Thanos, Pink Diamond, and How To Do A Complex Villain Right

This post contains major spoilers for Steven Universe and Avengers: Infinity War. You have been warned. 

For a long time, my interest in Steven Universe and the MCU had gone down significantly. SU was marred by countless filler episodes stretched across endless hiatuses, and I found a lot of the recent MCU films unpleasant to watch. I did end up seeing Thor Ragnarok and Black Panther, enjoying both, but not enough to feel like I could be a Marvel fan again.

But this May has been different, thanks to the release of Avengers: Infinity War and “A Single Pale Rose”. They are huge game changers that managed to make me FEEL for both series again. Why? Mostly because of two major characters: Thanos and Pink Diamond.

Spoilers and analysis below.

Continue reading “Thanos, Pink Diamond, and How To Do A Complex Villain Right”

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Aggretsuko: A Breath of Fresh Air

It’s hard for me to get into anime these days. The reason being is, honestly, the lack of positive representation of female characters. I couldn’t get into One Punch Man because the cast was so male dominated, and I wanted to get into My Hero Academia but when the very first female character of the very first episode said, and I quote, “Nice to meet your ASSquaintance” I backed the hell away. My opinion on anime television in general has soured a lot because so many of them sexualize their female characters. I can’t even look at Sailor Moon as fondly as before because of the way the fourteen year old characters are dressed and how the camera ogles at them.

So at first I wasn’t sure if I wanted to see Aggretsuko until a family member recommended it to me. And holy shit, what a breath of fresh air. This is one of the most female friendly pieces of media I have ever seen.

In all of ten episodes, we not only got so many prominent female characters, but not one of them are sexualized at any point in the story. After getting used to even the most innocuous anime objectifying women in some way, I was legit blown away. We could just focus on the female characters as characters instead of eye candy. And I got to be invested in the show.

The story is about a female red panda, Retsuko, who has a terrible office job with a terrible, sexist boss. She is able to express herself through the awesome art of karaoke death metal. She thinks the only way to get out of her job is to get married and be a housewife (a common societal expectation among women). It is through the help of her female friends, including two powerful women (the secretary of the company president and the director of marketing) that she is able to navigate her way through a complicated work and love life and what she really needs.

The first season is only 10 episodes long but is able to get you hooked in with relatable, layered characters. You don’t have to be Japanese to relate to Retsuko’s struggle of working a difficult job and trouble with money, or how love and infatuation can be blurred.

The English voice cast is excellent, the death metal scenes are always fun, and it’s a refreshingly modern romantic comedy that doesn’t rely on sexist tropes. My fave character, Haida, has a crush on Retsuko but does not feel entitled to her, respects her boundaries, and makes it clear that he wants to get to know the real her more, not just the one he knows from the office, and there is no use of stalking either.

Give the show a watch for yourself. It’s available in its entirety on Netflix. After you finish you can look at more ways on how this show is refreshing and modern below:

Overall, this show is awesome and I’m glad I gave it a watch and I look forward to more episodes!

 

Is ‘Autism’ Too Broad?

Well it’s Autism Acceptance Month (not ‘awareness’ because people already know we exist, they just need to stop treating us like shit) and I feel like now I should probably reflect a little. Mainly, why I like the term Autism Spectrum Disorder/ASD/being ‘on the spectrum’, but have gotten a little uncomfortable with the term ‘autism’.

Now, when I was growing up in the late 1990’s/early 2000’s nobody realized the autism spectrum was a thing. It was either distinctly Asperger’s or stereotypical autism. This was a bit of a problem for me. When I was two years old, it was clear something was not quite normal about me. I was speech-delayed. I was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder–Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), and because of my speech delay I could not be diagnosed with Asperger’s (the type of autism that describes me most accurately) on a technicality. So for the longest time I knew something was wrong with me, but I didn’t have a word to describe it. You can tell how growing up would’ve been difficult.

Things have definitely gotten a lot better now that I can be described with the autism SPECTRUM definition. But I feel like because of the term ‘autistic’ I am still subject to a lot of discrimination in the world of post-secondary education.

