Fall 2010 Anime PART II

MM!

I’m not going to lie: I think MM!’s opening episode is entertaining. It has some good laughs, and isn’t boring. But at the same time, I absolutely cannot watch any more. Given the show’s premise, all aspects of it are far too tsun tsun for my tastes. But the cracker–the thing that really slays me–is just how soulless the show is. I can just see the production committee ticking off boxes while watching it, and they’re not doing much else to humanize it. Visually, the show is produced well, but its really bright and clean-cut look bothers me. And to top it all off, both the opening and ending sequences are completely directionless and boring.

So yeah, dropped.

Arakawa Under The Bridge x 2

Much like season 1, the only really awesome part of this episode is the opening monologue, and the rest is SHAFT at their least interesting. This show had a lot going for it when the first episode of season 1 hit, but now the material mostly falls flat, and SHAFT doesn’t seem to really care. It has its moments, though.

Kami Nomi Zo Shiru Sekai

I was weary of this show’s premise before it even dropped, and the only thing keeping me interested was the promise of fully animated Watanabe Akio designs. And upon finishing the first episode, that’s still the only reason why I’ll persist for the time being. The first episode seems very poorly directed, and it flows very choppily. There’s this thing they try to do where they incorporate manga sound effects into the animation, but for that to really work it has to be like Zan Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei where the seiyuu voice the sound effects along side its kana appearing on the screen. The main premise entertained me more than I would have imagined, but not by much. This thing already has a second season, so I’m not sure I’ll stick around for the whole thing, but I’ll see where this goes for now.

Posted in Anime | 7 Comments

Comic Update: Spellbound

Original Post

Just got back from NYCC (with a side of NYAF.) Pretty tired. That’s all I got.

Posted in Comic Update, Site Stuff | 9 Comments

NYAF Tomorrow!

I suppose I’m pretty late, but whatever. I’m going to be at NYAF/NYCC tomorrow doing not much of anything along with shoving a mic down people’s throats for potential podcast material. I’ll be wearing the Strike Witches hat, as usual, so if you see me say hello. I’ll be helping out at Vertical’s booth, so I’ll probably be there for part of the con. I have no real plans, but I will be seeing the Haruhi movie on Friday night.

See you there!

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Fall 2010 Anime PART I

Panty & Stocking With Garterbelt

Panty & Stocking isn’t doing anything half-way: It’s nailed that late-90s Cartoon Network aesthetic perfectly, the levels of crudeness are consistently high, and the energy never lets up. Between the Dexter’s Laboratory-esque title cards and a very Japanese-looking transformation sequence, Panty & Stocking encapsulates why I liked American cartooons as a kid, and why I love Japanese animation now. This opening episode is tons of fun, and you can tell the staff had fun while making it, too. The show’s unrelenting dirtiness juxtaposed against its childish aesthetic is what drives things home for me, so as long as GAINAX can remix the dirt well enough each time, I think we’ll be in for one hell of a Japanese cartoon.

Bakuman

Having not read Bakuman, I just assume it’s some crazy, over-the-top shounen fight manga about… making manga. And it may be just that, but JC Staff’s opening episode doesn’t really convince me! Right off the bat, the show’s incredibly boring opening makes the whole deal out to be a romance more than anything else. But the show is indeed about making manga, and the opening episode (which I assume is shot for shot from the manga) touches upon that a good amount to keep me interested, and also introduces what seems to be a quirky love element as opposed to a traditional, straightforward one. What is traditional and straightforward is the show’s execution: the direction lacks any sort of flare, the color work is sound but boring, and the animation doesn’t really do anything special. But it’s JC Staff, so I guess it can’t be helped.

Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai!

