Archive for January, 2008



Important Lesson For Today: Never Trust Wolf Goddesses, No Matter How Cute They Are

Horo can barter like no other. She’s like the medieval merchant equivalent of a lot lizard. With wolf ears.

So Okami to Koshinryo really is a Moe Medieval Economics Thriller. I can’t see anything but utter awesome from Lawrence and Horo’s Adventures in Beating the Market, because, one, as these three episode have taught even the most ignorant, economics in medieval times was incredibly complicated, much like it is today, except you had to know 50 zillion coinages and be able to manipulate the markets in your head. As a bored teenager, I’ve played a couple of those silly space merchant games wherein you buy things at one planet and then soar off to another planet and sell things and buy more things and etc, and man, was it complicated enough to handle the laws of economics in a simple browser MMO. And you had little icons and stuff, and there wasn’t a huge variety of goods. To make the complexities of economics in medieval times a subject for a thrilling and exciting light novel/anime requires three things:

1) research into economics and its history
2) actual writing talent
3) wolf girls (optional but suggested)

The fact that Hasekura Isuna did all three and managed to be successful tells me that Japanese people will go to incredible lengths to write a book that a goodly portion of the fans of said book are fans of the hot wolf girl and yet still somehow the actual content of the book is astounding, making the addition of said hot wolf girl even more fun. American visual culture fans get the historically inaccurate 300; Japanese visual culture fans get meticulously researched economic thrillers. I think I know which I want to cast my lot with. More on this topic when I get around to writing about Historie, though. For now, though, I’m happy with pretend-Medieval Europe with wolf girls.

TALLY OF TIMES I HAVE SAID WOLF GIRLS/EARS IN THIS POST: 5. If you haven’t picked up that I’m somewhat infatuated with Horo, here’s me explicitly informing you: I am infatuated with Horo. There, now it’s out in the open. No reneging.

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Simoun in a Library, or: A Feeble Excuse to Talk About Simoun Over a Year After the Fact

So, as a kind of Christmas gift to the public library I work at, I bought an extra volume of Mushishi DVD 1 and Simoun DVD 1 and donated them. Mushishi showed up a month or so ago, and today I noticed that Tech Services had processed Simoun and it was now available for checkout. Behold the marvelous spectacle of Simoun with a bar code sticker:

In celebration of this monumental event, I will now discuss Simoun for no real reason.

Back in 2006, I was still in the process of maturing as an anime fan, growing from mere fan-fledgling into full-blown otaku, and I kind of glossed over Simoun at first glance, like a good many people did, thinking it would be a silly, trashy series full of thinly veiled excuses for pantyflashes. Instead, it was a thrilling, moving series full of thinly veiled excused for girls to kiss. What’s not to like?

Simoun, unfortunately, has, to a novice viewer, a slow and somewhat confusing start. It’s one of those shows that operates on the bell curve principle, in that the middle is several orders of magnitude better than the beginning or ending. It’s somewhat similar to, again, Eureka Seven, which had a similar beginning pattern (slow start), in that people tend to be driven off by the early episodes for varying reasons. However, I had it on good faith from several friends that Simoun was actually good, so I, eager and always hungering for new anime to devour (this is one aspect of my style of anime fandom that has never, ever changed) gladly took their word for it. And I, like everyone else, was mightily confused by the first episode, but by episode four I was solidly convinced that this would be a great series.

Episode four, for those who have seen the series, is the episode where a lone pilot from one of the neighboring, warmongering countries to Simalcrum kidnaps Aaeru and Limone and runs off with them to the woods in an attempt to steal their Simoun. There was just some air about this episode, in the way that Nishimura and the writers portrayed the enemy pilot not as an unspeakably evil person but, instead, as a human being who just wanted to help make his country’s lot in the world better. Although this pilot never says anything intelligible to the audience, you’re almost sad when he dies at the end. The very humane portrayal of the enemy convinced me that this series was going to be a doozy, so I figured it passed the four-episode test within a reasonable margin.

And then Rodoraemon cut her braid off.

That single event starts a chain of events both external to the Chor Tempest and internal, as they contend not only with the enemy’s machinations, but with their own relationships within their own Chor. And episodes ten to twenty-one were glorious. From the cute, yet extremely character-building moments like Limone planting a kiss on Dominura’s cheek after having love explained to her in basic, childlike form, to Mamiina taking a page from Rodoraemon’s book (and winning my absolute love at the last second), Simoun truly was at the top of its game. I’d seen Maria-sama ga Miteru before, but I think Simoun was the first yuri series that knocked me down and said “This is what we’re made of”.

Simoun is an excellent example of the recent trend towards anime/manga adopting elements both from male-targeted anime/manga and female-targeted anime/manga. It’s a process that’s been going on since at least the 70s and maybe even back in the 60s, as the lines between what is “shoujo” and what is “shounen” (and what is “josei” and what is “seinen”) consistently blur the line. Anime fans are already the most ignorant of target audiences, crossing gender-defined genre borders seemingly at will, so it’s nice to see that there’s still anime/manga that effectively takes elements from both and combines them to form something that anyone could theoretically enjoy. It’s part of why, even after five years of watching the stuff, anime still holds the power to amaze and astound me. And that is the best thing something can do–the loss of that sense of wonder is usually what leads to people abandoning fiction-related hobbies and taking up different tastes and different genres, and so, when one retains that sense, staleness and boredom never set in. And this is a Good Thing indeed.

