Thine Vengeance Be Done

-On wrongs swift vengeance waits.-Alexander Pope.png

There’s something wonderful about seeing a character get exactly what they deserve. There’s something satisfying about seeing Valentine get impaled at the end of Kingsman. There’s so much weight to watching Aizen finally bound by Urahara-nonsense magic in Bleach. Our media including anime, TV and comic books, normal books and the like are so full of dastardly characters and when they get exactly what’s coming to them; it’s just delightful. And with all these troublesome characters, it’s even more needed to see their actions treated appropriately in their respective stories. 

In the last post we talked about this I brought up an example from my childhood (ugh) InuYasha. I mentioned how in the anime that InuYasha treats Kagome like hot trash while treating Kikyo like a princess but what’s even more egregious in this series is a character many ignore: Hojo. Hojo is one of Kagome’s classmates and he adores her. He loves everything about her, is attentive and kind and supportive. And what does Kagome do? Ignore him. She totally ignores him. In fact, she chooses the man who actively preferred chasing his dead girlfriend to her company. I’m not bitter. This hasn’t been something brewing in me since I was 13. None of the troubling parts of the series are brought up. No one changes. No one learns a lesson. All that happens is Kagome dumps Hojo to go run around with a forest furry who barely remembers her name and wishes she would go back to the time she came from.  

A series I’ve now mentioned a few times is Antique Bakery and I’ve been nothing but complimentary of the series. Yusuke Ono is a flawed character and guess what? He has to change and be a better man to get to the pure cinnamon roll that is Chikage-san. And when something awful happens to him, you empathize with him because he admits that while what happened wasn’t great and is still terrible he admits that he didn’t exactly do much to not be in the situation. The same goes for the main character Tachibana-san. Tachibana in the start of the series is revealed to say and do terrible things and guess what? The series entirely holds him accountable. He has to constantly face his former homophobia and prove himself to Ono again all the while realistically dealing with the trauma of his childhood. No one was unjustly rewarded in the series except for maybe Sakurako, who got a daughter out of Chikage without him really understanding what being a sperm donor is, and anything be it a bakery, closure, a man or a woman is worked for.

If you’ve ever read my fictional jaunts and other creative pieces, I’m known for unreliable narrators and troublesome characters because they are the kind I love the most. I love the control of information in a narrative and just how much the story changes based upon who has the point of view. Think about how empty Tsubasa is if you take it from Fai or Kurogane’s perspective. It has to be mostly focused on Syaoran and Sakura: there’s no plot otherwise. Or even Bleach is a fantastic example. If taken from the view of the Soul Society, the main plot is just a series of incident reports and a  bureaucratic nightmare as some ginger kid runs around with Hollow powers and not listening to orders. But one of my main tenants in my fictional works is simple: it’s to rewrite or to fix a wrong. Slytherins aren’t portrayed well in Harry Potter. Guess who wrote literally hundreds of words to correct that?

But in addition to my desire to keep tight control of my narratives, I also don’t like crappy behavior go without comment or punishment. If a character is awful, they are seldom rewarded and that is directly related to the less than ideal narratives I read as a young fan. So many times flat out criminal behavior was rewarded in anime and manga. Stalking? No, he’s just very attentive. Manipulation? He clearly cares so much to turn your friends and family against you to keep you isolated. Physical violence? No, she hit you because you deserved it. You shouldn’t have done something to make her hit you. That carried on into, tragically, some of my very earliest relationships. I remember being 14 and 15 years old assuming that if a boy treated me the way InuYasha treated Kagome, he wasn’t an abuser, he was just playing hard to get. I, luckily, grew out of that pretty quickly (just kidding, it took literally years to retrain my brain and to demand more from my partners and to treat my partners in turn better).

I think that’s why as an adult I love more complex narratives so much. I’ve mentioned the character of Klaus von Wolfstat a few times now and he’s from a little series called Maiden Rose. It’s a war-era boy’s love series and Klaus is the overbearing and obsessive lover of military leader, Taki Reizen. Klaus is…complicated. He’s done terrible things, is a literal addict (but it’s okay because it’s historical, right?) and somehow even as a chibi manages to be taller than everyone else and still somehow have a 6-pack.  But within the canon of Maiden Rose despite how troubling and upsetting Klaus’ behavior is, he is seldom rewarded for his actions. Taki rebukes him often, is cold to him after an incident of less than desirable attention being provided and he is generally hated by the rest of the cast. Every time Klaus is slapped, injured, shot at or yelled at, it somehow lessens the dull pain of how awful of a character he is. No one is there to romanticize his actions or say that what he’s doing is actually okay, he is only met with cold indifference.

