Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Sailor Moon Crystal Liveblog: Episode 8

01[15:00] <Froborr> Oh right, Sailor Bwee.
[15:01] <Arrlaari> Mercury has uwee
01[15:01] <Froborr> BWA
[15:01] <FoME> What.
01[15:01] <Froborr> That voice coming out of a little cat is HILARIOUS
[15:01] <FoME> Agreed.
[15:01] <Arrlaari> Yeah
01[15:02] <Froborr> I know they won't, but it'd be pretty cool if it turned out our main character *wasn't* the destined princess, but was instead just one of her elite guard.
01[15:04] <Froborr> Moon's tiara is all "No way, I can TOTALLY out-crescent her!"
[15:04] <FoME> Sailor Moon's tiara evolved again. Must be a Bug-type.
01[15:05] <Froborr> And once again Usagi is all, "So hot, must add her to my harem."
[15:05] <FoME> And V's been spying on them through the arcade machine. That's not creepy.
[15:05] <Arrlaari> "Oh, I wasn't hallucinating"
[15:06] <Arrlaari> "I really was being lectured by my hero through a video game at my favorite arcade"
[15:06] <Arrlaari> "that is a relief"
01[15:06] <Froborr> It's a good thing that Usagi wasn't playing that Starfighter game next to Sailor V, she would've gotten recruited into COMPLETELY the wrong adventure.
[15:07] <FoME> Lol
[15:07] <FoME> Ad.
01[15:07] <Froborr> Ad.
[15:07] <Arrlaari> ad
01[15:07] <Froborr> lol
[15:07] <Arrlaari> It's as if we are all using the same website
[15:07] <Arrlaari> 10 seconds remain
[15:07] <FoME> For this ad.
01[15:07] <Froborr> I just started a second 30 second ad.
[15:07] <Arrlaari> Repeat of same ad
[15:07] <Arrlaari> Mine is also 30s
[15:07] <FoME> It's as if we are all using the same website.
01[15:08] <Froborr> back
[15:08] <FoME> Likewise.
01[15:08] <Froborr> Arr?
[15:08] <Arrlaari> yes
[15:08] <Arrlaari> same as you all
[15:08] <Arrlaari> I didn't pause when it ended, did you all hold up?
01[15:09] <Froborr> Yes.
[15:09] <Arrlaari> whoops
01[15:09] <Froborr> Ah, this is the Explain the Plot Episode.
[15:09] <Arrlaari> I'm now paused at 7:59
[15:09] <FoME> With Sailor Exposition
01[15:09] <Froborr> I'm at 7:49.
[15:09] <FoME> 8:02
01[15:09] <Froborr> Hitting 7:59... now.
01[15:10] <Froborr> So, if she destroyed the moon kingdom and killed evryone... who sealed her?
[15:10] <FoME> Some of them died after sealing her.
01[15:10] <Froborr> Fair enough.
[15:11] <Arrlaari> I like to think she's named Metallia because of the vicious metallic dust that covers the moon now
[15:11] <FoME> "Regolith" doesn't have quite the same ring for eldritch abominations, does it?
01[15:11] <Froborr> Wait, why is "Artemis" a male cat?
[15:11] <Arrlaari> Actually it totally does
[15:12] <Arrlaari> Artemis & Luna
[15:12] <FoME> @Froborr: The fandom has made that joke many times.
01[15:12] <Froborr> Endymion, eh?
01[15:13] <Froborr> The mythical shepherd and astronomer that was the mortal lover of the moon goddess Selene. Slightly more obscure than I gave this show credit for.
[15:13] <FoME> I can't help but note that no one's called her "Minako" yet. It's always "Princess" or "V-chan." That's kind of sad.
01[15:14] <Froborr> She's kind of encouraged that, though? She's defintiely playing the sempai role to the hilt.
[15:14] <FoME> True.
01[15:14] <Froborr> Not to mention, the way she's worried about them regaining their memories suggests she KNOWS she isn't the princess.
[15:14] <Arrlaari> It's notable to me that you connect the sempai role to the princess role
01[15:15] <Froborr> Well, they're both social superiors, one by birth and one by experience.
[15:15] <FoME> Ad.
01[15:15] <Froborr> Ad/
01[15:15] <Froborr> Also: "we"
[15:15] <Arrlaari> Ad
01[15:16] <Froborr> Are ALL cats part of a vast ancient lunar conspiracy?
[15:16] <FoME> I wouldn't be surprised.
[15:16] <Arrlaari> Two rounds of the 30s ad here
01[15:16] <Froborr> How Lovecraftian of them.
[15:16] <Arrlaari> same as you guys, right? So there's no need for anyone to pause at the end, right?
[15:16] <FoME> Back.
[15:16] <Arrlaari> I guess not
[15:16] <Arrlaari> what
[15:16] <Arrlaari> a THIRD run
01[15:16] <Froborr> And I had a 10 second ad followed by 30 and now another 30.
[15:17] <Arrlaari> I got 3x30 that is merciless
01[15:17] <Froborr> back
[15:17] <Arrlaari> done
[15:17] <FoME> Lovecraft vs. Lovecraft. Metallia vs. cats. Who will win?
01[15:17] <Froborr> Cats.
[15:18] <FoME> Obviously. They have much better PR.
01[15:18] <Froborr> Also thus far Metallia doesn't appear particularly Lovecraftian, tbh.
01[15:18] <Froborr> She's not particularly eldritch.
[15:18] <FoME> Point. More generic "shadow demon"
01[15:19] <Froborr> Um, yes, DUH it's a trap!
[15:19] <FoME> Wow. So much for that secret identity.
01[15:20] <Froborr> Wow, so, why didn't they just have Kunzite show up from the start and kill everyone?
01[15:20] <Froborr> He seems kind of OP relative to the other generals.
[15:20] <Arrlaari> Killing the humans means they can't be exploited for energy
01[15:20] <Froborr> True.
[15:21] <FoME> You don't kill sheep to shear them.
[15:21] <Arrlaari> This move looks like it works like Power Word: Kill in that it's wholly ineffective against strong targets
[15:21] <FoME> Huh. No power-up incantation for Venus.
01[15:21] <Froborr> And the same song as Mercury and Moon--no unique transformation music like Mars and Jupiter.
[15:22] <FoME> Jupiter can fly, apparently.
01[15:22] <Froborr> BTW Jupiter can fly.
[15:23] <Arrlaari> BY THE WAY: TEAMWORK
01[15:23] <Froborr> "precious friends," is that what the kids are calling it these days.
[15:24] <FoME> This is why you don't try to heal shields, Usagi.
[15:24] <FoME> Ad.
01[15:24] <Froborr> Ad.
[15:24] <Arrlaari> ad
[15:24] <Arrlaari> It worked great against the other guy - was that zoicite?
[15:24] <Arrlaari> The one who had to get rescued by Beryl
[15:24] <FoME> True. And yes.
[15:25] <FoME> Back.
01[15:25] <Froborr> Still mid-ad.
[15:25] <Arrlaari> Artemis' Serious Cat voice is a pretty good surprise
01[15:25] <Froborr> THIRD ad.
[15:25] <Arrlaari> done
01[15:26] <Froborr> back
[15:26] <FoME> I just noticed the bunny ears on Usagi's new tiara. They're kind of hilarious.
01[15:26] <Froborr> Tuxedo Mask's all, "Kissing a conscious girl? I don't know how to handle that!"
[15:27] <FoME> I liked the "Thanks for the save, now get out here while the adults fight."
01[15:27] <Froborr> Yeah, it was pretty great.
01[15:27] <Froborr> Sadly, I am virtually certain he survived.
[15:27] <Arrlaari> And masculinity anxiety claims another life
[15:28] <Arrlaari> Alas, that would have read much better if I had been just slightly faster
[15:28] <FoME> Seems like gravity can now be ignored when the plot demands it now.
01[15:28] <Froborr> Indeed.
[15:28] <Arrlaari> Anime jumping
[15:28] <FoME> I'm going to say Jupiter is using some kind of maglev with the Earth's field.
01[15:29] <Froborr> Plus everyone except Tuxedo Bats is a superhero, and he's Batman.
[15:29] <FoME> But can he breathe in space?
01[15:29] <Froborr> Only one way to find out!
01[15:29] <Froborr> Actually, given that they had a civilization ON THE MOON, presumably none of them need air.
[15:30] <Arrlaari> One assumes the moon used to be a lot more pleasant an environment
[15:30] <FoME> "Oxygen? You mean you're still using that? How quaint."
01[15:30] <Froborr> It'd be pretty cool if we eventually found out that the dream-memory-things are actually being translated into human terms by the process of reincarnation, and in their past lives on the moon they were all hideous blob monsters.
[15:31] <FoME> And Endymion still fell in love with one.
01[15:31] <Froborr> Wait, Endymion was from Earth?
01[15:31] <Froborr> I mean, in the myth, obviously, but in the show as well?
[15:31] <Arrlaari> FoME just slipped up
01[15:32] <Froborr> Grr.
[15:32] <FoME> Yeah. I keep forgetting that the twenty-year old spoilers are still spoilers for you.
[15:32] <FoME> My bad.
[15:32] <Arrlaari> You mentioned that Endymion was more obscure than you expected to see. It turns out Naoko Takeuchi is way into old Greek & Roman stuff
01[15:32] <Froborr> Huh, interesting.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fundamentals: Where Morality Comes From

