Category Archives: Story Pile

Here’s where you’ll find the blog entries that are about examining – specifically – TV, movies, and other forms of participatory media that interest me. This is the space you’re going to find talk of characters in TV shows, or specific moments in greater narratives, or why you might want to watch a particular show or why I love – or hate! – a particular movie.

Story Pile: The Christmas Shepherd

This Decemberween, Fox and I continued our tradition of watching a Hallmark movie, about Christmas and Dogs, with the amazingly named The Christmas Shepherd. Did we get dog training weirdness like we saw last year?


We got something way weirder!

Content Warning: Dog Theft?

Story Pile: Do It Yourself!!

If your particular thing was anime about cute girls with a special interest where you could very easily interpret pretty typical social engagement as in fact, boilingly obvious non-heterosexual romantic attachment, then this time last year, you were probably one of the many people extremely into the extremely good anime Bocchi The Rock. Funny, energetic, vibrant and extremely focused on its own particular aesthetic representations of a hyper-real relationship between the modern capitalist landscape and why we are people who are not suited to exist in it when there are far more important things you can do, relating to one another, and how difficult it is to say what you really mean when what you are really trying to do is to reach out to another person, someone you may have never met before or someone you may know deep as your own family and tell them hey, I want to be loved, by you.

And that obviously arch and highly poetic description of Bocchi that I’m using in a way that definitely elides some of the details and decentralises some of its more obvious themes is nonetheless also a summary of Do It Yourself!! an anime from the same season, same time slot, but a different channel, meaning that at least in the time when we make anime fight for our attention in capitalist landscapes, meant that Do It Yourself!! got to lose to Bocchi’s immense stardom, a fact that I am sure would leave Bocchi herself so overwhelmed she would hide in a box like a Metal Gear protagonist.

A box that could be made exquisitely well by the crew that make up Do It Yourself!!

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Story Pile: Bocchi The Rock

Deep breath Delightful, charming, lovely anime, great, thought it was funny, songs are a banger, basic premise is really well iterated on, minimum of Anime Bullshit, characters are all well realised and have interesting dynamics that relate to one another and the story is satisfying as it covers a number of small distinct enjoyable story beats and yeah okay, good. Good! Great! I really liked Bocchi The Rock and I think that if you like anxious girls and music and anxious girls who make music, then you’ll probably find the series pretty enjoyable!

I want to get that out of the way first because I don’t think you’d be well-served in any interesting way to see me talk about what happens in Bocchi The Rock! or if you ‘should’ watch it because it is ‘good.’ Anyone can tell you that, and so far, we have yet to find a ‘good’ anime, in part because no anime is good, and in part because the idea of ‘good’ media is silly. Instead what I want to do is talk about the things that Bocchi The Rock made me think about as I watched it, and the ways it made me feel, and why.

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Story Pile: Willy’s Wonderland

Hey, you heard about the Nicolas Cage Five Nights at Freddies knockoff movie that was made in a single month? Have you heard it’s good?

Spoiler Warning of course, I’m going to discuss things in this movie. But also, Content Warning! This is a movie with a lot of your typical schlock tropes, there’s a needless sex scene where you Don’t Get To See Anything, there’s a lot of splashy, gory, wet violence against angry animatronics.

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Story Pile: Halloween (1978)

Continuing my ongoing experience of watching the classic horror movies that all the horror movies I saw was referencing, I decided to investigate what’s probably the dawn of the horror-slasher-serial killer genre of movies that fascinates me. I grew up in a world shaped by these movies, and the movies of my adolescence that wanted to be scary were often made in response to, or conversation with, these classic movies, so it’s time to pop open a movie about a relentless, unstoppable super-human killing machine that will not stop hunting you or delivering interesting, creative kills, until you’re dead.

This… is Halloween (1978, because I have to specify, because there was a 2018 movie).

Content and spoiler warning! I’m going to talk about some general suburban horror themes, and also, stuff that happens in the movie and its conclusion. You might not feel this particularly merits a warning, but in case you haven’t seen Halloween and wondered if it’s worth watching, and want to check it out without knowing what I think ahead of time, I liked it a lot, and it was very different to what I expected.

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Story Pile: Jujutsu Kaisen (Spoiler Free)

Ya heard of this Jujutsu Kaisen thing?

