Category Archives: anime

Mommy Issues

Octopus

In Naoki Urasawa’s Monster, Nazi scientists were curious about parental bonds, especially regarding identical twins. (SPOILER!) Young identical twins of opposite genders are kept by the scientists with their mother. Occasionally, the boy would dress like a girl and the twins would be nearly impossible to tell apart. On what was probably the last stage of the experiment, the mother was forced to choose one of the twins. She was to give up one of them to a fate unknown to her. At the time, the boy was dressed like his sister, and both children desperately clung to their mother, not wanting to be taken away. Crossdressing however did not save him, and the mother, after struggling for so long, finally let go of her son.

The boy grew up to be the main antagonist of the story, fueled by the mystery of that fateful day. What was the meaning of that day? Did his mother truly let him go or did his mother mean to let go of his sister instead? And if his mother said she meant to keep him with her, could that really be believed? This is the genius of Naoki Urasawa. He has a gift of exploring people’s most common insecurities.

It’s the life raft question. What if you were the one left in the ocean?

I have three sisters. I grew up, knowing that my mother loved us all but not equally. I knew this even at a very young age. And even after she passed away, I was reminded that she loved me less compared to one of my sisters. It makes me bitter sometimes knowing this, but it didn’t turn me into a monster the same way Naoki Urasawa’s character did. I am confident, that like all mothers, she would sacrifice herself to save her children. But just like the story, given the choice, I’ll probably be let go to the hands of Nazi scientists.

Writing this now, I look back at how this truth, albeit common, might have affected me as a person. It might have affected my confidence growing up, doubting why I wasn’t as beloved as my sibling. But that lack of confidence could also have been fueled by a father who was never really the most encouraging person in my life growing up. I was told I threw a ball like a girl before I was even taught how to throw. Perhaps it affected how I see women in my life. Growing up with sisters have been a great influence in making me more sympathetic to feminist concerns, but perhaps my childhood has given me mother issues that affects not only how I relate to women. I don’t know. I’m just throwing this out there. It’s a bit late for Mother’s Day, but I remember feeling three things on Sunday. One is gratitude and longing for a mother who passed away. Two is regret for not being there for her during the last years of her life. Three is bitterness… selfish, idiotic bitterness.

The thing is this is not the only time I’ve had the mixed feeling of being second best (if that). I remember dating a girl once knowing that she liked another guy long before she even took notice of me. Now this is true for most relationships in the world, but I felt like she could drop me anytime this other guy showed any affection towards her. I was grateful for the attention she was giving me, but I was also insecure. At worst, there was even a hint of bitter victory, like “Ha! Finally, you like me now, after ignoring me for so long, you bitch!” And all the time she was with me, I kept wondering if she’d rather be with that other guy instead. It was very confusing.

Now as for my mother. All of the love and kindness she has given me, a dumb part of me would sometimes feel that it all pales to the love she has for my sibling. Enjoy the scraps. Your sister is getting the full meal. And just like with that girl, would my mother really have spent all that time with me? Wouldn’t she rather be with my sister instead?

Now, I realize how juvenile that all sounds. It’s juvenile, petty, and competitive. It probably doesn’t reflect her true feelings, but sometimes my mind goes there. It just does. In many ways, I should be grateful for having such a wonderful mother raise me. After all, there are many others who don’t have the luxury to complain about their parents. Or worse, having parents who mistreat them. I just wish sometimes that I merely suspected my mother having favorites, instead of having it proven to me several times in my life.

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No Asian Characters For You!

Phonograph

Ghost in the Shell is close to my heart. I’ve been watching anime since I was a child, but nothing really captured my imagination than Masamune Shirow’s vision and his infectious enthusiasm over his subjects, often evident in notes either throughout the manga’s pages or in long essays at the end of his books. After stumbling upon the fifth issue of Ghost in the Shell (this was before the trade paperbacks), I followed most of his works in film and even video games.

 

It’s been a while since I’ve seen anything come out Shirow outside of the erotic material which he’s recently devoted most of his time to, so it’s a bit disappointing that the latest film based on his work is not only whitewashed, but it seems to have been concocted more by film investors than by people actually familiar with the work.

