Anime Review #1- Rosario + Vampire

I’ve actually been meaning to write about this one for a while. The premise is perfect. A boy who fails to get into any prestigious private schools is accidentally enrolled in a school for monsters, Yokai Academy. The only human, surrounded by snow ghosts, succubi, werewolves, vampires, witches, cat people and blob monsters quickly attracts a posse of magical females… who all want him. The age and premise make this akin to a gender-swapped City of Bones. Powerful females constantly protecting the puny human from a world that he was unwillingly cast into? Multiple suitors vying for affection? One of them is an outright stalker?

Yup.

Tsukune Aono flirts with Moka Akashiya (who is a sweet girl wearing a rosary that keeps her violent vampire form underwraps), Tsukune likes her but doesn’t like sharing his blood and isn’t 100% about dating a vampire. He is also pursued by a busty succubus, Kurumu…

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…and the super stalker Mizore.

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Mizore begins as a villain, willing to hurt Kurumu, Moka and even Tsukune himself while in pursuit of his affections. During the altercation Tsukune blames himself. Says that this is all happening because of him. Kurumu wisely speaks up, telling him that he is not to blame, “It is never the victims fault! People are responsible for their own actions!”

This is something that is few and far between in media aimed for the tween and teen set (although I wouldn’t rate this anime in that category) we often see victim blaming in YA. Examples include, audiences not liking Clary’s “friendzoning” of Simon, the “romantic” stalker Edward’s over protectiveness of Bella, Buffy’s mother blaming her for the creeper behavior by Angelus after they sleep together. So I had a fist pump moment when she blurted that out.

Tsukune is also kind of a special snowflake himself: he’s the only one that can remove the cross from Moka’s neck. He solves his problem using traditionally female tactics like talking out problems with the monster.

Although I’m touting the feminist power of Rosario + Vampire… Moka’s transformation scene leaves much to be desired in that category.

At Anime Boston there was a panel called “Fight Like a Girl: How Magical Girls Weaponize Femininity” the presenter was named Nina (if anyone has additional info, throw me a comment, I’d love to add it) and she brought up this excellent point about magical girl transformation scenes from Sailor Moon and Ballerina Tutu. The Females put on jewelry, get a hair makeover and/or change into a fancier outfit. This can have both negative and positive interpretations. From “you have to be beautiful and girly to have power” to “you can be pretty and girly and have ability as well” to “pride in your appearance can be empowering” and it is really individual preference that will dictate one’s interpretation.

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But with Moka: We get and upskirt, her breasts enlarge and her shirt busts open. Brief flashes of (albeit not graphic) nudity ensue before her hair lightens. Her inner-vampire is a true immortal in the body of a girl and I see why this happens but I have trouble concocting a positive twist on cleavage and panty shots being a sign of power. The anime itself is rated MA 18+ (there’s a BDSM teacher/monster, a perverted senior and a million upskirts) so the case can be made that this is for adults… but the characters are still Freshman and Sophomores and one member of their group is only 11, Yukari Sendou.

And the lessons learned are very teenage. Yukari, for example, faces bullying for being a witch (a “being of the borderline” AKA a supernatural HUMAN) until Moka and Tsukune stick up for her. She’s also coming to terms with her sexual orientation she falls first for Moka and then for Tsukune she wants them to have a three way relationship. In one episode, after being teased by volumptuous Kurumu she wants to grow up and visits the school nurse who feeds off her body shame and self loathing but transforms her into a beautiful womanly figure who instantly attracts attention. In the end she learns to love herself as she is and not grow up too fast. So the rating and life lessons are very incongruent. I don’t know what the rating is in Japan and I have heard that the 18+ rating is ethnocentric and based on prudish Western connotations.

Still.. there’s nothing empowering about wind blowing your skirt up.

If you can get passed that it is very good and lots of fun. I enjoy seeing how the group of friends gets out of trouble and am impressed with how often opening their circle up to other characters- who are mainly female- solves conflict. I also enjoyed the varied interpretations of monsters, and despite pandering to male audiences there is some genuine girl power.

