Sailor Moon Crystal chronicles the adventures of the Sailor Guardians, Usagi (Sailor Moon/Princess Serenity), Ami (Sailor Mercury), Rei (Sailor Mars), Makoto (Sailor Jupiter), and Minako (Sailor Venus, no, I don’t know why she’s last when Venus is the second planet from the sun) in their fight to protect earth and the moon. They are joined by Mamoru (Tuxedo Mask), Usagi’s future boyfriend, and together the team faces The Dark Kingdom who want to rule over both the earth and the once inhabited moon. Are you confused yet? It gets better.
Usagi is the reincarnation of Moon Princess Serenity (not to be confused with the cargo ship of the same name) who fell in forbidden love (of course) with Prince Endymion of Earth (reincarnated as Mamoru). In a combination of classic tales “The Weaving Maid and the Herd Boy”, “Princess Kaguya” and “West Side Story” the lovers are violently parted when an evil force drives the humans to attack the people of the Moon. Endymion gives his life to protect Serenity, Serenity’s friends (now the Sailor Guardians) are all killed trying to help the two, and in despair Serenity takes her own life.
Reborn on earth many centuries later (because once wasn’t enough) Usagi is a normal, if a bit immature, 14 year old living in Tokyo when she and her new friends are given their powers and memories back. Mamoru is three years older than Usagi, and has been searching for the identity of the mysterious girl he’s seen in his dreams for many years. Which is totally normal and not creepy at all... All these various plots weave together to make a reasonably harmonious whole… though it probably makes more sense in Japanese culture.
Usagi, for all her faults (and she has a few!) is a sweet, kind, loyal girl, who loves her friends and in return, her friends love her. Sometimes I wonder why, but, loyalty is always commendable. OK, not always, but usually. Mamoru is an exceedingly loyal and noble boy, who would willingly die for his lady-love. Again, with some of Usagi’s behavior early on, I wonder why. But through her adventures, Usagi greatly matures into a much more responsible and princessly young woman.
There is a good deal of non-bloody violence, (And my, aren’t these villains gentlemen to allow the girls to transform and do their catchphrase thing before attacking?) and some minor swearing, but the greater problems with Sailor Moon are twofold: The Spirituality (which is not surprising considering the country of origin) and the main character herself. Usagi begins the series as a whiny, spoiled, crybaby brat. Like I said, she is much improved by the end of season one, but for about 10 episodes preceding the finale, Usagi sobs, screams, and faints her way through her adventures. I found myself wondering more than once, “This is your big feminist heroine?! Literally anyone on her team could do better than this! And feminists complain about Scarlet Witch being emotional!” I wanted to reach through the screen, shake her and yell “My Gosh, pull yourself together!” And the crying gets worse whenever Mamoru is involved; it seems like every time the boy is on the screen, Usagi breaks down in tears. Sheesh, someone needs some couples counseling.
There is also a little matter of Usagi and Mamoru’s age gap. In their previous lives, it seems that they met when they were older, maybe in their late teens or early twenties. Three year age gap in early adulthood? Totally fine! That’s about how far my mom and dad are, but not when Usagi is 14, that makes Mamoru 17. So then, is it normal in Japan for a girl in her last year of middle school to have a high schooler boyfriend, or what? How about for this same high schooler to render the unconscious girl aid in his apartment? Nothin’ off about that? Okay then…
The spirituality is typical of anime, a hybridization of Zen Buddhism and Shinto. Rei is the most spiritually attuned of the crew. She has some form of psychic ability and is a Shrine Maiden (basically a female acolyte in a Shinto temple). Rei’s gifts make her a valuable exorcist, and uses scrolls written with words of power in her attacks. Sailor Mercury’s battle cry, “Douse yourselves in water, and repent!” also speaks to the spiritualized aspects of the anime. It’s also stated that prayers to the power of the moon are more effective than magic against evil. So... basically blatant paganism.
All in all... No. Just no. Run as far away from anything Sailor Moon. It’s simply not worth suffering through Usagi’s flaky behavior and paganism. Instead of Sailor Moon, I recommend her sister magical girls from the “Pretty Cure” series for younger girls. For older girls in the 14 and up range, I would recommend “Puella Magi Madoka Magica”. The Pretty Cures and the girls from “Madoka” are much better role models. And almost no paganism.
I know, I know, my previous lists are "Writing Wednesday", so why the change? Well, because this one is more media commentary. I've noticed my favorite heroes and stories getting shredded for the most inane reasons by feminists, most recently from actors like Kristin Bell and Keiara Knightly. Primarily because of the way women are treated, subjects of consent and empowerment, so I understand. Don't get me wrong, consent matters, but innocent kisses and coming to the ladies' rescues don't seem that bad to me. It almost seems like feminists would prefer abusive behavior over gentleness and sweetness.
The latest victims are Princes in the Disney Princess films. Their crime? Snow White's Prince (his name's Florian) and Prince Philip kissing their unconscious sweethearts and Cinderella's Prince's crime of wanting to rescue her from her abusive step-family. Okay... yeah, I can see why this would be a problem (!) Many of these same people then praise couples like Harley Quinn and the Joker or Christian Grey and Ana from "50 Shades of Grey" for their progressive ideas. You call this progress?!
And this is Mild compared to some other incidents in the animated cartoons and comics. Harley has been thrown from windows, forced to hide her own child from the Joker, and has other, more horrible things happen to her. "Suicide Squad" shows a Joker committed to Harley's rescue, but my question is "why?" Joker always has an ace up his sleeve, does this Joker really love Harley? But the actions of one version of the Joker doesn't undo years of Joker abusing Harley.
Here's a hot tip: DON'T go for a guy who pushes you around and makes you feel bad about yourself. Go for a guy who treats you like this:
And makes you feel like this:
Don't settle for Joker when you could find a Thor, a Ten, a Howl, a Bog King, or an Aragorn. Wait until you find a man who will treat you like the lady-princess you are.
Enough of T.K.'s free advice corner, on to the list!
15: Genie and Eden, from Aladdin the Series
Introduced in the episode "Some Enchanted Genie", Eden, Genie of the Bottle is the servant of a young homeless girl named Dandi. Genie meets Eden while he's searching for his own lamp, which was stolen by Abis Mal, an inept criminal mastermind. Exuberant and bubbly Eden is the perfect match for Genie, and even little Dandi sees it and sets them up on a date. On their date, Genie sweeps Eden off her feet and makes her very happy. A carelessly spoken wish ruins their happiness for now, but Genie and Eden are immortals. They have time.
In Disney's Descendants, we're introduced to Jordan, Genie's daughter, and we can assume that she's Eden's child too. Inheriting the best traits of her parents, Eden's wit and Genie's zest for life, Jordan is one of the more enjoyable characters in the franchise. She loves planning parties and making clothes and jewelry for her friends at Auradon Prep.
14: Aladdin and Jasmine, from Disney's Aladdin
My all- time favorite Disney couple is Aladdin and Jasmine. Since I've talked about my love for Aladdin before, I won't say much. I love their dynamic most of all. Aladdin is able to offer Jasmine someone who will take care of her in many ways, and he will make a good king because he knows what it's like on the mean streets. Jasmine is good for Aladdin because she smooths off his rough edges and gives him the impetus to be a better man than he was before.
13: Tie- Tigatron and Airrazor and Silverbolt and Blackarachnia from Beast Wars Transformers
Though a very odd choice, these two couples were my first introduction to sci-fi romance.
Tigatron and Airrazor are opposites. He's a cat, she's a bird, he's tall, she's short, she's gregarious, he's a loner. As the first of the good characters to arrive on Earth with no memory of the Transformer homeworld, Tigatron and Airrazor are connected first and foremost to the planet and understand it more than their comrades. Convincing stoic Tigatron to be her friend was a tall order for Airrazor, but she succeeds admirably. Despite their differences, the two are rarely apart, together until the end.
