Living the Good Life, Episode 66 (January 12, 2018): In sickness and health 2K18…

Not a good week…I spent the first half of it laid up in bed, very very sick, but fortunately I’m better now 😀 Here’s what I’ve been up to…

WATCHAN:

Junji Ito collection ep. 1: Junji Ito’s a famous Japanese horror manga artist, so I decided to check out the anime adaptation of his works that came out recently. The first episode involved this weird kid who used voodoo dolls to curse the people around him. The episode as a whole was very strange…there were some unsettling moments, but it was more funny than anything else–intentionally–because the kid had such a ludicrously overinflated opinion of himself and his voodoo schemes kept getting foiled in silly ways. Junji Ito also drew some funny stories in addition to his horror work, so I suppose this first episode was an adaptation of one of those.

Well, at the very end of the episode, after the kid’s plans get really foiled, there’s another brief skit, and this one seemed very horror, or at least dark-fantasy ish. It’s very short, like not even 5 minutes, but involves a child who turns into a doll and then mutates into something even more monstrous. The last images there were very scary! Guess I’ll keep watching…

Also caught the new Devilman Crybaby anime. Devilman was one of the most controversial and influential mangas ever released in Japan, revolutionizing the artform back in the 1970s, and Crybaby is a modern adaptation of it. WARNING: Crybaby was a SUPER NSFW, so even this brief review will be a little NSFW, since I have to mention some of the sexually explicit content that made the series as a whole what it was.

Ooof…it was certainly a trip. Incredibly violent and disturbing, with a ton of really weird, bizarre sex. Some of that stuff I felt was pointless, like some weird shots focusing on the MC’s balls and one really weird scene where a girl makes horse-like noises as she masturbates. But one of the overriding themes of Go Nagai’s original manga was to show us how depraved we can be under certain circumstances, and the importance of resisting our worst impulses–and in that respect, some of the other scenes, like some very brutal sex (both heterosexual and homosexual) gets that point across well. Thankfully, this anime doesn’t try to make rape, or even violent sex, appealing at all–it’s horrifying, as it should be. And the violence…again, it’s explicit and terrifying, but the theme of the original was how pointless and awful war and killing is, so extreme violence that repulses the viewer helps get that idea through. And the action scenes are very good. I was initially suspicious of the animation at first; it seemed cheap and crappy to me, but it really starts to shine when Devilman fights his demonic foes–the battles are frenetic, heart-pounding, and very badass.

The story also has some very powerful moments. I don’t want to spoil too much, but while the original manga kinda namedrops religious themes (like the titular Devil in Devilman), it doesn’t really do much with them specifically. However, in Crybaby, they explicitly quote the Bible and parts of the Gospel of Matthew to reinforce the point that hatred and war are self-defeating, and only self-sacrificial love of the sort Christ espoused can truly save humanity. It’s a small thing, but quite impressive IMO.

Alas, the plot itself is kind of disjointed…again, no spoilers, but some revelations come out of nowhere unless you’re familiar with the original manga, and the way characters and society as a whole react to situations can seem senseless and confusing. Still, the heart of the story is strong enough that it comes through even past some minor confusion.

The music is excellent–I’m not overly fond of the OP, but the OST is great, and the new rendition of the original Devilman TV show theme song from the 1970s is very good. So, overall, despite some flaws, this was a really great watch!

EATAN:

Nothin this week cause I was so sick…just soup, mainly 😛

TIMAN:

No releases, but Sky continues to make her way through the Dragonar eps I’ve been sending her~

PLAYAN:

Not much this week.

READAN:

Given how sick I was for a couple of days, I couldn’t really do anything besides sit in bed and read, so I checked out the famous Fire and Fury book by David Wolff.

