Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Magical Revisited #1: Revolutionary Girl Utena

As mentioned in my Gundam article, I wanna go into reviewing movies and anime more in a deep way for those interested, and mostly to get myself back in the groove of analyzing visual medias for the purposes of historical or intellectual discussion. So what better thing for me to talk about in a large big amount of words that are complicated, then to discuss something I know a lot about: Magical Girl Shows. So with that I am going to start a series of deeply diving into Mahou Shoujo Shows you may or may not know. So grab your star wand and let's take a look at our first series that is said to be revolutionary

Remember that time you played with the boys at school and wished you could be cooler then them but still be a girl? I had these similar visions, especially when the boys at school would kick my lunch box and tell me that Sailor Moon was utterly stupid. Now of course, I wish I could have thrown some Tiara Magic in their face, but I really just wish I could have been induced with epic amounts of girl power at that point to teach them a lesson. But finally came a little unique show with a big pink haired girl with short shorts. This characters name is Utena, and she eventually became one of my favorite anime characters and Magical Girls. Utena is a series that one could either consider absolutely brilliant or absolutely .... what? But I can say I am on the brilliant spectrum with higher praise to add. 

Revolutionary Girl Utena is the story of a girl that discovers things about herself through going on a female oriented emotional journey, surrounded by castles and 80's music video style sequences. Utena is also the story of a girl who starts off as a princess and ends up a prince. No, this isn't the story of someone literally changing their gender or nor the one of a girl coming out of the closet, though many seem to automatically go in that direction, but Utena isn't meant for that. Utena is not straight forward and if it was, it truly would be put in a forgettable category.

Utena is a princess that is orphaned at a young age and is found by a prince who romances her with his charm, giving her a rose crested ring along with an incredible amount of inspiration, to the point where she dreams of being a prince, herself, someday - metaphorically. We go forward years later to where Utena is a teen, and is the infamous tomboy that all the girls at school idolize and the boys grow envy of. She stumbles upon, in her words, "a lovers quarle" between wallflower Anthy Himamiya and student council member Saionji Kyouichi, that gives her a trigger reaction to defend Anthy and brings her into a duel and thus further down the rabbit hole she goes.
Sunday, February 17, 2013

California Dreaming: Part 1 ~ Birthday Celebration

So yes, I am officially back from vacation (one of two technically, as you will see!) California was nothing short of amazing. Arriving off the plane from New York into LAX was magical, such as was our bus to the Sheraton Anaheim, driven by a hilarious driver who made Aladdin references on multiple occasions. We eventually arrived to the hotel late in the evening, with everything being as magical and perfect as I remember back in 2011. The lobby still smelled like California Pine Trees, the fish area was still the coolest shade of blue and the cheesy elevator music was blasting hardcore (as hardcore as a hotel could, anyway). We entered the small three floor elevator (which I am convinced smells like the main Star Tours ride - a specific but not bad musk of some kind.) We then plopped ourselves in our room, flopped on the bed and rested for the first big day of our vacation - My birthday!

I sadly woke up at 5am LA Time, since my brain was still on New York time. I can easily say I was too excited, and I was even more happy to see that my mom had gotten me a Chai latte to start my big birthday off just right. We then got ourselves dressed and headed off to Goofy's Kitchen for breakfast. Goofy's a buffet style place, with tons and tons of delicious food. But the thing that makes it truly magical is the really cool experiences you have meeting the most random assortment of characters, and some how I got really lucky because my favorite character that I wanted to meet was there: Peter Pan. I think this might have been because they were promoting the BluRay release, but regardless it was awesome. Peter and me joked about my birthday, and we took a lovely picture together. I also got to meet favorites like Chip, Dale, Rafiki and Mulan! I wanted to meet Captain Hook too, but sadly he was super busy during my stay. 

(Entrance to the Disneyland Hotel)

Then it was park time! I met up with my lovely CA friend, Amber. We both twinned in Toy Parade salopette version (Me in black, her in mint) and all three of us entered into the park and went straight to my favorite ride that I had been missing since my first visit: Indiana Jones Adventure: The Temple of the Forbidden Eye. This ride is nothing short of badass, and upon our first visit (of many times during our vacation!)  Amber told us that the ride had gotten a new refurb since I was there last, where a lot of the effects got a new touch up including the lights and some of the colors in the set pieces. 

