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The Wakaba Girls, successors to Hokagou Tea Time

Source: K-On! Wiki


So what do you do when your little four-panel comedy manga gets picked up as an anime series and blows away all expectations, becoming a huge hit– even if that success has more to do with the anime studio than with your own talent?


…Well…


…You cash in, of course! Which is what the creator of K-On! attempted to do with K-On: College and K-On: High School. Spoiler alert: it didn’t really work, but you can’t blame the guy for trying. But what I’m really interested in here is the attempt, because I’ve found a lot of interesting applicability to my work on Suburban Jungle.


Adaptation Expansion


I won’t go quite as far as Digibro and say that “the K-On! manga suuuuuuucks” because I don’t think it does. I mean, everything in the manga is also in the anime. It’s just that the anime is also so much more. Reading the K-On! manga feels like an outline, or a very rough draft storyboard of the anime series.


To fault the manga for this is kinda pointless. K-On! the manga never professed to be anything more than what it was: a disposable four-panel comedy strip. Imagine if Zootopia was a licensed version of a Garfield-style comic, and you might see what I’m getting at.


To that end, I don’t envy the position Kakifly (the creator of K-On!) found himself in. The story of K-On! had a definite end, and there were only two real ways you could carry on: either you follow the older four off to college, or you stick with Azusa and do the next year of high school. I don’t know if he was unable to decide which, or he wanted to hedge his bets, or what, but he went with “do both,” running two different series simultaneously with alternating chapters… effectively dooming himself to not doing either one well.


More of the Same, But Differently


Of the two branches, the High School storyline works better, if only because the characterization is stronger. Azusa, Ui, and Jun were already established by the original series, and Nao is an interesting new addition in her own gothy way. Sumire… eh… the less said about Sumire the better. But the storyline, as far as it goes, focusing on Azusa’s quest to create her own Light Music Club rather than living in the shadow of the previous one, does at least have a spark.


The College storyline, by contrast, just falls flat. The only new character who makes an impression at all is Akira, the lead guitarist of “rival band” Only Girlz– but even she was clearly created to merge the roles of Yui’s caretaker and tsundere glomp-target into a single character. It’s as if Kakifly tossed Ui, Nodoka, and Azusa into a blender to create Akira… and then had no more ideas for the rest of the cast. As for storyline, there isn’t any to speak of beyond a vague “battle of the bands” one-sided rivalry on Akira’s part that even the members of Hokagou Tea Time barely even notice.


In short, the follow-up manga series disappoint for two major reasons: the first being that the manga was never as good as the anime in the first place, and the second being that the follow-ups needed to be more removed from the original series and allowed to be their own thing. (The fact that a big Yui/Azusa reunion moment keeps being hinted at, but never appears, doesn’t help either. I’m guessing this was being set up to be the highlight of some future chapter that never materialized.)


When You Come to the End, Stop


As I say, I don’t envy Kakifly’s position… because I was in a similar one myself. When I decided I wanted to return to The Suburban Jungle, there was a lot of pressure from people wanting me to just pick up where it left off and basically do more of the same, with variations. Some people wanted Leona to become the new star, some people wanted Drezzer, many people just wanted it to keep on going the way it had.


And Suburban Jungle was a mid-tier webcomic! I can’t imagine the kind of pressure I would have felt if it had been made into hugely successful TV series.


But at the same time, I have studied enough sequels, spin-offs, and reboots to know that just tacking on more chapters after “the end” just feels anti-climactic. It didn’t work for Babylon 5 (twice!), it didn’t work for M*A*S*H or Are You Being Served? or even The Three Musketeers and it wasn’t going to work for me.


That’s why I took such pains to separate Rough Housing from Starring Tiffany Tiger. There is some of that “combine characters from the previous cast to make a new character” thing going on… Charity, besides being the combination of Dover and Comfort one would expect from their child, also has elements of Tiffany, for instance. But it was important to me from the beginning that there not be any absolute corollaries, and not simply repeating the same story or gags with a different skin.


In the case of K-On!, my armchair advice would have been first to let a few years pass in the real world in order to gain some distance from the work, and then to have made a stronger break. If you absolutely wanted to continue with those five characters, which I think could have worked, then fast forward past college and reunite them as adults. My suggestion: make them the stars of a TV show about a band, a la The Monkees, and having to deal with wanting to be For Realz Serious Musicians in a world that just thinks of them as being a corporate cash-in. That could open whole new avenues of humor and would crank up the recurring theme from the original of serious musicianship vs. fluffling off in new and interesting ways. Just imagine Ritsu trying to manipulate studio execs, or Mio finding a website full of fanfiction about herself, for starters…


Dammit, now I want to develop this show. ¬.¬ Anybody got the phone number for Kyoto Animation?


