Archive for the 'k-p' Category

Kino no Tabi: The Road Goes Ever On

Ever since I first heard about Kino no Tabi (or Kino’s Journey) when it aired six years ago, I have been eager to watch it. For reasons ineffable even to me, it has taken me until a few days ago to even start upon the series. I am quite happy to report that the series has been well worth the wait, even after only four episodes; allowing time for me to grow and mature between then and now has probably only amplified the experience of watching the series for the first time.

The framework of the series–Kino’s travels with her talking motorcycle Hermes in a quasi-fantastic land populated with darkly twisted city-states–allows for different explorations of the series’ tagline and central theme: the world is not beautiful, therefore it is. Kino no Tabi is unsettling and hauntingly elegiac, a feeling not unlike that experienced in Mushishi or when listening to a Sound Horizon album (Roman, or perhaps Elysion) with a translation in hand, although I would venture that perhaps Kino no Tabi is much easier to understand than Revo’s multilayered metaphorical lyrics. Other comparisons that pop to mind include Lois Lowry’s The Giver and Michael Ende’s Momo, both of which deal with functionally dysfunctional societies.

Of particular note (because I just watched it and it made me gush with awe) is the story of Kino’s homeland–the Country of Adults–and the profoundly alienating nature of that particular city-state. Here, children, at the age of twelve, undergo a menacing “operation” to “remove the child from their head” so as to enable them to enjoy their job, which are full of unpleasant and dull things that adults do not want to do. As do the residents of all city-states that Kino will visit, she simply accepts this way of life as natural and logical, the way things are. Of course, the illusion she has is shattered when a passing traveler (also named Kino–there’s a reason for it) learns of her country’s custom and inadvertently pries open her childish curiosity that things might be different than they are here, a profound, world-shattering sentiment for anyone who has the insatiable curiosity of a child.

Lamentably, of course, this leads directly to the “adults” (quotation marks are important here) discovering that, suddenly, Kino has a will of her own, and their psychopathic nature shows true, as her parents promptly begin to berate and despise her for not following tradition and questioning what’s good for her. This leads directly to her family deciding to kill her for refusing to undergo the surgery she “needs” to become an adult. The traveler-Kino, himself unable to fit into Kino’s highly delineated world of “child” and “adult” as he is neither, sacrifices himself, leaving Kino’s parents somewhat confused and stymied about what to do next (the attendant police officer helpfully encourages them to remove the knife so as to try to kill their daughter again) and also prompting Kino to escape with Hermes and begin the journey that occupies the remainder of the series.

Kino’s life as traveler has several interpretations: the most obvious one to be derived from her backstory is that she has now assumed the identity of the Kino who died to allow her to escape; now she, too, is caught in the land that is neither adult nor child. One is tempted to say “adolescence,” but that term carries a certain undesirable connotation. I tend to agree with a somewhat paraphrased statement about the phases of life: in childhood, you have all the questions; in adolescence, you have all the answers; in maturity, you realise that the questions were the answers all along. Perhaps it would be fairer to say that Kino now exists in a state beyond the loss of her innocence and the deadening of emotion that she’d assumed adulthood to be. In short, she never “grows up”; indeed, it could be said that all who are truly adult never do. She understands that there are other experiences yet to have in life, not all of them pleasant, yet she is also not resigning herself to a life of misery (or misery masked by bland, deadened, obligatory cheerfulness).

Another way to look as it is that, as a traveler, she is also an outsider. And as an outsider, removed from the troubles that the insiders have, she is better able to perceive the nature of things that the insider might deny themselves; Kino can see the faults as well as the strengths of each individual way of life. None are perfect, all are flawed; yet the flaws can also lend them the beauty they lack. In this, it seems, all walks of life are united. Even Kino’s way of life doesn’t escape the lens; as a traveler, she is alone, aloof, disconnected. Yet her unwillingness to settle down itself needn’t be viewed as a recipe for suffering and misery, as instead Kino draws pleasure from the evanescent solitude.

The world is not beautiful, she reasons; yet because there is suffering, there is also joy. And indeed, it seems that in every city-state she visits or draws near, there is superficial happiness masking a deeper undercurrent of suffering, malice, or cruelty; yet below and beyond the suffering lies a joy that goes seemingly unnoticed by the many resigned to their fates. Therefore: the world is beautiful.