On the other hand, there are instances where the wrong character does seem to get picked on as almost a scapegoat to ignore a more disturbing part of the narrative. Let’s take a character that I actually love and does not get the credit she deserves, Millie. Now, Trigun’s an anime that ruined me as a kid. It was probably one of the biggest series to cement my love of dubs and good American voice acting and had characters I’ve loved for years. But a character that is almost entirely ignored despite how important she is to the narrative is Millie. She’s often overshadowed by Meryl because, well, Millie’s not bright. But her optimism is inspirational to the bulk of the cast and she could even be compared to Rem as far as being innocent and fair goes. But what happens at the end for her? Well, Trigun’s ending isn’t exactly favorable to anyone in particular. The ending is unsatisfying for many and disappointing to say the least and leaves our two main females in nearly the same place they started and Millie is even more left into obscurity because she does somewhat fade during the 3rd Act.  Is she at all rewarded for her bravery or empathy or kindness? Nope unless you count getting to bang Wolfwood once. No one is really rewarded for anything in that series so it’s the perfect example, really. Nothing matters. Just like Vash entered in like wrecking ball and so he leaves in quiet cloud of melodrama. Again, I’m still clearly not bitter over this. I clearly haven’t written 15 better versions of this ending since I was 16 years old. No, I’m a well-adjusted adult.  

For an example that isn’t as dated as I am, BoJack Horseman is great about making sure that bad deeds in the show are properly dealt with. BoJack doesn’t get away with anything and honestly, he’s probably punished too severely for some of his actions. Really, the only character in that show that does get away with murder regularly is Mr. Peanutbutter and well, we all know how that works.  

I do think the current cynicism of the world is better about holding characters accountable. Under the Red Hood is probably one of my favorite Batman movies and I love it so much because it makes Bruce Wayne face one of his greatest failures. His inaction cost Jason Todd his life and thus created the Red Hood. The Red Hood is a phantom Bruce made and in letting him live and refusing to kill The Joker based on some falsified moral high ground, now he has to face his demons and a vigilante that can take down enemies in a frighteningly efficient manner. We desire as a community and as a world justice. Why do you think Law and Order: SVU is still running? Only in a fictionalized New York do the police always answer the phones and every case at least seems some sort of justice. We now crave for bad things to happen to bad people and frankly with how the world is right now, I’m okay with that.

Are any of you surprised? I’m Team Kira, after all.

Hold your characters, your media and those in your life accountable, dear readership.

 

Advertisements

A Direct Hit to Nostalgia: Intertextuality in Pokemon Sun and Moon

“Nostalgia is an illness for those who haven't realized that todayis tomorrow's nostalgia.” ― Zeena Schreck.png

Intertextuality is a zeigeisty kind of word. It essentially means a call back in a current piece of media to a further piece of media in that franchise history. It’s been used a lot by video essayists and it’s a fine word but one I don’t use a lot in day to day speech because I find it pretentious. But it’s appropriate for my point. So minor spoilers for games. Sit back and relax. We’re going to talk about a firm grip on the nostalgia and when a callback is not genuine.

I’ve been playing Pokemon for 20 years now. I remember getting Pokemon Red in 1996-7 and enjoyed the game as much as a 6 or 7 year old could. It wasn’t until Pokemon Crystal or really even Pokemon Ruby that I decided to sell my soul to Nintendo and to the franchise. I have since played every game that has come out. Well, the mainstream ones. Never did play that weird JRPG one. But after 20 years of Pokemon, I’ve seen the games reach epic highs like Pokemon Ruby and Pokemon X/Y and I’ve seen it hit some lows like Pokemon Sun/Moon and Pokemon Alpha Sapphire/Omega Ruby.

I’ve gone on record that Sun/Moon were not my favorites. Despite giving me my favorite round owl son I had serious issues with the game. I didn’t like that the game was hand-holding and too easy. I hated the Rotom-dex. I thought the story was lacking and overall, I just didn’t enjoy the game. But the game had a troubling side since the start: it was aggressively pandering towards us older 20-somethings while also making a game that was built clearly for Japanese children. Each ad for the game made callbacks to the older games and that it’s been 20 years. The game brought back all sorts of things we knew and loved. A new tan Professor Oak. A new surfing Raichu (which Carlos hates). New forms of old Pokemon. Sun/Moon was nostalgia: the game.

