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branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
Seriously, Lady Liu rocks on toast. The more I poke at her character, and the tiny bits we see of her, the more I think she’ll actually fit in exceedingly well with Jingyan’s command team.

Not least because, as a character, she’s nearly as demanding as Lin Shu. *she says, having gotten hauled through another 2K words while attempting to concentrate on learning a new LMS at work*

Today’s snippet:

“Mei Changsu?” The Lady blinked at her, hand actually paused on her cup, seeming genuinely startled.

“I’m probably being foolish,” An murmured, looking down at the delicate, celadon pot as she set it down, carefully aligned in its corner of the tray. “You must surely have thought of all this already. I just… my lord…” Gentle fingers touched her cheek, and she looked up to find her mother-in-law smiling, affectionate and yet sad. So very sad, and An caught her breath on the realization of how deep that melancholy that often hung around Lady Jing like and old, faint scent must run. “Mother…?” she whispered.

“Be at ease, child,” Lady Jing said, softly. “There is nothing in that man that is capable of betraying Jingyan.”

An nodded slowly, still uncertain. She knew Lady Jing had greater understanding of the situation than she did, but this was so counter to everything she had ever heard of Mei Changsu. Her mother-in-law’s smile lightened a little with amusement, and she patted An’s hand. “Here.” She called one of her maids to bring her a stacked, lacquer box, and set it on the table before An. “Bring them some sweets, today, and watch a little. I think you will see.”

An straightened; this was a lesson, then. “Yes, Honored Mother-in-law,” she murmured, gathering her robes to take her leave, taking the box of sweets with her.

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Okay, so we all know I’m very given to metaphors for my characters, right? Right. So, it should surprise no one that the following thought wandered by as I was eating lunch and trying to work out the bridge from end-of-canon Shit Going Down to after:

Lin Shu in relation to Prince Qi was a hawk; he would have been Qi’s hawk, would have flown for him, but (the critical point about hawks) would never have been actually tamed.

Lin Shu in relation to Jingyan is a cat; he’s fully domesticated, if also a total asshole at times, given to deliberately shoving things off tables, and as far as he’s concerned the proper order of the world is that Jingyan is His Person, forever amen, interlopers can expect to be casually clawed, and Jingyan can expect to be yowled at if he doesn’t pay attention promptly enough.

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So, I was thinking about Lin Shu, and what we know about him as a kid, and then as an adult, and what this means for his character and relationship with Jingyan.

As a kid/very young man, we know he was already brilliant. Favored pupil of the land’s greatest scholar, started taking command of military units at something obscene like 13, commands whole armies by 19–so, both militarily and intellectually, Lin Shu is used to being the smartest person in the room, where the room is “this country and probably all the surrounding ones also”. According to Yujin, Lin Shu ge-ge was also impatient with his younger cousins and didn’t take time to explain things, and probably made disparaging remarks (this in contrast to Prince Qi’s patience). We see Lin Shu freely ragging on his older cousin, Jingyan. So he was extremely bright, irreverent, and a little wild.

As an adult, having lost his physical strength, all his capability gets channeled into strategy, into words, into seeing the big picture and knowing what strings to pull to position him (and his people) to win. We see that he doesn’t willingly give anything away until he’s foreclosed his enemy’s ability to do anything with the information (hi, Marquise Xie!), but also that he’s more than willing to dance on the edge (strolling over to take a cup of poison), and is, let’s be honest here, made of Drama (hello, standing in a boat playing the goddamn flute to announce your presence, and that was just for starters). I think we can safely say that he’s /still/ wild, probably has zero actual reverence for anything but his dead, and is now kind of terrifyingly brilliant. Now, though, he’s willing to do anything to achieve his goals. I think that’s probably one of the things that changed most, though he may always have had a certain streak of ruthlessness, born of being smarter than everyone around him. In those circumstances, it’s easy to start seeing other people as tools or game pieces.