-The Gneech


PS: There’s still more I have to say about K-On! and in particular what effect it’s had on how I think about and approach Suburban Jungle, but that will have to wait for another post. In the meantime, the rest of the series is here: Zen, Music, and So. Much. Tea. (My K-On! Obsession, Part One) and K-On! the Anime v. the Manga, Part One.

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The irony of "we didn't make enough money therefore we have a huge tax bill" makes me bang my head on the desk. And again, we've got the savings to cover it (in the form of retirement funds burning up), but we have reached the point where being unemployed has ceased to be a nuisance and become a serious problem. I have until now been concentrating my efforts on finding a job out in CA to facilitate going out there, but at this point, I don't feel like I can afford that luxury any more.

Not that there have been a whole lot of job prospects around here either; the election of Lord Dampnut has been a huge blow to most of the major job sectors around here except Murder Incorporated, and I'm not interested in joining that particular industry.

However, I am now opening my long-term job search up to other cities that have some appeal but were previously not under consideration, such as Richmond, Pittsburgh, and Boston. In the shorter term, I am going to spend the upcoming week hunting down and connecting to temp agencies, something which has had mixed results in the past– but mixed results are better than no results at all.

I'm frustrated and disgusted by the whole thing. What started out as feeling like life was taking unwanted turns some years ago, now feels like the wheels have completely come off and I'm just watching the wreck in slow motion. But there's no readily visible course of action to take to fix it, and honestly, there are no decisions made in the past I could point to that could have prevented it, either. The choices we made all along were the best ones with the information available to us at the time. So there aren't even lessons to be learned about it. There's just keeping calm and dragging on.

Drag, drag, drag.

-The Gneech
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In the my first post about K-On!, I mentioned that the anime series was considerably stronger than the manga, and that it is something I do intend to post about in the not-too-distant future.


In the meantime, however, YouTuber and anime-critic-at-large Digibro has posted a video on this very topic. Digibro and I are on the same page about a lot of things in re: K-On!, and I think he covers a lot of ground here. So if you’re interested in my K-On! obsession (and why wouldn’t anyone be?), it’s worth a watch.



My own particular thoughts on the topic have more to do with the followup series (K-On: College and K-On: High School) than with the manga-to-anime journey itself, so that’s what I’ll be concentrating on my own post, when the time comes.


-The Gneech

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AnthroCon of Their Own movie parody poster


A fun little piece I submitted to the AnthroCon 2017 conbook to fit the theme “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” There’s a lot more going on in the “League of Their Own” movie poster than first meets the eye. O.o


-The Gneech

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Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Gadzookery

Definition


(British) the use of archaisms (as in a historical novel)

Examples


"Several other stories and verses that they jointly contributed to magazines are historical and melodramatic in tone, larded with archaic oaths and exclamations and general gadzookery." — Julia Briggs, A Woman of Passion: The Life of E. Nesbit, 1987
"Her spare prose and dialogue give a period flavour without the dread excesses of gadzookery." — David Langford, The Complete Critical Assembly, 2002

(read more)
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Today: 290.0 lbs
down 29.5 lbs from my highest weight of 319.5 on November 25, 2016
down 29 lbs from my starting weight of 319 on July 1, 2014 (140 weeks)
average lost: 0.21 lbs/week
next milestone: 287 lbs (10% loss)

Grind, grind, grind.

-TG
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From left to right: Mugi, Azusa, Ritsu, Mio, and Yui

Source: K-On! Wiki


So those who pay attention to such things have probably noticed by now that I’ve been rambling from time to time on Twitter et al. about K-On!, which started as a four-panel manga comic in 2007 and was adapted to an anime in 2010, eventually gaining a total of 39 episodes and a feature film. K-On! sat in my “Anime To Be Watched” bucket list for some time and I finally found it streamable on Hulu.


I devoured it over the course of a few weeks and, like Cardcaptor Sakura and Love Hina before it, it has already started to have a huge impact on my own work. On the strength of the anime I also tracked down and read the manga, which in many ways turned out to be a mistake… but I will get to that in another post.


The premise of K-On! is simple enough: it is a silly comedy, following the daily activities and school career of a Japanese high school “light music” club. The series begins with the club’s founding, and ends when the girls graduate, and spends a lot of time watching the girls joke around and be silly goofs. Like Seinfeld‘s famously being “about nothing,” there are no major dramas and nothing “exciting” ever happens. This leads to the show’s most common criticism, that it’s nothing more than “cute girls doing cute things.”


But looks can be deceiving.


In case it isn’t obvious, there will be spoilers for K-On! ahead, in as much as you can spoil something that doesn’t exactly have plot twists. It does have surprises, of course– that’s how comedy works.


Season One, Part One: Yui


The structure of the series basically breaks down into five pieces, which are simply enough: season one (parts one and two), season two (parts one and two), and the movie. Each one builds on the one before, and there is actually a story arc that connects them all, but it’s subtle and made of dozens of small blocks, rather than the more typical major plot points.


