Obligatory Not-Dead-Yet Post + Housekeeping

Good morning,

I’m writing to let everyone know that I’m still around, but I’m less active on this page due to some personal commitments that came up.

This post is to let everyone know a couple of things that will be happening in the near future:

  1. Recently, I’ve shut down my PayPal account and am looking into other websites that I can use. My site was collecting dust and I had problems with it, so I’m looking into VenMo as a possibility.
  2. I’m going to be doing a deep dive into editing and sprucing up my content. Occasionally, I find myself reading through old posts and noticing some grammatical errors or sentences that don’t make sense, and points that don’t seem fully fleshed out. I plan to fix this mistake in the near future.

Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about this site. I just don’t know what to do with it.



A Quick Word, Quick Picks


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The following contains spoilers for Thor: Ragnarok, Baby Driver, and The Shape of Water. You’ve been warned.

It’s ya boi.

How’s everyone’s 2018 going so far?

I took a break from this page so I could work on some other projects, and now I’m trying to get back into the swing of things, and perhaps see if I can extend my reach a little more. Will I succeed or peter out again? I dunno. What I do know is that I’ve been consuming a lot of media lately, and thinking a lot about the messages within them (as I’m wont to do). To commemorate my return, I’m going to talk about three movies that I’ve seen this year that I really liked, and talking about little aspects of them that I enjoyed.

Let’s do it to it.

The Importance of Using The Immigrant Song in Thor: Ragnarok Twice


The third film in the Thor series and the (oh fuck) seventeenth in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thor: Ragnarok is a fun little movie full of humour and charm. It delights with wild amounts of bloodless carnage, colourful worlds and characters, and ends with the beautiful and timeless message that any empire built on blood and deception is one that deserves to fall.

The film deals with the emergence of the villainous Hela, who is Odin’s exiled daughter, a death goddess and a walking manifestation of Asgard’s grim past. After many long years in exile, her seal is undone by Odin’s passing, and she raises an undead legion to take over the nine realms. Seeing the peaceful world Asgard has become, Hela believes her world to have lost its way and seeks to regain its former glory as a conquering empire (almost as if she’s trying to make Asgard great again or something). Throughout the film, the characters refer to Ragnarok, the great apocalypse wherein Asgard falls into ruin, and make strides to defeat her and save their world. However, over time the protagonists realize defeating Hela and destroying Asgard are actually one and the same, since her life-force is linked to their realm. With their homeworld destroyed and Hela defeated, Thor and the gang of weirdos he recruited off-world leads a band of Asgardian refugees, in search a new home.

What was especially interesting to me about the film was the fact that Ragnarok is bookended by Led Zeppelin’s The Immigrant Song, which plays during the first and last fight scenes of the film. The song itself is about a band of Vikings on their way to battle, fighting for glory, and the belief that they will be whisked off to Valhalla should they fall. However, in the context of the film The Immigrant Song relates to certain events that unfold throughout Thor: Ragnarok. This is made even more evident in one of the trailers, and if you saw the film and want to follow along here are the lyrics, courtesy of Genius.com.

Why twice, though? Well, the idea of an eternal cycle plays a key part in many mythologies, including old Norse myths. The Earth realm of Midgard is said to be surrounded by Jörmungandr, a snake eating its own tail (a symbol of eternity that goes back as far as ancient Egypt and Greece), and that a pair of humans would emerge from the wreckage of Ragnarok and help the world begin anew. Thor: Ragnarok, much like the Ragnarok of old, deals with the death of the old world and the emergence of a new world. Repeating Zepplein’s The Immigrant Song not only straight-up tells us what to expect in Ragnarok when it is first plays, but also announces that our story has come full circle, that the old cycle has completed, and that a new Asgard is ready to emerge.

The Condition of the Cars in Baby Driver


I saw Baby Driver on the plane ride out to Tokyo this autumn, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. Edgar Wright is a much better homage director than Quentin Tarantino, in my opinion, and I enjoyed the twists and turns Wright’s take on a heist film took, especially with the way Wright played around with the protagonist’s development. The titular Baby is a getaway driver for a gangster who coordinates heists. Struggling with tinnitus that he developed after a car accident when he was younger, Baby drowns out the ringing in his ears with music he plays from his headphones constantly. As the film progresses, he starts to develop a relationship with a waitress at a diner he frequents, and begins to see the cracks in the work he does, and moves towards escaping his employers’ grasp and becoming a free agent.

One visual cue that stood out to me when I was watching Baby Driver was how the cars that Baby drove got more and more wrecked as the film went on, and how that tied together with Baby’s doubts and desire to flee from his situation. In his introduction, we see that while Baby has a devil-may-care attitude, he’s still a competent driver and an expert at weaving through difficult traffic, drifting gracefully and effortlessly between the lanes and leaving police cruisers in the dust. We see Baby as someone who’s always in control and who’s done this job expertly, all without leaving a scratch on his ride of choice. This changes during the second heist depicted on-film, as the robbery of an armoured car goes south and leaves a guard dead. Baby’s resolve is shaken. Suddenly, he can’t drive as well and he’s making mistakes, damaging his car along the way.

As he’s forced to do more and more unsightly work, he becomes more and more distracted, as well as more and more destructive – towards both his colleagues and the cars he’s basically shoved into far too often. All this culminates into a confrontation with former colleague Buddy, where he crashes his last vehicle during the fight, and it bursts into a great ball of flame. The cars being wrecked in Baby Driver don’t just exist for the sake of a fireworks show, but are also representations of Baby’s imprisonment. They are the cage he is forced into, and bit by bit he rips those bars off until he’s finally free.

Quick aside, though: I must say that watching this film after Kevin Spacey was outed as a creep during The Great Purge of Hollywood painted his gang leader Doc, a preening older man who tries to groom the young protagonist into an unwilling accomplice, in a much different light. I guess it’s good to play to your strengths?

Hand Imagery in The Shape of Water


Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water combines a love of monster movies, fairy tales, and the defiance of authority by miscreants and marginalized people, tropes and elements prevalent in a good number of the director’s works. The film follows Eliza, a lonely and sexually-frustrated mute cleaning lady working at a government facility who meets a mysterious asset being housed there against its will: an amphibious River God that looks like the Gill Man from the Black Lagoon films. The two strike up a friendship and, eventually, a romance, and Eliza helps the creature escape.

What I especially like about Del Toro’s body of work is the fact that he sprinkles subtle visual details throughout each film. In the case of The Shape of Water, I was taken in by the way hands are used. For example, let’s take a look the story’s main antagonist, Colonel Richard Strickland. Like many Del Toro antagonists, he is an Adonis-like figure who becomes wounded or marked in a way that haunts him throughout the narrative (case in point, Angel’s broken nose in Cronos or Vidal’s Glasgow Smile in Pan’s Labyrinth). In this film, Strickland’s fingers have been torn off by the River God during an interrogation gone wrong, and a good part of his arc in the film is about him struggling with the limbs that were reattached to his body.

