BHS Blogress Report: 2020, Weeks 12 and 13 – So Long, Steven

Weeks 12 and 13 – So Long, Steven

I’m not doing too well with my resolution to get back to regular Blogress Reports, I admit. But I can’t let another week slip by without marking a notable occasion: the end of Steven Universe.

It feels almost unreal that it’s been nearly five years since Steven and the Gems came into my life. I started out figuring that I had to start watching because I was seeing it all over Tumblr and I didn’t want to get even more spoiled than I already was. So I started a segment on my blog dedicated to giving my thoughts and reactions as I went about catching up, thinking that if nothing else, I could at least get some traffic out of it. Cynical, I know. I clearly remember thinking “There’s no way this thing can be as good as Tumblr makes it out to be.” I was guarded, willing to be surprised but expecting nothing.
Anyone who followed my commentaries knows what happened: I fell in love. You can see it happening… or you could, if I didn’t actively discourage giving the corpse of Tumblr any more hits than necessary, but I digress. I went from “Okay, this is cute” to “WHAT HAS THIS SHOW DONE TO ME” in less than a week. There, when I least expected it, I found something miraculous. Something deep and meaningful and emotionally complex. Something progressive as hell and unafraid to shout it to the rooftops. Not only did Steven Universe live up to its hype, it exceeded it. That summer, when SU came back from one of its many hiatuses, I was fully on board. My commentary sub-blog, which I had intended to run only until I’d caught up, ended up lasting three and a half more years, to the very end of the original series. It even outlasted Tumblr! I convinced my friends to watch it with me, I downloaded the soundtracks, I made a tribute remix and a t-shirt design… and in 2018, I met Zach Callison, the voice of Steven himself. I shook his hand, looked him in the eye, and said with total honesty: “Your show is a masterpiece. What you’re doing is essential, and I think your show is equal with the works of Miyazaki.”
2018 ID: BHS is Steven Universe Approved by bhsdesk
Equal with the works of Miyazaki. Five years ago, I’d have never dreamed I’d say those words about a Western cartoon. I’ve idolized Miyazaki’s work for almost half my life now. Princess Mononoke was and still is my favorite movie ever, and it has been since the night I first saw it. Hell, I wrote a psychology paper on his films in my senior year of high school, and got an A- on it too. So maybe you have some inkling of what it means for me to say that Rebecca Sugar’s weird, wonderful, beautiful work belongs up there with Princess Mononoke in the list of things that I don’t just love, that aren’t just influential to me, but they’re life-changing. Steven Universe is one of those things.
In other words, it’s far, far more to me than just being a fantastic animated series. Putting aside the enormous influence it’s had on my creative work, I feel I must remind you that Steven Universe inspired me to publicly come out as asexual/aromantic. I had been struggling with my sexuality for a long time, and SU’s bold message about loving who you are and not being ashamed, damn the consequences, resonated with me. It spoke to me in ways I don’t think I fully understood at first. When I finally realized that I wasn’t alone, that I wasn’t abnormal or broken just because I couldn’t feel romantic attraction, that maybe being like that was okay and I could be worthy, even beautiful as a person anyway… it was transformative. That realization gave me strength. I worked up the courage to come out to my friends and loved ones, and despite all the chaos that’s happened in my life since then, I think I’m much happier for it overall.
So now, after five years as a constant part of my life, Steven Universe is over. It’s only fitting that a show that surprised me so often during its run would hand out one last surprise in its final episode. I gotta be vague here, because I know that at least a few people reading this aren’t caught up yet, but… well, I was bracing myself expecting total emotional devastation, and I didn’t get it. Not in the actual final episode, anyway… the stuff leading up to it was auuuuuuuuugh. Instead, “The Future” was a gentle coda to the series, lighthearted and just a little bittersweet. It prompted tears from me, yes, but not the ugly crying I expected. And the more I think about it, the more I think… yeah, I’m completely satisfied. Much as I love bittersweet endings, after all he’s been through, Steven deserves a happy one. Not to spoil, but he got it.
And now, after seven years, five seasons, a movie, and a 20-episode epilogue miniseries, we’re done. Steven and his friends belong to the ages now. Rebecca Sugar and the cast and crew, be proud of yourselves. You made something miraculous. You made animation history, you changed countless lives including mine, and you went out in a blaze of glory. I’ve said a lot of words in this entry, but I think I can finish up with just this: thank you so much. Thank you.
– BHS
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BHS Blogress Report: 2020, Week 11 – Enough Already

Week 11 – Enough Already

Since there’s not much else to do, what with almost everything I live for being shut down, delayed, or canceled, I might as well try to get the Blogress Report running again. I apologize for my long period of silence; for most of the last month, my attempts to get myself feeling normal again have met with failure. It’s only in the last week or so that I’ve graduated to “okay most of the time”… though with the viral apocalypse in full swing, that might not last.

