About dreamstobecome

I'm a writer and actor based in Chicago.

Favorite Anime Shows of 2017!!! (A Non-Comprehensive List)

I have watched different anime shows and films on and off since middle school, but it wasn’t until the last year or so that I really got into it. Part of it was through Drew – and part of it was because we got a Crunchyroll subscription.  I tried to think of a nice even Top Ten but honestly couldn’t think of a tenth anime that warranted being on my personal listicle… SO. That being said, here’s my top nine animes of 2017 – in no particular order! I also love anime opening theme songs so PLEASE treat yourself to these gems.

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Yuri!!! On Ice

All I knew was that this show was supposedly gay and about ice skating, but my good friend and Personal Bad Influence Shoulder Devil, Mel, convinced me that it was more. Much more.

Yuri!!! On Ice follows the story of Katsuki Yuuri, who is a mediocre figure skater. He worked hard to get where he is, and he’s passionate for the sport, but he’s never really unfolded his potential, and as the show starts he’s dropped to the bottom of his division. He goes home to lick his wounds and wonder whether skating is really a career for him, or if he should give up and go to college or something. Plot twist: his lifelong hero and idol inspiration, Viktor Nikiforov, shows up on his doorstep in Japan insisting that Yuuri let him become his new coach for the coming season. Viktor has seen a video of Yuuri imitating one of Viktor’s own routines on the ice, and something about Yuuri is… different. The show follows Yuuri’s journey back to the competitive skating world with Viktor at his side, driving him onward.

But it isn’t just about skating. It’s about self-doubt, impostor syndrome, and passion. It’s about trust and honesty in friendships and partnerships, and about discovering who you really are behind all the goals you have and accomplishments you’ve passed. It’s about a really cute dog and an onsen and pork cutlet bowls.

It’s also pretty damn gay. And it’s wonderful. Can’t wait for season two.

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My Hero Academia (Boku No Hero Academia)

Everyone’s talking about this show – and it’s all for very, very good reasons. My Hero Academia is a traditional “do your best” coming-of-age story with a lot of exciting, modern twists.

The show follows Midoriya, a young boy in a world where 80% of the population acquire a natural-born ‘quirk’ – essentially a mutant power – at a young age that they can develop as they grow older. Some people with quirks develop them so much with the intent of becoming a professional hero. There’s even schools to attend that help young folks hone their abilities to the best they can be. Midoriya worships the Number One Hero of all time, All-Might, and hopes to be just like him. But nothing happens for a long time. As a child, doctors run tests to determine that he isn’t just a late bloomer – he’s quirkless, one of the rare percentage of humans that don’t ever develop a natural quirk. As a teen, a chance meeting and some terrifying villain attacks cause Midoriya to fall into the path of All Might himself, and his life changes. Midoriya progresses to UA High School – the top hero-training academy – and must learn to understand and control his newly-acquired quirk… so that he can become the greatest hero of all.

One of things I love about this show is alllllll of the many characters are so specific, unique, and delightful. Everyone’s powers are loaded with particular pros and cons, everyone’s personalities are varied and interesting, and the dynamics of all the different heroes are fascinating. I’m also super into the fact that the major theme of the show is: do your best. The motto of the school is Plus Ultra – Go Beyond. It drives everything that they do. Midoriya is a fantastic protagonist because he really does want to be the greatest hero – not for fame or wealth or renown but for the inspiration it provides others, and the service he could provide to those in need. I love that. I also love how there are so many female characters present, of all different kinds, all different body types and personalities. It’s wonderful to be able to watch a show about superheroes and see different types of girls in the main cast – instead of one, or two. I also love his friends at school. The more I think about each of the secondary and even tertiary characters the more fired up I get about how awesome they are. THERE IS SO MUCH HERE. It’s a lively, action-packed, high-stakes, intensely positive show. It’s wonderful.

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Food Wars (Shokugeki No Soma)

Do you love food? Do you like those high stakes reality cooking shows? Do you enjoy when genres poke fun at themselves? Great, me too. Here’s Shokugeki no Soma.

