Archive for June, 2008

Macross Frontier: “That’s not a Macross. THIS is a Macross.”

I have to sing the original theme song now. Or, well, listen to the Fujiwara Makoto original, followed by the Animetal version. I don’t really know if this is the actual, original Super Dimensional Fortress Macross (last I checked it was sitting on Earth, chillin’ out and trying to mack on the Space Battleship Yamato, who always rebuffs Macross’s advances, considering itself far above such a relationship); the only way to tell is if Alto and Ranka enter it and find U.N. Spacy mugs. The next episode title, however, speaks of Global, who I can only assume is Captain Global, who is manly and awesome and also can never enter the bridge without banging his head on the top of the door. He is probably dead by now, if he didn’t already die in SDF itself (I can’t remember), but, still, the memory lives on.

Of cousre, that’s not the only reason I titled this post the way I did. Macross Frontier has always been pretty Macross from the get-go, insomuch as it is possible for something to be described as “pretty Macross” because the only thing any two Macross series have in common is the name “Macross.” But, for some reason, whether it was just the fact that it’s been a couple weeks since I last saw an episode of Frontier, 11 and especially 12 felt extremely Macross. And, no, silly, it wasn’t because there were dogfights. They helped, but that isn’t all.

I’m guessing part of the reason I feel this way is simply what actually happened–Ranka (who I am pulling for) has spent the past several episodes being completely unable to talk to Alto in any significant manner whatsoever–whether it be because she’s oh so very nervous to talk to him who she adores, or simply because she’s extremely busy with the hectic life of being a newly-discovered idol talent (including taking gravure photos–artbook please?). It’s also quite funny/ironic, that when she should be at her happiest (having had her big break) she doesn’t seem to really be all that happy, despite what the gravure pictures tell you. I half-expected her to crush her Valkyrie cookies, but what actually happened was far more devestating than that.

At any rate, she’s been unable to talk to him, which, of course, has given Sheryl the edge over her in the unconscious “contest” between the two of them (if either of them are even aware that it is a “contest”)–but, of course, in episode 12, Ranka takes the lead back again in style; Minmei, to be precise. She shows up, and totally stops a rampaging army of cultureless Zentradi by singing at them. I, of course, was having Macross 7 flashbacks, and kept expecting to see a Song Booster or someone shouting about Chiba Song Units, or for Ranka to start glowing with an ethereal fire, because that’s how awesome her song is. Heck, the ending theme was Ranka singing Ai, Oboeteimasu ka? If that’s not Macross, I don’t know what is.

Remember the previous post where it’s like “What is going on in Sheryl’s mind?” Now there’s further confusion. Is she aware of Ranka’s affection and crush on Alto, and is deliberately ignoring it so she can sate her own desires, or is she blind to Ranka’s feelings and merely inadvertently acting contrary to Ranka’s own feelings? As revealed in the comments, we don’t know because we haven’t actually gotten a glimpse into her mind, and can only judge her by her actions. Across these two episodes, we have seen Sheryl insist on traveling a long distance despite being obviously very sick, we have seen Sheryl collapse after said long distance due to being very sick, and Sheryl lounging around in her underclothing, which is probably why she’s very sick in the first place.

The only hint we are given as to her own, true feelings, is a fleeting glimpse of her, while bedridden, during Ranka’s triumphant concert (whcih might as well be her “first live”, because, well, she’s not going to actually have her actual “first live” because she’s stuck in the middle of nowhere with only Alto and a rusty Macross to keep her company), looking very upset indeed, to the point of gripping the sheets with what seems to be rage. This would imply (to me) that she feels that she has lost to Ranka somehow, whether it simply being that she showed up out of nowhere and completed the task that she couldn’t fill, due to being very ill, or whether it was because of the deeper thing of getting shown up by Ranka in front of Alto, when she was the one who drug Alto out there in the first place. Is it possible to tell? Will we ever actually know sometime before episode 25? Who knows. I may mock-hate Sheryl elsewhere (although I don’t really recall any instances of this, but I never do), but she is both a) hot and b) an intriguing character to try and figure out. I will leave it up to you to determine which of those two I value more, because hell if I know.


I just want to point out that dangling from the shower stall because you’re too short to see the person in the stall next to you while you’re convinently dumping important exposition on her, the surrogate for the viewer, is the cutest thing ever, made extra-cute by the fact that it’s KLAN KLAN dumping the exposition. I think I will have to make every instance of KLAN KLAN bold and all caps from now on, because she deserves it. Possibly blue, but that’s probably too much effort.

Real Drive: I Have Exactly One Thing To Say About Real Drive 7

And that one thing is: DOG MOE.

But not just ANY old dog.


My thoughts exactly, Nyamo.

He can even take a bath!


Kid tested, Nyamo approved!

So, yeah, episode 7 of Real Drive (I’ve taken to referring to it as Real Nyamo with my friends, if only because Nyamo is awesome) was a ton of fun, and, as a devout fan of dogs, I quite loved it (see above), and its touching message about the relationship between man and animal, but I have to admit that it was a total fluff episode. So you get this post instead. I am going to go watch 8 now. There might be a more serious post to come but not necessarily!!

P.S.: I don’t care what you say, Real Drive is awesome. It may not be the most potent science fiction anime out there (especially not one with Shirow’s name attached), but who cares. It’s a ton of fun. As I commented to a friend earlier today: Reading/watching/listening to something is about entertainment first. Intellectual stimulation is a bonus, but I would like to point out that intellectual stimulation can and frequently does crop up in the strangest places. For instance, I could talk about the inversion of the Holmes/Watson relationship in this episod

Okay that’s enough of that.

