Survival of the Weakest in Attack on Titan Dec15

Survival of the Weakest in Attack on Titan...

Forget the proverbial answer to the universe hidden in the Yeager family basement; I’m more curious about the T-rex in Season Two’s opening cinematic. Whether as a reimagining or reflection of the real world, Attack on Titan’s Germanic culture and firearms place it firmly in postdiluvian days, despite all those giants on the earth. Aside from the military’s trusty steeds, little more than an occasional forest creature dares to show its face betwixt all the blood and brimstone. But when a T-rex literally comes marching over the horizon in Season Two’s intro, I’m completely pulled out of my deadlocked immersion, brain scrambling to make sense of this world-building idiosyncrasy. True strength, as Attack on Titan echoes through Marco Bodt, is “knowing what it is to be weak.” As the “king of the tyrant lizards” tramples over waves of ant-like human armies, accompanied by the show’s intense theme music, it becomes symbolic shorthand for misconstrued social Darwinism: survival of the strongest. The Beast Titan leads the dinosaur, along with a herd of other assorted creatures (each the largest species of their respective animal kingdoms), becoming an icon of unchallenged rule—as the most ruthless, most powerful, and most intelligent of his kind. With his nearly human, ape-like features, the Beast Titan poses as the missing link between monkey and man. And in a world where what it means to be human is the oft-posed, existential question, this makes him even more terrifying as Season Two’s archvillain. “Strength preys on weakness. It’s a very straightforward arrangement actually,” Armin introspects, likening local bullies to the cannibalistic titans that keep humanity trapped within a walled city. From the moment Eren watches his mother get eaten alive because he isn’t physically strong enough to lift a house off of her,...

RWBY’s Yang: Shaping Identity from Disaster Jun28

RWBY’s Yang: Shaping Identity from Disaster

“Death feels like a roller coaster,” I remember thinking during a heart-stopped moment. I had rushed out the door, ten minutes late to a Master’s class, brushed off my mom’s hug—too busy to waste three more seconds—and sped out of the driveway with speakers blazing. A few minutes later, the car in front of me stopped—a bit too quickly. I ground to a halt behind it. An instinctive glance in my rearview mirror revealed an F250 twice as tall as my little Buick Century barreling toward me. I tore my gaze away from the mirror, determined to ignore the impending disaster. I thought, “It’ll be fine. Bad things only happen to other people—!” A sonic boom exploded inside my car. Howard Shore cut off mid-crescendo. My seat hit the floorboard, then threw me against the steering wheel, along with a rain of glass. The moment the world stood still again, I forced my jammed door open with a kick fueled by adrenaline. Taking stock of myself for injuries, I realized I was fine. Everyone else involved in the accident was fine too. The next day, I drove to college, just a little more cautiously than usual. Whimsically reflecting on the harrowing incident as I headed for class, I made myself laugh at the way I had been worried about the wreck ruining my “cosplay face” and how my old “Tank” had remained true to its namesake to the very end. It’s easy to get comfortable wearing the blinders of guilt and fear. Then someone nearby slammed a bathroom door. Hard. In the space of a blink, I saw that F250 racing up behind me at 45mph, felt the blood rush to my gut in panic while euphoric vertigo flipped me heels-over-head, and heard a crash like a mountain collapsing in my ears. At the time, I had no idea it would be my only flashback of the incident, just that it was my first. And that worried me. In RWBY Season 4, Yang has a similar experience when she accidentally shatters a glass, triggering a traumatic flashback from the Season 3 finale. Unlike the other three members of her war-torn team, Yang’s developmental arc features no physical fights with fanged monstrosities or deadly assassins. Hers is a battle of the mind, where suddenly her reliable fists hold no sway—largely, because she’s lost one of them to a villain’s blade. I’ve always related to Yang’s tomboyish mannerisms and physical strength, but especially to her golden optimism. She powers through every setback on a smirk and a glimpse of a better tomorrow. In Season 4, though, as Yang idles away in front of the TV and numbly occupy herself with chores, it’s clear that she can’t see a moment beyond her next footstep. “Sometimes bad things just happen,” Yang tells her sister, in an excuse to keep unbearable blame from crushing her broken spirit further. No doubt Yang replays the fatal fight in her mind, wondering if a moment’s thoughtful preparation (or even running away like her best friend Blake) could have helped her survive the battle unscathed. It’s a trap I found myself looped into for days after the wreck—wondering if I could have avoided it if I hadn’t looked down from my mirror like a coward. Yang’s understated anger is all that keeps her moving during her steep depression, and her excuses are the fuel it thrives on. Even when gifted a priceless prosthetic arm of cutting edge technology, Yang refuses to accept it and move forward. “I lost a part of me. A part of me is gone, and it’s never coming back,” she finally tells her father. While Yang’s arm had been replaced, her security was gone. Similarly, I didn’t feel safe behind the wheel of a car anymore; I lost the confidence I had that the next truck to pull up behind me would stop short,...

