Archive for November, 2008

Toradora!: Aim for Love! (even if it’s not where you think it is)

Okay, so, she’s not got her arms crossed like she’s the Gunbuster rising from the Excalius (which still would have been totally in keeping with Minorin’s character) and she is, in fact, pointing at a supposed UFO, but that doesn’t mean I can’t take the screencap out of context and apply my own meaning to it!

I have just gone through episodes 8 and 9 of Toradora!, both quite good episodes and focusing on the strengths–the bold characterizations and the energetic pacing, while dabbling a bit in the more introspective sides of various characters–that continue to turn Toradora! into a powerhouse juggernaut of military proportions that is steamrolling over everything in its path and taking a decidedly Minorin-esque pleasure in said destruction.

As pointed out by Author before he jumped ship because he liked Ami too much (a bizarre proposition; not an unfair one if one’s enjoyment hinges on the character, perhaps, but certainly a bizarre one) and by several people thirsting for information on the blue-haired vengeful vixen of Toradora!, Ami, I felt it only proper to at least belatedly address the concerns brought up by my usual method (i.e. completely making everything up, or stating the blatantly obvious, and/or both), and, perhaps, episode 8 will serve my purposes nicely.

Episode 8, of course, is the SPORTS SHOUBU which is, of course, a swimming match between Ami (who can swim) and Taiga (who can’t). This leads directly to Ryuuji training Taiga in the fine art of failing to drown, and, of course, giving and entirely misleading pep talk in a rainstorm. It’s the misunderstanding (or, rather, the effect it has upon Taiga) that perhaps points to the incredibly obvious role of Ami in Toradora!: through her own machinations, witting or not, she brings out Taiga’s jealous side with perfect ease. Ryuuji suggests, by way of encouragement, that he’d really like to go to Ami’s summer home and how deplorable a situation that would place Taiga in during his absence, which Taiga instantly assumes means he really does want to go to Ami’s summer home with just the two of them and that he certainly isn’t trying to give her an extra incentive to win the contest.

All is made well (sort of) before the Moment of Truth, and after throwing insults and innertubes at the bikini-clad siren, Taiga takes the lead, only to suffer from Anime Character’s Leg Cramp at Inopportune Moment in a Swimming Pool-itis, leading a concerned Ryuuji to step in to save her from drowning again (interpreted by Taiga as “I really want to go to the summer home so please stop winning”), releasing her to make a furious last-second attempt to win, only to be foiled by a horrible and as yet unknown desire for her to save Ryuuji from drowning himself (turnabout is fair play, it seems), leading to tearful breakdowns of presumed emotional complexity.

And, while the insinuation that Ryuuji might get to spend an intimate vacation with Ami at her summer home is enough to send Taiga into fits of rage, she seems to have no qualms over the bond shared between Kitamura and Ami. The fits of rage could be explained away by the fact that Ami has a knack for showing up Taiga, forcing the two of them into a one-upsmanship contest, no doubt Taiga’s own internal explaination for these events. Of course, from her own assertions, Ryuuji is merely her “dog”, so, therefore, people who are not Taiga or Ryuuji wonder just why she’s so worked up over Ami putting the moves on him in a very not-subtle way.

I’m fairly certain, then, that Ami is the catalyst for the entire series, or, perhaps, the foil–without her, it’s entirely likely that a good deal of the relationship progress between Taiga and Ryuuji would not have been made, leaving them stuck in limbo where, for all their understanding of one another, they’d still be essentially stuck at the launchpad, lacking an external impetus to actually press the “launch” button (which, of course, is the hardest to find button on the massive control panel) for the rocky ride out of the atmosphere. WIth Ami, however, we start to see the shades of complexity arise in this strange love pentagon. The more Ami pushes Taiga, the stronger the bond between her and Ryuuji seems to become. Which is all as it should be, as that which does not kill only makes one stronger.

Other interesting note: it just occured to me that the creation of the relationship between Taiga and Ryuuji is, more or less, how many strong relationships in real life are formed: you don’t go out hunting for love, for love is insane; it shows up, instead, when you least expect it, in your apartment late at night, clobbers you with a kendo stick, and demands you to return its love letter to someone else. And it most certainly doesn’t look like you thought love would look like. The pursuit of happiness is a tricky one indeed.

