One Piece: Chapter 868- Review

Of course they failed! In all honesty, I feel like somewhat of an idiot for believing that Oda was done addressing Big Mom’s backstory for the time being. The way he intertwined her continuing past narrative with the current action was outstanding. Although this chapter wasn’t quite as potent as its predecessor, there is still quite a bit to discuss. For simplicities sake, I will be addressing the backstory first, and finishing up with the minimal main narrative progression we did receive.

It was revealed that Linlin, Mother Caramel, and the rest of the orphans weren’t alone on the day of the cannibalism incident. Unbenounced to each other, two spectators witnessed this gruesome event, both equal in importance for current affairs.

The first was a giant from Elbaf, who came to check in on the new Lamb’s House. So disgusted by what he witnessed, he immediately fled back to Elbaf, where he informed the rest of the giants of the horrors he had seen. Big Mom became such a repugnant figure amongst their community that they do not even speak of her by name. Oda was quite clever in including this witness. As we now know Big Mom will probably not be killed during this arc, it is very likely she will be an extremely relevant character in the inevitable Elbaf arc. This giant, as well as the giants he informed, may be the ones to provide this crucial context to the Straw Hats once they arrive in the kingdom.

While the first witness was there to be a conduit for future events, the second helped to shape the basis for the current circumstances. Big Mom’s head chef, Streusen, was, at the time, marooned on this island. Finding the incident comedic, he saw potential in manipulating the young Linlin, and became her ally. Together, they would come to build what is now the Big Mom Pirate Empire. I always love when Oda takes a character of minuscule importance and embeds them with relevancy. It manages to make characters that would typically be forgotten amongst the sheer massiveness of One Piece’s cast more memorable (see Super Eyepatch Wolf’s discussion of Senior Pink for a perfect example). The subtextual character development here is tremendous. Streusen must be a man of astounding patience and intrepidity, working with someone as volatile as Big Mom for over 60 years.

The pirate empire the two formed had to start somewhere. The theories were correct, the island that Mother Caramel built the second Lamb’s House on would eventually become the capital of Big Mom’s territory, Whole Cake Island. The revelation doesn’t stop there. As I predicted, Mother Caramel was the one who sparked Big Mom’s goal of building a melting pot country. Through her insincere rhetoric, Caramel instilled the idea that would become the cornerstone of Linlin’s entire pirate career. If Caramel were a genuine individual, this would be an utterly touching scene. Our understanding of her true intentions, however, makes this revelation profoundly disturbing; Big Mom’s empire is built entirely on lies.

A subtextual, but not irrelevant reveal followed soon after. Linlin boasting that she performed “the trick that mother did,” without having been shown consuming a devil fruit that grew nearby helps prove that eating a devil fruit user can transfer their power. This not only provides new lore to the One Piece universe but may even provide context to a significant past event.

Note: the following idea comes from Best Guy Ever, a host on the Po D. Cast (which if you haven’t checked out yet, you unquestionably should, it’s the best One Piece podcast out there). His genius theory harkens back to the Paramount War saga. During the Battle of Marineford, Blackbeard concealed himself and a dying Whitebeard under a large black cloth. After several minutes, Blackbeard emerged with Whitebeard’s devil fruit ability in tow. Nate theorized that, under the blanket, Blackbeard must have eaten a piece of Whitebeard’s body. Although it isn’t perfectly sound, I personally find this theory plausible.

Enough theory crafting, back to the chapter at hand. Since we’ve addressed all the important details from the backstory segments, let’s move on to the current narrative.

Big Mom has hit a point of such immense, unprecedented rage, that her haki destroys the bullets flying at her, immediately halting the assassination plan. Even if Bege had extra bullets, the haki waves shattered their weapons. With Big Mom Pirates commanders closing in, it was imperative that the Straw Hats and Fire Tanks fled into the mirror world immediately. Sure enough, in a surprisingly hilarious scene, the entrance mirror was smashed by the haki waves.

At first I thought Bege’s auxiliary escape method (his castle being a sentient homie) was shoddy writing on Oda’s behalf. After further analysis, I discerned that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this reveal. It is perfectly characteristic of Bege to have a backup plan that he wouldn’t share with the Straw Hats unless absolutely necessary. Since he’s someone who is known for his betrayals and mafia-esque tendencies, I really don’t think the writing is contrived here. Let’s hope it stays that way as the alliance continues their escape next chapter.

One Piece: Chapter 865- Review

I want to start off by immediately addressing the elephant in the room. I apologize for the unannounced hiatus. I did not intend to cease posting for nearly a month. In the weeks since I arrived back in South Florida for the summer, I have been focusing my time and creative energy on both my fiction writing and professional endeavors. In this unexpectedly busy haze, I simply lost track of my gonzo journalism efforts. I promise I will go back to posting more frequently, at least once a week excluding One Piece chapter reviews.

With that out of the way, let’s jump right into this week’s chapter. Chapter 865 was an overall mixed bag for me. While there were some elements I absolutely loved, I do have some concerns that I plan on discussing in-depth. The main takeaway from the chapter was the cliffhanger, the implications of which I will inevitably address before this review is through.

The cover pages have always been one of my favorite components of the One Piece manga. I love how cleverly Oda uses a standard element of the medium that so many mangaka simply take for granted. He recently transitioned from fan requests back to traditional side-story arcs. This time around we are following the remaining captains of the Straw Hat Grand Fleet, and what each of their respective crews are up to. I find the potential in this cover story to be immense. We are dealing with intriguing characters that didn’t get the time they deserved in the immensely complex Dressrosa arc. Although I never really cared for Cavendish, the current subject, I look forward to the possibilities of cover pages to come. P.S- I don’t expect to see Bartolomeo in this cover story arc, due to his involvement back in Zou.

