No.6 Manga

I really loved this manga! The gay love interest between Shion and Rat provides a strong emotional backbone for the story. However, the story is more than just a coming of age/romance story. At its core, this is a sci-fi manga that covers the dystopian city of No.6. The plot was concise, and the pacing of the manga was excellent. The core set of characters were diverse and played really well into the setting. On top of all that, the artwork in this manga is top beautiful making it an enjoyable series to read.

No.6, in my opinion, touched on some of the same themes as Full metal alchemist. The leaders of No.6 became blinded by power and the scientific inquiry that they committed grave crimes in the name of a pure ideal– protecting the Holy City. No.6’s city leaders killed hundreds, silenced dissidence, and intruded on citizens’ freedoms to protect the city. There was the mad scientist that killed thousands in the name of protecting the city. Similar to the themes in Fullmetal Alchemist, ideals that are taken way too far leads to destruction. Zealous devotion to either science or faith leads to bad things. In No.6, Shion teaches people that there is a third option between destroying the city and keeping the status quo — i.e., between Rat’s drive for revenge and the city officials, killing people of the West district and their citizens. It is with Shion at the end of the Manga that begins to rebuild the city with No.6 and the west district. Building a city that respects nature and does not discriminate against people outside of the city or against people who disagree with the government.

At the end of this story, I felt sad/happy/something, I almost broke into tears. It is sweet that Shion and Rat had a “Promise” kiss at the end, however, I wanted to see the two stay together and live happily ever after. Instead, Rat goes away to travel the unknown, and Shion is left in the city to rebuild. It was a happy ending, but… all that buildup for one kiss. I guess it leaves more for the imagination of what would happen in the future. I felt that way when I saw Gon and Killua separate at the end of the Hunger x Hunter anime. I know they would be reunited, but seeing them leave each other hurt.

Were Shion and Rat too different to remain together in the end? Rat said he was a wander, and Shion tended to cling to places. True, but Shion would have traveled, he said it himself, a life without you is a life not living. This manga was soo emotional, and the characters were captivating. Rat is the devious person with an air of mystery, and Shion being the pure sheltered person. Both characters change throughout the manga. Watching the mass murders changed Shion to the point where he ends up kills someone to save Rat. Rat changed from someone who only distrusts people to someone capable of love.

I think Shion and Rat’s characters bring up an interesting discussion about nature vs. nurture. Also, this can tie in with Dogkeeper’s character. These two were polar opposites in many regards. Shion being the light, having often naive ideals and outlook on the world. Shion was overly trusting of people, which put him in danger in West block. Was Shion “naive” way because of his upbringing? Being born in No.6, having a loving mother, never really facing any hardships, it is easy to say that this had a factor. However, even among the No.6 residents, Shion was particularly nice, even his mother was. It appears that most citizens in No.6 are nice in this way. What sets Shion apart from the rest of the citizens is that Shion is genuinely nice, where the rest of the citizens only put on a show facade of being good people. When he learned about the dark side of No.6, Shion fought it, where other residents just ignored it.

Rat is slow to trust, and he believes that the ends justify the means. Rat believes that destroying No.6 is worth it as long as it brings an end to the injustice that No.6 creates. Where Shion initially believed that bloodshed is always wrong no matter the cause. Rat doesn’t know exactly how to quantify Shion, often saying “is he even human” to himself. Maybe Rat believes that Shion is like an angel. Rat tries to protect Shion’s innocence. When at the correctional facility, Rat stops Shion from killing two different people. However, in the end, Shion ends up killing someone to save Rat’s life. The correctional facility changed Shion, after seeing a literal mountain of bodies, pain, and blood beyond imaginable, Shion changes. He doesn’t turn bitter and hate the world, but, he emerges as a man of action– proving to Rat that his words aren’t just shallow. At times throughout the Correctional facility, Shion almost kills himself. Once after seeing the mountain of bodies. Another time after Seeing the hologram of Safu and destroying Mother — the AI entity that NO.6 tried to create. After that misfortune, Shion became decisive and moved onwards. He stitched up Rat, and left an exploding building. Once rat was better, Shion and Rat didn’t go back to West Block to be safe, but instead went downtwon to put an end to the violence. Shion was able to calm the crowd and get Rat inside the Mayers office to stop Elyurias.

