Friday, February 23, 2018

Type Casting: Mikasa Akerman


Some characters are so well-written that they seem life-like. But how would these "realistic" characters stand up to real-life personality typing?

Welcome back to Type Casting.


Type Casting:

Personality Typing Your Favorite Characters



The remainder of this post will contain some spoilers for

Attack on Titan Season 1



You have been warned.


Attack on Titan, 2013 Wit Studio and Production I.G

“I can handle them. I'm strong. Stronger than all of you... As such, I am capable of annihilating the Titans there. Even if I have to go it alone... If I can't, then I'll die. It's that simple.”1

An appropriate introduction for Mikasa Akerman.

...Or is it?

Most people see only one side of Mikasa: the master with a blade who just doesn't give a crap, facing authority figures or life-threatening situations with equal measures of apathy.

Attack on Titan, 2013 Wit Studio and Production I.G

But there's far more to Mikasa than meets the eye. If you've read my previous article discussing this strong woman, you know she has her vulnerabilities, too.

But how can this tough-as-nails, peerless fighter be so weak and vulnerable emotionally? And surely one personality typing system couldn't contain such a mess of contradictions.

It's time to put the Enneagram back to the test.

For those of you who missed the first Type Casting post, the Enneagram is a personality typing system that categorizes people based on their core drive and greatest fear. And while it's a bit harder to type Mikasa, as we haven't seen much of her outside of an emotionally-traumatized state, it's far from impossible. Let's take a look.

Attack on Titan, 2013 Wit Studio and Production I.G

The committed, security-oriented type... [They are] reliable, hard-working, responsible, and trustworthy. Excellent “troubleshooters,” they foresee problems... but can also become defensive, evasive, and anxious—running on stress... They can be cautious... but also reactive, defiant and rebellious. They typically have problems with... suspicion.2

If this sounds familiar, you've probably watched Attack on Titan already, because it fits Mikasa to a T. This is the description of a Type Six personality, also known as “The Loyalist.”3

There are few people as committed as Mikasa. She is consumed with keeping her friend Eren safe; he is her number-one priority. This loyalty is Mikasa's driving force and a key aspect of a Type Six “Loyalist.”4

Attack on Titan, 2013 Wit Studio and Production I.G

Loyalty isn't a trait exclusive to Sixes, but the reason for Sixes' loyalty is certainly unique.

Sixes are inherently attuned to the dangers and uncertainties of life. They are driven by the need to be prepared for the world's perils. But this leads to a Six's deepest fear: they believe they are insufficient to keep themselves safe and secure.5

And this is where a Six's loyalty comes into play. If they can't keep themselves safe in an uncertain world, they're going to seek someone or something that can. This “anchor” can be anything from a trusted friend to a strongly-held belief or philosophy.6 And once they find their anchor, Sixes will hold onto it for dear life.7

Mikasa finds her anchor early in life: Eren, who rescues her when she's at her most helpless moment. In that instant, Eren becomes her rock, the center of her world.

Mikasa's reliance on Eren draws out her caution and anxiety. Her entire life revolves around the fear that something will happen to Eren. This spurs her to become a powerful fighter so she can properly protect him.

Mikasa's natural mistrust and anxiety make her an “[e]xcellent 'troubleshooter...'” who can easily “foresee problems” because she's constantly on the lookout for ways to keep herself and her anchor safe.

This also explains why Sixes like Mikasa are such responsible and trustworthy individuals. Mikasa is so responsible, in fact, that Eren's mother relies on Mikasa to help keep Eren in line.

But Mikasa's tendency to put Eren's security above all else inevitably takes its toll. When she's told Eren is dead, her responsible quality disappears as stress takes over. Evasion becomes the word of the day as she recklessly tries to outrun her overpowering emotions.

Attack on Titan, 2013 Wit Studio and Production I.G

Even a cautious Six like Mikasa can act in seemingly out-of-character ways. When her anchor is threatened, Mikasa can be downright defiant, bucking authority if it means keeping Eren safe. To her, authority is something to be questioned rather than blindly obeyed, especially when that very authority threatens Eren's well-being.

Attack on Titan, 2013 Wit Studio and Production I.G

But the greatest “contradiction,” and Mikasa's most painful irony, is that while she stands among the most formidable fighters, she is also one of the most vulnerable characters. Because while Eren provides Mikasa with the comfort and strength she needs to make it through life, he is also her greatest weakness.

Attack on Titan, 2013 Wit Studio and Production I.G

Mikasa is terrified she'll lose Eren; without him, she feels she can't survive. And when Eren is taken from her, Mikasa loses her anchor as well as her will to live.

Attack on Titan, 2013 Wit Studio and Production I.G

But this also forces her to reevaluate what's driving her. And it enables her to discover a strength that she never knew she possessed.