7 Anime Characters You Never Knew Were Influenced by Christianity Jun02

7 Anime Characters You Never Knew Were Influenced by Christianity...

Fun fact: Only 0.1% of Japan’s population practices Christianity… which makes anime’s fascination with messianic imagery (Evangelion), creepy-cool crosses (Death Note), and kick-butt clergy (Trigun) a bit of a head-scratcher. Though often used as symbolic short-hand or “occult” aesthetic, Christianity’s influence on anime characters sometimes runs deeper than wearing a cross or practicing a pseudo-fantasy variant of the real-world religion (that probably involves vampire-hunting). Looking beyond the obvious examples (such as Kirei Kotomine from Fate/Zero and Rosette Christopher from Chrono Crusade), here are seven anime and manga characters you didn’t know were directly influenced by Christianity during development (and beyond). 1. Mihael “Mello” Keehl, Death Note Bearing a Slavic name synonymous with the archangel Michael’s, Mello decks out his attire (gun included) with crosses, wears a rosary, and keeps statues of Mary and Christ in his hideout (but only in the original manga, where his implied Catholic faith went uncensored). What truly sets Mello apart, however, is the stubborn distinction he makes between the “Almighty” Christian God and shinigami “gods” amidst a nihilistic narrative where most don’t believe his God exists. This insight deepens Mello’s characterization as a rebel determined to spite the ways of the world—far past the point of reason. “I hardly need to remind the reader about the epic battle between the century’s greatest detective, L, and that grotesque murderer, Kira. Looking back, I can only surmise that the gods [shinigami] smiled on Kira for their own vain amusement. Perhaps these gods actually wanted a blood-soaked world of betrayal and false accusation. Perhaps the entire episode exists as a lesson to teach us the difference between the Almighty and the shinigami.” – Mello, in his self-authored light novel, Death Note: Another Note 2. Rin Tohsaka, Fate/Stay Night At a glance, the...

Meet the Geekdom House Staff: Kyle Rudge May03

Meet the Geekdom House Staff: Kyle Rudge...

Who are the people behind Geekdom House and what do they do? You well might ask, but question no longer, because Casey Covel has gone deep into the trenches to determine who we are and what you need to know. Today’s biography and nerd-cred heavy questions are all about our Admiral and Founder, Kyle Rudge. As though by prophetic destiny, Kyle always knew it was his mission to minister to the often-misunderstood and belittled geek culture. Geekdom House and its special features are largely inspired by key events that took place in Kyle’s backstory. An impromptu sing-along of “Hero of Canton” during a pre-screening of Serenity opened Kyle’s eyes to how geek culture is used to create community, as small pockets of chatting friends dissolved and the entire theater evolved into one large friend group. This “eureka moment” led to the establishment of Geekdom House’s Wandering Minstrels choir. With community at the forefront of his legendary quest, Kyle wields the power of facilitation—the ability to create conversation involving all walks of life, bringing out others’ beliefs, values, and personal stories for discussion and growth. “The medium is the message” is the mantra on Kyle’s proverbial standard, and it’s most apparent during Geekdom House Live! nights, where what is said is never as important as how it is said. With the Deity of all Creativity behind him, Kyle sees no reason why he and others who practice the Christian faith can’t step up their creativity game and contribute something meaningful and unique to the geek culture. Kyle is a self-proclaimed jack-of-all-trades. His resume is littered with more details than the Marauder’s Map—collaborating with music artists, owning a web and media company, hosting a radio station, acting as an air traffic controller, working with national non-profits…...

Meet the Geekdom House Staff: Allison Barron Apr26

Meet the Geekdom House Staff: Allison Barron...

Who are the people behind Geekdom House and what do they do? You well might ask, but question no longer, because Casey Covel has gone deep into the trenches to determine who we are and what you need to know. Today’s biography and nerd-cred heavy questions are all about our General Manager and Executive Editor, Allison Barron. Like many unassuming heroines, Allison was born in a tiny town (in Ontario) as the youngest of four siblings. She grew up gaining HP and MP from her loving parents and a steady diet of Terry Brooks, C.S. Lewis, Robert Jordan, Myst, Warcraft, and those The Lord of the Rings cartoons from the 1970s. Allison lived life as a “closet geek” during most of her backstory, but only because her friends weren’t interested in video games. Then, in an epic plot twist, her best friend married a nerd, and the LAN parties began… With all 20 of her Heart Containers filled with love for the arts and its practitioners, Allison expresses her passionate creativity though as many artistic mediums as possible, though she ultimately chose to pursue writing as a career. She was first recruited into Geekdom House by Admiral Kyle Rudge, who was looking for someone to share in an adventure that he was arranging. Hooked from the moment she heard the words “Firefly Bible study” and “geeky nonprofit that supports the arts,” Allison soon found herself running a magazine, co-hosting a podcast about The Lord of the Rings, meeting artists, singing alto in a geeky choir, attending comic conventions, speaking at churches, and painting miniatures for RPGs. For Allison, though, the real dropped loot is found in supporting, rewarding, and appreciating her fellow artists—writers, painters, podcasters, singers, dancers, and actors. As the wielder of the Triforce of...