On to what you are all really here for, the main story. This chapter was heavily action based, which typically is not a problem. However, I was somewhat disappointed in the cluttered and disorienting action that Oda conveyed in this chapter. The smoothness and weighty impact that typically defines One Piece action was traded for a choppy, non-impactful, and hard to follow mess. I found myself constantly scrolling back up to make sure I understood what had just transpired. Panels didn’t flow into each other well, making the transition of focus between characters downright confusing. Although there isn’t any way to prove this hypothesis, I have a theory that Oda was heavily rushed on this chapter; it just doesn’t seem like him.

A problem I had with the previous chapter has become increasingly more evident this week. Judge is acting excruciatingly out of character. For a supposed genius scientist and power-hungry dictator, he is behaving awfully cowardly and unintelligently. I’m having a hard time telling if this is supposed to be comedic, or if I’m just dealing with bad writing. Even if he is being played for laughs, the fact that I am not sure whether this is the case shows poor character writing regardless. Obviously I’m nitpicking here; Oda is one of the greatest writers of all time. It’s just this particular instance that perplexes and disappoints me.

One element of recent plot progression that actually surprises me is how smoothly the Straw Hat/Fire Tank alliance plan is running. Obviously there have been some serious bumps along the way, but for a Yonko assassination plot I thought was for sure dead on arrival, I am pleasantly surprised. Obviously there is still room for the plan to fall apart (throwback to the Battle of Marineford), but, for the sake of the characters, I really hope it doesn’t. If we do end up taking the Marineford route, Jinbe is screwed.

I promised I’d circle back to the cliffhanger, and here we are. The final three panels of this chapter comprised one of the most simultaneously satisfying and frustrating cliffhangers in recent memory. We are finally getting a Big Mom/Mother Caramel flashback sub-arc, and much sooner than I expected! I was also correct about Big Mom’s ties to Elbaf; it seems this is where she and Mother Caramel are from. We are going back to the past people, 63 years ago in Elbaf to be exact. As someone whose favorite element of One Piece is the flashback sub-arcs, I got literal chills absorbing these finishing panels. The reason I bring the word frustration into play is because of how pissed off I am that I have to wait almost a week for the next chapter; I WANT IT NOW!

As I said earlier, this chapter definitely gave me mixed feelings. Despite choppy and confusing action coupled with strange characterization choices, the cliffhanger nearly redeemed my reading experience. I can’t wait to see what Oda has in store for us over the next few weeks, and the opportunity to share my thoughts with you all only amplifies my excitement.

One Piece: Chapter 858- Review

Chapter 858 was one of the most satisfying chapters of the Whole Cake Island arc thus far. Continuing with 857’s trend of explaining lasting mysteries, this chapter is one filled to the brim with immense payoff.

To start, a hearty chunk, or potentially all, of the New Fishman Pirates are confirmed to be hiding out on Whole Cake Island. Now that we know this information, there is a much larger change that the crew will come into play when it comes down to the actual wedding sabotage plan. Further, we learn that Pekoms, one of the few characters with potential of ratting out to Big Mom, is being stalled and tricked by the hiding crew. He is oblivious to Jinbe’s defection from the Big Mom Pirates, and potentially clueless of his alliance with the Straw Hats.

Continuing with the A plot of the arc, we finally get a look at Capone Bege’s hideout. Although the art leaves it vague as to whether this is a ship docked, or simply part of the island, the citadel fits Bege’s aesthetic perfectly.

This castle also serves as a house of reveals and plot progression, starting with more information on Lola’s backstory and Big Mom’s relationship with the giant race. It is revealed that the powerful suitor that Lola evaded marriage with was actually the prince of Elbaf, the home country of the giants. We learn that Elbaf is the strongest nation in the world militarily, further edging the buildup towards a seemingly inevitable Elbaf arc.

Through Chiffon’s lament, we gain a deeper insight into Big Mom as a character. She is not only abusive to her children verbally and situationally, but physically as well- Chiffon being the victim of harsh beatings despite Lola being to blame for the situation. Big Mom is slowly making her way towards irredeemability, but hasn’t quite hit it yet. Maybe the actual wedding or the future Elbaf arc will cement this status.

This chapter wasn’t only oozing with serious narrative payoff, but with comedic punch lines as well. Luffy’s lost tooth and Brook’s skull crack were healed thanks to the magical abilities of calcium-rich milk! I typically place a mammoth amount of faith in Oda with regards to continuity. However, I admittedly thought these injuries would simply disappear between chapters at some point. I’m very proud of Oda for directly addressing such a miniscule detail.

Continuing with satisfying comedy, we learn that the member of Bege’s gang that looked similar to Caesar was indeed Caesar himself in hiding. Believe it or not, I was just as shocked as Luffy was. I thought this was simply an issue of similarity in character design on the part of one of Oda’s assistants. I was elated to learn of the truth, as well as of Caesar’s reasoning for being at the hideout. It makes perfect logical sense that Caesar would want a way to escape Big Mom’s inevitable wrath. The added plot element of Bege being given control of Caesar’s still cubed heart wasn’t necessary, but is not a weak loyalty insurance measure.

The main takeaway from this chapter is that Luffy and Bege officially formed a pirate alliance. Whether this alliance will remain intact after the wedding is yet to be seen. If the Heart/Straw Hat alliance is any indication, it may last longer than intended. This may be the next step towards my theorized endgame of a complete alliance between all of the Supernova crews.

Bege reveals to Luffy that he has already constructed a game plan for their now joint wedding crash. Whether this will be explained in the next chapter, or be communicated through the actual enactment is yet to be seen. If their plan ends up failing, I would say the prior.

