The History of Isekai

A reader called my attention to this, a history and discussion of the tropes typical of the slew of recent anime, following on the heels of Sword Art Online, that depict a gamer otaku getting thrown into another world that looks like a sword-and-sorcery RPG.

This is a bit outside this blog’s usual scope; I admit my knowledge of this particular genre is minimal, simply because my interests run more toward shoujo anime, whereas isekai typically has male protagonists and a male target audience. However, the video does link isekai to predecessors from the ’90s like Magic Knight Rayearth and Vision of Escaflowne, which typically featured schoolgirls getting thrown into fantasy settings. Not discussed, but probably also an important influence on the isekai genre are the RPG-inspired fantasies from yesteryear like Record of Lodoss War.

In the last third of the video, the narrator explains that many of the light novels that make up the sources of isekai fantasy got their starts as web publications, and after suggesting that the isekai genre is saturated, he argues that this is leading in turn to a rise of “pure” fantasy without inserted modern characters, of which he holds up Made in Abyss as a premier example.

For recent examples of “traditional” or “pure” fantasy, I would also point to the less hyped but respectable Chaika the Coffin Princess, which was a competently made, light novel-based anime series that was something like an old-school fantasy in the tradition of Discarded Princess (because it was in fact from the same author and the same studio).

I have to confess I still haven’t watched or read Made in Abyss, though it’s on my list.

Jon Del Arroz on Passive Anime Protagonists

On his blog, author Jon Del Arroz has some interesting comments on the passive, weak male protagonists who often star in anime high school rom-coms. Excuse me while I quote him at length:

I had an interesting discussion with a friend last night as we were digging far too deeply into anime. Almost every anime show (especially those set in a high school environment, which is the majority of them), have male protagonists that are your classic gamma male archetype. They are socially awkward, especially around women. When encountered with women they go into a crazed frenzy, female worship, nosebleeds, slapstick failings. We’re supposed to root for them to get the girl in spite of their failures. And sometimes we do, but we can’t help but wince every time they enter the scene with their female counterparts, who are usually far more composed and cooler than they are. Continue reading “Jon Del Arroz on Passive Anime Protagonists”

Jake and the Dynamo’s Epic Halloween Blowout Extravaganza, Part 3 (of 3)

Pumpkin, Spice, and Everything Nice! The magical girl Halloween showdown comes to its thrilling conclusion!

Featured image: “#PunkinDidNothingWrong” by Roffles Lowell

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Margherita stood by, biting her nails. Tears ran down her cheeks as she stared at all her boxes of ruined pizza. Her eyes flicked back between Jake and Magical Girl Punkin Spice.

“Please,” she pleaded. “Please, no more. Please don’t ruin any more food—”

In spite of the chilly night air, Jake felt sweat forming under his collar. He took another pull on his coffee, but then raised his hands and slowly backed away from Punkin. Her wand still pointed at his chest.

“Wait, hold on,” he said. “You don’t want me to get a taste for pumpkin spice—”

“Oh yes I do,” Punkin whispered. “I want everyone to know the joys of pumpkin spice!”

Jake chuckled nervously. “Look, I don’t know exactly how this kind of thing works, but I’m pretty sure pumpkin spice isn’t my thing. I mean, I’m a guy. I bet I’d have to have a lot more estrogen in my system before I could enjoy something like pumpkin spice—”

“I can take care of that,” Punkin hissed. Her wand trembled in her grasp. Continue reading “Jake and the Dynamo’s Epic Halloween Blowout Extravaganza, Part 3 (of 3)”

Jake and the Dynamo’s Epic Halloween Blowout Extravaganza, Part 2 (of 3)

It’s Halloween night, and a spicy new magical girl has her eye on Jake! Can he survive another magical battle? And can he survive the scourge of artificial pumpkin spice flavoring?

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Magical Girl Punkin Spice leapt lightly from her broomstick, which with a flash of light shrank into a small dust broom. she clipped it to her belt. Flipping her braided ponytail off her shoulder, she cocked her enormous pointed hat, and her bright blue eyes surveyed the scene. The other magical girls stood tense, and the normal humans slowly backed away. Over near the bubbling cauldron of cider, Pretty Dynamo rested a hand on the wand holstered at her side.

Jake shrugged and took another bite of his pizza. Margherita’s pizza was good when it was cold, too.

“You there!” Punkin at last shouted, jabbing a finger toward him. “What is this blasphemy?”

She marched his way. Jake merely raised an eyebrow and sucked up a wayward strand of mozzarella. “Excuse me?”

“Pizza?” Punkin Spice cried, shaking a fist. “You’re eating pizza on Halloween night?” Continue reading “Jake and the Dynamo’s Epic Halloween Blowout Extravaganza, Part 2 (of 3)”

Jake and the Dynamo’s Epic Halloween Blowout Extravaganza, Part 1 (of 3)

For the magical girls, it’s the most important night of the year, a night to renew their contracts with their familiars. But will a mysterious newcomer ruin their joyous celebrations?

