I honestly do not think she is all that cute

Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai is one of those shows that’s really trying to hit it out of the park. They’re trying really hard, and I suppose it’s working, as I’m under the impression that the show is well spoken of. While I generally like the show, instead of looking at it as a whole, for now I’d rather talk about just one aspect of it that I enjoy: its realism.

This isn’t to say that a show called My Little Sister Couldn’t Ever Be This Cute is in any way realistic, but the show’s otherwise otaku-centric setup is tinged with deep shades of realism in various areas. Take, for instance, Kirino. In my perfect world Kirino would  be a typical imouto-archetype character, and I’d be completely happy and satisfied with that. However, in reality, she’s a total bitch. Not unlike real little sisters. While this doesn’t win Kirino any points with me, I will admit that her attitude gives the show a nice bit of spice that makes you sit up and pay attention. Furthermore, over achieving girls like her do exist in real life, even if they are somewhat rare, and I also feel that aspect of Kirino is portrayed with a good degree of realism.

On the flip side, her otaku super powers are also quite realistically portrayed. I mean, if she was some fat guy fanboying about all of that stuff, it wouldn’t be very cute at all, right? But there are fans out there who really do act like her, and are as powerful as her. I’ve seen dudes on 2ch with collections comparable to Kirino’s. While the combination of a stylish, over-achieving, totally bitchy little sister and an otaku isn’t realistic, those various facets of her are portrayed realistically, and it’s just kind of nice to see a TV show go out of its way to portray such things realistically.

One other aspect of the show that’s lavished upon with a good degree of realism is its portrayal of the fan scene in Japan: from the picture perfect depictions of Akihabara, the off-kai in the maid cafe, to the everyday banter between Kirino, Kuroneko, and (my personal favorite) Saori. None of these aspects of the show are BS–they all draw upon real aspects of anime fandom that a lot of us are generally aware of. While people in the US may be unfamiliar with some of Akiba’s iconic sights, or the concept of an off-kai, certainly we’ve all had debates similar to Kirino and Kuroneko’s usual back and forth. In fact, you can find debates to that effect in the archives of this very blog (don’t read the archives of this blog)!

The level of care taken in portraying these fans as actual people, and not just otaku caricatures, helps me connect with the prevalent fan aspect of OreImo better. But note, I said they’re not just otaku caricatures. They are still caricatures, mind you. I mean, just look at how they dress–you can guess their character types before they even open their mouths. But despite being written off of a typical otaku template, OreImo’s added layer realism is refreshing, and gives the show a fairly unique flavor. So it has that going for it.

But while we’re at it, I’ll level some criticisms at the show to close this thing off. First of all, the show goes out of its way to play it heavy way too often. It seems that if each episode doesn’t reach a required quota of drama, the very fabric of the universe will come undone. While this does work alright 9 times of 10, they reach too far at times. For instance, the drama between Ayase and Kirino was stupidly forced, and the episode they had to deal with that was somewhat unpleasant to watch. Similarly, the latest episode revolving around the production of the anime based around  Kirino’s novel just felt too drawn out. It was cool to get a general idea of what goes on in those anime board meetings that one only hears about, but after a while it just old and repetitive. Furthermore, I’m not even sold on the idea of Kirino’s dumb novel getting anime either. They do address the fact that her dumb story getting an anime is in fact dumb, but in the end things go Kirino’s way. So when all’s said and done, it’s all rather pointless. The episode where Kyousuke stayed at Manami’s place was such a breath of fresh air, as it demonstrated that the show could do comedy really well. And honestly? This cartoon needs way more jokes.

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VISUALIZED: Bakemonogatari 15 (PART II: Abstraction and Expressions)

It’s been a while, but since posts don’t write themselves, I’m going look even further into Bakemonogatari episode 15!

As anyone who’s watched the show will know, Bakemonogatari uses symbols, photography, typography, and alternative imagery quite often. The use of these techniques is usually for the sake of emphasis–to call specific attention to a certain line or scene in a cool and interesting way.