With all that said, nature vs. nurture? Are the people in No.6 better people since they had a better upbringing, or is their pompous upbringing at the cost of others in the west district bloody their hands? Most people in No.6 are innocent like Shion. Due to their environment, people in the West district commit crimes to survive– but does that make them bad people? These people are distrustful, like Rat. People like Rikiga (the old journalist turned porno mag) who is a sleazy drunk. Would all these people be different if they had the luxury of No.6? Dogkeeper puts on a hard exterior, but, on the inside, she is really a nice person. Interestingly, Dogkeeper was literally raised by Dogs– similar to Inosuke in Demon Slayer being raised by Boars. Characters like this only really work in fictional pieces. But, they illustrate how people born with nothing can still be good. I don’t think No.6 provides any clear answers but, it poses a good way of thinking about how your environment affects how people behave and what they value.

This isn’t the only Anime to bring up this idea. Older manga like Bleach dabbled with the problems with poverty– consider the Rukon district in the Soul Society. In Bleach, royalty was in more of a negative light than the lower class since they were completely disconnected from reality at times. In both Bleach and No.6, the lower class had more criminals but were at its core good people. Newer animes like Black Clover also look at social classes and how it huts the lower class. No.6, with its dystopian spin on things, makes this discussion a bit more salient.

Overall: highly recommend the read.

Black Clover

Black Clover is the amalgamation of nearly every shounen trope to date. However, it managed to do so while not feeling forced nor awkward. It used the tropes that worked well, and it paid off in the show. I certainly wouldn’t call it a pioneer in the anime landscape. But, it did create a series that was highly enjoyable and well worth the watch.

The pacing of the anime was really good. There was no filler and battles never took an absorbant about of episodes — looking at Bleach’s Aizen Arc and Hunter x Hunter’s Chrimea Ant arc. But, that may change with the season and the impending battle against the Dark Triage in the spade kingdom.

The animation of Black Clover has gotten quite a bad reputation among the community. The biggest problem is that the show airs every week so they have consistency issues. Some episodes are really good where some episodes have battles that are really choppy. As the season went on, the animation did improve. Episode 170 and the episodes leading up to that one had some really great animation in the action scenes.

I could sit here and say the show was about overcoming adversity, friendship, becoming stronger, facing evil, but those are all sprinkled in most shounen anime series. At least, the show’s messages didn’t feel new or fresh.

Black Clover got a lot of inspiration from Bleach. The Squad Captains in the Clover kingdom are analogous to the Gotei 13 from Bleach and the Hashira from Demon Slayer. Asta fighting his inner demon is similar to Ichigo fighting his inner Hollow: they had to fight and defeat their inner “demon” to wield its power to the full extent.

The show follows Asta and Yuno: the two orphan peasants from a small town trying to make it big to prove that people are capable of anything despite where they were born. Again not unique since there was similar class friction within Bleach’s Soul Society. However, with Black Clover, this point is more salient and present throughout the series. In the Clover Kingdom, people in nobility are born with more mana (magic powers) therefore they don’t have to work as hard as the peasants who have less mana. That is why it is shocking when two peasants prove them wrong by joining the Royal Knight Squads and become an icon for others to follow. Later on, in the show we find out that Yuno is actually the refugee price of the Spade kingdom – thus explaining his incredible magic power, yet dulling the point they were making about peasants rising to power. Which, then just leaves us with the magicless boy Asta and the rest of the Black Bulls. Through hard work and rigorous training, they saved the kingdom on multiple occasions and are slowly changing people’s minds about the “importance” of nobility.

I’m not sure if all of this is just to say that life isn’t fair and that you have to work twice as hard as others to get to where you want to be. As annoying of a character Asta was in the beginning, we grow to love him throughout the season because he is caring, goofy, and above all else is an incredibly hard worker who won’t give up.

black clover meme about asta screaming

Is Content King?

Back when I first started creating websites, I first heard the saying “CONTENT IS KING.” It doesn’t matter if you have the fanciest website, or if you have the best tech stack, if you don’t have any content, nobody will view your website. This holds true in so many fields. Youtube, photography, programming, art, social media. Simply put, if you don’t have quality content out there, people won’t find or recognize you.

