Miyazaki: The Early Years

Hayao Miyazaki is one of the best known and most respected animation directors of all time. With films like Princess MononokeSpirited AwayPorco Rosso, and Kiki’s Delivery Service to his credit, he has been setting new standards for animation visuals and story for decades. Miyazaki’s feature films have been seen the world over, but some of his earlier work is not as well known, particularly in the States.

These are a few of my favorite examples of Miyazaki’s early animation work. Continue reading

Review- Sherlock: The Abominable Bride

I’ve mentioned before how I love a good bromance (more on my months of Supernatural viewing later), and Sherlock Holmes and John Watson is one of the best.  If you haven’t watched Sherlock, the more modern BBC incarnation of the duo, I suggest you stop reading this post and catch up.  Also, here’s where I put the warning is that this post is going to contain hardcore spoilers for the most recent special, so if you are waiting to watch The Abominable Bride don’t read this post.  I’ll be revealing the mystery and don’t want you yell-typing at me about spoilers.

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The Mystery– In this one-off, special episode, a jilted corpse-like bride appears and takes her revenge on men who have wronged women.  Additionally we get a look at what’s going on in modern day London since we last left Sherlock as he used similarities from the Bride case to puzzle out how Moriarty could be back.

What I liked:

Victorian England–  Sherlock turns inward and harkens back to an unsolved case from 100 years ago to work through issues in the present, and the majority of this episode takes place in a mental landscape of Victorian London.  As Sherlock gets closer to unraveling the case at hand, we are reminded of the reveal at the end of Series 3.  Despite seemingly blowing his brains out, Moriarty is back and Sherlock is summoned back from his exile (which seems to have been all of 4 minutes).  

The reveal of the “Ghost”– This is a ghost story, and setting it in Victorian London does make it more fun and more spooky.  The show runners definitely play up the Gothic aspect of the story, complete with foggy hedge maze and haunted castle.  Of course ghosts aren’t real and the reveal of how the ghost bride came to be shows the perpetrators do an excellent job of using practical effects to terrify their victims.  By example famous effect “Pepper’s Ghost” is used.

Giving more attention to Sherlock’s drug problem and how Mycroft manages him –  Turns out the trip to Victorian England is not a place in Sherlock’s Mind Palace, but rather a drug induced hallucination he uses to try to figure out how Moriarty could have survived his self-inflicted headshot. Holmes’s drug use is well documented in the source material but hasn’t been explored too much in the BBC stories.  We also see a rare moment of caring between Sherlock and Mycroft where Sherlock makes good on an agreement he has with Mycroft and produces a list of the drugs he has taken.  While it seems Sherlock’s using cannot be stopped, it can at least be managed to the best of Mycroft’s abilities.

Molly as a man…. – When forensic scientist Hooper is introduced in this Victorian version, she’s a man.  However through John’s observations it’s made clear that Molly is still a woman, she is just presenting as a man for the sake of her career.  While the modern Molly has been growing in confidence, this “male” version is more brash, she snaps at underlings, and is much less taken with Holmes.  It was fun to watch.

I like Mary Morsten– The modern version of Mary is clever, strong, and can keep up with Sherlock and John, rather than being left behind to tend to home and hearth. Show runner Steven Moffat has received less than positive feedback on how he has handled women in the past, so this is a welcome change. While there is an attempt to sideline the Victorian version, it’s clear that Mary is her own woman, moving about society more freely than one would think.  (Fun fact- the actress who plays Mary, Amanda Abbington,  is the real life partner of Martin Freeman, who plays John Watson).

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What I didn’t like:

Ultimate resolution of mystery– Despite being peppered with positive commentary on feminism, the villain(s) of this piece turn out to be women fighting for equality specifically in the form of the right to vote.  

When Sherlock finds the group of women dressed in robes reminiscent of purple klansmen, chanting, and behaving like a stereotypical “secret society”.   These women, all “brides”, are the freedom fighters in the war for gender equality, a war spearheaded by an abused and martyred woman. This reveal definitely feels like show-runner Stephen Moffat responding to feedback that he has received about the portrayal of women in Sherlock.   But frankly, the response feels like a back handed compliment.  Here he spotlights women, but also basically makes them terrorists and murders.  What am I supposed to take from that?  The only way women can be heard is through terrorism?

