Anivengers Assemble!

Heh, just imagine this crew showing up together in Endgame!

Awhile ago, I made a post about My Anime Justice League. The idea for assembling My Anime Avengers has been percolating ever since, but the timing never seemed quite right with the rotating cast. Now that we’ve basically reached a definite point of separation between the phases, with the coclusion of an entire three-phase saga, and before we get a million new additions to the ranks, I figured now was the best time I was ever going to get! 🙂

To be clear, these are only for Avengers. Not Guardians or Agents of Shield or anything like that. They must be clearly part of an Avengers team-up without any affiliation with another team or group, though they are allowed to have significant roles, like, say, King of Wakanda or head of Stark Industries, etc. If I were to include everyone that could be included, I’d be writing a novel. Which, I do hope to do that at some point, but on this particular subject. 😉

Also, as the membership has continuously rotated, it was easier for me to divide them according to what Phase they were introduced in.

And my anime JL roster is off limits.

Finally… these are not going to be perfect comparisons. If you have your own ideas for better candidates, by all means, share! Let’s have some fun with this! 😀

Phase 1: The OG Avengers

Iron Man
Franky, One Piece

He’s basically a mad scientist, a builder, who has enhanced his physical abilities with technology, and continues to improve on such. He has a troubled past including the loss of a father figure to a shadowy conspiracy that controls entire nations, and he’s felt the sting of having his own creations used against him. He provides many of the tools his comrades use, and he more than holds his own in a fight.

Captain America
All Might, My Hero Academia

In terms of raw power, of course All Might is far stronger. But much of his physical strength comes from an external source, as something he inherited from a genuinely good person. Yet, it is his heart which makes him a hero, not his power. He embodies the sheer will to serve and help and fight for others. He stands as the first and last line against a great evil, determined to hold that line no matter how hopeless the odds, and no matter how grievous his injuries. He simply refuses to stay down.

(And he has both a scrawny and a buff form)

Thor
Laxus, Fairy Tail

A warrior of strong stature, who wields the power of lightning. He has had problems with his ego, including disputes within his own family. He is cast out for his actions, and returns redeemed.

Hulk
Eren, Attack on Titan

He goes from a normal state, where he is physically weak, to a form where he is a physical powerhouse of overwhelming strength. His transformation is rooted in mad science, and his power is fueled by his anger, his rage. It’s difficult to control, as if it has a will of its own, but he gets the hang of it in time.

Black Widow
Alita, Alita: Battle Angel

Yes, we all know the Major, Matoko Kusanagi, from the Ghost in the Shell franchise, is the most obvious pick. But I already used her in my Justice League, so, hear me out. 😉

Alita is a young girl, who happens to be artificial. She was made a certain way, with expectations from those who made her. She rebels against that control, choosing to live her own life, yet there is a definite vulnerability beneath her strength. And she is truly formidable in a fight, no matter her slight stature.

Hawkeye
Ashitaka, Princess Mononoke

A proud, noble warrior, known for his skill with the bow and arrow, but also with a sword. A honest, humble man who first answers the call of his duty out of love, and comes to bear a terrible burden. Merciless in battle, but kind and forgiving as well, even seeing humanity within a woman that others would dismiss for her savagery.

Phase 2: The Add-Ons

War Machine
Trowa, Gundam Wing

Technically, War Machine was introduced in Phase 1, but he doesn’t really count as one of the original Avengers, ya know?

As for Trowa… well, I’d say he is a pretty classic example of a warrior with a mechanical suit that specializes in overwhelming firepower, of the variety of bullets and missiles. He’s also very physically fit and capable on his own, very bound to his duties and ideals as a fighter and as a friend.

Falcon
Batou, Ghost in the Shell

A former soldier of unimpeachable honor and loyalty, with certain technological advantages over his enemy (albeit very different from Falcon’s ability to fly) and the skill to use them effectively. He’s strong, but clever too, and stands within the heart of an amazing group of people, even inheriting a legacy, in time, from someone he greatly admires and trusts. And he can actually smile. 🙂

Vision
Astro Boy, Astro Boy

An artificial person, created by a mad scientist, who flies around protecting people with a goodly amount of firepower at his disposal.

Scarlet Witch
Tatsumaki, One Punch Man

A woman with tremendous telekinetic power, which she wields with masterful skill, overwhelming her enemies and making even the most fearsome enemy tremble at her approach. And she has plenty of attitude to go around.

Quiksilver
Joe Shinamura, Cyborg 009

Taken by an evil organization bent on world domination, turned into a speedster, choosing to fight on behalf of others, forming some unlikely bonds of mutual loyalty, and, though the anime did not get quite that far, he eventually dies protecting others.

