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Posts Tagged ‘anime’

I haven’t had much time to watch anime` lately. It’s weird and it’s unsettling, the way that life has intruded and suddenly, I’ve found my weekends occupied with home repair, travels to the in-laws, church, cleaning up the house, pet duties, financial concerns, and so many other nuts and bolts of real life. What I have recently rediscovered though is something which I knew all along — I need an escape, a place of healthy imagination and stories that inspire and transport me. I’ve always known this, but I haven’t taken the time to nurture my own spirit in this way.

It began with a weekend that my wife was visiting her folks and I plopped down to watch When Marnie Was There, a Studio Ghibli film. I think it was the film that drove me to finding something more meaningful. Long story short: like most of their films, it fails to ignite and it misses nearly every opportunity to deliver a meaningful impact. That left me unsatisfied, so this week, I rewatched Plastic Memories, and found it somehow healing. Yes, it’s a heavy show, but its purity and its perspective on making your life count linger.

I had felt like something was missing, and anime was one part of that. There are others, I know, but I’m back to write more about anime`, purity, and truth.

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Here’s the OO short take on this season’s anime`.

No


Dimension W – retro-futuristic shonen-fest with a pervy fembot.
Hai to Gensou no Grimgar – Fantasy RPG that ends up in pervert land.
Haruchika – Sigh. Starts off good but goes into homo land pretty early.
Koukakaku no Pandora – Soft-core pornography. Ugh.
Musaigen no Phantom World – Pervert time.
Nijiiro Days – Too mainstream and sappy for me, but nothing messed up.
Nurse Witch Komugi-chan R – Shojou dazzle overload. Gah.
Ojisan to Marshmellow – Painful and pervy.
Ooyasan wa Shishunki – It’s that nasty combo of cute and loli.
Oshiete! Gaiko-chan – Pervert time and minimal animation. Double fail.
Schwarzesmarken – An especially unconvincing mecha series with mass profanity.
Shoju-tachi wa Kouya wo Mezasu – Guy meets girl to write a yuri game. Uh, no.
Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju – Boring.

Yes


Active Raid – Feels like a mix of Gunparade Orchestra and Majestic Prince!
Boku Dake ga Inai Machi – Odd, erie. Definitely worth watching.
Divine Gate – A little stereotypical school/gifted thing, but the main character is interesting.
Luck and Logic – Looks like it could be good. Superhero, but enough depth to be interesting.
Prince of Stride – Semi-stereotypical and formulaic, but it has an innocent heart. We’ll see.
Sekkou Boys – Hilarious. I can’t wait to see how this develops.
Sushi Police – Pretty funny.
Tabi Machi Late Show – Wistful, slice-of-life/coming of age, and cooking. A bit slow and minimal animation, but we’ll see.

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I’ll leave the long and detailed descriptions to other people. Here’s my take.

Yes

Chitose Get You — Looks ok. Spazzy story about an 11-year-old girl and her hopeless crush on a teenage guy. One of those 10-minute shows.

Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita — Strange admixture of fairies, post-disaster/end of civilization, and cynical shots at the U.N. AWESOME.

Natsuyuki Rendezvous — An interesting, pensive, bittersweet romance involving the owner of a flower shop, her deceased, ghostly husband, and the part-time employee-dreamer.

Tari Tari — Pretty funny. Lighthearted h.s. romance/coming-of-age/slice-of-life. Earnest, heart-felt.

Maybe

Joshiraku — Preview was too short. Looks like a plotless slice-of-life show.

Oda Nobuna no Yabou — Dunno. Looks like it’s a historical-based, but also comedic and fundamentally unserious. Probably will perv out.

No

Campione — Profane over-the-top dialog plus Godzilla-like monsters and superficial nods to archeology.

Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate — pervy foody H.S. that attempts to make its porn delivery acceptable by making things ultra feminine.

Kono Naka ni Hitori, Imouto ga Iru — more pervy school stuff. Yawn.

Kokuro Connect — Body-hopping & boob-grabbing. Yawn. Too bad it’s not as funny and strange as the classic Kokoro Scan ad.

La Storia Della Arcana Famiglia — First, it’s by J.C. Staff, which almost always spells lame, at least in English. Second and third, this is another stupid shonen show — and I mean every word. It is stupid, in that things are done for no reason; it is shonen in that it’s all about having battles for the sake of battles. That it’s by J.C. Staff means that there are good ideas made hopelessly sixth-grade.

Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse — Mecha + risque shots + overserious soundtrack.

Sword Art Online — Boring shonen hack-n-slash.

Utakoi – The Hundred Poets told through the eyes of a lecherous womanizer. It tries to be funny, but it’s an eroge.

Plus, there are a boatload of second seasons for shows that weren’t even worth a season one:

  • Dog Days
  • Kyokai Senjou no Horizon
  • Moyashimon
  • Rinne no Lagrange
  • Yuri Yuri

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A moment of introspection, if you please. [Cue the spotlight.]

