Thursday, May 16, 2019

You've Just Been Glorified

This is an Album Three status update. But it's also so much more.

The process for Second Player Score's third album started quite some time ago, but it was first documented in this blog post from December 2016. From there, I've written numerous other posts that tracked the progress of the album as it slowly worked its way toward completion.

If you've been following along, then you already know that there's also a companion manga-style comic book, shown here:
as well as a forthcoming minute-long trailer showing what Glorified could look like as an animated show. You also know that this project shares the same continuity and universe as all my other projects, including Joel Suzuki.

What you may not know is how this all got started. Well, here's the origin story.

On our first album, Fortress Storm Attack, there's a song called "Gloria." This song is important to Second Player Score lore in that it was the first song to which we applied our now-trademark three-part vocal harmony technique. It's also mentioned in Mystery of the Moonfire, Volume Two of the Joel Suzuki series (in one scene, Felicity plays a bit of it on her wavebow).

In the past we've often been asked "just who is Gloria, anyway?" and the answers have ranged from "a girl that I used to know in college" to "just a random word that seemed to fit the vocal chorus melody." But, as it turned out, the real answer was that Gloria - last name, Sin - was a woman living in a dystopian future who had been trained to be the best soldier of her generation.

The idea for this sprung from the song's opening line, "Did you remember to die today?" We examined what that line could possibly mean, and from there, Gloria's story arose. We then set about to build an entire album on that foundation, writing lyrics that would sketch out the arc of Gloria's journey.

Then, at a certain point, we thought (because we're a bunch of overly-ambitious nerds) "hey, wouldn't it be cool if we made a comic book out of this?" So we wrote a script for the first issue based on the lyrics for the first song on the album and had the first four pages illustrated. Those pages turned out well, but at that point we realized (because we're a bunch of picky, masochistic nerds) that what we actually wanted was to have them done in the style of traditional Japanese manga. So we commissioned a different artist who not only redid the first four pages, but also completed the entire first issue as well as the album artwork, shown below:
And so now, the next step will be - you guessed it - the album release party! Here are all the details for that:

Thursday, June 20
Lola's Room at the Crystal Ballroom
1332 W. Burnside
Portland, OR
All ages
$8 pre-sale/$10 door

Special musical guests will include Matt Danger, The Doom Generation, and The Fauxriginals, and there will be a free drawing for a Second Player Score-themed guitar signed and customized by us. We'll also be bringing along our usual video game merch booth setup while premiering a video narrative that will play in the background while we perform every track, in order, off the new album. On top of that, part of the proceeds from sales of the album and comic will be donated to the Oregon chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

The release party isn't the end, though. We're still writing the scripts for the rest of the issues that comprise Volume/Season One (2-4 are done, working on 5-12 now) and hope to eventually get those produced as comics as well as - fingers crossed - the aforementioned animated series.

Oh, and where did the title "Glorified" come from, you ask? Well, there's a scene in one of the later issues where, after Gloria goes all Beatrix Kiddo on some bad guys, one of the other characters, enthusiastically appreciating Gloria's handiwork, tells the fallen baddies "You've just been Glorified, b***h!"* So, yeah, there you go.

* Not really a swear word - heck, it was used in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - but I do try to keep this blog as family-friendly as possible

Thursday, May 9, 2019

A Post About Pizza

Apparently pizza and pop-punk music are a thing. I did not know this. There are even articles and podcasts and reddit threads devoted to and/or named after this subject.
I was pleased to discover this connection because I and my pop-punk - or #nerdpunk, as we like to call our own particular brand of the sound - bandmates in Second Player Score are, and have always been, huge fans of pizza. Collectively, we probably eat a football field's worth of the stuff over the course of a year (exaggeration? You decide.) So I guess it makes sense.

Here are my current favorites:

Twilight Pizza
Anyone who lives in my neighborhood knows this place. Or if they don't, they should. Every other Saturday, my kids and I will order an 8" cheese with no green sprinkles (for my daughter), an 8" pepperoni (for my son), and an 8" Mount Hood (for me), which is basically a supreme-style pizza with pepperoni, Italian sausage, bell peppers, mushrooms, onions, and olives. We're to the point now where they have our order basically memorized, which is how you know you've achieved "regular" status. I'm not sure what makes it so good, but my daughter has said that "there's just something different about it." Indeed, my dear, indeed.

Little Caesars
My go-to place when cheap, fast, and lots are the keywords.

Flying Pie
Speaking of lots - good lord. This place, with four locations around the Portland area, piles on the toppings like there's no tomorrow. Two slices of their Combo Supreme 1 and I'm done. Carrying out from the Gresham store has become a tradition whenever I'm hanging at Dan the Bassist's house to watch movies and/or play card games. Second Player Score has even performed an acoustic set at their Milwaukie site!

As far as frozen brands go, I've been eating this particular one for years. At four bucks a pop, you can't really go wrong - although I do tend to eat the whole thing myself in one sitting for whatever reason.

Gilbert Residence
Although all of the above are great, Kyle the Drummer's wife makes THE best pizza, hands down. She makes the dough from scratch, and her Garlic Chicken Pizza is especially to die for. They used to have pizza parties at their house and Second Player Score would perform (I work for pizza, but only if it's made by Kyle's wife). The parties became less frequent as time went along, a lamentable development that inspired me to write a script for a SPS-origin-story short film that includes a scene at a Gilbert Residence Pizza Party, partially out of historical accuracy but mostly so that they would need to throw another one. My dream is to one day start up a pop-culture-themed brewpub that would serve Kyle's beers and his wife's pizza so that everyone would have a chance to experience the sheer joy that comes with consuming such delights. I'll be the guy in the corner booth, passed out.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Anime Roundup: Following The Wave Of Fate Edition

Believe it or not, it's time for another edition of Anime Roundup! This time, I managed to wait a whole ten weeks since the last one. Anyway, hajimemashou!

I had noticed that there were a bunch of different shows with the "Fate" name, so I decided to jump in and check them out. The first thing I did was look up answers to the age-old question, "which series should I start with?" The majority opinion I ran into on the Internet was to start with this one, because it's sort of a prequel to the entire franchise (even though, in Star Wars-style, it actually came out later in our-world-time). Normally, I actually prefer to be introduced to characters first before seeing their backstories (e.g., Obi-Wan Kenobi) because it makes for cool nerdy moments of easter-egg recognition, but I decided not to argue with the wisdom of the Internet masses.

