The end of last month hit with some tough news as the world learned that Matsumoto Leiji had passed away at the age of 85. I’m still thinking about what an end of an era that is, and I’ve been spending time with his works. In addition to finally watching more Space Battleship Yamato 2202, I decided to revisit my favorite anime of all time, 1979’s Galaxy Express 999. It’s as gorgeous as the day I first saw it.
This month’s Kio Shimoku tweets are a real treat, as he’s been posting a bunch of old Genshiken art without any text, including at least one piece that’s never been released widely see above)! Genshiken was also trending on Japanese Twitter thanks to being spotlighted on a TV show!
On Duck King’s birthday, Kio mentions that he used to play Duck King. He could do Duck King’s command throws from jumping or out of a block, but never from standing.
In response to a Kim Kaphwan player, Kio refers to Kim as a “demon.” Another commenter replies with “Obenjo Baby!” (Toilet Baby)—a mishearing of one of Kim’s attacks. Kio jokingly says he never could figure out what Kim was saying, so he’ll accept this interpretation
Kio bought a Playstation 5 and Elden Ring despite a lack of free time. He also wants to try SEKIRO.
A long-time fan asks him to please not die without releasing any new works because he was playing nothing but Elden Ring. Kio says he’ll be careful. (Others in the thread do not mind encouraging him to play more.)
These three books just happened to arrive in the mail at the same time.
Kio accidentally misplaced some parts for a model kit. Manga artist Ikuhana Niiro and Kio talk about how this sort of thing makes them grateful for the quality of Gundam kits.
Kio showing the parts he’s built. When asked if this is a garage kit, he says that it’s technically an action figure kit Kaiyodo used to sell, but it’s functionally a garage kit.
Kio found the missing neck parts from earlier: Turns out he accidentally threw them into the trash!
Kio built one of the kits from the box in this older tweet: Knight of Gold from The Five Star Stories. It turns out one of the parts that went missing earlier is actually for this.
Kio learns that Genshiken is going to be on the TV show Sukkiri the next week, on the segment “Hot Comic.” He’s excited about this, and naturally receives a bunch of congratulations from fans (too many to list in this post).
I will make an exception for this one person who says they love Ogiue and Sue. Kio responds “OgiSue! ……Or Sue/Ogi?”
Kio has been so busy with Spotted Flower and other things since the end of last year that he hasn’t had time to work on his ero manga project. Even though it’s the same amount of work that he had when doing a monthly series, it somehow feels unsustainable these days.
Speaking of, Spotted Flower Volume 6 will be on sale in Japan on March 31st!
Kio describes his ero manga as basically being a very ero manga–ey ero manga focused on the essentials.
Kio posts this old drawing of Madarame and Jin, to which someone responds that they wish they could see both Genshiken and Hashikko Ensemble continue. Kio thanks them, and says he’ll continue to work hard on Spotted Flower.
Kio attended Wonder Festival for the first time in a long time.
Another older drawing, but this time someone shows Kio that they have the hot-spring bathing Ohno bust that came free with an issue of Monthly Afternoon. Kio calls it a fine product.
Kio gives the disclaimer that Sue and the blonde who’s just like Sue in Spotted Flower are technically different characters, kinda sorta maybe.
An Ohno fan says they loved Ohno so much, they ended up with a girl like her, and that Kio is responsible for this “severe” crime. Kio jokingly says that’s unforgivable.
Repeat Saki drawing.
Someone started making a garage kit based on that Ohno drawing!
Genshiken on Sukkiri at 9:25!
A fan mentions that he used to be embarrassed to say the word eroge before Genshiken. Kio replies that they actually checked if there was any issue using it for the anime, and the response was “none at all.”
Kio finished watching Sukkiri. He jokingly equates hearing all the old lines he wrote 20 years ago to humiliation fetish play, and says he’s happy to see it regarded as a story not merely about otaku but about human beings.
Kio feels the depiction of otaku in media has changed since then.
