Episode 8: Princess Mononoke and Last of the Mohicans


This time Podcastle In The Sky looks at two works of fictional sumptuous epics set in the shadow of a developing landscape and dealing with indigenous groups – The Last of the Mohicans having Native Americans, and Princess Mononoke having the Emishi, a now vanished people believed to be related to the Ainu.

Episode 7: Ayakashi – Samurai Horror Tales and Tales of the Dead


Celebrate Halloween the PodCastle in the Sky way – by watching Ayakashi: Samurai Horror Tales and reading Tales of the Dead. We discuss the two horror anthologies but also talk about horror in general, what scares people in the age of Twitter, and Steve Urkel (a.k.a., the greatest horror villain in fiction). Turn on, tune in, and drop dead tonight!


The book mentioned in the podcast is Peasant Uprisings in Japan: A Critical Anthology of Peasant Histories.

Behind the Scenes at PodCastle in the Sky

It’s no secret that we here at PodCastle in the Sky have eclectic tastes. After all, just take a look at the media we’ve covered: a 19th century French novel, a James Bond movie, a vampire reverse harem anime, Twilight. It might seem that we just flit from topic to topic based on whatever catches our fancy. Which is true, but perhaps you wonder how we pick a subject for our podcasting. It’s actually quite simple.

First, we get together online.


Whoops, that’s what happens when you’re messaging across the Atlantic Ocean. Okay, let’s try that again.


Mostly we just shoot the shit. Of course, since we’re pop culture nerds then us shooting the shit often means discussing Euripides and whether Greedo was a Bothan. Or in this case, it means talking about Star Trek: Nemesis.

Our thoughts naturally turn to giant robots and whether we can shoehorn them into the podcast.


In the meantime we accidentally write the premise for a Star Wars/Transformers crossover fanfic. I mean, Force Awakens versus Unicron? That’s some primo shiz right there.

We then agree that The Love Guru sucks and halfheartedly toy with adding visual novels to our review slate.

Click on image to open video

Just click on the image above to go to the linked video.

Of course, defining one’s terms is important in any serious debate.


Yes, we were talking about St. Trinian’s.

We eventually decide that Revolutionary Girl Utena isn’t gay enough.

We discard 10 Things I Hate About You as being an inappropriate pairing for Kare Kano, but we do find ourselves asking something important.


We decide that there are hardly any anime adaptations of Shakespeare (and yes, we know about Romeo x Juliet).


We cover some more things like vampires and zombies and how bad Smallville and Revolution were, but that Community realization was pretty much the only useful episode idea we got.

Anyway, that’s how we make sausages in this here podcast.

Episode 6: Fist of the North Star and The Road Warrior


It’s Mad Max and the Musclemen on this month’s post-apocalyptic podcast! In this episode, the PodCastle crew takes a look at two of the 1980s’ most extravagant pieces of end-times fiction with George Miller’s 1981 sequel The Road Warrior and the 1986 anime movie adaptation of Tetsuo Hara’s manga, Fist of the North Star. The narrative mysteries of spontaneously exploding tables, spooky men on stilts, and so much more are explored, so find a parking space for your skull-laden Doom-Buggy and listen along.

Giant Robots and Why We Love Them

A quick glance at the lineup of a typical anime season will reveal a large number of shows featuring giant robots. In the recent winter season alone we can count among giant robot anime the series Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded OrphansSchwarzesmarken, Macross Delta, and probably a bunch more I’ve overlooked. Point is, giant robot anime are like cockroaches and herpes – they keep coming back.

But what’s so great about giant robots? Yeah, I know, to ask the question is to answer it. Giant robots kick ass. I mean, have you seen Robot Jox?

Or Pacific Rim too, I guess.

Fine, but why giant robots? Why not, say, giant tanks, like in Heavy Object?

I think it ultimately comes down to power fantasies. A giant robot perfectly embodies the juvenile dream of invincible domination that a tank cannot. Realistically speaking, a tank is a better weapon. It’s smaller, so it’s harder to hit; it’s cheaper, since manufacturing tank treads is easier than a bipedal walking machine; and it’s safer, since it’s easier to knock over something on two legs than a machine that rides low to the ground. Tanks are pound for pound the deadlier weapon, yet they don’t feel that way.