Nodame Cantabile: Paris Chapter: Nodame “MUKYA” Kick

Nodame is full of surprises. Or else, this is just the power of love. At any rate, Nodame spin-kick was amazing.

I wasn’t quite aware how I’d missed the classical-music antics of Nodame and Chiaki until I started up the second season last night (after a suitably moving re-watching of Toki o Kakeru Shoujo, which was only after an agonizingly irritating three hours of wanting to smash DVD players) and found myself wrapped, once again, in Nodame love. Gyabo, indeed.

It’s been ages since I’ve seen the first season (at least a year, and over a year and a half since I started watching it, I believe), and the Paris Chapter seems to be like the first season, except with the zaniness kicked up another notch. That can be a good or bad thing, I suppose, and from the looks of pacing they might be trying to put a bit too much manga into their allotted 11 episodes, but I’ve not really seen anything to complain about. Not even the breaking of the suspension of disbelief regarding the magical television translation of French into Japanese.*

It also reminded me (read: forced me to actively think about) what, exactly, is going on in Nodame Cantabile under all the madness and spin-kicks. The basic gist of the series is, essentially, about Nodame trying very, very hard to catch up with the rising star of Chiaki’s career as a skilled conductor, yet always failing because with her eccentric personality, she’s not exactly cut out for the Bach-eat-Bach** world of classical music. What I don’t necessarily think jumped out at me–and this might be due to several reasons, such as a change of mental perspective between season 1 and season 2, or, more likely, the explicit spelling out in episode 5–is that at the same time that Nodame is trying to catch up to Chiaki, Chiaki himself is, in some way, trying to (or supposed to be trying to, more later) catch up with Nodame herself.

The difference in their personalities is remarkable: Nodame perpetually seems happy-go-lucky and does what she wants to do, when she feels like doing it, and isn’t afraid to look at things in a direction far askew from the normal perspective (a trait that Charles Auclair–yes, that guy with the utterly terrifying character design that will probably give me nightmares tonight–saw when he offered to teach Nodame at the conservatory), while Chiaki is solely focused upon working towards his career as a conductor. What happens, then, is that Nodame’s eccentric personality and general friendliness causes people to befreind her almost at first glance (it takes nearly zero time for the tenants of the apartment in Paris to develop a fondness for her), Chiaki seems to have admirers more than he has friends.

Behold, my favorite scene from the Paris Chapter OP. I miss SUEMITSU & the SUEMITH already, though, as Suemitsu proves that piano rock isn’t dead, you just have to be Japanese and channeling Jerry Lee Lewis. With less pedophilic incest.
The ED, however, is amazing.

It’s also clear he has serious issues relating to love and affection, considering whatever mysterious trauma his father forced him through (did his father die? Do we know what happened between him and his father? I can’t really remember…) has had massively negative effects on his relationship with Nodame. It’s almost as if his inability to acknowledge Nodame as his girlfriend (which everyone else but him recognizes between the two of them) stems from a deep reluctance to love (or be loved) by another, or, more generally, a deep reluctance to commit any kind of meaningful trust to anyone. Hence Chiaki the tsundere: a lonely person who desperately wants someone else, but psychologically cannot afford the trust that implies.

Similarly, Nodame lacks the drive and self-discipline necessary to acheive the heights that Chiaki has accorded himself, yet has something perhaps more important: friends who care about her. And, although she seems flighty and disconnected with the world, this, too, gives her her unusual way of looking at the world, and her talent that, if properly developed, would allow her to attain or even surpass the success accorded to Chiaki. And, yet, despite her own inherent quirkiness, she’s dead-set on attaining success in the music world the “normal” way, the way she’s not cut out for. Because of her attachment to Chiaki, though, she feels compelled to turn herself into the perfect wife for Chiaki, as she sees it, never supposing all the while that nearly every other character has had the unspoken realization that the two fit well together.

Nodame Cantabile is, perhaps, more than a love story between Nodame and Chiaki, and more about the two of them learning to accept themselves for who they are. I can already see that Chiaki’s pursuit of conductorship and fame is going to have devestating effects upon him (we saw this in episode 6, when Chiaki finds out he’s just a “young and cheap conductor,” ill-prepared for the international stage), and as long as Nodame refuses to hone her talents in her own particular way (rather than conform them to a specific “standard,” as noted when her “favorite piece” was the same piece played by Rui at Chiaki’s debut concert, to Auclair’s dismay), neither of them will ever really be “happy” in the sense than many know it. Nodame chases after Chiaki’s happiness, never suspecting that she already has it, and that Chiaki himself is in dire need of it.

