Better Late Than Never: Sailor Moon Crystal Launch

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal was not what I was expecting. There was no way I could even imagine what had happened.

Growing up there were two anime that I watched: Cardcaptor Sakura (or as I knew it Cardcaptors) and Sailor Moon. I can remember my brother and I watching Saturday marathons of Sailor Moon. We would tape everything on the VCR just so we didn’t miss an episode. While I can’t say that Sailor Moon is my favorite anime or even that I have diligently watched the whole series it does holds a special place in my heart as one of my first anime loves before I even knew what anime was.

When I found out that they were going to remake Sailor Moon I was ecstatic! It just goes to show how popular and iconic Sailor Moon is. I mean you can’t talk about magic girl anime without talking about Sailor Moon. I told some friends and I decided to hold a launch party because it’s fun to fanboy/girl but it’s even more fun to fanboy/girl with other like minded fanboys/girls.

The night came and unfortunately the party kinda fell apart with only my friend Angel (a sweet mix between a vintage pinup girl and the cutest chibi anime character ever) being able to make it. Whatever, it was full steam ahead! We played some Mortal Kombat vs. DC and then some Borderlands 2. After all the games we decided to prime our brains by watching the first episode of the 1992 original series. Unfortunately, the only one I could find was English dubbed but since that’s the only one I have ever seen it was fine. It really surprised me how full of exposition the first episode is. The pacing was so quick that there was hardly any nuance to the episode. But it’s a classic and it put us in the right mind frame for the main event: Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal – Episode 1: Usagi – Sailor Moon.

The episode opens with a beautiful pan of space, the Sailor Scout’s colours represented by twinkling star clusters. After that: The opening credits.

As soon as it started with that awesome picture I knew that this was going to be epic. Angel and I both gasped and clapped our hands in glee. The representation of the Sailor Scout powers was more raw and natural. Instead of bubbles, Sailor Mercury controlled a raging torrent of water. Mars blazed in an inferno and Jupiter lit up the sky harnessing the power of a  blackout storm like Thor in a mini skirt. I can only hope that they keep this representation of the Scout’s powers. It would defiantly make for more intriguing and dynamic battles. Later in the episode we see some of Sailor Moon’s abilities. Her Moon Tiara Boomerang (or Moon Tiara Magic for us unfortunate souls) is definitely an upgrade from the previous series forming into a (seemingly) razor-sharp chakram before glowing with power. Something I found a little weird were the jewels in her hair buns pulsating and transmitting her friend, Naru’s, cries for help. When she arrives and tries to help but as the battle turns against her, her scared crying activates her buns again causing ultrasonic waves to radiate out, disabling her enemies. Both of these abilities seem strange, and a little hokey to me, but if they are used again in later episodes I will gladly accept then as a deliberate addition to her powers rather than a random situational occurrence.

The animation style is fantastic. Angel is a huge fan and has read most of the manga. What she liked so much about the remake is that they were very respectful to the style of the manga. Characters are skinnier with longer limbs and very large eyes. I couldn’t say for certain as I haven’t read they manga but I did appreciate the time and care they put into making Sailor Moon Crystal something special. Watching the original series first really solidified this for me. Anime has such a quick turn around, opposed to the manga, that anime tends to be rushed out and  the quality of the work seems to suffer for it. Now-a-days either people are spending more time animating the shows or we have the technology that allows for better visual quality and faster turn around. Either or, Crystal is a vast improvement over its 1992 predecessor. Sailor Moon Crystal has this timeless feel to it. With the choices they made, the series could be taking place in the 90s or today. Which allows it to stand the test of time a lot better.

I have to talk about the voice acting. Generally when I watch an anime I have to either watch it dubbed or subbed. I cannot mix the two. And there are instances where I believe one cast is better than its overseas counter part. Comparing it to the English cast of the original series, the Japanese cast for Sailor Moon Crystal is spot on. Luna sounds knowledgeable and caring, a friend as opposed to an exasperated mother figure. Usagi has her trademark complaining but it’s cute and funny rather than grating. One of my favorites though is Naru. There really can’t be a comparison between the two. In Crystal she sounds like a down to earth teenager. In the English original she sports a New York accent. Now after some research (i.e. looking it up on Wikipedia) Naru speaks in Kansei dialect which is characterized as a more melodic and harsher dialect. Which makes the New York accent make a touch more sense but I put it to you: Why would Molly (Naru) speak in a New York accent and her mother doesn’t? Do I hear you say “she doesn’t because that wasn’t her mother. That was Morga. Her mother was tied up in the basement.” Ah, but counter point. If Morga was impersonating Susan (Mayumi) wouldn’t she impersonate her dialect as well? And since Molly didn’t react to the way her mother was talking we can assume that Morga was speaking the way Susan would normally speak – sans New York accent. It just seems that when they over-Americanized the characters it took away from the show. That’s my opinion anyway. After that long and convoluted point I just want to get across that I think the Japanese voice acting was amazing. The only voice from the English original that I preferred was the Usagi’s mother.  In the English she had a very stern but caring, tough love kind of attitude. A mother who knows when to kick you in the ass to motivate you but will bring you cookies and tea when you have a particularly bad day. The mother in Sailor Moon Crystal just seemed to submissive to me.

