Wednesday, March 30, 2022

An Airbender's Lesson in Numbing Emotions

(Guest post by Tyler Q)

I’m aware that choosing to write about a moment from a random episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender is not necessarily the most culturally “present” right now. But I can only write about what I know, and all that’s coming to mind are things that are personally relevant. So I hope you bear with me as I share my insights on the dangers of “suppression” to the point of “numbness.”

I’m aware that there are many clinical definitions of emotional numbness, such as with PTSD. However, for simplicity’s sake, I am focusing in on what I’ve come to identify as “emotional overload” or “suppression” – where we blatantly turn away from our own emotions. I’m talking about moments where we go through hell and more, the absolute worst, and deliberately choose to not check in with ourselves. I unfortunately am notorious for this.

I know that this is the complete opposite of what I should do. But part of me believes that if I do, I’ll realize just how bad the situation really is. I’ll end up slowing down – something I usually find I can’t do when there are so many people and things still requiring my attention. And so, I push on, saying I’ll have time later to work on myself. It’s only been recently that I’ve realized how dangerous this can be. Like running a marathon with a broken leg, you’re not just running slowly – you’re also damaging your chances of ever healing properly.

The first time I actually found a scene that portrayed my personal experience with suppression and numbness came from an episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender called “The Serpent’s Pass.” Katara seeks out Aang to find him distantly staring off at the horizon. In previous episodes, he had lashed out in anger after losing his beloved air bison Appa. Upon Katara’s approach, he mourns in remorse:

“You saw what I did out there. I was so angry about losing Appa that I couldn't control myself. I hated feeling like that.”

Katara responds with concern:

“But now you’re not letting yourself feel anything. I know sometimes it hurts more to hope and it hurts more to care. But you have to promise me that you won’t stop caring.”

Aang was so concerned in that moment that his lack of control over emotion would hurt him and the people that he loved. So he chose to distance himself from those emotions. However, Katara pleads with him to process his feelings. But he struggles to do this for the rest of the episode.

I do want to qualify that numbness isn’t always a choice. Sometimes, life really is just too much. However, I believe that all trials and tribulations, no matter their source or their severity, are opportunities for us to turn closer to Christ.

I have no certification in counseling or therapy, though have I been the benefactor of it many times throughout the years. Once again, not saying that certifies me in anything other than my own personal perspective. I’m just a medical student at the moment. But I have learned that there are many ways to feel physically “numb.” Sometimes, there are certain receptors in our body that don’t work. Other times, the problem rather is that those receptors work, but they are completely overwhelmed. I find this to be similar to emotions. Numbness isn’t the lack of emotion. It’s the overwhelming by it. It’s not that I just stop feeling. It’s that I feel so much that it completely washes over me. Whether this be when multiple trials collide in my life or I just forget to monitor myself, I am in danger of becoming “numb.”

A counselor taught me the danger of numbness is how it impacts your ability to feel and/or identify your emotions over time. You can’t just muscle through it. Distraction can only work when you’ve acknowledged all that you are feeling. If you suppress your feelings, they will haunt you or show up in the most inconvenient of times. Healing comes from a place of feeling and validation of those exact feelings. Therefore, whether we have consciously suppressed emotions or just happenstance find ourselves to be inundated with emotions, it is critical that we respond with turning inward and turning upward for help.

After extended periods of suppression, it takes me a while to recover my capabilities of feeling. Activities such as journaling and mindfulness meditation help me to better understand myself. But I find that those things can help only inasmuch as I am anchored in my relationship with Heavenly Father. He knows the importance of our emotions. In Moses 7, we read of a vision that Enoch had. Christ shows unto Enoch a scene wherein Satan has imprisoned the entire world with a “great chain.” It is at this moment that we read the surprising reaction of Christ in verse 28:

“He wept”

This is surprising because God is all-powerful and all-knowing. Despite this, He still is touched by emotion. Perhaps this is because emotion isn’t a weakness. It’s a divine attribute. When Enoch questions God on why He weeps when He is so powerful, God responds that He weeps BECAUSE of His love and concern over His children. He knows that things will work out in the end. But He still chooses to experience emotion, perhaps to remind Himself and us that those emotions are what encourage Him to love us so deeply, even as to send His Only Begotten Son to die for us.

