The Kids Are All Right—Batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons

Recently, I did something I haven’t done in a long time: I watched an in-flight movie. I used to love using my time traveling to check out the new and unfamiliar, and it was refreshing to experience that again. Given a short flight time, there was only so much I could fit in, and the movie I landed on was Batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons

Somewhat reflecting developments in DC Comics over the past few years, it’s an animated feature film about Superman’s son, Jon Kent, teaming up with Batman’s son, Damian Wayne. How this compares and contrasts with the comics is convoluted in ways I don’t fully understand myself, so I’m treating this mostly as a standalone thing. In that regard, it’s probably fine to watch on its own as long as you’re familiar with Superman and Batman in a general sense. Maybe the fact Robin (Damian) is a pint-sized assassin who calls Batman “father” might throw some people off.

The story: Jon thinks he’s a regular kid with boring parents who are both journalists. Soon, though, he discovers the truth about his dad, and his entire perspective changes. When the starfish-like alien conqueror Starro begins to take over the adult superheroes, it’s up to him and Damian, whom he befriends (?) after meeting Batman, to save the world.

There’s something about the past decade of fiction that has brought to the forefront the challenge of heroes having to raise their own children. While plenty of comparisons can be made between Jon and Son Gohan from Dragon Ball, I think it’s more apt to look at other works, like Boruto, the Star Wars sequel trilogy, and even Avatar: The Legend of Korra to some extent. The gap between the stories focused on the parents and those focused on the children can vary from a few years to many decades, but they all land in the same space, wherein the legacies of the old heroes still persist in the hearts of the fans. 

Because of this, portraying these adults as loving but flawed parents can be a tricky balancing act, and a common source of conflict in these stories is the struggle between maintaining one’s duty and being there for their kids. What’s more, these works are often meant to have the old good guys step out of the limelight and allow their kids to take center stage, which can create complicated feelings among fans.

In that regard, it’s actually kind of comforting to see the literal most perfect superhero, Superman, have trouble with this. If even the Last Son of Krypton has days where it’s hard to be a dad, then who wouldn’t? Sure, he’s ultimately the Best Dad Ever (and Lois an equally amazing mom in her own right), but Battle of the Super Sons successfully conveys the idea that we can have faith in the next generation to do things their way if we communicate to them the importance of love and justice. 

I Finished Reading the Saint Seiya Manga

Five teenage boys all clad in extremely ornate, shining armor, joining fists while shouting, "Time to unite our lives and cosmos, and strike at Hades!!"

I can finally say that I am hip to the trends of 20th-Century South American anime and manga fandom, as well as other fandoms worldwide. I have continued my reading of the original Saint Seiya all the way to the end, and I now know who the characters are, where their appeal lies, and what makes the series so memorable. At least, I think I do.

Saint Seiya (also known as Knights of the Zodiac) is a 1980s Shounen Jump manga about Seiya, a teen orphan who earns the power of a mystical armor called the Bronze Pegasus Cloth in order to find his missing sister. However, taking this path results in him having to fight rival Saints, before eventually teaming up with them to take on greater threats—including the forces of Greek gods. The series takes a while to find its footing, but once it all coalesces, the result is a work full of passionate pretty boys with intense camaraderie whose many battles take readers through a roller coaster of emotions as one shocking development leads continuously to the next.

It’s very clear to me that the series plays things by ear rather than possessing a more concrete long-term plan. Many seemingly important plot points fall by the wayside, as if the author, Kurumada Masami, wasn’t always sure what Saint Seiya should be. It takes a circuitous path to becoming the tales of Athena’s Saints protecting the Earth, and even after that, many arcs conclude feeling like they might be the last. Characters frequently come back to life or have their armor seemingly irreparably broken only to be restored in some never-before-seen way. According to George Horvath, a big Kurumada fan, the author actually let the readers decide who would join the team, and the series does really feel like it was built in part off fan input in a manner similar to pro wrestling.

