Friday, 18 August 2017

Puella Magi Madoka Magica Book 2

"I don't regret anything!" - Sayaka Miki

So onwards we go with the manga adaptation of the acclaimed twelve episode anime of the same name.  Magical Girls are teenage girls who are picked by a small bunny-cat creature called Kyubey who offers them one wish in return for creating a Soul Gem and turning them into a Magical Girl.  They have enhanced strength, healing, ability to create magical weapons and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.  Their job is to fight Witches who are Lovecraftian abominations that lurk in Labyrinths luring humans inside to eat. Defeating a Witch gives the victor a Grief Seed, a Witches egg which is used to cleanse the corruption caused by using magic from the user's Soul Gem.  In Book 1, veteran Magical Girl Mami was killed by a witch in front of Sayaka and Madoka who Kyubey had tapped as potential Magical Girls. This frightened Madoka off the idea, which pleased the mysterious Homura who is a Magical Girl with unknown motives attempting to prevent Madoka making a contract with Kyubey. At the end of the previous book Sayaka revealed she was now a Magical Girl and saved Madoka from a Witch.  We were also introduced to Kyoko Sakura, who is the one in red on the cover at the very end.  Her and Sayaka's (in blue on the cover) complicated relationship will play out through most of this volume as some terrible secrets about the true nature of Magical Girls are revealed.

The manga is unflipped so reads from right to left, and honourifics have been kept for those who use them.  A note about Kyoko's name.  It's spelt "Kyouko" in the book, but the "u" is silent, it's a guide to how you stress the "oh" sound, which makes it pronounced "Kyoh-ko" to us.  Also I use her name sans the u as a forum handle so I'm just used to seeing it like that. Also you should know I am team Kyoko x Sayaka, my shipping goggles might affect my view of things. Anyway, let's crack on.
A wish granted.
We jump back a short while and Sayaka is standing on the hospital roof with Kyubey, it asks if she is sure and she says she is, Kyubey touches her with its ears and creates a Soul Gem and a new Magical Girl is born. At school the next day Hitomi tells them she had passed out with a large group of people (they were under the influence of the witch Sayaka killed) and she'd been busy with the police trying to figure out what happened.

After school, Sayaka and Madoka sit on a grass verge and Sayaka admits she feels "good for the first time in a while".  Madoka asks if she is scared and Sayaka says maybe a tiny bit.  But the thought of losing her and Hitomi frightens her more.

Sayaka: "From now on, the peace of Mitakihara Town is in the capable hands of Magical Girl Sayaka!"

Then she muses that she does have one regret, not making a contract earlier which might have saved Mami's life.  Madoka looks very miserable as she contemplates her words.

Sayaka reassures her that she shoud only become a Magical Girl if she has a wish she is willing to stake her life on, "I became a Magical Girl because I had to!". So Madoka shouldn't feel guilty.  Then she leaves to visit Kyosuke in the hospital.
A boy healed.
He tells her he still needs rehab on his legs but his hand is fine now, "there are miracles just like you said Sayaka!" He apologises for yelling at her but she brushes it off.  Then she pushes him in a wheelchair to the roof where his family and friends are waiting, his father gives him his violin and he plays a beautiful melody as Sayaka thinks, "how could I regret this?  Mami-san... my wish was granted!"

Kyoko is standing atop an observatory spying on Sayaka.  She thinks she looks like a "pushover".  Kyubey tells her not to expect things to go to her plan, there is another Magical Girl about and it knows nothing about her.  She hasn't a contract with Kyubey, "she's exceedingly unusual.  I don't have any clues as to what moves she'll make."  Kyoko says it suits her fine, "It means I won't be bored!"

Madoka and Homura are sitting in a cafe, Madoka wants to talk to her about Sayaka.   She says she's afraid of what'll happen to her, if she'll die like Mami.  But although she gets into fights, she's a "very good girl".  She is sweet and brave and willing to do anything for people she cares about.

Homura: "That could be fatal for a Magical Girl. Too much of that sort of kindness leads to mistakes.  Those who are reckless let their guard down. And there is no reward given for self sacrifice."

That's why Mami lost her life and Sayaka should never have entered into the contract.   Homura says she should have guarded her more carefully but now, "I regret to say that you must give up on her."  And she leaves an upset Madoka thinking "but... why...?"

That night Sayaka gets ready to go out on patrol, Kyubey asks if she is nervous and Sayaka admits she is.  Outside is Madoka and she shyly asks if she can come along with Sayaka to support her.  Sayaka says of course she can, she holds Madoka's hands saying hers can't stop shaking, but with Madoka along "I'll feel a whole lot better".
Off on a witch hunt.
Kyubey climbs on Sayaka's shoulder and speaks privately to Madoka telepathically that she'll make a contract if Sayaka gets into serious trouble.  They go hunting and find evidence of a Labyrinth, Sayaka transforms and starts to attack then her sword is batted away and the Familiar escapes.

The person who interfered is Kyoko.   When Sayaka tries to go after the Familiar, Kyoko points her spear at her throat. Sayaka says that it'll murder someone.  Kyoko says that's the point,  after it eats four or five people it'll become a Witch and give a Grief Seed when it's killed, "what's the good of killing the chicken before it lays its eggs?"

Kyoko: "The Witches eat the weak humans.  And we eat the witches.  That's an obvious natural law, don't you think?  You learned it all in school, right?  That 'food chain' thing?"

She then sneers that Sayaka made a contract based on justice and rescuing people which she considers a joke.  This enrages Sayaka and she attacks.  But Kyoko slashes her brutally sending her bleeding body flying.
Kyoko and Sayaka meet.
Sayaka stands and Kyoko is surprised, she should have been temporarily crippled by that attack.   Kyubey tells Madoka that because Sayaka's wish involved healing, she has a much increased recovery power.  They clash again and an annoyed Kyoko say she is going to kill Sayaka, who thanks to her healing is able to stay in the fight despite the grievous wounds being inflicted on her.

Madoka watches in horror, saying neither of them are witches so why are they fighting?  Kyubey can't stop them but he says she could if she makes a contract with him.  As Sayaka is knocked to the ground and Kyoko leaps in the air for the final blow, Madoka starts to make a wish but Homura glides past saying "that will not be neccesary" and somehow Sayaka is now behind Kyoko whose spear has hit empty ground.
Homura somehow saves Sayaka.
Kyoko angrily turns her spear on Homura but Homura seems to teleport behind her.  Kyoko notes she's that "unusual skank that I've heard rumors about". Angrily Sayaka yells at Homura to stop butting in, so Homura thumps her on the back of the neck, knocking her out cold.  Kyoko asks whose side she is on:

Homura: "I am an ally to the level-headed... and an enemy to fools who start useless fights.  So which are you Kyoko Sakura?"

Kyoko is surprised and wonders if they have met before.  "Who can say?" Homura says gnomically.   Kyoko decides she's had enough of this and leaps up and over the alley roof and is gone.

Madoka thanks Homura for coming to the rescue.  Homura shows signs of irritation and anger saying she told her not involve herself with all this, "just how much of a fool are you?"  She turns and leaves while Kyubey watches her intently and Madoka sits by Sayaka's unconcious body.
Proper disposal of dangerous waste.
Later in Sayaka's bedroom she uses the Grief Seed she got from killing Kirsten and cleans her gem.  Now the Grief Seed is dangerous so Kyubey pops it in a compartment it has in its back which will keep it safe.   Now she'll need to find a new Grief Seed, eating them when they have been used is one of Kyubey's "duties".  Sayaka asks how important it is to keep the Soul Gem clean.

Kyubey: "The more magic you use, the more your Soul Gem becomes packed with impurities.  To be able to exert your full magic power, you have to take out the impurities.... and restore the gem back to peak condition".

Kyubey  goes on to say that Kyoko is strong because she fights with her gem in top form, and has natural talent and lots of experience.   Mami was the same.  Sayaka think this is unfair, that she apparently doesn't have any natural talent. Kyubey then says there is someone with natural talent alone who could beat Kyoko - Madoka Kaname.   But Sayaka refuses to get her involved saying this is her battle.

Kyoko is playing on a DDR machine in an arcade as Homura comes up to speak with her.   She asks Kyoko to leave Sayaka alone, that she'll deal with her.  She tells Kyoko in a fortnight's time a witch called "Walpurgis Night" (named after the German festival of the same name, literal meaning "Witches Night") will be coming to this town.  Once it's defeated, Homura will leave and Kyoko can take over the town.  Kyoko finishes having got a new high score and agrees to help, offering Homura a Pocky to seal the deal.
Kyoko, DDR demon.
Sayaka, Madoka and Kyubey return to the alley but there is no sign of the Familiar.   Madoka asks if she should talk to Kyoko, try and sort things out.  Sayaka scoffs saying what happened between them was "a full-on fight to the death."  She has no common ground with someone who'd allow people to be killed to get a Grief Seed. 

