Friday 4 December 2020

Descent into Weebery

 Media review. 

Behold, the long dark reaches ever-on, the deep moans round with many voices. Made numb by the closing trap of day I have done fuck all work but at least I can still consume media. And lo, media has been consumed, and I shall tell thee of it.....


The book not the series.

ITS A TRICK - it looked like it was going to be an adventure and turned out to be a fretwork of tragic romances. A titanic yet silent collision of irresolvable and unwise desires, overwhelming need, fear and invisible savagery. (And also the more-visible kind).

Holy Christ this is a sad book. Just a long, deep tragedy. A love story in which people don't know they are in love, or are in love with the wrong person, or were in love with the right person but they died.

Oh my god everyone is so lonely in this.

(Its still mildly trippy to me that cowboy times are also Sherlock Holmes times.)

McMurty manages a remarkable kaleidoscope of internal states; p.o.v flowing from mind to mind inhabiting each one as smoothly as pulling on jeans. Then we get our radiating perspective trick of character actions and central events being perceived through fractured time from different eyes. 

He does have a particular genius for drawing one into sympathy with almost every possible character.

He cannot handle evil, not really I think, which is not really a bug, but a flaw common to humanist writers. In Lonesome Dove, harm is usually propagated by people who act poorly because they can see and feel less, and in McMurtys world, the damage from trauma, poverty, isolation and sometimes individual failure largely shows up in how poorly people perceive and understand each other.

So, paradox; in order to tell a story in which a main driver of tragedy is peoples failure to understand each other you need a creator who is really good at understanding people, to create a social world subtle and complex enough so that its failures can be perceived.

He pulls off a slightly high-level literary trick in which we almost always know more about the object of someone’s attention than we do about their own internal state and deep character. We are always finding out about people from the outside, seeing people though each others eyes, and this goes well with a story about the relationships between men in which the greatest emotions and attachments are almost always tacit and built upon shared action, at which they can often work well despite differences in viewpoint and personality, or work poorly despite apparent similarities.

Escape, or 'winning' in Lonesome Dove, (which no-one actually does but they might reach it for a while), is some combination of material safety, emotional and personal recognition and a shared future, all of these being compromised. The material safety by the fact that everything is built on blood spilt so recently the walls haven't solidified, the recognition by pure fear and grief and the shared future by the fact anyone can just get snakebit or fall off their horse at any time.

The loneliness of these people facing such fundamental instability and endless movement is a very strange distant mirror of the loneliness of modernity. We have all the stuff and safety they might want but the engines we use to create it have teased us apart and frozen us in shifting glass, we see each other moving past on different tracks, as if on  night trains.


Peaks in the middle. (A rule for sci fi shows), still remains pleasingly weird though and holy fuck is there a lot of mindfucking in this series.

Probably the most interesting parts were the early to mid episodes, before the bonds of loyalty between the crew had yet to fully cohere and it was still possible that one or move of them might just leave, or stab someone in the back.

Feel like I could have more to say about this but its been a while since I finished it and though it remains watchable, the final parts did drain a little energy.


Thanks for the aliens dudes.


Since watching Vinland Saga and being generally disappointed and uninterested in whatever television has currently decayed into, I have been investigating the Anime available through Amazon Prime, of which, I have only finished a handful, but they were pretty good


Basically Camus's 'The Plague' if it was actually fun to watch.

Fighty-time-era Japan; war, plague and famine everywhere.

Somewhat evil Lord goes to a temple called 'The House of Hell', (and why the fuck is there a temple solely to super-evil demons just hanging around locally, is this a Japanese thing I didn't know about or a genre thing?).

Lord makes a deal with the demons, he wants the safety of his people AND (side request) the power to conquer Japan, in exchange the demons can have 'whatever they ask', (there is a reason why the unwise bequest is a motif of dingbats), anyway;

His sons about to be born and just after the kid _is_ born EVIL LIGHTNING strikes and takes all the kids body-parts, his corpus, except, one bit of evil lightning is deflected by a combination of mothers love and a handy goddess of mercy - so instead of just being.. nothing the kid is left an utterly horrific nubbin of flesh, no arms, legs, eyes or ears or spine, but with a fierce will to live nonetheless.

In the second unwise motif, the Lord tells an old woman to dump the kid in the river, in fact she leaves the nubbin on a leaky boat and punts it into the stream.

