Sunday, November 21 2021

See you, Space Cowboy

I finished watching Netflix's live-action version of Cowboy Bebop, and...I didn't hate it! In fact, there were many many things that I enjoyed about it, which really outweighed any misgivings I had at the beginning. Cowboy Bebop is one of my favorite anime series. It's many people's gateway into the genre, but i sometimes think that it's exactly the wrong title for this. Nothing else is quite like Cowboy Bebop, a show as eclectic as the jazz form pieces which partially inspired it. It has elements of noir, western, sci-fi, kung-fu, comedy, and tragedy. If you want shows like Cowboy Bebop, you won't find them. No other show even comes close to being what Bebop was. And now, there's a live-action version of it. I, like many others, had hated the idea of live action Bebop at first. There are many things about really good animation which can't be duplicated in any other medium. So I'm glad that the 2021 version has decided to go for something new.

Remember, I once did an article giving a blueprint of how to make a "good" anime remake. 

Good lord, I think the new one hits all of the suggestions I gave. The egotistical side of me wonders whether some of the production team actually read my ramblings and decided to address every one, to great effect. Probably not but it's nice to think about.

Yes, this is not a shot by shot remake of the anime. It doesn't have to be. The anime already exists. It is not perfect. I sort of love that the new show takes some of the details from the original and redoes them into something new. A remix. Gren, a character whose gender was framed as horror in the original (It's really clear that the storyline was influenced by the "shocking" twist in The Crying Game), is now a proud (and GORGEOUS) queer, and their queerness has nothing to do with their storyline. Characters who were white are now POC. It's effortlessly diverse, from the main cast, down to the background characters and I adore it. Faye might even have gotten herself a hot mechanic girlfriend and I'm all for that. Faye is even the one who saves the guys' asses in the finale.

Julia, once the Femme Fatale who felt only like a prize to be won in the original, is given agency in the new version. She even might be more ruthless than Vicious. I'm not a Vicious fan by any means. I think his story was the weakest in the Netflix show. But I do appreciate giving him a backstory and reasons why he's the way he is. (even if it feels more like the Malfoys at times.) Faye's backstory seems even more poignant when seen in live-action, at least to me. Watching a pre-teen Faye cheering on her future self, it...it just punched me in the feels in a way that the anime didn't. Maybe I'm a monster. Don't know. I am all for Jet as an absent father trying to do right by his daughter. It just feels so Jet, who has always been the father figure for the crew. Mufasa Shakir as has the Jet voice down pat. 

But this adaptation rests on its Spike and Jesus Christ John Cho delivers. He IS Spike Spiegel. He's snarky and cocksure and pained and haunted. He is the one putting on a brave front while protecting his broken heart. Always a few steps ahead of his past and yet always looking back. (As an aside, I'm a little sad that Spike's speech about his fake eye which only sees the past is not present in the new version. But I'm nitpicking. Not every beloved detail has to get translated into live action). It's ridiculous that it took 20 years for John Cho to become a romantic/action/sci-fi lead but it works goddamn it and I'm thankful I'm alive to witness it. I remember back in the day, when rumbling of a live-action Bebop first came bubbling up, that Keanu Reeves was being considered. Which is FINE but I'm so grateful we got John Cho instead.

I also sorta dig how more connected this universe is. Ein has a literal one to Pierre LeFou. I'm fascinated that they switched out his fear of cats in the anime to fear of dogs, and Ein might have the traumatic memories of LeFou. (Also Faye's reaction to LeFou's message to Spike is wonderful and I love Faye.) My heart was only slightly disappointed that the climactic battle for this story wasn't in a gigantic amusement park. Only a rinky-dink one, but it made ABSOLUTE SENSE that LeFou would remember this sad little park as his only happiness. It makes his regression to childhood so much more tragic. (Also, his read of the "Mommy it hurts!" line is another punch in the gut moment that hits harder in live-action than animation.) 

Then there's the Edward in the room. Yes, Ed's intro is pure Ed! Ed talking a mile a minute and only making sense about half the time. There's truth in the ramblings, but you have to clear-headed in order to hear it, and since our POV character for this is Spike (and he seems to be in the middle of a weeklong bender after the finale events and in no shape to understand much of anything) Ed comes across as grating and weird and cartoonish. But guess what? Ed IS grating and weird and cartoonish. The goofy tonal shifts is also very Bebop, and I'm actually looking forward to seeing more of Ed and also Ed plus Faye!