You can count me as one of the people who are 1000% done with hearing about this thing. For the sake of my own sanity, I’ve temporarily unsubscribed from my usual Anime News Network and AV Club news feeds, since every third article lately has been about the virus. I spend most of my time on the Internet to try to get away from the madness in real life, see. I can deal with being holed up at home… hell, that’s my everyday life. What I can’t deal with is nonstop hysteria and predictions of doom, especially when they impact pretty much all the things for which I get up in the morning.

I suppose if there is an upside to this, it’s that until this nightmare is over I’ll have far more time to write. I’ve neglected Shattered Skies for way too long, I know. Fortunately, I got an offer today from a very generous friend who wants to try to help me with my issues of distraction. We’ll see how that goes. In the meantime, fingers crossed, Doom Eternal will still come out next week. If there’s ever been a time for the catharsis of ripping and tearing through a (fictional) Hell on earth, it’s now.

– BHS

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BHS Blogress Report: 2020, Week 7 – Home Again, At Last

Week 7 – Home Again, At Last

After three-and-a-half weeksmuch of it spent miserableI’m finally back in my own house, at my own PC.  The renovation still isn’t quite finished yet, but I’m not gonna lie: just being here has brought down my stress levels. Why, a couple more days and I might actually get back to writing. Imagine that!

Big Lick Comic Con was a lot of fun. I only wish that I could have stayed longer… or, you know, that I had more money and space for souvenirs, but that’s the case for every con. Obviously, one of the highlights was meeting and shaking hands with one of the icons of my childhood…

That is indeed Jason David Frank, not just any Power Ranger but the Power Ranger. I was lucky enough to find that Green/White Ranger Legacy Morpher at one of the vendors, so now I’ll be able to say for the rest of my life that I held it first and JDF held it second. (The morpher I’m holding comes courtesy of ChaosCroc, who was generous enough to let me borrow it for the occasion. Thanks, buddy!)

My other photos from the con can be found on my Instagram here, which I’m trying to use more often since it’s apparently the place for photographers now. Speaking of photography: just before I left, I put together an anniversary photo for Heartcatch Precure’s 10th birthday and Go! Princess’s fifth, which you can see below.

Ten and Five by bhsdesk

I’m afraid this might be one of the last figure shoots I take with my faithful Olympus camera, sadly. While in the process of taking this one, I discovered that the current minimum respectable number of megapixels on a decent camera is 20 MP or more, and mine’s only got 16. I knew it wasn’t top of the line anymore, but that still frustrates me… and it explains why so many of my pics lately have looked so terribly blurry. So that’s going to be the next big upgrade I invest in… hopefully the jobs I have coming up will cover that.

Anyway. I’m gonna try to actually have some stuff up next week, whether it be progress on Skies or thoughts on Magia Record and Healin’ Good Precure. We’ll see.

– BHS

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BHS Blogress Report: 2020, Weeks 5 and 6 – Urrrgh

Weeks 5 and 6: Urrrgh

Still in Moneta, and still tired. I’ve had quite enough havoc and disruption for this year, thank you. At this point, I don’t even want to speculate when I’ll be home, but when I get there I feel like I want to climb into my own bed and sleep for about a month.

I’m going to a local comic con tomorrow, and I’m praying I have the energy to enjoy it. I’ll try to have more substantive updates next week.

– BHS

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BHS Blogress Report: 2020, Weeks 3 and 4 – Struggling to Care

Weeks 3 and 4 – Struggling to Care

I should have known better.

Here I am, in the outskirts of Moneta for the next two weeks (minimum) while our house’s kitchen is being renovated. The leadup to this renovation has basically been about two months of nonstop chaos, stress, distractions, and wholly unnecessary aggravation. So after spending my first night at my family’s lake house, my first night of decent sleep in over a week, I woke up feeling actually refreshed for once, and I thought: “Maybe I can actually relax now.”

