Steven Universe: Room for Ruby recap. Comparisons, oppression, and minorities

Spoiler Warning! This post discusses key spoilers for the Steven Universe episode Room for Ruby. Go watch it first before reading this recap.

Let’s start off from the fact that the Crystal Gems embody difference. This is a well known fact. They are women, they are refugees from a difficult culture, they are queer characters. They are different, cutting against the mainstream culture. The metaphor here standing in for mainstream culture is the Earth’s changing and harsh weather. Ideally, women, people of colour, and the LGBTIQ community would receive acceptance, and lead lives without oppression and maltreatment. In reality, woman, people of colour, and the LGBTIQ community face oppression. The weather is not stable and easy like it was back on the Crystal Gem Homeworld. There’s rain here.

Because of the oppression, they need to work harder. Society does not reach out and meet their needs (marriage equality, workplace practises, physical safety, to name a few). They have to adjust. For example, the work that the Crystal Gems needed to put in to convince Cousin Andy that they could keep and maintain the barn back in Gem Heist. This is despite doing a good job of running it themselves without oversight.

Ruby seems to adapt to oppression quickly. This annoys Lapis.

I’ve felt this way before, and I’m sure many others have too. The sense of loss and insecurity cuts harshly. Where you see someone seemingly living with oppression with far more grace and energy than in your own life. And then you compare yourself to them. The whole process makes you angry.

Lapis questions herself – if Ruby is adapting quickly to this oppressive status and world, why is it so hard for me? What is wrong with me that makes adaptation so hard?

I was thrilled to see Steven Universe explore such an important, but rarely discussed, emotion.

Ruby’s grace falls away – the little liar was really after her  spaceship, the Roaming Eye. She and the other Rubies left the ship behind when they failed to fight off the Crystal Gems on the Moon (At the end of season three) and were launched into space. Steven is not judged for the trust he placed in Ruby. Lapis feels vindicated for her mistrust, saying “I was right! No one could be that well adjusted.”

The conclusion drawn from this episode is about not being convinced, or drawn into the illusion of a completely positive experience. Most people have more going on under the outward appearance of their lives.

The larger comment, I think, is don’t question your self worth by comparing your experience to another, especially if you are a woman, person of colour, or have an identity that rests within, near, or is a distant tie to, the LGBTIQ community.

At the same time, there is a message to exercise caution. If a person seems overwhelmingly positive and embracing of everything in a culture without any reservation, then maybe there is something worth discussing in more depth.

Despite the lack of judgement and accusation against Steven, the Crystal Gems lost their ship. Now what? How are they going to travel into space? I wonder, what value Room for Ruby is to the audience, in regards to acceptance?

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Iron Fist trailer from Marvel and Teen Titans trailer from DC

Both Marvel and DC released trailers for soon to be released or upcoming film projects this week – namely Iron Fist, and Teen Titans: The Judas Contract.

Iron Fist is set for a March 17 release date on Netflix. Teen Titans: The Judas Contract will be released later this year.


Marvel Entertainment and Netflix have a new trailer for Iron Fist, which shows a more solid sense of the narrative – Danny Rand has to take back is family business. And there is an underground martial arts war going on. Coleen Wing tips the scales in the favour of Rand and his other allies. I think pretty much Wing is going to make or break the show.


Two of the Teen Titans enemies are joining forces here, with Brother Blood and Deathstroke aiming to put an end to the young super heroes. The animation looks good, and voices acting sounds strong.

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News – Pokemon X and Y versions announced.

Nintendo President, Satoru Iwata, has announced two new Pokemon games for the Nintendo 3DS console. This will be the first Pokemon game to be released on Nintendo’s popular 3D console, and mark the sixth generation of new Pokemon in the juggernaut gaming franchise since the first games, Pokemon Red and Green versions (presented as Red and Blue in the west), appeared in 1996.

Combined with the previous five generations, each adding about 150 more monsters to the tally, we can expect a total well over 800 Pokemon to collect when the new versions are released in October this year. Below are some thoughts I had after watching the first trailer from Nintendo:

Pokemon X and Pokemon Y versions

The new region: A trip to Paris.

