Theme Parks: Unintentionally Terrifying Rides

Concept art promotional image for ‘The Cat in the Hat’ ride at Universal Studios Orlando: Islands of Adventure. Copyright goes to the Universal Studios parks.

Hi! It’s Annie!

Living in California and having travelled to Orlando Florida a few times, it stands to reason that I have been on quite a lot of theme park rides. Most of my park experience has been really great, especially considering my experience consists of mostly Disney and Universal parks. These companies are usually pretty great about being innovative with ride mechanics and keeping up with the latest technology. But some parks aren’t and sometimes even these companies can’t keep absolutely everything in their park up to date. Or other times people don’t want to change a specific ride in a park so the company decides to keep it for nostalgia. Either way, these types of rides are often the ones that I find to be the most hilariously frightening despite what the original concept might have been. So, with plenty of rides to talk about that fit this criteria, let’s just get into it.

The Cat in the Hat- Universal Studios Orlando, Islands of Adventure:

We’ve briefly mentioned this ride on the blog before and that’s because this memory just stands out so vividly. In ‘Islands of Adventure’ there is a pastel colored Dr. Seuss themed area otherwise known as Seuss Landing. This area has seen better days, let’s be honest. It was there from pretty early on in the park’s days. But the day I went with family it was hot, this is an inside ride, and there was absolutely no line. So might as well try out something that supplies air conditioner, right? The ride automatically looked old when we stepped further into the building, but it was nothing to be too concerned about. The horror started in the first or second room in the ride when the first old animatronic of the Cat turns around. This moment that was meant to be cute felt too much like the Evil Queen turning around in the former ‘Snow White’s Scary Adventure’ in Disneyland. One of his eyes had probably not been tended to for some time and was half closed and twitching as if trying to open all the way. Everyone in the car collectively screamed and then started laughing hysterically. And that was pretty much what happened for the rest of the ride. Between the Things wearing wigs so tangled they looked like rats nests and a couple other animatronics having eye problems, this felt much more like a horror ride than something for children. And surprisingly this has become more common knowledge in the past couple years since my last trip there. Many people joke that Universal should hold some of their Halloween Horror Nights events in ‘Islands of Adventure’ so that the ride can be included.

E.T.- Universal Studios Orlando, Islands of Adventure:

And here’s another one. This ride also starts out cute until pretty early on as you’re flying on a bike, a police car pulls in front of you in an attempt to stop you. Inside, as police officers, are obvious store mannequins with no discernible faces and cheap wigs. Pretty horrifying if you ask me. Later in the ride you get to E.T’s planet which is incredibly humid and features female E.T.s which are basically creepy porcelain looking dolls with jellyfish hair and lipstick. This part of the ride also has high pitched creatures singing (or screaming, who can tell?) along to the musical theme of the movie, which is definitely worse than ‘It’s A Small World’. I didn’t scream during this one, but I did still walk off the ride deeply scarred.

Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride- Disneyland California:

I’m not a huge fan of Disney replacing all of their old rides, but this is one that I would not be sad to see go. This ride used to exist in other parks and has been since taken out of them, so now the only park it’s still in is the one in California. In other words, I grew up with this ride. When I was little it wasn’t one of my favorites and my family would only go on it when there wasn’t a big line and we had nothing else to do. When I got a little older we stopped going on it at all. And then after a few years passed I was really curious about it because I had gotten to the point where I couldn’t remember exactly what happened on that ride. The once to jog my memory was enough. From the get go, the ride depicts you as the driver of a vehicle committing various crimes and then at the end of the ride you get hit by a train and go to Hell. I’m not even joking. Your car gets caught on railroad tracks and you see a train light coming towards you and then your vehicle turns into a place painted with red and fake fire where you’re surrounded by little red demons. You know, the perfect ride for kids.

Pixar Pal-A-Round- Disneyland California, California Adventure Park:

This ride has had it’s name and image changed so many times, but really what you need to know is that this is the giant Ferris Wheel in California Adventure. What many people don’t know about this particular ride is that it has two different experiences that you can choose from. The swinging cars and the non-swinging cars. This is another one that I rode a couple times when I was a kid, but it was largely a ride my family and I skipped over. I finally decided to ride it again right before my family switched our annual passes to Universal Studios instead because Disneyland is so expensive. So this would have been a few years back. When I went on it was only me and my sister and, in order to make the lines move, they require at least four people to be put in a car. My sister and I were paired up with this really sweet newlywed couple and we all went up in this car together. The way most Ferris Wheels work is that you go around slowly the first time so that they can load the cars and then they give you two times around without stopping. So choosing to go on the swinging cars seemed like it was fine the first time around. The car slid around only a little bit and we all thought it was fun and cute. And then we got to the part where it goes around without stopping and the car was flying along the track and swinging completely out. It feels like you’re going to launch into space. There is also no seatbelts and nothing to hang on to. I’m usually good with most thrill rides, and technically this isn’t one. But it should be. My sister and the husband of the couple were bearing it a little better than the wife and I; who were curled up at the sides of the car with our fingers threaded through the screen windows and taking turns screaming and laughing at each other. Don’t underestimate that Ferris Wheel.

Timber Mountain Log Ride- Knott’s Berry Farm, California:

I’ve picked on Universal and Disney enough, so I’m going to take this time to mention one thing that isn’t either. Timber Mountain Log Ride is the classic summer water ride at Knott’s Berry Farm and really doesn’t have much to it. You go around this mountain a little bit and there’s a drop at the end. However, there are a couple of old animatronics of lumberjacks scattered around this ride that are very mannequin looking and most of them are welding axes. If you go on this ride especially around night time, it’s really eerie. The ride does not have good lighting, so the glint of the axes are some of the only things you can make out at night. While this was not the original intention, the horror of this ride is actually so well known that Knott’s Berry Farm started altering the ride somewhat for their Halloween events. Maybe ‘The Cat in the Hat’ ride will eventually follow in it’s footsteps.

I feel like finding an unintentionally scary ride at a theme park has led to some of my favorite theme park memories. Because somehow anything that is unintentionally terrifying automatically also becomes funny when no one else you’re with knows what they’re in for either. So though these rides are really weird for the most part, if you’re with friends I’d still say that they’re a good time. But good luck with the jump scares.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

K-Pop and K-Dramas: Why ATEEZ’s Stages Dominate

Promotional image of (Top) Choi Jongho, Choi San, Kim Hongjoong, Kang Yeosang, (Bottom) Song Mingi, Park Seonghwa, Jung Wooyoung, and Jeong Yunho. Copyright goes to ATEEZ and KQ Entertainment.

Hey! Hallie here!

I know we talk about BTS more often than any other K-Pop group on this blog, but ATEEZ deserves some praise after their recent accomplishments. They are currently competing on a Korean show called “Kingdom: Legendary War” (All except Mingi who is still taking a break for his mental health). The show is hosted by Mnet and allows groups to show off their abilities and get a little more publicity in the process. I haven’t been able to watch this when it airs, but as a fan of ATEEZ I’ve been keeping my eye on the results of each round in the competition. And ATEEZ is dominating the stage. They’ve been consistently staying at the top of the competition and even won the last round. And you don’t have to wonder why. Between the energetic dancing, the amazing vocals, and the mind-blowing storytelling, ATEEZ has already moved past the title of “rookie group”. They can now go toe-to-toe with Stray Kids, which I’ll talk about more in a bit. To see exactly how impressive ATEEZ is, let’s look what they’ve brought to “Kingdom” so far.

