Been looking for art I can slap on the eyecatch of each chapter of the current, ongoing Rag & Muffin story, and I ran across some really cool pictures, but I’m not linking them because the website I found them on looks kinda sketchy and I’m pretty sure they’re not original anyway.

It’s amazing I haven’t killed my computer with a billion viruses, what with all these image files I download.

Anyway, in my hunt for vaguely R&M-like art, I found the above picture, which I quite like. Since I don’t know where it originally comes from, I dub it, “Lady Jeanne on patrol.” It actually would look about right for that, except for the snow.

Will Kill for Money, Part 2 (of 4)

From the Casefiles of the Ragamuffin

Featured image unidentified.


The home base of the Ragtag Army was the rococo parlor, decorated in the French taste, of Rags’s Victorian mansion high in the Arx Ciceronis. Having carted her favorite chair back from the godown in Godtown’s seedy east end to its accustomed place beside her round-topped fireplace, Rags was once again settled in its depths, idly wiggling her feet and pretending to peruse a dog-eared copy of Little Women. Muffin lay at her feet. Across from her, in a comparatively uncomfortable but more fashionable Louis XV chair, Suzie, the team’s radio operator, perused a picture book with a teddy bear tucked under her left arm. She looked bored.

In the middle of the room, sitting cross-legged on the floor with a blindfold over her eyes and a sheet spread before her, the tall and spindly Alex Taliaferro attempted to reassemble her M249 squad automatic weapon, a task at which she was failing miserably.

Nicky and Jeanne strode in through the double French doors. With them was the straight-backed Ryuji Fujiyoshi, who, at the age of sixteen, was the “old man” of the team. Clinging to his hand was his six-year-old sister Rika, whom everyone called Popkin.

Just as they entered, Alex threw up her hands and shouted, “Where in Jahannam is the gods-damned return spring?” Continue reading “Will Kill for Money, Part 2 (of 4)”

Will Kill for Money, Part 1 (of 4)

From the Casefiles of the Ragamuffin

Featured image unidentified, unfortunately.

This is a story I wrote as a test of a new character for the Rag & Muffin universe. It’s rather long, so I’ve divided it up. I’m not entirely sure what to do with it.

Just for the record, and for fair warning, R&M has content a bit harsher than what appears in Jake and the Dynamo.


Edmund Hilscher’s physical bulk was enough to intimidate most people, and his keen mind and boundless energy were enough to intimidate the rest. With heavy jowls and shoulders a full meter across, he got what he wanted by getting in people’s faces—and sometimes by beating those faces in. In Prussia, he had been notoriously brutal in underground boxing before a mob offered him a lot of money to become a heavy. Five years of thuggery and a lot of ill-gotten coin later, he had left his boss with a slit belly and made his way to the ancient, sleaze-ridden temple city of Godtown. There, he carved out his personal empire in the heroin and opium trade.

He scared people. He counted on his ability to scare people.

But, standing in the monsoon rain late at night outside a rust-coated warehouse down by the docks, he knew he could not scare the people he was about to meet. He’d heard the rumors, and unlike the criminals who had learned better only when it was too late, he chose to believe them.

He couldn’t afford not to. Continue reading “Will Kill for Money, Part 1 (of 4)”

Nanami Takes Over: The ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ Rewatch, Part 6

Meanwhile, in an unrelated subplot …

The bird is fighting its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Whoever wishes to be born must destroy a world. The bird is flying to God. The god is named Abraxas.

—Herman Hesse, Demian

Revolutionary Girl Utena, episode 6: “Take Care, Miss Nanami!” Directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara. Character designs by Chiho Saito. Be-Papas, 1997 (Nozomi Entertainment, 2011). Approx. 24 minutes. Rated “16+.”

Watch for free here.


A reader helpfully points out that Nozomi Entertainment has uploaded Revolutionary Girl Utena to YouTube. When I first started this series of essays, I named some places you can acquire the show, but I didn’t think to check YouTube. I tend to forget that not all videos there are pirated.


Anyway, I am continuing to watch the series from my enormously expensive collector’s edition DVD set, which is as luxurious and decadent as the anime it contains. But if you’d like to watch along with me without investing so much cash, you can now see the dub, free and legal, online. I’ll be posting the link to the YouTube video under the episode credits from now on.

Now with more images from Utena: Texts from Last Night.