If the next chapter is not an explainer, then it seems the climax of the arc has begun. I would typically offer a prediction on how the wedding will go down here, but I find it very exciting that I have absolutely no idea. I guess we’ll just have to wait to see what Oda has in store for us. If his past track record is any indication, this will be a wedding for the ages.

Top 4 Films of 2016

I don’t get why people say 2016 was a bad year for movies. Yes, I can count the amount of great films that came out this year with my fingers. However, i’d much rather have a handful of greats than a slew of pretty goods. Although there definitely were more 2016 releases that I enjoyed, here are the four that stood out above the rest, proving that 2016 was an unforgettable year for the medium of film.


#4- Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them

Director: David Yates

Writer: J.K. Rowling

Genre: Fantasy

I am a huge Harry Potter fan. I credit J.K. Rowling as the person who shaped me into the avid media consumer I am today. Without the story of the boy who lived, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here writing this piece. When a prequel series was announced, written by Rowling herself, I was very hesitant to build hype. Especially with the transition of medium from novel to film, I knew I couldn’t allow myself to get too excited. There were so many opportunities for failure with this movie; I am so happy to say that Rowling didn’t screw it up. Fantastic Beasts was fantastic. It did everything a great prequel should. Despite having some subtle nods, it didn’t rely too much on the original work. It had intriguing, well-written characters that weren’t just cardboard cutouts or carbon copies of Harry and company. It managed to work as a satisfying, self-contained story, while still building the foundation for the rest of a five-part saga. Although this isn’t a full review, I couldn’t go without mentioning how much I loved the movie’s 1920s New York aesthetic. Although there were some jarring plot holes, everything else about the movie was so good that I can’t dwell on them too much. Far superior to the other piece of Harry Potter universe media that was released this year (i’m talking about you Cursed Child), Fantastic Beasts is a real treat for any potterhead.


#3- This House Has People in It

Director: Alan Resnick

Writer(s): Alan Resnick, Dina Kelberman, and Robby Rackleff

Genre: Horror

I was very tentative about placing a short film on this list. After all, a TV movie under 15 minutes long can’t possibly convey as much as a 2.5 hour theatrical epic, right? Wrong! This House Has People in It managed to do that and more. Alan Resnick has finally made a name for himself by producing one the most clever, intriguing, and genuinely scary horror stories of all time. If you are unfamiliar with Adult Swim’s infomercial block, it is a late-night home for experimental short films disguised as infomercials. You may have heard of some of its more famous products such as Too Many Cooks and Unedited Footage of a Bear, both of which I would also highly recommend. Despite its 12 minute run time, This House Has People in It is one of the most densely packed movies ever made. It is literally impossible to absorb every detail it has to offer, even with multiple viewings. For a fantastic analysis and in-depth explanation of the short and its expanded material, I would highly recommend checking out NightMind. Even if you don’t end up watching this film, I would still give him a look, he’s one of the best horror analysts on YouTube. This House Has People in It might not grab you upon your first viewing. In fact, you may initially find it funny like I did. With each subsequent viewing, however, you begin to pick up more on what is actually happening. Then you begin to think about it. The genius of the film is that this mental process is part of the movie itself, an essential component of its fear building. Hold onto your bed sheets, because you will not be sleeping after experiencing this horror masterpiece.


#2- Kimi no Na Wa (Your Name)

Director: Makoto Shinkai

Writer: Makoto Shinkai

Genre: Anime Drama

Kimi no Na Wa, or Your Name in english, would have definitely taken the number one spot if it weren’t for a last minute sneak up. Your Name is the definition of perfect melancholic storytelling. It fills you with such strong and potent emotion, but it’s very difficult to decipher whether these feelings are of happiness or sadness. The only other movie in recent memory that has made me feel this way has been Wolf Children, one of my all time favorite films and overall pieces of media. Although I can’t say Your Name is one of my favorite movies, I can say it is a must see. You may groan at the premise; yet another body swap movie. However, this is the seminal body swap story. Never has this trope been executed more perfectly and originally. Despite being centered around the oldest trope in the book, there truly is nothing like Your Name out there. It takes beautiful animation, relatable characters, and a phenomenal soundtrack, and puts them in a blender to give you an experience. Although an anime film, its medium is by no means a barrier to entry. I would highly recommend this movie to audiences of all ages and backgrounds, regardless of anime experience. If subtitles aren’t your thing, Funimation is working a dub that seems pretty promising. In whichever format you prefer, go watch Your Name. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll even get a bit turned on.


#1- Arrival

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Writer: Eric Heisserer, based on short story by Ted Chiang

Genre: Science Fiction

Arrival was a film made for me. As a fan of science fiction, relatable characters, and alien stories; this was a homerun. It was the only movie this year that managed to become one of my all time favorites. I can go on for pages about how much I loved Arrival. However, I don’t want to talk too much about it, as I do plan on doing exactly that in an in-depth analytical review in the near future. Arrival was directed by Denis Villeneuve, who you may recognize from his work on Prisoners and Enemy, two great movies. Arrival is by far Villeneuve’s best film to date, and what elevated him to one of my all time favorite filmmakers. However, we can’t give Villeneuve all of the credit. I recently discovered that Arrival is based on Ted Chiang’s short story Story of Your Life. Although I have not yet gotten a chance to read it, there is no way it will go unread before I write my full review. Further, science fiction is my thing; it’s probably my overall favorite genre of fiction. However, Arrival goes beyond the typical boundaries of what the genre has to offer. Its unprecedented storytelling method, excruciatingly gorgeous cinematography, and unforgettable characters make it one the best films of the decade. Although I can’t say it’s my favorite science fiction movie, it’s definitely my favorite “alien invasion movie.” That’s just it though, I can’t even bring myself to call it an alien invasion film without precautionary quotation marks. Arrival is just so much more than Independence Day or War of the Worlds. It’s the story of a woman, and the events that reshaped the course of her life. In Amy Adams’ best performance, we come to know the character of Louise Banks, befriend her, understand her, and even cry for her. If not an active consumer of complex fiction such as myself, it may take a few viewings to fully appreciate and understand everything this movie has to offer. But those subsequent viewings are well worth the price of admission. Arrival is a movie I just can’t stop thinking about, and that means something to me.


