'March Comes in Like a Lion' Marches Into My Heart (Review)

Monday, June 26, 2017

3-gatsu no Lion (March Comes in Like a Lion)

Studio: Shaft
Producer: AniplexDentsuNHK,HakusenshaAsmik Ace Entertainment,Toy's Factory
Genre: Slice of Life, Drama, Seinen, Game
Episodes: 22
Episode Length: 25 minutes

Having reached professional status in middle school, Rei Kiriyama is one of the few elite in the world of shogi. Due to this, he faces an enormous amount of pressure, both from the shogi community and his adoptive family. Seeking independence from his tense home life, he moves into an apartment in Tokyo. As a 17-year-old living on his own, Rei tends to take poor care of himself, and his reclusive personality ostracizes him from his peers in school and at the shogi hall.

However, not long after his arrival in Tokyo, Rei meets Akari, Hinata, and Momo Kawamoto, a trio of sisters living with their grandfather who owns a traditional wagashi shop. Akari, the oldest of the three girls, is determined to combat Rei's loneliness and poorly sustained lifestyle with motherly hospitality. The Kawamoto sisters, coping with past tragedies, also share with Rei a unique familial bond that he has lacked for most of his life. As he struggles to maintain himself physically and mentally through his shogi career, Rei must learn how to interact with others and understand his own complex emotions.


NOTE: To be taken to the original picture, click on the picture. Credit goes to the original creator(s).

March Comes in Like a Lion was an anime that took me by surprise. I watched the first episode when I had time but couldn't watch another. So, months later, I finally got to finish this anime. The animation and the darkness of the first episode made me love this anime, but, as I watched the show progress, the darkness faded away to light, and the animation just got better and better. Even though the original reasons why I loved this anime might not have remained, this anime is still quite amazing.

The one thing I can say about this anime is that it is character focused. And animes should be. Without good characters, even the best plot can't save that anime. 
But I adored each and every character I met. With the exception of Masamune Gotou, but that's because he's an abusive little -insert expletive here-. I even loved Kyouko Kouda, and she was a little bossy and annoying. 

The main character Rei Kiriyama was broken and sad. He had lost his parents and sister a long time ago, but their deaths still haunted him. He played shogi for his father, not necessarily for himself until recently. Furthermore, he experienced terrible suffering because of his skills in shogi and what that did to his adopted brother Ayumu Kouda and sister Kyouko. I related to his loneliness and isolation. The last episode showcases his isolation in a flashback to his childhood. Rei reminisced about having an empty seat next to him (Implying a lack of friendship and even the presence of hatred) when he was on a school trip. He had to find a place to eat lunch alone. While I don't eat lunch alone, I don't necessarily have the same close friendships as one may think. 
I understand his loneliness. After all, two lonely souls only have each other.

While he didn't change dramatically, (He even says that he didn't change in the last episode) I could tell that something had changed. The first half of the series is spent in his head. I swear most of the dialogue I heard was monolog. It was depressing but put things in perspective. Rei was alone. He had no one to talk to but himself. And that fact forced him into this fortress of solitude (Haha.) This made the scenes with the Kawamoto family brighter. 
But the second half highlighted a change. He had people to talk to. He had friends and rivals. He no longer spent time monologuing in his head. He talked to people.

AH. I loved the Kawamoto family. They were so adorable. Momo Kawamoto was an adorable fluffball. I just wanted to hug her. Hina Kawamoto was bright and loveable as well. But Akari Kawamoto might be my favorite. She was a family person, someone who loved helping her sisters out. She could have left them; she was an adult after all, but she stayed and helped. I'm a sucker for family stories because they're sometimes better than cliche romance stories. And Akari understood things. She was wise. 
I just wish we saw more of them. They were definitely a major part of why I loved this anime, but they faded away in the second half. I can't explain why except because of the emphasis on the Lion King Tournament. 
Plus, the cats could talk. Their food-obsessed commentary kept my spirits up.

My favorite character, next to the entire Kawamoto family, was Kai Shimada. Most of the second half of the anime was spent with him and Kiriyama's burgeoning friendship. I loved seeing this high-ranked player in his natural element, talking to his family and friends. Something I noticed about Kai was that he loved shogi and his family. He was a strong character. Even in the face of defeat, even when struggling through pain, he smiled. I respected that. 

