Environmental Sustainability & Hair Care: Is it Possible?

So with the high likelihood of humanity trotting its way to impending doom via global climate change in the near future— not to be dramatic or anything—, there is constant buzz across social media and real life on what consumers can do to lessen their carbon footprint. Ditching single use plastics, Meatless Mondays, composting, upcycling, shaming anyone who dares asks for a straw; you get the idea. I try to be environmentally sound where I can, and I began thinking about hair care since as a curly haired person, I end up buying a ton of products, most of it being plastic bottles out the wazoo.

Between conditioners, treatments and stylers, it’s hard to not be wasteful when you want healthy, happy and good-looking hair. But surely there has to be ways to compromise on that waste to have the hair you want, save money, and be kind to the planet. So I looked over the products I own and brands which other folks talk about, and I researched on consumer hacks and DIY methods for sustainable hair care.

The results? Well, let’s break down the three most doable options and their pros and cons.

Continue reading Environmental Sustainability & Hair Care: Is it Possible?

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Movie Reviews: Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus

Oh yeah, we’re going down this rabbit hole folks. Netflix may have under-marketed this, but I’m sure as hell not letting it slip under the radar.

But first, a bit of background!

Invader Zim was a Nickelodeon cartoon which aired from 2001 to 2002. It showcased our titular protagonist coming up with ridiculous scheme after ridiculous scheme to conquer planet Earth and spectacularly failing every time since he’s not very good at his job. The show was well-received among teens and young adults for its dark, edgy humor and grotesque animation which most cartoons at the time wouldn’t dare attempt. However, it wasn’t giving Nickelodeon the best ratings among younger audiences, especially compared to other shows like Spongebob Squarepants and The Fairly Odd Parents.

On top of which, it was plagued with constant production hell from budgetary issues to back-and-forth between the network and creative team on what content was definitely pushing it for children’s media– seriously, look up some of the original ideas they had for certain scenes of the show; it’s pretty fucking disturbing. And so, sadly, Invader Zim was cancelled before the second season finished, leaving multiple episodes unaired. But Invader Zim found a new life in 2006 on the channel NickToons, which was dedicated to reruns of Nickelodeon’s retro shows. From there, it grew a hell of a cult following and a plethora of Hot Topic merchandise, and those unreleased episodes were finally aired.

I got into Invader Zim when it began airing on NickToons, and it became the shit through my middle school years. I always loved freaky shows like The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy and Courage the Cowardly Dog, so this was right up my alley. I was drawn into the bizarre imagery, the outrageous situations and characters, the fast-paced animation, and the overall dark comedy which I rarely saw in children’s cartoons. As an adult, I pick up on the little details of world-building and thematic commentary which make the show better with each viewing. Invader Zim is still one of my absolute favorite television cartoons of all time. So when I heard a film was in the works, I was freaking ecstatic and couldn’t wait to see this team return and what new madness they would deliver after so many years away. And Enter the Florpus did not disappoint for a fraction of a second.

Zim mysteriously vanished without a trace, leaving Dib in obsessive paranoia on what his next plan may be for planetary conquest. As it turns out, making Dib a paranoid recluse to the point of disregarding self-care was just Phase 1 of Zim’s latest plan. Phase 2? Well… he hasn’t figured that out entirely just yet. Itching to please the Almighty Tallest (and still oblivious that they want nothing to do with him), Zim has to act fast to come up with a brilliant Phase 2 before Dib gets back into shape to stop him. But Zim’s latest plan goes too far in the most ludicrous way when he accidentally opens up a Florpus, a space wormhole capable of swallowing planets and colliding alternate realities before tearing them apart. As usual, Dib remains the Earth’s only hope to save all of humanity before it’s completely destroyed from Zim’s recklessness.