There have been entirely too many serious words in this post, so here’s a MUKYA and a GYABO for you:

(yes I did just learn how to make the cute little tiny kana in the Japanese IME, why do you ask?)


* I’m of the opinion here that the insertion of random, easy, familiar French (Je t’aime!) is intended to remind the viewer that the characters are speaking French, not Japanese, as they only do this once or twice an episode. Cute, yes, funny, yes, but it’ s also a reminder that they’re supposed to be speaking French. It’s kind of like how, in the Azumanga Daioh dub, ADV switched Yukari from an English teacher to a Spanish teacher, because it doesn’t make sense to have bad English jokes in an English dub. Disbelief-breaker? Possible, but only the hardest of hardcore people really attempt to film movies or TV series in the language the characters are allegedly speaking. And Mel Gibson. I want him to do a version of Jesus Christ Superstar in Aramaic now. Not sure how that would turn out, but an Aramaic musical would be awesome.

Also learning French through having memorized Purigorota in Japanese and linking the French with the Japanese is a very Nodame way to learn French. Nodame: genius savant?

** J.S. and P.D.Q., respectively.

Kannagi: The Crazy Does Not Stop

I still remain firmly convinced that Kannagi is a solid testament to the assertion that the difference between being trite and not being trite is in how it’s executed rather than how it’s conceived. But I’m pretty sure that everyone realizes this already and that, rather, I would like to spend some time explicating some rather amusing observations.

  • Akiba-kun. The very second he opened his mouth to rant about the quality of direction in Lolikko Cutie (the highly parodical snippet we were alloted in the ending credits to episode 7 amused me vastly, by the way. “Actually, I have three lives!”), I thought immediately of myself, as that’s exactly how I would react upon someone mentioning something I liked in a negative context (although, in the case of Lolikko Cutie, I don’t think I’d go to quite the extent Akiba-kun does, but the spirit’s there, and that’s what counts). Pretty much any time he steps on screen I know I’m in for hilarity, although I’m starting to wonder if anything will be better than the presentation of the Beta video tape, follwed by “It’s a Sony!” I have a nasty feeling that there will be better.
  • And, speaking of Akiba-kun going into far too much detail on the direction, Yamamoto Yutaka really knows how to manipulate humor. Speaking as someone who has spent entirely too much time thinking seriously about being funny, and also having been a bit of a humorist myself, he understands some of the strongest weapons in the repitoire of the comedian: one, create funny characters and set them loose on each other with free reign and hilarity is born; and two, sometimes the best joke is the one that isn’t actually made.Witness episode 7: as more characters pile into Jin’s room in an attempt to coax Nagi out of the closet, things start to spiral out of control and it becomes less about getting Nagi out of the closet and more about watching the characters interact. You aren’t even told what, exactly, Jin has done to incur Nagi’s irrational wrath until the episode is nearly over, and by then it’s mostly trivial, because you’re laughing too hard at everything else that’s happened. Better, perhaps, is the scene where the cheerfully sadistic Zange is doing something to Jin, although network constraints (Kannagi does air relatively early: 10:30PM on Saturday evenings) and just plain good comedic sense from Yamamoto led to us not being terribly sure what, exactly, Zange was doing to Jin. It’s the classic setup: sometimes, the funniest thing is to leave it up to the imagination of the viewer to invent their own (in this case, perverted) scene. Handled with the right balance of vagueness and specific details, this can provide endless amusement and running gags in both the series and in the following. Personally, I found it funnier to imagine some kind of horribly complex, planned-out act to make it seem like “embarassing things” were happening, either impromptu or without letting Tsugumi in on the deal (perhaps to make her own shock, embarassment, and discomfort contribute to the overall effect. Such an eventuality works for me because I, as the viewer, know that Zange would totally do horribly embarassing things to Jin for the sole sadistic purpose of pissing off her sister, and so, therefore, by acting like she is doing them, but not actually doing them, the insinuation combined with the subversion of her own character archetype makes it delightfully amusing.Why did Kyoani say Yamamoto wasn’t ready to be a director a year ago, anyway? Was he actually good, and there’s just some kind of politics behind this, or did he just train on a mountaintop with a wizened old man in the martial arts of directorship in the intervening year? Is there a similar wizened old man on a mountaintop for the martial arts of librarianship?
  • Speaking of Zange-chan, I am still working up some kind of overly complicated and tongue-in-cheek theory about how Kannagi is actually about the intervention of Western values (personified by Zange, who wears a crucifix) versus traditional Japanese values (personified by Nagi, who is a mobile sacred Shinto tree). I mean, really, look at how brutal Zange is to subvert Nagi. She ties her up in the shed! She kicks her in the face! She does anything (mostly decitful things, though) to gain the willing support of the Japanese public, forcing Nagi to fight her on her own turf! If that’s not some kind of intercultural dialogue manifested in two decidedly insane yet strangely attractive sisters, I don’t know what is.

