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When I was putting together a list of science fiction related posts to share with you guys this month, I remembered back to a few years ago when one of my good friends from Gaia shared some of her work with me, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed.  One of those fanfics, a story about the british bastard bot Wheatley trying to befriend a scorned Chell, stuck out in my mind as a really touching, very well written piece, so I asked her permission to share it with you guys today.

Second class citizen
by Roz Sawyer

Finally, after so many trials and failures and near-death experiences, he had freedom and so did she. It had really come down to the wire, too. Almost literally, even. Now that they were out and putting as much distance between themselves and the facility as they possibly could in a day, Wheatley was still wondering what had made Chell hold onto him in the end, keeping him from flying off into outer space. Hadn’t he been absolutely monstrous to her? He’d even gone as far as throwing bombs at her, hurling verbal abuse just as rapidly while staring her in the face, but here she was carrying his once-again tiny little body across the vast expanse of golden yellow vegetation, showing no sign that she would drop him anytime soon. He’d tried asking her about it as soon as they were out of the lift shaft, but she’d just given him a strange, unreadable look that left him feeling particularly unfulfilled. He’d tried asking her about that, too, but before the question was out, something shuddered in the shed behind them and the door to the shaft opened back up to make way for the unwieldy and badly singed Weighted Companion Cube that Chell now carried on her back, tied up in the entirety of her jumpsuit.

They had been walking for what felt like hours to Wheatley, who hadn’t bothered to check his internal chronometer (he’d lost most of his faith in it some time ago, before all this had happened). It must have been a long while, though, because he could hear Chell’s labored breathing and he felt the change in her step as she walked. She was holding him sideways, the front of his spherical body pointing off to her right, so it wasn’t difficult at all for him to tilt his optic up to look her in the face. She was staring straight forward, hardly blinking and wearing the same face of determination he’d grown so accustomed to seeing on her. Her mouth was open, however, and she was taking very deep breaths. Wheatley had never seen her look so tired, but then again the air out here wasn’t swimming with adrenal vapor like the air in the facility. Chell would probably tire much quicker now that they were free.

“You look exhausted, luv.” Wheatley kept his optic on Chell’s face even as she looked down at him. Eye contact was important to humans, wasn’t it? “I think you should take a little rest. There’s no extra adrenaline to breathe in around here. You’re gonna start feeling tired like a regular human now.” He paused, the light in his optic shrinking to a pinprick. “Not that there’s anything irregular about you! Not at all! No, no, you’re a perfectly ordinary human.” Another pause. “Uh, I mean that nothing’s wrong with you! Except that bit of brain damage, yeah, but that doesn’t slow you down. No, you’re brilliant anyway. You’re irregular, but in a good way. Is this making any sense?”

Chell was still breathing hard, but the look in her eyes and the little nod of her head she gave him told Wheatley that she did, in fact, understand the meaning behind his rambling. His optic light returned to normal size.

“Good, good. I’m sorry if I offended you. Again. Really sorry. Also again. Now how about you have yourself a little sit-down over there.” He waved one of his handles up and down. “I saw a clear spot off that way. You should be able to see all around you in there, so there’s no chance of anything sneaking up on us. Unless it sneaks up from underground. Then we’d really be buggered, me and you.” He’d have continued if Chell hadn’t moved one hand up from around him and rested it just above his optic. Wheatley wasn’t sure what that gesture meant, but he stopped talking and caught sight of the slightest of smiles on Chell’s face when he did. He remained silent until she had walked them into the clearing, untying the jumpsuit from around her shoulders and waist to let down the immense Companion Cube and spreading the garment out to sit on. She set Wheatley in her lap as she rested her back against the cube, letting out another deep breath as an audible sigh.

A few minutes into her rest, Chell lifted Wheatley up to set him beside her on the outspread jumpsuit while she removed her long fall boots. Wheatley kept his optic trained on all the movement, watching as Chell undid the straps and slid the skin-tight boots off. The inner parts of the boots had left nasty red lines and blotches on her skin that Wheatley couldn’t help but recoil from.

“Oh, luv, those red spots look awful. Do they hurt?”

Chell hesitated before nodding her head up and down.

“Oh, they look like they really do. Are you happy to finally get those boots off?”

Another nod.

“Yeah, it really shows.” Chell lifted her eyebrows in mild surprise as Wheatley’s voice began to quiet down, his tone uncharacteristically somber. “Was that bothering you all the time you were testing? You could’ve said something, luv. Or, well, you know, jumped up and down and waved or something to get my attention.” He let out a simulated sigh. “Never mind. Forget it. Even if you did I wouldn’t have listened.” He lifted his optic back up to look Chell in the eye, his tone returning to normal. “And that’s why now I’m taking it upon myself to make things easier for you. So, let’s see what we can do about how painful it is to walk in those boots.” He looked around in all directions with Chell as his center point. When he spoke again there was a hint of what sounded like a smirk in his voice.

“Well I see something. It’s a pretty obvious one, if you ask me.” He gestured as best he could with his optic toward the Companion Cube. “What are you carrying all that extra weight around for, luv? That cube there weighs about…oh, I dunno, thirty pounds minimum? Giant thing. I can’t see why you’re lugging it around out here. There aren’t any test chambers outside the facility.” A beat. “And that’s a good thing. Very good.” He nodded his entire body emphatically to prove his point. “I can’t even see why She would give it back to you, either. Look at the condition it’s in. What happened to it? Did it fall out of orbit or something? Did they test Aerial Faith Plates with these things? It makes sense if you think about it, but I’m not exactly in any mood to think about space for a while.” He looked back up at Chell to see a melancholy expression on her face, which he took as his cue to move back to the subject at hand. “So, luv, as I was saying, why don’t you just get rid of the bloody thing and get on with…”

Wheatley cut himself off when he saw Chell’s expression change with remarkable speed. The sad, regretful look was instantly replaced with the most vicious glare she’d given him since he had been forcibly detached from the GLaDOS chassis. Wheatley could almost imagine the look in her eyes burning through his exterior with the intensity of a hundred – no, a thousand – Thermal Discouragement Beams. He involuntarily squeaked as his approximation of a pupil shrank to an almost invisible size once again.

“Or not! Or not! That’s just fine, as well! You know what? Forget I said anything. Forget I said anything at all since we sat down here. Except the part about wanting to make things easier for you. I meant that.”

Chell just rolled her eyes, a gesture Wheatley had grown accustomed to since they had met, and leaned back against the Companion Cube with her eyes shut.

“Oh yeah, it makes a pretty good back rest, doesn’t it? Hadn’t thought of that.”

Chell put a finger to her lips, her eyelids still closed, and Wheatley silenced himself with another sigh.

They traveled for a few more days – a length of time that Wheatley could see passing with his own optic – and in all that time Wheatley could not understand Chell’s reaction to his suggestion of letting the Companion Cube go. This time when he’d asked her about it she’d huffed at him and rolled her eyes, a much more vehement non-answer than his previous questions had gotten. Since then he’d tried to distract himself with other concerns, like the lack of diversity in the scenery or the growl sound he kept hearing when Chell held him against her stomach, but his mind kept coming back to that glare. What value could that cube possibly have in this place?

It wasn’t until the evening of the third day of walking and sleeping outside (a practice that made Wheatley uneasy, what with the combination of being fully exposed to the elements and being forced to look at the moon and stars until sunrise) that the pair ran across the remains of a building. There was no telling how old it was, but its architect had had the foresight to build the roof and walls out of thin plates of steel. The windows and doors had no coverings on them, but the floor was made out of thick concrete that made the heel springs of Chell’s long fall boots click against it as Wheatley turned on his flashlight to help her get a look around.

“Well, this place has certainly seen better days,” he mused, his optic shifting around. “I wonder what it was used for. Thick floor, tough walls…I think the roof’s well waterproofed, so that’s a load off my mind.” The light from his flashlight dipped into every corner, amplifying the waning sunlight that snuck in through the windows. For a metal-lined structure, this place was very open to the air. Each window was partly framed by short walls that came out into the room within, leaving a narrow aisle down the middle lined by good-sized compartments.

Wheatley briefly shut the light off, turning his optic up to look Chell in the face. “Do you have any idea what this place was?” He paused for a beat. “Sorry! Sorry! Sorry. I always forget.” The lids of his ocular aperture moved themselves into the best smile he could manage. “Think you could write it down, luv? I don’t mind you putting me down in here.” Chell eased Wheatley to the floor before untying the limbs of her jumpsuit-pack to release the Companion Cube with a loud clunk. “There we are. Here’s a nice spot. Plenty of dust.” Wheatley turned his flashlight back on, bathing the patch of floor in white light.

Chell knelt, trying her best to fold her legs and feet in a way that didn’t make the heel springs uncomfortable, and reached out one finger to the dust. Wheatley watched intently as she formed a word for him.

Stable

“Uh…” Wheatley squinted at the word Chell had written. “Well yeah, yeah it is, but that’s not what I was asking, luv.” The shake of his optic he gave Chell nearly knocked him on his side. “When I asked what this place was, I didn’t mean for you to describe it to me. Tell me what it was used for. That’s what I’m after.”

Chell sighed, punctuating it with an eye-roll. She leaned forward again, her expression miffed, and wrote another word above the first one.

Horse

“Horse?” Wheatley looked back up at Chell, trying not to shine the light directly in her face. “I don’t…”

Chell gestured rapidly back and forth between the two words with her extended finger.

“Stable horse? Horse sta- Oh!” Wheatley laughed, shaking his frame enough to threaten his stability again. “I see. You were answering the right question the whole time. Uh,” he blinked his optic quickly a few times, “well sometimes ‘stable’ is an adje-…uh…um, a word that describes things instead of…a word that is something. Don’t know why that is. Bloody confusing. I’d like to have a word with whatever sap invented the English language.” Another laugh, his voice smiling for him when he spoke again. “Have a word with him, get it? Ah, aren’t I brilliant?” He lifted his optic back up to Chell’s face and was almost elated to see that she was holding back laughter herself. She’d brought her writing hand up to her mouth to cover it up, physically keeping her silent giggles in. Wheatley smiled with his optic again. Seeing Chell look so happy, even though she was trying to hide it, roused something in him that felt strongly positive. Then the reality of their situation came back to him and Wheatley’s optic darted around the room again.

“So, this was a horse stable. Looks about right for one.” Not that Wheatley had ever actually seen a horse stable in his existence, but that was beside the point now. “A stable for horses. A…” His pupil-light shrank. “Ugh! They…they kept animals in here once! Dirty, smelly, huge animals! With fur! And fleas, quite possibly! And now I’m sitting on this floor!” A simulated gasp. “I bet they excreted all over this floor! Pick me up and clean it off, luv! Clean it off! Clean it off! Clean it off!”

Seemingly alarmed by Wheatley’s realization, Chell hopped to her feet, boots clacking against the concrete as she searched around the stable for something. Finally she returned brandishing a grease-stained off-white cloth that she shook out, scattering a thick cloud of particles that promptly flew out the nearest window as the air blew through.

Wheatley sighed in relief. “Oh, thank you, luv. Knew I could still count on you. It’ll be quick work. I could probably use a good shining-up after so long. Oi!”

Rather than use the cloth on Wheatley, Chell had dropped back to her knees and lifted the Companion Cube sideways, resting it on one edge as she wiped up the underside of it. She scrubbed at it with all the precision and care of a proud owner polishing their silver. If Wheatley had possessed a jaw, it would have hung slack at this moment.

“What are you doing, luv?! That thing’s burnt to kingdom come! A little dirt’s not gonna make it worse! Besides, it hasn’t got moving parts and I have!” Chell didn’t pause in her work at all. “Luv, can you hear me? Oh, please don’t tell me the brain damage is getting worse! Luv? Look at me, luv. Over here! Oi! Look over here!” In his agitation, Wheatley had begun to wiggle his handles, giving him the final push that sent him rolling over onto one side. “Ah! No! Nononononono! It’s all over me now! Get it off! Get it off!” He moved every part he could think of, but nothing moved enough to right him. “Aw, look what you made me do, luv! I’m all filthy now and all because you weren’t listening to me!”