This one’s a shocker–I was expecting not to like it, but not because I have some vendetta against moe anime (Hah!) but because I assumed I’d be completely unenthusiastic about the main character, thinking she’d just be sharp-tongued tsun for all the super-M guys out there. And while there is some of that, it’s all very down to the earth, realistic, and pulled off with class. The show also boasts a nice laid back color scheme, very aesthetically pleasing designs, great animation, and a rather note-worthy soundtrack. The girl basically spills the beans about her secret in the first episode, but the show looks like it has a lot other characters and avenues to explore, so I don’t think it’ll run out of ideas before too long. It’ll probably stop being about otaku stuff, though. Kinda like Nogizaka Haruka.

And yes, I like Nogizaka Haruka, JEEZE.

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Kirumin was 50 episodes long (spoilers within)

Jeeze, Kirumin actually ran for 50 episodes! To be honest, I was expecting it to run a bit beyond that. I mean, we made it all the way to episode 40, and the girls had only just changed into their summer outfits. Their fall and winter outfits were cute, but I like to see more exposed skin, you know? So in that respect, it’s quite sad how the show ended so early.

There was however a less perverse reason as to why I thought the show would run longer than it did. As we were nearing the big five-zero, it didn’t look like things were going to wrap up! But then, out of nowhere, came pretty good multi-episode finale that tied up a lot of the main hanging plot threads. And to my surprise, it didn’t feel rushed at all. We finally figured out just what Mr. Futatsugi was up to, Kanon’s relationship with the Mikogami sisters, and Kanon’s grandfather made an appearance! Some things were intentionally left hanging, however. Parse’s true intentions were never really brought to light, and even though it’s totally obvious that the sisters’ bespectacled pet turtle Doctor is their grandfather, he transformed right at the very end, but the show cut off right before you could see who he is. Just the way I like it!

I’ve said my bit on Kirumin already, and my impressions remain largely unchanged. It’s a show that’s bursting with cuteness from every pore, from its cute designs, cute characters and cute stories. Despite being a kids show, the writing was consistently clever and funny enough to engage adults, which puts it above the likes of similar shows. The show was also consistently creative, with an unrelenting barrage of ridiculous plots, settings, and outfits.

Even though it had a healthy year-long run, I’m sad to see Kirumin go. Like most shows of its ilk, it was largely ignored by the US fansubbing masses, and never really got the attention it deserved. When I get back to Japan, I am definitely buying the DVDs.

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Comic Update: 気になるあの娘

Original Post

Alright, give me a break–up until drawing this comic, I had more or less not drawn for three weeks. It’s tough getting used to a new schedule and a new city, so I haven’t really had time to sit down and doodle. As such, any progress I may have made over the past few months has all gone out the window. Hence this rather bad looking comic. But I think the script is good, so whatever!

Not much to say today, really, but I do want to mention one thing: The Heisei Democracy is back! After a long two year absence, lost in the world of Azeroth, Shingo has finally found his way back into the world of the living. There’s a few updates on the site already, and I’m looking forward to more. So check it out, whether you’re a first time reader or someone’s who’s been following the HD from the very beginning. Perhaps anime blogging can be saved!!

Anyway, speaking of anime blogging, I think I’m going to do just that once I post this update. Later!

Posted in Comic Update, Site Stuff | 16 Comments

High School of the Dead did exactly what I wanted it to do

Alrighty, let’s not delude ourselves into thinking that an anime called THE HIGH SCHOOL OF THE DEAD is high art or anything, but you have to admit it was pretty alright. If there’s one thing Madhouse can do well, it’s really straightforward, well produced, and over-the-top mainstream productions that don’t require much in the way of brain power to appreciate.

The action was all really good by my standards, especially when it came to swordplay, or in Rei’s case, large stick… play. The gunplay was less memorable outside of that one awesome sequence when they did bullet time against bouncing breasts and ridiculously detailed crotch shots. On that note, all of the fanservice was really good, too. DIGITAL ACCEL WORKS’ designs weren’t translated super faithfully into animation, but Tanaka Masayoshi (Toradora! anime designer) got the main details right, like the eyes, the hair, and, of course, the breasts.

But what made this stuff great was the amount of detail and effort put into it. There’s an art to animated jiggling breasts, and they nailed it. There’s also an art to good fight choreography, and despite resorting to some corner-cutting techniques, they put out some good fights each episode. Whether it was the characters’ wonderfully shiny skin just as they got out of the shower, or one of them offing a zombie in a totally sweet way, Madhouse nailed it.

