Acceptable in the 80s

Last week I talked about the revelations about music I had in my History of Rock n’ Roll class, and I promised to throw down a list of my favorite songs of the 80s this week. I’m not one to go back on my promises to you, my loyal blog-followers, and so here I am with 10 of my favorite songs from the 80s.

As I mentioned in my last post, many of these songs were either directly or indirectly introduced to me by my parents, as this era of music was sort of “theirs,” as it were. Some of these songs I found all by myself, though!

Don’t You Want Me – The Human League (1981)

One of the things I find amusing about this decade of music is the large amount of songs that could possibly be misconstrued as romantic but are actually very creepy. (See “Every Breath You Take” by the Police.) This is… well, maybe one of them. Honestly I’m not sure if anyone considers this song romantic, but I know it fooled me for a while.

However, when I actually figured out what this song was about (Spoilers: A man begging his ex-girlfriend to come back to him, claiming that he basically gave her all her success and if she doesn’t they “will both be sorry.”) If that was the only thing the song represented, though, it would only be subpar lyrically. However, the second verse shows the perspective of the ex-girlfriend, effectively making this song a dialogue between two estranged former lovers. It’s messy and complicated and also, as demonstrated above, less-than-positive, and set to that synth-heavy and incredibly catchy instrumetals, it’s hard to resist.

Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic – The Police (1981)

I knew I had to have a song on this list by the Police, or else my dad would have something to say about it. I was torn on whether I’d talk about this, “Roxanne,” or “Every Breath You Take,” but finally decided on this one for… reasons.

Honestly, I just think this song is adorable. Everything about it is so filled with joy, from the quick piano notes in the background of the verses, to the way the chorus picks up in tempo. The song dances between wistful and excited, taking notes from both emotions and morphing them into a feeling I can’t think of a name for but I’m pretty sure hasn’t been expressed by any other song. Adding that in with that classic kind of reggae but not really Police sound and you’ve got a classic. Also, once my dad pointed it out to me while listening to this song in the car, I really ended up loving the quiet restatement of the “it’s always me that ends up getting wet” line at the ending. A nice bookend to a beautiful song.

Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) – Eurythmics (1983)

We learned about this song in my History of Rock n’ Roll class, but this is one I’ve known and loved for years. Everyone has one or two of those media things that scared you as a kid, and this is one of those. I used to be fascinated by this song. The lyrics seemed so alien and forboding – “Some of them want to abuse you?” What? “Some of them want to be abused?” What?

And yet, as I’ve gotten older, the fear and mystery surrounding this song has compounded into a love. Because I don’t think I was really all that off as a kid. This song is meant to sound frightening and alien. I mean, just look at Annie Lennox’s sinister smile as she gestures robotically to a video of the earth! The song is meant to be so cynical in its worldview that it becomes something other, not human. The idea that everyone just wants to use or be used, abuse or be abused, is incredibly horrifying. And every part of that song commits so well to that idea.

From the pounding synthetic sounds in the background to the pounding, heart-like drum beat keeping time, this song oozes with style. Beautiful, thematic, unforgettable. Plus, Annie Lennox’s close-cropped orange hair is a look.

Time After Time – Cyndi Lauper (1984)

Okay, so, let me be honest here. I hate “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” I hate it not because it’s a bad song, I hate it because I was forced to perform a dance routine with my girl scout troop in elementary school in a barbie pink bathrobe to it, and that is enough to turn anyone off a song.

However! That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate Cyndi Lauper. Although, actually, that is what it meant for a while. But then I learned a little bit about the role she played in the 80s. I like how she presented herself as a quirky, thrift-shop fashion goofball as opposed to the usual image women in music as sexy and glamorous. (Not that there’s anything wrong with women being sexy and glamorous… it’s just a problem when that’s all they’re allowed to be.)

And then I gave this song a serious listen. And boy, it’s actually a really beautiful sentiment with some actually really beautiful lyrics. Has anyone paid attention to the lyrics of this song? Maybe it’s because I’m a sucker for that romantic stuff that’s also rooted in notions of friendship and just, like, being there for a person, but boy is this song heartfelt. I think it’s beautifully performed, and is just a classic ballad for the ages.

Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God) – Kate Bush (1985)

I first heard this song when it was covered by Placebo and boy is that version garbage compared to this one. Is that a little mean? I liked that version for a while, sure, but then I listened to the original. (Well actually, then I realized there was an original.) The Placebo version is nice, but only original has those twangy synth sounds. Plus, the Placebo version is way too slow, it undermines the nice, natural beat the original has going.

But anyway, enough about the cover, let’s talk about this one. This song has such great atmosphere. Kate Bush has such a choral voice, strong and melodic, and I like the kind of echoy effect that has been applied… either on purpose or by the limits of 80s recording technology. I’m gonna go with the former. And as much as I dislike her own statement that this song is about how men and women can’t understand each other inherently and that they only way they truly could would be to “swap places,” it’s still a beautiful song, rife with emotion of despair over being unable to understand a loved one (male or female, come on guys, we aren’t hiveminds).

Tainted Love – Soft Cell (1986)

If I’m trying to think of a singular song to sum up my experiences as a kid listening to this era of music in our backyard hot tub, I always think about this song. I feel like it sort of defines the rest of this list for me, and may have even been one of the first songs of the era that I really ended up liking, probably because it was easy for me to understand, even as a little kid. It’s a song about a romance gone bad, the singer scorned by the person they one loved. It’s a predictable pop format, and yet I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say it sort of pushed me down the path that would eventually come to me appreciating a lot of this music.

I can’t say there’s much here to analyze – it’s a one hit wonder kind of a song by a one hit wonder band. But there’s something so charming about it. Maybe it’s that synthetic “bum bum” sound that becomes a motif, maybe it’s the incredibly British vocals, maybe it’s just that I’m pop trash at heart. This song has just always held a special place in my heart, a special sort of nostalgia for an era of pop that, while I wasn’t alive for, I was able to experience through my parents.

Don’t Let’s Start – They Might Be Giants (1986)

I first heard this song in a tribute video for The Adventure Zone (an excellent podcast I’ve already recommended in the past). They Might Be Giants is a band I’ve been familiar with just for… you know, being They Might Be Giants. But I was so struck by this song I would watch that one TAZ video repeatedly, sometimes daily, just because it’s that catchy.

The lyrics are so clever and flow so well. There are so many beautiful turns of phrase in this song – I’m partial to the bridge: “No one in the world ever gets what they want / and that is beautiful / Everybody dies frustrated and sad / and that is beautiful.” Does that make me kind of emo? Ah well, I’m kind of emo. The meaning is a little buried under that beautiful language, but to me it seems like it’s about a relationship that’s ending. But that feels a little too simple for such a complex song.

It’s not just the lyrics that attract me to this song, anyway. It’s the driving force of those instrumentals, the way it never lets up, even seeming to outpace the vocals at times. It all comes together to make a song that grabbed me so hard I wasn’t able to stop listening to it for days… weeks, even.

Blue Monday – New Order (1986)

I talked about this song last week in regard to how the opening clearly shows how this era was a time of experimenting with new technology. But now that I’m here just talking about the quality of this song, let me just say, that opening is just so great. It kind of sounds like the backing track to a cool indie 8-bit game, right up until the low guitar (bass? I can’t tell) joins it, and suddenly it’s an interplay between futuristic and modern sounds, and it’s got this dark atmosphere.

That dark atmosphere continues right up into the vocals, which are low and sad with just a dash of that characteristic 80s emotionlessness, somehow. Every part of this song is really deep and full of all kinds of interesting sounds, from the glitchy beeps and boops during the verses, to the constant layering of the basic riff that makes up this song. It’s just a ride, and I can totally get why this was one of my mom’s favorite bands. There’s just so much going on, so much to listen to, that each listen feels like a new experience.

Need You Tonight – INXS (1987)

Another favorite bestowed on me by my parents. You know, I think there’s a lot to be said in how well this song is constructed. Every single sound, from the guitar to the percussion to the vocals… everything, is percussive and tight. That tightness is blends well with the meaning of the song. I don’t know if I really need to explain that meaning as it’s pretty self-explanatory. That slick, cool sound works well with a song all about sex and seduction. It’s a standard in music, it works, it’s good.

But complex analysis aside, the real reason I love this song is that… it just sticks with you. Everything about this song is just so catchy! The main guitar riff is simple but effective, and the nearly whispered vocals jive so well with the music it’s pretty unforgettable. A great song.