I realize that one of the main reasons why Scarlett Johansson was hired to play the Japanese Motoko Kusanagi is that without her, the film probably wouldn’t have been made. The film needs to attach itself to a big name in Hollywood to guarantee a certain amount of audiences in theaters. Unfortunately, it’s this same type of mentality that keeps minorities from getting roles and populates many Hollywood movies with the same small group of people over and over again. Now granted, the film will also star Takeshi Kitano as one of the Japanese characters, but this reeks of casting for the sake of the actor’s name. Kitano isn’t really the best English speaker, and I suspect it will come off as awkward and as badly as his flat performance in 2001’s Brother. I remember reading that Kitano would regularly get involved in projects that he doesn’t fully enjoy (gangster films) in between artsier and unfortunately less profitable projects. If this was the case, it makes me think that this Ghost in the Shell movie is the former, but a certain amount of people will see the film just for the Takeshi Kitano name alone. It’s pretty cynical. Instead of relying on Hollywood star power, the filmmakers should just focus on the strength of the writing. Great movies will sometimes have breakout stars, and they become breakout stars because filmmakers took a risk on them and believed in the story they are telling.

As Jon Tsuei wrote in a Twitter rant, the story of Ghost in the Shell is a unique product of the Japanese experience. Even the book sees and talks about everything from a Japanese standpoint. Many people have pointed out that the character Motoko Kusanagi looks and IS white, but this is a critique of the anime and manga as a medium (most characters are drawn “white”), it is not valid point when it comes to the specific story and the character which are both Asian. To remove it from its roots creates a product that might as well call itself a different name. They already did a western adaptation of Ghost in the Shell. It’s called The Matrix Trilogy. Can we not just leave it at that?

And going back to the defense that anime and manga characters physically look white. This is the laziest close-minded defense. They don’t look white. They rarely physically look Asian either. I don’t see too many races where people have giant eyes with orange and purple hair. If anything, the way they’re often dressed makes them look Asian. Their character and mannerism makes them look Asian. It’s the reason why there’s something a bit odd when foreigners dress, talk, and take on the mannerisms of Asian people. It’s not just the language. Just see the western adaptation of My Sassy Girl where Elisha Cuthbert takes on the character and mannerism of a Korean girl. It doesn’t work.

Many fans fear that the western adaptation would result in an inferior experience, and they can’t be blamed for feeling that way because Hollywood doesn’t really have a great history with adapting Asian IPs. Godzilla was a bust. Oldboy was far inferior to the original. Dragon Ball was a disaster. And on a personal note, I just don’t buy Scarlett Johansson as an action star. I find the Marvel movies quite tedious, and I don’t find her physical scenes in the movie believable (yes, I realize it’s a comic book movie). Despite the success of the movie Lucy, I think it’s a very poor action film both in its execution and writing (SPOILER: She ultimately “evolves” into a USB thumb drive!).

In the end, I think this just adds to a long list of whitewashed characters in Hollywood. I realize many of the whitewashed characters are fictional and are thus open to reinterpretation. Not many actors are trying to pull off black faces; the characters are just turned white. But it’s exactly this reinterpretation that keeps media mostly white and minorities with very little representation. Call it the reality of moviemaking, but it’s also a very racist thing to do, denying people their characters and stories. It’s rare for minorities to have their own stories… their stories often have to whitewashed in order to be told.

What boggles my mind is that there’s a completely watchable Ghost in the Shell animated film that people can still watch. Not only that, there’s a couple of seasons of the animated series as well. I don’t really see a need for a live-action western adaptation. This is like when OldBoy was adapted by Spike Lee, when the 2003 Chan-wook Park original is not only superior, the visuals still stand out to this day. Go pick up one of Shirow’s books (not the art books) or watch the anime. Forget this movie.

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Canadian Anime

Emily_Murphy

Printed and distressed my Canadian posters to make them look more authentic. I’m hoping I succeeded (http://josephmreyes.com/Blamco.html). People can compare the results from the images I posted in the past couple of months. I’m happy with the resulting images. I’m hoping others are too.

 

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AIDS Cures on TV

Serial

My niece colors like a serial killer.

I saw Bill Maher interview Dr. Samir Chachoua, the doctor who is currently treating Charlie Sheen. He’s the doctor who advised him to get off his regular meds, use a treatment that he claims cures HIV (not therapy), and apparently even injected some of Sheen’s own blood to himself in order to assuage Sheen’s fears. It is a bit concerning that Bill Maher would give the doctor a media platform when prior to the interview, Charlie Sheen said in Dr. Oz’s show that his “numbers are back up” after getting on Dr. Chachoua’s treatment. Still, the booking was not much of a surprise. Bill Maher keeps giving questionable people platforms. He once talked to Sam Wurzelbacher or “Joe the Plumber” as if he was a serious person. He also basically birthed S.E. Cupp who often comes up with the most ridiculous points on issues.

