Monday, December 2, 2019

Blog Update: Life Changes, Temporary Hiatus, Monthly Posts Beginning in March!


Hi everyone! I have some big news regarding the future of the blog.

After undergoing a momentous move to a new city back in July, I've found a new full-time job. While this represents a great opportunity for me, it will mean that I'll have far less time to devote to the blog.

I absolutely refuse to lower the quality of my work and want to do my best to continue to produce the kind of content you've come to expect here on Fiction and Fantasy. After all, I'm definitely a "quality over quantity" kind of girl.

That said, I will have to significantly reduce the regularity of my content. As much as I wish I could produce quality articles for you every week, I know that will simply not be feasible for the foreseeable future.

During the next three months (December through February), I'll be going on hiatus to better acclimate myself to my new position. Then, beginning in March, Fiction and Fantasy will update on the first SATURDAY of every month.

I've had such a blast working on weekly content here on Fiction and Fantasy. I've had so many great discussions with my readers, and I hope to talk to many more of you in the months and years going forward. Thank you for understanding as I enter this new period of my life. I hope plenty of long-time readers and new ones alike will find the posts I've produced over the past two years entertaining and enough to keep you tied over while I take some much-needed recharge time over the holiday season.

That said, I can't wait to get back into it with monthly posts starting March of next year! I have so many plans for posts I know you guys will enjoy. Please look forward to it, and thank you again for all your wonderful support. Without you, I would not be here.

Thank you, Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, and may God grant you many blessings in the new year to come!

Friday, November 29, 2019

Type Casting: Izuku Midoriya, Finale (My Hero Academia)


Type Casting:

Personality Typing Your Favorite Characters


A series dedicated to evaluating well-written characters by determining their core desires and fears using the Enneagram.

After a long and arduous journey, I discovered Midoriya of My Hero Academia was NOT a deep-thinking Type Five. But do his anxious traits mark him as the security-focused Type Six?


This post will contain spoilers for


My Hero Academia




Warning: This post contains a brief mention of suicide. Reader discretion is advised.


Midoriya’s Core

As we discussed last week, the Six’s “Basic Fear” is to be left “without support and guidance,” and their “Basic Desire” is “[t]o have security and support.”1 While these traits are far clearer in our poster child Six Mikasa Akerman of Attack on Titan, I believe they’re no less true of Izuku “Deku” Midoriya. But to find out how—and why—Midoriya desires security at his core, we need to examine his greatest desire: his dream to become a hero like All Might.

Funimation 2016-2019 / From MannyJammy

It’s no secret that Midoriya is obsessed with All Might. But why?

Funimation 2016-2019 / From Funimation.com

At first glance, this seems a silly question. All Might is brave, strong, kind, and confident. He’s the perfect power fantasy for a child who was constantly bullied by his peers for being “quirkless”—that is, literally powerless.

But is Midoriya’s obsession with All Might a power fantasy?

People generally gravitate toward power fantasies because they see something lacking in themselves; the fantasy allows them an “easy way” to surpass their shortcomings or problems by imagining a world in which they don’t exist. But a power fantasy is just that: a fantasy. People generally don’t take steps to make their power fantasies a reality because they find the fantasy unattainable.

But Midoriya doesn’t just idolize All Might or want to be like All Might; he wants to become a real hero. All Might is his inspiration and a goal to attain, not simply an “I wish I were more like” idealized figure. Therefore, All Might is not a power fantasy, forever out of Midoriya’s reach. Rather, Midoriya idolizes All Might because he finds All Might’s ideals—primarily his desire to protect others with no concern for his own wellbeing—to be in line with Midoriya’s own concept of the right way to live.

But why does Midoriya cherish these ideals and the man who upholds them?

This was actually the point I struggled with most while analyzing Midoriya’s personality. Why is Midoriya so focused on becoming a hero? Simple personal preference isn’t strong enough to propel Midoriya’s dogged determination. But surely something this important to Midoriya had to connect to his basic desire and key fear.

And so it does; you see, Midoriya is obsessed with security and safety, if not for himself than for others.

Sixes see the world as a chaotic, frightening place and are constantly “fight[ing] against [their] anxiety and insecurity”2 to find peace. While bodily harm is perhaps an extreme case of “lack of security,” it is no less one that Midoriya has set his sights on overcoming: though not necessarily for himself, but—due to his selfless nature—primarily for others. Midoriya values All Might for his ability to rescue others from physical harm while helping them feel emotionally secure; as Midoriya points out as a child, “He saves everyone with a smile, no matter what trouble they’re in…”3 Midoriya particularly values this quality because he himself lives in a constant state of anxiety.

We see this anxiety clearly on display, especially at the beginning of the series. Growing up, Midoriya’s childhood playmate Bakugo mercilessly bullied Midoriya and anyone else Bakugo deemed inferior. This was a primary cause of Midoriya’s anxiety and lack of self-confidence, and it caused Midoriya to slowly fade into the background as one of Bakugo’s yes-men sidekicks.

Funimation 2016-2019

However, even as a fearful child, Midoriya possessed keen concern for peace and stability… for others. When Bakugo bullied another student, Midoriya jumped in the way, pleading with him to stop despite knowing it would likely pull Bakugo’s ire onto himself. Still, Midoriya cared so deeply for this other student’s security that he was willing to challenge Bakugo.

Funimation 2016-2019

By the time Midoriya finds himself finishing middleschool, little has changed except his increased state of anxiety. He seeks to make as few waves as possible—and will do anything to soothe Bakugo’s wrath. It’s here that Midoriya’s behavior perfectly reflects an unhealthy, under-developed Six: “Fearing that they have ruined their security, they become panicky, volatile, and self-disparaging with acute inferiority feelings.”4 Midoriya constantly belittles himself and feels he is inferior and incapable. He constantly questions himself and his decisions.

He’s clearly lost trust in himself… which only reinforces his attachment to All Might. “Seeing themselves as defenseless, [Sixes] seek out a stronger authority or belief to resolve all problems.”5 And once Sixes find such an anchor, they refuse to let go.
[O]nce Sixes feel they can trust someone, they go to great lengths to maintain connections with the person who acts as a sounding board, a mentor… They therefore do everything in their power to keep their affiliations going. (‘If I don’t trust myself, then I have to find something in this world I can trust.’)6
Funimation 2016-2019

This is exactly how Midoriya clings to All Might. All Might is Midoriya’s “sounding board and mentor.” All Might brings a stability and assurance to Midoriya’s life that he often feels he would not have otherwise.

Midoriya requires this stability for his emotional wellbeing, and this only allows him to appreciate others’ needs for security all the more. He understands what it feels like to be in an uncertain world, to be left afraid and without an anchor to rely on. And he’ll do whatever it takes to ensure no one else is left in this fearful position.

The Enneagram nicknames Sixes “The Loyalist” due to their unparalleled loyalty not only to their anchor person but also to their core beliefs. “[T]hey will typically fight for their beliefs more fiercely than they will fight for themselves, and they will defend their community or family more tenaciously than they will defend themselves.7

Just like how Midoriya is willing to put his life on the line to defend others.

Funimation 2016-2019

Midoriya’s “belief” is that the world should be a place where people can live lives free of the anxiety that has plagued him. It is this belief in heroism (protecting others) that Midoriya values above all else. It is this belief that spurs his love for All Might. And it is this belief that he will work toward no matter what… even at the cost of his life.

Needless to say, a Six’s loyalty is a ferocious and admirable quality indeed. But there was one last aspect about this quality that sounded shockingly like Midoriya: “[Sixes] will ‘go down with the ship’ and hang on to relationships of all kinds and hang on to relationships of all kinds far longer than most other types.”8

Just like how Midoriya has continued to hold onto a relationship with a person he once considered his friend: Bakugo.

Six and Eight: Midoriya’s Relationship with Bakugo

Midoriya’s relationship with Bakugo serves as the final point to prove Midoriya is a Six. Midoriya and Bakugo are such strong foils because of their respective personality types: the loyal Six and the powerful Eight. If healthy, these two personalities make a powerful pair. But if either are unhealthy, tension is sure to follow…
Sixes who are more openly phobic (fearful, timid, anxious) generally tend to avoid confrontations with Eights; instead, they tend to present no open threat to the Eight’s dominance, while being covertly passive-aggressive and evasive. Eights can get into conflicts with phobic Sixes by sensing their indirect, questioning qualities—and whether or not the Six is as loyal to the Eight as the Eight wants. Eights may become more or less openly contemptuous of them if they feel the Six is weak or vacillating. Problems in this relationship can be exacerbated by the Eight’s tendency to get into rages, to make threats to the Six’s security, or to bully and play on weaknesses.9
Funimation 2016-2019

Midoriya clearly begins the show as a phobic Six, doing everything within his power to avoid and deescalate confrontations with Bakugo. However, we do see a glimmer of Midoriya’s passive-aggression when he comments how stupid Bakugo is to suggest Midoriya jump off a building and pray for a quirk in the next life.

