Archive for February, 2008

Surname Poker is awesome

Now I would like to see Surname Rummy, Surname Pinochle, and Surname Uno. Just because.

So I think this (by “this” I mean “episodes 5 and 6”) was the best arc of Hatenkou Yuugi yet, but I’m having trouble expressing why. This won’t stop me from trying, though!

I think what it is is the general strength of Hatenkou Tuugi itself: somewhat strange and unconventional plots abound. I think that in many other series, the same plot would have been handled a bit differently; i.e., we wouldn’t have Jean-Foup killing himself in a rather grotesque and exaggerated method, and neither would Lalawel be…well, Lalawel. It’s like every other story in Hatenkou Yuugi: it’s a standard-fare setup with some kind of strange twist that shakes things up. In this case, it’s the fact that Lalawel is a murderous and almost apathetic serial killer, which probably only improves her moe point status with certain groups of people.

It’s blatantly obvious (Baroqueheat even points out how obvious it is) that Lalawel’s behavior resonates with Rahzel’s past somewhat, in some kind of twisted, bizarre way. I don’t know what it has to do with the “don’t cross this line” flashback that keeps getting repeated, or her mother going insane, but there’s something there. It almost seems like all three of the main cast have some kind of terrible secret that they’re hiding from each other. I would probably know this if I actually read the manga (I have bought the first volume, by the way; it’s sitting on my shelf softly cooing “Read me! Read me!”), which is apparently better anyway (the anime apparently excises a lot of the snappy dialogue, and Baroqueheat is much less of a womanizer), but I haven’t so I’m stuck with the anime.

Other best thing about this arc: Baroqueheat getting kneed in the stomach. That was amazing. Thank you, Rahzel, for being the voice of reason. I think.


How NOT To Stop Bullying, Lesson One

Do not stab bully with a screwdriver. This is counterproductive.

I feel very, very unclean right now. I think I need to have a mini-Passover or something. I didn’t think Shigofumi would be able to top the second episode’s father-selling-daughters-for-sex-and-money revelation, or would even try to top it.

It did.

Episode 6 was horrifyingly uncomfortable to watch, and i was never really bullied that much in school. Maybe it was because I was never bullied in school that made it so uncomfortable to watch. The “bullying is bad” storyline has been made before, of course, countless times, but that’s unimportant as Shigofumi does a really good number showing the brutal effects of bullying, in part because the writers aren’t trying to shy away from the, well, brutal. From people giving horrible “sympathy” to the bullied, merely making their problem worse unto death, and then turning the tables on the somewhat hapless bystander, and then hapless bystander turning the tables AGAIN. It was quite a ride.

The clever mechanic of letting Morishita see inside the head of Kikugawa through the anonymity of the Internet was a clever device, as it lets the bullier (even if a relatively passive one) get a glimpse inside the mind of the buillied. Of course, then again, he feels the pain himself later on, and responds in a quite different manner than the passive Kikugawa. Everything about this episode screamed “quality” at me while I was watching it, although I was too busy feeling icky to quite properly notice. I wasn’t even planning to talk about it here, but, uh, well, you see how well that went.

true tears may be my favorite series of this season, but Shigofumi is getting a close second, just for this. I’m surprised winter season has been so good–normally, there’s not much to watch. Maybe I’ve changed, or maybe this is just an unusual winter season. Whatever it is, I think 2008 will be a wild year.

Tarou and Miyako’s Secret Love Tryst in the Woods

They seem to have lots of these. Eagerly awaiting romance subplot.

Ghost Hound continues to please me; I think in some ways it’s a kind of more sinister Zettai Shounen: you’ve got the same glacial, relaxed pacing, mysterious events surrounding the main characters, and oddball background music (or, in Ghost Hound’s case, no music at all but sound effects). The two invoke similar moods at times, but Ghost Hound is laced with that edge of creepiness that Zettai Shounen didn’t have. Not that it needed it, because it was still a good series, but there you go.