I'm a firm believer that the key to understanding some aspect of human behavior is to understand the motivations behind it. If you know why people do what they do, then understanding what becomes trivial.

Further, I firmly believe that you cannot prescribe until you first describe--that until you have done your best to understand what something is, you have no business arguing about what it should be. So it follows that, if I am going to talk about morality and ethics--and given that I regard morality, politics, and aesthetics as inextricably intertwined, I have talked and will continue to talk about them--it behooves me to first try to understand what motivates them.

So why do people want to be moral? The glib answer, of course, is the same reason anyone ever wants anything: they think it will feel better than the alternative. But what feelings, specifically, are at work with morality? I think it comes down, ultimately, to four emotions:
  • Shame: Being seen by others as immoral feels bad, being intimately associated with rejection and negative judgment.
  • Guilt: Seeing oneself as immoral likewise feels bad, being associated with failure and self-doubt.
  • Pride: Seeing oneself as moral (and being seen by others as moral) feels good, because it's associated with acceptance, positive judgment, achievement, and self-esteem. (Note: Tentatively I place the sense of fairness here--that is, we wish to be treated fairly and to treat others fairly because of its impact on our sense of pride. It's possible, however, to regard fairness as a separate, fifth emotion underlying morality.)
  • Empathy: Not exactly an emotion, but definitely emotional in nature and a strong motivator behind altruism.
Ultimately, moral behavior is a matter of avoiding shame and guilt, pursuing pride, and acting with empathy. Moral crises come about when it's not possible to do all of these at once--for example, when avoiding social disapproval means failing one's own standards and vice versa.

Of course, looked at this way, it becomes immediately obvious why no logically consistent moral code--regardless of the metaethics behind it--can really work: emotional states aren't logically consistent. And we can't actually reject this emotional basis, because without it there's no reason to be moral. Nor can any one of these emotions be ignored: Shame is necessary because it's how we learn to be guilty. Guilt is necessary because it's the moral equivalent of burning one's hand on a hot stove. Pride is necessary because without it the only advantage to being moral over being amoral is that you might get caught. And empathy is necessary because without it morality becomes an irrelevant abstraction, unconnected with the material wellbeing of real people in the real world. Together, shame and empathy prevent morality from becoming solipsistic or narcissistic; guilt and pride prevent it from becoming conformist.

So why bother with thinking about morality at all? Why not just go with kneejerk emotional responses to every situation? I think Daniel Dennett has a good answer here, and I recommend the relevant chapters in his Freedom Evolves on the topic. (And all the rest of it, for that matter.) But basically, thinking about moral questions and coming up with rules of thumb serves a few purposes.

The first reason is what Dennett describes by analogy to the story of Odysseus and the Sirens: Having principles is a way of metaphorically tying ourselves to the mast, so that when we face a situation "in the moment" we are better prepared to resist temptation. In other words, principles are about recognizing that we are imperfect actors and sometimes make decisions in the moment that, once we have time to think about them, we regret. Thinking about moral questions and adopting rules of thumb or broad principles is a kind of self-programming, training ourselves to feel extra guilt when we break them and extra pride when we follow them, thus increasing the likelihood of resisting temptation in the moment.

Another reason is communication. Part of morality is accepting responsibility for one's community, and shame is a critical tool for policing that community. Shared principles are a key way for a community to define for itself how it will police its members by clarifying what kinds of behaviors are appropriate for other members of the community to shame. Of course members of the community may disagree, resulting in conflict, but conflict is an inevitable (and frequently desirable) part of being in a community.

Be clear, however: principles, lists of rules, and all other attempts to codify morality are models, which is to say they are necessarily not the thing modeled. Morality is not adherence to a set of principles, but rather a complex and irreducible social and emotional state, which is why excessive adherence to principles leads always to advocating obviously immoral behavior. Ethics, in other words, is rightly a descriptive, not prescriptive, branch of philosophy: journalistic ethics is a description of how good journalists behave, not a set of commandments handed down by the journalism gods from on high. Studying such models is obviously very useful in becoming a good journalist, but is not in itself sufficient--like any rule set, the point is to understand them well enough to know when to break them. Journalistic ethics are, of course, just an example--the same goes for any other kind of ethics.

Of course, if morality is emotional in nature, it follows that just as there is no "correct" way to feel about something, there is no "correct" morality. That said, just because there's no correct way to feel doesn't mean there are no incorrect ways; it's simply factually untrue to say that there isn't a broad consensus about certain behaviors in certain scenarios. Baby-eating, for example, is almost universally regarded as repulsive, and so we can fairly safely say that a model of morality which prescribes eating babies as a normal practice has failed to accurately depict its subject.

More to the point, it doesn't actually matter that there's no correct model: if my morality--which here includes both the ways in which I model morality through principles and reason and the underlying emotional reality--demands that I oppose someone else's actions or attempts to make their model of morality dominant within the community, then it demands it. Which of course is why people give logically inconsistent answers to ethical dilemmas: the curious responses to the trolley problem are of course completely understandable once you recognize that while passive and active choices aren't logically different, they feel different.

In the end, as with aesthetics, any prescriptive model will necessarily be imperfect. But that's the human condition, isn't it? Making do with imperfect materials, striving ever to replace our old mistakes with new ones.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Still podcastin': Lucifer with Uncle Yo

Yep, I continue to be on geek comedian Uncle Yo's podcast We Are the Geek to talk about Mike Carey's Lucifer. We're up to volume 9 now, and things are heating up!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

But, you know, whatever you want to do is fine (Filli Vanilli)

[insert "!" and Metal Gear Solid sound effect here]
It's February 15, 2014. Katy Perry and The Lego Movie still top the charts and box office respectively. In the news, the U.S. federal government recognizes all same-sex marriages in states where same-sex marriage is legal; Facebook allows users to set a custom gender; and a massive cold wave and winter storms strike the southern U.S. and Britain.

