Friday, August 29, 2014

The Five(ish) Fangirls Episode #12 - Am I A Good Man?

This week's episode features - THE RETURN OF DOCTOR WHO!! WHOO! ~*~confetti~*~ We Fangirls discuss everything Twelfth Doctor, Clara Oswald, the Paternoster Gang, Clockwork Droids, and that special cameo appearance that some of us knew was coming, but it still punched us in the gut.

Also, casting news for Agents of SHIELD and Outlander, rumors of a Full House revival, Emmy Award news, plus a Salt Lake Comic Con that has Utah Whovians over the moon!

Full show notes and downloadable mp3 of the podcast can be found here:

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Lesser Blogger Would Use a "Phantom of the Opera" Joke Here

Review/Recap of Sailor Moon Crystal, Act 4: Masquerade Dance Party - SPOILERS!

(though it's been long enough that you've probably seen the episode if you were worried about being spoiled)

I loved this episode when the '90s anime did it, I loved it when I read it in the manga, I... went "Double-You-Tee-Eff" when the live action Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon did it (granted, there was a lot of "WTF?" in that series as a whole, but that's another topic) - Friends, I adore the "Masquerade" chapter in Sailor Moon lore. For several reasons that I believe Sailor Moon Crystal hit on with near-perfection - while also add in its own flair to the story that made it even better.

The cold open begins with Luna in her SOOPER SEKRIT high tech Mission Control station (until further details are revealed, that's what I'm calling it - even though I know full-well what this is from the manga. Hold onto that thought for later). Everyone's favorite mother hen cat is musing over the fact that there are now three Sailor Guardians who've been awakened and this is no small thing to be happy about.

2014's verison of Manga Side-Bar Info Dump
However, there is one more rather shady character that is a total and complete mystery to the team (except for those of us who are inclined to glance twice as someone with an affinity for wearing a tuxedo in broad daylight - but this is shojo anime. There's a lot we forgive in the name of shiny).

Childhood crushes never go away. They just get prettier
Usagi isn't terribly bothered by any of this, though. Like any fourteen-year-old, she's more interested in staying up until all hours reading manga (or maybe that was just me), but that makes her late for school. Which leaves Luna to do the introductory voice-over of Who Is Who and What Is What (see? Crystal's already deviating from the manga!) (I only mention this because much of fandom is kind of grumbly because of Crystal's seeming slavish devotion to sticking with the manga. Even though this is what we were initially told was going to happen with this anime revival/reboot/thing. Sigh... well, the definition of a "fan" is someone who loves something so much that they have to complain about everything they hate about it. There's just no pleasing some people...)

Enough kvetching - enjoy Luna's description of the Sailor Team (thus far -)

Some time later (after school), the girls are set to meet at the arcade. Usagi is late (of course), so Ami and Rei are using this time to get to know one another better and become friends. I adore the heck out of this scene for many of the same reasons that I adored the heck out of Rei's introductory episode. I love that Rei and Ami are becoming friends on their own terms - that they are interacting much like regular teenage girls would in their situations. It's been established in both of their intro episodes that neither of them have many friends (for several unique reasons), but now this whole Sailor Guardians thing gives them a purpose and a sense of belonging beyond one is super-intelligent and one has unexplained supernatural powers. They both have vastly different personalities, but they make those personalities blend together to make a coherent team dynamic, which is brilliantly beautiful. The individual girls are still their unique selves on their own - but they also found a place to put their unique selves so that they fit in. Sort of like puzzle pieces, if you like that metaphor.

Also still loving the juxtaposition of the Sailor V posters alongside our girls.
The arcade as a continued central setting for team meetings is great too. It seems that all the girls have to play the Sailor V game as a "rite of passage" of sorts to come into the team. And it's interesting that Rei - who in other Sailor Moon media is traditionally good at everything and always flawlessly perfect (or exudes that attitude even when she's hopelessly wrong) - isn't afraid of voicing frustration and accepting Ami's advice on how to play the game. It's not that her character's been changed from past interpretations because that sass and confidence is still there - but it's blended in with the vulnerability that's always been there as well, but has been overshadowed by the over-the-top "I'M REI AND I'M AWESOME AND YOU MUST LOVE ME AND YOU HAVE ZERO CHOICE IN THE MATTER!" that I think put me off the character for so many years. But this version of Rei feel so much more real to me - confident AND vulnerable at the same time. Like so many girls in real life are at this age. That's something I will be eternally appreciative of Crystal for doing (and I never dreamed that would be the case before this series began! I love all these wonderful surprises!)

