The Little Prince

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Artwork of one of my favorite books, “The Little Prince”, made for Book Week Exhibition at my school.

Watercolour and ink on paper.

17/3/2019

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Movie Review: Captain Marvel (Spoiler-Free!)

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After the exhilarating and hard-hitting ride that was last years’ Avengers: Infinity War, fans and non-fans alike were left with several theories and questions in regards to the film and its successor (coming out this April) left unanswered, one of which being: “Who was that person that Fury paged during the end credits sequence?” Of course, die-hard fans of Marvel would recognize the logo on the pager as belonging to no other than Captain Marvel, who has now received her own stand-alone movie as of right now, becoming the first film in the MCU with a lead female character.

I feel that I can’t reveal too much of the actual plot without going into spoiler territory, so lets keep it as brief as possible – the film follows Vers (Brie Larson), a noble warrior from the planet Hala, which is in the middle of a galactic-scale conflict. However, during a mission, Vers is ambushed and brought to mid-90s Earth, where she meets the younger Nick Fury and embarks on a new kind of mission: bridging the gap between her lost memories.

With the plot out of the way, how does the actual movie hold up? Let’s begin with the good stuff: Brie Larson is certainly no stranger to acting, and she did a pretty great job despite what she was given to work with – more on that later. As always, Marvel takes their visual/digital effects and CGI up to eleven in every film they make; this one is no exception either. Most of the character interactions are definitely enjoyable to watch, be it Fury and Vers talking like they’re in an 80s buddy-cop movie or Fury’s normally no-nonsense  composure turning to mush when he meets Goose the cat. Moreover, if you’ve read my Black Panther review, you know I consider many ‘origin story’ films (not specifically Marvel) to be  quite formulaic and cookie-cutter. However, this one decides to mix the recipe up a little bit and as a result, there are a few interesting plot twists to be seen – although I can’t tell you about them!

Nonetheless, there are several aspects of this movie that I found to be lacking, so I must go over the flaws in the system. First, despite Larson’s performance, Vers isn’t all too compelling a character, and she generally feels like she’s just there to keep the plot moving along. To add to that, the movie as a whole never really made me feel anything, which is a shame, because a character of her caliber and importance has as much potential for an emotional core as any other MCU character does. My last point is about the whole movie in general, and it is that this Marvel movie is one that was (mostly) made out of necessity, not necessarily because they were passionate about this character or story and felt the need to share it. I felt that this here film was only released to fulfill one purpose, which is to introduce a character that will (seemingly) be important in the second part of their biggest hit yet, and that without this purpose it would simply have never been released.

In conclusion, despite the flaws I mentioned above, Captain Marvel is an overall entertaining experience which, although could use some polishing, shines just enough to be a somewhat fun and lively distraction from life.

Final score: 6/10

Analysis: 9 Things Final Fantasy IX Taught Me

FFIX-Featured-Image.jpgReleased by Squaresoft (now more widely known as yours truly, Square Enix) in the year 2000, Final Fantasy IX is the ninth installment in the mainline Final Fantasy series, and is, as of right now, one of the most critically acclaimed games in the entire franchise. Praised for  its creative graphics, nostalgic elements, easy-to-learn battle system, and unique characters, the game is nothing short of an engaging experience for all ages and backgrounds. Nevertheless… what is a Final Fantasy game without its moral lessons? From IV’s theme of “everyone and anyone can change for the better” to VII’s message on protecting the planet, this series has always been one thats been able to teach its players valuable life lessons, and let players choose their own interpretations of said lessons. So, I’m going to go over 9 things that the 9th game in the Final Fantasy franchise – as well as my personal favourite; don’t come at me – has taught me.

  1. You must always remain true to yourself. Many of us can relate to the struggle of trying to stay true to your own core values when you are stuck in a situation that won’t or cannot permit it – be it a strict work environment or an unsympathetic family. Garnet, the deuteragonist and lead heroine, struggles with this belief as she is forced to watch her home ravaged, come to terms with her real past, and deal with responsibility as a princess (and later on, the queen) of Alexandria – so much so that at one point she succumbs to the traumatic stress, which leaves her temporarily mute and with a difficulty concentrating during battles. However, despite all this, Garnet emerges from her battles – internal and external – as a confident and more experienced person… still keeping her core values and her strong will with her, and staying true to her beliefs until the very end.

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2. What you do for your friends, your friends will do to you. It’s a well-known saying that what goes around, comes around, and it certainly applies to friendship. Of course, almost every Final Fantasy game has the core message of friendship, but I feel that here it is a special case. Zidane, our rebellious and monkey-like protagonist, finds many of his new allies a bit weird and off-putting at first, but gradually opens up and forms bonds with them over the course of the story. This comes to a head when Zidane falls into a deep depressive state when his true nature as a Genome (a soulless being that only exists to cause war and chaos) is revealed, and he tries to cut himself off from his allies, believing himself to be unworthy of their friendship. Nonetheless, his friends are unwilling to give up on him, and remind him of all the things he’s done for them, how him being a Genome doesn’t matter to them, and how they want to do for him what he did for them. This powerful scene, coupled with the amazing You’re Not Alone theme, really drives home the point: friendship goes a long way!