Director Mizuhima Tsutomu (Girls und Panzer, Shirobako) mentions working as staff on the first Genshiken anime and the Kujibiki Unbalance stuff in there. He also worked on the Kujibiki Unbalance light novel as part of the group called “Yokote Michiko and Her Pleasant Companions.” (Yokote Michiko is a writer who’s worked on Genshiken.)
Kio thanks Director Mizushima, but is a bit confused, as Mizushima directed Genshiken Nidaime.
Singer Atsumi Saori talks about how if it weren’t for Genshiken, she wouldn’t have wrote the ending theme for it, “Biidama.” She’s grateful to the series for that reason.
Kio thanks her back, and talks about how he likes the fact that the song contains both happiness and sadness.
Manga creator Shikizawa Kaya describes Genshiken as if actual real people were chiseled and dug out for it. Spotted Flower uses an even sharper chisel, and results in something very thrilling. Kio responds with gratitude.
A fan didn’t realize that the name Genshiken Nidaime is in part a reference to the second club president. I.e. Madarame. Kio responds that this was one thing he considered when naming the series.
The official account for a Japanese plastic wrap company shows off their Kio Shimoku manga collection.
A Japanese model, Ikeda Miyuki (aka Michopa-san) said something along the lines of it being weird to experience works from an era before the concept of otaku had proliferated in the culture. Kio agrees.
A fan remembers the character Saki and the way she’d misplace the emphasis on the word “anime.” Kio recalls that as well.
Kio thanks a new fan, who discovered Genshiken thanks to their favorite VTuber talking passionately about it.
Kio thanks the host of “Hot Comic” on Sukkiri, actor Okayama Amane, as well as the staff for talking about Genshiken.
He then promotes Spotted Flower by calling it “What-if after-story, or maybe a spin-off, or maybe a parallel world—even the author isn’t sure.” He then shows the above drawing of Not-Sue and Not-Ogi and says “Characters like these show up.”
Kio is salvaging HD versions of old drawings from Genshiken.
Middle school Ogiue from Genshiken Volume 8’s title page.
The cover of Genshiken Volume 8. Also, it turns out that my Twitter mutual and fellow Ogiue fan Noori actually went to the spot referenced in the cover! Kio thinks that’s probably the place?
Another old piece of art from 20 years ago, this time of Ohno. Kio is not a fan of his old coloring skills.
Genshiken Volume 1 title page.
Kio attended a Choraliers chorus club mini-concert.
Genshiken Volume 1. “It all started here.”
When asked if this is also when Kubijiki Unbalance started, Kio replies that it was largely undecided at that point.
A reader talks about how he first saw Narita-san Shinso-ji temple through Kio’s work, and Kio recalls having drawn it.
Genshiken Volume 2 title page.
Kio responds with a “Nice!” to someone telling him that they grew up wanting a senpai like Madarame, and eventually found one after they started working.
Kio responds to the death of manga legend Matsumoto Leiji. “A great achievement…My prayers…”
A Genshiken drawing of Saki and Ohno on a bench from a calendar. It might have also been included with a supplemental CD.
Genshiken Volume 2 cover.
Ritsuko from Kujibiki Unbalance in a school swimsuit, from the back cover of Genshiken Volume 2. When shown a sealed figure of the same character, Kio points out that the figure in question is based on an illustration by Yagumo Kengou (who illustrated the light novels, and was later in charge of the designs for the anime).
A commenter mentions to Kio that the Midnight Blissed version of Hydron (Nool) from Capcom Fighting Evolution is clearly based on Ritsuko from Kujibiki Unbalance, and not only does Kio know that, but the artist who made those drawings has also made a Ritsuko doujinshi.
Kio responds happily to someone who made a real-life version of Ritsuko’s oversized helmet
Kio responds to someone posting an autographed drawing of Sue cosplaying as Ritsuko they received with shock that it’s been 10 years.
Genshiken Chapter 5 title image. It was actually gray in the collected volume. And as one commenter points out, they’re doing a Vagrant Story cosplay.
An early version of a drawing that’ll be in Spotted Flower Volume 6.