Kino enjoys obtuse and paradoxical tautologies. They have flower petals.

Kamichu!: Remembering “Love is Missing”

Kamichu! has long been one of my all-time favorite series, a series that manages to nail the slice-of-life aesthetic while also infusing it with a bit of Ghibli-esque magic. I love all the epiodes, but I have a special affection for “Love is Missing” (DVD episode 11). While being a very strong testament to familial ties as well as a lovely testing-the-limits-of-sister-bonds episode, it also happens to showcase the odd chemistry between Shokichi and Miko. Why do I care about Shokichi and Miko when Yurie and Kenji are perfectly servicable characters, you might ask?

Because they’re awesome, that’s why.

Yurie and Kenji are a cute couple, in the sense that Yurie is too shy to ever really say anything to Kenji about her feelings (because she’s, well, Yurie). Kenji, meanwhile, is utterly oblivious to the world at large, and charmingly so. It’s rather simple for me to identify with both of them, as I have had a shyness factor perilously close to Yurie’s (and now only dangerously close to Yurie’s), and I can get as oblivious as Kenji sometimes (most times I’m only slightly more than half as oblivious as he is, though, thankfully). And while I really like Yurie and Kenji as a couple, they somehow do not hold a candle to Shokichi and Miko.

Shokichi and Miko are both the kind of people who very very obviously know that they like the other, but cannot bring it to themselves to really say it. So, instead, what should normally be a very obvious relationship between two people who like one another instead becomes a relationship so awkward I can’t help but adore it. Nowhere is this awkwardness more palpable than in “Love is Missing”, sticking the two of them in Hiroshima alone together, in a situation where they are both obviously there together because of how they feel about one another (Miko having asked Shokichi to accompany her upon her running-away endeavor, and Shokichi willingly going and refusing to return home, abandoning her) and yet still reluctant to let their own feelings become too obvious to the other. Cue twenty or so minutes of awkward romance and truancy action and you end up with an OGT that is little more than a puddle on the floor. A blissful puddle, but a puddle nonetheless.

I’m not entirely certain if this post has any kind of point (or can ever actually have a point even if pressed hard enough to have one) other than 1) still not dead yet 2) having the long-sought-after fanboying over “Love is Missing” and Kamichu! n general that I’ve wanted to do for almost a year but hadn’t been able to due to having loaned my DVDs to a friend for nine months and 3) mentioning a plan to rewatch the series again with perhaps a closer eye towards each episode’s general theme, if only because starting to finish up the last rewatch made me acutely aware of the potential for verbiosity there.

Or, barring that, I can just watch it again because it seems to really be what I need right now, anime-wise.

Were you waiting for a brain-busting revelation? You only get this one [->], I’m afraid. A terrible let-down, I’m sure.

The Rediscovery of Haruhi Suzumiya

One day the H will be as familiar a sight as the crucifix, the Star of David, the crescent moon and star, and whatever other religious symbols I have no room to list here there are.

One day the H will be as familiar a sight as the crucifix, the Star of David, the crescent moon and star, and whatever other religious symbols I have no room to list here there are.

 

I remember 2006.

I remember when no one had a clue what The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya was, let alone knowing that it would turn into a phenomenon that persists to this day. I remember watching it before true Haruhiist mania had caught on, which was sometime around the release of the second broadcast episode. I remember dropping everything I was doing, once a week, to watch the new Haruhi episode. I remember arguing with people about whether it was meta-parody or not, about whether it was the horribly generic and silly series it had lampooned in the student film episode or not, about whether it was “just another silly harem series” or not, about endless permutations of quality and the lack thereof. In short, I remember it being a highly complicated time, and not exactly a good environment to foster sane, rational opinions about The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.

I also remember, after it had concluded and the post-good-series glow had faded, wondering what all the hooplah still going on was about.