This is the realization that Aang ultimately comes to as he finally shares with Katara:

“I thought I was trying to be strong. But really I was just running away from my feelings. Seeing this family together, so full of happiness and love, it's reminded me how I feel about Appa ... and how I feel about you.”

Acknowledging emotions helped Aang choose to do what is right and gave him the power and willpower necessary to overcome the challenges that he would continue to face. I believe the principle is the same with all of us.

Suppression keeps me from healing. Turning to Christ with my emotions on the other hand gives me opportunity to be honest with myself, to acknowledge hard truths about myself and my circumstances, and to find the path forward. Elder Neal A. Maxwell shared, “Our capacity to feel controls our behavior in many ways, and by inaction when our feelings prompt us to do good, we deaden that capacity to feel. It was Jesus’ striking sensitivity to the needs of those about him that made it possible for him to respond in action.” 

I will not discount the difficulty that this takes for each person. Some may require more help than others, which is nothing to be ashamed of (once again, I am a benefactor here of therapy and counseling). But I still hold personal belief that the Lord did not send us to Earth to learn how to numb ourselves. He wants us to feel all things fully, if not for anything else than to feel just how much He loves us – especially for those struggling trials. 


Tyler M. Q.

Monday, March 28, 2022

The Good Place Workout

When someone suggests a new workout...

It's springtime! Time to get working on the beach body for this summer. Or just to get moving again because you've been hibernating through the winter. Whatever your reason, it's always a good time to get moving again. My wife and I are poised to rewatch The Good Place soon, so this time I've come in with a workout routine to go along with NBC's groundbreaking comedy series. So throw on an episode of this epic of good and evil and just follow the directions below.

Disclaimer: While I am a licensed physical therapy provider, I am not a personal trainer or a medical practitioner. Partner as necessary with your doctor prior to engaging in any diet or excise programs. If any of these exercises cause increased pain, stop the exercise immediately.
***Exercises updated January 2024 to account for what I've learned practicing physical therapy. This workout is intended to work without any equipment, but feel free to add small dumbbells or bands as you're safely able.
Everything is fine. Just take breaks as needed.

Friday, March 25, 2022

Turning Red Might Not be for You - And That's Okay

My, what a lovely minefield I just landed in....

Before I saw Disney/Pixar's Turning Red I read that white men were having trouble relating to the film, and my first thought was "Oh poor things, they're just going to have to make do with nearly every movie ever made". After seeing the film, I get why men can't relate to it, and that's not a bad thing. 

And of course, spoilers. 

The Plot
Turning Red follows Mei, a 13 year old Asian/Canadian living her best life in 2002 when she finds out a family curse will turn her into a giant red panda whenever she feels strong emotions. As her family prepares to perform the ritual to contain her panda, Mei and her friends exploit her new powers to earn enough money for tickets to a boy band concert. Things come to a head when Mei has to decide weather to choose her family and their expectations or her friends and their acceptance. 

There's little to no subtlety here: This film is made for teenage girls. The main protagonist is boy crazy, makes cringeworthy art, loves boy bands, and is trying to find her place in the world as she transitions to adulthood. We even have a Twilight reference in case anyone missed the signs. Structurally Turning Red is well made, the visuals are great, and all the other technical terms that only movie nerds like me ever care about are all there. 


Whenever someone comes to me knowing that not only am I a huge movie nerd and a huge Disney nerd and asks what I thought about the movie, my answer is "It was cute, but it wasn't for me", which makes the movie sound bad or that I don't recommend it, which isn't true I do highly recommend it, even though, or maybe because, it wasn't for me. 

The Red Panda In The Room

Probably the biggest talking point the internet has had with Turning Red is the fact that this is the first children's film to address the menstruation cycle where it isn't vaguely hinted at or made to be a punchline. When Mei first turns into a panda she, understandably, freaks out. Her mother, ever the doting and prepared mom, assumes that it's Mei's first period, to which, not knowing about her family's curse, Mei goes with. Here we get the now infamous scene where Mei's mother pulls several packs of pads out of a box for Mei to use. 

