All posts by Jack Scheibelein

Former Opinion Editor of the HVA Hawkeye. Current Writer at SakugaCity.com. I write about Anime and Politics, along with publishing a ton of poetry and short stories. Hoping to be a successful person, at some point.

Final Thoughts: Aku no Hana Volume Eight

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

To be lost, without an identity
To be haunted, by those from your past.
To be stranded, abandoned by those who are supposed to love you. 

A boy without a home, hiding behind the pages of books. 

It is getting harder and harder each week to introduce such an incredible series. Every volume goes in a completely different direction than the one before it, and yet “Aku no Hana” still works as a cohesive series. What it is buiding to is something I still genuinely do not know, as I have been avoiding any discussion of the series online or with friends. As for volume eight, though, here are my final thoughts.

The Hair!

One of my favorite things about reading a good series is finding the little pieces of symbolism that are often times hidden in plain sight, and I think Oshimi did a great job with this. For “Aku no Hana,” the most obvious mini-symbol are the characters’ hair. Oshimi uses Nakamura’s original hairstyle as a reminder of her presence even when she is not in the scene itself. One good example is when Saeki cut her hair right before she went over to Kasuga’s house in a last ditch effort to get him to change course. There, she had Nakamura’s hairstyle, which was both a tool used by Saeki to get his attention and a reminder of how important Nakamura is.

However, more recently, Kasuga also has his hair in Nakamura’s style. This serves as a symbol of Kasuga’s longing for her, and also how he still sees himself in her. On top of that, the hairstyle could also be seen as a reminder of Nakamura’s personality, being someone who always demanded the attention of others, and was not afraid to be loud and rebellious.

While the hair style itself is not a particularly technical element of the story, it is one of those small things that helps to really tie the overall narrative together, and adds a deeper layer even when there appears to be not much else going on.

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Saeki’s Return

I honestly thought it would be a little bit later that either Saeki or Nakamura would get reintroduced, but it makes a lot of sense.

While walking home with Tokiwa and talking about her novel, the two pass by Saeki and her new boyfriend. The four talk for a bit, and then Kasuga and Saeki exchange contact info, only for Saeki to invite Kasuga out the same night. The two then go out for lunch the next day. The two start by having a normal conversation, but it quickly moves to the topic of their past. It becomes clear that the two of them are yet to be completely over the past.

One of the more interesting revelations during this conversation is that Kasuga has yet to try and contact Nakamura in any capacity. While it could be argued how much ability he has to actually get in contact with her, the reality is that Kasuga’s reluctance to find Nakamura is much more of a mental block than a physical one.

On the one hand, Kasuga obviously misses who he thinks is the one person he ever had a real connection with, maybe even the first real feeling of love. However, with those first feelings also came hardships and sadness. In many ways Nakamura ruined his life just as much as she might have made it better.

Saeki’s accusation still rings somewhat true, that Kasuga merely used Nakamura as a way to escape his own emptiness and depression. Now, Kasuga wants to start again, but first he has to deal with his feelings about the past. He can not get to attached to

Tokiwa.

Tokiwa is another reminder for Kasuga of Nakamura. Not only does she have that very similar hairstyle, the two also look incredibly similar more generally speaking. More importantly though, Tokiwa can be seen as representative of Kasuga’s internal struggle. She is both a reminder of his past, as well as a gateway to a new normal.

I said a few lines ago that things will get complicated if Kasuga acts on his feelings for her, but I think that part is pretty obvious. What will happen after that is a bigger mystery, one that I can confidently say I do not have the answer to.

Conclusion

The end of the series is fast approaching. In just three more volumes I will finally reach the end of this series, and yet it still has kept its charm and mystery throughout these first eight volume, which is a testament to just how good “Aku no Hana” really is. Their really is a density of meaning hidden throughout the series that reveals more and more each time I read it, which is part of why it has become so much fun to write about. I hope you all will join me next week when I continue on to volume nine.


How do you all feel about this volume? Let me know in the comments. If you want to follow along with me, feel free to use the link below to buy this volume:

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

“Dollhouse: The Eradication of Female Subjectivity from American Popular Culture” is the Worst Film I Have Ever Seen. You Should Still Watch it.

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

Me watching this movie:

First off, I would just like to thank Tricoast Studios and Rock Salt Releasing from the onset for the chance to watch and review this movie. Any negative opinions I have about the film are no reflection upon them, as they just allowed me to watch the film for free. With that being said, man is this movie absolute trash.

For those unaware, which is probably most reading this, “Dollhouse” is a film which focuses on the fictional life of Junie Spoons, a child actor turned over-sexualized teen pop star and the ways that society silences her identity while profiting off it at the same time, especially when it comes to the music industry. The film presents the perspectives of others who were close to Junie during her rise to stardom, including her mom, former friend, a Junie Spoons “expert,” along with a few others. The film ends at the end of her career, where she goes completely insane from the stress of her life.

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Junie Spoons

Initially, I went into the film with some pretty generous expectations. Surely this would be a good dissection of the ways in which women are culturally ignored about issues pertaining to women, right? Well, it was, at least for the first half.

The first half of the movie shows Junie’s come up as a Hollywood starlit. Even from the age of three Junie is depicted as having strings attached to her, showing how she is both literally controlled by her mom, but also figuratively held captive by both her mom and society as a whole. Junie’s first relationship is also arranged for her by a PR team, and when her first boyfriend Zachary Wilderness rapes her and releases the footage online, he is held to zero account for his action, meanwhile Junie is treated as a slut for engaging in sexual activity before marriage.