And while I bit on the nostalgia, I slogged through the game. And in my key attention to detail as I begrudgingly played through a game I bought with my own money, I noticed a few things. The first was Grimsley. Grimsley is one of the Elite 4 in Black/White and in Black/White 2 (close friends will notice that this is actually one of my favorite games). And there Grimsley was. On the beach. Dressed like Byakuya from Bleach. Ranting on and on about love and loss. I was floored! What was my darling Elite 4 trainer doing? Why was he in a kimono on the beach? Why is he giving me items? What is this nonsense? You do get some clues once you’ve dug deep into the lore but what was the point of adding Grimsley to the game? To give hope to people like me who had given up on the game up until that point?

Another instance was with Colress. Now, this one has a funny story. Carlos and I were playing Sun/Moon around the same time but he was way ahead of me because he liked the game more than I did. He mentioned meeting a man with strange hair and a Nintendo power glove in the game that gave him an item and he thought the man was really interesting. This was the same day Nintendo released a short centered in the Black/White universe of Unova where Colress is shown icing a bunch of people in a city to literal death. The game glosses over some of the violence but the short does not skip on the detail that people likely died as Colress and Team Plasma tried to find a way to better control Kyurem.

I immediately recognized Colress once I met him in game and went back to Carlos barking about how he shouldn’t trust a literal murderer. And sure enough, Colress gives you an item, babbles about research and leaves like he isn’t a snow killer.

What was the point of adding Colress? Was it just a cool callback? Were there no other scientists in game that weren’t evil that the writers couldn’t think of? No, it was just a cool callback to an earlier and much more loved part of the franchise.=

And this isn’t the first time Nintendo has weaponized nostalgia. Pokemon Alpha Sapphire/Omega Ruby was absolutely a giant direct hit to the nostalgia of adults like me who cut their teeth on Ruby/Sapphire and the additions made in the new game involved riding the mythical Latias/Latios and the brilliant Delta Episode which almost almost turned the game around for me. AS/OR was essentially just a retread of Ruby/Sapphire with updated graphics like Pokemon Emerald was. And those games do have value but when they’re done to just redo a game for a cash grab, it’s frustrating. Emerald at least added things to those first generation games that were rough around the edges and did not always age well.

The best parts of the newer games were the times they added to the foundations of the older games like X/Y. I loved being able to have a character with my skin tone and that could dress very fashionably. I loved being able to sit on benches and pet my Pokemon. I loved being able to roller skate around and be given Pokemon from games that I adored like Lucario and adding to its mythos rather than just dropping a Pokemon off and saying “Here, young adult. I hear you like nostalgia. Here’s a Pikachu with a hat. Enjoy your nostalgia and your half-baked game.”

We see intertexuality at work in a lot of video game and comic book movies. Many will be a comic book saga in name only like Captain America: Civil War which had very little actual Civil War and was mostly just Tony and Steve have a lover’s quarrel. We see Star Wars movies that essentially just redo the original trilogy with better graphics. Stranger Things is literally a show based on callbacks but Stranger Things does so with love and reverence while Star Wars: The Force Awakens is done to help hide some of the less than ideal storytelling.

Remember, nostalgia is only as good as the thing it’s based on and while I love Pokemon, my love is not enough to keep me motivated when a game’s only interest is reminding me of how great the 1990s were.


This was different and timely! I don’t do this very often. I mostly just wanted to rant. I am not enjoying Pokemon Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon like I thought I would. Motivate me to make my owl son proud.

To My Sweet and Precious Cinnamon Roll

All things truly wicked start from innocence. Ernest Hemingway.png

Today I want to tell you a little story about an anxiety-riddled 24 year old Japanese man and the 27 year old Russian sadist that like a creeping vine slithers into his life. You may also know this little narrative as Yuri On Ice. I got a lot of flack for my disliking of the show and really it is pretty tsundere of me to keep talking about it but hey, blame my lifestyle as a panelist. I have to know what’s popular and for some reason everyone loves ice skating now. But it illustrates my point very well. In friend and fan circles I get accused a lot of just not liking canon pairing and that couldn’t be further from the truth. I love canon pairings when they make sense. YoI has the same problem so many canon pairings do: the romance is not earned. What does Yuri do to earn Victor? Sure, he skates around a little but what changes did he have to make? More important, what in the name of all things good and holy did Victor to do earn Yuri? This is a young man that to imagine erotic love has to compare his lover to food. Fun fact, most relationships based on food imagery aren’t exactly healthy. The relationship may be cute and vanilla but it isn’t earned.