It’s pretty good, I like it a lot.

Don’t worry, there are no spoilers after this point. Not even for the first episode. Jujutsu Kaisen is a really approachable series, if you accept up front you’re going to watch a violent horror anime full of likable characters who you’re going to see suffer as the show climbs to the latest peak of the latest heap that is The Next Big Shonen Battle Anime.

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Story Pile: The Lighthouse

As with Knives Out, Breaking Bad, and Old Boy, there is some media where I am concerned that by having an opinion, my mere me-ness is very much part of how that opinion is (and should be) perceived. Simply put, there’s a canon of media that I think millenial white guys are a little too excited to talk about, like they’re markers on a talent tree. I feel like there’s an envelope of time, now stamped down into wikis and articles, where people spilled all their thoughts and their feelings and then everyone else who was feeling a bit of the same stepped into the same space and sought some way, any way, to capture that they were feeling the same way, that they were also tangled up inside about this thing and what it meant and they weren’t thinking about it, they were feeling about it, but feelings are hard, and pointing out the reference to Sascha Scheiber’s Hypnose is a fact that can be collected and cleaned and pinned and then…

The feeling has a place to go.

Not going to spoil anything about this movie beyond its broad genre and invocations. You should watch it on your own if you think you can handle two hours of grown men losing their minds in isolation. I’m not going to tell you about what’s in it, as much as I’m going to try and tell you about how I feel about it, and what I feel about what it’s not.

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Story Pile: Bloodthirsty Hearts

I feel like pre-emptively, there’s a lift I have to ask of you. Bloodthirsty Hearts is a horror podcast. Wait, no, it’s a horror fiction podcast. Wait wait wait no, no, it’s a horror comedy fiction podcast. Oh, wait, no I missed a bit, it’s a horror comedy fiction podcast about zoomers engaging with popular media that feels definitely like it’s millenial stuff.

Did I scare you off?

There is a chance that you never listened to radio plays growing up. You aren’t the kind of person who finds it adorable, charming and narratively acceptable to hear characters giving semi-naturalistic dialogue that’s meant to handle transitions and setting and reacting to oh no! there’s a monster in the room! We’re going to scream in a way that won’t blow out the mic or clip the audio, while still trying to convey meaningful emotion!

I think, inherently, there’s a strong chance, that just this whole form of media, is a hard no for you. And that’s okay. You should not imagine that anything I say about Bloodthirsty Hearts is going to change your mind about it. It is 100% exactly what it is, and it’s not about to elevate the form. If you don’t like fiction podcasts, this is not going to change your mind, and it’s a very classic example of it.

Also I guess, spoiler warning, but nothing too explicitly important, just generalities until right at the end where I mention the way that a plot point is woven around other things. If you’re immediately curious to check it out, and want to talk about it, you can check it all out, for free. I liked it! I think that if you like the style it’s projecting, yeah, it follows up on it, and that’s good!

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Story Pile: Nobody

Y’know how Knives Out is one of those movies that I was concerned about discussing because I knew I was going to be repeating boring details rather than focusing on the movie’s message? That I was contributing to a noise complex because I loved it and I wanted to be able to love it in all angles and share that love for it and hopefully encourage you to love it too? Nobody is a movie in that same genre, but in this case the actual plot, sure, whatever, you’ve seen this, you know the kind of movie it is. It’s a physical stunt based action movie about a Dangerous Man Pushed Too Far. You don’t need spoilers for this, that’s how the movie’s trailer presents it.

And for a movie about physicality in stunts, its physicality is amazing. You can see best-of scenes on youtube, of moments of an entire movie’s worth of holy shit combat scenarios, and they’re the kind of scenarios where you’re meant to regard the world as full of physical objects that are by default stronger than a human’s body, more dangerous to a human than a human is to it. For a surprising number of desks and people using them, you are not tougher than your desk in a straight up fight. That means that when Nobody wants to represent a person engaging in violence with another person, the world around them matters in a wholly material way.

And that makes me think about how easy it is to make a movie like this. Or isn’t.

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Story Pile: The Executioner And Her Way Of Life

Really? That’s what this is titled? That’s awful.