As the story progresses, it’s clear that the surgery didn’t take. The fingers bleed and start to rot, with Strickland refusing to do anything about them until finally he rips them off as he becomes determined to track down the monster that escaped him, effectively casting off a part of his humanity. It’s important that these were from the left hand, too, since that is where one’s wedding ring is placed in modern Western European cultures. Strickland is a married man with two children, although it’s very clear that his perfect family is just an accessory to him. When he covers his wife’s mouth during sex (with the bleeding hand no less), he indicates his lack of interest in her well-being, and ripping the ring finger off in the third act suggests that he has no reason to go back to them.

Conversely, Eliza and the River God’s relationship is strengthened with the use of their hands. When Eliza and the abducted River God first meet, their initial point of contact is with hands on the glass, with Eliza’s palm tracing over the container before tapping on the glass, resulting in the River God slamming a palm against the interior. Later, when she reaches out to him again, she teaches him words in Sign Language. Non-verbal communication becomes their main mode of communication, and tender moments between Eliza and the River God are punctuated with both physical contact and Sign Language.

What’s more, it’s shown that the River God can heal people by touching them, demonstrated midway through the film when he heals an ally’s injured arm and reverses his hair loss. It is also the River God’s touch that heals Eliza as well; Eliza is shown with scars on her neck that had been there since she was a child, damage that prevents her from speaking. In the last scene of the film, after Strickland tries to kill them both and fails, the River God not only saves her from death but also turns those scars into gills that allow her to breathe underwater. However, for Eliza, there’s a different kind of magic at work. Her hands have gifted her lover with the gift of speech, and his touch has not only healed her wounds, but also her heart.

Did you like this article? Well, my Sedan crashed into a Baltimore aquarium and I’ve been participating in a multidimensional fighting tournament for the past four months, so send me a Paypal donation so I can take the first Greyhound Bus out of here. Thanks for reading!

Year Six


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It’s come to my attention that I’ve officially been a writer for six years now.

I remember when it happened. I was sitting at home in my pyjamas on the morning of October 30th, 2011 when I received an acceptance letter from Schlock Magazine. They expressed an interest in my short story Pass The Can, and I responded by screaming at the top of my lungs and running through the house. My father, a retired musician, had a number of questions for me about contracts and rights and payments but I was too busy congratulating myself. I was officially a writer, as opposed to some asshole with a Blogspot account and a grudge against humanity. Now I was that same asshole, but this time people wanted to publish my stuff.

Since then, I’ve had seven short stories published and written a number of articles for websites and magazines. I penned the scripts for a failed webseries pilot and a couple of short films that I co-produced with some friends. I submitted an essay on zombie fiction, wrote a one-page comic parody of Flash Gordon, and released a short memoir about my relationship with music. I even wrote list articles for a hobbyist website – albeit I did so under a pseudonym, so as not to rile the angrier corners of the web. And I did all this in six years, demonstrating not only my versatility as an artist but also my inability to focus my energies into one particular medium.

I’m still proud of these accomplishments, but I do wonder what’s going to happen to me next.

A quick primer on my personal history: I studied Humanities, focusing on the interrelationship between media and culture, which is why I have a WordPress page about finding for deeper meaning in the works we consume, no matter how banal or “mindless” they may be (I have to put my degree to work somehow). Afterwards, I studied social work with immigrants and refugees, because if I was going to have any kind of day-job, I wanted to have one where it felt like I was making a difference. I have two callings, you see, and they tear me apart regularly.

My attempts to find stable work in the not-for-profit sector are marred by a lack of relevant and consistent experience and connections, but also a government which had previously cut funding to a number of fields, namely the ones I wanted to get into. This isn’t to say that I was unable to find jobs, but settling into a comfortable position with regular pay and good benefits was – and continues to be – hard to do. Conversely, my career as an artist has not only been fruitless when compared to some of my peers, but also highly taxing.

Being an artist, for me, is like tearing out a part of myself and putting it on display, demanding that I paid for my act of self-destruction. Not only is writing tiring, it is also deeply personal. Each story that I’ve had released is assembled in-part from my own neuroses and reflections on my past failures. My stories are, in a way, about both my fear of failure and my fear of success, all the things I never got a chance to say, and all the apologies I never made. They are about systems that fail and unreliable people, but also carry a spark of hope within them, however fragile or temporary it may be. My friend and contemporary, media critic and columnist Marco Attard, commented that my protagonists are often lonely people trying to find a place in, or at least make sense of, the world. Guess you write what you know.

My personal connection to my craft is part of why it’s both very easy but also very difficult for me to make anything.

Recently, I have completed a novella, a cyberpunk book which is essentially a monument to my mistakes, my occasional dislike of others, and also my own self-loathing. I’ve barely released anything this past year so I could focus on getting the book done. Aside from one post on Casey Palmer’s website and a series of independently-produced media critiques and analyses, I’ve essentially disappeared into obscurity. Part of this is because my drive died, or at least had to be redirected into other streams, and it feels like I’m back to where I was six years ago.

Let me explain: after Long Hidden (which contained my short story Diyu) was published in 2014, I moved out and fought to keep my independence for a good two-and-a-half years. During that time, I endured a workplace that damaged my mental health and essentially spent a year gaslighting me, and then drifted around from temp job to temp job. I made a number of stupid decisions during that time, including playing my part in screwing up a good romantic relationship, and it was then that I began writing my novella. After my rent went up twice and it didn’t look like I was getting any sufficient work any-time soon, I moved back home. Determined to not stay there, I tried to put my energy into finding work and also completing my book. The latter took longer than it should have because the book reminded me of the life I had that fell apart, and returning to that period put a strain on me until I told myself to have the damn thing finished by August, or I would delete the file from my hard-drive. It is now ready to be seen by the world, and I mean to shop around with it.

As you can imagine, this road has not been a great one. It’s been a colourful one, and I’m proud of some of the decisions I’ve made and the revelations I’ve had along the way, but recently I’ve been asking myself whether it can continue on like this.

So far, the answer is “I don’t know.” I’ve got a completed book that needs a home and a thousand ideas that need to be given shape, but also a life to regain. I also need to know what I can do to keep my WordPress going, and I’m starting to consider switching to Patreon over Paypal, but committing to a monthly schedule sounds as exciting as it does horrifying.

