Archive for April, 2008



Allison & Lillia: Yearning For Youth

Those who have been tragically left behind as the result of an altercation, we salute you.

Allison & Lillia is maintaining its steady flow of warm-hearted children’s lit into anime form. It’s easy to see why it’s airing on NHK–it’s a very simple story, told in a cheerful voice. It is about a war, yes, but it isn’t about the violence of combat. And neither does it glamorize war. Alllsion, the original novel, is clearly a Sigsawa children’s novel (I have no idea if Kino no Tabi was a children’s novel too or not), and, thereby, probably won’t appeal to a large portion of the Internet anime-watching populace because of this, since in order to enjoy it, one has to have the ability to appreciate a simpler story. I almost wish that Allison & Lillia, should it ever be licensed, would get a broadcast run in a timeslot aimed at children. If that happens, it would be interesting not only to see the reaction during its run, but also the reaction as said children grow up and have fond memories of the series. It’d be kind of like how I have fond memories of anime series that aired on NIckelodeon back when it was an actually good network (i.e., the late 1980s): my mom swears up and down that I loved The Little Prince, which I can’t remember ever having watched, and I have extremely vague memories of The Adventures of the Little Koala (or a similar series, Nickelodeon aired several koala-themed anime series during that era, and I have no way of telling which my hazy recollection fits up with). I know other people have fond memoeries of The Mysterious Cities of Gold, which they also aired, and on the non-anime front I also have fond memories of David the Gnome, which was Finnish, I thnk). Natsukashii~

Nostalgia rant aside, Allison & Lillia is showing remarkable sophistication and creativity. From the episode preview, it seems like we’re going to find out what the treasure is next episode, something I didn’t expect to see happen until the conclusion of the Allison storyline around episode 13. That tells me that what’s important to the story isn’t the retrieval of the treasure, but the impact it has on the world at large. It’s allegedly a treasure that can bring peace to the war-torn world Allison and Wil live in, but I suspect that it will not be the treasure that accomplishes this by itself, but, rather, something that our two intrepid heroes will do as a result of the treasure.

I also like how the narrator of the story isn’t Allison, who is the “protagonist”, but Wil. It’s an echo of Crest of the Stars and all three Banner of the Stars series. Wil is playing the part of what SDS describes as the Rational Male Compaion much like Jinto played for Lafiel. It may not be love between the two (yet!) but it’s definitely something much more deep than mere friendship. And it’s not one of those frightening relationships where two human beings seemingly merge into one amorphous blob that has a bizarre amalgamation of the component humans’ personalities. It’s instead a relationship where each is their own, separate person, and they use their strengths to support the other. Wil’s mostly along for the ride, but he’s got the brains behind the outfit. Allison would have already been captured or, worse, killed, were Wil not with her, as she has a tendency to charge headlong into a conflict without thinking first. I love the Rational Male Companion relationship dynamic (partly because I’m a forward-thinking person when it comes to gender roles, and partly because I desperately wish to be someone’s Rational Male Companion. This latter desire, and ones like it, substitutes for an externally-focused sex drive, but that’s TMI and at any rate I’m incredibly weird, just like everyone else), so any time it crops up it’s a blast for me.

Whatever the treasure ends up to be, and however the peace comes to the land, I’m sticking wtih this one to the end.

Advertisements

Code Geass R2: Divine, Delicious, and Deadly Desserts

This picture sums up the first two words. Rolo comprises the third.

It actually seems to me that in this episode, Sunrise was baiting the fangirls with tempting images of brotherly love between Lelouch and Rolo. “Aww, look,” the shots seem to say, “aren’t they just the cutest couple? Please go and create hordes of yaoi doujin after watching this episode.” I mean, it’s all there: the tender loving care false-memory Lelouch exhibited for Rolo, the wonderful birthday present of a locket (a heart-shapted locket, no doubt symbolic of their eternal love and devotion for each other) to Rolo, and Rolo’s worried affection for his older brother. Throw into the mix the fact that the original character designs were done by CLAMP and we’ve got some kind of mad crazy giant robot manlove fest.  ()DISCLAIMER: Not that there is anything wrong with manlove fests. It’s just that I’m male and therefore not interested in manlove fests. You can, however, sign me up for mad crazy giant robot girllove fests that aren’t named Kannazuki no Miko)

