BHS Blogress Report: 2019, Week 16 – I Just Want to Enjoy the Damned Movie

Week 16 – I Just Want to Enjoy the Damn Movie
Still fighting off the last of my illness, so I haven’t been able to do much, but the next item on my list is Shattered Skies Chapter 44. It’s closer to being done than anything else at the moment.
The first teaser trailer for Star Wars Episode IX came out this weekend, along with the reveal of its title: The Rise of Skywalker. I’m excited to see how this thing ends, but my excitement is dampened considerably by the re-ignition of Star Wars Discourse, because even a year and a half later, a small but very loud and intensely irritating group of people (“fans” seems to be giving them too much credit) are still bitching about The Last Jedi. It’s not enough that they hate the movie, it’s not enough that they harass the people who made the movie, they have to turn it into a goddamn dog whistle in an attempt to get everybody else to hate it too.
Now, it’s not like I have much of an emotional stake in whether Star Wars is good or not. I didn’t grow up on the movies like many other people my age did… I watched them and I loved them, sure, but I always wanted to serve aboard the Enterprise as a kid, not be a Jedi Knight. Star Wars has never been a religious experience to me. I went to the midnight premieres of both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi because they were momentous cultural events, not because my fandom demanded it… I’ll do the same for The Rise of Skywalker in December, if I possibly can. I’m not trying to be hipster-y or put on airs of ironic detachment, I’m just setting the stage.
Quite frankly, I just want to enjoy the damn movie. I don’t care about “respecting the franchise” or “staying true to Lucas’s vision”. I don’t care if the new trilogy has plot inconsistencies from movie to movie, or if it clashes with the EU material, old or new. My measure of what makes a good Star Wars movie is how well it absorbs me in the moment… if it can present a coherent story and let me escape reality for two hours, it’s done its job. Star Wars is many things: a landmark in the history of film, a cultural juggernaut, a cornerstone of many peoples’ childhoods. Star Wars is not about creating art, and it hasn’t been since the 80s, if not even before that. It’s a franchise that for the vast majority of its life span has existed primarily to sell toys and to entertain children and teenagers, in that order. This is not news, people. George Lucas is not some holy, shining beacon of artistic integrity, he never has been. If you’re upset about Disney trying to make money off the franchise’s fans, it’s time to face reality: Lucas did the same thing for 30 years, just on a smaller and marginally less corporate scale.
When Rise of Skywalker comes out, I expect to be entertained. I expect lightsaber fights, space battles, fantastic John Williams music, pseudo-profound philosophy, and a few good gags and one-liners. If it’s anything more than that, if it manages to have a meaningful message or two, that’s fantastic! Good for the cast and crew, they’ve worked hard for most of a decade on what has to have been a tremendously stressful series of projects. I’ll be a bit disappointed if the daring, innovative stuff from The Last Jedi gets retconned due to the aforementioned loud and irritating people, but Disney is primarily in the business of pleasing crowds, not challenging the masses. That’s par for the course for them.
 
TFA got made and I enjoyed it. TLJ got made and I enjoyed it. Both films did their jobs. All I can ask of TRoS is that it does the same; if it does, I’ll be satisfied. If you want to scream your lungs out at me for that… well, please don’t do it here. I’m not interested in discourse, I just want to watch the silly space fantasy and be happy for a while.
– BHS
  • Tasakeru Book IV: Twilight’s Dreaming, Chapter 9: In progress
  • Tasakeru Patreon: 6 Patrons
  • Twitch Follower Count: 34 followers
  • Book II Appendix: On hold
  • Shattered Skies: The Morning Lights, Chapter 44: 0.25 pages done
  • Shattered Skies: Viluy’s Database Chapter 3: On hold
  • Uravity Falls Chapter 3: On hold

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BHS Blogress Report: 2019, Week 15 – When to Pack It In

Week 15 – When to Pack It In
  • All projects on hold due to illness
Yup. I got sick at the worst possible time. It blows.
Anyway. Two announcements before I crash. The first is that the fundraiser for Kandlin was a rousing success, with $332 raised for his family. Once again, thanks to all who donated.
The second is that I’m scrapping the Chogokin Titanus episode of Silent InvenTOYry. I’ve had three major setbacks in its production, I’m a month behind schedule, and quite frankly I don’t have enough good material for an episode due to said setbacks. I really hoped I would be able to pull it off, but at some point you’ve just got to accept that some ideas don’t pan out. Getting sick was really just the final nail in the coffin for this one. All is not lost: I plan to salvage what footage I’ve shot so far, cobble it together, and release it as a micro-episode of sorts, and of course I’ll be taking pictures to go up once I’m recovered. When I’m back on my groove, I have another item to review for an SI Semi-Short, so I should be okay.
Sorry, guys. Wish me a speedy recovery.
– BHS
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BHS Blogress Report: 2019, Week 14 – A Little Faith Restored