Don’t get me wrong, I still like the series, but there was always something different about the way I liked it. Sometimes I thought that there was some quality that I’d overlooked, one that may or may not appeal to me, but that obviously appealed to the legions of fans, that drove the series from a fad to a phenomenon. Other times I thought that everyone else was grossly overestimating it, and the value of Haruhi became less intrinsic to the work so much as intrinsic to the fandom surrounding it. The average of these two feelings was the simple, almost apathetic, stance of “it’s good, even great, but why all the fuss over it?” (I should point out here that this statement encompasses my current stance on Neon Genesis Evangelion as well)

I have, however, recently read the Yen Press release of the first volume, which (by way of review) was quite well-done. Except for the fact that they published a hardcover without a dust jacket–like seriously, dust jackets can be super annoying at times, but I like them, and I really wanted a Haruhi dust jacket. But I’m a bibliophile plus an anime fan, so that makes for a deadly combination indeed. The translation was also fairly solid, and, in fact, at times felt like Strato’s a.f.k. subs that I almost suspect that he was the translator, or, at least, that the translator/editor had certainly seen more of of the a.f.k. subs than any other subs. But more important than the content, it turned out, was the chance to revisit The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya with fresher eyes.

I cannot–will not–speak for the fandom at large, but for me, after reading the first novel, I at least have a more firm grasp on what I like about The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. I chalk this up to three factors: time, distance, and personal maturity. There is almost no new information in the novel that isn’t in the anime as well, with the only significant disadvantage of the anime being that some of Kyon’s narratorial snark is lost. And yet, somehow, it felt like I was experiencing Haruhi for the first time all over again.

What Haruhi is to me–and I remember seeing very vague glimmers of this three years ago, although nothing that could ever make it to a concrete thought–is less a showcase for a bevy of cute girls (and a couple cute guys if Kyon x Itsuki is your thing) or a complicated meta-parody of stereotypical tropes (although it certainly is those things to varying degrees, as well as others I can’t quite put words on now) but more of a story of Kyon, who lost his imagination, and Haruhi, who is utterly enveloped in it. Kyon spells it out straight right at the start: as he grew older, in the name of “maturity” and “adulthood” he shelved his boyish obsessions with the paranormal, the nonexistent–the fictional–and resigned himself to his daily trudge up the massive, giant hill that his high school resides upon, and the hours upon hours of mindless drudgery that occupy the space inside those walls. This, he sighs, is life. Mindless, meaningless, and merely something that one has to trudge through.

Starkly contrasting with Kyon’s dreary and bleak acceptance of the “normalcy” of the world is Our Lady of Abnormal herself, Haruhi, who insists that there are paranormal events, that there are things that are greater than reality, and who lives so much in a world of her own creation that she has no interest at all in the mundane world. She later reveals that she has the same basic worldview as Kyon does, albeit expressed differently, but she draws the exact opposite conclusion–that nothing fun will happen if you sit around waiting and accepting of the dreary drudgery that surrounds you–and drags it to the same illogically extreme pole that Kyon drags his. Kyon is content to sit around and be bored a lot; Haruhi isn’t content unless she’s yelling a lot in a bunnysuit and handing out flyers advertising her new super-cool yet still-unnamed club.

 

Haruhi having fun, the only way she knows how to.

Haruhi having fun, the only way she knows how to.

 

The extremes of Kyon and Haruhi’s personalities, of course, are played more for laughs, but there’s a darker edge. Kyon may be sardonic, but he’s also jaded and retains no passion or fervor for anything. He has no interests, nothing that distinguishes him from the crowd, and (aside from the snark) no personality. Haruhi, meanwhile, has passion and fervor for her multitudinous interests to spare, and her antics relating to said passion and fervor get her in more trouble than it seems to be worth–not to mention that her entire forthright personality is very much a cover for her own depression. No matter how wacky Haruhi’s antics get, or how bitingly snide Kyon gets, neither of these are good extremes. And yet, even in the first novel, and in the anime, you get the feeling that Kyon is (very gradually) learning to enjoy non-reality, and Haruhi is (very gradually) learning to enjoy life as it is; both have more fun than they are willing to admit. Even in the first novel, Kyon is the “unknown factor” of Haruhi because he has an active interest in her–he denies it constantly, but it’s blatantly obvious that he is attracted to her, and Yuki, Mikuru, and Itsuki all agree that Kyon himself is important to Haruhi (even if she won’t admit it either).

