Books: ‘Fire’ by Kristin Cashore

Photo image of one of the covers for Kristin Cashore’s ‘Fire’. All copyright goes to Kristin Cashore and Dial Press the publisher.

Hi! It’s Annie!

I’ve mentioned this book a couple times before pretty briefly in some book compilation posts that I’ve done. And part of the reason why I’ve mentioned it, is because this has to be one of my favorite books of all time. I seriously have no idea how I have not made a full post about it before. For all the other book lovers out there; do you have a book that gets you back into reading? I can’t always focus on reading because of my attention span, so I usually go in cycles where I’m sometimes reading and sometimes not. And when I want to get back into reading, re-reading ‘Fire’ is usually what helps me when I’m feeling unmotivated. The book moves at a pretty fast pace and has so many moments in it that I love so much, that I always feel motivated to go back and revisit them. Because it usually helps me through my reading slumps, I can definitely say that it holds a special place in my heart. So, without further ado, I am going to really get into why I love this so much and give you a full book review including in depth character analysis. Because character analysis is always my favorite. But be warned, this post will have MAJOR SPOILERS. If you haven’t read this book, go read it. It’s one of my favorites for a reason. Please remember that this is a romance. It is a romance with a couple twists, but I’ll get to that in a second.

Summary: In a fantasy world where monsters are brightly colored animals that are extremely deadly and essentially hypnotize their prey, you wouldn’t expect a human to be one. Fire is named so based off of her brightly colored hair that looks like actual fire, and is the last of the only line of monster-humans. After being mysteriously targeted, Fire finds herself thrust in the middle of a war. If she helps she betrays all of her morals, but if she does not she might just lose everything that’s important to her. But how can she help a Captain who seemingly hates her guts without her having to say a word?

The Protagonist:

In fantasy books like this, I usually prefer a protagonist that kicks ass. Because usually, especially in a YA romance, if the protagonist doesn’t kick ass that means she’s pretty weak and demure. Now, do I have to see every female character kick ass for me to consider them strong? Absolutely not. I’ve said a few times that whenever I play RPGs, I usually play a healer. I don’t hit anything or hurt anything and I feel like a badass just by helping my team. Before this book, it never occurred to me that a healer in a fantasy setting could be a protagonist and not also portrayed as being pretty useless. For the most part, Fire is a pacifist. A trait that is not often seen in protagonists of any book. She knows she has the powers to be the secret weapon to either side of the war, but she doesn’t want to do that. And, surprise, her powers have nothing to do with fighting techniques. They more have to do with hypnotism, persuasion, and mind-reading. Specifically for getting information out of people. She can also use her powers to soothe, which she eventually finds the most joy doing and often uses this ability to help wounded soldiers. A healer, finally! And the book never treats her as weak or somehow other for choosing not to fight. In fact, she saves a garrison full of men by just being a decoy. I loved that she didn’t have to fight to be able to save lives and she always got herself out of tough situations anyways. She still didn’t need to be saved. Because not every strong woman has to actually kick ass to be strong.

The Love Interest:

Brigan is one of my favorite parts of the book and also one of my favorite love interests in anything ever. The book never focuses on how handsome he ‘s supposed to be, in fact the book describes him as looking fairly plain. Because handsomeness is not what really matters here. Brigan is kind. And it’s actually three kindnesses that he shows Fire that eventually lead up to them becoming friends. I really loved the focus on these three kindnesses, namely because they weren’t anything that were supposed to be super attractive. I find with a lot of YA boyfriends, there’s a lot of focus placed on how a love interest looks, and how they look fighting, and how they look when they take off their shirt etc. etc…. That’s all well and good, but none of that makes me actually like a love interest in anything. What makes Brigan attractive is the fact that he is the first in a line of generals to allow women to join the army, how he’s kind but stern with his soldiers, how he has an almost childlike interest in horses, how he’s an attentive father to a child he had when he was rather young, and how he sends Fire a fiddle when hers breaks. This is the type of cute romance stuff I want to see in books! I want to see love interests who are reliable and heartfelt and thoughtful and not just good looking.

The Romance:

This is, admittedly, the main point of the book. Both of the other main books in the ‘Graceling’ series are more adventurous. Usually, I’m not into purely romantic YA. I usually prefer the adventure to the romance. But, this is definitely an exception because this was done so unarguably well. Again, I tend to find that a lot of YA romance is based on some sort of physicality or there has to be outright in-your-face passion for there to be passion at all. Here is your fair warning for this book; it is kind of a slow burn. I like it though and it doesn’t leave you hanging for too long. The point here is for the characters to go from hating each other to trusting each other with their lives before they get to the love bit. When you do eventually get to the actual romantic parts of the story, they often show they love each other more by supporting each other than anything else. It’s something that escalates into a feeling of being by someone else’s side no matter what because they can’t imagine being anywhere else. I have a quote that I absolutely love from this book that makes me melt every time and I’m going to include it here so you can see exactly what I mean. This is something that I’ll often flip to, even if I’m not in the middle of reading the book.

“Brigan was saying her name, and he was sending her a feeling. It was courage and strength, and something else too, as if he were standing with her, as if he’d taken her within himself, letting her rest her entire body for a moment on his backbone, her mind in his mind, her heart in the fire of his. The fire of Brigan’s heart was astounding. Fire understood, and almost could not believe, that the feeling he was sending her was love.”

If that’s not the best way a character has ever confessed to another character in a book, I have no idea what is. I almost legitimately teared up the first time reading this, because of this description of love that so obviously focused on support. Thank you Kristin Cashore. My standards just shot up even higher than they were before. If you were looking for a lot of make-out sessions, you won’t find them here. But if you’re looking for an amazingly healthy relationship, this book has got you covered.

The Adventure:

If you’re still looking for adventure, this book has that too. I will admit to you all that there is a chapter of this book that isn’t necessarily bad, but I usually skip it in my rereads. It involves Fire getting kidnapped, a character that I don’t really like as much dying, and then Fire escaping. The reason why I skip it is because the main function of this chapter is to connect it to the other books. I prefer just viewing the story as it is as a standalone, so I usually don’t read it. But it’s still a good chapter to read the first time around! This book takes place in the middle of a war, so there’s plenty of adventuring to different places, helping out other people, and fighting in general. I probably would not have read this book if it was just a romance. I promise the adventure doesn’t disappoint! Especially because Cashore is just so good at her world building. You really do feel like you’re at home with Brocker (Fire’s father figure) or walking through the splendors of the palace with Fire. It’s just as immersive as it is anything else, which is always one of the most important things to me in any fantasy novel.

I think I’ve gushed about this book enough. Just go read it if you haven’t! And yes, this book will make you feel unbearably single if you are. It certainly does have that effect on me every time I read it! (I’m ok. Am I ok?) But I will challenge you not to fall in love with the world building and the main characters as well. Fire and Brigan are just as amazing as individual characters as they are together as a couple, rest assured. It was a crime for me not to have talked about perhaps the healthiest fictional couple I have ever encountered before! I really hope this inspired you to read one of my favorite books of all time, and I sincerely hope you love it just as much as I do!

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

BTS: “With You” and “That That”

Promotional image of Park Jaesang (Psy) and Min Yoongi (Suga) for the “That That” music video. Copyright goes to P NATION.

Hey! Hallie here!

Yoongi and Jimin both just came out with solo projects and we wouldn’t really be supportive ARMYs if we didn’t cover them on this blog. Especially because both songs are absolutely incredible. I love both of their solo work, but these projects rank amongst some of my favorites. I’m just so proud of Yoongi for collaborating on and producing such a large project, and I’m so proud of Jimin for completing his first drama OST! They both did such amazing jobs and deserve all the love they’re getting and more! But I need to save all my gushing until I actually talk about the songs, so let’s get started!