Week 14 – A Little Faith Restored
I’ll be honest with you all: I was in a really bad place for the first part of last week. Health complications came up in every member of my family except me, IRL things in general were bad, and there was that whole mess with Kandlin and PayPal… it was one of my lowest periods in a long while.
So by Tuesday night, I decided to quit feeling miserable and do something about at least one of those things:
I may not have ever had to support a family, but I’m far too familiar with arbitrary internet bullshit, not to mention being denied payment for my work. The GoFundMe was, to be honest, a wild idea to try to do something to help. I started it on Tuesday night without any expectations, figuring it would be a nice gesture if nothing else. After all, I wasn’t feeling all that confident in people’s inherent goodness… I just wanted Kandlin’s family’s week to suck slightly less.
When I woke up the next morning, it was at $100, and another $100 was donated by Wednesday afternoon. In just over a day and a half, it was fully funded.
The fundraiser is now actually exceeding its goal, and by the time I close it down on Wednesday evening, there will be more still. I cannot thank Gouretoratto, RustyRick, Joeygatorman and the anonymous contributors enough for their incredible generosity. Far be it from me to speak on Kandlin’s behalf, but for what little it’s worth, you brightened both his week and mine. Well done, all of you, and I hope this brightens your week too.
In other news: Twilight’s Dreaming Chapter 8 is finally done, if way overdue. The emotional gravity of these last few chapters has taken a lot out of me, not gonna lie. I really, really hope the payoff will be worth it… but dammit, this is my baby we’re talking about, my magnum opus. I can’t do anything but write what’s in my head and heart and hope it affects the readers in the same way.
My other overdue project, the Titanus episode of Silent InvenTOYry, isn’t looking so positive at the moment, sadly. If I stay stalled much longer, I may just move on to my next episode to make up for it… it’s getting to the point where I’d rather put out no episode than a lackluster one. If I do end up scrapping it, I’ll of course take and upload some high-quality shots of Titanus and the Ultrazord as consolation. It’s still up in the air, though.
And finally, no, there will be no April Fools jokes here. I contemplated doing another Apple Fools Day, but given recent events it would be nowhere near as energetic or funny as last year’s. I think a couple days of low-pressure activity should have me back in order.
– BHS
  • Tasakeru Book IV: Twilight’s Dreaming, Chapter 8: COMPLETE!
  • Tasakeru Patreon: 6 Patrons
  • Twitch Follower Count: 19 followers
  • Book II Appendix: 2 pages done
  • Shattered Skies: The Morning Lights, Chapter 44: 0.25 pages done
  • Shattered Skies: Viluy’s Database Chapter 3: 3 pages done
  • Uravity Falls Chapter 3: 0.5 pages done
  • Silent InvenTOYry Episode 10: Reworking

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BHS Blogress Report: 2019, Week 13 – Getting Stepped On

Week 13 – Getting Stepped On
I’m sure it’s not news to anybody, but generally speaking, the state of things for the little guys of the world is pretty awful right now. Everywhere you look we’re getting stepped on, and I for one am growing sick of it. Yeah, yeah, “the world isn’t fair”, I’ve been made well aware of that. I’m just frustrated that with the situation for the vast majority of people getting worse and worse, the very few people capable of doing something meaningful about it are, for the most part, those who are responsible for getting us into this mess in the first place. I find myself wishing more and more often for the kind of sudden, random, life-ruining disasters that afflict me and my family and friends to happen to someone else for a change, particularly DT and his fellow shitstains.
So yeah, this Blogress Report is a downer, and I apologize. The malaise is seriously impacting my ability to focus, but I am making very slow progress on the next Tasakeru chapter, at least. That’s about all I’ve got.
ChaosCroc’s visit went really well, for what it’s worth. The two of us got in a lot in three days, and Croc was able to guest commentate on last week’s Dead Cells stream, which was a nice change of pace. I’m grateful that we had the chance to catch up after so long, and I hope I didn’t bore him too much with magical girl talk.
Kandlin has had a wretchedly awful day, and is dealing with severe financial troubles. I’m trying to spread the word among my limited social circle, on the off chance that anyone feels like donating to help him and his family out… I’d provide donation info, but as of this writing I’m not sure there is any to provide. As soon as he has a stable account set up, I’ll provide more info, but for now I’ll just have to settle for signal boosting. Send him and his family some nice words, if you can.
– BHS
  • Tasakeru Book IV: Twilight’s Dreaming, Chapter 8: 2 pages done
  • TasakeruPatreon: 6 Patrons
  • Twitch Follower Count: 19 followers
  • Book II Appendix: 2 pages done
  • Shattered Skies: The Morning Lights, Chapter 43: COMPLETE!
  • Shattered Skies: The Morning Lights, Chapter 44: 0.25 pages done
  • Shattered Skies: Viluy’s Database Chapter 3: 3 pages done
  • Uravity Falls Chapter 3: 0.5 pages done
  • Silent InvenTOYry Episode 10: Reworking

– BHS

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BHS Blogress Report: 2019, Week 12 – Croc is Here, More Stuff Later

Week 12 – Croc is Here, More Stuff Later

It’s very late and, as I feared, I forgot about the Blogress Report because :devChaosCroc: is here. So I’ll be brief: not much progress has been made, but I hope Croc’s visit will be a shot in the arm for me. I’ve canceled my Star Vs commentary, because it was the least essential thing on my list and given that it’s on Pillowfort, not many will see it anyway. It’s not too big a loss, I think… I only started doing it last year. And it relieves some of the pressure on me, so. It’s for the best.
Anyway. More next week.
– BHS
  • Tasakeru Book IV: Twilight’s Dreaming, Chapter 8: 1.25 pages done
  • Tasakeru Patreon: 6 Patrons
  • Twitch Follower Count: 19 followers
  • Book II Appendix: 2 pages done
  • Shattered Skies: The Morning Lights, Chapter 43: COMPLETE!
  • Shattered Skies: The Morning Lights, Chapter 44: 0.25 pages done
  • Shattered Skies: Viluy’s Database Chapter 3: 3 pages done
  • Uravity Falls Chapter 3: 0.5 pages done
  • Silent InvenTOYry Episode 09: COMPLETE!
  • Silent InvenTOYry Episode 10: Reworking
  • Star Vs Commentary: Canceled