And the internet flipped. 

The general squeamishness men have had with this scene is astonishing. Here we have a universally known biological process, one that is experienced by nearly 50% of our entire population, addressed in a comedic but honest manner, and everybody loses their minds because it has to do with the female anatomy. If you are offended by this let's not forget that Lion King had a fart joke, Tarzan had a poop joke, Moana had TWO pee jokes, and the number of butt and penis jokes littered throughout the Disney cannon are immeasurable. 

The fact that it's bold to talk about periods in a film reflects more on the society the film was released into than it does on the film itself. 

It's Okay to be a 13 Year Old Girl

The biggest message the film has besides "It's okay to be yourself" that Aladdin went over and "You can overcome toxic family traits" that Encanto covered is that it's okay to be a teenage girl. The film gives zero apologies for anything it does, from the boy bands to the pads. In Western culture, media aimed or enjoyed by teenage girls receives a bigger backlash than declaring that you liked the prequel Star Wars movies in the middle of a Star Trek convention. Remember Twilight? Remember the hate it got because teenage girls were reading it and arguing over who was the better boyfriend, Edward or Jacob? If you're old enough to be around during the first wave of boy bands you probably remember a similar argument between NSync and the Backstreet Boys and how non-teenage girls would mock teenage girls for liking them. 

The problem is that when our society mocks things liked by teenage audiences it sends a message that it's not okay to like those things, and worse that it's not okay to be that demographic. Kids in general are dealing with a lot of stuff already, trying to find themselves, navigating changing bodies and emotions, learning that the world isn't how they thought it would be when they were in kindergarten, and it doesn't help if they're mocked for the things that bring them a semblance of joy throughout. It needs to be okay to say "I like Twilight" or know all the lyrics to "Everybody (Backstreets Back)". It's the same mindset that makes girls and women embarrassed to ask for or purchase a simple product they need for a natural biological process. Turning Red celebrates these things in a way that other films never have, and that's why if you've never been and/or never will be a teenage girl the film might not be for you, and that's okay. It doesn't have to be for you. 

And just because it's not for you it doesn't give you the right to hate on it. 

And just because it might be for teenage girls, past, current and future, it doesn't give you permission to hate on it or its fans either. 


Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Vengeance is mine, saith… The Batman?

(Guest post by Ken)

Minor spoilers for The Batman ahead; read at your own risk

I can’t remember another time a superhero film has caused me to find deeper meaning in a scripture, but the much discussed newest outing of the Caped Crusader, The Batman, did just that. This well-built entry in the most film-adapted superhero’s filmography is definitely not for everyone, but it has some poignant things to say in an increasingly conflict-ridden world.

I admit I came into the film with heavy skepticism for multiple reasons (besides the butt-numbing three hour runtime!), such as:

  1. First, the obvious thing we were all thinking: Robert Pattinson??? Really? 
  2. Second: the previews looked SO DARK and “gritty,” an overused Hollywood trope that often substitutes for substance. 
  3. And finally: how is this ever going to live up to the unfillable shoes left by the Nolan trilogy? 

Let’s pick apart how the film performed against these barriers.

R-Pat at the Bat

My initial hesitations regarding Pattinson were tempered after seeing his performance in Tenet which showed him in a charismatic action role. That performance gave me a bit more hope that we wouldn’t just get the “emo vampire” Batman everyone feared. The result? Well, we actually got something more like the emo vampire, but I don’t think it was really Pattinson’s fault. First of all, there is extremely little Bruce Wayne in this film. He is almost always under the cape and cowl. This is a script choice, of course. But I couldn’t help but feel like Batman himself was the most boring character in this film. When you do see him as Bruce he is very moody and dark. When he’s Batman he’s either fighting or standing in near-paralyzed silence. You could have traded dozens of other actors into that cape and gotten the exact same performance. I will say that I appreciated how the action scenes portrayed him as still very young and inexperienced. He’s far from a perfect fighter and makes some physical mistakes that heighten the realism (this is most notable in a scene with a roof jump in a wingsuit).