Attack on Titan, 2013 Wit Studio and Production I.G

Mikasa portrays not only a Six's personality, but also how a Six grows. Because while it may seem that Sixes need to cast others aside and solely rely on themselves, this is false. Sixes grow through introspection, not to find some mythic superhuman strength within, but to develop their personal strengths and identify their weaknesses. In this way, when things happen that a Six can't handle—because there are always things in life we humans can't handle—the Six has the wisdom to rely on others in a healthy, interdependent way rather than clinging to others with a fearful 24/7 death-grip.

Mikasa isn't a god who can handle everything on her own. She has no problems admitting that she needs others at times. For instance, when she, Eren, and their best friend Armin are backed into a corner, Mikasa is among the first to acknowledge that only Armin can figure a way out.

Attack on Titan, 2013 Wit Studio and Production I.G

She knows she needs others because she's experienced how quickly life can overwhelm her.

Attack on Titan, 2013 Wit Studio and Production I.G

After all, this is what drew her to Eren in the first place. Not only did he save her; he inspired her to save herself.

Attack on Titan, 2013 Wit Studio and Production I.G

It's ironic then how Eren operates both as her crutch and her savior: she over-relies on him, but that very over-dependence eventually teaches Mikasa to balance needing others and trusting herself.

Relying on Eren as a child grants Mikasa a safety net to view the world. And while she has relied on him too much (placing him as her sole security and reason for living), putting her security in him enabled her to cultivate her own confidence.

We can see Mikasa's growth most clearly when we examine how and why she pulls away from the brink of despair after learning of Eren's death.

In times past, when Mikasa suffered loss, she would simply curl into her shell, becoming hardened—almost inhuman—in order to cope.

Attack on Titan, 2013 Wit Studio and Production I.G

But she's learned from her time relying on Eren's security. Mikasa has grown to the point where she can face the pain rather than walling herself off. And in feeling her loss rather than shielding herself from it, Mikasa finds the strength to move forward even without the anchor she once clung to.

Even with all her skill and physical strength, Mikasa knows that true strength lies in interdependence: relying on oneself while also relying on others.

Mikasa doesn't just find some inner strength and throws away all ties to others. She's found a healthier way to relate to people. So when the time comes that she discovers Eren is actually still alive, she's overjoyed... and will continue to defend him to her last breath—not because she thinks she can't live without him, but because she chooses not to live without him.

Attack on Titan, 2013 Wit Studio and Production I.G

Sixes can be one of the most confusing and difficult personalities to understand. They seem so full of contradictions that their true selves are often well-hidden, even sometimes from themselves.

But Sixes have so much to offer the world. Because although they feel exposed to a dark, dangerous, cruel world... Sixes have the potential to become “serene and courageous in any circumstance.”A healthy Six is someone who can and will protect others no matter what the cost, not because they feel they must to ensure their own survival, but because they have fought their whole lives to find an inner peace, a strength that makes them brave.9


---
Notes and References:
  1. Mikasa Akerman, Attack on Titan, “The Small Blade - The Battle for Trost (3),” Season 1, Episode 6, Directed by TetsurĊ Araki, Written by Yasuko Kobayashi, May 19, 2013, Funimation.
  2. Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson, The Wisdom of the Enneagram: The Complete Guide to Psychological and Spiritual Growth for the Nine Personality Types (New York City, NY: Random House Publishing Group, 1999), 235-36, quoted in “THE LOYALIST [sic],” The Enneagram Institute, 2017, accessed February 19, 2018.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.
All photos are the property of Funimation 2013. Used under US Fair Use laws.

Attack on Titan and all related terms are the property of Funimation. And I am not affiliated with them.

From Him, To Him

Friday, February 16, 2018

Excerpt - Star Wars Roleplay: "Put to the Test"


This will be the last of Star Wars Roleplay for a while. Next week, tune in for a brand-new Type Casting! Or click here to read the previous Type Casting while you wait. ;)

---

To First Excerpt ("A New Master")

---
[After defeating the extortionists, Cailen ventures into the desert with Master Teek. As part of his trial to become a fully-fledged Jedi Knight, Cailen must venture into a cave filled with the power of the Force. There he encounters terrifying visions, including one of him from the future, should he fall to the Dark Side. He overcomes his Dark Side and constructs a lightsaber of his own. Teek proudly knights him. However, upon their return to Anchorhead, Cailen and his master make a troubling discovery...]

"I sense... a former student..." Teek said, hopping off of Cailen's back. "Be prepared to defend yourself, Cailen."

Cailen's hand instantly went to his lightsaber. His fingers drummed against the hilt nervously.

A former student... one of Teek's Padawans who's fallen to the Dark Side...

Cailen swallowed the rising lump in his throat. Trust in the Force. "There is no emotion; there is peace..."

"I'm ready, Master."

