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joined Jan 13, 2021

This is such a fascinating example of the kind of doujin that twerks delightfully upon that much-belabored and amusingly nonexistent line between canon and fanon, because it has the fucking confidence to snatch up those threads of eroticism and fantasy that coil and shimmer down the edges of the text and boil them in 4-page cauldron of intensification, heating up archetypes and burning away the shells of context to let an electric flavor simmer to the fore. The artist has truly cooked with this one, and set my brain a-boiling alongside, for though my first reaction was a fusty and indulgent "surely not!" at the prospect of Anon being so imperiously competent and Soyo so radically meek, the beauty of a prospect is that it moves the heart before the mind, and tugs the body along like a creative collar.

Because why can't Anon be a dommy old top-dog? She has her fantasies of control, her hunger for a pack that yips to her every whim, her eerie knowledge, especially when Soyo's involved, of just where to bite and choke to reduce her to a panting, whimpering mess, that ancient instinct of the great wolf breaching in times of great inspiration the pert fur of our shrill pink Pomeranian. Is she not a proficient enough player of the doggirl game to bitchmax a monster build that balances the benefits of the Annoying Bitch and the Manipulative Bitch to become the Magnificent Bitch, the Doctor of Dykeonomics? And why can't Soyo hungrily embrace the clasp of service and belonging around her neck, yearning as she has for some reassuring brand of control, some absolute ownership that orients her shrinking soul in a world empty between clouds and concrete? Has she not ceded Anon power over herself at the highest, and begged at an ex-bandmate's feet for submission at the lowest, the more pathetic for every resistance, the more damned for every acceptance, Miss Kneejerk Supreme? They could, they might, they must- oh yes, they should, and if they did, how happy we'd be, how gorgeously entertained!

Such is the brilliance of the unapologetically horny fanwork and the delicious deal it offers- toss away for a spell, dear reader, you notions of correctness, your tiresome line of cause and effect, and your contraction to contracting plausibility and all its wearisome wiles. Discard the drudge of that apish matching-game, that eternal rubbernecking around for the ghost of some lauded canon by reference to which you may measure the legitimacy of an inheritor. What use have we for pulling swords from stones- sink one in a heart, press the blade into its beat, and feel the clench of a jittering pulse rock upon the iron thrust of an idea, and you shall find satisfactions in the wilds far sweeter than any at the court of the righteous king. Be a heretic. Be a pervert. Be an embarrassment. Find polyvocity through single-mindedness, community through obsession, completion through kink. Have the courage to be lost, to be adrift in the snowstorm of interpretations and the waves of subjectivity, and choose for your guide that first and thirstiest of voices through the storm and into an eye. Is that not the very message, the spectacular soul of cult classic lesbian drama BanG Dream: It's MyGO!!!!!? I laud the artist for grasping it, and for seizing my imagination as well.

joined Jan 13, 2021

I'm quite interested in this one! While I've read enough vaguely European fantasy stories for several lifetimes, by medieval standards or otherwise, the aesthetics and vibes of this particular offering seem to rely less on your usual adventuring knights-and-mages staples (at least until Nat uses the Sylpheed to dice some monsters up at an appropriate stage in the tale for sword lesbian heroics) and more on that whimsical, charming, melancholy, sylvan and dryadic atmosphere I associate generally with a lot of shoujo-flavoured tales from 90s and noughts (though it is still very much alive and continues to furnish a ton of witch-centric media especially), with its dedication to the poetry of nature, the questions of fate as whispered by the stars and the night, the quest for a guiding and heartening spirit in the wilds of the world, and a fierce love for life itself in every form and feeling. It's an excellent spirit to conjure, cast and animate a work with, and especially so for queer narratives, which I find at their most charming when they're effusive and eloquent and melodramatic and maudlin, singing of deep old pains and autumn memories, breathing odes in the trail of an eye and elegies to fleeting smiles, ruefully Romantic. Here too, there's glimpses of that fae-feathered flair, lucent in Natty's gasping incantations and arcane in Sister-from-another-Twister Sara's musings on the will of the wind gods or whatever delightfully pagan end she's appropriating those crosses for (Nat's face when Sara coquettishly says they're in a Class S situation and leads her behind the chapel away from the eyes of the Koala God only to reveal she was in fact talking about the gear ranking of the magic sword in her soul).

Speaking of divinities and assorted other sapphic icebreakers, I also feel like this chapter sets up a pretty interesting thematic tension between free will and determinism insofar as they pertain to the prevailing ideas and institutions of this setting's culture? Nat's misgivings and uncertainties about her capacity to rule due to her inability to consistently enact the rituals and images of a traditional series of royal performances forms a fascinating contrast with Sara's conviction in her divine role and value as established by a series of powers whose specific directions she knows little about (though "Locate Beautiful Brooding Rich Local Women and Offer Emotional Support and Magic Massages" seems as good a place as any to begin). The story's central image of wind beautifully expresses this ambivalence, being as it is at once a herald and force of nature, shaping the lay and lore of the land across seasons, and yet often as sudden and striking as a dervish or gale rippling through moments stifling or sedate, a potence and promise that responds at once to a ruler's call and yet blows many a favorite son away, buffeting poor Nat with neither-head-nor-tail winds that have deposited nevertheless a destiny in her arms (or vice/virtue versa). In a world where swords can bloom from hearts and the hands of fate are as breaths in the trees, perhaps the only certainty lies in the warmth of kindred hands (along with a good night's sleep). The royal and the religious are my two least favorite types of people, generally speaking, but the abundant breeziness of this premise keeps them from being too stuffy, and if their tale runs long and hard enough to truly channel the spirit of all the woodsy fae yarns it reminds me of, then I'm sure Estates One and Two will suffer enough arboreal atrocities on the route to their cottagecore leafily-ever-after to have thoroughly endeared themselves to me.

joined Jan 13, 2021

Well, this is a breath of fresh air! I really like stories that employ intertextuality and metatextuality to discuss the ways in which peripheral and marginal figures navigate sociocultural fields that frame them in negativity, as phantoms ominous or abject, an alienation felt with especial keenness by Hanayo, positioned as she is in collocation with an implicit death that is at once scripted insofar as her own family deploys subtle narratives of burdening and senility toward her, and yet also inducive of an erosion of structure and convention, a place into which the forces that have dominated and maneuvered her life cannot fully reach, leading her to enter a space of liminality that is not so much a waiting as a beginning, a slim freedom for which the price of decades has been paid, but is nevertheless all the more enjoyable for what she has left- not remnants, but cultivation, vigor and wisdom all at once, the sagacity to be giddy and hopeful and carefree again, for such things were never the monopoly of youth. In this space, constructed as it is from the false binary of seniority and youth, she feels with especial keenness the pressure of 'both' worlds, manifested in the voice of the ghost that dogs her with the terror that this joyless repression shall be her beginning and her end, and the charge for liberation that drives the action of this tale must begin from her very body, that first and foremost space onto which these narratives are inscribed and enacted, a space that she fears losing control of due to a host of maladies and pressures, but also her final bastion and first step, the key to senses, thoughts and agency.

It is right and beautiful, then, to express this convalescent independence through a reclamation of the cosmetic, a sphere in relation to which older women are once again ambivalently positioned. Popular narratives under an ageist patriarchy often frame makeup as both deception and dependency, an act of masquerading that implicitly creates the horror of an unflattering unmasking or abject 'real' behind the veil, and at the same time valorizes those who may so skillfully 'veil' themselves as to take on the equivalence of an impenetrable 'naturalness', so synthesizing a race toward spontaneity and exhausting standards if one feels the need to conform to social conceptions of beauty. Conversely, if makeup is framed as an often-dangerous agency in 'younger' women, it must be denied to 'older' women in order to construct them contrastingly as victims of nature, neither deceptive and nor active, but 'real' insofar as they make no appeals to change the minds of others, and are indeed seen as losing control over their own. This pressure to conform to a degrading and fatalistic 'reality' is (dis)embodied in the voice of the husband that lingers after his death, functioning as the injunction of an dominant and oppressive system that sorts women into hierarchies of subordinated temporality, exerting a measure of control over Hanayo from the afterlife, a persistent and invasive thought process that demonstrates the degree to which these toxic schemata have shaped her life, and also disturbingly reflecting her fears of losing control of her own thoughts, the result here of not senescence, but subjection to a system wherein women are only ever maidens, mothers or crones.

Hanayo's embrace of cosmetics, however, serves to interrupt this subordinating thrust of misogynistic ageism, achieving as Yoshiko points out not a 'hiding', but rather a texturing and emphasis, perhaps even a revelation of her hungry, vibrant, ardent desire to live and shine. The authoring one's own life as a metaphor for cosmetics is especially charming, as it frames the self as a work-in-progress, a grand venture, but not one that must be conducted for success under any particular market or gaze, for the dream of good reception in the auction of lifetimes that so many women are tossed into to fetch a good price- no, the only goal in Yoshiko's vision of the cosmetic is expression, creativity, honesty-as-personhood, and a blooming that shall never wilt, but draws on time indeed as its star and shower, fueled by countless moments into a present eternity. This story understands that people are at every point and every age cosmetic and authored, their notions and presentations of beauty shaped and responded to by an everpresent social gaze, which is written in and of itself by a multitude of texts ranging from product descriptions to lifestyle TV to folklore to literature, all of which Hanayo encounters over the course of this chapter. However, it is precisely because of the multiplicity of these sources that absolute consistency and control cannot exist, and so people discover a capacity for navigation, negotiation, invention and expression among uncemented derivatives and doodled margins, creating faces as flexible as paper and relations as complex as calligraphy, painting across the pages of themselves, be they bunched or sticky or yellowing or rumpled, the stories of a life. I eagerly anticipate the next chapter of Hanayo's.

Anime season 04 Jan 12:11
joined Jan 13, 2021

The Magical Revolution anime is soooooo good? I honestly don't talk about my love for this series enough (I have actually read all the LN volumes translated so far, which is a greater commitment than I sometimes make to basic nourishment), because if I got seriously started, I would not be able to stop. I'd go on and on forever (without spoiling anything) about just how much mileage it gets out of ye olde medieval JRPG fantasy pseudo-European setting, how fascinatingly it explores themes of queerness as intersecting with privilege, authority and responsibility, how it presents an unexpectedly insightful portrayal of how patriarchy and the cult of nobility stunt both femininity and masculinity in accord, how it genuinely wants to ask complicated questions and have big discussions about Systems of Power and Avenues to Change without resorting as so many narratives in its genre do to empty spectacle and blustering deferral. I'd honestly say that if you divide the burgeoning subgenre of isekai yuri into two movements, the first composed of what we may term Court/Otome Yurisekai (comprising such works as I Favor the Villainess, PBMMV, and the criminally underrated The Nightingale and the Rose, which tend to take cues from otome games and focus on court politics), and the second composed of Dark Yurisekai (comprising such works as The Executioner and Her Way of Life and my personal present favorite, The Onee-Sama and the Giant, which draw on dark fantasy and tend to focus on wandering or otherwise underprivileged characters navigating living hells that tend to critique tropes from other, more conventional subgenres of isekai), I'd say MagiRevo is in my opinion the absolute pinnacle of the former.