The show follows Yukihira Soma, a clever, determined kid raised in his family’s diner by his phenomenal chef-dad, as he attends the most hoity-toity culinary academy in the nation in pursuit of becoming the best chef he can be. The other kids at this intensely competitive cooking high school (yeah, I know) are shocked and incensed at Soma’s casual, point-blank personality and low-budget origins, but quickly he becomes infamous in the school for his exquisite talent and delicious cuisine in spite of his humble birth. Students at the school can specialize in certain foods, ingredients, spices, or styles, and there are different clubs to join for various types of food. But the main thing is that students can challenge each other to a shokugeki – a one-on-one cooking battle that will be judged by three impartial people.

Like Boku no Hero Academia, this is a show about working hard, doing your best, and striving to achieve greater things in spite of all challenges you may face. This is also a show about REALLY INTENSE COOKING BATTLES and insane, deliciously animated recipes. When characters taste something super amazing, their clothes burst from their bodies and they’re thrown into a kind of comical, over-the-top dream sequence of ecstasy based on whatever the flavor or dish is. I stress this again: it is very over the top and comical, but the characters do appear sexualized and/or nude when enjoying intense flavors. It calms down about halfway through season one, but it continues to be a staple of the series throughout.

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Restaurant To Another World

This is a delightful, simple, endearing little show about a restaurant with a magic portal to multiple realms and other worlds than our own. The owner of the restaurant opens it on a certain day (Saturday, I think) every week, and the door of the restaurant appears in different places throughout a fantasy realm. Not everyone knows of its existence, but anywhere the door appears, it can be entered by locals and the restaurant serves exquisite food and beverages and desserts that we might consider normal. But to the inhabitants of a distant fantasy realm? It’s exotic and new and mysterious. The owner of the restaurant tends to stay out of his customers’ personal business, but the customers begin to recognize one another by their favorite menu items: i.e. melon soda, chocolate parfait, pork cutlet, etc. The show gives us little glimpses into the lives of these princesses, explorers, lucky adventurers, fallen heroes, and even dragons as they count the days until the next Saturday appearance of the door, and spend all their coin at the Restaurant To Another World.

It’s a slice-of-life style anime with a lot of heart and very simple, sweet stories attached. It fed my love of well-animated food (see: Shokugeki no Soma) but it also was just an endearing set of stories that fit into a greater world narrative that they don’t tell too much of. It’s sweet and unusual.

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Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid

Okay, so… this one is weird. Like, I understand that anime as a whole tends to be weird, but this show is Weird? And really adorable, but very weird??? Um. So.

Kobayashi is in IT, I think, or possibly computer engineering… she does techy stuff for a big company. She enjoys nerding out with her coworker about maids – like, Victorian maids, and the modern Japanese fandom equivalent – and she enjoys drinking. A lot. She gets lost in the woods while drunk and unintentionally frees a trapped/exiled dragon. The dragon, now owing her a life debt, begs her to let it pay her back – and drunk!Kobayashi apparently decides that the one thing she really wants is a maid. She wakes up in her apartment the next day with her very own dragon maid. What she doesn’t realize is that the complications of dragons are even stranger than she could have imagined… and having a maid isn’t as simple as she thought it’d be.

The show is WEIRD like I said but it’s very sweet. Tohru, the dragon maid, is an ancient dragon who has a lot of pride in her dragonhood but DESPERATELY longs for Kobayashi’s love and attention. She says point-blank that she loves Kobayashi in a sexual sense, not just a platonic way, but Kobayashi is not as straightforward with her desires. It is very unclear whether she’s even attracted to Tohru… but throughout the series, their relationship grows and becomes complex, specific, and very real. Kobayashi seems to be more in the asexual category, but she comes to really love and appreciate Tohru’s support and affection as time goes on. More dragons come to visit (and stay) and the weird sitcom-y feel of the show is actually really hilarious. There’s a few over-the-top fetish-y moments that happen on the side with various characters but the main storyline between Tohru, Kobayashi, and the young exiled dragon Kanna-chan as a small, unusual, but loving family is really neat.

THIS IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE OPENING SONGS EVER PLEASE DANCE TO IT.

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Sakura Quest

So you know how in Japan, mascots are this huge thing? Like, companies, stores, media, neighborhoods, even airports have mascots that do PR appearances and meet-and-greets?? This show isn’t just about that, but it is partly about that.

