Kill La Kill

Don’t lose your way ladies and gentlemen! Kay here and lets get down to it! The anime that I choose to review is Kill La Kill! Cue the nostalgia! This anime is a well done shounen anime that features a female protagonist. It is an action packed well animated show that features a great combat scenes, vivid imagery, and quality character development for across the board.

With that being said, FAN SERVICE is accompanied with the anime. Fan Service is materials included in the works, whether it is manga or anime, intended to please the audience. This can range from Easter eggs and small allusions to previous works or content, all the way to just half naked T&A service.  I personally don’t take an issue with it because I don’t feel like the show overdoes it like plenty of other anime that I have viewed. But, I do not recommend this show for young children due to the partial nudity and sexual references!

Still, the anime is very cohesive with all the elements that it incorporates and warrants a quality review! So, lets get started!

The show starts off by introducing a young woman whose father was murdered and she is left with very few clues to solve the mystery surrounding her father’s death and avenge him. After the murder of her father, Ryuko has been wandering the land in search of an information regarding the murderer. During her journey, she comes across half of the Scissor Blade, her father’s invention, and unearths a single clue about her father’s murder and the person responsible for it.

Ryuko ends up at Honnouji Academy! The academy is ruled by the cold-hearted Satsuki Kiryuuin, the student council president, and her underlings the Elite Four. An institution where the adults do nothing and constantly live in fear because of the power and authority of the student council president and her parents. A society in which social status and rank is determined by how well the students performs in school. Everything down to the school uniform called the Goku outfits are indicators of status and power.  The outfits allow the wearer to gain superhuman powers and range from One Star to Three Star. Will Ryuko be able to overcome the obstacles all by herself or will she make some friends along the way?

The show was created by the dynamic duo of Hiroyuki Imaishi & Kazuki Nakashima. These two were responsible for the hit show “Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann” before working for Studio Trigger. Studio Trigger is also responsible for “Little Witch Academia” and animated short series “Space Patrol Luluco”. Kill La Kill just so happens to be Studio Trigger’s first original animation series! Talk about starting off on the right foot!

The show premiered in Fall 2013 and aired from October 4, 2013 through March 28, 2014.  Toonami also hosted the show up until April 2016! The series is 24 episodes long and is subbed and dubbed for your viewing pleasure!

Ryuko Matoi is the protagonist if you have figured it out by now! She is a passionate heroine who’s drive to uncover the truth behind her father’s death is unmatched.

Satsuki Kiryiun is the student’ council president and rivals Ryuko in the show. She leads by striking fear into the hearts of the educators and students and with the help of Elite Four members maintaining order in the school.

Mako Manshoukou is Ryuko’s closest friend and first friend at Honnouji. She is lighthearted and a goof ball who keeps the mood of the show funny and light: serves as comic relief.

Aikuro Mikisugi is Mako and Ryuko’s homeroom teacher. He appears to know something about Ryuko from the beginning of the show but remains a mystery until the climax of the show. He is another character who serves as comic relief in the show.

The Elite Four are the top four members of the Student Council and Satsuki’s personal bodyguards/ generals. All of the Elite Four members have a three star Goku Uniform and serve as an interval part of the school’s activities.

Ira Gamagori- Disciplinary Committee Chair

Uzu Sanageyama- Athletic Committee Chair

Nonon Jakuzure- Non-Athletic Committee Chair

Hoka Inumata- Information and Strategy Committee Chair

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The sad demise of Jack Pumpkinhead from The Land of Oz

A boy with magic powder. A scarecrow come to life. An adventure through Oz. And a death with barely a passing mention. This is the tale of Jack Pumpkinhead, a character I quickly fell in love with, but who met a sad demise at the hands of his author.

Jack Pumpkinhead was a character introduced in The Land of Oz, the first sequel to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, written in 1904. I bought the book on a whim at a used bookstore for $20, and was entranced by the delightful world L. Frank Baum created. Jack is a lovely character, my favorite from the story, but his fate bothered me. As an author myself, one who has created numerous characters in numerous fantasy stories, I found that examining Jack’s arc revealed much about how to create, and how not to treat, one’s character.

Let’s jump in!

Cover of The Land of Oz

Tip manufactures a pumpkinhead

The Land of Oz is curious in that it doesn’t concern Dorothy, the Wizard of Oz, or even the Cowardly Lion. While the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman eventually feature prominently in the adventure, the tale doesn’t begin with them. Rather, we are introduced to Tip, a little boy under the care of a mean ol’ witch, Mombi.