The One I Love – R.E.M. (1987)

I’m still a little unsure on what exactly this song is about. It simultaneously seems like it’s trying to be one of those sinister songs hiding under a veil of romantic language, but then it busts out with lyrics like “A simple prop / to occupy my time / This one goes out to the one I love.”

I suppose it could be just a song about taking advantage of those you love, and that would certainly go along with the dark-sounding guitar and vocals. Meaning aside, though, it’s that guitar and vocals that wins me over in this song. Contrasted with the repeated “Fire!” the song as a whole is subtle, but powerful. Nothing much else to say.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my quick little rummage through this era of music. I won’t claim to be an expert. I’m just an admirer of the music that gave birth to so much of the music I love today.

Next week, something completely different.

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What’s Old is New is Old is New Again

I have this distinct memory of sitting down in my basement as a middle schooler with my mom and my grandma. We were playing Monopoly, or cards, or some sort of game, and I put on my current favorite music at the time – by my memory, it was “Empire Ants” by Gorillaz.

After sitting and listening to my pick of the music, my mom, excitedly, decided to share some of the music she used to listen to “when she was my age.” I don’t remember exactly what she put on, but it was probably New Order or Depeche Mode. I gave it my best listen, but when my mom and grandma asked me what I thought, I told them, “It just sounds too old.”

I can say my music taste has evolved a little since then, and I’ve actually come to appreciate a lot of the music my parents used to listen to when they were younger. In an odd, roundabout way, it’s become nostalgic for me too, just as it is for them, because they used to play it for me over our outdoor speakers when we would all sit in our backyard hot tub when I was a kid. That music is mixed into some of my happiest childhood memories.

I’ve come to appreciate some of this music so much I made a Spotify playlist with some of my favorite songs from the 80s, most of them stolen from my parents’ mixes and playlists I used to hear all the time. My first idea for this post was to highlight some of those songs and talk about them a little, but I’ll be honest, this has turned out to be a crazy week, so I’m saving that for next week.

So, for a shorter post this week, I wanted to explore a topic I’ve briefly brushed on in the past. There’s this trend as generations of music creators and listeners go on for older generations to shun newer generations. Whether it be for the perceived “shallowness” of modern music, or lack of talent of modern artists, or moral degradation of the lyrics, or whatever, it seems that older generations always find one reason or another to belittle the music of the youth. And this is something that has gone on for a long, long time.

See, my favorite class I’m taking right now is called History of Rock n’ Roll. My section of the class only covers music from the 70s, 80s, and very early 90s, but repeatedly we’ve talked about the constant evolution of music and how it repeatedly alienates the people who have loved the older stuff. It’s something I’ve definitely observed – scroll into the YouTube comments of any song pre-2000 and you’ll see a ton of people lamenting on how music these days just doesn’t sound like it used to – but it’s almost a little funny how reliable of a thing it is. Every generation, there’s some new genre or style or technique that gets dashed, and then the next generation, suddenly that genre or style or technique is classic and untouchable, and whatever new stuff is here is trash.

But being in that class has also taught me something else. This pattern has always come off as ridiculous to me because I’m a fan of modern music, and I think it’s deep and meaningful and creative. But I think in doing so, I was assuming that modern music was a progression from older music.

Don’t get me wrong, it is a progression in the sense that music evolves and takes notes from older styles and continues moving forward with that influence, but I mean progression as in improvement. I always assumed modern music was an improvement of older music. I mean, it makes sense. More time, more knowledge, we learn to make better music. That’s what you would think, right?

Well, no. Actually, I think what History of Rock n’ Roll has taught me is that music, more or less, is the same as it’s always been. I mean, there are new faces and new technology and new genres and new trends, but really at it’s heart, all music comes from the same sort of place, no matter what decade it’s from.

To explain my point, I want to look at the synthpop genre of the 80s, one of my personal favorites. The professor of my class, try as he might, can’t help but sound a little judgmental of this particular genre due to his apparent belief that no computer (or sequencer or sampler or whatever fancy-shmancy newfangled technology) can reproduce the emotion and authenticity of a real, actual instrument. But for that reason he really trashes on this particular musical innovation, pointing out how off and on it is, with no subtlety. “Every sound is even full blast or silent!” he says. “Everything is made with sequencers or synthesizers or samplers!”