The art was gorgeous. I adored this one scene in the first episode. It was meaningful and symbolic. I loved it. This anime is full of scenes like that. There is also the recurring theme of water. Just amazing. And the background art was gorgeous as well. 

My only complaint is a major one: there was a dire lack of plot. Sure, the anime started out with Rei's tournaments, but the anime didn't really come off as a competition anime. It was more of a development anime, and, even so, it wasn't that much of a development anime either. You could take it episode by episode, but then Rei's little character development is lost. You could say it was all for the Lion King Tournament, but that is only half of the anime. I'm still confused as to how I should explain this anime. Is it episodic in nature? Or does it have an overarching arc?

But I have high hopes. The last episode is full of hints about a season two. There is the shogi-science club and Rei joining his friends at a shogi table. There is Shimada's determination to win a Master title in episode 21. There is Rei and Souya's possibly similar personalities. There are many hints to a plot in a season two, and I would watch that because I would be able to see Rei grow more as a person.

Have you seen this anime? What are your thoughts? Comment below!

Magi's Kingdoms: Where reality and anime collide

Friday, June 23, 2017

NOTE: Any and all pictures have their credit if you click on the picture. Thank you.

I really do love the Magi series. It's funny and emotional. The story is lovely. The characters are amazing. Both Magi: Labyrinth of Magic and Magi: Kingdom of Magic are series I definitely suggest you watch.
But when I was watching the series, I began to notice similarities between the kingdoms in the series and ancient kingdoms. And, after a while, the similarities for some of the kingdoms got overwhelmingly obvious. So I've decided to explain exactly which Magi kingdom matches with which ancient kingdom.

The most obvious one is the Leam Empire and Ancient Rome. There are so many similarities. For one, there is the Coliseum and the gladiators. Ancient Rome was known for its bloody gladiatorial sport. (Also, did you know that gladiators were vegetarians?) There is also a famous architectural piece in the city of Rome, the center of Ancient Rome, called the Coliseum.
The outfits are also evidence for this correlation. The prince Nerva Julius Caluades wears a toga and a laurel wreath. Although laurel wreaths are more associated with winning the Olympics (A Grecian sporting event), these were also seen in Roman culture, again for victory. 

But there's also the names. Take Nerva Julius Caluades for example. The name Julius is often associated with the Roman dictator Julius Caesar. (There's also the Roman emperor Nerva.) Most of the other names such as Muu Alexius might not be Roman per se, but the ties between the Leam and Rome is pretty clear.

The next most obvious one is the Kou Empire and Han China. If you don't know, China has been around for a long time. (If you've seen Hetalia: Axis Powers, you probably know many jokes about China's age.) The Kou Empire is similar to Ancient China in its architecture and clothing. (A quick review of China's history.)
The roofs are similar to those in the Forbidden City in Beijing, China. There's an emphasis on red and dragons, both symbols in Chinese culture even to this day. 
The clothes that the princes and princesses wear are similar to Ancient Chinese styles.  

People wore long robes seen in the princesses' dresses and funny hats such as Kouha's. Both men and women had long hair. (This trend is also seen in Japan with samurai who had buns. It was even shameful to have one's bun get cut off. Fun fact.)
It is also described as being in the 'Far East', and China is an Eastern country. (Eastern in respect to, say, Greenwich where the time zones start.)

Alright. Now onto the harder ones. They were all relatively hard to place, so bear with me.

Sinbad's kingdom of Sindria could be Southwest Asia. (Yes, I don't like using the term 'Middle East'. Deal with it.) The kingdom would most likely be the Sassanids in Persia. 
First, we have the link to Sinbad himself. According to Wikipedia, (Yes, not a very reliable source, I know, but here's the link anyways.) the mythological Sinbad was a sailor who lived in Baghdad, Iraq. The sailor part matches up well enough. It's never mentioned how the story ends up really. We don't know if Sinbad the Sailor settled down and created a vast kingdom, but we do know that he went on many adventures. I haven't seen the spinoff Magi: Adventures of Sinbad yet, so I can't confirm if Sinbad the Sailor is the same Sinbad in Magi, but I feel like there's a good assumption. 

We can look at the clothing of the people of Sindria, though. (I really don't know of the history of the Southwest Asian region other than a little about the Muslim kingdoms.) The Eight Generals are mostly light, white, flowing clothing. In the hot areas of Southwest Asia, this was pretty necessary. Even now. You want to wear light colors to not have your clothes absorb the Sun's rays and end up hot. The thinner clothing made it cooler; thicker clothing is typically for wintertime when it's colder. Most of this, though, comes from knowledge about clothing for hot temperatures and not specifically that region. (You could say that Ja'far's little hat is a turban, though, and that would link Sindria to the Southwest Asian region as well.)