So, yes, I enjoyed it, and I understand why some might not. It IS a very well done fan film. But I woudn't say that that's a bad thing neccessarily. Better a fan film than a piece of work that completely misunderstood the original. (Hey live-action GiTS, I'm talking about you!) The Netflix series definitely comes from a place of love and reverence for the original. Them going out of their way to get Yoko Kanno to compose new music for the series cements that for me. And my take is, if live-action versions of anime must exist (and in this age of CONTENT, it must) then Cowboy Bebop is the best of the lot by far. I liked it. A lot. So there.

Thursday, November 18 2021

Filipino-ness

In an effort to make the most use out of my library card, even when I don't really have time to go to the library, I've been using the Libby app to check out e-books and read them on my Kindle. Or at least I've been trying to. Work has been difficult lately. 5 coworkers out on leave at basically the same time meant that I've been doing 6 day work weeks for the past month or so. The extra money on every paycheck is kind of nice but the tiredness I've felt is astronomical. Anyway, my brain is gravitating back towards a mindset of "well you're not enjoying a lot of the other things that usually make you happy so why not read more?". And at least with reading I can sit down and read a chapter in about 10 or 15 minutes (according to my Kindle reading rate anyway) and I can budget my time very easily. My first dive into borrowing an e-book is Jo Koy's memoir, Mixed Plate.

I think, as a first gen Filipino-American, I'm predisposed to like Jo Koy. It's in our cultural DNA to celebrate any Filipino who becomes successful. I first heard of Jo Koy when he said how much he loved Zippy's when he was on tour and doing a gig in Hawai'i. Ahaha, I thought, a plate lunch expert. I like it. The more I looked into his career, the more I responded. Here was a man, half-Filipino, who took the cultural specificity of growing up Filipino in America and turned it into relatable comedy. 

also this video where he jokes about the ubiquity of Toyota Tacomas in Hawai'i.

What I didn't realize was how much of a hustle trying to become a POC comedian became. Begging his mom to get HBO so he could study the greats. Making his own way in the comedy world because no one could figure out how to market him so he had to do it all himself. Doing open mics and gaining a reputation in Vegas. His Comedy Central breakout special and all that came afterward. It's a Filipino story. It's an American story. And I sort of love him for recording his own life in such a frank, candid, and laugh-out-loud funny way. For, as much as his mom and the rest of his family are a part of his act, he's kept a large part of his personal life hidden from public scrutiny. His brother Robert, diagnosed with schizophrenia and always drifting in and out of the family view. Jo Koy idolized his cool older brother until mental illness took everything he ever loved about him and replaced it with a violent stranger. The nightly fights to try to calm Robert down took a toll on the family. Jo Koy's biological father left the house one night after a particularly bad fight and never came back. It's harrowing to read the passages about Robert, and it got me to thinking about the stuff all families try to hide from the world. It was relatable, everything was relatable. His relationship with his hard-working Filipino mom, who had to raise 3 kids (plus the one who bumped in and out of mental institutions and jail for decades) on her own and the toll it took. Resiliency is an immigrant trait, and I see shades of my own mom in Jo Koy's mom, which, I guess goes for all Filipino moms.

And to imagine that if this one person could make it, achieve his dream, and try to make his family's life better as a result, we then, I think there's a lot of hope for the rest of us. 

Saturday, October 9 2021

All through the day I, Me, Mine, I, Me, Mine, I, Me, Mine

I heard through the Twitter grapevine that syfy.com has deleted all of its journalistic content prior to 2019, which means that all of the articles I wrote for Syfy Fangrrls have disappeared from that site. Thankfully I previously backed everything up on another website, so they haven't gone from the Internet entirely. But yes, no more me on syfy.com.

I have very mixed feelings. I mean, I hadn't written for them in a while, partly because of burn-out and partly because I really needed to hunker down and get a job that paid more. And then after a while, I learned that the vertical itself was going to go away, all the editors and writers scattered into the winds. Maybe it became too much to keep the site active while web standards were changing. Maybe it was getting harder to format the site to work with mobile phones. Maybe it was something else. Maybe the syfy bosses are petty. I have no idea. I still think it's hilarious that some naysayers believe that Fangrrls was dropped because it was too woke.