On TV we have the Amy Keating Rogers-penned "Filli Vanilli," the second major reference this season to pop acts that predate both the target audience and the majority of the bronies, but will be immediately recognizable to the older bronies and parents. Specifically, the title refers to the late 80s/early 90s German R&B group Milli Vanilli, who were the center of a scandal when it was revealed the apparent members of the group, Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus, were actually just lip-synching to prerecorded music.

Other than the title, however, the episode has little to do with the scandal, since it's actually the opposite situation--in real life, Morvan and Pilatus were hired after the band had started recording to provide its public image, and later asserted they had been contractually "trapped" into lip-synching after initially believing they were going to sing, while in the episode Fluttershy is actually invited to be a part of the onstage group and it's her choice that she remain backstage, lip-synching.

Indeed, this is one of the episode's greatest strengths, that it remains focused throughout on Fluttershy's choice. Her stage fright is of course unsurprising, given her intense fear of public humiliation as depicted in "Hurricane Fluttershy"--indeed, when she finally is exposed backstage, the crowd's cheering transforms quickly into images very reminiscent of the jeering masks from that episode.

But despite these fears, and her initial rejection of Rarity's suggestion that she join the Pony Tones as a fifth member, Fluttershy elects to compound her potential humiliation by deliberately restoring her "Flutterguy" voice from "Bridle Gossip" (played to hilarious effect in that episode by Blu Mankuma, and here equally well by Alvin Sanders and Marcus Mosely--in both episodes, the voice actors do a marvelous job of imitating Andrea Libman's performance at a lower register). Fully aware of Fluttershy's earlier objections, Rarity insists that Fluttershy doesn't have to do it, but Fluttershy feels she must for the sake of the animals whose benefit concert is in danger of cancellation.

As the episode progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that Fluttershy is greatly enjoying performing with the Pony Tones. The episode never makes explicit whether this is because she just loves singing (which the cold open makes quite clear), relishes the opportunity to be a part of a music group of which she states herself to be the "number one fan," or if she's enjoying the opportunity to hear the crowd cheer for her even while she remains safely backstage and anonymous. (Social anxiety, after all, does not negate the need for social approval and validation.) The episode works well with any or all of these explanations, so in this case leaving it open to viewer interpretation is likely the right call--regardless, what's quite clear is that Fluttershy is happy with the lip-synching and upset when she realizes it's her final performance. This leads her to throw herself into the performance as never before, dancing in mid-air backstage and throwing in improvisations that Big Mac struggles to accommodate with his performance.

It seems reasonable to suspect that, regardless of her motivations for enjoying the performance, some part of Fluttershy wanted to be found out. Maybe she wanted to get credit for her work; maybe she felt guilty about deceiving the audience. Whatever the reason, her lack of caution in this final lip-synch belies her fear of public performance, forcing her into the spotlight, where she panics.

Here again the episode shines. Pinkie Pie is obliviously straightforward, to the point of hurting Fluttershy, but the other ponies quickly catch on to how upset Fluttershy is and, just as Rarity did throughout the episode, allow Fluttershy to set the pace. She performs with the Pony Tones for a tiny audience of just the Mane Six and her animal friends, and then when they suggest she join the Pony Tones for a larger concert, she refuses--and the episode ends with the others acknowledging and accepting that she will set the pace for dealing with her stage fright.

There is a principle I've discussed several times on this site, but I think this is actually the first time it's come up with Friendship Is Magic. Which is fitting, actually, because most other times I've talked about it, it's been in regards to cases of characters failing to abide by it, and thus creating disaster. Here, instead, we have a pitch-perfect example of what I'm talking about when I discuss helping versus saving: this is what helping looks like. Helping is offering resources, opportunities, and support without asserting control; in this case, it means letting Fluttershy decide that she wants to work backstage or put on a tiny concert for an audience of animals and close friends, not perform onstage at a major town event. It is the open acceptance by the rest of the Mane Six that their offered opportunity could be rejected, and that's okay, because the goal is not to save or fix Fluttershy, but to help and support her.

In other words, for Rarity throughout the episode (and indeed, for Big Mac as well; note that he is clearly increasingly uncomfortable with lip-synching with each performance, but is shown looking at Fluttershy and then resuming his efforts) and for the Mane Six at the end, this is not about pushing Fluttershy to some arbitrary standard they set for her, according to abstract principles or their own egos and perceptions, but rather about being supportive and providing whatever resources she decides she needs to work through her own issues. They do not treat Fluttershy as being broken, a project in need of supervision, but rather as a friend to whom they can offer a hand, trusting her to decide whether to take it. It is immensely more respectful and far healthier for both them and Fluttershy.

Except for Pinkie Pie, of course. But she's an interesting case, too. I've taken Rogers to task a fair few times for having characters behave horribly for the sake of a joke, especially in Season One, so credit where credit is due: she seems completely aware that she's doing it, this time. From the audience's point of view, Pinkie Pie is clearly in Comedy Mode, saying awful things to Fluttershy because Pinkie being oblivious to social cues is a recurring joke. But critically, the other characters don't respond in that way--most notably when they point out to Pinkie that in her frightening rant to Fluttershy after the lip-synching was exposed, Pinkie didn't mention how well Fluttershy sang, and Pinkie tries (poorly) to correct that error. In other words, even Pinkie is trying to help, she just can't because the episode structure won't let her.