The Daughter of Twenty Faces: U.N. Owen Was Her?!

I could not resist this title once it popped in my head. It’s just entirely too appropriate.

Remember all the waffling I was doing over 7 and 8, going “ehhh, this powered armor superhuman thing is…” that pretty much made those posts pretty dumb?

After seeing 10, I no longer care about that kind of thing, Now not only do we have powered suits, we have zombies. Kind of. Maybe it’s more of a spectral/phanatasm thing. Whatever. Given the set-up episodes, I had expected Daughter of Twenty Faces to be a campy, somewhat cheesy, yet still fairly realistic 1930s crime fiction romp, and 7 and 8 kind of threw that for a loop. Now I know the truth: Daughter of Twenty Faces is a campy, somewhat cheesy, and completely unrealistic 1930s crime fiction plus pulp fiction (was there a difference? I can’t tell) romp. And, now that that’s settled, I can get back to enjoying the series properly.

It is now rather obvious that Twenty Faces himself was heavily involved in some really horrible project for the war (which I presume to be WWI, but I honestly can’t tell what time period this is supposed to be set in, so it might be WWII, or it might be some made-up war due to alternate-universe), and, for some reason, the remnants of the project(s) are now chasing after Chiko, trying to get at important information that she presumably doesn’t have (unless they want the location of his treasure trove, which I do think she knows). Ms. Zombie/Phantasm Lady revealed that appanrently she (and presumably other people) have conspired to kill Twenty Faces and his gang of friendly, jovial hoodlums to get access to this information, whatever it may be. Whether it be to destroy it for the good of all humanity (unlikely) or to create an army of unstoppable bioboosted zombie/phantasm warriors (more likely), we’re as unclear as Chiko on this matter. As otou-san commented last…however long ago it was, most of what’s going on in the series now is Chiko finding more out about Twenty Faces as she searches for him.

This leads to several possible endings: Twenty Faces pulls a Willy Wonka and informs Chiko that he was merely testing her, and then all the antagonists from earlier in the series come out of the corner and start applauding and cheering or something utterly bizarre like that. Second is that, as Chiko learns more and more about Twenty Faces’ past, she turns gradually more bitter towards him, so that when she finally does find him, she kills him (and then we possibly have the first ending anyway). I can’t think of other ways this could go, because it’s entirely possible for Twenty Faces to be actually dead, believe it or not. It’s still far too early to tell (and it may wind up that we can’t really tell what’s going to happen anyway, even if we tried really hard).

In other news, observe:

Like a certain other really awesome male this season (if only for entirely different reasons), Ken’s triumphant return is marked (or marred, depending on how you look at it) by his aggressive fashion statement. While I don’t really like this fashion statement (or any other fashion statement, other than the “I am really boring and don’t give much thought to what I put on in the morning so I just wear whatever” statement, which suits me just fine), I must say, Ken is wearing it fairly well there. Perhaps the eyepatch has something to do with it. I do know that I am relieved that we get eyepatch action this season–after being gypped out of it in Gundam 00 because Mizuishima Seiji wanted to play a cruel practical joke on the viewer, I was bemoaning it and was almost ready to start trying to figure out the complicated web that is Matsumoto Leiji’s body of work and open up an entirely new can of worms just to sate my need for manly eyepatches, but, thankfully, Ken has come through (as the OP hinted that he would).

Also (because I love digging up information on Edogawa Ranpo on Wikipedia) the “Detective Girls” of the ED sequence (who are, of course, Chiko, Tame, and Haruka) isn’t something that was made up by the mangaka/the anime writers to cash in on the cute girl thing–well, okay, not entirely. Kogoro Akechi the brilliant detective and antithesis to Twenty Faces (and many other notorious thieves), in addition to naming Chiko a detective (knowing what little I know about Akechi, he’s tailing Chiko the entire time and will show up in the final episode to arrest everyone and generally be really brilliant and smart and stuff), is based on Sherlock Holmes (obviously), and, like Holmes and his Baker Street Irregulars, Akechi had his “Boy Detectives”. So, yeah. It’s not a cashing-in on cute girls at all! It’s a powerful reminder that women are just as competent as men when it comes to the dangerous and deadly business of detecting! Grrl power! Vote ERA! Affirmative action! Woo!

Conclusion: Welcome back to not-unsure-about-at-all land, Chiko. Well, assuming that you don’t somehow wind up on Barsoom punching Tharks around. Well, okay, that’d be awesome, too, but that’s an entirely different genre of pulp.

kure-nai: Changes

“turn and face the strange~~” (Wait, this is an anime blog, shouldn’t I be referencing Base Ball Bear instead? Oh well)

So, after having zero time in the last few weeks to actually watch kure-nai, or much of anything, really–despite being able to keep up with a hectic schedule of class and work and homework and blogging during the school year, either the oppressive heat is making me lackadasical, or working 43-hour workweeks + 12 hours alternate weekends is just taking its toll on me and rendering me a quivering pile of flesh when I get home–I have finally managed to watch the final three episodes of kure-nai today, and, well, it was grand.

The main attraction of kure-nai prior to the drama-bomb that was episode 9 was its mixing of dramatic elements with frequent light-hearted jaunts as we watch Murasaki explore the world outside the Inner Sanctuary. Of course, these last three episodes have focused rather more on the “drama” part of the spectrum, although there have been light-hearted moments in them–but these moments are more tension-breakers than anything else.

