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    "Sashisematta, what exactly are we doing here?" It was a question tight with nerves. Grinning out into the open night, Sai placed his fist on his waist, looking out upon the Seattle skyline from his perch atop the roof of the Space Needle. Looking back over his shoulder, he laughed to himself at Rosalia's position desperately clinging to an antenna. "We are redecorating!" "Can you get back from the edge? You’re not scheduled for the next match but ones after that are hard to schedule if you’re smashed flat on the street." "Don't worry Rosa, I'm immortal." With slightly too much spring in his step, be whipped around to grab a duffle bag that was conspicuously already present when the two of them arrived at the roof through the access hatch. "It's like a cooking show, I already did all the prep so it's easy for you to follow along!" "What are we redecorating up here?" Rosalia asked, trying to call above the whipping of the wind. Between the harsh winds this high, the stonewall conversation that had predated their arrival, and the fact she was pretty sure Sai had picked the lock to this roof in view of a camera despite his assurances it was a blind spot, she was starting to combine a thumping, pounding heartbeat with a vice-grip of a headache. "It is far too quiet, Rosa, I can still hear myself think!" Reaching into the duffle bag, Sai pulled out a string of metal wind chimes. "Come on, come here." Rosalia looked doubtedly at the edge of the roof. "I’m wearing heels, Sashisematta," she called pointedly, her weak voice almost snatched away on the wind completely. "ROSA HAVE YOU NEVER SEEN MY SANDALS, YOU ARE PLAYING EASY MODE. GET THE HELL OVER HERE." She took a halting step forward. Usually she was steady as a rock on heels, used to wearing them. But now any trace of the confidence Rosalia managed to hold to herself was gone, ripped away with the wind, leaving only the unsure and scared young woman behind that sat behind the composure. Every antennae or railing (which there were far too few of, as far as she was concerned) was grabbed the second it came within her grasp, and she finally drew level with Sai. Despite her fear, she resolutely refused to try and grab on to him for support. But she definitely thought about it. "What now?" Sai was already busy at work tying off the end of the cord that held the chimes to one of the antennas. Holding the fistful of metal in front of Rosalia, he smiled earnestly, "Isn't it easier now that you don't have to pretend to be sure of yourself? Here, toss this over the edge." Rosalia stared blankly at the bundle of metal in her hand. It was secured to the antennae pretty well, but she wasn’t really sure why. "Sashisematta… Aren’t these going to eventually fall and hit someone?" She only then registered his full statement. "Pretend to be- What do you mean by that, Sashisematta?" She dropped the wind chimes from her hand. They bounced once on the tower below them before clattering off the edge with a musical jangle, flailing in the wind below them. "Good job, but try tossing a little further next time," Sai stared out over the city, the lights twinkling in the night, "Fake it till you make it is the worst advice everyone gives. It is okay to fall short, and lying about it to yourself just causes a disconnect." Lowering himself down, he sat at the edge and dangled his feet off, "I was beaten by Charlie. That was my second loss since coming to America, you know? But I'm not going to make excuses, say I had bad luck, say their deck was too strong. I was too weak to beat them. I underestimated their tenacity and it gave them the opportunity they needed to beat me. I don't wish it went differently, though. Someone has to lose every match," with a smirk, he looked up to make eye contact with Rosalia, "unless they nuke the whole game and force a tie, that is." Pulling out another set of chimes, this time strung upon what appeared to be Christmas lights, he held them out to Rosalia, "I have spent every waking moment since thinking in the background about how to beat them. I have been analyzing their deck choices, and play style, so that I may win the rematch. But I know I'm not there yet, and to acknowledge that is the most freeing thing of all." Rosalia had bristled at his words, but as she watched him sit down, listened to him talk about his loss to Charlie, she slowly released the tension in her body. She gradually, slowly, carefully lowered herself down to sit next to Sai, looking out over the city with an unreadable expression on her face, though she somehow wouldn’t have doubted Sai could see past it. "Do you know the thing I like about you, Sashisematta?" "I'm quite certain there are several things you like about me." She chose to ignore that. "You’re fearless." She reached into her purse, pulling out her deck and looking down at it, deep in thought. "All of us went into this with some form of nerves or jitters but you’ve weathered this storm with ease, even after losing to Charlie." Her fingers tightened around a railing beside her, not so much from fear of falling as anger, though it wasn’t at Sai. "I’ve spoken with Team Free since our last match," she admitted, "and they said that you were cowardly. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything so ludicrously wrong in my life." Tilting his head back, Sai let out a laugh that could perhaps even be heard all the way on the ground, despite the traffic. "They have no clue who I am. And it seems you are only starting to get an inkling of it. By the way, have you ever gone skydiving?" Like a shot Rosalia was a solid six feet back from the railing, giving Sai an accusatory, horrified look. "Sashisematta!" she shouted, suddenly spooked. Donning a backpack, Sai elaborated, "Y'see, I actually jammed the roof access so that nobody could take the stuff down immediately…" "... is there a reason why?" "So we can't exactly take the stairs… and I do have several years experience BASE jumping, even in tandem…" "SASHISEMATTA." There was true horror in her voice now. "See! This is great! Now you are really showing your feelings! Isn't it a relief to not be bottling it up??" "Please be quiet for a minute," she said tersely, squinting at her phone as she shakily scrolled through her contacts. "I’m calling Kendra to… have her do something, I’m not sure what, unjam the door or something, I don’t know." "You and I both know Kendra is asleep right now." "Then I’ll call Daichi or Evelyn or…" Her scrolling thumb stopped over the entry for 'Vega Sterling' and she cut herself off, looking down at the screen. She sighed deeply, pinching the bridge of her nose. It pained her to have to call Vega with something like this after the Team Free match. Pained her immensely. "She doesn't care if you fail." "I’m calling Miss Sterling," she said finally, hitting the contact. Sai dramatically put a hand to his chest, his jaw agape, "Surely you aren't snitching on me!" "Miss Sterling? Sashisematta might have talked me into doing something… unwise," she said over the phone by way of answer, glaring daggers at Sai with a touch of her dueling’s intensity. "We may need a bit of…" She lowered the phone, looking back to Sai with her expression now exceptionally grim. "She said 'have fun,'" she said weakly. "That's my girl! Let's go!"