So anyway, I found this one to be pretty slow going at first. I mean, for the first few episodes, there are a LOT of scenes where the characters basically just stand around and talk to each other at length. On top of that, it felt like many of said characters were tall dudes with spiky hairdos whose names all started with the letter "K." At times it was hard to keep track of who was who, to be honest.

But, as I learned, you need to have patience when watching anime. Madoka Magica was also a slow burn, but then it turned into probably one of my top three all-time favorites. And so I stuck with it, and was eventually rewarded with what turned out to be a pretty cool show. The real reward, though, was that it led into...

Fate/Stay Night (Unlimited Blade Works)
Now, this show was fun to me because, while the prequel series was kind of dark and grim all the way through, this one had a good dose of humor and action (and even some romance) to balance out all the serious stuff. I always say that the best stories are the ones that make you feel a whole range of emotions, and this show did a good job of that. There was even a cool twist that I didn't see coming (although I probably should have), so, well done, writers. But then why does - spoiler alert - Sakura disappear for most of the series after it had been strongly hinted that she was a Master? I know that there's another series that shows her story in a kind of parallel-timeline dealio (apparently these shows are based on a visual novel where Sakura or Rin or Saber play bigger roles depending on the player's choices), so maybe I'll have to dig that one up.

The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.
Another one where patience pays off. If you recall, I had previously lumped this one into "Category B: Tried To Get Into Them But Just Couldn't For Some Reason; Might Try Again Someday" back when I used to use such categories. But boy, am I glad I came back to it. Once you get used to the mini-episode format, it is so much fun. The humor is witty and very meta, often using Saiki's psychic powers as an in-universe explanation for typical cartoon inconsistencies like why the characters don't age even though years pass by in real (and show) time. It wrapped up pretty neatly after two seasons, so when I heard there was a third season in production, I was kind of like, "eh...I don't know..." But, well, yes. Third season, please.

Black Butler
An unconventional and slightly quirky show, it combines a pretty dark storyline with moments of traditional anime slapstick, making for an interesting (and sometimes jarring) contrast. It also does something that a lot of other anime shows do, which is to make demons and reapers and other normally "evil" beings into somewhat sympathetic characters. Somewhat. Anyway, I didn't really love it, but it did contain some of the best catch phrases I've ever heard in an anime show.

Last Hope
The art in this show was absolutely gorgeous (especially the cityscapes). And the food scenes never failed to make me hungry, even if I'd just finished eating. The pseudoscience was also very cool, dealing with alternate realities and timelines and other such geeky stuff. There were some slow stretches, but also some pretty epic moments, including the climactic battle scene.

This show is a plot tease. It makes you think it has a plot, and then it digresses into long periods of time where nothing happens except for two impossibly large and indestructible gentlemen beating the living daylights out of each other, kind of like pro wrestling without the laws of physics. I'm serious - several episodes can go by without the title character appearing even once (except in the opening and closing credits). Maybe Part 2 (which was just released on Tuesday) contains more of an actual storyline?

Rilakkuma and Kaoru
I enjoyed this one a lot. You may think, because of its cuteness and TV-PG rating, that it's aimed at kids, but it isn't, really; the overall tone is actually kind of wistful and melancholy, and it spends a lot of time simply portraying the mundane aspects of life as a single twenty-something-year-old going through a quarterlife crisis. As mundane as life can get, I suppose, when your roommates are two bears and a bird who can hold down jobs and summon UFOs. It was kind of like Aggretsuko without the sugar rush. Oh, by the way, the stop-motion animation is absolutely stunning.

Continuing with my trend of catching up with at least one classic anime movie per roundup, I managed to get a hold of this one, which I'd heard is widely considered to be the film that paved the way for anime to break ground with Western audiences. And after watching it, I can see why. It wasn't really what I expected, but it blew me away. Highly recommended, if you can find it.

Well, that's it for now. Tune in next time, when the roundup will probably include things like Ultraman and Gunslinger Girl as well as more Fate titles. Until then, mata ne!

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Volume Five Status Update: The More You Write, The More You Write

I'm happy to report that Joel Suzuki, Volume Five (the "Blue Book" in the series) is coming along quite nicely, thank you.
At the last status update eleven weeks ago, I told you that although I was at 35,000 words (roughly 140 pages), I had reached the usual "Stop, Regroup, and Rewrite" point that I'd encountered while working on Volumes Two through Four.

So, I poured some hot tea (or cold beer, depending on the time of day) and backtracked. I believe I ended up retreating to around 17,000 words or so, cutting out a bunch of stuff in the process. From there, I wrote, wrote, and wrote some more, and with the help of being able to reuse some of what I had already done, I was able to catch up to where I was, and then some. As a result, the Blue Book (I have a subtitle, but as usual, I'll be saving it for a future announcement) is now up to - drum roll - 44,000 words, or roughly 176 pages.

The funny thing is that it seems like the more stuff I'm working on at the same time (in addition to Volume Five, I'm concurrently writing additional issues of Glorified), the more I seem to be able to crank out. It's probably because writing is like exercise - when it becomes a regular part of your routine, it just gets easier to do. Or at least it seems to.

Anyway, at this rate, with any luck I'll be able to finish the first draft sometime this year, which puts us on track for a 2020 release - sooner than expected. We shall see!

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Favorite Time Loops

Time loops are fun. I love time loops! They're like Froot Loops (trademark: Kellogg's), but time-ier. Actually, no, they're nothing like Froot Loops at all. Forget I said that. They're like the movie Groundhog Day. Remember that one? With Bill Murray?
That was a classic. And certainly a favorite. But it's not alone; there are lots of other time loops featured in films and TV shows. It's a very popular plot device. It's a little different from "standard" time travel in that one of the characters - usually the main protagonist - gets stuck in a loop (hence the term) that they usually have to, and/or want to, break out of. Or, sometimes it's used to their advantage. Here are some of my favorites (WARNING: contains major spoilers. Which, now that I think about it, actually seems kind of appropriate for a post about time loops):

Happy Death Day
Okay, this isn't so much of a spoiler, since the movie's logline specifically says that the main character gets stuck in a time loop. But anyway, even though I'm not a big horror buff, I actually really enjoyed this film. Possibly because it was, in my opinion, more dark comedy than horror. Was that a spoiler? Anyway, I especially loved how they name-checked Groundhog Day near the end. I even managed to find a similar screen shot (see above)!

