Escaflowne Ep 17 and Sailor Moon Crystal ep 18 Liveblog Chat Thingy!

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 Vision of Escaflowne and commenting there starting at 2:00 p.m. EST. We will then be watching Sailor Moon Crystal at 2:30.
Chatlog after the cut! Warning: consists mostly of me shouting at people and/or being angry about things.
Continue reading

Fiction Friday: Untitled Story About Space Lobsters Who Know Where Babies Come From But Not How They're Made (Part 2)

When last we left, Farwalk was going to try to enter the Forest.
Zie spent most of the rest of the day in meditation and rest, preparing mentally and physically for the journey to come. Zie had learned the dangers of journeying in full sunlight the hard way on hir past journeys. The broad patches of agony on hir back had taken days to heal. Darkness had dangers of its own, but that was why zie had waited so long, for a night when both moons would be full.
After second moonrise, zie finally set out. The gradual slope up onto the beach was easy enough, but then there was the hill up from the beach to the fern-covered slopes between it and the Forest. That was more of a struggle. The steepness of it–a full claw up every claw and a half forward!–was difficult enough, but it was also tall enough to noticeably loom over hir. Hir legs twitched as zie approached it, wanting to run back into the nice safe sea, but zie pushed on.
Once at the top, Farwalk studied the Forest with two of hir eyes while the other four regarded the ocean. Zie loved this view, which so few of hir people had seen: the ocean went on seemingly forever, far far past the Great Cliff from which no Vimwar had ever returned. It was by walking along that cliff–at a respectful distance, of course, since it was quite a dizzying drop–that Farwalk had found hir way to the tiny village of the Others. Zie had lived among them for nearly a year, learning their language, their strange customs, their stories, and teaching them hir own people’s way with scampies, greatly increasing the yield of their middens.
Farwalk had returned home full of excitement, to a jubilant village that had presumed hir dead. But then Slowspin and Fiveclaw had suggested accompanying Farwalk on another journey to see the Others, and maybe bring some volunteers from the Other Village back with them. Waykeeper’s reaction was as unexpected as it was firm: no Others were to enter the village. The Others did not live in the village, which was where all people lived, so they must be some other kind of thing. Bringing them among people might be dangerous, for them and for the Ivimwi.
“At best they would be like New Ones, ignorant of how to be people and full of mistakes,” Waykeeper said. “But New Ones with command of speech and the strength and surety of adults. They might insist on ways of their own, in their ignorance, and disrupt out peace and prosperity. I will not allow it–only Ivimwi may live in our village.”
“They are Ivimwi!” Farwalk insisted. “They learned from me, and I from them, and much about them is strange. But they think like us, feel like us. Their New Ones from the Forest like ours, not out of eggs like fliers or the seabed like scampies! They are as much people as we.”
“Do they?” challenged Waykeeper. “Did you see their New Ones?”
“I did! They were just like ours–half-starved, frightened, but quick to grow and learn. Just like us, they could remember the Forest, the looming trees, the terror that drives all to the sea.”
“Hmph,” said Waykeeper. “But if there is more than one village, there may be more than one Forest. They who live in a different place came from a different place, it stands to reason.”
That was when Farwalk knew what zie must do: zie must prove that the Forest of the Ivimwi and the Forest of the Others were one and the same, that there was one Forest and one people. Zie couldn’t quite say why it was so important; zie liked the Others, wanted hir people to meet and know them, that was certainly part of it–but if zie was being honest, mostly it was just that Waykeeper had always annoyed hir.
Either way, the plan was simple: get as close to the Forest as zie dared, then turn left and follow it until zie either reached the marker zie’d placed on the shore near the Other village in her last visit, or, well, didn’t.
And zie was avoiding starting, seeing the Forest but purposefully not looking at it. Zie rotated slightly and forced hirself to study it with four eyes. In the moonlight it loomed menacingly, a study in black and gray, impossibly tall trees mounting unimaginably far into the sky, higher than anyone could ever even conceive of going. Above them hung the even more menacing shapes of the moons, floating unsupported in the sky like a pair of great round swimmers, just waiting for the unwary to pass beneath it and then–well, who knew? No one had ever seen a moon fall out of the sky and crush unwary Ivimwi beneath it, but there were many nights that nobody looked at either moon. Perhaps they only refrained from it when they weren’t being watched.
Zie’d better hurry. Zie had plenty of time to reach the Other village before the moons reached the peak of the sky, or so zie hoped–underwater, one could go from one village to the other in about half a day, but it might take longer on land. Zie settled down between hir legs and began to walk quickly, spinning hir way over land toward the Forest.
Which kept reaching upward as zie approached, stretching its leafy claws into the sky. Was it curving toward hir? No, that was hir imagination, but still hir pace slowed. Zie sagged between hir legs, staring up at the immense mass of it, the vast black shadow reaching up and up. Any moment now it would curl over, crash down on hir, drag hir screaming upward into the maws of the dread beasts that filled its branches.
A strange hooting cry echoed from the Forest, and was taken up by a multitude of other voices. Farwalk’s legs stiffened, and zie froze in place, fighting the urge to run back into the safety of water and hir home village. No one would ever have to know that zie had tried and failed.
Except hir. Zie would know. The mocking claw-waves of Waykeeper appeared before hir eyes, momentarily blocking even the horror-vision of the Forest. No. Zie would not, could not go any closer to the Forest, but zie would not go home, either. It was time to turn toward where, zie believed, the Others awaited.