I think my biggest claim to fame from my time at Syfy was when I made a bunch of weebs mad by claiming that there is just way too much Nazi imagery in anime to be just a coincidence. I was accused of being racist (by pointing out Japan's xenophobia and weird blind spot when it comes to the country's role as an Axis power) and of hating anime (even when I mentioned that most of the titles in that article are among my favorites). Apparently the article's been shared on FB over 20,000 times. I never got into any fracas with anyone personally. I locked up my Twitter account for a few days as a precaution but never saw much of a dustup. I suppose I was lucky, or perhaps the people I offended were just too toothless to confront me. Or maybe Twitter's filter function worked well enough so that I didn't have to argue with bots? Who knows?

So, yes, my Syfy articles are still here.

Monday, September 13 2021

Why do I do things like this?

Was enjoying a leisurely dinner outside when a bee flew close to my body. Me, being an idiot who doesn't know any better, sort of flailed at it because my default reaction to bugs flying near me is to instinctively flail because I grew up in Hawaii and you can flail at mosquitoes and moths and whatnot. Somehow the bee got caught in between my flipflop and the sole of my foot and then it stung me right under my pinky toe. Having never been stung before, I started to panic, worried that I was going to be one of those rare folk who are allergic to bee stings, go into anaphylactic shock, and then have to be rushed to the hospital. Well naturally, I always expect the worst, which doesn't come, so I'm always relieved afterwards. That's how I live my life and I'm sticking to that. Anyway, it hurt, a lot, a throbbing pain I'd never experienced before. But Jeff got the stinger out and gave me an ice pack to keep the swelling down, and it seemed to have worked. That, and also since I'm on my feet all day for my job, I believe the soles of my feet to be pretty calloused and thick, so I think that helped as well.

I will joke, however, that I took a bee sting so that our dog wouldn't have to suffer. So please, be proud of me.

I'm also kind of embarassed for unleashing a torrent of f-bombs outside when I think the neighbors were outside and able to hear me. Oops...

Friday, September 10 2021

I don't care, I love it

Finished up this Arbalest model and I'm pretty proud of myself. I chose this model kit because it's a variant version of the design that's usually in the Full Metal Panic anime, and it also has the booster/glider thing which I thought was kind of neat. The kit came with a nifty display base so now I can pose it all cool and stuff. 

And here's all three of the models I've done so far. I've also got an Eva-01 on pre-order, so that's coming later this month. I guess I'm a true anime mecha nerd now!

Sunday, September 5 2021

New Obsessions

Weirdest nerdy obsession I've had in quite awhile is anime robot model kits. I'd always been kind of interested in them (mostly in a woah, the box art looks so cool! kind of way because, hello, anime nerd) but I'd never imagined actually doing one, until the actor Rahul Kohli started posting about them. I then got to remembering that, hey, I liked them, and sure, I like the Gundam series in passing anyway. So when I spotted a kit at Target (for $8!) I swooped it up and finished it in a few hours. The instructions were simple to follow and the resulting figure had enough points of articulation to make it a useable action figure.

Hey that was kinda fun, I thought. And I tweeted about it, tagging Rahul Kohli in the process. And then he wrote back!

 

I mean, it wasn't a lot or anything but it was enough vindication for me!

I'd sat on getting another kit for a while and then I decided to just go for it (after seeing Rahul posting about another kit lol). I decided on getting something from Gundam WIng, which was the first Gundam series I'd watched back in the day when Toonami aired it. What I really wanted was the Shen Long or Sandrock (my two favorites) but Wing Zero was the cheapest ($17.99 at Barnes and Noble of all places). So I ordered it online, received it, and then finished it up in about 6 hours.

 

The first kit I did was considered entry grade, a good introduction to how it's all done. Wing Zero is HG, or high grade, considered an intermediate grade so I thought that this would be good enough for me. This kit is much more intricate than the entry grade one, with more detailing and more runners (the plastic frames you cut the pieces from). What flustered me the most were the decals, tiny stickers some no larger than a pinhead. Jeff gave me a tip to use a toothpick or a needle to apply the decals to the model, and that helped a lot. Unfortunately, nothing helped my inept noobness when I screwed up and forgot to put a decal on before snapping the shield together. When I tried to pry the pieces apart again, I tore another decal that was meant to be the trim on the shield so...oh well, casualties. Live and learn. I just won't display the shield. Unfortunately the shield is needed for when Wing Zero transforms into "bird" mode, but I won't be doing that, I think. It still turned out great, and I'm considering getting display bases so I can put these guys on my anime figure shelf in actiony poses. 

