BHS Blogress Report: 2021, April – New Avenues

April – New Avenues

Well, when I least expected it, I found a new creative outlet. How about that.

I bought Koikatsu at the beginning of the month as an impulse purchase… I got an unexpected payday and it had been in my wish list for a while, so I went ahead and took the plunge.

What I expected was a dating sim/h-game with a robust character creator and a thriving modding community. I got those, sure… but I also got a massive virtual toybox filled with almost every anime character I’ve ever loved, the means to recreate the few that are missing, and literal millions of props, backgrounds, and special effects to play with.

If you’re reading this on DA, you’ve seen the results: all month long, I’ve been busily making scenes with the characters I’ve downloaded, both for my own enjoyment and for others. I’m making a concentrated effort to build up my skills with both KK and the CharaStudio add-on, with the eventual goal of illustrating as much of Shattered Skies as I can with it. To that end, I’ve begun the long and sometimes frustrating process of digging into the guts of the character models, learning how to alter textures, wireframes, and code… Some of them won’t be recreated without a lot more work and tweaking, but I’m really proud of what I’ve been able to learn in such a relatively short time.

As I’ve been telling people all month, the possibilities here are nearly endless. With thousands of character models from anime, video games, comic books, western cartoons, and movies at hand, and the skill to make more of my own… hell, I know at least half a dozen people who do commissions for KK characters on Patreon and make some impressive money for it, maybe I could turn this into a lucrative side project!

That’s not to say it’s all been a blast. Last Sunday in particular, I discovered that the process for converting one article of clothing into an accessory, without changing its model or anything else, is somewhat akin to learning Greek. After three hours spent with an experienced modder walking me through it step by step, I conceded temporary defeat in that regard. I do intend to pick up the more advanced modding techniques eventually, but until I truly understand the tools I’m using and the relevant terminology, I think it’s best if I just work with what I have. That still leaves me with a hell of a lot that I can do, though!

Anyway. This week marked ten years since the airing of Madoka Magica’s final episodes. It’s for that reason, I suppose, that there’s going to be a special tenth anniversary live event in Japan tomorrow afternoon. I briefly considered buying a ticket for the livestream… but then I found out that it would be happening at 4 AM our time tomorrow morning, and that settled that. Massive PMMM dork though I am, I’ve reached a point in my life where I just can’t disrupt my sleep schedule like that anymore. Hell, I stayed up past midnight tinkering with KK for a number of nights in a row earlier this month, and last weekend I paid for it, and hard. PMMM is a massively important and influential series for me, and I’m thrilled to think of what might be announced at this event… but I already slaved away to make my tribute back in December and January. I’ve shown my love of the series multiple times over, I think… I have nothing to prove by waking up at an ungodly hour to watch a live stream, and paying for the privilege at that. No, this is fine. I’ll see the news, whatever it is, when I wake up. In the long run, I know I’ll be happier for it.

-BHS

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BHS Blogress Report: 2020, Week 52 – Wasn’t All Bad

Week 52 – Wasn’t All Bad

So we’re finally here. In six hours (my time, as of when I started this), I’ll have survived 2020. There were a lot of times when I honestly didn’t think I’d make it.

Make no mistake, it was a trainwreck and a half of a year… but as a therapeutic exercise for myself, I thought I’d go month by month and write out good things that happened. I try to find and believe in the good in people and things even when most everything is terrible, so time to put that philosophy to work.

January: In January, I rediscovered my love of Star Trek with the premiere of Star Trek: Picard. Trek was one of my first fandoms, and it’s been a major part of my life since I was five years old and watching The Next Generation with my dad. Seeing Patrick Stewart reprise his iconic role felt like a part of me was coming home… and seeing Troi and my personal Eternal Symbol of Cool Riker appear again and slip perfectly back into their roles was sheer joy. Picard inspired me to finally watch season 2 of Discovery while I was waiting for new episodes, and there I found a show transformed. While Discovery season 1 had its moments and I’ll defend its creative choices, it was in 2 that I finally saw the Trek series that it could be. It spread its wings: the actors began to find the centers of their characters, the tone balanced itself out, the action was balanced with ethical quandaries, the science was better, and the humor came back with a vengeance. Anson Mount as Captain Pike was phenomenal, embodying the character’s legendary nature and showing why the captain before Kirk was spoken of so reverently. Mount is fully deserving of the Strange New Worlds spin-off that he was announced to be starring in earlier this year alongside Number One and the new Spock, Ethan Peck… and oh, that scene where he stepped onto the bridge. The bridge, modernized but still recreated with loving detail by set designers who knew exactly what they were doing. And then in the season finale, Discovery made a daring decision to upend the status quo in a way that’s never been attempted in Trek before…

