Waxing Philosophical: “Nobody Likes a Critic”

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I feel like being a critic or a reviewer of anything pop culture related has always been a hard job. Especially when it comes to large news outlets, pup-culture criticism and reviews have always taken a back seat to politics and larger news stories. In the past couple years, a lot of newspapers and websites have dramatically scaled down their review sections in favor of covering more political news stories, which is understandable in this volatile climate, but I think people forget just how important pop culture criticism can be for the wider population of fans or future fans. 

Being a pop culture reviewer can at times seem like a daunting job when you start seeing the kinds of backlash reviewers get for daring to voice any sort of opinion about a specific franchise. Marvel is one of the recent examples, with each movie garnering a wide array of opinions, some of them toxic and others not. We had boycotts of Captain Marvel and fights over Wonder Woman and Avengers: Endgame. In addition to this, we have the anime and comics fandom that have shipping wars, arguments over the opinions on Goblin Slayer and Rising of the Shield Hero, and comic book fans trying to gatekeep women and minorities out of the fandom. It’s an interesting time to be a reviewer right now, and I think a lot of writers wonder with every post whether they’ll get barraged with hate. 

While I think the climate of pop culture reviews and criticism has definitely changed over the years–especially with the rise of social media–where there has been art there have always been critics of some form or another. But what I think has changed is the fans and how much of fandom has become tied to the creation of individual identity and pride.  Continue reading

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Five Ways to Improve Your Comic Reviews

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Have you ever wanted to get into comic reviewing or thought your reviews just needed a little extra something? I see a lot of reviews missing some key aspects those few times when I do actually read other people’s reviews. It’s been three years since I’ve started this blog and over the course of that time I’ve learned a lot about comics and the medium in general, but more importantly how to write about them. I’m in no way an expert, but I do have pretty strong opinions on what makes a good review and how we can better talk about and analyze comics as an artistic medium and an entertainment medium. Below are five tips to improve your comic reviews. Let me know in the comments if you have any other tips to add. Continue reading

Fruits Basket Manga Read-Through: Collector’s Edition Volume Nine

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The last couple volumes that we’ve read have all been about seeing the kinds of scars children can develop when they’re abandoned by their parents and how they can slowly begin to recover through the support of loving friends and found family. Volume nine continues this theme but in a different direction, showing the kind of destructive mental and emotional issues that can arise from poor parenting and lack of emotional support. We’re shown these kind of life progressions through the lens of Akito and Machi’s differing ways of reacting to the pressure and issues that arise from their parents lack of support. Their two very different stories, but in a way tell a similar narrative of stunted emotional growth and destructive tendencies. There’s always so much to talk about with this series, and with every volume I feel like I find some new psychological concept to really dig into. I’m really hoping you all are enjoying what are turning out to be short almost essays of Fruits Basket. We’ve got three volumes left and the story is starting to move fast towards the conclusion.

Volume nine continues the story of the previous volume with the examination of Kureno’s relationship with Akito and the fall-out surrounding him finally watching the DVD of Uo in the school play. The story takes us into their past and present relationship and the reasons why Kureno feels like he can never leave as well as a look at the tension that exists between Kureno and Shigure, all revolving around Akito. But in Tohru and the younger Sohma’s world, graduation is fast approaching for all the third years at the school which means a flurry of preparations, many of which centered around the student council. In the background of all of this, Tohru can’t help but have a bad feeling because she hasn’t seen Rin in a while and no one seems to know where she is. Continue reading

Fruits Basket Manga Read-Through: Collector’s Edition Volume Seven

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How do children relate to their parents? What do they look for, want, or need from a family? What happens when that dynamic breaks down, when children no longer have someone to look up to or a stable place to call home? I think in a way, Fruits Basket has been slowly exploring these questions throughout the story, leading further and further into the worst possible scenarios. But it’s also a series that focuses heavily on recovery from trauma and the search for stable relationships. And it’s in this exploration and character growth that I think we get to see some of the most interesting aspects of the story. Volume seven takes us closer to exploring these questions, pulling out the family histories of Yuki and Rin into the forefront of discussion. In Yuki especially I think we begin to see his slow progress to maturity.