All I know is that I’m not quitting any-time soon. I enjoy storytelling because I like creating new worlds or exploring new ideas, and I enjoy not-for-profit work because it feels fulfilling. That said, I still feel tired and I still feel stuck, and I need to ask some uncomfortable questions.It’s fortuitous that I’m going on vacation this week. I need to re-frame a few things and put myself in unfamiliar territory. Who knows what I’ll find when I’m there, but I need a change. I just need to figure out what has to change.

Goddammit, I should have gotten a job at a bank.

I do want to thank everyone for sticking with me, and I want to extend my gratitude to the many people who have come and gone throughout my life, giving my stories the feedback they’ve needed and giving me the ability to keep going. I want to say “Here’s to another six years,” but I want to get through the last two months of 2017 first.

Until next time.

Mighty Explosive – Exploring Midoriya and Bakugou’s Rivalry in “My Hero Academia”


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Disclaimer: The following post contains spoilers for My Hero Academia’s anime and manga. Proceed with caution.


Weekly Shonen Jump is one of Japan’s most popular comic anthologies, and a part of book publisher Shueisha Inc.’s line of Jump magazines. These books have hosted a number of stories since 1968, including Mazinger Z, Dragon Ball, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, and Naruto. Shonen Jump’s most popular stories most known for being about hot-blooded youngsters – namely young boys or men – fighting to achieve some kind of lofty goal, whether it’s defeat an ancient evil, become king of all pirates, or rise among the ranks of pro basketball players.

Many Shonen Jump titles are also characterized by young people with super-powers kicking the tar out of each other. They follow the formula of a gung-ho protagonist setting out on a quest for glory. Said protagonist is typically driven to achieve his goal by any means necessary and is often (but not always) something of a goofball or at least incredibly rambunctious. They make plenty of friends and allies along the way – some of whom are their former rivals – and are often accompanied by a weaker but somewhat plot-relevant character. That latter character’s purpose is generally to tag along and narrate what the hero’s up to during their battles, to be left dumbstruck by their opponents’ skills, and then to be wowed by the way the hero turns things around. Said character’s role is not merely to serve as a cheerleader for the protagonist, but also to provide context to the readers as to what’s happening.

Outside of a small handful of titles, few have tried to play around with that format, but those that have managed to produce some very compelling results. Kohei Horikoshi’s My Hero Academia is one such title.


In the world of My Hero Academia, 80% of the world’s population has a Quirk that they can pass on to their children. Quirks range from your garden-variety super-power (such as pyrokinesis or phasing through matter) or to being born with the physical characteristics of an animal (such as being born with the head of a bird, or possessing the tongue and jumping power of a frog). Our protagonist, Izuku Midoriya, is part of the 20% of the population that isn’t super-powered, but is passionate about Quirks and idolizes the many superheroes (known simply as “heroes” in this universe) that living in his world – particularly the strong and stalwart symbol of peace All-Might. Heroes themselves are licensed professionals similar to firefighters or police officers, and Midoriya wants to become a hero to help those in need much like his idol, but his lack of superpowers keeps him from achieving that dream.

One day, he’s visited by All-Might and becomes selected to be his successor after proving himself in a battle with a tenacious sludge monster. All-Might’s Quirk, One For All, is a Quirk that not only greatly increases one’s physical strength and speed, but can also be passed on to other people. This nets Midoriya the chance of a lifetime, and he begins his hero training at the illustrious UA High School, alongside his former childhood friend Katsuki Bakugou, a temperamental and prideful boy who can make things explode by converting his sweat into nitroglycerin (don’t ask).

Bakugou and Midoriya are at odds with one another due to a stark difference in ideology. When Bakugou’s Quirk manifested, everyone from his peers to his teachers praised him and treated him like he was special while Midoriya was essentially ignored and bullied by those around him. This led to Bakugou pushing his friend away because he saw a world of Winners and Losers, and saw Midoriya as one of the losers. Conversely, Midoriya saw something else entirely; he saw, in his own words, that not everyone was equal.

These are two very different things.

Midoriya sees people in need and people who can help those in need. When Midoriya sees his friends and comrades suffer, his first instinct is to jump in. This is a strength that he taps into before he inherits One For All, and it’s what makes him a candidate to essentially become the next All-Might. This is because Midoriya sees gaps that need to be filled, and that people should step in to help others even if they’re not qualified or trained to do so. With Bakugou, this couldn’t be any more different. Bakugou believes in a hierarchy where the strong are to be praised and supported by the weak. Bakugou refuses to let anybody help him, because not being able to stand up for himself or get by using his own strength is, in his mind, something that will hobble him.

In Bakugou’s world, he is not just bound to be a hero but also the hero, the protagonist, and that we are reading his story — and yet, it’s Midoriya who stands in the spotlight.



In any other manga or anime of this type, My Hero Academia’s protagonist would have been Bakugou, and Midoriya would have been his plucky Quirkless sidekick who provided colour commentary during battles such as Manta from Shaman King, or would be superpowered but ultimately ineffective in battles like Krillin from Dragon Ball Z. We can see that in Bakugou’s design, as he is already a composite of several other leading lads from other popular manga series. His appearance immediately brings to mind the title character of Naruto and Natsu Dragneel from Fairy Tail. Both are series led by hot-headed, spiky-haired youth who are respected and revered by those around them, heroes who breeze through their challenges with relative ease, steadily getting stronger and gaining more allies along the way.

However, rather than be a carbon copy of those characters, Bakugou is instead depicted as an entitled dirtbag who treats everyone around him like competition, even when they’re being nice to him, but also doubts himself in his darker moments. Character traits that would normally be endearing or quirky (for lack of a better term) in any other series are shown from another angle. We see Bakugou as a brash and insecure firebrand who wants people to see him as the guiding light for the world to follow. Bakugou is undeserving of a rag-tag team of weirdoes to help him achieve his dream because he’s a mean-spirited and divisive bully.

This is where his dynamic with Midoriya gets interesting. Midoriya undergoes a transition from observer to participant, opting out of becoming another Krillin-type character early on. He’s not satisfied with merely cheering people on from the sidelines, and isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. In fact, one could argue that one of Midoriya’s superpowers is his power of observation. Being “The Krillin” or “The Manta” on some level not only helps him understand how his friends’ and foes’ Quirks function, but he’s able to apply that level of observation to the people around him, reading their emotions and being able to motivate people to succeed or be better people by being heroic rather than “being the hero.”

What also makes Izuku Midoriya so interesting is that, compared to other Shonen Jump protagonists, he doesn’t breeze through his trials unfazed, and yet even his failures make him a better person and are even inspiring to other characters.