Blackarachnia was kidnapped from the good guys while unconscious and forcibly reprogrammed. She doesn't know another way to get on besides by her wits and using her feminine wiles when she has to (Yeah... A little uncomfortable for a cartoon, LOL). When Silverbolt arrives on the scene, and acts so different from everyone else, (refusing to fight or harm a female, treating her with respect and kindness) she can't help but be attracted to him. It seems doomed since they are from two different factions; but they make it work, overcoming any and every roadblock in their path to be together.
12: Batman and Wonder Woman from Justice League
The writers of "Justice League" never meant for Batman and Wonder Woman to be a thing at all. This peck on the cheek was never meant to be an indicator of a relationship. But the fans took this thing and ran with it, and the writers said "This isn't a half bad idea! Let's do it!" It wasn't a big thing in the cartoon, but it was there. Wonder Woman is very sweet, and tries to pry Batman out of his shell, which Batman resists mightily. But he can't resist, not really. This accidental relationship has even bled into the live action universe, with hints at a "WonderBat" relationship there too.
"One: dating within the team always leads to disaster. Two: you're a princess from a society of immortal warriors; I'm a rich kid with issues... lots of issues. And three: if my enemies knew I had someone special, they wouldn't rest until they'd gotten to me, through her." (Wonder Woman smashes a gargoyle in her hand) "Next?"- Wonder Woman and Batman (Courtesy of Warner Brothers)
11: Chuck and Sarah from Chuck
Chuck Bartowski feels like a looser. He's working a dead end job in a dead end town. His college sweetheart left him for a rival and he's still living with his sister in their family home. All that changes when an old buddy sends him a message containing the Intersect, a computer program for the human brain that instantly identifies targets and what they've done. The Government knows this has happened and sends Sarah (who works with the CIA) and John (FBI) to keep an eye on him. Throughout the series, Sarah and Chuck get closer and fall in love. They fight obstacles, face death, and take on the US Government to be together, with a smile on their faces and martial arts under their belts.
10: Odd and Stormy from Dean Koontz's Odd Thomas
Odd Thomas and Stormy Llewellyn are high-school sweethearts who believe they are destined to be together. They both live and work in their hometown of Pico Mundo, California, among the town characters and ghosts of the town. Ghosts are drawn to Odd, as he is the only one who can see them and help them move on or get justice. Stormy is one of the few who knows about Odd's gift, and helps him whenever she can. They are well matched, devoted to one another, and even after tragedy strikes, Odd is true to Stormy.
9: Sophie Hatter and Howl Jenkins from Howl's Moving Castle
Sophie Hatter is the oldest daughter of the Hatter family, and because she is the eldest daughter in a family living in a place where fairy tale tropes are real, the best she can hope for is to own her father's hat shop. She considers herself very plain, so she dedicates herself to making the very best hats in the land and not worrying about an adventure that will never come for her. She's wrong, the adventure of a lifetime awaits! The Wizard Howl has long loved and searched for Sophie and throughout their adventure together, Howl makes it his mission to build Sophie up. He fights for her, calls her beautiful, and treats her like a queen. As Howl helps her, she helps Howl break down the shell of callousness and selfishness he's built up around himself, making him a better man.
8: Thor and Jane Foster from Marvel's Thor
Prince Thor of Asgard is sent to earth to learn humility after his rash actions lead to war on his homeworld. Once he arrives he meets the curious and beautiful Jane Foster, an astrophysicist investigating phenomena in the New Mexico desert. Showering Jane with all the courtesies he has been taught since birth, Thor wins her heart and with it the compassion and nobility that makes him worthy to wield his hammer once more.
In Thor: The Dark World, Thor rushes to save Jane when she becomes a living host for the Aether, a cosmic substance. He continuously risks everything to keep Jane alive and safe, his throne, his father's wrath, and his life, all for her. For Jane's part in both movies, she keeps Thor tethered firmly to the ground, her frail humanity giving Thor something to fight for and protect.
7: Tie- Nine and Rose Tyler and Eleven and Clara Oswald from Doctor Who
Rose Tyler is a normal, innocent shop-girl in London, the Ninth Doctor is a war-torn and bitter man. They meet when the Doctor rescues her from a stampeding herd of mannequins (this is Doctor Who, crazy stuff happens all the time!) and destroys the shop where she works. Intrigued by this man, Rose can't resist when he invites her to come with him on adventures. Together, they race around the cosmos, hand in hand in one predicament or another. Rose's light and warmth reaches the icy Nine and pulls him away from the brink and to the sun.
Clara is much the same, though Eleven is more sad than angry. Eleven has lost everyone he cares about by this point, when Clara floats like Mary Poppins into his life. She floats in and out, always just out of reach until the Doctor catches her and never really lets her go. His Impossible Girl makes him so happy, and she is happy to be with him.
"Do you wanna come with me? 'Cos if you do, then I should warn you — you're gonna see all sorts of things. Ghosts from the past. Aliens from the future. The day the Earth died in a ball of flame. It won't be quiet, it won't be safe, and it won't be calm. But I'll tell you what it will be: the trip of a lifetime!"- Nine (Courtesy of the BBC)
6: Barda and Scott Free from Kirby's Fourth World
Barda and Scott Free were created by comics great Jack Kirby in the late 1960s. Barda was one of villain Granny Goodness's Female Furies, while Scott was a freedom fighter on the planet Apokolips. The unlikely pair fell in love and escaped to Earth where they set up shop as show-people, showcasing Scott's escape artistry, and occasionally assisting Superman against the forces of Apokolips, but seeking only to be a normal couple on Earth. Fat chance!
Easily one of the most stable couples in the DC continuum, Scott and Barda really love each other and despite pressure within and without, they are determined to make it through. Barda's personality is actually based on Jack's wife Roz, so like Tolkien's Luthien is a love-letter to his beloved that has stood the test of time.
5: Samurai Jack and Ashi from Samurai Jack
I wasn't too pleased when I heard about Samurai Jack Season 5. When everyone boasted about the more adult aspects of the new show, I said to myself, "Why mess with a great formula?" I was pleasantly surprised.
In this miniseries, Jack has spent 50 years wandering the world without aging and is no closer to getting home. Just when he is at his lowest, seven cultists called the Daughters of Aku attack him. Jack is horrified to realize that he must now shed human blood to escape them. Most of the women fall to their deaths, only one, Ashi surviving. Jack, determined to regain his honor takes care of Ashi, despite her protests and screams. Ashi comes to realize that she's been lied to her entire life, the Samurai is good and Aku is pure evil. With this realization, Ashi turns her back on her old life and after making herself a new dress from flowers and leaves, joins Jack on his quest. Jack and Ashi become a team, then a couple, working together to "get back to the past" and end Aku once and for all.
4: Sherlock Holmes and Molly Hooper from BBC's Sherlock
In BBC's modern Sherlock, the famed detective is often assisted by pathologist Molly Hooper. A quiet, girl, Molly has a huge crush on Sherlock, but he rarely notices her in any capacity other than professionally. Of course, Sherlock fans being what they are, they can't let that stand. Sherlock and Molly have evolved into a will they-won't they situation, leaving fans guessing whether they'll become a couple. I am personally in the Sherlock-Molly camp and hope Molly's patience pays off!