And then we cut to maybe 17 years later, turns out the kid bumped into a creator of prosthetics with basically near-magical alchemic powers, who raised the child and progressively built him prosthetic legs, arms, eyes (they can't see), a prosthetic mask-face .

Kid keeps getting attacked by minor demons who follow him about, (they want the last bit of flesh), so the guy teaches the kid to fight and gives him weapons to defend himself. Kid manages this via magical strength and speed imbued by a combination of demon contact earlier and his prosthetics, and though he cannot see normally, he can see 'souls'.

What is this about?

about Fascism in Japan - I THINK.

And trauma. The interlacement of good and evil. The human response to despair and overwhelming power. Why not join the sharks after all? Or feed the demons?

Common thread is mutual humanity, and mixed motives. Everyone does things for comprehensible reasons, considering their circumstances.

(Interesting that a lot of media I like seem to be really into shares this obsession with 'tragic choice' morality and the impossibility of doing anything purely good in a damaged world. Genetic Catholicism I suppose.)

The demons are basically going about doing evil stuff, but you can sometimes talk to them and depending on what they are like, even form relationships with them. And there are very good reasons to form relationships with them.

Nothing is stable or safe. Nothing can be built or maintained - every small kingdom suffers unless it makes war against its neighbours and takes their resources, making them suffer in turn.

The only real route to safety or peace seems to me, one way or another, through the Demons. Though overwhelming, destructive, amoral, really actually, evil and corruptive power.

These develop as the series goes on, from standard monster-fic 'bear' type monsters to creatures with some kind of parasitic or symbiotic relationship with those humans or human cultures near them, and when people form useful relationships with the demons, there can be peace.

The demons still predate and take their toll, but in a controlled fashion (somewhat, but how long can that go on?).

One thing the story gets very right is the kind of inner despair and vacancy on the part of people who have suffered and the willingness, even the joy, taken in aligning themselves with savage and amoral power, simply because it is power, and is victorious. One man imagines himself a hero, but freezes when encountering the Demon and watches his mother be consumed. So he ends up deliberately luring others to the Demon so they can face their own weakness the same way he did. Another is ostracised and grows up wild and alone, but forms a bond with some supernatural sharks, as separate as he is, but powerful, and ultimately ends up feeding people to them, even loves them.


When the Son meets those Demons who took part of his body, he fights them, and usually wins, and each time he wins he gets a bit of his body back. It grows back magically, and the prosthetics pop out.

There are two large problems with this.

Every time a body element comes back, Hyakkimaru  becomes more human, in some ways flawed, more sensitive. To begin with, he can't feel at all, and so has no pain, his prosthetic limbs can be replaced or repaired, so it doesn't matter that much if he loses one in a fight, he can't 'hear', so when he gets that sense back, the world deafens him and he becomes vulnerable. When his sense of pain comes back, he is no longer as invulnerable as he was, and these changes connect him more and more to the world around him, and he gets angrier, and more vulnerable to corruption. More demon-like.

To begin with, he barely knows what he has lost, proceeding largely on instinct, without pain, flesh, language, hearing or sight, the world has almost no purchase on him, but as these things return, the depth of his suffering can actually grow, rather than fade, at least for a while, for he gains the senses, experience and contextual understanding to actually grasp how much he has been hurt.

So each victory requires difficult moral growth alongside physical restoration, and risks dangerous moral decay.

Second problem

As well as that, the deal his father made with the Demons is still in effect. The realm of the Father is safe, healthy and prosperous, its home to many, many people who live in safety and without the chaos engulfing much of the rest of Japan.

So every demon the defeats and every part of his own body he gets back,, the more the deal fractures and that Realm becomes vulnerable to sickness, famine and invasion. By fighting the demons and getting his body back he is retarding the ambitions of his father but also plunging many people into doom, chaos and death, which they only escaped due to an evil deal.
So what do you do? what is right to do?


The actual main character is the cheeky ragamiffin scamp that the Son runs into in the first episode, a Dickensian orphan thief called 'Dororo'.

Dororo is basically humanity. 

The most human of the characters, maybe the most human of all the characters in all the meeja I'm talking about here. (Lonesome Dove would give him a run for his money). He teams up with Hyakkimaru and becomes his guide, at first literally, and then as Hyakkimaru faces more and more complex challenges, in a wider sense. He's surprisingly anti-Samurai, very much a child of the lower classes.

