Grape-kun Is with Harambe Now

Waifus out for Grape-kun.

Okay, I admit I’d never heard of Grape-kun before yesterday, but all of a sudden, my social media timelines were full of him.

The handy website Know Your Meme breaks down the facts. Grape-kun was an elderly Humboldt penguin in the Tobu Zoo in Japan. For a while, the zoo had placed cardboard cutouts of characters from the manga and anime series Kemono Friends in the pens of various animals as an advertising gimmick. I’ve never seen Kemono Friends, but it is apparently yet another of the innumerable manga/anime about random objects anthropomorphized as little girls; in this case, the random objects are animals. The anime series is on Crunchyroll.

Anyway, the zoo placed an image of a character named Hululu, an anthropomorphized penguin, in the pen of Grape-kun. Thereafter, people noticed the penguin frequently staring at the image.

He’s probably wondering what happened to Hululu’s pants.

Naturally, people leapt to conclusions, and Goboiano reported on April 27 with the headline, “Japan Puts Anime in Zoo and Penguin Adopts a Waifu.”

Grape-kun died yesterday, October 12th. The zoo reported that the cut-out of Hululu was with Grape-kun through his final moments.

Four months ago, this comic showed up on the Internet. I’ve been unable to figure out if this is from the manga version of Kemono Friends, or if this is someone’s fan art, but either way, it is now relevant:

Rest in peace, Grape-kun.

#WaifuWednesday Special: Andalusia Trading Card is 50% Off!

On this Waifu Wednesday, are you alone? Are you lonely and miserable, sitting in your mom’s basement with your fedora askew on your unwashed hair as you scratch your unshorn neck and pick at your acne? Are your hot pockets tasteless, no longer satisfying? Does your anime character body pillow no longer comfort you as it once did? Do you wonder if this is all there is to life? Do you yearn for something more? Are you in need of a warrior dame named after an autonomous community of Spain to lift you out of your doldrums?

I think so. In fact, I know so.

That’s why, in honor of Waifu Wednesday, our one-of-a-kind Magical Girl Lady Paladin Andalusia trading cards are half off for one day only! Featuring Andalusia’s genuine signature and the professional photography of artist Roffles Lowell, this card depicts Andalusia in a striking yet sensitive pose, eyes humbly cast down as she thanks God and the Moon Princess for her latest victory over monsters and Saracens … or maybe she’s just thinking about the Backdoor Boys, because, I mean, Donnie in those tight jeans? Like, OMP.

So don’t delay. Shut up and let me take your money … or something like that.

Movie Review: ‘My Little Pony: The Movie’

Possibly the best thing ever to come out of the My Little Pony franchise.

My Little Pony: The Movie. Directed by Jayson Thiessen. Written by Joe Ballarini, Meghan McCarthy, Rita Hsiao, and Michael Vogel. Lionsgate and Allspark Pictures, 2017. 99 minutes. Rated PG. CNS Rating is A-I, General Patronage.

As I expected, critics are panning it, and it might turn out that My Little Pony: The Movie will prove to be a financial mistake for Hasbro and Lionsgate.

That being said, I honestly don’t know what the complaints are about. I thought this was a great movie. My only (mild) criticisms are that none of the musical numbers are among the franchise’s catchiest, and some of the animation could be better, but aside from that, this is a fine, if not exactly stunning, children’s film. Looking at a few of the negative reviews, I get the distinct impression that the critics are turning up their noses not because it’s a bad movie per se, but simply because it’s My Little Pony.

However, in my humble opinion, this may be the best thing ever to come out of the franchise. I daresay this is the first time My Little Pony has come close to living up to its potential.

G4’s central cast, from left to right: Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, Twilight Sparkle, Spike, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, and Applejack.

Continue reading “Movie Review: ‘My Little Pony: The Movie’”

Comic Book Review: ‘Cleopatra in Space’

“But why are they in space? There’s no reason for them to be in space!”

Cleopatra in Space, written and illustrated by Mike Maihack. 3 vols. New York: Scholastic, 2014-2016.

We have before us a highly entertaining space opera swashbuckler aimed at a younger audience but also suitable for adults.