With the focus on drama, then, comes even more characterization. Shinkurou, of course, distraught at the forceful removal of Murasaki from his life, in standard Shinkurou manner, decides to try his best to completely forget that it ever happened and simply (and coldly) move on to the next job Benika assigns him, since, as Yayoi explained to him, there’s nothing he can do, because they’re up against the Kuhouins, and to challenge them is death. Of course, once he runs out of things to occupy himself with, namely, cleaning up his dingy, grimy six-tatami apartment, his thoughts drift, unfocused, back to Murasaki and the imperative to rescue her. Unable to give up on Murasaki until he hears what she truly wishes to do, Shinkurou insists on returning to the highly dangerous (and ginormous) Kuhouin estate, which Benika agrees to and drags Yayoi along for the ride.

<entire episode of Shinkurou, Benika, and Yayoi punching people in the face. Also character development>

Episode 12 was, of course, the climactic episode, and there’s several things I wanted to touch upon from it. One is the extremely visible difference in Shinkurou as he went back into the estate after being told the situation was hopeless. Before, even though he was determined to rescue Murasaki from the evil clutches of her family, it was a kind of half-hearted, “can I really do this?” kind of determination. By returning to the estate, Shinkurou has, through some kind of strange, roundabout way, become strong, just as he wanted: he’d been in the estate all night, and knew, first-hand, just how difficult and insurmountable a task it was going to be.

When he goes in the second time, it’s with the full knowledge that he might lose, and that losing would mean his death–but he does it anyway. And this change shows quite clearly when he meets Renjou–he is calm, firm, yet unwielding in his persistence to point out the flaws of the Kuhouin family. The first thing I thought of was, of course, the train scene from an early episode. In that scene, of course, Murasaki confronts a group of hoodlums and starts moralizing at them rather loudly, forcing Shinkurou to grab her, apologize, and accept the sputum flung in his direction. Instead, here, he’s doing exactly what Murasaki did back then–taking a firm stance on something and standing his ground, social order be damned. At this point, I don’t think it would have mattered whether he beat Ryuuji in a fistfight or not–he has become strong, which was part of the reason for Benika foisting the Murasaki assignment on him anyway (presumably; she never really said this, I don’t think).

Of course, the other thing I noticed was the exact manner in which the Kuhouins were taken down–through the Houzuki stanceless fighting style. I’m not sure that there’s ever been any kind of explaination as to the history between these two families, except that they share some kind of connection, and that they don’t really care for each other that much. It seems strangely appropriate, then, that the fighting comes to a close (for a while, anyway) with the Houzuki fighting style, directly after Renjou talks about how disgusting and vile the Houzukis are. We know the truth, of course–they have a deadly history, yes, but I find it hard to conceive of Yuuno killing anyone, monetary compensation or no–but I found it strangely appropriate that the Kuhouins should be defeated in such a manner. Especially when the direction blends the two fights of Shinkurou and Yayoi into that series of alternating-yet-connected shots (I have no idea what to call that, but it was a great touch).

And, of course, we can’t forget Shinkuorou’s arm blade when we talk of things such as this–the arm blade was installed by the Houzukis at Shinkurou’s behest, and it’s been a burden to him throughout the entire series–literally from the first scene. Shinkurou had the blade installed because he wanted to become stronger, and it didn’t make him stronger–one might say that it made him weaker. But, as if to drive home his new-found strength, he defeats the Kuhouins without the use of the blade, with the blade only appearing in a fit of rage while trying to protect Murasaki. Of course, now that the blade is public knowledge, Shinkurou admits his own faults to Murasaki, who makes the comment that the two of them are essentially the same. Although, the argument could be made that both of them have recognized the faults of themselves, their surroundings, and have already taken a large step towards making themselves better.

In conclusion: Don’t believe in yourself, believe in the little girl who believes in you!

Or something like that.

That was a joke.

Please laugh.


Itazura na Kiss: Alas, The Title Was Literal, Not Metaphorical

I would like to use the screencap comment to point out that this is exactly how I felt after the events from 10:03 to 10:12. Yes, I, like everyone else, was pranked, and pranked hard. On the other hand, it’s now quite cool in my room, what with the new hole in the wall and all…

Of course, they weren’t entirely a prank–the shot of a rather unusually pensive Yuuki after Kotoko woke up suggests things that will certainly give the stray shotacon lover fodder for a slew of fanfiction. (Not that there’s a problem with this; fantasy is fantasy and no one can really take that away from you, but I’ll be damned if they won’t try). Of course, it doesn’t have to imply that Yuuki is feeling burning puppy love for whatever reason (I expect various things happened in the six months that the first 4 minutes of this series covers, but probably it’s just because of the minor fact that she saved his life), as it may simply mean he realized the extent and honesty of Kotoko’s feelings for his brother. Given the context, it’s more likely the former, or at least a cruel prank on his part. Or something. It’s an interesting development, even if it ends up being fairly useless in the long run. Maybe we’ll have epic sibling rivaly later or something.

Other things: now that we can add “heart attack” to the list of “medical ailments used as plot devices”, and with the development in the previous episode and this one of Kotoko suggesting to Irie that he become a doctor, followed by him actually transferring to the medical school, suggest that perhaps they’re not haphazardly placed plot devices designed to create drama and tension. Rather, it seems that it’s an angle to develop Irie’s character further–since he’s decided that he’s going to be a doctor, the medical incidents serve to set that development up at the same time that they’re creating drama and tension earlier on. It’s an interesting development, since the now-previously goalless Irie has a goal (gasp!) that he has to work hard for (double gasp!) and this creates tension with his father (triple gasp!), giving him a much harder time of life than he’d had before Kotoko show up–and this time, it’s technically not her fault. Perhaps his time spent with Kotoko and dealing with her (adorably) klutzy personality has, in a way, prepared him to take the next step towards making something out of his life. It’s certainly telling that he’d take a random, off-chance suggestion Kotoko made to heart and actually realistically consider it and then acheive it. And it’s also telling that he’d go out of his way to rescue a much maligned Kin-chan, who has never been anything more than a pure annoyance for him. That simple act of going after Kin-chan tells us, the viewer, that Irie, despite his frostiness, is actually a quite kind and thoughtful person. When he wants to be. When it suits him. I think.

