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  1. Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God. -Proverbs 30:8-9 NIVOh, this wasn’t good. Melissa had dealt with crowds before, obviously, and she realized as soon as she stepped out of the cab that if she’d been thinking about it a little bit harder, she probably could have expected something like this -- the place was an arena and looked the part, of course people would be all grouped up at such a grand point of interest. It was a problem, but it wasn’t that much of a problem anymore. The problem was that she was now, somehow, a point of interest. As Melissa waded through the halls trying to find anything that looked familiar from her previous and only other visit, she couldn’t help but notice the constant stares pointed in her direction. The fact that they were stares made it even worse. If she had been, say, just dressed slightly oddly, out of place in a new environment, they probably would have been just glances, things she would just catch out of the corner of her eye before they saw her looking back and quickly looking away. Then, she could chalk it up as just that. It would still hurt; it would still place the experience on the miserable side, but she would have been able to manage better than the outright social hostility she was currently facing. She was pretty sure one person was even recording her on their watch, or at least taking a picture. They didn’t stop when she looked over either. Really, the only comforts she took were that firstly, she was here for a reason, and could go and have a good long stay in one of the arena’s many facilities as soon as that reason had been accomplished (or back home if she managed to be brave enough), secondly, that she wasn’t alone in this endeavor, even if she looked it, and thirdly, the occasional whisper emanating out from the crowd that reached her ears: “Who is that, anyway?” Despite her nominal importance, enough to be treated as she was, they didn’t recognize her. That, at least, brought back that sense of vagary she so desired. Maybe the people of Prana just had different cultural norms about this sort of thing. It was one more thing to ask about, at any rate. She found a receptionist and decided to ask them for help, ringing the small bell on the desk to get his attention off of his watch. Thankfully, the receptionist didn’t seem to know who she was either, even if that did make it a bit awkward when she said, “Um, actually I have an appointment with Mauvache,” and she had to watch him scramble. “Didn’t you already… No, that was someone else. R-right, sorry!” He hastily checked something on a screen and said “Ah, um, yes. I see now. Sorry! You can just take that elevator there.” The receptionist pointed in a direction that was neither the right towards the ticket counter nor left towards the bathrooms (though it was, of course, nice to know where those were), and Melissa followed the point. Really, she wasn’t sure how she missed the elevator in the first place. Even without its ornate design, it had a big sign right next to it saying exactly where it led, exactly who should be using it, and exactly what would happen to those who didn’t heed that second one. It was almost worrisome. “Is Mauvache going to kill me if I ask the wrong question?” she wondered. If she’s not going to smite you down for hurling obscenities at her, it stands to reason she’ll likely just not answer any wrong questions, the angels responded, though if that was supposed to comfort her -- even discounting the sarcasm embedded in the answer, something they were picking up with disturbing regularity -- it still made her worry about which questions were the wrong ones in the first place. Still, she’d made it this far. Even if she turned back now, the crowd was still there, right behind her. Her limbs were shaking a little, sure, but she didn’t hesitate as the elevator doors opened and she rode the thing all the way to Mauvache’s office. “I guess the first thing I have to say is an apology,” Melissa said as she entered. Skipping the pleasantries was probably a faux pas of its own, but this was important. “The last time I was here, I lost my temper. It’s something that won’t happen again, certainly not this time.”
  2. tumblr_lxrpy9ZhEs1r7og5co1_500.jpg

    Just a heads-up, of the five different media this Satoshi Kon project has been/will be covering, Millennium Actress is my favorite. I will hear no slander about this movie.

    (insert "in print it's libel" joke here)

    (anyway go read the blog post)

     