The main thing that’s surprised me is that, even with Kannagi going down directions I didn’t quite think it’d go back at episode two, it’s still retained is particular brand of comedic styling that causes it to rise above the status of “just another otaku-service series.” We may have had underwear shopping episodes, but I’ll be damned if they weren’t hilarious underwear-shopping episodes.

Toradora!: Takasu Ryuuji Is My New Hero

I am dead serious. Every man should aspire to be him. He can cook! He can sew! He isn’t a total jerk, or even a jerk at all!

No, really.

Taiga might steal the show with her infinitely endearing nature, and there’s no doubt that, for the intended audience, Taiga herself is a large part of the series’ success, but Ryuuji himself is nothing short of amazing. Perhaps it’s just the simple fact that I find it incredibly easy to identify with him, given his menacing appearance counterbalanced with his own soft, gentle nature that reminds me of a self-description on a good day (on a bad day, or in a bad mood, I’d place myself more in step with Taiga, and then there are the occasional extended lapses into Minorin behavior that I have to watch out for), but despite the fact that he does nothing that would traditionally be designated “awesome” by masculine standard, he nevertheless manages to be awesome.

Mayhaps the same feeling also stems from his own particular relationship with Taiga. Although Taiga intitally pseudo-bullies Ryuuji into assisting her land Kitamura (by withholding a similar setup with Minori until she is successful), the “bullying” phase lasted for, essentially, less than an episode, as Ryuuji seems to be dealing with and caring for Taiga less because she bullied him into doing such, but more because he actually cares for her, and, true to form, selflessly gives himself over to assist her in her goal of bagging the ever-elusive (and decidedly weird) Kitamura. Selflessly to the point that, in order to prevent Taiga’s poolside embarassment, not only does he sew her some fake breasts, he actually has the guts to save her both from drowning and mortal embarassment by slipping the escaped falsie back in without really recognizing what it was, exactly, that he was doing. It didn’t occur to him to be “lecherous” or even fretting about what might happen if he did such a thing, he simply did it to save Taiga’s face. And he didn’t even bat an eye afterwards. Now that’s what I call manly, and you don’t need sunglasses for that.

Perhaps, in part, it’s because neither Taiga nor Ryuuji (consciously) consider each other as “candidates” for a romantically involved relationship that leads them, unwitting, into a relationship that is a romantic one in all but acknowledgment as such. Of course, we the viewers know that, most likely, Taiga and Ryuuji will become an “official” couple by series end, but the fun (and the tension) is derived from the fact that they haven’t realized it yet, and persist in failing to realize this. We already know from the shocked expression on Taiga’s face when Ami is putting the moves on Ryuuji that while it might not really be a conscious thought yet, she seemingly already can’t bear the thought of Ryuuji getting entangled with someone else, although whether she was concerned more for Minorin (who still thinks that Taiga and Ryuuji are going out, despite their protestations to the contrary) rather than herself remains to be seen. It’s possible, too, that she rationalized away her concern for Ryuuji possibly being taken away from her and foisted it upon Minorin, since, if she truly isn’t cognizant that she likes him in such a way, then she’d have to rationalize it away somehow.

I have the sneaky suspicion it will take Minorin acting like this:

to get Ryuuji and Taiga to realize what’s actually going on. For all her, uh, Minorin-ness, I’m pretty sure that she and Kitamura are the only ones who really know what’s going on while Ryuuji and Taiga are stumbling blindly down the path to…whatever it is they’ll get in the end. Maybe it’s not a plot by Ryuuji and Taiga to set each other up with Minorin and Kitamura. Maybe it’s Minorin and Kitamura’s plot to set Ryuuji and Taiga up! Exactly as Aeolia Schenberg planned two centuries in the future!


