Archive for May, 2008

Macross Frontier: Carrot Promotions & Loli Zentradi

PART the FIRST: Being the Tale of an Aspiring Young Singer & Her Carrot Costume

Oh, Ranka-tan. That is simultaneously the best costume ever and the worst costume ever. For a girl who has a voice that can cross the galaxy and stop Evil Mysterious Men in their tracks, it’s rather strange for her to be peddling carrots to reluctant Zentradi. With an actual song about the wonderful and galaxy-changing abilities of carrots. Not just any carrots, mind you: Zentradi carrots, which are rainbow colored, which clearly speaks to the potential customer that here is a carrot that transcends ordinary carrotdom; it is a carrot that throws reason to the curb; it is a carrot that can certainly pierce the heavens. Or possibly just give you a bad trip.

Macross Frontier is laying Ranka’s jealousy of Sheryl on thick, even without really having her say it outright. From small things like a bus pulling away to reveal a giant Sheryl poster immediately after Ranka is informed that her program was cancelled in favor of one featuring Sheryl (followed by a subsequent shot of a Frontier skyline dotted with an disgustingly large amount of Sheryl propaganda), to somewhat larger things such as Ranka forcing herself to be cheerful when Sheryl asks her how her career is going, and then refusing her help in making it big. Also: Sheryl doesn’t seem to have noticed Ranka’s jealousy. At all. She’s entirely clueless, leading the entire school on a madcap hunt for her errant panties, thereby focusing all the attention on her because she’s Sheryl, the Queen of the Galaxy. She’s also rather clingy to Alto, which probably speaks at some kind of lonliness she feels. This is Macross after all, and there is a love triangle going on, but I’d argue that–at least at this point–Sheryl doesn’t “love” Alto so much as she’s using him to relieve her own boredom/lonliness at being a galaxy-trotting superstar (no pun intended). There seem to be more honest feelings of affection in Ranka, and I fervently hope that they don’t take the SDF Macross route and shaft Ranka like they shafted Minmei. (Yes, I am declaring my allegiance. The lines of war are drawn, gentlemen, and I am armed to the teeth)

PART the SECOND: Being the Tale of The Zentradi Female (Meltrandi?) Who Fills Many Fetishes

Yes, two screencaps today, because there are two parts to this post!

Over the course of the past two weeks, for some inexplicable reason, I have become rather enamoured with Kuran Kuran (Klein Klan, Klan Klan, God knows what other romanizations; I’m sticking with the katakana reading of “Kuran Kuran” until there’s some kind of official word on the matter). Kuran Kuran is, of course, the character that you’d think someone would have come up with some way of doing this beforehand, but hadn’t. We’ve had the loli/chestally endowed contrast before in Tenjou Tenge, but I pretend like that entire property doesn’t exist at all and therefore summarily sweep it under the rug. The thing here, is that not only is it a loli/chestally endowed contrast, it’s a loli/giantess chestally endowed contrast. It’s like they thought of every possible fetish a Zentradi character could embody, and then threw them all into one character. And then, as if that wasn’t enough, we get the flashback pictured above, where we are treated to loli Kuran Kuran in Zentradi form as an actual child. This is pretty much the most adorable thing ever.

With a list of sharacter traits like that, you’d think that Kuran Kuran would be relegated to a bit role/comic relief role in any other series. But not in Macross Frontier. Oh, no. Aside from the first time she popped up in loli miclone form, she–like the rest of the female cast–isn’t exploited, or seen as overly pandering. We didn’t even see miclone Kuran Kuran after her introduction until this episode, and she isn’t exactly being the wacky hyperactive character she was at that point in time. It would have been far too easy for the writers to slip up and just use her as otakubait, but they didn’t. She’s a legitimate character in her own right, and she’s treated as seriously as the rest of the cast is. I’m sure we’ll have a few more lighthearted moments along the way featuring her (this is Macross, and a Macross series which doesn’t have its tongue planted in its cheek probably doesn’t exist), but, for now, I’m impressed that they didn’t take her down the beaten path.