This feeds back into the helping vs. saving narrative at the end, when Pinkie starts to go off on yet another rant to Fluttershy and Twilight Sparkle silences her: often the hardest part of helping someone is doing nothing, standing by quietly because while someone you care about struggles, yet do not need or do not want the particular kind of help you're able to give. The impulse to try to save them--to impose assistance regardless of their wishes--is strong, and so knowing when to shut up and listen is a key skill for helping. One Pinkie Pie clearly still needs to work on; fortunately Rarity, Big Mac, and to a lesser extent Twilight all show themselves able to teach her as and when she asks for help with it. As Fluttershy says: baby steps.

Next week: I honestly don't remember this episode well enough to have anything to say about it. Hopefully I come up with something by next week?

Kill la Lill and Sailor Moon Crystal Liveblog Chat Thingies

Last week's chatlogs are both finally up, and I'll be back-posting Fiction Friday shortly. Sorry, spending Thursday in the emergency room and Friday sleeping off the drugs they gave me has rather thrown off my blogging. 


How to participate in the liveblog chat:

Option 1: Whenever you watch the episodes, comment on this post as you watch with whatever responses you feel like posting!

Option 2: Go to http://webchat.freenode.net/. Enter a nickname, then for the Channels field enter ##rabbitcube, and finally fill in the Captcha and hit Connect! We'll be watching Kill la Killand commenting there starting at 2:00 p.m. EST today. Then we'll take a short break, and at 3:00 pm EST we'll watch Sailor Moon Crystal.


Kill la Kill chatlog below the cut!


Friday, October 17, 2014

Sailor Moon Crystal Liveblog Chat Thingy: Episode 7

Sorry this is up so late. Plans were disrupted by the need to go to the ER. I'm fine, but probably going to need surgery in the not too distant future, so I'm opening up calls for the week or so of guest posts I'm likely to need. 

Also, I finally updated the Kill la Kill chat post from Saturday with the log.

