How K-ON! Personally Connected to Me (and is also the absolute best thing to ever exist)

Best girl, I love her so much.

The time has finally come for me to write a full-out blog post about what is arguably the best work of media I have ever consumed: a glorious anime called K-ON! I absolutely love literally everything about that show—the music, the nostalgic atmosphere, the sense of humor, the EXTREMELY PRECIOUS AND CUTE girls, but most of all, the connections and nostalgia it gave me for middle school and early high school.

People aggressively recommended K-ON! to me after I watched Love Live! School idol project due to extreme summer boredom, claiming it to be—and I may be paraphrasing here—”love live but actually good”. When I finally watched the first episode of K-ON! on my 20th birthday (which also by EXTREME luck was the 10th anniversary of the show’s premiere, like holy shit how can I be so lucky), I immediately saw what they meant. The season 1 OP blew me away when I first heard it and made me know I was in for a wild ride. A wild ride of humor, endearing girls, and being far more enjoyable than that other anime which I won’t talk much about from here on out, because while I’d be glad to do a full comparison between those two shows, I’d like this post to be just about K-ON! by itself. I’ll just say Nico Yazawa is kind of an amazing character and leave it at that.

Season 1 (13 episodes) was pretty fun, but the show started to go way above and beyond for me in season 2 (26 episodes) as I took more time to think about its implications and realized that watching K-ON! is a lot like re-experiencing middle school, a time I am extremely nostalgic for. Middle school was three years for me, the last of which felt the longest by far; season 2 of K-ON! is similarly two thirds of the show and takes place entirely during the girls’ third year, with a lengthy and extremely emotional lead-up to the graduation. I also started to heavily identify with the lead girl, an impossibly adorable dorky bundle of joy named Yui Hirasawa, and some other characters started to sort of remind me of specific friends from middle school which is pretty crazy.

I kind of get dazzly whenever I think about this absolutely wonderful anime and I don’t think I’ve been doing a very good job putting all my thoughts into words. Maybe I’ll be able to write out these thoughts better if I go on a character-by-character basis. I’ll start with the five band members ranked from favorite to least favorite, then do the other major characters. Do note that I love every character in the show, just that there’s some that did something special for me more than others. To add some visual spice, my sections on each character will be accompanied by my own personal Artist’s Interpretation of them.

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Why Scary Maze Is a Work of Art (Early Halloween special I guess)

You remember this thing, right? I hope you do, or at least I hope you weren’t like me and played this game completely unaware of what you were in for.

The reason why, of course, is because this game is aggravatingly hard!!! I can’t beat it no matter how much I try. I just want to make it to the fourth and final level, but the road to the end is way too thin and the controls are already so shaky. I’m surprised I haven’t destroyed my computer after all this frustration!

… Just kidding, I’m gonna be Mr. No Fun and ruin the surprise for those that haven’t played it (which I doubt is many). The game is just a mean prank. You play level 3, get to the narrow part, and then suddenly a zombie face appears accompanied by two extremely loud screams in short succession. There is no level 4.

I’ve always been aware of shock content on the Internet. It’s an ages-old trend that has long lost its punch. But Scary Maze somehow flew under my radar for the longest time. Now don’t get me wrong, I had recognized the image shown above for many years. I genuinely had the impression that it was just a REALLY hard game, which doesn’t quite add up in retrospect but that doesn’t mean much. Whenever something doesn’t totally make sense to me, I have a habit of believing it anyway rather than questioning it, even though the truth is usually painfully obvious in retrospect. In this case, I had assumed that since the game was hyped up so much, it probably had really imprecise or rough controls. But on the fateful day of October 11, 2018, I was discussing the game with some people online and decided to play it for myself, only to be greeted with, uh, this. Needless to say, I was completely caught off guard and apparently scared my cat.

Normally the concept of “shock content” is painfully tasteless and boring to me. But the bait-and-switch in Scary Maze is so perfectly executed that I consider it to be a work of art. The game hypes itself up to be a tricky challenge with four levels that requires intense concentration, and already has “scary” in its title. Level 1 is easy, level 2 is a little harder, then level 3 is an “oh shit” moment. It’s much harder than you’d expect from the prior two levels, and makes you really excited for what level 4 will be. The shocking part happens at the time you’d least expect it: early on in the final stretch of super narrow road, when you’re probably already at the edge of your seat, about to beat the second-last level before the ultimate final stage.

I commend whoever made Scary Maze for the choice of where to put the shock content; it’s absolutely brilliant and a prank so well-executed it’s hard to say it’s in bad taste at all. Scary Maze is a perfect example of unconventional art! I hope to make more posts about this kind of art eventually.

Why SERIOUS SONIC LORE ANALYSIS is a fantastic video

These wondrous naturally occurring loop-de-loops Sonic runs through mean so much more than the game lets on…

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I don’t really feel like rambling about how inactive this blog has been, I’ll do that at the end of this post.