What I’m trying to say is, they knew how to make this show–by focusing entirely on fanservice, be it action or jiggling breasts. When it came right down to it, each episode was basically the same thing, but each time it was pulled off so well and so differently from the last time that you didn’t really care.

That said, the show was just a really good candy bar, and had no meat whatsoever. The characters were completely archetypal, and not that likable outside of the fact that they had boobs. Sometimes they’d touch on some moe points with their mannerisms, but that’s about it. I mean, I did genuinely like Alice, but that’s just the kind of guy I am. Well, I liked Takagi’s dad, too. He’s just cool.

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VISUALIZED: Bakemonogatari 15 (PART I: Lighting and Setting)

It’s been a long time coming, but those 20 guys at SHAFT finally got their stuff together and managed to get that last episode of Tsubasa Cat onto store shelves. Having recently *ahem* acquired my own copy (I plan to buy all the BRDs eventually, okay?) along with writing a blog post lamenting the lack of bloggers who focus on visuals, I’ve been meaning to put my opinions on Bakemonogatari 15 to digital paper for a while. Now that I’ve finally gotten up off my butt and taken some 40 odd screencaps to help prove my points, right now seems like a fine time to talk about the last episode of Bakemonogatari!

You shouldn’t really expect some deep, high-minded analysis out of this. I do plan on reviewing various parts of Bakemonogatari in the future (provided I can find a way to get gg’s subs onto BRD rips) a bit more deeply, but for now I’m just going to look at the visuals, what I like about them, and comment on how they affect the narrative. Specifically, I’m just going to look at the main part of the episode, Black Hanekawa and Araragi’s confrontation.

I’m going to start off pretty general then move into specifics, so lighting seems like a good starting point. Hanekawa and Araragi’s confrontation has two distinct lighting schemes: a night scheme underscored by flashing lights, and a desaturated yellow color scheme as things move towards daybreak, and the episode comes to a climax.

The more expositional section of Black Hanekawa and Araragi’s dialogue–which consists mostly of Hanekawa throwing plot revelations at Araragi, and Araragi reacting in utter shock–is backed by the nighttime color scheme. Both characters are brightly illuminated by the lights around them, which is accentuated by a subtle bloom. This style of lighting is characteristic of classic Shinbo works, when they’re not obsessing over crazy color schemes. You can see this bloom effect make its way into things like Yamamoto Yohko, Tsukuyomi, and Cossette. Here it provides a good deal of contrast, adding a lot of drama to the visuals, complementing the actual drama between the characters perfectly.

The lights around the characters flash on and off, presumably reacting to Black Hanekawa’s powers as they fluctuate with her changing moods. At one point she explodes in anger, followed by the lights around her doing the exact same thing. With everything now dark, a sense of uncertainty is introduced on top of the drama, and stresses this sense of tension between the characters.

Right as the episode moves into B-Part, the lighting changes abruptly from nighttime colors to a more bleak, dark, and desaturated yellow color scheme. This style of coloring seems more in line with series director Oishi Tetsuyta’s style, as seen in his Maria Holic and Negima!? openings.

Even though we seem to be near daybreak, the nighttime colors actually seem brighter and more vibrant than they are here. The colors in this section of the episode really do well to suggest an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. Once again, these feelings evoked by the visuals work as a complement to the drama happening on screen. At this point Araragi has resigned himself to death at the hands of Black Hanekawa, if it’ll rid normal Hanekawa of her stress.

But once Araragi realizes that Senjougahara will mess Hanekawa up worse than Black Hanekawa is currently messing him up, he tries to break free of the oddity’s grasp. Of course, it’s hopeless, and this hopelessness is once again driven home by the colors. It’s not until he summons Shinobu from the shadows that things brighten up, and the sun rises.


