Sexism At Fantasy Book Cafe

There’s nothing quite like a blog that intelligently points out all of the world’s wrongs. Particularly sexism. Foz’s “Christ on a bicycle” moment is my favourite.

shattersnipe: malcontent & rainbows

Warning: all the rant.

As someone who talks a lot about sexism in general, but particularly with reference to SFF and fandom, I’m often frustrated by the fact that many people either don’t understand what sexism is, or actively disagree that it still goes on: not just because their lack of understanding makes it harder to explain why Hollywood’s predisposition towards failing the Bechdel test is symptomatic of wider social problems (for instance), but because it means that, more often than not, before I can discuss the issue at hand – be it the treatment of women in gaming or the insertion of unnecessary sex scenes into HBO’s adaptation of Game of ThronesI’m forced to run through the conversational equivalent of Sexism 101 in order to get my interlocutor onside. Now, being as how much of modern sexism is insidious and subtle, up to a point, I’m fairly…

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Religious Reformation in Dragon Age II and Final Fantasy X

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Before we can explore the discourse surrounding the theme of religious reformation in the videogames Final Fantasy X (Square, released in Japan 2001) and Dragon Age II (BioWare, released universally in 2011), it is important to define what is meant by ‘reformation’. The Collins dictionary definition is, ‘1. improve 2. reconstruct – vi. 3. abandon evil practices’ (p. 620) In this case, in order for change to occur within a current system, everything has to be altered; the entire system has to be reconsidered, not slightly altered.

Within the two videogames discussed here the characters take drastic measures to alter their respective societies into what they believe is better, but each story does so with very different tones and moral choices. Reformation encompasses race, class, religion, politics, gender, sexuality but for the sake of focus, religious reformation will be the main study of this essay as it is the most prominent change within these two videogames.

If you’re currently playing the games in question, be warned: this post has spoilers.

Challenging Popular Perceptions
Videogames are undervalued as a ‘low cultural medium’

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Artwork by StellaB

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Evangelion Manga Reviews: Apocalypse and Beaches

evangelion_144What are the spin-off mangas like?

Are you a fan of the popular anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion? Do you want to know what the spin-off mangas are like? Then this review is for you!

I’m a fan of the original series and most of its varing manifestations. I was recently surprised to discover that there are two manga series. They are, for the most part, published fanfiction and not written by Hideaki Anno but this doesn’t mean they are bad.

I’ll be scrutinising use of plot, writing skill and characterisation. The two manga series in question are: The Shinji Ikari Rising Project and Campus Apocalypse

There are no spoilers in these reviews, but they are aimed at people who already know the characters and are aware of the original plot.

NGE_ShinjiIkariV1The Shinji Ikari Raising Project

Volume #1

This particular spin-off manga, by Osamu Takahashi, drags us into an altered universe with gorgeous artwork featuring our favourite leading characters – primarly, Asuka Langley Soryu.

It takes a while for any serious plot to kick in – chapter 6, to be precise. The lives of Asuka, Shinji and Rei are completely mundane and revolve around sexual comedy and romantic angst. In a world where Shinji’s mother is still alive and living in a family unit with Gendo Ikari, the story tries to explore how the chosen three teenagers would compete and interact if dating was their only worry.

We’re led through this alternate universe by Asuka who has been friends with Shinji since the age of four. This childhood bond is threatened when the beautiful Rei Ayanami moves to town – capturing Shinji’s interest – and forces Asuka to consider if she wants to be more than Shinji’s friend.

It’s beautifully drawn but plot points concerning the EVA are jarring and feel out of place in an average world where no one even vaguely mentions the Angels. There is no tension or threat of an imminent attack, which makes the EVA project feel slightly superfluous, like an attempt to create danger where there is none.

The first volume is light hearted compared to the original anime series and takes a somewhat heart-warming look at the dynamics between Rei, Asuka and Shinji. In fact, it acts like a harem in which Rei and Asuka fall over Shinji, and Shinji himself frequently catches glimpses of female underwear; torn between the attractions of two striking young women. So if you’re not a fan of series like Oh! My Goddess this might not be the adaptation for you.

Saying this, Takahashi has done a fantastic job of staying true to the original characters’ personalities and it might be worth giving it a go just to enjoy spending time with Asuka and company. They have been altered to better socialise with each other as there’s an uplifting sense of friendship and love beneath all their pranks and bickering. Even the adults, especially Misato Katsuragi and Gendo, have a cheerful disposition that seems unhampered by dark, NERV secrets.