  3. ←Previous Post -- Next Post→ Movie Two -- Millennium Actress Or: For How Much I Love This Movie, You’d Think I’d Learn How To Spell “Millennium” Properly First Try Yup, still a blubbering mess by the end of that. Oh, but there are some content warnings to get through first: The main plot is set off by a schoolgirl developing romantic feelings for a man whose age is not described but is definitely in adulthood, though the actual relationship is ambiguous and never even close to sexual. In the Feudal Japan film, the main character discovers her lover is dead and immediately goes to commit suicide. I’d also put a flashing light warning during the post-war montage from all the photography bulbs. Last week, I made an off-hand observation about the base similarities between this movie and Perfect Blue and noted that, despite that, none of the same themes made it over. Today, I would like to revise that statement. It’s not that Perfect Blue and Millennium Actress are two entirely separate movies tied together only by their production staff, it’s that Millenium Actress serves as its predecessor’s spiritual antithesis. If Perfect Blue argues that fictional stories, fictional representations of oneself, are a precipitous slope that one’s sanity might not come back from, Millennium Actress argues that it’s these same stories we tell ourselves that keep us going. I’m about to spoil the entirety of this movie, partially because the movie spoils its biggest twist about ten minutes in (an not in a “technically just foreshadowing it, you know, like a good narrative would” way but in a “Genya has the key that means the artist obviously never got it” sort of way), but mostly because the central theme of the movie is futility, that, despite knowing that it’s not worth it, that it can only end badly, it’s still worth it just to press on. The literal actual final line of the movie is Chiyoko saying, “After all, it’s chasing after him that I really love.” If I’m going to talk about this movie, I want to do it in a way that exemplifies those themes. That being said, if you’d still rather go in blind (and weren’t, ah, blindsided by that quote a sentence ago), you have my blessing. If any of that pontificating interested you, give me a few more paragraphs. Millennium Actress tells the story of Chiyoko Fujiwara, from her early life in 1930s Japan up until the modern-day. A chance encounter with a political dissident turns into a friendship (this is the romance listed in the content warnings) but before she knows it, he is forced to flee, leaving behind only a key, one that unlocks “the most important thing in the world.” Determined to find him, Chiyoko becomes an actress, with the hope that in her travels throughout the world and in film, she might find that man again and return to him what is his. In true Satoshi Kon fashion, it's a fictional biography (though the story was inspired by the life of Japanese film actress Setsuko Hara) told through the lens of a documentary, which itself is depicted in the blurring reality between Chiyoko's real-life quest and that of the characters she portrayed on the screen. It's not just her quest, though. Every character in this movie besides maybe comic relief character Kyouji Ida has a dream, an ideal they want to achieve, and each of them fails in that dream. Chiyoko obviously never meets the man who gave her that key. Genya, in turn, never even gets to profess his love to Chiyoko, Eiko views Chiyoko as an obstacle keeping her from starring roles, Otaki’s marriage to her is based on a lie, and so on down the line. On the face of it, that makes for a pretty depressing movie. However, I said the principal theme was futility, and futility requires one extra ingredient: In the face of a hopeless situation, the futility comes from knowing it’s hopeless, and that’s really what matters here. That’s the twist that Millennium Actress throws at people, that they all know. Now, this may seem contrary to the actual text of the movie. After all, the only ones who knew exactly when and how the man with the key died are Genya and the man who killed him, something Genya only reveals privately to Ida (and the audience) later. But I counter that argument with the final conversation, where Chiyoko talks about finding the man with the key in the afterlife. She knew he was already dead by then, and it didn’t matter. Why? Because that willful ignorance is more fun or, to use a more positive term, that suspension of disbelief, is more fun. This is what I mean when I say I want any viewers I encourage to see this movie to know about it going in. That’s why I audibled to that specific term, one that has a history of use in media criticism. The audience can probably guess from moment one what “the key used to unlock the most important thing in the world” is, just as Chiyoko can. But it’s more fun to treat it as a MacGuffin, a thing the plot needs to keep moving forward. It’s not special until the audience makes it so. Is the lie worth it? I mean, yeah, this is one of my favorite movies. “These things are still worth doing.” Yes, it’s one of those blog posts again. Part of me wonders why we keep running into this theme. I assure you, it’s not intentional. This one falls more closely to a sub-category that we haven’t quite explored on the blog, though: Why would you watch this knowing that it doesn’t end the way you want? Why would you want to experience the futility that I’ve already told you is there waiting for you by the end? There are two common answers to this. The first is simply that of catharsis. This is the argument that says that we do these things to experience the emotion in a safe space -- in the case of movies, a dark, hopefully silent room. I may have been a blubbering mess by the end of Millennium Actress, but I knew I would be, and, to be honest, it was a good cry. To provide the second reason, and perhaps the more thematically cohesive one in this case, I’m going to point to another piece of media, this time a musical called Hadestown, which was written by Anais Mitchel and directed by Rachel Chavkin. Now, the story in Hadestown is literally that of Orpheus and Eurydice with a sprinkling of Hades’ kidnap of Persephone thrown in there for good measure. I can’t spoil these, they’re literally older than the written word. The show asks this question of itself, though, in its opening and closing numbers. “It’s a sad song,” sings Hermes. “It’s a sad tale -- it’s a tragedy!” And the question is answered, “We’re gonna sing it anyway […] Maybe it’ll turn out well this time.” And that’s the key point, for both that show and the characters in Millennium Actress. Knowing how things are surely going to go does not deny them the fantasy that they might not. To draw on another Greek myth, I’m also going to draw a parallel to the myth of Pandora. After releasing the evils of the world from her box, Pandora finds one final thing left at the bottom: hope. In Millennium Actress, the almost-full moon is a recurring motif, drawn attention to by one of the few lines the man with the key has. “When the moon is full, there is nowhere else for it to go but to wane again. But on the fourteenth night, there is still tomorrow, and hope.” And that’s the comfort that keeps the world moving, that keeps Chiyoko’s search going, that pushes Genya to help her despite knowing more than anyone else the search’s true nature. It’s why I watch this movie. Maybe, just maybe, it’ll turn out for the better. -r Next time: The best Christmas movie don’t @ me. ←Previous Post -- Next Post→