I read a very interesting blog post called “The Two-year Death and History Repeating Itself in the Aniblogsphere” recently and it ushered in a legion of thoughts about blogging, anime`, and human motivation. First, it does seem that there’s a lot of churn in the anime` blogging world — not that I regularly read any anime` blogs — and that’s probably because there’s a lot of churn in the anime` world.

With an community devoted to watching things (wow, do I make us sound shallow here or what), there’s probably not as much stickiness as there is for real-life communities (like say pencil and paper roleplaying). I.e. it’s easy — for some — to just lose interest in watching something and instead watch something else. If they are blogging about it, then they tend to have a little more invested, and thus the two-year death sentence. They last a bit longer.

So why would they last even two years? Writers are stubborn! I’m sure people also get into this whole swirl of commenting and virtual friendships and all that, none of which has ever felt very real to me. That’s because most of the people that find my stuff Loathe It With a Passion, so there’s never been any community there for me. Sure, I’ve written things with an eye for getting attention from time to time; who hasn’t? But nearly all of the comments that come my way are disdainful hateful rants, so I just don’t care about comments. Thus the policy on this site.

But back to the main point. Churn in any blogging arena is inevitable because no-one can stop you from creating a blog. So you’ll always have the shallow flame-outs who move on to do whatever is new; and I’m not advocating for stopping those people. Part of life is exploring and if you do something and learn it’s not your thing, hey, that’s valuable experience. I don’t think we should raise the bar so high that potential writers are scared of even trying.

Also, I don’t think that there should be some kind of built-in commitment. That two-year death sentence is the two-year cell phone contract. Why require people to write for two years? What if they get lupus or something? What if they make it big in singing or whatever else they like to do? Big picture here, writing about anime` is actually less important than some other things. (Haters, that’s your cue.)

Now I’m not saying people shouldn’t care about their writing or make it as good as they possibly can. They should. You should do your best and be open to getting better and growing and all that. But I just disdain hectoring, finger-wagging statements like “blogging is like a sport — you need to be committed”. Blah. I’d rather just reward the good than yell at people for churning out pages of suck. They don’t listen to that stuff anyways.

I’ve been at this for three and half years. So I’ve avoided the two-year die-off, even though it’s been hard from time to time to keep going. But I guess part of the endurance is that I don’t think of as keeping going, as though I were the last survivor on a battlefield, looking for some resting point, lumbering on through incredible amounts of pain. I just look at this blog as a place to capture occasional thoughts on series that I like or dislike, and hope that it helps others in the same boat. There’s no requirement for me to write X words a day here; there’s no requirement for me to cover every anime` series; there’s no requirement for me to deal with haters; I just write about what I’ve been watching and that’s that.

So in a weird way, OO has survived because it is timeless. Even the blog layout is set up that way — to be content-focused and not time-focused. I think that might be part of some bloggers’ problem. They look at the months they’ve been blogging, sigh, and then wonder what it’s all worth. Me, I look at the guides and such that I’ve written and think, hey, here’s a signpost for anyone else going this way, and I did a decent job of it. I’ve done something good.

As long as I’m able to do something good, then OO will exist.

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Recently, I became acquainted with the taste of my own words. Humble pie. Crow. Mmm, good.

I thought that Taisho Baseball Girls would NEVER EVER be distributed. But as it turns out, a company called Sentai Filmworks has indeed distributed it for the North American market. Sure, that means they’re using subs instead of dubs, but I can officially buy it if I want to. Looking at their site, I find that they’ve jumped on the latest releases (things like High School of the Dead), and are releasing them within a year or so of their Japanese finale.

Wow. That’s a revolution in the anime` business model, one that if not sane, is getting darn close to it. Now we don’t have to wait years to see if there will be a NA release, and we don’t have to pay big bucks for it, either. I guess the big question now is — how good is their translation? The Amazon review doesn’t really go there, and I’d hate to spend $$$ only to find out that Saizen and twrev-Doremi did it better, you know?

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Mourning MiniNova

This past week, they (a Dutch court) officially put the last shovel of earth over Mininova, which had been my #1 site for anime` torrents. To comply with the court order, Mininova took down ALL unlicensed material, which of course meant all fan-subbed anime`. I’m totally down about it.

MiniNova was unique in torrent-land, because it allowed you to publicly thank the uploader, and to comment on the torrent. That way you found out quick if the torrent was poor quality, something else in disguise, or whether it was worth your time at all. Sure, you’d see stupid little flamewars from time to time, but it was interactive and I liked it. Since then, I’ve been out to all the other torrent sites — you name it, and I’ve been there, and none of them are interactive. That’s why I stopped going to Anime Suki and other sites like them so long ago. I had no idea what I was downloading and sometimes even Google didn’t help.

Sigh.

MiniNova is no more. Let us mourn.