At any rate, it's great and the anime seems to be taking strides to elevate the source material's charms to another level with much streamlining and big action, which I appreciate, even though I love how the source material has exposition dumps that can span half the novel, because at that point it goes beyond bloat and into an admirable artistic representation of queer women talking about their special interests and snowballing into discourse from eighteen other fields to justify why they need Shiny Sword that goes burr-pew-dakka-gashing-boom. I also hope the adaptation gets to Volume Three, the Best One so far, because 1-3 are very clearly written as a singular narrative-thematic arc and 3 in particular was when I really fell in love with the series, because it has some absolutely heartbreaking drama, a boatload of exciting developments, and a sublime ending that left me breathless with anticipation for where the tale shall head next. It's also when I feel the series perfectly breaks out of the artificial binary between 'should we focus on the central relationship' and 'should we focus on the broader plot and world' that a lot of similar narratives struggle with, because having conversations about the polity and the roles we play and the complex process of bringing about a more progressive society by dismantling existing hegemonies and institutions is the most queer thing two women can do- there is no conflict and these things perfectly dovetail toward the fulfillment of the soul.

On a tangential note, I feel like a ton of action-adventure yuri tends to be suffused with a sense of defeatism and fatalism with regard to its blend of elements (and it is seen as a blend of queer stories with general genre fiction rather than simply the presentation of genre fiction that so happens to have queer protagonists or commentate amid other things upon themes of queerness); a lot of writers tend to retread a ton of the usual conventions and cliches with minor queer twists or castings to add a sense of novelty that rapidly outstays its welcome. And while that's certainly valid, because wanting to enjoy a basic-ass sci-fi or fantasy or what-have-you narrative that's also just queer-friendly and positive and makes you feel safe and comfy and nerdy while also acknowledging your identity is so important, I have an especial soft spot for queer-genre-fiction that's more ambitious, that wants to go for gargantuan worldbuilding and sprawling arcs and spiraling drama, to create a robust world and culture and system and then dedicate itself to exploring the ways in which those systems act upon people's lives and shape their views of the world, and especially how said systems may be interrogated, subverted, challenged and reformed. I want queer-genre-fiction that doesn't just treat the queerness of its characters as a done deal, a selling-point in-and-of-itself, but draws upon the spirit and ethic of queerness, its long history of protest and struggle and rioting and rebellion, its willingness to eternally question and resist hegemony, its profound and euphoric power that must engineer, in the making of a space for itself, a radical challenge to the conventions and norms of all it encounters, not an addendum to some fusty canon, but an invigoration and elevation of our thought and fiction.

MagiRevo very much seems to be a tale in this spirit from what I've read, a story dedicated to bringing forth in event and ethos the revolution proclaimed in its title, and I do hope works of its tenor and temperament, works of genre fiction with visions and hunger and dreams that aim to expand the frontiers of what may be termed yuri, find success and continue to inspire new generations, iterations and movements. I pray the anime may represent a milestone in this sense, and if not, it'll still be an extremely enjoyable experience so long as they maintain the quality of the premiere.

last edited at Jan 4, 2023 12:13PM

joined Jan 13, 2021

I find this image relentlessly hilarious because like, yeah, Year of the Water Rabbit and all that, but the WataTabe trio are also the three not-quite-people on the planet least capable of Being Normal about bunnies, I think. To wit:

1) Shiori would encounter a rabbit and embark upon a very long rant about how rabbits actually taste horrible and live in constant shitty sin and can only be enjoyed by some barbarian bitch monster like a fox, but then also foster a soulful attachment to the bunny based on an increasingly less ironic enjoyment of its fluffiness and vulnerability. When the rabbit in question, who at this point she shall have named, murdered approximately eighteen people to defend because they looked at it funny, and built an underwater castle for, inevitably perishes in a subjective nanosecond of her immortal life, she'll mourn it with enough force to cause a major tsunami, sink numerous ships in her frustration and singlehandedly cause a boom in the maritime-mystery-documentary industry, and react with a mixture of melancholy and bitterness every time she recalls the fluffy little hopper long after rabbits (and probably humanity) have gone extinct.

2) Hinako would see a rabbit and proceed to sink into The Pit somewhat deeper than the Mariana Trench nestled in her head, musing upon the loss of innocence, the cycle of life, and the phantasms of affection and authenticity that haunt the quotidian performance of normalcy we are expected to render in societies presuming scripted and instantaneous effusiveness in response to certain cues. While she's sinking into the sepulcher of her sentience, Hinako shall be so quiet and still as to radiate no signs of life, compelling the bunnies to treat her as entirely nonthreatening. They shall burrow into her blouses and skirts and establish there a thriving colony that lasts many generations, which Hinako shall not disturb for fear of interrupting their lives as her own was interrupted on that miserable day so long ago, choosing instead to brood on motionlessly. Passers-by shall be greeted by the spectacle, equal parts heartwarming and unsettling, of a woman covered in a squirming and writhing mass of rabbits, downy curtains of fur and paw occasionally parting to reveal the hint of an eye radiating forth a stare so blank, so hollow in its reception of a light that does not touch the heart, as to turn anyone who meets it off bunnies forever.

3) Miko has inhaled bunnies. She's cleared out entire colonies for fun little diversions on her way to hunt for a meal that's actually substantial. She has conducted seminars on the effective slaughter of the family Leporidae. Every fox that ever chokes a furry little scrapper to death today says grace to Miko before digging into its hard-won repast. Rabbits harbor an instinctive terror of Miko, the fear they feel upon the apprehension of some proximal predator elevated in her presence to the proportions of the closest thing to a religious, nay, an existential threat their adorable little heads may conceive of. Miko today smiles at the rabbits she encounters, paralyzing them in petrification that rubbishes all semblance of a fight-or-flight instinct, and gently cradles them with hands that know exactly where to press to arrest their panicked little breaths and the dim scintillations that power their frantic brains. She nestles them close to her breast, belly thrumming fondly from memories of many a scrumptious snack, and snaps with the same precision once used for rabbit necks a selfie for her Insta, captioning it, Bunny Love ˘ ³˘. Then she lets the creature, trembling as a grimy peasant who has glimpsed by accident the action of the creator-destroyer upon some earthy corner of the world, return to its humble pen, recalling for all its meagre days the moment it felt the breath of oblivion.

joined Jan 13, 2021

This series quietly ended up growing very close to my heart, and while I'm sad to see it go, it made for a wonderful ride, all the more so because you could leap in and leap off at any point, because it's not the destination or the journey that matters, but the ideal of escape, the willingness and capacity to conceptualize it, to imagine amid pressure and monotony and boredom the prospect and fantasy of stimulation, to make a mind in peril of becoming the ultimate prison under routine and deadlines into the very engine of spontaneous liberation. This concept is the fuel that propels the eternal motion(less) machine that is this story, a ship (ha-ha) that can be itself precisely because it always changes, and needs to change in order to keep sailing, to bob onward through the heat waves and brainstorms toward tomorrow.

I adore the way in which Futari Escape celebrates decentered and organic creativity that does not necessarily need to be propelled toward the manifestation of some Great Work, but matters in and of itself, nourishing the very mind that harbors it whether or not it is deployed to water some yearly harvest or prize gardenia, a creativity that is the ability to see pleasure in the mundane, adventure in the environs, life in the dance of dust particles and comfy yawns. I love the resistance, if not outright rejection, of the pressure to be productive in a socially-mandated manner, the admission that one needs to some extent to perform the soulless and silent song-and-dance that hats a wage, but can and indeed must also carve out a life beyond and throughout this, a life not necessarily located in some romantic eat-pray-love journey of self-discovery whose cost of undertaking shall demand more drudgery than it heals, but also in the space of small moments, passing joys, flights of fancy and whimsical asides. (Futari Escape is in fact an OL yuri story because the office in OL yuri is by no means a set corporate location, but the manifestation of the eldritch fiend that is capitalism whose corruptive and insidious influence queer women valiantly resist; in this series, that monstrous manifestation is far less physical, which necessitates the OL-as-resistance-fighter to take similarly spiritual, imaginative and epistemic measures in turn)

The metatextuality of this ending, then, is entirely fitting, because the series was in some ways always metatextual, as all fiction tends to be by essence and design. Trapped in narratives, ambushed by expectations, hemmed in by pressures and condemned by the tyranny of the life-course, Sempai and Kouhai simply have to improvise, innovate and break the rules of their genres, those scripts of unemployment and occupation used to label people as deviant or pressure them to remain productive, and write in thoughts and feelings the tale of their breakout. Short tales, perhaps, and in some cases mere daydreams, but in a world where the shadow of alienation swallows the sun whole and renders that life-star the mere metric of shifts and schedules, dreams are kindling for the soul, refuges in the over-underground of the mind, the final bastion and shelter for what is passionate and empathetic and human in us all. The metatext is dream-reality, a hazily bordered realm encompassing and surpassing, not beyond, but within and parallel, into which we step back to look within in fanciful motions that reveal in centerless orbits the movements of life and thought, too complex to be labelled or bottled by the tyranny of production. As Sempai and Kouhai conducted this dance of layers to stay on their toes and preserve the levity of their lives throughout the series, so they perform their greatest performance to cap it all off, creating themselves through a visionary world, making themselves into the subject of their art, for what is art but a symphony of life, creating from and created by? They'd written for us Futari Escape all along, in every issue and in every panel, inspiring and inspired, and shall continue to do so forevermore, transcending in life (and hopefully in the eventual extra doujins) the close of the page, the fullest achievement and enactment of this story's errant, easygoing, emancipatory ethos.