This same reader makes an interesting comment:

On principle I object to stories that use symbolism as an excuse for ridiculous, poor, or perverse writing. If a story cannot stand up as an independent narrative it has no business obfuscating its shortcomings with allegories and parables. Art naturally embodies some aspect of reality. Every piece symbolizes something. Better that your symbols should be simple rather than convoluted.

Intricate meta-narratives can become great rewards for those who are apt to analyzing them, but the primary plot ought not to suffer for their sake. I shouldn’t need an essay to understand your unpainted canvas, and I should not need a documentary-length series of videos to understand what happened during End of Evangelion.

I’ve only seen up to episode eleven of Revolutionary Girl Utena, but those episodes do hold up as a narrative, despite some remarkable plot contrivances. I’m afraid to finish the series, unfortunately, since I suspect the train will drift off the rails as the series nears its end.

His opinion is similar to mine. I’m typically unimpressed with stories that use opacity to create the illusion of depth.

Some years ago, I loaned my set of Neon Genesis Evangelion to a friend who happened to be studying feng shui. She later contacted me excitedly to tell me that one of the characters in the show had objects on her desk arranged in such a way as to represent, symbolically, the characters’ interpersonal relationships. This is something I, and probably a lot of viewers, never would have picked up on, and that’s fine. I certainly don’t mind storytellers throwing in some esoterica like that. It can lend a story a certain richness even if it goes over most people’s heads.

But that is no excuse for failing to present a coherent narrative. Evangelion is rich with imaginative imagery, but it never gets down to the business of explaining basic elements of its plot, such as what Lilith is, or what the Lance of Longinus is, or what the hell is going on. Partly, it suffered because the creators didn’t husband their meager resources, choosing to blow their wad on boob jiggle in the early episodes so they had to subject us to torturous still frames in the later ones, like that infamous minutes-long elevator ride, or that nightstand. (Sweet Madoka, the nightstand! If I never again hear a dialogue about creative places to insert pills, I can die a happy man.) But even more than that, Evangelion suffered because director Hideaki Anno gave up on storytelling and turned the show into his personal psychotherapy session.

I stated in the beginning that Revolutionary Girl Utena out-Evangelions Evangelion, partly because it handles Evangelion‘s themes and postmodern techniques much more competently, but also because it accomplishes something Evangelion flubbed: It has a coherent plot with a beginning, middle, and end. That’s not to say that some parts aren’t opaque or that there aren’t unresolved plot threads, or that the show isn’t decidedly undisciplined. It’s definitely not perfect. But it has an intelligible storyline, and it manages to conserve its puny budget enough that it resorts to relatively few painful animation shortcuts.

Evangelion attempted something it couldn’t quite pull off. Building on that, Utena successfully pulls it off, albeit in haphazard fashion. I might also add that Princess Tutu, usually considered Utena’s spiritual successor, uses the same techniques, but employs them in a much more disciplined manner and entirely avoids the pitfalls of its predecessors. Continue reading “Nanami Takes Over: The ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ Rewatch, Part 6”

Art, Now with More Pony

Featured image: “Innocence” by LimreiArt.

Probably past time we had some ponies around here. I was a Brony for a few years, and I was really into it. I was collecting toys, comics, books … I became what we might call a “story completist.” I wasn’t interested in acquiring all the merchandise I could, but I wanted anything that resembled a canonical narrative thread, and I was trying to piece it all together into a coherent world.

It’s a funny thing about My Little Pony: it seems to drive certain sorts of guys to obsessive worldbuilding.

Anyway, I ultimately burned out and returned to my first love, which of course is magical girl anime. It’s now been a few years since I’ve even looked at the MLP franchise. Still, I wouldn’t mind getting back into it in a more casual fashion, especially since it has its own magical girl spinoff, Equestria Girls.

I wanted to write another review tonight, but I had a paper to edit and turn in instead. I should find time for more reviews later in the week.


Support Your Local Jon Del Arroz

A few weeks ago, on the alternative social media site Gab (follow me), I happened to run into sf author Jon Del Arroz.

He is the author of the space opera Star Realms: Rescue Run and the new steampunk novel For Steam and Country. This second title is the first full-length novel from Superversive Press, according to John C. Wright.

Turns out he knows a little something about shoujo anime, so we bonded over our mutual love of Revolutionary Girl Utena and contempt for Cardcaptor Sakura, and I introduced him to Princess Tutu. He contacted me after a few episodes to tell me he was hooked. Seemed like a nice guy. Buy his books.