Skip Beat!: No Skipping, But Lots of Beating

Daikon beating, to be exact.

I’ve just watched the first three episodes of Skip Beat! and I am wondering two things:

  1. What just hit me, and
  2. Do I want it to hit me again?

Having just come off Itazura na Kiss, Skip Beat is like a 180° from the antics of Kotoko wooing Irie, except it’s more like a 360° because Kyoko punches everyone in the face and that’s a wrap at the mid-point of episode one because everyone’s dead.


I can’t fault Skip Beat! for being “bland” or “unoriginal” shoujo, since over the three episodes expectations and conventions kept getting knocked down like crazy: Shoutarou being an unrepentant obnoxious self-centered bastard who’s let fame get to his head too much (or, rather, has an inflated opinion of himself, which seems to help in the talent industry of Japan), his arch-rival Ren who is just as much of a self-centered bastard, to hardcore daikon art, to failing the audition (we’re totally out of Tanemura Arina territory here, folks). I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect going into the first episode, and, coming out of the third episode, I’m not entirely sure what to expect out of the next n episodes (except, apparently, pure awesome).

The sneaky part about Kyoko’s goal to become a talent superstar to eclipse her childhood friend Shoutarou is that she goes about it exactly like he did. I’m pretty sure, by the end of episode 3, the realization has dawned upon her that she, indeed, cannot power her way through auditions and the horrors of being a rising idol in the highly competitive industry in Japan when all one has to fuel one’s goals is a burning desire to trounce your cocky, overconfident friend. Such a desire is natural when scored, especially at a young age, but such an action is counterproductive as it makes you the exact same kind of person as the one you are hoping to be better than: petty and vindictive. Perhaps this is why I enjoyed-and-didn’t-enjoy this early setting-up of the story: Kyoko spent far too much of it being a girl with a grudge (the parts where she was endearingly dense and single-minded and completely unknowing of proper protocol made up for it), so it wasn’t until she’d realized that she’d had her feeling of love replaced with a codependent relationship with Shoutarou that I started to warm up to Skip Beat! I’m all for giving Shoutarou the what-for, but not when one must stoop to his level to deliver the what-for. Now that she’s figured that out, I’m ready to see how she goes about things in the right way: living well, after all, is the sweetest revenge, although also impossible to pull off consciously.

As long as Skip Beat! stays true to whatever it is I watch shoujo series for (I don’t even want to go there right now, I’m trying not to think too much–think “character” and “emotion” and maybe “bubbles”), which all signs point to yes as far as I can tell, I’m sticking with it.

Because if I don’t, I don’t want Kyoko to stalk me until I do. And she’s a seriously scary stalker. Especially with that knife…

Zaregoto, bk. 1: The Kubikiri Cycle: A Horribly Late Review of Trivial Consequence

So I’ve had a copy of Zaregoto book 1 since it came out (in August), and carried it around in my everpresent man-purse messenger bag, but, despite it being in said bag-like entity, it was not being read because there were other things in there, like other novels and a collection of short stories by Saki that I should really read more of before I have to return it to the wild library and various textbooks that see far more use than anything else in said cloth carrying device. So my actual copy looks more well-read than it might seem for a book I read over about three days, but definitely much less well-read than my original mass-market edition from ten years ago of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy which I think still exists, but its cover is currently held together with Scotch tape and a prayer. Possibly missing the Scotch tape.

Why am I telling you all that? I have no idea.

I actually managed to read Zaregoto last week, in the process rediscovering what absolute fun it is to shut off all electronic devices in a room, save for a small lamp by the bed, and stick my nose in a book for a few hours, oblivious to the passage of time. That particular revelation (re-revelation?) might color my reading experience, but probably less than the fact that after reading the book my brain oozed out onto the floor and had to expend some effort reconstituting itself inside my skull, since this was my first experience reading Nisioisin. I still can’t hear the word “genius” without cringing. That sentence pained me to write.

I’ve always held a peculiar fondness for the older-style mystery novels, so it’s just as well that Zaregoto struck me in much the same way, owing partially to its similiarity to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None… (which I have not read yet, but it is sitting here, waiting) in the sense that the characters are called to a remote island whereupon murders are committed upon the hapless and badly confused guests until someone figures them out and off they go. It even has the obvious-only-in-retrospect ending that delights me so!