Now, when I say earned what do I mean? An earned relationship is one that just makes sense. The chemistry is solid, the tension is valid and it has to be satisfying. Satisfying does not always mean happy, just satisfying and most importantly the characters have to be on the same field and deserve each other. A great example of this for me is InuYasha, actually. Kagome is a piece of wood as far as characters go and InuYasha treats her like hot garbage. They abuse each other all throughout the series and it was frankly predictable and disappointing to see the series ship them off after years of them just yelling at each other. On the other hand, InuYasha and Kikyo were surprisingly balanced from what we’ve seen while they were both of the living. They challenged each other, they were on equal footing and most importantly they treated each other with love and respect. InuYasha with all his angst and baggage knew that being cruel and indignant to Kikyo wasn’t a way he could treat her and she then treated him with kindness and empathy since that was really all that he needed. She demanded more from him and she got it.

To contrast, think of Naruto. Naruto the series spent 15 years trying to ignore Hinata as a character despite her ardent love of Naruto the character. Over the run of the series Naruto runs away from the girl actually paying attention to him to run after either Sakura or Sasuke and then Shippuden tries to ham-hand Hinata in and she deserves so much more. It was nice to see her get her happy ending but you know what else would have been nice? Seeing them actually make a connection and fall in love.

The same actually happens in Bleach. The series goes very far out of its way to set up Ichigo and Rukia as comrades and equals. They spend a comedic amount of time together, they respect each other and they are on equal terms as far as strength for quite a while and Rukia can and does stand on her own. Who does Ichigo end up with? The wet paper bag that is Orihime. Why? Because fans can’t have nice things.

Let’s also discuss the topic of cinnamon rolls. For those assuming that we’re talking about pastry you aren’t wrong but let’s talk about the term as it is used on the Intertubes. For fans: a cinnamon roll is a pure character. An untainted and unexplored territory who is too good for this world and does deserve better than anyone can offer. You do all you can to keep cinnamon rolls safe from the horrors of this cruel world.

Yuri Katsuki is a cinnamon roll. Nunally in Code Geass is a cinnamon roll. Matsuda in Death Note is a cinnamon roll. Alphonse Elric is a cinnamon roll. Got it? Awesome. This list is technically subjective but most people do agree on who is a cinnamon roll and who isn’t. Cinnamon rolls are interesting because of who the series often pairs them with and for some reason cinnamon rolls are paired with the more time-worn characters thus creating the “hijinks” that ensues when an experienced man tries to “take on” a virgin or the subtle but not rare use of the cinnamon roll: the damsel that needs to be protected.  

I’ll poke a hole in one of my favorite series: Gravitation for one of the best examples. At the start of the manga and before the publishers changed the ages around because things were getting uncomfortable; Shuichi is 19 years old, just starting his music career and doesn’t have a single cruel bone inside of him. He then almost immediately meets Yuki Eiri, a man who originally was meant to be nearly 10 years his senior and has seen some stuff to put it very lightly. Yuki is cold, crass and frankly, abusive to his younger partner but the series plays it off like things are just fine. So do I not ship Shuichi with Yuki because I’m a Mary Sue and want Eiri to myself? No, actually. I’ve been cosplaying as Eiri for years: why try and Mary Sue with him when I’ve been him?

I do put Shuichi with someone. I put him with Hiro. Hiro is hardworking, understanding, kind and most importantly they did date before and things were more than healthy. Do I leave Yuki alone? Not at all, a headcanon of mine actually places him with Ryuichi. Why? I feel like they have more to bond over both being creative people. Back to the cinnamon roll point, Shuichi in the run of the manga is brought down to so many of his lowest points because of Yuki. Shuichi deserves happiness and support and he needs that and he will not and cannot get that from his Cool Beauty. Shuichi deserves Hiro while Yuki is best off honestly being a bit of a playboy. Cinnamon rolls are too pure for this world, need our protection and for some reason series are terrible about forcing these characters into the arms of the most corrupt and battle-born characters.

Now are there characters that have benefited from being around someone lighter and more loving. Yes, completely. Antique Bakery has a great set up where even though Ono is a less than ideal person he does his best to impress and actively be better for the man he loves, Chikage. He does all he can to be better so he doesn’t cause trouble for his partner and there is something admirable about that.