Doctor Who
Naturally, you would expect a long-running series whose main character is a "Time Lord" who travels through time and space to feature at least one, if not many, time loops. And sure enough, Doctor Who does! My favorite is the modern-era ninth season episode "Heaven Sent," where the Doctor - okay, this is a spoiler, for sure - uses the fact that he's trapped in a loop to chip away at a super-thick mineral wall over the equivalent of billions of years until he's able to escape.

Russian Doll
A lot of stuff was said about how this show was basically copying Happy Death Day's premise (the main character, a woman, gets stuck in a time loop on her birthday, which always ends in her dying), especially since it premiered right around the same time that Happy Death Day's sequel was released. But although the basic premise is similar, they really are two totally different things. If you watch them both, you'll know. It's kind of like how Captain Marvel, Battle Angel Alita, and Glorified (the companion graphic novel to my band's third album) could all be summed up as "amnesiac female warrior/soldier embarks on a search for her identity" but their actual stories are all quite divergent.

Doctor Strange
In the first MCU Doctor Strange movie, the good doctor uses a time loop to - spoiler! - defeat the seemingly omnipotent Big Bad by basically annoying the living heck out of him during the climactic battle sequence. I mean, if you had to hear Doctor Strange say "Dormammu, I've come to bargain" a million times over (or however many it was), I think you'd be ready to quit, too.

Madoka Magica
Naturally, anime also has its fair share of awesome time loops! Quite possibly none more awesome than the one from this show. It's a major, major spoiler (the picture above already gives you a hint) so I won't disclose too much, but suffice it to say that learning the existence of this loop was one of the moments (out of a lot) I had while watching this show where my mind was completely blown.

The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.
I'll say more about this show in the next installment of Anime Roundup, but I just wanted to mention it here because I LOVE LOVE LOVE how they use the time loop plot device to explain why multiple years of show time pass by while the characters always remain the same age. Sooo meta.

Joel Suzuki, Volume Four: Fable of the Fatewave
One of my favorite scenes in this book was - spoiler! - when Joel inadvertently ended up in a time loop while trying (and failing) to stop Blackspore from getting shot by the Six States ships.

So, there you have it: a baker's half-dozen of some of my favorite time loops. What are some of yours?

Thursday, April 11, 2019

April and Lydia Predict The 2019 MLB Season

Well, I figure that the time has come. Normally, I wouldn't want to introduce new people to my readers before their stories are officially published, but something - probably the hot start by the Seattle Mariners combined with the fact that I can't seem to stop mentioning them in other posts - is compelling me to do this now. So, please welcome the stars of my yet-to-be-produced spec script involving baseball, anime, philosophy, and magic: April Hayashi and Lydia Sanchez.
Brian: Good morning, you two.
April: Good morning.
Lydia: Morning. Or "ohayou," right? Isn't that how you say it in Japanese?
B: It is, yes.
L: I knew it! Man, watching all these anime shows with April is really starting to pay off.
A (laughs): Yeah, you'll be fluent in no time.
L: Hey, you hardly know the language yourself.
B: All right, so - why don't we start off by having you tell our readers a little bit about yourselves.
L (to April): You can go first.
A: Okay, well, I'm April Hayashi. I'm twenty-four years old, I was born and raised in Seattle, Washington, where I now live, and I work as a product manager for Amazon.
L: And I'm Lydia Sanchez. Everything she said is the same for me, except that I'm a programmer at Microsoft.
B: And you're both big Seattle Mariners fans, correct?
A: Correct.
L: Yep.
B: What do you think of how the season's going so far?
A: Couldn't be happier.
L: Ditto. But, you know, I can't say I'm exactly surprised.
B: Why's that?
L: Well, you know...I mean, how much can I say about the script?
A: Don't want to give away too many spoilers.
L: Let's just say that April and I are the ones who are responsible for all the winning that's going on right now.
A: Well, not completely.
L: Mostly, though.
B: I heard that the script actually predicted the exact date that the Mariners got eliminated from playoff contention last season.
L: It totally did! Almost like magic - which, by the way, we found out is for real. Right, April?
A: I guess.
L: What do you mean, you guess? Remember that card from Wendy's store? And the -
A: Lyd, spoilers!
L: Right, right.
B: So, on another subject - April, you're first cousins with Joel Suzuki, right?
A: Yeah, I am.
B: But your story doesn't overlap with his.
A: No, it's a completely separate thing. Although, there is a small connection...
L: Hey, who's giving away spoilers now?
A: I wasn't going to say any more.
L: Sure, yeah.
B: Back to the Mariners, what are your predictions for how the 2019 season is going to turn out?
A: Well, I don't want to sound too overconfident, but -
L: World Series champs, baby.
B: Seriously?
L: Yup. You heard it here first.
B: April, do you agree?
A: I...I guess?
L: Oh, c'mon, Hayashi, we were just talking about this other day. Remember, we won't be jinxing the team by saying it.
A: Okay, okay. Yeah. World Series champs.
L: Woohoo!
B: Well, there you have it, folks. April and Lydia have predicted that the Seattle Mariners are going to win the 2019 World Series. Ladies, thank you so much for stopping by today.
A: You're welcome.
L: Anytime.
B: I hope your story gets produced soon. Either way, though, please come back in the fall so we can revisit your prediction and see if it came true.
L: Both things are gonna happen, I'm telling you.
A: We will. And thanks for having us.
L: Always so polite.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Active Acceptance

This is April. No, not the April who is the main protagonist of my baseball/anime/philosophy/magic screenplay (I've never introduced you to her before? Whoops), but April the month, aka Autism Acceptance Month.
You may have heard it referred to as "Autism Awareness Month," and that's okay too, but I like "Acceptance" because it goes a step further.