Wanting to play a trick on Mombi, Tip carves a pumpkin, a “pumpkin-jack” as he calls it, then builds a spindly wooden body for the head. He puts clothes on the man, then proclaims:

“I must give him a name! So good a man as this must surely have a name. I believe I will name the fellow ‘Jack Pumpkinhead!'”

His creation finished, Tip waits until Mombi leaves the farm for business. Tip stands Jack Pumpkinhead near the road so as to scare Mombi on her way home.

Mombi, however, is not fooled, and decides to pull one over on Tip. She has just returned from a wizard’s home, where she traded goods for the Powder of Life. Wanting to see if the powder works, she sprinkles it on Jack, bringing him to life! Jack says a few words, testing his voice, then analyzes his situation:

“For although I feel that I know a tremendous lot, I am not yet aware of how much there is in the world to find out about. It will take me a little time to discover whether I am very wise or very foolish.”

Jack Pumpkinhead comes to life

Mombi secures Jack in the stable, then devises a punishment for Tip for his foolishness. She decides to turn him into a marble statue for trying to trick her, but her potion needs to cool before the transformation can take place. Mombi goes to bed, and Tip and Jack Pumpkinhead run away in the middle of the night.

And with that, Baum shows us what’s needed for a character to live: a body, a voice, a purpose, a name. These are the kind of stories I like. This character is what hooked me on this 113-year-old tale.

Jack learns to be alive

While on the road, Jack comes to grips with what it means to be alive. And he quickly realizes that he and humans are quite different:

“I don’t seem to be made the same way you are,” Jack said.

“I know you are not,” returned Tip; “for I made you.”

“Oh! Did you?” asked Jack.

“Certainly. And put you together. And carved your eyes and nose and ears and mouth,” Tip said proudly. “And dressed you.”

Jack looked at his body and limbs critically.

“It strikes me you made a very good job of it,” he remarked.

“Just so-so,” replied Tip, modestly; for he began to see certain defects in the construction of his man. “If I’d known we were going to travel together I might have been a little more particular.”

“Why, then,” said the Pumpkinhead, in a tone that expressed surprise, “you must be my creator–my parent–my father!”

“Or your inventor,” replied the boy with a laugh. “Yes, my son; I really believe I am!”

“Then I owe you obedience,” continued the man, “and you own me–support.”

Jack Pumpkinhead and Tip go for a walk.

While Jack recognizes that he is a creation, Tip seems not to understand the implications of creating life. Tip decides to go to the Emerald City, and along the way, teaches Jack how to be alive.

He tells Jack to sit and rest his joints, but when Jack tries, “he came clattering to the ground with such a crash that Tip feared he was entirely ruined.”

Tip decides to make a sawhorse for Jack to ride on. He creates a reasonable facsimile of a horse, then bemoans “And of course it can’t ever be alive, because it is made of wood.”

Jack points out, “So am I,” and Tip has some inkling that Jack really is alive. Tip uses the magic powder on the sawhorse. To make the magic work, Tip begins by saying the magic words:


“What’s that, dear father?” inquired Jack.

“It means you must keep quiet!” replied the boy, provoked at being interrupted at so important a moment.

“How fast I am learning!” remarked the Pumpkinhead, with his eternal smile.

It’s scenes like this that make Jack an enduring personality. He’s overall portrayed as very stupid, yet he knows more than he thinks he knows, and often inadvertently says profound things.

While Tip is often quick to make snide comments about Jack’s lack of intelligence (“I think I understand,” Jack once said after a conversation about ears, Tip replied, “If you do, you’re a wonder. But there’s no harm in thinking you understand”), the story frequently reveals that those around Jack are just as stupid.

There’s a wonderful scene when the party arrives in the Emerald City and is taken to his Majesty, the Scarecrow. The Scarecrow, having received his diploma at the end of the first story, is supposed to be the one with brains. Jack, after all, has no brains inside his head. Yet the Scarecrow quickly proves that his intelligence is illusory:

The King was the first to speak. After regarding Jack for some minutes he said, in a tone of wonder:

“Where on earth did you come from, and how do you happen to be alive?”

“I beg your Majesty’s pardon,” returned the Pumpkinhead; “but I do not understand you.”

“What don’t you understand?” asked the Scarecrow.

“Why, I don’t understand your language. You see, I came from the Country of the Gillikins, so that I am a foreigner.”

“Ah, to be sure!” exclaimed the Scarecrow. “I myself speak the language of the Munchkins, which is also the language of the Emerald City. But you, I suppose, speak the language of the Pumpkinheads?”

“Exactly so, your Majesty,” replied the other, bowing; “so it will be impossible for us to understand one another.”

“That is unfortunate, certainly,” said the Scarecrow, thoughtfully. “We must have an interpreter.”