Consider that riding in a tank is akin to being jammed into a broom closet. Who feels invincible when the walls are pressing in everywhere?

Michael Peña driving a tank in Fury
Michael Peña driving a tank in Fury

Even were they roomier, though, tanks are fundamentally more like a heavily-armoured house on wheels. It’s a place to hunker down and hide in. One feels safe by virtue of being enclosed.

Melinda of Heavy Object holed up in the perfect otaku bunker
Melinda of Heavy Object holed up in the perfect otaku bunker

Look at the image from Heavy Object above of a tank driver in her native environment. It looks like a shut-in’s dream room – no windows or doors and ample monitors to watch TV and surf the Internet. The outside world might as well be just another program on the computer screen. It’s a perfect metal womb to hide in.

Feeling safe, though,  is not the same as feeling powerful. By contrast, a mecha is more truly worn than ridden. It’s human shaped and therefore more of an extension of one’s self – like the perfect battle armour or a second skin, or a new metal body that replaces vulnerable flesh.

It’s also important to remember that the heroes in giant robot anime are all teenagers, even the ones who aren’t. The modern iteration of the giant robot subgenre tends toward the melodramatic and the angst-ridden (as opposed to the gleefully consumerist giant robot shows of the 70’s and 80’s). There’s usually a sense of persecution and oppression being unjustly visited on the protagonists, whether it’s the outcast mercenary troop of Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans or the underdog defenders in Argevollen.

But who are the villains who bedevil our heroes so? The enemies are often generic imperialists who fight for poorly-articulated and nonsensical political objectives. They aren’t fighting for anything specific because ultimately their goals aren’t important to the narrative. They’re just there to be roadblocks, to harass and  obstruct the hero and provide them something to punch.

The enemies of giant robot anime are so generic as to be universal. Look at the nickname bestowed upon the protagonist of Valvrave: The Boy Who Fought the World. This says it all. The enemy of the giant robot anime is no one specific, but rather everyone. Parents, teachers, bullies, rivals, friends, classmates, adults – which is to say, the generic “they” that persecutes the suffering hero of the show – are all the bad guys. They’re who he’s fighting against.

The giant robot pilot is like the Incredible Hulk – he wields incredible power but is misunderstood by the world. In the end, Hulk, like a surly and emo teenager, just wants to be left alone.


And here we come to the ultimate answer. The giant robot anime is the perfect teenage fantasy, for it’s a metaphor for the teenage condition: an innocent hero is possessed of unwanted new abilities which cause him to be unfairly beset on all sides by powers desperate to control or crush him.

This is the secret of why giant robot anime is so eternally alluring. Even adults who have their shit together will still occasionally feel like the world is picking on them for no good reason, and wouldn’t it be great if you had a magic wand that could make everything disappear? That could stop the world from pissing on you for just one damn second?

Why do we love giant robots? Because we all wish we had one of our own.

I Done Fucked Up

Ranma 1/2 as Rose of Versailles

Yeah, sorry about that. We had a pretty good discussion last weekend about Rose of Versailles and Marie Antoinette but none of that was recorded due to mysterious technical reasons. I, Jesse, as the person in charge of recording, offer my full and heartfelt apology to you, our fans. We decided not to redo the episode since a large part of our podcast’s appeal lies in the spontaneity of our discussions, which means you will never hear our unrehearsed thoughts on these media products. In an attempt at redress, herewith follows our conversation as pieced together from my memory:


Both the show and the movie treat figure of Marie Antoinette ambivalently
-based on contemporary historical consensus that Marie Antoinette was not a malicious figure but neither was she actually a good co-ruler
-To what extent does one hold her responsible for her own, real or perceived, ignorance and excess given being raised in a highly structured and ritualized world
-Marie in Rose has a clearer arc of tragedy and descent into excess born of sadness and malicious hangers on, Marie in the film is surrounded by an enabling entourage but is largely a creature of stasis and ignorance, film has less overt ‘fall from grace’ narrative