And that’s fine, that’s his opinion. But for me, well-acquainted with the role of computers not just in music but in… well, everything, it’s obvious to me what happened with this genre. I hear it in every song in this genre. People are excited! We learn about all these innovations being made in sound and music production, and these musicians, these artists… they’re thrilled! They’re being given new tools to play with, and they’re playing with them.

I was trying to think up some comparison songs to show you, but I think no comparison illustrates my point any better than just the one song “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles. Probably not the most unexpected pull, I know, but just give this song a listen. Sure, the lyrics are mourning the loss of the old way people made music, but just listen to it. The Buggles had so much fun with the new technology they had. They integrated it into their style, their way of performing it.

And just listening to any song of this genre from this era, I hear the same stuff. How about a favorite of the songs we studied in this genre, Blue Monday by New Order. Listen to that intro and tell me that that isn’t the result of a bunch of people who love making music being given a fun new tool to work with. It’s long and so unapologetically synthetic and that’s cool!

And you know, that’s how music has always been! And is now. I feel like a lot of movements in music are the direct result of someone who loves to make music being given a new tool to do just that. Whether that tool is a literal piece of technology, or a new genre, or a new trend, or whatever, people who want to make music are happy to do so with whatever is newest and most exciting. And listeners may not enjoy that, because to them it seems a betrayal, when really it’s just an artist having fun and expressing themselves.

And maybe that’s an uncomplicated view of it all. Yes, people don’t always make music out of the goodness of their hearts and excitement of their souls, but I feel like for every “sell out” there’s a lot more people who actually want to make good, innovative stuff than most think. And that’s what is happening today. The people making music with computer software and sharing it on Bandcamp are just like those synthpop artists of the 80s, or classic rock bands of the 70s, or rock n’ roll stars of the 50s. They’ve been given a new tool and they’re going to use it to make something incredible to them, whether the people listening like it or not.

 

Dollightful Inspiration

My mom always likes to tell me this story from when I was a little baby. She would whisk me around the house and tell me about all the things we would do together once I got older, and one of the things my she always told me about was how excited she was for us to play dolls together. After all, my mom had loved dolls as a little girl, especially Barbie, and she gifted me a huge deluxe dollhouse with tiny realistic furniture and formerly-working lights she used to play with.

As it turned out, I wasn’t too into dolls at any point of my childhood. I had a few of them, as any middle-class little girl did, but I was more interested in my My Little Ponies and Littlest Pet Shop toys. I guess I always related more to animal toys than fashion ones, and even my fashion toys of choice – Polly Pockets – were not exactly what my mom had grown up with.

So perhaps it’s odd, then, that I’ve recently become really into watching YouTube videos of people repainting and customizing dolls. Not Barbie dolls, sure, but still bonafide fashion dolls, usually of the Monster High or Ever After High variety. These artists remove the factory-painted faces of these mass-marketed dolls and then lovingly repaint them. Sometimes they even remove the hair and clothes of these dolls and make them new ones.

My favorite of these doll YouTubers goes by the name of Dollightful. Her work was the first I saw, when a tumblr link lead me to the first part of her mermaid doll customization.

I had known about these doll customizers before just from images I had seen on various artsy websites, and I remembered being amazed at just how detailed and intricate these dolls can get. But it was only after watching the process that I became truly enchanted by this unique brand of artistic expression.

Since watching Dollightful’s videos, I’ve explored other great doll customizing YouTubers, but I can safely say that it’s her videos I most frequently come back to. Whenever I see a new video from her it’s a momentous occasion, and I know for certain I’m in for a treat.

Even though I have no interest in customizing dolls myself, I always make time to watch and rewatch these videos. What is it about Dollightful’s videos that are so wonderful, you might ask?

Well, it’s inspiring. For all artists. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never picked up a can of Mr. Super Clear in your life, Dollightful’s videos still inspire me to keep working hard at my artistic endeavors. I want to take a moment to highlight how she achieves this in her videos, and why I keep coming back to them again and again.

First, Dollightful’s videos are tutorials. This is true of most doll customizing YouTube channels, but it’s still worth mentioning. Dollightful’s videos are not mere showcases of her work (although they definitely play that role). It’s a subtle difference, but the true point of her videos are to teach, not to show off.

This means she goes through every step in her process, carefully explaining how she accomplishes the often-complicated processes that make up each doll. And I mean just about everything. She shows hair and factory paint removal, the repaints, any body modifications, the making of the clothes… everything.