Agents of SHIELD- episode 15

Yes Men AKA “The Lady Sif episode”

Lorelei, Amora’s kid sister, Loki’s friend and sometime love interest; shifts her focus from random newlywed to a gang of bikers to start her army. Similarly to Loki, Lorelei is the younger sibling that never lives up to expectations, Lorelei has recently been confined and unable to speak, so when she gets loose she really blows the doors off of things.

Back at the plane, Skye is still stuck in bed at the prodding of Agents Simmons who is desperately trying to find out more about the “wonder drug.” Ward comes in to visit Skye and makes cute smiles at her while she complains that “she must look hideous” (she’s wearing an awful lot of makeup for someone who ‘hasn’t seen a mirror’). Anyway, Coulson is trying to find Director Fury but no one will let him near him. Suspicion grows! But while Coulson is gone, Agent May holds down the fort. They get a call about incoming Asgardian activity.

They find Lady Sif in the middle of the desert via the bifrost. Lorelei entered unnoticed via one of Loki’s secret pathways. Lady Sif explains that they are up against a sorceress that can bend men’s wills. Lorelei is used to commanding armies and starting wars. She also explains that Lorelei’s power only works on men… they have an inherent weakness..

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Is the weakness a Y chromosome?

The implication is, of course, that no MAN can resist her feminine wiles. But so… even men who are gay? But not women who are gay?

Because I have got to tell you. This would have been a better episode if Simmons was bi and helped Lorelei take down the team. No one would have expected that and we would have gotten some LGBT visibility over here -in the comic book genre/Marvel Universe/primetime network TV realm where there’s not much. And in this case, it wouldn’t have been “inclusion cookies” it would have actually added depth to the episode.

Because I honestly called the rest of this shit.

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The Team + Lady Sif heads to the biker bar where Lorelei is setting up her empire, and I already know that 1/2 the team is men and of that team there are only 3 that really get out of the plane and 2/3 of them are men. If Lorelei is after the greatest warriors then she will head for Ward (even though that makes less sense since Coulson is actually “the leader” but we need angst here people!) and Ward will fall hard and by the time Lorelei squeezed his arm I was already like “We can pack this up here. He won’t betray Lorelei for May but Skye will bring him around.”

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So, Simmons gets sidetracked (because she’s been tending to Skye instead of being in the field and having more involvement in the Lorelei situation) and says that she needs outside help to identify the Wonder Drug. I love driven academic types. Coulson shoots it down. Ward and Lorelei head for Vegas. There Ward references that he cares for a member of the team but that she’s nothing next to Lorelei…

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The the two have a sexy clothes ripping hook up. After she feeds him the line “You’re a real man with the rage of a berserker inside.” Which reminds us that the fury brought on by the berserker staff is still very much alive in Ward (yeah, so in Melinda May, too)

Meanwhile Sif and May bond over weaponry and losing their men to vixens. Sif warns her that Ward, the real Ward is lost to Lorelei’s will. May says “Ward won’t kill me. He might try to kill me, but he won’t.”

And then, while they should be looking for Lorelei, she and Ward take over the plane. This leads to the inevitable May vs. Ward faceoff -where Lorelei reveals that the “beautiful warrior with the heart of ice” is not the one who had his love.

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Sif, meanwhile throwing down with Lorelei is antagonized by the redhaired vixen who reminds Sif that she made the love of Sif’s life obey her every command, that Thor thinks of Sif as a man. Sif subdues her and slaps the magic collar on. Ward snaps out of it just in time to not get dead and stuff.