She starts to get angry, yelling that Mami died because the "transfer student" didn't come and help and just wanted the Grief Seed.  Madoka tries to tell her Homura was tied up, but Sayaka rants on saying if there is a human out there that is worse than a witch then she'll fight that person.   She says if Madoka doesn't want to come she shouldn't, it won't be a pleasant scene and she marches off.  Madoka asks Kyubey to say something to her but it says she's not in the mood to listen.
Yeah.. great advice.
That night Madoka talks with her mother Junko about how worried she is about Sayaka, leaving out the whole Magical Girl bit obviously. Junko says "good advice won't bring clear solutions to someone in that frame of mind".  She then advises Madoka to "screw up", somebody should make her mistakes for her.   She will realise that "in hindsight that a mistake was the right thing to do".  In the anime Junko is something of a lush due to coporate drinking culture, this may explain her rather poor advice.

She ruffles Madoka's hair saying she's grown up to be a good kid.  She should make her mistakes now, because adults have "our pride and responsibilities.. so it becomes harder and harder to make mistakes."  Then we cut to Sayaka outside of Kyosuke's house, he hadn't told her he'd been released from hospital.  She stands outside and enjoys the sound of him practicing.

Then Kyoko pops up and asks why she came all the way here and is leaving without trying to see him.  She identifies the fact Sayaka made her wish for the "little master of the house.".

Kyoko: "Geez! You had one chance in a lifetime to make a miracle, and you waste it on a useless gesture like that!  Listen, magic is only for granting wishes for yourself.  Nothing good happens when you use it on other people.  Didn't Mami Tomoe teach you anything?"

She then tells Sayaka now she has magic she should march in, break his bones and he'll have to depend on her for life.  Sounds harsh Kyoko, your flirting could use some work.  This pisses off Sayaka of course and they move to a motorway bridge for a showdown.

Then Madoka and Kyubey show up to try and stop them.  Homura also shows up, irritated that Kyoko has broken their baragin already.   She says she'll fight Sayaka instead of Kyoko who says she has as long as it takes her to finish eating what's in her mouth.

Sayaka manifests her Soul Gem and Madoka, thinking of her mum's amazing advice, grabs it and tosses it off the bridge saying she's sorry as she does so.  Homura says "this is bad" and vanishes.  Sayaka starts to shout at Madoka when suddenly her eyes go blank and she pitches forwards onto the ground.
Madoka does something wrong, predictably it backfires.
Kyubey scolds Madoka when it says "I never would have thought you capable of throwing your friend off a bridge.  That wasn't a sane act, Madoka!"  Kyoko grabs Sayaka and checks her pulse and cries out "she's dead, ain't she!?"  Kyubey then explains that when he creates a Soul Gem, it is literally the girls soul.  The body is now just empty "hardware".  Get the gem further than one hundred metres away from the body and it ceases to function, it's "just a hollow shell".

We see Homura climbing onto the truck Sayaka's Soul Gem fell on to.  Kyubey says it couldn't allow their frail bodies to fight witches normally, so by placing their soul in a compact form they are safe to take any amount of damage, and with a little magical repair work they can go right back into battle:

Kyoko: "You creep...!  Are you saying you just turn us into something like zombies!?"

No c'mon Kyoko, not zombies.  You might be undead but you are sapient, have magical powers and carry your souls around in phylacteries.  You're liches.  Let's keep to the right terminology here.  Anyway as long as their Soul Gem isn't broken, they are virtually immortal.
"Is it worth it" I imagine Homura thinking.
Kyubey sighs that whenever he tells people this the response is always the same, why do human place so much value on having their souls inside their bodies, "it's a complete mystery to me."  Then Homura returns with Sayaka's Soul Gem and Sayaka jolts back into life unaware of what just happened to her.

Sayaka returns home with Kyubey having been filled in on what Soul Gems really are.  When she asks why it didn't tell them, Kyubey says "because you didn't ask."  And not knowing like Mami didn't, doesn't hurt.  He says it's because they can fight witches more safely.  Sayaka isn't treating battle with the gravity it deserves.  For example if she was pierced through the stomach with a lance, it would be a huge shock to the body's pain receptors.

Then it puts its paw on her Soul Gem and forces her to feel how much pain that would be if she was feeling it in her body.  As she writhes in agony on the floor it carries on lecturing her:

Kyubey: "The reason you were able to fight Kyoko and live is because any pain that was too strong for you was stored away. That could only happen because your conciousness and physical body are no longer directly connected."

Kyubey then tells her she can shut the pain off completely but it dulls movement so Kyubey doesn't recommend it.  Sayaka gasps and asks why they have to go through all this.  Kyubey perkily says she made a wish and it was granted in return for a life of battle, "and that has certainly come true, hasn't it?" 

Next day Sayaka is absent from school, lying in bed under the covers holding her soul in her hands.  Then suddenly she gets a telepathic message from Kyoko, "how long are you planning to stay depressed, you half-wit?"  She tells Sayaka to come outside, she has some things to say to her.
"Come out" I promise I won't kill you!
Sayaka follows Kyoko silently as Kyoko says now she's thought about it, she isn't too bothered about what's happened to them, "if we live only for ourselves, we have no one to blame but ourselves."  She takes her to an abandoned Christian church.   Sayaka asks why she has brought her here, Kyoko says because what she has to say is going to take a while.  She offers her a highly symbolic apple, which Sayaka tosses away.  Kyoko grabs her collar and angrily tells her not to treat food like trash.

She tells Sayaka this used to be her father's church, "he was way to honest and way too kind".  He'd cry reading the newspaper and wonder why the world coudn't get any better.  He started preaching things which weren't in the church doctrine.  His congregation stopped coming, he was excommunicated by the main church.  His family wasn't able to feed itself (which scarred Kyoko as her food obssession shows), and Kyoko became frustrated that "nobody would even try to understand him.  I couldn't stand it anymore."

She made her wish, "I wished that everyone would seriously... listen to my father's words."  Suddenly he had parishioners aplenty and she was admitted into the world of the Magical Girls.

Kyoko: "I was a fool to be so excited, a fool to think... that between father preaching sermons and me fighting witches... we were going to save the world, from the inside and outside..."

But her bargain was discovered.  Her father lost it when he realised people were only following him due to magic.   He accused her of being a witch, "and it broke him.  He drowned himself in liquor and lost his mind.  In the end, he murdered our family, then killed himself.  Leaving me alone in the world."  Another orphaned Magical Girl.
Kyoko's tragic past revealed.
She made a wish for someone else, and it destroyed her family.  Because of that she vowed never to use magic for anybody else again.

Kyoko: "Miracles don't come for free.  For every iota of hope that goes into a wish, that same amount of despair gets scattered around.  It's that very zero-sum game that keeps the world in balance."  

They both made the same mistake, but shouldn't live a life of regret anymore.  Sayaka pauses, then says she misjudged Kyoko and apologises for that, but she has no regrets about her wish and doesn't think she paid too high a price for it.  She knows they can accomplish many things with their power, but those apples Kyoko has are stolen and she can't have any part in that.

As she turns to leave a frustrated Kyoko yells that "we're Magical Girls here! There's nobody  else out there remotely like us!!"  Sayaka turns and says she'll fight using her own methods and if she inteferes with Kyoko she can try and kill her, but she won't hold a grudge against her anymore.  And she leaves, with a vexed Kyoko lustily chewing on an apple watching her depart.

Next day Sayaka returns to school, reassuring Madoka she is OK.  Hitomi joins them and they all note Kyosuke has been released from hospital and is back at school.  In the classroom, Sayaka refuses to go and greet him, watching him with a thoughtful look on her face.
Hitomi confesses to Sayaka.
Later in a cafe Hitomi is having a chat with Sayaka over Kyosuke.  She admits to Sayaka that she's had feelings for Kyosuke for a long time. She says she's confronted her feelings and won't lie to herself anymore.  But she is also a "precious friend" of Sayaka, so if she wants first dibs, she has twenty-four hours before Hitomi will confess her feelings to Kyoksuke leaving Sayaka somewhat speechless.

That night, Madoka meets her outside her apartment to come witch hunting with her.  Sayaka starts to cry saying why is Madoka so nice to her?  She briefly, for a moment today, regretted saving Hitomi, "a total failure at being a hero!"  Madoka hugs her and Sayaka wails that she's going to lose Kyosuke, she can't do anything about it because she's already dead.  Just some walking zombie.  Funny thought, she feels awfully entitled to Kyosuke just because they have been friends a long time. Damn I just realise Sayaka is the female equivalent of a Nice Guy.  And a White (ish) Knight as well.  I'm surprised her Magical Girl outfit didn't come with a fedora she could tip while "M'ladying" people.

Later Homura finds Kyoko watching Sayaka fighting a witch called Elsa Marie.  Kyoko notes Sayaka is having a hard time with it.  Masses of branch-like tentacles attack Sayaka, cutting and slicing her.  Kyoko drops in saying she'll show her some moves, but Sayaka coldly tells her to leave her alone.  In a frenzy of hacking and bludgeoning Sayaka, drenched in her own blood takes down the witch while she hysterically cries:

Sayaka: "Ah ha ha... if I get in the right mindset... I can block out the pain completely!"

And she laughs madly as Kyoko and Madoka watch in horror.  Madoka can only whimper, "please... stop it"And I invite you to check out the same scene from the anime, which is my favourite moment from the show.  A magical blend of music, art and voice acting all to give us a young girl spiralling down into suicidal self harming behaviour.