Ant-Man
Rimuru, That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime

Quite a bit more overpowered than Ant-Man, perhaps, but Rimuru is one who thinks outside the box, finding unusual solutions to complex, dangerous problems. He has a few abilities that he uses in clever ways to achieve his goals. He genuinely cares for the people around him and can freely change his form as necessary. Oh, and there’s almost always something funny about his adventures, even in a crisis.

Phase 3: The New Guard

Black Panther
Tiger, Killing Bites

He’s strong, cunning, and quick, with physical abilities above the norm because of something unusual that was done to his body. He’s proud and noble, with an unconquerable spirit and a defiant soul.

Spider-Man
Deku, My Hero Academia

A young man still at the beginning (I hope) of his time as a hero, learning quickly and making mistakes along the way, but taking responsibility for all of it. He is strong, and getting stronger, both in terms of physical strength but also agility and precision. He has an unexpected breadth of knowledge to apply, and he does so very well. And he is the inheritor of a legacy, a leader of the rising generation of heroes.

Wasp
Akatsuki, Log Horizon

She might not be able to shrink, but she has quite an array of tricks anyway, well-suited to stealth and quick, devastating strikes!

Captain Marvel
Caulifla, Dragon Ball Super

A woman with a fierce, unbridled attitude and a whole lot of power, shining bright as a star and delivering mighty blows that utterly demolish, nay, annihilate her enemies! Need I say more? 😉

Doctor Strange
Kisuke Urahara, Bleach

A man of intelligence and learning, a master of magic and sorcery, with many spells and tools at his disposal, especially his iron will and fleet-footed wit. A bit on the arrogant side, though, isn’t he?

…is that everyone? I think that’s everyone. Did I miss anyone?

What do you think?

Who would you assemble for your Anivengers?

Posted in Anime and Cartoons, Challenge Accepted, Discussion, Miscellaneous | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Frozen Again

When they made Frozen, they started out going in one direction, and then completely turned around and went in another. It shows, but the narrative they put together, complete with the cast and the soundtrack, was pretty phenomenal anyway.

They did not do that with Frozen II, or, at least, not that I can tell. So far as I can see, they sat down and created a single coherent story to develop the world and the characters within it, as well as their relationships. It’s pretty well done and pretty fun!

The story once again follows Anna, Elsa, Olaf, Kristoff, and Sven, this time as they journey a ways north. The reason? Because something is calling to Elsa, and reaching out to her as shadows of the past loom over her kingdom, her people, and her family. So off they go, into the unknown, to uncover the truth that was lost behind a wall of mist. What they find, what they do, and what they choose will change them and their futures forever.

Change is a big part of the movie. Growing up necessarily involves a great deal of change, and nothing stays as it is forever. Olaf very much wants to grow up and know everything, Elsa has a destiny greater than she ever thought, Kristoff wants to make a single, particularly pivotal change to his life and his relationship with Anna, while Anna tries to keep things the same, to keep her family safe, but must eventually come to terms with how impermanent almost everything is, with exception to love. And even that, I would say, can transform and grow.

However, that change is almost always painful in some way, and there is no set path towards one’s eventual destination. Often, quite often, reaching towards a light demands stepping through the darkness, taking risks, making hard choices, and enduring sacrifice and loss. The distant scene can be overwhelming and obscure and frightening, so we need to focus on our very next step, the next right thing we can do. We often go too far, delve too deep, and drown in the cold, empty, dark, but that does not mean we can’t rise again, into an even greater light than we ever knew before.

In short, it deals with basic human fears and insecurities in an entertaining way.

And I have to say, I like Frozen a good deal more for how it developed Anna and Elsa in such a way that they were ready for the challenges of Frozen II. I mean, if they’d not matured in their first adventure, they would never have made it through their second. The first movie was about two girls growing up to face the world, while the second is about two women actually facing the world.

Fittingly, the relationship between the two sisters is developed and strengthened as well. They aren’t the same, but they are strong, each in their own way, and they support one another. One might fear that the bond between them might break as it changes, but it only grows all the stronger. So strong that they are more like two sides of the same coin, or, rather, two ends of a bridge, forging connections between peoples and between humans and spirits as much as between each other.

