Suggestion Box Post

So, my traffic’s been steadily declining since I ended The Very Soil. This month looks likely to come in slightly lower than what I had in late 2013, which is not a great thing if I’m, say, hoping to be able to switch my day job to part time within the next five years.

So… what would you like to see me do? Or, since you’re already here, what do you think I could do that would get you to tell other people, “Hey, you should check out this blog?”/post links to it elsewhere/share it on Tumblr/whatever?

Throwing the suggestion box wide open here, though obviously I am not willing to change the core mission of the blog–I’m not about to start posting porn or pandering to the right wing or whatever.

Anyway, suggestions?

Sailor Moon Crystal Episode 10 Liveblog

Just a reminder: Starting with episode 11, in three weeks, SMC liveblogs will be posted on Saturdays, along with whatever other show we’re watching at that time. At that point, Wednesdays will become Video Vednesdays, starting with episode-by-episode vlogs of The Legend of Korra season 4. See them now at my Patreon!

01[15:02] Now then.
[15:02] I still say that logo looks like Speedy Gonzales
01[15:02] TO THE MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOON
[15:02] Probably by teleporting, you guys
01[15:02] Are they actually going to animate the gravity difference?
[15:02] Ah yes, when we left off, they were about to launch a rescue mission for Tuxedo Fedora by going to the moon
01[15:02] That’d be pretty sweet.
[15:02] that’s a thing y’all can do
[15:03] That’s a waning crescent.
[15:03] I was about to say, “At least she’s going for herself, and not for the jerk,” but then of course she thinks about him
01[15:03] I can never remember which way the shadow goes on the moon.
[15:03] Right to left.
01[15:04] Good to know.
[15:04] Wouldn’t it be like “West to east” or vice-versa?
01[15:04] Nope.
01[15:05] Huh, no ad at end of credits.
01[15:05] Wait.
01[15:05] Usagi has a father!?
[15:05] That’s weird
01[15:05] I assumed her mome just reproduced parthenogenically, like most anime parents!
[15:05] Yeah, we saw him in the episode where Tuxedo Mask kissed Usagi while she was asleep.
[15:06] Ah yes, we were distracted by Tuxedo Mask’s jerkitude
01[15:06] I missed it, what did she say that freaked out her parents?
[15:06] I missed it too
[15:06] He asked if the crystal was from a boyfriend and she replied “something like that”
01[15:06] Wait, they waited like two weeks!?
[15:06] That’s… a weird thing to freak parents out
01[15:07] Well, she’s a bit on the yougn side for it, isn’t she?
[15:07] In the original anime her dad freaked out a whole lot more
[15:07] Ah, he wasn’t expecting her to say yes
[15:07] Ooh, nice teleport ring
[15:07] Standing in a fountain, nice aesthetic
[15:07] And so Luna banishes them to the Moon.
01[15:08] Yep.
01[15:08] Somebody HAS to have made that mashup by now, right?
[15:08] Huh. You’d think.
01[15:08] Hmm.
[15:08] I’ve seen plenty of fanart with the two of them.
[15:08] “There’s no sound here” she says with her voice
01[15:08] Did they go to the Sea of Serenity in the original manga, or was that a reference to the English dub?
[15:08] ad
[15:09] There’s the ad.
[15:09] So, “Silver Millennium” is the name of the place?
[15:09] “Princess Serenity” is the original name
[15:09] Apparently. I always figured it was reference to the time period.
[15:09] So it’s probably a reference to that
01[15:09] Ah.
[15:10] I’m back.
01[15:10] Arrlaari, back?
[15:10] I’m back
[15:10] “Moon Castle.” Wow. Really?
[15:11] Wait, a King Arthur reference?
[15:11] Really?
[15:11] Except everyone except the queen has to pull it out, apparently.
[15:11] Oh, they get it out without her?
01[15:11] Best Sword in the Stone riff ever remains Shadow Hearts: From the New World.
[15:12] Wow… this is freaky
01[15:12] Wow, her mom was short.
[15:12] One of the Silver Millennium VIs survived the Reapers.
01[15:12] Kitty Cans!
01[15:13] Also: I guess this is the final nail in my “the moon people were hideous blob monsters” theory.
01[15:13] Ah well.
[15:13] Alas. I like that theory.
[15:13] Great, her forbidden love for Endouchemion made sure she could save the world in her next life
[15:13] Whoa, it’s the bad guy from The Fifth Element
01[15:14] Huh. Are they implying they weren’t native to the Moon, but *sent* there from elsewhere? Interesting.
01[15:14] Certainly makes more sense.
[15:14] “Keep his sanity?”
[15:15] So, do they rebuild the Moon Palace at any point in the manga?
[15:15] The parts that weren’t already turned to stone, anyway.
01[15:15] Please don’t answer that question.
[15:15] Asking for spoilers, can’t giv e’em
[15:15] Ooh, it’s like Hyrule in Wind Waker
[15:15] (ah yeah, I forgot not to ask for spoilers… sorry)
[15:15] “Help me Usa-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.”
[15:16] Great… “girls crying saves the world,” again
[15:16] I suppose it’s better than “girls crying endangers the world,”
[15:16] Again, this sounds like music from Makoto Shinkai movies
[15:17] A couple thousand years in low power mode chewed through the batteries.
01[15:17] LIGHT IS NOT A SOUND
[15:17] Ad.
[15:17] ad
01[15:17] Also: you can’t hear ANY sounds on the moon, because there is NO AIR
01[15:18] *implodes*
[15:18] Well, presumably they breathe with magic
[15:18] Barring magic dialogue powers.
01[15:18] No, I had no problem with them talking in the previous scene, there’s a bazillion explanations.