Morgiana in Magi: Kingdom of Magic goes to explore her homeland the Dark Continent to learn more about herself. This one is a bit of conjecture as well, but I think she's going to Egypt. When exactly, I'm not sure, but we'd have to assume around the same time that Ancient Rome existed, so I'm saying the height of the Roman Empire from 31 BCE to 14 CE. Which is interesting because that's around when the Rome takes over Egypt. (According to this timeline) According to this article, Leam (Roman Empire) did take over parts of the Dark Continent, and there are cities such as Cathargo (Cartharge) that are located within Tunisia, which isn't Egypt, but it's close enough.
There's also the barren desert that Morgiana has to cross, which can be related to the Sahara Desert. 
I'm not sure which Egyptian kingdom this would be categorized since it would technically be under the Roman Empire, so it's not really a kingdom. 

The Kambala, though a wandering tribe, would most likely be from Ancient China, technically Mongolian. The Mongolians were fierce warriors that roamed most of Asia and Europe, much like the gladiatorial Kambala. There were trades between China and Rome, which could explain the Kambala in Leam. They also talk about qi a Chinese concept of life force.

The hardest was probably Magnoshudatt. The best answer I have is India. There is the rigid caste system that India had. But that's all I really have. Magnoshudatt is more of one city, but there really isn't any place that I can think of that makes that one-city aspect. 
But if it is based on India, then it'd probably be the Indo-Parthian Kingdom. This fits within the time period. (Found with this link)

I love how Magi makes connections with history. It makes the story very interesting and adds more depth to it. I haven't seen the spinoff or read the manga, but I feel like I should.

If you have more evidence to add or would like to debate my ideas, please comment. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

I Have No Crush on 'Nijiro Days' (Review)

Friday, June 16, 2017

Nijiro Days (Rainbow Days)

Studio: Production Reed
Producer: YTVTokuma Japan,DaiichikoshoShueisha
Genre: Comedy, Romance, Slice of Life, Romance, Shoujo
Episodes: 24
Episode Length: 13 minutes

Nijiiro Days follows the colorful lives and romantic relationships of four high school boys—Natsuki Hashiba, a dreamer with delusions of love; Tomoya Matsunaga, a narcissistic playboy who has multiple girlfriends; Keiichi Katakura, a kinky sadist who always carries a whip; and Tsuyoshi Naoe, an otaku who has a cosplaying girlfriend.

When his girlfriend unceremoniously dumps him on Christmas Eve, Natsuki breaks down in tears in the middle of the street and is offered tissues by a girl in a Santa Claus suit. He instantly falls in love with this girl, Anna Kobayakawa, who fortunately attends the same school as him. Natsuki's pursuit of Anna should have been simple and uneventful; however, much to his dismay, his nosy friends constantly meddle in his relationship, as they strive to succeed in their own endeavors of love.


Nijiro Days is as fulfilling as watching someone else eat delicious cake. It's taunting you with something amazing, something that you could have. But ultimately you're let down.

This anime had so many problems. I can't help but get angry because of it. On the surface, it's a quick, fluffy romance anime with male leads instead of female ones. This is a unique twist on the shoujo romance genre, but this twist is wasted on Nijiro Days. This is no better than a boring shoujo with female leads.

My major problem with the series is the characters. They are a lackluster, meaningless cast, and I felt no attachment to any of them, even though I've gone through the hardships of crushes and unrequited love before.

Let's go down the list of couples, analyzing each.

The Main Couple is Bland Anna Kobayakawa and Typical Shoujo Girl Natsuki Hashiba. 
Anna is a typical Mary Sue. She doesn't figure out her feelings for Natsuki until the last moment. She has little to no emotions; one of the four main characters even mentions her emotionless face. I rarely got to see her smile. I can deal with detached characters, but she really was empty. Her character had no depth. She was nice but in the way that everyone is nice. She works at a karaoke place. Other than that, I can't tell you a single one of her likes or traits. She was a boring character; that's it.
And Natsuki...sigh. He had real potential, you know? He could have been a heart-on-your-sleeve, comedic relief, lovable guy. What we got was less than average. He was more like the typical shoujo manga girl. As if the creators wanted to make him relatable to the females in the audience. I've met guys who have unrequited crushes on girls. They don't act like that. They're defensive at times and make jokes. Natsuki ended up being more of a squealing typical shoujo character. I liked that the main characters were guys crushing on girls; I thought that had real promise, but Natsuki ended up way too stereotypical for me to care about him.
And the romance between the two is innocent and kinda cute, but Anna takes way too many hints and throws them out of the window. It took way too long for the main romance to even become a thing in her eyes. Way too long.