Yes, that's sane.
With the witch gone, Sayaka heals up and tosses the Grief Seed at Kyoko saying that's what she wanted wasn't it?  As Sayaka stumbles away with Madoka, Kyoko watches them leave with a sad look on her face, and frustratedly says "that idiot" to herself.

Madoka and Sayaka wait at a bus stop.   Madoka says she shouldn't fight like that, it's not good for her.   Sayaka tiredly says she has no natural talent, it's the only way she can win.  Madoka says winning like that doesn't do her any good.  Sayaka scowls and says angrily, "what can possibly 'do me good?'"  She's just a worthless rock whose only job now is to kill witches.  Madoka says she just wants Sayaka to be happy.  "Then you fight those things!!" yells Sayaka.

She rants that she heard from Kyubey that Madoka has more natural talent than anyone.   So she should become a Magical Girl to "do me good".

Sayaka: "You can't right?  Of course you can't! Nobody would sacrifice her humanity simply out of pity!!"

She doesn't want to get into the hellish fights so she shouldn't talk like she knows what Sayaka is going through.  And she runs off into the night shouting at Madoka not to follow her.  But even as she runs, she cries wondering what she is even doing, and black blotches appear round her Soul Gem.

At Homura's place (she's also an emancipated teenage orphan), Kyoko and she are discussing tactics for the forthcoming Walpurgis Night battle. Homura throws out various facts and figures and Kyoko wonders how she knows all this stuff, but Homura keeps her cards close to her chest.  Then Kyubey appears, and angrily Kyoko manifests a lance coming out of her Soul Gem and points it at it.
Kyubey oh how everything from your mouth is manipulative and shitty.
Kyubey says that it has information for them.  Sayaka is exhausting herself at a rate much faster than expected.   She is bringing a curse down on herself.  Kyubey says things could get very complicated even before Walpurgis Night comes.  It looks at Homura and says "I imagine she knows, hmmm?"  Homura tells Kyubey to get lost and it departs.

Next day Madoka is hunting for Sayaka who never came home that previous night.  We see Sayaka hiding as she watches Hitomi and Kyosuke holding hands. Later that evening she goes and takes out her frustration on a Familiar.  Then Homura finds her and tells her she needs to just go after witches and tosses her a Grief Seed to cleanse her Soul Gem.

Sayaka refuses to use it, Homura says if she doesn't she'll die.  "That's fine with me" says Sayaka.  She says she's a different Magical Girl, she won't let people die and she doesn't want rewards, "if I can't beat a witch then this world has no more use to me."  Homura says she just wants to save Sayaka's life, why doesn't she trust her?

"Because you're a liar" says Sayaka.  Homura looks at everything through resigned eyes, she uses empty words, she says she is doing it for her sake but "in reality, you're thinking something entirely different, aren't you?"  Homura pulls a scary faces saying Sayaka is perceptive.  She is uninterested in saving Sayaka but she wants to protect Madoka from seeing the state she's in, "everything I do is for her sake."
Kyoko to the rescue!
If Sayaka is refusing her aid then all that is left for her to die and to stop her bringing more sorrow to Madoka "...then I'll do you the favour of killing you here and now". She starts to power up but Kyoko appears and grabs Homura from behind, and tells Sayaka to get out of there fast.  As Sayaka flees, Kyoko realises Homura can't use her power pinned down, but Homura drops a grenade out of her shield and Kyoko leaps back to avoid being kersploded, and Homura vanishes.

Sitting on a train, Sayaka hears two chauvanist pig men talking about how they use the women in their lives, treating them like dogs and dumping them when they get clingy.  Sayaka confronts them, and demands to know more about these women they treat so badly. They are bewildered at being stood up to by a fourteen year old, while Sayaka says to them why she is protecting this world, they must tell her. NOW. Later she gets off the train, dragging a bloodstained sword behind her before changing back into her school uniform.

Madoka is still hunting for Sayaka.  Kyubey says he can't undo what happened to her, but Madoka would be such a powerful Magical Girl she could do it no problem.   She would likely be "an omnipotent god".  It doesn't know why she is so powerful though.  Madoka decides to make a contract for Sayaka's sake, but before she can wish, Kyubey is instantly shredded into bits by a full clip of bullet holes and Homura stands there pointing an automatic pistol at where it was.
Homura's fave weapon, a Berreta 9MM.
Madoka is upset she killed Kyubey, but Homura's icy veneer cracks and she desperately cries at Madoka to wake the hell up and stop selling herself short.

Homura: "Why can't you realise that there would be people who'd cry if you were to vanish!? What do you think would happen to someone who's been trying to protect you!?"

She grabs ahold of Madoka who looks at her curiously asking if they have ever met somewhere before?  Homura just collapses, crying and completely overwhelmed.  Madoka apologises and says she has to go and find Sayaka and leaves.

Out of the shadows comes Kyubey.  It tells Homura she should know by now killing it is a waste of time.  "It's  little vexing to be ripped to shreds for no good reason" it says and it starts daintily eating the remains of its previous body.  It says it now knows what magic she uses now though - time manipulation.  "You're not from this timeline, are you?" it casually asks her. She says she knows exactly what it's plotting and she will change Madoka Kaname's fate.  She says she will make sure the future doesn't go as it plans, Kyubey "or should I say... Incubator."

Sayaka is sitting slumped on a bench in a railway station.  Kyoko comes running up and sits next to her.  Sayaka apologises for being such a pain to her, which surprises Kyoko.  Sayaka says she doesn't know what was important anymore, what she was trying so hard to protect.  She had saved some lives, but balancing it out her heart filled with spite and hatred and she even hurt the friend she loves the most.

Sayaka: "What an idiot... I am".

And her Soul Gem transforms into a Grief Seed with her tears splashing on it and the existence that was Sayaka Miki comes to an end as with a hideous scream the witch Oktavia Von Seckendorf is born.  Sayaka's lifeless body falls to the ground as amongst the chaos of the forming labyrinth Kyoko screams Sayaka's name. We end with Kyubey watching the birth of Oktavia from afar as he smugly says girls who are fated to become witches are naturally called Magical Girls. He's such a shithead. To be continued...
Anime version here.
When I watched the anime, Sayaka's fate hit me very hard.  Although Kyoko is my favourite character, Sayaka is the one I identify with the most.  When I think how shitty my life was at fourteen, dealing with the separation of my parents and the onset of the bipolar depression that I still live with today, if some bunny-cat had come and offered me a wish I probably would have wished, had it backfire on me and because little things seem so damn important when you're that age and something huge like getting your heart broken for the first time due to self image issues means the end of the world, I could see a similar spiral into misery and witchiness.  That was the reason I included the names of the witches, all female you see.  All originally Magical Girls.  Sayaka's short time as a Magical Girl seems to be the norm and veterans like Kyoko and Mami are the exception.  Talking of Kyoko, it's only vaguely alluded to but she was kouhai to Mami's senpai before the disaster that befell her family and it was Kyoko's wish that Mami was thinking of when she warned Sayaka not to make a wish on behalf of someone else.  Kyoko is a fascinating character and her story will continue in the next Book.  It's pretty much canon that she develops romantic feelings for Sayaka, although you have to wait for Rebellion to see them reciprocated outside of this manga. When she realises they have more in common than not she drops the hardass act and starts looking out for her, its notable she is the one there when Sayaka dies.  We are still left with many questions though, why is Kyubey running this system of recruiting vulnerable teenage girls and creating witches from them?  Homura has been revealed as not from this timeline originally, just what are her motivations for keeping Madoka away from Kyubey and the world of Magical Girls?  Both she and Kyubey are warring against each other for Madoka's soul, but why is Madoka of all people so important? Well all will be answered in a few days as Book 3 wraps the story up in spectacular style.

63 comments:

  1. - “Madoka, thinking of her mum's amazing advice”

    It's a very trickster advice albeit I don't think she was aware of that. I mean: Is it shitty? Yes. Does it backfire spectacularly? Yes. Has it horrible consequences? Yes. But does it, at the end of the day, make the situation clearer and more manageable in the long run? YES.

    - “You're liches”

    We should always be more precise in our classification of the undead. :3

    - “When she asks why it didn't tell them, Kyubey says "because you didn't ask." And not knowing like Mami didn't, doesn't hurt.”

    Apparently Kyubey doesn't lie. I don't trust people who claim not to lie because it's generally either the biggest lie of all (not even honest about being a liar) or manipulation.

    People tend to confuse “not lying” with “honest”, despite that not being the case even remotely, see this anime (or JMS's run on Thor in which Loki vows to not lie again, he* doesn't, and this doesn't change a damn thing about how manipulative he is).

    - “She made her wish, "I wished that everyone would seriously... listen to my father's words."”

    And after bemoaning that people didn't try to understand her father she forced people (violating their minds and taking their free will) to listen to him without trying to understand them at all. Does this only sound hypocritical to me?

    - "we're Magical Girls here! There's nobody else out there remotely like us!!"

    Just switch Magical Girl with teenager. :3

    - “Sayaka is the female equivalent of a Nice Guy.”

    The only difference is that she is mostly internalizing the rage and hate of it failing not externalizing it like most Nice Guy™s do. (Exception: Madoka. Kyubey made it sure she's hating her for her implied alphaness… I mean, talent.)

