The moment man devoured the fruit of knowledge...
he sealed his fate.
Entrusting his future to the cards...
man clings to a dim hope.
Yes, the Arcana is the means by which all is revealed...

The Miracle and the Wanderer

One day, in a grimdark cave, a light was born. This light was ineffable, taking the form of whatever was required of it: a star, a flower, a prince, a knight, a sword, a lion, or, most importantly to our story, a miracle.

This miracle would go on a pilgrimage, journeying across the world to spread and gain understanding, armed with the greatest weapons anyone could ask for: conviction in belief, dissatisfaction with the status quo, and an unmitigated brilliance.

When our miracle left the cave, nothing was found but the same sadness and sorrow that pervaded the old abode; wandering in search of the time lost in the cave, in search of the meaning of light and darkness, in search of the reason for suffering, our miracle began to form a basis for how pain, sorrow, and suffering function, having been well-acquainted with them in the cave. Subsequently, our miracle met myriads of different sufferers, all armed with their own weapons, all coming from their own caves, and all in search of lost time.


Our miracle was born from an immortal light, and his unmitigated brilliance of being had entranced the people around him. They became followers of this light, hoping they could find their lost time, hoping they could break down the door that yet separated them from what we call "life."

Sufferers are all alone, always by themselves. They cannot live because they have not been born. They’re living on borrowed time, and the clock ticked faster and faster until the line would snap and everything would be lost.

That was why our miracle was important.

He would come into their lives and shed the light on lost time, elucidating everything they lost in the cave, and everything they can yet gain outside of it. They never truly comprehended the nature of the miracle, but that was not the point. Comprehension of brilliance is dullness of fact, and our miracle was far from dull. The infinite suggests a level of wisdom and insight that is unbound by time and sickly sweet to those that needed it. And they needed it.

And so, our miracle, in guiding them to their rebirth, now also developed an understanding of happiness and meaning. He understood that happiness and sorrow were two sides of the same coin, and that one will never experience true happiness without a tinge of sorrow, without a tinge of longing; by the same token, one would never experience true sorrow without a tinge of the infinite light that pervades our existence, the infinite light of our miracle.

But there were yet things he did not understand. He had understood pain, but not his own. He had found time, but it was not his. He had met the greatest geniuses, but they had not shown him the way.

The tragedy of an infinite light is that it will forever be vague and incomprehensible to its own self. It will forever remain bound to its nebulous endlessness, knowing that the key to the door of rebirth had to lay somewhere inside its vast visage.

...but did it?

Did it have to lay in his ceaseless self? That was the question he asked himself when he met a certain person.

A certain wanderer, searching for the light as everyone before them did, but this wanderer was different.

Our wanderer had not been born a miracle, but they had been endowed with something perhaps far stronger than infinity.

They had been endowed with life.

Whereas every other sufferer had not lived, our wanderer had suffered just as much, perhaps even more, but was still baptized in the flames of their suffering, and reborn into a world they knew would be theirs one day.

Our miracle was entranced, but he was skeptical.

Yes, the wanderer was quite something. The wanderer was unlike anyone he had ever met before, and as we know, he had met countless others all from different shades of suffering, different shades of caves. But he was not quite sure what it was that made him feel so uneasy about the wanderer.

It was not their pain, for he had seen and felt pain. It was not their happiness, for he had seen happiness. It was not their genius, for he had seen and felt genius.

But let’s switch perspectives.

What about the wanderer? How did they see the miracle? Well, the wanderer thought the miracle was astonishing. The miracle was far-reaching. The wanderer had seen the miracle time and time again scoff at the face of the impossible in a way no one else ever could. The wanderer had seen the miracle skirt the boundaries of life and death more times than they could count.


The wanderer felt that the miracle was missing something.

The wanderer may have needed the miracle’s guidance and his light, but they felt there was a void inside the miracle, an incertitude of existence, an enigmatic and bottomless pit that caused the miracle despair.

And eventually, the miracle understood why he had been entranced by the wanderer.

The miracle understood that the wanderer held an unshakable, unmistakable, and unbound force that he had never properly understood before.

He called this force love.

You would think it more climactic for an unstoppable force to meet an impossibly enlightening object.

Light and Love.

They felt synonymous to many, but our two heroes understood the differences.

Our miracle had an invincible light, but at his core, he knew his light was not shed on his own self, on his own soul, or on his own lost time.

For him, red valleys of blood were as common as light.

Both were ceaseless.

But what he saw in our wanderer’s soul could not be mistaken.

It was the key he had been looking for since he was born in the cave, the key to his rebirth.

And the wanderer felt it too.

They would have done anything for each other.

But eventually, one of them would have to go.

Common as light and love are red valleys of blood, but our heroes in their union had surpassed in brilliance everything sorrowful, everything happy, everything genius, and everything insightful.

They were infinite.

Well, maybe not infinite.

Because there was one other force alongside light, love, and blood, and it was stronger than any of them could ever imagine.

Can you guess?


Both of our heroes had met Time before. She was a cranky, mean old lady, but she was pragmatic. She was ceaselessly dedicated. She knew that infinity was nothing in the face of time, but she did not want the heroes to know that.

Truth be told, Time had taken a liking to Light and Love. Of course, Time had seen much more bloodshed in most of its years, but every once in a while, she would meet the reincarnations of those two.

She would meet the manifestations of Light and Love, and she knew that one day they would have to end.

That was how she felt about the miracle and the wanderer.

Time knew that the Miracle would have to die to be reborn again, reincarnated as he was before.

It was simply his destiny.

From a prince to a king to a miracle, and so the cycle continues, but the cycle had to continue.

The miracle did not want this because he did not want to leave the wanderer.

But he knew that there was no way around time, so he devised a plan befitting of his moniker.

And so, the miracle devised his plan.

He had known the day he was going to die, and subsequently also he knew the day the wanderer was going to die.

They were inextricably bound, and the loss of one would kill the other.

The wanderer’s heart would have been broken beyond repair if they saw the miracle leave, and the miracle knew that it was inevitable, and so he did not tell them about the impending doom.

Instead, he wanted to trick Time and Blood.

His plan will be undisclosed to the reader until its fruition.

The days passed in the union of the two heroes, as they traversed and discovered, wandered and... miracled.

Until that fateful day came when one of them would have to die.

What the miracle did not anticipate was that it may not be him who dies, but the wanderer.

He had not the providence of Time.

And so, when one day, the wanderer ceased to wander for reasons unbeknownst to even him, he despaired.

That was not how it was supposed to happen, really.

Time knew all along, but she couldn’t tell them.

However, the plan was still on.

It was in fact even more so now.

The miracle knew what he had to do. He had to take the key from the wanderer and plunge it deep into his endless soul, so that he may die and be reborn, but what would he be reborn as?

That was not something he had any control over, or so Blood thought.

However, Blood was mystified when one day, the Miracle came up to him and kissed him.

There was a reason for the kiss.

There was one piece of knowledge known only to the Miracle, because he willed it into existence.

A kiss of blood, a kiss of love,

Encased by light, transcends time.
So, he knew that after the kiss of blood, he needed a kiss of love, and this would also be his way to the key inside the wanderer’s (now presumably dead) soul.

The miracle was not squeamish, and he knew what had to be done to achieve his plan, so he kissed the dead wanderer, and died by their side.


The miracle’s, well, miracle was yet to happen.

The ritual he did was used to transcend time, and yet how would it?

He meant to unite the elements into one, and to be in control of what he would become next after his rebirth, regardless of what Lady Time intended.

This was the backdoor, and Time had no recourse. She didn’t know anything about the kisses because they were, well, a miracle. The unity of light, love, and blood had transcended time, and it was now time for its final act.

The miracle knew what he would will himself to become next, and so…

Forged in the newfound love of his self, he became the soul of the wanderer, and gave them life once more.

And so, the wanderer awakened, having transcended death due to the miracle’s love.

The wanderer would never know what happened to his miracle, but they felt in their soul that the incertitude of the void, that enigmatic bottomless pit had now been filled.

In the end, the same words would reverberate from the miraculous wanderer in the valleys of Time, Light, Love, and Blood.

