Browsing Category


Personal opinions and commentary.

Screen Shot 2018-11-17 at 1.26.46 PM

The Animated Film That Asks: Who Gets to Eat Who?

Directed by Tatsuo Satou and with a screenplay by animator Masaaki Yuasa, the 2001 Japanese short film Cat Soup is a contemporary cult classic among fans of the experimental anime genre. Based on Chiyomi Hashiguchi’s 1990 manga Nekojiru, the film would never be seen by the mangaka herself—it was produced three years after her suicide in 1998, under supervision from her husband.


What Your Favorite Zelda Game Says About You

Everybody loves personality tests, because everybody loves hearing about themselves. There’s just one problem with all these tests—they’re totally bogus. Meyers-Briggs? Junk. Blood type? Absurd. Star sign? Well, astrology is very much in right now so to avoid the ire of all of my homosexual Brooklynite readers I’ll just say it’s less than perfect.

vrv dice

Tabletop Roleplaying is Theatre Without All the Hard Work

Dungeons & Dragons is community theatre.

Like your Dungeons & Dragons game, if you bring up your community theatre production of Romeo and Juliet at Thanksgiving, the best you can expect is a condescending “oh that’s nice” and a thin smile from your homophobic aunt. And stripped down to its essentials, any roleplaying game is about embodying characters—you know, playing roles—and using the game’s structure to tell stories about those characters. It’s theatre made for the gratification of the performers, rather than the approval of an audience, which is pure and good as hell.


Bendy and the Ink Machine: When You See the Writing on the Wall

The Meatly’s vintage indie horror serial Bendy and the Ink Machine has been fascinating gamers since its first chapter dropped in February of last year. Putting you in the shoes of former cartoonist Henry Stein, the game leads you through the remains of an old-time animation studio. You’re on a quest to “find something” for your former partner, Joey Drew—but what that “something” is isn’t clear until the very end of the final chapter.


The Struggle to Get Queer Content in Cartoons

There’s a heartening trend of lesbian representation in contemporary American kids’ cartoons. The most recent and obvious example is the Adventure Time finale, when Princess Bubblegum and Marceline’s series-long subtext finally made its way into canon. But the long arc of the medium has been pointing in that direction for a while now, between Legend of Korra ending by pushing the main girls as a couple as hard as they could get away with (Dec. 2014) and Steven Universe’s escalation from eye kisses (March 2015) to full-on lesbian weddings (July 2018).

Untitled 3

Shopping for the Single Man: How Playboy Paved the Way for Funko Pops

The very first issue of Playboy hit newsstands in December 1953, and right away Hugh Hefner left no ambiguities about the purpose of his premiere publication—the cover of the inaugural issue advertised a nude centerfold of superstar Marilyn Monroe, printed without her foreknowledge, consent, or the legal requirement for either. Several pages before that centerfold was Hefner’s first editorial, in which he sought to define the magazine’s namesake.

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 10.28.01 AM

What Magical Girls Can Teach Us About Jungian Psychology

Puella Magi Madoka Magica is a story about Carl Jung’s concept of the shadow, our unconscious double and what it gives to us. For Jung, a Swiss psychoanalyst who extended the work of Freud, “the shadow is that hidden, repressed, for the most part hidden and guilt laden personality…” It is the part of the self that one often does not see, but when not expressed creates its own fate.


The Art of the Pre-Written RPG Adventure

Typically, a game of Dungeons and Dragons or another tabletop roleplaying game relies on the imagination of the dungeon master. Like inviting friends over for a home-cooked meal, stewed over hours of notes and ideas, the DM has to carefully put together an experience from scratch.

But sometimes it’s too late for a home cooked meal—or you don’t know your guests’ tastes well enough. Sometimes you want a meal—or a game night—prepared by someone who was paid to make it for you. That’s where a pre-written adventure comes in.


Becoming the Happy Mask Salesman

When your cosplay gets mistaken for an HD remake screenshot, you know it’s good. And that’s exactly what happened to Geina, aka PokuriMio. Her Legend of Zelda Happy Mask Salesman cosplay is so accurate, so lifelike, that those who saw it simply had no choice other than to believe Nintendo was re-releasing Majora’s Mask on the Switch. The character is a memorable to fans as one of the first characters one encounters in the game, his creepy mannerisms setting the tone for a Zelda adventure significantly darker than Link’s previous outings.


A Database To Call Home: Community and Progress in Log Horizon

When a genre of anime and manga such as Isekai—being transferred to a fantasy world—has proliferated to an extreme degree, it can be difficult to find meaning in individual stories. Though larger properties like Sword Art Online are sometimes held as standard-bearers for Isekai as a whole, the genre has more to offer than simple wish fulfillment stories about fantasy worlds. Whether it’s Re: Zero’s meditation on the nature and effect of game-like magic powers, or KonoSuba satirizing every aspect of JRPGs, Isekai has room for exploration and experimentation.


Gaining Strength From Fairy Tales in RWBY

I have a soft spot for retellings of fairy tales. I might not know the original versions of Snow White or Beauty and The Beast, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying different versions of these stories, which have been told and retold hundreds of times over hundreds of years. Because these kinds of narratives draw on basic human experiences and emotions, they continue to turn up in different media, and it feels like there’s always new magic magic to be found in their characters and settings.


