Sunday’s Wisdom #195: Other People’s Stuff

“I don’t deserve it. I haven’t earned it. You don’t earn other people’s wives‘ fur coats!”
– Doloris Van Cartier, Sister Act

It has been so long since I last saw this movie, and still this quote has stayed with me.

Doloris has not exactly led an exemplary life. She’s a singer in a Vegas club, she’s a mistress to the club owner who’s also a mob boss, she’s selfish and shallow, etc. When she wants more from the married man she’s having an affair with, she doesn’t get it, but she does get a fur coat that is absolutely the envy of the other girls. Doloris likes it, until she sees the name written inside it: the man’s wife. He didn’t even spend money on it, just gave it to her like a hand-me-down. She is devastated, and fed up with where her choices have brought her, to the point she is determined to end the affair and leave Vegas. I remember the moment where one of her friends/coworkers urges her to keep it anyway, because it’s a nice thing and she deserves it. That’s when Doloris replies with this quote, and she absolutely has the right of it.

The world tells us to want what other people have, that we deserve what other people have, because it’s fancy and expensive. But no matter how fancy it is or how much it costs, no matter how much we like it or how much we want it, it’s not ours. You earn what is yours, not what belongs to someone else. If you take it, you are taking it. If it is given to you by someone else, they are taking it, and so are you. How special and deserving can you really be if you can’t even be given something that is yours, and yours alone?

Even more particular, Doloris was being given this fancy coat as a means for the man giving it to her to keep her, as if she were an object. It wasn’t a gift, it was a collar. A very soft and expensive collar, perhaps, but still a collar, which I believe I mentioned my feelings on last week.

More generally, though, it’s always stayed with me, ever since I saw this, even if I wasn’t able to put it in such words as a kid: you aren’t owed someone else’s nice things. You don’t deserve it, you won’t earn it, you can’t claim it. It belongs to someone else. Not you.

It’s such a simple thing, but we seem to have forgotten it somewhere along the way.

A lot of what is wrong with the world would be a whole lot better if we all stopped trying to have other people’s stuff and focused on earning our own stuff, ya know?

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Sunday’s Wisdom 194: A Cage is a Cage

“A gilded cage is still a cage.”
– From Rika Outcast: A Tale of Mercenaries, Cyborgs, and Mechanized Infantry, by M.D. Cooper

A cage made of gold is every bit as confining as one made of iron, and all the more insulting for supposing that the captive within it values their freedom so little as to trade it for some so-called “luxury,” as if golden bars were somehow more comfortable.

In the specific context of this story, Rika is a woman who has been sorely mistreated by others. The list of crimes committed against her person is so long and horrifying that I can scarcely imagine it without getting angry on her behalf and wanting to burn the entire establishment responsible for it all to the ground, no survivors. I’ll skip the bulk of it here and get to the end point: literally everything was taken from her, including her humanity and her freedom, multiple times.

At this exact moment in the book, Rika is taking a rare moment to enjoy herself with some peace, calm, and quiet. For a moment, she thinks that maybe her life, and her current enslavement, might not be so bad. But, ah! She remembers that she is a slave, no matter the disposition of her masters at the moment. Even if she has a moment to enjoy herself, even if she can find a peaceful moment here and there, even if her keepers are not entirely monstrous… she is still a slave, and subject to their whims.

Her cage may be golden, but it’s still a cage, and “The chain may be long, but it was still present.”

One of her keepers, or “teammates,” technically, actually doesn’t even see Rika as a human being at first. He sees her as an object, a tool. Even when he learns better, he doesn’t realize that Rika was actually bought and sold at an auction. No, he thinks they just had her in a box in a warehouse somewhere. As if that is actually any better!

Another of her teammates tried to empathize with her, trying to compare their experiences, but she shuts that down with a brief, and very light, description of what was done to her. His “bad experiences” absolutely pale in comparison.

In both cases, they simply fail to grasp what was done to her, what was taken from her. For all that they’ve endured, they simply can’t fathom losing what she has lost: her status as a human being in society.