[15:18] Back.
01[15:18] My problem is with the silly line after.
[15:19] ad over
[15:19] Why didn’t they put the ad between the two commercial-break tags?
[15:19] And there’s a transition clearly meant for ads
[15:19] shortly after the ad
[15:19] Oh, Crunchyroll…
01[15:20] I am pretty sure Crunchyroll’s ad placement is automated by a system that isn’t very smart.
01[15:20] Especially since two people can get different ads for the same episode, as we’ve seen before.
[15:20] “Queen Metalia?” That’s the villain name?
[15:20] Yup.
[15:20] We have an evil queen working for another evil queen.
[15:21] I wrote a bad fanfic fifteen years ago with a villain name like that
[15:21] Ah, they have been hinting at this a while. They never covered it in the older anime
[15:21] Wait, these four were good guys in their last lives?
01[15:21] Oho, plot twist, the generals served Tuxedo Fedora.
[15:21] Huh. The old anime didn’t have that
[15:21] It’s one of the most frequently mentioned changes
01[15:22] Odd choice storywise, having them remember only to immediately be mind-controlled.
[15:23] Wait, they’re locating the bad guys’ hideout with plate tectonics?
[15:23] And the waste heat from their hideout.
[15:23] Ooh, it’s like a much better version of “State of Fear”
[15:23] Ooh, a tennis boss fight!
[15:24] Dang, they only reflected one projectile
[15:24] Sailor V remembers them?
[15:24] Oh jeez, don’t tell me they were coupled together
[15:24] Oh, for crying out loud.
[15:24] For the love of…
01[15:25] Oh FFS
[15:25] Love apparently trumps survival instincts.
[15:25] I no longer find their being brainwashed good guys to be an interesting plot twist
[15:25] Wait, Bella Swan snaps them out of it?
[15:25] Hey, here’s an idea: Each scout goes after one of the guys who WASN’T her boyfriend
01[15:26] Man, that is a POTEN status-cure spell she has.
[15:26] ad
[15:26] Ad.
[15:26] That is easily the worst ad placement I’ve seen on crunchyroll
[15:26] Usagi apparently has the Elements of Harmony lodged in her wand.
01[15:27] Well, I mean, the elements of harmony are PRETTY OBVIOUSLY based on exactly the kind of magical girl team Sailor Moon epitomizes.
[15:27] ad over
[15:27] Ad done.
[15:27] Yeah, except the Elements are actually AIDED with the powers of love and self-respect, rather than hindered by them
01[15:28] I’m still annoyed that it lined up as neatly as Sailor Moon + 4 Senshi hook up with Endymion + 4 Generals.
01[15:29] Ah, and of course now we get the Evil Brainwashed Boyfriend maneuver.
01[15:29] Ehhh.
[15:29] Mamoru is kind of the archetypical Evil Brainwashed Boyfriend
01[15:29] The last couple of episodes have been… not great.
[15:30] At least they found time for a fight after exposition today
[15:30] I dare to hope that the brainwashed boyfriend arc will have a better moral than, “Your love will snap him out of it.”
[15:30] (don’t confirm or deny that)
[15:30] This whole setup was based on an idea Naoko Takeuchi had after she could employ it in the original manga.
01[15:30] I suspect that is exactly what will happen, alas. I guess it’s slightly better than “a sharp knock on the head cures all brainwashing.”
[15:31] Yeah… I mean, the four generals counterparting the scouts COULD HAVE been a reasonably interesting idea, but then it led to them nearly getting killed over it
[15:32] (I mean, even if it had been played well, there would still have been loads of better ways to go about finding them boyfriends, but still)
[15:33] Due to the overall pace, brainwashed Mamoru was hanging around for quite a few episodes in the older show. The way it played was pretty funny but I’l refrain from describing it for now.
01[15:33] I’m annoyed because it goes against my Usagi/Everything With a Pulse ship.
[15:33] Yeah… I wanted a lesbian orgy, for many reasons a couple of which were actually wholesome
[15:33] Even the cats, Froborr?
[15:33] That ship’s supported much more in the original anime.
[15:34] Yeah, by this point three of the four generals were dead and Zoicite had been in love in Kunzite (the dub made Zoicite a girl, which was not much of a stretch because he had been played as a hyper femme stereotype)
[15:35] Oh, the dub. “Darien? Who is that? I am Prince Darien!”
01[15:35] …
01[15:35] I can’t decide if that line is terrible or brilliant. Likely both.
[15:35] IIRC, Zoisite and Kunzite were also a couple in the Japanese version… it was one of the original Yaoi things
[15:35] Or the Legend of Brad
[15:36] The Legend of Brad: Princess Twilight
[15:37] Oh, THAT Brad
[15:37] I was wondering who you meant
01[15:37] ???
[15:37] It’ll be far too long until we can really talk about Brad in Froborr’s presence
01[15:38] So confused.
[15:38] “Brad” was the nickname the fans gave Flash Sentry before we knew his name
01[15:38] Oh.
[15:38] It concerns characters introduced in the third season of the old show
[15:38] Sylocat we are talking about a different Brad than that
[15:38] Oh… sorry
[15:39] I actually don’t know about Flash Sentry
[15:39] When you said “Princess Twilight,” I thought… yeah
[15:39] No, that’s the one I had in mind.
[15:39] Forgot about any Brads in a Sailor Moon context.
[15:39] The idea of Brad only occurs in the english dub
[15:39] That’s all I can say
[15:40] Oh. OH! Right. That. Yeah, can’t say anything more there.
01[15:40] o…k…
[15:40] That was confusing
[15:41] Yeah, that was mostly because of my free association. Sorry about that.