The overall aesthetics are a lot softer in the shapes, lines and color palettes, giving the character designs a chibi-fied look. This film heavily favors shadowing in a blend of blues, reds and purples, and the grotesque imagery is toned back by a million. It’s a bit odd to see at first as a fan who loved the original art style and was so used to some of the disturbing imagery, but the new aesthetics grew on me after a while. Even though it’s not as grotesque, the animation still loves the over-the-top exaggerations to the nth degree from the alien designs to the fluid facial expressions to the bizarre situations, and some of the CGI far better blends into the 2D environment. You can tell this team loved the extra budget to play with action scenes and animation styles, which creates one of the trippiest climaxes in any cartoon you have to see to experience the pure insanity.

The entire original voice cast reprises their roles, and they dived right like no time passed at all. Zim is still equal parts ambitious and insane in his plans for planetary conquest and proving himself to his leaders and with amazingly outrageous voice work by Richard Horvitz. Dib, voiced by Andy Berman, awesomely parallels Zim’s ambition, only with his goals to save the Earth and hopefully get his father’s attention. Rikki Simons is delightfully unhinged as GIR; he always has the best line deliveries. Melissa Fahn as Gaz is as cynical and irritable as ever, but when shit gets real, she becomes a great player to motivate her brother and help save the Earth. Professor Membrane, voiced by Rodger Bumpass, also gets a hell of a spotlight in his excitable love for science and helping his kids any way he can. He even gets some heartfelt scenes with Dib, who just wants his dad to support his interests. I honestly never expected that from something so zany and wild like Invader Zim. While not too prominently highlighted, those tender moments of Dib’s desperate longing for validation are done so well to meld into the overall absurd environment. I always enjoyed this show incorporating just enough juicy bits of character development and world-building to boost the experience while maintaining tone, and it’s excellent here too.

The animation, voice acting, and sound editing are perfectly in-sync for the comedic timing just like the television series. Some of these scenes definitely got me laughing out loud— particularly any of GIR’s insane antics—, and the creativity of these worlds, technologies, and actions scenes is neverending. It’s a movie to watch at least twice to pick up all the little details and throwbacks. Everyone on this team was on their A-game to deliver the best after so many years away. They never lost their touch on all the details which made Invader Zim great, and that love shines brilliantly in Enter the Florpus. It’s the kind of continuation that future reboots, remakes and/or long-awaited sequels need to take notes from on how to maintain the spirit of their project which made audiences fall in love in the first place.

It brought me back to my pre-teen years of binging the whole show at least once a month on DVD and the sheer delight of watching these characters get in and out of the craziest shit. Some say Enter the Florpus is akin to a series finale with all the upped stakes and situations, and it definitely has the energy of such. Part of me hopes this won’t be the last we’ll see of Invader Zim because the dedication and end results are too damn amazing to pass up for potential story expansion. But if the intent really was to wrap it all up, then this was a hell of a way to do so. I definitely see another few rewatches in my near future, and if you haven’t hopped back on this train, now is the best time to do so.

Hair Care Reviews: Shea Moisture’s Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen & Restore Treatment Masque

So the last mask I reviewed really didn’t do me any favors in the long run for the week. My curl pattern didn’t last and no mater how many times I touched up and refreshed my hair, it was still a frizzy mess and dryer than a California hillside before a wildfire starts. Another one of those Cousin It-Kuriboh crossover weeks…

Again, too lazy for Photoshop. Just use your imagination.

So I ended up slapping all my hair into a braid before giving into the impulsive thoughts to chop it all off. I definitely needed a miracle to set everything right, and there’s never a wrong time to experiment and switch up your routine!

So for this wash day, I finally, finally tried out Shea Moisture’s Jamaican Black Castor Strengthen & Restore Treatment Masque! Lord, that is a mouthful…

I kept putting this Shea Moisture line off for so long cause when I first smelled a couple of the products, it reminded me too much of medicine. I kept specifically thinking back to when I was bedridden after my tonsillectomy and had to keep drinking this disgusting liquid antibiotic while recovering. And I, at the ripe age of 11-years-old mind you, was being a whiny brat about taking my medicine to the point where my mom swapped out the liquids for pills she could crush and put in my chocolate pudding (Mom, if you’re reading this, I apologize of all things your daughter had to be picky on, it was medicine).