Marie Antoinette as indie movie – exchange between Marie Antoinette and husband as being out of Wes Anderson movie: “I hear you enjoy making keys?” “Obviously.”
Marie Antoinette as Hollywood product – hard to disambiguate actors from role; i.e., Rip Torn as King of France? “Dialogue is contemporary with period elements”

Insularity of show and movie
-nothing exists outside of Versailles and Paris
-jarring in Rose of Versailles when Fersen suddenly leaves to fight in American Revolution
-sudden reminder that other countries exist
Marie retains its insularity up through its final moments, Rose starts similarly so but gradually expands its viewer’s understanding the show’s world and the plight of its people alongside its characters, namely via Oscar

Marie Antoinette as slice of life drama
-barely any conflict in movie
-French Revolution does not happen until movie more than half over
-film is about boredom of being in ruling class. Coppla’s general thematic interest in isolation
-Film received some criticism for surface level depiction of aristocratic life, but film does contain some pointed satirical elements (Marie’s country estate and ‘back to the countryside’ lifestyle there representing an idealized and sanitized vision of rural life clearly at odds with the reality of abject poverty, Amber compares it amusingly to modern artisanal/organic hipstery affectations
-no boredom in Rose of Versailles, characters always obsessed with personal dramas and intrigues

Rose of Versailles treats du Barry issue as great crisis, but treats character in more nuanced way than the film
Marie Antoinette treats it as minor snag at Versailles, Du Barry viewed entirely through the intentionally narrow lens of Antoinette’s coterie and du Barry’s outsider status

Amber: do not personally like aesthetic of 70’s anime due to cheesy music and general aesthetic, but quickly adapted in the case of Rose
Jesse: agreement and do not normally watch older anime as well, Rose of Versailles is on personal Crunchyroll queue but kept passing it over for contemporary, watchable crap like Konosuba

Rose of Versailles is like Forrest Gump
-Oscar keeps showing up on edges of historical events
-because Oscar is not real historical figure then her accomplishments are all inconsequential
-common factor in historical dramas with fictional characters

Rose of Versailles is like HBO show Rome
-world historical events reduced to personal conflicts between small group of people
-international politics was part of consideration in real world Austria-France alliance
-big deal in world politics back then as alliance to counter Britain and Prussia but Britain and Prussia never even mentioned in show

Oscar Francois probably based on Julie d’Aubigny, La Maupin
-duelist and opera singer who lived openly as woman
-had romantic affairs with men and women

Women have always participated in men’s roles in European history
-long history of women disguising themselves as men

Hardly any working class characters died in Rose of Versailles
-perhaps Jeanne counts as working class
-all of main characters were in nobility
-the working class characters who died (Jeanne and Andre) were caught up with nobility

Oscar’s heroic death in storming of Bastille
-cannons blazing, sword in air, she can never top this moment
-as show mentions, Oscar dies before excesses of Revolution revealed
-had Oscar survived might still have died in Terror or even participated in it, then served in wars and even under Napoleon
-dying early allowed Oscar to remain pure in ideals

Oscar allowed to exist within two worlds
-Not forced to choose at story’s end between becoming a ‘traditional’ woman or abandoning all her femininity and sense of romance to simply ‘become a man’ (though she takes this approach earlier in the story) and instead grows to discover she can be both a romantic feminine woman and capable warrior and leader alike, not mutually exclusive
-Contrast to many similar works throughout literary history in which woman abandon all traditionally ‘womanly’ traits in order to truly succeed as a valuable/contributing member of rugged modern world (Fyodor Gladkov’s Cement, story progression of masculinzed ‘new woman’ Dasha versus the well-meaning but girlish Mekhova, who by the end is too weak/vulnerable to continue revolutionary work and stave off predations of less noble comrades)
-Comparisons made with female doctor character in recent television drama Versailles, set during the reign of the Sun King

