How to Dress a Monster

When it comes to clothing, the usual rules apply. People wear what they need to or what their culture approves of. In the Baltic region, fur is vital. In warmer climes, even with the sun lessened in this era of magic, loose clothing suits best. For the most part, humans, and mutants too, will trust in a few proven items, such as boots, leggings, jackets, etc. A good pair of boots is almost as valued as a decent weapon. In the underground bases, many can get by in jumpsuits and soft footwear, not questioning why all wear the same outfit, after so long within their home. In so many cases, people wear what they can make, what they need, and when allowed to indulge themselves, what fashion or luxury permits.

Machines, for obvious reasons, do not bother with clothes. Cyborgs do, yes, but that’s when mostly or at least half human. They wear various items, often to seem or feel somewhat human still, but also for decency and comfort. They wear armour when going into battle.

So humans and mutants wear clothes, machines don’t. That leaves monsters.

When the monsters came to our world, they ran about naked. Why wouldn’t they? They were newly formed, freed from the Shadow World, forged by our unconscious fears or possibly a reflection of our myths and fables. No one truly knows. But they were creatures, supernatural beings, not civilised or even influenced by it. The wind, the sun, the rain – these were all new to them. So monsters appeared and reacted, and then started to accept this world and settle in.

For that reason, monsters vary when it comes to clothing. Those who live more wild and free lives tend to forgo it. Those who have spent more time with humans or learned from their ways, they tend to dress to impress, as well as for necessary reasons. Many go for somewhere inbetween. Harbingers want things that won’t weigh them down. Magi can look human and often take that form to fit in, so wear whatever the locals do, and their clothes are bound to them so change when they do. Helps to be so magical, I suppose. Many monsters couldn’t fit most types of clothing and so don’t bother even making their own, yet they might try on something. Perhaps a trinket to look special or some armour to be stronger. It is claimed a gleaner king once wore a crown and a large coverall of chain-mail, making him as formidable a fighter as there ever was among his kind. The crown, however, might well have looked comical, not that any would have dared to laugh.

A few examples should be made to highlight the variety.

Deemi don’t wear clothes, they’re infamous for it, but then their sexual appeal is a large part of their predatory nature. But also the forms people see are not their true forms, and thus to them, they are always clothed. Then again, some in the Demon King’s court like to wear jewellery, to look even more special.

Vandals are tough as hell, with leathery skin, so the need for clothes isn’t much. Brutes are hairy, mainly down their back and across their shoulders, so they take the cold better. Certainly better than most monsters. Even so, vandals like to wear clothing sometimes, and even extra protection. Nothing like feeling invulnerable to really make you want to start a fight. Also, brutes preference for colder areas means they do often need to wear something across their bodies. The hair doesn’t cover enough to survive harsh winds and snowstorms, although it will help.

A side note is that it has often been thought that a major reason why monsters started wearing clothes was simply part of their hunting process. Monsters, especially harbingers, would take from those they killed, focusing on weapons at first to learn how to use them, but then things like clothes would go too. It would be seen as displaying your kills, in a way. Also mimicking the human race. Basically, monsters, for all their otherworldy nature, could not resist picking up human habits.

Wraiths need a mention. They always appear as hooded and cloaked beings, and also wear generic-looking human garments underneath, such as a top and leggings, then soft shoes, possibly slippers. None of this is real clothing, however. Wraiths can control their forms, going invisible, transparent and solid. Their clothing is merely a manifestation of their innate power, so that their features – if they have any – are hidden. Wraiths are male and female, but otherwise tend to be very vague about physique. This is intentional. They are beings of shadow and stealth, so they form an appearance to keep to that way of life. The young are taught to imitate the old and so all wraiths look alike. At least to the common eye.

My final mention goes to the grand three monsters races – devil-beasts, aegis and sphinx. Now the last one, as beings who have lion bodies with human faces, don’t often wear much clothing. As mentioned, getting something to fit isn’t easy. Also, with fur, mane and wings, they are fairly well covered. Still, most do like to look their best, and they have a strong reputation for being a race with close ties to others, choosing to talk and learn more than attack and rule. So seeing a sphinx in a robe or cloak isn’t uncommon either.

As for the devil-beasts and aegis, they share a common preference. They don’t tend to wear much, but they have both taken to wearing kilts. They might wear more, usually to show off or intimidate, and many wear items that have power, to use in battle. But the kilts can have a special function. Devil-beast kilts tend to be made of the skin of others. They tend to favour the leathery hide of vandals, possibly with brute hair, or maybe writher skin. The most terrible individuals will wear kilts of leather, torn from the wings of defeated devil-beasts. The aegis do the same, but they have another source. Aegis have scales on their bodies, which shed naturally when healing, like scabs. These can be brought together and made into a kilt. The scales of an aegis are hardened skin and are excellent protection, and those lost to healing are even harder. Wearing such a kilt is a high honour among the aegis, not least as usually it is made from fallen comrades, even family, who handed over their scales in tribute. Devil-beasts would wear these too, except they hate the aegis too much to let their kind touch them. The same goes for aegis and the idea of making tough kilts from their enemies’ leathery wings.