Title image from Genshiken Chapter 9. Kio notices that the colors seem different on Twitter compared to how they actually are, and one commenter replies that it might be because they need to be converted from CMYK to RGB for viewing on screens. Kio realizes this is the case and proceeds to repost many of the earlier illustrations.
The color-corrected RGB versions.
Kio bought a plastic model of Super Sasadango Machine, a wrestler from the comedy wrestling company DDT. He’s a parody of Super Strong Machine from New Japan Pro-Wrestling.
A beautiful, lovely, amazing, wonderful drawing of Ogiue for a 2011 New Year’s card used by the Afternoon Editorial Department.
I love this so much, I had to show my gratitude. I know he does it for everyone, but I’m glad to get his thank-you.
Kio responding to another person posting a signed Ogiue drawing. (Can you feel my envy?)
Kujibiki Unbalance art from the inside covers of Genshiken Volume 2. These have not been seen in color before.
Kio explaining about how the first anime had a special addition with the Kujibiki Unbalance OVAs, and this is what led to Director Mizushima helming the TV series.
The cover art of Genshiken Volume 3. Kio also replies to a commenter talking about how he thinks the quality of the old Genshiken trading figures is really high for how small they are.
The news of Matsumoto Leiji’s death shocked me. While the passing of an 85-year-old shouldn’t be too surprising, it still makes me contemplate so many things. The number of creators who can trace their careers back to those early decades of the postwar manga industry is now vanishingly few. Matsumoto’s influence was monumental, with great works like Galaxy Express 999, Captain Harlock, and Space Battleship Yamatoall under his belt. He was also instrumental in so much of what we now call the anime fandom, as his work on Space Battleship Yamato was the catalyst for fandoms in Japan, the United States, and elsewhere.
More than his broader artistic and historical significance, though, I feel Matsumoto’s legacy supporting me, as I might not have gone down my particular path of anime and manga fandom if I had never discovered his works. His messages of humanity and compassion sparked my curiosity, and helped me to look both forward and backwards.
The 1979 Galaxy Express 999 film is, bar none, my favorite anime ever. I reviewed it in the early days of Ogiue Maniax, but as I explained there, my history with it goes back further. I first watched it as part of a local film festival, at a time when my exposure to much older works was more limited. I can’t recall when exactly I saw it relative to other 70s anime, but I still remember to this day the sense of awe I felt coming out of the theater. Maetel remains one of my top 3 favorite female anime characters of all time, a figure whose presence in the story speaks to the beauty and soul of Galaxy Express 999. Nothing has toppled it in my heart even decades later.
After seeing the film, I naturally began to notice more Matsumoto Leiji material, and since then, the worlds of his creations have been part of my world too. I bought a single volume of the Galaxy Express 999 manga in English in high school, and I would read it over and over. I would repeatedly consult Frederik Schodt’s Manga! Manga!, which included not only a biography of him but also a sample of one of his more obscure manga. Among my first figure purchases was a large Maetel, and I remember my excitement over finding the Queen Emeraldas OVAs and discovering Daft Punk through Interstella 5555.
I’ve reviewed Danguard Ato celebrate the 50th anniversary of anime on television, sent Harlock to show “the pirate’s way” in Super Robot Wars T, and made lasting bonds thanks to The Galaxy Railways. I’ve also purchased that 1979 Galaxy Express 999 film over and over, whether it was happening upon a used Region 2 DVD at a Bookoff, getting the US DVD to show my support, or upgrading to the blu-ray so I could experience it in better quality than I ever thought possible. Actually, in that regard, the film festival I attended all those years ago showed a VHS version, so it really is like night and day.
An old drawing I made of Ogiue cosplaying as Maetel
In the long run, I think I would have still come to take a broader view of anime and manga. But as I currently am, Matsumoto Leiji’s art contributes no small part to the enthusiast I am today. As he leaves us, I wish his messages about the importance of remembering and cherishing our humanity continue to resonate in the years to come.
The Galaxy Express 999 will take you on a journey, a never-ending journey. A journey to the stars!