At work today, for some reason I felt the urge to write a blog post about a video that I really, really love: SERIOUS SONIC LORE ANALYSIS by hbomberguy. I recommend you watch that video and then continue reading this post.

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"Mulholland Drive" and Puzzle Stories

I just watched the movie Mulholland Drive for my English class and I have some possibly interesting thoughts on it.

For starters, when I looked up stuff about the movie, it was talked up as “the best movie of the 21st century” in some very recent articles. After seeing it, I can give it credit for one particular thing: it’s the hardest to describe movie I’ve ever seen. Whenever I watch a movie, I read about it on Wikipedia or TV Tropes afterwards; the TV Tropes page on Mulholland Drive has a lot of stuff on it that sounds to me like crackpot theories, like the weird cowboy dude being a reality warper (what the hell?) or everything up to that one lady opening the box being a dream (how and why would that make sense?). Those theories are so bizarre that they make the movie even more confusing, which I am convinced is the point. It purports to be a mystery film of sorts with murder stories, but what’s confusing is, a lot of time is spent on one of the main characters trying her hand at being an actor, which seems to be a pointless interlude to me, but I’m almost definitely missing something. Not to mention that the murder scenes themselves also don’t clearly tie in to whatever semblance of a plot the movie has. Long story short: this is a confusing bizarre movie among confusing bizarre movies.

I believe Mulholland Drive is meant as a story that’s also a puzzle for viewers to decipher on their own. My solution to the puzzle is presently a flat and simple “I don’t fucking know”, which is only compounded by the fact that I’ve never been very good at understanding movies. Maybe that’ll change when I talk about it in class tomorrow? But for now that’s all I can say about this strange movie.

However, I’ll also say this: the “story that is also a puzzle” idea is a common interpretation of what Homestuck is. The present ending of the comic (which I’m not really a fan of) may especially have such a puzzle interpretation, with a lot of cryptic ambiguous events whose true meaning one can only deduce. There’s an “obvious” happy ending interpretation of those events, but that relies largely on a large number of leaps of logic, not to mention disregarding other story points (like the deal with the events of the claymation section); meanwhile, the less obvious interpretations, which I largely buy into, makes more logical sense but also makes the ending even less satisfying.

This may be an alright thing for the comic to do if not for the fact that as confusing as it can get at times, Homestuck still makes a clear effort to be comprehensible to readers most of the time; for instance, many animations or otherwise confusing events are followed by a character recapping what went down. So in this case, the ending as it stands could be thought of as an especially bizarre way to suddenly incorporate the Mulholland Drive puzzle story principle. The weird thing is, not only the events of Homestuck’s current finale themselves have a variety of interpretations, but why it’s the way it is also can be interpreted a number of ways. That’s something I’ll talk about another time but I’ve already discussed this sort of thing throughout my Homestuck posts.

People always say Jurassic Bark is crazy sad but…

…The Luck of the Fryrish is the episode of Futurama that really got to me. I’ve seen discussions of Futurama online, and a large portion of people agree that among the show’s many emotional moments, the dog episode tops them all. Even though I agree that it’s probably the saddest episode overall, Luck of the Fryrish, which is often considered to be one of the saddest episodes rather than the saddest, has more of an emotional impact in my opinion. It’s not just straight-up sad, but also very bittersweet, which adds more to the impact than plain old sadness. The ending of Jurassic Bark left me with the typical sad scene feel, but Luck of the Fryrish almost made me cry, which says a lot because I’ve never cried from a work of media.

Compare the two episodes’ endings:

  • Before leaving for his final pizza delivery, Fry tells his dog he won’t be gone long. His dog spends the next day searching for him, finds him frozen, and waits for him to return for twelve solid years until he dies. There’s no degree of positivity in this ending, and the joy of the flashback scenes is what makes it sad in the first place. If Fry knew his dog never forgot about him, then it not be so “straight sad” so to speak, but he never knows this.
  • Fry goes to his brother’s grave only to find out that it isn’t actually his brother; rather than stealing his name and his lucky clover like he was led to believe, his brother named his son Philip J. Fry and gave him the clover. And thanks to reading the gravestone, Fry himself knows the truth about his brother and starts to cry with a smile on his face. Leela even tells Bender that Fry needs a moment to himself.

What is so impactful about Luck of the Fryrish? For one thing, I have an easier time relating to sibling rivalry than dog loyalty. As an oldest child I can easily find myself in Fry’s brother’s shoes, but I’ve never owned a dog. But another thing with this one is Fry finds out the tear-jerking truth, allowing the audience to cry with him, something Jurassic Bark does not do.

The reason why Jurassic Bark is considered the saddest episode is because it’s straight-up sad, rather than heartwarmingly sad. While Jurassic Bark is more sad overall, Luck of the Fryrish has more of an emotional impact, at least in my experience. It varies from person to person obviously. I’m sure some people have an easier time relating to Jurassic Bark, like dog lovers who never had any siblings.

