The Encanto meta is live now! The character study for Dolores and Camilo from Encanto is available to read for patrons only, and the previews above are to share the love for these two cousins to the wonderful Mirabel Madrigal.
Castlevania: Trephacard Dynamics Preview
From July’s patron-only poll, the winner was Trephacard relationship dynamics from Netflix Castlevania! You can see a preview of it below, and join at $1+ to see the whole meta, vote on the winter poll, and get other benefits shown here.
Remember, there will be spoilers.
Alucard and Trevor
It’s not much of a surprise that these two started off fighting the second they met each other. Mostly because of family legacies, honestly, but the fight quickly evolves into something of a conversation. They are testing each other through this battle. That ability to test one another, push each other’s buttons, and come out friendly on the other side really defines their dynamic.
But they’re also two of a kind in that few others will understand how it is to be so entrenched in your family name as to be almost synonymous with it. To feel that duty so strongly that, as Trevor says at the end of their first fight, “living through it was just a luxury”. He had every intention of killing “Dracula” and didn’t care if he lived in the end, and for Alucard, that’s essentially what he went into the fight with his father thinking.
Their biggest struggle is that Alucard does care about class and appearances to an extent while Trevor doesn’t even a little, so they can get on each other’s nerves (more on that later with Sypha, who helps smooth things over with those two). They also understand each other’s hidden pain very well and cope very similarly.
Alucard and Sypha
All that blatant honesty and nerdiness they share means so much for them! She won’t mince words with him, just like he won’t with her. Meanwhile, she won’t get extremely offended and gives as good as she gets when Alucard oversteps. Who else can tell him he might be an angry teenager in an adult’s body? That frank ability to say what they might not like to hear does go both ways. After all, who will ask Sypha where she dropped the castle when he’s afraid he already knows the answer?
Like Trevor and Alucard, they also use sarcasm with each other to make painful moments more bearable, but it’s typically more lighthearted. Their reunion at the end of season 4 makes for a good example. Despite the somber atmosphere, Alucard was still making jokes and so was Sypha. The purpose with them is not to change how they feel, but take the edge off the pain through their brighter quips and banter.
The sheer depths of his sorrow do alarm her at times, but Sypha before season 4 is unfamiliar with grief and bittersweet memories as vast as what Alucard is up against with the death of his mother and the inevitable loss of his father. She needed time to see more of the world and the impossible situations (and corruption) in it to really comprehend that side of him and see what he needed.
Sypha and Trevor
Even before they got along, never mind started dating, there was a generous helping of blunt honesty between Sypha and Trevor too. It’s harsher than the one between Sypha and Alucard, but that’s because their resolves oppose each other. Primarily in the sense that Sypha still has hope when they first meet and Trevor is much, much more jaded.
It’s during his time spent with the Speakers that Trevor rediscovers his drive as a Belmont, along with the hope to carry it through, and he shows Sypha the adventurous and purposeful life she does wish to experience more of. Their real turning point was when they worked together to defend Gresit. Between Sypha saving his life and her watching Trevor easily assume command of the townsfolk in order to not only save them, but teach them how to save themselves, they both discovered something new in each other and themselves.
It’s this that really clears the way for them to share parts of themselves with the other. All the adventures Sypha finds so thrilling and fun, burning goat turds and all, have generally been a trial and horrific for Trevor. Even the fact that she likes to travel and live nomadically turns being on the run into just a way to live, another thing they simply do and enjoy. She brightens his lifestyle, and he expands her horizons. This is a gradual exchange that encourages a trust and affection that grows on its own by its very nature.
However emotionally stunted this group can be at times, they do maintain hope, acceptance, and support with each other through an instinctive synergy they developed over spending time together. When Trevor and Alucard are at odds because of their differing approaches to life, Sypha can sort them out and remind them what they have in common. When she’s at her wit’s end with their nonsense, they can work out matters on their own with dark humor and their biting banter. Trevor and Alucard offer different kinds of comfort for Sypha, one warm and active while the other is cool and unobtrusive.
