Happy 2nd Birthday to Anime Sickos!
Two years of normal brain function
Folks, it’s been two full years since we started this podcast. I’ll be the first to say it: bad years in terms of human suffering! We were assuming they would be, but man did they ever exceed expectations!
We did some dope things in our second year. We put together the script for Dragonball 2, an extremely fun and stupid collaborative writing project. We finally released our five-act audio drama The Tragical History of Modesty City after what felt like endless amounts of toil. We opened a Sicko Merch Store, offering a truly delightful set of vinyl stickers and a limited run of lovely sicko shirts with original KC Green art. And possibly most importantly, we put out a lot of podcast episodes.
When we started this show we expected to have it be mildly received by our friends and maybe a few Shuffle Quest fans. After two years we have accrued a howling coterie of sicko fiends whose thirst for the slop is frankly terrifying. But also it’s extremely affirming and exciting. Really feels good to know that we are not the only folks that have brains like this, and that our belief that we are very funny and smart is at least partially based in reality.
As we look to the third year of the show, I gotta say we are kind of at a loss. We don’t have any huge projects ongoing. We don’t have any big initiatives in the works (like the store or whatnot). We don’t have any new ideas about the overall direction of the show. Really all we got is “continue to make episodes.” Which is fine, of course, it is a podcast at the end of the day and that’s the part that matters most, but it’s a weird feeling we haven’t felt for a long time. Maybe we’ll get another project going. Who knows! It’s not easy to just come up with an idea you’re willing to pour like six months of secret work into.
But whatever. That’s all extracurricular. The most important thing, of course, is to continue making you all hoot. And thankfully, it’s one of the things we most love to do. Here’s to another year of it! Thank you all for your support.
And hey, check out the Bigg Numby we just surpassed:
Yesterday my timeline was mostly facebook screengrabs about people poisoning themselves with horse medicine and rational dread about the Supreme Court ending the eviction stoppage during a surging Delta wave that we are pretending isn't happening.
The wheels are really coming off this sucker, huh!
Next month I'm getting a psych evaluation to get more insight into my horrible brain. My hope is that I am prescribed a Geforce RTX 3080.
Joe Doesn’t Know How to Use Twitter
Golden Kamuy’s “Got Da Goofs”
I've already tweeted about it extensively but I picked up Golden Kamuy again and I am having a blast. We sang Golden Kamuy's praises on ep 67: The Food Episode (where we talk about that famous goop, "food") because half the comic is people learning fun Hokkaido food facts as they get ready for dinner.
I have a child's brain that wants anime and manga to have cool fights at all times. I also like stupid, stupid jokes. My biggest problem with the humor in the shonen I grew up on is the jokes always seemed tacked on. Some dramatic fight happens and then a character says something weird and everybody falls down. Or maybe a pervert gets a nosebleed and everybody falls down.
For instance, I love Hellsing because it's over the top and violent but it likes to end chapters with chibi shit. You can make the argument that the juxtaposition is a Choice but all I see is a chapter outline with a final note of PUT JOKE HERE. Ironically, Early Dragon Ball was a lot better about this because Goku was a chubby kung fu baby that doesn't know about pussies. Compare that to the Namek Saga where there are two obvious narrative states: Oh no!! The Frieza Freaks are gonna kill us!! and Let's Check on Bulma.
Golden Kamuy doesn't do this because it respects goofs. It understands they are not add-ons, but beautiful orchids that must be tended with care. Furthermore, and this is key, it doesn't stop when it wants to tell a joke! Golden Kamuy feels like riding in a minecart that's always picking up speed with jokes and dope shit whipping past you. You are unable to anticipate where you're headed because your bones are rattling.
I'm at the part where the crew arrives in Karafuto (now the Russian island of Sakhalin) looking for Asirpa, their 4-foot tall Ainu companion. Sugimoto, trying to gather intel, keeps showing people sexy photos of Tanigaki on accident and it's fucking wonderful, man.
#3 is particularly masterful because a bear is charging at them and the joke doesn't take away from the immediate urgency. Also the fact he had the photo ready to go is fucking funny. The gag ends with Tanigaki himself mixing up photos, a graceful ending to the runner (sexy ladder!). All this is to say, you can't pull this off if you are just looking for little spots for characters to go OH WOW!!!! and fall down. That shit sucks and is lazy!
Joe becomes a Clout Chaser
TOM’S PICKO: Piranesi
Long ago in our first newsletter, I recommended the BBC miniseries Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, an excellent show about the rediscovery of magic by a pair of British freaks in the 1800s. I knew that the source material, the novel of the same name, was held in extremely high regard by those who read it. I knew that it was Susanna Clarke’s first novel, one she had worked on for a decade, and for decades after it remained her only novel.