Dororo felt the most to me as if he represented Teuzkas own viewpoint.


Damn this is a better-than-average written piece of media.

A villain arises with the power to collapse the boundaries between our world and the fictional worlds created by us, like comics etc. In particular this villain brings through into our reality, a bunch of heroes and villains from various manga and anime.

These people, realising that our world created theirs and that we essentially created their suffering, which is often titanic, divide on what to do, with some deciding to try to take control of their creators and force them to remake their worlds, and others opposing them.

To them our reality is the 'world of the gods' and there is a lot of fascinating tacit theology in this series, it it’s never mentioned out loud but the questions it brings up are only ever a single leap of thought away from the depicted action. Lots of arguments between created and creator. 

Its also a nice 'insider' look at the personalities, structures and economics of manga, anime and media creation.


also has my favourite villain from this whole group of meeja

And it has a likeable 'clips episode' in the middle where the narrating character goes completely metatextual.


Basically the opposite/partial counter to 'Chronicle'. 

About power, alienation, with a classic power corrupts/power reveals investigation to it.

This is just a really nice story tbh. Main character is an older salaryman, totally overlooked everywhere, irrelevant at work, almost totally silent and ignored by wife and kids, gets a dog, feels slightly happy for the first time in years. Takes dog to park.

Interdimensional aliens accidentally smash into the park and kill him. They quickly reverse the truck while doing the legal minimum which in his case means transporting (or re-creating?) his memories and consciousness in a new body, made as much as possible to be as much like the old body as they can do.

But the only spares they have are from some weapons trading they’ve just been doing, so now this old man has what seems like a normal human form but is actually a near-indestructible robot which can fold out to reveal a plethora of insane weapons and a jet pack, also he learns he can do other stuff, like repairing tissue and healing diseases.

So now this old fellow is a terminator/iron man hybrid and all he wants to do is help people, because for the first time in his life he gets to do something meaningful for others, so he sets about being like an old fella superman.

BUT - there was someone else in the park that day, and that person is not nearly as nice as our boy. Instead he, well he turns out a lot more like Chronicle.

Look you will probably have a cry where he jetpacks for the first time while singing the theme to Astroboy. And I don't even know shit about Astroboy. 


  1. Great thoughts on Lonesome Dove, which I read a decade or so ago and count as one of my all-time favorite novels. I haven't read any of the other books in the series or watched the TV movie(s), which I can't imagine would do anything but detract from the perfection of the book.

    1. I accidentally read a summary of one f the sequels and I regret it.

  2. Those themes you discuss about dororo, particularly the idea that as he fights the demons and becomes more human / more entrenched in the sensori-perceptual experiences of the material world, he ironically becomes more demon-like and also destabilizes civilization itself, are themes I'm quite interested in...

  3. "Since watching Vinland Saga and being generally disappointed and uninterested in whatever television has currently decayed into" I've been feeling a very similar way for a while now, where most new TV leaves me really cold and all the Good Shit seems to be anime. I don't think of myself as a weeb but given my viewing habits of late maybe I should. Cool that you checked out Inuyashiki -- I watched the first four episodes and loved them, but also found it too heavy to keep watching. It's a deeply sad show.

    Also been slowly making my way through Vinland Saga based on your recommendation, and have been really liking it, so thanks for that. I find anime manages to retain a sense of theatricality that feels really at home in the world of Norse epics, and is generally what keeps it fresh for me.

    Some more shows you might like:
    Mononoke -- basically a crime procedural featuring an exorcist in Edo-period Japan. Exorcisms are dark and surreal, and honestly so is the rest of the show. Beautiful animation.
    Devilman: Crybaby -- absolutely batshit bloodsoaked apocalypse tragedy that manages to deliver devastating emotional blows while featuring some of the world's weirdest character designs.
    Parasyte -- a struggle against an alien race seeking to take over the world by replacing people's limbs. The relationships between the humans and aliens in this show are remarkably well fleshed out and there's some truly excellent body horror-type imagery.
    Dorohedoro -- I'm less sure you'll like this one. A slice of life show in someone's insane industrial artpunk D&D world. "I would probably describe it as a found family story in an industrial nega-Harry Potter setting" - Matt Diaz
    The Eccentric Family -- Another slice of life show about a family of shapeshifting tanuki living in modern Kyoto. Feelgood magical realism with surprising moments of darkness and a strong emotional core.