The Transformation of the Japanese Legislature in the Aftermath of World War 2

Note: This analytical essay was initially submitted as a final paper for a Comparative Political Institutions course, and has been edited modified for the purposes of this blog.

Modern Japan is considered by many to be a beacon of democracy. However, Japan didn’t’ always have the democratic prominence that it is known for today. Before the conclusion of World War 2, Japan was an imperial nation, striving to conquer the rest of East Asia. The transformation of Japan into a democracy ushered on a multitude of drastic institutional changes. These changes are extremely evident in the restructuring of the Japanese legislature.

Historical context is necessary to understand the scale of this institutional reconstruction. In the early historical periods of the Paleolithic, Jomon, and Yayoi, the Japanese archipelago was inhabited by a series of independent tribes. Combined, these eras lasted from roughly 10,000 BC to 300 AD. Due to the nature of this society, there wasn’t any formalized legislature of sorts to be discussed. However, this all changed with the onset of the Kofun period.

Early into the common era, 300 years to be exact, Japan was successfully unified under a single emperor, and the regime type of Japan shifted to authoritarian. The emperor and his small group of elites were known as the Yamato Court. “As for regional control, according to the Chinese Book of Sui … the country was already divided into kuni (provinces), which were subdivided into agata. These territorial units were governed by Kuni no Miyatsuko and Agatanushi, who were responsible for collecting tribute” (Yamato Court, In other words, the Yamato Court divided what was once the territory of a multitude of individual tribes into provinces and subdivisions known as agata. These agata were then appointed a specific regional leader. These regional leaders were typically people who were already local leaders, but now officially approved by the court. The Kuni no Miyatsuko and Agatanushi were responsible for collecting tribute from the citizens of their specific regions. Although extremely primitive by today’s standards, this was the first sign of somewhat unified legislative action in Japanese history. Basic legislative practices as discussed continued with some failures and successes for quite some time. While various different dynasties rose and fell, the same basic principles of tribute and taxation applied. Further drastic changes in the legislature of Japan, however, came about with the emergence of the Edo Period in the early 1600s.

The Edo Period began with rise of the Tokugawa Shogunate, a military regime that ruled from the early 1600s to the mid 1800s. They believed in complete Japanese isolationism, and disconnected the nation from all relations with the outside world. Therefore, all concentrations were on the internal politics of Japan. With this internal focus, the Tokugawa Shogunate completely changed the legislature of Japan on an unprecedented scale. By many standards, this was the first time the Japanese government had a true legislative branch. The Tokugawa Shogunate implemented a legislature very similar to a system of committees that you would see in modern legislatures. These groups were known as the Roju and Wakadoshiyori, the Ometsuke and Metsuke, and the San-Bugyo.

The Roju and Wakadoshiyori were responsible for ensuring smooth relations between the imperial court, the Buddhist temples, and the Shinto shrines. As Buddhism and Shintoism were the two most prominent religions in the country at the time, non-hostile relations between these religious institutions and the government was very important to Japanese stability.

The Ometsuke and Metsuke were responsible for monitoring the imperial court. They were appointed to do so in order to spot and thwart any form of rebellion against the government before it could truly take off. As the Tokugawa Shogunate was a military regime, rebellion was a genuine concern that needed to be monitored. Therefore, the Ometsuke and Metsuke were a pivotal part of the Edo Period legislature.

The San-Bugyo were, in modern terms, the accountants of the Tokugawa Shogunate. They were responsible for monitoring and organizing the funds and economics of temples, shrines, cities, and the Shogunate itself. As they dealt with the economics of the nation, they were a necessary component for the functionality of the Japanese government.

The conglomeration of these various groups composed a political institution that is very reminiscent to a simplified modern committee-based legislature. It was the first time Japan operated with a somewhat modernized government system. However, due to intense isolationism, the Edo Period prevented Japan from modernizing at the pace of the rest of the world. This issue would shape Japan, and the legislature of the nation, for the rest of its history.

As evident by the modern condition of Japan, the nation’s isolationism had to come to a close. With the dawn of the era that is known as the Meiji Restoration in 1868, Japan, as a nation, was completely reshaped. With what is perhaps the most drastic transformation of the nation (other than in the aftermath of World War 2), Japan ended its isolationism. The emperor at the time, Meiji, saw the technological, political, and imperial progress that western nations had made while Japan was isolated, and wanted to emulate it. For the first time in Japan’s history, a semi-democratic constitutional monarchy government was implemented. However, the slightly democratic components of the Meiji regime did not last for long. Using a variety of influences from a multitude of European nations, Meiji constructed a culturally appropriated government, borrowing what he considered to be the “highlights” of European culture. In essence, Meiji created a “European” nation in East Asia.

With the onset of the Meiji Restoration came the construction of a formalized legislature as we understand the term. Based on the success of bicameral legislatures in multiple European nations, Japan constructed their own bicameral legislative branch known as the Imperial Diet. What was unique about the Imperial Diet, and the other political institutions of the time, was that the emperor was actually a part of it. He was a member of all of the institutions below him, and used his membership to actively pass and uphold statute.