Everything about this ride is perfect: Its bumpy and adventurous but not too scary, and has just the right amount of thrills for a tame thrill seeker like me (I am not into roller coasters BUT I love a good fast pace thrill ride like a motion simulator or dark ride like this) My favorite scene is when you enter the Temple with the lava bit and bridge, and of course when the giant snake leaps out at you. Even my mom enjoyed going on it multiple times with me, which says a lot about her. 

After Indie, we ran off to Star Tours, my second favorite ride. Yes, if you can't tell I am a bit of a George Lucas fangirl when it comes to Disneyland attractions. Though Star Wars isn't my favorite nerdy thing in the world, it still holds a special place in my heart. Star Tours though is fantastic, especially now with the new refurbishment in which you can end up in multiple locations within the universe of the franchise. This was the other ride I went on multiple times like Indie, and has incredible re-ride ability. After Star Tours, we leaped over to another George Lucas creation, Captain EO, the Michael Jackson 3D movie - which never gets old.

We then headed off to Pirates of the Caribbean - rounding out my top 3 rides in the park. This is a classic and the size and scoop this attraction produces is incredible and has my jaw drop every single time I go on it, especially when you enter the main section of the ride with the incredible still state of the art animatronics. Once we got off the ride, me and my mom parted ways from Amber and went to lunch next door at Blue Bayou, a restaurant experience inside the space in which Pirates resides. The space is themed to New Orlean's nightlife, with the whole place being completely dark and the atmosphere seeming like you are outside in the real Bayou. And that food was just as epic as I expected - the Monte Cristo Sandwiches were epic and the Gumbo was brilliant. 

(Mint Julep Deliciousness!)
Afterwards, we met up with Amber again and went on a few more random rides before meeting Disney's new and Pixar's first princess, Merida. Merida of course was adorable, with her giant red hair and bear cubs behind her is truly precious. But what was even more cool was prior to us meeting her, Ariel and Cinderella popped up to say hi to her, and some silly interaction took place. Afterwards we met up with my friends Jenika and Kate, who are some of the coolest ladies on the planet. We first rode Dumbo, which funny enough I had never ever been on before (probably cause I have a bit of Vertigo, and heights basically freak me out) but I survived and it was grand. We then went on another first for me, The Matterhorn, and that was truly awesome and now I can add to one of my favorites. 

We then headed to California Adventure, where I got my first taste of Cars Land (but more on that for the next entry) and Buena Vista Street as well. I ended my time at the parks for the day with a showing of Muppet Vision 3D, along with a ride on The Little Mermaid and Toy Story Midway Mania. I then said goodbye to the parks for the day, and met up with my good CA friend Julie (blog link here) for a lovely Birthday dinner at a cute little asian spot. Sadly my voice was very horse and my illness I had been slowly getting rid of came back, so I wasn't as lively as I would like to be, but I had an excellent time none the less, as Julie is one of my favorite ladies ever. We ended the night with having a Dessert Box (a box made of toast, filled of tons of yummy themed treats) called Paris in a Box and it was amazing to say the least. 

(In front of the Beauty and the Beast Lego set up!)

And if you can believe it, that was only the first day of my vacation. Look forward to another post for Part 2 of the California Dreaming series!

TempleCon: Not The Usual Experience

I will be the first to admit that I have been going to Anime and or some sort of Fandom conventions since I was 13 years old. Some would be reluctant to tell such truths, as they might find it to be something to be ashamed of, or it shows their age (not that I care too much about revealing mine). As such, I am used to the usual con experience: Screaming fangirls, smelly con funk, long lines for panels ala Disneyland, maybe some pocky on the floor with a hint of drama from the Artist Alley floating among conversation. But what I have never experienced is an actual tame convention - one that reflects similar to the last few hours on a Sunday at a typical convention as mentioned. So, when invited by my boyfriend to volunteer at TempleCon, a small Rhode Island convention for that of gaming and Retro Futuristic Fashion, I was on for the challenge.
(Left to Right: My boyfriend, Stefan with friend, Jenny. Steampunk Mermaid and friend. Han Solo Style Frozen Elmo)

I will admit that when I arrived to the first day of the convention that there were no screaming teenagers, no Yaoi pads or Cat Girls to be found and to be completely honest, this was strange for me. I am used to the insanity, for it is my norm and the symphony of my usual con experience. For it to be so peaceful and almost like being in a weekday at the mall was unsettling for me at first. I believe this comes from the attendees of TempleCon, for which most cons have a younger target demographic, this convention houses a more "mature" sort. Not to say that many of its attendee's aren't children at heart with many of the fun things I look for in nerdy con friends, but I believe it to be a nice change of pace to be going to a convention with it being almost completely adults.