Indeed, this organic, fluid, quicksilver-flashing ethic is reflected even in the titular relationship, for Sempai and Kouhai are, to quote a Tumblr post I recently enjoyed, "Two old guys who have a gay thing going on... no, having a gay relationship and having a gay thing going on are not the same, it's complicated". There exists in their dynamic, in this flirty, bantering, gruffly intimate inter-reliance of shroom-mates, so much potential that is kinetic without exhaustion, without conversion exactly from 'friends' to 'lovers', maintaining a flexibility that can encompass all these categories without subsumption, an elasticity that suits itself infinitely to the demands of the moment and whatever improv they feel like enacting, not pretending in the sense of some nonexistent divide between appearance and reality, but performing in the sense that they create in every interaction richer senses of a private and provisional cosmos. Friendship can be profoundly queer when well-penned, for while love may glue a queer relationship, friendship is what supplies and supports a queer community, and these two are in every sense a two-person commune, a love-thy-neighborhood on whimsy's wheels. If Crescent Moon and Doughnuts spoke to the part of me that's ace, Futari Escape speaks to the part that's aro, because regardless of whether or not these two brilliant fools end up dating in some subsequent installment, their relationship is still charged with that greatest kind of love that sublates and surpasses romance to affirm life itself in all its glorious oddness.

joined Jan 13, 2021

What an exquisite ending. Some part of me had feared, I must admit, the impending sendoff, which I might have attended in the manner of a great many weddings sat through in childhood, squirming uncomfortably in my seat as I yearned to be elsewhere, holding back bored remarks in deference to the happiness of some relative, tapping my feet impatiently through rituals at once interminable and abrupt, and consoling myself at the end of the whole program with the conclusion that at least they'd given me cake. But Akiyama has prepared for us here a wonderful festival, a celebration of life and love and art, and though the big day came far earlier than I'd expected and ended far before I'd have liked, there are merits still to small ceremonies and humble occasions, the full range of which glimmered on display this blessed day. Murmurs abound, as they always do, about the swiftness of it all, the potential for something more, the sanctity of such a rapid culmination, and the events that may have forced the proceedings to such a sudden terminus. Fair concerns, in some regards, but I for one am mesmerized by the brides, by the intricacy of their gowns that scintillate in the blush of this early hour, by the joy in their eyes that burns a timeless adoration, and the deftness with which they stride down the aisle, short and practical though it may be, endowed in the certainty of their vision with a sureness also of their present and future, a bond everlasting and sublime. At the end of our vigil, this is what remains and recurs- the vision of it all, the numinous sight that shines through the soul of art no matter how constrained its body may be, bestowing upon the ardent observer not epics or sagas embossed in the endorsement of their times, but singular images that vindicate nevertheless of the entirety of our commitment. They are happy, and so am I.

As congratulations endlessly repeat across the course of a happy day, I must laud once more Akiyama's mastery of their art, exhibited here in especial effulgence as they pilot a tale that soared sundry skies and dizzying heights down to a stony strip of ground, and achieve it all with nary a tremble, excepting those well-occasioned by the demands of the hour. The masterful paralleling of the river with the rain, time as stream and season waltzing dreams down misty lives, the bearing of the Iberis in resplendent reversal, and the bookending of our tale with the rush of a train, bearing destinies in the city of life down their curious capillaries- the chaos of the city, its spawl of services and stopgaps, have always served Akiyama well as the backgrounds to a chaotic stage, a pragmatic fallacy for the thorniest of private dramas, twisting if even for a moment the heartless cogs of urbanity out of their routine to let us hear in concert with their judders the cry of an ailing heart, and Iberis' denouement is another virtuoso (dis)arrangement.

Indeed, the series even in its short run manages excellently to manifest and conjure with the spirit of Akiyama's art, their primary and pervasive concerns, treating the issue of the unclassifiable, the liminal, that which slips through cracks and cannot be subsumed into or labelled under prevailing sociocultural notions of productivity, be it success in work, dreams, ventures or even the race towards some remote and joyless middle-class ideal of domestic security, the nuclear family, the monogamous union manufacturing products of a clear genealogy and direction that may be fed once more into the urban maw to make the wheels go round and the chimneys belch up self-swallowing smoke. Beached and wrecked in the alleys of a fleshly ocean, or under the rubble of collapsing relationships, or in the hourglass-deserts of success demanding mindless maintenance, their characters yearn for something more, something not entirely permanent, but enough at the very least to fill the spin of a moment, to pass this howling smog-night sooner.

Relationships in Akiyama's work are often illegitimate, but only insofar as they need to be, not only for the purposes of the drama that inevitably arises when they demand legitimacy, but because legitimacy itself in Akiyama's worlds is the dead god of a mad faith, an altar upon which people sacrifice themselves, a temple hiding eternally the rot of age and apathy. Everyone strays, Akiyama maintains, not for vice, but because no one knows where they're headed, because there were never any directions in the first place that weren't confined on a yellowing map someone shoved into your hands as a child and told you to follow off cliffs and canyons for the rest of your constricted life. And so the only truth, perhaps the only virtue, is pleasure in the moment, the here and now, the closest one gets to self-knowledge in all its inconsistencies and betrayals, a self-acceptance in the sense of an everchanging self you cannot absolutely label, predict, taxonomize or render consistent- a profoundly queer brand of skepticism that makes the abrasion, the sting, the dissatisfaction felt in rigid and hypocritical society the germ of personal growth, even toward private destruction. And yet, as this ending so beautifully proves, there is and must be amidst it all some joy, some blooming of happiness that accompanies the pursuit of one's idiosyncrasies, of giving words and wyrds to wanting. Ephemeral joys, perhaps, transient as they must be to slip between judgment and hegemony, unable in many cases to survive the relentless pressure of the social gaze, and yet possessing nevertheless the capacity to rekindle and spark a billion decentered dalliances and dreams in every blink of that tyrannic eye.

So it goes for Kashiwai and Tsuzuki's little affair, which embodies in its very disembodiment the tenor of queer ephemerality, its hushed joys and practical separations, its stolen gazes and printless departures. Their love does not rot and fester and end in the messy amputations of a break-up, or be splattered in dreary vivisection across the legal labyrinths of divorce, but fades instead like snowflakes on the tongue or reflections in the sun, slight and ghostly enough to make one wonder if it existed at all, but possessing in that very capacity for wondering, for wonder, the spaceless infinitude of imagination, that boundless foreign country of the past, the beneficent guardian-star of nostalgia. Like the countless burnt letters and wordless glances shared between queer people in places where their identities cannot live long in words, or the numerous works of queer art curtailed and truncated by the prejudices and pressures of their publishing industries and demographics, this series and Akiyama's oeuvre in general reflects the melancholy of transience, the sense that what we feel most deeply is often left the least permanent. But even transience is a sort of life, even speculation a sort of inheritance, not passed down in the common way through deeds pinioned in law and blood, but emerging from existence and experience itself, the freedom of the being, the fact that queerness for all its historical breakages and fissures still survives, and those who do not fit into the structures and schematics of their societies may still trace, in history or hearts, the legacies however liminal of those who felt the same way, who went unseen and yet saw themselves in the seams between seconds and stories.

And while we may find in kinder times and spaces some stability, as Tsuzuki and Kashiwai ultimately do, there is value still in recalling those in-betweens, those brushing fingers, those chance encounters, those that might-have-been, the roads-not-forsaken. Accordingly, whether Akiyama reaches new heights and an absolute fullness of expression in their subsequent works, or must be judged only on the merits of what they have already wrought, there shall be value nevertheless in Iberis, a place for its enchanting ephemerality. I am immensely grateful for the experience, and wish these brides a lifetime of joys.

joined Jan 13, 2021

Ayo, my favorite cooking manga's baaaack (they are simmering lesbians for centuries in a sauce of existential dread). I'm sorta spoiled since I read the next few chapters on MD on account of having zero restraint when it comes to this series, but it's still fun to revisit them with an alternate translation for additional perspective. As the wise Ayame once (probably) said, "You can never have too much tongue." Scattered thoughts (though not as scattered as Ayame was at the end of this chapter, lmaoooooo) below:

1) I fucking love Ayame's entire character. Truly a MILF (Mother, I'd Like to Find out more about how you ended up becoming what you are today and how you feel about your past, present and place in this warped and haunting pseudo-hierarchy of horrors in which you linger through a mixture of agony, remorse and guilt). Besides everything she represents in relation to Hinako's tortured psyche and perceptions of motherhood and family, she's also just so entertaining in action? The glib, polite, bemused 'oh dear' approach to bloody murder, just a bumbling old mom out to dice a teenager for dinner, the casual acceptance of her relative irrelevance and vestigiality in the grotesque scheme of things even as she's being torn about, and above all, the fact that her reaction to Shiori rending her asunder is to eagerly try and gather some tea, some steaming hot goss about this legendary mermaid lady's relationship to Hinako with all the zest of a middle-aged suburban mom hunting for that spicy celeb drama. Iconic, honestly. I hope she (un)lives forever.

2) For the millionth time (here's to a million more), I adore how Naekawa Sai really looked at the boundary between mortal and monster and took a chainsaw-blender to it, because we are in the soup, the veritable cryptid chowder of hybridity here. I mean, look at The. The fucking inversion of traditional tropes and themes relating to fairytales and mystery and wonder when it comes to Hinako and Shiori. The mermaid blood in Hinako representing this twisted version of a childhood fantasy, of a connection to this supernatural and strange realm forged in childhood persisting into her adolescence and dragging her ever deeper back toward that otherworldly liminality, a resurgence of the absurd that is seemingly a return of the repressed and a bursting forth of the horrific, but also in a bizarre way a reacquaintance with the wonders and potential of childhood, with that fairyland that dogs the dreams of a girl who never quite grew up, and perhaps the key if this series doesn't spiral tits-up into tragedy to restoration of some measure of the person she used to be. It's exquisite. This series feels like it comes from a mind that read the original, gory versions of a ton of fairytales, the macabre, weird, cautionary and terrifying folktales they were originally supposed to serve as for trembling village children who'd otherwise venture into the darkness of the woods, and at the end of them all adored these horrific yarns as ardently as most kids love their Disney princesses. This makes me feel so very spoken to. Hail Naekawa.