Anyway!

While the smell threw me off at first, it turns out that the Jamaican Black Castor Oil line is one of Shea Moisture’s most popular among curly heads, especially for type 4 hair. And some folks actually like the scent, so maybe it was something I’d eventually come around to love. I gotta say I at least tried it once.

As with all Shea Moisture masques, this one starts with coconut oil and shea butter. It also contains avocado oil, mango seed butter, olive oil, peppermint extract, hydrolyzed keratin, vinegar, aloe leaf juice, caramel, and, of course, castor oil. And that’s just a brief overview of the main highlighted ingredients; there’s a ton of oils in this one. This masque is designed for those who regularly dye and/or heat style their hair, so it’s packed of nutrient-rich ingredients to moisturize and strengthen. And it was the perfect fit for wash day given how much my hair felt like hay.

I heard a couple other YouTubers compare the scent to chocolate or Play-Doh, and upon revisiting the scent after a while, that combination is right on the nose. The caramel gives the masque its sweet quality, and after a few whiffs, I picked up on the chocolate-like scent. As for the Play-Doh scent, I’m not sure where the heck that’s coming from, but it’s a pleasant smell once I got past the initial thoughts of medicine. As per usual of Shea Moisture, the consistency is super thick; just perfect for a deep condition. It evenly coats throughout the hair with just enough excess for some extra moisture.

Then, it’s 30 minutes in a heated cap, rinsed out, styled and air-dried, and below are the results!

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The look and the feel of my curls were significantly better than the dry hay feeling from the previous week. It still got frizzy after a couple days, which is to be expected given the heat and fall weather can’t come fast enough, but it didn’t dry out. The curl pattern and moisture stuck through most of the week, and just detangling spray was enough to refresh through the week; I didn’t even need to throw it into a protective style in the last couple days.

It’s another win for Shea Moisture! I’m glad I got past the first impressions of the scent to see the amazing benefits and results, and now I definitely see why this particular line is a favorite for curly heads. If you’re struggling to retain moisture, especially if you regularly use chemicals and heat on your hair, put this on your shopping list, stat!


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Anime Reviews: Aggretsuko Season 2

Sheesh, Sanrio, just @ me the next time y’all wanna point out how I’ve been handling life after graduating college.

If you weren’t familiar with Aggretsuko‘s one-minute episodes, chances were that you got swept up into the craze when Netflix began a full series last year. The mere concept of this adorable red panda taking out her daily frustrations via death metal karaoke was already hilarious. But it also surprised in an incredibly relatable slice-of-life in dealing with a quarter-life crisis between a menial office job, finding purpose, and being happy with your status in life. I definitely rewatched the first season and Christmas special a few times as I face some of the similar challenges the main character did. And season 2 delivers spectacularly in expanding on how deep a quarter-life crisis runs when you realize you’re not getting any younger and are pressured to make certain commitments.

Business is usual for Retsuko, and thankfully, work doesn’t make her feel like spontaneously quitting every single day. But life and existential dread still have their ways of creeping up on you when you least expect them. Her mother frequently tries to set her up on dates. A new young co-worker is far too high-strung to the point he looks like a psychopath. And once again, thoughts of marriage and the future come up as Retsuko considers what will make her happy in the long run when extreme opinions on commitment may convince her otherwise. She’ll have to dig deep down in that death metal karaoke heart of hers to find what she really wants.

