Being a huge fan of Brian K Vaughn’s comic series Saga, I was thrilled to see his scifi series Paper Girls get an adaptation on Amazon Prime. The first season came out earlier this year and was well received, but unfortunately it will not be getting a second season. Still, both the TV show and the original comic are definitely worth checking out.
Paper Girls follows four 12-yr-old girls as they meet while delivering papers very early on the morning after Halloween in 1988. What starts as a difficult morning on the job with acquaintances morphs into a time-traveling journey of friendship and self-discovery as the girls find themselves thrown into the middle of a time war.
Despite a bit of a slow start, the TV adaptation is quite engaging. The characters are its strength. By the end I was really drawn into the struggles of each of the four girls and even their intimidating antagonist the Prioress. Erin, Tiffany, KJ and Mac all have to reconcile themselves to the fact that their own futures aren’t exactly what they expected. The four young actors are perfectly cast and did such a wonderful job; it really felt like the characters had leapt off the page into real life.
Naturally, there were some changes in adapting the comic to a TV show. Mostly, they had to tone down the crazy a bit. The comic has some really memorable events that would be really hard to translate to screen without a *huge* effect budget, like the giant tardigrade battle in the Cuyahoga River.
Although there are some changes to the plot as well as new characters added in the TV series, they did a really great job keeping the spirit of the work. We still got scifi elements like time travel, Gundam-style mechs, and pterodactyls, as well as coming-of-age and friendship themes. There are some truly emotional moments. They also did a great job keeping the tension of the girls being stuck between the two sides of the time war and not always knowing who to trust.
The TV show added a clearer antagonist and didn’t go as far into depth on the philosophical differences of those trying to control the timeline and the resistance who wants freedom to change things. I wish we would get to see what a second season could have been, especially after the teaser at the end, but they really wrapped up the characters’ arcs well so the season does stand on its own.
They also dropped the idea that all the future tech is Apple branded, with the Apple logo (and apples in general) being a recurring motif. Shame to lose that depth of meaning, but the show streams on Amazon! 🤣
Saga fans will definitely find a lot to love in the comic. In particular, I was tickled to find an “alien” language, just like Blue in Saga (which is actually just Esperanto). In Paper Girls, the time travel rebels of the future speak in a pictographic-looking language. Just like with Blue, the meaning is pretty clear from context, but you can actually translate it if you want. Each symbol of STF speech corresponds to a letter of the English alphabet, so it’s a simple substitution cipher. I worked it out for myself, but of course you can also find translations online.
This is a great time out year to check out Paper Girls because it has a lot of Halloween vibes, being that it starts on the morning after Halloween, which the girls term “Hell Day.” Between that, the young kids, and the 80s setting, it does initially feel a bit like Stranger Things, but that comparison is really only skin deep. (For reference, the Paper Girls comic began publishing in Oct 2015; Stranger Things came out in July 2016.)
One last note: being from Northeast Ohio, I loved the setting! Vaughn is from Rocky River, a suburb of Cleveland, which you can see has clearly been fictionalized as Stony Stream. It was really cool seeing so many familiar locations in the comic (and the TV show did Ohio pretty well too haha).
Overall, I’d give the TV show a 6-7 rating out of 10, and the comic an 8. Once I’d watched the TV show with my husband I was thrilled to find that my library had unlimited copies of the complete collected comic via the Libby app. I’d recommend either/both versions of the story, and then I’d recommend Saga. 😉
If you’re looking for something on Netflix to watch with your sweetheart either today or this weekend, or you just want to reaffirm your belief in the power of love, may I suggest checking out a Korean drama? K-dramas come in a range of genres, but there’s usually a little romance in there somewhere. I’ve talked about some classic K-dramas before, so here are some of my more current favorites.