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    Sid dragged his feet up the steps of the Behemoth, dreading the loss of this much free labor as the one in glasses had gotten spooked and insisted they high-tail and part ways as soon as humanly, or whatever-that-Skelly-girl-wasly, possible. Only two of them had paid tribute! Just because one of those tributes was particularly substantial didn’t make any difference. Reaching the bridge, Sid rose an eyebrow as he looked at his rig’s unique core, a grin slowly forming upon his face. ”Sorry kids, looks like The Behemoth is gonna be stuck here for the night! Sid couldn’t help but hide his elation at the ability to retain his indentured servants. ”The loss earlier hit the Iron Core hard, and based on my intuition we are gonna be stuck here at least for twelve, maybe eighteen hours! Not to mention, all but two of you still owe me, and I expect you all to pay out. You have seen this beast chase down one thief already.” Tossing what appeared to be an ornately carved chair out onto the dust, he followed it up with a glass bottle, stoppered with a burning piece of cloth. Upon impact, the glass shattered, and the chair was engulfed in flame. ”Time to set up camp! Though one would never guess based on the weather, it was presently winter in the wasteland, and nightfall came quick. Sid had managed to keep the fire going through use of various objects ranging from junk to things others would likely consider treasures. Whatever system the junk collector known as Sid used to assign value to objects, it was completely lost upon those seeking to understand. The group had gotten the cores reinstalled within their rigs, some with help and others on their own, and were now chewing on their meal for the night. For most, it was biscuits and other dry, grain-based rations that Sid had produced from a drawer within his rig and shared without any request for compensation, though the elderly woman among them was eating what appeared to be a large portion of salted red meat, that the armored girl had roasted over the fire. For quite a while, the group was silent, either still reeling from the display of violence earlier, or simply untrusting of those that surrounded them. Ever the gracious host, Sid broke the silence, ”So, what is the craziest thing y’all have seen out here in the wasteland? With a group this big I am sure we could share some really wild stories!” Met with still more silence, Sid tapped his forehead a few times with a petrified chunk of something that likely once resembled a baguette, Sid snapped and provided his own example, ”Actually, a few days ago I saw a group of rigs that were giving off smoke. They didn’t notice me since the Behemoth had its stealth field up, but it was the weirdest shit. Seriously, pillars of smoke coming up from each one, just like from our campfire here! My theory is that those fuckers got cold, and set fires in the backs of their rigs just to heat themselves up!” "That certainly sounds odd... But far from the strangest thing in the wasteland. After all, we deal with giant insects, patches of extra dead land, cores buried in the ground for some reason, and..." Eden's voice trailed off a bit as their eyes glanced to Skelly for the briefest of moments, "You get the picture. I would be curious to study these so-called campfire vehicles, though." Alliyma suddenly perked up, razor focus being leveled at Eden, "What do you mean ''extra dead"? Where?" "Ah, places. I found it 15 or so years ago... maybe a bit more. I had no sense of direction, so I couldn't give you more exact information." "I see. This whole place is dead, but to think a part may be even worse off..." Alliyma looked contemplatively into the fire, her tone growing somber, "it greatly concerns me. Where I am from, there is still life. More than you could imagine. Lush jungles and colorful birds. It's all beautiful, really." "Ah, the same holds up for my home too," Tatsu commented. "Not everything is perfect back home, but when I left Japan to come here, I was shocked at how desolate everything seemed! Your home sounds lovely though. I'd love to travel there sometime, conditions permitting." Sid yawned, tossing a rock into the fire, stirring it and causing a large flare, "I don't see the difference. At least we can get around easy without a ton of trees in the way, and there is more than enough to survive on if you know where to look." A voice of agreement from Magpie. "Exactly. It's not like it's hard to get what you need around here. And if just finding basic stuff turns out to be too difficult for you, the wasteland has a way of weeding out the weak." Alliyma lowered her brow, "Don't be stupid, Querrequerre. There is more than just weak and strong. Do you intend to eat off the dusty ground for each day of the rest of your life?" "Of course not! I want the old world back just as much as anyone, but it would defeat the whole point if I died before that dream became a reality." Scoffing, Alliyma poked at the fire with the tip of her blade, "If you think there is any chance at getting that world back without big changes, you are more of a fool than I thought. That town we were all in is the largest I have seen since I entered the wasteland, and it was hardly scraping by. From what I have heard, the bigger settlements are somehow even worse off." Her tone turned sour as her hand clenched around the grip of her weapon, her knuckles turning white, "I came up here to figure out why everything is dying, but from what I have seen it is the least of the problems." ”Oh! Speaking of big towns, glasses here is going to lead us to some Hollow World place she knows of, where we will be able to make bank! I’m excited, what about you guys?” as difficult as it was for his words to be understood through the mouthful of food, he said them with complete confidence, despite how directly they had contradicted what Ida had told him before.
