AEL: Les Mis fic, BSSMC 35, CB 20, FMA ch.5, SU eps, Unbound

Inspector Javert and the Empire of Death — I ship Javert and Jean Valjean heart-throbbingly hard (I think because Javert reminds me so very much of Saitou), so I decided to read this fic about them because it looked interesting and I was jonesing.

First off, I have to do a sort of calibration in my brain when I’m reading fic based on a high literary source. No one writes like Victor Hugo, and it would be cruel and unusual to hold anyone to that standard. This particular author’s writing is quite decent as long as I’m not making unfair comparisons. So on to the fic itself.

This author does a fantastic job of bringing together the obsessive, upright Javert and the repressive, benevolent Valjean in a shy, awkward, sweet relationship that follows the exact train of logic I believe theirs would in this context; and there’s this beautiful parallelism in their relationship based on Valjean having saved Javert from suicide and Javert saving Valjean from the almost suicidal fading of spirit he suffers while he’s distanced from Cosette after her marriage.

And all of this takes place in the midst of a mystery/adventure plot involving Patron-Minette (or at least the ever-intriguing Claquesous); and everyone must be aware that my absolute favorite type of story is the kind where intense, dramatic emotional interaction plays out against a backdrop of action/adventure.

Javert’s moment of realization that he loves Valjean is fantastic beyond words. I have to quote my favorite part of that passage–

For one single heartbeat, it seemed to him his soul hung transfixed – perfectly balanced as though a weight of white feathers had softly fallen into one side of an enormous scale and lifted the other side out of a river of darkness. Now there the scale stood in silent equilibrium, and his heart trembled within him, suddenly made light; the gnarled wood had filled with the rush of sap and heard for the first time the call of spring whisper grow, and bid all green things to reach out for the sun, to flower.

–because, holy shit, that’s good times. Of course I’m reminded of Saitou again (this time a la liveonanon), but apart from making me think of my favorite character and another fic I love, it’s just a gorgeous piece of writing with some serious feels described and evoked. Ten stars would weep again.

Another line I really loved is this — He could only watch and observe how Valjean’s shoulders bent even more until it seemed as if Valjean carried all the weight of the world, an impossible Atlas shouldering a burden that had never deserved so noble a bearer. Because Javert really is obsessive XD

Of course tackling a prevented-from-suicide Javert with any kind of depth requires an author to face off squarely against the reasons Javert wanted to commit suicide in the first place. (Which is one reason I try to avoid fic based on the musical in any form, since they stripped away about twelve layers of complexity from the character and his motivations.) And this author has taken that bull by the horns and, if I may be forgiven a mixed metaphor, made super delicious steak out of it.

Everything about Javert’s world has changed since his epiphany, and this is obvious in his thoughts about everything he lays eyes on. His struggle to deal with a life seen through these new eyes is already poignant, and then you add this sudden realization of love for Valjean into the mix, and you’ve got yourself an exceptionally compelling and pathetic Javert.

This is by far the best Javert/Valjean fic I’ve ever read, and I would highly recommend it to fans of the pairing.

Sailor Moon Crystal episode 35 — (Now that I’m not reading a webcomic every second, I can start to catch up on all these episodes.) Oddly, I feel like the opening theme is weaker as a chorus than a solo. Remember when I Am Sailormoon got even cuter and had more of a sense of teamwork when all of Peach Hips joined in? Yeah, there’s none of that here.

There’s never any sense of stakes in this show. Every episode someone Skeletors out all, “This is the new super strong minion I have created to defeat the Sailor Senshi, and it’s the most powerful yet!!!!” and then it’s instantly defeated. And even an established, long-term villain like Kaolinite or Professor Tomoe gets beaten in, like, two seconds once the main characters get there.

I’m not saying I want the show to turn into Dragonball Z or anything and take 17 episodes for a single enemy, but the way it progresses is just silly. Typically the heroes’ struggle amounts to walking forward, because it’s not like there are any real obstacles in their way.

And at the same damn time, I have never seen a show waste as much time as this one does on pointless fluffy bullshit. I mean, this scene in the elevator? Where Sailor Moon’s like, “I’m not confident in myself! Oh, what? Yes, I am confident in myself!” What the hell was that about? “We need an extra three minutes in here somehow” is what I think that was about.

In general, the pacing of this series is remarkably bad. It goes back and forth from draggy filler nonsense to rushing through important scenes far too quickly. It’s all very disjointed and jerky.

And then this ending sequence continues to imply that anyone cares about Tuxedo Kamen.

Cowboy Bebop episode 20 — This is the show I currently have on my phone to watch episodes of when I’m waiting at work for my dad. The files have no subtitles (I’ll fix that eventually), and I’m too casual a fan of the series to have the events memorized, so sometimes I’m a little hazy on the details.

Anyway, episode 20 is creepy as shit, and not just because of the villain’s delightfully weird design. After you’ve spent 19 episodes getting to know how tough and effective Spike is, watching him get his ass so thoroughly handed to him — and seeing the genuine terror and unmitigated desire to retreat in his face and demeanor! — really makes an enemy feel like serious business.