Season one part one focuses on Yui, the viewpoint character through most of the series. She is aimless and dreamy, having spent her life drifting in a kind of fog, only able to survive everyday life because she keeps being adopted by protectors such as her little sister Ui and her friend Nodoka. Yui is sweet-natured and playful, and is an archetypal savant, capable of doing incredible things once she sets herself to it, but in order to learn a skill, she has to forget some other skill to “make room” for it.


Yui wanders into the K-On (or “light music”) Club thinking that it will be like her elementary school music class, where she can just clap castanets and be told she’s doing a great job by the teacher, and is more than a little dismayed to discover that they expect her to actually do things like sing in public and play a real instrument. She immediately decides to quit.


On the other hand, the rest of the club members have a big problem: the club must have at least four members, or the school will disband it. It’s only by the sheer force of club president Ritsu’s personality compelling the other two current members to join that it has as many as it does. In order to save the club, Ritsu and the others pull out all the stops to convince Yui to stay, first by playing a concert for her, then promising to teach her to play the guitar, and then by finally all going out and getting part time jobs to actually buy Yui a guitar, as she can’t afford one on just her allowance. This gesture moves Yui so much that she vows to learn to play the guitar no matter what it takes, to honor what they’ve done for her and so the four of them can stay together and play as a band.


The remainder of the first half of the first season is spent fleshing out the supporting cast and establishing the characters of the club itself. The focus here is on episodic comedy, and it’s really good comedy, whether it’s the Mutt-and-Jeff banter of mischievous Ritsu versus straight-laced Mio, Yui’s airheadedness, or the “What planet are you from???” humor of rich girl Mugi and the club’s faculty sponsor and resident cosplay-fanatic Sawako. At this point in K-On!, the laughs come fast and frequent… and this quietly sneaks you into caring about the girls and their daily travails, as well as seeing their friendships form and strengthen. The K-On club spends precious little time actually working on their music, tending to drink tea and eat cake more than anything else, but they all love spending time in each other’s company, and somehow manage to pull it together when performance time actually comes.


Season One, Part Two: Azunyan


As funny as the opening episodes are, the show really doesn’t become “about” anything until midway through the first season, with the appearance of Azusa. In the story, a year has passed by this point and for Yui, Ritsu, Mio, and Mugi, it’s the beginning of their second year. Hokagou (“After School”) Tea-Time, the official name for their band, is playing at the reception to welcome new freshmen to the school, and there they are seen by Azusa, a freshman guitarist who is immediately mesmerized by the chemistry and unity of the band.


Azusa quickly signs up to join the K-On club, much to the joy of all but especially Yui, who has never had someone look up to her before and goes off into her own dreamworld at being called “Yui-sempai.” At first the upperclassmen fawn over how girlish and cute Azusa seems, to the point of putting her in cat ears and treating her like a kitten. Instead of calling her “Azusa-chan,” as would be more typical, Yui dubs her Azunyan (or “Azu-meow” in the English version), a name that will stick.


This dynamic is almost immediately turned on its head, however, when the rest of the girls discover that not only is Azusa a much better guitar player than Yui, but is actually a more skilled musician than just about any of them and takes her music very, very seriously– to the point where she yells at her upperclassmen for their blasé attitude and storms out. She does eventually return, but it’s clear that the event has had a deep impact on the other four, making them take their music more seriously, but also making them realize how important the club is to all of them.


Azunyan, for her own part, comes to realize that there’s more to making music than the technical skills involved. What made the Hokagou Tea Time concert that blew her mind so enthralling, wasn’t how well each member of the band played their individual instrument, but how well the four of them blended together to become something larger than the sum of their parts, and it’s that connection that she has been searching for up to now. Even though the K-On club is in many ways a group of 4+1 rather than a group of five (something that will become even more important in the second season), Azunyan is still an important member of the group, a thumb to their four fingers.


The remainder of the first season (which is actually quite short) is in some ways a do-over of the first half, only now exploring the dynamics of the “new, improved” K-On club and ironing out rough spots, such as the back-and-forth between Ritsu and Mio and how their own culture of two fit together, and how aimless airhead Yui of the first episode has morphed into the focused and energetic (if still an airhead) Yui of the season finale.


Season Two, Part One: The Golden Age


The entirety of season two, which actually has twice as many episodes as season one, takes place over the course of the four upperclassmen’s senior year, and that countdown to graduation informs the entire season. The first episode of the season opens with Yui, no longer floating in a mental bubble, instead zooming to school on the first day of the year, running up to the music room, and rocking out on her guitar in a routine she’s clearly been practicing for some time while she waits for the rest of her friends to arrive.


