cothurnus: "I have an arm?????" (Grimmjow)
Let's assume that, at this point, I'm just really, really not going to stick to the schedule which I had set myself for these posts.

Yesterday, I had a pretty horrible day, with pain, with raging fever and with my whole body turning into one big rash.

However, I still managed to read the newest Bleach chapter, and this page made my day:




Because I would recognise that elbow anywhere.

Now, I'll admit, I've always had mixed feelings about the possibility that Grimmjow might return. On the one hand, I hated the fact that Tite Kubo had left it tantalisingly uncertain as to whether the Sexta Espada had actually copped it from Nnoitra's blow. Dangling threads are, indeed, one of the main things that annoy me about Bleach, not just because they are left for interminable amounts of time before being addressed, but also because most of them could do with not having been planted in the first place. Part of the reason why I like Fairy Tail so much is that it is a master class at swerving all the problems with pacing which Blecah falls into like a champ. But, it's this annoyance more than anything else that made me hope that we would one day find out Grimmjow's ultimate fate.

But then, I got to thinking about the logistics of the thing, and I couldn't figure out how or why there would be a reason to return to the arrancar after Aizen's defeat ... which shows my lack of imagination. I would never have thought up the idea of shinigami and arrancar sharing an enemy.

By this chapter, though, I was expecting this revelation and looking forward to it. I mean, if we'd already been shown that the Tres Bestia, Loly Aivirrne and Tier Harribel were still alive, when they had looked pretty dead last time we saw them, it was a bit of a given that Grimmjow would also return. (Oh, while I'm mentioning Tier Harribel, I have to register my outrage at the torture-porn-style full page picture she was given in Chpter 485. It's seriously disgusting.) Though, by now, Bleach is beginning to remind me of a short reading exercise-type piece I once came across, when I was about eight-years-old. I think it was Victorian. Anyway, it was called 'The Chinese Theatre', and it described it as customary in China for actors playing characters who had died to get up and walk off as soon as attention was diverted from them by the action on stage. I can just imagine Sun Sun, Mila Rose and Apache sidling off back to Hueco Mundo while we were all distracted watching Ichigo fight Gin or Aizen.

And I suppose it was simplistic of me to assume that the end of Aizen's part in the story would also be the end of the arrancar. Part of what had always made the arrancar so interesting was the fact that none of them ever seemed to act out of a sense of unified ideology. Each one was a law unto themselves, with only Aizen's powerful influence keeping them in check. And, I suppose it would be a massive dangling plot thread to not show us how the arrancar act without Aizen's influence. Therefore, it makes it not only possible, but even likely that, under the right circumstances a truce could be made between shinigami and arrancar - even though the operative phrase there is 'under the right circumstances'. This is with Grimmjow being a different kettle of chips to say, Renji.

But, I'm optimistic about this development overall - especially if it means I can see my favourite character again. And do I care that this was probably done only for fan-service? Of course not! My fandom now knows no shame! Who am I kidding? I missed that character and Heaven knows I’m looking forward to this. I can’t wait to see his happy little face as he attacks Quincies. Kinda reminds me of this video actually, something else which makes my day every time I look it up …

cothurnus: For most of the time. (Default)
I was going to save this post until later in the week, but, given that I had a little bit of a breakdown last night, I thought it fitting that I post this now. You’ll see why:

I know I’ve spent a good while talking about how I feel when it comes to a certain couple of arrancar, but I have only touched upon my feelings for the series’ protagonist. This isn’t because I don’t like him, or, even necessarily because I prefer Ulquiorra and Grimmjow as characters. It’s just that my thoughts about Ichigo were always kind of nebulous up to this point. I mean, he is a nebulous character – and, that’s good. It’s in the nature of a protagonist whom you have forever to develop in numerous ways that their essence will be hard to pin down to a specific speech or specific fight. However, what’s changed is that certain events before and during the short-lived fullbringer storyline and now in the more recent episodes which have helped me to crystallise my thoughts.

So, to sum up my attitude towards Ichigo, frankly I will say that, most of the time I find him to be a guilt-free emotional focus for the story, through which I can live vicariously. But, sometimes, I find him to be a real inspiration. Because, while he spends most of the story so far super-powered and steadfast, he is not always so, and the way that Ichigo is presented in these instances, to me, really shows how talented Tite Kubo is.

The examples which come to mind are Ichigo’s funk after his inner hollow prevents him from being able to fight Ulquiorra and Yammy, and most potently, what happens after Ginjou steals his newfound fullbring powers. I suppose I also might like to talk about the nuances of his feelings after losing his shinigami powers to the Final Getsuga Tenshou in relation to these things, but, in the interests of keeping this post short and pertinent, I think I’ll give that stuff its own post sometime.

I’ve already talked quite a bit in previous posts about the first of these, and I don’t want to repeat myself. But, I will say that what Ichigo’s depression and fear taught me was that it is natural for even the bravest of us to feel these emotions when we fail or face something unknown. I know I’ve already said as much in a previous post, but I think I should acknowledge it specifically with regards to my current situation.

As I have said, last night, I lost my composure. My arm was in severe pain, I was terribly cold, tired to the point of delirium and all I could see ahead of me were the uncertain weeks when I would still be confined to this hospital room. In that moment, I identified strongly with the Ichigo that would scream his heart out on a rain-spattered rooftop and even plead to have his powers returned. Indeed, therein lies some of the skill of Tite Kubo: Ichigo's depressions are always so relatable.



But, even as I cried, I thought about the Bleach page which is my current desktop wallpaper (below), and I thought that Ichigo Kurosaki also showed me that even the bravest of us sometimes need those close to us. If even Ichigo needs to ask for help, I felt, I shouldn’t be ashamed to do so.



And all of those arrayed shinigami who lent their power to him reminded me of all the friends who are helping me everyday to overcome this. Of course, it also helped with the comparison that Rukia’s words could have been directed at me personally, as I have “come through much worse despair”.

However, even as I felt overwhelming gratitude for what my friends did for me, the little voice of doubt in my head, which creeps up on me in these moments in a manner not wholly unlike the way Ichigo’s inner hollow taunts him, started. It said, “You’re not like Ichigo. Because, every time he pulls himself together, it’s for the good of others. You are only trying to save yourself.” And you know what I did with that voice before it could continue? I told it to fuck off. Out loud. And it stopped. It took me some time to realise this, but the reason I was able to do this difficult thing was also partly down to Ichigo. I can think of two instances where he dismisses arguments against his determined course. Firstly, when he tells Ulquiorra that the difference in their power doesn’t matter, and later, when Ginjou tries to turn him against the shinigami establishment. Similarly, I realised that it doesn’t matter that I’m accepting all this help and fighting as hard as I can to get better with little sign of a righteous end. Do you know why? It’s because I realised that I would do the same for any one of my friends – and it wouldn’t have anything to do with duty or hope of gain. I would do it because it is what I believe and because I love them.

This, once and for all, proved to myself that I have the potential to be like Ichigo, that I can mirror his resolve. I just hope that I’m not the only one who can derive this comfort from Bleach, because I know I’m not the only one who needs it.

