Thirteen Reasons Why

Thirteen Reasons Why was initially published as a novel by Jay Asher in 2007 and then later turned into a Netflix original series in 2017. This is a particularly hard book to review due to the outrage and support it has sparked since its release.

With that said, I feel like it is worth taking a deeper look into. The Netflix series had amazing cinematography and was overall produced well. The novel told the story via two simultaneous narratives, with Hanna on the tapes and Clay Jenson providing live feedback. This was an interesting way to tell a story like this since most dual narratives in print media are separated by chapters instead of being interwoven. The novel only spanned the night that Clay listened to the tapes, where the Netflix series dragged out the time that Clay listened to the tapes and had him interact with the other people on the tapes. This change was obviously done to make the show more compatible with the format.

Why the hate for Thirteen Reasons Why? This all boils down to whether the series did a good job at portraying suicide, rape, and mental illness. After a first viewing of the show, and reading the book I would have to say that it did an “ok” job at portraying these subjects. It invites a discussion around suicide and what we can do to help people dealing with mental health. Although it uses one-dimensional tropes found in your typical angsty American high school drama, it gets the message across.

However, doing an “ok” job isn’t good enough because portraying these things in the wrong way can encourage suicide among people at risk — which happens to be the target demographic. According to experts, you should not sensationalize, romanticize or portray suicides as heroic. Does Thirteen Reasons Why do any of these things? Well… the Netflix documentary definitely does a lot more sensationalizing than the original novel did, often using gory imagery of Hanna’s death. The original novel only briefly mentioned how the suicide happened, and it didn’t go much into the details.

This all isn’t to say that media shouldn’t discuss suicide — experts say that it is important to have more stories about both suicide and suicide survivors.

There should be MORE stories about suicide survivors and MORE stories about suicide, but the emphasis should ALWAYS be on suicide prevention, awareness, and support.

In the novel, it was explicit that there were people who were willing to help Hanna, but she pushed them away– like Clay. Moreover, other people failed to see the warning signs of her suicide–Tony. This all emphasizes the importance of awareness, support, and prevention. It would be acceptable to have peers who are ignorant about suicide, but it sends the wrong message when Mr. Porter, who was supposed to be the trained expert, could not give Hanna the help that she needed after she reached out to him.

The novel finished with Clay ignoring class to run after Skye to talk with her since she has been showing suicidal tendencies. Great way to end since it focused on what we should be doing to be aware of mental health and how we can support others. The Netflix adaptation decided to thicken the plot and add a second season that focused on bringing justice to Bryce: the serial rapist. Rather than focus on suicide prevention, the Netflix series turned Hanna’s death into a heroic act that was used to bring down Bryce.

Most of the hate that Thirteen Reasons Why has received is solely due to the glamorization and messages introduced in the Netflix adaptation. This is a shame because the Novel has real potential to connect with teenagers and send a good message.

Anyone who is suicidal may receive immediate help by logging onto or by calling 1-800-SUICIDE. Suicide is preventable, and if you are feeling suicidal, you must get help. So please visit or call 1-800-SUICIDE immediately.

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie

Cowboy Bebop, the movie, definitely lives up to the reputation of the anime. The plot follows the Bebop crew as they foil the plans of a biological terrorist using nano technology developed in secret by the martian government.

The terrorist (Vincent) was an ex-military member used as a Guinea pig for anti-nano technology. The particular nanotechnology that he got infected with completely wiped out his memories. This led Vincent down a dangerous path where he questioned his very nature of being believed that he was trapped in a dream. Vincent believed that the only way to escape this dream would be to be the last one standing: ie kill everyone else with nanotechnology.

The very notion of being in a dream and not “living” is reminiscent of the themes in the rest of the anime. In fact, during the show, Spike said that he and Vincent aren’t all that different since they have both died before — in this case, a spiritual death rather than a physical one. For Spike, he died when he fled the crime Syndicate, leaving behind the love of his life.

More recently, Mugen Train explored dreams in an Inception fashion way. But, all this begs the question of what happens when you can’t trust the very nature of your reality? Do we use dreams as a fantasy, a way of escaping reality since the world is too cruel to accept?

Cowboy Bebop

Cowboy Bebop is an anime amalgamation of multiple genres that stands the test of time and still feels fresh over two decades after being produced. There is nothing not to love about this anime.

The action is decent– especially considering the time it was produced. The characters are funny and relatable. The episodic nature of the anime made it a easy show to watch one at a time on lunch break. However, my favorite aspect of this show was how distinctive yet familiar the show felt.