Midoriya’s driven by a need to help others but is also hindered by the power he’s inherited. Because Midoriya’s a tiny teenager, he has to train constantly in order to keep One For All from essentially killing him. Even then, he runs the risk of breaking all the bones in his limbs if he doesn’t measure himself – and often does. In fact, the first time Midoriya uses his Quirk is to take down a giant robot, but doing so destroys both his legs and shatters his punching arm from knuckles to shoulder. There is a school medic who can miraculously heal people, but her powers can’t help him every time, and so Midoriya has to learn to control what he has. Midoriya realizes early on that power has a cost, and it’s one that he has to pay in full unless he learns to reel himself in. It’s a humbling moment, but it helps him better understand his limits.

Meanwhile, although he does experience setbacks, Bakugou is significantly  formidable, walking away from battles relatively unscathed, and yet everyone still resents him, and he doesn’t seem to make the progress he wants to make. For a great example of this, look no further than the tournament arc.


Normally, tournament arcs are defined by the major players in the story fighting their way through hordes of jobbers until everyone finally squares off with each other, normally with the protagonist coming out on top. Furthermore, it’s during the fights between the more significant characters that we learn more about their motivations, and usually they end up finding common ground among our main characters. Some characters during these arcs even become series regulars and fight alongside our heroes later on.

In My Hero Academia, Izuku Midoriya doesn’t even become one of the final four combatants. In fact, he gets knocked out in the second round of matches, which is virtually unheard of for a series like this. However, it is in that second match that he ends up fighting with another hero trainee, Shoto Todoroki, who has been played up from the start as being a Pretty Big Deal.

Todoroki is the stoic son of the powerful but abusive hero Endeavour. He possesses both his father’s fire powers and his mother’s ice powers, but refuses to use the abilities of the former. Shoto doesn’t want to fill his father’s shoes, and won’t give him the satisfaction of seeing his abilities utilized in the battlement. In their match-up, Midoriya convinces him to use both his powers at once through a seize-hold-of-your-destiny speech. This results in Midoriya losing the fight but winning a friend and trusted ally, as well as the respect of his peers and elders.

When Bakugou and Todoroki have their fight, which is the last match of the tourney, Todoroki refuses to use his fire powers because he needs to process this change that’s coming over him, and in doing so ends up losing. Bakugou wins the tournament, but it’s a hollow victory. Midoriya robbed him of what should have been a character-building moment for any major Shonen Jump protagonist. While there is no way Bakugou would ever be able to get through to someone in the same way Midoriya does, the fact that someone who would have normally been relegated to the support role in an SJ narrative made one of the more powerful characters in the series doubt himself has left Bakugou vexed.

This, among many other moments in the series, leads to the already-tense relationship between Midoriya and Bakugou becoming further strained and tested.


Writing this all out makes me wonder whether or not the rivalry between Midoriya and Bakugou is actually somehow talking about Shonen Jump protagonists themselves. Midoriya is not just the Krillin/Manta character, but has also inherited the silly charismatic strategist side of your bargain-bin Shonen Jump protagonist, while Bakugou is very much a manifestation of the relentless fighting machine side of those same characters.

Perhaps this is truly why they are at odds with each other. Imagine if someone like Kenshin Himura or Monkey D. Luffy was divided into two characters and they were forced to interact with each other. There would be endless animosity. They would not be able to stand the sight of each other, but, somehow, they would have to work together, because at the end of the day their goals are the same.

It would also be why Midoriya and Bakugou will eventually need to mend things. Midoriya needs Bakugou’s fighting spirit in much the same way Bakugou needs Midoriya’s empathy and intelligence, and when forced to work together, they can achieve great things. Their past friendship and time together as classmates means that they understand each other, even if one clearly despises the other. Whether they want to admit or not, despite their differences and incongruities, they need each other.

Did you like this post? If you did, send me some money via PayPal so I can pay off my UA student loans. Thanks for reading, and see you next time!

A Quick Word About “Dunkirk’s” Claustrophobic Cinematography


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The following has some spoilers for the movie Dunkirk. Please bear that in mind before reading on.

World War Two movies are a dime a dozen. Plenty of filmmakers and audiences like re-living that period of 20th century history when people were united against an unambiguous threat. While there were many acts of heroism and intrigue that happened during that time, however, it was also deeply traumatizing for many of the soldiers on the ground, and a lot of fiction produced about World War Two tends to glorify it in some way.

This tendency to romanticize the Second World War exists outside of cinema as well. People like bragging about how eighteen-year-olds in the 1940s were facing life and death and that kids of our generation have it too easy, which bothers me a lot. Character building should not be the result of trauma or watching the people around you die. I’m writing this from the perspective of someone whose family served in both World Wars. I’ll tell you for free that nothing I’ve heard over the years has ever made me want to enlist.

It seems Christopher Nolan has a similar bone to pick with that mindset, as seen in his latest film Dunkirk. Taking place during three different times and places that slowly intersect as the film goes on, the story focuses on the rescuing of British and French soldiers stranded on the titular beaches of Dunkirk (or rather, Dunkerque) in France. Our focal characters are a lone soldier named Tommy stuck at Dunkirk, three civilians in a rescue boat on their way to the battlefield, and a Spitfire pilot engaging in dogfights with Nazi planes.

Now, Dunkirk is not the best World War Two film in that it still gets a little too patriotic for my liking. It’s worth noting, for example, that the Germans are almost entirely absent from Dunkirk, depicted only as faceless foes popping shots at our heroes from unseen locations or firing at them from U-boats or planes. It’s a controversial decision because it deeply dehumanizes the Germans and makes them more of a phantom threat characterized only by their weaponry.

That said, it is a creative decision that ties well into the themes of the film. After all, you’re not always going to be clashing bayonets with your foes or engaging in fancy gunplay. Dunkirk understands that, and utilizes cinematography rife with tight close-ups and wide shots that not only show a deep loneliness and desolation, but also a sheer creeping panic on our protagonists’ faces. For me, the scene that conveys this well, which you can see in the trailers for Dunkirk, is when one shell-shocked soldier strips off his gear and walks directly into the ocean. Watching the whole scene play out directly conveys the helplessness of their situation, especially since this takes place after two of the Allied troops’ rescue vessels were bombed to shit.

Another scene that’s a personal favourite of mine is right at the beginning, when British private Tommy is exploring the abandoned town of Dunkirk shortly before the platoon of soldiers he’s travelling with are all gunned down by the Germans. There’s a lot of tension in this scene as the camera follows Tommy during frantic his escape, comrades dropping at the hands of assassins we don’t see. In cases like this, not showing the Germans shouting at each other or cackling as they opened fire on our hero and his mates is incredibly effective, and closer to what people tend to experience in a war zone.