The Spiritual Shopper, taken in Boudhanath Sadak
Kathmandu, Nepal by Rohan Reddy on Unsplash

Together, they entered Anchorhead. The Exchange thugs Cailen had scared off before were here. In the center of the marketplace was a single Sith, radiating with the power of the Dark Side. The Sith simply stood there, his back to Cailen and Teek, his hands behind him, as if meditating.

"There he is!" The familiar voice of the leader of the 'protection' fee collectors yelled. "Told you he'd come out if we torched the place."

"Finally..." The Sith said, in Quarren. He turned to the thugs. "You've proven yourselves useful at last."

"Hey, we gave the information to the Empire. We didn't say the Jedi was still going to be he-" The gang member started choking. He was lifted into the air by his throat by the Force.

"The Empire thanks you for your service by providing you with a quick death." The Quarren Sith said, his power lifting the other Exchange gang members by the throat as well.

"Release them, Crayus!" Master Teek yelled.

"We meet again, Teek. And, I see you've taken my Master's rightful apprentice as your own." The Sith said. "I am Darth Occlus now, Teek. You will address me as such. Now, get that through your tiny, Ja--"

As Occlus was mid-sentence, Cailen raised his hand, quickly sending out a pulse to Force-Push the Quarren. ...I might regret this in a minute.

Occlus was suddenly pushed back off his feet and into the air. Caught by surprise, he landed several feet back on his back. The gang members were released and they fled as fast as they could, gasping for air.

"Ha! Good one!" Teek said, holding up his hand for a high five.

Cailen high-fived his master. Well, I'm not regretting it yet... He turned to Occlus. "Leave this place. Our fight is not with you," he said boldly. That seems like a Jedi Knight sort of thing to say, right? Even as he spoke, however, Cailen was reaching for his lightsaber once more.

The Sith got to his feet, pounding a fist into the ground. The Dark Side energy radiating from him intensified slightly. "I see you've adopted my former Master's brand of humor."

"Surrender yourself, Crayus. I don't want to hurt you." Teek said, pulling out his own lightsabers.

"On Nar Shaddaa, you could barely protect yourself against my assault. Now will be no different. A Padawan and a Jawa are no match for me!" He said, igniting his double-bladed lightsaber.

Teek ignited his own sabers and said to Cailen, "We can take him. Together. Remember, Cailen: a Jedi avoids taking the life of another if they can. Try to make him back down, not kill him!"

"Yes, Master Teek." Cailen ignited his own lightsaber, shifting into the Shii-Cho stance. "And you're not facing a Padawan and a Jawa.

"You're facing a Battlemaster and a Jedi Knight."

"Ah. So you have created your own lightsaber." Occlus said. "Your skills are complete. Indeed you are powerful, as my Master has foreseen. After I kill Teek, I will bring you back to my Master to begin your training as a Sith."

Cailen tightened his fingers around the hilt of his new lightsaber, just as fear began to tighten around his throat. What if we DON'T handle this? What if I'm not ready?

But I've already come so far... The lightsaber was proof enough of that--all the trials he'd just survived, all the things he'd seen and learned these past two weeks...

"I 'began' it once. I don't care for it," Cailen replied calmly. "You can tell your master that."

"You can tell him yourself when I bring you to him on your knees!" Occlus said, charging forward.

Teek dashed ahead suddenly, the Force flowing through his body. Teek's acrobatic assault began and the lightsaber duel commenced!

Cailen raced toward the duel--though not nearly as quick as Master Teek--annnnd his first swing of his first real lightsaber duel went very, very wide. At least no one lost a limb in the process.

Occlus retaliated, sweeping his saber to strike both Cailen and Teek, but Teek leaped over it. Cailen barely managed to block the blow.

Suddenly, Cailen felt his body get pulled back as he was ripped away from the melee through the Force.

Cailen landed hard on his back, the wind knocked out of his lungs for a moment. As he struggled to rise, his mind spun. That wasn't... Occlus, was it? Master Teek? But why would he...?

"Your protection of your student is touching, Teek, but ultimately useless." Occlus said, standing his ground.

Teek leaped up and bonked Cailen in the head with the hilt of his lightsaber! "Why you charge in!" he yelled. "You are Consular! Consulars are weak in lightsaber duels! Do... Consular things!"

"Right! Sorry! I've got it now!" Cailen shouted as he rubbed his head with his free hand.

Quickly, Cailen glanced around the marketplace-turned-battlefield. A stack of crates rested beside one of the abandoned vendor's stalls, and Cailen reached for them with the Force. After pushing an entire living body earlier, this was nothing. He flung a crate at Occlus... who sliced through it neatly. "Aw, parsecs!"

"Calm down." Teek said telepathically. "Look at his form. It is the last of the 7: Juyo, the Ferocity Form, Way of the Vornskyr. The most deadly of all the forms, it is chaotic and highly offensive, seeking to overwhelm targets. Very few Jedi know this Form because it utilizes controlled passion as its source of power. If you were to fight him now, in close combat, you would fall, Cailen. Remember that."