Only one thing really bugs me, but only in a pet peevish way: the third protagonist of the series, Aikawa Jun, delivers the final final solution for the events of the book, despite not having been in the book at all until that point. As a set-up for the next novel (where Ii-chan, Kisa, and Jun work as a unit, because three is better than one), it works, and it’s not wholly terrible, it just robs me of my Sherlock Holmes-esque thrill. Of course, then again, as a nine-novel sequence, perhaps we could also see some character development in Ii-chan, who is one of those first-person narrators who, although omnipresent throughout the reading experience, doesn’t seem to have much of a personality–a fact alluded to by several characters throughout the book, making it a plot point of sorts.

Me, mostly I’m just impressed that Nisioisin managed to turn out a solidly written title as his debut novel at age 20. Take that, Christopher Paolini. The other good thing about reading Zaregoto is that it’s left me with a sore hankering for mystery, which I am filling by re-reading The Westing Game for the first time since I was a kid (it’s still really hard to figure out, even though I know the solution already, because the entire book is a distration for the solution–strangely enough, a bit like Zaregoto in some ways). What monsters hath an open book released, indeed.

(Did I make the obligatory “Zaregoto is pretty heavy for a light novel” joke yet? Consider it made)

Demian has fun reading the book, even though it doesn’t have the word Abraxas in it at all.
DiGiKerot says, uh, what I just said. Possibly better, depending on one’s point of view about such things, but without an amusing yet vague glimpse into some of the deranged workings of my life, which probably makes it better.
astrange is mysteriously vague about what he thinks about the novel in a one-line review in a mostly irrelevant post, no doubt brought on by the fact that he’s read entirely too much Haruki Murakami.

Real Drive: Real Nature?

Oh my God, a Real Drive post that doesn’t start with a picture of Nyamo! Okay, so, she’s in it, but she’s blurry, so it doesn’t count.

Since I am one of the Few, the Proud, and the MIghty who have stuck with Real Drive from the beginning, despite it being a Cyberpunk Series from Masamune Shirow animated by Production I.G., I’ve actually found it better, overall, than what I was expecting (which was, well, a bit of a retread of Ghost in the Shell, to be honest–and while I might not care for Ghost in the Shell, it wasn’t bad, but its time had certainly come). Of course, given that particular background, why I like it is probably the exact reason a bunch of other people don’t like it, but that’s okay. And why I like it has almost nothing to do with Nyamo whatsoever. Although she still doesn’t hurt.

Real Drive, for me, has been less about the “cool technology” of the Metal, and more about the effect said “cool technology” has upon human life. We’re shown a society where nearly all wants are possible through the virtual reality of the Metal, which exists mostly upon an artificial island created specifically for research into phenomenon associated with the Metal. Hitherto, despite the heavy use of diving and etc. to resolve problems, the various episodic stories have revolved around a conflict of technology with humanity: we have the girl, born blind from birth, given cybernetic eyes, but ultimately rejecting the eyes, since they stripped her of her ability to experience sensory syntheasia; we have the young man, troubled by humanity and imbued with a passionate love for the simple life of dogs, using the Metal to swap consciousnesses with a dog, thereby escaping his harsh reality; we have gourmands par excellance, who have tasted the finest foods imaginable, but only in virtual reality, while at home their sloppy, drooling bodies contrast starkly with their choice of Rennaisance elegance in their virtual garb.

So, too, is it about man versus machine: Souta spends an inordinate amount of time struggling to find some way to defeat Holon in combat, unaware that what holds him back is not his own natural talent (since Holon admits herself that Souta could defeat her), but rather his own inability to bring himself to injuring Holon, despite knowing she’s a cyborg and incapable of feeling pain in the same way a human might be. Even when fighting against a different, more inhuman cyborg, Souta still finds himself inadaquate without support from Holon.

Despite the simple constructs of each story-episode, and despite not following the Ghost in the Shell method of quoting philosophy at you to make you realize you’re supposed to be thinking while you’re being entertained by things blowing up/Nyamo being cute, it does weave a complicated view of technology’s role in human life: good elements, such as light hints towards a growing sense of humanity in the robotic Holon, contrast with some of the more depraved elements of humanity given free reign over an essentially uncontrolled virtual reality.

