To me, good art transcends what it is literally. I can point out a superb sentence, share the behind-the-scenes production details, break the plot down like a Wikipedia article, discuss the layers of authorial intent, but in the end, it’s always an attempt at articulating the ineffable qualities. Good art touches something inside us and rouses up emotion that feels bigger than ourselves. It’s an all-consuming, personal, and holistic experience that’s beyond simple explanation or lesson.
Maybe that’s why praising things I like in an isolated, non-fandom context can feel so flat. I always feel a combination of incoherent in trying to match the artistry of what I’m describing and embarrassingly simple of pointing out what seems obvious to me. Does this plate of food taste good? If it is, then why, how? It just is. There’s useful words like flaky, tender, sweet, etc. but it won’t be the experiences themselves, and that irks me, even when I’ve read critics I like, even when I know better.
But I want to practice. I want to tell others about the things I like just as well as I can tell other about the things I dislike. I want to share what art has made me feel greater than myself. I want to talk about good art that’s looked out for me, looked through me, and looked at me. That’s why I make these lists, when when they’re fairly late.
So let’s dive right in.
Continue reading “Malia’s Top 11 Movies of 2018”
Never Satisfied by Taylor Robin is a fantasy story set in a coastal town of magic, though not everyone has it. Our dear teen protagonist is Lucy (short for Lucien) Marlowe, a magician’s apprentice competing with other fellow apprentices for the government position of representative, a role of protection and power. However, there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to Lucy and this idyllic town.
Mild spoiler warning for chapter 5 of Never Satisfied. (Though I keep some things pretty vague.)
Continue reading “Windows into Webcomics: Never Satisfied”
Banana Fish by Akimi Yoshida, at the time of serialization, was once a contemporary story. It began in 1985 and ended in 1994, while the timeline of the main plot spanned from 1985 to 1987. So in a way, modernizing the anime adaptation of Banana Fish to be set in 2018 is appropriate. Rather than a near complete replication of a story set in the 1980s, there can be a parallel story that integrates the ideas and themes to be timely like the original was.
However, updating Banana Fish raises some clear issues. The original manga is deeply 1980s, from its aesthetics to its politics, and if handled without care, you wind up with a story that’s already dated from the very start. It’s one thing for a story to be old; we still have centuries old classics. Plus, our suspension of disbelief can be higher when we know a story was from a different time. However, with an adaptation you’re already setting up a compare and contrast situation, to mix in modernization too, it’s key to think through what needs to be changed, why it needs to be changed, and how that affects the original story. This is different for all kinds of adaptations and renditions, but ultimately it can be done in a lot of fun, unique, creative ways. In the case of Banana Fish though, it’s all about the lack of change. Though the style and technology is there, the story ultimately feels like a rerun in different clothes. This especially feels like a missed opportunity with the legacy that Banana Fish has as a classic manga that tackles heavy social issues.
This isn’t to disparage the work put into the anime or to imply it’s a complete waste. Translating a story to a new medium is difficult work and there are plenty of parts I enjoyed. It’s at least introduced the story to new audiences, including me, and opened up new avenues to discuss it. In this spirit, I want to talk about some of the missed opportunities that the anime passed over when modernizing the manga in the context of the social themes Yoshida touches on. There are some issues that are thoughtfully examined in the manga but would be reflected differently in a modern setting, and other issues that weren’t examined as deeply as they could have been in an adaptation.
Spoiler warning for the end of Banana Fish, including the side story Garden of Light.
Content warning for discussions of police brutality and sexual trauma (including child sex abuse).
Continue reading “Ash Get iPad: The Perils of Banana Fish’s Modernization”
I discovered webcomics back in middle school and fell into them quickly. Compared to comic books, I found that they were more accessible on a financial and storytelling level. I didn’t have to shell out $3 for every issue or keep track of a bumpy release schedule. Even if a webcomic dipped in updates, it was easy to come back to. Not everything I read was good, but it opened up a world of diverse storytelling for me, from sex comedies to fantasy melodramas. Not only that, but many people often marginalized by the comics industry, like people of color and women, were able to express themselves and find an audience on their own terms without as much gatekeeping. I’ve always wanted to talk about them because while now I read more comic books than before, I still find myself more comfortable and familiar with the world of webcomics. Despite the amount of money and attention they can draw, webcomics are still considered niche when we talk about comics (until they hit print).
So welcome to Windows into Webcomics, where I talk about specific pages from webcomics I follow and love. I want to dive into what works for me about a certain page or update, and then jump into what I love about the webcomic as a whole. I think more people should take notice of the amazing things webcomics have to offer and that we should analyze them just as much as anything published by Marvel or Dark Horse.