Of course, probably half these things were made up, and the other half of them are elaborate fictions created by Rolo, an undercover agent, and Lelouch, who is really Zero. It’s an elaborate fiction of passionate brotherly love, made all the more untrue by the final scene, where Rolo reveals his Geass to Lelouch. I mean, time stop? We already had mind reading. Did Lelouch get slapped with the bottom of the barrel, past-expiry, heavily discounted Geass power or something? God only knows what Charles li Brittania’s dual Geass powers are. Is V.V. behind all this? Is C.C. some kind of Geass weakling? Why am I asking questions no one knows the answers to, including this one?

Anyway.

The fiction of Rolo and Lelouch’s relationship as fangirl fanservice means that Code Geass is subverting things left and right. A boy-boy pairing where the happy fun love time didn’t actually happen? It’s like Goro is making some kind of elaborate statement about and/or practical joke upon the fujoshi. Most pairing fantasies exist outside the strict canon of the series, with justification (sometimes flimsy, sometimes valid) for said pairing found scattered throughout the series in small canon hints that prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that <Male Character X> would like to be in the pants of <Male Character Y>. (Again, DISCLAIMER: Not like there’s anything wrong with this sort of activity. If guys didn’t do it too, there’d be a hell of a lot less erodoujin) Goro here offers tantalizing glimpses of Rolo and Lelouch, and then by the end of the episode they’re pointing guns at each other (well, okay, it started out with Lelouch pointing one at Rolo, but that situation got kind of turned around). It’s a conscious admission that this theoretical pairing is a complete fiction, because that’s clearly not how the two characters feel for each other.

Whether or not this is actually what’s going on is another thing entirely, but I found it an interesting aspect of the episode. As for me, well, I’ll leave complicated pariings maths to the much more dedicated, and continue to be overly excited at every glimpse of Lelouch x Shirley. I fell in love with Shirley all over agian in this episode, because she’s so darn cute. Useless, yes, but a cute useless. She just wants to be with Lulu. Can’t a girl dream?

Battle Royale by Takami Koushun: Not-Quite-Senseless Violence

I’m only 6 years late with this!

I’ve just finished the original novel version of Battle Royale, which I quite loved. Unfortunately, I’ve been reading it for a month now, off and on, depending on how much free time I had at school to get some reading in, so I’m kind of rusty on who’s who and what-not, but I’m going to try and avoid spoilers anyway so that shouldn’t really matter.

The reason I loved Battle Royale is the same reason I loved Bokurano: it’s a portrait of the human psyche when confronted with the finality of death. As in Bokurano, death, here, is virtually inevitable for the cast of 42 students, but unlike Bokurano, they’re not fighting for a noble, if somewhat twisted, cause, they’re fighting and killing each other. Death, when it comes, won’t be a relaxing sort of passing, but a brutal death at the hands of your own classmates, people you have known for years and years.

The reason I loved Battle Royale is because of the fact that they dropped 42 students, armed them with machine guns and knives and pistols and forks, and set them loose on each other. The sense of horror is derived from the fact that none of these students can ever fully trust another student. It’s a hellish nightmare scenario, where the players of the game are frightened constantly that they’re going to die. Some react to the game by developing trigger fingers and attacking anything and everything that comes at them. Some take a perverse pleasure in killing the other students through whatever brutal means they know. Some try to band everyone together to take the fight to the sadistic government employees setting them up like this.

Although there are a few characters in the book that the reader gets to spend more time with (Shuya is the “protagonist” as far as I can tell), no character is killed without first being used to illustrate an aspect of humanity brought out by the sadism of the Battle Royale. Lovers meet to commit suicide together, or die together. Mostly intangible romantic relationships end in tragedy and deathbed confessions as one or both parties die, sometimes by the other’s hands on accident, sometimes by a heartless external party. The novel almost functions less as a novel but as more of a series of interlinked short character portraits interspersed with more focused portraits of a few characters. Many characters only get a few chapters where we see inside their head, with their death concluding their arc. They are all extremely well-done from a character development position, as by the time the character reaches their final end, you, the reader, are not impassively unperturbed or even excited by their gory death, but you feel a lingering sense of melancholy at the perverse nature that is the Battle Royale for daring to kill a character. In other words, like Bokurano, Battle Royale is good at making the reader care about a character in the short period of time before they are slaughtered.