Then we have the couple with the next most screen time: Tsun-Girl and Creep-Boy. 
Tsun-Girl, or Mari Tsutsui is way too much tsun and not enough -dere. I've seen many tsundere characters done right (Toradora's Taiga and Maid Sama's Misaki come to mind first), and Mari is a perfect example of how to do a tsundere wrong. The most glaring thing about her is that she is annoying and bratty. Most of her lines are screaming "Annnaaaaa" loudly into my ear, and the ear of her surrounding classmates, and while having a loud, mildly dependent character is fine for a tsundere, Mari never gets any development. She is, forever and always, the Tsun-Girl. Most tsunderes have a redeeming moment. Something that makes you realize "Ah, they aren't so bad after all." Mari almost had that, but that scene didn't follow through, and she didn't change because of that scene. She was a static character, even though she had the chance to change. Plus, there is no explanation for why she hates men. Oh, sure, her brother moved away. How did that affect her? She's an angry teenager for absolutely no reason. There is no backstory to her; there is no reason why. 
And Creep-Boy, or Tomoya (That's his first name?? It's never mentioned) Matsunaga is a playboy. But he's really not a playboy. Nijiro Days might try to trick you into thinking that he is with a few scenes of girls fawning over him, but he really isn't. When he meets Mari, he's smitten, even if he acts like he isn't. But there's not meaning for him liking her. She hates him with a fiery passion, and not in the tsundere way. He says she's cute, but what does that mean? He even talks to her and gets to know her a bit, but he can't rustle up a reason for why he likes her? Then maybe it's not meant to be.

Sigh. The best couple had barely any screentime. 
I'm talking about Otaku One and Otaku Two: Yukiko Asai and Tsuyoshi Naoe. Wow. These guys seem very incompatible: Yukiko (Or Yukirin as she is known by the entire cast) is cute, bubbly, and loud, and Tsuyoshi is quiet and brooding. They are both otakus, which seems to be why they bonded. 
While most of the couples are off trying to realize their feelings for one another, Yukiko and Tsuyoshi are sitting in someone's room playing video games or out at a concert or cosplaying. 
They're the perfect example of opposites attract, personality-wise. I like how Tsuyoshi is very subtle in his romancing efforts. He doesn't seem like he's trying too hard, but we know he cares.
These two are barely seen, though, and they get little to no development. Their relationship, while more interesting than the other ones, doesn't change with the seasons, as most relationships do.

Last but not least, Sadist Keiichi Katakura and Fangirl Nozomi Matsunaga.
Keiichi showed a lot of promise, much like Natsuki. But he wasn't developed at all. I wanted to know more about him. Why was he sadist? Where did he learn these things? I wanted to see his dark side, and Nozomi was perfectly able to be introduced to Keiichi's dark side. He even showed it to her once. But, alas, he is boring too much he has no screentime, except maybe as a cheerleader to the Main Couple's adventures.
Nozomi was a fangirl. Obsessed because of, what I'm assuming is, his princely looks. Thanks, we're putting great ideas into the future generations. But that really is all I know about her. She likes Keiichi, is his fangirl, and is Tomoya's little sister. I wish she had more development, more character. But, again, she's just one half of a barely-seen couple.
These two were the last couple to be introduced, so that makes sense. But I start questioning why there were four main characters to begin with. The last two couples to be introduced would have little screen time because they're deemed 'not important enough'. We could have seen an interesting S&M dynamic, but, no, we were shown innocent first love, as if we haven't seen that time and time again.

I'll quickly touch upon the character designs because I am angry about that as well. But what I say will have as much effort as the characters had interesting character designs.
They were not interesting.
Long story: they were bland. Boring, stereotypical anime characters. We had cotton-candy pink (Red?) hair and blue and cream school uniforms. Nothing new. On YouTube, someone commented that the main characters (Especially Natsuki, Tomoya, and Tsuyoshi) looked like Free! Iwatobi Swim Club members. At least with Free!, we get mildly BL elements. Nijiro Days doesn't even give us that.