01[14:55] <Froborr> Hullo.
[14:55] <FoME> Hi.
01[14:55] <Froborr> So it looks like I've got one ad after the opening credits, one before the ending credits, and only one actually during the show, which is good.
01[14:55] <Froborr> On the other hand, given the way crunchyroll usually works for me, those'll each be three consecutive ads.
[14:56] <@Sylocat> Okay, pre-loading...
[14:56] <@Sylocat> Great, two episodes in a row named after the guy
[14:56] <FoME> I've got the same setup.
[14:56] <@Sylocat> Ah well... the last one got better at the end.
01[14:56] <Froborr> Yeah, I'm not enthused by this episode title.
01[14:57] <Froborr> That's true.
[14:58] <@Sylocat> (I linked you all to Nostalgia Chick's "hottest animated guys" list, right?)
[14:58] <FoME> Yup.
01[14:58] <Froborr> Yep.
[14:58] <Arrlaari> Yeah
[14:58] <Arrlaari> She doesn't have a lot to say about this guy because she didn't really watch the show
[14:58] <@Sylocat> I know, but several of the other picks say a lot
[14:58] <@Sylocat> Okay, 1 minute
[14:59] <@Sylocat> (and he's still less obnoxious than in the first anime)
[14:59] <@Sylocat> (not that that's a high bar to clear)
[14:59] <@Sylocat> Click
[15:00] <@Sylocat> Is that Speedy Gonzales in Toei's logo?
[15:00] <@Sylocat> Oh, we pick up right where we left off
01[15:00] <Froborr> No, it's Puss in Boots.
[15:00] <FoME> It's not a transformation. There's an actual tuxedo. That's kind of hilarious.
[15:00] <@Sylocat> Hahaha
01[15:01] <Froborr> That WOULD explain why he's a non-teleporting loser.
[15:01] <@Sylocat> "How could I not have noticed?"
[15:01] <Arrlaari> There was a transform in the old anime and tbh I think this fits him better
[15:01] <FoME> It's a very good question!
[15:01] <@Sylocat> Even SHE thinks she should have figured it out
01[15:02] <Froborr> Though to be fair, she's met his secret identity, what, twice?
[15:02] <Arrlaari> The obvious explanation is that she had a negative first impression of his civilian identity and a positive impressioin of his costumed identity and motivated reasoning
[15:02] <@Sylocat> Good points all
[15:02] <FoME> Indeed. Also, ad.
01[15:02] <Froborr> Also he may be doing a posture thing like Christopher Reeves as Superman.
01[15:03] <Froborr> Ad here, too.
[15:03] <@Sylocat> Of course, he slouches like Supes
[15:03] <FoME> I'm back.
01[15:03] <Froborr> Still an ad here.
01[15:03] <Froborr> Back.
[15:03] <Arrlaari> Also, it's notable that apparently flimsy masks do spoil immediate recognition. People are often not recognized when they start or stop wearing  glasses.
[15:03] <Sylocat> Phew
[15:04] <Sylocat> Right... it's a "Nuking the Fridge" moment, where something that is actually plausible strikes the viewers as wrong
[15:04] <FoME> Tuxedo Mask and the Crystal Skull? There's a mental image.
[15:04] <Sylocat> (did I miss the "ad over?")
[15:05] <FoME> Yes.
01[15:05] <Froborr> Yeah, you did.
[15:05] <Arrlaari> It's more of an issue for long-running stories where there's an opportunity for close examination
01[15:05] <Froborr> Hmm, no superpowers, dead parents, obsession, entitled asshole... so Batman, basically.
[15:05] <Sylocat> Except not rich
[15:05] <Sylocat> So he's got that going for him
01[15:05] <Froborr> True.
01[15:06] <Froborr> On the other hand he's quite a bit more rape-y than Batman, so.
[15:06] <FoME> "I'm looking for the MacGuffin because it will resotre my lost memories." "My cat told me to." Oh, Usagi.
[15:06] <Sylocat> Ah, so THAT's why the episode is named after him
[15:06] <Sylocat> Well, depends on the Batman writer
01[15:06] <Froborr> True, ASBAR Bats is basically a child-molesting kidnapper.
01[15:07] <Froborr> Usako?
01[15:08] <Froborr> Wait, does Sailor V outrank Luna?
[15:08] <FoME> "Rather inexperienced"? She was the first one! Other than V.
[15:09] <Sylocat> Until last episode, Kyubey outranked Luna AFAIWC
[15:09] <Arrlaari> ko at the end of a word generally indicates child, so "Usako" is a rabbit child. Diminutive nicknames are coded romantic, both here and in Japan.
01[15:09] <Froborr> Oh, I like how Metalia has a forehead star, like a dark mirror of a Sailor Scout.
[15:09] <Sylocat> Wait, I'd forgotten that Luna was actually in contact with Sailor V
[15:09] <Arrlaari> I don't remember seeing that before this episode either
01[15:09] <Froborr> Wait, the Dark Kingdom is on Earth?
[15:10] <FoME> Actual regret from Beryl?
01[15:10] <Froborr> I just assumed they were on some other planet or alternate dimension or something!
[15:10] <Arrlaari> Yeah, near "D-point" same as in the old anime
01[15:10] <Froborr> Beryl's human!?
[15:10] <Sylocat> I assume "Legendary Silver Crystal" sounds more badass in Japanese
[15:11] <FoME> Beryl was human once. Now? It's up for debate.