My only “complaint” would be the frequently simplistic writing style, but as Takami is a journalist by profession, and this is his first novel, it’s quite understandable. And, honestly, I put “complaint” in quotes because I don’t really find it much of an issue, but I know others will. The clipped, simplistic, almost dispassionate narrative actually adds to the experience of reading the book, as, true to Takami’s journalistic background, it reads less like a novel and more like a fictionalized newspaper article on the events. It’s an extremely jarring effect, and as much as I like the humorous parenthetical asides, they also increase the horror factor of the novel.

Overall, I think Battle Royale is one of the best books I’ve read in recent memory, and possibly ever, a statement which lives up to its status as a pulp classic. It’s certainly one which surprised me, as I remember thinking years ago that I wouldn’t like the movie and avoided watching it for just that reason (turns out to have been a good decision, as the movie apparently is a disservice to the novel, reducing the tragic magesty of the novel into an actual senseless violence fest). But I have read it now, and am highly glad that I did. If you haven’t read it in the six years it’s been translated into English yet, I suggest you do so–it’s an exhilarating rush and it’s very human. A winning combination for any work.

Macross Frontier: Suggestive Tuna Buns & Clever Character Development

I am showing a clear Ranka bias here. Go, Nakajima Megumi, go!

I’m still extremely technically impressed with Macross Frontier–it’s got everything going right for it at the moment (more later). I’m not quite feeling the Macross oomph, but we’re essentially still in plot setup, so I’m not too terribly worried about that. And on that topic, it’s always been said that Kawamori tries his best to make every Macross series something totally different from the other Macross series, which is something I can respect (and already do, since I’m a Macross 7 fan, which is probably the least Macross of all the Macross series. Or the most Macross. Or something). Since that’s the case, it might just be a case of getting adjusted to Frontier’s particular brand of Macross, which, again, isn’t really a problem.

The absolute best thing about this episode was the confinement in the shelter, where you lock the three major personalities of the series in the same room and have them bounce off each other, with repercussions that reverberate across the rest of the episode. The first is Alto, who spends the entire time frustrated that there’s nothing he can do to help either Sheryl or Ranka. In fact, he’s spent most of the previous two episodes busy being confronted with how useless and superfluous he really is. Even when he gets out of the shelter, he finds out that his acrobatics partners are secretly piloting Valkyries on the side, which just reinforces how useless he feels. On top of that, Ozma (who similarly thinks himself useless) constantly saves him, whether he’s in a Valkyrie or just a hapless bystander. I expect that he’ll be contending with his perceived uselessness for several episodes to come, or even throughout the entire series.

Sheryl, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be useless, but she certainly seems to be forced into the useless role due to her popularity as a singer. And speaking of her popularity as a singer, she’s embarassed about Alto catching a glimpse, despite the fact that she goes onstage in highly revealing virtual constumes, a point which Alto brings up (The nifty virtual costume thing was the best part of episode 1. No longer do stage performers have to hastily change outfits in a green room while everyone else stalls for time!). It almost seems to me, from just that small tidbit in the shelter, that she’s resentful of being shoehorned into the role of useless yet famous pretty girl. I don’t know what she would have done had her rescue crew not shown up, but she was certainly determined to do all she could. And she fights against this forced uselessness in small ways, too: telling Ranka about the Miss Macross contest seemed to be ever so slightly more about her than altruism for Ranka, although I can’t define quite how.

Ranka has probably the harshest situation in the series yet, with her entire family dead without her knowing it. In the shelter, she simply does whatever she can to make Alto and Sheryl feel more comfortable and at-ease, including providing dangerously suggestive tuna buns which lightens the tension between the other two some. She’s genuinely friendly and helpful to just about anyone, and is certainly cute as a button. This all belies her agonizing mental pain whenever reminded slightly of the death of her family, which says something about her tenacity. For her to keep a positive attitude despite the trauma means two things: one, Ozma’s plan to shelter her from harm is working; two, she’s much stronger than she looks. In her obvious function as a Lynn Minmei for the modern day, she’s already showing a more depth than I recall Minmei having at this early phase (or possibly at all, but I’m tempering that statement with the fact that I haven’t seen SDF Macross in over three years and specifics are fuzzy, and surely there’s a diehard Macross fan who’ll point out the error of this statement).

Macross Frontier could be, in some ways, a rethinking of the original SDF Macross, in much the same way that Gundam 00 was a rethinking of the original Mobile Suit Gundam in terms of themes. That doesn’t mean I expect Frontier to be a perfect SDF clone (it can’t be, there’s no Captain Global), but it’d be interesting to see Macross revisit the basic themes of SDF and update and reshape them for the modern day. It’s too early to tell for this, but whatever it is, it’s certainly showing all the signs of being well-done. Hoping for a year-long run, as I don’t think it’s paced like a 26 episode series at this point, but it might be. I don’t think we quite know the length yet, though.

kure-nai: Murasaki and Japan’s Culture

I have to get this out of the way early: kure-nai 3 is probably the best single episode of anime I’ve seen in a long time. It covers so much ground in 24 minutes and manages to be highly entertaining at the same time. I don’t know how he does it, but Matsuo Kou is a genius.

There were quite a few aspects about this episode that I highly enjoyed, especially the whole Murasaki running around school and being generally confused bit, which was capped by the brilliant three-way argument pictured above. The comedic timing in this portion of the episode was spot-on. Murasaki was wonderfully and childishly cute (as she always is) stumbling around school and generally being curious (with the highlight of this being when she called Shinkurou on the phone to complain about the anatomy figure, which was made even better by the fact that Shinkurou thought she was talking about something else entirely, leaving you to wonder just what exactly is hiding in Tamaki’s room). On top of all this, we’ve got Shinkurou interacting with Ginko in sublime fashion. There’s a word for the direction style of this segment of the episode, I’m sure, but I lack proper vocabulary.

What really surprised me, though, was the train scene, and the aftermath thereof. As Murasaki idealistically confronts the train bullies kicking an elderly lady out of her seat so they can be happily seated, Shinkurou timidly sits behind, and even rebukes Murasaki for her outburst. He’s reacting like any sensible, mature Japanese citizen would in such a situation: a child under their care is disturbing social order by confronting someone else, so therefore he must be strictly apologetic and admit fault and be humiliated, kicked, and spat upon.

This is interesting on several levels. From a character standpoint, it’s an aspect of Shinkurou’s character we haven’t seen.I personally expected him to stand up and fight them, revealing his mysterious power to Murasaki, but he doesn’t. And this, from a writing standpoint, is also good: you expect the main character to stand up for right, good, and justice, and it doesn’t happen. You get the feeling that he clearly wants to do such, but he’s being bound by societal rules not to.

Which is what I found most interesting: Murasaki, for all her childishness, confronts the bullies, and gets lectured to becaose of this. The viewer is clearly supposed to support Murasaki in this instance, as she’s clearly doing what needs to be done, and Shinkurou is doing what Japanese society says you should do. During the lecture, it’s Murasaki confronting the whole of Japanese culture through Shinkurou. Is it right to tolerate cruelty just to maintain a modicum of social harmony? At what point is social harmony breached? Is is breached when the elderly lady is forced from her seat? Is it breached when Murasaki confronts the perpetrators? Who’s in the wrong here?

The answer kure-nai gives depends on who you see as right or wrong, although the intent to criticise Japanese culture is certainly embedded in this scene. Personally, I find social harmony essential to any human interaction, but, in this case, social harmony was breached when the young upstarts forced the lady from her seat. Murasaki was entirely correct to confront them, even if it was a drastic action that not many would take, regardless of the culture. Hell, I don’t even think I would confront a group of bullies like that, as I’d probably get a solid pounding; on the flip side, I generally lash out like Murasaki when people feel the need to be jerks when they really shouldn’t be. It doesn’t change anything, but it’s the right kind of attitude to have, even if this does mean that I’m actually a seven year old girl at heart.

kure-nai is probably the best series of this spring so far, although in the case of this spring I hestitate to use such terminology, as there’s so many other series that could also easily be considered the best series of this spring, and I wouldn’t have any argument with someone claiming them to be such. I think the way I’m going to have to work it is that my favorite series of this season is whichever one I happen to be watching at the moment, or have recently watched. It’s almost too much for me to process. I both love and hate spring, now.

Itazura na Kiss: Most Satisfying Slap Ever

俺のこの手が光って唸る!
お前を倒せと輝き叫ぶ!

Yes, I just went there. Shining Finger indeed.

So I think that, after three episodes, Itazura na Kiss is now cemented as one of the top-tier shows this season. It’s so 90s shoujo that it’s like pure unfiltered awesome poured into my eyes for 24 minutes at a time. (I think hyperbole is going to be a common theme in Itazura na Kiss posts, as the show just invites it) There are a lot of top-tier series this season, making my life busy yet intensely enjoyable, and Itazura na Kiss is close to the top, if there is a top. Tops are kind of hard to come by these days.

Anyway, episode.

Episode 3 revaled an interesting aspect to Kotoko’s personality. Among the various things happening this episode, the important bit–Irie finally reading her love letter–was probably the most important. We don’t really know what he thinks of it yet, as Irie is still a giant enigma, but that’s not the interesting part.

The interesting part is when Kotoko smacks him for reading her love letter without her permossion.

Why is this interesting? Kotoko’s feelings about Irie are torn into two modes of thought, one of her idealization of him from a distance, something that’s always brought out whenever he seems to be kind or considerate, and her loathing of him for being, well, Irie. He’s not exactly the nicest person in the world to fall in love with, but I really have to wonder how much of his disinterest and verbal abuse is a facade to attempt to maintain his image at school. Kotoko, I think, realizes that Irie has two facets of personality, one which is sensitive and kind, and the other which is concerned with maintaing reputation. She’s torn between this image of Irie she has in her fantasy life in her mind, and the cold reality of what Irie actually is.

Torment over what to feel for a person, even a person less drastically tsundere as Irie, is harsh, and things always manifest themselves strangely. So when Kotoko finds out that Irie read her love letter, something she’s obviously wanted him to do, she’s essentially cornered. The way in which Irie recited the letter seemed almost to be mocking her in front of his entire family, who (being Irie’s family) were totally oblivious to the mocking tone he was adopting. Kotoko picked up on it, and put all the frustration of the past two and a half episodes into one hard slap to the face, at which point I shouted “Yes!” at the screen, because that’s exactly what Irie deserves. She clearly wants to love Irie (otherwise there wouldn’t have been that mishap during the relay) and, deep down, she admits this to herself earlier in the episode, but she’s quite clearly not going to take his attitude much longer.

It’s pretty admirable that she slapped him, actually; more girls in anime should do this when confronted with a guy treating them like dirt. It’s almost like a strange kind of women’s lib message tucked inside the shoujo exterior. By slapping him, Kotoko reasserts her right to independence, her right to live a life free of disturbance. It’s telling the shoujo fans of the world that no, you don’t have to put up with nonsense, even from someone you love, however idealistic that love might be. You have the right to assert yourself and take the other down a notch. I wonder if the little speech Irie made after Kinnosuke challenged him (the “you can come to love someone you hated yesterday” speech) was partially inspired from Kotoko’s drastic action. I don’t expect him to change his dastardly ways anytime soon, naturally, but that line is an admission that, perhaps,  his feelings on the matter are wavering a little. He might have a tiny bit more respect for Kotoko, and the idea is that every tiny bit of respect he gains for her builds up into a feeling of love (this is shoujo after all). I think this is true as well: his speech regarding the drawings posted on the board this time weren’t as harsh as the abuse heaped upon her last time. And the slap changed Kotoko too, as well as the speech: she’s now confident that he’ll change his opinion of her over time.

Amazing what a little slap to the face can do, sometimes.

Soul Eater: Maka, Black Star, and Gender Representation in Shounen Manga

This scene, I think, sums up Black Star better than anything else. Best (?) assassin ever.

I did actually like this episode much more than the first one, for whatever strange reason. I think it sank in over the week as I thought about it and started to really like it. I should probably stop panicking when there’s this super awesome gotta see it series premeire and I’m not as blown away by the first episode as everyone else is because, well, this always happens. Every time. I should just give up and watch whatever.

At any rate, from this episode and the snippet of Death the Kid at the end of the episode, Soul Eater is proving to have an extremely likable cast. Black Star and Tsubaki are quite the dynamic duo, with the former being comically incompetent and the latter being mildly tolerant of the former’s comic incompetence. Tsubaki probably knows she could do better than pair with Black Star, as Maka pointed out–she’s evidently a very good Weapon–but she sticks by him out of affection. I have seen it hypothesized that Tsubaki actually wants Black Star to peep in on her bathing, due to the fact that she’s not embarassed at all but is merely concerned that he isn’t hiding his presence. The cliff bath scene, though, was brilliant in every way: the long zoom in on Black Star screaming at the top of his lungs followed by cut to commerical was genius. For the most part, Black Star is incompetent, although he does have a few tricks up his sleeve.

And that’s part of why I’m liking Soul Eater more, actually: it’s breaking gender stereotypes in shounen manga/anime. As pointed out last time, the major protagonist for this series is Maka, who is a girl. This is a shounen series. It’s almost like it’s some bizarre twisted offspring of the moe phenonmenon, as if the logic went thusly: “Boys like cute girls, and boys like beating things up, so let’s have a cute girl who beats things up! Surefire hit!”

But that’s not quite all. What interests me is how the male and female characters are portrayed. In the Maka/Soul Eater pair, Maka is the Technician and Soul Eater is the Weapon. The obvious implicaton there is that Maka, the girl, is in charge, and Soul Eater, the guy, is the second fiddle. I’m not really well-read on shounen series, but it strikes me as unusual that, for the main characters, they’d choose such a relationship dynamic. What’s being done here isn’t just a simply ploy to get boys to read both for cute girls and punching things, as they could have stuck to the simple, commonplace shounen formula of male protagonist and female support, wherein the former gets all the glory and the latter is shafted throughout the entire run and serves mostly as eye candy.

Seemingly in rebuttal to this is the fact that the other two sets of main characters, Black Star/Tsubaki and Death the Kid/Patty/Liz, are in the more standard male-dominant relationship, with the females reduced to supporting roles. Or are they? It’s clear from episode 2 that Black Star is totally incompetent, and Tsubaki, if not in charge, has more than a mere supporting role. We don’t know much about Death the Kid yet, except for that small (and hilarious) snippet at the end, where he’s overly picky about how far to the right Patty is standing. As in Black Star’s case, it’s not exactly overly casting him as a badass who’s going to kick ass and take names. We haven’t seen his prologue yet, though, so we don’t really know what he’s all about, so I’ll address that next week.

Granted, in the case of Black Star, this subversion of shounen standards is clearly done to generate laughs, which it certainly does, but even a subversion done for humorous purposes can have lasting impact. If a humorous subversion goes over well, as Soul Eater’s certainly is, what’s to stop a more serious subversion from going over well? If my theory above is corrent and the decision to make Maka the main character and portray her as strong and not weak was consciously done as a result of the moe phenomenon, then it’s further proof that, like it or not, moe is changing anime, and, in many cases, for the better. It’s nice to see a once-lambassted (still is, but it’s getting less common, I think) concept start to bear positive fruit.

In conclusion, I guess I should say that now I’m a fan of Soul Eater. I’m glad it’s a year-long series, as I’m eager to find out what’s going to happen, and it will be a grand year indeed.


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.

RSS Recent Songs

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

A Twitter feed, as stipulated in Blogger Law Code Title 10 §135.41(b)

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

a ridiculously long and only partially organized list of subjects

Pages

April 2008
M T W T F S S
« Mar   May »
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
282930  
Advertisements