Descendants of the Sun (2016)
Sadly, since I started writing this post, this show has been removed from Netflix (it’s still on Hulu), but I’m leaving on the list because it is my favorite K-drama of all time. Sometimes when I’m watching a show and it’s dragging a bit or the male lead is a jerk, I think, “I could be watching Descendants of the Sun again instead right now.”
A love story between Captain Yoo Shi Jin, Korean Special Forces, and Doctor Kang Mo Yeon, surgeon at Haesung Hospital. Together they face danger in a war-torn country. –Google
This story has a little bit of everything: thrills, tragedy, action, romance, humor. Shi-jin and Mo-yeon are very compelling leads that will quickly get you invested in the story. It’s set in the present day, and even though it’s a few years old it still feels current in its cultural references (cameos by K-pop megastars Red Velvet for example). The soundtrack is so wonderful that you will be humming along to the songs even if you don’t understand the language.
A couple other bonuses: there’s no stupid love triangle (a hallmark of bad K-dramas), just relationships that grow naturally over the episodes, with a few realistic ups and downs. Also, Onew from SHINee has a small role.
The country of Uruk is kind of a stand-in for Iraq (though it was filmed in Greece). One of the things I like about foreign media is the chance to reflect on how the rest of the world views the US, and Descendants of the Sun does not paint a perfectly rosy picture of our military involvement in the Middle East. In fact, the main antagonist is former US military. There is also some insight into the conflict with North Korea.
Mr. Sunshine (2018)
Mr. Sunshine was written and directed by the same team that did DotS, so it’s no surprise that this is a strong candidate for the top of my list as well.
A young boy who ends up in the U.S. after the 1871 Shinmiyangyo incident returns to Korea at a historical turning point and falls for a noblewoman. –Netflix
This historical drama takes place at the end of the Joseon era, an interesting time period most Americans (including myself) know little about. Much of the plot centers around the politics of the era, the incursions of Japanese and American representatives, and populist revolutions.
But that doesn’t sideline the personal drama. The show is an emotional rollercoaster from the first episode. Eugene and Ae-sin both have such complex backstories and personalities, you’ll be holding your breath when they come together. It does develop a bit of a love triangle (more like a pentagon), but it’s well done.
Not to mention, the show is absolutely beautiful. It has great production quality and loves to linger on the most beautiful shots. I also appreciated that it includes lots of well-spoken Japanese and English (even though Teddy Roosevelt has a European accent haha).
Mr. Sunshine is considered a Netflix original and was actually simulcast on Netflix last year (the show is now complete).
Hello, My Twenties! (2016)
Netflix recommended this one to me, and its algorithm was definitely on point as I quickly got sucked into this female-driven, contemporary slice-of-life drama, which is also known in Korean as Age of Youth.
Five female housemates and college students meet and live at the Belle Epoque….Together they juggle the perils of adult life. –Google
Right off the bat, the opening song of this show is great! You’ll be singing along after a couple of episodes.
I love that the show gives time to each of the housemates and their problems, which sometimes involve romance and sometimes don’t. I liked all of the girls, but the oldest Jin-myung (far right in the image) stood out as my favorite. Something about her struggle, her drive and determination, and her reserved personality spoke to me.
I think of this as being a “light” show, but it does actually get intense in some places. Overall it has a really good balance of drama, comedy, and romance. It’s really nice to have a show every once in a while where the main cast is all women.
Season 2 is now on Netflix as well.
I was surprised how much I enjoyed this office drama; there’s less romance, but it makes up for it with a great cast of characters.
Equipped with nothing more than a GED and strategies for the game of Go, an office intern is thrown into the cold reality of the corporate world. –Netflix
This show centers around Geu-rae, a washed-out student of baduk (Go) who never went to college yet somehow lands a coveted internship at a big trading company. The title “Misaeng” is a baduk term meaning “an incomplete life.” Geu-rae starts as a fish out of water, not even knowing how to use the copier, but soon learns to adapt using the lessons he learned playing baduk. He’s very easy to relate to, plus the actor looks a little like a cross of Jin and V from BTS.