So that’s a quick note about monsters and what they like to wear. They won’t be starting any fashions or trends, although there are a number who follow such things. While most monsters are fierce still, some are practically dandies by comparison. Clothing is there to enhance your image, as well as keep you comfortable, possibly help protect you, and to hide your shame. Some don’t care for any of that; to them, baring all shows strength and courage. Maybe so. Whether it is dressing to impress or putting it all out there, monsters, just like all people, tend to follow the old adage:

When you got it, flaunt it!

Bravestarr

So another short and sidetracked post, rather than a Sojourners in Shadow one.

I’ve been watching Bravestarr on Youtube. Not seen it since I was a kid, so thought I’d give it a go.

You know what? It’s a lot better than I remembered. It was one of the many cartoons I watched back in the 80s when I was young, along with He-Man, Thundercats, MASK, etc. I often thought of it as the lesser among that group.  Bit hokey, fairly daft, with a cliched premise.

Okay, it has to be said, those things aren’t far off the mark. I often laugh when Bravestarr shouts “Strength of the Bear!” and then lifts a giant boulder or something. Same with speed of the puma. He runs faster than a puma on a motorbike, for crying out loud.

So for anyone who doesn’t know, Bravestarr was about a planet called New Texas, where outlaws sought to raid a precious ore, and a marshal repeatedly stopped them. He was, of course, Bravestarr, a Native American with special powers, able to summon the abilities of animals. His enemy was Tex Hex, who, to be honest, should be a much more dangerous opponent, seeing as he can summon creatures and change things at will. Think of him as someone with powers like Skeletor but more incompetent. Laughs more too.

For all the geek revival and nostalgia we see today, I don’t see this show referenced. Like I said, it is better than I remember, with some interesting stories, but you have the same scenes roll over as Bravestarr summons his skills or Tex Hex laughs manically. You can see why it didn’t leave a lasting impression, and yet I remembered it, and judging by comments on the videos I’m far from alone.

This isn’t a post to really go on about the show. It’s in the past, had its day, and while a remake or something could be fun, I can’t see it gaining ground. People would probably sneer at the native with the animal powers trope, for one thing.

There is something worth noting though. Something I quite enjoyed.

One character who always stood out was Thirty-Thirty. I didn’t recall the name until I watched it again and I have no idea why he’s called that. But the humanoid horse with the big gun was entertaining when I was a kid and remains so now. He’s that typical good guy sidekick character of the 80s – gun-toting, eager to scrap, ever loyal, brave to the edge of recklessness.

What’s interesting is that Bravestarr and Thirty-Thirty are friends as well as marshal and his deputy. But they are also very different as people. Bravestarr is open-minded, ready to trust and see the best in people. Thirty-Thirty tries to do some of that, but he is quick to judge and quick to speak his mind too.

There are a few examples but a very good one is when a kid says the dingoes are all thieves. Thirty-Thirty agrees with him, Bravestarr strongly disagrees. Thirty-Thirty gets the hump and walks off. The kid worries that he caused a problem but Bravestarr assures him that, while he and his deputy see things differently a lot of the time, they are still friends.

That’s the thing that struck me about the show. I think it is a lesson taught often back then and it sticks with me now. You don’t see this viewpoint a lot these days. I understand why, but still…

Basically this show makes the point a number of times. You can disagree with someone and still be friends. You can see the world and people differently and remain friends. You can be almost opposites and get along.

I wouldn’t go so far as to claim Thirty-Thirty would vote for Trump, but I bet he’d like his bulldozer style. Bravestarr, however, would clearly be an Obama man.

They might argue, get into heated arguments even, but the end result would be the same. They had each other’s backs and that’s what matters. You don’t cast aside a friendship because you disagree, even if it’s a lot.

This isn’t a political post or anything like that. I just enjoyed watching a show where one of the moral lessons is about trying to understand those different from you. In that very episode, the dingoes – usually two dimensional baddies – end up making peace with a farmer and helping out. So yeah, the show leans to Bravestarr’s view, but damn if you don’t enjoy Thirty-Thirty and his bullishness sometimes. Even if he loves his big gun, Sara Jane, just a little bit too much.

The Great Betrayal

Had a day off from posting yesterday seeing as it was Mother’s Day here in the UK. Mums are always more important than fictional posts, no matter how much fun they can be.

So last week I wrote about friendly groups, mostly so I could write about totems. So this week I’m going to talk about something negative, but again, that will be an excuse to write about a particular group. Scions.

To oppose last week’s post on being friendly, we can talk about being antagonising. Yet we can talk about being friendly too, which leads to betrayal. Scions are the masters of this. That is their purpose.