The important thing that Haruhi tries to get across, at least in what I’ve read/seen, is that the extremes of Haruhi and Kyon, lovable though they both are, are not to be desired, founded, as they are, upon inner turmoil and abject apathy. Together, however, they seem to counterbalance (and tolerate) each other’s extremes, and pull the other towards a more coherent, integrated median. Those grounded on Earth learn how to stick their heads up in the clouds, and those with their heads in the clouds learn how to place their feet on the ground. Fantasy and reality are two halves of a whole, and life is hollow if it lacks one or the other.

And that is why I suddenly have a newfound appreciation for Haruhi. I’m pretty sure I won’t run out and join a Haruhiist cult, but, on a personal level, it’s quite nice to step back from the former insanity that was Haruhi‘s airing and the roaring undercurrent it is now, and find something more in a series that I didn’t see at first. Even if it’s not there, and Haruhi really is about a bevy of attractive anime characters of both genders (who is which gender is debatable after the Great Discovery of Kyonko).

Kimikiss~pure rouge: A Tripartite Case Study

I think this sums up my mood at the moment.

It seems rather unfair to treat Kimikiss as anything other than a complete 24-episode unit–the dizzying roller-coaster whirl nature of the series rarely makes any outcome inevitable. At the same time, it’s also hard not to deal with the series in three  discrete units, one for each of the main characters (Kouichi, Kazumi, and Mao); even if two of them are essentially part of the same arc, reducing the series to two intertwined story arcs still seems to do a disservice to the stories of each.

All three of Kimikiss’s main arcs deal directly with a love triangle; polygonic though the series might frequently be, the triangular nature of the relationships remains when considered on a character-by-character basis. The points of the triangle remain the same, but merely shifted: the central character supported by a long-standing friend who cheers them on (to their detriment) and pursuing the promise of love. I was struck by the realization upon completion that Kimikiss was eerily like Toradora! in structure: the friends, each supporting the romantic pursuits of the other, while remaining blissfully unaware of what exists between the two of them in the first place. Whereas Toradora! seems to have mutually exclusive outcomes (barring a final episode that ends in a five-person orgy–which, let’s face it, would be the best outcome for all involved, character and viewer alike, in Toradora!), Kimikiss, by its bifurcated nature, can exhibit both possible denouements, and the inevitable heartbreak that accompanies both resolutions.

In addition, Kimikiss’s other strength is the high level of “show, don’t tell” execution. Even in the end, we never got an explicit reveal of the pasts of the characters, at least, not more than was necessary to aid in the understanding of the present, and always implicit rather than explicit. The implicit nature of the characterization and motives means that the viewer of Kimikiss cannot exactly be a passive viewer, it would seem; the viewer is forced to interact with Kimikiss, mentally and/or textually, in order to understand if not necessarily agree with the decisions made by the characters.

As such, I feel it necessary to split the discussion of the three main characters into three parts; there will obviously be crossing-over of paths for at least two of them, but it still doesn’t feel right to stick them both in the same post, being from different perspectives and having different ramifications. I’m going to play with paginated posts for this one, if only because a) three posts is ridiculously excessive and b) feature experimentation is fun.

This might be what you want to do to me after this post.

This might be what you want to do to me after this post.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

Front Page: 1
Case A: Kazuki, Sakino, and Futami: 2
Case B: Mao/Kai Side: 3

Case B: Souichi/Yuumi Side: 4
Final Thoughts: 5

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5

Kimikiss~pure rouge: Or, Romancing the Ensemble Romance

My love affair is only just beginning--with Kimikiss, not Yuumi. (but her too)

First: I picked up Kimikiss, uh, last night. I’m now on episode 7 24 hours later, which isn’t bad progress at all (for me, anyway), and I’m highly surprised that I’m that far already. This is a good thing, as, although I was expecting Kimikiss to be good, I don’t think I was quite prepared for what Kimikiss was, nor how well it pulled it off.

