Tuesday, July 17, 2012

On Kamen Rider Ryuki

So, I finished another Kamen Rider series. That's nothing new because I watch that stuff more than I watch TV. But, this one was a little different. I'm going to talk about why here in like seven seconds. Kamen Rider Ryuki was made in 2002 and was written by Yasuko Kobayashi, who is probably one of the better tokusatsu writers. Well, I shouldn't really say that because I've only seen this and Shinkenger. But still. I'm going to go ahead and say Ryuki is the smartest Rider show I've seen. It's not my favorite, but this one is really in-depth and clever. It's in that early Heisei era where things are serious and the toy commercials make you feel bad for buying them. I don't really know where to start, because there's about forty things this series ultimately covers. It's hard to cram it all into one overarching theme so I'll start from the end. Kamen Rider Imperer shows up at about episode 43 or 44 or something. Real late basically. There are thirteen Riders and they all fight and kill each other. This guy shows up after about twenty episodes and only one Rider death. He's woefully unprepared and he begs to join other Riders as a team. No one accepts him and he eventually gets killed. There is a scene that lasts at least five minutes of him slowly dying and begging to be allowed to live. Of course, no one can help him and he just dies. Of course, everyone knew this would happen. It was pretty much spelled out from the moment this guy shows up. But, we were waiting for it. "Come on, guys, hurry up. We have like six Riders left and like four episodes to do it." This is what the spergs at whatever toku forum you went to were asking for and then it happens. We get this awful, uncomfortable and sad scene where a man is just begging to live. He's not evil. He's not a good guy, either, but he's still not a typical Rider villain so him dying isn't something we're supposed to cheer for. Yet, we were. They turn it over on us and blam. There we are wishing for a death for no reason other than for it to happen. The whole series has things like this spread out within it. Constantly questioning of what it is to be a hero and what it means to fight. You see this primarily in the main character. Shinji Kido is constantly begging for people to stop the Rider Battle that he sees around him. But, he can't find any way to do that. Talking doesn't work, fighting doesn't work. He views every life as valuable, and that puts him at odds with the Battle. The fighting is, for the most part, pointless. Just dudes bashing each other occasionally killing someone. If you watch the series and you complain that the fights are bad, then you are missing the point so hard. SO HARD. Ryuki is pretty much all about how fighting for your life sucks ass. Asakura is the prime example. All he wants to do is fight. Fight and murder and maybe eat a lizard. He dies because all he wants to do is fight and when he finds out his last fight with Zolda is pointless, he flips out. Fighting was everything to him. When he had a chance to think about the consequences of his fight (looking over Goro's body), he can't stand it. That's what happens when all you do is fight. The chance that your fight might be over can be maddening. Which is why Asakura runs out and dies uselessly. Bascially, the whole series destroys what we once knew about Rider and even about toku shows in general. It put that sad, hopeless spin on it that the more mature fans joke about. "Hey wouldn't it suck to be a toku monster? Living for an episode and then getting kicked into oblivion?" Yeah, dude, it would suck ass. Of course, you can only really do a Ryuki once. It's like Watchmen, really. You can't copy that, and you can't copy this series. Of course, this makes Kabuto the Dark Knight Returns of Rider shows.

Monday, June 4, 2012

On not seeing a movie I'm supposed to have seen.