That was a mistake. I really should have known better.

I’m not even that upset that my troubles managed to catch up to me even up here. Frankly, I shouldn’t even be surprised. My life since September has felt like a long, unbroken string of one disaster or crisis after another, and life loves nothing more than kicking my ass within hours or minutes of feeling like things are going to be okay. Disaster has become almost routine… so this time, instead of getting truly upset about it, I’m just retreating into general apathy.

I don’t care that my job search has been put on indefinite hold. I don’t care that I’ll likely either have to spend a month or more away from home or go through this whole damned process again in the near future. Why get upset? This is my life now, I best get used to it.

The problem with apathy as a coping mechanism, though, is that it’s so tempting to just stop caring about everything. I’m finding it difficult to muster enthusiasm for the upcoming stuff in my life, as so much of it is closely tied to the things I’m trying desperately to get away from. It’s like I’m following faint lights through a dense fog that threatens to close in at any moment.

So no, I don’t really have any updates on things I’m doing or looking forward to this week. I’m very, very tired.

– BHS

EDIT: Sorry, this was a “vent” entry. I had a lot of anger in my system that I needed to get out, and not all of the above was entirely fair. I’m going to try to be more positive in the coming days.

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BHS Blogress Report: 2020, Week 2 – More Magical Girl Stuff

Week 2 – More Magical Girl Stuff

There’s a reason I’ve barely talked about the current Precure over the past year: Star Twinkle has been one of the weakest seasons, in my opinion. It doesn’t manage to constantly infuriate me with its blandness like Mahou Tsukai did, but that’s one of the only things keeping it above the bottom of my ranking. Look, just because something is made for little kids doesn’t mean it has to be dull, sloppy, and generally badly-written. Hugtto had an astonishing level of depth and complexity for a show of its demographic, and it was a financial success as well. It’s rare and hard to pull off, but you can do both.

I don’t really ask for much from Precure, all things considered. Strong character writing and great fight scenes are the two most important points for me, and I’m sorry, but Star Twinkle has failed the first one, and it’s not that great at the second either. It doesn’t feel like the signature Precure elements are tacked on as an afterthought, like Mahou did, but it does feel like the bare minimum of effort has been expended here. They’ve even squandered the one thing I thought was legitimately cool when I first saw it, the true identity of its main villain. I wrestled with whether or not to warn of spoilers just now, but ultimately, why bother? There’s been as little effort put into said villain’s motivations as there is anything else.

At least we’re about to start a new series, with Madoka herself voicing our new leader, Nodoka Hanadera, aka Cure Grace. Healin’ Good seems to be bringing in some fresh talent for its production, and it looks like it’s sorely needed.

Speaking of Madoka… Magia Record’s anime finally premiered on Saturday. I think it was a really solid premiere, setting up what it needed to and reintroducing the world of PMMM to the audience. Having played the game since the launch of the English version, I’m curious to see as to exactly how they’re modifying the story to keep us on our toes. There’s already been one important plot point that I think the English version hasn’t gotten to yet, not to mention the presence of the anime-exclusive character Kuroe to shake things up. And of course, there’s that brief shot of all five of the Holy Quintet in the OP, which promises that they’ll indeed be guest starring in the anime as well as the game… the premiere was great, but I’m far more excited for what the future of the show holds.

Far more excited, that is, than what my own immediate future holds. I’m afraid it’s going to be next month before things even approach normal around my neck of the woods. In fact, I’ll be spending the last two weeks of January out of my house while renovations are done, which means putting all my projects on further hold. I want to at least get the photo thing done before I go… I just need one day mostly free of interruptions to get around to actually taking it. Wish me luck.

– BHS

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BHS Blogress Report: 2020, Week 1 – A Fresh Start

Week 1 – A Fresh Start

2019 sucked. I mean, it really sucked. Like, there were definite bright spots: the Weird Al concert, the early screenings of Avengers: Endgame and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, discovering Symphogear and Breaking Bad, and of course, publishing Book I of Tasakeru. But for every good thing that happened, there seemed to be about twelve disasters. The most recent of those was when my brand-new PC burned out its motherboard after only eight days and had to be mailed back to Dell… not to mention I had a relapse of the respiratory infection I caught back in November, which left me too sick to celebrate Christmas. Looking at all the skipped and truncated Blogress Reports and lack of  output from me from last year, I think you can pretty clearly see just how badly 2019 exhausted me. It took all my energy just to survive from week to week, and my creativity suffered.