So that pin you’ve been holding about characters getting what they deserve is important now before we wrap up. I come from a troubling generation of fandoms and writing. Acts that are flat out criminal were considered cute and things that are objectively abusive were considered to be loving reminders from an attentive partner. When terrible things happen to good characters and the perpetrator isn’t punished in the series, it feels like a rather personal attack. It fundamentally bothers me now to see characters in any series get away with something awful and those actions be either ignored or praised. Let’s pause here to talk about especially in anime and manga: this is a weird topic. So many acts that are on paper misogynistic are less stigmatized in Japan because reasons that really could be its own blog post so I won’t pull many anime examples from this but I will pull an American comic example. Harley Quinn is a character that almost no one seems to approach well. She was first brought into the famous Batman the Animated Series universe and was quickly so popular that she became a part of the main lore and canon of the entire Batman franchise. Harley, for those that have been living under a rock for 25 years, is the loving sidekick to The Joker. The Joker is a complex character and an awful garbage person who has done terrible things to Harley and has abused her almost from her inception as a character. But in recent depictions especially the things that The Joker has done have been turned into now for some reason endearing acts of love and devotion to his beloved Harley. He pushes her out of buildings because her cares. He punches her until she passes out because he loves her. He leaves for for dead in countless situations because they are meant to be. The movie Suicide Squad perpetuated many of those concepts and suddenly you have a bunch of kids running around calling one of the most abusive relationships in media ever as #RelationshipGoals. Harley, the victim of brainwashing and abuse she is, deserves so much more. It’s one of the main reasons I was so happy to see her shipped off with Poison Ivy and they now can work on healing her emotional and physical scars and help improve her mental health.

The flip of that in comics is probably everyone’s favorite bisexual demon hunter, John Constantine. Constantine is a hilarious character and a noted garbage human being and he feels the consequence of every bad choice he’s ever made. That demon he gambled with? They remember. The girl he tried to pick up in Hyde Park? She remembers. Constantine is constantly told off, slapped, hit and made aware of the mistakes he’s made so when he does apologize, when he does admit to an error it has some weight to it. He can see he made a less than ideal choice and he can at least admit to it and try to do better (he never does better).

Remember, kids. Make sure your relationships are earned. It’s much more fulfilling in the end.

That was fun, wasn’t it? Let’s do this again sometime.

Aspirational vs. Actual

“When you see a good person, think of becoming like her%2Fhim. When you see someone not so good, reflect on your own weak points.” ― Confucius.png

It’s a bit of a joke in my friend group that if there is a troublesome character in a series that I probably will love them. Characters like Klaus von Wolfstat and Jean Baptiste Hevens are not great guys; they’re awful characters but they hold a special terrible place in my heart. I will shun main characters to join the tea party of evil and remain blissfully in the darkness until a better, more compelling character saunters in. So today I wanted to talk about what makes a character compelling, why the good side isn’t always the fun side and the two main ways I can like a character and when that fails spectacularly.

While I have your attention, I mentioned “troublesome” characters earlier. Here’s what I mean by that. There are characters that are just garbage human beings and you cannot and should not like them but dammit, they can be fun. Let’s take a mainstream example: Light Yamagi of Death Note. He’s an egotistical sociopath who wants to take over the world and remake it in his image. He may speak of justice but to use a literal murder book, you’re probably already at least a little bit of a sociopath. Lelouch of Code Geass is another great example. This charismatic manipulator has used and abused everyone around him all for some goal. He’s not a good person but it certainly is fun to watch. It’s easy to recognize a character as terrible, denounce their actions in real life and in the series while also thinking they’re quite fun.And it’s even better when characters get what they deserve…(another blog post, perhaps?).

There are two major ways that I like characters in popular media: we’re gonna use a lot of anime examples today and also some comic book ones because this is my blog and ergo my rules. The main was is a character I actually like because they are like me (and I say like me based on tons of factors: we’ve talked representation before, haven’t we?). These characters like Sasuke Uchiha, Uryu Ishida and Yuki Eiri (notice a trend? We did talk representation, right?) have traits more like me. They bring with them family drama, a desire to be their own person, charm that masks pain and a grounded realism that just nearly borders as nihilistic pessimism. Then there are aspirational characters. These characters are special: they are who I want to be. And this hasn’t changed much even though I’m now an on paper adult. These are characters that have something in them that I want to be like selflessly charming or cool under pressure or unyielding optimism and while easy answers include Sebastian Michaelis, Tohma Seguchi and strangely enough Orihime Inoe. Now, before the bulk of you complain about my noted anime misogyny…let’s talk about why Orihime is on this list.