Now Chell whipped her head around, giving Wheatley another glare. Immediately he went silent, his pupil tiny. His optic shifted around in his frame uneasily until Chell’s expression softened just a little and she picked him up only to set him down on a rotting crate a few feet away.

“Oh.” Wheatley looked down at his perch, any sign that he’d been smiling less than five minutes ago completely gone. “You were listening.” He kept Chell out of his line of vision, scanning the floor in front of the crate now and keeping his voice low. “Sorry about that. Again.” He sighed. He couldn’t see Chell at all, but the sound of her giving a thorough rub-down to the Companion Cube echoed all over the room. Wheatley sat in silence for half a minute until a thought popped into his mind.

“Do you need the light, luv?” Wheatley lifted his optic up so he could see Chell again. She shook her head back and forth in response. “Alright. Okay. I’ll just…be over here, then.” The noise stopped as Wheatley shut off his flashlight, for once at a loss for anything else to say. Instead he heard the clicking of Chell’s boots as she got up, walked over to him, gave the top of his body two good pats and then walked back over to the cube, apparently trying to rub off as much burnt material as she could with what tool she had.

“You’re welcome,” he said, again looking down at his crate. Chell didn’t bother to acknowledge his response and a moment later he was looking back over toward her. By now she was on the other side of the cube, arm working tirelessly to clean it up, and Wheatley puzzled at her behavior again. As far as he could see, his logic had been flawless since leaving the facility and here Chell was defying it in the utmost extremes. Perhaps it was just part of her nature to disobey authority in any form, but up until now she’d done everything right to ensure survival. Now here she was trying to clean burns off of a completely useless object when the cloth she had wouldn’t make them come out and there was someone else in the room who needed that attention more.

The idea of trust issues crossed Wheatley’s mind briefly, but he threw it out straightaway. It was true that he hadn’t done much to earn Chell’s trust back yet, but she wasn’t polishing her burnt cube because she trusted it. Was she? No, that sounded ridiculous, even to Wheatley. He looked away from Chell and the cube again to think undisturbed. He could talk while the cube could not. He could be helpful now and again and the cube only weighed Chell down. He had made Chell laugh, something that he was now counting among his greatest achievements, and the cube didn’t even have the capacity to do the same. He had heard somewhere that Weighted Companion Cubes were sentient, but they never showed it. Who was to say that was true?

A moment later and Wheatley was venturing another look in Chell’s direction only to see that she had stopped polishing the cube and was now resting her head and arms on top of it with her eyes closed. He tilted his optic to the side, this time taking care not to move himself too suddenly.

“Luv?” No answer. “Are you alright, luv?” Still no answer. “Are you still angry with me? I do mean it when I say I’m sorry, just so you know.” This time Chell made a noise, snorting loudly enough to startle Wheatley. That answered that, then. She was asleep. Wheatley dropped his voice to a whisper. “Oh. Sorry one more time, luv. You just rest now.”

He’d have left it there had one detail not caught his attention. She was asleep on the cube. It was supporting the weight of her upper body again, just like on all the rests she had taken on the walk that eventually led them here. Suddenly the pattern was clear to Wheatley and for lack of a better word to describe it, he was mystified. He narrowed his optic at the cube. What quality could that thing possibly have that made Chell care about it so much? More than him, even? Wheatley almost asked this question aloud, but he remembered that Chell was asleep just in time. Perhaps, if she wasn’t still angry with him in the morning, he’d ask her about this.

Wheatley’s own “sleep cycle” was much shorter than any human’s, so every morning he always found himself awake before Chell. This morning was no different. His ocular aperture blinked open, he took stock of where he was resting and immediately turned himself as best he could to face Chell. She was still halfway on top of the Weighted Companion Cube, a sight that put Wheatley back into the bad mood he’d been in when he went into sleep mode. He glared at the cube again, but before he could utter a word, a strange noise broke the early morning’s silence for him. It sounded like a mix of an animal growl and liquid bubbling around inside something. Wheatley’s blue iris nearly disappeared again as he shouted for Chell.

“Wake up, luv!” He began shifting around in place, his handles waving up and down frantically. “Wake up! Wake up! Wake up! I think something’s in here with us and it does not sound happy. What…What if we’ve taken its territory?! Oh, I bet we did!” His optic rolled around in his frame, searching the stable for any trace of the creature. “Well that’s just bloody brilliant. Not even a week outside the facility and we get attacked by something.” Ceasing to focus on anything, Wheatley just let his optic move around aimlessly. “I can just see the look in Her smug, yellow optic. I bet She knew this would happen. I- Ah!”

Chell puffed out a sigh, now stood over Wheatley. He hadn’t even noticed her getting to her feet.

“Oh.” Wheatley stilled his optic, looking up at Chell. “It’s just you, luv. I didn’t see you there.” He looked left and right quickly, lowering his voice. “Now, no sudden moves. We don’t want to make this thing any angrier. Did you see anything over there where you were by the…” He paused, looking in the cube’s direction. “By that thing?”

Chell shook her head.

“Oh. I wonder where it is, then. It sounded like it came from o-…” Wheatley visibly stiffened his entire frame when he heard the noise again, only now it was over by him. “Aah! No! Nonononononono!” He clamped his ocular aperture shut, practically vibrating in place. “Don’t eat me! I’m made of metal!” He sat there, shaking for almost a full minute before he dared open his optic. Nothing had happened. Wheatley shifted his gaze in all directions before settling it on Chell. She’d put a hand over her stomach, her expression mildly pained.

“What happened, luv?” Before he got an answer, Wheatley heard the sound again, quieter this time. “Ah!” He watched as Chell cringed and rubbed her stomach. Wheatley quirked his optic to one side in confusion. “Is that…you making that noise?”

Chell nodded.

“Oh. Eheh…” Wheatley blinked twice, looking at the floor. He’d have blushed if he could. “I didn’t know humans made noises like that. Does it mean anything?”

Chell knelt in front of Wheatley’s crate, rubbing a word into the dust with one finger: Hungry

“Oh, I see. Was it your stomach making that noise? That is the name for it, right? ‘Stomach’?”

Chell nodded.

“Does that hurt? It sounds like it does.”

She nodded again.

Wheatley sighed. “I’m sorry, luv. Is there anything in here you can eat?”

Chell shook her head this time, writing another word: Outside

“Back out there again?” Wheatley quirked his optic to the side. “But we’ve only just got here.”

Chell shook her head, half-smiling, and pointed to herself before pointing outside.

“Okay, okay, I’ve got this.” Wheatley squinted his optic in concentration. “You…are going outside.”

Chell nodded with vigor before pointing at Wheatley and then at the floor.

“Hmm, let’s see. I am…staying here?” A pause. “Why, luv? You’re not leaving me, are you?”

Chell shook her head, then pointed to herself again and made a slow scooping gesture in toward her chest.

“You…will come back?” Wheatley’s small countenance brightened. “Is that it?”

Chell nodded.

“Ah, I see. You’ll go out looking for food and then you’ll come back here. Guess that makes sense. You’ll probably need your arms for gathering food up and it’ll be tough going ’round out there being weighed down.” Wheatley wiggled his top handle toward the cube.

Chell got to her feet, giving Wheatley another dirty look.

“What?” There was genuine confusion in Wheatley’s optic. “What is it? Was it something I said?” His only responses were a sigh and a pat just behind his upper handle. Wheatley sank into his seat a bit, watching as Chell crossed the room, picked up the Companion Cube and lugged it to a spot directly across the stable from the crate he was still sat on. Wheatley expected Chell to get back up immediately, but instead she paused, running a hand along the still-damaged top edge of the cube and smiling. The look of fondness on her face stirred something powerful in Wheatley and he made a noise not unlike a human man clearing his throat. Chell’s head immediately turned toward him.

“Well alright. Off you go.” Wheatley gestured toward the door with his optic. “Ease that pain inside you from not eating. Nobody’s holding you back.”

Chell paused only to raise an eyebrow at Wheatley before standing up, grabbing her jumpsuit up off the floor and tying the arms and legs into a sack.

“Ah, look at that. Clever girl.” Wheatley smiled up at her. “Go on now. I should be just fine right here. Unless something comes in here. Then I don’t know what.” Chell smirked and shook her head before walking out the door with her makeshift bag.

Once Chell was out of view, Wheatley trained his narrowed optic on the cube across from him. “Alright, then. Now it’s just me and you in here.” His optic shifted into more of a smug expression. “Nobody for you to hide behind.”

“Now the way I see it,” Wheatley began, raising himself up as much as he could by leaning on his lower handle, “I’m a second-class citizen compared to you. Now why do you think that is?”

The Companion Cube, understandably, said nothing.

“No idea? Really?” Wheatley’s optic narrowed again. “I doubt that. I’ve seen how she looks at you. How she takes care of you. I don’t even get a second glance.” He sighed and looked down for a moment. When he looked back up at the cube, Wheatley’s expression was more hurt than malicious. “It just doesn’t make any sense! What have you ever done for her?” A beat. “Were you one of the cubes that helped her solve the tests? Must’ve been one terrible test from the look of you. I’ll be totally honest: you look awful.”

The cube made no reply.

“In fact, if I didn’t know any better, I’d say you’d been through the-…” Wheatley’s luminous pupil shrank. “…incinerator. Oh bloody hell, I heard about that experiment.” The lower lid of his ocular aperture slid up to cover his optic halfway. “Get a test subject attached to an inanimate object, then make them burn it. Now it makes sense!” He snapped his optic shut with a frustrated growl. “Rrgh! Why didn’t I think of that before? She gives you all that attention because She made her think you were her only friend.” Wheatley’s ocular aperture became a threatening slit, his voice almost a whisper. “Well I’ve got news for you, mate: you’re not. She’s got me now.” Wheatley put on the best prideful smirk a core could manage. “I’d say I make a pretty good friend, all things considered. I talk to her, I look out for her, I use my flashlight for her, I make her laugh…” His voice trailed off at the last item on his list and he chortled to himself. “Now ask yourself this, mate: what do you do for her? Now that we’re out of the facility?”

The cube said nothing.

“Exactly!” Wheatley shouted. “You just sit there and make it hard for her to do anything she needs to do! There’s no adrenaline to breathe in out here! She hasn’t got her portal gun to pick you up anymore! It’s hard work lugging you around!” He shut his ocular aperture and shook his optic from side to side. “No consideration. None at all. I bet you love all that attention she gives you. Just quietly eating it up. So to speak.”

No response.

Wheatley was practically vibrating. “Ooh, you silent types. Thinking you’re so superior. Well it’s not true!” He nearly rolled off the crate in his enthusiasm. “You’re nothing but dead weight out here, mate! A bloody great waste of space! I can be useful to her now that we’re out! Should I go down the list again?”

No answer.

“Well, should I? Ah, it’s not worth the time. It’s already pretty clear that there’s nothing you’ve ever done for her that could possibly surpass me. You haven’t done anything! This is too easy, mate! Absolutely nothing!” Wheatley almost launched into another tirade when his voice caught in his processors and his frame slowly relaxed. His optic dipped down, as did the top shutter of his ocular aperture.

“Nothing at all. You never did anything, so she could never be angry with you, either. You never said a word, you never let her down, you never turned your back on her…” Wheatley sighed again, his whole frame moving with the sound of it. “You never hurt her. Not once.” He lifted his optic to look at the cube again, his voice quiet and shaky. “Well look at that, mate. You’ve got something I haven’t.” The look in his optic was almost sheepish. “I was right before. She does trust you more than me. I suppose I don’t deserve trust. I mean, what have I really done to earn it back?”

No reply from the Companion Cube.

Wheatley’s optic narrowed again. “Well you don’t have to rub it in, mate!” He huffed out another sigh and looked away. “I suppose you’re right. I almost killed her, you know. Tried pretty hard. She got away, though.” Wheatley raised his optic, looking near proud. “Such a clever girl, she is. Always one step ahead of me. Heh, not the hardest thing to do. I can admit that now.” His gaze shifted to the floor in front of the cube. “Told her so many times she’s clever, but that’s not enough, is it? Something’s missing. What else should I be doing that I’m not? What else can I do? There’s nothing for me to plug into out here, so that’s out.” He raised his optic to the cube. “Can you think of anything?”