But, thank heaven, 2019 is over… I stayed up until midnight just so I could see it die for myself. It’s a new year and a new decade, and I have a chance to start anew. Once I’m back on my feet, I intend to make up for at least some of that lost time. My first step is a photo project, my first in almost a year, which I aim to have up the first week in February. I also need to restart my streaming career, but that may have to wait until next month to fully get off the ground. Shattered Skies will continue, of course, and I’m hoping to make Book I of Tasakeru available in paperback sometime this year, too.

I thank you all for your patience and your support during my many rough patches. Fingers crossed, this is the start of something good.

– BHS

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BHS Blogress Report: 2019, Weeks 49 and 50 – Destroying Oneself

Weeks 49 and 50 – Destroying Oneself

There she is, my new PC. I’ve got myself a beast of a gaming rig, and at least for a couple of months, she’s state-of-the-art. I don’t really have anything at the moment that can push her limits, but I can report that Doom 2016 is running a hell (heh) of a lot smoother. The real test will be how she does with this week’s streams… I won’t have my wired connection or my extra RAM card until Thursday at the earliest, but I suppose I can take doing one more session on Wifi. My family has taken note of that blue LED on the front, and they’ve already asked me repeatedly if there’s a way to turn it down or off… I should clarify, it’s even brighter in person, so much so that I can still see half my room when I turn all the lights out. It’s a good thing I sleep with an eye mask on.

For most of the past three weeks, I’ve been glued to Breaking Bad. I finally finished the series and watched El Camino on Tuesday. I haven’t been able to shut up about it since; in my opinion, it absolutely deserves every bit of acclaim and its reputation as one of the best TV shows of all time. All the actors’ performances are breathtaking, especially in the final season, but Bryan Cranston… I’ve been telling people that I can’t believe he can sink so far into a character that dark and twisted without destroying himself in the process. The closest thing I can compare it to is how I ended up legitimately disturbing myself when writing Desideria for Stars Above. Her words and actions were so sadistic that I started questioning what kind of person would come up with that stuff… and now I have this nigh-unshakable certainty that if I ever tried to put myself into the head of a character like Walter White, I wouldn’t come out intact. Touching that kind of darkness would change me, I think, and not for the better. How Cranston managed it, I have no earthly idea, but whatever his method was, it made for a performance I can only describe as “enthralling”. I’ve never seen anything like it… it’s more than just saying the lines and putting on the voice, it’s a transformation. It’s like he taps into this primal font of pride and rage and bitterness that’s seething just under his skin, and as the show goes on that font leaks through more and more until it finally bursts and devastates everyone and everything around him. And yes, “devastating” is absolutely the right word, if not an understatement… when it all inevitably collapses in the last three episodes, it’s like the emotional gut punches escalated into emotional carpet bombing.

I’ll probably have more to say as I have time to process (and as I make my way through the portion of Better Call Saul that’s on Netflix), but for now, it’s late and I’m tired. More words next week.

– BHS

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BHS Blogress Report: 2019, Week 48 – Out of the Game

Week 48 – Out of the Game

Last week, the light bar that I use for streaming decided to die on me, so since it gets dark stupid early and my facecam picture looks like crap without it, I decided to take the week off. In hindsight, it’s sort of unlikely that I would have been able to stream effectively anyway, as the next morning I was hit hard by the symptoms of what turned out to be an upper respiratory infection. I was pretty much miserable for the remainder of the week, with a sore throat, a congested nose and chest, and a hacking cough. I’m on meds now, though, so I’m slowly getting better. Streaming will resume once I don’t feel like crap and once I have my new light source.

Speaking of streaming, there’s going to be a considerable upgrade in the near future. Not only am I getting a new PC to replace my aging tower, but it looks like if all goes well, I’ll finally, finally have an actual wired connection. Knock on wood, the days of random lag, disconnections, and framerate drops are almost behind me.

Not much else going on, on account of being sick and all. I’ll try to write more once my head’s clear.