See, when most people think of autistic people, they think of those who have less capabilities/more difficulties than most people. While it is true I need some accommodations, for the most part I’m not really ‘disabled’. I’m just differently abled. This is one reason why I’m starting to switch to the Asperger’s label, which I’ll get to in a minute. But, basically, when people learn that I am ‘autistic’ but am actually very smart and capable (except when I’m not), they don’t know how to react. Sometimes they’ll have trouble understanding why I have difficulty with group work and can’t (or won’t) accommodate me, sometimes they’ll tell me to my face I’m not ready for work only to deny it when I confront them about it later, sometimes they’ll go behind my back and say I’m not ready for college level education because I’m not performing to a certain, impossibly high standard, and other times they’ll try to push me to my limits in a very condescending and harsh tone because I’ve made it so far. And don’t think of expressing your feelings and explaining how you feel you’ve been treated because they won’t sympathize with you.

This is one reason I actually like functioning labels because it can help both the ASD person and the people around them gauge what they are capable of and what they need help with. Just saying ‘autistic’ can mean anything. But because there will always be some people who use these labels to discriminate further (denying lower functioning people agency and higher functioning people accessibility) a lot of people on the spectrum don’t like using them and just say ‘autistic’.

I feel the term ‘autistic’ has become too broad, not helpful, and in some cases, harmful. My main reason for saying this is because far too often, I see people from all over the spectrum with different interests, skills, and challenges all lumped together in the same support group in the hope that we’ll all get along, have fun, and learn the same thing. No one autism spectrum person is the same, and I feel like saying we’re all united because we can describe ourselves as ‘autistic’ is untrue. We all face discrimination and ableism, and we may have similar quirks, but we don’t all have the same experiences or are affected by our neurotype the same way.

But the worst thing is that I can’t help but feel that a lot of people who are profoundly NOT on the spectrum are using the autism label because they are just a little bit different/have some problems (when something like ADHD or OCD might be a more accurate and helpful label). Why do I say this? Because when I see someone describe themselves as autistic but behaves like a complete bigot and asshole, I get the impression that they’re lying and/or using it as an excuse for shitty behaviour. There’s an entire group of aphobes (people who treat asexual people like shit and think they’re all straight for some reason) with a lot of members calling themselves autistic and it’s VERY suspicious.

So because of all this, while I am proud to say I am on the autism spectrum, I’m starting to call myself an Aspie (person with Asperger’s) than just ‘autistic’. Asperger’s is the most accurate place on the spectrum I belong to and it’s honestly kind of empowering for me, letting people know I am capable but just need my own space.

This is all how I feel, of course, and I’m not forcing other people on the spectrum to change their label or feel differently. ASD rights have come a long way, but work still needs to be done. We need allistic people to realize autism is not always a one-size-fits-all definition, realize we all have our strengths and limits, and be willing to work with us to accommodate us, rather than just make assumptions based on how we usually work and then get confused and angry when they get overwhelmed or need help. I won’t be surprised if having more descriptions for autism might be necessary.

Final Thoughts (for now): Big Hero 6 The Series

Warning: Spoilers. 

Image result for big hero 6 the series

Thanks to the UK getting the series release early, I have managed to see the first five episodes of Big Hero 6: The Series. What did I think?

Well first off, my initial guess of the series probably being filler has been pretty much correct. A lot of it is just random, lighthearted adventures of our beloved heroes. The only episode that seems to actually add anything to the movie’s lore is Fred’s Bro-Tillion, which gives us more of Fred’s family.

I will admit, Fred’s Bro-Tillion and another episode, Food Fight, which is a Cass-centric episode, were actually very enjoyable and fun. After Issue 188 (the one that introduced the new, unappealing character of Karmi) left a bad taste in my mouth and Big Roommates (that had Honey move in with Gogo) ended up being mostly boring, those episodes did actually make me smile and keep me invested. Food Fight was a fun episode that gave us more of Cass, her interests outside of Hiro and the cafe, and a legitimately cool villain (and Gordon Fucking Ramsay makes a cameo) and Fred’s Bro-Tillion had a lot of great jokes and Stan Lee is awesome. Those episodes were genuinely good (not great, but good and fun). It does give me some hope that the show might not be a total garbage fire. But the show still pales in comparison to what it could have been.