Superb visual and audio design and timing, as always, of course. The appropriateness of the appearance of the words “C’est La Vie” onscreen near the beginning, the subtle but concise thoroughness of the flashback to the villain’s creation (and that music!!), and every moment of the fight in Space Land, is 100% excellent.

I love how they (seemingly at random) decided to do a horror-style episode. As I mentioned, I’m a casual fan, so I’ve never read/heard any director’s commentary or anything, so I just have to assume that they were like, “Hey, let’s do some horror today… just to see if we can.” And guess what. They could.

I’m curious about the trademark on the series title in the eyecatch. Not a lot happens in this series without a reason… If I had to guess, I’d say it’s a subtle comment on the manufactured quality of the villain.

I am very fucking sick of evil laughter, to the point where even deliberate satire of evil laughter irritates the shit out of me. Nothing makes a show seem more thoroughly childish and stupid more quickly than evil laughter. It’s never natural or logical, it’s usually out of character, and the only reason it doesn’t seem wildly, bizarrely out of place all the freaking time is that we’re all so damn used to it. And a character like this one, in whom the writers thoughtfully use evil laughter to demonstrate a real mental imbalance and legitimate unnaturality, is cheapened, his impact lessened, by how idiotically overused (and misused) the practice is in television as a whole. Which is very frustrating in an excellent episode of an excellent show like this.

The use of an amusement park for the final setting was, I think, very clever (as just about everything in this series is). Not only did it allow them to incorporate super-creepy mascot characters to add to the unsettling nature of the scene, it also highlighted the childishness of the villain by presenting a slew of childish imagery — even going so far as to offer a direct parallel to him in the creepy, childish, and deadly giant dog robot that ends up killing him. The unexpected display of childishness in an otherwise seemingly competent adult juxtaposed with the horrific nature of his death must leave a somewhat blank expression of I don’t quite know how to feel about this on more faces than just Spike’s.

Fullmetal Alchemist chapter 5 — This chapter is utterly horrifying, and in my mind it raises the question of how soon — especially in a serialized work — an author should establish what tones they’re sometimes likely to use and what lines they’re sometimes willing to cross. Of course in some works these things are meant to be a surprise, and in that case all bets are off, but in a manga like this I have to wonder…

Is it a good idea to drop this horror bomb so early? Should it have come even earlier? Wait too long and you risk betraying readers that have come to assume you won’t go certain distances; too early and you promise a horrific tone that you may not be interested in maintaining. Was chapter 5 too early for it in this case? Not early enough? Or in just the right spot?

In the end an author has to tell the story they’re telling in the way they believe is best, but some of these mundane considerations (e.g. how to be allowed to continue telling the story) sometimes have to be made despite how little bearing they really should have on that story.

Steven Universe episodes — You know, I was going to say the numbers of the episodes in question, but it is such a pain in the ass trying to figure out which episode is actually what number, so never mind. I’m getting brother caught up with SU, and the ones we just watched were Full Disclosure, Joy Ride, and Love Letters.

I thought the little music video/montage in Full Disclosure was an excellent way to recap the dramatic events at the end of the previous season. It was much more artistic than a “Previously on Steven Universe” bit, especially given that showing those events was actually relevant to Steven’s thoughts at that moment and therefore not just a recap.

That sequence is, I think, particularly poignant to someone that’s already watched the series and can look forward to the Do It For Her/Him scene in a later episode.

Brother expressed an interesting idea — that of a sliding scale between “honest” and “polished” for the music in a series like this. In his opinion (and, given his criteria, I have to agree with him), the music in Steven Universe is mostly down at the “honest” end. He said (and again I agree) that there hasn’t been any music in the series as far as he’s seen it that he would want to listen to outside of the series. He did agree, however, that it’s all been enjoyable enough, and quite effective, in context — and also that the integration of Steven’s ringtone into the song that led to this conversation was pretty inspired.

Unbound — I’m only 15% of the way into this book at the moment (for the first time), but I do have a couple of thoughts already.

First off, this book flows from the previous better than the previous did from the first. This isn’t a complaint about the first and second books; it’s a positive comment on how involved the story has become and how smooth this transition has been.

Secondly, FUCK EVERYTHING, we’re Autobody Shopping. I’ve ranted about Autobody Shopping before, so I won’t here, but in this book it’s happening in a new and differently horrible way, so I have to at least mention it.

When he recaps in this book, he sometimes simplifies what happened before as if he literally is talking to someone unfamiliar with previous parts of the story. I’m listening to the recap going, “That’s not quite right… that’s not exactly what happened… you’re oversimplifying…” and it’s even worse than just a standard unnecessary and annoying Autobody Shop.

Telling me what happened in a book I’ve read and getting it wrong is even worse than the standard assumption that I have a poor memory or am a fucking idiot picking up the third book in a series without reading the first two.

Hopefully at this point I’m far enough into the book to have left behind most of the Autobody Shopping. But I’m afraid the fourth and final book in the series will be even worse about this. Not looking forward to that :\

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