P.S. I'm going to have to leave this blog for a little while, as, yup, I now can't use my right hand to type. (I could only upload this because I'd written a good portion before last night. However, some urgency has been taken out of the equation, as I definitely won't be having surgery until at least the middle of next week.
cothurnus: *Sigh* (Ukitake)
I’ll admit, I don’t think the Fullbringers ever stood a chance of my liking them. They struck me as a little … bland? A little tacked-on and rushed? Of course, this was because, after the final showdown with Aizen at first I felt like Tite Kubo would not be able to do anything right unless he stopped. The way I saw it, any villain whom the mangaka could possibly create from this point onwards would have the feel of one from an anime filler arc, i.e. they’d be visually quite uninteresting and we’d be left wondering how in the heck this had gone completely unmentioned before.

And, at first I took Tsukishima to be the perfect example of this. I mean, seriously, look at his face, with its blank eyes:



It was almost as if he were a parody of my vision. The rest of the fullbringers, I also felt lukewarm about. Though, the more I thought about it, the more I wondered if I was being unfair. The Vizards had sort of been treated similarly, in that they were an aesthetic mish-mash of misfits about whom we learn very little for a while, except for certain personality quirks, like Hiyori’s hot-headedness and Shinji’s casual affect, and who serve a purpose in getting Ichigo from plot point A to plot point B.

But then, I thought harder again: there were several differences between the fullbringers and the vizards that made me like the former group immensely, other than their position relative Aizen. I’ll do a list:
  1. Their powers have been strongly implied before they even show up – We’ve already had Ichigo’s hollow mask pop up time and again before he or we understand what it is. We’ve had confirmation from Aizen that, not only is a blend of shinigami and hollow possible, but he has done research into the field himself. We know this from Kaien’s story. By contrast, the only hint we have of the fullbringers’ powers before they arrive on the scene is Chad and the way that his power is somehow similar to that of a hollow. I suppose, if nothing else, they put to bed the weird theories about whether Chad was half-arrancar or something.
  2. The backstory that we are eventually given for them is just better – But, to return to the idea of Aizen’s involvement with the vizard’s formation, not only did this link them more strongly, as I have already said, to the over-arcing story-so-far, but it helped with their characterisation. It meant that we got the ‘Turn Back the Pendulum’ mini-arc, which was full of richly and subtly characterising interactions. And, then, the fact that these guys were once part of the Gotei 13 spoke volumes in itself. Because, by this point, the reader has absorbed the idea that there are a few inherent characteristics of a full-fledged shinigami, in that they have to have, at some point, made a conscious decision to become a shinigami and have been part of the academy and have had a history as part of the divisions, forming relationships and reputations for themselves. Those details don’t even need filling in, necessarily. We can just happily assume they exist. The fullbringers, on the other hand, don’t get this luxury. Their backstories have to be fed to us as flashbacks.
  3. Their characterisation is more organic somehow – That leads me onto my next point, which is that, while the individual stories are all really interesting insights into characters whom we don’t well understand (Yukio was my favourite), there’s just too damn many of them. The fact that we could assume many things about the vizards just due to their shinigami background meant that this wasn’t a problem for them. I also felt, though, that the story reasons, so far as I could discern them, why the vizards were a group were somehow more engaging. They were a group, it seemed primarily to me, to give a sense of a rich and detailed universe, through their interactions with one another. The mangaka seemed to be trying something similar with the fullbringers but came up a little short to me. The others seemed to exist in order prove that Ginjou, Chad and Tsukishima’s powers weren’t too statistically rare.

But, enough of this negativity. I want to finish by mentioning what I did like about this arc, and it boils down to little moments. Such as when Byakuya (shock, horror) actually admits to having enjoyed an adrenaline kick from his fight with Tsukishima. Or when Kyouraku and Ukitake consider the great wisdom Ichigo has shown in his choice to stay allied to the shinigami, despite their not being entirely trustworthy. I quite liked this part in particular, as it elevated what could have been the mere plastering-over of a plot hole (namely, that, while the Seireitei freaked the hell out that Rukia had conferred powers on a substitute shinigami, they apparently already had the position available) into something profound.


Actually, I think I’ll save most of my thoughts on that particular part for one of my themed posts later in the week …
cothurnus: "I set my sail ..." (Bastion)
I know that this isn’t quite what I promised when I wrote my last post, but upon further thought, I realised that my idea for the last post in my series might be kind of difficult for me to achieve from a hospital bed, as I’ll be needing some scholarly resources from home which I can’t easily get. I’m trying to be optimistic that I’ll manage to do ALL THE BLOGS! But anyway, these thoughts here just struck me as more urgent. I actually wrote them last night, around midnight, as soon as they hit me. I thought it better that way. I tried to fight the urge, but it would not be silenced. So, here you go:

(By the way, I really recommend you listen to the music mentioned at the bottom of this post to get the full effect of the feeling I was having.)

A few times now, as you may recall, I have talked about the Kill Bill films, mainly focusing on one particular scene in Volume 1, namely the bit where she visits Hattori Hanzo and gazes upon his collection of swords. But, tonight, in a thrilling turn of events, I would like to talk instead about an episode from Volume 2, this one being the part where the Bride is buried alive.

What happened was that I was re-watching this film, while waiting for my latest antibiotic dose to finish, (my arm had to be completely immobile for the two hours it takes) and it came to the part with the ‘Texas funeral’, and a thought suddenly hit me: being in hospital is a lot like this.

I know that sounds kind of melodramatic, but it bears comparison, really. Think of this: I, like Beatrix Kiddo, am trapped in a situation over which I have no control. Seriously, for the short-term future, I have a tube coming out of my head which means I cannot move from my bed most of the time. Then, I reacted in the same way that she did, at first. That is to say, I cried and freaked out. But, afterwards, I realised that I have the determination, tools and skills to fight my way out of here. I determinedly squirmed the knife out of my boot, and I set to cutting at the figurative rope on my hands, and I have started punching my way to freedom.

All of these comparisons are merely psychological, but useful nonetheless. Whenever I manage to adjust my table with only one hand or pour myself some juice likewise, that is me cutting the rope, doing the little tasks which make the big one of preparing for my next, and hopefully final, surgery possible. Every day I spend hooked to this tube, every sample that they take, that’s one punch closer to freedom.

To everyone who is helping me through this and those don't realise how they have helped in the past, I say, “I’m coming.”
cothurnus: "I set my sail ..." (Bastion)
Wow! Not blogged in a while … This is, of course, because of my having been (and still being) in hospital undergoing surgery. But, I will say there has definitely been one upside to all that downtime: I have caught up on all my Bleach manga! I had sort of lost interest in the series and stopped reading around Chapter 443 (‘Dirty Boots Dangers’), and I’ll put my hands up and say that it was a mixture of duty, nostalgia and boredom which brought me back, rather than anticipation or curiosity.

But, as I read, while I wouldn’t say it was like the glory days, I really enjoyed it and found myself interested and inspired by what I was reading. I had once more become truly engaged with Bleach. To more accurately describe the feeling, it was like when the heady hormonal high of a really good new relationship has worn off to be replaced by a sense of warm and comfortable companionship. It made me glad that I’d taken a break from Bleach for all that time.