Yeah, I still have this, don't I? Cool. Hey, so, I have refused to drag myself out to see The Avengers. It's been out for a month, and I have not even glanced at it (although I did see how it ended via Wikipedia). Why? Oh, the same reasons that everyone else gives. But, there's a little more to it than that, and I find it hard to vocalize just what the problem is, but I'll try. See, when I was a wee lad, I ate up comics. You could probably guess this and, if you knew me, you can nod your head in agreement. You'd say "Dude loved his comics." and then flashback to that one time I made a comics joke and then everyone would laugh. Looking back on it, there was really only one reason why I ever liked comics in the first place. Because it was escapism and I needed to escape. I didn't belong in my hometown, and I never have. I never fit in and I was never able to find a real outlet there for me. So, I found comics. A couple of grocery store bargain bin issues was what I needed and that was what I got. Comics portrayed a new, exciting world and they allowed my creativity to flourish. The rest is history, as they say. Blah blah blah action figure battles blah blah blah higher reading level blah blah blah something to keep my mind off of my parent's dismal marriage blah blah blah. You know the drill. Basically every comics fan ever has the same story and the same background as me. Of course, that's not true any more. People walk through malls reading Watchmen. V for Vendetta had Natalie Portman in it. The Avengers made more wealth than a small country. Comics is big business now, and that's ok, because it means that there are more fans, and no one can really slam kids into lockers and call them fags for reading Spider-Man any more. Hooray. Comics are big now, and they're probably going to be big for a while. At least until Avengers 3: The Kovacs Saga bombs at the box office. Heh, that was a funny. But, really, this should be the best time for a comics fan. Watchmen movie, Avengers movie, Thor movie. Hell, we got it made in the shade. But, something's not right. These movies and these books and these new universes are different. It's not the way it used to be. There's something missing and it's really hard to locate or quantify. I have also not seen Captain America or Thor, which are two movies that we've pretty much been dying for. I figured I would have killed to see these movies ten years ago, but here I am. I think the problem can be traced easily back to Iron Man 2. Well, no, the problem can be traced back to that time Marvel decided to give Jack Kirby only 80 of his pages that he made for them, but let's stick with Iron Man 2 for the time being. I saw Iron Man 2 on the first weekend it debuted. I liked Iron Man 1 well enough, so I decided, hey, let's give it a shot. I mean, this wasn't going to be Fantastic Four 2 or Kick Ass or any of those other shitty comic book movies. Well, see, it was. It was boring and generic and there was no real stake or danger towards the main characters at all. We already knew an Avengers movie was probably coming down the pipe, and we knew Iron Man was going to be in it. So, the second movie had no drama. But, there was something more. There was something about the film that either made too much sense or not enough sense. See, these comic movies didn't have the same feeling to them that their source material did. There was this plastic sheen over everything. It was too polished, too. It seemed like we were telling a story just to tell it, and not to actually have anything good happen to the audience. It seems like we're already psyched for the next big thing, as we sit expectant in our dark theaters waiting to see what happens after the credits. Shouldn't a film be worth more than that? Why have a film series if the next one is going to be bigger and better than the one I'm watching now? There doesn't seem to be any of the feeling and gravitas in comic movies any more. There doesn't seem to be any purpose to it. Are there themes in these movies? Are there motifs? Sure, some old comics didn't have those, but most of them made you think. They gave you ideas and made you dream about things. What did the Captain America movie inspire? It didn't even inspire patriotism or nationalism. What did Thor inspire? A cult following of Idris Elba and...? Well, maybe it also inspired Anthony Hopkins to remodel his bathroom or something but the point remains! We can go further back? What was Iron Man about? Sure, Tony learned that his greed hurt people, but he still owned a Bugatti and banged mad babes. What was Spider-Man 2 about? Spider-Man 3? This films aren't about anything. Kick-Ass was the last movie that was about something, but it was so tainted by Millar's madness. I wonder if that movie's show in KKK meetings... Anywho, basically, comic movies don't mean anything. Sure, I know. It's just good clean fun, right? Well, sure. Some movies are dumb as hell and that's ok. But, has Captain America always been dumb? Has Iron Man? Thor? Spider-man? Are all those stories they wrote all about strong dudes hitting other dudes and then banging hot babes? Are those characters not characters? Are they JCVD in Bloodsport? No. There are dozens of good old stories that Marvel writers made with this characters that were about more than action. They were smart, endearing, well-crafted and all that stuff. Instead of seeing a movie version of that, we get ORIGIN STORY + VILLAIN FIGHT. And then we get VILLAIN FIGHT again. Now we get TEAM-UP + VILLAIN FIGHT + TWO CREDIT SEQUENCES. These movies aren't about anything. Just take a look at TV spots for the Avengers. Do they show any one-liners? Any of the stakes involved for the characters? Any pathos? Nope, just RDJ rambling and fights. There's more to a story than that. Maybe I should blame Rob Liefield. He had a hand in this, I'm sure. And then there's also the Kirby issue, the Alan Moore issue, the New 52, Blackest Night and all that dogcrap. So, no. I didn't see the Avengers.