Acceptance is one of my favorite words, one of my favorite concepts. In fact, the main theme of the Joel Suzuki series - and a lot of my other works - is acceptance. Not passive acceptance, like when you allow yourself to be taken advantage of, but active acceptance, where you are the one making the choices.

You choose to forgive.

You choose to love.

You choose empathy. Sympathy. Compassion.

You choose to embrace who you are and who others are despite our differences and disagreements.

You choose to appreciate and emphasize the positives in spite of all the challenges that life throws at you.

You choose to be okay with whatever happens, good or bad.

You choose to not be a victim of circumstance, but rather a patient yet active participant who strives to make the world a better place for as many people as possible in whatever ways you can, big or small.

To paraphrase a line from the first Joel Suzuki book: you choose to be happy.

Happy Autism Acceptance Month, everyone. Let's make it a year-round thing.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

AWP 19

Last March - has it really been over a year already? - I was in Tampa, Florida, participating as a panelist during the Association of Writers and Writing Programs' 18th annual conference (I wrote up this little post on it). This year, I'm doing it again, only this time the conference is right in my backyard - well, not literally, of course, it's at the Oregon Convention Center in downtown Portland (although having it in my actual backyard would certainly be interesting).
While last year I was on a panel entitled "Disability in Children's Literature: Not an Anomaly, an Imperative," this year's panel is "Walk In Their Shoes: Children's and Young Adult Novels that Cultivate Empathy." Both panels were organized by Melissa Hart, the author of a number of awesome books including Avenging the Owl and the upcoming nonfiction guide Better With Books: 500 Diverse Books to Ignite Empathy and Encourage Self-Acceptance in Tweens and Teens (Joel Suzuki is included, yay!)

Our panel this year will be taking place this coming Saturday from 9:00am to 10:15am. Melissa and I will be joined by two other great authors, Carmen T. Bernier-Grand (Picasso: I the King, Yo el rey; Cesar: Si, se puede!) and Carrie Mac (The Beckoners; 10 Things I Can See From Here). More info on the panel (and the conference itself) can be found here. If you're a writer but not already a member of AWP, I highly recommend joining and attending the conference (it's starting today!) Not only is it informative and educational, but it's a lot of fun as well. Of course, if you just want to attend our panel, AWP offers a one-time Saturday pass at a much lower rate. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Roundtable Discussion: Avengers Endgame

Since by now everyone's seen Captain Marvel as well as the final Avengers: Endgame trailer (you've seen them, right?) I figured it would be good to have a roundtable discussion of Endgame where we all discuss our favorite theories and predictions for the movie. Here we go!
Brian: Hey, so thanks for being here today, everyone.
Felicity: Not like we have a choice.
Brian: I don't know what you mean by that. Anyway, Avengers: Endgame! Who's excited?
Joel: I am.
Fireflower: I am, as well.
Felicity: What is an "Avengers: Endgame"?
Brian: Ha, ha. So, what do you guys think is gonna happen?
Joel: That's a very broad question.
Brian: True. I dunno, just start saying stuff.
Joel: Well, I think the events of the movie will take place over a long period of time, maybe even a year or so.
Fireflower: Why do you say that?
Joel: Because of Black Widow's hair. It's short in some scenes, including the mid-credits scene from Captain Marvel, but then it's much longer in others.
Felicity: Maybe she got extensions.
Joel: Maybe.
Brian: I doubt it, though. I think Joel's right. They probably need a lot of time to come up with a plan, integrate Carol into the team, find Ant-Man and Hawkeye-slash-Ronin, stuff like that.
Felicity: Guess they can take their time piecing everything together since Thanos is now just chilling at his retirement cottage.
Brian: Exactly.
Fireflower: What do you suppose their plan will be, exactly?
Felicity: It's gotta be some kind of time-travel dealio involving the Quantum Realm. I mean, it's pretty obvious that all those matching white suits are for that purpose.
Joel: I agree.
Brian: Speaking of time travel...
Felicity: We haven't been doing any of that, I swear.
Brian: No, what I was gonna say was, since we know Captain Marvel's powers don't include time travel, how do you suppose they'll explain why she looks exactly the same in 2019 as she did in 1995?
Felicity: Lots of sunscreen and moisturizer.
Joel: Well, some people's looks don't change all that much. For example, you look like you did back in 1995.
Brian: Oh, why, thank you.
Joel: Except you've lost a lot of hair.
Brian: Erm.
Fireflower: I believe the answer is genetics. Since she now has some Kree DNA, it causes her to age slower.
Felicity: A-ha. I think something like that was even in the comics. Nice one, boss. I see your research is paying off.
Fireflower: Yes, it is.
Brian: Okay, so back to the plan. What are they gonna do, just go back and tell Quill not to be an idiot this time? Or tell Thor to go for the head?
Felicity: Sure, yeah. It'll be two hours and fifty-five minutes of people sitting around talking, saying "I like this one" and then five minutes of retconned action. Bam, done.
Joel: You're being sarcastic, right?
Felicity: Dude.
Fireflower: I am sure it will be much more complex than that. Perhaps once they travel through the Quantum Realm, they will be separated and encounter a number of new obstacles along the way before they finally reunite and confront Thanos one last time.
Felicity: You mean "assemble." Ha! See what I did there.
Brian: That sounds plausible to me.
Joel: We'll just have to wait until the movie comes out.
Brian: Five more weeks.
Joel: Thirty-six more days, actually.
Fireflower: I am looking forward to it.
Felicity: Me too. Can't wait.
Brian: Are you guys gonna dress up?
Joel: Probably. I haven't decided as who yet, though.
Fireflower: The same goes for me.
Felicity: I'm reusing my Captain Marvel costume. Gotta get your money's worth out of it.
Brian: Wait, what did you just say?
Felicity: Nothing.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Random Thought Thursday

This is the latest installment in a very sporadic series of posts known as Random Thought Thursday. How sporadic? The last one was from May 26, 2016.