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BHS Blogress Report: 2019, Week 11 – Less to Stress Over

Week 11 – Less to Stress Over
Roadblocks really, really suck. I knew that the item for my next Silent InvenTOYry would be too big to do the usual side-by-side comparison with its vintage counterpart, I was prepared for that. However, I wasn’t prepared for the difficulty of moving its components around from behind the camera. The tent is just too small to do it without it looking like garbage. So my choices are to either shoot part of the review outside the tent or to scrap the episode altogether. Since there was a fairly major bit that I had to scrap due to it being unworkable, I probably need to downgrade this one from a regular episode to a Semi-Short; I’m afraid I just don’t have enough material for a full production like my other ones. I hate to do it, but if it comes down to that or scrapping the whole thing, I’d rather do the Semi-Short.
For a few nerve-wracking hours yesterday, I was convinced that my graphics card had been fried. We had a thirty-second power outage, and when I booted my computer back up, the graphics settings were scrambled. I’ve had this issue before… my computer wasn’t build with HDMI support in mind, it was added later when I put in the graphics card. So every time something goes wrong with the card, for some fool reason it defaults back to VGA settings. I used to be able to fix this by switching to my old VGA monitor, but since it hadn’t happened in a long time I figured it was safe to get rid of it. This time, none of the usual methods of restoring my drivers seemed to work, and I had to open up the tower, remove the card, and put it back in twice before my system detected it so I could reinstall what I needed to. By the time I was done, I was too wiped out to do anything else, which meant putting off Star Vs Commentary for the season 4 premiere.
The experience has me thinking that I’m putting far too much pressure on myself. Much as I enjoy being flexible with what I work on, I think I have a few too many commitments at the moment. Obviously I can’t give up on writing Tasakeru or Shattered Skies, and I don’t want to quit streaming when I’ve been working so hard to hit that 50 follower goal… but I think I may need a break from some of the other stuff, particularly the time-sensitive material. I’m actually really glad that this current item is the last big thing I’ll be purchasing for the next few months, so I think I may try to content myself with Semi-Short SI episodes for the foreseeable future. Likewise, though I’m definitely sad that Star Vs’s fourth season will be its last, I’m a little relieved that with the end of that show and no more Steven until the movie, I won’t have to push myself to get reviews out on time.
Maybe this sounds like whining, I dunno. If it does, I apologize.
In better news, :devChaosCroc: is going to be visiting for a few days next week. We haven’t seen each other face-to-face in forever, so I’m relishing the chance to get caught up. Next week’s Blogress Report might be a tad truncated as a result, but we’ll see. I’m still trying to figure out what to do about the Monday night stream, but as usual, I’ll post status updates when and if it happens.
– BHS
  • Tasakeru Book IV: Twilight’s Dreaming, Chapter 8: 1.25 pages done
  • TasakeruPatreon: 6 Patrons
  • Twitch Follower Count: 17 followers
  • Book II Appendix: 2 pages done
  • Shattered Skies: The Morning Lights, Chapter 43: COMPLETE!
  • Shattered Skies: The Morning Lights, Chapter 44: 0.25 pages done
  • Shattered Skies: Viluy’s Database Chapter 3: 3 pages done
  • Uravity Falls Chapter 3: 0.5 pages done
  • Silent InvenTOYry Episode 09: COMPLETE!
  • Silent InvenTOYry Episode 10: Reworking
  • Star Vs Commentary: Pending, planning for Tuesday night

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BHS Blogress Report: 2019, Week 10 – Symphogear is Great and Chris Needs a Figma