Break the World’s Shell! Panel Notes

Here, have some notes from my panel on the apocalypse genre in anime. And yes, this did partially come out of research I was doing for Near-Apocalypse of ’09.

Also, this was COMPLETELY unplanned… but this is my 666th published post on this blog. Cute.

What is the Apocalypse genre?

  • Apocalypse comes from Greek word meaning “pulling back of a veil, revelation, especially divine.” But because the most famous apocalypse is the Book of Revelation, in English the older and more common meaning of the word is “great catastrophe, end of the world.”
  • In religious studies and study of ancient literature, “apocalypse literature” refers to this kind of divine revelation or vision. However, in modern works the term refers to the end-of-the-world narratives that evolved from those stories, so we’ll be using a different definition.
  • For purposes of this panel, a story in which a catastrophe, which might be natural, human, alien, or divine in origin, destroys the prevailing social structure on a setting-wide scale. Said setting could be as small as a single school or multiple universes; what matters is that the entire world of the story is endangered.
  • Distinct from POST-apocalypse in that, in post-apocalyptic works, the social structure has already been destroyed or is destroyed at the beginning, and we focus on remnants struggling to survive or build civilization anew. Example: Fist of the North Star.
  • Also distinct from Disaster genre, which contains a similar cataclysm but shows how the prevailing order SURVIVES. Example: Paranoia Agent, in which the apocalyptic events at the series climax resolve without significantly altering the social order–the same structures and lifestyles go on.
  • Of course a story can have elements of more than one. Gurren Lagann, for example, is post-apocalyptic for its first half, a disaster in the next quarter (the endangered social structure in question is the new human/Beastman cooperative civilization), and an apocalypse in the final quarter (the endangered social structure is anti-Spiral hegemony).

Origins of the Genre

  • Oldest known catastrophe tale: Utnapishtim. (Epic of Gilgamesh, ~2100-1200 BCE). The gods decided humanity was too noisy and should be destroyed with a flood. Utnapishtim was warned, built an ark, preserved all life.
  • Atlantis (Plato’s Critias, 360 BCE, an incomplete dialogue about two contrasted ancient cities, Atlantis and Athens. Athens is organized according to the design Plato laid out in his Republic, Atlantis a more traditional Hellenistic city-state. Both were originally righteous, but Atlantis became corrupt and conquered much of Europe and North Africa but was defeated by an alliance led by Athens. Later the gods punished Atlantis for its corruption by sinking it into the sea with an earthquake. Notable for Good vs. Evil and moral dimension, fact that it’s part of a political, utopian argument.)
  • Book of Daniel (the Bible, ~165 BCE). At time of writing, Jews were oppressed under rule of the Seleucids, a Hellenistic power centered in Syria. Tells the story of Daniel, a cultural hero who lived centuries prior when Jews were oppressed by Babylon. He makes many prophecies about a coming great battle when God will destroy wickedness and cleanse the Earth. Appeal for an oppressed people obvious, especially given the infamous image of a “statue with feet of clay,” said in the text to represent a succession of empires that have risen and fallen. Soon after, Persians conquer Babylon and free the Jews. The intent is clear: Just as Babylon fell, so too will the Seleucids. The current order will be destroyed, violently, and a better one will rise. Dozens of books with a similar concept–a divine revelation, usually involving massive destruction, that describes the fall of some past or future order and replacement with a better world, mostly by Jews at first but then also popular among early Christians. Peak outputs coincide with Seleucid rule (~200-100 BCE) and aftermath of failed Jewish rebellion against Rome in 70 CE. Which brings us to…
  • Revelation (the Bible, ~90 CE). At time of writing, Christians are a multitude of distinct sects with very different beliefs. Two of the major conflicts are whether you have to be Jewish in order to be Christian, and whether and how much to participate in the Roman state religion. While there was not, despite legend, significant oppression of Christians in general in this time period, those who refused to participate in Roman civic society and state religion were punished, because it was legally mandatory. Based on the text, John appears likely to have been a Jewish Christian who opposed engaging in Roman society. As in Daniel, “Babylon” appears as a stand in for the hegemonic state of the writer’s time–the Seleucids for Daniel, the Romans for John. In the end, the wrath of God will destroy the oppressive state that the heroic faithful resisted, and a “new heaven and new Earth” will rise.

Apocalypse as Revolution

  • What we see evolving is the notion of an apocalyptic catastrophe as a political event, the overthrow of a corrupt and hated system.
  • By end of first century, this is cemented in Western culture as an expression of anger and hope, predicting (usually heavily shrouded in metaphor and code) the destruction of the present, corrupt, oppressive world so that a new and better world can be built.