I’m starting to suspect that budget is a huge issue with the show. The animation is just so stiff and clunky and the style has been polarizing for a lot of people. I know I can’t expect movie quality animation, but there are other Disney shows that have fluid, beautiful animation. Just compare it to the Tangled series and there’s a huge difference. The writing is also hugely hit or miss. I can’t say it’s because Disney had no faith in the project since they’ve already renewed it for a second season, but I have a feeling there’s a low morale among the crew. I mean if you ask people if they want a proper BH6 sequel or a lower budget cartoon follow up made for kids, they’ll probably go for the sequel.

While it’s still a little too early to tell, it doesn’t look like the characters are getting the development everyone was asking for. Wasabi in particular is kind of getting the short end of the stick, behaving more cowardly and anal than he was in the movie. Baymax is mostly used for comic relief and getting his mechanisms messed with than being the heart and soul of the team he actually is. The only character who seems to be actually getting anything consistently is Fred. In fact the show seems to focus more on Hiro’s relationship with Fred than anyone else. At least Honey and Gogo are badass female characters are usual.

A lot of the villains are more like comic relief than actual threats. I know there’s supposed to be a Big Bad that’s actually intimidating, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have villains with some credibility. I also find if baffling there are a few instances where our heroes just…let the villains get away. Like you’re not even going to try to stop them? That kind of cements the fact that the villains aren’t a real threat. If you put any of them in the same room as Yokai he’d kick their asses.

But I think the major problem with the show–as someone else pointed out–is the lack of real HEART. The original movie had everything: exciting action, clever comedy, layered characters, a chilling villain, but, most of all, an emotional core about love, loss, forgiveness and healing. The show, on the other hand, is mostly just comedy. Baymax Returns touched on the heart a little, but didn’t have the same emotional impact as the first movie. The fact that we don’t see Hiro and Baymax interact as much in the series when they were practically inseparable in the first movie says a lot.

So yeah, unless there’s a major twist for the season finale, I don’t think the show is going to be anything really special. The show will probably get better, but it already made it clear it’s mostly just a kid’s comedy rather than a legit continuation of the first movie.

And with that, I think I’ve gotten everything I feel about the series out of the way. Now I can focus on my other interests before the actual sequel eventually comes out.

Cuphead: A New Canadian Classic

Image result for cuphead

Chad and Jared Muldenhauer, two brothers from Oakville, Ontario, Canada (which is basically next door to the city I live) had a dream: make their own video game. In 2013, they set out to make their dream a reality by working on a new and original video game  that had the aesthetic and charm of a classic 1930’s cartoon. After a few delays to perfect the project, Cuphead was released in 2017 to rave reviews.

Like a lot of people, I was drawn to it by the design and style. It was so refreshing to see traditional hand drawn animation (and beautiful, well done animation for that matter) on a video game format, and the characters looked like a lot of fun. Finally, this year, for my birthday, I got it as a present. And after over a month, I have completed it! (On Normal of course, I’ll get to the expert mode soon.)

What are my thoughts?

Well, I will say that those delays paid off because there’s so much DETAIL in this game. Like the animation of course is a real gem, but the music is excellent and there’s all sorts of hidden achievements and surprises. You can tell Studio MDHR went all out on this game. There’s definitely enough things to keep you interested in playing.

While the gameplay is hard, it also helps you learn how to be a better player. You have to form strategies on how to beat the enemy and advance. Try this charm here, try this super there. The bosses are actually a lot of fun, and I would always throw up my arms and shout “YES!” whenever I beat them. And for the most part I didn’t find them TOO hard. The only boss that really and truly frustrated me, oddly enough, was Beppi the Clown. But even the toughest boss feels so rewarding when you are able to beat them. I was able to pass with the lowest grade of B- and was even able to get a few A+ grades!