The Dark-er Knight

This film absolutely leaned into the trope of “make it gritty for the sake of gritty” that I assumed it would from the previews. It wasn’t insufferable, and many other recent films are far worse offenders. But this film is DARK. If you had a hard time sitting through The Dark Knight, do not see this film. I think it was at least as dark, if not more so. Particularly brutal are the methods the Riddler uses to torture and kill people. It manages to keep the blood levels within the PG-13 rating boundary, but the psychological trauma elements were far creepier to me than any gore would be, and I don’t even handle blood that well! It's also literally dark. Almost every scene takes place at night. The only daytime scene that readily comes to mind in my memory is literally a funeral with everyone dressed in black. It’s like Reeves took a cue from Lego Batman: “I only work in Black. And sometimes very, very dark gray.” The darkness (literal and figurative) is what some people are raving about, but it honestly was my least favorite aspect of the film, even if I respect that it was executed well. 


You really can’t write a review of this film without inevitably comparing it to Nolan’s films. Many have said it succeeds by not trying to mimic the Dark Knight films at all but be its own new film. I don’t entirely agree. It is definitely not a Nolan film, but I think director Matt Reeves has actually done well at preserving some of the things that people most admired in those films compared to earlier adaptations, such as a pure sense of realism that eschews any extreme sci-fi/fantasy elements. In the end, I think Reeves succeeded overall by balancing the reverence for Nolan with his own instincts and he got that mix perfect. It never seems like a Nolan knock-off, but still builds upon many of the same principles in its approach. He did well to use two primary villains (Riddler and Penguin) who Nolan never touched, but who fit well into being adapted to Nolan’s hyper-realistic form. 

Is this film as good as the Nolan trilogy? In the opinion of this Nolan-junkie author, no. But it didn’t need to clear that mark and what Reeves pulled off was about as good a film you could make in Nolan’s shadow.

Regarding Vengeance

One additional way Reeves took a cue from Nolan was endow his film with a sense of theme that aims to make the audience think rather than just be entertained. The theme is much simpler than Nolan’s often-multilayered approach of heavy-handed Jungian psychology that tends to go over the head of many average movie-goers. But while simple, I found the film’s message profound.

Throughout the film, Batman ends his interactions with bad guys by growling, “I’m Vengeance!” His motivation is obsession in seeing punishment doled out to the criminal elements of Gotham he blames for the death of his parents. In the end, Batman learns that the only people he inspires when he acts this way are others obsessed with punishing those they feel responsible for every injustice in their life. The Riddler doesn’t hate Batman—he idolizes and is trying to mimic him, as are numerous others throughout the city. When he hears a domestic terrorist quoting his own “I’m Vengeance!” tagline, he realizes that much of the mayhem caused throughout the plot’s course has been inspired by his own crusade. He makes a distinct decision to recalibrate his purpose at that moment and decides to focus from that point on rescuing victims as the higher priority than punishing the offenders. 

This moment of realization for Batman is at first one of the most depressing moments I’ve seen on film and calls into question how much we should laud many of our most closely held superhero tropes. While Batman will no doubt continue to play a role in catching bad guys and bringing them to justice, he learns an important truth that helping and lifting the innocent is more noble an ideal than making sure the wicked get punished. He moves on from a motivation of vengeance. 

I don’t regularly spend much time pondering vengeance as a concept, but I was made to think of the common scriptural context of the word. The most famous passage we hear is from Romans 12:19: “Vengeance is mine… saith the Lord.” This verse itself is a quoting of numerous earlier scriptures (just go search “Vengeance” in the Topical Guide). I’ve heard these scriptures my whole life without pondering them much, maybe because they made me even vaguely uncomfortable. They just seemed to reinforce a perception of God who promises to punish us for our wickedness rather than forgive. And yet, if you read that Romans verse in full context it actually begins with a note of counsel: “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves.”

God isn’t saying He wants us to remember how vengeful He is. Rather, when he says “Vengeance is mine” He’s reminding us that it isn’t ours. That isn’t to say we should stop striving for justice or disband systems which try to bring justice to society. But ultimately, there will be many wrongs from others we cannot set right, and God invites us to set aside our quest for vengeance and remind us that He will take care of that. And honestly, his form of setting it right will often be through reforming the wicked in any way He can as His first tool of choice. The punishment was all already paid in Gethsemane. 

