The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Jon’s Creator Showcase: Valentine’s Month Special, Featuring The First Posts of the New Decade

“There is no enjoying the possession of anything valuable unless one has someone to share it with.” –Seneca

Foreword

I am most honoured to be hosting the Jon’s Creator Showcase that features the first posts of 2020 from a variety of superb bloggers. This means I get to kick off the first standard Jon’s Creator Showcase of not just 2020, but of the new decade: Jon himself hosted the first one of the decade, which featured the best posts from participants of the past ten years. Mine won’t be quite so ambitious, being more conventional in featuring only the posts from the past month. With this in mind, it is not lost on me that 2020 is also a leap year, so until 2024, I’ll also have the dubious distinction of being the only Jon’s Creator Showcase to have a February 29 post. As a bit of background, Jon’s Creator Showcase was an initiative that Jon Spencer of Jon Spencer Reviews started back in 2017 with the goal of helping bloggers to connect and share their best content with one another. Participants submit their work via Twitter or in the comments of WordPress, and then the host would go through every submission. Different hosts roll differently: some sort them by category, whereas I sort by submission date (and by avenue of submission). The showcases can feature a shorter blurb about the post, or longer write-ups. At its core, the showcase would not exist without participants, so I would like to thank each and every one of the participants for submitting something. I’ve had the pleasure and joy of having twenty-nine different experiences from the submissions, and this time around, there was exactly one creative work and one video, with the remainder being blog posts. While I’m sure each of the authors and creators had a blast with their work, I assure everyone that it was equally fun to delve into each submission and then bring out the parts that are particularly outstanding. Twenty-nine submissions means that this post is only slightly smaller than the showcase I hosted last time, but in spite of the size of the showcase, I nonetheless wanted to ensure that each and every submission was satisfactorily represented. I would hope that I have succeeded in this regard, and with this preamble largely finished, it’s time for the main event – the submissions from the excellent writers and creators who make Jon’s Creator Showcase possible.

Submissions from Twitter

Emergence (Metamorphosis): Hard Read

Dewbond, @ShallowDivesAni

Kicking off with the first entry of this decade, is Dewbond’s discussion of the H-manga, Emergence (alternatively known as Metamorphosis, or 177013). This manga is quite polarising, either being something to be enjoyed or reviled for its grim narrative and disturbing elements. Having gone through the manga in whole, Dewbond views Emergence as being a gripping story on the perils of self-improvement and its unexpected consequences. Protagonist Saki Yoshida decides to reinvent herself as assertive and confident, but as she deals with her new-found image and the attention it brings, Saki finds herself sliding down a slippery slope into immoral and illegal activities. Emergence thus deals with a very real problem: the often irreversible changes wrought in those who are not fully aware of the consequences of certain decisions and the descent into madness. Despite the strong presence of H-elements, Dewbond feels that Emergence is an unexpectedly profound series that shows the darker side to what fiction can explore: while it should go without saying that Emergence isn’t going to be for everyone, those who have the tenacity (and iron-will) to go through the entire series are going to deal with a work that fundamentally challenges their existing beliefs and broaden their horizons because of its unsettling content and directions.

The distinction of having a H-manga be the first showcase item of 2020 notwithstanding, Dewbond’s experiences with Emergence is something that, in my opinion, should be more appreciated within the anime community. Folks tend to stick with series within their area of interest and may be more adverse to checking out new genres or concepts; in the process, some powerful or meaningful works may be missed. In Emergence, far more than the H-scenes, Dewbond counts the vivid, visceral and painful decay of Saki to be the strongest element; going into metaphoric free-fall is something that, unfortunately, a very real risk in life if one makes poor decisions and does not have the right support to return to a suitable path. A very similar experience was found in School Days, which saw a segment of the blogging community go through one of the most infamous anime of all time to see what lessons could be learnt from Makoto’s missteps, and in my case, stepping out of my comfort zone for Yurikuma Arashi led me to appreciate an anime I’d previously assumed to be demanding an intellect far outstripping my own. In both scenarios, an open mind allowed me (and others) to get more out of the respective series than originally anticipated: Dewbond’s experiences are a reminder of how an open mind goes hand-in-hand with being able to fairly address fiction that lies outside the scope of one’s interests.

Burning Sky Uprising: A Civilian’s Tale

Voyager, @GalvanicTeam

Voyager presents a creative work, Burning Sky Uprising: A Civilian’s Tale, which is a part of a larger series of short fiction. Opening with an exposition of Feroth, the world A Civilian’s Tale is set in, the narrative focuses on the town of Oston in Etrium, a veritable superpower. In Oston, the atmosphere is that of a busy market village with lively folk of all sorts. One day, a merchant finds his cart broken into, but curiously enough, nothing appears to have been stolen. He wanders off and finds himself in front of a derelict chapel. Upon entering, he finds a mysterious girl clutching to a doll, and deduces she went through his cart earlier. Feeling a mixture of pity and fear, he decides to get her some food. When he arrives back in town, he finds a group of knights who are searching for fugitives. The merchant decides to take the girl with him, and after a tense moment involving the knights, he manages to leave town. The girl demonstrates supernatural powers when she seemingly transports them to another location, and in the aftermath, when the girl addresses him, speaking for the first time, he learns that she doesn’t have a proper name. The Merchant decides to name her Braelin, and upon seeing her smile for the first time, feels that there is something right about looking after her.

I’m always fond of creative writing pieces in Jon’s Creator Showcase; different writers bring a different tone and style to their works, and the end result is a glimpse into the author’s mind, especially pertaining to what they consider as important in a story. In Voyager’s A Civilian’s Tale, there is an air of mystery surrounding a merchant’s discovery of an enigmatic girl with strange powers, which eventually ends with him taking her under his wing and looking after her: despite her supernatural capabilities, he feels it is the right thing to do. This short story would not feel out of place in a high fantasy setting as the start of a new adventure, the disruption that sets in motion much larger events. In particular, Voyager’s story excels with its world-building and exposition: this is a challenge that authors, especially for short stories, face. With only a limited space, an author must craft a world that is plausible and appropriate for the story. When done well, it creates in the mind’s eye a very vivid and believable setting, which then leaves the reader to focus on the characters and their discoveries. Of course, there are other instalments in Burning Sky Uprising, and having had a taste of this world, it would be worth reading the other stories, as well.

Chronicling the Otaku Author! (Blogger Recognition Award)

Lynn Sheridan, @TheOtakuAuthor

Blogging awards are always fun posts to write out, and in a manner of speaking, they are not dissimilar to Jon’s Creator Showcase: they give bloggers a chance to explore topics from the heart that may be outside their usual realm. Lynn’s Blogger Recognition Award is one post, and while it might be a blogging award post, there’s also a host of insight into Lynn’s party: Lynn’s journey in writing starts over thirteen years ago, with an unsuccessful submission to a writing competition. However, with an inspiring experience, Lynn would continue to pursue writing as a career, and over the years, Lynn would diversify into writing for an anime blog. At the present day, Lynn runs a shiny new site dedicating to his writing, and while this refresher meant the loss of older content, what’s clear is that Lynn’s expertise as a writer endures. Lynn shares this knowledge with peers, encouraging them to understand what makes blogging something they’d continue pursuing, and to be open to change. Finally, Lynn leaves readers with the suggestion to engage with the community, which is the best way to build up a readership and also become part of a community. Blogging has been around for quite some time, allowing ordinary folks to gather and share their thoughts on a variety of topics, and the suggestions that Lynn imparts on folks who are still relatively new to blogging are immensely valuable; far more than the comment count and traffic, blogging is a stellar way of building community, allowing one to share in their experiences with others and also learn new perspectives from one another.

Every blog I’ve ever read, followed and engaged with has its own story, and quite truthfully, these posts are among the most fun to read. It’s no joke when I say that every blogger should recount and share their history, because everyone’s journey is so different, but meaningful all the same: for new bloggers who are getting into the activity, being able to see these stories, and see how the giants out there also had humble beginnings, is highly inspiring. Folks will probably wonder: will I do the same thing? After all, The Infinite Mirai’s been around the block for some time, and there must be some interesting story to tell, right? The reality is much duller than one may imagine: this blog started because I outgrew an old site I used to have that was hosted by Webs.com. I originally started that site in 2008 to share Sim City 4 tips, got into Gundam 00 and began writing about that, and then moved to WordPress when I began consistently running over Webs.com’s bandwidth limit. I began writing simply because it was something I was not particularly good with, and figured the only way to improve was to practise. My origins are not as interesting or motivating as Lynn’s, and this is a showcase for other blogs, so that’s enough about me. On Lynn’s advice, I can definitely vouch for its efficacy: when I began my party, I was primarily focused on writing, and accumulated readers naturally. Through interactions with a small number of readers, I began opening up and reaching out more to fellow bloggers: this is where the real fun is, and while my own blog likely would’ve faded away had I purely been interested in traffic, having a community to share content with has kept my engagement and excitement high.