Fear not, Rei Fans. The beloved sass is still present in Crystal
So, Usagi finally shows up and Luna gives us the vital Backstory and Mission of the Sailor Guardians, which can be summarized thusly - Mysterious princess must be found and protected, she has the "Legendary Silver Crystal" (look, I'm just going to call it the Silver Crystal without the quotation marks, 'kay?) and it must be kept away from the Dark Kingdom who are also looking for it and who plan to do Terribly Evil But Vague things with it. That's the Mission-With-A-Capital-M (after watching PGSM, I got really tired of hearing about Mission and Previous Lives. But that's all I'm going to say about that right now).

Ami and Rei are all on board because that's what they do. Usagi... well...

Our heroine, ladies and gentlemen
Okay, okay - I jest. but only because the show does as well (Usagi's going to get her SUPER AWESOME moment, don't you fret).

Oh - and just to get to the meat of the episode proper, we must have a special announcement from Captain Exposition himself - Umino -

Never fails. Just without the chalk diagrams this time (Just how short is Umino?)
A princess from some kingdom is in town to show off a SOOPER SEKRIT treasure at a fancy formal ball. The girls and Luna deduce that this could be the Silver Crystal and Princess D could be The Princess they're looking for. Problem is, security is impossible to get through. Even Usagi, who's dad is a journalist and has an invite to the event, can't hitch a ride as Papa Kenji's plus-one (that would have been too convenient). So, what's a magical girl to do?

Transform into a princess with the Disguise Pen, of course!
Meanwhile, back in hell the Dark Kingdom, we meet all four of the minions of Queen Beryl - which I believe is yet another deviation from the manga storyline.

The Shitennou are basically a boy band made up of Evil and they're all sniping at Jadeite, who somehow managed to survive his encounter with Sailor Mars and we may never know how exactly.

Well, you got me. By all accounts, it doesn't make any sense.
But they too have heard of the Mysterious Treasure of Kingdom D and are sending in their top brass to investigate.

HA HA HAHA HAHA HA! No, they're actually sending in Nephrite.

Back to the party - Our Intrepid Heroes have all scored fancy dresses and color-coded tiaras and are heading in to do reconnaissance in the embassy.

Which means Ami and Rei go looking for the princess and the treasure, Usagi goes in search of drinks, dancing, and cute boys.

Tell me I'm not the only one who started humming "Once Upon a December" from Anastasia.
Well - Usagi found at least one of those. And, people, here is the squishy-insides, feels-inducing, fangirl moment that... well... I have been waiting for (the rest of fandom is too grown-up and sour-faced about it to care).

Yes, I know I cheated and used a fluffy/fuzzy
cap from the end of the episode,
Usagi finally gets her dance with her knight in shining armor. Literally - it's Tuxedo Mask, the guy that she's been starry-eyed over since Episode 1, the guy that she credits with saving her life multiple times (even though he didn't do much but cheer her on from the sidelines - which is still important!) And he's obviously smitten with her too and it's just a lovely sequence - music, animation, dialogue, all of it! (even the translated subtitles keep away from the heavily stilted grammar for once and just let the words flow).

(sigh...  I wanna be a princess...)

Meanwhile, away from the fluttery happy dancing, Ami and Rei have discovered Nephrite possessing Princess D. They transform and take off after the Princess, who's absconded with the Mysterious Treasure that everyone's after.

The princess attacks everyone in the ballroom and runs out to the balcony. Usagi (not transformed at this point, mind you), tries to stop Princess D, but the princess shoves Usagi over the balcony which likely would have meant Unqualified Disaster. 

Usagi, sweetie - the princess probably isn't too interested in Rational Thought right now.
But instead...

that sound i just made wasn't entire human...
Oh yeah - this episode has THAT moment!

*fangirl squee*
Usagi's Disguise Pen turns into an umbrella (shut up - it's magical girl anime) which allows her and Tuxedo Mask to float safely down to the ground. Tuxedo Mask thanks Usagi for saving him and disappears (he does that a lot) and Usagi goes to transform into Sailor Moon.

Except... (and this is something I always liked about the manga) -

Sailor Moon's tiara was lost in the last battle against Jadeite and continuity gives itself a huge high-five. Except she still needs her tiara to fight! Well - she gets one. And it's somewhat implied that her ~*~special moment~*~ with Tuxedo Mask helped her create it.

And, yeah, it kind of kicks ass.

Sailor Moon blows Nephrite away with (what I presume is) Moon Twilight Flash. And, if this were the manga, that would be it for Nephrite. Except... it's not. And herein lies yet another deviation from the manga storyline. And one that I am quite intrigued to see where Crystal takes it.

If they start singing "It's Gonna Be Me," I'm leaving.
So, the Sailor Guardians have been properly introduced to all four of the Shitennou at once - which is interesting to note, since that never happened in the manga or the anime (it did happen in PGSM, though). But there will be time for mulling over that new development, for you see - there is a treasure to reveal!