By “ensemble romance” I more mean the large cast of male and female characters, where none of the relationships exist in a vacuum to each other; ef – a tale of memories, for instance, sort of pulls this off, but ultimately Chihiro and Kei’s stories didn’t seem to have much effect upon each other during the course of action (aside from text messages and shared histories). Kimikiss, however, has the main cast–the three childhood friends Kouichi, Kazuki, and Mao–pursue separate but interlocked stories. Kouichi’s is the most straightforward, apparently, as Yuumi seems to be the only one interested in him, but no doubt that will change over the course of the series. The other two seem to be embroiled in complex love polygons (I’m not even sure of the full extent of the shape of the loveagon), and none of the stories exist outside the context of the others.

That, of course, makes for compelling watching, as you can almost touch some of the more wrenching developments, even this early on–a step forward for one pair is a setback for some of the others, sometimes without their even knowing it. I think that, too, is where the strength of Kimikiss lies: the ability to address character flaws and interpersonal mishaps without ever really saying them explicitly in expository dialogue. I’m hesitant to use the word “subtle” here because the direction from Honey & Clover veteran Kasai Kenichi doesn’t really seem to be downplaying things in that way, but yet it’s not exactly stated explicitly. It’s the old “show, don’t tell” authorial gimmick, and I never cease to be amazed when someone pulls it off–most of all when you innately don’t expect it to be pulled off, even if you know better.

Consider, for instance, Mao: after transferring, within a day she has the cell phone numbers of twenty students–her “friends”–in her class without even owning a cell phone herself, and doesn’t seem to be very close to anyone other than Kouichi and Kazuki, and even there it still feels a little flighty at times. It’s an incredibly obvious case of living vicariously through other people because you’re empty inside–staying up late to play games, not caring about passing entrance exams, etc.–but it’s all revealed implicitly instead of explicitly–we’re never told this is what’s up with her, but it’s obvious from her actions (and a bit of expository history) how she got that way. Her own tendency to keep relationships shallow (all the better for a disseminated identity, in this case) comes back to bite her when Kai, who’s very obviously falling in love with her simply from the fact that she shows friendly interest in him when no one else has, declares his love not with words but with a rather forceful kiss, driving her away from him in shock.

Right before that moment at the end of 7, you’re dropped hints that Mao, although friendly, cheerful, and willing to be there for Kai’s sake, still isn’t fully there–she’s checking her cell phone messages, in the jazz bar physically but out with the Movie Research Club mentally. She doesn’t seem to exist outside a context of other people, whereas Kai doesn’t seem to exist inside that context. Kazuki has a similar problem–so smitten is he with the first girl who showed him a direct sign of interest by kissing him unexpectedly (despite the fact that Futami did it entirely out of a desire to investigate the origins of love) that he doesn’t even realize that Asuka, the soccer-playing fanatic, has very obvious feelings for him.

"If I surgically removed your heart, would it be possible to separate the feelings of 'love' from the muscle?"

The only pair who doesn’t seem to have any problems–yet–is Kouichi and Yuumi (the latter of which is after my own heart with her love for horribly traumatic and depressing romance stories), and that might just be because someone has to be the control in the show. Although, then again, it took Mao’s intervention to get them together to begin with, since they’re both so painfully adorably shy, so who knows what’s going on with that. And maybe Yuumi is one of those people who’ve read so many tragic stories of unrequited love that she becomes convinced that her and Kouichi have to end badly so that they both can be properly cathartic.

The next-episode preview for episode 8 had Futami making what was probably an in-character episode preview joke, but it did pose the wonderful question: does a relationship begin with a kiss, or is a kiss merely a finalization of the relationship that pre-exists? Thus far, we have the examples of: a relationship that began with a kiss (Kazuki and Futami), one that might end with a kiss (Mao and Kai), and one that is very clearly a relationship in its burgeoning phase that has involved no direct physical contact at all yet (Kouichi and Yuumi).

I think I pegged it best 24 hours ago after watching episode two: Kimikiss is probably going to end in tears (for some characters, no doubt, and potentially me), and I, for one, welcome the onslaught of salty outpourings of emotion, for I am an Aristotlean when it comes to that.

Princess Tutu: A Review, As Best As I Can Approximate One

There are probably spoilers in this “review,” because, frankly, it’s hard to avoid them with Princess Tutu. I didn’t spoil anything super-major, I don’t think, but tread carefully, those who are wary of spoilers.