A few thoughts regarding Slayers Try

I’m rewatching the classic 90s fantasy-comedy anime The Slayers for a panel at Anime Boston next month. I’ve just finished the third season, called Slayers Try. Here’s a handful of incoherent thoughts likely to show up in some form in the panel:

  • This has much stronger and more realistic characterization than the first two seasons.
  • It’s also way, way less funny.
  • Oddly, even though this is the one season that isn’t even loosely based on any of the novels, it comes the closest to the novel characterizations, especially with Xellos, who is way more of a sadist than a trickster here.
  • That’s why it’s less funny: most of the humor in the novels comes from Lina’s narration rather than the characters, but the show lacks that narration, so it exaggerates the characters for humor instead. Lose that exaggeration, and you lose most of the jokes.
  • So what you end up with is an attempt at serious fantasy-drama about ethnic hatred and genocide with the occasional weirdly out-of-place joke. It just fundamentally doesn’t work.
  • But still, good characterization! Valgaav is easily the best antagonist in the series–he has an actual motivation beyond teh evulz!
  • Unfortunately it really can’t handle the themes it’s biting off, so you end up with the (hopefully unintentional) implication that you shouldn’t be like Valgaav and angry that someone SLAUGHTERED YOUR ENTIRE CULTURE AND THEN LIED ABOUT WHY THEY DID IT, you should be forgiving like Filia.
  • Hell, Lina herself endorses incremental (read: no) change as opposed to revolution. She directly lectures a victim of genocide about it. Admittedly, he’s trying to kill her at the time, but still. The show can handle moral ambiguity when it’s being silly; it can’t handle the plain truth that Valgaav is right from his perspective.
  • Because ultimately the hero is the defender of the status quo, which is to say the winners of history, the perpetrators of genocide. Any attempt by the victims to be anything other than victims will be cast as villainy, so they may as well embrace it and go full revolution–or, in 90s anime villain terms, “destroy everything so that it can be reborn.”
  • When I joke about getting to the point where my philosophy is basically that of a 90s anime villain, I’m mostly referencing Valgaav.
  • Ultimately the triumphant argument of our heroic main characters is “Well, we like things how they are, so we don’t care that our fun, happy world is built on the systematic extermination of your people, Valgaav. Fusion magic go!”
  • Yeah, fuck Try. Let’s move on.

Captain's Log, Weekly Digest 14

Sorry things keep being late. Daylight Savings seems to have completely confused WordPress’ queueing system. I’m hoping that it’s just that the U.S. goes on it earlier, and in a week or two when the rest of that portion of the world silly enough to bother with Daylight Savings switches over, things will settle down.
A summary of the past week of posts to my in-character Star Trek Online Tumblr, chronicling the adventures of E.N. Morwen, a science-loving and thoughtful young woman trapped in a galaxy of warring space giants.

  • Enocha System Patrol: In which Morwen investigates some sightings of the Jem’Hadar.
  • Rapier: In which Morwen and a new Romulan friend go searching for a long-lost starship in the Bajoran Wormhole, and learns something surprising but seemingly unrelated. Crossover with 01d55’s STO character Leva Aekarr.
  • Toron System Patrol: In which Morwen attempts to learn more about the Jem’Hadar presence in the Alpha Quadrant. This being STO, for “learn more about” read “blow up.”
  • Forging Bonds: In which Morwen and Aekarr confirm a link between the Jem’Hadar and the True Way. Continues the crossover with 01d55’s character.
  • Corwin System Patrol: In which the Phoenix has to run a True Way blockade on an agricultural colony.
  • Shahr System Patrol: In which Morwen investigates some suspicious miners with ties to the True Way.
  • Dubh System Patrol: In which the Phoenix tries to clear the True Way out of an old Maquis redoubt.
  • Phi System Patrol: In which the Phoenix dodges Jem’Hadar while Morwen tries to do some asteroid geology.
  • Mirish System Patrol: In which the True Way try to squeeze some miners unfriendly to it, and the Phoenix gets in trouble trying to help them.
  • The Long Night: In which the New Dominion is revealed, and Morwen and Aekarr part on good terms. Concludes this crossover with 01d55’s character.
  • B’lii System Patrol: In which the New Dominion try to cut off communications with Cardassia and the Badlands, and the Phoenix responds.