All in all a fantasic start to the series! Great pacing, wonderful intrigue and powerful visuals (Mamoru/Tuxedo Mask is super dreamy). It was more than I could have ever hoped for and blew my expectations right out of the water! It definitely hooked me and I can’t wait to watch the next episode with Angel (and hopefully some of my other friends). It was so good that I forgot about the Moon Prism Pie I made for the party. Angel and I had to eat it afterwards… as we watched it again.

MOON PRISM POWER MAKE UP!

If you haven’t seen the first episode yet you can stream it over on Crunchyroll. You can find my less organized though over on Twitter @GeoffreyHeaney 

My friend Angel keeps it real on Twitter @EnatOnline and she also live-streams her (sometimes drunken) escapades into video games over on her Twitch channel.

Feature Image and Screen Caption by TOEI Animation

Better Late Than Never: A Retrospective on Anime North 2014

This was my second year attending Anime North at the Toronto Congress Centre and I am falling deeper and deeper in love with fan conventions. The more I go to the more I dream of going back in time to high school me and shake him while screaming “THE OPINIONS OF THESE BASTARDS DON’T MATTER! DO WHAT MAKE YOU HAPPY! THERE ARE PEOPLE LIKE YOU OUT THERE!” Of course the subsequent jail time for assaulting a minor in the early 2000’s would of course ruin the rest of my life but I would like to think that  alternate timeline me would live a much happier (be that much poorer – money wise) life. The things we learn.

I have learned that lesson now though so I am diligently applying to the rest of my life. The people who accept my weird fandom/don’t care continue to be my friends (even though, I assume, they get a little lost and uncomfortable whenever I fanboy too hard). The ones who look down on me for my fandom are not worth my time. The ones who fanboy/girl with me (to which I am finding more and more people – Thank you Internet) make the experience that much richer. The conclusion of this long winded introduction is that I really enjoy convention and cosplay. I will continue to do it in the future with much vigor. Which horribly segways me into: Anime North 2014.

As I said this was my second Anime North and my third cosplay. I had a blast as always. I still haven’t gotten super fully engrossed in the full convention yet. It was mostly walk around, take pictures, go to photo shoots and look at the vendors and artists. Next year though I have big plans, stay tuned to later posts for more details on that later. Those plans include the various seminars, talk, panels, social events that happen all weekend. I want to become more engrossed in the whole event and meet some more like minded people.

My favorite part of the convention though is the cosplay. I spent three weeks, between rehearsals and full time work, working an hour or two a night to complete my cosplay. And It came out a lot better than I expected. (Not having put it on all at once until convention day was not one of my stronger ideas.)

I got “Ninja Turtle” a few times. Which is fine, the ninja turtles rock and my cosplay wasn’t necessarily a to-the-book portrayal. For those of you still guessing: Samurai Caterpie. There were a few people who got it and that’s all that matters. They were the one’s who were all “Oh my god! Caterpie Samurai! That’s awesome!! And your sword is made of string! Can I get your picture?” For the record one person got that my sword is made of String Shot which my me feel SO VALIDATED! All of this culminated in the Pokémon photo-shoot where the like minded fans all got to appreciate each others hard work and dedication and as the sole representative of bug Pokémon there I was happy that so many people were excited and kind about my own fandom. I mean I have a bog with Caterpie’s name on it so… ya… I’m a fan! This year was awesome and I am determined to make each year even better!

 

Banner Image: Anime North

“Is it wrong to eat 6 five-day-old pies all by myself?”