The situational humor shines again with relatable moments most folks in their 20s experienced at some point. Being pressured to settle down and marry, dealing with new coworkers and forgetting you were in their shoes not too long ago, the awkwardness of dating, and turning small milestones like getting a driver’s license into a monumental victory– the last of which is made infinitely hilarious with Retsuko’s reactions. There’s a lot of great development in her workplace where everyone actually feels like a cohesive team, and some folks aren’t always what they seem. Ton is still a bit of a hard ass, but he’s also sweet in that he won’t bullshit you when you need to hear the truth. He actually flourishes into a great mentor for his team. Haida and Fenneko are always a fantastic duo of friends to Retsuko, especially the former still trying to not let his crush overtake his friendship. One of the biggest surprises in character development definitely goes to Kabai, the talkative hippo who’s always down for the latest and juiciest gossip. Not much lasting impression was left from the first season; she was just a quirky side character to deliver comedy when a scene called for it. But to everyone’s shock, she has such a grand capacity for motherly tenderness, patience and understanding which everyone can learn from, especially when dealing with difficult co-workers like Anai.

Anai’s arc is the most fascinating in overcoming initial character judgments as he tries to adjust to the workplace out of college, but goes into a panicky over-sensitivity on doing basic takes and taking constructive criticism to the point where he takes his insecurities out on his co-workers via horrifying passive aggressive emails. He makes Yuno Gasai look like a sweetheart by comparison in his overreactions; it legit creeped me the hell out. While over-the-top in some areas, his arc does well to highlight the complicated inner workings of recent graduates jumping straight into the workforce; in fact, I saw a lot of myself in some of Anai’s anxiety.

On one hand, you can’t let every little thing get to you and affect your work ethic and professional relationships, and you really just need to get over yourself. At the same time, young adults like Anai probably never had a chance to slow down and take care of themselves through college. While the tough love approach may work for others, some may misconstrue it as an insult to every little thing they do. Those like Anai are at a delicate stage of adjustment, and it helps to have some patience to catch up and learn. This is where Kabai’s motherly love shines as she sees Anai’s potential and is willing to dedicate the extra time to guide him through new tasks. These are genuinely sweet moments which just make my heart melt. And they do well to thematically segue into Retsuko’s interest to potentially be a loving mother and wife like Kabai some day.

I was a little worried at first for this season since the overall themes discuss relationships and marriage again and if they were going to repeat any plot points from the first season. But thankfully, I was 100 percent wrong. Now that Restuko mostly overcame work stressors, she’s in a clearer state of mind to consider what she actually needs in a romantic partner. Most viewers will likely relate to the generational gap between Retsuko and her mother on the right time to marry; between taking opportunities as they come, taking care of yourself, and possibly waiting for the right person to come along. Her mother is a typical overbearing parent, but over time she kinda gets over her traditional mindset to understand what Retsuko wants and if she even likes the guys she’s being set up with on dates. For as annoying as she gets, her mother still loves her deeply and cares about her happiness in her weird, overbearing way.

And through this season, Retsuko encounters multiple conflicting opinions on dating and marriage, and the show is very careful not to put down any of these thoughts. Some see marriage as a sham, but others believe in that love and commitment to make everything work out. Everyone has justifiable reasons for their opinions on marriage, and who the hell is anyone to judge? What matters is at the end of the day, you decide what marriage means to you of your own volition, and you’re not obligated to change that to suit your partner’s needs. As heartbreaking as it is, I love seeing Retsuko slowly realizes what level of commitment will make her happy in the long run as she gets into dating again, even if it means sacrificing a possible true love.

I have nothing but mad props to this show for promoting that your emotional needs and dreams must be as respected as your partner’s, because as a 20-something, I saw so many romantic relationships just fall to pieces because they never communicated on commitment or their future as a couple. I saw critiques which call this selfish, but for many folks, it is a make-or-break point for a relationship. Love doesn’t mean giving up all personal autonomy to make your partner happy; you either have to compromise to a future you both will commit to, or you may have to let go before shit gets ugly, because that will only lead to resentment.

The second season of Aggretsuko is just as funny and relatable as the first as new character dynamics flourish and millenial/Gen Z existentialism expands. And it shines the best in heartfelt honesty on romance, communication and commitment which is severely missing in many modern relationships. It definitely made me reflect how far I’ve come and how much I still have to learn, and it’s such a comfort that I’m not alone in handling the dread and anxiety of what the future may hold for careers, friendships and love. And I can’t watch to watch it all over again to appreciate the carefully crafted themes and soothe the anxieties of growing up whenever they arise.