The Imperial Diet was composed of two branches, the House of Representatives and the House of Peers. Members of the House of Representatives were directly elected by voters. However, who was allowed to vote at the time was very limited. Male, purely Japanese citizens were the only people allowed to vote, with some limited exceptions. Members of The House of Peers, on the other hand, were all aristocrats, given positions based on their nobility.

The process of passing legislation in the Imperial Diet was somewhat similar to how it works in the current Japanese legislature. A bill must pass through both the House of Representatives and the House of Peers. However, after passing through both, it must also be approved by the emperor. The emperor had the final say on the passing of all statute within his empire, with no exceptions.

The Imperial Diet operated successfully for the rest of the 19th century, and most of the early 20th century. However, international history has prominent impacts on not just the members involved, but the world as a whole. While Japan wasn’t actively involved in World War 1, it suffered tremendous consequences from the conflict. After the war, most of the world entered a period of economic depression, Japan being no exception. This was not aided by the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923.

The earthquake nearly destroyed Tokyo, which was the current capital of Japan. Tokyo was the center of Japan’s imperial power, and the hub for all of the nation’s political institutions. This devastated the government of Japan at the time, and only amplified their intense economic depression. The Japanese imperial government, including all of the political institutions that composed it, were on the brink of collapse, and needed to find a way to survive. They found savior in the abandonment of any democratic tendencies, and the conquering of neighboring territory.

Japan had been enemies with its western neighbor China since its ancient inception. China served as a threat for imperial Japan, due to its sheer size and influence in the region. Before there was any official alliance, Japan was already receiving aid from Germany, and actively aggressing China. However, in order to ensure that the Japanese empire would be safe from its enemies (mainly China) during this time, the Japanese legislature decided to enter the Tripartite Pact. The pact, signed between the three major world powers of Germany, Italy, and Japan, ensured that each would be there to protect each other if they were to be attacked by a non-pact nation. “The Pact also recognized the two spheres of influence. Japan acknowledged the leadership of Germany and Italy in the establishment of a new order in Europe, while Japan was granted lordship over Greater East Asia” (This Day in History, September 27th 1940, In other words, while Italy and Germany were busy conquering the rest of the Europe, Japan would begin the acquisition of East Asia. The Tripartite Pact was responsible for officially entering Japan into World War 2 in 1940.

World War 2 was a disastrous time for Japan. Even after the defeat of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy in the European front, Japan continued to battle the allied forces in the East Asian front. Imperial Japan was officially defeated in 1945, when two atomic bombs were dropped on the major Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. With these bombs, the Japanese were given an ultimatum: surrender, or the rest of the archipelago would be destroyed. The emperor at the time, Hirohito, surrendered on the strict, non-negotiable terms of the allied forces. This is where the greatest legislative transformation in Japanese history took place.

The conditioning of Japan’s surrender was written in a document known as the Potsdam Declaration. This document was collaboratively drafted by the United States, the United Kingdom, and China. The requirements stated in the Potsdam Declaration, while seemingly simple, would completely transform Japan as a nation. Japan was to end all forms of imperialism. In other words, the nation was required to give up all of the territory that it conquered during its time as an empire. The territory that made up Japan was limited to the four largest islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku. Specific smaller islands were also allowed to remain under Japanese rule. This created the borders that define modern day Japan. To further prevent the threat of imperialism, the emperor was stripped of all of his power, and the title was reduced to a ceremonial status, similar to that of the queen in England. In other words, the emperor no longer had any political power. The allied forces were also allowed permanent military occupation in designated areas, in order to ensure Japan wouldn’t fall back into its imperialistic tendencies. The Japanese military was to be disbanded, and restructured on the terms of the allied forces. All Japanese industry and economics were allowed to continue, and actually encouraged, in order to foster capitalism. If not evident by the previous requirements, Japan was required to become a full-fledged democracy. The government was to promote freedom of speech, religion, and thought; something that was previously unheard of in the nation. However, what is pivotal to this discussion is the restructuring of every key political institution in the Japanese government; including the legislature

The modern Japanese legislature, while operating on a similar basis as its imperial predecessor, was ultimately transformed by the Potsdam Declaration. Japan has maintained this legislative system to date. Replacing the emperor, the legislative branch currently holds the largest amount of power in the Japanese government. The current legislature, located in the capital of Tokyo, was renamed from the Imperial Diet to the National Diet. The maintained bicameralism of the legislature is present in its division between an upper and lower house. The lower house is called the House of Representatives, while the upper house is called the House of Councillors.

The House of Representatives is made up of 480 members, who serve four year terms, unless removed from their positions earlier. However, not all of these members are elected in the same manner. House of Representatives elections are conducted in two ways. 300 representatives are elected through a single-member plurality, or first past the post, electoral system. The other 180, however, are selected via party-list proportional representation. In other words, each political party composes a list of potential candidates. As Japan has an open list electoral system, individual representatives are specifically chosen off of these lists based on popularity.

The House of Councillors is made up of 242 members, roughly half the amount of the House of Representatives. While half serve three year terms, the other half serve four. 146 are chosen through single non-transferable votes. These elections take place within each of the 47 prefectures that make up Japan. In other words, you can only vote for a representative in the prefecture that you reside in. The other 96, however, are selected proportionally. Since Japan uses an open list system, councillors are are individually chosen by the people, as opposed to the people voting for a party as a whole, who then decides on members for them. Councillors are voted upon off of a national list. In other words, if a person is not on this list, they can not be voted upon to occupy one of the 96 seats available.