That is what it means to be a slave.

Compared to that, what does any “comfort” matter?

What does it matter what the collar, the leash, and the cage are made of?

No material gain is worth the cost of one’s humanity.

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Sunday’s Wisdom #193: Respectful Liking

“My way of being polite or however it’s… well, it’s the only way I have of showing you that I like you: I’m showing respect.”
– Simon Tam, Firefly
Episode 7, “Jaynestown”

It is my firm belief that healthy relationships need both affection and respect.

I see a lot of myself in the character of Simon Tam. We both grew up comfortable, we have sisters we’d do anything for, we have friends who are like family, and we believe in a bit of politeness and propriety in a relationship. I can also see myself in how he stutters and stumbles as he tries to make a connection with a wonderful woman, by the name of Kaylee, who wants him. She’s a bit less restrained than him, and she’s a bit confused by his behavior, how they get along and like each other, but then he goes all stiff. She doesn’t see the value in his behavior until she asks and he can explain it with the above words.

This quote has stayed with me ever since I first heard it. I mean, you see people in all sorts of unhappy relationships, or suffering from the pain of one that ended badly, or hesitant about new relationships because of how old ones went, etc. A wildly recurring thread in these is some level of disrespect. Sometimes it’s blatant, and sometimes it’s more subtle. And it begs the question: how much can you truly love someone if you don’t respect them? And how much love can you truly have for someone who does not respect you?

Now, I know it’s not always that clear-cut. Life is messy, people have differing interests and priorities, and they have disagreements all the time. But “respect” is not the same as giving people blank checks, and never, say, teasing them in good fun or whatever. It also doesn’t just mean showering them with compliments and attention and such. That’s just going through the motions.

Respect, to me, is simply treating people as if they have value, or, rather, treating people in accordance to the value they do already possess.

If you value your spouse/significant other, for instance, then you don’t cheat on them, or lie to them, or pressure them into anything they’re uncomfortable with. Instead, you communicate with them, listen to them, help them, and, above all, stay true to them.

If you value your friends and your family, you are nice to them and you are there for them in times of trouble.

If you value strangers, you are courteous to them and helpful in those small ways you notice they need (like all the people at work who hold the door open when I’m trundling through with my cart, thank you).

If you value your parents, you keep in touch with them, and you listen to them.

If you value your teachers and other leaders, you listen to them.

That sort of thing.

Respect is a profound measure of how much someone actually likes you, because it shows how much they value you, and what one values is what one loves.

What do you think?

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Luke Cage, Season 2: A Hero’s Fall?

When the first season of Daredevil aired on Netflix, I loved it. While successive seasons of the Defender-themed shows have sometimes been good, or sometimes in desperate need of reworking – I am looking at you, second season of Jessica Jones – that first season which started up this little corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has always seemed like the best one to me, and easily among Marvel’s best works to date.

But now, at last, I can finally say it has some proper competition in the form of the second season of Luke Cage.

Marvel seems to have seriously stepped up the production rate of their Defenders-base series. Including Iron Fist‘s second season, due to hit us in September, that makes three seasons this year, and, including Punisher last November, four seasons released within ten months of each other. While Punisher was a brutal slog through so much slaughter, and Jessica Jones was an extended rambling about how everyone has it hard and nobody knows how to deal with it, and I have no clue what yet what Iron Fist will be, Luke Cage was clearly written first and foremost as a story about what makes people tick.

People can be very complicated creatures. We can want such simple things, but obtaining them comes with great difficulty, including unexpected consequences. The world turns like a door on the hinges of small, everyday choices. That is how a person changes, slowly, day by day, leaving behind who they were before and becoming someone so similar, yet so very different. We are defined not by what we want, but by what we choose, and as our choices keep piling up, our very character is slowly transformed. That is how ordinary men become heroes or villains, and the line between the two can blur to the point where the one becomes the other.

That, in essence, is what this season of Luke Cage is about. It is riddled with themes of people, relationships, choice, consequence, the past, the future, and mutable character.