Nineteenth/Twentieth Century

  • War of the Worlds (HG Wells, 1897): Martians invade the Earth, piloting giant mecha across Britain as they smash the largest, most powerful empire in human history with ease. However, the Martians have underdeveloped immune systems compared to us, and all get sick and die. While this may appear to be a simple Catastrophe in that civilization as Wells knew it appears to be restored in the end, the power structure of Britain is destroyed by the end of part one, and until they get sick the Martians rule Britain and hunt humans with impunity. Note also Wells’ statement in chapter 1 that what the Martians do to Britain is no different than what the imperialist European powers did to the peoples they conquered, specifically noting the genocide of the peoples of Tasmania. He was also a socialist, staunch opponent of racism, and opponent of both eugenics and Social Darwinism, popular ideas in his time–if he were on Tumblr today he’d get angry anonymous asks calling him a social justice warrior every day. So what we have here is in many ways still an apocalypse, still the angry, “see how you like it” destruction of an oppressive state in a great catastrophe.
  • Demian (Hermann Hesse, : Story of Emil, a boy torn between social demands to be “good” and his own “bad” desires, drawn to charismatic older boy Demian (if there’s not yaoi of this, there should be), who teaches him that it’s impossible for an individual to be their own best selves because of all the rules and constraints society lays down–people shouldn’t do whatever they feel like, but they should be free to be the best version of themselves. The only way for this to be possible is for some great cataclysm to upend society and shatter all the old ways and rules–and so comes World War I.
  • Demian is important because it ties a civilization-wide apocalypse with personal revolution, with the choice to upend the power structures in one’s own life and build a better self. Also in being a case where the apocalypse is welcomed and worked toward and regarded thoroughly as a good thing, a rebirth rather than a death.
  • What does this have to do with anime? Egg speech, Utena. The bird fights its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Who would be born must first destroy a world. The bird flies to God. That God’s name is Abraxas.

Akira (1988)

  • All about power, particularly anxious power.
  • Begin with demonstrations of how broken this society is, and its problems are ours: every available surface covered with ads, police brutality against protestors, terrorist bombings, biker gang warfare
  • Everyone is trying to express their power over someone because they are afraid of having power wielded over them. The colonel is afraid of losing his job. Tetsuo is afraid of being dependent on Kaneda’s protection. The Clowns try to rape Kaori because they’re afraid of Kaneda’s gang. Terrorists bomb because they’re afraid of the power the state wields, cops shoot protestors because they’re afraid of the state being destabilized.
  • People WANT apocalypse, the leader of Kei’s organization wants to tear civilization down to be free, the Akira cultists want to destroy civilization because they feel betrayed by modernity and progress, the Colonel wants to destroy the corrupt hedonistic city because he misses the hopefulness and camaraderie of rebuilding.

NGE (1995-6)

  • Definitely an example of the apocalypse as personal revolution.
  • Destruction of the world ultimately serves as a backdrop, happening offstage in the final two episodes while we focus on how this enables Shinji to overcome the fears that rule his life and step toward becoming his own best self.
  • Specifically, it is about learning to recognize the neo-Stoic or cognitive-behavioral concept that our attitudes and thoughts determine our emotional responses, and by choosing to change his habitual thinking patterns, he can see the best in the world rather than the worst.
  • Congratulations! Like Demian, the apocalypse is ultimately a metaphor for the cataclysmic transformation of a single soul. Shinji’s entire world is eucatastrophically transformed because the way he looks at it is fundamentally changed.

RGU (1997)

  • Interesting because the apocalypse is talked about constantly, but is it actually shown?
  • Yes. The final duel is depicted as a crisis that grips the entire school–which is the entire universe of Utena–to the point that for the first time in the series, the entire student council gathers at once. And it does destroy the prevailing power structure of the school–Anthy is the means by which Akio dominates Ohtori, and her departure destroys his ability to do that.
  • It is a personal transformation for many characters, primarily Anthy and Utena–Utena learns to be less judgmental, more empathetic, and to replace her toxic savior complex with helping; Anthy learns to trust, that she is lovable, and that she can walk away from dependency on her abuser and still survive.
  • There is an element of social revolution too, however, as much of the power structure they seek to overthrow echoes the patriarchal and heterosexist structures of our own society, and there are subtle implications in the final scenes that Utena has radically reshaped life in Ohtori.
  • Also about rebelling against narrative structures that constrain our lives, in this case the Princess/Witch or Madonna/Whore complex that says a girl must either be a weak, ineffectual, passive figure who exists solely to nurture and support males, or a corrupt and corrupting figure that manipulates and destroys men. Anthy is both and Utena is neither, and together they ultimately transcend this divide and demonstrate that they are people, at which point they graduate out of the story, leaving it in ruins behind them.

Saikano (2002)
  • Teens Shuji and Chise start dating and experience the trials and tribulations of first love, complicated by the fact that a massive world war is in the process of wiping out humanity just offscreen and Chise, partway through the first episode, is converted by the military, without her consent or knowledge, into an unstoppable living weapons system.
  • Shuji and Chise are both depicted as rape victims. Chise is traumatized by the government violation of her body and as a result is plagued by intense guilt even though she has little to no control over what she does in her “weapon state,” disassociates to the point of frequent blackouts and occasional manifestations of the “weapon” side of her as an alternate personality, and revulsion at her own body. Shuji was sexually abused in middle school by his track coach, and is emotionally withdrawn, easily upset by anything “weird” or out of the ordinary, heavily implied to have sexual disfunction or at least a strong fear of sex, and disassociates more subtly, becoming easily distracted whenever the situation becomes emotionally intense. Both suffer from serious self-esteem issues, a pronounced tendency to self-blame, and a belief that they inevitably hurt anyone close to them. All of these traits in both characters are common symptoms in survivors of sexual abuse.
  • Throughout, the war serves as a metaphor for their relationship issues stemming from their sexual abuse. The military constantly taking Chise away so that she can serve in their war, for example, play the role of an abusive or controlling father who refuses to let his daughter see her bofriend in a more traditional teen romance. Their guilt and anxiety frequently take external form in the war; for example, when Shuji’s abuser returns and manipulates him into cheating, the war intensifies and Chise is called away to the front. When Chise cheats with Tetsu, an earthquake strikes their town.
  • The apocalypse ensues when Chise and Shuji finally break through their anxieties and issues to make love. The entire world is destroyed, but the two of them are able to live on together in happiness. A clear case, in other words, of the apocalypse serving as the destruction of an oppressive reality; as in NGE, it is a purely psychological reality comprised of anxiety and trauma, and destroyed in order to build a new reality within which happiness and love are possible.