So, to business, as I said, I was inspired by my reading, and therefore have decided to post one blog about Bleach every day for the next week. This might work or it might not. I mean, there’s a chance I might be going into surgery again next Saturday, and a chance that I may temporarily lose the use of my right hand (already not allowed to use my left) the day after tomorrow, which will make typing … difficult.

Anyway, let’s see how we go. I’ve split my blogs into these categories: two looks at specific plot events and two at specific chapters, one return to a favourite theme and one look at a theme which has interested me for a while. And finally, a strange comparison…

But, before I get into the blogging proper I just have to comment upon the title of chapter 517 with a massive guffaw and the link to this video:
cothurnus: "I have an arm?????" (Grimmjow)
Yes, I did just quote Ulquiorra. Did I mention that I like him? But, all of that aside, I just wanted to say that true despair does not look like Ulqiorra's 'Segunda Etapa resurrecion'. Or, if it does, it looks like many other things too, like a hospital bed after three months of illness.

Oooooh my God, mere weeks after walking away from life-saving surgery, expecting to be able to resume normal life, I'm back hospitalised, albeit, this time near university. But, I swear, that, on the day that I came into hospital (last Wednesday), was on nil-by-mouth for a day, was in pain all day, had a painfully failed CSF tap (read, 'needle inserted into head to draw fluid') and was told around 9pm that I was going to have to stay in, I literally freaked out. I just burst into tears, saying, 'The only thing that got me through the last illness was the belief that I would have my life back at the end of it.' I knew that I was being selfish. Someone, at one point, tried to calm me down by saying that other people had it worse. This did not help. Because, as much as I accept that there are people who have it worse, the only experience which I had at that time was mine, and, in that moment, my mind grappled with the sheer existential terror of everything I'd ever hoped for in my life possibly being torn from me. I had no idea what was wrong with me, and, for all I knew, I would never live a normal life again. I would be constantly bed-bound and would be fed regular drugs for the rest of my no-doubt foreshortened-due-to-lack of exercise life. Call this hysterical, but to the people who do, I contest that our sense of self could well be called an extra organ. It is SO necessary to our lives. And, the person who I am, to me, has always been a fighter. Every morning in the latter half of the seemingly endless two months of my last illness, no matter how depressed I felt, I woke up and said to myself, '3...2...1...FIGHT!' But, last Wednesday, that part of myself went AWOL and the related part of my sense of self crumbled. I did all kinds of things which I never used to: I took painkillers which I could have managed without and I flinched at needles. I hated the person I had become.

But, if there is a God, then He has saved me somehow. He put a song in my head, and it's the one that I mention below this post. Mulan was always an inspiration to me as a child, embryonic feminist that I was. (And, before it’s pointed out, I understand the massive irony of the song: that its supposed to juxtapose unironic endorsement of traditionally masculine traits with a context and story which shows how flawed our understanding of those traits is if we see them in exclusively gendered terms. I get that. It doesn’t make the song any less bad-ass, though. Or any less inspiring when, if you’ve seen the film, in your mind’s eye you’re seeing the heroine reach the top of that pole like a boss after being written off.)

Stories like that one, and Bug's Life shaped my moral development. They taught me my baby’s first lessons on how to be a fighter. That song in my head brought me back to my true self. Suddenly, I could take any amount of pain. I suddenly realised that my mind was the sovereign of my body. And so, I got up and I marched, five times the length of my hospital cubicle, before stretching up on my toes seven times. This hurt like hell. But I could fight it, and right now, I feel like I can fight anything.

And this has taught me that, no matter how depressed I feel, how apathetic, how afraid, I am NOT a coward. What I am is the King of my existence. Every illness that I have, no matter how much I may at first succumb, I will fight it.

Now, I want to end by posting a video which has also partially inspired this line of thinking. The clip is from the film, Persepolis (if you haven't seen that film - fix that! This clip is more inspirational when you know that Marjane has lived every word), which also makes fighting a metaphor for life:
cothurnus: I should've got this icon sooner. (Twilight Sparkle)
That not-quite expletive in the title of this post is my somewhat inadequate attempt to phonetically show the sounds I made when I saw my list of subscribed threads on Bleachanime.org forums today. Believe me, I do swear and curse without compunction, it's just that my brain couldn't cope with that level of stress and so, sort of, broke when it saw that web page and wouldn't make words. I had to reply to the Aesir HQ, post my ranking recommendations and continue training Adam, our newest recruit. And I am so bloody stressed! Because I'm back at university and have soooooo many meetings and lectures to go to already and I have been given two deadlines in two days. Blaaaaaaaaarrrrrgh! And, even though, I know that deadlines are infinitely more important than roleplay clans (or even blogs), and that everyone on the forum would be more than understanding if I took time off, I still feel like I need to fulfil my commitments.

Anyway, it's not even as if I'm under that much pressure, really. I've made sure of that. I'm not about make myself ill. It's just that, every so often, I have these irrational little moments where I think I'm failing at life.

But, happy thoughts, happy thoughts ... Let's talk about Adam, my pupil. It felt ace calling him that, and when he called me “sensei”, I wondered if I should grow a beard ... Not to boast, or anything, though, but I've found that being an RP mentor comes strangely naturally to me, even if I am a little nit-picky with some of my points, like insisting that he double-check posts and watch his paragraphs. And I can’t for the life of me explain how to embed links to him. (Basically, my attempt went something along the lines of “Do you see those buttons at the top of your post box? Hover over each one until you find the one that says ‘embed link’, because I can’t explain what that icon is supposed to look like.) I wonder if both of these facts – my utter inability to explain HTML (“It just is!”) and my ability to deconstruct RP were because I had never RPed before when I came to the forum and so had to pick everything up through observing others and through trial and error. Though, I would also say that it helps that Adam is a great RPer and student and picks things up exceedingly quickly.

Actually, that's one thing that I like about the dynamic of recruit training on BA. They actually consist of two parallel trainings: one where the member picks up tips on writing and one where their character also learns tips, but on how to fight. Idk, maybe it's because I'm a lit student that that quasi-symbolic mechanism interests me so much.

UPDATE: I'm off the hook with Aesir for a little while because some of the other members (Fuer and Avarice) have no internet right now. Phew!
cothurnus: For when Daddy eats my fries. (Marceline)
Boy, was I tired when I wrote that post last night. Anyway, it got me thinking: there's so much I like about Hellsing that I feel that trying to mash it all together into just one post didn't quite do it justice. So, I'm going to do a new blog series just about that manga.

But, why am I doing this episode by episode breakdown of Hellsing and not Bleach - which I have jokily suggested turning into a religion - you might ask? Firstly, it's because Hellsing is a lot shorter than Bleach, and, secondly, it's because Hellsing is a lot more episodic than Bleach. With Bleach, the parts that I like the most have a great build-up which adds to their emotional weight. Hellsing, on the other hand, lends itself much more to a short post.