But here’s the fucking thing though, so none of our “strong” chicks get happiness? Ward tries to apologize to May, she waves it off with an “I told you that you didn’t have to worry about that with me.” Which she did, she was really forthcoming with the fact that it would be no strings attached and that it couldn’t get in the way of work. May also has a heart to heart with Coulson, say that he needs to open up about what he saw, even if it’s not to her, even if it’s to Skye. And he does and he tells Skye that the “wonder drug” was alien blood (btw- Sif mentioned the Kree earlier, I’m thinking my theory was right!). In the closing scenes we catch Melinda May listening in… and she calls it in, saying that “Coulson knows.”

So, damn, May knew?

I don’t want Ward and Skye together. I just don’t. And I don’t really hate Skye. I’m tired of this idea that tough and capable women aren’t worthy of love in the way that special snowflake Mary Sues are.

This episode had a lot going on in the background (Coulson divulging about the alien, the obvious cover-up, Melinda’s informing on them.). And a lot of awesome stuff in the foreground (Lorelei recently reappeared in Loki:Agent of Asgard #2, and it was awesome. And who does not love Jaimie Alexander looking all Asgardian? Nerd cookies everywhere!) But this fucking episode also ignored the existence of LGBT people entirely. And it’s even worse because of Lady Sif and Melinda’s implied fist bump over male weakness. Umm.. no. Because it’s not that. It’s that men are socialized to be protectors and unfortunately women are socialized to be damsels. Which is what happened here. Skye was kicked back all helpless, while May was fighting for everyone’s safety …but who does Ward love? Melinda’s showed him tenderness and compassion (as much as she can) but who does Ward love? Women are socialized to believe that being a true equal takes you out of the running for being a love interest. The backstory of both May and Sif in this episode fucking dead on perpetuated that. Shut up. I feel like there’s something in there about Lorelei using her sexuality for empowerment but not being better than the “strong female characters” -but even so, they don’t get the whole package, either.

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Someone write me a fanfic where Gemma Simmons falls for Lorelei and she hijacks the plane while the lock Ward in the holding cell which would have been the logical thing to do anyway: WHO BRINGS SOMEONE WHO HAS ZERO CHANCE OF NOT BECOMING A HUMAN WEAPON? Where was Agent Hand and Maria Hill?! If “only men are susceptible” why would you not CALL ALL THE WOMEN?!

Someone help. Send logic.

The Slut Shaming of Buffy Summers

It’s my day off! Gourmet breakfast and a Buffy minimarathon ensues! This show is jam packed with problematic nonsense. I know, I like this show, too, but it’s true. Don’t get so defensive.

Before we begin: What is a “slut”?

No one seems to actually come up with one cohesive definition of what is and is not “a slut” factors can vary because of age, social circles, class, religious belief, the season, the fashion. Whatever. A slut is someone who “sleeps around” but how many people is required to be considered “sleeping around”? Is it based on relationship status? People will call a female “slut” not only because of real, perceived or rumored sexual prowess but because of how they look in leggings, what color shoes they have on or if they are wearing “too much eye make up” or the size of her breasts.

 What is “slut shaming”?

Harassing, insulting or judging a woman, labeled a “slut” by the afore mentioned waffling definition.

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 The whole plot of Buffy Season 2 is an anti-teen-sex PSA. Let’s just get that out in the open, in case some how you didn’t get that. The episode where Buffy has sex with Angel (Season 2 Episodes 13 and 14), he loses his soul, and becomes a whole different person. Literally “men treat women differently after they have sex.” Then her mother says she seems “different” just by looking at her.

The virginal Willow repeatedly calls Cordelia a “skank.” Because let’s face it, when a woman goes after what she wants, and what she wants is a man, even if he’s without relationship status, she must be a skanky slut whore. But that’s not who I’m here to talk about. While Cordelia may or may not have even slept with anyone, Buffy slept with exactly one person before she was slut shamed, judged negatively, deemed inferior and deemed unable to make competent decisions.