Now in no way does this mean this convention didn't have its moments of pure entertaining insanity or lacked any sort of energy. No, no, my dear readers: TempleCon is a ton of fun but in its own unique way. First off, for those that are into the Steampunk movement, this is like finding paradise. For my boyfriend who is really into the style, it was incredibly cool to have an excuse to see him and many other congoers dressed in the best of Victorian and Edwardian clothes, decked with big brass homemade prop guns and incredibly detailed accessories along with some big shoes (my boyfriend's being the coolest, in my opinion!) Also, I did find some Lolitas, who looked fantastic!

(Left to Right: Rhode Island Lolita in AP's Tear Drop Print. Awesome Antler Girl)
Another fun thing I got to do was assist at the big fashion show, were some of the neatest most unusual clothing was shown. As you all might know, I am not new to working the fashion show circuit as I assist a lot of the east coast lolita shows at cons every year, most notably Otakon's indie brand show and Angelic Pretty's show at ACEN last year. So most of the time I am used to working with either Japanese designers or my friends, so this was an unusual case of working with people I have never met and an array of fashion styles I am not as familiar with. Though there were some technical difficulties, I was really impressed with what was shown (especially from brand, Clock and Dagger) and many of the beautiful models involved. I definitely would love to help out again.

Finally, my favorite event of the convention was the multitude of presentations, presented by a performing group called RKO Army. They are famous for putting on those infamous Rocky Horror Picture Show live performances (in which they act out the scenes along with the movie playing in front or behind them, usually with a silly bits of twists for fans.) I was treated to see them perform a marathon of Joss Whedon properties, including FireFly, the famous Buffy musical episode, and of course, Dr. Horrible (the boyfriend's favorite of favorites). You could either sing along, or just watch the insanity performed in front of you. If you live in or near Rhode Island, check them out if you can. Seriously a treat for the senses.

But I have to admit the best part was meeting so many incredibly cool people that I never would have experienced if not for this convention and volunteering for it. I met beautiful people, funny people, inspiring people, and just all around interesting. But on the other hand, it really was incredibly cool to get more bounding time with my man. Usually at cons, I have had the unfortunate series of experiences were being with a significant other isn't fun - where I am made to feel like I did something wrong or that I ruined their experience or secretly they ruined mine - but this isn't the case at all!  

First off, my guy is a great person to travel with, which made the almost three hour car ride a breeze. Also, I learned he is incredibly even more charismatic then first realized and truly enjoys making people happy. Also, he is a great dancer - I wish he could realize how cool he looks doing it. Plus, we even played some hardcore rounds of Magical Drop 3 on an old school arcade. He beat me on numerous occasions but it was still really fun! In general, he really is an incredible person and I am really lucky to have learned that from this weekend and to be with him.

So, would I go to TempleCon again? Definitely. I should probably get more appropriate clothing and such, but in general I would love to help out again - if it not for getting to see my guy having the best time ever and to meet these incredible individuals again. Now my mission is to get him to one of these big anime conventions mentioned previously and maybe he can write a review of the insanity. We will see if he is up for the challenge! 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Ala Mode Retrospective: Mobile Suit Gundam Countdown

I decided that with 2013 now a month and some change in, I need to get back on my butt and do more reviews. So, with that in mind I have decided to tap into my nerdiest of things, one of that many of you will be interested to know: Anime. Now, many of you will be shocked to know that if one was to trace the steps, Anime was a huge gateway drug into what would be my interest in Japanese Street Fashion, (I hope you got the sarcasm within that phrase) but what might actually come as a shock that most of my interest in Anime deems in the classics of the 80's and 90's and are mostly not all girly. 