Friday, April 22, 2011

On manga, and why you should read, like, seven of them.

Ok, that's a bit of an underestimation, but whatever. The point is that I read some manga. Not as much as I used to, back when the only responsibilities I had were feeding and bathing myself. I read some shitty manga, and some awesome manga. Let's talk about some shitty manga first.
Shitty manga #1: Bleach, by Tite Kubo
I am privileged to say that I have not read every issue of Bleach, because, holy fucking shit. There are plenty of issues to be made with this manga. Most people talk about the pacing or the fanservice or the generic plot that changes every page. I despise this manga, and yet still read it, because of it's wasted potential. This manga is packed with interesting, if not two-dimensional, stuff. Ghost lords fighting other ghost lords with swords that are semi-sentient sounds awesome. There's also a whole other angle about how the secondary characters (who are ten times cooler than the main ones) really don't give two fucks about the main characters and should be able to kill them with ease.
Unfortunately, we are tethered to the worst protagonist in recent history. Sure, you may think RedLetterMedia was right about Episode I not having a protagonist, but at least you can argue that movie had an implied main character. We knew it would be about Darth Vader, after all. Bleach, on the other hand, has a character who only fits into the story via retcon and clumsy plot inserts.
We also get a group of secondary protagonists who do nothing but get their asses beat. And cry. It's pretty tragic. The whole series started off about a cool punk who saw ghosts and said "Fuck you!" to everyone and now we have a boring asshole with nothing to really bring to the table. It's really pretty sad, when you think about. Nearly 500 chapters and barely a one of them is any good.

Shitty Manga #2 Naruto by Masashi Kishimoto
See, Naruto was pretty cool for a while. Ninjas being real ninjas sometimes, crazy wizards another time, and an awesome mixture occasionally was really fun for a quite a long time. It also gave us this gem, which almost acts as a sad parable.

Some people will argue about when the series jumped the shark and became stupid. It's really difficult, because there are honestly several moments where this could have happened. Regardless, the series eventually became something like a bad soap opera that has been going on far too long. Eventually, it just got out of hand. Character growth became stilted and boring, the fights became contests of who could pull something out of their ass hardest, and the plot plodded.

Which is truly a shame, because there were some things that Kishimoto captured that were pretty good. He wrote children pretty well. Trust me, I know. Children can be heartless, stubborn, and offensively short-sighted. Naruto himself embodies all of these, and we can easily tell that from the first issue. Hell, his first appearance is him desecrating his village's Mount Rushmore, for no reason other than he's sad and lonely. (Even though, one of the faces was his father's, which is a fact he really should have figured out. Maybe that's where the series jumped the shark.) Of course, kids grow up, and I guess that means kids become boring cut-outs who do little to nothing. I guess, if I had to say, the chief problem with this whole series is the lack of consistency. I mean, how can we go from Rock Lee being a splendid ninja to Naruto spending at least two hundred issues in some sort of training for reasons that become less and less clear.

Also, did you know they sell boxsets of Naruto anime filler at Wal-Mart? Jesus, man.

Those are the big two that I still read for whatever reason. They also happen to be the most popular here in America. Well, maybe not. I think Yu-Gi-Oh is still on or something. Regardless, now we've come to the best part of this little spiel.