The supporting cast really shines, too. You will grow to love and root for the rest of Geu-rae’s sales team as well as the three other company interns struggling to prove themselves. It’s a great view into the realities of the corporate world, especially regarding the extra hurdles for women even in the modern day.
Something in the Rain (2018)
I was a little hesitant to include this one because I’ve only watched a few episodes, but it has already hooked me.
When a single career woman reunites with her best friend’s younger brother after he returns from three years of working abroad, their efforts to reconnect grow into romance. –Google
The original Korean title of this show translates to Pretty Noona [older sister] who buys me food, which is more lighthearted than the English title. It refers to Jin-ah and Joon-hee reconnecting by trading off who pays for their meals together. Joon-hee is always asking her to treat him.
I fell in love with Jin-ah from the first episode, where she dances around her empty office to “I am the Best” by 2NE1, my favorite K-pop group. Being above 30 myself, it’s great to have a romance that features an “older” female lead. I am a little confused by the show’s obsession with Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man,” but hey, why not?
This show also has a glimpse into Korean office culture, mainly because the two characters work in the same building. However, their two companies have a vastly different culture, so it’s interesting to compare their jobs (some of it does relate to their different ages).
Honorable Mention: Oh My Ghost (2015)
I wanted to mention this one for some diversity because of its fantasy elements and large dose of comedy.
Possessed by the ghost of a lustful virgin, a timid assistant chef becomes confidently libidinous, drawing the attention of a haughty culinary star. –Netflix
While this show’s writing and storytelling is not as high in quality as the others, relying more on tropes, it is still really funny and I enjoyed the frank way it discusses sex, which is fairly rare in K-dramas.
The Thai version of this show, also called Oh My Ghost, is also available on Netflix, though I haven’t seen any of it yet.
Hope you guys are able to check out some of these K-dramas and enjoy them!
Reading the wonderful and wild Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore a few months ago got me thinking about alternate dimensions–specifically, about their use in stories. The concept appears across a range of speculative fiction, including both sci-fi and fantasy stories, and across a variety of media. It can be an interesting way to explore the age-old question “What if?” as well as the idea that even the smallest events or decisions can change the course of lives.
So here’s my list of some favorite parallel universes in fiction. I wanted to tend more towards the idea of multiverses, so I haven’t included any stories where there are only two dimensions, such as Star Trek’s mirror universe, the world of Fauxlivia and Walternate in Fringe, and the Light/Dark worlds of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
The Flash (CW)
After scientist Barry Allen was gifted with super speed during an accident with Central City’s particle accelerator, he became the superhero known as the Flash. Barry can do some pretty crazy stuff with his speed powers, including traveling through time and opening portals into other dimensions. The breaches between dimensions weren’t originally intentional, more of a side effect of Barry trying to fix something else he’d done unintentionally. (This kind of stuff happens to Barry a lot.)
The Flash probably comes the closest on my list to a true multiverse idea. Barry Allen’s world is Earth One, the centerpoint or juncture of the multiverse. There are theoretically an infinite number of worlds comprising every possible existence (though about 50 are known in the show), each vibrating at a different frequency so they don’t normally interact.
Accordingly, some worlds have “doppelgangers” of our main characters; the Barry Allen of Earth Two, for example, is also a scientist but is not a meta-human and has no powers. There are also worlds where there is no Barry Allen.
This TV show was originally a spin-off of Arrow, and later crossed over with Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow as well. Together, the Arrowverse has been able to do some really fun stuff with dimensional travel, including an obligatory visit to a dimension where the Nazis won WWII.