Originally, this anime was going to get released under the title of Virgin Road, which at the very least is a little less cumbersome. Long titles are common amongst light novel stories, but I think in this case it’s especially egregious because the entire secondary clause on the title is a long-form reading of the phrase ‘and such and such.’ This title, for this anime yada-yadas its way through its pitch, which is kinda frustrating. As far as first impressions go, when you bottle it on the title, you’re really not inspiring confidence to start with. First impressions are important! It’s like if the series is full of characters wearing outfits that look extremely silly.

Oh no.

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Story Pile: Lie To Me

A long time ago, I think discussing The Blacklist I used the term ‘crime wizards’ to refer to television programs that focus on characters who do crime in ways that are interesting and challenging to solve and create the tension or systems necessary to justify about an hour of television that can be solved by a specialised team of marketable weirdoes.

There are a lot of shows in the Crime Wizards genre, in different degrees of grittiness – like you can even point to older shows like CSI and NCIS… and along with them, in the transition between eras of Crime Wizard TV, we have this example, of a drama TV show with a compelling hook:

Fake crimes, but real wizardry.

At least, that’s the pitch.

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Story Pile: Nona the Ninth

Spoiler Warning: I’m going to mention stuff in the book, and by dint of mentioning them it’s going to involve mentioning things in the previous two books that make up the first half of The Locked Tomb trilogy. That is to say, there’s very little talking about Nona The Ninth that isn’t spoilery. Also, I guess there’s a lot of content-warning stuff in this book and also all the others, but I suppose you don’t go into a book promoted as lesbian space necromancer murder mystery thinking you’re about to get something G-rated. Point is if you’re wondering if I liked these books but don’t want to know anything about them before you read them I liked them a lot and this is your warning, your chance to bail.

Let’s talk about girls.

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Story Pile: Inside Job

I guess it’s hard to recommend Inside Job. I mean not in the broadest way, where I can just say ‘it’s a funny adult comedy that doesn’t seem to venerate being a selfish asshole, and it looks like a lot of them these days, with the same general level of competence.’ It’s you know, the way that Rick and Morty pissed on its aesthetic to mark its territory and now any animation that puts in too much effort or has lines that are too clean winds up being seen as ‘like that.’

I don’t know if Inside Job is like that, because I haven’t seen Rick and Morty past the opening of the first episode. Didn’t jam with it, and instead watched other stuff I found more engaging instead. Like Inside Job!

No, what makes it hard to recommend is, and, like, reader – can I call you reader? – sure, okay, reader, the thing is, this is a shortish TV series that draws on modern mythologies of the conspiracy theory griftscape in which I grew up. It uses the ongoing behaviour of an overachieving conspiracy theorist father who doesn’t respect his kid as a plot point. One character idolises toys and franchises from the 80s because it lets him pretend he has an idealised family life that was fun. Oh, and the main character, Reagan, feels like an export of one of my friend’s OCs so closely that she uses Reagan gifs for reactions.

The series doesn’t feature a long form sequence of a character beating a priest to death or a thesis about how game play lets us choose our identities, but like, it’s otherwise hits pretty close to me individually.

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Story Pile: Person Of Interest, Season 5

The story of Person of Interest has at this point transformed from season to season. From a cut price James Bond fantasy to a cyberpunk crime thriller to a conspiracy science fiction narrative, Season 5 had a lot of plates spinning and it had to get them down.

Does it stick the landing? Can it stick the landing? With a 26-episode season cut in half, increasing tensions around budgets and hanging story threads, and a global conspiracy to address in what was now a full-blown cyberpunk science fiction invasion story, does Person of Interest have an end I find satisfying?

Spoilers ahead!

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Story Pile: Person Of Interest, Season 4

By this stage, Person of Interest is a full-fledged science fiction cyberpunk series. It’s cyberpunk in that the story requires interactions between technology and class, it’s about waste and destruction, it’s about the ways that technology allows us to make human mistakes faster, and it’s very cyberpunk because there’s a creepy child that speaks for an evil supercomputer.

While previous seasons were divided into single episodes with an ongoing mytharc, the story of Season 4 is very much the mytharc, a narrative where episode to episode, there are continuity changes and shifts of different status quos mean that you can literally lose track of what’s happening if you jump only two or three episodes ahead. The episodic stuff is less episodic, and there are even episodes where the B plot is very minor. This is where the show feels a lot like a more modern bingeable Netflix kinda story, set in a paranoid conspiracy almost-now.