The non-gimmick nature of Kuran Kuran would seem to refute the arguments I’ve seen floating around that Macross Frontier is being unnecessarily pandering and spending too much time baiting otaku. I won’t argue that this pandering isn’t an element of the series, becuase this is a Macross series, and Macross has always been about pandering–but it’s also been about not letting the pandering get in the way of other elements of the series. Frontier is accomplishing this as well as can be hoped for, if not better, so I don’t really see reason to complain. Well, other than that the pandering going on isn’t the kind of pandering one wants to see in anime, especially anime with the word Macross in the title, but what can you do? Sit back and watch the excellent 3D CGI Itano circuses (and Kuran Kuran slapping a Valkyrie, which was an awesome moment), I guess.

Soul Eater: Blood Is An Excellent Plot Thickener

Tears work, too, kind of, but they dry too fast, and leave a salty residue. Not that crying is a bad thing, mind you.

I’ve been cryptically silent on Soul Eater for a while, and it’s not because I wasn’t enjoying it–because I was–but I just didn’t quite feel like there was much to write about in the previous episodes other than “Hey, Death the Kid is pretty funny and awesome!” and “Black Star is an idiot!” and “Stein is wicked cool!”, which are all true statements, but not quite what I had in mind. I watched 8 with the intent of actually writing something on it, and it seems to have rewarded that effort.

First, there’s now (finally) some kind of aim to the series, other than “collect a bunch of souls and power up”. The series seemed to lack direction before (which isn’t really something many shounen series don’t do; I’ve always had problems getting into these kinds of series, even though once I do get into them I enjoy them immensely), but now we have a clear antagonist in the form of Medusa (bonus points for placing her at Shibusen as a nurse and having her console Maka before giving Mandatory Evil Grin, I didn’t quite expect that) and what will probably be an important twist in the plot: the contamination/poisoning of Soul with the blood of the demon sword. I’m not entirely sure where this will take us from here on out, and I’m extremely hesitant to try and create a fictional rest-of-the-series that won’t actually jibe well with what the rest of the series actually is. I’m farily confident that BONES has a clever plan for Soul Eater, given that they’re giving it 10th Anniversary series status; it seems fairly unlikely that they’d pick a series for a 10th Anniversary and then spend 51 episodes going nowhere, so I know they’ve got something up their sleeve. I’m not expecting a clone of Fullmetal Alchemist (their other 51 episode series), especially considering that Soul Eater isn’t directed by Mizushima Seiji, but I see tantalizing hints in this episode (especially the latter half) that could turn Soul Eater into a quite impressive series in its own right. I have no idea what the manga is like, and I’m intentionally not reading it, as I don’t think that reading it would be a good indicator for where the series is going from here on out, as I’m fairly certain that the anime will diverge from the manga at some point or another.


Also interesting is that I’m pretty sure Maka’s VA has improved since the first episode, or else I’ve just grown accustomed to her voice. I never really disliked it, as I found it rather refreshing to have Maka look like she does and then not be voiced fairly typically (i.e. slightly cute). There was, of course, general outcry over this on 2ch(an) with hordes of people calling for her to be fired (she wasn’t), presumably because she wasn’t cutesy enough for them. Or something. And I figured she’d improve, as anyone who’s seen Full Moon o Sagashite would know. It has a similar problem, in that they hired Myco, a singer, to do regular voice work for Mitsuki, and I distinctly remember that, for the first 3-8 episodes, Mitsuki sounded fairly scratchy and amaturish (which kind of worked with her character, since she did have throat cancer after all), but that soon went away as she got better at the job, although it was pretty clear they hired her to voice simply because she was doing the songs as well.

Tangent aside, here’s something else that’s struck me: some of the characters, such as Maka, lack pupils. I’m not entirely sure why this is, but it just strikes me as weird. Some characters clearly have pupils, and some clearly don’t. It’s certainly not as visually unappealing as the other great pupilless character in anime, Hyuguu Hinata, but I am wondering whether it’s just a strange stylistic concern, or whether there’s a plot element to go along with it. Time will tell!

I think there were some more things to talk about here, such as Maka having delicious angst (or something) over her own inability to do anything (note: I like angst, since it’s ridiculously unrealistic to expect that a person/character should never have some kind of emotional issue, as if everyone doesn’t have their own self-doubts and private agonies), which seems to spell out some delicious character development for her. I can only hope the same is in store for the rest of our Intrepid Heroes, but they haven’t dropped those hints. Yet.

Real Drive: Sunglasses Are Expensive and Dangerous Business

Them’s some expensive designer sunglasses. Equally funny is how not one, but two pairs of these were destroyed over the course of a day. You know that whole guitar-smashing at the end of a concert thing that The Who started? Imagine Bono crushing his expensive wraparound sunglasses after every concert (and fundrasing event speech or whatever it is he does), and that’s a fair idea of the amount of valuable material destroyed in this episode.