Cowboy Bebop incorporates aspects of the western, sci-fi, and noir genres, making the show feel very fresh. Although the show is sci-fi with space-battles, high science concepts like transplanting your brain into cyberspace, Cowboy Bebop is not a dystopia. In fact, it feels more like a snapshot of the ’90s rather than a dystopian future. At its core, Cowboy Bebop is a story about people, not about science; technology merely serves as a backdrop for the story.

The core story carries strong noir and western themes. The crew of the Bebop are searching for meaning in their lives, yet are shackled by their past. The episodic nature of the show illustrates how easy it is to fall into a slump. The only character progression we get is with the few episodes where people from the characters’ past are brought in.

Jet was holding onto a past relationship that had long gone –literally carrying an old broken pocket watch. It wasn’t until the episode where Jet confronted Allisa and saw that she had moved did he realize that his idealized version of the past never existed in the first place.

Faye was literally frozen, unable to move forward. It wasn’t until Faye regained her memories of the past she was able to move onwards. Returning to her home and realizing that she has nothing to go back to make her realize that she had everything she wanted with the crew of the Bebop.

Spike used to be a member of a powerful crime syndicate called the Red Dragons. Spike later fell in love with Julia and made a plan to leave the syndicate with her. However, in the process, he nearly dies and is plagued by his past the rest of the series. In the final episode after Julia is killed, Spike decides to confront his past and take down his rival Vicious. When leaving the Bebop, he tells this to Fay while she pleads with him to stay:

Look at my eyes, Faye. One of them is fake cause I lost it in an accident. Since then, I’ve been seeing the past in one eye, and the present in the other, so I thought I could only see patches of reality, never the whole picture. I felt like I was watching a dream I’d never wake up from… Hmp. Before I knew it, the dream was all over. I’m not going there to die; I’m going to find out if I’m really alive. I have to do it, Faye.

This is not a happy story. It is not a happy ending. But, by facing his past in a blatant suicide mission, Spike was finally able to get closure and move forward with his life, breaking the monotonous cycle.

Seven Days

This was one of my first LGBTQ romance mangas apart from No.6. The entire thing was relatively straightforward. Not too memorable. It would be unfair to compare it to No.6 since No.6 had more volumes to do character and world development. For being a sort of romance story, it did a great job. The artwork was nice; however, it was a little confusing to follow– possibly bad translations.

The general premise of the manga is that the main character Shino falls in love with another mal high school student named Seryo. However, Toji Seryo is an oddball in that he dates people exactly one week before deciding whether or not he fell in love. Being popular with the ladies at his high school Seryo is nearly always dating someone — again, just for one week. In addition, Seryo always says yes to the first person to ask him out on Monday morning. The story starts with Shino asking Seryo out, and they have exactly one week to fall in love.

Mulan: Another Live-Action Remake

Ignoring all the controversy around the production and cast of Mulan, it is arguably a good show. But was a live-action re-make necessary in the first place?

I grew up watching Disney movies. Disney played a huge role in carving the animation landscape in the United States. With Disney owning a large swath of intellectual property, much of it both iconic yet aging, it isn’t surprising that they would remake the classics. Over the last three years, Disney has made live-action versions of the Lion King, Aladin, and now Mulan.

I’m not going to say that these shows are bad. In fact, it demonstrates how much technology has advanced. I was hesitant when I heard “live-action Lion King,” but I was blown away by the computer graphics. But again, were these even necessary? The remakes followed the same plot as the originals, and the originals haven’t even aged poorly; in fact, many may even argue that the originals are better in some regards

Obviously, this is a cash grab by Disney looking to cash in our nostalgia. However, if we were to do a remake, why wasn’t it an animated remake? The Lion King lost its charm and innocence when the animals weren’t cute animated creatures but straight-up beasts. Mulan changed from a fun childish cartoon to a war movie. This isn’t to say that animations are solely for children– in fact, there are many cartoons just for adults. But, considering Disney’s target demographic being families, it is confusing why they decided to go live rather than stay animated.

Yet another question, why re-make old stuff? Disney could have definitely decided to make sequels or continue the story in some other way. In some cases, remaking makes sense: like with the 2011 version of Hunter X Hunter remaking the 1999 version. The HXH remake was done to preserve a congruent art style when they adapted more volumes. If Disney had the same goal in mind, they would have also re-done Lion King 2, etc. But, instead, they just remade the first ones.

Maybe I’m being too cynical. Nostalgia for nostalgia sake is not always a bad thing.