Meet the Geekdom House Staff: Jason Dueck Apr19

Meet the Geekdom House Staff: Jason Dueck...

Who are the people behind Geekdom House and what do they do? You well might ask, but question no longer, because Casey Covel has gone deep into the trenches to determine who we are and what you need to know. Today’s biography and nerd-cred heavy questions are all about our Infinity +1 Producer, Jason Dueck. A Muggleborn of sorts, Jason was born a geek into a non-geeky family and grew up in a small town with a population level of over four thousaaaaaaand—! A fan of Star Wars, Redwall, and other geekery before it was cool, Jason’s experiences led him to connect the once-persecuted geek culture with his Christian faith and realize that the two groups had much more in common than just an ability to embrace the fantastical and supernatural. The rest, as they say, is history. Jason began his hero’s journey in the Creative Communications Program at Red River College, where he pursued Journalism. In order to complete an independent professional project for his degree, Jason interned at Geekdom House as a staff writer, only to discover that his passion for discourse could be more fully realized through audio. Thus did Jason pitch the Infinity +1 Podcast to Geekdom House and fulfill a lifelong dream to host his own podcast, all in one fell swoop. Legend says that Jason consumes no less than ten different podcasts per week to fuel his next brainchild. As a part of Geekdom House’s Triforce, Jason wields the power of Conversation, driven by a passion to reexamine what he believes about faith and fiction through deep discussions with others. We have, from a respected source, that the closest Jason has ever come to fangirling is when James Arnold Taylor recorded an intro for the Infinity +1 Podcast...

42 Ways to Say “I Love You” in Geek Feb10

42 Ways to Say “I Love You” in Geek...

It’s the time of year for Love Potions, Heart Pieces, and those three magical words. (No, I’m not talking about “Use the Force” or “Beam me up.”) Whether you’re looking for a geeky way to ask your date out to a video game symphony, or planning to print your affections on a Luvdisc-shaped Valentine’s card, here are 42 ways to say “I love you” in Geek. (Why 42? Because it’s the answer to all mysteries in the universe, of course. And love may be the greatest mystery of them all.) 1. If you were a starter Pokémon, I’d choose you. 2. Are you a fairy? Because you fill all my heart containers. 3. All my base are belong to you. 4. I’d travel there and back again for you. 5. You’re my final fantasy. 6. I’d take an arrow to the knee for you. 7. I-it’s not like a l-like you or a-anything… b-baka—! 8. Be my Beka/Faye/Vincent Valentine. 9. Ruby is red, Neptune is blue, hope I get put on the same team as you. 10. You’re the hero Gotham deserves, and the one I need right now. 11. When I looked in the Mirror of Erised, I saw you. 12. You’re my precious. 13. SoH Dughajbe’bogh jaj rur Hov ghajbe’bogh ram. 14. Hello, Sweetie. 15. You are the center of my mind palace. 16. I know. 17. I’d volunteer as your tribute. 18. You were expecting Dio, but it was me—your Valentine! 19. Without you, who else will I have ice cream with? 20. With you, my life is 20% cooler. 21. *Wookie sounds* 22. You’re my player 2. 23. You fill me with determination. 24. Like a Headcrab, you’re always on my mind. 25. You’re the arc reactor to my heart....

Anime Plots Badly Described Jan20

Anime Plots Badly Described...

Your friend finally asks you the most dreadfully exciting question in the entire world: “What’s [insert your favorite anime title—possibly mispronounced] about?” Like a would-be author suddenly faced with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pitch the publishing company of her dreams, you have about 15 seconds to sell your curious questioner on the most sugoi anime ever (potentially, their first anime ever). This could be their gateway to the medium—the beginning of their lifelong pursuit of all things otaku; the beginning of feels and final forms and chimera memes…! No pressure, right? You could recite the plot synopsis that you memorized from the back of your Blu-ray collector’s edition box set… or you could give them a hook so weird that it’ll haunt their memories until they binge watch. These anime summaries may not make the best elevator pitches, but they might just be… different enough… to snag the attention of that special someone you’ve been pestering for the past two years. Can you guess these badly described anime? Answer key is at the bottom. A hunchback with a sugar obsession tries to stop a college student with a potato chip obsession from writing in his diary. While screaming and zip-lining, an angry German kid takes on a tribe of deformed, naked cannibals who won’t let him go to his basement. A mercenary (who somehow manages to smoke more often than the barrel of his gun) teams up with a cross-dressing King Arthur against a failed artist, a starving student, a bug addict, a Catholic, the recipient of the 1994 Worst Father of the Year Award, and that professor you had in college, in a battle to the death over a wine glass. An unemployed bald guy, who punches stuff and goes to the supermarket for...