“With You”:

“With You” is a collaboration between Jimin and his long-time friend Ha Sungwoon, best known for his position in Wanna One. The two have been spotted supporting each other on many occasions and even have spent holidays together, so it’s really no surprise that they came together for a song. The song is part of the OST of the k-drama “Our Blues”, a series set on Jeju Island that follows multiple characters as they navigate the very different places each of them are in their lives. This song, however, was made specifically to serve as a background for a romantic storyline in the show. The song showcases both Jimin and Sungwoon’s beautiful voices, and their harmonies are possibly the best part of the song. Both of their ranges are fully explored throughout “With You”. Both start out each verse in a lower tone before building up to their higher registers, and the two switch off which parts of the verse and chorus they sing throughout the song. One verse will showcase Jimin’s deeper register and Sungwoon’s sweeter, soaring vocals, whereas the next verse will give us Jimin taking the higher harmonies and sweeter notes. It’s also performed entirely in English to show off both of their excellent English-speaking skills, though a Korean version was also made. The lyrics themselves are simple, but they’re just the right amount of adorable and longing to make you invested in the romance, whether you’re watching the drama or just listening to the song. To be honest, one of my favorite elements of this song is just its calming nature. “With You” is pretty and gentle in its quietness, which makes an anxious bean like me feel at ease. I really couldn’t love this song more if I tried. It’s the perfect fit for Jimin’s first step into OSTs.

“That That”:

I’ve seen so many ARMYs already joke about this, but playing these songs back to back is a serious shock to the system. “With You” lulls you into a false sense of ease and then “That That” suddenly pops up with an instantly addicting beat to get you on your feet and dancing. It’s kind of mandatory that you watch the MV when you listen to “That That”, especially because Psy managed to convince Yoongi to take on a huge presence in it, and for the second time in his life, convinced Yoongi to learn choreo when he was assured all he would be doing was producing. Poor Yoongi. Before I get into the MV though, let’s talk lyrics. We’re looking at some pretty simple lyrics again here, which is common with Psy songs and by no means a bad thing. The song is all about Psy’s comeback, including Yoongi’s rap which he uses to skillfully allude to the legendary status Psy has created for himself. My only real issues with the writing are the lyrics “pandemic’s over”, which I’ve seen more and more in lyrics since 2021, and which frustrates me each time because we still have work to do before the pandemic will actually be over. But I digress. The MV is filmed on a western set with Psy and his backup dancers wearing cowboy-themed outfits and lots of fringe. The dancing is the main focus of this video and the energy Psy brings to it is always impressive. The video picks up even more about halfway through though, when a figure in white jumps into frame. Hi Yoongi! Yoongi looks amazing in the white suit and leopard print shirt he’s in, which is insane of him because it’s leopard print. He’s really coming for all of our bias lists, isn’t he? Yoongi steals the rest of the MV with his rapping, his crazy dancing skills, and with melodrama in my favorite sequence where Yoongi and Psy get into a slap fight and Yoongi holds Psy in his arms as he dramatically dies. I’m so happy Yoongi agreed to be in the “That That” MV. Also, this song is so addictive and Yoongi should definitely be thanked for that.

I feel like these two projects have made me greedy to see the other solo projects the BTS members are working on. We already have several mixtapes confirmed, including J-Hope’s which seemed the closest to completion at one point. But I also don’t want to rush them. I 100% trust their judgement on when their solo projects will be ready. Whether it takes them a few more months or a few more years, I really want them to be proud of the solo songs they give us. Because, obviously, their solo work is always worth waiting for. These boys don’t even seem to know how to create a bad song and I’m fully convinced it’s because of how devoted they are to giving us something incredible each time. ARMYs are so lucky to have such hardworking members to support.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

Comfort Entertainment: Which ‘Haikyuu!!’ Characters Are Dateable

Screenshot image of the characters from ‘Haikyuu!!’. Copyright goes to JNN and Crunchyroll.

Hi! It’s Annie!

Keeping on with this series, I realized that I still hadn’t talked about the amazing characters from one of my favorite animes of all time! ‘Haikyuu!!’ is widely agreed to be one of the best animes out there and definitely the best sports anime to come out in a while. And while this anime makes volleyball interesting and thrilling; the real standout from this anime has to be the characters. The character development in ‘Haikyuu!!’ is generally unmatched in anything, not just anime. The show really takes its time developing each character, which makes it so that there’s a lot to go off of here! Not to mention that there are quite a few characters to go through this time. I’m not going to go through every character in ‘Haikyuu!!’, only the members of the Karasuno team. And I’m probably not even going to go over every single member of the Karasuno team. But even with that, there’s plenty to go through. This is your MAJOR SPOILER WARNING! I will be going into some backstory details, so if you haven’t watched it already I would highly recommend you go and do that! I promise, you will not regret watching it! I’m currently half way through my second time watching everything of the series that’s out so far. It’s that good.

Hinata:

He’s almost the smallest on the team. Almost. But he’s the highest jumper and the most determined on the team. Hinata has loved volleyball since he saw someone of a similar height playing and has gone through a lot to practice and play the sport. Including putting his own team together at one point. His determination and hard work are some of the most prevalent of the team. But it’s really difficult for me to make a clear call on whether or not he’s dateable. He seems pretty married to the game on one hand, and on the other hand he does act pretty childish at times. In fact, he’s definitely the most childish on the team, so much so that Tsukishima refers to him as the team’s “feral child” on a few occasions. Though he has a lot of good qualities, I think I’m leaning towards saying that he’s too childish to be really dateable.

Kageyama:

Another one of the most determined on the team and the integral second part of the dynamic duo. He’s a setter, and because of that he often has to be the most reliable member of the team. He’s generally very logical and a quick thinker, which makes him even more reliable and observant in his position. But I think similarly to Hinata with him, in that he’s not really mature. Though he is also hard working, he’s quick to anger. And having a boyfriend with anger issues just doesn’t sound like the most ideal situation you could be in. Though by the time the show ends he has this more under control; like Hinata, I think he has some more maturing to go before he gets to a dateable point. But also like Hinata; I think he can get there someday soon.

Daichi:

The team Captain is always on top of things. He keeps track of everyone else and is excellent at keeping team morale high. The general Dad of the group; he keeps the more energetic members reeled in and helps the shy members out of their shells. He’s also very high strung, completely anxious, and always on the look out to improve. All things that I personally find relatable. And I don’t think it would surprise anyone if I said that Daichi was totally dateable and, in fact, one of the most dateable on the team. It helps that he’s a third year whereas Hinata and Kageyama are both first years. Daichi already has the maturity needed to be a great boyfriend, and on top of that he also has an incredible amount of responsibility just being the team Captain. Daichi would be the absolute best and most attentive boyfriend. Truly the type to remember every last detail and probably is nervous about every date because he has so much planned and wants it to be perfect.

Tsukishima:

The tall middle blocker on the team, though he’s younger than he looks. And don’t you dare call him Mister Vanilla because he’s anything but. Tsukishima has a certain dry sense of humor that’s always hilarious and a sharp wit to match. His wit just shows you how smart he is, which is often what makes him such an effective middle blocker. He can see what moves opposing players will make just by a flick of their eyes. But his observant nature doesn’t necessarily make him a good boyfriend. I am, again, going to group him in with Hinata and Kageyama here. He has all the potential to be one, but he probably needs a little more time. He’s cynical in his way of viewing the world, mostly due to disappointments he’s had in the past. He probably needs a little more time to learn to trust and appreciate the people around him more.

Nishinoya:

Now we get to the shortest member on the team. Nishinoya may be a little short, but he packs a punch. Not only is he well accepted among the other members of the team to be one of the coolest people on the team, he also has an energy that can’t be outmatched. Only the libero is this skilled at spotting and defending everyone at once. He’s the guy that always has your back. Which is why I also think that Nishinoya would make a great boyfriend. While he may be far too enthusiastic about dating sometimes (and probably needs to tone it down other times), he’s reliable when it counts. There’s also something to be said about the way he and Tanaka protect their female managers from creeps on other teams. He would be the type of boyfriend who would resent being shorter than you, but he’d care about that for about two seconds until he remembered he was dating someone again. Definitely the type to always be happy that you’re there.

