The Review Heap: 2020 Directions (Checking In)

I’d planned something to mark the 1st year of The Review Heap but June hasn’t felt like time for much in the way of a celebration, so I’ve deferred my original idea for now.

I still want to mark the moment, I guess, so I’ll do a bit of a ‘check-in’ perhaps, and update any progress on what I’d planned for 2020 in this post, so let’s see how many goals I maybe made progress on!

Here’s a summation of the goals I had in mind back in Jan:

  1. Keep reviewing at my own pace
  2. More Anime
  3. Review albums
  4. More discussion posts
  5. Review more games
  6. Do more collaborations
  7. Release a book

  1. The plan for The Review Heap was just to review (nearly anything) at my own pace.

This is still going as intended 😀


2. More Anime

Yes and no.

Below are some of the ones I’d planned to review, and while my reviewing pace has been fair, I didn’t get to many of these… yet!

  • Buccano!
  • Kiki’s Delivery Service
  • Black Lagoon
  • Samurai Flamenco
  • Count of Monte Cristo
  • Perfect Blue
  • Shigofumi
  • The Twelve Kingdoms
  • Gunbuster

Here’s a quote from below which is essentially still true, though I feel a little more relaxed about reviewing them in the future at least:

There are also more than a few big-impact anime that I just haven’t got around to reviewing yet, such as Astro Boy, Neon Genesis, Cowboy Bebop, FMA, GITS etc and I’m super-keen to write them but I’m mostly paralysed by the question what could I hope to add to the discourse? They’re so massive and so storied that it’s hard to bring much new to the conversation.


3. Review Albums

No and no.

I wanted to review a few albums (having the common theme of being albums that were released right after a band broke-up) but zero progress on that so far. Will try to do at least one or two in the next 6 months.


4. More Discussion Posts

No and no.

So, this didn’t happen either! I had no ideas for any such posts, and so I didn’t write any 😀

I might give it a shot… actually, I do have just one idea based around a quote from Mamoru Oshii (below), and maybe such a post around anime and age will eventually appear on the heap, I’m not sure.

“I’m not watching anything. There are zero titles I’m interested in. I mean, I’m over 65. Trying to get into anime aimed at young people is impossible. That’s true for Japanese films in general, not just anime. Everything is made for a young audience.”


5. Review More Games

None.

This one is indeed pending. I’ve played plenty, both since I was a kid and lately, but haven’t had the time or drive to write up any thoughts. I am playing the ‘new’ Xenoblade, which does of course appeal to anime fans.


6. More Collaborations

Yes!

Okay, so I have one new collaboration (see here) and another two in the works, so I’m happy to report that this goal for 2020 is on track 🙂

I love and recommend doing collaborations, so I’m very pleased that things are going well there.


7. Release a book

Nope 🙂

Here there has been a little progress I guess – I’m still writing reviews, after all, but I’m still not sure how to structure it. Nor am I sure it wouldn’t just be a project for me hahahaha


So, some progress, which I’m happy with, and some things I’ll try to put more focus into but for now that’s a wrap! One year on the Heap 🙂

Again, thanks for reading!

Ashley  

The Review Heap: 2020 Direction(s)

Okay, roughly 8 months into the blog now and as I mentioned in my ‘About’ section, the new year is time for me to assess and look ahead a bit 🙂

The plan for The Review Heap was just to review (nearly anything) at my own pace.

So far so good on that front – I have no schedule and I post anywhere from 4 to 0 items a day. That’s something I think I’ll keep because I like to stay flexible where I can, and also be able to adjust post frequency based on how busy either of my jobs become at different parts of the year.

Of course, I could schedule posts for any ‘lean times’ but I’m not sure whether I’d be consistent enough even trying that. I think that instead, I should stick to posting at my own pace.

With that sorted, what will I change?

Maybe not a whole lot.

Basically, I’d like to review more of the mediums listed in the menu. So far, I only have 1 game review up, 1 music review and 3 books. Room to grow there, right?

So that’s going to be part of 2020’s focus for sure. Below I have a few more specifics but I’ll add that I know animation, especially anime, will be the core focus here. I do have a few US-productions reviewed at the Heap but I’d also like to learn more about the animation of other continents.

Specifically now:

  • 1. More Anime

Okay, but which ones you ask? Well, as you probably know I don’t have a theme here and I’m also not able to watch a lot of seasonal stuff while it’s live, so expect more from a range of eras and genres but only a few ‘current’ shows.

However, some of these titles are maybe due in the first few months:

  • Buccano!
  • Kiki’s Delivery Service
  • Black Lagoon
  • Samurai Flamenco
  • Count of Monte Cristo
  • Perfect Blue
  • Shigofumi
  • The Twelve Kingdoms
  • Gunbuster

Beyond those possibilities are works I’ve seen over the decades, some I’m only discovering now and a few I have to review from memory almost, while others might end up getting a heap of images + analysis, the way Ushio and Tora did. (I also have a tiny ‘what I’m watching now’ widget too but it’s buried at the bottom of the site while I’m using this particular theme.)

There are also more than a few big-impact anime that I just haven’t got around to reviewing yet, such as Astro Boy, Neon Genesis, Cowboy Bebop, FMA, GITS etc and I’m super-keen to write them but I’m mostly paralysed by the question what could I hope to add to the discourse? They’re so massive and so storied that it’s hard to bring much new to the conversation.

  • 2. Post Break-Up Albums

That heading is a little misleading, I realise.

What I mean is, as part of expanding my musical focus here, I was thinking of making a themed-post where I occasionally look at some albums that were released after the break-up of a big band/after an artist moves on or changes direction.

