re:play Episode 8: Final Fantasy VI Part 8: The War Machine

Made possible by the generous contributions to my Patreon! We’re monthly now!
Closed captioning isn’t done yet because I only just managed to get LAST month’s closed captions working right. And by “just” I mean “an hour ago.” Give me a day or two on this one.

As always, these videos don’t always display correctly on Tumblr, so those of you seeing this there please click through to to watch.

Captain's Log, Weekly Digest 68

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.

  • Ziz: A mysterious illness strikes members of the survey team.
  • Behemoth: Morwen leads a search team for Ensign Regina Bartholomew-Moriarty and Commander Saga, who vanished while surveying the forest.

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. But we didn’t have one of those this week because I missed several days worth of updates.

Vlog Review: Star vs. the Forces of Evil S1E6

Sorry this is late, I messed up queueing. Reminder that Patreon backers can see these videos (including Star vs. Evil, commissioned episodes of other series, and panels I presented at various cons) 4-5 weeks early AND Near-Apocalypse articles four MONTHS early!
Those of you who follow on Tumblr, for whatever reason the videos don’t play there. Click through to to watch.

Welcome new readers from Anime Boston!

Feel free to look around the place! Here are some links related to my AB panels:
Fullmetal Alchemy: The 15K word post of which the panel is a stripped-down version. Lots of stuff here I didn’t cover in the panel!
Utena Episode Commentaries: A series of posts commenting on Revolutionary Girl Utena episode-by-episode, in five-episode chunks (except the last three). A handful of the ideas here then became the Utena panel.
The Near-Apocalypse of ’09: A psychochronography of the DC Animated Universe. Heroic trauma is a major theme.
The Very Soil: My Madoka Magica book! Much of the panel was drawn from a couple chapters of this.

Next time, use email (Zatanna)

Near Apocalpyse of '09 Logo
It’s February 2, 1993, the day after “The Man Who Killed Batman,” so see that post for charts and news.
“Zatanna” is another episode that gives us a window into Batman’s past, as he meets a student of the master from whom he learned some of his skills. As in “Day of the Samurai,” that student is a young woman attracted to him, but where Kairi served little role in her story except to be imperiled, Zatanna is a far more active agent, even being the one to actually take down the villain while Batman deals with his henchmen.
Indeed, by her next major appearance (in the 2000 Gotham Girls webseries) Zatanna will be fighting crime in her own right and using genuine magic to do so, a change which is never explained. Given the seven-year gap, however, no explanation is really needed; the blur of memory can easily permit one to forget that the last time she showed up, her magic wasn’t real.
This is, after all, an episode about memory more than anything else. Batman flashes back to his time training under Zatanna’s father, Zatara, learning escape artistry as part of his travels to acquire the skills he needs to fight crime. (He later leaves them to go to Japan, where presumably he studies martial arts under Master Yoru, from “Day of the Samurai.”) The relative ages of Batman and Zatanna are unclear, but the gap between them is unlikely to be more than a year or two; at least, Zatara appears to be fully aware of young Zatanna’s attraction to “John Smith” and deliberately gives them time alone.
It’s unclear, but probable, that “John” shares this attraction; they may even have been lovers. Regardless, it is clearly a time that both remember fondly, and Zatanna is sorry to see him go. She even teasingly tries to keep him from leaving, but he breaks out of the handcuffs she uses, neatly tying his escape artist training to his ability to slip away from human contact.
Because, as Zatanna learns when she tries to predict the future of “John,” his destiny is not, as she was hoping, two hearts (one hers and one his, naturally); it’s the Joker. His destiny is to fight crime forever, alone (always alone, no matter how many teammates and wards he accumulates), proving the forces of order and justice to be inadequate with his every victory. He continues to dwell in that “painful memory” that made him put on the mask, continues to pursue the promise he made when he put it on.
And what is that promise but to never let go, never move on, never heal? He returns to that alley over and over again–even here, Zatanna’s father’s death is a reflection of the deaths of Thomas and Martha Wayne: a child without parents, who becomes a hero.
Such is the nature of traumatic memories. We are drawn back to them, again and again. They repeat endlessly, called forth by even the slightest glimmers of similarity in our present experience. Much as seeing Zatanna calls, unbidden, the good memories of his time with her and Zatara, so does every “punk with a gun” call forth the memories of Batman’s parents’ death. And he does what he wishes he could have done then: unleash his protector, his totem, the Bat, to punish them.
But it doesn’t help. The painful memory lingers, because the promise demands it, and because a Batman who hangs up his cowl for good is fundamentally less interesting than one who fights the futile fight forever. Unless, of course, someone else were to take up the cowl for him, someone he could train. That could be interesting, for a time.
And here we have a glimmer of a possibility. Zatanna does well in the fight on the airplane, working with Batman to free themselves, then taking advantage of his fight with the henchmen on the wing to sneak into the cockpit and take out Kane, the episode’s villain. The road to her becoming a hero in her own right is clear–she even pulls Batman’s own trick on him, vanishing when he isn’t looking. She can’t be Batman’s protege–she’s too close to his age to be the young sidekick, too flashy and performative to fit well with Batman’s strike-from-the-shadows style. But she’s clearly a model for what he needs in an ally and counterpart, more so than Robin, whose growing need for independence will take him away from Batman and into a new role of his own.
But it’s clear that he needs someone like Zatanna. Someone intelligent, assertive, resourceful; but unlike Zatanna, to partner with the Bat one needs to also be sneaky and a skilled martial artist. Zatanna’s got a mean fist, but she’s not quite to the level of a Robin.
Besides, Zatanna’s already been a protege, to Zatara. She doesn’t need a leader or a mentor; she performs her shows alone. In the end, they have to go their separate ways.
And she most likely knows, even as she leaves behind her message, that it doesn’t matter. He isn’t going to write.