With the beginning of the school year, the club again turns its efforts towards recruitment, not only because that’s just what you do at the beginning of the school year, but because when the original four graduate, that will leave Azunyan completely alone. It’s a muted note at first, but it is also the moment when the girls first realize that before long, there will be no more After-School Tea Time, both figuratively in the name of the band, and literally, because they will graduate and scatter and not be there to drink tea together.


Their recruitment efforts fail, with the suggested reason being that because the girls already seem to be such a tightly-knit group, that none of the freshmen want to join because they’d feel like they were intruding. In an usually level-headed speech, Yui tells the other three upperclassmen that she actually prefers it this way, wanting to enjoy the time of being just the five friends while they can; Azunyan overhears this, and realizing how important her club-mates have become to her, agrees, deciding to let the future of the club resolve itself… in the future. Yui does insist on at least a gesture of giving Azusa a “new recruit” of her own to look after… in the form of the pet turtle Ton-chan. It’s not quite the same as new members, but it’s the only way Yui has to make sure Azunyan won’t be alone.


The next several episodes of the series then very deliberately stop talking about it. That isn’t to say that the subject isn’t there, but the girls, and by extension the show, all make a point of being “in the moment,” whether the moment is a Christmas party, or a school trip to Kyoto, or several rainy days and Yui’s various attempts to keep her guitar from getting ruined by the weather. The four upperclassmen, sharing the same class, become more and more of a unit by their shared experiences, while Azusa begins to form her own connections with other girls in her class (notably Yui’s younger sister Ui, and their mutual friend Jun). But the older girls and Azusa keep making a point to come together, by phone call or text message if they have to, even if those calls or texts are random and out-of-context inside jokes sent by Yui. The older girls think of Azusa as being one of them, regardless of circumstances keeping them apart, and they are always eager to bring the group back together.


Season Two, Part Two: Thank You and Farewell


Structurally, K-On! goes a little wonky here, which seems to be an artifact of the manga/anime production process more than anything. It’s fairly typical for an anime adaptation to run while the manga is still in publication, and since anime comes out much faster, it’s quite common for the manga to run out of story long before the anime does. (Love Hina went through this as well, as have who-knows-how-many other stories.)


Thus, the final half of season two seems to have been written mostly by the animation studio, rather than being adaptations of the manga. The last point where there is clear overlap is the class play, where Ritsu and Mio are roped into playing Romeo and Juliet much against their will. From there, the anime production studio start pointing squarely at the final school festival and the older girls’ graduation, while the manga continues being more-or-less serial gags.


In the latter half of season two, as graduation looms, all five of the main characters have to face and cope with what is a metaphorical death. Having spent so much of the past two or three years respectively being defined by their connection to the K-On club, they have to figure out what their lives will mean without it. The older four girls therefore resolve to all get accepted to the same college– something highly unlikely given their very different social strata and academic achievement levels. As a band, they will play together one last time at the school festival, an echo of the festival that first brought Azunyan into their fold. But no matter what happens, even if the upperclassmen somehow manage to achieve their goal of landing the same college, there is no way to stay as five. The upperclassmen will graduate, and Azunyan will be left behind. That much is unavoidable. And so they have to find somehow to say farewell.


It’s hard to discuss the ending of the series without a) giving away spoilers, and b) getting all emotional. Somewhere along the line the comedy of the show, while still ever-present, has backed off a little and the emotional content has become the driving force, and by the time that becomes clear the viewer is left to wonder when that actually happened, because it was so subtle and by degrees. There’s never a “it was comedy, now it is drama” moment, but there is a definite moment when you realize the warm and endearing K-On! you’re watching at the end, is not the same pure goofiness you were watching when it started.


The true emotional climax of the series, the festival concert, is quite powerful. All of the understated realization of the clubs’ approaching end is finally brought into the foreground. It’s an intense and moving episode… which then weirdly leaves something like five more episodes to go. This is the structural wonkiness I was referring to before. There are still important emotional beats, as the girls’ college future is decided, and they give Azunyan her farewell gift, but as important as they are, none of these hit with the same force as the festival concert episode. It’s not unlike Peter Jackson’s film version of Return of the King, which feels like it ends three times before the credits finally roll.


This problem could have probably been addressed by tighter planning in the series planning stage, but knowing how working on serial entertainment of any kind is, on top of what little I have actually learned about the anime industry, I’m not terribly surprised it ended up the way it did. And really it’s not that big of a flaw, but it is the first real gaffe of the entire series in my opinion. (The other major gaffes of the series, in my opinion, happen in the movie.)


And then… the series ends. Yui, Ritsu, Mio, and Mugi graduate, give Azunyan a farewell concert and song with her as both subject and sole audience member, and head off to new adventures in the future. Azusa becomes the new club president, with Ui and Jun as her first recruits, to carry on the club next year. The members of Hokagou Tea Time will never stop being friends, and never stop loving each other, but life must carry on in separate ways.