3: Gawain and Lady Ragnell from the Legends of King Arthur
I couldn't leave my boy Gawain off this list! When Sir Gomer Somer Jore (Don't ask me, it's Medieval literature) sets an impossible riddle to King Arthur, Gawain sets out to solve it. The riddle is "What do women truly desire?" Of course, everyone has a different answer. Just before he has to answer, Gawain meets an ugly hag in the forest who offers the answer in exchange for a boon which she will as for when they return. The answer, "to have their own way" is the correct one, and Sir Gomer is defeated. And what does the hag want for her boon? To marry Gawain! Gawain, being who he is consents and marries her. When they're alone, the hag, Ragnell asks Gawain a question, would he rather her be beautiful in the day and ugly at night, or ugly in the day and beautiful at night? He can't bring himself to say, because it's she who would bare the brunt of people's stares, so he gives her the choice. In giving up his will, the curse on Ragnell is broken, giving her back her true beauty once and for all.
2: Tie- Aragorn and Arwen and Faramir and Eowyn from Lord of the Rings
Both Arwen and Eowyn are maligned by feminists for the ultimate crime of "giving it all for a man". Arwen of course gives up her immortality for Aragorn, and Eowyn her life as a shieldmaiden for Faramir. But this reduces these women to only one aspect of their characters and makes their noble spouses out to be the bad guys. It's more complex than that. There are people who have defended these couples far better than I ever could, so I will only say that what Arwen and Eowyn wasn't in vain. On the contrary, what they gave up was for the good of all Middle Earth.
1: Beauty and the Beast, pretty much any combination.
Image Credits: Center- Rebecca Leveille. Smaller Pictures, from upper left- Belle and Beast- Disney, Bog King and Marianne- Lucasfilm, Goliath and Elisa- Disney, Hank McCoy and Carly-Disney/Marvel, Martian Manhunter and Rose-Warner Brothers/DC, Jadzia Dax and Worf-Paramount Pictures, Kira Nerys and Odo- Paramount Pictures, Vision and Wanda Maximoff- Disney/Marvel, Beauty and Lord Argus- Megan Kearney, Vincent Wells and Catherine Chandler- CBS
By far though, my favorite couple is almost any combination of Beauty and the Beast. For whatever reason, I have always loved the image of physical power matched with physical weakness. That's not to say that my favorite Beauties are weak! No, they are often the strongest among heroines, choosing danger over safety for the sake of people they love. But I have rules that govern this story, the Beast must be a genuinely good man, never abusive or using his power for ill. The Beauty must also have a spine, and not put up with nonsense from anyone. She must be able to stand on her own two feet against what ever is thrown in her path, not just swoon prettily over random bits of furniture. The breaking of these rules is why I can't stand "Twilight" (stalking is abuse), "50 Shades of Grey" (Abuse is abuse) or "The Ancient Magus Bride" (what the heck, Japan!?). Victim-hood is not sexy, ladies. In most versions, Beauty is offered two versions of manhood, one who uses his power for ill (like Gaston in the Disney version) and one who is ugly, but virtuous. When she chooses virtue, Beauty receives her reward, a virtuous partner.
Today, dear readers I have a very special treat: An interview with an author! I recently became friends with a young lady named Kendra Ardnek who, like myself, loves fairy tale and fantasy. She and I connected through a Facebook group called "The Arista's Band of Fairy Tale Retellers", a group I joined because of our similar aims: to use our talents and love of fairy tales for God's Glory.
So, I would like to bring you a special feature on her newest novel "The Worth of a King."
Here's the story:
Princess Obsidia’s father was killed the night she was born. Since there was no male heir, the crown went to the man who killed him, by Dialcian law. This never bothered her, growing up, and when it comes time for Obsidia to choose her husband, she chooses Prince Delaney, the son of that man, with little hesitation. Only then does her life start crumbling around her.
Adrian expected to live a normal life, taking his father’s place at the print shop when his father retired. But, on his eighteenth birthday, when the princess’ engagement is announced, his world is ripped out from under him when he learns that his life was a ruse, and he is the twin brother to the princess – and expected to take back his father’s throne.
Delaney knows that his country is hovering on the brink of war – and that his father may harbor murderous intentions towards his intended bride due to her Zovordian blood. He wants nothing more than to protect Obsidia and his people, but as merely prince, he has little power against his father.
The ancient war between the Dragons and the Immortal King and Queen is nearing its climax, and the three are already caught in it.
Meet the Arista herself!
Kendra E. Ardnek loves fairytales and twisting them in new and exciting ways. She's been or acting them on her dozen plus cousins and siblings for years. "Finish your story, Kendra," is frequently heard at family gatherings. Her sole life goal has always been to grow up and be an author of fantasy and children's tales that glorify God and His Word.
Find her online at: Website || Blog || Goodreads || Facebook || Twitter || Amazon
Kendra was good enough to let me ask her a few questions about her new book, so here follows our interview.
1: Introduce yourself!.
Hi! I'm Kendra E. Ardnek, a dragon-fairy who is obsessed with fairy tales and other forms of literature.
2: Who influenced your writing journey?
Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, my mom, and whoever founded NaNoWriMo
3: Do you listen to music while you write? If you do, what are some favorites?
It used to be a no, but lately I have been. I have a YouTube playlist with over a thousand songs on it. I like songs with a strong beat underlying them, that helps keep me focused.
4: What are some other things you like to do?
Run around the yard in circles like a crazy person, mostly. I also play video games a bit.
5: Who are your favorite characters in this book?
Nadilynn, Laura, Amber, Granite, Obsidia, Delaney, and Adrian ... just to name a few. This book had an awesome cast that I loved writing about
6: What are your favorite Fairy Tales?
The obscure ones, especially the weirder ones. Little Good Mouse, The Golden Bird, The White Cat, Puddocky, The Evil Enchanter, and Fairer-Than-a-Fairy ... and many, many more.
7: Do you have any tips for young writers?
First of all, don't worry about your writing being terrible. You'll get better. Second, read, read, read, and write, write, write. You need to absorb a lot and create a lot before you'll find your style. Third, write fearlessly. It's said that there are only two rules when it comes to writing - but that nobody can agree as to what those rules are. Don't let anyone else hold you back.
And now, a special preview of "Worth of a King!"
“Well, it’d still be more fun,” Nadilynn pouted. “As it is – how long have we been cooped up in here already? How much longer will it be before we reach the first village?”
Delaney sighed. “We should be there soon,” he answered. “And we’ll spend the night there before we leave for the second village in the morning.”
“You didn’t have to come with us if you didn’t want to, Nadi,” Obsidia pointed out. “We’re just visiting twelve villages and collecting a girl from each one. Hardly exciting.”
“Oh, but I really had no choice in the matter,” Nadilynn countered, shaking her head. “Tradition demands that Obsidia has a proper female companion. If I hadn’t volunteered, your mother would have had to come instead, and since she is still convinced that you marrying Del is the worst idea ever, I don’t know that the three of you could have survived this whole excursion. I’m sure that you both much prefer me.”
“Ah yes, you’re quite correct,” said Delaney. “With you, we only need to survive endless meaningless chatter, not murderous glares.”
“My conversation isn’t meaningless!” Nadilynn protested. “At least I don’t spend three hours discussing the nuances of a law about chickens, or four about whether some king’s death was natural or due to poison.”
“No,” said Obsidia, dryly. “You spend five hours talking about how sashes are so in style.”
“They are so not!” Nadilynn exclaimed. Then she lowered her voice “Not thick ones, anyway. Ribbons used as sashes are acceptable, belts, especially beaded belts, are best…”
“And there we go,” Delaney groaned. “You did have to get her started.”
Obsidia just shrugged and mouthed a “sorry.”
And also a special announcement! If you want to win a paperback copy of "Worth of a King" and a bottle of peppermint oil, Kendra is running a giveaway on her blog! Head on over to Knitted By God's Plan to learn more!