  4. Almost as if he had summoned her out of the aether, the famous fourth party member appeared right at their table. Immediately, Chris could see the appeal. Just the way she carried herself was a sort of self-assuredness that must have also attracted Estellise’s eye when they’d first met, however that had happened. The pistols she brandished got Chris involuntarily wincing, still remembering his encounters with Leo, but that wasn’t a real reason to complain, just an unwelcome association. Robin was a pirate, too! Just the sort of thing he’d just been hoping for. Chris immediately made a mental note to ask, as (hopefully) nonchalantly as possible about her travels. And, as an added bonus, she even introduced her own companion, the bard who had been playing off in the corner. So it really wasn’t the addition of one more member, rather, it felt like the merger of two whole groups. Chris almost wanted to ask how their particular combination of fighters had dealt with, for example, the goblin village or those mushroom people but remembered that the dungeon probably hadn’t offered those encounters to anyone else. The bard, Ziun, was certainly as dramatic as Chris had expected just from hearing the tunes he was plinking away at earlier. The possibility of illusions intrigued Chris -- they certainly what he would have explored if he had any sort of magical talent (that was to say, sat still any time his parents tried to introduce to him a magical tutor or had any sort of time now to even try such a thing) -- so he figured regardless of if their personalities clashed (and it was too early to say for sure anyway), they could find common ground on the battlefield. He nodded as Estellise introduced him. After Lana finished introducing herself, Chris took his turn: “Chris,” he said, omitting his surname as always. “Also nothing special, though if you want something, I can probably find it for you. Unless it’s nailed down, but if it is, that’s what this sword is for. And the daggers, I guess. I told these two once I’m probably not winning any target contests but I can still make them go in point-first. “But anyway, before we do all that dungeon stuff, we should probably share a meal together or at least toast.” Chris motioned over to Hector, trying to get his attention that they were ready. “Do you two have any preferences? I stay here, so I know for a fact everything’s pretty good.”
  5. in case the timestamp in the link doesn't work i'm submitting "octopus soup" which starts at 41:08
  6. “What are you?” “None of your fucking business.” God, that felt so good to say. The question was as vague as a forum rule enforcement on a foggy day, and to ask for clarification was just entertaining the thing as legitimate. It was better to shut the whole thing down entirely. Not to mention there was the whole self-actualization part of it. “I am who I am and there’s nothing you can do to change that,” Z. felt like they were saying. Then, because of course it did, everything changed. The room they found themselves in upon waking up was dank, and not in the internet slang sort of way but actually dank. The floor felt wet, everything was pretty dark even after Z. woke up and managed to shake off their remaining unconsciousness, and everything just smelled like a science museum exhibit on the ocean. The more Z. took it all in, the more they started getting uncomfortable with it all. It was a safe environment, sure, there weren’t any obvious threats, but that didn’t mean it didn’t feel hostile. “Malefic.” That was a good word. Z. remembered putting someone on blast for using it wrong in their eyesore of a story, “The Little Primarina: What if Disney Princesses Were Pokemon Trainers?: The Grand Convergence Saga Part 1.” The snark was something like, “Maybe you can return this misused two-dollar word and use that money on something useful, like hiring a goddamn prereader to tell you you’re using two-dollar words wrong.” In any case, the ruin/cavern/whatever they were now in felt malefic. It made the hair all over their body stand on end. It suddenly clicked what “shaking off unconsciousness” even meant. It was a simple three-word phrase, but two of those words needed a little more examination. The first was “unconscious,” implying that they’d been asleep in the first place, because Z. didn’t remember going to sleep or getting knocked out at all. They barely even remembered what they had been doing before that. The other word was “shake,” and not because that didn’t feel right to do -- in fact, it felt too right. It felt incredibly natural to just pull themselves up onto all fours and make sure all their blood was moving in all the right ways, and now that they were thinking that, well, what was the deal with being on all fours anyway? There was a pool nearby -- that must have been the source of the dankness, Z. realized -- and they dragged themselves over to get a look at their reflection. There wasn’t any other way to put it. They were a Zorua now. Okay. So. On one hand, the wrongness of the room instantly faded, the realization recontextualizing that feeling, turning it into something internal, which they could, well, they could deal with it easier. On the other, well, that was when the thousands upon thousands of follow-up questions started piling up. Adrenaline started coursing throughout Z.’s bloodstream, especially as the other Pokemon behind them started going through similar realizations, the shouting and commiserating only serving to quicken their heart rate even further. It was the sound of six voices all trying to introduce themselves at once that finally got Z. to act. They wheeled around, “Shut up, shut up, shut up!” It didn’t quite work; a few more names slipped through the cracks. Z. made sure to remember both of them so they could give them both an earful later. “We’re not going to learn what’s going on just standing here, and we can do all the getting to know each other we want while trying to find a way out,” they said, “so I, at least, am going to go fucking do that.” That wasn’t to say they weren’t worried, just that the “actually being safe, actually getting out of this mysterious dungeon” was much higher on the current hierarchy of needs than the certainty that this was all a dream or whatever. Z. picked a direction, choosing left, to follow the water flowing out of the pool, and started walking. They made it to the edge of the stream before they turned around one more time and said, “Call me Zeta- Call me Z.! But don’t think I’m gonna double back if you suddenly need my help!” With that, they pushed off into the water and started paddling across.
  7. It was disappointing to hear that his almost-complete privacy was becoming more porous by the hour, but Chris tried to keep things in stride, and he nodded along to Estellise’s explanation. “I appreciate it,” he said. “Hopefully, there won’t be any problems. How popular is your library generally on a random night like tonight anyway?” But the conversation was interrupted by the other one he’d been juggling. Lana had been describing the people giving her trouble -- or, at least, had been describing them in comparison to Leo -- but she stopped in the middle of all that to start asking questions about his hair. “Oh my gods, it’s fine,” Chris said, burying his head in his hands as if that was going to cover up the mop attached to his head any better. “We’ve been going into the Dungeon basically every day, it doesn’t really make sense to wash up if it’s just going to get all dirty again.” He poked his head back out. “I’m not a slob. When it gets too bad, I wash it. I washed it last night, and honestly, I’ll probably wash it again tonight too.” Thankfully, that conversation was diverted as well. Estellise’s announcement of a new member had gotten to Lana and had certainly piqued Chris’ interest as well. “They’ve made it to the same floor as us, right? I don’t really want to feel like we’re backtracking for a couple days even if the Dungeon supposedly changes every time someone enters it. But if they are, I assume that means they’re good in a fight. Have you seen them fight? Or did you just bump into each other on the street?” Part of him hoped whoever it was was also not from around the main city. At some point, he wanted to get some answers about just where that undine woman might be escaping to, and while he could probably find an atlas in the Fereis library, it’d be a lot easier if he kept the two separate. One thing at a time, he thought, even if he still wanted to keep track of the opportunities available to him. At the same time, of course, hoping frequently led to disappointment. Whoever it was, he just hoped all the anticipation ended soon.
  8. e51eki8evmp71.jpg