While Sherlock man-splains the mystery he refers to the group of feminists as “A league of furies awakened, the women I, we, have lied to, betrayed,” “The women we have ignored and disparaged.”  And yet, here we have Holmes explaining their motive, and assigning his own labels.  Yeah it’s his show but even as he is explaining this is all caused by not letting women lead, or be independent, he takes away the ability for them to tell their own story for themselves.

7lbs in a 5lb sack–  Maybe it’s because it’s harder to get the actors together, but this episode felt quite bloated and unclear of the story it wanted to tell.  Did it want to tell the story of the Bride, or did it want to further explore the relationship and obsession between Sherlock and Moriarty?  Because ultimately the whole Bride story was a tool for Sherlock to explore Moriarty’s alleged return.  Wait, did that whole Bride story-line just get fridged?  So much for “The women we have ignored and disparaged.”

Conclusion:

All in all I enjoyed this, and the “Inception-esque” storyline improved with a second viewing.  The friendship between Holmes and Watson remains delightful, but I think perhaps going back to the basics of the first two series might not be a bad idea.  The mysteries and the relationships are what makes Sherlock an enjoyable watch.  It doesn’t need to be overly complicated in terms of the devices used to tell the story.  It doesn’t make the show seem more clever, but rather treats the stories like Sherlock treats the Brides.  It doesn’t let the story speak for itself.

Lois Lane: Fallout

Lois Lane is one of the greatest lady characters in comics. Despite not having any super powers (most of the time, anyway), Lois has been giving Superman a run for his money since his debut in Action Comics #1. Even back in 1938, she was tough, career-minded reporter, who caught on to Clark Kent’s little secret a lot sooner than we tend to give her credit for. She had her own title that ran for nearly 20 years and 137 issues; even if it was called “Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane,” and mostly dealt with her romance with Superman, that’s a pretty good long run and a testimony to her popularity. She’s also appeared in every medium that Superman has – besides comics and animation that includes movies, tv shows, radio shows, newspaper strips and a Broadway musical!

Those "Superman's Girlfriend" plots were wacky as heck.

Those “Superman’s Girlfriend” plots were wacky as heck.

Lois at her best is smart, capable, and brave – a great role model for women and girls everywhere. But of course, she hasn’t always been written at her best, and like all characters who are approaching 80 years of continuity, she occasionally needs an update to make her relevant to the ladies of the current decade. In their latest effort to do just that, DC has teamed up with Switch Press to create a series of young adult novels – a series that firmly places Lois in the world of 2016.

Written by Gwenda Bond (whom I have loved since her early days as the agony aunt at Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet), the series follows Lois’ exploits as a modern teenager. The daughter of General Sam Lane, Lois has moved around a lot – but no matter where she is, trouble seems to find her. When the family settles permanently in Metropolis, that penchant causes problems, but also introduces her to her first real friends and attracts the attention of Perry White, who gives her a job writing for the Daily Planet’s teen off-shoot, “The Scoop.”

Also, these books are getting some great covers.

Also, these books are getting some great covers.

The first novel, Fallout, details all of this as Lois investigates a sinister group of gamers – a thoroughly modern problem for a thoroughly modern Lois. Bond’s take on Lois is a girl who’s smart and confident, albeit a bit of a blunt instrument. She’s not used to staying in one place for long and needs to learn what it means to trust other people and have them trust her. Much like the adult Lois we all know and love, she also has a sharp tongue that sometimes hurts people without her meaning it to. She’s also a terrible speller – lucky, then, that she lives in the age of spell check.

Fallout is fast-paced and easy to read, with a slightly sci-fi plot that acknowledges its comic book roots without being too over the top. I’d recommend it for young teens and older – while there’s nothing inappropriate for younger readers, I’m not sure they’d be interested in the adventures of high schoolers.