Funimation 2016-2019

Bakugo does consider Midoriya weak; and this is where much of Bakugo’s contempt for Midoriya originates. However, as with many unhealthy relationships, the situation is far more complicated than it initially appears.
In general, Eights tend to take the lead in most relationships they are in and to set the tone and make decisions. They expect others to obey them and to be loyal to them… For the most part, this is also fine with Sixes, except for those times when Sixes feel the need to push back and to prove themselves. They need to show others (including the Eight) that they cannot be pushed around or taken advantage of. Power struggles of all kinds can ensue. This is especially true of ‘counterphobic’ Sixes who can actually react much like Eights, displaying leadership, decisiveness and independence… Sixes who are more counterphobic tend to get into more open fights with Eights until both have determined their territory and just how far each can push the other.10
This is almost word-for-word Midoriya’s relationship with Bakugo during the latter half of season three. Having grown into a more stable Six, Midoriya has also become more counterphobic, willing to stand up to Bakugo and counter his presumed authority. It’s only after Midoriya and Bakugo fight one-on-one that they discover each other’s reestablished boundaries and can begin to form at least a modicum of mutual respect.

Funimation 2016-2019

Conclusion: Midoriya’s Growth

Midoriya’s growth arc is, of course, about developing his superpower, but the personal growth he attains is arguably more important. Much like Sixes in the real world, Midoriya must develop confidence in himself and his own abilities while still holding realistic views on his shortcomings and knowing when and how to rely on the bonds he’s forged with other heroes around him. This is what All Might means when he says that both Midoriya and Bakugo possess aspects needed to become the Number-One Hero: while Midoriya has the compassion and drive to protect that’s needed to become a hero, Bakugo has the inner confidence required to succeed.11

What’s truly amazing is how far Midoriya has already come, growing emotionally from seasons one to four and already displaying many of the traits that healthy Sixes display.

Funimation 2016-2019
As early as season one, we see Midoriya beginning to come into his own. He possesses an almost innate charisma, in large part due to his trustworthy nature and his dedication to his friends and his ideals. These are all hallmarks of a healthy Six: “[They are] [a]ble to elicit strong emotional responses from others: very appealing, endearing, lovable… Trust [is] important: bonding with others, [and] forming permanent relationships and alliances.”12

Then in season two we see how Midoriya’s knack for being “[c]onstantly vigilant” allows him to “anticipat[e] problems,” battling against opponents even when the odds are against him.13

Funimation 2016-2019
When they learn to face their anxieties… Sixes understand that although the world is always changing and is, by nature uncertain, they can be serene and courageous in any circumstance. And they can attain the greatest gift of all, a sense of peace with themselves despite the uncertainties of life.14
Funimation 2016-2019
The world—and the situations Midoriya must overcome—are constantly changing, evolving: growing in complexity and danger. But Midoriya too has grown; we see this most clearly in his fight with the powerful villain Muscular. Despite his fear, Midoriya is able to overcome the villain single-handedly due to his increased confidence in himself, giving him the drive and skills to protect a nearby child, Kota, no matter the cost.

And this confidence comes about only due to the greater levels of inner peace Midoriya has obtained through his training and experience. Midoriya’s fight with Muscular gives him even more newfound confidence, to the point where, by the time he and his classmates must compete with more experienced students to earn their Provisional Hero Licenses, Midoriya has become a trusted leader among his classmates. “Belief in self leads to true courage, positive thinking, leadership, and rich self-expression.”15

Funimation 2016-2019

In season one, Midoriya commits acts of heroism with little thought, acting purely out of instinct before considering his plan of attack. But with each new experience he’s overcome, Midoriya gains more and more skill, remaining level-headed, observant, and resourceful in a pinch. The Midoriya of season one would have never been able to keep calm long enough to hold his own against Todoroki in the UA Sports Festival or to stand his ground and protect Kota at all costs or to prove himself to the stringent hero Sir Nighteye to gain a work-study at his hero agency. Nor would he have been able to stare a villain in the face while still largely maintaining his composure.

Funimation 2016-2019

“At their [b]est,” the Enneagram Institute says, Sixes are “internally stable and self-reliant, courageously championing themselves and others.”16

Midoriya may still have insecurities and struggles, but he has already learned to rely on himself a great deal. He has learned firsthand that he can stand tall, fighting for his beliefs to become a hero all his own.

Funimation 2016-2019

---
Want more My Hero?

Check out my thoughts on season three and my hopes for the newest season!

Or, if that’s not up your alley, how about these shocking parallels between All Might and… Christianity?!

Thanks for reading! Make sure to go beyond: Plus Ultra!

---
Notes and References:
  1. 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), 235-236, quoted in “THE LOYALIST [sic],” The Enneagram Institute, 2017, accessed November 25, 2019.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Izuku Midoriya, My Hero Academia, “Izuku Midoriya: Origin,” Episode 1, Directed by Kenji Nagasaki, Written by Yosuke Kuroda, April 3, 2016, Funimation.
  4. Riso and Hudson, The Wisdom of the Enneagram, 235-236, quoted in “THE LOYALIST [sic],”.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. “Enneagram Type Six (the Loyalist) with Enneagram Type Eight (the Challenger),” The Enneagram Institute, 2017, accessed November 25, 2019.
  10. Ibid.
  11. As a side-note, this kind of confidence is not mutually exclusive to crippling and harmful low self-esteem and self-doubt or self-loathing. This is no “perfect” confidence by which the person believes they can never and will never be wrong or defeated (though Bakugo certainly possessed such levels of over-confidence at the beginning of the show). Rather, this is self-confidence on a deeper level; the belief that one can make the right calls and the decisiveness to stand by one’s decisions rather than questioning one’s choices.
  12. Riso and Hudson, The Wisdom of the Enneagram, 235-236, quoted in “THE LOYALIST [sic],”.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Ibid.
  16. Ibid.
All photos taken from VRV.co unless otherwise specified. All images are property of their respective owners and are used under US “Fair Use” laws.

My Hero Academia and all related terms are the property of Funimation. And I am not affiliated with them.

From Him, To Him

Friday, November 22, 2019

Type Casting: Izuku Midoriya, Part 1 (My Hero Academia)


With season four in full swing, I’m feeling pretty Plus Ultra about My Hero Academia! You guys adored my article analyzing Bakugo’s personality type, so I figured it was time to revisit the world of quirks and superheroes with a long-overdue Type Casting!

Type Casting:

Personality Typing Your Favorite Characters




This post will contain mild spoilers for


My Hero Academia



You have been warned.



Funimation 2016-2019

“My ‘Deku’ isn’t always going to mean ‘useless…’! ‘Deku’ means ‘You can do it!’”1
 
Today we’re typing My Hero protagonist, the irrepressible and unrelenting Izuku “Deku” Midoriya!

Upon first glance, Midoriya appears to be a textbook Type Five. Fives are the thinking, analytical type, possessing vast knowledge on a subject and spending a majority of their time thinking about it, researching it, or discussing it with others.2 And given how Midoriya obsesses over superheroes… well, it seems like a no-brainer!

Funimation 2016-2019

However, the Enneagram doesn’t measure a person by how they perform but why they do the things they do.

Let’s go full cowling on this one.

Funimation 2016-2019

A Simple Solution… Right?

I assumed this Type Cast would be a breeze. There’s no character in My Hero Academia who does more thinking than Midoriya. From analyzing heroes and villains to coming up with solutions to even the toughest of challenges, Midoriya has an obsession with heroes, and all his classmates know it.

Funimation 2016-2019

However, I quickly realized this typing might not be as clear-cut as I’d thought. While some elements of the Type Five’s description fit Midoriya perfectly, a good chunk didn’t quite match up. Take how the Enneagram Institute describes Fives’ reaction to their insecurities, for instance:
Behind Fives’ relentless pursuit of knowledge are deep insecurities… But rather than engage directly with activities that might bolster their confidence, Fives “take a step back” into their minds where they feel more capable…3
Midoriya does obsess over heroes and internalize much of the information he gathers about them, but rather than simply nurturing this “head-knowledge,” Midoriya is always quick to apply what he’s learned. Midoriya has plenty of insecurities, but he never deals with them solely by retreating into his mind.