Round 1:

I’m going to hop right into round 1 because their introductory stage was good, but also so short that there isn’t much to say. Their round 1 performance incorporated the same feel of their introduction, keeping with the pirate theme ATEEZ has adopted as part of their brand. As you could probably guess, the entire stage was made to be a pirate ship and each member was dressed in appropriately piratey attire. This performance began with an anonymous man dressed in black walking through the pirate ship and into the captain’s quarters to deliver an hourglass, ATEEZ’s symbol, to Hongjoong. From there the group proceeded into a variation of their song “Wonderland”, which is definitely one the most badass songs they have in their arsenal. The first half of the song was a great intro to all of the members. They all received small choreographed pieces on different parts of the ship. Hongjoong, of course, started out with rallying the members together as captain, but we also got to see things like Wooyoung acting as lookout and San steering the ship. I should mention that throughout all of this, their voices were insanely steady considering how energetic their choreography always is, and, as usual, their choreo was on point. Halfway through the performance the stage transformed, allowing the giant tentacle of a monster to emerge from the back of the stage. Here we got some more individual dancing, and an incredible Seonghwa moment where he led an entire group of backup dancers with accompanying guns and then shot and killed the monster at the back of the stage. Then Jongho stole the show with his incredible voice, hitting a note I was not aware was possible to hit. The performance ended with another impeccably performed dance break and the sails of the ship unfurling to emphasize how incredible the performance had been. It is completely unsurprising they won this round.

Round 2:

This round required competing groups to pair off with each other to perform one another’s songs. ATEEZ was given the opportunity to choose who they paired off with first as a result of winning first place in the last round. They chose iKon, who they have become closer with during the competition, and decided to perform their own version of the song “Rhythm Ta”. Once again, this performance was like an entire movie. Some members of other groups seemed to recognize several of the scenes in this performance as a tribute to “Money Heist”, but as I am not familiar with it, I can’t really speak to that. What I can say is this performance instantly pulled me in with its heist concept. The first shot of ATEEZ showed them inside some sort of vehicle. After a few seconds the vehicle appeared to crash and the lights went out. When the lights came back up, all the members were in creepy black-and-white masks. This performance gave me some serious Gotham villain vibes. All of the backup dancers were in these masks and the entire performance saw the members throwing them around as Gotham villains tend to do to their expendables. At one point San even dragged out a dancer who was tied to a bomb. There was a lot of huge dance breaks with the many, many, backup dancers, and even a floor dance from San who used the floor to mimic climbing a rope and hitting a button to open a giant safe. Hongjoong emerged from the safe to rap while everyone wreaked havoc in the background. After another perfectly performed dance break, Hongjoong got up on a pedestal to deliver a speech of rebellion to the masked criminals, during which a blimp flew in over his head. Then Jongho ended the performance with another insanely belted note. The very end of this performance shows the brilliance of ATEEZ, however. Hongjoong is seen in a black jacket and a black hat, the same attire the anonymous man was wearing in the first performance, stealing the hourglass from a glass case. In other words, ATEEZ decided to connect both of their performances through their storytelling.

The Drama:

I have to mention this because one of the reasons this season of the show is blowing up so much is the inevitable drama competition shows like these stir up. One of the groups competing is Stray Kids, which is a group that obviously has a giant fan base. This started controversy from the beginning. While Mnet was pleased a group with such a large fanbase was joining the show, fans of other groups became concerned that the fan voting segment of the show would be completely taken over by Stray Kids. And these fans were right to be concerned. So far Stray Kids has won every fan voting segment by a landslide. But something else is also stirring up drama. Stray Kids fans have been frustrated that the show has been giving Stray Kids relatively low marks for their performances, placing them towards the bottom of the rankings regardless of the fan vote. These frustrations, and speculation that Mnet rigs these competition shows, has started a fan war between Atinys and Stays. Stays have been accusing ATEEZ of being undeserving of their ranking in the competition, and Atinys have fired back with attempting to sue Stays for spreading hate.

I have nothing against Stray Kids or Stays. Stray Kids isn’t one of the groups I follow, but they’re definitely talented. That being said, I think this fan war is ridiculous. It might be because I live in America, where all of the competition shows are completely rigged, but I don’t see what reason there is to attack ATEEZ. All of the groups are there for the same reason. To get publicity. And they’re all succeeding. Every single one of them. While I’m proud of ATEEZ for pulling themselves to the top of this competition so early in their careers, I wouldn’t care if they were at the bottom of the rankings. Because ATEEZ is turning heads with their performances alone and winning or losing this competition won’t change that. The same goes for Stray Kids. If you, as a Stay, are proud of what Stray Kids is accomplishing, keep voting for them and sending them your love. Whether they win or lose doesn’t matter. And ATEEZ has NOTHING to do with Stray Kids’ current ranking in the competition. Just because they are at the top as of right now doesn’t mean they have anything to do with Stray Kids being near the bottom. As for Atinys, threatening to sue an entire fan base is ridiculous. The best way to support ATEEZ right now is to vote for them and encourage them, not to engage in pointless fan wars. In other words, no matter who you’re voting for, support who you want and leave the other groups alone. As for me, I’ll be over here awed by ATEEZ’s talent. (Voting is still happening for round 2, so if you can, vote!)

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

K-Pop and K-Dramas: ‘Youth’ BTS K-Drama

Promotional photos of (left) Seo Jihoon and (right) Kim Seokjin. Copyright goes to HYBE Entertainment.

Hi! It’s Annie!

Since I talked about the upcoming ATEEZ K-Drama, I of course have to talk about ‘Youth’. If you haven’t yet heard about the upcoming release of ‘Youth’, it is a drama based off of the earlier storylines in BTS music videos. Despite conjecture, this won’t be based off of their real lives or their career. While we don’t know a whole lot about this yet considering how many times this project has been put on hold for different reasons; we do know that this drama will eventually come in the next couple years. The original date for it’s release was 2021, but with filming postponed yet again for several reasons, we have no idea when the exact time will be. So, that’s enough of talking about what we don’t know. Let’s start talking about what we do know.

Casting:

None of this has been confirmed, so take this with a grain of salt. What is absolutely for certain is that the members of BTS are not actually acting in this drama. We’ve seen BTS act in music videos before, but that’s not really the same as acting in dramas. But we’ve also seen them act in promo videos, advertisements, and for video games. Seeing Namjoon in particular act in the detective storyline for ‘BTS World’ the mobile app was surprisingly pretty heart wrenching and the other boys did a really good job in their respective storylines as well. But we know that many of the boys don’t really have an interest in acting. Except for Tae of course who has actually acted in a drama. And even if they did have an interest in acting in this project, their schedules are so busy with how popular they are right now, they probably wouldn’t have the time. So, if you were hoping that this meant that we’d be able to see all of BTS act in a drama, you’re probably a little disappointed now. I would recommend watching the voice acting or production episodes of ‘Run BTS’ if you want to see at least some of that. But we do actually have the (at least supposed) names of the actors who will be playing the boys. Seo Jihoon as Kim Seokjin, Ro Jonghyun as Min Yoongi, Ahn Jiho as Jung Hoseok, Seo Youngjoo as Kim Namjoon, Kim Yoonwoo as Park Jimin, Jung Woojin as Kim Taehyung, and Jeon Jinseo as Jeon Jungkook. Most of these actors, especially the ones playing the maknae line, are very young so they haven’t done much yet in their careers. The only actor who is the same age as the member of BTS they are portraying is Ro Jonghyun; most of the actors are a bit younger than the members of BTS.

