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Personal opinions and commentary.


Gaining Strength From Fairy Tales in RWBY

I have a soft spot for retellings of fairy tales. I might not know the original versions of Snow White or Beauty and The Beast, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying different versions of these stories, which have been told and retold hundreds of times over hundreds of years. Because these kinds of narratives draw on basic human experiences and emotions, they continue to turn up in different media, and it feels like there’s always new magic magic to be found in their characters and settings.


Plastic Love – SH Figuarts Bulma

Welcome back to Plastic Love! Today I’m breaking the streak of looking at Good Smile stuff to look at Japan’s even bigger toy giant, Bandai. The SH Figuarts line—it stands for “Simple style and Heroic action”—is Bandai’s standard action figure line for adults. Though it specializes in and excels at superheroes, the line has no particular genre focus: anime idols, Marvel movie heroes, and real-life superheroes like Bruce Lee have all been produced. And of course, there is an army of Figuarts of the characters from the immortal Dragon Ball series.

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Figurin’ Out All Over Again How to Fuckin’ Live: Depictions of Mental Illness in Deadwood

Sometimes it feels like Deadwood never happened. With shows like Maniac and Bojack Horseman dominating conversations about mental illness in TV, it’s easy to forget that back in 2004 David Milch’s bloody, profane gold rush period piece broke trail on some of the most daring and empathetic portrayals of mentally ill characters in television history. It’s not my intent to look down my nose at people who enjoy Bojack Horseman’s therapy-session style of discussing depression and anxiety, but I’ve never found it particularly interesting. As my friend and fellow critic Sean T. Collins put it in a review of Netflix’s Maniac: “When I think of lines from films and television shows about mental illness and suffering that have really moved me, it’s not stuff I’ve heard before cutting a check to my psychiatrist for my co-pay, it’s stuff I’d never thought of before at all, but rang true the moment I heard it.”


Welcome to Hip Hop’s Anime Moment

21-year old Atlanta rapper SahBabii had a predictable, ultra-relatable journey into otakudom. It began, as all things do, with Bleach reruns, which dovetailed neatly into the feudal warfronts and ramen lunches of Naruto. To him, anime is all about the vibes—the serene, blue-sky hypnosis that can be summoned up by Miyazaki food scenes, or sepia Watanabe panoramics, or endless episodes of Shippuden on a bedroom carpet.


The Anime About The Ultimate Scammer

You know the drill. With a subtle nod and a thousand-yard stare tougher than steel-plated armor, a cool and collected character nonchalantly paints the walls with their enemies. I’m talking about telekinesis, baby, a power that practically formed a sub-genre of its own in the anime and manga of the ’80s and ’90s. From the timeless Akira to creator Katsuhiro Otomo’s own Domu and more modern espers like Elfen Lied and A Certain Magical Index, there’s just something about third-eye thrills and joint-popping gestures that are a perfect fit for anime.

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Nostalgia, Maturity and Big Green Dinosaurs in All Grown Up!

Before Spongebob Squarepants, Nickelodeon’s first big hit was Rugrats, a show about a gang of misbehaving babies going off and doing god-knows-what as they escape the clutches of parental supervision and delve into the giant sandbox that is the world outside their playpen. Its 172 episodes and 3 theatrical movies over a 13-year run was enough to garner multiple accolades, including Daytime Emmys, a Hollywood Star, dozens of merchandise. It did so well, in fact, that it even generated a spin-off series.

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Dredd Was a Battle Royale

If you’ve ever jumped out of a plane—or party bus, or attack helicopter—to take part in the cultural phenomenon of attempting to kill 99 of your closest friends on an ever-shrinking post-apocalyptic island, the opening moments of Pete Travis’s 2012 film Dredd should be familiar to you.


The Rise and Fall of Llamas with Hats

Waffles. Moose. Moose-eating Waffles. Did you see what I did there? LOL SO RANDOM, rite? Welcome to the internet in the 2000s, birthplace of a movement known as “randomcore”—an aesthetic style characterized by the juxtaposition of a rotten or nonsensical world with one “normal” observer, the grotesquifying of cute things, and absurdist humour taken to its crudest extreme. The aesthetic dominated internet culture for years, spawning countless now-forgotten Flash videos, launching the careers of some still-successful artists, and cementing the foundations of the post-millennium digital world. And there’s no better poster child of those wild times—from birth to inevitable decline—than the web series Llamas With Hats.