So apparently, although the Matrix appears capable of generating a seemingly infinite supply of dead chicken meat (which I've talked about before in this post), it is unable to produce an equally infinite supply of fresh, pre-cut-and-bagged broccoli florets.
Between me, my son, and my cats (they don't actually eat the broccoli, they just like to play with little pieces of it because it looks like a small animal with a tail), we can go through a 32-oz. bag of the stuff in two, maybe three days. This apparently freaks out the supplier of my local Fred Meyer because every so often they will RUN OUT COMPLETELY AND NOT HAVE ANY MORE FOR SEVERAL DAYS WHICH IS VERY FRUSTRATING ARGH. Maybe the Machines (the sentient AI beings responsible for the Matrix, in case you haven't seen the movies) figure "C'mon, who the heck eats that stuff, anyway?" Well, I do, Machines. I do.

If you've been reading this blog for a while, then you know that I'm a big fan of The Magicians on SyFy as well as its original source material novels by Lev Grossman. Well, Season 4 is underway and I must say, the show has reached the point - especially now that it's completely off-book - where I don't understand what is going on half the time. But I still love it anyway.

Speaking of loving stuff, have you seen the new powder blue Spring Training uniforms the Seattle Mariners are wearing? They are super-duper-awesome. Most of the expectations for the team this year are very low, but I have a feeling they're going to surprise some people, not only because of these cool ST unis (as well as the fact that they ditched the bad-luck upside-down-trident logo) but also because of the spec screenplay I wrote that involves baseball and magic (and anime and philosophy). Which, if it ever gets made into a movie, I'll tell you more about. Much more.

Speaking of have-you-seen-stuff, did any of you see the episode of The Orville a couple of months ago (wow, I can't believe it's been that long already) called "Home"? You know, the one where - spoiler alert - Alara leaves the show, I mean, the ship? There was a scene in it where one of the characters was making what was obviously meant to be an allegorical comment on the whole vaccination/autism debate, and the term they used to stand in for autism was "Torin's Syndrome." Now, as some of you may know, my son - who is on the autism spectrum and was the original inspiration for the Joel Suzuki series - is named Torin. Coincidence? You decide...

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Joel, Felicity, and Fireflower Get Ready To See Captain Marvel



A young woman with shoulder-length blond hair wearing a Captain Marvel costume is here. This is FELICITY. She is inspecting her image in a mirror. A few moments later, a woman with green skin and pointy ears walks into the room. This is FIREFLOWER.
F: Hey, nice Skrull get-up.
FF: It was not very difficult to achieve, seeing as how I already had the proper skin tone. I just had to make a few minor adjustments.
F: And that's where your shapeshifting cast came in handy.
FF: Correct.
F: It's perfect. Skrulls are shapeshifters too, you know?
FF: Yes, I became aware of that fact during my research for this film we about to view.
F: I'm so stoked. I've been looking forward to this for a while.
FF: Your costume is very impressive as well.
F: It'd better be. I put a ton of work into it. Not to mention racking up a huge bill on Brian's credit card for all the materials.

At that moment, a young man wearing a full-body cat costume walks in. This is JOEL.

J: Hello.
F (laughing hysterically): Oh, dude! That is hilarious.
J: This costume is very warm. I'm not sure I can make it through the whole movie with it on.
F: Oh, but you have to. I mean, what's Carol Danvers without her trusty Flerken sidekick?
FF: I thought the Flerken was a female.
F: Sure, yeah, but who cares, right? No law against guys dressing up as girl characters or vice versa. She also has a different name in the comics, so, you know, whatever.
J: I'm serious. I might get heatstroke.
F: You won't, trust me. I'll buy you an ice-cold diet soda or something.
J: Um, okay.

Then a middle-aged man in a regular T-shirt and jeans enters, carrying a mug of green tea. This is BRIAN.

B: Wow, you guys look great.
J: Thanks.
FF: Are you sure you do not want to view the motion picture with us?
B: Oh, I do. Like, really badly. I just don't have the time tonight.
F: Is this about your "projects," or whatever?
B: Yeah. The band and I are hard at work on the stuff I talked about in last week's post. It's kind of the priority right now. But I'm sure I'll catch the movie soon. It's on my required to-do list, along with Avengers: Endgame next month.
FF: Perhaps you can join us for that particular event.
B: Hopefully.
F: You'll need a costume.
B: Yeah, you know, I was going to start working on one - like maybe Ant-Man or Doctor Strange - but then all my cosplay supply purchases got declined and I discovered that my credit card had been maxed out. You wouldn't happen to know anything about that, would you?
F: About your credit card being maxed out?
B: Yeah.
F: Nope.

Joel and Fireflower exchange glances. Brian furrows his brow. Felicity grins.

F: All right, let's get going. Don't want to be late.
B: Have fun, you guys.
F: We will.

Felicity, Joel, and Fireflower exit the room. Brian takes a sip of his tea. Then a dark-haired, teenage goth girl walks in. This is DAMIENNE (from the spec script for Nobody's Hero II.)

D: Yo.
B: Oh, hey. So, were you able to find out who's been using my credit card?
D: Yeup.
B: Okay, who is it?
D: You're not gonna like this.

The camera pans in on Brian, and then on Damienne as they both give each other the "soap-opera cliffhanger stare." Finally, Damienne opens her mouth to say something and then we


Thursday, February 28, 2019

Album Three Status Update

Earlier this week, my band - Second Player Score, for those of you who are new around here - finally wrapped up the tracking for our long-awaited third album, Glorified.
Glorified is a concept album (of course) that tells the story of a woman who, raised to be the best soldier of her generation, ends up fleeing her oppressive hometown and reluctantly helping people as she traverses a post-apocalyptic wasteland in search of answers about her past. The album is set up like the first season of a television series, with each of the twelve songs designed to go along with an episode of the show.

And said show is not purely hypothetical; we've actually written a script for the entire first episode ("Eye of the Needle") that, as we speak, is being turned into a 37-page manga-style comic/graphic novel by an amazing artist from San Jose. We've also hired a talented team of animators from Belgium to produce a one-minute-or-so proof-of-concept trailer for the show itself.

(By the way, even though Glorified takes place in the distant future, it shares the same universe as all of my other projects, including Joel Suzuki - in case you missed it, the major details about that universe are documented in this post.)

Anyway, the album, the comic, and the trailer are all scheduled to be released this coming June. So stay tuned for more updates!

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Anime Roundup: Have Patience, Because Everything Is Awesome Edition

I realize it's been only five weeks since the last Anime Roundup post. But! I've just been so blown away by a few series I've recently finished watching that not only do I feel compelled to talk about them now, I've decided to make a major change to the way these posts are written.