Plastic Love – SH Figuarts Bulma

Welcome back to Plastic Love! Today I’m breaking the streak of looking at Good Smile stuff to look at Japan’s even bigger toy giant, Bandai. The SH Figuarts line—it stands for “Simple style and Heroic action”—is Bandai’s standard action figure line for adults. Though it specializes in and excels at superheroes, the line has no particular genre focus: anime idols, Marvel movie heroes, and real-life superheroes like Bruce Lee have all been produced. And of course, there is an army of Figuarts of the characters from the immortal Dragon Ball series.

Screen Shot 2018-11-10 at 1.03.46 PM

Figurin’ Out All Over Again How to Fuckin’ Live: Depictions of Mental Illness in Deadwood

Sometimes it feels like Deadwood never happened. With shows like Maniac and Bojack Horseman dominating conversations about mental illness in TV, it’s easy to forget that back in 2004 David Milch’s bloody, profane gold rush period piece broke trail on some of the most daring and empathetic portrayals of mentally ill characters in television history. It’s not my intent to look down my nose at people who enjoy Bojack Horseman’s therapy-session style of discussing depression and anxiety, but I’ve never found it particularly interesting. As my friend and fellow critic Sean T. Collins put it in a review of Netflix’s Maniac: “When I think of lines from films and television shows about mental illness and suffering that have really moved me, it’s not stuff I’ve heard before cutting a check to my psychiatrist for my co-pay, it’s stuff I’d never thought of before at all, but rang true the moment I heard it.”


Welcome to Hip Hop’s Anime Moment

21-year old Atlanta rapper SahBabii had a predictable, ultra-relatable journey into otakudom. It began, as all things do, with Bleach reruns, which dovetailed neatly into the feudal warfronts and ramen lunches of Naruto. To him, anime is all about the vibes—the serene, blue-sky hypnosis that can be summoned up by Miyazaki food scenes, or sepia Watanabe panoramics, or endless episodes of Shippuden on a bedroom carpet.


The Anime About The Ultimate Scammer

You know the drill. With a subtle nod and a thousand-yard stare tougher than steel-plated armor, a cool and collected character nonchalantly paints the walls with their enemies. I’m talking about telekinesis, baby, a power that practically formed a sub-genre of its own in the anime and manga of the ’80s and ’90s. From the timeless Akira to creator Katsuhiro Otomo’s own Domu and more modern espers like Elfen Lied and A Certain Magical Index, there’s just something about third-eye thrills and joint-popping gestures that are a perfect fit for anime.

Screen Shot 2018-11-08 at 9.45.41 AM

Nostalgia, Maturity and Big Green Dinosaurs in All Grown Up!

Before Spongebob Squarepants, Nickelodeon’s first big hit was Rugrats, a show about a gang of misbehaving babies going off and doing god-knows-what as they escape the clutches of parental supervision and delve into the giant sandbox that is the world outside their playpen. Its 172 episodes and 3 theatrical movies over a 13-year run was enough to garner multiple accolades, including Daytime Emmys, a Hollywood Star, dozens of merchandise. It did so well, in fact, that it even generated a spin-off series.

Screenshot (351)

Dredd Was a Battle Royale

If you’ve ever jumped out of a plane—or party bus, or attack helicopter—to take part in the cultural phenomenon of attempting to kill 99 of your closest friends on an ever-shrinking post-apocalyptic island, the opening moments of Pete Travis’s 2012 film Dredd should be familiar to you.


The Rise and Fall of Llamas with Hats

Waffles. Moose. Moose-eating Waffles. Did you see what I did there? LOL SO RANDOM, rite? Welcome to the internet in the 2000s, birthplace of a movement known as “randomcore”—an aesthetic style characterized by the juxtaposition of a rotten or nonsensical world with one “normal” observer, the grotesquifying of cute things, and absurdist humour taken to its crudest extreme. The aesthetic dominated internet culture for years, spawning countless now-forgotten Flash videos, launching the careers of some still-successful artists, and cementing the foundations of the post-millennium digital world. And there’s no better poster child of those wild times—from birth to inevitable decline—than the web series Llamas With Hats.


Meet The Real-Life Stars of Cells at Work!

“Inside the human body, roughly 37.2 trillion cells are working hard every day.” So begins the introduction of Cells at Work, an anime that turns complex medical concepts, scenarios, and organisms into interesting situations and characters. As a medical laboratory technologist who works with blood every day, my initial reaction to the series was irritation at the sense that my degree was being dumbed down by an anime—but after the initial burst of anger, I realized that the show is genuinely fun and endearing. More importantly, it’s incredibly accurate and goes into far greater detail than I anticipated. It’s got fans learning about the microscopic workings of the human body, but some might want to know more about the real-life stars of the show. Seeing as I work extensively with these little friends, allow me to introduce you to the true cast of Cells at Work.


Reading the Old Testament of Sonic the Hedgehog

Despite numerous failures and completely unplayable games, Sonic the Hedgehog has persevered—people just can’t get enough of the little blue devil. In ways, it seems he’s more popular than ever. Most recently, he’s catching up to his 90s rival Mario—albeit 25 years later—and finally getting his own movie.

Sonic fans have stuck with the character through thick and thin, through some of the worst games imaginable with the most bizarre stories you could think of. Fans who grew up with the series and were later struck by the weird, off-the-rails storytelling of the later 3D games might assume things started to get strange there, but I assure you—it’s been there since the very beginning, starting with the backstory of the first Sonic the Hedgehog game for the Sega Genesis.