Jack Pumpkinhead meets the Scarecrow

The two go back and forth for some time, “failing” to “understand” the other’s language, even though they are both speaking English. Through the intentional interpretation errors of a child, Jack inadvertently insults the King. The King then rudely condemns Jack for daring to be alive, and Jack, having no proper guide in Tip, sadly agrees with the assessment:

“This should be a warning to you never to think,” returned the Scarecrow, severely. “For unless one can think wisely it is better to remain a dummy–which you most certainly are.”

“I am!–I surely am!” agreed the Pumpkinhead.

“It seems to me,” continued the Scarecrow, more mildly, “that your manufacturer spoiled some good pies to create an indifferent man.”

“I assure your Majesty that I did not ask to be created,” answered Jack.

It’s at this point in the story that the insults on Jack’s intelligence, and his very being, his very existence, begin to pile up. Jack has the disposition of a carefree, optimistic, mentally-challenged child. And rather than celebrate his fragile, miraculous existence, those around him tear him down and afford him no respect.

And scenes like the previous make me ponder whether the author, Baum, understands what he’s created.

Jack discovers he’s mortal

From here, the story takes a dark turn. The Emerald City is overthrown by a usurper, the main characters are expelled, and they go on an adventure to find more friends and formulate a strategy to retake the city. Jack, meanwhile, realizes that unlike the Scarecrow, his life will not last forever.

While the group is in the castle, trying to escape, Jack remarks:

“Should I remain here a prisoner for any length of time,” protested Jack, “I’m liable to spoil.”

“Ah! then you would not be fit to associate with,” returned the Scarecrow. “The matter is more serious than I suspected.”

“You,” said the Pumpkinhead, gloomily, “are liable to live for many years. My life is necessarily short. So I must take advantage of the few days that remain to me.”

Whereas the Scarecrow is composed of dried straw and wood, Jack’s head was created with a fresh pumpkin, and pumpkins don’t last forever. The introduction of this element adds a lot of intrigue to the story, and raises the stakes considerably. If Jack really wants to be alive, he must also accept that all living things eventually die. Life is lived with this ever-present reality hanging over us all.

Throughout the journey, Jack has many brushes with death. Once, after falling, his head dislodges and falls into the water. “Dear me!” Jack said. “What a dreadful experience! I wonder if water is liable to spoil pumpkins? If water spoils pumpkins, then my days are numbered.”

Jack Pumpkinhead's head falls into the water.

Death permeates Jack’s every conversation. “I am in constant terror of the day when I shall spoil,” he says to the Tin Woodman.

Those around Jack constantly make light of his mortality. The Tin Woodman responds to Jack’s fear by saying, “Do not, I beg you, dampen today’s sun with the showers of tomorrow. For before your head has time to spoil you can have it canned, and in that way it may be preserved indefinitely.”

The irony of all this is that the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman are both themselves creatures with unnatural bodies, yet they fancy themselves higher lifeforms than Jack, precisely because they contain no living flesh.

Yet isn’t Jack, with at least the most important part of his body made of living material, more alive than they?

All this discussion of Jack could easily be enhanced, had I the space, by referencing the numerous other creatures Tip brings to live, such as the wooden Saw-Horse, and an amalgamation of furniture called a Thing, or Gump. The Scarecrow even has a near-death experience when his stuffing is removed. His friends bail him out of that jam by stuffing him with money.

Toward the end of the book, it’s revealed that Tip is not a boy, but in fact Princes Ozma, heir to the throne. Old Mombi transformed Ozma into a boy when she was little to hide her. The witch transforms her back into a girl, to which Ozma’s first words are:

“I hope none of you will care less for me than you did before. I’m just the same Tip, you know; only–only–”

“Only you’re different!” said the Pumpkinhead; and everyone thought it was the wisest speech he had ever made.

Somebody better versed in queer and gender theories than I could probably make much of the (unintentional?) transgender implications of this.

The end of Jack, barely a footnote

Ozma, formerly Tip, and her friends take back the kingdom, and the Queen begins her rule.

The Gump, a monstrosity constructed of furniture and a stag mount, makes a most unusual request:

“Please take me to pieces. I did not wish to be brought to life, and I am greatly ashamed of my conglomerate personality. Once I was a monarch of the forest, as my antlers fully prove; but now, in my present upholstered condition of servitude, I am compelled to fly through the air–my legs being of no use to me whatever. Therefore I beg to be dispersed.”

So Ozma ordered the Gump taken apart.

The Gump is more intimately aware of the wrongness of his existence than Jack is. Ozma, though, only partially complies with Gump’s request. She takes him apart, but puts the mount back on the wall, where the head “continued to talk whenever it took a notion to so.”