Also of note -Superman has only the faintest hint of a presence – as Lois’ closest confidante, a young man she met on a conspiracy theorist message board, whom she’s only ever spoken to online and knows only as “SmallvilleGuy.” They’ve got a  deep connection, but mostly he’s out of the way, leaving Lois blissfully taking center stage. “Superman’s Girlfriend,” she ain’t – this Lois belongs to herself.

Lois Lane is not amused by your antics.

Lois Lane is not amused by your antics.

The next book, Double Down, comes out in May, and I look forward to reading it. In the meantime, if you check out Fallout and get hooked, as I did, there are two short stories available for free on Amazon Prime, detailing some of Lois’ adventures before Metropolis.

A quick change of subject before you go – we’re hoping to start a new feature on the blog! The Fashion Raptors have been itching for something to do, so we’re giving them an advice column.  Send your questions, fashion-related or otherwise, to ladiesofcomicazi@gmail.com, or post them to our Facebook page. The raptors will answer them in the coming weeks!

Boston Comic Con 2015

These ladies know what they’re talking about.

3 Things: To Get You Through the Post-Holiday Blues

I’d like to start by congratulating us all on surviving the holidays.  That last stretch of December into January can be tough on the best of us, regardless of how much fun we may or may not have had during the holiday season.  Now that we’ve pretty much hit mid-January, most of us are back to our regular routines and buckling down to brave through what is often the worst part of the winter.

So other than waiting for the next exciting Ladies of Comicazi event, how are we supposed to beat the deep dark winter blues?  Well, perhaps I can share with you a few ideas.

1) LadyBaby 

Ever hear of Kawaii Metal?  Yeah, me neither until the other night when I had some friends over for sour beers and hot pot.  I don’t even know how to write about this because as soon as I saw their music video, I knew that I was going to be spending hours on the internet in an attempt to learn everything I could about this band.

I can’t watch this without a stupid smile on my face.  I don’t care for a moment that the band was pretty much created in 2015 by a costume company to sell their product.  Not only am I buying, but LadyBeard (I’m sure you can guess which one is LadyBeard) is just so darn committed.  Hailing from Australia, LadyBeard is an actor, model, and pro-wrestler.  While there are only 2 videos released on YouTube now, I’m sure this might just be the tip of the iceberg.  And frankly, if you are into wacky metal, there is quite a deep and twisting internet rabbit hole for you to explore.  Allow me to help by also pointing you in the direction of Nekrogoblikon.

2) Jem and the Holograms Comic – Kelly Thompson and Sophie Campbell

I can’t believe we haven’t written about this comic yet because in some ways it encapsulates a lot of what all the Ladies would like to see more of in other more mainstream titles – different body types, compelling characters, and diversity.

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While we are surrounded by constant reboots of properties from our childhood, Jem proves that it actually can be done well and with an incredible amount of style.  I realize that I am reduced to waxing poetic here, but perhaps the Hollywood film would have done better if it had been more comfortable embracing all the things that made the original Jem cartoon great.  You know, glamour and glitter, fashion and fame?  This comic has them in spades with a modern twist that I honestly feel can appeal to the older and newer Jem fan alike.  The first trade paperback was released in the fall, so you don’t even have to worry too much about trying to catch up.

3) Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox

Scott Bradlee’s projects get attention every now and again on sites that I frequent when he and his fellow musicians do covers of Saturday Morning Theme songs or feature Puddles Pity Party.  The fact of the matter is that while all these projects deserve your attention, Postmodern Jukebox (PMJ) deserves your dedicated following.  They continue to be able to take songs (both good and bad) and work their magic to re-imagine them into new (or should I say retro) musical styles.  What results is a song that is not only a great tribute to music eras past, but has also been elevated into something that is in some ways, timeless.  You can see/listen over 100 songs on PMJ’s YouTube playlist, but I am going to post one of their more dramatic transformations here:

I can’t tell you how many times I have just allowed PMJ to play in the background while I work, write blog posts, and even do chores around the house.  As someone who enjoys games like Bioshock and Fallout because I already know the words to the songs in the background, the retro feel is something that I find very appealing.  I’m not the only one who feels this way about their music as PMJ has been touring all over the world .