3) The monster designs. Good heavens (into which none of these girls are ever getting), the monster designs. I feel like a ton of media that features 'feminine' monsters tends to go one of two ways- you either have an incredibly basic, almost 'cute', borderline humanoid, almost moe portrayal of the monster that's not really foreign or intimidating or striking at all, a 'monster girl' and nothing more; or alternately, just a general, animalistic or inorganic monster design that might normally take or emerge from a femme body, but has no especially femme traits whilst in monster-mode. Of the two, I largely prefer the latter, given that monsters could probably not give less of a shit about silly human conceptions of gender or attractiveness, but at the same time, I do also love to see approaches that integrate the two, that take traits, motifs and signifiers generally considered feminine and work them into a truly terrifying and awe-inspiring monster design, especially if the object is not some misogynistic exaggeration of feminine traits to promote a wack-ass message like 'hey, look what happens when le women lose control of their Emotions and try to be independent" (a theme unfortunately all too common in horror films), but in a nuanced, complex queer sense that very much aims to convey a sense of longing, adulation and wonder at this entity that makes gender profoundly, daringly, transcendently its own (lesbian and trans monsterfucker romance is actually an established and thriving subgenre in queer lit). Shiori's design nails this better than Shiori nails your average abomination (which happens so often I honestly think the local beasties are into it and rush to be dissected by the dommy mermaid lady every time she surfaces). The limpid muscles spotted by coral constellations, the fins cleaving air and water as effortlessly as they slice past all that is holy and just, the kelp forests of hair drinking mercilessly of moonlight, the horns that crown a queen-beast apex predator and are also bizarrely reminiscent of the princesses Hinako distinguishes her from, the maelstrom of teeth crunching life back down to the unicellular, cradle-grave of existence- she's poetry in motion, an eldritch melody.

3.5- You Can (Not) Shut Up about Monster Designs: Speaking very broadly of the major monster designs we've seen so far, I'd say Miko's vibe kinda reminds me of Resident Evil- a terrifyingly souped-up version of an already intimidating, but still recognizable human or animal template, in this case the fox (they really went and infected my girl with the Organized Religion Virus); Ayame's vibe brings to mind Silent Hill (a uniquely psychosexual type of WTF that uses deeply personal and symbolic aspects to imbue a uniquely unsettling edge to even generally humanoid and relatively physically unimposing monsters); and Shiori's a fucking Soulsborne boss (striking mixture of transcendent beauty and abject decay that reflects a long and esoteric history, suggesting at once an age of myths and glory and mystery while presenting you with undeniable proof of the brutality, madness and corruption that lead the brightest ages to their fall). I wish with all my heart that this series goes on to give us some more monsters with equally unique designs, or at least that Naekawa occasionally puts out some monster art regardless of what their future projects might be, because they've got a legitimate gift here.

last edited at Dec 17, 2022 4:43PM

joined Jan 13, 2021

A ritual I'm fond of is to supply, at the end of a story that's accompanied your life and thoughts for quite a while, accounts of your acquaintance with it, the tale of your tale-reading. Here's mine.

Everyone has that one story that's come to texture their relationship with a genre, or perhaps art and life itself, that one experience that leaps past its screens and pages to wrap itself about your mind, trailing shadows and echoes over passing routines, reading you in days and dreams. It might not be your first tale, or even your favorite, but it bears within the annals and avenues of your memory a certain radiance, a quiet and haunting light not unlike the lunar glow that accompanies Hinako and Asahi down many a night. You find yourself returning to it by coincidence or design, or even in the turn of a musing upon rainy days, recalling with wistful smiles not simply the work itself, but the very experience of reading it, the time in your life that coursed about it, and that distant version of yourself who did the reading, a stranger bound to you across selves by the pulse of a turning page. The tale becomes, in this ebb and flow of recollections, almost the spiral that binds an inkless journal, a diary of influences and impacts, of the craters of feeling that painted upon you, in those days, old faces as mark the moon. The images sink into you, the paper curls, like oh-so-many sighs and laughs, about the voice of your heart, and the line between reader and text, chapter and season, title and memory melts and flows into the crevices of your yesterdays, trellising tomorrows. So it went with Moon and I, across innumerable todays.

I had the privilege of reading the first chapter upon release, almost three years ago now, a moment I still fondly recall. On a cold winter morning, I'd been scrolling sleepily down a manga forum shortly before I dragged myself to university, not entirely sure what I wanted from it, of what I'd hoped to find, if anything at all in that drowsy exercise of habit, not unlike flipping through a morning paper half-warm from the presses, half-cold from the bicycle ride. I'd hit the twilight of my anime phase, having sailed over the past few years across vibrant carnivals of passion that had begun to feel like white noise, across sagas of battle and bustle now each indistinguishable from the last, across explorations of spirit, purpose and storytelling itself that now seemed trite in their bugles against long-departed gods, and yes, across romances once charming in their earnestness that now felt like dreary, oversexed, normative exercises in contrivance, not half as heterogenous as they were heterosexual, and as devoid of organic, human sexuality as they were packed with voyeurisms of archetype. And yet I'd grown used to these worlds, these patterns and frameworks of art, which had been to me as bulwarks in uncertain days and remained for all their cramping and clumsiness a sort of pillow fort I still didn't wish to leave, still didn't know how to escape. It was in such a phase, in the liminality that accompanies the awareness of hesitation, in the longing for changes that change oneself, and in the glow of skies lent nascent blushes by suns behind horizons that still defer to a phantom moon, that I chanced upon a tale with a striking title, not much-discussed, and took a chance between spoonfuls of a forgotten breakfast, in the stretch of meagre minutes before I'd have to trot out the door.

Something about the first page caught my breath, made me forget, in that routine skim between pages, to take with me that customary apathy that mantles a longtime reader, insulating one from deep emotion and reducing all relations of art to cliches about cliché, to easy pedantry and dull irony, to soulless condensation into tawdry blurbs- Oh, a yuri? Depressed girl x stoic girl. Office cubicles. Art seems nice. I'd parsed series this way before, seen stories bundled up in that fashion dozens of times, and perhaps still occasionally do so now in deference to efficiency, to the law of conservation of investment. But something about Moon stuck, knocked me off balance, and filled me with a odd sense of melancholy, equal parts yearning and relief, as if I'd not read, voyeur-consumer-scanner aloof in my position at the end of the line, but been seen in seeing, experienced some manner of strange connection to which I couldn't yet lend a name. It wasn't the genre, per se- I'd encountered yuri before, and it played a large role in my acquaintance with queerness, in helping me trace the contours of my strangeness, to grow familiar with idiosyncrasy, but those days were distant yet, for I didn't know myself well enough for identification, to know fully of identity. And yet there was something about that tired woman gazing out on the first page, holding uncomfortably about herself the layers and fritters of a daunting culture, wondering what combination of these parts might make a whole, and settle her on the right side of an equation to normalcy. There was something in the way she sadly smiled at foreign futures, longing to feel anything at all, hoping to discover a moment, a sensation, in the reflection of which she'd experience herself, know she'd existed in retrospect, desperate to be normal, even and especially unto herself.

I didn't understand why I felt so deeply about Moon, why this quiet, gentle tale moved me so much more than anything had in recent memory, errant observations in thought bubbles taking up long residence in my mind, crests of ink in tears and smiles burnished within my daydreams. I read those early chapters time and time again, breathlessly waiting for new releases, filled with an anticipation of a different kind than when I'd burned to know the outcomes of cliffhangers and the fallout of twists, eager now not for thrills, shock and astonishment, but for mundanity, for the endurance of warm moments, for an idyllic everyday not devoid of conflict or dread or pain, but capable with a tender touch of guiding these characters I'd come to resonate with so dearly through all the tumult, of giving them- and me- a place of respite, not distant and romantic and faraway, but in that most rare and glorious of spaces, in a mind at peace with itself. Moon became for me not merely a story to return to, but a story to begin from, a story to live through, a host of stations across which I could trace the meanders and mysteries of my own growth.

Passions turn as seasons and stars, and so did my feelings for Moon. I loved it always, but in different ways as well, and all as fulfilling in their own time as the flavors of loyal doughnuts, adored because they're always there and yet never quite the same. At times I'd let it slip into memory's backwaters, lingering at the peripheries of my mind, sparked into prominence at turns in conversations or glimpses of other stories, refreshing my fond acquaintance with those hopeful old girls unwinding in selenic sugartime, encountered blissfully in happy crossings of paths. At times, I'd be overcome with a need to catch up, to arrive at some sort of conclusion, and rush to read the series again, only to groan at a daunting gap between the last release and today, and yet feel also a strange sliver of relief, for the series wasn't and would never really be gone anymore than the moon in the sky, and lit my way through life still, shining in gloomy nights with illumination so gentle I hardly knew it was there, and would yet perhaps be lost without. Moon wasn't just a story at this point, but a presence, a will o' the wisp, a part of me, feeling across what I still struggle to believe were just twenty chapters like a natural phenomenon that'd always hang about. And yet here I stand, at the end of an epic that perhaps wasn't so epoch-spanning at all, half-feeling like I've arrived at the end of an era, and the other half as I always do about Moon- fond, cheerful and largely content.

There was a mild compulsion after I was done reading the final chapter to explore the series again, to go through it all one last time in a grand odyssey that would last for approximately an hour (all of this, and only in twenty chapters?!), but I ultimately decided against it. I'll read dear Moon again, of course, but only when I feel a Moon reading coming on, when the time's right, which it isn't now, which it might not be for a while, which is fine. Having experienced this series across three years, my memories of it are peppered with holes not unlike those of a doughnut, and are perhaps all the more precious for it. I do so despise writing reviews, of bundling together a host of notes about various vivisected categories- Characters, Plot, Pacing, Message all that rot- which do such a profound disservice to the subjectivity of a work, its numinous thisness, and especially to one so concerned with intangible treasures as this, so close to my heart precisely because I still can't quite turn it into an easy eyecatch or slogan, and so must ramble on forever about and mine myself to serenade. Moon to me is me, a host of mes like the faces in the night, a host of nights and days and gays, a host giving me a wondrous place to stay. It reflects a me who wondered about my identity and hoped for some kind of change on that winter morning long ago, a me who slowly learned the ways and means of reading and found this series all the more profound upon reunion, and a me who looked for solace and familiarity and comfort so few other works could provide as I made my way through the world.

In this final chapter, it also reflects a me who is very much ace and glad to see a tale that lets the promises of love, its declarations and dedications, its dear little moments and secret affections, its places and times so special in sharing, be afforded the same significance as those relationships that abound with designated signifiers, their kisses and bases and nights together all ranged in a hoary schedule that to some is order and purpose, but to others like myself mere suffocation. How often I've heard the cacophonous demand, especially in media, for a queerness only legitimate in production, a queerness pulped upon the millstone of Depiction to turn out yields for self-appointed arbitrators of legitimacy, who butcher in myopia many a tale of subtlety and intrigue and declare the maggots that turn in the corpse of stories misread mere bait, rendering themselves by this gross metaphor connoisseurs only of the conventional, consumers of their own consumption. But enough of them, for whether they wither or burst, we'll always have Moon and all the tales woven in its loving fashion, stories willing to give queerness its own pace and flow, to tell difference on its own terms and to not retrofit queer people to established narratives, scrabbling for ways to cram them into the Usual, but to sculpt and charm the form itself to articulate the tenor of our dreams and pleasures, to give our lives the vibrant care and creativity they deserve.