If you want to learn more about Kendra and "Worth of a King", you can check out the other blogs on the tour:
Dreams and Dragons
Light and Shadows
Welcome to another list! On this list you'll find the heroes that have influenced my writing the most, from the earliest days of my (remembered) childhood, to my teen and adult years. You'll also find more book heroes than what was on my "15 Villains" list and more ties for characters who are linked in my head. I chalk that up to being a visual learner. Anyway, let's get this show on the road with number 15!
15: Sir Small from Sir Small and the Dragonfly by Jane O'Connor
"Sir Small and the Dragonfly" is an easy reader that my mom bought for me when I was learning to read, when I was maybe 5. I can't count how many times I read the story of a tiny knight and his valiant battle with the dragonfly. A loose retelling of St. George and the Dragon from the Faerie Queene, this book captured my interest, for a reason I couldn't understand at the time. Having lost my original copy in a house fire, I found a shiny new replacement in a Borders and of course, $5.99 was a small price to pay for childhood memories regained! I also collect picture books and fairy tales, so it fit right in.
14: Prince Cornelius from Don Bluth's Thumbelina
Prince Cornelius, the valiant fairy Prince from Don Bluth's classic animated film "Thumbelina" did very little to break the Disney mold, being pretty much Prince Philip with wings. But there was something enchanting about the idea of a fairy prince rather than just some dude in tights. Not to mention that fancy fencing rapier, now the special weapon of my own Lord Rhodon! Now, Thumbelina is not what I'd call a "good" movie now. Mr. Mole could have lived quite comfortably in all the plot holes, and both Cornelius and Thumbelina are quite ditsy, there wouldn't have been much of a movie if they weren't but hey...
13: Aladdin, from Disney's Aladdin
Ah, Aladdin! My favorite Disney movie starred this lovable rogue with a heart of gold. Aladdin is a young man living on the streets of Agrabah, a city in the mythic middle east, who steals in order to survive. One day, he spots the beautiful Princess Jasmine and rescues her from an innocent crime. After being thrown in jail for a crime he didn't commit he is roped into a quest to recover a magic lamp, and discovers the Genie, who can make all his wishes come true. Even with the Genie's magic, it's Al's own street smarts and intelligence that he wins the day.
Aladdin may be a thief, but he also knows how to do the right thing. We see that in the first ten minutes of the movie, when he gives a loaf of bread to two children worse off than himself and then stands up to an arrogant prince who mocks the commoners. It's his desire to do the right thing that makes him a hero in my eyes, though maybe his methods leave something to be desired!
12: Shang, from Disney's Mulan
Captain Li Shang, the handsome and disciplined leader of Mulan's unit of the Chinese army first thinks that she and her fellow recruits will never make it. Though a talented martial artist, he lacks the life lessons in leadership that he needs to make the unit function. It takes a gawky girl in boy's clothes to show him the way, and he is willing to swallow his pride when it's revealed Ping is actually a girl and learn from her.
Shang's skill, know-how, and honor spoke to something in my mind as a child. Echoes of Sir Small, perhaps? Again, here is a character that wants to do the right thing, even if he can't see what it is at first. Most embarrassingly for a Chinese man of the time period Mulan is set, it takes a girl to show him the way. But he's okay with it!
11: The Tick, The Tick Franchise
The Tick is a superhero with no memory of who he really is, only a desire to do right and defend The City (what city? Who knows!). He meets the mild mannered Arthur Everest and makes him his sidekick for his wacky adventures around the city, making corny speeches and fouling the plans of supervillains, usually by sheer dumb luck.
The Tick was not a huge part of my growing up years. I was aware of him, sure, my Dad was a huge fan, but, like Samurai Jack (see number 7 on this list) I didn't understand him until adulthood. I still consider him a "guy" character, but one I can get along with, as the Tick so strongly attached to doing doing the right thing no matter what.
10: Tie- Silverbolt from Beast Wars Transformers and Optimus Prime from Transformers Animated
When I was a kid, I enjoyed watching the Transformers series available. The stories and characters were often more interesting than more "girlish" fare. My favorite heroes, were again the guys who did what was right no matter what, even if it meant danger or if it wasn't the "smart" thing to do. Silverbolt, in particular was the victim of the "it's the right thing to do, even if it's not smart" mentality. He let his heightened sense of honor and heart lead him, especially when it came to his beloved Blackarachnia. If she was in any sort of danger, he would charge headlong into the fray to her rescue, with some sort of corny speech on his lips.
Optimus Prime is a favorite of mine no matter what version of the show (well, not Micheal Bay's version, that was just a mess) but as he's portrayed in "Transformers Animated" is my favorite version. Optimus is young, not the experienced commander that appears in other shows, trying to find his feet and balance the needs of his team with his own code of ethics. He believes strongly in the right of all to be free of tyranny, and will defend that right to the death.
9: Martin the Warrior, from Brian Jacques' Redwall series
Everyone who knows me well knows that I love the Redwall novels by Brian Jacques. I have literally read them all, own them all, and have memorized a few of the poems and songs in the series. But by far, my favorite novel in the series is "Martin the Warrior" which is I believe the sixth novel in the series. It tells the story of Martin, the mouse who would go on to found Redwall Abbey, his friendships, and his battle with the wicked stoat Badrang the Tyrant. Martin never sets out to be a big hero. All he really wants is to avenge the death of his clan at the hands of the Stoat, but he ends up leading a revolution against a a great evil. From Martin and his friends, I learned that no one is too small to fight against injustice. I also learned that I should never read this book in public, I always end up bawling at the end.
8: Peter and Edmund Pevensie from The Chronicles of Narnia
The Pevensie brothers made a huge impact on me. Starting out as ordinary British boys, the two find their own courage fighting for Narnia and learn to rely on Aslan for the wisdom to be good kings. Contrary to the movie version of Prince Caspian, neither brother ever gives up hope in Aslan's power to help them, even as adults. Quite frankly, I'm glad Disney never got to The Last Battle, they would've ruined it completely. Anyway, the Pevensie boys have taught generations of children what heroic faith looks like the face of impossibilities, and for that, we are grateful.
7: Samurai Jack, from Genndy Tartakovsky's Samurai Jack
Action series Samurai Jack is one I didn't see much of as a kid (It was on too late at night, LOL. I also didn't understand it) but I came to enjoy it as an adult. The show tells the story of The Prince, AKA Samurai Jack, who wanders the world after being thrown into the distant future, seeking a way to end the menace of Aku, a shape-shifting wizard. Jack's code of honor precludes him from letting anyone suffer, even in the name of escaping the dystopia Aku created. Again, noble, but perhaps not the smartest strategy. Jack also avoids ever taking life. He will fight, but he will not kill. This rule is broken in the Season 5 miniseries when Jack is forced to kill insane cultists known as the Daughters of Aku. Only one, Ashi, survives (most of them fall to their deaths, so everyone's aware). Ashi becomes Jack's partner in battle, then girlfriend in the remainder of the series. The action of shedding human blood affects Jack deeply, almost driving him to suicide and insanity, this is deeply impactful in this environment that treats human life as disposable.
6: Thor Odinson from Marvel's Thor and Avengers series, and Vincent Wells, from Beauty and the Beast (1987)
But T.K., you say, these characters don't belong together, you say. In my mind however, these two are inseparable, because together they were my muses for King Llew, one of my favorite heroes to write.
Thor Odinson is of course the Mighty Avenger wielding the hammer Mjolnir. In the first Thor movie, I was enthralled by the story of Thor, stripped of his powers and sent to earth, finding redemption through the love of Jane Foster. His endearing misunderstanding of Earth customs, old fashioned manners, chivalry, and flowery way of speaking (before he adapts to earth vernacular, which was equally great) were extremely inspirational for my character of King Llew. Like Thor, Llew is sent away from his kingdom to learn about humility and how to be a good king.