Scions are a race none who know them will trust, possibly even tolerate. Devil-beasts hate them with a passion, and aegis are quite severe when dealing with them. They are enemies, vicious deceivers, liars and manipulators. The problem comes when people don’t know who they are dealing with. Scions are charmers. Friendly to a skilled degree. That, again, is their purpose.

When the Shadow World arrived and brought with it monsters, there was chaos and mayhem. This is well known, passed on by oral histories with a little recorded evidence. But it wasn’t as if the monsters had things easy. They were a surprise, for sure, a terror even in most cases. They did things unthinkable, such as turning transparent, leaping over distances and smashing down walls. Not to mention magic. But as the humans adapted, which is what humans do, they started to get a grip on things. The human race was still suffering in many places, people were rioting and turning to new ways of thinking, but a number of governments were strong regimes that brought in stronger measures to keep control. Where authorities were weaker, some were overthrown and others merged forces and resources to strive to survive. The humans were reacting to the invasion and, while many of these events lead to the fall of what they knew as civilisation, not every step along the way was a wrong one.

Two things need a mention here. One is that the aegis, among the most powerful of monsters, stood by the humans and so over time earned their trust and support. The other is that the devil-beasts were hell-bent on ruining the human race, and perhaps even more so, their allies, the aegis.

This was back in the early days. So the devil-beasts were mostly first-generation arrivals, with some having giving birth to a second generation. This meant they knew by now they could reproduce in this new plane of existence, and they wanted to break apart the humans. Many devil-beasts were quite happy with using raw strength and power to attack, commanding armies and casting magic. But a good number wanted to destroy the humans from within, wanted to make them turn on each other, and also the ageis. There are a few reasons for this. Possibly it seemed a smart strategy considering some human forces were regrouping. It is also likely they wanted to hedge their bets, increase their chances of success by using all means of attack. Let others hit the humans directly, we’ll hit them from behind, all sides, even within. It is also very likely that going this course appealed to the wicked, vindictive natures of their kind. Smashing your opponent down was fun, obviously, but deceiving him/her while doing so was even better.

So the plan was made. Devil-beasts would give birth to more of their kind, except this time they would use their magic and refine the new beings while in the womb. Few know what was done back then, and those that know say nothing, because they don’t want this to happen again. It is claimed humans were sacrificed in rituals to help grant new and appropriate forms. That is easily believed. It is probable that long periods of time was spent by devil-beasts, focusing their power and making the changes over months. Whatever was done, it worked.

The scions emerged as human-sized and human-shaped beings. They still had red skin, but they also had golden hair and blue eyes, appealing to certain biases. Human they looked, and handsome too, but they were certainly the children of devil-beasts and were being schooled in the art of deception and sabotage from an early age. Their skills were different too. Not as large and powerful as their parents or siblings, these beings also had less power to call upon. Skill, swiftness, suppleness and subtlety were their natural abilities. These were honed over time. The scions learned to use their power to trick or allure people, much like deemi or pixies could. They also learned to kill by stealth or surprise, akin to the wraiths and harbingers. They were even taught as much as possible about humans. Scions had an education like no other race of monsters have ever had. They were the perfect weapon and were told this over and over.

Likely, this is where things went wrong.

When the adult scions were sent out into the world, they soon entered human groups, and soon after became eminent among them. It didn’t occur to the humans that these creatures were kin of devil-beasts. Yes, they were red, but they were so easy on the ears and eyes, so clever and helpful, so full of praise and sound advice. By now, the humans had allies in aegis, totems and denizens, so why not make a new friend? Especially when they were adept fighters and magic-users as well.

The devil-beasts waited for the moment to strike. While this was a pact made across the race, they were not so united in specific aims. They never are. So while some parents had their new children enter a society in Asia, others gathered in preparation to strike in the USA. In fact, it is claimed by some that there was even rivalry. Who could succeed first? Which scions would prove their parents the best? Which nation would fall to a scion deceit the soonest?

The scions, however, were more ready to work together. They talked to each other as well as to their new friends and their old family. Then the moment came. It was time for the devil-beasts to act. Attacks were made, and failed miserably.

This is remembered as the Great Betrayal among the devil-beasts and why they will kill any scion they can. If devil-beasts weren’t lured into a trap, the location of groups was given out. Attacks were made. Many by humans, but a good number by aegis and others. Of course, when I say humans, at this time the human race was still being served by mutant soldiers and machines, so these did most of the work. Either way, the betrayal worked, and the scions were celebrated as the best friends anyone ever had.

They pushed for more. They whispered in the ears of humans about how dangerous aegis were. What lofty aims they had. What strict laws they wanted to enforce. They tried to push a wedge between the humans and the aegis, and almost succeeded. Certainly, the relationship between the two has never been as good as it once was. Humans like to claim scions made them create super-soldiers and super-computers, that they led them to their destruction. Scions and others laugh at this. Even many humans don’t buy it. There is too much evidence that the human race wanted more power, more slaves, servants and soldiers, and at best scions helped them along in their ambitions.