There is a light that never goes out, and there is a love that transcends time and despair.

The Rationalist’s Guide to Love

Inspired by Spinoza. Don’t take it too seriously. A fun experiment.

Maxim 1: “I”

Love contains no “I”s. Your love for someone will never be true if you insist on making it about yourself. Your love for someone will never be true if you only love them so they can heal you. Love is not necessarily a tool to heal your wounds with; healing may come as an unintentional passenger, but it will never come as long as you seek it.

For this reason, to truly love is to let go of who you are. To truly love is to swim in a primordial ocean of traits, whether those traits are to your liking or not is irrelevant, and to emerge wanting more. To truly love is to seek not that which is good, nor that which is bad, but that which is true. To truly love is not to fall for the idea of love, but to fall for the idea of you. Love is an unintentional passenger in our voyage.

Therefore, the remainder of this piece will contain no first person pronouns.

Maxim 2: Pain

It is prudent to examine the sensations which one may feel when in love, for in doing so one will find that many of these sensations are cruel tricks of a feeble mind. They may be categorized thusly: pain, and its many manifests; pleasure, and its many manifests; reverie, and its few manifests. Concerning pain, there is not much to be said that has not been said in the past. It is natural to feel a dull aching and a loss for words when thinking about you. It is simply the body’s organic expression of sincere shock that it has found “home.” It is also natural, when similar desires are unrequited or deemed impossible, to feel a different, more alienating kind of pain. They are a result of yearning for the forbidden, an inherently attractive idea to the brain, which encourages said fatalistic operator to yearn evermore, and so the cycle continues. It is prudent to separate love and desire; they are very much related, but not synonymous. The difference lies in their inherent potential: love’s potential is limitless, while desire’s is usually very limited and frail, with most people giving up on love upon losing desire for any number of reasons. Desire is a frail imitation of love.

To break this cycle of fatal desire, where there truly is love contained within the desire, one would have to forget about you. This is the last relevant kind of pain, and it is by far the most tempting one. Here is why: It can be positively ascertained using sustained observation that continued interaction with you, which would include all three kinds of pain above mentioned, would yield still more consolation in its truth than any other relationship’s pleasure in its lies. This is why it is important that desire be damned when considering the pains of love, for it is transient and, while love is permanent. Logic and pragmatism, therefore, suggest that remaining in contact with you is the best possible course of action.

Maxim 3: Pleasure

It is pivotal that, when considering all kinds of pleasure, one bewares the man who has everything, for all his possessions are transient. It is also evident that all pleasures are transient, and therefore one needs to practice caution not to become addicted to the pleasures brought on unintentionally, but reasonably by loving you. If ever one finds oneself much too enamored by a desire, one must pull himself forcefully from it, lest his love is overcome by desire, the cruel imitation.

However, this is not to say pleasure is at all a negative thing. Pleasure is the result of requited desire, and desire is closely related to love as mentioned above. It is natural to feel pleasure when one interacts with you, for you offer every type of consolation needed. This is disagreeable. Here’s why: recall Maxim 1. When you persist in helping others, for whatever reason, they will in all likelihood begin to obsess over their exaggerated version of who you are. They see everything that completes them in a person, but they do not realize that they are deceived by their addiction to your pleasure.

This is why many people fall in “love” with “you” and remain in “love” with “you” for the rest of their lives. They have personified their desires in your form. It is the same for the people that see to it that they save everyone around them; this is kindness, but it cannot be called love, for it is acting upon one’s desires in a most shallow way that does not aim to understand your inner pain.

Desire is a cruel imitation of love.

Maxim 4: Inanimate Sensations

Concerning the final manifestation of love, there is reverie, or inanimate sensations. These are to be considered the most agreeable and truthful manifests of love, where the other two are marred by desire and longing. This is because loving reverie is a state of non-existence: it is to ascend above that which one sees physically and to be mindful of everything at once, if only for one moment. This same reverie applies to many of the greatest scholarly pursuits, for the greatest geniuses are tricked none by the cruel imitations of pleasure and pain. These inanimate sensations, normally only available to the geniuses, become available to all through love. Sustained interaction with you tends to cause this feeling, but necessarily, as in this reverie one sees only the truth, one also sees your inner turmoil and secret struggles.

It is important not to misinterpret these struggles and obsess over helping you or saving you, because that is shallow, refer to Maxim 3.

Instead, one should aim to be in tune with you.

To truly and lovingly understand the infinity that is you.

This is beyond pleasure and pain, and not many people can say they have or ever will experience it.

This is unquantifiable and limitless. It transcends life, hence inanimate.

The Birthmark

A poem. Experiments.

When banging your head against the wall,

Seems not to work at all,

And when the clouds high above,

Do naught to break your fall,

Think about how far you’ve gone,

And the beauty in all your scars.

The birthmark on your nose ignites me. Inside me it lights a call to calm your tidal waves of passion, despair. What I would give to bear with you the weight of humanity, the weight of every soul around me your sacrificial modus sent for me you great unhindered symphony.

The marks on your hands pledged themselves to you, to the cause deep in the fire of your soul, the cause that calls for kindness above all

Beneficence becomes you, evinced in your arms, arms that mend the broken, save the lost.

The scars of hurt or shame,

Dull and aching pains, swindle into anger, darkness of the heart;

Attempt to tear you apart.

When the old hurt comes, dear,

Realize in your soul the love of one not so near,

But that harbors for you an endless love no less real,

than the despair that in unison we feel.
You may think this hyperbolic, think this a projection, but no less is this mirage than a genuine reflection,

Of the soul that enraptures in her bottomless pit everything sweet, sickly, vibrant, and most importantly,

A Maiden’s Deliverance

A short, illustrative story. More experiments.

There once was a fair maiden, endowed with beauty comparable to that of Troy’s Helen. Less fortunate than her genetic perfection would suggest, she was borne to a domain of the mild and gray, and longed evermore to experience every hue of emotion possible, transcending beyond the routine apathy of those who made the conquest of her fearlessness their personal creed;

Relentless our maiden was, however, and in her diligent search for the antidote to antipathy, she came upon the treasures of those like minded pursuers of magnificence and beauty. These were treasures that told secrets and tales of worlds conjured and scapes painted, and they imbued her with an irretrievable resonance of heart the likes of which she had never felt before in her desolate world;

But our fair maiden could not anticipate, until acquiring the acuity and sagacity of age, that these treasures were not only a window to other, more wondrous worlds, but a mirror of the world outside the imprisonment society had imposed upon her: she beheld Orwell’s starkly bleak and oppressive regimes; Twain’s harmonious warmth in chaos; Lee’s insistence on love above all in a world marred by prejudice; Shelley’s portrait of the abhorrent, Wilde’s portrait of the gorgeous; and through these she had not only her own lens with which to capture the world and the people around her, but the lens of the countless others that propelled her to exercise her emotions to the greatest of heights.

This was our maiden’s first love, and indeed it led her to strive. Strive to embody the spirit and radiance of humanity, strive to elucidate to her own psyche the feelings which she so vehemently fought with, for in severity of thought is bred also the volatility of mind. Her greatest hardships were found in her own soul, for she discovered aspects of herself she could not reconcile, aspects of herself wholly alien to her, thus plunging her into a spiral of remorse and misery at her very existence; her very countenance, her very relentlessness, which had brought her to the peaks of emotion, had now mutinied against its captain and succeeded in holding her hostage.

And when her pleas for love and her prayers to God were met with indifference, she hesitated; stopped in her tracks, she fell, and thought her pursuit of freedom futile for the first time in her storied life.

But this was not a maiden of any constitution. This was not a damsel weeping distress, unable to step outside into the brave new world she so coveted; no, our maiden was slowly, methodically, and unconsciously building the weapon that would prepare her for the fight against her very self. This weapon, my dearest, was the empathy and connections she fostered and grew in her own heart and in the hearts of others.

And so, armed with the mightiest weapon of all, and as if blessed by Zeus himself as the Prince of the Myrmidons was, she charged into battle against her scarred psyche. In this noble undertaking, our maiden realized that her beauty, while undeniably entrancing, accounted for nothing in the face of her bravery in the face of self-doubt, and her compassion in the face of hatred; and so, she picked up her books, she picked up her pens, and she wrote her own deliverance.