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    ←Previous Post -- Next Post→ Movie One -- Perfect Blue Or: No, Seriously There Are Side-by-Side Comparisons Of This Movie And Requiem For A Dream Check Them Out (also i updated the last bit there check that out too) Content Warning: The plot of this movie involves a retired idol trying to break into TV acting while being hounded by an obsessive, murderous stalker. As stresses begin to pile up, her sense of reality begins to fray. There are gory murder sequences, multiple sexual assault scenes (one simulated rape, one real, and, depending on your interpretation, the photoshoot counts as well), and a bit of slut-shaming besides. There’s also a brief throwaway line in the first Double Bind scene that could be construed as transphobic, directly harkening to The Silence of the Lambs. This movie is regarded as one of those “animation isn’t just for kids here’s an example” movies that rank alongside Akira and Ghost in the Shell, and yeah, just look at that list of content warnings. I’m writing this paragraph before I’ve even rewatched the movie and it’s still pretty sizeable just based on my memory. But there are other reasons for that besides the movie’s graphic nature. It would be a mature story even without that; without the stalker and reality-bending, it’s still a story about the give-and-take of the Japanese entertainment industry, about a woman who is coerced into situations she’s uncomfortable with to keep her career alive. It’s interesting, then, that this is not the only Satoshi Kon-directed movie about a star, but is the only one interested in these themes, but, then again, Millennium Actress has its own themes to deal with and he’d already made Perfect Blue. Another reason the movie isn’t for today’s youths is just that the movie is set in the present of its production, which was around 1998-1999, and it shows not just in the technology being used, but how it is portrayed. Many early scenes are simply Mimi being introduced to the internet, something the more internet-savvy generations have a bit more trouble relating to. It is prescient, though, or at least the problems brought up by the movie -- that the internet as a whole is an anonymizing force for those who wish to do harm while expanding the spotlight of public personae to even their most intimate, private moments, thereafter keeping them in a nigh-indelible record; that -- never really went away, and are frequently seen as features of the system rather than bugs. In that way, a modern interpretation of Perfect Blue starts to ask questions about what we might have left behind in the transition to a digital world. To be clear, there’s no judgment here; the story ends happily (and, if you watch it with the English dub, even unambiguously so), but they are things that people tend to treat as trivial when they absolutely are not. Just a week ago at time of posting, for example, the main story on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver was about data brokers, how easy it is for one’s personal information to be obtained, bought, and sold, whether that’s to corporations for the sole dehumanizing purpose of generating future capital, or for malicious individuals to track their targets. The internet is even more public than we imagine, and yet still many treat it as a private comfort. It’s this blurring line that Perfect Blue explores most of all. The Mima that appears in CHAM performances, the Mima that has a recurring role in hit detective drama series Double Bind, the Mima that haunts her nightmares wondering if staying as an idol might have been better (after all, CHAM starts doing much better very soon after Mima graduates), none of these are the real Mima Kirigoe. Satoshi Kon hadn’t directed much before this, but he demonstrates this here by already experimenting with his match cut-heavy style, comparing two personae directly through the change in the scenery surrounding them. She’s drawn from those things, of course, but the point is obsessing over a single, unchanging image is what starts the conflict. To provide examples would start to spoil the movie, and I do want people who’ve made it this far to watch the movie as blind as possible (though you’ll have to find exactly where by yourself), so to speak in the vaguest of terms, ask yourself while watching: what does each character see Mima as? Why do they think that? Some of this is easy; there are several scenes where characters say it out loud. The most important question, then, is what are they not seeing? And remember, this applies to Mima herself as well. The film references a metamorphosis, a change in herself, so it is as much a self-actualization story as it is the psychological horror it is billed as. Honestly, I went into the rewatch of this movie expecting something good (obviously, I mean, I remember it being good the first time too), but not as spectacular as it’s hyped up online, but that’s changed now. I still don’t think it’s my favorite part of the Satoshi Kon canon (the list of content warnings a mile long certainly doesn’t help) but it is an important one, and definitely worth celebrating as we start the next step in this rewatch series. -r Next time: I have literally started crying just thinking about this movie before. ←Previous Post -- Next Post→
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