Teek dashed forward and engaged Occlus. As he fought, he said, "Juyo is vulnerable to attacks by the Force! I will create an opening! Then blast him with the power of the Force!"

Right, right... Cailen was trying to keep calm, but that information had rocked his confidence more than a little. It was a harsh reminder that just because he'd learned a few things and built a lightsaber, he was still far out of his league.

He feebly tried to throw another crate at Occlus as he waited for the aforementioned opening, but his nerves were starting to affect him. He barely even lifted the crate.

It'll be fine... We can handle this... Cailen tried to reassure himself. But that was going about as well as his crate-tossing. We'll be just fine! Cailen's pulse spiked. I'm not going back to Nox!

"You are powerful in the Force, Cailen! Believe in that! As a Consular, your power relies on the Force! Not in your martial skill with a lightsaber!" Teek yelled in Cailen's mind as he continued his acrobatic assault.

"Use the Force to bind him! Slow him! There is much more you can do than throw things at him or push him down!"

Cailen forced the air out of his lungs and focused, focused as he had never had before.

And just as all the times before, he felt the Force flow through him. Something clicked into place in his mind and body, as if finally they were working as one. Maybe they were, thanks to him surrendering to the Force.

He held out an open palm toward Occlus and felt... something strange and new happen between the two of them. He couldn't explain it. Something like... power leaving him? But not quite. It was a very different sensation than when he manipulated a physical object with the Force.

Cailen glanced at his hand, wiggling his fingers. But what did I just...?

No, stay focused! Cailen shook his head and turned back toward the battle.

Occlus' movements slowed, but he was still able to keep up. In anger, he slammed his fist into a ground, sending out a pulse wave of Force energy that sent Teek into the air, but the Jawa landed on his feet gracefully next to Cailen.

"Nice work! High five!" Teek said, holding out his hand (after turning off one of his sabers).

"Cute. But, not good enough!" Occlus said as counteracted Cailen's new power with his own to restore his body to its original peak. "The Force can do so much more than that, Cailen. That Jawa could never show you its true power!"

"You are the only student to know of my dark past." Teek said. "He doesn't know I can use the Dark Side too."

In response, Cailen Force-Pushed Occlus one more time. "Go back to your master! I already told you, no!"

Occlus was pushed back several feet, but with a roar of anger, he slammed his feet into the ground, cutting lines into the rock as his feet acted like brakes against Cailen's shove. "If you will not face me in lightsaber combat, then I will show you my power in the Force!" Occlus yelled, sending out bolts of lightning at Cailen!

"Quickly, block with your lightsaber or the Force!"

Time seemed to slow.

Cailen raised his hands to intercept the attack. He felt the rage, the anger, the raw destruction of the lightning coming toward him...

But he was too late.

It hit him square in the chest. He barely felt his body flying backward--it almost felt as if his heart had stopped. Searing, crackling energy burned through him before it numbed his whole body.

Then he hit the ground. His body twitched, an eerie involuntary feeling. Then the pain began to ache.

Cailen groaned in agony.

Teek ran to Cailen's side, placing his hands on the young Jedi. "Are you alright?!"

Occlus just laughed. "A little lightning and you're down for the count? And you believed that throwing a crate at me or pushing me down would make me run away in fright? You are nothing!"

"I'm f-fine," Cailen insisted with a grunt. He gently tried to nudge Teek aside. Then he gingerly clutched his chest where the lightning had impacted. "He just... caught me by surprise. I'm sorry, Master."

Cailen's fingers wrapped back around his lightsaber as he struggled back to his feet. "I guess it's... a little early for either of us to be gloating, Occlus." He staggered, but finally stood straight.

"For you, perhaps. I believe I've already proved that I am stronger than you in both my lightsaber skills and my mastery of the Force!" Occlus said.

"Do not listen to him!" Teek said. "It is a Sith tactic called Dun Moch. Psychological warfare! He's trying to break your concentration by belittling you, making you doubt yourself!"

"Mastery of the Force...ha!" Cailen could hear a dark voice say in the back of his head. "We'll show him true mastery...give him a dose of his own medicine!"

Oh no... Not you again.. Cailen winced, struggling to block out the two voices shouting him down and focus on Master Teek's. Master... he tried to reach out telepathically, as Master Teek did. I... I can't fight them both...

Force... help me. Guide me. I can't do this on my own! Sweat dripped down his temples, and his legs were shaking beneath him.

"Relax, Cailen." Teek said. "I feel your struggle. The Dark Side is calling to you. Once you have stepped past that boundary, it never goes away. You have a choice: spend the rest of your life suppressing it or balance its power with your own."

"Or, we can just give in, Cailen. Become one with me and unleash all of that pent-up emotion. Reduce that Quarren squid to ashes!" Cailen's Dark Side said.