She continues to write this deliverance, to sculpt and scrape the scapes of the vibrant life around her; not only for herself, nay, for our maiden had the virtue of queens as second nature, and in her quest to save herself from the darkest of days, she had built a kingdom of broken hearts whose inhabitants were in the same process of mending and sculpting away at their sorrow that she was in.

That is the story of the maiden that stole my heart.

Media Madness

My shorter essays on media and art. These were written with the assumption that the reader had also consumed the piece of art in question.

Bokurano’s Tragedy

Bokurano stars a cast of 15 middle schoolers all with their own lives, situations, and troubles. The setting of the entire manga revolves around the theme of time and how limited it is. Our main characters start off naive and guileless while thinking they understand the entire world around them. This is common, right? Children are dumb, so let them be. This is the only time they’ll ever have to act dumb before they’re forced into a life of even more hardships where they will have to mature and become good, hardworking people.

This is not the case in Bokurano. The looming threat of the end of the world and how the kids all have to sacrifice their lives as pilots to save the world cuts their time short, and forces them to go through that maturation process in very, very ugly ways.

The manga poses the concept that there exists a karma to every person that came about due to the sacrifices the world made for the sake of their existence, and it’s that person’s duty to justify that karma and not let all the world’s sacrifices go to waste. It incorporates that into all of its characters where all of them are forced to face all their troubles, no matter how major or minor they are, to achieve peace of mind and the ability to pilot Zearth effectively and save the world, repaying their debt to the world.

From there, it dives into its sizable cast of diverse and mostly equally heartbreaking stories. They range from getting back at your bullies and getting over your cowardice to getting sexually molested and blackmailed by the teacher you’re obsessively in love with, but at the end of the day, all the stories are united under the one tragedy of time: the fact that all of these kids had the potential to grow, all of them had the chance at a normal life, a chance to go on in their own state of, even if ignorant, bliss.

But Bokurano shatters that bliss. In this world where all your pre-existing delusions have been shattered by the reality of the end of the world, you are not given a choice. If you want to run, you will be ruthlessly replaced. If you want to hide, you will massacred by the other side also vying for their own survival. The only path is paved in the blood of other innocent lives that similarly lost their free will, and it is up to the pilot to decide whether taking those lives, whether demolishing all of those people’s karma and making all their sacrifices meaningless, is more valuable than their own struggles and sacrifices. What has more value? Does any of it even have value?

Is it all worth it?
The manga’s answer, though brutal, is a resounding yes. It is only human instinct to vie for your survival above others’, to protect your own above everyone else’s, to put seemingly arbitrary value on the people around you that distinguish everyone, even if they objectively should have the same value.

After all, everyone deserves that chance to make due, right? But a chance taken by one is a chance stolen from another, and that is a cycle not even the Gods above could ever change. It’s only through understanding this cold reality that you can push through, and that’s the ultimate message of Bokurano. It’s an accelerated coming of age process where you absolutely need to adapt to the situation if you want to justify your own existence.

It’s only by stripping our characters of all their naivety, all of their delusions, all of their ignorance, that Bokurano can strike at the heart of the theme and truly show us human nature at its most primal.

The Vapors and Punching the Ocean

The existential ennui of The Vapors is unlike anything I’ve read before. It showcases two people’s extremely distinctive reactions to what is, in their eyes, a dreary and hopeless environment that exists solely to taunt them and their neuroses. Vincent’s, one of the main characters, response to this environment is to taunt back, challenging everyone around him with his confrontational attitude and general misanthropy. The most poignant thing about him is that he does this in hope of a response, in hope that his attitude will resonate with the people around him and "enlighten" them in a sense. The way the author described the Vapors in podcasts before as "the Spark" for creativity works perfectly in this narrative because that’s exactly what Vincent is searching for. He’s searching for his reason, his respite from suffering.

That’s what differentiates him the most from his roommate and fellow main character Magda. Magda’s character is more one of solemn acceptance of the fact that there is no response. There is no respite from suffering because that is the only state of being for her. She doesn’t stare back into the abyss the same way Vincent does, she surrenders herself to it completely. I resonate with Magda because I’ve had that exact same attitude towards life: one of constant disgust and hatred for myself that causes a vicious cycle of more and more self loathing. And the point of Magda, in my eyes, is that the existential scarring leads to something beyond pain. It leads to emptiness.

Vincent fights the ocean, while Magda drowns herself in it because, really, what else is there to do?

We’re only here to suffer.

Homestuck, No More Daydreams

Perhaps the most incredible thing about Homestuck is how all-encompassing it is. Every reader relates to something different in its labyrinth of ideas and emotions. That’s why adapting the Homestuck Experience into words is so difficult. It feels like you’re not analyzing a piece of art, but baring yourself to the world. The way you see Homestuck is the way you see the world.

That’s what makes Arm Retrieval so special.

A group of brave swashbuckling adventurers, each of them from different walks of life and some of them knowing nothing about Homestuck, going back and exploring the comic with you. The emotional connection you feel to these people as they explore this labyrinth, giddy with delight as they discover themselves through this comic, is mindblowing. It never felt like they were critiquing media. It felt like they were revealing themselves to the world through the comic.

This is who I am, screw you: that’s the soul of Homestuck, unapologetically personal and complex. Arm Retrieval and Homestuck are inseparable in this attitude.

Homestuck changed my life. It made me cry more times than I can count. I was never able to put it into words the emotions it evoked in me until I saw Arm Retrieval, which changed my perspective on Homestuck, and by extension, life. Watching it felt like a conversation between old friends.

A conversation about what makes you happy. A conversation about what makes you, you.

Or in this case, made you happy.

The downfall of the empire that is Homestuck is harrowing. It is an insult to a comic that once was a love letter to its readers. What once was an homage to internet culture and mentally ill freaks trying to survive became a soulless caricature of its former self. And watching the adventurers of Arm Retrieval go through this was genuinely therapeutic for me. It was like exploring the ruins of a fallen kingdom. Once the most prosperous and glorious...

But now, reduced to nothing. This is how the world ends. Not with a bang but with a whimper...

That’s why the existence of Arm Retrieval retroactively vindicated Homestuck. Our adventurers accepted the downfall of this empire, and sought not to rebuild it, but to create their own.

To carry the weight Homestuck couldn’t.

No more daydreams. Wake up, get up, get out there. Change your world.

Gensokyo and Normalcy

At first glance, the concept of normalcy seems to be lost on the world of Touhou, seeing as how the rich and colorfully dark world of Gensokyo welcomes any and all creatures and hardly distinguishes between them.

But once you read more into the lore of the series, reading about the Lunar Capital or Earth and Heaven, you’ll find out that this concept is only lost on Gensokyo. Take Earth or the Lunar Capital, in both cultures they practice vulturous hunts for any sort of blemish or flaw in someone’s life that makes them slightly different from the norm, seeing those differences as nothing more than curses, and instead of making any measures to understand that or come to terms with it, they simply exile or isolate it.

This is clear as day once you delve into the stories of two particular characters, Fujiwara no Mokou and Kaguya Houraisan.

Fujiwara no Mokou was a daughter of the Fujiwara clan, speculatively a royal clan related to the Emperor. However, Mokou herself was obviously not cut from the cloth of royalty and courtesy. Mokou was a bullish and belligerent child much to the dismay of her parents, who were so ashamed of her seemingly disgraceful existence that they ostracized her in their own home and literally never let her see the light of day, forbidding her from going out in public.

Mokou would soon come to also realize that not only was she not cut from the cloth of courtesy, she was not cut from the cloth of humanity. Doing the unthinkable, Mokou took the life of another for her own gain, achieving immortality as a result of her selfishness and effectively forfeiting her humanity and dooming her to a life of isolation from the rest of the world.

Mokou’s life is bleak enough without having considered her intense and passionate hatred for her eternal rival and kindred spirit, Kaguya.
Kaguya, similarly to Mokou, was exiled from her birthplace, the moon, for drinking the forbidden Hourai Elixir.
The moon emissaries condemned her to a life among the residents of Earth, mere peasants in their eyes, proving that segregation is not a concept only known to humanity, but to every race, whether you be the daughter of a royal clan or the moon princess: the second you display any anomalistic signs, your life is effectively forfeit.