The platforming/run n gun levels (where you collect coins) I found more difficult and less enjoyable to be honest. Mainly because even though they’re short, there is just so much stuff thrown at you. I was honestly stuck on the run n gun levels of Inkwell Isle Three for over a week, that was how bad it got (I was able to beat the infamous Dr. Kahl’s Robot before those levels). They’re less fun and rewarding than the bosses, that’s for sure.

Despite the platforming, the bosses, challenging but engaging gameplay, and overall beauty of the game kept me interested and makes it one of my faves. But most of all, as a fellow Canadian, I feel a great sense of pride that an independent studio from my country can achieve worldwide fame and acclaim.

If you are interested in this game, please buy it legally from Steam and the Windows store. The creators had to quit their jobs and remortgage their houses to make the game possible. Luckily it paid off since the game has sold over 2 million copies, but still, they’re not exactly a big conglomerate corporation that won’t hurt over a few pirates. (I find it interesting that they had to go that route. I’m sure they could have put it on a crowdfunding website and it would have had the same success, but then again, maybe they didn’t want to potentially screw people over if the game didn’t succeed. Either way, it’s a rare risk that paid off.)

Here are some tips I have to help you win the game:

  • Don’t be afraid to look for help. If you are stuck, you can look up tutorials on YouTube on how to get ahead/look for secrets. The game should be fun most of all.
  • Similarly, don’t be afraid if it takes you a long time to finish the game. Again, the game should be fun, and you should be able to finish it at your own pace. Take your time if you need to.
  • The P Sugar charm is your friend. Use it as much as you can, especially on levels that require a lot of parrying.
  • The Chaser weapon is a good weapon to get you started, but be warned, it does not do a lot of damage. I recommend the Roundabout since it has a wide range (can hit more targets) and does a great deal of damage. The Lobber weapon is great if you have to shoot down at a target; I used it to beat the Dragon boss, Grim Matchstick.
  • I recommend using the Heart and Twin Heart Charms for the airplane levels since there’s a LOT of stuff that will be thrown your way. I don’t recommend them for other levels because they decrease your attack power and will draw out the level.
  • When you do the Pacifist mode for the Run and Gun Levels the Smoke Bomb charm will help you a lot.
  • Otherwise, keep firing. Fire fire fire. Use the Supers to your heart’s content.
  • Maneuverability is a HUGE asset to the game. This is something I admittedly lack since I kept dying a lot in the game. If you need to, you can go on simple mode to practice before using regular.
  • When you’re on King Dice’s level, use the P Sugar charm to help you with the dice because there will definitely be some mini bosses you will not like. Carefully determine which bosses you can handle and try to land on their number. Remember, if you lose to a mini boss you have to start the level all over again.
  • Most importantly, DON’T GIVE UP! You will beat the game, I promise. There were times when I thought I was going to be stuck for good but I got through it. You can do it too.

I’ll probably add some more when I beat the game on Expert, but overall, this should help you get started.

Finally, I should mention my fave characters. The bosses I found most fun to play were Werner Werman, Phantom Express, and Hilda Berg. The easiest were Goopy Le Grande and The Root Pack. In terms of characters I like on a personal or aesthetic level, my faves are Cagney Carnation (very original, I know), Baroness von Bon Bon, Cala Maria, and the Devil. I honestly love this game’s interpretation of the Devil. I love his overall design, the different forms he can shapeshift into, the attacks he can use, the animation on him, and how he’s just chilling on some random isle running his own casino. I also love the animation on King Dice.

Overall, this game was a blast and I’m really excited to see more adventures of these characters and more games from Studio MDHR.

How Same Face Criticism Can Become Sexist

Waaaay back in 2013, when Frozen came out, a lot of people pointed out one or both of two things: that Anna and Elsa had the same face, and/or that they had the same face as Rapunzel. It has since sparked the discourse of “Same Face Syndrome” looking at female character design in Disney animated movies.

At first, I was relatively on board with it. I mean, it seemed like a pretty big issue, especially since all three characters have huge-eyed heads on stick thin bodies. But by the time Big Hero 6 was being hyped, things got WAAAAAAAAAAAY out of hand.