Each of them has felt alone or lost before, but they have a place to belong together.
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FFVII Analysis: Sephiroth in Crisis Core
It’s no mystery that I love the Final Fantasy VII series of games and movies, and in the spirit of that, I’ve set my sights on Sephiroth. You know, the man we all first knew from Final Fantasy VII as the guy you’d never invite to a fireside chat.
WARNING: FINAL FANTASY VII AND CRISIS CORE SPOILERS AHEAD
But before that in game canon, there was Crisis Core. Where Sephiroth was young and had friends and absolutely no desire to crush us all with a meteor (probably). We start at the beginning: Sephiroth was raised and trained as an intellectually and physically exceptional child with no immediate family.
While there’s no canon information on his childhood, some of his behavior in Crisis Core reflects what his mentality likely was.
Unlike many real life students with exceptional skills, Sephiroth had all of the special instruction and resources he needed to prosper. By the time we see him in Crisis Core, Sephiroth was entirely confident in abilities he’d been building on his entire life.
Yet when Genesis expressed jealousy over Sephiroth’s fame, he told Genesis he could have it. This is an indication that his confidence was self-contained rather than something he got from or held over other people. In short, fame or the lack of would not affect him at all.
This connects to another issue that exceptional people face in their upbringing. According to a guide by the Education Resources Information Center (ERIC), “specific provisions for [gifted and talented students] stir heated controversy regarding whether or not they need special attention”.
Zack himself displayed this skepticism just before his mission with the Turks that Sephiroth was originally assigned to. Upon hearing that he refused to go, Zack asked if they were being too soft with him or babying him (depending on language/translation).
You can see the scene here at about 6:40.
For Sephiroth, this kind of controversy led to his abilities defining him to others in one of two ways. His status as the best First Class SOLDIER led people to believe he was either a hero beyond their standing or he was entitled more than he deserved.
Let’s consider that in conjunction with the immense value he placed on his friendship with Angeal and Genesis.
To have two friends who treated him as someone on their level, whether positively or negatively, meant a great deal to Sephiroth. There were few people who wouldn’t judge him based on his reputation since he had no family.
The bottom line is that Angeal and Genesis (and later Zack) gave him something his reputation could not: a sense of belonging.
And that feeling overpowered everything else Sephiroth held as important. He refused the mission that Zack went on because it was an act directly against his friends. When he was on his way to Modeoheim, he put his current mission off to go out of his way and talk to Zack – even though Zack was upset with him at the time.
Full clip here.
Sadly, this value Sephiroth placed on belonging was his undoing in the end.
To be human and exceptional separated him from nearly everyone, even others who were First Class. But at least he had that in common with people – humanity.
His discovery of the truth took that last bastion of hope away along with two of his closest friends. (The below video shows Sephiroth’s struggle as he tried to hold onto his humanity and the particularly painful way he found out he wasn’t human after all.)
Full clip here.
Failing that, Sephiroth had utterly nothing in common with anyone insofar as he knew. What meant most to him in life was inaccessible to him forever (or so he felt).
All that remained to fill the void was his greatness. In his mind, that had defined him to everyone else throughout his life, and he only thought he’d been defined by something more to those he cared for.
With his feeling of belonging gone, Sephiroth had to face that he would never truly belong among humans.
That combined with inevitable rage at the deception and horror at the truth of his origin… Sephiroth turned to godhood to embrace what he had originally tried to reject.
He was exceptional and he did not belong among these people; he never would. Grieving it in solitude could drive him mad or…
Sephiroth could choose not to grieve, instead empowering himself by believing he never really needed to belong. The feeling was simply another deception by the lesser beings of humanity.
And so, he rationalized godhood as his destiny.
and I’m still sad about it after all these years
Thank you for reading!
Dorian Pavus: Coping Study
Though I’m not finished with Inquisition, Dorian is easily one of my favorite characters and with this piece, I’d like to pull back the curtain and show the coping mechanisms behind the man.
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And now, on we go!