There’s more to draw from, but I feel like this sense of anxiety and claustrophobia is where Dunkirk shines. When we see the Spitfire pilots – Farrier and Collins – trapped in their planes as they do their rounds, we see their journey from their perspective. Like them, we’re forced to watch the carnage unfold across the sea they’re patrolling. When the beach is attacked in the very beginning and Tommy takes cover as the film’s first bombing run draws closer and closer to him (and the viewer), we feel that tension and defenselessness, that sense of dread as his allies slowly vanish under clouds of sand and debris. All the while, the orchestral soundtrack is set to this oppressive ticking that seems to get louder and louder during the more intense moments.

In doing this, Dunkirk demonstrates that war is agonizing and disorienting. There’s no glory to be had in being shot at on a beach by some asshole in a plane, and chances are the most likable people you meet and support you the most are those that also end up dead. You don’t know who’s shooting at you, or when people will start shooting at you, or when their assaults will let up. You don’t know where a safe place is. And in the end, if and when you make it home, you just end up wondering why the hell you left to fight in the first place.

Did you like this post? Send me money or war bonds over Paypal so I can escape from Echo Beach (far away in time). Thank you for reading! See you next time.

A Quick Word About “Little Witch Academia’s” Stance on Celebrity Worship


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Disclaimer: The following has a number of spoilers for Little Witch Academia, a show which wrapped up just now. Be advised. Also, watch Little Witch Academia.

I loved Little Witch Academia.

I know my articles have focused quite a bit on Japanese pop culture as of late (and with my huge post on Persona 5 on the way, let me say you’re not out of the woods just yet), but hear me out. Studio Trigger routinely produces some high-quality stuff, from anti-fashion slobberknocker Kill La Kill to heartwarming sci-fi drama Kiznaiver, but it was their first in-house production, a short film called Little Witch Academia, that turned a lot of heads. Recently, Academia was turned into a 25-episode television series, and aired its final episode this week, and it was good. Damn good.

There’s a lot I love about this show. I love all the cues the animation team took from western animation, and the distinctly Looney Tunes-esque feel of some of the humour. I love the swells of the music and the art direction, and I can’t wait to track down any art book that spawns from this production. I love how much of a goof the protagonist Akko is, and how she’s both loud and obnoxious with all the grace of a winged hog but also driven and deeply compassionate. I love how she never comes off as completely annoying, and how I ended up rooting for her as early as the first episode. I love how the girls aren’t sexualized. I love how diverse the cast is, and how –

What? Oh, yeah, you read that right: the girls aren’t sexualized. Okay, sure, the skirts on the uniforms aren’t exactly regulation length, but Little Witch Academia steers clear of the gross tropes found in any other anime series featuring an all-girl school. There’s no moment where potential love-interest and Justin Trudeau-lookalike Andrew Hambridge walks in on Akko in the changing-room. There’s not an onsen or a beach episode in sight. There aren’t any jiggle-physics or panty-shots or leering camera angles on the girls as they slept or lounged around. It’s not a creative decision I expected from the same company that made tits-akimbo slap-‘em-up Kill La Kill and its thong-clad protagonists.

All these elements are Good and Great, but what I really like about the show is what it has to say about idol worship, celebrity culture, and inspiration.

Our premise is simple enough. Atsuko Kagari, AKA Akko, is an aspiring witch attending the illustrious magic academy Luna Nova. Akko stands out because she’s not only the sole Japanese student at this school, but also the only one who doesn’t come from a family of sorcerers. Akko was inspired to become a witch because she loves magic and is a huge fan of witch-turned-performer Shiny Chariot, whose stage shows she attended when she was younger. However, Akko struggles with magic, and seems unable to properly perform it.

After her first excursion to Luna Nova goes south and Akko finds Chariot’s old wand in the middle of a forest, Akko becomes more driven to accomplish her dreams. Despite her difficulties with mastering the mystic arts, from her inability to ride a broom to her comically clumsy attempts at advanced magic, Akko still plans to become a witch who can make the world smile as Chariot once did.

What Little Witch Academia makes clear is that there’s no point in becoming the next iteration of the person you idolize. Not only are your experiences radically different from the people you want to be like, but if you were to meet your idols and express that desire then they’re likely to tell you that’s a bad idea. The series does, however, say that your relationship to your passions should be unique to yourself, and if you wish to become like someone you admire in the career you want to be in, then maintaining your identity is integral.

This is demonstrated as early as the fourth episode, when Akko’s friend Lotte is given the opportunity to write future iterations of her favourite book series. Rather than take up the torch, Lotte admits it’s best for her to remain a fan of what she loves rather than be a contributor, because rooting for the people you admire means more to her. Then, in episode 11, Akko is offered a prosperous future by a spirit, identical to Chariot’s in every way, but in exchange for Akko’s past and memories. Akko then refuses this offer and exclaims that she does not want to abandon her identity just so she can become another Chariot. Later on, Akko learns that attending Chariot’s magic shows actually hindered her ability to use magic, and that while she does have the passion and commitment needed to be a witch, her obsession with her idol ultimately hobbled her.

This is crucial because celebrity culture – particularly in the arts – is obsessed with this idea of the next generation of entertainers. Recently, for example, I came across articles that pondered whether Mahershala Ali was the next Idris Elba, or whether Tomi Adeyemi or Samantha Shannon were the next JK Rowling. In the eyes of the public, an artist is not allowed to stand by their own merits. They have to be compared to another household name.

Little Witch Academia, meanwhile, explicitly rejects that idea. It makes it clear that Akko’s passion for magic and a bright future should not be confused with her obsession with her idol. The fact that the ultimate symbol of Akko’s magical hobbling is her ability to fly hammers this point home. Comparing yourself to your heroes weighs you down, and you’re not able to reach your potential if that happens. She does take many cues from her idol, especially in the final battle with a demonic missile the main antagonist fires when she puts on a Chariot-worthy light show for the world to see. However, by giving it what I would best describe as an Akko-worthy spin, it’s as much her own thing as it is a tribute to her idol, and in the closing credits we are treated the moment we’ve been waiting for since the very first episode – Akko’s first flight on her broom.

For Akko, her journey is not about becoming the next Shiny Chariot – it’s about becoming the first Atsuko Kagari.

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A Quick Word About FEMM’s Brand of J-Pop


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I do not remember how I stumbled across FEMM.

It must have been on one of those nights when I was trapped in a YouTube black hole trying to find new content to absorb. I just remember stumbling across a song called “Kill The DJ” in my Recommended Videos column and before I knew it, I was watching two expressionless women in latex belting out a catchy bit of braggadocio.

They caught my attention from minute one:

Within moments, I had binged all their songs.