Jack’s fate is given scant attention, and we have no parting words from Jack or his creator:

Jack Pumpkinhead remained with Ozma to the end of his days; and he did not spoil as soon as he had feared, although he always remained as stupid as ever. The Woggle-Bug tried to teach him several arts and sciences; but Jack was so poor a student that any attempt to educate him was soon abandoned.

Having read that the first time, I was incensed. Baum had been building a powerful case for hundreds of pages about the aliveness and being of Jack, yet in the end, treated this character with disposable contempt. All of Jack’s friends, from Tip to the Scarecrow to the Tin Woodman, never seemed to grasp the significance of Jack’s life, and Tip seemed to take little responsibility for his role as creator, as father, of Jack.

While I’m not suggesting Jack should’ve lived forever–the rotting pumpkin for a head was indeed a problem–I would’ve liked the character to be treated with a little more care, a little more dignity.

I also didn’t have a problem with Jack’s lack of intelligence, but I did have a problem with his companions constantly knocking him for it. In today’s parlance, it’s easy to see how Jack was bullied for his stupidity. Yet Jack is never vindicated, even though a strong case can be made that all other characters, especially the fabled intelligent Scarecrow, are just as, if not more, foolish than Jack.

However, I have newfound anticipation for the character’s future. Apparently he returns in four more Oz books: The Road to Oz, The Emerald City of Oz, Jack Pumpkinhead of Oz, and the final Oz book, The Runaway in Oz.

How the character comes to grips with his mortality, and how those around him view him, remains to be seen. Despite the character’s unfortunate demise at the hands of Baum, and his terrible treatment by those around him, Jack Pumpkinhead is a stellar example of the power of life, whatever form it takes.


Kay’s Korner : Mob Psycho 100

Sorry for the hiatus guys! Kay here and ready to get you guys and gals pumped up about a personal favorite. I am patiently waiting on the return of this anime but until then, why not write about it and inspire people to hop on the bandwagon. This time around, I want to focus on Mob Psycho 100! This show is different from the other anime I reviewed because it is centered around the supernatural and espers. An esper is an individual who is capable of harnessing telepathy and other paranormal activities at the user’s expense. As a kid, stuff like that used to freak me out! However, I can honestly say I love these types of phenomena! Not to mention it’s a dope anime that includes all of this, a decent plot, a lovable protagonist, and epic ass fight scenes. WHAT MORE COULD YOU ASK FOR?! Let’s just jump right in!

EPIC OPENING FOR AN EPIC SHOW! The series follows an individual by the name of Shigeo Kageyama (Mob) on his quest to navigate middle school. Mob appears to be an average middle school kid who lacks appropriate social skills and emotions by your first impression. Hell even his name (Mob) literally translates to background character but as the show progresses, his presence is well known. Mob is an extremely powerful esper and is well aware of that his psychic powers are volatile. He actively seeks guidance and checks his powers by trying to remain inure to his emotions throughout the show.  By suppressing his powers, Mob constantly lives a life without emotions which contradicts his ultimate goal in life: to be normal.  In his quest for normality, trouble is looming and forces are acting against him. Will he be able to face this adversity and how long will he be able to check his emotions before Mob becomes overwhelmed? You have to find out for yourself!


The original manga (comic) was written by ONE and was adapted into animation form by Studio Bones. Studio Bones is well known for producing other shows such as Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, My Hero Academia, One-Punch Man, Bungo Stray Dogs, Eureka Seven, Noragami and Soul Eater just to name a few. In my opinion all quality anime so why not check out another one of their shows. The anime aired between July – September 2016 so season two should be on its way soon. The show has garnered so much attention that Funimation decided to pick up the show and released the English dub December 11, 2016.  SO OPEN YOUR MIND TO IT!

Mob-Psycho-100-01-24-1280x720                            CUE THE DR.STRANGE MUSIC. Sorry for being cheesy.

The anime is very brief and only one season in at the moment. The show is 12 episodes long.

The music does an amazing job complementing the show’s transitions and fight scenes especially. The upbeat rhythm keeps you on your toes and takes you on an adrenaline ride like no other. Like I stated earlier, even the opening theme song gets you excited for the show and its content.

Visually, the anime is breathtaking. BONES is well known for their amazing animation abilities. The fight scenes are very well done. The colors and art style are very vivid and colorful. Its very appealing to the audience in my opinion and depicts the fun nature of the show.

There are a plethora of characters in this show but I am going to focus on the Big Five as I call them. I have already introduced Mob in the paragraphs above but lets cover his supporting cast.