Storyline:

The main video to look at for finding this storyline is probably ‘I Need U’, but a lot of their old music videos follow a similar plot. That particular music video was actually pretty depressing and angsty, so I really wouldn’t expect this drama to be lighthearted. But I’m not sure they’ll end it as dark as the music video ended, that’s not really in the brand of BTS anymore, so I also wouldn’t expect this to be super dark. In this, Jin is so far described as being the son of a National Assembly member who is striving to live up to the image his father has set for him. Yoongi is a loner who attracts some pretty unsavory rumors because of his stand-offish personality, but actually has a warm heart and vents his frustrations into playing piano. Hoseok is a positive dancer who secretly struggles with past memories of abandonment. Namjoon is from a poor family and was forced to grow up too quickly, but is extremely intelligent and good at school. Jimin is a fairly innocent boy who lives with trauma from his overprotective family who continuously tell him lies. Taehyung is living with his abusive alcoholic father who was once kind but changed after Tae’s mother left them. Jungkook is fearless after living with a fearful and insecure family and his character is described as being close friends with Yoongi. The story itself is about young men with struggles who forge strong bonds with each other and become much needed support for each other. Definitely a more raw drama than what many were expecting, but it will be interesting to see how it plays out!

Postponement and Controversy:

Rumors of a BTS themed drama have been around for years, but it seemed too good to be true. It’s insane how quickly the information about the drama came out, but that doesn’t mean that the drama will come out just as quickly. Though we know for a fact that casting is done, (despite the fact that nothing has been officially announced and the information we have is largely leaked) we also know that filming has been postponed twice. The first because of Covid-19, but the second was because of the official announcement that the characters would have the names of the members of BTS. This caused fans to worry that some people might mistake the characters and events portrayed in the drama for the actual lives of the members of BTS. Which, obviously, are vastly different from the lives of the characters they portrayed in their music videos. However, it is also important to understand that the characters in their music videos also have their real names even if they are portraying entirely fictional events. While I understand the concern and I also share it a bit myself, I also know that this drama won’t do nearly as well without specific BTS branding and it’s not altogether different from what the music videos did. However, as I said, I understand both sides of the argument. Right now HYBE and the company producing the drama are trying to come to some sort of conclusion about the names for the characters before they begin filming. Whatever they decide, I’ll be supportive of what the decision was. Please keep in mind that if the drama uses the names of the boys, that will mean they have given their permission and thought about it thoroughly themselves.

So that’s what we know so far! We’ll probably get more information very soon as things start opening up again. As soon as we get more substantial information, I’ll be sure to update! But for now I’ll look forward to supporting BTS with this drama and hopefully it’ll be great! I’m not generally one for watching darker themed shows, but I will definitely make an exception for BTS.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

K-Pop and K-Dramas: “Butter” Is Coming!

Photoshoot image of Kim Seokjin, Kim Namjoon (RM), Jeon Jungkook, Jung Hoseok (J-Hope), Park Jimin, Min Yoongi (Suga), and Kim Taehyung (V). Copyright goes to BTS and the HYBE Corporation.

Hey! Hallie here!

By now everyone’s heard about the new single BTS is set to release next month. This single is “Butter”, an all-English song that will likely smash records in the same way “Dynamite” did. The official release date is May 21st. Sometime afterwards, like “Dynamite”, the song is expected to be added to a new album. However, the “Life Goes On” album came out quite a bit after “Dynamite” did so there’s not really any word on when that album will be released. In any case, this is really exciting news! I’m always happy to receive more content from BTS. They have been consistently putting out content throughout the pandemic, which is a feat in itself, and the announced release of “Butter” after we just got “Film Out” and news about their Japanese album shows how hard they are still working. Understandably though, some ARMYs are a little unsettled with the promise of another all English song. There’s a lot of theories going around as to why they’re releasing another English song at all. So let’s go through their last releases to see what might be unsettling about this release, and what we can expect from this new song.

“Dynamite”:

“Dynamite” was the first all English song BTS released. It was made to lighten the spirits of everyone stuck inside and dealing with depression due to quarantine. It was a light track, lacking some of the depth of their other songs in its lyrics but also making up for it with its fun pop sound. It also was entirely in English in an attempt to help bring in more English-speaking audiences. The song went above and beyond what it originally set out to do. Not only did it bring in more English-speaking audiences, but it hit the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and stayed there for several weeks, was nominated for various awards, and took over the American media for almost the entire year. BTS was already insanely popular, but the song propelled them to even higher heights. And while BTS was grateful for the reaction the song received, they were also kind of worried by it. It took an English song for BTS to get some of the recognition they deserve, but the group is proudly Korean. Many of their Korean songs are much deeper and showcase their insane talents far better than “Dynamite” does, not to mention the fact that the members are much more involved in the creation of their Korean songs. So the victory “Dynamite” won them was well earned, but felt a bit hollow. The success of “Dynamite” also led many talk show hosts to question BTS incessantly about when their next English track would be released. Namjoon mentioned multiple times that they would like to see a Korean song hit the top of the Hot 100 list and reiterated that BTS is not BTS if they switch completely over to English. But the only way it seemed the American media would honor them is through their English contributions. The blatant racism here is still very obvious, and ARMYs made sure to vocalize how wrong this reaction to “Dynamite” was every chance they got.

“Life Goes On”:

When the song “Life Goes On” released, it hit the top of the Billboard Hot 100. This was incredibly important because it meant a Korean song could experience that success. But “Life Goes On” didn’t receive nearly as much attention as “Dynamite”. It didn’t stay at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 for very long and “Dynamite” was still focused on more than it, despite how long it had been since the release of “Dynamite”. When the entire album was released, with “Dynamite” tagged onto the end, “Dynamite” was the only English song. “Blue & Grey” had even been originally written by Taehyung in English, but the song was specifically changed to Korean for the album. BTS made a clear statement that they would not switch over to English simply to please the media. They wanted to keep creating in their native language, as they should be accepted for doing. With the release of this album, ARMYs thought we wouldn’t see another English song for a good long while.

“Butter”:

“Butter promises to be a pop/dance track, similar to “Dynamite”, and of course, it’s an English song. It comes right on time to be the summer song of the year, allowing BTS to dominate with yet another summer anthem. There’s a lot of speculation over what type of message they’re going with for this song. Only Namjoon is fully fluent in English, which is why he was the only contributor amongst the members when writing “Dynamite”, so it could be another light bop with lyrics that do more to aid the sound of the song than to relay a deep message. Or it could be a witty English response to what happened with “Dynamite”. A lot of people have been favoring this idea after some sources reported that “butter” was a term in Korean slang used to say that something is very white or very American. Either way, it’ll be interesting to see what BTS will go for with this song.

