Category Archives: Things I learnt from fiction

Where I get to read/watch things without feeling as guilty because I’m turning my entertainment into ‘education’. Go figure.

Things I learnt from Zootopia: the power of fantasy


Zootopia is a new Disney animated movie set in a world where humans never existed. Instead, animals from different species co-exist in a network of cities, many of which has been modified to provide animals with the environment they need.

Disney has done a lot of things right with Zootopia, and one of them is how much they have explored the unique culture that would arise in a city composed of anthropomorphic animals. A lot of movies with anthropomorphic animals just draw them with human mannerisms in a human city. Not Zootopia. In fact, Zootopia takes advantage of animal characteristics and interactions that an all human cast wouldn’t have and creates a culture from it.

First, there’s the tension between prey and predator (which actually isn’t that clear cut because there are plenty of predators who are also preys to other predators). Which makes sense. They may all be ‘civilised’ now, but there’s a history where animals ate each other to survive.

There’re also species specific stereotypes. Like how sloths are slow, elephants have good memory, and that foxes are dodgy. These stereotypes affect how characters interact with each other and even effects the careers they go into.

Then there’s the size difference. Even for humans, who don’t vary that much in size, adjustments are still needed to cater to these different sizes. A kindergartener’s chair would be uncomfortably small for a typical adult, and a secondary school table would just tower over the average kindergartener.

Now imagine a mouse and an elephant living in the same space. A scoop of an elephant’s ice cream could be as big as a mouse’s house.

Well, Zootopia addresses that too. There are different zones that cater to citizens of different sizes. Similarly, there are certain careers that would be closed to animals of certain sizes.

This puts a lot of layers into Zootopia’s culture, and Disney also weaves all these differences and attitudes into the characters and the plot, be it overt or implicit. It gives the movie more depth, and also allows a deeper exploration into concepts like stereotypes, discrimination, prejudice, and more without being preachy and stepping into all kinds of landmines that plague our society.

Zootopia may be a fictional world, but the issues they deal with are very real. And that’s the power of fantasy.


Things I learnt from Ouran and LOVE!: something a good parody needs

It’s not easy to parody genre clichés. People use clichés because they work. To create something to make fun of clichés requires an intimate knowledge of the genre and a creative mind, while at the same time weaving this ‘take that’s into an enjoyable story.

Ouran High School Host Club (Ouran for short) and Cute High Earth Defense Club Love! (Love! for short) are two series that parodies their genre and still entertains.

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Things I learnt from Yowamushi Pedal: Backstory solves everything

Before this, I wrote a post about character flaws that aren’t endearing, featuring Midousuji, a creepy jerk who only cares about victory even if it means crushing people’s spirit to do so.

And then the author presents us with his backstory, featuring Midousuji as a kid.

kid Midousuji

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Things I learnt from Yowamushi Pedal: Character flaws that aren’t endearing

Yowamushi Pedal is an anime about high school road bicycle racing, featuring loads and loads of characters. After all, you can’t have a sports anime without rivals.

So the mangaka fleshes out the protagonist team and introduces their main rivals, who are very friendly. Everyone respects each other and pushes each other to greater heights. It’s the kind of rivalry most people can only dream about.

And then you have Midousuji.

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Things I learnt from Gravity Falls: Intentional character arcs

Gravity Falls cast

Gravity Falls characters from left to right: Soos, Dipper, Grunkle Stan, Mabel, Wendy

Gravity Falls is a wacky cartoon series about fraternal twins Dipper and Mable, who are sent to Gravity Falls to spend summer with their Grunkle Stan. It doesn’t take long for them to bump into the local mysteries, such as gnomes that puke rainbows). Read the rest of this entry

Things I learnt from Over the Garden Wall and Gravity Falls: Good endings and bad endings

Some time ago, I came across a fanmade comic that was a crossover between Over the Garden Wall and Gravity Falls.


Starfleetrambo’s alternate universe (AU) (which can be found here) led me to the two series (I didn’t even know Over the Garden Wall existed before this), but that’s another story for another day. This post is about the original series themselves. Specifically, their endings. Which means spoilers. So if you don’t want to be spoiled, better hop on to another page. You have been warned.

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Things I learnt from The Boy and the Beast: good voice-acting is important

The Boy and the Beast is a Japanese movie about a human boy who ends up in the parallel beast kingdom and grows up there.


In this post, I’m not going to talk much about the movie plot (so no important spoilers. You’re welcome). What I’m interested in is actually the long-standing sub VS dub debate.

Sub? Dub? What’s that?

Subtitled (sub): everyone in the movie still speaks in Japanese, but there are English subtitles on the screen so people can understand what they’re saying.

Dubbing (dub): instead of Japanese, everyone in the movie speaks in English.

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Things I learnt while reading 因与聿案簿录: characters need their ‘one thing’

Something I really like about the 因与聿案簿录 series is that it’s packed full with vibrant characters.

Everyone in this picture is on the same side. I think.

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Things I learnt while reading 因与聿案簿录: characters are important

To help me feel less like I wasted my time chasing someone else’s stories instead of writing my own, here’s one thing I learnt while reading the series 因与聿案簿录.

Characters can make or break a story.

It’s the characters that keeps us emotionally invested in the story. So what if a stranger gets lost in a forest? It’s not happening to us, so we don’t care. But in the same scenario, if the person that’s lost in the forest is our friend, someone we’ve come to care for, knowing that he/she is lost in the forest would drive us to action, to worry, panic. And the writer who can create characters that we can bond with, has already pulled us into a world where the stakes are real and losses hit us right where it hurts.

toy story 3

Scenes like this are why cinema theatres are dark. All the better to hide the tears and snot on your face as you try and fail to not bawl your eyes out.

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