8 Anime Characters Who Crush Archetypes Aug17

8 Anime Characters Who Crush Archetypes...

Archetypes are a defining feature of anime. They’re part of what makes the medium familiar to fans and what separates it from western animation. These archetypes include characters, like student council presidents and goth girls, portrayed differently than they might be in American television shows, and chuunibyou, hikikomori, and magical girls playing major roles when they don’t even exist here! But even though fans generally know what to expect of these types, every so often, a character will break from the mold and reveal herself to be deeper—and ultimately more interesting—than what viewers originally expected. These are eight of my favourites. 1. Minori Kushieda, Toradora Archetype: Genki Girl At first, Minori seems to be a typical genki girl, the phrase used to describe a character with never-ending energy and enthusiasm: she captains the softball team, works a half-dozen part-time jobs, and says and does the craziest things. But as the classic romantic comedy, Toradora, progresses, Minori demonstrates that her outward cheerfulness is a veneer. Feeling guilty about an attraction she develops toward her best friend’s love interest, Minori acts out in strange ways, even hurting others as her bitterness and jealousy grows. This unexpected arc helps drive the plot of Toradora forward and, as Minori learns to be more genuine with herself and others, becomes one of the most fulfilling parts of this classic series. 2. Kyubey, Puella Magi Madoka Magica Archetype: Cute Mascot Kyubey looks the role of a traditional magical girl mascot—he’s a little white creature that appears to be a cross between a cat and rabbit, and spouts wisdom while resting on the girls’ laps. But in one of anime’s most surprising twists—spoilers ahead—he reveals himself to be the central villain of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, continuing to look the part...

Ellen Ripley’s Path to Avoiding Friendships because of Past Hurt Aug08

Ellen Ripley’s Path to Avoiding Friendships because of Past Hurt...

Bishop looks like any other member of the Sulaco, a ship carrying space marines on a mission to investigate a colonized planet that hasn’t made contact lately. But when a thick white liquid spills from a wound on his hand, Bishop reveals himself to be an android. The others aboard the ship already know about his identity, but once Ellen Ripley discovers it, she doesn’t mince words: Bishop is not welcome anywhere near her. Ripley’s hostility is influenced by the events of the previous film, Alien, where she was betrayed by the android aboard her old ship. She’s only recently awoken from hypersleep, the only survivor of an alien attack on her crew. The events of Alien are fresh in Ripley’s mind—as she accompanies the marines to the same planet where her crew took on the alien lifeform. She won’t make the same mistake and let an android betray her again. Ripley’s hostility is influenced by past betrayal. Ripley’s response makes sense. We learn the principle of cause and effect from a very young age; it keeps us safe and helps us learn. Despite Bishop’s insistence that he is programmed specifically to keep humans from harm and explanation that Ash’s older model was “twitchy,” Ripley keeps her guard up around the android, at one point even asking a marine to hold him at gunpoint. To her, humans may run the spectrum of good to bad, but all androids are potential enemies. But Ripley has it all wrong. There is a betrayer among the crew again this time, but it’s not Bishop. Instead, it’s a human who betrays them. Bishop, on the other hand, is a hero, putting himself in great danger to save the others. He even rescues Newt, the little girl that Ripley...

Totoro Recommends Leaving the Beaten Path Jul11

Totoro Recommends Leaving the Beaten Path...

I read once that most of our earliest childhood memories are emotional and sometimes traumatic. That’s certainly the case for me. My first memory is of crying uncontrollably, hopelessly lost as I had meandered out of my yard and to a place I didn’t recognize. Thankfully, my mother quickly ushered me across the street and back home. It didn’t take long for her to find and return me—I had toddled the whole of 50 meters from my house. For a skittish 3-year-old, that experience was like the apocalypse and my mom was the knightly hero, rescuing me from danger and the unknown. In My Neighbour Totoro, the classic Studio Ghibli anime, a similar event occurs. Four-year-old Mei Kusakabe moves with her sister and father to the countryside while their mother stays in the city to receive treatment for an illness. Disappointed by news that her mom won’t be able to visit after all, Mei gets into an argument with her 11-year-old sister, Satsuki, and decides to go visit her mom on her own. On the way, she gets lost. As darkness begins to overtake the rice paddies and farmland that surrounds her, Satsuki searches for her sister and finds Mei’s shoe among the watery fields. Panic begins to set in. Even in the pain of family issues, job transitions, and all the other things that can make life hard, it’s only when I get lost that I can grow as an explorer. This story has a happy ending, though. The mystical beast, Totoro, summons Catbus, which takes Satsuki to Mei, reuniting the sisters in a moment of euphoria. Just as when I wandered off all those years ago, perhaps the danger in being lost was overstated, but the jubilation in being found was real....