“My spirits were elevated by the enchanting appearance of nature; the past was blotted from my memory, the present was tranquil, and the future gilded by bright rays of hope and anticipations of joy.”
(oh god help I’m quoting Frankenstein someone stop me)

The last two episodes I’ve seen (18 and 19) hint, now, at a “naturalization” of the Metal, of a sort of blending of the real and the virtual, where, rather than technology becoming a dominant force in human’s lives and, essentially, robotizing them–stripping away their humanity–what Real Drive seems to be pushing for is a “naturalization” of technology. This arc already hinted fairly strongly at “natural” processes taking place inside the Metal, processes similar to those that help cleanse nature of impurities. The message seems to be a much gentler one than most cyberpunk novels might seem to take: rather than an oppressive future where technology and machines rule over humans, we have a cyberpunk-ish future where the depiction is much more of a nuanced view: technology will change humanity, as it always has, and become part of the natural order of things.

It’s a viewpoint supported, in part, at least by history: the Industrial Revolution set off the Luddite revolt, sending people burning factories down, fearful of industrialization; the Gutenberg press sparked off a giant Luddite-esque controvesy even as it changed the face of civilization the world over; one must imagine that when some Sumerian scribe had the bright idea to lay reed to clay tablet that people got really mad and threw rocks at him. It’s a very current topic: Atlantic Monthly recently ran an article (where you will pretty much find the preceding sentence) which struck me as a correct observation, if not necessarily a bad one. Of course, one must also ask the question whether society as a whole is progressing forward or progressing backwards, but I’m not even going totouch that topic because my head hurts and I need to not think so much (especially not today!), but I, alas, cannot stop.

Considering that I’ve yet to see the rest of the series, and there’s still seven episodes to go, I could be dead wrong as to whether or not this will be resolved in future episodes. There’s certainly some kind of message here, even if it’s one of those series that challenge you to take it at more than face value, without any explicit cues to do so.

Or maybe it’s just the lack of Oshii Mamoru that’s causing me to like it. That might have a good deal to do with it!

Itazura na Kiss: THE FINAL FIVE: A combination post of bubbles and confusion

CLARIFICATION: Confusion in the post, not in the show.

I am recording any stray thoughts I have as I progress through the final five episodes of Itazura na Kiss, which I have lamentably procrastinated watching until now. Here are the notes arranged by episode, and hopefully I can exhaust my nigh-inexahustable repetoire of Itazura na Kiss-fueled hyperbole so I can rest comfortably for the next five or so months being hyperbolic about Toradora!.

Episode 21: 8:00 PM EDT

What kind of growth hormones did they give Yuuki? Like, seriously? He’d been the same runty midget throughout about ten years of Kotoko fruitlessly chasing after Irie, and I wasn’t expecting him to have a growth spurt this huge. Also I think he developed excellent taste in cardigans and dress shirts, or at least “excellent taste” as defined by people living in America in the 1950s, which is “excellent taste” in my book. I hereby propose that when they make the nigh-inevitable Hollywood live-action movie they hire Ron Howard circa Happy Days to play Yuuki. That might involve some dangerous temporal logistics, but nothing we can’t solve with science.

Also Non-chan is a bastard, at least until the last three minutes. I’m sure those last three minutes won’t affect much by next episode though!

Episode 22: 8:27 PM EDT

That is the BEST. CAKE. EVER. I am dead serious.

I highly enjoyed the subversion of the deployment of the “random character is injured, maimed, or rendered ill” plot device by having Kotoko provide the last-minute resuscitation of the hapless cannon fodder (literally, in this case). Interesting, too, during the last segment (wherein it is revealed that Irie is the GREATEST SUCTION DOCTOR IN JAPAN, a title that I am sure many physicians strive and fail to achieve in their limited lifetimes) that Irie says to Kotoko that the praise from Grateful Mother of Hospital Patient was the first she’d received as a nurse, little knowing that not the day before, she’d performed first aid and assisted paramedics, having to dodge out of receiving an overdose of gratitude. If the earlier episodes were over-full of Irie acting like the male tsundere he is (or, well, was), then these last few, post-Keita, episodes seem to be compensating for the loss. Complete with bubbles.