When I started watching Bleach I was 17 years old. I had lost my dad 5 years before that, I was a high school upperclassman and was running a successful but stressful anime club. I was a charming and affable host-type with a winning personality but that hid the fact that my home life was less than ideal and that I was exhausted by what it meant to be a student and even just to be a functioning human person. While Bleach mostly centers around Ichigo Kurosaki, a 15 year old who lost his mother and his magical adventures hunting Hollows and navigating the Soul Society and the world of Soul Reapers, his counterpart for most of the series is a girl named Orihime. She’s not the brightest crayon in the box but she has a lot of heart. She similarly faced loss but instead of being bitter and cynical like Ichigo (cough and me) she was kind, loving and generous. I envied her ability to still see light in a world made so dark by personal loss. Which may explain why I was (still am) so disappointed with how she was treated by the series. The series took her light and humor and caring and turned her into a Arthurian quest object and not in a way that I like. The same could be said Naruto Uzumaki in so many and slightly more tolerable ways. He also faced isolation, loneliness and dealt with being misunderstood for years (Yeah, I was angsty kid…am still an angsty adult. Don’t judge me.). But instead of becoming a monster like Gaara did or a non-committal forest dweller like Sasuke, Naruto decided to be as kind as possible: he wanted to treat everyone in a way that he never was treated and dammit that was inspirational as a teenager.

But it may be all of the reasons listed above that I tend to love villains and antagonists so much. I’ve mentioned before that most of the development and tension goes to the antagonist, leaving some rather bland female characters in its wake. It’s Vegeta in Dragon Ball Z who gets the character arc and has to change his views the most. It’s Sasuke in Naruto who gets the arc of redemption and then the very quick ignoring of that redemption to continue to be a forest jerk. It’s the antagonist that has to learn a lesson and there’s something that set up that is very appealing to me. What lesson does Luffy learn in One Piece? No lesson. Not a damn one. But you bet your ass that the rest of the cast learned plenty of lessons like not trusting Luffy to do anything. I find a story of learning, accepting and/or rebellion far more compelling than a Jerry Stu main character learning no lessons and getting to continue through a series with little to no meaning consequences or tension.

But you’re not here to listen to me talk about compelling characters and storylines. You’re here to listen to me rant about villains and why I chose the dark side. I’ve had a predilection for villains and villainy since I was a little. My dad famously learned Jesse’s side of the Team Rocket motto for me so I could be James. I fawned over Prince Vegeta when he was first show in Dragon Ball Z as a villain (a sign my family should have probably taken note of) and really if you think about it the roots of modern fangirl me as linked to my obsession of Lord Sesshomaru and Master Naraku from InuYasha. Why do I love villains so much? Am I just an edgelord? Well, maybe. But rude of you to assume that. Yes, it doesn’t help that I’m a bit of an angsty human creature but the real reason I love villains goes back to a point I made earlier. The villain also gets to learn a lesson. For some reason, villains are just better written. Let’s go to a series I could probably talk about forever Cowboy Bebop for an example. Vicious (literally his name) is one of the most compelling villains in anime ever and his motivations while shoestring thin are enough for you to understand his goal, reasoning and methodology. He is the perfect foil to the main protagonist, Spike, and his design, voice acting and overall manner in the show make him one of the most interesting characters in the entire series. Vicious also gets to live such a full life in the series but one of so many questions and mysteries. Why did he sleep with Julia? What is his relationship if at all to Gren? Why does he have a mythical dragon raven? Those questions are never resolved and never will be thus creating one of the best anime villains in my opinion ever.

The villains get the long-con plans. The villains get the cool dramatic music but the villains most importantly get to let their emotions show. Naraku’s plan is literally to ruin one relationship because Kikyo wouldn’t date him that one time. Aizen’s plan is to become a god because reasons. The villains get to be irrational, angry, melodramatic and sad. Villains get to throw over tables, lash out when angry and break things when plans go awry. Who else gets to be that emotional? And sure, some villains are stoic. Aizen almost never lets that same smug smile leave his face. Vicious is a great marble statue of angst and anger. But so many other fantastic anime and even movie and comic book villains get to have so much fun. When I first started my jaunt as an in character cosplayer I had so much more fun playing antagonists and villains because of how emotional and outrageous they could be. Oh the photo-shoots.

Only Yuki Kitazawa could make 10 U.S. dollars a terrifying object. Only Frieza could demand so much physically from Goku and his group of mostly useless friends. Only Envy and the rest of the Homunculi could make Edward question his morals in such a way. And while we’re talking about Fullmetal Alchemist, let’s think of Shou Tucker. Dr. Tucker is a madman but what’s terrifying is when he starts to make sense. He makes obvious comparisons to himself and Edward despite still being an objectively awful human being was a perfect counterpoint for the main characters and the main plot. And even though he really only appears for like…2 episodes, think of how much of an impact he leaves on the series. He is then a constant reminder or what not to be as an alchemist, as a creator or as a man. And that may be the best thing about villains: they show you what not to be. Ever want to learn a strong lesson? Look at a villain and say “Probably shouldn’t do that.” Don’t try and be an Aizen, be an Urahara. Don’t be a Naraku, be Miroku (Scratch that, just go for Koga. Aspire for that.).