In a world that is increasingly angry about just about everything, choosing to end a Batman film with a message of letting going of vengeance and focusing on making a positive difference in the world was a bold move for a movie filled with so much darkness. And it’s a message I appreciated and which lifted the film’s value all around. I’m optimistic that this revelation reshaping his motivation carries through to the inevitable sequel.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Mr. Feeny Quotes to Brighten Your Day

The end of March marks the 95th birthday of actor William Daniels, famous for playing the wise Mr. Feeny on Boy Meets World. While he may be getting older, our love for George Feeny only grows. My wife and I recently finished rewatching Boy Meets World and Girl Meets World. It gives me an extra appreciation for the work teachers do (though I am biased, as I married a teacher). In honor of the actor’s birthday, I wanted to share a few of my favorite moments and quotes from Mr. Feeny, some serious but also some just for fun.

Even when disciplining, there's wit and sass.

It's what we all need to learn.

Look and act. And it's even worse now.

This moment when Feeny was ready to go Papa Bear to protect Topanga.

Mr. Feeny keeping up with the slang.

I think many people forget the "search" part of this advice.

We often forget he was a widower, so he knew what it was like to lose love.

Teachers feel it too.

Can't forget his last lesson.

We always knew he loved it (and Eric).

This is definitely a non-exhaustive list of amazing Feeny quotes. They're simply the best ones I found on the internet. It was a treat to see him return for some final advice in Girl Meets World. I'm grateful for such a wholesome, wonderful television characters. Happy birthday Mr. Feeny!

Friday, March 18, 2022

The Power of Sincerity

A few years ago, Brad did a blog post about what Matt’s Crest of Friendship meant to him. After finishing Digimon Adventure Tri again last year, I wanted to write something about Mimi’s Crest of Sincerity.

While Tri didn’t sit well with many fans, I loved it. Especially the first few movies. The second movie in particular gave us wonderful character development stories about Joe and Mimi. 

Recently moved back to Japan from the United States, Mimi takes on the responsibility of creating a cafĂ© for their school festival. She’s forward about what she wanted: Daters, an American restaurant she’d been to and an obvious reference to real-world Hooters (but the PG version). Their new friend Meiko was impressed by Mimi’s confidence. In response, we get a powerful line from Mimi. Both the original and the dub are striking so I’ve included them both:

“Honestly I don’t like holding myself back for the sake of others. Being quiet in front of people means you’re just complaining later.” (Original Japanese Sub)

“No point in bottling it all up and worrying what others will think. Staying quiet in public just means feeling frustrated in private later.” (American English Dub)

This impulsivity is a recurring theme throughout the movie, continually getting her into trouble. Her fellow Digi-Destined Izzy calls her ego-centric for jumping into the battle instead of waiting for help. Her classmates call her a narcissist in the dub. The original sub uses the word “Jikochu”, self-centered and annoying. 

In a world where we praise authenticity in how we act and how we live, it’s easy to get caught up in ourselves and be jikochu. We can forget, like Mimi, to consider others’ feelings. Even well-meaning authenticity doesn’t just give us license to say whatever we want just because it pops into our minds. It’s a learning curve of how to express ourselves authentically and appropriately. 

Later on, as Joe deals with his own character development, he’s able to trigger his Crest of Reliability (a post for another time) to the extent that Gomamon reaches his mega level Vikemon. His growth inspires Mimi, who jokingly calls him jikochu. He responds, “You’re fine that way too, I guess.” This line basically gives Mimi permission to be herself, flaws and all, rocketing Palmon to mega level as well. 

So maybe authenticity (or sincerity) has more to do with how we see ourselves than how we actually live?

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

It's Not Easy being Green

Continuing with our green theme, I want to expand on the idea that Mike wrote about in his Sailor Jupiter post-why are so many villains associated with the color green? 

Well, it depends on the villain. 

