Crime and Punishment

Why do I not read more Dostoyevsky? There is much to recommend him to me: he is someone who has an almost perverse fascination with grotesquery and ambiguity, a pessimist about human nature whose bleakness is leavened by his faith. A faith which enables him to love his grotesques. I can appreciate this.

Crime and Punishment is one of the most suffocating novels I have ever read. Not only from the experience of experiencing all of Raskolnikov’s morbid thoughts bouncing around his mind, but also from the squalor of its depiction of St. Petersburg. You can practically smell the urine-soaked floorboards of the taverns.

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Critical Analyses of Utena II

I just finished rewatching all of Revolutionary Girl Utena with a friend. That, and the fact that it’s Pride Month, makes it seem like an apt time to write the years-delayed followup to my previous Utena post, one which would tackle the movie, Adolescence of Utena. After declaring it my favourite anime of all time, I feel I owe it a little more love on this blog.

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2022 in brief (so far)

The first half of 2022 kinda sucked for me. I went through a period of profound doubt about my faith. More than that – a kind of distaste and disdain for it. It wasn’t until the aftermath of Easter that I got over myself enough to start praying and attempt to set things right with God.

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In the shadow of young bishoujos in flower

That’s right. You get not just one, or even two, but three posts in quick succession. It’s my Easter basket for you all.

Since I mentioned I have was watching some 80s anime OVAs I feel I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the highlights, and the biggest highlight of them all is Project A-Ko.

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A la recherche, etc.

This may be a barometer of how much things have changed for me: I no longer think of Spirited Away as my favourite Miyazaki film; that honour now goes to Princess Mononoke, my opinion of which has increased dramatically. But even that is not my favourite Ghibli movie, a space now occupied by Only Yesterday, Isao Takahata’s second feature film for the studio.

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More! Tenchi Muyo!

So I want to do a sequel to my previous Tenchi Muyo post which talked about the first two “seasons” of the OVA and give my opinion on the later OVA stuff as well as the Tenchi Universe show.

But first a recap. To quote myself:

So Tenchi Muyo follows one teenage boy, Tenchi Masaki, who accidentally releases an ancient demon entombed near his grandfather’s shrine while on summer vacation. Said demon turns out to be the beautiful space pirate Ryoko. Earth, unbeknownst to its inhabitants, is surrounded by various far more ancient space-faring civilizations.

Meanwhile, Princesses Ayeka and Sasami of the Jurai royal family arrive at Earth, following the trail of their brother Yosho, who was in pursuit of Ryoko. They quickly get stranded on Earth and wind up moving in with Tenchi and Ryoko. As does the ditzy Galaxy Police Officer Mihoshi, and eventually genius/mad scientist Washu.

And they all have the hots for Tenchi (well, all except Sasami, who is still a child and views Tenchi more as a big brother).

I can’t really go much further without spoiling stuff, so here we go.

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Persona (1966)

Thus we arrive at Ingmar Bergman’s Persona. This feels like the most inevitable movie for me to blog about. It is the ur-Jess movie. I feel like some 90% of what I find fascinating about the movies I love pre-exists here in some strange platonic form. Certainly David Lynch’s filmography is unthinkable without it.

Despite that, it’s been a slow burn for me. I first saw it as a teenager, I think. I know it made some impression on me, but it wasn’t until at least a decade later that I revisited it. Since then, I’ve revisited it more, and my relationship to it (and Bergman as a director) seems to have particularly solidified over the course of the pandemic. The isolated setting, the starkness of it all, and the sheer amount of pathos wrung out of the human face…

The trouble is, Persona is already one of the most analysed and critiqued movies ever. It is hard to want to write about it because I despair of saying anything interesting about it.

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Walk the runway

Every now and then I come across a movie that seems calculatedly created for the purpose of driving me, specifically, insane. In this case that movie is The Neon Demon, released in 2016 and directed by Nicolas Windig Refn.

I’ve previously seen his movie, Drive, which I thought was a rather fine, stylish neo noir. That movie, and a cursory glance at the rest of his filmography suggests an interest in telling dark, lurid stories centred around machismo and violence. So the idea of such a person trying to make a horror movie centred around a cast of women has a certain perverse fascination from the outset, sort of like if Cormac McCarthy tried to write an Austen-style comedy of manners.

The result is probably the closest thing western filmmaking will get to a Puella Magi Madoka Magica, in both the good and bad sense. There’s the bait-and-switch manner in which surrealist horror descends upon the narrative, which is told in the manner of exquisitely designed, pristine expressionist imagery. There’s the kinda misogynistic undertones (to which The Neon Demon manages to sprinkle a little homophobia into), and just the general sense that the people making this thing are nasty little edgelords going for shock value.

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The Ranma 1/2 vortex

Ranma 1/2 is perhaps the most notable omission from my top ten anime list. It was rather formative for me as an anime fan and I still have an immense fondness for it. But over the past several months I’ve taken it upon myself to read the original manga version, of which I’ve had relatively limited exposure to, from start to finish. And despite having been introduced to the anime first, I’ve come to love it more as a manga.

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It can be illuminating, I suppose, to revisit old things you wrote. I tend to find I painful – the more critical distance I have from something, the more embarrassed I feel by it. By the time I submitted the final draft of my master’s thesis, for instance, I had half-convinced myself that I was going to fail.

Anyway, I recently revisited Miyazaki’s 1988 classic, My Neighbor Totoro, which prompted me to revisit my previous post on the subject matter from almost seven(!) years ago. And I have to say that I really don’t know what the heck I was thinking, talking about the decline of Rome and the meaning of work and such.

I mean, I kinda do know what I was thinking, that desire to impress by bringing some heavy-seeming cultural-philosophical analysis into my review. But to do that for Totoro?

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