It really elevates her work when you see exactly how she did it. It’s easy to look at a beautiful piece of art and say “Wow, that sure is pretty,” but it’s a lot harder to pick out exactly how much work went into it just by looking into it.

But not only do you gain a better appreciation of her artwork, you also gain a more whole understanding of the process, and that brings with it what I think is the biggest reason I find inspiration in Dollightful’s videos. Sure, it gives you an appreciation of what an incredible artist Dollightful is, but you also get to watch her make mistakes.

I first noticed this in one of her Stock Box repaints.

In this video, Dollightful pulls a random doll out of her box of dolls she keeps on hand to customize one day, and working only with a general “galaxy” theme in mind customizes it. Normally Dollightful carefully plans out her repaints, complete with concept art and even blueprints for some of her more complicated projects, but in this video she works completely on the fly… and it goes wrong. A lot.

Even as it becomes a running joke in the video, it was fascinating because I had never seen Dollightful make mistakes before in her videos. Normally she was able to more or less pull off exactly what she had planned. But in an odd way, watching her make mistakes was one of the most inspirational things I’ve ever seen.

Because I greatly admire Dollightful’s artistic skills, it was easy for me to assume that she’s just always perfect and able to accomplish everything she sets out to do. But this video was a powerful reminder that no amount of artistic skill makes you perfect, and even the most accomplished artists make mistakes sometimes. In fact, they make mistakes often.

But does Dollightful give up in this video? No! Despite the constant setbacks and a design that just won’t seem to work, she keeps working and reworking. She doesn’t give up until she has a finished product, and even when she does she says she’s still going to work on it until she’s totally happy with it.

And that… is not a lesson you see often with creators on the internet. I feel like most of the time art on the internet is admired for its perfection, and artists are praised for their amazing talent. Not very often do I see a showcase of just sheer hard work or unwillingness to give up, but it’s these qualities that I find more inspirational for my own work.

Because even if I don’t customize dolls, there’s still something to learn. I write, and I dabble in design a little, but watching a great artist like Dollightful struggle and carry on with her designs reminds me that my own struggles are normal, and that the way to overcome them is to just keep working. Watching her process instead of just seeing the finished project reminds me that there’s beauty in hard work too, not just in the art that comes out of it.

Finally, I want to compliment Dollightful herself. She shares only a little bit of information about herself on her channel, but I know she lives in Korea with her husband and cats. She’s learning to speak Korean, and in a few of her videos practices the language with English subtitles.

I also know her to be a very positive and encouraging person. Her signature catchphrase is “Stay artsy!” and she often promotes fanworks based on her designs. She also doesn’t make a living on these dolls – they’re not for sale. Instead, doll-customizing is a hobby, but she puts all of her heart and soul into it, and that’s obvious.

As a college student struggling to figure out how to find a career that somehow incorporates my creative loves, it’s inspiring to see someone able to continue to do what makes them happy even if it’s not necessarily their career.

Overall, her image is fun and happy and I find it incredibly calming to watch her work on the things she loves to do. I highly recommend that, the next time you’re feeling bored or stressed (or both), you put on one of her many incredible videos. Even if you’re like me and not that interested in doll customization, you’ll probably still find something to love.

Gotta Judge ‘Em All

One of the things both me and my boyfriend Kirby enjoy is Pokemon. It was a part of both of our childhoods and, through better or worse we’ve stuck with the franchise for years and years. Because of that it’s also something we like to talk about, but what we’ve discovered is that we tend to have very different opinions about not only which Pokemon are the best, but also why our favorite Pokemon are great.

To spare you a long and probably biased view of our differing opinions, I tend to care a lot more about a Pokemon’s design and my own personal experience with it than Kirby does. Kirby, on the other hand, likes to prefer Pokemon that are competitively special, with good stats or movepools or typings while that doesn’t matter quite as much to me.

So I thought it might be fun to compare our favorites lists. Below is a list of both my and Kirby’s top 20 favorite Pokemon, in no particular order, as well as a quick little list of reasons we love that Pokemon. In addition, we commented on each other’s favorites.

I was actually surprised how similar our views of Pokemon are, and we even had the same favorites and reasonings, in some cases.

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Carly Rae Jepsen: Pop Princess, Lyrical Genius

A few weeks ago I was riding on a bus to Chicago on a scholarship trip, listening as I often do to Carly Rae Jepsen’s seminal album “Emotion.” As I was listening to it, I came to a sudden realization about the lyrics of a lot of Carly’s songs. They toe a delicate line between pop and alternative and do a wonderful job at grabbing the positives of both sides.

