C-Dramas: Love O2O

Screenshot from ‘Love O2O’ (2016) starring Zheng Shuang and Yang Yang. Copyright of Gcoo Entertainment.

Hi! It’s Annie!

Just like everyone else, I am incredibly bored in quarantine. One of my life-lines has been catching up on as much K-dramas and C-dramas as I possibly can, which eventually brought me to this pick partly because of the convenience of it being on Netflix. I just have a lot of thoughts on this particular drama. This drama follows Weiwei, a girl who plays an online game where marriage is one of the central elements. After falling in love with someone in the game, the two decide to meet only for her to find out the guy she married in the game is the most popular guy on her college campus, Xiao Nai. It’s over-all a cute story, and if you are familiar with online RPGs at all, you’re bound to find something familiar. But more so than that I found it so weird, in both pleasant and unpleasant ways, that I just had to talk about it.

LIGHT SPOILER WARNING: If you have not watched this show and plan to, maybe don’t read the rest of this erm… review. If you are on the fence about whether or not to watch it, I say watch it. It’s just cute and weird enough to keep you entertained. If you don’t care at all; read as much as you want.

The Pleasant:

  • The Main Female Protagonist: I find myself often disappointed in many romcom dramas in general when it comes to the main female character. For a lot of dramas, the female character is entirely not the focus. Because of the demographic of people watching being mostly female, the drama focuses more on developing a hot boyfriend than it does on developing their female protagonist. I was really happy to see that this wasn’t the case here. Weiwei is opinionated, sassy, and incredibly capable. What’s more, she’s also a Computer Programming major, which is a very male dominated field. When she feels someone has done something wrong, she confronts them about it. She actually communicates instead of running away all the time. I do feel this drama had a little trouble with her personality as it got deeper into the romantic relationship aspects of it. She had a case of being inconsistently sassy. But I’m glad to say that, for the most part, she was a realistic female character and very fun to watch.
  • The Trust: This was so important for me! Most romcom dramas depict their couples breaking up several times over, often due to a lack of communication over something involving one of the characters getting jealous after seeing their partner with someone else. Every time I thought they were going to do that in this, they completely side-stepped it. There was a moment where one of the antagonists called up Xiao Nai to show him “proof” that Weiwei was cheating on him and he completely refused to see it. When she tracked him down and showed it to him, he told her that he didn’t want a third party interfering in his relationship. Later he hacked into her phone and deleted it, and when Weiwei asked him what he was doing he said “Deleting trash” and then showed Weiwei the video so they could plan their next steps. When he was asked later why he immediately didn’t believe the video, he simply stated that she’s his girlfriend and he trusts her. I will admit that they go slightly too far on this point when the two characters talk about cheating, but the thought is there. It is so rare for trust to be present in a relationship in so many romance dramas and I’m so glad that they emphasized the trust in this relationship.
  • The Friendships: I have not seen many dramas where the friendships are this realistic. There is a scene where Xiao Nai is treating Weiwei and all her friends to dinner and after she tells them not to order too much food, they promptly tell him that the last time they went out Weiwei downed an entire plate of chicken wings. I laughed because this is definitely something I could see a friend doing to me or something I would do to a friend. The friendships here are not depicted as fake and they actually do depict people going through struggles in their relationships with each other. They tease each other, they talk about people they find attractive in a teasing way rather than in that fake serious way, they’re constantly snacking, and they also get into disagreements and fight. There is definitely a friendship focus here for both the guys and the girls and it’s just so fun to watch because it reminds you of your favorite moments with your friends.
  • One of the Sub-Plot Romances: There is a gay couple in this show and it completely caught me off guard. I shipped it from the beginning, but I was sure that they were going to explain it away as a strong friendship or a brotherly bond. That is not what happened. It is not super explicit due to Chinese censorship, but it is not as subtle as you might think either. There are hints sprinkled throughout the show that these characters are gay and eventually they hit you with this giant revelation about something that happened between them in the past that confirms it. Their faces when they figure it out are worth watching the entire show to see. The two characters move in together by the time it ends and the line “We all look hungry for the food, but you look hungry for the chef”, also shockingly made it past the censors. This relationship is my favorite in the entire show, you just can’t help but love it.

The Unpleasant (Or Just Weird):