The Fires of Envy

When Maleficent unleashes her fury her flames are green. When Scar sings about how he's going to usurp Mufasa the flames around him are a bright lime green. The phylactery (Horcrux to you non-Dungeons and Dragons fans) held by Rasputin in Anastasia pulses with an eldrich green, despite being from hell itself where you think it would glow red. In the case of these charming despots and monsters green is symbolizing the burning envy they feel for the heroes and the world around them. When they need to show that they want what someone else has, they take a match to some copper sulfate and let it burn (Yes that's the actual chemical that can make a fire turn green-try it sometime!)

Envy burns. It consumes. It is a need for something that must either end in the obtaining of it or the destruction of both. Green fire here works well for the analogy since it too burns and gives the audience a decent visual representation of the villain's inner feelings. Let's take Maleficent for example. Her motivation for being the Dame of all Evil is a bit unclear at first glance. She's not invited to a party so she's going to tear the kingdom apart over it (And yes, we're going with the animated Sleeping Beauty here because Maleficent' s intentions in Maleficent are this whole other thing)? If we take her green flames into account we get a far clearer picture of her issue: She wants to be acknowledged as an equal. She's obviously powerful, probably more powerful than the gender reversed Three Stooges we're supposed to like, and yet she doesn't even get a token invite to the party. That's not only rude that's just hurtful. Maybe if she was invited Aurora would've been blessed with something useful, like a personality or basic common sense. Either way she's envious of those who were invited and acknowledged as equals without question. She deserves a seat at the table and is ticked that she didn't get it. 

The Color of Money

Accompanying envy is greed, its lovely wife and business partner. While envy is for something that someone has, greed is a bit less specific in the intention. Greed is what Ursula has when her weird watery smoky hands reach out for Ariel's voice. Greed motivates the Shadow Man as he turns his friends from the other side onto changing Prince Naveen into a frog. Greed  is the look in Lady Tremaine's emerald eyes as she looks at her daughters and imagines manipulating them onto the throne with the Prince instead of her far more qualified and deserving stepdaughter, Cinderella. The villains want something, and while certain characters may have what they want they aren't as concerned with the person as they are with the power they wield, or the person is just a stepping stone to their true goal. 

Take Ursula, who we know has an obvious beef with Triton (In the play they're brother and sister and there was this whole inheritance dispute thing but we'll go with the movie for clarity sake though totally listen to the play's soundtrack). Ursula isn't jealous of Ariel, she doesn't want to be Ariel. She's a bit more jealous of Triton, but her real goal is to take what she feels she deserves, the triton. Ariel and her father are just stepping stones to getting her hands on it, especially since the first thing she does with it is start causing widespread mayhem throughout the harbor. She could've easily killed Ariel and Triton, but just toyed with them because her ultimate goal was momentarily accomplished. 

Horrifying Power

Now we've got to talk about Bruno (You see what I did there?). His future sight is seen as green energy swirling through sand, while his eyes glow green just like a villains. If you didn't know who he was or what the plot of the movie was you could easily see his color scheme and mistake him for a villain, but instead he's not. The green here indicates that his power is dangerous magic, something that isn't fun or playful like growing flowers or making healing empanadas. It's gazing into the shifting future and trying to interpret fragments of signs before they happen. 

Here green indicates dangerous power, similarly to Maleficent' s flames and Ursula's smoky hand trick. Another more interesting example is Cruella De Vil, in the animated 101 Dalmatians. When she walks into the Darlings home she's seen smoking a cigarette with green smoke drifting around her. The smoke is sickly and is different from when Roger smokes his pipe-which has black and grey smoke. Hers is the indication that her presence is something foreign, something so different to the Darlings that she obviously doesn't belong. Even her cigarette can't behave like everyone else's because she is not like anyone else around her, especially in morale, and that makes her scary. 

Visual Shorthand

A quick technical note about why green is used so often has to do with coding. It was mentioned before that green has the connotations with greed, sickness and envy, and that's something that most Western audiences would know when they walk into the theater. Films have only so long to get across different ideas, character motivations, ideals, plot elements etc. and will often rely on visual clues to help the audience know who everyone is without having to go into a lengthy backstory if they don't need to. Is your villain envious or greedy? Give them something green to show that off, preferably flames because they look cool, especially in a dark lair or at night when they're doing evil deeds. Need to show that the magic is otherworldly and powerful? Color it lime green like the entire thing is sponsored by Cricket, that'll show that what the characters are messing with isn't of this world. 