Perhaps the most drastic institutional change with regards to the Japanese legislature is in power. As an imperial nation, the emperor had ultimate power. He had the final and strongest say over statute, as well as any other matters of the nation. However, as the Potsdam Declaration stripped the emperor down to a purely ceremonial position, the legislature is currently the most powerful institution in the Japanese government. The reduction of the power of the emperor position also allowed the legislature to be the only political institution in the nation able to pass statute, or make laws.

The legislature of Japan gained other prominent powers with the implementation of Potsdam reformations. The National Diet currently controls both the budget and international treaties of the nation. They also have the ability to investigate both specific members of government, as well as governmental institutions as a whole, if they begin to sense corruption or wrongdoing. To further this power, the Diet has the ability to impeach any government official, including the Prime Minister, if they are deemed unfit to serve. As many other legislatures do, they are also able to ratify the constitution, if necessary.

Both chambers of the legislature are required to have a single annual meeting, but are permitted to meet multiple times a year if necessary. In order for a meeting to count as legitimate, at least ⅓ of the members of each respective house must be present. Meetings are ceremonially begun and concluded by the emperor, regardless of his lack of ability to participate in said meetings.

The House of Representatives has more legislative power than the House of Councillors. However, to combat any unfair balance, the House of Councillors is able to postpone any budget or treaty decisions made by the House of Representatives. Regardless of this legislative structure, any bill must still be voted upon in both chambers, and must be given final approval by the emperor. However, unlike in imperial Japan, the emperor is required to approve every bill, making the action a tradition, rather than a legitimate political act.

Evidently, Japan has undergone multiple legislative transformations throughout its history as a nation. From isolationist, to imperial, to democratic; Japan’s legislature has been restructured to fit each period of the country’s history. With the fall of imperial Japan at the end of World War 2 came the transformation of Japan from an empire to a democracy. This major political transformation reshaped the legislature of the nation into the format it currently operates under today. As Japan is currently one of the most prominent world democracies, this legislative change is anything but unimportant.

Sources Cited:

  1. The Oxford Handbook of Political Institutions (Edited By: R. A. W. Rhodes, Sarah A. Binder and Bert A. Rockman)
  2. Lecture Slides (Constructed By: Professor Kreppel)
  3. Websites Used

Star Wars: The Force Awakens- An Analytical Essay

Well, here we are with what is probably the most inevitable review I have ever written. Believe it or not, I have actually been putting this review off. Due to the sheer amount of topics to discuss regarding this film, I thought maybe a free-form analysis similar to my RWBY reviews would be the better format. I was insecure in a sense, worried that I would miss something, or not get my points across correctly. However, when it comes down to my true nature as a creative, I am a writer. I have always been a writer, and I always will be a writer. Therefore, I thought it would be a betrayal to talk about the newest installment in my favorite movie franchise in any other format but a written piece. However, this will not simply be a straight-forward technical film review. It will lean more towards an analytical essay, discussing broader concepts more than technicalities. WARNING: this discussion will inevitably have some spoilers. However, if you haven’t already seen the film, you probably don’t plan on doing so. This will probably be the longest piece I have ever written for this blog, so I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I will writing it.

I feel as if a basic understanding of my personal connection to the Star Wars universe is essential context for this essay. Therefore, I will try to briefly explain it. I was first introduced to the Star Wars franchise when I was five years old. My dad sat me down, and showed me A New Hope. Little did my naive mind know that this movie would shape the course of my life. Despite my inability to pronounce character names, I became obsessed with Star Wars. I would eagerly consume any piece of Star Wars media I could find at my local library. Quickly seeing all five films that were out at the time, I began to delve into expanded universe material via books, video games, and comics. The first Star Wars film I was able to see in theaters was Revenge of the Sith. My dad and I saw it opening night, and, despite its flaws, I loved it. Star Wars was the franchise that got me into geek culture and media consumption in general. Most importantly, Star Wars was one of the driving forces made me want to become a fiction writer. I was entranced by the universe that Lucas had constructed, as well as the unforgettable characters he developed. I knew I wanted to be able to have that same power. With countless short stories and two novels complete, there are clear Lucas influences in most of my work. Star Wars has become part of my identity, and will be part of my identity for the rest of my life.

When I saw the first trailer for The Force Awakens back in November of 2014, I got chills. The trailer was expertly crafted, revealing almost nothing about the plot of the movie, while still capturing the spirit of the original trilogy that the prequels failed to uphold.  Star Wars: The Force Awakens became my most anticipated movie of all time.

Finally, over a year later, the day finally arrived. My friends and I had a marathon of almost the entire Star Wars saga in anticipation of the movie. Starting at 11 A.M, and wrapping up around 9 P.M, here is the order we watched the films in:

. Episode IV: A New Hope

. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

. The Clone Wars (2003 Miniseries)

. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

We chose to watch Return of the Jedi last on some-part in order for the prequel media to have more emotional wait. However, the true intention of this decision was so that the story would easily flow into the night’s main feature. It was during the credits of Return of the Jedi that it hit me, we were seeing a new Star Wars movie.

It was 11:59 P.M. Surrounded by a packed theater of people just like us, I didn’t realize I was living a moment that I would remember for the rest of my life. After an agonizing 20 minutes of previews, the familiar neon blue text appeared: A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far Far Away. As the blast of the familiar fanfare rattled my eardrums, a few tears began to drip from my eyes. I was watching a new Star Wars movie.

In order to avoid critical bias, I thought I would discuss my problems with the film before delving into praise. The use of Starkiller Base as a plot element was pointless, extremely contrived, and terribly repetitive. In the original Star Wars, the rebels had to destroy the Death Star. In Return of the Jedi, the rebels had to destroy the second Death Star. In The Force Awakens, the “resistance” had to destroy the “Starkiller Base”. Starkiller Base was literally a larger Death Star. It was something for the resistance to blow up while the real plot was going on.