I was talking with a friend of mine who accused the series of being “over-produced”, a term which I hadn’t heard before, but which he explained meant that the series was trying to appeal to as broad an audience as it possibly could, sapping the soul of the creator out of it. I don’t think he’s right; checking online, the term “over-produced” gets applied to films like Memoirs of a Geisha and Alexander and other kinds of movies I’ve never seen that had enormous pre-release studio-generated hype and were an attempt to snipe the Academy Awards, at which they failed horribly. Call me crazy, but I don’t get this feeling from Ghost Hound. It is the 10th anniversary series of Production I.G., after all, so yes, it has a high production budget, and it certainly looks very good, but I think the series has only improved over time. The first few episodes weren’t especially enthralling, I will grant everyone that, but I felt somehow oddly compelled to watch more, and the series has opened itself up since then. I think my friend was going by the first several lacklustre episodes, for which I can’t fault him much, but he’s still wrong. The series clearly isn’t trying to grab as many demographics as it possibly can–it’s far too unlike Higurashi no Naku Koro ni to really be effective at that. The only “cute girl” character we’ve got is Miyako, who is suitably cute, but there’s no obvious otaku-bait moments, which I would take as a sign of “over-production” in the “grab every demographic” sense. Plus, no-one is watching it. Another reason it’s like Zettai Shounen! So watch it already! But you probably are! Exclamation points!

“That’s the highest compliment I could hope for.”

Well, it certainly doesn’t take much to please Setsuna, in the end.

We finally get some more tenuous light shed on Setsuna’s situation in life, as well as Nerd Dylandy Neil Nudity Neil Dylandy’s (can’t you say it properly, Felt)…or, err, Lockon’s. I’m guessing this is what MIzushima meant by the Meisters being fairly fleshed-out characters by the time the season closer pops up, an event which is getting dreadfully closer by the day. We’ve even learned a bit about Tieira Erde, and, while there’s still no explanation as to why he’s a humorless ass, he’s very obviously still human, somewhere in that ice cold heart of his.

The satisfaction of having pieces of the puzzle we call Gundam 00 slowly slide into place is nigh-on incomperable. It’s a great conspiracy series, made all the better because it’s a Gundam conspiracy series. With hot girls. I won’t say it’s the best Gundam ever oh my God you have to see it (although at times I might want to) but we’re six episodes from the end of the first half, and the series has only improved with each episode. Or, rather, not necessarily improved, but it’s kind of a Eureka Seven effect: you start out more intrigued than enthralled, and as the series slowly doles out bits of plot and what-not you find yourself loving it more and more. Of course, it hasn’t really “improved” per se, the standards of quality were there in the beginning, and the rather inauspicious start was just a clever prank by the writers to make lesser mortals abandon ship early. The Eureks Seven effect is, of course, why I rarely drop series whose first episode is lacklustre but intriguing anymore: it’s not really failed me much yet. Ghost Hound falls under this category as well (speaking of, need to watch next episode for my dose of creepy psychology) , so it’s a good sign that it’s in there.

Now I’m just sad that I have to wait until 2009 to find out how 00 ends. Curse you, Japan. At least we have Code Geass conclusion to watch in the interim between series. God bless Taniguchi Goro.

First, we put Fumika in a box. Then, we set a vial of poison in the box…

Then, we set the vial of poison to open if a certain sort of atom decays in the next hour. Is the Fumika alive or dead when you open the box? Can you even tell?

That seems to be the question posed in Shigofumi 5, wherein a deeper plot concerning the shadowy origins of Fumika are revealed, by the boy who had a crush on her (and she on him), no less. It’s fitting, therefore, that the series made a Schrodinger’s Cat reference in this episode, then, since we don’t actually know what’s going on with Fumika or why she is working for the Shigofumi Praesidium. Is she alive? Is she dead? The plot angle isn’t something I anticipated from the series at the beginning (or, well, I did, but in a different form than it is now). I’m assuming that the mysterious reason she’s doing this is to atone for her sin of killing her gradient-hair father (who doesn’t sound like he’s too hot of a guy from the small clip we see of him at the beginning).

Shigofumi seems to be adept at leavening more serious themes with comedy, which is a good thing. SERIOUS BUSINESS is all well and good, but sometimes you need a laugh, and the character designs are too attractive to waste on a serious show. I’d almost argue that the character designs and overall art style fit a series of this calibre: they’re just “serious” enough to not make the serious side laughable, and they’re soft enough to make the cute moments (such as Fumika terrified of cats) be appropriately cute. It’s a hard thing to explain, but the designs are attractive, and the overall art direction is quite well done. It’s not visually the same as true tears, but it doesn’t need to be. Plus, the Shigofumi uniforms are stylinh–it’s like postal worker uniforms, except anime. And awesome hats. More girls need awesome hats.