Author and illustrator Mike Maihack has worked on several different comics projects, including the webcomic Cow and Buffalo. He also produced an earlier webcomic version of the present story under the more facetious title of Cleopatra in SPAAAACE, which he halted abruptly in order to reimagine Cleopatra’s tale as a series of graphic novels, published through Scholastic’s Graphix Imprint. The stories of the graphic novels and webcomic differ in some details and do not overlap.

The series currently stands at four volumes, the fourth having released recently this year. I am here discussing only the first three, which are all I’ve got my hands on so far.

Continue reading “Comic Book Review: ‘Cleopatra in Space’”

Bad Signs for the ‘My Little Pony’ Movie

The above image is screencapped from Rotten Tomatoes. At the time of this writing, My Little Pony: The Movie has no critical reviews, which means they’re withholding it from critics.

It’s also opening the same weekend as Blade Runner. They don’t have exactly the same target audience, but still.

I smell a bomb.

‘Miraculous Ladybug’ Season 2 Official Trailer

The official trailer for the long-awaited second season of the French CGI magical girl series Miraculous has made its appearance just today. It’s a silent montage with accompanying music. Based on what we see here, season 2 will likely follow the pattern of season 1—which would be a good thing, as season 1 was enormously entertaining, if formulaic.

Rumors have been going around for a long while that additional superheroes will appear in the second season: particularly, Internet legend has it that Marinette’s bestie Alya will acquire the fox miraculous and that her enemy Chloé will acquire the bee miraculous. There’s no evidence of such a thing in the trailer; it may be rumor, an early idea that got nixed, or something they’re still planning but decided to leave out of the preview. But the symbols on that little box, suggest, at any rate, that more superheroes should be making an appearance.

Excerpts from the Rag & Muffin Lexicon

Acharya: Master, guru.

Alta: A red dye used to paint the edges of a woman’s feet during some religious ceremonies.

Angithi: A brazier made from a clay-lined container in which coals or other fuels are placed.

Antavasin: Pupil, student.

Arx Ciceronis: A large, walled fortress on Godtown’s west end. Home of the city’s more well-to-do Elysian expatriates.

Drug Doll: Slang, a disparaging term for a HYBRID.

Elysian Empire: A resurrected Roman Empire ruling approximately half the globe. The Elysian Empire formed out of the Holy League following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Lepanto, but did not attain worldwide significance until the late eighteenth century.

Heaven Seed: A potent entheogen produced in a gland attached to the visual cortex of a HYBRID.

Hybrid: One who is half human and half MARJARA. Hybrids are always female and have a maximum lifespan of approximately sixteen years. Frequently installed in temples as KUMARIS.

Kumari: Literally, “virgin.” A polite form of address for an unmarried girl or woman, equivalent to “Miss” in English. Alternatively, a HYBRID installed in a temple as a living goddess. Alternatively, a specific goddess, Kanya Kumari.

Lakh: A hundred thousand.

Marjara: Earth’s second sapient race besides the human. Unlike a human, who has an “invisible caste,” a marjara has distinct physical traits determined by his VARNA and JATI.

Paan: a stimulant created from a combination of betel leaf and areca nut. Produces a characteristic orange stain in the mouth.

Pishacha: A shapeshifting demon that haunts cremation grounds and feeds on the living.

Runearmor: An armor suit created with RUNETECH. Its operator must be temporarily dead in order to communicate with the unclean spirits trapped in the suit’s runes.

Sammohana: The power of a HYBRID to deliver mystical visions via her eyes.

Seed Sucker: Slang, a criminal who extracts HEAVEN SEED from HYBRIDS.

Skull-bit: A drill used to penetrate the back of a HYBRID’s skull to reach her HEAVEN SEED gland.

Tuaoi Stone: A magical crystal. Tuaoi Stones are found primarily in the Vindhya Mountains west of Godtown. They are vital in both YOGA and RUNETECH.

Varna: “Color.” The varnas are the four major caste groupings into which marjaras and humans traditionally fall: BRAHMIN, KSHATRIYA, VAISHYA, or SUDRA. The corresponding colors are white, red, yellow, and black, respectively.