    - "You can't right? Of course you can't! Nobody would sacrifice her humanity simply out of pity!!"

    Who knows, but there will be a lot less of them. Probably that's one of the reasons Kyubey is not telling this upfront (and because those kind of people would be much harder to break).

    - “Kyubey is instantly shredded into bits by a full clip of bullet holes and Homura stands there pointing an automatic pistol at where it was.”

    Homura – Combat Pragmatist.



    * It's also the (in)famous Lady!Loki storyline too but I go with 'he' in this case because the jerk never identified as a woman in that run. Heck there were several #masculinitysofragile worthy comments from him. This changes in later runs thankfully. :)

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  2. Kyubey does lie. He lies by omission which I think is just as bad, and in the final volume I think it contorts itself so much in dissembling and hiding the truth that it does actually outright lie.

    Kyoko's wish was of course hypocritical, but like she was around twelve or so when she made it. I think we can forgive her. According to the PSP game, it gave her dad a Compelling Voice which is kind of scary when you think about it.

    It's amazing how Kyubey picks away at the various girls neuroses until they are in full blown self hatred mode. I have some words regarding the form Kyubey has taken in the final volume, but really he couldn't be more perfect for getting vulnerable teen girls to open up to him. He grooms them, no wonder SF Debris called it a "a registered sex offender" in his review of Rebellion! :D

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  3. Well, "technically" it doesn't lie.

    (I've deep and personal reasons to hate the "we never lie" type people. The short version is that at the age of 11-12 a friend of my family tried to convert me to Jehova's Witnesses, and almost succeeded (only thanks to mom and me being a minor did he not)... that particular failed doomsday sect prides itself of "always telling the truth". I got deep enough to reach the material which describes that selective, or deceptive, truth telling are actually not against doctrine. Especially against non Witnesses. The scary thing is I didn't even realize back in the day how damn messed up that is.)

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  4. Eugh, his whole "you didn't ask" mantra is so manipulative though, to quote SF Debris again "bunny-cat? You disgust me".

    Also, holy crap you had a narrow escape there! All I know about the Jehovah's Witnesses is they have a stand outside Manchester Picadilly Station handing out leaflets. Again, raised atheist here, so was always super suspicious of people knocking on the door trying to convert me.

    Interestingly I did spend an evening trying to figure out what denomination Kyoko belonged to. Only 1% of Japanese are Christian and most of them are Catholics, but obviously she couldn't be as her Preacher dad had kids. So she must be some Protestant sect. Interestingly in the manga they show that she still wears a cross, rather than the weird symbol the anime had.

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  5. At this point we all are disgusted by bunny-cat I think.

    I was raised atheist too... or at the very least severely not-practising (mom identifies as atheist, I would call her a strange mix of deist with some light shades of new ager).

    I know more about the Witnesses than I would ever want to, but I don't want to bore anybody. ^^; (Example, if nothing changed much since my adventure with them: They're handing out those leaflets because they believe that you get saved by faith AND works. Which in practice means they are required to do unpaid work like this for the organization. There is no punishment for not doing per say... just peer pressure for which "But you risk your eternal life by being lazy!" is hell of an effective tool.)

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  6. It's funny how influential our parents are with things like religion. Although there was no religion at home, the primary school I attended was Church of England and the secondary school although ostensibly secular had daily religious assembly as mandate by law. And we had Religious Education on the curriculum. Yet it literally slid off me. Later in my twenties I read the Bible hoping to gain greater understanding of art and literature, but I mainly found it somewhat boring and repetitive apart from The Book Of Revelation which is badass. I think mum was reacting against a very religious upbringing and dad just went along with it.

    It's amazing how innocuous those leaflets look. You'd never guess they were Jehovah's Witnesses unless you knew what to look for, they remind me of the Scientologists who used to do their "personality tests" in the main shopping thoroughfare of Plymouth where I lived for a bit. Any religion that begins with disguising its true nature is very suspect by my reckoning.

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  7. I don't think any of my parents came from particularly religious families to begin with and my schooling was fully secular thanks to living in the Eastern-bloc (if nothing else the separation of church and state was taken very seriously; the making the state into religion-like-thing never really stuck in Hungary for some reason). I read the bible thanks to the JW's... yeah, I found it long and boring (albeit I was a young teen).

    If it mentions "Living forever in Paradise on Earth" or "Millions are living now, who will never die" it's almost surely JW. These are their favorite sales pitches since their start in the late 19th century.

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  8. The separation of church and state in the UK is so complex and contradictory that even I don't know half of it. In my latter secondary school days (that's age 12-18) the mandatory religious assembly in state schools was scrapped to everyone's relief. So state schools are entirely secular now. But we have many private "faith" schools which have caused a lot of drama recently when some were found teaching creationism and also because there was a Muslim one that was separating boys and girls. A ghastly fate as someone who was scarred for life going to an all girls school like I was can attest to!

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  9. The mandatory religion (or ethics, for children not in the denomination the school has religious education for) classes only happened some years ago in Hungary.

    "Yay!" for right wing government. :/

    They also made mandatory gym classes daily as opposed to twice weekly. I was so "Why do they want kids to hate sports this badly?". I know it's the physical fitness obsession of authoritarians, but in practice this is counter-productive. Apparently our politicians never met (or were) children.

    All of their "reforms" were incredibly bad. Not that the previous governments were good, but at least not this tone deaf.

    We do have some schools run by churches, but those are the small minority.

    I don't think we currently have any schools divided by gender... class / romani - non-romani on the other hand, that's scarily common, and illegal so there is the "parents have the right to choose schools for their children" figleaf over it. :/

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  10. Daily P.E as we used to call it?! (Physical Education) We had it once a week and that was enough for me. My mum pretty much drafted a form letter to get me out of it 75% of the time. I wasn't lazy, I did weekly long arduous fencing classes in my own time. But the type of humiliating bullshit we had at school? I still have nightmares.

    Officially we weren't a single-sex school, we were a huge school across four sites, a Boy's Upper and Lower and a Girls Upper and Lower, with the genders mixiing again in what was then called the Lower and Upper Sixth - ages 17 and 18.

    But while I was there they started building a massive single site for a fully mixed school and gradually integrated as they went along, but I just missed out on all that and only spent the Sixth form mixed, so I had pretty miserable schooldays as the only nerdo geey dork there who was out about her interests. Fortunately I realised I was a lesbian when I was 18 and seeing school in the rear-view mirror, I can't imagine my angst if I'd been gay then too.

    Single-sex schools have made a bit of a comeback. There was a lot of research done that single-sex schools benefited girls much more than boys, because they don't have to put up with boys being a showoffy drag on the teachers attentions and get more time from them. But I don't know if that is still true today.

    Faith schools are divisive because they can afford to be highly selective, so of course their results are better than state schools who take anyone (and I mean anyone, my sister is a roaming teacher who makes sure various pupils in her local catchment area who are EBD- Emotionally, Behaviourally Disturbed are getting a proper education) and of course that makes parents compete all the harder to get in, resulting in people doing things like buying houses near the schools they want and having to fake conversion to the religion in question.

    That thing about segregating against romani sounds awful. :(

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  11. Wow, once again so many things to process. Not just from the story (which I'm loving more and more) but also from your comments. So I'll just throw a few random things out there for now.

    Catholic priests can have kids if they join the priesthood after having them. Oftentimes that's something widowers do. (Also the Vatican allows a special dispensation for Protestant vicars who convert to remain married, but that doesn't seem likely to be the case here). The Vatican is also fairly flexible about married priests outside Europe. There are plenty in Africa and South America.

    The lying thing is very interesting. Obviously it crops up a lot in law. There's a thing called 'misrepresentation'. It gets fascinating regarding stuff like omissions. It's all a bit obi wan kenobi at times "from a certain point of view" etc. I try not to lie. There's obviously a professional thing there but also it's one of those moral obligations I set for myself. It's a big part of my self identity that I'm trustworthy. I am however very good at telling the truth but making sure no one believes me should the need arise.

    I'm loving bunnycat. Glad he's such a git. Makes him, eek, it such an interesting character. And I like both the moral ambiguity of the story but also how it deconstructs a lot of the classic hero ideology. I don't know if it's right to talk about 'reality' in a story like this, but I'm loving how it's exploring the true costs of heroism and also the motives. Also I like the conflicts between the characters. And of course it's always more enjoyable when everyone has a point.

    I also like that they have to use public transport.

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  12. I didn't know that about Catholic priests outside of the West does make Kyoko a funnier character if you think of her as a Catholic because in every shipping fanfic she stars in she must have had a very liberal dad regarding sexuality and stuff or she is just that much of a rebel now that she doesn't care, and that's all I shall say :P

    I'm the worlds worst liar but I am very good at telling huge fibs. Like if I had to 'fess up to mum that I accidentally ran out of money this month I'd have to tell her it was my own stupid fault for buying too many comics. But I often tell big fibs, the one my sister 1.0 thought was the funniest was when I told mum that cows at rest always point north. Apparently this vexed her for a week trying to figure out.