Demon King Diamo

Overall, Demon King Diamo is a mediocre anime that doesn’t really hold a candle to more mainstream titles like Attack on Titan or Demon Slayer. However, it does achieve a lot in its short run. I was pretty frustrated with all the “Fan Service” in the show, and I found the characters to be pretty one-dimensional or cliche. With the show only lasting 14 episodes, it isn’t easy to have genuine character development like Killuah in Hunter X Hunter. But, back to the fan service… it was quite intensive. Intensive to the point where I would definitely not recommend this show to anyone new to anime in fear of scaring them away from the genre permanently. Every character, even the male character Hiroshi, swooned for the protagonist Akuto.

What did the show have to say? It touched on topics such as God, creation, and destiny. Along the lines, it talked about what is good. Not extremely different from the themes in Angel Beats. Moreover, this show was heavily influenced greatly by Harry Potter and the Matrix. Harry Potter in terms of the school for magic, the train station…etc. And the matrix in terms of the cycle of anomalies. Neo is analogous to the demon king in this case. IE: an anomaly created by the “system” which is meant to rebel and eventually fail– thus somehow keeping balance.

But, the conundrum faced by both shows is the question of whether it is better to go along with a corrupt system in the name of justice or is it better to destroy the very fabric of the system and rebuild but along the way cause a lot of death and destruction. In the series, the protagonist appeared to be a just character, determined to be a force of good. However, he was fated by a magic hat-like thing (exactly like harry potter) to become the demon king. It isn’t clear if the system ie god is making the prophecy and ensuring it comes true or if it is actually just a really good best guess. However, seeing that the predictions have never been wrong, it suggests that these are actually pre-determined fates. Whether this is because humans have no free will or if it is because the system is enforcing these fates is yet unknown. Nevertheless, it is an interesting shallow dive exploration into this concept.

In the end, the protagonist Akuto defeats his foes and gets to face god. But he didn’t end up killing god. Instead, everyone’s memories are slightly altered after the grandiose grand battle, and they start attending school again. The hat was placed on the protagonist’s head, and guess what: he is fated to be the demon king again. I feel like this illustrates the cyclical nature of human existence. Or maybe he is fated this way because he hasn’t finished his task to change the system he desired to change.

Another interesting thing to note is that although the “system” was a superintelligent AI that protected humans from other species that would kill them if discovered, the AI/system was made out to be a God by humans. People prayed to it. It enforced its will upon the people. And even the representation of it in the final battle made it an actual god-like entity rather than a computer system. If it was actually a computer system, it looked very divine as a white ball of light in a temple-like structure. This makes the parallel to Angel Beats, where purgatory was no more than a computer system that they were in– meaning that they could hack into it. But again, this narrative as God as technology vs. God as something incomprehensible to humans is interesting. Shows like Death Note have a God as a divine being, where Demon King Diamo and Angel Beats have god as a mere technological system. Moreover, there is a distinction between polytheistic and monotheistic beliefs within certain anime. Death Note had polytheistic deities, where Full Metal Alchemist had a singular god. This could also be due to the fact where the shows take place: Death Note taking place in Japan where Fullmetal Alchemist took place a german like country. We could also put the technology into this scale. If God is merely technology created, there is no singular God; in fact, there is no God as we know it in western society. If there are technology ruling humans, there could be other systems ruling other races of people. Or other simulations with their own gods.

But anyhoo, I’ll give that show overall a 6/10. There was way too much fan service. The plot tried to go deep but only scratched the surface. It gleaned over a broad scope of topics regarding God, power, and destiny. But, most of the big picture themes were saved for the last few episodes.

Attack on Titan: Season 4 Part One

Season 4 was shocking– nearly unidentifiable from season one. Rather than a story about saving humanity from man-eating monsters, Attack on Titan has become a complex geopolitical war thriller that touches on universal concepts of human nature and what it means to be free. There is nothing to not love about season 4. There is a lot to unpack from season 4, part one, and I don’t think a single post could ever do it justice.

No post about season 4 can avoid discussing the character transformation of Eren. Season 4 takes place four years after the conclusion of season three. And in that time Eren changed from a hurt angsty teenager to a cold-blooded war criminal who is willing to sacrifice everything to bring the end of titans.

This shocking change in Erin hurt me. We see the naïve shounen protagonist that we are all cheering for turn into a monster willing to kill civilians and even plans on using his powers to turn all eldians infertile in his euthanasia plan. Unlike the Game of Thrones ending where Daenerys Targaryen changed suddenly, the change of Erin felt natural since it makes sense given the context and it was foreshadowed.