Fiction on My Skin: Connecting through Cosplay Dec07

Fiction on My Skin: Connecting through Cosplay

When I was seven years old, I made a tail and hooves out of my dad’s tube socks and went to church as Philippe, Belle’s horse from Beauty and the Beast. When curious passersby raised their eyebrows, my father (the very proud assistant pastor) would point at me and say, “Ask her!” And I would happily tell anyone who would listen that I was masquerading as my favourite steed. On the Disney scale of heroic horses, from one (Samson) to ten (Maximus), Philippe is in the negatives. But in retrospect, I think that’s why I chose him as my first (unofficial) cosplay. I saw myself in every wide-eyed balk and panicked whinny. The moment the shadows in the creepy forest started moving, I knew I’d dump poor Maurice on the road and run away too. If Phillipe’s cowardice drew me in, though, his strength is what kept me infatuated. He had the biggest hooves I’d ever seen—so big that, in my little mind, only my dad’s enormous tube socks could possibly do them credit. Philippe’s big hooves protected Belle from wolves until the Beast could make his heroic entry, and they rushed Belle to the Beast’s Castle just in time to save the cursed prince from giving up on life and love. These realizations only come to me now that I have the vocabulary to express them, but, in hindsight, I realize that Philippe taught seven-year-old me that even cowards could be heroes. Each time I pulled on the tube socks (and stuffed one in my pants for the tail), I felt a little of Philippe’s fight-or-flight courage brace me for my next battle with the boogeyman. Cosplay isn’t escapism; it’s a means to explore who we have the potential to be. I don’t stuff tube socks in my pants these days, but I still make a habit of dressing up as my favourite characters in public. Through cosplay, I find the ultimate creative challenge: embody the experiences I’ve had with a character or story and impart a little of that cathartic magic to others. Subconsciously, though, cosplay is a dedicated drive to become a little bit more like the characters I admire. Growing up, I loved to play “make believe,” pretending to be a knight or a dinosaur or Sonic the Hedgehog… I didn’t realize it then, but every time I set aside “Casey Covel” and became someone else, I was figuring out who “Casey Covel” actually was and who I wanted her to become. It’s been a while since I’ve run across a playground Sonic-style, but putting myself in the shoes of a fictional character is something I still do every time I open a book or power on a video game. By diving into the souls of characters from all walks of life, I take on foreign perspectives and expand my own. Sometimes, like C.S. Lewis, I find myself gawking, “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” Fiction rarely provides direct answers, but always provides reflections—about the journey I have taken through life, about what I believe is true, and about what I want to change within myself. My life is a timeline of transformations influenced by the imaginary. Certain characters have lingered in my mind years after I finished their final chapters—from Matthias, who taught me that even a little mouse could triumph over evil, to Zack Fair, who hammered home the power of a life built on daily sacrifices. When I lose myself in fiction in order to gain the psyche of its characters, I engage in what psychologists call “experience-taking.” Cosplay takes that character-consumer relationship and articulates it as a cooperative performance. It says, “Yes, we all know and love this character’s story. Now let’s add yours to it!” L Lawliet, Death Note’s hunchbacked, sweet-toothed detective, is a relatively simple character to cosplay, making him a popular choice at events....

Hymns and Heroes: 10 More Matches Made in Heaven Nov18

Hymns and Heroes: 10 More Matches Made in Heaven...

Ask and ye shall receive! Here are ten more hymn-meets-hero matches made in heaven, because we believe in the power of resurrection here at Geekdom House (whether for Jesus, Gandalf, or a mashup list). See Part 1 of this list here. 1. Sonic the Hedgehog — “There is a Green Hill Far Away” Twenty-five years far away, in fact. And boy, do we hope Sonic Mania brings it back. 2. Pit (Kid Icarus) — “The Fight is On” Step 1: Insert Smash Bros. Brawl. Step 2: Select Pit. Step 3: Press “up” on the D-pad. Step 4: Continue as directed until all opponents gang up to pound you into silence. 3. Pick an Age of Ultron Avenger, any Age of Ultron Avenger — “Be Thou My Vision” This isn’t the first time we’ve made this pun, and it won’t be the last. (Maybe next time we’ll apply it to Daredevil instead…) 4. Ichigo Kurosaki — “The Call for Reapers” He answered that call in the dubbed version. 5. Eren Jaeger — “Fire of God, Titanic Spirit” Sink your teeth into that colossal pun. Seriously, though, we just want to hear him rage his way through the lyrics in Titan-ese while he’s on fire. 6. Pikmin — “I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go” “Except when I see a pellet. Or get stuck behind a bridge. Or decide to get lost 20 seconds before launch.” 7. Glorfindel/Arwen — “Ride On! Ride On in Majesty!” Or, as we elves say, “noro lim!” 8. Solaire of Astora — “Praise the Father; Praise the Son” And engage in jolly charismatic worship. 9. Haruka Nanase — “Take Me to the Water” We bet he only sings freestyle. 10. Thor — “The God of Thunder and the Lightning” “This hymn, I like it. ANOTHER!” We can just see Thor hurling a...