And that brings me to a probably obvious point to make about the storytelling in Itazura na Kiss: the series literally would not work without major changes in nearly every aspect of the series if the viewer was ever given a direct glimpse into the mind of Irie. The fact that, for the most part, from a “perspective” position, we’re only allowed into Kotoko’s head, and not Irie’s, means that the tension, and therefore the enjoyment, stems from the suspense of not knowing exactly what that wily Irie is up to this time. Other series similar to this have, of course, focused on the thoughts of both the male and female leads–Kare Kano, which I’ve already brought up before in comparison to Itazura na Kiss before, is but one example–but they’ve all had different focuses than Itazura na Kiss. In Itazura na Kiss, the viewer is left to sift through the evidence presented and try to get at the heart of Irie’s character and figure out what he’s really all about, which, of course, it meted out to you in controlled doses so as to keep you hooked just enough to want to keep watching/reading.

But this is exactly how fandoms of a particular series or franchise work: you don’t spend time giving your viewers all the details, you get stingy on them and leave them to construct their own theories/fantasies/analyses/whatevers. It’s the difference between a work that has an active fandom, and a work that doesn’t have any fandom to speak of. Fandoms crop up around things that have enough loose ends throughout a run, or a broad enough universe, or any of a few dozen factors I can’t quite think of at the moment. The development of a fandom seems to be the difference between a “popular” series and a “successful” one, or even the difference between a “successful” series and an “unsuccessful but generally regarded as underrated” series. Developing fandoms around individual works/series/authors seems to be the name of the game in pretty much every literary endeavor these days, so it’s not restricted to anime exclusively.

Itazura na Kiss seems to be an example of a series that hit the sweet spot for fandom-generation–one that would ensure that, eight or nine years after the death of the original author, the anime adaptation would not only introduce the series to a new set of fans who might have missed out on the series back in the 90s, but also provide a somewhat-canon conclusion to the series for the loyal fans from the olden days. And it’s easy to see why, considering the point about Irie I just made–it’s almost like the entire thrust of the series isn’t about Kotoko at all, but about Irie.

Or, well, that’s how it seems to me. I think my previous posts reflect this. They feature far more Irie analysis than Kotoko moe-ing over, which honestly took me by surprise. It’s just another reminder that, contrary to what the anti-cute-girl coalition might want you to believe, cute girls (if, in fact, cute girls are your thing) are like icing on the cake of an already fun and entertaining series, however you may define “fun” and “entertaining”. And boy, do I love icing. Especially cream cheese icing on carrot cake.

The Much Belated Aria Post

This is a screencap of Akari in the most action-packed, heart-pounding moment of Aria thus far: a man, in a boat powered by an outboard motor, falls asleep and turns on the motor, sending him careening towards Akari’s gondola, where delicate glass waits to be broken into shards. Not to fear, fans of both Akari and expensive glassware! Akari deftly dodges the dangerous dinghy with a kick of her foot, and your heart rate can now return to its normal rate when watching Aria.

Aria is, as I expect you to know already, because you’ve probably watched far more of the series than I have at this point, in the top tier of slow-paced, slice-of-life, iyashi-kei anime. I won’t say it’s the best because that’s a judgement I cannot make, for me or for anyone, but it’s on par with the giants of the genre such as Kamichu! and the aforementioned Yokohama Kaidachi Kikou, and <insert your favorite slice-of-life series here that is not one of those two since I don’t think it’s fair to make further judgements that rest solely on taste>. And, yes, I know I’m painfully behind, since I’m only on episode 11 of Aria the NATURAL at the moment. A friend of mine has coined a term for this phenomenon: we are the Bad Aria Fans, in that we like, support, and enjoy Aria, but somehow we cannot actually watch it.

At any rate, another friend picked up the series from the start recently and started pressuring me to watch more of it, because, well, when you’re watching something, and you are liking it, you want someone to share the experience with who has seen the series before or is watching it alongside you, and so I dug out my copies of the NATURAL (they were sitting right on the hard drive, collecting virtual dust bunnies) and picked it back up again. I had started watching the original series waaaay back in 2005, when the first season aired, and loved it from the start, but, alas, fell behind almost immediately, with the excuse that I was saving the episodes “in case of an emergency need of a relaxant”. I made it all the way through a few episodes of the NATURAL before attention shifted and it got put on the “I will watch this…later” list, that is the doom of many things (I still need to finish watching Legend of Galactic Heroes, which I bring up only because of the sheer discrepancy between mentioning Legend of Galactic Heroes in a post ostensibly about Aria–or is it a discrepancy!?!?!), but now I am somewhere roughly in the middle of the run of the entire franchise thus far (and likely ever, given how the ORIGINATION is apparently going) and I am quite glad that TRSI has picked up this series for domestic release and that I already preordered a copy of the first season (I am fairly certain that, for the last three or four release announcements by TRSI/Nozomi Entertainment, I have either been the first preorder, or at least in the first twenty-five or so. Yes, I am hardcore. Yes, you can read “hardcore” as “insane”).

The thing that caught my eye and prompted me to make this post was, of course, the overall themes of the series. Yes, there’s the obvious one that jumps right out at you and conks you on the head with a plastic toy mallet: “it’s okay, take life easy, no rush, just sit back and enjoy a cup of tea/coiffee/hot beverage of choice and watch the clouds.” And that’s a pretty good theme, all things considered; we live in a society where everything is about rushing through everything as fast as we possibly can–you’re kind of looked down upon for not getting out of college in four years (even though NO ONE can get out of college in four years anymore); you have no time to sit down and relax and do something you enjoy because you’ve got to ferry one child to soccer practice, the other to band camp, and the remaining child to the mall so that she can spend 90 minutes in the clothing stores trying things on and asking what you think of them and then not buying anything because she forgot her money at home and just now realized this.*

But I, of course, think there’s something else going on under the surface. One thing that’s a bit unusual about watching Aria spread out like this means that, due to personal shifts in how I look at anime, and also spending time thinking about things, I go from watching it purely for hedonistic pleasure to watching it and starting to notice little things. And this particular thing I’ve noticed has a lot in common with the aforementioned Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou: and it’s the effect of technology on the human condition.

Consider: Aria takes place in a future where mankind has amassed the technology, resources, and other things needed, and terraformed Mars, melted the polar ice caps, and spent effort recreating the now-lost city of Venice on this wild new frontier planet and called it Neo-Veneiza. And, despite the very science-fiction backdrop (the climate controlling floating island, the underground power reactors), the series, for all intents and purposes takes place in 19th centuiry Venice. I mean, it’s not like Amano Kozue had to create her own fictional setting for Aria–she could have just plopped Akari, Aika, Alice, and the rest of the As straight in the middle of the actual 19th century Venice and the series would have been pretty much the same.

But she didn’t. Instead, what we get is a vision of the future where technology has progressed to the point that it’s almost looped around backwards. It’s unknown what the situation on Man-home (nee Earth) is at the moment, because we’ve never been there, but I presume that it’s much more technologically developed than Aqua is at the moment. And, yes, it’s also been mentioned almost every episode that Neo-Veneiza serves more as a tourist destination than anything else–yet people choose, of their own free will, to live here, relatively simply, with a few “modern” conveniences , but mostly…as people have always lived.

You would think (or at least most science fiction authors would want you to think) that the future is a place full of chrome and buttons and switches and laser beams and other exciting stuff, but Aria instead invites you to consider a future where people live like they do now, except in the future, and on Mars. Is it a statement that, no matter how advanced technology gets, and how much time passes, that people will continue to be people, and appreciate the same things? Is it a statement that, eventually, humanity will be freed of its need for new and better technology, and take what bits of it they need to survive and communicate with people, and do the rest themselves? Is Neo-Venezia populated by a bunch of far-future neo-Luddites?

Or did Amano Kozue just want to draw a lot of cute girls and draw their daily life of them being cute and charming and reminding everyone that life at one’s own pace is a life worth living (and didn’t want to piss off people in Venice too badly so she set it in Neo-Venezia which is totally not Venice because it’s on Mars and so therefore it is not the same and please direct your complaints elsewhere)? It’s like the Tootsie Pop question: the world may never know.

My thoughts at the end of this post, Akari. My thoughts exactly.


* Side-note: despite being on the “child” end of this and not the “parent” end of this, this latter example seriously pisses me off as it has become practically impossible to ever spend time with my family in a meaningful way, and by “meaningful” I mean “doing something other than watching trashy TV series/movies” but that’s a personal gripe, and that’s why this sentence is down here instead of up there.

** This may have been touched on before by someone long before I even paid attention to the anime blogohedron (I refuse to call it a “sphere” because “hedron” is a cooler sounding shape word), or even after, because admittedly I pay pretty low attention to the blogohedron, which I probably shouldn’t do as a proper member of the blogohedron but that’s something else entirely and you can now start to berate me for my horrible actions. I prefer damp noodles for my flagellations, though.

The Daughter of Twenty Faces: The Legacy of Twenty Faces

Alas, poor Chiko, hearing the devestating truth about Twenty Faces’ actions.

Actually, this was a fairly good episode, all things considered–the worry about the crazy biomechanical steampunk armored powered suit thing wasn’t overdone too terribly bad, as I had feared, and it seems like, for the most part, that will no longer be a factor in the rest of the series, unless the other rogue superpowered doctor gets her own powered suit–but that will be unlikely, as it seems the suit was mostly intended to keep the wearer alive, or something.

From the very first of the episode after the OP, I got extremely faint vibes from the situation the researchers placed themselves in with (and now for something completely different) the rather little-known book A Bridge of Years by Robert Charles Wilson. I am basing this comparison solely on the fact that A Bridge of Years features an antagonistic character who a) wears a powered suit of armor b) is warped by drugs into being a ruthless killing machine despite the fact that they’d really rather not be ruthless killing machines and c) the process of being turned into a ruthless killing machine is actively eating away at their life and slowly killing them. There’s no other reason to cite this occurence of themes, as in both stories this character plays a relatively minor role (I think in A Bridge of Years you didn’t even see this character until at least halfway through the story, and the protagonist never met him until the climax; but, then, he really wasn’t a major part of the story despite getting featured on the cover of the copy I read, so…), but it’s amsuing to note the similarities, and also it serves as an excuse for me to state that everyone should go read a couple of Robert Charles Wilson’s recent books, because…

Okay, well, I’ll shut up now.

Back to the topic I’m actually supposed to talk about. I’m fairly certain that this business with Twenty Faces being a noble warrior out to undo the mistakes of his past is entirely made up for the purposes of the manga and isn’t necessarily a reflection of the original stories by Ranpo, as I highly doubt that Ranpo would have been interested in actively pursuing that route with his stories, which were less about making war philosophy and more about making the reader turn the pages as fast as they could. This is, of course, the case with any original work that bases itself in a pre-existing universe, or uses pre-existing characters to enhance a story/widen the audience/make everyone recall the good old days. I’m not going to be in any position to judge whether Ranpo is tossing and turning in his grave at the moment, but we do know that his family/body of representatives approved the use of Twenty Faces in both the original manga and this adaptation–but the trustees of Agatha Christie did the same for Great Detectives Poriot and Marple, and I’m pretty certain that Christie would have been somewhat upset to see Hercule Poriot solving the dangerous and deadly mystery of a missing pearl necklace, even if it was supposed to be a kids’ series. To which I say: Detective Conan is a kids’ series, and that has lots of grisly murders and decapitations and whatnot. So there! Nothing stopping you from adapting Murder on the Orient Express into an anime (or, if you want to catch the Touhou crowd, adapting And Then There Were None).

However you slice it, the 2000s are not exactly the 1930s anymore, and our pulp tends to be a bit less..visceral…than pulp from those days, and Daughter of Twenty Faces is quite clearly pulp in nature (more so than most other anime, I think. And there’s nothing wrong with pulp, or melodrama, or whatever you want to call it, because it’s awesome), so it’s clearly being true to its source material in that sense. And so, in that sense, it’s understandable to give Twenty Faces a better motive to go around stealing things that isn’t “because stealing things is cool and I am awesome and I can outwit you coppers”, even if it’s a fairly standard plot device used in anime. They did hint at Twenty Faces’ past a bit in the early episodes, but it’s still rather shocking to hear him involved in research for a biological superweapoin. His response to this poses a parallel with Tetsujin 28-go, which I am also currently watching in my own slow manner–like Professor Kaneda, Twenty Faces has seen what kinds of horrors weapons research can bring, but, unlike Kaneda, decided to change things…by stealing lots of things. I think there was some kind of logic to that that I’ve since forgotten, but it’s not like it matters much anyway. Given the way this episode turned out, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the rest of the episodes are a sequence of revelations about certain elements of Twenty Faces’ past. I hate to invoke Monster as a comparison here, but my guess is Daughter of Twenty Faces will progress like Monster, exscept not because it isn’t Monster because Urasawa Naoki had nothing to do with it and I really want to watch Yawara! sometime so I can figure out if there’s some kind of massive conspiracy in the judo world that Yawara has to fight against using her judo powers.

I’m still giving points to this series simply because it’s trying something relatively different (in a kind of standard way) and getting away with it relatively well, even if part of the reason it’s getting away with it is Hirano Aya, but such is life.

Itazura na Kiss: BUBBLES! BUBBLES!

This episode was amazing enough to send my fingers flying for the nearest chat client so that I could spam my keyboard for a few seconds in order to properly convey the emotion my inner fangirl was experiencing at the moment. The temptation to do the same for this post is remarkably high, however, I feel that I must exercise self-restraint and restrict myself to a single sentence. Here it is:

fkldhfldas fsabfjsa fkjas fsda fdjas fjkdas fds fsdakifsjklfaslo flasnfpoas fsalkf m,lafs!

I feel much better. Note that I was doing this long before the end of the episode. When the bubbles popped up, it was almost too much to bear. Bubbles, sparkles, bubbles with sparkles, and sparkles with bubbles (there is a difference) are my shoujo weaknesses, and I don’t remember an instance of them cropping up in Itazura na Kiss before now, but any previous appearance of the legendary shoujo visual trope has been completely topped by this one.

Er, anyway. Illness seems to be the plot device du jour in Itazura na Kiss, since we already had Kotoko suffering from appendicitis. I was like “Appencitis again?”  when Irie mentioned it to Kotoko as a possible cause for Yuuki’s symptoms, but, fortunately, Tada Kaori is much more subtle than that. From a storytelling perspective, it was almost like she (and/or the writers for the anime version) were playing a literary prank on the viewer by baiting and switching the plot devices. I for one applaud such attempts at meta (?) humor, regardless of whether or not the intent was to actually make meta (?) humor.

Although Matsumoto had a minimal presence in this episode, the proceedings of the scene in which she was featured leaves me increasingly convinced that Irie is using her as a tool, to what end I do not know. Perhaps she is simply a pawn in the “tease Kotoko” game, or perhaps he’s simply too disinterested to really tell her he’s not that interested in her at all and lets her cling all over him because he’s, well, he’s Irie, and that’s what Iries do best. She is clearly superfluous, however: Kin-chan, of course, stirs up trouble (because he’s Kin-chan, and that’s what he’s there for) and insults Irie and Matsumoto by calling them a “good couple”, which, of course, Matsumoto repeats, because evidently she’s far too obsessed with how cool and awesome she is with a boyfriend like Irie to actually care about anything else. Irie–and this is one of those subtle things he does that gives me these kinds of impressions–simply detaches himself from Matsumoto’s grasp and gets lunch from the counter. They didn’t even make a huge deal of this. It just…happened. Like it was business as normal. If this has been a adaptation from an Ikeda Riyoko manga, that moment would probably have merited at least a triple-take and perhaps even a quadruple-take, but Ikeda Riyoko is from the 70s, and Itazura na Kiss is from the 90s. Things are done a bit differently. The fact that they don’t call your attention to these little things Irie does–either through camera tricks, the characters pointing things out or having reactions to these things (well, okay, Matsumoto had a bit of a reaction)–makes them all the more fun when you notice them. The biggest things in this series aren’t always the things that get the most screentime, no matter how awesome it was when Irie hugged–nay, embraced–Kotoko after saving Yuuki from the horrors of…whatever he had. (the actual disease name sounded as painful as the disease itself, so I promptly forgot it)

In conclusion, it’s fairly surprising that it’s only episode 10 and we’ve gotten this much relationship progress. Yes, they’re cramming the manga into the anime as best they can, but I have no idea how many volumes of manga the anime has covered so far, and I’m sitting here thinking “This was episode 10, so there’s 16 more episodes to go in this series…what the hell is going to happen in them?” It’s not a bad thing, as it’s always refreshing to know that you’re watching something that, despite barreling down the plot at mach 5, still has the potential for a lot of surprises in store, rather than the remaining episodes being a somewhat predictable coast to the conclusion. That seems to be Itazura na KIss’s big strength thus far, this sense of unpredictibility–and it is this that I think I will use to arbitrarily defend my rating of 9 for it over on MAL. Yes, the 9 was assigned entirely based on the fact that it hit that shoujo sweet spot, but the more the series runs, the more I feel it actually deserves that rating genuinely, as opposed to simply being defined as a hedonistic knee-jerk rating. It’s easy for me to see why this series was so popular in the 90s–it gets everything shoujo is supposed to do right, adds its own spin on it, and manages to be extremely well-written on top of that. It’s not the most original of premises–although I wouldn’t call it cliched, because, well, in all likelihood, it set the cliche–but, as mentioned in the previous post, originality of concept doesn’t matter.

And, as a closing thought, here’s the cover for the Kataomoi Fighter ED single (by GO!GO!7188, who apparently refuse to disclose what their band name actually means; something involving 557188, no doubt), which you all probably already have and have seen if you have the single in a tangible or intangible format, but here it is, in all its reduced-size-to-fit-the-theme-of-this-blog glory:

I about had a heart attack when I saw this. Stop it, Yamazaki. Stop it. I don’t want to have my cause of death listed in the paper as “Overdosed on Itazura na Kiss.”

Real Drive: The Importance of Tangibility

Before we begin, I’d like to take the time to say something extremely personal. I don’t know who you are, Dear Reader, but I would like to share one of my innermost secrets with you at this time. This secret is, this image is amazingly hot:

Words fail me. It’s like Production I.G. wanted to make Nyamo porn just for me.

If you’ve watched this episode, and have actually read a post of mine before, then this should come as absolutely no surprise to you at all. I was wondering what was up with the book in the epilogue/preview of last episode, and, well, now I know.

In all honesty, literary pornography aside, episode 6 was amazing. For one, the basic message of the episode–the contrast between being able to read a book in a few seconds with the asistance of a cyberbrain (as Nyamo’s friends do, when they even bother to engage in reading) versus that of actually reading a physical copy of a book over the course of a few hours, days, or weeks being the main theme. The message, of course, was quite clear: yes, digitization gives you the ability to read a book in a few seconds–but if you’ve read an entire book in a few seconds, can you really have been said to have read it? What is the difference between simply knowing how the plot of a story goes, and actually feeling the plot, so to speak?

I can think of an example in my own life, actually. A common example I use to illustrate my distaste for the majority of what I will call “respected literature” for want of a better term is this snippet: “I read War and Peace [Tolstoy] in a weekend and got nothing out of it. I read His Dark Materials [Philip Pullman] over the course of a month and a half and walked away emotionally moved.” And, yes, that is true, I read War and Peace in a weekend, if you can call the butchering I gave it “reading” (I certainly don’t, except in the most general sense), although even then it was still the only thing I did that entire weekend, because the book is 1400 pages long. I did, however, understand enough of it to appreciate this brilliant synopsis of the book, so I guess that’s something.

By contrast to this insult to quality literature (my tongue is very firmly in my cheek as I write those words in relation to War and Peace), His Dark Materials, which is a paltry 1200 pages of YA literature, absorbed me completely and left me an emotional wreck at the end, after being taken on a rollercoaster of emotions over the course of those 1200 pages.

And, now, the point of all that book talk: the contrast between “reading” a book via the cyberbrain in a few seconds, and Nyamo reading the novel Love Letter over an indeterminate period of time is exactly like my reading War and Peace versus reading His Dark Materials. Simple knowledge of the plotline isn’t enough to make one appreciate the story of a work; you may be able to tell me exactly who did what when, but if you didn’t comprehend it, does it really matter?  You know what happened, but you haven’t grasped its importance. Or, lacking importance, you’ve also missed out on something much greater: emotional impact. Just because you know, when you sit down and fire up Cowboy Bebop (assuming we’re living in a world where there are people who watch anime enough to follow this blog or, barring that, follow Real Drive who haven’t already seen Cowboy Bebop, whether they wanted to or not) that Spike dies in the end, does that simple act of knowledge really ruin you for the whole 26 episode series? You may know that he dies, but it’s likely that, even when you reach that moment, you can still find it powerful (assuming Spike’s death was actually powerful for some people, which I don’t think it was, but this is for the sake of argument so please pretend that it did) despite knowing that it was going to happen anyway.

Personally, I’ve never really had a problem with being spoiled for things–anime, books, movies, whatever. I think I developed an immunity to this when I’d constantly check the last few pages of a book to get a total chapter count/page count (so I could see how many more chapters/pages I had left to read) and would inevitabily have important plot revelations leap off the page and smack me in the face. The first few times this happened, it did kind of make me mad, but it kept happening and I just got used to it. The important thing in something isn’t what happens–it’s how it happens. You lose the element of surprise, it’s true–but you’re surprised when you hear the spoiler in the first place, so isn’t that enough? And knowing what happens in the end allows you to better see how the writers set things up for that exact moment, which, if you like that kind of thing, can be quite enjoyable.

If you are still reading this post, there is a possibility you may want to engage in the activity displayed by Nyamo in this here screenshot.

To disrupt this tangent that has little or nothing to do with the episode at hand, the other theme the episode touched upon was the power of physical objects to connect people, which is what I promised to talk about in the title of the post and then didn’t (I will make the argument that “tangibliity” in the title has two meanings–physical and emotional tangibility. There! Post title still relevant!), but this was also extremely important, perhaps even more important than the bit I ranted about above. The novel concept of the ending of the novel Love Letter, with its blank piece of paper to write your own love letter to the one you adore after reading the book (the proper, slow way, which is the only way to read it because the author’s family refuses to digitize it) struck me as quite innovative, and it makes me wonder if someone has actually done this in real life.

Love Letter itself stands as a testament to the power of literature and stories in general to move people emotionally. I’m pretty convinced, despite not knowing a thing about the book at all, that Love Letter is a fairly typical romantic drama book, although one in the general fiction “genre” and not the romance genre, complete with all the tropes one would expect from such a novel. Assuming that the plot is extremely cut-and-dried, what matters to the reader isn’t whether or not the story is plotted well, or that the characters are believable, or any number of things that book critics like to complain about–what matters to them is that they’re swept up in a book, however typical, that’s executed so well that they finish it and take advantage of the gimmick of the novel to write a love letter to their beloved. And that highlights another aspect of storytelling that needs to be brought up: it doesn’t matter how “original” or “creative” a premise is–because every premise for every story in the world can be boiled down to a sentence or two that makes it seem horribly cliched, trite, and generic–but how well the execution is for that premise. I find people falling into this trap all the time–“this premise is stupid and dumb so I’m not going to watch/read it,” and every time it happens it’s like “yes, it may be a ‘stupid and dumb’ premise, but that’s every premise ever.” It’s not the concept that should be labeled generic, it’s the execution. It’s the difference between Da Capo and true tears. It’s the difference between Special A and Itazura na Kiss. (note that these examples are from my perspective; your mileage may vary)

One final note, and then I promise I’ll shut up: it looks like Real Drive is getting set up to be an episodic character-development/short-story type series, as opposed to having a grand overarching plot structure. I quite like the way it’s being handled at the moment, and, while I wouldn’t mind a grand overarching plot, I don’t feel it’s necessary for this series, as it’s quite good at doing what it’s doing right now.

Macross Frontier: The Legend Begins Here!

It’s okay, Ranka! There is nothing to be afraid of when you’re on the big screen!

This was an amazing episode. For one, it was the obligatory Macross “characters film a movie” episode; SDF had Shao Pai Lon (with acting and awesome theme song provided by Minmei), 7 had The Story of Lin Minmei (with Minmei played by Mylene Jenius), and now F decides to make an extended reference to Macross Zero in its movie episode (I was highly amused by the Macross Zero logo replacing the Frontier logo briefly on the second part of the eyecatch, and the credits of the movie being the credits of the Macross Frontier episode, and not the movie. We already got the fourth wall breakage with Ranka’s very own personal blogfrom the future (see right column), and now they’re doing this).

On top of this amazing moment in Ranka Lee history, however, is the rollercoaster ride Sheryl sent me on for the entire episode. At first, of course, she pops up, and Miss Macross Miranda supplants herself upon the legendary idol from the Macross Galaxy and…is promptly ignored as Sheryl walks right past her to ask how Ranka is doing. It almost seemed like a deliberate move to simultaneously aggravate the vain victor at the same time as she reaffirms her support for Ranka. “Oh,” I thought, “that was a brilliant move by Sheryl” and I started to wonder whether she really, honestly was interested in supporting Ranka, and was completely unaware of the effect her dalliances with Alto were having on the lovestruck Ranka.


Then she kissed Alto–in front of Ranka–and played it off as a joke. At that point, I had literally no idea what was running through her mind, or whether she had a mind and wasn’t running on a tank full of crazy. Of course, Ranka sees her kiss Alto, and promptly marches off to announce to the director that, yes, she will play the part of Mao, thank you very much…which, of course, means that she gets to partake of her very first kiss with Alto. And then, with the heat of the spotlight focused on her at the premiere, Sheryl offers words of praise and encouragement towards Ranka.

It was like a light bulb went on in my head.

It’s entirely possible that, on some level, whether conscious or unconscious, Sheryl really is acting with the best interests of Ranka in heart–she’s just doing it a la Sheryl, which of course means some seriously tough love for Ranka. It may have just been this isolated incident (I would have to go back and rewatch previous episodes to judge this more honestly, but I will be paying attention for it in later episodes), but in this episode, it almost seems as if Sheryl kissed Alto not only to tease him, but to intentionally motivate Ranka to get over her wishywashiness and take the all-important first step towards stardom. And she may not have even done it intentionally, or maybe she did–as I said above, her innter workings are somewhat of a mystery, and it’s unclear how much she is working for herself and how much she is working for others and oh God my brain it’s melting and running out my ears make it stop

Regardless of the motive behind Sheryl’s actions, one thing is clear: because of them, Ranka Lee is now a minor celebrity. And with the status of minor celebrities comes…photo shoots! I am now hoping with fervency that Kawamori Shoji, since he’s already busy breaking the fourth wall whenever he can (notice the addition of the Sheryl Nome and Klan Klan blogs on the right, as well) will see fit to authorize the release of the Official Ranka Lee Photo Album to her throngs of adoring fans (i.e. me and the 99,999 clones I created of myself for occasions where multitudinous throngs are needed to accomplish something of importance to me and keep in cryogenic storage in a secret underground labratory protected by a natural labyrinthine network of caves). Not for my own personal use, mind–for science.


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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a ridiculously long and only partially organized list of subjects


June 2008