You may recall that I used to divide the shows up into Japanese-style ranking categories from S (my favorites) to B (couldn't really get into them). However, I now believe that all I really need to do with the B category shows is give them more of a chance. You see, the way I used to do this is I would usually watch two, maybe three episodes and then see if it hooked me or not, and then if it didn't, I would move on.

But now, after having watched or sampled over thirty anime series and movies, I'm noticing that most of them are actually slow burns, and that they seem to be purposely designed that way. It's like the show wants to bring you along gradually before it starts dropping all the amazing stuff as it ramps up to an epic finish.

So, as of this post, I'm doing away with the categories. I'm just going to offer you my random thoughts and opinions, and then you can decide for yourself if you want to check out these shows or not. But trust me, for the optimal viewing experience, you may want to play the long game (I know that for me, I will definitely now be revisiting everything that I formerly lumped into "Category B").

Here we go! Oh, and there will be some mild spoilers, so maybe instead of reading this post, go and watch these shows first and then come back so then we can geek out about them together.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica
I'll start with this one, since it really is the one that finally made me decide to stick around longer with every anime I check out. On the surface, it seems like your typical "magical girl" show in the vein of stuff like Sailor Moon; really, the only reason I decided to give it a chance was that I had heard good things about it. As it turned out, this show is kind of like the magical girl version of Doki Doki Literature Club - a dark and subversive take on a typically innocuous genre. It starts off pretty slowly, and even after pulling a Game of Thrones-ish move in the third episode (which I thought - incorrectly - was going to be quickly reversed), I kept wondering when the heck Madoka was finally going to become a magical girl. I mean, that's the title of the whole show! But then, once it hit episode 8 or so (there are 12 episodes in all), the show began landing one body blow after another, until finally I was shouting "OMG this is so amazing!!" every other minute. Sheer brilliance. Oh, and on top of that, the artwork - especially of the witches and their labyrinths - is trippy and fantastic.

High Score Girl
A wonderful semi-romantic-comedy-drama that is also a historically accurate period piece about video games in the '90s. What more could you possibly want? At first I kept wondering when Akira was going to talk, but then I realized that it's actually better that she doesn't. I loved the tender piano reprise version of the trippy (yes, I've said "trippy" twice in one post now) Zappa-ish opening theme song "New Stranger," and am desperately hoping for a Season 2. I mean, c'mon, showrunners, you can't leave us with that cliffhanger ending, now, can you?

Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online
I'm a huge fan of the original Sword Art Online and Sword Art Online II, so the moment I saw this one was available on Netflix I did a fist pump and said "yessss!" Seriously, I did. And then I proceeded to binge the heck out of it. I should've been able to guess Pitohui's real-life identity early on - I mean, the clues were all there - but the ending actually surprised me, so, good job, show.

Seven Deadly Sins
This is one I had previously lumped into Category B, but then when I revisited it, I ended up loving it! So, there you go. The only part that bugs me is Meliodas' occasional, um, pestering of Elizabeth, which I get is played for laughs, but really doesn't add much to the story or characters and could've easily been left out, as there's still plenty of humor to go along with some great action and a cool plot.

Gunnm (Battle Angel Alita)
You may have heard of the latest James Cameron movie Alita: Battle Angel. Well, this is the original source material from 29 years ago. It, too, starts off a little slow but then picks up pretty quickly. I dug it when Gally had her John Wick-ish "you shouldn't have killed my dog" moment (which I guess is actually John Wick having a Gally-ish moment, seeing as how she predates him in our actual timeline). If I ever manage to get out to the theaters again, then perhaps the film adaptation will show up in the next Movie Roundup post.

Well, that's it for now. I have a feeling these Anime Roundup posts may become even more frequent now that I've unlocked a whole back catalog of stuff to watch. Until next time, mata ne!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Snowpocalypse In Seattle

Last Saturday my band Second Player Score played our first-ever show in snowy Seattle at the Skylark Cafe with our friends SixTwoSeven. (actually, it was Friday, but I was going for the "S" alliteration there).
We had a great time and were fortunate enough to make it up there and back despite the onset of WINTERSTORM SNOWMAGGEDON 2019 OMG!!!11!!1! Also on the bill were a couple of other awesome bands: Girl George and Marble.

I really like Seattle, so it was nice to finally be able to get up there to perform some music (usually my trips up north are of a Mariners baseball- or Seahawks football-viewing nature). As readers of the Joel Suzuki series know, Joel himself lives in Seattle, having moved there from Hawaii when he was ten, and Felicity lives in nearby Bellevue after having moved there from good ol' Vancouver, WA.

The romantic comedy spec script involving baseball, anime, philosophy, and magic that I wrote last fall is also set in Seattle.

Anyway, I hope to be able to get back up there sometime soon (but preferably without having to drive through a foot of frozen precipitation)!

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Volume Five Status Update

Can you believe we're talking about Volume Five already?
I've been working on it in between all the other stuff I've been doing, and as of this moment, the first draft stands at around 35,000 words, or 140 pages.

Sounds like good progress, right? Well, sort of. After my experience with the first four volumes of the Joel Suzuki series, I've learned that there inevitably comes a point in the whole process that I now call "Stop, Regroup, and Rewrite."

This happened with Volume Four around early 2017 after I had hit the 27-28,000 word mark. Usually what I run into is that the story begins to head in a direction that I'm not completely happy with, which forces me to retreat a bit to get everything back on track. In Volume Four's case, I ended up cutting around 5,000 words before I was able to move forward once more. You may recall that with Volume Two, I actually (for the most part) started over again from scratch!

The good news is that I recognize this as a necessary checkpoint that I always have to get past, and now that I'm there, I know that things are moving along exactly the way they should. Also, it doesn't mean that I'll fall behind schedule; as you may know, Volume Four actually came out earlier than expected.

Which raises the question - when is Volume Five's expected launch date? Well, right now, I'm looking at early 2021, in keeping with my original every-other-year plan (Volume Four was supposed to have come out in early 2019). As always, I'll be providing you with occasional status updates as we go along. So, onward!