Hooo boy…it certainly was pretty entertaining. It’s just what it says on the tin–an account of the first 9 months of Trump’s time in office, along with a description of his campaign leading up to his victory. To keep things short, much of it is unbelievable, and I’d take it with many grains of salt. I hardly think Wolff was a fly on the wall for big scenes like various heated arguments between team members (Bannon’s terrifying blowup at Hope Hicks the most dramatic) and things like that.

However, there are a couple of things that make me think the core of the book and its theses (that Trump’s team is fractious, fundamentally unprepared for the responsibility of rule, and didn’t even want to win at all) are accurate. First, it’s the reactions of the Trump administration itself. As I’m sure many of you have heard, they didn’t deny the most explosive allegations the book made against Bannon, they just threw him under the bus. Why’d they do that unless those allegations couldn’t be denied–i.e were true? Second, it’s that the book doesn’t come across as just an entirely one-sided, calumnious attack on the Trumps and everyone related to them. Wolff makes no secret of his contempt for these people, but also assiduously mentions what few good traits they have. He compliments Bannon for reading a lot, describes the cunning way in which the “Jarvanka” faction managed to outmaneuver him, lauds Jared and Ivanka for being moderating forces even as he condemns their financial stupidity, and admits that Trump, despite being a philandering misogynist, at least keeps Melania “in the style she’s accustomed.” So the fact that there’s some balance here lends Wolff a little more credibility than I’d otherwise give.

And even if it was totally incredibly, the book would be fun enough to make it worth the price. Again, Wolff makes no secret about his contempt for the Trump campaign, but he’s not preachy about it. With clear, easily understandable prose, he highlights their absurdities and failings in a vivid, engaging manner that allows the reader to really see how bumbling, incompetent, and occasionally crazy these people are without adding in too much of his own voice. It’s hard not to laugh at some of the descriptions of Bannon’s poor choices in clothing, Trump’s perpetual confusion, and Jarvanka’s manipulations. Even if some of it might be embellished or just untrue, it’s very funny.

Still, humor alone can’t carry a “serious” book. If this work might not be 100% accurate, what value does it have? I can think of a couple:

1: As a demonstration of what people think of Trump’s presidency. Again, even given all the caveats of its accuracy mentioned above, many people–not just me–think there’s something to its outlandish accusations. If nothing else, that should give you an idea of how polarizing Trump’s administration has been, and how profoundly cynical the opposition has become concerning Trump’s sanity and competency.

2: A telling snapshot of the divisions within the Trump camp. Whether or not the specifics are accurate, I think it’s hard to deny that Wolff fairly captures the genuine loathing many in the Trump campaign feel for each other. Pretty much everyone has heard of the conflicts, both personal and ideological, between people like Jared Kushner and Steven Bannon, John Kelly and Anthony Scaramucci, the “Republican Establishment” and the alt-right populists. Wolff’s book provides excellent dialogue and “fight choreography” of a sort to put all that strange infighting on a very memorable stage.

So, yeah. I can safely recommend this book, and say I certainly don’t feel like I wasted my money. Check it out, if only to get a better understanding of our current historical moment by keeping an eye on what you’re skeptical about and what you find yourself drawn to believing. One more thing, the Kindle version does seem to have a couple of minor errors, like on page 4, there’s a line that says, “This was the job Bannon a week later”–missing word, it should be “Bannon *received* a week later.” I think I noticed a couple other small errors like that too, and while they’re not huge, it is a little irritating. Still worth a buy though.

I also got a nice artbook of The Thing, one of my favorite horror movies. Good times! Not much to say about it…the forward, by Eli Roth, was amusing, and provided a bit of insight onto how people were affected by the movie at release, but didn’t do much more. The real meat of the book is in the art, and it’s great! All kinds of sweet re-imaginings of The Thing creatures, modernized movie posters, that sorta thing. Not quite sure if it was worth the 40 bucks I paid for it on its own, but for collectors? Certainly a deal.

WRITAN:

Not much this week, again, sick ;_; Hopefully next will be better now that I’m all better 😀

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