But, anyway, I'm going to stop going on about this now, and stop blogging for a little while altogether, as I'm going to be returning to university!
cothurnus: For when Daddy eats my fries. (Marceline)
This is a little bit random as one of my fandom posts, because I can pretty much guarantee that it will be less review-like in nature and, more like one of my Bleach-related posts, actually arose from a really, really nice experience in my RL. So, without further ado, I'll go into the story:

I'm getting better (finally) after my long period of illness this summer and so I'm getting ready to return to university. Part of this was going through my books, which, on account of the state of my house had all been crammed into two cardboard boxes. So, some of my uni books were all jumbled up together with ... everything else. And that 'everything else' was some lovely and mixed stuff. Like there was '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea', which was one of my favourite books as a kid. Then, there were books like 'The Diary of Pelly D', which have very strong memories attached to them. But, I also found my Hellsing volumes, and had a delightful half hour getting distracted by reading them instead of packing.

For people who might be reading this who might not know what it is, Hellsing is basically a manga 'Dracula' fanfic in which the Lord of the Night, instead of dying at the end of Bram Stoker's novel. But, in the Hellsing manga, instead of being doubly dead, Dracula fights Nazis.

(Oh, btw, one of the trippiest things about this series is that 'Dracula' the novel still exists in the story's universe - it is actually mentioned by one of the manga's characters, who is the direct descendant of Abraham van Helsing. Although, I guess, that the epistollary form of the original text makes this sort of allowable.)

Now, it should be a sign of how good Hellsing is that it overrides my general, well, distaste of anything with Nazis as bad guys. You see, I really hate stories with Nazi bad guys, because, for one thing, the writer often thinks that their being Nazis is a perfectly good excuse to not give their villain a coherent or human motivation. They can just jackboot an army and clock-off for lunch. Because the basic idea is 'Nazis are just naturally bad people who do bad shit.' It’s just, I suppose, that I’m not comfortable with the suggestion that ‘some people are just inherently evil.’ Because, most humans are not like that, and, while fictional Nazis are just tokens used to denote an idea, I dislike their being used in this way as they have actual human, historical counterparts, and thus descendants. We ignore that fact at our peril.

But, Khota Hirano gets away with using Nazis in my eyes, partly for the reason that his Nazis are not historical figures, are, for the most part, not human (vampires, werewolves and one android) and, even though the whole, almost exploitation-movie style of the enterprise was the perfect example not to, he still gives them motivations, which are still recognisable, if exaggerated.

Indeed, I'll go right ahead and say that even though the whole enterprise is totally mental - I mean, Nazis sacking London in a fiery vampire apocalypse - it has some of the best speeches and quotes of any manga I have come across. I mean, get this short speech by Alucard:

“We ruin the countries we govern and the people in our care. We slaughter our enemies and sacrifice all our allies. We’ll keep killing until there’s nothing left but to destroy ourselves. It will never be enough, we’re incorrigible warmongers, aren’t we Major?”

How high-brow does that sound? Especially as it’s delivered by Alucard as looks wistfully up at the moon. Then, there is, of course, the quote which is one of the reasons why this manga is so close to my heart: Giving up is what kills people. It's only when a person refuses to give up no matter what they earn the right of walking down humanity's noble pathway. Well, it's this moral philosophy that makes it close to my heart.

Indeed, I would say that it is this consistent moral compass at the heart of Hellsing which allows it to flit so easily between wackiness and very disturbing violence in a way that another manga which I have mentioned - Black Butler - utterly fails at. Well, that and the fact that it acknowledges its own silliness, a practice which my good friend, Robert, tells me is called 'lampshade hanging'? This can certainly be seen in the series' way of portraying its characters of other nationalities: the English drink tea and there is a bona fide English butler in a story set in the present day, the Frenchman Vernedead's last big speech includes a rant against fish and chips and Father Anderson's Scottish accent is so pronounced, I'm pretty sure that no actual human being could physically speak like that.

But, throughout the series, we get this sense that we are to judge characters, not by their goodness, but by their stoicism, and it is this which gave me a sense when reading that this was something worthwhile and not just the pulp fiction it seemed.

Although, I would say it is this consistency which makes the ending of the whole series a bit of a kick in the balls. Yeah, the final chapter just descends into a lighthearted romp into fan service, with Integra Hellsing fighting a friendly fencing match with Maxwell and Alucard coming back to un-life, after having been tricked to his third(?) death in the penultimate chapter. It’s hard for me to convey to people what an intellectual come-down this was for the series. I mean, there's even a possible allusion to Irish history in the series in the name of Captain Vernedead's French mercenary troupe, the Wild Geese. Then, there is the fact that one of the Nazis listens to and sings along to part of Weber's 'Der Freschutz'. (And, you can bet your bottom dollar that that is why I like that opera so much - as well as, like, its being good...)

But, overall, when I found my Hellsing books in those cardboard boxes and flicked through them, it was with a sense of unambiguous joy, not just at the ludicrousness of the thing, but also thinking about its moral philosophy. I realised that its emphasis on stoicism had affected my own views in a big way. This was especially as I was going through another period of serious illness when I first came across these books, and the phrase, 'giving up is what kills people', resonated with me. I found it strangely poignant when I was flicking through the first volume that the song 'Tokyo (Vampires and Wolves)' by The Wombats was playing on my iPod (and also is now), because when I was looking at those pages and heard the lyric, the demons from my past leave me in peace I suddenly realised that they probably never would. That is, at least, these demons would not.
cothurnus: "I have an arm?????" (Grimmjow)
I was going to write here more in-depth about the reasons that I like Bleach Volume 25, but the more I think about it, the less I want to tread that old ground again, so here I am, doing another update on my roleplaying adventures.

In my last post on the subject, I briefly mentioned something called the Aesir, citing it as evidence of Will the now 5th's fitness for a 3rd seat, and now I'll actually explain what it is. Now, people who are up on Norse mythology or have access to Wikipedia will know that this is also the name of the main group of Norse gods, and, following The Avengers, everyone in the division seems to be on a Norse mythology trip. Seriously, our user titles have been changed - we're now split by rank into Asgaardians, Valkyries/Einherjar and Vikings. I'm a part of the second category, being of middling rank, and when this change was suggested I said it was unfair for female members to be called Valkyries and the male members Einherjar, considering that everyone in the division is supposed to be a warrior, and there are no separately designated roles for men and women. I just didn't feel that being called a Valkyrie was on the same level as 'Einherji'. But no-one took up the complaint, so I've been using 'Einherji' as my user title in protest ever since.

Anyway, back on topic: the Aesir is, in short, the Avengers team of the 1st Division. Officially, we're an elite attack squad, but, in RL, the reason why this team exists is basically to give RP nuts like myself an excuse to go off on missions all the time and a way to make that easier to do (normally with a mission you have to run around finding interested parties and co-ordinating everything, or go through the rigmarole of playing all the characters by yourself).

But, I must say I also like the RP conceit of the thing: we're currently working on an origins mission in which our team meet up in an emergency, and through their experience decide to work together - kinda like in The Avengers, only a little bit more spontaneous, i.e., there's no Shield behind everything. What I like about it, though, is that it gives us an opportunity to develop our characters through prolonged interaction with others and through a continuous storyline. It also means that we'll be able to learn more about the way each person fights and how we can use that to complement each other to create more and more fun scenarios. Indeed, so far, it's shaping up to be a really fun pick 'n' mix, but we've not really got going yet. More updates when we do. Though I should give special shout out to Kyle (character name, Kiyoshi), whose every post is made of win. Why? Because he is the best wise-cracker ever. I can’t speak for whether or not it’s a natural gift, but, either way, dude’s a genius.
cothurnus: For when I'm in an obliging, butlerish mood (Sebastian)
I know that this is really soon after the last one, but, well, we've just had monthly rankings and I found them an interesting study of the political way that the Bleachanime RP divisions work. You see, yes, it is done for the fun of it, and the system of seats is primarily there to ensure the smooth running of the divisions, with the most active members and best writers taking up the highest seats, but that doesn't mean that higher seats aren't coveted.