A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab
I wrote in praise of this series a little while back, and one of the things I liked about it is the world building. The main character, Kell, is a magician who can travel between worlds: there are four total, and each has a version of London (Black, White, Red, and Grey). In fact, each has a specific tavern in a specific spot in the city, which serves as a kind centerpoint, but that’s about where the similarity between the worlds ends. Our world is ostensibly that of “Grey” London, the home of Lila Bard, which is ruled by the Prince Regent (later George IV) and has no magic. Black London, however, was basically destroyed by magic, and White London still feels the effects of this, struggling to hold onto what power they can, which manifests in major societal and political upheavals.
Red London, Kell’s London, does still have magic, and Kell is their ambassador to White and Grey, being one of the ancient line of Antari, who can do blood magic to cross worlds. Antari are few and far between, and are distinguished by a single black-filled eye (the color black is closely associated with magic in general in this series). They draw magic seals with their blood, speak a phrase in the language of magic, and use a token from the other world to cross over (leaving us to wonder how the first Antari got their tokens, but that’s really not important to the story). They can also travel between two points in the same world, but when crossing worlds always travel to the same geographic point they left in the last world.
These four worlds are parallel in time, but not civilizations or events. Because so few people are able to travel between worlds, and transporting objects is forbidden, even the cultural exchange is extremely limited. There are no doppelgangers here, and while a world may die like Black London, there is no evidence that new ones are ever created.
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
This series, sometimes thought of as the “anti-Narnia,” begins with hints of alternate dimensions in The Golden Compass, but it’s not until the second book, The Subtle Knife, that the idea begins to really be explored. This cosmos is also theoretically a multiverse, which concept the characters refer to as the Barnard-Stokes Theorem. Just as in ADSoM, the two main characters, Lyra and Will, come from two different universes.
There are several ways of crossing between universes, the most prominent being the titular Subtle Knife. Will becomes the owner of this double-edged blade, one side of which can cut a window between worlds. However, this power is not without price: the children eventually discover that each piece of inter-dimensional fabric that is cut off becomes a Spectre that menaces adults (kids are safe).
Several worlds are visited in the course of the story. Will’s world appears to be our world, and Lyra’s is relatively similar (they both even have an Oxford University). Some are completely different, such as the world of the mulefa, animals that have evolved to use wheels, or the land of the dead. The story does not present any doppelgangers, either because they don’t exist or because the chances of actually meeting one in the multiverse would be slim.
The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny
Nine Princes in Amber has one of my favorite openings of any novel ever: our protagonist wakes in a medical facility (presumably in our world) with no memory of who he is or how he came to be there, only the vague sense that he was injured and is now being kept incapacitated. He eventually remembers that he is Corwin, Prince of Amber, the one true world; all other worlds are simply shadows of Amber.
The royal family of Amber can manipulate the Shadows, essentially creating whole worlds where they can live like kings, or disappear into obscurity. They speak of “adding” and “subtracting” things as they travel through various realities on the way to Amber. With such mathematical language, it make sense that Amber turns out to be only one anchoring pole of reality, that of order; the world of Chaos is its opposite pole, with the Shadows existing between them. The royals also have a special set of cards, trumps with their own portraits, that allow them to communicate across worlds.
The parallel universes are the backdrop for a grand political struggle among the royal family, taking place over generations. Corwin in particular has spent a lot of time in the Shadows, but eventually makes his way back to Amber to fight for the crown. One interesting detail is that different universes can apparently have different laws of physics; some have different color skies, for example. Also, gunpowder does not ignite in Amber, which results in a lot of sword fighting in the books.
My favorite authors of Japanese manga are a group of 4 women collectively known as CLAMP. Over their prolific career they have produced dozens of stories, most of which crossover to form a loose universe. Nowhere is that so evident than in the two series XXXholic and Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle (which directly crossover, but can be read separately). In the CLAMPverse, crossing between dimensions requires such great magical power that only few can do such a thing; one of these is Yuuko the Dimensional Witch, who runs a magical store where wishes can be granted for a price. A group of travelers comes to her asking to be given the power to journey between dimensions, not just once but many times (they all have their own reasons for this quest), and she gives them white Mokona.