Tanaka:

I can’t really talk about one of the chaotic goofs on the team without then talking about the other. Tanaka is straight up hilarious. There’s not much to say other than that. He’s just completely funny all the time. And part of that makes him the biggest morale boost to the group other than Daichi. He’s constantly caring for, protecting, and hyping up every other person on the team while simultaneously making them laugh. I seriously don’t know why Tanaka’s such an underrated character, because he’s one of my favorites. He’s quick to help out anyone and the first to take all of the first years under his wing. He may be chaotic, but he would be the best boyfriend. Again, like Nishinoya, he can be too enthusiastic. But he would be the type to suddenly appear whenever you need help with anything. He would be there in a heart beat. He would also be the best hype man.

Sugawara:

While Daichi is the Dad of the group, the role of Mom is usually filled by Suga. While he’s not always a hype man, he does show his caring nature the most. He may not always be on the court, but that’s ok with him because he wants what’s best for the team. He might not be Captain, but he’s certainly going to care for everyone else like he is. I don’t think it needs saying that Sugawara would be a great boyfriend. He would be incredibly attentive, probably constantly worrying about you, and the best shoulder to cry on. But he would be absolutely willing to call you out on your bullshit if that needed to happen. He’s good at that too.

Asahi:

The ace of the team and one of the most aggressive spikers on the court. Off the court, not so much. Asahi has been described as the opposite of Nishinoya. While Nishinoya is short but powerful; Asahi is tall but a little bit cowardly. Asahi is easily scared and often swayed towards nervousness. But that doesn’t really happen when it counts. Especially as the series goes on, he becomes fearless on the court. Even if he’s still probably not all that fearless off of the court. I think Asahi would be a pretty good boyfriend, but he would probably not be the most attentive one. Asahi would need a lot of assurance when it comes to a lot and don’t expect him to kill that spider for you. But he would be sweet, thoughtful, and reliable when it really counted.

Yamaguchi:

Though we don’t see a lot from him other than the fact that he’s really good friends with Tsukishima, we often see him be really sweet. He’s adorable and has the friendliest disposition when he’s not shy. And he has a wicked serve once he really figures out how to do it. But, like the other members his age, he probably has a little more maturing to do before he becomes dateable. Yamaguchi doesn’t really have much in the way of self confidence and it takes him a little bit to find any, but even where he is in the series now he probably still has a little bit to go. But just like all the other first years, he’s also almost there.

There you have it! I had a really difficult time not putting all of them as dateable for this one and had to find a bit more to go off of so that I would have some different decisions. But it’s still so difficult! All of these boys are the absolute best and deserve the world! I know there’s a lot more where this came from when it comes to ‘Haikyuu!!’ characters and I may consider doing a second part to this post in the future. Nekoma would be a good place to start. But for now, I just wanted to stick with our main team. And seriously, go and watch this anime if for some reason you haven’t already. Even if you don’t generally enjoy sports, like me. This anime has the ability of making anyone interested, whether or not they enjoy the sport regularly.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

Comfort Entertainment: ‘Our Flag Means Death’ Review

Screenshot of Taika Waititi and Rhys Darby in ‘Our Flag Means Death’. Copyright goes to HBO Max.

Hey! Hallie here!

I’ve been intending to binge watch this show for about a month now but problems with my HBO Max account prevented me from seeing it until recently. But now that whole situation is dealt with and I’ve seen the goofy pirate love story! There’s a reason why so many people are talking about this show right now. It’s enjoyable, wholesome fun. On top of that, this is one of the only shows to come out in awhile where the writers casually embrace nonbinary characters and LGBTQ+ relationships. All without queerbaiting its audience! This seems like it’s the bare minimum, and it really should be, but the series goes above and beyond to give us genuinely good LGBTQ+ representation. And we definitely need more of that. In any case, I’m going to talk about all my thoughts and opinions on this show below, so know that there will be SPOILERS ahead! Also, keep in my mind these are just my opinions and it’s completely fine if yours are different!

What I Liked:

Stede and Ed: This romance is the entire point of the show. And it’s amazing. Their meet-cute is perfectly dramatic, with Stede nearly dying as he’s tormented with flashbacks to his time as a married man. Ed saves his life and stays by his bedside the entire time Stede’s recovering from the near-fatal blow he was dealt. There’s even a scene where Ed holds an entire conversation with Lucius without looking anywhere but at an unconscious Stede. Their relationship is a very healthy one that comes about after Ed agrees to teach Stede how to be a good pirate and Stede agrees to teach Ed how to operate within high society. As they teach each other, they help one another grow as people. Ed begins to overcome the trauma he experienced as a child who killed his abusive father and begins to accept that there’s more to life beyond his unfulfilling lifestyle. On the other hand, Stede begins to feel more confident in himself and begins to let go of the guilt he feels for leaving his family behind. They also both admit at different points in the show that the time they spent teaching one another marked the happiest point in either of their lives. They laugh together, defend one another, and refuse to betray each other even when it would make their lives easier. The fact that Ed gets captured and resigns his piracy for Stede (That foot touch!) is immensely beautiful. As all of this happens the show hits regular romance story beats, like Ed taking for granted Stede’s feelings and getting a harsh pep-talk from wing-man Lucius, or Stede becoming jealous of a man from Ed’s past. All of it builds up to an actual kiss. AN ACTUAL KISS. Which, of course, confirms that all the romance tropes were 100% purposeful. This is such a good romance and so heartwarming to watch.

The Crew: My favorite member of the crew was probably Lucius, although a case could be made for most of the crew. All of them (except Izzy) are extremely likable and surprisingly well developed for a group of side-characters. Lucius is one of the most developed as the only person in the crew who knows how to write. He’s constantly called in by Stede or Ed to write down the things they want to record, which results in him getting very involved in their personal lives. He’s also one of the first people to notice that Ed and Stede have feelings for one another, and as such, acts as a knowledgable and encouraging wing-man to them both. And he has a very adorable relationship with Black Pete that I hope gets further explored in the future (Lucius is 100% not dead and you can’t change my mind). Oluwande is another excellent character, further removed from Stede and Ed’s relationship but no less important. Oluwande is a natural leader, known for his words of wisdom to Stede when Stede struggles with his leadership skills. Oluwande leads Stede away from potential danger multiple times and speaks so well for the crew that they decide he would be a good captain. His partner, Jim, is another stand out amongst the crew. Jim is the nonbinary representation in this show, and though they’re less of a comedic character, there’s no denying that they’re badass and intriguing given their mysterious past. These two make up yet another adorable queer couple on the show. There are so many interesting characters here, it’s hard to come away from the show without finding one to adore.

What I Disliked:

The Marketing: I was initially disappointed when I began this show and I feel like that was partly the marketing’s fault. The trailers for ‘Our Flag Means Death’ mostly focused on Stede bumbling around as a pirate captain, which is accurate, but it also focused a lot on Blackbeard being menacing and fight sequences and characters threatening one another with guns or knives. Because of this, I figured on an action/adventure/comedy with a lot of cool pirate fight scenes (Like ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’). That isn’t really what this show’s about, though. There are maybe three fight scenes in the entire show, and all of them are extremely short and mostly played for comedy. No epic, swashbuckling fights here. They also don’t venture to too many interesting locations, the most interesting being the home where Jim grew up. Hell, the first episode is just Stede running his ship like a daycare while his crew debate whether they like his bedtime stories enough to cancel their mutiny. To be completely honest, if you go into this show expecting a deep plot leading to a grand adventure, you’ll be disappointed. The truth of this show is that the main plot is a romantic/comedy storyline following Ed and Stede. All depth from the show is supplied by the small bits of drama between the cast of characters on Stede’s ship. Once I was able to realize that, I was able to enjoy the show much more than I had previously. I’m not sure exactly what I wish they would have done instead with the marketing, but I might have overhyped myself less if I had gone in expecting less badassery and more emotional mush.

The Boat Travel: How do people get in row boats and arrive at a moving ship? How do they know where the ship is? How do people get in rowboats and arrive anywhere at all in any reasonable amount of time? This is a small gripe that’s more amusing than annoying, but I still wanted to rant about it for a second.

Blackbeard Screen Time: This is another small gripe, but my love of Taika Waititi’s Ed makes me wish that he wasn’t completely absent within the first several episodes. Particularly because the plot was especially slow when he wasn’t present. I just wish we got more of Blackbeard in this show.