Usui Shio achieves this brilliantly across all their works, queering makeup and dresses and art and marriages, crafting them expertly to articulate a rapturous vision of love that accommodates in its willingness to give people all the time they need a cosmos of identities, always so clemently itself- it's no wonder that I'm a huge fan of everything they've made, and that Moon will enamour me forever. I pray for their success in all future endeavors, and hope that I'll continue find in their art that priceless old serenity for years to come.

joined Jan 13, 2021

This chapter fascinates me, not because of any especial achievement in the telling of its tale, but in a regard entirely and enthrallingly contrary- namely, the shuddering, keening intensity with which it unravels toward the conclusion that it ended before it began and so arrives at the cradle-grave of a million ruined images, striving in the wreck and waste of it all to scream something, anything that is not immediately swallowed up by the sprawling refuse. Oh, that most swampish and desolate of formats, the comical highschool 4koma, propped up by the crossbeams of a million shallow panels, constructed by the groaning labor of innumerable teenagers who pile gag upon tired gag with all the strength and misery of archetype, smiling and screaming with blob-stitched faces the dull history of their hyperreality! They squirm and stagger through suffocating worlds, staring with empty eyes at the white skies that web between their windowed cosmoses, more colorful in their emptiness than their own stories so filled with echoes of voices that never said a valuable word, piling an anti-Babel in a singular and sordid tongue that swallows the sound of its own meaning, and is so reduced to shapes and silhouettes, suggestions eternally unbuilt and sourced indeed from some miserable chips of what may have been personality- the Genki papered onto yon wall, the Stoic hung out to dry by the eaves, the Relatable Introvert peddling breakdowns by the yard, the Popular Girl propped to provide an ambient glow, the Prankster juggling seven nothings to upkeep some pretense of activity, the Nerd poring over fictive textbooks more lively still than her own story, and none of these being themselves, but only so expendable as to erase their own origins and destinations, swapped out in the blinks of an eye that never saw anything worth recalling in the first place. Certainly, one might witness in the distance some striking towers upon climbing to the peak of one such bloodless gimmick-heap, some glittering obelisk in the fashion of grand Machikado that did achieve great glory and touch the stars, orienting a tired wanderer of moepocalypse toward the hope of succor yet, toward some dream of fulfilment even in these deserts of saccharine insubstantiality, toward the swell and warmth of a memorable experience, of fleeting Authenticity. And yet to those who've tasted such delights, the surroundings are crueler still, all the more abject in how far one needs to go discover some shade of life, how many schoolgirl-shaped homunculi one must step over in pursuit of a human horizon, more empty in their featureless fullness than the carcass of some fellow wanderer lying skeletal upon these circuitous throughfares. How then do those tasked to work in this sugary sewage construct something that is, if not enduring, then at least striking, leaving upon a passer's hoary heart some semblance of an impression? How then, does the artist of the highschool 4koma, inheriting a tradition of idols each hollower than the last, afforded for their workspace the slightest scum of a setting, achieve anything at all, and prevent their labor from sinking below the crust of a genre that so frequently lacks a core, preserved only in the arid amber of publication? One suspects the author of Rutou-san ni ha Kanaimasen has no easy answers before them, and can only attempt to sublimate the existential artistic dread of creating a 4koma into the appeal of their work, subsuming the horror of it all into a haunting scream, heightened in its uncanniness by the mode in which it is hollered- the giggle of a high-school golem slapped together from the riverine mud of a thousand choked streams.

One sees a portent of this all in Wamura, lamenting as she does the thinness of her turmoil, impoverished by a comparison in a hellish realm that values its residents absolute in stock taxonomies, played off in endless collisions of cliché as particles in a collider, only less material still. But it is through Rutou that the author truly lets loose a howl of profound and poignant dismay, cracking open in the heights of their despair the facsimile of form, blowing from Rutou a petrifying excretion of scripts and enactments that manages in utter incoherence and tumult to pierce in a movement as heroic as it is monstrous this fog of forgettability, to score upon me so faraway a reaction, an identification, if only with the unattainability of identity. Rutou is the figuration of the ultimate dysfunction, the shape of a crack in the weightless edifice of her genre that allows it the rare moment of character, if not personality. She's a Popular Girl, but actually quite Weird, but actually a Prankster, but actually Interested in our Bland Protagonist, but actually a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but actually Just Playing a Role People Expect of Her, but actually a Secret Friend, but actually a Troublesome Demander, but actually a Blackmailer, but actually Self-Aware, but actually a Dork, but actually Obsessed, but actually a Bit Playfully Mean, but actually a Doting Puppy, but actually Unpredictable, but actually but actually but actually but actually There is Nothing Actual, actually, even the Assertion of Actuality. At the end of her beginning, at the filth that roils in the sphincter of modernity, at the pits and wombs of this industry of contorting spectacle, at the edge of the flat-round earth that is the deceptive never-culmination of the conveyor belt of the comic highschool 4koma feed, Rutou demands what the Fucking Point of it All is, and receives no reply at all, and must so fill the silence with a million suggestions of meanings, a billion appointed purposes- none convincing, but she must speak on, must try and plug the hole that is in fact the seam-fabric of her unreality, because She's Already Here, and what else is there to do? Teetering on the brink of a collapse that threatens to expose there is no difference between construct and creation, chattering and babbling the firmament of her calamities, oracle of the tragedy that is an unamusing comedy, Rutou is in her profound incoherence and dissolution a model and expression of her age and medium, of the environment that demanded her barely-creation, misshapen scream of a weeping god on a schedule. Existing only in this moment in the syrupy scatology of her industry, pressed between countless packages of formlessness on Aisle Archetype, Rutou-san opts in a move of cunning desperation, of inspired insipidity, to dynamite this pallid procession, to say in its soulless screaming more than it could in any streamlined script, to say indeed anything at all, even if one hears only the clank and rattle of the grave, feels in the rush of it all the final breath of one that never lived, and Wonders.

I'd say it worked.

joined Jan 13, 2021

I suppose the expectation from a complex story that seems to be on the cusp of an untimely end is tumult and incoherence, but what struck me most about this chapter (once I was done guffawing at how Kashiwai on page 8 is essentially identical to the crying Aya Asagiri meme) was how profoundly peaceful it felt? Not the peace that comes in life unhindered, sheltered from the eddies of insecurity, but the release that accompanies the rush of tears, that breaking, cresting sigh of pain unknotted, the craggy dignity of heartfelt sobs, of collapse most momentous and liberating- such is the tragedy that graces Kashiwai, blinding her so she may see, letting her pour her heart out a cold and uncaring world so it might be purged of yearning's occlusion, and beat clear and steady again. How poignant those pages that trail her staggering down the long way to an unfamiliar home, that perch her on balconies in flightless reflection, that coil her in long shadows on yesteryear-creased sheets, heavy in the lightness of separation, sliced from herself by double-edged silence, and yet so very striking in her loss-won wisdom, in the set of her eyes that range across futures past and presents unreceived. There is no avalanche of events here, no smuggling of contrivances across this penultimate pass, but only the whispers of the city and the echoes of recollection, the sound of clacking heels and crowing phones at the salon, and the deafening hush of rain washing mistakes up and away. Perhaps they shall arrive at our next meeting, pile thick at farewell's site, but for now, moments are cheaper than promises and swifter than trains, passing us leagues in foggy omission, seams to be plastered with phantom what-ifs.

And the final pages are all the more striking for it, the closing of the circle once more, the quietude of glacial grieving rammed perilously by the face that sailed a thousand ships, battering Kashiwai and Tsuzuki both with an old, rapturous pain, the devilry of their wordless deal. In some sense, I feel the tale's ended already, and the final chapter shall prove not so much a continuation or an epilogue or a footnote as it shall a misty parallel, a speculation as authentic in its ghostliness as the delusions of those drifting far out at sea. It may not or perhaps cannot provide the perfect closure, if such a thing exists, if there even was an opening in the first place, for this is in so many ways a tale of the irresolute and labyrinthine present, where moments are strung as pearls in a necklace, each with their watery history and yet no order of organization, nested as they are upon a breathing throat. Fitting then, to end uncertainly and haphazardly, apocalyptically and anticlimactically, or not all at the close of it all- do tales end at weddings? At elopements? At gatecrashings? At annulments? Something shall always stretch on, for all staging is a vignette, and the grandest of stages cast themselves beyond curtains to live on in the spotlight of the mind's eye, endlessly improvised in an ardent viewer's heart. So it goes with Iberis, a tale I'll fondly remember regardless of how it ends- a strange declaration to make before the conclusion, and yet one that cannot be made any later, dedicated as it is to a tale out of its time, and yet so perfectly in its place.

joined Jan 13, 2021

Pretty cool start? I love art that talks about art (Yuri Espoir is among the best works in the genre, btw), that focuses on how stories bring people together and say so much about who they are, tastes singing louder than words, reviews at first sight, five-and-one-star crossed lovers gleefully bantering about the Experience. Romance is subcultural in its own way, mixing expectations and stations and influences and confluences, trying out looks and tales and links and scales, a private back and forth born of time and place and jamming to the tunes of people trying out a voice, of an age and therefore of All the Time. Ichiko's trying to see herself a bit clearer in the spotlight, discovering her density as she tests out the flow, thinking for pennies and touring the dreadfuls, and Kuran's her anchor, her rock and beacon, an anti-lighthouse she can bob away from, feeling the warmth of a gaze of her back to counter all the ones she faces, the cryptid in her corner. Its a damn nice dynamic that feels both innovative and familiar, because there truly is something comforting about iconoclasm, the hipster's trusty homestead, the reassuring, self-affirming impact that gutters up your bones as you kick out, because there'll always be a tower to flip off, a sky to spit in, a history to sneer at, and to Ichiko out there on fomo's frontlines, Kuran's the mean because she's mean, a star to navigate by because she's extreme. There is no authenticity except in moments felt as they pass, and Ichiran pass 'em with other, phoning in the phonology of phonies, slinging their hearts into every declamation of cliché, never false because they're never true, always the same old and so always new- in short, Sincere Since they're Here. Very Cool.