R&M Begins!

I haven’t had much time to post lately, but I will step into say that, now that the first volume of Jake and the Dynamo is out of my hands, my next project is to roll up my sleeves and put Rag & Muffin into a form that is presentable.

I’ve learned a lot about the craft since I started this project an embarrassing number of years ago, so I think it is finally time to get it shipshape. To that end, I’ve dusted off my copy of the Hobson-Jobson and begun to re-immerse myself in the seedy, dirty world of Indian dungeonpunk I first conceived of … well, a long time ago.

Fortunately, at some point, I had the foresight to attach a rather extensive glossary to the existing draft. That’s good, because I’ve forgotten half the words I’d discovered or made up for this thing. Following the lead of Rudyard Kipling, I never give the native language’s name, but most of it is Hindi with a smattering of Sanskrit and the Hindi-English slang sometimes called Hinglish.

The Origins of Superheroes (and Magical Girls)

This is showing up on blogs I frequent, and I think it’s relevant here. Alexander Macris has divided superhero origin stories into three types:

1. Ordinary person accidentally becomes extraordinary through chance.
2. Determined person becomes extraordinary through dedication and will.
3. A person born with extraordinary gifts lives up to his birthright.

 He describes these three origin stories as “proletariat, bourgeoise, and aristocratic.” The examples he gives are interesting but not unassailable. For example, he holds Superman to be “aristocratic,” since he has superpowers on account of being an alien, but Superman is also a farm boy who learned values of honesty, honor, and hard work before moving to the big city, which would put him more-or-less into the “bourgeoise” category—and yet calling a farm boy “bourgeoise” sounds decidedly strange.

I wanted to add a fourth type of origin story, but John C. Wright beat me to it:

4. Ordinary person is selected to become extraordinary through the intervention of a higher power.

This is the origin story typical of magical girl warriors. Generally, they are ordinary schoolgirls selected by talking animals from space or from fairyland. They are frequently reluctant and would rather be ordinary girls, though there are exceptions.

Even those of the “deconstructive” brand of magical girl fall mostly into this category: Phantom Thief Jeanne, Revolutionary Girl Utena, Princess Tutu, and the girls of Magical Girl Raising Project are all selected by godlike powers, and even Madoka is harassed into a Faustian bargain, which is almost but not quite the same thing. What makes these girls different is simply that the powers who’ve selected them turn out to be infernal rather than higher.

By contrast, the typical cute witch falls into Macris’s third category: cute witches usually come to Earth from space or from fairyland and use their powers to help mankind.

Of course, some titles will change things up. Some magical girl warriors are also cute witches from fairyland, such as the Fairy Musketeers. And Sailor Moon falls into both categories, since she is an ordinary schoolgirl who receives her powers from a talking cat, but is also a reincarnated space princess and rightful ruler of the Solar System.

It Is Finished.

I have just put the last touches on the final draft of Jake and the Dynamo. It took me longer than it should have, admittedly, partly because of some procrastination.

After I made all the major alterations Lamplighter requested, I went back through the entire thing to make sure it flowed smoothly and that the new additions didn’t introduce any problems. While I was at it, I took the opportunity to improve several word choices, remove some wayward commas, and fix a few previously undiscovered typos. Three days and half a bottle of bourbon later, I’m satisfied that it’s reasonably well polished.

The process was painful, but it is, after all, my first novel, so I hope I can be more efficient in the future. Maybe I should go cry into a bowl of noodles like that chick in Whispers of the Heart or something.

Anyhow, it so happens that I have also got all of Roffles Lowell’s illustrations. He apologized for being tardy, but from my point of view, his timing was impeccable, as he finished at the same time I did.

I’ve a lot of other things going on. I’m back in school, of course, and I’ve kind of been letting my studies slide while I’ve been finishing this up. Also, I just picked up a new job directly relevant to my educational training, so that’s exciting.

As busy as I am, I can’t promise that posting here will become more regular, at least for a few days. But the book, at least, can go sit on someone else’s desk instead of mine. That’s a relief.