Not only is Junie treated like an object to be controlled, she also has virtually no control over what she says publicly. In all of her interviews as a kid, she is given a script by her PR team where she mostly appeals to god as a way of getting out of public scandal. A lot of this is meant to closely mirror the real life experiences of Brittany Spears and Lindsey Lohan, and it arguably does so to pretty good effect.

However, the film takes a pretty weird leap in logic when it addresses the subject of transgender people. During the film’s latter half, a man named Larry, who claims to be Junie Spoons biggest fan, gets surgery in order to look like her, and then essentially takes over her identity, with people referring to her as “trans Junie Spoons.” There is even a line that implies that people let trans Junie Spoons do what she wants so they don’t get taken to court.

It is at this point where the film loses a lot of credibility in its messaging. While the female experience in America has certainly been filled with hardship, discrimination, and outright erasure, the idea that a group of people who have had zero political and cultural power within the U.S. until very, very recently are somehow equally to blame for those same hardships is absolutely ridiculous on its surface. Furthermore, the idea that trans women are just men who want to be women, and thus can never really understand what it means to be a women is equally ridiculous, for the simple reason that most trans women are living that experience every day, are oftentimes more discriminated against because of it.

Writer Connor Lockie probably explained it best in his review of the film where he said “Junie’s story aims to highlight the way young women are stripped of their personhood in order to please the ruling forces of the patriarchy, but ironically commits an eradication of trans subjectivity from American independent cinema.”

Still, even if the film’s grotesque ideas about transgender people were not present, their would not be much worth salvaging. For starters, director Nicole Brending’s admittedly forward thinking ideas about women in Hollywood have already been illustrated to much greater affect in other places, without the extra layers of bigotry.

The puppets used for the film’s characters are also incredibly off-putting. Most of the characters are incredibly unattractive to look at, and the ones that are just look like boring barbie-doll figures.

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Arguably the most egregious decision made is to hide all of these ideas behind the shield of “comedy.” It has become a tactic of many who want to engage in political dialogue but not be criticized for bad ideas to just simply call those bad ideas a joke. Now, it would be one thing if the film was actually funny, because at least then there would be some reasoning behind that decision. Unfortunately, it is just not. Most of the jokes fall incredibly flat, and this coming from someone who finds things way funnier at one in the morning and tired, which is exactly when I watched the film.

Still, despite all of the bad things about the film, I would still encourage those who care about issues like these to watch the film for one simple reason: understanding.

What makes bigoted arguments like the ones made in “Dollhouse” concerning are not that they are good, quite the opposite actually. It is that most people do not have the understanding to explain why the arguments are bad, and I think watching the film might actually give perspective on where TERFs are coming from when they make their arguments against transgender people. I would also recommend listening to this podcast Nicole Brending did with Rogin Kim, where she explains a lot of her creative decisions behind the movie, as well as addresses the initial backlash she got when the film released.

Overall, “Dollhouse” was a terrible movie experience. Its good ideas are totally soured by its bad ones, and its attempts to be funny. However, if you are interested in women’s issues and want to get a broader understanding of the different ideological stances within that space, this is a decent place to start, so check it out.


Have you all seen “Dollhouse?” Have a different opinion? Feel free to share it in the comments. If you all have not seen it and do want to watch it, it will be available on the following platforms on August 11th:

  • Amazon
  • InDemand
  • FlixFling
  • Fandango
  • Vudu
  • Vimeo on Demand

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

Final Thoughts: Aku no Hana Volume Seven

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

Different stage, same dance.
A performance fit only for myself, 
with an audience who doesn't know what acting is.
That is, until I met this girl.
She reminded me of someone I danced for in a different life.
Now, I don't know what to do.

Between getting ready to go back to school and hosting my first ever online writing competition, It has been a stressful last week and a half to say the least. However, despite its story being almost anything but, “Aku no Hana” has very much become a tool of relaxation. Time and time again I think I have solved its mystery when it fact I come away with more questions. This is even more true in volume seven, where the small town of “shitbugs” has become a city filled with new opportunity. Here are my final thoughts.

The Seperation

In a final act of defiance against their small town and all those who inhabit it, Kasuga and Nakamura attempt to burn themselves alive. However, at the last second, Nakamura pushes Kasuga out of the way and attempts to only burn herself, causing both of them to be caught.

In the last volume, Kasuga’s principal brought up the fact that he might be being manipulated by Nakamura. Of course, Kasuga firmly rejected this, choosing only to see the good in her that simply needed saving.

There is certainly a gray line to be found here. While it is definitely true that, at least initially, Kasuga was being manipulated into many of the actions he performed, it is also possible that some of the feelings he developed for Nakamura were genuine, or at least were motivated by something other than just her manipulation. Still, it is hard to entirely remove the Stockholm Syndrome element.

Regardless of those facts, though, it is clear that Kasuga longs for Nakamura, even despite wanting to start over again. It is a good thing he meets

Tokiwa, Aya

I have done a ton of psycho-analyzing of both the characters and author of “Aku no Hana,” not because everything necessarily has to be, but more because I think it helps to understand what this story is about. There have been a lot of themes in this story, from abuse to manipulation, what it means to exist outside of societal expectations, and even dealing with a lack of identity, all stemming centrally from the relationship of Kasuga and Nakamura.

The introduction of Tokiwa represents a shift in Kasuga’s attitude towards himself. In the beginning of the story, Kasuga’s love of books actually represents a lack of self-identity, not because he did not like to read, but because what he chose to read was indicative of the projection of self-worth that was not there. His identity was, in fact, passed down to him by his father, who also simultaneously pushed a level of expectation on Kasuga.