In addition, “more than any other type, Fives want to find out why things are the way they are. They want to understand how the world works…”4 But Midoriya doesn’t possess this same dogged need to understand why heroes’ abilities work the way they do, nor why the hero world is built the way it is. Midoriya doesn’t need this “understanding” of the hero world… he just wants to know different abilities and a practical way to apply his knowledge.
[A Five’s] identity is built around “having ideas” and being someone who has something unusual and insightful to say. For this reason, Fives are not interested in exploring what is already familiar and well-established; rather, their attention is drawn to the unusual, the overlooked, the secret, the occult, the bizarre, the fantastic, the “unthinkable.” Investigating “unknown territory”—knowing something that others do not know, or creating something that no one has ever experienced—allows Fives to have a niche for themselves that no one else occupies.5
Again, this doesn’t seem to fit Midoriya; he doesn’t particularly care whether he’s the one coming up with new ideas, nor is he especially interested in making brand-new discoveries. And he certainly doesn’t concern himself with obtaining knowledge no one else has.

Hm. So maybe Midoriya wasn’t a Five after all. I began trying on other personality types to see what stuck.

Perhaps Midoriya was a One, who focus on being morally good. But… that fit even less than a Five. Ones are obsessed with judging themselves and others based on their perceptions of right and wrong, good and evil;6 and while that sounded promising at first, there’s one key problem: Midoriya is a decidedly non-judgmental person. Despite regularly standing up for what’s right, Midoriya never passes judgment on the villains he faces, instead solely focusing on protecting others. Not to mention, Ones are “focus[ed]… on making rules and procedures for the progress and improvement of themselves and their world.”7 But while Midoriya is always working to improve himself, it’s never for the sake of forming rules and procedures. No, a One’s core just didn’t fit Midoriya.

Well, if not a One, how about a Nine? Nines are renowned for their gentle natures and desires to create peace and resolve conflict. Sounded pretty similar to Midoriya’s desire to create a peaceful world where people can live in safety.

But this was problematic as well. You see, while Midoriya seeks inner stability, he doesn’t do so to the point of ignoring problems as Nines might:
[Nines] can… be too willing to go along with others to keep the peace. They want everything to go smoothly and be without conflict, but they can also tend to be complacent, simplifying problems and minimizing anything upsetting.8
Nines are not often reactive to the situations around them because they don’t want to make further waves.
Nines are… concerned with security and with maintaining some kind of status quo… Nines like to remain easy-going and unflappable. Nines… show little sign of being upset by the day’s ups and downs… [T]here is stubborn resistance and an unwillingness to be upset or troubled by conflicts or problems.9
And Midoriya lacks this quality entirely. Rather than calmly accepting situations so as not to disturb his inner sense of calm, if anything, Midoriya frequently overreacts to situations, such as during the provisional license exam when—despite his prior experience in real crises—he encounters a scripted “natural disaster” and cries out in concern, thus failing to ease the fears of a nearby actor posing as an injured civilian.

Funimation 2016-2019

Five, One, Nine… I’d been over them all. And I’d already ruled out the fun-loving Seven or the dominating Eight. I was running out of types, but I still hadn’t found the one that clearly fit Midoriya. Had the Enneagram finally failed me?

No. I couldn’t give up yet. Once again I ran over Midoriya’s key qualities, searching for the answers that eluded me. Heightened observational skills… Practicality and a drive to act upon what he’s learned… Focus on security and protection… Emotional outbursts caused by fear…

This was all starting to sound vaguely familiar…

I knew a person’s basic fears could often be more helpful in Enneagram typing than any other qualities, so I began to focus on this aspect of Midoriya. What was the cause of his fearful outbursts?

Well, more often than not, his outcries were a result of his emotional distress and, on occasion, his anxiety regarding how to resolve a situation when he felt incapable of doing so.

Funimation 2016-2019

Debilitating insecurity and pervading anxiety… Could Midoriya be an anxiety-riddled Type Six?

A Different Tack

Funimation 2013-2019
Some of you may recall my first mention of Sixes in Mikasa Akerman’s Type Cast: Sixes are “[t]he committed, security-oriented type” according to the Enneagram Institute.10 Since a Six’s greatest desire is “[t]o have security and support,” their greatest fear is to be left “without support and guidance.”11

But while Mikasa is a poster child Six, constantly clinging to her anchor Eren to make sense of a cruel world crippling her with anxiety, Midoriya seems to lack this same obsessive fear and clingy behavior. Could these two vastly different characters really be the same personality type?

There was only way to find out: compare fearful Sixes with the type I had initially assumed Midoriya was, the cerebral Type Five.

Comparing Fives and Sixes

As it turns out, Sixes and Fives actually have a lot in common; according to the Enneagram Institute, “Fives and Sixes are both Thinking types and, when educated, can both be quite intellectual.”12 However, there are a few key elements that differentiate these two personality types.

“Fives are, generally speaking, bolder than Sixes in their positions and creativity, but also far less practical… Sixes tend to be more linear and analytical in their thinking because they are interested in troubleshooting, in prediction, and in establishing methods that can be repeated.”13 So while Fives focus on the abstract and attempt to come up with creative concepts,14 Sixes are perfectly content to abide by established methods that have proven effective in the past;15 this is because Fives are more concerned with the thinking and/or concepts themselves, while for Sixes, thinking is just a means to an end: an exercise to come up with practical solutions they can then act upon.16

Again, we see that the Six’s focus on practical application is far more in line with Midoriya’s behavior than the impractical, abstract-thinking Type Five.

In addition, while Fives generally rely on their own personal research and expertise rather than on others’ (often thinking “‘everyone else is likely to be less well-informed’”),17 Sixes actually thrive in situations where they can learn from others and cite previous experience.18 Interestingly, this quality makes Sixes generally better-suited to the classroom than Fives:

Academia teaches students to work with advisors and mentors, to cite sources and back up arguments with quotes from authorities, to follow proper procedures in papers… all type Six values.19

Funimation 2016-2019
And while Midoriya does collect a vast array of his own research firsthand, he also has no qualms learning from the prior experience of every hero (and villain) around him. Midoriya excels at learning, which results in his exponential growth in his capability as a hero, a trait his mentor All Might even explicitly points out.20, 21 This rapid growth is due to Midoriya’s observational skills, his ability to troubleshoot using others’ strengths to his advantage, and his tendency to seek out counsel and assistance when he recognizes he has a need. It’s Midoriya’s reliance on mentors like All Might, Gran Torino, Togata, and more recently Sir Nighteye that helps him expand his experience, his classroom prowess, and the extent of his abilities. In fact, Midoriya constantly relies on others’ expertise even over his own experiences.

Why? Because he does not trust his own experience or decision-making.

Midoriya constantly questions his ability to make the right call. He always puts himself down, attributing all his success to others and wondering whether any prowess he’s obtained was truly his to tout. Midoriya’s first instinct is to seek a resource beyond himself to rely on—just as Sixes become “frantic trying to find something to trust precisely because they do not trust their own minds to come to meaningful conclusions.”22 That is, they do not trust themselves.

The pieces were lining up, but assumptions had led me astray before. I’d have to go even deeper to determine Midoriya’s personality type once and for all…

---
Funimation 2016-2019

Here’s the Preview!

A crippling fear: to be left without guidance… A childhood dream to become the greatest hero… A hero’s ideals and why he fights to uphold them…

As I delve deeper into Midoriya’s subconscious, I find insecurities, childhood wounds, and a complicated friendship… But will they hold the answers I seek?

Next time, “Type Casting: Izuku Midoriya, Finale!”

Go beyond! Plus Ultra!