Why Your Friends Don’t Deserve to be Eaten by Dinosaurs Jun04

Why Your Friends Don’t Deserve to be Eaten by Dinosaurs...

There were few events I anticipated as a kid as much as the opening weekend for Jurassic Park. The excitement around that movie was palpable and all the news and entertainment shows on television—not to mention my friends—were clamoring for it. All the enthusiasm persuaded me to read the novel on which it was based, which was a big deal for me. It was the first book I read for fun, and I enjoyed it fully. Michael Crichton’s work made me feel like an adult, with all its multifaceted characters and scientific context. Well, that and the curse words. I was full of adrenaline when I finally made it to the theater to watch Spielberg’s film. The opening scene with the unseen velociraptor capturing a terrified worker mesmerized me, but soon afterwards, confusion set in. The plot differed greatly from the book and the characters weren’t quite the ones I remembered. I was most confused by the absence of lawyer Donald Gennaro. A major figure in the novel, I wondered why he was missing from the movie. There was an attorney in the film, but that couldn’t be Gennaro, who the author described as strong and stout, who had his faults but also showed scruples. This attorney was thinner, balder, and older than the one in the book, and far more befitting of the “evil lawyer” stereotype. My loved ones are not simple stories or funny punchlines. In Michael Crichton’s version, Gennaro is a corporate lawyer looking out for his employers’ investment and his own well-being, but through the course of the story, he changes. Once put into life and death situations, he focuses on his own safety rather than his greed, and later, also on the safety of the other survivors. When it...

Why Choose Reality When We Could Live in the Matrix? May09

Why Choose Reality When We Could Live in the Matrix?...

Which would you take—the red pill or the blue pill? The question isn’t as easy to answer as you might think. The red pill represents the full picture of reality—truth and all it entails. Your eyes are opened, but in that freedom you will find struggle, even overwhelming hardship. The blue pill, on the other hand, allows you to live happily unaware. You’ll be able to live the way you always have, remaining blind to harsh reality. As Cypher notes in The Matrix, “Ignorance is bliss.” The red and blue pill metaphor has become entrenched in our culture as a reality check. After all, I never wondered if Neo made the right decision to gulp down the red pill and battle against alien machines; I just cheered him on as he did. And I became angry with Cypher when he took the blue pill and jeopardized the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar. But I have to admit, the choice is tempting; the reality of the Matrix is ugly and dangerous, and that steak that Cypher is eating as he contemplates his decision looks really delicious. I like to think that I would never pick the blue pill like he did, but I’m not sure the choice is that simple, especially when the truth can be unpleasant. Why would you swap comfort for cold fact? Real life is a little more complicated than red and blue pills. Although I want to be like Neo, Trinity, and Morpheus—not only perceiving reality but fighting against the very things that enslave them—I often live the way Cypher wants to, blissfully enjoying my ignorance. I distinctly remember in seventh grade, I tried reentering my school building from the courtyard during lunch break, which was against the rules, and a teacher...

Making Assumptions: Violet Evergarden, Disability, and Imperfection Apr09

Making Assumptions: Violet Evergarden, Disability, and Imperfection...

Leon, a student at Shaher Observatory, is an absolute brat in the anime Violet Evergarden. Despite his good looks and high IQ, he’s disliked by most of his classmates, partly for reasons at first unknown, but his curt words and arrogant attitude contribute to his reputation. When learning that dozens of auto memory dolls, young women who act as ghostwriters, are descending upon the observatory to help make copies of their rare books, he is dismissive. And when he’s assigned to dictate research to Violet Evergarden, he demeans her. Leon is brought to a pause, though, when she removes her gloves to begin typing. Underneath aren’t the silky hands of a gold-digging maiden, but ones made of chrome-like metal that resemble the Terminator’s skeleton. And Leon soon finds that those hands are so effective at typing, the duo bests the 79 others in how quickly they decode and transcribe. Love is sometimes best expressed in relating to one another through our imperfections. Violet Evergarden is structured in such a way that most episodes are told through the eyes of a client, all of whom are suffering in some way: a young princess to be married off to a prince she barely knows; a playwright who is haunted by the death of his daughter; a young lady whose brother returned from war with injuries and has become an alcoholic. And in almost every case, though unintentionally, Violet’s disability opens the way for understanding and discussion. I’ve had a Leon moment before, when my initial assumptions fell flat. As a high school freshman, I remember laughing at a classmate who spoke in a thick accent and wore the same old clothes every day (did I mention I was a brat like Leon, too?). The next year,...