FEMM is an electro-pop duo whose name is an acronym for “Far East Mention Mannequins.” They are a gimmick band in much the same vein as acts like Gorillaz, or Lordi, or Genki Rockets. FEMM’s shtick is that they are living mannequins named RiRi and LuLa, and are portrayed by Emily Kaiho and Hiro Todo respectively – who also portray their “producers” Honey-B and W-Trouble (Do you …Do you get it?). According to FEMM’s own lore (which I don’t fully get but here you go anyway), the band came together to liberate “dolls” and unite the world while asking two important questions to the public: “Do dolls have feelings? Do their songs move people?”

This is going to be important later.

Watching FEMM is like watching a Bizarro Universe version of Perfume. Now, I’m not going to throw shade at Perfume. Their music is catchy and energizing, their choreography is impressive, and I’m totally going to fly to Japan and marry Nocchi and become a stay-at-home dad so I can raise our 2.5 dogs and white picket fence. However, the content of their music is very light and playful (look up lyric translations and you’ll see what I mean). Conversely, to them and to the safer and friendlier veins of most J-Pop, FEMM’s music tends to be more aggressive and adult.

Consider the following: at the time of writing, Perfume’s most popular song on their YouTube channel is “Flash,” followed by two tracks innocently titled “Magic of Love” and “Pick Me Up.”

Presently, FEMM’S most popular song on their channel is titled “Fuck Boys, Get Money.”*

What I like about FEMM isn’t just the music, although many of their songs can get me through a long day. I like how they are musically in direct opposition to most J-Pop.

Everything about FEMM clashes strongly with their whole “doll” and “mannequin” motif. When we think of dolls, we think of fragile cutesy things meant to be cared for and doted on. Mannequins, as per FEMM’s namesake, are supposed to be stiff and lifeless blank slates we project the trends of the times onto. FEMM challenges this regularly. Not only are their lyrics more mature, but both halves of FEMM run around in latex bodysuits and fright wigs, do provocative and complex dance moves, and make it clear they’re not just pretty faces. What’s more, the pair sing in much-deeper tones than some of their more popular J-Pop contemporaries (AKB48, I am looking at you), which arguably make them more womanly.

There is also the matter of the two questions FEMM poses to their audience: “Do dolls have feelings? Do their songs move people?” The second question is answered easily; taste is subjective. However designed-by-committee a song or artist’s image is, such songs can, will, and do resonate on a personal level. I imagine there are still people who listen to Milli-Vanilli and Ashlee Simpson, despite the artists themselves being outed as frauds who lip-synched on stage.

That first question, however, must be answered. Do dolls have feelings?

It’s an important one to ask because it feels like a question being asked of the music industry with regards to its talent. Pop stars like Ariana Grande or One Direction (or anyone else over the past century, really) are viewed as eye candy that can sing and move in ways that are pleasing to the general audience. But how do they feel being up there? Rather, how do we make them feel?

It is scarier in Japan in some respects. Idol Culture, as it’s called, deifies talented people to the degree that any mention of personal involvement outside your career can mean life or death. Remember AKB48? When one of their members was discovered to be in a relationship with a boy, from another pop group no less, her managers forced her to call it off. Then, in penance for daring to have a life outside music, she shaved her head and gave a tearful apology on YouTube. It doesn’t just extend to music; one voice actor, Hiroshi Kamiya, had to apologize for being married with a son, and actress and singer Aya Hirano came under fire for having older boyfriends and for confessing to dating multiple people.

Is it worth it being in the spotlight when children and alleged adults lose their minds over the goings-on of their idols’ personal lives? Do we not treat them like dolls in the hands of brats? Do people not become obsessive or possessive over people that they have claimed for themselves?

Do dolls have feelings?

Clearly. We just aren’t allowed to know that.

And in Japan, where FEMM’s message of liberation is being broadcasted from, “dolls” get punished for expressing them.

* Yes, I removed the censoring and I am using proper pronunciation here. Otherwise, “Fxxk Boyz Get Money” sounds like a brag that insufficient men are surprisingly wealthy.

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A Quick Word About “Oshiete! Gyaruko-chan’s” Subject Matter


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The following has spoilers for a twelve-episode series you can probably watch in an hour or two depending on how you pace yourself. Anyway, be advised, I guess.

Against my better judgment, I ended up watching all twelve episodes of Japanese web-anime series Oshiete! Gyaruko-chan or Please tell me, Galko! Against all logic, I ended up enjoying all twelve episodes of Japanese web-anime series Oshiete! Gyaruko-chan or Please tell me, Galko!

I think it’s because, back in the dark days of high school, I was super-into this one Japanese cartoonime called Azumanga Daioh, a show adapted from a newspaper comic about six high school girls and three of their teachers embarking on oddball – but still somewhat grounded in reality – adventures together. I liked it because it was a breath of fresh air for popular high school-based anime series that seemed to focus on either power levels and long-winded fights or one boy’s quest to never get a girlfriend despite having multiple options. Azumanga was just about six kids goofing around, playing off of each other’s quirks, and trying to make sense of the world, and that was refreshing.

Let me be clear: I don’t believe Oshiete! Gyaruko-chan has inherited that fire from Azumanga. That, in my opinion, would be something like Turning Girls, a show about four women facing the onset of their thirties and figuring out what kind of adults they are. What’s more, much unlike Azumanga, Oshiete! Gyaruko-chan does its damndest to pack in as much cheesecake as possible.

That said, I found something fun about Oshiete and the way it messed around with the idea of how a character is perceived versus who they really are. Challenging stereotypes is the name of Oshiete’s game, illustrated well with the main protagonists. Title character Galko is kinder and more empathetic than the spray-tanned airheads she’s modelled after, and her comrades Otako and Ojou – the nerd girl and the rich girl in any other series – are similarly well-realized. Otako is a biting intellectual who teases and criticizes everyone around her rather than be the subject of ridicule herself; and Ojou, despite being wealthy beyond compare, is far from an erudite and is in fact quite vapid and clueless.

There’s also the matter of what these characters are often discussing, which leads to the biggest misdirection the pastel-coloured web-toon has to offer. Oshiete! Gyaruko-chan is – to the show’s benefit and detriment – unbelievably frank and lurid. The main characters are always talking about extremely personal topics that wouldn’t be touched in any other show about girls-being-girls, such as period cramps, comfortable toilet paper, and, uh, “shaving.”

Immediately, I was recalling another series of this stripe that I didn’t think I’d enjoy, and that was HBO’s Girls. I thought the first season was tight enough for me to not give a shit about anything after it, and while I’m not sure I’d give it a re-watch, I appreciate the fact that Season One exists at all.* It served as a nice counter-balance to shows like Sex In The City, which are notoriously bloodless and safe and tell a story from the perspective of four upper-class working women. HBO’s Girls, meanwhile, showed four middle class white women getting drunk, doing drugs, having awkward on-screen sex, and trying to figure themselves out. One of the protagonists even catches HPV, something that would never be addressed in any given Julia Roberts rom-com.