Also, the art bangs severely in various ways, from the way Ichiko tilts like she's a hidalgo with giants to kill to Kuran looking like a Peanuts character in her punk phase, but special shoutout to the pixel trans flag bubbles on the cover glitching out reality from the cumulative Gender of it all. They just like me, fr, fr.

joined Jan 13, 2021

Damn, this is the first time in ages that a work's reeled me in on premise alone. This right here is the A-grade stuff, cryptid-ass yuri with fucked up little guys too disastrously lesbian to be bothered by stupid things like the worms in their brains or soul-splitting pains, yearning for the touch of a lover and the sweet release of death in no particular order. I'm absolutely fascinated by the graveyard economy here, warring themes of burial and cremation, ascent and descent, searing oblivion and decomposing materiality, all stitched and sutured by paroxysms of need and greed and dirty deeds done dirt cheap, furnishing the afterlife with the afterwife, graverobbers and carpetbaggers bumbling about the funeral parlor, which is a body and place and a home where the heart is (optional). Now here's a world where death's no excuse for skipping on a debt or getting a discount, where every part of you matters, and can be perceived, detached, surveyed, priced and stolen, giving you eternal life on the marrow-market, making you revivable, sellable, killable, fillable, taxes on your taxidermy, weddings on your pyre, till parts do you death. Adore the art skittering and kicking up and out of roundish moe like a body popping out of a grave when its time to rattle some bones, all shadows and silhouettes bursting into focus like a revenant's first time spotting the sun, ribs and teeth breaching the placid surface of a blob. Love our dienamic duo too- Huo's not the earliest riser or best pricer, and Xiong's late to her own tragedy, a match made in the obituaries and worth its weight in mold. Here's wishing our little rotters the best, hoping the philia wins out over the necro, and booking first class tickets to this wild hearse ride (or given that this a jiangshi tale, hiring a Taoist priest to resurrect me every month so I can hop stiffly over to the reader).

joined Jan 13, 2021

Kashiwai: Hey, everyone! Welcome to the latest episode of Manga Appreciation with the Wedding Spanners! I'm your host Kashiwai, and this devastatingly beautiful woman with whom I would sacrifice anything to be is Tsuzuki!

Tsuzuki: I'm not sure locking radio hosts in cabinets and hijacking their programs is the best way to spend our weekly session, honey.

Kashiwai: Today, we're going to be discussing the latest chapter of Brides of Iberis, a story about a wedding planner whose ideas of conventional matrimony are completely overturned when she meets a mysterious, enchanting woman at the center of a dizzying web of relationships. As chaotic and absurd as it may be, the wedding planner just can't resist this siren's free-love charms! And so she's pulled breathlessly into a complex, labyrinthine midnight realm of contracts and deals-

Tsuzuki: For the last time, it's not that hard, I maintain a fucking chart-

Kashiwai: - And all resemblances to real figures are entirely coincidental.

Tsuzuki: Oh. Totally. Blondie wishes she had an ass as fat as mine.

Kashiwai: So! Let's talk about space! One of my favorite things about this story is the way it composes space, weaving the world around a character into patterns that match their connections to the environment, the vista of their thoughts, the landscape of their feelings. For instance, don't you just love how this- totally fictional- Mizuki girl's memories of the first wedding she saw are utterly suffused with detail, almost more vivid than the day she was there, and then we switch to her apartment and it's almost like she's floating in a void, the walls that once housed and confined her now seeming so distant and abyssal, leaving her with nothing but herself in the wake of her way of life?

Tsuzuki: Mm-hmm. Hate being left with myself. Last time it happened, I ended up catching the attention of the single most repressed dame I've ever seen. Damn good kisser, though.

Kashiwai: Aww. Yeah, one way I- I mean, this Mizuki chick- can cope with the profound dread of purposelessness and uncertainty is to seek comfort in the warmth of my- her- lover's arms. Just look at how space takes on detail and form again around Mizuki when she's with Nanami, anchoring her back to the surroundings, letting her latch on to the faith that there's still opportunity and direction left in her life, that she's just moving into a new phase rather than relinquishing everything like she feared earlier.

Tsuzuki: You know what you sure as hell weren't relinquishing last night, babe? My-

Kashiwai: Ahem! Breast of all, I adore how space fades back into blankness when Nanami and Mizuki finally come together, in this fascinating inversion of the emptiness Mizuki experienced when she was alone. Once again, the details are fading out, melting away as her body and mind become the center of her world, but this time it's not because she's alone, but because she's got someone she can devote her entire heart to, glorying in a sense of the present, in a bliss she's wanted and needed for so very long. For a night, she can forget all the anxieties, all the deadlines and obligations and pressures. For a night, the schedule goes out of the window and it's all just them, together. Let me tell you, folks, as a wedding planner, that's nothing short of heaven.

Tsuzuki: Mm-hmm. As a wedding-haver, I can confirm there's nothing better than having a wedding-planner.

Kashiwai: Speaking of wedding planners, I like the irony of Mizuki finding that Nanami's got a whole chart detailing her arrangements. In the beginning, she'd thought this woman was the most irresponsible, immoral person imaginable, but now she discovers that she's actually got everything worked out neatly? Talk about a surprise!

Tsuzuki: Yep. On the other hand, you'd think Mizuki really had it all together in the beginning with her self-righteous act, but now she's just been left by her fiancé, suspected of unprofessionalism by everyone at her job, and is entirely unsure of where she's headed in life. Oh, honey. What in the world would you do without me?

Kashiwai: Oh, I couldn't imagine. Can't visualize a different version of events for the life of me. Must be the smoke from all the bridges I've burned. And I'm sure I'll burn as many more as it takes for you!

Tsuzuki: Go off, queen. Just try not to get caught, okay? I'm not sure if "asking your boyfriend and husband to bail out your girlfriend (pending wife status) for arson" is part of this whole polyamory deal. Also, I think the radio host's about to break out.

Kashiwai: On that note, let's wrap this session up! What thrills, scandals, adventures and distressingly-short-length-induced-climactic-developments does Brides of Iberis have in store? Find out next time on Manga Appreciation With the Wedding Spanners, airing whenever I feel like screaming into the airwaves again about how I was literally created to suffer!

Tsuzuki: Also, follow Mizuki's wedding planner salon on Twitter for updates on when they're all going to murder each other. DM applications to the polycule have also been closed at present due to an overwhelming number of submissions. Until next time, fam. Remember to always fuck around and find out.

last edited at Nov 1, 2022 5:47PM

joined Jan 13, 2021

Shoutout to moody, reflective stories about yearning, public transit, the ephemerality of words and dreams, and the quest for substance in infinite moments- gotta be one of my favorite genders. I love the wispy, diffuse art like trailing dust particles in a sigh of sun, the patchwork shadows that knit backdrops in negative, loose uniforms in molten black winging raven-mantled girls down winds of change, pulses of music and conversation and movement like spikes of a morning migraine followed by the haze of minds trying to recall the formula to ergo's sum, silhouettes as long goodbyes and opaque memories, panels overlapping, cutting across, swimming and diffracting and slicing black-white like piano keys warring for a tune, and the union of forms in finality, shadows given weight and heft and traced to pasts and futures, fulminated by love and light into iridescence. Right from that exquisite first page with a girl-who-will-become-Yuki framed crow-pale against a sky in roiling hues, one foot each in sun and shade, hesitant on the stretch of a dewy path as she stares down a track curling into darkness, unsure if she must advance or await, we're transported into the tale's misty penumbral world, marinating in maudlin moods.

Fitting, then, that so much of the story is about places without trails, lines without connections, words without responses, all lost as they enter the light, scattered to so much ash and ember in purgatorial adolescence- Harumi's touches clouding Yuki's winter-sunned heart, the voice on the phone that prattles without presence, the hubbub of conversations untraceable to speakers, the flush of fantasy diffused in soapy water, words that always curl off course, shadows weaned on formless lights, and trains that trundle to ends of lines few passengers will wait to see. At the end, these girls commit to presence, to bodies, to moments, to the now-and-then, letting go of deferred dreams and postponed appointments and wordless fantasies to see at last what's right before them and infinitely richer. Past the fog and glare of eternal peripheries, they venture at last towards the hearts of people and the town, exploring and escaping themselves. Forget that crusty old Lesbos- the coolest sapphics vacation at Silent Hill.

joined Jan 13, 2021

They're baaaaaack, fuck yeah. Great timing, too. I was just rereading this last night and reflecting how it's absolutely one of favorite series in recent memory. The bartending theme lends itself so well to the exploration of a relationship's growth- as Naori and Hinata come to trust each other, drinking moves from ritual to romance, an act of sacred intimacy between bartender and drinker that's infinite in its flavors and by extension the dimensionality of those involved. Alcohol in this tale is both elixir and expose, nectar of a lotus and the blood of dragons, universal solvent and giver of forms, melting in blood and breath to blend emotions to brews, sentiments to spirits, flowing and mixing in a trillion transient moldings that etch upon dancing veins a moment's hue. As shakers sing and glasses clink, Hinata and Naori sing to each other in a language of need, lines between serving and savoring blurring into pulsing pleasure- though Naori may be said to begin the dance by pouring a drink, she receives beforehand a constellation of signals from Hinata, seeing in her starry eyes the keys to her preparative prediction, and as Hinata trills her bartender's praises in intoxication's flush, she rains upon Naori a host of affirmations, coloring the next concoction, which paints in turn this shimmering ogre another hue, emotions sipped richly on by Naori and reprocessed into the next drink, a cycle of mounting gains (until someone passes out or pounces, that is).