The Ancient Magus Bride demonstrates Happiness and Love are Not Equal Mar19

The Ancient Magus Bride demonstrates Happiness and Love are Not Equal...

The first two rights in the Declaration of Independence, life and liberty, have always been givens for me. But the last, the pursuit of happiness, is something that requires striving for. As a child, I did everything I could to attain it, playing video games, spending time with friends, and of course, always searching for sweets. As an adult, I haven’t changed much. I’m still pursuing happiness, even if candy isn’t what elicits that feeling (well, not always). But happiness isn’t the ultimate goal for everyone, and maybe I focus on it too much. In The Ancient Magus Bride, a moody but absorbing anime about a teenager thrust into the world of magic and fairies, none of the main characters are particularly happy, but neither are they actively reaching for that goal. For them, happiness is rather an occasional by-product of more foundational pursuits. And considering the fleeting nature of happiness, I think these characters have it right. In a world of pain and suffering, the ability to endure and even thrive is a strength I desire to have. As the series begins, an abandoned and defeated Chise, the eponymous bride, has given herself to slave traders who sell her at a magical auction. Elias, a refined but fearsome figure (he has what appears to be an animal skull for a head incised with glowing red eyes), purchases her and tells her that she will become his bride and pupil, learning how to become a magician like him. After he rescues Chise, she quickly grows to care for Elias, though outward expressions of delight are seldom seen between them. Other members of their household find similar contentment. Silky, a banshee who lost the loved ones she previously haunted to a house fire, finds quiet...

Reading Ready Player One: Loneliness Mar02

Reading Ready Player One: Loneliness...

Everything falls out beneath him after Wade confesses his love to Art3mis. Art3mis, full of concern about the basis of their relationship and desiring to put the contest for the egg as her focus again, ends all connections with him. Heartbroken, Wade retreats into frustration and sadness before diving headlong back into the contest. He buys state of the art equipment, shaves every inch of hair off his body (don’t ask), and spends day and night trying to decipher the clues that will lead him to the next piece of the puzzle, the jade key. But even with a singular focus in his life again, Wade doesn’t seem any happier. He longs for something more, something beyond what he can disguise under an avatar and username. Virtual reality can only provide him so much; it doesn’t cover the dissatisfaction Wade feels with who he is outside of the OASIS: “In real life, I was nothing but an antisocial hermit. A recluse. A pale-skinned pop culture-obsessed geek. An agoraphobic shut-in, with no real friends, family, or genuine human contact. I was just another sad, lost, lonely soul, wasting his life on a glorified video game.” Before he met Art3mis, Wade seemed content with living a life focused on his desires and wishes. What changed? Wade’s obsession with the hunt for the egg is understandable. Who doesn’t want to play endless video games and watch your favorite pieces of media day in and day out, with only yourself to worry about? A hedonistic lifestyle is all about pleasure; why worry about others when you can live in self-indulgence? Living for you brings elation in the moment, but it’s what happens afterwards that sucks, when you feel a sense of emptiness, when all that energy you poured...

The Introvert’s Guide to Joining a Party Feb21

The Introvert’s Guide to Joining a Party...