I remember, way back in 2002 (when Princess Tutu had started airing, conspicuously close to the date when I started watching anime in earnest) hearing about Princess Tutu, favorable comparisons of it to Revolutionary Girl Utena (which I had not watched at that point, except maybe a couple episodes), and people of all sorts going nuts over it in a small corner where they could all discuss the series. I also remember watching the first half (through episode 13) and really enjoying it, but somehow never getting around to finishing the series proper; eventually, ADV licensed it, and the library bought a copy of the first volume and stuck it in the kids’ section next to Angelina Ballerina. I can only imagine some of the confused looks on kids’ faces when they popped in Princess Tutu expecting Angelina Ballerina and getting…Princess Tutu, complete with horribly terrifying Drosselmeyer. Nightmares must have ensued.

I picked up the DVD set recently, excitedly ready to revisit the series with five years of anticipation on the backburner ready to simmer over, and finally found the time to start watching it this Thanksgiving while on break from school. Time being the precious commodity that it is these days, I’ve only just now gotten the chance to finish it (upon hitting the last disc, I figured it’d be better to watch it all at once rather than in two-episode bites as I’d been doing; this, of course, meant that I had to delay watching it on our new HDTV, which meant, more or less, having to actually wait to be able to use the basement television, an as-yet unheard of proposition,  sending best-laid plans out of whack as they are wont to do.

The fun and interesting aspect of Princess Tutu, aside from the sheer girlishness of watching anime about ballerinas with Okazaki Ritsuko openings–which, I admit, is 90% of the appeal and one must be ready for epic ballet dances if one is going to watch Princess Tutu–is the amazingly convoluted story-within-a-story-within-a-story-within-a-ballet-within-a-story, and that long hyphenated phrase probably isn’t half as long as it really should be. Taking place in a city where Drosselmeyer, an author of stories reknowned for his ability to make stories come to life–literally–has constructed a mechanism that effectively imprisons the city within a “story”, which he controls from his vantage point within the cogwheels and gears of the mechanism. Drosselmeyer and the spinning gears of the story, grinding towards their inevitable, tragic conclusion–Drosselmeyer, we learn, is not only creepy as hell, but a big fan of tragedy. Really big fan.


you gonna get danced with son

Of course, this being strange meta-fiction, the characters stalwartly refuse to remain characters in Drosselmeyer’s stories. Ahiru (I refuse to call her Duck, ADV, do you hear me?), the protagonist of Princess Tutu, is merely two sentences in Drosselmeyer’s story of the Raven and the Prince. And yet this two-sentence character takes on a stronger and stronger role in the story proper until the story itself is about her–Fakir, after learning wallhax discovering his power, descended from Drosselmeyer, to write stories that are real, finds himself unable to write a story about Mytho, who he, according to his role in the story, is destined to protect, but yet he finds that he can easily and freely write about Ahiru/Princess Tutu, who wasn’t supposed to be important at all.

More importantly, all expectations of how theseries would turn out given at the start of the series (which starts exactly like a fairy tale crossed with mahou shoujo) and built up through the first half are knocked down, steadily and systematically, in the second half. The first half flows exactly as you’d expect a mahou shoujo series to flow, done sublimely and with grace, as befiutting its ballet motif.  The ballet aspect works well in emphasizing the meta-fiction aspect of the series: whenever Princess Tutu shows up, the backgrounds, normally standard anime, suddenly fade to white lines on black as though they were now proscenium, and spotlights show up on the characters like they’re on stage performing an act. Drosselmeyer’s story encompasses, generally, only this aspect, while the outside events grind their way through each episode to produce the desired conclusion. It’s only in the second half that the lines between what is “story” and what is “real” start to blur and get mind-bendingly confusing.