    TL:DR: I'm a fantasist but important shit I can't lie about. Also I am a big blabbermouth, if someone wants to share a juicy secret but doesn't want to get the blame for spreading it, they tell me. I can't help it, I imagine eyes boring deeply into me and shout out, "aah I confess!" to my surprised audience >_<

    The thing I like about bunnycat is it is textbook Magnificent Bastard in many ways, even when you don't know its overall motives (Book 3 coming Tuesday find out then!). I have a plushie of him on my bookshelves too. And the smallness of the cast, just five girls two of which only interact in flashback, keeps things tight and we get five very different personalities at play.

    Yes, they use public transport, train in this, bus in the sequel movie. I think Mitakihara City is based roughly on Tokyo which has a good public transport system. Also when I started reading WHTM that scene with the jerks in the train (and they are even worse in the anime sequence) mouthing off about abusing women only to be (maybe) slaughtered by a pissed off fourteen year old girl I found darkly amusing all of a sudden... >:D

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  13. I like the cows thing. I'll nick that if I may. I sometimes do that. It confuses people because I've got a bit of a reputation for obscure trivia. So I'll only do it if it's blatantly obvious. Like "did you know dogs can't look up?" when I was with Sas and she's looking up.

    I loved the bit with the girl and the wankers. I wish that happened more in real life.

    Have you seen Sucker Punch btw? There's definitely a parallel here. I'm looking forward to finding out bunnycat's motivations, and also the time travel angle. I'm getting a vibe like that TNG episode where Worf's son travels back in time. But also All You Zombies.

    Catholicism has always been very flexible about accommodating local traditions. Culdee Christianity is quite interesting. That's the sixth century pagan hybrid. And of course the stuff with the Norse. That seems to have been a two way thing. Malitia could no doubt point out how Odin is supposed to have died and then come back.

    One of my favourite archaeological finds is a mold from tenth century Britain. It made a pendant that you could punch a hole in at one end to wear as a cross or the other end to wear as a Thor's hammer. Now that's marketing.

    The religious angles in this story are interestng. I suppose as a bit of a pagan I should be offended by witches being the baddies, but I'm really enjoying it. Also the trope that the baddies turn out to be another stage of the goodies is one of my favourites. The best version by far is probably Asimov's the gods themselves. That's a genuine wham. But it's handled very well her. I didn't see it coming but it was perfectly set up within the story so it felt perfectly natural and not some Shamalayan style forced twist.

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  14. Enjoy confusing people with the cow thing, I have a tendency to throw out random trivia too.

    I don't think that calling them witches is a reflection on actual witches. If you've checked out the linked clips, they are really eldrtich abominations and the Girl ->Woman, Magical Girl ->Witch is something a little lost in translation based as it is around the Japanese love of word play. Incidentally if you're wondering what the title means, "Puella Magi" roughly means "Girl of the Sorceror" not just "Magical Girl". Just trivia.

    There is a very popular time-travel trope at play with Homura, but even if you guess right I'm keeping my lips sealed :P

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  15. I did wonder why the title was in Latin. I'd have it more as "wise girls". That's in the wisdom sense, not mafia. As I'm sure you know magi is wise, hence the 3 wise men thing. Although magi is also where we get magic from. But wise woman is an old synonym for witch. So it all ties in. There's also that triple aspect goddess thing (maiden, warrior woman, crone) thing that I'm picking up resonances of. Although that could be a cognitive bias thing.

    I've had a brief look at some of the anime. Must confess I prefer the mis en scene of that to the manga. Some great visuals.

    I like time travel tropes, and the philosophical aspects of time travel generally. It's hard to come up with new variations now, everything's been explored I guess. But even the old ones are fun when done well. I'm looking forward to finding out what's been going on here.

    Have you seen the Armstrong and Miller sketch where the guy goes back in time to teach some great thinker (can't remember if Edison or newton, someone like that). But he's a replacement for the guy who was meant to go and he's useless.

    "We have these self propelled carriages called cars"

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  16. I did wonder why the title was in Latin. I'd have it more as "wise girls". That's in the wisdom sense, not mafia. As I'm sure you know magi is wise, hence the 3 wise men thing. Although magi is also where we get magic from. But wise woman is an old synonym for witch. So it all ties in. There's also that triple aspect goddess thing (maiden, warrior woman, crone) thing that I'm picking up resonances of. Although that could be a cognitive bias thing.

    I've had a brief look at some of the anime. Must confess I prefer the mis en scene of that to the manga. Some great visuals.

    I like time travel tropes, and the philosophical aspects of time travel generally. It's hard to come up with new variations now, everything's been explored I guess. But even the old ones are fun when done well. I'm looking forward to finding out what's been going on here.

    Have you seen the Armstrong and Miller sketch where the guy goes back in time to teach some great thinker (can't remember if Edison or newton, someone like that). But he's a replacement for the guy who was meant to go and he's useless.

    "We have these self propelled carriages called cars"

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  17. I think the title was again the Japanese love of wordplay pairing two words that from differing contexts can be read to mean different things.

    Glad you checked out the look of the anime, really the manga trying to convey all the madness of the Witches labyrinths was always going to have a hard time. So I think that's pretty much why they have focused more on the character drama.

    I have to take issue with some of the stuff they cut, there's an important scene between Madoka and Homura while Sayaka and Kyoko are off bonding where Madoka asks why she never told them about the soul sucking. And Homura says she has many times and no one EVER believes her. I wish they had included that scene in the manga.

    I haven't seen that Armstrong and Miller sketch, but if it's on youtube link me, I has laptop speakers now.

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  18. Here you go

    https://youtu.be/TFrHWLHPQrg

    Ooh, now you've got speakers I'll have to dig a few things out for you.

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  19. Hahaha, like it! Yes recommend away. Youtube is great and hopefully the Madoka Magica clips I linked in the post won't go dead.

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  20. I even saw "Puella Magi" interpreted as "Slave of the Deceiver" but I've no clue what mental gymnastics lead to that (I don't know any Latin).

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  21. Yess, I remember seeing that reading as well now, but as my knowledge of Latin is non existent I wasn't sure how true that was.

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  22. Puella is girl (singular, plural is puellae) and Magi is sort of wise man, magician, scientist. But that's the plural. Singular is Magus. Things like possesives are shown by word endings in Latin, but it can get confusing, so you usually pick it up from the context. The best guess for puella magi would be 'girl of the magicians'. But it's part of the fun of Latin and the reason why that "People called Romans, they go the house" scene in Life of Brian is so funny. Also Latin doesn't have definite and indefinite articles, so I wonder if it makes more sense to people who speak Russian for instance.

    But back to the story at hand. It's interesting to look at this with my Mammoth head on. The train scene is a bit of a feminist classic I guess. But you've also got me thinking about the Nice Guy aspects of the relationships. In a more meta sense I suppose "What am I owed?" is a theme generally in the story.

    As to the visuals I'm still very much preferring the anime. But I've found that I can appreciate the manga more by using a sort of Alice in Wonderland filter. That way the cutesiness becomes quite sinister. I suspect I'm just having to overcome a prejudice (in the technical sense of the word) because my initial exposure to the manga style characterisation was that stereotypical giggling cute girl thing. Which is probably more pop cultural osmosis than reality. So I'm enjoying learning more about the genre and I am coming round to appreciating it. Although I still reserve the right to find all that neckbeard waifu thing really really creepy.

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  23. I'm with you on finding the neckbeard waifu thing creepy. And so much modern anime panders to that now, I haven't found much worth watching on the past three years ago because it's all moeblob crap.

    It's interesting that the manga while looking quite cutesy, is much bloodier and gorier than the show itself, which sets up a sort of dissonance. And I'm glad the kept Ume Aoki's character designs, the Magical Girl looks are pretty iconic now and as for Kyubey *looks at plushie of it and narrows eyes*

    You're right to pin-point "What and I owed?" as a theme, which ties in with the whole, there is no such thing as a purely selfless wish. And when the gap between what you hoped would happen and what actually happened occurs, like Sayaka it's tempting to fall into despair. Of course it makes me realise how fucking mentally strong Kyoko is not to "witch out" after the pater familiacide. If I see much of my teenage and older self in Sayaka, Kyoko actually has stuff in common with a couple of girlfriends I've had. Guess that's why I ship them :D

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  24. I don't know what moeblob is, but it's a cool word. The waifu thing is almost artful in its creepyness. Just when you're raising an eyebrow thinking it's a bit odd but maybe each to their own you and it's just wanting a friend or something you spot that little glimpse of underwear and it's *shudder*. Mind you sexualing little girls is back to the Alice in Wonderland thing.

    I'm still not familiar enough with manga/anime to be able to differentiate all the characters yet. Gosh, hope that isn't getting into "all x look the same" territory. I think it's actually a proper psychological phenomenon. Like how all people in uniform initially look the same. You concentrate on the commonalities before your mind learns to notice the differences. I'm still focusing on the standard anime character tropes like the body proportions and the way facial expressions are depicted. Those Japanese art documentaries have been brilliant though for providing context.

    I can't immediately think of any comic characters I identified with, but comics probably were very influential on me generally. Hmm, although now thinking about it I quite often get asked to be a judge (not for any talent reasons, they're just short of numbers). If they ever change the uniforms to tight leather and kneepads then maybe comics were more influential than I thought.