01[15:11] <Froborr> The evil rental store is called "Dark."
01[15:11] <Froborr> They're not even trying anymore.
01[15:12] <Froborr> Okay, he knows who she is and is just trolling, right?
[15:12] <FoME> Oh dear god what.
[15:12] <Arrlaari> At no point have Sailor Moon villains been known for suble deception
[15:12] <Sylocat> Ooh, I have a video rental place here like that
[15:13] <Sylocat> Hahah
01[15:14] <Froborr> Blaaarrrrghh
01[15:14] <Froborr> Ad.
01[15:14] <Froborr> Also, ewwww he is SMELLING her HANDKERCHIEF.
01[15:15] <Froborr> Gross.
[15:15] <FoME> Likewise.
[15:15] <Sylocat> I hope that's not supposed to be symbolic
[15:15] <FoME> Ironically, Crystal plays up the "miracle romance" angle far more than the version where that was in the theme song.
[15:15] <Arrlaari> I think he's kissing it, which is framed to mirror Usagi kissing his watch
01[15:15] <Froborr> Possible, Arrlaari.
01[15:15] <Froborr> Back.
[15:15] <FoME> As am I.
01[15:16] <Froborr> Significantly less gross if true.
[15:16] <Sylocat> And now I'm only 15 seconds behind rather than 2 minutes
[15:16] <Sylocat> I'm surprised they haven't figured out that something's wrong with their classmates
[15:17] <Sylocat> They rent out DVDs in CD cases?
01[15:17] <Froborr> Lots of video stores used to use their own boxes.
[15:17] <FoME> And the arcade machine has a DVD slot now.
01[15:17] <Froborr> Makes it harder to steal and resell the product.
[15:17] <Sylocat> Sailor V can talk through the game! Just like Dr. Zola in Captain America: TWS!
[15:18] <Sylocat> "Why did I tell her all that?" Because she's the main character, moron
[15:18] <Sylocat> This episode has taken a left turn into scarytown
01[15:20] <Froborr> Man, that multi-target status-cure spell of hers is potent stuff.
[15:20] <FoME> And then Sailor Moon was a legendary Pokémon.
[15:20] <Sylocat> Wait, it's that easy to do a mass remedy now?
[15:20] <Arrlaari> Moon Healing Escalation is primarily an exorcism move
[15:21] <Arrlaari> In the old anime it was introduced to defeat humans who had been transformed into Youma without vaporizing them
[15:21] <FoME> Wow. This is certainly a deviation from previous versions of Zoicite.
01[15:21] <Froborr> It'd be awesome if Sailor V showed up now instead of Tuxedo Mask.
01[15:21] <Froborr> ...Nope. Darn.
[15:21] <Sylocat> No such luck
01[15:21] <Froborr> I guess Zoisite is weak to Fighting type moves?
[15:22] <Sylocat> Makes sense, I suppose
[15:22] <FoME> He is a Dark-type, after all.
[15:22] <Arrlaari> From the comments: "It's nice to see Tuxedo Mask throwing punches instead of roses" and yet the old anime Tux had seen a lot more action by this point in the plot than this Tux
[15:22] <Sylocat> Ahahah
[15:22] <Arrlaari> That has something to do with how many more episodes the old show had, admittedly
[15:23] <Sylocat> Wow, he almost becomes less of a douche
[15:23] <FoME> Secret identies? What are those?
[15:23] <Sylocat> Where are the other... ah, there they are
01[15:23] <Froborr> Oh shit, guess I called it again!
[15:23] <Sylocat> Wait, that was LUNA?!
[15:23] <Sylocat> Oh, no, it was Sailor V
01[15:23] <Froborr> Man, I'm on a roll today.
[15:24] <Sylocat> Yes, yes you are
[15:24] <Arrlaari> So, Sailor V appeared to assist the other senshi in the middle of Episode 33 of the old anime
[15:24] <Sylocat> She pronounces it "Sailor Vwee?"
[15:24] <FoME> "V" is a weird sound in Japanese.
[15:25] <Sylocat> I assumed it was just the Katakana "Bii"
[15:25] <Arrlaari> They have real difficulty with sounds that don't appear in their own language
01[15:25] <Froborr> Doesn't actually exist, for starters.
[15:26] <Arrlaari> I do like how when Tux goes for a second punch, Zoicite is just like "nope"
01[15:26] <Froborr> Yep. Basically Tuxedo Mask's only power is that he's too much of a loser to be worth noticing, so he gets a surprise round.
[15:27] <FoME> Rogues are never as good on the second round.
01[15:27] <Froborr> Eh, they're fine as long as they can get flanking.
01[15:28] <Froborr> Anwyay, any final thoughts?
[15:28] <Arrlaari> They are really burning through the main plot of this show and a lot of the secondary characters are suffering for it
[15:28] <FoME> They're trying to cram several dozen episodes of romantic development into less than ten, and it shows.
[15:29] <Arrlaari> By this time in the old anime, Naru had got a major subplot and Umino got a couple of focus episodes
[15:29] <Sylocat> How much of that was in the manga?
[15:29] <Arrlaari> I don't know the manga well enough to say
[15:29] <FoME> Nor I.
[15:30] <Arrlaari> Although I recall reading that Naru's subplot wasn't in the manga
01[15:30] <Froborr> I'm sure we'll find out in the comments.
[15:31] <FoME> The enormous stabby crystal was familiar, though.