  • The Main Male Protagonist: Before anyone who likes this show or just really likes Yang Yang gets mad at me, I just want to say that I didn’t completely dislike his character in the least. Firstly, I want to say that Yang Yang is an incredible actor and, yes, also incredibly attractive. I just think he suffers from what a lot of romcom boyfriends suffer from, which is perfect boyfriend syndrome. The narrative refuses to believe that he has many flaws, and definitely not big flaws, so he doesn’t really make mistakes and learn from them or do a whole lot of developing. This show really wants his only flaw to be that he’s anti-social, but I’m not sure that’s necessarily a flaw without other things on top of it and he doesn’t really overcome it. Not only that, but I personally believe he had flaws in other instances where the narrative was telling you that he’s perfect. Don’t get me wrong, he’s charming and some of this could be personal preference, but I do have some issues. He’s constantly telling the main character that she shouldn’t do certain things or he may not be able to “control himself”. I’m immediately skeptical when the consent of another character comes into question. There’s also the fact that he’s always one step ahead of the relationship without telling her or getting her permission. He thinks they’re dating when they meet because of their status in the game. He then begins introducing her as his fiancee before he ever proposes to her. If you can picture someone who you wouldn’t at all be interested in doing something like that and find it creepy, than it is automatically creepy when a hot guy does it too.
  • The Game: The entire marriage and dating aspect of this game was really just weird to me. They reminded me a lot of when I used to play online RPGs when I was in my tweens and people would start “dating” on those websites. It was always really awkward when you walked into a room in the game and you saw that people were asking each other out or breaking up in the web-chat. But most of the people playing those games were either in their early teens or about to be in their early teens. It was so weird to watch this with the knowledge that it was actual adults in college doing that. I’m not saying that it’s an inherently bad thing, but it was definitely a weird part of the story for me. Especially because of the aspect of the story where people, not just the main male character, thought that dating in the game automatically translated into dating in real life even thought they really didn’t know anything about the other person. That just didn’t sit right with me. The game also pretty much disappears about half way through the show, so the consistency when it came to the game was a little off.
  • The Other Sub-Plot Romance: The romance plot between Weiwei’s best friend and the Foreign Languages major was not at all good. Mostly because, even when the best friend character got kind of annoying, she was still way better than the guy in this relationship was. This guy first goes after Weiwei and won’t take no for an answer. He then makes several other bad decisions and is just a cocky douchebag for the rest of the show and never apologizes for it. He is told time and time again to apologize for his actions, which he never does to the point where you start to wonder whether or not the writers forgot. Weiwei straight up tells him in one of the final episodes that she doesn’t like him. There is really no getting behind this romance.
  • The Relatability: You would think that this romance would have several relatable factors when it comes to the main character. She’s a gamer, a computer major, and she has a close knit group of friends. But this romance takes place between the runner up for prettiest girl in the school who gets a lot of money from babysitting a rich kid and the rich CEO of his own company. Both of these characters are extremely privileged. They also do try to pull some of the “not-like-other-girls” scenarios with the main character, meaning that they do demonize and push down many other females in the show. Especially female gamers. If you want to find a main character to relate to, you’re probably not going to find it here.
  • The Kissing: I just have to add this here. Why is it seen as attractive for the woman in the relationship to know so little about romance that she doesn’t do anything? She doesn’t instigate anything and, worse, the kissing looks like some sort of hostage situation. Her eyes are open and she’s standing stiff as a board. At that point you aren’t watching anything romantic; you just feel concerned that this was something she didn’t want or consent to.

Over-all, I actually liked this show for the most part. It was an entertaining watch while I’m bored in quarantine. Is it the best show ever? No. Am I going to watch it again? Probably not. Would I recommend it? Maybe to some people. But, if anything, this drama is entertaining and not super long either. It’s an easy watch when you’re feeling bored and it’s fun to watch and sometimes poke fun at too. Do I wish it was better? Yes; but sometimes you’re just in the mood to watch something lighthearted and a little bit stupid. It’s a nice distraction.

Se you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

Video Games: “Dragon Age 4” So Far

Screenshot of Solas concept art from the upcoming “Dragon Age 4”, Copyright of BioWare

Hey! Hallie here!

If I haven’t mentioned this before, I love video games. Criticize me as you will, but “Dragon Age: Inquisition” continues to be my favorite video game. So when I say that I squealed when we received a new teaser for the long awaited “Dragon Age 4” at Gamescom 2020, It’s definitely an understatement. Unfortunately, the teaser didn’t give much away considering the team isn’t very far into production. But that doesn’t mean we don’t know anything about the upcoming game! Here’s what we know so far (and a little bit of speculation to keep things interesting). SPOILERS if you haven’t played “Dragon Age: Inquisition”. Go do that. Right now.

Solas: Solas has long been confirmed to be the main antagonist of “Dragon Age 4”. This was hinted at from the release of the “Trespasser” DLC that served as an epilogue to “Dragon Age: Inquisition”. Whether your Inquisitor liked him, hated him, or even loved him (Damn, I’m so sorry), he leaves you after the events of the main game and appears to you in the DLC as almost a neutral party. He’s helping you, but only because he feels guilty that you will be suffering so much more later when he destroys the universe. Yeah. That’s kind of harsh. He isn’t just doing this for no reason, however. We know Solas now as the Dread Wolf, a perceived elven deity who freed elven slaves. He created the Veil, the barrier between the current universe and the Fade, or the spirit world, in order to protect others from the other elven deities, the Evanuris. But now Solas is guilty about locking away the Fade, and subsequently, the entire culture of his people. As much as bringing back his culture sounds like something to get behind, he makes very clear that bringing the Fade back into the world will result in the destruction of, well, everything. He might think it’s worth it, but I’m pretty confident in going with the “genocide is bad, no thanks” route. Solas has appeared here and there since, most prominently in the book “Tevinter Nights” where he expresses regret for his betrayal of the Inquisitor. But, nevertheless, he isn’t to be trusted, and if his dialogue in all of teasers we’ve seen so far is any indication, he won’t be so friendly when we see him next.

Tevinter: Once again we have something that has been hinted at us since the “Trespasser” DLC. At the end of the DLC, as the Inquisitor uses a map to decide where to look for Solas next, the Inquisitor places a knife in the heart of the Tevinter Imperium (Sorry to whichever mapmaker spent DAYS making that). This, plus the release of “Tevinter Nights”, seems to indicate that the story is heading in that direction. While it hasn’t been confirmed, some sharp eyes caught what looks like a very familiar Tevinter mage in some of the concept art released for “Dragon Age 4”. If you don’t know, I’m talking about Dorian, the best “Dragon Age” character of all time. The style. The sass. Tevinter has been a hot topic since the beginning of “Dragon Age”. It’s a nation known for it’s hierarchy of mages, enslavement of elves, and overuse of blood magic. It is also known for it’s hostility with the large and intimidating Qunari. It’s dark background makes it an interesting place for players to explore, and we know from Dorian that not all of those who live there are not to be trusted. Plus, Patrick Weekes, head writer of the new game, has emphasized that a main difficulty players will face will be corrupt leadership. What place has more corrupt leadership than Tevinter?