---
Notes and References:
  1. Izuku Midoriya, My Hero Academia, “Rage, You Damn Nerd,” Episode 6, Directed by Kenji Nagasaki, Written by Yosuke Kuroda, May 8, 2016, 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), 208-210, quoted in “THE INVESTIGATOR [sic],” The Enneagram Institute, 2017, accessed November 21, 2019.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. “Misidentifying Ones and Fives,” The Enneagram Institute, 2017, accessed November 21, 2019.
  7. Ibid.
  8. 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), 316-317, quoted in “THE PEACEMAKER [sic],” The Enneagram Institute, 2017, accessed November 21, 2019.
  9. “Misidentifying Sixes and Nines,” The Enneagram Institute, 2017, accessed November 21, 2019.
  10. 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), 235-236, quoted in “THE LOYALIST [sic],” The Enneagram Institute, 2017, accessed November 21, 2019.
  11. Ibid.
  12. “Misidentifying Fives and Sixes,” The Enneagram Institute, 2017, accessed November 21, 2019.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Riso and Hudson, The Wisdom of the Enneagram, 208-210, quoted in “THE INVESTIGATOR [sic],”.
  15. Riso and Hudson, The Wisdom of the Enneagram, 235-236, quoted in “THE LOYALIST [sic],”.
  16. Ibid.
  17. “Misidentifying Fives and Sixes,” The Enneagram Institute.
  18. Ibid.
  19. Ibid.
  20. All Might, My Hero Academia, “Katsuki Bakugo: Origin,” Episode 37, Directed by Kenji Nagasaki, Written by Yosuke Kuroda, September 23, 2017, Funimation.
  21. Explanation Point, “Luck VS Skill: Deku and Bakugou's Biggest Mistake,” YouTube video, 14:02, May 6, 2017.
  22. “Misidentifying Fives and Sixes,” The Enneagram Institute.
All photos taken from VRV.co; all .gifs are from Funimation.com unless otherwise specified. All images and footage are property of their respective owners; used under US “Fair Use” laws.

My Hero Academia and all related terms are the property of Funimation. And I am not affiliated with them.

From Him, To Him

Friday, November 15, 2019

Update: Post Postponed to Next Week

Sorry, all! After dealing with some personal issues, this post was really giving me problems and simply wasn't ready in time for this week's due date. It's going to be a pretty in-depth post, so please look forward to seeing it next Friday!

As a little teaser to serve as an apology, here's another little hint as to next week's post topic. We'll be going back to a series of articles I haven't added an entry to in a while...

Friday, November 8, 2019

Disneyvember: An Unabashed Love Letter to Tangled


Disney has changed over the past few decades. To many fans, this company, once lauded for its quality and artistic innovation, has become a shadow of its former self.

There can still be a lot to love with modern original Disney films… and a lot that leave something to be desired.

We’re looking at the highs, lows, and mehs of modern Disney. Welcome to the final week of our Disney adventure, here in Disneyvember!

---
Raised in isolation, a young girl grows up with no contact with the outside world beyond one animal friend and her over-protective mother. But when a dashing young man stumbles across her tower, Rapunzel’s life will never be the same.

Today I’m raving about Disney’s Tangled.

Disney 2010

It’s honestly shocking that apart from a few references, I’ve somehow managed to avoid talking about my favorite Disney film.

I adore Tangled. From the music to the characters to the cinematography to the sets, every piece feels warm and wonderful. You can feel the love and care put into the film.

Production

After the incredible success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937, Disney frantically sifted through fairytales to turn into their next film. “Rapunzel” was one of the stories up for consideration, yet it remained locked in its tower until the mid-90’s, when Disney animating legend Glen Keane pitched a version of the tale. Unfortunately, Keane’s talents were needed for Tarzan, leaving “Rapunzel” to watch the world from her window until the early 2000’s.1

Even after production time finally came, Tangled underwent incredible changes, especially in its art style. When Keane was initially set to direct, he’d pursued a darker, Rembrandt-inspired art style, but creators felt this style weighed the film down. When health issues forced Keane to shift from directing to assisting animation, new directors Nathan Greno and Byron Howard shifted the art style to something lighter, airier—less Rembrandt and more Cinderella. This shift assisted tremendously with production, not only helping the story take shape, but also cementing the tone that makes Tangled so charming, so memorable, and such a perfect companion to the Disney classics.2

The Tone

Tangled does a superb job balancing darker elements with its clever charm, creating a world that feels airy and magical while also remaining grounded and relevant. This is a particularly remarkable feat considering the darker elements of the original story, which involved child kidnappings and people throwing themselves off Rapunzel’s tower.

Not that dark elements are foreign to Disney films. “[A] lot of Disney movies have a sinister core—Cruella de Vil wants to skin puppies for their fur!” director Greno pointed out. “The trick is to find ways to balance these elements with lighter, fun entertainment and create a visual style with the same balance.”3

The team behind Tangled achieved this balance by focusing on a single core idea, which art director Dave Goetz described as “appeal.”
We don’t want it to be grim, we don’t want it to be threatening or uncomfortable—even when there’s something really dramatic happening on screen, or something really horrible—it’s all been cocooned in this appealing package.4
But Tangled’s appeal isn’t the prepackaged, plasticy kind; Glen Keane insisted the story maintain an authentic, sincere tone. No glitz and gilding here.

For instance, there was a period during production where, much like Enchanted, the production team considered an “update” to the tale: it would feature two teens in a modern setting while poking fun at fairytales,5, 6 but Keane resisted this direction.

“I think when Glen first pitched Rapunzel, he really wanted it to be a sincere fairy tale; because Glen is a heartfelt, sincere guy who believes in things such as love and true emotion, and he really wanted to share that with the audience,” Greno recalled. “Glen, rightly so, said ‘I can’t do this kind of movie. This has to switch back, or else I can’t do it.’”7

And so it did.

I don’t believe Tangled would be near as good of a film without Keane’s commitment. Tangled shines sincerity from every facet, from its bright and inviting art design to its characters to its storytelling.

The Worldbuilding

In keeping with Keane’s vision of sincerity, the welcoming, appealing nature of Tangled had to also be, as visual effects supervisor Steve Goldberg put it, “believable and tangible.”8 And part of how Tangled accomplished this was through John Lasseter’s focus on worldbuilding. Co-director Byron Howard shared:
Even when you’re pitching new ideas, that’s the first thing [John Lasseter] says, “Think about the world,” because if you create a world, rather than just a character or a story, you can watch it, and it can play out and resolve within its own reality, so that it never feels false or that it’s “written.” You believe that you’re actually seeing this girl’s life play out, and feel that you want to go back and spend more time with these people. Be sure you have enough detail there so people feel like [the movie is] a full experience that they can just lose themselves in.9 
You can see this attention to detail in almost every art design decision in Tangled but nowhere more clearly than Rapunzel’s tower. While the tower is a prison, it’s also a home to Mother Gothel and Rapunzel; it needed to feel lived-in and homey while still being able to serve both functions… and as a literal canvas for Rapunzel’s wants, dreams, and lessons.10

“This girl is making her walls go away by painting on them,” Glen Keane explained.11

Glen and his daughter, Claire Keane, who worked as a visual development artist for the film, were both on the same page with this approach. “‘We didn’t want [the paintings] to just be decorative. This is all of her subconscious and all of her conscious desires… Rapunzel paints on the walls and she paints on her furniture and it’s all connected.” To create this kind of art, Claire found inspiration in her own daily activities, doodling as she worked.12

And the results are stunning. The art book is peppered with dozens of Claire’s paintings, some of which ended up on the inside of the tower in the actual film—all illustrating Rapunzel’s art style, her interests, and the things she’s studied over the years.13

Disney 2010

The worldbuilding in Tangled may be fantastic, but that’s not to say the characters aren’t important too. In fact, I’d argue Tangled’s tone and tale wouldn’t have worked at all were it not for its lovable cast.

The remainder of this post will contain spoilers for


Tangled



You have been warned.



The Characters

The Stabbington Brothers. Kinda cute, but double the trouble.
Everyone in Tangled—even the villainous Mother Gothel—has an element of likeability: that ever-present “appeal” that Goetz prized so dearly. Even the “Stabbington Brothers,” the goons who Gothel ropes into helping her kidnap Rapunzel back, have some element of likeability—though they’re only attractive outwardly and not inwardly. This contrasts with the thugs at the Snuggly Duckling tavern, who appear hideous but are goofy and nearly as endearing and quirky as Rapunzel herself.

 “Like all you lovely folks, I’ve got a dream!”

Disney 2010
And then there’s the love interest, Flynn Rider. I adore Flynn—and not just because he’s the most attractive Disney love interest to date! I’m a sucker for male characters whose life experiences have left them emotionally closed. Though Flynn isn’t as hardened as the love interest in Enchanted, Flynn’s experiences have left him just as hurt (and likely had a strong hand in his delightfully sarcastic sense of humor). Having grown up an orphan, Flynn seeks escape in the riches he thinks will make him happy. He lives his life without any regard for how his pursuits might affect those around him… until he meets Rapunzel and learns there’s so much more to life than seeking one’s own happiness. By the end of the film, Flynn proves he’s equal parts fun, clever, vulnerable, and sweet.