Oh - and Princess D is actually quite cute without her glasses,
which leads the girls to wonder what Umino would look like without his?
The Mysterious Treasure that everyone and their goldfish's mother-in-law was after. *eye roll*
That's just about all they wrote - except... in true fairy tale fashion... there's one more ~*~special moment~*~ to come. And, given that this is Usagi, I love that this was set up because she stayed up late reading manga and even fell asleep in school earlier in the day.

Tuxedo Mask finds Sailor Moon asleep out on the balcony (she didn't even transform back, she's so tired) and leans over to kiss her while she's dreaming about another (yet not so different) special someone. It's all very fluffy and romantic and peaceful. Except someone has to come out and ruin this tender moment -

(that cat, I swear to all that is good and holy...)

Luna confronts Tuxedo Mask about why he's also after the Silver Crystal and he admits that he might be one of their enemies (*headdesk repeatedly*) and then he jumps away. But Sailor Moon is totally and completely untroubled by such things because...

~*~le sigh~*~

Oh - and guess what! Guess what guess what guess what!!!

Sailor Jupiter! *pterodactyl screech*

(though we have to wait EVEN LONGER than usual because somebody decided that August was going to have FIVE Saturdays this year and Sailor Moon Crystal only airs the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of every month. As if August wasn't long enough to endure! *whimper*)

But who cares - SAILOR JUPITER! (my other favorite alongside Sailor Mercury! YAY!!)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Don't Be Afraid - Review of "Deep Breath"

Review/Recap for Doctor Who, Series 8 Episode 1: "Deep Breath" - SPOILERS!

Actually, before I get into my review properly, I have a quick story (that will have some spoilers anyway, so be careful about that). Right after Christmas last year, I got this overwhelming feeling of dread. Like I did not want 2013 to end. Like I knew (or I suspected) that 2014 would be a hellacious year for me. I had no reason to think so, nothing pointed to that being the case. I just did not want 2014 to come. And call it a self-fulfilling prophecy, but honestly, 2014 began as one big shithole. I think it was April before I started feeling even the slightest bit okay about it (and even then, things weren't that great). It's too long and complicated a story to go into in this review - it was a combination of a second job being foisted upon me, plus general anxiety about my life, lots of responsibilities that I wasn't sure I could keep up with, guilt about not being good enough, etc., etc. (Sheesh - don't most people have these mid-life crises when they're almost 40?) My journal from that time is full of stuff like "Why am I even trying anymore?" and "Would anyone really miss me if I just up and left?"

I don't share any of this be all "Oh, I'm such a pitiful creature - please give me sympathy." I hate getting attention for this garbage (which is why I try not to talk about it unless I really feel like I should. Even then, it's like pulling teeth to get me to open up about it). But I want to illustrate how I cope with these things. And Doctor Who is a huge part of that.

Back in January - just as this mess of anxiety and depression and general brain muck was getting started - Doctor Who began filming. Usually, I stay far far away from spoilery set pictures and video and things. But such was my state of mind at the time that I simply did not care. I just remember laying in bed until about 11:00, not wanting to get up for anything even though I knew I should. I'd had a major meltdown the previous night and I was surprised I even managed to get into my pajamas to go to bed.  That morning I mindlessly started scrolling through Tumblr on my phone. And I found a video that someone had posted of Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman filming on an open street in Cardiff (at least, I assumed it was Cardiff).  Well - here's what my Tumblr post says -

I am sitting on my bed, having endured a week of hell, feeling like I don’t have anything good to look forward to and all manner of dark and scary thoughts are racketing around in my brain. I barely have the endurance to get up and do anything today.

I don’t normally seek out set reports or videos or pictures - preferring to keep myself unspoiled for the actual episode. But today, I've kind of quit caring and thought “oh, what the hell - I’ll look at this.” I couldn't hear what Jenna and Peter were saying, but I saw the TARDIS, Clara… and the Doctor. Clara’s obviously trying to get used to the Doctor’s new face - we've seen similar post-regeneration scenes before. And then - she accepts that it’s him and gives him a big hug, which he’s not sure what to do with, but it’s a good thing all the same.

This will sound ridiculously stupid and over-emotional, but I just started bawling. Because this is the kind of thing Doctor Who has done for me for the past three-and-a-half years - takes me out of that dark abyss and gives me some tiny glimmer of hope. And it’s never through anything grand or ostentatious - it’s always through the small moments that end up meaning so much. I don’t mind that I've been slightly spoiled on this scene. I may even remember this in eight months (or whenever) and recall how watching the cast and crew working on this scene a world away helped pull me out of a rough spot. And the emotion will be there again - just as poignant and just as important.

Therein lies, I believe, the theme of "Deep Breath."