I know a lot of ARMYs are worried about “Butter”, but it’s BTS! They are, fortunately, very in control over their work and I don’t think any of them will ever advocate for leaving their Korean roots behind. BTS has dabbled in various languages, mainly Japanese and now English, but they’ll always return to Korean. And no matter what they release, ARMYs will support them and do their best to make BTS happy with the reception of the track. We’ll enjoy pretty much anything they do. Like an entire hour-long livestream of a piece of cartoon butter melting into a heart. No I didn’t make that up. For now, we’ll just have to wait until May to see what these boys have planned.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

K-Pop and K-Dramas: ‘Imitation’ and ATEEZ

Promotional photo of (from left) Lee Suwoong, Jung Yunho, Choi San, and Park Seonghwa as the group Sparkling from ‘Imitation’. Copyright goes to Hidden Sequence and KBS.

Hi! It’s Annie!

I have expressed several times on this blog that I really love the group ATEEZ. Of course, BTS usually takes front and center on this blog. But you can bet that I am also regularly following ATEEZ’s social media. So, I’m really not sure how I only came to know about this in the past couple days even though this series begins to air only a couple weeks from now. We’ll have to see how long it takes to get to the US after that, but I’m too excited to wait. For those of you who are just as unaware as I was, several members of ATEEZ are featuring prominently in a new K-drama called ‘Imitation’ based off of a web toon. This web toon follows Maha, a girl who is part of a floundering K-pop girl group called Teaparty that only receives attention because Maha looks like another celebrity. Throughout the series she is caught up with the members of two K-pop boy groups; Shax and Sparkling. This means that we get to see members of ATEEZ act and I’m still really unsure how to comprehend this information. There’s still a lot that we won’t know until the series is released. Though we can gather some information from the original web toon, I’ve found that a lot of dramas based off of web toons or manga tend to deviate considerably from the source material. So, this will be what we know so far about what ATEEZ is doing in this drama.

Yunho:

The member of ATEEZ who nabbed the most prominent roll in the show is Yunho and I’m so excited to see him play one of the main characters. He plays Lee Yoo-Jin a long time friend of Maha and the lead vocalist of Sparkling who seeks to protect her from the more intimidating and snooty members of Shax. In other words, he is the second male lead in the show. So far they’ve released promotional images of him, posters featuring just him on them, and videos of him dancing as his character. We also know that Yunho was praised by the staff of this show for his kindness and determination, which just makes me happy. Of course, this isn’t unexpected as Yunho is essentially a large puppy dog. I can’t wait to see him take on a larger acting role, I just know he’ll do amazingly!

San:

San is playing Minsoo, one of the four members of the group Sparkling. His character is the maknae of the group and is known for being the mood maker. We really don’t know much about his character other than this and I can’t really say that this character features too prominently in the web toon. We know that we’ll definitely see a bit of him acting when they show the group Sparkling as a whole and we also know that there will be plenty of performance scenes with the members of this group. I’m going to be honest, seeing San’s individual photo as Minsoo on ATEEZ’s Twitter is what eventually led me to figuring out that this was coming out.

Seonghwa:

Seonghwa is playing Seyoung, the eldest and leader of Sparkling. We know that this character is kind and gives good advice, but we’ll have to watch to see what more we’ll get of this character. He’s kind of in the same boat as San where we don’t know how prominently he’ll feature yet; but he will be in scenes with the group Sparkling.

Sparkling:

So, as you’ve probably seen, this group consists of four people and three of them are being played by members of ATEEZ. Sparkling, as well as the other two prominent groups in this show (Teaparty and Shax), now have their own social media accounts. Some of the posts have consisted of behind the scenes footage of the cast doing photoshoots for their specific fictional K-pop groups. I recently watched the one for Sparkling where each person introduced themselves as their character and it was so adorable! These social media accounts are really succeeding in hyping me up for the show.

Jongho:

The fourth and final member of ATEEZ who we know will be in this series is Jongho, but he’s actually playing a member of Shax. The rival group to Sparkling. (But are we really surprised after that episode of ATEEZ Holdings?) I’m actually a little confused about the character he’s playing because his character, Hyuk, is very different in the source material. In order to get familiar with the feel of this I made sure to start reading the web toon, and while Hyuk is the all rounder maknae that Jongho can relate to, there are also several elements of his character that don’t particularly scream Jongho. For example, in the web toon Hyuk is known for being a pretty feminine looking guy and that ends up being a running joke for the first couple of chapters. Jongho is made of muscle. But I’m not sure that matters too much especially because, as I said, dramas never stick explicitly to web toons or manga. I mean, look at ‘Boys Over Flowers’. So I’m sure he’ll do well in this series even if his character description is a bit different.

A couple weeks ago I don’t think I would have predicted that I would be freaking out over ATEEZ in a K-drama. I know that there are quite a few people in the K-pop business who have dipped their toes into acting, but half of ATEEZ is in this show. I seriously can’t wait to see it. And this is coming after more slowly leaked news regarding the currently on hold BTS drama, which I’m already losing my mind over. While the members of BTS will not actually be acting in the drama, I’m still excited to see what they do with it. I’ll probably talk more about what we know about that in particular in my next post. I am already freaking out over everything Sparkling, because really how could you not? Obviously I already have a bias group in this drama. There are several plans to start “fan wars” between Sparkling and Shax fans on Twitter. I guess I’ll see you guys there! Just remember to play nicely because these aren’t actually real fan wars and we all should be nice to each other anyways. Hopefully I’ll actually be able to watch this sometime around May 7th when it gets released!

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

Studio Ghibli: Is No-Face Forgivable?

Screenshot of No-Face from “Spirited Away”. Copyright goes to Studio Ghibli.

Hey! Hallie here!

I recently rewatched ‘Spirited Away’ and, as much as I enjoy it, there’s always one character I come away completely conflicted about. That would be No-Face, the monster that Chihiro lets into the bathhouse who begins to eat everything once they arrive. Including other spirits. It’s difficult to forget No-Face’s horrifying mouth or the entire scene where No-Face barfs up everything they have eaten so far. But before this scene No-Face is docile and kind. Even cute. And after No-Face leaves the bathhouse, they revert to the same kind spirit they were before. So which is it? Are they cute enough to forgive for their disturbing tirade in the bathhouse, or so terrifying that you’d rather forget about them?