• • • • •
Quick summary for those who need the recap: Dorian Pavus is a human mage of the Atlus caste in Tevinter society. The Altus are considered to be descended from dreamers/magisters that could speak to the Old Gods when in the Fade, and they are exceedingly well regarded in the Tevinter Imperium.
This influences him growing up as it would anyone– both with the pressure to meet that ideal and also being considered great from birth, particularly because he’s from an affluent family as well.
He had a natural talent for magic, and of course, he’s Dorian… So he flourished under the envy, at least on the surface. After being expelled from a Circle at 9 years old for injuring a Magister’s son in a duel, he continued to rotate through mentors and Circles, each ending in a new fiasco.
It wasn’t until Alexius found Dorian and offered to take him as an apprentice that Dorian found the focus he needed to truly prosper. And that he did, earning merit and stations inside four years of study in the Minrathous Circle.
…then Felix, Alexius’ son and a dear friend of Dorian’s, got the darkspawn corruption and Alexius’ wife died in the same tragedy. Two years, Dorian poured into finding a cure for Felix. But a fight between Alexius and Dorian severed their ties and immediately, Dorian was off the path to greatness again.
Between reveling in excess and loudly rejecting every flaw in his homeland, Dorian faced only hardship and scandals from then on in Tevinter. His father tried to use blood magic to “cure” his homosexuality, keeping him hidden as he slid back into old habits after his fight with Alexius…
This is the state he’s in when he joins the Inquisition. An outcast in his own nation, his trust in his own family destroyed, and completely adrift. [Backstory recap source]
So what does this all mean for Dorian’s coping mechanisms? He’s known to be very sure of himself and prefers wit on nearly every occasion, and let’s see how he uses both his bravado and humor throughout his backstory, either successfully or not.
Consider his first expulsion from a Circle at 9 years old, which was caused because he injured another child in a duel. A Magister’s son, no less, and at this point you can already presume that Dorian had a difference of opinion with most of his countrymen while still absorbing the doctrine of holding life in alarmingly low regard.
Whatever their disagreement was, Dorian would not yield. Although I’m sure he wasn’t as adeptly cunning as a child, it’s a safe bet that he pushed buttons with the Magister’s son until it came to a duel… Which he would not back down from to the point of actually injuring a fellow child.
Now there is where you behold two sides to Dorian: his general belief in morality and his inevitable acceptance of certain parts of Tevinter culture.
If he backed down from the duel, it wouldn’t be mercy, but weakness. Because it was a Magister’s son, he was expelled from that Circle… But the damage was done. He’d harmed a child in what was likely an intellectual disagreement.
And intelligent as he was, he knew that he could’ve been the one hurt or worse had the Magister’s son sucked a little less. And if that had been the case, Dorian would probably still have been the one expelled because he’s not a Magister’s son.
Dorian was an intelligent, gifted child who knew something was wrong there but didn’t have the direction, the guidance to figure out how to change it– simply how not to be affected by it.
If he was bound to expelled from the Circle regardless, and he knew he was once that argument began, why not at least show the brat his place? This is where bravado and humor comes in, and where Dorian’s… unsavory… behavior continued.
Tevinter is inherently a place where you can trust no one once you reach a higher standing, which the Pavus family held.
But ambition only doesn’t work for Dorian. A man of heart, he is internally and externally destructive without connections and a greater purpose. Given his backstory, with family alone as he is before Alexius, he’s reckless and overly aggressive. With purpose alone as he is after Alexius but before the Inquisition, he’s reckless with no regard for himself.
In the Inquisition and the Inquisitor, he finds both. Of course, this doesn’t change who he is or how he faces the world. Even as he confesses friendship with the Inquisitor, he leans on humor to make it safely through his honesty.
Such honesty was a serious risk in Tevinter culture, and factoring in the betrayal of his father and Alexius – two people he trusted most – and he’s opening himself to that all over again by admitting out loud that someone is his friend in this context:
“Perhaps it’s odd to say, but… I think of you as a friend, Inquisitor. I have precious few friends. I didn’t think to find one here.”