Hymns and Heroes: 10 Matches Made in Heaven Oct07

Hymns and Heroes: 10 Matches Made in Heaven...

Not many fictional characters stumble into church (except to set the existential mood), and even fewer actually practice Christianity, unless we’re talking Nightcrawler or Nicholas D. Wolfwood. (No, Sephiroth, being a Jenova’s Witness doesn’t count.) But imagine if our favourite characters were—for no particular reason—suddenly forced to choose their epic theme songs from a hymn book (or else face cricket-chirping silence during their otherwise awesome advents). We’ve got a hunch that these 10 hymn-meets-hero mashups might, literally, be matches made in heaven: 1. Obi Wan Kenobi —”Higher Ground” He takes “plant my feet on higher ground” literally. Maybe if Anakin had given this hymn (or, y’know, his Jedi Counselors) a listen, he’d have fewer artificial limbs. 2. Prince Zuko — “Thine Honor Save” Change thy haircut whilst thou art at it. 3. Aerith Gainsborough — “Holy, Holy, Holy” That was the plan. To her credit, the evilest seraphim did eventually “fall down before her.” 4. Light Yagami — “Is My Name Written There?” You’ll know in about 40 seconds. 5. The Night Guard (Five Nights at Freddy’s) — “I’ll Stand By Until the Morning” …if I’m lucky. 6. Edward Elric — “Small Things Count” Except Ed isn’t “small”—he’s fun-sized. I hear arms and legs count, too. 7. Gandalf — “He Lives” And now he comes in more colours. 8. Link — “Must I Go, and Empty-Handed?” (1) Yes, though it is dangerous. (2) No, take this! 9. Goku — “Ten Thousand Times Ten Thousand” 100,000,000. Now that’s a power level. 10. Ned Stark — “Winter is Coming” Yes, this is an actual hymn, though it’s more about ice than...

Gaming Symphonies: A Reawakening...

The holy trinity of Video Games Live, The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses, and Distant Worlds: Music from FINAL FANTASY should be on every gamer’s bucket list. I’ve attended them five times, collectively, and I’d rather take an arrow to the knee than miss one of these symphonies next time they tour in my area. Video game concerts are part performance and part classical orchestra, with a bucketful of nostalgia on the side. Large screens project scenes from a game’s key moments, synchronized to the live music. There’s dramatic lighting, occasional acting, lots of cosplay, and a surprising number of geeky marriage proposals in-between. Sometimes there’s audience participation, too. Bellowing out “One-Winged Angel” in a mass sing-along (with Nobou Uematsu leading the lyrics) may be the most unabashedly geeky thing I’ve ever done in my life (even if I was Engrishing my way through the Latin lyrics: “bells, frogs, big cher-ries, Peter Pan, magic cheese, SEH-FEE-ROTH”). Gaming soundtracks have come a long way since the 8-bit beeps and dings. I doubt the original video game composers ever imagined their work would be performed fully orchestrated; but take a look at most acclaimed retro titles and you’ll find a composition so theoretically sound, you’d think the composers could see the future in-between the notes they penned to sheet music. At my most recent Distant Worlds concert, I heard Final Fantasy VI’s “Opera Maria and Draco” for the first time as the night’s finale. A twelve-minute opera movement, this piece was originally composed for the 1994 NES, using nothing but jangling MIDI sounds and synthetic “voices.” It received a two-minute-long standing ovation. And an encore. Gaming symphonies are making classical music “cool” again. Video game concerts are re-envisioning classical music and reawakening interest in...

One-Punch Man and Knockout Obsession Sep05

One-Punch Man and Knockout Obsession...