Kirito is the ultimate introvert. Trapped in the world of Sword Art Online (SAO), an immersive game in which each player’s consciousness is transferred into an RPG world, Kirito chooses to go it alone. It’s a bold decision to make because in SAO, players are unable to log out and when they die in the game, they die in real life. Most players decide to band together into parties for survival, but the naturally shy Kirito keeps to himself. He’s also an elite gamer, so any players teaming with him are likely to slow him down. Early on, he helps a new player named Klein learn the basics of the game, but when the newbie explains that he’s part of a larger group, Kirito abandons him. It would be too difficult to survive, much less complete the game, while helping that many players. A short time later, Kirito participates in a group effort in which players pair up to defeat a common enemy. He fights alongside a strong player, Asuna, but leaves her immediately afterward, despite acknowledging her talent. At this point in the game, Kirito is still focused on his individual journey, and doesn’t even consider teaming with Asuna, despite how strong their tandem could be. Though Kirito is strong, he isn’t arrogant. On the contrary, he’s trying to do the right thing and help as many people as possible. With his skill, defeating the game and releasing all the players from this purgatory is a real possibility, so why not continue to level up on his own, especially when it feels comfortable? As an introvert, I feel similarly, especially in the workplace. I used to work for a very small government agency. At first, the only employees were a part-time administrative assistant...

The Anger of Apes and Humans Jan10

The Anger of Apes and Humans...

I admit it—I struggle with road rage. It was particularly out of control when I first received my license as a teenager. While I was driving one evening, a car turned into my lane unexpectedly. I changed lanes and hit the gas, intending to pull up next to the driver and, uh, show my displeasure. But before I could do so, the elderly woman behind the wheel waved an apologetic hand toward me, and in that instant, I calmed down and realized how inexplicably angry I had become. I waved back and went on my way. Whenever I’m behind the wheel now, I remember that incident. I try to become a calmer driver, one who doesn’t need a wave to remind me to be kind on the road. But it remains a challenge for me to respond with grace when I feel wronged. Anger is easier, and satisfying in the moment—an emotion Caesar, the protagonist in the Planet of the Apes reboot, is intimately familiar with. In Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the previous film in the trilogy, Koba, a bonobo who is unable to forgive humans for the experiments they conducted on him, sets the impetus for war between humans and apes. Though he died in that movie, his specter continues to haunt Caesar as he finds himself becoming more and more like Koba. In War for the Planet of the Apes, Caesar chooses to hunt down the Colonel, who had murdered his family. Caesar leaves his tribe defenseless by doing so. As violence escalates, Caesar, having always been the ironic picture of what humanity could be rather than what it is, grows angrier and angrier. After one of his comrades, Luca, is killed, he declares that the humans must pay,...

Depression Comes in Like a Lion Dec13

Depression Comes in Like a Lion...

Rei Kiriyama is a zero. Literally. The kanji for “Rei” means “zero” in Japanese. It’s an apt description for how the main character of March Comes in Like a Lion feels about himself. Although he’s a well-known and celebrated prodigy at shogi, a Japanese variant of chess, Rei is depressed and sullen. His parents and sister died when he was young, and he was adopted into a family led by a father who obsesses over shogi and envisions Rei as succeeding in a sport where his children failed, creating disharmony in their home. Without a loving family, and having even been told by relatives that he’s “nothing,” it’s no wonder that Rei finds it difficult to value himself. I know what it’s like to feel like a zero, where I couldn’t see my own worth. After graduating high school, my life plans were destroyed (at least in my teenaged mind). For months, because of my shattered dreams, I was unable to find the energy to do the simplest tasks or spend time with people who cared about me. Ultimately, though, it was those loving people who helped bring me out of depression. Rei experiences something similar. The Kawamoto family, comprised of sisters Akari, Hina, and Momo, and led by their grandfather, welcome Rei into their home just as he hits rock bottom. In the ensuing months, Akari, the eldest sister, frequently texts Rei, inviting him to their house for meals. He also spends holidays and other special occasions with the family, even experiencing very personal moments with them, such as when the sisters honour their deceased mother. This new, makeshift family isn’t always comfortable for Rei. But the bonds of love between him and the Kawamatos are strong and secure. The love the girls...

Indiana Jones and the Hunt for the Sacred Oct02

Indiana Jones and the Hunt for the Sacred...