The “Honey Lemon looks like Rapunzel!” claim has practically become a meme, but I noticed right away that it was less about wanting better representation and more about wanting to look for something to blame/make Disney look evil. Proof? The treatment of Gogo in fandom until the film’s release.

Gogo was either outright ignored in favour of debating Honey Lemon’s face, or, I shit you not, accused of looking like Elsa. I actually saw a post claiming that Honey Lemon looked like Rapunzel, Aunt Cass looked like Anna, and Gogo looked like Elsa. Not only is that extremely contradictory given how just the year before they claimed that Anna/Elsa/Rapunzel all looked the same (and now they admit there’s some differences) but I felt like the situation had gotten really sexist. The women of Big Hero 6 definitely don’t look identical to each other, have more diverse body shapes, and are scientists and superheroes…and the first thing you do is claim they all have the same face to make Disney look like the worst thing ever.

Like, all that mattered to these people was how the characters looked. Nothing else. Thankfully it mostly died down once the film was released, but the cycle began anew when Moana was in the works and people AGAIN tripped over themselves to justify saying that Moana looked like another Rapunzel clone. Yes, really. Because that’s not racist at all, taking the first Princess of Color in a long time and one of the few Polynesian characters in media and saying that she’s just another Rapunzel clone.

To add insult to injury, these people would be the type to claim that Disney was evil and DreamWorks Animation was so much better, showing how DreamWorks women have more diverse faces. Never mind that most DreamWorks female characters only exist in small or supporting roles and not as leads, all that matters is, again, their looks.

While it is important to have more female characters that aren’t doe-eyed waifs, at some point you have to realize that fixating solely on how a female character looks and not the role she plays in the story or how developed she is a character veers dangerously into sexist territory. You can be a woman and the hero of your own story but if you look too pretty or similar to another female character, it won’t matter as much.

The reason why I’m bringing this up again is because I came across some redesigns for the women of Overwatch. I don’t feel like it would be right to post the pictures here, so I will instead link you to them right HERE. (Disclaimer: this is NOT a personal attack on the editor or their editing skills, or saying that all the redesigns are bad. They have a right to criticize, I have a right to respond.)

While I have no problems with giving them thicker body types, what really strikes me is how some of the face redesigns are either unnecessary or uncanny valley. Like why do you need to redesign Ana and Moira? Their designs are pretty revolutionary for video game standards, and Moira just looks unappealing. Widowmaker is left in her unpractical outfit in order to give her zombielike eyes. I’m honestly really offended at the Zarya redesign; lord knows, we can’t have big buff women ALSO be beautiful and feminine at the same time.

See, the thing I liked about Overwatch was that is showed that ALL women can be beautiful and powerful. Women of colour, disabled women, older women, bigger women, you name it. There is definitely some deserved criticisms, such as making a lot of the women look very young and not having more women with thicker builds, but I just don’t understand why female character designs constantly need to be criticized and picked apart while nobody feels the need to redesign male characters for any reason.

Yes, it is important to be critical of things we love and consume. Yes, we need more diversity in female character designs. But if you find yourself overly fixated with how a character looks, point flaws that aren’t necessarily there, and don’t say anything about a male character’s design (beyond how he’s allowed to look different) at the expense at looking at the female character’s role in the story and how she can represent marginalized women…the problem might be with you first. But that’s just how I feel about it at least.

This Week In Disney

This has been a bit of a roller coaster of a week for Disney fans. So of course, I might as well reflect on it.

THE BIG HERO 6 SERIES

Series delay

(Source)

Big Hero 6: The Series was originally supposed to be released in the US and Canada in March, but now that is not the case. In fact, the creators have absolutely no idea when it will start airing over here, other than the fact that when it does, there will be a lot of episodes ready to go. I can’t find it on the Twitter feed (but someone had screencapped it before), but apparently there’s a new ‘programming strategy’ in effect that’s delaying all the Disney TV shows.

