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Personal opinions and commentary.

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How a Gangster Story Reveals the Poisonous Side of Family

91 Days is the best anime I’d never heard of until two months ago.

Although it was released in 2016, I came across it almost two years later. The series summary in the preview amounted to “a guy wants revenge after the mob murders his family,” which didn’t seem like something I’d enjoy watching, but the cover caught my eye—two twenty-something-year-old men point guns at each other in front of a stained glass window in a display that radiated drama and betrayal.

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Why Yu-Gi-Oh is Actually About Dealing With Childhood Trauma

The first time I re-watched the Yu-Gi-Oh anime as an adult, I realized Seto Kaiba—the cocky teen CEO rival to the series’ protagonist Yugi Muto—seriously needs therapy. Now I look back at those pretty, leather-clad boys and think about all the VHS tapes of the show I recorded as a kid—my awkward adolescence was fucked up, but then, so was the concept of ancient Egyptian monsters terrorizing children in modern Japan. Actually, it’s no wonder that I ended up being a hyper-conscious mess—just look at Kaiba and his maniacal obsession with his signature monster card in the game of Duel Monsters that completely defines the Yu-Gi-Oh world: the Blue-Eyes White Dragon. Kaiba’s  trying to compensate for something he never had as a child, something I also desperately want to reclaim again.


The One Foe a Super Saiyan Can’t Beat: Capitalism

Dragon Ball is a franchise defined by extremes, and its setting is no exception to that. The Earth is home to futuristic technology, magic, and futuristic technology that might as well be magic. At the same time, dinosaurs are still around, the King of Earth is a dog, and the God of Earth is a green alien. Given the original manga author Akira Toriyama’s off-the-cuff writing style, it’s safe to assume the world wasn’t meticulously detailed in advance, and instead formed from his whims on any given week. But one dynamic Dragon Ball does explore from the very beginning is the sharp divide between the rich and the poor.

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What Video Game Glitches Can Teach Us About Scientific Research

Speedrunning is a hobby with a simple goal: beating video games as quickly as possible. Beneath the surface, though, things are more complicated—rather than just sprinting from the beginning to the end, runners often use tricks and exploit glitches that push game engines to their breaking points. While some of these techniques are uncovered by the runners, many are found by dedicated glitch hunters, people who investigate the mechanics of games in search of ways to exploit them. Looking at the work of glitch hunters reveals a fascinating subculture that can tell us something, surprisingly enough, about the process of scientific research.

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The Wild World of Wrestling Weddings

Once upon a time, the traditionally feminized performance of the wedding ceremony was a ratings season staple of World Wrestling Entertainment, infiltrating the hyper-masculine wrestling ring where relationships were punctuated by violence, not by holy matrimony. And though Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth’s 1991 pay-per-view wedding wasn’t the first instance of in-ring marriage rites, it was the one that kicked off the glitzy shebangs that would follow into the late ’90s Attitude Era—best known amongst non-wrestling fans as the wrestling heyday of sex, drugs and rock and roll that birthed such household names as Stone Cold Steve Austin and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.


How Courage the Cowardly Dog Used Experimental Animation to Terrify Children

Cartoons were strange in the early aughts. It was a time when up and coming animators and writers were given free reign to create imaginative, idiosyncratic children’s shows. The best of the bunch that have survived in popular culture—your Rugrats, your PowerPuff Girls, your Dexter’s Lab—have stuck around because they experimented with visual styles and themes that made a palpable impression on children of that era.

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I Would Have Followed You: Masculine Love and Devotion in Jackson’s Lord of the Rings

In December of 2003, Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens’ Return of the King—the third and final film in their trilogy adapting J. R. R. Tolkien’s beloved fantasy epic Lord of the Rings—premiered to a gigantic opening weekend and critical acclaim. I half-remember its sweep at the Oscars the following year, the tides of fanfiction that flooded the internet, the memes, the sudden swelling of fantasy’s cachet. I wasn’t yet Online enough, so to speak, for that vast boom in the world of internet fandom to register for me.

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When Eddie Met Venom

Ruben Fleischer’s Venom may have released to mixed reception, but there are certain things that the film executes undeniably well. In particular, it offers a relatively fresh take on the anti-hero that doesn’t use a jaded hard-boiled persona as a crutch for a “baddie” tag. Venom juxtaposes two very different kinds of anti-heroes in a way that makes them interdependent. This structure could go one of two ways—it can push the hero forward, or it can unleash the anti. It does the former, mostly, but it’s the tension between the two that makes the dynamic of this juxtaposition worth looking at.