So I thought it might be fun to take a closer look at these songs to examine just how they manage to pull off this careful balancing act, and why they’re just great songs overall.

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What the Ship?!?

When I first started this blog, one of the first ideas I had for a post was a Valentine’s Day post about some of my favorite couples in fiction. However, instead of going through with that post, I spent last year’s Valentine’s Day compiling a massive list of love songs, so I think the time is here to sit down and have fun gushing about our favorite couples in fiction because, really, what else is there to do on this, the love holiday?

(Celebrate actual, real-life love? On my blog? Hah! Who do you think I am, some sort of person who expresses their feelings on the internet? Ridiculous.)

These couples come from all kinds of media, from books to video games to anime, and they’re not necessarily canon couples either. (In some cases, these characters don’t even canonly… know each other. Actually, that’s in only one case but… ah well.) In addition, it should be noted that these couples were mostly selected for their importance to my life. So there’s gonna be some odd ones in there. But I intended this post to be fun, and fun it shall be.

Soul Eater Evans / Maka Albarn (Soul Eater)

soma

When I first thought about this list, there was no iteration of it that didn’t include this pairing. There were ships that came before it, and ships that came after it, but it sticks out in my mind to this day as one of my all-time favorite relationships in a fictional story, romantic or otherwise.

The world of “Soul Eater” sets itself up for some interesting relationships right from the get-go. It’s a world where part of the population can just turn itself into various weapons, and another part of the population gets to wield those weapons. It sounds… odd, I know, but by the time you’ve gotten used to the concept, it’s already quite charming. Important too to the world of “Soul Eater” is the idea of “soul resonance”, or the natural connection between a weapon and its wielder (called a “meister”).

Maka and Soul are the main meister/weapon pair in this anime, and it was always their relationship I cared about the most. In the beginning, Maka is distrustful of Soul (due to her cheating father making her distrust men in general), and Soul is too headstrong to respect Maka much (just because he’s a jerk). But by the end of the series, they’re incredibly tight companions, caring about each other, protecting each other, and knowing each other better than anyone else. Even putting aside the possibility of a romance, just their relationship is key to the progression of the story. You end up rooting for them to work out their differences, and watching their bond grow stronger as they do is probably my favorite part of the series.

Even if they never officially got together in either the manga or the anime, there are strong hints in both that their bond is at least a little romantic. They live together and share in each other’s triumphs and failures throughout the series. And honestly, just the focus on their strong bond and how it changes both of them for the better, making Maka more trusting and Soul more mature, is enough for me to admire this pairing for years to come.

Cynthia / Owain (Fire Emblem: Awakening)

cynthowain

There are a lot of great pairings in Fire Emblem, just as a consequence of how the game works. But I have to give a shoutout to the OG Fire Emblem ship – Owain and Cynthia.

As second generation characters, both Owain and Cynthia have the heavy weight of their doomed future hanging over their characters, an element that makes them such tragic and fascinating characters. But it’s also just as important that they’re both huge, dramatic goofballs who love heroics and theatrics. Faced with adversity, both of them turn to old-school heroics, and though how exactly they display these heroics is a conflict they work through in their support conversations, it’s obvious they’re working for the same goal.

I admit a lot of my love of this pairing comes from headcanon land. They both admire their mothers greatly and lose them in their doomed future, so I always thought it made sense that they would turn to each other in their time of grief and train together. At the same time, I imagine they’d have a lot of fun together, with both of their goofy and fun-loving personalities on full-display. But there’s plenty of great stuff about them in canon too. They’re childhood best friends who drifted apart, brought back together by tragedy and adventure. It’s just a good dynamic. (Even if their S conversation left… something to be desired.)

Vinyl Scratch / Octavia (My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic)

vinyltavia

An odd pick, I know, but I’d be kidding myself if I didn’t include this landmark ship for me. If you think shipping two ponies from “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” is weird, try shipping two background ponies who barely get appearances in the show.