Disney 2010
But Rapunzel takes the cake when it comes to likeability. Much like Giselle from Enchanted, Rapunzel is a character I adore and relate to. I love her bubbly, perky, but thoughtful personality. I love how vibrant and loving she is, how open she is. She really is like a ray of sunshine, bringing light and warmth to every life she touches: she makes other people better than what they were before.

As Keane put it, “This is a girl who has to get out and bless the world.”14

Disney 2010

If Tangled’s appealing characters are the muscle that move the story and the commitment to sincerity is its backbone, then the respect for “Rapunzel’s” source material is what binds the two together.

Respect for What Came Before

Disney hasn’t always been careful about their source material, whether it’s failing to attribute sources such as with the Kimba/Lion King controversy or failing to pay homage to the original fairytales that inspired films such as Frozen or The Princess and the Frog. However, Tangled is refreshingly respectful to its source material.

As with almost every fairytale, “Rapunzel” has had many different versions, from a variety of French tales to the most well-known story by the Brothers Grimm.15 The variety among these versions makes it all the more impressive how many details from the original tales Disney preserved, down to ensuring Rapunzel possessed magic powers (in many versions of the tale, Rapunzel uses magic abilities to escape from her captor).16

Disney 2010
Of course, Tangled has the most in common with the Brothers Grimm version of the story. And while not every plot point made it in, all the major parts are there: a father-to-be brings his pregnant wife a particular plant out of concern for the wellbeing of their child. A villainous woman who considers the plant her own ends up in custody of the child, whom she imprisons in an impregnable tower while masquerading as the child’s true mother. The wicked woman uses Rapunzel’s uncut golden hair as her means of scaling the tower, calling the locks down with the classic, “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair.” One day, a handsome young man comes across the tower and falls in love with Rapunzel. When the witch learns of it, she sets a trap for the young man. Someone ends up tumbling out of the tower, Rapunzel’s tears magically heal her beloved, and she and he live happily ever after.17

The creators carefully braided the plot points of this timeless tale with themes any contemporary viewer can relate to.

The Themes

Perhaps Glen Keane crystallized the theme best: it’s about “this idea of independence, a huge personal leap of ‘Me becoming Myself.’”18 A coming-of-age tale “with this young, vibrant, gifted person who has to get out and realize who she’s meant to be.”19

But this coming-of-age tale isn’t one just for children; as animation supervisor Clay Kaytis points out; this is a “universal” theme. “I think that Rapunzel’s character has a message that audiences will understand, either because they have the perspective that comes with growing up, or they’re wondering what they will become because they’re young.” Young or old, we all understand what it feels like to wonder… “[W]hen does my life begin?”20

Like many others of my generation, I know this question all too well. I feel stuck in the same place in life. No matter how comfortable my rut may feel, I know there’s something more out there for me, and it fills me with longing: the same feeling Rapunzel gets as she gazes out her window. We all know there’s something out in the wide world we were meant to do and be. And when anything keep us from experiencing that, we feel stuck… trapped.

So many of my generation have become trapped vocationally and economically. We feel like we can’t support ourselves, like we’re children all over again. It’s a situation many strive to get out of but don’t always have the best luck. And all the while, we can’t help but wonder: “When will my real life begin?”

The Conclusion

As I was working on this article, researching all the love and care that went into making my favorite Disney flick, I kept finding myself asking the same question: why do I love Tangled?

The answer was hard to pin down. Because the truth was, I love Tangled for all the reasons that I love so many of my favorite films, especially good Disney flicks: it’s the lovable characters, the gorgeous art design. The humor. The quirky and fun but sincere tone throughout the whole story.

Disney 2010

I didn’t want to just repeat the same things I say for every movie I’ve praised though. Not only does that make for a boring read, but to me, Tangled is something truly unique, special. I wanted to honor that by working hard to crystallize exactly why it felt so different, so extra-special, to me.

The fact is, I feel Tangled does everything right that Disney does best: its charming characters. Its memorable villains. Its excellent music. Its perfect tone and balance between humor and dark, grim reality, of life truths with joyous magic and a hopeful happy ending. The fact I resonate so much with Rapunzel or wish to spend a day with Flynn Rider is really just icing on the cake compared to all that.

John Lasseter said that “[f]rom the beginning, our directors… wanted this film to sit on the shelf next to Walt’s fairy tales…”21

The entire crew clearly poured their hearts into this film, wanting to honor the things they treasured that had come before. Disney’s legacy was certainly never far from producer Roy Conli’s mind: “Tangled will be the fiftieth Disney animated feature. That’s a huge inducement to do it right.”22 And I think the only way to “do it right” was to follow those sincere feelings—the genuine love for Disney that people like Glen Keane have. That people like directors Nathan Greno and Byron Howard have.

“Both of us have a deep love of classic Disney, including the parks and the animated films…” Greno and Howard explained.
When Disney retells a classic story, the Disney version becomes the one people remember forever. We didn’t take that lightly.

We knew the film should be a true fairy tale, one that drew inspiration from Disney’s rich artistic history… Tangled is a direct descendant of these films, inheriting some of their best qualities.23
Disney 2010

Tangled did indeed inherit some of Disney’s best qualities. And I think that’s ultimately why I adore this labor of love with unabashed delight.

---
I hope you enjoyed these in-depth looks at Disney flicks the past few months! Next week, we’ll be going “Plus Ultra” with a series I haven’t discussed for a while. ;)

If you’re still hungering for more Disney, feel free to check out my first Disneytember post on Moana here!

---
Notes and References:
  1. Jeff Kurtti, The Art of Tangled (San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books LLC, 2010), 11-12.
  2. Jeff Kurtti, The Art of Tangled, 11-12, 28-29, 35.
  3. Jeff Kurtti, The Art of Tangled, 29.
  4. Jeff Kurtti, The Art of Tangled, 45.
  5. Jeff Kurtti, The Art of Tangled, 12.
  6. Brooks Barnes, “The Line Between Homage and Parody,” NY Times, November 25, 2007, accessed October 31, 2019.
  7. Jeff Kurtti, The Art of Tangled, 12.
  8. Jeff Kurtti, The Art of Tangled, 45.
  9. Jeff Kurtti, The Art of Tangled, 44.
  10. Jeff Kurtti, The Art of Tangled, 47, 50.
  11. Jeff Kurtti, The Art of Tangled, 50.
  12. Ibid.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Jeff Kurtti, The Art of Tangled, 53.
  15. Jeff Kurtti, The Art of Tangled, 8, 9.
  16. Ibid.
  17. Ibid.
  18. Jeff Kurtti, The Art of Tangled, 150.
  19. Jeff Kurtti, The Art of Tangled, 58.
  20. Ibid.
  21. Jeff Kurtti, The Art of Tangled, 6.
  22. Jeff Kurtti, The Art of Tangled, 29.
  23. Jeff Kurtti, The Art of Tangled, 7.
All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. Unless otherwise specified, all photos are from Disney’s Official Tangled webpage.

Tangled and all related terms are the property of Walt Disney Studios. And I am not affiliated with them.

From Him, To Him

Friday, November 1, 2019

Disneyvember: An Unabashed Love Letter to Enchanted


Disney has changed over the past few decades. To many fans, this company, once lauded for its quality and artistic innovation, has become a shadow of its former self.

There can still be a lot to love with modern original Disney films… and a lot that leave something to be desired.

Due to unforeseen scheduling issues, we’re finishing up the highs, lows, and mehs of modern Disney over the next two weeks. Welcome to Disney…vember!

---

On the eve of her fairytale wedding with the prince, a would-be princess finds herself thrown into a terrifying land full of brusque people “where there are no ‘happily ever afters.’”1 Will Giselle fail to find her happily ever after, or can she melt the heart of cynical single father Robert—before they both fall prey to the dangers of a wicked witch and a world that doesn’t seem to care about the magic of true love?

Today I’m raving about Disney’s Enchanted.

Disney 2007

In Enchanted, Giselle is transported to our world, where she finds her outlook being challenged constantly by the harsh realities of real life. However, through that struggle, she gains a newfound appreciation for love while maintaining her optimism and faith in the world.

Enchanted is a combination parody of and tribute to Disney films,2 but it wasn’t always this way. According to director Kevin Lima (A Goofy Movie, 102 Dalmations, and Disney’s 1999 Tarzan), Enchanted was originally written as “‘a racier R-rated movie’ inspired by the adult-risque comedy movies in the 1980s and 1990s.”3 This was the early 2000’s, after all: Jeffrey Katzenburg’s Shrek had just come out in 2001, topping the box office on its opening weekend.4, 5 Audiences clearly adored this edgy, modernized fairytale that poked fun at Disney tropes. Perhaps Disney needed to get with the times and produce something similar.