Needless to say, it is fairly complex and intricate, but in a good way.

In fact, it takes many of the things that other Defender shows have done right and combines them, without all the accompanying weaknesses. The latest season of Jessica Jones had no singular villain, but Luke Cage actually manages to pull that off. Like its first season, the villains change up, but in ways far more nuanced than simply being rid of one and introducing another. Like Daredevil, it has several antagonists who are all strong characters in their own right, and like Iron Fist, there are human, redeemable sides to said villains. It does not shy away from graphic brutality and sensuality, but it doesn’t dwell on such for too long, either. And this season has clear connections with Defenders, including the characters of all the other shows, but it never makes that connection feel forced. It feels natural.

Oh, and at no time in this show did it feel like it was dragging on, which has been a typical failing point thus far, so, kudos.

Neither does anything feel forced, it’s very character-driven, and so the characters have all the room we could want for them to breathe and grow and develop.

Chief among them, of course, is Luke. His first season ended on a pretty low note, but since then he’s achieved a certain status in his community. He’s very much on top of the world, no matter his humble circumstances, when this season begins. Then he goes through one heck of a roller coaster, being humbled in more ways than one, forced to adapt and compromise as he suffers stinging defeats, and his flaws begin to be made manifest. By the end of it all, the place he arrives at begs the question of if he’s on top of the world again, or if he’s descended to the bottom of it. It also begs the question of if he’s still really a hero, or if he has fallen.

“I! HAVE! ISSUES!”

Standing mostly opposite of Luke is the figure known as Bushmaster. He is one of my favorite villains now. He has a vendetta to settle, and as we learn the nature of it, I can’t really disagree with either what he wants or who he targets. Heck, all things considered, I might even be able to understand his brutality. My initial problem with him is simply how he dithers about and prolongs things instead of finishing the fight as quickly and efficiently as possible. He does terrible things to people who don’t truly deserve it, and his mistakes end up clearing the way for a number of innocent people to get hurt. If he’d simply limited, and streamlined, his revenge, there would have been far less collateral damage, and he might have even come off more as an antihero than a straight up villain. Yet, I can’t disagree with his primary goal at all.

In contrast, we have Mariah Stokes, the MCU version of Black Mariah, who I have never liked, and who proves to be an even worse and more dangerous person than I thought. And still, even in her complete amorality, she still talks like the hero of her own story… which, aren’t we all? She may be one of the most vile human beings ever, but it is partially her past which has twisted her soul into this present monstrosity. She still deserves every terrible thing we see happen to her, and yet, in a perverse sort of way, her role in Harlem has served a noble purpose, as is demonstrated, and she has at least tried to take the sins of the past and turn them towards something good and worthwhile.

The addition of Mariah’s daughter, Tilda Johnson, was especially enjoyable, and functional for the story. She is a healer, a servant of all things good and kind, and yet, like Luke, she journeys down the rabbit hole of her family’s most despicable deeds, and, also like Luke, she is polluted and transformed in unhappy ways by the experience.

Mercedes Knight returns and rises from her previous trauma, and rises through the present turmoil, to become a much stronger, more likable person. The henchman called Shades has his own arc, and while he doesn’t change much, he finds that there is a line, something he can’t tolerate having done. A number of other characters come and go, including Claire, Colleen, Danny Rand, and Luke’s own preaching father, each of them important in their own way, each of them bringing something original and human to the story.

Heck, there’s one character, a perfectly normal guy, whose name I can’t even remember, and he might be one of my favorite heroes ever simply because of what he does in the final episode of the season. Skating around spoilers, he has practically worshiped the ground Luke has walked on, but when he sees Luke making a compromise he can’t agree with, starting down a darker path, he stands up to Luke and even becomes sort of the spiritual heir to Pops from the beginning of the show.

Which goes into what I would say the season is truly about, namely: how heroes truly fall.

I’ll elaborate more on that some other time, so as to avoid spoilers here and now.