Vincent Wells, the "Beast" of the 1987 TV series is mostly here for aesthetics. In the course of learning humility, Llew is cursed to have the form of a beast. My brother and I chose Vincent (played with pathos and power by Ron Perlman) to be the muse for Llew's beast form. From there Vincent's chivalry, kindness, and honesty influenced both Llew, and another character, Bjorn Carrson, an ogre who serves the elf-king.
5: Tomodata, from the Story of Aoyagi/The Story of Green Willow
In the folk tale The Story of Aoyagi/Green Willow, we meet a young samurai named Tomodata, in the service of the Lord of Noto. Tomodata was sent on a mission to the Daimyo of Kyoto, but on his way, he was lost in a terrible storm. Seeking shelter in a peasant's hut he finds their daughter Aoyagi (which Ms. James rendered in English as Green Willow. Lafacdio Hearn records that this is the meaning of the name Aoyagi.) who is both beautiful and clever and seeks to make her his bride. With the assent of her parents, who had worried for her safety after their deaths, Tomodata takes Aoyagi with him to Kyoto, where they are married after some little difficulty. Throughout all of this Tomodata takes the utmost care of Aoyagi, seeking only her comfort in the matters set before him. He loves her more than life and is willing to fight even his superiors for her.
This story spawned a whole section of Avalon stories. Aoyagi and Tomodata both appear and become allies of the great heroine Mulan herself, all three fighting for their world and laying the darkness around them low.
4: Sir Gawain, from the Myths of King Arthur
Sir Gawain of the Orkneys was my favorite Knight of the Round Table. Lancelot? Psh. What a drama-king! Gawain, with his flaws so similar to mine was a bit more like it. Gawain is Arthur's nephew, from his half-sister who is recorded by various names, but most often as Morgause or Anna. Gawain's most famous adventure was that of the Green Knight, where he fought a giant of a man (believed by some to be the forest spirit the Green Man or perhaps Cernunnos) and then was given a quest to follow by him. After overcoming all the obstacles in his path, Gawain is rewarded for his valor and chivalry. His other most famous solo adventure is his marriage to the Loathly Lady... but that's a story for another blog!
3: Robin Hood, from British Legends
Robert of Locksley, was a British nobleman known in folklore for his generosity to the poor. An archer without peer, Robert, better known as Robin, used his skill to defend the weak and take money unjustly gotten and return it to the poor. With his band of Merry Men around him and his equally skilled Lady Marian at his side he became the legendary outlaw Robin Hood.
I was introduced to Robin though the animated Disney Classic. After Aladdin, it was my favorite Disney movie. I can still remember drafts of dialogue and songs from the movie, I watched it so much. When I was much older, I watched what I believe to be the ultimate version put to film, the 1936 extravaganza starring Errol Flynn. Now, Flynn was a notorious womanizer, not at all the wholesome, dashing figure that comes across on the screen. But you don't watch this movie for the man in the tights- you watch for the chivalrous character of Robin Hood.
2: Odd Thomas, from Dean Koontz's Odd Thomas Novels
Odd Thomas is an ordinary fellow. A wholesome hometown boy, yes siree! Except he can see dead people. Odd Thomas can see ghosts, the spirits of those who died violent deaths or died with unfinished business on their souls that keeps them from moving on. Odd lives his life solving crimes by following the ghosts to their destinations, (for instance the site of their death or to their murderer) and courting the marvelous Stormy Llewellyn. One day, a man allied with a satanic cult comes to Odd's hometown, surrounded with evil spirits called Bodachs, who only arrive when a great evil is about to happen. Odd makes it his mission to stop whatever evil is about to happen to his beloved town, which he does... but looses his Stormy.
Odd is a fairly new addition to this list, as I only met him about a year ago. Odd doesn't want to be a big hero. He wants to be normal! But he can't. He was given a gift, and he has to use it. The ghosts that he encounters take care of their special human as best they can, especially his sidekick, the spirit of Elvis Presley. Yes, I'm serious. Though their care, we as the audience also sympathize with Odd and his quest to right the wrongs around him.
1: Aragorn and Frodo Baggins, from The Lord of the Rings.
Frodo didn't ask for any of this. He didn't make a wish on his birthday candles to be the hero of a big quest. But there he was, and he had to do what was right. So armed as he was with nothing but his simple hobbit heart and a group of loyal companions, he set out to destroy the great evil of the One Ring.
Aragorn has a destiny. He is the rightful king of Gondor, and must defend his land from the evil of Sauron. To do that he must safeguard a young hobbit and get him to Mordor so he can destroy the Ring. It means danger, it could mean death. But he does it anyway... because that's what a king does.
Growing up, video games were not a thing at my house. We had some CD-ROM games of the educational type, like Carmen Sandiego, but that was all. When I was a kid if we wanted to play games, we broke out board games. We had lots of classic games at our house, and could spend a good deal of time playing them, and many of them you can still get to this day! Let's look at a few favorites.
The first board game for many kids of my generation, Candyland was my favorite when I was a small child. The picture above is the same model I played with growing up (I always had the red gingerbread man pawn!) originally produced in 1984. I loved the bright colors and lovable characters from the adorable Mr.Mint to the delightfully sinister Lord Licorice, hopping over the board to reach King Candy on the other side. I used to take it out of the box just to look at it, even. Candyland celebrated it's 65th birthday in 2015, meaning it has delighted children since the 1940s! In that time frame, and even since my childhood, things have drastically changed in the land of sweets. Look at the difference between the 1984 and 2010 game boards.
It's a lot more frantic, isn't it? I'm all for change, I'm not one of those "muh childhood" people, but why mess with a classic formula? And why did they change regal Queen Frostine into a sultry-eyed Bratz lookalike Princess? And don't get me started on "The Duke of Swirl". You can buy the 1984-style board on Ebay for anywhere from $10.00 for just the board or lightly used versions of the complete game for $20-30.00. Personally, I would spend the extra to get the original.
Chutes and Ladders
Another classic for little ones is Chutes/Snakes and Ladders. Simple gameplay teaches cause and effect, and turn taking, and I'm sure, how to be a graceful looser. I can't say I remember playing this one myself, but I'm sure I did at one point. You can buy this classic in a couple of different looks on Amazon.
Hungry Hungry Hippos
My brother's favorite game was this one: Hungry Hungry Hippos. In spite of it's notoriously annoying commercial jingle ("We're Hungry Hungry Hippos! We're Hungry Hungry Hippos!" Sung to a conga beat) the game was pretty fun. The object is to have your hippo eat as many marbles as possible, the person with the most wins. Simple enough for little ones, challenging enough for older kids.
A game for all ages! Mancala is a game with roots in ancient India, where it traveled west on the Silk Road and became popular throughout the world. The object was simple: be the person with the most pieces, but to get there was a matter of strategy and careful planning. My brother and I had this set or one very similar to it that our parents bought for us at the now defunct Noodle Kidoodle educational toy store. We loved to play this game together. I might have to run making a replacement by him.
A simplified version of the classic mystery game, Clue Jr. told the story of four friends searching for a missing item (what it was depended on your edition... I can't recall what ours was!) rather than solving a a murder. We didn't play this one very much, I was the mystery lover between the two of us, so my brother didn't find it that interesting.
The classics, chess and checkers were also a big part of our growing up. My brother, being a better spacial thinker than I, usually won (and now refuses to play with me, LOL) but that didn't stop me from having fun!
The most stereo-typically homeschooler hobby ever- chess. When we were teens, my dad taught us how to play chess (I think I was... 15, at the time?) We used to have three way games with our two chess boards, Ian had one that was solid wood and more traditional. Mine was this one. the collector's edition Disney Chess set. It's one of my favorite pieces of Disney memorabilia. (and one of the only ones that's actually worth anything as a collector's item) This set was only produced for one year, 2004, and is the only commercially produced Disney chess sets, (the others are art type sets made by various high-end art houses). My parents splurged one year and got me this one and a porcelain Mulan doll for Christmas.