But what carries the manga through is just the sheer spectacle and excitement built around its core cast, the Bronze Saint, all of whom have very distinct personalities and appeal. Pegasus Seiya is brave and clever, as is befitting a shounen protagonist. Dragon Shiryu is wise and righteous like a kung fu master. Cygnus Hyoga is cool yet fierce. Andromeda Shun is gentle and compassionate. Phoenix Ikki is headstrong and stoic, his sparse appearances akin to a much less merciless and infinitely more effective Tuxedo Mask who throws traumatic hallucinations instead of roses. Every time one of them gets to shine, their most prominent qualities are on full display and add to the drama of the moment.

One thing that increasingly stood out to me is how every character is extremely willing to sacrifice themselves for others. Again and again, warriors both major and minor try to throw their bodies into the jaws of doom to help save the day. At one point, in what’s called the Poseidon Arc, a critical moment goes from Seiya willing to attack in a way that could cost him his life; to the female character Eagle Marin using her body to shield Seiya; to Seiya trying to shield Marin instead; to Shiryu shielding both; to Shiryu, Hyoga, and Shun forming a wall. It’s a whole lot of wreckless selflessness.

Saint Seiya is the origin of the once-notable “boys in armor” genre, but its reach extends beyond that immediate purview of Samurai Troopers and Brave Command Dagwon. The series is known for being huge with BL fans in the 1980s, and was a major force in the doujinshi scene at that time. It really is no wonder, what with all these fit-looking guys with expressive eyes acting passionate and emotional as they get bloodied and bruised in combat. Without even knowing beforehand, Shun and Shiryu would seem incredibly popular in this regard, the former with his soft and feminine aura, and the latter with his sharp features and long black hair. I don’t know for sure how aware Kurumada was about this fandom, but there are multiple times where Saint Seiya seems to try to get more hetero (are those sparks flying between Seiya and Athena???)—though it always ends up receding into the distance. Call it a template for future works in shounen.

Famously, the manga artist group CLAMP got their start drawing Saint Seiya BL doujinshi. When I think about that fact, I feel like I can tell that the CLAMP aesthetic owes itself in some part to the look of Saint Seiya. Especially in something like RG Veda, the handsome and beautiful characters, the detailed yet confusing full-page attacks, and the general atmosphere evoke the struggles of Seiya and his allies to a certain degree. 

Speaking of art style, I know that there is some debate among the fandom about Kurumada’s art style, which tends to be less conventional than the anime adaptation’s character designs. I can see why this divide exists, but I think there’s a certain charm to the manga’s look—an extension of its overall nonstop intensity. Even if the characters’ faces look kind of lopsided, it still carries an energy befitting Saint Seiya.

Although it rushes to wrap up a few dangling plot threads, Saint Seiya ends pretty decisively, making the reading experience satisfying overall. As is the case when I check out big titles from the past, it’s both entertaining and helps give me greater context for both manga history and manga fandom. As both a standalone work and a series that would inspire so much, it stands the test of time.

If You Love ’em, You’ll Let ’em Go: Eureka Seven Hi-Evolution Full Review

Eureka Seven is an anime I love to death. Nearly two decades later, I still hold it up this TV series as one of the best ever. The sequels and spin-offs, however, have not been as hot. A film (Eureka Seven: Good Night, Sleep Tight, Young Lovers) basically reused footage from the TV series to tell a wildly different story where the characters look the same but are different people. A sequel TV series (Eureka Seven AO) damaged the story and visited gratuitous amounts of tragedy on the original heroes. And most recently, we have Eureka Seven Hi-Evolution, a trilogy that is similar to both previous continuations while embodying neither the best nor the worst of the franchise as a whole. 

Hi-Evolution consists of three films each focusing on a different major character: Renton, Anemone, and Eureka. However, much like Good Night, Sleep Tight, Young Lovers, they‘re seemingly not the same people as in the TV series. Whether it’s having different parents or literally being from another world, details great and small are out of alignment. Hi-Evolution also follows the pattern of intersplicing old footage with new, but again with drastic changes in context that make it unrelated. 

Or is it? Another aspect of the Hi-Evolution films is that they might actually be sequels to the original TV series, as well as possibly everything else in a sort of Turn A Gundam sense. It could be a unifying sequel, or a reboot, or an alternate universe, but it’s not very clear because so many things are so unlike what has come before. Or maybe it is obvious and I refuse to accept the possibility that this might be “canon” as it were. 