In the anime world of One-Punch Man, superheroes are selected through standardized testing, supervillains tote socio-satirical names like Vaccine Man, and city-wide destruction is just part of the daily forecast. Saitama (age: 25; status: unemployed) is fed up with society’s standards. Tossing aside his blue-collar jacket, he suits up in banana-yellow spandex and decides to pursue his boyhood dream of becoming a super hero (not an uncommon career choice in the world of One-Punch Man). Saitama follows a mega-strengthening routine until his hair falls out. He bashes baddie after baddie until he can nail them in a single, anti-climactic punch. It’s all fun and games… until it isn’t. What begins as an act to spite society quickly becomes an obsessive spiral into isolation for Saitama. His appearance becomes so comically bland that even his shiny rubber boots and bald head fail to leave an impression. He lives alone in a cheap apartment he can hardly afford, watching B-movies and chasing bargains at his local supermarket. “I’ve become too strong,” he admits, with a blank expression that has inspired memes across the internet. “In exchange for power, maybe I’ve lost something that’s essential for a human being?” I risk becoming a mindless consumer whose passions will eventually separate me from others. It’s said that self-recognition means you aren’t too far gone, but I think that only counts if you actually act on the realization. As Saitama’s obsession with becoming the world’s strongest man grows, so too does his separation from others, despite his half-hearted efforts to connect with them. Surprisingly, despite his boredom, Saitama doesn’t turn full-time supervillain in an attempt to reach new heights of power and recognition. That seems to be the M.O. of all the villains in this anime: they consume their...

Pain Can’t Keep Us Together Aug05

Pain Can’t Keep Us Together...

Anime likes to try different keys on the lock of “world peace.” The inherent goodness of humanity. The many over the few. The postdiluvian utopia. Reincarnation. Giant asteroids. Perhaps the only thing they all have in common is that these “solutions” don’t tend to work. Occasionally, they even end in fire and brimstone. In Kiznaiver, seven teens are linked by shared pain. Everything from bruising to heartache travels from person-to-person like an electric shock (sometimes literally). Toting the weighty “world peace” clause as its greater good, the nightmarish Kizuna experiment (which ironically means “bond” in Japanese) strips these participants of their freewill and throws them into “do-or-die” scenarios where bonding is a mere by-product of their survival instinct. Unsurprisingly, the system aims for empathy but hits apathy, and the experiment falls apart after the seven participants grow “close” enough to begin hearing each other’s thoughts. Rather than emphasize the dangers of human omniscience with the ineffectual take-away that some things are truly best left to the imagination, however, Kiznaiver uses the routine to satirize the risks of counterfeit empathy. Despite its premise, Kiznaiver is not so much about pain as it is human connection. Certainly, pain shapes our personal boundaries, causes us to give the plights of others a double-take, and brings us together when disaster strikes; but to view pain as the “ultimate connection” is to faultily assume that pain is necessary to the human condition and that strife alone is what connects people. I believe the mark of true empathy is not whether it is present during crisis, but whether it is present during peacetime Despite it being a universal phenomenon, pain is a temporary solution to a more permanent problem. This concept is explored through the protagonist, Katsuhira, whose connection to...

Fit for a Servant: Fate/Zero and Deviant Leadership Jun29

Fit for a Servant: Fate/Zero and Deviant Leadership...

King Arthur is female. Gilgamesh is blonde. Alexander the Great is seven feet tall. At a glance, Fate/Zero seems determined to spite history buffs, but deviancy is the name of the game in this alternate version of Japan, where magi summon ancient heroes in a bloody war to obtain the wish-granting Holy Grail. Tired of swinging swords at each other (or chucking them, in Gilgamesh’s case), the three monarchs agree to talk things out and determine the victor by status rather than strength. Arturia (that’s fem-Arthur—keep up!) quickly becomes the odd-king-out in the debate, and not just because the testosterone-fueled tyrants outnumber her altruism two-to-one. She’s ashamed to have ever pulled the sword from the stone and become ruler of Camelot. Throughout Fate/Zero, Arturia constantly returns to her inner mindscape—alone, atop a hill of slain knights; her back and head bowed beneath regrets as numerous as the corpses under her feet. If Alexander represents the human power fantasy (dream large, live larger), and Gilgamesh the epitome of a utopian dictatorship that would make even Machiavelli blush, then Arturia is a crash course on the dark side of servant leadership. Conceptualized as a counter movement to traditional “worker management,” servant leadership inverts the hierarchical pyramid, putting the leader in a supporting and mentoring role. In many ways, it’s a leadership style as deviant as gender-bending Britain’s famous king. History expects its leaders to reign from above, like Gilgamesh, or from up front (to “laugh louder and rage harder” in Alexander’s own words). Perhaps it’s the many misconceptions of servant leadership that keep potential adopters from fully embracing it and its benefits. In the realm of influence, servant leadership is an all-powerful leveler. Arturia saw her rule as an act of service—to restore Britain through her...

