So I’ve been rewatching Avatar: The Last Airbender, something I haven’t done for about a decade. This used to be one of my favourite TV shows. It even inspired my first significant act of blogging. On a (now defunct) blog I set myself the task of reviewing each episode individually, and managed to, I think, get as far as the season one finale before giving up.
It turns out the show is still great, so perhaps a blog post is in order.
I haven’t talked much about politics on here for quite some time, so digging into my past for the sake of context is perhaps in order before I start running my mouth about current events.
The household I grew up in wasn’t rabidly political, but could be described as having a generally classical liberalish feel to it – belief in the free market and individualism, suspicion of politics which were more authoritarian or collectivist.
Promare wasn’t the only anime movie schlock to come out in 2019. We also had producer James Cameron’s long, long gestating project of adapting the Battle Angel manga finally hitting theatres. As a fan of the original run of Yukito Kishiro’s cyberpunk story, I do think that this Robert Rodriguez helmed version makes a lot of the right aesthetic choices, and it leaves me with a goofy grin on my face, but it also commits a lot of the narrative sins of contemporary franchise-based Hollywood movie making.
It’s incredible to me that within the space of less than two years I’ve been given two animated movies that are very special to me. The first, of course, is Spider-Verse. The latter, and subject of this post, is Studio Trigger’s first feature length movie, Promare. Indeed its incredible for me to say this, but I actually have wound up loving Promare even more, albeit for disreputable reasons. Promare is schlocky in a manner that Spider-Verse is not, but rarely is schlock done with this degree of craftsmanship and wit. Moreover it’s my kind of schlock.
It’s weird to contemplate how, as an “essential worker” in this age of pandemic and social distancing, this year has still been a happier one than I’ve had for a while.
One of the things I’ve tried to do for the past year or so is take my mental health more seriously. I have not done this as consistently as I probably should, but even just getting the ball rolling for me has meant a lot. It’s obvious in retrospect that I spent a lot of my 20s being kinda depressed and wrestling with self-worth and self-loathing. Not in an extreme enough manner to pose a threat to my functionality (when the insomnia started, though…), but enough to skew how I looked at the world, and myself.
I need to take a break from all the Xenogears-posting. The
laziest best change of pace I can think of is to do an update of my previous list of favourite prose fictions, especially given how I’ve spent a lot of the past year or so revisiting stuff I used to like in my younger days.
This time I’m playing a little bit fast and loose with definitions; not all of the entries here are prose fiction, or even narratives which were originally published in codex form, but “20 favourite written narratives” just sounds pretentious.
Anyway, to no one’s surprise I continue to have boring English major tastes in literature.
Listed alphabetically by author.
Posted in Assigned Reading, fragments of culture, Uncategorized
Tagged A Voyage to Arcturus, Anne Carson, Autobiography of Red, Blood Meridian, Bram Stoker, Cormac McCarthy, David Lindsay, Dracula, Emma, Franz Kafka, Fun Home, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Gene Wolfe, Hayao Miyazaki, Herman Melville, Homer, J.R.R. Tolkien, Jack Vance, Jane Austen, Jorge Luis Borges, Le Morte d'Arthur, Ludovico Ariosto, Moby-Dick, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Nova, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Orlando Furioso, Samuel R. Delany, Sir Thomas Malory, The Book of the New Sun, The Castle, The Demon Princes, The Left Hand of Darkness, The Lord of the Rings, The Odyssey, Ulysses, Ursula K. Le Guin
(Continued from part 1)
So part of what I hoped to convey by talking about the characters last time was just how massive and convoluted the story of Xenogears is, how it has absolutely no editorial spirit, how it is committed to being this slow-burn ‘serious’ sci-fi epic, but also committed to jamming as many anime set-pieces in the game as possible (there are two boss fights, for instance, that exist solely as homage to Voltron and Macross, respectively).
Which gets to a potential point of contention: this is a really cutscene-heavy game, and I am usually very critical of that.
Look, for two decades I’ve been trying to beat Xenogears. The trouble is that as I age I increasingly have less and less time for these flawed massive old RPGs I like to obsess over. There are other things in life.
But given that the current pandemic situation has temporarily swept away my pretenses about having a life, it turns out I have more than enough time to binge my way to the end credits of this monstrosity.
I know I intimated that I was leaving off the amateur film critic stuff, but I have to say something about Johnny Guitar, a movie I’ve already seen three times now this year. The last time I watched something which absolutely hit that “yes, this is why I love this medium” spot was Spider-Verse. It feels particularly special in how it seems to be the platonic ideal of the Josh movie, that fuzzy category of cinematic curios which are unapologetically weird and aesthetically extravagant. After three viewings I still can’t find anything I dislike about it. It’s dang near perfect.
I’m now in the middle of rereading Moby-Dick, which I last reread a little over a year ago. This third time around, I find things just click so beautifully with me. If we’re going to compare it with Ulysses, that other eccentric, quasi-encyclopedic literary tome that I’ve spent recent months poring over, the winner is now already obvious. Joyce’s may have a deeper grasp of the possibilities of English and literary form, and indeed played a valuable stepping-stone for me as a teenager, but Melville as a storyteller does just about everything I could want from an epic novel. Maybe I needed the experiences of the intervening year to make me into the sort of person who could be more attuned to Moby-Dick’s own brand of bizarre mysticism. I can see a lengthy post about it in the future.
In 2019 I revisited two other novels that I never got around to writing about: Franz Kafka’s The Castle and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. I previously read both of them during my high school years, and, looking back on it, these two more than any others seemed to set the agenda for my teenage literary ambitions. I often tried (and failed, terribly) to mimic the low-key, dreamlike qualities of The Castle and the magic realism of One Hundred Years. Anyway, it turns out that they still have the same sort of pull on me, perhaps more deeply. My teenage experiences with these sorts of texts were important for expanding my mind about what literature can do; with some more life experience they become more understandable. Though, given that it’s been some months, I don’t think I can come up with anything substantive to say about them at the moment. I’d have to reread them again. But I wouldn’t mind doing so, before the year is out.
At this point, I think the only seminal text from my adolescence that I haven’t gotten around to revisiting in the past decade is Don Quixote.