Current status of the Patreon:

Psycho-Pass Season 1 Episodes 5 and 6 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 Enter a nickname, then for the Channels field enter ##rabbitcube, and finally fill in the Captcha and hit Connect! We’ll be watching Psycho-Pass and commenting there starting at 1:00 p.m. EST. That’s one hour earlier than normal!

I will not be there this weekend due to Anime Boston, so if someone in the chat could comment here with a log afterwards I’d appreciate it. I’ll update this post with my own reactions some time in the next week, as soon as I get a chance to watch the episodes.

Captain's Log, Weekly Digest 67

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.

  • Leviathan: Morwen, Saga, and Regina Bartholomew-Moriarty go out into Vinwar’s oceans to search for a disappeared shuttle.
  • Ziz: A mysterious illness strikes members of the survey team.

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. But we didn’t have one of those this week because I missed several days worth of updates.

Anime Boston 2016 Schedule

I will be at Anime Boston this coming weekend, March 25 – 27, at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston! I’ll be presenting the following panels, all more or less new (dates/times/rooms subject to change):

  • 10-11 a.m. Friday, Hynes Panel 302/304: EVA Pilots, Rose Brides, and Puella Magi: Heroic Truma and Anime
  • 7:30-8:30 p.m. Friday, Hynes Panel 310: The Duel Named Revolution: Making Sense of Revolutionary Girl Utena (based loosely on the series of entries I did on Utena back when)
  • 1-2 p.m. Friday, Latin Latin Madoka More Latin V: The Incubators Strike Back
  • 7:30-8:30 p.m. Saturday, Hynes Panel 208: Analyzing Anime 101: How to Watch
  • 1-2 p.m. Sunday, Sheraton Panel Constitution 1: Fullmetal Alchemy: Real-World Alchemical Tradition and FMA (based loosely on the entry of the same name I did back when)

Stop by if you’re in the neighborhood! If not, I intend to record all of them except Analyzing Anime, which has too much audience participation to work as a video.