Up until recently, Pokemon games were set in a world based on a part of Japan. Pokemon Black and White and their respective sequels was set in a place called Unova, which was based on America’s east coast. In October, players will visit a region based on Europe – specifically Paris, if the Eifle tower lookalike shown briefly in the trailer will appear in the game’s final animation.

Why there will be a Pokemon Z version in 2014.

The change from two dimensional to three dimensional graphics represents a milestone in video game history. It makes sense that when the Pokemon Franchise takes this step forward, the change would be a highlight of the latest game. This is why the game’s titles reflect the change, and why a Z will likely appear in the future.

X and Y axis appear on line graphs to track the progress of something being measured over time. For line graphs in 3D, a Z axis is added to the graphs. Specific points, or coordinates, can then be plotted or found by checking the X, Y, and Z axis. This is called a Cartesian Coordinate System. Since the franchise is transitioning to 3D, and the titles reflect the X and Y axis, it makes sense that a Z version will follow.

The Starters.

Each new game allows the player to chose one of three started pokemon – these are entry level monsters know for being mascots, and powerful in battle. This new game has three new starters, and below is a comic which introduces the three new Pokemon: Chespin, Fennekin, and Froakie.

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Movie Review – Wreck it Ralph

At Walt Disney Studios, screen writers Jennifer Lee and Phil Johnston, and director Richard More – who originally thought up the concept of Wreck it Ralph – have created an entertaining family film about heroes, villains, and video games.

Wreck-it Ralph

Overview

One thing that makes this a strong film is its history. It’s clear that the team at Walt Disney Studios re-worked and shaped the idea into something interesting and relevant over a long timeframe. In addition, the movie is filled with references and characters from prominent video games over the past three decades. The popularity of a crossover to pop-culture fans cannot be underestimated.

Wreck-it Ralph nods to hardcore gamers while telling a story about being an outcast finding a rewarding role to play. The central character is a video game villain named Ralph, voiced by John C. Reilly, who lives in a dump, and is thrown from an apartment building into a muddy pond each time a player clears a level in the video game he occupies: Fix-it Felix Junior. It’s clear why he is frustrated.

Ralph begins a quest to find a medal: an item that apparently only heroes can possess – he believes it  will grant him respect, and potentially, acceptance from the other occupants of his game; snobby, not-playable-characters (NPCs) like Jean and Mary, and the game’s star; Fix-it Felix, voiced by Jack McBrayer. At the very least, it might allow him to move out of the dump, and into the penthouse of the apartment building.

Themes and Characters

Ralph is an outcast, and a conflicted one. It is revealed early on in the film that many video game villains hold regular group therapy session. Characters such as Zangief and M.Bison (from Street Fighter), Bowser (from Super Mario Brothers) and Doctor Eggman (from Sonic the Hedgehog) have accepted that their roles as villains. It’s possible that talking to other villains gives them all the support they need. This is not true in Ralph’s case. It’s clear he is missing friendship in his life. the experience of ‘finding your tribe’ is a key theme here. Ralph finds real satisfaction not in simply playing a game and getting a medal, which is a fairly straightforward task, but in maintaing friendships and ties to others.

Dealing with rejection and ostracism, in addition to a brief brush over the effects of bullying, are also dealt with here, particularly when Ralph finds common ground with his new friend Vanellope Von Schweetz: voiced by Sarah Silverman, Vanellope is a little glitch character from the racing game called Sugar Rush that Ralph crashes into on his journey. As a glitch, Vanellope has been entirely rejected by her peers in Sugar Rush, particularly the noxious King Candy, voiced by Alan Tudyk. Vanellope teaches Ralph tenacity and resilience – Silverman’s bright and clever performance combined with this in-built resilience make Vanellope a strong character.

Animation and Effects

Their is a remarkable blend of art style evident here: the characters of Hero’s Duty, the game where Ralph goes to find a medal, are sharp and realistic humans – their game is far more up-to-date compared to the 8-bit arcade characters. Jane Lynch, voicing Seargent Tamora Calhoun, plays this aggressive character with consistent intensity. She comes from a harsh world clearly inspired by games such as Mass Effect, and Gears of War – there acting and design are perfectly aligned. The Sugar Rush racers have a chibi or “child like” appearance – they spend most of their time in racing karts where only their faces are visible.