Yoshino is struggling to find a job. She has no money, no prospects, and despite being a solid, confident interviewee, she keeps… not getting hired. A while back she signed up for a modeling agency on a lark, and she finally gets a call from them – a town in the country needs her to come be their queen. Confused as to what that means, but desperate for a paycheck, Yoshino heads out to the town of Manoyama, only to find that it is a small, run-down, former tourist spot with a long legacy of weird and unusual makeovers, and with very, very little in the way of actual activity. It also turns out the town meant to hire another girl – a former pop star, whose name’s kanji look similar to Yoshino’s. Oops. Yoshino panics and attempts to flee back to Tokyo, but realizes that this could be an opportunity to really make a difference to someone, to help this community get back on its feet, and to find purpose in life. So she stays – and her eager, ready-to-do-anything attitude attracts the help of several local gals who become her ‘queen’s council’ as she quests to revive the town of Manoyama as a destination and as a community.

This show is very slice-of-life and extremely good. The five main girls are so delightful and their dynamic as a team is wonderful. The realism in the show is very relatable – who hasn’t had a problem with finding meaning in their work, or finding a job period?? Who hasn’t struggled with their ability to roll with the punches and find a way to make things work even when everyone around you says they won’t work out? I love the characters on this show, and I love that it’s about community, chosen family, and never giving up on dreams, no matter how big or small they are.

Also: A+ theme song.

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Blend S

This show is ALSO a bit weird but very slice-of-life.

Maika-chan is a high schooler looking for part time work, and as luck would have it, she manages to land a job at a themed café – but not your average maid café, cat café, or licensed character café. Manager Dino has particular plans for Café Stile, and each of the waitresses who works for him assumes a persona archetype as seen in, well, anime. Maika and her coworkers each embody a different persona: Kaho is the tsundere waitress, Mafuyu is the ‘little sister’ type, and later on they acquire Miu as an ‘older sister’ and Hideri, who is a transvestite and portrays the ‘idol’ archetype. Maika is a sweet, incredibly sensitive teenager who just wants to do a good job, but has trouble with her assigned persona: ‘sadist.’ She has kind of a scary smile, so the Manager has her portray a cold, calculating sadistic person while providing exemplary café service to their customers, who, I’ll note, all seem to be young men who happen to fall into various categories of being attracted to different archetypes. On top of all this, the Manager is 26 and has a crush on Maika (who’s 16), and Miu’s ‘older sister’ type is a little more of a sexually charged ‘roleplay’ of an older sister than an actual familial figure. The cast is a weird bunch of highly specific people but the self-aware comedy of the ridiculous archetypes, sexualization, and highly unusual success of such an offbeat, particular establishment are very funny to watch.

Unfortunately the intro song to this show has become some kind of meme and the original version has been taken down, so this is just audio… but I can’t help imagining a full scale Broadway song and dance number with moving sets and turntables and confetti and stuff. Please enjoy that with me in your head.

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A Centaur’s Life

2017 was definitely the year for me discovering SLICE OF LIFE ANIME, you guys. This show is amazing. It’s WEIRD, it’s got detailed worldbuilding, and it’s SWEET, too.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a cat-person? What about a goat-and-or-sheep-person? A bat-person? A unicorn-person? An angel-person? OKAY okay what about a centaur? Like, how would you go to school, or wear clothes, or deal with puberty as a centaur, with your back half bein’ a growing, healthy horse bod while you try to figure out your crushes, hopes, and dreams??? WHAT IF??

Hime is a centaur. She lives in Japan and goes to school like all girls her age do. Her life is very normal. Her entire family are centaurs. She competes in traditional Japanese archery and studies in school, and blushes a lot because her big clumsy horse bod gets in the way of being ‘more normal’. She’s also very kind, loving, and generous to her friends (a smart sheep-girl and a sassy bat-girl). Their world is full of people with unusual traits – unusual to us, that is. Centuries ago people began to develop these qualities – it’s just always been this way. (Sidenote: The anime does some REALLY fantastic show-not-tell about the worldbuilding they did and it’s fascinating??? Every time there’s a story or an episode about the world as a whole or its history I’m like HOLY WHAT WHAT AHHH WHAAAT!?)