Retroactive Continuity 6: The Batman vs. Dracula

Near Apocalpyse of '09 Logo
This is a commissioned entry for Shane DeNota-Hoffman. Thanks as always for your generous contributions, Shane!
It’s October 15, 2005, and vampires are nearing the peak of their popularity, the novel Twilight having been released just ten days ago. In other news, China launched their second manned spaceflight three days ago; today in Iraq there is a referendum on their proposed new constitution; in four days’ time the trial of Saddam Hussein begins. The top song this week is “Gold Digger,” by Kanye West featuring Jamie Foxx; Mariah Carey, Nickelback, the Black-Eyed Peas, and Green Day also chart. At the box office, the top movie is The Fog, knocking last week’s number one, Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Wererabbit, to number two. Elizabethtown and Corpse Bride are also in the top 10.
And Batman Begins, which came out in theaters earlier this year, hits DVD in three days’ time. Not coincidentally, so does this TV movie, spun off from the non-DCAU Batman cartoon The Batman.
The Batman vs. Dracula is, perhaps, an inevitability, at least conceptually speaking. One is the hero most closely associated with bats; the other, the villain. However, that claim of inevitability must deal with how infrequently Batman has actually had to deal with vampires, let alone Dracula: the Monk, the villain of a multi-issue story from 1939, did not appear again until 1982, and then not again until 2006; another vampire villain showed up once, in 1976. Two unauthorized Batman movies in the 1960s featured him dealing with Dracula, and the 1991 Elseworlds story Batman & Dracula: Red Rain and its sequels features a Batman turned into a vampire by Dracula.
Ultimately, this concept is only inevitable in the sense that, as Batman continues to be published in comics and adapted into other media over decades, any story which seems like it might work as a Batman story will eventually be attempted. And it isn’t, to be clear, at all a bad idea, except insofar as anything involving vampires is a bad idea in the vampire-inundated media of the Long Noughts. Still, the vampire is the human become bestial, the entirely feral bat-person. It is a Batman where the human is a performance, the creature of darkness and terror the true self. It is, in short, a contagious Man-Bat.
This story hits all the necessary points of a Dracula tale as cemented by numerous films (moreso than the novel): Dracula appears as an older man with a slight accent, a foreign, invasive presence of the Old World in a more modern city. He creates minions to serve him, one of them left human (though the infamous scene, recurring across multiple adaptations, in which that human eats a cockroach is here given instead to the vampiric Joker), and seeks to re-create a lost bride, using, inevitably, the hero’s love interest.
Into this we insert the Batman, and with him a relatively new-ish take on the clash of old and new. In the original novel, Dracula was easily readable in terms of fears of cultural contamination; here he is instead a force of cultural breakdown, of a world in which the superstition that Batman exploits spreads beyond the dregs of society, becomes mainstream and reified, and ultimately brings civilization (in the form of Gotham City) toppling down. Vampirism spreads like a disease, one which turns ordinary people into savage, vicious monsters that worship and obey the dictates of a supernatural invader, but science and light, here equated, are able to defeat the monster and return them to humanity.
In short, the movie more or less assumes Scientism, the belief that the sciences are the only legitimate means toward knowledge and all other forms are primitive superstitions to be discarded by the enlightened. The conflict on the personal level between the Batman and Dracula–between the performative human and the bestial monster–is mirrored by a conflict between science and magic, one which science rather overwhelmingly wins.
Let us consider, then, that personal conflict. Batman is, as we have discussed before, the performance of a frightened child, weaponizing his own fear to wield it against others. He uses the legend of a bat-creature that stalks the night, but rises above it, maintaining his humanity and, more or less, his rationality. Dracula, by contrast, is the legend of the bat-creature, a supernatural being with dark powers of control and corruption. Once introduced into the same story, they must fight each other, because they cannot coexist; once the reification of the Bat is present, external to Batman, it must be defeated and contained lest it consume him.
And science is of course the tool Batman turns to in order to contain the Bat. Faced with terror and superstition, he relies on logic and machinery, in a rather delightful sequence in which he obsessively tries cure after cure on the Joker’s vampiric blood until he finds one that works. In the process, however, he misses a date with Vicki Vale and sets her up to be captured by Dracula; there is an incompleteness to his reliance on science, as excessive denial of the Bat leaves behind not a man, but a machine, cut off from human contact.
It is possible–indeed, likely–that everything in the universe can be explained in scientific terms. Consciousness, emotion, dreams; these are all just complex chemical reactions in a couple of pounds of meat. Except, and this is where the advocates of Scientism so frequently get it wrong, the word just doesn’t belong in that sentence. If consciousness is something done by meat, that doesn’t debase consciousness; it elevates meat. Science is almost certainly the only way of knowing things in the way in which science knows them, but there are other ways of knowing, useless in the contexts in which science is useful, but useful in their own contexts. An understanding of magic can be very useful indeed when approaching things from a different direction or on a different level; it’s just when knowledge gets misapplied that things go awry. When superstition and magical thinking are applied to vaccinations, the construction of rockets, or anything else that deals with actual material existence, it’s very dangerous indeed. But when one is fighting vampires, fighting the fear of the night and the corrupting darkness that creeps into our homes and communities, a little magic can be very useful.
Because, within the context of this movie, Dracula exists, and is unaffected by the cure for vampirism Batman created. Where all of the other vampires under his control return to their human selves, Dracula experiences only brief discomfort, after which he shrugs off the escape. It is a blast of stored sunlight which finally defeats him, which is to say a fusion of magic and science, of superstition and reason, of beast and machine. Victory is found in neither the Bat nor the Man; it belongs to the Batman.

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