Let There Be Yoshi

Yoshi’s Woolly World is a place without 1-UP mushrooms, Bowsers, or princesses. Playing the game makes me question much more than just the last ten years I’ve spent mastering Mario’s staple platformers. Though I’m controlling Nintendo’s patent dino this time around, my actual identity within Yoshi’s Woolly World is vague at best. I live in an Etsy power fantasy, surrounded by worlds knitted from fabric and thread, with loose spools and spare cotton fluffs marking the uncharted land of craft supplies. Intelligent design is afoot, and I, green Yoshi, am its woolly creation. …Or am I actually the creator? As I omnisciently survey the workshop beyond Yoshi’s limited vision, importing amiibo designs into the game to create even more yarn dinosaurs, I find myself in an identity crisis. Perhaps the word “woolly” is appropriate in more ways than one. Clever, Nintendo. In spinning a yarn about a valiant Yoshi determined to re-stich his community, Nintendo not only puts a soft, home-made twist on Mario’s aesthetics, but also dares to probe into the spiritual nature of creativity by putting players in the dual roles of creator and creation. I originally played Yoshi’s Woolly World expecting to find nothing more than a sweet, if not idealistic, lesson about teamwork and friendship. From the moment the evil wizard, Kamek, unravels Yoshi’s friends, an uncanny valley of emptiness sets in (though not quite gloom—it’s hard to feel gloomy with all those vibrant colours filling the landscape and that happy-go-lucky music playing). Without its community of little dinos, the otherwise lively world feels like an unframed painting—beautiful, but incomplete. As Yoshi travels through sub-worlds, reknitting architecture and friends alike, the overworld gradually regains its sense of order. Seeing the vast world through Yoshi’s eyes reveals that the creator is powerful and imaginative, but studying Yoshi himself reveals that the creator is also loving. Yoshi are colour-coded to best suit the sub-world they live in. Compared to the sloppy yarn loops that hold Shy Guys and other Mushroom Kingdom baddies together, Yoshis’ designs reveal every knit and purl, without a single fuzzy mistake. I psychologically take on the role of creator as I not only omnipotently guide and protect my little dino, but I also feel proud of him. I take pleasure in watching Yoshi’s dedication and love for the world which I have “built.” Oppositely, from Yoshi’s point-of-view, I feel fulfilled each time I give back to that world by collecting spools and beating sub-worlds. Like a two-way mirror, I reflect the world around me to the creator, and the creator to the world. I am clearly the creator’s magnum opus—the sentient being meant to keep, manage, and enjoy the woolly Garden of Eden around me. Any creator would certainly intervene when their creation threatens to come undone, or so it would seem, but the game doesn’t allow the player to intervene that way. Instead, the player, as Yoshi, performs a primary role in bringing about restoration without god-like intervention. The unspoken message reveals a much bigger picture where each character—yes, even Kamek—is hand-crafted to tell the story the creator has mapped out long in advance. Rather than abandon creation to its destiny, then, Yoshi’s Woolly World implies that the creator honours her creation by empowering it to play a vital role in her grand story, rather than play NPC to the creator’s power. In many ways, Yoshi’s Woolly World imitates the Christian understanding of creation and the creator’s role within it, while granting the player two perspectives to fully appreciate the complex dynamic. On a meta level, the game is an endless cycle of creativity inspired by the ultimate act of creativity, trickling from God, to Nintendo game designers, to player, to avatar. I am clearly the creator’s magnum opus—the sentient being meant to keep, manage, and enjoy the woolly Garden of Eden around me. Yoshis aren’t breathed into life from the dust...

Prodigals, Parables, and Black-Belt Bunnies May18

Prodigals, Parables, and Black-Belt Bunnies...

Ever laid awake at night wondering what the story of the Prodigal Son would be like if it included Facebook, nuclear threats, and a black-belt bunny? (Yes, you read that right.) Well, put your insomniac wonderings to rest. It’s a thing. Summer Wars is a feature-length anime that includes a shaggy-haired protagonist, furries, feels, and familial ties; it also manages to double as a modern-day parable for the social media generation. In summary, Japan’s proud Jinnouchi family gathers to celebrate its matriarch’s 90th birthday, but the festivities are put on hold when the futuristic, world-wide network, Oz, goes haywire and a virus program threatens to bomb nuclear facilities around the world. (The black-belt bunny comes into play as a virtual avatar meant to combat the virus, in case you were wondering.) Summer Wars is about reconciliation—not just in a literal sense, between a prodigal son and his family—but also on a narrative level. The film attempts to merge two unlikely genres, sci-fi and slice-of-life, and the result is as odd as, well, anime. But it works. Summer Wars also asks many thought-provoking questions: How do we keep technology from replacing face-to-face interaction? How should the new generation embrace the customs of the old one? How does tradition compromise with a world so reliant upon change? How does an estranged family member come back into the fold? Parables are meant to make the listener uneasy with themselves because they demand on-the-spot self-reflection. That last question serves as the emotional crux of Summer Wars. Wabisuke, the youngest son of the Jinnouchi matriarch, takes his inheritance money prematurely and runs off to America to spend it. Years later, the prodigal cleans up his act and returns home to be welcomed by his mother and restored into the...