The cube didn’t make a sound.

Wheatley narrowed his optic once more. “Well a fat lot of good that does me, mate! Some friend you are!”

It hadn’t taken long for Chell to find something to eat. Not far from the stable was a small cluster of apple trees, probably planted to grow treats for the animals raised on the land. After eating some, Chell had filled her makeshift basket with as many red apples as it could hold, which admittedly wasn’t many, and was on her way back when she heard it. It was definitely Wheatley’s voice being carried on the light wind, but his words were distorted by distance. He sounded very upset, so Chell proceeded with caution as she approached the stable. As she got closer and peeked in one of the long windows, Chell noticed that even though Wheatley was pausing as if he expected a reply, none was coming before he carried on talking again.

“See, it’s always been my understanding that a friend’s someone who actually does something for another person. Doesn’t just sit around being useless. That’s exactly what you’re doing right now. All you really can do. I honestly don’t see why she still hasn’t figured it out yet.”

From where Chell was standing, it appeared that Wheatley was talking to himself. She raised an eyebrow at the sight of it, wondering if some circuit in him had finally fried from the stress.

“Could be the brain damage, yeah, but I doubt it.” Wheatley shook his optic side to side. “That never really held her back. She can’t say a word, but she doesn’t need to. She’s not actually silent, if that makes any sense.”

Chell moved around the building, headed for the door. The window cutouts were high off the ground, but on occasion she’d peek through them on her way by, her face barely reaching over the edge.

“She can write out words for me. I’m still working on my reading, but I’ve gotten pretty good. Gestures. She’s got gestures with her hands and arms. Sometimes I know what those mean. Working on that, too. And her face.” Wheatley’s optic smiled. “Lovely face, she has. So many different expressions. It’s not all that hard to know what she’s thinking most of the time. I wouldn’t exactly call that ‘silent.’ Would you?”

Chell watched as Wheatley’s optic dipped down and in front of him and she almost snorted with laughter. She had moved around the side of the building enough to see that Wheatley was not talking to himself, but to the Weighted Companion Cube sat across from him where she had left it. Chell kept her free hand clamped hard over her mouth, holding in the faintest chortle as she kept listening.

“Yeah, knew you wouldn’t say anything. I’m onto you.” Wheatley narrowed his optic to a slit. “I can see right through your little game now. If she figures out that your so-called ‘friendship’ was just part of an experiment, out the door you go. You don’t like the sound of that, eh mate?” The slit of Wheatley’s optic seemed more like a smirk now. “Well how about I just tell her? I think she deserves the truth. That’s what a real friend would say. I tell her the truth about you and boom! I’m not a second-class citizen anymore! It’s perfect! Got anything to say to that, mate? Anything at all?”

For what seemed like the hundredth time, the Companion Cube said nothing.

“Ah, come on!” Wheatley’s voice came out in a growl that made Chell take a step back from the doorway, jostling the apples in her jumpsuit basket. “We’ve been at this for about an hour now! I think. Could be less. Either way, you haven’t answered me the whole time! If you had any brains in there you’d drop the act by now! It’s…it’s like talking to a wall! I’ve had better conversations with test chamber paneling than you! What is this?!” Wheatley flung his gaze to the ceiling, seemingly in disbelief. “Oh, where is she? She should be back by now. Hope she found food.” His voice quieted and he settled down against the crate again, sighing. “Maybe I should just keep quiet about that experiment thing. Don’t want to make her sad. Never want to see that particular look on her face again.”

Chell leaned into the door a bit, unaware that an apple was shifting on the pile.

Wheatley continued, his optic pointed at the floor. “That wouldn’t exactly be helpful, would it? I promised I’d do everything I could to make things easier for her. What have I done so far to keep that promise?” He sighed again, shutting his optic completely. “Maybe I’m just not worth it. I can’t even do that much to get her to trust me again. Friends are supposed to keep promises, right?” Wheatley blinked his optic open just in time to see a bright red apple roll into his line of vision. “What?” He stared at it for a moment before looking up to the side that the apple had rolled from.

Chell stood in the doorway, body stiff and the slightest hint of a blush on her cheeks.

“There you are, luv!” Wheatley did his best to smile sincerely. “I see you found some food. Nicely done.” He paused, his expression turning to one of fear as his pupil shrank. “Er, how long have you been standing there?”

The laughter Chell had been restraining came loose all at once and she nearly dropped the apples as soundless giggles shook her body.

“Er…” Wheatley’s optic darted left and right, his bottom shutter raised. Finally it rested on Chell and Wheatley started to laugh along with her. It began as forced, uncertain laughs that finally grew into an honest chuckle, making Wheatley shut his optic fully as his frame wiggled with mirth. “Funny thing, laughing. Literally funny. Just hearing you do it is enough to make me do it, too. Why is that?”

Getting out the last of her giggles, Chell walked into the stable and set her apples down on the floor between Wheatley and the cube. She crouched down to be at optic level with Wheatley, resting her palm on the top of his shaking frame to still him. Wheatley’s optic snapped open as soon as he felt the light pressure and he stared right into Chell’s eyes.

“You haven’t answered my question yet, luv. Did you hear everything I said?”

Chell raised one hand, palm facing the floor, and moved it in a see-saw motion from side to side.

“So…hmm.” Wheatley stared at her hand as he thought. “Some of it?”

Chell nodded.

“Ah, I got it right!” Wheatley smiled, but it faded quickly as the implications hit him. “Well then how much of it did you hear?” He paused. “Forget I asked that.”

Chell just smiled at him, reaching her free hand to the floor and writing in the dust: Experiment?

“Ah.” Wheatley looked away off to one side. “So you did hear that part. I…I don’t know if I’m meant to tell you, luv.”

Chell stroked the side of Wheatley’s frame with her fingertips, giving him a questioning look.

Wheatley looked her in the eye, his resolve visibly crumbling. “I…Er…Oh, luv.” He looked down at the edge of the crate he was on. “There isn’t any good way to say this. You’ve been…programmed.”

Chell raised an eyebrow, the tiniest bit of acid in her eyes.

“Well not by me!” Wheatley’s blue pupil changed to a tiny speck again. “By Her! She had this experiment – or the old scientists did, I don’t know which – where a test subject is given an object to carry around and get attached to. Then, once they start to feel something toward it, they’re meant to…to incinerate it.” His pupil returned to normal and he sighed. “That’s what She did to you. Got you attached to that thing there.” He looked over Chell’s shoulder at the cube. “You’re carrying it around everywhere and taking care of it because of Her.”

Chell turned her head to stare at the Companion Cube, one hand still on Wheatley’s frame. She was perfectly still, but Wheatley could feel her hand move off him and onto the edge of the crate.

“I’m sorry, luv.” If Chell didn’t know any better, she’d have sworn Wheatley was about to cry. “So sorry. I mean, I couldn’t have stopped Her then, but I’m sorry.”

Chell turned back around, her face unreadable.

Wheatley’s bottom shutter was raised again, adding to the effect of his voice. “Have I upset you, luv? I have, haven’t I? I didn’t want to tell you, but you made me and…No.” He clamped his optic shut. “No, no, no. Not your fault. Not at all. Not mine, either.” The shutters opened again very slowly. “It’s Her. All Her. Everything about Her is so evil. Even her body is evil! You saw what it did!” A pause. “No, I won’t bring that up.”

For a moment it seemed that the expression on Chell’s face was one of distress, but her next move made Wheatley question that assessment. She got off her feet, putting herself in an almost cross-legged position, and took Wheatley off the crate to set him in her lap. Chell held him sideways and tilted up so his optic was easily visible.

“What?” Wheatley barely had the word out before he felt Chell’s hand on him again. Now she was petting him, her entire palm moving from behind his top handle toward the plug on his back. When he looked up, Chell was smiling at him. “What’s this now? Not that it isn’t nice, but why are you doing it?” Chell’s smile only grew a little and slowly Wheatley felt himself relax. “You…you wanted me to calm down? Was that it? Well, I think it worked.”

Still smiling, Chell took off her boots and crossed her legs, leaning Wheatley on one knee to face her.
“So you’re not upset?”

Chell rolled her lower lip between her teeth for a second before making her “so-so” gesture again.

“Somewhat upset?”

Chell nodded.

Wheatley looked down and sighed. “I’m sorry. I don’t know how else to say it.”

Chell thought a moment before pointing at Wheatley and shaking her head.

“Hmm, there’s a new one.” Wheatley looked back up at Chell’s face. “Not upset with me?”

Chell nodded, smiling.

Wheatley wiggled his handles with glee. “Ah! I’m getting pretty good at this.” His optic smiled. “I’m glad you’re not upset with me. Don’t think I really have to tell you that.” His expression became more serious as he continued. “You’ve got every reason to be upset with me, though. I was positively beastly to you. Why would you take someone like that along with you?” He paused. “And why didn’t you give me that answer the first time I asked?”

Chell gave him a perplexed look before her eyes practically lit with realization. Wheatley watched her furrow her brow, obviously thinking very hard.

The anticipation was grating on Wheatley. “Come to think of it, there are a few things about what happened that didn’t make sense. Once you escaped and got to my lair…” he clamped his optic shut again. “Her lair. Her lair. Sorry.” He looked up at Chell’s face again. “Once you got there, you didn’t do a single thing I said, which was good. That was very, very good. At least, you didn’t until the very last second. I told you to hold onto me and you did, even though She tried to force you to let go.” His optic shutters shifted into another smile. “Oh She tried to push me out into space, but you applied that grip and pulled me back in. And it didn’t stop there!” His optic went wide again. “You protected me from Her! You were losing consciousness, but you moved around me to keep her claws away. She tried to talk you into handing me over, but you wouldn’t have it.” The next word out of Wheatley was almost whispered. “Why?”

Still pensive, Chell dipped her head down to look Wheatley in the optic.

“Why’d you do it, luv? Was it because it’d make Her angry? It did. Good plan.” Wheatley looked down at Chell’s opposite leg from the knee he was resting on. “I can’t really think of another reason.”

It was then that something clicked in Chell’s mind. She turned sideways, reaching over beside her to pluck an apple from the stack she had brought back. Wheatley didn’t know what to think when Chell suddenly held it right up to his optic.

“Um, okay.” He scrutinized the fruit in front of him. “I know you’re trying to tell me something here, but what is it?”

Chell tilted Wheatley’s frame backward so he was looking at her, then locked her own eyes on the apple in her other hand.

“Er, right.” Wheatley tilted his optic at a strange angle to look at the object again. “It’s…an apple.”

Chell smiled and nodded her head with vigor.

“That’s it? That’s what you were trying to tell me?” Wheatley looked back up. “What’s that got to do with…” As Wheatley’s voice trailed off, the bottom shutter of his optic slowly began to rise up until his ocular aperture was half-closed. “Oh. ‘Apple.’ That’s the word I tried to get you to say when I got you out of cryosleep.”

Chell nodded again.

“You remember that, luv?”

Chell’s smile grew and it almost looked like she was laughing as she nodded a third time.

Wheatley’s voice remained hushed. “So, all those things we did before I took over the facility? You still remember all that?”

This time Chell lifted him up to face her at eye level and Wheatley was met with the biggest grin he’d ever seen. Before he could get a good look at it, Chell lowered her arms again, bringing his frame in close to her body. Pressed against her torso, Wheatley felt more than saw both of Chell’s arms wrapping around him.

“Luv, what are…what is this?” Wheatley moved his optic from side to side, causing Chell to wiggle in place. “Is this a hug, luv?”

Chell gently patted the top of his frame.

Wheatley smiled, the movement of his optic and handles making Chell squirm again. “I’ve never had a hug before. It’s nice.” He closed his optic, savoring the moment, but only a second later he felt Chell’s arms loosen and he found himself sitting on her knee again. Wheatley opened his optic slowly to find Chell looking right at him, a shy smile on her face. “So, guess that answers my question.”