Arataka Reigen is Mob’s master and life advisor. He is the one that Mob runs into when he is beginning his quest to control his powers and live a normal life.


Dimple is one of the paranormal entities that Mob encounters early on in the show. His role steadily evolves as the show progresses and he becomes fond of Mob’s powers and his company.


Ritsu Kageyama is the younger brother of Mob. He is the complete opposite of Mob in every sense. He is popular, intelligent and loved by all of his peers.  Mob looks up and is inspired to have the life of his brother. However, as the show progress, the audience discovers a secret that Ritsu carries and changes the dynamic of the show.


Teruki “Teru” Hanazawa is another fellow esper. He is rivaled only by Mob in the beginning of the show but the rivalry grows into something more. His perception on life and his powers can be questionable and considered dark. Can Mob help him see the light?


Overall, this show is one of the best and I am patiently waiting on the second season to come out already! The plot is simple but rather enjoyable. The visuals especially the combat scenes are captivating and I find myself constantly re-watching the epicness. The character development is something I am fond of with this show. For the show to be only 12 episodes so far, it does an excellent job with pacing and skillfully allows the audience to view the growth of the characters with ease. The opening is epic. Enough said. The show is very fun and shout-out to Studio BONES for all the great anime! Y’all do some amazing work!


The Indian in the Cupboard books ranked

When I was a kid, I loved The Indian in the Cupboard series. The premise is simple: put a plastic toy in a cupboard, turn the magic key, and the toy comes to life. As a kid who spent countless hours playing with action figures, this fantasy was very attractive to me.

During a recent move, I uncovered many of my childhood books, and I thought, How well has this series aged? Would I still enjoy it?

After reading through the five-book series again (reading the fifth book for the first time even!) I’d like to share my thoughts on which books are best, and why.

Minor spoilers for each book follows:

The Indian in the Cupboard (1981)

The tale starts innocently enough. Omri gets a beat-up medicine cabinet from his brother for his birthday. He puts a plastic Indian in at night, and when he’s awoken by a shrill, tinny voice, he learns the Indian has come alive.

Omri brings Little Bear to life; Indian in the Cupboard

Omri brings Little Bear to life. Illustration by Brock Cole.

The wonder and amazement that Omri feels is contagious. He can’t stop thinking about the cupboard, even at school. He plays with the Indian, Little Bear, outside, but soon Little Bear is hurt, requiring the medical attention of another toy figure, this time a military medic.

Omri’s idiotic friend Patrick brings a cowboy to life, Boone, who immediately shoots Patrick, then later gets into a fight with Little Bear.

The boys learn soon enough that these are not toys, that they are real people that bleed real blood, and they must be treated as such. It’s a fitting message, and the boys send the toys back to their own times, vowing to never use the cupboard again.

One fundamental problem with the series as a whole is that the boys never learn their lessons, and continually create flimsy excuses for bringing the toys back to life. Their ignorance, though, is somewhat forgiven in this first book: how could Omri have known what was going to happen when he put the toys in the cupboard?

Because of the magic and wonder of this first tale, and the boys’ innocence in bringing the toys to life in the first place, I rank this book second out of five.

Rank: 2

The Return of the Indian (1986)

In the first book, Omri wrote a short story about an Indian in the cupboard: cribbed from reality, unbeknownst to his teachers and parents. The second book begins when Omri wins a contest for the story, as well as a cash prize. Excited by the news, Omri brings the cupboard out of storage to get an update from Little Bear, only to find that Little Bear’s tribe of Iroquois are under attack by colonials.

Vowing to help them, Omri uses the cupboard to bring modern soldiers to life, then brings many more Iroquois to life. A military commander, Fickits, teaches the Iroquois how to use machine guns, and it’s here that the story goes off the rails. Omri and Patrick learned the lesson (many times over) in the first book that these are real people, not toys. So Omri, whether he admits it or not (he reluctantly reflects on his actions only when people get hurt), he participates in war where real people get hurt and die.

Matron helps Little Bear; The Return of the Indian

Matron helps Little Bear. Illustration by William Geldart.

This book also introduces the concept of traveling through time the other way: Omri goes in a large chest, and using the magic key, Patrick sends Omri back to Little Bear’s time. Omri appears as a painting on the side of a tepee, and thus his experience in Little Bear’s world is minimal, but this plot device will dominate much of the narrative action in later books.

The book ends with skinheads breaking into Omri’s house to rob him. Omri brings the toy soldiers back to life to fight off the skinheads, damaging his house in the process.