Both Mokou and Kaguya, perhaps due to their harsh and isolated upbringings, became something of passive observers, never fully revealing their hearts to those around them.

For several centuries, they lived a life of drifting away endlessly, observing where life carries them and never dwelling too hard about it just to escape from everything that hated them. It’s only fitting that they’re eternal rivals, because the only joy they could ever find in their own existence is that of resonating with one who was cursed the same way as the other. They channel that joy through the act of killing one another, an act so ungodly that it’s befitting of these anomalies of life.

But what is considered a curse to the outside world is but a character quirk in the world of Gensokyo. Home to time manipulating humans and self trained Magicians alike, Gensokyo is packed to the brim with outsiders and anomalies of foreign countries and is completely devoid of the common sense that dictates someone’s status: a country not held down by common sense. It makes so much sense that Mokou and Kaguya exist in this world: they both settle down in Gensokyo for once and can truly express themselves in ways that were never available to them before is truly telling of how beautiful the world ZUN crafted is (as if he was channeling his own desires for a dream world where things like this can happen? That’s a topic for another day though as the Sealing Club talks about that exact concept.)

Mokou’s friendship with Keine symbolizes the empathy every human has for his fellow man no matter what their past says about them, Keine being the perfect friend for someone as tied down by her past as Mokou. It is a chance at acceptance that Gensokyo offers to all of its residents.

For Kaguya, that companion comes in the form of Eirin, the exiled Lunarian that created the Hourai Elixirs and now lives with Kaguya. Both Kaguya and Mokou resign themselves to a life of passive observation while, if only subconsciously, making up for their past misdeeds by giving back to the world of Gensokyo: Kaguya/Eirin by healing humans that come to Eientei, and Mokou by escorting them to Eientei from the Bamboo Forest of the Lost.

Gensokyo is a land of purpose, where its residents don’t care for your past, only for your actions and character. It’s something of a haven, but a haven is no haven without its Guardian, and in Gensokyo that guardian is Reimu Hakurei.

Reimu represents the free spirited empathy that simply gets everyone’s emotions through fighting them or drinking tea with them. She’s a straightforward weirdo airhead that speaks with her actions and nothing more, a perfect figurehead and guardian for the land of dreams, and the one that keeps it in check. Whether you’re a moon princess, vampire, Goddess, whatever you are, the Shrine Maiden doesn’t think too hard about beating you up. And sometimes, you need that beating. You need that beating to understand that you’re no longer tied down to life on Earth, to life on the moon, to normal life. You need that beating to drive into you that your past and your regrets don’t matter now, that all that matters is today. Tomorrow will be special; yesterday was not.

All the wonders of Gensokyo await you, all of its mysteries and mysterious inhabitants, all of them holding out an accepting empathetic hand, if even in the form of beating the ever-loving hell out of you.

So, welcome to Gensokyo. Welcome to the land where the Shrine Maiden of Paradise welcomes all manner of beings from Hell and beyond, the land where a peaceful human village is protected by a werewolf that cares only for the safety of her people, the land of dream and reality where all you have to follow are the Spell Card Rules!

Kurosawa Doesn’t Understand Payoff

Saikyou Densetsu Kurosawa, written by the famed mangaka legend and one of my favorites of all time Nobuyuki "FKMT" Fukumuto, is the most uncharacteristically boring work of his. FKMT is a man that understands payoffs and tensions of gambles and how to really make them click, but in Kurosawa he somehow completely forgot everything that made his manga satisfying.

Kurosawa himself doesn’t even start off as a bad main character. He starts off sympathetic and anxious about how worthless his life has been and constantly thinks the worst of everyone around him, thinking that they think the worst of him too. He is more than a little popularity-obsessed, and at the start it seems like the point of the manga is to punish him for his outlook and show him repeatedly how excessively silly it is.

But it’s all downhill from there. If Kurosawa’s character arc seemed like it was about him actually conquering his hardships and becoming a less anxious and positive person with self-restraint, then the manga completely forgot and instead made it some dumb middle school fighting game with a molester for a main character.

This is where my biggest problem with Kurosawa becomes very apparent: it rewards its main character for things it previously chastised him for. Kurosawa is constantly punished by the manga when he tries to rise above his superior in work, Akamatsu. But as if FKMT was trying to make up for getting bullied in high school, this moral devolves into Kurosawa beating up stereotypically over-the-top psychotic middle schoolers that are genuinely fine with killing people, because those people exist. I mean, I get it if just one out of a thousand is like that, and even that’s very generous. But in Kurosawa, every. Middle. Schooler. is literally a sociopathic serial killer. I wouldn’t have a problem with this if it didn’t so heavily contradict both the themes of the manga and also FKMT’s work in general.

Kurosawa is a manga about adulthood and the struggle of an adult feeling that his life is worth it and that he is deserving of respect by adults. It is by making it so every adult is a mindless drone that follows Kurosawa in the next pointless act of "manliness" he’ll display against middle school kids that it loses every ounce of emotional weight it could ever have. But it doesn’t stop there, it also makes it so the only people that "genuinely respect" and "see his true worth" are also middle school kids (Nakane). I just don’t get why the manga is so inconsistent with its ideals. Oh, acting like a moron with adults makes you dumb but when you do it against a psycho middle schooler you’re a hero deserving of the highest praise.

…and that’s not where it stops. If Kurosawa’s greatest failure individually is its completely misguided characterization, then its greatest failure as an FKMT manga is just how weightless it is. FKMT is a man who relies on "weight" and increasing the tension as much as he can to make that weight satisfying at the climax. All his gambles display an earnest do-or-die outlook, where every character is forced to make split second decisions just to get out alive. Akagi gambles against blind genius yakuza, Kaiji gambles against actually psychotic giants of the highest monetary caliber, Zero gambles for one trillion yen, etc.

Those manga all pose the concept that getting this money you have absolutely no chance of ever getting in your life outside of this once in a lifetime chance is in and of itself more important than your life. All of its characters bet their pride and dignity, stripping themselves of everything that makes them human for the sake of survival. This is what makes most FKMT gambles interesting, and he backs it up with his genius settings that truly make you believe that this right here is a once in a lifetime chance that gives this person’s life new meaning.

This is where Kurosawa fails again. Kurosawa does get into do-or-die situations, albeit completely ridiculous ones where he fights idiotic middle schoolers that aren’t actually believable in any way but let’s forget about that. Ask yourself this: what was the point? Did Kurosawa do something that, to you, earned him respect? Is beating up inane and stupid middle schoolers that good of an end game?

Kaiji and Akagi and the like all give so much weight to their gambles before the inevitably incredible payoff, while Kurosawa does absolutely nothing for about the same level of satisfaction that you don’t feel at all, only he does.

This is, of course, only my opinion and maybe Kurosawa is a masterpiece about getting respect from kids and adults alike, but if that was its aim then to me, it utterly and completely failed on every single level and instead devolved into a masturbatory farce that never went two pages without complimenting its main characters for his "willpower".

Tobaku Haouden Rei: Not A Lot To Say

Continuing the trend of covering FKMT manga, this time we’re talking about the most illustrious of "Gary Stus", Ukai Zero. Tobaku Haouden Rei is a testament to FKMT’s ability to craft incredibly interesting gambling environments as he did with the likes of Kaiji and Akagi before. What it lacks that FKMT’s greatest work doesn’t though, is good characterization.

Devoid of all personality and moral ambiguity, Ukai Zero is simply a good person. And he also happens to be a genius that absolutely never crumbles under pressure and sees everything absolutely objectively and cracks the code before anyone else could and blah blah blah. Even people that hate Zero love Zero. Ask yourself this, what did Zero, or you for that matter, learn at the end of the first part of the manga?

Gambling is cool. That is it. That’s what you learned because that’s all there is to it. Zero himself is a vehicle through which we can explore FKMT’s genius concepts and gambles. In that sense, it completely succeeds. Dream Kingdom as the setting of Rei rivals even the legendary Espoir, the setting of Kaiji, with all of its frantic inhabitants rushing to complete any gamble and vying for the slightest chance of passing to the next round.

