Lady Bird and the Slice of Life Genre in Films

Recently, I had the chance to watch the wonderful film Lady Bird, a movie following fictional Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson as she transitions from her last year in high school into her first steps into college and being an adult.  It’s a beautiful film that balances and explores the natural humor and heartbreak that a lot of us go through during that same time in our lives. The film’s ability to convey the dynamics of Lady Bird’s family and their developing relationships with each other without every directly spelling it out feels so wonderfully natural and refreshing.  It’s that sense of realism to it that I enjoyed, as I watched for all intents and purposes the Hollywood version of a slice of life anime.

There’s no evil villain in this story, no individual kids who bully our protagonist, no quest or soul-searching journey the character goes through, and not even an evil principal that forces almost illegal sentences on high school students a la Breakfast Club.  Just a middle-lower class family trying to get by.  They don’t always love each other but they try as we watch Lady Bird go through her last years in high school and her first few steps into adult life, struggling with her want to be special and unique while finding time and again that reality is a little harsher than that, and her dreams and ambitions are harder to obtain that just wishing for them.  And in the end, they may have been what she wanted, but the naive singular pursuit of them left her missing what she needed. The film doesn’t end with our protagonist learning the error of her ways and dramatically changing everything. It just… ends. Because that’s how life is. Sometimes we only learn the lesson after the fact, and whether we learned or not, life keeps going regardless.  We were only privy as an audience to just a slice of that life.

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Genre is Fake (But Very Useful)

An absolutely important read. Please give it a look over on The Afictionado’s site.

The Afictionado

"You're all just jealous of my jet pack" Credit to Tom Gauld

Every text I’ve read that has anything to do with genre study dedicates at least a few paragraphs to the disclaimer that genre is slippery, arbitrary, and, while a useful tool for analysis, kind of a pain in the ass. This pain is only made worse if we take this system of categories to be Holy Doctrine rather than something we made up to make talking about stories easier. So, okay, maybe genre isn’t fake. When I say genre is “made up” I mean genre is “socially constructed”, rather than “not real”. Here, Brian Attebery says it better:

Both literary studies and folklore are built on the idea of genres, rather as biology is built on categories, from kingdom to species, reflecting morphological similarity and common descent. However, unlike, say, raptors and perching birds, different genres do not exist until someone imagines them.

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[Season Sampler] Megalo Box 1+2 – I Know the Ride, but it’s Still Fun

If there’s nothing else that should be taken from this article, the tl;dr of all of this is:

Just because I know the destination and can name all the stops along the way doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the ride, especially when the train is this freaking jazzed up.

Megalo Box is a reimagining Ashita no Joe, taking its classic story of the underdog boxer and setting it in a near future version of Japan where the rich live in a beautiful utopia while the poor exist in sprawling slums outside the city and aren’t even considered citizens.  Junk Dog, our Joe of this series, makes a living convincingly losing matches to payback his coach’s debts to a crime lord. We see him battered and bruised, sick of this life but stuck without a way to make things better, especially given that as part of the poor class, he’s unable to get a citizen’s license, meaning he’s not even considered a citizen of this world.  He spends his days recklessly driving until he accidentally almost runs over the head of a large corporation who is in charge of a new league of boxing sport called Megalonia. Junk Dog, due to his love of old fashioned Megalo Boxing, hates the ideas behind Megalonia and tells off this business woman, causing her prized boxer and devotee, Yuuri, to almost fight him before he is called off.  Because Yuuri is still upset about this, he later gets a match with Junk Dog in the illegal boxing ring Dog calls home and defeats him brutally. Junk Dog wants a rematch immediately but Yuuri says he will only fight him again if he can fight him in his own Megalonia ring. This kickstarts the journey of Junk Dog to get into Megalonia and get his revenge on Yuuri.

[HorribleSubs] Megalo Box - 02 [1080p].mkv_snapshot_04.38_[2018.04.16_02.46.58]

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Fanservice and Differing Opinions

I will go ahead and state that this is a rant piece so I apologize in advance.  While everything I write for this blog is from my own perspective, this is going to be a very opinionated article about my personal feelings on this subject.  However, I wanted to share this as I thought it might be an interesting read and it was also incredibly cathartic to me to get this out of my head and onto metaphorical paper.

Recently I noticed someone say on Twitter something that caught my interest.

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This thread went on for some time, everyone in agreement, and eventually led to:GrossAndIncorrect1

The first thing that struck me about this is that fanservice is not a genre of anime, or a genre at all for the matter.  It’s a method of direction and writing to entice people. It’s using tried and true methods to appeal to what the audience likes in order to keep them invested or liking the show.  Usually, this is adding sexualization into the show but this isn’t the only way to use fanservice, as just as easily, the creators could suddenly bring a fan favorite character seemingly back to life for a shocking twist.