The movie is, perhaps, a little heavy on both the songs and flashbacks, the mysteries are pretty easy to guess, and Kristoff’s arc was fairly minimal. Yet the music is generally quite beautiful (“Into the Unknown” has particularly gotten under my skin). The flashbacks actually all tie the story together as this being the culmination of not only Anna and Elsa’s story thus far, but of many stories which are older than they are. The resolution of the mysteries still felt worthwhile. And Kristoff… well, what can I say? It takes a bit of time to get the most important choice in one’s life right. 😉 And at least this time he really was in the right place at the right time to save his lady love’s life! Go, reindeer-boy! 🙂

One final thing I found interesting was the absence of a villain. That seems to be an emerging pattern, actually. Frozen played a little trick by turning its prince into the villain for the final act, Moana had monsters and adversaries, but final one wasn’t really a villain at all, and Ralph Breaks the Internet had a threat in the form of Raplph’s insecurities given physical form, but not really any villain at all. Now Frozen II had pretty much no villain at all. The closest we got to that was the echo of a foul, treacherous deed committed long ago, one which set everything since into motion.

An interesting pattern begins to form, doesn’t it?

Oh, and I very much appreciate the attention they gave to the Scandinavian aspect of the culture, as seen in so many of the details, from the food, to the clothing, to the dwellings and music of the reindeer-herders. My mother is Norwegian, and she took special delight in that! 🙂

At about an hour and a half long, Frozen II is a fun little adventure for the whole family, spellbinding and hinarious (it makes fun of itself, too!), yet also serious and significant. I enjoyed it very much, and highly recommend it. It will definitely find its way into my personal library. 🙂

Rating: 9 stars out of 10.

Grade: B-Plus.

Posted in Movies, Tuesday Review | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Sunday’s Wisdom #263: Everyday Wonders

“Wonderful! I’ve never seen a more amazing piece of machinery!”

“But I have! Takato’s parents have a machine in their store that makes bread!”

“Haha! Well, I guess there’s no way Grani here could compete with that!”

“It’s tough!”

– Shibumi and Guilmon, Digimon
Season 3, Digmon Tamers, Episode 48, “Shadow of the Beast King”

Shibumi, aka. Gorou Mizuno, is an accomplished scientist, part of the team that created the artificial intelligences which eventually became digimon. In this scene, he’s marveling at a living, learning machine which can fly and even carry people across the boundary between worlds. It is a magnificent thing to behold, indeed, absolutely the stuff of wonder and imagination made physical, made real. But to Guilmon, the power to fly and move between worlds is dwarfed by the power to make bread. Mind you, he’s a bit obsessed with delicious bread, but it’s still a humbling reminder for Shibumi, which he takes in good humor and stride.

There’s something to that, isn’t there?

There are a great many wonders that mankind has made, and will continue to make:
The pyramids of Egypt, skyscraping towers of glass and metal, and rows and rows of homes for families to raise their children in.
Ships that cross oceans and ships that sail to the moon and beyond, engines that pull tons and tons of weight across entire nations, planes that cross the skies, and cars that take us to grocery stores, to work, and to school games.
Radios, computers, the vast web of the internet that brings us closer together across great distances, and the simple, powerful words, “I love you.”
Ovens and grills that can make every sort of dish, from the finest of any culture’s cuisine, to trays filled of humble loaves of bread.
Basic plumbing, toilets, and washing machines. 😉

The greatest wonders, I think, are the ones we can take most for granted, the normal, ordinary, everyday miracles of humanity.

Baking bread. Healing hands. Laughing children. Enchanting stories. Love, honor, integrity, hope, kindness, joy.

These are the ground beneath our feet, easily taken for granted, but worth every bit as much as the stars we reach for, if not more.

…not that there’s anything at all wrong with reaching towards the stars, of course! 😉

Posted in Anime and Cartoons, Sunday's Wisdom | Tagged | Leave a comment

I Am Thankful for Crappy Stories

This month, in honor of Thanksgiving in my country, I thought to have a running theme of things which I am grateful for, from the perspective of my entertainment. Of course, there are many, many other things I can be thankful for, but this is an entertainment blog, ya know? 😉

So, I am thankful for closed captions that enable my sister and I to enjoy movies and such together.

I am thankful for Walt Disney, whatever can be said of him, for the good that he did for our stories in general and for animation especially.

I am also thankful for our veterans, for every moment we have, for all of my memories, good and bad alike, and for the community of bloggers I am a part of. 🙂

I am very thankful for my family.

And I am thankful for… crappy stories?

Hm, that’s an odd thing to be thankful for, eh?

You might be wondering why I chose that as my final Thanksgiving-based topic, especially published on Thanksgiving itself.

