Zita the Spacegirl is squarely aimed at a pretty young audience. And yet I found myself completely enjoying it. There’s nothing original about it, but the execution radiates enough charm to enjoy the ride, get absorbed in it and remember a simpler world that still isn’t without dangers and consequences. The art complements the story perfectly, reminiscent of the art you find mostly in books for kids, with simple lines and colors, but still very accomplished in what it sets out to do. There’s really not enough stuff out there like that (or at maybe I just don’t know about it), that manages to provide fun adventures with strong characters that appeals to both children and adults alike. Squarely recommended.
Another growing up story. Girl finds ghost, ghost helps her to unlock her true potential, then unexpected plot twists occurs. I don’t dislike coming-of-age narratives, even if I think most of them are bullshit. Story-telling is all about professional lying, and if we are to believe some modern thinkers, our entire self is merely a complex narration we tell ourself and others. So to speak, there’s no bottom beyond all the layers of bullshit, the bullshit in it’s aggregated form is who we are after all.
What I dislike about this story is merely how it uses the fantastic to tell an all-too mundane story. The plot twist is pretty good, but I really would have preferred a story about a girl meeting the fantastic in the form of a ghost instead of what the story turned out to be. If you do like more mundane stories with a slightly supernatural element, strong characters and a nice art style, then this might be more to your taste.
Coming of age stories are fiction, but so is the concept of growing up. The fact is, we all get older, but the rest is entirely make-believe. Some people change as they get older, but rarely does the equation of change = progress works, as most people can’t even define what’s really progress in that regard. And still we get all these books, and in the case of Koko Be Good, comics, that try to show us what it means to grow up. And to be honest, if you’ve left that phase behind, the edge between childhood and adulthood, reading that kind of story only fills myself with cynical musings.
I love the art, and overall if you’re going through a similar identity-fact-finding mission that coming-of-age stories imply, it probably will resonate with you. The art is beautiful, the characters, though far too mopey or exuberant for my taste, do capture some of the existential angst of that phase. But in the end it’s the old same story about people trying to find their place in the world and the only remedy is to construct a self that is more meaningful, more responsible, more adult, more good. There’s inevitable some loss of innocence involved, the lesson that reality is not a Disney fairy tale and shit got real. That wanting to be good and actually being good are two entirely different things. And that sometimes the road toward the second starts with very tiny steps.
But the story implies that the end-goal of goodness is reachable, looming on the far horizon of adulthood. Basically, all the readers get is one more layer of bullshit to bury their self under. Koko Be Good tells a story we think we’ve all been going through at some point in our lives, but which is merely a formula around which we structure some of our own narrative. It’s one of the oldest stories in the world, as conservative as they get. Whether you end up being a bum or CEO or politician, all think they lived that story, made that transformation from unformed pupa to upstanding member of society. But if you wonder if there are alternatives, just ask someone who grew up to be a con man. A con man who is honest enough to admit that being good is just another con on the gullible. But those are rare, as the first lesson of any con is to believe your own lie.
Mulan 2 (2004)
Some narratives lend itself easily to serialization. Others are whole unto themselves and there’s no real room for a sequel. Still, the modern markets what they are, companies are always eager to exploit successes and create franchises. And if there’s no natural way to structure a sequel, you can always use one of the following strategies.
Reformulate the main conflict of the first part in a different way and explore it from a different perspective. Instead of Mulan trying to prove herself and her way of the “heart” over traditions, this time she has to prove that her way also works for others. Despite the excellent animation, the made-for-video movie is overly formulaic, and not in a good way. You can see the shape of the entire story miles away, and it’s more boring than exiting to see everything unfold. I wanted to like it, but it was far too mediocre to really enjoy.
Cars 2 (2011)
Another way to make a sequel, when there’s no good reason for one being made plotwise, is to put the spotlight on a secondary character from the first part. So, instead of Lighting McQueen it’s his friend Mater who gets to shine. And to top it all, instead of a narrative focused on personal growth, the second one is more of a goofy spy-adventure (with minimal growths on Mater’s part). While clearly a sequel, it only takes the characters and setting, and throws everything else over board.
The mix of Mater’s spy adventure with McQueen’s racing plot doesn’t really work all that well and I can’t say I liked Mater’s antics (they were bearable in the first part, but here due to his place in the spotlight take far too much time here). But the movie provides enough fun moments to make it at least watchable.