Plotwise, a lot of things are recycled here, particularly from "The Girl in the Fireplace" (another Steven Moffat-penned episode that's, actually, one of my favorites) - Clockwork droids rebuilding a 51st century ship out of human parts (ew), having to take the slow path or "going the long way around." But I'm okay with that because what surrounds it is pieced together so beautifully. The important things here aren't the dinosaurs or the droids or the monsters or even death. What's important here is the theme of coming back for the people you care about and making sure they're okay even when you're rocketing around like your ass is on fire.

The scene where the Doctor's left Clara behind with the droids (they're more like Reverse Cybermen, now that I think of it - robots becoming human rather than humans becoming robots) - it feels hopeless. Out of all the moments that I've seen in Doctor Who, the extremely rare times when the Doctor has left his companions behind are the scariest, I think. Even though Clara shows how capable she is - relying on her experience as a teacher with an unruly and snotty class - she is scared to death. But she has faith or trust or whatever in the Doctor that he will come back for her, even though they're both way out of their elements.

"The Doctor - if he's still the Doctor - will have my back."

And here I am, August. Eight months after that stolen video on an open set hit the internet half a world away from me. Spoiled as hell for the scene, but still sobbing because of what that scene ended up becoming. A mutual friend - the Eleventh Doctor - popping in real quick to let Clara know that this is still the Doctor. He's trustworthy. He's a good man. She doesn't have to be afraid of what he's going to do, even if it doesn't make a whole lot of sense in the moment. And the Doctor needs Clara to get through this - admitting that he's just as scared as she is (and Eleven's probably plenty scared right before his regeneration - it probably never gets any easier, no matter how many times he does it).

A part of me almost doesn't want to know what fandom thought of this. I don't want to hear the academic analyses of plot and character and camera angles and counting how many times Vastra, Clara, and Jenny didn't talk about the Doctor and somehow that makes the story good or bad (depending on how many beans Miss Bechdel counted in the jar). Sometimes, fandom opinion tends to ruin those special moments that I had with an episode just because they deal in cynicism and their Ivory Tower Peer Reviewed bullshit all the damn time (much like what happened with "The Rings of Akhaten" - which is still awesome and marvelous and the haters can go pound sand for all I care). But another part of me hopes that most people are able to look past the literary criticisms and the special effects and production values and love the heart of the message behind the story.

I love the Twelfth Doctor. I sort of knew I would. Or maybe I resolved to do so out of sheer stubbornness and on principle. Yeah, he's off-kilter due to regeneration sickness (or whatever we're calling it), but even through that, he's a marvel. There were points where I could see the Doctor shining through so much that it was hard to believe that Peter Capaldi hadn't always been the Doctor. I love the new additions to the TARDIS console (the bookshelves along the upper walls - feels like that was a personal gift from the set design team just for me. Don't get me started on that beautiful winged-back chair - I need five of those). I loved the Paternoster Gang. I loved that this longer episode allowed for time to see them in a more domestic setting and their day-to-day doings as well as their madcap adventures in Victorian London. I loved Clara's interactions with them - both the serious conversation with Vastra about whether Clara believed the Doctor was still the Doctor, and the quirky little medical interlude with Strax (man, Strax is a treasure - never change). I tried to pay attention to the music - to see if I could pinpoint any new themes for the Twelfth Doctor, but the music blended into the background so well and the story was so engrossing that I didn't really catch much (I did catch Clara's theme, which is always going to be a favorite of mine). I ADORE the new title sequence - we've had so much of space-themed stuff, I think a time-theme is quite appropriate. Really, I can't think of anything I didn't adore about "Deep Breath." From the technical standpoint - the writing and the directing (which was so good and such a great added variety to all the styles Doctor Who has had in the past) - to the heart and soul of the story (plus the effect it had on me emotionally), it's on par with "The Eleventh Hour," which is a classic in and of itself. I don't know that it has the standalone potential as "The Eleventh Hour," but I'm okay with that. It starts a new era of "Doctor Who" in a new and exciting way, plus it helps bridge the gap between the hoopla and pageantry of the 50th Anniversary year into this new direction going forward.

And, just like Clara, I know the Doctor's going to have my back. Through all of this - whether it's the fantastical space and time adventures or the days that I'm collapsed in a heap on the floor - the Doctor's going to be there. And I will be okay. We're all going to be okay.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Things Are Gonna Get Brighter - Review of "Guardians of the Galaxy"

Spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy! Though if you actually cared about being spoiled for this movie, you've probably seen it already (it must be noted, this is less of a review and more of a stream-of-consciousness recap of it. Given the tone of the movie, I think it's fitting).

I saw Guardians of the Galaxy again last Friday. Honestly, it came up because I had a really tough week. It was a combination of small bad things piling up and anxiety building up and my brain being absolutely stupid and mean and ridiculous until I just couldn't take it anymore. I needed something fun. I needed something good. I needed something light-hearted and silly, but still with some substance to it.