Tuberculosis as cliched tragic setback for Oscar
-military protagonist with tuberculosis always dies heroically
-tuberculosis diagnosis as being out of left field
-clearly set up to provide tragedy to character, not out of organic growth in story

No Hitchcock film to mention this episode
-Hitchcock hated so-called “kitchen sink dramas”, or social realist depictions of the burdens of ordinary life
-In general, fictional depictions about peasants living their lives hardly exist
-Authentic depictions of ‘peasant’ life in fiction and cinema rare, contemporary viewers often find aristocratic lifestyle inherently less foreign (despite obvious divides in wealth and status) due to the democratization over time of elements of the ‘cultured’ lifestyle ala the arts and literacy, and in pseudo-secularized enlightenment era conceptions of the world resembling our own more than that of rural peasantry (Anna Karenina etc referenced, depicting the unknowability of authentic rural peasant life even at the time)

Everyone agrees Rose of Versailles tells a compelling narrative with fine artistry and memorable characters. Marie Antoinette has its flaws but is nevertheless a visually lush and satisfying depiction of the highly irregular and ritualized world Versailles and the isolation of the ruling elite.

Next time on PodCastle in the Sky: Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior and Fist of the North Star (the 1986 film)

Episode 5: Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Chronicle

Madoka and friends

Tune in for our greatest accomplishment in anime podcasting – we talk about Puella Magi Madoka Magica without once using the word “deconstruction”. Also we talk about the 2012 movie Chronicle and about teenagers with superpowers, then we kind of meander to a bunch of other topics. So stop, collaborate and listen to PodCastle in the Sky’s latest episode. Excelsior!

What are we watching in Feb 2016? Part 1

We know that you don’t know a lot about us, and it would probably help to understand where we’re coming from in our podcasts. Well, how better to get to know us than for us to talk about what we’re currently watching on TV? It works for dinner parties so we’ll try that here too.

Since everyone on the podcast is a pop culture nerd we’re limiting ourselves to a handful shows each from the anime and non-anime categories. Otherwise this would turn into a 50 page blogpost about every single TV show each of us is currently watching.

Jesse (a.k.a. Sarapen)

Non-anime: Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Thanks to The Force Awakens and the damn Galaxy of Heroes mobile game that I got hooked into, I’ve grown interested in the only bit of modern Star Wars that I haven’t watched. These are actually two different series – one is a 2003 show animated in a more traditional style while the other is a 2008 CGI spectacle. The 2003 version was helmed by Genndy Tartakovsky, he of Samurai Jack fame, and it’s just as excellent as his previous work. It’s a largely wordless action show which reduces a massive interstellar civil war into a series of intense duels across different planets. In style it’s basically a samurai epic in space, which should be unsurprising considering what Samurai Jack was like. I’ve mentioned this to William before but both Samurai Jack and the anime Katanagatari felt very similar to me, probably because they both take a lot of their cues from the chanbara genre (i.e., samurai movies). So I must recommend the Tartakovsky Clone Wars as an action and a samurai fan. Plus it changes General Grievous from the ridiculous robot with emphysema that he was in Revenge of the Sith and turns him into a genuinely terrifying enemy.

The 2008 Clone Wars changes things up quite a bit. It explores a lot more of the titular conflict, but in style it’s much more of a kids’ show. General Grievous has become a cartoonish bad guy who keeps getting beaten by the heroes every week like the villain from an 80’s Saturday morning show. At points I half expected him to shout “I’ll get you next time, Gadget!” like Dr. Claw at the end of every episode of Inspector Gadget. This isn’t a criticism, just an observation, as I realize that this iteration has a different target audience than the previous one (being on Cartoon Network I assume the Tartakovsky show was aimed at hipster animation aficionados).