Chell’s smile widened as she half-giggled.

“That’s really it, luv?” Wheatley tilted his optic sideways, shutters each down a little in a way that made him look vaguely owlish. “All those things I did before? Doesn’t seem like enough to me. Yes, I did all those helpful things for you so we could escape, but I tried to kill you. You do remember that, don’t you?”

Chell nodded very sternly.

“Alright, good.” Wheatley tilted his optic back upright. “It’s good you remember. Not good that I tried.” His lower shutter rose again. “I really am sorry about all that, luv. I can’t even quite remember why I did it. Well, I do remember why, but now it doesn’t make sense. First I want you to help me escape and then I stop wanting to leave.”

Chell patted Wheatley’s frame, looking off into nothing for a moment before she smiled again. Reaching out her other hand, she wrote something in the dust: Free

“Er, yes.” Wheatley tilted his optic again. “That’s true.”

Chell moved her hand, first finger extended, between the word and Wheatley.

“Me? I’m free? Well yes, I just said that. You and me both.”

Chell smiled as she shook her head, pausing for only a second before leaning forward, her chest nudging against Wheatley’s top handle as she wrote something else, much longer this time. When she sat up, Wheatley had to turn his optic to read it: Her body is evil

“Her body is…Oh!” Wheatley’s optic snapped back around to look up at Chell. “You got me out of Her body! Is that it?”

Chell’s nod was slow as she sat up, but she was smiling.

“Ha!” The single laugh was accompanied by Wheatley’s optic popping out of his frame for a second, his handles parting to allow it. “I got it! How many times is that now?” His optic rolled over. “Oh, I’m a master. An absolute genius at this.” His gaze turned to the Companion Cube beside Chell. “See that? In your face!” When Chell turned her head to look, Wheatley made a coughing noise and looked away. “Er…yeah. I know it’s not going to answer. Figured that out by now.” Again Chell’s body shook with laughter and Wheatley smiled at the wobbling sensation he felt as her leg moved underneath him. “Laugh all you want, luv. It’s lovely when you do.”

Once Chell had control of herself again she paused, just staring at Wheatley for a moment before picking him back up and setting him down on top of the Companion Cube.

“What?” Wheatley looked down at the cube through his bottom handle. “What was that for?” His question was met with a sweet grin from Chell. “I don’t think I understand this one, luv. Hmm.” He looked upward in though, his optic tilted to the side very slightly within his frame. “Oh! Wait…no.” He blinked. “Ah! I think I’ve got it! Mm, no. No, that doesn’t make any sense, either.” As he continued, Chell picked one of her apples back up and bit into it, smiling as she sat and watched Wheatley’s mind work.

When the sun set that evening, a cold wind picked up, blowing through the unshielded stable windows and forcing Chell to put her jumpsuit back on, zipped up to the top. Wheatley, who had finally run out of ideas about what Chell’s latest gesture had meant, pushed his frame up with his handle to watch her.

“Did I ever tell you that jumpsuit looks good on you?” Chell’s head turned abruptly and Wheatley nearly fell backwards in surprise at her speed. “Um, it does. Not just saying that. It fits you very well.” He nodded his optic, smiling.

The look on Chell’s face softened, her eyes opening up wider as she smiled.

“Oh, what an interesting face you’re making.” Wheatley watched Chell turn a bit red in the cheeks as he opened his optic up fully to get the best view. “I think I like that face.”

Chell sat down to put her boots back on, her eyes never leaving Wheatley’s optic. When she was finished, she moved Wheatley over on the cube’s surface to make room for her folded arms and chin. She only broke eye contact when she yawned, covering her mouth with one hand.

“Okay, that’s…” Wheatley narrowed his optic again, “…fatigue? Are you tired?”

Chell nodded slowly.

“Well go to sleep, then, luv. You don’t have to wait for me to say something.” Wheatley shook his optic. “I’m not in charge of you. Do whatever you want. Well, as long as you don’t want to hurt yourself. Or me. Yeah, that wouldn’t be good. How about this? Do whatever you want as long as neither of us get hurt.” He nodded, smiling. “That sounds much better. But still, I’m not in charge of you. I really wish you wouldn’t, but if something did come up where you had to- Oh!” Chell had moved her hand across the top of the cube, hooking her fingers around Wheatley’s lower handle. “Um…” He stared at her momentarily, his pupil noticeably smaller, before cautiously raising his handle up, gently holding Chell’s fingers against his frame. When she smiled in approval, Wheatley returned it.

“Am I bothering you, luv?”

Chell looked off to one side for a moment before wiggling her head side-to-side.

“Is that a yes? Uh, even if it isn’t, I’ll be quiet now. Oh, and I’ll keep the light out of your face.” Wheatley shut his optic. “Better?” He cracked his shutters open an inch to watch as Chell nodded and set her head back down on her free arm. “Good, good.” He shut his optic again. “Goodnight, luv.”

Chell’s smile lingered even as she closed her eyes, still sat up and leaned over the Companion Cube. Right as she did, she gave Wheatley’s lower handle a light squeeze and the top of the cube a light pat. So what if GLaDOS’s influence had been the initial reason why she loved the Companion Cube so much? It didn’t hurt her to care for it and even though she was free, the cube was still useful to her. It was like…what was that thing called? A teddy bear? The term echoed around in Chell’s head as if it were in a foreign language. She didn’t dwell on it, though. The thought was replaced by the image of Wheatley’s futile argument with the cube. Chell grinned, eyes still closed. Perhaps her bitterness had gotten to her before, but she was beyond it now. It had been her intention to escape with Wheatley from the moment he had first proposed the idea to her in the Relaxation Center. Like everything else, she had had to accomplish this at all costs. Her theory about the GLaDOS chassis had been right and Wheatley had more or less returned to himself after he was separated from it.

Chell relaxed her face and sighed, moving her head to get more comfortable as she felt herself drift. The top edge of the Companion Cube wasn’t an ideal place to sleep, but this way she could be near both of her friends at once. The last thought she had before falling asleep was that if she could help it, no one would feel like a second-class citizen again.

Taken with permission from his Facebook page.

 

“I did not want to talk about this here but something keeps being said that I wholeheartedly do not agree with and I need to address it.

I have made this clear in the past and I will say it again, I will not judge anyone by who they vote for. There are legitimate reasons Republicans have to elect ANY Republican into office. And the same goes for Democrats. From what I can tell, by talking to people and the last debate, the chief reason for voting Republican seems to be the possibility of overturning Roe V Wade in the supreme court. Whether you agree with this motive or not, it is a legitimate one. On this issue it is impossible for either side to prove the ethical superiority of their view (which is often the case with ethics). They can only offer rhetoric to support their feelings on why they believe they are right. So each person must act in accordance of their own conscience. So if you want to vote Republican solely because you are hoping that this (very) long shot will pay off, I respect you. You have decided with your conscience that this is the reason you are voting.

What’s been bothering me is, since the leak of Trump’s “locker room” talk, I have heard 3 different Christian leaders reach a level of justification I have never heard before. They admit that Trump is evil but use the soundbite “God has often used evil men to do good.” There is a VERY big flaw in this argument.. you are not God. I do believe God can work miracles with anyone he chooses but it is with any one HE chooses. You don’t get to point to an evil human and say “That’s the one, God! Now get to work!”

Now, I would like to add something about the “locker room” talk. Men objectify women. Women objectify men. It’s how we’re wired. I am not going to lie, I have discussed the hotness of women with guys many times in my life. But what Donald is talking about is something different.

I believe I have a unique position to understand him in that I have been in the same situation. Not that I would ever grope anyone without asking, but while I don’t consider myself famous, I play famous people on TV. This allows me to visit, monthly, cities all around the English speaking world. I meet many fans. And, if I wasn’t married it would be very difficult to resist all the GENEROUS offers by screaming fan girls. But, hey, consenting adults, who really cares? However, even if I was single, I would NEVER just grope a girl’s privates without permission.

But I want you to understand, and this is an important point, I believe I could get away with it in most cases. Why? Because whether the girl welcomed my groping or not she would be be in a very awkward position. She would feel like she didn’t have the right to do anything about it simply because of who I am and what the work I do means to her. I know this. Trump obviously know this. But it takes real evil to do it anyway.

I have also been fortunate enough to get to hang out with a lot of famous people I admire. The only thing that keeps me from being a screaming fan girl around them is decades of public speaking that allows you to keep your cool in most situations. But what if the day I did the photo shoot with Leonard Nimoy (one of the highlights of my career), he decided just to reach around and grab my crotch. He just figured I’m the most famous guy in the room let me show the peon voice actor who’s king here. What would I do? I think I’d be too stunned to do much of anything. I think my first response would be to nervously laugh it off, “Haha, hey, watch it there, Spock! It’s not Pon Farr! Haha!” Otherwise I’d just take the hit. I mean, he’s an American Icon! But once I was away and the shock wore off I know I’d be thinking, “Who the fuck does that guy think he is??!!” I’d be livid. But I wouldn’t press charges. I’d be too embarrassed to.

That’s all I wanted to say. I hope, if you didn’t before, you now understand the difference between typical locker room talk and what Trump was saying. If you still think this was just typical locker room banter because you and your buds talk about taking advantage of girls all the time please don’t tell me about it. I will unfriend you as quickly as I can because I find that disgusting.”

Hey guys, it’s Naru, and I am proud to offer you an article written by a friend of mine from Myanimelist.com, Falseshepherd!  He read my review of Shiki, and had a few choice words to say in the defense of Shiki and it’s character design choices, and his arguments were so well written and compelling that I kind of wish I didn’t have a policy against editing past works.  Instead, I did the next best thing and asked him to compile his thoughts into one outstanding article, which is exactly what I have here today.

You can find more work from him at his MAL account, or if you’re feeling so inclined, you can also follow him on Twitter.

Shiki is one of the most disturbing anime series I’ve seen. From its Story, to its characters, and themes, Shiki is excellent from start to finish. Adapted from the 1998 novel by Fuyumi Ono, it also received a manga adaptation that ran from 2007 to 2011. Both of which are excellent versions of the story. If you don’t know by now, Shiki is about a family of Vampires moving into an isolated village, and the death and bloodshed it causes when they clash with the villagers, who suffer from what can only be described as a ‘small town mentality’.

I have heard many opinions about shiki. And everyone tends to agree that the story is great, and that the characters are, at least, interesting. But when it comes to the aesthetic of Shiki, I noticed many people tend to draw a line. The physics-defying hair, large, distinct eyes, and strange fashion tends to make the viewer feel annoyed or distracted. I’ve heard from a few people I know that Shiki has bad aesthetic; some say just the character designs, others say the whole show looks bad, so I’m here to dispel that idea.

Shiki’s aesthetic is just as important to the show as the writers are to the story. And the character designs can be broken down into three distinct aspects. The first is also the most mundane; the major characters have a distinct look to differentiate them from the rest of the cast. This is something pretty much all anime does, sure, but it’s worth pointing out that Shiki does it in a way no other show does. Sometimes, a minor character will have an unruly hairstyle, or a major character may have a pretty realistic hairstyle; I look at this as a way subvert the audience’s expectations from time to time. But this aspect is not as fundamental as the other two.

 

Outlandish Character Designs

 

Have you noticed that the character designs match each character’s personality? Almost everyone’s design fits them like a tailor-made glove. And no other character is a better example than Megumi Shimizu. Megumi is a narcissistic, nonconforming girl who does everything she can to represent herself in a specific way. Everything from the color of her hair (pink, which denotes a kind of feminine charm, and gentle nature), her common twin tails, and stylish outfits tell us that she wants everyone to see her as she sees herself: a beautiful, classy young girl, who is amazing in general. The strange and unique outfits also tell us she doesn’t want to conform to village life, and sees herself as above the villagers, as per the expensive look she goes for. Megumi may want you to think she’s a pretty girl with a lot of potential, but her true nature is more selfish and malicious than you think. And the red glint in her eyes are a hint at her more antagonistic side that we see later on, after episode 1.

