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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Waxing Philosophical: What We Can Learn from even the Trashiest of Romances

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Valentine’s Day is behind us but I think it’s important to continue thinking about romance and the kind of impact these kinds of stories have on readers. It’s one of the reasons I created this blog and continue to return to romance series. Reading romance books and manga were majorly important to me when I was growing up. I started reading them back in middle school, or about 12 to 13 years old. I’ve never really thought about the significance of starting around that time until this article from Vulture pointed it out: the kinds of books you read in school are mostly stories of boys and men with the occasional dead girl so, in essence, romance books become a way to see girls and female characters in prominent roles. They’re thrilling, a way to experience and read about sex, something that is usually frowned upon in academia and some social circles. The US in particular isn’t very good about including comprehensive sex education in their schools, so for many girls, this is their first and sometimes only major way to learn about sex and sexual relationships.

The romance genre has gotten a bad rap over the years, considered “popular” literature or just not literature at all. Why? It could be because its an industry dominated by women who are writing predominantly for women. It could be the sometimes silly, “bodice-ripper” covers showing half naked women and men on full display. It could also be the escapist nature of romance fiction in general which tends to make people point at it and say, “there’s nothing good or intelligent you can get out of a story like that. It’s all just trash for bored housewives.” Which is completely and utterly wrong. Dismissing a whole genre in and of itself is wrong, and I’m here to tell you there are quite a few important life lessons you can learn from romance. Continue reading

Waxing Philosophical: Embracing Predictability

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Happy new year and all that jazz. I have returned from my long break and will be slowly working my way back up to a predictable post schedule. I didn’t really have a chance to plan any posts last month while I was on break, so I figured I’d ease myself back into the blog writing schedule by doing a fairly short Waxing Philosophical post today.

I spent a good amount of time over Christmas watching those all too familiar Hallmark and Lifetime Christmas movies. You know the ones I’m talking about. The super corny love stories that almost always feature some “big city” guy or girl who needs to be reminded what Christmas and family is all really about and wind up falling in love with either their childhood sweetheart or some stranger they meet by chance. They’re stories are ridiculously predictable, and yet…watching them winds up being a weirdly comforting experience. Why is that? What is it about these types of movies and shows that make them enjoyable when their plots are so straightforward to the point where I can almost always predict what will happen next? Continue reading

Comics as Literature Part 2: Literary Graphic Novel Canon

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What would be your response if someone inexperienced with reading graphic novels and comics came up to you for advice on where to start? What kind of titles would you recommend? I bet I can name a few of the ones you just thought of. Maus, right? The Watchmen? It’s easy enough to pull these titles out of the many hundreds of thousands of different comic and graphic novels, not just because they’re so popular, but because over the years fans, creators, and academics alike have developed a fairly specific graphic novel literary canon. It’s become second nature to recommend these books to new fans of the medium, and I see the same titles come up again and again in message boards, from articles, and from classes at colleges trying to teach graphic novels as literature. It’s become sort of ironic to me in a way how many fans and creators, through the quest to be taken seriously as a literary medium, have created their own literary canon with the same few books recommended again and again. Continue reading

Waxing Philosophical: Current Opinions on Comics as Literature, Part 1

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by Michael Kupperman

Just this past week, the late and great Stan Lee passed away, one of the founders of the US comic book industry. He was and forever will be a cultural icon so many in the industry hold dear, and his passing reverberated across comics media and into the mainstream media. Unfortunately, the news reached the ears of Bill Maher, who responded to the passing of Stan Lee by criticizing comic books in a blog post. In it he says, “twenty years or so ago, something happened – adults decided they didn’t have to give up kid stuff. And so they pretended comic books were actually sophisticated literature.” He got a ton of backlash for the things he said, but his comments point back to a long-time struggle of comic artists and the industry: the struggle to be taken seriously. Something I had hoped was starting to seriously fizzle out, but apparently not. Continue reading

Waxing Philosophical: On the Fate of Those Who Can See Youkai

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I love stories about youkai, whether it be in anime or manga form. Mythology, especially that of Japan, has always been a huge interest for me, as you can probably tell from the plan for next month and my posts on the mythology of Ancient Magus Bride. Which also means that I’ve spent a lot of time watching all sorts of different shows that have youkai and reading different manga as well, and through that process, I’ve come to notice a few things.

There are some common threads throughout all youkai stories that seem to paint a picture, both troubling and hopeful, for those who have the ability to see youkai and spirits. For the purposes of this post I went through some of my favorite youkai anime and manga again, namely: Ancient Magus’ Bride, Kakuriyo: Bed and Breakfast for Spirits, XXXHolic, and Elegant Youkai Apartment Life. These shows may all focus on the interaction of human and youkai, but they are all also so different from one another in terms of mood, setting, and story. The aspects I found that seem to stay constant however are the background of main character, the kinds of interactions humans can have with youkai, and the impact seeing youkai has on human-to-human relationships. Continue reading

Waxing Philosophical: Piercings as a Form of Self-Harm in Horimiya

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I’ve been going back over and re-reading one of my favorite manga series the past couple weeks, Horimiya. It’s one that I feel has a lot of aspects that are both entertaining and make you think in certain ways, and this last read-through has gotten me thinking about the nature of self-harm. I’ve thought about it a little bit before in the context of this manga, but I figured this time I’d try and get some of my thoughts down on paper in a more concrete form. I know this might be a bit of stretch, but I feel like it makes sense in the context of the manga given the characters and story, so hear me out.

Horimiya is a romantic comedy manga that takes place in high school. It has your standard high school worries: making friends, keeping up appearances, romance troubles, and bullying. One of the main characters, Miyamura, has been ostracised from his classmates since childhood for looking gloomy and nerdy with his long hair, glasses, and quiet demeanor. People began to see him as this unapproachable otaku and thus began bullying him. It’s not until a chance meeting between him and the other main character, Hori, that we see another side to his character, one where he becomes a stylish man with dozens of piercings and tattoos. It’s an interesting juxtaposition that speaks to how people, especially young adolescents, manage public and private personas given the situation. But I think it also has another connotation given Miyamura’s history of bullying: self-harm.

Continue reading

Waxing Philosophical: The Benefits of Writing Fanfiction

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I wrote an article about a year ago when I was still writing for the (now defunct) Girls Like Comics website about the various things American publishers could learn from Doujinshi culture in Japan. I’ve been thinking about that article again, and how it talks about some of the benefits Japanese publishers saw in the distribution and creation of Doujinshi based on their titles. Lately, I’ve been getting sucked into reading a series that was a hug part of my high school life, a series of dark fantasy novels that pushed me into writing fanfiction during the craze that was Fanfiction.net. I found my brain returning to that state of mind, crafting new characters and scenarios that could work in this pre-established world. But my time studying creative writing in college constantly goes against these instincts, shouting that I could be writing my own characters, my own stories, that writing writing fanfiction is a waste of creative energy. 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

Waxing Philosophical: The Effects of Nostalgia

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I had to do some adulting today and didn’t have time to put together a full review, but I figured this was a good time to try something I’ve been thinking about for a few weeks. “Waxing Philosophical” will be short one-page musings, more like actual blog posts than what I usually write. Today, I wanted to think about how nostalgia is being utilized in the media industry, especially anime and manga. In the last year or so we’ve seen so many older shows popping back up with new content. Cardcaptors got a new season and manga 20 years after the series ended. Yu Yu Hakusho is getting a new OVA with their 25th anniversary box set. We also got a new season of Lupin III and League of Galactic Heroes with a new anime adaptation of the 90’s manga Banana Fish coming out in July. It seems like this is the time for resurrecting older shows. Continue reading