Anime: love it and hate it

Warning, folks. This is a long one.

There are some things that really exhaust me when it comes to anime.

I’ve been watching anime off and on for pretty much as long as I can remember. As a kid, I was totally hooked on Sailor Moon, and the Japanese live-action import of Power Rangers. I would sing the Sailor Moon theme song (the English version, of course – I was only slightly bilingual at the time, having not moved on to any other language besides Spanish) and do flips on the monkey bars at school. My favorites were Sailor Venus, because she was the strongest, and Sailor Mars, because she was the prettiest.

Anime dropped off the radar for a couple of years after that. A notable exception was when my dad brought home Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke sometime around middle school. That film blew my mind, needless to say, and remains one of my favorite movies. Not long after, my brother and I discovered Toonami, then airing typical shounen animes like Dragonball Z and Inuyasha. We also encountered some heavier stuff. Wolf’s Rain comes to mind as a particularly phenomenal and scarring work in later years. My dad really hated for us to stay up and watch anime, because he didn’t want us up after he had gone to bed. The anime only came on after midnight, so it was a constant battle.

There were no shoujo anime that I remember on Toonami. The stories were all about huge battles and epic quests. This in and of itself is not a bad thing – I’m a fan of huge battles and epic quests. But it’s notable that the only female characters that I really remember from the anime in my teen years are the cast of Outlaw Star, which has remained one of my favorites to this day, and Kagome from Inuyasha. I don’t think I ever remember seeing a woman on the episodes of Dragonball that I watched. The women on screen, with the exception of Aisha and Suzuka, were not expected to do anything particularly. They were pawns to the power they held, dragged into situations far beyond them. At least Kagome and Melfina managed to find themselves eventually, which may be why I remember them so fondly.

As an adult, I have continued to watch anime. I even collect it now. I have logged hours and hours. Every once in a while, an anime will come along that blows my mind. Akatsuki no Yona, Serei no MoribitoPrincess Jellyfish, Durarara!!!, to name a few. And of course you have to love the old classics. But I find that there are some tropes that repeat over and over that can be really exhausting for me.

This week, I am watching Kuromukuro, a Netflix original. A friend recommended this one to me, actually. I was skeptical – I’m not a huge fan of mecha anime outside of classics like Gundam Wing. It’s been done, and done again, and then done some more. But the first episode was interesting, the premise kind of caught my attention, so I’ve been watching it. And I’m so frustrated.

Kuromukuro falls into a tired trope that reoccurs often in anime as an art form, especially in shounen anime. There is a girl. She sort of has an identity? She has people who surround her, tenuous relationships, unformed dreams, so I guess that counts. But those dreams never go anywhere. Unforeseen circumstances catch her up, and she ends up bobbing in the wake of some powerful male figure. Usually she cries about it somewhere in there. He needs her around to accomplish his goals, and he may pay lip service to her autonomy, but the plot itself never backs up his altruism. She just doesn’t do anything. She’s a magical object. You only need her to make the machine run. A glorified key that can talk.

I’d almost rather that girl didn’t exist. I’d almost rather the story just was about the man. At least it would not feel so degrading. There are insipid people about in the world, don’t get me wrong. Sometimes you might even need them for something. But unless it moves your plot, your message, to write that character, I personally don’t want to read about them. That would be true if they were male or female.

The issue is simply that these weak, deadweight characters are so often female that it almost becomes synonymous. When every woman’s story is hijacked by a man, when her only powers are domestic or romantic in a plot driven by glorious battles, it’s incongruous. And it sends a message that women’s stories are only worth telling if there is an interesting hypermasculine character to carry them forward. I’m not here for that. I’m not here for lazy writing that falls back on tired tropes about the uselessness of women.

Anime can be a wonderful medium. I have had my brain stretched so many times by this stuff, and I love it. I love Japanese, too. It has this speckled rhythm that pleases me, and the writing system is fascinating. But I do get tired sometimes. As with all mediums, there are genres and tropes which exhaust me. I’m sure this is not the last time that I will be disgusted by a writer’s treatment of a female character, either. I won’t stop watching anime anytime soon, but I’m definitely going to have to take a break from shounen for a bit after this experience.

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Summer slump and life changes

Did I mention that I have a new job?

The job is awesome. It is closer to my house, for one, so I can (and have, once) bike in. I get a bike stipend if I do it enough times as congratulations for offsetting my carbon footprint. This is pretty much my jam. It takes me five minutes instead of 45 to get to the office by car. The amount of energy I have without an hour and a half of car time every day is stupendous. The job itself involves doing something I love and that I am very passionate about. This is not to say my previous job didn’t involve interesting things that I was passionate about, but I am more excited about this stuff as a rule.