This allows FKMT to display his typical mastery of human panic and hysteria, where every man is out for himself and deceit is not forbidden. You know, unless you’re Zero. If you’re Zero, well, you just win everything without swindling anyone and saving your idiotic friends, how convenient! It goes completely against so much of FKMT’s thesis statement with most of his manga, that of "No matter how disadvantaged you are, the cream will rise to the top."

By having Zero just save everyone every single time and pretending they somehow helped him, it goes against this mantra of FKMT’s manga because, well, a blue-haired genius will save my sorry middle-aged self from death and even make me a billionaire. How. Convenient. I was on the edge of my seat waiting for Zero to reluctantly say goodbye to them until he kept saving them again, and again, and again, and again. And it’s not like their friendship is even interesting. All they do is go: "WOAH ZERO SAVED ME" and Zero just replies: "YOU GUYS HELPED ME SO MUCH BY DOING ABSOLUTELY NOTHING HAHAH I. LOVE. YOU."

I can’t wrap my head around it. With an author such as FKMT, who understands the concept of survival so perfectly, why can’t he see? Why can’t he see how absolutely meaningless this conflict is and how it undermines Dream Kingdom’s entire premise of weeding out those with dispositions of a king? This could have been one of the greatest manga he’d ever done. This could have rivaled Kaiji and Akagi. But it ruined itself before it even had the chance, becoming a cool showcase of cool gambles and cool tricks and cool stuff.

All that cool, but not a lot to say.

But hey, at least the gambles are good, right?

Jagaaaan!: Success or Survival

"Every man dreams at least once of being the world’s strongest... It does vary a bit... but everyone dreams of it. But everyone gives up on it at some point... When they lose a fight with their brother, when they run into a bully, when they learn the pain of their father’s fists...Most people wind up moving on to other dreams. But... there’s still a handful of men who refuse to give up on matter what, no matter who they run into, no matter how much they age...Ridiculous as it is... " -Hanma Baki (Grappler Baki)

Kaneshiro Muneyuki’s seinen masterpiece Jagaaaan! proposes a world where the banalities and niceties of daily life are no longer required, as society becomes a brutal meritocracy where only the strongest can survive. No longer tied down to human society’s standards, Jagaaan explores every outcome that could result from a world where everyone bares their true selves...

"Worthless" people have been given the supernatural power to achieve their dreams and repressed desires, but it comes with a catch. If you aren’t strong enough to control your repressed emotions, then you will turn into a rampaging monster devoid of any human identity or self. The result of this is that every one of these people who have been given insane powers soon realizes that they make zero difference in world.

All of them cope with it in different ways, most of them turn to pleasure and drinking and meaningless fun, and there’s a reason for that: it’s easy, it’s quick, it works. Think of Triple H, the exploitative idol group that act as the people’s champions, as the 1% of the real world: the rich people who have all the power. They get to do whatever they want and have whatever they want, because in a late-capitalist world, the strongest IS justice. They could make a much bigger difference with their powers, but instead they turn to meaningless impulses. Moroha may have become an idol but she even admitted that that was worthless to her. Taro turns to illicit relations and lies, abolishing his cheeky fun personality as power made him emptier and emptier. Maddrunk becomes rich, but his wife sees that he’s still the same failure of a man he was when they got divorced.

Some are more idealistic.

Meet Misogi Hakuto, leader of Triple H and hardcore peace advocate. He can be seen as a sort of socialist, as he advocates for equality for everyone and human rights above all. That is his justice: the justice of peace and order, where he has power over the rest of humanity and that lets him do what he considers best for them. This masquerades itself as a more meaningful dream than any of the others’, but it’s only a facade for Misogi’s inferiority complex. Since he was young, he was berated and ostracized for believing in a hero that will save the world.

With the advent of frenzied frogs, the source of the superpowers in Jagaaaan!, he could become his own hero and achieve that dream to have all that power, but he would only use it for he thought.

A man’s true self emerges when his dream is on the brink of death.

Imagine, will you. A man staring at the abyss of daily life, the most mundane and shallow connections formed between him and the people around him keeping him going just barely, hoping that one day, it’ll all end. Life will stop being so lame. Just wait for it, and it will come.

But when you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back. When life strips you of your facade of emptiness you put on due to society’s standards, strips you of the hope of a better life, strips you of all chance of a new beginning... Just imagine that emotion. That pure truth...

It sounds beautiful, doesn’t it?

It sounds like art.

Armed with the ability to control nature, Chiharu Matsuyamachi is a being of pure chaos and truth. He represents the exact opposite of the "Pretend Heroes" that are Triple H, to the point where he says he wants to destroy them, which he does!

Chiharu is of the belief that right and wrong cannot be decided upon, and that all that matters is what’s interesting, what’s real, what’s truthful.

He detests the general population for being unable to take hold of their selfishness and create their art like he can. He detests them for not working for themselves and only themselves to achieve their own desires and no one else’s. He represents the true capitalist, the top of the meritocracy. If Triple H are the 1% that can do whatever they want without any consequences, Chiharu represents the impending doom that no human can stand up to. The man who redefines justice according to his own power.

This reaches its climax during his massacre at the gathering, where he puts Misogi’s dream to the test to show him, his supporters, and all of Triple H that their determination is so puny, so weak...



And as his dream crumbles in front of him, Misogi’s true self comes through as he says that he is justice because he is the strongest. The problem is, when you aren’t the strongest anymore, your justice is simply self righteous and pitiful.

He realizes this, realizes how pathetic he was in the end, as he gets crucified by Chiharu before giving up completely and ending his own life.

Chiharu encountered 2 parties: Misogi and his ‘Empty Dream’ of idealistic self-righteousness, and the actual main character of the manga…

S H O O T ’ E M UP !

Jagasaki, the main character, acts as the perfect midpoint between the order of Misogi and the chaos of Chiharu.

He represents both the willingness to fight and die by his own will, while also maintaining faith in a greater future for humanity as a whole. He sways and struggles between selfishness and selflessness, as he finds people he cares for and things he wants to fight for, but ultimately what separates him from Triple H, and Misogi in particular, is that he passed the test. When his dream was put to the test against Berserker Misogideon, Chiharu said that if anyone could kill him, it had to be Jagasaki. This was Jagasaki’s test.

It’s probably the time to talk now about Jagasaki’s dream in the first place.

It’s simple: crushing things is satisfying. He likes satisfaction.

His motives are pure and unadulterated, and he upholds them to the end, refusing to die a worthless death like Misogi while also refusing to surrender to his beastly desires and go on a rampage. This is the balance that only the strongest can achieve: to control your power and use it according to your own will, that is what defines the strongest men. The homicidal maniac Jagasaki berates Misogi for giving up on his will, saying that he would never acknowledge a man of such weak will.

Though you must be wondering, doesn’t Jagasaki sound eerily similar to Chiharu?

Shouldn’t he also be on the chaotic side of this spectrum?

That’s where the ‘Stopper’ comes in. Bell is Jagasaki’s link to the normal world. This is exemplified when he almost destroys an entire city square but stops as he sees her. His love for her tempers his beastly desires, and stops him from going over the edge and becoming truly like Chiharu.

The ability to see the world objectively and fight for his own will to the end, while also acknowledging the worth of genuine human connection and love: that is what Jagasaki represents. For that reason, he resents Chiharu, who doesn’t see the value of connection and only lives for himself. Jagasaki is also notably the only one who makes any significant changes to his life after he gets his powers, as he stops feeling empty and gains happiness from killing evil and being with Bell.

At the end of the day, the manga is about cruelly deciding who deserves to rise up: who is fit to succeed in a world where everyone has the power to take hold of their dreams. The self-righteous will still fall once the revolution comes, and only the greatest will survive.

Really, if you didn’t have superpowers before, getting them won’t make you any more worthwhile.