New Main Character: This might be surprising to some considering the Inquisitor’s strong ties to our main antagonist. However, “Dragon Age” has always been different from BioWare’s other major franchise, “Mass Effect”, in one major field. “Mass Effect” is the complete story of one main character where as “Dragon Age” is the conjoined stories of many main characters. In every game so far we have played with a new character: The Warden, Hawke, and then the Inquisitor. There is no indication that this formula will stop any time soon. So while the Inquisitor might appear just like Hawke did in “Dragon Age: Inquisition”, it’s likely that along with a new set of companions, we’ll see an entirely new main character. Honestly, I look forward to exploring a new customization system for my new character. As long as it isn’t anything like “Andromeda”.

New Romances: This is another reason why introducing a new main character in the new game makes sense. I like my Inquisitor with dreamy Cullen, but what is a BioWare game if you can’t explore a new romance? BioWare has become well known for the romance aspects of its games. In fact, the new teaser gave us concept art of some vague silhouettes and fans are already debating which ones they’ll be able to make out with. Don’t worry guys. BioWare knows what it’s fan base wants and has promised to deliver.

That’s about it so far. As you can see, it isn’t much. But it’s definitely enough to get us “Dragon Age” fans excited. I look forward to letting Solas break my heart all over again and I’m excited to see what new characters I’ll meet along the way. Hopefully I won’t get backstabbed by a mage all over again. That’s probably wishful thinking. Regardless, I will not-so patiently wait for the next update on this game when I can lose my mind all over again. And eventually, eventually, we’ll all get to sit down and play this amazing game.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

Book Adaptations: Pride and Prejudice

Screenshot from ‘Pride and Prejudice’ (2005) starring Keira Knightley and Mathew Macfayden. Copyright of StudioCanal and Working Title Films.

Hi! It’s Annie!

‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen has been one of my favorite books for years, so it’s safe to say I’ve watched several different adaptations of this classic novel. Because honestly, what’s not to like? ‘Pride and Prejudice’ as a story features romance, amazing insults, clever dialogue, and a feminist character who was way ahead of her time. There are books out there that have been adapted several times and no one can quite get it right. I’m definitely glad to say that this isn’t one of them. Not to say that there haven’t been bad adaptations of this story, because there definitely have been. When they’re bad, they are BAD. I just thought, since one of the versions of this recently hit Netflix, it might be good to go over some of the adaptations so hopefully I can steer you towards some good ones and away from some really, really, bad ones.

Pride and Prejudice (2005):

This is the one that stars Keira Knightley and Mathew Macfayden. Likely, if you’ve seen a version of ‘Pride and Prejudice’, you’ve seen this one. This is also my personal favorite of all the adaptations I’ve seen. Elizabeth Bennet in the book is extremely sassy, but because the book is written from her perspective, much of that sass is told to you through a thought format. As this is impossible in movies, I’ve found that other adaptations portray Elizabeth as more of how society would see her. It’s really nice to have a version of this that shows Elizabeth as being just as strong-willed and opinionated to other people as she is in her head. In terms of Mr. Darcy, one of my favorite things about his character is that he’s meant to be awkward, which Mathew Macfayden portrays amazingly. (Can we also talk about how sweet he is in the scene where Mr. Bingley is practicing his proposal on Mr. Darcy?) This movie is also just gorgeous to look at. Every scene feels like a painting and it really is one of those movies that feels transportive with its visuals. I’m not sure there will ever be an adaptation of this book that beats this movie for me. But enough about this one, because most people already know about this one.

Pride and Prejudice (1995 mini-series):

This is the other most popular adaptation of ‘Pride and Prejudice’, this time starring Jennifer Ehle and, of course, Colin Firth. This one is probably the most true to the book of any adaptation just because of how much they were able to fit in given that it’s a mini-series rather than a movie. Colin Firth’s performance as Mr. Darcy in this is nothing short of iconic. There is a reason why you can’t talk about Mr. Darcy without somebody bringing up Colin Firth. I will say that for the average watcher, this is definitely a dryer version of this compared to the one I just wrote about. The movies condense the book to give the audience just the exciting bits, so this one is going to have much more sitting and waiting around. It also does not give you all of Elizabeth’s thoughts, so she’s definitely a dryer character. The reason to watch this adaptation is mostly the portrayal of Mr. Darcy. That’t not to say that this adaptation is bad in any way! It’s a very good adaptation and I don’t think the dryness takes away too much from the story. If you are interested in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ at all, this one is worth a watch.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries:

I don’t see enough people talking about this one. This is a web-series that you can find entirely on Youtube with one of the main creatives behind it being none other than Hank Green. Each episode is usually only five to ten minutes long, but there are around a hundred episodes. This follows Lizzie Bennet in a modern setting where she navigates her social life through companies while finishing her graduate degree, all in the format of a video blog. This show does less for the character of Lizzie than many other adaptations, but it is the best adaptation for the side characters. I have never loved Jane Bennet or Charlotte Lucas more than in this adaptation. They are actually given lives and flaws along with their own stories that portray them as independent and badass. If you thought that no adaptation would ever make you like Lydia, this will prove you wrong. You also can’t miss out on Mary who you will only get much of if you also watch some of the vlogs Lydia posts. I am honestly of the opinion that the way they portrayed Mary would have been slightly more suited to Elizabeth, but I digress. Elizabeth isn’t bad in this version, but she’s not very Elizabeth either for the sake of making the character more relatable. But you will binge watch this for all the other characters. Fair warning, Mr. Darcy doesn’t come in until later, but the mystery of it actually makes his introduction even better.