Madoka Magica (2011)

  • Begins with the apocalyptic destruction of the city by Walpurgisnacht, ends with destruction of the universe and replacement with a new, slightly less awful one
  • Very much a social revolution rather than personal growth–Madoka does grow as a person, but ultimately sacrifices herself to reform the world.
  • The social structure she upsets is another version of Princess/Witch–in this case, the realization that being the perfect little princess is impossible, and no matter what a woman does, she will eventually become the Witch.
  • Madoka destroys the concept of the Witch, but by becoming pure essence of Magical Girl herself, making this a flawed and incomplete revolution–hence Rebellion, but that hasn’t had wide release yet.

WORKS DISCUSSED

  • Epic of Gilgamesh, Unknown
  • Critias, Plato
  • Daniel, Unknown
  • Revelation, John (probably not that John, or that one either)
  • War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells
  • Demian, Hermann Hesse
  • Akira (1988 film)
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995-6)
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena (1997)
  • Saikano (2002)
  • Madoka Magica (2011)

FURTHER READING

  • John Collins, The Apocalyptic Imagination: An Introduction to Jewish Apocalyptic Literature
  • L. Michael White, From Jesus to Christianity
  • Glenn Yeffeth, ed, War of the Worlds: Fresh Perspectives on the H.G. Wells Classic
  • Martin Kitchen, Europe Between the Wars
  • Susan Napier, “Akira: Revenge of the Abjected” in Anime from Akira to Howl’s Moving Castle
  • Gillian Butler, Melanie Fennel, and Ann Hackmann, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Anxiety Disorders
  • Kate Millet, Sexual Politics
  • Jed A. Blue, The Very Soil: An Unauthorized Critical Study of Puella Magi Madoka Magica (coming 2015)

MLP News, Plus a Poll

So, apparently there’s now an official broad date for MLP Season 5: Spring 2015. That means there is almost definitely time to liveblog an entire 26-episode season of something after Kill la Kill and before MLP resumes. The question therefore becomes, what shall we watch?

Some ground rules: maximum of 30×30 (that is, no more than 30 episodes and no more than 30 minutes per episode.) I’d also prefer to watch something animated over something live action, though that’s not completely set in stone. I also prefer something I’ve not seen or not seen all of, though again, not set in stone.

Some options suggested in chat the other day:

  • Ouran High School Host Club
  • Psycho-Pass Season 1
  • Escaflowne

Feel free to comment with your vote, or to add something else into the running!

Become instant best friends… uncheck (Maud Pie)

My Little Po-Mo vol. 2 is now on sale, see the Books page in the sidebar!

My Little Po-Mo blog posts are drawing ever closer to their end. But don’t despair! The Near-Apocalypse of ’09 will pick up immediately after. Patreon backers can see it right away! 

Keep the Rainbow, she’s here for the Rocks.

It’s March 15, 2014. The top song is “Happy.” It is by Pharrel Williams and not rock music. The top movie is Mr. Peabody and Sherman. I only go to movies about rocks. There is news. Sbarro’s goes bankrupt. They make pizza. The best pizza ovens are made of rocks. Rockets are fired into Israel from Gaza. Rockets are not tiny rocks. I will never make that mistake again. Tasmania and South Australia have state elections. Mt. Augustine is the largest rock in the world, but it’s in Western Australia. Some people say Uluru is the largest rock but they are wrong.

This episode is “Maud Pie.” It was written by Noelle Benvenuti. She has no other credits in television or film. It introduces Maud Pie. She is Pinkie’s sister. She always speaks in a comedic monotone. She is quite terse. She takes things literally. She is difficult for the other ponies to get along with. 
She is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen (let me put it this way: I forgot this episode had Tank in it) and there’s no way I could keep that up for an entire essay, nor am I so cruel–or so enamored of Maud Pie–that I would inflict it on you even if I could. 
Maud is a fascinating character, one who catapulted quickly to immense popularity after this episode, despite this being her only major speaking role to date. The reason is simple: she is hilarious, quite simply the funniest thing on the show to date. 
Analyzing humor is both notoriously difficult and somewhat dangerous: rather like mystical experience or a game of Mau, to over-explain the rules is to kill them. But the most striking thing about Maud is that there really is only one joke to her: she is extremely deadpan while saying and doing very odd things. This episode, effectively, is a series of escalating gags in which Maud does something strange while showing no apparent emotion. The excessive flatness of her affect serves to emphasize the strangeness of her behavior by contrast, and this dissonance creates the humor. 
It is interesting to compare her to another character who has extended the same joke across several entire seasons of another show, Parks and Recreation‘s April Ludgate. As played by Aubrey Plaza, who is an absolute master of this kind of humor, Ludgate is a cynical, angry loner who uses her deadpan comments about death, suffering, and her hatred of all humanity as a defense mechanism against engaging emotionally with the people around her. Her relationship with the goofy, childlike, playful Andy (Chris Pratt) is the key to the other side of her, the genuine emotion hidden under the snarky shell, but she still generally maintains the same way of communicating. The primary difference once Andy is in the picture is that she participates willingly in his ridiculous games, because that’s how she shows that she loves him. 
The similarities to Maud are quite noticeable, with the major difference that Maud isn’t a cynic (which is to say, a disappointed romantic defending against further disappointments), so she has a very different set of odd statements for her particular form of the joke. In her case, the oddity contrasted with her deadpan delivery is twofold: a passionate interest in rocks, and a unique aesthetic that values directness and simplicity–thus, wearing a dish towel as a scarf because he likes the pattern of stains on it, smashing apples instead of peeling them, or–best of all–her poetry, which consists entirely of brief declarative sentences about rocks. This distinction makes sense; after all, Equestria is a far less cynical place than Parks and Recreation‘s Pawnee, Indiana.