But aside from the doctor’s many dubious claims on the program (“I’ve cured entire countries!,” “Sheen is HIV negative.”), I believe there’s value in the message that we shouldn’t be complicit with the status quo. We should have healthy skepticism of what’s being told as well as keep an open ear to what’s new. Is the current HIV and AIDS treatment truly the best science has to offer? Perhaps we should be looking at other options. I haven’t done much reading regarding Dr. Chachoua’s claims. But my skepticism goes both ways, to the established science which is married with corporate interests and to the unknown Dr. Chachoua. My skepticism for the doctor comes from Sheen himself. His numbers are back up. I already fear that he’s leading Sheen down the wrong path, whether the doctor knows it or not.

The many claims Dr. Chachoua put out on Bill Maher’s show paints a great picture of possibility regarding curing AIDS and other disease, but the media tries to ridicule him and his treatment based on arthritic goats. While he may indeed be a “quack,” we should not dismiss the possibility of finding cures in the least likely of places, even arthritic goats. There is value in looking at all alternatives and not just surrendering to what the established truth is. Scientists right now are looking at sloth hair clippings for new antibiotics. However, it all must be evidence and results-based. And right now, I still haven’t looked at evidence that supports the doctor’s claims.

I guess the fear here is that this will produce another Jenny McCarthy: more “experts” that would convince people to forego proven treatments to their detriment. This is generally a symptom of the mistrust against authorities, and unfortunately in many cases, people rail against scientific authority for the wrong reasons. This is why there’s a resurgence of flat earthers and creationists along with the climate change deniers. The Charlie Sheen/Dr. Chachoua HIV thing could very well be explained as a similar reaction against established scientific authority. I am hoping it leads to more creative zeal regarding the treatment of diseases, not necessarily from Dr. Chachoua who may or may not be a “quack,” but to many people in the scientific community. I’m hoping it doesn’t result in a wave of AIDS denialism. So yeah, for now, I’m cautiously optimistic about the doctor’s appearance on Bill Maher’s show.

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Canadian Feminist

Emily_Murphy

Emily Murphy inspired by Lautrec on a day when I have not much energy to write anything.

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Unsolicited Nocturnal Comforts

Courer_des_bois

A short piece about comforting the cold:

We had a few drinks, things were good. I met her at a party in Osborne Village. She knew I was married, but she was totally cool with having drinks me somewhere else. Later, we ended up in her place for a few more drinks.

Things were getting hot and heavy, her thermostat finally started working and my bladder was getting heavy. It was this time when, unfortunately for her, she passes out.

This left me no choice but to do that thing which I believe most men would end up doing in such a situation… I grabbed a colorful Afghan from a closet and casually laid it over her. Manitoba mornings can get really cold.

Some might say I draped her. But I like to think there was some understanding between us after she took a couple of shots of Fernet-Branca.

Anyway, she’s now accusing me of being a drapist and dragging my good name in the mud.

An article from the Winnipeg Sun says that she woke up all stinky and sweaty, not knowing how she got to feeling so disgusting. She said she didn’t consent to being draped and was perfectly fine sleeping without an ornamental Afghan from Pier 1 Imports covering her.

That was just the beginning of my troubles.

No one bought her initial accusations, so she found some other women who claim I draped them as well. Some women were from as far back as college. I could barely remember their names. One woman in particular claimed she passed out after a party and I put a California king-size duvet over her. Then my buddies took turns putting blankets over her to keep her warm. It was -30 in Winnipeg.

She claims she was gang draped.

Another woman said I tried to put a small microfleece blanket over her while we were out camping in Portage la Prairie. I did, I’m not gonna argue that. But I thought she was cold and she was asking for it. Also, that blanket wasn’t so small. Some might say it’s even bigger than the average microfleece blanket.

A supervisor I used to work with in a nursing home claims she saw me putting bouclé blankets over people as they slept. They woke up all toasty, not knowing who draped them. Some don’t even realize they’ve been draped, to which I say is more plausible. They could’ve draped themselves!

The supervisor says she kept silent over the drapings because one time when she was in her office catching a quick nap on her desk, she claims I snuck in and covered her with a machine-washable Hudson’s Bay point blanket. She ended up sleeping for over an hour.

Of course I deny all of these draping allegations, except for that one incident back in 97.

There was an old gentleman sleeping on top of cardboard mat in an alley behind the Burton Cummings Theatre. I ended up covering him with 1200TC Siberian goose down comforter in the dead of the night without his consent.

Okay, I’ll give them that. I draped a homeless man once. But I swear he liked it. In any case, that doesn’t make me a serial drapist.

 

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Making Art for No One

Here’s an advice to artists out there. If you’re gonna make art, make sure that it would actually mean something to someone. Let me illustrate this.

