More Okatu musings

Well, most all of us are at home, and with nothing else to do, why not watch some anime? Here are five anime series I’ve watched recently, but one of them I would not recommend, even though it has a long heritage.

First, the bad news: “Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045” is out on Netflix, and having watch the first 12 episodes, I’m not impressed. It’s bad enough that the animation is rather obviously CGI. But they didn’t stop there. No, they use that medium to tell a story that, honestly, left me not really caring much what happened to most of the main characters. Gone are the paramilitary police officers who bent the rules to do some good. Now, they’re nothing but hired muscle, working as private military contractors and available to the highest bidder. After having hopes that the rather overly violent initial teaser would prove to be a one-off, what came out is far more a ‘shoot’em up’ cartoon than the occasionally thoughtful original anime was. No link provided because I don’t want to cause others to suffer through this anime.

For a very different experience, one you can enjoy, I’d recommend “Millionaire Detective: Balance Unlimited”. Imagine Bruce Wayne’s Batman, except instead of going out and catching the bad guys through hard work and determination, the protagonist bribes crooks to turn on each other, has far too much fondness for random destruction, and seems to feel that all he needs to do is spread more cash to pay for his mistakes. Now, team someone like that with an honest cop who’s sole goal is to do his job and keep people safe, and imagine how many ways things might go wrong. I’ve only watched the first two episodes, but not only does the story concept intrigue me, the animation is pretty damned good. Well worth watching:

Crunchyroll has an interesting anime that it’s carrying exclusively, “Tower of God”. It tells the tale of Bam, a young boy with a mission. He is seeking Rachel, the girl who cared for him in what he finds is the basement of a vast structure called The Tower. But in her turn, Rachel had a dream: to escape the closed-in life she and Bam have lived and see the star-filled sky she has heard stories about. When she announces she’s leaves him, Bam begs her to take him with her, but she refuses, promising to come back for him one day. When she doesn’t, Bam follows her path out of the basement and is confronted by the mysteries of the tower and it’s many and varied residents. I’ve only had a chance to watch the first six episodes of this one, but like the previous anime, this one has promise and I think it’s worth the time to watch.

Last year, I enjoyed watching “Kaguya-sama: Love is War”. The story revolves around an over-achieving poor boy and an equally gifted rich girl who fall in love with each other. But being too proud to admit their feelings, each tries to get the other to admit their feelings first. The resulting machinations, which always fail miserably, were hilarious to watch. It’s back in “ Kaguya-sama: Love is War 2”, and things haven’t gotten any less confusing for the protagonists. Nor have the schemes they come up with gotten any more successful, or less entertaining. Worth a watch:

Speaking of anime about two people who fall in love and can’t admit their feelings, I found this one by accident. “Science Fell in Love, So I Tried to Prove It” tells the story of a pair of science grad students who realize they have feelings for each other. In this case, their problem isn’t a reluctance to admit they have feelings, it’s an inability to admit that what they feel towards each other is love. So, being good scientists, they decide to research the problem, gather ‘data’ through numerous rather interesting ‘experiments’, so they can either prove or disprove the fact that they are in love. Silly? Yeah, it’s all that, but it has some moments that make you want to cheer the protagonists…and others that make you want to slap them for being so silly. Well worth watching.

I’ll add this one as both a bonus and a teaser. I finally had a chance to watch “Weathering with You”, the most recent feature anime film from Mikoto Shinkai, the director of “Your Name”. It tells the story a young man who’s living a hard life as a runaway in Tokyo. Every day is a hustle, working for his somewhat sketchy boss who operates an urban legends web site. All that changes when he meets a girl who can literally pray the rain away. He helps her turn her gift into a business, and as they work together, he comes to love her. But what he doesn’t know is that her gift comes with a price. The story is equal parts compelling and touching, and features the same hyper-detailed animation that is Shinkai’s trademark. Unfortunately, I can’t offer you a link because it’s not available on any streaming services yet. But do keep an eye open for this one, it’s definitely worth watching.

A slight change?

[One of the changes that has been suggested to me with regards to my ongoing fantasy novel “The Haunted Blade” was that I should ditch the prologue. So today, I tried redoing the first chapter to include enough of the prologue material that the impact of who the characters are is clear. But what do you think? Is it an improvement? Comments welcomed.]


The Human Balance

I watch the world teeter on the brink, wondering which way it will fall.

Will reason and hope prevail, or the madness of anger and distrust?

Will competent voices be heard, or will the mindless fools looking to protect their reputations drown them out?

Human resilience, nay, our very humanity and all the thing we value, are being put to the test.

Will we be proud of how we weathered this moment?

Or will we hang our heads in shame when future generations ask us about this time?