… which made me genuinely ecstatic for season 3, which is finishing up next week. I can’t speak for anyone else, since I try to avoid fandom discourse… but I’ve loved this season even more than season 2. They’re reminding people of what Star Trek is all about. They’re introducing bold new ideas and jaw-dropping new tech. They’re blessing us with two new supporting characters who make perfect additions to the cast… and one of them is beautiful and funny and amazing and just that they’re there means so much to me and others watching. They’re continuing to demonstrate the reasons why I adore Ensign Sylvia Tilly, the character I’ve felt attached to since her first scene, and giving her the character development of my dreams. I’m sorry for speaking so vaguely here, but this season has enthralled me so much that I don’t want to spoil any of the wonderful things they’re doing to anyone who might be waiting to check it out… including several of my readers, I hope. Despite what trolls and haters and nay-sayers might say, Discovery Season 3 is pure Star Trek, with moments that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

February: In February, I had the privilege to meet and shake hands with an icon of my childhood: Jason David Frank, better known as Tommy Oliver, the Green (and White!) Ranger from the original Power Rangers. The first episode of MMPR premiered on my ninth birthday, and it sparked a love of Japanese culture that continues unabated to this day… getting a chance, however brief, to meet the man I grew up with, the face of the franchise, was utterly fantastic. Nine-year-old me would have exploded if he knew that one day I would get to stand next to Tommy and do the famous morphing pose, just like he fantasized about back then. It’s another item off my bucket list.

March: I discovered Better Call Saul last year after I finished my Breaking Bad binge, but this year was the first time I got to experience a season as it aired… and what a season. The cast and crew proved once again why BCS is one of the best series on television, an almost Shakespearean tragedy about a man whose life beats him down relentlessly whenever he tries to do good… so he responds to that by gradually abandoning the urge to do good and thereby ruining himself. But the star this season wasn’t Saul/Jimmy, though of course Bob Odenkirk’s performance was excellent as ever. No, the star this season was Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler, who deserved every acting award there is. She underwent a transformation that none of us were expecting, and she did it right under our noses, with such sublime subtlety that none of us noticed it was happening until it was too late. The end results hit me and everybody else watching like a goddamned semi truck, just as shattered and shocked as poor Jimmy was in his final scene. The television landscape will lose some of its greatest characters when they finally finish for good next season… but oh, what a journey it’s been.

April: “Dishearteningly.” Explaining it here would take way too long and I already used way too many lines on January alone. In a nutshell, I consider myself quite the comedian when the mood strikes me… not all my jokes land or are appreciated, but I try. That single word, “dishearteningly”, formed the basis of what I consider the most successful joke I told all year, one that prompted a hysterical fit of laughter from the primary recipient, and one which I’m still proud of and amazed by eight months later.

May: Real-Time Fandub. I’d heard of it, and of their infamous Sonic Adventure 2 dub with its Eggman rant that took the internet by storm, but I never watched it until May. I’m so, so glad I did. The concept is brilliant: a bunch of small-time YouTube voice actors, all friends with each other, redub the cutscenes of a game with no script and all in one take, trying to crack each other up whenever possible. Their improv skills are phenomenal, and their stuff gave me belly-laughs that I sorely needed this year. I eagerly await their future projects.

June: Crunchyroll licensed Precure for simulcasting. I thought it would never happen, despite all the fanbase’s begging, but when Healin’ Good came back from its COVID-induced hiatus… it came back with a way for us Americans to watch it legally, with subtitles, uncut. The response from the Precure fandom was meteoric, and as the year went on, we got KiraKira Precure A La Mode and Star Twinkle available as well, and CR has already announced that there’s more on the way, with next year’s Tropical-Rouge Precure being available from the outset. I know CR is controversial among parts of the community, I know some people say to stick with the fansubs anyway, but this is the first step to legitimizing Precure in the West. I couldn’t be more happy about it.

July: My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! This one was from earlier in the year, but it was only this summer that I got around to watching it. A series that combines two of my least favorite anime genres, isekai and harem, shouldn’t have worked. However, in a year with a ton of great anime comedies, including the return of the mighty Kaguya-sama: Love is War, this one emerged in a class of its own thanks to its spectacularly dense lead character, Catarina Claes. One of the best recent examples I can think of of a character being both incredibly lovable and a complete and total idiot, Catarina deserves her mass acclaim… but it would be a disservice not to mention the seven (later eight) people of mixed genders who all vie for her affection, though she remains cheerfully oblivious. Each member of the would-be harem has their own distinct charm and personality, and each one (or more! Poly is good!) would make for a genuinely good match for Catarina… and yet the show is mostly free of the meanspirited backstabbing that characterizes the harems in most other series. It’s fun, it’s compelling, and it’s riotously funny. I look forward to the second season.