It is prevalent for shounen protagonists to have a tragic back story. Consider Tanjiro in Demon Slayer or the Elric brothers in Fullmetal Alchemist. Despite tragic, painful backstories, the heroes never towards revenge or sinister because of their past. I was expecting the same thing to happen to Erin, he would come out of his funk and become the shounen character this genre expects, but I think it is too late for Erin to change.

Within the first few episodes of the first season, Erin had his home taken from him, watched his mom get eaten by a monster. All he had left were his two friends. But, the world is a cruel place, and Erin suffered more. Driven by the burning desire to kill titans, he joined the military at a young age and watched scores of men die gruesome deaths. These problems only became exacerbated by the fact that he himself inherited the powers of the founder titan from his father. No longer is he just a soldier; he bears the burden of protecting the entire island of Paradis from threats both foreign and domestic. On top of all that, he has faced betrayals from close comrades, and hundreds of people have died to save his life.

Simply put, it makes total sense that Erin would make the drastic change that he did in season 4. That puts the story in an interesting place since we no longer know who is right and who to cheer for. This is commonly known as the Rashomon effect, a story where from the view of each character, they are in the right. From this point of view, the story can discuss issues such as: human nature, genocide, freedom, war. Each of these topics themselves warrants a full blog post. Amazingly, Attack on Titan has managed to build up such a complex story with a vast set of characters while never feeling overbearing or disconnected.

Attack on Titan Season 3

This post is going to discuss through season three of Attack on Titan, spoilers warning.

Season one of Attack on Titan pulled you into the universe and captivated you. It was fast-paced, and the action was breathtaking. At first, I was hesitant about a show where you were fighting giants, but this blew away all my expectations and then some. It had me at the edge of my seat, yearning to see where this story would take it. Season two slowed down a bit and built up the supporting characters in an emotional way.

Season three. Season three was a piece of art. It had great action, and it was emotionally thrilling at the same time. This was no longer your typical shounen title. It elevated itself to be on the same level as Fullmetal Alchemist. And to understand why it is worth it to look at the world-building and the nuanced discussion of themes discussed during the show.

Attack on Titan could have easily fallen into tropes and had a very one-dimensional antagonist. It is quite literally in the title of the show; they are fighting titans. Titans = bad. End of the story. However, as the show goes on, the plot thickens. And oh boy, does the plot thicken. Yes, season one had us fighting giants, but there was always an era of mystery to it. Why did Eren turn into a titan? What are all these flashbacks about? What is in the basement? Who is trying to destroy the wall? What was once a one-dimensional villain became anything but that.

After learning about the Eldian empire’s bloody rise to power with titans, the first kings’ pacifism and tyrannical rule, the genocide of the Eldian people by the Marley empire builds layered complexity to the antagonist. Who is in the right? What happens next, now that we learn that the biggest enemy is not Titans but a hostile country that has far superior technology. How does Eldia recover after being isolate from the rest of the world for over 100 years? Was isolation their only option?

I loved the continual debate throughout the show about what it means to be free and live a life with meaning. The walls were described as a cage and the people cattle. Eren yearned to get outside of the walls to experience the vast world. To Eren and Armin, being free means experiencing the world. After learning all this Eren, he finished season three by saying this:

And just across that sea, freedom is waiting. That is what I always believed, at least. But I was wrong. I know what is across the sea now– it is our enemies. Everything we see is exactly as it was in my fathers’ memories… Hey, if we did cross the sea, and we killed our enemies; after that, would we finally be free?

— Eren

Demon Slayer: Mugen Train

If you haven’t seen it, watch it. It just came out in theaters in the US. This movie was everything that I expected it to be, more or less from reading the manga in advance. Ufotable did an incredible job once again at animating this. Watching this in a theater gave an immersive experience with amazing sounds and stunning visualization.

Mugen Train was ideal for movie format since it was essentially a giant fight sequence. My one gripe with the manga is that there are chapter cuts and even volume cuts mid-fight. This is obviously a constraint of the medium; however, having an uninterrupted conclusive fight is a nice thing. What sets Mugen Train apart from other anime movies from My Hero Academia, Full Metal Alchemist, and Hunter X Hunter is that this movie is canon and is critical to the main plot. Most anime movies associated with a series are typically just a side quest with no consequence to the main plot. Maybe with the major success of Demon Slayer, there will be more movies like this. Demon Slayer definitely will set an example for the upcoming Jujutsu Kaisen and Attack on Titan movies.