Yurei Deco is a science fiction anime that takes the idea of social media influence to the extreme. It depicts a world where obsession with “likes” (or rather, “loves”) is so strong that society is built around their importance. This is a series that speaks directly to me, as I’ve long been bothered by the dominance of “likes” as a vital part of social media interaction.
Twitter is currently going through its largest debacle ever as Elon Musk arrogantly makes every wrong decision imaginable. For me, however, there was a different turning point that permanently soured my experience with the platform: the day that Twitter decided to change their stars into hearts. Suddenly, it didn’t mean you were marking something as interesting and worth looking at, but instead that you tacitly approved of it. What little nuance was there has gotten pulverized, and things have never been the same. Yurei Deco takes this problem and portrays a society that is basically a dystopia of social media where socioeconomic status and opportunity are tied to the number of “loves” one accrues.
One of the things I like about Yurei Deco is how it utilizes its main character, a girl named Berry. At the start of the series, she’s generally accepting of the conventions around her: Berry’s favorite word is “love-y,” which she uses as a positive adjective—it basically means “this is great because it would get a lot of loves.” However, she’s also fairly curious, and her hobby is learning about Phantom Zero, a mysterious figure/phenomenon who appears to steal people’s “loves.” In this way, Berry is indeed a product of her society but also in a position to start subtly defying it. This combination (along with a broken eye implant) inadvertently allows Berry to begin seeing past the augmented reality that is the norm, and into the cracks that have formed as a result of this tacit acceptance. She’s drawn into a world of hackers and other eccentrics who play at the fringes, resulting in a story that’s equal parts mystery and commentary.
In other words, while Berry is eventually surrounded by outsiders, she herself has one foot in each door. Even as she learns more and more truths, she still uses “love-y,” giving her a realistic sense of growth and change. She makes major strides, but she’s not about to change her vocabulary overnight. In this way, Yurei Deco gives me vibes reminiscent of both Dennou Coil (for the integrated cyberspace elements in everyday life) and Deca-Dence (for the measured solutions that arise from the realities of the world and system portrayed.
The bright and colorful visuals are courtesy of Yuasa Maaaki’s Science Saru studio, and Yurei Deco does a great job of making it feel both inviting and eerily creepy. The idea of a society built around likes on social media is bone-chilling in its own way, and the neon/pastel facade that everything possesses hammers that point home. But while critical of social media, Yurei Deco does not try to argue that it should just be excised from its world, as if to say “this stuff isn’t going anywhere, so we need to figure out a solution that results in outcomes good for society instead of ones that prioritize personal fame.”
I’ve been a Pokémon fan since before the very first game launched in the US, and I have to say that playing Pokémon Violet is some of the most fun I’ve ever had with the franchise. Yes, I know about the glitches and lack of polish. I got stuck in a black void inside my own house right at the start of the game, and I’ve taken note of the wonky physics. But even though I’ve finished the main game, I still keep jumping in.
Similar to Pokémon Legends: Arceus, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet are open-world games, meaning that they emphasize freely exploring the environment without forcing you into a certain order of doing things. This is both a plus and minus, personally: I have felt that newer Pokémon games are a little too on-rails, and this is a way to break with that trend, but I’m rather directionally challenged both in real life and in games. Luckily, they’ve added things that make the world feel pretty navigable even for someone like me. One key concept shared with Legends: Arceus is to have a ridable Pokémon that replaces the idea of key TMs or HMs to traverse unusual terrain—a definitely welcome change.
The new region, Paldea, is based on Spain. Here, you enter a Pokémon school that places heavy emphasis on both searching for and pursuing your dreams. To that end, there are three separate but overlapping storylines that each emphasize somewhat different views of what it means to thrive in the world: Victory Road, Path of Legends, and Starfall Street. Their stories progress in compelling ways, involve meeting great new characters, and even act somewhat as tutorials to help you develop certain skills.