Cailen glanced from one voice to the other. He knew the right choice, but... the temptation was getting so strong. How else was he going to be able to help Master Teek but to gain the kind of power Occlus was using against them?

But if I go down that path again...

Images flashed in his mind of Master Teek. Of his own face, aged and distorted by the Dark Side, contorted in anger as he cut down the very master who had instructed him.

“What must I do, Master? How do I balance it? He's... so much stronger than I am!”

"Enough stalling...I will bring you to my master now!" Occlus said, sending out more lightning.

Teek, however, ignited his sabers and caught the bolts with them. He kept them blocked as he telepathically said, "To balance the Force is to control your emotions, not suppress or give in to them! Search your feelings and channel them with the Force, but do not give in! You can do it! You will be my first student to learn true balance!"

Control my emotions? But what does that mean? How is that any different from suppressing them!

Think, Cailen! Think! No--wait, don't think. You always fail when you do that. Focus! Concentrate! Do something!

Master!

Cailen was frozen in place, watching uselessly. He had to do something!

My feelings... I feel... terrified! And... desperate. And--angry. Angry at Occlus, for the things he's said, for the things he's trying to do to my Master! For... for trying to take me back to Nox!

I WON'T GO BACK!

The force of his emotions almost hit him like the lightning. Cailen stepped back a half-pace.

"Use your anger!" Cailen's Dark Side yelled at him. "Give into it and blast him away!"

"Observe." Teek said, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath. In Cailen's Force Sight vision, Teek's color shift from blue to red. Teek opened his eyes, and Cailen could feel the Dark Side in him.

"W-what is this!?" Occlus exclaimed as his lightning was literally thrown aside with a sweep of Teek's sabers. Occlus stopped his assault. "This darkness... has this always been inside you, Master Teek?" He said, almost like a whisper.

With another deep breath, Teek turned off his sabers and closed his eyes. Clasping his hands together, he began to meditate.

Cailen watched as Teek's blue energy began to force out the red until Teek was half and half, vertically down the middle of his body. With a release of his held breath, Teek's color changed to grey. In place of the anger, Teek was now... calm. More calm than Cailen had ever felt from any Jedi.

"Return to Nox, Occlus." Teek said, all hint of his playfulness gone. "I will not attack you, but I will defend myself and my friend." Teek ignited both of his lightsabers.

"All that power... wasted! You can feel the call of the Dark Side, yet you suppress it with the Light! That is the final insult! You will die!" Occlus yelled, using the Force to speed at Teek with blinding rage.

Calmly, Teek held up his hand. As if a hurricane had suddenly come, a blast of wind hit Occlus with such force that he flew back and smashed into a wall over fifteen meters away, cracking it. Occlus fell, slamming into the ground. Teek turned his hand into a 'lifting' motion, lifting Occlus into the air.

"I... WILL... KILL... YOU!" Occlus yelled, struggling to break free.

"Here is the power you covet so much." Teek said, firing bolts of lightning at him.

Occlus screamed in pain until the lightning had rendered him unconscious. With a flick of the wrist, Teek flung Occlus's body to the side.

Finally, Teek took a deep breath. From grey to blue, Teek returned, and he cheerfully said, "Well, that was something! We should probably get going before he wakes up."

All Cailen could do was stare at the crater Occlus's body had smashed in the wall. "Uhhhhhhhh... mhm..." He bobbed his head feebly. Master Teek is far more terrifying than Occlus.

Maybe even more than Nox. Cailen followed Master Teek, still in a numb shock.

---
Previous Excerpt ("The Dark Cave") ----- Next Excerpt ("Return to Tython")

Adapted from writing by Kaze and me. Used with permission.

Star Wars and all related names and terms property of LucasFilm and Walt Disney Studios. And, unfortunately, I am not affiliated with them.

From Him, To Him

Friday, February 9, 2018

Excerpt - Star Wars Roleplay: "The Dark Cave"


While I research for my next Type Casting, we'll continue Cailen and Teek's adventures over the next two weeks. This week is a particularly charged scene, and one of my personal favorites. Those of you who have seen The Force Awakens might recognize a callback my friend Kaze slipped in there. ;)

---

To First Excerpt ("A New Master")

---
Exploring the Coastline by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash.

[Cailen ventures into the desert with Master Teek to complete his trial to become a fully-fledged Jedi Knight. When they arrive at the mouth of a cave overflowing with the Force, Master Teek unveils a collection of lightsaber parts.

"This is your lightsaber! It's missing one part though: the crystal. Inside the cave will be your crystal. Find it, retrieve it, and bring it back here. Once you complete your lightsaber, you will be a Knight of the Jedi Order!"

Cailen descends into the cave, battered by visions of his past that shake him to his core. The deeper he delves, the more he feels himself falling prey to the cave's machinations...]