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Hair Care Reviews: Hask’s Orchid & White Truffle Moisture Rich Deep Conditioner

It’s been a while since I talked about hair care. I’m finally at a point in my curly hair journey when I can gauge what does and doesn’t work for my hair through the year, so I’m not experimenting as much as I used to. But I still have a few items which have been sitting in my closet for far too long, and I need to go through the old before justifying buying anything new.

After some input, I decided to give Hask a go with their Orchid & White Truffle Moisture Rich Deep Conditioner! I was mainly drawn to the packaging cause I’m a sucker for purple, and these are such appealing colors. As the name indicates, this deep conditioner contains orchid extract and white truffle extract which aim to rehydrate and nourish your hair. It also contains hydrolyzed pea protein and hydrolyzed collagen to strengthen the strands. However, if you’re super strict on following the Curly Girl Method, there is also isopropyl alcohol (even though the packaging says it’s free of drying alcohol, like, c’mon y’all).

Hask is one of those hit-and-miss brands where you don’t know if it’s curly hair friendly until you read the back, and isopropyl alcohol commonly shows up in some of their products, even though it’s usually towards the bottom of the list– also, their website doesn’t show the ingredient, so I don’t know for sure if their formula updated since I bought this. In my experience, I haven’t noticed too much drying, so long as my leave-ins and stylers supplement on moisture, but if it’s an ingredient you’re avoiding like the plague, be wary.

As with most Hask deep conditioners, the consistency is thick and creamy; just perfect to coat your hair. I’ve been using Shea Moisture deep conditioners for a while and by comparison, my hair soaks in Hask almost immediately upon applying the product. I was also struggling a bit on detangling, and this deep conditioner does well to pick up the slack on the more troublesome knots. This also has a mild floral, but kinda perfume-y scent to it which lingers for a bit after rinsing out. It’s not the most overwhelming scent ever, but it definitely has a noticeable perfume-like quality to it, even though fragrance is one of the last ingredients.

After I finished my routine and let my hair air dry, I got a hell of a great curl pattern, decent volume, and very minimal frizz. These were the best curls I had in a while this entire summer. However, even with all the leave-in and gel I used, the look only held for about a day. And I’m kicking myself on forgetting to take a photo cause my Day 1 hair looked so great!

So for the results, I just have the Day 2 hair:

There’s still some curl pattern, but it’s more wavy, which is common for my hair throughout the summer given the shifting heat. A few sections dried out and tangled, and my roots when flat, but thankfully a bit of detangling spray rejuvenates well for the morning. However, it didn’t really withstand the wind and heat when I went out to volunteer (which includes taking public transportation and walking). I had to quickly spritz cold water in my hair when I got home cause my scalp felt so damp with sweat. Never a great feeling.

I think this deep conditioner would’ve worked a lot better if I wasn’t subject to the harsh elements, and I may need a different cocktail of products to replicate my Day 1 results and actually make them last. I probably won’t grab this in the near future until the summer heat calms the fuck down. But if you’re not as prone to dryness or tangles, it’s worth giving a try at least once and see what results you get.

TV Reviews: Netflix’s Special

It’s rare these days to find shows with representation of marginalized folks done well, but even more rare is finding shows where said characters are actually played by marginalized actors. This drew me in to one of Netflix’s latest shows Special, based on the memoir I’m Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves, and the author, Ryan O’Connell, stars, writes and executive produces the television adaptation. So it’s reassuring to know the lowest bar was met to have a disabled gay person in charge of telling their story, albeit with some fictionalization here and there for the sake of entertainment. And this results in a sweet, yet brutally honest coming-of-age of a disabled adult adjusting to a “normal” life and deal with internalized ableism.