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Just a little something different, here. I occasionally watch Onegai My Melody. (Why, do you ask? I tend to like shoujo series because they can have well-developed characters, and this one does. It also doesn’t take itself seriously, and it is humorous. In short, it has better-than-average writing.) Anyhow, episode 23 features Kuromi, My Melody’s major nemesis in human form instead of in her usual Mari Land form. This episode rocked on several different levels, but I just wanted to put up some pics of Kuromi. Ah, my heart. Classy goth girls so rock.

Click on the images for larger versions.

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What is Bandai Entertainment’s problem? It’s been nine months since True Tears and Shigofumi were postponed. Nine months and they’re still missing in action. I understand that it takes a while for series to be translated, voiced, the DVD booklets and covers to be designed, and the finished product to be distributed, but you’d think in nine months they could have said, “Yes, it’s still on.” or “No, fugghedaboutit.” Funimation had no such problem releasing Claymore at warp speed, so why can’t Bandai get it together? To top it off, the plans were to release True Tears with just subtitles!

I’m frustrated by this because it’s circular logic. Apparently Bandai thinks, “We can’t make money releasing this for North America because this because the series is so unusual that no-one will buy it.” Never mind that they’ve already paid the voice actresses, the writers, the animators, and everyone involved in producing the Japanese version. So you’d think they’d do whatever they could to recoup those expenditures, right? No! I don’t know whether it’s saving face or fear of failure, or what.

Meanwhile, the series have developed rabid fan bases who have watched them through the valiant efforts of fansubbers (all hail Moetaku and FTP-A). So the fans that drool over the fansubbed versions and who would willingly shell out $$$ will never be able to own the real thing, because the license-holder thinks that they can’t make any money.

Whatever.

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Everyone has probably heard of the stages of grief (the Kubler-Ross model): denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. As the theory goes, everyone passes through at least two of these stages, but not necessarily in the order given.

One of my favorite anime`s of all time is Gunslinger Girl, but it trails the manga by a substantial margin. So, I was wondering, is there more? Today I found out the awful truth. There is, and it sucks. (And yes, I went to watch the Spanish subs that they mentioned and it’s like they ripped the very soul out of the show.) At first I was depressed, but now I’m just angry.

How people can create something fantastic and then content themselves with creating something marginal and mediocre? It burns me through and through. How hard is it, really, to use the same animation house as you did the first time? How difficult is it to round up the same voice actresses? How hard is it to look at what was done before and at least get it in the same ballpark?

Did nobody care? I understand anime` takes money to make and you need a return on your investment, but still, you need an acceptable level of quality or there won’t be any sales. So isn’t turning out cheap trash detrimental to your bottom line? The fansub groups didn’t even bother doing the whole series it sucked so much!

The whole economic model used by anime` is completely insane anyways. Typically 12 episodes are created, then the DVDs show up at outrageous prices 1-2 years later only in Japanese. Then series gets licensed for translation in 1-2 more years, and finally, about five years after release, the value pack DVDs show up, putting the series in the economic reach of most fans. So what does this mean? It means that unless a show is popular immediately, then any series will be years apart, will look and sound nothing like each other, and won’t even have the same level of quality. It absolutely ruins the experience for the fans and dooms the product to the bargain bin.

This is one area where American TV has it right. We create a show, and if the ratings are good by the end of the season, we call everyone back together and do it again. Then we release the DVDs right away. When the show is cancelled or after a few seasons, the value pack DVDs show up. This gets the show into the hands of the fans right away and usually keeps the series consistent from year to year.

Honestly, if I was Yu Aida (the writer/artist), I would be sending the Yakuza after the people responsible for V2 of Gunslinger Girl. But I’m not him, and there’s nothing I can really do about it, except to lament the mistreatment of such a great story and characters. That places me at — you guessed it, the final stage — acceptance.

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When I first got into anime`, I was surprised and refreshed that the animation medium was being used to illustrate important themes. Having grown up on American animation, those deeper themes were few and far between. I found several points of interest.

Anime` takes a positive view of self-defense, especially of weapons ownership. From The Big O, to Witch-hunter Robin, Allison to Lillia, and Gunslinger Girl, although featuring guns, never took on the whole “guns kill people” mantra so popular in American entertainment.

God is not taboo. That’s something else that surprised me; although profanity is common, positive mention of God (no matter how poorly understood or cultural it may be) is also present. Christian themes (redemption, salvation, grace, love, forgiveness) show up from time to time and soak through some series (like D-Gray.Man).

The role of men is emphasized and the consequences of men not being men is also driven home again and again. Look at the series To Heart — Remember My Memories and Victorian Romance Emma for starters. Even Clannad (first series) hits on this too: when men don’t take responsibility, chaos erupts. Very interesting.

There’s an inescapable focus on looking forward and on personal development (“do your best”). The characters aren’t hopeless and aren’t waiting for someone else to solve their problems. They don’t depend on government. They are expected to push on past failures, to be tough, to endure, and to triumph. You know what that sounds like? The good ol’ American dream — that by hard work, you will be able to achieve a better life.

In sum, anime` is not politically correct.

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