Cailen glanced up. I... I shouldn't have seen... any of this. I have to--I need to leave!

But glancing around, he realized in horror... he'd lost which way was the exit.

Was it-- He spun around. Was it this way? N-no, that was the way I came in... wasn't it?

He turned again. No, that way looks familiar... But...

Terror stabbed through him. He clutched his chest, gasping for air.

Where am I?

Cailen bit back a scream as he turned back toward the wall, placing his palms on the cold stone.

Breathe... Just... just breathe... Try to calm down.

He inhaled. Exhaled. He could feel his heartbeat settling.

Now, remember why you're here. This... this is just a trial. Finish what you came to do. Pick a direction and keep going. You can't turn back now.

The tunnel dead ahead seemed as good as any, so he pushed on, shoving back the fear. Going the wrong direction had to be better than standing there in this ominous dark, frozen in indecision and panic.

As Cailen walked, he heard more voices echoing off the walls of the cave.

"Rise, my Child," came the Emperor's voice. "The Jedi honed your skills well, but they are nothing but controlling hypocrites. They lied to you, Cailen. You had a right to know of your family's death, but they chose to keep it a secret. You were nothing more than an experiment, a walking thesis for a foolish old man. Your pain, your hatred, will become your greatest weapon. You are my Child now, and your Father loves you very much. Make your Father proud... Strike him down, Cailen. Sever your ties to the Jedi."

And then the vision came in full force. There was Master Teek, kneeling before a much older, much darker Cailen. Teek was broken, beaten, and completely defenseless.

The Jawa master looked up at his former apprentice and said, "Will you fail, just as all of my other students? You can bring Balance to the Force, Cailen... You must resist the Dark Side... Balance it within yourself...."

"Fool," the Emperor said. "Your ideals are false. If Revan, the epitome of your ideology, could not defeat me, then you will fail as well. Cailen, do it. Take your rightful place by my side, Son."

"I feel the pull of the Light on me still, Father," the Dark Cailen said. "I know what I must do, but I am afraid to do it."

"You must snuff out the Light, Cailen."

"You are right..." the Dark Cailen said, turning to face the real Cailen. "You must die!" his Dark self said, igniting a red lightsaber and pointing it at him. "The power of the Dark Side is the truth! The lies of the Jedi must be destroyed! Why can you not see that!?" It felt like his Dark Side self was truly speaking to him.

The rest of the vision faded, leaving only Cailen and his dark counterpart.

Suddenly Cailen felt something like a barbed hook stab into his heart, connecting him by a cable to his Dark self. Cailen clutched his chest. His heart hammered in his ears. Fear and confusion mingled, swimming in his head.

"Are you... really me?" Cailen whispered in curiosity and horror. "What did you do to Master Teek?!" As he shouted, his voice cracked.

"Of course I'm you, you idiot! What, that poor excuse of a Jedi Master damage your brain? Ha, I wouldn't be surprised. That little rodent... Making us carry him for hours on end... throwing rocks at us while we meditated... That... that stupid chittering he calls a language! I relished beating him down to submission! He wanted me to feel the power of the Dark Side?! Well, I feel it now!"

Cailen flinched as if he'd been struck. "Y-you're NOT me! I don't think that about Master Teek! He--he showed me what the Dark Side results in. I don't want that. I never want it! All that pain and death... You're just as bad as them! The ones that... the ones that killed..." Cailen's voice faltered. It hurt too much to say that his entire colony was dead. Somehow, it almost felt that if he didn't say it out loud, it would never have happened.

"Oh, boo hoo, our parents died! So what?! Do you think our parents could have controlled our power? Given us the training to survive out here? Of course not! They got killed so easily by some poor excuse of a Sith! The Emperor is a much a better father and mentor than our original one. You should be feeling hate, not sorrow!"

"The Emperor killed them!" Cailen roared. "He killed them all just to get--"

A spark of realization lit his face. "YOU'RE the real pawn!" Cailen spat. "Master Edrasi... and Master Teek, they care about me! You're the experiment! You're the tool being used, not me! I won't be anyone's weapon!"

"I'm the darkness that you will never get rid of. Remember what we did, Cailen? Nox had to die for what he did! You cannot deny me! I will engulf you and return us to our true calling: as a Child of the Emperor! Not some puppet of the Jedi! Your only choices are to give in or suppress me! You will never be able to use the Dark Side like that rodent wants!"

Cailen felt another yank on his chest, like his Dark Side self was drawing him one step closer. His feet skidded on the cold stone floor. His pulse spiked. I can't give in! I won't! But suppress this? Sweat beaded on Cailen's forehead. How can I fight against him, let alone subdue him?!

"M-Maybe I can't control the Dark Side like Master Teek. But... my master believes in me. So I'll never know unless I try!" Cailen shot back, struggling to keep his feet steady.