The Greatest Haunted Game Story of All Time Isn’t About Pokémon or Zelda

In 2018, “creepypasta” is a household term. Internet ghost stories aren’t restricted to the dark corners of obscure message boards anymore—they play out in original video games, YouTube videos, and even on professionally-produced television shows. Despite the vast and various types of creepypasta, all of it is, in some way, an exploration of the hopes and fears of a generation. It’s a way to make sense of the things we deal with in our respective days and ages—in other words, it’s folklore.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Roleplaying Beyond D&D

I love Dungeons & Dragons. Like many young dweebs, I came to D&D after playing fantasy video games for years. It was like magic—compared to video games, the freedom given to me as a player in D&D felt infinite. But after several years of playing weird, unfulfilling D&D campaigns, I started to see the limitations of the game. Because while you technically can do almost anything in Dungeons & Dragons, there are some things that the game wants you to do more than others.

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What The Lost Boys Has to Say About Sex, Fear, and Fantasy

The Lost Boys is a kids’ movie—it’s all about sex. Or let me put that another way—the monsters of kids’ media tend towards a didactic form of moral panic. In American movies of the 80s and 90s, it manifests primarily as a thinly-coded stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS—anti-social violence, infection, disease and gay sex mutually imply each other according to the bizarre and homophobic torsions of the culture industry. That’s especially true for The Lost Boys, a horror-comedy that picks up the Peter Pan mythos and plunks it down in a California of the dilapidated 1980s.


The Secret Side of Pokémon You Never Knew About

If I asked you what an “EV” is in Pokémon, you might assume I was talking about the lovable little fox creature that evolves into a myriad different forms. But if you’re a competitive Pokémon player, you know exactly what those two letters mean—effort values. These values are increased by battling different kinds of Pokémon and give monsters a valuable edge, but the games won’t show them to you in any menu. And they’re just one of the hidden, deeper mechanics in the series that go beyond the well-known rock-paper-scissors of type matchups and factor into the complex world of competitive Pokémon battling.

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How Queer Players Connect in a Game Without Chat

Bushiroad’s BanG Dream has taken the West by storm since it was released in April this year. Based off the BanG Dream franchise that kicked off in Japan in 2015, the mobile game follows the story of five girl bands: Poppin’Party, Afterglow, Roselia, Hello Happy World and Pastel*Palettes. Since its release, the fandom has grown bigger and bigger to the point that it’s now one of the most popular rhythm games on mobile—a crowded market, including titles like Love Live, IDOLM@STER and IDOLiSH7.

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Ten Comedy Specials That Aren’t By White Men (and One That Is)

The comedy world is in the midst of a reckoning. Emboldened by one another, more and more performers are getting the courage to call out abusers in the industry, and audiences are starting to give more attention to acts that don’t fit the classic image of the standup comic—straight, white and male. But in an endless sea of original specials, it can be hard to sift through what’s actually worth watching, especially when everyone looks like a randomly generated white guy.


Kane’s Son: Sexual Violence and Symbolism in Alien and Aliens

When Ridley Scott’s 1979 sleeper hit Alien arrived in theaters, it revolutionized special effects and kicked the wheezing horror genre into high gear. While Alien is without question Scott’s best movie, tightly paced and claustrophobic, Swiss painter H. R. Giger’s legendary creature design is what sets it apart from everything that followed it. Aliens, its 1986 James Cameron-helmed—yes, he used to make good movies—sequel, builds on and exaggerates Giger’s work so effectively you’d be hard-pressed to find modern sci-fi unmarked by its slimy fingerprints.


Fun, Games, and Doctors: Debriefing New York Comic Con

It’s now been a few days since New York Comic Con came to a close, and my body, soul, and mind have mostly recovered. There’s something about these massive conventions that truly kicks your feet out from beneath you while also making you feel delighted about it. They’re a masochistic joyride, filled with swag, exclusives, the endless jostling against strangers all up in your personal bubble, and bursts of ecstasy. And all that’s before your seventh energy drink of the day.

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Why My Favorite RPG Isn’t a Videogame

Whenever I start growing bored of JRPGs, I reread the manga series Magic Knight Rayearth. Created by the legendary manga team CLAMP in 1994, Magic Knight Rayearth is a six volume manga series about three schoolgirls summoned to the magical world of Cephiro. There, they are told they must embark on a quest to save a princess named Emeraude from the clutches of the evil high priest Zagato.


Plastic Love – Nendoroid Lina Inverse

Before we get down to business this week, I thought I would point out this video interview with Max Watanabe, legendary modeler and CEO of Max Factory, a company that produces many of the Nendoroid and figma toys that you’ll see on the average comic shop shelf. There’s a lot of footage of Max and company hard at work, and a bit of insight into how and why people get so into plastic. The whole “toco toco” series is excellent, and I’ll leave it at that before I swerve off topic.