3. You are not your past. All of us have events in our history that we’d rather forget and that we’d rather not tell to anyone. These events can take their hold on us and influence us in their own way. Vivi, the game’s resident Black Mage, is an adorable and well-meaning little fellow, but behind that exterior hides a dark past: all Black Mages were created from scratch by Kuja (our antagonist) to be  disposable footsoldiers for Queen Brahne’s army, and Vivi is the prototype Black Mage, which is why he is capable of showing emotions. Vivi is shocked, and begins to wonder if his entire existence and raison d’être is just to be a mindless killing machine, but as he continues aiding his friends in their journey, he begins to accept himself for who he is now and puts the past behind him for the greater good. Vivi may be one of the most iconic Final Fantasy characters for his unique design, but the impact he’s left on players isn’t just skin-deep! Good job, Vivi!

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4. Be accepting of others, no matter what. Accepting other people for who they really are is something that is easier said than done. Zidane has difficulties trying to understand his motley crew of allies at first – after all, is it easy to accept a toddler wizard with philosophical tendencies, a stubborn knight who’s armor clanks every time he moves, and a giant Qu who thinks only of seeking “yummy-yummies”, amongst others? In fact, our protagonist only seems to accept them into his team out of obligation, or because he had no other choice in the matter. Nevertheless, as the game goes on, he begins welcoming his newfound friends for who they are – even if they do happen to be a little weird! This acceptance from him greatly improves their bond, and it is precisely this acceptance that the group thanks him for when he falls into his depressive state late in the game – which proves that getting to know others is insanely valuable. As Zidane himself says: “You don’t need a reason to help people”.

5. Nobody is useless. In this day and age, it’s easy for one to believe that their own efforts are fruitless and that they will amount to nothing. As a matter of fact, our main antagonist, Kuja, admits to feeling like his entire life was misguided and that he feels ‘useless’ after Zidane decides to save him. Zidane, however, rebukes Kuja – despite all the destruction he has caused – and tells him that “no one’s useless”. Not  only does this scene speak volumes about both of their characters, but it’s true: every character in the game, even the villains, minor characters, and NPCs show their skills and prove their worth in the story, no matter how small that role may look like in the beginning. It goes to say that there are no small roles… only (quite literally, in this case) small actors!

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6. Sometimes, disobeying orders is the right thing to do. Now, I’m not trying to encourage petty crimes here, but sometimes not following your intended orders – whether they be made up or already set in stone – proves to be an advantage. No other character in the game represents this better than Steiner, the knight captain with a cranky disposition and a near-permanent frown. At the start of the game, Steiner is unwaveringly loyal towards Queen Brahne and will do anything to keep Princess Garnet safe, even if it means joining Zidane – who he resents, Zidane being a womanizing thief and all. However, after the Queen shows her true colours, Steiner is torn and confused on whether he should blindly follow whoever he’s told to follow. In the end, he decides to go against the Queen and place his trust in Garnet, and even forms a respectful relationship with Zidane, telling himself that he’ll think his alliances for himself from now on.

7. You cannot change the past or future, but you can the present. There are moments in our lives where we begin wishing that we could’ve changed something, anything, to get any kind of better result. Other times we find ourselves overthinking the future. A character who exemplifies this is Freya, a Burmecian anthropomorphic rat who regrets not being able to tell her love, Sir Fratley, how she truly felt in the past, and wanders the world in search of him. When the two are finally reunited, she’s heartbroken when he reveals that he lost his memory and doesn’t remember her at all, and she frets over what will happen to their relationship in the future. Be that as it may, Freya makes the decision to quit worrying about such meaningless, and by the end, she is shown with Sir Fratley, who finds himself falling in love with the same woman he left years ago, deciding (at least for now) to continue living in the present and live it to the fullest.

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8. Influences help you grow. Our parents have always warned us about people who may be bad influences to us, but what about those who end up becoming our guardian lights? None of the main characters are capable of confiding or placing much faith in each other, as all of them view the others as a bit strange and odd. Despite this, they gradually are able to influence each other in nuanced ways – such as Garnet gaining her courage from Zidane and Zidane coming to terms with his mistakes through Garnet. These subtle yet effective influences certainly show the character development and growth of the main party in a big way, and it just goes on to say that even the people you may not initially trust can have a great effect on your life.

9. The journey is more important than the destination. I know, I know. This here phrase has more-or-less become common sense now, and it is a phrase that has been repeated in several Final Fantasy games. However, this phrase has never resonated with me in other FF games than it has with IX. In this game, although it was important, defeating Kuja and seeking the truth behind Queen Brahne’s chaotic reign was never the focus for me – what I really enjoyed the most was exploring the world of Gaia, listening to the one-of-kind soundtrack (courtesy of Nobuo Uematsu) while going about the various towns (Border Village Dali, anyone?) , and witnessing the lively and entertaining character dialogue and moments with the main cast. When it was all over, I found myself longing for my journey, not my quest, back. These small moments, for me, are forever unparalleled, and this adventure is definitely one I will never forget.