Death Comes to Pemberley ( 2013 mini-series):

This is a bit of a cheat because it isn’t exactly an adaptation of ‘Pride and Prejudice’. This takes place after the events of the novel at the Pemberley Estate where Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are already happily married. As the name suggests, this is a murder mystery and actually a pretty good one at that. It involves the characters from the original novel and expands on ones that weren’t given much time. For example, Georgiana is one of the best characters in this show. This is not going to be one of the best things you’ve ever watched, but it is a good watch if you’re at all interested in the world of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and just wanted to know what would happen next with the characters. This is also another BBC mini-series, so you don’t have to worry about it being too incredibly cheesy.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016):

We’re finally getting to the bad adaptations that you should never watch. I watched this movie as a joke and I regretted it. You know when you cringe so hard that your eyes start to water? This was me throughout this entire movie. I’m not sure I even have to say that this was a bad idea, because I think anyone who read the title probably already thought that to themselves. This was sort of a parody and sort of not, but it wasn’t funny. I love Lily James as an actress and it literally pains me to see her in this movie. For those of you that might want to watch it for the horror aspect, it’s not worth it. I am incredibly afraid of horror films and I sat through this just fine. Just…do yourself a favor and never watch it. If you really need a tipping point to be convinced, look up the ‘She’s Shy’ clip on Youtube. Not only did they take dialogue from the Keira Knightley movie that wasn’t even in the book, they also completely destroyed my favorite scene from the book and movie. I’m really not sure how I sat through this, so just do yourself a favor and don’t bother unless you want to suffer.

Anything from Hallmark:

There have been so many of these that I’m not going to pick one. I had the misfortune of seeing a couple of these when other people were watching, and they are exactly what you would expect from any Hallmark movie. Except this time they decided to take a famous book and make you cringe through a story you thought you would love no matter what. I apologize for being so harsh, but please do yourself a favor and never watch these unless you want to cringe-cry through these too.

Hopefully this gave you some idea on some more adaptations of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ that are worth a watch and also helped you decide not to watch some others. ‘Pride and Prejudice’ has always been pretty close to my heart and Elizabeth Bennet was incredibly formative for me, so if you’re just getting into it now; Welcome! If you like any of the adaptations above I would highly recommend the book if you’ve got the attention span for it. It is a long and sometimes boring read, but I guarantee you it’s worth it in the end. If books aren’t really your thing, that’s fine too! Some of the adaptations mentioned above are great watches even if you haven’t read the book or aren’t planning to.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

Studio Ghibli: A Guide to the Best Movies

Screenshot from “My Neighbor Totoro” (1988), Copyright of Studio Ghibli

Hey! Hallie here!

Studio Ghibli is responsible for some of the most popular and most masterful animated movies of all time. So when I was sitting around during quarantine trying to figure out how many of these movies I had watched, I was kind of horrified to discover that I had only seen three. Three! So I did what was only acceptable to do in such a situation and watched all 22 movies in a week. I’m not crazy I swear. With knowledge of all 22 movies now forever in my brain, I’m here to guide you through the movies I feel should go on your “To Watch” list. Warning: There’s a lot of them.

“Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind”: This is considered to be Studio Ghibli’s first film although, at the time of its release, it wasn’t a Studio Ghibli film. The reason? The majority of the creative team that went on to Studio Ghibli is here and doing some amazing work. This movie follows Nausicaa, a princess from the Valley of the Wind; one of the last surviving human civilizations after war caused forests to overgrow with toxic plants. Nausicaa stands in the way of a war between humans and the Ohm, giant bugs that live in the Toxic Forest. This film is worth watching for the badass main character alone. She can often be seen rescuing the male lead and in action sequences she proves herself the most competent out of everyone present.

“Castle In The Sky”: Now we’re to Studio Ghibli’s official first movie! This movie gets ignored quite often compared to the other films, and I’m sad about it! It follows two main characters. One is Pazu, a boy who works an ordinary job in a mining town. The other is Sheeta, a princess on the run from the government for her possession of a magic necklace. Together these two attempt to discover the mysteries behind the castle Laputa, floating deep within the sky. This animation has everything you could want from a movie: Action, adventure, pirates, robots, Mark Hamill. All that plus a steam punk design that has influenced many movies since.

“My Neighbor Totoro”: On to the film that inspired Studio Ghibli’s logo! This movie is about two siblings, Satsuki and Mei, who move to the country with their father after their mother becomes ill. (I know that sounds slightly foreboding, but I swear it isn’t!) While there they meet Totoro, a forest spirit whose simultaneous laziness and adorableness invite the girls to imagine a more exciting world. Totoro is easily the most popular Studio Ghibli film, and it’s fun art style and well-written female leads make it easy to see why. Plus, Totoro is REALLY cute.

“Kiki’s Delivery Service”: This film is likely another that you’ve heard of before. It follows Kiki, a young witch who leaves home with her cat Jiji to discover what type of witch she wants to be. Along the way she deals with the responsibility of getting older, the fear of losing her passion, and the unsteady steps of first love. This is a really sweet coming of age story, and it’s one of the most honest ones I’ve seen. The movie takes the audience through Kiki’s triumphs, losses, and even the days where she just can’t get out of bed. It feels real, even with some fun magical shenanigans.

“Porco Rosso”: Don’t let the pig face frighten you off! This film is a bit sillier than the others, but with some interesting commentary about humanity behind it’s silliness. It follows Porco Rosso, an aging World War I pilot who has lost so much faith in humanity that his face is cursed to look like a pigs’. While he’s known for being a hero, he’s also known for his bad attitude. Enter Fio, a young female engineer who redefines his definition of bravery. This is a really cute story about finding the good in people even when it seems difficult. Plus there’s more pirates in this and, if you’re watching the English version, a well-cast Michael Keaton as the lead.