Tokyo Marble (Hot) Chocolate

I’m so glad I got to hear Zenryoku Shounen in an anime series. It’s such a nice song (and it’s in Ouendan 2, which is a Good Sign for any song).

Predictably, I really, really loved Tokyo Marble Chocolate. Production I.G. made a clever choice in splitting the story between the two “parts” and telling the same story from two different angles. The story itself is quite nice, with misunderstandings between a young couple where both parties lack the self-confidence to be in a relationship. Of course, delicate dances of misunderstandings usually don’t happen quite this way in real life, but, a quick reminder in case you forgot: this is film, and, more importantly, anime film.

For a short OVA series that gives you only the briefest snapshot of a relationship, you get a feel for the characters very quickly. It’s only a two days of their relationship that we see, but it’s a touching portrait of love gone wonderfully right. And, actually, upon watching the “boy part”, Zenryoku Shounen, I noticed parallels with Eureka Seven. The most obvious one would be Yuudai’s “dream” sequence after being knocked out, which was almost a direct reference to the amazing episode 48 of Eureka Seven, with the mini-donkey (which, by the way, is awesome) acting as Gulliver. You could almost say that the link between Chizuru and Yuudai is the mini-donkey, at least in this snapshot of their lives–again, kind of like how Gulliver linked Dominic and Anemone (quite literally).

i also loved the art style, once I got used to it (which took a whopping 60 seconds)–it’s simplistic, which lends an air of universality to the characters and their emotions. Anyone could feel this in love that you’d have to be a cold-hearted bastard to not sympathize with their plight.

And I like how we never see Yuudai say “I love you” to Chizuru. It’s the most important issue to both characters, but the deliberate exclusion of this line on Yuudai’s behalf (Chizuru does, of course, write it on the lid of the present she was planning to give to him as a break-up gift) just means that there’s no need to say the words in their situation as you understand it after both parts: they just embrace, and cut to credits. It’s understood that Yuudai doesn’t need to speak the words he’s so afraid to speak–Chizuru has already worked it out for herself during the dance.

In conclusion: anime needs more bizarre animal-like creatures who join two people together into a loving relationship. This is a hitherto unexplored domain of anime tropes.

That was some mighty fast talking in Hatenkou Yuugi

So, prior to knowing anything at all about Hatenkou Yuugi, what attracted me to it was the writing credit: people don’t toss around the name Imagawa Yasuhiro for no real reason these days. And, while an Imagawa writing credit is less spectacular than a Imagawa directing credit, it’s still a Good Thing to have him involved.

And I just watched episode 1. And it was glorious.

Things don’t really make sense in Hatenkou Yuugi, and probably won’t until the end, or possibly ever. It doesn’t seem to have any kind of overarching plot, and will probably consist of episodic adventures of Rahzel, Alzheid, and Baroqueheat helping people out. The content of the first episode was fairly standard fare, as well.

But that’s not why you should watch it. You should watch it for snappy, witty character dialogue and brilliant character chemistry. For two people that met randomly with zero explanation, Rahzel and Alzheid certainly get along fairly well, enough to instantly start taking potshots and one-liners at each other. I mean, watching it, I just sat there in awe at the back-and-forthing that all the characters did. There’s no hefty backstory to get you started, you’re just dropped into the middle of things. It’s a style of show you don’t see often in anime, and, of course, Imagawa handles it beautifully.

I have no idea if the snappy dialogue is from the manga or not, but evidently the manga is released in the US as Dazzle, so maybe I better go pick it up sometime and find out. That might be a good idea, since Hatenkou Yuugi is only going to be 10 episodes. An act that should be criminal, if the series keeps things up at this pace.

Deus Ex Gundam

I am now possessed by a sudden urge to see anime remake Oedipus Rex with mecha as a direct result of titling my post this. Then again, I think about what happened to A Little Princess when they tried to remake it with mecha…

So in this episode everything goes according to keikaku (TRANSLATOR’S NOTE: keikaku means “plan”) for the other side of the equation, for once. Well, okay, it was going according to plan until whoops, there’s another set of Gundams out there, and hey presto! Everything stops going according to plan and jumps back in Celestial Being’s favor.

I am really liking the way that Gundam 00 doesn’t recycle animation very much, or even at all. All the other Gundam series I’ve seen, animation got reused a ton. Part of the reason I think they’ve been able to do this is the small scale of what’s going on–Celestial Being isn’t really fighting a war, like in the other Gundam series (except maybe X), they’re fighting a series of small pitched battles. The 30th anniversary-ness of 00 truly shows in the visual aspect.