To tell you the truth, my favorite series of all time being a toss up between The Vision of Escaflowne and Revolutionary Girl Utena, but my favorite anime related thing? The Mobile Suit Gundam franchise. Yes, I love mecha series - the bigger the robot and political intrigue, the more I am addicted. So with that I find it appropriate to dedicate a post (or possibly the start of more) to my favorite giant robot political drama show. The one that is 30 plus years old, has a lot of lingo that makes Star Trek's seems strangely childish, and too many masked villains to keep track of. 

So instead of doing some sort of usual countdown of my favorite series that many a Gundam fan has seen before, I wanted to put my own unique spin on it. But how? Will candy be offered? Where is the Senpei romance, Dalin? Oh hold on fictitious reader character, just give yourself a moment to take a deep breath and realize that aside from the series you do know (Yes, yes, I will address that series) this is probably gonna be a new territory for you (or maybe it isn't) and if so, then welcome to a whole new (or old, depending) mecha world of Gundam. 

5. War In The Pocket
Now this may be another shocking revelation, but Gundam is a franchise that I believe can be even better enjoyed with taking seriously. Now I know its hard for many that have not watched this series to see that it can be viewed as a piece of dramatic art, especially when you see its iconic centerpiece being a giant robot suit. But Gundam's real strength for me come within its dramatic war stories. This is perfectly shown and executed in War In The Pocket. Prior, Gundam had been primarily from the perspective of teens and adults, but not even really through their eyes but more next to their shoulder and wasn't as deep emotionally as one might have wanted. 

This series though dramatically changes that perspective to a child's eyes, and we truly see through the innocence of the main character who reflects those dreams of maybe a young Gundam fan, who dreams of action without the consequences. But as this short series ends, it truly becomes a great first look at character development in Anime if you haven't been able to focus prior. If you want to be introduced to the reason's why Gundam can be incredible emotionally, give this one a try. Also for the ladies, this is one of the few series to feature a female Gundam pilot.

4. Gundam 00

So yes, I thought I would bring up Wing for a quick second. This probably comes from the fact that most of you wouldn't be even reading this article if it wasn't for the series release in the United States back on good ol' Toonami in the 90's. I can of course say that this was one (but not actually the first) time I had seen anything Gundam, so it does ring with some importance to my experience with the franchise. But as you can see it isn't in my top 5. Sure, I love the show - it has it moments of greatness for what it is. But the thing is, it isn't ever going to be a favorite of mine. Maybe this is because it's a bit overrated in comparison to the other series mentioned on this list, or it might be because it created such a painful area in my nerdom that it's hard to watch it without making a giant loud sigh. 

But you might actually like another show if you happen to like Gundam Wing, and that is my number 4 pick: Gundam 00. If you are into watching anime for the pure purpose of hot men with long flowing hair, this show has got you covered big time. If you are into the political drama and such that the other series offer and not so much for the big sexy bishonen hotties, you are all set with this one. 

But why do I like Gundam 00 enough for it to beat the nostalgia factor of Wing? It's much less whinny. Maybe it's cause I am passed my what the kids would call "emo" phase, but sometimes I like to have my characters a bit less butthurt and have much more focus. Sure, war sucks and is depressing as hell, but as one can see from the countless examples in the Gundam franchise: Not everyone suffers under the pressure. In Wing, its much more obvious how much of a backstory these characters have and how it influences their choices, to which it sometimes can be antagonizing to continuously view to the end. Gundam 00 is considered to be a cold series in emotion, but perhaps cold is better then  forced moodiness that Wing posses on multiple occasions.

Gundam 00 has a message that is relievent to our current dilemmas in society, features characters that are headstrong and much more interesting (to me though), and was gripping enough to get a second season and its own original film (one of few in the franchise.) If you want to start watching Gundam for the first time with a whole series, this would definitely be my recommendation. 