“Spirited Away”: Spirited Away beat out Lilo and Stitch for the Best Animated Feature Film at the 2003 Academy Awards. Surprised? Don’t be. It’s really that good. This film follows a young girl, Chihiro, who accidentally steps into the realm of the spirits. She befriends a boy named Haku who gets her work inside a bathhouse for such spirits until she can find a way to escape. This movie is yet another with a strong female lead. She’s level headed, a quick thinker, and she never feels like a damsel in distress. On top of that, this movie is gorgeous. The design of the bathhouse alone will make you wish you were right there next to Chihiro.

“Howl’s Moving Castle”: This one is my favorite of Ghibli’s films. The main character is Sophie, a young girl who works in a hat shop and considers herself very plain. That is, until she meets Howl, an attractive wizard who accidentally leads The Witch of the Waste to her door. Sophie is cursed to become a ninety year old woman, and just so happens to run into Howl’s castle while she’s fleeing her village. This MOVIE. Not only is the animation and score enough to make you want to leap into the film, but the romance is incredibly well done for the scenario it presents. It doesn’t rush the relationship, understandably considering Sophie is ninety for most of the movie. Instead it gives the characters time to be annoyed with each other, act immature, and find wisdom within chaos.

“Ponyo”: This is yet another retelling of “The Little Mermaid”. But this is nothing like the Disney movie. Ponyo is one of many fish children belonging to Liam Neeson…err…Fujimoto, a man who lives in the sea. She catches sight of Sosuke on the shore, or rather, he catches her in a bucket, and she falls in love. Determined to stay with him, she turns into a little girl and arrives on land with her father hot on her tail. This is a romance, but it isn’t a romance like “Howl’s Moving Castle”. Instead it shows the innocent love between two very lonely children. You feel for the two as they navigate their complicated family lives together. On top of that, Ponyo is probably the cutest fish you will ever see.

“The Secret World of Arrietty”: Yet another of Ghibli’s fantasy films, but this one has a bit of a twist. It follows Arrietty, a four-inch creature known as a Borrower, who uses odds and ends humans won’t miss to eat, decorate, and live a normal life. She befriends a sickly boy named Sho, or Shawn, who must hide her secret from his family. This one is incredibly interesting for it’s use of perspective. I could stare at Arrietty’s house all day appreciating the detail that goes into using small everyday items as full furniture pieces. It also has an interesting open ending. In all versions but the American dub. I won’t spoil it for you, but if you’re watching it in America, keep in mind that the ending monologue done by Shawn does not exist in any other version.

“The Wind Rises”: This one may surprise you compared to the others on this list. It is not a fantasy, or even what you would expect from an animated movie. This is about Jiro Horikoshi a man who designs Japanese fighter planes during World War II. The story isn’t as bleak as you expect it to be, especially if you know anything about “Grave of the Fireflies”, a Ghibli movie that is not on this list purely because it broke me. Instead it follows him through his life. It shows his dreams, his doubts, his friends, his wife, and his struggle using what he loves for something as disturbing as war. The movie shows you the inner workings of Jiro’s mind in a way that you rarely see in animation.

“When Marnie Was There”: This movie received mixed reviews when it came to theaters, and for the life of me I can’t figure out why. It follows Anna, an asthmatic girl sent to stay with her relatives in the countryside for both her illness and her shy nature. She quickly feels isolated by the other children there, but befriends Marnie, a mysterious girl who lives in a seemingly abandoned mansion. The story has a fantastical element that I didn’t notice going into the movie. Again, no spoilers, but I had fun attempting to figure out who Marnie was, and I enjoyed how realistic Anna is as a main character.

And we’re done! This list was long, but it definitely isn’t complete. There’s movies like “Princess Mononoke” and “Whisper of the Heart” that are also magnificent and worth a watch. Hopefully this guide gave you some idea about what you’re getting into if you’re starting your Studio Ghibli journey. And if you’ve already started and are looking for some recommendations, I hope that you found something that peaked your interest among my Studio Ghibli favorites! Studio Ghibli rivals Disney in it’s creation of immersive fantasy universes, so if you haven’t done yourself the pleasure of escaping into one of them, this is your reminder. Everyone needs some Ghibli in their lives!

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

K-pop and K-dramas: BTS

All rights go to BTS Facebook and their other social media. (Left to right) Kim Seokjin (Jin), Jung Hoseok (J-Hope), Kim Taehyung (V), Min Yoongi (Suga), Park Jimin (Jimin), Kim Namjoon (RM), and Jeon Jungkook (Jungkook).

Hi! It’s Annie!

I know I mentioned it in my introduction, but I am definitely a big fan of BTS. I will admit, I sort of joined ARMY late into the game. I didn’t really have a chance to properly look into them until quarantine started. Doing more research about this band, listening to more songs, and watching more videos and interviews of them was exactly the kind of serotonin I needed during this time. They are a band that devotes their time and effort into caring for the public and making everyone happier; whether it be through charity work or their music. There’s so much I could say about BTS, but it would probably fill a few books, so we’re going to start with basically telling you about my first reactions and impressions of all seven of these incredible men.

Namjoon (RM):

Gotta start with the leader. RM will be the first noticeable member for most English speakers because he is the most fluent in speaking English. All of them speak English to a degree and they are all improving so quickly, which is so impressive considering how difficult it is to learn a completely different language. But Namjoon will often translate for the others during interviews and, because of this, you probably hear him talk the most in any English interview. He immediately came off to me as very well spoken and smart. He’s definitely the responsible one. I am also that in my friend group, so I definitely respect it. He’s also an incredibly powerful creative for this band and you can’t help but admire his work.