Hi-Evolution as a sequel would be saying something along the lines of “this is the real story you couldn’t see,” and my response is “eh.” As a remix or an alternate track, however, it has more legs. It contains solid narratives regarding relationships between parents and children and between people in general, the way humankind struggles with thinking of everything as a zero-sum game, and a look into dreams and possibilities. The issue is that I’m not sure why it had to be in the guise of Eureka Seven. I actually think if it had been conceived as an original project, it would be a lot less shaky overall, and wouldn’t invite such comparison.

I worry that the director and staff on Eureka Seven might be too attached to the aesthetics of the franchise, and it holds them back from being able to do more. As much as I adore that first anime, it might be an anchor dragging everyone down. Better to free everyone and let them soar with new ideas.

Trigun Stampede, Cowboy Bebop, and Scrapbook Worlds

When Studio Orange announced that they were making Trigun Stampede, I was pleasantly surprised. Trigun is a title that a lot of anime and manga fans around the turn of the 21st century cut their teeth on—I myself remember seeing it thanks to my school’s anime club. However, aside from a singular film in the form of 2010’s Trigun: Badlands Rumble, it hasn’t gotten much love, and it also isn’t as enduring in the general fandom consciousness as Cowboy Bebop. To be fair to both, they’re only vaguely similar, but they did come out around the same time and were anime convention staples together for years.

But here was a new Trigun TV series, and what’s more, it was clear that Trigun Stampede was going for an updated aesthetic. Anyone who’s familiar with the manga or anime remembers the iconic look of hero Vash the Stampede in his signature red trench coat and ultra-spiky hair—and both have been significantly altered for this remake. As I watched it, one thing became clear: While a lot of elements are similar to the 1990s anime, the story had been rearranged in noticeable ways. Where the previous iteration has a 50/50 balance of slapstick comedy via larger-than-life personalities and twist-filled science-fiction drama, Stampede is a lot more focused on telling a serious story. That said, I didn’t mind the changes, and was able to take all the changes in stride and appreciate them on their own terms. 

But as I was going over how I feel about Stampede, a thought occurred to me. Why is it that I was able to easily accept a different Trigun, yet the very idea of a new anime remake of Cowboy Bebop feels wrong? I’m not even someone who reveres Cowboy Bebop as a sacred cow, though I think it’s excellent in many ways. (I know there’s the live-action Cowboy Bebop, but I consider adaptations like that their own separate topic regardless of quality, so I‘m setting that aside.)

What I think the difference comes down to is just the way each series generally approaches storytelling. Cowboy Bebop is like a finely tuned machine, intricate and delicately balanced to give a very specific experience. Removing even one or two gears can throw the entire thing off, and overhauling it entirely feels pointless. Trigun, on the other hand, comes across as more of a scrapbook. Narratives can still be formed, but the strengths of the individual elements are more important, and they can be rearranged in different ways.

This brings to mind an old favorite topic of mine: the contrast between “character” and kyaraas written about by manga scholar Ito Go. Essentially, character is how a figure exists within their greater story, whereas kyara is how much of their identity can be maintained if divorced from their original context. I think neither Cowboy Bebop nor Trigun are severely lacking in either category, but the former has a relatively stronger  emphasis on character, while the latter focuses more on kyara

It’s why Trigun Stampede can be this more somber experience wholly lacking in things like a wacky black cat who makes cameos and meows a lot, yet still identifiably be Trigun. In fact, this new series can often feel like Trigun leaning in the direction of Cowboy Bebop without thoughtlessly aping it. So even though there’s a sequel to Stampede on the way that will actually incorporate more of the 1990s Trigun look, the new groundwork laid out makes me look forward to seeing both how similar and how different things get. And despite the fact that the franchise has its origins in the 1990s, I can’t help but wonder if the pacifist nature of Vash might actually resonate harder among fans today.

Randori Acts of Friendship: “Ippon” Again!