I’m no expert on ballet, since I lack sufficient culture points to pour into that stat at the moment, but Princess Tutu overall feels extremely like a ballet. I’ve heard hearsay that the plot structure is quite similar to an actual ballet, and I’m inclined to believe that. Ballet often is described as a form of interpretive dance, I believe–and if not, I’m calling it that for now, so take that, centuries of art scholarship–and while the actual dance the characters may be performing at the moment is often interpreted in dialogue by the characters themselves (thereby preventing me from being horribly confused at these moments, and, instead, only normal levels of Princess Tutu-generated confusion), the “dance” and the “interpretation” might not exactly be what we might think it is in Princess Tutu. Are the main characters merely performing an elaborate act, or do they have free will? If they have free will, do they only think they have free will because the story wants them to think such? Why is my brain puddled on the floor and quivering slightly?


I believe this image sums up the elegance of Princess Tutu–both character and anime.

However you wish to interpret Princess Tutu, it’s still seemingly sadly overlooked. A series that literally breaks the fourth wall as Princess Tutu does seems like it would require razor-sharp precision to avoid making a misstep and sending everything awry, yet it accomplishes that delicate task with the grace and finesse true to its ballet motif. It refuses to succumb to the expectations one might have of the series: the ending was nothing like how I’d imagine it would have worked out from episode 1, and yet everything that led to the grand finale made perfect, logical sense as the story unfolded, and never felt forced. Perfect? No–but I’m also perfectly sure I don’t care if it isn’t.

I still feel like going to a ballet, though.

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:
ムキャァァァァァァァァ~!ギャボォォォォォォォ~!

(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.

Kannagi: They’re Definitely Crazy, But They’re Definitely Amazing

It may just be me, but I’m inordinately pleased with Kannagi. I’ve no idea what the Takenashi Eri manga is like, having not read it, but it looks like I may just have to (in that nebulous point in the future known as “someday”) since the anime version is amazingly well-done. I talked a little bit about it in my previous post, but, for simplicity’s sake, the part I found most appealing about the first episode was the quaint charm of both the humor and the overall mood, a feeling continued into the second episode. It’s funny, yes, but neither is it forcing too much humor down the viewer’s throat, even when it’s being excessively silly. Apparently the pairing of Yamamoto Yutaka and reknowned (to me, anyway) Kamichu! co-creator Kurata Hideyuki is a highly effective one. Who knew?

Perhaps most interesting about episode two is that it throws a few curveballs that I didn’t expect–number one being that the kittens from early in the episode died by the end. I was all expecting a sorrowful, tearful apology from Jin and a heartwarming scene of feeding milk to cats (piano optional). Nope. Cats’re dead. Naturally, this is the instigator for Nagi marching off and trying to handle things on her own and steadfastly refusing to go back and rely upon Jin, which, indeed, she does not go back–it’s Jin who goes off after her. That may actually be expected, but at this point I no longer care, as it was well-executed, and–holy crap–started tugging at heartstrings! How dare my silly “wish-fulfillment magical girlfriend” series do that to me!

It’s a bit difficult at this point to qualify my particular developing fondness for Kannagi, partially because it’s only been two episodes, and partially because I’ve been up for 18 straight hours on five hours sleep. Is it a ground-breaking earth-shattering heavens-piercing epic masterpiece of an anime? Well, no, and it’s not likely to be–but why should it be all those italicized words? Isn’t something which sets a modest goal and acheives it as good as the ambitious series which also succeeds in its goals? Is something, merely by being unambitious, therefore reduced to the degrading moniker of “mediocrity” despite how well-crafted it may be? Are people even aware what the word “mediocre” means these days? Am I even aware of what the word “mediocre” means these days? Am I just some crazy loon trying desperately hard to justify my burgeoning fondness for Nagi (whomay or may not have a split personality and may or may not be telling the truth at any give point in time) by making overly short posts due to lack of sleep that possibly don’t say much of anything? Are any of these rhetorical questions even necessary? How many roads must a man walk down before one can call him a man?

I don’t know! Suffice it to say, Kannagi gets my vote for (currently) severely underrated series of the season. And I’ve always had a habit of unconsciously gravitating towards the less-well-known yet incredibly well-done anime (or, well, anything, really), so, likely, this is yet another example of such. I think, after Ookiku Furibakutte, Tetsuwan Birdy Decode, and now Kannagi, I’m starting to develop a peculiar fondness for A-1 Pictures. That could just be me, though.

