No.6 episode 9 — I always appreciate when a visual story can demonstrate death and horror without making me look at too much violence and gore. There are ways of showing the intensity of a horrific scene without resorting to a visual bloodbath. This episode did very well on that front. In fact, I thought it was an excellently paced and styled episode overall.

I felt a glimmer of hope for Nezumi’s character when he sought to comfort his fellow prisoners in the truck. With only two episodes left, I’m on tenterhooks about him and his relationship with Shion.

OK, so Dogkeeper is a dude. I really, honestly didn’t know that.

Fullmetal Alchemist volume 5 — I love to see Winry nerding out about automail, because it demonstrates characteristics she has. That is to say, it demonstrates that she has characterization. Plus it’s cute.

I very much like the dramatic timing of the flashback to the brothers’ training with Izumi; I think it’s much better placed than their first-chapter flashback to trying to revive their mother.

Jem and the Holograms #18 — I adore the current art lineup. I’ve loved the art in this comic all along, but right now it’s really doing it for me.

I said before that I love to see rivals working together, and that’s absolutely true. However, the rivalry itself is also an essential part of this series, old or new version, and I love that not only do we have the Misfits/Holograms rivalry, we also have various little conflicts going on among the characters. I’m pleased not to see rivalries over dudes between Pizzazz and Kimber, and I’m digging all the rest that are present.

The fanbase around the Stingers in the TV series always puzzled me a little. Not the fictional fans, but the many real ones that seemed to regard that era of the show as the best. It was interesting, sure, especially watching Jerrica and Jem dissociate even father, but I don’t think the Stingers were ever as good characters as the Misfits were — which I think was mostly because the series ended before they really had time, so perhaps it’s the potential of the characters everyone loves so much?

Anyway, I’m not unhappy to see the Stingers around in the comic or anything, but I do think it’s a little early. Since timing and pacing have been the biggest problems with this comic all along (in my opinion), it’s no surprise (and probably not going to change the timing and pacing) that they’ve shown up. I kinda feel, though, like their appearance is going to add another flapping plot thread to a story that doesn’t really seem to know where it’s going.

Justice Hall — Geez, this is a long book. But it may be my favorite in this series, so that’s fine XD I do have a tendency, though, to break off part of the way through a longer book kindof at random and listen to my own stories for a while. I wanted He Can Be Taught to cheer me up in my depression, and then when that was finished and my audiobook app went straight on into La Confrérie de la Lune Révéré, I was like, Ooh, I want to listen to that too! So the point here is that I still haven’t finished Justice Hall yet. But I do have stuff to say about it.

So. Representation. This is something we talk about a lot online because it’s something that doesn’t happen enough for a number of groups. One of those groups being LGBTQ folks. And sometimes we get representation, but it’s not very good representation, and we wonder whether that’s better or worse than none at all, than art seeming to pretend we simply don’t exist. For example, we’d like to see not just lesbian characters, but well written lesbian characters that are more than stereotypes or stock characters or plot devices (and also that don’t die all the time).

And therefore Iris Sutherland is an interesting question.

I don’t want to suggest she’s a poorly written character, a stock character, a plot device, a stereotype, or any of that, but I do kinda feel like she’s… fanservice? Like King pulled out all the stops when designing her character to make her an almost over-the-top lesbian we lesbians both want to be and want to be with? What I’m saying is that she’s a bit of a Mary-Sue, a bit too perfect. And I’m not sure I’m complaining about that?

Of course Mary is a bit of a Mary-Sue (and that in response to the pre-existing Sueish Holmes), and therefore many of the other original characters have to Mary-Sue it up in order to stand next to her/them. And when the entire main cast is larger than life, you simply adjust your expectations. So in that sense I feel it’s justified.

But I also feel like King perhaps thought, Hey, there aren’t enough awesome lesbian characters around… I’ll do one with ALL THE SKILLS AND GOOD TRAITS. And it may be a little over the top even in this series, but it’s also really gratifying to someone that longs to see lesbian characters at all. I mean, if it’s a choice between no representation and Super Lesbian, that’s no difficult decision, methinks.

The drama of Gabriel being secretly the son of Iris and Marsh, and all the emotions involved in the uncovering of his story as a result of that, is absolutely amazing — really solid stuff, an excellent blend of detection and human interest and wartime tragedy. As it emerges as the real core of the story, it becomes even more compelling than when, nearer to the beginning of the book, it was just a tangent that could possibly lead somewhere.

I did consider the entire trip to Canada a little underdeveloped, though. I can see why King might not want to lengthen her book even further by fleshing that part out much, but it did seem to be skimmed over a bit. Especially since Helene seems to be an interesting character I would like to get to know better. Still, you can’t have everything, even in an excellent book.

Steven Universe episodes and The Answer — After having rewatched Restaurant Wars with brother and being struck even more than the first time with how out-of-character it seemed for Steven to completely ignore Ronaldo’s heartbreak and to have that played for humor as if we were watching a completely different and far less compassionate show, it was reassuring in Future Boy Zoltron to get back to the active desire to help and support everyone, even some random stranger you just met. It was a cute episode that reinforced my favorite of Steven’s character traits: his empathy.