Honestly, I think that's why Guardians of the Galaxy is so darn successful.

Two weeks on The Five(ish) Fangirls, we got into a bit of a discussion about comic book movies (after tangenting somewhat from our Doctor Who Series 8 preview) - how some of them have been dark and brooding (DC Comics, side-eyeing you so hard right now!) and that's not quite what fans want to see. Glenn from Traveling the Vortex (who was a guest on the podcast last week) pointed out how much fun Guardians was and I have to agree with him. Because when my friend Natalie texted me yesterday and said "You want to do something fun tonight?" I texted back and said "I want to see Guardians of the Galaxy again."

Guardians, at its core, is about heart. You've got five characters who are all these hardened, badass people - or, at least, they try to be. But none of them are very good at it. Peter Quill tries to be the smooth-talking ladies man who's also a wanted fugitive - except nobody can remember his wanted fugitive codename. Gamora is this tough-as-nails assassin and the daughter of the most feared creature in the universe - except she plans to betray her father when she goes out on assignment and gets caught by a bunch of rent-a-cops (for all intents and purposes, that's who these guys ought to be compared to someone of her skill). Drax the Destroyer - well, he has a reputation of being this dangerous criminal, but when it comes time to put his strength and skills to the test, he fails miserably. And then, you have Rocket Raccoon and Groot. Groot wouldn't hurt a fly if Rocket didn't tell him to. Rocket talks a tough game and he carries the big gun (and shoots the big gun) but when it comes down to it, he's the biggest softie in the known realms (look, I just want a Rocket plushie. Right next to my baby!Groot bobblehead that Marvel is so graciously going to market for me).

I think in all of our over-analysis and insistence that all science-fiction and fantasy Say Something Meaningful in order to be taken seriously by the academics who stole the keys to the clubhouse and told us all to Stop Having Fun, we actually forgot what "having fun" means (not to mention all that bean-counting bullshit over how many women talk to each other and what they talk about and how many times they do it and somehow that's what magically makes a story worth our time and effort according to Peers Who Review Crap. You even breathe the word "Bechdel" and my brain automatically stops listening. I seriously hate that damn test with all my fangirl heart and I hate every time someone brings it up - it ruins everything. There. I said it). We forgot that it's all right to enjoy a scene where some space-pirate asshole kicks his way through a deserted alien planet while singing along to "Come and Get Your Love" (I think I probably irritated the guy sitting next to me because I was head-bopping along with the music in that scene). We forgot that it's all right to laugh at a crass CGI raccoon that's trying to build a bomb with spare parts from the junk drawer. And I totally busted a gut over "pelvic sorcery," which probably went over the head of the seven-year-old boy sitting in front of me, but who cares? Also - "Kevin Bacon."

This movie is random and all over the place and that's what I love about it. Sure, the plot's a little thin, but this movie isn't about the plot. It's about this team of misfits who get thrown together and have to make the best of what they've been given. They even get a chance to be heroes - though not in the grand, epic scale of The Avengers (not yet, at least). The most they do is - for one glorious instance - "actually give a shit" for once in their lives. Most of the movie, they've been trying to out-maneuver each other so they can get the most money for that mysterious Orb thingy - but once they find out what it really is... okay, maybe some morality is called for. Even the Ravagers - the most notorious space pirate band (I guess) - decide that they'd actually like to have a galaxy to be pirates in and they pitch in to help defeat Ronan. And the result? A ragtag band who were mockingly called "Guardians of the Galaxy" live up to that derisive moniker and then some - even setting up stuff for more adventures for the next movie.

Even after all the heroics and special honors and expunged criminal records, what do Our Intrepid Heroes do? They hop in the newly rebuilt and refurbished Milano and decide on doing "a little bit of both" (meaning good and bad), as they've decided this new little quirky family they've got put together isn't so bad after all. Put the repotted Groot on the counter in the back and let him jam out to some Jackson 5 while en route on to complete a job of questionable legality. The whole thing put me in mind of Firefly, which wouldn't surprise me if that's the tone that Guardians of the Galaxy 2 takes when we get that movie in 2017.

I'm glad Marvel took a gamble on this particular franchise. I'm certain that these character will crossover with the Avengers at some point in the future, but I actually wouldn't care if they never did. This movie was so good and so fun (and set up enough loose ends - Nebula's going to be back! Which is exciting because I feel like there's more to her character than we got in this first outing) that I think these guys could carry on their own movie series. Sure, there may be more heavy topics to deal with in the future (Peter's dad, more backstory with Gamora and Drax - other characters who've been in the Guardians comics that they could introduce) - but at it's core, it's going to stay the same fun, quirky, goofball space opera. And that's the best thing Marvel could have done, really.