What is Mokona exactly? “Mokona is Mokona!” the creature helpfully cries. Mokona (a version of character originally created for Magic Knight Rayearth) has the power to take the group between dimensions by kind of sucking them into a giant whirlwind in its mouth. It’s catchphrase when traveling is “Mokona Modoki mo doki doki!” which loosely means “Mokona is getting excited, too!”
The number of dimensions in the CLAMPverse is unknown, but it seems to be many, if not infinite. We see several dozen of the throughout the course of the story. We also meet versions of many, many characters found in CLAMP’s other works, most importantly Cardcaptor Sakura (my all-time favorite manga). Each version of the character we meet is different, living in under different circumstances, but they each have the same soul and therefore have many things in common, often having similar personalities, characteristics, preferences, and mannerisms. For example, Tomoyo (first seen as a schoolgirl in CCS), is a princess in one world and the president of a toy company in another, but is always polite and caring.
Honorable Mention: Sliders
I would include this 1990s TV show on my list, except that I haven’t seen enough of it to really count myself a fan. It follows the adventures of a group of travelers “sliding” between universes to try to get to back to their home dimension. The show also has a multiverse concept; because some universes are more technologically advanced than others, it also lets the show occasionally explore time travel-type scenarios as well.
If you guys are looking for something spooky to watch this Halloween, check out The Frankenstein Chronicles on Netflix.
Sean Bean stars as John Marlott, a London investigator tracking down the origin of a disturbing creation: a corpse that is actually an amalgamation of multiple children. Does it have something to do with the Anatomy Act that the Home Secretary, Sir Robert Peel, is trying to pass? Or with Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein and theories of galvanism? The show has wonderful atmosphere and suspense. I really liked the twists in the first season, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes in the second season, which is now available.
The science of the show is pretty hand-wavey, but that’s forgivable given the show’s strengths. It does incorporate several real historical figures and events, including Peel, Shelley, and William Blake. It is set about ten years after the publication of Frankenstein, which was a great choice because not only can we see the impact of the novel on society, but it also gives the show a more steampunk vibes, being closer to the Victorian era than the Regency.
The show is clearly inspired by Frankenstein itself, and I think this interpretation is preferable to another straight adaptation of the novel. It gives a great perspective on the monster! When Marlott reads the novel in the show, it inspired me to finally read the classic story, which is very different than the popular conception of it.
Here are some Frankenstein Facts:
This year is the 200th anniversary of its publication.
Mary Shelley was only 18 when she conceived of the idea for the novel, after a suggestion by the poet Byron that he, Mary, and her future husband poet Percy Bysshe Shelley each write a ghost story as a kind of party game.
It is an epistolary novel, written as a series of letters and journal entries.
Its subtitle is “The Modern Prometheus,” after the Titan that helped create man, then gave them fire in defiance of Zeus (only to be sentenced to an eternity of solitary torment).
It was ranked #43 on the Great American Read list.
Popular conception of the story comes from the Universal Pictures 1930s series of movies starring Boris Karloff as the monster, as well as the later Hammer Films series of movies starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.
It is considered one of the progenitors of the science fiction genre.
As a novel, I found Frankenstein mildly underwhelming. I’m not sold on the framing narrative involving an Arctic explorer writing letters home to his sister, and the prose lacks the wit of my Regency favorite Jane Austen. However, as a forerunner to modern sci-fi, its importance cannot be overstated. At its heart, science fiction is not about spaceships and plagues, but about society. Frankenstein deals with scientific inquiry, or more specifically how far it should go. Just because we are capable of doing something, should it be done? Is it ever okay to “play God?”
Before they send you home from the hospital with your newborn, they really should surgically attach two more arms to all moms. Because everything with babies requires two hands: nursing, feeding bottles, holding them while they cry for seemingly no reason, making sure their pacifier doesn’t fall out of their mouth. Et cetera.