Encore: K-On! The Movie


The K-On! movie is kind of a weird duck. It is set during the same time frame as the latter half of the second season, and focuses on the K-On club all taking a pre-graduation trip together to England. Although it goes into more detail about the composition of the farewell song Yui writes for Azunyan, there is little actual new story. It is instead mostly a retelling of the end of the series with a slightly different focus, with quick cameos of every supporting character, recurring gag, or visual motif of the series crammed into an hour and a half.


The one new thing the movie does bring to K-On, which has until now been almost completely nonexistent… is puberty. Which brings me to the topic of shipping.


When Yuri Met Moe


So. About K-On! and shipping. Well.


I mean, it’s there… kinda? But it’s also mostly not. Sort of.


It’s hard to discuss. I mean, Ritsu and Mio are pretty much platonic life partners from childhood, to the point where they are literally shipped by their own classmates, who strongarm them into playing the roles of Romeo and Juliet for the class play. Despite the views of a thousand fanfics, the two of them don’t seem to actually be romantically inclined and are both less-than-thrilled at the prospect of being treated as if they are or forced to act as if they are, but that’s a damn shame because the two of them are so perfect for each other. Neither one will ever be as happy with a husband as they would both be just staying together as spinsters for the rest of their lives.


Then there’s Mugi, who clearly sees the world through yuri goggles (even more explicitly so in the manga than in the anime), gets all shippy when Sawako-sensei so much as puts her hand on someone’s shoulder, and kinda squicks the rest of the club by rambling about “how nice it is when it’s just girls.” But that, beyond Yui’s never-ending glompage of Azunyan, is as far as the series goes. Yui is established early on as wanting to hug anything cute (such as every dog she ever meets on the street), and so her glomping on Azunyan easily falls into the realm of “more of the same.” Yui thinks of Azusa as an adorable kitten from the minute she first walks through the club door and never stops thinking of her that way.


How Azusa feels about it, on the other hand, is harder to make out. Being the archetypal tsundere kohai catgirl, of course she objects to any form of PDA… and Yui is the club queen of inappropriate PDAs… but Azusa also is very clearly eager to hear from and spend time with her sempais, and spends a lot of time connecting with Yui in particular as time goes on. (Early on, most notably in the manga, Azusa seems to crush on Mio, the same way half the school crushes on Mio. I think this may be a cultural thing, or possibly indicative of the manga writer’s own preferences… Mio, after all, is the only member of Hokagou Tea Time to have a fan club, the show has a strange fascination with putting Mio into maid outfits, and so on.)


Without having shipping goggles on, it’s hard to read more than the weird pressure-cooker of being a teenager into the ship-teases in the series. But then the movie comes along and, basically… Azusa puts on her shipping goggles. Yui spends most of the movie trying to come up with lyrics for the band’s farewell song to Azusa; at one point, Azusa catches a glimpse of Yui’s notebook which has the words “Azusa” and “love” on the same page, jumps to the conclusion that Yui is crushing on her, and she spends the middle part of the movie in an extended freakout.


From the standpoint of “that kind of thing happens in real life,” well, yes it does. I’ve been in those “Do they or don’t they?” extended freakouts myself and Azunyan’s thoughts and behavior were very relatable.


However, from the standpoint of “is this a good story for K-On!“… I’m not so sure. To be quite honest, it feels more like a fanfic than an actual K-On! story. The main series, up until the last graduation arc, is characterized by its light and fluffy, almost-all-jokes-all-the-time approach. The only time anything in the series comes close to touching on romance is in a bonus episode when Ritsu thinks she’s received a love letter and broods about it, only to discover it was actually just song lyrics from Mio the whole time. To delve into shipping, comes across as just putting in what the writers assume the audience expects this kind of show to contain, while missing what K-On! is actually about.


So What IS It Actually About, If You’re So Smart?


K-On! is a thesis on zen, cleverly disguised as a moeblob slice-of-life– the same way Groundhog Day is a buddhist parable disguised as a romantic comedy.


Despite the surface gloss of being cute and silly antics of some hyper and ditzy high school girls, K-On! is really about being engaged in the moment. Yui begins the series floating along detached from everything, and doesn’t really come alive until something catches her and makes her want to engage. Ritsu goes off on silly imaginary adventures in her head for fun, and has her own mini-crisis when she wants to forsake her drums for something that will bring her more attention… but then when she stops, digs in, and actually experiences the moment, she becomes inspired to take them up again. The majority of the second season is a study in “Let’s enjoy the now, because soon it will be gone!”


This is why “nothing happens.” Because the show is not about things happening. It’s about these characters going through various experiences and how it shapes them. Super-focused Yui, rocking out during the first moments of the second season premiere, is in a perfect moment of zen, where her sense of self and all the worldly distractions are released, and only the truth of the moment remains.