Here’s a fake anime movie poster of Maurice Ruddick, the singing miner. He’s an Afro-Canadian survivor of the 1958 Springhill Mining Disaster in Nova Scotia. He’s a figure of Canadian history not only as a survivor of the disaster but also as a victim of segregation.

Maurice_Ruddick

Here’s the Canadian Heritage video about him.

I played around with the poster, and here’s a rather racist version of the poster. It depicts a white character as the central character. And yes, the Japanese is mangled. I know.

Maurice_Ruddick_White

Now, to fully appreciate the whole thing, one has to be:
1. Interested in things Canadian
2. Interested in Canadian history
3. Know about Maurice Ruddick
4. Interested in Maurice Ruddick and the Springhill Mining Disaster
5. Interested in anime like the ones produced by Studio Ghibli
6. Can read Japanese
7. Know about the 12 Years a Slave Italian poster controversy
8. Know that some studios would use lesser characters in films to market a movie simply because they are more marketable/palatable to their perceived audience
9. Is actually willing to have cartoon posters on their wall

Now, how many people actually fit all of those characteristics? Not much. I think I already hit a snag with the second and third criteria.  If you’re planning to sell work, don’t make it too niche. Otherwise, you’ll be making a lot of work to keep to yourself.

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Keiko and the Canadian Space Arm

Canadian_Arm

A little too busy today for a long entry. Instead, here’s a picture of a fake anime movie based on one of Canada’s greatest contributions to science: the Canadian space arm.

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Anime STP Marvel Sadness

terry_fox_cloud_text_blur

I saw an ad for a show that promises anime style oil and acrylic paintings that reinterprets Greek myth and biblical stories. Intrigued, I went and was sadly disappointed that it had nothing but giant renderings of nude anime women. Hard as I try, I couldn’t find any connection with biblical and mythological themes. It’s as if the show description is describing a totally different set of works.

I try not to be too harsh on criticism, but I walked away from the show thinking I could do better. So I started messing around with anime style drawing, this time dealing with Canadian themes. I figure I’ll try to make ten posters or so, see where that takes me.

Scott Weiland passed away a few days ago. The news hit me hard because I was still kinda hoping he would get back with Stone Temple Pilots, despite his solo work has been amazing and his album with the Wildabouts was promising. I remember him being interviewed by Howard Stern when STP got back together and Sterb was talking to them like they were children who couldn’t get along, and in the process of bickering fail to see the bigger picture. I had hopes back then, but even during the interview, I could tell that they were still pretty unhappy and that Weiland was still pretty much on drugs.

Then years passed and STP fires Weiland, replaces him with Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington, and even had Slash and Duff McKagan, Weiland’s old band members from Velvet Revolver, play with them at MusiCares. It’s almost like a collective F***you to Weiland who obviously needs help. What annoyed me more, aside from never really liking anything Linkin Park put out, is Chester Bennington dying his hair and dancing around like Weiland. I know you’re a fan, but we can tell you’re not Weiland, dude. Sammy Hagar didn’t prance around like David Lee Roth when Van Halen took him in.

And now Weiland passes away, everyone tweets out condolences and what an honor it was to have worked with Weiland. You know, the guy that STP is suing and is being countersued by. .. the guy that Slash and McKagan fired as well. I’m sure it must’ve been difficult working with the guy. Even Weiland admits that he has a bit of an ego. As for the drugs, he surrounded himself with people involved in it. Heck, Weiland and Tommy Black from the Wildabouts were arrested on drug charges, and their guitarist, Jeremy Brown, died presumably due to drugs. The guy was difficult, but he needed help. He wasn’t just a difficult band member, he was also someone’s son, husband, and father. Now he’s passed away and everyone’s tweeting roses about him. I wonder who it really serves, talking nice about someone after it’s all too late.

Stone Temple Pilots was Scott Weiland. Without him, I wish they’d just call themselves Talk Show.



I don’t like what Marvel is doing with some of their beloved franchises. It’s been written about in many outlets but Marvel is slowly killing IPs that do not belong in their studio’s cinematic universe.

I’ve never been too excited watching the Marvel movies. I think the X-Men films, especially the First Class film was far superior. Even the upcoming Civil War film is not very exciting, especially since the movie is based on a book with a dumb premise and characters acted uncharacteristically. But what annoys me is not so much the push for the Avengers characters, after all, it attracts a new generation of readers, but the almost aggressive effort to push out the X-Men from existence. Just look at what happened to the Fantastic Four.