As the Tsubasa Cat arc progresses, the city in which the characters live comes into its own as a character. The final part of the arc focuses around a search for the lost Shinobu. During this search the city gets characterized as an expansive, lonely place composed of very large, imposing buildings. This last episode contains lots of wire-frame structures: electricity pylons, ferris wheels, suspension bridges, tower cranes, and scaffoldings around buildings. The immediate area around Araragi and Black Hanekawa is mainly shaped by the flashing lights I mentioned earlier. Their designs are very stripped down, sleek, and modern. Nothing more than poles adorned with large lights.

If you’ll allow me some armchair philosophizing for a minute, I feel these last two episodes in which Araragi traverses the city with Black Hanekawa in search for Shinobu is a good parallel to the thematic wandering of Hanekawa’s heart. Hanekawa is separated from her real parents, abused by her current step parents, and to top things off, the man who she’s had her eyes on for a while is now with another woman. She’s completely alone, and aside from being a good way to save on budget, this empty, dark, and bleak city is a good representation for how she feels. Her Black Hanekawa variant parading around with Araragi throughout this cold city drives this idea of her wandering heart home even further.

The emptiness of the environment along with only Araragi and Hanekawa in the middle of it all is perfect visual framing for the issues between the two. Hanekawa is facing the source of her stress face on, and right now he is the only person in this cold, empty world to her. This environment even interacts with them at times. I already mentioned the flashing lights, but there’s another key point in which the roar of a plane passing overhead is used to emphasize a particularly angry exclamation by Hanekawa.

From a purely visual standpoint, I really love the environment SHAFT created in this last episode. While episode 14 was more about full on architecture porn, this episode is more about silhouettes of wire-frame structures cutting into negative space, with the constant howl of wind in the background. There are a lot of aspects of this episode that are just visually arresting– things such as buildings, and the title pattern on the ground below the characters are simply well designed and interesting to look at.

To close off this section, here’s some more screencaps.



That’ll be it for now. Hopefully I can write up part 2 in a more timely manner…

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Song Translation: Jigoku Sensei by Soutaisei Riron

Or, Hell Teacher by The Theory of Relativity.

So yeah, I thought I’d try my hand at some song translation. Song translation is probably not the best place to stretch one’s amateur Japanese skills, but a quick Google search and some assumptions on my part lead me to believe that there’s not much–if anything at all–in the way of translated Soutaisei Riron songs. So, why not?

Jigoku Sensei is one of the band’s few songs that I can more or less grasp easily. The rest of their work is simply far too bizarre for me to even try to understand what Ms. Yakushimaru going on about. This translation won’t be poetic, and it will probably miss out on any possible background nuances. But as far as I know, this is all there is, so I hope I’m at least making something of a worthwhile contribution to all you fans of underexposed Japanese music.

Zalas from encubed helped to clean up a few things in my translation, but if you see anything else that needs tweaking, drop a comment or something.

But first, here’s the transliteration of the song in helpful romaji. The translation will follow on afterwords.

————

Jugyousankan koi no yokan
Kateihoumon wa jigoku no mon
Houkago no koutei de
Kagai jugyou no ai wo shiru

Jukensensou mou makesou
Kayowai haato ga orechaisou
Hoomuruumu no kyoushitsu de
Danjokousai no uwasa ga tobikau

Sensei shiranai koto shiritai no
Mienai mono ga mitai no
Oshiete oshiete oshiete
Nee sensei saikin netsuki warui no
Kanashibari hageshii no
Doushite? Doushite sensei

Seeraa fuku wa sentou fuku
Kurasu taikou no desumacchi
Bousaikunren kekkou de
Metta ni naranai
Chaimu ga naru toki

Sensei iitai kedo ienai no
Kuyashii hodo setsunai no
Sensei sensei tteba sensei
Aa sensei furuneemu de yobanai de
Shita na namae de yonde
Onegai onegai yo sensei

Sensei kikitai koto mada aru yo
Toshishita ja ikenai no?
Kotaete kotaete nee sensei
Sensei sotsugyoushiki chikazuite
Sayonara mo ienai de iya da na
Watashi mada joshikousei de itai yo

————

It’s parents’ visiting day, there’s a premonition of love
The house visits are gates to hell
In the school yard, after class
I learn of extra curricular love

It already looks like I’m going to fail my entrance exams
My poor heart feels as if it’s about to break
During homeroom
Relationship gossip flies around the classroom

Teacher, I want to know things I don’t know
I want to see things I can’t see
Teach me, teach me, teach me
Hey teacher, lately I haven’t been sleeping well
This binding is unbearable
Why is it? Why, teacher?