“Now, we’re not spoiling things here, understand?”
“OK! OK! OKOKOK!”

Suffice to say, the second season of Luke Cage is intricate and riveting, with layers and themes galore, and possessing one of the most compelling and least predictable plots ever. Where the first season ended in defeat with hopes of a later victory, the second ends with a victory that is arguably Luke’s most devastating defeat in disguise. It’s a bit bloody and horrifying at times, but it’s one heck of a good story about human nature.

Rating: 9 stars out of 10.

Grade: solid A.

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Sunday’s Wisdom 192: “Our” Witch

“Cut her down.”

“The girl is a witch.”

“Yeah, but she’s our witch. So cut her the hell down.”

– Malcolm Reynolds & the Patriarch, Firefly
Episode 5, “Safe”

It is worth noting that those last few words are accompanied by Mal leveling a rifle at the Patriarch’s head. 🙂

This scene takes place in close proximity to last week’s quote. Just before it, to be exact.

These town folk with next to nothing kidnapped a doctor and got his crazy little sister as well. Said sister, we will eventually learn, is psychic. She reads minds. She’s also been experimented on in ways which altered how her brain works, so she has next to no capabilities concerning discretion. So, she lets slip that she knows more than is obvious, that she knows secrets, and the superstitious town folk call her a witch. I love the moment where the Patriarch comes to judge the situation, and as the girl starts revealing how he murdered the previous Patriarch in order to gain the position, he quickly judges her a witch and sentences her to burn at the stake.

And just when things are at their most dire, here comes Mal and his crew to rescue two of their own. The Patriarch tries to stand firm, but Mal has a gun, and a friend with a gun at his side, and another friend with a big gun covering them from above. So, they’ll be taking their people back. That’s when this exchange happens, the Patriarch making one last attempt, and Mal shutting him down. It doesn’t matter what excuse the man waves, the crew is taking their people back, now.

There’s just something I love about that. Yeah, River Tam is crazy and unpredictable and just about impossible to control, but she’s one of theirs, one of Serenity‘s crew members. Jayne’s a big brute, Inara’s a courtesan, Mal and Zoe are remnants of a lost war, Wash is an overgrown kid at times, Book is a preacher on a ship where the captain does not welcome God after that lost war, Kaylee’s a machine junkie, and Simon is not a social butterfly, but so what? They’re an unlikely collection of freaks, but they come together and they’re a force to be reckoned with. Take away one, and the crew is incomplete.

That’s how bonds between humans work. Loyalty demands loyalty, not perfection. Love demands love, not submission. Everybody disagrees about something, and everybody has something wrong or different or off-putting about them when dealing with someone else. We still love each other, and that is something worth holding true to.

No matter which one of us would be the one tied to the stake as a witch in need of rescue (I bet that would be me), we do it, we rescue each other. Because, dangit, they’re our witch! 🙂

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Movie Review: Ant-Man and the Wasp

I went into Ant-Man and the Wasp with the expectation that Marvel would take a more lighthearted, comical turn to balance out the ground-shaking events of Infinity War, with exception to the post-credits scene which would be ominous and terrible and such. I was exactly right about that much, but that still leaves plenty of room for (hilarious) surprises. Skating around said surprises, I will say:

Ant-Man’s corner of the MCU continues to be the comedic one, his second one even more so than the first.

The first round of kudos goes to the actors. Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lily obviously take center stage, and they play perfectly together, both in terms of levity and the more sober moments. Their characters have such great chemistry, and the connection between the two feels more genuine than they were afforded in Ant-Man, which makes perfect sense. The first movie was primarily about the old and new Ant-Man, Scott Lang and Hank Pym, while this one was about Scott and Hope Van Dyne.

Of course, as great as they are, they’d never be able to carry the entire movie alone. Most of the original cast returns and reprises their roles as their characters move forward with their lives. Michael Peña is not only comic relief, but also leads his fellow ex-cons from the first movie now as they run a security company. Abby Ryder Fortson is brilliant for her age as Cassie, Scott’s daughter, a surprisingly strong support, and whose parents are much nicer to Scott now. Michael Douglass naturally returns as Hank Pym, perhaps even more crotchety than he was before, but he’s also a man hoping to put his family back together.

And there are some new additions! Laurence Fishburne debuts in the MCU as Bill Foster, a previous peer of Pym, capable of standing toe-to-toe with Douglass and (REDACTED TO AVOID SPOILERS). Then there’s Hannah John-Kamen as Ghost, one of the most sympathetic and human villains to grace the screen, being ferocious and powerful but also vulnerable and in desperate need of help. Finally, there are the feds and the criminals who manage to complicate things at every turn, often to hilarious effect.

Basically: wow, these people are good at casting! Really good!

Of course, the actors can only work with what they’ve been given, and they were given some pretty good material. In a series of movies that has often been about saving the world, Ant-Man has mostly been trying to save something a good deal smaller. In this case, he’s just trying to hold his life together while doing right by his family and friends, who are very much trying to do the same thing. Even their most powerful and dangerous enemies are fighting to preserve a life. It merely happens that their agendas collide with each other, and the local thugs and feds, as I said, keep complicating things.

The cinematography, the visual effects, the music, the unending humor, the emotional stakes, the growth of the characters, the directing, the acting, the themes, everything about this movie was superbly done. If I had the leeway, I would go see it again. 🙂

In short, Ant-Man and the Wasp is a hilarious, heartwarming, and family friendly superhero romp with excellent acting, writing, plot, characters, theme, stagecraft, and a whole lot of laughter.

Rating: 10 stars out of 10.

Grade: A-Plus.

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Sunday’s Wisdom 191: The Meaning of Crew

“Captain, why did you come back for us?”

“You’re on my crew.”

“Yeah, but you don’t even like me. Why’d you come back?”

You’re on my crew. Why we still talking about this?”

– Simon Tam & Malcolm Reynolds, Firefly
Episode 5, “Safe”

Simon and his sister River are the children of an illustrious, well-to-do family, one that had a luxurious mansion with state of the art security. They easily paid for Simon’s studies to become a brilliant doctor, a path he was set on even as a boy. They certainly lacked for nothing material. Yet, when their daughter disappeared into the bowels of a government facility disguised as a school, Simon was left to fight for her alone, without the help of their parents. It took him – him, the heir of a high-class family and a successful young doctor – a full two years of trying to see his sister without any success for anything to come of it, and that was only when he attracted the attention of an underground resistance movement which agreed to help him liberate River in exchange for all the funding he could give them. There was a moment where he was detained by government authorities, and his own father stormed down there to berate him for risking their reputation, with the promise that the next time Simon was in trouble, “I will not come for you.”

So, Simon and River’s own parents betrayed and abandoned them. Certainly they couldn’t expect anything better from anyone else.

Then they became part of Serenity‘s crew, under Captain Mal Reyolds. It was nothing luxurious at all, in fact it was a pretty hard life, and they weren’t blood-kin with anyone else on the ship. Heck, at least one other crew member would have happily been rid of the both of them. Then came a moment where it seemed like they were being abandoned yet again, and into a situation which quickly spiraled into something where their deaths seemed imminent. But just in the nick of time, Serenity managed to return. It’s afterward that Simon and Mal have this conversation.

Simon, who has been abandoned by the people he trusted most, and who supposedly loved him, isn’t sure why a man who doesn’t actually like him came back for them. For Mal, it’s simply what one does. Though no one on the ship is related to them, the Tam siblings have become part of a family, which Mal refers to as his crew. For Mal, it’s simply inconceivable to abandon any one of them.

I like that a lot. While I was blessed with a family who loves me, I have also been blessed with friends who have become my family. I am thankful for each of them, from the bottom of my heart. It has always been part of my creed, to be loyal to my loved ones, never betraying or abandoning them. Why? Because they are “my crew.” It is through them that I am not left alone in my life, and so, as long as it is within my power, I will never leave them alone.

