Why ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ Is Still Essential To Pop Culture 20 Years Later

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
20th Century Fox

20 years ago today, Joss Whedon and Sarah Michelle Gellar graced our televisions and lives with what many consider to be the best, most essential contribution to pop culture of all time, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The series that originally aired in March of 1997, began as a mid-season series for the WB that introduced us to the hellish world of high school with a twist: Sunnydale High was quite literally over the mouth of hell. The series protagonist? A young blonde girl with a destiny that required her to combat the forces of darkness while still making time for school and a social life – and when you’re that age, it already feels impossible to juggle those transitional stages. The premise of ‘Buffy’ was enough to instantly resonate with a specific age group through multiple generations, but Buffy didn’t stop with teenage tales. The series soon delved into much more mature and universal life lessons that every person could connect to at one point or another. 

What set ‘Buffy’ apart from other series and characters was that it signified that a girl who didn’t view herself as all important could take on life’s trials with the inner strength she wasn’t aware she had. Her grades weren’t the greatest but it didn’t detract from her true brilliance, she wasn’t the popular girl but people saw her for the compassionate savior she was, not to mention she had a wit and cleverness about her that only complimented her physical strength. Buffy became a pillar of inner and outer fortitude, not only for me at such a young age, but to anyone who gave the show a chance. You may be asking yourself what else makes this different than other series with morality and growing up as the focus, or maybe even those led by strong women – but before Buffy, a character like her was the helpless damsel who needed saving from the horror genre. Buffy redefined how a young woman could be portrayed in the media, a way that we need to see crafted more often. This (at the time) new inspiration extended far past young women, giving men and women of all ages courage to face their own demons (figuratively and literally if you’re a slayer.)

As the series came out of the High School setting it had been contained to, the larger changes began to take place and pushed both Buffy and the viewers out of their comfort zone. We weren’t facing the traditional nasties we had become accustomed to, it was now time to enter college and that first true spark of independence that one goes through at that age. Buffy began to feel overwhelmed by the balancing act of school, slayage and navigating through a new dating world as well as learning that being too trusting can be one’s downfall. In other ways the series tackled this real life growth, the supporting character Willow (resident witch and member of the ‘scooby gang’) escaped the overbearing family oriented life she lived and was able to explore her sexuality when she found herself falling in love with another woman (and fellow witch.) This was a major development for television, not usually allowing much to be revealed about same sex relationships – let alone their eventual kiss that is still talked about to this day. What made this feel natural was the connection they developed with the pair; it wasn’t placed in the story to turn heads, it was a pure unfiltered love at its greatest and that’s a gift that will stay with people for years to come.

As Buffy progressed to the later seasons, a return to family became focus – which is something life always comes back to. Buffy had to focus on watching over her younger sister (one of the supernatural/mystical inclusions of BTVS) that also was a rare shock to viewers of the series, given only slight indication via the show’s notorious and unrivaled foreshadowing. It took a darker turn when Buffy’s mother became ill, something completely unrelated to supernatural doings and entirely real – death and the trauma that immediately follows. The loss of her mother delivered possibly the most authentic essence of human emotion from the shock and devastation that triggers everyone to some capacity. The episode featured no music, no real supernatural plot, just 42 minutes of raw emotion that to this day hasn’t been surpassed by any other series on television – there is simply no way to recreate such a profound moment with an impact as heavy and brutal as “The Body.” That season featured another loss, the choice Buffy made to sacrifice herself to not only save her sister, but to save the world. For the first time in her experience as the slayer, Buffy felt that her ending her existence could be for the greater good and she made a sacrifice that blew viewers and critics away, but also fit the beautiful spirit of Buffy.