Week 10 – Symphogear is Great and Chris Needs a Figma
Since I’ve just started a third complete runthrough of the Symphogear series in less than four months, I think it’s safe to call me a fanboy now. If you read those words and thought “Uh oh”, please be assured that that’s a perfectly logical reaction. No, I will not be adding Hibiki and company into Shattered Skies, for a number of reasons, but I don’t think I’ll be able to resist a couple nods to it in future chapters. The series really is that good, and I’m actually angry at the person who described it to me as “idol singers with side-jobs as magical girls” a couple years ago, because that’s a grossly inaccurate description and it turned me right the hell off of something I really should have discovered sooner.
See, idol singer shows are really iffy to me. I won’t elaborate, but the Japanese idol industry is so sleazy that I just can’t watch stuff like Love Live, etc., without getting a bad taste in my mouth. That’s what I thought Symphogear was: Love Live with a few token magical girl elements. What I was not expecting was a glorious, hot-blooded, ridiculously badass action show where those doing the action just happen to sing while they fight. Seriously, after the low-budget first season, the fight scenes become jaw-dropping spectacles that rival or even exceed the ones in the Nanoha series. Nanoha is actually the closest thing I can compare it to in terms of its tone and what it’s intended audience is. The whole show seems to be designed for the express purpose of making you grab your friends and go “Holy crap, did you see that?!”
And of course, one of the primary reasons I love it so much is Chris Yukine. I’m a sucker for tsundere types, that much is known… but Chris just brings so many wonderful things to the table in addition to being a fantastic example of a tsundere: her personality, which stands out among the other cast members for being semi-permanently in a state of “1000% done with this shit”, but which is a gruff and cynical mask for the marshmallow dork underneath. Her fight songs, which are all rock and heavy metal with the some of the most ludicrous over-the-top edgelord lyrics of any anime song ever… while still being damn great songs, sung by a voice actress with an opera-grade range. Her propensity to just up and smack people who need a good smacking, particularly with her candy red Mary Janes. And then there’s the big guns… no, not those guns. CALM DOWN, NEKO. Perhaps not since Leena Toros and her custom Gun Sniper have I been so giddy seeing a character forsake all subtlety and just mow down goddamn everything with an arsenal befitting an entire army division. In that regard, it helps that one of her damn great fight songs, “Bye-Bye Lullaby”, is probably the most appropriate music track I’ve ever heard to express concept of MORE DAKKA. Maybe there’s slightly more stable characters with whom I could live vicariously, but honestly, Chris is just objectively the best and everyone I’ve introduced to the show agrees.
So it’s with great frustration that I found out that there’s only two Figmas from Symphogear, and neither of them are Chris Yukine. What the hell, GSC?! I guess Figmas based on the upcoming fifth season aren’t completely outside the realm of possibility, but with a franchise successful enough to get four seasons, each more profitable than the last, why wouldn’t someone bother completing the main trio, at the very least? Maybe it’s because all of Good Smile’s factories are committed to shitting out thirty Fate, KanColle, and Miku Hatsune figures every quarter… ugh. This hobby is a real drag sometimes.
But anyway. That’s really all I have to say this week. Go read the new Shattered Skies chapter, then watch Symphogear.
– BHS

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BHS Blogress Report: 2019, Week 9 – How to Kill Your Motivation

Week 9 – How to Kill Your Motivation

On Friday, I felt it was about time to update the portion of the Silent InvenTOYry intro where I pan across my shelves to show my collection. Since my newest review item came in that morning, and it’s a big one, I had to do that anyway to clear off some space for it.
I won’t disturb you with the horrific details, but it was during the process of rearranging and posing my Figuarts on the bottom shelf that I managed to severely damage three of them within the space of about 90 minutes. Two of which were expensive limited editions, of course. Now, GSC has a thing with Figmas where if you buy one and a part breaks within a month or so, they’ll replace it free of charge. Bandai has no such policy for Figuarts, so the only way I could fix the problem short of buying entirely new figures was a DIY repair job. I spent a substantial amount of money on a miniature power drill, a length of brass wire, superglue, sticky tack, and a sprue of generic replacement joints, and once all of those arrive, I’m going to attempt to fix the damage. Here I must give enormous thanks to Storyteller222, for generously donating money for the tools and materials. For what it’s worth, bro, you saved me from a major panic attack, and that was a bigger deal than I can adequately describe.
But yeah. This run of rotten luck slaughtered any desire I had to get anything else done all weekend. For understandable reasons, I didn’t want to even touch another expensive figure for a while, and as for Tasakeru… well, I wasn’t in the right frame of mind. I’m now working on updates again, but please bear with me; I may miss my deadlines for the end of February. That’s part of the reason I’ve temporarily changed the format of my Patreon to auto-charge monthly… the disaster took a big chunk out of my finances and my work time at a time when I was already running behind. I hate how selfish this sounds of me, but the stress of trying to do Tasakeru and InvenTOYry plus the additional stress of the Figuarts disaster means I can’t give either of them my all at the moment. I don’t want to rush out something that I can’t be proud of.
Speaking of my Patreon, though, I did some tweaking to the reward tiers. $10 Patrons can now get a plug for your YouTube or Twitch channel or any pet project you may have during a future live stream, and $30 Patrons will have a one-time opportunity to name an incidental character in a future Tasakeru chapter. I hope these will provide better incentives to join up.
– BHS
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BHS Blogress Report: 2019, Week 8 – Back on the Horse

Week 8 – Back on the Horse
It took longer than I thought it would, but I’m finally making progress with Shattered Skies again. Chapter 43 is underway. It’s going to be a shorter one, sort of an interlude between big events, but I like how it’s coming out. I’m aiming to finish it by the end of the month if possible, but Tasakeru is my highest priority, followed by Episode 10 of Silent InvenTOYry. Episode 10 will be much, much less elaborate than the last one, but I’ve still got some special stuff planned for it. I have one more Semi-Short in line for mid-to-late March, and then I should be pretty well set until July, as far as SI goes. I’m also planning on finally finishing a certain other story that’s been on the back-burner for way too long… it’s one found on my AO3 page, which I won’t link to for obvious reasons, but many people have expressed an interest in seeing it continue over the years. A conclusion is long, long overdue.