Anime is no stranger to judo, with titles like Yawara! being perennial favorites in Japan. “Ippon” Again! isn’t quite the same kind of work, but what it does do is successfully mix the joy of slice-of-life-adjacent everyday friendship with the emotional journeys that are a hallmark of sports-themed titles, resulting in a series that thrills just as much as it comforts. In other words, “Ippon” Again! is a series about cute girls doing judo where they actually do judo.

The title is a pun: In Japanese, mou ippon can mean “one more round,” but ippon is also the most points that can be scored by a single move in competitive judo. The main character, an energetic teen girl named Michi, loves judo—particularly the part where you land sweet throws and really lay the opponent on their back. But no matter what, she’s never been able to score an ippon in competition. She finishes middle school with this dream unfulfilled and a decision to quit judo in high school, but when she finds out her final opponent at her last tournament is one of her classmates, she gets drawn back into the world she loves so much. Together, they begin to re-establish the school’s defunct judo club.

“Ippon” Again! definitely takes its judo seriously, and it’s all the better for it. Like so many good sports series, it has an endearing core cast each of whom have their own reasons for practicing judo (or not, as the case may be), and they bring their training and their aspirations onto the mat against a variety of interesting opponents. The action is well executed, with high tension and fluid animation that make movement and techniques feel impactful. This is a more grounded portrayal of a sport, less Kuroko’s Basketball and more Haikyu! Yes, Michi has a tendency to shout out the names of her attacks, but that’s just a personal quirk of her direct and eager personality. The result is an anime that wants to show how much its characters grow both in practice and in the spotlight.

The overall feel reminds me a lot of one of my current favorite manga, the karate series Mabataki Yori Hayaku!!. While the characters and their dynamics aren’t quite the same (one features an experienced judo player protagonist while the other stars a karate neophyte, for example), it’s safe to say that if you like one, you’ll probably like the other. It’s also personally fascinating to see how similar yet different the scoring systems are based on the throwing-focused judo versus the striking-based karate, but your mileage may vary. Another title of a similar vein is Bamboo Blade, although “Ippon” Again feels a bit less prone to exaggeration and wacky personalities. 

I don’t know whether “Ippon” Again! is supposed to be a glorified ad for judo. Even if it is, I don’t really mind. It‘s a nice, solid story that delivers on everything it sets out to portray, and seeing the team get closer and come into their own is an absolute joy. There’s a lot more manga, and I hope we get to see it further adapted into manga.

Rock and Roll Sometimes and Party Never: Bocchi the Rock!

I’m a little late to the Bocchi the Rock! party. I saw the positive reactions every week, from the discussion to the clips of creative animation to the fanart, yet I still decided to wait. Having now watched the entire season of the anime, I understand what the hype is all about. In the perennially popular genre of “cute girls doing things,” Bocchi remains anything but static. 

Gotou Hitori is a girl who wishes to make friends but suffers from severe anxiety. Upon seeing a band play on TV, she gets a brilliant idea: If she can become a great guitarist, she can stay shy and reticent and have people come to her instead. As with all best-laid plans, however, she remains lonely through middle school and into high school even as she hones her skills and even started a music channel on a social media platform. When all hope seems lost, Hitori gets roped in by two girls around her age who have started a band of their own and are desperate to find a last-minute replacement for their missing bandmate. It’s her chance to shine, though first she has to deal with her biggest fear: actual social interaction. Noticing her personality, Hitori’s new acquaintances nickname her “Bocchi,” or “lonesome.”

With a show like this, there was always a possibility that Bocchi’s social anxiety would be treated pras a kind of characterization seasoning; many anime only go so far. But it becomes immediately obvious that even though her panicking is portrayed with some levity, the anime is not treating Bocchi’s emotions frivolously. From her frustrations to her tendency to catastrophize, everything feels painfully genuine.

There’s an example that hits particularly close to home for me: Bocchi initially tries to make friends by displaying band stickers on her stuff and carrying around her guitar so that others might notice and strike up a conversation. As soon as I saw this, I could feel myself cringe as I remembered doing similar things at her age. While I never had Bocchi’s debilitating levels of anxiety, I distinctly recall putting anime merchandise on my bag, and maybe even playing my music a little loud so that someone might recognize “Cruel Angel’s Thesis” and the like. And just like with Bocchi, I learned that this never works. 