This is why shipping particularly is a misguided addition. Because what is shipping, besides attachment? That yuri feeling of longing, that rambling obsession with what could be, what might be, what ones wishes were true, these are not what is. Yui and Azusa’s awkward, embarrassing, and largely one-sided confrontation doesn’t lead to any kind of enlightenment on the subject, either. Azusa’s illusions collapse in on themselves, but she doesn’t learn anything from it… and Yui barely even registers what happened.


Granted, I’m prone to wearing shipping goggles. Heck, I ship my own characters. ¬.¬ So naturally this part of the movie had me intensely interested while it was happening, but even then I felt like it was off and would probably have been left unsatisfied by anything they did with it, due to this “it’s not what the show is about” issue. But it also broke the cardinal rule of comedy by not being funny. So what seems to have been largely intended as the centerpiece of the movie just doesn’t work, and it undercuts the payoff of seeing the “upperclassmen sing to Azusa” episode repeated in high res at the movie’s end.


All of that said, the movie is still beautiful to look at and does remind you of all the warm and fuzzy feelings the series generated in the first place, so to that extent it does the job. But I would definitely say that K-On! The Movie is something that only has appeal to people who already love (and have watched) the anime series in the first place.


And Still More Blather to Come…


This post is already way longer than anyone is likely to read– so if you have read to this point, you have my amazed gratitude! I have more to say about the topic, in particular going into the manga, the differences, and the attempts at sequel/continuations, but also about how the show has impacted the way I look at and approach Suburban Jungle, but I think I’d better put all that stuff in another post… later. Until then, I invite you to check out the video below, on how the animation brings the characters of K-On! to life.


-The Gneech


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Happy birthday, [profile] smrgol_t_kirin!

-TG
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[personal profile] sirfox called me late last night with the news of Albert Temple's passing, although there had been people noting his absence on LiveJournal and elsewhere for days with concern.

To summarize what I've said elsewhere:

Ryan Dewalt reports on FurAffinity that Albert Temple, creator of the long-running and popular furry webcomic Gene Catlow, has passed away at 59 due to natural causes.

Gene Catlow began in 2000 and covered a wide variety of topics including race ("species") relations, tech humor, and Albert's particular humble and loving approach to the world.

Albert's messages of love, tolerance, and good humor in the face of adversity will be sorely missed.


One of the kindest people I ever met, with a wit that was quick but never cruel. Very grateful for the chance to have known him. In the flurry of Twitter messages that went by this morning I saw someone describe him as "the Fred Rogers of furry," and it really does suit him.

Albert and I were not close, but he was the kind of person who made you feel like you were good friends just be being in the same room, and I like to think that if we'd been in the same circles more often we would have been.

Godspeed, sir, and hoping we'll see you again.

-The Gneech
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They do what they wants.

-The Gneech
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Today: 290.1 lbs
down 29.4 lbs from my highest weight of 319.5 on November 25, 2016
down 28.9 lbs from my starting weight of 319 on July 1, 2014 (139 weeks)
average lost: 0.21 lbs/week
next milestone: 287 lbs (10% loss)

Normally I'm pretty dubious of the "didn't lose weight 'cos building muscle" thing, but I'm pretty sure last week that was actually the case. I added some more rigorous muscle-building routines into my workouts (including carrying weights while doing what is otherwise mostly cardio), and I can tell the difference it's made.

That said, I miss my Bowflex. I want to do some more serious weight lifting again soon.

-TG
the_gneech: (Default)
I've talked before about my flummoxation with the old saw of "sex sells," and its corollary, "what isn't sex, doesn't sell."

I don't get it. And there are many aspects of it I don't get.

I mean, I understand why sex might sell; I've bought comics myself because of the sex appeal of a particular character or story, but it's such a small sliver on the pie chart of what's interesting in life. In a world full of amazing wonders, exciting possibilities, and the vast spectrum of love, hate, and human relationships, why does the career arc of so many comics artists and/or furry artists follow the same pattern of, "Draws some stuff, doesn't get noticed, draws sex stuff, interest explodes, ends up drawing the same piece of porn over and over again forever because why bother doing anything else?"

Heck, I've seen it in my own work. I know how to push fandom buttons. I can predict with a fair amount of certainty which pics or pages will get a big response, based on sex content. And... just... enh. -.-

The part that baffles me the most, tho, is... are people buying the same porn pic over and over? Why would you do that? What could you possibly get out of the same thing drawn again? They must be, for sales to sustain in that quantum level of difference. I suppose maybe it's like hearing a remix of a favorite song... but even I can't stand hearing four different versions of Ghostbusters in a row.

How does a steady diet of the same damn porn pic over and over not get monotonous AF?