However many people balk at this phrase, it remains a salient point of discussion in 2021. For most individuals, the discussion around the debate is quality vs. quantity. Where for companies, the interesting debate is around shifting paradigms with media ownership and distribution.

Quality vs. Quantity

There is an inverse relationship between quality and quantity of content one creator can produce. The best advice that I have received and would give to others is that when you start out, prioritize quantity to improve your skills and then slowly shift over to quality. Although you may think that this advice is all circumstantial, it actually applies in most fields. Consider photography if you want to get noticed and improve your skills. You have to take photos daily. You can obviously keep all your photos to yourself and never share anything, but that doesn’t help you in the long run. Sharing content created as frequently and as early on as possible is beneficial because it starts your network, and it allows you to receive feedback on your work. Additionally, publishing work in an open medium is a great way to get and stay motivated.

What about programming? Same thing, the code you write and publish to Github will be trash at first, but it will build your portfolio and give you experience with open source development. When hiring, I would always go with the person with more visible experience that has shown growth and development rather than someone with only one project — despite how good that one project may be. Content is king. Experience allows you to hone your skills and constantly improve.

Blogging? You bet your ass content is king. Obviously, there is a minimum bar you should exceed to publish something. It is better to start fast and write more good posts than hope Google will bless the one excellent post you wrote to grow a website. That is how the algorithms work.

You can also see this on Youtube. Creators that publish frequently are more viewed. Those that don’t upload often lose their fan base. However, there are some exceptions where creators can infrequently publish yet receive millions of views when they do. But, in those cases, these creators are always creating top-notch content.

Media Shifts

Content is king, yes. Period. However, how do companies get content? There are three main types of media: owned, paid, and earned. The first two are obvious. Owned media is media that you produce and own fully. Paid media is where you pay someone or another company to lend you media. Earned media is media that comes to you. IE: someone writing about your site or users posting on your site.

Social media and other websites have made a stupid amount of money with earned media. Consider Youtube; it is entirely community-driven. Although Youtube does enable you to place ads on your videos, making them quasi-paid media. And, they do have some owned media with their new efforts with Youtube originals.

Another prime example of this is with Netflix and the streaming war. Initially, Netflix was solely a company that distributed DVDs and then a service that streamed movies. However, when other streaming services cropped into the market, Netflix realized that it was more advantageous to produce their own media.

Where does the leave us? It is not necessarily that any one of these media types is leaving, but that all types of media are increasing because media is the only commodity that is served on the internet. Content is king.

Fahrenheit 451

“Literature is the most agreeable way of ignoring life”

How can a book like Fahrenheit 451 stay relevant after being published over sixty years ago? It is well known that comedy ages fast due to the shifting culture from generation to generation; however, do allusions in fictional literature have to face the same fate as comedy? Is it the use of universal allusions towards the Bible and mythology that makes Fahrenheit 451 relevant, or is it the timeless debate it ignites over ignorance and dystopian societies?

What purpose do the Bible and religion serve in Fahrenheit 451? Is religion good for society? Was religion portrayed in a positive or negative light in this book? Can anybody use the Bible to fit their purpose? Can it be argued that the pulpy commercialized version of Jesus was only used to control people? Does this bear any resemblance to what Carnegie in the movie Book of Eli tried to do? Is Montag pleased after going through a set of hardships like Job did in the Bible? Does Montag resemble the preacher in Ecclesiastes? Was Montag a successful preacher at spreading literature to others? Was Montag ever able to clear the Tower of Babel in his own head? Is it reasonable to say that religion was destroyed since only the Book of Ecclesiastes was preserved? Do you need to have the entire book for its full meaning to be passed on? Will the Bible ever lose relevance in society? If the Bible or Shakespeare were to be updated to more closely resemble the modern English language, would its meaning be transformed? Would it be ethical to do? Does the King James version of the Bible convey its message exactly the way the original version did? Was anything lost in translations? Does literature have a half-life? Why is it that the older a book is, the harder it is to understand? If that is the case, then why is the Bible still relatively easy to read and understand? Will Montag and the group of professors have to do their own rewriting of the Bible? Is it the wording or meaning behind a work of literature that makes it so meaningful? Does the extent to which its meaning is transformed vary between the Bible and a work of Shakespeare? Would future rewrites of the Bible render the allusions in Fahrenheit 451 indistinguishable?