Though Indiana Jones often hunts objects of religious significance and experiences supernatural events, he is skeptical of faith. Instead of believing in a higher power, he sees God as a fabled being. The Ark of the Covenant, which Indiana pursues in Raiders of the Lost Ark, is sacred to him not because of its connection to God, but because of its archaeological significance. As he tells his friend Marcus, “I don’t believe in magic, a lot of superstitious hocus-pocus. I’m going after a find of incredible historical significance; you’re talking about the bogeyman.” Like Indiana, we all have entities we hold sacred—possessions, individuals, memories, places. For me, that includes my faith. For Indiana Jones, it’s academic pursuits, studying history, and knowledge. There’s no room for “fanciful” stories of faith. And judging by the broken relationships he leaves behind—Marion, Marion’s father, and his own father—there’s little room for anything else either. I don’t want to spend my whole life waiting. But as he matures, Indiana’s actions demonstrate there’s far more to him than he would like others to believe, than perhaps he would like to believe about himself. He disputes the existence of God, but begs Marion to close her eyes when the Ark is opened, believing in its powers in the moment of most danger. He has an estranged relationship with his father, but goes to the ends of the earth to rescue him, risking his life many times through challenges related to faith. He’s a solitary man, only concerned with his own needs, but liberates a village of children, along with Willie and Short-Round, instead of placing his own safety first. Indiana’s deeds betray him—he’s not the selfish image he projects. I’m similar to Indiana in some ways, opposite in others. In my...

10 Anime to Watch if You’ve Never Seen Anime Sep22

10 Anime to Watch if You’ve Never Seen Anime...

Anime is the neglected stepchild of geekdom, a category widely considered nerdy, but one that many geeks don’t know much about. If you’re interested in the rich, cartoon worlds Japan has to offer, but don’t know how to make the transition from geek to otaku, we’ve got you covered. Here are ten anime series that will speak to your nerdy soul. 1. Big O A millionaire playboy defends a shadowy city under the cover of another identity; he’s also assisted by a butler and working together with a city law enforcement officer. This may sound and look like Batman, but this is Big O, where the main character, Roger Smith, operates a giant robot instead of the Batmobile and uncovers the secrets of an amnesiac city. Smith’s aging butler also has an eyepatch and wields massive machine guns. Take that, Alfred. 2. Fate/zero Few hallowed, nerdy franchises is as beloved in Japan as the Fate series, in which mages compete to attain the Holy Grail. In Fate/zero, a prequel which is the most stunning and best of the Fate anime, magicians battle one another by using famed warriors from history and legend, including a bulked-up Alexander the Great, villainous Gilgamesh, and female King Arthur. It’s a violent battle royale that is as heart wrenching as Game of Thrones. 3. Noein: To Your Other Self Here’s a cool idea – instead of just some entity time traveling to the past to alter a timeline, what if two entirely different timelines were warring with one another both in the present and the future? Noein puts a unique twist on the apocalypse with characters in the current timeline meeting soldiers from the future, including possible versions of themselves, who are desperate to save their timeline from Noein, a powerful...

Why We Glorify School-Age Memories Sep06

Why We Glorify School-Age Memories...

Deep space is fun and fantasy worlds are neat, but my favourite setting for stories is a school. These wondrous places fill me with nostalgia and a romantic longing for youth, innocence, friendship, and learning. I never attended a school that evoked such feelings in real life—the schools I frequented were mostly mundane, brick buildings with minimal landscape design—but somehow, I travel to a past I’ve never lived when I see them on screen. In My Hero Academia, students attend U.A. High, a superhero school where they learn how to use their powers, called Quirks. Although there are hints of a darker storyline early in the series, much of that tension is relaxed by the high school atmosphere. The classmates, who bond over their shared abilities, become close friends by seeing (and sometimes competing with) one another so often. In Japanese schools, a class stays together throughout the day in the same classroom, and teachers are the ones who rotate in, so they learn and grow together. The finale of Season One, however, shatters the sense of wonder associated with the school when the students and staff are attacked within its walls. The aptly named League of Villains appears in force, and while the superheroes-in-training courageously fight back, they’re also very afraid. Kids battle against hardened criminals who are willing to kill. They aren’t in a controlled learning environment anymore; the danger is real. U.A. High is a school that feeds my dreams, led by teachers who are superheroes themselves. This span of episodes brought me out of my comfort zone. I’d fully bought into the goodness of U.A. High; it’s a school that feeds my dreams, led by teachers who are superheroes themselves. Even though the baddies are ultimately repelled, that warm, fuzzy...

Stuck Between Two Worlds Aug14

Stuck Between Two Worlds...

