If I Could Only See You, from Hope Eternity Would Be Born: Beginnings in Yuri on Ice and Welcome to the Ballroom

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I hear a voice crying in the distance;
Perhaps you, too, have been abandoned?

With a sword I wish I could cut
Those throats singing about love
I wish I could seal in the cold those hands
That portray verses of burning passion

Cast your eye over any seasonal chart and witness all those obligatory sports-orientated offerings, generally focusing on an insular gathering of plucky teenaged upstarts. The protagonist tends to be an affable everylead, getting along with club members (if there’s burgeoning animosity don’t worry, they’ll soon become firm friends) while stumbling into the alluring realm of a sport he has little experience with. Rivals sneer on the side as the gang aim for nationals, fists clenched all the while. Horizons swell with possibility, glittering with promise, the youthful exhilaration of achieving for the first time suffusing these traditionalist narratives. It’s the same thing again and again to the point where you could theoretically pluck any series from obscurity and play Sports Premiere Bingo, displaying your filled sheet with a bored expression, because really, how many times have you done this already? There’s only so much one can take of all the monotony which renders Yuri on Ice an anomaly, this behemoth which presence lingers seasons later as the charts turn and renew themselves into summer and beyond.

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Spring 2017 Retrospective

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Okay, so I didn’t stick to the whole monthly retrospective thing (mainly because I’d have to make an effort keeping up with airing anime as opposed to frantically catching up at the eleventh hour, a week before the new season hits – what a horrifying thought!). But could I at least muster up the effort to stick with seasonal retrospectives, a paltry four times a year…?

L-let’s not answer that.

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Creative Control: Rewriting Your Life in My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness, Wandering Son, and Night in the Woods

cc01Given the opportunity is there anyone who wouldn’t want to reshape their life? To be able to go back in time and correct your mistakes of youth, smooth out your imperfections, live without regrets – it’s an ability to be envied. While such a godlike power obviously doesn’t exist in reality, taking control of your life is indeed possible. My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness, Wandering Son, and Night in the Woods all feature protagonists with lives in need of reshaping. They are often clumsy and find communication difficult. They stumble, make mistakes, and are easily misunderstood. Yet all of them can find control in their lives through writing. A process both creative and documentary, writing can allow new perspectives on your experiences. It gives context and clarity. It allows the author to analyze and learn from themselves, and in this, grow. Though the past is set in stone and put down in words, the very process of doing so can be the first step in writing your future.

nana note: this is a guest post courtesy of the lovely alex (@_kokotomo)

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“The Nail That Sticks Out Gets Hammered Down”: Koe no Katachi and The Anxious Classroom Environment

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An expressive and enriching meditation on redemption and scars shared, Koe no Katachi is a cinematic triumph and perhaps Kyoto Animation’s most celebrated offering yet. Boasting what appears to be a cloyingly feel-good spectacle certain to reward those in search of penitence, The Who’s ‘My Generation’ elevating a kaleidoscope of youth, that the film’s central conceits would be as cheap as the premise feels ought to be something of an inevitability. An experience tenderly crafted by the studio’s finest however, Koe no Katachi highlights more achingly poignant modes of guilt and redemption with scars running deep between victim and victimizer as they struggle to transcend cyclical modes of abuse; moistening an arid interpersonal wasteland. Shouko is deaf and subjected to a particularly ruthless form of systematic ostracism carried out by protagonist Shouya and the rest of their class, ridding her of agency through discarding the notebook which serves as her primary form of communication along with ripping out hearing aids with such venom, it scars. So callous is their treatment of Shouko that it eventually results in her transferring schools – an entire five months after she first set foot in their classroom. And yet the notion beggars belief.

Why did the school let the bullying go on for as long as it did?

Why didn’t the homeroom teacher reprimand those jeering at her in plain sight?

Why were her peers so reluctant when it came to actively dissuading Shouya’s harassment?

Why did they mostly amount to passive spectators, in turn contributing to Shouko’s pain?

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Me, Myself, and I: Sexual Politics Inside Mari’s Body-swap Narrative

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When it comes to depicting adolescent struggles with sexuality, Oshimi Shuuzou is by no means a stranger with the sexually-charged Flowers of Evil laying waste to youthful idealism and schema precariously constructed, les fleurs du mal flourishing amidst the vestiges of innocence. His marked cynicism suffusing traditionalist narratives is something to be commended, and the same can certainly be said for his take on the body-swap genre and all of its established conventions. Ostensibly Boku wa Mari no Naka or Inside Mari appears to be yet another bawdy offering running the orthodox gamut, a relatively light-hearted piece about what girls and boys are made of. Isao is a NEET, days filled with video games and masturbation blurring into one. Having long since dropped out of university, the only ray of light in the darkness that is his life would be the angelic Mari. Admiring her from a distance through stalking allows Isao to momentarily forget how much of a failure he has become, and expects nothing to change… That is, until Mari turns around with an enigmatic smile and Isao wakes up in her body.

It’s a set-up which does little to destabilize the genre’s turgid whiff of homogeneity, all fidgeting in girls’ locker rooms and groping others a display of routine titillation. But true to Oshimi’s contemptuous model Inside Mari quickly takes on disturbing connotations as boundaries blur, challenging the genre and all its expected conceits once Isao peers into Mari’s impervious psyche.

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From the Stars Back to Our Cities, Where We’ve Never Felt So Small: Kakukaku Shikajika

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Autobiographical effort of Higashimura Akiko, a mangaka celebrated for her sassy and stylish romps about the modern girl, caught many off guard through turning her gaze inward with the profoundly cathartic Kakukaku Shikajika. It is a work far removed from the effortless extravagance of Higashimura’s usual fare starring models flitting about sipping cocktails and quirky mavericks living on the fringes of society, instead introducing Hayashi Akiko, a slovenly teenager ambling through the sleepy coastal village of Miyazaki in the early ’90s. Head firmly in the clouds and elevated beyond by shoujo whimsies, what drags her back down to earth with a resounding crash is Hidaka Kenzou – an eccentric art teacher in the community. Hidaka openly criticizes Hayashi’s skills as soon as she steps into his classroom, appalled that such an amateurish individual could possibly have their sights set on attending an arts university the following year. As Hayashi quickly comes to learn Hidaka is quite the character, whacking students with a bamboo sword like it’s going out of style, unleashing mercilessly caustic jibes on young and old alike. It’s chaotic, and you’d never think that someone as frivolous like Hayashi would stay…

Kakukaku isn’t merely a charming origin story documenting the rise of one of the most prolific female mangaka in contemporary times, instead an achingly remorseful reflection on lived experiences and deep regrets harboured. Every time she purchases a beer after fighting against a deadline, every time she sees fruit in the supermarket, every time she returns to her childhood home and sees a vase, regret’s shadow lies long and heavy.

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