For those of you hoping for shipping fanservice, Takahashi does a grand job of teasing you with hints at yaoi, yuri and het pairings all around.

It’s a calm and casual approach to Evangelion. The plot is vague and distracted with summer festivals and beach trips, but the characterisation is gripping and makes it worth reading if you want a closer look at ‘what might have been’ had Shinji and Asuka come from a happier environment. Mechs are not promised!

I personally don’t enjoy this kind of manga, so I won’t be buying the rest of the series. For those of you who do like harem-esc manga, this seems like a good one.

  • Fantastic characterisation

  • Beautiful artwork

  • Superfluious plot

campus-apocalypseCampus Apocalypse

Volume #1

Compared to The Shinji Ikari Raising Project, Ming Ming’s Campus Apocalypse is an original and thoughtful alternate-reality. Corporation NERV, Shinji’s high school, the Angels and the characters themselves have been shaken up and re-imagined. This one is my favourite of the two.

Mystery arises from the get-go when Shinji spots his classmate running around at night with a Giant Spear (a.k.a. the Lance of Longinus) and an unknown guy. He puts this out of his mind until the next day at school where he attends NERV Foundation, a Catholic high school.

His curiosity is peaked when ‘the unknown guy’ turns out to be a transfer student by the name of Kaworu Nagisa who has a particular interest in Shinji, and a suspicious attitude towards Rei. Little does Shinji know, his curiosity will plunge him into a world of Angels, EVAs, Cores, AT Fields and prophecies – but not as you’d expect.

Compared to the original series, the art style has a more modern, anime feel. Ming has poured his own touch onto the page rather than perfectly mimic Anno’s drawing, which is part of what makes this series stand out.

I wasn’t sure if Ming’s story would be particularly good, as the first “in-class-scene” has a forced tone of humour. It’s more a case of, ‘look, isn’t this FUNNY?‘ than it actually being humorous. I was thrilled to discover that the story takes a compelling turn and has an exciting take on all the tech/techno-babble from the series. The Angels are especially interesting in this adaptation. In fact, it was the appearance of the first ‘Angel’ that hooked my attention.

The mood of storytelling has kept with the original – dreamy, brutal, symbolic (to a sensible degree) – and promises to be an insightful interpretation. The characters are true to themselves, especially Rei, Shinji and Asuka. Like the Shinji Ikari Raising Project, Shinji’s abandonment issues have been toned down but he is a lot truer to his original characterisation with unforgettable, well implemented mantras such as, “I mustn’t run away. I mustn’t run away. I mustn’t run away!

For those of you who ship Kaworu and Shinji, there are enough intense stairs between the two boys to make fangirls die of giggles.

This is a compelling adaptation with narrative skill and unexpected re-imaginings of the original series. The artwork isn’t quite as mesmerising as Takahashi’s but the plot makes up for it by the book load. I’ll be buying the next volume.

  • Gripping story

  • Unique alternate universe

  • Well written

Are you a big fan of the Evangelion series? Have you read either of these mangas, too?

Fifty Shades of Feminism

This has to be the best “Fifty Shades” marketing pun out there. That’s it, they don’t get better or more tongue in cheek than this. Now stop.

But I’m not posting this to rage about marketing puns, or Fifty Shades of Gray. I want to share with you a new book. A fantastic book. A book that makes me feel solidarity with not just women, but people. If you haven’t heard of Fifty Shades of Feminism edited by Lisa Appignanesi, Rachel Holmes & Susie Orbach, that’s not surprising. It’s a book about feminism, after all. Ech.

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What makes this book special is its informality. This isn’t a preaching book. This isn’t trying to tell you The Rules Of Feminism (because they don’t exist, by the way). Fifty Shades of The F-Word is a book filled with stories, personal struggles, hope and reasons to challenge the equality lie.

It contains three-to-four page entries from fifty women around the world of all ages, sexuality and shades of feminist ideas. I started reading it yesterday and I’m a third of the way through.

So, what I really wanted to do was share with you parts of one story that have resonated with me the most and, I suspect, will resonate with many young women from my generation and younger. It’s an entry by Sharon Haywood, called Owning the F-word. It succinctly puts across the difficulties many people face in a Western world that is entrenched with anti-feminist rhetoric. I hope it reaches women afraid of being ostracized for trying to reclaim a demonised movement.

“I was always a feminist . . . I just didn’t know it.