    Well? We're waiting.

    Now that the Paranoia Agent rewatch is complete, it's time to start on Satoshi Kon's movies, starting with Perfect Blue.

     

  9. ←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→
  10. I find I start kind of quiet while I warm up to people and then I end up sassy, so I guess Sassy is my choice.
  11. song proper starts about a minute in
  12. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” -Genesis 1:28 (NIV)“I don’t think this Slakoth is a pet,” Melissa said. “At least, not yet it isn’t. If it is, we’ll probably have to have a whole building meeting and set up schedules and certainly pick a name.” She wasn’t sure why she was getting all into this. Well, she knew why, but the thought still surprised her. A long time ago, back in her own universe, Melissa had lost a pet goldfish (named Jonah, because of course it was) and been inconsolable for weeks, even after being assured of the existence of fish heaven and everything. Her family collectively decided afterwards to wait on further pets until Melissa said she was ready, and though she probably could have handled even a dog by the time she enrolled in Blue Yonder and moved out, the topic never came back up again. She turned to acknowledge the new entrant. “Anyway, um, hi, Morgan. Glad to see you’re back in one piece. Did you order those off those tablets too?” But Aduain had more conversation to offer, and, when Melissa looked at her watch, she realized she probably couldn’t be pushing back pushing off for much longer. “I can probably ask about the Slakoth at my appointment, too,” she said. “We can see what Mauvache has to say about it.” Or at least, she thought, she would try. She added it to the long, long list of other things she had to think about ahead of this, in any case. “Speaking of, can you help me remember all this?” she thought. The reply was immediate. Of course. “Okay, well, we’ll work on a list as we head over.” Melissa returned to the group, but only for a moment. “Speaking of, I need to get going. If you need me for anything, I think you can text me on this.” She held up her watch and really, really tried to suppress the fear that none of them knew what she was talking about. “I’ll try to be back as soon as I can,” she said, and hurried outside to try and find a cab.
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