Is ignorance good? Do we keep ourselves willfully ignorant over what we do not want to deal with? Does ignorance make us happy? Who was happier, Mildred with her artificial family or Montag bearing the burning burden of knowledge? Is knowledge worth more than ignorance and happiness? Is it ethical for the government to keep us ignorant about a situation if it means that we will remain happy? Did the government keep people ignorant about the consequences of war to keep the masses happy or maintain control? Would our government do the same thing? If everyone is ignorant, then who runs the country? Is it even possible to keep everyone as ignorant in the information age as they are in Fahrenheit 451? Does the information age lead to different types of ignorance? Are we in our own ways ignorant to things happening outside of our own bubbles? Is it possible not to be ignorant? What is the difference between willful ignorance and just being ignorant? Were the masses in the book ignorant or willfully ignorant? Why is willful ignorance so dangerous? Does willful ignorance burn away at society’s achievements? How would you measure society’s achievements? If you measure achievement in people’s happiness, then is it better to be ignorant? Could everybody be willfully ignorant? If you chose not to know something, are you really ignorant of it? To what extent does turning your nose to something hinder your knowledge of it? Did Beatty choose to stay ignorant of the benefits of books to rationalize his job? How is Beatty’s ignorance different from the ignorance of the depraved youth in this society? Did Mildred’s friends only cry and get upset at Montag when he read Dover Beach because they wanted to stay ignorant, or was the realization of their ignorance emotionally too much for them? Why is ignorance a universal topic to write about? Will we always have an issue with ignorance?

How long will Fahrenheit 451 stay relevant? Does the book retain its full meaning without any of the allusions making sense? Will we ever win the battle against ignorance? Does knowledge really equate to power or just the illusion of it?

Demon Slayer: Work of Art

Shortly after watching this youtube video by Gigguk, I decided to watch Demon Slayer season one. I was immediately hooked on the anime. There was an emotional story, and above anything else, the artwork and animation were off the charts. I am truly amazed at how far animation has gotten in the last ten years. We went from “cartoons” to stunning works of art. And the amazing thing is that Demon Slayer is not an isolated incident. Other new shounen titles like Jujutsu Kaisen and My Hero Academia continue to push the medium to greater heights.

As Gigguk said in his video, it’s not that Demon Slayer is unique in the genre or has an incredible story; it is that the execution is perfect, and the animation brings it to a whole other level. The anime got me so enthralled that I ended up purchasing the manga just to learn what happens next– since there was just one season released.

The artwork in the manga was also good; Koyoharu Gotouge has a real knack for style. However, the manga can’t really hold a candle to the anime in this case. Not because the manga wasn’t good, it was great, but because the anime was really well executed. Plus, action in manga can sometimes be tough to follow — especially when every demon has a special fighting ability.

After catching up with the manga, I don’t know exactly how I feel about the story as a whole. One part of me wishes that it would run longer since I feel like there are aspects of the story that Gotouge didn’t have time to flesh out. However, on the other hand, I can understand how having this anime run for much longer would make it feel even more repetitive than it already is. The story follows a pattern of: big battle, recovery, training, next battle. Repeat. In each of these cycles, the characters get stronger, and the stakes get larger– typical shounen anime plot. I appreciate how much time the anime spends in the training/recovery phases since it allows for character development that doesn’t feel forced. Bleach suffered since it simply had the characters stuck in continuous battle rather than give them time resting between arcs — but that’s my hot take.

Overall, I would definitely recommend everyone watching Demon Slayer. With the upcoming movie (Mugen Train) release in the US and season two coming out sometime this/next year, I see this anime becoming a mainstream icon.

Here is a funny recap video to watch:

Hunter X Hunter: 1999 Version

After watching the 2011 version of the anime Hunter X Hunter, I was hesitant as to whether or not I should also watch the 1999 version of the anime. With the two adaptations of Fullmetal Alchemist, there was a significant difference in the story — especially at the end. However, with Hunter X Hunter, these adaptations cover the same material in the manga with the 2011 version adapting more arcs.

Nerveless, I ended up watching the 1999 adaptation along with the OVAs that went through the Greed Island arc. Although these versions were near-identical in terms of story, there are still plenty of things in the 1999 version that was not in the 2011 adaptation.