Art as a Spiritual Power-Up May06

Art as a Spiritual Power-Up...

When I write something without holding anything back, when I wear my words on my sleeve, they hold the realest power. But that also means sporting a bull’s eye for the arrows of criticism and objectification. This is the life of an artist, knowing that putting your work out there means it can be admired or rejected. Maybe I fear others’ evaluations and criticisms of my work a bit too much. I hear a lot of well-meaning “writing advice” meant to keep the metaphorical stomach butterflies at bay, but perhaps the most-recited quip is: “Separate yourself from your work.” I get it. I shouldn’t put my self-worth into something outside of myself. That’s a one-way trip to unattainable perfectionism. Still, I don’t think the line is so clearly drawn between “self” and “art” that I can easily step across it and be protected from all criticism by some magical force-field. My words are an extension of myself. I breathe them to life, ex nihilo-style, and then decide to call them “good.” (After several re-writes, anyway.) Obviously the inky jots on the page come from my experiences, my personality, my nostalgia, my knowledge. Psychologically, I am one with my words, no matter how much I try to convince myself, for my sanity’s sake, that we are separate entities. In terms of artistic passion, where does self end and society begin? Is the true value of art found in creating it or in sharing it? Is the true value of art found in creating it or in sharing it? I didn’t expect to find so many answers in a competitive-swimming anime called Free! Eternal Summer. I hastily judged it as a mix of bromance, muscles, and melodrama, with a protagonist so obsessed with H2O that he’d...

Of Mice and Words Apr13

Of Mice and Words

It all started with a mouse. No, not that round-eared rodent in red shorts and yellow shoes. A much meeker mouse in a green novice’s habit and over-sized sandals. A mouse whose simple courage sent him on a quest to find an ancient sword (because what is fantasy without an ancient sword quest?) and who saved his abbey from an army of evil rats. His name was Matthias and he taught ten-year-old me that even the smallest person could change the course of the world if they were willing, kind, and brave. The Redwall series—a literary franchise where gallant woodland warriors overcame evil vermin invaders—not only kickstarted my love for fantasy (and furries), but also built a safe-haven for me to learn and grow in. Author Brian Jacques was like a grandfather to me and a household name to my family. I’ll never forget volunteering at my local library the day after his death, reverently sorting his books in the YA section and thinking that the world would never see another of his magnificent novels. He wrote for blind children, and as a result also reached children-at-heart and cynics who had turned a blind-eye to better things. Fifteen years after picking up my first Redwall novel and inhaling the musty smell of its pages, Jacques is still my favourite author. That’s more than my nostalgia talking. A part of me feels indebted to Jacques and his woodland warriors. Like Aesop of old, Jacques used familiar animals to express big ideals in a way even the smallest person could grasp. Mice were his favourite. They weren’t as tough as badgers, as skilled as hares, or as agile as squirrels, yet Jacques most often chose mice to inherit the famed sword of Martin the Warrior throughout...

Immortality According to Zack Fair...

I think about death. A lot. Not in a morbid, “the-end-is-near” sort of way, but with the understanding that each passing day means less time to accomplish my dreams. I’ve got half-a-dozen books to publish, a Master’s degree to complete, a world to travel, and a whole lot of video games to play (hurry up, Kingdom Hearts III!). But more than anything, I just want to be remembered for something—even just a small something. Being forgotten amidst history’s dusty pages is the proverbial “fate worse than death.” Whether I admit it out loud or not, I want to live forever, even after my heart stops beating. Thousands of years from now, I could completely “disappear” from public awareness. That thought used to make me wonder if my existence and actions even mattered in the first place. After all, only a lucky few ever become household names. The other millions of people born every year? History—if they’re lucky. Forgotten—if they aren’t. What chance do I have of ever becoming as recognizable as Stan Lee, as biographical as Tolkien, or even as quotable as Joss Whedon? Perhaps that’s why I empathize so much with Zack Fair from Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core. Growing up in a backwater town, Zack has dreams bigger than his small world can handle. I can’t blame him for suddenly leaving home, with only a scribbled farewell to his parents, promising that he’ll return as a hero of SOLDIER like his idol, Sephiroth. I believe anybody can be “destined for greatness,” but only when pride takes a backseat to selflessness. As rambunctious as a puppy and driven by equal parts passion and prestige, Zack quickly climbs the ranks of SOLDIER, flashing his (overly) confident smile and taking on bigger, badder beasties than...