(As an aside, whenever I see people with anime goods these days, I don’t say anything out of fear of being too old or overstepping boundaries. Ahh…)

Bocchi the Rock! could have easily remained in this space of comedic suffering—what I refer to as the moe of tiny tragedies. But what gives the anime real legs is that it depicts Bocchi’s imperfect progress towards overcoming her issues. Specifically, it shows how her relationship with music and her gradually strengthening connections with her bandmates work in tandem to help Bocchi come out of her shell. The fact that it’s often a matter of “two steps forward, one step back” only makes her journey feel more authentic.

Given the premise of Bocchi the Rock!, it draws an inevitable comparison to one of the most titanic cute-girls series of the past 20 years: K-On! Both are works capable of providing comfort to its viewers and inspire them to take up music, but they’re as different as a Swedish massage versus a deep-tissue massage. The former is a soothing experience meant to invigorate (K-On!) while the latter hurts so that it can heal (Bocchi the Rock!). This contrast is evident in their protagonists. Hirasawa Yui is a silly and cheerful sort who can never remain sad for long, while Bocchi is a gigantic bundle of frayed nerves. It makes me wonder if Bocchi the Rock! might resonate better with a current-day audience than K-On! would if it first aired in 2022 instead of 2009. 

So I’m definitely a fan now. It’s a series that hits hard in so many unexpected ways, and in that regard, I actually think there’s a moment in the opening that perfectly encapsulates its essence. As the opening draws to a close, there’s a closeup of Bocchi at school just staring while the shot zooms in very, very slowly. There’s no “animation” to speak of, yet it conveys the tempestuous turmoil behind her eyes and the difficult inner journey she faces. It’s amazing that something so simple contains so much power—that’s Bocchi the Rock! in a nutshell.

A Movie with a Hell of a Build-Up: They Call Me Jeeg

When I first heard about the film They Call Me Jeeg, its premise intrigued me. Although named after an anime, it’s not actually based on Steel Jeeg, a 1970s anime firmly within the super robot subgenre. Rather, the film is a mob flick mixed with a superhero origin story, where the characters use the lore of Steel Jeeg as a reference point to understand the changes happening. 

Before getting into the movie itself, I want to say that its premise shows the degree to which giant robot anime has long penetrated the popular psyche of Italy. As an American, it has always felt remarkable. Sure, we have our Voltrons and Gigantors and the like, but it’s just not the same compared to the sheer range of influence Italy has experienced from Goldrake (aka Grendizer), L’imbattible Daitarn 3, and in this case Jeeg Robot. They Call Me Jeeg utilizes its titular mecha somewhat like how The Iron Giant uses Superman.

The hero of the story is Enzo Ceccotti, a small-time pickpocket who accidentally exposes himself to barrels of toxic waste while on the run. Unbeknownst to him, the experience makes him super strong and nigh-invulnerable. At first, he uses his newfound abilities to just commit bigger crimes, but when Alessia (the mentally unwell adult daughter of his boss) is threatened by higher members of the local gang, Enzo rescues her incognito. Alessia is obsessed with Steel Jeeg and sees everything through the lens of the 1970s anime, and confidently declares that Enzo is actually Shiba Hiroshi, the Immortal Cyborg and protagonist of Steel Jeeg. The contrast between Enzo’s flawed self and the ideal version Alessia sees in him—especially when dealing with the local gang leader, Fabio—becomes the main conflict of the film. Sometimes, it takes the world of fiction to provide a reference point of what one can be.

The general arc of the narrative is generally familiar to superhero fans (the gradual fulfillment of unrealized potential to save others), but the very grounded grittiness makes everything feel almost palpable: the emotions, the violence, the internal and external struggles. In this age of sleek and highly produced Marvel and DC films, They Call Me Jeeg stands out all the more. Enzo is a compelling main character precisely because he struggles with the idea of performing acts of good and questions if he’s even capable of it. In a sense, he reminds me of Denji from Chainsaw Man, and I mean that in a positive way. Whether to do the right thing even when it’s not immediately personally beneficial is a major question in the movie.