Because of the amount of killing and violence in this book, I think this is my least favorite in the series. Not because I have anything against violent media, per se. Rather, it’s the casualness with which the kids decide to intervene in history, bringing modern weapons back to colonial times, to fight a battle they were never a part of. And while the skinheads are unsympathetic criminals, the boys go overboard in bringing real soldiers through the cupboard to fight them.

The boys relearn the lesson about the little people being real people. They vow not to send “now-guns” back with Little Bear, though they make no vows regarding the future of the cupboard.

Rank: 5

The Secret of the Indian (1989)

The third book picks off right where the last one left off. Omri and Patrick explain to Omri’s parents, and then the police, what happened with the skinheads. Meanwhile, a dozen Indians, plus the nurse Matron, are still in Omri’s room. The Indians are recovering from the vicious battle of the last book, and Matron is needed to help them heal.

Omri and Patrick decide they must stay with the Indians and Matron till everybody is recovered, then send them back to their old time.

But Patrick, being Patrick, is selfish and wants to travel back to Boone the cowboy’s time, just as Omri traveled back to Little Bear’s time in the last book. He whines that Omri got to go back to Little Bear’s time, and he won’t shut up until Omri sends Patrick back to Boone’s time.

Honestly, Patrick has gotta be the worst character in the series. He constantly has to relearn the lesson that the little people are real people, and that they can’t be toyed with. For all of Omri’s faults on this matter, Patrick is ten times worse.

Little Bear sees Boone injured in bed; The Secret of the Indian

Little Bear greets an injured Boone. Illustration by Ted Lewin.

Patrick wakes up in the desert southwest as a tiny person. He has a few misadventures with Boone, then things turn serious as a tornado in Boone’s time arises directly in their path.

Omri, unable to hide Patrick any longer (Patrick has been missing for a couple days, raising the suspicions of both Omri and Patrick’s families), just so happens to bring Patrick back to the modern time at the exact moment the tornado barreled down on him.

Completely by accident, the tornado also gets sucked into modern times, destroys Omri’s house, then proceeds to cut a path through London, causing astronomical property damage.

This book starts out well enough: it addresses the events of the last book, and shows that there are real consequences to Omri’s meddling in the past. And while Boone himself is a highly enjoyable character, the entire business with Patrick going into Boone’s time is completely unnecessary.

There’s no way Omri could’ve known that a tornado could get sucked through time, so the damage to his house and London isn’t entirely on his shoulders. That said, Omri and Patrick should have more than enough evidence at this point to convince them that the cupboard should never be fooled around with again.

Rank: 4

The Mystery of the Cupboard (1993)

By the time the fourth book comes around, the shtick of the series has worn off. We know that no matter what Omri and Patrick do, they cannot resist bringing the little people back even for a visit. Such actions inevitably lead to conflict and strife.

How refreshing it is, then, that the fourth book features almost no cupboard magic! Crazy, right? The entire series is about bringing toys to life, and yet, the fourth book throws out this formula entirely to tell a new kind of story, which I so love.

Since Omri’s house was completely destroyed in the last book, the family needs a new place to live. Coincidentally, Omri’s mother inherits a country longhouse from a distant relative, and the family leaves the bustle of London for quiet, pastoral hills.

Omri has deposited the cupboard in the bank, finally realizing that the cupboard should not be played with. He appears to have truly learned his lesson.

The titular mystery begins when thatchers repair the old house’s roof. Omri digs through the discarded thatch and discovers a journal of his relative Jessica Charlotte, an actress and fortuneteller who was the black sheep of Omri’s mother’s family.

Through the journal, Omri learns about his family’s past, conflict between members, and Jessica’s fortunetelling powers. Omri also learns that she was the one who created the magic key, the very same key that makes the cupboard work.

While this book has very little action or conflict in the modern setting, it’s so interesting to read the backstory of the cupboard, and of the woman that made it all possible.

After finishing the journal, Omri can’t help but use the cupboard again to bring the little people to life, the very people discussed in Jessica’s journal. In a 246 page book, the cupboard is first used on page 176! And the book does not suffer as a result.

Omri and Patrick meet Jessica Charlotte; The Mystery of the Cupboard

Omri and Patrick meet Jessica. Illustration by Tom Newsom.

I’ve often wished that authors of genre fiction would take greater risks in successive works. Instead of repeating the same formula ad nauseam, put the characters in new situations to see what they would do.

Considering that this tale is carried largely through flashbacks, and not use of the cupboard, this book really establishes how strong of a character Omri is, despite his faults.

There’s also a fun meta-moment when Omri brings Jessica herself through the cupboard. The book veers into time travel confusion territory here, as Jessica’s becoming small was instrumental in giving her the idea of making the key, which was necessary for all of this to happen in the first place.