Featured image”Magical Girl Punkin Spice” by Roffles Lowell.

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This night was unlike any other. A tension, a frisson of excitement hung in the air like that melancholy tingle of expectation before a thunderstorm. The entire city of Urbanopolis, that last refuge of beleaguered humanity, glowed with multicolored lights and resounded with music and chatter. On every stoop grinned a fiery Jack-o’-Lantern eerily flickering with candlelight. Children laughed and ran pell-mell down sidewalks, their boots or sandals slapping against the concrete. Or they gathered in timid clusters, clinging to the hands of longsuffering parents. They wore garish costumes, like fairy creatures arisen from some dark corner of a half-forgotten world: Here was a ghost, there a goblin, there a ballerina in pink lace. Hastily made outfits of cardboard and brown paper crackled and crinkled as their wearers clumsily walked. A few children shivered with cold. Others had, at the behest of nervous mothers, forced themselves into parkas before climbing into their costumes, so they were plump and round as pumpkins under their elaborate dress. The clear sky was black, a hint of frost clung to the air, and the last remaining leaves hung brown and blood red on the trees.

This was Halloween, the night of nights.

Continue reading “Jake and the Dynamo’s Epic Halloween Blowout Extravaganza, Part 1 (of 3)”

Happy International Cute Witch Day

Okay, I confess: I intended to have a JAKE AND THE DYNAMO short story ready to go for Halloween, but I have been so busy, I didn’t get it done. Perhaps it will appear later in the week, and you can enjoy it while eating the candy corn you picked up for fifty percent off out of the discount bin while you contemplate stuffing a rotten pumpkin into Mrs. Shushley’s mailbox because she gave you a toothbrush for Halloween instead of candy.

Halloween is, as you might expect, the most important day in the liturgical calendar of Urbanopolis, more important even than Walpurgisnacht (April 30) or the birthday of the Moon Princess (June 30). On Halloween, at midnight, it is the Witching Hour, when the girls’ power is at its greatest. At that hour, they customarily renew their oaths to their familiars and sign with fresh blood the contracts by which they have sold their souls.

It’s also a good time to pick up free junk food. Halloween is the one day of the year on which it is socially acceptable for children to take candy from strangers. Just don’t eat the apples; they contain razor blades. At least, that’s what my mom always said.

It’s also a good time to engage in disgustingly unhygienic pastimes like bobbing for apples. Do you realize you’ve indirectly kissed, like, the whole town when you play that game? That’s gross, dude. And you should’t be trying to catch apples in your mouth anyway—they contain razor blades.

Although I’d make an exception if the other players were ponies. It’s my lifelong dream to indirectly kiss a pony, though that’s not the kind of thing I’d admit to complete strangers on the Internet.

Hey, baby.

Um, where was I? Anyway, in honor of Halloween, have some images of cute witches:

Update 2: Cover Art

Today, I was discussing cover art for the Jake and the Dynamo novel. I don’t have a contract in hand, so it’s probably best I don’t give any specific details as of yet, but things are moving ahead. It appears that the book should be out sometime next year.

I have a big project looming, but my schedule will ease up a little after next weekend. The rest of today I’m planning to spend on a short story I want to submit to an anthology project.

The Briefest of Updates

I feel the need to apologize again for the lack of content. I’m moving into the final phase of my second-to-last term of school, so I’m naturally swamped with school work, plus I’m working two jobs.

I’m just stepping in to say that things appear to be slowly creeping forward on the book publication project, though it is still too early to give official details. I’ll keep you all posted. I’m going to be permanently indebted to L. Jagi Lamplighter, who’s gone above and beyond the call of duty to help this project, but she seems to be as enthusiastic about it as I am, if not moreso.

In other news, the second season of Miraculous Ladybug is finally underway … in Spain. I’m unsure yet when it reaches the U.S., but I intend to keep an eye out for it. Its first season was one of the greatest pleasures I’ve had watching television in a long while.

Also, when I can, I’m snatching occasional episodes of the second half of Sailor Moon S, which I will of course have to discuss when I’m finished.

James Rolf on the ‘Alien’ Franchise

James Rolf of Cinemassacre is reposting several monster movie reviews for Fall (or what I like to call “Pumpkin Spice Season”). His overview of the Alien franchise is entertaining and informative.

I always respect Rolf’s thoughtful reviews. I have a slightly better opinion than he does (and than most people do) of Alien 3, and I note that he doesn’t mention either the bizarre, disjointed sexual subtext of Alien, nor the dependence of Aliens on the Rambo movies, but this is nonetheless a thorough set of involved reviews. His discussion of the influence of Alien on video games such as Metroid, Xenophobe, and R-Type is interesting; certainly, the influence of its set and creature design is felt still today.

And I agree with him that Alien vs. Predator: Requiem totally sucks. I don’t remember why I even saw that, but I do remember it being my second worst experience in a theater, right after Pluto Nash.

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.