Twins: This is a blog run by twins so I really can’t let the twin representation in this show slide. Two of the major antagonists in this show are the Badminton twins. Both are former acquaintances of Stede and both pose a problem to Stede as a pirate. There aren’t really distinguishing personality traits between the characters and both are portrayed by the same actor. Which perpetuates the idea that twins are so similar that they’re basically interchangeable. The plot doubles down on this by having one replace the other in the role of antagonist after one of them dies. I just wish that these characters didn’t exist at all.

And that’s it! I have a few problems with this show, but most of them are minimal. Overall, I really enjoyed it in all its adorable glory. I know most people walked away from ‘Our Flag Means’ death completely obsessed, and I would say that I’m not really one of those people. There were definitely things that I found weren’t personally my taste. But putting my personal preferences aside, this show was really good. It has excellent character writing and excellent representation. In all honesty, I hope ‘Our Flag Means Death’ sets a precedent for shows in the future. I hope its popularity and the awareness it created towards the issue of queerbaiting makes it clear to other shows that we don’t want their “hints” or “maybes”. We want actual well-thought-out representation. It makes me want more for the shows I love. I don’t want shows like ‘Good Omens’ to hint at a gay couple while the writers and creators tell us the main characters are absolutely in love but a label would be too difficult to put on it. I want representation on the level of ‘Our Flag Means Death’, and that’s exactly what the LGBTQ+ community deserves.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

Comfort Entertainment: Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus

Image of Sailor Uranus and Neptune from ‘Sailor Moon Eternal’ movie. Copyright goes to Toei Company.

Hi! It’s Annie!

Firstly, I want to congratulate Jimin for his new OST and breaking a record! The song is so gorgeous! But today, I’m going to talk about a franchise that I would definitely seem like the type to enjoy but I actually had never watched until a couple weeks ago. Me, the pastel loving anime watcher had never before this point seen anything ‘Sailor Moon’. I know, I know. I’ve been wanting to watch it for years now, but couldn’t really find any place to watch it. It recently came to my attention that a new ‘Sailor Moon’ series as well as a movie came to Netflix. And while the series itself received mixed reviews, the movie was one that most considered to be pretty good. As these two things were my best bet at finally consuming some sort of ‘Sailor Moon’ content, I decided to watch them both. ‘Sailor Moon: Crystal’ I didn’t watch completely. I watched season one and then skipped to season three because people said that it was by far the best and I wasn’t completely sold yet. And season 3 was really where I started to fall in love with this franchise. And it mostly had to do with two important characters who completely stole my heart right off the bat. With that said, I’m just going to get into gushing about my two favorite Sailor Scouts! MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD FOR ANYTHING SAILOR MOON BUT ESPECIALLY CRYSTAL AND ETERNAL!

Sailor Neptune:

If I were pressed to choose my favorite Sailor Scout, it would probably be Sailor Neptune. Sailor Neptune is undeniably the most elegant and graceful of all the Sailor Scouts and she’s also undeniably one of the most mysterious. When we’re introduced to her, we know right off the bat that she is a prodigy at many things. Specifically swimming and playing violin. In fact, she’s actually pretty famous for playing the violin despite the fact that she’s a young High School student. In ‘Crystal’ at least, her storyline involves her dropping quite a few hints and warnings to Usagi and Mamoru before they actually fully realize what’s happening. While Haruka seems to take more of a route in messing with Usagi, Michiru takes more joy in messing with Mamoru. Something that I definitely enjoyed watching, especially because of the general role of Tuxedo Mask. While I like him a lot, he tends to save the day more than not and his knowledge and position are never much questioned by other characters because of it. Watching Michiru go toe to toe with him on multiple occasions is one of the things that really made me start considering Neptune as my favorite. Not only that, but I love the deep sea theming for all of Sailor Neptune’s coloring and abilities. I have always been a huge fan of most things nautical themed, and I wasn’t expecting there to be a Sailor Scout that was just short of being a mermaid.

Sailor Uranus:

Sailor Uranus goes consistently by he/him pronouns and she/her pronouns, so I may skip between. Haruka’s gender identity is constantly debated, as she has said that she doesn’t want to be defined by it and doesn’t care what people see her as. Though a lot of people still argue that Sailor Uranus is first and foremost a woman based off of a comment from the author, I think that there’s enough proof for her to be representation if that’s what you believe her to be. Haruka has said herself that she doesn’t care, so I’m not sure why we should argue about it. Haruka and Michiru are still a queer couple no matter how you look at it. But, to each their own! I think Haruka is probably gender fluid, but that’s just my perception. Either way, I don’t think anyone, guy or girl, didn’t have a massive crush on Haruka the first time they saw her. Haruka originally presents as a man, dressing in male uniforms and not caring that he’s being perceived more as a guy. He’s also rich and a famous race-car driver. Haruka and Michiru can afford two private helicopters because of their sponsors. Haruka specifically targets Usagi, and confuses her as well as himself on multiple occasions. While he’s flirty, I don’t think he ever means to take it as far as he does. And even Usagi comments that he’s confused and sad. Still, Haruka is never anything short of charming and I love that he’s the only Sailor Scout to wield a sword. Definitely the most badass on the team.

NOT Cousins:

For those of you who didn’t already know this tidbit of information that I was recently shocked to discover; the original English dub of the original series tried to pass Haruka and Michiru off as cousins. Which is seriously one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard. This was even complete with the dub trying to insert the word ‘cousin’ as much as possible into scenes they couldn’t cut that looked embarrassingly suspicious. Including a scene where Michiru was obviously almost kissing Haruka and the English dub instead explained this scene away by having Michiru whisper “cus”. Real subtle (face-palms). Obviously, they are not cousins in any other version. Thankfully, the new English voice actors recently dubbed over the original series; this time the company thankfully took out all the “cousin” stuff and correctly dubbed them as a couple. Because Sailor Neptune and Uranus are a couple canonically. I did go to the original series to watch their origin story, and it was heartbreaking to see Neptune already awoken and pining after Uranus, her long lost partner, but still not wanting Haruka to ruin the life she has by becoming a Sailor Scout. I legitimately cried. But all that aside, this is one of the first examples of an openly queer couple in a children’s show. And I think this fact goes overlooked by too many. When I hear people talk about ‘Sailor Moon’, I have barely ever heard anyone mention that the show contains such important representation. And that’s especially baffling as they were immediately the most interesting characters to me! But they probably aren’t the only queer representation in the show. There’s really strong cases for all of the main characters being bisexual, but especially Usagi. There’s no way that Usagi isn’t, and I’m saying that even with the knowledge that her love interest is male. But this is the only canon queer couple, and that’s immensely important.

I just want more people to talk about Michiru and Haruka. And also their song ‘Eternal Eternity’ from ‘Sailor Moon: Crystal’, which is so much more of a bop than I was expecting it to be. Seriously, that song is so beautiful and gets stuck in my head so much now. Now that I’ve ranted about two of my new favorite characters for awhile, I’m going to get back to being the usual K-Pop chaotic tornado that I am. My sister and I recently got our Dad into ATEEZ (no small feat, I assure you), and I daresay that I have more work to do. But seriously, if you haven’t checked out at least season 3 of ‘Crystal’ of the media I mentioned, do it now! Though I warn you, you may become a ‘Sailor Moon’ fan. Especially a Neptune and Uranus fan. And yes, you can totally blame me for that!

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

K-Pop: Dreamcatcher Solo Songs

Promotional image of Lee Gahyeon, Kim Minji (JiU), Lee Yubin (Dami), Kim Bora (SuA), Lee Siyeon, Han Dong, and Kim Yoohyeon. Copyright goes to Dreamcatcher and Dreamcatcher Company.

Hey! Hallie here!

My sister touched on this in our last post, but both of us completely missed talking about Dreamcatcher’s most recent album, ‘Apocalypse: Save Us’, when it was released a few weeks ago. And that was a huge misstep on our part because this album is SO GOOD. Seriously, if you haven’t listened to it, or if you haven’t listened to Dreamcatcher at all, I highly recommend checking it out. These girls perfect the pop/rock sound, slightly creepy vibes, and encouraging messages. But today I’m not going to cover all of the songs on the album. Today I’m going to do give my thoughts on all of their individual songs. Because we don’t see enough groups showing off their individuality by releasing individual songs for each member. Dreamcatcher has always impressed me with their good line distribution, but I never expected them to highlight each artist in this way and I’m so happy about it. So without any more blabbering from me, let’s get into it!