For instance, The Plastic Ono Band or Curtis for instance. Maybe even Pictures at Eleven, which was Robert Plant’s first solo album. But I don’t want it to be so narrow as when one person leaves a group, for instance there’s Black Sabbath’s Heaven and Hell, which is what the band did after their singer left, instead of the other way around.

Ideally, I’d have something a bit like this on anime or perhaps directors or studio shifts perhaps.

  • 3. Discussion Posts

I’ve only written one of these I think, and it was to explore the idea of what is a classic – and it was long and rambling post, even for me, but it was really helpful in letting me figure out what sort of metrics I should use to judge a text. So maybe if I try more discussion based things I could make them a little more topical, not sure.

  • 4. Collaboration Posts

This is something I’m super-excited about 🙂

Once the endless threat of bushfires in my area eases for a while, I’d like to announce my first collaboration at The Review Heap, focusing on the film Tokyo Godfathers. Collaboration is something I used to do a lot back in the poetry world, so I know I’ll enjoy the process here just as much. I’ve also been thinking about other ideas and hope to approach a few folks/am open to ideas from anyone during the year.

  • 5. Book Idea

This is very much in tadpole stage. (Yep, I skipped over ‘embryo’, because in a sense, I have already been building material for a possible book by accident – I’ve got nearly 100 reviews here so far it seems).

HOWEVER, of all the things I want for 2020 this one is by far the most up in the air.

Since my blog has no theme it’s hard to know where to focus any potential book. Sure, it could be a collection of reviews but I’m no ‘film cricket’ (to quote Homer Simpson) and so no-one in the reading public is going to seek out my thoughts, nor would it be that interesting perhaps to re-read these reviews in a compiled form.

And I certainly don’t have anywhere near the viewing experience to create anything close to an encyclopaedia-style collection either, even for a single decade or sub-genre.

Invariably, this project might end up being something fun, just for me. And knowing me, I’d end up going the whole hog a bit too, and commission cover art and editing too 😀

So, who knows about that one!


And thanks!

For the previous items on my list, that’s where I’ll start and we’ll see how it goes. I should also add that I’d like to keep up with what everyone else is up to around the community, as I’ve met great folks and found a whole heap of new titles that I should watch, so my list is growing at a kind of alarming rate 😀

And finally, a big thanks also to everyone who visits me here!

Ashley  

Tintin in Tibet (Tintin au Tibet)

Perhaps the most emotional volume in Herge’s Tintin series, Tintin in Tibet (1960) is certainly the one I’ve read the most times.

Perhaps there isn’t as much action as usual, but with its mystery woven around a heartfelt storyline that sees Tintin and Haddock searching the snowy mountains of Tibet for Tintin’s friend Chang, it’s a fantastic piece of storytelling that, despite the darker subject matter, is still graced with Herge’s usual fine sense of humour.

While it can be difficult to separate pleasant memories of reading this one as a child from the review, I can safely say that Tintin in Tibet remains distinctive not just for the personal nature of the story, but for the powerful use of white space in the panels – Herge’s famous ‘clear line’ style is so direct in conveying a sense of space that I always find myself drawn in to the setting as much as the story. This is partly what makes the moments of colour, such as the visit to the monastery, so vivid.

If your only experience of Tintin is the more explosive CGI outing from Jackson and Spielberg, and you’re not sure about the comics, perhaps start with some of the faster-paced volumes such as the Calculus-themed releases – but if you’re already a fan and you don’t actually have this one for any reason, then don’t deny yourself Tintin in Tibet.

The Black Cauldron – Lloyd Alexander

I’ve actually reviewed this one nearly everywhere I could over the years, including disappeared blogs etc but here we go again anyway 😀

The Black Cauldron is second in the Chronicles of Prydain, a series Lloyd Alexander started in 1964, and one which I’ve read a great many times – more than any other book in the set.

For my money, it’s the most powerful and a little grimmer than the others – the story where the characters face more of their own demons but also where the sense of wonder is strongest, where the story is tightest, most self-contained. In it, Taran and his companions must destroy the zombie-creating Black Cauldron and the odds are stacked quite high against them.

Now, Taran is a classic boy-hero but far and above my favourite character in the story is the prideful but surprising Ellidyr, and right on his heels are Orddu, Orwen, and Orgoch – the three witches who steal the show.

Alexander mentions how the books were influenced by Welsh mythology, which is clear from the first read, from names to setting and myths, all of which he weaves together so well. I devoured The Black Cauldron over and over as a kid (since 1991 I think it was when I was given a copy by Mum for a birthday) and have read it about once a year ever since.

If you’ve never read these books and enjoy ‘children’s literature’ check this out. It’s a classic and well deserving of its longevity (and *far* superior to the Disney adaptation).

A Wild Sheep Chase (Hitsuji o meguru bōken)

A Wild Sheep Chase (Hitsuji o meguru bōken) 1989 (trans)

I loved A Wild Sheep Chase – when I first read it years ago I remember being hooked so quickly and surprised by the seemingly ‘low-key’ ending (which in a way, really suits the oft-times taciturn narrators Murakami features).

For me, this is a great place to start if you’re new to Haruki Murakami. The story has all the classic Murakami elements; an almost detective-like search, a mysterious, bewitching girl and wonderful surrealist aspects – most strikingly perhaps, in one hell of a strange sheep that no-one can seem to find.

Unlike say, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle’s wider scope, this shorter novel has a much swifter storyline and also features more surrealism than what’s widely considered another excellent entry point to his work, Norwegian Wood.

When I look back on it my strongest impression is actually (at first) feeling that the ending wasn’t as strong as I was expecting… yet I found myself thinking about the end of the story often in the days after. So, as it turns out, it was actually exactly what it needed to be 🙂

5 Stars