But it’s the aesthetic of it all, really. They first appeared in the same episode, Octavia as a classy cellist for a party and Vinyl as a head-bobbing DJ. Fans immediately noticed both of their designs – Octavia for her unusually muted colors, all in gray and black alongside the usual pastel, and Vinyl because… well, come on, look at her. From there the fanon expanded. Obviously they knew each other, and obviously they had a rivalry because of their conflicting music genres. Several fanarts were drawn, several notable fanfictions were written (my favorite being this one), and it was hard not to see the possibility for an interesting relationship between them, romantic or not.

And now since I’ve stopped watching My Little Pony, they’ve appeared together once more in an actual scene in an actual episode… man, how cool is that. These two are just great. Conceptually, visually, and fandom-ly.

Percy Jackson / Annabeth Chase (Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series by Rick Riordan)

percabeth

(Fanart Credit: viria)

Another pairing I could possibly skip mentioning when talking about great fictional couples. The “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” series was monumental for me – it inspired me to write and it gave me a great leading pairing to root for.

Rick Riordan’s series has been widely loved for a lot of reasons, but his colorful characters are probably the most notable. Percy himself, the voice of the series, oozes personality and boy-hero charm from the get-go. But add on the smart-aleck, cooler-than-everyone-else Annabeth Chase, with whom he shares a ton of chemistry, and you have a slow burn romance for the ages. This pairing, like most of my favorites, is built from a friendship, developed over five books. The vast amount of time the book spends exploring their relationship is one of the reasons that their getting together in the end feels so satisfying for the reader. Annabeth and Percy grow up together throughout the books, taking on insurmountable odds and improving each other along the way. It’s hard not to root for them, snarky and at-odds as they might be at times.

Nora Valkyrie / Lie Ren (RWBY)

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It’s probably rather obvious by now, but I tend to fall the hardest for side characters, and even harder for side character romances. And even harder harder for side character romances built on friendships. Thus, Ren and Nora.

RWBY isn’t at first up-front about how these two came to be friends. There’s hints, even an entire song talking about how the two of them have been through a lot together, but just the hints were enough to sell this couple entirely to me. The pink, energetic ball of brutality and her slender, serene companion? Plus the implication that they’ve been looking out for each other for years, and have a bond forged in fire? Say no more, I’m sold.

Mix in the unrequited “oh god I’ve fallen for my best friend” storyline on Nora’s end, as well as the recent seasons finally revealing what actually went down to bring these two together, and I’m a devoted fan.

Wakamatsu Hirotaka / Seo Yuzuki (Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-Kun)

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Okay, so, Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-Kun is a stupid show. It doesn’t have much of a plot, it’s just a bunch of idiotic high schoolers going about their daily business with a loose motif of manga tying it all together. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say I love the characters. They’re silly and don’t really get anywhere, development-wise, but it’s so fun to watch them that it doesn’t even matter.

And the best two characters are Wakamatsu and Seo. Wakamatsu is the youngest and tallest of the cast, a basketball player, insomniac, and naive sweetheart. Seo, on the other hand, is terror incarnate. She doesn’t care about anyone around her. She revels in chaos. And she has the singing voice of an angel, the only sound that can cure Waka of his insomnia and get him some sleep. And thus, a strange dance begins to play out between the two of them. Waka is constantly tormented by Seo, but she’s the only one who can bring him peace. He also doesn’t know she’s the one with the voice he relies on, but she knows their connection and loves his ignorance too much to tell him. It’s pure stupid comedy, and yet I still can’t help but root for them to get over their weird hangups and finally just admit they love each other.

Cloudtail / Brightheart (Warriors)

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(Fanart credit: JinxBC)

Another oldie, but a goodie. I was capital O obsessed with the “Warriors” books as a kid, and my favorite character was always Brightheart. Her story just spoke to me, an idealistic kid caught in a conflict too big for her and forced to wear the scars from it forever. She’s such a fighter, going through all the terrible things she did, losing one of her best friends, being rejected by her leader, being forced to relearn all her fighting skills… and then there’s Cloudtail.

Cloudtail is… well, he’s a jerk. He’s a spoiled, pampered jerk. And you’d think that a guy like him could never deserve a scrapper like Brightheart, but you’d be wrong. Believe in the redeeming power of love! Because, when Brightheart was in her deepest and darkest point, it was Cloudtail who, unexpectedly, stepped up to the plate to help her out however he could. Their romance developed both of them – teaching Cloudtail how to be humble and Brightheart how to trust others. And then… they stayed together! Through all the crazy stuff the clans went though, Cloudtail and Brightheart are a series constant, always there helping out, being awesome. So obviously they’re the best characters, and deserve the biggest shoutout. They may be cats from an edgy series for middle schoolers, but they’re still relationship goals for sure.

MU / Silas (Fire Emblem: Fates)

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Someday I will do an entire post about how much I love Silas. That day is not today, unfortunately, although now come to think of it that would have made a wonderful Valentine’s Day post as well… but oops. Anyway, Silas is great. He’s the player character’s childhood best friend, whose ill-fated attempt to throw a picnic for them ended in disaster, and his permanent removal from their life. But, ever-devoted to his best friend, Silas dedicated his life to becoming a knight so that he might one day see the player character again.

That’s admirable enough, but then when Silas actually meets up with the player character again, they’ve forgotten all about him. But in lieu of being upset, Silas is willing to rebuild their friendship. And even if the player character chooses to pursue him romantically, it’s revealed that his devotion to the player was always rooted in friendship, and it was only after he met the player character again that he developed romantic feelings for him. Anyway, friends or lovers, this level of devotion is one of the reasons I love this pairing… and Silas.

Nozomi Tojo / Eli Ayase (Love Live)

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Ah, Love Live. With your cute singing high schoolers and hinted-at romances. There’s a lot of teasing in this series of certain couples, but no pair gets teased about as much as Nozomi and Eli.

As “mom” and “dad” of Muse, Nozomi and Eli serve as the guiding older figures for the rest of Muse. They also knew each other before they both joined the idol group. Specifically, it was Nozomi who quietly guided Eli toward approving of the idol group. It’s obvious throughout the series that Nozomi cares deeply about Eli and knows her incredibly well, and Eli, though not always wise to Nozomi’s scheming, trusts her the most of all the other girls, confiding in her first, always. Theirs is a quiet and trusting relationship, and adorable as all-get-out.

Not to mention their beautiful duet, “Garden of Glass.” Listen to that and tell me these two aren’t in love. Go on, tell me.

Akihito Kanbara / Mirai Kuriyama (Kyoukai no Kanata)

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(Sorry for the grainy screencap, but this is the one that always wrecks me)

Perhaps the most aesthetic of all of these relationships, Mirai and Akihito are a textbook OTP. Meet-cute? Yep. Well, if you call Akihito running up to the roof of the school building, worried Mirai was going to jump and instead getting a sword in the gut a meet-cute. But it’s fine, he’s immortal. Tragedy? Plenty. Mirai is a demon-hunter and Akihito is half-demon, you can bet they’ve got all sorts of drama going on. A relationship that builds? Totally. Mirai spends most of her first week of knowing Akihito stalking him in an attempt to kill him, but by the end of the series they’re in love!

Anyway, these two are sweet goofballs who have to withstand a lot of terrifying obstacles together. They look out for each other and defy great odds to be together. Plus, as in every good pairing, they improve each other. Even Akihito’s weird fetish for glasses progresses to the point where he learns to love the girl behind them more than the girl in them (see the several promotional images of him removing her glasses), and I, not being a fan of weird fan service, was very thankful for that.

Anyway, that’s ten couples I love, just in time for the love holiday. I’ve neglected to mention so many more, so there’s a good chance these sort of posts can continue into the future. Either way, have a happy Valentine’s Day!

Pleased to be of Fanservice

So I’ve, regrettably, gotten back into Fire Emblem: Heroes. I swore I wouldn’t play it until they added my beloved husband Silas, but I recently went against my promise due to… jealousy, mainly. I’m now a part of a Fire Emblem themed Discord with a couple of friends and their discussion about the game made me miss it somewhat. So I started playing again.

And it’s been fun! Even though I still can’t play as my husband, I do get to play as a lot of other favorite Fire Emblem characters. I get to pull for them in the gacha, train them up, and even back them in gauntlets. In fact, for the last gauntlet, I was excited to back up Camilla, one of my favorite characters from Fates (see the entire blog post I wrote about her).

That is, until I popped onto tumblr and saw the drama raging around her inclusion (as well as Tharja’s), in the gauntlet, mostly revolving around the fact that, as two of the most sexualized characters, they were automatically incredibly popular and thus shoe-ins for the finale. That’s not exactly what happened, but it still promoted a discussion I, personally, find very interesting.

So how much fan service is too much fan service, anyway?

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