Just over a week I was able to participate in the 6th annual In the Soil Arts Festival. I hade co-written, directed and acted in a piece called “a-PIE-calypso NOW!!!”. If you’re a friend of mine you are probably annoyed to death of that punny title as prior to the festival I had plastered Facebook with shameless self promotion. The show went of splendidly and I am so proud of what I accomplished as well as what my cast accomplished. I wanted to take this time to reflect on what the festival was like for me.

I have been in this festival before and this is not the first time I have worn many hats in a performance. I had written, directed and designed an entre show before but I had never really had a budget in mind. For this performance I think the biggest difference is that I had a budget (miniscule- I’m talking hundreds of dollars) but at the same time I wanted to pay my actors as much as possible. I have an appreciation for poor theatre now and let’s face it: I am poor theatre. If I want to put up anything I won’t have any money to do it. But after everything was said and done, I didn’t go into debt, all my actors got paid and I even received a little bit (for my acting role).

The arts community that has been created in Niagara is one that is so welcoming and open to new, different or unorthodox methods to creating and performance. I have this head space where I’m still in university. I’m a student and an amateur. I’m not a professional artist or actor. I’m still a little kid looking up at all the “real” artists and gawking awkwardly with my mouth hanging open. But that’s just my head space. I have to have confidence in myself when I say “I am an artist.”

 

Because I am one. If you create, you are an artist and if you get paid to do so, then you are a professional artist.  That is what is the biggest thing I took away from In the Soil 2014.

 

That and 6 blueberry pies.

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We are but beasts

This mossy stone calls for me to sit. It sparks the writer in me. I have wanted to come and write here for years now but I have never made the time. All seasons I have walked these “not-trails”. The river, creek, stream carving its way through this canyon. The made world far above, drowned out by the rustle of dead leaves, bird song (quick, staccato and far between) and of course the ever embracing melody of the water spirit. He flows strong from the snow melts, weeks past but still evident.

I don’t feel like a human here. A Tolkien elf walks this forest. I see the steps and footholds the trees give me. Their bark rough but strong to prevent my fall. They scratch me to wake me up, to pay attention. The trees bounce in the wind.

I just watch from my mossy stone, the only green in the forest apart from the faded emerald of the dammed river. The presence of others fills me with agitation but only a flash. It subsides when I am once again enveloped by the forest. There is no need to speak. The forest speaks. For you the river sings. It flutters my heart but calms my soul. I am not tired. I am full of movement. I wish I could sing with the river. I want to sing a song but none seem right. I’ve tried to sing the river song but it is not one for me. The melody is beyond me but a harmony in baritone seems to compliment. I thought the stream frantic in song but I know it is slow, constant and deep. For now I’ll continue to listen. I’ll learn.

We are but beasts. For how can one be here and not feel completely at home.

I write with reluctance now for I wish only to feel the moss and rock beneath my hands. Writing feels so foreign. My bare feet on this rock; I feel connected. Grounded. It’s cool to the touch but my soles tingle with… power seems to aggressive a word. Energy doesn’t fit either. It doesn’t need to be described. My heart is warm and my lungs are full. Warmth, black moist soil and a hint of woodland decay. This must be spring.

The moss is warm and dry but flourished upon the rock. The deeper pools etched in the stone hold clearings of rich earth. A tiny flower sprouts. It pushed up on a stone that leans upon it. Between two rocks and still the flower blooms welcoming the sun and spring with its tiny offering. It has brought me to this spot.

Always bloom.

IMG_0891

party popper

There’s a pressure beneath my sternum. Like, “the weight on your shoulders” migrated and decided to get more explosive.

not explosive

Burst, push… no, small explosive. Like a party popper. you know you pull the cord and streamers and confetti fly out. That’s what it feels like under my sternum.

And when it explodes my ribcage will rip and curl back like the paper in a fire. It will just flay open. Not in a morbid way.

In a party popper way.

Innocent but fun. But the thing bursting out is not super innocent. But it is accepted. this is what happens but not right here. Under the sternum.

the only thing holding back the party popping is that shit needs to get done. I need to get the shit done.

 

I just don’t know if it’ll be a party if this party popper pops.

 

 

image by Mike Seyfang

Write It Up! Wednesdays 3.26.14

This Write it Up! Wednesday I want to do something different. I wanted to post some previous work I did on the amorphous blob that is the novel in my head. This is the opening. I don’t know how I feel about it but it does still need quite a bit of work. Enjoy and please feel free to leave comments and questions! Happy writing!