By the time the series had concluded on WB, BTVS had been picked up by UPN for additional seasons, having recognized the cultural phenomenon it had transpired into. Buffy not only came back to life as a series and character but it/she came back with some of the most distressing moments the series had to offer. Ultimately, the next path solidified that regardless of network or number of seasons, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was far from concluding the momentous series that held plenty more lessons on humanity and how to navigate through the darkness that it can spew. In season 6, Buffy was brought back to life by Willow and the scoobies, but not without serious consequences. To begin, Buffy was ripped from heaven and spent the entire season trying to find her new purpose after feeling like she had completed her life mission. That empty feeling that followed was explored through Buffy trying to be an adult on top of feeling aimless. She returned to taking care of her sister, slinging burgers at a fast-food restaurant and beginning a destructive sexual relationship with former big-bad Spike as a shell of her former self. Buffy spent a long while trying to rediscover herself and become someone new, because that young bubbly slayer was now in a position where life changed on her and she either needed to adapt and grow or give up.

As the series once again importantly reminded us, even the strongest people have to regroup and reevaluate their lives and there is no shame in discovering who you are. This season focused a large part on self punishment, accepting what you feel you deserve and even began to explore the severity of addiction through the scope of Willow. In the early days of the show, Willow was the meek geek who wouldn’t harm a fly, but she evolved as much as the series protagonist (and every character truly) becoming a powerful witch whose love for magic began to deteriorate into a full blown addiction. Many people became angered by Willow, however, like addiction goes you begin to realize that having control over something so powerful isn’t a simple fix and occasionally asking for help is the most mature thing you can do (via Buffy/Willow in season 6.) That came to a tipping point when the climax of the season saw a seemingly average guy (who poorly hid his misogynistic outlook) with no enhanced abilities murdered Willow’s soulmate Tara and nearly killed Buffy in the process. It was unexpected, tragic and incomprehensible initially, which is exactly how life can go – but this instance was intensified by the mystical influences of Willow’s power. Willow lost herself, completely succumbing to the darkest magic in a grief stricken rage that shattered her world. The solution? There wasn’t one, which is another lesson from Buffy that stands the test of time; sometimes the only way to bounce back from loss and instability is to survive and rebuild with what you’ve experienced, helping you progress towards a more knowledgeable and hopefully self aware future.

Going into the final season of the series before tackling the comic expansion of the Buffyverse, Buffy has gone through hell and back, coming out the most levelheaded version of herself she could possibly be. Luckily for her, it was just in time to lead an army of potential slayers being threatened with extinction from the first – as in the first evil known to mankind. A foe this large put Buffy and company to the test, forging Willow’s mystical progress when she felt she couldn’t gain control again, Buffy’s ability to lead dozens of women who were where she was years prior and Spike’s ensouled conflict with accepting what he had done as a demon for two centuries. Buffy and Spike were both utterly perfect characters to use for this final chance at change, as Spike finally earned his soul on his own accord (the attempted rape scene in season 6 was his lowest moment that indicated he needed to find that spark of humanity he believed he had remaining.) Buffy on the other hand had finally found a new sense of adulthood that didn’t require her to rely on others ever again. Together, the two took television’s most tumultuous relationship and began down a path with redemption and mutual understanding. Towards the series end, Buffy and Spike share a heartwarming moment (one of multiple) that purely centers on the two proclaiming their fears and adoration in regards to one another and it captured the beauty of true love without requiring an explanation – it just told their story through their actions and proved that even the darkest moments can have a dazzling light at the end of the tunnel. 


By the end of Buffy’s seven year run, the future was unwritten and Buffy’s life was forever changed because she went from being the only chosen one to sharing her power with women around the world, encouraging them to embrace who they are and not feel alone as she had from the beginning. Buffy truly evolved from a young woman with the weight of the world on her shoulders to the strongest person television has ever seen. The heroine saved the world, her family, her friends and managed to learn countless facets about herself in the process. There may be several television shows that replicate life lessons and strong characters, but none have proven to be as timeless and inspiring as Buffy the Vampire Slayer. After 20 years since the show originally aired, new fans are finding their way to the series, old fans continue to discuss and rewatch and even new stories continue to be told courtesy of the mastermind behind this television juggernaut, Joss Whedon. Anyone who has given, or will give Buffy a chance will learn that masterful, methodical storytelling is a rarity and when we find a story worth being told, it can spend an eternity impacting people of all ages and all walks of life.  From comedy, to drama, action and even horror, the series modeled life effortlessly and transcended television with superb talent from everyone involved. I sincerely know that Buffy the Vampire Slayer will be a part of my heart and a guidebook for myself and countless others for the rest of our lives.