That was a lot, wasn’t it? Next time, we’ll talk about cinnamon rolls, earned romance and when a character gets exactly what they deserve.

The Woman In White

-Of all ghosts the ghosts of our old loves are the worst.-Arthur Conan Doyle.png

It’s that special time of year again. Last time, you all loved my little ghost story so much that I decided to tell another one. You may know where this story is going but that won’t stop me from telling it. And if you’ve heard this story from me, then sit back, pull up a chair because you know it’s a good one.

Let’s take a step back in time. It’s the 90s. My parents and I were on a road trip. My dad’s family lives out in the side/middle-butt part of Texas. On the way back one night we decided to stop in Corsicana. Corsicana has a strange little restaurant called Catfish Plantation. And the plantation part is very literal. It was an actual plantation house with a Master, a Misses and a modest amount of slaves. Well, the Civil War ended and now the establishment is a seafood restaurant for some reason. And like all things old and Southern, it was of course, supposed to be haunted. The restaurant prided itself on being extremely haunted and my dad being the large Southern skeptic he was decided this would be the perfect place to take his wife and young daughter. I couldn’t have been anymore than 8 or 9.  

It was late. Later than we normally had dinner since the drive back from the middle of nowhere Texas took a couple of hours at least and Corsicana is sort of the middle point. I had no interest in this allegedly haunted eatery. I just wanted chicken fingers and sleep and probably my GameBoy. Naturally, since this was a haunted establishment, there was a long and overdone tour. My mother was somewhat interested since she loved history and my dad was somewhat interested since he was the one who had this brilliant idea and he had a point to prove. I couldn’t be bothered. I was bored to tears and the entire time there was this woman behind me who seemed fixated by my hair. She didn’t say much. She was tall (well, tall to me. I didn’t reach over 5’0’’ until I was 13). She was pale and her clothes looked funny to me. So the little bit of interest that I had in this ghost-infested fish house was dampened by the fact that there was a woman who keep bothering me. She looked mean. She kept looking at me like I shouldn’t be there.

The tour group wasn’t very large but it did seem to go on forever in between mentions of how quality the catfish was. The overly enthusiastic tour guide continued to prattle on about how bad slavery was (which we are African-Americans knew) and that just before the battles really got down to business in the state, the slaves rebelled and took revenge against the master and his wife. All the while the same woman continue to leer at me and now had started to touch my hair which my mother had so expertly styled into twin braided pigtails.

After what seemed like hours of enduring this I finally snapped and shooed a hand away from me. My dad immediately reprimanded me. My mother followed up and said I was being rude. But I told them the truth. There was a woman in the tour that wouldn’t leave me alone. There was a woman bothering me and when my parents asked me who it was I pointed up and they saw nothing. They saw no one there. There wasn’t anyone there.

“Congratulations.” the tour guide beamed “Your daughter has met the mistress of the house. She’s been dead for over 100 years.”


No one said anything for a while. No one mentioned it for a while. My mom and dad rarely spoke of the fact that clearly their little girl had seen some sort of apparition.

We finished a satisfactory catfish dinner. We stayed in a kitschy hotel for the night and we as a family didn’t speak of the ghost again.

In hindsight, it made sense that a ghost would appear in front of me. I was a small black child running around this old Southern slave owner’s home. It was perfectly logical and there’s many theories that ghost appear to children because kids pay attention to them. Adults try to rationalize everything away but kids are honest. If they see a ghost, they say they saw a heckin’ ghost.


There’s something amazing about being spiritual, being Catholic and believing in ghost stories. To a good Catholic, ghost stories are the antithesis of faith. The dead are meant to rest until the resurrection. If you believe in a God, a heaven and a redeemer: then how could there be ghosts? But there was always a spiritual, almost magical, part of my family. My great-grandfather was a mystical man despite being a devout Catholic. My grandmother was also hilariously superstitious until her death. After my grandfather died, we would still hear his footsteps on the plastic slip cover in the hallway at night. My aunts took great comfort in knowing that their father was resting in heaven but still wandered his house sometimes. When I went through my magical rebellious phase, my aunts were horrified until they realized that the grandfather they looked up to (my great-grandfather) also had a tarot deck and could quote Edgar Allan Poe well into his 90s. Suddenly, I didn’t seem like quite the little edgelord anymore.  But knowing that I came from a legacy of magic, mysticism and spirituality helped make sense of the world I saw. My godmother’s Cajun and thus very spiritual. Both grandparents held long standing superstitions. My aunts believed in ghosts and my parents couldn’t help but admit that it was a compelling event that happened at Catfish Plantation. I was always a weirdly mystical kid. Dr. Langston, my rhetoric professor, called me an Indigo Child more than once and Indigo Children were always thought to be special, to be magical. And it never bothered me to still use the Roman Catholic faith while also still believing in tarot, crystals and reading about alchemy and the Fox Sisters. Catholicism still looks very pagan for many reasons to this day.