Nonetheless, it is understandable why the Mane Six (Pinkie Pie excepted, of course) don’t like her: one of the few traits shared by all of them is emotional availability. All of them are quite expressive of their feelings and generally willing to talk them over with others. Maud’s comedic lack of affect and tendency toward terse statements that shut down conversation are both anathema to the relational styles of the other ponies. Compound that with the way her mode of enjoyment of shared activities clashes with theirs (most obviously, that she easily beats Rainbow Dash in their competition yet does not care about winning), and a clear personality clash is afoot.

Unfortunately, that is where this episode commits its one major stumble. As I have alluded to before, I believe quite strongly that Friendship Is Magic needs to counteract the notion that friendship is therefore mandatory, because that is both a very prevalent and highly toxic notion, particularly among young girls. I want an episode that ends with a character writing, “Today I learned that sometimes two ponies will never get along, and that doesn’t mean that either one of them is bad. They just don’t go together, like chocolate ice cream on a pizza. It’s okay to be friends with someone that doesn’t get along with your other friends, as long as you make time for each of them. And it’s okay to not be friends with someone the rest of your friends like.” This episode comes as close as any has yet to expressing this concept, but fumbles the landing: instead of concluding that it’s okay for Pinkie’s Ponyville friends to not get along with Maud, so Pinkie can spend her time with Maud and then go back to her other friends, they instead abruptly decide the exact opposite, that their shared caring for Pinkie Pie ought to be enough common ground for them. In other words, after an entire episode of setup for the lesson that Friendship Is Not Transitive, they declared by fiat that no, actually, it is transitive.

Still, it is a stumble, and one more to do with my wishes for the show than an actual flaw in the episode. Maud remains an extremely entertaining character, and the episode is still a great deal of fun. Sometimes, that’s enough.

Next week: Dream on.

Kill la Kill episode 23 and Sailor Moon Crystal episode 10 liveblog chat thingies!

When Kill la Kill ends in a few episodes, I’m going to start posting Legend of Korra Season 4 vlogs. Patreon backers at $5 or higher can see them as I record them instead–the first two are done already and I’ll be adding one a week! Backers at $2 or higher (including those at $5!) get to see Near-Apocalypse articles early too!

How to participate in the liveblog chat:

Option 1: Whenever you watch the episode, comment on this post as you watch with whatever responses you feel like posting!

Option 2: Go to http://webchat.freenode.net/. Enter a nickname, then for the Channels field enter ##rabbitcube, and finally fill in the Captcha and hit Connect! We’ll be watching Kill la Kill and commenting there starting at 2:00 p.m. EST today. Sailor Moon Crystal will be at 2:30 EST.

Chatlog below the cut!