Secondly, while I admired the majority use of practical effects for characters, I detested the minimal CG that they did use. Maz Kanata and Supreme Leader Snoke, while extremely intriguing and captivating characters, could have both easily been practically made. Instead, they used inexcusably poor CG to portray them. They took two characters that could have been some of the most complex in the Star Wars universe, and made them nearly unbearable to watch. I really hope some Maz Kanata expanded literature is released, for I would love to learn more about her without having to look at her. For Snoke’s case, I understand that he was a hologram in this film. However, that is no excuse to craft him using nauseatingly low quality CG. The original trilogy, which was produced in the 70s and 80s, used holograms of Emperor Palpatine that were far superior to what we got in this film. I can’t wait to see Snoke in person in either the next film, or Episode 9, so I could see what he actually looks like, not gargled down in CG slop.

Finally, the political situation of the galaxy could have been better explained. So there is a New Republic ruling, but there’s still remnants of the Empire called the First Order? The rebels won, but there are still rebels called the resistance? I have come to understand the political state of the Star Wars universe in a manner that explains this, but that was after research and analysis that I conducted in my own time. Here is what I believe is going on:

After the Battle of Endor, in which Darth Vader returned to the light side of the force, and defeated Emperor Palpatine, the Empire was greatly weakened. A few battles between the rebellion and the Empire ensued following the events of Endor, but the rebellion crushed the now collapsing Empire nearly every time. After the Battle of Jakku, which we see the ruins of in The Force Awakens, the Empire was simply too weak to function, and collapsed. In order to fill the power void left by the collapse of the Empire, Leia, with the help of other rebellion leaders, constructed the New Republic. However, a group of imperial sympathizers (similar to loyalists in the American Revolution) traveled to the outer rim of the galaxy, where they began forming a revolutionary group called the First Order. The goal of the First Order is to restore the power of the Empire, and return the galaxy to the way it was under Palpatine’s rule. In order to gain a loyal military force without the use of cloning, the First Order kidnaped newborn children from outer rim planets, conditioning them to become a new generation of Storm Troopers. During the construction of the First Order, they discovered a group known as the Knights of Ren. The Knights of Ren were a bastardization of the Sith Order, being trained by Supreme Leader Snoke, who is supposedly an ancient sith lord of some kind. Knowing that the Empire was a construct of the Sith Order, the First Order allied with the Knights of Ren. This would make Supreme Leader Snoke the new emperor if the First Order was to complete its mission. Seeing the threat that the first order was, Leia formed a militia of sorts called the resistance. In a similar method as to how ISIS operates in the Middle East, the resistance works as a state sponsored “terrorist” group. While the resistance isn’t affiliated with the New Republic on a technical level, it is being funded by them in an underground manner. There, I hope I explained the political situation of the galaxy far far away post Return of the Jedi. I shouldn’t have had to do this myself, the film should have explained this to us.

Now that I have discussed my problems with this movie, as well as constructed a political narrative for the post Return of Jedi era, I believe it is time to talk about The Force Awakens on a positive level. Although I am not sure enough to make a sound conclusion, as I have only seen the film twice, I think The Force Awakens might be my favorite Star Wars movie. Now here comes the hard part, explaining why. I thought I’d take this analysis piece by piece, as Star Wars is truly a puzzle of individual elements that work together to create a masterpiece of fiction.

The characters, in my opinion, are the strongest element of The Force Awakens. In a movie that has the return of Han Solo, Leia Organa, and Luke Skywalker (though minimally for Luke), some of the most iconic fictional characters of all time, I found myself being drawn to the new characters over the comebacks. Any movie that can construct characters that successfully is already a masterpiece by some standards.

Poe Dameron, although somewhat of a minor character in this film (he will obviously be more important in the next two installments), was a fantastic character nonetheless. All of his dialogue was genuine, hilarious, and overall a joy to listen to. Despite only having about ten minutes of screen time total, I felt like we could be friends if he weren’t fictional.

Kylo Ren, was an outstanding villain by every sense of the word. Many people will simply take him at face value, casting him off as another emo Sasuke Uchiha like character (there, I made my obligatory Naruto reference). However, if you look past the exterior, and begin to truly think about his character, you will see how wrong this statement is. In my opinion, Kylo Ren is a much better villain than Darth Vader was at this point in their respective trilogies. In one movie, we understand Kylo Ren. We learn about his past, his deep internal struggle, and even his mental illness simply through facial expressions, behaviors, and minimal dialogue. What did we know about Darth Vader by the end of A New Hope? He was an asshole guy that killed Luke’s dad, and had some sort of past with Obi-Wan Kenobi. What do we know about Kylo Ren by the end of The Force Awakens? He is a deeply troubled young man who started off as a Jedi under the training of Luke Skywalker, and slowly was seduced by the dark side of the force. It was probably his deep-rooted mental illness, as well as Supreme Leader Snoke preying on this illness, that began this spiral into evil. Throughout the entire movie, it is clear that he is not confident in his decision to become a Sith, but completely torn. This is even evident after he committed his most sinister act, the murder of his father, Han Solo. Kylo Ren is a masterfully developed character that blows early Darth Vader out of the water. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying Kylo Ren is a better villain than Darth Vader. All I am saying is that this early on in the trilogy, he already has almost as much development as Anakin Skywalker got over the course of two full trilogies and two TV shows. Adam Driver’s performance is truly Oscar worthy, and one I will not soon be forgetting.