Fiction Fridays: Xenosaga Fic, Chapter 2, Part 3

Super late, I know, but it looks like I'll be caught up by the time of the pony post. 

Onwards with Chapter 2, where there be monsters.

The three scientists stood in shock, staring at the guard.

"Hide!" she shouted. "Now!"

Snapping to his senses, Wally shoved Jensen, who looked at him reproachfully for a moment, then shook his head and dove under his desk. Ritzi seemed to be falling rapidly into a world of her own, so Wally had to half-drag her behind the counter on which the giant mechanical arm he'd been working on was laid out in pieces.

"We're going to die," she whimpered. "They're coming back."

"No," said Wally. "We'll be fine. They won't come here. It'll be okay."

"No, no," she said. "I've been here before. Mitsuda Street."

"Oh," said Wally, and hugged her. Mitsuda Street was in the Overlook Square neighborhood. Thirty years ago, Overlook Square had been one of the nicest places for a lower-middle-class family to live in the Fifth Jerusalem capital, right up until a Div attack had appeared out of nowhere one evening. It was far and away the worst of the twenty or so attacks the Federation had seen in the centuries since the creatures first appeared, with thousands dead, many of them children.

"I was seven," Ritzi whimpered. "It, it tore our wall off. It was big and horrible and I was so scared. Daddy was twisted all wrong, and Mommy told me to run. She had the knife she used for cake. I ran out the back door and kept running until I couldn't breathe. I was sure it was behind me."

"Shh," said Wally. "It'll be okay." His brain didn't seem to be working right. Ritzi was older than him after all, and that was hilarious, but he didn't dare laugh.

"No!" she cried. "It won't! It's never going to stop following me!" She tore out of Wally's grasp and ran out from behind the counter.

"Ritzi, no!" he called.

"What the hell?" shouted the security guard. "You idiot, get away from there!"

Ritzi scrabbled clumsily at the door, trying to force it open. "I have to get away from here!" she shrieked. "It's coming for me, I have to run!"

Wally watched in horror as the door suddenly dimpled inward under a forceful blow. Ritzi stumbled back away from it, stunned. Something roared, Ritzi and tearing metal both shrieked, and then something enormous forced its way into the room. An enormous three-clawed, scaly hand shot out and wrapped itself around Ritzi's head. It swung her sharply against the wall, and her screaming stopped.