Del Arroz, however, is guilty of wrongthink. I’m not sure I have all the details, but Mike Glyer, the editor of the fanzine File 770, which has over fifty (!) Hugo award nominations, has apparently obsessed over him somewhat. Del Arroz does indeed seem to be featured on File 770 an awful lot for a guy with two novels. I’m gonna have to get tips from Del Arroz on self-promotion. Continue reading “Support Your Local Jon Del Arroz”

Musical Madness II: The ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ Rewatch, Part 5

Things continue getting freaky!

The bird is fighting its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Whoever wishes to be born must destroy a world. The bird is flying to God. The god is named Abraxas.

—Herman Hesse, Demian

Revolutionary Girl Utena, episode 5: “The Sunlit Garden – Finale.” Directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara. Character designs by Chiho Saito. Be-Papas, 1997 (Nozomi Entertainment, 2011). Approx. 24 minutes. Rated “16+.”


Although the main plot of this show still eludes us (and will continue to do so until the third and final arc), this fifth episode represents a sea change in Revolutionary Girl Utena because it is the first episode to reveal what we’re really in for.

In the episode previous, we met Miki, another member of the student council. A mere middle school freshman, Miki is a child prodigy, a highly skilled fencer, pianist, and math student. He also has the hots for Anthy, whom he calls his “shining thing.”

Miki fencing with Juri.

Continue reading “Musical Madness II: The ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ Rewatch, Part 5”

Musical Madness: The ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ Rewatch, Part 4

Things start to get freaky!

The bird is fighting its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Whoever wishes to be born must destroy a world. The bird is flying to God. The god is named Abraxas.

—Herman Hesse, Demian

Revolutionary Girl Utena, episode 4: “The Sunlit Garden – Prelude.” Directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara. Character designs by Chiho Saito. Be-Papas, 1997 (Nozomi Entertainment, 2011). Approx. 24 minutes. Rated “16+.”


Yeesh, haven’t done one of these in a while. My schedule these days is packed, but it occurs to me that I might be able to do so much as watch a single episode of a beloved anime on a semi-daily basis and discuss the same, so I’ve decided to continue our series on Revolutionary Girl Utena, the ultimate in LSD-fueled self-important mahou shoujo anime. Once again, I find myself sitting up late at night with one hand around a Captain Morgan Cannonblast and another hand hovering over the Print Screen button.

I have got to change my life.

Anyway, yes, it is indeed time once again to explore Revolutionary Girl Utena.

Yeah, I bet you’d like to explore Utena.

Continue reading “Musical Madness: The ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ Rewatch, Part 4”

Senpai Noticed Me!

Kai Wai Cheah, author of the military dungeonpunk extravaganza No Gods, Only Daimons, who happens to be in my writers’ group, was kind enough to point out that deus ex magical girl has been featured on the Hugo-nominated Castalia House Blog, which is the official organ of an indie publishing house that has become an eclectic haven for talented authors who’ve run afoul of the sf genre’s current political climate.

Blogger Rawle Nyanzi, author of “The Teenage Girl’s Robot Army,” gives your humble host a glowing review:

The Deus Ex Magical Girl blog goes in depth with the series it analyzes, teasing out major themes in what appear to be saccharine children’s entertainment. For example, take a look at this review of Shugo Chara — it’s a thing of beauty and the very post that made me see that this blogger knew his stuff. However, that is not the only good content he has; he also does a masterful job pointing out major problems with another series called Cardcaptor Sakura — according to him, the show is popular with lolicons even though it has no sexualized content.

Not content to criticize from the sidelines, the blogger has also written a magical girl novel called Jake and the Dynamo, which can be read here as of this posting. I haven’t read past the first chapter since it’s not my cup of tea, but I’m sure someone else might like it.

Unfortunately, Mr. Nyanzi has caught me at a bad time. I’m currently trying to acquire a master’s degree at twice the normal pace while simultaneously holding down a job, so my blogging endeavors (as well as my magical girl anime-watching) are temporarily stalled out.

However, I was toying with the idea of begging the Castalia House Blog to let me write a guest post, and it also crossed my mind to submit Jake and the Dynamo for possible publication. I had shied away from these ideas mostly because I assumed my particular interests would not appeal to Castalia House’s core demographic. As Mr. Nyanzi notes, he could only get through my first chapter.

Still, it might be worth a shot.