The scions did many wrong things, yet they were as cruel and arrogant as their parents. Some pushed to be worshipped. Others attempted kingdoms of their own. Also, while the devil-beasts had been hurt by the betrayal, it did not come anywhere near to ending them. Vengeance was sought. The aegis acted too. Scions went from lauded infiltrators to hunted outsiders over a matter of decades. As word was spread, humans turned on them wherever they could. Their own kind didn’t want them back, their new friends were now angry enemies. Scions had to use every trick they knew and count on all their skills and wits to survive.

Fortunately for them, they rank among the most skilled and sly beings of all time. Scions did survive. Not many, but enough, and they have lived on since. Most of their kind were male, seeing as the majority of the societies and regimes they were seeking to enter were patriarchal or at least leaning that way. But enough were female. Females are still rare among them, and yet the scions continue, few in number, but always the cunning, charming, intelligent and focused individuals.

They were made with a purpose and while they betrayed that plan, even the scions cannot escape their nature. They act according to the designs that birthed and raised them. It seems instinct to them to deceive, to make friends and then betray them. They know humans so well, even after the centuries of change. They avoid devil-beasts at all costs, and aegis too. Magi make them think twice as those enigmatic beings can match wits with them. Some fear an alliance between those kinds. But scions are hated and feared around the world, except when people have stopped telling stories about them. Sometimes, they find a group of people – maybe human, maybe not – who don’t know what red skin plus blond hair and blue eyes means. They don’t sense the threat. All they hear is the charm, the confidence, the clever counsel.

Never trust scions. As untrustworthy as a scion. As treacherous as a scion. Like a backstabbing scion. These are all terms that aren’t uncommon to hear. Scions are notorious and rightly so. Not that there aren’t a number of groups or races that have bad reputations – everyone knows hobgoblins will ruin anything and gleaners are vicious bastards. But scions have a special place of hatred for being the most duplicitous and deceitful beings on the planet.

To them, however, that is praise indeed.

Why so Friendly?

Returning, as I’ve been meaning to do, to the world of Sojourners in Shadow, and not feeling so well, I felt like a brief mention could be made of the nice guys. At least, those from a certain point of view. I have a number of more complicated and in-depth posts to make, but right now I don’t think I could manage one. This will do.

But this isn’t a meaningless post. In a world so brutal, so divided, it remains not just a scarce occurrence to find someone who can be on your side, but also a very perplexing moment. Why are you on my side? Why would you want to help me? What do you want in return? These aren’t just common questions, these are good survival instincts kicking in. After all, many stragglers have been invited in by a friendly community, only to find they are deemi in disguise or a cyborg sect, eager to convert them.

I have discussed before about alliances and races who work closely together, or just feel a strong bond. This isn’t the same thing. I’m talking here about those who are nice to others. No gain sought. No reward wanted. Just those who are there to be helpful.

As you can imagine, it’s a short list.

Basically, it’s totems. That’s it. As far as races go, they are the only ones who naturally seem drawn to being helpful. Yes, they are well known for being allies to humanity, just like aegis and denizens are. But those two are also known for being ruthless with their enemies. With totems, they prefer to avoid conflict. They can fight. Some do. It is rare but these gigantic, powerful creatures can hit harder than most things. But they are a benign, mute race of healers and helpers. Often they are found in the ranks of an army as a medical unit, forced to march for their captors and aid fallen warriors. Other times they join a war willingly, ready to help those who they feel need it. Humans, mostly, often on the verge of annihilation. But other instances have been known. They prefer peace, they want to help. Monsters they are, true, yet whatever dream they have come from, it is a pleasant one. Aegis are like guardians to humans, denizens like comrades, but totems are friends. To more than humans, if others seek it.

Why they are this way is unknown. Totems are typically about eight foot tall and covered by an obsidian-like skin that is impervious to most attacks. That is, apart from their front. Here, they are soft, and if another being is held here, then the totems’ natural healing ability will work its wonders. They can even fold up about someone, enclosing them in warmth and comfort, and this act can heal almost any injury. It has even been known to cure diseases and re-energise people. Of course, totems can also roll up and become invulnerable. So, for all these physical attributes, totems appear naturally crafted to be pacifists. They are very tough to kill, able to heal and cure others, and strong enough to survive many environments. Oh, they also float. It’s weird but they can.

Totems are the world’s best at enduring and aiding, so being friendly to all seems like a natural step. It should be noted, however, that they are often called pacifists, yet they aren’t truly. Yes, they seek to avoid a fight, but they will resist anyone who tries to hurt them, their people or make any of them do something they don’t want to. When others seek to enslave them, the best trick is to capture their young and hold them while the adults go out with your army and heal the fighters. Totems are more amiable, more quick to concede, that is well known. They would rather submit than stand proudly in defiance. But those that know their kind are quite clear that they aren’t weak. The more you demand of them, the more you will have to push, and even they have their limits. Totems are pretty much unique in that you could call them good natured, but those who think them spineless or saints have often paid for such assumptions.