August: My Hot Fuzz rewatch. Most of the good parts of August were introducing my friend Ninty to some of my favorite comedies… but when I found out he had never seen Hot Fuzz, I resolved to correct that immediately. There was nothing better than watching Hot Fuzz again with someone who had never seen it before, and it got exactly the reaction I was hoping for. Amazing.

September: Hololive. Yeah, it’s the new hotness and I’m just one of millions of nerds who got sucked in this year, so my experience is hardly unique, but. When I discovered Korone Inugami (through the memes, of course), I found someone very different from the rigidly scripted and relentlessly micromanaged virtual idol I was expecting. Korone and her kin have personality… real, genuine personality that’s near-impossible to fake. Part of the reason the Hololive talents are so easy to get into is because while they’re absolutely playing fictional characters, they’re allowed to have the real people behind those characters shine through their avatars. Watch any given compilation of Korone (or Gura, or Amelia, or Coco, or the dozens of others) and it’s apparent that the content isn’t following a script. It’s being created there on the spot by some unbelievably talented performers… so Korone’s adorable enthusiasm for learning new English words? That’s real. Amelia’s shrieking moments of gamer rage? Those are real. Coco getting stoned off sleeping pills, live on stream? Very real. I fell down the rabbit hole, yeah, but I don’t regret it a bit.

October: Chapter 61 of The Changeling of the Guard. This one isn’t really my moment, granted, but seeing my best friend finally get to the scene in his fanfic that he had been working towards for six years, and the explosion of his fanbase afterward… it’s stuff like that that I live for. Excellent work, buddy. You earned all your praise.

November: Falling in love with the DCAU again. Since Ninty hadn’t seen but a handful of the franchise, I decided we should watch all of the major series and movies together, beginning by going back to where it all started: Batman: The Animated Series. Nearly thirty years later, its status as a masterpiece still holds up. I loved the series as I kid, and watching it again had me marveling at its beauty, its elegance, and the depth and intricacy of its writing. B:TAS wasn’t supposed to be as amazing as it was, the network was only expecting a vehicle to tie in with Batman Returns and sell action figures. Instead, they made art, and they made it out of sheer love for the story, the characters, and the mythos. You can see that love in practically every frame. We’re roughly two-thirds done with Superman: The Animated Series now, which is just as gorgeous and treats the superhero with just as much care and reverence. It reminds me of just why Superman has been and always will be my favorite superhero, and it’s not because he’s the strongest. It’s because he represents the best of humanity… he’s the ideal we all should reach for, not just powerful, but noble, kind, and selfless. That’s who I want Superman to be.

We’re going to continue on to Batman Beyond, Justice League, and Justice League Unlimited, and I can’t wait.

December: Animaniacs (2020). This one was honestly tough; I was tempted to choose the frankly incredible Digimon Adventure: for this month, because both series are reboots of shows that I adored as a kid. But the new Animaniacs, though… it had a way tougher job. Comedy is hard and times have massively changed since the classic series ended in 1998. There’s a million ways it could have or should have gone wrong. But within minutes of starting the 2020 series, I was grinning ear to ear. The new writers should be commended for emulating the classic series’ style so perfectly. I’ve been telling people that it doesn’t really feel like a reboot, it feels like the old show just took a break for an incredibly long time and now it’s back. The smart writing is there, the meta humor is there, the old-fashioned slapstick is there, the orchestrated soundtrack is there… it works. True, most of the old supporting cast hasn’t come back yet (though the writers say that may change), the art style is a bit different, and some jokes and sketches are rough around the edges, but it’s incredibly faithful to the spirit of one of the greatest cartoons of the 90s. Like I said, this should not have worked. Classic Animaniacs was a product of its time, sure, but it was also a throwback to the golden age of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies… franchises which are a lot less well-known than they were a quarter-century ago, sadly. I was worried that we’d get endless, lazy smartphone and meme jokes, or that they’d make it more conventional so kids would get it, or that they’d do away with all those cherished adult jokes they snuck past the censors which were completely inappropriate for children. None of those fears were founded. It’s as wild and crazy and fourth-wall breaking as ever, and I adore it. At least three giant belly-laughs per episode on average, you can quote me on that.

So yeah. For all the pain and heartbreak and suffering, there were good things in every month of this year. There is light, even in the deepest darkness… and this year’s darkness is almost over. May we all have a far more peaceful and enjoyable new year.