However, this edgy script didn’t sit right with Lima, as it missed the heart of the story he saw within.6

“With a movie like this, that’s all based on tone, I think the studio was just having difficulty with it… They just couldn’t grab a hold of the film and just couldn’t see it…” Lima said. “[S]o I also had a little bit of a different idea… I said ‘Let’s do it differently. Let’s… not take Disney down at its knees. Let’s do it in a way that feels like a love letter.’”7

After five years of relentless lobbying, Disney finally gave Lima the chance to make the film according to his vision.8 Beginning in 2005, Lima worked on alongside the original screenplay’s writer, Bill Kelly, “to combine the main plot of Enchanted with the idea of a ‘loving homage’ to Disney’s heritage.”9

So while the movie may tease Disney tropes, the creators insisted it’s all in good fun. “Shrek has a tendency to beat up on Disney. This is just the opposite. We lovingly embrace Disney,” Lima insisted,10 a point that Disney chairman Richard Cook—the man who ultimately gave Lima the green light on the film—also stood behind when he insisted to the New York Times that Enchanted was “not a parody and it’s not making fun of anything…”11

Indeed, the alleged “thousands” of Disney references Kevin Lima pointed out to blogger Peter Sciretta only seem to prove the extent to which the filmmakers adore Disney: Enchanted contains almost countless easter eggs, from hair shaped like Mickey Mouse’s ears to television caster’s names referencing Disney princess actresses to apartment numbers with the same area code as Disneyland California.12

If not for Lima’s loving appreciation for what had made Disney special in the first place, Enchanted never would have become the film it is… nor would it have meant so much to me.

Many critics spurn Disney films as outdated and unrealistic. Online articles are saturated with desire for Disney to move into something new, edgy, and scandalous—from intimate bloggers like Quint:
I like that there’s a nice grown up layer to [Enchanted] too, where there are a lot of more [crass] jokes and lot’s [sic] of innuendo and stuff… so it’s not like it’s a [sic] happy go lucky for happy go lucky’s sake…13
…to writers from The New York Times such as Brooks Barnes:
“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and “Pinocchio” were landmark films, but next to the computer-generated behemoths of today, they start to look a little geriatric. (Relax. I said a little.)

Projects like “Enchanted” indicate that Mr. Iger’s team is trying to take a route down the middle: resisting adding modern touches but referencing them in fresh settings and winking at their old-fashioned charismas…

Well, nobody expected Disney to change completely overnight. As Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother cautioned, “Even miracles take a little time.”14
While I understand the authors’ arguments for improvement of media and for stories that speak to a modern audience, I don’t believe those require introducing the cynical or scandalous to Disney’s branding. And I think people who seek these qualities in Disney films largely miss the point of why Disney became so popular in the first place.

Much like Disney animator legend Glen Keane (the man responsible for Ariel, Beast, Tarzan, and Pocahontas’s animation),15 I think the charm of Disney films always has been and always will be in sincerity: that is, in storytellers who genuinely believe in what their stories are about.16

While Disney has proven lacking in professional sincerity due to questionable business practices, I don’t think anyone can argue that its classics were made by people with genuine love for what they created. And that’s not to mention the lessons about life we can learn through these stories; Walt Disney himself was a man who believed in the power of the fairytale to display the truths of life.

Creating satirical Disney films not only greatly misses these points but also ends up demeaning what makes those stories so timeless and cherished in the first place.

I’m glad Enchanted ended up being the product not of cynics who believed Disney’s brand of princesses and fairytales was old-hat but by people who cherished what had come before and wanted to do it justice. Enchanted truly is a love-letter to Disney, and I appreciate that—moreso now, I think, than ever before.

So, this is my love letter to Enchanted.

Perhaps it was because I was raised on Disney films or the fact I’d never had a boyfriend for so long, but I was (and still am) a fervent Romantic in every sense of the word. Like traditional Romanticism, I idolize innocence and treasure beauty and art. And it likely comes as no surprise that I’ve been searching for my “true love” since I was four years old. My world revolved around the desire for romance. And, in some small part, it still does.

And then I came across Enchanted, which released during the Disney princess/animation drought that had left my soul thirsting for more of the magic I’d grown up with. The movie came out in 2007, no less—the very year I entered adulthood, and with my first (and so far only) relationship still another year away.

There went Giselle, parading around as a Disney princess in “real life,” living out my life’s dream. She could get away with being silly and over-the-top and bubbly and perfectly innocent and adorable as only a Disney princess could17—and how I wished I could. And she so desperately yearned for true love, a man she could spend the rest of her life with.

Looking back, in so many ways, I was Giselle—as wide-eyed, innocent, and naive as she starts the film.

Like the moment a few years later, when my then-boyfriend confessed that until he’d met me, he hadn’t truly believed in love. It shocked me.

I’d always taken the concept for granted. Not only had I grown up in a loving family with two parents in a healthy marriage who were each other’s best friends, but I grew up drinking in stories about romance—about bonds of love that couldn’t be broken by wicked spells, insurmountable obstacles, or even death.

I’d had no idea some people had been through so much pain that it had challenged the idea that love, at least in the pure and innocent sense as Disney portrays it, could exist in the real world at all.

Much like how Giselle simply can’t fathom Robert’s cynical views on love and the world when she first meets him.

For my then-boyfriend and I both, when we found ourselves in the “real world,” we met people and circumstances that challenged our way of thinking, especially in each other.

I appreciate Enchanted’s innocence and its maturity—not a maturity of content, but of message. Neither Robert nor Giselle is completely wrong in their way of thinking. Robert is a pragmatist. Giselle is an optimist. Robert knows how painful and hard life can be, that it’s not always sugar and rainbows and that sometimes there are unhappy endings. Giselle believes in the power of love and that one should always be gentle and kind to others, even if they aren’t kind to you. The problem is, of course, that both of them take their beliefs to the extremes; they need each other to find balance.

My relationship helped grow me in much the same way Giselle’s relationship with Robert shaped her: maturing her while still enabling her to hold onto the truth she always knew all along.

And this was my truth: that there is nothing wrong with cherishing love, magic, song and dance, and all those things that make the Disney classics so classic. In fact, I’d argue that holding onto these things—especially in a day and age when many so-called intellects scoff at them—takes some amount of guts, strength—and, yes, maturity. As C. S. Lewis so aptly put it in his essay “On Three Ways of Writing for Children”:
Critics who treat adult as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence… a mark of really arrested development: When I was ten I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up…18
And Lima seems to have much the same sort of mindset. “I’m not embarrassed by what most people consider juvenile entertainment,” he said,19 and this is what emboldened him to make a film that, while some consider parody, is still a clear love letter to Disney films and all the magic within them: the kind of beauty that we so often miss in our everyday hum-drum.

While more recent Disney films have certainly embraced a self-aware philosophy of poking fun at Disney tales while still telling a good story of their own (Think Moana’s insistence that Moana is not, in fact, a Disney princess stereotype; or Kristoff scolding Anna in Frozen for falling in love with a man at first sight), I think it’s people like Lima or Keane or C. S. Lewis who create the stories that mean the most to me. I can feel the sincerity they put into their work. It’s tangible. And it speaks worlds to people like me who, when going through something dark, need a sliver of light and hope that yes, love truly is real.

As an example, one scene from Enchanted that has always stood out to me is a scene set at a lovely ball, in which Giselle feels she must let go of Robert. Giselle knows now that she has fallen in love with him, but she cares too much about him to stand in the way of his relationship with his fiancée, Nancy. Despite the obvious love Robert and Giselle have for one another, they both feel they cannot pursue the relationship any longer, and they share a bittersweet dance to the tune of Jon McLaughlin’s “So Close.”

While that song held bittersweet significance upon my first viewing of the film, it gained so much more meaning once I lost my fairytale ending when my own Robert and I parted ways. It took years before I could bear to listen to “So Close” again, as it served as a constant reminder of a scene that had once just been part of a fairytale… but had come uncomfortably to life for me. It hurt because that scene, and the movie as a whole, was so real to me. And because Enchanted was so real, so tangible, so relatable, the film meant so very much to me.

But Enchanted didn’t only leave me with painful memories from a broken past; it brought me light and hope as well. For just as pain and hurt don’t break Giselle, neither did the pain I’ve undergone change who I am at my core. Giselle still hopes for and ultimately finds a happy ending. And if she can, then I too can conquer my dragons and find a “happily ever after” of my own, even if it doesn’t quite look like what I’d imagined, once upon a time.