Having talked totems, I should make mention of a few other friendly groups. In their cases, they are more going against their nature or the ways of their group than with. For this reason, many won’t trust them, despite their history.

A few groups are cyborg sects. One is the Order of Organic Triumph. This sect believes in individuality and also of placing the human over the machine. For this reason, they are more flesh and blood than mechanical, which leaves them weaker in combat. They are also much less regimented. Because of these facts, this sect has suffered from attacks by more militant forces, so most of their number are hiding among other races. Usually humans. Now they tend to be a very open-minded and tolerant people, partly due to their philosophy, perhaps mostly due to their need to survive among other groups. They will seek to persuade humans to join, not ‘recruit’ them. As a non-militant force who have often been refugees, the Order of Organic Triumph have more often helped than hindered people.

Another group also has a refugee past. The Order of the Mothers Mechanical began when a few collections of survivors from defeated sects met up. They were mostly young with women – their teachers and carers – in command. They united and pressed on, away from the conflicts that were more common back then. They found others like them, then settled at a defensible site and made it their home. They remain there, strong enough to feel safe, a new sect, and they are also known for being open to refugees. They remember their past well. Many cyborg sects have been smashed over the centuries and small groups or even lone individuals roaming the world aren’t that uncommon. A place like this is a needed sanctuary. Yet it should be made clear, they are mostly keen in welcoming cyborgs, if they will tolerate other kinds too, and they let most stay a time and then move them on. They consider themselves a temporary refuge, unless someone meets their standards.

Another sect is the Order of Jubilant Transformation. As the name suggests, these cyborgs are all about celebrating the new and better form of existence they inhabit. This makes them very friendly and open, and they love to tell non-cyborgs how much better things are for them now. They are so tolerant, in fact, they have no qualms if anyone wishes to leave their sect. The sad truth is many have done so over time. Their way feels good, especially to the newly converted, but they have little power and so are one strong attack away from extinction. Also, some just can’t stomach how jubilant they are all the time.

It should be made clear here that, while these sects are seen in a much better light than most, they are still suspicious to some. There are claims that the Order of Organic Triumph convert in secret and infiltrate human, mutant and cyborg groups. There are rumours that the Mothers Mechanical have their own agenda. There are strong remarks that the Order of Jubilant Transformation are just a bunch of nutters.

Only the totems stand beyond reproach. Monsters who hate them, deem them traitors and human-helpers, see them as genuine in their tolerant and caring nature. Their size can be intimidating, they stand higher than devil-beasts and aegis, but their benevolent character soon overcomes any such fear. Aegis are powerful in aspect and scare those they help. Totems are strong but caring, helpful and loyal. Many will claim that if they weren’t so useful to have around, they would have been wiped out by now. Maybe so, and maybe the same could be said about how non-threatening they are. No one fears totems. But somehow, they never seem to fear anyone either. If more races were like them, there’d be a lot less to fear for all concerned.

REC 3: Genesis – Better Than You Think

I should be writing more Sojourners in Shadow, yet last night I watched Rec 3: Genesis, and I felt impelled to champion this film a bit. So I am.

The first film is one of the few first-person horrors I think works quite well. Ambitious and pushy reporter and her cameraman, stuck in an apartment block where terrible things start to happen. Really great film. The Spanish do really good horror and this is one of the best I’ve seen. The American remake, Quarantine, is okay.

Then came the sequel. I watched it, was okay as well. Did a few different perspectives, built on the story a bit. Had a few good shocks. But honestly, if you had seen Rec, then Rec 2, there’s a good chance you’d never bother with a third film. Which is why I want to say this:

Watch it. No, really, watch it. It’s fun.

Wait, fun? The first two are very serious films. Dark, terrifying, macabre.

So here’s the thing with the third film. It starts off at a wedding. This is the tough part you have to get through. I can see why it goes on, so you get to know people, why they matter – to you as the audience and to each other – but it goes on for sometime. You have a teenager (cousin to the groom I think, I can’t rightly remember) filming things, along with a professional. So it’s first-person and showing you this wedding, where you know things are about to go very bad. Once you see the uncle with a bandaged hand, you really know.

So yeah, wedding stuff, character stuff, and then biting and screaming. Things go nuts. A few run into the kitchen and lock themselves in. The main character, the groom, turns to the camera and asks why the man is still filming. The world must know!, he replies. Groom loses his shit, grabs the camera and smashes it. Then the Rec 3 title comes up. After about 20 minutes. Yeah, 20.

But when the film starts up, it’s third-person, and that’s how it remains (barring a crawl through the dark via nightvision). Basically, this third film highlights the absurdity of someone filming while people are dying and struggling to survive, smashes the camera and goes to third. It throws aside the perspective of the first films. Not only that, but you start to realise the tone is very different. When I first saw this moment (trust me, it works a lot better than I describe) I laughed out loud. I had only watched the film to check it out, with nothing better to do; having seen the sequel and not liked it, I wasn’t too bothered. I let it run through the build up, then that moment happened. I knew something was different from then on.