The prevaling theme of the episode, though, in contrast to the Nyamo-centric screenshot up there (I swear, I really can’t help these cute-girl-centric screencaps. It is one of my many “failings”), actually involved her brother, Souta. Souta, of course, is a hard-line, no-nonsense kind of person, and also wants to learn every martial art in the world (for some ungodly reason). Of course, no matter how good he is (and we saw this in episode 4), he still can’t beat Holon, everyone’s favorite Kawasumi Ayako-voiced android. They pressed this point fairly hard early in the episode, before cutting to Nyamo antics revolving around the horrifying debut of the Iron Schwarz (for the record, the better anime name involving the word “Schwarz” is Schwarz Bruder from G Gundam, but it’s hard to top German ninjas). It was with some relish I noted that the Iron Schwarz, despite being an android and all that, obliterated everyone who got in his path, until Nyamo showed up and started dodging his grasps. Effortlessly. “Hah,” I thought, “outwitted by a girl! Take that, hardcore Metal superstar man!”

Of course, this confounds the programming of the Iron Schwarz android, and it chases her all over town until she bumps into her brother and Holon at a Metal fight club cafe, at which point it becomes a do or die showdown between Souta and Iron Schwarz. I also relished the “coincindental” way the announcer for the Metal fight just happened to coincide with the actual brawl going on in the club. Yes, that’s a age-old technique and it’s probably cliche by now, but it still amuses me to no end when things like that happen. At any rate, Holon is quickly dispatched by the rampaging Iron Schwarz, leaving Souta to fend for himself, which he does relatively well.

Except that, in the end, he still owes his victory to Holon, which technically means that he was still unable to best an android in combat unassisted. Holon was simply following her programming, presumably (pretty complicated programming, if you ask me), This raises an intriguing question, namely: in an age of machines, is it truly impossible to survive without their assistance? Souta uses Holon to train/spar, and is deeply resentful of her computerized brain with perfect recall (and perfect calculation), and however nicely her programming phrases her criticisms of Souta’s fighting ability, it still seems to gouge him deeply. Although he did defeat the Iron Schwarz android, he did not do so on his own, and only though Holon turning off the lights (disabling the android’s sensors) was he able to claim victory. Had it been Minamo pressing the light switch, it wouldn’t be quite the same. Since Holon pressed it, Souta’s victory over machine is due in large part to…another machine. People in modern society can’t live without their computers without suffering through a period of psychological withdrawl (I know that I couldn’t live without a computer with an Internet connection at this point), and, in fact, not having or being able to use a computer is a serious detriment to functioning in modern society.

In a society with complex machinery, is it possible to continue life as it was prior to the introduction of the machines? Real Drive doesn’t seem to think so, through this episode, although, now that I think about it, previous episodes as well touched on this a bit. I don’t think it’s necessarily a statement that we should scrap all machines and live as we did before the Industrial Revolution, but it’s an observation of the modern state: when you have machines, you are reliant upon them, and, resentful though you may be of it, they become almost essential to the running of ordinary and extraordinary life. Which isn’t good or bad, it just…is.

I hope that all made some kind of sense. I’m too busy trying to figure out what Holon’s face looked like when she looked miserable for Nyamo. The world may never know.

(P.S.–Listening to the JUDY AND MARY album “Magical Diving” while writing this post. Strangely fitting, if in name only)

Code Geass R2: A Million Zeros is Still Zero

Could this be (in addition to a complicated prank played upon Suzaku) an admission that Zero has somehow become the symbol of the Japanese ethnicity despite not being Japanese himself (although only a select few know that)? There was quite a lot of talk about ethnicity, and what defines ethnicity–is it genetics? Location? A state of mind? A common cause binding a disparate group of people together? These lines are, of course, fading away due to the advent of the Internet and the dreaded buzzword “globalization”, and at any rate, ethnicity is only one factor binding you to a group of people–there’s also people who share common interests with you, people who share similar views on political and social issues, people who share your profession, etc. And I’ve heard it said that sometimes the most fierce nationalists in a given state are the immigrants, the ones who chose of their own free will to live in that particular state.