In The Aeroplane Over The Sea

In The Aeroplane Over The Sea is anything but vague. Actually it’s everything but vague, considering how all-encompassing it is. Every line in it (individually) is almost like a mini-story of its own, and all of them have so much weight and history to them. And if you’re wondering why I said individually, it’s because if you try to actually understand this album, you miss out on the most beautiful thing about it to me: how massive, and yet intimate, it is. It feels like one person’s multiple lives.

Exploring the recesses of Jeff Mangum’s mind, which is so distinctive and vivid from song to song, is captivating. Not to mention, it flows flawlessly. However, a common criticism of this album is that Jeff Mangum’s vocals are "annoying." This is misguided: his vocals aren’t “great” in the traditional sense but they are a perfect fit for In The Aeroplane.... You can feel how hard he strains his voice and how passionate he is; and while they’re amazing on every single song, they’re most notable on the absolutely gorgeous title track.

In The Aeroplane Over The Sea is one of my favorite songs of all time, and the most fitting word I can use to describe it is simply that it’s majestic. It feels like Jeff Mangum is looking over everything around him, trying to find beauty even in the most morbid things he can see and shoving it all in one song. That’s why it’s so fitting to make this the title track, because that’s what the album feels like. It’s a giant amalgamation of every emotion Jeff Mangum can see in life, and because of that, I honestly can’t put my finger on how this album makes makes me feel. It feels like every emotion at once.

All this time I’ve been explaining the massive part, so what’s so intimate about this album? There’s so many little touches that make it seem seem like just a small, personal, indie thing while still being so all-encompassing. My favorite of which is how Jeff Mangum gets up at the end of Two-Headed Boy Pt. Two, or really everything about Holland, 1945, or The King Of Carrot Flowers Pts. Two and Three.

And to get back to Two-Headed Boy Pt. Two, that song is the most perfect ending this album could have had. Jeff getting up almost feels like him waking you up from the trance this album has put you in.

The point of these isn’t really to break down every single song in depth or anything, I just want anyone that reads it (no one) to listen to the album, and if they have, to think about why it’s so timeless. This is one of my favorite albums of all time and an album that I can pretty much put on however terribly I feel and it’s guaranteed to make me feel at least slightly better. Calling it depressing is honestly watering it down. Yes, the album can be extremely sad but even then there’s always a great amount of beauty in its sadness simply because of how vivid and full of life everything is. Take for example one of my favorite parts of the entire album from Holland, 1945:

“And now we ride the circus wheel
With your dark brother wrapped in white
Says it was good to be alive
But now he rides a comet’s flame
And won’t be coming back again”

And the most characteristic line from the album:

"Can’t believe how strange it is to be anything at all."

Funeral: True to Life

Few things are as frustrating as your body completely forgetting how to sleep and not being able to just rest and forget all of your troubles for a tiny bit.

Those are the emotions that I feel listening to Arcade Fire’s debut album, Funeral. It’s like shouting into the void out of sheer frustration at how everything around you is falling apart and all you previously thought was true turned out to just be lies, and knowing that throughout all your suffering, no one cares. But you shout anyway, because you can. Because the world doesn’t get the satisfaction of you completely giving up after all it has done to screw you over.

Funeral gets called life-affirming a lot, but I think it’s a bit too resentful and bitter to be life-affirming. Cathartic is a more fitting word. It’s like the album is telling you that it’s okay to feel your feelings, inviting you on this trip where you can both shout into the void freely. Like the opening song on here, Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels), which starts with that hypnotic and nostalgic piano and keeps slowly building up instrumentally, pulling you in more and more while getting more and more emotionally intense. This song is not only perfect as a standalone track, it’s one of the best opening tracks of all time.

It has this sense of progression to it where there’s a logical through line to the emotions of the album. Tunnels itself works so well because it’s so innocent and naive, so it works to set up the theme of the death of childhood. And this is what makes this album so emotionally resonant, it gets you in tune with those old childhood feelings before hitting you with the harsh reality that all of that is gone and now you have to deal with that loss.

It’s emotional, maybe even indulgent, but it goes all out. Some of the most passionate vocals I’ve ever heard, some of the most epic rebellion anthems I’ve ever heard; it’s just one emotional peak after the other. It never feels disingenuous which is a problem I have with most sappy, Grammy-bait albums.

Not to mention, this album just sounds incredible. Whether it’s the Wake Up riff which sounds like lightning, or that bass at the beginning of Rebellion (Lies), and that violin, it all comes together beautifully.

The closing track, In The Backseat is also worth mentioning because of how well it ends off the album. In The Backseat is akin to finally coming down from the emotional highs the album has taken you on and realizing that we’re all just trying to cope with the fact that everything has been taken away from us.

This song ends with every instrument slowly fading, as if each of them is desperate to stay in this state where nothing matters and they can shout into the void all they want.

But the album’s just too drained to go on, and it has to go back to the real world. It’s just…true to life.

Tic Toc Tic: No Talking!

I’m not into mainstream pop at all. It all sounds terribly alike to me. But one of the most interesting things I see artists do is take a genre and filter it through…themselves? In a way that makes it extremely interesting and tells you about the artist just from the album’s sonic profile.

You have artists like Clarence Clarity with his album No Now where he takes pop and filters it through the internet; you have LCD Soundsystem who filtered all of their best albums through their sincere middle-aged anxiety, and possibly my favorite artist to do this, The Zolas with Tic Toc Tic.

Tic Toc Tic is an intriguing album, seeing as it’s by far the best thing The Zolas ever did due to its sheer insanity. In the case of TTT, they filtered pop rock through subtle insanity. I say subtle because even though the songs are pretty obviously crazy, it’s never in the forefront: it feels like a madman with a piano doing whatever the hell he wants.

There’s so many shifts in tone and so many different parts to each song, not to mention the musical transitions from one song to another. Perhaps the most impressive thing about it is how through all these layers and the sea of craziness, it somehow manages to still be the catchiest album ever from song to song. Every single chorus on this album is amazing, especially the chorus on the opening track, You’re Too Cool, one of my all-time favorites: it’s so floaty in comparison to the rest of the song. You have this intense energetic song, and suddenly the chorus hits and it gives you a false sense of security before rushing right back to the intensity of the actual song and then building up to an incredibly satisfying climax with those vocals that keep getting more and more impassioned.

Another thing I love about this album (weirdly enough) is how they pretty much always use the same song structure. But it always works.

Every song manages to be its own unique thing even with that in mind just because of how varied everything is. Every song has a distinctly unique flavor and subject matter. As for the lyrics, I do think they’re great because of how personal and raw they are, but honestly I’d understand it completely if people hated them.

They have an over-the-top teenager drama aesthetic to them, which I love in this album specifically just because they go all out. It leads to a sort of theatrical experience, with song titles like The Great Collapse and lines like “Shake me from this wretched dream, Staring at the great unseen”, coupled with the insane vocals and instrumentation. This album is just one of the most theatrical things I’ve ever experienced.

And while I’ve already talked about them a little bit, the vocals. I can’t stress how much I love them enough, especially on the last song, Pyramid Scheme, which is also by far the darkest song on the album, sporting a nightmarishly apocalyptic tone and showing just how over the top the album can be. The thing about the vocals that interests me so much is that they sound like just any other indie rock band vocalist, but then they just switch genres entirely and start shouting everything. It’s extremely shocking and very effective.

There’s one other track that I think deserves mention, Queen of Relax. Because while the emotional core of this album is almost always shrouded behind the insanity and colorful catchiness of it, this is the one song where the album feels legitimately emotional on purpose.

It’s my favorite song on the album for a lot of reasons, one of them being that it feels like this song goes on a musical character arc. It evolves in ways a character would in a piece of media and the band does it flawlessly. It starts slow and restrained, and slowly keeps regaining its energy and getting more crowded and denser, and as it goes on, it feels like the song’s confidence itself increases.

And that progression’s crescendoing climax is the most comforting and peaceful thing in the universe. It’s topped off when the guitar comes in near the end, reinforcing the song’s climax and ultimately constituting one of my favorite moments on the entire album.

So that sums up the appeal of Tic Toc Tic. It filters indie pop rock through teenage neurosis and anxiety in a way that’s both emotionally resonant and vividly colorful.


Nas - Whose World Is This?