To explain: the divisions have ranks for seated officers between 15 (it used to be 20) and 3, with the most powerful being the lowest number. Then, above them there's the fukutaichou and taichou and below there's the recruits. Every month, division members will rank each other's performance by filling in a form in the ranking recommendation thread. (No, seriously, there is paperwork involved in this pursuit.) Then, on the 1st of every month the captain and vice-captain will write their own assessments and make decisions on what everyone's new seats should be.

That's the standard format, but, this month, a few things happened that particularly piqued my interest. I mean, there were things which interested me particularly, such as the fact that I got a three-seat promo, but in other news:

1) The loss of two recruits - Actually, this isn't that weird: a recruit or even a seated officer who has a zero post-count will get booted out of a division if they don't give a good reason. What interested me here was one of the recruits in particular. The name they used was Silver NightHowl, and I'd been suspicious of them from the moment they joined. I don't want to seem cruel and/or paranoid, but her reply to all of our welcome posts rang a little hollow, shall we say?:

Hey, I'm Silver Nighthowl. I'm a female aged 16, I love bleach and Okami more than anything! I love to RP and make new friends. It's so great to be in my favorite squad, I look forward to making everlasting friendships in this squad. <3

Then, in her application to join, she completely misunderstood the exercise and wrote about her character's strengths, not her own, citing the fact that she could use shunpo and wielded two zanpaktou. The latter is an easy mistake to make. It's just that that previously mentioned reply, kinda creeped me out. Idk, maybe it’s too much watching the news got me worried about internet predators. Maybe it wasn't a fake account, and maybe Silver was just a 16-yr-old girl who got bored with BA.

2) Sasuke's resignation + three 8th seats - Well, there's two things here, and I'll start with the first chronologically: before one of our members, Sasuke, resigned, we had three 8th seats in the division. Now, doubling of seats is pretty common, especially since the division capacity was reduced from 20 to 15. It sometimes means that someone who's had a tough month can keep their seat and someone who has shown promise can be rewarded, and it stops the ranking board from becoming one of those sliding tile puzzles. But, wow, a month where three people held the same seat was pretty unprecedented. What happened was that the two current 9th-seats had had low-activity months, but still gained a small promotion, whereas the 10th seat (Sasuke) had been an absolute boss with his activity and so gained a good two-seat promotion. Sometimes, things just work out like that, I guess.

But, as to Sasuke's leaving, this is another reality of a BA division, which sort of makes it different to divisions in the anime/manga: we have a turnaround of members measured in months not years. Sometimes RL (that's the BA abbreviation for Real Life, in case that's been confusing before) will make continuing posting unfeasible. For example, I left for a while in the past due to work commitments. Sometimes, a member might move on to the BARPG (read: the big time). Our Captain recently left the division for this reason. And, sometimes, people will just get tired, either of BA in general or a certain division. I think, for Sasuke, it was a bit of both. He stated his intention to have a bit of a break from BA, but also to join the Vizard division somewhere down the line. I’ll miss having him around in the meantime, though. I’ve known him pretty much since joining the forum about two years ago and it’ll be weird to not share a division with him.

It’s funny, though, now that I think about it: BA absences seem to come in seasons. Back-to-school months are usually slow months, as are exam times, and I just take them as a fact of life. But, I can remember back when I was in the 3rd division, the first person I ever knew leave a division. I was really scandalised. To me, the place was wonderful! And why would anyone leave?! I couldn’t understand why other people weren’t surprised.

3) The fight for 3rd - Back on topic: moar rankings drama! Yes, in last month's recommendations there was a bit of a tussle for 3rd seat. Well, I wouldn't really call it that this month. I think that will really get going next month, but, for once in my life, I really put my cards on the table very hard with rankings and put forward our 6th seat - who has now been promoted to 5th - skipping the 4th seat. I felt a little cruel for doing this: as Mitsu, the vice stated in her assessments, while Will had shown insane organisational ability (a necessity in such a high seat) this month, forming the Aesir (more on that next time ...), Ari was one of those who had stood by the division through the dark times, and, in many ways, her writing displayed as much talent as Will's. But, this is one of the dilemmas of ranking, especially at the higher level: loyalty must always be rewarded, but so must effort and skill. Once at the high level, everyone is exceptional, so it's really hard to decide between them. I mean, I was honest, and it was hard for me, as I consider Ari a friend, but if it was bad for me, what's it going to be like for Mitsu next month? She did say in this month's assessments that now that it's been brought up, she's going to base her decision of who gets the seat on this month's performance. I can't wait!
cothurnus: *Sigh* (Ukitake)
One of the things that I find most fun about the more casual version of Bleach roleplay is its greater potential for creativity in off-topics, and part of this is that you can be off-canon as you like in the fun barrack threads (in 'proper' mission threads you have to apply for that sort of thing). This, of course, leads to cross-over ahoy, and recently, this has been showcased on the BA forums, as I've been masterminding a Black Butler (Kuroshitsuji) style cross-over murder mystery event. The only links to Black Butler really can be found in certain character beats, plot points and the fact that the first victim was an NPC butler. Actually, I don't think I'm doing the fun of the thing justice.

But, when I think about it, the fun of this event is coming more from its mechanics than its tangential connection to Black Butler. Basically, I outright instruct and point out things as little as possible, letting people accuse each other depending on what they personally feel is a clue and telling people their role in the game through private messages.

As to the Black Butler manga itself, my feelings towards it have always been a bit weird. It's well-written, well-structured and beautifully drawn. Each plot arc blends almost seamlessly into the next. But, beneath all this I have two problems with this manga. The first isn't a deal-breaker. No, my first problem is the silliness of the manga's nostalgic presentation of the Victorian age. But, really I don't ask for historical accuracy from this sort of thing, and I can laugh at the idea of the Victorian era as one of twee decadence, where it was totally likely that a woman could become a doctor. I can especially forgive this silliness because of the way that people are given interesting arcs - particularly Sebastian, whose arc does not really consist of any changes that we see, but ones that are hinted at, considering his impenetrability.

But now we're getting to what my real problem with this manga is, and that's that it's ... well, it's kind of creepy. And I don't necessarily mean stuff like the way that the same manga can both have its twelve-year-old protagonist order the murder of a hundred children and have those supposedly adorable asides with his fiancée. Though that that is weird and feels wrong. Instead, I would say this manga disturbs me out of a sense of general wrongness.

Let me elaborate: a friend of mine at uni came to visit me once while I was reading the latest chapter. He asked me what it was, so I pointed to Ciel and said that he had made a deal with a demon (the butler of the title) to get revenge for the murder of his parents. To which, my friend's reply was 'That's a boy?! Because I would totally tap that!' This was an especially interesting response, given the manga's having dressed that character as a (very convincing) girl twice. Then, there's the butler himself, who, granted, is supposed to be creepy. But, just, almost everything about him comes across as sexualised. I'm serious. It is really really weird. I mean, in one story, he even gives someone a hand job for information. It's like the manga tried to corner both the shounen and deviantart markets at the same time. Brrrr...