Victory Road feels the most refined, being the most tried-and-true part of Pokemon singleplayer. It’s the familiar acquiring of gym badges in order to fight against the Elite Four and become a champion, but it also manifests in cultural aspects of Paldea that result in a unique experience. Whereas Gym Leaders in other games dedicate their lives to running their gyms, it’s more of a side job here. Paldean Gym Leaders include a baker, a streamer, an office worker, a rapper, a sushi chef, and so on. Gym battles take place outdoors—perhaps as a way to not have to model interiors, but it nevertheless adds to the feel that Paldea isn’t like other regions.
Adding to this is maybe the most fun rival to ever appear in Pokémon. Nemona is a fellow student, but she’s already a Champion-rank trainer by the time you meet her. Rather than growing alongside you, she guides you to become stronger, all because she loves Pokémon battles so much that she’ll seize any opportunity to have a great match. Players online have compared her to Goku from Dragon Ball, and it’s quite apt.
The storylines in Path of Legends (where you pursue titanic Pokemon) and Starfall Street (where you fight against school delinquents who comprise the latest nefarious organization, Team Star) have really engaging plots full of interesting developments. I found my view of certain characters evolve over time, and they provide both some of the most heartfelt moments and some of the funniest gags I’ve ever experienced in Pokémon. One downside is that I think the gameplay elements they each emphasize could have been done in somewhat more exciting ways. The Titan Pokémon could feel more titanic, and there really isn’t much to the battle system used for taking down Team Star. They’re more good than bad, though.
Playing through all three paths is very rewarding, not only because it opens up new branches and brings the overall plot together, but also because they collectively convey the richness of Paldea. The region seems to move at a characteristic pace (at its Own Tempo, one could say) that is about loving life and enjoying good food, while the blossoming of aspirations, the learning of mythology, and the reassessment of assumptions create a feeling that this is a robust world with lots of history and personality.
As for the Pokémon themselves, appealing to those who prefer a more classic look and those looking for more bizarre designs. Nothing is as off-the-wall as the Ultra Beasts of Pokemon Sun and Moon, but they expand the series’s universe in interesting ways. One quirky thing is the abundance of Pokémon based on food, whether it’s Fidough the dog bread dog, Garganacl the living salt golem, or Scovillain the two-headed pepper plant, culinary creatures are a norm. The game also has a feature where you can make sandwiches and visit restaurants that confer certain bonuses, driving home the idea that Paldea is a land of gourmets—an idea heavily promoted by Spain’s own tourism industry, incidentally.
Compared to Pokémon Legends: Arceus, one thing that’s missing is the greater sense of experimentation with the gameplay mechanics. That game really turned key aspects on their heads, and it was refreshing in a way. I do understand keeping the game more turn-based and rooted in established elements like the implementation of speed and status effects and even agree that this was the right choice for a main Pokémon title. That said, I can see it being a little tedious for those who want something more different.
Pokémon Scarlet and Violet certainly have flaws, but there’s an undeniable charisma that makes me want to keep playing. Witnessing the myriad stories unfold is fun. Venturing out into the world is fun. Finding and learning about Pokémon is fun. Meeting new characters and discovering what makes them tick is fun. And growing alongside everyone is fun. I don’t know how long I’ll stick around, but I’ll consider it time well spent.
It’s been many years since the late-2000s peak of the tsundere archetype, when the girls with prickly personalities all but captivated anime and its fandom. I was no exception to this—while I don’t consider myself a huge tsundere enthusiast, many such characters are included among my favorites. But as their novelty has aged into a well-worn trope, I’ve found myself almost forgetting how potent they can be in terms of the emotional force they exert upon fans. What‘s more, the reminder I needed was to realize how much has changed in my own life.
In certain ways, I’m not who I was 15 years ago. Mentally and emotionally, I’m in a different place, no longer constantly doubting whether my social awkwardness would ever keep me from connecting to others. However, I can recall what that felt like, and the crushing fear that it might never be overcome. And I can also recall the amazement and comfort I felt seeing characters who had similar struggles. This is essentially what led me to becoming so fond of Ogiue Chika from Genshiken and naming this blog after her. Her fight with herself felt so very real, even if it wasn’t exactly what I was going through.