What you’re seeing here is Hasbro launching an absolutely vicious joint attack on my wallet, my nostalgia, and my feels. An official Ecto-1 Transformer, jointly celebrating the 35th anniversaries of TF and Ghostbusters. Goddammit. Ten years ago, when Hasbro unceremoniously canceled Transformers Animated despite its huge success and the fandom’s adoration of it in favor of focusing on Revenge of the Fallen, I swore off Transformers altogether. What happened to Animated was criminal. I loved the franchise, but seeing one of its best entries cut down in its prime (sorry) so that they could squeeze a little more money out of Michael Bay’s juvenile, racist, incoherent trash fire… it still makes me angry today. But this… this is something I cannot resist, it’s not within my power. I’ve loved Ghostbusters since I was three, watching The Real Ghostbusters cartoon religiously and building my very first action figure collection out of its spectacular toyline. I love the concept, I love the style, I love the humor, I love the music, I love the characters, I love the firehouse…

… but I think more than anything else, I love the car. I’m not a car person, but to me, the Ecto-1 will forever be the coolest vehicle ever made. I used to dream about one day running my hand along the length of one of her glorious red fins… a dream that actually came true when I was eighteen, via a chance encounter in a museum on my senior class trip. To this day, if and when I make it big, I want to own her and ride in her at least once. I loved Transformers from an early age too, of course, but I never had the connection with them that I did with the Ghostbusters. More to the point, I never, ever imagined that some mad genius would ever combine the two. Well played, Hasbro, well played. Damn you.

– BHS

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BHS Blogress Report: 2019, Week 7 – The Belated Hugtto Review

Week 7 – The Belated Hugtto Review

[Sorry this is so late… various complications prevented me from finishing it up until now. Your regular Blogress Report will resume next week. – BHS]

It may come as a surprise to some of you, given how I very publicly and vocally stan the franchise in all of my online hangouts, but I don’t really go into Precure series expecting greatness.

Precure is at its heart a toy commercial. It exists to sell merchandise; I made my peace with that some time ago. When we’re lucky, the series can be funny, or heartwarming, or sad, or scary, or awesome, or even inspiring, but that’s not the norm and I’m okay with that.

There are things I point to as the reasons I love this franchise: the epic fight scenes, the character development, the consistently excellent art and costume design, the performances by a giant and ever-expanding cast of famous voices. But again, these are par for the course; most Precure series have great fight scenes, solid character writing, appealing designs, and famous voices.

What’s special, and very rare, is when a Precure series fires on all cylinders and makes the jump from being pleasant, harmless fluff into something greater. Heartcatch did it, bringing in a huge new wave of fans all over the world. Go Princess did it too, becoming almost as beloved… but sadly not as commercially successful as it should have been. Until this year, I held those two up in equal standing as my favorite Precure series. I was convinced—especially after Mahou Tsukai became massively popular despite being, in the most professional, objective terms, utter shit trash garbage—that they’d share the spot at the top of the list for at least another five years, maybe more. Good Precure series are always welcome, but they just don’t happen very often… that’s just a fact with annualized franchises like this. The quality dips up and down from year to year, averaging out at “pretty good”.

Hugtto is special. It’s very special. So special, in fact, that it did the near-impossible and surpassed Heartcatch and Go Princess to become my favorite Precure series ever.

Now, keep in mind, this is coming from someone who can only be called a fanatic for the series. I’ve finished all of them except for Yes! 5, Yes! 5 Gogo, and Mahou Tsukai. Many of them I’ve watched through more than once… but only Hugtto inspired me to watch the entire series three times from beginning to end while it was still airing. Only Hugtto had me spending entire days of my free time poring over its footage in VEGAS to make fan videos. Only Hugtto had an ensemble cast where I can truly say that there’s no weak link; I love all of them.

So let’s discuss my favorite character by a mile, Hana Nono, Cure Yell, Hugtto’s leader. I believe there’s a wrong way and a right way to write an eternal optimist. Mahou Tsukai did it the wrong way: their attempts to make Mirai’s primary character trait “being easily excited” fell flat for me, partly because she had basically one mood and almost never varied it. There was nothing for her to push back against, no challenge to cheerful disposition… on the rare occasions she got sad, it was a trivial matter to brush it off. It’s easy to be happy all the time if everything always goes your way.

Hana, by contrast, is the right way to do it, because she fails. She screws up, a lot. She has “Mechokku!” moment after “Mechokku!” moment, starting from the very first scene, when her attempt to change her hairstyle goes horribly wrong. Then she’s late for her first day of a new school, then a baseball hits her in the head, then she blows her introduction to her new class… No end of misfortunes. Hana does feel them and she does get frustrated, but she keeps getting back up, no matter what happens… because she believes in tomorrow.

Believing in tomorrow. It’s a core concept of the series. And in our world, which seems to grow more horrifying and dangerous by the day, the idea that one should not just not be afraid of tomorrow but celebrate it… that seems almost radical to me. I don’t know about the rest of you, but that’s a message I think everyone, not just kids, should take to heart. Goofy, accident-prone, excitable, magnificently dorky Hana emerged as one of the unlikeliest of inspirational figures for me in this past year. She meant something to me, dammit, and I tried as best I could to keep her message in my heart.