Megumi isn’t the only example. Toshio Ozaki is another character whose design is a reflection of his personality. His unkempt, disheveled hair, stubble, and often tired eyes tell us he’s quite the workaholic, reinforced by how we never see him not wearing his doctor’s attire. Toshio also has some pretty intense eyes, that denote a determined, cunning, and fearless man who won’t back down, and will do anything to save ‘his’ village.

Seishin Muroi’s inherently passive nature is represented by his priests outfit, and the lifeless hair shows him as someone who’s given up. While everyone else seems to have lively, unkempt hair, Seishin’s is always limp and without the physics defying life the other characters seem to often have. His eyes a dark, almost like a Shiki’s, foreshadowing his indignant feelings and darker side that lurks just beneath the friendly, and passive surface. Hopefully these examples give you an idea of what I mean.

But none of this really explains why they have to look so surreal. There are other shows that reflect a character’s personality in the way they’re designed. So what’s the deal with characters in the show looking so distinct? Why do the Kirishikis seem to have an otherworldy glow about them early on?

Why do the characters in Shiki have such a strange look at all? it’s for the purpose of making the audience uncomfortable. To us, Shiki looks surreal, it looks strange, it looks different and wrong. Shiki looks weird, no doubt about that, but this is intentional, and I would argue it works to the show’s benefit. No other anime looks like Shiki, not even other shows done by the same studio (which all seem to suck, I suppose Shiki is Studio Daume’s magnum opus).

Shiki is often considered a horror anime, after all. And what good is a horror that can’t make you uncomfortable? But I think it goes a bit further than that. I feel as if the audience reacts to Shiki’s character designs in a similar way to how the Sotoba residents react to the way outsiders are, that is to say, dismissive of different ideas or perspectives. This is sort of like how someone who’s used to anime looking a bit more photorealistic being closed-minded about the outlandish, and unconventional look of Shiki.

 

Strength of the Setting

 

The power of Shiki’s aesthetic reaches beyond character design, and encompasses the setting itself. Sotoba is a quiet, isolated village in the mountains. Whenever there’s a scene that takes place on the streets of Sotoba, you can often see the trees the surround the village, and at night, the perceived black wall the trees form conveys an oppressive and ominous atmosphere that fits the show perfectly. This is given more meaning when you realize that these trees are used to craft headstones which is the origin of Seishin’s metaphor that Sotoba is a village surrounded by death.

The best example of this feeling is in episodes 9 and 10, when the Shiki attack the clinic. The one shot of Megumi peering in through a large window, as other Shiki gather behind her, with the oppressive wall of trees in the background, gives off the claustrophobic feeling that you’re sealed in with these monsters, and you can’t escape. Shiki is filled with stuff like this, however, it’s not just at night that Sotoba feels alive, but also during the day.

The level of physicality that Sotoba is able to generate is impressive. While this is more because of how grounded in reality the show is, in terms of writing (vampires notwithstanding), it’s also the dimensions of the surroundings in proportion to the characters. In short, Sotoba feels like a tangible place that you could actually go to.

Characters feel like they’re actually there, walking on the ground, and interacting with their environment. Now this stuff isn’t anything particularly unique or special, I’m just pointing out how well Shiki does it. A good example of this is one scene in episode 1, right before Megumi makes her way up to Kanemasa. When she walks away from Kaori, and turns to walk up the road to the mansion, the way she moved felt like she was actually walking further from Kaori, and up the hill. Again, textbook stuff, but shiki does an outstanding job at it.

One more thing worth noting is how the show, and especially the Manga, go into detail about the mentality of the villagers, and the evolving mood of the village as the continuous deaths create a bleak atmosphere for the inhabitants, and the viewer. The attention to detail in the writing of how Sotoba functions as a community as well as establishing different distinct locations in Sotoba, such as Kanemasa, Ozaki Clinic, the Temple, Yamairi, and so on; is executed very well. There are even detailed maps and overhead shots of the village in manga, and some in the show also. Its almost like there is enough information about Sotoba that, by the end of the series, you feel like you know your way around Sotoba.

Shiki is the best looking thriller anime I’ve seen so far, and it’s likely it will still be my favorite thriller anime for years to come. Sotoba is an interesting place to visit for 24 episodes, and I’d highly recommend watching this series.  If you’re looking for a visually stunning and morally provocative anime, then you cannot go wrong with Shiki.

Hello everybody, and welcome to The Fullmetal Narcissist blog…  For the second annual SciFi July!

For my first post this year, I’d like to share with you a comment that North1085 left me, offering their take on some of the questions and complaints I raised in my Steins;Gate review from last July.  Let’s see what they had to say!
Read a good portion of your Steins;Gate review (you’ll forgive me for not reading the entire thing, as it’s quite wordy and I didn’t exactly have all that much time) and I’d like to start off by saying that I gave S;G a 6.5/10, just for reference.

So, about Faris. She’s actually a very good character in the Visual Novels (particularly Linear Bounded Phenogram, the spin-off that has other characters as protagonists). Hell, I’d even say she’s the best character of the lot, rivalled only by Okabe. It’s a real shame the way they presented her in the anime, because she hardly ever gets any attention and the more shallow side of her personality is shown – what makes her a brilliant character is never really touched on. Basically, they completely butchered her character the way they represented her, which also brings down the anime as a whole. Well, it was a 40-hour long Visual Novel, so I can understand why they might have some difficulty fitting all that in. I thought you might find that interesting, anyway.

The main thing I wanted to address was your issues with the time-travel plot, and this is something else which the anime doesn’t go into nearly as much depth with as the visual novel. A lot of the stuff you need to know to solve most apparent plot holes is mentioned, but there are some plot holes like right at the end of the series that you need external knowledge to solve. The plot hole I’m talking about, of course, is when Okabe travels back in time to save Kurisu in episodes 23/24. He fails the first time, and then he goes back the second time but there are only two Okabes. Since this is the second time he’s traveled back in time, there should be three Okabes (the original one in that world line, the one who travelled first and the one just getting here second). So where did the second Okabe go? This is a plot hole that takes quite a bit of explaining to do (that’s not exactly what I want to address right now), so we’ll just say that when the time machine travels back in time from world line 1.1980 (for example), they are going to diverge from that world line (so they’ll land on a world line near it, 1.1979, for example), and the divergence is greater the further back in time they travel (they travel back a month and diverge about +-0.0001, and Suzuha travels back in time from 0% in the Alpha attractor field and diverges maybe 0.33737% or higher/lower). This is information you can’t actually get from the anime; they simply didn’t have enough time to explain it, but the explanations are in the source material.

“I can’t say much about it’s time travel logic without giving away too many spoilers, but it does cheat towards the end and go in the Back to the Future direction. What I can talk about is the huge turning point that everybody loves so much. Halfway through the series, a tragic event occurs, and Okabe starts using the time machine over and over again to try and prevent said tragedy, but his efforts prove futile. This is fine at first, until it’s revealed that even when the cause of the tragedy is completely removed, the tragedy still happens in all of it’s Final Destination glory. Frankly, if you can get through this story arc without even once saying “Oh My God, They Killed Kenny!”, then this show has you by the short and curlies.”

All right, this is what I actually wanted to address. I’m pretty sure you’re talking about the point where Mayuri dies, but this part confuses me slightly, though I think I see what you’re getting at: “This is fine at first, until it’s revealed that even when the cause of the tragedy is completely removed”

Basically, Mayuri dies because the rounders shoot her up (hooray). The rounders are the cause of her death, so if they are removed, then Mayuri shouldn’t die, right? This is explained in a spin-off novel briefly when Okabe says ‘causality’ (I recommend you read The Distant Valhalla, it’s quite a good one, only about 30 pages too). If you’re versed in time-travel fiction or anything like that, I’m going to assume you know what this means. I’ve never researched the topic, I don’t know what it means, but I’m just bringing it up because they do blatantly say why Mayuri continues to die.

In the Alpha attractor field (0%-0.99% divergence), Mayuri dies, SERN captures Okabe Rintaro, Itaru Hashida and Makise Kurisu for a year and a half, before Okabe and Itaru escape. In 2025, Okabe Rintaro dies. In 2034, Makise Kurisu dies. In 2036, Hashida Itaru finishes a time machine that can only travel back in time, not forwards and dies soon afterwards. Suzuha travels back in time from 2036 to 2010.

These are events that ALWAYS occur in the Alpha attractor field and cannot be avoided because they are world-changing events – every single world line in the attractor field converges to ensure those events occur. If these events don’t occur, it changes the world way too drastically and screws up time-space, so the universe itself ensures these events occur to repair time-space. Not sure if this is explicitly said, but it’s heavily implied.

So, the only way to alter these events is to move attractor fields – move from the Alpha attractor field to the Beta attractor field. You can only move between attractor fields by altering big events that changed the world massively. Okabe moves from the Alpha to Beta attractor field when he ensures that SERN never discovers the message he sent to Daru about Kurisu being dead is never read (fuzzy on the details) and therefore they never take an interest in him and don’t steal his time machine. Instead, SERN gains dominion over the world through Nakabachi’s thesis. Another example of this is in the Gamma attractor field (2%-2.99%), where Y2K is actually a devastating event that claims the lives of many people, including Okabe and Mayuri’s parents. Okabe and Mayuri are separated for 7 years and when they meet up again, Mayuri is stricken with an illness. By that time, Okabe had become a rounder, M3, and was partnered up with Moeka, who now would do anything for Okabe, because he was the reason that she lives.

Altering these events flings you into different attractor fields. The reason Mayuri always dies is because of world line convergence, or because of the Alpha attractor field. I believe this is also explained in the anime, but not in nearly as much depth.

Hey guys, I’m a little tired after doing five reviews in one month followed by a top ten list, so let’s do something I haven’t done in a while…  A guest post!

Today’s guest post comes to you from Gaiaonline user Songojamess, and it’s an extensive analysis of everyone’s favorite Super Saiyan, Son Goku!

The story starts off with Goku living in Mount Paozu, where he hunts and has a shed containing his most cherished possession – The four star ball. The ball is his memento for Gohan and because Grandpa Gohan was the one who raised and loved him, Goku cherished the ball more than anything else at the time. Goku was also shown talking to ball which showed he believed in reincarnation, which he must’ve learned from Gohan before his death. Bulma shows up to Goku’s location and introduces herself to him, Goku’s interaction with Bulma was the first of many scenes that showcased Goku’s little knowledge of the world and how he only knew as much as his deceased Grandpa Gohan taught him, and not by what he’s actually seen which is why he couldn’t tell what most things were by mere sight alone and seemed oblivious to the world. He couldn’t tell Bulma was a girl until she told him and was later shown to be surprised by the features of a girl. Bulma explained to Goku about the Dragon Balls and how his grandpa’s ball was one of them, Goku wasn’t interested in exploring the world but Bulma mentioned how Gohan informed Goku to treat girls with respect which lead to Goku deciding to join Bulma. This scene showcases a key side of Goku. His desire to honour Grandpa Gohan, a side which influenced his later actions in the series.

Although he treats girls nice Goku didn’t have any romantic interest in girls. Goku was indifferent toward beauty in woman. He viewed all girls equally in terms of beauty because he didn’t have any human feelings to guide him to the human idea of beauty. He only found them stranger than men because of their features in comparison. This is a result of what Goku was used to growing up with only his Grandpa as well as his genetics (Which we’ll get to later). This was shown in scenes such as when Master Roshi showed him two girls with Goku not being able to tell which one was beautiful, and when Goku brought back a huge and not so attractive woman when Roshi told him to bring back a pretty woman.