That said, changing jobs is definitely a taxing experience. There are all sorts of things I don’t understand about what I’m supposed to be doing here. There’s this weird system of tracking hours on all of the projects I have. There are all of the projects I have. There was the sudden rush to finish all of the things at my old job and now there is a sudden rush to know all of the new things at this job. Part of my day every day is just shrugging. And emailing people asking desperately for enlightenment.

Plus, it’s summer. Literally birthdays every other weekend that I can’t miss and so much tempting hiking and kayaking to do.

Given all that it has been incredibly difficult to focus on anything to do with my writing.

Ideally I don’t have time to get bogged down in the minutiae of my day-to-day existence. Eating? Working? Pffft. There is a book I want out by winter. Realistically? I don’t have the time to not get bogged down in these details. Writing, sadly, still does not pay the bills. It will probably never pay the bills, at least not until I am pleasantly retired. (And at that point aren’t the bills still being paid by the work of the day job? So yeah, maybe never.)

That said, I spent last night typing up some of the words I have managed to scratch out over something like the past month. There weren’t a lot of them, but glacial progress is still progress. And I feel connected to the WIP for the first time in weeks. Now it’s just a matter of deepening that connection and climbing back on the wagon.

The advantage, too, is that I have all this aforementioned time freed up from the lack of commuting. Which is like…the best. A changing schedule means my normal writing times have also gotten rearranged, but once I can get that figured out I am sure that I will have more consistent time for this book. Which should breathe life into my stalled out publishing timeline.

And, happy thing, I’m starting the process to get a cover for this book a little early, meaning now! This is going to be a great thing from a promotional perspective, because I can use it for cover reveals and giveaways. So be looking out for updates on that!

It’s going to be great, folks. I just have to be patient. And stop spending an inordinate amount of time playing in the sun on the weekends, maybe.

 

Some things I’m looking forward to, Part II

A week ago I posted about the films/TV shows that I’m looking forward to seeing adapted from some favorite books, and now I’m going to list some books and novellas that I’m very excited about. None of these are out yet, but they’re all on my wish list. I am only going to mention the ones that I am the most excited about, though, because my wish list is very long.

Ghost Talkers – Mary Robinette Kowal

This book. Really. I’ve read the beginning and it looks so good. I am a huge fan of alternate re-tellings of WWI/WWII anything. One of my all-time favorite series was Martha Wells’ The Fall of Ile-Rien, which is set in a fantastical psuedo-Britain which is being invaded by a fantastical psuedo-Germany. There are many dissimilarities, but the specter of such an all-encompassing industrial conflict is something that I feel really drawn to for some reason. I think it’s a time period that is vastly underutilized in fantasy and historical fantasy, so I am so excited to see a book set in this time. Not to mention that Mary Robinette Kowal is known for the quality of her research as well as her prose. While I have enjoyed her Glamourist Histories books, I’m actually really excited to see her writing liberated from the prose style favored by Jane Austen and her contemporaries, which can sometimes feel a little staid for me. I also love this cover. Just love it. It feels simultaneously ethereal and tense, which is a bit what talking to ghosts would feel like I imagine.

Once Broken Faith – Seanan McGuire

I’m also looking forward to Full of Briars, which is a novella coming out in the same world. Seanan McGuire’s October Daye novels were something I was a bit slow to get into, but I’m so glad I stuck around. She has become one of my absolute favorite authors. She seems to really know how to speak to the human condition, which is what I look for in a novel or similar project. I trust McGuire to lead me down interesting roads and cut me to the quick. She also writes as Mira Grant, and one of my favorite series which I have read recently is the Newsflesh trilogy. I would pay all of my money to see that trilogy made into a Netflix mini-series or series of movies. Like all of my money. Actually seeing any of McGuire’s stuff on the screen would be ideal in a perfect future. Supposedly some of the rights have been acquired for Newsflesh and the October Daye series, but there’s not be any indication of production (and that was really another blog post so I should probably get back to books).

Nevernight – Jay Kristoff

I have to admit, I add this last book tentatively. I’m watching it because it has gotten great reviews in the pre-readings and the concept looks like my jam. However, I haven’t read anything by this author previously. My favorite story-line from A Song of Ice and Fire is definitely Arya’s, so with a narrative about an orphaned girl being trained as an assassin I am very interested from the get go. Plus three suns which never set? That sounds brutal for world-building purposes and I’m excited to see how it is executed. Also, I was totally pulled in by what I believe is the Kindle cover or ARC cover perhaps, which I’ve included below because it is probably one of my favorite covers that I’ve seen recently. I of course don’t own the image, but I wish I did.

Anyway, that is it for things I am waiting for right now. I also have a lot of other books on my to read list, but there is unfortunately only so much time in the day. I’m sure you’ll be hearing about the things I get to in future posts!

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