So anyway yeah Hime’s a regular girl-centaur with regular girl problems and her friends at school have their own problems too. School responsibilities, little siblings, new romance, and social expectations abound.

I thought this show was going to be Too Weird To Watch but the title is so blunt I had to try… but then I got really really into it and I love it so so much. The opening song doesn’t set the tone properly AT ALL but please forgive it, and know that the scene change and background music in the episodes is usually ska which makes ALL THE SENSE IN THE WORLD when it’s happening.

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New Game

This show is fantastic. Another slice-of-life anime that follows a girl fresh out of high school as she starts her first grown-up job at Eagle Jump, a video game company. Aoba navigates the awkwardness of becoming an adult in an adult workplace while enjoying the perks of working on a game for a company she has long admired. The big thing about the show is that the game company is all women. There are no male characters on the show at all. It’s…. amazing. All of the characters are offbeat and fun, the workplace environment is positive and encouraging while still being new and overwhelming to Aoba, and the themes are all about being yourself, working hard, learning new things and adjusting to work alongside others.

It’s good, wholesome, encouraging stuff. I mean, other than the fact that one of the bosses likes to sleep under her desk wearing just a shirt and her underwear…. but like. Eh.

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Thanks for checking out this Non-Comprehensive List. Let me know in the comments or on Twitter what anime you’d recommend based on my taste in this list OR based on the theme song alone!

-Aly

Life Update: A Huge New Chapter!

Well, friends, it’s been a while since I posted here, and I do apologize for that. If you’re following me on any other social media platforms you’ll know the gist of what’s been going on, and if not, I hope this will catch you up on the deets.

On November 4th, 2017, Drew and I packed up a UHaul van with all of our earthly belongings and hitched his old car Betty to a tow dolly on the back, and we left Chicago. Drew had lived there seven years, and I had been there eleven years, but it was high time for a brand new adventure. So off we went, and two days later we arrived in Orlando, Florida. We moved into our new place, began to buy new furniture (we had none with us) and started to settle in to a brand new city where neither of us had ever lived before.

Drew is working at his old job still – they’re letting him work remotely from a different office of the company. I have been working on some audiobooks for award-winning author Candace J. Thomas and also been preparing for upcoming opportunities here. We’re both auditioning and chasing dreams, and treading water till the next thing happens.

As far as creative pursuits go, Drew and I have spent the last seven or eight months taking a break from Disney Odyssey. We intend to get back to it soon, since we have so many still in the bank from the last round of viewings. But we’ve been very busy with Warda, our real creative brainchild.

Warda is a little bit Game of Thrones, a little bit Downton Abbey, with a dash of Agatha Christie thrown in. It’s luxurious and glamourous on the surface with heartfelt conflict and sociopolitical commentary underneath. It’s been a THRILLING experience to share it with the world for the first time – in May we started doing live streams of a roleplaying game set in the world of Warda (using the FATE system rules) on the One Shot Podcast Network’s channel on Twitch. We stopped doing those live streams in October right before we moved (for obvious reason) BUT the second big thing that came out of this venture is the podcast! You can check it all out here or here, or on your chosen podcasting platform. Even if you don’t know anything about tabletop RPGs, it’s a fantastic story, with great performances by all of our players and Drew as our primary GM (I drop in occasionally myself). Give it a try!

Despite the fact that we moved at the beginning of the month, I made sure to participate in this year’s National Novel Writing Month. This year’s theme and challenge I gave myself were unique: I wrote down short titles or phrases relating to Warda, one prompt for each day of November, and a few extra just in case. I challenged myself to respond to a new, randomly selected prompt every day, writing at LEAST the minimum of 1667 words (the projected daily minimum to ‘win’ NaNoWriMo). I told myself that I could write as much as I wanted, but I needed to have the minimum on each day’s prompt. This was an awesome plan! I gave myself weird and delightful and interesting prompts and I had FUN writing on each of them as the days trucked along. However, sometime in the middle of the month I found myself picking up each day with the previous day’s prompt, wanting to write more and ‘finish’ the scene, only to have the current day’s prompt yet to write. And sometimes I didn’t get to the current day’s prompt. But I didn’t count this against myself, since I was having fun and not censoring myself. I have several prompt yet to do, despite the month ending tonight (and despite the fact that I’ve passed 50k words!) so I intend to keep writing a bit every day and building those muscles up again to where they once were. I have, as you may know, been having some issues with ‘writer’s block’ and ‘impostor syndrome’ and other such hurdles, and I’m determined to shake it all off – FOR GOOD – and press on in my writing experiences and career. I’m looking forward to meeting some Orlando area writers soon – there appear to be several community groups I can join up with to meet fellow writers, take workshops, and support/be supported. I’ve never had a writing group or community before, not really, so I’m not sure what it will be like, but I’m happy to try it all out and meet some new friends!