In my book, any movie that tells that kind of story is a treasure to cherish indeed.

---

Whew, that one got a bit heavy! Interested in some lighter reading about under-appreciated Disney films? Check out my thoughts on Meet the Robinsons here!

---
Notes and References:
  1. Enchanted (film),” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, October 27, 2019, accessed October 31, 2019.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Quint, “Quint dreams about Disney princesses with ENCHANTED director Kevin Lima!!!” [sic], Ain’t It Cool News (blog), December 14, 2007, accessed October 31, 2019.
  5. Shrek,” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, October 23, 2019, accessed October 31, 2019.
  6. Susan Wloszczyna, “‘Enchanted’ Amy Adams falls under Disney spell” [sic], USA TODAY, May 2, 2007, accessed October 31, 2019.
  7. Quint, Ain’t It Cool News.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Enchanted (film),” Wikipedia.
  10. Susan Wloszczyna, USA TODAY.
  11. Brooks Barnes, “The Line Between Homage and Parody,” NY Times, November 25, 2007, accessed October 31, 2019.
  12. Peter Sciretta, “The Enchanted Visual Guide,” /Film (blog), March 14, 2008, accessed October 31, 2019.
  13. Quint, Ain’t It Cool News.
  14. Brooks Barnes, NY Times.
  15. Jeff Kurtti, The Art of Tangled (San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books LLC, 2010), 12.
  16. Ibid.
  17. Susan Wloszczyna, USA TODAY.
  18. C. S. Lewis, “On Three Ways of Writing for Children,” Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories (New York, NY: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1966), digitally provided courtesy of CatholicCulture.org, accessed October 31, 2019.
  19. Susan Wloszczyna, USA TODAY.
All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. Unless otherwise specified, all photos from Disney’s Enchanted Official Website.

Enchanted and all related terms are the property of Walt Disney Studios. Shrek and all related terms property of DreamWorks Animation. And I am not affiliated with them.

From Him, To Him

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Update: No Post This Week!

Hi everyone!

As many of you know (and perhaps some of you don't), I'm currently working on a fantasy fiction trilogy.

Unfortunately, I'm encountering some technical difficulties related to the trilogy and will need to take a break this week to resolve them. Because of this, I'll be pushing my posting schedule for Disneytober back a week.

Thanks for understanding, and I apologize for the delay.

In the meantime, you could take a look at some Victor's Blade-related content! The books may not feature a prince and singing princess-to-be like next week's post, but it's still chock-full of fantasy goodness... ;)

Friday, October 18, 2019

Top 10 Anime Villains


Author's Note: Previously this post lacked notation indicating which version of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure I was referring to. This has now been remedied.


We're taking a break from Disneytober this week to talk about villains!

Whether they want to take over the world or just mess with the main character, I love to hate villains. And anime has delivered some of the most memorable for sure. Today we’re taking a look at my top 10 favorite anime villains.




This post will contain spoilers for


JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, My Hero Academia, Gurren Lagann, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, and Trigun



You have been warned.




10. Dio Brando (2012-2013 JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure)


JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure 2012-2013

Come on. What self-respecting anime fan wouldn’t have this JoJo villain on the list?

I haven’t delved far into the ridiculously over-the-top world of JoJo, so I’m sure I’m missing some fantastic villains later on, but I think anyone who’s watched this series can agree that Dio is the classic recurring villain of the JoJo franchise.

Dio was born bad, lusting for power and prestige. He commits his first premeditated murder at a young age, poisoning his abusive father. When the generous, kind, but naive Joestar family then takes him in, the psychopathic Dio plans to steal the family fortune by worming into the Joestar patriarch’s good graces. The fact this plan entails tormenting the biological son, Jonathan Joestar, is a nice bonus for Dio; he gets a sick pleasure out of turning Jonathan’s father against him, all while painting it as a friendly sibling rivalry when it’s anything but.

The “friendly rivalry” Dio has against Jonathan turns into a generations-long bloodfeud when Dio gains powers from a mystical Mayan artifact that turn him into a vampire, granting him super strength, crazy reflexes, and magic abilities. No matter how hard the Joestar family tries to get rid of him, Dio just keeps coming back, even when he’s reduced to a disembodied head.

Dio is grandiose, flamboyant, and completely full of himself: all the things you love to hate about Gaston from Beauty and the Beast plus the power and intellect of a master supervillain. All that combined with his relentless persecution of the Joestar family makes Dio a great recurring villain.

9. Hero-Killer: Stain (My Hero Academia)


My Hero Academia 2017

Despite being subdued after only a brief appearance in the My Hero universe, Stain creates a lasting impression that changes the world as the viewers—and heroes—know it.

A long-time admirer of the world’s number-one hero, All Might, Stain started out as a relatively normal person. However, Stain became disenchanted with the hero world when he saw societal constructs were encouraging hero work for money or power rather than saving people. In Stain’s eyes, the hero world had become utterly corrupt, leaving only All Might operating as a true hero. Determined to “restore” society by becoming a villain himself, Stain launches a crusade against “pretender heroes,” killing anyone who falls short of the standard All Might sets.

Both Stain’s appearance and the extent to which he holds his convictions are terrifying to behold. No hypocrisy here; Stain never once calls himself a hero, and he openly desires justice to be delivered upon him, almost welcoming his eventual demise—though it must be at the hands of the only hero he deems worthy to kill him: All Might himself.

Stain’s presence and worldview completely shift the paradigm in My Hero Academia. Fully-fledged heroes find his conviction so moving (and terrifying) that they’re frozen in fear when combating him. Long after his arrest, Stain sparks discussions among heroes, civilians, and villains about the true nature of the My Hero society and what it means to bring justice to the world. Through this exposure, Stain’s beliefs begin to seep into society: after all, what good is a society that trains and rewards heroes if they aren’t upholding true heroism? The ripple effect of Stain’s presence affects the microcosm of UA High, who are forced to alter how they handle their students’ security and instruction, as much as it does the world at large as a new generation of villains comes out of hiding to mold the world in the way they see fit. How many other villains can boast that level of influence?

8. The Spiral King/Lordgenome (Gurren Lagann)


Gurren Lagann 2007

This guy is a royal nasty bad.

Though Lordgenome was once a protector of humanity, he became the puppet king of the world-destroying Anti-Spiral race, promising to cull humanity so the Anti-Spirals would spare Earth from utter eradication. Lordgenome then raised up an army of sub-humans called the Beastmen and waged brutal war against humanity, forcing any survivors to hide in underground cities—all allegedly to ensure Earth’s population never grow past the Anti-Spirals’ specifications.

Try as he might to justify his actions, Lordgenome’s hypocrisy is quite clear. While the rest of humanity struggles to survive in their subterranean prisons, unable to dwell under the sun due to Lordgenome’s ever-patrolling mech-wielding Beastmen, Lordgenome himself lives in decadence on the surface, enjoying his fill of women and power. He does whatever he wants to amuse himself, even creating genetically-modified “children” until they no longer please him and then casting them aside to die in prettied-up caskets.

His inflated ego and pretentious posturing along with his sick and twisted actions make it all the sweeter when one of his cast-off daughters fights alongside the heroes to end his reign once and for all.

7. Kagetane (Black Bullet)


Black Bullet 2014

As suave and debonair as he is ruthless and intimidating, Kagetane mysteriously masquerades in a tuxedo and theater mask, concealing more of his identity than just his face. But what you don’t know only highlights the truths you do about Kagetane: he’s someone you don’t want to mess with.

Black Bullet 2014
With an almost Joker-like delight in violence, Kagetane kills as easily as he breathes. He wipes the floor with his opponents, making sure everyone in the room knows his strength. He’s always a step ahead and delights in showing off his intellect and skills.

He also has a sickeningly sweet-psychotic relationship with his equally murderous daughter, a tiny killer named Kohina, who gets irritated every time he warns her to keep one of his combat playmates alive. It’s adorable and horrifying as they tag-team to kill anyone who gets in their way.

6. Führer King Bradley / Wrath (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood)


Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood 2009-2010

A fascinating villain, King Bradley is the result of a science experiment using alchemy, an attempt to purge series antagonist Father of his seven deadly sins. Father’s wrath was introduced into a number of human specimens with the goal of creating a vessel to become Führer of the country. King Bradley was the first and only one to survive the deadly experiments. His brutal philosophy and unflinching brute force make him a terrifying opponent on the battlefield, but his exceptional intellect, keen observations, and uncanny reflexes make him an even more dangerous opponent in a mental game.