No story is complete without a villain or two, and in my years consuming books, movies, TV, and music, I have come across the terrifying, the silly, and the strange as the villains. So, from my young childhood to adulthood, on the scale from "total weaksauce" to "literally the devil" here are my top 15 most memorable villains.
15: The Greedy, from Raggedy Ann and Andy: A Musical Adventure
In "A Musical Adventure" Raggedy Ann and her brother Andy go on a strange journey to rescue Babette, the French doll from some pirates. Along the way, they meet this uncanny valley resident, the Greedy. The Greedy is a creature made from living taffy, constantly eating sweets that float in his mass and lamenting his longing for a sweetheart in song. When Ann mentions she has a candy heart, and is the sweetest person the Greedy has ever met, he decides that Ann's heart is exactly the thing he needs to be happy. Ann and Andy, along with the Camel with the Wrinkled Knees, escape from an increasingly insane Greedy by climbing out of his lair and throwing more taffy to the monster.
For whatever reason, 5 year old me found this fella terrifying, probably the "body horror" factor and the fact that he wanted to eat Ann's heart, pretty heavy for a preschooler! (Mom, if you're reading this, I saw it at a friend's house, you certainly didn't let us see this!)
14: The Crud, from The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
The Crud appeared in one episode of "The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh" as the literal monster under Christopher Robin's bed. The Crud's goal: To use all the crud and things under Christopher's bed to coat the world in his vile, sticky substance. After enslaving all Christopher's toys, he makes the Anti-Vacuum, which spews out nasty junk rather than sucking it up. Christopher, Pooh, Piglet, and Tigger are determined to stop the Crud's plans and rescue the toys. Fortunately, the Crud's weakness is soap!
In the ultimate "clean under your bed" warning, the Crud was not so much scary (to me, anyway) as he was a cautionary tale. Listen to you mom, kids, don't just throw stuff under your beds. He also had that "body horror" thing going on, so there's that.
13: Hexxus, from FernGully: The Last Rainforest
Hexxus, representing destructive pollution is set free to ravage the world by clumsy humans. The only thing in his way? Fairies. Y'know, that sounds really dumb now.
Hexxus was one of the scariest villains my little brain could conceive of, his aims are destruction, his schemes endangering beautiful things, and his voice bone-chilling. (His musical number is creepily suggestive, too.) Of course, FernGully the is a propaganda piece to end all propaganda pieces, and now as a grown-up, I find it hilariously bad. The only things that made this movie bearable was Hexxus (the voice of Tim Curry) and Batty (the voice of Robin Williams).
Clayface, from Batman the Animated Series
Clayface was originally an actor, who after an accident disfigured him, became addicted to a chemical makeup which restored his appearance. When he tried to escape from a crooked deal with recurrent Batman adversary Roland Daggett, an entire vat of the compound was dumped on him, transforming him into a monstrous blob of clay. Unable to return to normal, Clayface turned to crime.
My feelings about Clayface ranged from fear to sympathy, which for this character, I suppose is appropriate. On the whole, I feel Clayface deserves more pity than censure. But still... blob. *shudder*.
11: Venom, from Spiderman the Animated Series
Venom is a parasitic alien that latched itself to Peter Parker. At first, it seemed to be a boon for your friendly neighborhood Spiderman. It rendered him nearly invulnerable, increased his senses, and best of all, had a never-ending supply of web! Unfortunately, the longer he was in contact with it, the more Venom exerted his influence over him. Peter realized what was happening and got rid of the creature. Venom then latched himself to a rival of Peter's and became the super villain we know today.
Body Horror strikes again! Slavering, mind stealing Venom elicited nothing but terror and disgust from me. It was just a HUGE no, thank you.
10: Mozenrath, from Aladdin the Series
Suave, sophisticated wizard Mozenrath is Aladdin's primary foe throughout the Aladdin TV series. He has incredible magic, (can easily defeat Genie's "semi-phenomenal, nearly-cosmic" powers) a legion of zombie slaves, and with his magic gauntlet can cook up any number of obstacles for Aladdin. His downfall comes because he underestimates Aladdin and relies too much on his magic.
Mozenrath is an influence on my writing today, in fact. It is revealed at one point that Mozenrath gave a pound of flesh for his magic. I mean literally, under his gauntlet, his right hand was nothing but bones! Again, surprisingly heavy for a Disney show. In my stories, seeking black magic leads to the wielder loosing his humanity, I hadn't thought about that until I was writing this!
9: Trymon from The Colour of Magic
Guess who's back? Trymon is a scheming wizard who is part of Discworld's Unseen University. These high-ranking wizards can be ruthless, and Trymon is no exception. Intent on becoming Arch-Chancellor of the Unseen University and gaining access to the Octavo, the most powerful magic text in Discworld, he murders his way to the top. Upon gaining access to the Octavo, he tries to gain the ultimate magic power. He is stopped by a bungling wizard, Rincewind, who alone knows the eighth spell.
The amusing and crafty Trymon is one of the consummate English villains. Intent on power and power alone, he cares little for anyone or anything else, but it is his greed and selfishness that brings an end to him and his schemes.
8: Elliot Burch, from Beauty and the Beast
Meet the Gaston of 1987's Beauty and the Beast. Elliot Burch is a millionaire city planner with a dark side. When a group of elderly Jews refuses to abandon the tenement they have all lived in for most of their lives, he sends in thugs to clear them out. Coming across the thugs throwing Molatav Cocktails into the windows, Vincent (the Beast) rescues the elderly people and promises to help find the culprits. Meanwhile, Catherine (the Beauty) is being romanced by Burch, and almost falls for him until she learns who he really is and what he's been doing. She rejects him, but he persistently tries to get her back. Catherine is a lawyer, however, and promises to eventually gain enough evidence for his illegal activities to put him behind bars.
7: The Joker, from Batman and related franchises
The Joker is no joke! Though the subject of parody in recent times, those who have seen more of the Joker than average, (like me!) know just how evil he really is. Obsessed with Batman and either killing him or sending him round the bend, the Joker will do anything to bring down his foe. And why? Just for fun! That's why he does what he does, for fun. And that's what makes him so evil. (And yes, that's Mark Hamill.)
6: Saruman, from Lord of the Rings
Once part of the angelic order of the Maiar, Saruman was the greatest wizard in Middle Earth. His power was only second to the high elves like Galadriel, and his wisdom far beyond even her's. He had sung in the choirs of the world's beginning, and it was his pride that brought him down. Convinced to ally with Sauron, Saruman took to making the Orcs, creatures built from the earth in a mockery of elves for his new master. In the end his pride ended his life when his power was taken from him and was killed by Grima Wormtounge.
5: Gul Dukat, from Star Trek Deep Space 9
The spine-chilling Gul Dukat was the official in charge of the planet Bajor during his planet's occupation of Bajor. Living like royalty while the Bajoran people suffered, Gul Dukat was hated and loathed, even by his own people. However his people, the Cardassians saw his usefulness as a military commander. His crimes included taking beautiful Bajoran women for his concubines, among them the mother of one of DS9's officers. When he sees Major Kira, the daughter of the Bajoran woman he claimed as his own, he became obsessed with her, wanting her to love him as much as Dukat thought her mother did. When his daughter by another Bajoran woman, Ziyal, is killed, Dukat becomes even more darkly obsessed with Kira and even more with taking Bajor back as his own private kingdom. When he returns to DS9, his plans to take back the planet are stopped by Captain Sisko, and he is taken to a prison provided for the evil beings he associated himself with.