Jin:

Ah, it’s Worldwide Handsome. Jin came off to me right off the bat as just goofy, which I love. He’s got an incredible ability to lift the tone of an interview and just get everyone to laugh. I noticed that Jin seems to be noticed the least of everyone in this band, but this detail is still something I’m navigating through. I see a lot of arguments about Jin not getting enough lines and I honestly haven’t looked enough into the situation to make an educated conclusion on this. I do think he’s incredibly under-appreciated when it comes to the members of this band and I just think that interviews would be a lot darker and less fun without him there. That’s not even mentioning how much he adds to the vocal line.

Yoongi (Suga):

The guy who waves every time someone sings that Harry Styles song and my incredible bias. When you first see Suga in interviews, he comes off as very quiet and anti-social. These words are often met with a negative connotation, especially for celebrities. As someone who is often quiet and anti-social in social situations, I just found it incredibly relatable. The more you look into Suga, the more you’ll find videos of him goofing off with everyone else or talking deeply about an album and you just can’t help but listen. He’s the type of person with the ability to make everyone stop and listen when he talks because he generally has something really interesting to say. He’s also a complete badass and another powerful creative behind the band.

Hobi (J-Hope):

He’s your hope, he’s my hope, he’s J-Hope. An incredible dancer and a mood setter for the band, this guy just radiates positivity. He’s constantly smiling and laughing and spreading hope. Definitely the kind of person who makes you smile when they smile. I was pretty confused when I first saw him in interviews because the first BTS music video I ever watched was ‘Blood, Sweat and Tears’ and he looks very intimidating in that. The difference between that music video and watching a BTS interview shocked me more with him than any other member. He’s got this incredible duality and it’s honestly hard for me to believe that my first impression of him was in any way being intimidated.

Jimin:

It’s baby mochi! Ugh, Jimin is such a sweetheart! Talk about incredible duality. Jimin is a complete badass onstage and a complete softy offstage. He’s got the biggest heart and just wants everyone to be happy. He can be really quiet in interviews until someone cracks a joke and he’s the first one laughing. The amount that he cares, just about anything and everything, is incredible and such a relief to see in a world so dark. He radiates kindness in everything that he does and I could honestly talk about how sweet he is all day. His voice is also absolutely incredible and it makes me smile every time I hear him sing. This guy has been through so much and still has the kindest soul and I need to shut up now before I get carried away.

Taehyung (V):

The originator of the phrase “I purple you”. He has one of the most unique styles of anyone in the band and has the type of voice that could sing you to sleep. V is fun to watch. He can be very unpredictable in the way that you never know exactly what he’ll do. You can’t at all tell what he’s thinking just by looking at him. V gives off this vibe of being himself all the time. He never seems like he’s being anything but himself and it’s amazing and refreshing to see. The way he talks about ARMY as well is amazing. He has an incredible love for his fans and he’ll bring them up in any interview, at any time, just to talk about them. He really does love his fans back and it shows.

Jungkook:

Finally we get to the youngest member of BTS. He was actually the first member I had ever heard about, because I first heard about BTS from a Jungkook bias. He immediately strikes me as being very mature for his age. He started all of this when he was really young; he pretty much grew up with the band and with all of this responsibility on top of it. There are not many people who could deal with that pressure with the grace and maturity that he does. He seems to be the most popular member of BTS at least in America, and it’s easy to see why. He has an eye catching style and an ear catching voice to match. There are not many people I know who have been that hard working for so much of their young lives and it’s completely admirable.

I guess that’s just a little introduction to the members of BTS, but this definitely will not be the last time I talk about them. It’s also only the way I see them and a bit of an introduction to the way ARMY talks about them as well. Just like with any celebrities, it’s not indicative of themselves as people on a regular basis. You can’t truly know the complexities of a person just through media; but I am grateful of what these amazing men do share with all of us. Many BTS fans are told that they are too old or young for boy bands or are questioned for liking music and media that comes from non-English speaking countries. I shouldn’t have to say that this mentality is ridiculous. Music has always been known to bring people together; it doesn’t matter what kind of music it is or where it came from. BTS has brought so many people together and has brought happiness into so many lives. That’s what really matters. I’m just happy that we have something so positive like this that has helped open the way for more cultures to be seen and appreciated.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie.

Twins in Media: Fred and George Weasley

Screenshot of George Weasley (Left) and Fred Weasley (Right) from “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”, 2005, Oliver and James Phelps, Copyright of Warner Bros. Ent., Publishing rights to J.K.R.

Hey! Hallie here!

The only way to follow up a post about the great Hikaru and Kaoru is to go back to the roots of red-haired mischievous twins. Who else could it be but Fred and George Weasley? Now I will preface this by saying that my once giant love for Harry Potter, and I do mean giant, has dwindled these last few months. This post is not to go into that entire…mess. However, I will say that my love of these twins has also lessened over time. When I first entered the Harry Potter fandom, I absolutely loved Fred and George. They were close, like my sister and I are, and they stole every scene they were in. Whether I was reading the books or watching the movies, I knew their appearances meant something exciting was about to happen. So what do I think of the portrayal of these twins now?

The Bad:

  • The “Angsty Surviving Twin” trope. These two are the poster children for this trope. I don’t know about you, but when I see siblings like my sister and I get permanently separated because they are ‘too similar’ I get a little uncomfortable. Just me? In all seriousness, this trope has always, always, been a red flag for me when a writer decides to tackle twin characters. It seems to spread the message that twins are so similar that you really only ever need one. I’ll admit that “Harry Potter” gets points for waiting until the very end of the story to pull this move. However, it loses all those points for (SPOILER) the major tear-jerking element of Fred’s death not being that he was such an important character to the plot, but that he left George behind to grieve.
  • The “Mischievous Twins” trope. Obviously this one was going to pop up. I am in no way saying here that twins can’t be mischievous or play tricks on people. We absolutely can! Sometimes we enjoy it! It’s just important to keep in mind that twins don’t do it constantly, and we in no way have entire personalities revolving around the fact that sometimes it’s funny when people mix us up. Both Fred and George share the same story arc; they like playing pranks on people so much that they decide to dedicate their lives to opening a joke shop. Is this a painfully unoriginal way to portray twins? Yes. Yes it is.
  • The “Synchronized Twins” trope. The books do this a little less, but did the movies really have to have ALL of Fred and George’s lines be either saying the same thing at the same time or finishing each others sentences? Because no one does that. Not even twins.