– BHS

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BHS Blogress Report: 2019, Week 47 – The One Who Knocks

Week 47 – The One Who Knocks

Forgive me if this is a short entry. Most of the last two days were spent working, and I’m pretty much exhausted.

As of today, Ninty and I are all caught up with Steven Universe. Auspicious timing, then, that a new teaser for Future dropped this afternoon. There’s confirmation that Jasper will be returning as an antagonist, some tantalizing hints of Aquamarine apparently returning as a fusion (!!!), and an emphasis on Pink Pearl… intriguing stuff. Still no release date yet, but it’s something to look forward to. Next up in our watch queue is Gravity Falls, which will be lots of fun.

While on my job, I decided to finally sit down and watch Breaking Bad on Netflix, and I’m in the early part of Season 2. I can already see why it’s one of the most acclaimed dramas of the decade, the acting is phenomenal. It’s making a genre I don’t normally watch (crime drama) and a subject I could hardly know less about (the manufacture and trade of illegal drugs, specifically crystal meth) into something fascinating and compelling. I really like how from the outset, literally from minute one, there’s no attempt at all to justify or glamorize what Walter’s doing. Cooking meth is never portrayed as anything other than a terrible, dangerous idea that can and does ruin Walter’s life and the lives of all those involved. There’s never any doubt that the story is going to be a tragedy about a basically good man doing awful things with the best of intentions (at least at first). I’ll try to offer more insights as I go along… I know I’m very late getting on board with it, but I hope what I have to say is interesting regardless.

– BHS

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BHS Blogress Report: 2019, Weeks 45 and 46 – Room for RWBY

Weeks 45 and 46: Room for RWBY
 
I admit it, I’ve been really slipping with my Blogress Reports lately. I honestly haven’t felt like doing much, what with winter beginning in earnest. Most of my work on Skies has been doing research for the next chapter. There’s a couple subjects that are going to be in there which not a lot of my readers are familiar with, I’m sure, but I try to always at least make an effort to be as accurate as I can and show my work.
I’m pretty sure of what I want to do in the next chapter, but I’m having the damndest time actually, you know, doing it. I’ve just been tremendously unfocused. Part of my problem is TVTropes, I’m sure, because I keep getting sucked down that rabbit hole for hours. In fact, it’s happened at least three times while I’ve tried to write this entry. If I can just resist the temptation to browse on there for a day or two, maybe I can actually get some stuff done.
Ninty has me watching RWBY now, and while the first two volumes of the series are really rough, now that we’ve finished the third, I’m really glad I’ve stuck with it. I won’t say exactly what did it, just in case anyone here is thinking of watching, but not too many shows can pull of the kind of spectacular stakes-raising that RWBY does. If the subsequent volumes can keep up this kind of pace and energy, then it’s found itself a new fan.
– BHS

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BHS Blogress Report: 2019, Week 44 – Essential Work

Week 44 – Essential Work
“There’s absolutely nothing wrong about being honest about things that are painful and hard. I don’t want to suffer in silence; I want everyone else who hurts in this profoundly important way to know that they’re not alone.”
 
The line above comes from a blog posted today by Nathan Rabin. It jumped out at me shortly before I started this entry. Nathan Rabin is a fantastic writer, in my opinion one of the finest film and media critics in the world, and I’ve been following his work for years. I’ve grown to respect and admire him even more since he began writing candidly of his struggles with depression and feelings of failure, subjects I’m all too familiar with. The blog entry in question concerns Mark Twain, and how his chronic inability to manage his money contributed to his greatness as an American author and humorist.
Rabin’s words reminded me of my favorite lines from Steven Universe: “You have to be honest about how bad it feels, so you can move on!” That’s something tremendously important, which doesn’t get said enough in today’s society… we’re told to “tough it out” and “keep a stiff upper lip” and “always look on the bright side” over and over again. Revisiting SU with Ninty is giving me a renewed appreciation, not just for how good the show is, but how essential its messages are: all types of people are beautiful and valid. Loving yourself is just as important as loving others. Empathy and compassion can be superpowers.
I may not always be the best at following the advice and lessons that the show dispenses, but I feel with absolute certainty that I’m a better person for watching it, that the series has had a positive impact on my life and my growth as a person. So in that spirit, I’ll be honest here: I don’t love myself, and I haven’t loved myself for many years now. Part of that is depression, and part of that is the result of a life that hasn’t turned out the way I wanted or expected. There’s been a lot of pain, physical and emotional, and a lot of regrets over mistakes I’ve made. I’m not, generally speaking, a happy person… but one of Steven Universe’s greatest gifts and greatest messages to me is this: change is possible. It’s given me the hope that someday, maybe, I can change and learn to love myself again. I’m a flawed person, but so is everyone. Those flaws will never really go away, but maybe I can learn to accept them as part of who I am and grow from there.
It’s enormously profound stuff for what’s seen as a children’s show… but as I said to Ninty, part of the secret of Steven Universe’s genius is that it’s not written like a children’s show. It has a raw emotional honesty and complexity that many if not most so-called “adult” media lack, and it’s tackled issues no other series will touch with unparalleled skill and sensitivity. Rebecca Sugar and her cast and crew do essential work. So does Nathan Rabin, in his own unique way. And maybe, in my own way, so do I.
– BHS