Suffice to say, I think I'm hooked. I ended up getting another model, not a Gundam this time, but the Arbalest from Full Metal Panic. One of my other favorite mecha series. I'm probably not going to do this one right away. Going to take my time. I bought some specific hobby nippers to clip the pieces off of the plastic runners. I'd noticed while doing the Wing Zero that my fingers and some nail clippers really wasn't the best combo. So I'm going to try and do this one properly. I also want to learn a bit about displaying them properly. And maybe learn about painting and weathering. Safe to say this is my hobby obsession for the moment so I figure I have a few more weeks before I get tired of it like I did with sewing, crocheting, and knitting lol.

Saturday, September 4 2021

Good Morning. Good Night. Thank You. Goodbye.

Goodbye, Evangelion.

I finished watching the final Evangelion movie: Evangelion 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time last night, and I'm still in the middle of processing my reaction to it. Neon Genesis Evangelion was one of the first true "anime" series I remember watching. I spent late summers in the '90s in California, and one summer the local PBS station KTEH began airing this show. I'd only watched a few episodes of it, but dammit I was hooked. The weirdness. The giant robot battles. The angst. I loved it. When I returned to Hawaii, I decided that I should watch the entire thing. And thanks to a very geeky video rental service run by a local comic book shop, I eventually finished the anime.

The story, on the surface about a last ditch effort to protect the Earth from rampaging giant monsters called Angels, but actually about very real, very human trauma, rang true with me. I saw bits of myself in every character. All of them strugging to prove themselves worthy of life. Shinji, the reluctant pilot who only "gets in the robot" because he wants his father's approval. Rei, the mysterious soft-spoken girl who's questioning her entire existence. Asuka, a forceful personality hiding a fragile heart. Misato, wanting to prove humanity is still worth protecting. And so on and so on and so on. The series is widely known as the work of one man, Hideaki Anno, who decided to use the show as therapy for his own struggles with depression and self-worth. It's a deeply personal work that resonates with so many people, including me. 

So what do I think of the new Rebuild movies and the Ultimate ending? Let's keep going. Spoilers abound.

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Overall I'm glad the story ended how it did. There's a timeskip, we see all the kids as adults, and they seem to exist in a world with no Evas or no Angels. They've earned it after all the shit they've gone through. Shinji seems to have broken the loop of suffering. I wonder if this is because Mari, the only Eva pilot who seems to have no hang-ups about piloting them, exists in this world. Or because this is the only iteration of the story where Shinji's father finally opens up about his feelings for his dead wife and the true reasons behind the Human Instrumentality Project. Transforming humans into an all-knowing entity and breaking down the painful barriers that keep us separated would mean that Gendo could reunite with Yui. It turns out that Gendo isn't that different from his son after all. Surprise surprise, breakthrough. 

I'm also fascinated with how the final movie portrayed Asuka. She's much more confident in this version, less hung up about her past and her own trauma. She seems to have gotten over her mother's suicide. But I have to wonder about some of Asuka's final moments, where a slew of Asuka "series" pictures is shown on a wall. Also when Asuka comes in contact with someone who calls herself her "mother", she looks exactly like her. Is Asuka here a clone of the original? Just like Rei? It would mean that both these girls are clones in search of identity. The Asuka of NGE hated Rei because she saw in her the perfect girl that she could never be.

And speaking of Rei, how great is her ending? The clone who finds purpose and learns emotions like love and joy and regret. I'm quite satisfied with her growth and in her "death", Shinji starts to realize that letting go is okay. His father also learns that learning to let go is okay. One doesn't need to suffer if you lose someone. One has to move on.

I loved that the final movie ends hopefully, versus the terrifyingly lonely world that Shinji found himself in during the ENd of Evangelion movie. Yes relationships hurt, but so does being alone, and the relationships are definitely worth the pain. That is human and I think that is the final message of Evangelion. 

Still not sure what was up with Mari though. She doesn't seem to have any backstory other than what we see in the movies. Was she neccessary? In a way, she was. Her presence meant the story could go in a new direction because she's an unknown quanitity. The fly in the ointment. Otherwise, she's just a cute girl with glasses and a pink plug suit and pink Evangelion and that's...different. I guess.

Friday, September 3 2021

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Saw this movie today and it was fantastic. A modern-day wuxia with Marvel trappings, tapping into the tropes of kung-fu cinema while taking full advantage of that sweet Disney cash. I'd already known Simu Liu from Kim's Convenience, so much so that it was difficult to shake off the idea that Jung was trying to reconcile with his Appa. But all second generation Asian-Americans deal with this in some capacity or another, the balance between upholding your family's legacy and following one's own choices. And holy crap, Tony Leung is a revelation. He's already Hong Kong cinema royalty. Why did it take *this* long for Hollywood to cast him in anything? I don't want to mention much else for fear of spoilers but I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. It was great to watch Michelle Yeoh keep up with Simu Liu in the sparring scene, I want Akwafina as my bestie, and Meng'er Zhang is wonderfully badass and I look forward to her future in the MCU the most. 