To recap, back when Marvel didn’t make movies, they licensed their IPs to film studios. Two notable and very successful IPs were the X-Men and Spider Man, whose licenses are held by Fox and Sony respectively. The licenses were giant money makers for the studios, and even to Marvel at the time who gained benefits despite movie studios taking all of the risks. But then Marvel decided to make its own movies starting with Iron Man and continuing with members of the Avengers. The movies were very successful but due to licensing agreements, they don’t have control of characters that the other studios continue to own, at least in the cinematic world. The Avengers cannot have stories involving the Fantastic Four or members of the X-Men.

So what’s Marvel to do? Well, what they appear to be doing is killing off the X-Men. I’ve been a regular comic book reader since the late eighties and I know that the X-Men basically was Marvel’s bread and butter in the nineties. Without them, Marvel wouldn’t exist as a company. The Avengers books were gathering dust on shelves. Iron Man was “Ol’ Shellhead.” But now that Marvel is more interested in the movie-making business, they are actively trying to devalue properties which they don’t have full control of or just creatively try to put a spin on characters which puts them in IP limbo. They made a new Spider Man. Not Peter Parker, but Miles Morales. As exciting a change as that may seem, it puts the control of the Morales character into question. Does Sony own the Morales Spider Man license or just Peter Parker?

But what’s worse is that with the rejiggering of the Marvel Universe, they killed off many of its popular X-Men characters (Prof. X and Wolverine) and made all mutants impotent. A fictional substance, Terrigan mist, is killing of mutants and activating the powers of a superhuman race called the Inhumans. Unpopular with readers, the Inhumans have been getting a push in the comic books and now have a movie scheduled to be made in the future. Kill off the mutants and replace them with Inhumans. Good job, Marvel. Even making Cyclops, a character that was never attractive to many fans, the leader of the X-Men seem like it’s designed to turn readers off. In the X-Men movies, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, the mutant offspring of Magneto were played by different actors in the Avengers film. To spit at the X-Men movies, Marvel retroactively makes the two characters non-mutants, thus delegitimizing the Quicksilver and the Scarlet With of the X-Men movies for no apparent reason.

This is all nerdspeak, but what annoys me about the whole thing is that Marvel is now letting the movie business dictate the world of its comic books. In the process, it’s spitting at fans who have grown to love characters that have sustained the company for many years. I would argue, that they are sacrificing a medium that is more creative and exciting for a world that it is very lucrative but ultimately shallow.

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Subway Hero

Fake_Antigue

Saw this over the weekend. Someone was peddling “antiques.” Now I know that many of these “antiques” are made in China, are probably not even a year old, and are probably being sold more than ten times the price they were bought, but who would buy these things? It’s neither antique nor porn. Where exactly does a person put these?

I don’t mind fake “antiques” btw. I would buy them and have them in my house as long as they’re being sold at a reasonable price. Don’t tell me something is from the Ming Dynasty and that I’m getting a deal at $500. Just tell me it’s from a distributor in China and I’ll gladly buy it for $50.

Being in Asia, the anachronism of the bronze figures kinda reminded me of plastic figures like the one below. Again, as a practical matter, where does one display such things?

anime_figure_butt

I try not to stare at disabled people, I really do. I’m sure that many of us have that compulsion to stare at disabled people not because they are oddities, but to make sure that they are okay, just in case they need our help. We’d swoop right in to save the day like Supermen. We don’t stare directly, but we steal glances through peripheral vision, much like men would steal glances at exposed cleavage. The staring (or monitoring) is not in itself malicious. It comes from a good place. It’s empathy. We are concerned about our fellow human beings. It’s not something we do to the “normals” but hey, they’re disabled!

But all too often it truly is just arrogance. Of course they’re okay. They don’t need your help. They were fine many years before they encountered you.

I had a moment like this in the subway over the weekend. There was a blind man in the car. At first, I thought he was a beggar, but then I realized he was just like everyone, a passenger. He was standing right by the subway car door, waiting for his stop. I was trying to have a conversation with the person I was with but I can’t help but steal glances at the blind passenger. Maybe he’ll need help.

Then he fishes out a smartphone from his pocket. I thought it was odd because I assumed he would require something more tactile, but then he placed the phone close to his ear as he typed. Lesson learned: the blind can use smartphones. Butt out of their lives.
As if to make the point clearer, as he steps out of the subway car (bumping to one or two passengers), I noticed that he has a dragon tattoo on his right arm. He’s not so helpless as to not appreciate body art. He clearly doesn’t need my help. He’s doing fine without me.

A person who did need my help was a girl on her phone outside the station who didn’t realize her skirt was caught on her purse and was unwittingly giving everyone a view of her underwear. Who knows how long she’s been walking around without anyone telling her. She was embarrassed, but was glad someone alerted her to it.

It’s not the blind who needed help from me that day. It’s one of the normals.

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