Archive for July, 2008

In “Defense” of Not Knowing What the Hell “Good” and “Bad” Actually Are


I am totally circle nine. Totally.

So, between Real Drive episodes, I noticed on MAL that IKnight had finished watching Figure 17, which is one of my absolute favorites (I believe it played an early instrumental role in causing me to be into the anime thing long-term) and went to check my RSS feed to see if he’d posted a post about it but instead I noticed between the Strike Witches tea post (I actually drink 100% juice when I want flavored drinks these days, but 90% of the time it’s water) and the totally awesome Legend of Galactic Heroes post (made, of course, because he could) was this post I’d somehow skipped over because I had no idea what “axiology” was, and also because I was at work last I checked the site. I clicked and read, and (of course) it was related to the complicated mess that he and I have actually discussed (never, by the way, talk to me, unless you like getting doctoral theses out of a simple 10-word question that could have been more simply answered “yes” or “no” or “you are an idiot”; if you do, have at it) and things that go through my mind all the time, namely: what is “good” and what is “bad”?

I don’t think I’m at a point in my life where I can tell you the difference. Sure, I can say that Musashi Gundoh was a horrible, awful, terrible series (which is why it has so many 10 votes on every user-ranking database ever), but anything less than that starts to get nebulous. Where does “bad” end and “good” begin? Is there even a recognizable line? Can it even be objectively determined?

I mean, take a look at my MAL anime list (ATM Machine) (this is actually a hilariously unsubtle attempt to raise my anime list views, because I like numbers growing bigger for some reason), I’m glancing over it and almost none of them make any kind of sense to me at all. Toki o Kakeru Shoujo is rated a 10, but so is Simoun, and so is Baccano!, and so is Toward the Terra. Do I know why this is? No, not really; I can justify it with the 100% valid reason that I think they deserve a 10. I can’t even tell you what the hell a rating of 10 even means. The other ratings don’t really make any sense, either; I’m pretty confident that I think they’re 100% appropriate ratings for the series, but how the hell I arrived at that conclusion I’ve no clue. The only standard I ascribe to when assigning a rating is that the score stands not for how perfect I think the series was, but how little I cared how imperfect it was. No work is going to be “perfect”, but we can ignore its imperfections and bask in the glory that is what it does right.

Like Felt-tan, my only grip on sanity is the reassuringly cold and metallic presence of Haro.

And I’m not even going to go into whether or not I have “good taste” or not. I’m pretty sure I have the best taste in anime, music, etc. in the world, as long as you happen to be me, which none of you are. But as I commented to Kaiserpingvin on earlier today “There are only two adjectives for my musical taste: Amazing, or horrible. I waffle between the two of them, myself.” And it’s true–I can go from things like Kalefina – oblivious (which is an amazing Kajiura Yuki song) to MOSAIC.WAV – Naisha Odaku-nyan (which is probably the craziest and best thing they’ve done short of “Moe Spiral! Akibattler Slash!”, which is, of course, the track that precedes it on We Love AKIBA-POP) to the brilliant green – Brownie the Cat to Polysics – I My Me Mine (which is…you should know by now)–in that order, with no “buffer songs” in between them, without batting an eye. It’s perfectly logical. I don’t think it’s incongruent at all. Two of those songs, by all rights and means, should actually be horribly annoying and ear-bleeding–but I love them to death and, if in the mood, will listen to them on repeat, at really loud volumes. Hell, I actually thought Marisa Stole the Precious Thing was an amazing song.

And don’t even get me started on books–my local paper’s literary columnist is accepting submissions for top 10 favorite books lists, and if I can ever sit down and think of a suitably eclectic collection of books that don’t make any sense that the same person would like them all (for instance, putting Battle Royale before The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency), you can bet that I’ll be spreading confusion among all the seven people in this general area who read that column.

Of course, having bizarre, nonsensical taste is one thing, but when I am faced with something that is hailed as being Genuinely Good, I’m more often than not less than disinterested. Working in a library, I see lots of (what the quotes on the back say are) quality literary fiction go on and off the shelf as everyone is wowed and amazed by this or that debut novel, but does any of that interest me? No, I get all excited when I see someone pick up a copy of The Eyre Affair, and I’m much more genuinely happy to link someone up with a romance novel with a trashy awesome cover than to show someone where the Dave Eggers books are kept (all over the place, apparently). I’d rather spend ten minutes hunting down a copy of Inu-Yasha volume umpteen million (and I don’t really like Inu-Yasha!) than ten seconds showing someone where The Name of the Rose is. My general rule is: if the ad copy of the book tries to tell me how meaningful and important the book is before (or, all too often, instead of) telling me what the book is actually about, I generally just put it back on the shelf and forget about it.

This is as confusing as the concepts I am trying to not think about too much and failing, except this is because of a temporal impossibility!