 
[14:00] Link’s voice actor voices Sanageyama, you know.
[14:00] Of course, the greatest disparity
[14:00] We came to exactly this conclusion last week
[14:00] I love the terminology they use for their dramatic statements
[14:01] Wait, who came up with the suction device?
[14:01] Was it Nonon?
[14:01] Iori
[14:01] Uh oh… Nui is even more unbalanced now
[14:01] It was his major project through the time skip
01[14:01] Well, Nui’s lost it.
[14:01] Ah yeah, I forgot
01[14:02] What little of it she had, anyway.
[14:02] I love how her expression never really changes
[14:02] Also, I believe they added a few outfits to Satsuki in the OP
01[14:03] Anyway, yeah, I’m aware liking TP more than Ocarina is a rare opinion, but *shrug* It is the opinion I have.
[14:03] e.g. I saw the nudist belts outfit just now and IIRC that doesn’t show up the first time this OP plays
[14:03] Ad after the credits, per usual.
[14:03] The outfits go by so quick it’s hard to tell
01[14:03] I’ll give an even rarer one: I like Windwaker more than OoT.
[14:03] I think there are a lot of people who undervalue refinement of the formula when it comes to evaluating Zelda games
[14:04] I found the sailing enjoyably meditative.
01[14:04] Hmm, maybe one of us should go back and check on the nudist belt thing and comment?
[14:04] That opinion isn’t quite as rare as you might think…
[14:04] Actually I suspect that Windwaker > OoT is a more common sentiment than TP > OoT
[14:04] I’m back.
01[14:04] (I did not like the sailing, but I LOVED the swordplay)
[14:04] I know I hear WW > TP a lot
[14:05] Wait, Satsuki didn’t know why Nui’s arms didn’t regenerate?
[14:05] tbh I like WW better than either OoT or TP and I can’t express a strong preference between Ocaraina and Twilight
01[14:05] So you have to use the scissors AS scissors to work
[14:05] Wait, what is… wow
[14:05] Which is why they were designed as scissors in the first place.
[14:06] Ooh, don’t go for the direct charge yet
01[14:06] Yes, not “how dare you mind control me into attacking my friends,” “how dare you make me wear that outfit”
[14:06] Well, same difference, on this show
[14:06] Aaaand Ragyo can fly now.
[14:06] Never attack during exposition, sheesh
01[14:07] Ragyo has achieved true detachment I see.
[14:07] Underboob, of course
[14:07] Yeah, go for the Life Fiber, it’s the source of her power anyway
[14:08] Ahh, that’s Mako’s gamer fuel
[14:08] Whoa
[14:08] Spawn egg attack
[14:08] The leviathan harpooned them.
[14:08] How did the thing get so close without them noticing?
[14:09] Wait, where have I seen that superweapon attack before? Opening a cone…
[14:09] Ad.
[14:09] Ah, the Bifrost
01[14:09] From?
[14:09] Thor
01[14:09] Oh!
01[14:09] Sorry, had my head stuck on anime.
[14:09] And I’m back.
[14:10] What the…
[14:10] Hey, use the bandages as armor!
01[14:10] *sigh* Mako’s family continue to think they’re funny.
[14:10] Like a mini-mecha
[14:10] “The Ryuko in my mind?”
[14:11] So, that was SUPPOSED to be kinda creepy, right?
[14:11] Yes, yes it was.
[14:11] Awwwwww, the Elite Four to the rescue
[14:11] Whoa, his collar has a mind of its own now
[14:11] “Persona unleashed.”
[14:12] Not a bad combined attack
[14:12] Satsuki really worked on her Social Links.
[14:12] “No need for such a flashy entrance?” How else are they supposed to beat the minibosses? Sheesh
[14:12] Ah, echoing Kyubey now?
[14:13] So, how much damage did it do?
[14:13] Whoa
[14:13] I think bisection counts as an instant death attack.
01[14:13] Um, that’s probably not a good thing.
[14:14] And on that note, ad.
[14:14] I mean, she survived that Life Fiber desync, so we know she’s effectively indestructable, but still… that can’t be comfortable
[14:14] And I’m back.
[14:15] Yeesh
[14:15] “A sham?”
[14:15] Ooh, Ragyo just made the big mistake
[14:15] Whoa, she got better fast
[14:16] All expressed through one hand signal.
[14:16] Ah… I thought there would have to be some dramatic moment of support when they put her back together
[14:16] Ahahah… she called her out on monologuing
[14:16] Ooh, Ragyo’s losing her cool as well
[14:17] Of course, wasting time on monloguing plays to Stasuki’s advantage when she does it
[14:17] Everything is a weapon for her
01[14:17] Aren’t they supposed to be destroying the transmitter?
[14:17] Wait, what? His eyes were fine all along?
[14:17] The giant alien that’s about to eat them is a bit more pressing.
[14:17] He had them sewn shut, not removed
[14:17] Right, I forgot
[14:17] Ooh, it’s going to transform?
[14:18] Ah, “gourd,” I was trying to think of what it looked like
[14:18] Ahahh… it’s powered by a hamster wheel, of course
[14:19] (I’ve taken to gauging the likely success of attacks by how dramatic the speeches are right before they make them)
[14:19] Wait, where’s the butler while all this is going on?
[14:19] Whoa, Mako’s hyperactivity comes in handy for once
01[14:19] Ah, Mako having her… crap I’m blanking on his name. The little pig creature in Gurren Lagann.
01[14:19] She’s having that moment.
[14:19] Ryuko can’t do it alone. She needs the support of her friends to pull it off.
[14:20] Buuta
[14:20] Ooh, the Blade Ship attack
[14:20] No, but it can be weakened
[14:20] “Humanity does not live for clothing,” is a big dramatc speech in this show
[14:21] Whoa, where did the ship land?
[14:21] Slammed into honnouji of course
[14:21] Of course
[14:21] “Shinra,” is one of its names, because of course it is
[14:22] Ooh, And now, all the club leaders unite to take down Nui and Ragyo
[14:23] “Apprehend?” Oh please
01[14:23] But first, tea.
[14:23] AHAHAHAH
[14:23] Of course, a tea break
[14:23] Naturally.
[14:24] The whole final boss fight and epilogue are only going to take one episode. That’s… refreshing
[14:24] Eww
[14:24] D’awww
[14:24] Stay tuned. There’s more.
[14:24] Ooh, something after the credits?
[14:25] After these completely out-of-place closing credits
[14:25] I’m pretty sure the song has been remixed
01[14:25] Wait what
[14:25] Does it sound different to anyone else?
[14:25] WHOA
[14:25] Your credits have been hijacked by Nui.
[14:25] Fourth wall attack!
01[14:25] So Nui is Santa Claus?
[14:26] “This woman is dangerous,” as if Ryuko wasn’t already aware of that
[14:26] Ah, so SHE’S the final miniboss. I was wondering what her purpose was
01[14:27] Okay, the next episode preview is the best Evangelion reference yet.

The creation myth of the Wannet Shapers

My Little Po-Mo vol. 2 is on sale. Check out the Books page for info!

Don’t forget, Patreon backers can see The Near-Apocalypse of ’09 and my Korra vlogs as I make them–everyone else has to wait until February and December, respectively!

A sacred story for one of the religions in the Dragons of Industry world. No idea if this will ever come up in the story itself–the only character I have so far who’s likely to know it is Twill, and they’re unlikely to tell it for reasons of their own.

Once there was All. All was everywhere and everything and the only thing, because All was all, and All was alone because there was nowhere and nothing else to be.

All had eyes and nothing to see, and a mouth and no one to speak to. All had a heart but nothing to think about, hands and nothing to Shape.

So All began to Shape themselves. They plucked out their eyes first, and made the Sun and the Moon and light to see by. Then they plucked out their lips and their tongue, and made the sky and the wind and the breath to speak with. They Shaped their bones into mountains and their blood into rivers, wove their hair into forests and stretched their skin as fields. The flesh All’s hands pulled apart and Shaped and molded into the twelve thousand and twelve animals of sky and sea and soil.

At last All had made everything, and there was nothing left of All but hands. Now there were things to see but All had no more eyes, and things to feel, but All had no more heart, and things to talk about, but All had no more voice. All that was left of All were two great hands hanging over the world, stretching from end to end of the sky.