As the flag officer of a fleet or tactical group, Starfleet regulations also require Morwen to provide a Fleet Status Report briefly summarizing the current status and mission of all ships under her command, every Stardate that’s a multiple of 10.
Also, I am recruiting to found a new fleet (the STO equivalent to a guild), dedicated to roleplay and crossovers between people’s characters. Any Fed-aligned roleplayers welcome! Tentative premise is exploring the fact that we’ve pretty much all done the same story missions at different times, implying some weird temporal or parallel-universe shenanigans for us to investigate.
I have finished the game’s main story. I’m still finishing up the Rep missions and the Kobali action zone missions, which will be inserted into the story as appropriate, but they’re well off in the distance, I think it’ll be okay timing-wise.
Next month the game is doing something called “Delta Recruits.” Based on what they’re saying, it sounds like it’s mostly a way for new players to catch up to established players quickly, but it’s also got a lot of incentive for people to make alts during that time. I’m probably going to make one per faction. Depending on what happens, I may or may not cross the Fed one with Morwen. The Romulan and Klingon alts I have… other plans for.

A few thoughts regarding Slayers Next

I’m rewatching the classic 90s fantasy-comedy anime The Slayers for a panel at Anime Boston next month. I’ve just finished the second season, called Slayers NEXT. Here’s a handful of incoherent thoughts likely to show up in some form in the panel:

  • The first season was pretty good, but this is so much better
  • Next is more thematically coherent than the first season; for example, secrets and deceptions are major themes throughout, and show up even in the traditional four-episode silliness break just past the season midpoint:
    • In the first episode, Amelia is hiding her purpose in Xoana, while Martina and King Xoana are lying to Zelgadis about what’s in the Book of Xoana.
    • The second episode introduces Xellos, who is secrecy and manipulation incarnate. And also the best character in all of anime, just FYI.
    • The Atlas City mini-arc is ultimately about finding the Pledge Stone, which is hidden in plain sight from the first episode of the arc.
    • The Seyruun mini-arc, however, is when the deception really breaks out, from Phil’s faked death, to Alfred’s lie, to the misdirection about what the Mazoku are after, to Lina faking her own death, and of course the growing mysteries of increasing Mazoku involvement in human affairs and what’s going on with Xellos.
    • Then in said traditional four-episode silliness break, we have in rapid succession the lost book of spells that are really just dances and a mask-themed Mazoku, everybody disguising themselves as dolls to infiltrate the tower of a Mazoku that disguises herself as a doll, Xellos trolling Lina and Zelgadis with the racket-switching and the fake clue to the Claire Bible, and the City of Women Who Are All Actually Men–and it’s very likely that basically all of this is just Xellos leading them around to take out Gaav’s minions.
    • In the Claire Bible mini-arc we again have Auntie Aqua as a disguise for something much more powerful, plus the brief but very funny bit where she pretends to be Zoamulgustar, the revelation that dragons can take human form, the reveal of Xellos’ true nature and power (including cutting him open–twice!–to reveal that there’s nothing inside–his disguise is all he is), and of course Phibrizzo tricking everyone with his human form.
    • And then in the final arc we have the disguised Gourry, the false Sairaag, and the Giga Slave being a summoning rather than an attack, culminating in the Lord of Nightmares manifesting to look like Lina.
  • And of course Martina, who parodies the “obsession” theme that ran through most of the first series, and in particular is a ridiculous comedic version of the somewhat more serious (though still pretty funny–this is Slayers after all) Zangulus and Vrumugun from the first season.
  • Speaking of “somewhat more serious,” this season is way darker and more violent than the first, closer to the novels in tone, though still lighter than them. (Mostly because Xellos is more of a trickster in the TV series; in the equivalent novel stories he comes across as a sadist–anime!Xellos and novel!Xellos both enjoy confusion and pain, but anime!Xellos seems to prefer the former while novel!Xellos goes for the latter.) But there’s some seriously brutal violence on display here, much less cartoonish than the first series, especially once Gaav shows up.
  • It’s present with Sylphiel in the first season, but man does this series do grief astonishingly well for a light comedy. Here we have Amelia grieving over her father and Lina grieving over Gourry, and all three are consistent with how real people deal with grief while also being idiosyncratic to the particular character.
  • Holy shit is the music good. Not just “Give A Reason”–though that is undeniably one of the classic anime OPs–but the background music in the episodes as well. The last three episodes in particular–near as I can tell, they are fully scored with unique music that did not appear prior in the series, and it’s really good. I think my favorite is the way the music kept hinting all season at the rising triplets that served as a leitmotif for the Dragon Slave in season 1, but never quite playing it, the closest being the harder, minor-key version which was played for the Giga Slave in the first season and the Ragna Blade this season–until finally at the climax of ep 51 it bursts out in all its glory when Lina finally casts the Giga Slave again.