The plot itself is unfulfilling as well. There aren't many 'events' even though lots of time of passing. (The whole anime covers slightly over a year of these characters' lives.) We have a school festival, Christmas, and, of course, the requisite Beach Episode. (Admittedly, there are some amazing Beach Episodes, but this one doesn't work out because of the character interactions and lack of comedy that typical Beach Episodes contain.) Nothing new.

If I had one positive thing to say about this anime, it would be the complex, possibly yuri relationship between Anna and Mari. Yes, Mari the man hater is in love with Anna. I thought this was interesting. I wondered about what type of love she meant for the longest time, but she basically confirmed it during the one of the hot spring episodes. But, again, it's never developed, so I'm left struggling to find anything good about this anime.

Overall, there are better romantic comedy animes to watch. I already mentioned a few with tsunderes. If you want to see a playboy character like Tomoya done well, Maid Sama works too. If you want to see innocent love like what was supposed to be between Anna and Natsuki, Snow White with the Red Hair is good, or if you're in it for the long haul, Aoharu x Machinegun is a great anime where two characters like each other and never figure it out (Read the manga, though. Masamune takes forever to figure it out.) If you want a romantic comedy, Clannad is amazing, albeit a tad sad. Want male main characters? Daily Lives of High School Boys has a great male cast and is hilarious. There are so many amazing animes that better than this one. Just ask for a recommendation. I have plenty. 

Sunday Street Team: 'Internet Famous' Excerpt

Tuesday, June 13, 2017
I am honored to host the Sunday Street Team's Internet Famous blog tour.

Internet Famous

by: Danika Stone

Barnes & Nobles: http://bit.ly/2oZLWv5
Book Depository: http://bit.ly/2oT3xFb
High school senior and internet sensation Madison Nakama seems to have it all: a happy family, good grades, and a massive online following for her pop-culture blog. But when her mother suddenly abandons the family, Madi finds herself struggling to keep up with all of her commitments.
Fandom to the rescue! As her online fans band together to help, an online/offline flirtation sparks with Laurent, a French exchange student. Their internet romance—played out in the comments section of her MadLibs blog—attracts the attention of an internet troll who threatens the separation of Madi’s real and online personas. With her carefully constructed life unraveling, Madi must uncover the hacker’s identity before he can do any more damage, or risk losing the people she loves the most… Laurent included.