If for no other reason than I had a totally crap week and this was the one thing that made my life just a little bit easier - even for a few hours (anticipation of going to the movie helped cheer me up too) - that's enough for me to love this movie.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Five(ish) Fangirls Episode 11 - Oh Captain, My Captain!

A bit of a somber episode this week as news of the passing of legendary comedian and actor Robin Williams took us all by surprise. We Fangirls all have fond memories of his movies that made up most of our childhoods, so we take this opportunity to look back on our "Top Ten" Favorite Robin Williams performances and pay tribute to the man who made us all laugh and cry and inspired us to Seize the Day!

Also, news and feedback - casting news from Marvel's Agents of SHIELD, a new "Deep Breath" trailer from Doctor Who Series 8 (and the BBC still has episode security problems), The Story of Frozen comes to ABC, Outlander is renewed for a second season on Starz.

Full show notes and mp3 download of the podcast can be found here:

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Five(ish) Fangirls - Episode #10: Tangents in the Vortex

It's the Day of the Five(ish) Fangirls! That's right, we've reached our Tenthennial Epiversary Extravanganza! (which is just a bunch of made-up words to say that this is our tenth episode and we're super excited!) This week, we discuss the franchise that brought the five of us together - that's right, we're talking All Things Doctor Who, which is serendipitous since Series 8 is fast approaching. We also talk about the Doctor Who Worldwide Tour, which is currently underway. Plus - it wouldn't be an Epiversary without a few special guests joining the fun!

Also, news of the week - Arrow casting news, Frozen sequel news (sort of), plus a few 10:00 evening news items that do have a silver lining (well, one of them does).

Thank you to all our wonderful listeners! We couldn't have done it without you! Here's to ten episodes, with many many more to come!

Full show notes, download links, and other important information can be found here.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Five(ish) Fangirls Podcast Episode #9 - Excelsior!

This week, we're enjoying the view from Stark Tower as we talk all things Marvel Cinematic Universe - how we came to it, how we think it's doing, where we think it's going to go. We also have news to report (though not near as much as we have in recent weeks) - two new trailers from Mockingjay and The Hobbit, more casting news from Once Upon a Time (including the casting of an acting legend!), and (sadly) a little bit of proof that geeks just sometimes cannot play nice with each other (though we give mad props to Salt Lake Comic Con for their handling of the publicity of the situation).

Also, we have my report from ToshoCON this past weekend, Rachel's non-spoilery review of Guardians of the Galaxy, and Michelle's participation in GISHWHES (that's The Greatest International Scavenger Hunt The World Has Ever Seen - they had to translate it for me, too).

Full show notes and mp3 download can be found at this link.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

She Didn't Start the Fire

Review/Recap of Sailor Moon Crystal, Act 3: "Rei, Sailor Mars" - SPOILERS!

Y'all, I think I finally understand Rei Hino.

When I first discovered Sailor Moon fandom, I was surprised and a little confused at the sheer love and admiration that so many people had for Rei/Sailor Mars. She was never my top favorite, but there were tons of people who simply adored her character to the point of religious fervor. Now, I've never been one to pooh-pooh someone else's favorite things - we all have our different tastes and experiences and that it totally, 100% cool with me. But, personally, I just never got it. I guess I just like the quiet ones (hence, my love of both Sailor Mercury and Tuxedo Mask - neither of which seem to get much love in fandom circles. But... you know).

But whatever Crystal's done here, it's put Rei's story and personality into a perspective that I can understand. And I'm starting to see why she's a favorite of so many. Yet another tick in the Praise This Show To The Ends Of Eternity box (we're accumulating quite a few here).

Before we get to Rei, however, I've got some other praise to heap upon the Dark Kingdom. Specifically, how they are portrayed in Crystal.  For the first shot in Act 3 is, not any of our main protagonists (as has been the case to this point), but it's this -

Queen Beryl, ready to lop off heads after two failed attempts to gather energy for their great ruler.

This version of Queen Beryl is intense as crap. Sailor Moon Crystal's done a lot right with these characters, but I think the most important one to do justice is Queen Beryl. This woman is not to be messed around with. Her minions are properly afraid of her - not just out of any obligation because she sits on a throne made of a giant skull and wave around a creepy looking crystal ball (as in the original anime), but she has earned her villainous status. She's done things to become this evil and vile and to have the fear of those she rules over. She didn't just show up and say "All right, I'm the designated villain. Everyone - cower in fear!" She's just herself and that's enough to instill fear into everyone. Which makes the prospect of What I Know Must Happen Later (no spoilers) even more exciting. How is sunshine-and-friendship-and-love-and-justice Usagi Tsukino going to react to someone so heinous and evil and terrifying? I know how it happens in the manga and the original anime - but I have a feeling that Crystal is going to give us something entirely different (yet not so different as to be unrecognizable as being from the same basic story).