The Good:

  • The slightly different personalities. This seems like I’m reaching. It’s because I am. I am continually frustrated with the lack of differences between these two characters. However, as usual, the books have a little bit more to go off of than the movies do. Fred is always more talkative and almost brutal when pranking others. George is always last to lose his cool, and he even apologizes for his brother on a few occasions. The best example of these different personalities comes when Fred and George get cheated out of the money they won at the Quidditch World Cup in the fourth book. Fred decides to resort to blackmail, which quickly starts an argument with the much more level-headed George. This doesn’t happen often enough, but it does happen!
  • Characters like them for more than just being twins. I know this sounds like the bare-minimum, but I would have appreciated this in high school. My sister and I ran into a lot of people who would only question us on what it was like to be a twin, and then leave. Fred and George have friends, such as Lee Jordan, who like them because they are funny and intelligent. Harry looks up to them because they have so much passion for the work that they do. While the books spend a lot of time pointing out that they’re twins who are always together, it also gives many reasons for the characters and the reader to appreciate their bravery and fun personalities.
  • The actors are actually twins. So this one doesn’t effect the story, but I can’t help but applaud when actual twins are cast as fictional twins. Believe it or not, twins, even identical ones, do not look completely the same. It makes a difference when I can recognize the subtle differences between James and Oliver Phelps and acknowledge that they are two separate people.

So are Fred and George Weasley good representations of twins in media?

I wish I could say yes here. I really do. But the bad definitely outweighs the good here. Fred and George are one of the major examples of bad twin representation in media. They are basically the same character. I have no problem with twins having the same interests, or even being in the same Hogwarts house, but there are so little differences that it becomes ridiculous (Riddikulus). Their entire existence revolves around stereotypes rather than their individual personalities. It’s not exactly surprising that this is yet another thing that Rowling got wrong, but it does hurt me in the childhood a bit. That being said, in no way am I asking you to hate these characters! They are absolutely fun to watch! I just hope that in the future, we can see something more accurate up on the big screen.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

Twins in Media: Hikaru and Kaoru

Screenshot from ‘Ouran Highschool Host Club’ on FUNimation

Hi! It’s Annie!

As twins who have been affected by media our entire lives, you can bet that we’re going to talk a lot about twin representation in media. The first anime that I ever watched was one ‘Ouran Highschool Host Club’ and at first watch I HATED Hikaru and Kaoru. Why? Because twincest made me want to vomit and really, it still does. Twincest as a trope has always made me uncomfortable and is never something I’ve approved of. I liked the two characters separately, but when they were on screen together I wanted to close my eyes and make them disappear. When I re-watched it recently, I was not expecting much from these two to say the least. I was delighted to find out that there was a lot I hadn’t remembered about how this show portrayed twins.

The Bad:

  • Twincest. There’s just so much wrong with it as a trope and I’m really just tired of seeing this in shows. Like, REALLY tired. Twins are just another form of siblings, if you wouldn’t with your sibling, why do you think it’s ok to show twins doing it? I doubt there is any form of media out there that would make me change my mind on the fact that I never want to see twincest ever again. The fetishization of twins has been present in the media for as long as I can remember. It especially happens to women, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen to men. This show continues to normalize it, and I’m really done with that.
  • The Mischievous twins trope. This trope often gives two people the same initial personality trait introduced to the audience as well as feeding into the belief that twins are always out to trick you. I can’t tell you how many times people have acted suspicious around me because they thought I might be my sister pretending to be me. I’m way too much of a goody-two-shoes to do that. There are people like this, but definitely not all of us.
  • Synchronized twins. If my sister and I speak the exact same thing at the exact same time, it’s rare and on accident. I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but we can’t read each other’s minds. This normalizes the thought that twins are somehow one half apart and only whole together. This thought also adds to the fetishization of twins because often people will see dating twins as being monogamous because they think we might as well be the same person. We are separate people. We are not two for the price of the one. We are not exactly the same. We are different people with different goals and different thoughts.

The Good:

  • The Different Story-lines. As the series goes on the audience is treated to a different story-line for each character. Hikaru develops a crush on Haruhi and must learn to trust other people. Kaoru has trouble with change and letting go of the people and things he cares about. They are written to have different personalities and goals within these story-lines. The show makes sure to differentiate the two characters outside the Host Club; making Kaoru wise and more mature and Hikaru stand-offish and less mature.
  • The Fighting. Hikaru and Kaoru don’t always agree. Even though they do fake a fight during the series, they still get into a fair few scuffles and minor disagreements. This is extremely important to showing actual people with different personalities and goals.
  • The only acceptable switch. Hikaru and Kaoru are shown in a flashback to have switched on young women who wrote love letters to one of them. This was not to play some prank, but was entirely to test whether the person actually liked the singular person, or if they just chose a twin. This is a real issue that I have personally gone through and it SUCKS. I find that often when a show tries to do something like this, they frame the twins in the scenario as being in the wrong or just being mischievous. This show doesn’t do that. When the girl calls them mean after they reveal the switch, the characters respond with; “No, you’re the one who’s mean.” There is no either or. You either like me or you like my sister. We are two separate people and there is no liking us both. This was the first time I had seen a show accurately depict a real life scenario I went through with my sister.