Ryan Kayes is a gay man with cerebral palsy who still lives with his overly protective mother. In slowly figuring out how to navigate his 20s as an independent adult, he takes on an internship at a Buzzfeed-like blog site. He mentions he was in a recent car accident, and his new co-workers assume that’s why he has a limp. Instead of correcting them, he plays along with the lie and even writes his first story about his car accident to enjoy not being pitied for his cerebral palsy. But he can only keep the facade going for so long as he finally goes through many rites of passages of adulthood from moving into his own place, socializing with other gay men, and coming to terms with his disability.

In a rarity for live-action sitcoms, Special is formatted in short-form television with episodes only at 15 minutes each which makes it super easy to binge and leave you wanting more every single time. Although the series is based off a memoir, the overall tone is campy and sweet like a stereotypical rom-com from the “larger than life” characters to the saturated colors. Some elements are obviously purposefully exaggerated to focus more on the emotional beats of those moments than just show them exactly how they happened. Exaggeration to entertain is expected, but it’s realistically grounded enough with Ryan’s experiences as a disabled gay man from socializing to learning to tie shoelaces to confronting his mother’s overprotectiveness.

One of the best aspects of the show which I almost never see in disability narratives is tackling internalized ableism and finding your place in society while in that weird in-between of “high-functioning” and “low-functioning.” Ryan has enough mobility to get by without tripping over himself most of the time, but he still struggles with basic day-to-day tasks which will always be noticeable. You just want to be normal and not stared at like a sideshow attraction, but the disability won’t magically disappear. The doubts on what you can and can’t do as a disabled person morphs into self-hatred and internalized ableism which Ryan needs to overcome to grow up.

Ryan is definitely an asshole about his hypocrisy and purposefully sabotages potential opportunities and relationships out of his low confidence. But he also has legitimate limits he can’t control which will always make new interactions anxiety-inducing. On top of an overprotective parent who has her own shit to get over, we can only imagine what else happened in his life to get in that mindset. Some negative reviews claim Ryan is bad representation because he acts out cruelly, but the unfortunate reality is that amount of self-loathing is too common among disabled adults, especially those who were severely sheltered and underestimated for their capacity of independence. I know plenty of folks in that age range, myself included, who needed to seriously re-evaluate their confidence and make the steps to heal and come to terms with a disability. The show brilliantly juggles around the complicated anxiety of loving yourself, dealing with overly judgmental folks (which sometimes includes your own family), finding friends who will accept you no matter what, and accepting that a disability isn’t a death sentence. You’ll still have limits in certain areas, but you can still lead a fulfilling life.

For all of Ryan’s struggles, they’re balanced out with a genuine hope that things get way better. I love the back-and-forth between him and his mother on his independence, and he can finally start taking care of himself. I feel the gratification when a social interaction goes better than he feared, and he starts making friend in and out of work. There’s even a part where he goes to a sex worker to lose his virginity, and it’s surprisingly sweet and endearing; I honestly can’t think of any other media which portrays sex work so nonchalantly, and it’s one of my favorite scenes in the whole show. I wish we got to see more in-depth growth since the episode and season lengths are super limited, but the seeds are there. I’m hoping Netflix doesn’t let this fall off the radar and gives it a second season to further explore the characters and the next chapters of Ryan’s life.

While it’s very easy to breeze through, Special offers just the right amount of camp and drama to keep you entertained for a couple hours and leave you itching for more. It does well to blend exaggeration and nuance to deliver a coming-of-age on the complex anxieties of independence while disabled which isn’t afraid to be honest on the internalized ableism some may carry.


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Anime Reviews: The Ancient Magus Bride

I know, it’s been like a million years since I reviewed an anime, and I’m far too behind since graduating college, finding a stable schedule, and getting side-tracked with a dozen other fun projects and challenges. But better late than never, right? And so we dive into one of the biggest highlights for the 2017 anime season: The Ancient Magus Bride. This anime caught my eye right from the first trailers and promos, and it looked too damn beautiful to miss. And thankfully, it didn’t disappoint.