Volume seven picks up where we left off in the parent-teacher conferences at the end of the last volume. This time it’s Yuki’s turn to face both his future and his mother who thinks she has everything planned out for him already. But Yuki has his own ideas as the story moves on to his experiences with the Student Council and the kind of rag-tag family he’s been developing there. The volume then switches to Tohru’s quest to get in contact with Kureno for Uo’s sake and her run-in with Momo, Momiji’s younger sister who has no clue about their relationship. The other large story this volume centers on Rin and her struggle to find a way to break the curse and her personal struggle with physical and mental illness. We get a full introduction to her past and how her relationship with Haru came to an end. Continue reading

Fruits Basket Manga Read-Through: Collector’s Edition Volume Six

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We’ve finally reached the halfway point and what a journey it has been. I don’t know if I ever made it this far when I first started reading this series. I have to confess I did read ahead over my short two week break and have finished reading the series all the way through, and what a ride it has been. I am definitely so glad I picked up this series after all this time away from it, and now that the anime has been airing, I can’t unhear the English voice-actors while I’m reading through the dialogue, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And even though I’ve already finished reading through the series at this point, I think it would be beneficial to keep doing these reviews volume-by-volume just because of the vast amount of things to talk about in this series and all of the interesting character progressions and growth we get in each chapter (I’ll also try to keep spoilers for future volumes to a minimum). Volume six winds up being both the halfway point in terms of physical volumes as well as the kind-of metaphorical halfway point in terms of overarching story progression. I think we see a genuine crest or apex in the story during this volume in regards to the story and in regards to two of the main characters: Tohru and Kyo.

Volume six picks up where we left off in the last one with the Sohma’s and Tohru still at the family vacation home where Akito has decided to grace them with his presence. While the main members of the zodiac are called to spend time with Akito each day, Kyo and Tohru get the chance to spend some quality time together. But when Akito finally calls Kyo in to see him, their argument leads to changes in both Kyo and Akito for better or worse. As their summer vacation draws to an end, we learn more about Kyo’s past, finally get fully introduced to the last two members of the zodiac, and see Tohru confront Akito. After this confrontation, Tohru makes up her mind to find a way to break the curse before graduation. And as it fast approaches, everyone begins seriously considering their own futures, which for the zodiac members, becomes a challenge. Continue reading

Fruits Basket Manga Read-Through: Collector’s Edition Volume Three

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Welcome back to the next post in my read-through of Fruits Basket, where I’m finally going back and finishing this series after years of not getting the chance to complete it. The new anime will be premiering next week, and I’m hearing good things from the people who managed to see the first two episodes in theaters yesterday. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it myself, but I’m super excited to see how they wind up remaking this series. But enough about that, I really want to delve deep into volume three’s story today. There’s so much going on in this series with each cast member getting their own intricate and often interwoven backstories, troubles, and growth. We haven’t even seen all of the zodiac members yet, but we’re getting there slowly, and I think that’s the best course of action for this story, to let it unfold slowly and let the pieces fall into place.

Volume three continues the story of the curse Sohma family. Cursed to turn into animals of the zodiac whenever they are hugged by the opposite sex, they guard their secret closely. That is until high school student Tohru Honda stumbles upon it and begins to get wrapped up ever tighter in their lives. The volume starts with the Sohmas — Yukie, Kyo, Shigure, and Hatori — taking Tohru to their family’s lake house for a vacation. But the chapters jump off from there and very soon we’re being introduced to the next member of the zodiac, Kisa the tiger. Kyo’s doujo master makes an appearance as well and we find ourselves delving deeper into Kyo’s past and the darkest secret of the zodiac curse. Continue reading

Waxing Philosophical: The Benefits of Negative Reviews

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I’m back from a much-needed break. Time enough for me to recover some of my motivation to write again. I figured I’d write a quick “Waxing Philosophical” post to get me back into the swing of things this week, with my regular reviews beginning again on Wednesday. For today, I want to discuss something I’ve been thinking about the past couple weeks: the advantages of writing negative reviews. I’ve been known to write quite a few negative reviews on this blog. My dislike of Super Lovers and Sex Criminals is well known on this blog if you’ve followed me for a while, and I wind up finding at least one anime a season to write a negative review of if I have the time. I consider these types of criticisms as an integral part of my blog. But why? Why bother taking the time and energy to watch or read something that you don’t enjoy, let alone spend the hours on top of that to write a review about it? Continue reading