The other magical thing that happened recently is small, talkative, and extremely cuddly. Yes, that’s right – we got a cat! Well, the cat got us. Found us. Whatever. On October 1st (with only a month left before we were supposed to move) we found a cat in Chicago. We took her inside for the night, then took her and had her microchip scanned the next day. We spent the next fourteen days frantically reaching out to the owners through the microchip company, but despite multiple voicemails and emails, they never contacted us or the chip company again. After ten days in Illinois, that’s animal abandonment, so we unexpectedly (but very, very happily) welcomed Queen Felicia to the family.

 

She hated the truck ride down to Florida but once we got here she was fine. She has filled our days with love, strange chirps, purrs, and nuzzles, and we love her more than we ever thought possible. She found us, and we’re so, so glad she did.

We are both missing our friends back in Chicago, but we’re eager for this new chapter to really settle into a rhythm. So many opportunities await, so many possibilities. We’re happy we made it here safely and we’re happy to get a chance at things we’ve always dreamed of.

Here’s to big leaps, and big dreams ahead!

~Aly

 

Happy 20th Anniversary, Harry Potter!

I always wanted to be a Gryffindor, but the truth was always there under the surface, and it was much more simple. I love people too much, and I care about everyone’s feelings.
It’s actually been Hufflepuff all the way.
 
I got the first three Harry Potter books the day that “The Prisoner of Azkaban” came out – September 8, 1999, apparently. I tore through them in a short amount of time, and my world was changed. It led me to internet forums and early chat rooms for fans, it led me to create my own fan fiction, it led me to create my own fiction unrelated.”Hedwig” was part of my first email address. It brought me new friends when I moved to a new place. It brought me a sense of belonging that stuck with me until I was ready to ‘graduate Hogwarts’ and move out into the big wide world on my own two feet, and create new worlds for other people to delve into.
 
I often think about JK Rowling, on a plane or seated in an outdoor cafe, writing with cheap half-empty ballpoint pens, scrawling on napkins when she ran out of paper, and writing just to write – even when she was on welfare. She didn’t write to get herself out of welfare, but that’s exactly what happened. She wrote because she loved her story and her characters and was driven to get it done. And she’s not perfect… And the series isn’t perfect, but it’s arguably damn good. So good that it’s common household vocabulary now, and it’s the “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra” of a whole new generation. Harry and Voldemort in the Forest. Hogwarts, when the walls fell.
What’s your Patronus?
What’s your wand made of?
Which House are you in?
Everybody knows their own answers to these questions. And we always will.
Twenty years later, many of us are grown and some are even raising their own kids on the world Rowling built. It’ll keep on keepin’ on.
I’m hoping to finally make it to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios this fall, and taste my first butterbeer and find my wand waiting for me, and probably cry, and my Hufflepuff husband will be there with me, and we’ll probably have a lot of feelings about it all.
Something something about Hogwarts always being there to welcome us home, something something.
Cheers, everyone.

Disney Odyssey #38 – Flying Whales Are Neither Pines Nor Roman: Discuss

For this installation of the Disney Odyssey we turned to a couple of real experts: Maureen Smith and Daniel Johanson of Chicago’s own Scapi Mag! Two trained opera lovers and performers, Daniel and Maureen have made it their mission to seek out and promote independent artists, companies, collectives, and projects of all kinds in the city of Chicago, whether it’s theatre, poetry, music, opera, or beyond. As I have never seen this movie and don’t know a whole lot about which classical hits are included, I thought it would be neat to get an inside perspective from these two phenomenal music nerds on what pieces are included, why they’re unusual, and how well the animations play along (or don’t). 

 

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The Film: Fantasia 2000  (2000)

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