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  25. Moe (pronounce Mo-a) is very cutesy, feminine and childlike, too much anime right now is this kind of stuff which they market the hell out of to Otaku. Lots of pervey statues and them being held up as the perfect females. Yuk.

    Thankfully the five girls in this series have fire in their bellies and because there are no male characters of note there's plenty of appeal to the female gay/bi/pan audience.

    I think you do have to train yourself to be able to "read" a type of media. I hope at least you can tell the characters in this series apart. The artwork is fairly average it doesn't have the skill or pacing of say Dragonball. It really should have been compiled in five or six volumes.

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  26. @varalys

    "It's interesting that the manga while looking quite cutesy, is much bloodier and gorier than the show itself"

    As I've come across this many times my educated guess is that probably broadcast standards (even in late night time slots) are stricter than manga publishing ones.

    @Alan

    Moe is the most non-threatening (childlike, submissive, cutesy, etc.) femininity cynical businessmen could create for the hypothetical "pathetic (male) nerd who'll never get laid" demographic. Given how much it works I occasionally question if I might have a too positive opinion on men. :/

    "Gosh, hope that isn't getting into "all x look the same" territory."

    Given manga/anime is historically produced very fast and cheaply there is also a serious "Same Face Syndrome" in place for several artists. In the 90s when I got seriously into anime/manga the advice I got was "When in doubt, focus on the hair". ^^;

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  27. Malitia: Yeah, it's notable that what gore there is in the anime (eg: when Sayaka fights Elsa Marie) was added to the DVD/BD releases.

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  28. A Gwenpool panel (issue #19) as I'm bracing myself for today's news.

    No, I don't think anything major happened, but August 20th is a public holiday in Hungary* and those rarely go without infuriating politics.

    * I sarcastically call it "forced integration day", as it commemorates our first king who "founded" our country... never mind that it existed before him, but saying "turned the country Christian by brutal cultural cleansing" doesn't sound as good even if it was probably the right call to evade annihilation back in the day. :/

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  29. I like that panel, sounds like Gwenpool wields the awesome power of the fourth wall well.

    I hope your August 20th goes off with out too much pain. Amazing how the Christian dudes were always "discovering" countries isn't it?

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  30. Happy 'Bit of history that everyone's probably got wrong' Day!

    We have that here. Our national day is St George's Day. I guarantee you that if you randomly ask 100 English people when that is, you'll be lucky to find two people who know. (I know it's the same day as Shakespeare's birthday, but I don't know when that is either). No idea why he is our patron saint. I think he's actually Palestinian or Armenian or something. But that's pretty typical of a country who's national animals are the lion and the unicorn (neither of which are exactly indigenous).

    I like your focus on the hair advice. And there's nothing particularly Japanese about recycling character designs. I like hanna barbera cartoons, and they do that all the time. Matt Groening reckons you've got a character right if you can recognise them in silhouette.

    As for gore in Japanese media, don't know if you saw our little discussion on Mammoth about Kurosawa? There's a famous scene in the sequel to Yojimbo where the special effects guy messed up the pressure on a blood spurt. But when he tried to apologise Kurosawa said he liked it, and thus a trope was born.

    Of course that's not unlike western media. You could probably write a thesis just on the final battle in Taxi Driver. There's a debate there about whether the weird colour pallet is just an error in filming or a deliberate choice to make the bloodletting more cartoony and thus get past the censor.

    Your comments about moe are really interesting. I'm pondering the dichotomy. The neckbeard idea (which you see also in MRA circles) that Japanese girls are so submissive. But from what I see they're far more likely to chop you into bits. Which ironically is pretty much what I look for in a girlfriend.

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  31. It takes a while for her to reach this level. :D

    He didn't exactly discover it either. Our ancestors (some 100 years before this dude's coronation) "discovered" the country while pagan, then his dad pretty much realized "Oh shit. We reeeeeeeally shouldn't give more reasons for our neighbours to conquer us in the name of protecting themselves. We will go Christian too! Well, son will, I'm way too rich to have to choose only one religion." :3

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  32. The previous comment was @varalys

    @Alan

    This is one of our 3 big "commemorates historical events" holidays. The other two are what I call "Failed Revolution Day"s (one on the March 15th - 1848 Revolution; the other on October 23th - 1956 Revolution). ^^;

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  33. @Alan: Another reason this series had a lot of western appeal was that Madoka's family consists of a corporate executive mum and stay-at-home dad (and baby brother). It's very unusual to see that. I know on Mammoth that the various reasons for the declining birth rate in Japan have been discussed. One reason is that women who get married are expected to drop their career and become SAHMs. So women just aren't getting hitched any more. So Madoka's family is a very unusual thing to see in Japanese media.

    I tend to avoid the Moe stuff myself, it just has no appeal to me. But it is one of the primary reasons it seems that Japanese women and girls are seen as submissive.

    One of my fave mangas (adapted into anime) is called Full Metal Alchemist, which was written and drawn by a woman and has amazing art and some kickass women that crucially kickass in different ways. It's 27 volumes though. I'd love to cover it but that would be three months... maybe if I break them up a bit. Hmmmmm. *ponders*

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  34. ... At least there will be fireworks. Pity that the weather is too cold and rainy.

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  35. Well British history is of course incredibly complicated, which is why the idea that there's a fixed British identity is a bit daft. Who would that be? Ancient Britons, Celts, Romano-Britains, Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Normans, Norse....? And it goes on. Al Murray suggested the citizenship test should be "What can you offer in the way of hot and spicy food or Olympic quality athletes?"

    Ostensibly of course we're a Christian country, we even have a state religion. But our most famous monument is Stonehenge. In Cornwall we even have a pagan state school (and paganism is on the RE curriculum of all schools down here). Our real national religion is probably commenting about the weather.

    I do really identify with bunnycat training up the girls. You've probably noticed my thing about women's self defence and creating an army of Amazons. It's not entirely a joke though. Whilst we're not quite at the stage of Edith Garrud (yet), we've had a few individual successes. Obviously the chief aim is that people don't get into trouble in the first place. But there was an incident where one girl who'd been taking lessons got some hassle from a couple of guys who were blocking her way on the Holloway Road. She just laid into them and they ran off. But because we'd always drummed home that you don't finish attacking until there's no longer a threat she ran after them. She got about 20 yards before she suddenly went "What the fuck am I doing?" and stopped. She noticed though that whilst she then got a round of applause from bystanders, none of them had actually tried to intervene originally. So that's why I love things like the scene on the train.

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  36. Bunnycat doesn't really train up the girls. It makes them Magical Girls it's true, but without giving too much away, it wants them to become witches. The sooner the better. The witch Charlotte was originally an elementary school girl called Nagisa Momoe. her wish was to eat cheesecake one last time with her mum who was terminally ill with cancer. Not really understanding until it was too late that she could have wished her better. And she witched out almost right away. That's why her Grief Seed was at the hospital.

    Girls like Mami and Kyoko who have stayed alive for years are annoying to bunnycat, it wants them to fall to despair.

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  37. From my limited knowledge about Japanese culture it seems it's a bit like how British culture is sometimes seen. In that there are some truths behind the stereotypes, but also it's more complicated than that.

    Years ago one of my mates ended up working for Nomura. That's the big Japanese bank. He was the only gaijin on his team. There was a real thing that you couldn't be the first person to leave at the end of the day. So it was like a competition to see who cracked first. But the thing is, no one actually got any actual work done. There wasn't even anything *to* do. It was purely perception. The irony is, once he'd realised that he was happy just to fuck off, but the rest of the guys loved him for that. In the end they wangled it so he got promoted to some 'indispensible' team leader position. Then they could blame the lazy westerner for going home, which meant they had to shut down too.

    I do know a few Japanese girls, but they're part of that cyberdog thing, or otherwise engaged in stuff like modeling. So they're probably not representative.

    Perception and stereotypes is a funny thing though. My "Japanese friend (tm)" Mike is a really talented artist. But his natural style is very influenced by that Kirby comic stuff and warhol popart (Google Sam Hamilton toonart for examples, that's who he works with), but he was always able to snaffle any anime/manga influenced jobs just cause he looks the part. (He's from that we'll known Japanese prefecture, Camden).

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  38. Sorry, toonPUNK

    http://toonpunk.space/art-1/

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  39. https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/564x/72/7b/3a/727b3a935e4ec1ef542b145b9a4be046.jpg

    One for you...

    https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/564x/2c/54/aa/2c54aa1c2adfa2b1d3b91377cab6f360.jpg

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  40. Oh gosh, Japanese corporate culture is incredibly toxic as well. They've sliced most of Madoka's mum's stuff out of the book, but as an executive she has to do the late night then booze with co-workers thing. In one admittedly funny scene she's so bladdered that she is lying on the floor by the front door and Madoka and her dad have to drag her to bed.

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  41. Oh gawd, those dreadful corporate karaoke sessions. Yeah Damon dragged us to some of those. Mournful salarymen knocking back shots and giving tearful renditions of Pappy was a gambling man.

    I guess it's only the top management who are the descendants of the samurai.