 

The hunter glided along the canopy careful the leaves did not betray his presence. A small squirrel, grey with snow tipped fur, was busy buried in the knot of a large oak on his own hunt for a mid-day meal. The hunter carefully spread his wings careful again that the subtle rustle of feather did not scare away his target. His tongue, sharp and quick darted out of his mouth tasting the cool late-summer air hanging within the forest foliage. His tail flicked with anticipation. He coiled his body into a springing position, raised his wings and opened his mouth revealing twin sets of venom dripping fangs. His eyes dilated and he prepared for a well deserved meal. The squirrel unawares continued to root through the half dead oak searching for a forgotten cache or some new growth. His ears twitched.

The hunter sprang from his viridian cover. His careful planning and silent approach won him a kiss from a rotting oak.

The squirrel sprinted and bound from branch to branch desperately trying to gain distance himself from a certain death. The dangers of the forest were not to be trifled with. The hunter recovered quickly. His meal was not to be denied him. His smooth and muscular body contorted so that he could remove his embedded fangs from the caressing oak. He once again spread his pearl wings, attached just below his head, and sprang into the air pursuing the quick morsel with a burning desire. The serpentine body acted as a rutter while in flight. The canopy was a treacherous place to fly. The maze of branches and leaves made it difficult to judge what was coming next especially this time of year when the forest reveled in the hot summer sun. Quick eyes and an agile body were more than enough to conquer this dense channel. Every so often the hunter would wrap his body around a branch using it to spring again into the air. His wingspan was too large to fully fly within the confines of the forest he would have to deal with simply gliding towards his prey. That was fine for him as the small squirrel was quickly approaching. It had to navigate the pathways of the trees while the hunter could circumvent and take to the spaces between and more direct and efficient root.

The squirrel could hear his attacker approach quickly and would use his small size as an advantage ducking through particularly tight spaces and turning quickly knowing his pursuer would have to waste valuable time to reposition his body. He had a goal in mind if he could get to The Alley all would be fine. He saw a recognizable oak and darted quickly to the left. He was almost there. He hopped as quickly as he could keeping low to the branch making himself a smaller target. His ear twitched.

The branch he had new climbed to exploded in a sea of bark feather and scales. He narrowly avoided the direct hit but the power of the strike had launched him into the air. He used his tail to turn himself around in time to see winged snake spring again towards him. Wings spread, fangs glistening and body tight and straight. A missile of destruction pointed directly at him. His tail again rotated providing momentum and as certain death careened towards him he spun midair. His tail had allowed him to avoid the open jaw of his attacker and actually use passing body as a substitute branch. He was on his way towards a near hanging branch when the serpent’s tail caught him in the face. His attacker had regained composure quickly and had used his own tail to his advantage. The grey squirrel once again found himself hanging midair. With a flick of a tail he righted himself and found the ground meeting him quickly. The soft forest grass softened the fall a little but that was the last thing on his mind. With the advantage of the trees gone he was an easy target and an easy meal. He dashed hoping to gain a head start hoping to get to The Alley before he became lunch. His heart beat wildly in his chest and he could hear the rustle of wings. Without the trap of branches his pursuer could freely fly through the ancient tree trunks. His chances of survival were dwindling fast. His ear twitched once more not because of a sound but lack thereof. The hunter was in a dive. He quickly changed direction, hoping the surprise would be enough to avoid the coming strike. Like a jet of water caught in the wind the hunter’s body contorted and caught the little squirrel’s head with his tail. The squirrel, dazed continued to run until the sun beat down heavily upon him. The wall of trees had ended. He had made it to The Alley. Just in time for the winged snake to coil his scaled body around him.

Write It Up! Wednesdays 3.19.2014

Thanks for joining me for another edition of Write It Up Wednesday! And yes I know it’s thursday but… well… I don’t know… ENJOY!!!

The Living Doll” by Brian A. Klems

While shopping downtown one day, you find an antiques store that has a rare, old doll. You buy it for your daughter. A few days later she tells you her new toy can talk. You don’t believe her, until one afternoon you find yourself alone in the house, and it starts talking to you. Write this scene.

A LITTLE GIGGLE

I opened my eyes to the afternoon light shining through my curtains. Swinging my feet around I pushed myself from the stifling covers and staggered into the hallway.

“Sean?” I presented to the empty house my voice still gravelly from sleep. Shuffling down the hallways I checked the rooms before going downstairs. All empty.

“Sean?” I tried again. “Sophie?” No one answered.