Goku’s training with Krillin – The rival turned best friend through the bond their shared during the training, under the teachings of Master Roshi, which was reflected through the World Tournament itself, was what molded Goku into the fighter he grew up to be. Master Roshi taught Goku that there’s always someone better and that he shouldn’t be seduced by the adulation or status that comes with pursuing Martial Arts but rather see events such as the World Tournament (And in turn the goals that inspired him and others to become martial artists) as only a checkpoint to evaluate his growth as a fighter, but not substantiate it. That there is no greatest and that the true value in working is the work itself and one should work purely to improve themselves, which worked perfectly in conjunction with Goku’s own purity. This important life lesson is the foundation of Goku and his belief as a fighter, with each challenge Goku faced strengthening that belief because he was always able to surpass his own limits through his work without status or titles being a barrier for his potential. Training under Roshi led to Goku breaking the human wall, an aspect of his character that has a deeper meaning once his heritage was introduced later on.

Goku is known to constantly push his limits and always preferring a fair fight. Where that mentality derived from was during his training with Master Roshi. When Goku was delivering milk as his training session, Goku was worn out and suggested using the nimbus with Roshi replying that it wouldn’t be training and that Gohan did the same training. This hits home the theme of improving oneself because the training was to improve the body with the nimbus negating that. This motivated Goku to push on and always believe in a fair fight, because he strongly cherishes his grandpa.

The RRA Arc was one of the most important arcs for Goku’s development. It starts off with him going on a selfish quest to retrieve his four star ball but in the process learned how much people cherishes their lives and took responsibility for it, leading to him going on a selfless quest to obtain all the Dragon Balls.

Goku learning how much people cherishes their lives stemmed from a hostage scene, where General White held a village chief hostage. He threatened to kill the chief if Goku makes a move on him, and Goku was reluctant to do anything at first but then the chief exclaimed that saving the village is more important than saving him. Goku after hearing that instantly was about to comply with that notion until the chief said he still wants to be saved. Goku then was reluctant yet again. This scene had a great impact on Goku’s character. Goku is pure hearted yet had no troubles killing the innocent chief, this was because he wasn’t pure by human standards and thus didn’t feel like humans despite being taught morals by grandpa Gohan and comprehended said morals. Goku realized that humans cherish their lives to the point that they’d value it more than the greater cause through the village chief. This was the start of another one of Goku’s themes – The meaning of purity.

Later on the RRA arc, during when he met Upa and his father Bora, Tao showed up to kill Goku for the RRA. Bora instead fought Tao in his place with Goku letting him. This led to Bora dying and Upa alone without a father. This was a pivotal moment for Goku because it made him take responsibility for the lives of others. When he saw Upa mourning over his loss, Goku stared at his grandpa’s ball, the ball which saved his life from Tao. This symboliszd how Gohan was his motivation for taking said responsibility because Upa loss was a reflection of the loss Goku himself faced when Gohan died. This is why Goku decided to gather all the Dragon Balls to wish Bora back instead of his selfish quest. He felt responsible for Bora’s death because he attracted the danger of Tao towards him.

Afterwards, he climbed up Korin’s tower and met Korin. Goku was tasked to take the sacred water from Korin who was too skilled and fast for Goku. Goku at this point was highly motivated which led to a scene when he contemplated taking the water from Korin during his sleep. Goku was inches away from grabbing it but paused and thought to himself. Although Goku strongly wanted to revive Bora to atone for allowing him to die, he also still strongly believed in fairness as a fighter. Both of which was a result of him honouring Gohan. This was the start of Goku’s defining characteristics – His conflicted nature. In the end, Goku decided not to cheat, believing he’d be able to work for it. But it was really his true nature that made that decision, which was revealed later on. In the end, Goku was able to take the water but it was revealed that it was actually ordinary water he was working for. The power he gained came from the work he put into the water not the water itself, which reinforced the main themes of the show, valuing hard work over the reward.

During the Baba Tournament saga, Goku competed to get the last Dragon Ball and wish Upa back. When Goku brought Upa via nimbus cloud, he gave Upa words of encouragement almost like an older brother. Goku reveals that he was once scared like Upa too but after exploring the world realized how much fun it is, as shown by Goku’s fascination with the wonders of the world throughout his adventures. He also told Upa that it’d be possible for him to experience all that fun once he trains and learns from Bora him, much like Goku did from Gohan. His final opponent was revealed to be none other than his grandpa. A touching moment ensued with him reuniting with his grandpa after their match. This was the first and only time Goku was shown crying, which furthered the impact of it, because he cherished his grandpa more than anything else. It showed a vulnerable side to Goku, showing that no matter how joyous one appears, some scars don’t truly heal, something that is brought up again later on in the series. Him growing to care more for lives also influenced his emotion towards Gohan. Gohan explained that he was wearing the mask to make sure Goku didn’t held back and evaluated his progress. He also told Goku that he needs to work on his weakness – His tail (Which was revealed to be a grander weakness once his heritage was introduced later on). Which Goku did during the 22nd Tournament, further showing how Gohan motivates his actions. The main theme of Goku’s character during the RRA – Baba arc was the responsibility of one’s actions and the rewards and that come with it. A corresponding theme of a later arc.

Goku’s reaction to Krillin’s death was a reflection of how much he grew from the RRA arc, he truly felt the pain of loss to the point that he was out for revenge and was willing to take great measures to avenge his friend’s deaths by drinking the real sacred water that could’ve led to his death and gaining greater power. Although he hates taking short-cuts, he was in his most dire situation and had no choice. After he defeated King Piccolo, Mr. Popo soon reminded him that statuses are no barrier for power, and that there’s always someone better by outclassing him in every way and teaching him ways to improve his fighting methods.

During the 23rd World Tournament Goku has now grown into a young adult. Where he met the girl he promised to marry as a kid – ChiChi. Goku’s purity and desire to honor his grandpa led to him accepting marriage even though he doesn’t have any romantic feelings for ChiChi and women in general. It took an unconventional guy like Goku, who goes against the ideological pure hearted person, to court someone like ChiChi who attempted to follow the ideological steps for marriage but by marrying Goku did the opposite due to not being very bright similar to how Goku misunderstood marriage by not being very bright himself. There might be a hidden message in there about how we perceive love as a species back then. Because standards for a man used to be to have a wife and child, and to be a pure person would be to have the required feelings that comes with that. But with Goku, his pureness didn’t gave him any predetermined straightness because that’s not what his pureness stems from. He only married a woman because she follows what she perceived to be society’s standards at the time and as a result Goku felt obligated, but not romantic. It could be commentary about how we’re not truly following our hearts, but rather what society determines our hearts should be like.

After the epic fight between Goku and Piccolo Jr, Goku made a decision that foreshadows what’s to come in the Z era – Giving Piccolo a Senzu Bean and allowing him to escape for the sake of having a rival to test his limits on. It may appear that Kami’s ties to Piccolo was what the decision stemmed from, but little did Goku know that it was actually an action that stems from his heritage.

The Saiyan saga starts with Goku revealing he has a son, who he named after his deceased grandpa Gohan, showing right off the bat that he cares so much for his son to the point that he named him after the one he cherished the most. He also revealed he didn’t give Gohan any martial arts training because ChiChi insisted that it wasn’t needed, despite Goku wanting to train him he let ChiChi have the say. Chichi having the final say is something that is present throughout Goku and Chichi’s relationship, even though Goku may not agree he honors his grandpa’s teachings by letting her make the decisions.

Raditz then appears and reveals Goku’s heritage, that he’s a descendant and one of the last surviving members of the alien warriors – The Saiyans. Although Goku viewed Raditz and the Saiyans as evil scumbags, Raditz insists that they’re simply doing what they’re bred for and tells Goku he’s not fit to live on earth, foreshadowing his development in a later arc. Goku however claimed he didn’t care for his heritage and only wanted Raditz to leave his home. Raditz then kidnaps his son Gohan forcing a desperate Goku to team up with his arch enemy Piccolo. This showed how Goku was willing to put aside his dislike for receiving help aside because he felt saving his son was too important.

Goku died in the fight with Raditz with Piccolo surviving and kidnapping Gohan – Who was revealed to have great potential during the fight. During his training with King Kai. King Kai explained being a Saiyan gives them a gift and sense for battle which Goku happily acknowledges since he’s a Saiyan. This was the start of Goku learning what it truly means to be a Saiyan, and knowing who he is.

Later on, before his fight with Vegeta a key exchange with Vegeta before their battle ensues. Vegeta tried to put down Goku like he would other lower class warriors but Goku, thanks to his upbringing, was able to turn that on his head by humbling himself, saying he’s actually grateful to the Saiyans for seeing him as nothing more than a lower class and sending him to earth. Goku was both grateful and hateful towards the Saiyans. He hated what he could have become if he lived in their society and hated their culture as it goes against what he stands for, the idea that hard work means more than social hierarchy and the morals he grew up on. But at the same time he was grateful to them for that very reason. If it weren’t for the Saiyans operating like they did then he wouldn’t have experience the adventures he had on earth, in which both its ups and downs and all the teachings and experience he had moulded him in a way that compliments his pure desire to fight. This was further shown by Goku also responding to Vegeta with the classic line “Even a low class can surpass an elite with enough hard work” which was in tune with the lessons of “Not being too content with your power” and “There’s always someone better” that he grew up on. His gratefulness to the Saiyans deepened his love for the planet.

When Vegeta transformed into a Great Ape, it revealed to Goku his darkest secret that was kept from him all his life – He killed Grandpa Gohan. Something that he’d hate to do more than anything. But instead of hating himself for it, it made him realize that his Saiyan nature is a part of himself that he cannot shake no matter how much he hates it. This was further shown to Goku by the fact that his son Gohan was able to have some control over his Great Ape form due to his human half, a half that Goku himself can never share. Foreshadowing the fact that Goku is not fit to live on earth.

After the fight with Vegeta, Goku requested to have Vegeta’s life spared, not because he could change his ways but because he’s someone who he can test his limits against. Goku admitted he knew doing it was wrong but his Saiyan nature drives him to test his limits despite how much he prefers not to put the planet he love in danger. This showed the true nature of Goku’s confliction, with his Saiyan nature conflicting with his compassion, which played a key role in a later arc.

Throughout the course of the Saiyan arc Goku learned both the pros and corns of being a Saiyan, the natural instincts and incredible potential the Saiyans possess is something to be glad over, but then there are the negatives, the irrational decision making that stems from Saiyan natural instincts. Goku weighed both the pros and cons of being a Saiyan and decided to just accept himself rather than loathing or celebrating what he is, which allowed him to figure his way around his limits as a Saiyan in a later arc. There’s a great message there about accepting who you are.

Goku primarily wants to fight strong opponents, and would spare enemies sorely because of that but still showcased his merciful/compassion side as well. During the Namek arc, Goku offered Vegeta a senzu bean saying it was because he wants a rematch against him on earth, but he also displayed interest in whether or not Vegeta is still evil. He also wanted to spare the Ginyu force not only because of how weak they are or how they showed some levels of honor in Captain Ginyus case. His desire to give second chances stemmed for him realizing Grandpa Gohan was actually dead and not reincarnated in the Baba saga and was fully developed by his knowledge of the afterlife in the Saiyan arc (i.e knowing about hell).

Later on in the Namek arc, Vegeta reveals to Goku while dying at the hands of Frieza the truth behind Planet Vegeta’s (Saiyan planet) destruction, that it was Frieza who destroyed the planet. Goku, although still hating both Vegeta and the Saiyans, couldn’t help but respect Vegeta for crying and begging to him, because of how hard it must’ve been for someone as prideful as Vegeta to do it. It was a level of pride Goku can relate to being a Saiyan himself, because it wasn’t Vegeta liking the Saiyans which Goku can never do that filled his emotions, but it was how the Saiyans were the source of Vegeta’s own pride, of what he is. And although Goku has opposing beliefs to Vegeta, he wanted to share Vegeta’s pride out of respect. Meaning, taking pride in himself and his own beliefs as a Saiyan raised on earth. That’s why Goku choose to fight for the Saiyans, because Frieza enslaving the Saiyans was an insult to what Goku is. This marked Goku’s full acceptance of who he is to the point that he’s willing to defend it.

During the fight with Frieza, Frieza pointed out how hypocritical it is to fight for the Saiyans despite how evil they are. With Goku responding with that’s what led to their demise. This showed that although Goku was willing to defend the Saiyans, he’s still doesn’t defend them based on how right or wrong they are, but by what they actually are. Goku himself still believes being a Saiyan can led to him doing wrong things, but still accepted it rather than trying to defend how right it is to do it.