    That Japanese zaibatsu business culture is quite interesting though. I suspect a lot of it is myth, but one that's also useful for the Japanese to promote. Again it's all about perception. But that's what causes the problems when reality bites you in the ass. All finance is illusion, but it works because everyone agrees to go along with the same fiction. But recession hits Japan much harder because their self business image is that it cant happen. And that's why the edifice crumbles so quickly over there.

    I wouldn't be surprised if there was a resurgence of Japanese nationalism on the back of that. Harking back to the days of empire and national myths can be a comforting placebo.

    Hmm, I'm now wondering how that plays out with the youth. Are there Japanese millenials? But moreso, we see how popular that samurai bushido myth is with the inadequate here; are there Japanese kids buying $20 swords and posting pics on the net trying to look 'martial'? Or would that be as daft as English kids dressing up like they're at Agincourt?

    Not that there's anything wrong with liking swords of course, although if you start posting pics of yourself slicing through mountain dew bottles with a kukri I might have a word.

    (I'm totally on board with the actual slicing, just not the pics)

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  42. I'm not allowed to post pics of myself wielding my kukri, mum thinks the fuzz'll come round and arrest me /sadface

    Japanese youth, are a weird mixture of rebellion and conformity. Have you heard of the term "Hikkikomori"? It refers to (mainly boys/men) just dropping out of life completely, rarely leaving their flats/bedsits/bedrooms. There is some crossover with otaku but main it's a protest at Japanese working culture.

    It's hard to gauge a true picture from Japanese media, because the stuff that makes it to the west is the stuff most in tune with western sensibilities. And anime and manga are fields which have a higher than normal presence of rebels, weirdos and creatively mad types putting them together.

    I know a magazine I read has reports from westerners living in Japan who although they do like living there say in someways it's a very stultified and backwards looking country whose social attitudes are being massively overrepresented by the much older demographics as the younger just refuse to engage at all.

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  43. "Are there Japanese millenials?"

    Given that that only "means people born between 1984-1995" (1977-2004 for the biggest range I ever saw) or so probably. :3 I can't read Japanese good enough to guess the "those damn kids" (Weird... even I'm an older millenial in some ranges and I'm waaaay over 30. O.o) stereotypes there though. ^^;

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  44. I've seen it as roughly twenty-year cycles (according to wikipedia on it anyway) in the west, so Millennial for me is 1986-2004 I say 1986 because my second sister was born that year and is twelve years younger than me and there is definitely a generation gap between her and my Generation X ass. In someways I have more in common with my Baby Boomer mum!

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  45. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generation

    That's got a list. But very US/Western European leaning. eg: If a country didn't experience a post-war Baby Boom that becomes somewhat meaningless.

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  46. Tsk, that's the height of repression. Not being able to express your natural inclination to chopping heads off without hassle from "the man" (or in this case, your mum).  Again though it's the thing of a small but over vocal minority spoiling it for everyone. I'm quite interested in weapons technology and history. Sword evolution is a big part of that. But now as soon as you see a picture of someone with a katana you immediately assume weeaboo. Such a shame. Especially with the kukri which can be traced back to the swords the Spartans used. It's getting so you can't even practice your butterfly knife moves on the Tube without getting funny looks.

    Heh, I'm friends with a guy called Master Wong. He's a real expert on self defence. His videos are amazing though, he's just so intense. He's a member of one of our Krav groups and someone said "The only thing stopping you being a racist Chinese stereotype is the fact you're actually Chinese". I'll have to link some of his vids for you.

    So that's the definition of millenial. I'm not sure how that works. I thought it meant you were born in 2000. Although thinking about it that wouldn't work either.

    I hadn't heard of Hikkikomori, so thank you. I always love learning new stuff. Sounds a bit like slacker culture. Although 'turn on, tune in, drop out' has been around for ever I guess. You familiar with the "Diggers" from the post civil war era?

    Friends who've lived in Japan say Tokyo is pretty much how you'd imagine, but once you get out of the centre Japan might as well be 1970s Stevenage.

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    Replies
    1. Bit of Master Wong for you.

      https://youtu.be/yndSEHtQFFQ

      It's funny but it's the old story of how he was bullied at school. Then he saw some Bruce Lee films and went "Hey, he's Chinese,I could do that." And the rest is history.

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  47. Master Wong is cool! Brings back memories of my JKD teacher who was pretty much running a stealth women's self defence group. I was never physically bullied at school because everyone knew I fenced and was faster and stronger than the other girls. Come to think of it, the psychological bullying stopped roundabout that time as well. Huh. Never realised that until now :D

    Hikkikomori is the Japanese equivalent to NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training). I suppose that means me, but I do have health reasons, so I just think of myself as a slacker.

    Sigh, I love my sword. Now I am losing weight quite fast, I no longer fear the camera and I'd love to have some pics of me posing with it online to entice da ladeez. of course I'd need a camera first ^_^

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  48. It seems to be quite a common thing. Bruce Lee took up training with Ip Man because he kept getting beat up. Of course in his case that seems to have been as much because he was a bit annoying as much as anything. But there's a guy called Based Rutten whom I quite like. He's an ex MMA guy from its early beginnings (although it can be argued MMA goes back to Edwardian times) and also a self defence guy. He's very funny. But he took up martial arts because he was bullied at school. Come to think of it, so did Mike Tyson (he had a squeaky voice and was a pigeon fancier).

    The NEET thing crops up a lot in inceldom. I wouldn't regard you as NEET though. You actually do stuff, like your blog, and you have hobbies and interests. They have this LDAR philosophy. That's 'lie down and rot'. It's like a practical nihilism. Partly it's that race to the bottom self loathing, but also they don't want to contribute to a society that treats them so badly. To keep on the Japanese theme, they have a thing about the 'herbivore' culture, but of course they completely misunderstand it. But it's part of that harking to imaginary places. Whether thats some mythical past or post apocalyptic future where women would know there place or some foreign culture. The irony being that even if some place like that existed, they'd still be the losers in it.

    I love doing the women's self defence thing because it has a practical basis on a day to day level, but I must confess it would be great if some women were just able to call these MRA types bluff. But of course they hide behind Internet anonymity or the protection of the law. Like those Sargon fans who turned up at that conference. (Oh speaking of which, the Sargon lot tried to dox me after a recent run in. But it was weird. I'm pretty open on the net. So they were left to posting stuff on the MRA sites that I like suffragettes and donkeys)

    But anyway, one good thing about the Charlottesville fallout is videos of pasty boys getting their comeuppance. Love the one of the guy stripping off his shirt so he doesn't get beaten up.

    Be nice to see something similar with the MRA crowd. So keep up your kukri practice.

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  49. Aw thanks. I have to admit I can sometimes empathise with that LDAR philosophy. I've had years go by when I was so depressed I barely moved from bed or the sofa. But that was due to the depression half of my bipolar being in the ascendence. When I got put on a drug that acts as a "mood stabliser" I stopped having depressive fits that lasted months, but my mania came back. That ended up being a benefit because after therapy I learned to channel the mania into writing and that prevented psychotic breaks happening. Now, I'm pretty stable, but only because I avoid stressors. When I have one I am right back in LDAR modee. I wonder how many are suffering mental illness and just getting pulled into toxic reinforcement sites instead of getting the help they need.

    I'll tell you something, the kukri is damn heave, the blunt edge is over a half inch wide. Needs sharpening too, fighting with it now I'd be like that clip I linked of Sayaka fighting the b/w witch, bludgeoning with it rather than slicing.

    Also that attempted dox... haha. I'm pretty much the same, I am always open about myself and several places I post I have my real name in the profile pages. I just enjoy being varalys the dark here (villian from a super obscure Sega game) and on a gaming website I write for off-and-on, and various anime characters like Kyoko Sakura elsewhere.

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  50. Ah, so that's where Varalys comes from, I had wondered.

    I think the mental health claims of incels is a bit of a put on. It's not even like the appropriation you get with some tumblr kids where they want the 'glamour' of a romanticised version of mental illness. For them it's just an excuse/justification. It's that common thing of trying to adopt the attributes of a genuinely oppressed group to deflect criticism. I think the genuine sufferers of mental illness and social anxiety end up on groups like Forever Alone. Interestingly incels hate FA because it doesn't go in for the misogyny and actually tries to help people. Note also that for incels LDAR isn't a symptom, it's an aspiration.

    Kukris are so cool. And they are more of a melee weapon than something you'd use in a more formal one on one swordfight. And in combat a bit of bludgeoning is probably more useful. You want to incapacitate an enemy immediately. I quite like knife fighting. But when you read all the practical stuff about using knives it always stresses how stab wounds aren't necessarily immediately incapacitating. So in the Commando manual it says to hold on to a sentry for a few minutes after you've stabbed them. And in knife fighting it's all about carving people up so they couldn't even move if they wanted to. Lots of muscle and tendon slicing as much as blood vessels. Hmm, we have some charming topics don't we? Still, all useful stuff for the 'incel uprising' that they keep promising.

    Yeah, they did stuff like take screen-shots of my Facebook. But they'd post things like a suffragette picture and go "Ha, gotcha". It's funny what they regard as a threat. "What you gonna do when we tell everyone you like women and try to start fights with Nazis!"

    "Hang on, here's a list of Jewish girls I fancy. If you could start with them..."