I suppose it boils down to my stubborn insistence on taking the bad with the good, and finding the good within the bad. Silver linings, bright side, glass half-full, that sort of thing. It’s rooted, I think, in how I am certain my life, and my character, would be worse right now if not for the pain and difficulties of my past. It is my fervent belief that, whatever Hell we go through, there is something in the end that will be worth it all.

…but crappy stories? Really? A guy who critiques so many stories as a hobby, and makes demands for higher and higher quality of such stories, this man, me, is actually grateful for the lesser quality stories?

Well… yes!

And here are a few reasons why. 🙂

Knowing the sweet from the bitter

It is a personal belief of mine that we need to have variety in life in order to learn from it. Roller coasters go up and down and loop-de-loop. We laugh, we cry, we rage, we find peace. We would hardly appreciate sugar if we’d never known anything without it.

And how many stories can you name which feature a character who grew up in a society where things were done the way they were done and that was just the way it was done, until they suddenly encounter something new and different (and usually depicted as “superior” though that is not actually guaranteed) and they grow magnificently from this experience, gaining a new and greater perspective?

Crappy stories help us appreciate great stories. 🙂

“So bad, it’s good”

Sometimes, every once in awhile, we just need something that is so easy to make fun of that it’s like shooting a lot of densely-packed fish in a very small barrel at point-blank range with a sawed-off shotgun. I am convinced that this accounts for half of Twilight’s popularity.

I am sure you can think of something that you like if only because of how you can laugh at it. 😉

Lessons learned anyway

Stories teach us how to live and why, and I could not begin to count the number of times I have found hidden jewels amidst the dross of mediocrity or worse. Storytelling is a tricky art, and when the surrounding story is so much lesser, it can make its more redeeming qualities stand out even more, like a single character you like, or a particular quote, or (you know it) the visual effects.

Mind you, it can require astronomical amounts of patience to get to it, but, point still stands. 😉

And on the note of how tricky an art it is…

Improvement through failure

We fall, we get back up. We fail, we try again. We lose, we learn, and we improve.

What’s that old saying? No pain, no gain?

I believe someone else is famous for saying, “Every pain is a lesson, and every lesson makes you stronger.”

How many times did  Thomas Edison fail before he invented the light bulb? I seem to recall he said, “I didn’t fail. I found two thousand ways not to make a light bulb.”

And my personal favorite example: Kevin Feige. Head of Marvel Studios. The man whose brainchild is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He’s actually been around the superhero scene for quite awhile, was involved in a number of superhero projects, some of which were good and others which really weren’t. He learned from all of that, good and bad alike, and behold the result! 😀

“I was inevitable.”

Everything about our society advances through failing at it first. Why should our storytelling be any different, eh? 😉

Material that sets expectations which can be played with

”Eh, it’s just another bland such-and-such with with no surprises-WHOA! That was unexpected! It was actually clever! It’s amazing!”

I’ll just leave it at that. 😉

Volume, to keep the construct from collapsing

Masterpieces are extremely difficult to achieve and costly to produce. Everyone who makes their money producing stories has bills to pay. To do that, they need money. To get money, the need to keep selling. To keep selling, they need something to sell. The need to keep the presses rolling, so to speak.

Crappy stories fill out the space in between the masterpieces, the hits, and the cult favorites, to keep all of these businesses in business long enough to hit gold again. If we didn’t have the lesser stories, we would fail to maintain the production of better stories.

I’m sure there are more reasons I could think of, but I’ll end it here, and bid all of you in America a Happy Thanksgiving, and the rest of you, my wonderful audience, a very good day! 🙂

Posted in Discussion, Miscellaneous | 2 Comments

Anime Review: The Helpful Fox Senko-san

Not everything is action and explosions, romance and drama, or even comedy and wit. Sometimes, with our busy, busy lives, noses eternally to the grindstone, it’s ok to just take a little time out for ourselves and relax. Indeed, it is necessary to do more than just keep breathing: we need to find some way to enjoy life.

That is more or less the point, and appeal, of The Helpful Fox Senko-san. (the grammar nazi in me desperately wants to put a comma after “fox”) It’s a supernatural slice of life that pretty much forgoes all of the usual tropes of storytelling, and yet despite this, or perhaps because of this, it is very nice and soothing to watch.

It’s about the daily life of Kuroto Nakano, a Japanese salaryman who has been living a most unhappy life, filled with stress and built entirely around work, such that he just works, eats, sleeps, and otherwise just continues on in an utterly joyless existence. He walks around with a black cloud of despair clinging to him like a life-sucking leech.

Then comes Senko.