When the Inquisitor goes to respond, Dorian cuts them off to say, “Don’t speak. I detest confessions, and I’d like to get this over with.” He’s half kidding, mostly serious, but honesty suits Dorian far more than ambition and more than he’d care to admit.
And he needs that humor to bond over his genuine friendship with the Inquisitor. Dismissing a serious matter as light reduces its weight on him and makes him feel less threatened by the rules of the culture he grew up in: one where you don’t trust anyone and seek only power.
He can confess to being close to someone and all the solace that provides as long as he has redirection and hospital humor to get him by. And it’s not the only instance where he used these tactics to cope, not by any stretch. It’s nearly constant.
For example, in the Templar timeline, Dorian appears to warn the Inquisition at Haven. His first line of dialogue is, “if someone would open this [the gate], I’d appreciate it”. When someone does, he’s on the verge of falling over and held up only by his staff.
After trying to stand and falling onto Cullen, using his help to stand, Dorian describes himself as “a mite exhausted” and says “don’t mind me”. These are all examples of how Dorian uses levity to draw attention away from the issues he’d rather be hidden. In that case at Haven, he was on a time crunch to put it lightly, but the mentality stands.
Of course, there are those who don’t understand his perspective and view it as arrogance at best, indifference at worst. But this is part of the beauty and complexity of Dorian, and while I could go on… That concludes this study. Perhaps another time, my friends!
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Roman Torchwick: Fallen Hero
Greetings! I bring you a new analysis piece of Roman Torchwick and what I’ve seen in that amazing, majestic man.
Why can’t I do eyeliner like that
But I will inform you also that this is a baby analysis compared to my usual, mainly because there isn’t a wealth of canon material on Roman but I wanted to analyze him anyway. On we go!
SPOILER ALERT BELOW
First, the impression of Roman.
Here’s a man who exudes a powerful charisma even as he also shows that he’s not above using force. There’s a certain rough levity to the way he acts and speaks, reacting with phrases like, “that would be bad” when situations take a turn for the worse.
Were he a hero, he’d be considered playful and witty, but it’s his willingness to use violence that confirms him as definite villain. He’s no morally good but edgy bard using his silver tongue to gain the advantage. But! After all is said and done, I do believe he once was.
Let’s review his actions and demeanor throughout the series. He dresses and speaks very eloquently, which says he has both expensive tastes and a promising intellect.
Pair that with his ruthlessness, and a younger Roman has high standards and was intelligent, determined, and willing to go to any lengths to get what he wanted. He simply wanted different things (that I cannot determine because someone didn’t have a backstory).
But if you listen to his final words, they are way too personal not to mean something. He’s beating Ruby, an actual child, with a cane and saying she has spirit, but the real world doesn’t care about spirit. The real world is cruel and cold, and she isn’t operating in this real world.
And as cold and cruel as Roman is, is he not a man with spirit? A broken one that never quite set right, but he has one nonetheless. He didn’t give in when he was imprisoned and interrogated by Ironwood, and he frequently brushes off hardship lightly.
Torchwick has spirit, but it’s changed with what he’s experienced in life.
Before that speech on the real world, he tells Ruby that she can’t beat his employer, he can’t beat them, so why not be on the right side? His exact response to her questions was, “You’re asking the wrong questions, Red! It’s not what I have to gain… It’s that I can’t afford to lose!”
This answer tells me about a boy who tried to fight for what was right, or loved someone who did, and he only lost everything. I think adult Roman has only Neo to hold dear, and when he lectured Ruby about the real world in his final moments, he was just as much speaking to his younger self as to her.
And when Neo is taken off the airship, he shows a moment of real concern for her before unleashing his cold anger on Ruby. He tells her that if she wants to be a hero, she should “play the part and die”.
In the real world as seen by Roman, all heroes die. Why would he want to be one after coming to see the world like that? (See the whole heart-wrenching scene here.)
I’m not pardoning him, that would honestly cheapen his character, but I am saying I see Roman as a man who tried to be the hero, who failed, and who lost all that he had fought for and more… And swore he’d never lose again no matter the cost.