It’s arguable whether Ogiue is a tsundere, but one can think of tsundere as characters who face a similar conflict between what they feel inside and how they wish to express themselves, but also boiled down to a powerful essence. There is a difference between the old-school and new-school tsundere (a distinction that’s quite long in the tooth these days), but either way, it is an easily digestible personal trait that can be eminently relatable. To see a tsundere lash out is to see a character fight within in a clear and distinct fashion.
You might hear someone say “I wish I had a tsundere partner,” and they could mean that they want someone straight out of anime—a crystalization of a fetish. But they might instead mean “I want someone who understands me because they face similar challenges.” It’s in the ability to occupy both spaces that the tsundere is strongest.
I originally did not intend to bring up Ogiue, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Not only does she skirt the kind of tsundere, but she’s also been portrayed as growing out of the inner turmoil she carried when she was first introduced. She is no longer the same person, and it’s reflected in her personality and even her visual design, but I still love the heck out of her character. Even though the severity of anger and awkwardness she carries has waned, the struggle was undeniably there, and its marks are noticeable. The tsundere is powerful because of how succinctly they capture a variety of heavy feelings in a digestible fashion, and it would behoove me to keep that in mind.
As someone who loves to eat (and seeing characters who love to eat), it was all but inevitable that I would enjoy Delicious Party Precure. But my appreciation goes beyond nailing its general food motif, as the series also successfully balances a number of different elements to make a fun and thrilling show. Whether it’s revisiting established tropes of the Precure franchise, reviving old ideas from magical girl anime of years past, or taking steps towards inclusivity, Delicious Party Precure is a pleasure to watch.
Strong Theming and Characters
Sometimes, Precure series don’t fully commit to theming, which makes for incongruous mishmashes of various marketable elements. This issue largely does not apply to Delicious Party Precure. Its characters, from main heroines to supporting cast, are all about enjoying and cherishing food. Its story is about magical girls fighting food thieves who are literally trying to steal tastiness in the form of food spirits. Every episode watched while hungry is basically torture, as it makes every dish look like the best thing ever. The adorable mascots are food fairies from the CooKingdom, each of whom are based on a particular carb—there’s nothing quite like a chubby little ramen dragon who shouts, “Wontooon!” during transformation sequences.
That said, the series has a sub-theme if wearing makeup that’s carried over from Tropical-Rouge Precure, but it kind of falls flat here. There’s one aspect of Delicious Party that makes it work to some extent (more on that below), but even the show itself emphasizes it less and less over time.
Characterization here isn’t as deep or profound as Heartcatch Precure!or Hugtto! Precure, but it’s still quite good and never drags the show down. The basic idea of them all having different loving relationships with food is simple, yet robust. Their different relationships with food create opportunities for joyful expression, human connection, and personal growth. One missed opportunity is that it doesn’t embrace the international food theme with a more ethnically diverse cast—despite the heroines Cure Precious, Cute Spicy, and Cure Yum Yum representing Japanese, European, and Chinese food respectively, all three are Japanese.
A Balanced Diet of Old and New
Delicious Party features a few tropes that would be familiar to fans of Precure and its genre progenitors, i.e. magical girls and sentai tokusatsu. There’s an eventual “sixth ranger” (in this case “fourth”). The series also revives the “Tuxedo Mask” along with an extra dash of romance—a relative rarity in Precure. But Delicious Party also pulls them off, integrating them into the overall story without ignoring their histories, making them useless, or having them hog the spotlight. These are known recipes, so to speak, given enough customization to taste pleasantly different.
Another part of the successful balancing act of Delicious Party is that it embraces both its kid appeal and its capacity for more mature messages. The series has some of the best villains ever, and much like Hugtto! Precure, they seem to provide more of a connection for parents and other grown-up viewers. Even with fairly sparse moments of characterization, you get a strong sense of who they are and why they turned to the dark side. Their concerns feel more adult, highlighted by the contrast between the Precures’ youthful enthusiasm and the bad guys’ jaded cynicism.