I resisted reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell for a long time because it’s 850 fucken pages long and everyone who talks about it goes absolutely nutso about how it’s got SO many footnotes, and an ENTIRE alternate history of Britain going back HUNDREDs of years, it’s SO complex and rich, and MAN there are SO many footnotes! To me it sounded like this was an Infinite Jest—a rich work but a fucking workout to read because the actual book part is hidden in a bunch of puzzles. I only have so many reads of an Infinite Jest-type book in me, so I put it off.
Well, turns out it’s actually a rip-roaring fantasy page-turner that’s easy and fun to read, and the footnotes are short and illustrative and not some structural game or indication that the narrator’s got a twisted mind.
The thing is, as much as I loved reading the book, its main effect was to increase my love of the miniseries, which I now know does an even better job than I suspected of adapting the immense story, and actually exceeds the book in its characterization due to the acting work of its pitch-perfect cast. So while I loved reading it, it wouldn’t be its own picko.
No, my picko is Clarke’s second novel, finally released last year, Piranesi. A long-awaited follow-up to a wildly acclaimed and successful book hardly needs some sicko idiot’s praise, but I can’t let this book go by without saying something about it.
The most obviously apparent thing to note about Piranesi (and everyone makes sure to note it, but despite its being well-worn ground, you can’t really avoid it) is that it’s extremely short. Clarke spent a decade writing a dense doorstop of a novel and follows it up with 240 pages set in a big chunky typeface with generous margins. You can read Piranesi in two days and not even feel like you had to set time aside to do it. I feel silly talking about this, the length of the book as compared to some other book isn’t important, but it’s striking enough that it feels like it can’t be left out.
On to the book itself. In short, Piranesi is beautiful. It’s a work of crushing pain and achingly tender love. Clarke truly is a writer of rare talent.
The book is an epistolary novel taking the form of journals written by Piranesi, a man who lives in the House. Well, he’s not exactly Piranesi. He is called Piranesi but is faintly aware that it isn’t his name. The House is his entire world, a three-tiered superstructure of apparently limitless size, empty save for a few birds and the statues that line every room, whose bottom floor is flooded by an ocean. Every week he has two hour-long visits with “The Other,” the only human being he’s ever met. Piranesi has never left the House, in fact the concept of leaving the House seems absurd, there could never be an “outside” of the House, the House is not a location in a larger setting, the House is All.
Piranesi as a protagonist is a marvel and I love him. From his journals it is clear he is a fastidious, curious, industrious person with a zeal for science and discovery despite the naivete that comes from living his entire life in the House. His kindness shines on every page, clearly a person overflowing with love for whom every facet of life is a gift, well summarized in what is almost the novel’s signature line, a phrase which bookends the story, though each time with vastly different meaning:
The Beauty of the House is immeasurable; its Kindness infinite.
Piranesi loves the House. There are moments when his desperate, immeasurable loneliness is naked and screaming on the page, which renders his inability to recognize it all the more devastating. He bursts with thankfulness for everything, not understanding that he has nothing.
Except actually, he has everything. It’s difficult to describe this book without giving too much away. The story is a puzzle box in many ways, as Piranesi gradually learns bit by bit more about the House and himself. The experience of one’s perception slowly unfolding is one of the major themes of the book, and its impact is massively amplified when you as the reader are experiencing it yourself. Who is Piranesi? What does it mean to live in the House? By the end the answers become muddled. The House is too complex to hold in one’s mind. It’s not that simple. But what we can be sure of is that it’s beautiful, and it can’t—shouldn’t—be left forgotten.
A lot of hay has been made about how different this book is from Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and how wild that is. And it is different. But they’re also the same. Both books revolve around the same thesis: that the world is not as we perceive it. Our attempts to apply human order to the world misunderstand its truth and in doing so force it to become something worse. To perceive the truth of existence is to embrace wildness and chaos, abandoning ideas of human superiority, in doing so opening oneself to beauty and understanding beyond measure but also taking on mortal risk. Reclaiming this knowledge will bring destruction to human society as we know it, but it’s a price well worth paying. These novels do not take place in the same fictional world, but at the same time they totally do. Many footnotes in Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell briefly summarize a well-known myth from the age of magic that the characters in the narrative casually reference. Piranesi feels very much like one of them told in full.
Some folks do not connect with Piranesi because when you reach the end and fully understand the whole sweep of the plot, it’s actually pretty simple and basic. This criticism is factually accurate, but to center “the plot” as the critical part of Piranesi is to profoundly miss the point. This is a novel about perception and understanding, not about the events in it. I could explain further but again I don’t want to give it all away.
The other complaint I’ve seen a lot is that they hate how Piranesi capitalizes so many non-proper nouns. That one is like ah lol yeah touché, he do be doing that
I sure hope this is coherent in some way. In the end, Piranesi is a work that gave me a profound emotional experience and made me see the world, at least for a moment, as something more wonderful than I thought. I hope it does the same for you.
PS. Both Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell and Piranesi were recommended to me by my wife, who insists I include the following in this review: “my wife is extremely clever and gets me to read non-anime books that are prime picks.” This is true, but inaccurate, because Piranesi is clearly anime.