Thursday, January 31, 2019

TV Roundup: Black Mirror Edition

It's now been over a year since I signed up for Netflix. Since then, I've watched a whole bunch of stuff on the service, including all the Marvel shows (R.I.P.) and, as you know, a ton of anime. There's one show, however, that I started on last year (by watching two episodes) but didn't pick up again until just recently. That show is Black Mirror.
Why did I stop, you ask? I'm not really sure, to be honest. Probably just because there were so many other things to check out. I do know why I got back into it, however. The fourth Second Player Score album (which we're already writing, even though the third album isn't due out until June) is expected to be another concept album, but this time it would be a psychological horror sort of along the lines of Doki Doki Literature Club, Perfect Blue, and, yes, Black Mirror. So, having played the the first of those three and watched the second, I figured I needed to do my homework and finish up all available episodes of the third. And, as expected, it did not disappoint.

I know there are a lot of "best Black Mirror episodes" lists out there already (I even consulted a few of them when deciding which episodes to watch first) but I'm going to add mine to the list of lists. These are my favorites, with some random thoughts for each, in order from least to most. Warning: possible spoilers to follow.

#20: The Waldo Moment
My least favorite is still an entertaining 44 minutes of viewing. I kinda wanted to see Waldo win.

#19: Crocodile
Yay, guinea pigs!

#18: Fifteen Million Merits
I actually watched about half of this episode last year, and then finished up the other half this year.

#17: The National Anthem
Every time I watch an episode of Black Mirror - like this one, for example - there almost always comes a point when I say, out loud, "yeah, this will not end well."

#16: Shut Up and Dance
The troll face still creeps me out every time I think of it. I'd like to see Karin and Blue from "Hated in the Nation" catch those guys.

#15: Metalhead
As a nerd, I really wanted to know the backstory of what happened to the world and what the original purpose of the dogs was.

#14: Playtest
Yay, giant spiders!

#13: Men Against Fire
Like the Matrix within the Matrix.

#12: The Entire History of You
Look, it's the Doctor! Yeah, I always get distracted when my favorite genre actors show up in other stuff.

#11: Arkangel
Every parent's worst nightmare. There are just some things you're better off not knowing.

#10: Nosedive
The part about not having the right adapter for the electric car was hilarious.

#9: Be Right Back
Look, it's Bill Weasley/General Hux and Peggy Carter!

#8: Hang the DJ
My usual Black Mirror declaration of "yeah, this will not end well" didn't come true this time! Unless you were one of the digital clones, I guess.

#7: Hated in the Nation
Look, it's Helena Ravenclaw! And Shona, and Wong! And isn't that Rosa Parks? Oops, there I go again.

#6: White Bear
Brilliant twist ending.

#5: Black Museum
Hey, it's Shuri! Okay, okay, I'll stop.

#4: White Christmas
Look, it's - right, I promised to stop. Anyway, another episode with a brilliant twist ending.

#3: San Junipero
A great episode with very cool '80s imagery.

#2: Bandersnatch
I think I watched this one like six or seven times just to get to as many endings as I could. Loved the meta ending the most.

#1: USS Callister
After I finished this episode I said out loud (I talk to my TV a lot) "that was probably one of the finest hours of television I've ever seen." I know people say this one had more humor and was more upbeat than other Black Mirror episodes, but I think it still definitely had some edgy horror elements to it that made it a nice overall blend.

Okay, so that brings us to the end of five straight weeks of Roundup posts. Tune in next week when I'll be giving you a Volume Five(!) status update...

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Band Roundup: Nippon Edition

One of the many things I love about anime shows is that they almost always have awesome theme songs. Not only that, but they usually have a different one for both the beginning and the end of the show, and then they change them for each season (and occasionally even mid-season). It's funny, because whenever Netflix tries to do me a favor by skipping the theme song, I'm, like, "No, go back! Play the song!" As a result, I've been introduced to a bunch of great bands from Japan, a few of which I'll share with you today.

This power trio - which, sadly, broke up in 2012 - has become one of my favorite bands of all time. Joel and Felicity talked about them in this post back in September of last year. I know this may sound cheesy, but it's like their music resonates at the same frequency as my inner Aura - possibly even more than my own music! They're just too perfect. Maybe they're a creation of the Matrix. Or, like Felicity suggested, maybe they're Wavemakers. I've listened to lead singer/guitarist Aimi Haraguni's subsequent solo projects as well as Draft King, the band that bassist Nohana Kitajima and drummer Shiho Yamanoha went on to form, and, as pleasant as those projects are, they're just not the same. It's like while Aimi (who I kind of think of as a long-lost younger sister) may have been the mind and soul of Stereopony, Nohana and Shiho were the heart, blood, and guts, and now that they're disconnected you just have two separate incomplete parts of a whole person. So please, please, ladies, if you're reading this, reunite.

Asian Kung-Fu Generation
I discovered these guys via their mega-awesome Naruto theme song, "Haruka Kanata." Singer/guitarist Masafumi Goto's tortured screams are simply epic (they sound like how I feel after the Seahawks lose a close game). And they're no one-hit wonder either; I followed them down the rabbit hole and discovered that they have a huge catalog of good stuff. If you like bands like Weezer, Teenage Fanclub, Supergrass, etc., I'd recommend checking them out.

In contrast to Stereopony (who, to my knowledge, generally used to just wear jeans and random T-shirts on stage), this group adheres a bit more to the Japanese girl-band formula of flashy matching outfits. Doesn't matter, though, 'cause they rock pretty hard. My favorite tune of theirs is "Shunkan Sentimental," which was used as a theme song for FullMetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. Impressively, they formed in 2006 and are still going strong today with the same original lineup.

Stance Punks
The Soul Eater ending theme song "I Wanna Be" was my first introduction to these guys. And then I heard "No Boy No Cry," an opening theme song for Naruto. Awesome, catchy, edgy but totally listenable straight-up punk rock in the tradition of bands like The Clash and the Ramones.

This is not a band that I discovered through anime, but I just had to include them in this post anyway. I was actually introduced to them back in 2015, when a friend got me into what's known as "kawaii metal" (cute metal). This is when you take the sugary-sweet vocals and choreographed dance routines of J-pop (Japanese pop music) and forcibly graft it onto brutal, face-melting metal riffage. There are/were a number of acts in this particular genre, but I latched on to Fruitpochette the most. I ended up buying both their EP and full-length album, the latter of which I wrote a review that you can read here (my review has the headline "If this album was ice cream, I would have gained two hundred pounds by now"). Seriously, I listened to that thing over and over again, especially during the writing of Volume Two. Sad to hear that they broke up in 2017.