Awesome Manga #1: One Piece, by Eiichiro Oda.
Well, I mean, you knew it was coming. I want you to do something before you read this. I want you to close your eyes, and think about how you would write a shonen manga. If you had no limits, except for "Make it appeal to boys and manboys and make it awesome". What would you include? What aspects would you put in or take out or alter? Make it perfect.
Ok, then read One Piece. It's pretty much what you created in your head. The main characters are not obnoxious, at their worst, and amazingly introspective at best. The pacing is lightning-quick, especially by manga standards. The plot is simple, yet layered. You know, I didn't post any links to Bleach because all the issues run together and I really could post any one that would prove a point. I could do that with Naruto. But, I can't do it with One Piece. Because there are too many. There are too many reasons for the manga to be good.
Let's get in depth here. The main reason why One Piece is as compelling as it is is because Oda is a master at making you feel for his characters. Most of it isn't just exploitative, either. It's not empathizing for the sake of wrenching your heart, like certain clumsy American comic book writers do. It's an explanation of who these people are and why they act like they do. That sounds really plebeian. Of course that's how you describe characters. Every good writer does that. But, in this world of mainstream comics and shitty TV shows, we easily forget that. Sometimes, it would just be easier to kill off people and add an edge to something, rather than exploring the character as it is. Oda does this by starting off big. All of his main characters have that angle to them that draws you in. Guy with a sword in his mouth. Skeleton that asks to see panties. Cute, tiny creature that wants to be a doctor. These are almost characters that you would ironically propose for a webcomic, and I suppose that's probably the easiest trick in the book. "This sounds so silly, I have to read it!"
I think I'm over-analyzing this. Everything that One Piece does right can really be boiled down to "Good writing". Which, I'm ashamed to say, is a bragging point. But, really, though. Just read the damn manga already. It alone is worth surrendering American comic shelf space at Barnes and Noble.

Awesome Manga #2 Toriko, by Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro.
Now, Toriko has some faults. Mainly, it's really fucking dumb. About every ten pages or so, I have to stop and rub my head. It's really one of those things that defies explanation. I mean, the first issue involves a 15kg shit by the main character. If One Piece has main characters created for an ironic webcomic, than Toriko is that ironic webcomic. In a world where fiction needs to be realistic half of the time, it seems incongruous to see a manga about gourmet fighting chefs fighting ingredients. But I guess that's why it's awesome. Everything takes itself so seriously. Seriously. It's like we're back in the era of "On a very special episode...". Consider how many times we have to see a character die or get addicted to drugs or get cancer these days. Grant Morrison said it best: "Only a child would confuse pessimism with reality!".
Which is why, in a nutshell, that Toriko is the spiritual successor to Flex Mentallo.

Of course, those are the just the two most popular examples. In reality, there are dozens of manga you should read. Here's a small list.

Akira (Quick, before George Takei gives it more free publicity!)
Ode to Kirihito
Billy Bat
20th Century Boys
Yu Yu Hakusho.

Basically, anything Otomo, Tezuka, or Urasawa, really. It's all good.
The reason why I'm writing this is because we are really at a huge crossroads right now. Comics are as shitty as they've been in quite a while. Probably since the Liefield era. We exist in an era of circular storytelling. Characters and storylines just reference other characters and storylines. New things aren't being created. It's the "old boys club" Sarah Palin railed against three years ago. It's just a loop. We can't keep going back to the same boring shit over and over again just because it was good once and just because it's what we're used to. Honestly, I'd much rather read a manga about schoolgirls than another big mega-event about masturbating over a character from the fucking 1950's. Also, you're kind of a xenophobe if you refuse to read manga because there are some mangas that have weird shit in them.
Just saying.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

On embarrassment and being 15.