Dukat's obsession and madness, while also being perfectly lucid, are what makes him a grand villain. He wants to believe that everyone loved him. He wants to believe he could have a perfect family, with the perfect woman, and his own benevolent kingdom. He believes that he's right in all these things, and it's this belief that he's right that makes him evil.
4: Kyubey, from Puella Magi Madoka Magica
This sugary-sweet creature, a villain? Yes. Kyubey is an alien with magical powers and is able to grant those powers to young girls who contract with him to become Magical Girls. Now, this sounds not so different from shows like Sailor Moon and Glitter Force/Pretty Cure. Cute creature gives girls magical powers, right? WRONG! Kyubey withholds vital information from the girls he contracts with, never warning them the true cost of their wish... their soul. For a wish to be granted, a life must be traded, and once a girl contracts, there's no going back. Eventually, the girls give in to despair and turn into witches, who are then killed by other Magical Girls. Kyubey mentions none of this, and in fact enjoys tormenting the five heroines of Madoka Magica, until finally being undone by the power of love, which he and his kind cannot understand.
3: The Queen of the Night, from Mozart's Magic Flute
In Mozart's "The Magic Flute" Prince Tamino is given the portrait of Princess Pamina by her mother, the Queen of the Night. The Queen of the Night plays at being a worried mother, offering Tamino her daughter's hand in marriage (like you do in these sorts of fairy tales) if he rescues her from her enemy Sarastro. What Prince Tamino doesn't know is that Sarastro is a good man, who rescued Pamina from her wicked mother. Later in the opera, when the Queen sees her plans unraveling, she comes to Pamina and orders her to murder Sarastro, or be disowned. Sarastro, however comforts Pamina in the loss of her mother, and guides Pamina and Tamino to victory over the darkness.
The Queen of the Night is the perfect evil mother. If you read the translation of her famous aria "Der Holle Rache" you can see how mean and manipulative she is. She mocks and scorns her daughter, calling her weak for loving Sarastro and Tamino. Her evil stems from the fact that she desires to be the queen of both night and day, and her greed leads to her downfall.
2: Maleficent, from Sleeping Beauty and Kingdom Hearts
I'm not talking about that mess with Angelina Jolie, I'm talking about the real Maleficent. In Sleeping Beauty, she is the spiteful fairy who places a curse on baby Aurora. Demanding her revenge, the powerful fairy stalks the young princess with her goblins, unable to find her. Lest you think that this is somehow overkill, Unseelie fae like Maleficent are notorious for over the top vengeance. In any case, sixteen years pass, and Maleficent is able to locate Aurora. Completing her curse, she also takes Aurora's true love, Prince Philip prisoner, intending to release him when he is an old man, and thus denying Aurora a life with him. When the Three Good Fairies rescue Philip, Maleficent tries to stop him from reaching her by various means, eventually transforming into a dragon. In dragon form, Philip is able to defeat her and rescue Aurora.
Maleficent is the most powerful standard Disney Villain. She has command of various magic powers, most notably her dragon form. Also, let's not forget that she is the only Disney character to actively ally herself with the Devil. Her impact on modern culture is immeasurable, and probably ranks among the most evil characters in fiction.
1: Tie- Chernabog, from Fantasia and Sauron from Lord of the Rings
Here we have the baddest of the bad, the worst of the worst, the literal devils of their universes, Chernabog and Sauron. You certainly don't see Chernabog on Disney merch! Designed by one of my favorite illustrators, Kay Neilsen, Chernabog rules Bald Mountain, an evil place where the wicked spirits and witches go to party. And this guy is the master of ceremonies. I could never force myself to watch the end of Fantasia (though a favorite of mine) because of this guy!
Sauron was once part of the network of spirits under Eru Illuvitar who created Middle-Earth. He, though was jealous of the beautiful things the other spirits sang into being and sang discord into the song of creation. He was foiled by Illuvitar and cast down into Middle Earth, to the land of Mordor, where he plotted the downfall of the world Illuvitar created. Three times he tried to bring an end to Middle Earth and each time he was defeated. Until he forged the One Ring, that all creatures came to lust after for it's power. Finally though, the Ring was destroyed, and with it the majority of Sauron's power.
Of course there's more villains I like, Loki, the Master, and many others, but these are the ones that loom largest in my imagination, who for some reason or other captured my interest. Every story needs a villain, and these are the ones that gave me prototypes of how to write them.
Winnie the Pooh has been around for nearly 100 years and shows no signs of going anywhere. The loveable bear and his friends were a huge part of my childhood from his appearances in books, TV, Movies, and toys, we loved the characters of Winnie the Pooh. Pooh's innocence and loving temperament influences a lot of my writing even today, with my taste for strong friendships being foremost in my mind.
"DON'T FEED THE BEAR!"
Gopher wrecks the fourth wall.
"Tut, tut, it looks like rain."
Beginning in 1988 and ending new episode production in 1991, The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh was beloved by my generation. It ran in reruns for years after production ended, ending in 2006 in the US while still being broadcast in many European countries and Japan to this day. My family still has our VHS tapes of episodes from the show!
This episode was a favorite at my house, to this day the "one-ringy-dingy" speech at 10 minutes, 20 seconds is quoted.
Electronica Musician Pogo was inspired to create a song based on "Pooh's Grand Adventure", a film that ended the story started by "New Adventures".
My brother and I also loved Pooh, our stuffed toys of Pooh and the gang were among the most played with in our collection. Let's take a look at a few.
Young Steven’s life is a bit complicated. His dad lives and works in a car wash, his mom passed away from birth complications, and he is being raised by his aunts, Garnet, Pearl, and Amethyst… who happen to be warriors from another planet.
That is the overall plot of Rebecca Sugar’s hit show Steven Universe. Steven’s mom was the great freedom fighter Rose Quartz, who sought to free her fellow Gems from the tyranny of the oligarchical Diamonds, who create living gemstones from various worlds, leaving them and taking the gems when the planet’s resources are all used up. To save the Earth and her beloved friends, all outcasts from the homeworld, Rose created the Crystal Gem resistance. Sometime in the distant past, the Diamonds wiped out the resistance with a plague, leaving only Rose, Pearl, Garnet, and Amethyst alive and safe. Fast forward several hundred years, and we find Steven, the son of Rose Quartz and Greg Universe who’s a typical 12 year old boy… except for the fact that he’s part alien space rock, can heal with his spit and form a shield. His “aunts” teach him how to harness his gem powers for the good of Earth, because they know the Diamonds don’t give up so easily…
Steven is a great little guy. Every mom’s dream for her own son and for any boys her daughter meets, enthusiastic, kind, caring, happy to help, and willing to learn. One part Peter Pan, one part Jack Frost, and two parts All American Boy, our young hero is a great role model for his real life peers. Greg is a huge part of his son’s life, and while he is and was kind of a flake, he honestly wants to do what’s best for his son. He deeply loved Rose Quartz, and still mourns for her to this day, knowing no one could ever replace his “magic lady” The Gems are all great characters (with the possible exception of Amethyst), who love Steven and the Earth, fighting for freedom and equality.
All this is well and good, and if the show were just this, I would be saying go watch it, but it’s not. You see, Rebecca Sugar is bisexual, and weaves some of the LGBT agenda into the show. Garnet for instance is a “fusion” of two gems, tomboyish Ruby and delicate Sapphire. So yeah… a lesbian relationship. This is seen as OK and acceptable by Rose and company, but not on homeworld, where Ruby is threatened with death for fusing with a different kind of gem. On Homeworld, Fusion is usually only acceptable between gems of the same kind, and to fuse with a gem different from yourself is seen as perverted.