Most of the movies time is spent in the sweet paradise of Sugar Rush. The animation textures of chocolate dust and sparkling sugar crystals are an achievement. It’s appropriate then that the Japanese pop music written for Sugar rush can be described as ‘bubble gum pop’.

The lighting effects in Ralph and Felix’s home communicate major emotions: a harsh, red warning light dominates the interior when danger appears, and warm, gold light streams through the penthouse interior when everyone celebrates the 30th anniversary of Felix’s (and Ralph’s) game.

Wreck-It Ralph is produced by Walt Disney Studios, distributed by Walt Disney Pictures, and Directed by Rich Moore.

Weekly Comics – August 24 2012. Three Independents.

I had a two week break, unannounced (sorry about that), and I have a shorter, special post this week, with three comics from independent publishers Dark Horse, Kaboom!, and Image.

Adventure Time #7

I could not praise this issue enough – I enjoy the animated series, and had a great experience reading the comic book adaptation. The character voices, written by Ryan North, effortlessly capture the sound of Adventure Times language, which is fairly unique. The plot basically centres around time travel: Jake and Finn are attempting to repair a time machine built be Princess Bubblegum, but are thrown decades into the future as a result 0f their efforts. The Scenes in the future are my favorite. Shelly Paroline and Braden Lamb produce some energetic and fun art. An altogether engaging comic that draws the reader in with its accessible and bright design, and then doesn’t let go as the adventure continues.

America’s Got Powers #2

A very sharp and clever story about a young American with superpowers living in a world separated into “Powers” and “Normals”. This issue deals with the aftermath of the issue #1, and Tommy Watts, the protagonist, has a decision to make about his future: will he fight in an arena against other super powered teens for a popular reality television show? Bryan Hitch’s art has clean, strong lines: it’s always a high standard of comic art, and America’s Got Powers is filled with good designs for characters and places in this original world. This is a great super hero comic for readers looking for a good series without having to research continuity to understand the story. Jonathan Ross writes strong character relationships between Tommy Watts and his family in addition to a love interest – Debbie, who has an insect-like appearance with “cute mandibles“. It does seem similar to the Hunger Games, but the comic ties itself to many popular culture influences including X-men, Heroes, and Rising Stars.

Angel & Faith #12

The story of Joss Whedon’s Legendary Buffy the Vampire Slayer continues to expand as writer Christos Gage crafts a new story for popular spin-off character Angel and the rouge slayer Faith. Willow, the powerful witch, and Connor, Angel’s son (Both characters have interesting histories), join Angel and Faith on an important quest: part of their goal is to help Willow regain magical powers. Rebekah Isaacs draws superior facial expressions on the characters, with great lighting considering the characters are exploring the hellish and gloomy Quor’toth in search of magic. This plot stems from the stories of the television series, followed by season 8: a Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic. Both are worth watching and reading. They are endlessly entertaining, smart, and woven together with Whedon’s own sense of humor.

Seven Temples in Seven Days – 6

Temple 6. The Temple of Time.

A brief description:

I’m completing all seven temples in Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Masterquest in seven days. These are the Forest, Fire, Water, Shadow, Spirit, Light, and Time Temples, which serve as different levels to complete within the game, the final goal being to save Hyrule. The game uses the number seven with themes of growing up, and The Hero’s Journey,  just like the Harry Potter books.

Impressions

Ocarina of time has almost reached the end of its story. The Temple of Time has been a part of the narrative since the beginning. Link returned to this location and finally met up with a character he has been looking everywhere for: princess Zelda appears, and explains a great deal of the story. In particular, Ganon’s plan, and his current machinations.

The temple is a cathedral, and every effort has been made to capture the reverence of stepping inside a cavernous, sacred structure. While the temple has only two rooms, and isn’t a dungeon with different floors like the six temples Link has already completed, the room where the master sword is kept locked inside a stone plinth is probably the most important room in the entire game. This is the place where time travel is possible. The Master Sword takes Link back and forth through time as he draws it, and returns it to the stone. The animation sequence cemented Link’s status as a hero from the beginning: it is a clear reference to the legend of King Arthur, drawing the sword from a stone, and becoming a King thereon. As mentioned, it’s similar to Harry Potter, drawing a sword from a hat in place of a stone.