Tokiwa, instead, offers him and avenue through which to rediscover his original love of books. Rather than forcing on him any high expectations, she simply gives him a book to borrow and allows him to have fun.

One other thing worth contrasting here is the way in which Kasuga first enters Nakamura’s home vs Tokiwa’s. Entering someone’s home, in literary terms, represents a willingness to let someone into one’s life, a formalization of a relationship, if you will. In Nakamura’s case, Kasuga had to be invited inside by her dad, while she was not even there. However, Tokiwa felt more than comfortable inviting him over, and even let Kasuga into her room almost without hesitation.

It is clear based on just this difference alone that Nakamura was trying to keep Kasuga out, or rather at a distance, while Tokiwa is more than willing to accept him into her life.

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Kasuga’s Future

It is not entirely clear where the story is going from here. Much like the the rest of the story so far, the future is always blurry, which makes sense.

Still, despite what is clearly the collapse of his home life, with his father becoming an unabashed drunk and his mom seemingly unable to due anything about it, Kasuga appears to be more or less stabilizing. What at the beginning of the volume was a foreign land has now become his new home.

Conclusion

The world around Kasuga has gone bleak, at least for the current moment. Tokiwa has offered him a glimmer of hope, even if it means likely having to deal with Tokiwa’s boyfriend in the process. Whether or not his relationship with Tokiwa works out is likely the key to his happiness moving forward. Join me next week when we find out what happens.


If you want to follow along with me, or really get any kind of light novel/manga in e-book format, feel free to use my affiliate link for Bookwalker and help me out. It would be greatly appreciated.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

“Fusion Fight,” an OWLS Mini CONmunnity: Anime is Never Cancelled Event Winners Announcement

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

Ok, so maybe that title is a bit of a mouthful, but regardless, the time has finally come.

With the month of July having come and gone so to has “Fusion Fight.” For those who are unaware, Fusion Fight was a short story writing competition that was hosted by myself and OWLS, a blogging collective focused promoting equality and respect, as part of the OWLS Mini CONmunity: Anime is Never Cancelled. Today, after a slight delay due to the need for a little bit more time, I will be announcing the winners of “Fusion Fight,” as well as featuring their work on this post. Without further delay, lets get started.

Runner-up: “Ghost Toast” by Miyo

Genre(s): Ghost Story

Twitter: @miyorator

Brandon lives in a quiet neighborhood in Missouri. One night after finishing all his homework, playing a video game and eating all his dinner, Brandon wanted a midnight snack of toast. He opened the fridge and scoured for the white and blue patterned packaging of his favorite bread. He opened the bag and grabbed the middle slice for extra freshness, popped it in the toaster and drowsily waited 3 minutes. He stared at the digital clock on the oven, reading 12:43 AM. KACHANG! The springs startled him awake enough to grab his single toast slice and head back into bed. As he lay in bed biting off the crust of his toast, his eyelids became heavier and heavier. Soon, he succumbed to his drowsiness and fell asleep. A half eaten toast in his hand. That night, Brandon dreamt of an angry toast who had not fulfilled his purpose in life. The toast in his dream grew to the size of a building. Dream Brandon tried running but his feet felt slow and heavy. Brandon woke up at the sound of his alarm set for school. Brandon laughed at how child-like his nightmare was and got dressed for class. But first, he would have a slice of toast for breakfast. When Brandon opened the fridge again, The familiar blue and white bag was gone. “Mom do you know where the loaf of bread is?” Brandon called out to his mother in the living room, watching the news. She yelled back “Bread? I haven't bought any yet since last Tuesday. I'll grab some after lunch.” “ No I just had some toast last night, it was right here in the fridge.” Brandon retorted. Brandon's mother turned around from the couch and assured Brandon that she had not bought any bread in the last week. “Maybe you dreamed of toast, Brandon. I'm going to pick up a loaf for you today, OK?” His mother said. Brandon closed the fridge and stood there in the kitchen for a moment, trying to recall if he really HAD eaten toast the night prior. Did he really FEEL the heat from the toast last night? Had he truly CRUNCHED the crispy crust which was his favorite part of a toast? He retraced his steps for a moment and looked at the clock like he did last night. Oh crud! It was already 7:40. School starts in 20 minutes! Brandon grabbed his backpack and tied his shoes as fast as he could and ran off. “See you later, mom!” “Bye Brandon, Love you!” She turned to shout as the door shut behind Brandon. As Brandon sprinted his normal path to school he couldn't remember if he had his school I.D. with him, In case the hall monitors catch him being late to class. He reached into his left pocket and felt no card but felt sand. He stopped running to feel the large quantity of it in both his pockets. When he turned his pockets inside out, toast crumbs fell out like a crumb waterfall.

One thing that was apparent among many of the competitors in “Fusion Fight” was a love for ghost stories. This is understandable, given how immediately interesting the prospect meeting the deceased is. However, just cause it was done a lot, does not mean it was not done well. Miyo’s entry mixes a ghost story with a bit of humor, as she describes a young boy Brandon and his obsession with toast. The story overall has a lot of charm and funny moments, which can be great in combination with the supernatural. For that, Miyo was the runner-up in this event.