We tell ghost stories for a variety of reasons. We like to imagine that some people never leave us. If there are ghosts then there has to be an afterlife. There has to be something after death and that is much more comforting than facing the cold indifference of the universe. But ghost stories also haunt our hearts. They give weight to those we lost, even if that person didn’t mean anything to you. A ghost story forces you to care about someone. Forces you to carry the weight. And a good ghost story should stay with you forever.

 

I know I’ll never forget my ghost stories.

 

Your Narcissism Is Showing

 

“For the most part people are not curious except about themselves.” ― John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent.pngI am a creature of the Internet. I’m a social media manager by day and by night I am a community manager, podcaster, moderator, social influencer, blogger and content creator. Like a Social Media Sailor Moon I am fighting evil by moonlight and by evil I mean spam comments and Nigerian prince scams and winning love by daylight and by love I mean the likes, comments, clicks and retweets of my fans/followers. It’s a delicate balancing act of managing this for my clients and then for myself. But I wanted to talk about when your personality and your content is quantified and how that feels.

Before we dive in too deeply I wanted to discuss a word I’ll likely be using a lot in this post: narcissism. The word itself stems from a Greek myth about a man named Narcissus who was so enamored with his reflection that he literally drowned in a reflecting pool after gazing at his reflection in the still water and some strange nymph creature said “Wow, this is totes sad. I should like make this dead dude a flower instead of like bringing him back to life or anything.”. The psychological use of the word describes a series of personality traits that then can lead to a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. NPD is characterized by an inflated sense of self-worth, egoism and immense self-preservation even in a negative light. The Narcissist does not care for others, only for the self. The Narcissist only sees people as a means to an end and that means is for adulation, praise and attention. When I use the word narcissism, I mean less the disorder and more the trait. It features all the same egotistical behavior as the condition but not in a pathological way. A person who is narcissistic may be annoying but they probably can’t hurt you. On the other hand someone with NPD may be more troubling and difficult to deal with.

I like most young people display a fair amount of narcissistic tendencies. A coworker casually commented on my despondency over a low number of Facebook friends and she asked rather coldly “What is the point?” to which I audibly gasped. The point? For heaven’s sake, I am a social media manager. What am I without a sizable following? And the pressure to maintain numbers is quite daunting. I was elated to reach over 2000 followers on Twitter and the fact that this humble blog here is quickly approaching 2000 views makes me happy while also puts a fair amount of stress on me. I am worried about the content I produce, I am worried about schedules and graphics and everything. I want people to see what I do since I am going through the trouble of posting it. I am not aiming to shout into the ether.

But what really got me thinking about self-worth and numbers was the release of analytics for personal accounts. Most social media platforms only allow and collect data for businesses: I’m a social media manager so I use this data for a wide variety of functions at work. I’ve never had to worry about my own analytics. Twitter was first and I did more and more to increase that number of followers, even setting goals to reach at least 1000 people per day. I beat myself up emotionally when those numbers fell and that determination led me to where I am on Twitter. Facebook then allowed a similar metric rating of your own personhood. Facebook suddenly let you see how many people were commenting, how many reactions you got and how far your content spread whether it was a brunch photo or a touching in memoriam to a lost loved one. I blog here on WordPress and I am very aware of how many people see what I post. I am due to the hardline nature of my social media role concerned with numbers but also as an image-conscious person I am enticed and drawn to pulling in bigger numbers. I have had some narcissistic personality traits for decades: I am an only child, after all. But this drive to succeed and to be seen is a hollow one.

There’s a funny trick about narcissism. A true Narcissus doesn’t actually like themselves very much. It’s all a show, it’s all a carefully planned out act. Think of the Insta-famous models and influencers. No one does this because they enjoy it. They do it because they feel like that have to. It’s exhausting to whittle down your self-worth to a series of numbers. It’s tiresome to be awoken by every alert and notification. It’s not fun to see your entire point as a person reduced down to how many clicks you get on a post.

So instead of just calling your social media concerned friend a raging Narcissus, consider the society we live in that values a woman more for her likes than her opinions. Consider that this is our making. And consider that maybe just throwing around a buzzword as a psuedo-insult doesn’t make anyone feel better: it just makes us all look a bit reductive.