My family, my friends, my crew, you would come for me if I were in trouble, and so I will come for you.

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Sunday’s Wisdom #190: You Are What You Are

“Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.”
– Tyrion Lannister, Game of Thrones
Season 1, Episode 1, “”

Several seasons in, and nearing the end of the series, and still this moment from the very beginning is one of my favorite scenes of the show, and the moment where I saw the first glimpse of Tyrion’s depth.

Tyrion is a dwarf. He was born a dwarf, he has always lived a dwarf, he will die a dwarf. In any society, modern or medieval, that is not the easiest fate to bear. They automatically face challenges which others never will, and they’re often the victims of less-than-decent treatment, solely because of their physical uniqueness.

Tyrion’s had to live with that mockery all his life, but here’s what he’s realized: he’s a dwarf, so what? He can’t change what he is. It’s simply what he is. So instead of letting it be his weakness, he turns it into a strength. Others may laugh at him, and underestimate him, but they have no power over him.

That’s what Tyrion means when he says this to Jon Snow, a young man who has been forced to bear the stigma of being a bastard. A literal one, not a figurative expression about his character. In a culture where rank, importance, trust, even the love of others is heavily influenced by birth and legitimacy, Jon has worn a label that automatically invites ridicule and mistrust. He is keenly in need of this advice from Tyrion.

Interestingly, one of the worst and most hated villains in the show is also a bastard. In the books, this villainous figure is legitimized, and proceeds to do horrible things to anyone who still calls him a bastard. Then, when he comes at direct odds with Jon Snow, he sends a letter, repeatedly calling him a bastard, throwing Jon’s continuing status in his face while simultaneously gloating about how he rose above the label. But by that point, it doesn’t hurt Jon at all. He’s embraced it in the face of more important things, left the hurt of it behind him, while his nemesis is still consumed by it even while trying to make the world forget it.

There are things about ourselves which we can change, and there are things which we cannot. White, black, male, female, disabled, short, tall, Gentile, Jew, autistic… the list is endless. But we can’t change them. We are what we are. There will always be someone who will use that against us, but it doesn’t have to be a weakness. It can be, and should be, our strength.

I remember, I was sometimes a victim of bullying in school because I was the skinny redhead bookworm with a weird voice, a weirder brain, and part of a weird religion. 😉 I was unique. I stood out. But while I often felt hurt by the ridicule, I don’t know if I ever wanted to change what I was. I liked being weird. I liked being me. If I’d really been ashamed, I’d probably have gotten into a lot of fights. Instead, I lived with it and eventually it was just left behind.

I am what I am, and I am not ashamed, so will not be shamed.

Heh, I supposed I was just thinking a lot about that in the wake of my part of the Three Days, Three Quotes Challenge. 🙂

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I Picked My Harem Favorites

Recently, Cactus Matt over on Anime Q and A created the Build a Harem tag, which I participated in and very much enjoyed. But I got thinking, as I tend to, and I noticed something. For being a tag about harems, I don’t think I’ve seen anyone choose any actual harem characters. As in, no characters from the harem anime titles which inspired the tag in the first place.

Hmm, interesting!

As I myself was selecting my personal harem, I ended up dismissing all the harem girls simply to cut down on the competition a bit, but I found myself with an idea.

Most anime fans know at least a few harem and/or reverse-harem titles, and I know I have girls in these harems which, were I the lead character, I would pick them over the others. Of course, they usually don’t have said lead character make any such choice at all, because that would end the harem, but we, the audience, are not limited by that, are we? We all have our favorites, I think.

So, my little tag, in echo of Build a Harem, is:

Pick Your Harem Favorites.

The idea, and the rules, are simple:

1) Thank whoever tags you.

2) Pick 3 – 5 anime with existing harems, or reverse-harems, in them.

3) Choose your favorite, the one you would choose if you were the lead character. Explain why, as much as you want to.

4) Tag around 5 friends.