The team shot at the end of group transformation scenes encapsulates that older-younger dual appeal. Right after a collection of exciting and silly poses mimicking the shape of riceballs, sandwiches, and noodles, it finishes with a basic arms-on-waist stance viewed head on. The switch from dynamic and playful to very direct and straightforward gives what I think is broad appeal. Truly, this is a show for all ages.
Precure Says Trans Rights
One area in which Delicious Party Precure deserves praise is the steps it takes towards inclusivity. Building off of Kira Kira Precure a la Mode’s romantic tension between two girls and Hugtto! Precure’s (unvoiced but heavily, heavily implied) gay male relationship, this series introduces Rosemary, a CooKingdom “Cook Fighter”/mentor for the Precure who is clearly trans or nonbinary. While the show is never specific, it slso goes out of its way to never gender them, and other characters don’t question Rosemary’s appearance or behavior—not even the villains! There are some hints that Rosemary has struggled with gender identity, and this is the one area where the makeup sub-theme has any legs.
The heroines all admire Rosemary’s strength, wisdom, beauty, and heart—and in a time when trans people are unjustly labeled as predators, I think this is no small thing. I find it notable that as the author of one of the biggest fantasy series in history continues to descend into trans bigotry, that Precure progresses slowly but surely.
Following Through to the End
While Delicious Party Precure has its fair share of mostly self-contained episodes, the general food emphasis always makes them a pleasant experience. And when they tap into the larger plot being woven over the long term, they help to build towards a satisfying finish. While it doesn’t quite hit the tippity-top of my Precure rankings, I can find very few glaring flaws. It was one of the highlights of watching anime every week, and the overall story is full of mental and emotional goodness—providing a balanced media diet.
An imprisoned veteran of an old war tries to rescue a young girl from a plague said to be brought on by a people’s vengeance. Though he was supposed to die himself from his wounds, the man has gained superhuman abilities as if he is one with nature. Now, he raises this child as his own while fighting off those who wish to find and eliminate him. Elsewhere, a doctor must contend with the superstitions that prevent him from learning about the illness.
The Deer King is truly dad fiction, both figuratively and literally.
The film is based on a novel by the same name, and it’s a compelling work whose appeal is manifold. The Deer King is a grisly action piece, yet the bond between erstwhile father and daughter feels genuine and heartfelt. The world-building is robust without being convoluted, and the contrast between magic and science is an interesting one. Rather than acting as opposing forces, the story investigates how a desire to learn can separate the harmfully ossified traditions from legitimate generational wisdom.
In an environment where so much fantasy is basic wish fulfillment, The Deer King stands out. Its characters discover new reasons to live, and learn the power of curiosity, both intellectual and emotional. This is a film that is more than capable of transcending anime fandom, and I hope many more people discover it.
In the past few years, I’ve developed a terrible interest in reading and viewing arguments about martial arts, from kung fu to MMA and beyond. There’s a combination of established knowledge, lost knowledge, myths and legends, fraudsters, hero worship, dick-waving, differing philosophies, and genuine curiosity that makes it a weirdly compelling shit soup. During these trawls, I occasionally see an argument that goes something like “If their kung fu is so great, why don’t they prove it in the ring, and also make a ton of money?”
But what I was surprised to find is a response of sorts to that question in the pages of the manga Mashle—a series that asks, “What if Harry Potter was a non-magical himbo who overcame all obstacles through comically absurd physical prowess like Saitama from One Punch Man?” Not only does Mashle do a surprisingly good job of addressing the inequality inherent in its world, but it also cuts through expectations in other ways too, including how and why people learn to fight.
It’s important to note that con artists are a dime a dozen in the world of martial arts. It’s the realm of claims of supposed no-touch knockouts, poison fists, and chi energy. Even when you put such ridiculous “feats” aside, there are plenty of generic schools that are justifiably derided as “McDojos” or “belt factories,” essentially teaching nothing of substance. Because of this, many have reasonably become skeptical towards anyone who purports to fight with superhuman abilities. Asking for real proof makes sense, but there’s this peculiar jump in logic I see sometimes, where “prove it in the ring“ becomes “doesn’t everyone want to prove themselves?”