The Danger of the True Believer in politics

[With this, I’m venturing slightly into what I used to be: a writer of political opinion pieces. If you don’t want to have to deal with political opinion, well, better not read what follows.]
I’ve noted something recently.
Like lot of folks, I have a YouTube account and like to watch videos there. Most of these deal with things like history, space and writing. I also, occasionally, happen across political videos. One in particular, by a group I will not name (not going to give them any coverage, they don’t deserve it imho) looked at the recent South Carolina Democratic debate.
The people doing the video all but claimed that the crowd was ‘loaded’ in favor of Bloomberg and against Bernie Sanders. This, in turn, brought in the ‘berniebots’, who were intent on amplifying their sense of how unjust it is that people actually dared to *boo* Sanders.
To be fair, he was booed when it was pointed out that, for all his talk about wanting to rein in the NRA, he voted *against* the Brady Bill, and defended a gun manufacturer that happens to be located in Vermont after one of their guns was used in the Sandy Hook mass shooting.
I, perhaps being rather silly, disputed the idea that the crowd had been ‘paid’ to boo Sanders….and oh, the hell that rained down on me.
I was ‘ignorant’.
I was ‘brainwashed’.
I was obviously a troll.
I was a paid shill for Bloomberg/the DNC.
The willingness of these people to believe that nobody could possibly disagree with them on principle was what stunned me the most. These are the supposedly ‘open minded’ people who are interested in ‘restoring free thinking’ to politics….and yet, their actions are those of a close-minded little tribe of True Believers who will not brook any disagreement.
I wasn’t a Sanders supporter before, but after this, I’m going to have to plug my nose if I have to vote for him come November….and yes, I *will* vote for him rather than leave the Orange Idiot in the Oval Office.

The Reward

My life was an ordinary one.

Barring the details, it could have been lived by any other man, in any other country, in any other time.

I was born, went to school, grew up, got a job, then got married. Had kids. Had grand kids. Then the doctor gave me that long-faced announcement that I had The Big C. Mine had grown quietly in my pancreas before expanding outward to attack my other organs. He didn’t use the word hopeless to describe my chances, but his expression, his tone, they all told me it was.

The final few days were confused. Sometimes the kids were there. Other times, they were with Grace, even though she’d been dead for a decade. Those were the worst days. Every time Grace was there, her face had that disappointed look on it, like when she learned I wouldn’t get my pension because the company had used it and all the other pension contributions to buy stock back. On the final day, no one was there. I guess I couldn’t blame them. I died on a Wednesday morning, and like me, all my kids had jobs to be at.

I spent my final few moments gasping because my lungs didn’t seem to have enough air coming in. Then it was over.

Some folks insist you see a light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. Me, there was none of that. One moment I was staring at the cheap ceiling tiles, then I was here. In a line with lots of other rather ordinary people. On either side, all there is to see is a barren wasteland, a place covered in loose black rocks that looked like they’d come from the sloping sides of a volcano. The line stretches before me, and behind me, too far for me to see any ending to it. And we are always in motion. Not a rapid motion, more a shuffling amble, but always we move forward.

I don’t need to ask where I am. I know where I am: Hell.

There are no demons armed with pitchforks. No rising towers of flame. There are no seas of lava filled with screaming sinners. But I know this is Hell as surely as if a huge neon sign hung in the sky announcing it was.

And I knew why I was here.

My live was one compromise after another.

Every day, I’d seen things I knew were wrong, even evil, and just turned away.

I gave myself the usual excuses for not acting.

It would be too hard to change the way things were done.

Things had always been done that way.

It didn’t effect me, so why should I care?

Every time I didn’t do the right thing, every instant when I’d remained silent, had brought me to this place. Looking at the faces of those around me, I knew they were here for the same reasons. Some of them were angry, shouting that they’d done nothing to deserve this. Others wept, lamenting the chances they’d not taken to be better than they were.

But most were like me. They knew where they were and accepted it with the same stolid attitude they’d dealt with the rest of the disappointing events in their lives.

And so here we were, the vast tide of humanity trudging to our final reward for a live spent just getting by.

A question about offering a critique.

Have you ever tried offering advice to a fellow writer, only to have them treat your suggestion like it was as welcomed as a severe case of STD’s?

I am involved with some online writing groups, and if I think I can offer some advice or useful observations, I try to offer offer said advice as frankly but politely as I can. So, one day, a writer comes on asking for help staging a scene between his two main protagonist characters. I probably should have known the writer wasn’t interested in advice that didn’t praise them when I read the thumbnail character descriptions: two people with ‘hero’ practically written on their foreheads. Then they describe the scene: Earth has been invaded by an all-conquering alien species, and the heroes are going into orbit to visit an ancient spacecraft.

I could get past the part where the heroes are a bit too perfect, but expecting a species that has crossed interstellar space to overlook an orbiting spacecraft that the much-less-technically-advanced humans know about….that’s not asking me to suspend my disbelief, that’s asking me to lobotomize myself.

So I offered the observation that such an occurrence was unlikely, pointing out politely that it was a fairly obvious plot device that the author might want to address.

The author’s response? Well, I won’t do a direct word-for-word quote, but it was effectively ‘I’m well into the novel, and I’m not interested in changing what I’ve written.’

I’ve thrown whole scenes out of stories, then gone through the rest of the manuscript covering the holes created by that event no longer having occurred, so I can’t understand this sort of thinking. But what about you?

If you saw something so obviously wrong with a story that you couldn’t ignore it, would you say something?