Spoilers ahead!

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Story Pile: Person Of Interest, Season 3

Person of Interest is a show that started its existence talking about the hypothetical possibility of a mass surveillance state and the power that merely having your information in the control of a single consolidating source could represent. It started wanting to talk about the way that data aggregation, and even just the point of ‘here is where this data was collected’ was a powerful tool that could be used to extrapolate information you never meant to share. The world in which Person of Interest was conceived was one where the idea of imagine what a world with government surveillance would be like, and the terrors it could produce.

In 2013, Edward Snowden happened.

Spoilers ahead!

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Story Pile: Person Of Interest, Season 2

Season one of Person of Interest introduces the core components of the story and the basic premise of a story-of-the-week set in a world with a government surveillance system designed to prevent terrorism and how that same system would by definition fail on two dimensions. It would fail at keeping people safe by having to ignore non-terrorism based crimes (and therefore, it’d help people more if it was more fascist) and it fails at keeping people free (by, you know, the endless surveillance). It demonstrates a half measure, something so perfectly cyberpunk in its incompleteness, and our protagonists operate in a space where the world looks almost just like now.


While Season One sets up the premise and introduces you to core players, Season 2 has to expand on that and create a different story than just repeating the first series. What we get then is a conversation about the world that the presence of the Machine implies.

Spoilers ahead.

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Story Pile: Person Of Interest, Season 1

In my teenager years, I came to appreciate the block of TV shows I thought of as ‘good shows’ in the 7:30 to 8:30 bracket. This typically took the form of a pair of back-to-back sitcom episodes, or, as I got older and the options got better (and my bedtime crept back), an hour long dramedy TV series, often built around a single high-concept hook, or even taped from late-night TV. A lot of these shows were, to my mind, ‘American Shows’ (and therefore good shows), were typically high-concept shows with sci-fi ideas in them that could be executed on cheaply with a small special effects budget, and included things like Time Trax and Pointman and, strangely important in my mind, a series called Fortune Hunter. I liked to refer to Fortune Hunter as a sort of example of forgettable 90s TV ephemera, a low-budget story about a wannabe James Bond type who was relaying everything through super-technology contact lenses to a nerd in a chair who could instantly relay everything to him. I, at the time, thought that Fortune Hunter was a great reference to make, like Street Sharks, which would make people in the same age range as I go ‘oh, yeah, that show, I remember that, kinda.’

Turns out that this was a terrible idea because, at the time I did not know, that Fortune Hunter aired for all of one month in America and only played out the full run of its episodes here in Australia because we were a dumping ground for failed attempted TV series that relied on high-concept sci-fi ideas that could be executed on cheaply with a small special effects budget. But those shows had some common traits, like Time Trax with its decreasing list of villains to apprehend, or Pointman with the fantasy of a strange billionaire appearing out of nowhere to save ordinary people, or Fortune Hunter with its gimmick of a super-nerd teaming up with a terrifying badass super-spy to save the day for single individuals.

I bring up this meandering reference to 90s television because these different stories with their modest production budgets and mediocre executions through actors who never quite got the respect they deserved are presented their absolute apotheosis in the form of the 2011-2016 sci-fi action series Person Of Interest.

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Story Pile: Call of The Night

This is the anime of a song. It doesn’t follow the plot of the song. It follows the vibe of a song, and that song inspired the manga, and then, the manga got made into an anime and that anime got to have the ending theme be the song that inspired it, and the same band made the opening theme, because they had already, in their music, defined this anime.

And damn if it don’t feel like a hell of a song.

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Story Pile: GGWP — Young Ladies Don’t Play Fighting Games

What if the prettiest girl in your school who nobody knew well was so aloof, so pure, so perfect, not because she was in fact, transcendentally perfect, but because she was an utter gamer gremlin who didn’t care about anything any other student was doing, since they weren’t pulling off sick combos and trash talking noobs in ranked ladder matches? And you could tell because you were an expert in the same kind of games, and now she wanted to fight you? To fight you? To fight you? To stay up late and fight you?

And you were both girls?