One other thing I’ve just now thought of, since I’ve basically been watching four Gundam series practically back to back: 00 is incredibly different than the others, even more so than I thought. Usually by this stage in the game, events are moving at a fast clip, and here, 00 is just moving sedately along, perambulating its way through a tangled web almost casually. I don’t think that 00 is trying to be the hippest, coolest, most action-packed Gundam (go watch G for that) or even coming close to a more “normal” Gundam series level (there is no such thing as “normal” in Gundam, I’ve decided). This, and the attack on the Ptolemy, are the two most action-packed episodes. The plot doesn’t revolve around the combat, the combat revolves around the plot. It’s an interesting and tradition-breaking perspective on Gundam.

Oh, and it’s also got the highest cute girl ratio. Why can’t Kouga Yun draw some kind of non-BL shoujo manga so I can read it without feeling awkward? Maybe she can switch to yuri. That’d be super.

Hypothesis: Louise Halevy is Actually the Head of Celestial Being

She even has her own Gundam: Pillow Gundam. Today, Saji Crossroad; tomorrow, the world!

So, into the second season of Gundam 00, we’ve got Ominous Things afoot. This episode was mostly setup for what’s going to happen next episode, unfortunately, however, next episode will be the appearance of the Trinity siblings in their three Throne Gundams and then…cut to credits. So, one more week until Nena Trinity shows up and we get the unstoppable might of both Saito Chiwa and Kugimiya Rie in a Gundam series. If you add in Marina Ismail, you might as well call this series Mobile Suit Gundam Moe. But, I digress.

SDS finally managed to watch Gundam 00 a couple weeks ago, and posted his thoughts on it. I think he does a great job of summing up what I’ve been saying: it’s a fresh take on the Gundam franchise, which, SDS adds, is in much the same way as the original Mobile Suit Gundam was a fresh take on 70s mecha series. His analogy of 00 as a giant jigsaw puzzle is apt. 00 is based on one huge conspiracy theory, and there’s almost a second, competing conspiracy, if we take Ali Al-Sarchez as the antagonist of the series.There’s something utterly sinister about Aeolia Schenberg and his plans that I suspect nothing short of world domination. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that he preserved himself as a bionic cyborg for the express purpose of taking over the world.

The addition of the Trinity trio informs us that there’s more than one agency in Celestial Being, and that the two don’t know of each other, but why show themselves now? Maybe they exist to bail out the original four from difficult predicaments? Or maybe they’re actually evil; Nena was holding evil Haro in the promotion artwork. But surely someone as cute as Nena can’t be evil, right?

Then again, her brother’s name is Johann…

LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME! THE GUNDAM WITHIN ME IS ALREADY THIS BIG!

Maybe now we need to have a Gundam series authored by Naoki Urasawa, if 00 doesn’t satisfy my lust for massive conspiracies.

Open Memo to All New Mobile War Chronicle Gundam W Haters: You Suck

MEMORANDUM

RE: New Mobile War Chronicle Gundam W

Dear kind sirs,

I would like to inform you that you, the eponymous Gundam W haters, are full of bullshit like nothing else.

I missed out on Gundam W back when it was cool to like it due to being an Obstinate Moronical Anime Disliker (although I did watch one episode of the series, and tried to watch Endless Waltz, which only left me more confused, and I can’t remember a thing about Endless Waltz, which is probably a good thing), and as I’ve said before, this gives me a different perspective than those who watched it in its heyday. According to my good friend SDS, a large part of the hate on W is because of the particular people who liked it. This means, of course, the people for whom this was the first Gundam series, and henceforth assumed that all Gundam series were exactly like W. This, of course, angers the UC fans, but they’re prone to apoplectic fits if anyone says that a Gundam series that wasn’t directed by Tomino is anywhere north of “utter tripe”. This also leads me to reactions like one of my friends, who, when I mentioned that I was watching After War Gundam X, immediately assumed that all Gundam series featured “whiny emo angstballs” as protagonists, largely due to his exposure to the two major Gundam series in America, W and SEED, and made fun of me for such.

So, the problem for W is that its own popularity bites it in the rear–it, for better or for worse, defined Gundam for an entire generation of fans, and those who liked it liked only it, and those who didn’t ridiculed it and Gundam in general (unless they were later made aware of the awesome of Gundam, and possibly became annoying fans of another kind).

So, here I am, just having watched episode 15 and slightly over a quarter of the way through the series, and I’ve gotten into it like I get into a normal Gundam series. It’s still not been really impressing me in the same length of time that, say, 00 has been, but it’s a Gundam series, they’re never really all that bad. There’s quite a few good Gundam moments in this series thus far (such as Heero self-destructing himself and the Wing at the drop of a hat) and the much-chided “philosophy” hasn’t really started bugging me too much. For what it’s worth, I’m a bit of an idealist, too, and since this kind of pacifism is absurdly idealistic from what I’ve heard, it can’t be too bad, although, on an unrelated note, Destiny, I think, pushed the pacifism concept in Gundam a wee bit too far.

And Relena needs to scratch that dog with her foot in the ED more often. I have no idea why, but that moment is awesome.


NOTICE SHAMELESSLY STOLEN FROM G.K. CHESTERTON

I cannot understand those that take anime seriously, but I can love them, and I do. Out of my love I warn them to keep clear of this blog.

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