The Boss

After a series of stunning revelations involving princess Zelda, the time has come to fulfill a long running theme in video games: it’s time for Link to save the princess from Ganon. The final quest, the rescue mission, begins here in the temple of time. I’ll include more about the final level, Hyrule Castle here later, and in tomorrow’s final entry on the Temple of Light.

Standout Moments

The images below show the standout moments that happened in the temple. Earlier in the game another key instance was Link opening the doors to the room housing the Master Sword, and drawing it. Zelda reveals later this was all part of Ganon’s plan: Link opening the doors, which are named the “Doors of Time”, unlocked a passage to a place called The Sacred Realm. There, Ganon stole an artifact called the Triforce, and has been using a third of its power to keep Hyrule under his control. Ganon is after the rest of the artifact – he walked into The Sacred Realm, unaware that he could not claim the whole Triforce. He needs princess Zelda and Link to finish the ritual. The final battle determines who wins the Triforce, and whether Hyrule will be saved or dominated.

Princess Zelda Appears.

Princess Zelda Appears.

Zelda talks to Link after seven years.

Zelda believes Link can save Hyrule

Before Link can act, Zelda is captured by Ganon.

Seven Temples in Seven Days – 5

Temple 5. Spirit Temple

A brief description:

I’m completing all seven temples in Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Masterquest in seven days. These are the Forest, Fire, Water, Shadow, Spirit, Light, and Time Temples, which serve as different levels to complete within the game, the final goal being to save Hyrule. The game uses the number seven with themes of growing up, and The Hero’s Journey,  just like the Harry Potter books.

Impressions

In spite of all the exotic themes piled up throughout, including Ancient Egypt, Buddhism, and Indian Mythology, I felt the Spirit Temple didn’t have impact. It had brown room problem, which plagued the Fire Temple as mentioned earlier. I enjoyed the construction and design of the central room in the temple, which housed a giant statue of a Naga – a twin to the “Desert Collosus” standing outside the Spirit Temple, which is very much like the colossal Buddha statue of Leshan.

The remaining rooms and corridors felt stuffy and cluttered: fighting off three (or more) foes at once is a challenge in an enclosed space, but becomes bland if overused. Statues of giant cobras are well animated, however, and a particular monster called an Anubis is interesting and menacing: a mummy that can float around rooms.

Nabooru is the sixth sage, and an excellent character. The other sages Link has met so far (Rauru, Saria, Darunia, Ruto, and Impa) have represented qualities such as dignity, intelligence, and bravery and show quirkiness and maturity in their personalities. Nabooru, a prominent member of the amazon-like Gerudo tribe, makes an impact despite having  little time on screen. She is sassy, and makes light of serious situations: a contrast to her authoritarian sisters. She literally has spirit, and is the clear choice to be sage of spirit.

The Boss

Twin witches called Koume and Kotake, who can fuse together into a witch called Twinrova, apparently raised Gannon as surrogate mothers. It’s clear where Ganon gained his cruel streak: the villains capture Nabooru, trap her in a suit of armor, and turn her into a fighting slave. Kotake wields ice attacks, which she launches from her broom, and Koume wields fire magic. The solution to defeating the sisters is to reflect the magic attacks from one sister to the other, melt the ice with fire, or extinguish the fire with ice. They eventually change their form, but this does not change their odds of winning: Link can absorb their magic and reflect a blast of fire or ice back at the witch.

Standout Moments

Link uses time travel to complete this temple. He visits the temple first as a child, meeting Nabooru, and then returns seven years later to completed it via the Temple of Time. Nabooru is captured just before Link leaves the temple as a child. As a result, she was held in captivity for seven years, being “brainwashed” by the Twinrova to fight for them and obey Ganon. There is an excellent moment of animation when the Iron Knuckle armor she was forced to wear finally collapses.

Link plays out another myth: now he is Perseus, who received the Aegis, Athena’s mirrored shield, and Hermes’ winged sandals to defeated Medusa. Link fights the Twinrova instead, but the Spirit Temple is filled with snake references. Link already has the winged sandals in the form of the Hover Boots, which have wings on the heels. He receives the Mirror Shield here, and I enjoyed the mechanics where the player can bounce sunlight off the shield and onto the walls around the temple to complete different puzzles.