Anyway - Dark Kingdom, Queen Beryl. Scare the crap out of everyone. I'm ready!

What I'm also ready for (though I didn't know it initially) is what Crystal was going to do for Rei. I knew the basics - she lives with her grandfather and helps run the family shrine as a Shinto priestess (apologies if I get the cultural terms and such mixed up - I have a very limited knowledge of Japanese culture in this respect and I don't mean to be rude about it). She goes to a private Catholic school across town from where Usagi and Ami go to school. She has psychic powers, which were played with to wonderful effect in this story. In other versions that I've seen, Rei's psychic abilities are just... sort of there. You're expected to take for granted that it's A Thing that she has and they have no other bearing on her character. But in Crystal, Rei is actually conflicted about her powers. She wonders why she has them and doesn't like how uncomfortable other people are around her. She may be beautiful and have a "noble face" (I think the translation ought to have been more along the lines of "she's high class" or something like that - just my guess), but when it comes to that creepy psychic thing, people go out of their way to avoid Rei. The Sailor Moon R movie played with that a little bit, but that's the only part of Sailor Moon canon I'm aware of having done so.

Meanwhile back at Juban Public Middle School, Captain Exposition himself, Umino, has all the scoop about the mysterious Demon 6:00 PM Bus that has been mysteriously disappearing with all of its passengers. Mysteriously.

Can we just appreciate the fact that Crystal is well-aware of the fact the Umino serves
this sort of plot-exposition purpose and very little else in the story?
And Luna says it's girls who love gossip.

After school, Usagi and Luna meet Ami at the arcade. And we're treated to this wonderful little shot that I love quite a bit (given what happens later with the Sailor Team) -

You've got sweet, quiet Ami in her unassuming school uniform who'll be heading off to cram school after this meeting at the arcade next to the vivacious and glamorous Sailor V, who Usagi was all ready to accept as part of the Sailor Senshi because, hell, she's Sailor V! But who she has (so far) is Sailor Mercury. And it's a testament to the kind of person Usagi is that she has embraced Ami with all her heart (which is considerable). Ami may not be the out-loud, in-your-face, brave-and-tough girl that Usagi was initially picturing as part of their team of superheroes, but she still recognizes that Ami has a lot to offer to this group that they're building. Which speaks highly of the kind of story Sailor Moon seeks to tell - this group of seeming misfit girls discovering what truly makes them unique and finding a way for their different talents to blend together to accomplish this whole Saving the World business. They're not all different versions of the same girl - they need each other, they don't have time for catty gossip and backbiting. Goodness knows each of these girls has fallen victim to enough of that bullshit in their time (as we've seen with Ami and we'll see with Rei later).

This is the kind of thing I wish more girls understood about each other. This is why Sailor Moon is one of my favorite things in the world.

The girls leave the arcade and head to the bus stop where it's Ami's turn to give out some important exposition. There is a girl who takes the same bus Ami does to get to her cram school who might be the mysterious princess the girls are looking for. She's pretty and aristocratic and just has an air about her that's worth investigating. Usagi gets off the bus the same time the girl does and follows her to the nearby Hikawa Shrine.

Where she (nearly) immediately gets clocked in the face with one of Rei's ofuda meant to ward off evil spirits.

An auspicious beginning to a beautiful friendship
The next day, Usagi heads out to the Shrine on her own. En route, yet another auspicious moment in the Sailor Moon story occurs.

Usagi finally (properly) meets Mamoru Chiba. And the hearts of many fangirls melted (well... define "many")

Oh, ever since I read this exchange in the manga, I lamented the fact that the 90s anime gave these two such animosity toward each other. Sure, their initial meetings are awkward and a little dorky - but did that mean they had to be so awful to one another? But in Crystal - ah, the entire scene plays out just the way I thought it would. Mamoru notices Usagi talking to her cat (Luna notices that she and Usagi aren't entirely alone in having this conversation, which is hilarious), Usagi gets miffed that someone's been eavesdropping, Mamoru introduces himself as a high school student (oh, praise be to Takeuchi-sensei herself that they kept him as a high school student in Crystal!) and also hints that he's been investigating the Demon 6:00 Bus (OH GEE I WONDER WHAT THAT COULD BE ABOUT??) and then we get this -

Oh, you kids are going to be just fine (I'm already smitten with them both).

