Author: Karleen

Taste, Disability, and Metaphor: De/humanization in Kamen Rider OOO

Taste, Disability, and Metaphor: De/humanization in Kamen Rider OOO

Today is Anosmia Awareness Day and I am anosmic, meaning I was born without a sense of smell. It hasn’t come up on this blog until now because anosmia is so underrepresented in fiction. There are minor characters here and there–Latula Pyrope in Homestuck, Aunt Selma in The Simpsons, etc.–and even then their anosmia is only briefly mentioned for humor or scent-related plot points. The penultimate episode of Futurama has close to a character arc about anosmia, in a parody of the 1931 film City Lights. In the episode, Zoidberg falls in love with an anosmic woman named Marianne who doesn’t realize he reeks. The episode doesn’t name Marianne’s condition as anosmia and she’s ultimately cured, but it does challenge the social construction of “bad” and “good” smells as she prefers Zoidberg’s odor to flowers. Even then, Marianne only gets one episode to herself. She’s only a parody of a blind character, not one envisioned as anosmic to begin with.

The story that’s spoken to me the most as an anosmiac is much longer, but more metaphorical. Kamen Rider OOO isn’t about anosmia per se, but does question what physical sensations have to do with making someone “complete.” In the 21st incarnation of the Kamen Rider tokusatsu television series, a young man named Eiji Hino transforms into the superhero Kamen Rider OOO with the ability to activate animal-themed medals. He was granted this power by Ankh, one of five ancient monsters known as the Greeed created by alchemists from experimentation with animal souls. The Greeed were designed as “incomplete” beings, made up of ten animal medals but “born” into consciousness through removal of the tenth. Four of them seek to recollect their core medals by creating monsters of the week, spurring battles with Kamen Rider OOO and Ankh.

This rest of this post contains spoilers for all of Kamen Rider OOO and related crossover films.

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What the Future Holds for Spider-Verse in the Hands of Voltron Showrunners

What the Future Holds for Spider-Verse in the Hands of Voltron Showrunners

December 14th of 2018 saw the release of not one, but two monuments in popular culture. One was the highly anticipated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, the animated film starring Shameik Moore as Miles Morales. Before the film’s premiere, Sony announced a sequel and a spin-off film in the works. Joaquim Dos Santos has been confirmed director for the sequel. At the moment, Lauren Montgomery is in talks for directing the spin-off. Dos Santos and Montgomery are fresh off their work as executive producers of Dreamworks’ Voltron: Legendary Defender, which had its eighth and final season on Netflix the same day Spider-Verse hit theaters. Spider-Verse was met with critical acclaim, while Voltron season eight was not. Response ranged from lukewarm to furious. After some fans of Voltron were frustrated with the death of a gay man of color character and other developments in season seven, many were left disappointed with the series ending (including the deaths of more characters of color).

A release date wasn’t all Voltron and Spider-Verse had in common, however. Without getting into spoilers, the plot of season eight and themes of grief bare a striking resemblance to those of Spider-Verse. It’s not that one is a rip-off of the other, but that they both aimed to tell stories about loss and family. What made audiences more receptive to Spider-Verse was its delicate consideration and authenticity of characters of marginalized groups. If the Voltron showrunners couldn’t carry out something so similar to Spider-Verse with the same praise, how are they supposed to follow it up well?

This post contains spoilers for Voltron: Legendary Defender and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Also, a disclaimer: this is not meant as an attack on the showrunners (or any crew member) of Voltron as people. This is a critique of the TV show they produced and their role as storytellers.

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Favorites of 2018

Favorites of 2018

It’s that time of year again. Karleen and Malia have rounded up their favorite (not necessarily the best) media of the year enough times now it officially has its own tag: Favorites of the Year.

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The Duality of Miki

The Duality of Miki

It’s been one year since Devilman Crybaby, Masaaki Yuasa’s anime adaptation of Go Nagai’s classic manga, took the world by storm. Devilman Crybaby increased the presence of women in the main cast from a single girl named Miki to two both named, well, Miki. Although they share a name, they have distinct personalities and roles in the story. Miki can no longer be reduced to “the girl,” nor does one character have to represent all of womanhood. Between the Miki Makimura admired by her peers and the Miki Kuroda left behind, Crybaby paints a picture of how misogyny affects women deemed good or bad when they’re truly not so different.

This post contains discussion of rape, as well as spoilers for the original Devilman manga and Devilman Crybaby.