What prompted this particular rant was a trip to Barnes & Noble yesterday. I was looking through the manga section and came upon a title I forget now, which had an bait-and-switchy eye-catch cover of a genki girl in some action pose... who turned out to be a very minor character in a drama comic full of people in school uniforms standing around. Very clearly, somebody in the marketing department, following the principle of "sex sells, and what isn't sex, doesn't sell," decided a drama comic about people in school uniforms standing around couldn't possibly be of interest, so put this gal on the cover. But doing this leads to the worst of both worlds– people looking for genki girls in action poses aren't gonna buy the book after picking it up, and people looking for teenage angst aren't going to know that this is the book for them.

That's not all of it, tho. An artist whom I used to love like crazy, I have had to pretty much stop following, because over the years everything I used to love them for (great artistic composition, interesting character dynamics, a clever sense of humor) have fallen away one by one, to be replaced by the service of a singular particular fetish. In short, their work has become monotonous AF. Artists gotta follow their muse, so I'm not going to call them out on it or anything like that. But as a fan of the artist-they-were, I can't help but resent they've evolved into this one-trick doppleganger of someone whose work used to mean so much to me.

There's a whole other rant about the male gaze aspect of "sex sells," but I should probably stop while I can still form coherent sentences. In the broader culture, this is a topic full of misogyny, but even in the super-gay world of furry art, where the males are gazing at other males, it's still there, and still annoying. But that's a rant for another day.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Default)
Today is Gamemaster Day!

It's also [personal profile] sirfox's birthday!

Celebrate the occasion by casting magic missiles at tentacled horrors.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Default)
I spent the morning grinding my gears on this stupid question of the test in SF, and eventually looked at it this way:

BEST CASE SCENARIO: I ace the test, they call me to fly out to SF again in a couple of weeks for interview, and if I get hired we start frantically moving, for a civil service job which while it would pay the bills is unlikely to be exactly thrilling or remunerative in one of the top three highest-rent places on the meta-flipping PLANET, causing me to probably be job hunting again in six months.

WORST CASE SCENARIO: I run up more debt on the credit card, don't get the job, have to cope with another discouraging rejection, and am still grinding away on the job hunt.

DETERMINING FACTORS: Who knows? I might be their star candidate and the test is a formality, they're just not allowed to say so. Or like I said before, they might have a chosen candidate already and are just forced to go through the "we tested other candidates" dance. Without at least having a phone interview first, I'm going in completely blind.

So all of it was a roll of the dice, and historically, dice are not kind to me. It's a recurring joke in my gaming circles, actually, that I create these crazy twinked-out powergaming characters, only to be constantly foiled by my inability roll higher than 33% of the desired result. I've long ago given up betting on anything but the most stacked-in-my-favor odds, and even then I prefer the sure thing if it's available.

But the worst part of it all, honestly, was the feeling of desperation. Being so set on the idea of some job, any job, out in CA, that I'd be willing to hop on a plane blind to the outcome, is just inviting the bad wolf to come and bite me in the neck. So I e-mailed the job contact asking if they had any options for remote testing. She replied that they didn't, so I thanked her for the opportunity and withdrew my application.

She said, "I'm sorry to hear this," which is the most information I've received about it one way or the other, but I also note that she's not sorry enough to try to change my mind, either. And I also didn't get the information until it was too late for it to be useful, so... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Identifying that feeling of desperation was the clinching factor me, tho. Frankly? I'm tired of chasing things. Whether it's a job, or a book sale, or trying to get someone I like to hang out with me, whatever it is. The never-ending pursuit of ______, sometimes to the point of going down crazy mental rabbit-holes, has got to stop.

Universe, you can start chasing me, instead.

I still want to go to California, but I'm not going to tie myself into knots to do it. I'm going to keep applying to jobs that will get me there in style, but I'm not going to enslave myself to the idea in the meantime. If it's just a matter of paying the bills, I can find work around here (or work that does not require an office at all) that will do that in the meantime.

It's kinda what I was getting at a while back about "How would California Gneech actually be different?" There's no point in setting myself up to be living a life of quiet desperation on the left coast instead of the right coast. At the end of the day, the externalities of where I am have less to do with my development and state of mind than the internalities of who I am. Until I can find and maintain my own core without worrying about what's going on around me, moving to California is like changing the cosmic desktop wallpaper. It is prettier, but it doesn't actually make things better.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Default)
UPDATE: Nope.

The job hunt carries on apace, and a new wrinkle has come up. One of the jobs I applied for, a PR post with the city of San Francisco, wrote back yesterday with "You're qualified! Your written test is in two weeks, at the testing facility on Cesar Chavez St, noon." To which I replied, "Well that's novel."