Anakin Skywalker’s apprentice Ahsoka is the spunky Young Adult heroine one would expect from this sort of bildungsroman, and while I’ve only just finished the first season I expect the rest of the show to build up to her becoming a full-fledged Jedi. But even as a kids’ show this series can get pretty dark and shows actual characters dying, which I appreciate in that it doesn’t try to keep kids in a metaphorical hamster ball separated from the real world consequences of violence and conflict. Though there’s really quite a lot of that. I mean, do people in Star Wars ever just watch Netflix and chill? I know what regular people on Star Trek do to relax, but I have very little idea what it’s like to not be a general or a mystic space knight on Star Wars.

Still, an interesting thing to ponder is that for most 21st century kids, this is their Star Wars. It’s not the original trilogy, it’s not even the prequels, it’s this CGI show that’ll be the first thing that comes to mind when the words “Star Wars” come up. It’s at least a lot better than the prequels, and it’s a pleasantly entertaining show to relax with, so I’m going to stick with my Star Wars viewing project. Possibly I’ll move on to Rebels once I finish.


Anime: Schwarzesmarken

If you see a tweet about Schwarzesmarken it’s either me or Tom cracking wise about it. This is just an enjoyably dumb show to bitch about if you’re into giant robots and military porn. I obviously am, plus I have a fascination with both alternate history and the Warsaw Pact countries during the Cold War. The show is stupid but in a creatively-nourishing way – whenever I’m watching I’m either imagining German pop music playing in the background or mentally composing a rant about how remarkably off-base its understanding of history and international politics is. That’s when I’m not criticizing it for its right-wing politics and historical revisionism. God, this anime is shit. But I can’t stop watching it.


Most Unacceptable Robot Bullying: Dimension W

Dimension W garnered a moderate amount of buzz heading into the current season owing to its (at least surface level) stylistic and tonal similarity to the kind of action anime that were most common in the late 1990s and early-mid 2000s. Adapted from a relatively obscure manga, the question of course was always if there would be actual substance beneath the style or if the studio (and Funimation) were simply riding on superficial nostalgia.

With the show now about halfway through its run, the answer seems to lay somewhere in between. There’s much to like, and recommend, about Dimension W but an equal number of flawed elements that keep it from living up to its true potential. The show features an aesthetically pleasing, lived-in sci-fi setting and solid world-building, well animated action sequences, some standout side characters and a few knotty plot questions to keep things interesting. The show’s overall direction has moved in a manner that likely lay outside the expectations of many viewers however, leaning less on Cowboy Bebop-esque action and turning itself into a bit of a metaphysical mystery-investigation story, including occasional sojourns into the realm of vaguely Cronenbergy body horror.

This shift in direction isn’t entirely unwelcome by any means, but there’s a certain listlessness to the show’s plot development and perhaps the biggest problem remains the hole in its center. The show’s protagonist, Kyoma, possesses all the design characteristics and ostensible attitude requisite of a Samurai Champloo style badass, but little of the charm or personality that makes these kind of rogues work. That isn’t to say a great character needs to be flawless, or particularly sympathetic at all, but Kyoma is lacking in charisma and his obligatory tragic backstory doesn’t make it anymore palatable that he constantly kicks, pushes and otherwise acts like an asshole towards the show’s best character, the robot girl Mira.

Dimension W certainly isn’t a bad show, indeed sometimes it can even be quite a good one, but the wider atmosphere in which it has been received does demonstrate the danger of relying too heavily on signals of nostalgia and aesthetic style when judging the worth of an anime.

It’s the kind of show that reminds you why anime fans sometimes get peevish when other, arguably better (and sometimes better developed thematically) recent anime  get dismissed out of hand for their visual approach or character designs (I’ll put in a plug for the visually moe and thoroughly lovely and thoughtful Soranowoto here) while something that superficially seems to harken back to the ‘deep/mature/manly/badass’ anime of yesteryear is hyped up by default.

One of the best OPs of the season, though. Fine dancing!

Robot Bullying Prohibited

Unguiltiest Pleasure: Schwarzesmarken

Schwarzesmarken is a show that is abundant in flaws. Its deluge of grimdark war clichés both in regard to its aesthetic and storyline sometimes borders on tiresome, the adaptation has stripped what little nuance the source material provided for its onerous Stasi villains and has made them so deeply, and at times incomprehensibly, evil as to become laughable, certain plot elements feel rushed owing to episode constraints and the primary protagonists initially make little impression upon the viewer.