Though originally an ordinary human being, with the introduction of Father’s wrath, King Bradley became a homunculus—an artificial being and servant of Father—and sees himself as such. However, King Bradley’s contradictory creation seems to come with contradictions of its own.

For instance, while Bradley shares the other homunculi’s disdain for humanity—regularly calling them weak, feeble-minded, and pathetically flawed—even he admits that he has some human-like qualities. Despite living to serve Father’s designs, King Bradley openly admits that his selection of a wife was his own decision, indicating he possesses the human quality of free will.

This is hardly the only human quality King Bradley possesses, and they all contrast sharply with his homunculus traits. King Bradley is cold and calculating but has a deep-chested laugh. He lives to serve Father’s purposes, but he also has a distinct will of his own. He answers to no one and yet serves Father loyally. Despite his overflowing wrath, King Bradley also has a complex sense of respect, always commenting when he stumbles across a worthy opponent—before cutting them down ruthlessly. He’s a complicated villain I love to watch.

5. All for One (My Hero Academia)


My Hero Academia 2016-2019

I’m a sucker for the all-powerful, all-confident, completely overwhelming and totally wicked mastermind villain. And boy does All for One deliver.

His ridiculously overpowered ability—one that allows him to collect others’ superpowers and give them to whoever he wishes—makes him a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield. But it’s not just his carefully-cultivated set of skills that make All for One a villain to end all heroes. In addition to his overwhelming confidence, All for One is incredibly intelligent, constantly considering all possible outcomes and creating contingencies for them. He’s always three steps ahead of the heroes, and he revels in it.

My Hero Academia 2016-2019
All for One is also sadistic and cruel, and he loves to twist the knife into any hero he comes up against, whether it be crushing the spirits of top-tier heroes or belittling his nemesis All Might any way he can. Every action All for One commits is meant to inflict pain on All Might, even down to All for One’s choice of protege: Shiguraki Tomura, the son of All Might’s former mentor. All for One revels in the fact he’s effectively turned the young man against the one person who would care for him more than his biological parents.

Even after All Might defeats All for One in combat, it’s unclear who the true victor really is. Behind bars, All for One still manages to get under All Might’s skin, jeering and gnawing away at All Might’s confidence… all while his secret contingency plans roll into motion without him even having to lift a finger.

4. Douman (Tokyo Ravens)


Tokyo Ravens 2013-2014 / Photo from ChariotWheel

Remember what I said about super-powerful, all-confident villain masterminds? Douman is all that mixed with the creepiness of a four-inch long spider.

Tokyo Ravens 2013-2014 / Photo from My Anime Shelf
This wicked old man has an affinity for the macabe and the supernatural. Wielding incredibly powerful magics, Douman is a literal disaster phenomenon, rated at the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane in the Tokyo Ravens universe. He easily outclasses almost any magic-user who goes toe-to-toe with him, even cornering the powerful instructor Jin Ohtomo in the past, forcing Jin to cut off his own leg to escape.

Like an unstoppable plague, Douman descends upon the magic-instructing Onmyo Academy, attacking teachers and students alike in order to obtain a legendary artifact that once belonged to the most powerful magic-user in the world.

Every creepy bit of the occult mixes with Douman’s insane power level to form this gleeful, terrifying villain. But power comes with a price: worthy opponents are so rare that Douman delights in finding a magic playmate who can withstand his abilities, and he’ll treat them with intrigued respect. His simultaneous lack of care for human life combined with this honor system makes him a fascinating villain. This unpredictability adds to the danger he poses but also makes it all the more interesting when Jin finally beats him in a dramatic showdown, after which Douman pledges to serve Jin with all the arcane magics at his disposal.

3. Medusa Gorgon (Soul Eater)


Soul Eater 2008-2009 / Photo from Netflix

I don’t think there has ever been nor will there ever be a villain I loathe more than Medusa. She’s nasty, she’s sadistic, she’s scheming and conniving, and she can’t wait to ruin lives in order to accomplish her goals. Manipulative, persistent, and dangerous, Medusa is a force to be reckoned with and by far the best villain of Soul Eater.

Medusa is a scientist and researcher at heart, and she seethes at what she perceives to be the world’s stagnantion.1 Determined to shake things up, Medusa works to unleash the power of the first Kishin, an insane being with incredible power gained by taking the lives of innocent souls.

In her lust for the first Kishin’s power, Medusa will do whatever it takes to succeed, including turning her own child, Crona, into a weapon for her use. Heaping scorn and abuse upon Crona seems to work wonders for Medusa’s plans.

Medusa is an exceptional actress and seductress, regularly fooling almost everyone around her with her clever disguises and gilded lies. The heroes consider her a tremendous threat even while holding her in a maximum-security prison cell. With how clever and cunning Medusa is, the viewers know it’s only a matter of time before she escapes again to cause greater chaos than before.

2. Envy (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood)


Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood 2009-2010 / Photo from Netflix

My feelings for Envy are as complicated as the character himself. Charismatic and funny, sarcastic and savvy, Envy is tough to hate. With an almost Loki-like trickster attitude, Envy can charm the fang off a snake. However, Envy is also brutal, sadistic, and gleeful as he inflicts pain and sparks violence. Envy is yet another homunculus and the embodiment of Father’s jealousy. As is apt for such a vice, Envy has the ability to shapeshift.

Always eager to show humans how foolish they are, Envy leaps at any opportunity to trick humanity into displaying their worst qualities and to rob them of hope. Envy loves to manipulate and taunt, like when he gleefully murders Lt. Colonel Maes Hughes while under the guise of the man’s beloved wife.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood 2009-2010 / Photo from Netflix
But while Envy is a brutal murderer, he is also a pathetic being that lives up to his name: he is, deep down, envious of humanity and secretly wants to be like them—a prospect that equally disgusts and intrigues him. As he wriggles and writhes in his final moments, he beholds the best humanity has to offer and marvels that he can’t defeat their spirit, knowing full well that he is, in fact, inferior to them. When he’s offered mercy and a chance to redeem himself, rather than admit defeat to “pitiful” humans, Envy takes his own life, warbling and whining to his last breath.

Pathetic, eerily relatable, snarky, and brutal—it’s these varied elements make Envy such an enjoyable villain to watch. Even if he is a sick murderer whose death avenged Maes Hughes.

1. Legato Bluesummers (Trigun)


Trigun 1998

Sometimes you just want a villain you can completely and utterly hate. A villain so cold and rotten to the core, they only exist to be loathed to the bitter end.

That is the definition of Legato Bluesummers in the Trigun anime adaptation.

There’s nothing redeemable about Legato. There’s no sad backstory in the anime to justify his actions—to himself or to the viewer. He’s a sick, twisted individual who loves to see protagonist Vash squirm and suffer.

Legato is as intellectual as he is sadistic. And with his incredible powers, Legato is almost more dangerous to Vash than Vash’s nemesis. Legato always maintains his cool composure, knowing Vash can never pose any threat to him. This isn’t some facade that shatters during his final moments either: Legato is always in control—of himself, of Vash, and of the situation—and he knows it.

Legato serves as a messenger and torturer to Vash, summoning him to a final confrontation with Vash’s psychotic brother Knives and working to get Vash to break his own code of ethics before the brothers’ showdown.

Throughout the entire series, Vash upholds the ideal to defeat any villain without killing them. This has brought incredible pain and consequences to Vash, but he holds onto this ideal… until his final showdown with Legato.

Legato is the one to get Vash to break his code for the very first time—not Knives, not any other villain. Just Legato. He’s the one clever enough and powerful enough to finally trap Vash, forcing him into a situation where there are no other alternatives: Vash must either kill Legato… or allow Legato to kill innocents. Legato pulls off this entire complex trap without breaking a sweat. As he urges Vash with eerie calm to shoot him, he smiles, knowing he’ll die having accomplished his goal.

Trigun 1998

Long after the bullet fires and Legato’s lifeless corpse collapses to the ground, Legato’s influence lives on, haunting Vash with guilt. Legato’s cool demeanor, his irredeemable psychosis, and his smooth grin even as he breathes his last—all these qualities work together to make my number-one anime villain.

---
Notes and References:

All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. Trigun photos from officially-licensed DVD. Unless otherwise specified, all others from VRV.co.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and all related terms are the property of/licensed by Viz Media and Warner Bros. Entertainment; My Hero Academia, Tokyo Ravens, Soul Eater, and Trigun licensed by Funimation; Gurren Lagann and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood licensed by Aniplex of America; Black Bullet licensed by Sentai Filmworks. And I am not affiliated with any of them.


From Him, To Him