Anyway, after that interminable bus ride (one can only surmise), Usagi gets to the Hikawa Shrine where she sees Rei being confronted by a group of women whose children are missing. First, they want Rei to use her powers to find their kids, then they accuse her of knowing more about the Demon Bus than she's letting on - even going so far as to accuse her of being part of the conspiracy. Usagi, being our sweet and upstanding Champion of Justice, steps up and insists (after barely a day of knowing her) that Rei would never have anything to do with such a thing. To which (without missing a beat), the women ask how Usagi would know and Usagi has no idea, but... it's Usagi. Just go with it.

The women leave and Rei gets her turn to break all our hearts - how she has no idea why she has these powers, why people avoid her because of them, what her purpose is, and maybe Usagi should just leave her alone. After all - maybe people are right. Maybe Rei really is dangerous.

Oh hon - I suck at baking, but I just want to bring you a big plate of chocolate chip cookies. And a hug.
Usagi leaves and Rei goes back to meditating at her fire where she gets a vision of Usagi in trouble.

This shot is actually from earlier in the episode, but I thought it would go nicely here.
Rei runs after Usagi without a second thought - maybe because she does feel somewhat responsible for the people leaving the Shrine and then disappearing on the bus, or because of the visions that she's had of a shining palace since she met Usagi, or maybe it's just because Usagi is... Usagi. Rei tears off on her own down the road. Except she gets captured by the Demon Bus, being driven by Captain Incompetent himself, Jadeite. Usagi happens to be walking by when she sees Rei unconscious on the Demon Bus, so she uses the Disguise Pen to transform herself into a flight attendant so she can ensure the passengers have a safe and comfortable trip (look, I don't make this stuff up - I just recap it). At the last second, Flight-Attendant!Usagi jumps onto the back of the bus just as it's disappearing into an ominous portal in the wall - just in time to leave Luna behind and to catch a chance glimpse of Tuxedo Mask, who is evidently investigating the Demon Bus as well (OH GEE I WONDER WHAT THAT COULD BE ABOUT??)

It's a good thing destiny is at work here, otherwise you two would be in so much trouble.
Luna takes off to go find Ami, who works out that she can track Usagi by digitally tracking the signature from her transformation (and here I must mourn for the non-inclusion of the Mercury Computer. Yes, it looked like an off-brand First Generation Nintendo DS and would probably look out of place in a modern anime, but they could have updated the thing! Make it look like a super-powerful iPhone or something!)

I guess we'll make do with a not-iBook.
Our Heroine, everybody.
Seeing as Usagi is in the Dark Kingdom (which is presumably somewhere extremely north and extremely cold), the fact that Ami can track the transformation energy AND teleport herself there with her own laptop is intriguing in and of itself. Well, if it makes Ami look even more awesome, I shan't complain.

Jadeite creeps on an unconscious Rei (boy, he's going to regret that in the morning), but Our Intrepid Heroines are on the case! Enjoy some images of my girls being their most absolute fierce!

Bless the animator who completed this frame. I'll consider it a personal gift.
But the Dark Kingdom is nothing if not canny and never underestimate a minion with an ultimatum hanging over his head. For thus it is that Jadeite begins to get the upperhand (and apparently has been taking Ice Queen lessons from Elsa - well... okay). And Rei wakes up.

Bless Sailor Moon's heart - in the middle of a tense battle, she has the presence of mind to deny her true identity, but instead asserts that she has powers so she can help people and that's what her goal is as a Sailor Guardian.

I just thought this one was pretty - even though it's evil!ice.
But Rei's not an idiot - she tries to take out Jadeite from the back. Jadeite can be forgiven (I suppose) for assuming Rei's a normal person, but she's got powers too.

And for the first time, she doesn't feel like her powers are for nothing. She finally feels like she has a reason for her abilities. She's ready to accept herself as she is and to use her powers to help others the very best she can. Which is good, because now...

So - Sailor Mars. As always, henshin -

And the other girls - 

And now, we get the Sailor Mars that so many know and love - that soldier of fire and passion, the one who is going to kick all kinds of ass if you stand in her way. The one I never really appreciated until I saw where she really started out from and how far she went in terms of accepting herself and what she could do. Because once you learn and embrace the things you are truly capable of - well, what else is there except -

Some of the animation was a little wonky in this episode,
but when it counted, there were some spectacular moments.
So, Jadeite is dead-or-defeated (we're a little fuzzy on if he survived, I guess) and the Sailor Guardians get all the missing people out of the Dark Kingdom's Bus from Hell and back into the real world. Mothers are overjoyed at having their missing children returned and Usagi and Ami are thrilled at having a third member of the team.

And then next time... it's the Masquerade! Which... Hulu FINALLY got the "Next Time" previews to air after the episode. And, wouldn't you know it, it's for the episode that they decide to reuse footage from previous episodes with linking narration (sigh...) Oh well - that means we're getting something spectacular! Right?

Look, this is one of my favorite parts of this story arc - I'm really looking forward to it!