-BHS

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BHS Blogress Report: 2020, Week 47 – A Natural Desire

Week 47 – A Natural Desire

It’s honestly sort of unreal how much better I’m feeling compared to this time last month. Knowing that every day and week that passes brings me a little bit closer to the end of 45’s reign of terror sort of makes me feel like I can handle almost anything between now and then. My anxiety isn’t gone, but it’s more manageable than it’s been in years. Just two more months, and I’ll have survived it.

Anyway. Today marked the 40th anniversary of the American release of my all-time favorite bad movie, The Apple. See, I love watching and laughing at so-bad-it’s-good movies, and this one was a one often spoken of among aficionados, but rarely seen or mentioned alongside the really infamous ones… the likes of Plan 9 from Outer Space, Heaven’s Gate, or The Room. There’s no massive cult following or beloved audience participation routine for it… or if there is, I’m unaware of it. It was described as bizarrely terrible, but I only decided that I had to see it after I read Nathan Rabin’s description of it in his My World of Flops column: “The peculiar genius of The Apple is that every time it appears the film cannot get any crazier, it ratchets up the weirdness to almost indescribable levels. It belongs to the subset of movies so all-consumingly druggy and surreal that they make audiences feel baked out of their minds even when they’re sober. The Apple is both the perfect mind fuck to see while high and a movie that makes drugs seem redundant and unnecessary.”

So one fateful night in the fall of 2013, I convinced my best friend VDrake to take the plunge with me as I watched it for the first time… and even reading about it for years beforehand was not enough to prepare me for it. I was repeating “Oh my god” over and over within the first five minutes… and I kept repeating it throughout the film, in between fits of hysterical laughter. Drake and I both knew almost from the moment we finished it that we had seen something wonderfully unique and special and absolutely bonkers, and that we had to share it with more people.

And so I did. I felt it was a grave injustice that more people didn’t know about this movie, so I introduced it to as many people as I could. On April 1st, 2018, I hosting a live MSTing of it for my friends and YouTube followers, an event I christened “Apple Fools Day”. When I got my own Discord server, I decided to prank the server members by showing the movie or clips of it at unexpected times… my version of Paul Rudd’s wonderful Mac and Me gag that he’s been pulling on Conan O’Brien for nearly two decades. For most of the past year, I’ve even worked many of those clips into my Twitch streams, bound to hotkeys. Hell, one of my server rules is now “Everyone on the server must watch The Apple. No exceptions.” Every time a new person joins, there’s initial confusion as to why we all speak of The Apple in hushed tones… and every time these new people see it for themselves, they quickly understand why. We may not have the numbers of the cult followings for Rocky Horror or The Room, but we’re making progress all the same.

It’s not just The Apple’s bugfuck insanity that makes it my favorite bad movie… though that’s a big part of it. In a weird way, because it’s so obscure, it feels like my bad movie. Keeping it small and enjoying it with my friends feels more personal, more meaningful than, say, enjoying The Room with a theater full of rabid fans… though having done that, it is a ton of fun. It’s something I never get tired of introducing to new people, and something I always find hilarious no matter how many times I watch it. Every time I find something new, some interesting little tidbit or background detail or weird line read to crack up over. In this year, which has been so miserable for so many, I’m more grateful than ever for those laughs.

The Apple is a bad film, there’s no question of that. The plot is nonsense, the musical numbers are middling to awful, the costumes are cringe-inducing, the acting is laughable. It opened in the US 40 years ago today and failed spectacularly, sinking with nary trace, and is largely only remembered by weirdos like me. But it’s brought me over seven years of joy and laughter, and I’ll treasure it forever because of that. Happy anniversary, you magnificently weird trainwreck of a film. Here’s to you. Hey, hey, hey!

-BHS

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BHS Blogress Report: 2020, October – Tired, Tired, Tired

October 2020: Tired, Tired, Tired

I’ve been bashing my head against it (not literally… for the most part) all month long, but Chapter 49 of Shattered Skies: The Morning Lights is finally, finally done.

https://archiveofourown.org/works/2449097/chapters/66715915

Not much to say other than that… my petsitting business picked up again, which is nice.

I’m effing wiped out right now. 2020 being 2020 has left me totally exhausted. Depending on what happens next week, I may just take the rest of the year off from doing Blogress Reports, since it’s very unlikely that anything will change for the better before January, even in the best of circumstances.

I’ll try to keep you guys posted.

-BHS

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BHS Placeholder Blogress Report: 2019, Week 26

Like it says, this is a placeholder. This is a big, big week, so the actual Report will be going up on Thursday, when I’ll have a recap of the Weird Al concert and a huge announcement.

– BHS

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