After Goku transformed into a Super Saiyan and defeated Frieza. Fully accepting his Saiyan heritage led to his feeling upset after his victory. It reflected on how he owned the fact that he was the Super Saiyan of legend and is very well the strongest. But instead of being happy about this, it up setted him because he realized that he may no longer have limits to break, or stronger opponents to push himself for. Owning the legend of the Super Saiyan meant going against Goku’s reason for living which greatly upset him. That fact that he took more pride in said reason is why it hit him more. It was one of the reason why he wanted to spare Frieza, the other being because Frieza would have to live with humiliation of being defeated by a supposed lower lifeform. And why he held back his blast enough so that Frieza was able to surviving and get reconstructed.

During the Android arc, Goku learned a single scientist from the RRA army Dr. Gero survived his one man assault on them and created super powered Androids to kill him. When Bulma brought up the idea of stopping the Androids before they’re activated, they each gave their reasons for letting them activate. Goku expressed his desire to fight the Androids only after Bulma asked if he agrees with her. This was an important scene that further impacted his decision at the end of the arc, because Goku would allow the Z-Fighters to stop the threat from arriving due to his love for the planet but would not have any hand in doing so because of his pure desire to fight. This showed Goku that even his mere presence can instigate a battle against enemies, despite how passive he tries to be.

He lost to Android #19 because he didn’t take the medicine for his heart virus, thinking the timeline changed enough that he didn’t need to take it. This was a big mistake that, as well as the Androids existence, made him begin to contemplate his place on earth. From the moment Goku woke up from the heart virus, was the moment he started to think more about the future and calculated whether or not Gohan can go Super Saiyan during their time in the ROSAT. Meaning he decided to focus more on unleashing Gohan’s potential so that if he can’t do it, Gohan can.

The scene when Goku looked out the window was a powerful scene, it showed that he was contemplating a multitude of things about his life up to this point and how deeply concerned he was about them, giving even more depth to his character. Things such as Gohan’s potential, his Saiyan nature, the Z-Fighter’s leniency and his main reason for his decision at the end of the arc (Which I’ll go more in-depth on further down the analysis). Goku also decided to find a way to push past the Super Saiyan barrier after realizing that it’s the only way to defeat the Androids, despite not being sure if it exists. The fact that powerful Androids on earth were able to surpass Super Saiyan made Goku relieved, as well as worried. Relieved that the Super Saiyan really isn’t all powerful, meaning there’s a chance to break the Super Saiyan wall, but still worried because of the Android threat itself. Hence his response to Krillin asking if he’s scared or excited with “Both.”

During his time in the ROSAT Goku came up with the perfect solution to the Super Saiyan barrier by inventing the Mastered Super Saiyan form. This form is the defining form of Goku’s character because it reflected on his mentality on his work as well as his personality. He purely strives to get stronger and thus focuses his mind on eliminating his weaknesses regardless of whether or not it’d make him strong enough to compete. The MSSJ reflects this better than anything else in the series, especially when compared to Vegeta’s inability to fully master the form. Goku doesn’t allow any angry thoughts to drive him like Vegeta, which is why his mind is clear enough that he can train in the most efficient way possible. Because the form required practically the opposite of anger to achieve it by becoming accustomed to the regular Super Saiyan form. Goku, also unlike Vegeta, passes down the form to his son, allowing Gohan to fully realize his potential, because of Goku’s desire to secure the planet’s future. There’s a great message there about the mentality of a worker.

When Goku came out of the ROSAT, he seemed even more calm than usual which puzzled the rest of the Z-Fighters, especially after he refused to go back in the ROSAT despite claiming he’s no match for Cell. This was because he saw a glimpse of Gohan’s full power during their time in the ROSAT and knew Gohan is more than strong enough to beat Cell, hence why Goku went to visit Cell so he can gauge his power in comparison to Gohan and see if he’d need to go back to the ROSAT with Gohan. Goku knew that working themselves more than necessary would have negative results both psychologically and physically, hence why he didn’t tell Gohan about how he’s the only hope and opt to relax more with his family during the 9 days before the Cell Games. Focusing too much on work can have negative effects on family life, which is a great message.

During the Cell Games, Goku gave up against Cell and called out Gohan to take his place. The Cell Games utilized the way Goku’s character was built throughout his adventures and turned it on his head. Although Goku was right about Gohan’s power he didn’t took into account their differing mindsets, a critical error that almost cost him his son’s and the planet’s life. Gohan’s reluctance to fight prevented him from bringing out his potential against Cell, who a reflection of Goku himself, a reflection of Goku’s Saiyan nature. Goku’s dislike for unfairness in fighting which ironically stemmed from his Grandpa Gohan was turned on his head with Piccolo questioning whether he values a fair fight more than the life of his son Gohan, since Goku gave Cell a senzu bean and watch without showing any concern as his son was getting beaten to death. It showed Goku how bad of a father he was being for misunderstanding the nature of his son, a nature that Piccolo was able to understand better because Gohan had more on his mind than anger, which Goku didn’t take into account. Goku was frozen when Piccolo had a go at him for this and not informing Gohan of the situation beforehand because of how certain he was that Gohan would beat Cell and how he thought he was doing the best he can for him psychologically by not telling him. Further emphasizing how much a mistake can ruin everything for Goku.

This was a fantastic showcase of how although Goku is pure of heart, he evolved from a warrior race that didn’t evolve to feel compassion but to care more for the fighting aspect of things which drastically altered his way of viewing situations such as these. He thought since Gohan would know that he needed to use his anger then he wouldn’t allow any form of compassion to cloud him from doing what he has to do. But then Piccolo, who is from a more compassionate race, made Goku realize that his son’s compassion indeed clouded him. It’s why Goku wasn’t as compassionate as expected for someone pure of heart, despite comprehending human morals. Because the Saiyans aren’t bred for that compassion and his purity mainly derives from his nature as a Saiyan. This furthers the idea of how earth isn’t made for Goku.

When Gohan unleashed his potential and was toying around with Cell, Goku was yelling out Gohan to take him out, showing how he’s grown more cautious due to his past experiences. But Gohan didn’t which led to Cell threatening to self destruct and blow up the earth. Goku then looked at his friends and smiled, knowing that he has great friends who’ll protect the earth he loves for years to come and who’ll be more united because of his passing. From that moment he made up his mind about his place on earth, that he wasn’t meant to live there, and so gave up his life for the sake of the planet by using instant transmission to take himself and the danger he brought away from the planet.

After Cell came back Goku gave Gohan, who giving up his will to fight because of feeling responsible for Goku’s death, words of encouragement to revive his fighting spirit, which Gohan takes to heart and gets back in the fight. This, as well as the mistakes Goku himself made, showed Goku what truly makes Gohan a better protector/person than himself, that was foreshadowed during the Saiyan arc, which Goku himself admitted when he announced his decision to stay dead at the of the arc. Gohan was more reliable than Goku because, unlike Goku, He won’t spare villains or give them time to be at their fullest for the sake of having a challenge. Also, Gohan did learn from toying around with Cell to never give evils such as Cell the chance to cause a major disaster, something Goku cannot do due to his pure Saiyan desires. In short, Gohan not being a fighter at heart was made him a better protector than Goku, who was a fighter at heart.

Goku thinking the earth is safter without him, which was the perfect culmination of Goku’s adventures up to that point, and passing down the torch to his son who developed into a better protector both physically and mentally than Goku can ever be (Or as it seemed at the time), showed how wise Goku has become. His main reason for staying dead was because how much bad guy’s he attracted that put danger to others. From Tao Pai Pai in the RRA arc, Tienshinhan/Shen, Piccolo, Saiyans, Frieza and finally to the Androids with the majority of them being global threats progressing to the Android and by Android saga there was a whole universe of possibilities due to the Saiyans and Frieza. The Androids were key and had the biggest impact on Goku because they were created solely to kill Goku (And did in alternate timelines), they couldn’t be sensed, came from a secret lab on earth and spied on Goku for years. Goku’s decision also satisfied his love for fighting, as the otherworld is full of powerful opponents who should be around Goku’s strength. Although Goku won’t see his friends and families grow and live out their lives, and will never return to the planet he loves, he was able to come up with an equilibrium between his desire to fight and his desire to protect the earth which showed a great deal of wisdom.

Another big contribution to Goku’s decision to stay dead was the Z-Fighter’s leniency, with Vegeta being the biggest contribution. Goku knew that Vegeta’s pride was wrapped up in beating him and that staying dead would leave Vegeta as an empty shell of a man. Goku knew it was necessary so he would grow into a stronger ally and family man instead of leading a path that would end in his death and hell. Goku believed that as long as Vegeta’s pride remains, he’ll always be evil and Goku at that point was the source of his pride. Not only was Vegeta an example of someone Goku prevented from doing evil by staying dead, but he also served as a symbol. If someone like Vegeta can change because of Goku’s death, then it’s highly likely that someone else out there in the Universe i.e in Frieza’s army can change. One person can make all the difference as Dr. Gero showcased. His pure Saiyan nature also held him back from telling his friends to stop him from allowing threats to pass, which was shown to deeply affect him when he began to contemplate on his life. You could say he was trapped by his nature until he found his equilibrium.

Goku’s decision to stay dead corresponds perfectly with the theme of taking responsibility of one’s actions and the rewards that come with that was present in Goku’s development during the RRA arc. He was rewarded a body in other world so he can train and fight for eternity for saving the earth numerous times. This also marked the growth and development of Goku coming full circle because the scale of the responsibility he took increased – from reviving a single man to defending the planet, with the rewards he received corresponding with his growth – From meeting his grandpa to spending eternity doing the thing he love with his mind at peace. It showed how selfless he’s grown to be despite being unable to eliminate his selfish tendencies, as by him focusing entirely on the planet’s future without expecting to die like he did, much like how he focused on reviving Bora without expecting to meet Grandpa Gohan. There’s a great message there about putting your heart into the work or goodwill more than the expected rewards which corresponds with the themes surrounding Goku’s mindset in his training.

During the Buu arc, Goku aided the Z-Fighters in stopping Buu from resurrecting further showing how determined he has become to prevent disasters from happened due to the events of the Android arc. He also opt to train Goten and Trunks to learn the fusion technique to prepare them for Buu and to further prepare future generations for future threats, saying it’s not the place of a dead man to sort out the earth’s problems. It showed how much Goku was concerned about the future after the events of the Android arc, he know that could either destroy Buu or teach Goten and Trunks fusion that could be a big help in the future due to the amount SSJ3 drains from his time on earth but chose to do the latter.

A big showcase of how Goku has become more willing to put his pride aside for the sake of the planet’s future was when he wanted to fuse with Vegeta via the Potara earrings. He was willing to put his dislike for unfairness aside for as long as he existed since the potara earrings were said to permanent, showing how much he’s grown to care more for the planet.

Before the final battle with Buu, Goku suggested he’d get dirty photos of Bulma for Elder Kai if he helps him. It shows that Goku grew to understand men’s fascination with woman despite not being able to share that fascination due to being a pure hearted Saiyan, thanks to the lecherous ways of Master Roshi. Goku desire’s to have Kid Buu reborn as a good guy also showcased his compassionate side, it showed that he’d much rather have his opponents be good people as well, and him deciding to train Uub also showed his concern with future generations.

To be honest, the Android arc would’ve been the perfect send off/ending to Goku’s character. Not to say Buu saga Goku was bad, he was great it just didn’t match the greatness of the character before that and felt unnecessary. The Android saga perfected the idea that Goku isn’t meant for earth because it wasn’t his natural home, as well as bringing his character arc to a close with the perfect send off. Although it was nice to see Majin Vegeta once again proving Goku’s fears, it couldn’t capitalize on the fears like the Android saga did because it already did it in the perfect way with his decision to stay dead. Not to mention the whole passing of the torch angle being ruined with Goku once again being the best protector.