Green: It's not just for leprechauns. 


Monday, March 14, 2022

Green is not always for envy! -- Sometimes it's for Jupiter

(Guest post by Mike H)

Let’s be real here, the color green gets a bad rap. The color green has somewhat of a troubled past. It is often associated with evil (like Maleficent’s magic aura, or Ursula’s lair from The Little Mermaid) poison, sickness, or the attribute of envy, but green is also the color of plant life and new beginnings. However, green has also represented nature, and life. Not to mention that green is also for the color of luck (Hello St. Patricks Day and 4-Leaf clovers!) Green is also the color of one of the most underrated Sailor Scouts, Sailor Jupiter!

Who doesn’t love Mako-chan? The tomboyish lightning/plant based scout is a great cook, and has aspirations of opening her own bakery. To say she is wholesome would be an understatement. Being the tallest (and strongest) of the original Sailor Scouts, one could assume that she is a little rough around the edges, but that couldn’t be more false. In fact, we are introduced to Mako-chan when she saves Usagi from a group of punk boys in the original series, and from a car in the Crystal adaptation. I have no doubt that if Mako-chan were alive in our day, she would be filmed helping others, and not be the one holding her cell phone up filming people in need.

Sailor Jupiter, during the series is always loyal, and willing to sacrifice herself for her friends. We can learn a lot from Mako-chan on how to be a good friend, and companion. I often wondered why she was so different than the other scouts. Mercury was always keenly focused on her studies, Mars was always so pious, Venus tended to be silly, and Usagi well….she is unique. Mako-chan however always seemed to have “it” together. Could it be perhaps because she needed to grow up so quickly?

Many Sailor Moon fans may not know, but Mako lost her parents in a horrific airplane crash when she was young. Imagine being a young girl and needing to cook and clean for yourself. Some adults have issues with these basic functions! Unlike Usagi’s parents are seen often in the show, Mako-chan’s parents were never spoken about in the English dub of the show or the original Japanese anime. Unless you read the manga, her parents tragic ending was never mentioned. It is ironic how such an important life event was kept from the viewers of the show, especially since her independence and rough nature was developed by needing to raise herself. I wonder if perhaps the shows creators believed the topic of parental death was too much for younger viewers, but lets be real here, we are talking about a show that deals with aliens, sorceresses and evil beings from other worlds coming to destroy all mankind. Regardless of the reasons this key information about Mako-chan’s past is withheld from us in the original show, the effect on who Mako-chan character is evident. 

While William Shakespeare may have coined the term “Green-eyed Monster,” we can always keep Mako-chan near to our hearts as the strong-willed, selfless scout who would always help those in need. While many people are celebrating Saint Patrick’s day dressed as leprechauns, I prefer to make a bento in memory of Mako-chan, our great Sailor Scout who gives green a good name.

Friday, March 11, 2022

8 Must-See Clone Wars Stories

While I’ve been waiting for the premiere of Obi-Wan Kenobi in a couple months, I’ve been watching a lot of Ben Kenobi’s animated stories in Clone Wars. While I said previously that Clone Wars was complicated, this Kenobi binge reminds me why I loved it. The episode order is convoluted, but we get so many beautiful stories and character development. New characters and existing characters. Clone Wars was the first to expand the Star Wars universe past the movies and it’s worth checking out at least a few of their stories. Here’s just a sampling of my favorites…

The Mandalore Plot (Season 2, Episodes 12-14)

We all know Anakin had his secret relationship with Padme, but the movies don’t show Obi-Wan’s secret romance with Duchess Satine of Mandalore. Especially with Mandalorians coming front and center lately, Obi-Wan’s relationship with the leader of Mandalore is exceptionally intriguing. While working with Satine on a plot involving a Mandalorian terrorist group, it’s obvious that sparks are flying between the Republic-loyal Kenobi and the passionately pacifistic Satine. This isn’t the last time we’d see Satine, but it showcases her relationship with Obi-Wan really well. 