That’s why Oshiete left me so interested, really. I’ve been in it for a minute as far as anime goes, and over the years I grew increasingly vexed by the “throngs of cute girls servicing one guy” series that were in excess. Shows like Kanon or Hanankyo Maid Tai always presented their female leads as stylized archetypes and objects of desire rather than real people, and the series I’ve caught glimpses of that tried to ride Azumanga’s coat-tails did little but present their audience with cute archetypes but cut out the lead males to make them more “available” to the audience, as it were.

While Oshiete! Gyaruko-chan does this to some extent, it has the courtesy to be, well, uncourteous in its characters’ conversations, while being sure to have fun along the way. I take comfort in knowing that some of the teen boys and manbabies watching this will cringe when the protagonists end up discussing whether they prefer pads to tampons.

Really, the biggest slight against Oshiete is the fact that all these characters are in high school. I mean, I get that many anime series are set in high school because that’s largely the target audience because they’re more likely to have the most time and disposable income in a work-‘til-you-die country like Japan, but it’s still an unnerving trend and I can’t shake the feeling that all this is somehow feeding into someone’s weird fetish. Especially when the characters are talking about their hypothetical sex habits. Like, ugh, send the animators home to their wives, please.

That being said, this Bridesmaids-meets-Breakfast Club combination was not something I expected out of a show like Oshiete. I appreciate it for what it is, even though I can’t wholly recommend it to anyone who isn’t already a fan of the “young ladies hanging around” subgenre. It is, as I said, a far cry from Turning Girls (WHERE’S SEASON TWO, YOU MONSTERS?!), but as far as these kinds of anime series go, it’s a welcome needle against the balloon.

* It was a shame that the story of Girls chose to focus on four white protagonists rather than mix-and-match the characters’ ethnicities and sexualities, since doing so would open up some super-interesting discussion points about, say, being Black or Asian or Gay in modern-day New York. Maybe HBO could tap Ava DuVernay or Shona Rhimes for their next project? I dunno who’s free.

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Dear Marvel: Please let me save The Bombshells


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And now for something completely different.

Dear Marvel,

I know we’re not close, but I wanted to reach out to you.

Recently, it’s come to my attention that you guys are in a spot of trouble. Apparently, your pal Nick Spencer thought it would be cool if Captain America came out as a Hydra agent. I saw this as a dumb marketing decision, like that time when Cap was a werewolf, but apparently this outraged a good number of folks. I’m a bit out of the loop since I barely touch your books, so you’ll have to fill me in on the hows and whys of this decision but from what I’ve gleaned, it’s understandable people would take umbrage with this turn of events. Turning a symbol of western freedom and security into another costumed goon for a Nazi proxy cell is not, er, great?

I’m not here to talk about that, though. I’m here to talk about Spencer’s other bad idea from Sam Wilson: Captain America known as The Bombshells, a radical leftist terror trio of Tumblr strawmen (strawfolk? Two of them are women) and currently I’m wondering what side of the pool everyone’s peeing in over there. However, I’m also wondering if you’ve unintentionally struck gold with this idea.

Here’s a proposition you probably weren’t expecting: I want to write for you. I know you guys get scores of people sending pitches for Spider-Man one-shots or twenty-volume reboots of Power Pack, but I’m serious. I might not have a Wikipedia page to my name yet, but I’ve been featured in a few books and websites. Plus, I know how to write a comic script.

And I want to write about The Bombshells.

That’s right. Not these Bombshells (not yet, anyway). The ones I just talked about.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Why? Do we seriously want to draw fire from Woke Twitter again? Who does this clown think he is?! Call security!” But, wait! I have some pretty good reasons why hiring me is a good idea, and also why The Bombshells’ existence in Earth-616 lay out some interesting ground to tread.

Consider the following:

1. I don’t read superhero comics.

Okay, that’s misleading. I’ve read some superhero comics.

Mostly, I’ve read and enjoyed a large chunk of Ellis, Ennis, Moore, Morrisson, and Gaiman’s works, as well as Brian K. Vaughan’s Runaways and Ex Machina, Mike Mignola’s stories, that one Avengers book by James Stokoe, and Jeff Smith’s Shazam. I’m also more interested in the fast-and-daft works of Kirby and Ditko, so basically I’ve only ever read and liked about 7% of the superhero comics out there, including your own library.

This is important for me to lay out because I’m not someone who is steeped in the lore of your works. Superheroes are interesting concepts to me, but they don’t interest me enough to want to write or read hundreds of Hawkman books. I’m more interested, then, in what someone like She-Hulk or Luke Cage signifies versus what they’re doing and who they’re romancing.

And this leads to my next point:

2. I read things aside from speculative fiction.

Part of the problem with being an SF writer is that you’re drawn to reading other SF stories, not just because you enjoy it but because you want to see what the competition’s up to.

Being an artist of any stripe means drawing from a variety of sources, and not just the rivers and lakes that you’re used to. Speaking for myself, I’m a huge fan of noir and non-fiction stories about sad strange people gaining ridiculous amounts of power. Currently, I’m reading the biography of Yukio Mishima, an author and Japanese nationalist who thought it would be great to train up a personal civilian army, kidnap an army general, and then kill himself in the poor sap’s office. It’s pretty rad (the book, not the suicide part)!

Pop is doomed to eat itself, yes, but I bring an empty stomach and an open mind to that buffet.

3. I won’t get in fights with strangers on the web, I swear.

The problem with everyone being connecting is that everyone is connected.

I have lots of fun on the Twitter account I don’t know how to use and the Tumblr account that has devolved into an archive of dark humour and smut, but I am willing to close up shop or make those accounts private so as not to kick any beehives or argue with anyone over touchy subjects during my time as a Marvel writer.

As for those touchy subjects, let’s get right into The Bombshells.

4. The Explosive Potential of The Bombshells

Superheroes today seem to exist in this weird centrist landscape of left-wing morality and right-wing methodology. Save the day but destroy the city, protect the people but restrict their freedoms, get involved but only slightly, and so on. As such, the idea of far-left or radical left vigilantes is an interesting playground to be in.

Despite being intended as a bad throwaway gag by Nick Spencer, you now have at your disposal a trio of unique anarchist vigilantes who might be heroes to some and villains to others. Superheroes whose archenemies include classism, the patriarchy, and a corrupt criminal justice system. There’s a lot of potential here. I understand that this is being addressed on some level in your Champions book, but this could serve as an interesting companion piece.

That said, I’m not sure if I’m the guy to do this justice. My politics are pretty left, but I’m no anarchist and this is a tall order to fill even by my standards.

But I can help with the set-up!

5. A five-issue run called Sam Wilson and The Bombshells.

Here we go.