This happens in anime, too, of course (I’d never spend a whole post on an anime blog and not talk about anime at all!); I’ve famously quoted to people that I’ll get back to watching more than one episode of Kaiba “sometime” (in one instance, “this weekend”, the weekend in question being two months ago), but I just…can’t. I watched the first epiosde and actually sat there and was impressed by Yuasa’s directing skills, and I loved the visual style–but that’s it. I didn’t connect with Kaiba himself (who, by all rights, I should, him being a stranger in a strange land) and, while I understood exactly what Yuasa was trying to get me to feel, I didn’t actually feel it–I just recognized that he was going for it, and it failed. In all seriousness, I don’t like Kaiba for the same reason I don’t particularly like Strike Witches–neither of them really get me interested in the characters or the events onscreen. They’re totally different series, of course, and it’s a somewhat unfair comparison–but I’d say that, on a strictly subjective and personal note, that the bigger failure of the two is Kaiba, because Yuasa was trying to pull me in emotionally into a story, and it didn’t work. In the case of Strike Witches, I don’t think it was even trying very hard to grip the viewer in an emotional stranglehold that wouldn’t let up, so since I perceive its lack of interesting (to me) elements as not in the scope of the series’ intent, I’m not too bothered by its failure. And–just for symmetry’s sake–I think Shimeda is an amazing artist.

That doesn’t mean I don’t support Yuasa, because I think we need anime like that; it’s up for debate whether or not we need more anime like Strike Witches, but it’s a moot point because that’s what producers think we want, and so we will get them, and in all honesty I’d rather there be a few series like Strike Witches (except maybe better), because mindless entertainment is excellent for recharging mental batteries.

I think I was going to have a point in this post, somewhere, but it doesn’t really have one. Either I actually have terrible taste and I’m simply deluding myself, or I’ve accepted that quality is in the eye of the beholder, and what I think is super-amazing and awesome someone else will find humdrum and boring–some might even say generic. But I don’t really get bothered about people not liking what I like, as long as they aren’t total jerkbags about it. Which can be rare, sometimes.


Pretend that the cell phone is actually symbolic of horrendously complicated philosophical subjects (such as, for instance, this one), and that I, personified by my Lucky Star avatar Tsukasa, am busily fumbling around with it and trying to make it work. Not depicted: the part where “Tsukasa” takes the “cell phone”, throws it across the room, then runs over and jumps on it for a while, and then picks up the remains, places them in a plastic bag, gets out a rolling pin, and proceeds to roll the “cell phone” into very fine metaphorical dust before taking the remains to a really big hill and scattering the fragments to the four winds, forever ridding the planet of the hideous presence of the “cell phone” menace. “Tsukasa” returns, is welcomed as a hero, and is given carrot cake. With delicious cream cheese frosting. She eats it. It is delicious. Mmm, cake.


Toshokan Sensou: Strength Admist Hardship: A Clash of Ideals?

I have got to have a badge like that. It’s just so…badass.

I have finished (finally!) the gun-totin’ librarian war opus heartfelt romantic wartime drama epic criticism of censorship I DON’T KNOW that is Toshokan Sensou. The conclusion was suitably packed with all the things I had enjoyed about the series (see struck-out comments above), and while I don’t think Toshokan Sensou will stand as a “classic” of censorship critiques a la Transfer K505 (you were one degree Kelvin off, Production I.G.! One degree!),. I do think it is far more enjoyable and honestly entertaining than my time spent reading Ray Bradbury’s seminal work on the subject and getting clubbed on the head with CENSORSHIP IS BAD morality (I had the same problem reading All Quiet on the Western Front; that book had all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the face, which is exactly what it was going for, but by page 50 I was like “I get it, okay, you can stop now”), but I think that it’s more enjoyable because I have inverse taste. I’m supposed to be looking down on anime, pandering, escapist, filthy trash that it is, from the “lofty heights” of literature, foreign film, or, barring that, good ol’ homemade American comic books, but somehow, I don’t think it works that way. Which is pretty much exactly what Toshokan Sensou (or at least Iku’s brilliant speech in the middle of episode 12) was all about.

The most interesting part I found in the final sequence–at least from the standpoint of entering highly philosophical and possibly bullshitting mode–was the admission from the mysterious man from the Media Committee that the Media Com. doesn’t have an ideal like the Library Task Force does. The Media Com. fights, instead, for its own sense of pride, and because everyone there is there simply because of personal connections, and, at the end of the day, simply to earn a living wage and survive. The Library Force, on the other hand, has a sort of idealism about it–they’re not fighting because it’s the only way they can eke out an existence, they’re fighting because they believe they are right. I already addressed the problems with their ideals, which are best answered by Voltaire in his legendary quote “I may not agree with what you say, but I will fight to the death your right to say it!” (Candide, by the way, is awesome), but their ideals are extremely good ideals to have. What this means for the battle between censorship and freedom of expression, however, is that one side (the pro-expression, Library Force side) has a vision and a cause to fight for; more often than not, people arguing for censorship, or banning books, or burning books, seem to be doing it simply to protect their honor, or the honor of someone or something else.

It’s not always the case, and never across the board for people who call for censorship of material. But when things like, say, a few children’s librarians throwing a hissy fit over the use of the word “scrotum” on page 1 of The Higher Power of Lucky, it’s more like they’re offended that such a dirty and naughty word such as “scrotum” showed up in their Newbery-Award winning book, tainting what should have been a good book with its anatomical cooties (I read the book; I would have taken them more seriously if they had thrown a fit about Lucky dropping her pants and relieving herself in the middle of the Arizona desert, which was probably too far into the book for them to notice or even read, having thrown the book at the wall already). Of course, in that case, the “honor” they’re defending is more like another ideal, in this case what they think children’s literature should be–and the Library Force’s response to this would most likely be “do you really have the right to say what it should be?

And that, in a nutshell, is what Toshokan Sensou was all about–no one has the right to say what is “good” and “bad” literature, or art, or music, or TV, or anime (I’m pretty sure that line, and the subsequent montage of otaku-ish anime series in an otherwise un-otaku series, were thrown in there as otaku-bait, but it was glorious nonetheless to hear a librarian admit anime had value as expression), because there is no objective way to determine what is “good” or “bad”. I, for instance, wholly support the presence of a cute and possibly otaku-bait girl in a given anime series (so long as the series doesn’t rely overly much on the cute girl to carry the ratings, and is something I would like to see anyway); there are many out there (who shall remain nameless, but you know who you are) who would argue quite the opposite: that cute and possibly otaku-bait girls are ruining anime as we know it. Neither side is right or wrong, but both sides (and all the ones in between) have the right to have entertainment that appeals to them, and I fervently hope they find it. I can’t deny them non-cute-girl-containing anime, any more than they can deny me cute-girl-containing anime.

Final thoughts on Toshokan Sensou: even though it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting going in, it still pretty much lived up to the only expectation I really held for it: “pure awesome”. Toshokan Sensou was all those crossed out genres/topics/themes/whatever that I crossed out at the beginning of the post–it handled all of them equally well, and while none really took center stage and stole the limelight, I’d much rather a series that had a bit of something for everyone to enjoy than a one-sided series that was just miltiary drama or just romantic drama or just deep thoughts on censorship. The end result for all three is weakened by the lack of focus, but I have respect for Arikawa Hiro (and the adaption staff at Production I.G.) now, since she balanced all three and didn’t let one drop in favor of the other. The end result is something that can attract a wide audience, and hopefully ones who came for one element will get enjoyment out of another.

That, and I now want my own Kanto Library Task Force uniform to wear to work. It’ll make me look like a security guard, yes, but it would be the best thing ever. Maybe I could add epaulettes…

Soul Eater: Good Resonance, Bad Resonance

Death the Kid understands my pain in trying to write this post.

For whatever ineffable reason, I have found it extraordinarily hard to actually sit down and write things about Soul Eater. I really don’t know why this is. It’s not because I hate the series–I like it, it’s a ton of fun, especially 10/11 and 14 (for entirely different aspects of the word “fun”), I enjoy watching it, and I really can’t think of anything it’s really doing wrong that would merit this. It might not be giving enough material for a post in the vein of previous posts, and, not wanting to flood the otakuhedron with any more senseless, aimless posts than I already have (read: most of them), but that’s not because such elements aren’t there–10/11 masterfully demonstrated the strengths of the series, and I honestly want more episodes like that. (I haven’t watched 16 as I write this, by the way, and I’m really hoping for 15/16 to be for Death the Kid and Patty/Liz what 10/11 was for Black Star and Tsubaki)

The strength of the series, and the direction it’s taking, lies in the concept of the resonance between the meister and the weapon. (I don’t even know how many times this has been said) When it comes to Black Star and Tsubaki, for instance, they have a high rate of resonance–partially because they honestly really do trust each other with their lives. Black Star is, of course, an annoying git (a lovably annoying git, but an annoying git nonetheless), and Tsubaki is annoyed and aggravated by him at times near constantly, but–and here’s the thing–she understands him. Part of Black Star’s personality is due to his family’s past as a cadre of feared, evil assassins, and he’s trying to overcompensate for past wrongs by shouting a lot and being really dumb. And Tsubaki understands this. Way back in the secondĀ  episode, we had the infamous accidently-peeking-into-bath scene with Black Star who (unsurprisingly) does not really seem to understand that when peeping in on a girl, however unintentionally, it is not the wisest thing in the world to scream really loudly. Tsubaki instantly chastises him–not for peeping, mind, but for screaming. It might be that she harbors a secret desire for Black Star deep in her heart (the doujin author’s route), but more likely (and less of an indication that your mind is in the gutter) is that she doesn’t get mad at him for peeping because she understands him so well that she was fully aware that he wouldn’t do something like this on purpose for his own titillation. In a sense, they’re probably the most idealistic couple-like group in Soul Eater–for a relationship to last, there must be mutual understanding and mutual acceptance between the two.

By contrast to the mutual faith of Black Star and Tsubaki stands Maka and Soul Eater, who seem to be plagued by their own shortcomings. They both realize that their shortcomings are their own, but, at the same time, they also take out their own frustrations with themselves on each other. I’m not even entirely sure that both of them know that they both feel too weak to be of use to the other–remember the “resonance training”? They were told to tell the other person’s worst weakness to each other, but they argued and bickered instead–not because they don’t like each other, but because both feels inadequate, and thinks that the other is just waiting for them to catch up. It’s a difficult situation that they’re both handling differently–Maka by beating herself up over such things as letting Soul Eater take a blow to protect her, Soul Eater by, well, making a deal with a jazz-loving imp-thing that exists in his head, as a result of contact with Ragnarok. They both want to be strong, but rather than grow strong together (as Tsubaki and Black Star seem to have) they’re trying to go about it independent of each other, which is the very opposite of what “resonance” means, hence why they aren’t very good at it.

Death the Kid and Patty/Liz…well, I don’t know yet, nor can I make a guess. I’m hoping it’s in 16 or shortly thereafter, but I’m pretty sure it’s coming.

I do think that, if I had to fault Soul Eater on one thing, it would simply be that it’s trying to spread itself too thin (at the moment, anyway). That might be because I haven’t really watched/read One Piece or something similar, though. It’s very good at being a hilarious comedy, and it’s very good at the characterization and general dramatic storytelling that I’d expect from a good shounen anime, or a good anime period. I’m just not sure the balance is right, as it may be shooting itself in the foot by being too silly, and inviting consideration of it as just a silly wacky show, which would mean missing out on the dramatically important elements. I think I can make this claim, since even the act of writing this post required a shift from “oh Soul Eater, you so silly and wacky” to a more “normal” mode of thought for me. Which shouldn’t be that hard, really. And for all I know, as the series progresses, it will get progressively more dramatic. Or more comedic. Or something.

One last note on resonance: it is seriously the best-produced T.M.Revolution song ever. I didn’t like his material in the SEED franchise too terribly much, and I’m not a big fan of abignon boys school, but, man, resonance is awesome.

Can I Send Acheron Hades After ANN Now? Please?

Did you just let Carl Kimlinger insult Jane Austen in his VIctorian Romance Emma review?

Did you really? I mean, seriously. I’m glad you liked it, it’s a wonderful series. But, really.



Did you also put “Jane Austen” and “Harlequin-esque bodice rippers” in the same sentence, as if to imply that they were one and the same? (By the way, Harlequin novels are actually fairly tame compared to some of the other romance novels put out by specialty publishers. I would link pictures but it’s far more fun to just walk into the romance section of the bookstore and have a blast playing Bodice-Ripper Roulette–be sure to check the inside of the cover, if there’s a glossy sheet there, because that’s where they hide the really saucy I-hope-my-mother-never-sees-this stuff. I don’t think even Kanokon paraphenalia can outdo some of the covers I’ve seen)

Did you also let him by insinuation talk smack about Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, and Arthur Conan Doyle too?

Who’s next? Edgar Allen Poe? Agatha Christie? Edgar Rice Burroughs? H.G. Wells? Charlotte Bronte?


We are most certainly not amused.

I should go read some Jasper Fforde to curb my literary rage, but, alas, I think I am going to go watch Natsume Yuujinchou instead.

(ps: buy Victorian Romance Emma because it has my name in the credits!)

Macross Frontier: The Disposal of Sheryl

I just want to go on the record as stating that episode 15 of Macross Frontier was extremely bizarre. Entertainingly bizarre, but bizarre nonetheless.

Of course, 15 was half a recap episode and half new content, and I’d just come off watching 13 and 14 as part of my sinister plan to catch up on Macross after letting it languish for a couple weeks (because I let everything languish, because boy have the last two weeks been nuts). And (as is sometimes the case with recap episodes) there was a lot of ominous-sounding talk about conspiracies and plans and shadow goings-on that we’ve known about since a long time ago but that had never really crystallized into a formal conspiracy. Now we’re extremely sure that there is one, but we still don’t know to what end, which is driving me nuts. It’s obviously some kind of far-reaching thing involving lots of hate and other things. After seeing episode 13 and the trip inside the Macross Global I was pretty sure that what had happened was that the scientists on the Global had somehow created the Vajra and they had gotten out of control and took over, but I’m not sure this is exactly what’s happened, especially with the Protoculture name-dropping at the end of 15. As we know from previous Macross series, the mysterious Protoculture were big fans of genetic manipulation, a fact which has always come back to haunt their descendants (the Zentradi in SDF, for one; I forget where the Protodeviln of 7 fit in here, or if they’re something unrelated, but there was that giant Protoculture ruin under the sea in 7).

Of course, the setup of the series–Sheryl arriving on Frontier for the final leg of her tour–was an integral part in whatever mysterious plan the whoever-they-are (I’m pretty sure they’re just using the Vajra as a means to an end) but as vast conspiracies are wont to do, things quickly spiraled out of control (see also: Gundam 00), which led to a vital piece of The Plan–i.e., Ranka–being located, completely changing the course of The Plan and forcing the already fairly cast-aside Sheryl to be “disposed” of–I don’t really know if they’ll dispatch hired guns after her, but you can bet that popularity is going to ebb as the conspirators focus their efforts on Ranka.

Of course, Sheryl’s own self-confidence seems to have been on the wane in these past few episodes–first she’s upstaged by Ranka in the concert, then she’s bedridden for a while, then she rushes out into combat and does a remarkably good job of not getting killed instantly (but accomplishing nothing else) and, then, in the ultimate brush-off, she has to watch a determined Alto–who’s always seemed to be closer to her than he was to Ranka–dash off like a gallant knight to save Ranka. Which he doesn’t do, but instead makes a lot of things blow up and screams a lot. They’re definitely setting him up to be rivals with Brera Sterne, which they already have been, but clearer now than before. As for Sheryl, her fate is pretty much sealed when Grace drops her blood sample off the roof of the hospital–she’s effectively dead and buried, as the sweeper-bot (FOREIGN CONTAMINANT) tidies up the blood and glass.

And, of course, the highlight of the episode, for better or for worse, was the impromptu (and sexually charged) duet in the middle of the hospital between Sheryl and Ranka, which I am now going to read entirely too far into. First off, the love triangle is shoved in your face–literally–with Ranka framing a shot with her fingers forming a triangle and panning from Alto to Sheryl. Of course, the duet started when Sheryl, jealous of the attention Ranka is getting from Alto, starts singing her song over the Ranka cover blaring over the speakers, thereby making Ranka jealous of the blatantly erotic moves Sheryl lays on Alto and starting her to sing, and both of them start overpowering Alto who can do nothing except look very awkward and embarassed and in look of a quick way of out this scene. Of course, even though the duet started as a result of their informal rivalry for Alto’s affections (Alto, of course, is probably just trying to be a good friend to both of them), they actually seemed to get into the whole duet thing and started cooperating pleasantly, a fact which seems to be an important element in Frontier.

If you remember waaaay back in the trip to the ruins of the Macross Galaxy, Ranka’s song traveled across the universe, but only when she was singing at the same time as Sheryl was. And if Sheryl is now “useless” to the plans of the conspirators, they may–if I’m reading this right, which I may not be–just find themselves wishing they’d held off on that. Cooperation always seems to be an element in Macross love triangles–Minmei had to accept that Misa held more esteem in Ichijo’s heart before she was able to sing Do You Remember Love? in the movie; Gamlin had to cooperate with Basara in 7 and even found a kind of respect for him and wound up being a fairly major fan; I’m willing to bet that it’ll be the same way in Plus and Zero. It may just be that, to stop whatever is going to happen, both will have to set aside their rivalry (which isn’t really all that heated at the moment, really) and cooperate to make Alto super-powerful and endowed with Chiba Song Units so he can give a rousing perfomance of Try Again and save the universe!

(I am now suddenly interested in Ranka and Sheryl covering Fire Bomber songs, mostly the awesome ones. Oh man)


I like how MIchael has a vision of miclone Klan Klan angry instead of Zentradi Klan Klan angry. Perhaps we can leap to conclusons about certain fetishes he may or may not have?

Also, I am pretty sure that more girls need to wear double-breasted jackets like that. Pure awesome.

3 2 1 GO! Tengen Toppa Cheer Girls!

This has nothing to do with anything whatsoever, other than that Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan is the greatest game ever made. Best use of $220 I ever made (DS lite + 1 + 2, and I have played the crap out of both of them and keep them handy in case of dire need of pacifier and I am a self-declared Minor Ouendan Deity) and it even overflowed and made up for the $30 I “spent” (trade-ins yay!) on Elite Beat Agents for the sole purpose of playing Jumpin’ Jack Flash. The Elite Beat Divas don’t have the charm of both teams of Cheer Girls, though. That and I just found this image on Danbooru and it is now my wallpaper (there is a 1600×1200 version, you may click if you feel so inclined) because I need some burning passion cheerleaders in my life right now.

And, yes, that is Amemiya Sayaka who graces my profile with her presence. I don’t plan to change that anytime soon. Or ever.

I don’t know whose brilliant idea this was, but this is an anime that needs to get made. Now. Or, well, just Sekai wa Sore o Ai to Yobundaze. With fluid dance moves. GET ON IT, KYOANI.


And while we’re at in, in case you’re one of the rare few who haven’t seen it in the year it’s been floating around: this is what cosplay should be like.

(Will there be an actual post at some point in the near future? Will deadlines destroy my mind? I don’t know! I want to go back to work on Monday and it’s only barely Sunday morning!)

Itazura na Kiss: Words Fail Me [CLICK AT YOUR OWN RISK]

I hope you’ve seen Itazura na Kiss 14. I really do. If you haven’t, I am not liable.


I died and went to fangirl heaven, that’s what’s happened to me.

I had this feeling (well, okay, I saw a screencap of the final frame of episode 13 with “No, it isn’t the rain scene yet,” so I decided somewhat unconcsiously to hold off on 13 until I could watch 14 with it.

My brain doesn’t function anymore. I think it melted. 14 should have come with a Surgeon’s General warning for people with heart problems, because this is some lethal shoujo. I’m sure lesser (wo)men than I have died upon witnessing this episode in the ongoing saga of Kotoko and Irie’s life. I am now convinced that Tada Kaoru suffered the same fate that poor Ernest Scribbler did–she created shoujo so potently shoujo, that it was physically impossible for one human being to stand that much shoujo at any given point in time and they would die. Forget nukes and WMDs–we should develop shoujo missiles.

I really don’t think I can say anything on the Irie/Kotoko relationship dynamic that I haven’t said before. It’s all kinds of complicated, and it’s hard to see where true feelings start and other things begin. The rain scene, as I had heard, was legendary (I told you, this show invites hyperbole over for dinner and gives it a ten-course meal)–it was so much bubbling over of feelings and emotions and whatnot. Even better was that Kotoko and Irie didn’t react in ways that were totally foreign to them–Kotoko was fresh off a rather disastrous incident with Kin-chan (by the way, I love how Kinnosuke went from annoying comic relief to a serious character with some kind of depth without really seeming like it was tacked on) and Irie, of course, had just gotten wind of the news that Kin-chan had proposed to Kotoko and that she was seriously considering his proposal. It’s entirely unsure why Irie had been keeping his feelings suppressed–after his father’s heart attack, of course, it makes sense. Part of the reason he tells his mother that he likes Chris is most likely empty talk designed to convince no one but himself that this is the truth, and that he better get used to it, because it’s the only way to make up for hurting his father’s company even more through the heart attack. When faced with the pressure, though, Irie forgets about obligations and does what he feels is right. Before all this, it’s unsure–he was clearly in like-mode (as much as he could be), but I don’t think the all the pieces had been brought into play yet.

Some other memorable moments include Chris telling Kotoko that she never liked Irie anyway, and that Kotoko, in fact, is “handsome challenged” since she chose Irie over Kinnosuke, but I don’t know why she said that because that just means that she gets Kin-chan all to herself. I’m also a big fan of the maturation of Yuuki–he’s the one, after all, who started the process of knocking sense into his brother by reminding him of the sneaky little secret he had–remember Yume de Kiss Kiss Kiss? That was an amazing twist on that previous prank, and it certainly made an impact on Yuuki because ever since then, he’s been…nice. And friendly. And even telling his parents (and later Kotoko) about Irie’s little secret.

I have no idea where this series is going to go (or where they could go from here, aside from the marital strife angle), but I am pretty sure that the whole marraige and actual confessed love thing will certainly not ruin what’s made Itazura na Kiss fun from the get-go. And, even if it somehow gets worse from here on out, Tada Karou and Yamazaki Osamu (and the rest of the anime’s staff) have my undying love forever, for these 14 episodes of Kotoko and Irie romance have basically cemented them in the upper echelon of anime couples fictional couples period. Love ain’t always easy–but watching it happen can be a hell of a lot of fun.

Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu: The Dirty Anime Secret

Ahh, anime. You love it. You love it so much. It consumes your life and your soul. And, yet, some people seem to have this notion that it’s somehow a shameful thing, on both sides of the Pacific. While it is true that society has a tendancy to view anime in a distasteful manner, society is also a schizophrenic hypocrite, becuase society can’t make up its mind what it wants to do.

It’s difficult to pin down what, exactly, is the cause of people being ashamed of watching anime–sometimes it’s because they’re afraid that if they tell someone that they like anime, they’ll immediately think that when you’re alone in your room and you think no one is watching, you secretly don a bootleg Naruto headband and chant arcane ninja-ish things in the hopes of performing Sexy no Jutsu so that, finally, you will know what it is like to be the opposite gender. Sometimes it’s just the fact that you don’t want to lecture people on the engineering feasibility of Gundam units. Sometimes it’s because you have to keep that image of a manly man and you can’t let on that you secretly enjoy the escapades of Akari and her friends in Neo Venenzia, lest people stop thinking you are cool (This is actually the topic of a manga Shaa, the original artist of Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu, did before he illustrated Haruka’s light novels). Whatever the reason, there’s this pervasive notion of “shame” and guilt over watching anime, which translates into the discarding of anime into the rubbish bin of “guilty pleasures” and “not really good” and “it’s all junk” which leads to burnout or elitism or self-loathing or other bad things.

Which brings me to Nogizaka Haruka. The actual episode was exactly what I expected it to be, although I was surprised at the relative lack of fanservice, especially involving Haruka herself. Yuuto’s pair of live-in women were quite obnoxious (deservedly so, since they exist to make sure that Yuuto doesn’t hold an interest in romance with the opposite gender) and spent most of the episode not wearing much at all, but I expected them to be fanserviced up. Haruka, though, gets by with a couple pantyshots (that might as well not be pantyshots, depending on how much you enjoy opaque dark-colored pantyhose) and a boob joke, which is impressive for something that, going into it, I assumed would overload me with T&A.

I actually quite liked the episode from the standpoint of what the series was trying to do; whether or not I follow the rest of the series will depend on a) time and b) how they handle Haruka’s “secret”, namely that she is a huge otaku. I’m not even expecting much on that front, either–any indication that Igarashi Yuusaku might be trying to use Haruka to try to get reclusive otaku out of the notion that they should be ashamed of watching anime or, in fact, for just being themselves (and not taking it to the extreme other end, where otaku become the next step in human evolution)-or not even that, just treating the issue of “oh no anime is embarasssing I must make it a secret to maintain my image” in a somewhat honest way will satisfy me. I don’t doubt that the emphasis is going to be on how cute Haruka is–but at least I find her more genuinely cute than forced cute, but that may just be the Mamiko Effect.

Where to now? To the Tree of Hope with 1000 paper cranes, in fervent hope that Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu doesn’t blow its chance to at least attempt getting a message out there. Beacuse the best way to get otaku to listen to a message like this is to package it up with a cute girl. Possibly the only way–those “rent-a-sister” joints for de-hikkikomori-fying hikikkomori (or NEETs, or whatever they’re called these days) use this concept and have met with some kind of success.

And, yes, I know that the deal with hikkikomori is more complicated than “they like anime therefore they are ashamed and therefore they stay in their rooms” and that it’s a society thing too. If this can get them thinking about these kinds of issues and maybe become a stronger person, so much the better.

And, yes, the glass is half-full, why do you ask?

Toshokan Sensou: The Thorny Problem of Censorship

Yes, I know I haven’t been watching Toshokan Sensou as I should have been (I blame slowness on the part of subbers, and then a general unwillingness to trust Ocha! after watching an early episode subbed by them; thankfully, they seem to have improved to acceptable levels, so I should finish this up soon; Iku-plosions will be scattered but intense, light drizzles of Klan Klan relieving pressure in between bouts)

I just watched 7 and 8 (the arc dealing with Tezuka’s rather sinster brother, if you needed a quick refresher), but what jumped out at me wasn’t necessarily the actual storyline (which had me suitably worried for Iku under interrogation and really mad at aforementioned sinister brother so I was quite entertained on that front) but, rather, the whole underpinnings that kind of ran underneath the arc, fundamental to Toshokan Sensou’s general theme: censorship, and the fight against it.

Very early on in 7, Iku gets upset at Sunagawa for writing scathing reviews of a book–not just any book, mind, but her favorite book, which means that she’s a bit zealous about it and will brook no insult. She, of course, berates him in person for this, telling him how he shouldn’t post such negative reviews of books, because what if a fan of the book saw the review and got upset? “They didn’t have to read it,” claims Sunagawa, “and it’s the kind of thing the public wants, anyway. Besides, even library staff have the right to express their opinions however they wish.”

“Holy crap,” I thought at that moment, “that’s a horribly complicated issue you just brought up!” And it is–the right to free speech, commonly interpreted, states that you have the right to say whatever the hell you feel like saying, and that it is up to the people receiving the speech to accept, discard, or ignore it at their leisure. Of course, Iku brings up my very own caveat to that very principle–what if you trash something (be it a book, a movie, a song, an ethnicity, a sociopolitical entity) and then someone who happens to like (or be) that thing reads or hears it? Does your right to say whatever the hell you feel like saying still stand when you start getting antsy and offending other people?

Well, no; you do have the right to say whatever you feel like saying, but common sense and good manners dictates that you at least consider what you’re saying and whether or not you’re offending people by saying it. I’m pretty sure that no matter how carefully you phrase something, it’s virtually impossible to be completely inoffensive to all 6 billion people on the planet. When dealing with this issue, I’ve always found it useful to remember the axiom that “your right to swing your fist at me ends at my face.” Of course, if your intent is to hit my face (or offend me), then go right ahead, neither I nor no one else can stop you; but be prepared for the consequences, whatever they may be.

Iku takes no sass from anyone, which is an admirable and respectable (if sometimes problematic) goal in life.

And, then, of course, the opposite situation is dealt with later in the episode. Shibasaki is given the chance to cover-up a huge scandal in the library wherein someone is illegally burning books, and she has no idea how to react to it, and hypothetically confesses to Iku about it. Iku, of course, the ALA poster child that she is (I want to see one of those READ posters with her on it so bad, but it will never happen), tells her that the crime shouldn’t be covered up, because it’d just make things even worse when the truth surfaced. It seems somewhat hypocritical at first glance (“Don’t diss my favorite book! Stop being a jerk!” –> “Oh you can’t censor information at all! Truth is truth!”) but with just a little bit of thought in the manner, it’s still consistent with the general philosophy Iku embraces wholeheartedly–information is free, but there are ethics to be followed, and morality to be considered. In the first case, Iku simply wants Sunagawa to show more restraint, morality, and ethics in his opinions; it may be what the public wants to read, but is it really proper to say it in such a fashion? In the second, the issue is dealing with the coverup of a crime of unknown heinousness, and her answer is simple, direct, and (with consideration to pauses for dramatic effect) instantaneous: it’s a crime, and even if it’s going to be damaging to people (or even, as Iku finds out somewhat indirectly, to yourself), you can’t censor it. That is pure ethics right there–even if you want to keep it a secret, even if it’s someone you cared about, it is information, and it has a right to be disseminated to the public at large, for their consideration.

This whole topic is a huge, horrible nightmare of a mess, and even though I agree with the ethics posted above, even I can’t follow them 100% of the time–if emotions are raging and flying or my brain isn’t paying attention to what it’s saying (or if I make a conscious, knowing decision to violate the ethics to make a stand), I do slip up; we all do. But I do find it a good guideline to keep in mind when dealing with people in general, and especially in public forums.

And, anyway, if I really wanted to, I could place a pillow over my mouth and scream that the pope is a homosexual hermaphrodite, and no one would ever know but me. That’s also a valid way to deal with stress and things you dislike, since we all have things we hide under the surface in order to maintain harmony with fellow humans that we wouldn’t dare tell anyone else. But maybe that’s what LiveJournal is for these days!

A Brief Note on Yawara!: Dangerously Cute, or Cutely Dangerous?

This is Yawara. Does she look like she can toss you, judo-style, without even blinking an eye, or even being aware that she just tossed you? No? Not at all? Even that really cute hair ribbon, which looms ominously with its smallness and greenness? Or that cardigan, embroidered with the four suits of a deck of cards?

Didn’t think so. But she can. Oh, she can. The more important question is, does she look like her character was designed by Urasawa Naoki, the same man who drew the seinen modern classics Monster and 20th Century Boys?

I actually first heard of Yawara!: A Fashionable Judo Girl! a year or so before I even got interested in anime at all, so it’s got an ancient history. Someone was using it to illustrate how long anime series could get (I don’t think, at that time, she’d actually seen any of it, but she was in a group of friends who had access to VHS fansubs since this was Back In The Day; Back In The Day is also when I first watched Mahoujin Guru Guru and was the only person in my high school’s anime club who wanted to watch another episode of that over the first episode of Escaflowne, a sure sign of obsessions to come), but, alas, I never really had the chance to pick it up until reminded of it years later, when AnimEigo announced that they had picked the series up for release in the States.

Of course, I noticed right away when checking up on it that, lo and behold, who wrote the manga but Urasawa Naoki. “Wait, wait, wait,” I said to myself, “how does this work? He gets popular via Yawara!, and then goes on to author things that are totally unlike Yawara!, but still amazingly awesome?” I’m not entirely sure when Urasawa switched gears from drawing Yawara, an extremely shoujo manga/anime (even though Wikipedia lists the series as “seinen”, which just confuses me even more, and makes me realize how useless demographics can be in describing anime and manga), to drawing hard-boiled seinen manga, but it’s quite the jump–and, as I have discovered recently, he’s equally good at silly shoujo comedy as he is at thrilling psychological suspense.

AnimEigo has already put up a nice page that explains the basic premise of Yawara (and provides a link to a free+postage copy of the first DVD with four episodes on it, as well as a form to tell AnimEigo that you’d love to give them your arm, leg, and firstborn to own the first 40 episodes–and I have already removed my arm and leg and am searching for a girl with whom to have my firstborn so that I can send it off to them in exchange for blissful Yawara goodness*), so I’ll just step right past that part and explain what, exactly, is good about it.

It actually aired around the same time the far more popular (in the West) Ranma 1/2 aired, and was considered its “sister series” by virtue of being somewhat similar in premise to Ranma 1/2 (minus the gender confusion)–they were both comedies involving martial arts. Yawara!, however, was much more popular than Ranma 1/2 in Japan (Ranma was actually cancelled early on, but resurrected and became the 160+ episode behemoth it is today). From what I’ve seen, the first four episodes of Yawara! were far more amusing than the same in Ranma, but that’s probably just my personal sense of humor jumping in.

I think the humor was more successful simply because of how bizarre and outlandish the characters are: Yawara hates judo so much she refuses to even tell her friends her grandfather, Jigoro, forces her to practice it; Jigoro himself is amazingly hilarious, obsessievely correcting every factual error people make about him and plotting and scheming to give Yawara her big debut. Jigoro goes to far as to intentionally set out to create a rival for her, in the form of pampered rich girl Sayaka. Yawara, of course, cares less about Sayaka than she does judo itself, but that doesn’t stop Sayaka from hiring the greatest playboy in the world as her judo instructor, Kazamatsuri (he is a playboy, all right–not entirely sure how he gets the ladies, though, since he’s amazingly shy, but since Yawara is taken by his rugged handsome looks and dashing personality, he must have SOMETHING going on). They are all pretty standard characters, but somehow it all manages to form a highly entertaining whole–I haven’t been bored at all watching the four episodes I’ve seen up to now, even though effectively nothing actually happened.

It’s not a series for everyone (what series is, but that’s another problem entirely), but for anyone interested in a) old shoujo-ish anime b) old anime period or c) finding out how amazingly awesome and cute and 100% pure Yawara herself is (she’s a totally average girl, except for the judo thing, but that has a strange kind of allure, that probably made the series as popular as it is. I might even call her…moe [cue shock and horror]), it’s definitely worth a look, even if you don’t end up consigning $130 to the first third of the series.

*I complain about the pricing, but considering that AnimEigo is a niche company in a niche market, you’re not likely to get much cheaper than that. I feel bad that I never got ahold of their excellent SDF Macross DVD sets, due to the high price point. There are fansubs that you can obtain that take you through episode 47 if the four-episode sampler disc isn’t enough to convince you (it pretty much was for me), and I can’t guilt or otherwise force you into buying it, but if you watch and enjoy to a noticable degree those 47 episodes, considering the small, practically family-run nature of AnimEigo, it’d just be outright rude not to fork over the cost of the set, or at least fork over the cost of the next two/three sets to finish the series up. At some point in time. When you have the money. And only if you live in North America. And if you have arms, legs, and firstborns to spare. But, seriously, from what I can tell, AnimEigo seems to be willing to work with difficult financial situations, so you can get a $130 box set for just $10 a week for 13 weeks! Or something. I suspect, though, that if you’re reading this post this far, you’re probably the sort that would buy it anyway, because you can. Or something.


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


July 2008