 

Are you already a fan of any of my “3Things” and want to encourage others to check it out too? Maybe you have a suggestion for a item or event to help us through the winter?  Share your suggestions and recommendations below!

 

 

Best of the Ladies 2015

The Ladies (me especially) are recovering from the holidays, so it’s a perfect time to revisit some of our most popular posts of 2015. Those of you who’ve been with us for a long time can look back at some old favorites, while you newer readers can catch up on some of our top posts that you might have missed. I’m selecting one post per Lady from the most visited posts of the past year, some published in 2015, and some older posts that remain evergreen favorites. Continue reading

Last Chance for Medieval Manor

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Building exterior. If you have driven on 93 South through Boston you probably recognize this. Photo credit: Boston Eater

After 43 years, a Boston dinner theater institution, Medieval Manor will be closing its doors; the last performance will be New Year’s Eve 2015.  Located in an area of the city that was previously pretty high crime, but now has a giant Whole Foods, it seems that interest in eating with your hands and bawdy/vaudevillian style entertainment has waned.  Also, you know, property costs have gone absolutely insane, so lots of people and places are being priced out of the area.

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TRM Finally Watches “The Flash” Season 1, Part 2 – Supervillains and Drama

Part one of my incredibly belated review of Season One of CW’s The Flash can be found here.  If you haven’t read it, go, and catch up with my thoughts, as I have not with the show. If you are even further behind than I am, read no further because I think the moratorium on spoilers is well over at this point.

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The Best Show You are Probably Not Watching: Crazy Ex Girlfriend

Do you remember about 5-ish years ago when everyone was sending around that music video about a woman who wanted to have carnal relations with Ray Bradbury?  For about two weeks, it continued to show up on blogs, twitter feeds and facebook pages. People were wondering who the sassy lady in the video was and those who were particularly enamored of her humor found themselves looking up her other music video and stand-up performances. Well, the name of that sassy lady is Rachel Bloom, and it turns out that someone gave her a TV show. And that makes me happy.

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Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (Mon, 8pm, on The CW) tells the story of Rebecca Bunch, a lawyer in NYC who spends all her time working. When faced with a major opportunity for promotion, rather than feeling happy, her anxiety gets the best of her and she flees the office only to have a chance run in with an ex-boyfriend she dated in summer camp when she was a teenager. She has a short conversation with him and then is inspired by the message on an advertisement for butter to leave her life in NY to follow her ex to West Covina, California (only 2 hours aways from the beach!). The show then follows her as she starts a job at a quirky new law firm filled with weirdos (some more lovable than others), makes new friends, and find herself torn between chasing after her ex,  Josh or exploring a relationship with handsome bartender Greg (played by Santino Fontana, the voice of Prince Hans in Frozen). Continue reading

Three Christmas Cartoons for Animation Nerds

The holiday season is here and it’s a great time for animation. Any TV channel with any kind of children’s or family program has a seemingly endless supply of animated specials old and new for viewers to enjoy. Animated specials often become part of our holiday traditions. We wrap presents, eat whatever traditional foods we enjoy, and watch the same specials we’ve been watching since we were kids.

But maybe you’re looking for a change of pace? Maybe you could use some fresh viewing material to accompany Rudolph and Charlie Brown? Perhaps something with a distinctive animation style? I’ve got you covered. Here are three Christmas specials that will delight you with new animated visuals and fresh (and familiar) tales of the season. Continue reading

Ladies of Comicazi Holiday Buyers Guide

If you are anything like me, you have not started your holiday shopping, nor are you even close to being emotionally ready to do so.  How do the holidays always manage to sneak up like that?  It seems impossible given that Xmas stuff was in the stores before Halloween…and yet, here we are, feeling a bit sweaty and queasy at the prospect of battling crowds, choosing the right gift, and getting it all done in time.  So, Kittens, let’s get back on track and break it down by some of the special people you may have in your life.

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