To start the anime, there was about an episode of so of extra content in the 1999 anime going into more detail into Gon’s background before he leaves Whale island. In my opinion, this is great for character development because we are introduced to Kite, and it gives more depth to how Gon knows about his father Gin and why he wants to become a Hunter. In the 2011 edition, you are just sorta told, “yeah, this 12-year-old kid wants to be a Hunter because his dad he never met was”. With the 1999 opening, you get a better idea of why Gon idolizes hunters and why he wants to become one so bad.

The 1999 edition had an additional mission in the hunter arc with the ship and storm. Although it isn’t that missed in the 2011 edition, this mini phase had some great character development. Other than that, many one-off scenes were included in the 1999 edition that wasn’t in the 2011 edition. Stylistically the two shows were vastly different. The 2011 version is very bright and colorful, where 1999 had a darker color palette — typical animation for its time. I enjoyed the 1999 animation because it made me nostalgic for the old Pokémon videos I would watch as a kid. Also, seeing the dated technology in the 1999 version is entertaining.

The 1999 version can be weird at times…

I was fine with Killua’s DUB, but it was irking to hear Gon’s voice be so low in the 1999 DUB. No matter how Hisoka came off to you as in the 2011 version, he is definitely 10x creepier in the 1999 version. Plus, there are some out there scenes for a shounen — like the one where Killua watches porn in the hotel room.

If your not a huge fan of HXH, it probably isn’t worth the time to watch the entire adaptation. But, if you want to check out the content in the 1999 version that isn’t in the 2011 edition, you should at least watch these episodes:

  • E1 – A Boy Setting Out for a Journey x Leaving Behind the Sound of the Wind
  • E11 – Explore x Sports Spirit x Stowaway
  • E12 – Good Boy? x Bad Boy? x Trap
  • E18 – Treasure x Memory x Hotel Room
  • E19 – Separation x Diary x Water Inflow
  • E20 – Giant Wave x Cannon x Huge Rush
  • E47 – Father X Secret x Confession

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip Dick can definitely go down on the list of things you must read to be cultured. This was a short book; however, what it does with those pages, achieves more than several novels that I have read.

This book is popularly known as being the base material for The Blade Runner films. Although the general premise is the same in both the book and movies, there are significant differences between the two. The biggest difference is that the book focuses on a religion called Mercerism. I don’t think focusing on this would have made the movie more interesting; however, it certainly made the book more interesting. Nevertheless, the core discussion of the book revolves around the morality of killing a robot that has human-like consciousness. This discussion is made even more interesting because the main character, a bounty hunter hunting robot, is himself a robot and yet not aware of it.

According to the main character(who is a robot), androids have no empathy making them cold machines that need to be put down. Additionally, he believes that robots don’t have any love for animals -which are held sacred in this post-apocalypse world- and robots won’t do anything to help each other. The test used to determine if someone is a robot measures their reflexes to emotionally stimulating questions. However, this notion of human vs. robot breaks down as the story progresses. If robots don’t have empathy for each other, why is a group of escaped robots protecting each other? If robots can never care for animals, why does the main character spend an absorbent amount of money buying a goat that he spent years dreaming about– to replace his electric sheep.

If robots are empathetic like humans, what rights do we give them? What rights do we give other people? In the book, “specials” were people with mental defects due to the radioactive dust on the earth. These specials were treated as outcasts in society and barred from having kids. Like the androids, the Specials were treated like trash because society views them as inferior to humans. In the book, Mercerism (their religion) suggests that what makes a human is our common plight. To fight adversities by climbing the metaphorical mountain, constantly getting pelted by rocks, yet continue.

At the end of the bounty hunter’s ordeal of killing the newly escaped robots, he ends up questioning his own morality– he is still unaware he himself is an android. Isn’t questioning morality and other philosophical debates the most quintessentially human thing to do?

Hunter X Hunter: Finding a Purpose

There are very few shounen anime that can hold a candle to Hunter X Hunter in narrative and character development. The series hits on so many themes such as friendship, redemption, enlightenment, and revenge. But, nothing stood out to me quite as much as the notion of ‘finding a purpose’ brought up throughout the season with Killua.