Why We Need To Stop Comparing Rahxephon Characters To Eva

iniksbane, @Cameron_Probert

Cameron of In Search of Number Nine submits a post about the lack of necessity in comparing RahXephon and Evangelion; Cameron notes that many viewers seem to think that the former’s characters are a carbon copy of those in the latter, a series that has been counted as iconic in the realm of anime. However, this isn’t the case: all of the characters in RahXephon have nuances that separate them from the characters of Evangelion. For instance, in the comparison between Megumi and Asuka, the former is driven by a desire to find her own identity, while Asuka’s need for validation stems from a past of having no mother figure in her life. In providing a few key examples of the characters’ differences, Cameron notes that abstracting out the characters of RahXephon diminishes one’s experience of the series, and removes much of the distinction that make each series uniquely enjoyable. To simplify RahXephon‘s characters as a knock-off of Evangelion is to eliminate a more interesting discussion, and Cameron suggests that taking a more open-minded approach, appreciating each series for what it offers, rather than focusing on the similarities it may have with other series, is key to understanding and enjoying it.

The issue that Cameron raises in his case study of RahXephon and Evangelion is much more extensive, and relevant to numerous other genres. By abstracting out characters in one series as being carbon copies of characters in a different series based on their superficial traits, one is essentially dismissing an entire work on the assumption that traits in a character purely define the themes within that series. The end result is an unfair dismissal of what could be an excellent series that utilises its characters effectively to convey a completely different idea than the series whose characters a given show’s cast resembles. A glaring example that immediately comes to mind is K-On!. In the years after K-On!‘s airing, and in response to the runaway success K-On! had, well-known anime bloggers were quick to count any air-headed, ditzy female character as an imitation of K-On!‘s Yui Hirasawa. For these individuals, given that K-On! had not been enjoyable to them, any series featuring a similar protagonist must therefore also share the same messages and traits as K-On!. Thus, when Sora no Woto aired, discussions fixated on how Sora no Woto failed to capture the horror and desolation of warfare simply because Kanata was practically Yui. Of course, Sora no Woto and K-On!‘s central themes are completely different, and as Cameron discusses, it is disingenuous to draw such shallow comparisons across different series; to enjoy a work, one must be willing to look past the superficialities, the tropes, and discuss a work with a much more purposeful approach.

School-Live! / Gakkou Gurashi! Review

Yomu, @UmaiYomu

Gakkou Gurashi, or School Live (I must constantly remind myself it’s pronounced “skuːl lɪv” and not “skuːl laɪv”) is the core of Yomu’s review. Yomu immediately draws the comparison between School Live and Puella Magi Madoka Magica: both anime are characterised by a dramatic disconnect between the visual style and the setting the characters are in. In School Live, the reality and what Yuki sees is completely different, creating a sense of unease for the viewer. This unease drives the story forward, compelling the viewer to continue watching; because of the series’ unique environment, viewers are simultaneously motivated to see what Yuki and her friends do, while at the same time, also enjoy the quieter moments that everyone spends together. Overall, owing to the unique setup in School Live, Yomu found the series to be superbly enjoyable, offering a different experience than more conventional series, and feels that it would be tricky to find another anime that strikes such a masterful balance between two fundamentally different atmospheres. It becomes easy to recommend this series, and reading through Yomu’s submission, it turns out my thoughts on School Live are appropriate, shared by others in the community. Unlike Yomu, however, my own discussion on School Live lacks the same precision and finess: Yomu is able to succintly capture what about School Live that makes it worth watching without giving away any of the story away, whereas in my review, a blunt instrument by comparison, I will inevitably end up spoiling the entire series for readers.

The last time I watched School Live was towards the end of my days as a graduate student, and I ended up writing a lengthy post on how the series’ psychological elements would particularly stand-out, as well as how Yuki, Kurumi, Yūri and Miki employed Les Stroud’s survival techniques well to get through what one can only imagine to be an immensely difficult time. The first episode hit me very hard: I was watching it during lunch on campus in my office, and when I finished, I thought I was hallucinating, seeing ghosts. It turns out that my supervisor had walked in and back out. I attributed it to exhaustion, since I had been working on two simultaneous publications on top of my thesis paper and had been gearing up to grade the last assignments for the term. However, to read Yomu’s account, it is not so far-fetched that the superior execution of School Live, especially the first episode, would have had a profound impact on my psyche after I’d finished. At this point in time, I imagine that most folks would have seen School Live, although for those who’ve yet to see the anime, I would handily recommend Yomu’s spoiler-free review to motivate interest in the series.

My Opinion, Your Opinion – Why Perspective Matters

Tiger, @TigerAnime2

Owing to the relative ease in which one could spin up a blog or sign up for a forum account, there is no shortage of opinions on most anything on the internet. Differences in opinion online have historically instigated what came to be known as flame wars, and this is something that is quite unnecessary: Tiger finds that because everyone has their own experiences and background, everyone correspondingly experiences something differently, and this is not only natural, but completely okay, as well. With the boilerplate out of the way, Tiger explores, in a satire format, several different kinds of perspectives arising from differences: the layman (ordinary viewers who gravitate towards things they like), the emotionally attached (empathetic viewers who try to understand what characters experience), the overexcited (folks with high expectations that end up disappointed), the influenced (people who gauge the quality of something based on popular or authoritative opinion), the mood swings (no one knows what they genuinely believe in), the virtuous (those with a political agenda who act as moral guardians and will tell people not to watch anything that covers contentious topics) and my personal favourite, the critic (people like me, who love showing off how bloody smart they are). While intended to be fun, Tiger also aims to make the point that there are a lot of opinions out there because everyone approaches something differently: except for the most obvious of cases where one is intending to cause trouble within a community, opinions are to be respected.

Broadly speaking, opinions offer insight into an individual’s own experiences and background. This is why reading blogs and following activities like AniTwitWatches is so enjoyable: whereas we can only really experience the world from the perspective our consciousness is limited to for the most part, being able to read someone’s thoughts on something lets one to understand how one approaches something, itself a consequence of their experiences and background. The end result is that one is then able to appreciate details and thoughts that might not have otherwise crossed one’s mind. While I’m fairly open-minded, there are also approaches in Tiger’s list that I find to be less-than-favourable: in particular, I have issue with what Tiger counts as the virtuous. These folks usually write with the intent of not informing, but using moral grounds as reasons for why one should not even be watching something, much less enjoying it. Certain anime news sites are particularly guilty of this, and as a consequence, I make it a point for readers to, when encountering things like that, to never be the readers who are swayed by the opinions of others. At the end of the day, different opinions (save those of virtue signallers) aren’t just to be tolerated, they should be encouraged and embraced: this is what drives the sense of community.

5 Anime That Will Teach You Significant Life Messages

Keni, @Keni2727

Keni’s submission for Jon’s Creator Showcase are five anime that have a valuable life lesson as a core part of their themes. For Keni, five shows stand out in particular. The list opens with Welcome to the NHK, which follows shut-ins known as hikikomori: Tatsuhiro Satō is a university dropout with no prospects and is convinced his circumstance was a result of society’s desire to create scapegoats. However, a chance encounter with Misaki Nakahara forces Tatsuhiro to step out of his comfort zone, and in doing so, finds a new outlook on life. Next up is CLANNAD ~After Story~, a veritable masterpiece of a story that follows Tomoya’s route to becoming a father and the challenges he faces even after graduating high school and marrying Nagisa Furukawa. Despite the tough hand life deals him, Tomoya does his best to do right by Ushio, his daughter, and despite the constant setbacks, Tomoya ends up coming to terms with his own relationship with his father. Psycho-Pass is another famous anime with the idea that not all laws necessarily are what’s right. When Akane Tsunemori joins the Public Safety Bureau, she soon discovers her own perceptions of right and wrong differ greatly from the system that she was told to be infallible. One Punch Man follows: Saitama is an incredibly dedicated fighter whose appearance belies the ability to overcome all foes with a single punch. Deciding to do good with his power, Saitama encounters other heroes who are much more vocal and outspoken than himself. Despite this, Saitama continues being himself, beating down bad guys and striving to make it just in time for the next sale: Keni suggests that One Punch Man is about the power of the humble, reserved hero who cares for his duties more than any personal gain. Finally, Watamote rounds out the list: protagonist Tomoko Kuroki is a dead-eyed, unkempt and eccentric individual who seeks popularity and acceptance amongst her peers. Despite seeing repeated failures, Tomoko continues in her attempts to befriend more people who can accept her unusual traits, speaking to the worth of persistence.

In general, as Keni concludes, anime is an incredible medium precisely because of the variety in themes and stories that has something for most everyone, from those seeking a moody, philosophical journey to those looking for something fun to pass the time. Fiction is a very powerful tool for inspiration and motivation: owing to the size and scale of the entertainment industry, it is very clear that people are always seeking for ways to temporarily escape their troubles, to see stories of endurance, resilience and persistence where hard work is met with reward, and anime that succeed in providing these messages are remembered as being giants. Of the shows in Keni’s list, I have heard of all of the series: they are famous for having strong stories in their own manner, and correspondingly yield much discussions, as everyone relates to them differently. For me, CLANNAD ~After Story~ stands out the most on this list: it is my favourite anime of all time, and I would even argue that ~After Story~ is more than a story of resilience. It is a tale of discovery, open-mindedness, understanding and compassion, combining every theme from the other titles on Keni’s list into one work that speaks to the best and worst facets of human nature. The reason why ~After Story~ is so moving is owing to the fact that it had the adequate length to build out the characters and their experiences: each arc in the series has its own message, and the collective sum of all the themes in CLANNAD is to suggest that family itself is a miracle that cannot be taken for granted, and what constitutes a family is multi-dimensional and varied. As Tomoya rediscovers this, he is able to right the wrongs he had wrought and ultimately is able to be the best husband and father that he can be for those most important to him. Of course, the other titles on Keni’s list also have their merits, and it is a difficult schedule (and skewed priorities) that resulted in my not having seen the others. With Keni’s submission, perhaps the time is appropriate to rectify my not having seen the other series for myself.

Review: No Game No Life Episode 2: A Harsh Lesson And A New Goal

The Crow, @CrowsAnimeWorld

Terrance Crow of Crow’s Anime World presents the second episode of No Game No Life, highlighting three stand-out moments. No Game No Life was originally a light novel, following step-siblings Sora and Shiro, who are hikikomori siblings with a profound knowledge of gaming to match Pure Pwnage‘s teh_pwnerer. When they accept a challenge from a being from another dimension and win, they are whisked away to a new world based around games. By the events of the second episode, they square off against one Stephanie Dola to settle a score. Terrance’s first notable moment in the second episode follows the characterisations of Sora and Shiro to show how emotionally dependent on one another these two step-siblings are. While presented in a comedic fashion, the implications are also a lot more severe. No Game No Life also excels at transitions, which motivates Terrance’s second choice; Stephanie is able to understand the two siblings better after seeing them together. The final moment comes from a culmination of the two’s talents: Shiro is able to quickly grasp the language of tomes that Stephanie had been unable to previously reference, and she begins to see hope. Altogether, the second episode’s contribution to No Game No Life is, for Terrance, a well-written relationship between two siblings that does not venture into the realm of taboo. Both siblings complement the other naturally, and that it’s subtle details like this that make things worthwhile.

If memory serves, Terrance had also submitted an episodic review of one of Fire Force’s episode for the last Jon’s Creator Showcase, and as before, I am impressed with how Terrance is able to consistently maintain a structured, clear episodic post that explains what each episode’s contribution in the context of a show without requiring an excessively long post. Communication that is simultaneously effective and concise is a skill, one which I lack, and reading through Terrance’s second episode talk for No Game No Life, I suddenly wonder to myself: is No Game No Life an anime that I would find enjoyable? When it aired, it garnered a great deal of discussion, and Sora and Shiro are supposed to be intellects held in even higher esteem than the likes of Bruce Banner, Tony Stark, Bruce Wayne, Reed Richards and other giants, resulting in an story with curious twists that keep viewers engaged. Terrance’s post has certainly presented a case for me to check out No Game No Life: intellectual duels amongst the characters notwithstanding, it’s clear that there is a substantial character piece as well which makes the series worth watching. This is the power of an effective episodic review.

My Anime Opinions Change Nothing

K, @K_at_the_movies (On behalf of Irina, Drunken Anime Blog)

While this submission is from K At The Movies, it is a nomination for a post from Irina’s Drunken Anime Blog, which deals with differing, even conflicting opinions. With the prevalence of online communications, that which dehumanises participants into an avatar and words, the setting is set for degenerate, counter-productive discussions. Irina discusses how it can be disheartening to see even peers with differing opinions on a series, but there is a silver lining: at the end of the day, all discussions everywhere are subjective, driven by personal preference, experience and emotion. Hence, opinions alone don’t, and shouldn’t impact what one makes of a series. For instance, Irina is fond of shows that may leave other bloggers unexcited, and she similarly enjoys writing about shows in her own manner on the virtue that her opinions are similarly subjective, something that readers can simply take in. This is the joy of hosting a blog, to have a small corner on the internet where one can be expressive and seek fun above all else. While Irina wonders if she’s adequately expressed her thoughts, the fact that I am drawing a distinct conclusion, and the fact that K of K At The Movies nominated her post, should be sufficient an indicator that Irina’s post is well-written and espouses a perspective that more of us, myself included, ought to practise in greater frequency.

As Irina writes, the whole point of having a blog is precisely to be able to have one’s own space of expressing oneself. Unlike Reddit, Twitter and forums, which end up being seas of noise where good discussions are drowned out by vociferous, but unlearned individuals with an agenda, blogs provide a quiet, organised environment to gather one’s thoughts. This environment tends to yield meaningful discussions, and where there is acceptance for contrary opinions to co-exist. As I’ve found, and commonly remind readers, what a blogger says in not infallible, and some of the best discussion results from having readers challenge one’s opinion (in a polite and respectful manner), which opens up a new outlook. I wouldn’t go quite so far as to say that one’s opinion changes nothing, though; being able to see different opinions in a civilised environment is what drives learning. Ultimately, I hold that opinions are useful when they offer a modicum of insight into the holder’s mind: everyone has their own stories, and it is especially enjoyable to understand how different minds piece things together to reach a conclusion. Conversely, my tolerance for some forms of expression, such as internet memes and sarcasm, is nil: if one intends to be heard, then one must put in an honest effort towards making themselves clear. A Tweet or sarcastic forum post on TV Tropes merits no consideration, but a well-written blog post will certainly earn respect.

Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack – A Tasteful End to a Dirty Saga!

Scott, @MechAnimeReview

Scott presents a talk on Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack, one of the most beloved and enjoyable instalments to the Universal Century. By the events of Char’s Counterattack, the fighting between the Earth Sphere Federation and Zeon has reached a point where Char Aznable, a notable figure within Zeon, has grown weary of conflict and the unending sense that humanity will never accept change. Feeling that extraordinary measures are necessary, Char’s begun dumping asteroids onto the planet in order to create a permanent nuclear winter that will force all of humanity to migrate into space. Standing in the opposite corner is Amuro Ray. With years of piloting experience under his belt, and having matured from having seen his share of warfare, Amuro fights for justice and peace. During its run-time, Char’s Counterattack explores the evolving dynamic between the iconic Char-Amuro rivalry, as well as what drives each to fight and how differently the two go about achieving their goals. Beyond this are the tragedies of the secondary characters, which evoke a sense of sadness and brings about the question of who the real victims are. Between the interesting characters, attention paid to details and animation that is both fluid and amongst the best of its era, Scott finds Char’s Counterattack to be a highly enjoyable movie that is still worth watching. Even though Scott has seen Char’s Counterattacks several times now, there always is something new to look at and consider.

If memory serves, I watched Char’s Counterattack directly as a result of growing impatient and restless with the incredible gap between Gundam Unicorn’s sixth and seventh episodes: it was the last year of my undergraduate degree, I had just defended my honours thesis and was quite bored. One of my friends had persuaded me to give Char’s Counterattack a go, and with minutes of starting, I knew I was watching something amazing. As Scott says, the main strength of Char’s Counterattack is how the film is able to balance so much without causing the viewers to get lost: all of the characters feel life-like in their actions and decisions, shaped by their experiences, and their interactions with one another speak volumes about who they are as people. From the unerring respect for Amuro’s determination to do right by humanity, to a reluctant acceptance of Char’s beliefs as being a plausible outcome of his experiences, and the annoyance with Hathaway’s actions, Char’s Counterattack proves itself to be a multi-layered, intricate story that speaks to the complexity of humanity as a whole. With Scott wrapping up his talk on the recommendation that folks check out Char’s Counterattack, I second this – Char’s Counterattack is poignant, engaging and a stunning film to watch, and despite its age, there seems no shortage of discussions surrounding the themes presented within the movie. The same friend who convinced me to check out Char’s Counterattack was most pleased to learn I’d seen the movie, since he now had someone to discuss the film’s messages and mobile suits with. It speaks volumes to the film’s excellent writing that even now, seven years since I’d watched the movie, we still find relevance in Char’s Counterattack.

20th Century Boys: Perfect Edition Vol 1 Review

Al Pal, @AlyssaTwriter

Al Pal of Al’s Manga Blog brings to the table a review of 20th Century Boys‘ first volume; curious to see the manga behind the praise, Alyssa was intrigued and decided to give the manga a whirl. The manga features one Kenji Endō as the central protagonist. As a child, he and several of his friends imagined themselves to act as the saviours of the world. However, as adults, life has become rather more mundane: Kenji has become the owner of a convenience shop. However, when an entire family disappears, and one of his friends dies from what appears to be a suicide, Kenji stumbles upon a sinister plot to destroy the world, and moreover, his old childhood memories may prove to be an invaluable asset towards stopping Armageddon. Alyssa initially found 20th Century Boys to be a dense read: the combination of multiple perspectives and time frames made the story difficult to follow, and the characters seemed unlikeable, difficult to root for. However, by the halfway point, Alyssa experienced a shift: as the characters reminisce, Alyssa appreciated that regardless of one’s childhood, recalling the mistakes one’s made as a child and feeling shame for them is something that people universally relate to: people become who they are from the sum of their experiences, especially through embarrassing mistakes. The midway mark of 20th Century Boys also sees the introduction of female characters, which add balance to the story. As 20th Century Boys‘ story progressed, Alyssa found the mange to become more and more compelling, giving it a recommendation for readers.