The first two screencaps are from the beginning of the episode, in which Black Hanekawa throws plot revelations towards Araragi at lighting speed. At the same speed, various photos and bits of text are flashed onto the screen to provoke something of a visceral response matching Araragi’s. Hanekawa–who mostly appears as a cute anime girl–is now a photograph of a woman, and once neatly arranged typography comes flying out of place straight towards Araragi, as if the power radiating off of Black Hanekawa was shooting them out of place. This sudden breaking of the show’s established “rules” does well to illustrate Araragi’s shock. Sadly, being unable to read the various kanji SHAFT decides to flash on the screen, I can’t offer any deeper reading.

To drive Araragi’s reaction home even further, a high angle shot with him in the the corner, flanked on every side by his own constantly expanding shadow illustrates his sudden realization of the lengths to which he’s driven Hanekawa over the edge. In short, the shadows could represent the weight of the responsibility he feels.

In every Bakemonogatari arc, the girls’ backstories are each presented in a unique manner that matches their personality and story. As the episode progresses, we get some quick backstory on Hanekawa by way of Black Hanekawa. This narration is matched to a short bit of animation by Gekidan Inu Curry. They takes us on a short trip into Hanekawa’s mind, rendered in their signature dirty style made up of sketchy drawings and and paper cutouts. The surrounding ruins are a good parallel for Hanekawa’s tumultuous domestic life, while Araragi’s figure reflected in the shattered glasses on her despairing face drives home how much their relationship helped keep Hanekawa sane.

Near the end of the episode, Black Hanekawa embraces Araragi while shocking him to death, and we’re treated to a lovely psychedelic image of what is presumably Hanekawa’s body (those are certainly the right proportions) matched to a set of seductive eyes with rays firing out of them. This is obviously an analog to what’s happening, but this shot, which only flashes for a brief moment, does well to stress the sensuality of the scene. While Araragi is indeed being shocked to death, the woman who loves him is embracing him. This same sort of sexual imagery is seen in other parts of this episode, through black and white images of  Hanekawa and Araragi embracing each other while naked. I can’t really read much into this juxtaposition of violence and sexuality, but I suppose it’s a good representation for Hanekawa’s conflicted feelings towards Araragi, and it’s just simply compelling.

And while we’re on the subject of violence…



The bloodspray in this episode is incredible. Its sketchy and over-the-top rendering complements Kamiyama’s screaming perfectly, and does an excellent job of portraying terrible pain. It also contrasts nicely with Hanekawa’s very sensual licking of Araragi’s neck just before it explodes into blood.



Of all the elements that make this episode shine, the one that makes it shine the brightest are the facial expressions. SHAFT is generally quite good at giving characters good static facial expressions in lieu of actual acting through animation, and the faces in this episode are particularly intense. While the faces aren’t Ikegami detailed or anything, there is notable attention to detail in certain areas that make the expressions in this episode come alive. Right at the very beginning, we’re treated to another lovely closeup of Araragi’s eye. Except this time around, it boasts some rather stylized eyelashes. Similarly, during closeups, characters will have individual teeth, rather an amorphous block of whiteness. When looking at characters head-on, rather than having a dot for a nose, we’re treated to shading that carves out the shape of the nose, and nostrils.

Along with this heightened attention to detail, characters’ expressions in this episode have a lot of feeling behind them. Hanekawa’s crying face looks realistically devastated, and Araragi’s shocked expression makes it seem as if his world is falling apart around him. Black Hanekawa’s scowl doesn’t suggest simple anger, but a gradually rising anger–a pot about to boil over. On the flip side, her cat-like eyes in the last screencap are devilishly seductive.

Black Hanekawa in general has a lot of good expressions. While she’s angrily yelling at Araragi, her expressions seem more human. But as she begins to attack, she develops this very cat-like smirk. Aside from the obviously cat-like eyes, I think what makes her smirk seem “cat-like” is how cool and confident it is. The shape of her eyes is what defines this look, with the top half her eyes completely down, and curved inwards.

You can see this subtle transformation from human to cat at the very moment she starts her attack in these next three frames:



Take note of the difference between the the more confident scheming grin at the top, and the more animalistic grin that follows. The closeup on the fangs at the end punctuates this moment wonderfully. In these screencaps, Black Hanekawa looks more like an actual cat, where as her “cat-like smirk” is more cat-like in tone than in a visual manner.