There are a few areas that might not play well with a current audience. I’m not particularly well read on the topic of mental health, but Alessia might come across as a bit stereotypical. That said, the film does show how her interpreting everything through Steel Jeeg is not just “random craziness” but her way of coping with past traumas. In terms of other issues, the flamboyant and unhinged nature of Fabio might reinforce the image of villainous gays, and there is some highly questionable consent. In regards to the former point, I think it might be trying to position Fabio as parallel to Queen Himika, the first major antagonist of Steel Jeeg. Also, it seems that the actor for Fabio, Luca Martinelli, is famous for portraying queer characters of all kinds. And as for the latter point, the act is not portrayed as a positive thing, but its presence can’t be ignored.

They Call Me Jeeg carries both a loftiness and a down-and-dirty feel that successfully Enzo’s struggles between the life he has led and the one he’s capable of. It’s not an anime movie in any traditional sense, but it takes a piece of pop culture and draws out a story based on the emotional connection Steel Jeeg has created in people. I wonder if we’ll ever see more like it.

Thoughts I Have After Watching “Raven of the Inner Palace”

Raven of the Inner Palace is an intriguing fantasy anime with shades of one of my favorite shows ever, Twelve Kingdoms, but mixed with the vibes of a series like Natsume’s Book of Friends or Mushi-shi. The main heroine, a girl known as the Raven Consort, works in the inner environment of a great palace, using her supernatural abilities to solve mysteries like an occult detective. Its combination of elements and its overall compelling nature make me think about various assorted aspects of the series, each of which I want to briefly expand upon. There’s no real organization to these thoughts. 

Chinese Fantasy vs. European Fantasy

The world of Raven of the Inner Palace is not actually China, but the series takes a lot from Chinese culture and mythology. It’s certainly not alone in this regard (Twelve Kingdoms also falls in this category), but it stands out in my mind because of how much “Ancient China” is an aesthetic (especially in fiction coming out of Asia in general), and how much it parallels/contrasts with the default European look that typifies fantasy series of a certain kind. “China-esque” is a whole artistic motif that is less prominent in the West, but the fact that the Chinese Wuxia BL novels have been such a hit makes me wonder if Raven of the Inner Palace (itself originally a light novel series) might also get increasingly popular.

Girls Often Make for Better Audience Stand-In Characters

In terms of being vehicles for wish fulfillment, Raven of the Inner Palace isn’t an exception. It’s primarily geared towards female readers, with the heroine Liu Shouxue (or Ryuu Juusetsu, depending on if you prefer Chinese or Japanese pronunciation) being a cool and powerful sorcerer who gets involved both professionally and emotionally with a kind and handsome emperor. But even knowing this, Shouxue comes across as a well-conceived and well-written character who is actually enjoyable to witness. 

I think one of the big differences is that the male counterparts in series geared towards guys tend to be either more insufferable or carry qualities that just make them less appealing overall. I can see why the emperor or anyone else would fall for Shouxue, and it helps render her as an individual who can carry her own weight in the narrative. On the other hand, so many light novel protagonists seem to just kind of be there, with a handful of quirks cobbled together into a makeshift personality.

Cool Eunuchs???

In Chinese culture and entertainment, eunuchs are often not portrayed in a favorable light. The very reason Chinese emperors used eunuchs is because their inability to procreate supposedly meant that they could care for the concubines without surreptitiously siring children with them, but they also became major parts of inner-palace politics as a result. Thus, eunuchs are traditionally portrayed as weirdly effeminate and conniving schemers who also smell.

However, Raven of the Inner Palace, eunuchs are some of the most awesome characters around. Unpleasant emasculation is interpreted as bishounen coolness, and I can’t help but think about whether this is the product of Chinese-inspired fantasy being processed through anime and manga aesthetic.

The Last Thing: Chekhov’s Chicken

There’s a chubby bird that lives with Shouxue that is mainly comic relief, but I had a feeling from the start that it’s important in some way. I call it “Chekhov’s Chiken,” and I just wanted to mention this nickname so that others use it as well.