Like I discussed in my prior post on Demon Slayer, this is an unapologetic shounen title. The premise and story are straightforward. Demons = bad; boys slay demons. But, what sets Demon Slayer apart from other shounen titles like Bleach is the flawless focused execution. The characters are balanced; there is funny banter; the fight sequences are phenomenal. Demon Slayer doesn’t need a deep or unique story to carry it.

Mugen Train is like an Avenger move: visually stunning, face-paced, and guaranteed to be a mainstream hit.

No.6 Anime

Oh boy, so No.6 has an anime adaptation. To put this review short, the first half was great, but the second half fell apart the ending was rushed. This adaptation would really have been a lot better if it had three more episodes.

Don’t get me wrong, the adaptation nor the plot wasn’t terrible. With only 11 episodes, there is little reason for you not to watch it if you are interested in LGBTQ or sci-fi dystopias. My gripe with the anime may merely be because I read the manga first.

Up until the end, the anime followed the manga pretty close. Things diverged after Shion and Rat find out about Safu and decide to infiltrate the correctional facility. In the manga, Rat, and Safu visit the cave people and the Elder after the Manhunt, and Shion and Rat were dumped in a massive body pile in the correctional facility. Rat and Shion end up visiting the cave people by crawling through a crack in the wall. Slight plothole here since it doesn’t make sense for there to be an exposed cave in the middle of the correctional facility leading to dissidents? The anime actually fix this issue by having Rat and Safu visit the Elder before the Manhunt. In the anime, Dogkeeper and Rikiga play a larger role in getting them deeper into the facility by gaining access to a terminal.

By moving the “cave people” placement and when Shion learns about Rat’s tragic backstory of being the lone survivor of a genocide that eliminated the “Forest People,” it lessens how emotional the entire correctional break-in is on Shion. In the manga, they took time to have Shion grieve as he witnessed a literal mountain of dead bodies and then learn about Rat. At one point in the manga, a victim even asks Shion to end his life because he was in so much pain. In fact, Shion comes to the edge of a mental breakdown multiple times and even contemplated ending his life. Since the anime pacing was way too fast, we don’t get to see as much of this, and instead, it jumps past all that important character development and land at a point where Shion instantly became decisive ok with killing.

The anime ends quite abruptly compared to the manga, which gave slightly more closure. In the anime, both Shion and Rat were shot and injured pretty badly while trying to flee to the ground floor to make their escape with Dogkeeper and Rikiga. Shion was shot in the heart while saving Rat, and it doesn’t look like he will make it. After fumbling to the ground floor, Shion is essentially passed out practically dead, and Rat won’t leave his side. So what happens? Their best friends, Dogkeeper and Rikiga, flat up, left them to die at the correctional facility. Dogkeeper saying something like, “the one with something to protect always loses.” After their best friends abandon them, Elyurias magically appears, heals both of them, finishes destroying the outer wall of No.6, and vanishes. The anime then goes to a cut scene where everyone is outside looking at the outer wall destroyed, and the very last thing we see is Rat kiss Shion with no dialog whatsoever — plus, the kiss was swift.

I’m not saying that the manga’s ended perfectly; it too was rushed, but it at least gave characters more time to process the events, and it gave more closure. In the manga, Shion wasn’t fatally shot; only Rat was. Rather than his friends abandoning him like in the anime, they all stuck together and made a daring entrance into No.6 to get Rat the medical treatment he needed. Rather than have Elyurias magically disappear, Rat and Shion went downtown to have Rat sing the song of wind to calms Elyurias and make a deal with her. The deal promised Elyurias that they would do better to protect the forest in the future. In the anime, all Elyurias did was exact revenge on No.6. By going downtown to face Elyurias, we actually face our antagonists — the mayor and the head researcher responsible for all the inhumane experimentation. The anime never even introduced us to the antagonists. In the anime, the enemy was always just “No.6”.

The ending in the manga gave more closure between Rat and Shion. They kissed, and Rat said that he promised to come back for him, but he wanted to do traveling. Shion, in the meantime, became responsible for rebuilding the city — specifically, he was in charge of revitalizing the forest.

The start of the anime was excellent. The visualization of the city, the technology, etc, were all excellent. It is a shame that they didn’t follow the manga closer because it would have had such a more satisfying ending than it did. Not to say it was bad if I didn’t read the manga, I probably wouldn’t have complained hence much. What is tragic is that it would have only required 1-2 more episodes to include everything that they left out from the manga.