Shounen characters’ ambitions tend to be grandiose and often over the top. Take Black Clover, for example; Asta and Yuno both want to become the wizard king. Or, consider Midoriya in My Hero Academia that wants to become the GREATEST superhero in the entire world. Even characters within Hunter X Hunter have backstories that set them their respective goals. Kurapika is the lone survivor of a genocide leading him on a path towards revenge. Leorio grew up poor and was unable to save his best friend from dying, leading him to become a Hunter to attend medical school and save others. Gon’s father abandoned him as a child leading him to follow in his footsteps and become a Hunter.

Although an epic backstory will motivate characters throughout a story, that isn’t how life works. This then leads us to Killuas’ character which although has a big backstory, doesn’t give Killua’s a quest to chase after. Early on in the show, Gon asked Killua why he wanted to become a Hunter, and he said that he thought that the exam would be fun. Killua was raised by a family of assassins that pushed their ideals and aspirations onto Killua. However, Killua shared none of these aspirations. He did now want to become an assassin, so he ran away.

We see real development with Killua’s character. At the beginning of the show, Killua could best be described as a psychopath bearing little value on life and the ones around him. He was brainwashed from a young age to care about nothing but his family and that he didn’t need any friends. However, by the end of the exam arc, he replied that he wants to be Gon’s friend when asked what he wanted by his narcissistic older brother Illumi. Illumi proceeded to tell Killua that nobody would be friends with him and that he should return home.

Gon, Kurapica and Leorio end up chasing after Killua and rescuing him from his family. After the Zoldic Arc, Gon and Killua go to Whale island to visit Gon’s family. Killua expresses to Gon that he doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life. Gon replies that they should spend time together while searching for Gon’s father because they enjoy spending time together and that along the way, Killus can search for what he wants to do. This is how it remains until the end of the election Arc when Killua decides that his purpose, for the time being, would be to protect his sister from the rest of his family.

This plot obviously isn’t too deep; however, the execution is excellent, and it resonates throughout the story since Killua’s character development serves as the emotional backbone of Hunter X Hunter. Everyone throughout their life needs to decide what they want to do with their life. More often than not, this choice is thrust upon the character in fiction with an over-the-top backstory. However, having a clear purpose in life isn’t always given; you need to seek it out. For Killua, he found purpose and fulfillment in protecting his friends, and in the end, doing the same thing but with his sister.

This Is How You Lose the Time War

Yesterday I finished the book “This is How You Lose the Time War” by Alal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. I bought the book on a whim since I’ve heard really good praise on it. I started reading the book, and I was immediately confused for the first ten pages. It was very poetic, yet mysterious and it can catch you off guard if you didn’t at least read the back of the book. Essentially there are two sides of an epic war where each side has the ability to control time and space. The character Red was created by an AI singularity– led by someone called “Commandant”. The other main character is called Blue and is an agent created by an entity called the Garden which is a vast consciousness embedded in all organic beings.

The entire notion of two sides fighting each other through the depths of time and space, vying for a better position is fascinating. This alone could make for a thrilling action or fantasy story. But, instead, this was a poetic book about two star-crossed overs from different sides of this epic battle. Each page pulls you deeper into this mysterious premise and every letter exchanged between these two characters emotionally attaches yourself to the characters.

I feel like this book worked so well since it was in fact different from most other books I have read. A lot of books have poetic phrases, etc, but few compose themselves entirely as poetry. At first, it is confusing yes, but as you go on everything starts to click into place, and the story builds to a magnificent climax at the end. However, I don’t think that this poetic prose of writing would work as well if it was a full-length novel.

The main takeaway from this I believe is that love transcends all boundaries. It didn’t matter that Red and Blue were mortal enemies fighting on different sides of a bloody war, their love still persisted. In the end, Red and Blue are reunited and form their own threads of time-space. Their goal is to forge a place where they could live in unity– despite doing so also means fighting the two sides they defected from. But, that is how you win the time war, together. Does love always win? Does Red and Blue actually win? This book doesn’t offer concrete answers, but at the very least this book suggests that it wasn’t disjoint sides with heterogeneous beliefs that win the time war, it is together we win.

At least, that is what I took out of the book. Beautiful love story. It was a quick read, but well worth it.