    1. OOPS one more: Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken -- it's about three high school girls who want to make anime. It's hard to explain why this isn't just twee garbage, but it isn't. Overflowing with love for art, artists, and the artistic process, without falling into stale tropes about "creatives". Sweet and heartfelt but not naive.

    2. Thaaank you Alex, but I only have Amazon! I am going to exhaust their library before I turn to another service. Currently watching Outlaw Star, Wolfs Rain, Full Metal Panic, Banana Fish and Blade of the Immortal. Will report back when I finish a series.

      The last old-school TV I watched and was actually captivated by was Justified, outside that though I have tried a lot of "hot" new series nothing has really gelled with me.

    3. I remember REALLY enjoying the Banana Fish manga, so if you wanted to share your thoughts on the anime, I would be very interested to hear them.

    4. Fair! Parasyte miiiight be on Prime but I don't really remember. Either way I'm getting to the final episodes of Vinland Saga and they're blowing pretty much everything out of the water. What a show.

  4. Made in Abyss - megadungeon with depth sickness, orphan kids go into the veins of the earth for magic treasure...

    1. One day maybe after I have leeched Amazon dry

    2. That's definitely a "call to the FBI" kind of anime, but the worldbuilding is just so bizarre and fascinating. It plays into one of my favourite tropes- humans finding Roadside Picnic-style inexplicable artifacts, then finding uses for them.

  5. Made in Abyss. Orphans go into the veins of the earth.

  6. Excellent choice in animes

    Dororo and Re:Creators are among my favourites. "Brave the Ocean" and "Layers" from the Re:Creators OST are bangers.

    I like to think of Dororo as The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas if the kid kicked everyone's asses.

    Based on these reviews you might also enjoy Samurai Flamenco, which is a slept-on love letter to Tokusatsu

    Based on nothing more than desire to see your take on it I'd also recommend Kengan Ashura, which has well-drawn punchy-punchy men and engaging "seeker" philosophy

    1. Samurai Flamenco is excellent

    2. the manga and not the dogshit cgi anime for kengan ashura i feel the need to add some hours later

      manganelo dot com slash chapter slash kengan_ashua

      thank k she showed the site to me it's a real banger

    3. The idea passed through my mind once of doing a cheeky 'One Who Walked Towards Omelas' about a child catcher with a big cart of children he's just trying to get to Omelas... with _hilarious_ consequences.

  7. In Dororo there is also one moment that is interesting to me. In the second part (where Hyakkimaru starts to meet his brother) he is urged/pushed to sacrifice himself to demons for the good of all people around. I found this is to be a traditional cultural view as it is often portrayed by media coming from Japan (video games, manga, some actual legends) that a sacrificial person is supposed to just go with it; the desire for happiness of collective given a much bigger weight than their own. That fact that Hyakkimaru objects to this, putting his own happiness and life over the ones of other people (whom he doesn't know, who caused him misery and to whom he owes nothing) is interesting contrast.

    As for anime, if you haven't see it, I'd suggest Mushishi. It is odd, very calm series of encounters with strangeness.

    1. I did try Mushishi but it was a bit _too_ calm for me.

      Your described moment is one of the things that leads me to thing that Dororo is a post-war response to what it might have been like living in wartime Japan.

    2. Honestly, the whole "sacrificial lamb" thing is also very Catholic.

  8. “(Its still mildly trippy to me that cowboy times are also Sherlock Holmes times.)”

    I hadn’t read any Holmes stories until recently. I watched some of the BBC series recently and thought their take on the character seemed a bit cutesy and much too “Dr House”, so I thought I’d check out the original to see what this guy was really all about. My two takeaways from A Study in Scarlet were:

    1. Sherlock Holmes is exactly the character presented in the tv series: an unpleasant, pedantic asshole.

    2. The short story marking the first appearance of Sherlock Holmes has a nested story-within-a-story that’s a pulpy Western which takes up about 40% of the total length of the overall text.

    The nested Western is contemporaneous with the events of the Holmes mystery (well, within the same lifetime at any rate). And the way it’s nested inside the Victorian murder mystery is laugh-out-loud funny in its literary contrivance. Doyle clearly had two pulp stories he wanted to publish and so he mashed them up.