Thinking about Jingyan, in comparison, we have someone who has been headstrong, probably from the /cradle/, but is not wild at all. Rather, Jingyan is thorough and careful. He’s also got that absolute, unbending sense of rightness, which he will not sacrifice for /anything/. And I think that immovability is the key to why it’s Jingyan who was Lin Shu’s best friend, the one he chose to hang out with and fight beside and, yes, tease. Jingyan was probably one of the exceptionally few people Lin Shu could never move at his whim. And when the source and root of that immovability is a firm sense of ethics… well, there’s Lin Shu’s assurance that he’ll never go too far. Jingyan wouldn’t let him. I have a personal theory that the reason Jingyan calls his cousin by a diminutive when he’s only two years younger (and does it until they’re on either side of twenty, and /still/ does it when they’re over thirty for god’s sake) is that he sees that wild, careless-of-regular-people part of Lin Shu as his childish side. The fact that he expects and wants his cousin at his side, though, also suggests that Jingyan is drawn to Lin Shu’s brilliance and respects it.

And, even when he doesn’t recognize Lin Shu any more, Jingyan /still/ won’t let him go too far, will be the one who grounds him, who provides the stability that his cousin’s brilliance sometimes misses. I think the difference is that, as an adult, Lin Shu knows exactly what’s happening–and welcomes it with awareness this time.

So, on the shipping hand, I’m thinking that Lin Shu would give way to Jingyan’s stubbornness unless it’s tipped over into pig-headedness, and Jingyan would still consider him in every way an equal, as a matter of fact. Because of course he is, don’t be ridiculous xiao-Shu.

*smirks*

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So, drama-canon gives us one tiny snipped of Jingyan’s wife that is frankly fascinating: when she confronts her nurse about the woman’s double-agenting for Xia Jiang. And it’s only a tiny clip, but think about what it means–the conspiracy on Jingyan’s side (most likely his mother) judged that this girl, who was only just betrothed to Jingyan, was a) loyal enough to him and b) smart and steel-spined enough to confront a spy in her own household and ensure the woman’s capture.

Which led me to playing with her POV, naming her An, and deciding she must be, essentially, Lady Jing’s understudy. Which leads to today’s writing snippet:

She had not expected to be particularly noticed, that day at the monastery; he’d been seeing to his men, speaking to the priests, had spared no more than a glance to be sure she was not injured. Everyone knew Prince Jing was a man of action, so she hadn’t been surprised. But even here, in the outer rooms of the Eastern Palace, somewhere that should be a place of repose and even triumph for him… he was so stern. His eyes saw her when he looked at her, yes, but he only looked for a moment before turning distant again–courteous, but so distant. Intimidated, she spoke only formal words of pleasure, and he spoke brief, formal words of welcome, and then he was gone, striding out the doors like someone shrugging off a cloak, and An bit her lip.

Lady Jing’s arm settled warm around her shoulders, and when An looked up, the Lady wore a small, rueful smile, so she dared to ask, “Mother-in-law, is my husband-to-be displeased?”

“Not displeased, child. Simply… distracted.”

Men of the military families were taught to track the movements of armies, but women who were meant for the court were taught to track other things: the flicker of an eye, the passing word, the shift of weight that could say where thoughts marched. Liu An had learned her lessons well; she heard the delicate emphasis Lady Jing placed on her words, and her heart sank. She looked down at her clasped hands and murmured, “Is there another?”

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Aha!

May. 10th, 2017 10:48 pm
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
*snatches at plot threads* Okay, so this story will need to really start with Nihuang and Gong Yu. Good to know. 

(This is going to be so many layered perspectives, oi.)

Today’s (second) snippet:

It wasn’t until the girl whispered, “I should go,” that she managed to regain a small grip on her composure, swallowing hard and wiping half-angry palms across her wet cheeks.

“Rest the night here, at least,” she offered, husky. “You’ve come a long way.” And then she looked down, really looked, and saw the wet tracks on the girl’s own cheeks, the trembling of her mouth, even when the girl’s teeth closed on her lower lip, obviously trying to conceal it. Softer, Nihuang asked, “Are you Gong Yu?”

The hint of trepidation in her eyes, when the girl glanced up answered the question, even before she nodded slowly. Nihuang took a deep breath and smiled down at her. “Stay a while, Younger Sister,” she said gently, laying a hand on Yu’s shoulder. “We can talk.”

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*finishes getting dragged head-first down 1.5K of words, while at work, for god’s sake, and lands in a disheveled heap*

Note to self: Lin Shu is fucking /relentless/ once he actually hopes for something. This should have been obvious, and yet.