Not his best recovery.

"And N-Nox..." Cailen glanced away as shame washed over him. "It wasn't right for me to strike in anger. That only played into their hands. That's just what he wanted. It wasn't justice. It was... mindless. I won't be a pawn of my emotions, either. I won't be controlled by anyone or anything!" He insisted, clenching his fists at his sides.

"So, you would hold to your Jedi teachings after knowing the truth, hm? Suppress me, then, before I overwhelm you!" his Dark self yelled.

Suddenly the power of the Dark Side flowed around Cailen, like tendrils wrapping around his body. Instead of one cord binding them together, it was six--ten--dozens, all lashing around him and dragging him in.

"Show me how strong the Light Side is!" his Dark self cackled.

Cailen felt dread seep in, as if the tendrils of dark power were crawling right under his skin. He struggled to move, but his body only shook uselessly. He stumbled forward a few more steps, pulled ever closer to his Dark self. "Y-You can't..." Cailen gritted his teeth. "You... won't... win!" he growled.

"Ooooooh, I think I will! The Dark Side is true power! You think compassion gives you strength?! Compassion didn't work on Nox!"

N-No! Cailen writhed against the tendrils of dark energy, desperation mingling with panic. Master Teek! Someone! Anyone! Help me!

His Dark self only laughed.

There was no one to answer. No one to help him! I'm too weak... I can't... He was only a few feet away from his Dark self now. Soon he'd be in the Dark Side's clutches!

"The Jedi are the guardians of the galaxy, Cailen," came a gentle voice in his mind. "And one day, you will join our ranks as a full-fledged Knight."

Tears trickled down Cailen's face. Master Edrasi... I'm so sorry. I've failed you again.

"The past is important, but it should not dominate your life. You learn from it, but do not dwell on it."

And Master Teek...

"You are strong in the Force, though. Maybe that is where your true strength lies!"

"You are powerful in the Force, Cailen! Believe in that!"

But Master... How can I...?

"It is fear above all else that drives a person to the Dark Side," Master Edrasi's voice whispered. "As a Jedi, you will learn that there is nothing to be afraid of.

The Force is our ally..."

The Force...!

Something thrummed in Cailen's chest, familiar and totally unlike the despair of the Dark Side. Cailen recognized it immediately: the same sense of peace he'd felt at the marketplace.

Cailen's hand surged forward, his fingers wrapping around an invisible tendril of the Dark Side. He snarled. "The Force is my power. Not you. I'll find my own way. And believe me, it won't be yours. You won't control me anymore!"

It felt as if a great wind had picked up out of nowhere in the cavern room. Cailen felt his hair and robe being buffeted by the powerful gust.

"Suppress me all you want!  I will always be here!" the Dark Cailen cried as he was engulfed by the spiraling Dark Side energy and vanished. But still his voice echoed: "You will never get rid of me..."

The room lit up. Before Cailen stood a dazzling array of crystals. Finally, his trial was over.

Cailen panted; his body felt heavy with exertion. But he'd done it. The Dark Side presence was gone. For now.

It took him a moment to recover as he knelt there, catching his breath in the depths of the cave. But at last, he slapped his palms on his kneecaps and staggered to his feet.

One particular crystal formation called out to him, as if the Force was tugging him toward it, but not like his Dark Side. The Dark Side call had been full of fear and dread, but this... almost felt warm. The crystal glimmered gold in the unnatural light, inviting, as if it was meant to be.

"...The lightsaber crystal," he whispered reverently. Cailen wrapped his fingers around a smaller chunk of crystal and tried to pry a piece free of the larger formation.

With the crystal in hand, Cailen felt the cave shift and move beneath his feet. And suddenly, the cave exit appeared behind him.

Cailen glanced between the exit and the direction he... well, where he thought he'd come from. There was nothing there now; just a blank stone wall.

Cailen shook his head and headed for the exit.

"...I am never coming back here again," he muttered under his breath.

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Previous Excerpt ("Travel Plans") ----- Next Excerpt ("Put to the Test")

Adapted from writing by Kaze and me. Used with permission.

Star Wars and all related names and terms property of LucasFilm and Walt Disney Studios. And, unfortunately, I am not affiliated with them.

From Him, To Him

Friday, February 2, 2018

Why I Love AJIN: Demi-Human – And You Might, Too


Humanity is finite. Death is inevitable.

But what if death wasn't the end for you?

AJIN: Demi-Human, 2016 Sentai Filmworks

Based on the manga by Gamon Sakurai, AJIN: Demi-Human follows Kei Nagai, a typical ambitious Japanese highschooler whose life turns upside-down--and briefly ends--during a walk to school.

When Kei is struck by a van, he learns that every time he dies, he comes back to life.

He is an Ajin, a being whose body regenerates after death... and who the government is secretly kidnapping.