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2nd: “The Frailty of Murine and Legomorphs” by F. Abel Fox

Genre(s): Ghost Story/Suspense/Horror

Twitter: @FableFantastic

Prize: $20

My Dearest Gwendolyn,

In an earnest attempt to qualm my tremors, I hastily write what well could be my final letter. It satisfies me to know you’ll never witness me in such a dreadfully woeful disposition. My complexion bleached; my lineaments crooked. The result of my clumsy stairway descent that left the veneer utterly blood-soaked. Be assured that with my sincerest of convictions, this was no mere accident.

I am absent of delusions. Swearing by my unsullied name that I have been bewitched with a rancorous specter. The floorboards moan, temperate dusks are meddled by a sudden December wind. Gwendolyn, your swift divarication should have left my pensive mood flared by crippling loneliness. I do not feel alone, I am not alone. My imperceptible visitor lurks, and frightful I am they wish upon my eternal agony.

His ghastly entrance commenced with mere clouds of dust and the occasional float of cobwebs. Too burdened by your exit, I paid no consideration to these optic tricks. A damn fool I’ve been, dismissing these as erratic phenomena. Gnawing marks across the mopboard? Simply, it must have been a rat. Well I’ve dealt with vermin Gwendolyn. Many times, have I witnessed the dropping of the hammer onto murine and lagomorphs alike. But never have I tangled with as beastly of a rodent as their barb indicates.

Not ‘til the vulnerability of my recent burdensome slumber did I face the miscreant. His contour hollow, and his visage bringing immeasurable unease. Awoken from my trepidation, I dashed knowing my survival rested on a hurried escape. I reached the stairwell, but as I went to descend, I was clutched by the ankle.

That is what hurled me forward causing the aforementioned accident. Wheezing and crawling like the wounded animal I was, it was you who gave me the strength to persist. Few cracked ribs and a protruding tibia would not prevent me from slinking into the study where I now retreat.

Even while enduring this unholy infliction, the reminiscence of you tickles me. Your elegance silhouetted by the glistening glitter of the moonlight. The frailty of your boney hand enraptured in mine. Your haughty and neglectful demeanor; alas has it all been lost to oblivion? Never shall I forget our final twilight. The repugnance of staring into your vibrant irises glaze. Your breath shallows. The fade of warmth from under my palms clasped around your larynx like a Burmese python.

Must all love be cursory, Gwendolyn? Certainly, this must not be the case between us. For these scribbles I write you postmortem must ascend beyond the mortal plane and reach your current haven.

It has returned, returned to ensure that time’s arrow comes to cease. I hear his pattering steps Gwendolyn; the bronze doorknob is slowly oscillating with a disturbing intent. This impending departure causes me sickening apprehension; a timid-ness rotting my core.

But I guess that is the price to pay, to be a father of an unborn son.

A story like “The Frailty of Murine and Legomorphs” is one that can be somewhat intimidating at first. After all, their are a lot of pretty obscure words and phrases. However, that is arguably what makes the story so good. F. Abel Fox was able to build on the identity of a Knight in danger, describing his sorrows and current adventure in a letter to his wife right before he dies. Fox not only does a great job of building to the reveal at the end, but makes the knight seem relatable in a way that most knight characters do not, and for that he earned second place.


1st: “Ms. McCloud and the Cream Soda Ghost” by Koji Kojou

Genre(s): Romance/Ghost Story

Website: Bikkuri Book Club

Twitter: @KojiKojou

Prize: $30

Part 1

I rubbed at the tender spot on my arm. I knew from my previous experiences in gym class that there would be a bruise there later.

I would have liked to say that I had gotten the injury from something fun like dodgeball or basketball, however…

“Don’t worry!” Ms. McCloud put her hand on my shoulder. “You’ll be able to jump rope someday!”

Please don’t say that out loud, I thought.

“Are you going to the library again?” she continued.

“Yeah. I need some relaxation time.”

“Make sure you stretch so you don’t pull a muscle while you’re reading.” She chuckled.

“How are you allowed to be a teacher?” I asked.

“I teach Gym, remember? I’m barely a teacher.”


Part 2

I usually went to the library to read, but today was different…

On my way there, I stopped at a vending machine and made sure to buy a certain beverage. The can felt nice and cold in my hand. The bold text on it read “Rutger’s Cream Soda.”

I heard a rumor recently. Allegedly, a ghost stalked the library when the lights were out. It didn’t spook or scare people. No… It craved cream soda!

Today, I would put this story to the test!


Part 3

I watched from behind a shelf, waiting for something to happen.

Maybe the whole thing is fake after all, I thought.

That was when I saw it: a small girl in white, glowing softly in the darkness, reaching out to grab the soda from the table I had placed it on.

I blinked my eyes a few times to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating.

She’s here!

I dashed out from cover, my phone ready to take a picture.

The ghost began to flee, and I pursued the apparition as fast as I could, until…

CRASH!

Everything went dark...


Part 4

A young school uniform clad Karolyn McCloud sat at a diner booth across from a meek girl. 

“C’mon!” Karolyn pushed a cream soda float towards the quiet young lady. “I got it for you!”

“Th-thanks…” the girl whispered.

“You don’t have to be lonely anymore!” Karolyn said, grinning. “I’ll be your friend from now on!”

“B-but… I can’t play sports with you because… you know… my heart condition.”

“That doesn’t matter! We can still hang out, right?”

Blushing, the girl looked down at the soda in front of her and smiled.

“Y-yeah!...”


Part 5

“You okay?”

I shot awake and looked around. I was back in the library, with Coach McCloud standing over me.

Must have been a dream…

“Looks like you hit your head,” Ms. McCloud said. “C’mon. I got some ice packs in my office.”