For my first entry, I’ll cover Dumbing of Age, a longtime favorite of mine.
Note: My posts will generally contain mild spoilers, in order to describe the context of pages. I’ll warn for each post.
Continue reading “Windows into Webcomics: Dumbing of Age”
As more anime fans push to be more self-aware, progressive, and inclusive in their activities, different trends in fanworks are happening. One trend is fanartists deliberately illustrating anime characters with darker skin than what’s portrayed on-screen. (I’m linking to no examples because I don’t want to inadvertently attract toxic attention to artists.) The rationale behind such fanart is to compensate for the lack of representation of dark skin in the majority of popular media, including anime. Part of this emerges from Western fans also noticing similarities within their own culture of Western media, where white people are still overwhelmingly represented, even as tides are changing.
There is backlash as some argue it’s inappropriate to try to “correct” media from a much different cultural context. Beyond racist trolling, there’s genuine worry that people are clumsily approaching Japanese media the same way as media made by white Westerners, replicating racial dynamics that may not be applicable to Japanese media. The racial and ethnic demographics in Japan are vastly different from other Western countries. There’s definitely something here to look into and talk about.
So let’s talk about it then.
Continue reading “Colorism, Fandom, and Cultural Context”
I saw a lot of films last year. It’s a family tradition to go out and see a movie about once a week. I’ve always treasured it but especially now. It’s been one of my consistent comforts for a year like 2017.
Most critics get their best films of the year list out before the end of the year, but given that I’m not a professional critic, my access and time is a bit more limited, especially when it comes to those that just sneak in at the last minute before hitting wide release in January. Plus, I figured getting out my list a couple weeks before the Oscars would be close enough.
What I’ve realized over the past several years is that media itself isn’t as important, so much as our reactions to it. I don’t just mean big topics like oppression and hegemony, but the easy, personal things. Who did you empathize with? Who pushed you away? What tugged at your heartstrings? What annoyed you? What lingered with you after you left the theater, if anything did at all? Do you still feel like the same person before you experienced it?
The films I list here changed me in some way. Sometimes they gave me new knowledge and sometimes they reminded me of what to hold onto. Each one gave me increased perspective and energy that I hope to bring to 2018.
The ranking here is approximate. I tried to put some films in some kind of order and I have my top favorite saved for last, but really, every film listed here is one that I treasure.
Continue reading “Malia’s Top 11 Movies of 2017”
Listen, I promise I can write about other things that aren’t related to adoption. It’s just that I saw Thor: Ragnarok last week and I love Loki (predictable, I know), so of course I’ve been having a lot of feelings lately.
In particular, I was reminded of something about a few nights ago.
Spoiler warning for both The Avengers and Thor: Ragnarok.
Continue reading “The Small Things Matter, or Sometimes Adoption Jokes are Funny”
In many ways, 2017 is the year of Code Geass. The first season of the anime television series takes place in 2017 of the fictional Britannian imperial calendar, the real world Gregorian 2017 marks the tenth anniversary of the show, and a compilation film trilogy and the mysterious sequel Lelouch of the Resurrection were announced for 2017. It remains to be seen if the sequel will surface by the end of the year, but for now the series is back in print on DVD and blu-ray as well as streaming via Funimation or Crunchyroll.
To celebrate, Karleen and Malia are looking back on Code Geass together with a series of retrospective discussions. The anime follows Lelouch Lamperouge, a banished prince rebelling against his father’s empire as the masked terrorist “Zero.” Lelouch seeks revenge for negligence in causing his mother’s death as well as his sister’s paralysis and blindness. Granted the magical power of geass by a mystical stranger, Lelouch can make anyone follow his commands. In his way stands Suzaku Kururugi, his long-lost childhood friend who allies with the empire as a mech pilot despite being native to its Japanese colony. There’s also Arthurian allusions, high school hijinks, and of course Pizza Hut product placement. Let’s begin with the heart of the story: Lelouch and Suzaku. Expect major spoilers for the entire series!
Continue reading “Politics with Pizza Retrospective: Lelouch and Suzaku”
I am truly kind of a joke sometimes.
I was so sure I was not going to see Ghost in the Shell. Of course I wouldn’t, it’s offensive, misguided, and probably not even that good.
Spoiler warning for the big plot twist of Ghost in the Shell.
Continue reading “Don’t See Ghost in the Shell: An Informal Listicle of Alternative Recommendations”