“Make your choice. Are you ready to be strong?”

‘Nichijou’ Complete Anime Series Review

Nichijou.full.1683154.jpg

Anime: Nichijou

Released By: Funimation

Release Date: February 7, 2017

Retail Price: $69.99

The anime Nichijou is a slice of life series based on the manga written and illustrated by Keiichi Arawe, with over 1o years of publication to prove it’s successes. The anime itself was developed into a 26 episode series in 2011 – now released in its entirety by Funimation (who has a knack for a variety of anime series.) Nichijou follows the lives of several individuals from the town of Tokisadame, but mostly following three girls (Yūko Aioi, Mio Naganohara and Mai Minakami) with the addition of a robot – yes a robot, named Nano Shinonome with her young creator and a recurring cat that speaks Japanese. The anime obviously doesn’t take aim at becoming a serious story (mostly) embracing the lighter side of anime.

There is nothing normal about the premise or setting of the anime, despite its slice of life path – as most episodes seem to have a random inclusion as a one off tale to make storytelling a little more simplified. It can be taken in as a pro and con to the series, portraying some episodes with charm and humor that could be considered peculiarly entertaining. The con aspect would be that not every chapter of Nichijou is up to par with the others, missing complete consistency – but still giving viewers plenty of fun along the way. If you had to decide on whether it was more fulfilling or subpar, Nichijou would have an edge of the fun factor by providing at least one acceptable moment per episode.

From the character perspective in observance of the anime series, Nano Shinonome (the robot/android girl) was shown the most time in Nichijou with initially fitting the oddest role – but being included in some more thought provoking moments in the series. At around the midway point, she begins to show a greater concern for the people around her discovering the truth about her origin. Even in a slice of life/comedy such as this series, there are those nice attributes to give viewers that might be looking for something deeper a product to enjoy. She might not always be the most memorable, but the anime obviously catered to the robot for her unique existence.

With the series falling into the scattered category that has a lot going on, it will be hit and miss for what ones you begin to feel attached to. In the beginning, I couldn’t quite find that connection to any of them, but the lengthy run of the anime makes sense as they take time to feel for. Mio for example, begins to show a temper that with time grew to be one of my favorite additions to Nichijou for her bursts of anger unlike most of the others. (however moments like a random match of rock, paper, scissors does give you a first chance to see the comedic nonchalance of these other girls.) The others don’t have as much going for them perhaps, but no character feels frustrating or unneeded – so you can dive into Nichijou without concern of any annoying protagonists lurking about.

Now on to my favorite thing about Nichijou the animated series: the animation itself. Just from a first glance at the Funimation packaging you are assured it’s going to give you beautiful colors and a happier art direction. For the most part, the anime keeps up that look with the exception of a few characters feeling bland on occasion. The setting/surrounding of the characters (from neighborhoods to streets, or even school) is easily one of the most memorable for me already, giving such detail to little things – a brilliant decision for the series aesthetic appeal. I would have liked to see Funimation’s version of an English dub, but the Japanese voice cast was well selected other than the young professor who is the most average design of the characters. Even with that minor setback, the art and coloring is the best quality that Nichijou has to offer. The slice of life anime is available now from Funimation, so check out the comedy series on DVD and Bluray if you’re looking to enjoy a random life comedy.

Overall Score: 7/10

Aedan’s Final Thoughts:

– The changing animation in smaller mini-anime moments was a fun way to switch things up.

