one of the most thoughtfully feminist anime I have ever seen. It is a damn well made piece of art from one of the most promising up and coming directors in anime, and I’ve documented my love for it fairly extensively in the past (it plays, indeed, no small part in this blog’s creation). But all that perhaps intimidating gushing aside, it occurs to me that I’ve never really written about the show with a prospective rather than an informed viewer in mind. And while a truly in-depth discussion of the show basically requires discussion of the ending and spoilers generally, I think I can still paint a picture for curious-but-nervous viewers as to why this show is well worth your investment.
A quick summary: Fujiko is a thief, a seductress, and a woman of many mysteries. On one job she crosses paths with famed gentleman thief Arsene Lupin III, setting off a chain of events involving an underground drug cult; strange, spying figures with owl heads, long buried memories, and the men who will one day become her partners in crime. But who is Fujiko Mine…and just who is telling this story, anyhow?
After seven years of spin-offs and rereleases, the next numbered title of the Persona series is upon us. And boy, does it look exciting. The (very deliberate) homages to Lupin III are quite appealing to yours truly, but let’s not downplay the allure of the shaken-up combat and socializing system or stylish animation courtesy of Production I.G., either. Perhaps most intriguing is a statement from the director, Katsura Hashino, during one of the earliest interviews for the game.
“[A lot of people today are] stuck between a rock and a hard place, emotionally speaking: on the one hand, they might not be keen on living by the same rules and values that defined previous generations, while still lacking the will to go out and actually break those barriers down themselves. That dark side of society is a central pillar to the game we want to make with Persona 5.”
Sounds great, right? The Persona series, and the franchise from which it was born, have more or less carved out a reputation as pushing against the traditional mindsets and chosen subject matter of the JRPG. Which is true, and the series remains a breath of fresh air in many regards. Nonetheless, reading about a game that purports to be about breaking free from old values leaves me with one eyebrow firmly raised for one reason: the director’s last outing, Persona 4, shot itself in the foot with nearly every “progressive” theme it attempted to tackle.
I know that anime is something of a flagging industry in recent years, and there’s been a major upswing in merch and secondary publications to offset that fact, but I draw the line at outsourcing the emotional bond that theoretically drives the plot. And the names and characterizations of several secondary cast members. And any but the most bare-bones plot revelations necessary to keep the plot moving. I was really burned by K, is what I’m saying.
C’mere internet, I need to explain a thing
It’s my own fault in some ways, as someone who’s continually looking for a repeat of the perfect guilty pleasure high that was Descendants of Darkness despite knowing how rarely supernatural pretty people fests can handle their one-cour runs. And years of keeping up with the gaming community have trained me to expect being nickel-and-dimed for content (the most egregious example being we’re-not-a-MMORPG-we-swear Destiny, whose approach to plot best is summed up as “I don’t even have time to explain why I don’t have time to explain this to you”). In fact, a lot of series I love commonly practice the release of world-building material and character tidbits outside the main story (see: Pacific Rim and Tiger & Bunny, among others). I can even, now and then, get behind the idea that additional content (paid or in some other way specially acquired) is a way for fans to invest more deeply in the show or to return to a story that had reached its conclusion. When you need a roadmap to decode what’s going on as it’s airing, we need to have a talk.
Or as I like to call it, “the better (far better, so much superior) Cabin in the Woods.”
Yeah, that’s right. And I’m not taking it back, either
Made on a shoestring budget, released in 2006 to the festival circuit and then quietly shuffled into a small DVD release, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is the crème of the modern cult film crop. It’s inches from falling flat on its face in every direction (some sets were scouted in the middle of shooting, the reliance on The Famous Cameos is an eternal temptation for mugging, and the whole thing falls apart if the two leads don’t work), which makes the lean, brilliant efficacy of the film all the more breathtaking. By all rights it deserves to be the crown jewel of the meta-horror subgenre, and a top contender in horror comedy. Let me show you why.
As I wait for Tusk to wander onto VOD and into my waiting arms (that I may better fill out the back-burnered essay about its creation), I find myself looking ahead to Kevin Smith’s filmography-to-be. The record so far stands at one anticipated (Yoga Hosers, because damned if I’m not starved for more supernatural-comedies-with-female-leads), one indifferent (we’ll see how the trailer for Krampus looks), and one perturbed (Moose Jaws). In case you were wondering, your first instinct on that last one is correct. It’s Jaws with a moose.
At first I couldn’t figure out why this set me on edge. There’s enormous historical precedent for comedic film riffs that basically lift the plot of a famous film – from genre classics conceived in love, like Young Frankenstein, to smirking exercises in nose snubbing a la Scary Movie. It’s an accepted Thing That Happens.
And while I’m not sure the joke at the heart of Moose Jaws will be enough to carry it, I’m entirely confident that Smith’s too earnest about it to go ripping people off (see also: his glorious Blues Brothers homage in Clerks II) – any nods he makes will be trumpeted from the rooftops. This, of course, is when it hit me. Those movies I mentioned before were not made at a time when one of the best-selling bits of popular culture was a flagrant and unadmitted bit of thievery. Yeah. 50 Shades of Grey is ruining Kevin Smith movies for me. And with that damnable movie coming out, it seems like time we had a talk.