Sam Wilson reports back to SHIELD after a mission and finds that they’ve been preparing The Bombshells for a trip to The Raft after they started a brawl at a rally. Around this time, Hydra attacks the Helicarrier, led by the charismatic but nonetheless repulsive leader of their new Copenhagen branch. With backup sitting miles away and with only minutes left to live, Sam releases the Bombshells and offers them amnesty if they help stick it to some real fascists.

This five-issue run would not only be a strong Sam Wilson story (perhaps adding new dimensions to Sam’s character along the way), but will also better characterize and humanize The Bombshells, helping establish their politics and dynamic. This would be huge for Sam Wilson because he’s now the new face behind Captain America’s mighty shield, and these are strange times and a stranger political landscape, and the book itself will ask the question of what truth, justice, and the American way actually mean now.

So there you go, Marvel. That’s how and why I’d save The Bombshells from being either shelved for decades or repurposed as another bad guy trio to stomp on. If this kicks off, I’ll gladly give the same treatment to other characters that have been left by the wayside. Wait ‘til you hear about my reimagining of Curtis Doyle/Freedom Ring as a gay Flash Gordon as fuelled by the Power Cosmic.

Thank you for your time. Get back to me with any contracts or Cease & Desist letters at your earliest convenience.


Robert I.

“Ghost In The Shell’s” Major Mistake


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Disclaimer: This has spoilers for the new Ghost in the Shell movie. Do you care? I don’t.


I ended up seeing Rupert Sanders’ Ghost in the Shell and boy howdy was that ever a movie someone made. I know the biggest talking point being thrown around is why the main character isn’t an Asian woman, and maybe the movie would have been better if they cast a Japanese actress to play the Major, but visibility is the least of this film’s problems. Take it from someone who actually saw the bloody thing when I say that an all-Asian cast could not have saved this film because it is dull and has very confusing characterization.

This review is coming to you from someone who saw both films and Stand Alone Complex. I haven’t powered through the manga yet because it’s, like, enormous, and there’s a lot of material from Masamune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell universe that I haven’t touched yet. While I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of this franchise, I also feel like I understand enough about GITS to know what its core ideas are.

At its core (unless I’m mistaken), the GITS series is about transhumanism and AI ethics, all wrapped up in a cyber-noir thriller that name-drops different theorists and philosophers like mad. It asks what defines a human in a world where people can plant their brains into synthetic bodies and where anything from comfort droids to AI-controlled tanks could gain sentience and start making demands. It shows us how quickly that world would fall apart, the cracks that would form in such a society, and how people can take advantage of the memories and lives of others.

Rupert Sanders wanted nothing to do with any of this. In fact, in an interview with Vanity Fair, he was quoted as saying “I locked Masamune Shirow in the basement and I’m not letting him out! Anyuck-nyuck-nyuck.”

…Excuse me.

Let’s get this out of the way: yes, the movie is very visually impressive. The CG is nice and the aesthetic is well-realized. The monolithic holograms and neon lights of this new Tokyo the characters explore are all intricate and interesting to look at, and there are certain scenes and images that do stand out on their own. Furthermore, some of the synthwave that plays in the background is, yes, atmospheric, but ultimately utterly forgettable. Seriously, I tried to recall one track from this movie and all the memory centres of my brain could give me was a long and drawn-out hum.

As for the actual movie part of this movie, well, that’s where Goat in the Shill: Scarlett Johansson Complex falls apart. A lot of visual set pieces from the first film are revisited for the sake of reminding people that this is a Ghost In The Shell movie – the Major’s body being assembled, a naked-esque Major cloaking and shooting up a room full of dudes, the fight with the amnesiac truck driver, the night diving scene, and the fight with the spider-tank – but the nuances are stripped from them. They’re loaded down with slow-motion shots and the cool professional demeanour of the Major Kusanagi we knew is replaced with Scarlett Johansson’s standard cop-on-the-loose character.

One of the scriptwriters for Goat in the Shill commented that the film had about seven writers working on it, and can I ever believe it. The quality of the script jumps around, the story’s the most basic thing you could do with the setting, and the characters’ decisions don’t always make sense – like, why did our main villain Cutter decide to take control of the spider-tank himself? Isn’t he the president of a huge company? Shouldn’t he have employees who do that for him? At what point was it ever established that Cutter was a man who liked to get his hands dirty? It’s true that GITS Actual doesn’t have much room for character exploration, which is itself another identifier of the show. However, the opportunity to maybe address that was given to the filmmakers, and they fumbled hard.

What we have is a film that’s as much of a betrayal to the source material as the Wackowskis’ adaptation of V for Vendetta, which notoriously took a story about life under the Thatcher era and explored the ideas of anarchism versus fascism and turned it into a “George Bush is bad” film. That same boiling-down of basic ideas is present here. Gone are the deep questions of whether a machine can be human – or, indeed, if a human can be human – and what would happen if machines attained sentience and, say, a desire to procreate. What we have instead is a Jason Bourne movie. We have the bog-standard plot of “an evil corporation stole my identity and memories, and now I am out for revenge.”

Then there was the matter of that identity the villains of the movie stole, and man alive did they shit the bed with this one. In the film, we learn that the character of Major “Mira Killian” was not a refugee whose parents died in a boating accident, but a Japanese anti-technology activist named Mokoto Kusanagi who was abducted by Bad Corporation Hanka, had her memories wiped, and then placed into the synthetic body of Scarlett Johansson. So, yeah, she’s literally been whitewashed. And then after the president of Hanka is killed by Aramaki (“Beat” Takeshi Kitano) AKA The Only Interesting Character In Goat In The Shill, Kusanagi keeps the body that was forced upon her for a year and symbolizes the destruction of her old self.

See, that could have been interesting. The idea that Kusanagi’s identity was actually destroyed by a rich white corporate-type and she ends up on a mission to become herself again could have been an interesting character arc. Hell, it would have even been a good jab at the Hollywood bigwigs who wanted to keep Kusanagi as Scarlett Johansson because the idea of Black Widow in a flesh-tone bodysuit sounded more bankable to them. It would have been a great admission on Sanders’ part, as if to say “Yeah, we know this was divisive and sorry for deceiving you.” Then you could turn it around at the end and have Motoko played by Ellen Wong or Tao Okamoto or Anna Akana or whoever’s free for a weekend of filming.

So this film was a bust. A pity. At the very least, we hope can hope for a Japanese studio’s rebuttal to this boilerplate mess. And if we do get it, it better be the version we all were asking for: ninety straight minutes of Rinko Kikuchi in a body-suit breaking dudes’ assholes and shouting Marshall McLuhan quotes over kabuki music.

Motherfucker, I wouldn’t leave the theatre.

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