Turns out, people who can't die are invaluable test subjects for industries just waiting to perfect their latest drugs, weapons, and more. And they can't wait to get Kei on the dissection table.

He can't hide. All he can do is run or fight.

I love AJIN: Demi-Human. And you might too.

AJIN: Demi-Human, 2016 Sentai Filmworks

Genre: Action/Suspense, Seinen, Supernatural, Sci-Fi, Horror
Year Released: 2016
Studio: Polygon Pictures
Licensed By: Sentai Filmworks
Directors: Seshita, Hiroyuki; Andou, Hiroaki
Episodes: 2 seasons (26 total episodes), 2 OAD's, 3-part anime film adaptation, live-action film adaptation

What You Might Like About... the Visuals

Yes, this show has CGI character models, which can be a death-knell for anime. And yes, it doesn't always look pretty. Some of the animation ends up goofy-looking (especially with the character Nakano, for some reason).

(Though it might have less to do with the animation and more with his concussion)

However, AJIN's animation is leaps and bounds ahead of other CG-anime. Motions are much smoother and more natural than other shows such as Knights of Sidonia. And despite a few stiff facial expressions, characters still have lots of personality in design and movement.

    
AJIN: Demi-Human, 2016 Sentai Filmworks

But what really makes this show's CG stand out is the monstrous "black ghosts."

AJIN: Demi-Human, 2016 Sentai Filmworks

These things look and sound like they could take out a tank--and often perform feats that come pretty dang close. Each impact they make feels heavy and powerful.

AJIN: Demi-Human, 2016 Sentai Filmworks

This means the plentiful fight scenes pack a punch, in no small part thanks to the show's immersive sound design.

What You Might Like About... the Audio

Where AJIN's animation may struggle, the sound design excels.

This was nowhere more evident than the attention to detail devoted to the show's arsenal. My gun-enthusiast dad and brother were impressed: lovingly-crafted AK-47's looked and sounded like AK-47's; A-1's sounded like A-1's; and so on.

That's not even addressing the haunting soundtrack, which perfectly sets the pace for pulse-pounding moments of terror or softer scenes. And I'll never forget the horrifying sound when Ajin resurrect. The gargling, crackling, popping noise is otherworldly and perfectly portrays a body being sewn back together... and a life unnaturally returning to earth.

What You Might Like About... the Writing

This show locks you in from the first episode and does not release until the ride is over. It's quick but not too fast, dishing out info during hammering chase scenes or over quiet character-developing moments. This show has suspense, horror elements, military-grade tactics and counters; it's a show as much for someone who likes ghost stories as it is for someone who prefers action/suspense films ala the Bourne franchise.

Just be warned--this show touches on a lot of dark themes, including suicide. There's also violence. Lots and lots of violence. Expect to see people being shot or impaled on a regular basis. If that's not your thing, this show is not for you.

The Characters

No flat stereotypes here; these characters feel round, realistic, and relatable. Kei may be a typical over-achieving student, but he's also cold and calculating and far wiser than his years. Nakano may seem like a jock, but he's quirky and has a strong sense of justice that propels him--and the main cast--forward. Tosaki appears to be a typical disinterested government official, but he's not perfect, and he's not afraid to get his hands dirty when backed into a corner.

Still, realism comes at a price: you may not always find the cast likeable. Two characters in particular can be so brutal to others that their actions seem unjustifiable or even out of character.

In fact, sometimes you may find yourself cheering for the villains. It's hard not to sympathize with people who are fighting to be recognized as human beings when their only initial sin was one unfortunate accident or one bad day.

But even though I'm not usually a fan of relatable villains, I was okay with the villains of AJIN; after all, the main villain gave me plenty to root against.


The Conclusion

Sure, this show isn't without its downsides. It had a few set-ups without payoffs; but they weren't deal-breakers for me. The ending comes fast, but it's satisfying while remaining open for any potential future seasons.

Will we see more of this show? I'm not so sure. But there's a three-part animated film trilogy and a live-action adaptation for those of you who have already seen it and are dying for more.

For the rest of you who haven't watched it yet, fire up Netflix and give it a go. Just don't expect it to lull you to sleep before bed.


Sweet dreams.

---
All photos are screenshots taken off Netflix and are the property of Sentai Filmworks 2016. Used under US "Fair Use" laws.

AJIN: Demi-Human and all related names and terms are the property of Sentai Filmworks 2016. And I have no affiliation with them.

Review format adapted from Curtis Bell's Iridium Eye. If you're bored of the usual flicks on Redbox or Netflix, check out Iridium Eye for a medley of movies and shows I can guarantee you've never heard of.

Interested in reading more about anime? Check out Drunken Anime Blog for some fun analyses. Of course, as you can probably tell from the title, this may have content not suitable for little eyes. Or your eyes, if you're sensitive to alcohol, sexual content, etc.

From Him, To Him