He must have taken her to the park. I thought, my mind still fighting the afternoon fog. A tiny giggle leaked into the room. I went to investigate thinking it odd that Sean would leave the house with me passed out and Sophie unsupervised. I explored the living room and dining room before arriving at the kitchen.

Nothing.

No one was here. I convinced myself that I must be hearing things.

I’m still groggy. “God, I hate naps”. I shuffled over to the fridge navigating the kitchen island and the labyrinth of toys Sophie had left out. That girl will be the death of me. I thought almost tripping on a fire truck.

I opened the fridge looking for something to help clear my head when the giggle rippled through the air. I spun around and came face to face with the antique porcelain doll I had gotten Sophie sitting on the kitchen island. Its blonde pin curls falling gently below its shoulders resting on its cream lace gown. I looked out the window thinking the neighbors kids had run through our backyard again but it was empty. I turned back and grabbed the milk. Closing the door I placed the milk on the counter beside the fridge.

“May I have a glass too, please?”

My back went rigid and goose bumps ran up my arms. I turned around again keeping perfectly still when faced with the open room. I guess I was hoping that if I didn’t move I could see what did.

“Sophie? Are you hiding, little one?” I tried calling out but it only came as a croaked whisper. “It’s not funny to scare Daddy.”

“All I asked for was a glass of milk.” it replied its little voice sounding confused.

The voice had come from the island. I slowly moved towards the cabinets underneath and carefully opened the doors. Pots and pans. Nothing out of the ordinary.

“What are you looking for? Glasses?”

I looked up to see the doll perched over the edge of the counter. It seemed to stare at me with its painted green eyes, its lips curled into a smile. Startled I fell back moving as far away as I could stopping when my back hit the fridge. I stared up at the doll. It studied me on the floor. Its face flickered between expressions like an actor switching masks. Amusement to confusion to understanding until it rested on an expression of amused superiority with an eyebrow cocked and a sly smile spread across its lips.

My eyes grew wide with what I witnessed. “What are you?” I stammered out.

“Thirsty. I asked for a glass of milk.”

I slowly stood to a standing position keeping my eyes on the doll. I grabbed for a glass and filled it with half full with milk. I slid the glass to the doll keeping as far away as I could. It looked at the glass and the milk started to drain. I slapped my hand to my mouth afraid I would start screaming.

I don’t know what this thing is. I can’t scare it. It turned its head and the glass launched off the counter hitting the cabinets beside my head, milk and glass shards pelting my head and shoulders. My eyes grew wide as I stared at the tiny demon. It was doing its best Linda Blair impression. Its head spun becoming a blur. It stopped abruptly, its mouth a large devilish smile..

“What do you want?” I whimpered through my hand.

“It is a touch cliché but I want to play a game. It’s called Ouija. I send you to the spirit world and see if I can talk to you.” It giggled as black bile started pouring from its eyes and the corners of its mouth.

Without thinking I grabbed the doll and started shoving it down the sink drain. I flipped the switch under the counter and the garbage disposal whirred to life. I screamed as I shredded the porcelain head of the tiny demon, pieces flying up adding to the cuts already on my face. I continued to scream as the disposal turned off.

“MARK! STOP, MARK!”

I stopped screaming and turned the shredded shoulders and body of the doll still in my hand. It was Sean and Sophie. They were dressing in light spring jackets and stared at me wide eyed.

“Mark, what are you doing? What happened?” Sean said scanning the kitchen.

“I don’t- the doll- I-“ I stammered, tears welling up in my eyes.

“Dolly!” Sophie cried as she reached up and grabbed the doll limp in my hand.

I looked at it. The head was completely gone. There was no black bile on the dress where I had seen it leak. I looked in the sink. Porcelain and horse hair lay in chunks but no black bile. I turned to Sean confused.

“I just don’t know- I mean it was sitting here and it talked.” Sean looked at me skeptical.

“I told you she did!” Sophie cried her eyes getting misty.

“Daddy is sorry that he broke Dolly. How about we go out and get you a new one?” Sean said crouching to Sophie. He wiped the tears from her cheek and she nodded. “Mark, go lay down. I’ll be back and we can clean up and talk about this. Ok?”

“Ya. Ya, I will. I’m sorry, Sophie. I really am, honey.” I left the kitchen and headed back upstairs to my bedroom. Lying on top of the covers I heard the front close and Sean’s car start and back out of the driveway. I closed my eyes trying to fall to sleep. My body started to relax. I never realized how tense I was. I drifted slowly into dark.

When a giggle drifted into the room.