So Rec 3 quickly reveals itself to be a comedy horror, much more akin to the Evil Dead and Shaun of the Dead than the previous Rec films. A man in the kitchen is uncovered to be someone checking the music played at the wedding for copyright, and is thus dubbed Royalties. Hey, Royalties, come help. But the groom is the focus. He wants to be with his new wife, and when he is panicking, she speaks over an intercom, and this gives him all the drive he needs. Time to escape and find his love!

That is the film. She is newly pregnant, she tells him this over the intercom, and both find new strength to re-unite. There’s a great moment where the bride is in a room and the zombiefied beings are clawing their way in and she is scared as hell, but she clutches her stomach and gets to action, finding a way out.

There’s a lot to love in this film and that is one of them: the main couple get scared, a lot, freaked out even, but they keep on. These aren’t badasses, they are normal people. This is a nightmare. The bride is standing in the rain at one point and her eyes are wide as hell as she is waiting, struggling to cope. But she finds a way.

If you ever wanted to watch a bride charge around with a chainsaw, then watch this film. If you ever wanted to see people be sensible, gear up in armour and go out into the undead, then watch this film. Drunken making out is mistaken for someone being devoured. There are meaningful characters and comedic ones to come and go. There are serious deaths and funny ones. There is tragedy and humour. You get the idea.

You get to meet SpongeJohn. No, not SpongeBob, not at all. Just to be clear. No lawsuits here. SpongeJohn.

I really enjoyed watching this film for a third time last night. I only meant to see a bit, but it really got to me, once again, how fun it is, while keeping the horror. It doesn’t really add much to the lore, just enough to remind you that these are possessed people, not zombies, and that religion/faith plays a part.

I should warn anyone who does watch this film that the ending isn’t funny. I mean maybe in a dark and tragic way. I don’t want to spoil, but this is a horror movie after all.

I admired how, in making a third of this franchise, they just went a different route. Reminds me of Gremlins 2. Let’s just get wacky and turns things up to 11.

I will add that this is the third film that comes to mind when I think of Spanish horror comedies that I’ve greatly enjoyed. I’m not sure if the titles stay the same but the other two films were Attack of the Werewolves along with Witching and Bitching. Both very funny. A SpongeBob gets gunned down early on in the latter, if that’s something you’ve ever wanted to see. Both I found to be very witty in dialogue and amusing in action, and pretty good on the horror too.

Rec is a very intense and scary film. I like it a lot. Seen it a number of times now and will likely watch it again in the future. Rec 3 is no match for it in terms of horror, but it’s very different, and certainly a better watch than Rec 2. For me, at least. So I’d ask anyone who didn’t like that film to not judge the third by it. Give Rec 3 a chance. Just remember, there’s a fair bit of wedding stuff to sit through, then you’re in.

Let’s hear it for the Bride and Groom!

Samurai Jack!

I honestly cannot underplay how excited I am for this.

Samurai Jack is one of my all time favourite shows. As far as animated shows go, it is easily in a top ten, along with Batman: the Animated Series and Ulysses 31. But even among any type of show, it would be a contender for top ten. It has so much I love. At first I liked it a lot because it had an interesting premise and excellent action. But over time the world developed, the style improved even more and some of the episodes were just unique within its own world. You could watch one episode where it was comical, another where it was dark and serious. One could be styled as a western, another as a film noir.

I can’t list my favourite episodes. Watching Jack fight endless and unusual warriors under the command of Demongo was just an action packed thrill. Witnessing him take on the specifically designed robot fighters, who are clearly inspired by Japanese samurai films such as Lone Wolf with the Masters of Death characters, was intense. Then there’s the robot gunfighter who wants his dog back. The triple feature where the Scotsman saves a brain-washed Jack. The amazing scene of time passing as the bounty hunters took him on. The fight with the shinobi. So on and so on.

I think the one episode I’m not a fan of is the one with the weird monkey creatures who use their technology to enslave these bigger beasts, but that’s mostly as I saw that episode a lot and the monkey creatures have such annoying voices.

Samurai Jack went from episodes of Jack taking on eccentric killers and hunters where action was nearly the all, to presenting things from the view of other characters. Jack is a introspective and monosyllabic person so often his story is told by visuals. I love that, and yet it can be difficult having this type of main character all the time, so the changes were welcome breaks. Oh, reminds me of another favourite episode where the mouthy samurai keeps challenging Jack to a fight, only to witness how out of his league the true samurai is.