“Cherry (Real Miracle)” JiU Solo:

I’m not sure I was completely expecting a cute love song coming from our leader, but it suits her so well! This song is entirely about the happiness felt when you fall in love with someone. From focusing on her crush’s smile to dreaming about a happy life together, this song is full of adorable thoughts on love. And JiU’s voice, as always, is incredible in this. Her voice takes on a sweetness and higher register that matches the pop feel of this song perfectly. But at times, especially in the chorus, you can hear the stronger elements of her voice that make her such a staple in Dreamcatcher songs. I just love how “Cherry (Real Miracle)” reflects the more happy, carefree part of JiU’s personality!

“No Dot” SuA Solo:

SuA is such a badass and this song reflects it perfectly. Seriously, the strength radiating off of SuA in this song is enviable. This is another love song, but it’s more about how she’s both irresistible and completely in control in her relationship. Which is nothing less than what I expected from SuA. “No Dot” is more about the heavy beats and alluring chorus, which demonstrate SuA’s impressive belt and hypnotic voice. I especially love how her rap skills come to play about halfway through the song before seamlessly transitioning to singing once again. This is definitely one of those songs that makes you feel particularly confident while you listen to it and I don’t think SuA would have it any other way.

“Entrancing” Siyeon Solo:

Siyeon is the only one of the girls to have had a solo song on a previous album. Her first song, “Paradise”, was a beautiful song with a bit more of a hard hitting chorus. This one is a bit slower and takes its time to get to the chorus. And the chorus, while still hard hitting, is less about the addictive beats and more about the incredible quality of Siyeon’s voice. And I think it suits her even more than “Paradise” did. This song is absolutely gorgeous. The backing track makes it feel whimsical and wistful. Meanwhile, Siyeon’s voice is gentle and clear, even when the tone changes to something more desperate. It all perfectly fits the message of heartbreak in the lyrics and the earnest emotions that can always be found in Siyeon’s songs.

“Winter” Handong Solo:

“Winter” perfectly follows “Entrancing” on the album as another song that slows down to an easier pace. It’s definitely a lighter song though, which you can hear instantly with the relaxing guitar and bouncy beat. This song also has a somber meaning, which Handong reflects with her light and quiet vocals. The song describes an unexpected reunion with an ex whom she still misses. It also bemoans how her ex can seem so happy when she’s still not over them, which is a very relatable sentiment to anyone who’s run into someone they were once close with. My favorite part of this song though, are the final few lines that are sung in Mandarin! Honestly, a song showcasing Handong wouldn’t have been complete without it.

“For” Yoohyeon Solo:

Yoohyeon completely blew me away with this song. From the beginning few piano notes you can instantly tell this song’s going to be a cute, crooning love song. Then Yoohyeon flexes her English skills by singing the whole thing in English. This is the only entirely English song on the album and Yoohyeon definitely uses that stand-out quality to her advantage. I really love the wholesome lyrics covering her strong feelings for her crush. And the wintery imagery here as well as the fun piano, Yoohyeon’s impressive range, and the inarguable Sinatra vibes the song gives off, makes me think of drinking a warm drink on cold, Christmasy day. All of these comforting vibes can only be expected from the group’s puppy.

“Beauty Full” Dami Solo:

And here we get to my bias so excuse me if I’m insufferable for a few moments. This song instantly grips you with electric guitar, giving away the heavy rock feel to this song. It honestly feels like it could be the opening of an anime. Also, for those who didn’t know Dami could sing or are only familiar with her rapping, here’s your proof that her voice is incredible. Her deep voice lends itself well to an uplifting rock song and when she does slip into rap, it works perfectly with the beat of the song. “Beauty Full” also deviates from the love-based messaging by giving us an anthem about being proud to be yourself even when life is confusing. Dami’s unapologetic love of her weirdness has always inspired me, so I can’t express how much it means to me to hear her express it in a solo song.

“Playground” Gahyeon Solo:

Lastly, we have the youngest member and a very introspective dive into her youth. Once again we’re back to a cuter backing beat with this song, as well as an overall happier feel. The chorus is especially addictive, her impressive range and steady voice making the joy of her childhood feel infectious. I love the way this song addresses her childhood dreams and even references the manhwa characters she used to love, all coming together to emphasize her happiness at feeling as though she is living those dreams. You really can’t help but feel happy for her. Overall this song is incredibly fun with a deep meaning, and Gahyeon’s voice only gets better and better as the years go by.

I loved going through each of these songs and their meanings! The only group I’m super familiar with who does solo songs like this is BTS, and I always adore how much each of their personalities come out during their solo songs. Dreamcatcher dipping their toes into solo songs as well makes me feel like I know the members even better than I did before. I also feel like I can better tell what each of them wants to say as a performer, and that’s always important to me. I really hope Dreamcatcher continues to do solo songs in the future. I love hearing them, and I love hearing the way that artists perspectives on their messages and on themselves changes over the years. The girls really killed it with their solo songs this album and I would love to hear more!

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

K-Pop: BTS Comeback and Dreamcatcher First Win

Promotional image of (from left) SuA, Handong, Siyeon, JiU, Gahyeon, Yoohyeon, and Dami. Copyright goes to Dreamcatcher and Dreamcatcher Company.

Hi! It’s Annie!

It’s been far too long since I’ve done a general K-Pop news post and if there’s any time to get back into it, it’s now. Over the past week countless things have been happening in the K-Pop community, most of them involving amazing news, which have grabbed the public’s attention. In a period of time for the K-Pop community where good news was always marred by the additional news of some member of a group getting Covid, the fact that we’re getting some happy news without that on top of it, is nothing short of amazing. I also very much needed the good news to distract me while I’m sick. Don’t worry, it isn’t Covid. But it’s been enough to keep me down for the past few days, so I really need the new music and the happy announcements to keep me going right now. I’m already practically bursting with excitement from all these announcements, so I’m just going to get right into it!

BTS Comeback:

I was not there in person for Day 4 of BTS’s ‘Permission to Dance’ concert in Las Vegas. The only day I attended in person was Day 1, but I did get the online viewing for Day 4. Having been to one of the concerts in LA, one in Las Vegas, and having watched several of the online streams, I was immediately shocked when a BTS reel of their past music videos started playing after the concert. Though I wasn’t sure if it was a goodbye to the concert or not. Needless to say; no other day of the concert involved this video clip at the end. And then it said ‘We Are Bulletproof’ and showed the date 6. 10. 22. Obviously, my sister, aunt, and I were freaking out from the comfort of the couch. There was a lot of speculation on what it could be; there were a few people speculating it was a world tour or a FESTA announcement. But it was clear to most that this had to be an album announcement, which HYBE confirmed on Weverse not much later! I mean, with this being the end of the ‘Permission to Dance’ concerts, there had to be an album announcement before another tour announcement. And the boys have been teasing new music for months now too! I personally can’t wait for this album to come out and I for sure will cry. I’ve been loosely following BTS since 2017, but I didn’t find the time between my classes to fully get obsessed until 2020. So this is going to be only my second album release as an ARMY! I’m going to be on vacation when it comes out, but I know I’m going to be putting everything on hold until I can listen to that album. I’ll be holed up in my hotel for the entire day, just listening to the songs over and over again and crying. Because of the highlight on the words ‘We Are Bulletproof’, I’m a little suspicious that it may be the title of the album. But there are a lot of theories floating around right now. Mostly, I’m just so incredibly excited! And we know that it’s not the only music we can expect soon from them. Jimin’s first OST for a K-Drama is dropping soon, Namjoon has confirmed a mixtape, Hobi confirmed a mixtape long ago that got temporarily pushed back, a similar thing happened with Tae, and Yoongi has been teasing something. I’m ready for all the new music, we’ll just have to see if my wallet is.