Today’s teaser snippet:

Slowly, as days passed into weeks, he re-learned how to stand, how to hobble, at least, and sent Fei Liu out onto the mountain’s darkening green slopes to cut staffs for him to support himself on. Slowly, as the pines put out soft, new needles and the air warmed, things other than rice started to appear in his rice porridge. Slowly, as the white and pink lotuses bloomed in Langya’s wide, stone pools, his hands stopped shaking when he tried to hold up even the lightest book.

So very slowly. And for what, now?

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Okay, I actually called in sick today to finish NiF, and it was totally worth it. Hai Yan, you are an evil fucker; my hat is off to you, ma’am. 

And now, let us all recite together the Great Law of Fandom: IF WE DON’T SEE A BODY, THEY AREN’T DEAD.

And, really, Lin Chen went along, so we totally have a plausible out, here, as other writers have noticed already, I see. So I’ll just be over here, with my pile of sodden kleenex, making notes on traditional medicine sketching out a timeline.

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Okay, it took until Nie Feng’s reunion to do it, but that? That was my heart, you bastards. *grabs another handful of kleenex to sob into*

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I would like to take a moment, here, to appreciate all the ways in which Mei Changsu is set up as a parallel to/echo of Jingyan’s mother. I mean, besides the really obvious markers like both preferring shades of white, and jade for their hair, there is the beautiful fact that, when Mei Changsu seriously loses his temper and yells at Jingyan, he does it by using Jingyan’s full name. So, while I would never /actually/ wish Inner Palace politics on the poor man, I do have to admit there’s definitely a voice in the back of my head giggling over consort-verse and Jingyan marrying a man just like his mother.

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Oh /yeah/.

May. 6th, 2017 05:50 pm
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
Just finished the prison-visit episode, and wow did that hit my Magnificent Bastard kink with a /hammer/.  Goodness. *fans self briskly*

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So, I've fallen into Nirvana in Fire, and my goodness but this is a fun one.

Of course, I know, like, five words of the language by ear, as yet, so I'm having to rely on fanposts to pick out the /really/ juicy stuff. This intro, despite being brief, gave me two nice points to dig into.

For one, I do believe that what they're all calling Mei Changsu, translated here as the "Qilin Genius", is, indeed, a reference to the qilin, better known to anime fandom as the kirin, herald or portent of a ruler or great sage. Which is delightful purely on the symbolic level, in that Mei Changsu is exactly that, narratively, and also that the ruler he choses is neither of the ones who are so hot to secure him. But I am also giggling helplessly, because, if I'm not mistaken, Mei Changsu himself is the one who composes the message in which both the crown prince and Yu are told to seek him. And can't you just picture his glinty little smirk over that? On the one hand: arrogant creature. On the other... well, talk about calling your fate to you.

The even juicier concept that post gave me, though, was jianghu. Because my goodness but this makes so much sense (in narrative and genre terms) of Mei Changsu's choice in the end.

Suppose I should spoiler-cut this )

Okay, that got rather lyrical, but it's wuxia after all, what do you expect?
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
Now that the Winter anime season is completed, it's time to recommend things! My biggest winner from the past season is ACCA.

ACCA is, first of all, a single-season show, so the plotting is very tight and moves along briskly, and, most importantly, does not leave you hanging with ep 12 howling "what do you /mean/ I have to wait a year for the resolve?!".

It's also gratifyingly subtle. It starts out looking a little like a police procedural, but takes an immediate turn into complex mystery and politics. The setting is a country (or, more accurately, a federation) divided into twelve districts with country-type autonomy. The regulatory body that keeps an eye on government and trade in this situation, is ACCA, of which our protagonist is a member.

There's plenty of lovely world-building, and there are times you might wonder if the story is getting lost in an exploration of the twelve (very distinct) districts, but all of that exploration turns out to tie smoothly right back into the plot. Which is that there is a plot afoot! There is, we hear, a coup detat in the offing. Who is behind it, who is participating, and exactly what our protagonist's part in all this is, is revealed only slowly.