Episode 23: 9:27 PM EDT

Thank God Irie isn’t cheating on the now-pregnant Kotoko with Yukie-chan here! More Yukie-chan for me, as I am totally besmitten with a horribly minor character of extreme cuteness. Perhaps I am the lecherous one now…

With only two episodes left (and 24 looking like it’s going to be the sanitized anime version of The Miracle of Life), they are tying down the dangling plot threads of Kin-chan and Chris-tan (Kin-chan getting his own restaurant and Chris’s hand in marraige was strangely satisfying, as was noticing that he is no longer annoyingly charming, but, rather, more genuinely charming. And Chris has gotten much, much better at Japanese. Her mother, though…

Even Sudou and Matsumoto get their turn in the spotlight, as Sudou proves that his moustache is not a mere facial decoration and actually earns it by slapping sense into Matsumoto. Or, well trying to, as Matsumoto squarely decks him in the face and runs off until Kotoko is able to talk sense into her. Say what you will about the overall love-fantasy nature of the series: Itazura na Kiss derives most of its drama from the very real problems of miscommunication common in relationships (both non-romantic and romantic) that lead to conflict over things that aren’t actually problems. It doesn’t deal heavily in this sort of drama, but that’s okay, because it’s more of a silly, giddy comedy (with serious moments) than a drama (with humorous moments). Even now, even after letting it sit for as-yet-unexplained reasons (I’m not entirely sure of them myself, something to do with “there was too much backlog built up and I wanted a big huge marathon to cap the series off”), it’s still as schoolgirlishly giggly as it was in the beginning.

Episode 24: 10:17 PM EDT


That is all. My brain cannot think in words right now, at any second this sentence is going to turn into nonsensical letter dsklbfkasbfjsabfjasbkljbfasdvfbkasdbf kdasfksadbfjksafsabfjklasbfsabj HELP.

Episode 25: 10:49 PM EDT

And what appears to be a bonus episode after the “ending” of the story arc. A rather amusing episode, if only for Mi-chan acting like a, well, child. This is now one of the very, very few romance series (that I’ve seen, anyway) that have taken the characters all the way from one-sided high school crushes to happy parents to a rambunctious child who shares the best (and worst) of both her parents’ personality traits (as many children do).

Perhaps the best thing about it was that even though it was quite clearly a wish-fulfillment fantasy shoujo romance series, it was a damn good one. Did I like Kotoko, in all her irrationality? You bet. Did I like Irie, through the process of watching him gradually defrost from a terribly nasty person to a lovably charming guy?You bet. Through enjoying Itazura na Kiss, am I a card-carrying member of the male conspiracy to secretly reverse the progressive feminist trends that have been erected since the 1970s and return women to the status of virtual enslavement to hot stoves and impromptu sandwich making in kitchens? I have no idea because I still can’t figure out my chauvinist-pig level (on a scale of Snowball to Napoleon), although I can mention that the old Cathy strips from the 1970s (you know, when Cathy was still funny) were hilarious and Irving is a jerkbag (no, really, he was a huge jerkbag, and I would have punched him several times) who seems to have mellowed out in time (like someone else mentioned in this here post) for Guisewite to finally get around to poking fun at the institution of marraige, thirty years later.


Although, really, I don’t think there’s much else to say that I haven’t covered at least ten times in previous posts. The qualities I enjoyed (that some others may or may not have enjoyed) stayed true to themselves down to the very end, and the quality remained the same. I don’t think I could have asked for anything more, considering what Itazura na Kiss is (a big, huge, giddy, bubble-filled shoujo romp), and it quite obviously hit a sweet spot that hadn’t been hit for a while. Strangely enough, one of the best parts of the last five episodes was seeing Yuuki go from “I am the evil sadistic younger brother” to “sophisticated mature teenager.” Something tells me he’ll have an easier time getting a girlfriend than Irie and Kotoko had, although their bond might not be quite as strong.

And I still say the best part was watching Irie turn from callous evil passive-aggressive male to, well, a man who actually managed to have feelings and emotions and actually have a heart that cared about things. Specifically Kotoko, but I don’t think he’d have been a very good doctor if he’d been an apathetic whatsit the whole time. Then again, would he even be a doctor? Would not he just be cruising through life, oblivious to everything? Would not the series have been massively boring otherwise?

Me, I’m just waiting for when Ethel and Fred show up and wreak havoc with Kotoko. Unintentional havoc. Maybe.

I should probably stop writing words now. That sounds pretty good to me.


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


November 2008