The crowd outside the Metrograph was visible a block away. Knots of people milled around the entrance, most of the wearing t-shirts that Madi herself had designed. MadLibbing for the PEOPLE! one announced. It Madders because YOU say it does! quipped another. MadLIBERATION!
“Oh my God,” Madi moaned. “Who are all these people?”
Laurent bumped her with his elbow. “Your fans, of course.”
“My fans?” Madi’s feet slowed. There were too many—far too many!—and she had no idea how she was supposed to act. This was completely different than online chatter. And any skills she’d once had with face-to-face interaction had long since faded. Dread filled her gut.
“C’mon,” Laurent said. “I have a few people I want you to meet. The friends I hang out with.”
“I guess that sounds alright.”
“Great! Come on!”
He walked toward a small group lounging near the alley on the far side of the street, half a block down. One girl had messy blond hair and an angry scowl, the kind of person Madi’d avoid on any other day. Beside her stood a beaming teen, braces flashing. Her pink tee-shirt announced “Mad for MadLibs”. She reminded Madi of an extra from the Disney channel.
The angry-looking girl glanced up, catching Madi’s eyes. She scowled for the count of three, then her gaze shifted upward. Her expression backflipped into joy.
“Laurent!” she shouted. “You came!”
He strode forward, leaving Madi struggling to keep up. “I told you I’d be here.”
“So what happened to MadLibs? I thought you were heading to Penn Station to get her.”
“I was—I did!” Laurent reached out, touching Madi’s shoulder. “She’s here. This is Madi!”
Madi waved nervously as all eyes turned on her. “Hiiiiiii...”
The Disney girl’s eyes were so big they looked like they were going to pop. “You’re her! You’re actually HER! You’re Madi. Like the actual, real to life, in the flesh—”
The other girl stared at Madi with a look that reminded her all too much of the popular crowd at Millburn Academy. After a long moment she reached out a hand. “So we finally get to meet the infamous ‘Madlib’.”
“Just Madi, thanks.”
“I’m Ava.”
Laurent nodded to the other teen. “And this is Chantal,” he said smoothly. “She was going to pick you up, but I beat her to it.”
“It’s so weird to actually meet you,” Chantal gasped, her hand to her chest. “I have so many questions! I just—I can’t—” She let out a high-pitched giggle. “I’ve been wanting to talk to you forever.”
“Thanks,” Madi said. “It’s good to be here.” She peeked over at Laurent who hadn’t stopped grinning since they’d arrived.
Ava shook her head. “I still can’t believe you’re actually here. I mean it just seems... weird or something.”
She shrugged. “Aren’t you like a bonefide recluse or something? I mean no one’s actually met you, before today.”
“I’m not—”
Chantal grabbed Madi’s hand. “But you’re MadLibs—Madi! And you’re here—with us—for real!” She laughed aloud. “That’s crazy!”
Madi smiled. “Thanks.”
“I’m so glad you came,” Chantal said. “I have so much to ask you.”
“Like what?”
“Like you write the MadLib blog for a living, right?”
“Gainfully funemployed,” Madi said. Laurent chuckled at the joke and she felt her cheeks warm. Play it cool Nakama! She forced herself to focus on the two young women. “So how about you two?”
“What about us?” Ava asked.
“What do you guys do?”
“Art program.” Ava glanced at Laurent as if sharing some secret and then back to Madi. “Though I prefer painting. Not main stream crap. Real art.”
“And I’m in high school,” Chantal added, still grinning.
“I hated high school,” Madi said. “Absolutely loathed it!”
“God, me too,” Ava said. “So glad to be in college now.”
“I haven’t graduated yet,” Madi admitted. “I take online classes.”
Laurent laughed. “I don’t think I’d be able to focus long enough to finish anything. Way too many distractions on the internet.”
“That’s how regular classes were for me,” Madi said. “I just kind of zoned out.”
“I can’t believe your parents let you do online school,” Chantal said with a wistful sigh. “It sounds amazing. So does it work the same as a regular high school?”
“Well, yes and no.” Madi grinned. Now that the shock had passed, she was starting to feel like herself again. Perhaps real life interactions weren’t so bad. “Millburn Academy is a private school,” Madi said. “It has both regular classes and online courses. Taking my whole diploma through OMA was sort of my idea.”
“It was?”
“My parents are pretty busy most nights, so I convinced them I’d help out more with my younger sister, if I could do online classes.” She shrugged. “I drop her off and pick her up after school, stuff like that. Seemed like a good trade.”
Ava looked skeptical. “And your parents were okay with that?”
“Eventually. They told me I could do OMA, but only for one semester, and only if I proved I could keep my marks up. So I spent all my time studying that first semester and... BAM!” She clapped her hands. “I was on the honor roll.”
“I barely slide by at the best of times,” Ava snorted.
“Ah, but you’re a badass,” Laurent said. “And that makes up for it.” Madi wasn’t sure why his comment to Ava irked her, but she soon forgot when he turned his attention back to her. “The honor roll is really cool, Madi. That takes a lot of work. Kudos to you.”
“It’s not as awesome as you’d think,” she said. “I’ve had to keep up those marks ever since.” She dropped her voice in imitation of her father. “You’ve got potential Madi. You can’t waste that. I expect A’s from now on.”