That’s where Mashle and its hero, Mash Burnedead, come in. During one of Mash’s most fearsome battles to date, his opponent says, “I’ve found someone who I can unleash my full powers against. I feel…invigorated. You must feel it too—the desire to fight even greater opponents.”
To which Mash responds, “Not really. I don’t want to fight stronger people. I don’t find it exciting at all. I still…just want to go home.”
This whole scene is a brief gag in a larger action scene, but Mash’s answer is a succinct counterpoint to the notion that everyone who truly learns how to fight has this killer instinct they need to unleash upon the world, whether for profit, fame, or to prove something. It actually takes a particular kind of person to want to willingly get in harm‘s way in order to show the world what they’re capable of.
One of the martial arts videos I‘ve watched (see above) is from an instructor on Youtube named Adam Chan, about the Hakka fist. As Adam explains, the Hakka are an ethnic group in China who were historically very poor and had to migrate a lot, and the various martial arts they developed came from civilians needing to survive against prejudice and xenophobia rather than as part of an army or in order to engage in duels. This is where Mash is: he didn‘t learn how to fight because of ego, bravado, a thirst for more, or because of a chip on his shoulder. He did it to protect himself and those dear to him.
Within online discussions of martial arts and fighting, conversations end up getting geared towards “Whose kung fu is strongest?” in the literal sense. But Mash Burnedead represents the reminder that sometimes it’s the wrong question to ask. The desire to hurt others and risk getting yourself hurt in the process is not the only way to view things, even if there is a certain glamor to the idea of honing oneself into a human weapon.
There must have been something fermenting in the collective imagination of 2022. Last year gave us not one, not two, but three different forms of media featuring cute dogs combined with bread. And as many minds landed on this same idea of oven-baked canines, they all appeared to be guided by more than merchandising power alone.
The first bread dog of note is an embodiment of the Sanallites, the fanbase for the retired VTuber Tsukumo Sana from Hololive. The reason her fans are portrayed as bread is that Sana herself would express how much she loves bread, even going as far as doing a bread horoscope in an early stream. And because Sana herself is an experienced artist, she used her illustration chops to solidify the design as a whole loaf with an adorable flat face.
Sana’s bread dog comes from a warm and comforting relationship with her fandom—the kind of personal-feeling connection that you could only get from a streamer.
The second bread dog is Pam-Pam, a sandwich-themed dog fairy from the magical girl anime Delicious Party Precure. Here, Pam-Pam is the mascot sidekick of the bread-themed Cure Spicy, and contrasted with a rice mascot and a noodle mascot for a trio of staple carbs. This all plays into one of the themes of Delicious Party Precure, which is teaching kids to eat balanced meals and learn to appreciate all types of food. Pam-Pam transforms into a little sandwich with her dog head sticking out, meaning her bread elements come out primarily in battle.
Delicious Party Precure’s bread dog is a way to convey a theme of good nutrition. The decision to design Pam-Pam in this way is the result of trying to prepare children for the future.
Fidough and Dachsbun
The last bread dogs are the new evolutionary line from Pokémon Scarlet and Violet. Fidough, which resembles unbaked bread, evolves into Dachsbun, whose Baked Body ability makes it actually immune to fire attacks. They have more of an active bread motif than Pamu Pamu but retain more dog features than the Sanallites.
These two are actually just a couple of the many new Paldean Pokémon with a food motif—others include hot pepper plants, olives, and more. The Paldea region is based on Spain, which has a rich and diverse food culture, and both bread dogs reflect that aspect.
The Yeast They Can Do
Combining fluffy bread with furry dogs seems like an obvious winner, and these examples are certainly not the first. But to see three big franchises implement the same idea within the same year feels like a tiny miracle. There’s a surprising amount of versatility to be found in the bread dog concept, and should there ever be a true bread-dog boom, I doubt anyone would mind.