Batman never talked to you much, did he? (The Last Laugh)

Near Apocalpyse of '09 LogoIt’s September 22, 1992, a week after “Nothing to Fear.” Boyz II Men are still sitting atop the charts, and The Last of the Mohicans is going to open at number one this weekend. In the news this week, the U.S. Navy announces plans to discipline three admirals for failure to properly investigate the sexual assaults of 26 women, including the assaults that comprised the 1991 Tailhook scandal; Shawn Russ (named Gregory Kingsley at the time) “divorces” his parents, becoming the first U.S. child to successfully sue for emancipation; and the UN votes to expel “Yugoslavia” (by now reduced to just Serbia) for its attempted genocide in Bosnia, which had declared independence earlier in the year.
On TV we have the only episode written by Carl Swenson, “The Last Laugh,” and honestly it’s not hard to see why. There is nothing offensively wrong with the episode, but it is nothing but a sequence of fight-deathtrap-escape-fight-deathtrap-escape-fight, with no real characters to speak of, and no particular obstacles or escalation. Batman immediately pins the crisis du jour on the Joker, finds him near-effortlessly, then gets beaten up by an inexplicable robot and left to drown. He escapes and immediately finds the Joker again, narrowly escapes being killed by the robot and destroys it, and the Joker escapes. Batman chases him into some sort of foundry or metal recycling plant, and the Joker sets off another deathtrap, which Batman narrowly escapes, and this time catches the Joker. There is no escalation, no sense of mounting stakes, and no variation, which means there is no particular reason that Batman caught Joker the third time as opposed to the other times, except that it was a 22-minute episode. It could just as easily have added two or three more deathtraps to be a two-party, or a couple of hundred deathtraps to be an entire season.
Presumably, Alfred’s exposure to the toxin is meant to give a sense of urgency to these proceedings, but unfortunately Alfred and Batman are both extremely stoic characters, and there is no one else for Batman to emote to. There isn’t even any alternative outlet for his feelings that could serve to suggest he is upset about Alfred; he does not hesitate before going out, or seem any angrier than usual when confronting the Joker.
For his part, the Joker is oddly mundane compared to his previous outing. Far from trying to usurp the show, he behaves like a typical villain from the Adam West Batman, undertaking a ludicrous and elaborate scheme just so that he can commit some robberies. It’s quite a step down from trying to trap Batman inside a rogue Christmas special, and Hamill seems to be responding to the lackluster script by giving a far less energetic performance. This does help, however, to distinguish his Joker from Nicholson’s: Hamill’s is actually capable of dialing down the intensity at times, while Nicholson’s is always at maximum.
There are a few strong moments here, however. There is something delightfully cynical about Summer Gleeson reporting a massive gas attack on the city by talking about how the stock market is on the verge of collapse. The music also steps up to the plate in a fantastic way, particularly this blend of a driving, horns-and-percussion heavy motif used for the Joker’s schemes in action, which then abruptly cuts to the Joker’s own playful, woodwind-dominated motif when he is actually onscreen. Unfortunately, as the episode goes on this switching becomes nearly as repetitive as the trap-escape structure.
But ultimately, the lack of any character moments or variation is what really hurts this episode. One fewer deathtrap could have given time for Batman to use the Joker’s belief in his death against him, or even better to have a seen earlier in the episode where Bruce Wayne has to talk to someone about Alfred, forcing him to show real emotion in order to maintain that persona.
But that would require him having someone to talk to–which is the real service this episode provides, highlighting a major problem of the show. Batman has no life outside of punching crime in the face, which means that the show needs to either focus heavily on the villains and their stories (as the first three episodes did to varying degrees) or consist of little other than Batman punching crime. It needs to establish something more to him, give him relationships beyond the very formal and limited relationship with Alfred. True, the show was able to achieve some insight into him through his exposure to the fear toxin in “Nothing to Fear,” but he can hardly be exposed to hallucinogens every episode.
No, what he really needs are interactions with characters who aren’t criminals, so that we can see who he is when he isn’t punching things. Fortunately, the next two episodes will provide.


Current status of the Patreon:

Escaflowne Ep 16 Liveblog Chat Thingy!

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 Vision of Escaflowne and commenting there starting at 2:00 p.m. EST.
I won’t be here today, so if one of you could copy-pasta the chatlog into the comments I’d much appreciate. Remember the comments field likes to eat angle brackets, so Sylocat please set Op on everyone, or failing that whoever copypastas should do a search-replace of <@ for < before putting in the comments field.
I’ll update this with my own comments when I watch the episode.
ETA 3/20: Finally watched it! Chatlog (just me–everyone else is in the comments) below the cut!
Continue reading