And given that message, it’s fitting that Hugtto has distinguished itself as by far the most progressive Precure series. I’m still sort of in awe; two secondary characters that started out as obnoxious and self-centered (in the case of Henri Wakamiya) and an unrepentantly sexist, bigoted, holier-than-thou lout (Masato Aisaki) ended up being some of the best-developed side characters this franchise has ever seen. I was so afraid that Henri’s penchant for crossdressing would be treated as a joke, but no. Not this show. Henri wears dresses, owns it, and refuses to apologize or change himself for anyone, and with the exception of Masato (at first, I’m getting there), there’s nary a word suggesting that he’s in the wrong for doing so. Hana even gets a line that made me cheer: “That’s okay! Boys can be princesses too!” Pretty much every time he appears, there’s some new, amazing step up: he forgives Masato for his abuse, helps him mend things with his little sister Emiru, and insists that he call him “Henri”. Next time, they’re seen together, it’s at summer festival. Next time, Henri expresses worry about his own future: “My body is changing. I’m growing taller. My voice is getting deeper…” It’s subtle, and I’m sure more than a few people overlooked it, but the language used makes it apparent: Henri is genderqueer. He’s snapped out of this funk in part thanks to Masato, who holds his hand before his next big skating event.

The signs here are all clear, but what comes next is amazing, something that no one thought Toei would ever do. Henri’s ankle is starting to go, and he’s planning on making his next exhibition his last, but a cruel twist of fate involves him in a car crash, ruining his leg and his future. In despair, he allies himself with the villains, wanting to “tear it all down”. The Cures cheer him on and pull him back from the brink… and Henri Wakamiya, gay, genderqueer, crossdressing Henri Wakamiya, becomes the first ever male Precure. It’s just for a few moments, but he transforms and helps save the day… before falling into the waiting arms of Masato, who rushes the rink to catch him with tears in his eyes.

It’s 2019. The stance that queer and trans people exist and should be represented in fiction shouldn’t be controversial, but it is. That’s where we are. Precure, in most respects, has played it safe, being a show aimed primarily at children. Lesbian subtext has been part of it from the beginning, but it’s always been just that: subtext. Other than that, well. There have been effeminate men and boys in Precure, sure, and Happiness Charge had a worrying one-shot character that was played up as an offensive stereotype, a mincing figure with feminine clothes, make-up, and a five-o’clock shadow. KKPCALM had Yukari and Akira, with whom the lesbian subtext was more blatant than it’s ever been, and it had Julio/Rio Kuroki, who gained Cure-like powers for a single episode. None of them have ever really been held up as shining examples of representation… but Henri and Masato didn’t just show up and change all that, they both overcame overwhelmingly negative first impressions to emerge as both progressive characters and fan favorites.

I’m rambling, of course, but Hugtto has been worth the ramble. I could go on for pages about all the things I love about it: the fact that every major character managed to be not just beloved but an indispensable part of the story. The fact that the plot took major risks, giving us what was unquestionably the darkest Precure series, but that it was also the most hopeful. The incredible vocal performances, including what I desperately hope will be a star-making role for Rie Hikisaka as Hana… which was all the more phenomenal for being her first leading role and one of her first roles period, to my knowledge. The crossovers, including the first one that Toei of all companies managed to keep absolutely secret. The abundance of goofy faces, which were spread liberally among the entire cast. The humor, the fight scenes, the art direction, the music—holy hell, the music, done with the aid of a full orchestra, no less!—everything was not just on point, but spectacular. In all my years of fandom, with all the many, many episodes and movies I’ve watched, I’ve never connected with a Precure series like I have with this one. It hit every important point on my emotional scale: it was funny, heartwarming, sad, scary, awesome, and yes, even inspiring.

The finale made me cry. I proudly admit it. Not just a few silent, dignified tears either. Full-on sobbing wreck, all three times I watched it. Any series that can manage an emotional response like that deserves a spot in my all-time favorites list. Maybe I’ve got it all wrong, and maybe Hugtto was never intended to get such a reaction out of a 30+ American anime nerd… maybe it was just a big toy commercial and I shouldn’t get sentimental over it, but you know what? Whatever else it is, Hugtto is about becoming a better person. It’s got a theme of learning and growing from your mistakes, of offering kindness, forgiveness, and second chances even for the worst people. Of not just wishing for a better tomorrow, but creating it for yourself. Sappy and sentimental? Maybe, but as I get older, I seem to be growing more and more fond of works of fiction that say it simply, without irony and without qualifiers: be kind. Be better.

Hugtto Precure is over, but I think it’s here in my heart to stay. Every time I look at the little Hana figurine that I’ve had on my desk since Christmas, I try smile and look forward to the future. It’s what she’d do. Sappy? Sentimental? Maybe, but it works.

Hooray, hooray, everyone.

Hooray, hooray, me.

– BHS

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BHS Blogress Report: 2019, Week 6 – Never Again

Week 6 – Never Again

Six hours. Six hours I spent trying to put together the most elaborate joke I’ve ever done in two years of InvenTOYry episodes, and I still couldn’t get it to work the way I wanted. Never. Again.
 