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  51. Yeah from the Hylide series. It was Virtual Hydlide that amused me enough to use the name. It's like the Plan 9 From Outer Space of videogames :D

    I've said it before, but the kukri blade is weighted for hacking more than slashing and stabbing. You can get real speed on the down-swing.

    I remember knife fights during JKD. Wooden ones of course. How to attack and defend with one. Go for the elbows!

    I don't use Facebook, I got disillusioned when most of my friends turned out to be UKippers and racists, so I gave up.

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  52. It's a cool name wherever it's from.

    The Kali/Escrima peeps call that 'defanging the snake'. The idea being that you remove your opponent's ability to actually use their knife before trying anything else. Though I say it myself I'm quite good with knives. In theory anyway, obviously don't get into too many actual knife fights. We use the 'no lie' ones. You mark them with what is both essentially, and indeed actually, lipstick (they just stick a different label over the top) so you can see where you're making contact. I like knife fighting because it's really dynamic. You have to move around a lot so it's good exercise. And there's marginally less getting punched in the face than regular sparring. Although it's always handy to have non knife options too. I'm quite the fan of side kicks to the knees.

    There's a great bit in Fairbairn's Commando manual about defending against a knife using a chair. Begins "As every lion tamer knows...". Wonder how many lion tamers he actually interviewed for that. He's right though, chairs are pretty handy. Surprised no one's ever weaponised them. If you can modify gardening tools...

    Now you've inspired me though. Really up for a bit of sparring.

    I'm quite lucky with my Facebook friends. Most of them are real life friends though anyway, so there's less opportunity for surprises. Have made a few Internet friends though over the last few years, like yourself. But they've all been very nice too. Funnily enough I've made two really good Facebook friends who actually got in touch with me by mistake. You'd especially like one of them, she's into her video games and cosplay.

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  53. I have to say my JKD instructor's advice regrading knife fights was, "only if you can't run away first". He was always about how to try and de-escalating things, but if you were going to have to fight, here was the ways to finish it fast.

    I love the line about lion-taming! I'm sure I've seen a Jackie Chan fight where he defends against someone using a chair as well. Racking my brains now.

    Side kicks to the knees are always what I tell friends and family to do first when they ask me about self defence.

    As for friends, I just found myself with a bunch of real life friends all lurching to the right and I was too tired to keep arguing with them so just dropped out of their lives. Now pretty much all my mates are interent friends like your good self. I think for me, because I am so very close to my mum and sisters I get most of my need for real life friendship from them. Still as I lose weight and start getting my confidence back, it might be nice to start meeting people again.

    I still have a sore throat after four weeks. Doctor put me on antibiotics today so that's eight more tablets a day to remember to take. And if this doesn't work, they'll have to do something more... exploratory. Eek!

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  54. "only if you can't run away first".

    Ah, back to our friend Master Wong

    https://youtu.be/g5KvJQZ1xLI

    There's a great Jackie Chan thing where he uses a step ladder; especially the outtakes where he keeps trapping his fingers.

    I've got a step ladder, but I love it as if it were my real ladder (sorry)

    Side kicks to knees are great. I've got pretty lanky legs so they're especially useful for me. Got long arms too. Basically I should be ginger and enjoy tyre swings.

    I initially read that as 'itinerant' friends. I'm not quite at that stage yet.

    I'm having to use the Internet more and more even with meatspace friends just because of how busy I am. It's a bit of a pain really. I keep planning to just take a month off to go visiting. Mind you, I am pretty useless. I finally got round to getting back to a friend recently "When is it you want to come down again?"

    "Last year!"

    Oops. 15 months probably is pushing it a bit for replying to messages, but then again I don't want to appear clingy.

    Eek indeed. Fingers crossed for the antibiotics. I like being on antibiotics cause loads of stuff I didn't even know I had clears up.

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  55. Master Wong knows his stuff!

    I also love all the crazy stuff Jackie Chan uses for fights, though I thought the bicycle was the funniest.

    I have stumpy arms and legs, but five years of fencing drills mean even now I can move at speed in a half crouch. Did tend to mean I had an easier time sparring against big burly men than small scary women though :D

    I really do hope these antibiotics work because a month of speaking only in a croak and wanting to claw my throat out at certain points during the day is getting old now. That said, a course of antibiotics for me is usually subtitled "enjoy your bout of thrush too". Better stock up on yoghurt ;)

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  56. Ah that's interesting (if a little uncomfortable). Because I usually wait until I'm borderline gangreneous before finally accepting I should maybe go to the doctor's I end up on massive doses of full spectrum antibiotics. That has effects on your boy bits. Something to do with your lymph system flushing out. Feels like somebody's tied a 56lbs weight to your dangly bits. Still, that's intelligent design for you.

    Jackie Chan is marvellous. I like the fight he has underwater where there's a shark and both he and the baddie have cuts on their thumbs. It's proper 3 stooges stuff. To keep to the feminist theme of this blog, I like the bit where hero Jackie offers up the girl instead of himself: "Why don't you torture her? Maybe *I'll* talk"

    I'm glad your fitness programme is going so well. I've still got some way to go. I've been popping over to my clients building site and throwing a few heavy blocks around. My actual strength and fitness seems fine, I don't even get tired. But still haven't got back to racing snake look. Guess that's more of a cardio thing. Need to sweat a bit more. Because I've changed locations I can't get to the boxing club as easy. I think I'll set up a heavy punching bag at work. Bit of bagwork will soon shift things.

    I like the sound of your crouching tiger thing. I'm more of a toe to toe guy. I pretend it's an intimidating stand your ground tactic. In reality it's just I'm too lazy for all that running around ducking and diving crap.

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  57. I didn't know antibiotics could affect boy bits too. Ouch. Examining the leaflet it seems these are targetted at soft tissue. But on the other hand unlike the last couple of times I went on antibiotics I'm not eating a stupendously shitty diet. So hopefully things'll balance out. But I have to take eight tablets a day, on an empty stomach. Which I have to somehow fit in around the nine other drugs I am on that require taking with food >_<

    My favourite Jackie Chan film is Police Story 3: SUpercop where he and Michelle Yeoh engage in an ever escalating series of stunts to try and outdo each other. I think she wins by riding a motorcycle onto and along a moving train. Can't wait to see her in the new Trek series, she a real hero of mine.

    I still have a long way to go fitness wise. SO far it's been shedding enough weight to make cardio easier. I actually want to start doing some very gentle cycling again, but mum says I shouldn't until the hospital give me an all clear over my lungs. I should be getting my next clinic sometime in early September so we shall see.

    One of the reason I did footwork was I was pretty bad at doing the sticky hands stuff. Hands is made fer punching! I do remember making one huge bouncer guy I was sparring with laugh when I danced round the back of him.... and ran out of the room!

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  58. I'm very impressed by your cycling ability. They say you never forget how to ride a bike. My experience would suggest that's bollocks. I tried a while back and I was wobbling all over the place. Your mum's probably right though on waiting til you get the all clear.  I really miss swimming. I live 60 seconds away from the beach, and I like being in the sea. But it's not the same as just doing quiet lengths in a nice pool. I was really lucky in London as there was a pool that nearly nobody used because the council opened a swish sports centre just up the road. Unfortunately they ended up closing down the old pool. But that probably made economic sense. Some nights I was literally the only person in it.

    Sas kept me really fit. We'd quite often do 20 mile walks on a weekend. I just can't do that now without her company.

    I like your running away tactics. Probably better than my just staying there and getting punched in the head. I'm actually more mobile when we do the multiple attacker stuff. I know a few moves where you can use one of them as a human shield (it's like a head control thing) and then just keep him between you and the others. I find it easier to fight multiples, it becomes more tactical. You can cause them just to get in each others way. So I suppose there's something to be said for that mook chivalry thing.

    (You ever seen Hyperdrive? It suffers from not being Red Dwarf. But it had its moments. One bit being when some robots are doing the mook chivalry thing, until one of the heroes accidentally points it out and they realise. Then they just beat the shit out of them)

    I found the sticky hands thing a useful exercise. I'm very much with you on the hands are for hitting thing. But I do find it's useful to have that automatic awareness of your and your opponent's position in space as it were. I've done a bit of blindfold sparring and it's weird how you can still fight so long as you keep at least some contact. I suppose though if you know where one bit of your opponent's body is, there's only so many places the rest of it can be.

    Michelle Yeoh is excellent. She's the only redeeming feature of Pierce Brosnan's run as Bond (that wasn't his fault, just they'd lost direction a bit). She was the only action girl in that series that was believable in the role. Although I loved Xenia Onnatop. And that thigh scissors thing can be very effective. It's just perhaps not necessarily the immediate choice in a fight, it's a bit easy to defend against. Mind you, if Famke Jannsen was doing that to you, would you even bother to try to stop her?

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  59. Blast, browser ate my reply. I do have a fondess for the film Goldeneye, but that's mainly due to me and my then girlfriend playing the shit out of the N64 Goldeneye game. Happy days.

    I have to admit, my running away would be if I was fighting with a clear head. If The Rage descended I'd be attached to my opponent by my teeth!

    I never got as far as training against mutiple opponents. Closest I've come is observing how to "crowd control" in vidya games.

    Anyway, have posted final book of this series. Looking forwards to your thoughts on it :)

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