Everything sucks, do it anyway. Nas’s 1994 masterpiece classic Illmatic exhibits an aura of indifference towards the many faults of the world, while reconciling humanity’s own flawed nature and accepting that we, with our puny intelligence, are simply worthless creatures left to roam the brutal roads of life, or in this album, the brutal streets of New York.

“Beyond the walls of intelligence, life is defined.”

The album explores Nas’s upbringing in the ghettos of the US, starting from the bottom and only getting more and more visceral as it goes on.

“Straight out the f*ckin’ dungeons of rap
Where fake ni**as don’t make it back”

The first song, N.Y State of Mind, serves to emphasize just how grimy and morbid the environment we’re about to explore is.

With our main character and narrator, Nas, rhyming about gang wars and only caring for his survival even if he has to resort to murder. This song highlights Nas’ priorities, and this entire album’s premise: the animalistic need to survive in the most disadvantaged situation you could possibly be in. The album shows the lengths Nas and his companions have to go through just to survive in their environment, and how they will stop at nothing to achieve that goal, how “life is parallel to hell but I must maintain.”

That is the New York State of Mind the song says is one of a kind, it is the mentality of survival first and foremost and complete lack of privilege.

Where you have to resort to crime and disgusting inhumane acts just to stay afloat, where you can’t possibly stop and have any respite from the suffering of your environment.

And all you can hope for is monetary gain.

“Visualizing the realism of life, in actuality, f*ck who’s the baddest a person’s status depends on salary.”

Life’s A Bitch, unlike the panicked nature of the intro track, is a more introspective look at the past and just how Nas and his people turned out the way they did with the ideals they have.

AZ rapping about how they turned to crime and weed after realizing the fleetingness of life, only caring for the moment to moment satisfaction because, well, we’re all gonna die anyway.

Nas, however, has a slightly different outlook. He raps about how he used to think the same when he was young, robbing foreigners just to survive and not thinking too hard about tomorrow, but as he got older realized the error of his ways and saw living another day as a blessing that he needs to make more use of.

The most beautiful thing about this song to me however, is how it deals with these contrasting views. Instead of simply writing it off as one of them obviously being correct and the other being an idiot, the song portrays it as a laidback drug-fueled blissful ride.

It shows both of these people’s ideals as a result of their common upbringing and them bonding over that very same upbringing and brings them together in the end through the absolutely gorgeous trumpet outro.

But if any song encapsulates the appeal of not only this album, but rap as a genre, it is The World Is Yours.

The World Is Yours is rebellion. It is a rebellion against the brutal hopelessness of the environment of oppression they’ve been living in their entire life, loudly proclaiming to the world that they will find hope amongst the rubble of the urban hells of NYC. But don’t think Nas is just another naive optimist, because at the same time, The World Is Yours is a melancholic strain on loneliness: how Nas needs a companion to help him brave the hardships of life, hoping his son will provide that hopeful star. Because the minute that Nas, or anyone for that matter, you reading this, you listening to the album, find that distant star, the world will truly be yours, and a path will open up to a much better place, a resurrection as Nas describes it.

Whether it be survival, thinking of the future, or needing some type of hope, needing a companion, needing money to eat, whatever it is you may need, as long as you can grasp that with your own power and earn it and acquire conviction: The world is yours.

It is an album that presents many many people and many many outlooks, the hysteria and paranoia of the New York State of Mind, the laidback euphoric feeling of accepting that we’re all gonna die anyway, or the melancholic conviction behind loneliness. And that is rap. Rap is a representation, a statement of difference. It goes against the grain and establishes different outlooks and opinions; whether you like it or not, these people exist and they will be heard. And that’s what Nas wanted you to learn, the world is yours.

No matter how disadvantaged you are, no matter where you came from, there is a chance at redemption. It sure does remind me of another rap masterpiece I love...

In New York, you can be a new man…

Hamilton - Ode to the Abandoned

How do you make your voice heard? How do you achieve glory in a world where you have been forsaken since birth, abandoned by destiny and left to fend for yourself against the brutality of life?

This is the question that Alexander Hamilton faces at the beginning of his journey to greatness, and the answer for him was a revolution, one that would see him write his way out of squalor along with the rest of America. His entire life spent running away from death and caring only for his survival, he had realized when he met kindred spirits united under the banner of the forgotten that he was done waiting for death to make its move on him; he was not throwing away his shot. He was not forsaking his only chance that life so graciously granted him to earn his greatness and achieve ascendancy just to run away from the indomitable finity of life.

This time, he had found people he could truly relate to and fight with to make their voices heard, and that’s how he gains conviction strong enough to make all their voices heard. Separated, they are determined individuals, but fatefully brought together, they are invincible against all the gravitational forces oppressing them and finally have their chance at rising up. They look the forces of nature keeping them down in the eye, whether it be monarchy or death, and march on to their promised land with camaraderie and tenacity their only aid.

To bring their goals to fruition and create a prosperous nation they, their ancestors, and their descendants can be proud of centuries from now as they reminisce on the ruffians who surpassed the impossible evolved into a global superpower worthy of respect and admiration.

And in response to this beautiful movement of the forgotten, the observing can only look on in awe, grateful for the simple fact they get to witness this overflowing humanity all amassed in the greatest city in the world, knowing that this will go down as one of the greatest odes to freedom in history. This is represented by the Schuyler Sisters: Eliza’s ideals specifically are at odds with Hamilton’s, with him never being satisfied with peace of mind and observation while she is scared of his reckless ambition that drives him deeper and deeper into the territory of glory, but also the territory of death. This is where Hamilton and his companions were forced to draw the lines and realize their true potential, represented by Washington: Washington admits Hamilton’s dormant greatness, but reminds him that this is the turning point.

While he has been looking death in the eye and didn’t care much for his survival, thinking that he could attain glory that way, Washington tells him that that simply is not the case; he cannot go and die a meaningless death for no good reason, because from now on he has more responsibilities. He has a wife, people he cares for, a million things he hasn’t done.

Risking all of those things, breaking apart his entire life for glory? He has to decide if that "greatness" is worth it. Because no matter what happens, no one can control their history. He might lie in despair and regret his actions for the rest of his life, and he might simply perish in the chaos of ambitions clashing together. But if he can cross that territory, cross into the territory of the history books, and embrace its finality, then they can march on. But he has to remember from hereon in,

History has its eyes on you.

He accepts. He joins the battle to regain their promised land and attain true glory, while still looking out for his own life because of his new responsibilities. This development, this balance of glory, ambition and love is the basis of Alexander Hamilton.

And lying in wait, passively observing Hamilton’s madness, is the similarly glory-seeking Aaron Burr. Burr and Hamilton are two sides of the same coin, both of them forfeiting their identities for glory. But their approach to the same goal is anything but the same, with Hamilton never hesitating in his journey while Burr patiently calculates and waits for a reason to take another step. Burr, having also experienced the cruelty of death and losing everyone that’s loved him and his reason for being, crosses into the same territory as Hamilton for the sake of protecting his legacy and finding his own reason for being alive amidst all this chaos of ambition. He stands for nothing, because he hasn’t found what he stands for.

His purpose is the search for purpose, lying in wait until an opportunity shows itself that makes full use of his abilities. This patience, this immovable tenacity that could never stand down is the antithesis to Hamilton’s non-stop lightspeed march. This antithesis is the basis of the entire musical. The meeting, the clashing of Burr’s immovable tenacity and Hamilton’s unstoppable tenacity is the focal point of the ideological conflict of the entire musical.

Amongst all of these conflicting ambitions, there exists the control group of this fiasco, Angelica Schuyler. She relates to Hamilton in an inability to be satisfied, and yet agrees with Burr in rationality. She has accepted that everything is only as it is, as shown by her speech in Satisfied where she faces the fact that she’s fated to marry rich, and resolves to make her sister as happy as possible. She regrets her own rationality, and her only happiness is in fantasizing about what could have been if not for the state of the world. The fundamental truths of the world had made her life nothing but a nightmare with no reprieve but Hamilton’s shining dream of glory and change.