What is No-Face?:

I think the first step to answering this question is looking into what No-Face really is. I initially assumed that No-Face was originally some sort of folk tale, but No-Face is actually an original creation by director Hayao Miyazaki. Some people have drawn comparisons between No-Face and the Noppera-Bo, a faceless ghost in Japanese legend, but there aren’t many similarities here. The Noppera-Bo appear human to lure in their victims before letting their faces disappear to reveal smooth skin. They do this because they enjoy fear, though they don’t intend to harm. It’s pretty obvious that No-Face doesn’t appear human and fear isn’t their goal. No-Face is a spirit or a god according to Miyazaki, and their fading form attests to the lack of physical forms spirits have in legends. Beyond this, No-Face is an original concept that focuses on one major theme. Identity. This film focuses a lot on identity. Yubaba takes Chihiro’s name when Chihiro begins to work at the bathhouse and remembering her name is essential to being able to leave the spirit realm. Haku doesn’t remember his name and the importance of this carries through the entire story until Chihiro does remember it. No-Face has a name, but it doesn’t seem to do them much good. They’re name is No-Face. They wear a mask because they don’t have any identifying features and they communicate in grunts because they have no voice. They’re a blank slate with no identity. So, in order to gain an identity, they reflect the people they communicate with.

How Does Reflecting Other Characters Change No-Face?:

No-Face first reflects Chihiro, who demonstrates kindness to No-Face. She let them into the bathhouse, so they stole supplies for her. However, when No-Face enters the bathhouse, No-Face is surrounded by selfish and greedy individuals. Greed is a major theme that Hayao Miyazaki warns against in this film, and a lot of it is reflected in the staff of the bathhouse. From Yubaba, who doesn’t care if others suffer as long as she makes money, to the workers, who trip over themselves to please rich customers, all of them are severely punished within the plot. And No-Face, after watching several of these characters fight over the gold the river spirit left behind, reflects their greed. No-Face first lures a victim, a frog, in with money and eats him. Afterwards No-Face completely adapts this frog’s personality. No-Face takes over his voice and even his frog-like appearance. This leads to further greed, as propelled by the frog’s personality, which only keeps growing when the workers of the bathhouse begin to serve them solely for the large amounts of gold No-Face is giving out. When No-Face tries to offer Chihiro money she refuses, effectively stopping No-Face’s growth by denying No-Face any more greed. When Chihiro feeds No-Face food from the river spirit, No-Face begins to regurgitate everything they ate, and all their negative personality traits, until No-Face completely regurgitates everything, even the frog, and leaves the bathhouse. After this is done, No-Face is back to reflecting mostly Chihiro’s kindness. In some ways, No-Face can’t be blamed much for their actions. No-Face is even used by the plot to punish greedy characters.

The Dark Side of No-Face:

No-Face still isn’t completely moralistic. They’re lonely, and as a result, obsessive. No-Face speaks about their loneliness in the film, likely a result of both being labeled as a monster and not having a personality of their own. When Chihiro actually acknowledges No-Face’s existence and shows them kindness, they are touched by her actions. They also immediately become obsessed with Chihiro afterwards. No-Face attempts to offer her whatever she wants, going far beyond Chihiro’s original act of kindness. And when No-Face begins to reflect negative traits, a lot of their actions are a result of jealousy and frustration because Chihiro won’t spend time with No-Face. No-Face angrily eats two workers in the bathhouse because Chihiro refuses to accept their first offer of gold to her, and when she refuses the second time and feeds them instead, No-Face chases after her in anger. It actually shows quite a bit of character growth when No-Face agrees to stay with Zeniba at the end of the film instead of staying by Chihiro’s side.

Ultimately I’d say No-Face is no villain. Despite being the most terrifying part of the movie, No-Face isn’t showing their own disturbing qualities, but the disturbing qualities of other characters. I’d completely be on No-Face’s side if I could shake the image of their giant mouth out of my head. As it is, I’ll be satisfied with calling No-Face cute at parts, terrifying at other parts, and forgivable overall.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

Marvel: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Finale

Screenshot from the final episode of ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ featuring Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson. Copyright goes to Marvel Entertainment and Disney Studios.

Hi! It’s Annie!

Well, we made it guys. This series has finally wrapped up, answered questions (?), and given us at least somewhat of a hint on what will happen going forwards. I called a couple episodes ago that this show was a bust, but last week’s episode did have some cute moments that I hoped would be brought completely into the last episode and round things out a bit. So, was I wrong for calling this show too early? Absolutely not. I think the finale might have been my least favorite episode, which is saying something. So strap in, because I have a lot of thoughts about this finale and what it might mean for Marvel going forwards. As always, SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

Sam Wilson:

I’m actually pretty pleased with where they left him. Sam became an excellent Captain America while still acknowledging what it meant for a black man to represent the Stars and Stripes that have continuously betrayed and de-humanized him. The issue is that his entire character arc seemed to take place over the course of three episodes and it felt like he was ignored for the rest of the time. When Sam came in to fight during this episode he was a complete badass. It gave you the same feeling that you get in a singular hero movie where the hero finally arrives for their big fight scene. This is what I wanted for Sam throughout the show, Captain America or not. If the culminating point for the entire show was having Sam come to terms with the shield and eventually become Captain America, then the entire show should have reflected this. Not just a couple of episodes. This is just one of many examples I will get into of the inconsistencies in this show. Sam had an amazing speech in this episode as well, my only gripe with this is that the speech went on a bit too long. And I liked seeing Sam with his sister in the ending of the episode. But it just feels like we were missing so much. It felt like we needed to see more build up before we saw Sam as Captain America. I’m just glad that we’re going to get a movie focused on him now so that other characters, hopefully, won’t get in the way. I also need to mention that I definitely cried when Sam gave Isaiah a statue in the Super Soldier part of the Steve Rogers exhibit. That was a nice touch.

Bucky Barnes:

I think they felt like they were closing Bucky’s arc, but that also didn’t feel built up to. I’ve said this several times before, but some of the only good character writing in this show went to Bucky. I absolutely loved Bucky in this show! And we at least see that he’s finally getting over the entire Winter Soldier thing, but there’s still no build up to it. They mentioned his list sparsely throughout and I wanted to see Bucky struggle more with his list before he just decided to throw it out. I also should mention that Bucky did almost nothing this episode. He saved some people, fought a little bit, and got a couple closing scenes at the end. There was nothing focused for Bucky in the finale episode of a show that’s partly about him except for one thirty second scene. This is one of the places I feel the show suffered. It just felt like the writers couldn’t balance between Sam and Bucky. It was either too much about one, too much about about the other, or too little character writing for either of them. Also, if you saw the Malcolm Spellman interview where he hinted at confirming Bucky as bisexual be prepared to be thoroughly queer baited. His hinting was relegated to one line in a past episode that could possibly mean Bucky is bisexual if you squint really hard. If you aren’t going to follow through and actually commit, then don’t promise anything. I’m really sick of Disney as a company queer baiting their audiences that they promised LGBTQ+ representation to. Bucky was at least cute playing with Sam’s nephews at the end of the episode.

John Walker:

This is where we start getting into the hard negatives. What was the point? I really don’t get it. In the last episode we saw John Walker making a shield out of steel that was crushed pretty early on in the battle. We all knew that was going to happen. But when he joined the battle against the Flag Smashers, neither Bucky or Sam questioned it. Even though this guy was pretty insane and killed a guy in front of them not long ago. Neither of them seemed to bat an eyelash. Bucky even worked with him the most throughout the battle despite the fact that no one hated John Walker more than Bucky in this series. It just made absolutely no sense, not to mention that John Walker was actually pretty useless to the plot when it came to adding him into that battle. Him not being there would have made no difference. Then in the end of the episode we see that he’s becoming the US Agent, which is what he becomes in the comics. While I didn’t really care about this in the context of the show, I ultimately realized that this means that they are going to bring him into the MCU. Why? For what purpose? It’s not like he was a useful or well-liked character. That ‘Captain America 4’ movie is starting to worry me.