‘PTD’ End:

I know a lot of people were waiting and hoping for more location announcements for ‘PTD’, but if you watched Day 4 you probably know that it isn’t happening. Ticketmaster added more dates on a tab which made some people hope, and I know there are still ARMY in denial over this. I can’t blame them! But I hope that everyone knows that this is to give them time to practice for their new album so that they can tour possibly this year with the new music. That’s what seems to be their current goal. Namjoon even said during Day 4 that ‘PTD’ was never supposed to leave LA and that it was always a special event type of concert more than an actual tour. Though it’s sad to watch it go without other ARMYs getting to see it, I’m hopeful that their new album and probable subsequent tour will more than make up for that.

BTS Military:

I don’t want to talk about this much until the final decision has been reached; but I want to address some things because of the spread of misinformation that happens any time this news comes back to light. This is what we know so far. We know that the current CEO of HYBE made a revised statement saying that the boys are still willing to go but that it looks like things may be changing. We know that some members of HYBE said that they were hoping for a tour and that the military service won’t interfere with that. We also know that members of government have pledged to make a decision by the end of this month. Additionally, a list of possible new exemption rules was released though none of them have been voted on. Most of these included big awards that only BTS has gotten, basically eliminating the possibility of this helping out any K-Pop group that isn’t BTS. No surprise there, though a little sad. However, listening to any one politician on this matter is going to get you nowhere. Because they all have different opinions, which is why they didn’t vote at the end of last year when they were originally supposed to. I’ve seen ARMY rejoice over one politician say that its time to repay BTS for all they have done for South Korea. The very next day I saw a bunch of ARMY despair because a politician from the other side said he fully expected them to go. Of course he said that, because he’s a politician and that’s how he’s voting! None of their individual words are law or tell us anything new. We know that politicians are pretty divided, so of course we’re going to get conflicting statements. Also, don’t listen to the rumors about what BTS might have to do instead of military service if it’s decided that they have to make up for it some other way. All of those are rumors, nothing of that sort has been released to the public at all. All we can do right now is wait until the end of this month, which is very difficult. I’m hopeful though!

Dreamcatcher First Win:

I’m so incredibly happy to be able to talk about one of my favorite groups of all time again, and certainly my favorite girl group of all time. Dreamcatcher is a K-Pop/Rock group that has deserved more recognition for years. I haven’t even been able to post about them as much as I would like, which is an absolute crime. I constantly listen to their music! But one of the marks of Dreamcatcher is that, despite their extensive career, they have never won a first place award. Which makes absolutely no sense! For the most part, them not having received an award yet has a lot to do with the K-Pop community not fully accepting the Rock communities within the genre quite yet. I’m a huge fan of Dreamcatcher as well as NFlying, and both of them have suffered because of this. Finally with the release of their amazing song ‘MAISON’ off of their new album ‘Apocalypse: Save us’, they have gotten the award they deserve. Firstly, go and listen to this album if you haven’t. The album consists of so many ear-worms as well as singular songs for each member that are all fire! I love when an album gives each of their members an opportunity to do a solo! But also, ‘MAISON’ is a song with an amazing message, which is something Dreamcatcher has always done well. This one specifically is about saving the environment, and I guarantee you that you will never hear another song about saving the environment that is so badass. I cried so much when I saw them accepting that award, because they all put so much effort into it and definitely deserve it. I think I speak for many when I say that this should not have been the first time they received an award of this kind. I was baffled when they didn’t win anything for ‘Odd Eye’ or even for ‘BOCA’. And I thought they would for sure win something with ‘BEcause’, which is a song I am absolutely obsessed with. But I’m at least glad that they got a win for this wonderful song! I sincerely hope this opens the way for them to receive many more in the future! And not just them; Dreamcatcher had been garnering attention for guy and girl rock groups alike. I’d love to see more rock groups in general win more awards! They’re paving the way!

I’m hopeful and overall very happy with a lot of this news! I can’t wait for a new BTS album and I am so so happy that my girls finally got the recognition that they deserve. I was absolutely beaming when I saw them trending this morning after I woke up from my medication induced deep slumber. I seriously can’t wait to see more from them and I will be screaming my head off if we get a BTS world tour soon!

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

Book Adaptations: Movies That Are Equal To (Or Better Than) The Book

Screenshot of Mandy Patinkin, Wallace Shawn, and Andre (The Giant) Rene Roussimoff in ‘The Princess Bride’. Copyright goes to Act III Communications, Buttercup Films Ltd, and The Princess Bride Ltd.

Hey! Hallie here!

I’ve spent quite a bit of time on this blog talking about book adaptations that I enjoy. There’s a few I’ve dedicated many, many posts to because I’m obsessed (‘Howl’s Moving Castle’). I just really enjoy talking about books I love, and when their movies are just as good, or even better, I can’t resist gushing over them. So this post is dedicated to five of my favorite book-to-movie adaptations just so I can obsess over them. As the title suggests, some of these adaptations I consider just as good as the original content, but some of my opinions are a bit more controversial than that. So here’s you reminder that this is just my opinion and all (respectful) opinions are welcome here. And if you haven’t read or watched any of the titles below, be aware of SPOILERS. Alright, let’s get into this!

‘Howl’s Moving Castle’:

There’s a pretty big debate over whether the book is better than the movie with this one. But, and there’s not really an argument here, the movie has the larger fanbase. Studio Ghibli elevated this book to a level of popularity that only Studio Ghibli can really accomplish. Especially when they animate men in the way they animated Howl. Still, there are really good parts of both the book and the movie. The book has a lot more of a headstrong Sophie and Howl, which leads to some really entertaining interactions between them. Sophie doesn’t take any of Howl’s arrogant behavior, nor does she ever let him intimidate her. Meanwhile, Howl’s heartlessness is shown through his vanity and pretentiousness which are qualities he is at first proud of, and then eventually learns to overcome for Sophie. That said, I really enjoy the movie’s interpretation of a shy, insecure Sophie who breaks out of her shell as her confidence grows. I also do love the way that war becomes a more central part of the storyline, and the most evident representation of Howl’s heartlessness, as a critique of senseless violence. On top of that, the book gets a bit weird in parts when it comes to the revelation of where the missing prince and wizard went off to. Let’s just say, it gets a bit Frankenstein. I definitely prefer the simpler changes to this part of the storyline in the film. Overall, I tend to prefer the film. The animation can’t really be beat and the visual representation of Sophie learning to love and accept herself, as seen by her age lessening as the movie goes on, is extremely powerful. But really, both are popular for a reason.

‘The Princess Bride’:

A while ago I made a post confessing that this book is one of my favorite books, if not my favorite one. It’s a perfect high fantasy fairytale while also managing to be an interesting critique of fantasy tropes and a hilarious joke in its entirety. The book’s popularity however, pales in comparison to the way the movie took off. Some people aren’t even aware that ‘The Princess Bride’ was a book before it was a film. There’s a lot to love in the book that’s missing from the movie. Buttercup and Wesley, as a departure from most high fantasy couples, both have a lot of vanity and sarcasm that make their relationship amusing. The book also explores the backstories of Inigo and Fezzik in much more detail. The focus on Fezzik in this book actually made him my favorite character in ‘The Princess Bride’, especially because of his inner dialogue that reveals his thoughtfulness and kindness. Also, the book has a major joke element the film is missing. Namely, the gimmick that a fake author (S. Morgenstern) wrote ‘The Princess Bride’ and another author (The actual author, William Goldman) is cutting it down to only the good parts while also putting in interludes to his miserable life. Of course, the book is all William Goldman’s and the miserable life he writes for himself is all a fabrication, but the writing in the book has fooled many a reader. That said, the movie is perfection. Many scenes are ripped word for word from the book, a nice side effect of Goldman himself penning the screenplay, and it takes a somewhat less funny, but a much more magical approach to the story. Both versions are so perfect, I really couldn’t say which I like more in this case.