This show was a massive influence on me, but I think that’s because it was influenced by so many things that I already loved. Action films. Martial arts movies. Samurai films. Scifi and fantasy, and even horror. Spy thrillers. Gangster flicks. Westerns. A thief who is clearly styled on Lupin from the anime movies. Mechs, from the same source of inspiration. As I said, Lone Wolf and Cub has an influence, twice! The Defiant Ones comes into it when we first meet the Scotsman. Psirens and demons and fairies and more, oh my!

For me, it was like so many of the things I love coming together. Jack was a samurai but he had been around the world and learned many skills, and he continued to do so, such as learning to jump good. The show didn’t just improve in the look and art, which are amazing, but the depth of both world and character continued to bring us with it. The world Jack was now in felt so varied and vibrant that it could go on for ever.

Jack was on a journey with a goal and we went with him on that, and yet all the stops along the way never felt like padding or obstacles just for the sake of more plot, but ways to develop Jack as a person and to unfold the world for us. Jack meeting the Spartans and aiding them in their battle showed us this brilliant people and exciting action, and also showed us how Jack was ready to defend others and admired bravery by any.

The show made it clear Jack was a hero. Not infallible, but definitely a hero. Aku was a great villain too, as were many of his minions. Other characters would be fun, either as straight up comedy or just over the top individuals that you would remember long after the show was gone.

I loved this show so much. Strong characters. Great action. But the art and visuals were stunning in the later episodes. Watching a robot seem to sweat as it hunted Jack (he had cut a pipe and steam was cooling on its face) was such a superb touch.

Now the show is coming back. Absolutely cannot wait. Looks darker, looks more violent. Can’t say that doesn’t make me want to see it more. Not even sure if I can watch it in the UK, but I’ll damn well try.

Oh a final note, here’s some of Jack’s best bits:

New Japan and the Secret Divide

Last week I laid out the origins of Australasia. As always, it was a more general outline, not going into too much detail – partly for length, partly as there is plenty I wish to unfold through the course of story telling. I’m hoping these blog posts help to explain things without each story being too slowed down or cramped up with exposition, yet I still want the stories themselves to do the main telling. When I get back to putting them out there again. Sigh.

With that said, here’s another post where I explain things. Namely, having given Australasia’s overview, now I’ll get into the Japanese people, their diaspora and the colony of New Japan.

So a good place to start would be an explanation of the magical hotspots. When the Shadow World came to ours and magic became part of reality, four places were soon known as hotspots because they were seeping magic like nowhere else. The people there, the land, the weather, all were affected. Magic was and remains a lot easier in these places and it comes in much greater supply. Again, no one knows why these are this way, why these four places, why nowhere else. Some speculate that they were the cornerstones of turning the Shadow World into ours; that Dylan Winter’s act was based in these places. Again, no one knows. But the places were Japan, Great Britain, Madagascar and the Caribbean Islands. All islands, all with magical histories if you believe their folklore, and all were soon utterly transformed. Magic attracts powerful monsters, it creates humans with tremendous abilities, and that led to unthinkable warfare. With outside factors coming into play as well, these four places all became difficult regions to live in. In the present day, only Great Britain remains a hospitable place.

To focus on Japan, the thriving magic produced brilliant spellcasters and spectacular events, and in response science was given free reign. It is said that here machines were made that matched the best from anywhere else. Nothing is said of mutants, only that impressive computers and droids were crafted into being to resist the onslaught by magical monsters. It is rumoured that the doom-rollers were made in Japan. The cyber-samurai must have come from there. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. Whatever fight occurred in Japan centuries ago, it was too much for the people. They left. The Japanese don’t say what exactly drove them out. Maybe it was more than one thing; maybe, as some claim, they did something that caused their exile and don’t wish for it to be known. Either way, the Japanese fought hard for their home and then chose to leave.

Mostly they went to the mainland of Asia, settling in new communities as the people there were afflicted by cyborgs, super-soldiers and monsters, among other things. A large number kept on moving southward to the islands. Of them, a good number had a chance to go to Australasia. They knew of the British and American contingents that had been allowed onto this island, and while they were living in better conditions than when in Japan, the prospects of Australasia appealed. They asked to come over and join, offering trained fighters who could use both magic and science, and more resources than many could hope to expect. The Japanese may well have fled their home, yet they had done so not in panic but in resolute order, bringing with them what they would need to survive, leaving behind what was too risky for them to rely on.

So the Japanese had to earn their way onto the island. They were placed along the north coast, told that it was their duty to be the first line of defence for the rest of the population. There were military outposts already and more being built – the newly forming nation was more than aware of what threats could come that way – but once the Japanese were in place, the onus lay on them. Their magic was to be a barrier. Their technology was to be the guardian of the new homeland. They would be allowed to keep their language, their customs, to have a territory marked out and live their lives as they wished – as long as this didn’t interfere with the customs and lives of the other groups – in exchange for being part of the community, contributing, aiding and defending the whole. New Japan was formed with gratitude and purpose.