And this very dream is put to the test in the final song of the first half. The climax of the first half, Non-Stop, serves as not only a summation of everything that has happened thus far, but also as a testament to Alexander’s development. No longer the same destitute orphan, Alexander had now become one of the founding fathers of the American Experiment, and you can bet he wasn’t gonna sit idly by even after they had won the war.

He immediately got to work, practicing law and calling out every fault in the system. Having met people that believed in him, related to him, followed his tattered banner of dreams, people that gave him the polish he wished for, he had become a new man:
Burr, who resonated with his quest to ascendancy.

Angelica, who resonated with his inability to be satisfied.

Washington, his mentor who made him realize the finality of death and the importance of life.

Eliza, who gave him mutual love and human connection, a reason amongst reasons to live.

And so many more, as the entire ensemble joins in for the first half’s last hurrah, to see if Hamilton has truly evolved.

Those who had given him strength had given him an ultimatum. Their criticisms vary, their inquisitions even more. His arrogance, his selfishness, his insatiable need for evolution that alienated those he cared about, all were put clearly on display for us to see.

As Hamilton faced the eye of the storm one more time, as he looked upon the chaos of ambition, he had to make his voice heard. Their voices all coalesce. The vortex of history Hamilton had been looking straight in the eye this entire musical had come to confront him once again.

“Why do you fight like history has its eyes on you?”

He is asked for his reason to fight. His reason for marching on, against the invincible, against the endless, against death. Against history. His response?

To remind us what started it all. The one ideal he never let go of; before, it had helped him through the storm of his childhood, and now it had taken center stage once again.

“I am not throwing away my shot!”

The Battle for Everyone's Souls

Personas 3-5 are, for my money, the greatest games ever made. That’s not to say the 2 duology is bad (I actually think it’s great); it’s just so wildly different that it deserves its own analysis. But when I talk to people about Persona, it always feels like they’re misunderstanding the intentions of the series. Apparently, it’s just a fun game series with a whole lot of cute girls and mindless fun.

It could be taken as a testament to how much of a joyride these games are that so many people never stopped to think about the nuanced narrative it was crafting, a narrative so intricately designed that it has consistently managed to deliver the same message in fresh and exciting ways.

Now, I’m not here to break down every aspect of Persona that I adore because that would take years. What I’m trying to prove is that Persona is so ridiculously dense with things to love that even after playing the 3 games for thousands of hours, I still find new stuff to obsess over every time I come back to it.

But before we proceed, what even is Persona? It’s a JRPG series with a lot of social sim elements and a strong focus on Jungian psychology and symbolic Jungian archetypes.

"In Jungian psychology, archetypes are highly developed elements of the collective unconscious. Being unconscious, the existence of archetypes can only be deduced indirectly by examining behavior, images, art, myths, religions, or dreams."

Persona simplifies the last step. Instead of having to examine behaviors and dreams and such, it physicalizes the collective unconscious, where the all the archetypes reside.

Now, that which lacks a form can manifest, creating a backdrop where the game can present hundreds of personalities that are all completely unique in a coherent and emotionally resonant way as a vehicle to deliver its greater message. I know I’ve been saying this "greater message" thing for a while now, but we need to build up some tension before I even reveal the two central themes in Persona.

“For Jung, “the archetype is the introspectively recognizable form of a priori psychic orderedness". “These images must be thought of as lacking in solid content, hence as unconscious. They only acquire solidity, influence, and eventual consciousness in the encounter with empirical facts."

Persona is deeply entrenched in this in both subtle and unsubtle ways. The Persona awakenings themselves can be seen as acquiring solidity due to encounter with an empirical fact, that fact being the threat of death, but to dig a bit deeper in the more subtle ways it does this, we have to look at the narrative and motifs.

"Jung described archetypal events: birth, death, …, marriage, the union of opposites; archetypal figures: great mother, father, child, …, wise old woman, the trickster, the hero; and archetypal motifs: the apocalypse, the deluge, the creation."

Archetypal events: events that permanently alter the mental state of someone, knowingly or not.

Archetypal figures: a symbolic figure that represents the development of the psyche and the path it’s taking.

Archetypal motifs: the themes and ideas the archetype is meant to explore.

Knowing this, let’s take a look at one of my favorite characters in the series, Akihiko Sanada.

If we define an archetypal event as an event that permanently alters (positively or negatively) the psyche, then the death of Akihiko’s sister, Miki, is just that. It causes Akihiko’s obsession with power and his burgeoning self-doubt. He builds this facade of the strong and reliable upperclassman as a coping mechanism. He subconsciously ends up in a state of stagnation without any actual character growth due to his paralyzing fear of failure and weakness.

It’s only when Shinji dies (yes, another archetypal, formative event) that he snaps back to reality. He realizes that he’s been so obsessed with his guilt that he could never notice the world around him. What happens after is one of the most inspiring character moments I’ve ever seen, and it’s indicative of the Jungian influence on this game. His frustration was never gonna bring back Shinji or Miki, and he knew that, so instead of wallowing in his despair, he decides to take personal responsibility.

He lets go of his survivor’s guilt and resolves to keep going. If you look at Akihiko’s character arc broadly, his archetypal figure is the Child. The Child represents all the troubles of growing up and the coping mechanisms that come with it, but it also embodies potential. When faced with the crushing reality of the death of the two people closest to him, Akihiko finally sees how the world around him really is. This moment represents his coming of age and striving to achieve his full potential, and thus his persona evolves. Caesar represents Akihiko’s newfound maturity and understanding of the world: Caesar is even shown carrying the world as if it has conquered it, and now, its potential is limitless.

One of the most fascinating things about the series is how well it has managed to adapt Jungian psychology into every aspect of its writing. Most characters in the series all have a similar structure to their arc, as their broad archetypal figures can be seen as The Child. This makes it so that all of these characters feel mythical and symbolic, their character embodying the ideals and lessons they learn.

"Archetypes seek actualization within the context of an individual’s environment and determine the degree of individuation."

Self-actualization and empathy. Persona uses its high school setting to show the journey to actualization as teenagers become adults in the real world. The setting works so well because the characters are at that point in their lives where they don’t really understand themselves or anything around them. Everything is a messy, distorted abyss. So, the series uses Jungian archetypes to symbolically show their growth during their formative years, physicalizing their trauma and triumphs in the process.

Corrupted disc. Themes not found.

The Arcana is the means by which all is revealed.

Attaining ones dream requires stern will and unfailing determination.

Seek the wild card.


Pursuing My True Self

Every man at one point in his life must contemplate the meaning of “worth.” For me, the first time I recall deliberating over it is the 19th of May, 2012. An amalgam of turquoise and green emanated from the famed Allianz Arena, its architectural majesty on display for all to see, even a young 9 year old me through a tiny TV screen. 22 men lined up, all from different walks of life and upbringings. The Ivorian, German, Nigerian, Spaniard, etc. were all united under one flag. They shared one goal, even if they were diametrically opposed: become Champions of Europe.

Even with my limited understanding of the world at the time, I could still see what it meant to the players. I could see them putting their health, livelihood and convictions on the line for a mere trophy. I could see the utter dismay on the faces of the Chelsea players when Bayern scored. 50,000 passionate, screaming fans had been wishing for their misfortune, and they only had themselves to look to for salvation. It was an impossible situation turned into the greatest victory, a real life fairy tale that entranced me to no end.

That was the first time I understood the meaning of “worth.” I couldn’t articulate it back then, of course, but it stuck with me. To this day, the fact that Didier Drogba did not waver in the face of certain defeat has stuck with me. That Petr Čech, David Luiz, Gary Cahill and the rest of the team all stood their ground in some of the most daunting conditions imaginable has stuck with me. It instilled an instinctive feeling of “conviction” in me.

It was not until years later that I would fully understand the true beauty of that night, and what it really instilled in me.

Every day is the birth and the death of a new dream. We are never inspired by the philosophy, but the philosopher, are we? I still sit in bed and watch the glory of other men unfold, hoping to find a philosophy I can chase. A conviction I can chase. A dream I can pursue.

End of Disc 1.

Get up on your feet, tear down the walls,

Catch a glimpse of the hollow world...

Snooping 'round will get you nowhere!

You're locked up in your mind!