But Jurassic Bark was still a great episode! Despite how cruel the ending was, it had some great moments. My favorite part is when the dog finds out what happened to his owner but his family doesn’t. It’s just that Luck of the Fryrish is even better, and still my favorite episode.

The thing with Futurama is that it’s perpetually hilarious, but unlike what I’ve seen of other shows of its type, it does a great job of making you feel for the characters. I can think of at least ten episodes that people typically bring up as emotional moments. I should note that I’m not that well-versed in television: there’s mostly a handful of cartoons (no live action shows, those don’t appeal to me) that I’ll watch when I have downtime, and a smaller handful that I follow or watch particularly often.

"The Why of Fry" Reminds Me of Homestuck (and to a lesser extent Phineas and Ferb)

Top: foreshadowing.
Bottom: also foreshadowing.

For the past month or so I’ve been watching all episodes of Futurama in order. And I have to say, it’s one of my favorite shows. It turned out that there’s A LOT more episodes I hadn’t already seen than I thought. The Luck of the Fryrish made me tear up and is my favorite episode so far, Jurassic Bark was FUCKING SAD, and The Why of Fry is also really memorable because it heavily reminds me of the story webcomic Homestuck with its stable time loops and revelations of characters’ involvement in past events. Here I’ll go over these similarities because they really are pretty striking.

“You are the chosen one!”

At the start of the episode, Fry feels like a useless tool, with his crewmates accomplishing more than usual without him at their side. But then the mysterious little pet alien Nibbler takes Fry to his home planet where he learns that he is the most important man in the universe because he has brain attack immunities that arise from him being his own grandfather. Being the “chosen one” is also a theme in Homestuck; all of the major characters would be considered chosen ones. Out of the whole population of Earth, four nerdy teenagers are given the quest of creating a universe in the guise of a new video game. John, the protagonist of Homestuck, is also in a sense his own grandfather (having created all the guardians who in turn were cloned to create the four kids), but unlike Fry, who FREAKED THE FUCK OUT when he realized this fact, he took that revelation pretty lightly, merely thinking it’s a little strange.

But wait, it gets better, a lot better.

“That was a (Nibbler/Vriska) thing!”

We later learn that Nibbler was behind Fry getting frozen a thousand years in the future, an iconic event that at first seemed like a pure accident. This instantly reminded me of how Vriska in Homestuck loves involving herself in important plot events, such as Jade constantly falling asleep, Bec the omnipotent dog getting created, and Jack Noir turning into an omnipotent dog. The first two of those events are especially noteworthy because at first we didn’t know Vriska was behind those, just like we didn’t know Nibbler was behind Fry getting frozen.

This isn’t all Nibbler was behind. It turns out he did the I.C. Wiener “prank call” that led Fry to the cryogenics building. I have to say, that was a BRILLIANT plot twist which I previously did not know of at all. This further supports the whole idea that Nibbler is Vriska. I don’t mean he literally is Vriska, just that they have a lot in common.

Nibbler and Vriska are both pretty strongly foreshadowed as shown in the picture at the beginning top of this post. Nibbler is literally foreshadowed when his shadow appears as Fry is about to get frozen in the first episode. The title card page of Homestuck (which is 82 pages in) has the sun symbol that Vriska wears on her god tier outfit, which the author stated retroactively foreshadows her. Some argue retroactive foreshadowing doesn’t count but it’s close enough for me.

Going on, when we get a closer look at what went on when Fry was frozen, we see that future Fry went back in time in an attempt to catch Nibbler and stop this moment. He finds Nibbler under the table, argues with him about whether to freeze his past self, and as it turns out, he (not Nibbler as suggested earlier in the episode) blows on the chair at the last second, causing it to tip and his past self to fall in the tube as we saw, effectively not changing the past. Being unable to change the past is very much a thing in Homestuck (with a few exceptions), as are stable time loops.

“Nobody can know this useful information!”

Towards the end of the episode, Nibbler takes Fry back to Earth and wipes his memories of this whole experience. This is yet another thing that reminds me of Homestuck. In Homestuck it’s sort of a recurring theme that characters refuse to share useful information they know. For instance, Jade always hid her knowledge of the future from John, apparently because doing so would mess up the timeline, but I STILL don’t see the harm in telling him. Likewise, Nibbler pretends to be an adorable mindless little creature rather than the almighty universe maintainer he is.

This part also reminds me of Phineas and Ferb, a show I used to watch pretty often. Perry the Platypus has a similar thing going on to Nibbler: for some reason he can’t let the kids know that he’s a secret agent. The movie “Across the 2nd Dimension” explores what would happen if the kids found out (and like The Why of Fry, ends with the kids’ memories being erased); although I’m sure the movie makes it clear why the kids can’t know that Perry is a secret agent and I remember pretty well how the movie goes, I can’t remember why exactly they that fact has to be a secret.