Kuroto returns home one night, after another long, grueling, unappreciated day, the latest in a long, long series of such days, and finds a girl with a fluffy fox tail and ears in his apartment, making him dinner. She is a demigod fox-girl, eight hundred years old, and she’s there to “pamper” him, meaning to look after and help him, and sweep that dark cloud away. This she does because she wants to, she cares about him, and has actually watched over him for a very long time, because she owes a debt to his family for a kindness his ancestor once paid to her in a time of need.

Kuroto’s life doesn’t necessarily change that much, after Senko enters into it, but the caring and light she brings with her definitely improve his life substantially. Before long, he’s eating better and healthier, resting better, living in a cleaner, more comfortable home, doing more fun things, socializing more (his neighbor becomes a friend), and smiling much more than he used to. In short, though his troubles do not go away, the quality of his life is significantly improved. Senko does so much for him, making him feel cared about, helping him relax. It can be a bit repetitive to see him fall into sublime bliss every time she tends to him, but she has a gentle, soothing touch. And he gets to enjoy her fluffy, fluffy tail!

That’s something of a recurring joke, and very endearing to witness.

Not to say that nothing interesting happens. If that were the case, it would be boring. There are new things they try, and friends who spice things up, and difficulties to overcome – it was adorable to see Senko trying to figure out modern technology – but it didn’t undo itself by becoming overly dramatic. And, I have to say, it was rather refreshing to see a show that didn’t rely on cheap gimmicks, spectacle, or fan service to keep its audience. Indeed, they built a relationship between Kuroto and Senko that, for once, was entirely warm and affectionate without venturing into either the waters of romance or utilizing any “ecchi” content at all. Indeed, Senko’s friends, also demigod fox-girls, came into the scenario obviously expecting that sort of attention from Kuroto, but the limit to his physical desires was, well… their fluffy tails!

Hey, people love the fluff! 🙂

There was one quiet tension that was resolved firmly but without much fanfare. It was the question of how long this happiness could last, how long Senko could stay with Kuroto. It was always inevitable that they would part ways, sooner or later. If Senko does not ever choose to leave, then it is fixed: she will see Kuroto die, and be left to mourn for uncounted centuries. But she is not so naive as to not realize this. Knowing this, comprehending it, she chooses to stay with Kuroto anyway, when the question is brought up. She will stay with him as long as she can, and that will be that.

In short, I suppose The Helpful Fox Senko-san is simply about finding some joy in life, rather than just surviving until you die, and holding on to that joy for as long as you can, the way that adults do: with eyes wide open. It is calm, peaceful, soothing, and a happy, pleasant way to spend a few hours.

Rating: 8 stars out of 10.

Grade: B-Plus.

Posted in Anime and Cartoons, Tuesday Review | Tagged | Leave a comment

Sunday’s Wisdom #262: For My Family

“It’s amazing how much more you appreciate your family after believing that you’d lost them forever.”
– Julie Shackleford-Pitt, from Monster Hunter Guardian, by Larry Correia

Julie, being who she is, already loved her family, fiercely. Grandfather, great-grandfather, parents, siblings, husband, son, all of them. She loved them all absolutely. Over the years, she endured losses of several members of her family, but suddenly, all at once, she found herself facing the loss of everyone who was left, all at once. Fortunately, they were all spared, and she got her family back.

How exhilarating and joyful a day that would be, eh?

What’s that old saying? You don’t know what you have until it’s gone? And it’s true. Even the most grateful of us can tend to take things, and people, for granted. That is, until we don’t have it, or them, anymore.

Even if we never take them for granted, there are times when we are more thankful than usual.

Myself, I am immensely thanful for my family.

Even more, I am thankful for my family! By which, I mean that I have seen many families who treat each other far worse than mine does. We have our disputes, yes, everyone does, but I have never had cause to question the love and loyalty of my family. We don’t go around hurting each other, we look after each other. We aren’t there for what the others can do for us, but for what we can do for them. And we do not abandon each other.

It is one of my greater regrets in life that I have been able to do so very little for my loved ones, in the wake of everything they have done for me. I am working to try to change that, and I am glad for how I can help them now, but that regret still lingers, even knowing they don’t hold it against me.

But I digress.

For all the good times and bad, for all the arguments and frustration, for all the fun, happy, laughing, peaceful times, for all the times we cry together and support each other, for everything and more… I hope I never find myself ungrateful.

I am thankful for my family.

Posted in Books, Sunday's Wisdom | Tagged , | 1 Comment

The Master Storyteller, Walt Disney

Walt Disney.

Whatever you may think of the man, or his company, or his legacy, or any of the flaws to be found in such – which are not the point of this post – the fact remains that Walt Disney was one of the most skilled, ambitious, and influential storytellers of the modern age.

The story begins with the setting of the stage. Moving pictures were new, sound with moving pictures was new, and animation was new. It was so new that it had largely been just a gimmick, a trick performed at fancy parties. That was changing, but the Fleischer Brothers were into some pretty weird stuff, even back then, as evidenced by the Betty Boop commercials. It also wasn’t all that appealing to look at either. Novel, perhaps, but nothing astounding.

Then came Disney.

Walt was a man with drive, vision, and passion. He dreamt big and went for it. That wasn’t an easy thing. There are still legends of how much he spent and borrowed, during the Great Depression and much to his brother’s chagrin, pioneering new techniques and technologies, developing animation into something more palatable, even enchanting, to the human eye, an effort that continues to this day, a century later.

Mickey Mouse paved the way for The Three Little Pigs, which was an absolute success not only for the children’s story and how it was told, but because it was seen as a great fist risen in defiance of the rampant poverty of the Great Depression. Soon after, the first several techniques Disney developed were combined and field tested in The Windmill, another success. And then these techniques were used again when he did something no one had ever done before: he made a feature-length movie that was entirely animated. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves was not only the first of its kind, but it was so much nicer just to look at than previous animations were, and it told an enchanting story.

Believe me, when you spend long enough looking at the earliest animations, Snow White becomes an absolute relief to watch. I can only imagine that, to people who had never seen any such thing before, it was absolutely awesome. Thus, it was a million-dollar (again, during the Depression) sensation. Naturally, everyone else tried to copycat it, because that is what Hollywood does.

All that effort, and finally, with one stroke, Walt Disney set the tone for everything that followed, for decades. Not a small thing, that.

He undertook a massive workload to achieve his ambitions, and the stress of that took a toll which, among other things, got him forcefully sent on vacation more than once, also by his brother. Considering the iron, even overbearing, will which Walt clearly possessed, I call that a superhuman accomplishment.

And what did Walt do with all of this? He told stories for the entire family.

Before he came along, animation was decidedly not meant for children at all. True, his iron-handed will may have taken us too far in the other direction, where Westerners still, to this day, think of animation as something almost exclusively for kids, but I believe he meant to do something good, and that is exactly what he did. He may have absolutely bastardized the source material for many of his stories, but I cannot count the number of times I’ve looked at modern stories (cinematic, animated, or otherwise) and wished the people behind them realized that they can explore the same themes, characters, and lessons with less disturbing, graphic, and explicit content. Walt Disney, I think, just wanted to do something similar: to take the lessons presented in more grisly stories like the classic fairy tales and make them more accessible, and less traumatic, for children.

For far too long, people taught their children to be good with the promise of monsters and Hell if they were bad, and while there is some validity to that… it’s not the only way to get the job done, ya know?

Yes, I know I say that in regards to a set of stories that are famous for killing the villains in the end, but they’re actually far less gruesome than fairy tales were. I mean, having the evil queen fall to her death because of a lightning strike is not at all the same thing as having Snow White and her prince make the queen dance while she’s dying, because her feet are locked in red-hot iron shoes.

In diminishing how gruesome and disturbing the stories were (he was on forced vacation when they brought in the Fleischer Brothers for the pink elephant scene in Dumbo), Walt Disney opened the stories up to be more than just cautionary tales and fiery sermons. He made many of the stories we tell more enchanting, more palatable, and that left room for colorful characters and themes of dreaming big and pursuing those dreams. That seems to be at the very core of everything he ever did in his career. He made cartoons, television shows, animated movies, and theme parks, all built on the idea of actually enjoying, and improving, your life.

Snow White gets her prince, Cinderella lives happily ever after, Aurora and Prince Philip are married after he slays a dragon for her, Pinocchio becomes a real boy, the children who love Peter Pan learn to grow up, and more. Zorro fights for the oppressed, the Swamp Fox fights for his country, Johnny Tremain helps to build America from the bottom up, and so many children, like Jane and Michael, have so many adventures to learn from. Even the theme parks tell stories of the past, of the future, of nature, of imagination, and so much more.

All the power Disney wields is rooted in the power of stories, and Walt Disney was a most excellent storyteller. He was an expert in setting the moods, creating the setting, building characters, and teaching with themes. I don’t think it’s going too far to say he helped to evolve the way in which we tell our stories. Not to say he is the greatest ever master of the craft, but he was very good at what he did.

He was, undoubtedly, a Master of Storytelling of the highest order.

And I, for one, am thankful for the stories he told, the company he built, the legacy he left behind, and for the man himself… regardless of the flaws found in all of the above.

Posted in Masters of Storytelling | Tagged | 6 Comments

Anime Review: How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift?

If I was surprised by a farming-based dramatic anime, and by my enjoyment of such, then I am much more surprised by an exercise-based slice of life anime, and especially by my enjoyment of such.

How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Life, which shall hereafter just be referred to as Dumbbells, follows the fitness-based adventures of Sakura Hibiki and her female friends. Sakura is a girl with a bottomless pit for a stomach, which has resulted in her gaining a bit of weight. Preferring to have a fit, slim body instead of a fat one, all the better to get a boyfriend with, Sakura decides to alter her diet a bit and exercise. That doesn’t go so well on her own, so she joins a gym. A circle of friends based around their gym activities slowly forms, and their lives are mutually enriched by both their friendship and their fitness. Oh, and there’s muscles. Lots and lots and lots of over-the-top muscles.

To get the big, neon-pink, argyle elephant in the room out of the way, I am not one for exercising, and this anime does not motivate me to do any (I already get all the physical activity I ever want in my life anyway). But I can see how it would motivate someone else. It’s very well-presented, in an appealing, informative, persuasive manner, and… well, not to put too fine a point on it, but there’s a reason all those exercise tapes I remember my mother using featured fit, highly-attractive instructors, and they do the same thing here. (whistling innocently!) Most of all, I like how it presented exercise as something that one can do without becoming defined by it, aka, a fitness nut. It had obvious fitness nuts, and even made fun of itself for such, all in good taste, but it showed that people can love good food, movies, anime, competition, cosplay, and any number of other things as well. It centered around one’s workout in a gym, but it showed how one can incorporate fitness into one’s everyday life as well.

There’s not much plot to speak of, yet it never became dull. Quite the contrary, it kept changing things up, taking us new places and teaching new things… and it was hilarious! My favorite part had to be the bit with action movie star, Barnold Shortsinator, but it continually delivered on the laughs with good, tasteful fun. It even made fun of its own melodrama, the sort that’s used in most anime!

Though, minor note, the part where some of the exercise explanations ended with rather risqué pictures of the female characters threw me for a bit of a loop. I mean…  why? Why even bother with that? All that does it make it so I have to be careful who I share this with, which runs a bit counter-intuitively for something meant to encourage people to exercise. There’s plenty of eye candy already, we didn’t need it to be more explicit.

Really.

Beyond that, I suppose I don’t really have that much else to say about it. It’s a nice, surprisingly-charming show, with plenty of laughs, some useful information, and just one little detail that makes in inappropriate for kids.  I don’t love it, but I liked fairly well.

Rating: 7 stars out of 10.

Grade: B-Minus.

Posted in Anime and Cartoons, Tuesday Review | Tagged | 4 Comments

Sunday’s Wisdom #261: Last Moments

“If these be our last moments, men, let us live them with honor.”
– Thorin Oakenshield, The Hobbit (animated, 1977)

I suppose my mind has been dwelling on this since Veteran’s Day, how each moment we have is a gift, and we decide how to use it.

Coming at the climax of this children’s movie, this line is delivered amidst what seems to be a hopeless battle, as the united armies of man, elf, and dwarf are being overrun by a massive horde of goblins. The heroes are staring death in the face with courage and determination. Thus, in his final moments, Thorin is resolved to meet his fate with honor.

That’s often how we think of it, isn’t it? Whatever lives we have lived, with whatever flaws we have displayed, we want to go out on a high note. That’s not a bad thing, and yet, I feel that it is incomplete. It is less than it could be, and should be.

We all know that we are going to die, but we don’t ever really know when. We can sometimes have a pretty good idea about it, in unusual circumstances, but we could die even sooner than we think, or we could somehow survive a bit longer. We just don’t really know when we will die, so we don’t really know when we ought to have that high note, do we? And I think, that is good.

Our lives are simply collection of moments, as oceans and rivers are collections of drops of water. Each one, on its own, may not be much, but they combine into a great, shifting, powerful mass. Yet, we can only carry so much around with us, and when we “know” we are down to our very last few, we make them count as much as you possibly can. But whether we’re makig them count or not, we know that we’re eventually going to run out.

In that sense, our entire lifetime, all the seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades… all of it is simply a collection of “last moments.” It begins when we are born, and everything from birth to death is a part of how we reach the end of our story.

We might have a year of last moments left to us, or a day, or a decade, or we might drop dead immediately, but the point is…

Every moment is one of our last moments.