How on Earth do they manage to cram so much drama and emotion (and dangling bento boxes) into a single episode of true tears?

Answer to question: Nishimura Junji, that’s how.

Episode 7 was plot twist after plot twist, and the plot jerks you around like you are a bento box dangling on a belt above a flight of stairs. The hard thing about watching this series, at least for me, is that I like the entire cast, male and female alike, and I don’t want to see any of them have their life destroyed. But, of course, for all of them to be happy, barring a deus ex machina of some sort, some of them are going to have to suffer. The fact that the series is called “true tears” isn’t much of a upper either.

The fact that I like the entire main cast astounds me. None of the characters are behaving in such an idiotic fashion. Hiromi might behave idiotically at times, but I don’t not like her because of it, and at any rate her character is such that it’s impossible not to feel sorry for her and her predicament.

Noe gets some depth, now; last time I mentioned she was the least developed, but now she’s something more than just a cute face and a quirky expression. I think the first episode had something along the lines of those that got involved with Noe were cursed and had horrible things happen to them. This is most certainly true, as she seems to be the cause of all the complications. Ai-chan wouldn’t have kissed Shin’ichiro if she hadn’t been there when Noe’s brother told him to date Noe, nor would she have tried to break up with Miyokichi. The tantalizing n-gon of the relationships in this series is amazing.

There’s not much to predict, as this series has been entirely unprefictable from start to finish. My gut feeling tells me Noe is going to be the one left behind to feel miserable all by herself, which will bring back her tears, but I really have no idea. Sometimes, I find comfort in knowing where something is going, but on the flip side, recklessly charging into the unknown with no clue what’s going to happen next is a marvelous feeling too. I think this series is the best of the season for sure, and is probably going to be one of the best of the year, when 2008 is said and done. Yes, I’m naming best-ofs already. That’s how good this is.

“Who are you calling ultra-hyper-chibi-chan who is so small you just want to step on him?”: Revisiting Fullmetal Alchemist

IMPORTANT NOTICE: I only ever made it to episode 40 of this series back when it was airing in Japan. I forget the reasons exactly why, but I’ve got the first three DVD sets sitting here, so I took this weekend as an opportunity to start watching them again. This makes me feel funny inside.

Fullmetal Alchemist [Hagane no Renkenjitsushi, for the pedants like me) still holds up, even a few years after its airing. I distinctly remember starting to really watch it when it was halfway through its run (I had seen the first episode back when it started, and due to overhype didn’t like it too much. I got over it later. Then I got over the giving up on series because of overhype bit, which is good) and watching the entire run of 26 episodes in 54 hours or so. It was a lot of alchemy.

Rewatching it, I’m finding that same addiction to it, and this time I know what’s going to happen. Most of it, anyway. I think the real reason I’m liking it now, internet centuries after I last saw it, is the strong characters. Edward and Alphonse Elric are extremely likable characters no matter how you look at it: Ed is the brash, brazen, yet kind-hearted one, Al is just plain kind-hearted and nice and forgiving, almost to a fault (kind of like me, which is why I think he’s my favorite). The characters are what carry the series in the early episodes, as well as the sometimes brutal episodic plots (Nina, anyone?). Misuzhima snuck in some really early foreshadowing, too: I totally forgot that Lust was sitting right there in the bar in the first episode.

The brutal nature of the episodic plots also reflect our current times. We’ve been introduced to Scar, a major player in Fullmetal Alchemist, who is effectively an anime Islamic terrorist. We haven’t seen much of his story yet, but even in the brief glimpse we’ve seen of him, he’s already cast in that hazy gray light that he deserves to be cast in: he’s brutal enough to kill Nina-chimera, yet kind enough to do it out of mercy. And Mizushima is really laying on the military criticism thick; aside from Roy Mustang and his Merry Men, the soldiers are all vehemently repulsing people: cold, cruel, and calculating. And the point is really driven home with the “dog of the military” phrase. I had remembered that there was “real-world” criticism hidden in the series, but I didn’t recall it popping up this soon.

Overall, I’m still very impressed by this series, even after forgetting about it for years (and, early on, when I was dumb, hating on it. Oh youth and stupidity ;_;) . it kind of makes me sad in a way that I didn’t finish it back then, but now, at least, I have an excuse to watch it again, and relive the experience all over again. Kind of. I’m certainly having a blast, and that’s what matters in the end, I think.


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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February 2008
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