Araragi’s expressions aren’t as distinctive as Hanekawa’s, but they’re still worth about six screencaps and some words. What I think makes a lot of his expressions work are not just the eyes, but the lines around the eyes as well. They add a good bit of character to his eyes, and suggest different emotions in different contexts–such as fatigue (screencap 3) and desperation (screencap 4.) Other things that make that fourth screencap work particularly well are the distortion of the pupil, the way the mouth hangs open, and the length to which the head is pushed out, as if Araragi is gasping for air whilst drowning. It’s an expression that perfectly captures a guy at the end of his rope, begging for life.

In the end, what makes this episode great is something of an over-the-top sense of drama mixed with a good sense of atmosphere. Between different types of lighting schemes, settings, experimental scenes, and convincing facial expressions, Bakemonogatari 15 is probably one of the nicest episodes of anime SHAFT has produced during their time on the scene. I hope Kizumonogatari can manage to deliver the same, but perhaps with even more of an animation budget.

And with that, three months and 2000 words later, I’ve basically exhausted anything I have to say about this episode… for the time being. I hope it was interesting!

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Art: Hazuki and Arte

Click for a bigger version.

This is a parody/homage/ripoff of Pizzicato Five’s Kanashii Uta/Triste video. I like Tsukuyomi, and I like the vibe of this video, so I decided to mix them up for some reason that I have long forgotten, since I was planning this out… months ago? Anyway, it turned out alright. I really don’t like the piano, and I’m sure there are other gigantic errors, but I’m not unhappy with this… for now.

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Comic Update: I’m a Believer

Original Post

News of the Strike Witches movie prompted this comic. It got me thinking of what kind of Strike Witches movie I’d really like to see (as opposed to what will actually get made, which will probably own anyways) and my mind immediately went to Dr. Strangelove. At first I was going to do a parody suggesting that the Strike Witches movie was going to be a Cold War thriller with strong allusions to Dr. Strangelove. Considering Strike Witches takes place in WWII, and Dr. Strangelove presumably takes place in the 1960s, I’d have to age all the girls by 20 years. But since I didn’t want to draw a 35 year old Miyafuji Yoshika, I instead opted to do the Strike Witches girls acting out scenes from Dr. Strangelove, more or less verbatim. Is it funny? Uh, I dunno, maybe. But I really like Dr. Strangelove, and I really like Strike Witches, so here you go!

When coming up with what character portrays who, I either tried to match them up according to personality, or find the polar opposite. I also took the various girls’ relationships with each other into consideration. While Miyafuji is nothing at all like the Russian prime minister, Perrine’s rivalry with Miyafuji is good setup for the fight between Turgidson and the prime minister. Gertrude isn’t that crazy, but she’s crazy enough to be Jack D. Ripper, I think. Lynette would probably have been more accurate choice for Mandrake considering her nationality, but Erica’s dynamic with Gertrude works better. Shirely as Commander Kong works, and Minna as Dr. Strangelove is pretty funny, I think. I was just going to use a screencap from the opening of the movie for the last panel, but I figured I needed Lynette in there some place, so I threw her at the last minute with a banana between her boobs.

While it’s far from perfect, I’m pretty happy with the art here. Sketching on the tablet is getting a bit easier, so I think I’ll just continue to do comics completely digitally from now on. It’ll save money on sketch pads and pencil lead, at any rate.

Later!

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The Sound of Silence

Alright guys, it’s no surprise that things have a been bit quiet here on the home front. I hate to drop the “I’m busy” excuse, but it’s true. That said, it’s like 3:30 right now, I’m not super tired, so I’ll throw together a weak loot post on the fly here…

On Saturday I went back home to DC to catch some silly political rally, and while I was there, a bunch of mail had piled up in my room. Amongst these things were some packages that absolutely stunk of otaku…

One of these packages was a set of speakers adorned with Watanabe Akio illustrations.

I just happened to order these on a whim. One day I was on AmiAmi for one reason or another, and noticed some Watanabe Akio illustrations on the front page. Clicking revealed that these illustrations were in fact on a set of computer speakers. Noticing that there was only one set left in stock, I ordered them without a second thought. I have some money, okay?