Let us live them, each and every one, with honor.

Posted in Anime and Cartoons, Movies, Sunday's Wisdom | Tagged | 1 Comment

Concerning Captioning

No need to look so horrified.

I have a sister who is deaf. She is one of the smartest and most capable people I will ever meet. Though our interests diverge quite a bit (she likes sports, I like stories) we have enjoyed many a movie and TV show together over the years. As such, I was exposed to something that most hearing people are usually not concerned with: closed captions, or subtitles.

Now, it might seem like an immaterial thing. I mean, for a hearing person, seeing the words on the screen, telling them what people are saying, which they already know, isn’t necessary, and just takes up screen space, right? But I tell you now, it alters one’s viewing experience in subtle, but noticeable, ways.

When done right, captions can make the experience much more enjoyable even for a hearing person, let alone a deaf one, and downright funny too! 🙂

My sister remembers one time when her coworkers were talking about favorite words, and they asked her what hers was. She replied, “Thud.” Because, as she explained to her bemused coworkers, when you’re watching a show with the captions on, and suddenly the word “Thud” pops up, it can just make you chuckle.

I will always remember the scene in the first Star Wars movie, when Luke is about to try and replay the entire message carried by the droid, R2-D2. I’d seen it countless times, but to suddenly see R2’s reaction, with a number of capital E’s, with several exclamation points, pop up on the screen… well, that one’s staying with me forever! 🙂

“Yes, it was quite amusing, wasn’t it?”

In the Western movie, based on an old TV show, Maverick, there is a scene where a Native American chief is greeting a Russian duke. He speaks French to the man, “Bonjour, bonjour” and such-and-such. Then the Russian duke says something in Russian, and the chief resignedly lifts his hand and starts saying, “How, white man.” But they captioned what the duke said as, “Telling him in Russian to speak English.” We’d seen it several times before, but this time, we cracked up laughing!

And then there’s A Christmas Carol, with George C. Scott. The scene where Bob Cratchitt toasts his employer, Mr. Ebeneezer Scrooge. The wife opposes this, but relents, and each of the children intone, “Mr. Scrooge.” But the captions add what manner they say it in, like, “Coldly” or “Disgustedly.” Makes us laugh every time! 🙂

Heck, most any time they describe how something sounds, it’s humorous, even when BB-8 whines “dejectedly” as Rey initially refuses to take him with her.

Not to mention how informative it can be! I didn’t know how to spell the Emperor’s name until I saw it saying, “Palpatine,” on the screen. 😉

And, I must admit, I needed a lot of practice both watching and reading (that might be an autism thing, or maybe not, I don’t know) in order to keep up with all the subtitled anime I’ve watched over the years. 🙂

“Very good! Very good!”

On the other hand, poor captions can just be confusing.

I have to wonder, sometimes,  just how these people manage to get things wrong. One would think that whoever has that particular job would be given adequate time and resource with which to do it. I mean, it’s one thing trying to keep up with a live broadcast, like the news, but something that’s pre-taped? Something where they spent months perfecting ever frame and transition in post-production? How do these big studios, with so much of our money to spend, manage to mess up captioning, of all things?

In the action-comedy Shanghai Knights, Jackie Chan’s heroic character finds himself momentarily captured, and one of the villain’s comes to gloat. He says, fairly clearly, “Chan Wang, the man who defied an emperor.” And Chan replies, “The emperor should never have spared your life!” But what did the captions say? “John Wayne, the man who can fight an emperor.” And the reply, “The emperor should never have his burial knife!”

I groaned at that one.

There are so many times when the sheer noise level might obscure what someone is saying (I had no idea how much swearing there was in Transformers until I saw the captions), but the captions can help clear that up. …provided they don’t just go with, “(Indistinct.)” Like they did in, say, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. That moment where Watson screams something at Holmes while they’re on the outside of a train? What the heck did he even say?!

“Even our mistakes are amusing!”

And then there’s a rather amusing moment in Disney’s Pocahantas. You know that song that the natives are singing, how it starts with a chant, and repeats it? At the beginning, the caption reads, “(Algonquin chanting.)” At the end, it suddenly transcribes the actual words as, “He-ga! He-ga! Ya-hi-he-e-ega!” I have to wonder what tiny change happened behind the scenes, heh.

The point I’m trying to make is: it’s annoying when it’s done wrong, but captioning done right can enhance even a hearing person’s experience, let alone that of a deaf person, like my sister.

And I am grateful for anything that my sister and I can properly enjoy together. 🙂

Posted in Discussion, Miscellaneous | 6 Comments