‘Stardust’:

I really like Neil Gaiman, but this is one of the only books I’m putting on this list that I thought was amazing in concept but didn’t quite live up to expectations in execution. I really loved the world building in this book, which is no surprise because Neil Gaiman perfects world building. The world of Faerie feels whimsical and dangerous, from the marketplace to the kingdom of Stormhold. But there’s definitely awkward sex in this book that feels out of place. Both main characters also suffer from a bit of plainness that you don’t often see in Gaiman books, though that might be because the book itself is so short. The movie fixes these problems well. It breathes life into the bumbling but well-meaning Tristran (Or Tristan here) and the confident, argumentative Yvaine. Most importantly, it gives us Robert De Niro in perhaps one of my favorite roles he’s ever taken on. Captain Shakespeare is the queer representation we need more of in fantasy stories, and he barely even makes an appearance in the book. In the movie though, he’s the perfect mentor to Tristan, often teaching him to reject toxic masculinity. He also boasts one of the largest hearts in the movie. It’s hard to walk away from ‘Stardust’ without Captain Shakespeare being your favorite character. But despite the large amount of changes in the film, the main storyline and the overall feel of the book remain intact. The movie’s commitment to the original content, while also changing story elements around to create its own fairytale, proves its brilliance.

The ‘Lord of the Rings’ Trilogy:

This is a bit of a cheat because this is technically three books. But I feel my sentiments towards each book and its adaptation within this trilogy are very similar. The movies capture the main plot and the overall feel of each of Tolkien’s books. And most of what the movies cut out is pretty understandable. For one, while Tolkien is second to none when it comes to world building, sometimes it’s exhausting to spend several chapters having every part of a town described to you. Also, characters like Tom Bombadil, while fun, aren’t necessarily important to the overall plot. I really don’t have any gripes with what Peter Jackson kept out of the movie trilogy. I even appreciate the direct changes he made from the book. The first that comes to mind is his decision to make Arwen the savior of Frodo in ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ after he’s attacked by the Nazgul. In the book, the famed elf Glorfindel is responsible for this heroic act. While I adore Glorfindel and his very interesting ties to the Fall of Gondolin, Arwen was a very fascinating character in the books who never got any characterization at all. She barely showed up in any of the books and the largest section dedicated to her is in the very back of ‘The Return of the King’, where she and Aragorn’s romance is explored more than her own characteristics. Given that LOTR is a series that has too few lead female characters, I think it was a perfect decision to bring Arwen to the front and make her the badass we all knew she could be. Overall the LOTR trilogy perfects gorgeous cinematography, excellent story, and fitting deviations from the books.

‘Pride and Prejudice’:

Unlike some of my opinions above, I’m not here to tell you that the 2005 movie is better than the book. This book is one of my favorite pieces of literature of all time and it’s definitely my sister’s favorite book for a reason. The snarky humor radiating off of Elizabeth and Darcy make this book a delightful read. And though it may look long, ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is one of Austen’s more fast paced books. You very rarely go a chapter without being taken to a scandalous party or a romantic trip to the countryside. When Austen does choose to idle in one place for a while, it’s only to give you some juicy gossip that will make you question Elizabeth and Darcy’s feelings for each other. The 2005 movie simplifies a lot of the things that happen in the novel. Some events are merged together to make for a more eventful scene. Some dialogue is modernized to make it easier to understand. But none of it is to the movie’s detriment. The movie always keeps the feel of the book, and much like the LOTR trilogy, never skips out on a plot point. It only cuts out some excess. In the occasions it does change things around, I also generally like the changes. I like that Mr. Bennet takes his time to comfort Mary after embarrassing her at the ball. I like that, instead of Darcy confessing his feelings to Lizzie during an organized walk, we get a more private scene where Darcy walks to her in the early hours of the morning because he couldn’t sleep. Also, the cinematography in this movie is stunning. From the dance scene where everyone disappears except Darcy and Lizzie, to the scandalous behavior at the ball that’s done in only one shot, to the picturesque scenery on the hill, to the female-gaze feeling shot of Darcy’s hand. You really can’t find any fault in the book or the movie.

And that’s it! I really enjoyed taking some time to demonstrate how head-over-heels I am for these books and their movie adaptations. I could watch any of these movies over and over without stopping. And I very much like that, among the movie adaptations I chose, none set out to be 100% accurate to the book. All make changes to the book that slightly alter the story in a way that sets the movie apart. But each movie also sets out to keep the overall plot and feel of the original story to honor its source material. They strike a perfect balance, and I couldn’t love them more for it.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

Comfort Entertainment: Which Members of ‘Free!’ are Actually Dateable?

Image of the characters from ‘Free! Eternal Summer’. Copyright goes to Funimation and Crunchyroll.

Hi! It’s Annie!

I actually really enjoyed writing my last post about ‘Ouran High School Host Club’ and I’ve really been looking into writing something similar. So this anime was one that I definitely watched for a while and was absolutely made for the fan service. While some hoped that the fan service for this particular show would lean more queer, unfortunately this didn’t happen. I have a suspicion it didn’t because it was mainly made to appeal to women, but the fan service did feel a bit like queer bait at times. But because of the purpose of this anime, I thought it was only fitting to address how dateable these characters actually are. Because, even though these characters were made to be attractive, this doesn’t always mean their personalities would make for good boyfriends. In fact, most of the time I would argue that it really really doesn’t. So, let’s just get into it! If you haven’t watched any of the seasons of ‘Free!’ and want to, this is your MAJOR SPOILER warning. Though I do find ‘50% Off’ on Youtube to be superior; it’s absolutely useless to talk about those versions of the characters as boyfriends. Because that would be disastrous.

Haru:

Haru is very dedicated to the water. No, I don’t mean swimming. He likes swimming. But he’s dedicated to the water. He’s very hard working when he wants to be and is a complete perfectionist when it comes to his talents. He doesn’t talk much, but what he has to say always seems to be of some importance. And though he’s brutally honest, he does have a sincere loyalty to his friends. So, does all this make him a great boyfriend? I think you might have noticed that I was really stretching for good qualities here. I don’t think Haru is a bad person, but there’s no point in time where he’s emotionally available to anyone around him. His best friend is Makoto, and even he has a lot of trouble getting through to him on various occasions. Haru’s one great love is the water. Sometimes disturbingly so. I just don’t see Haru ever caring for anyone romantically, I sincerely apologize to the Haru and Rin or Haru and Makoto shippers. I think it would take an enormous amount of work for Haru to even be the friend he should be towards the people in his life, never mind a romantic love interest towards anyone.

Makoto:

From petting adorable cats to helping old women, Makoto has got the nice boy vibes down. Makoto is constantly looking after his friends, making sure Haru gets to school on time, and attempting to dissuade his friends from doing anything dangerous. Definitely the one with anxiety, which I may or may not be able to relate to. Makoto loves swimming, but he’s much less obsessed with it than other members of the team. He’s far more inclined to do something else with his life, such as teach or help the community. He’s far and away the most responsible member of the team. As seen when he saved Rei from the ocean when Rei was attempting to teach himself. But does this mean he’s dateable? Absolutely it does. By far the most dateable member in ‘Free!’, and I would argue that he’s one of the most dateable anime characters I have ever seen. It does help that his dub voice is Johnny Yong Bosch. (Can you tell I’m a fan?) But that aside, Makoto is the absolute opposite of Haru in that he is actually emotionally available. He’s the friend that all of his friends go to for advice, and there are no limits to his loyalty or compassion. Makoto is not only kind, he’s also that golden retriever boyfriend we all want.

Nagisa:

The youngest member and by far the cutest. The one that everyone feels they have to take care of, but somehow Nagisa ends up taking care of them more often. I think it’s very safe to say that Nagisa is the glue that holds the team together. When several of them develop grudges for each other, this never seems to touch Nagisa. He just assumes he’s still friends with all of them and shrugs off the negativity. But does that make him mature enough to be a good boyfriend? I would say yes. I know, I know. I argued that Honey from Ouran was not dateable because he acted too young and Honey is a bit older than Nagisa. But I think there’s an important difference between acting like a toddler and just acting innocent. Nagisa never crosses the border into acting like an actual toddler for me. Could he stand to grow up? Probably. But I think Nagisa’s openness towards people different from him massively outweighs anyone else’s in the group. And I think that shows a maturity that many of the other characters in this anime don’t seem to have.