An orphaned Chise Hatori could always see mysterious creatures no one else could. Ever since her mother’s death, she was ostracized in at home, school and society, never able to explain what she could see without sounding crazy. In a deep depression, Chise decides to auction herself into slavery in the hopes of having someone, anyone willing to take her in. That’s when she’s bought by the mysterious Elias Ainsworth, a half human-half fae mage who takes her as his new apprentice. As it turns out, Chise is a Sleigh Beggy, a special kind of mage who can draw in a lot of magic but at a severe cost to one’s health, including a short lifespan. Elias hopes to expand Chise’s life by showing her how to control magic, and in return, maybe he can learn more about human behaviors and emotions, especially as he intends to marry her someday.

I know the premise sounds odd with a main couple where one is a teenager and the other is a well over a hundred-year-old supernatural creature with a blunt approach to marriage. This kind of relationship isn’t too uncommon in the fantasy genre, but thankfully, Chise and Elias’s bone is genuinely sweet and not creepy. Honestly, it’s one of the best relationships I ever saw in anime. Romance isn’t even the main focus; it’s trust. Chise and Elias are two lonely people from years of isolation and psychological trauma and put up so many walls to avoid further pain. Yet the more they see of each other’s worlds, the more they want to break down their walls, find purpose and the will to live, and place trust in another. They’re constantly working towards a balance between independence and dependence; finding strength to stand on your own feet but remembering it’s okay to ask for help; learning how to love yourself and accept another’s love. I really can’t think of any other media which dives into so many complex nuances of love, romantic or otherwise.

Thankfully, the show expands on Elias’s bluntness with him being part-faerie and just having completely different ideas of love than humans. But at the same time, his actions aren’t above consequence, especially when they border on creepy and the side characters are quick to call him out when Chise just doesn’t know what the hell to think. I enjoy their subtle growth with Elias reconsidering Chise’s comfort zone and the joy coming back to Chise’s eyes when she sees what she’s capable of and it’s worth living to see this wonderful world. And the voice acting is spectacular in bringing out the emotions of this growth, especially Ryota Takeuchi as Elias— I enjoyed this voice actor way back in my DRAMAtical Murder days, and he’s freaking awesome in balancing the monotone bluntness and gentle tenderness.

As Chise slowly opens up to Elias, she also encounters a plethora of colorful side characters to aid in her studies and recovery as she helps them in return. It’s as much a story on their growth as a couple as it is a magical creature highlight of the week for Chise to reflect on her trauma. And of course, there’s a bit of overlap in some arcs with a villain to raise the stakes and expand on the role and responsibilities of magic in this world. From her familiar to Elias’s old acquaintances to troubled spirits, Chise finds her sympathy to care for others, make lasting friendships and ease their pains. Each of these bonds are amazing to watch unfold as Chise learns more about the world of magic and all of its splendors and horrors.

The art style is what I imagine if Guillermo del Toro and Hayao Miyazaki collaborated. It’s a brilliant showcase of European fantasy, mostly English folklore, which is chock full of equally whimsical and intimidating designs from fairies to dragons. Some may look threatening but are actually kind, or vice versa; you never know until you get up close and personal. There’s a beautiful reverence for nature and countryside towns with the colors and atmosphere to set the right tone for the scenes and establish an overall sense of, well, magic. The animation alone achieves a perfect duality of good and evil, light and dark, and hope and despair, which makes it the perfect vessel for storytelling. I love the attention to color and lighting, and all the beautiful scenery of lush forests; it’s one of the most gorgeous anime I ever saw, period.

The animation was enough to pique my interest for Ancient Magus Bride, and along the way, I got brilliantly crafted world-building, a tender main couple with fantastic growth, and a heartfelt story on learning to love and be loved in the wake of trauma. It’s everything and more than I want in a fantasy anime, and I can’t recommend it enough if you’re curious what the hype is all about.