Obviously, I’m starting things off, so I’ll just thank Cactus Matt for the inspiration. 🙂

And as for my five picks from anime harems:

Tenchi Muyo: Ryoko Hakubi

This was my very first introduction to the idea of harems in anime. It was thankfully much more subtle about it than most of today’s anime, mostly being a love triangle between Tenchi, Ayeka, and Ryoko, but it definitely indicated that most of the other girls in the show were also interested in Tenchi at one point or another. Out of them all, Ryoko was easily my favorite, and certainly my preferred choice over Princess Ayeka.

Where her chief competition was a spoiled, shallow, vain, selfish princess, Ryoko the space pirate was a truly strong woman, with an emotional depth that belied her tough exterior. She was truly sincere in her words and actions and especially her feelings for Tenchi. She may have caused quite a bit of mischief, but she also protected the others, even going so far as to help Tenchi rescue Ayeka, fighting ferociously despite her own grievous injuries.

Hands down, Ryoko is my favorite among Tenchi’s girls.

Haganai: Sena Kashiwazaki

Pretty much all the characters in Haganai have serious psychological problems. Sena is no exception. Though she’s popular and vain, she’s still very insecure and naïve about the world, and she doesn’t really have any friends – the girls envy her and the guys relentlessly ogle her – until she joins the club that becomes the central harem of the show. So, yes, she has issues.

She is still heads-and-shoulders above the rest. While she may put on airs, she is still quite genuine and sincere in her behavior and opinions. She may be a bit ditzy and trusting, but that’s because she doesn’t have a malignant or manipulative bone in her curvaceous body. Contrast that with the other female lead, Yozora, who routinely insults others, lies, deceives, sabotages, and cruelly manipulates (or tries to), not to mention frequently creating scenarios in her head where Sena is getting raped – which I really don’t find amusing at all.

Oh, yeah, Kodaka. Easy choice here. Sena can grow, mature, become a bit more grounded through life, but that arranged engagement your parents did with hers is probably the best thing ever to happen to you. Get over your friendship issues and get with this girl!

Campione: Ena Seishuuin

Out of four girls (I am not counting Athena) in Godou’s harem, Ena is the one we meet last, and don’t know her for very long before the show ends. (I hate unfinished stories…) She’s also easily my favorite.

Erica Blandelli of the “celestial figure” and yada-yada-yada is far too manipulative for my tastes. The other two girls, Yuri and Liliana, are firmly under Erica’s sway, easily manipulated or dominated, so I’ve no real interest in them either, whatever their pros vs cons are. But Ena – who, I note, is the only one with a figure to match or exceed Erica’s – is easily Erica’s equal, if not her superior in certain ways, and not a girl to be cowed by the queen bee. That is easily what I like most about her: she doesn’t just take Erica’s crap. This curvy girl can fight on par with the strongest people in the world. What does she care what little barbs Blondie might throw her way? She lacks subtlety, but she’s forthright and honest, and she genuinely cares about her relationship with Godou.

So, sincere, trustworthy, powerful, and curvy? Ena would definitely be my choice.

To Love-Ru: Momo Belia Deviluke

This is one of those titles where pretty much every girl just kind of falls for the male lead, Rito, mostly just because. I counted them once, and I think I got to a dozen or more females who’d be in his harem. While their interest in him was pretty much the same across the board, I did like how diverse the girls themselves were without just being a collection of polar opposites and tropes, ya know? Which is strange to say, considering how stereotypical and… ah, overtly sexualized this anime is.

Still, easily my personal favorite was Momo, the younger sister of the alien Princess Lala. After her big sister meets and falls for Rito, Momo and her twin, Nana, descend on Earth, and on Rito’s head, in the show’s second season, as I recall. Momo has a clear interest in Rito from the start, and it’s her brain that hatches the harem plan, so she can have Rito without any hearts, like both of her sisters’ (or hers), getting broken in the process. They can all be happy together.