Yet, Schwarzesmarken has managed largely to transcend these myriad problems and has valiantly clawed its way into being one of my favorite shows of the season, even if I would very readily concede that it isn’t one of its best. Around the time of its third episode Schwarzesmarken begins to iron out its most distracting flaws and carry forward on more confident footing. Thanks to the efforts of the irrepressible Katia, Schwarzesmarken’s improbably loveable moeblob, the show’s primary protagonist Theoder Eherbach mercifully drops his sulky, paranoid demeanor (if that guy made a “tch!” sound one more time…) and becomes something altogether more watchable (and interesting) and both primary and side characters, like the steely Irisdina and thoroughly entertaining Commissar, Gretel, gain some much needed time in the limelight.

The show capitalizes on these storytelling gains with an amphibious invasion arc that is handled with considerable aplomb on the action side of things, and the show has largely maintained a steady pace in the subsequent episodes. Much of what makes the show work it of course owes to the wider Muv-Luv universe with which it is associated.

The franchise’s Cold War on steroids setting is simply too perfect of a sandbox in which to deploy all manner of military hardware in improbably massive scenarios, that nary a milotaku will prove capable of resisting. It’s not every day one gets to watch Tu-95s and Warsaw Pact MBTs (particularly anything regarding the DDR) lay waste to alien hordes, and I for one, cannot say no to such spectacle.

The show still has an abundance of issues unquestionably in terms of both plotting and characterization (Beatrix isn’t growing more fascinating by the episode) but damn if the thing doesn’t fill a very particular niche altogether rather well. I didn’t make my first AMV in over a decade about this show for nothing!

Behold, The Face of Modern War!

Solid Execution of Faintly Absurd Premise: Okkupert

Okkupert, also known as Occupied over here stateside, is a show that probably should not work. The program tells a (RIPPED FROM THE HEADLINES) story in which, after the presiding Green Party leadership in Norway decides to cease oil production, the country is forced to submit to a partial Russian military occupation organized in collusion with the EU in order to get Norwegian oil pumping to the continent again.

The show’s initial (I’m a scant four episodes in) success lay in large part with the intriguing and atypical characterization of the Green Party Prime Minister, Jesper Berg. To wade into mild spoilers, Berg is a largely sympathetic character, a choice that’s most interesting because it’s exceptionally easy to see how a different, perhaps lazier, show could use the character’s exact same actions in order to portray a venal, spineless cad of a politician/villain.

Berg’s primary goal throughout the show so far is protecting the Norwegian people from the worst case scenario that lay beyond the relatively hands off Russian/EU occupation and to restrain potential sources of unrest within his own society. In order to do so he sometimes evades the questions of a well-meaning, sympathetically portrayed and dedicated press corps, compromises his own values and beliefs and submits to some, though not all, of the demands placed upon him by the occupiers. Not every decision Berg makes is wise or fully justified, but he is nevertheless a character who is shown as trying to sincerely navigate as best he can his country’s unenviable position and avoid an escalation of the crisis. Wisely, the show also avoids making cartoonish villains out of its primary Russian players, or again, at least so far.

Okkupert is a particularly tense viewing experience, but I say that in large part because it feels like just the kind of show that could easily careen off the edges of a Fjord and into a deep and inescapable chasm of stupidity and schlock at any moment, and yet so far it has avoided that fate. The show of course, aired altogether some time ago now so a quick googling could yield my answers, but I guess I’ll stick around for the ride and see how this all pans out.


Tom’s Overall Best Seasonal Anime.
1. Rakugo Shinjuu
2. Erased (Boku Dake)
3. Sekkou Boys (I’m as surprised as anyone!)

Well-rounded Women in Media – Still a Work In Progress

We’re only four podcasts in, and already we’ve gotten our hands dirty with two of the most wretched anime I’ve ever watched (though, to be fair, I’m not a masochist [like, say, William] – I’m a pretty picky viewer, and thus have not nearly the same library under my belt as the gents and lady whom I cast with). And though we did touch on the subject in our last two podcasts, I’d like to rant, for a moment, about the lack of agency women have in the supposed “ideal” fantasies of both men AND women.

Of course, in Golgo 13 and Octopussy, this is pretty overt. The women in Golgo are there to screw or be screwed. Even a big, bad mob boss gets undone by her need to writhe on top of Duke while he lays stiff and unmoving beneath her (I assume his member can vibrate or something, because he is just that good). And poor Laura, as we discussed, falls victim of Madonna/Whore syndrome – once you’re sullied by rape, you can’t possibly live life as a woman who doesn’t sell her body for sex1(though one wonders what would have happened if Duke took her up on her offer. He seems to be cool with the occasional prostitute, given Nameless Steam Room Orgasm Blonde at the beginning of the film. I assume he could have sexed Laura back to good mental health somehow).

At least in Octopussy women storm the gates and try to take out the baddies who stole their stolen jewels. And yet, Octopussy herself, supposed criminal mastermind with a horde of beautiful, loyal minions at her bidding, is outsmarted by her closest male assistants, as well as her male client, and it is a man (Bond, obviously) who must save her from foolishly trusting these baddies with her business and her life.

All right, you say, I shouldn’t kvetch about two male-power fantasies from the eighties that use women as distressed damsels and sex toys. It was a different time, you say. That’s common in male-power fantasies, you say. You sure are disgruntled by my disgruntlement.

But what about the female-oriented fantasies we viewed? Both Twilight and Diabolik Lovers have protagonists who are little more than cardboard props for the men in their lives to move around as they please – strangely, to the women’s delight. Aside from specific dom/sub kink play, this is one messed up idea to present as a feminine fantasy and ideal – that a woman’s story doesn’t begin until men enter it, and that once they do, the woman is nothing but a sidekick in the men’s journey. And neither property can lean on being outdated as an excuse for their treatment of women, having come out in the aughts and teens respectively.

And it’s not as if the male-power fantasy isn’t still dripping in useless, 2D women (I’m lookin’ at you, Jurassic World).

I feel we’ve come to a time where we as a society can recognize these tropes (the damsel in distress, the cardboard woman) as being terrible, but we are so locked in to this idea of what a woman should be that even now it’s hard to smash out of the box. Would Mad Max: Fury Road have had as much backlash for being “overtly feminist” if part of our culture didn’t still  buy into the idea that movies that go smashy smashy bang bang2 need to be a.) only geared toward men and b.) only feature men being strong? Would the lovely Crimson Peak have been so sneered at for “not being scary” if the advertisers didn’t feel the need to sell it as a horror flick to get asses in seats instead of a female-led thriller and atmospheric period piece (and I’ve noticed that the romp Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is now also being sold in such a way – badass beauties fighting zombies in a horror movie rather than fun, action-packed satire starring women)? And why is the protag of Attack on Titan the overzealous Eren Yeager and not the efficient, skillful Mikasa Ackerman? We can say that perhaps they’re playing with the tropes of the main protagonist being the best of the best as well as male in an action-packed show, but why not simply make Mikasa the lead instead and really flip-flop expectations?

We’re making progress, guys, but there’s still work to be done so that both genders and all sorts of character personalities get their day in the sun. And the more we point out what we’re missing on screen, the more diversity we’ll see.

Amber Rant Complete


1. Not that I think prostitution is a profession without merit. But the movie clearly thinks so.

2. In the best possible way. Fury Road is my new religion, and when I die I will arrive at the gates of Valhalla, shiny and chrome.

Episode 4: Golgo 13 and Octopussy


In this episode PodCastle looks back to 1983, a year of dueling James Bond movies – and picks one of the movies (Octopussy, the ‘official’ one) and compares it to another product of 1983, Golgo 13: The Professional, the first anime adaptation of a character inspired by Ian Fleming’s spy. Confident killers, wonky geopolitics, male power fantasies and more!