So what does Zero have to do with all this? Well, look at his name, for chrissakes. Zero. Nothing, right? Thanks to watching Nadia, I’ve seen this same naming device used before (Nemo being a word that means “zero” or “nothing” in a certain language, although I can’t remember if the language was ever identified, and at any rate the name is Jules Verne’s so the name has simply been bent to Gainax’s nefarious purpose), but in Zero’s case, he literally is zero. Nothing at all. He, and the Black Knights, are fighting for a nationality that doesn’t actually exist anymore. The Japanese are the Elevens, but Zero is quite clearly fighting for the Japanese, not the Elevens.

So, therefore, by shoving all the Elevens who showed up for the declaration of the Special Administrative Zone into Zero outfits, Lelouch is admitting that the Japanese don’t exist. They are all Zero. It’s a brilliant manuever, to be sure, and one that seemingly secures a state called Japan that will exist outside the confines of Area 11 (I’m not entirely clear as to whether or not the Special Administrave Zone will apply to these million people after they leave Area 11, but I presume that, no matter what, Japan will become a country again, albeit one under the yoke of Chinese rule), but it’s also a huge political statement: those who have been colonized by Brittania are without a national identity and without any recognition. This ploy is strikingly similar to the methods used by European countries in the colonization of Africa and the rule over the Middle East: when a country annexed a certain territory, the borders of the territory would be drawn not by the ethnic lines of the aborigines, but, rather, would encompass a large variety of ethic groups into a single territory and place them all under the same set of laws and governances. The theory behind this was that it was supposed to prevent the natives from rising against the European colonizers, because they’d be too busy fighting amongst themselves. When the European countries left Africa and the Middle East, they left behind these arbitrary country borders, which leads directly into the conflicts sweeping both regions, from the Rwanda massacre to the complex situatiuon in the Middle East. Brittania hasn’t quite set ethnicity against ethnicity (or maybe they have in the other 10 Areas, we’ll probably never know), but they have removed national identity based on ethnicity. Instead of being the autonomous Japanese people, they instead are the Elevens, citizens under the rule of Brittania, and denied any cultural uniqueness.

Yes, I’ll admit it: Code Geass is like a history major’s wet dream come true, provided that said history major enjoys anime enough to watch Code Geass. I have no idea whether or not this all is Goro’s intent or not, but whether or not he intentionally placed these elements in the series, they’re still there, and that makes Code Geass all the more fun.

Itazura na Kiss: One Step Forward, 6.022×10^23 Steps Back

Although for all we know each of those steps back was as long as a Planck length, so maybe there’s still hope! And there’s still 18 episodes left, anyway. I’m frightened of the remaining episode count. I might destroy my monitor in a fit of passionate rage somewhere around episode 20 if I’m not careful.

As if this series wasn’t complicated enough for Kotoko, now, not only does she have to deal with the teasing/flirting/God knows what Irie dishes out to her, but she now has that one thing shoujo heroines fear the most: a Rival. Matsumoto Yuuko, who is “beautiful” (I find it highly amusing that many of the characters in anime that the characters describe for the viewer as “beautiful” are frequently anything but to my eyes, but I think we’ve already established in previous posts my sheer devotion to Kotoko where Itazura na Kiss is concerned, so this observation may be slightly innaccurate) and smart and intelligent (I won’t doubt those, although whether or not she has any kind of social grace is up for grabs); in short, she is everything Kotoko is not, or at least thinks she is not.

Although things are still in flux at the moment, as the rivalry only seems to extend to the two girls involved in it, leaving Irie totally out of the picture. It was with much relish that I noted that Irie treated every girl with the same disinterested way he treated Kotoko at the start. This tells us one important thing: Irie doesn’t really care for interacting with women, period. Whether it’s because he’s a chauvinist pig, overly concerned with his image as a cool, detached guy, or just simple disinterest in the act of pursuing women, the fact that he doesn’t fawn all over Yuuko–especially when you know he doesn’t know Kotoko is watching, as was the case in front of the tennis club (because if she was watching, Irie would probably be dropping some kind of bad pickup line on Yuuko,  just to spite Kotoko)–simply means that for him to feel any kind of emotion towards Kotoko–the “defrosting” moments–in his own tsundere way means that Kotoko has the edge up on just about everyone else. He only torments Kotoko about Yuuko at home, in private, when no one else is around, which lends a tiny bit more credence to this simply being him expressing…whatever it is he feels…to Kotoko, rather than outright maliciousness. He’s certainly much more playful in how he interacts with Kotoko than the cold cruelty he exhibited at the beginning of the series, which is a milestone if I ever saw one.