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BHS Belated Blogress Report: 2019, Week 43 – It’s a Pun on “Feelin’ Good”

Week 43 – It’s a Pun on “Feelin’ Good”
 

Hot off the copyright bot as of this morning, Healin’ Good Precure is your title for 2020’s Precure series. Now begins the annual tradition of speculating until leaks of the official designs come out. I’m wondering if we’ll have a situation like we did last year, what with the two months of fake leaks beforehand… last year made me think that Toei might have finally learned to keep a lid on stuff, but it could have been a fluke. Anyway, from what I’m seeing, the fan consensus seems to be that it’s theme is going to be either nurses or veterinarians (based on the four hearts arranged like a pawprint in the logo), but they’ve surprised us before.

Ninty and I finished Season 1 of Steven Universe last night, and he’s officially on board and all in. Watching him go through roughly the same progression as I did with the show (roughly, going from “It’s pretty cute” to “ZOMG TOTAL EMOTIONAL INVESTMENT, WHAT HAS THIS SHOW DONE TO ME“) was a delight, and I can’t wait to show him what comes next.
I’m trying to get back on track with both Shattered Skies and my streaming this week, after a really nasty cold derailed both. Wish me luck.
– BHS

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BHS Blogress Report: 2019, Week 41 – Adrift

Week 41: Adrift
 
Yet again, I don’t know what to write this week. I’ve started this entry, gone back, erased it, and started it again at least six times. What is there for me to do, except plug away at Shattered Skies? Tasakeru has stalled and so has Silent InvenTOYry. The only other thing I’m working on on a regular basis is my streaming. It feels pointless to write a Blogress Report when there’s nothing notable to report on.
This feeling of being directionless isn’t new, and I fear it’s not going away any time soon. Tasakeru has been my life’s driving purpose for most of the last twenty years, and now that it’s hit a wall, I don’t know what else there is. I just keep doing what I’ve been doing, as it usually gets me through the day well enough. If life were a work of fiction, I’d start out on some empowering journey of self-discovery… but that’s not me. I don’t have the time or the resources to go out and find myself. Even if I did, I’m not sure I’d like what I find.
I’m not depressed, I’m just… drifting. Going through the motions. Ennui, I believe is the term. I don’t know what else to do, other than try to keep going.
– BHS

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BHS Blogress Report: 2019, Weeks 39 and 40 – Low on Content

Weeks 39 and 40: Low on Content
 
I’m beginning to fear that I’m running out of stuff to write about for these things. Truth is, I don’t actually do much during the week, save for watching anime and writing when I’m able. “When I’m able” is anyone’s guess as much as mine these days, to be honest.
There is the series finale of Symphogear to discuss, though. Man, what a wild ride, eh? About the only thing I could have asked for for the final season was more for Chris to do… well, and maybe an actual, unambiguous love confession between Hibiki and Miku at the end. Regardless, Symphogear has earned its spot among my favorite magical girl series, and I’m only sorry I didn’t give it a chance sooner.
It’s spooky season once again, and in the spirit of Halloween, I’m starting a playthrough of Doom 2016 on my Twitch and giving everyone season-appropriate nicknames on my Discord server.
Anyway. I’ve got something special planned for the fifth anniversary of Shattered Skies, so my next goal is to get that finished and out the door on the 14th.
– BHS

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