Sharon Carter:

Again I ask, why was she even here? I’m so confused. At least with John Walker I can see his presence as a needed incentive for Sam picking up the shield. Nothing else really, but there’s that! It was revealed in this episode that Sharon was the Power Broker, a fact that we all already knew, but she was still pretty useless to the plot. I’m really just not sure why she was here at all. This show was absolutely awful at focusing on any female characters whatsoever. Giving Sharon a new title and deciding that she’s a villain now does nothing because it was done without any character development. She was not focused on once in this entire show. In fact, going back through the plot, I feel like this show would have functioned the exact same way without her. It feels like they threw her in just to say that they had a female character. Which is meaningless unless you actually put work into that character. She is so forgettable that the main characters forgot about her and left her wounded in an abandoned building in this episode. Then you got the ending where it was revealed that she was given her job back so she’s going to be a spy against the government. Big shocker there. Sharon has officially earned her place on the long list of female characters Marvel writers have treated horribly.

The Flag Smashers:

What were they doing? I’ve watched the entire series and I still have no idea what their goals were. What makes it worse is it seems like their morals kept changing. Karli has had no qualms with killing innocents to get what she wants and she’s also said that she doesn’t want to kill innocents because it goes against her morality. In fact, she expressed both of these sentiments in the first fifteen minutes of this episode. Karli was such an unfocused contradictory character that I have no idea what her personality was even supposed to be. I don’t even know what the Flag Smashers were doing in this episode. And the writers seemed to forget that Karli had taken the Super Soldier serum because she never used her abilities once in this entire episode. She just got randomly shot and died and I think it was supposed to be an emotional moment. But it wasn’t because the audience never connected to that character. She didn’t have enough character development and, as I said, some of the only development she got was contradictory. This entire villain organization felt useless in the end. For a hot second I was worried they were going to bring them into the MCU as well, because we did have a scene that promised a possible escape for the remaining Flag Smashers. But then they blew up. It was kind of hinted that Zemo might have had a hand in that, but we don’t know how and nothing was really confirmed. It was just over-all confusing.

Zemo:

Hopefully we’ll see him again. He was the only character other than Bucky and Sam that I found to be entertaining. But I wasn’t a fan of him turning into a Deus ex machina at the end of all of this and somehow conveniently getting rid of the Flag Smashers from jail. At least now the dancing Zemo meme exists.

This finale was confusing and showed just how useless all of the villains in this show were. It almost felt like someone had written the speech for Sam at the end of this episode and they decided to scrounge a series around that. The entire series was unfocused and confusing. For a show that claimed to center completely around character development, it felt like we came out of it with no completed character arcs. It scares me to think that the next movie is going to be written by this show runner. Because I definitely did not have fun with series. There were a few character moments that I liked, but I feel as though my life would remain unchanged if I had decided not to watch this. I might return to a couple scenes on Youtube (Looking strong John!), but there’s no way you’re getting me to watch this whole thing again. Here’s to hoping ‘Loki’ is better!

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

Book Adaptations: Why Sirius Black and Remus Lupin Should Have Ended Up Together

Screenshot of David Thewlis as Remus Lupin and Gary Oldman as Sirius Black from ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’. Copyright goes to Warner Bros. Pictures and Heyday Films.

Hey! Hallie here!

Wolfstar, or the name fans give the couple of Remus Lupin and Sirius Black, seems to be a pretty normal example of fans shipping characters who are not together within the original content. Sometimes characters just have chemistry. Sirius Black and Remus Lupin were childhood friends who were part of a group that is often described as being almost as close as family. When Sirius discovered Remus was a werewolf, he and his friends took it upon themselves to become animagi in order to support him. When Sirius was sent to Azkaban, Remus fell into a deep depression and, upon his return, never left Sirius’s side. In the movies Snape even compares the two to an old married couple. It’s no wonder that fans have decided to explore this couple in fan art and writings. But Wolfstar is significantly more important to consider, even if “shipping” isn’t your thing. And most of it is due to the negligence of the author of the Harry Potter series (Who I will be referring to as She-who-must-not-be-named).

LGBTQ+ Coding:

The Harry Potter series is notably devoid of any LGBTQ+ characters. This isn’t necessarily surprising considering the fact that we are still struggling to get more representation in the fantasy genre. However, Harry Potter needs to be criticized for this lack of representation because of She-who-must-not-be-named’s horrible attempts at “representation”. The most notable of her flubs is revealing in interviews that Albus Dumbledore is gay without actually putting that information in any of her books or content. It was clear she wanted to be praised without actually putting in the work. On top of that, she once noted that Remus Lupin’s werewolf condition was supposed to reflect those who suffered from the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and specifically the mistreatment of the LGBTQ+ individuals who have and had the disease. This is extremely problematic for two reasons. One is the comparison of a horrible disease that affected large portions of gay and bisexual men, as well as trans-women, to literally turning into a monster. The lore tied to werewolves in Harry Potter, namely the fact that they lose all their humanity when they turn, makes this comparison particularly insulting. Not to mention that all werewolves in the books aside from Remus are villainous characters who spread the disease on purpose. The other is the fact that Remus Lupin is a straight man. He’s supposed to reflect LGBTQ+ individuals but is not actually part of that community. If Remus had been in a relationship with Sirius, this would at least justify some of the flubbed writing here. He would much more accurately show the mistreatment gay men face and faced due to the disease because he would have been a gay man. The couple would have also given the series the representation its awful author seemed so desperate to convince fans was already present.

The Tonks Relationship:

I love Tonks. I love Remus. This couple was a complete disaster. In the movies they had no development whatsoever. Tonks was just suddenly pregnant and Remus spent far more screen time making eyes at Sirius than his actual wife. In the books there’s a similar quickness to their relationship, though there are more hints that Tonks has a crush on Remus. They start dating and even get married, but immediately afterwards Tonks keeps coming to stay with Molly so she can openly cry. Remus keeps saying he wants to leave her because he’s afraid that any future child they may have will have his disease or that he may harm her. So Tonks, who doesn’t actually confront Remus about how horrible this is despite the way she easily stands up for herself before this point, openly weeps for a good long while before Harry manages to corner Remus and yell at him for leaving Tonks. This entire relationship is toxic. The 13 year age gap is uncomfortable at points on its own, but this relationship is clearly unhealthy. Remus is obviously not ready for a relationship of this type at this point in the story, and at times it feels as though Tonks uses peer pressure to convince him to date her. You can see this when Remus and Tonks are arguing about starting a relationship in front of various Hogwarts professors at the end of the sixth book. Sirius’s animal form makes Remus’s “furry little problem” a non-issue for their relationship and Remus trusts him with the issue much more. In the very least, Tonks needs someone who wants a relationship just as much as she does.

They Need Each Other:

Sirius and Remus have shared trauma. They both were the only surviving Marauders for a long while. James died before the Harry Potter series even started and Peter returned from being “dead” to reveal himself to be a slimy traitor. For most of the Harry Potter series all they have is each other. The only person who really knows what Remus is going through with his lycanthropy is Sirius. Similarly, Remus is one of the only people who can calm Sirius down when he loses his temper due to the years he’s been locked up in Azkaban, and afterwards, his childhood home. Though the apparent goal was to slowly get rid of the Marauders throughout the series, Sirius and Remus are the only two who actually spend any time together and demonstrate their closeness in the series. And it’s because they need to lean on each other for emotional support. This character connection is clear, but it ultimately doesn’t go anywhere. Remus doesn’t even get to mourn Sirius’s death. At least a romantic relationship would actually do something with the clear closeness of these characters.

I was one of those people who was skeptical of this relationship when I first heard about it. I’m not one to be passionate about relationships that have no buildup within the movies or books the characters are from. But the more you look at this relationship, the more it makes sense. Remus is even a gay coded character! The series might have actually been better at parts if She-who-must-not-be-named had gone for making Wolfstar cannon instead of putting her energy into telling everyone who listened that Dumbledore was gay.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

Video Games: Layton’s Mystery Journey

Promotional image for ‘Layton’s Mystery Journey’. Copyright goes to Level-5.

Hi! It’s Annie!

Yesterday, I was able to finish Layton’s Mystery Journey after I just bought it a couple days ago. I’m bored. Can you tell? What’s weird about this game is that I was never planning to buy it in the first place even though I have always been a fan of the Layton series. Why? Because the story just didn’t look that interesting. I grew up playing ‘Professor Layton and the Curious Village’ and when I say it was one of my favorite games when I was younger I am not even in the slightest bit kidding. I would obsess over puzzles for days and sometimes try to work them out when I wasn’t even playing the game. The love for that specific DS game eventually led me to watch the animated movies in the franchise and download the mobile game, ‘Layton Brothers Mystery Room’. I know a lot of people didn’t like that game because it was a completely different game mechanic, but I thought the character development for Alfendi was amazing. All that aside, a lot of hardcore Layton fans dismissed the riddles in this game as too easy and the story as too lighthearted. Considering I just got my Nintendo Switch Lite not that long ago, I had other games I was prioritizing much more because of these lackluster reviews. ‘Animal Crossing New Horizons’ for example. But after another wave of boredom hit me after I binged a bunch of K-Dramas, I thought that a lighthearted story with puzzles that would keep me occupied was the perfect distraction. Is it true that the puzzles are too easy and the story is more lighthearted than usual? Yes. But, I feel like this game has plenty of it’s own charms. LIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD and some SPOILERS for past Layton games! I’m just going to assume you haven’t played the game, so I won’t get too much into story details.

The Interesting:

Katrielle: I actually really liked Kat. I know a lot of people are complaining about her because she can have a pretty big ego and is more prone to doing stupid things, but she’s not Professor Layton. It was nice to go through the story with somebody so calm and composed and I definitely miss that character, especially his voice, but Kat isn’t supposed to be him. In fact, her being a bit inexperienced and naive is all part of the character especially because she is so young. And she is lovable in her own way. I’m very glad that this series has never stopped with the eccentric puzzle solvers and investigators. Kat is the type of person who will climb through a window if that means retracing her steps. She does get character development in the game as well because it’s clear to the audience that she becomes cleverer as the game progresses. I am very very happy to see a character like Kat headline a Layton game. The first female character we were introduced to in this franchise was Flora, who I loved but often got left behind for her own safety. Emmy was extremely charming, but they turned her completely insane in a twist in the last media featuring Professor Hershel Layton as its lead. The first female character we got who was smart, sane, and also joined in on the adventures was Lucy from the mobile game. And though I love her, she definitely was not the most interesting character there. Kat both leads this game and is treated as the most interesting and influential character in the game; just like Hershel was. I can’t tell you how long I’ve been waiting for a character like this to break into the franchise.

Ernest: Every good investigator needs an assistant. For Hershel it was Luke, for Alfendi it was Lucy, and for Kat it’s Ernest. I honestly think Ernest might be my favorite of the assistants we’ve had so far. He’s such a sweet guy who is so hopelessly in love with Kat that you can’t help but feel for him. But I think his kindness is where the character shines. After a difficult childhood, he took several wrong turns and ended up helping others in whatever way he could. Just the nicest of beans. Not only that, but I don’t think we’ve had a Layton game that’s delved so much into the storyline of the assistant before. This is where I’m going to keep my lips sealed about some events from the game, but Ernest gets character development in droves in this and it was so nice to see. This game really makes you feel for the characters, just like past Layton games.

The Storyline: The game borrows from old Layton mechanics as well as mechanics from the mobile game to separate much of your gameplay into case files. I’ve heard a lot of people say that the cases were too disconnected, but I felt like they connected enough in the end for you to see the over-all plot entwining together each case. Just like all the other Layton games, the ending is emotional and features a twist that you probably didn’t see coming. Seriously, the twists are some of what makes the Layton franchise so good to me. The reveal of Flora at the end of ‘Curious Village’ and Alfendi’s true personality at the end of ‘Mystery Room’ are game moments that are seared into my memory. I think this one goes up there with them. I absolutely loved diving back into the world of Layton and I feel like story beats in this firmly stakes it’s place in the Layton franchise. I also liked how many of the cases had different feels; like a case mimicking Scooby Doo and another uncovering the secret identity of a superhero. It kept the game fun and entertaining.

The Side Characters: A lot the side characters got a lot more than I though they would! I especially liked the helpful restaurant owner and the sweet but lonely Liza Wight.

The Puzzles: I missed these so much! Though I liked the murder mystery elements in ‘Mystery Room’ as well as being able to connect the dots yourself and choose who you thought the culprit was; it wasn’t the same at all. Layton is all about the riddles and the puzzles, so I was so happy to get back to the brain teasers.

The Music: Though I will always miss the original Layton music, I was surprised at how good this game was at having it’s own unique music that still felt true to the original sounds. It wasn’t the exact same, but it felt the same thematically.

The Frustrating:

The Puzzles: As people have said, the puzzles are, for the most part. easier. There are some more difficult ones, but there are also some riddles that don’t make as much sense. I saw an article come out when this game was released about a puzzle that many on Twitter had dubbed as “mean”. This puzzle asked the gamer how many times they would have to move the hands of a clock for it to read twelve on the dot. The answer? None at all, just wait for midnight to come around. It felt like a puzzle that was meant more to be a practical joke. There are a few like that where the answer to a puzzle feels more like a non-answer and you wonder why they chose it for the game. I also wish that the puzzles would have included more riddles. Riddles are definitely my favorite type of puzzle in these games; but there were quite a few puzzles that involved moving pieces around or attempting to trace a specific image instead. I don’t mind those, but it felt like there were more of those than the traditional riddles. I much preferred the puzzles where you had to use a series of interviews to sniff out the liar or figure out which order a group of people was walking in. Unfortunately, a lot of the easier puzzles were riddles.