The sailor uniform is my battle gear
For the death match against the other classes
We practice fire drills
For that alarm
That hardly ever rings

Teacher, I want to say it, but I can’t
It’s painful enough to kill
Teacher, teacher, c’mon teacher
Ah, teacher, don’t call me by my full name
Call me by my first
Please, oh please, teacher

Teacher, there’s still a lot I want to ask
Am I too young for you?
Answer me, answer me, please teacher
Teacher, graduation is drawing close
I don’t want to say farewell, I just can’t
I want to keep on being a high school girl

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A-KO just keeps going, then stops

Being that I am now living in New York for an unspecified period of time for an unspecified reason, I get to hang out with a bunch of the cool dudes I speak to on the internet who happen to live here. One of these cool dudes is Seiya, old Heisei Democracy contributor and frequent podcast guest. Seiya has what can only be described as a magical obsession for laser discs, and has quite a sizable collection of anime in this format. We both had a spot of free time earlier this week, so along with popping in the first episode of Mobile Suit Gundam on lovely laser disc, we watched Project A-KO!

At first glance, A-KO is an over-the-top comedy bursting with energy and enthusiasm, every aspect being pushed above and beyond to stratospheric levels of absurdity. The titular A-KO is an archetypal sporty girl, but her physical strength can lay waste to houses and roads easily. B-KO is initially presented a cool antagonist, but her grudge against A-KO, and the lengths to which she’ll take it, just gets progressively more ridiculous to the point of hilarity. C-KO seems like a harmlessly cute girl, but what would otherwise be benign clumsiness and naivety is exaggerated to the point where she becomes hilariously insufferable and destructive. This kind of ridiculousness permeates across every other aspect of the show as well–one of B-KO’s henchwomen is an obvious Kenshiro parody; the girls’ homeroom teacher dresses and speaks not unlike a sleazy hostess; and the sheer scale of the SF backstory that runs throughout side A, then comes to a head in side B, is a bunch of SF anime tropes played for laughs.

However, beyond the comedy is something more. A-KO is a wonderful otaku time capsule, and revels in the obsessions of the era. It truly is a work made by that second-wave of nerds who grew up on Yamato and Harlock, but also really like girls. The film is loaded with all manner of fanservice–meticulously detailed spacecraft and launch sequences are as common as cute girls sporting hot school uniforms and flashing their panties at opportune moments. What makes these moments shine as bright as they do is amazing animation work that pulls no punches. The show is also loaded with references and in-jokes, like the aforementioned Hokuto no Ken reference. To provide another example, the main villain (voiced by Ikeda Shuuichi, natch) is a hilarious homage to Harlock, who is unable to think straight unless he is completely and totally smashed. You know, because Harlock drinks a lot.

A-KO’s not much more than jokes and fanservice, and it doesn’t really need to be anything more. It’s not so much built around a plot as it is built around a bunch of really cool scenes that the staff just wanted to do for the hell of it. There are plot threads, and there is an obvious plot that’s progressing as the film moves along, but once everything literally comes crashing down, it just stops–not really bothering to explain much in the way of hows and whys. But that’s not very important, since the show is written in such a way that you can just fill in the blanks with your otaku knowledge. And honestly, who even cares?

I hear A-KO has sequels, and these sequels may expand on these dangling plot threads. But you know what? I don’t really want that. A-KO doesn’t need that. I hear those sequels suck anyway.

Posted in Anime, Review | Tagged | 5 Comments