Fusion is seen as the highest form of affection among the gems, and the highest form of trust. When Fusion is misused it causes psychological harm to both parties. So yes, it’s used as a metaphor for relationships, but not just sexual ones. Fusions between friends are common, such as with Steven and his friend Connie (I suppose that could be seen as sexual, but, they’re 13!), Rose and Pearl, and Steven and Amethyst. Rose Quartz herself, however has only been seen to be romantically involved with males.
Besides this, there is some superhero type violence in the show, generally however, the Gem’s holographic bodies are “poofed”, so the Gem can regenerate. An enemy gem named Jasper uses a tuning fork like weapon on Garnet causing her to graphically split apart. But this is the only major instance of graphic violence. Jasper also bullies and intimidates a weaker gem called Lapis Lazuli into fusion. It’s actually a great explanation of what emotional and mental abuse looks like. It is revealed that when the Diamonds attacked Earth, they spread a plague called the Corruption that stole away the Gem’s sentience. They also forced fragments of Gems to fuse into grotesque monsters.
In all, though well animated, voice acted, and choreographed, I must say that Steven Universe is a show that should be skipped. If there is something I can’t take it’s pushing a socio-political- sexual agenda on children. There are shows I watched and enjoyed as a child that had agendas, sure, but they were never nearly so controversial as the one that Steven Universe espouses. It could have been great. It could have been fun. It could have advocated for standing up against tyranny. But because of the LGBT agenda, it’s not. I’m sorry Steven, I have to say no.
Ever After High is based on the popular doll line from Mattel. All the characters are the children (or inheritors) of famous fairy tale characters, including Snow White, Cinderella, and Goldilocks.
When the show opens, the day when students are strongly recommended to sign the “Storybook of Legend” and follow their parent’s story is fast approaching. The daughter of Snow White’s evil Stepmother, Raven Queen, doesn’t want to sign. She doesn’t want to be evil in the least but everyone tells her that she must be evil, because once she signs her name, she will be forced to act out her part in Snow White’s story. Snow’s daughter, Apple White is especially insistent, as she is promised a kingdom and a wonderful life, while Raven’s fate is to be thrown into prison.
So what does Raven do? She refuses to sign! No matter how much she is bullied by people who want her to just do what she’s told, Raven, and her new friends, the disadvantaged kids who aren’t guaranteed a happy ending, such as Hunter Huntsman, Cerise Hood, and even kids like Ashlynn Ella, who’s promised a good life turn against the unfair system and are called Rebels. The Royals are lead by Apple White, and they like the status quo, as they are promised a happily ever after. While the kids maintain friendly terms, the school slowly changes to reflect the fact that this system is horribly unfair.
Raven’s merry band of misfits may be called Rebels, but that does not mean they are disrespectful. Raven may disagree with the Principal, Mr. Grimm, but she is never lippy or disrespectful to him, and for the most part, all the characters have great relationships with their dads. Raven proves herself to be a capable leader and a kind girl, she and Apple actually come to terms with each other and become good friends. The system that has been forced on the children means that they are judged because of who their parents were and what species they are. I think everyone can agree that this line of thinking is not fair.
The kids do some sneaking around the principal to do things they want to do, but these incidents are few and far between. Additionally in one movie, Dragon Games there is an instance that has been lauded as the first time two females have kissed in a cartoon. It was NOT a kiss, it was CPR. Apple White ate the poison apple and nearly died, one of her friends, Darling Charming, performs CPR to save her life. She risks her dignity to save her friend and apparently that was enough to reverse the spell. Ill advised in this climate? Oh, yeah. A girl to girl kiss? No. Tellingly, this is never brought up again.
The dolls in this series are super cute, and have pretty modest clothes. Makeup can be a bit much, (Raven is especially notorious for this) but when offered the choice between Monster High, Bratz, and Ever After High? My money’s going to Ever After High every time.
All in all, Ever After High (the show) is ok. There are some times where the characters do the wrong things, but compared to the trainwreck that passes for girl-themed entertainment today, Raven and and Co. are paragons of virtue! I recommend the dolls without reservation for girls 8 and up however.
Ten year old Nate is off bug-hunting with his best friends when he discovers a mysterious vending machine in the woods. Ok... so instead of a lamp post, they have a vending machine. Curious, Nate sticks in a coin and opens the pod that comes out. Inside the pod is a ghost-like spirit who introduces himself as a yo-kai, a creature of Japanese mythology, and gives his name: Whisper. Whisper is so grateful to be free he volunteers to be Nate’s butler and gives him the magical Yo-Kai Watch, a tool that allows him to see Yo-Kai.
Now, Yo-Kai are mischievous spirits, all the time causing trouble for humans and influencing their actions. None of them are really dangerous, and can be reasoned with. Unlike the other Japanese import Pokemon, the idea is to befriend the Yo-Kai, rather than fight them or make them fight. As Whisper and Nate go around befriending Yo-Kai and freeing people from their influence they find themselves in sticky situations and adventures beyond what Nate ever dreamed. Can he make all the Yo-Kai his friends?
Nate is an ordinary kid, whose biggest ambition in life was to find a cool bug to impress his crush Katie... given most girls’ aversion to bugs, maybe not the best idea. When he meets Whisper, he has a whole world thrust onto his shoulders. But Nate’s a good kid and takes it in stride. Whisper is incredibly loyal and a good friend to Nate, which helps other Yo-Kai see that Nate is trustworthy. The magical creatures also come to love Nate and defend him from all threats and help him if he needs it.
The Yo-Kai, in traditional mythology, are similar to fairies. They can be ghosts (Yo-Kai Hungramps, Jibanyan, and Manjimutt are examples of Yo-Kai who were once flesh and blood) but not all of them are. Some of them are even objects that gained sentience, due to a belief in Japan that objects over a certain age gain a spirit. That could get awkward. Can you imagine? “Honey, we can’t use the dining room set anymore. It’s sentient.”
Because of these factors, some of them have very sad backstories. For example, Jibanyan is the ghost of a cat who died saving his young mistress from an oncoming truck, and was rewarded for his devotion by being given magical power. (Some reward!)
Manjimutt opens up a whole new can of worms, in a different area than the spiritual aspects mentioned above. Manjimutt is… rather obsessed with women. Manjimutt was born when a low-level businessman was killed in a drunken accident at the same time as a dog, creating the “man faced dog” a boogeyman of Japanese folklore and one of the only Yo-Kai who can be seen without aid of the Yo-Kai Watch. Because of the state that Manjimutt finds himself in, (being killed when he was) he struggles to reinvent himself in different ways; afterlife crises, if you will. Many or most of his daydreams involve women and girls fawning over him in some way. He never succeeds and this only results in him getting thrown in jail. His antics are uncomfortable to watch and would be very hard to explain to kids in the Yo-Kai Watch target age group. When his segments are replaced by the adventures of the sweet and guileless Komasan, it’s a great relief.
Other issues involve Jibanyan’s obsession with the girl singing group Next Harmeowny, but this is likely leftover from his time with his mistress. Another incident involves Nate and his two best buddies trying to stay up and watch a naughty movie (and are interrupted by a Yo-Kai). More issues arise from the multiple episodes built around potty humor gags and potty humor themed Yo-Kai. Even Spongebob would blush at the shear volume of potty humor related gags in these episodes!
When all’s said, be very choosy about the Yo-Kai you befriend if you watch this show. Some of them are good friends, some of them just stink. While I do consider it a viable alternative to Pokemon, caution must be used when watching this show. This is definitely one that grown-ups will want to preview before letting kids see. Recommended, but with some cautions.
I'm T.K. Wilson, Read my blog for great information and stories about dolls, toy restoration, Christian Fantasy and so much more! Blog updates Mondays and Fridays.