So all you can do to keep your brain from turning to baby mush is watch TV, because this requires no hands at all. Bonus points if you never have to change the channel. At Christmas, I watched every single holiday movie on the Hallmark channel at least once. Now it’s HGTV or Food Network.
But the better option obviously is binging TV shows on Netflix. So here are a few of the things I’ve enjoyed recently.
This is a Netflix original animation inspired by the classic video game of the same name. The story follows vampire hunter Trevor Belmont as he and his group attempt to stop Dracula from taking revenge on humanity after the vampire’s wife was unjustly executed for witchcraft. I’ve never played that game series, but my husband recognized several elements from it. It is also quite violent and gruesome, so I wouldn’t recommend it for children despite the fact that it’s animated.
I give it major points for the quality of the writing and animation, plus the voice cast is great, featuring Richard “Thorin Oakenshield” Armitage as Belmont.
The first season is only four episodes, which mostly just sets up the story, introducing characters, etc. The second season will be out this year, and there are more planned after that.
A Series of Unfortunate Events
I read and enjoyed this series of books around 15 years ago, and this adaptation is quite frankly all I could have asked for. The story follows the three Baudelaire orphans as they try to escape the clutches of the evil Count Olaf, who is after their fortune. It is narrated by the fictitious author Lemony Snicket with a tone of surrealist dark humor. Also the theme song is absurdly catchy.
The cast is excellent, featuring Patrick Warburton, Alfre Woodard, Catherine O’Hara, and especially Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf. The three Baudelaire children are also excellent and carry the series easily.
The first season covers the first four books in the series, with two episodes per book, and the pacing is perfect. The second season, which I am looking forward to in March, with cover the next five books over ten episodes.
I’m still working my way through this one, but so far it’s been on par with the better Marvel Netflix series.
This is a series I certainly would not have had much interest in…until the portrayal of Frank Castle was the best thing about season two of Netflix’s Daredevil. Now he has his own series, and his own season two is on the way. Frank is still dealing with the loss of his family as well as secrets from his time serving in Afghanistan; after the events of Daredevil, only a few people even know he’s alive.
This show has the intensity you would expect, and I thought the violence was about on par with Daredevil, perhaps a little more brutal. I tried watching this back in December, and while I thought the first episode was a great start to the series, I just could not handle it in my post-partum state. I cried straight through the last ten minutes of it. So now I’m trying again.
I don’t think this show has gotten as much hype as the other Marvel Netflix shows, so I would encourage you to check it out even if you haven’t seen the others. It’s nice to have a story with an antihero every now and then; Punisher is much more “grey” than the other Defenders main characters.
Sword Art Online
People have been recommending this one to me for years, and with good reason. It follows a group of gamers stuck in a virtual reality MMORPG. The premise reminded me of .hack//Sign, an anime from the 2000s that I enjoyed. Having played MMORPGs, a lot of the concepts were familiar and worked well with the story (but you don’t need to be a gamer to enjoy it).
I actually watched the English dub for this one and I thought it was pretty good. The animation is nice, too, but nothing revolutionary. I very much liked the episodic way the story is laid out; it sometimes skips ahead months to the next quest/raid/boss battle. The two main characters, Kirito and Asuna, are great, and there’s a nice supporting cast.
The tone of the story is a nice balance; it’s not very dark, but it does deal with some serious concepts about life and death and reality. The second story arc is less impressive, sidelining Asuna in a weird, rapey plot. Overall I would definitely recommend it, but it’s probably not among the best anime I’ve ever seen.
I’ve been further catching up on my anime with Death Note, and enjoying the new Japanese drama The Many Faces of Ito. I always enjoy a good BBC drama, and Call the Midwife has been really interesting to me, having recently had to do just that!
What are you guys watching right now? Any recommendations? Especially light comedy or drama! I also have Amazon Prime, and I’m contemplating getting Hulu so I can watch The Handmaid’s Tale and Runaways.