As a teen and a young woman, I would rattle off misinformed excuses for not owning feminism, and it doesn’t seem to have changed much with up-and-coming generations. Take twenty-two-year-old Taylor Swift, internationally acclaimed pop-country singer, who when asked whether she was a feminist responded, ‘I don’t really think about things as guys versus girls. I never have. I was raised by parents who brought me up to think if you work as hard as guys, you can go far in life.’

It wasn’t until my thirties, when I left my provenance in Canada to explore other cultures, that I came to learn that feminism is not a battle of the sexes, and sometimes working hard simply isn’t enough. It took moving to Argentina, where 15 per cent of cosmetic surgery patients are teenage girls seeking Botox injections, chin implants and lip fillers, for me to become a card-carrying feminist.

By the 1980s, just as I grew old enough to form my own opinion, the backlash aimed at the second wave of feminism was firmly entrenched in popular culture. The media and entertainment industry did (and still do) a fine job of depicting feminists as militant, hairy and angry, strengthening the stereotype that no one I knew wanted to be associated with. I bought into the propaganda that feminists were man-hating, undesirable and humourless, adjectives I most certainly did not want attached to my name.

Although I recognised that many of my basic rights – voting, getting a credit card, attending university and having full reproductive autonomy – came courtesy of earlier generations of feminists, I couldn’t relate to them. A combination of immaturity, widely accepted delegitimizing stereotypes and having never known a real-life feminist shaped my believe that the women’s movement had finished its job.

Even though my core values aligned with feminism, I fervently defended my beliefs in equality by tagging on the disclaimer, ‘Yes, but I’m not a feminist,’ lest I be ostracized from mainstream society. I rejected the F-word when I called out my friends on sexist jokes, when I maintained catcalling is sexual harassment and even when I defended my undergraduate thesis arguing the association between porn and violence against women. The relationship between less obvious forms of oppression in my midst and the work of earlier feminists eluded me.

[. . .]

Since I’ve owned feminism, my life has changed for the better. It has heightened my sensitivity to the different experiences of people as they intersect with various aspects of their identity. It’s improved the quality of my personal relationships with others and myself. And it’s affirmed that a small group of committed people can indeed effect positive change. That said, imagine what our world would look like if feminism wasn’t restricted to the fringe.

Study after study has shown that feminism self-identity lends to greater collective action, thus increasing the likelihood of social change. From Argentina to Australia, the more of who own feminism as part of who we are, the greater our odds of raising consciousness and dissolving the rhetoric that stands in the way of gender equality.

Perhaps with more life experience, celebrity and role models like Taylor Swift and other well-known self-proclaimed non-feminists – actress-director Drew Barrymore, singer-songwriter Björk and Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, to name a few – will recognize that they too are in fact feminists, and pave a less-obtrusive path for all women.

Taking ownership of the label doesn’t require abandoning the role of stay-at-home mother, earning a doctorate in gender studies or founding a non-profit organization (and it certainly doesn’t trigger overnight facial hair), but it does mean possessing and wielding out combined potential and power to achieve genuine equality.

Individually, it starts with the assertion. Yes, I am a feminist. Full stop.”

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To read Haywood’s full entry, you should really buy Fifty Shades of Feminism. It’s a great way to tease into a muggy subject; especially if you don’t know how to shape what it means, or if you aren’t sure whether to believe feminists are nuts or not (I advocate not, ta); with fascinating, uplifting, inspiring stories.

Final Fantasy Voice Actors Recast

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have already heard about Final Fantasy Still a spin off Final Fantasy series on YouTube; featured by Machinima, written and directed by Christian Sekhanan. It’s an incredible achievement with over 40 voice actors and hundreds of hours poured into animation production.

After the launch of season 2, it went on hiatus, but it’s a pleasure to announce its return! I’m also excited to tell you that I am returning as the voice of Aerith Gainsborough. This both terrifies me and thrills me. It’s not like Aerith is an icon, or anything, right? Talk about pressure.

But I’ve been lucky over the years to work for some truly amazing directors, who are not only patient, give clear direction and are well organised, but also encouraging. No matter how good you think a voice actor is, encouragement is one of the best things you can offer. Every voice actor has at some point doubted their credibility – especially when it seems like they’re doing better than ever before.

So, what I’m trying to say is: thank you, Chris, for casting me and for making me feel like part of the team. Final Fantasy Still is an amazing project to be a part of, and its success is well deserved.

Without further ado, let me share with you some of my favourite demo reels from the FFS cast!

Onion Knight Ingus

Shantotto

Lightning

Tifa Lockhart

Kefka

Jecht

Laguna Loire