Anyway, the more astute of you may notice that these illustrations carry a Hello Kitty theme. Sanrio is doing some kind of collaboration thing with different illustrators, and this is part of that project. As for the speakers themselves, the illustrations–especially the slightly more complicated one–don’t look very good up close due to the fact that speakers have holes in them, but they look great at a distance, which is of course how you’re suppose to view them, so there’s no problem there.

I can’t speak much for sound quality since I’m not much of an audiophile, but sound comes through nicely on these speakers. Compared to my old ones (which I’ve had for god knows how long), the sound seems crisper, but at the same time not as full bodied as the sound from my old speakers.

Here’s some pictures of them in action:

Since my room looks less like an otaku room these days, these speakers don’t really have much in the way of other surrounding painful illustrations plastered around the room to interact with, so them sitting around on their own on an otherwise normal desk is kind of weird. But they’re cute, and I’m happy with them. I shouldn’t really have to say anything about Watanabe’s work at this point, as it’s typically top notch. He’s in good form here.

The other thing that came in the mail was the second issue of Animerca, that Japanese doujinshi I wrote for a few months back.

I got a chance to see this book beforehand a little while ago, but it’s nice being able to look through it for an extended period of time. The production on this thing really is quite nice, and from what I can tell, my words came out alright in Japanese. I don’t know how many other copies they’ve sold since C78, but I really want to know what people think of my essay, as well as my comments in the little chat segment me and a few other guys did for the book. I guess I should Google around for some reviews…

Flipping through this thing also gives me some extra incentive to review my kanji flashcards, since these essays are serious business. Thanks a bunch, Episode Zero-san and Ill Critique-san. You guys own!

Lastly, the 2011 pixiv calendar came in. I’m not going to include any pictures, because that’s this guy’s thing. In short, it’s a wonderful collection of art from some of pixiv’s biggest stars, and it’s really awesome seeing their beautiful work rendered on large sheets of paper for you to gaze upon two months at a time. That said, I felt this calendar could have easily been a twelve page thing. With all the talent on pixiv, boiling things down to just six artists seems a little sad. I mean, they’re six of my absolute favorite artists, but six more would have really been incredible.

Anyway, it’s already 4 am, so I’m gonna brush my teeth and attempt to sleep.

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Comic Update: L O V E LUCKY LOVE

Original Post

I don’t really know what kind of point this comic is trying to make. Maybe it’s just to put things into perspective? I don’t know. I think it’s a little funny.

This is the first time I’ve done a comic completely digitally, start to finish. As a result, the size of the characters is a little out of whack since I did the sketching on the computer, and I don’t really have good sense of scale yet.

Anyway, things have been kind of busy over here at Mistakes of Youth HQ, but I’ll do my best to keep things running. There’s a bunch of stuff I want to do, as always, just a matter of doing it.

Later!

Posted in Comic Update, Site Stuff | 14 Comments

Fall 2010 Anime PART IV

Star Driver: Kagayaki no Takuto

Yeah, I know there’s already three (or four, I don’t know) episodes of this thing out already, but as of right now I’ve only managed to bring myself to watch one. For starters, what’s keeping me from watching any more of this are its ugly character designs: The girls all have weird faces, and everyone is pointy in a way I don’t especially like. It’s not my thing, you know? Similarly, the show’s very flamboyant aesthetic also bothers me. I know it’s purposely going for that kind of thing, but like I said, it’s just not my thing. Aside from that stuff, however, the show is very enthusiastic, has a ton of energy, is very well animated, and is actually pretty entertaining.

But the first episode was pure nonsense, and considering Bones is completely unable to write stories human beings can be entertained by, I doubt it’ll turn into anything worthwhile. I may give the next couple of episodes a shot, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to do 25! And I really don’t like any of the designs at all.

Kuragehime

Yeah, this is another girly one, but I think I can stomach it. It’s josei, and that kind of stuff usually works a bit better on me, but still doesn’t really inspire me much in any direction. The designs are pretty interesting, and go out of their way to realistically render bushy eyebrows on a female, which I appreciate in some way.