Anime is by no means a diverse art form. I sometimes remind myself of this, because when I watch anime, I see diversity. I see characters that share cultural similarities with me in stories taking place near the country where my mother was born. But I also recognize that anime characters are predominantly Japanese; it takes animators who are willing to challenge the norm, like Shinichiro Watanabe, the genius behind Cowboy Bebop, to explore race in media that typically shies away from it. Perhaps that’s why Kids on the Slope, Watanabe’s tale of jazz-loving teenagers in 1960’s Japan, is so easily able to demonstrate diversity sometimes comes with discomfort, a theme that resonates strongly with me. Kids on the Slope features the story of Kaoru, an honours student and gifted pianist, and his budding friendship with Sentaro, a known delinquent and skilled drummer. The two bond over Sentaro’s love of jazz music, and as Kaoru invests in his new friend’s life, he discovers that Sentaro is an incredibly kind and compassionate young man whose troubled life is rooted in mistreatment from his grandmother and adoptive father. The reason for his abuse? Sentaro is biracial, the son of a Japanese mother and a white American sailor. Being taunted as “slanty eyes” or asked if I understood gibberish intended to sound like Chinese drew attention to me. I don’t carve the same big, muscular figure that Sentaro does, nor was I a delinquent, but I am the son of a white military man and an Asian mother. I, too, had to navigate both worlds growing up. It was sometimes confusing. When I looked in the mirror, I saw my Asian features, which are more dominant than my Caucasian ones, and even though I adopted many practices...

The Selfish Games of Littlefinger Jul05

The Selfish Games of Littlefinger...

From the Night King to Gregor Clegane, there’s no shortage of physically intimidating characters in Game of Thrones, but the ones that are most terrifying aren’t the biggest, strongest, or most brutish – they are the those like Tyrion, Varys, and Cersei, who connive and maneuver themselves into positions of authority, often with ruinous effect on those they perceive as enemies. Perhaps the most dangerous of these thinkers is Petyr Baelish, better known as Littlefinger, a master puppeteer who is always several steps ahead of even the most intelligent and powerful players; he manipulates and eliminates “pieces,” as he calls them, on his path toward the throne. When we first meet him, we realize there’s more to Littlefinger than meets the eye. There has to be. He’s a slight man with only a low noble background, but has risen to an important rank as Master of Coin in the small council. As the series progresses, we see that Baelish is involved, sometimes as the mastermind, in so many of the major events, including the deaths of Jon Arryn, Ned Stark, and King Joffrey. He later takes Sansa under his wing, demonstrating to her how he manipulates people and proceedings by issuing bribes, placing his people in positions where they can influence outcomes, and even making “moves that have no purpose, or even seem to work against you” for a greater purpose. I don’t particularly like Littlefinger, and I know exactly why. He reminds me too much of myself. During my adolescence and into college, I was constantly scheming to figure out how I could use people to get ahead. Like a high school version of Game of Thrones, I plotted and used friends, family, teachers, and acquaintances to gain popularity, increase finances, and achieve...

Moving through the Pain of the Past Jun12

Moving through the Pain of the Past...

“Look at my eyes, Faye. One of them is a fake cause I lost it in an accident. Since then, I’ve been seeing the past in one eye, and the present in the other, so I thought I could only see patches of reality, never the whole picture.” Spike Spiegel, the protagonist of the classic sci-fi anime, Cowboy Bebop, spends the series living in the present but fighting with his past. Formerly a violent member of a crime syndicate, Spike reinvented himself as a bounty hunter, partnering with Jet Black, a former cop, and picking up other crew along the way. And while almost every episode of the series focuses on the present and how the crew of the Cowboy Bebop try to attain bounties, certain episodes are directed toward the past, with a finale that brings Spike into a collision course with his former life. Spike hasn’t been running away from the past, per se; he just hasn’t been dealing with it. Why would he? As dangerous as his life is as a bounty hunter, it’s still calmer than what he had in the syndicate, and Spike seems to feel that he’s risen from the dead for a reason (certainly not to become a gangster again). But Spike’s past keeps drawing him in. The same can be said with the others on crew, but there’s a difference, as each is able to resolve his or her past: Jet moves on from his former love once and for all; Ed and Ein find a permanent home; and Faye accepts that her younger life has passed her by. In some cases, as with Faye, I might not like the answers I find. Faye’s story may be the most intriguing among the crew. She was involved...

