Author: dereksmcgrath

PhD recipient, English literature (nineteenth-century United States studies, gender studies), Stony Brook University (May 2014) A fan who writes frequently on contemporary popular culture--animation, comics, fandom, and just about everything Joss Whedon. Research interests: Early to contemporary American literature and popular culture. Gender studies. African American literature. Native American literature. Digital humanities and pedagogy. Visual and material culture. Comic books and graphic novels. Writing and rhetoric.

My upcoming cons: Presenting at and reporting from #AX2017–teaching, melancholia, nostalgia, and more!

Anime Expo will take place June 30 to July 4 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. I’m happy to return to AX as a presenter once again–and now also as both a special guest contributor and an on-site reporter for the new site JAMS Anime. Anime Expo is the perfect opportunity for me to continue my work in scholarship, news, and analysis at a location that brings together different elements of the anime community–journalists, industry leaders, scholars, and fans all around–for discussion about Japanese popular culture, in the United States and elsewhere.

My schedule includes:

  • July 1, 8 PM Pacific: Presenting ” ‘Ha Ha! Boring’: Nostalgia and Melancholia in Servamp and Anime Fan Communities,” Live Programming 4 (LP4 / Room 411)
  • July 4, 2:30 PM Pacific: Participating in the special guest panel, “Teaching Happiness: Using Anime and Manga as Educational Tools,” Live Programming 4 (LP4 / Room 411)
  • Reporting all updates and announcements about upcoming anime and manga on Twitter @JAMS_ Anime.

More information is below about these presentations, JAMS, and a conference panel CFP for scholars interested in talking about how they teach anime and manga.

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With Bakugo, “My Hero Academia” shows your fave is problematic

“Todoroki vs Bakugo,” My Hero Academia, Episode 25
Adapting Issues 42, 43, and 44 of the manga, available from Viz
Anime available at CrunchyRoll and Funimation

Well, that was an ending–and, in terms of doing more with Bakugo and the animation, it’s somehow more disappointing than the manga’s version.

Granted, “Todoroki vs Bakugo” improved upon some details from the source material, including the already effective reunion of Todoroki and his mother, and clarified Midnight’s powers, something not as clear in the comic panels and gutters (despite the clue in her name). Comics are thus a double-edge sword. Composed of panels, they are a series of frozen moments, so they cannot communicate movement as easily as animation without having more page space to extend that action into multiple panels. However, the benefit to comics is that they tend to allow audiences to sit and meditate for the longest time on moments frozen in time, like All Might’s heartfelt outreach to Tokoyami and Todoroki, or the humor behind Bakugo’s fury. Meanwhile, when I saw Bakugo shaking in his chains, I wasn’t amused–I was horrified, because whereas characters like Todoroki, Izuku, and Ochaco have reached tenuous resolution to their plots, Bakugo and Iida have not–and Bakugo lacks the kind of sympathetic background to his story. The flashbacks in the cold opening improve upon the manga so as to clarify why we should sympathize with Bakugo–and it’s still difficult.

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The acting, music, and Stain’s introduction save a less thrilling “My Hero Academia”

“Fight on, Iida!” My Hero Academia Season 2 Episode 24
An adaptation of Issues 40 to 42 of the manga, available from Viz
Anime available on CrunchyRoll and Funimation

I told you things would get less interesting after Todoroki defeated Izuku–and I’m happy to be proven mostly wrong.

As I had said, following a climax, the descending action has to be less emotionally exciting in order to arrive at resolution. With yet another episode opting for a recap of the previous episode, rather than the traditional cold opening (and to save minutes for new content), we have our resolution: Izuku realizes there are ways to be heroic rather than just victory in combat, and Todoroki is on his way to recognizing he is not fated to be like his parents. The rest is falling into place, and it’s kind of boring: members of Class 1A are in the semi-finals, we don’t get to see much more of Class 1B, it’s all male combatants in the last round, and since the protagonist Izuku is not one of them, attention on how that Sports Festival wraps up is less interesting. Even the animated battles presented that eliminate Mina, Ibara, Tokoyami, and Iida are shorter and hence less visually impressive just on the basis of time, characters, and budget.

What I neglected to emphasize is that often the resolution is tied to closure–and boy, did All Might’s revelation bring closure and hit an emotional target that, if not exciting, with the acting in the English dub by Justin Briner and Christopher Sabat, and accompanied by the musical score, was cathartic. Add to this episode the continued work to make Bakugo more complex, the introduction of Stain to set up the next arc, and the witnessing of Stain’s brutality and how it will put titular character Iida into the spotlight, and My Hero Academia continues to surprise.

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In its Season 2 climax, “My Hero Academia” is on fire

“Shoto Todoroki: Origin.” My Hero Academia Episode 23 (Season 2, Episode 10)

There is a lot to cover to cover in this episode, from how it deconstructs the “stuffed in the fridge” trope and the brooding superhero’s tragic backstory, as well as adding more to the analysis by others of animator Yutaka Nakamura, Studio BONES, and yutapon cubes.

While the animation is what will bring new viewers to this series, as with any story, its success depends first on plot, then characters, before its production–in this case, animation, acting, and music–can be appreciated. Without this plot, in which Izuku and Todoroki are both motivated to be heroes by All Might, there would be no episode.

And, unfortunately, as we have given Izuku and Todoroki their resolution, like after any climax, things are going to get a bit less interesting.

Tagging for spoilers, as well as trigger warnings about spousal abuse, rape, violence against children, scolding, and me cursing out Mark Millar.

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Ochaco shows badasses wear blush stickers in “My Hero Academia”

“Bakugo vs. Uraraka.” My Hero Academia Episode 22

This is a challenging review, as I want to be more self-reflexive about what I am getting wrong about My Hero Academia–and then can’t come to a solution to those problems. I’m trying to get a better grasp on what this episode does with Ochaco and Bakugo, yet I feel like I so bound up in my thinking as a man that I am missing something–because I won’t shut up and just listen.

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