Stranded on Mortis (Season 3, Episodes 15-17)

This story took a deep dive into the Force. Trapped on the planet Mortis, Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Ahsoka encountered the Father, the Daughter, and the Son (later to be referenced in Rebels). We got the return of Liam Neeson as Qui Gon Jinn (later to appear in vision to Yoda in Season 6). The encounter on Mortis also gave a glimpse into Anakin’s fate with the dark side, as both Ahsoka and Anakin had visions warning them of his actions (though Anakin’s memories of the episode were erased). 

Darth Maul Returns (Season 4, Episodes 19-22)

If there’s one universal truth in Star Wars, it’s that no one is 100% confirmed dead until you see their body burning like a Jedi funeral. Also, it’s true that if a villain is popular enough with the fans, he’ll be back (like Boba Fett). So even after Darth Maul was cut in half by Obi-Wan in The Phantom Menace, he was infamous enough to return. Reuniting with his brother, they sought revenge on Obi-Wan. Late season 4 features Darth Maul’s animated beginnings, but his vendetta against Kenobi would continue through the rest of Clone Wars and into Rebels.

Darth Maul’s Revenge (Season 5, Episodes 14-16)

Following up on the Mandalore trilogy of Season 2 and Darth Maul’s return in Season 4, this story is the culmination of Darth Maul’s revenge against his attempted killer, Obi-Wan Kenobi. It’s heart-wrenching as Maul and Savage set their trap for Obi-Wan. It succeeded to an extent, but their success also brought upon them the appearance of a former ally, who was not so happy to see them interfere.

Ahsoka’s Trial (Season 5, Episodes 17-20)

After getting to know Ahsoka for five full seasons, it was heartbreaking to see the Jedi and the Republic turn against her. I won’t get into many spoilers, but this incident sent Ahsoka, possibly the most pure-at-heart Jedi there was, away from the Republic and the war. If you’re a crier, have some tissues handy when you watch this. It constantly pulled at my heart-strings as Ahsoka fought for her freedom (and just for someone to believe her). This story is a turning point for where Ahsoka ended up in Rebels and (probably) where we’ll see her in the Ahsoka series.

Fives’s Conspiracy Theory (Season 6, Episodes 1-4)

As Clone Wars inched towards the endgame of Revenge of the Sith, one of my favorite stories had to do with a clone that almost thwarted Order 66. After the death of a Jedi master at the hand of a fellow clone, Fives began investigating the incident and he almost exposed the truth about the inhibitor chips and Order 66. Naturally, Palpatine already had his bases covered to prevent the clone from unveiling him as the big bad of the Star Wars franchise.

Yoda’s Search for Life After Death (Season 6, Episodes 10-13)

Next we take a deep dive into the doctrine of the Froce. Following the trail of the assumed dead Master Sifo-Dyas, Yoda started hearing the voice of Qui-Gon Jinn. The fallen Jedi master proceeded to basically tell Yoda that he needed to learn how to be a force ghost to preserve the Jedi (no pressure). His experiences with the Force are the precursor to a single exchange Yoda shares with Obi-Wan in Revenge of the Sith, regarding life after death. My favorite part was a line delivered to Yoda after wrestling with his dark side: “The beast is you and you are the beast. To deny it simply gives it power.” I need to have that one written down for whenever my anxiety decides to spike.

Order 66 and Revenge of the Sith (Season 7, Episodes 9-12)

We always knew Clone Wars would culminate in the end of the Jedi order (though apparently plenty of individual Jedi survived the purge). However, this final season almost didn’t happen. Thank Disney Plus that we have it! So while Revenge of the Sith played out, we got Ahsoka running around trying to capture Darth Maul and prevent Anakin’s fall to the dark side. Obviously she was unsuccessful at saving Anakin, but check out these finale episodes to see if her other mission was a success.

So if you’re not going to watch anything else in The Clone Wars, check these favorites out. At the very least, get to know Ahsoka. Apparently we’ll be seeing more of her and Obi-Wan!