As for the actual content, it’s alright. All the girls are really exuberant fujoshi, but are maybe a bit too exuberant at times. Honestly, the first episode doesn’t really give me much to go on, but it’s pretty good, so I’ll be watching the rest.

Posted in Anime | 6 Comments

Comic Update: The music comes alive

Original Post

I don’t really know how this comic happened.

Read Peepo Choo!

Posted in Comic Update, Site Stuff | 5 Comments

Comic Update: Shiny Knight, Happy Child

Original Post

Alright, this was meant to go up on Sunday, but after buying a Nintendo DS along with a copy of Pokemon Soul Silver, other things I wanted to do were just not happening. But now the shiny glow of my new game has worn off, and I will no longer be playing it for three hours on end, so here is your NYAF/NYCC report. And that’s all there’s really going to be, since I didn’t do much. Hell, the con was so uneventful, I gave up podcasting with Sub after about 10 minutes of, “man, NYCC sure destroyed NYAF.” The one good part of the con was seeing the Haruhi movie, and I will probably try to write that up sooner rather than later–sooner being relative, that is.

Expect another rough comic like this up later this week. The news story it’s commenting on will already be old news when it goes up, but it needs to go up. Hopefully I’ll have a comic up for next weekend, but I can’t be sure. It isn’t drawn yet, but I’m going to try sketching it straight to the computer just to see if that makes things a bit faster. It’s getting closer to the point where I’d rather go all digital than waste money on pencil lead and sketch books that take up space.

Anyway, back to Pokemon.

Posted in Comic Update, Convention, Site Stuff | Tagged | 10 Comments

Fall 2010 Anime PART III

Shinryaku! Ika Musume

Despite having a killer opening, cute character designs, and the scene shown above, Ika Musume simply does not deliver. The humor is half-way done, and the delivery lacks punch. This really saddens me, since I was pinning this one as a series I’d enjoy, at the very least on a superficial level. I probably would have had fun with this sort of thing if I were in high school or in freshman year of college, but this level of execution and run-of-the-mill material just doesn’t cut it for me now. In other words, it needs to me more HIGH TENSION. I mean, at least live up to your title!

Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru

SoreMachi is certainly the stronger of the two SHAFT beasts currently out there, but as of now I can’t say by exactly how much. Visually, it’s by far and away better than Arakawa: Atmospheric lighting, fluid animation and a handful of classic Shinbo-isms make for a far more interesting visual experience than Arakawa’s autopilot-style directing. SoreMachi is a step back to older Shinbo works–it looks fairly normal, save for a handful of weird shots (we have the classic “camera looking up from inside the floor under the characters’ feet” shot, as see in Yu Yu Hakusho) and quick cutting. As for the actual content, I’m still warming up to it. It’s not as if the characters or writing are particularly bad–in fact, they’re quite good–I just need them to grow on me. A smile was forming on my cold and jaded face by the end of episode 2, so at the very least this’ll be a good SHAFTXSHINBO show. You know, unlike Arakawa, which has just turned out to be alright.

I want to make a quick note about the music: Round Table (sans Nino, she does the singing bit) are doing the BGM for this show. I was looking forward to hearing their stuff, but honestly I wanted something that sounded a bit less like anime soundtrack. It’s not bad, and it’s still a SHAFT OST that I’ll buy (used at Mandarake) but I wanted something more in the realm of quality of the Tsukuyomi OST. The opening and ending songs own, as usual, and their accompanying animations own as well.

To Aru Majutsu no Index 2

Index’s first season both started and ended before I took off for Japan, and now its second season is opening up more than a year after I’ve returned. That’s how long it’s been! If you know me, you know I’m not a huge fan of Index (the show, I love the character), but the show can be entertaining on a pulpy level if it wants to be, and this first episode certainly isn’t boring between all the jokes, kidnappings, and facial blood loss. It’s basically more of the same, but hopefully the dude writing these things has gotten a bit better. The last arc in season 1 wasn’t too bad, so let’s see if we can go upwards from here. Kind of doubt it, though. This one’s on probation: Not for what it’s done, but for what it may do.

Posted in Anime | 3 Comments