The reveals are actually my favorite part of this show. Every time, there are red herrings that lead you to the wrong conclusion, but there are also clues provided just enough in advance for you to figure it out and have the pleasure of having guessed right when the truth comes out. In addition, each truth, while feeling solid and satisfying, only reveals another layer of the plotting.

My next favorite part is probably the romance. Because, while there's quite a bit of romance floating around, every single romantic relationship is either torpedoed by revealed genetic relationships or else explicitly identified as one-sided. You know the thing a lot of manga and anime do, where the epilogue is years later and shows you the romantic relationships neatly tied up in marriages? ACCA flips that. The last episode features several romantic pairs saying in so many words to one another "I know it's one sided, don't worry" or words to that effect. I grinned for a /week/ on the power of that alone.

By contrast, the most obvious slash pairing ends with significant hand contact, which did make my heart go pitter pat a bit, because really, you barely need your slash colored goggles with these two. My word, romantic pairings should /hope/ to see that kind of devotion.

And, of course, my thoroughgoing favorite thing is our protagonist, who is mild and unassuming and who you really, really do not want to make angry because he will, calmly and quietly and without collateral damage, raze your entire life's work, social standing, and political capital down to the ground. Such a delightful boy. One of the best twists of the whole story revolves around his nature, and it's his nature that makes the red herring so convincing. Wonderful writing.

This is definitely one I recommend watching, ideally on a weekend when you can marathon the whole series and delight in the unfolding of it all.
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
Okay, so I’ve been wandering around recent anime, looking for decent things to watch, and have fallen into Madan no Ou to Vanadis. On the face of it, it’s not my thing. There’s way the fuck too many barely clad boobs everywhere and Ridiculously Underclad Warrior Maidens ™.  And yet…

And yet.

I mean, for one thing, the Ridiculously Underclad Warrior Maidens ™ do, in fact, kick all kinds of ass, despite the bouncing boobage. This is, in fact, a story of military strategy, with far too many bouncing boobs pasted on. It’s actually really interesting, if you can just squint past the fleshtones! Which should not be necessary, and is /truly/ annoying, but…

Well, but.

Because, see, this one also hits one of my bulletproof kinks, dead center. Our Hero, the unassuming minor noble who just happens to be collecting a harem of Ridiculously Underclad Warrior Maidens ™ with the prowess of his archery, is, in the very first scene, taken prisoner of war by Our Heroine (warrior maiden the first) and he insists on abiding by the terms and remaining her prisoner. Ally. But still her prisoner, even when they’ve taken the field together to defend his homeland! And she proceeds to call him her possession, throughout. And I really just cannot watch ep 5 without squeaking gleefully when, in the middle of a strategy meeting, Our Heroine’s second-in-command warrior maiden having appealed to Our Hero to please, for pity’s sake, talk her out of a single-handed charge on the enemy, Our Heroine demands of Our Hero who he belongs to (”Omae wa dare no mono da?”) and he replies, dead level and without hesitation, that he belongs to her (”Omae no mono da.”). 

Yes, that’s right, her prisoner of war uses plain forms to agree that he belongs to her. They talk to each other like this /all the time/. What am I supposed do with this, I ask you?

So I can’t exactly call this a rec, because it really depends on your tolerance for gratuitous boobage this week, but… well it’s definitely bookmarked.

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So, this morning, as is becoming increasingly common, I woke up, and spent five/ten minutes telling the immediate sense of existential dread to fuck off. I got up, showered, kicked clinging existential dread in the kneecaps a few times (which didn't make it go away but did mean I could get out of the shower) and hummed protest songs while doing my eye makeup.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's "Ohio", in this case. I'm not a cheerful person in the morning.

The morning commute provided a small break from existential dread, its place being temporarily taken by only mildly homicidal exasperation at all the people who can't fucking drive. It snuck in again to cling to my coat collar while I was walking down the cold, dank stairwell.

And then I had a sudden thought.

You know that anime haircut that shows up a lot, usually on girls, that's kind of a bob, usually chin-length or so in front but really short in the back, more like a pixie cut? Like Sakura's hair when she cut it in the chuunin-exam arc? I suddenly have a name for that. It's a pixie-bob..

And that made me giggle all the way up the stairs to the door, and now I feel like I can breathe all the way down.