Because of how things began for the Japanese, their outlook is pretty different from the British, Australians and Americans. The other three are different nationalities, true, and aren’t without culture clashes, yet these are minor. They are far more alike than not. New Japan doesn’t share that sense of unity. They look different, speak their own language as well as fluent English, and even their settlements have differences – many features of traditional Japanese culture are evident, alongside more sleek, sophisticated buildings. Tokyo Two was entirely of their own making and it shows. That brings me to another point. Many Japanese wear traditional garb, but many also wear suits. Some could walk in the cities of the whites, others would stand out drastically.

The main difference is that the Japanese continue to teach and use magic, while also producing and developing scientific equipment. The Americans have chosen to have nothing to do with either, while the British have magical talent but try to keep quiet about it, mostly to appease their American cousins. The Australians don’t really have much magic to speak of, and while they aren’t against science, they have come to rely on what the Japanese produce. Essentially, the Japanese have made themselves far too important for the others to move against, so while prejudice, even racism, exist, there are no serious clashes between the nations. It would take the white nations uniting and throwing everything they had at New Japan in order to win.

The Japanese see themselves as part of Australasia and yet somewhat apart. They are their own people more so than the others, and are secure in their usefulness while aware of the white wariness of them. I guess a good way to describe the Japanese outlook is that they are an insular people with their eyes and ears very much open to what’s going on around them.

For this reason, they can continue on in a private war that has been going on since not long after the Japanese arrived. A secret war between those devoted to magic and those to science.

The tradition is that once a Japanese person reaches thirteen they must make a choice: magic or science. From that point on, they must wear a headband with an insignia denoting one side. This is now their cause. It doesn’t mean that all those who revere magic can use it, although it is claimed everyone has power inside them. Nor does it mean those who follow science can or will make new machines. It is more a philosophical point of view. You see one as the saviour, the other as the reason for Japan’s, and humanity’s, fall. You believe the pursuit of excelling in one will enable the human race to reclaim its world. You wish it to happen, even if you cannot help this to be.

But there are some who can. Japan, as I mentioned, has a secret war that isn’t a war. There is no conflict. Perhaps if they were still on an island populated by their own there would be. But in Australasia, a divide cannot be known. The whites would play on it. Yes, they see the headbands, the two devotions are known outside of New Japan, although it must be stressed most white people rarely encounter a Japanese person. But they are aware of nothing more and it doesn’t help to ask. It isn’t for the whites to inquire and those who wish to do business with the Japanese soon learn this.

So left alone, the Japanese have among them two groups who act on behalf of all who share their faith. The Corporate are a group of influential people who view science as the way to go and have people working for them to further that end. The Civic are the same only they push for magic. Typically, the Corporate have commandos and agents working for them, using hi-tech equipment, while the Civic rely on magic-users as well as ninjas and samurai. It is remarked that those who follow science tend to be business oriented, those who follow magic more in touch with the past.

Again, they don’t fight. Well, okay, they scuffle. Let’s put it that way. Bloodshed is avoided as much as possible. It just wouldn’t do. Neither side wants an actual war. But sometimes, as they try to gain an advantage over each other, their operatives will have to cross paths. It could be one side is in pursuit of something it wants, so the other side wants to prevent that. Theft would be preferred, or perhaps a showdown that led to one side having to back out due to being outmatched. But sometimes a clash will occur. These are kept very secret.

Most Japanese believe there will never be a winner. To them, it doesn’t matter who follows which belief, so both sides marry, interact, mingle, etc. They think there is too much in the world to overcome for New Japan to have the luxury of descending into civil war. Even many of those who act on behalf of their side see it as a game of one-up-man-ship. Oh look, we’re in the lead, ha ha!

Yet the most committed, those in the Corporate and the Civic, as well as their uppermost and most loyal followers, are seeking such an advantage that a war won’t be necessary. They want to find something, or some things, that mean the other side has to hold its hands up and say, you know what, you’re right, this is the way to go. They want to win the war so it never has to be fought. Then, united, the Japanese can push on to greater things.

They employ whites, now and then, to roam Australasia. They do their own research and development. They read texts from centuries ago and discuss new ideas. Yet so far, nothing has come close to giving either side that edge both crave. It could be that the only way for this to happen is for them to push out into the world once more. They know there are many more Japanese out there. They also know magic and science were strong in other places once and they speculate as to whether these have declined or improved since. The only way to know is to find out for themselves. This could still be some time off, it may have to be a secret act as the whites aren’t as keen on going out, yet it feels inevitable.

New Japan is the home of these Japanese. Australasia is as well. Perhaps they aren’t always fully welcome when they travel to the other three nations, but neither are they met with hostility. The Japanese are typically viewed with respect, suspicion, curiosity and politeness. They return those, especially the latter. It helps to keep the other peoples at a distance. Gain the trust of the Japanese, and another world can be opened to you. Gain their friendship and who knows what may come of it.

But whatever you do, do not pry into their personal divide. It is their faith and not to be trifled with, and some take it very seriously indeed.