So, are Hikaru and Kaoru a good representation of twins in media or not?

This is not an easy question to answer because, like most twins in media, they’re more middling. Any show that depicts twins making out or almost making out immediately goes down on my list. But I will admit this show accurately depicted certain situations for twins to a degree I hadn’t seen before or since. Now would be a good time to mention that I am one of those rare Kaoru girls. Of all of the hosts, Kaoru is my favorite. This probably has something to do with how they depicted Kaoru in his own personal story-line and how they actually showed him going through things I have personally gone through. I guess the best answer I can give is yes and no. Yes when they aren’t in the Host Club. When they are doing any activities for the Host Club, the answer becomes no. Also when they’re shown sharing a bed, because that’s also stupid. I can definitely appreciate some things about these fictional twins though! Twins don’t need to be separated at birth or of different genders to show that we are two very different people with different tastes, interests, thoughts, and feelings.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie.

Hi! I’m Hallie!

Is your name really Hallie?- Unfortunately, no.

How old are you?- I bet you can’t guess this one but, the same as my sister! I’m twenty-one!

Which one are you?- In any pictures you see of the both of us, I have short brown hair. I also love hats! If one of us is in a hat, it’s a good bet that it’s me.

What are your pronouns?- She/Her

Introvert or Extrovert?- As much as I enjoy interacting with people, I am absolutely an introvert.

Favorite colors?- I have an immense love of the color purple. I also really love blue/green colors, like turquoise.

What’s your personality like?- I’m the laid back one. I like to keep a level head, even when I’m absolutely freaking out. I’m usually the first to end an argument. Whether it’s through calm conversation or throwing a punch, life is too short to stay angry or anxious. I’m also very adventurous! If I could be traveling the world right now, I absolutely would be.

Favorite movie?- “The Nightmare Before Christmas” by Henry Selick. The animation is gorgeous and I’m a huge fan of Danny Elfman. Although I have an immense love of “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Howl’s Moving Castle” as well.

Favorite Televsion Show?- This is where my interests align with my sisters. “The Untamed” is the best television show I have ever seen. It is a C-drama so you absolutely will need to read subtitles while watching it, but it’s on Netflix and I can’t recommend it enough.

Favorite music?- Currently BTS has my heart. I am also a huge fan of emo music. My Chemical Romance is my favorite band. I also really enjoy Fall Out Boy, Paramore, Evanescence, and Breaking Benjamin. I also love 80’s Rock and New Wave. Also Hanz Zimmer, Danny Elfman, and John Williams absolutely have my heart when it comes to soundtrack music.

Favorite Book?- “The Princess Bride” by William Goldman. It is both an amazing fairytale and the ultimate troll wrapped up into one book.

What’s your fashion sense?- As I said above, I love hats. I pretty much collect beanies for the winter. Otherwise, I love wearing basic colors like brown and black with a pop of color. I really like plaid, especially on pants, and I love a good over-sized sweater.

Do you collect anything?- Other than beanies I definitely have a small Funko collection and a love for plushies. But mostly, I collect “Nightmare Before Christmas” merch for my room.

What characters do you kin?- Leia Organa (Star Wars), Toph Beifong (Avatar: The Last Airbender), Robin Buckley (Stranger Things), and Nausicaa (Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind).

Why are you Hallie?- Because if either of us is the rough girl that feigns confidence while clinging to her stuffed animal; It’s me!

Hi! I’m Annie!

Is your name really Annie?- Nope!

How old are you?- I am twenty-one!

Which one are you?- I’m the one with the long hair. I’m a ginger when my hair is the way I want it, otherwise it’s brown.

What are your pronouns?- She/Her

Introvert or Extrovert?- I am a total introvert.

Favorite colors?- I’m a pastel girl. I like wearing soft pinks and blues, but you’ll also often find me in black if I’m feeling lazy.

What’s your personality like?- I’m the soft one. I am often emotional and compassionate and it can be difficult to get me angry. I also am a massive over-thinker and experience a lot of anxiety. I’m very much in my heart and in my head at all times and I’m more likely to stop and think before doing something drastic.

Favorite movie?- So many. But usually you’ll find me watching Jim Henson’s ‘Labyrinth’ starring David Bowie.

Favorite television show?- ‘The Untamed’ on Netflix starring Wang Yibo and Xiao Zhan. I’ve been getting more into K-dramas and C-dramas; but this is the most beautiful show I’ve ever watched.

Favorite music?- My favorite band is BTS. I did not expect this band to take over my life but it has. My bias is probably Jimin with my bias wrecker being literally all of them because it was hard enough for me to choose a bias. My favorite song by them is ‘Blood, Sweat, and Tears’, but again, it switches a lot and I have over a hundred songs on my phone (and counting), so which songs I listen to most frequently also changes. But it’s hard to choose anything because I love all of them and all of their songs so much. (That includes solo projects…ahem…Agust D.) I also like soundtrack pieces from Hanz Zimmer, some 80’s rock, and emo rock like MCR. My taste in music is very…eclectic.

Favorite book?- Either ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen or ‘The Night Circus’ by Erin Morgenstern. Escapism, folks.

What’s your fashion sense?- Bows, flower crowns, chokers, skater skirts, sneakers, and leggings. You’ll generally see me in most of them at once. Once I put on a skater skirt for the first time, my entire life changed.

Do you collect anything?- Funko pops and plushies. Anyone will tell you that I have a funko problem.

What characters do you kin?- Hermione Granger (Harry Potter), Brea (Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance), Poppet (The Night Circus), and Jane Porter (Disney’s Tarzan).

Why are you Annie?- Because if either of us is the girly, posh, British girl; it’s me.