The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: #TheJCS

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.

Jon’s Creator Showcase: Introducing A Showcase for the First Posts of the New Decade

“Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man.” –Benjamin Franklin

We are now a month into the new decade, and I am proud to announce that I will be kicking off the Jon’s Creator Showcase for the first set of content that participants have written for the first month of 2020. This is particularly exciting, since it means I will have the honour of being able to highlight and feature content for the first month of the new decade. The programme’s founder, Jon Spencer of Jon Spencer reviews, has already done a phenomenal job with presenting the submissions from fifty-one of the best posts folks have written in the last decade. Given how enjoyable previous Jon’s Creator Showcase events have been, I am greatly looking forwards to submissions that are coming in this time around, especially since January is a time for new beginnings, and this is typically the time when folks are at their most creative, experimenting with novel concepts and unique ideas; it was in a January when I decided to change the format of my blog to the structure presently seen in my posts, and so, I am certain that all submissions, whether they are from bloggers, writers, video editors or artists, will be similarly innovative and fresh, making for a particularly exciting Jon’s Creator Showcase. Before delving further, it would be prudent for me to briefly outline what Jon’s Creator Showcase is about: this initiative began two years ago, and was intended for folks to discover other amazing bloggers. The rules for participation are really simple: all one needs to do is submit their favourite post from the previous month (i.e. January 2020) to the host either on Twitter or using WordPress’ comments section. For ease of identification, participants are asked to use the hashtag #TheJCS to make it easier for hosts to track submissions. Thus, to keep things simple, I am accepting submissions for all content strictly from January 2020. Submissions open today, and are accepted through either Twitter, or the comments of this blog. I will confirm submissions by liking the submission. The host’s role is to aggregate all of the submissions, feature them in a manner of their choosing and then share the Showcase with all participants, who now have access to a host of excellent and unique material in one place. While the programme started with just blog posts, participants have begun sending in creative writing pieces like poetry and short stories, anime music videos, video reviews and (at least in one of the submissions I received while hosting) even fully-fledged, custom-made games. On the first of March, I wrap up my showcase and then pass the torch to the next host.

  • Jon’s opening #TheJCS received fifty-one submissions, and the last time I hosted, I got thirty-one. The end result of that was a leviathan of a post with 15125 words, and a little bit of estimation would suggest that, were I to take on the same style that I did last time, the showcase post I would end up putting out would have 24883 words. That is an admittedly daunting task, so this time, I’m going to do something a little differently to ensure I can keep up with everything. However, I am also opening a new idea: all participants are welcome to send to me a little blurb describing what makes creating stuff worthwhile for them or advice to others, and I’ll feature this as a quote to inspire other readers. In the interest of fairness, I’m constraining this blurb to 240 characters, the same as Twitter’s maximum.

Because it’s now open season, I encourage folks to submit anything they are particularly proud of and wish to show to the world: blog posts, short stories, poems, AMVs, videos and fan-art are all acceptable. If you have a game published to Steam, or an app available in the App Store, note that these are also a valid submissions. For practical reasons, I will not consider Android app submissions from the Google Play Store. Participants have been very good in the past with submitting good content, but it’s worth reiterating that I will reject any submissions dealing with explicit materials, graphic violence, harassment or hateful content: when in doubt, dropping me or Jon (the project’s originator) a message will be the swiftest and most effective way of getting any questions answered. I believe this has checked off everything that needs to be said about Jon’s Creator Showcase, Civilian-hosted 2k20-edition. I recall that for my last Jon’s Creator Showcase, I broke several records for my blog in post length, engagement and a few other metrics. I’m not sure if I’ll surpass that this time around, but I will still aim to host a satisfactory Jon’s Creator Showcase. I look forwards to seeing what everyone has to showcase, and with the shortest month of the year, even with the extra Leap Year, upcoming, it’ll be striking a balance between making sure I don’t butcher Jon’s Creator Showcase, keep the regularly scheduled programming here alive, as well as keeping up with this season’s shows, partake in Girls’ Last Tour for #AniTwitWatches (another one of Jon’s initiatives), work my way to World Tier Five in The Division 2 and somehow find the time on top of that to lift weights and help at the dōjō.

Jon’s Creator Showcase- A November 2019 Presentation in the Penultimate Month to a New Decade

“Find the good. It’s all around you. Find it, showcase it and you’ll start believing in it.” –Jesse Owens

Foreword

Last month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase was hosted by Ayano of Kawai Paper Pandas, featuring some twenty-three submissions that I had the pleasure to be a part of. For folks who are new to Jon’s Creator Showcase, it’s an initiative by Jon Spencer to showcase and share blog posts. This project began two years ago, and while it started out as a place for folks to swap awesome anime discussions, the programme has since expanded to encompass a wide range of topics and submissions. In this month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase, there were a grand total of thirty-one submissions, with two short stories, an AMV, three video submissions and a range of posts dealing with topics as diverse as competition, chronic fatigue, and Amazon’s review policies among them. Of course, being submission from October, I had a fair number of Halloween-themed posts, as well. I am grateful that there were no true horror submissions: I’m weak against that sort of thing. Before going on any further, I’d like to thank everyone for their submissions: it was an absolute joy to read through everything and identify what about each submission I found the most positivity in. It’s been a wild month, and in fact, the number of submissions was large enough that, when coinciding with DICE’s release of Battlefield V‘s Pacific Theatre update, meant that I slowed the output of my blog to ensure that this month’s feature was handled appropriately, and at the same time, find the time for my other activities. I believe that I’ve done a passable job of showcasing all of the entries that were submitted. Following the format I had from my previous showcase, each submission is given a brief summary, plus some extended thoughts. For the folks who followed the original post’s instructions, they also received an additional set of thoughts from me regarding what about their blogging style makes them worth following. I think this is everything, and so, I leave readers to the main event itself: submissions from the month of October.

Featured

Three Episode Rule – Rifle is Beautiful – Episode 1: What are Beam Rifles?

Jusuchin, A Journey Through Life (@RightWingOtaku)

Jusuchin opens the party with a talk on Rifle is Beautiful, a gentle and amusing anime about a group of girls who, after restarting their club, set about practising in their chosen activity. Since Jusuchin’s old high school days were marked by a surge in popularity for robotics and weight lifting, Rifle is Beautiful captured his interest, and Jusuchin finds that this anime presents rifle shooting in a highly approachable, accessible manner. However, whereas Jusuchin has had prior experience with firearms, Rifle is Beautiful makes use of the training beam rifles, which operates similarly to a light gun. Because of the different tools being used, Jusuchin’s background means that Olympic shooting becomes quite different than what he is used to: there is little room to discuss things like firearms safety and techniques, maintenance, accessories and details like ballistics. Ultimately, Jusuchin counts Rifle is Beautiful as being a series that is intended for a very narrow band of viewers, whose characters had better be working hard to capture and hold his interest as the series progresses.

Because I’m Canadian through and through, I’ve never held or fired a live firearm, and all of my knowledge comes from reading about them extensively, whether it be though introductory visual guides from Dorling Kindersley or technical manuals to ensure a good understanding of what weapons safety, performance and handling procedures are so I can write about them. Jusuchin is more versed than I am in this area, and so, upon seeing Rifle is Beautiful for myself, I am in the same boat as he is: I am in alignment with Jusuchin when I say that I find the summer Olympics to be rather dull aside from highlights and records, being much more interested in watching winter sports like ice hockey and the biathlon. The both of us thus look towards the characters in order to hold our interest in the show, and so far, the anime has managed to hold my interest for being a relaxing, laid-back series with no major suspense or conflict to keep me on the edge of my seat. However, whereas I tend to focus on the storytelling aspects of a given series, Jusuchin’s extensive knowledge of military implements and firearms means that through his thoughts on shows like Rifle is Beautiful, one can learn something that only someone with experience will know. This is one of the joys about following folks who have specialised knowledge: their posts become more engaging since one invariably will pick up something new when reading them.

Although Jusuchin’s often mentioned that his blog’s weak point is that he writes very infrequently for it, I handily counter with the remark that the quality of a blog is not judged by how frequently one writes, but rather, by the enjoyment factor readers gain from looking through one’s materials. The reason why I bring so many seemingly random topics to the plate is because I want my readers to learn something new when they read my articles; while in a given post, I may be talking about GochiUsa and various aspects of the character growth, I may also choose to share trivial tidbits like what enka is, if it is tangentially related to my talk. Jusuchin does something similar in his reviews, and through his talks, I’ve learned about things like the traditions behind salted coffee in the navy, or big names in competitive shooting sports, to name a few. Thus, because his articles are noteworthy and engaging, I’m not terribly worried about the fact that he doesn’t post often: the posts Jusuchin does publish end up being a joy to read.

Cop Craft – This Deserved Better

Jon Spencer, Jon Spencer Reviews (@JS_Reviews)

From the originator of Jon’s Creator Showcase comes a discussion on Cop Craft, which has its origins in a light novel about a portal’s appearance and the changes it wrought in the world. With this portal’s formation came the need for a special police department, and Cop Craft focuses on one Kei Matoba, who comes to learn of acceptance as he works to keep order between humans and the aliens known as Semenians. With such a strong premise, Jon expresses disappointment that despite the strong characters, the production values in Cop Craft were sub-par, and the progression was inconsistent, disjointed. However, these shortcomings do not stop Jon from finding reasons to enjoy Cop Craft, whose unique combination of a police drama with fantastical elements creates a unique experience that strikes a fine balance between an authentic grounding and being able to see things that would otherwise not occur in reality. Overall, Jon wishes that the production team behind Cop Craft would have handled the adaptation more elegantly, since the series itself is built on a solid foundation, and recommends to readers that this could be worth checking out despite some of its limitations.

Positivity and critical thinking are often perceived as being mutually exclusive: there is a misconception that one cannot be critical and positive simultaneously. However, this is something that I often strive to do, and Jon’s done an excellent job in his talk about Cop Craft, where he covers off the reasons that make the series worthwhile in spite of its flaws. Contrary to the belief that one can only like or dislike something entirely, the reality is that it is possible to enjoy a work in spite of its flaws, and that even if the flaws are numerous, some series can still be meaningful for different individuals because of their own perspective and background. Jon makes a compelling case in his submission to watch Cop Craft; despite the shakier execution, the characters and foundations are ultimately reason enough to give Cop Craft a fair chance. Jon brings in Demon Slayer as an instance of a series where the execution was solid, but the underlying narrative was weaker, citing the characters as the primary reason why. It is the case that characters can make a series even if its technical components are not as strong as one would like, and I’ve seen numerous cases where people have found ways to enjoy a series even if it had obvious faults, simply because the characters and their journeys are relatable, holding enough weight to merit that one follow the series along out of a desire to see the characters grow and mature.

As the brainchild behind Jon’s Creator Showcase, Jon’s run a tight ship at his blog for the past four years, primarily focusing on reviews. However, back in October, Jon’s also decided to take his blog in a different direction, with the goal of exploring different topics and ultimately, producing different kinds of content. Blogs shift focus and mature over time, and sometimes, their authors may decide to call it quits. It is fortunate that Jon is not leaving our number forever, and instead, is seeking to do a bit more than he’d previously done. Without his efforts, initiatives like Jon’s Creator Showcase would not exist. While he’s taking a break from blogging for the present in pursuit of his new endeavours, I still strongly encourage readers to visit his blog and check out his older reviews; one of the joys about blogging is that we tend to leave behind a considerable archive of posts that offer insight into how we’d felt about a certain work earlier, and for Jon, there’s no shortage of excellent material to read through.

YU-NO: A Girl Who Chants Love at the Bound of This World (Discussion) – Did They Eat Kunkun?!

EcchiHunter (@EcchiHunterX)

The folks of EcchiHunter run a very distinct site that hosts discussions about series that deal in the lascivious and indecent to varying extents, with content taking an interview format between the site’s hosts, Lynn Sheridan and Yomu, and occasionally, guest speakers. The end result is a very breezy, open discussion about series that typically are either dismissed for lacking “substance” or otherwise quietly watched and garner limited conversation. In their submission, EcchiHunter and guest speaker Dewbond presents a discussion on YU-NO: A Girl Who Chants Love at the Bound of this World, a series with its roots as a visual novel dating back to 1996 and received an anime adaptation in 1998. A remake was announced in 2017, and YU-NO also received a full anime adaptation earlier this year, as well. In their dialogues, Lynn and Dewbond enlighten readers how YU-NO is a precursor to the visual novel and isekai trends that are currently prevalent amongst titles of their respective genres. Besides the series’ origins, Dewbond and Lynn provide an overview of the sometimes chaotic flow the modern anime adaptation had; while YU-NO started out strong, some areas began deviating from the objectives the series had set out to cover, with the end result being that the series began weakening towards the end. Like most stories adapted from visual novels, YU-NO would have benefited from an extended adaptation to truly flesh things out. Having watched the series, Lynn expresses a wish to play the visual novel, and leaves Dewbond with a thank you for having introduced him to the series.

Conversation-style posts are always a joy to read, as they have a flow and dynamic that multiple voices provide. Multiple standing points in YU-NO are comprehensively covered, and Lynn’s conclusion is that YU-NO is worthwhile in spite of its flaws. Where anime adaptations of visual novels are concerned, I personally count it as praise for the series when one of the criticisms leveled against it is that the episode count was insufficient. Lynn’s experiences in YU-NO has parallels with my own journey through CLANNAD; after a solid anime adaptation provided a good overview of the narrative and characters, curiosity prompted me to look at the visual novel. Anime adaptations, when done well, can immerse viewers in a world completely and compel them to root for the characters as they work towards their goals. However, anime adaptations also provide much of the transitions and audio aspects to a story, leaving very little to one’s imagination. By comparison, reading a visual novel has merits of its own: prompted by the text and static images, players now must draw on their imagination to fill in the rest, creating an even more enriching experience. This is where visual novels shine, and coupled with a degree of player choice, visual novels give players a greater sense of immersion and control than the animated adaptation can. This is my experience with the first few chapters of CLANNAD, and to Lynn, I do hope that he has an opportunity to try out YU-NO‘s visual novel, as well.

I don’t mind admitting that I follow the folks of Ecchi Hunter primarily because I have a (largely unknown) enjoyment for series of this kind. The T & A aspects aside, ecchi series tend to lend themselves to much comedy that arises as a result of misunderstanding and embarrassment, and so, offers a respite from the comparatively sterile nature of reality. However, I typically gravitate towards slice-of-life series and therefore would pass on most series. By consistently providing reviews of the latest and greatest ecchi series, I can then read through Ecchi Hunter’s reviews and decide for myself as to whether or not a series could be worth watching given its premise. I don’t pick up all ecchi series, and having a succinct, instructive resource allows me to find the series that I am most likely to watch for the premise, and subsequently, get a bonus kick out of the hilarity that ensues as a result of the misadventures that can only exist in ecchi series.

Fantasy and Friction

Fred Heiser, This is my Place (@AuNaturelOne)

From Au Natural’s Fred comes a submission on the OWLS post: standing for Otaku Writers for Liberty and Self Respect, this programme not too dissimilar to The Jon’s Creator Showcase in that it allows for bloggers to freely share their thoughts with the world. For his submission, Fred submits a general overview of the fantasy genre. After surprising readers with a brief history of musical fantasy, Fred submits that fantasy is a broad category describing a non-reality, a form of escape from the challenges of life that arises when various aspects of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs are not satisfied, whether it be the fundamental human drive to reproduce, experience things that would otherwise place one in no small amount of harm, seeking companionship and community with others, relive an experience, being someone to save and support others, or even just entertain the idle mind. The immersion in fantasy is something that society frowns upon: fiction is supposed to be confined in the mind, but Fred counter-argues that dreams can be turned into reality with enough perseverance, and some compromise: he cites A Place Further Than The Universe as a key example of how four girls’ goals of reaching Antarctica were realised because they came together and determined a plan that would be fulfilled. While not all fantasies are pure as driven snow, they ultimately serve an important purpose for individuals: they give people freedom unparalleled, and while the mind wanders, great and terrible things may happen. It is ultimately up to the individuals to do with their thoughts as they will, and this is an encouraging thought.

Fred nails the presentation of fiction as a simultaneously means of escape and gaining perspective: rather like how sports can provide inspiration driving improvement and team spirit, the popularity of fiction endures for being able to put one in someone else’s shoes and live experiences otherwise impossible to replicate. While Fred speaks specifically of consumable media such as books, television, film and music, I also append video games to the list. Despite having a fiercely negative reaction in the public eye, the majority of video games are simply immersive experiences with the added dimensionality of interactivity: one can be a race car driver, pilot, farmer, poker player, explorer, mayor or soldier owing to the diversity of video games, and such escapes are especially welcome in life when the world becomes overwhelming. By taking a moment to focus on something else, the mind is able to operate behind-the-scenes to process new information, and this is what gaining new perspective is about. In general, this is the worth of fiction, as it is able to help individuals find a modicum of happiness and ultimately, acts as one of many tools that help one find their way and achieve whatever they set out to accomplish.

Being a more mature blogger (Fred’s profile states that he was around since the days of the Cold War), I’m always curious to read about the perspectives and thoughts of those who’ve BTDT: people with experience have, over many years, cultivated an incredible set of knowledge and skills, so when they share their thoughts, it offers considerable insights into the minds of folks who are much more learned than I am. Correspondingly, their blog posts are very enjoyable to read, and Fred’s submission for this month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase is an example of his writing: detailed, insightful and fun to read. I still remember initially hosting Jon’s Creator Showcase and working to pass the torch on to Fred for the month upcoming, and after things were smoothed out, it’s been a great experience; it was through Jon’s Creator Showcase that I’d found Au Natural to begin with. This is one example of how things like Jon’s Creator Showcase can bring new blogs and people into the anime blogging community.

Why We Don’t Have Enough Horror Anime

Aria, The Animanga Spellbook (@MagicConan14)

Horror is a genre that I personally do not have great interest in: thanks to a fertile imagination and a propensity for my thoughts to wander, any stimulation from horror movies reduces me into a wreck incapable of carrying out everyday activities. My experiences with horror are therefore limited primarily to the realm of Koji Suzuki’s works, classical horror like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and basic familiarity with Stephen King’s novels, as well as ghost stories. Fortunately, just in time for Hallow’s Eve, Magic Conan of Animanga Spellbook has stepped up to the plate, whose travels to Japan left her with the realisation that there wasn’t a whole lot of proper horror in Japanese literature. While Japan might be known for their frightening J-Horror scene, the inherent limitations of the genre can make some forms of horror less effectual, and MagicConan14 explores how effective horror comes with tradeoffs: jump scares are only effective in the short term, protracted build-ups leave viewers with potential boredom, and the most effective kind of horror generally lies not with shock value like gore, but a more subtle sense of dread. With these challenges, there is a comparatively smaller number of true horror anime and manga series out there, and MagicConan14 closes off with a question for the viewers – is there a deficit of horror series?

At its core, I would imagine that the relative lack of horror in Japan comes from differences in what constitutes as horror. I roll with the idea that horror is predominantly about the innate human fear of a lack of control against forces, supernatural or otherwise. In Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein is horrified by the fact that he’s created a monstrosity of great power and destructive potential that has a will of its own. Koji Suzuki’s Dark Water and its film adaptation has Yoshimi entangled in a difficult custody battle for her daughter, and she is powerless to better her surroundings, leaving her vulnerable to a terrifying haunting in a sparsely-populated apartment block. The Blair Witch Project sees a group of students pursued by an unknown force they cannot hope to contend with. Supernatural beings like Charlie of Firestarter, Carrie White from Carrie or It‘s Pennywise possess powers that similarly wreck destruction. Coupled with feelings of regret, hatred, fear and other negative emotions, the commonality that horror fiction share is that they are relatively short, self-contained stories. The horror accompanies brevity, and as a series wears on, creating the sense of dread and unease in the audience cannot be easy. I would therefore remark that owing to the nature of what creates fear in an audience, MagicConan14’s assessment about the challenges of creating an effective horror series makes sense and would account for why full-length anime with a similar atmosphere to something like a Stephen King novel would be rarer compared to things like The Curse, which utilise the movie format so effectively that lesser folk like myself refuse to watch it from reputation alone.

With a frequent posting schedule, MagicConan14’s blog is a lively one whose presentation stands at the opposite end of the spectrum from the style I present. I’m very envious of the folk who are able to articulate themselves in a very succinct and direct manner: MagicConan14’s posts are very easy to read and take in because of their structure, translating to readers having a much easier time walking away with full understanding of what the post was intending to convey. Having looked through more recent posts, MagicConan14 also writes about the challenges with blogging and striking a good balance between it with life. As I’ve been around the blogging scene for nearly a decade, I note that this is always a challenge, and I encourage bloggers to write simply when they feel like writing: forcing a post out for a schedule isn’t fun, and it is often the case that a brilliant idea can come out of the blue and invite a full-fledged discussion. I encourage MagicConan14 to keep on blogging; this is a superbly fun hobby, and I’ve found it remarkably cathartic, akin to keeping a diary.

Samurai School for Girls (Short Story)

Lynn Sheridan, The Otaku Author (@TheEarthLynn)

With Lynn Sheridan’s short story, I think that I’ve almost got every category for this month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase: Lynn’s Samurai School for Girls was originally written as a part of a collaborative project with other bloggers (score one for collaboration!) that involves picking an older anime, drawing elements from it and then crafting an original narrative from it. Lynn opted to go with a schoolgirl story: Riko has given her best into studying for a math exam, but when their instructor is murdered in the middle of a math exam, Riko finds herself locked in a fierce duel with another student. When she lands a killing blow, it turns out their “classmates” are actually robots. However, the fight takes a turn for the unexpected when a man appears and captures Riko’s classmate, Momoko. With her friend, Murasaki, Riko catches up to the unknown man, and with their knowledge of applied mathematics, devise a strategy to beat their opponent, which similarly turns out to be a robot. Their instructor appears shortly after and congratulates Riko for having passed the exam.

It’s always fun to read short stories from fellow bloggers: Lynn’s story is a particularly colourful one that portrays each moment vividly in the mind’s eye. Because Lynn sets his story in an academy for samurai, he is able to craft a compelling fight scene that integrates smoothly with the schoolgirl environment. The lesson of this short story is that a samurai must be prepared for the unexpected, and this unexpected surprise explosively is propelled into the forefront of the story as soon as the swords come out. Short stories are, compared to their full-length counterparts, always stymied by their length, and so, must do more with less. When done well, they are very concise portrayals of a specific idea; since I did walk away from Lynn’s story with an idea of what the message was, Samurai School for Girls has succeeded as a short story. I can imagine that writing the story could not have been easy, since crafting fiction requires a different set of skills than looking at fiction and writing about it in a more technical, analytical style. Attesting to this difficulty, I have previously written a sample story portraying the pilot of Stark Jegan’s perspective from Gundam Unicorn’s first episode, and while I retain most of my love for technical details, it took a considerable amount of effort to ensure that the fight between the Stark Jegan and the Kyshatriya was adequately captured. My story is only a third of the length of Lynn’s, and even that took three hours to shape into something readable: the effort that goes into fiction is evident, and Samurai School for Girls is ultimately a fun story with a meaningful theme that I certainly had fun showcasing.

The first and foremost remark I have about Lynn’s blog is that he should get the SSL certificate issue sorted out: while I’ve vetted the site myself and done my own tests to ensure I wasn’t picking up undesirable scripts, the warning message that one’s browser displays is usually one that shouldn’t be disregarded. In this case, it’s okay to ignore security warning; The Otaku Author may have an expired SSL certificate, but the site itself is totally safe and worth reading. With a wide range of posts, from creative short stories to anime reviews, Lynn’s writing is clear, concise and effective in conveying an idea about the series he watches. Of note is how he opens each section with a header that firmly establishes what he intends to cover, which provides a visual break on the screen and also reduces fatigue from the readers. Besides reviews and short stories, Lynn is also a published author with fifteen works under his belt. With a highly approachable writing style, significant experience as a writer, Lynn runs an excellent blog that’s definitely worth following.

October Submissions

My Perspectives Of: Fanservice and Character Agency

Scott, Mechanical Anime Reviews (@MechAnimeReview)

Scott of Mechanical Anime Reviews explores a particularly polarising and current topic within the anime community: the matter of fanservice and its place in anime. In this discussion, Scott establishes that he has nothing against the presence of indecent exposure or other questionable moments in anime, provided that the moment does not degrade or demean the character subject to it. There are cases where such moments can be used to establish a character’s personality or create humour. Conversely, when poorly done, fanservice is a distraction at best, shifting the camera away from the characters’ faces and their environment. At worst, it transmutes a character into a walking joke made to suffer unnecessarily. Such moments offer nothing to viewers. Scott covers examples of fanservice across the board, from Fire Force‘s poor treatment of Tamaki as an example of a series that hasn’t executed saucier moments well, to Quitterie of Astra Lost in Space as an example of when fanservice is properly wielded to enhance the character by giving her autonomy over her situation. Because the efficacy and worth of fanservice in a given anime varies based on what the anime does with such moments, Scott concludes that in and of itself, fanservice isn’t to be generalised as an evil or quintessential part of anime; instead, whether or not the fanservice is welcome is to be gauged based on what it does for the characters, and whether or not it is abused for no discernible reason. As a result, the recent perspectives about fanservice favouring censorship are not to be taken seriously.

Excellent bloggers do not shy away from topics outside their realm of familiarity, and Scott’s submission is a relevant post. Even though I tend not to participate in the social media aspects of anime blogging with the same frequency as those around me, I have nonetheless seen the insipid and boorish arguments supporting censorship in anime from individuals whose opinions are ill-defined and based on little more than an appeal to emotion. The presence of these individuals has been on the rise, and with social media platforms offering them an audience, it can certainly seem that rational thought and reason is being lost to madness. Scott’s post, a strong example of what reasonable discourse looks like, shows that there are those (myself included) who simply wish to enjoy their entertainment without some arbitrary and unqualified party imposing their unlearned world-views on others. For me, I tend to regard fanservice as an optional extra in anime: the true scope of fanservice is much broader than mammaries and posteriors, extending to clever references to earlier works and the return of iconic aspects of a series. However, specifically where anatomy is concerned, like Scott, I appreciate it if it adds to the story, are neutral towards it if it adds nothing, and will sympathise with characters who unduly suffer having their bodies paraded about. Extending on Scott’s point, I note that for the most part, opinions from vocal individuals on social media are generally not meritorious of consideration, and in general, while everyone might be entitled to a voice, not everyone is entitled to an audience, especially if they do not take the pains of explaining their perspectives clearly.

Senran Celebrations Day 7 – The Future of Senran Kagura (Discussion)

Average Joe Reviews (@joe_reviews)

Senran Kagura is the topic of Average Joe’s submission, the finale in a seven-part series celebrating the Senran Kagura franchise that deals with their future. While Senran Kagura‘s creator, Kenichiro Takaki, intends to continue working on Senran Kagura titles for platforms besides Sony, which has imposed increasingly draconian censorship policies that detract from the experience Takaki intended players to have for the games. The move to different platforms like PC and the Nintendo Switch is projected to allow Takaki the creative freedoms need to deliver the vision he has for the series, although censorship might continue to be a challenge: Sony’s policies degrade the experience that creators envision, breaking up the narrative and impact that a work might otherwise have. The end result is that customers will invariably seek their entertainment on other platforms, as Joe has done. While censorship does appear to be increasingly commonplace, Joe nonetheless expresses optimism for Takaki’s future works: Kandagawa Jet Girls is one such title that Takaki is working on, and with the Senran Kagura series still strong, Joe hopes that the future will be marked with old and new fans alike discovering the merits of Senran Kagura.

Sony’s shift towards censoring elements they deem “questionable” has been a long-standing issue, and at first glance, is a move that looks irrational from a business standpoint. As Joe describes, deliberately degrading an experience drives customers away to seek different products, which corresponds with a decrease in sales and revenue. However, companies inexplicably seem to be imposing American values on overseas entertainment in spite of this, practising political correctness and favouring a loosely defined implementation of wholesomeness over entertainment value. Companies like Sony doubtlessly will have justifications at the ready for their actions, and while I do have my own guesses as to what’s going on, the end result is that the customers end up paying for an inferior product. However, the same individuals whose work becomes censored also appears to have the creativity and flexibility to continuing crafting their work without it being diminished. This is the route that Takaki has taken, and try as Sony might to suppress his work, Takaki’s new avenues should allow him to deliver the best possible experience for his audience.

Top 5 Creepy Anime OP’s and ED’s

Karandi,100 Word Anime (@100wordanime)

In the spirit of Halloween, Karandi of 100 Word Anime presents a top five countdown of the best anime opening and ending sequences that fit the Halloween spirit of horror, unease and other suspenseful feelings. Starting off the countdown is Demon Slayer‘s ending, From The Edge, a seemingly upbeat and optimistic song whose composition conceals a darker tone. Coming up next is Ghost Hunt‘s main theme: the anime itself already screams horror for including the word “ghost”, and despite a less impressive visual aspect, Ghost Hunt’s theme definitely conveys a horror feel, using the minor key, staccatos and a tense female vocalisation to create a very gothic feeling. In the middle of the list is Still Doll, Vampire Knight‘s ending. With an ethereal, ecclesiastical composition, and whose title has an ominous ring to it (“a doll that stands still”), Still Doll is a song that gives off horror and Halloween vibes. Madoka Magica‘s ending theme, Kalafina’s Magia, follows: this song is known for its tense vocalisations and use of the minor scale to create a sense of abject terror, not just in the supernatural, but in things that are seemingly beyond comprehension, befitting of the abominations known as Witches that serve as the force behind the magical girls in Madoka Magica. Topping out the list is Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni Kai‘s opening, Naraku no Hana. The song’s juxtaposition of the calm with sudden breaks creates an unease that mirrors the anime’s composition, that there is hidden danger lurking behind the moments of seeming normalcy and calm.

Music related posts are always fun submissions to include, and Karandi’s post is perfectly timed for Halloween. I still vividly recall primary school music lessons, where my music instructor would note that horror music would make extensive use of the minor key, and then go on to have us sing songs in the minor key surrounding Halloween-themed topics. The very same songs, when performed in the major key, lose that sense of eeriness and fear factor. Having seen this in simpler terms, it becomes evident that music is a powerful means of shaping the emotional tenour of a work; properly chosen theme songs do much in shaping how audiences view a series. Karandi’s choices showcase some of the best there is, and I only say this because the entries for first and second place happen to be songs I’m very familiar with, having enjoyed them greatly alongside the series they are featured in. While horror music generally isn’t something I actively search out for my preferred playlist, music from the genre can be very compelling and create a sense of weight, doubt and worry: good music can evoke certain moods in people, and given the impact horror music has, I’d say that Karandi’s done a fine job of showcasing some of the highlights of anime openings and endings with particularly strong pieces.

Reflections of healing

Taryn The Dragon, Dragons Codex (@arcanedrag0n)

Healing is the core of the post that arcanedrag0n submits to Jon’s Creator Showcase, dealing with a very personal topic about dealing with a loss in her family, when her mother passed away from leukemia and the process of recovery in the aftermath. arcanedrag0n recalls the period of grief following, and ultimately went into therapy, where she discovered that she was grieving for herself; having direct a monumental effort towards saving her mother, from the fundraising to secure the finances for treatment, to ensuring her mother’s assets were appropriately handled, arcanedrag0n became exhausted. The therapy process became invaluable for her, helping arcanedrag0n to understand her thoughts, render them in a tangible form and then accept them. To help with management, arcanedrag0n took up new hobbies, taking small steps like building an exercise routine and personal art projects to regain focus. With this newfound perspective, arcanedrag0n would eventually hike up a mountain near her home. Conquering the summit of a mountain allowed arcanedrag0n to rediscover her strengths and worth to the world: in life’s journeys, we are often a far worse impediment to ourselves than any external foe, but with the right support, one can turn their efforts inwards and fix issues from within, coming to find what it means to be alright after all.

Personal stories such as these are always immeasurably touching, and as much strength as it takes to conquer internal challenges, it takes strength in equal measure to share these experiences with others so candidly. The topic of cancer is an unfortunately common one, and I’ve lost family to cancer, as well. Similarly, grief is a difficult topic to share, and while everyone handles it differently, not everyone is able to find their feet at the same rate. Stories like these are therefore inspiration, showing that there remains hope. There are many people in this world, each with their own struggles and stories – seeing recollections like arcanedrag0n’s is a constant reminder of the strength of the human spirit, and our incredible resilience in the face of adversity. However, arcanedrag0n’s path to recovery is not one taken alone: support from therapy is a major contributor, showing how people can find their strength with the right tools. It’s a very visceral reminder that life is fraught with challenges, and inspiring posts like these serve to reiterate the idea that people are meant to support one another. With the world seeming as though it is on the precipice of an irreversible descent into chaos, that the human resolve endures is an encouraging thought.

The Listless List: Top 5 Anime of Summer 2019

Lethargic Ramblings, (@AlwaysLethargic)

While AlwaysLethargic would have me believing otherwise, summer is a finite period of year defined astronomically as the period from the time of maximal insolation to the autumnal equinox. The summer might be limited to a three-month window characterised by long days, beautiful weather and opportunity to explore the outdoors, but for folks in the anime community, it is also a season of summer anime. AlwaysLethargic’s submission has him detailing five of the noteworthy shows of this summer, starting the list off with Dr. Stone, a series about a student who sets out to rebuild civilisation after a phenomenon petrifies him. The anime is known for its adherence to science and the manga’s content, which makes it worth watching despite weaker animation and a smaller episode count. Fire Force occupies fourth place, featuring strong art and animation, as well as an engaging story, and while there has been much criticisms surrounding fanservice, AlwaysLethargic argues this is a non-issue, overshadowed by the enjoyment factor in the fight scenes and character dynamics. DanMachi‘s second season follows, excelling as a sequel to the first season. Taking second place is Vinland Saga, which AlwaysLethargic has long anticipated and found to be a respectful adaptation of the manga that proved quite compelling. In first place is Arifureta, which defies all expectations contrary to community reception.

My own tastes and styles are dramatically different than most of the anime community that I participate in, but the commonality that I share with those within this community is an open mind. I’ve watched none of the shows that AlwaysLethargic mentions, but a good, concise justification is sometimes all it takes to turn my head and pique my curiosity. Top five lists are a highly precise and simple way of doing this, allowing folk like myself to quickly gain a measure of what made a series work well for someone, and I also enjoy them for the reason that the top five of anything means I’m reading through reasons someone enjoyed something. For their concise nature, lists have the advantage of being easily digestible, and leaving AlwaysLethargic’s summer 2019 top five, I could be persuaded to give Arifureta and Fire Force a shot, for instance, because of straightforward and clear reasons for what I might get out of said series. By comparison, list format or more traditional essay format, negativity and criticism, calls to skip, drop or boycott a given series are nowhere near as fun to read. I can’t imagine sitting through something one would rather not sit through for the sake of telling others not to watch something, and for what it’s worth, life is finite. Those who would rather do things that make them happy have evidently figured out their place in the sun, and going by AlwaysLethargic’s example, positivity should be something that everyone be more mindful of.

Amazon Reviews: Everything You Need To Know As An Author And A Reviewer

Ray, The Ray Journey, (@TheRayJourney)

One of the joys about Jon’s Creator Showcase is where submissions come from: this time around, we have an entry from an author who’s published an e-book to Amazon, and in their post, they discuss the importance of understanding Amazon’s policy for reviews, which are the first point of contact for potential customers. In this highly detailed article, Ray covers some of the guidelines surrounding how reviews are published – to ensure quality review, Amazon only allows verified customers with no direct association with the product’s vendor. Amazon has a highly intricate setup for checking for bias, conflicts of interest and review swapping. In addition, product page optimisation also is a factor, with URL formatting to the product impacting whether reviews are retained. Accounts found in violation of Amazon’s rules can have their reviews deleted, reviewing privileges revoked or in some cases, the product is removed from sales. However, there are ways to obtain reviews that are legitimate, and for family and friends, as well as paid reviewers, there is a special utility to add editorial reviews and customer discussions. While Amazon initially started its journey as an online book retailer, Jeff Bezos has since transformed Amazon into a juggernaut, and with its impact on selling products, it is quite unsurprising to know that there is such a sophisticated review system in place to ensure that assessments of a product are genuine.

Ray’s presentation of the Amazon review policies in approachable terms means that prospective authors are much more aware of how reviews are treated on the Amazon platform. This information becomes invaluable to ensure that reviews for a book are useful and informative for those who are on the fence about whether or not an item is for them, and for an author, it also means knowing the regulations can prevent some of the more unpleasant consequences, such as seeing one’s products removed, refuse dispersal of payments, or even legal action, from occurring. With an increasing number of people looking to self-publish their books, understanding the marketplace they are selling in goes a long way towards ensuring the continued success of a product. Of particular note in Ray’s article is the final section on editorial reviews and customer discussions, which allow for certain kinds of reviews to be published without impacting other parameters affecting a product’s reviews – this feature is useful for reviewers and vendors alike, as they permit for a transparent way to let prospective customers know the angle of a perspective.

Competition Slows, Friendship Grows; The Secret to Fast Success

S.S. Blake, Earth and Water (@Earthand_Water)

With Earth and Water’s submission on competition, this Jon’s Creator Showcase enters the realm of the blogging community I admit that I do not venture frequently into: S.S. Blake’s post on competition presents an interesting perspective on the most fundamental aspect of life itself, and suggests that social progress has rendered competition less desirable compared to collaboration. Working with others can produce mutual benefits for participants, but the results are not always immediately apparent. Instead, collaboration is something that is nurtured over time, favouring a human touch over highly mechanised approaches to yield meaningful relationships and ultimately, a synergy that is far more rewarding and meaningful towards long-term, sustained growth.

We’ve now ventured into posts that are well outside of my area of expertise: Earth and Water’s post is an example of the world of blogging outside of discourse on fiction, and admittedly, I don’t read advice blogs often. These are written with a significantly different style, and the layouts are much more colourful, relaxing than the blogs I am accustomed to: going through the post itself, I am met with a very concise and focused presentation of the value of collaboration over competition. Reading these submissions really drive home the idea that blogging is an incredibly diverse and varied hobby, with each author’s blog being stylised and written to convey a specific mindset to readers. Earth and Water presents an upbeat, optimistic “you got this!” mindset, standing in stark contrast with the utilitarian, “focus on my content” feel that I run with here.

AD: Global 1st Vie Gourmet Coconut Bowls | Eco-Friendly Kitchenware For Sustainable Foodies

Hannah Read, Pages, Places, & Plates (@PagePlacePlate)

Hannah Read’s post presents Vie Gourmet by Global 1st’s Coconut Bowls, from a company dedicated to sustainability. These coconut bowls are fashioned from coconuts and are highly versatile: Hannah has used them in a variety of functions, from soups to salads and everything in between. While they’re not microwave safe, they are suitable for holding onto hotter foods thanks to the insulation the coconut material provides. Moreover, they appear rather durable, and come in a variety of sizes. Their composition makes them a sustainable alternative to conventional bowls, and Hannah recommends these as being must-haves – aside from their functionality, the coconut bowls are also photogenic and work rather well for folks who create content for social media.

Lifestyle blogs are similarly a topic that I read very little, as I have enough on my hands with keeping my own life upright. As such, there are many things that I use each and every day that I take for granted, which is ironic when I am constantly reiterating to readers through discussions on slice-of-life anime that it is worth enjoying the small, everyday aspects of life. Hannah Read’s review of Coconut Bowls from Vie Gourmet is an example of how lifestyle bloggers go about finding joy in everyday things: something as simple as a bowl for food becomes a story worth sharing, as subtle details are brought to the forefront. While I might normally skip over the details and simply see the Coconut Bowl as a bowl, Hannah insightfully details how the bowls are durable, aesthetically pleasing and practical on top of being crafted from coconuts. It means that unlike the ceramic bowls I normally use for soup, I don’t stand to burn myself, risk breaking the bowl if I am careless, and on top of that, have a sustainable product that I could be proud of.

Review: Fire Force Episode 14: Benimaru On High And Shinra Fast On His Feet

Terrance Crow, Crow’s World of Anime (@CrowsAnimeWorld)

Terrance Crow of Crow’s World of Anime presents the highlights of Fire Force‘s fourteenth episode. This series is set in a world where certain individuals are afflicted with a condition that causes them to undergo spontaneous combustion, becoming referred to as “Infernals”. Later generations of individuals develop pryokinesis and band together to form an organisation to manage the Infernals. Fire Force follows Kusakabe Shinra, who is a part of Special Fire Force Company 8. As he investigates the Infernals and helps to put out the fires they create, he discovers the origins of his power and dives towards the source of what caused his family’s death twelve years previously. By episode fourteen, Terrance features the top moments from the episode, which sees Asakusa descending into chaos as the Infernal’s activity grows. The episode sees character growth from two of the leads: Shinra affirms his duties to protect his world. The episode effectively makes use of its music to accentuate each moment, and Terrance draws parallels between the characters’ attitudes towards power and those of Gandalf from Lord of The Rings. The honourable choices that Fire Force‘s characters make enhances Terrance’s enjoyment of the series.

Because all I’ve heard of Fire Force stems primarily from social media griping about the fanservice piece, it can be a little tricky to discern the signal from the noise. Fortunately, the anime blogging community has stepped up to show that, beyond these superficial remarks, lies a series that makes use of its premise to create a much more meaningful and engaging story than watching Kotatsu provide visual comedy each episode. Character growth and development in Fire Force is clearly one of its core features, and Terrance’s comparison between iconic fictional characters like Gandalf, or historical figures like George Washington, show that there is more to Fire Force than some espouse: this does seem to be a recurring theme of late, where certain members of the community fixate on the mundane or irrelevant details of an anime without directing any thought towards the bigger picture. It is therefore fortunate that amongst the anime blogging community, there are plenty of folks with the maturity and open-mindedness to approach series with a more thematic and character-based outlook, preferring to see where the stories and characters go, as well as working out what makes an episode enjoyable in the greater context. Terrance’s episodic review format is an effective one; besides focusing on the things that make Fire Force works, pointing out highlights of each episode to underline what its contributions are also creates a very succinct post that gives readers a solid at-a-glance of what an episode accomplishes.

YU-NO: A Girl Who Chants Love at the Bound of this World (Visual Novel): The Ayumi Route

Dewbond, Shallow Dives in Anime (@ShallowDivesAni)

Besides collaborating with Ecchi Hunter, Dewbond also presents his own submission on YU-NO, this time, focussing specifically on one of the characters and her route in the visual novel. Dewbond finds Ayumi’s story to be compelling in its visual novel form. The anime incarnation does have its own merits, by presenting a more detailed exposition for a time-travel mechanics; the visual novel simply was a game mechanic, but the anime transforms this into a tool that enhances the strength of Ayumi’s story. However, on the whole, the visual novel possesses a deeper and more meaningful as a story that creates a much stronger dynamic between Ayumi and Takuya. Even without the voice work and motion that anime adaptations possess, YU-NO‘s visual novel is able to craft a powerful story and effectively convey emotions, so when Takuya and Ayumi realise their love for one another, the emotional pay-off is immense. Both the visual novel and anime have their own strengths, and ultimately, Dewbond finds that the complete experience comes with both watching the anime and playing through the visual novel, where details complement one another.

With the number of submissions on YU-NO convincing me that the series is one that could be worth checking out, I might need to queue this one up for watching during intermediary periods where things are a bit slower for me. Dewbond has, through his submission, succinctly outlined how both YU-NO‘s anime and visual novel have their own unique standing points that make them worthwhile. While time is limited and some folks may choose to only pursue one, a more comprehensive experience is to be had by investing time into other avenues related to the work. I’ve briefly touched on this earlier in the showcase by mentioning CLANNAD, and I’ve similarly heard that CLANNAD ~After Story~‘s ending, which many count as an instance of deus ex machina, is actually well-justified and fits in with the rules and convention that CLANNAD‘s visual novel establishes. While some may choose to assess their experience from the basis of whether or not the standalone anime could deliver an effective story, folks who ended up with a positive overall experience may be inclined to give the source materials a go, and this in turn yields a much more meaningful and engaging journey far beyond experiencing any one thing. Seeing bloggers write about their visual novel experiences is a constant reminder that one of these days, I will need to make some headway into CLANNAD‘s visual novel.

Araburu Kisetsu no Otome-domo yo – O Maidens in Your Savage Season – O Maidens – AMV

Matija (@tfwanime)

Matija presents the first video submission in the form of an anime music video (AMV) from the series Araburu Kisetsu no Otome-domo yo (O Maidens in Your Savage Season), a slice-of-life manga by Mari Okada that was adapted into an anime for the summer 2019 season. Dealing with the elements of youth, Araburu Kisetsu no Otome-domo yo follows a group of students in the literature club who are unified by a desire to understand romance in its physical form, and whose time together propels them down a journey of discovery. In this music video, Matija uses the series’ opening song, Otome-domo yo, as the basis for capturing the emotional tenour that the series conveys. Using clever placement of the English translation of the lyrics, which draws the viewer’s eye to different parts of the video and therefore encouraging viewers to look at every quadrant of the video, Matija selects moments from the series that best captures the mood. The strength of HoneyWorks’s performance is brought to the foreground in Matija’s AMV: through a clear and upbeat, yet emotional delivery, HoneyWorks creates a song that captures the spectrum of emotions that youth experience as they struggle to make their way in the world and understand the storm of emotions that they must deal with as a part of learning. Choosing the perfect moment to match a segment on the opening could not have been easy, and Matija does a spectacular job of summing up their feelings for the series, highlighting Araburu Kisetsu no Otome-domo yo at its finest – for me, watching Matija’s AMV is a sign that I probably should pick this one up, having passed over it only for the singular fact that my summer was quite busy, and that I’m a bad procrastinator.

AMVs represent one form of creativity that conveys love for a series: without any words, analysis or discussion, putting an AMV together using a series’ opening song shows a great enjoyment of the anime first and foremost. As Matija writes in their video description, this song was a very enjoyable one. Coupled with going through the entire series to find moments that best fit areas of the song, timing the chosen scenes to fit and the music and presenting a translation the lyrics in a creative manner, it is clear that Matija’s AMV is a testament to Araburu Kisetsu no Otome-domo yo‘s strengths. AMVs take considerable effort to make, and are one of the strongest ways to convey love of a series. While there are some scenes that come across as a bit rougher in the AMV (I generally feel that both text and scenes should disappear or transition in a way that matches the music for videos), these are relatively minor in an AMV that is of a superb quality overall. While I’ve not made any AMVs for over a decade, memories still remain regarding the sort of commitment that goes into creating them, and Matija’s favourable impressions of Araburu Kisetsu no Otome-domo yo is evident in their AMV. Seeing this AMV has prompted me to put Araburu Kisetsu no Otome-domo yo on my watch list, and while I might not get to it for a while, I am going to start the party by listening to the series’ music – music is how I’ve found many anime I’ve come to love.

Why do I find it so hard to make friends?

My Anxious Life (@_MyAnxiousLife)

Friendship and the difficulty of finding new friends as one becomes older is the topic of MyAnxiousLife’s submission for Jon’s Creator Showcase. While MyAnxiousLife found the process more straight forwards as a child, there’s an inexplicable challenge in sharing with peers as one becomes older, and despite presenting a forward and cheerful manner, the conversations that MyAnxiousLife has with others feel exhausting. Identifying why this is the case seems a challenge, could it be from a lack of confidence and fear of rejection, or is it merely a subconscious reflex? With prospect of opening up to new people a daunting one, MyAnxiousLife suggests creating a new type of service for cultivating and nurturing friendship for more people.

As children, people tend to think in more straightforward terms and look towards commonalities like interests, appearances or background in order to connect with those around them, but as adults, a better understanding of social convention means that more seems at stake in every interaction one has. I certainly don’t have it easier making new friends, but there is one additional factor that stymies my ability to befriend new people: working means spending most of my days with my eyeballs in Swift code, and when a day ends, my only inclination is to sleep. Skills atrophy if not used, and a part of the challenge people encounter when making new friends as adults can also come from the lack of practise and opportunity to simply talk to new people the same way students might. The utility that MyAnxiousLife suggests is something I would consent to developing, potentially being a fun tool to simply reach and help others. I argue that such a platform would be best done as mobile app (and development should start out in Xcode): this could be the start of a brand-new company rooted in an app!

Jump Into Fear: 6 Common Fears & How to Overcome Them!

Cassie, Upcycled Adulting (@Upcycledadultin)

Cassie of Upcycled Adulting presents a discussion on besting fear, an emotion that brings out the best and also the worst in people. In this article, six major causes of fear are covered: fear of opinions, failure, success. rejection, the unknown and decision-making. In each category, a specific countermeasure is proposed towards handling that particular fear. Concerns about what people think of us are lessened with increased confidence in one’s own ability. Worrying about failure and success boils down to persistence and preparation. Rejection is ultimately a matter of mathematics and can be beaten with effort. The unknown only becomes problematic if one is unprepared, so informing oneself of a situation to know what factors can and cannot be controlled can help one approach it more effectively. Good decision making comes from owning a decision and making the most of it. With an encouraging tone, Cassie suggests to readers that agency to better their circumstance lies with them, empowering them to take charge of their situation – all fear ultimately stems from being powerless, and Cassie’s post reinforces that proactive attitudes are what turns fear into just another manageable, solvable problem.

Everyone has developed different mechanisms for coping with their challenges and worries, but when situations become overwhelming, we may let fear get the better of us. Cassie’s post provides a back-to-the-basics approach, reminding readers that irrespective of what they might be facing, the first step is to take control and be proactive in working out the beginnings of a solution to mitigate that fear. The smallest of actions, which we may dismiss as trivial, serve to restore this control, and also helps put perspective into a problem. Dividing and conquering is a viable tactic: seemingly insurmountable fears often become much more approachable, if not trivially easy to solve, when one returns to the basics, and armed with a post of positivity, provides a very optimistic outlook on the benefits of fear. Folks who embrace this fear and practise management tactics are able to constantly push new boundaries and find increasingly creative, effective ways of dealing with their problems. I admit that common everyday challenges like fear is a topic I don’t often share with my readers because it’s far removed from my usual topics, and I deal with my own fears with preparation and study: seeing that method being a part of what others count as effective means I’m doing something right.

What an M.E. Crash Feels Like

Sopx X, Mummying and M.E. (@mummyingandme)

Soph of Mummying and ME’s submission is on the topic of myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), or Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). With a prevalence of up to three percent in the adult population, ME is characterised by fatigue, difficulty standing, headaches, sore throat and sensitivity to stimuli, amongst other symptoms. With a poorly-characterised cause and no known cure, ME is a condition that the medical community has limited agreement to regarding management and treatment mechanisms. Soph’s article discusses the onset of an ME Crash, where fatigue and other symptoms suddenly set in after exertion. The aftermath is difficult: Soph describes the world as being a blur, with every noise being overwhelming, and existence becomes painful. Soph notes that the effects are very real, and different people with ME may experience it differently, but the worst aspect is that even when being mindful of one’s lifestyle choices and working to lessen exertion, ME crashes may happen anyways. Until medical researchers begin probing ME more closely for physiological factors resulting in ME crashes, the causes remain quite unknown.

Health conditions are immensely taxing, and can often have its tolls; blogs like Soph’s Mummying and ME serve a very important purpose in that it provides a very candid, first-hand experience of conditions like ME so that for other individuals affected, they are able to see the perspective and understand that they are not alone in their experiences. The community and unity in individuals affected are strong precisely because people are able to support one another, giving one another encouragement and also share their journeys. While medical experts may not be able to identify effective treatment and management methods, through writing and sharing their experiences on a blog, people like Soph can still help other individuals with ME by telling their stories and giving them perhaps the stepping stones of forming a group that can share their own management measures while researchers and health professionals catch up.

How to Cook a Series: Violet Evergarden

Dave D’Alessio, Confessions of An Average Otaku (@dalessio_dave)

Violet Evergarden was met with universal acclaimed during and after its airing for its particularly heartfelt presentation of Violet’s journey to understand what love was through her post-war job as a ghost-writer. Dave D’Alessio of Confessions of an Overage Otaku explores what made the series work for him: the central ingredient, as it were, is Violet herself. Born of a devastating war, trained to be ruthlessly efficient in her singular duty of eliminating the enemy, Violet begins her journey as unaccustomed to civilian life, having suffered devastating losses both to her body and to her mind after losing Gilbert and her arms. Left only with Gilbert’s words, “I love you”, Violet thus sets out to understand what this means and in the process, opens herself up to other emotions that are distinctly human. Through Violet’s journey throughout Violet Evergarden, Dave feels that Violet’s own limitations serve to enhance her plausibility as a character; her solid technical skills are tempered by an initial inability to adequately convey the intent her client desires, and it really forces Violet to learn empathy to succeed in her role. In conjunction with a vividly presented world, Violet Evergarden has enough going for it to craft a very strong experience that explains its strong positive reception amongst viewers.

Having thoroughly enjoyed Violet Evergarden myself, Dave’s article touches on many of the facets that made the series one meritorious of praise. For me, it was the overall journey and what Violet became as a result of her initial drive to understand “I love you”; while she set out to find the answers, along the way, and with support from those around her, Violet ended up discovering so much more, which serves to help her begin the healing process after the war. It is always a joy to see what specifically about a series that made it work for others, and in general, one would be hard-pressed to find any negativity surrounding Violet Evergarden simply because the series does so many things correctly that flaws become inconsequential. However, I am going to have to disagree with Dave’s remarks that Violet Evergarden can be compared directly with Neon Genesis Evangelion; while sharing the commonality that both Violet and Rei Ayanami might be unexpressive, stoic, the series’ intentions, themes and aesthetics are completely different. Violet Evergarden excels in its execution for different reasons than Neon Genesis Evangelion, although from a different point of view, to see the former compared against a well-known classic might be seen as an indicator of just how powerful and well-done Violet Evergarden is.

Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day

K At The Movies (@K_at_the_movies)

Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai (Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day, or Anohana for brevity) is an 2011 anime renowned for its moving and emotional story. Even eight years later, Anohana remains a particularly noteworthy work: K of K at the Movies delves into the series and how its cast of characters give the series its strength. While K might not relate to any of the characters directly, each character is presented in such a way that it becomes possible to root for them despite their initial attitudes. Attributes of each character are explored, including their strengths, weaknesses and ultimate contributions to the story being mentioned. K then focuses on how all of the pieces come together to create a highly enjoyable and poignant series. Specific design choices in Anohana, specifically pertaining to notions of closure and melodrama are some of the leading criticisms against the story, but K finds that overall, they are present to drive a specific message. With a multitude of themes covered, K finds that Anohana‘s success comes from being able to present a genuine and heartfelt story. K’s post coincides with reaching the two hundred follower and three hundred post mark: it is things like Jon’s Creator Showcase and enthusiastic readers that inspires him to continue with his blog.

I would like to similarly thank K for his submission to this month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase and hope he will continue to run his blog. The experiences along the way are inspiring and encouraging, being fulfilling and rewarding as one connects with the positive members of the community. As for Anohana itself, I watched the series back in 2013, two years after it finished airing, and out of a curiosity to see whether the praises for the series were justified or not. When I finished, I found myself unable to adequately put into words what I’d seen and experienced: it wasn’t until watching the movie a year later, which recounts the events of the TV series as the characters, having moved on with their lives, reflecting on their experiences, that I came to understand what made Anohana an immensely enjoyable experience. Seeing the series from a new perspective helped me to appreciate what each of the characters had gone through following Meiko’s death, and with the movie taking on the perspective of a retrospective, it helps audiences appreciate how each individual has begun to heal. I share K’s thoughts in that Anohana is definitely worth watching, and note that with the sheer amount of stuff out there, K will have no shortage of things to write about for his blog that readers will find value in reading.

The Wize Wize Beasts of the Wizarding Wizdoms Review

Alyssa, Al’s Manga Blog (@AlyssaTwriter)

Al’s Manga Blog is a unique blog that focuses on manga reviews, and for the October submission Alyssa reviews Nagabe’s The Wize Wize Beasts of the Wizarding Wizdoms, a manga about anthropomorphic animals attending an academy of magic not unlike J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. The specially enchanted animals of The Wize Wize Beasts of the Wizarding Wizdoms exist in harmony and do their utmost to learn their magic while struggling to deal with romances that appear. Despite a potential for the story to go in directions some may find uncomfortable, The Wize Wize Beasts of the Wizarding Wizdoms is actually a pretty clever story that weaves the animals’ natural traits together with a rowdy romance that offers comedy and emotional weight in the right places. However, Alyssa feels that overall, The Wize Wize Beasts of the Wizarding Wizdoms acts as more of a warm-up act: the fact there’s only one volume means that many character interactions are not fully fleshed out, and Alyssa leaves The Wize Wize Beasts of the Wizarding Wizdoms feeling as though there could have been much more that could have been done with the manga to fully immerse readers more.

As a longtime fan of Harry Potter (believe it or not), my eye was caught when I saw that there was a proper manga that conveyed a similar feel: J.K. Rowling’s universe is a unique one, and most fan-fiction attempts at it fail to capture the same aesthetic and wonder present in the original, preferring to focus on romantic pairings that offer little in the way of novel stories and adventures. The Wize Wize Beasts of the Wizarding Wizdoms, on the other hand, possesses its own aesthetic and style. From Alyssa’s presentation of the manga’s strengths, it becomes clear that The Wize Wize Beasts of the Wizarding Wizdoms is quite distinct, counting on character interactions to drive the series’ humour. I find that manga reviews are inherently more challenging to do than anime reviews for the simple fact that I tend to count on screenshots to provide visuals for my talks; manga panels are monochrome and more text heavy, so a manga review done in my style would be quite difficult to read. Alyssa, on the other hand, uses a simpler approach, picking pages of the manga lighter in text to show the artistic choices without overwhelming the reader and keeping the review concise. Her method provides a clean means of reviewing the manga, and after reading her assessment of The Wize Wize Beasts of the Wizarding Wizdoms, I can say that this does look to be an intriguing one to check out.

Week of Reviews

Shaegeeksout (@shaegeeksout)

Shaegeeksout submits a playlist of manga reviews, one for each day of the week in October that covers a variety of titles covering different genres and styles, with varying levels of enjoyment. Shaegeeksout discusses everything from manga that failed to impress, to titles that have unique merits that make them worth reading through. The strength in her videos is authenticity and conciseness: every review is presented in a direct fashion, and Shaegeeksout wastes no time in highlighting the strengths, weaknesses and final verdict on a given title or series, giving viewers a very quick idea of whether or not something is worth their while. Going into the story, characters and artwork for each review, Shaegeeksout offers viewers with consistent assessments on each manga to help them determine if something might be worth a purchase.

From her videos, the first impression I get is that Shaegeeksout has extensive familiarity with manga, given the bookshelves behind her that are dedicated to manga and to her other interests. This aspect is something that video reviewers must be mindful of: while seemingly a trivial choice, what one picks as their background can shift the framing of a video dramatically. For a manga reviewer to set a bookshelf as their backdrop suggests to me that I am watching someone who knows their materials, having the experience to back their opinion and give viewers a fair assessment of each work. The titles that Shaegeeksout reviews are those I’m not familiar with: my own manga collection is considerably more modest, occupying about half of a shelf on my bookcase. It should come as no surprise that I’ve got the complete K-On!, and I also have the complete The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, plus Madoka Magica and a few other series that proved enjoyable to me. I’m very much an anime-first fan, and usually buy manga based on how much a series impressed me; the most recent series to have done that is Harukana Receive. It is therefore refreshing and useful to see the process behind how manga readers go about assessing manga, as Shaegeeksout has done in her mini-series.

Manga Review: The Drifting Classroom (Perfect Edition) by Kazuo Umezz

DynamicDylan (@DynamicDylan26)

DynamicDylan reviews The Drifting Classroom‘s Perfect Edition, a survival horror manga anthology dating back to 1974 about a boy by the name of Sho Takamatsu, who ends up in an alternate dimension, locked in a battle for survival against overwhelming odds. DynamicDylan enjoys the psychological aspects of The Drifting Classroom the most, contemplating what must be running through the characters’ minds as they are made to confront situations that are far beyond what one typically encounters. The journey that the characters must go through is gripping, and DynamicDylan found the series immensely captivating. Besides the story itself, the Perfect Edition of The Drifting Classroom is a strong product on the whole, featuring a very solid construction in its hardcover form. While the story is engaging, it might not be for everyone owing to the violence and gore, making it less suitable for younger readers. In spite of this, The Drifting Classroom is something that Dynamic Dylan strongly recommends to readers who are looking for something that is quite novel.

What stands out most in DynamicDylan’s review of The Drifting Classroom Perfect Edition is the physical construction of the volume itself: most official English-translated manga volumes are typically soft-cover, and while featuring a heavier-grain paper than Japanese manga, which can be bought for low prices thanks to having newspaper-like paper, nonetheless can come across as being somewhat fragile, especially when compared to hardcover books with high-quality paper. That The Drifting Classroom is presented as a hard cover is quite unique, and DynamicDylan makes a strong case for how this manga stands out, in addition to a thrilling (if disturbing) story that deals with darker aspects of human nature, such as paranoia and the unknown. Unfortunately, I fall into the category of people that DynamicDylan counts as being less suited for the manga: despite my love for shooters and acceptance of carnage in video games, gore and violence in manga and anime are things that I don’t enjoy as much. With this being said, there are folks with stronger wills than my own and, for them, The Drifting Classroom Perfect Edition could be a fine addition to their manga collections, giving owners both something that is gripping and solidly crafted.

The Dark Knight Lives (Thirteen)

Annlyel James, Annlyel Online (@annlyeljames)

Annlyel James of Annlyel Online submits a chapter of her fan-fiction, The Dark Knight Lives. Opening with Robin getting knocked out by Harley Quinn while searching for the mayor’s murderer, the story shifts over to Lynx, a leftenant in the police department. Lynx is following Robin’s signal with the aim of providing backup, and when she arrives at the bar where Robin was last seen, she finds little little help from the bar’s staff and its patrons, an unsavoury bunch. While she makes to leave, a few of the patrons follow her into the night and open fire. Lynx is hit, but speeds off into the night before any significant harm can come to her. She immediately requests support, having concluded that Robin is in a bit of a predicament.

Annlyel’s submission is the second work of fiction in this Jon’s Creator Showcase, being part of a much larger work that covers multiple chapters. The submission is a well-chosen one, dropping me off right in the middle of things and concluding with escalation. I admit that unlike the Marvel universe, I have a much more limited knowledge of the DC universe. While I am a fan of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, his emphasis on the mental and psychological aspects of being Batman means that elements of the traditional Batman universe are secondary. Annlyel’s fiction is thus a reminder that the Batman universe is rather larger than the one Nolan presented, and there are numerous aspects about it that could be explored.

Is Akane The Main Character of SSSS.Gridman? We Think So!

Galvanic Media (@GalvanicTeam)

The Galvanic Team presents a video making the case that antagonist Akane Shinjō should be counted as SSSS.Gridman‘s lead character. Because this is a bold claim, the video first defines the lead character to be the individual whose progression through a narrative allows the audience to understand the rationale for their initial actions and also provides a yard stick for the growth and development they experience as the story progresses. In SSSS.Gridman, screentime is dedicated towards Akane’s moments alone and establish that her goals stem from her background, which results in her desire to control and dominate a world where she does not suffer from the deficiencies that haunt her. Moreover, Akane herself undergoes a dramatic shift in mindset and growth compared to the other characters in SSSS.Gridman: with the other protagonists remaining relatively static by comparison, it becomes clear that SSSS.Gridman is really about how Akane changes in response to friendship over time.

I typically don’t watch anime reviews on YouTube – analysis is difficult to follow if the presenter rambles on, and I can’t readily reference earlier points. The Galvanic Team’s video, on the other hand, is simple enough to follow, stepping through the things that make Akane worthy of being considered a lead character. It helps considerably that the video itself is done with solid voice-work: I am reminded of the videos that my local anime convention puts out to advertise their events, and those are of a very high standard. The video itself accompanying the discussion is relevant, giving scenes from the anime that match what the speakers mention, and so, leaving this video, I am more convinced that Akane could be seen as SSSS.Gridman‘s lead than when I first entered. Building effective video reviews and analysis for anime is an immensely difficult task: folks like DigiBro or Mother’s Basement fail in their efforts at more serious analysis because they do not follow a logical structure in their videos, nor do they take the effort to improve the quality of their spoken piece. Finally, staring at a talking head is not something I consider engaging when the discussion is focused on anime: with manga reviews, the reviewer holds the product in their hands and it becomes an integral part of the discussion, but reviewing themes in an anime is more intangible. The Galvanic Team’s submission is the opposite of this, being clear, informative and fun to watch, as well. There are plenty of excellent video reviewers out there beyond the well-known ones; the number of subscribers one has clearly is not indicative of the quality of their work, and Jon’s Creator Showcase is a fine opportunity for lesser-known but excellent video reviewers to be featured.

From depression to anxiety: water as metaphor in anime

Elisabeth, Little Anime Blog (@littleanimeblog) 

To a scientist, the polar inorganic compound known as water is a solvent of great interest, with untold importance in biology, economics, engineering and virtually all aspects of life. Earth’s distance from the sun allows water to naturally exist in liquid form, and this in turn means that a majority of the world’s surface is covered by oceans. Being an island nation, the ocean is an ubiquitous part of life in Japan and unsurprisingly, features in many anime, acting as a metaphor of sorts. With its vastness and unexplored depths, the ocean becomes representative of depression, doubts and fear: Free!, Tsuritama and Amanchu! are series that cast water as a source of unease, visually presenting the feeling of being trapped in a vast, empty space by means of water. However, the very same oceans which possess an untold amount of mystery also acts as a source of solace and great beauty. By embracing the mystery and shifting one’s perspective to that of curiosity, people come to discover an important dichotomy: there is a joy that can be found in the ocean, and in the right company, this new perspective can turn a source of depression and doubt into a source of hope and optimism.

The impact of the ocean on Japanese culture cannot be understated, and this aspect is prominently featured in anime: from Amanchu! to Azur Lane, the enigma formed by the ocean forms the bulk of the story in their respective series, and most series deal with conquering them. Until now, I regarded the oceans in anime as being a part of the scenery, rather like how the Rocky Mountains an hour west of my city are a common part of the scenery that, while beautiful, is also quite unremarkable. Reading Elisabeth’s post on water as a metaphor for depression provided me with a newfound outlook on things – while anime might use it as a part of their story to present a certain idea, it also lends credence to the idea that the sea is very important to the Japanese. Island nations like Japan and the United Kingdom have traditionally held great respect for the ocean’s might and beauty, and many aspects of their culture involve paying deference to the oceans both for the resources that may be reaped, as well as destruction wrought by the ceaseless waves and unexplored corners of one of the least characterised realms on Earth. Strong blog posts help readers to gain new perspective on things, and Elisabeth’s submission to this month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase is a strong example of what makes blogging so rewarding from the writer’s perspective – one’s own thoughts can help others approach and appreciate the world from a new light.

[OWLS October Blog Tour] Changing Seasons

Megan Peoples, Nerd Rambles (@Nerdramblesmeg)

Megan Peoples presents a talk on Dungeons and Dragons, and the importance of being able to indulge in flights of fancy and fantasy in moderation. With a group of friends, Megan is able to craft characters with detailed back-stories, and one character in particular is modelled after herself; the freedom that fantasy confers allows her to explore a variety of directions for her. This character inherits Megan’s own limitations, such as worrying about responsibilities and being able to grow into a role. However, having a character to build a journey around also helps Megan with her own confidence, and ultimately, by offering an escape, as well as a second look at things, Dungeons and Dragons contributes to Megan’s well-being. Of course, the expenditure on dice is a nontrivial one, but Megan’s post shows that the benefits of this pursuit clearly outweigh the drawbacks.

Megan’s participation in Dungeons and Dragons is the same reason I partake in a variety of video games and consume fiction: it offers a momentary escape from reality that helps me gain a new perspective on things. By sharing her story with Dungeons and Dragons, Megan provides insight into why fantasy games are so prevalent; most folks take to the golf course or local bar to unwind, but there are others who find themselves more at home in stretching their minds and enjoying a fantastical world in place of more traditional hobbies. Megan is not alone in drawing on fiction to relax: my interest and enjoyment in video games provides a similar catharsis, as well as serving as a constant reminder that persistence is key to success.

#TheAnimangaFestival: So You Wanna Play Otome Games? – Five Otome Game Recommendations for Total Newbies

BeckNaja, Blerdy Otome (@BeckNaja)

For her submission, BeckNaja of Blerdy Otome presents five otome games for first-timers. Otome (literally “Maiden”) games are a genre for female players, placing them in the shoes of a female protagonist and having them pursue romance with other characters. These can be male characters, although some games may feature female partners as candidates, as well. The list opens with Amnesia Memories, which BeckNaja counts as being accessible for beginners owing to the fact it was one of the first titles to be localised and therefore, the dialogue is translated to a high standard. With five routes and running for low prices, plus a straightforwards plot, Amnesia Memories serves as an introduction to the mechanics of an otome game. Ikémen Vampire comes next, being a mobile title and therefore, possesses the advantage of being able to be played anywhere. While Ikémen Vampire restricts players to a certain number of chapters per day, players can complete mini-games to unlock currency units to advance the story further. Hatoful Boyfriend is another recommendation that initially starts off irreverent, but quickly ups the ante as the story progresses. Hakuoki follows, being a title that has been ported to many platforms and something that BeckNaja counts as having appeal for many players. Rounding off the list is Cinderella Phenomenon, an independently published game whose strength lies in the fact that the story was written specifically for English audiences in mind. BeckNinja notes that otome games are ultimately visual novels, and the story is at the core. While each of the recommendations has something unique to offer, all of them are story-driven and will offer players something engaging.

For my part, I’ve never experienced an otome game, and my choice of visual novels tend to be more conventional, featuring a male player perspective and various heroines in its story. Of course, with my own interests, I’m more likely to be found with my nose in a first person shooter. BeckNaja’s post is therefore suited for folks like myself, with limited prior experience with such titles. Recommendation lists are a fantastic way to introduce beginners to a genre, since they serve to highlight each work’s strengths and notable features. A first-timer is then offered a highlight of what each title brings to the table and can make an informed decisions as to which recommendation is worth exploring further. Posts like BeckNaja’s are ideally suited for folks who are seeking new experiences, and in general, I’m always fond of reading top anything lists because they offer succinct explanations for why something is worth checking out. They’re rather concise and provide a quick overview of positive things in a work: the world does seem to trend towards negativity, so seeing top anything lists and their positive vibes always ends up being a fun read.

Top 5 Best Anime For Beginners You Need to Watch

YumDeku, MyAnime2Go (@YumDeku)

YumDeku’s submission was the final one I received and therefore rounds out this month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase, but fortunately, last is not synonymous with least: their submission is a start-pack of five recommendations for folks who are unfamiliar with anime and need a starting point. Kicking off this list is Kono Subarashii Sekai Ni Shukufuku Wo! (God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World!); this series is comedy driven and about fun, first and foremost. With a colourful cast of characters, its strengths lie entirely in being fun. Next up is Bokura Wa Minna Kawai-Sou, which is a romance-comedy set around the hapless, unlucky residents of the Kawai Complex as they strive to make the most of their situation. Cowboy Bebop, an old classic, follows: it’s about space bounty hunters and is renowned for its soundtrack, as well as its narrative. Sakurasou No Pet Na Kanojo is next, and this series deals with a group of misfits and their everyday lives. Like YumDeku’s submission, last place is certainly not least: Toradora! is the final recommendation. This series follows one Ryuji Takasu and his agreement to help Taiga Aisaka pursue her love interest, while at the same time, get closer with Minori Kushieda. However, despite this seemingly straightforward arrangement, the tribulations of love set the characters down a path that ends up being quite unexpected, and superbly enjoyable.

As far as starting anime go, YumDeku’s list consists of anime that possess a story and engagement factor that is quite compelling, while simultaneously lacking the tropes that make a series less suitable for general audiences: these are series that appeal to a wide range of audiences. My own story with anime starts with Ah! My Goddess The Movie, and like the entries YumDeku presents, struck that balance between comedy, drama and emotional investment with the characters that ultimately acted as my introduction into anime. There is a recurring theme here: while anime is often (and incorrectly) assumed to be something for those with a risque mind or similar, the reality is that anime is so diverse that there is invariably something for everyone. Individuals who pick up anime whose setup and themes are enjoyable, without unnecessarily shoving a bunch of unwelcome anatomy into their faces, will likely be more receptive to anime than those who end up watching series not to their liking. This is the key to introducing folks to anime: by introducing them to series where there is a substantial (but straightforward) story piece, characters whose journeys are worth following and stunning animation, it demonstrates that anime can be fun and engaging, just as other media have their own merits. Of the anime YumDeku recommends to newcomers, I’ve seen Bokura Wa Minna Kawai-Sou and Toradora!, while Kono Subarashii Sekai Ni Shukufuku Wo! is on my list of series to eventually check out.

Closing Remarks

With thirty-one submissions to review, this month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase breaks a new record for my blog, being the single wordiest post I’ve ever written: there’s a grand total of 15125 words. This record was previously held by my review on Makoto Shinkai’s Kimi no na wa. The sheer size and scale of this showcase meant most of my free time not storming the beaches of Iwo Jima or sneaking through Pacific Storm’s jungles was dedicated to writing the post, and to put things in perspective, my Master’s Thesis was about 35982 words, and that took me a year to write. The decision to do full-length showcases for every submission stemmed from a combination of November being a slower month for anime reviews, and also because I did wish to do every submission justice – everyone who submitted something put their best efforts into their content, so for the showcase, it made sense that I at least make an effort to show what went into each and every work that I had the honour to look through. Having highlighted the incredibly vast array of submissions for October, I hope that readers walk away with new experiences and ideas. For instance, thanks my to participation in this month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase, I leave now with the goal to watch SSSS.Gridman and Araburu Kisetsu no Otome-domo yo at some point in the future with the goal of enjoying these series and in the case of the former, seeing if the series lives up to the positive reception the community has given it. Anyone who’s still with me at this point should probably know that they’ve read the equivalent of two-and-a-half chapters to my Master’s Thesis – if you’ve managed to read this entire showcase in one go, I will note that is an incredible feat of endurance. I won’t protract it out any longer: the showcase for December will be hosted by Scott of Mech Anime Reviews, and I hope you, the readers, will look forwards to that. We finally enter the final month of the year, and the final month of the decade: the winter holidays are very nearly upon us, and I wish everyone the absolute best as we enter a season of togetherness before marching onwards into a new decade.

Jon’s Creator Showcase: Happy Halloween, and Entering 2019’s Penultimate Month

“Life is a bit hard sometimes, and sometimes you have to step up and fight fights that you never signed up for.” –Joel Spolsky

To my esteemed readers, Happy Halloween! After a year long wait, I go into details surrounding the latest instalment to GochiUsa, which follows Chino as she prepares for her solo performance in her school’s concert. In this post, I touch on a variety of themes and more subtle elements that contribute to the enjoyment factor. It’s a bit of a longer post, but GochiUsa has consistently impressed with being able presents so much depth, far beyond what one might expect from a show of its genre. Despite the OVA’s conventional ringtone, it ended up being a wonderful experience that brought back what has made the TV series so enjoyable, which in turn sets the tone for the upcoming season three. I’ve peered ahead into the manga to see the outcomes of the coming season and find myself immensely excited for what viewers can expect. At least, this is what one can reasonably expect from me if they choose to participate in the Jon’s Creator Showcase: I’ve (rather gratuitously) used my favourite post for October as an example of what is to happen for this blogging event. I accept the torch from Ayano of Kawaii PaperPandas, and to refresh readers briefly on Jon’s Creator Showcase, this is a programme that began with Jon Spencer Reviews nearly two years ago. The goal of this project is to allow bloggers to submit their favourite works and share them amongst the community. All submissions will be for the month of October, and I’ll be accepting submissions from folks on Twitter (please use #TheJCS or DM me), as well as through the comments section for this post. Once the month has concluded, I will return on the first of December with a full showcase of each and every submission, as well as handing the torch to the next host.

I encourage everyone to submit something: blog posts the usual format, although any submission that takes the form of a video, fan-art or software will also be accepted. That is to say, if you have an app in the App Store, that is a valid submission. While I am open to different kinds of submissions, the usual rules apply. Anything illegal, hateful or disturbing will be rejected, as will any submissions that are untruthful or harmful. With the formalities out of the way, I remark that this is the second time that I am hosting the Jon’s Creator Showcase: the original host for this month was unable to participate and as such, I opted to step in and help out where I can. Like last time, I will be looking forwards to seeing what submissions are put forth: the blogging community is one I am proud to be a part of; there is a defined sense of authenticity, sincerity and community amongst the folk that participate. I feel that the Jon’s Creator Showcase is an excellent means of showing off the very best of content people have created. While this admittedly comes quite suddenly, and amidst the release of Battlefield V‘s fifth Tides of War chapter, I’ll definitely be making an effort to give each and every submission proper attention even as I strive to balance time spent reviewing all of the excellent entries with unlocking the Tides of War content so that I can finally run a full Strike Witches loadout and see just how well the 501st’s equipment handles in the Frostbite Engine. On the flip-side, November is looking fairly quiet, since I’m only going to write about Kandagawa Jet Girls, so I should have adequate time to do more than a one-liner on what I make of submissions.

Jon’s Creator Showcase, June Edition: A Halfway Point in 2019 and the Arrival of Summer

“I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.” –Bilbo Baggins, Lord of The Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring

Scott and Crimson613 both set their bar quite high for Jon’s Creator Showcase, having hosted them previously, and I figured, I had a month to sleep on and work out my decision to host it. However, a month flies in the blink of an eye, especially when June is one of those months with a meagre thirty days, rather than thirty one days, but this short timeframe has not stopped the month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase from receiving a modest collection of submissions from bloggers within the community, and correspondingly, I’ve had to rise to the occasion as well. Having deliberately chosen June because it marks the halfway point of the year, I am pleased to present a host of posts that were submitted for the June Jon’s Creator Showcase. As a bit of a background, Jon’s Creator Showcase began in December 2017 at Jon Spencer Reviews and was intended to highlight interesting and exciting content within the blogging community. While most of the participants run anime blogs, Jon’s Creator Showcase is open to submissions of all sorts, and as result, I’ve had the pleasure to look through and present posts about a plethora of topics – we’ve even received a video that merits checking out. I would like to thank all of the participants who submitted something: it was a fantastic experience to go through each of the posts and explore what makes each a fun, meaningful read. While I can’t speak to whether or not the turnout was impressive or not, simply because I don’t know what a good sample size is, what I do know is that each of the posts that were submitted are of a superb quality. Since Jon has given me a bit of creative options for formatting this post, each submission is separated by an image that is somewhat related to summer, best season of the year, to improve on clarity. The images themselves are not related to the post in question, they merely act to create a visual break. In the interest of not delaying the moment any further, here are the submissions!

Fruits Basket Episode 7 Review: Broken Glass and Hearts

Animated Andy (@Animated_Andy)

Animated Andy explores the seventh episode of Fruits Basket, which deals with high schools student Tohru Honda, who ends up moving in with the Soma family, whose members suffer from a curse. Tohru’s time with the Soma family invariably changes their lives forever, and Fruits Basket, whose manga ran from 1998 to 2006, received a new adaptation that ran this year. In the post, Andy discusses how the new anime capitalises on visual and aural elements to viscerally portray a relationship between two characters. Animated Andy finds that the anime adaptation of Fruits Basket has much potential to capture the emotional tenour of each moment even more vividly than the manga, capitalising on sound, movement and colour to tell a story in way that dialogue and still images cannot.

While an expressive medium, manga is unable to convey certain emotions that only voice and movement can: Animated Andy shows that animated adaptations can contribute a great deal of emotional weight to a scene from a manga, creating newfound appreciation for what an author had intended to convey. This is one of the main reasons I’m so fond of anime adaptations, and this season’s Fruits Basket, being a retelling of the manga, is a very ambitious project that is said to span some sixty-three episodes. If Animated Andy ends up reviewing all sixty-three episodes, I would have nothing but respect; episodic reviews are very demanding from an effort perspective, requiring a blogger to draw something meaningful from each and every episode that they watch to write about each week. Already a difficult endeavour for a one-cour series, things only become more challenging for two-cour series – to do weekly episodic reviews for something running for a full year and then some is a strong commitment, and I look forwards to seeing what direction Animated Andy will take in the future with Fruits Basket.

A Silent Voice: When Past Mistakes Come To Haunt You!

Scott, Mechanical Anime Reviews (@MechAnimeReview)

After watching Kyoto Animation’s A Silent Voice, Scott takes readers through the strengths of this movie and how it presents mental health, concluding that the film is authentic in capturing the difficulties that individuals experiencing mental health troubles have in managing their situation and recovering. The movie stands out with its colour palette, which features much less saturation than Kyoto Animation’s typical works, and a focus on darkness: the choice of lighting and colour immediately gives the sense that A Silent Voice has a more serious tone than other works. Watching the characters in A Silent Voice come to terms with their actions and begin a journey to recovery struck a resonant chord with Scott, who recounts his own experiences; this piece gives his reflections on A Silent Voice a very personal and meaningful weight. Having walked the walk that Shōko and Shōya have gone through, the film was something Scott connected with – he cites the film’s greatest strengths as being able to capture mental health challenges in a genuine, emotional fashion that outweighs how it feels choppy and inconsistent in some places, recommending this film in his post.

Fiction is such a powerful form of expression because it captures in words, sight and sound the intangibles of emotion and experience; series that remind us of our own experiences are particularly moving. Scott’s review of A Silent Voice takes readers on a personal journey that really shows the complexity of mental health. Incidents that shape who we are can also harm us, and that the recovery is an uncertain process: everyone deals with adversity differently, and Scott’s recounting of his own experiences reinforces the notion that in A Silent Voice, particular care was given towards portraying the journey that Shōya ultimately must take to overcome his past. Mental health is a major area of interest, and while there is no silver bullet solution for things like anxiety, depression and other conditions can be managed with a strong support network. Scott reminds his readers that he is there for them should they need it – this is something that I feel to be especially important with the anime blogging community; as we are ultimately united by our shared love for media, we can act as a support network for one another in our own manner.

Run With The Wind Series Review

Karandi, 100 Word Anime (@100wordanime)

Aural elements play a major part in Run With The Wind, a 2006 anime who follows Kakeru Kurahara, a first year university student at Kansei University who joins the Chikuseisou dormitory after a chance meeting with Haiji Kiyose, who aspires to run the Hakone Ekiden relay marathon. Karandi describes the series’ enjoyment as coming from the extensive character growth that was afforded by the fact that Run With The Wind had twenty-three episodes of runtime, giving plenty of opportunity for viewers to learn about, connect with and ultimately, watch everyone mature over time. While feeling it to be nothing revolutionary, Run With The Wind features solid execution on all fronts, from its sound to visuals, and notably, Karandi also discusses gradually warming up to Haiji. Despite disliking Haiji’s character initially, Karandi warms up to him after his motives and goals are defined, giving a clear reason to begin rooting for him. The background characters are likewise given a similar treatment, making them multi-faceted individuals viewers come to care for. While slower to start, once Run With The Wind hits its stride, Karandi recommends this title for viewers.

One of my favourite experiences when watching anime is to enter a series and then have an experience that stands contrary to my initial expectations. Characters form a big part of this – to come into a series and develop an early dislike for a character, only for impressions of this character to improve over time as Karandi finds for Run With The Wind‘s Haiji, is an indicator that the series is pushing its characters to mature and develop over time. Individuals are not static, and watching growth is one of the most rewarding payoffs one can have in following a series. While I’m not familiar with Run With The Wind, Karandi’s thoughts on Haiji’s development mirrors my own with Nagi no Asukara’s Sayu Hisanuma – I felt Sayu to be little more than an irritable brat following the revelation that she was responsible for the vandalism to the Ofunehiki doll, but over time, her motives are made known, misunderstandings are cleared up, and she develops into a very determined individual who comes to terms with her own feelings. I see traces of myself in her, and for this reason, following Nagi no Asukara through to the end yielded this payoff. This is why I generally try to stick to a series, watching characters change over time (for the better) is an optimistic attitude that gives me the same hope that I can push towards making things better, as well.

The Makinohara Shouko Question

Yomu, Umai Yomu Anime Blog (@UmaiYomu)

In Aobuta, Shōko Makinohara’s presence is presented as a mystery: she appears to Sakuta thrice, once after his initial troubles following Kaede’s dissociative amnesia, once as a younger self, and then again when Sakuta experiences a crisis following Kaede regaining her old memories. The narrative in Aobuta follows Sakuta, a high school student who encounters actress Mai Sakujima and subsequently becomes entangled in unusual phenomenon that are resolved when he expends compassion and empathy in helping those around him out. Yomu summarises the different struggles that each of Mai, Tomoe, Rio, Nodoka and Kaede faced, extrapolating to suggest that Shōko’s existence is a consequence of some conflict or challenge in her own life. The nature of this challenge is not known, but the fact that Shōko appears both as a middle school student and a high school student to Sakuta implies different timelines are at play. Yomu concludes that Sakuta and Shōko, by providing assistance to one another during critical junctures, creates a situation where there is a circular dependency, and speculates the upcoming film will have Sakuta, armed with a deeper sense of empathy and compassion, assist Shōko with whatever challenge that she faces in her own life. These speculations leave Yomu excited to watch the upcoming Aobuta movie.

Until we have a chance to watch Seishun Buta Yarou wa Yumemiru Shoujo no Yume wo Minai, which released mid-June, whether or not Yomu’s speculation holds true will remain something that we will have to be patient about. With this being said, Yomu’s coverage on the interpersonal and intrapersonal aspects of Aobuta amongst each of the characters is an impressive one, going into thorough details about what each character contributes to the audience’s understanding of Sakuta. One of the longstanding grievances I had with Aobuta, prior to watching it for myself, was how some folks tended to treat Rio’s explanations of the Adolescence Syndrome as a factual, objective assessment on the phenomenon: this resulted in discussions that completely failed to address what each of Mai, Tomoe, Rio, Nodoka and Kaede’s issues were meant to represent. While Yomu has had a strong understanding of the characters already explored in Aobuta, the mystery that Shōko presents leaves much more open to discussion; the movie’s focus on Shōko means that Yomu and most anyone who’s enjoyed Aobuta will (hopefully) find resolution in what has been hitherto an enigmatic character whose story could prove to be very interesting and enjoyable to watch.

The Importance of Goals – Shirobako Review

tfwanime (@tfwanime)

The process behind creating and producing anime is a gruelling one – the 2015 anime highlights the deadlines, pressures and stresses of what goes into making the anime that viewers enjoy season after season. In tfwanime’s discussion on what makes Shirobako such a moving anime, the series’ strengths lie in how relatable each of the characters are, specifically with respect to their goals and how they go about in pursuing them. Aoi Miyamori pushing through near-impossible deadlines because of her own passion for bringing stories to life, Ema Yasuhara’s unwavering determination to improve as an artist, Misa Toudou’s decision to forego job security for a position she’s more passionate about, Midori Imai’s drive to learn as much as she can to create compelling stories and Shizuka Sakaki determinedly clings to her desire to become a voice actress, seizing each opportunity to learn and realise her dreams. Each character struggles, and at some points, wonder where their efforts lead, but ultimately, come to appreciate their sacrifices and devotion. tfwanime presents the idea that in conjunction with an internal drive to succeed, having support from one’s peers is also critical. Much as how this group had once produced their own anime as high school students, their passion towards their career and care for one another allow them to each begin understanding what it will take to realise their dreams – tfwanime expresses gratitude towards shows like Shirobako, whose human aspects make the series immensely relatable and compelling, and in the process, also makes the film something to greatly look forwards to.

Watching the characters of Shirobako work their magic, and the community’s subsequent rallying around Shirobako as an inspiring anime was a magic moment that showcases what anime can be for viewers when it captures something special. By putting it into words, tfwanime reminded me of what made Shirobako such a compelling series to watch, showing how different aspects of an anime connect with different individuals. In my case, I saw a moving story about perseverance: the goals each of Aoi, Ema, Misa, Midori and Shizuka had motivate them to strive for excellence in the face of adversity. With goals as a starting point, Shirobako‘s greatest strength was showing the journey one might encounter in pursuit of their dreams. By showing the characters struggle, get knocked down and picking themselves back up, audiences really come to empathise with the characters. By placing the characters in a setting that audiences can become excited about, Shirobako creates a sense of immersion that few anime can match. Viewers ultimately derive a considerable payoff from watching characters grow and relating this back to their own experiences.

A Western Inspiration

Mel in Animeland (@MelinAnimeland)

Mel in Animeland showcases how Western works have played a role in inspiring Japanese works; while the incredible creativity and diversity of Japanese works is staggering, Japanese works have also drawn from western sources, applying their own interpretations to create something engaging. Mel highlights six works that were particularly inspired, from Detective Conan and Moriarty the Patriot using aspects from Sherlock Holmes, to how Are You Alice? puts a twist on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. While it is often the case that viewers may take a work at face value, stopping to smell the roses and consider what went into work also allows one a stronger sense of appreciation and enjoyment.

Japan known for strange and wonderful examples of creativity – there are things that distinctly have a Japanese touch, and so, when I read about how Western works have influence in Japanese media, it is always interesting to see how aspects of cultures I am more familiar are interpreted within Japanese works. Usually, elements from Western cultures are used as the basis for a novel idea, and the result is invariably unique, presenting a fresh take on things that we might be familiar with.

Is it Wrong to Try to Pick up Girls in a Dungeon (Season One)

Lynn Sheridan (@TheEarthLynn)

Lynn Sheridan presents the highlights of Is it Wrong to Try to Pick up Girls in a Dungeon (DanMachi for brevity) in his submission, breaking it down into readable sections that details aspects of the anime. This series follows an adventurer named Bell whose main aim is to impress a female adventurer, but when he begins, he is uncommonly weak and finds it difficult to advance in his journey. Besides what makes Bell a compelling protagonist, to the payoff viewers gain from watching Bell improve as an adventurer from his humble beginnings, Lynn also covers some of the aspects of the series that were a little less enjoyable, and ultimately, expresses a desire to see the series continue because of its engaging premise and cast of (mostly) likeable characters.

I remember picking up DanMachi purely because Inori Minase was playing a role in it: I know Minase best as GochiUsa‘s Chino Kafuu, and so, it was quite a bit of a surprise to see her as the goddess Hestia, whose traits are vastly different than those of Chino’s. Beyond this, Is it Wrong to Try to Pick up Girls in a Dungeon ended up being a fun watch: much of the series is driven by Bell’s selfless nature and focus, and although his intentions are shallow in nature, the adventures Bell goes upon, and his learnings, are anything but. Although I never ended up writing about this one, I’ve heard that there’s a second season whose first episode will be airing in a few days, and I could see myself continuing on with DanMachi; it eludes me as to how long ago that I watched DanMachi, but I definitely remember having a good time watching it.

The Plant – My Kinetic-Novel Release

Jon Spencer Reviews aka Host of Jon’s Creative Showcase! (@JS_Reviews)

Jon’s Creative Showcase is the creation of Jon Spencer, and besides running a blog, Jon has also released his own game, titled The Plant. This kinetic novel represents the culmination of many hours of effort, and Jon stresses that he is not a software developer by trade, which accentuates the impressive nature of this accomplishment. From UI and UX to figuring out the artwork, sound and story, Jon highlights the processes it took to get the game off the ground. In order to ensure the release was of a high quality, Jon worked with both editors and quality assurance staff. The game ultimately released on May 8, 2019, and represents an exciting milestone, making all of the effort worth it. The development process was a journey: Jon learnt Python and the Ren’py engine, deeply enjoying the marketting and presentation aspects of the project, but also discovering challenges in time management and quality control. All of these efforts paid off, and folks curious to give this kinetic novel a go for themselves can find it here.

I am an iOS developer by trade, and a part of my responsibilities is to explain what I do in terms that are accessible to folks who are not developers. The world of software development is filled with arcane terminology, subtle nuances that can be frustrating to pick up, and demands great patience to learn; when Jon recounts his journey in learning Python to build The Plant, I was very impressed. It takes persistence and an open mind to pick up a programming language, and even though Python is billed as an accessible language, even it has elements that require subtlety to pick up. I vividly recall not understanding integer division and array indices when I first began programming in my undergraduate, only picking up these elements when studying Java and later, Objective-C for my summer research. As a result, watching Jon’s story in building The Plant was inspiring, and Jon shows that programming can be done by most anyone with the mindset to learn. The end result is a solid kinetic novel that saw a relatively smooth release, and my question now is whether or not Jon intends to build any other games: if so, I would be quite happy to lend some time to address questions he may have about programming.

Video Games and Mental Health

Megan, Nerd Rambles (@Nerdramblesmeg)

When Megan approached the June Jon’s Creator Showcase, she had two excellent posts to submit. The first dealt with how to begin as a blogger, and the second addresses mental health and video games. The topic of video games and mental health was a very engaging read – Megan explores how video games help her manage difficult situations in real life and act as a source of stress relief. In providing escapism, games offer a respite from the real world, allows the mind to focus on whatever objective the game tasks the player with completing, and ultimately lets the mind regroup. Megan notes that while her thoughts come from her personal experience, there are other resources available that provide mental health related support for folks who enjoy video games.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, video games can also worsen mental health problems: when I play the multiplayer of Battlefield, I become tense, jumpy and unpleasant. However, on the whole, video games are an excellent way of reducing stress, especially games that are cooperation or story-driven. By immersing users into another world, one’s mind is allowed to rest from whatever task is at hand. This is no different than taking a walk to clear one’s head during a difficult task: by stepping back, this allows the mind to process information taken in during a task, building the neural connections that allow for long-term memory to retain information or work through a process. This is why gaming in moderation can be seen as a viable mental health break, and also accounts for why I enjoy single-player games to the extent that I do.

Finding Inspiration in Kimetsu no Yaiba (Demon Slayer)

Rose, Wretched And Divine

When Tanjirou Kamado’s family is massacred by demons, leaving him and his sister the sole survivors, Tanjirou resolves to become a demon slayer to save his sister, who became a demon. Demon Slayer has seen positive reception since its animated adaptation began airing, and in her post, Rose succintly explains how the story holds inspiration through the sheer effort that Tanjirou has directed towards becoming a full-fledged demon slayer. Impressed with his effort, Rose compares Tanjirou’s journey to similar journeys in live, whether it be going through school and doing one’s best to succeed on exams, becoming versed enough to operate a motor vehicle safely or even keeping a blog going long enough to connect with the community. The messages sent through Demon Slayer are sufficiently strong as to inspire, and watching anime like these can give one the drive to excel in their own aspirations, as well – this is the power of fiction, and Rose reminds readers that the lessons of fiction should not be so hastily dismissed simply because of the medium.

I’ve been hearing many positive things about Demon Slayer from various sources, although I’ve currently got no plans to check this series out. Fortunately, Rose has succinctly described her own enjoyment of Demon Slayer, relating it to her experiences. Typically, the result of effort is all the world sees, but this does not in any way diminishes the meaning of that effort. For instance, when I say I have my operator’s license, people immediately think that I can go wherever I please, but won’t think of the countless summer days I spent behind the wheel of a training vehicle or in the basement of a community association studying the rules of the road). Rose is absolutely correct in that the messages of a given work of fiction are relevant regardless of its medium, and in a way, tacitly suggests that I could be watching Demon Slayer, as well.

What I Mean When I Say Sarazanmai is Basically a Magical Boy Show (But Also Has Hints of Kiznaiver)

The Animanga Spellbook, MagicConan14 (@MagicConan14)

MagicConan14 explores Sarazanmai, a series following three middle school students who are transformed into kappa following an accident, and how it bears the halmarks of a magical girl series, but with the twist that young men are involved in place of young women. Each of the boys have a distinct colour motif reflecting on their personalities and respective place in their group, and their names are chosen with a specific meaning in mind. Magical series may portray the protagonists as being uncommonly close to one another, and Sarazanmai possesses these elements as well, with two of the leads dealing with themes of homosexual relationships. The sum of these features give the series credence that it is magical girl series: MagicConan14 describes it as a magical boy series, given that its lead characters are boys, after all.

I’m familiar with recent presentations of magical girls genre, having seen and enjoyed both Yūki Yūna is a Hero and Puella Magi Madoka Magica – more traditional series have not been something I particularly got into, simply because notions of a weekly antagonist to defeat was something that ended up being a touch too repetitive for me. The counterpart to magical girls is magical boys, which are usually intended as parodies of the genre by forcing a male lead into a traditionally female role, but Sarazanmai does not feel as a parody, being a serious portrayal of what magical boys could be: author Kunihiko Ikuhara wanted to create a more adult-oriented series about yōkai (Japanese monsters) that was male-oriented, and while I’ve not seen Sarazanmai, the cursory background I have on it suggests that Ikuhara was able to craft such a story: from MagicConan14’s conclusion, one should reasonably find that Sarazanmai feel like a magical boys series despite its premise.

Self-Care Sunday #17: Coping with Blogging Slumps Pt. 1 – Stress & Burnouts

BiblioNyan (@Yon_Nyaan)

BiblioNyan’s submission for this month’s showcase is a detailed insight into blogging slumps and how aspects of stress can impact one’s blogging output. While some stress can be a positive motivator, an excess of stress can seep into one’s life and become an all-consuming source of trouble, impacting one’s ability to think and be creative. Stress may even give the impression that one’s ability to blog has diminished, leading one to consider calling it quits. After all, blogging is a very effort-intensive endeavour: one must consistently draft out what they’d like to convey in a post, cohesively form this into an article and then ensure that the resulting post is clean and readable. Along the way, other perspectives might also be included, or additional reading might need to be conducted to ensure the content is correct. The sum of these requirements can make blogging a time-consuming and even emotionally-draining process: BiblioNyan recounts burning out after running a series of well-received and engaging posts, losing the inclination to write. However, burnout was not the end, and along the way, BiblioNyan came to rekindle a love for blogging to continue. In this post, BiblioNyan discusses several avenues to manage stress and reduce the risk of burning out, recommending scheduling posts and breaks to strike a good balance, as well as dealing with problems in real-life as they occur to ensure they don’t become serious issues. While BiblioNyan notes that the suggestions offered may not be for everyone, taking a break and regrouping can nonetheless be a great help for all bloggers.

I’ve been running this blog for upwards of seven-and-a-half years now, and like BiblioNyan, I’ve found myself running into the question of whether or not it was feasible to continue. Between difficulties in getting a post started, finding new content to talk about and declining traffic, my own motivation to blog has greatly varied – after all, if I cannot write about what I enjoy and reach the people I’d like to hear from, is there a point in keeping this party going? As BiblioNyan describes, one moment, one could feel inspired to write brilliant content, and the next, this energy wears off, leaving dejection and exhaustion. The proposed countermeasure for this burnout is brilliantly simple, and a variation on the approach that I employ: I plan some posts out weeks, and even months in advance, thinking about what I would cover in my mind before drafting it out in point form. Once I am satisfied a post an have sufficient content, I put the paragraphs together, and then improv the figure captions I have underneath each screenshot. The result of budgeting time out allows me to know when I can spend time to blog, and when I can do other things. For me, burn out no longer is problem, because there’s a strategy that I spent a long time developing: I wish that I had access to resources like BiblioNyan’s post when I started out, and I encourage new bloggers to read through this post in its full glory, as it addresses these issues in a much deeper and more meaningful manner than what I’ve presented here.

The Watcher

MibIH (@MibIH)

MibIH submits a video that conveys the horror of the mundane: what is an ordinary and unremarkable scene conveys terror when a filmy, shadowy figure appears. Made for Orpington Video & Film Makers, an amateur filmmaking club, the video shows that things in the world are a matter of perspective – the mysterious figure is eternally watching the viewers, who believe they are watching the video, and this creates a sense of unease.

While videos are uncommon submissions, Jon Spencer encourages participants in Jon’s Creator Showcase to submit whatever content they are proud of, and videos are a part of this. I will happily look through videos as I do posts, and while it seems that MibIH’s got the only submission for video content this time around, I do hope that future submissions for other hosts will see more videos. I’ve never really been much of a patron of the fine arts to appreciate film and initially worried that I would miss the critical elements in MibIH’s submission, but ended up getting something out of watching The Watcher – terror of the unknown and suspense. The Watcher reminds me of the Slenderman mythos, which gained notoriety some years ago and was built on fear of the unknown.

Anime x Lit Crit: Vampires & Valentines – Toradora! 15

The Moyatorium, Moyatori (@The_Moyatorium)

In this collaboration with another blogger, Primes, Moyatori discusses the fifteenth episode of Toradora! in a podcast-style post. Dealing with the problems that each of Ami, Minori and Taiga deal with as their personal beliefs and approaches come to light, the discussion argues that the challenges youth face are as complex as those adults face. While perhaps lacking the same experience and maturity adults have in making sense of, and expressing their troubles, this does not diminish the validity of their feelings in any way. Toradora! is a series well known for its raw and genuine portrayal of the dynamics of relationships amongst high school students; Ryuji initially wants to date Minori, while Taiga has only eyes for Yusaku, and the two outcasts decide to help one another pursue their respective crushes once it turns out that they live next to each other. Moyatori and Prime reach the conclusion that the topics brought up in Toradora!‘s fifteenth episode are introspective, and that while the author may be attempting to present a very specific view of certain topics through Toradora!‘s characters, the end result is still very authentic and serviceable.

If memory serves, I watched Toradora! three years previously and greatly enjoyed the anime for its authentic characters and a very natural progression of love. The complex interactions between the characters and their resultant actions were very believable and show that, when done properly, drama series can capture the emotional tenour of youth very strongly, evoking memories of adolescence for older viewers and perhaps creating moments youth can relate to. I’ve never done any podcast-style collaborations with other bloggers before, but the conversation between Moyatori and Primes was entertaining to read, piquing my interests in the format. Creating a more conversational format gives the sense that blogs are about community, and looking at my own blog, I understand that my posts read more like essays submitted to a junior literature class rather than a genuine conversation, so it is refreshing to see the back-and-forth between Primes and Moyatori. Given the time that has elapsed since I watched Toradora!, I (shamefully) don’t remember much detail, except that Ryuji and Taiga end up falling in love with one another because of how close they became while helping one another out; for the strength of the story, I might need to go back and rewatch the entire series to fully appreciate it.

OWLS Blog Tour: Cosplay

Matt Doyle (@mattdoylemedia)

Matt introduces readers to cosplay, a portmanteau of costume and play: at its finest, cosplay is a highly elaborate and intricate hobby that demands ingenuity and creativity from cosplayers. The reward for the effort taken towards building a costume comes both from enjoying the process, as well as seeing the finished product. Beyond the satisfaction of having constructed something wonderful, Matt also explores how cosplay, as a form of self-expression, is immensely beneficial in helping people be themselves where they might otherwise be uncomfortable, and ultimately, be happy with immersing themselves into a project that constantly reminds them of the best parts of their hobby.

While I’ve never cosplayed before, primarily as a result of a lack of time and patience, I appreciate that this is an integral aspect towards the anime community, allowing individuals to connect with one another and their favourite series at a deeper level. This is what makes attending anime conventions fun for me: I am able to see the positivity of individuals who genuinely love their hobbies enough to invest time and resources into expressing this love. Both at anime conventions like Otafest and through social media, I’ve seen some highly impressive cosplays, as well: some costumes look as though they were made by designers who had worked in a series, and even simpler cosplays are worth praise, showing an individual’s dedication to a series they connect with. Matt is absolutely right in that cosplaying a character from a series one enjoys will improve the experience, and on this note, while I do not see myself doing anything with this level of commitment, it would be nice to pick up or build an ISAC terminal and then fashion myself into a SHD Agent from The Division: I actually have everything else needed to look the part as a result of the climate in where I live and the activities that I normally partake in.

Let’s Talk About Mental Health: My Path of Recovery with Kristina

Kristina (@DoxieLover_27)

Kristina covers her journey with mental health and recovery. When she found herself feeling unlike herself, she feared that there was something wrong, but also refused treatment out of the worry that professional help was for those with clinical conditions. However, after deciding to accept professional help, Kristina was able to find a suitable treatment programme with both medication and therapy. While the initial steps were challenging, Kristina began recovering, and five years since, she feels much better for it, having found a new rhythm in her life. Mental health is a remarkably difficult topic to speak about owing to misconception that individuals with anxiety, depression or other conditions are somehow lacking, and it has only been in the last few years where advances have allowed for new perspectives to be taken on mental health. Hearing stories about recovery from mental health conditions is particularly encouraging, since it acts as a reminder of what is possible once those critical first steps are taken.

In Kristina’s case, support from family and trust in the clinician were these first steps. There is a commonality in addressing mental health issues; regardless of whose story is being told, every journey invariably involves a support system, whether it be family, friends or professionals. Mental health, thusly, is not an individual problem, but everyone’s problem: by dealing with it together, people overcome their problems together, as well. I am glad to hear that Kristina’s found her road to recovery, and am also immensely grateful for the people in my corner, as well, for having helped me through challenges that I’ve previously faced. Six years ago, I fell into a depression of sorts, and support from family, as well as friends, ending up making all of the difference. Kristina is absolutely right that no one is ever truly alone in this fight, and I hope that she’s doing well.

Let’s Talk About Mental Health: It’s Alright to Take Breaks

Crimson613 (@readatnight00)

Crimson613 shares her experience with mental health and the importance of being able to take breaks: during her post secondary, she took on a wide range of courses and commitments, but began feeling anxiety over reception to her work, even losing sight of what motivated her. Things continued to go downhill from there, as she began failing out of her courses and considered dropping out. However, taking up one particular job, working at the theatre, allowed Crimson613 to begin taking things in from a new perspective. Over time, she became more comfortable with working at the theatre and took initiative to speak with others, developing the leadership skills to both train new staff and become promoted. The returning confidence saw Crimson613 return to classes with a refreshed determination to do well, and Crimson613’s is just one instalment in a series of posts that deal with mental health. The pressures of keeping up and doing well are no stranger: I definitely relate to Crimson613’s story, having been there myself during my time as an undergraduate student. To constantly be striving for excellence even when one is overwhelmed on many fronts is an incredible challenge, and the feelings of doubt and anxiety from the effort needed to maintain this is a very real factor.

In my case, the second year of my undergraduate studies was similar to Crimson613’s. I had stupidly decided that I would attempt to push through Organic Chemistry II and Data Structures II, where my peers had decided to step it back one and take other courses, nearly cost me my degree: my GPA had dropped below the threshold needed to remain in the health science honours programme, and this culminated in me getting involved with an incident where I had been accused of academic misconduct. In the end, what ended up happening was that my friends in health science organised a study party so we could pass organic chemistry together, and I suggested something similar with my data structures class. With help from the TAs and my peers, we ended up passing, and my GPA lived to fight another day. My home faculty also dismissed the allegations after I presented my case, and likewise, I lived to fight another day. Through it all, support from my friends, and my watching K-On! ultimately grounded my thoughts, helped me to come back. The stress and pressure management skills resulting meant that when I went to take my MCAT a year later, I was much better prepared for it mentally. I’m happy to hear that Crimson613’s story has a happy ending: sometimes, inspiration and encouragement can come from the most unexpected of places; with the right support and encouragement, one can turn a minus into a plus and come out all the stronger for it.

5 Reasons Why You Should Watch Carole & Tuesday

Kurumi Shim (@KurumiShim)

Carole & Tuesday is an anime about two disparate individuals who encounter one another, and despite their differences, their love for music leads the two to become a band. In her post, Kurumi Shim steps through five noteworthy aspects of the series that made it worth watching for her, and details how each element plays a major role in making Carole & Tuesday a rewarding anime to follow. These five elements are an inspiring story, top-tier animation, exceptional musical performances, a unique world and genuine characters. Right from the get-go, Kurumi Shim has defined the strengths of Carole & Tuesday. Audiences would be immediately drawn in by a relatable and motivating journey that shows how passion can push people through difficult times, offering a substantial pay-off for those who watch Carole & Tuesday all the way through. In addition, things are set in a world that is simultaneously different and the same as our own; while being a futuristic setting, there are enough familiar elements that make the setting plausible while at once, being distinct. Being an addition to the Spring 2019 lineup, Carole & Tuesday has more than meets the eye, far more than the solid musical piece. With this sort of presentation, Kurumi Shim has convinced me that my decision to sit out most of the Spring 2019 season might not have been the wisest one in the world.

Looking more closely at the specifics, the components that work so well for Carole & Tuesday are essential pieces of virtually everything I watch, and in fact, also can form the basis for what I watch. I value a series most for convincing characters whose stories I can become invested in: watching everyone learn, grow and succeed is an immensely rewarding and cathartic experience. Because learning is such an integral part of life, one of the things I always seek from a given series is to understand what lessons are presented, and how characters change as a result of their experiences. Life lessons in fiction are typically drawn from real-world experiences, and seeing this process allows one to begin taking their own problems into perspective. Besides character growth and the story, Kurumi Shim’s love for the animation and setting in Carole & Tuesday is something I similarly look for in a series. While not every setting needs to be as exotic as Nagi no Asukara or the worlds of Miyazaki, convincing world building and animation creates a much more compelling experience, bringing to life the worlds that the characters inhabit and giving their experiences credibility by showing that the characters do not exist in a vacuum. Overall, I would be inclined to check out Carole & Tuesday thanks to Kurumi Shim’s post, and while I’m unlikely to do so, I’ve also seen yet another example of how effective concise and focused posts can be.

Space Battleship Yamato 2202: Episodes 19 to 22

Jusuchin, A Journey Through Life (@RightWingOtaku)

I’ve long heard about Space Battleship Yamato, even if I’ve not seen it for myself; the gist of what I understand is that the IJN Yamato, mightiest battleship to grace this world and which was sunk in 1945, was raised from the depths of the ocean and upgraded to take on space-faring capabilities. Armed with a wave-motion cannon that can trade punches with one of the Death Star’s tributary lasers, the Yamato and its crew set out to fight extraterrestrial invaders who’ve decimated the Earth’s surface. Fortunately, even if I have limited familiarity with the likes of Space Battleship Yamato 2202, Jusuchin has stepped in to provide a summary of the latest series of episodes, before delving into his thoughts on what happened in the episode, dealing with themes of humanity and how it forms the rallying point behind the human characters. From the abandoning of humanity to improve combat performance, to carrying faith in one’s heart, the crew of different ships show what everyone fights for. The Yamato itself is the centerpiece of the series, and ultimately, despite carrying a powerful set of weapons that level the playing field somewhat, its ultimate weapon is the conviction each of the crew has. These sorts of stories cover human nature at a larger scale than things like Carole & Tuesday, which are deal with interpersonal elements in a more intimate fashion. At the granularity in Space Battleship Yamato 2202, themes of what defines humanity come to the forefront to remind audiences of what makes our societies and civilisations worth fighting for.

Jusuchin admits to me that his submission was rushed out to production, and I will remark that minus his saying this to me, I would never have guessed. With his approach towards blogging, Jusuchin covers elements that I may miss or skate over: when we concurrently did episodic posts for Hai-Furi, or wrote out our reflections for Girls und Panzer, I always found myself impressed with how Jusuchin could point at specific details in an episode or movie, and indicate whether or not it contributed to, or detracted from a moment’s authenticity. This is one of the joys about reading other blogs: besides picking up new work (or at least, gaining exposure to a range of different works), one can also gain insights into more technical or subtle details in a work, especially where the author has a strong interest in a particular field and is able to bring this knowledge to the table when discussing a series. As for Space Battleship Yamato 2202 itself, I would likely need to find a good starting point should I ever find the time to begin this series; I am fully aware that Space Battleship Yamato as a whole is quite iconic and renowned, but one of my biggest shortcomings as a blogger and anime fan is finding the time to keep up with everything.

March Comes in Like a Lion

Fred of aunatural (@AuNaturelOne)

From Fred of aunatural, host of the upcoming July 2019 showcase, comes a post on March Comes in Like a Lion, which is about a shōgi prodigy, Rei Kiriyama, who lost his family in a motor accident. The series thus follows his growth and recovery as he learns more about shōgi under a family friend, rediscovering what it means to have a meaningful connection with others. However, this journey is not an easy one: along the way, Rei is bullied, ostracised and finds himself in difficult situations. Fred notes that with so many moving parts, he initially did not continue past the fifth episode, as the series seemed to be exceptionally melancholy. However, on a second attempt to watch the series, Fred comes to find value in the series, as it tells a story about someone who copes, matures and strengthens as a result of his experiences. While March Comes in Like a Lion is prima facie about shōgi (Japanese chess), the series’ actual focus is on Rei, whose perseverance and refusal to let his circumstances get the better of him eventually allow him to pick himself back up. An inspiring journey, Fred wishes that this series would gain a continuation in some form, because it would be worth seeing closure for Rei and his newfound future. Having heard nothing but good things about March Comes in Like a Lion, it may therefore come as a surprise that I’ve actually not seen this series yet.

Walking into an anime with an accepting mind invariably yields an outcome one might be pleasantly surprised by: in Fred’s case, returning to March Comes in Like a Lion a second time allowed a newfound appreciation for the series that transformed into a greater understanding of what March Comes in Like a Lion‘s themes were about. Rather than seeing Rei suffer endlessly, there was a point to his tribulations. This is a superb reminder that open-mindedness can confer an experience that transforms an unremarkable work into a highly moving, impactful one. I typically do not deal with negative reviews for this reason, since an initial impression might not necessarily reflect how I properly feel about a series – the joys of discovering the merits of a given anime is actually what led to my own Terrible Anime Challenge programme, where I go through a series where I had a priori expectations or impressions of it, then discard these and watch the anime anew to see if my thoughts change any. For the most part, I come out with a positive impression. Overall, given Fred’s assessment of March Comes in Like a Lion, I am inclined to check it out now, although folks should note that I am terrible at watching shows. It’s a miracle this blog exists at all, given how severe my procrastination tendencies are. On the flipside, because I am convinced to at least give March Comes in Like a Lion and other series encountered during this Jon’s Creator Showcase a chance, it indicates that every submission has been successful in presenting me with the merits of a series, speaking to the strength of each author’s content.

Closing Remarks

With the June edition of Jon’s Creator Showcase over, I can say that am happy to have decided to participate in Jon’s Creator Showcase; I admit that I know of half the blogs that I read half as well as I’d like, and I like half the blogs I read half as well as you deserve. Hence, such an initiative was a fun opportunity to get to know other bloggers better. However, all things come to an end, and so, with the end of June, the torch is passed to Fred of Au Natural, who will be hosting the July edition of Jon’s Creator Showcase. Admittedly, I was getting a little nervous when I got in touch with Jon to inquire about who was hosting for July, but after that was cleared out, it means that Jon’s Creator Showcase will see a smooth transition. I look forwards to seeing how Fred presents the July edition and also, what submissions will be made. Since I’m not hosting this time, it means that I’ll be allowed to submit something again, and while my blogging output has declined as of late, I figure that I’ll submit either a talk on Gundam Narrative or K-On!. We’re now into the summer, my favourite time of the year, and with long, warm days comes the opportunity to hike the mountains, take walks in the hills nearby and then enjoy a cold ice cream after, or wander the midway of the Calgary Stampede and see what exotic foods they might have, amongst other things. In short, I intend to make the most of every free moment I have this summer, but fear not, for there’s also some content planned out for this blog during the best season – this year happens to be both the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission and the five year anniversary to the Giant Walkthrough Brain. As well, the summer season for anime features a few series that I’m interested in checking out, so a few of these may also receive posts. Finally, with this post at its end, I’d be happy to hear thoughts from you, readers and bloggers alike, on whether or not I’ve done a reasonable job of representing your content, whether or not my efforts at hosting a Jon’s Creator Showcase were satisfactory, and also just general feedback on how things are run around here in general.