A Quick Conglomerate Update

Since I haven’t had a chance to do so all week due to either being horribly busy or horribly sick*. Or, on Friday, both. So here’s a (highly hasty) rundown of what I might have said, if I had had the energy or time to do so. Which I didn’t.

Toradora!

Despite any naysaying, I maintain that the Toradora! adaptation is quite good–yes, they may have crammed the first novel into two episodes, but quite a lot of the first novel was either descriptions of actions taken by characters, or descriptions of emotions and such, so, even if they were to stretch things out a bit, it’d still have only filled another half and episode or so. More importantly to me, however, changes made have only accentuated the Toradora! experience, as my much beloved lamppost scene (complete with affront to community values) was handled quite effectively. The series definitely has a certain kind of energy and vigor to it, different from the sort of feel I got from the novel (that may have been the effect of the background music I was listening to as I read the novel, though) but not necessarily one that is bad. In fact, the vigor of the earlier moments where Taiga and Ryuuji are being played for laughs only accentuated the melancholy, emotional mood of lamppost angst and later moments of the episode. The balance, at least so far, has been struck extremely well, and flows effectively from mood to mood without feeling jarring. I’ve faith in Okada Mari and Nagai Tatsuya, and they’re living up to it so far.

Kannagi

I had the chance while sick and miserable and alternately freezing and burning up on Tuesday to catch the first episode of Kannagi, a series which I didn’t expect much going into but found myself highly amused and entertained by a surprisingly solid comedy. It’s directed by the infamously fired Lucky Star 1-4 director, Yamamoto Yutaka, whom I never really had a problem with, and it’s obvious that he’s got his sense of comic timing down right. The whole first episode had a quaintly amusing charm to it that I found much more to my (admittedly hyper-refined) comedic palate than Kemeko DX, which was extremely Mizushima Tsutomu from start to finish (and I’ve still no idea how this Mizushima Tsutomu is the same Mizushima Tsutomu who directed Ookiku Furikabutte and XXXHolic). Nagi is horribly cute (and much more effective for me than that other Nagi from a comedy series, may Kugyu have mercy upon me…) and played perfectly by Tomatsu Haruka. There’s also great comedic chemistry between Nagi and Jin (and Jin’s voice actor, Shimono Hiro, who has a great voice for these kinds of comedy roles), and the whole thing is rather well-done. Color me impressed (which can be both an easy and a hard thing to do, apparently)

HIgurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai

It’s only been, what, a year since the series finished airing? Kai somehow got lost in the shuffle (this happens fairly frequently, unfortunately, even to things I quite like) and, since I’m getting geared up to watch Umineko na Naku Koro ni whenever that airs (I was under the impression it was starting soon, hence my sudden, hasty decision to plow through Kai. It, of course, isn’t starting soon at all) and I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed Higurashi. Granted, there’s a lot more of the “silliness” in Kai than there was in the first season (possibly due to the longer run time Studio DEEN was able to give the arcs), but the silly parts are still amusing, and the deadly serious mystery/horror parts are still pretty darn chilling. I liked Higurashi more for the psychological horror aspect (the Distinction scene from the first season is one of the most terrifying things I’ve seen, and I had to purposely not pay much attention to the episode during some of it, even though it’s not really all that gruesome), but the balance struck between “taking it home” and the nervous breakdowns of various characters makes for a fun combination. I’ve made it through the second arc, “みんな殺し変”, and now I want to do very bad and very violent things to Takano, and, I’m sure, so does most of the cast. I’ve no clue where Hanyuu came from, but I approve of Horie Yui no matter what, and Hanyuu is pretty cute anyway, and the episode previews are a delight. Does it have problems? Yeah, but so did Higurashi, and I don’t particularly care, so there.

And that is pretty much that. I hope I have time this week to do something not-important-to-living.

* Some kind of nasty 24-hour stomach bug thing, followed in close succession by a horrible cold brought on, no doubt, by the hilariously malfunctioning thermostat in this house. It’s like the time I spent in the horrible dorms on campus, where I couldn’t figure out if the giant air unit in the side was actually supposed to give out heat, or if Housing & Maintainance expected me to slowly freeze to death. No wonder 2002/03 sucked.


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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