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In Season 2 Episode 17

This is the most egregious of the examples. Angel is breaking into Buffy’s house at night and drawing creepy pictures of her while she sleeps, petting her hair and leaving notes on her pillow. Creepy stalker abusive exboyfriend behavior x4. When Buffy discusses with the Scooby Gang how to revoke her invitation and keep him out, Xander says, “That’s what you get for inviting strange men in.” Then later, after Angel creeps out her mom and tells her that he and Buffy ‘made love’ her mother says “He’s too old for you, and obviously unstable. I expect you to make better choices.” Really? Are 16 year olds well known for good choices? A teenage girl should obviously realize that men turn into stalkers and psychopaths as soon as they let the man “get the milk for free,” it’s clearly her own fault. Yikes. This is what girls are told. Buffy’s friends and her mother blame her for getting stalked. They blame her for getting stalked! And no one points out how effed up this is!

And I would like to point out also, not that I needed to, but Angel was a creepy stalker when he still had a soul. He stalked Buffy before she even came to Sunnydale. And then he pops out of the shadows throughout the first two seasons. He follows her because “she’s going to need help.” Yeah… help to get away from you, creep.

 In Season 2 Episode 18

This one’s light on the meta plot, Buffy’s in the hospital with the flu. Xander stands watch to make sure Angel doesn’t come by, being a public place he needs no invitation. Angel calls Xander out on still being in love with her. Xander tells him, “You’re going to die and I’m going to be there.” Angel calls Xander “Buffy’s white knight.” Xander, even though he’s with Cordelia, is still mad he got “relegated to the friendzone” and incessantly stakes his claim on Buffy. Xander, who last episode blamed her for getting stalked is now her protector. Because he’s such a “nice guy.”

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No. Fuck you, Xander Harris. 

In Season 2 Episode 19

Buffy dates a guy on the swim team, he gets pushy with her and she bashes his head into the steering wheel. The school officials are all “poor this guy” and then when Buffy says he deserved it, and it was just a sprained wrist and a bloody nose. Everyone gives her the side eye and then she says “granted there’s not a scratch on me, that doesn’t help my case.” So Buffy should have allowed a man to force himself on her and leave marks before she defended herself? This reeks reminiscently of “forcible rape” dialogue and victims being interrogated when they bring abuse/rape charges against someone, which happens in the real world too damn often.

13 Ways to Ensure I Will Not Like Your Book

1. The book involves racism against WHITE PEOPLE: White protagonists suffering at the hands of “evil minorities” solely because they are white. KNOCK THAT SHIT OFF.

2. The women in this book are all morons.

3. There’s one woman in the book and she incessantly talks about how much better than everyone else she is.

4. Misogynist werewolf nonsense

5. There’s one woman in this book who seems to be lacking all commonsense, reason and logic but is somehow a high ranking government agent/paranormal detective.

6. There’s one woman in this book and she’s supposedly mega-powerful but keeps needing to be saved (by the men! there are no women here)

7. Creepy brother and sister relationships. Game of Thrones gets a pass on this.

8. Instant-love. Soul bonds, mated pairs, fated couples. Blah blah blah. This implies that no one has any agency in their own destiny or happiness. And, it’s lazy writing. “Look I threw in some ‘magic’ so I didn’t have to waste time on writing how their perceptions of each other change and how they develop a mature relationship.”

9. Honestly, weretigers. Everything I’ve ever read with weretigers is dumb.

10. Stuff that out of nowhere goes on political/religious rants that make no sense for the story but were put in by the author who could just not resist spewing her bigotry.

11. “Immortality is a curse” What?! no!

12. Books that are obvious knock-off of the Hunger Games (I didn’t even love the Hunger Games).

13. Stalking/obsession/abuse as true love. We’re grown ups and we should know better. The sheer amount of this in YA and TV aimed at tweens is gross. Seriously, someone call To Catch A Predator.

I stole this idea from the Top Ten Tuesday Meme, but I made it my own. I will read any topic, even some of these if someone steps in and says “this is not okay!” But usually they don’t. It’s annoying. And mostly you can’t tell from the outside of the book if the author is unabashedly a vehement racist. I can’t read that shit.