But – and here I sigh – I still keep reading every month, hoping to get closer to the conclusion of Ciel’s revenge quest. Partly, that’s because as Neil Gaiman’s Loki says, ‘”You know what sticks people to something? The desire to know how it's all going to end.”’ But also, it’s because the ending of the anime was, at once so emotionally harrowing and satisfying that I just wonder if the manga is going to go with something similar.
cothurnus: For the creation of fail artwork everywhere. (Scott Pilgrim)
It seems that my little art projects have ground to a juddering halt of late. This is partially due to my trying to sort certain technical difficulties, such as changing certain poses and trying really hard but failing to draw this one guy's hair (very long and very curly - really difficult). Though, I'd say the biggest reason has to be just that I am too ill at present. Sad times.
cothurnus: "I set my sail ..." (Bastion)
Ok, a quick post, just to talk about a film that I watched today.

I came across it, because, in a moment of extreme boredom, I was trawling through Moviebob's video reviews and found a special episode about apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic films. He just happened to mention Six-String Samurai as a 'rockabilly parody of the genre' of Mad Max style apocalypse survival and almost a 'must-own'. This, it seems, though, wasn’t everyone’s opinion, as I later found, when looking for pictures for this post, that it has a rather scathing entry on badmovies.org. I found this dismissal of the film, though, rather unfair. Yeah, it’s goofy and low-budget, but that doesn’t necessarily make a film bad.



My reaction to it, as you may have guessed was somewhat different. Immediately after hearing about it, I looked up the trailer, and knew that this film would be right up my street, but I didn't realise just what a bizarre and imperfect mixture it would be: part Wizard of Oz, part Samurai story, part kung-fu movie, part Highlander, part rockabilly Mad Max, not absolutely everything in it was to my taste. Yet, the whole was both cohesive and engaging. Indeed, the 1950s theme was a nice change from the usual aesthetics of such films. Of course, it also helps the fight scenes that Jeffrey Falcon who wrote the thing and plays the lead, is actually a martial artist.



But, I don't want to review this movie. I want to talk about what I think I liked about it, other than the quirky sense of humour (which admittedly I didn't always get, although that might have been the bad sound quality and my relatively poor knowledge of musical and kung-fu specifics) and the fact that the words 'apocalypse' and 'samurai' in any medium will usually push my buttons. Also the word 'teleportation', but that's not relevant here.

What I liked about it was that it didn't rely on its quirkiness, but instead gave us a world of well-acted, engaging and nuanced characters with actual arcs, which meld seamlessly into the weirdly hyperbolic world of the narrative. And it does this with very little actual speech. Character traits are portrayed through tone of voice, facial expressions and actions. Buddy, the main character, is cool and cynical, but his actions in the film both show his movement from his selfish way of being (part of what I like about this story is that it's essentially about a warrior finding a cause to fight for other than personal glory) and belie his cynicism. Yes, that's cheesy as hell, but the film acknowledges that, and then makes you care anyway. Or, at least, it did with me.

This was, though the reason why the ending was both a tear-jerker and a bit of a let-down. But, I would absolutely recommend this film: any film which tries to have emotional depth when it has every excuse not to is, to me, a sign of all that is good in human artistic endeavour.
cothurnus: For when I'm in a foul mood. (Kuukaku says STFU)
I just spent the day yesterday catching up on my Fairy Tail manga, so I felt that now would be an apt time to blog my feelings about this manga. But, just a heads-up, by the time I'd caught up on my reading yesterday, my plans for this post were not as positive as I thought they would be, but I'll get to that later. I'd like to start with the happy things.

Fairy Tail is, in my opinion, one of the best manga out there. I love its lightness of tone, with many of the jokes being peculiar, but spot-on for the creation of the manga's world. Then, I like the way that the lighter parts seem to serve in support of the manga's overall positive and pro-social values, such as camaraderie.

But, even without the content, I would have to say that the structuring of the Fairy Tail manga is absolutely superb: each member of the titular guild has their own story thread. But, while individual threads do sometimes form the basis for specific fights (such as Elfman vs. Sol and his guilt over the death of his sister) or specific story arcs (such as Erza's childhood as a slave and her relationship with Jellal), they're never out of the frame long enough to frustrate an interested reader, nor do they intrude upon each other.

This links, though, to the characterisation, which is another of Fairy Tail's triumphs. Part of the reason why the characters don't just disappear when their plot lines are not the focus is because they are interesting people in their own right. They have more to them than their history. Their relationships with each other are an important part of this - not just those pro-social guild bonds, but more specific ones, such as the troubled Grandfather-Grandson relationship between Makarov and Laxus, and the adorable romances between Levy and Gajeel and Elfman and Evergreen.

However, it's this way that I get to my main criticism of Fairy Tail, and that is the way that the manga treats its women. Up front, I'll say that many of the women in Fairy Tail are great as characters, and are both bad-asses and well-rounded individuals. Erza is definitely my favourite female manga character. No, it's not so much the way that they're characterised, as the way that they're drawn. Look, I didn't mind so much things such as Erza's Playboy bunny armour, as that was played for laughs, and even added to the character, and things like that were few and far between. But, in the most recent arc, the mangaka just seems to take every possible opportunity to get female characters barely clothed or actually naked on panel and to have it commented upon by an audience and commentators within the manga, as the current arc consists of an inter-guild tournament, and various plots intertwined with it. Ok, I'll list some of the examples:

1) Lucy's clothes being almost blasted off by the power of her attack, while Gemini has Lucy's appearance in a bath towel. While this sort of thing is often par for the course (Yoruichi's sleeves are blown off by the power of her shunko) I found it a bit overly erotic here - especially with all the cleavage and hair bondage on show in this fight. (You can see the particular page I took issue with here: http://www.mangareader.net/fairy-tail/272/14 )

2) Then, there's the comic relief eye candy. However, unlike Erza's Playboy bunny outfit, this one was played a lot more for audience titillation than laughs. It takes the form of a swimsuit contest between two former models, who are also mages - Jenny Realight of Blue Pegasus guild and Fairy Tail's Mirajane. They seriously choose to do this instead of do battle. It is actually page after page of these guys posing, inter-cut with panels of the audience's drooling reaction. That is until the final round in which they show their battle forms, and Mirajane uses hers to sucker punch Jenny and thus win. I can see the joke, but it didn't stop most of the episode being uncomfortable for me as a female reader.

3) Yukino Aguria, a member of the Sabertooth guild, as a punishment for losing a fight to the death, but surviving, is forced to strip naked in front of her guild mates and erase her own guild tattoo. Oh, the abuse doesn't stop there: Flare Corona, from the Raven Tail guild, is beaten up for almost losing to Fairy Tail's Lucy. I know that the point of this was to help characterise the villains, but, seriously, there's ways to do that other than the humiliation of women.