Alien: Covenant and the Significance of Sacrificial Love May24

Alien: Covenant and the Significance of Sacrificial Love...

The Alien films are all about the coldness of space with an emphasis on mechanics ahead of humans, the quietness in the vastness of the universe, and the xenomorphs that hunt humans without relent. So it feels strange, at first, that in Alien: Covenant the vessel is led by a crew consisting largely of married couples, carrying in the warmth of love to this callous environment. Unlike in many horror films, the couples don’t turn on each other. Their love is real and deep; they are strong, solid, and supportive. It’s no wonder these pairs were specifically selected for the Covenant’s colonization mission, as they have the responsibility of guiding a ship carrying thousands of humans and additional embryos to a new planet. The crew is also friendly, and despite arguments and missteps, genuinely want the best for one another. And yet, despite its promising beginning, lots of people die. The crew of the Covenant fights against the furious predators, the coldness of space, and evils of sin and humanity. This is no touchy-feely universe. Love doesn’t stand a chance. Living a life separated in every way from the frightening fiction of the Aliens franchise, I’m much more optimistic about love. I believe that my friends will reach out to me when I’m hurting. I believe that I’ll be gracious to those who injure me. I believe that my church community will love the downtrodden and the cast aside. Many times, my expectations are met; but more than I’d like to admit to myself, they are not. It doesn’t take a monster to destroy love; humans can do that just fine on their own. In the midst of Alien: Covenant’s chaotic action, the film manages to stress that dilemma. Battles take place within the...

Your Name Demonstrates Love over Distance May08

Your Name Demonstrates Love over Distance...

In a number of east Asian countries, there’s a concept known as the red string of fate. Frequently portrayed in anime and manga, it’s a red cord, invisible to the human eye, connecting two people, usually in a romantic sense. No matter how far apart they are or what obstacles stand in their way, the pair’s fingers (and hearts) are always linked. It’s a charming idea, but one that doesn’t seem to fit in this modern world. I wonder, what would happen if that antiquated string was traded for a digital thread? Would modern technology change the way we view love? Your Name (Kimi no Na wa), the animated film from Makoto Shinkai that became one of Japan’s all-time highest grossing movies, explores the ideas of romance, fate, and digital technology. It features an unlikely pair: Mitsuha, the eldest daughter in a family tied to a rural community’s Shinto shrine, and Taki, a boy who lives in the megacity of Tokyo and works part-time as a waiter and bus boy. Tied together through a supernatural and cosmic phenomenon, the high schoolers begin switching bodies on a regular basis; the only way they can communicate with one another about the situation is by leaving messages on notepads, scribbling marks on their own bodies, and more typically, typing in a journaling app on their phones. I can work to love those people in my life that are otherwise separated from me. Their odd way of communication is played for laughs as they chronicle their days, often laying down ground rules and leaving snarky remarks, for each other. That surface-level conversation reminds me of my own smartphone habits. I’m frequently in dialogue with friends through Facebook, Twitter, and other apps, and though I communicate with more people...

Arriving at Regret Mar15

Arriving at Regret

It’s easy to dwell on regret. “If you could see your whole life from start to finish, would you change things?” Dr. Louise Banks, a linguist charged with communicating with visiting aliens in the science fiction film Arrival, asks. In times of reflection, I all too often dismiss that question. It feels too banal, too much like it’s part of the plot for a Disney channel movie. And my answer would inevitably be something similar to the response Jeremy Renner’s character gives: “Maybe I’d say what I felt more often. I don’t know.” I would probably change a few minor things here and there, rework some regrettable moments, but live my life generally as it has been, and how it will be, because I wouldn’t want to miss the moments I treasure; I wouldn’t want to lose my connections to people that are in my life now and in the future. Basically, I would just live my current life, but leveled up. But after seeing Arrival, my answer doesn’t feel like enough. What moved me profoundly in the movie was how it caused me to dig deeper and think about what I would do if I could feel all the pain of the past and all the pain to come, including the tragedy that befalls us when relationships are broken forever by death. If I knew all that, and I could change the ending, then would I really do things more or less the same, or would I veer hard left, wholly altering the route of my life? Would I make the selfish choices for my own happiness, even if it meant passing my burdens onto others and causing them pain and grief? Would I miss out on my precious moments in lieu of...