Let me appreciate Michelle Nguyen for a Moment

A typical storytelling device is to take something that once seemed light, humorous, and innocuous, and make it meaningful or dramatic. Welcome to Night Vale starts a lot of its dramatic turns as simple jokes and asides, but I think it’s more impressive how this applies to characterization.

“Time is weird”, everyone says. It’s a funny joke, but it has serious existential implications for Earl Harlan. Steve Carlsberg, the best character in the show, is built off of the joke of the kind of person who would be seen as a conspiracy theorist in a conspiracy land like this. The payoff is in the gradual reveal of what such a person would actually be like. By starting characters as caricatures, Night Vale is able to show their humanity especially well.

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My Summer 2015 Anime Odyssey, ranked

2015 was the year I set out to watch as many great anime as I could. I made a huge list of anime that I needed to watch, and an order to watch them in. Since then the list has only grown, and I almost never watch anything on it. But for the summer of 2015, my day was almost all watching anime. These shows were formative to my idea of what anime is, as well as my idea of art in general, but my opinions of them have changed in the two years since then.

Here’s how I ranked those shows at the time.

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My Favorite Character: Evangelion Unit 01

This post contains massive spoilers for Neon Genesis Evangelion and End of Evangelion

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Neon Genesis Evangelion is a soul-rending series about loneliness, alienation, and the inevitable end of the world. It’s a supreme work of art and more emotionally vivid than anything else I’ve seen. And its mascot is a giant metal purple unicorn.

Evangelion Unit-01 has my favorite design in any character or piece of technology in fiction. Its color design and decorations embody anime’s potential to bring silliness to serious situations, while its shape is that of a human. Unit-01 fights with beastlike fury, humanlike desperation, and a touch of the supernatural.

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My Favorite Characters: #2 – Stan Pines (Gravity Falls)

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Mr. Mystery. Grunkle Stan embodies a lot of the humor from Gravity Falls – snark, cynicism, and relatable vulnerabilities expressed through emotional yelling.

There was always an uncomfortable question with Stan, though. He seems so simple and ignorant, but from the beginning it’s clear that he’s been keeping secrets. How is he able to seem so earnest in his skepticism while collecting journals in a hidden basement?

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My Favorite Characters: #4 – Steve Carlsberg (Welcome to Night Vale)

In Dungeons and Dragons, one category of magical effect is “you become convinced that ____”. No matter what happens to you, this is your complete and utter belief. But no one listens, no one else is convinced.

Steve Carlsberg desperately wants his truth to be shared with his fellow citizens, but does not hold their ignorance against them. Just as he clings to his own version of reality, he respects that the town can only do so much to break out from theirs.

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My Favorite Characters: #5 – Lemony Snicket (A Series of Unfortunate Events)

Lemony misses the point a lot. He defines words in ways that only work in the context they’re used. His idea of morally justifiable theft is eating anything you steal, however valuable. The moral of Snow White, to him, is “never eat apples”. His biggest failure is probably his constant warning to his readers: “Don’t read this book”. People are going to read it. In a world of incompetent adults, Lemony Snicket is one of the strangest and most sympathetic.

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