This is very frustrating and part of the reason why my enthusiasm for the show has dropped. Having to wait SO LONG for new episodes only for them to come out just okay has really soured my feelings for the show. But more than anything, it shows that Big Hero 6 is not going to get the proper continuation it deserves with all the delays and hiatuses. Why do you think so many people would rather have a sequel?

But this is not really a new phenomena. Disney has always been crap with their treatment of TV shows. They tend to air shows at really crappy timeslots; the Tangled Series, which originally aired at a reasonable time on Sunday evenings, was suddenly switched to Saturday at 8am, when most people (kids and adults) would rather sleep in. The second season for Gravity Falls struggled to get off the ground, and the rarely give their shows, even the really popular ones, a proper DVD release (it took TEN YEARS for the second half of the second season of Gargoyles to come out on DVD). And of course so many of their other shows are still on hiatus (just look at the Ducktales Reboot).

What makes this weird is that apparently the show is airing early in Europe. Both the UK and Continental Europe are getting a LOT of hype for the show, with early access to shorts and even some of the episodes! I’m not sure if they’re run by different people there, or if Disney really wants to get the European market.

I’m not sure why the treatment of TV shows is so shoddy. If I had to guess, it might be because Disney doesn’t think the shows are as profitable or will have lasting value like their movies do. It’s hard to tell, but at some point, if they want to continue making shows and letting people watch them, they just need to start streaming them instead. They’re planning on launching a streaming network to rival Netflix in 2019, so they better use it to showcase ALL of their shows. It’s the least they could do. At any rate, the series isn’t really going to do the first BH6 movie justice at this point. Hopefully there will be some really good episodes to make up for the wait times.

WRECK IT RALPH 2 TEASER DROPS

FINALLY we get a clip of what to expect from Disney’s next movie and THIS IS SO EXCITING! I was initially worried they’d just post a very brief scene that wouldn’t even make it into the movie, but nope, we actually get to see Ralph and Vanellope traverse the world of the Internet!

So far, so good. The characters are in character, the animation is PHENOMENAL, and it even manages to have some dark humor that works (and don’t worry, Rich Moore confirmed that the bunny is okay). I can already tell there’s going to be a lot of social commentary about how we use the Internet along with the jokes (notice how the game the little girl plays has absolutely no educational value). I have faith Rich Moore can pull it off.

My only complaint is that they haven’t shown Yesss yet. I really want to know what she looks like and get an idea of what role she plays in the story.

But still, I’m excited as hell. The wait is going to hurt!

ELSA GETS A GIRLFRIEND (?)

Since Disney cannot let Frozen go (pun intended), there’s going to be a sequel, probably in 2019. Yay?

Well, the latest buzz on the Internet is that Elsa might get a girlfriend!…sort of. According to director Jennifer Lee, she loves the #GiveElsaAGirlfriend momentum and how much Elsa means to LGBTQ audiences, and that she and her crew are very conscientious about it…but won’t confirm or deny anything. All she could say, in the vaguest way possible, that they’ll have to see what happens. (Source).

It would definitely be HUGE if Elsa got a female love interest, but I doubt Disney’s actually going to pull it off. They seem to be making progress with LGBTQ characters in television, but in movies, not so much. The hyped up Gay Lefou in the Beauty and the Beast remake is never openly said to be gay and dances with a man for about two seconds. I don’t know if Disney’s going to risk losing audiences for their biggest cashcow by explicitly giving Elsa a love interest or even saying that she’s lesbian or bisexual. If they DO I’ll be pleasantly surprised and give Frozen another chance, but, again, I have doubts. They’re more likely to just leave her single. I just hope they don’t give her a male love interest because that will add insult to injury. But we’ll see.

And finally, on February 27, Coco Day was celebrated at the Los Angeles City Hall! I don’t have much to say about it, other than holy shit this is probably the most important movie Disney and Pixar have made in a long time. Start HERE, and then look up more videos!

This has been a really awesome week for fandom in general (Overwatch announced a new hero!) but this is going to keep Disney fans satisfied for awhile. I’m definitely looking forward to where the company will go for 2018.