The possibility of going to SF for interviews or whatnot has come up a couple of times during the job hunt, but usually it was something reserved for "round three" of the interview process. Having it be step one, coming before even an interview, was not something that had occurred to me.

The test in question is "a core written test designed to measure knowledge, skills and/or abilities in job-related areas which may include but are not limited to: knowledge of basic principles and practices of public information, analytical ability, organizational ability, human relations ability, and written communication ability." I can do some cramming on public information and human relations practices, but the rest is native skill. I have no doubt I can do the job, but with limited directly-relevant experience, I'll need to knock the test out of the park to actually get the job.

My only real hesitation about the whole thing is the expense involved in just buggering off to the other side of the country for a day to take a test. Civil service jobs have been known to be posted when they have a candidate in mind already but are required by regulations to at least go through the motions of looking at other applicants, and it would kinda suck to spend 10 hours on a plane and pay for the privilege if someone was yanking my chain. On the other hand, I have no evidence suggesting that's the case here, and what was the point in applying for the job if I wasn't willing to pursue it?

On the plus side, lunch in San Francisco. ;) So, that'd be cool. If any other prospects open up between now and then, I can also use "I'll be in town in two weeks and available for interviewing" as a strategy.

So. SAN FRANCISCO! I WILL SOON BE IN YOU! FOR A BIT.


-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Default)
Today: 293.1 lbs
down 26.4 lbs from my highest weight of 319.5 on November 25, 2016
down 25.9 lbs from my starting weight of 319 on July 1, 2014 (138 weeks)
average lost: 0.19 lbs/week
next milestone: 287 lbs (10% loss)

...It's a little soon to be in a plateau, isn't it?

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Default)
The devs working on my life have apparently gotten stuck on what's supposed to happen next, because I've been stuck grinding this same level for a year now.

It wouldn't be entirely accurate to say that no progress is being made: I'll soon have another issue of the comic out the door, and a new project officially launches on Monday. I am back down below 300 lbs and continuing to improve on that front. But the "waiting for _______ to get here" theme that has been a defining element of my life for way too much forever, is still there, and I am honestly pretty sick of it.

After conferring with all affected parties, California is waiting on the appearance of a job. To that end, I've been sending off applications, an average of 4-6 a week, and I have had some interviews, but the net result keeps being "We want someone with more formal experience." A story that I had thought was sold came back when the anthology it was sold to got cancelled; I immediately sent it off to another another anthology, but it was declined. I have received polite no-thank-you's from almost all the agents I sent the Sky Pirates book to, and the remaining ones I don't expect to hear from, meaning that to carry that any further, I'm going to have to go back to square one and find a whole new batch of agents to send it to... or write another book.

In LoA circles, the general advice is to act as if you've already got what you want, and life will arrange itself accordingly. So I've been trying to figure out: okay, if I could snap my fingers and just have the life I wanted today, what would actually be different? How would Fully Actualized Gneech in California look and act differently from Grinding Gneech in Maryland? What is it that I picture being different?

Unfortunately, the answer all seems to be in externalities. Sunnier days, being closer to the beach and being more active outside generally, more of my friends in one localized area, that kind of thing. But when I think about what's actually bugging me right now, it's mostly concerns about finances, worry about the piss-poor state of the country and the broken climate, and feeling isolated. The finances and the isolation I could theoretically fix here by finding a local job (and/or selling some friggin' books) and using Meetup.com to find some clubs or a gaming group or something. The country and the climate are larger, long-term problems that are going to be problems anywhere. I have been avoiding digging in locally because I don't want to have to dig back out whenever the theoretical California job appears... but that leaves me floating in limbo.

Honestly, if I could get around the money problem, the rest would fall naturally into place. Drawing comics and writing books are things I naturally do, those are my "vocation." Turning them into a source of comfortable income is the place where I always run into trouble. It was fine when [personal profile] laurie_robey was bringing in sufficient income for the both of us, but that isn't the case any more and we have to deal with that.

I think I need to go back and do a refresher on what I actually want my life to be like, the proverbial "ideal day" exercise, and do a little compare/contrast to figure out how it's different from my actual not-so-ideal life and why. Then I can refocus on concrete ways to move from the one, to the other.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Default)
From the Metaquotes LiveJournal Community...

"Why are you writing to your elected representative instead of seeking to overthrow a foreign government from your living room" is a question that I feel answers itself.


-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Default)
Today: 293.1 lbs
down 26.4 lbs from my highest weight of 319.5 on November 25, 2016
down 25.9 lbs from my starting weight of 319 on July 1, 2014 (137 weeks)
average lost: 0.19 lbs/week
next milestone: 287 lbs (10% loss)

Reversed last week's blip up, but only a very slight nudge down from the week before it. It's been very hard to stay within points and get myself to work out this past week, opting mostly for walking instead. Will try to pick up the slack a bit this week.

-TG

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