That’s the story of Young Ladies Don’t Play Fighting Games, which is a manga series about exactly what I just described. This is a Japanese story about a Japanese sector of life – about the pressures of school and the intensity of hobbies you wind up with if you have to have them in secret. It’s about social pressures on women, it’s about what is or isn’t acceptable for people to do and how an invisible online persona creates a space for people to become what they truly want.

It is also full of some of the sickest reaction panels of a girl power-posing over an opponent who isn’t even in the room I’ve ever seen in manga.

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Story Pile: Harrow The Ninth

Harrow The Ninth is the second book in the four-and-a-half-book-so-far Locked Tomb trilogy by Tamsyn Muir, a New Zealand author, and to get the box blurb copy out of the way early, it’s as intricate as wristbones, multi-layered, wrought out of several kinds of deliberate excellence and also extremely bloody funny. It commands its venaculars and surgical terminology alongside one another to construct a narrative puzzlebox of regrets and rage and guilt and violence and queer shit and I loved it.

There are these healing moments of emotionally satisfying contact between people who you can maybe let your guard down and like because they don’t have to suck just because this situation sucks and maybe that’s the important thing, maybe it’s the friends we made along the way. Or maybe it’s really, really not. You’d have to get to the end of the book to start to find out what you think. I know what I think.

Now, it is a slight problem that Harrow The Ninth is a book that builds directly on the previous book, which is a book with a very distinct conclusion that leaves you wondering ‘okay, now how does this proceed,’ and Harrow The Ninth doesn’t actually give you easy answers. As a matter of simple necessity, then, and in order to discuss ideas in this book and why I love it, I am going to talk – even a bit obliquely – about the stuff in the book. Therefore, if you’re the kind of person who wants them, I put here, a SPOILER WARNING.

And you may think ‘oh come on, it’s a book with a twist, you can talk about stuff around that,’ and like kinda no not really, it’s way more complex than that, and even just telling you that is enough to make the wrong kind of mind leap at shadows thinking every single thing you deal with in the book is The Twist. Good news, though, because in this situation, oh natively paranoid, must-not-be-surprised, solve-it-first readers, you’re right!

Everything in this book is The Twist.

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Story Pile: 15 Minutes

Way back when I wrote about The Beginner’s Guide, I wound up talking about a movie called S1M0N3. The basics of that article are that some gamers seemed to be fooled into believing the fictional story of a developer stealing work and putting it up on the internet for sale was a real thing, just as in the movie S1M0N3 people believed that a movie about a fake fictional digital actress was made with a real fictional digital actress. It still stands out to me as an example of the way that modern, immediate anxieties about our relationship to technology are not, in fact, new at all.

In 2001, another movie came out that had a similar vibe to it, a movie about a fear of the changing culture of the now in the light of emergent technology. The fear was about what people would do in a world where everyone had access to a camera, about what a culture of news of spectacle would do, and the assumptions we make about people’s ability to control and express themselves. The movie was called 15 Minutes.

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Story Pile: My Hero Academia, Season 5

Here we are, five years of watching into the story that is My Hero Academia, a story that took two seasons to get up to gear and then ran face-first into a pandemic making every part of its production slow and awkward and worse but don’t worry, they had a whole manga to build off. Which means that while the execution may suffer, there was at least a solid, robust spine of storytelling to build off.


Spoilers ahoy!

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Story Pile: My Hero Academia, Season 4

Alright, now we’ve hit our stride, we’ve done most of the set-up stuff required to have stories and character information all out there. The major characters are all laid out, we have a villain on the horizon waiting to happen to people, and we just had an introduction of some new boundary characters, so it’s time to immediately do something with all of those. This is a series that has got a handle on the basic ideas of what it’s going to do, and each season can be snapped apart into a few short story arcs you can consider on their own.

There’s something to the experience of enjoying My Hero Academia, season to season. It’s got all the joy of a catchy pop song, popcorn playful and full of classic shonen anime battle feelings, but this pop song also includes a few slurs? And probably says something condescending about women. Basically, I’m enjoying it but I’m sure as hell not going to defend it.

What we get in this season is some high drama with a big battle, one of those stories that focus on the characters in the setting dicking around with the infrastructure that exists to deal with the commonality of superpowers, and then an absolute top-tier banger of a story arc about excellent nearly-zero-stakes hero bullshit.

I’m going to talk more about it and that’s going to involve spoilers, so, below the fold!

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