Finn was an extremely pleasant surprise. Don’t get me wrong, I at no point thought he wasn’t going to be a good character. In fact, I thought he was going to be our new awesome protagonist. However, what we got was an outstanding sidekick character with amazingly written lines, and somewhat rushed, yet satisfactory character development. Wait, did I just say the poster child for the entire Force Awakens media campaign was not the main character? That’s right; the true protagonist of The Force Awakens was none other than Rey.

From a single film, Rey has surpassed both Boba Fett and Galen Marek as my favorite Star Wars character. In fact, she has become one of my overall favorite fictional characters of all time. Daisy Ridley gives one of the best performances I have seen in my entire life. Rey is an enthralling character by every sense of the word. You are captivated by her narrative from the second her dirt crusted mining goggles appear on screen. She stole every scene she was in, and overall, stole the movie for me. She managed to dominate my train of thought for days after I walked out of the theater. I don’t think I have been so attached with and invested in a fictional character since I watched Gurren Lagann, my favorite fictional story of all time.

When people claim Rey to be a Mary Sue character, I get extremely angry. Have they seen any other Star Wars films? The force is a mystical presence that flows through every living thing in the entire universe. It controls fate, destiny, and provides those sensitive to it with special powers. Other than in the monstrosity that was The Phantom Menace, the force is left open to be exactly what it should be, mystical. No one truly knows how the force works. However, what we do know is that the force presents the galaxy with “chosen-ones”. We saw Anakin Skywalker, a young slave from the outskirts of the galaxy, become one of the most powerful force-sensitives in all of history. Anakin Skywalker was the chosen one, the one who would bring balance to the force. Rey is clearly a chosen one, being perhaps the most force-sensitive person we have seen in the films themselves (obviously the decanonized expanded universe has stronger force-sensitives). Rey figured out how to use the force all on her own, because of how sensitive she was to it. This is not a flaw found in bad writing. In fact, this is not a flaw at all. This is a decision made by a mystical presence beyond our understanding, one that can choose to make certain people this powerful. With the guidance of Luke Skywalker, as well as potential advice from the force ghosts of Yoda, Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Anakin Skywalker, Rey has the potential to become not only the most powerful Jedi in history, but maybe even the most powerful force-sensitive. I have some theories as to why else she may be as powerful as she is, but those will come in a later post. After reading this paragraph again, do you really think she is a Mary Sue character?

This movie was, without a doubt, one of the most emotional film experiences I have ever had. I cried three times during my first viewing, which is amazing, as a film is lucky if it even gets me to shed a tear once.

The first tears fled my eyes as the opening crawl came on. Seeing the signature yellow exposition dump, accompanied by the iconic John Williams fanfare brought my right back to being a kid again. I was transported back in time to the white leather couch, my Dad and I sitting in front of the small CRT. I had the same awe and child-like wonder I had reading the text and hearing that music for the first time. Although these were only a couple of nostalgic drops, they were tears nonetheless.

The floodgates truly opened when Han Solo, one of the most iconic characters of my childhood, was murdered by his own son, Kylo Ren. This scene was one of the most emotional scenes in film history. Everything from the flawless acting, symbolic cinematography, and masterful score made this scene the technical best in the movie. This may even be the technical best scene in the entire Star Wars saga. I was engaged in gross sobbing at this point in the film, and I was not alone.

Finally, a few tears fled my eyes during the final scene of the film. Rey, after everything that has happened to her over the course of the movie, finally finds Luke Skywalker. She reaches out and offers him his lightsaber, with a look in her eyes that screams a blend of fear, insecurity, and awe all in one. Luke then lowers his cloak, revealing a much older, and lived character than the protagonist of Return of the Jedi. The look in his eyes screams intense melancholy, as he probably has flashbacks from A New Hope, all the way through Kylo Ren’s betrayal. He looked into Rey’s eyes, and most likely saw himself. He saw the one who could bring balance to the force, and the one who could allow him to redeem the mistakes he made in the past. As they stare into each other’s eyes, the Binary Sunset theme blares over the shot, truly identifying this moment as one of the most important moments in all of Star Wars history. Its importance did not diminish its emotional power, leaving me with one of the most impactful cliffhangers in fiction history.

With the emotional and nostalgic bias of the first viewing gone, I was worried I wouldn’t like the film as much when I went to see it for a second time. I thought that the flaws would become more prevalent, and potentially change my opinion of the movie. However, I was shocked with the experience I got. I appreciated The Force Awakens even more with the second viewing than the first. The flaws didn’t ruin my opinion of the movie. In fact, the opposite occurred. I realized that the positive elements of this film were so strong, that they overshadowed the flaws to the point of them not even mattering. This move was a 10/10 for me, and nothing was going to change that.

I feel as if some fans wanted to hate The Force Awakens. They pulled a reverse Phantom Menace, where, despite realizing the film was a masterpiece, convinced themselves, as well as others, that it was terrible. With headlines and video titles like The Force Awakens Worse than the Prequels, and The Force Awakens is the worst Star Wars film, I have to ask myself, did they watch the same movie that I did? The sad truth is that they did, and that their closed-off minds wouldn’t allow them to simply sit back, relax, and enjoy it. I feel sorry for those people, as they missed out on what could have been one of the best experiences of their lives.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a film that I feel will stick with me forever. It nestled its way into my list of those seven or eight films that have impacted me so profoundly, that they changed my life. Those are the movies that I relate to on such a personal level, that I constantly think about them. Despite its flaws, The Force Awakens is a masterpiece of fiction that will go down in history as such.

It is clear that The Force Awakens is going to be one of the most analyzed and theorized fictional works of all time. However, rather than delving into my fan theories here, I plan on writing a separate essay devoted entirely to speculation for the rest of the trilogy. Therefore, I do not want to go into any more depth regarding Luke, Rey, or Snoke in any fashion.