The book also has a touching side story about an old man named Tom who had a little woman of his own, whom he married and lived with for several decades until her unfortunate death.

Obviously this book wouldn’t exist without the first one. Even still, this is my favorite book of the series, precisely because it is so different than all the rest.

Rank: 1

The Key to the Indian (1998)

The major cliffhanger of the fourth book was Omri’s dad accidentally discovering the magic of the cupboard when he cleaned up Omri’s room, put the toys inside, and turned the key.

This book begins with Omri explaining to his dad everything that’s happened. And he takes it surprisingly well.

At first, this concept is exciting. It’s good for Omri to have somebody to share the secret with other than Patrick and Patrick’s cousin. While Omri’s dad is a bit too eager to use the cupboard at times, he seems to understand intuitively that it is not a toy.

Omri's dad and Omri meet Jessica Charlotte; The Key to the Indian

Omri introduces his dad to Jessica Charlotte. Illustration by James Watling.

However, Omri uses the cupboard to bring back Little Bear, and Little Bear once again reports that he’s having a problem. This time the British are attacking the Iroquois, and Little Bear needs Omri’s help to fight them back.

The book regresses to the same struggle as the second book. We already learned before that a modern man like Omri shouldn’t mess with events in the past. In fact, in the fourth book, Omri attempts to change history once again, albeit on a smaller scale (and luckily for Omri, his plan didn’t work properly, conveniently keeping the status quo of the timestream).

Omri’s dad researches everything he can about the Iroquois and their struggle with the British. He and Omri then conduct an elaborate plan to go back to Little Bear’s time.

Omri recruits the help of Patrick who once again proves that he’s more of a liability than an asset, as he immediately whines about not being able to go back to Little Bear’s time.

While Omri and his dad never should’ve gone back to Little Bear’s time, it is exciting to see Little Bear in his element, to catch up with him after his absence in book four. It makes me wish for a book solely about Little Bear’s adventures, sans Omri.

Omri and his dad are naturally tiny, and unable to really do anything to help Little Bear. The chief asks Omri over and over again for help with fighting the British, and the best Omri’s dad can come up with is encouraging the Iroquois to go north to Canada, where they will be safest (though not safe) from the white man.

Considering that’s all Omri and dad accomplish, it makes you wonder why they went back to Little Bear’s time to begin with. Couldn’t they have just brought Little Bear back through the cupboard, read to him from the history books, and left it alone?

The author tries to give Omri something else to do when the British attack the Indian camp. Omri alerts the Indian women that a baby is in a burning longhouse, and Omri’s dancing in front of some soldiers scares them into (briefly) dropping their arms. But other than that, Omri and his dad accomplish very little in returning to Little Bear’s time.

Upon returning, they discover that Patrick has been dinking around with the cupboard on his own time. He brought back Boone and wife Ruby Lou, put them in the bathtub in a toy boat, then promptly lost them down the bathtub drain when the family cat Kitsa came into the bathroom and attacked the little people. It’s all so unnecessary and superfluous, and only serves to reinforce that Patrick is a moron.

Rank: 3

At this point, the Indian series has run its course. The concept of bringing toys to life, and the parallel concept of sending people back in time via the key, seems to have been explored to its potential. I thoroughly enjoyed the series upon rereading them, despite the stupidity of the boys.

It’ll probably be some time before I read through all five books again. If I get the urge to return to this world, I’ll pick up books one and four and leave the rest alone.

Maybe when I have my own kids and they turn 8 or 9 or 10 years old, I’ll introduce a new generation to these characters!


My interest in Pokemon Go completely died when I hit level 20

Pokémon Go was a great experience. It really was. I wrote before about all the positive interactions I had with players, especially random people I met on the street. But as a game, Pokémon Go was quite lacking, and once I hit level 20 after a ton of grinding, my interest died.

Several factors contributed to this decline. The game’s concept is still amazing, and augmented reality has a bright future. But how do you sustain interest in a game that, fundamentally, isn’t that fun to play?

Now, saying Pokémon Go isn’t fun might be a little harsh. At first, the game was a ton of fun. Finding Pokémon in my front yard, in the supermarket, sitting on top of friend’s shoulders, in the park—that was exciting! As a kid, who didn’t imagine themselves walking through a forest, finding a Pokémon, and catching it? Pokémon Go made that fantasy a reality.

Many people complained about the substandard battle system in Pokémon Go, and those criticisms are relevant. But to me, the fun was in capturing Pokémon, evolving them, naming them, and helping them grow. Unfortunately, the game was severely unbalanced, and at times unfair, on all these mechanics.