Meet The Real-Life Stars of Cells at Work!

“Inside the human body, roughly 37.2 trillion cells are working hard every day.” So begins the introduction of Cells at Work, an anime that turns complex medical concepts, scenarios, and organisms into interesting situations and characters. As a medical laboratory technologist who works with blood every day, my initial reaction to the series was irritation at the sense that my degree was being dumbed down by an anime—but after the initial burst of anger, I realized that the show is genuinely fun and endearing. More importantly, it’s incredibly accurate and goes into far greater detail than I anticipated. It’s got fans learning about the microscopic workings of the human body, but some might want to know more about the real-life stars of the show. Seeing as I work extensively with these little friends, allow me to introduce you to the true cast of Cells at Work.


Reading the Old Testament of Sonic the Hedgehog

Despite numerous failures and completely unplayable games, Sonic the Hedgehog has persevered—people just can’t get enough of the little blue devil. In ways, it seems he’s more popular than ever. Most recently, he’s catching up to his 90s rival Mario—albeit 25 years later—and finally getting his own movie.

Sonic fans have stuck with the character through thick and thin, through some of the worst games imaginable with the most bizarre stories you could think of. Fans who grew up with the series and were later struck by the weird, off-the-rails storytelling of the later 3D games might assume things started to get strange there, but I assure you—it’s been there since the very beginning, starting with the backstory of the first Sonic the Hedgehog game for the Sega Genesis.


I Can Feel This Body Dying All Around Me: Love, Death, and Body Horror  in The Last Unicorn

When the titular mythical creature in Rankin and Bass’s The Last Unicorn is transformed by magic into a human woman, her first reaction is despair. “I can feel this body dying all around me,” she sobs. It’s a gut punch of a line. The way she delivers it, it’s almost impossible not to start thinking about your own body rotting where you sit, the sag of your flesh as it inexorably loosens and thins, your bones as they grow brittle, your eyes as they cloud and fail. To the unicorn, untouched by time, the experience is as shocking and transformative as a child’s first brush with death.


How a Japanese Lesbian Author Got Queer Content Published 100 Years Ago

In Japan, within the yuri genre—yuri referring to any sort of romantic or sexual lesbian relationships—there’s a subgenre called Class S. It’s often described as “romantic friendship,” but perhaps “pseudo-platonic lesbians until graduation” would be more accurate. The focus is on close emotional relationships between schoolgirls—and it is very nearly always schoolgirls—that borrow the imagery of romance, such as hand-holding, writing love letters, exchanging gifts, maybe even as much as a chaste kiss, but never more than that. One-sided lesbian pining with the acknowledgement that one’s feelings will never be returned by the heterosexual object of one’s affections can also fall into this category—Tomoyo from Cardcaptor Sakura is an archetypal example. There is nearly always the implication that these lesbian feelings are just a phase, and the girls involved will grow up to be straight and marry men.


Plastic Love – Parfom Gwendolyn

Hello again! Today we’re going to be looking at a figure from a recent line by Phat! Company—another maker under Good Smile’s giant umbrella—called Parfom. Figma and Nendoroid have led the Japanese action figure market for over a decade now, and everybody in the business is always trying to come up with a new angle for a competitor line. Even companies that actually produce Nendoroids and Figmas, like Phat!, come up with new concepts every once in a while.

Phat’s website, by the way, confirms that the company name stands for Pretty, Hot, And Tempting. Nice.

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The Order and Chaos of Cowboy Bebop’s Hip Hop Flavored Cousin

By now, everyone’s seen Cowboy Bebop, right? For better and worse, it’s garnered a reputation as something like The Wire of anime, a foundational ur-text that helped lay the framework for the acceptance of its medium as one worthy of critical interest in the United States and elsewhere. While a place in such an illusory “canon” can certainly help a creator’s career, it has a way of overshadowing your subsequent work—just ask David Simon.