That was part of an entire weekend spent editing almost nonstop. If I weren’t so tired, I might start to cry.
Anyway, the episode is done, go watch it. Multiple times. And donate, if you can.
Also, new Tasakeru chapter:

https://tasakeru.com/2019/01/31/bookiv-ch7/

So while I’d love to finally post that Hugtto review or my thoughts on getting hooked on Symphogear, that ain’t happening tonight. Next week. Next week I’ll be marginally more coherent.
– BHS

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BHS Blogress Report: 2019, Week 5 – Hooray, Hooray, Hugtto

Week 5 – Hooray, Hooray, Hugtto
Hugtto is over. Until a few minutes ago, this Report was going to consist of a detailed review of the series, a discussion of why it’s now pulled ahead of the mighty Heartcatch and Go Princess to become my favorite Precure series ever. Unfortunately, looking back at the three pages I’ve written so far, I can see myself going off on a number of tangents… as I’m wont to do when I write about stuff that I love. Suffice to say, I don’t think my review will be going up tonight. I want to be sure this thing is coherent before I post it. So instead, I’ll sum up before I link you to my tributes (yes, there are two, and possibly a third on the way): very little else in the past year consistently made me happier than Hugtto did. I fell hard for all of the characters, a first for the franchise. Hugtto made me laugh so hard I almost got sick, it made me squeal with delight and fist-pump the air, it impressed the hell out of me with its bold decisions and its progressive strides… and it made me cry. Multiple times. I hosted a live stream for my friends of the final episode yesterday night, after the subs went up… I had to watch the raw version to finish my video tribute, and that got me teary enough, but the second time, with the subs? I was friggin’ destroyed. I am damned lucky I decided against being on mic or camera for that stream, because the sight/sound of me turning into a sobbing wreck isn’t something I want to inflict on other people if I can help it. It was a near-perfect ending for a near-perfect series, and I’m satisfied. All I can hope is that Star Twinkle doesn’t suck, but it’s got a near-impossible bar to clear. Much as I intend to judge it on its own merits, at every stage, I’ll likely be comparing it to Hugtto, and that’s not fair to it. I’ll give STPC the best shot that I can, because lord knows I’d love it if we had two good years in a row, but… I don’t envy the cast and crew. Anyway. I’m immensely thankful for the time I’ve had with my dear Hana, Saaya, Homare, Lulu, Emiru, Harry, and Hugtan, and I hope these two tributes (one silly, one more serious) can express some of that thankfulness.
The other big finale this week was Steven Universe, of course. I covered the quadruple length special “Change Your Mind” over on Pillowfort, and… well. I have no idea where they could possibly go from here, but they promised an epic season finale and they delivered. Once again, the show affirmed its message loud and clear, and once again it proved why it’s the best Western cartoon currently running. There are other people who can and have analyzed its themes and its applicability better than I can, but I’ll just link you to this one from io9, it’s excellent. https://io9.gizmodo.com/the-powerful-transgender-narrative-in-steven-universe-1832084052 What I said to Zach Callison almost a year ago (!!!) at the con holds more true than ever: Steven Universe is a masterpiece.
The plan for tomorrow through Thursday is to try to get Chapter 7 of Twilight’s Dreaming out to hit my Patreon deadline. I still feel really bad about missing last month, even though there’s very little I could have done given my schedule… but I’m trying like hell to make up for it. I’d like to get Episode 9 of Silent InvenTOYry up by Saturday or Sunday at the latest; I should have all the footage I need now, I just need to do the grunt work, adding captions and editing it together. There are another two SI episodes in the pipe, including the one for Chogokin Titanus, which is releasing earlier than I thought… but when I have a little less pressure on me, I’d like to get back to work on Shattered Skies. The break has done me good, and I’m ready to dive back in. Wish me luck.
– BHS

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BHS Blogress Report: 2019, Week 4 – Undeserving

Week 4 – Undeserving
Ever have incredible, amazing news that you’re dying to tell people, but you can’t? That’s me this week. I’d love to spill my guts, but given the circumstances of said news, I feel like that would be asking for trouble. It’s something so huge and so incredibly improbable that it’s taken me several days just to process it, and I’m still struggling with the nagging worry that I don’t deserve something like this… which is horseshit, of course; this isn’t the first time my brain has tried to pull that trick on me. Anyway, please take for granted that the news is really, really good, and a couple months from now I’ll be able to dish out all the juicy details.
HUGTTO, HOLY CRAP. The penultimate episode aired yesterday, and any tiny worries I might have had about the series choking in the clutch were given a thorough beatdown. I’m saving my full thoughts for after the now-traditional coda/baton pass final episode airs next Sunday, but it’s gonna be a gushing review.
And on the subject of Hugtto:

BEST DORK’S FIGUARTS IS NEXT IN LINE. HELL YES. Release by summer, please and thank you, Bandai. :D

I’m slowly but surely getting back into my Shattered Skies groove. I probably won’t start work on Chapter 43 until the beginning of next month, at least, but I feel refreshed on the project and I’ve been having ideas for how to proceed with it.
Work continues on Silent InvenTOYry episode 09. I hit a few snags, but I think I have only one more on-camera bit to film before I can start filming. This bit needs to be shot outdoors, which… well, hence the snag. Nobody’s going to want to stand out in 24 degree weather running the camera, and I can’t shoot this one by myself. I’m still aiming to get it out before the end of the month, though.
The anime season has only started, but I think I already have a favorite comedy of the cour: Kaguya-sama: Love is War. It’s the story of the student council president and vice-president of a prestigious high school, the star students and awe of the student body, who are madly in love with each other… but not only will they not admit it, they’re obsessed with forcing the other one to confess first, because they’re both absurdly, hilariously narcissistic and nowhere near as smart as they think they are. So they have this ridiculous escalating campaign of mind-games against each other, and “the first one to confess loses!” Drake and I were in tears laughing at the first episode, so if it’s able to keep this up, it’s a knock for the best winter anime of 2019 in my book.
– BHS

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BHS Blogress Report: 2019, Week 3 – Change of Plans