To start, there are far too many Pidgeys, Rattatas, and Weedles, as this parody “Pokémon Go Rap” emphasizes:

Everybody learned early on that these Pokémon only had one value: to evolve them quickly to gain experience. Pidgeys and Weedles took 12 candies to evolve, giving players 500 XP. Rattatas took more candy, 25, but there are so many Rattatas I usually have a stockpile of candy in the triple digits.

Once people learned that these evolutions earned quick XP, they started to see the value in Lucky Eggs. This item doubles your experience for 30 minutes. The optimal game strategy is obvious: save your Pidgeys, Rattatas, and Weedles, use a Lucky Egg, then spend the next 30 minutes evolving everything in your bag, racking up thousands of XP.

Farming XP is essential to leveling up quickly. Like all RPGs, the amount of XP you needed for each level gradually increases, making leveling up slower. However, the higher levels are essential to finding better Pokemon.

And it’s in this grind that my motivation died. I did the Lucky Egg trick three times and made a concerted effort to hit level 20. That’s when you get access to Ultra Balls!

I also walked a TON. I logged 97.7 km, 2.3 km away from earning the silver Jogger badge. I hatched 27 eggs. Unfortunately, for all that effort, about half of the hatched eggs were useless Pokemon that I could find in the streets easily.

Everybody has their favorite Pokémon. Finding specific Pokémon, however, was next to impossible. It seemed like every other player but me had better Pokémon.

I wanted so bad to get all the Eevees. Eevee was always one of my favorite Pokémon. Every player that I met told me how easy it was to find Eevees.

Maybe not in my neighborhood.

I worked hard to get my measly 25 Eevee candy. The first evolution was Vaporeon, the second was Flareon. And I never worked hard enough to get the one I really wanted: Jolteon.

Pokémon Go also had a way of insultingly making your treasured Pokemon worthless. I would spend hours and hours catching Pokemon to get a new evolution. And then, after spending all that time getting your first version of an evolved form, like Butterfree, you walk outside and find a random Butterfree that has a higher Combat Power than the one you just invested in. Naturally, you send the weaker one back to the Professor.

A final issue that I had with Pokemon Go is that I was rarely able to compete in gym battles. It seemed like every time I found a gym it was already packed with Pokemon in the 2,000-3,000 CP range. I struggled just to get my Pokemon up to 1,000 CP!

My Pokemon team in Pokemon Go

These are my best Pokémon. It’s so sad that Pidgeot, a very common and weak Pokémon, is in my top three.

This is why I never play competitive online games, like Call of Duty or MMORPGs. There are always players out there who invest more time than me, who are objectively better than me at the game, and I can never compete.

That’s not to say I expect to win all the time: but it would’ve been nice to win more than 10 or so gym battles.

I hear there’s a new update to Pokémon Go that adds a lot of neat features. I’m sure it’s fun. But right now, I’m not ready to go back.

I realized right away, within the first week of Pokémon Go’s release, that the joy derived not so much from playing the game, but with being a part of a fad. Don’t misunderstand me: I don’t describe Pokémon Go as a fad as a way of dismissing it! Fads are highly enjoyable, but by their very nature, they fade away.

It was fun to play the game when everybody else was playing.

It was fun to find strangers all over the city, in the park, in the airport, in the store, on campus, EVERYWHERE playing Pokémon Go. The game was an instant conversation starter, and each random conversation was a glimmer of hope that humanity is fundamentally goodhearted. While the faces of those strangers I met are starting to blur, those interactions will stay with me for a long time.

It was fun to discover new Pokémon for the first time, to get new evolutions.

It was fun to hear stories of kids catching 10 CP Pidgeots, and to see the little battle animation above gyms letting you know that somebody, RIGHT NOW, is near you fighting.

It was fun to meet a group of kids telling me to just go around the corner to catch a Spearow. I hadn’t seen a Spearow yet. I searched for it, and didn’t find it, but that’s okay. I felt like an explorer.

But the summer had to come to an end, and the school year started again. While my interest in the game is over for now, I don’t regret the dozens of hours I poured into the game.

For 20 years, Pokémon has seen fad after fad. When Red and Blue hit America, everybody in school was playing it. Then we were watching the anime. Then we saw the first movie in the theaters, and then the second movie, but I never saw any of the others. I played the card game for awhile, and then lost interest.

When Pokémon X and Y was released, I played that game for 4 hours a day for two months. It took me 100 hours just to complete the game because I spent so much time training my Pokémon, catching Pokémon, using Wonder Trade, and battling others.

Even the Twitch Plays Pokémon fad was a glorious 16 days.

And considering I never spent a dime on Pokémon Go, I can’t complain about the hours of enjoyment I had.

Game on,