Wagakki Band
Another band that I didn't discover through anime, although I suppose you could say it was an indirect connection since I stumbled across them randomly while binge-listening to Stereopony. Basically, they combine modern rock and metal with traditional Japanese instruments, and let me tell you, the result is mind-blowing. Check them out for yourself here.

There are lots of other cool bands with great anime theme songs, of course, but these have been my standout favorites so far. What are some of yours?

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Anime Roundup: Delusional Self-Confidence Edition

Well hey, look, this time around I managed to wait a whole thirteen weeks before writing another Anime Roundup post! One big reason for that, of course, is that I've been distracted by the fourth installment of the Joel Suzuki series (you may have heard about it). But that doesn't mean I haven't been watching tons of anime in the meantime. So, hajimemashou!

(Remember, these aren't reviews, they're just my personal thoughts and opinions. Your experiences may vary.)

Category S: Loved Them So Much That Once I Got Going I Couldn't Stop

Aggretsuko: We Wish You a Metal Christmas
I was super stoked when I heard that this - a one-shot Christmas special - was coming out. And now that it's been out, I've watched it SIX SEVEN TIMES already, and each time I still laugh at the same parts. I'm telling you, it's sheer genius. Although, at about 22 minutes, it was a little short in my opinion. Of course, that's because I could probably watch hours and hours of this show on end and not get bored. I described it to one of my friends as "like if South Park and Hello Kitty had a daughter." I cannot wait for Season Two. My favorite moment from the Christmas special (among the many) is the exchange between Haida and Fenneko when they say "isn't that the mackerel in miso sauce you get from the convenience store for 258 yen? I love that stuff! Yeah, it's good stuff." Trust me, it's hilarious in context. Also funny: "we're gonna get a complaint from Instagram."

I'll admit, this show was a slow burn. Unlike other S-rankers like Aggretsuko and Soul Eater, I didn't fall in love with it right away, especially because of its penchant for spending nearly half of each episode recapping what happened in the previous episode (I understand the need for this when it was a weekly serial, but it makes binging it kind of tedious). To be fair, this practice tapered off as the seasons went along. Also, it got more and more exciting as new characters were introduced and the world-building really started to ramp up. I originally had access to six seasons on Netflix, but then when I was about near the end of Season Two, they were all removed! After that, I spent a few weeks with a Naruto-sized hole in my life that really gave credence to the whole "absence makes the heart grow fonder" thing. Fortunately, Netflix saw fit to replace it later, albeit with just five seasons instead of six. I resumed my binging from there and also made sure to add the myriad of Naruto movies (of which I've now seen three) to my list. Surprisingly, that wasn't the moment that I decided to promote this show to "S" rank - that moment was when I caught myself reading Naruto trivia on the Internet because I couldn't wait to find out whether Naruto ever becomes the Hokage or not. Final thought: I know he's just an anime character, but I find his delusional self-confidence to be very inspiring.

Previous category S shows: Bleach, The Devil is a Part-Timer, Perfect Blue (movie), Death Note, Aggretsuko (of course), Sword Art Online, Soul Eater, One Punch Man (season 2 coming April 2019 - Netflix, please say you will have it)

Category A: Didn't Love-Love Them, But Liked Them Well Enough

Tiger and Bunny
A superhero show whose main character is a single dad trying to hold on to the glory of his early days while surrounded by younger teammates who basically treat him with contempt? Yes please. Lots of laugh-out-loud moments, including every time Kotetsu (the aforementioned main character) calls his new partner "Bunny."

Little Witch Academia
If you've ever asked yourself "what if Hogwarts was an all-girls school where everyone spoke Japanese?" then this show is your answer. It's totemo kawaii (very cute) but it has a slight winking edge to it that keeps it from being too sugary. I love Akko's various expressions and the fact that she can't ride a broom. In fact, being sort of a Muggle, she's not very good at magic altogether, but, like Naruto, she has an inspiring amount of delusional self-confidence.

Forest of Piano
After Your lie in April was done, I guess I needed another piano-related show to watch, so Netflix suggested this one. And it was good! Thanks to this show, I memorized one of my first non-number kanji characters, for the word "forest" (it basically looks like three trees). Season two is supposedly coming out later this month, so yay.

Lost Song
Okay, these comments are going to be a bit spoiler-y, so if you don't want to know, skip down to the next section.

All right, so this show starts off innocently enough. Like, you're pretty sure you know what you're getting, which is sort of a standard coming-of-age tale in a semi-medieval/fantasy setting that involves music as magic (hey, that idea sounds familiar). But then, about halfway through, it totally flips stuff around and messes with your mind to the extent that I was yelling "whoa, no way!" over and over again at my TV. Everything that you thought you knew about the show changes, and it's amazing. I was a bit disappointed when it was over after only 12 episodes, but it ended in a way that felt right - like, it was really the only way the story could end, and it happened at the proper moment. I don't think there's going to be another season, but I've heard that there might be a related project in the works.

Previous category A shows: Blue Exorcist, Your lie in April, Flavors of Youth (movie), Devilman Crybaby, Ouran High School Host Club

Category B: Tried To Get Into Them But Just Couldn't For Some Reason; Might Try Again Someday

Hey, guess what - there are no Category B shows this time around! The reason? My guess is that it's either: (1) Everything I tried watching held my interest from the get-go; (2) I was a little more patient and stuck around longer than in the past; or (3) The more anime I watch, the more I can kind of see where a particular show is trying to go with its direction, if that makes any sense. I think it's probably a combination of the three. With that in mind, I'm sure I'll be giving the previous category B shows (listed below) another chance one of these days - that is, if I haven't already found tons of other stuff to try (a distinct possibility).

Previous category B shows: The Disastrous Life of Saiki K., Children of the Whales, Seven Deadly Sins, Fullmetal Alchemist, Kill La Kill, Violet Evergarden, Gurren Lagaan, Attack on Titan

Coming up next week: yet another roundup post!