Eugene Woodbury

Selected essays

Apocalypse not now
The world is always about to end and never will (until it actually does).

The Reverse Roe effect
Silver linings
The world ends (and I feel fine)

The atonement of Pacifica Casull
Scrapped Princess symbolizes the tenants of Christian theology better than (the movie version of) The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

The catechism of Angel Beats!
The Passion of the Magical Girl
Set Apart

The better mousetrap
What happened when field mice invaded the Electronics Lab at General Electric's Research and Development Center.

TV Wars
Too big to succeed
Moore's Law illustrated
The last picture tube show

The Big Bad
LOTR, the Star Wars sequels, Harry Potter, The Dark Knight, and even the Narnia movie have the same problem: I don't care about the bad guy.

Reframing the mainframe plot
The Medicator (they'll be back!)
But they don't act that way in real life

The brave old world of Star Trek
Star Trek is more compelling because of what it does consistently wrong than for its brilliant successes.

Star Trek in the dock
Star Trek on the lecture circuit
Stupid on Star Trek stilts

Carnivorous vegetarians
Long story short: the best way to be a vegetarian in Japan is to not ask about the ingredients.

Hungry for entertainment
The toast of Japan
Eat, drink, and be merry

The conservative hero
Even in the most fantastic of fantasy lands, a hero must be a stubborn conservative when grappling with human nature.

The magic of the mundane
Superbad is superboring
The problem of the omniscient enemy
To be continued

Frozen Feminism
Feminists are busily manning the Maginot Line while old school chauvinists have been sneaking through Belgium the whole time.

Dirty sexy money
Abstinence porn
Girls kick butt

Feeling what you hear
Most modern movie soundtracks don't outlast the final credit roll. But the right melody can raise the experience to a state of transcendence.

Ghostbusting in Japan (1)
A popular fantasy genre about spirit warriors combatting humans and gods alike arose from the theological fusion of Buddhism and Shinto.

Pop culture Buddhism
Pop culture Shinto
Pop culture Catholicism

The grudge and the dream
If, as William Tecumseh Sherman so aptly put it, "War is all hell," why should some soldiers be so eager to usher in Hell on Earth?

Kantai Kessen
The last shogun
Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan

I watched the whole thing
Several anime series I liked well enough to watch all the way through (a very incomplete list).

Miyazaki's European flying arc
Play ball!
Ghostbusting in Japan (2)

Japan's "Protestant Reformation"
Different religions on opposite sides of the world followed remarkably similar patterns of convergent social evolution.

Christianity is cool
Japan's (ir)religious wars

Land of the paranoid
When I was growing up, my parents' two rules were: "Go outside and play!" and "Be home in time for dinner!" The rest was up to us.

I'm Old Enough
Free-range kids
L.M. Montgomery's free-range kids

Lost on location
There's nothing much to recommend about Into the Sun, except that it was made in Japan by somebody who actually knows something about Japan.

Japan's Bond legacy
Japan made in Hollywood
Dances with Wolves Samurai

Laughing matters
A consistent observation from long-time Western observers is that Japanese don't do the whole "dripping with irony" thing.

Gang rule
The life of a salesman
Bleep the bleeping bleep
Cleanliness is next to Japaneseness

Learning language the sumo way
Foreign sumo wrestlers do not come to Japan to to learn Japanese. But by learning sumo they have to learn Japanese.

Makoto Shinkai
Along with Mamoru Hosoda, Makoto Shinkai comes closest to capturing the cinematic "look and feel" of Studio Ghibli.

MS-DOS at 30
I don't get nostagic about high school or college. For a stroll down memory lane, I browse though old issues of PC Magazine from the 1980s.

The cover
The future that wasn't
The accidental standard
The grandfathers of DOS

Occupy the past
If we can't learn from the past, at least we can refrain from trying to live there.

Dancing girls
Jonah Goldberg, Calvinism, Genre Literature, and Anthropology

The Pacific War on screen
Attempts to make the war movie politically "relevant" more often that not results in absurd historical revisionism and glaring anachronisms.

No way to wage a war
The known unknowns
Twilight of the Zero

"Pathological" and real science
The rational scientist is no less susceptible to self-delusion than the witch doctor or faith healer. People believe what they want to believe.

Pelagius and the fools
A paper about Mormon theology and narrative structure I gave with Stephen Carter at the 2007 Sunstone Symposium.

The "truth" is worse
The weirdest two years
The Mormon "koseki" problem

Perseverance makes perfect
Perseverance has been at the core of Japanese education for a century. If you fail, it's because you didn't ganbaru enough.

The proof is in the printing
Despite a consignment system and resale price maintenance laws, paperbacks in Japan cost less.

Reefer madness
With infrequent but merciless prosecutions, the justice system in Japan creates strong incentives for the citizens to police themselves.

Unregistered
Lawyering up
Justice for all (Japanese)
(Less) crime and (less) punishment

The Shirow franchises
Manga artist Masamune Shirow was the first to capture the true scope of cyberpunk in the late 1980 and early 1990s.

The Showa drama
Japanese look back at the 1950s with pretty much the same nostalgia and sentimentalism that Americans do.

Showa nostalgia
August 15
The rebirth of Japan's mass media

A slice of Japanese life
The slice-of-life story doesn't weigh down the audience with heavy attitudes or ponderous plots and goes easy on the "meaning of it all."

All in the anime harem family
Baseball according to Drucker
Single fatherhood

The streaming chronicles
Great Japanese content can be streamed on your television for the cost of a $30 Roku. No contracts or committments!

Three visions of a distant shore
What Philip Pullman, C.S. Lewis, and Joseph Smith all have in common (more than you might think).

Up with introverts
Understanding America's most misunderstood and misrepresented minority.

Understanding Japanese women (and introverts)
Life is a sim
Church of the extrovert

What I believe
Neil Gaiman pretty much sums it up and says it all.

Why Americans like sports
A popular American sport has to appeal to all the armchair quarterbacks and wannabee coaches, and pay off their expectations quickly.

Poetry in motion
Ten reasons to love sumo
The World Cup (is half empty)

Whisper of the Heart
My translation of the manga that became the basis for the Ghibli anime.

Copyright Eugene Woodbury. All rights reserved.