Last One Out of Beach City made me very happy because of its casual, normalized lesbian interaction. It just felt so… normal… like it was no big deal. Ironically, that’s a big deal to me XD

It’s great to see Pearl seeing and even interacting with humans more as people than she has in the past. I mentioned my thoughts on her ability to recognize the individuality and autonomy (and likability) of humans back when I watched Mr. Greg, and that opinion has not changed. But I think Pearl has changed, or at least is changing, largely because of Greg and by trying to understand Rose’s feelings for him; she really is on her way to acknowledging humans as the spiritual and intellectual equals of gems.

She’s not there yet, though. I laughed so hard when she reported that she’d told the hottie “You’re welcome” because she’d helped save her planet and her people; and Pearl wouldn’t even have been interested in the hottie in the first place if she hasn’t resembled Rose. Even so, this was an adorable episode, and an excellent sign of progress for our beloved Pearl!

As for The Answer, I have to say that I was underwhelmed. The book didn’t expand much on what the episode already told us, and as such suffered the same problems as the episode.

Now, I’m a pretty hardcore romance fangirl, and what I enjoy about romance is watching the growth and progress of love. I like to see what traits one character admires about another and how they’re affected by them; I like to see how the characters feel differently when they’re together than when they’re apart or with anyone else; I like to see how each character grows and changes in response to the other. It’s a complex journey that I love for its complexity and points of progress.

But, bizarrely, even in a story like this, whose title equates to ‘love’ within the story itself, that journey is kinda glossed over. We get a few hints of each of those things I mentioned above, but still come out of the book, which focuses mostly on physical events, without much sense of why they supposedly love each other so much that thereafter they can’t bear to be apart. This great love they’re reported to feel remains mostly that — a report. One by which I’m not entirely convinced.

Other than that, the conceit of Sapphire and Ruby telling (and commentating on) the story from frames at the top and bottom of each page was cute, but didn’t quite work as well as it could have. It did contribute slightly to the development of their relationship — with each of them realizing that they see things differently, even their own former points of view, when they’re together — but it wasn’t established well enough from the beginning to hang a lampshade on for meta storytelling purposes from the middle onward. Also, I don’t feel the transition between what Sapphire foresaw happening to what actually happened was very smooth or comprehensible.

So, yeah, overall, kinda disappointed in this one. Not that it wasn’t at all enjoyable, but it wasn’t expansive enough beyond what we’d already seen in the series to make me overlook its flaws.

Princess Princess Ever After — Ah, I can save myself some trouble here by putting my thoughts about this right after my thoughts about The Answer, because it had exactly the same problem. This was a super cute comic, and I loved many things about it, particularly the art. But it felt like the introduction to a much longer and more involved story that then never actually happened.

We get cute introductions to three characters, some interesting backstory on a couple of them, we solve a problem on our way to dealing with the big bad, we beat the big bad… and then we jump forward to an epilogue that sees our leading ladies apparently getting married quite some time later — and yay for them, of course! — with very little development of their relationship in between. After such a promising setup, this was bitterly disappointing.

Beyond that, I dislike badbutt language, and also, “Princess Amira?” Really? Is that where the title comes from? Also, Sadie is supposedly fat, so yay body diversity… but she doesn’t really look like she is.

It’s a shame that all of this implies I didn’t much like this comic, because I did like it. It just fell far short of the heights I thought it could have reached.

I Am the Rain by Chely Wright — So she set up a Kickstarter to fund her next album, and then proceeded to bombard backers with daily or even more frequent emails about her progress. And I think some of us were like, Chely, we love you and we’re eager for the new CD, but please shut the hell up. I, at least, turned off updates from that Kickstarter, and therefore probably noticed later than many others when the updates stopped and Chely seemed to disappear into nothingness. Then, like, a year and a half passed after the originally stated release month, but just when some of us were starting to believe very sadly that it had all been a scam and there would never be a new album, suddenly there was a new album!!

And it’s a great album. It’s pure Chely Wright, full of her familiar feel and sound, but also uniformly gentle, forlorn, and poignant. In fact it’s so deeply sad from beginning to end, the sound of her voice and the turn of the lyrics so generally hopeless, that I think we’ve been offered a pretty clear explanation for why it took so much longer than planned. I just hope she’s OK.

Occasionally there are chaotic moments when the instrumentation, vocals, and background vocals don’t come together as well as they should, but other than that my only complaint is that it’s boring. The thing is, I am so easily bored by music that I never put that one forward as a serious complaint since it often applies only to me XD I think the album overall is really well done, with an excellent consistency and strength to it.

Halona is definitely my favorite song of the lineup, mostly because it’s the least boring, but it’s also a little unsettling. I like the faery-tale-esque quality of the lyrics, but I’m disturbed at the feeling of cultural appropriation I get from the description of a “princess of the prairie rain” with “blue eyes and warm golden hair” but a name taken from Native American tradition.

Where Will You Be is probably my second-favorite because of its active, intense sound (at least compared to most of the rest of the album) and the lyrics that suggest willingness to support someone after their inevitable breakdown. At the Heart of Me is pretty good too.

One thing I was wondering all along was whether any of these lyrics would be openly gay, or whether she would go the Melissa Etheridge route and never use gendered third-person pronouns. So of course I was very pleased with Tomorrow is a Long Time with its many instances of ‘she’ and ‘her’ in reference to the narrator’s lover. Yay gay! Yay Chely! I just hope she’s OK.