Part 6

Once we arrived at our destination, we found the most peculiar thing…

“Odd,” Ms. McCloud said, picking up the ice-cold cream soda can from her desk. “This is the third one this week. No idea where they’re coming from.”

On the side of the can, a heart was drawn in the condensation.

Like I said before, many of the contestants in this competition opted to write a ghost story, but in the end only one story could get first, and although there were many fantastic entries, “Ms. McCloud and the Cream Soda Ghost” was the only story the judges had an immediate unanimous decision on. Not only does this story have a immediate charm and interesting characters, its payoff near the end, though subtle, was heartwarming to say the least. It also managed to perfectly combine the ghost story and romance genres. Because of this, Koji Kojou is the winner.


Special shoutout to both Lita and Ashley for helping me judge this event, it honestly might have been a bit harder to make a decision with out them, so please go show them some love too. Also, I mentioned in my update the other day that while I don’t have any immediate plans of hosting another Fusion Fight, I certainly am open to and interested in doing so. If you would like to see another competition like this, please leave a comment down below.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

5 of the Most Influential Cards from Scholomance Academy

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

With all of the cards from the newest Hearthstone set Scholomance Academy finally revealed, It is safe to say that this set is going to have a lot of influence on the direction of the game going forward. Certainly not as much as Ashes of Outland did with Demon Hunter, but enough to be more significant than a normal new expansion, especially with the introduction of dual class cards and the new mechanic spellburst. Today, I want to talk about how Scholomance will affect the meta, and list what I think will be the five most influential cards of the set.

Lorekeeper Polkelt

While its current decklist is surprisingly tight, it is very likely that Lorekeeper Polkelt will find his way into the current iteration of Quest Warlock. His ability to reorder one’s deck with the highest cost cards on top will make it much easier to find win conditions in the form of Dragon Queen Alexstrasza, Malygos, and base Alexstrasza. It is also likely that Polkelt will find his way into a number of tempo and control decks as a way of improving one’s curve in the late game. It might even its way into an aggro deck as a finishing tool that will let them draw into their high end cards. Polkelt’s influence resides in his wide range on utility across classes and deck types. He is certainly not a card to be underestimated.

Vectus

While not having an obvious home in any of the current competitive archetypes, Vectus is another card who’s versatility will likely give him a spot in many decks, even those for which deathrattle is not the main focus. For one, 6/6 worth of stats on turn five is pretty impressive by itself, especially split across three bodies. On top of that however, depending on the copied deathrattles, Vectus can also generate a large amount of value, which can set up for the following turn. All of this will make him a threat to watch out for.

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Soulciologist Malicia

Malicia, along with the rest of the Soul Fragment package, is likely going to be a strong option for both Demon Hunter and Warlock for the foreseeable future. Not only do the fragments themselves provide healing to classes that have historically benefited greatly from it, the payoff cards for adding in fragments for classes can be quite potent. On top of that, because the fragments are cast when drawn affects, there is zero risk in clogging your deck. Malicia, arguably being the best, will likely be the bane of many people’s existence.

Sphere of Sapience

Scholomance has also introduced, along with many other mechanics, the first neutral weapon. While it may just be 1 mana make 4 of your draws slightly better, those slightly better draws could be the difference between winning and losing in a lot of cases. Though it will probably not see much play in aggro style decks, tempo and control decks will likely experiment a lot with this card. If watching Yugioh has taught me anything its that believing in the heart of the cards can often be the answer.

Secret Passage

Though Legendary cards often do have the biggest, flashiest affects, they certainly are not the end all be all of the game. Often times games are one with smaller, more consistently present affects, like with Secret Passage. To say the card is good would be a huge understatement. While Rogue currently has a lot of value generation already in the form of Galakrond and secrets, after the rotation of last years sets, this card will likely be the bread and butter of most decks for the class. Though its impact will not be immediate, it certainly will be felt.

There have been a number of sets in Hearthstone’s life span that have defined competitive metas. Witchwood introduced the even and odd deck restriction in the form of Gen and Baku, and Ashes of Outland introduced the horrifically unbalanced at launch Demon Hunter. All though at first glance Scholomance Academy lacks any meta defining cards, the ones listed here do have the potential to do so. Only time will tell now.


What are your favorite cards from Scholomance Academy? Let me know in the comments.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

Animated Observations Update #13: “Aku no Hana” and “Fusion Fight”: An Exciting month!

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

Ok, so, tbh, I tried coming up with some kind of witty intro for this update, but all I could really think of is just how excited I am about everything that’s happened this last month, so let’s just get into it.

Reading “Aku no Hana” and Loving it

A little while ago, I went on twitter and asked for manga recommendations. This was right after I finished”The Golden Sheep,” and I really wanted something else to read.

After asking for recommendations, the wonderful human Leth of Lethargic Ramblings recommended “The Flowers of Evil (Aku no Hana).” I was pretty skeptical at first, having only the anime’s reputation as baseline for what to expect. However, I decided to take a leap of faith, and six volumes later I am definitely a fan.

Thanks again to Leth for recommending it, It truly is an incredibly interesting and deep story despite having such a weird premise. I would encourage everyone to read it, and also to go follow Lethargic Ramblings. As for me, I have been covering my journey reading the series on this blog. If you would like to follow along you can start here.

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“Fusion Fight” is Almost Done!

The month long short story competition “Fusion Fight” is almost over.

When I devised this competition with the help of Lyn I was not really sure what to expect, since this was my first time ever hosting an event like this. Still, despite this being the first time hosting a flash fiction contest, It went surprisingly well. There were a few hick-ups getting it off the ground, but in the end “Fusion Fight” managed to get eight awesome entries.