In this ocean of exchanges, a passing of the cornucopia, there's such wonderful blooming and expansion, a tremendous glowing and overflow as bodies shaped by circumstance and society now run free of familiar forms and burst into sculptures of spontaneity, running riot in rummish rapture. Hinata's example is perhaps the more obvious, given the spouting of scarlet horns as if to hold more drink, but Naori too grows in these happy hours into her archetypical ideal of a bartender, suave and sensitive, deliverer of great pleasure, unraveller of tongues and times. And especially charming is how this key to this authenticity is necessarily strangeness, an engagement with demonic, occultic, esoteric and eccentric, the quintessence of aqua vitae found in the way one's own spirit flows, the grandest of works achieved in collaboration, making moments golden in the alchemy of love. Over the course of the series, this growth is also unity and fulfillment and regeneration, as Naori no longer sees bartending as something done in places and hours as separate from her non-professional identity, but a holistic discipline and way of life devoted to empathy and attention in all things, an ear for the whispers of parched souls crying out for replenishment, an eye for the ingredients that dissolve differences into a glittering medley far greater than the sum of competing parts. And so too is Hinata moved in fluidity towards a solidity of self, the precious understanding that to be oneself is to give oneself the space to be, that this uncertainty is not limbo, but limitless potentiality, dissolving in the churn of a good drink the line between human and ogre both within and without, blurring in the warm tumult of a party all forms to one, one form to all, revealing to Hinata that her belonging lies not in an essence, species or race, but in places, connections, spirits both hers and others, bonded and brewed. It's wonderful how she becomes more comfortable receiving and demanding, growing vocal with her needs and yet also trusting Naori to read and respond to them, to gift her pleasures she didn't even know existed, just as Naori herself realizes how much she has to give and enjoys giving, seeing a million glorious versions of herself, a billion things to love, all reflected in Hinata's sparkling eyes.

Stories about people learning to love and enjoy each other in ways ever developing, engaged in cycles of resonance and adaptation, are the absolute best, and this particular story's garnishing of the recipe with the occultic and folkloric is a mocktail (my appreciation of alcohol remains largely literary) suited perfectly to my tastes. Lighter drinks can also hit damn hard, as evidenced by Naori's plight at the end of this chapter, and while I feel like this latest adversary may also end up joining our cast of wacky gays (as Mikage proves, taking pieces out of little bartenders is a form of youkai flirting), I do hope all the ominous warnings about curses and dangers fetch us some spicy confrontations. I want Naori to be hunted by her wife's family of magic gangster has-beens and be bodily flung around by giant monster women (she absolutely enjoys it, the natty little freak). I want Hinata to gore someone regardless of the ultimate status of her horns. I want Mikage to use that wicked knife she busted out when we first met her. You can't have a story about drinking or a story about monsters without a few scuffles, and that goes double for this setup. A toast to murder! (this was originally a wholesome comment)

joined Jan 13, 2021

Really liked this one? Laundromats as spaces have always fascinated me because they're virtually nonexistent where I come from and I've never been to one, so the entirety of my acquaintance with them is deferred through media. There's a fascinating intersection of qualities I normally consider antonymous that flow together in these fictional laundromats, cramped mechanization in lines and rows churning nonstop in cycles turning on tokens and coins, and entwining yet in humming, hulking, rectangular symphonies to carry out a task as old as time, rinsing second skins in quaint old windows, frothing and foaming comforts anew. It's a fusion of traits that renders laundromats strangely quaint in all their efficiency, intimate in that strange liminal glow that makes old eateries and subway tunnels seem oddly organic late into the night, (un)peopled by ghosts of ghosts, echoes of footsteps, and so fittingly a space for that especial brand of romance that weaves together two misfits on lonely nights, following trails of solitude to fellow hermits.

And so it goes for Tamaki and Inori, perched as they are on benches while the systems sing, couched between beds of suds and shadowy sheets, hearts attuned to a dynamo's beat. They toss their clothes into these portals to before-after, clean-as-they-were-in-minutes-from-now, tenses loosened in spin cycles, time itself all fluffy in the wash, letting the hours stretch and curl and heap while the moonlit waiting, undressed for a spell, exchange sideways glances looping off-course as if they too, were whirling in these machines. The art perfectly complements this sense of lazily peeking, hoping for the same, bobbing to the churn in a odd sort of stability- I love the how thick and fine the artist traces their hair, curtains through which they peer nervous and amused and giddy and coy, each seeing the other in as bright a spotlight as a the lights of a small town laundromat may provide, though as Tamaki cheerily asserts, they're already on a stage, deep in a charming game.

I also adore the detail given to the ruffles and layers on their clothes that twine and crease like fabric faces, almost enough to hear them rustle in sitting, shifting and standing up to leave, an external cycle to mirror the one within, as well as the one further within as each of our coin-tossers harbor longing dreams, playing out as many fantasies as the machines accommodate, each wondering if the other knows how she makes her head spin and her stomach flip in eager excitement, stepping into the center with all the regularity of a coin, bundling mysteries and possibilities in a hamper and tossing them into speculation's alembic, spinning, spinning, spinning until those muddy, uncertain feelings are sparkling clean, and then leaving with rueful smiles to be dyed once more in the night. Cycles move within cycles, and especially so when Tamaki makes her declaration at the end, weaving her departure too into another phase of a process, a cycle that separates you ever-so-briefly from the clothes you wrap so close, only to return them sparkling clean at the cost of a little time, the classic Around the World-Wash in 180 Gays by Girls Yearn. For Inori, those six months shall be both washing and waiting, a painful vigil for the one she loves, but also a chance to brighten herself up, dust off the old moves, clean out all the worries and meet Tamaki at her best when she pops out of circulation, crisp and fresh in the clarity of feelings, and eminently wearable (this is a metaphor for cuddling, I think). Big fan of these mildly minimalistic oneshots that let their settings, symbols and styles vocalize what their disaster gays cannot, and I hope we see more from this artist moving forward.

joined Jan 13, 2021

Huzzah, trans manga, we love to see it. I have known Rika for all of the 30-ish minutes it took me to read the available chapters and he is already a Capital Fellow. Homeboy's making friends (shut up, Satsuki) and influencing people (shut up, mom). He's going to get himself an education and become a pillar of the community and trade in the hoodie for something nattier (in that exact order; the hoodie is a man's best friend and notoriously difficult to part ways with). I love his dynamic with Satsuki too, because you've got two fellas who don't quite fit into their society's exact ideals of masculinity, and must constantly grapple with conflicting desires for legitimacy in a world of shifting goalposts where there are No Balls, and so if you want to dribble yourself a route to the finish, pass (har har) or score, you gotta make your own (I am proud of my terrible trans metaphor, but even prouder of my gifted son Rika).

Besides the excellent central 'Aight, I'mma adopt this ratty-ass cis boy and make an honest man out of him' plotline, I also love how this series portrays the shifting, uncertain nature of so many aspects of what's seen as the modern queer experience, the fact that it's not a straightforward track with set stations of increasing 'outness', but a constant negotiation with interlacing sociocultural webs of performance and expectation. Rika can't just 'come out' once full stop, but must constantly assess the people to whom his coming out would even be seen as such, the people he might be able to convince, the people who'd indulge him in the moment and then patronize him the moment he's done talking, the people who mean well and yet retain quiet prejudices that'd strike in unsuspecting moments, and a million other variables that require the queer kid who's 'come out' of the closet to variously climb back in, knock firmly upon the door, replay a video shot of said emergence, build a new closet for a new environment with better ventilation, stock spare closets at a relative's place, knock on another's enclosure, and so forth. The same, of course, goes for 'running away from home', which is less a simple escape and more a quest for breathing room threatened by the monsters of housing, surveillance, basic needs and looming recapture, because running away from something is so often running away to something else, but those who're so oppressed by a hostile environment that they'd suffocate if they stayed a moment more don't have the luxury to plan their prison breaks, nor an abundance of refuges, because when basic aspects of your self are a crime, the very world becomes a gaol.

I also hope the series branches out to more locations if it actually continues past Rika getting to college and becoming independent? Young queer people in unaccepting societies are so often required to juggle a variety of roles with their own complex relationships to each other at all times, a balancing act that requires them to be a dozen different people without losing contact with their 'true self' at precisely such a time when said self is at its most amorphous and uncertain during the process of discovery. Rika already chafes under the weight of it all, space and time pinioning and inscribing his body-that-is-not-quite-a-self, disparate traces, scars and snapshots of ideal daughters and demure schoolgirls and blazing rebels and working adults and secure manhood and happy children figured past, present and future boiled down into costumes that then boil down his self, some all too easy to whip off regardless of his wishes, others clinging painfully tight when he tries to tear them away, and in the end, there is no world in which the body below may be seen as entirely naked, nor the costumes above as entirely clothing, each garbed and stripped by the endless abrasions between expectation and presentation, performance and reception, stages and cages, visions and viewpoints.

This story then, for both Rika and his work-in-progress bro Satsuki, is about finding the space to be different, because there's no perfect model for masculinity or set way to do manhood right, but simply rare places of acceptance where you're seen first as what you claim to be and thus free to claim what you please, staking claims on your own self that is then cultivated per your dreams. And this is not a cultivation of the productive, scenic farmland that hegemonic conceptions of gender would have you yield endlessly identical and profitable harvests from, but indeed the cultivation of a personal wilderness of queerness, a veritable fairyland born of the courage to hope again, a valor that Rika has already learned the value of as he gradually comes to learn the shifting ways of queerness, knowing when to rush forth and when to blend back, but always with a view to reclaiming himself, gaining a ground he creates. Stories about these journeys are so important and I'm always happy to see there's more of them for trans men especially, firstly because they desperately need more representation, and secondly because narratives of trans men provide reflections, models, avenues and possibilities of masculinity that offer a hope for its restoration from patriarchy. In tales like these, there's the admission that masculinity is messy and complicated and caught up in a labyrinthine network of privileges and repressions, obligations and obstructions, but despite it all, there is and must be something redeemable and worthy about it, ways to manhood that are kind and gentle and accepting and revolutionary, the kind of masculinity that shines in hollow and hopeless corners of society where authenticity seems impossible and asserts, as Rika so brightly does to Satsuki, that those dreams of friendship and trust and community were not lies at all, and may still be achieved. That's a message a lot of people need to hear, and I'm glad to have found it featured here.

Anime season 08 Oct 14:52
joined Jan 13, 2021

I don't normally do CGDCT or Kirara stuff, but Bocchi the Rock had a damn fun premiere? I recall trying the manga on a whim ages ago, only for it to make no real impression, but the anime just pops with style and color and charm (truly the second coming of K-On, though I sure hope it doesn't end up getting co-opted by the worst people on the planet as well). The introverted protagonist, which at this point has gone well beyond being a common trope and reached the level of a cry for help ironically stifled by its own ubiquity, glimmers in renewed darkness through Bocchi. I think what sets our bubblegum babbler apart from her closeted compatriots is precisely the fact that she acts like she's almost entirely alone in the world and the first and only person ever to suffer social anxiety, and channels this into a melodrama so unabashedly abashed that it bumblefucks its way into a raw authenticity (as raw as anime can be, anyway, which is about the level of an undercooked batch of scrambled eggs [I honestly like this show, I swear]).