I’m not sure if readers would believe me if I said that as a child, I was a right little asshole – I was getting into trouble with instructors for not paying attention in class, going out of bounds and all sorts of random misadventures. Eventually, when I turned eight, one of my primary instructors wondered if there was anything out of the ordinary about me and ordered an intelligence screening exam. I recall being pulled out of class to take it, not giving the exam my full attention, and then got back results that were inconclusive. The moral of this story is that I’m as ordinary as can be, but my childhood self and the crazy trouble I got into has largely shaped who I am today: taciturn and reserved. Alyssa’s presentation of 20th Century Boys‘ first volume gives purpose to the story’s opening, which succeeded in drawing the reader’s interest precisely because it presents an unexpectedly vivid and plausible way of viewing one’s childhood. This is one of the joys of doing episodic and volume-based reviews: it allows one to really focus on and explore what each individual instalment’s contributions to a whole is. Through Alyssa’s post, 20th Century Boys is presented as an intriguing manga to check out, and I’m rather curious to see what Alyssa makes of the rest of the series (especially with regard to how the exposition makes way into the rising action as things progress).

Newcomer Series Post #1: Fire Emblem Three Houses

nabe-chan, @geeknabe

Geek Nabe submits a post by one of their authors, Mari-chan, who presents a talk on the Nintendo Switch game, Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Mari’s journey into Fire Emblem begins on the easy difficulty – this turn-based game turned out to be much more engaging than originally anticipated, especially through its narrative. As Mari progressed through Fire Emblem and adopted the max-min style of playing, enjoyment began to dwindle. Fortunately, Fire Emblem: Three Houses is more than just a max-min game, and there are plenty of things to focus on, such as the visuals, world-building aspects and excellent voice acting. By taking things more slowly and deliberately, enjoyment returns: as it turns out, Fire Emblem: Three Houses offers players the freedom to do as they please and still affords them progression without diminishing the experience. As Mari’s entry into the world of Fire Emblem, Fire Emblem: Three Houses was a solid choice. While some aspects of the story are inconsistent, and the UI is not optimal, the game overall is a solid experience, and Mari has no trouble recommending this game: besides mechanical and narrative excellence, there is also the not-so-subtle bonus of replayability, and at the time of writing, Mari has spent more than 120 hours into the game: the fun’s just getting started.

I’ll admit that when Fire Emblem is brought up, I am about as lost as an iOS developer attending a lecture on the latest annals of modelling deformation concrete structure deformation using finite element analysis: when I first received nabe-chan’s submission, I thought I was going to be writing about a game incarnation of Fire Force. This is certainly not the case, and having read through Mari-chan’s post, I am happy to see Mari found the enjoyment in Fire Emblem: Three Houses. I am similarly guilty of playing for optimisations and meta, as well as for blasting through stories and skipping all cutscenes: this is a consequence of me enjoying being given orders rather than working out my own objectives, and as such, I am not as good about open-world games than I am with first-person shooters. Even then, an open mind is an essential towards having fun, and Mari-chan is absolutely right when mentioning an improved experience after taking it easy. Speaking from the perspective of someone with a modicum of familiarity with figuring out how to have fun, I find that the best way to enjoy something is really to explore as much of it as possible, and worry less about winning and losing. This is the true joy of a good game: it immerses people in another world and for the time one is playing, all of the troubles and woes of reality are temporarily set aside, allowing one a chance to regroup, and then return to their challenges with a renewed determination and fresh perspective.

Anime Can (and Can’t) Successfully Talk About Big Ideas™️

The Backloggers, @the_backloggers

Whether or not anime can cover more serious topics is the subject of no small debate: this is the topic of General Tofu’s discussion at The Backloggers. In particular, General Tofu focuses on two shows, Stars Align and The Case Files of Jeweller Richard, which venture into the realm of facilitating discussions surrounding current social trends. In Stars Align, the story follows one Maki and his experiences on the tennis team. Dealing with topics as varied as abuse, helicopter parenting and unrealistic expectations, Stars Align also touches on gender identity and the challenges facing those who are LGBTQ; in Stars Align, the boys who come into the tennis team find a place to find acceptance, supporting one another as friends. The Case Files of Jeweller Richard is the other example General Tofu brings to the plate: this anime follows Richard, an expert in the appraisal of precious stones, and Richard’s credos is total acceptance and openness towards all people, independent of nationality, identity, religion and sexual orientation. In his job, Richard encounters people of all backgrounds, and whenever one of his assignments leads him to see something against his credos, he is quick help others accept these difference. Richard’s assistant, Seigi, assistant makes a derogatory remark about Middle Eastern clothing, and Richard reprimands him: Seigi accepts the learnings and strives to be more open towards other cultures. The Case Files of Jeweller Richard and Stars Align are instances where contemporary social issues are finely interwoven into their respective stories to augment the series’ messages and themes. However, not all series that set out to present a specific view on social issues succeed: Babylon is one example where attempts to discuss politics comes up short because of inconsistencies presented in the arguments within the series, and where fallacies are so common that General Tofu cannot help but wonder if the show was in fact, a parody of some kind. Overall, General Tofu finds that in the context of anime, relevant social issues can be addressed in a satisfactory manner through the events that occur within the series provided that the series are well-written.

With a submission from The Backloggers, I first remark that their name embodies my modus operandi: maybe I ought to re-brand myself as “Infinity Backlog” or something similar owing to how much I procrastinate. Jokes aside, this submission from The Backloggers is a valuable and insightful example of how anime can be used to present contemporary topics and say something meaningful about things like acceptance and diversity. In particular, the examples that General Tofu bring up in Stars Align and The Case Files of Jeweller Richard are done in a very seamless, elegant manner that does not come across as preachy or disruptive (irrespective of a series’ messages, if they aggressively shoehorn an agenda in that is tangential to the story, this would not make for a good story): they are integral to the story. With shifts in current social trends, there is only going to be more advocacy for diversity and acceptance, so it stands to reason that these themes will become increasingly common, and when done well, it can create anime that has considerable impact and meaning for its viewers. I’ve long been a proponent of diversity and acceptance, having grown up in a multi-cultural nation that embraces celebrating the things that both make people unique, and the things that unify us, so these are topics that I’ve often taken for granted. As such, it is a bit striking that intolerance and hatred remain such a problem in the world: intolerance and hatred stem from anger, anger from fear, and fear from a lack of understanding. It therefore stands to reason that making an honest attempt to understand other cultures, sexual orientations, religions and other creeds is the first step towards lessening the hate in the world: through anime, viewers can be given a modicum of insight into other ways of thinking from a new perspective, so series like The Case Files of Jeweller Richard and Stars Align become especially valuable for helping set down a precedence towards understanding, and acceptance.

Visions of a Brighter Future [OWLS Jan. ’20 Blog Tour]

Bungou Stray -Doge-, @MagicConan14

As a brief refresher, the OWLS programme (Otaku Warriors for Liberty and Self-Respect) is an initiative to support and promote acceptance of people from all walks of life, and to this end, showcase blog posts that deal with various real world topics. In many ways, OWLS is similar to Jon’s Creator Showcase. For the month of January, the OWLS topic was “visions of a brighter future”, and Aria of The Animanga Spellbook rose to the challenge with a talk on Dr. Stone, a series about a Senku Ishigami, who is revived into a world thirty-seven hundred years into the future after humanity was petrified in a mysterious phenomenon. As he brings his friends and classmates back to life, he works to rebuild civilisation, while simultaneously working to prevent others who seek to prevent the world from being restored. The themes of Dr. Stone definitely serve to present one vision of how people can build a better future together, and while things like the scientific method and contemporary technology are still inadequate in many areas, persistence and a drive to improve them, as Senku does with his rediscovery of critical technologies and sciences in an effort to restore civilisation. Aria leaves readers on the message that while advances are being made, perspective is also immeasurably valuable for the present: there remain problems that humanity simply has no answers for, but by taking a new perspective on things, one can still work out a solution that is a satisfactory solution for the time being until a more effective answer can be designed.

With this month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase featuring the first posts for the new decade, it is especially encouraging and inspiring to see people consider what a better future might look like. Regardless of what one’s vision of how a brighter future might look, there are commonalities shared in all of these visions: people must work together to accomplish their goals. Just as Senku counts on help from his friends despite being a genius, humanity as a whole has made its greatest achievements through collaborative and coordinated effort. Dr. Stone thus is, as Aria has found, ideally suited to act as an anime that can kick off the New Year; despite 2020 being off to a decidedly rough start in things like the COVID-2019 outbreak and the shoot-down of Iran Air Flight 655, we are only scratching the surface of the new decade. Maintaining positivity and finding ways to make things work has been a hallmark of humanity’s incredible will to survive and improve, so I would further add that Aria’s OWLS post, in mentioning a personal resolution to be more positive, is something that applies to all of us as well. Being able to see a brighter future, and having the courage, plus tenacity to work towards this future, is what the world is asking of us, and I am confident that we will rise to the occasion and leave the 2020s stronger than we came in.

Fune wo Amu, Bakuman of Making dictionaries

Tanteikid94, @tanteikid94

When Tanteikid94 first read the premise to Fune o Amu, the premise seemed quite unremarkable: Fune o Amu follows the publication of a new dictionary. Mitsuya Majime is transferred into the Dictionary Editorial Department to assist with the editing owing to his skills, and this dictionary is supposed to help people express themselves better. Tanteikid94 initially expresses scepticism: at best, dictionaries are common reference tools and cannot be said to be exciting. At worst, a dictionary that acts as a guide on life would imply the series was going in a more pretentious direction. However, such was not the case: Fune o Amu successfully takes this concept and transforms it into a compelling journey worth following, as it shows the day-to-day experiences that Mitsuya has while working on this project. The ordinary is celebrated, and in conjunction with a distinct art style and soundtrack, Fune o Amu excels at bringing out a very life-like feel to the story through a combination of sight and sound. Beyond this, Fune o Amu also capitalises on its premise to present dictionary-themed trivia and words for users to help them appreciate what Mitsuya and the others are building. Being a very pleasant surprise, Fune o Amu is something that Tanteikid94 has no trouble recommending for interested viewers.

It typifies fiction, especially anime, to explore topics that are so mundane and otherwise common that they are not otherwise given a second thought, to be taken for granted. In Fune o Amu, the topic of dictionaries form the core of the series. Dictionaries have long existed as references for defining words; from a functional perspective, they are valuable assets in helping one understand the meanings behind words, but they’re hardly something one typically reads in their spare time (there are exceptions, and as a child, I did in fact read dictionaries for my own amusement, but that’s neither here nor there). However, dictionaries as a topic of fiction does initially sound poorly-suited for a full anime series: perhaps unsurprisingly, writers will find ways to make dictionary-writing an interesting and worthwhile topic. Tanteikid94 was impressed with Fune o Amu precisely for being able to bring this to life, and after reading about the series, it does strike me that a dictionary, in being able to put our meanings and interpretations of words to paper, can act as a bit of a guide to life.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes – Die Neue These: 19 & 20

Jusuchin, @RightWingOtaku

Jusuchin is a regular of the Jon’s Creator Showcase, and runs a blog I’m no stranger to. For his submission, Jusuchin presents an episodic talk on the nineteenth and twentieth episodes of Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These. Die Neue These is a new adaptation of Legend of The Galactic Heroes, a story following a long and bloody war between the Galactic Empire and Free Planets Alliance. During the course of this war, two heroes, one for each side, arises. For the expansive universe, detailed characterisation and themes of warfare, Legend of the Galactic Heroes is counted as being enjoyable and thought provoking. Jusuchin drops readers into the heart of the second season: with a detailed summary of the two episodes, this stage of Die Neue These sees both sides entangled in war even as the Empire struggles with a civil war of its own. Jusuchin finds this anime’s choice of presentation for one of the character’s decisions quite different than the equivalent scenes in the OVA; overall, Jusuchin holds that for the most part, Die Neue These to generally be solid for taking the time to carefully flesh out important moments and justify their significance, this point is perhaps not as well done as it could be: Die Neue These was intended as a re-imaginging of a series intended for a niche audience but has quite a bit of history behind it, and shifting trends in the market has resulted in changes to character decisions and motivations, for better or worse.

Episodic reviews are always the trickiest to write for, as they require the blogger to get creative in how they approach each episode and consider both the worth (or lack thereof) in specific events within that episode, as well as the episode’s contributions to the series as a whole. The latter can be especially difficult if one is writing for a series as it is airing, and as such, it is always exciting to see how different bloggers go about finding their own styles to effectively write about series in an episodic fashion. On one end of the spectrum, bloggers like Terrance of Crow’s Anime World have perfected the art of succinctly summarising an episode’s contributions to a series’ narrative using a clean and concise style, and at the opposite end of things are people like Jusuchin and myself, who enjoy picking apart the little details and then relating them to both our own experiences and then, depending on whether or not a series has ended or not, use these details and thoughts to either speculate on what is likely to happen next or go over whether or not an observation is helpful to the series or no. Both concise and lengthy episodic posts have their respective merits and challenges: shorter posts act as a quick summary to help me gain my bearings in a show, while longer posts end up with a bit more of a personal touch that gives me a glimpse into the minds of how others break down the series they watch. Having read through Jusuchin’s summary of Die Neue These‘s nineteenth and twentieth episodes, I do find myself wondering if the series’ latest adaptation is worth checking out; I’ve heard many things about Legend of the Galactic Heroes as a whole, although the length of the original series means that I’d be hard-pressed to check it out. By comparison, Die Neue These is a more manageable twenty-four episodes over two seasons.

Fairy Tail: First Impressions (Macao Arc Review)

Nana Marfo, @Nana__Marfo

Nana Marfo returns to the world of anime blogging with a talk on Fairy Tale, a well-known and long-running series originating from a 2006 manga. Set in a world where wizards take up various quests to earn their keep, the story follows the dragon slayer Natsu Draneel. He meets one Lucy Heartfilia on his journey, and she agrees to join Natsu’s guild, the Fairy Tale. Over time, Natsu and Lucy’s guild expands to include Happy, Gray Fullbuster, Erza Scarlet, Wendy Marvell and Carla. The guild thus sets out on various adventures, helping to take down criminals, illegal guilds and daemons. The anime began running in 2009, and is up to its ninth season at the time of writing, with three hundred and twenty eight episodes altogether. Nana Marfo’s post kicks off with an overview of highlights from the first and episodes, where Natsu and Lucy encounter one another for the first time, before dealing with the idea that every character in Fairy Tale as their own stories. Right out of the gates, Fairy Tale‘s unique world is vividly presented through the art and animation, and the series is off to a very strong start. Marking the beginning of a journey spanning a decade (and one that is ongoing), Nana Marfo finds the first two episodes set an excellent tone for Fairy Tale; the series is one that viewers feel compelled to continue owing to how intricate and detailed their world is, and with north of three hundred and twenty eight episodes, Nana Marfo will certainly have quite a bit to experience and write about.

Long-running anime series are very well-known through the community, and I hold Nana Marfo as being very dedicated for having made the decision to start the journey into what I’m sure to be a long, but meaningful watch of Fairy Tale. For me, long-running series are those I tend to avoid, not for any narrative or technical reasons, but simply because I know that I won’t be able to finish them. Shows like Dragonball, Bleach, Naruto and One Piece, all iconic anime, are similarly those that I actively choose not to watch on the virtue there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything in. While I’ve never seen series like these for myself, the fact that such anime have had enormous success indicates that they are definitely doing something correctly, if they are able to inspire such an extent of loyalty from their viewers. A part of the reason why long-running anime are successful is from their length: with plenty of episodes and material to explore different facets of a character, viewers will become very familiar with the characters and their traits, to the point where the characters themselves may appear life-like, whose triumphs are celebrated as joyfully as those seen by one’s real-world friends and family, and where the losses are equally as difficult to handle. These are the series with their own merits, and Nana Marfo will almost certainly see a helluva journey in going through Fairy Tale. As for me, my lack of commitment (and time) means that for the foreseeable future, I am going to stick to anime that are considerably shorter.

Yosuga no Sora: In solitude, where we are least alone: The Kazuha Arc

Dewbond, @ShallowDivesAni

Dewbond of Shallow Dives in Anime is writing about Yosuga no Sora, an anime that was quite infamous for its content, and owing to its material, was never really given proper discussion. For those who are (fortunate enough to be) unfamiliar with Yosuga no Sora, it’s an anime that follows Haruka and Sora Kasugano, siblings who’d lost their parents in an accident and are sent into a remote corner of rural Japan to pick up their shattered lives. Dewbond describes the decision as one gives Yosuga no Sora a gentle and innocent feeling, and coupled with a soundtrack that is integral to the experience, it becomes clear that Yosuga no Sora is no ordinary series. The anime is unique in that it’s delineated clearly into four arcs: the first focuses on Haruka’s growing closeness to Kazuha Migiwa, who comes from a wealthy background. Owing to her worries about leaving her adopted sister behind while pursuing a relationship with Haruka, Kazuha initially hesitates because it would take away from her time with Akira. With Haruka’s help, Kazuha discovers that her family loves and respects Akira, and that Akira can more than manage, leaving free to follow her heart. For Dewbond, Yosuga no Sora‘s greatest strength is that, despite the incredible time constraints (no more than two to three episodes per arc), the series manages to nonetheless tell a very captivating and convincing story: by making visceral use of intimate imagery, Yosuga no Sora wastes no time in setting things up and hitting viewers with a powerful message in each arc.

I’ve been closely following Dewbond’s journey though Yosuga no Sora, even if I’ve been a little too busy to be swinging by his blog and providing my own thoughts on things. I would have greatly loved to showcase Dewbond’s write-up for the Nao arc; she had the most emotionally riveting story, and for reasons that I cannot quite put my finger on, Nao is also my favourite of the characters in Yosuga no Sora. However, the advantage of being presented with a first arc post to showcase means that I’m able to see Dewbond’s thoughts on the setting and music. Both are integral aspects to Yosuga no Sora, and in particular, the setting is absolutely critical to the series’ emotional impact. Beyond liberating Haruka and Sora from the scrutiny of prying eyes, the countryside acts to isolate the two. The vast blue skies and open plains leading to distant forests and faraway mountain creates an incredible sense of isolation, of solitude: freedom itself becomes an inescapable prison, and this forces Haruka and his partner in a given arc to turn to one another. The same effect could not have been accomplished in any other way, and so, I’ve previously argued that the setting itself is what lends Yosuga no Sora such a powerful impact. While I’ve only showcased one of Dewbond’s posts here, Dewbond has done reflections on Akira, Nao and Sora’s arcs in full, as well.

Symphogear GX lowering K2

Anime Science 101, @Animescience101

Christopher Meharg is a science instructor at the middle and secondary levels with eight years of experience, and his blog is born from an interesting story: when the topic of Mendelian genetics (if alleles, genotypes, phenotypes and Gregor Mendel’s peas don’t ring a bell, hit me up and I’ll give a succinct overview of that) was the lesson for his students, his students wondered if pink hair was possible, and whether or not it was possible to artificially select for desirable traits in people. Christopher quickly saw the connection to Gundam SEED, returned the question to the students to confirm, and then realised here was a ready-made way to engage students. In this submission, Christopher writes about an operation in the anime Symphogear GX, where the protagonists are forced to demolish the summit of K2, the world’s second tallest mountain, in order to accommodate a crash-landing. With some rudimentary calculations, the girls of Symphogear must output around 12.2 MT in order to clear 150m off the summit. While no mean feat, the numbers are not ludicrous: the Super MACs of Halo can accelerate 3000 ton Ferric-tungsten slugs to 4 percent the speed of light that impact with more than 40 GT of TNT, and in both Marvel and DC, some of the stronger heroes can level planets on their own.

I’ve long found enjoyment in reading posts where folks aim to quantify feats in fiction, and my favourite ones are usually those from Star Wars (deal with the Death Star’s outputs) or various comic book universes, where numbers are brought into discussion, in places like Space Battles or Comic Vine, that put into perspective just how outlandish and wild fiction can become. Christopher’s Anime Science 101 is a dedicated repository of the anime equivalent, covering a variety of calculations and other phenomenon in a much more detailed manner than I do: folks familiar with my style will know that I occasionally indulge in some number crunching or literature review to comment on something in an anime, and the fact is that there are many topics that can be covered in this manner. If one were to isolate this part of my blog out, away from the thematic piece and my propensity to use my blog as a diary, then Anime Science 101 would be the result – a noteworthy and interesting resource dedicated to exploring the more unexplored aspects of anime.

Best Anime of 2019 – Romance

Karandi, @100wordanime

Karandi’s submission to Jon’s Creator Showcase is well-chosen, being the best romance anime of 2019 that comes just in time for Valentine’s Day. Granted, Valentine’s Day was just a shade over two weeks ago, but February is often thought of as the month for Valentine’s, and while Karandi may have spent most of January reviewing the top anime of the 2010s, 2019 appeared to fall by the wayside. Thus, this submission aims to rectify that. Like the Oscars, Karandi has several romance titles that stood out from 2019: Domestic Girlfriend, Fruits Basket, Given, Kenja no Mago and Meiji Tokyo Renka. Of these titles, Given takes home the prize for Karandi; it follows two love stories between two pairs of young men, who are members of a band. While love stories between men are usually written with clichés, Karandi finds Given to differentiate itself in creating a much more plausible and natural progression, from the initial realisation of romantic feelings, to the impact this has on the band the young men are a part of. With realistic and life-like characters, Karandi notes that Given stands above the other titles as a romance goes, making it a winner for 2019.

Love stories between men have traditionally been a realm that I’ve never had much familiarity with, and it is precisely through other bloggers that I have a chance to see what makes such stories enjoyable for the folks who are fans of the genre. As it turns out, the same things that make what is colloquially called boys’ love enjoyable is really the same thing that makes yuri enjoyable for others, or better yet, what makes anime universally enjoyable: well-written characters, natural development and measured drama that drives investment into the characters’ experiences without venturing into the realm of the melodramatic. Through reading Karandi’s post, a very simple truth should become evident: that while people have different tastes in their genres, our enjoyment of anime (and fiction in general) boils down to a universal constant of seeking enjoyment in watching people grow, learn and triumph. As such, while I may not watch boys’ love in any capacity, I appreciate that there are factors that make these series meaningful and enjoyable. I’ve noted this in other showcases as well, but aside from gaining new perspectives on series that I otherwise don’t watch, one of my favourite parts about Jon’s Creative Showcase is seeing the different blogging styles, and I am most respectful, even envious, of the bloggers, like Karandi, who can so succinctly and concisely made their point very clear without doing as I do and writing a novel on what could’ve been done in one sentence!

Monthly Manga – Yankee-kun and the White Cane Girl

Owningmatt93, @Owningmatt93

Yankee-kun and the White Cane Girl is a manga following Morio Kurokawa and how a chance encounter with Yukiko Akaza, who has amblyopia ex anopsia. This is a medical a condition where the ocular media takes on an opaque character, and in Yukiko’s case, it renders her nearly blind. After their encounter, Morio and Yukiko get to know each other better. Doing his best to accommodate Yukiko, Morio’s traits shift over time: he becomes kinder to everyone around him, and this has a tangible impact: as Yukiko spends more time with Morio, Yukiko’s caregiver and older sister, also comes to realise that Yukiko is more independent and capable than she’d imagined. The sum of what Yankee-kun and the White Cane Girl is impressive: despite being written with a gentle and comedic tone in mind, the manga explores very meaningful and heart-warming topics that make it well worth the read.

One of my long-time friends have frequently expressed to me his regrets in never being able to experience everything out there in fiction that’s worth exploring, and with Mythos’ post from The Backloggers, I appreciate where his sentiment is coming from: just through Jon’s Creator Showcase alone, I’ve been introduced to series that all hold their merits and standing points. Seeing people find ways to enjoy these different works is inspiring, but also brings to mind my friend’s thoughts on how there’s just so much out there, that it is not possible to get to all of it. Up until now, Yankee-kun and the White Cane Girl was something I had no familiarity with, but after reading Mythos’ discussion of the manga, I am convinced that the manga would be an excellent one to check out, since I am partial to heartwarming stories where love brings about positive change in characters.

2 Songs 1 Myth: Lady Meng Jiang and the Destruction of the Great Wall of China

Moyatori, @The_Moyatorium

In ancient China, Lady Meng Jiang married Wan Xi Liang, the latter of which was pushed towards constructing the Great Wall of China. She dutifully set out to bring him clothing for the winter but learnt he had died during the construction before her arrival. Giving in to despair, she dissolved into tears, and the Great Wall itself cracked open to expose Wan’s skeleton. Being one of China’s Four Great Folktales, scholars have found that variations of this story had been recorded over the past two millennia, and the story itself has been reinterpreted in modern songs. Moyatori presents a ballad from Tong Li and provides a superb translation of its lyrics, as well as a cover of a Vocaloid performance. Both songs present Lady Meng Jiang’s story with a different tenor, attesting to the incredibly diverse thematic range of Lady Meng Jiang’s tale, ranging from female virtue, love and grief, and the human cost the Great Wall of China’s construction commanded, to name a few, although Moyatori is disappointed that Lady Meng Jiang’s cries of anguish destroying the section of the Great Wall is not mentioned in either song.

It speaks volumes to how extensive Chinese folklore and myths are when I find myself learning something new about it each and every day. Outside of the stories that my parents told me when I was a child, like Hou Yi (who shot down nine suns with his legendary skill as an archer), or Wu Song (a part of the Water Margin, who killed a tiger with his bare hands while drunk), there are numerous tales that I’ve never heard of before. It is therefore a pleasure to read about them, and even more so when the principal characters in a folktale have their narrative transcribed into song. I’m familiar with Tong Li’s music, and deeply enjoy Classical Chinese music owing to how calming it sounds. In Tong Li’s performance of Lady Meng Jiang, her delivery of the lyrics creates a sense of loss, tragedy and grief. The Voicaloid cover, on the other hand, conveys longing, a more subtle emotion, through its tempo and intonations. This is the power of music, and it’s a mark of a good blog post that I leave Moyatori’s write-up of the tragedy of Lady Meng Jiang having learnt something new.

School Days – “The Worst Anime Ever Made”

Jon Spencer Reviews, @JS_Reviews

Is School Days is the worst anime of all time? With this as the motivating question, Jon of Jon Spencer Reviews, the creator of the Jon Creator’s Showcase initiative, sets out to examine one of the most infamous anime in recent history: School Days is remembered for its unexpected outcomes and protagonist Makoto’s infidelity and indecisiveness leading him to pay the ultimate price. Masquerading behind a facade of an art style appropriate of a series from some four years earlier, School Days appears to be an unassuming and mundane series. However, behind this seemingly ordinary exterior is a series that was going to take viewers on a ride. The dissonance in scenes and the series’ propensity for cliffhangers after key episodes creates a sense of unease amongst viewers, and Jon argues that School Days‘ execution was to highlight certain aspects of visual novels of a similar genre and forces viewers to be mindful of how ordinary people can be compelled to acts of unspeakable evil from their circumstances. To this end, Jon argues that School Days‘ success comes from the flawed characters, a grim commentary on human nature that challenges one’s perspectives. While School Days certainly won’t be for everyone, Jon closes with the remark that ultimately, reputations notwithstanding, an open mind is what helps one understand what series, even disreputable ones, aim to accomplish.

Jon’s post on School Days covers areas I did not: this was the first time I participated in what is known as the #AniTwitWatches programme, and I left School Days with the impression that the series wanted to showcase where the game could go, by presenting the cost of lies in the most visceral manner possible. School Days is something I never imagined I would watch, and as Jon notes, it was only by forcibly leaving my comfort zone that I got a chance to see what the anime was about. In this case, the inviting nature of the Twitter community segment I am a part of, in conjunction with a healthy dose of bad jokes, allowed me to go through School Days. In the end, I found worth in the anime; although I reached a considerably different conclusion than Jon about what School Days sought to accomplish, we align whole-heartedly on the idea that internet commentary and reception should not be a significant factor in whether one chooses to watch something or not. Finally, as to whether or not School Days is the worst anime of all time, the answer is a clear and resounding no. School Days has a clear theme, a plausible progression of how things wound up in the manner that they did, and despite looking like Da Capo, did not do anything particularly offensive with its art and animation. The title of Worst Anime of All Time remains held by RDG: Red Data Girl; consider that this anime was so poorly done, that even those versed in Japanese culture, classical literature and folklore had nothing to offer in the way of explaining the series’ themes. By comparison, School Days is a veritable masterpiece.

Submissions from WordPress

Seeing Myself in Magical Girl Site

Lethargic Ramblings, @AlwaysLethargic

Leth typically breaks the posts-only-streak to present what is the only video submission for this Jon’s Creator Showcase. This video deals with Magical Girl Site, which follows Aya Asagiri: a middle-school aged girl struggling with bullying and abuse. When she accepts a strange contract to become a magical girl from a website, she acquires the power to teleport her foes: she attempts this on her bullies in curiosity, and they are splattered by a train. Aya soon discovers there are other magical girls similar to her, and they find themselves in a race against the clock, as using their powers shortens their lifespan. Magical Girl Site sounds to be a darker version of Madoka Magica, and Leth’s video explores his enjoyment of the series, which was not without controversy. Leth explains that one of the reasons why Magical Girl Site was so enjoyable is because he sees commonalities between Aya and himself: like Aya, Leth was also bullied in school, and had no friends. Leth praises how Magical Girl Site portrays the issue of bullying; while perhaps exaggerated, the reality is that bullying in the real world is similarly graphic and disturbing. The other piece of Magical Girl Site that Leth relates to is Aya’s journey as a magical girl: as she befriends fellow magical girl Tsuyuno Yatsumura, Aya gains confidence and comes to understand friendship. Leth underwent a similar experience; having support made all the difference for him, whether it be his real-world friends, family or online community. For this reason, Leth counts Magical Girl Site a masterpiece despite its controversial set up.

The definition of a masterpiece, as Leth and I know it, isn’t marked by some universally-accepted upon set of guidelines, objectivity or truth. We tend to count our enjoyment of things based also on our own experiences and preferences, which are unequivocally subjective. This is why I count shows as being ten out of ten when it changes the way I see things, and this is why Leth’s video on Magical Girl Site is an effective one: Magical Girl Site does not appear to be something I’d initially watch, but Leth has convinced me that there is a strong reason to count it as an enjoyable anime; personal reasons are legitimate in driving enjoyment, and hearing Leth’s explanation of bullying in Magical Girl Site, coupled with his recollections, reminds me of my own experiences with bullies. The bullying was indeed vulgar and crude, and in my case, it was family that got me out: I ended up taking up martial arts, which gave me the confidence to both stand up for myself and seek ways of defusing confrontations. My own journey to overcoming bullying came from the new-found confidence of knowing that I could properly deal with a physical situation if needed, but that the choice to handle it peacefully was also in my hands. Most of my bullies quickly got the message, and things became water under the bridge. The point of sharing this was that everyone has their own stories to tell, and so, when folks enjoy something that might be seen as controversial, I would point to Leth’s video as an instance of why being too hasty to pass judgement is to be foolish. There is a story behind everyone’s decisions and these are worth giving thought to. Finally, as the only video on my list, I do have a few remarks on Leth’s video, as well. Because Leth chooses to lay his discussion out with scenes from the anime, I was much more engaged: anime reviews don’t tend to be as compelling if I’m made to watch a talking head. I did, however, find it a little difficult to hear Leth at times, so folks watching his video may find it useful to watch it at a slightly higher volume or rewind to make sure nothing was missed.

Take 3: High Society Review

Sally Silverscreen, 18cinemalane

High Society is a 1956 musical romance comedy featuring Frank Sinatra and Grace Kelly; Sally had been curious to see this movie after learning it was a musical remake of The Philadelphia Story, which was made in 1940 and itself was based on Philip Barry’s play of the same name, following C.K. Dexter Haven after his divorce from Tracy Samantha Lord. Despite the divorce, he remains in love with Tracy even though she is to marry George Kittrege. The wedding is major news, and the New York Spy assigns Macaulay “Mike” Connor to cover the story. After a series of trials, Tracy finds herself struggling to choose between Mike, George and Dexter, culminating in Tracy realising that her standards had been unreasonable: on the day of her wedding, Tracy prepares calls off her wedding until a proposal from Dexter sweeps her off her feet, and she consents to marry Dexter again. With solid acting, beautifully designed sets and musical numbers that capture the emotion of the film, Sally found many things to enjoy about High Society. The film isn’t perfect: there were some themes the film does not explore, dancing is only shown on two occasions, and scenes can be dialogue heavy, slowing progression down. In spite of this, the movie is enjoyable, distinguishing itself from Philadelphia Story with its own unique style and focus.

There is a certain joy to watching older movies, as they possess traits that modern films lack; in particular, older films are more slowly paced, taking the time to really flesh out a moment, and in the case of musicals, this helps to accentuate what the characters are feeling and articularte these to viewers. The setting of High Society brings to mind the likes of Great Gatsby, and the sordid affairs of those in a world that ordinary folk like myself would be out of place in, as well. Reading Sally’s post on High Society helps readers to gain a concise and clear bearing on what the movie is about, what it excels in and areas that could’ve seen some improvements. As I am not particularly familiar with musicals, it is therefore reassuring to know that, should there be a need for me to pick a musical for any purpose, or anything outside the area of my knowledge, the blogging community has me covered; knowledgeable folks on most any topic are on hand, and I imagine that asking nicely will help me to find the answers or perspectives that I am seeking.

My Top Anime of the Decade List

Rose, Wretched and Divine

Rose of Wretched and Devine shares a list of her top anime of the 2010s, and opens by remarking that she’s been watching anime for the past thirteen years. In this post, Rose picks her favourite anime from each year between 2010 and 2019 (inclusive). 2010’s anime is Durarara!!, which possesses a unique setting, strong opening and ending songs and Izaya Orihara, Rose’s favourite character of all time. 2011’s pick is Gyakkyou Burai Kaiji: Hakairoku-hen, a gambling story with a powerful ending. In 2012, Saint☆Oniisan is Rose’s pick, being a hilarious show despite only having two episodes. For introducing her to Shingeki no Kyojin‘s franchise, the first season in 2013 is her top anime for that year. 2014’s pick is Zankyou no Terror, and 2015’s top is Tokyo Ghoul √A: both series have excellent music, while the latter is also solid for its portrayal of what being a ghoul means. Rose chooses Boku dake ga Inai Machi as the top anime of 2016; despite a rushed ending, the rest of the series was admirable. Inuyashiki is Rose’s top anime for 2017 – aside from the opening music, which prompted Rose to attend a concert, the juxtaposition the anime creates in its story made it worthwhile. Koi wa Ameagari no You ni is Rose’s favourite series of 2018 for a heartwarming story and its calming aesthetic. In 2019, Rose reaches an impasse owing to the sheer number of series that proved enjoyable and leaves the reader to decide if it’s okay for her to mark all of these series as the top of 2019.

As a reader myself, I answer Rose that yes, it is completely acceptable to find enjoyment in enough of 2019’s anime as to want to mark all of them as the best of the year. Rose’s 2010s anime experience has been a comprehensive and fun one, filled with series that I’ve noticed a recurring commonality to – numerous of Rose’s choices are motivated by an excellent opening and/or ending theme. Because music is a very powerful means of expression, allowing for thoughts, ideas and emotions to be communicated clearly, it is certainly something that can have a very powerful draw on viewers: a strong opening and/or ending song can capture the entire emotion of an anime and its themes in a short time-frame and really help viewers to appreciate what the anime’s intentions are. I am similar in this regard in that I am drawn towards good music, and indeed, I have picked up series and enjoyed them from the simple motivation that the music was good. Overall, while I cannot say that I am familiar with any of Rose’s picks, save Zankyou no Terror, it was enjoyable to read through the reasoning behind each pick in her list. Of course, now I’m left wondering: of all the shows Rose has selected, which one of these shows would be the single best one for all of 2010-2019?

Fire In Babylon Review

Ospreyshire, Ospreyshire’s Realm and Iridium Eye Reviews

For Jon’s Creator Showcase, ospreyshire of Iridium Eye writes about Fire in Babylon, a 2010 sports documentary that follows the West Indie Cricket Team and their journey towards success from their origins as a talented, starry-eyed team to a force that set numerous records and new standards for excellence in the sport of cricket that would earn them the respect of cricket fans and other players, even opposing teams. Despite lacking a background in cricket, ospreyshire was moved by the players’ honesty and focus, as well as the film’s musical piece and details on the history of cricket. The film’s only shortcoming is that it assumes the viewer to have some background in cricket, making some parts, like interviews with the coaches, a little trickier to follow, but beyond this is a highly inspirational and informative documentary.

Cricket is a bat and ball sport with origins in 16th century England, and the sport has had a major impact on the English culture, so the West Indie Team’s ascension and dominance would have indeed been the stuff of legends: sports and athletics in general is a widely-respected area precisely because it is a tangible and visual embodiment of virtues like teamwork, perseverance and effort. Watching people come together to overcome their hurdles, surpass their limits and achieve greatness on a cricket field would be very inspiring to see, and this is the reason why people are so keen on sports stories that follow underdogs defying all odds to become champions. Unsurprisingly, this is why sports references litter the English language, having become an integral part of Western culture. While I’m not familiar with cricket, the parallels with my favourite sport, ice hockey, are apparent: excellence in both the NHL and international rules variations of ice hockey are genuinely inspiring and motivating to see.

Beastars Episode 3

Matt Doyle, Matt Doyle Media

I write because I love doing so. Whether it be telling stories, or weighing in on a series or episode, getting everything out there in written form is a wonderful feeling. Even more so when I get to talk to others about our interpretations/opinions on pieces 🙂

Matt presents an episodic review for the anime Beastars, which is set in a world of anthropomorphic animals divided by their source of nutrient acquisition. Legoshi is a large grey wolf attending Cherryton Academy, and whose personality and thoughts contradict his carnivore background. He befriends Haru, a dwarf rabbit who likes to keep to herself, and begins developing feelings for her even as he works to unravel the mystery behind the murder of the Aplaca Tem, which creates a rift amongst the students. By the third episode, the character dynamics are established, and it turns out that Haru appears to be a bit of a sex-crazed maniac. However, Legoshi is not so certain about this, having been subject to unfounded perceptions of him previously. The episode also establishes that Louis, a red deer (not related to the town between Edmonton and Calgary), is confident in how people perceive him but does not understand himself, resulting in a more negative characterisation. This is something the third episode establishes: that all of the characters face some sort of internal struggle, but despite the despair this can potentially create, it also implies that everyone struggles together. The large cast appears to be the main challenge in Beastars insofar, which can make it a bit tricky to keep track of everyone, but beyond this, the series is off to a good start past the three-episode mark.

Being the last episodic review submission I’ve received for this Jon’s Creator’s Showcase, I am wondering if there is some plot afoot to get me into different anime that I don’t typically watch; all of the submissions have presented strong, positive reasons for individual episodes of a series that makes the episode a compelling one, and being dropped into a series as it is running means that I’ve gone ahead and read about them to gain some context, with the inevitable result that I develop a curiosity about the series that the submission deals with. Matt’s post is the latest to achieve this, and I suddenly find myself wondering if Beastars is something I might enjoy: in the end, characterisation is the central thing I look for in an anime, and Matt presents a convincing argument that because I am big on characters, the growth that Haru and Legoshi undergo in Beastars would be meaningful and fun journey to follow. This is the sign of a well-written episodic review, and as this month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase demonstrates, there are a myriad of ways to make the episodic review format work: at their core, it’s about highlighting what that episode does for a series for the viewer. Curiously enough, I’ve heard arguments that the editorial review is superior to the episodic review in some echelons of the anime blogging community, but this month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase handily disproves that claim. If it were not already clear, the excellent writers I read and follow demonstrate that episodic review posts are still very much alive, useful and above all, fun to read.

Living on the Fringe

Fred, Au Natural

I like to blog about everything, not just anime. Filing my life up with new and strange happenings keeps me busy, interested and often close to trouble.

You can do YOU better than anyone else. Don’t settle for being a copy. Follow your passion!

The final entry for this month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase is from Fred of Au Natural, who submits a travelogue about a trip to Hollywood. For this occasion, Fred travelled by train, and upon arrival, he notes that the area is a ways cleaner than it was. Fred breaks up his post with a brief interlude on what Fringe Festivals are: to give artists a chance to perform in a major venue at low costs, which helps improve one’s visibility. This is the reason for Fred’s visit; he is interested to figure out what configuration would be the most appropriate for his show, and with some of the numbers crunched, Fred feels okay with the deal. He heads off, thoughts of the show in his mind: as a nudist, Fred feels that adding this element to his show would emphasis vulnerability. This is a part of the show he aims to perform, which is set to deal with aging, Asperger’s Syndrome and life’s meaning. Once the official meeting is over, there is a social event, but Fred’s not particularly fond of these, so he heads back to the train and enjoys the calm it brings. On the train, a homeless man begins speaking of living in the moment in Spanish. Fred is touched, and replies Adiós y vaya con dios, “Goodbye and go with God”, prompting the man to smile and wave back to Fred.

Fred’s submission is a blog post reminiscent of a well-written Reader’s Digest article: whenever I’m at the dentist, my first inclination is to pick up a Reader’s Digest magazine and peruse the stories within, because they are often informative, moving, or both. These raw, visceral stories pull my attention, offering a very candid view of the people involved, and provide perspectives into worlds that I can’t begin imagining. It’s a very powerful way of gaining perspective, whether it be about volunteering, illness, travel and everything in between, from life’s lows to highs. Fred’s post has a very similar style to a Reader’s Digest article. It is a very refreshing post that provides insights into a world that I don’t often think about, being one part crash-course on what Fringe Festivals are and one-part travel diary which is much grittier, genuine, than a more traditional post about travel. Fred’s been working on a presentation for the Hollywood Fringe Festival since at least November 2019, and from what I’ve read, it’s been a busy but rewarding one: I wish Fred the best, and would be curious to hear about how it goes in a later date.

Closing Remarks

With twenty-nine submissions, one for each day of February 2020, this brings the February iteration of Jon’s Creator Showcase to an end. While this post is not quite as long as my previous Jon’s Creator Showcase, it still remains a healthy 15015 words, making it the second longest post I’ve ever written (only 108 words behind the largest post, which was the last showcase!). This month’s also been remarkably busy from work, so I’m actually a little surprised that, as I’d mentioned during the introductory post for this month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase, I did manage to in fact strike that balance between ensuring that I did not neglect hosting things but also did not leave my other responsibilities in the dust – Jon’s recommendation for the host is to not leave the going through of each post to the last minute, since that could certainly create a bit of a scramble towards the end. I am therefore happy to say that, I don’t think I butchered this month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase too badly, and with this one in the books, I’d like to thank readers for having made it this far. From the showcase, it’s clear that there is a sizable portion of the community that enjoys and encourages positivity: this is what makes things worthwhile, and as with my previous Jon’s Creator Showcase, I won’t drag things out for any longer – anyone who’s read through this entire post in one go is a champion. I will close out by passing the torch to @crimson613, who is going to be hosting for March.

9 responses to “Jon’s Creator Showcase: Valentine’s Month Special, Featuring The First Posts of the New Decade

  1. Jon Spencer February 29, 2020 at 01:11

    Thank you for putting together another incredible showcase! 🙂 This was a lot of fun to read and it’s always nice to see a mix of new and old faces here, especially when you can catch up with folks. Great work!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. mattdoylemedia February 29, 2020 at 06:44

    Thank you for the kind words. The posts that I already recognized were great reads, but there are a lot in there that are new to me. The JCS is wonderful at pointing to some great new stuff like that.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. ospreyshire February 29, 2020 at 08:13

    Wow, thank you so much for this list and for posting my Fire in Babylon review. I know I didn’t have any anime reviews in January, but I’m glad you still mentioned it on here.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. terranceacrow February 29, 2020 at 08:30

    This had to have been a ton of work, though it reads smoothly. I really enjoyed reading it!

    Thanks for your kind words. It’s an interesting sensation to read an analysis about my analysis — gives me a fresh perspective!

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’m amazed at the amount of talent in this community!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. mythos February 29, 2020 at 13:25

    Thank you so much for showcasing two posts from our blog. I’m humbled that we’d get a shout out like this, let alone two!

    Can’t wait to read through as many of these as I can. This is some incredible content from our community. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Rose March 1, 2020 at 00:53

    Once again, amazing work with Jon’s Creator Showcase! You really went above and beyond this time again. I had fun reading. Thanks for putting this all together, Infinite!! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Dewbond March 1, 2020 at 00:57

    This is again,an excellent read. You’ve done wonderful work here, and I’m so happy and blessed to be included! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. moyatori March 1, 2020 at 10:41

    Thank you for your excellent write-ups! Also, excited to hear that you’re a fellow appreciator of classical Chinese music.

    I read blogs so infrequently that the JCS has become quite a reliable way for me to catch up on posts. Thanks for giving me a chance to check out posts I missed and give newer bloggers a follow!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: Jon’s Creator Showcase: March Post Submissions Open – The Moyatorium

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