Of all the great things about Goku, the true genius of his character is his purity. He literally twist the concept of a pure hearted person and turns it on its head. He’s pure of heart yet his pure desires can put those he cares about as well as the planet in danger. His character arc provides a more plausible take on pure heartedness, by relaying the message that being pure of heart means unshakable heart’s desires rather morality or society’s standards, which can good or bad depending on what the desires are.

Goku is truly one of the greatest characters of all time in my book.

As I’ve mentioned before, this guild is more than happy to host guest content, as long as it’s over a paragraph long and looks like effort went into it.  Today’s guest post was submitted by Doug Stuber, and while it’s not anime related, it clearly wasn’t a quick job either.  It’s a political parody of the Chipmunks Christmas song, so before I post it, I should probably mention that the views and opinions there-in are not necessarily  the views or opinions of the Fullmetal Narcissist blog.

 

(All Together now, in Chipmunk-esque squeals, just like Alvin and the Chipmunks have sung it since the 60s)

Christmas comes but once a year,
soldiers bloodied, Mother’s tears,
bombs exploding in the air,
it’s Christmas everywhere!

Barons sipping booze or tea,
greed leads to frivolity,
one man’s toil is another-kids toy,
it’s Christmas in Hanoi.

Farm girls walk to city lights,
paddies shimmer by moonlight,
no one left to grow rice high,
it’s Christmas in Shanghai.

Now she sits at sewing machines,
making clothes for Wal-Mart Queens
she takes home a buck a day,
it’s Christmas in Bombay. (Mumbai)

One hundred forty hour weeks,
raped and left no food to eat,
import maids, Sri Lanka’s poor,
it’s Christmas Singapore.

Catholic Mass in Spanish here,
Argentina has great fear
The IMF has had their say
Guess who is going to pay?

Now the Dems have won their seats
still no nerve to scream “impeach,”
It seems they’re also on the take,
Which SUCKS for goodness sake!

Bush is set on World War three
claims tax cuts will set us free
Look, a tear in Laura’s eye
The Whitehouse is a sty.

Habeas Corpus is long gone
Now King George can have his fun
The law was passed here just in time
To root-out left-wing slime.

Osama thumbs his princely nose
Knowing Dad is Bush’s Bro,
The oil secured keeps China at bay
It’s Christmas all the way.

Now Osama’s dead and gone
Who will be the next war pawn?
Syria, Libya, Iran, no WAIT!
Christmas is way past late.

Barack Obama’s our new man
He spreads the war to Pakistan,
Drones are flying up above
Spreading Christmas love.

So go out and shop some more
Buy something from every store
The fascist status quo gains power
with every shopping hour.

Christmas comes but once a year,
Bloodied soldiers, Mother’s tears,
bombs exploding in the air
it’s Christmas everywhere!

Bombs exploding in the air
It’s Christmas everywhere!

Naru: Hello and welcome to the Fullmetal Narcissist anime blog! With me today is a very talented, successful young blogger whom many of you may know as the mind behind the popular Little Monster Girl web comic, Jennifer Paetsch! To start, would you like to tell the readers a little bit about yourself?

Paetsch: I am a writer and illustrator, and I live in Berlin, Germany! Right now, I’m focusing my work on my webcomic Little Monster Girl. I also occasionally draw a webcomic called Forgotten Road—which I promise, I will fill up with a lot more comics this winter! I’ve written a few books for young people, a couple of books for kids under 12 and a couple for kids over 13, as well as one adult novelette. Like I said, I live in Berlin but I’m American and I’ve spent a lot of time in different countries all over the globe! I have a dog and a cat.

Naru: What inspired you to start blogging?

Paetsch: Oh, like I said on my blog recently (in fact, it was because of the blogger award you gave me that I wrote this! Full disclosure!), I started the Little Monster Girl webcomic last year, and a webcomic needs a blog. Like the bee needs the flower. Like night and day! If you have one, you need to have the other.

Naru: Speaking of your opus, where did you come up with the idea for Little Monster Girl?

Paetsch: Little Monster Girl just came to me fully-formed out of the ether one day. It’s not like I had been musing any “what ifs” or saying anything more to myself more than “I think I’d like to make some sort of webcomic”. She just kind of showed up like an old friend I never knew I had and said, “Hey, this is my story. You should probably tell it.” I wish there was more to say! But I just consider it a blessing from the divine.
Ever since I was a teenager I wanted to draw comics. Like, comic-book comics. But way back then it was not something girls were encouraged to do! But because I spent a lot of time by myself, I managed to draw a lot. I really tried hard in those days to copy the style and techniques used by traditional comic book artists. I practiced inking with a brush. I practiced my lettering, too. So, anyway, I guess I just figured I wasn’t getting any younger, and if I wanted to use my skills and talents, I’d better use them now before it’s too late.
But skills and talents are not enough—you still need a story to tell. In fact, the story matters arguably most, I think. Art always seems to tell some sort of a story, doesn’t it? Sometimes planned, and sometimes not!

Naru: How would you describe your art style?

Paetsch: Nowadays it’s very egocentric. I draw mainly what pleases me. In fact, I have to be careful that I’m not too “in my head” so that the sketch I’ve made actually means something to someone else! Like, you can have a box and four circles. Is it a bar with bar seats? Is it a foot? That kind of thing.
So, loose sketches, purposefully unpolished, and also, I try to make it very “cartoony” sometimes, very spontaneous. I want it to look like it was drawn in one go, with a few more traditional panels thrown in just for fun. Just to create a mood. A contrasting mood. I hope that is the sort of answer you were looking for!

Naru: It certainly is. I’ve wondered this for a while… What kind of monster is Zela, anyway?

Paetsch: That remains to be seen! The monsters in my webcomic are more like mutants, I guess. Like the old Greek monsters—amalgams of humans and beasts. I like the Slayers concept where the more advanced a monster is, the more human-like it can appear. So Zela is one of those monsters that uses a human appearance to help them be successful hunters, or to fit in with human society. In fact, if Zela kept her mouth shut and was maybe not so yellow (yes, she is yellow!) she would be confused for a human. Maybe makeup could fix that! (laughs) The humanoid monsters in the webcomic might even be considered monster royalty … but that remains to be seen!

Naru: What would you say are your biggest literary influences?

Paetsch: Definitely Stephen King—but I guess everyone says that! But how could you not, right? Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale had a big effect on me, and I still think about it even now, some twenty years later, after reading it. I still think about those characters, not even going beyond the story, I just think about how Helprin created that romantic, magic-realisitic world and how beautiful everything was. And how there was no explanation for anything, really, magic included—it simply was.

Naru: Ah, King. I just finished book 5 of The Dark Tower myself. What’s it like to write a character who has almost no dialogue, like Zela?

Paetsch: Well, truth be told, I grew up on Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, and I miss the old violent cartoons with a little dialogue and mostly physical humor. I’ve noticed however that physical humor is hard to convey in a panel form! You have to be very, very clear about the action, and that can be tricky! I hope I’ve succeeded a little.
As the story progresses, though, she is going to have dialogue. I don’t want to exclude any non-English speakers in my audience, but that’s the way it was planned. There’s a contrast between where she started and where she ends up, and that will be shown in several ways, one of them being introduction of dialogue.

Naru: How do you balance the blue humor and surreal concepts of your comic?

Paetsch: Well, you know, the universe is everything, right? The world is sky and the world is shit, too! It’s flowers blooming and cows farting! I just try to copy real life. You know, you go to the dance in your finery and you split your pants. You try to impress the Queen and you pass out! That’s life, that’s what I’m about. It’s funny the more experience you have with life the more it seems to be a roller coaster ride where you are kind of strapped in, and you just have to go with it. You have to deal with it. Good and bad. You know? But I don’t want to go too far—nothing too brutal. I don’t want to copy life that much! I still want the comic to be mostly funny, a fun place to visit.

Naru: Not to sound like a prude or anything, but your title character appears in the nude quite frequently in your comic. Where would you say the line is between gratuitous nudity and plot-specific nudity?

Paetsch: Oh, Zela is always gratuitously nude! (laughs) Zela is meant to be bare-breasted or bare-bottomed at least once in every strip, so that means at least three times on each full page (I draw the comic in pages in a book, by hand, then scan it into my computer. So every three strips is a page). If I don’t hit that mark (and sometimes I can’t, for story reasons, or maybe I’m just not clever enough), I almost feel like I’ve let my readers down. It’s a feature! No one has complained yet!
As for why, well, I just sort of planned it that way. I guess it’s a way to keep her humble and vulnerable, because I don’t want her to be super-hero-like. She’s certainly not invincible. She needs to be relatable and human, for all her strengths. That’s kind of hard to show if she has no weaknesses.
But I won’t show her privates! It’s not that kind of comic!

Naru: In both the comic and your books, what sort of themes do you like to explore in your work?

Paetsch: I really like exploring duality. How alike can things become, how different. How much does one thing need another. Contrasting one thing with another. I like twins. You can see in my YA novels, there are lots of doppelgangers and shapeshifters. I’m all about that!
Masks. Masks are great. Majora’s Mask is my fav Zelda game, for example. Death is another great theme. Do we die? Or do we just change our masks? But you know, I’m not a philosopher, I don’t have the mind for that. I like to read about philosophy and I like religious texts, but I’m like the horse in Animal Farm, I read them again and again but I can’t get past ABCD! (laughs)
Anyway, Zela’s got her masks that she makes. What are they for? Someone asked me about that once. Do they really give her powers? Or is it just make-believe, and she thinks they do? Not sure. Not sure about our masks, either!

Naru: Why are clocks afraid of compasses?

Paetsch: Oh no! Do I have to explain the joke? Oh, dear! I guess it’s not that funny, then! Well, a clock has working gears inside, but the (zombie) compass is empty inside. You know, like a dead guy is to a living person! Ta da!

Naru: Well, we’ll chock it up to me just not being clever enough to get it. Now, onto more serious fare, what can you tell us about the City of Doors series?

Paetsch: City of Doors is about a kid who lives in a fake Berlin and is forced to become a werewolf. He lives in a fantasy version of Berlin in the fairy world and in order to compete with the other creatures there, he becomes a monster. The series is about him going through these changes and the horrible things that happen to him, his friends, and his family. I mean, it’s not Saw, but there are a few twists and turns! It’s made for young adults (it’s a YA novel), so that means over the age of 13.

Naru: What can you tell us about The Homework that Time Forgot?

Paetsch: The Homework That Time Forgot is for kids over the age of 9. It’s a scifi adventure about a kid who lives on the moon and gets his science project sabotaged by himself! His future self. It’s a little bit of a time-travel story, and he has to get his project back and set everything right. There’s bullys, there’s robots—what more could you want? And, of course, there’s school, too. Yuck!

Naru: I am loving The Dark Horse so far. When will the next chapter be out?

Paetsch: I am so glad that you are! It will be out whenever I get around to it, which in all honesty it’s on the back burner because of work and school. So, maybe spring 2016? Maybe. If any of your readers want to get it for free, they can using the code EH94X on Smashwords! You can include the link to the book, if you want. https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/427285

Naru: Ooh, I certainly will. You’ve said you were going to school to learn 3D animation. What kind of 3D work are you planning to do?

Paetsch: I am! I’m learning online via a German school. I really don’t know what I will end up doing with it! It’s something to add to my resume as a skill. I guess it depends on how talented I get with it! Like anything else, it takes time.

Naru: And finally, since I’m an anime blogger I have to ask this, what’s your favorite anime?

Paetsch:  Probably Evangelion. Love the religious themes. Love the interpretation of the Bible stories. Cowboy Beebop and Slayers are great, too. But I also really like Urusei Yatsura. I love Lum. Maybe my favorite anime movie is either Howl’s Moving Castle or Urusei Yatsura Beautiful Dreamer. I dunno. I guess I like the old school stuff!

Naru: Jennifer, thank you very much for stopping by and having this chat with me. To those reading along, you can find her work at lmgcomic.com, along with links to her other works. Like her blog, comment on it, and subscribe to it for updates!  You can also follow her on twitter @WrongDayToQuit !

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