Thursday, August 26 2021

Stay healthy, kids

I realize I haven't spoken (written?) about my adventure for the past week so this is just to chronicle that bit of madness. I'd started to feel a little "odd" about Tuesday of last week. A little tired. A little achy. A slight headache. I thought that this was just the back end of getting through my period (sometimes that whammies me more than usual) so I sort of shrugged it off. I went to work as usual on Wednesday, but by the time of the end of my shift, the headache had gotten way worse. I was trying to pound out some pizza dough and every single time my hands hit the counter, a wave of pain just shot up to my head. I was grateful to get home, get in the shower, and then get to bed.

Then, Thursday morning, I woke up and couldn't get my eyes open for the pain. My head felt like it was wedged in a vise, a very tight affair where every single movement of my head resulted in waves of new, awful pain. I get migraines. I understand the pain of an awful, awful headache. But this was different. This was happening all throughout my head. Veins were popping out the side of my head, almost comically. Almost like the manga/anime trope of a vein popping at the side of the character's head when they're vexed. And I was vexed. I'd also noticed a tightness in my chest (uh-oh) and shortness of breath and the need to go to the bathroom much more often (to shake off the nausea and whatever was roiling in my stomach). I had convinced myself that I had COVID. 

Called in sick that afternoon.

Then came the attempt in finding a test so I could figure out whether or not I actually had COVID. So...as easy as it is to get a vaccine now, it's still very hard to get a timely COVID test. Luckily, I was able to book one at an urgent care clinic for Tuesday. So I had to quarantine myself at home until then. I spent the next few days in the throes of pain, nausea, tiredness, and sleep. Sometimes it hurt too much to sleep. Sometimes I'd be awake at ungodly hours in the morning because the headache had subsided and I was deathly afraid that if I went to bed, the headache would creep back in while I slept. It was a wild time.

It wasn't COVID.

But with the EVERYTHING that's going on now, I worried that I might catch it, even fully vaccinated. But, I'm grateful that it's not COVID. I'm just angry at this flu/head cold/whatever this was that robbed me of a week of living. 

Wednesday, August 25 2021

A g-g-g-ghost!

In my weakened state, I'd decided to forgo finishing up my playthrough of Yakuza 7 (I'd grown a little bored of farming XP to level up for the final dungeon). So instead, I went ahead and bought the Director's Cut of Ghost of Tsushima, a game I'd thoroughly enjoyed and platinumed about a year ago. So now I'm in the middle of another playthrough of this game on my PS5. It's utterly gorgeous and I'm getting engrossed in the story once again. I might choose another path for my Jin this time. In my previous playthrough, I'd had him kill his uncle rather than spare him, but now I think I'm going to allow him to live. Showing mercy rather than giving him an honorable death. 

I still think this is one of the best adventure games I've ever played. 

Let me innnnnnnn

Today is the first day of Disney Parks' new annual passholder program, Magic Key. I, like an idiot who's just had a health scare and somehow has taken this to mean that I wish to do something kinda rando and dumb in order to affirm my life, decided that I should try to get them. I know that I won't possibly be able to use them for more than once or twice a year, but perhaps I could make those visits worth it? I'm not sure.

The screencap was taken about 10 minutes ago, and I've basically been on the same page for 6 hours at this point. Fun times. Will I even actually get to purchase these passes once I reach the front of the queue? Who even knows. I've always enjoyed the thrill of these sorts of endeavors. SDCC passes. Concert tickets, Stage passes. What have you. I'm...a little addicted to it. We'll see if this translates into me becoming a Disney annual passholder? 

EDIT: Well I decided not to get it after all. The price for 2 passes was just...too much...

Tuesday, August 24 2021

Moriarty the Patriot

Reached the part in this anime series where Irene Adler

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dies and takes on a new identity as "James Bonde". I'm in the middle of either thinking this is genius or eye-rollingly bad. I mean, in a show where every character is a bishonen version of a classic British character, I can't really complain but it's odd. Fun, though. I'm not mad that Irene is now a man, but...James Bond? Seriously?

Still will keep watching but I can't promise I won't side-eye this thing from time to time because of the ridiculousness. 

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