Either way, we won’t know what’s going to happen until next episode, which apparently involves dates and stalking and maybe some tennis practice (over one thousand push-ups. I don’t think I’ve ever managed to do a single push-up in my life, as I’ve never figured out exactly how to do them, despite being told multiple times by various gym teachers; imaginging one thousand of the things is enough to give me nightmares for a week), but probably far more of the first two than the third, as I’m pretty sure this isn’t Aim for the Ace!. Whatever happens, though, we still have two-thirds of the series left to go–anything and everything could happen, and frequently does. Despite the seemingly “stereotypical” plot setup (“stereotypical” in quotes because as far as I know, Itazura na Kiss set the stereotype, rather than following it), Itazura na Kiss has managed to surprise me in varying ways, both with the speed of the plot progression and with the actual events themselves.  Which is only a good thing.

Daughter of Twenty Faces: Welcome Aboard the Flying Pussyfoot! (what?)

I’m pretty sure the filename for this episode was labeled “Daughter of Twenty Faces – 06” but it seems like some prankster has swapped an episode of Baccano! for this episode.

At any rate, the overwheming promise the series showed from the start, what with the quaint episodes of “aww, look at Chiko grow up to be a master thief!” seeming fairly far removed from, well, episode six. I’d noticed a ton of hits for “Daughter of Twenty Faces sometime around when episode six hit the usual places, which probably means that I should have squeezed in time to watch it earlier than I am. Of course, now that I’ve watched it, I’m wondering just why I didn’t watch it the intstant it finished downloading (although, since I only managed to get HD working on my ancient computer two days ago, I was able to see this episode in full HD glory, so that was one benefit). And, having seen it, there is now no reason not to watch this series, as everything has been totally upheaved.

In a way, it was expected: the series was moving entirely too fast in terms of developing Chiko from “innocent girl who really likes mystery stories” into “hard-boiled thief” (that alone took a whopping three episodes), and now we’ve got lots of things going wrong all at once: namely, the death of just about every character in the series, ever. I’m pretty sure Ken is alive, though, unless Japan wants to deny me again with men with eyepatches (Lockon ;___;). It’s also not entirely clear whether or not Twenty Faces himself is alive, although being wrapped by flames is certainly an indication that one may be dead. But, this is anime, so there’s always that slight chance that he’s alive. It doesn’t matter, as the actual plot is about to kick in; namely, Chiko searching the world, either to exact revenge upon a world gone awry, or to find any information that will lead her to Twenty Faces. Or something else entierly. We find out next episode, I presume.

Also, you have to hand it to Chiko. Despite spending most of the episode attacked by Angie (with an axe, no less), she is still incapable of sacrificing her humanity when she’s blown away. Twenty Faces spend most of his screentime in this episode either a) dying or b) talking about how horrible the war was and how inhuman people can be and his Plan to Save the World (by Installing Himself in Charge of It), and, of course, his need to have someone to succeed him, which Chiko overhears. She is apparently pretty dense, as she immediately thinks “man I wish I were his successor”, as if she weren’t already. At any rate, by reaching for Angie as she flies off the train towards a certain death, Chiko demonstrates that she understands that just because someone is trying to kill you doesn’t necessarily mean you have to reciprocate, or deny them humanity. Chiko even had a great chance to grab Angie’s axe when it landed right in front of her face, and yet she didn’t: the entire battle was Angie on the offensive and Chiko merely evading her attacks (although I think she got a couple kicks in here and there, but they were defensive kicks). It’s an odd kind of humanity to have, one that restrains you from killing someone who is obviously trying to kill you, and even feeling regret when they die while you’re trying to save them.

What implications this will have for later episode and the rest of the series remains to be seen. Daughter of Twenty Faces was already on my A-list after the first 5 episodes; episode 6 merely cements that it’s going to stay there.

And I still want my Detective Girls. The ED will be hilariously out of place until they show up and start detecting. And they better wear that hat Sherlock Holmes wears, and they better wear it all the time.

Macross Frontier: Why Is The Quarter a Macross-Class Ship When It Is Only 400 Meters Long, You Ask?

This is why.

I am now fully convinced that Kawamori Shouji has lost his mind, and this is a glorious thing indeed. We have: some of the most ridiculous Itano circuses ever. I mean, an Itano circus is already pretty awesome, but the only way they could have made a better Itano circus in episode 7 was by having an Itano circus of missiles that release their own Itano circuses, creating a stream of missiles that crisscross each other in a giant missilegasm. And, as ridiculous as this idea sounds, this is a very possible reality in a Macross series where the main Macross-class ship not only undergoes Transformation but can actually move like a Valkyrie after undergoing Transformation. I mean, seriously. The Quarter is essentially a gigantic Valkyrie, except it’s a Macross. It alwayts bugged me in SDF/7 that, after undergoing Transformation, the Macross ships just kind of floated through space in a ludicrous and fixed pose, which kind of made the whole “battleship turns into a mech” aspect of Transformation fairly disappointing. If I had been a child of the proper age when the Macross part of Robotech was airing on American TV, this episode would have been like a childhood dream come true. It’s somehow more impressive than all the variants upon the Gurren-Lagann towards the end of the series, where it just got bigger and bigger, but that’s mostly because it’s Macross doing it.

Considering the explosion-fest that was episode 7, it might be hard to forget some important points, one being whatever it was that happened with Sheryl’s earring in Alto’s cockpit. It’s unknown whether it was primarily Sheryl’s fault or Ranka’s fault that the music transmitted and created such a powerful reaction in both Alto and Mysterious Humanoid Alien Enemy (who strangely faintly resembles Gavil from Macross 7 for some reason, which is a good thing because Gavil was hilarious). [SPECULATION WARNING] It also, too, could be both of their faults, with the duet triggering some kind of base instict in both human and alien alike, which, of course, since this is Macross and the love triangle is between Alto, Ranka, and Sheryl, means that we could be in for some serious drama later on as Alto perhaps has to perform a difficult balancing act keeping Ranka and Sheryl on good terms with each other while still being true to his feelings (whatever they end up being).

That setup seems somewhat similar to the original SDF, or, well, Do You Remember Love? (since that’s much fresher in my memory), where you had Hikaru having to convince a distraught and heartbroken MInmei that she had to sing to bring an end to the war with the Zentradi. It also sounds much more fun from a straight-up drama perspective, but, as that is entirely speculation, we really don’t know how things are going to proceed from here. I don’t usually engage in prediction of plot patterns, but equally usually when I do do it, I’m rarely dissatissfied with the results, as when a series doesn’t go the way you expect it to go but instead down a different and surprising route it’s more fun than the imaginary series you had in your head (and it also shows that the writers are one step ahead of the viewers), even when the direction taken doesn’t always work out that well.

Whatever happens, though, it will probably be incredibly awesome in the way that only a Macross series can be incredibly awesome. I may prefer Gundam on a personal level, maybe, but as the two really aren’t compatible series at all (Macross is a true bona-fide old-school space opera that’s primarily about having a ton of fun, whereas Gundam strives to be somewhat philosophical to varying degrees of success, and is quite a bit more “realistic”) and therefore shouldn’t be compared quite as much as they usually are, they’re both excellent franchises whose initial series had lasting influence upon anime in general since their broadcast in the late 70s/early 80s. I really don’t think that either one would have caught on with the public if it hadn’t been for the other, as it’s always been said that Gundam created the “real robot” genre, and SDF Macross popularized it (the original Gundam was cancelled, with most of its fame coming after broadcast; Macross was a thorough success practically from the start), so they exist in a kind of symbiotic relationship. I find it criminal how little attention Macross seems to get in the States in general (although I run into far more people who go “Hey, Macross is cool!” than “Hey, Gundam is cool!”, but neither franchise is that popular here), although I can report from firsthand experience that Macross Frontier is getting people who haven’t given the Macross franchise a shot yet the incentive to go back and watch its origins. And this is always a good thing.

Toshokan Sensou: The Only Thing Missing Is a Card Catalog

I love you even when you’re mad, Iku, although I’m sure Doujou loves you more (and, if not yet, soon).

I still don’t care how little sense this series makes. It’s totally awesaome. The best part about episode 4 was the part where, in order to get around the problem of not beling allowed to fire weapons off library property unless given special dispensation to (which brings up the interesting dynamic of the librarians being the defenders in this war, rather than the offense–more later) simply by declaring the building where Iku and the librarian administrator were held the newest branch of the Kanto library. Of course, that was made even better because they managed to storm the entire place without firing a shot, but, hey, we always need more libraries around.

I also highly enjoyed the “discussion” (more like reminder) of the basic prinicples of library operation: do not restrict access to information. Of course, in a real library, this is a somewhat thorny problem, as things become somewhat complicated when you start mixing the public in. Pulbic libraries and major academic libraries that let patrons in from outisde the university, which is most of them; I think I’ve only been to one private library in my life, a horse-focused one in Keeneland (yes, I live in Kentucky; no, we aren’t all hicks, and no, I will not send you moonshine), so it’s probably less of a concern there. Still, in public settings (I work at two of them, so I’ve seen this process twice) there are sensitive issues such as whether or not people should access things such as pornography at a library. The government-run public library has a strict computer user policy where you can theoretically be ejected/banned from the library for accessing such material, although in practicality this almost never happens. The worst most people get is all the librarians sharing a hearty laugh in the back room about it. At the other library, though, it’s not forbidden so much as, if another patron/staff member raises a complaint about what someone is looking at on a computer, security steps in and tells them to find a new computer (and there’s like 50 quintillion of the things in the building).

More relevant to Toshokan Sensou is the rather strange fact that, as mentioned above, the libraries are on the defensive against censors, rather than on the offensive. Perhaps it’s just that we’re all a bunch of pacifists, but it’s interesting from the social commentary position that libraries have to defend freedom of speech and expression from a public (or, in this case, a government-sponsored organization) that strives to censor information. I’m not entirely sure about how one can be on the offensive about freedom of speech, but,.as a librarian, it’s always struck me as strange that people would want to abridge freedom of speech. This is a crazy complicated issue, as the ALA likes to speak out against things such as book burnings, which, if you look at them funnily enough, become a matter of free speech, in that their burning of the book is their way of saying that they abhor this book. More straightforward is the banning of books, which is clearly a violation of freedom of speech. I’m still vastly amused over the hubbub when a few rogue librarians threw a hissy fit over The Higher Power of Lucky after it won a Newbery because the word “scrotum” was on the first page (the scrotum in question was attached to a dog, but this didn’t stop them), and banned the book from their library, declaring it unfit for children. Freedom of speech is awesome and I would totally join an army to protect it, especially if we got to recite these lines here as our own personal Articles of War.

Oh, and just for fun:

What the hell kind of classification system are they using? Maybe I’m just too unfamiliar with the general operating mechanics of the Nippon Decimal Classification, but this doesn’t make any sense at all. First, why are there no decimal numbers and Cutter numbers and, second, why aren’t the call numbers (if one can call such abominations “call numbers”) in numerical order? Do your library research, Production I.G. (Or maybe I just don’t know how things are done in libraries in Japan, as I know I’ve seen that style of call number label in anime before, but it doesn’t seem to be any use to anyone at all)

kure-nai: Tamaki, She of Many Contradictions

Don’t feel sad, Tamaki. I’m sure someone out there will appreciate your slightly strange ways! (maybe)

The best thing about kure-nai has got to be the writing/timing. Matsuo Kou is amazing, and he’s fast entering into my league of Favorite Directors. He’s nailed both the writing (although the scripts are sometimes done by other staffers), but perhaps more importantly, he’s quite good at the most important part of good storytelling: timing. The age-old joke that goes “What’s the most important element to comedy?” “I don’t know, what is th–” “TIMING!” (which is an amazing joke) is both supremely rewarding when pulled off effectively (as Matsuo does in kure-nai) but, as I’ve found in trying to actually tell this joke to people, it’s practically impossible to get right. Granted, it’s partially the job of the voice actors to get the timing down right, but it’s also Matsuo’s job to get them to get the timing the way he wants.

The moments of comedy, however, don’t necessarily overshadow the more serious content. I think the scene in 7 with Tamaki being confronted with her (now ex-)boyfriend while dragging Murasaki around campus is perhaps the best example of this, as well as being a quite harsh gaze into Tamaki’s quite perplexing personality. The moments leading up to this were jovial and humorous, with Tamaki pointing out the flaws in the relationships of everyone in the plaza, even (and especailly) the ones she didn’t know personally. As soon as her boyfriend shows up (I don’t think they even mentioned his name) the scene starts shifting from the comic to the dramatic as it’s revealed that Tamaki, for all her ability to see the flaws in the relationships around her, still can’t seem to see the flaws in her own. I don’t know exactly where, how, or when Tamaki met up with this mysteruous phantom boyfriend of hers (the fact that she had one was a surprise to me), but it was quite clear that Tamaki, for all of her carefree attitude, still is affected strongly by negative reactions. She describes herself as a strong woman, but how strong is she really? And does strength come with a price?

Tamaki certainly seems to be independent and unreliant upon others on the surface (even if she’s fairly lazy, if she’s been skipping class to sit around and do nothing with Murasaki all this time), but this seems to be a facade if something as seemingly trifling for a proper strong-willed independent woman to suffer crippling, if momentary, depression over the loss of a boyfriend (apparently made tragic not by the fact that they broke up, but by the fact that she didn’t break up with him). Is Tamaki truly “strong” then? Perhaps yes, perhaps no; more likely she’s like everyone else and strong in some areas and weak in another. One doesn’t necessarily have to be “flawless” to be “strong”, so, technically, the test to see if Tamaki is strong or not is to see whether or not she bounces back from this rather abrupt change in situation. True strength (and true womanliness, or manliness, or neuterliness, or whatever) comes not from not feeling or even demonstrating pain or suffering, but, rather, from rising up from it. Even the strongest among us cry at times (unless they’ve been replaced by those aliens from Parasyte), but it’s all in how you handle it, and less how you display it.

At any rate, Tamaki is a wonderfully fun character, in both positive and negative moods (I spent much of the first part of the episode laughing at her sardonic way of pointing out things). And (as always) Murasaki continues to be a bundle of adorable, if totally clueless, joy (“You like me, right? That’s why you became a lolicon!”). And, generally, when I’m as impressed by a series as I am at the moment, at this juncture, I have full confidence that the series will end every bit as good as it started.

Itazura na Kiss: I, uh…well, I…WHAT?

Wow. They are definitely not dilly-dallying around this time.

I really, really, really have no idea what is running through Irie’s mind at this moment. Is he playing yet another elaborate prank on Kotoko? Is this his true nature showing through? What is going on? The questions have no end!

If it is Irie playing a dastardly prank on Kotoko for God knows what reason, there could be two things at work here: one, he’s exacting revenge for Kotoko playing the childhood photo card, which was itself in revenge for Irie humiliating her in front of all his Class A friends. Two, and this kind of ties in with the first, he could be doing something even worse: messing with her emotions for his own personal pleasure. Since we really haven’t been given that much of a glimpse into Irie’s actual thought process, save for that one fleeting internal monologue a few episodes ago, the story is entirely from Kotoko’s perspective, so, technically, we are just as clueless as to Irie’s intentions as she is. it’s clear, though, that no matter what the intent of Irie was, the result on Kotoko will be her once again calling into question herself and her feelings. Considering that she was pretty intent on hating him when he dragged her out into the alley, Irie’s actions will only leave her more badly confused.

Of course, if what I mentioned a couple episodes ago and that Kotoko and Irie are merely having an extended, complicated, and delicious flirting session, then Irie is less being a malicious bastard and more extending this flirting to somewhat more serious levels. This, of course, is the fervent hope of all who follow this series, that Irie, deep down inside, really likes Kotoko, yet refuses to show it except occasionally. I highly doubt (this being shoujo after all) that Irie will end up, in the end, being a malicious bastard, but there’s always that remote chance of BAD END.

It’s also fun to look at Kare Kano, or, well, I think it is. Itazura na Kiss manga started in 1990, and Kare Kano started in 1995. What’s interesting is that, in Itazura na Kiss, the focus of the manga is the getting to the relationship, and the whole complicated process to arrive at that lofty destination. In Kare Kano (which arguably took some pointers from Itazura na Kiss, especially for its early parts) reduces the process of “meeting and falling in love” into merely the starting point for the series, changing the focus instead from getting the relationship that you desire to maintaining it. It’s almost like Kare Kano was a reaction to Itazura na Kiss, in some ways reducing the entire series into a volume or two of content, and then proceeding on with the story.

At any rate, I am now burning with desire for the next episode, because things are going to get Complicated with the addition of some kind of other girl (how dare you, Irie) so on top of the already wacky relationship balance between Kotoko and Irie, we get love triangles. Hoo boy. This could get intense, fast.


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 Recently Watched Anime

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

RSS Recently Read Manga

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

RSS Recent Songs

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

a ridiculously long and only partially organized list of subjects


May 2008