The top 3 will be announced on August 2nd. I would also like to take this time to thank everyone one more time for participating and making this the success that it was. While I cannot say anything definitely at the moment, I would love to make this a regular event for the community. Once I have further details, I will be sure to release them here as well as on my various social media.

Not Watching as Much Anime

Lately I have fallen into another period where my drive to watch a ton of anime simply is not there anymore. It is hard to say why this is the case, but if I had to guess it would probably just be burnout. I have really been watching almost nothing but anime for the past year and a half, as the last non-anime media I actively kept up with was “The Walking Dead,” and even that I have not watched in some time.

As for what this means for this blog, probably not much. I will still continue to cover the things that I’m watching, there just might not be as much anime specific content for the next little while, i.e. episode reactions, final thoughts on different anime, etc.


Thank you all so much for reading and keeping up with Animated Observations.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

Final Thoughts: Aku no Hana Volume Six

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

“Aku no Hana” as a series has only continued to impress me as time goes on. It has a fantastic albeit simplistic art style, wonderful pacing and suspense building, and characters that have legitimately left me guessing for the past 3 volumes now. It is a thriller in all the right ways, not only building up dramatic moments, but also subtly introducing a number of philosophical and political concepts in a way that makes the story worth thinking about. With that being said, here are my final thoughts on volume six.

The Beginning of the End

The story of “Aku no Hana” has officially reached its halfway point, it looks as though everything is coming crashing down, for Kasuga, Nakamura, and Saeki. At the beginning of the volume, Kasuga has not seen Nakamura for over a week. At this point, while sitting in his room alone, wondering what will become of him and Nakamura, police officers show up looking to ask questions. Kasuga, wanting to protect himself, says he knows nothing, at which point the officers leave.

It is clear at this point that Kasuga is commited to both the vague idea of “the other side” and, much more importantly, Nakamura. We will come back to this.

Kasuga Confronting His Parents

Later in the night, after the police leave, Kasuga attempts to leave his house despite being grounded by his parents. His dad catches him, which leads to the first ever time that Kasuga ever really confronts his dad.

One thing that I missed in my analysis early on was the sort of respectability politics embodied by his parents, and how Kasuga’s initial love of books was passed down to him by his dad, more specifically his love of “The Flowers of Evil.” In this way, Kasuga’s parents are the normalcy and order that Kasuga hopes to escape through Nakamura and “the other side.”

Throughout the volume, Kasuga’s mom constantly wonders what it is she did wrong, why Kasuga turned out the way he did. However, something interesting gets mentioned when

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They go to the principal.

After being confronted by Saeki’s friends Ai, Kasuga finally decides to fess up, going to the principal’s office with his parents. While there, he and his parents discuss why exactly he did the things he did.

Almost immediately after learning about Kasuga’s involvement with Nakamura, the principal suggests that Kasuga was manipulated by her into doing the horrible things he did. Given the information that’s been revealed up until this point, the relationship between the two of them does seem really especially manipulative on Nakamura’s end. It is easy to forget that she was the one who blackmailed him in the first place.

However, from Kasuga’s perspective, Nakamura genuinely cares for him and is trying to get him out of a terrible situation, living with a bunch of “shit bugs.” We will come back to this as well.

Saeki’s Final Stand

In one last attempt to keep him from ending up with Nakamura, Saeki visits Kasuga while he is grounded. The two go up to his room and Saeki tells him to turn himself in with almost zero hesitation. Of course, Kasuga gets angry, saying that Saeki does not know what she is talking about. She responds, though, by saying that when the two were holding each other close Nakamura was trembling.

This of course creates a certain level of doubt in Kasuga. After all, if Nakamura really is not who he thought she is, that what is he to do? It ends up not being enough, but as it turns out, what Saeki said was true.

Also of note in this scene is that Saeki has cut her hair to be much shorter. While this might be insignificant, it could be representative of her trying to be more like Nakamura in order to get Kasuga’s attention.

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The Big Reveal

Remember how I said in the last post that while everyone is guilty of a lot, Nakamura is certainly guilty of the most? As it turns out, there is a reason.

In the second to last chapter, Nakamura breaks into Kasuga’s home and the two escape. They ride off on Kasuga’s bike and enter an abandoned building, upon which she has him take off his clothes, and then tells him that she would peel off the rest of his skin. After going at him violently, she then collapses on top of him, saying that “shit bugs” and “the other side” are not real because ” ’cause no matter where I go, I can’t get rid of me.”

This scene, along with the last chapter, heavily imply that Nakamura has some kind of mental illness, whether that be depression, anxiety, etc, and that she has not been able to get any kind of help for it. This would explain her angry outbursts and obsession with making others feel bad, because she is largely insecure about herself. It is also outright stated that the two plan on killing themselves together in front of the people at the festival.

Conclusion

There is a lot going on in this volume. The battle for Kasuga is more than lost at this point, with Nakamura having his full, undivided attention. Moreover, Kasuga has made the decision to stick with Nakamura even if it means ruining there future. The two have become a sort of Bonnie and Clyde-esk pair who are willing to risk it all for the sake of each others happiness… at least that is what I would like to think.

The reality is probably much different. Only time will tell, though, so be sure to tune in next week as well when we go over volume seven.