However, these ideas can be done in any show, fantasy, sci-fi, slice-of-life, etc. Regardless of genre, anything can have fanservice in it. A Certain Scientific Railgun has multiple bathing/bathing suit scenes but they’re far and few between and I certainly wouldn’t classify it as a “fanservice show”.  It’s way more focused on cute girls doing awesome psychic action things. Kobayashi-san has several bits involving sexual humor and Quetzalcoatl is almost a literal running boob joke.  However, I’d never call Kobayashi-san just a “fanservice” show.  It has fanservice, sure, but it’s a slice-of-life comedy about a gay couple and dragons, blending comedy and sincere moments to hit on deeper ideas about love, relationships, and family.  The fanservice is just an element of the show.

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Violet Evergarden 9+10 – Loss and Learning to Heal

Episode nine was what this whole series up to this point has been building to and honestly, had they wanted to make a shorter series, they could have cut it right here and have had in my opinion one of the best endings of the season, possibly of the past few years.  For all of those who may have dropped the show because of the pacing, I ask to please reconsider as episodes 7-9 were exactly what you were waiting for, but they wouldn’t have worked nearly as well without the rest of it. The slow burn up to this point and the character and world-building are what enabled this midseason segment to work so well.  To those that were on the fence or those that had written this show off earlier I personally will vouch that this is the proof that it all does pay off and does so beautifully. Because of this, I’ll be interested in seeing what they do in order to continue this onward and what they plan to do for the actual ending, given how final and amazing episode nine was.

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The Art of Peace in War: Emergent friendship in player versus player games

In just a few weeks, Sea of Thieves releases, a zany and fun pirate game filled with magic, mystery, and majestic ocean views.  The world of Sea of Thieves is a dangerous place with no safe zones for players (full pvp) and tons of incentives to attack other crews with your best buds.  Excitement and action abound!  However, one of my favorite things about this game that has me so excited outside of the amazing ship battles, interesting treasure riddles to solve, beautiful rendering of the ocean waves, and amazing weather simulations… are the musical instruments.

From the start, each player is given in their inventory an accordion and an odd stringed instrument called a hurdy gurdy.  Rare, the developer, is no stranger to fun within games and these instruments are very cleverly implemented.  If someone starts to play a song, anyone can join in, with the game syncing up the playing so that it sounds like anyone else just jumped into the tune, automatically assigning melody, harmony, and bass parts to other players.  Because of this, there’s this sensation of unity and fun as a crew performs together using items that would otherwise be a simple addition to the game and wouldn’t really have another purpose.

But it’s the fact the game designers put music that the players can play together into the game that I find so fascinating and important.  In a world filled with cannonballs and cutlasses, Rare dropped an element into the game that has no aggressive action to it (besides maybe playing Flight of the Valkyries as people charge into battle).  In fact, as the saying of soothing a savage beast would indicate, this element of gameplay is really an antithesis of what most games are about.

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Violet Evergarden 3+4 – Learning Empathy

Episodes one and two were a great introduction to this series and definitely laid the groundwork for what is to come. However, this show very early explained to the audience that it was going to be a slow build and we see that build executed well in episodes three and four as we take a bit of a detour from the posts’ offices and crew to build on our individual characters.

As we left off, Violet is learning to be a better auto memory doll and as such, she is enrolled in a doll training course with several others students. Very early on, we see her excel in her technical skills but as we’ve seen in the previous episodes, when it comes to the basis of the job, understanding and effectively conveying the clients’ emotions, Violet crashes and burns. It’s not until a fellow classmate, Luculia, reaches out and works with her, that we see her progress and beautifully, as they work together, we see both this Luculia and Violet understand each other as well as their own emotions better, eventually leading to Violet successfully writing a short but emotionally effective letter from Luculia to her brother.

This episode and the soon to be talked about episode four seem to share the theme of developing empathy and understanding, from characters within the show, but more importantly, the show seems to also be asking the same from us the audience to the issues certain characters face. This brings up a main point I wanted to talk about, here that I think is important in understanding our main character and the issues she struggles with. That it appears Violet may be autistic.

This wasn’t my idea originally as I watched through episodes one and two. To be completely honest, I’m not exactly well qualified to talk about this as I’m horribly ignorant on this particular mental condition. However, what I’ve learned through others that have more authority on this, I find the fact that Violet Evergarden seems to be tackling this mental condition, or at the very least a similar situation, fascinating. While I originally thought this was an interesting theory when viewing episode three, episode four seems to solidify that this is exactly what the show is doing and, personally, that seems wonderful to me.

[HorribleSubs] Violet Evergarden - 03 [1080p].mkv_snapshot_14.56_[2018.02.06_00.29.18]

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