So All brought their hands together, and the two hands Shaped each other, pinching off pieces like clay, shaping them into little tiny Alls with eyes and voices and hearts and hands of their own. They could see the world and each other, speak to each other, think and Shape and dance and a thousand other things.

We are the Hands of All, the Shapers of the World and of each other. We are each All and each tiny.

Do not forget.

Do not fail to tell the mirror-story. There are many roads, but there is only one beginning and one end.*

*Note: It is traditional for Wannet stories to end with “Do not forget. Do not fail to tell the mirror-story.” This and one other story are the only traditional tales which add the next sentence.

The Book of Life, super-brief review

Visually stunning, extremely cliché story, serious case of Strong Female Character Syndrome (though she gets a *tiny* bit of autonomy at the end), doesn’t trust its audience, frame story/narration is annoying and adds nothing.

If forced to give it a letter grade, probably a C. It is a watchable way to pass some time, but no better than that.

The Babylon 5 that (thankfully) never was: Season 4

Continuing my series attempting to reconstruct how Babylon 5 was originally (for certain values of original) “supposed to” go. More detailed explanation and Season 1 are here, although note that since writing that original post I have gotten access to JMS’ “original” treatment and am no longer working from summaries.

Known: Delenn gets pregnant with Sinclair’s child. Garibaldi quits his job as Chief of Security as a result of his drinking, and begins operating as a mercenary out of B5. There is no mention of a Psycorps connection, Lise, Edgars Industries, or Zack Allen.

The Shadows would first be shown onscreen at this point, and the description of them, while vague, is consistent with how they appear in the series. They would initially present themselves as fighting to free the other races from the Vorlons, but in truth they desire to rule.

Speculation: Between the lack of a rebellion against Earth and the general slower pace of the treatment as opposed to the series, very little seems to happen this season. Perhaps G’Kar and the Narn resistance would have gotten focus episodes, or some variant on the Centauri Cartagia/rise of Londo plot might have occurred. Another possibility, given events in the treatment’s version of Season 5, is that the Minbari Civil War might have started, but not been resolved, during this season.

At this point it should be clear that the series as aired had gone completely off the original rails in Seasons 3 and 4. The Shadow War was resolved in early Season 4 in the series, yet is still a proxy war at the END of Season 4 in the treatment. Babylon 5 is still part of the Earth Alliance, Garibaldi never leaves the station, the entire Mars plot and associated cast is nowhere to be found, and Clark is still in charge with no resistance from Sinclair and company, despite manipulating his way into power via assassination just as in the series.

The Shadows as rebels against Vorlon manipulation is an interesting concept. It leaves open the question of whether the Shadows are one of the younger races manipulated by the Vorlons who have advanced far enough to turn against them, another race of equivalent age and power who just never bothered to get involved before, or, perhaps most interestingly, renegade Vorlons. This would cast an interesting light on the “angelic” presentation of the Vorlons, making the Shadows “fallen angels.” It also seems likely that something similar to the “meeting” scene from “Z’ha’dum” would have happened in this version of the show, where someone would explain to Sinclair the Shadows’ rationale for their actions. Perhaps Catherine/Caroline would have had that duty. Regardless, it seems that both the treatment and show versions give the Shadows a reasonable-sounding rationale, but belie that rationale through the destructive and manipulative behavior the Shadows have exhibited to this point. In the original plan, it seems likely that there would be a good deal of dramatic irony regarding this point, as the implication in the treatment is that the audience knows how the Shadows are manipulating Londo more or less from the start, but the human characters don’t find out until the season 4/season 5 bridge.

Continued in two weeks…

Well this should be a popular opinion…

Fuck Veterans Day.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not unreasonable at all to have a day of remembrance and mourning for the people who have sacrificed their lives and safety in order to protect their homes. It’s just that we already have a day for that, Memorial Day.

Also, the last time the U.S. military actually did any of that was World War II. Every other military conflict of the last 150 years or so, and quite a few of the ones before that, were pure imperialist assertions of power. Even World War II was mostly an assertion that the islands of the Pacific were our imperial protectorates, not Japan’s; that the alliance of empires on the other side were rather a lot more horrific than the alliance of empires on our side is mostly a happy coincidence. (Well, happy for the Allies, not so much for the people who lived in those empires. Or for Japanese-Americans. Or… well, you get the point.)

And, I mean, being a soldier is one of the few ways in which a working class or lower middle class American can get a decently paying job or an education. We should be at least as sympathetic toward them as we are toward the young people pushed into gangs by similar social pressures. Admittedly, gangs have done a lot less harm in the world than the U.S. military, but you wouldn’t know it from the media, which tend to villify the former and laud the latter. It’s really not their fault.

No, the problem is that Veterans Day isn’t about mourning sacrifices or solemnly pondering necessary evils, it’s about a jingoistic celebration of authoritarian, imperialist might. It’s about speeches where our leaders try to one-up one another in their over-the-top declarations of how utterly fantabulous it is that a significant percentage of our society and economy is dedicated to the pursuit of slaughter and destruction in foreign lands. It’s about the lie that spreading chaos and death makes us safer, that “we fight them there so we don’t have to fight them here,” as if there would be a “them” if we weren’t fighting there.

So yeah. Fuck it. Have a Peace Day instead. Or move Election Day to November 11 so we can all have that off. Better yet, make it the second Monday in November or something, because holidays that don’t create three-day weekends are stupid.

But that won’t happen any time soon, because the U.S. is a highly aggressive imperial power, and we now exist in a state of perpetual war that our leaders have no interest in ending. But that doesn’t mean we have to celebrate it.