1898: Our Last Men in the Philippines

1898: Our Last Men in the Philippines

Many of us in the Western world might think of Southeast Asia as a dense jungle where white people go to die. The French and the Americans died in Vietnam. The Dutch died in Indonesia. The British died in Malaya.

The Philippines are often overlooked. Americans may remember the islands played a role in World War II. They will speak of Corregidor (properly with a rolled “r” and a “g” pronounced like an “h” — it’s a Spanish word) and Bataan (a three-syllable word) and Leyte Gulf. What they may not remember is the war that gained Americans the Philippines, and the empire that ruled it before them.

That empire was Spain. Spaniards arrived in the archipelago four centuries before the Americans threw them out by concocting an espionage scandal out of a boiler accident. 1898, Los últimos de Filipinas, released in the English-speaking world as 1898: Our Last Men in the Philippines, is about the end of that war.

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Space Sweepers

Space Sweepers

Space Sweepers is an action-packed science-fiction adventure that combines elements from other beloved spacefaring franchises, such as Star Wars, Firefly and Guardians of the Galaxy.

In the not too distant future, Earth is dying, humanity under the influence of an evil mastermind and UTS company CEO (never a good idea to let big tech get too much power!) James Sullivan has moved to Mars. The tiny percentage of people who have been allowed to join him live in a new Eden. The rest are left to rot and live in squalor and permanent debt on Earth or in non-citizen space towns.

Enter the motley crew of the salvage ship Victory, each with their own pasts and reasons to hate UTS, and one special little girl who holds the key to literal salvation.

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From Up on Poppy Hill

From Up on Poppy Hill

Studio Ghibli is known for its whimsical fantasy movies, featuring fantastic creatures (literally) and colorful characters.

But the studio is also really good at producing calm, slice-of-life films featuring nothing other than regular human beings.

Kokuriko-zaka Kara (From Up on Poppy Hill) is such a movie, following the lives of high schoolers in 1968 Yokohama, Japan, who are trying to save their run-down and decrepit club house from demolition while dealing with personal problems in the aftermath of World War II and the Korean War.

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Drifting Dragons

Drifting Dragons

I chose to watch Netflix’s Drifting Dragons practically on a whim. It had airships, and it would allow me to partially fulfill my desire to get more into anime, given how much it has influenced my social circles. I watched the whole thing in a single night, about four hours or so.

In terms of the ‘punk aspect, it is on the boundary between steam and diesel. The series is set in a fantasy world separate from our own, but the technology is familiar: you have the helium zeppelin and the small helicopter that it dispatches to fight dragons.

Given that it’s in the very title of the show, I feel I must comment on the dragons. These are not the dragons of European fairytales, nor are they the dragons of Chinese myth; these are more Lovecraftian monsters than anything else, with a sort of otherworldly horror to their design that made my skin crawl. They’re not just inhuman; they almost feel as if they were not designed by humans.

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The Art of James Ng

If you’ve ever searched for steampunk art, there’s a good chance you’ll have found James Ng’s “Imperial Airship”. But did you know this is only one in a series of artworks? Called Imperial Steam & Light, they depict a world in which China, not the United Kingdom, industrialized first.

The Hong Kong-born Ng imagines the possibilities:

Maybe skyscrapers would look like Chinese temples? Cars would look like carriages? Perhaps China will still be in imperial rule? And maybe we would have fantastical machines that look both futuristic and historical.

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Dreams of Arab Unity

Proposals for unification of the Arab world are more than a century old. Sharif Hussein ibn Ali of Mecca, the steward of the holy cities of Islam, was the first modern Arab leader who sought independence for his people from the Ottoman Turks.

The British, who at the time controlled Aden and Egypt, promised to support Hussein’s ambitions if he would revolt against the Ottomans during the First World War; a promise Britain infamously reneged on.

It would be the first of many disappointments for pan-Arabists.

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Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045

Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045

It’s 2045. War is the main industry and cryptocurrencies are invalid, leading to even more conflict and civil unrest.

Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 doesn’t start with a bang. It takes several episodes before the plot gains momentum and you’ve seen enough of the world, and the people in it, to really get into it. But it’s worth sticking with it.

Unlike such dystopias as Mad Max, the post-apocalyptic world of SAC_2045 is familiar to ours. It’s about real people. The series shows the impact of a large economical crisis and currency devaluation on average people.

The impact of the United States as a global power on other countries is another nice touch. It’s a bit of a cautionary tale, and this aspect of the anime is very well done.

What is less well done is the animation. I am not a fan of this style of cheap and basic-looking CGI at all, and I feel the anime deserves better.

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