Week 3 – Change of Plans
I hate to have to do this, but I’m canceling the Silent InvenTOYry Semi-Short episode that would have gone up at the end of the month. Looking at the next couple months’ worth of expenses, I think it’s for the best if I hold off purchasing the figure I had in mind, which was really nice but relatively low-priority on my wishlist, and instead save up for one of the Big Ones, something I’m dying to get my hands on. So you will get SISS Episode 5 at some point, it’ll just be covering a different item and releasing at a later date.
Speaking of SI, as you can see up there, work is progressing nicely on Episode 09. Filming is about 70% done; there’s an outdoor gag I still need to shoot and two more portions of the review to do, but assuming nothing needs to be reshot, I should be in good shape to post the episode within the week. One full day spent editing ought to be enough to get it out the door… I hope.
Looking at the listings for this anime season, I really thought it would be a dry spell after last season’s bevy of interesting shows. The first week’s worth has proven me wrong yet again, it looks like. First up in my watchlist is Dororo, based on an unfinished manga by the God of Manga himself, Osamu Tezuka. One of his darker works, it takes place in a particularly hellish depiction of the Sengoku era, opening with a power-hungry lord bargaining with forty-eight demons for his own personal glory. The demons take the… well, pretty much everything from his newborn infant son as the cost, leaving the baby with no eyes, no nose, no skin, no arms, and no legs… but somehow still alive. The lord’s attempt to quietly get rid of the poor thing doesn’t take, and he shows up sixteen years later as a badass demon hunter whose entire body, more or less, is prosthetics and hidden weapons. Killing one demon to save a cocky little thief named Dororo restores his skin… so, one gathers, the plot involves him tracking down the rest of the forty-eight to recover all the body parts he lost. I described the show to EvilNeko as “the weirdest example of Mega Manning ever”, and in fact the story was adapted in video game form for the PS2 fifteen years ago… Anyway, as far as great hooks for a series go, that’s way up there, I think. The fight animation is gorgeous, and I can’t wait to see what hidden gadgets our demon slayer will pull out of his artificial parts next.
The second is The Promised Neverland. All I’m willing to say about it is that it reminds me of Made in Abyss in terms of “seemingly cute and innocuous series has absolutely horrible things happening to small children underneath the surface”. Granted, in Neverland’s case, the darkness isn’t hiding very far under the surface, but the question of “What do we do now?” makes a pretty compelling reason to tune in, I think. So long as you can stomach the very real possibility of adorable kids meeting gruesome ends, I give this one an earnest recommendation.
I also need to give credit to my friend Ninty (go check out The Convergence, his magical girl crossover fanfic, which I’m beta reading! Leave comments and feedback, please!) for talking me into watching Symphogear, a magical girl franchise which I had heard of before but avoided due to some really bad info from the person who recommended it. I was led to believe it was “idol singers with light magical girl elements”, when in fact it’s the other way around: the show has a pretty impressive fusion of Nanoha and Madoka going in terms of the level of darkness (Madoka) and the magitech that the girls use to fight (Nanoha). And yes, they do sing while they’re fighting, and they do sing to activate their powers… but as jarring as that is at first, it fades into the background really quickly. The music is universally great, too, which helps! So you’ve got a girl named Hibiki (played by Madoka’s Aoi Yuuki, giving an awesomely hot-blooded performance) fighting off waves of horrible monsters called Noise by Bruce Lee-ing them to death, while her two (so far) teammates slice them up with swords and lots and lots of dakka… and they’re singing all the while. It’s a weird premise, but I swear the show makes it work. According to Ninty, the following seasons are even better… I can’t wait. No, before you ask, this does not mean that the Symphogears will be showing up in Shattered Skies… but a subtle indirect reference or two might make it in there at some point.
Speaking of Skies: after my brief hiatus, I’m slowly feeling the urge to get back to work on it. I really do need to finish my other projects first, but I have ideas percolating as to where to take the story next. More to come on this later.
– BHS

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BHS Blogress Report: 2019, Week 2 – Back to Work, You Bum!

Week 2 – Back to Work, You Bum!
I ended up taking most of the last week off from creative stuff. I felt a creative burnout coming on, and I wanted to do whatever I could to head it off at the pass. So I’m trying to take small steps to get back in my groove, doing a little bit of work on Silent InvenTOYry each day, in increasing increments of time. Easing back into my groove, in other words. I may try to do the same with writing, perhaps make a little progress on Uravity Falls while Shattered Skies cools its heels for a bit.
I really do need to get the Appendix and Chapter 3 of Viluy’s Database out sometime this year. Those entries have been sitting there in the to-do list for way too long. At least this season’s new anime doesn’t have anywhere near as many interesting shows as last season did… that’s a strange thing to be thankful for, but less time spent keeping up with anime every week means more time spent doing other stuff. The itinerary for January is to get SI out first, then Twilight’s Dreaming Chapter 7, then finish my Hugtto Precure tributes (yes, tributes, plural) in time for the last episode at the end of the month.
Also on the subject of scheduling: I’ve decided to change up my streaming schedule a bit, partly to give myself an extra day to work on other stuff. I’m now going to be streaming Mondays and Wednesdays from 6 PM EST to 8 PM EST. It’s a half hour less each week in total, but I feel it’s a net gain overall.
Lots to do, but I always get through it somehow.
– BHS

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