4) I've left my most egregious example until last, however, and that is the portrayal of Shelia and Wendy, who, for those who don't know, can't be older than nine or ten years old. I don't just mean during their fights, but during the swimming pool trip filler story. In the former, the commentator points out how cute the two are, while he and members of the audience make that face with love hearts in their eyes, and in the latter, the two are in bikinis like the other female members of the division, but they do so with bikini bodies that girls their age shouldn't have! It's not quite paedophilia, but it's uncomfortably close to it for me.

Like I said, this has ended up being way, way more negative than I wanted it to be (I wanted it to be 1000 words of how awesome Erza is, and why she's a great character - seriously), but, don't blame me. Blame Hiro Mashima for ruining it.
cothurnus: "I set my sail ..." (Bastion)
Have you ever just sat down with a cup of strong tea and listened to My Chemical Romance's 'Famous Last Words' and just allowed the experience to wash over you, thinking of nothing else?
cothurnus: "I set my sail ..." (Bastion)
Again, this is one of those ideas which took a while to mature into a full post, although, unlike part 1, it took quite a bit longer than a week. For, I've been mulling over some of these ideas for months. For, while last time I was talking about the feeling that the experience of Bleach itself immediately gives me, here I wanted to talk about it in the wider context of my life, and, as such needed to bank up some examples. Luckily, I have some really good ones now, so, without further ado, I'm going to talk about the joy of Bleach in my life at large.

I suppose the best thing I can start by talking about is the way that I've used Bleach to consciously contextualise my experiences since I started watching/reading it, and the easiest way to do that would be for me to just launch into my examples.

The first, and possibly most hyperbolic is the way that I use Bleach to contextualise my quidditch playing. But, I think I can be excused a little hyperbole, considering the way that sports are often advertised. What comes to mind are adverts for sportswear and even certain trailers for the Olympics. I mean, they seriously had one with Led Zeppelin's 'Immigrant Song'. Now, if applying the lyric, 'Valhalla I'm coming', to a sport is not wonderfully hyperbolic, then I don't know what is. Now, like I said, I don't mind this glorifying of sport so long as there is a certain amount of self-awareness, that's part of what makes it fun, and part of the reason why I even do it myself. So, yes, I will often see my quidditch games as being like Bleach battles. I even adapted a bit of Bleach into a quidditch motto ('If I dodge I won't let them tackle/beat me. If I protect someone I won't let them be tackled. If I attack I will tackle them!'). It didn't really catch on, I'm afraid, but it's fitting.

The best example of this, though, was after the IQA Summer Games. This was an international tournament, and I was a beater on the UK team. We lost every match, which was fine and to be expected, considering our relative lack of training and experience compared to everyone else. It was just that I felt that I, personally, had not played to the best of my ability. The reason was, it seemed, that I just lost my nerve. Normally, I am a bit of a Berserker when it comes to quidditch, and woe betide anyone who gets in the way of my bludger or me. But, somehow, I just started to feel afraid of tackling - a new experience - and I felt like I'd let my team and myself down. So, afterwards, to spur myself on to further training, I found and wrote down in my diary two speeches from Bleach, used to make someone pick themselves up after defeat. The first was Rukia's speech to Ichigo, trying to get him out of his funk after failing to fight Ulquiorra:

Are you afraid of losing? Are you afraid of being unable to protect your friends!? ... If you are afraid of losing, become more powerful.

The second came from Kenpachi's speech to Ikkaku and is, overall, more fitting, if more hyperbolic:

If you like fighting, then quit bitching about not being killed! Don't just accept defeat and beg for death! ... If you lose without dying, it means luck was on your side. When that happens, focus on surviving ... Survive and kill the person who couldn't kill you! ... Live! Live, and come try to kill me again.

Of course, I could only apply these so far to my situation - that is the nature of metaphor, after all - but I found them inspiring and apt, nonetheless.

But, aside from all this sporty talk, Bleach has had metaphorical application in my life in other instances, with one being quite recent - about 11 days ago, actually. Then, I had to go down for a surgery, and, ever since I was 14 and had an operation then, I've always felt anxious about the loss of control which anaesthetic brings. But, this time, I had just been reading Bleach volume 23 - the one in which Ichigo fights his inner hollow, and, as soon as I started thinking of going under with anaesthetic as being like when Shinji knocks out Ichigo, except I got wheeled before I was asleep:



Seriously, when they put the oxygen mask on, all I could think of was Shinji saying, 'Don't let it consume you. You consume it.' I didn't feel any of my usual anxiety because of that.

So, while it might be said that I use Bleach as a way to escape my reality, I'd say that it's far more accurate to say that I use Bleach to augment my reality.

But, indeed, I didn't realise the extent to which this was true until I tried to give it up. Well, I actually did give it up, with very little trouble actually. It wasn't as if it was an addiction or anything that I had to knock. I felt no loss really when I exorcised it from my life. When I returned to it, however, and started re-watching the anime from episode one, I suddenly realised what a huge part of my personality I had cast off. I realised that Bleach was one of those things which had infiltrated my dreams and lifestyle choices in subtle and almost imperceptible ways, that the examples which I have used above aren't really that good for illustrating. It was a strange moment, watching that episode. It felt like coming home to myself. Then, to cap the joy of the moment, I spent the rest of the evening watching Bleach instead of working and still managed to turn in my best ever essay in about three hours the next day. I really think that the psychological release that watching Bleach gave me there helped me to work. It was just great to accept that while my watching Bleach might be seen by some as immature (part of the reason I had given it up), it was a part of me, and by accepting that immature aspect of myself, I felt like I grew as a human being, and became a happier, more balanced individual.
cothurnus: For the creation of fail artwork everywhere. (Scott Pilgrim)
Yay! Here's the point in my art odyssey in which I write about progress so far. So, bullet points!:

1) I have drawings to upload

2) The new projects

3) Equipment


1) First thing's first: here's the little character sketches I did when I hit upon my crazy scheme to paint all my friends living on my floor at uni:



And this is my first draft of my full picture. It was mainly so I could see what all the characters would look like together. Despite the fact that the angles don't work out (I've fixed that in my second draft by using a ruler and protractor - seriously, I was waiting for someone to say, 'Are you drawing a picture or plotting a map?') - and despite the fact that a few people don't have eyebrows, I'm pretty happy with how it turned out:



2) The new projects are a poster advertising my college's quidditch team. I still need to run it past the higher-ups, but I hope they like it. It has the slogan 'Fly Sexy' written on it in big neon pink letters. Also, because I'm on a drawing binge, I've also started drawing everyone's birthday cards! And, as I couldn't fit all my college friends in on my current picture, I'm doing a new, smaller one, too. Might watercolour that one - which leads me to the next thing ...

3) ... The question of supplies: I know I'm not quite to the stage where I can really start thinking about painting, but I'm doing it anyway, and I just don't know whether to use acrylic and acrylic boards, or poster paints, or watercolours or what?!!? Also, I've been thinking about how neat and exact some of my lines are going to need to be, and I must say, I half-guiltily looked at the section at the end of Scott Pilgrim vs. The Universe called 'Creating Scott Pilgrim for Fun and Profit' to see what Bryan Lee O'Malley used, and I may have considered buying a Rosemary & Co. #3 Kohlinsky Sable despite it being, like, £6.85 for one brush. And, then I realised how stupid that would be.

