In the Spotlight, Under Flowers in Full Bloom

tonda girls

The intersection of personal relationships and the messy cocktail of talent, drive, and competition has become, increasingly, my narrative catnip. I love a good sports anime that is Actually about Human Connection All Along. Some of the most complex and painfully human character types come from these stories: the prodigy who doesn’t want glory as much as everyone wants them to want it, the relentless competitor who can’t work their way into born talent, or the people who define their entire worth by a grueling and fleeting achievement.These tensions have been explored wonderfully in shows like Ping Pong and AKB0048, and this past summer, Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight.

In Revue Starlight‘s Takarazuka-based performing arts school, the girls are not only training to be musical theater stars in their everyday lives, but competing in after-hours, surreal duels to choose their own “stage of destiny,” Yes, the director worked with Ikuhara. Fantastical elements aside, Starlight has moments of surprising bluntness regarding the ruthless and often unfair system that allows only certain actresses to set on a path to become a Top Star. I loved the arc of rivals and leading students Maya Tendou and Claudine Saijo, or the tragedy of Nana Daiba, a girl who rejects her potential to be a top star because she fears the isolation that her success at the expense of others’ failures would bring.

I’ve started a few drafts about Maya, Nana, and others, but I keep coming back to an episode of Revue Starlight that ultimately doesn’t have much to do with being a star, but being a good partner. The protagonist, Karen, is motivated by promise she made with her childhood friend, Hikari, but to me there is a far more compelling look at the weight of long relationships and promises in the duo of Kaoruko and Futaba.

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and, “Do I dare?”

peach

Call Me by Your Name only just reached the art house cinema in my hometown, where I’ve been visiting my parents. I’ve since seen it twice and cried both times. The adjectives frequently applied to it – sumptuous, sensual, rapturous – are all true. It’s an experience that transports you (or at least, me) out of the theater, and I spent its two-hour run nervous, turned on, submerged. It felt like falling in love. That is to say, the heady, sensory overdrive that makes every gesture, smell, and sound seem as if you’re on a different plane of experiencing. The film radiates the strange alchemy of infatuation, where by seeing and treasuring the mystery of another person, something as mundane as our own bodies and the spaces we take up can become transcendent. Timothée Chalamet’s self-conscious physicality as Elio is a revelation. It’s a film that will stick with me for a long time for many reasons, but it’s in no small part thanks to its most infamous scene.

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Franxx Talk

darling .jpg

I am a person with a lot of screeching and strident anime opinions, but when it comes to actually diving into hot button conversations on a season-to-season basis, I usually wimp out because conflict eats me. But there’s a new show, Darling in the Franxx, that I was compelled to bleed a lot of word viscera about because it’s being very blunt with themes of sexuality and sexual roles. It’s at an intersection of things I spend a lot of my time processing as a girl, a feminist, a sexual abuse survivor, a person with a blood fetish, the list goes on. I don’t think the world needs my take, but I haven’t really seen much discourse in the pro or con camp coming from a cool sexual trauma haver, so here it is.

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