3. Turn-A Gundam 

All right, this is about to shock you but guess what? I am a girl! That's right, if you couldn't tell from reading this article or the pink borders of my blog the surround it, but I on many occasions love what I would label as "girly shit". Now sadly, Gundam has never done a series purely for women (except if you wanna label Wing as that) but I think what could be considered the closest to this would be Turn A-Gundam. First off, it's best to mention this for because it features the music of Yoko Kanno (which in my mind, in music porn to my ears), this series also takes places in the universe in which things a reverted back to the 20th century, so there are lots of fluffy dresses. And yes, this series is considered on the romantic side, which is unique since its written by Tomino, who is one of the most depressing writers/creators in the industry. (Fun fact: He created Gundam - the whole thing. Think about it.)

Turn-A is a series, similar to Escaflowne on its own, that is much more fantastical and magical in comparison to the other Gundam series. It has a more light and airy feel to it, which is great for someone casually getting into Gundam as opposed to someone that is hardcore and looking for the real thing. But I do feel Turn A is an excellent showcase of Tomino's later work, especially since the prior series Victory was made under some emotional conditions for Tomino and was obvious from watching. It also features probably my favorite Gundam design of all time, simply because it's so bizzare in comparison to the other Gundam designs, and it's designed by Blade Runner alumni Syd Mead. So if you need a good dose of fantastical elements with your Mobile Suit, I say go for Turn A. 

2. Mobile Suit Gundam 0079

In my own personal opinion, I don't think you can have a Gundam countdown of some sort without mentioning the original series. Now for all accounts, it doesn't have to be in your top ten nor does it even have to be at any top spot, but it can't be ignored. Like Star Wars: A New Hope or the original Star Trek, you can't forget where a franchise starts and what made the way or the roots of its popularity. Fun fact though, Gundam actually really wasn't a hit. It actually was cancelled upon initial release, and thus it's ending was shortened (but which was repaired in the compilation films). Also, in reference to my Turn A rant, the majority of the fandom for the series was female (Girl power!) and because of its initial ideals is probably what attracted me to it as a youngster.

I loved the drama, the small talk, the character designs, and all the weird little quirks that made Gundam well, Gundam. It's hard to in some way not get hocked to the elements that made the show so unique and different for it's time. No, it isn't perfect (that's what my number one pick is for me) and it truly has some huge flaws (the animation budget was pissed poor for it's time.) along with a sometimes confusing story. But what made Gundam the classic that remains to this day is the mark it left on War stories in the anime universe, and the inspiration it gave it's viewers - to reach for the stars and to change the world for the better, one Zeta battle at a time. 

I would like to add my own personal remark that 0079 featured what would be my favorite Gundam characters of all time, Char. Yes, he is the guy with the white mask that started it all. If you were ever curious as to why almost every single Gundam series has a villain with a white mask, you can easily look on the family tree to this individual. Yeah, Char might not be the most interesting character in Gundam's history, but you have to admit that he is important and one that would create a legacy in anime history for decades. This is why one day, my body will dawn a small tattoo inspired by him. 

1. Zeta Gundam

Now if you are a true Gundam fanatic, you might disagree with this title as my number one, yet I know many would also agree with it. Zeta Gundam is the direct sequel to the original series and in my mind, fixes the issues that the first series had and makes an almost perfect archetype of what a Gundam series should be and follows all the golden rules of the franchise would afterwards. I also believe this to be Tomino's best work within the franchise (along with the movie, Char's Counterattack) and gives some of the most interesting characters within the franchise.

For me, my favorite male pilot of the franchise is also featured in this series, Kamille. Kamille is a very angsty pilot, but one that makes sense and you are able care for him even if he might not be the best person. Kamille is one the most realistic anime characters I have watched, even if sometimes he doesn't make that much sense. He also might be one of the few characters I have seen that is written with an apparent mind difference (specifically I think he has Aspergers), only based on a few moments that reminded me of my past with friends that had a similar condition. 

This, along with the body count, I found daring for it's time and incredibly compelling. It wasn't anywhere close to the first Gundam series I saw, but it's the one I have held the closest to my liking and have felt that I like to revisit the most out of all the other series. This definitely isn't the show for you if you aren't a Gundam fan, but if you become one it's a must. If any of this intrigues you, I really strongly suggest it to be a series you see. 


So there you go, my first of many a countdown/review I hope to do more of in the future. Did you like this? Was it awful? Would you wanna hear more? I would appreciate to know your opinion. Now get off your butt and watch some Gundam!



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