“Oh no,” Chantal groaned. “Like for every class? And you’ve got to write your MadLibs blog, too?”
“How do you manage?”
“I dunno,” Madi said with a laugh. “I just do. The blog is fun. School is work.”
One corner of Laurent’s lips curled up into a lop-sided grin. “Aha! You set the bar,” he said. “Now you’re dealing with the consequences. You’re a victim of your own success.”
“Something like that,” Madi said. “But that’s not the half of it. My dad’s a journalist and my mom’s a professor of microbiology, so there’s all this pressure to follow in their footsteps...”
If Madi had been worried before meeting Laurent’s friends when she arrived, those fears were gone. Even Ava seemed to have toned back the attitude. The MadLibbers were the perfect reflection of why she loved online friendships. Chantal, AKA @WrittenInChantalics, was the ingĂ©nue of the group. Ava, AKA @ArtWithAttitude, the rebel. And Laurent, AKA @laurentabelard, was everyone’s leading man. Madi peeked over at him: the unkempt hair brushing his collar, his aesthetic balanced between European fashion and grad-student poverty. Damnit! Some people have all the cards. It was like he’d been plucked right out of a romantic comedy
As if sensing her watching, Laurent looked up and smiled, golden eyes sparkling. Madi looked away. Too perfect, she thought. There’s got to be a chink in the armor. But if there was, she had yet to find it.
“We should probably head to the Metrograph,” Laurent said. “It’s going to be busy and I want seats together.” Across the street, the crowds were starting to disappear through the entrance. “You ready to go?”
A twinge of fear flickered in Madi’s stomach, but she ignored it. “Sure.”
Chantal moved in next to Madi as the group headed down the street. “Have you decided yet?” she asked breathlessly.
“Decided what?”
“What your next MadLib topic is! I could hardly sleep last night, I was so excited about it!”
Madi peeked over to find Chantal grinning. “I um... I kind of—”
“Is it hard to choose?”
“Sometimes, I guess. Especially if I have two I really like.”
“So how do you decide?” Chantal asked as they reached a street light and stopped, waiting for the walk signal. “How do you make the call?”
“Mostly it’s based on votes,” Madi said.
Ava smirked. “Do you ever cheat?” she teased.
“I swear we won’t tell,” Chantal added.
“Never needed to,” Madi said. “I’m pretty good at guessing what people will choose.”
“Do you know what this one will be?” Laurent asked.
“I’m hoping for Star Wars myself,” Chantal said. “That or Buffy.
Buffy is fantastic,” Ava said fiercely. “I’m fighting for that one. You’ve got to choose it. Alright, Madi?”
“It’s up to the fans.”
“But we’re fans!” Chantal pleaded. “That counts for something, doesn’t it?!”
Madi grinned.
“Can’t we, like, bribe you or something?” Ava said dryly. “Buffy needs a rewatch.”
Star Wars would be better!” Chantal argued.
“Would not!”
“Would too.”
“You haven’t even SEEN Buffy, yet!” Ava snapped. “How would you even know?”
Madi giggled.
“I’ll read whatever Madi blogs about.” Laurent said. “I’m all about the experience.”
“The experience?” Ava scoffed. “That sounds dirty, you naughty boy.” Madi fought the urge to defend him as Laurent’s cheeks flushed and he looked away.
“Not at all!” he said. “I came to America to be immersed—and popular culture is part of it.”
“I know, I know,” Ava said.
“But I do like eighties movies. They’re very... optimistic.”
Everyone laughed. Up ahead, the entrance to the Metrograph Theater was nearly clear of people. Madi sighed in relief. By the time they arrived, she would be able to come inside unseen. Irritated, Ava paced back and forth on the sidewalk, waiting for the light to change.
“I’m so excited for this new MadLibs,” Chantal said. “And that you’re here with us!”
“Only if we get seats in time,” Ava grumbled.
“It’ll be fine,” Laurent said. “Relax.”
Ava swore under her breath.
“The light’s going to change. Just give it a minute to—”
Ava darted out into traffic without warning. Chantal shrieked.
“Metrograph’s going to be packed,” Ava shouted as horns blared. “I’ll grab us places to sit. You catch up!”
They watched as she sprinted down the street and disappeared through the theater’s entrance.
“Only Ava,” Chantal giggled.
A minute later, the light changed and they crossed. Laurent dropped back, coming around behind them to fall into step at Madi’s side. She bit the inside of her cheeks to keep from grinning.
“You know, Laurent,” Madi said, “if eighties movies are your thing, you should go for it. I’m happy with whatever. But be warned: Brian’s determined to bring a Science Fiction renaissance to MadLibs. He and a few other people are promoting faves. Star Wars might take it.” She bumped him with her shoulder as they walk. “You should promote, too.”
Laurent smiled down at her. “Maybe I will.”
She nodded. “Good.” 

About the Author

Danika Stone is an author, artist, and educator who discovered a passion for writing fiction while in the throes of her Masters thesis. A self-declared bibliophile, Danika now writes novels for both teens (All the Feels and Internet Famous) adults (Edge of Wild and Intaglio). When not writing, Danika can be found hiking in the Rockies, planning grand adventures, and spending far too much time online. She lives with her husband, three sons, and a houseful of imaginary characters in a windy corner of Alberta, Canada.
Ms. Stone is represented by Morty Mint of Mint Literary Agency.
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