The security guard was screaming in incoherent rage, firing continuously at the Div, but the bullets just bounced from its chest. Wally felt strangely calm, able to dispassionately observe everything as it happened. He was dimly aware that he, too, was screaming, but it was simply another fact to be noted.

The Div was enormous, half again as tall as a man and twice as wide. Its torso was bulbous, almost spherical, supported on thick, short legs, and its arms were long and muscular. It had three claws on its hands, one shorter and opposed to the others, like a thumb. Its feet had three claws as well, two in front and one behind, like a dinosaur from a holo. Its eyes were small and dark in a bat-like head, with large ears. A narrow crest of thick, course yellow-brown hair ran from between its eyes, over its scalp and down the back of its neck. Its skin was a deep, dark red and scaly, and its chest and back were covered in thick yellow calluses, almost like armor.

It was horrible, a nightmare creature, a childhood ogre, and Ritzi was dead and bullets couldn't hurt it. From far outside himself, he saw death approaching from one direction and panic from another.
Slowly, the reality of it all was settling in. He was going to die.

The security guard shrieked in frustration and stood, still firing. Her arc of fire traced across its chest and struck it in the face, and the creature roared as bullets chewed its head apart. As fast as the wounds formed, however, they closed again, healing as if they had never been.

It threw Ritzi at the security guard. There was a sickening snap as she struck the floor. Bullets sprayed across the ceiling for a moment as she clenched the trigger in her death throes, but then the gun dropped beside her, quiet and still.

The creature roared again, and Wally shrieked and ran for the closet. He pulled the door shut behind him, piled everything he could find against it, and then cowered against the back wall, trembling and sick, his arms over his head. They couldn't shut out the sound, however, of the thing roaring, of Jensen screaming, of the wet crunch that ended the screaming.

"Go away," he whispered. "Go away go away go away." But slow, inexorable, heavy footprints approached the closet.

Wally yelped as the Div struck the door, its claws penetrating clean through. He stared helplessly as it tore the door off and flung it aside, then brought its face down to look at him through the doorway. It screamed high and loud and reptilian, and Wally screamed back, his hands covering his ears.

The Div straightened. It reached for him. And a dark figure dropped from above, something bright and red slashing across the Div's face. It howled and reared back. The dark figure landed in a crouch and immediately launched herself again, striking the Div in the face with a spinning kick and knocking it farther off balance.

Slowly, incredulously, Wally stood as the figure lightly and nimbly leaped back and forth, kicking and slashing with shining red blades, driving the Div away from him. The Div tried to strike back, but she jumped onto its arm with incredible speed and launched from there at its head. Unlike the security guard's bullets, the figure's attacks didn't seem to heal, and soon the Div gave a last mournful cry and collapsed heavily, shaking the entire lab with the force of its impact.

She turned to face Wally, who could only stare. She was no more than half his age, and tiny; the straight black hair hanging to her waist probably weighed half as much as the rest of her. She wore a navy blue, formfitting jumpsuit covered in pockets, and carried a pair of long knives, fading now from their previous cherry-red glow.

"Um... thank you," he said.

"Dr. Wallace Alexander Petrovich?" she asked.

"Y-yes," he managed. "How--?"

"Your ID," she said, pointing at the card dangling from his belt loop. "Also, I was given your description."

"The Federation sent you." He sagged against the wall. "Did -- did you do this?"

"No," she said. "I believe the Ur government has staged this incident to wipe out all facility staff not loyal to them. You were right to contact us."

She walked over to the broken tangle of limbs from which the room's only light shone. Wally followed hesitantly and knelt next to the bodies. They didn't look like people. They looked like store dummy parts mixed at random. But there was too much blood for store dummies, an overwhelming smell of meat that made him retch, and an ID card protruding from the mass. The picture was obscured by blood, but the name clearly read "Adelaide Ritsuki". He felt dry and hollow.

"We should find the other card," Wally said as the woman from the Federation reached into the tangle. "I should at least know her name."

The woman pulled the flashlight free, shook it to get rid of what blood she could, and held it out. She was saying something, but Wally couldn't follow it. She shook the flashlight at him again.

"It's hers," Wally said. "I can't."

"Take it. She doesn't need it. You do." The woman allowed the briefest look of exasperation to cross her face, and clipped the flashlight to his jacket herself. "Can you fire a gun?"

"What?" Wally stared at her. "Sort of," he said. "I mean, it's been--"

"Here," she said, and handed him the assault rifle. "Follow me." She started to stand, but Wally didn't move.

"We should say something," he said. "For Ritzi, I mean. She- she was scared. It wasn't her fault." He looked up helplessly. "We should say something."

The woman gazed back at him dispassionately. "Were you friends?"

"Lovers," Wally said. It wasn't precisely true, but he didn't feel up to explaining.

"All right," she said. "But then we have to move. There are other Divs where that came from, and we might have to tangle with security, too." She knelt beside Ritzi and the security guard and bowed her head. "Almighty Lord, take your servants into your bosom. Guide them and guard them with your wisdom and your power. Though they fell in battle, may they find peace beyond reach of any weapon." She opened her eyes and stood. "Ready?"

"No," he said, and stood. "But I'll come."