I Watched Tron for the First Time

I’ve been watching more non-anime films lately, partly with the intent of connecting to influential works of geek culture. Today’s menu: 1982’s Tron.

My general image of Tron is shaped by my earliest days online, back in the 1990s. Being into things like video games and anime, websites would often laud Tron as a work that shaped perceptions of what the inner world of computers looked like, but also really appealed to nerds even as it was less well received by many movie critics and didn’t perform astoundingly at the box office. The grids and games of “Deadly Discs” and what-not carried a virtual cyberpunk aesthetic, even if the film might not be technically cyberpunk.

Now that I’ve watched it, I can see exactly why some would love it to bits and others would find it shallow and impenetrable. It’s the kind of movie where in order to enjoy it, you need to be in love with the aesthetics or at least highly appreciative of them. The world they depict, highly reminiscent of the arcade games of the 1980s mixed with a hauntingly sterile environment, carries a certain specific attraction that current artists try to capture through things like vaporware. As someone who is into this sort of thing, experiencing Tron could feel like a religious experience, or like a David Lynch or Oshii Mamoru work. The fact that the universe of Tron has programs as living entities who speak of their programmers in hushed tones of reverence (while a rogue program forces its fellow brings to renounce their creators) certainly adds to it.

But it’s in that basking that Tron can drag. Moments meant for viewers to revel in the heretofore unseen computer graphics and the eerie world around them can take a long time—enough to make even me impatient. For anyone who is not so on-board with the aesthetics, whether because they were a 1980s critic for whom “computer world” held no value or because Tron most assuredly looks at least somewhat dated to a modern viewer, these moments can get in the way of the story rather than complement it. 

To compare Tron to later works might be an exercise in foolishness (what was once novel is now commonplace), but the first thing that pops to my mind is the 1990s cartoon Reboot. In a similar manner, that show depicts a world inside the computer where programs go on their own adventures and have a strange relationship with a being on high (the “player”). And given that decades have passed since Reboot as well, it might be worth revisiting just to see how its depiction of the universe inside electronics holds up today. 

So Tron is definitely a nerd film that valued things mainstream critics often would not. Today, it might seem too plain. But its look and feel can still resonate today, amidst the enduring revival of 80s nostalgia. I feel like I can understand the past and present just a bit more.

Big Brother Denji: Chainsaw Man and Personal Growth

It can sometimes be a struggle to explain why Chainsaw Man is so good, even to those who have become fans of it through the anime. It’s as if they’re eating a peanut butter cup and going, “Wow, this chocolate is good!”

But recent chapters of the manga have shown just how much Denji’s journey has changed him when we see Denji talk about Power, as well as his interactions with the character Nayuta.


Part 2 of Chainsaw Man has been fun, especially between having a new perspective character in Asa and the way Denji keeps trying to “accidentally” reveal that he’s Chainsaw Man. The guy is still pretty shallow and dim, but then he starts talking to Asa about a “good friend” he knew, and his words carry a tone both mournful and joyful. Over time, his bond with Power became genuine and full of caring, and the weight that comes with his current maturity can be felt.

Then, when you see him interact with Nayuta (the new Control Devil after Makima), that feeling only multiplies. Denji in Part 1 thinks mostly about himself—a product of his upbringing as an orphan surviving on scraps—but here, he has responsibilities as Nayuta’s guardian. From the little bits we can see of their relationship, he knows full well how dangerous the Control Devil can be, but behaves like a mix of dad and big brother in order to get Nayuta to listen. Hearing “I’ll only revert my transformation of this girl’s psyche into a dog’s if you let me eat ice cream every day” and replying with “Fine, but only if I get to eat some too” sums up how Denji negotiates with her. He’s no paragon of virtue, but he tries to make sure Nayuta does the right thing by treating her practically as a peer. 

Given all of Denji’s trauma before and during the events of the manga, I see his attitude towards Nayuta to be a desire to not repeat the same heartbreaking mistakes, especially for Nayuta’s sake. Flawed as Denji is, including morally, he doesn’t want her to feel the pain of loneliness on the scale that he, and even Makima, knew all too well. Denji’s doing his best to set a good example, and seeing the odd contours of that attempt speaks to a profound personal growth.