Rei:

Rei doesn’t come in until ‘Eternal Summer’ and is the last member to join the friend group. And that’s for a very simple reason; he doesn’t actually start out as a swimmer. He’s a member of the track club, and very much focused on that and his studies. Nagisa only sets his mind on the poor guy when the High School has too few swimmers to actually form a swim club. It’s hard to tell for certain why Nagisa focuses on Rei specifically. Though some fans have a few theories. But Rei has to actually learn to swim, and is often frustrated because he strives for so much perfection. He’s responsible with his studies, but does that make him mature enough to be good boyfriend material? Absolutely not. Nope. Rei’s level of perfectionism that he strives for is absolutely insane. And Rei makes it a point to note that he strives for this level of perfection in all facets of his life. Though he doesn’t always push it onto his friends, it’s also reasonable to assume that he would look for this in a romantic partner. Rei is another character who is emotionally unavailable because of that. I seriously couldn’t imagine anyone dating him happily.

Rin:

The last main character in this series and quite possibly the most popular. Rin is that bad-boy anti-hero that everyone loves. While he used to swim on the same team as Nagisa, Haru, and Makoto, he now goes to a completely different school. And you can bet he holds a grudge against Haru for forming a new team without him. Even though Haru arguably had very little to do with the forming of the new team. Rin is the most serious about a career in swimming than everyone else, which is why he decides to go to a High School with an elite swim team. So does his hard work and passion for his career show enough responsibility to make him seem like a good boyfriend? If you didn’t see this coming with what I said about Haru, I would be genuinely surprised. The answer is a definite no. His strong grudge and obsession with his old friend would make him a very unavailable boyfriend. To anyone except maybe Haru. But still, he’s pretty contentious. Rin seems to be more focused on holding his grudge than anything else, because he feels he doesn’t have anything else.

I think what I’ve learned about a lot of these anime shows, is that there are less characters that are actually boyfriend material than you think. Or at least, want to think. What I’m getting at here is just because someone looks attractive, doesn’t mean that they would be at all pleasant to date. I don’t think anything demonstrates this more than fictional characters. But I always have fun going through these characters and actually considering what it would be like to date these fan favorite characters. And sometimes the results of thinking about it, are just hilarious. Maybe this will become more of a series! I really love doing these! But until then, we’ll most likely have a lot more BTS news to share soon. What with the last day of the concert and then the important decision to be made at the end of this month. Let’s hope for good news!

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

Sci-Fi/Superheroes: Warner Bros. Discovery and DC

Screenshot of Gal Gadot as Diana Prince in ‘Wonder Woman’. Copyright goes to DC Comics and Warner Bros. Discovery.

Hey! Hallie here!

Just today we received the huge news that Warner Bros., the huge entertainment company behind the likes of the ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Bladerunner’ franchises, was bought out by ‘Discovery’. You know, the company in charge of cool documentaries and addictive HGTV shows. This is definitely news that felt like it came out of nowhere, but by far the most interesting part of this announcement was the newly dubbed Warner Bros. Discovery’s immediate discussions about the DC franchise. Essentially, they want to completely overhaul it and they have a list of goals for this overhaul as well. There’s quite a bit to discuss, and a lot of uncertainty that comes along with it, so I’m just going to get right into this!

New Structure:

This is the main goal that came up amongst the reports of Warner Bros. Discovery’s plans for DC. The new heads of the company feel that one of the major reasons the DC Extended Universe hasn’t been going so well is because of a lack of structure. As a result, they seem to want to restart the franchise. Again. They also appear to be actively searching for a Kevin Feige-like figure to ensure that the franchise feels connected. This announcement is getting some mixed reactions and I can honestly say I feel pretty mixed on this myself. I don’t believe anyone can argue that the DC franchise hasn’t severely suffered from a lack of planning. ‘Batman v Superman’ was the first attempt to connect the first solo films that were part of the DC Extended Universe, and it suffered from terrible writing and shoddily put-together character connections. After that was ‘Justice League’ which, while better than ‘Batman v Superman’, suffered from either mediocre writing or bad writing depending on which version you’re watching. It also struggled with underdeveloped characters as a result of jumping into a team movie with only three of the characters having been previously explored. It really is no wonder that DC decided on a restart recently by recasting Batman and leaving Superman behind, but those decisions continue to make fans confused while they move forward with characters like Wonder Woman, Harley Quinn, and the Flash. That said, I wouldn’t say the major issue with DC is shoddy planning. DC’s major issue has been tone and poor writing. We know this because DC has found major success in solo films that aren’t connected to each other, such as ‘Wonder Woman’ or ‘Suicide Squad’, because of good writing. In fact, with the new success of ‘Batman’, it feels like DC could really hit their stride putting focus on quality individual character projects. DC already tried the MCU approach. Maybe it’s time to go for something else.

Superman and Joker:

These are the two names that were prominently thrown around once the Warner Bros. Discovery merger happened. Apparently new execs are upset with the way DC was trying to drop Superman entirely. They also want more side-character exploration movies like ‘Joker’. I have very strong, very opposite feelings on both of these subjects. I definitely think that it was a bad idea for DC to try to drop Superman. Superman is one of the most popular superhero characters of all time, and it’s kind of ridiculous to picture a DCEU in any state without the Man of Steel. I did like Henry Cavill as Clark Kent, but I think there’s room to restart if they so choose. They just need a better script than ‘Man of Steel’, which definitely wasn’t the worst the DCEU had to offer, but was pretty bland as far as superhero movies go. There’s a lot they could do with Superman that could prove much more interesting, and I do think he’s a character worth bringing back. As for ‘Joker’, we DO NOT need more movies like it. If they’re talking about character deep-dives alone, I’m on board. I stated above that I think individual character films could be where DC hits its stride. What we don’t need, though, are more movies that glorify serial killers by making them “relatable”. That’s an entire genre of films that needs to go, and supervillains don’t get a pass on that just because they aren’t real. The toxic fanbase that surrounded this movie alone is enough to prove that Hollywood shouldn’t be making more movies like this. I’m just hoping that Warner Bros. Discovery isn’t talking about making more supervillain movies that celebrate the awful things they do just because they were mistreated.

What About the Current DC Projects?:

Currently there’s a lot of uncertainty around the projects that have been planned or are currently active within the DCEU. And there really isn’t a way to tell what this new merger means for them all. But some things seem more likely to stick around than others. For one, ‘Batman’ is a recent release and a huge success. I can’t imagine them shutting down that project so soon, even if they choose new creatives to head the ‘Batman’ projects in the future. Similarly, ‘Wonder Woman’ and ‘Suicide Squad’ are both franchises that are wildly popular and could easily stick around. ‘Wonder Woman’ has been solo enough that they can pretend her team-ups never happened, and love her or hate her, I don’t think Gal Gadot will be stepping out of the role of Diana Prince. As for ‘Suicide Squad’, the ‘Peacemaker’ series has been well received and we all know by now that Margot Robbie won’t be stepping down from the role of Harley Quinn. Also, ‘Shazam’ was very well received and hasn’t been tied into anything at all so far, meaning it would be easy to take that film, and all of its planned sequels and spin-offs, and carry it into the new DCEU. That said, other projects are harder to call. ‘The Flash’ might already be dead in the water because of Ezra Miller (Warner Bros. really needs to stop hiring him for their major projects). ‘Aquaman’ might also be seriously effected because of the controversy surrounding Amber Heard. But really, nothing is certain. While there are things that don’t seem likely to change, we still might see a bigger overhaul of the DCEU than any of us expect.

At this point, DC fans are getting really tired. The amount of fans who have recently expressed that they’re experiencing Joker fatigue is not small. In fact, the amount of times the Batman series as a whole has been reimagined is starting to tire out Batman fans. And fans of other DC franchises are likely to follow soon. All of that seems to indicate that DC really doesn’t need another revamp right now. Fans have seen enough revamps of most of the characters to last a lifetime. What DC fans want right now are good scripts and some sort of stability. I think that DC can do that with what they have now if they’re careful about what they plan in the future. But who knows? Maybe Warner Bros. Discovery will surprise us with a really amazing central storyline. Still, I’m more concerned for the DCEU than ever and I think I speak for most fans when I say that all I want at this point, is consistently good content.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie