Archive for July, 2008



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?

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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.

Hidamari Sketch x365: How I Missed You, Hidamari

Please proceed to berate me for not waiting three weeks for the wideface version. I was UNAWARE that there was going to be a not-wideface and a wideface. That’s okay, though, you can get your fill of wideface from the manga (now at a bookstore near you!)

IMPORTANT THINGS ABOUT HIDAMARI SKETCH x365:

  • The best part of the first season was its lack of budget, as kransom always explained it to me. The best part of x365 is its budget. It’s full-blown Shinbo, coming at your face in 4:3 unless you’re patient enough to wait for the probably lethal doses of Shinbo in the wideface version. It was a little jarring at first (Yuno seemed to be hyper-animated a la that traumatizing scene in Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha s1-01 where we suddenly forgot that the last 10 years had happened. We didn’t do a time warp (again) of course, but it was still jarring, but I think he settled down after that.
  • HIDAMARI SCKEOT (what) (it’s a reference I am sure, but to WHAT)
  • Given the fact that Shinbo probably spent 5% of the budget for the entire series on this totally symbolic and totally unnecessary scene right after Miyako gives Yuno the legendary nickname of “Yunocchi” (and placed in Yuno’s symbolic screen-filling X a tiny “cchi” (in place of the x365 that was there initially), it is safe to say that my suspicions are confirmed and that Shinbo has a predeliction for lesbians and yuri parings, as this is probably as close to canon Yuno x Miyako is going to get with Aoki Ume’s permission. Not that I actually track pairings or anything…although the two of them are the best characters in the show, so it’s all good. Somewhat.
  • New marble song! Mebae Drive was the perfect cap to the s1 episodes, and the x365 ED (Ryuusei Record) did not fail to deliver strangely satisfactory chills up the spine. I don’t know, but whenever I listen to a song like that, I sometimes get chills there–it happened with Utatane and Dango Daikazoku (I love you, Chata), it’s happened with Chain (Shigofumi), and it happened with Mebae Drive and Ryuusei Rocket. I don’t know why it happens to these kinds of songs, but I love it when it does.

After reading the manga (which I bought last night, for no other reason other than to maybe hopefully send the message to anime licensors that I would like the anime, please, thank you very much) and then watching the first episode of x365, I am reminded why I like Hidamari Sketch: it’s just fun. In the manga (which I had heard was terrible and horrible and was very bad so you shouldn’t get it!), it’s even more evident: it’s not necessarily a laugh-a-minute kind of thing, it’s just a pleasurable experience. I’m not even going to try to re-open that huge can of worms Owen S opened a while back (and I will demonstrate that I don’t want to reopen it by not linking to it, therefore he won’t find out about it! I am clever!) so I won’t even go into that whole mind-breaking construct. It’s not necessarily something to make you die of laughter (as Potemayo or Minami-ke might), but the humor is effective nevertheless, even if you aren’t rolling on the proverbial floor, you are entertained and amused. Of course, I noted today that things billed to me as “comedies” rarely leave me in fits of laughter, but there’s still plenty of them I like, so I don’t think “chuckles per minute” is a good indicator of comedy quality.

In short (this was kind of a short post anyway, I think), I am immeasurably glad to have Hidamari Sketch back in my life. I wasn’t entirely sure I would like the second season after the hiatus (second seasons seem to have trouble these days, whether planned or unplanned from the start; the last second season I remember getting near-universal positive reception from fans of the first season was Maria-sama ga Miteru ~Haru~, and that was years ago, but I might have forgotten something along the way), but that doesn’t seem to be an issue at the moment. And it’s kind of amusing that a series that started off as a low-budget and possibly secondary priority for SHAFT and Shinbo ended up getting a second season that had an actual budget for actual animation. It’s nicer to see more animation, with the same distinctive stylism and esoteric symbology, with the new addition of random quotes interspersed in the episode that may or may not have anything to do with the events preceding or following them!

Now to wait a month or so for wideface version. I may crumble.

(P.S.: Dear Yen Press, how did you manage to mess up the “Brutus, omae mo kaaaaa” joke? It’s so easy. But, then agian, I don’t know what the original Japanese says there, so it might actually say “Brutus, omae wa uragirimono!”, in which case I will not blame Yen Press but rather Aoki Ume for not being well-read on Shakespeare. How dare you, foreign person, not read classics that weren’t even written in a language you speak! Unforgivable!

Code Geass R2: Worst/Best Birthday Present EVER.

PART THE FIRST: FANBOY RANT
I. PRELUDE

I have to vent. Really, I do. REALLY. I’m proud of the Geass writers, and of Goro, and of Sunrise, and etc etc etc. Really, I am.

BUT

II. THE RANT

I hate you, Rolo. My hate for you knows no ends. You could be the nicest, sweetest guy on the planet Earth, really you could be, and I will hate your guts until I rip them out and splatter them all over the walls like we’re in a Saw movie.

YOU

killed the purest, sweetest love Lelouch (YOUR ADORING BROTHER, WHO LOVES YOU [or so you think/fervently hope]) will ever have a chance at getting in this cold, cruel, twisted world we call the Code Geass reality.

YOU

for the sake of your own personal, homoerotic, incestual (????????????) feelings for Lelouch killed someone who actually had a chance of Lelouch loving because she was the only one who could possibly understand him.

YOU
KILLED

SHIRLEY

FENETTE

and therefore you must die before episode 25.

III. FIN

~fin~

PART THE SECOND: THE ACTUAL, SENSIBLE POST

Okay, so, I’m not really all that pissed. Well, I am, but that’s one thing and this is another. There have been Rumors afoot, or Whisperings, or something, to the effect that Code Geass R2 has lost it, or has otherwise somehow declined in quality since the first season.

THIS IS NOT TRUE.

Yes, it is, as otou-san is so fond of describing it, a “trainwreck“, but, according to ME, it’s not about watching the trainwreck of the series totally succumbing to such abstract concepts as “pandering” or “fanvervice” or “excessive use of Cheese-kun” (just so you know, that bit in episode 11 with C.C. reclining in underclothing and hugging Cheese-kun was pure awesome and I dare you to say otherwise), but, rather, about watching the trainwreck that is Lelouch’s life, as everything he’s done comes back to haunt him–as the narrator conveniently explained for the audience, “karma” is at work here.

One thing that Geass hasn’t done, though, is lost its writing ability–the first season was full of wonderfully pandering moments as well (such as the episode where Kallen and Euphemia are naked for 75% of the episode)–but on top of that, Geass has managed to deliver the goods when it needs to. In short, all the people stating that Geass is “pure entertainment” are 100% correct–Code Geass is, as far as I can tell, distilled, filtered, and purified Taniguchi Goro, left in an oak barrel to age for seven years. Yes, he has made some great masterpieces of anime that are Actually Good (Infinite Ryvius, PLANETES, Gasaraki if you count that), but we seem to have forgotten that he directed s-CRY-ed, which functions essentially like a proto-Geass, in the sense that it’s Goro cutting loose and going full throttle with the amps kicked up to 11. He’s a very good director, yes–but that’s because he’s very good at being both “serious” and “totally insane”, and this is why he is awesome. There are plenty of directors who are good at one or the other, but Goro is good at both, sometimes at the same time (see: PLANETES).

It’s way too early to call this, of course, but R2 12/13 shares almost the exact same setup as 21/22 from the first season. You know, Bloodstained Euphie and all that. That episode. As much as it pains me to have Shirley die that way, it’s completely understandable. Rolo is, of course, upset that Lelouch is spending time with Shirley (and not him, his beloved brother)–we saw this in 12 with a tiny and barely noticable moment of foreshadowing, when Lelouch talks about Shirley for a bit and Rolo makes a barely audible “Ehh?” Lelouch didn’t help matters, both through his manipulation of Rolo to get him on his side (which was strategically advantageous at the time, but isn’t now that Shirley is dead–not that he knows Rolo killed her) and his manipulation of Shirley as a result of Sayoko’s independent actions and back in s1 when Mao was giving Lelouch the run-around. And, of course, Lelouch’s manipulation of Shirley comes back to haunt him when her Geass is released by Jeremaiah (itself made ironic by Jeremaiah’s apparent motive in this episode, which wasn’t to kill Lelouch but merely have a chat with him, BUT we don’t know whether he’s manipulating Lelouch like Lelouch manipulates others AND I am getting a headache so I am ending this parentheses now), which direct her actions in 13, which lead directly to her running into Rolo, and then what she says to Rolo, which gets her killed.

The horror of it all, of course, is that none of these people are wrong at all in what they did when they did it–it’s just that all these things collided in the same space of 24 hours, leading to…this. And as pissy as I’m going to be now that Shirley is dead, as mentioned above, I respect the staff behind this series more now, because they are not afraid to Kill Their Babies, and even though I would like to drop a rock on the Sunrise building, I’m glad they did this, and I hope they don’t bring her back through some contrived medium (unless it’s to create even more crazy drama, of which I will wholeheartedly approve). And, besides, I don’t really hate them–as in the case of Itazura na Kiss, I was (figuratively) screaming and shouting and punching monitors in; in other words, my disbelief was completely suspended. And that’s what we’re supposed to feel when watching anime/reading a book/whatever, right? Even if on a more objective scale, Code Geass is a poorly-told story, who cares, beacuse it wasn’t trying to do that–it was trying to get me to shout at the TV. Which it did.

God, I love you, Taniguchi Goro, even if you are a bastard at the moment.

PART THE THIRD: IN MEMORIAM

REQUIESCAT IN PACE

(That is Latin for “DIE ROLO, YOU BASTARD”, as far as I can tell)

P.S.: Yes, it is my birthday today. Or, well, the day Code Geass R2 13 aired. Thanks for the wonderful present, Goro!

7/6/2008 NEVER FORGET

Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto ~Natsu no Sora~: Initial Impressions, or “Where Did This Budget Come From?”

The answer to the titular question is, of course, that they tapped Kobayashi Osamu (dear Japan: stop naming kids who go on to become important or at least recognizable figures in the anime industry “Osamu” as it’s getting confusing now). Of course, not having seen either Paradise Kiss or BECK, I did not know what exactly to expect when I fired up ~Natsu no Sora~. I expected something on the production levels of the previous series, which I quite liked, but couldn’t have been called “high budget” by a long shot. Maybe it’s just that HAL Film Maker is rich off the proceeds from Aria. Or something.

At any rate, I totally was unprepared for the background visuals, which knocked me for a loop. At first I was like “holy crap, where did this money come from?” and then I was like “wait, these look like photographs” and then I looked even harder and they weren’t photographs, but they were actual drawings. So I was pretty much in a state of confusion for the first half of this episode, trying to figure out what was going on with the backgrounds. But I know now!

The mobile/character art isn’t quite up to par with the backgrounds, lending a kind of strange dichotomy to the whole thing, but there’s nothing wrong with the character art or animation at all. In fact, it reminds me of watching various American cartoons growing up, especially Looney Tunes, where there was a very similar disjoint between the backdrop and the actual props–if something was going to be used as a prop in a take, it would be drawn in the much simpler style of the characters, but if it wasn’t going to be used as a prop, it was drawn in the much more complex style of the background. Which sometimes led to amusing moments like a prop drawn in the background style in one cut, and then in another cut it’d be used as a prop and would be drawn much simpler. I hadn’t seen this in a while, and I’m not sure if it’s an anime thing, or just an advancement in modern animation techniques. I suppose this is the difference in budget and time allotment between a 13-episode TV series and a feature-length Shinkai Makoto film, but given the extreme complexity of the backgrounds, I’m not going to fault them on this matter.

As for the actual episode itself: it was a prologue, so there’s not much to say other than “it was good.” Various elements of ~Natsu no Sora~ seem to have been improved over the original Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto: the writing feels much better, for instance, in what little we’ve seen, and other small things. It also retains the feel the first season had, which I of course cannot put into words, because I don’t think there are words. I think it’s fairly safe to declare HAL Film Maker the champions of the slice-of-life/iyashi-kei anime genre at the moment, considering they have Aria, Sketchbook, and now ~Natsu no Sora~ under their belt. Can they be stopped? Do we want them to stop? I don’t know!

Itazura na Kiss: We’re Going to be Happy…Right?

So I’ve been bubbling over with fangirly-ish enthusiasm for most of today (I think catching a matinee of WALL·E had something to do with it, although how one can get all fangirly over robots is beyond me, but, damn it, I did it anyway), so the cap to today is, of course, the current definition of the ultimate in bubbly fangirl enthusiasm: Itazura na Kiss. And I’m not entirely sure if I’ve made this clear in previous posts or not (update: I did, so I’m going to reiterate it!), but you can talk all you want about the “generic-ness” of Itazura na Kiss (not that you have, necessarily, because I haven’t quite seen that, although I am certain that that is a criticism of the series, somewhere), but Tada Kaoru can certainly give Ikeda Riyoko a run for her money in the “crazy out-of-left-field plot twist” department (if not the “crazy overblown drama” department, of which Riyoko will remain queen for all eternity, most likely). Maybe it’s just because I’m caught up in the story like I’m supposed to be (like you’re supposed to be for any story), or else I’m just really bad at these things, but I totally did not foresee things like Kinnosuke proposing to Kotoko (well, okay, given the foreshadowing/tone of this episode, it was “predictable”, but I did not expect a marraige proposal out of the blue like that, and I certainly wouldn’t have been able to say “oh this is going to happen” before the start of this episode anyway). Just because it’s almost entirely pure fluff doesn’t automatically preclude it from being well-written.

But, wait, is it pure fluff? It certainly seemed to be at the beginning when it was all “I am Kotoko and I am in love with Irie!” “I am Irie, and I just want this Kotoko…thing…off my back!”…although that’s passed now, and it’s clear that Irie has feelings for Kotoko (she’s his “good friend” at college! Progress!), and that things are just getting kind of…weird, what with HEART ATTACKS and ARRANGED MARRAIGES and whatnot going on. It seems to me that it’s turned into something that gives honest treatment to the ups and downs of a relationship, romantic or not. It’s almost not about whether or not Irie and Kotoko have sex kiss each other hard enough that bubbles are summoned–it’s about things a bit more complex than than in addition to that pressing question. Irie getting upset over his role in his father’s heart attack and guilting himself into an arranged marraige meeting (subsequently sabotaged by Kotoko for this episode’s “this is a comedy, we swear!” quotient); Kotoko getting glum over Irie’s depression and staving it off by spending time with Kin-chan, who pulls the question from out of nowhere; Matsumoto (Matsumoto, of all people!) admitting that if she were to lose in her still-unexplained bid for Irie’s attention (I think she’s just really turned on by apathetic guys), she’d rather lose to Kotoko, as her feelings are pure. It is a pinball machine, and events and people are bouncing around like crazy and only every so often does one get the chance to try and use the flippers to try and steer things in a more sensible direction before entropy takes over again. And what do I call this kind of feeling? Shoujo.

On a less serious note (and possibly less incomprehensible, as I swear that all made sense while I was watching the episode, but it took a vacation between the credits and the keyboard), I kind of want to know what was running through Christina’s mind as she and Irie ran into Kin-chan and Kotoko–was she surprised to see Kotoko, or was she surprised to see the sexy hunk of meat that is Kin-chan? (if it is the latter, really famous people have really strange taste) I’m willing to bet the latter, as that would offer a handy way out for both Kotoko and Irie at the same time, but whether we’ll be going that route or not is not something I really want to peg as a sureity–as mentioned twice earlier, the fun about Itazura na Kiss is that it is unpredictable, and that plot twists come out of nowhere. It was a fairly obvious setup for something, though, so it’s not going to be glossed over. I hope it won’t be glossed over,n but Yamazaki Osamu is doing an excellent job thus far, as expected, so I’m not really worried.

On an even less serious note: I would comment on how the voice actors butchered English, but I’m pretty sure that in an actual situation conversing in Japanese with an actual native Japanese speaker, I’d butcher the hell out of Japanese to their bemusement. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t laugh. Hard. Still wasn’t as good as the legendary perfect (yet badly acted) English in Ghost Hunt, though.


NOTICE SHAMELESSLY STOLEN FROM G.K. CHESTERTON

I cannot understand those that take anime seriously, but I can love them, and I do. Out of my love I warn them to keep clear of this blog.

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