– It could be suggested that some episodes are worth skipping, but that simple plot made sense given the tone of the anime.

– Funimation’s artsy packaging of the series is reason enough to want to add it to your collection.

 

 

 

Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season 11 Issue #4 (Review)

Buffy Season 11

Comic: Buffy The Vampire Slayer – Season 11 (Issue #4)

Release Date: February 15, 2017

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

Price: $3.99

‘Buffy’ exudes strength, charm and realistic life lessons in yet another successful chapter of the 11th season.

After last month’s phenomenal issue of Buffy season 11, we find Buffy, Spike and Willow relocated in the government aided “Safe Zone” for supernatural beings. When it picks up, they’ve already been living in the quarantined camp for a few weeks, but not without struggles. The issues takes place almost solely there and primarily focusing on the trio’s developments with a situation nobody is quite clear how to handle efficiently. In my previous review, I pointed out how strong the series has been from the start and I will confirm that this season has only gotten stronger due to an increasingly impressive fourth chapter to a season unlike the others.

The Safe Zone doesn’t live up to its name, seeming more and more like a demonic camp with trailers, fencing and plenty of pissed off supernatural beings locked away. Buffy, Spike and Willow have attempted to integrate themselves with the others but it wouldn’t be the Scooby gang if they didn’t take on some responsibility. For starters, rations of blood have been handed out to vampires but the resources are scarce which makes a lot of hungry vampires ready to savagely feed. Spike is one of these starved vampires yet Buffy decides she will aid him with her own blood, something she had only previously done for Angel (season 3.) It is evident that this action will put her at a greater risk of dying, but that’s one more reason Buffy’s love for Spike is crystal clear (later, Spike nearly dies from sunlight to save her, it’s a reciprocated love.)

Spike isn’t so keen on taking blood from the woman he truly loves, putting up a fight (non-literal) with Buffy about her gift. Even with both Buffy and Spike having an understanding on the necessity of blood, his impulse to keep feeding is the only point of contention between them, just subtly enough to show us Spike hates what he is and Buffy knows she’ll always be the one to draw the line. Barring their issue with life and death, the connection between the pair continues to flourish partially because of experiencing these extreme circumstances in the company of each other. A simple act of grabbing each others hands when surrounded by fellow supernatural beings and a goodbye kiss when worried about one another adds to their love unlike anything either of them had experienced in past relationships.

Speaking of relationships, Willow is shown to be the guardian of the wiccans in the Safe Zone, who all look up to the most powerful Wicca alive. It may be brief, but we see Willow has grown close to one particular witch who is noted to have a significant other outside of the Safe Zone. (Leave it to Willow to develop a complex relationship, she will never find another Tara.) In the last few seasons there has been budding conflict between Buffy and Willow, but this season having them confront the same issues has given them common ground again to do what they to best: work together. By the end of the issue, Buffy makes a choice that will (hopefully) keep her friends safe and also gives us a nice throwback to the second season of the series as Buffy finds a new role in the Safe Zone – additionally placing Buffy in direct danger.

The art brought back veteran Buffy the Vampire Slayer artist Georges Jeanty, who drew seasons 8 and 9 almost entirely. His art easily captures the Buffy essence and feels comfortable/familiar given how much time was spent observing his take on the Buffyverse – a major welcome back is in order because Georges has created visual wonders once again. From his action sequences that use multiple panels to the smaller attributes like fashion, facial characteristics and the colorful night sky, he’s a perfect fit for BTVS. As we approach the midpoint of Buffy season 11, the art, story and characters are true reasons that continuing Buffy was Dark Horse’s best decision in comic publishing.

Overall Score: 8.5/10

Aedan’s Final Thoughts:

– This season consistently impresses with exceptional development and new territory.

– Buffy/Spike nuances are the best kind of reminder of the fact that they are the series best strengths.

– There’s no telling where ‘Buffy’ will head in the second half of the season, but my gut is telling me it’s going to get very serious.