So, you know, yes put away money to run if necessary, yes clean out the spare room, yes rally and march and write and call if you can. But remember to laugh, too, because we have to be alive at the end of this to dance on those motherfuckers' goddamn graves.

*whispers* Pixie-bob.
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
Would anyone like a serger? It's a Singer Perfect Finish, model 14ET754, about five years old but never used (kept in plastic, though, so dust in the innards should be minimal). Free to a good home, though I'd need the taker to pay shipment.

TAKEN!
branchandroot: stack of books by arm chair (book love)
So, I'm really not at home to most challenges, but some of the Snowflake prompts do catch my attention.

In your own space, share a book/song/movie/tv show/fanwork/etc that changed your life. Something that impacted on your consciousness in a way that left its mark on your soul.

And I recall Sailor Moon. But more than the anime itself (or the manga, or the other anime...) I recall how one of my literature students lassoed me into Fandom by using Sailor Moon. She spotted my weaknesses right off and suggested that I'd be interested by a narrative comparison of the sub versus dub endings to Season One, especially the way that excising all the violence for dub-land also managed to snip out all of Sailor Moon's agency in the scene. And, well, that was me done and dusted.

So here's to you, Kay. Well done.
branchandroot: wings of fire (fire wings)
My family doesn't have a tradition for this day (all the traditions are saved for New Year's Day, including huge pots of five-alarm chili and champagne cork shooting contests outside), so I've improvised. Today has consisted of nibbling on cubed Colby and summer sausage, onion crackers, and extremely expensive cherry tomatoes (worth it) while wandering the house finding places to put the cats' new toys and desultorily checking that I did, indeed, import all my LJ material five years ago before purging the personal journal.

The copious amounts of gay porn in my fic and RP journals shall remain in situ, as my personal gift to any agency, Russian or otherwise, who may now be peeking under journal locks on LJ. *raises her cranberry Mimosa* Cheers.

Looking back, this has been an extremely busy year for me, getting a foothold in a new life, new job, new home. I now feel like I have my feet well-set, which is a damn sight better than I felt a year ago, and 2016's efforts to burn down the world while I did it can blow me.

So, on this New Year's Eve Day, what I have to say for 2017 is this: BRING IT, MOTHERFUCKER.
branchandroot: Tsuzuki squeeing (Tsuzuki squee)
Okay, so I waited until this season was complete to watch it, because I knew that otherwise I’d be a total wreck. (Good call, me.) And now I just have to squee over the first handful of episodes, because Tsukishima! Eeeeeee!

I’ve kind of figured, in the back of my mind, that Kageyama would be the captain for his year, once he finally got his head together and learned to draw his team together. Treading in his senpai’s footsteps as it were, though I’m sure death-glares of epic proportions would meet anyone who actually /said/ so. But now… now I think it might just be Tsukishima. Because this season shows that he’s the one who analyzes and thinks ahead, and, most importantly, that he’s finally been fully engaged in the game.

Also, he’ll be a deadly psychological player and get the other side riled up /so bad/. And, well, his own team too, but you figure they’ll be (kind of) used to it by then, and all the kouhai will just exchange “they’re at it again” looks when he winds up Kageyama and Hinata.

It will undoubtedly take all of another year to get him there, to the place where he has the confidence in himself to actually plan for the whole team, but I think this is the start of it. Also, I have a soft spot for evil bastards, and Tsukishima is so very good at being evil.

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Re Yuri on Ice: I do not often actually say this, but LEAVE ME HERE TO DIE WITH MY FEELS. I was wary, right up to the end, because fuck knows we’ve all been burned before, but omg that was /perfect/.

Re Sound Euphonium: SO MANY FEELS. *sobs into a handkerchief* Family Feels and Girlfriend Feels and Senpai Feels, oh my. Also, wow, Taki-sensei that was some exceptional emotional tai chi right there. Well done, that man.

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It’s been a while since Natsume Yuujinchou made me seriously break down in tears, but this week…

*takes a moment to sob into a wad of kleenex some more*

*sniffs*

Just the /idea/ that Touko might know good and well that Natsume sees spirits… Oh wow. That’s such a central tension of the show that letting it ease, even just a little bit, feels like coming into the warm after a winter hike.

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