So, there you have it, this future artwork draws on apace.
cothurnus: *Sigh* (Ukitake)
I thought I should do a little BA update here, considering that I've just finished my first spar of this 'incarnation' (read as: return to the RPing circles).

For those who don't know, basically the spars in BA RP are text-based, turn-based combat: one person attacks, then the other person writes of the result of that attack and their reaction (you can't write about or bank on the outcome of your own attack). Then, the counter-attack is written. This continues, either within set parameters (usually used for tournaments), or until both participants' characters are too injured to continue.

It seems really weird when I write it down like that, and not that interesting.

But, it is interesting to me, both from a creative and mechanical perspective, and the two can even be combined. The creative fun can come from creating an environment, creative attacks and character development. The latter is difficult, but rewarding. I mean, one way to do this is by just saying something like, 'environment X reminded so-and-so of spar Y', but that isn't really fun, unless it really means something. The real fun character stuff in a spar usually comes from how you think your character would actually react to an attack - whether, for example, they keep their cool when things go badly.

Which sort of takes me to the mechanics, because, one of the most rewarding things about an RP spar is being able to use the physics and rules of the game-world - here, the various settings of Bleach - to your advantage in new and interesting ways, not explicitly explored by the manga/anime. One particularly cool example of this that I remember was during a kidou training, in which the teacher, focused his reiatsu in order to keep a Soukatsui hadou small in the palm of his hand, instead of blasting it off, and then used the hadou, Tenran, to turn it into a flaming tornado. It's especially fun to use the environment at times - setting fire to things to make a smokescreen or swinging from rafters.

But, as for my recent spar, I was using a pre-made arena with set debuffs - not my usual choice - so, while that was an interesting change, it didn't allow me as much of the creative fun that I get with spars. I also didn't really get to mess with physics, as I really wanted to try out my shikai for the first time. However, I had a lot of fun at times in that spar, and that was mainly due to character moments, especially in how she dealt with an absolutely unavoidable attack. I found it natural that my character's general response was the go ape-shit to compensate.

But, yeah, still hoping that the upcoming Kuroshitsuji cross-over event's going to be good.
cothurnus: For the creation of fail artwork everywhere. (Scott Pilgrim)
Now, I'm very very tired right now so this update is going to be the least grammatical and sense-making post I will ever probably create, but, here goes:

Recently, I have been in hospital, and, having rushed in as an emergency, I did not take a great many things with me. The list goes:

1) 1 set of pyjamas
2) 3 sets of underwear
3) Some body lotion
4) Deodorant
5) My phone (but no charger)
6) Bleach Volume 32

That last item is quite indicative of my feelings about Bleach: I was feeling so ill when I left for hospital that I - foolishly, I admit - thought that I wouldn't be able read in hospital. I'd really taken the book as a talisman - something good to help me feel a connection to all the good things in my life that I associated with Bleach. However, when my condition was stabilised, I found that I needed entertainment, and so read that volume, really slowly, savouring the artwork. That took about an hour. And I was stuck in A&E for eight hours.

But, I consoled myself by thinking that maybe my parents would be going back home soon to get supplies and could bring my iPod and the graphic novels which I had recently bought (while I was too ill to really concentrate on an actual book, I could still take funny books). But then I was transferred to a hospital two hours away from where I live, in Liverpool. This, of course, meant that a trip home would be inconceivable (the petrol cost! yikes!).

Therefore, when my parents visited and bought me some new pyjamas, I also asked for the next two Scott Pilgrim volumes. I was glad I did! And, continuing my habit of listing things, I will say that my reasons for enjoying the Scott Pilgrim books my dad got me were twofold:

1) How good Scott Pilgrim is - I've recently taken to saying that 'Scott Pilgrim is the most intelligent comic book/graphic novel series I have ever read. And I've read Sandman, and Watchmen. The Watchmen.' There's a certain amount of self-aware pretentiousness in this saying, in the way that it's phrased particularly, but that doesn't make the statement any less true as an expression of my opinion. There's plenty of opinions and reviews around about which will say that Scott Pilgrim is one of the greatest comic books of the century or millenium, but there's not many reviewers who would compare it to cultural behemoths of last century such as Watchmen. Although, to give these reviewers credit, I think this has less to do with fear of doing something difficult and canon-challenging (although to do so is certainly both of those things - I don't believe that I even nearly do the subject justice) than an attempt to review the impact of the text alone, an attempt to be concise, or an acceptance of the idea that the two are doing different things. The latter is an argument which I really don't like, as it is one which I've run into before when declaring how good I found Bastion to a friend, saying that I didn't think that I'd find another game as good. His response was that I couldn't say that, partly because I hadn't played that many games to compare it to and partly because other games are trying to do different things. But can't I judge one comic book or game against another for the aesthetic unity of the thing? Or how effectively presented is feeling which the creator seeks to evoke? Or the amount of nuance used in rendering the stories or ideas which the work wishes to convey? To explain the latter what I suppose I mean by that is a reference to the boundary between art and life: the two are inextricably intertwined, and, therefore, as life is complicated and nuanced, within certain frameworks, I would say that it helps for art to be so also.

These are the criteria which allow me to compare Bastion with Bioshock for instance, and, to return to my original idea, Scott Pilgrim with Watchmen. But, I would say that the idea of nuance in treatment of themes is an especially important one with regards to Scott Pilgrim, because its two main themes - an exploration of the way that young people form and live relationships and identities - are really difficult to write about. Ok, I'll say here and now that this choice of theme does make me biased in favour of Scott Pilgrim over Watchmen, as it is one closer to my own experience, but on a more objective note, I will say that it is rare to see these subjects so maturely explored in any medium, as, unlike many, many, many, many works, it falls short of outrightly idealising romance.

(Phew, that took longer than expected.)

2) My kitchen artwork!!!!! - To explain: next year I am going to be sharing a flat at university, and, inspired by someone in the year above who did something similar, I decided to paint a canvas to hang up in the kitchen. I've been struggling, though, for inspiration. The other guy had just done pictures of My Little Pony characters and Adventure Time ones and the like. But I wanted to do something original. However, having read 'Scott Pilgrim gets it Together' (and the food section of a copy of Ideal Home magazine, in my insane boredom) an idea struck! Why not draw a picture of my friends having a great time in the kitchen, while eating pie?! (The food section had several pie recipes.) My next stage was to doodle and experiment with drawing the different people's hairstyles and clothes. But, as I was doing so, I found myself playing a little game, giving everyone's outfits different gaming stats (e.g. a friend of mine has an Assassin's Creed hoodie, so that gave him stealth points in the D and D model). This gave me the inspiration to try a Scott Pilgrim-type art style, and so far, I've done character designs for all 13 people, and one preliminary sketch. Seriously, this kept me reasonably sane in hospital. I'm quite happy with the result, although my composition needs some work, and using a page from 'Scott Pilgrim Gets it Together' as a reference is presenting its own problems, such as all people in the picture being of a similar height. I hope to scan and post the different stages of my opus in picture form here in future and to update my progress here - hence the reason why I've given this post both title and subtitle. All future updates will have 'Precious Little Life' in the title.

So there you have it: Scott Pilgrim in my life. Can you believe that I've written all this with a banging headache?

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Ashleigh

November 2012

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