Momo is certainly the most mischievous of the entire bunch, with one or two arguable exceptions, but she’s really quite honest about what she wants, and she actually has the spine to go for it. She’s ruthless and clever, both in a fight and in everyday life, but she cares about what everyone wants, and she wants everyone to be happy. And while she, quite bluntly, wants to have sex with Rito, she wants to do it right, with the proper consent of all parties involved.

There’s something endearing about that duality of traits. She’s bold and pushes things, but doesn’t resort to extremes.

Rito may have over a dozen hotties wanting him, but Momo is clearly the best, in my opinion.

The Familiar of Zero: Kirche von Anhalt Zerbst

Full name: Kirche Augusta Frederica von Anhalt Zerbst.

Nickname: Kirche the Fever (and small wonder how she got that nickname).

If there is one chief complaint I have about this anime, it’s how the pairing between Saito and Louise 1) came out of nowhere and 2) make no sense whatsoever! I mean, this bratty, shallow, entitled girl treats Saito so horribly, as if he were less than an actual person and her favorite punching bag. It’s a seriously abusive relationship. Louise would not get the time of day from me.

Kirche, on the other hand… while others among Saito’s harem are variously flawed and variously better than Louise, Kirche stands as the obvious choice. True, she’s flirty and teasing and rather insistent in her sexual desires, but she’s far more genuine and caring than Louise. She’s also the only one to move on from her fascination with Saito (to an older man, a professor at the university she attends), which speaks volumes about how strong and stable she is. She knows what she wants and she goes after it, and sometimes she’s a bit overbearing about it, but she’s a true friend and comes to treat others far more respectfully than Louise does.

Seriously, Saito, what were you thinking in refusing this voluptuous vixen who would have treated you better?!

Are you noticing a pattern about sincerity, here? 😉

So, that’s five favorite harem picks from me. How about you? Who are your favorites among all those harems out there? I’m asking everyone generally, but, as this is a tag, I am specifically asking:

Cactus Matt (I hope I did not disappoint 😉 )
Irina
Scott
Moya
Lina
(since y’all managed to get tagged with the last tag before I could tag you, mwahahah! 😉 )

Pick Your Harem Favorites!

I look forward to your answers! 🙂

Posted in Anime and Cartoons, Challenge Accepted | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments

Sunday’s Wisdom #189: The Greatest Treasure

“To be my own master… such a thing would be greater than all the magic and all the treasures in all the world.”
– The Genie, Aladdin

The Genie, portrayed by Robin Williams, is easily one of the most beloved characters in Disney history. He’s funny, useful, almost always right, and there’s an emotional depth and sincerity to him one can’t help but love. He also has a most human desire, a longing to be free of all servitude. In all the thousands of years he’s lived, with all the masters he’s had, he had been a slave for all of it, and not one person ever considered him equal enough to ask, “What would you wish for?” Not until Aladdin, that is, the street rat who became his final master.

Aladdin himself has known poverty and struggle, while Jasmine has had every aspect of her life governed for her, but neither has ever been a slave. Neither has ever been completely without freedom of his or her own. Small wonder the Genie is so funny, because slavery is the crucifixion of the soul, and laughter is often the best medicine.

The joy the Genie feels when he is finally free is understandably overwhelming. However long the Genie lives, he will never forget the man who freed him. Heh, I have heard that the original plan for the movie’s ending was to reveal the peddler telling the story at the beginning to be the Genie in disguise. That would certainly fit, him telling Aladdin’s story for the rest of his life, so people remember him forever.

Freedom is the greatest treasure we can ever know, and to be free is to be one’s own master. It does necessitate mastering oneself, of course, but, even more, it demands a highg price to obtain it and to keep it. That’s why I’m sharing this quote right before July 4th, the anniversary of my nation’s birth. The Declaration of Independence, the American Revolution, the Constitution, the United States of America… it all has its root in this simple desire, no, the simple right that each human has to be his or her own master. All the more tragic that I find my nation having strayed so far from this, but that goes into politics, which I prefer to keep off my blog.

For now, I just want to say Happy Birthday to America, Land of the Free.

Posted in Movies, Sunday's Wisdom | Tagged , | 6 Comments