I love a show that doesn't take itself too seriously, but is also so dedicated to this non-seriousness that it busts out an entire repertoire of tricks to deflate budding bathos, ranging from ironic self-quoting to elaborate daydreams to not-so-subtle jabs at teenagers to fake-out ending themes. It's very dedicated to capturing the absurdity of trying to figure out how in the ever-loving fuck to human being as a teenager, but it's precisely because it jokes about the whole experience in eighty different ways that you can tell that the story genuinely cares. It also fits with the whole theme of being an artist and messing about as you try to figure out your sound, leaning into all the hackneyed lines and self-pitying screeches so you can get 'em out of your system and into a soundscape, barfing up new recipes as you reverse-engineer individuality. I look forward to Bocchi realising that everyone's a bit of a freak and normalcy is eternally the first and last station on a train that never stops, so the key to being a good artist is to figure out how to sell tickets to your travelling cryptid circus. The Girls are Not Going to Be Alright and I, for one, am going for the next dozen weeks to integrate this show into my New Subnormal.

joined Jan 13, 2021

Day 2 of a post G-Witch Episode 1 society. Colours shine a little brighter. The sun seems to giggle. Birdsong brings me joy as never before. I am mesmerized by the patterns in the sky. Life glitters with promise, the future infinite and invaluable. There are many things not right with this world. But Suletta and Miorine are not among them. They may even be a bastion of hope in the days to come. Like Mercury in the sky, I hope my bitches survive.

Anime season 02 Oct 06:27
joined Jan 13, 2021


Spoilers for The Witch From Mercury Episode 1

Edit: Having regained the ability to type coherently, I humbly shill to y'all Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury. The approach here seems to have been What if we told a story about giant robots and capitalism and family legacies and also remade Revolutionary Girl Utena and it fucking owns. This is my first MSG, and while I knew that Gundam was to yaoi what Star Trek was to slash, and also that a lot of people were shipping Suletta and Miorine, I mostly just came into the show looking for a story about a badass girl taking on corporations with her beam rifle. What I found was that, but also so much more. I cannot overstate the influence of Utena here- we've got an academy that reflects the state of power as hierarchy across the world, but presents also opportunities for reform and upheaval, a Duelling Council full of dudes who're simultaneously the gayest, straightest and insanest people you'll ever see, loads of familial trauma reflected upon in greenhouses, dramatic battles for a central bride figure, and a scruffy girl of humble origins who finds herself at the centre of it all, blade in one hand, wife in another. Yes, there is a gay engagement in episode one of this show. An openly gay engagement. Not the 90s subtext that even Utena had to deal with, the kind that loads of shows seem to struggle to escape even today. Just a breezy, merry, Oh, yeah, queer relationships are entirely commonplace here and girl, we just got hitched. Regardless of what this show ends up being, this pilot deserves to go down in history. I was fucking sobbing tears of happiness at the end of it all.

At the same time, the show's got tons of personality of its own. There's obviously all the politicking and military-industrial complexity that I hear is common to Gundam, and while Suletta's stuttering, disastrous social presentation easily sets her apart from Utena and promises a unique arc of her own, I also appreciate how Miorine is clearly not willing to be a passive rose bride, but to strive her darnedest to make some kind of impression, defeat those who dishonour her and lead her own life without a second wasted, even if she does at present need to uphold her corporate dynasty's silly marriage contract. As much as I loved the cathartic clarity with which she affirms her and Suletta's engagement, I also hope she gets to ride into battle as well, because girlfriends who fight at each other's sides is still a way better trope than one partner constantly defending the other's honour, even in a queer sense. I want them to fall in love on their own terms, rebel against the system that forces Miorine to be a trophy for lovers of any orientation, create a better new system, and then, after all's said and done, to come together on their own terms after they've forged a valiant bond on the battlefield. They can make history.

So yeah, I went from being mildly intrigued by to indescribably hyped for this show, because it hits so many of my interests and has that really special energy, that interest in being different, challenging and boldly rebellious, that I think queer media so desperately needs- as Suletta so neatly puts it, experience, pride and trust. I don't know where the witch from mercury's going to take us, but I am more committed to this ride than I've been to anything in a long time.

last edited at Oct 2, 2022 6:51AM

Anime season 30 Sep 14:06
joined Jan 13, 2021

My Master Has No Tail is incredibly charming. I'd read the few translated chapters available about a year ago and was pretty hyped for the show, and for once, the animated product does decent justice to the source material. The show hums with hues and tones in this deceptively simple, earthy way that pleasingly evokes themes of faded paper and wooden blocks, conjuring that serene vitality one feels in the alcoves of old libraries, occasionally fulminated into a glimmering coruscation, like the big ol' belly laughter a good joke evokes, or the paaens of sentiment for ages never experienced a really good painting might make you feel. It can be humble, scruffy and flat at times, the budget transformations of a tanuki in a hurry on an empty belly, but ain't that the best fit ever for this odd little story? I choose to believe in beauty. Also, the voice acting is sublime, and dovetails very well with the low-key animation to stimulate the imagination and paint layers under surfaces, much like rakugo itself can turn a simple spoken performance into a portal to worlds myriad and diverse- another fortunate little coincidence, good old spit-and-spirit magic for the enterprising youkai.

Honestly, I'd have loved this show for the Touhou vibes alone, that masterfully playful marshalling of fairytale and folklore in worlds that, in moving past them, need them more than ever, but No Tail also stands perfectly well on its own four paws. Mameda and Bunko's dynamic is as distinctively charming as always, that lovely interplay between our bushtailed little gremlin's fight-or-fright optimism and this professionally ageless old yarn-weaver's mocking melancholies, intertwining in a stirring, stubbornly hopeful tail (such mirth!) about the timeless vitality of tricks and whimsy, teaching wide audiences to laugh at themselves and weep for others and go back home all warm and fuzzy, hearts insured against time another night. I'm, uh, really sure everyone who watches this will actually appreciate their dynamic for what it is instead of embarking upon Pointless Debate #32737474 about whether it's bait, chum, fodder, foliage, breadcrumb, authentic lily extract, etc. Regardless of whether or not this show grows too popular (it doesn't seem the type to take off like the one about the cop-café did, despite being cooler in every way, but I do remember a promo for it getting boatloads of views on YT, so fingers crossed; either the hipster or the hopeful in me shall eventually be satisfied), I'm just glad that quirky, gentle, art-adoring stories like it continue to be told. Vanishes in a puff of leaves and smoke.

joined Jan 13, 2021

The manga adaptation of Megamind is shaping up to be pretty good.

joined Jan 13, 2021

This story's really grown on me? It was one of those series I'd been keeping up with on autopilot amid other stuff, but this most recent chapter really crystallized its appeal, that special, subtle something which always reels me back in. Fundamentally, this is an incredibly earnest romance, a wondrously clear and heartfelt ode to first loves that sings of infatuation's gifts to moments, lending feathers to feelings and gilding memories in rose, kindling the mundane and banal as fuel for pounding hearts, kneading daydreams into sugary fantasy. Minami's love is so powerfully portrayed, so potent and fiery in its quicksilver flashes and pensive stirrings, so certain in yearning as to leapfrog entirely those sloughy stretches of angst and wish itself indeed into a storm, dispelling all clouds that drape a failed outing or mixed message to reveal once more those silver starmaps that twinkle the trajectory of her hopes. It's rich enough to lend layers, textures and depth to all it touches, a touch-starved Midas tracing her fingertips across a tale with a fairly unremarkable premise and standard building-blocks and leaving it a city of gold, every chapter more charming than the last, eminently capable of pulling readers all bundled in wintry cynicism back into a cherry-pop world.

What really helped this series make the jump in my mind from one I read out of habit to one I'm actively looking forward to is the sheer infectiousness of its enthusiasm to exist, its gamboling, rollicking exuberance in being brightly itself. You see it bursting in Minami's gosh-golly-gee-I'm-so-darn-gaaaaaay non-sequiturs, in the way Tatsumi cuts electrifying promos for local lesbians as proof of cosmic hope and justice, and in the way the girls just gush over how gosh-darn cool Nitori is. It's been a while since I've encountered a story that just loves girls so much- not just girls who're dating or girls with a certain style, but everything about girls everywhere and all at once, gay-as-in-rapture with that almost religious vision of ascending in choral fanfare into your paramour's arms, sighing-singing-praying-gaying class S if all the money that went into building ye olde all-girls school was used instead to build (more) girls. It's adorable.

Yeah, you've got the boatload of tropes, that Takeshi's Castle of silly old moats and ramparts a girl's gotta scale if she wants to be a contender, but the essential zest radiating from every page of this series makes every single one of those hackneyed old tactics work like its the first time anyone's ever belted 'em out. An ambiguously romantic line that our lead doesn't quite know how to process and will haunt her for chapters to come? Oh, rats! A confession that fails to go through because of some external disturbance? A bigger AUGH than Charlie ever Brown'd! A deceptive, unprecedented interest in someone else? Slender Aphrodite, cut me a break! I am slapping my knees and hollering my cheers like a middle-aged parent at their daughter's first baseball game. I want my disaster gay daughter to go out there and play her heart out and come back home all muddy and tired with the biggest ol' gap-toothed grin she can muster at the end of an absolute banger of a match. Fight on, Minami! Aim for the stars!

last edited at Sep 28, 2022 7:32AM

joined Jan 13, 2021

Wake up babe, latest addition to Land of the Tengu canon(?) dropped. Praying for more eventual NishikixHisame content, because their whole 'super femme, dignified, responsible, dedicated princess-who's-actually-a-massive-freak-off-the-clock (she runs the clock)' x 'seemingly rakish rover of the cloud-courts lusting for battle and birdies who's actually incredibly noble when the moment calls' dynamic absolutely rules.

Tangentially, the ties on Hisame make me wonder about the role of bondage in high tengu society. One would imagine the incredible mobility naturally afforded to tengus by flight would make restrictions on movement far kinkier for them than for humans, and the general decadence of courts (which Nishiki's freakiness may be a result or catalyst of) would likely mean the tengu nobility get up to all manner of shenanigans when the owls begin to hoot. Millennia prior to the events of this series, some prehistoric human probably saw a strange winged being floating ominously over the plains and concocted some theory about the tengu being angels or demons watching mortals from above. Meanwhile, the tengu in question was just trying to fly home with one wing strapped behind her back after an attack by one of their many rival clans forced her wife to fly out to war without having the time to properly untie everything. The heavens are a silly place.