So, I just came across my Xanga for the firs time in a while. I'm not going to link it or anything, because I once had some messed up and wacked out opinions on things. I also swore a lot. And I found an entry where I said I liked the Steelers. I can't deal with people knowing that I said that once.
Regardless, it has me thinking about current events. Just think about it. Blogs and other social media are the most powerful tools we have at our disposal. Want to talk to a football star? Retweet him. Want to ask out a girl, but you're too ugly and shrill? Facebook. Want to organize a revolution to overthrow the dictator that rules your nation? See above.
It scares me, sometimes. The power you get from just having a little charisma and a lot of Internet. Who's to say what you won't do? Who's to say what some violent, like-minded individuals won't do? When I started my Xanga, I needed some self-esteem boosts so I hit on chicks hundreds of miles away, and I eventually worked my up to people I actually knew. Funny story, I met my wife this way. This helped me grow from a child to a manchild to a childman.
It was a source of power for me, and I don't think I was that insane. Just think about what kind of empowerment fantasies a real nutbag can go through. "Hey, people are talking to me! Maybe that justifies my fucked up beliefs!"
Not to say that social media are inherently bad. I'm just considering the consequences of every action. I didn't think about this when I had my Xanga, so I'm kind of trying to make up for being a selfish, idiot teenager.

Monday, December 6, 2010

On cold and being cold

I hate it. The end.
Did you know that there are two shelves in my Barnes & Noble labeled "Teen Paranormal Romance"? Those are some bad books. They basically abuse the burgeoning sexual desires of confused creatures who don't know any better. Pretty morally bankrupt, if you ask me. It's also gross.
I want every author who reads this to write young adult and teen novels about things like buying a car or trying to be on the basketball team. Lord knows I am.

Monday, August 30, 2010

On having really high standards for no fucking reason

So, yeah, shut up. I know it's been a while, but I really haven't had anything to write about. I went through a really bad case of writer's block and I only hope that my constantly writing has stopped it. It was coupled with a severe attack of malaise. Basically, I was feeling that my writing was really shitty. I think I figured out this was because sometimes I think my standards are too high when it comes to fiction.
For example, I hate like everything. EVERYTHING. I'm sure there are lots of good shows on TV (actually, I'm being really nice on this one. There isn't very much out there that says "This show is good")and I'm sure there are good books and comics (Ahahhahahaha yeah right) out there too. But, I just can't bring myself to like most of it. I'm sure this happens to a lot of authors. The temptation to be an elitist is huge. You just need to be better than everything you read.
And, well, I had to deal with that. Because, after all, if I can't beat them, then what's the point? But, then I just decided to ignore that and here I am. Awesome.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

On fiction

Sorry it's been a while. I've had...things...to do. Like hard work and stuff that no one else in the world will understand. Trust me on this.
But, I have come to a certain conclusion about fiction. It's important for me to do that because, you see, I write fiction for a living, which is awesome. It really is. But, this conclusion. It's important and you should probably listen to it. I came across a website. Don't go there, but it's the livejournal group fandom!secrets. And, it truly taught me what hate is.
Sure, I used to say hate a lot, because it was just a really effective way of evoking utter disgust and anger. It's really a stretch, though, to say that I really truly ever hated anything. Other than, you know, pedophiles and rapists and such. I just didn't like a lot of people, you know. But, whenever I see fandom!secrets, I sincerely feel that what these people are celebrating is something no legitimate author can even accept. I literally hate it.
Let's put aside all the secrets that say "I want to have violent, disgusting sex with fictional character X because I have untreated mental condition Y." Because those are either trolls, or people who need help (although the line is very thin sometimes). Those secrets just make me shake my head. I really do want to help these people, but it's anonymous, so there isn't much I can do.
Those secrets are actually the ones that I don't hate. The ones I hate are the ones who "ship" or put some kind of unrealistic expectation on some fictional character. I think it's what's really wrong with fiction and literature these days. See, these people want fiction, be it a TV show or a movie or an anime or whatever to go the way they want it to. They believe that their opinion of how the characters should interact is something worth considering. News flash: It is not.
It is not up to you how fiction happens. It's not up to you how a character dies or how their story ends. Like it or not, you have no effect on a work of fiction. You can have the experience differ from person to person, but you can never have the work itself change. You can't ship things. You can't see the facts of the story change for you.
I swear to god, if I ever see someone use my works like that, I will fucking destroy them and you can take that to the bank.