How did you all feel about this volume? Let me know in the comments.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

5 of the Most Interesting Competitive Character Designs in Smash Ultimate

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

Being the forefather of the modern platform fighter, Smash Bros and its many iterations have seen a number of changes. Many of those changes have been in game play, like the the removal of many mechanics from Melee to Brawl. However, arguably a bigger change is the number of characters available in its latest iteration, Smash Ultimate. Not only does this create a more interesting challenge competitively, with players having to memorize many more match ups, but there are also many new types of characters. Here are five of the most interesting characters in Smash Ultimate.

Zero Suit Samus

Zero Suit Samus (ZSS) was introduced in Super Smash Brothers Brawl and was given the unique identity of starting the game with items that she could pick up and throw. However, it was in Smash for the Wii U/3DS where her current design was finalized. While her combo game and raw kill power were nerfed fairly heavily coming into Ultimate, ZSS still retains the raw speed and mix up game that made her so deadly during competitive Smash Wii U.

The biggest and most talked about part of her kit is her down special flip jump. The move can be used to hop over a given area in both horizontal directions, and can even bury a grounded opponent or spike and aerial opponent if they are hit with the second input of the move. Not only does the move allow her to maneuver through space, it also makes it so that she can go fairly deep off stage and expect to make it back safely.

ZSS also has built in stuns in the form of her neutral b and down smash which give her near guaranteed kills if landed. Combine all of this with her relatively fast air speed and strong aerials and you get one of the the more satisfying characters to play.

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Incineroar

Given just how different platform fighters usual are from their 2D and 3D counterparts, it makes sense that a different type of character would excel within the genre, mainly those that are faster, have longer combos and more ability to go offstage. However, one type of character has remained a staple of the fighting game community, an archetype known as the grappler. Grapplers are usually reliant on throw combos to do damage and get wins, and Incineroar, who was introduced in Ultimate, is Nintendo’s nod to this archetype.

Incineroar has a few obvious strengths and weaknesses. First, the characters throws give him a lot of options. His down throw can combo into any of his aerials given the right percent, and can even combo into his special moves like neutral special. Additionally, his other three throws are considered kill throws, meaning at higher percents they can outright take an opponents stock.

However, given his slower movement speed and lack of a projectile, Incineroar can also find himself walled out relatively easily, which means the character often has to rely on an opponent making a mistake in order to get anywhere. This variance in his play has made the character extremely polarizing to many, but also puts him in line with many of the grapplers that came before him.

Greninja

Unlike his slower, fire-type counterpart, Greninja plays exactly like how you would want a character in this genre to feel. Not only his he fast, with a relatively high air and ground speed, he also has a number of high damage combos and kill confirms. He is, in a lot of cases, the definition of rewarding.

However, it is not just that the character feels good to play that makes him so interesting. Many of the character’s special moves also reflect his origins very well. His side special shadow sneak gives him a decent neutral mix-up as well as increased horizontal recovery. Water shuriken, his neutral special, gives him a projectile that can help wall out opponents and build up chip damage. His down special substitute acts as a counter and gives him another way to edge guard opponents offstage. His up special, much like Pickachu’s, gives him a number of angles from which to recover.

The character does lack significant defensive options, however, as most of his kit is focused on constant aggression. Because of this, his disadvantage can often be pretty bad, allowing opponents to rack up quite a bit of damage, and often times leading to a stock as well. Still, despite this lackluster aspect of his character, Greninja is still one of the most interesting designs in Smash Ultimate.

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Shulk

Despite his reputation among many in the competitive community as a “cheater” due to his strong defensive options, Shulk was not considered much of a strong character until Ultimate. Not only does he have a frame 1 Monado Arts switch, which allows him to change the properties of his character, making him faster, heavier, stronger, etc, his large disjointed sword gives him the ability to wall out opponents fairly easily.

Shulk also has something that not many other characters do. Using a mechanic called dial storage, Shulk is able to store frames of charge on his neutral special, making it easier to pull out his Monado Arts. This mechanic also gives him the ability to do things such as L cancel and wavedash, two mechanics that have thus far been limited to Melee. This means that has access to tools that other characters simply do not. As pro player Salem notes in the linked video, mastery of these techniques will likely mean that Shulk becomes one of if not the best character in the game.

Wolf

If there was ever a character who just oozes cool, outside of Joker, it would be Wolf. Not only does he just look badass, his move set and fast falling classification given him an extremely smooth feel that a lot of the DLC characters in smash simply don’t have. Moreover, Wolf’s combos and kill confirms all feel incredibly satisfying to hit due to many of them being fairly difficult or being extremely risky to go for.

It is unfortunate, however, that the character does not see much play. Relative to his popularity in the first year of the game’s lifespan, coupled with many nerfs to the character overall, Wolf has seen dramatically less play at the top level. In fact, most of his highest level appearances have been at the hands of Zachray, the best player in Japan, and even then he only uses him on occasion.

Still, at least before the worldwide appearance of COVID-19, Wolf was making a resurgence from players like Charliedaking and Larry Lurr. So, despite the relative difficulty of playing him optimally, Wolf will likely to continue to see play for years to come.


What characters do you think have interesting designs in Smash Ultimate? Let me know in the comments.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

Final Thoughts: Aku no Hana Volume Five

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

In rebuilding bridges,
we sometimes forget that past fires
can be reignited just as easily.
In a small town, the fires burn so much brighter.

In talking about “Aku no Hana” up to this point, I largely focused on what the “other side” and Kasuga’s journey have meant from a philosophical perspective. However, in doing so, I seem to have ignored the very obvious sexual themes that have been present since the first volume. While Kasuga may confused about his identity, a big part of that identity thus far has been his attraction to Saeki and Nakamura, and his confusion about who to choose.