Easy Cases: Just like the puzzles, the cases were a bit easier to solve here too. I was generally able to solve most of the cases after obtaining three of six clues. There were a couple of cases that had certain details that were a bit more out there. And a couple cases had details that the clues you got didn’t necessarily make clear. The last case went so in detail with things the audience couldn’t have possibly known; but I feel like that often happens in order to allow the major twists in Layton games, so I wasn’t too mad at it.

Sherl O. C. Holmes: I know a lot of people absolutely hated the talking dog. I admit, randomly adding a talking dog into the Layton series which has had nothing unusual like that happen in it before, was an odd choice. At first I just decided to overlook it because they treated it like a mystery, but I was a little confused when they never solved it as a case. I’m hoping it’ll be addressed in a future game or something. But this character didn’t annoy me as much as he seemed to annoy everyone else. He wasn’t one of my favorite characters, but I got used to his presence there and I thought some of his side remarks were funny. I just wished they gave him more to do as a character if he was going to be there. He didn’t really get any character moments and, considering how much they gave to Kat and Ernest, his lack of development really stood out. I just wish they would have committed more to this character if they were going to include him in the first place.

The Stakes: I pretty much live off of lighthearted content right now, so I had absolutely no problems whatsoever with the lighthearted cases. But I do think the game could have done with slightly higher stakes. In the end it seemed like nothing really affected anyone in the end and everyone just went off happy regardless of anything bad they had done. It should have felt a little more earned in the end, in my opinion. But, because it went at least pretty well with the over-all theme of the game, I wasn’t too mad at it.

Over-all I really liked this game! Just like all the other games in the Layton franchise I’ve played, I can definitely see myself going back to this in the future. Don’t let the reviews scare you, it’s actually a fun game to play and the riddles will keep you occupied even if some of them are easy. And I think the character development and the ending of this game alone is worth it even if all the riddles sucked (which they don’t). I thoroughly enjoyed Kat as well as so much of the story in this installment of the franchise. I think this is just one of those franchises that I will continue to enjoy for years to come.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

K-Pop and K-Dramas: BTS and Military Service

Red carpet photo of Min Yoongi (Suga), Kim Taehyung (V), Kim Seokjin (Jin), Jeon Jungkook, Kim Namjoon (RM), Park Jimin, and Jung Hoseok(J-Hope). Copyright goes to BTS and the HYBE Corporation.

Hey! Hallie here!

This topic keeps coming up, today being good example, and a lot of ARMYs are easily frightened by the idea that BTS will have to complete mandatory military service. Who wouldn’t be? It sucks that ARMYs at some point might have to wait nearly two years for each or all of the members to return to the fans. For those who don’t know, in Korea all able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 28 must complete around one and a half years of mandatory service, in part to aid South Korea’s continuous feud with North Korea. This has affected MANY K-Pop groups before. Most recently Taemin of SHINee fame announced he would be enlisting at the end of May. Usually, for groups such as SHINee, each member serves their time when they come of age while the group continues to release music. This way the group stays in the public eye and only one member is missing at a time. However, BTS is a bit of a special case in this situation. So far BTS has effectively pushed back their enlistment date and those connected with HYBE entertainment have talked about sending all the members at once. So why is BTS different from other K-Pop groups in this case?

Popularity:

This is the main thing driving the debate around BTS’s enlistment. BTS is the most popular group in the world as of now. South Korea itself has never been more popular because of them. This popularity is causing a few new concerns to be brought up. One is the attention of the media; specifically media outside of Korea. BTS is so popular that American media has begun to report on their upcoming enlistment, and has even spread information about Korea’s enlistment program, which wasn’t a point of interest to American media before. Now worldwide fans are more knowledgable about South Korean affairs, and they’re furious. They don’t want to see BTS leave, even if it’s only for a year and a half. This is causing South Korea to become concerned that they’ll receive backlash if BTS leaves to fulfill their service time. If that wasn’t enough for them to consider, HYBE has been throwing another wrench in their plans. HYBE has voiced the possibility of sending BTS for military service all at once. If they sent one member at a time, like most K-Pop groups do, BTS could continue building their popularity while each member was gone. But sending them all at once sends a strong message to the South Korean government that BTS will not continue to benefit South Korea while they’re gone. It forces South Korea to decide how valuable they believe BTS is to their economy right now.

Exemptions:

You’ll see exemptions brought up often by those who oppose BTS serving in the military. South Korea has offered exemptions before. These generally go to citizens who take part in the olympics, classical musicians who have won competitions, and individual parties who’s contributions to South Korea have been dubbed exemplary. Considering that government officials have praised BTS for their contributions to South Korea, it seems ridiculous that BTS shouldn’t be considered among those listed above for exemptions. They have openly been praised by their country for boosting their economy in a way no one has ever done before. It’s clear they’ve served their country enough to earn exemptions. Many Koreans agree with this sentiment. Viral videos of Korean fans asking their elderly Korean parents and grandparents whether or not they feel BTS should serve military time have been making rounds. Most of the time the answer is always “no”. Even elderly Koreans, who were brought up viewing service in the military as one of the most honorable things you could do in your life, are so pleased with what BTS has done for the country that they feel they shouldn’t serve. In fact, many have said they don’t want to see BTS serve at all. They fear what their absence will do to the economy and they don’t think their talents should be wasted for a year and a half. Still, the South Korean government is wary of granting them these exemptions. They don’t want other K-Pop groups to feel that they are also entitled to exemptions if they allow BTS to avoid enlistment. So far South Korea has passed a law that allows BTS to wait a few more years until they have to enlist, but whether or not they feel they can exempt them is still being heatedly debated.

Public Statements:

It’s important to note that nothing about this has been formally announced by HYBE or BTS. No, not even today’s news. Today’s news, stating that BTS will enlist in the military together in 2022, was a prediction made by someone who had investigated HYBE’s practices in order to attempt to give an accurate reading on future HYBE dealings, including the date in when BTS would enlist. It was not an official statement made by HYBE. HYBE’s statement simply said that they stood by the comments made by BTS’s members in the past. These comments, made by various older members, only state that the members will be happy to serve, as is their duty. None of these statements refer to any actual plans set in place in regards to their military service. So while HYBE does seem to want to avoid putting BTS through military service, the company and the members have all agreed to comply with the government’s decisions and will not say much on the situation. We have no clear answers. I wouldn’t take any news about their enlistment too seriously unless it comes directly from HYBE, BTS, or the South Korean government.

ARMYs understandably panic anytime it seems like BTS might leave to join South Korea’s military, but, as of now, there isn’t anything to be concerned about. We still have no official plan or enlistment dates. Even the South Korean government doesn’t seem to know how this entire situation will play out as of yet. Take a deep breath. There’s nothing to be upset about yet. And even if they do leave, the fact that HYBE wants them to leave as a group means that we’ll get BTS back, as a whole, in no time. They’ll likely prepare content for the time that the boys are gone, and then we won’t have to wait for each member to singularly complete military service. And if you’re concerned that BTS might be put in danger while they serve, don’t be! There’s no way the South Korean government would put the members of the world’s biggest music group anywhere near the front lines. I hope that BTS do get exemptions because they deserve them, but even if they don’t, we can trust the boys will get back quickly and safely.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie