Alone: Review

Spoilers will be at a minimum, I’ll do my best not to reveal anything not already shown in the trailer.

So for starters, this is a really good zombie movie. Probably my favorite, because it’s believable. It spits in the face of every idiot who ever talked about how easy it would be for them to survive a zombie apocalypse. Personally, I always said I’d just find a place that was solar powered, hook up a tv and game system, and only leave to get food after the first two weeks when things calmed down a bit. Alone laughed at my plan because it brought to light all the things we don’t think about, and made the apocalypse feel intimate, personal, and believable. This is thanks in almost equal parts to the wonderful script and Tyler Posey’s absolutely stellar performance. I hate that this movie almost certainly won’t get the appreciation it deserves because it’s a horror film, but please, if you like zombies, this movie is a must-see!

Rating: 9/10

Samurai Champloo: A 2000s Bebop

So earlier today I finally finished Samurai Champloo, and if I’m being honest, it’s Cowboy Bebop with slightly cooler male protagonists and a new paintjob. Everything I said about Bebop pretty much applies to Champloo. Solid voice acting, great music, acceptable use of black culture, and interesting characters. However, just like Bebop, Champloo is about 70% one-off episodes that feel like incredibly skippable filler and usually involve our main trio struggling due to lack of food, money, or both. The episodes that are actually good are very good, which only makes the one-offs that much more frustrating to sit through. The fight scenes are better but I think that’s because they have to be. This isn’t a space western, it’s a hip hop infused samurai story, so naturally we expect top notch swordplay.

The heart of Samurai Champloo lies in it’s main characters: Jin, the disgraced but very proper samurai, Mugen, the vagabond badass, and Fuu, the girl who cons these two warriors into a journey with no known destination. She asked them to help her search Japan for “the samurai who smells of sunflowers” a flower that has no scent, and that is where it all goes wrong in my opinion. Now I’m not saying that every anime has to have a clear cut goal or a destination, after all, One Piece has almost 1,000 episodes and they’re still looking for the same treasure as episode one, but a goal as ridiculous as searching for a samurai who smells like a flower that doesn’t have a smell? I mean that’s just insane. Nevertheless, the two samurai agree and being the journey, which mostly consists of starving, Fuu getting kidnapped, and somehow making enough money to keep going. This is the cycle that repeats through most of the first half. Occasionally someone from one of the boy’s pasts will pop up and we’ll learn more about them, or some badass opponent will give us a good fight for a few minutes, but that’s rare. I actually didn’t mind how easily Mugen and Jin kill most of their enemies because it further solidified how much they value the opportunity to fight and kill each other. However, this does mean that for the first twenty episodes the best fight we see is in episode one.

I feel bad for Mugen and Jin. Both of their stories are so interesting on their own that I really just wanted to hear more about them instead of a lot of the random mess we got. I mean, Jin’s complicated past with his martial arts dojo alone would have made for a borderline Samurai X level story if it had been the main focus. Mugen’s complicated childhood on a island prison full of criminals would definitely have made for a quality series, but instead we see these two badasses shackled down by one the most annoying ladies I’ve ever seen in anime. For anyone who ever called Sakura useless, you clearly haven’t met Fuu. She’s honestly the worst part of the story.

Remember the two times in Cowboy Bebop when Faye tried to have some sort of love drama with Spike whenever he went after Julia? Fuu is far worse. Treating Mugen and Jin like crap most of the time, constantly complaining and insulting them, but whenever a girl looks at them, or they look at a girl, she throws a fit, saying things like “why look at her when you have me around?” yet outside of those situations she seems to show zero interest in either men romantically. Then, in a terribly underdeveloped nightmare, there’s some kind of “throw it at the wall and see if it sticks” love interest story between Fuu and Mugen in the final episodes, which actually culminates in both men nearly dying to help Fuu one last time. However, they narrowly escape death, immediately move to fight each other, and pass out. This leads to a oddly beautiful conversation about friendship, which would have been nice except they separate right after that! That’s right, the whole lesson of valuing friendship leads to three loners being alone again for absolutely no reason!

Cowboy Bebop was a 6/10 for me, though I acknowledged that for it’s time, it was a 10/10. Samurai Champloo, being that it’s pretty much Bebop in a kimono, gets a modern score of 4/10 and a “for it’s time” score of 7/10. I can understand the appeal of a show that felt grown up to a teen anime fan, but there were so many quality shows already available at the time that Samurai Champloo is a lot less unique.

Strawberry Feels: Why I Model?

So I’ve been an aspiring model for roughly two years. I’ve worked hard over the years, improving my craft and finding my particular niche. I’ve invested quite a bit of time and resources into it always hoping for my big moment, but never expecting it. Given the other kinds of art and entertainment I do work in, I’ve been asked a lot over the years why I invest so much into modeling. It’s a fairly simple question but the answer is complicated. I’ve thought about giving up a few times over the years but in all honesty, I love modeling. I love putting looks together, I love seeing the look on a photographer’s face when they get something good out of me, and I can’t even describe how good it feels to see a solid shot of me at my best. But there’s more to it than that, and I hope this explanation might also help anyone else out there pursuing far-flung dreams.

The photo on the left was taken in 2015, and that kid is a complete stranger to me. Truth is, he was a stranger back then too. I didn’t know who I was, or who I wanted to be, or really, what I wanted out of life. To be honest, back then I was just surprised I hadn’t killed myself yet. I was never suicidal, but I also never expected to see 25, yet there I was, and I feel even more lost than I’d been at 16. My number one dream was just that I didn’t want to be alone.

The absolute badass on the right is me two months ago. Fully aware of who I am, flaws, mental illnesses, and all, and making a conscious effort to improve. I’d finally been to Warped Tour, had more than 2 tattoos, and had learned how to be at least somewhat responsible. I’m still a work in progress, but I’m doing a hell of a lot better than the guy on the left. Also, I’m months into my transition, and the person on the left still thought he was a mostly straight guy. Also, I’m not alone anymore. I have a wonderful partner, an incredible best friend, and other people genuinely in my corner who are fully aware of who I am and accept me. The woman on the right deserves to have her dreams come true and will fight for them until they do. The difference between who I was and who I am is staggering.

But, to get back to my point, I model for the old me. I model for the me who loved herself, and I especially model for the me who hated herself. After about 20 years of hating myself, pretending to be something other than who I was, and sacrificing things in the name of fitting in, I finally love me. I’m slowly unpacking years of trauma and casting away the storm clouds. I’m becoming someone I’m proud of. So, modeling is an act of self-love. Not ego, but genuine self-love. A few years ago I thought of myself as Atlas, or a narrator only meant to illuminate the stories of others. Seen, and only rarely heard. I thought myself only fit to help others climb the mountain, rather than climb it myself. But now, I want to see the view from the summit myself. I want you to hear the stories I have to tell, I want to leave a mark on the world that is distinctly my own. So, that’s why I model, because I love myself now. I don’t want to be famous, but I do want to be a good representative of my communities. I want to show other late bloomers that they’re not late, just not as early as others. I want the little kid who wants a purple mohawk to know it’s okay. I want every kid unsure of their gender or sexuality to know it’s okay to explore and figure yourself out because you come out the other side of that journey something awesome!

I’d also like to say that there’s nothing more valuable on this journey than true friends who will support that journey with honesty, love, and patience.

“It just takes some time, little girl, you’re in the middle of the ride, everything will be just fine, everything will be alright”- Jimmy Eat World

God Of Highschool Review (SPOILER FREE)

I just finished the first season of God Of Highschool and I am shook. The first couple of episodes left me confused from the lack of worldbuilding, which made a few of the shounen trope moments feel off. I actually considered turning it off at one point, but I’m very glad I didn’t. While it may have come late, the explanation behind the show’s power system really gripped me. There’s definitely still a ton of questions which I’m sure will be answered in season 2 (or if I felt like reading the webtoon) but unlike a lot of anime, I’m not waiting for the answers in frustration, I’m genuinely excited for these reveals. The protagonist Jin Mori originally seemed like a modern Goku, which I didn’t like, but by the end of the season I absolutely loved him. He is definitely a Goku type, but in some ways he’s actually better. I love that all of our characters have strong motivations and each are thoroughly explored. None of the women feel useless and their written incredibly well. Also, this series excels in it’s fight choreography and animation. I haven’t seen such fluid and well crafted movement since Yuri on Ice. The loyalty to actual known style of martial arts and seeing how different styles will match up made every fight more interesting.

My only complaint about the series is more than likely due to it’s source material. As a webtoon, I understand the creator not wanting to waste time with certain things, but there are points where the story feels rushed. One fight in particular I was very excited for, but the battle started with almost no warning and was over so quickly I felt cheated. I’d wager if you’ve watched the show you know what fight I’m referring to. Aside from that, GOH is absolutely incredible.

Rating: 8/10

Cowboy Bebop: The Jewel of It’s Time

I finally watched Cowboy Bebop

So, I’ve been a weeb since I first saw Dragonball Z and Sailor Moon on Cartoon Network back in grade school. I’m pretty sure I was in first grade. I remember seeing the very first episode and just being in awe. No more Power Rangers or Star Trek for me, why watch that when I can watch guys with awesome hair blow up planets? So it may shock you that, for as long as I’ve been a weeb, there are certain iconic shows I never watched. Mostly because they either aired at a time when I didn’t have TV access, or they came out during the three years I lived in Germany without American television. My whole life I’ve been told how great these shows are, and I’ve slowly but surely made my way through the list. One anime everyone told me was unbelievably fantastic, was Cowboy Bebop. I have been recommended it by every single anime fan I’ve ever met. So, two days ago I sat down and forced myself to watch every single episode. Given there’s only 26 episodes and I’ve breezed through something like that in a day or two, I assumed I’d fall for Bebop just like everyone told me I would, and finish it in the same day I’d started. Sadly, that was not the case.

Cowboy Bebop was a struggle for me to get through, it got to the point that my boyfriend would see it on our TV and just wish me luck, even once suggesting that my crusade wasn’t worth it. However, I’m stubborn, and an hour before writing this, I finished the final episode. So, here’s my thoughts on this long hyped up space opera.

For it’s time, I’d definitely consider Cowboy Bebop one of the best anime available to American audiences. Considering the very limited and odd collection of what was available to us, I can completely understand people falling in love with this series. A beautiful score, cool looking spaceships, great depictions of people of color, occasional good fight scenes or shootouts, and main characters who definitely didn’t fit what we were used to at the time. The Bebop crew is nothing like the Z fighters or the Sailor Scouts. They smoke, seem to almost always be out of fuel, food, money, or all three, and even though they often find themselves doing the right thing, they do it for personal reasons. No one is talking about vanquishing evil or freeing the universe from alien dictators. Cowboy Bebop feels adult, in every sense. It’s grown enough that it doesn’t have the overflow of fan service, or the optimistic idiot, and it’s full of very believable outcomes in it’s stories. For anyone who wanted a break from shonen formula in the 90s, Cowboy Bebop was the best TV had to offer. I’d also like to commend this very short series for exploring a wide variety of genres with it’s episodic storytelling.

However, in 2020, Cowboy Bebop just isn’t that great. A futuristic space world where almost everything not flying looks exactly the same as the 90s, a scattered story that feels like a series of one off noir dramas, with a main storyline that’s only touched on for probably 6 total episodes, and a gang of misfits whose horrible communication skills feel worse than watching Guardians of The Galaxy do the “found family” troupe two movies in a row. I’m not saying it’s bad, just that it’s not as good given the kind of selection we have nowadays. It holds a place of greatness of it’s time, but not now. I feel like it’s one of those pieces of media that’s hype is fueled by nostalgia at this point. When people kept telling me how great it was, they weren’t thinking of the cult episode or the cowboy episode, they were thinking of the two part series finale, or that one really cool episode from earlier in the series. Those special episodes are truly great, but the series as a whole left a lot to be desired. Of course it’s still better than it’s numerous rip-offs (Firefly, Outlaw Star, Canon Busters) but that’s because it was a genuine game changer for 90s anime and 90s anime fans.

I’m not writing this to trash the show, simply to offer some perspective. When you recommend someone something from your childhood, your also recommending your experience, which in this case was staying up late as a kid or a teenager, hyped to watch all the shows too adult for Cartoon Network. But the rest of us aren’t having the same experience you did. Now Cowboy Bebop is just a few clicks away on Hulu, or some other streaming service. It’s been over 20 years since the series aired and everything about the anime art form has evolved. That’s like recommending Dragon Ball when MHA, Attack on Titan, and so many other shonen exist. Sure, both Dragon Ball and Bebop revolutionized their respective genres, but the anime that came from that revolution has outgrown it’s predecessors. For it’s time, Cowboy Bebop is a 10/10, but as someone who watched it now, if I judge it strictly as is with no regards to the era it came from, I’d give it a 6/10. It’s, fine. But just that, fine. In all honesty, it probably would have been more enjoyable without the years of built up hype and expectations.

Black Star & Death The Kid: A Real Rivalry

When you think of rivalry in anime, who comes to mind first? Goku and Vegeta? Naruto and Sasuke? Maybe Deku and Bakugo? These are probably the most popular rivalries, but something about them never seemed quite right. Personally, Goku and Vegeta’s rivalry didn’t become interesting to me until Dragon Ball Super when they starting acting like actual friends. They have the exact same power structure so it was never exciting seeing Goku achieve a new Super Sayain form and then Vegeta simply catching up by acquiring the same thing. Naruto and Sasuke were somewhat more unique, however not by much. Most of Naruto’s growth was just getting control of the Kyuubi and Sasuke’s growth was getting better eyes. Sure it wasn’t as simple as screaming and going blonde, but it still didn’t feel especially unique. In that respect, Deku and Bakugo are definitely the most interesting, but until the story is complete I can’t judge it properly.

My favorite rivalry comes from a manga that was given an anime adaptation back in the late 2000s, however the series was cut short and didn’t get the chance to finish it’s original story: Soul Eater. While Soul Eater was a sub-par anime, it was a top notch manga, and is actually my favorite manga I’ve ever read. A relatable main protagonist, great friendships, a complex philosophical discussion that’s deeply important to the heart of the world, Soul Eater is probably the hill I’d die on when it comes to anime that deserved better. I’m definitely going to write more about it in the future, but for now I’d like to focus on two of it’s leading men, Black Star and Death The Kid.

These two are what Naruto and Sasuke should have been. Black Star is a wild, loud mouth, cocky kid whose the last survivor of his clan and seeks to surpass God. Death The Kid is the nigh unstoppable child of Death, a literal god. From the very beginning these two clash on an ideological level, and it’s very obvious why. Black Star is one of the most powerful characters in the series, definitely stronger than anyone else in his age group, except for Death The Kid. While Black Star has trained and worked to achieve this ridiculous strength, Death The Kid was simply born with it and learned how to use it properly. In fact, Death The Kid is the first one of our heroes to do what’s considered an ultimate move.

I love their rivalry because it’s treated as a side plot, only coming into play during their own personal interactions. It has no bearing on anyone’s allegiance to good or evil, and the only time it takes center stage it’s used to explore ideas that change the very nature of the series. The two grow and become stronger because they want to as individuals, rather than the usual “I have to get a power-up because he got one” nonsense. Their rivalry is simply a friendly clash, but one that both of them are passionate about. In many ways, Black Star wants to make sure Death The Kid is still stronger than him, since Kid is supposed to inherit the world, and Kid knows no one will fight harder than Black Star to surpass his limits. Also, they have a final battle that is far more interesting than the valley of the end fight from Naruto (the first one, not the final one in Shippuden obviously)

This manga not getting a full anime run will always upset me, especially considering how perfectly it embodied that era of anime. Hopped up on emo juice and full of crazy existential debates, Soul Eater was peak 2000s and vastly superior to some of it’s more popular competitors *cough* fuck Bleach *cough*

Tickets To My Downfall Is One of 2020s Best Albums

I’ve been a fan of Machine Gun Kelly Since his debut album Lace Up. His rap always hit for me but, in a way, there was something missing. With the release of Hotel Diablo last year and one of my all time favorite songs “I Think I’m OKAY” he confirmed my suspicion. There, on a song with the father of pop punk Travis Barker and the greatest example of gen z punk Yungblud, I saw the real MGK. There’s been hints of it in the past, like his work with Sleeping With Sirens, but this was definitive. MGK’s an emo kid. He’s a punker. He taught himself how to play guitar and traded in a DJ for a band, even started playing his live music more like rock and their official rap sound. After that, I felt the same about MGK that I do Halsey, I love what they do but I need them to go punk. I need to hear a MGK album for the mosh pit. Then, last fall, he promised a pop punk album for 2020, and yesterday, he delivered!

Tickets To My Downfall is a masterpiece. I love almost every song, and the only one I don’t love, I still like! I was so scared that “Bloody Valentine” might have been the best song but thankfully this album is a complete collection of wonderful music with a mix of different punk tones and influences, and real emotions as well as simple fun ragers. I love his silly skit with Pete Davidson, the interlude where Megan talks about how much she loves him, and I cry every time I hear “lonely”. I’m so grateful that Travis Barker produced this record because I can feel his influence in every moment. It’s not overpowering, it doesn’t take away from MGK’s moment, but rather shines a very beautiful spotlight on it. This is one of those rare albums that feels nearly unskippable. Unless I want to hear something specific I can listen to this album from beginning to end blissfully. I can’t wait for tours to start up again because all I want now is to go insane with my friends in a mosh pit to this album.

My favorite song on the album is without a doubt “forget me too” with Halsey. Halsey is my favorite lady in mainstream music and considering the history and friendship she’s always had with Machine Gun Kelly, I can’t even begin to explain how long I’ve waited and how badly I’ve wanted this collab. But this? I can’t even begin to explain how perfect this particular song turned out to be. We so easily could have gotten another “Bad Things” or “Him & I” but instead we got a kickass punk rager about sticking it to shit people and moving on with your life. We got a declaration of independence that we can mosh to. It’s absolutely perfect! Every Halsey fan I know is craving punk Halsey, and if this song is any indicator, we might get that for this next album. So thank you Machine Gun Kelly!

Now I will say, this album doesn’t do anything especially groundbreaking for punk music, but it’s not supposed to. That’s not the point here at all. this album isn’t Tony Hawk showing off a new trick, it’s seeing the kid who just started skating last year pull of something unexpected for a beginner. It’s the best, biggest step in the right direction for a artist whose been holding back this side of himself for years. It’s the second best album of 2020 (second only to Mac Miller’s final album) and I’ll be blasting it on repeat for the weekend and probably next week!

Strawberry Smirk’s Best Anime Moms

They’re few and far between but I want to share my favorite mothers in anime, my only rules are that I can only pick one Mom per anime, cause otherwise all the answers would be from MHA, and they have to be alive. I’ll probably do a best dead moms in the future though since that happens a lot in anime.

4. Miyako Ishida– A Silent Voice

While Shoya’s behavior as a kid definitely keeps her out of the top spot, Miyako does her best raising the broken teenager he becomes. Trying to deal with her son’s suicide attempt along with all the other problems in their life, Miyako is present, actively trying to motivate her son to keep going and not give up. She even kept it together when he fell into a coma and everyone else went nuts.

3. Hana- Wolf Children

So, Hana is one of the most incredible mothers as well as protagonists I’ve ever seen in anime. She exemplifies humanity in it’s finest but also it’s plainest. She starts out a college bookworm but is forced to learn so much that no book could ever teach her. With both supernatural and common human struggles to overcome, she does her best to raise two incredibly unique kids. She’s absolutely remarkable.

2. Inko Midoriya- My Hero Academia

Let me make this as clear as I possibly can. Inko Midoriya is the BEST mom in shonen history! This woman had to watch her son through all of his trauma, all of his pain, and even though she may not have been perfect, she did her best to support him. She didn’t even ask questions when he suddenly developed a Quirk, or pull him from school when she watched him break almost every bone in his body in the school festival. Robots, super-powered classmates, villains, she has been by his side for everything, and all she’s asked him to do is call her and stay as safe as he can. She’s terrified of the world Deku is entering but she knows being a hero is his dream and would never take that away from him. She designed his base costume, not to mention hospital visits and picking him up from the police station. Also, she is adorable!

1. Sachiko Fujinuma- Erased

I honestly could just spoil Erased and tell you why Sachiko is anime’s best mom with a single sentence, but that spoiler is huge so I won’t. Instead let’s think about this single mother, whose husband ran out on her right after her son was born, working every day to achieve her journalism dreams and give her kid the best life she could. Whenever Satoru needs help, even when he won’t admit he does, his mother is there. not doting or stifling him, just supporting him in a way she knows he’ll accept. She truly knows her son, knows him so well she can read his mind. When he started being a hero, she got up early to cook for him, even packing him an extra lunch. She stands beside him in the face of so much danger and some of the worst people imaginable.

Erased, or Panic Attack: The Anime

So, it’s almost 4 a.m and I just finished binge watching Erased. Why? Because Erased might be the first anime I absolutely had to finish in one go. The fear, the suspense, there’s no way I’d have gotten any sleep if I’d stopped before it was over. As usual, I’ll try to keep the spoilers to a minimum, but holy shit this was an impressive show.

So, the most I can say about the show without giving things away, is it takes the concept of a do-over to a level I’ve never seen before. In all honesty, considering America has movies like 17 Again, Erased makes us look like some talent-less losers. The story of a mangaka cursed with a weird power that makes him go back for brief moments and change the outcome of a tragedy, Erased broke me and put me back together again every episode. My anxiety had a field day because every single minute detail was immensely important in uncovering the mystery, and nothing was obvious. I did make one prediction that was right, but the road to that confirmation had so many twists and turns I still ended up shocked at the reveal. This also might be the best friendship anime I’ve seen since I watched Anohana last year. This story gave true and honest depictions of great friendship and unbelievable bravery, tackling some incredibly serious topics. Also, best Mom in all of anime, period.

If you haven’t watched Erased, do it. It’s on Netflix, and the dub is pretty good. It’s honestly a perfect show. 10/10.

Why Love & Monsters Might Be My Favorite Movie of 2020

So, today, I got the best entertainment news of the year. A new movie, releasing via streaming services next month, called Love & Monsters. Now let me be clear, I don’t expect this to be especially groundbreaking, but it looks really, really fun. A boy crosses a monster filled post-apocalyptic version of our world to get to the woman he loves, making interesting friends along the way. It feels like a monster movie version of Zombieland, which is definitely my favorite zombie movie. The monsters are cool looking, the plot seems funny and heartwarming with a few tense moments, but what really has me excited, is the lead actor: Dylan O’Brien.

Dylan O’Brien is my favorite actor of my generation. The only time he’s ever given a subpar performance, is when he was part of a subpar project. He’s unbelievably talented, with masterful comedic and dramatic delivery. He is one of the few actors who can pull me in to watch anything they’re in. I wouldn’t be bold enough assume I’m his biggest fan, but I also won’t deny the possibility.

For those who either forgot or are unaware, Dylan suffered a horrible accident on a film set a few years back that left him in reconstructive surgery, physical, and mental therapy. After recovering he returned and finished the movie that injured him, as well as another film he was scheduled for. After that, with the exception of a YouTube project, he was mostly inactive. Hey’d chosen to slow down and pace himself, rather than continue pumping out multiple projects a year. As a fan I was both happy for him, as well as concerned. Would he still get booked? Would he still get cast as a leading man? Would the projects be diverse or would he be typecast? I waited to see what his next major role would be, somewhat concerned he might not get one. Thankfully, today, my questions were answered. My favorite actor is back, and it looks like he’s got something really fun coming this October!

Also, last thing, thank you to the production studios for releasing this in digital rather than trying to convince people to go to a theater in a fucking pandemic.