Nakamura and “The Other Side”

While I do still think my interpretations from before are perfectly valid and make a lot of sense given the story of “Aku no Hana,” the large amount of focus on sexual themes give “the other side” a much more obvious meaning: having sex. In many cultures, not just ones found in the western hemisphere, sex is often looked down upon as sinful or morally incorrect.

While this has certainly become less common over time, it is still fairly common in a lot of rural areas, especially in the U.S.. This is often because these areas are less educated about issues involving sex, which results in less accepting attitudes. Admittedly, I am not hyper aware of the specific feelings of rural Japanese people towards sex, but it would not surprise me to find out there are negative attitudes about it.

This sort of interpretation would also better explain why Nakamura was so angry at Kasuga’s relationship with Saeki, and why she had asked him if they had done it so early on in their relationship.

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Saeki’s Revenge

Near the middle of the volume, Saeki’s friend Ai confronts her about Kasuga, saying that rather than being in love with him, she is simply in love with the idea of love, and only went out with him because he was the first to ask. Saeki’s reaction to this is, to say the least, negative. However, there appears to have been at least a grain of truth in that criticism, as Saeki is unable to respond in any concrete way, choosing instead to simply ride away on her bike.

The saying “imitation is the most sincere form of flattery” also becomes extremely relevant here, as much like Kasuga seems to run away from his own lack of identity and confusion about his feelings, Saeki seems to do the same with Ai. Rather than dealing with the idea that maybe she did only like Kasuga because he showed interest in her, she instead doubles down on these feelings, meeting Kasuga in his base by the river.

She then asks if he and Nakamura have had sex, mirroring the scene from earlier in volume two. Saeki then forces herself onto Kasuga, kissing him and trying to take off his clothes. Kasuga then pushes her off, telling Saeki that he loves Nakamura, confirming the doubts she had been having since very early on. Later on, she then follows through on her threat of burning down the fort.

Abuse and Sexual Assault

Its become evident that while nobody among the three main characters is totally innocent, Kasuga seems to be getting the worst of it. For starters, he is continually abused by Nakamura, even when trying his hardest to make her happy. A good example of this happens near the end of this volume, when the two run away from the police officers for a second time, but Nakamura seems wholly uninterested in Kasuga’s well being. She simply walks off, leaving him crying and confused.

While Saeki’s intentions were to make Kasuga feel accepted and welcome, in reality, her attempt to have sex with him likely caused more feelings of confusion and anger, and ultimately leaving him even more lonely than before.

From the Ashes…

The last thing worth touching on for this volume is actually the last scene. Much like volume four, the final page of this volume is dripping with a lot of meaning. When the firefighters come to investigate the river after putting out the flames, underneath Nakamura’s chair one of the firefighters find her plan book, filled with all of the things she and Kasuga have done up until this point.

The chair here represents Nakamura’s seemingly normal if not slightly damaged exterior, vulgar but not out of the ordinary, whereas underneath that exterior lies a chaotic hatred of those around her, one in which she has also tangled Kasuga into. Her connection to Kasuga is further enforced by the flower that appears on the cover of “The Flowers of Evil,” the book that was originally the symbol of his identity.

What is arguably more interesting though is what the discovery of Nakamura’s journal means for her and Kasuga.

Conclusion

“Aku no Hana” is slowly and steadily becoming one of my favorite series. While I honestly can’t put much stock in that opinion given how little manga I have actually read, it is without a doubt one of the more thought-provoking things I have read in a while. The fact that I am not even halfway through the series is pretty exciting. Be sure to check in next week when I go over volume six.


How do you guys feel about volume five? Let me know in the comments below?

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

First Impressions: Fire Force

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

If you have been following this blog for a while, you all may remember that this is not actually going to be my first impressions of “Fire Force,” as I did do a reaction to the first episode a while back. However, seeing as how I was initially pretty lukewarm on the series when I first watched it, I wanted to try revisiting it, given that its second season is now airing. Despite not having much interest initially, I will say that upon re-watching the first few episodes, I am much more invested in the show than I was previously.

For those unaware, “Fire Force” tells the story of Shinra Kusakabe, a new recruit to the 8th division of Special Fire Force Company. The company’s mission is two fold: to defend against spontaneous human combustion, which creates beings called infernals, and to find out the reason behind why these beings began appearing at random. As for Shinra, not only does he want to become a hero, but aims to solve the mystery behind his mom and brother’s death 12 years ago.

The thing that initially turned me off from the series, aside from all of the people singing its praise and my irrational need to be skeptical of things other people enjoy, was actually Shinra himself. I felt like I could not really pin him as a character, but now that I have watched a little more, I can see that he is actually a mix of Okubo’s previous work, most immediately like a mix of Soul and Black Star from “Soul Eater”

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While it may not be immediately obvious given the studio’s relatively recent rise to prominence, David Production has done some amazing work, most notably with everyone’s favorite meme “Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure.” It seems as though the studio has indeed put the same level of love into “Fire Force,” as the quality of the animation is almost always on point. There are a few awkward moments, like near the end of the third episode where there were clearly some very liberal uses of still frames, but otherwise the show’s action scenes more than make up for it, at least so far.

The music is also a high point for the series. Not only are the opening and ending both great listens, but the rest of the soundtrack manages to bring at the best in the series, especially during action scenes.

Overall, my feelings of doubt in “Fire Force” were extremely misplaced. The series is fun and exciting, and sometimes that is all you really need to make a good series. While I honestly cannot say where it will go from here, I sure am excited for the journey.


What do you all think of “Fire Force?” Let me know in the comments.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!