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12 Days of Anime: The Power of a Photograph

12 Days of Anime: The Power of a Photograph

Before the manga Banana Fish by Akimi Yoshida, there was her short story “Fly Boy in the Sky.” It marked the first appearance of Banana Fish characters, published a year before Banana Fish entered serialization. In the one shot, 25 year old Ibe comes across a televised high school pole vault competition and decides to track down and photograph teenage Eiji. Ibe’s photography captures Eiji in a moment of grace he doesn’t know he’s capable of. “Garden of Light,” the final Banana Fish short story by Yoshida, shows how Eiji captured Ash with his own camera in turn.

This post contains spoilers for Banana Fish and discussion of child pornography.

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12 Days of Anime: Different Interpretations as Solidarity, not Opposition

12 Days of Anime: Different Interpretations as Solidarity, not Opposition

As part of my research for Asexuality in Manga and More, a lecture panel on asexuality in Japanese media, I looked into asexual and aromantic spectrum interpretations of anime and manga characters. Such interpretations are usually referred to as headcanon, “a fan’s personal, idiosyncratic interpretation of canon.” Occasionally I would find overlap in popular asexual headcanons and gay headcanons for the same character, such as Makoto Sunakawa in My Love Story. Sometimes this overlap means a character simultaneously interpreted as asexual and gay, or a character widely interpreted as aroace (both aromantic and asexual) or as gay. I wasn’t a stranger to these fandom activities before my research, as I have my own aro/ace/gay headcanons and enjoy reading those of others.

However, the conversations around asexual and aromantic spectrum headcanons, especially asexual ones, has changed in recent years. More and more, reading a gay or widely considered gay character as asexual (aroace or not) has been looked down on. The yuri manga Bloom Into You by Nio Nakatani has long been discussed in terms of asexual and aromantic identity, and the anime adaptation this year has brought new attention to it. While others may argue over the “correct” interpretation, I find differences in headcanons say more about what experiences have in common than which one is right.

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12 Days of Anime: Amnesia and Grief in Science Fiction Done Right and Wrong

12 Days of Anime: Amnesia and Grief in Science Fiction Done Right and Wrong

Digimon has approached grief throughout its life as a franchise, despite how the eponymous digital monsters are inorganic and may be revived when they die. Digimon Adventure Tri, the second sequel series to the original Digimon Adventure, tried its hand at grief over lost memories.

In Confession, the only chance to save the world from destruction is to perform a “reboot” of the Digital World. It will leave the digimon uninfected by darkness, but without memories from before the reboot.  In a series where digimon exist to unconditionally love and support their partners for a lifetime, the loss is immeasurable.

This post contains spoilers for Digimon Adventure, Digimon Adventure 02Digimon Adventure Tri and A, A’ by Moto Hagio.

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12 Days of Anime: Movie and Manga Recommendations for the Grieving Banana Fish Fan

12 Days of Anime: Movie and Manga Recommendations for the Grieving Banana Fish Fan

As of today, the anime adaptation of Banana Fish has come to an end. For those looking for a movie to watch or a manga to read to fill the void, look no further.

This post contains spoilers for Banana Fish and discussion of rape, abuse, incest, and suicide.

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12 Days of Anime: Justice for the Digimon Adventure 02 Kids

12 Days of Anime: Justice for the Digimon Adventure 02 Kids

Digimon Adventure Tri, a sequel to the original Digimon Adventure television series, came to an end this year with its final installment Future. Tri‘s development began when Toei teased it with a digiegg that would “hatch” once their webpage received enough hits in 2014. A return to the original digidestined (chosen children) held promise, but one issue was present from the very beginning and only grew more glaring as the series went on. The main characters introduced in Adventure 02, the first continuation to Adventure, were written out of Tri. In the first minutes of Reunion Daisuke, Miyako, Iori, and Ken unceremoniously die at the hands of a mysterious digimon and leave a gaping hole in Tri‘s continuity.

Of course, this post contains spoilers for Digimon Adventure, Digimon Adventure 02, and Digimon Adventure Tri.

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12 Days of Anime: Neo Yokio’s Christmas Special for the Ages

12 Days of Anime: Neo Yokio’s Christmas Special for the Ages

Neo Yokio, Ezra Koening’s satirical urban fantasy animated series, arrived on Netflix in September of 2017 to mixed reviews. Season one followed Kaz Kaan, a wealthy and recently single exorcist, in his adventures slaying demons and perusing the city of Neo Yokio. With still no second season confirmed, Neo Yokio returned for a Christmas special this month. For a show that dabbled in ideas of class, materialism, and socialism, Christmas is the perfect homecoming. Most animated Christmas specials aired in the United States either focus on the myth of Santa Claus or the birth of Jesus Christ, if not both. Neo Yokio, an anime hybrid of a US Christmas special, is about neither. Pink Christmas looks at the holiday for what it’s become–materialist, self-serving celebration–through the eyes of its fictional wealthy.

This post contains spoilers for Pink Christmas and The End of Evangelion.

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