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Analysis: Why Filler Worked In Sailor Moon (The 90s TV Show)

 

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So, Sailor Moon. Originally a magical girl manga written and illustrated by Naoko Takeuchi that began serialization in 1992; it became an instant hit and, since then, has never looked back. As of 2019, the world-renowned manga has been adapted in several forms: anime series, films, television specials, musicals, video games, tabletop games, a live-action TV show, and recently a 4D theme park attraction at Universal Studios Japan. And that’s not even counting the amount of fan-produced content! Basically, calling Sailor Moon merely a ‘success’ is a bit of an understatement if I’ve ever heard one, and loyal fan communities are still thriving almost thirty years later. However, no matter which adaptation is brought up first, focus will almost certainly be driven to the 90s anime show, which many consider their favorite childhood show; for some their favorite show of all time. But why is this? I’ve been rewatching and examining the show in closer detail, and I’ve found the answer: filler.

Before we dive headfirst into the answer, we must first establish what ‘filler’ is, exactly. If you were to look at the literal dictionary definition, filler is defined as thus: an item serving only to fill space or time in a newspaper, broadcast, or recording. The definition made by anime fans is not far off. Essentially, “filler” is a word used to describe episodes in anime that deviate from the source material and/or story and fill up episode time while the writers try to get the plot back on track or wait for the mangaka to continue it properly.  There’s certainly some infamous examples of great swathes of filler episodes in anime, including – dare I say it – Naruto (sorry, Naruto fans). Of course, most of the 90s show’s 200 episodes (yes, 200 episodes) are comprised of filler, but what makes Sailor Moon’s filler episodes better and generally more beloved than say, Naruto’s? (I said I was sorry!)  Let’s get right into that.

Now, I’m not going to try and be “fake deep” here. Sailor Moon as a whole isn’t very deep – what you see is what you get. But, no matter how silly what you saw was, there was always meaning to it, thanks in no small part to the three main directors of the show: Junichi Sato, Kunihiko Ikuhara, and Takuya Igarashi, who are well-known figures behind some other incredibly popular magical girl anime, such as Ojamajo Doremi and Revolutionary Girl Utena. So, while Takeuchi was working hard finishing a new chapter of the manga every month or so, these three had to keep the story going in some way or another until said chapter was published. The differences in pacing are quite noticeable, for sure – Sailor Moon Crystal (the newest adaptation, which follows the manga to a T) has a first season of only 26 episodes, while 90s Sailor Moon’s first season consisted of 46. They were given general outlines of the general story, but what did they do that made the often ridiculous filler so memorable?

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What they did, to be precise, was take an already great cast of characters and use filler to develop them further. The development in each episode didn’t come as any sort of grand revelation or epiphany for the characters – rather, the writers made sure that whichever character (or character) was given the spotlight in said episode would at least learn one new lesson. For example, Hotaru learning to open up to Chibiusa, Ami getting over her struggles with shyness, and Minako’s decision to keep being a Sailor Guardian despite her obstacles. Sometimes, these episodes was even used to pair up characters that would rarely be seen together in the manga – such as Usagi and Haruka – and the episode would revolve in having the oddly-matched characters work together and forming a new bond. Moreover, filler episodes, being the constant source of hilarity (intentionally or not), often gave a bit of levity to the more serious characters, like Luna or Setsuna, simply by putting them in comedic situations! Most filler episodes would focus on friendship – the core theme of the show – and by the end of any given episodes, the main characters would have a stronger and deeper bond.

This filler benefit didn’t just end at our goody-goody main characters, though. The same treatment was applied to the many villains as well. Although most of Sailor Moon’s villains (besides the main big bad of every arc) would be introduced in one chapter and killed off in the next, the show took great liberties with these one-off characters, and made their best efforts to make them more humorous and sometimes more human. For example, the quirky mini-boss team Witches 5 in third arc, while being shoddy one-hit-kill baddies, became gossipy witches who constantly vie with each other for attention and pull pranks by leaving live snails in lockers. Fisheye, a member of the Amazon Trio in the fourth arc, often questions his actions, and even our main character is genuinely nice towards him when he shows a change of heart. Despite the differences between these two changes, they made the villains a lot more entertaining.

In conclusion, no, Sailor Moon’s filler isn’t perfect; some episodes certainly didn’t work as well as others. That can be said about a lot of filler in anime. Yet, despite this, so many people turn to episodes such as these when they need a bit of lighthearted fun and character development moments. When I look back on what I enjoyed most about the 90s show, I realize it was how enjoyable episodes like these were – where one could catch up on the story, learn a thing or two, and, most importantly, have fun!

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