Friday, November 04, 2005

First Post KITAAAA!

I'm finally taking the plunge and starting an anime blog...not for the fame or the money, but because I really love anime. I lead a fairly normal life and my wife and my house doesn't look like Tsuyoshi's room in Densha Otoko, but I thank Kami-sama every day that I found anime, because I really think it's the best form of entertainment you can watch. Maybe it's the depths of the characters and their stories, maybe it's because it's a glimpse into a different culture, maybe it's the breathtaking animation, unconstrained by the laws of physics--it's hard to say exactly why, but at the end of a long day, I'm convinced there's nothing better to watch than anime.

And then there's the biggest reason for me to start a blog--it's Friday afternoon at work, and I have nothing better to do. It's hard to kill the better part of a slow workday just reading everyone else's blogs, so that's just another reason to take the plunge and start my own. And while I sit here writing it sounds to the world like I'm typing an urgent email, important document, or company-changing directive.

In the future I'll actually write about episodes like normal bloggers do, trying to avoid series everyone else is blogging (and doubtlessly blogging much better than I would). But for now...a few thoughts on what's airing in Japan and being fansubbed right now:

  • Shagukan no Shana - I was thinking after the first three episodes this was a good series, with good characters, an interesting premise, action and drama, and potentially even romance--and then episode 4 took the series from good to excellent with Shana fanservice! Plus it wasn't Girls Bravo "I can't believe the entire purpose of this episode is just to get the girls naked" service, while Shana's looking moe the writers are actually doing important plot exposition. Two words: Un. Believable. This might be my favorite series this season.
  • Aria - Aria is set in a future world where for whatever reason people have built a replica of Venice called Neo-Venezia, and they get around by gondola. Also, it's a future where the Earth is known as "Manhome", which sounds alarmingly like a name for a gay bar. The main character is Akari, who's a relatively recent arrival in Neo-Venezia who has joined Aria Company and is learning to be an undine (someone who steers a gondola). I'd love to see a room of die-hard shonen fighting anime fans forced to watch Aria, because I think it'd melt their minds. There's an episode about the tide getting really high. An episode about how this middle school girl is a good rower but doesn't smile much. An episode about a girl who doesn't like Neo-Venezia, but after riding around with Akari on her gondola she does. And there's a really, really ugly cat who makes vaguely pig-like noises. That being said, I like this series--it's easiest to compare to Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou, just a relaxing slice-of-life anime that's perfect for kicking back with a beer and watching after a long day. If you liked YKK and liked To Heart, you'd probably like Aria. It takes a couple episodes to grow on you, but now I think I'm addicted. The setting is pretty cool, although I went to the real Venice after college and neo-Venezia improves on the original, the real Venice is like a big tourist trap. Aria also gets points for every character's name starting with the letter "A" and for having a character named Akari who doesn't just say "Hiroyuki-chan" over and over and over.
  • Zettai Shonen - I loved the Tana arc, but the Yokohama arc hasn't grown on me quite as much. I think it's just because Tana was such a cool setting, the kind of place out in the countryside it'd be fun to go to for a week or a month to just get away from it all. The weird camera angles seemed odd at first, and seemed to exist mainly to cut down on the number of frames they had to animate, but even that grew on me after a while. I'll definitely watch this until the end just to see if they give us a real explanation for what the heck Dosshiru and Shissin really are.
  • Shuffle - I know I'm in the minority, but at the risk of the SSS, NNN, and whoever else coming after me, I have to admit that I hate this show. I'm still watching because the drama is finally kicking in, and that's redeemed it a little--but the first dozen episodes with Sia, Nerine, and Kaede going on and on about how "we only met once eight years ago but ever since then I've only thought about Rin-kun", "my only happiness is doing Rin's bidding", and "if Rin-kun likes my cooking, I'll be so happy I'll orgasm" just made me want to reach through the screen and throttle them. I don't understand why the anime version of the "perfect" wife tends to completely lack a spine or free will. I keep hoping Arumi-chan from Abenobashi will show up and beat the tar out of everyone with her harisen. All the signs are this is going to end with Rin marrying everyone and the girls all taking turns, but like a train wreck I'm still watching this thing. The Primula arc hasn't been all bad, although if just seeing Rin makes Primula miraculously wake up and be OK, I may dump this show.

Not sure if I'll make this a tradition or not, but since it's not 5:00 yet, here's my recommendation of the day:

* Urusei Yatsura (UY). UY is pure, old-school anime gold. Even before Imadori from School Rumble was a gleam in his father's eye, Ataru Moroboshi walked the fine line between picking up girls and outright harassment. Actually, I'm pretty sure any court would find Ataru crossed the line. Ataru is probably the most determined male lead in anime, but his determination is entirely directed at trying to get girls to go out with him who he has no chance in hell with (in other words, any girl at all). All the while, Lum, an alien princess who wears a tiger-striped bikini and wrote the book on moe, has an irrational crush on Ataru, and is convinced they're married whether he likes it or not. Lum's an oni, so she has horns, can fly, and most importantly can deliver million-volt electrical shocks to Ataru when he strays, which is several times an episode. The manga was written by Rumiko Takahashi of more recent fame for writing Inu-Yasha, and like Inu Yasha it ran practically forever--UY spawned 195 TV episodes, six movies, and something like twelve OVAs, almost all released by Animeigo in the US.

UY's hard to describe well, but it's got an incredible cast and while some episodes are funnier than others, the funny ones are bust a gut hilarious. It's hard to say where you should start watching the series, though--it's fifty DVDs for the TV series (forty of which are out and on my bookshelf), which can put a pretty big dent in your Netflix queue. The "right" way is to start with TV disc 1, but some of the first season's episodes had animation so mind-bendingly horrible that by comparison episode 10 of Negima actually looks good. DVD #3 has my favorite UY episode of all time, in spite of the title: "Pitter Patter Christmas Eve". It's great because it has Lum looking kawaii, decent animation, snow, and best of all Megane at his most psychotic. Many of today's anime fans would give Taishi from Comic Party the nod for best supporting male anime character, but Megane was even more insane. So I'd recommend starting with that episode--seeing it on late-night TV in 1998 got me back into anime, so I'll always have a soft spot for it. And if you want a better description of Urusei Yatsura than I could ever write, Tomobiki-cho is the ultimate resource for UY.

If you're still reading this, I commend you for your determination, and I'll try to be more entertaining in my next post. Everyone knows anime blogs need servicey screencaps too, so I'll try to throw some in later ^_^

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