August Staff Picks: The Sandman, Anime, and YouTube Makers!
Words By F(r)iction Staff
C. E. Janecek
As my final year of graduate school begins, I’ve been enjoying the melancholy nostalgia of watching Fruits Basket (2019). This beloved childhood manga and anime series follows Tohru, a homeless high school student grieving her mother, as she’s taken in by the mysterious outcasts of the Soma family. She soon finds out that the family is cursed by the spirits of the Zodiac, making them turn into animals at very inconvenient times, rupturing their relationships with their fully-human parents and loved ones. While much of this story is comprised of mythical elements, anime tropes, and running gags, the heart of the series is in finding community and heart to face past traumas in a tender, hopeful story.
I have been listening to a lot of OSTs of TV shows recently but the one that’s been stuck with me for more than a year is the OST of Nevertheless. A drama centred around the lives of students in the art department exploring different kinds of relationships, there is a beautiful indie-vibe to the tracks featured and exclusively made for the show. Almost every track from “We’re Already” to “Heavy Heart” to “Love Me Like That” has the softest vocals, each artist singing their own unique take on love and what it means to love. As beautiful as the cinematography of this drama is, every scene is elevated by the tracks playing in the background which emphasise the emotions our characters feel and for me, listening to all of these songs reminds me of my own internal confusions, anxieties and heartbreak. The OST of Nevertheless is as much about the wonders of youth as it’s about navigating the choices that we make in the search for love and intimacy.
An additional bonus of this OST was that it made me discover RIO, who’s this brilliant indie artist and every time I listen to her, I feel this sense of comfort and validation because her music is a tender testament to the trials and tribulations of young love in the most brilliantly romanticised way. There’s a certain courage and vulnerable honesty to the way she sings and produces her music.
It’s difficult to describe Omori without spoiling anything, so I’ll just gush about it instead. The art is a playful and seamless blend of 8-bit and colored-pencil anime with settings ranging from pastel playgrounds to neon space camps and vibrant suburbs to black-and-white voids. And those juxtapositions are not only aesthetic—something dark is lurking everywhere in this cutesy open-world. Beyond the art, though, this game is about understanding friendship and grief and how to accept the dark unwanted things inside of yourself. I love the interpretation of turn-based combat in the game, and it has the most realistic anxiety-attack-as-a-battle approach that I never asked for. Omori has so many hidden secrets and made me feel so many unexpected feelings from start to finish. I’ve never cried at so many checkpoints, and not because I was about to lose all progress; it’s just always nostalgic to have a picnic with your friends.
Instead of catching up on my ever-growing list of TV shows and movies, I’ve found myself turning on YouTube in my downtime. One of my favourite creators lately is Rachel Maksy. She drew me in with her video on making a book nook (another topic frequently appearing in my recent watch history), and I kept coming back because she is just so talented and delightful. Most of her videos center around creating vintage outfits, but she also does cosplay, crafting, and more, and I always appreciate her references to some of my favorite movies (especially The Mummy). I love to make things when I can, and watching Rachel bring her wild ideas to life at every step—from sewing a transformable dress from scratch to dressing like Jane Austen characters for a week—is so fun. Her silly humor and advocacy for being unapologetically yourself makes her channel such a comforting and cozy place to visit. Bonus: her adorable pets often make cameos in her videos!
I am on my second watching of The Sandman on Netflix. It is a strongly faithful adaptation if you are familiar with Neil Gaiman’s seminal comic book work. The stellar casting and mind-blowing imagery was one of the reasons I needed a second viewing as I found myself making connections in my head of the spot-on page to screen comparisons on my first viewing. The vision of writer Neil Gaiman and comic book artists Sam Keith, Mike Drizenberg & Dave McKean is on the screen.
For those unfamiliar, I still recommend a first and second viewing as the world of The Sandman is rich and layered. The Sandman is an anamorphic personification of Dream and he and his siblings (Death, Delirium, Desire, Despair, Destiny & Destruction) are called The Endless. The show also deals with magic, demons, serial killers, a talking raven and most importantly—regular old human beings (one human in particular is very, very old).
But like a dream affecting the sleeper in the waking world, I found the influence of the show in my life as I stepped away from each episode. The veil between reality and the show slipped as I learned more from The Sandman with my rewatch. Episode “The Sound of Her Wings” where Dream spends an afternoon with his sister Death fell on the day of my uncle’s passing and brought with it a comfort about my time here on Earth, the unknown of the afterlife and finding satisfaction in the life I do have. The rewatch had me look past The Endless, demons and nightmares and listen more to what they were saying in each episode about being human and how to wake up from my dreams to enjoy this amazing gift called today.