Saturday, December 30, 2006

Shiori: Sick Bishoujo or Not So Much?

Watching Kanon I'm coming to the inescapable conclusion that Shiori isn't really sick at all. I know better from watching the Toei series, of course, but that doesn't change the fact that she doesn't show any signs of being sick whatsoever. I'm not a licensed diagnostician or anything, but let's look at the evidence:

- She doesn't cough.
- She doesn't faint or stagger aimlessly (like Nayuki in the morning.)
- She doesn't seem to have a fever.
- She doesn't suddenly wake up in the middle of a street with no memory of how she got there (like Nayuki).
- She doesn't sound sick.
- She doesn't look sick.
- She carries a lot of pills but we never see her take any, and she doesn't act like she's stoned out of her mind.
- She eats ice cream in the snow.
- She allegedly can't go to school because she's sick, but this doesn't stop her from standing outside the school practically every single day.
- She stands the hell outside, in the snow, for hours on end wearing nothing but a sweater, short skirt, and a shawl. Sure, I've seen Icelanders walk around in T-shirts and shorts when it's 45F out, but Shiori's dressed like it's January in Los Angeles, and there's enough snow on the ground it's got to be cold out. Unless she's keeping warm thinking about all the different positions she could try with Yuichi in the gym equipment storage shed, I'm thinking she should be a Shioricicle by now.

Especially based on the last piece of evidence, I think Shiori's not really sick at all. She just enjoys cutting school and thinks the 'sick bishoujo in snow' ploy puts her on the express shinkansen to getting some action from Yuichi's man-lance. All those pills in her bag probably include something to knock Yuichi the heck out so she can have her way with him, just in case all else fails.

More seriously, I'm really liking Kyoani's Kanon--the only problems I have with it are more faults of the genre than with what Kyoani's doing. It's sad that Makoto just vanished completely out of Yuichi's consciousness after ep 10, but given they have to cycle through all the girls' stories it's probably unavoidable. If I lost someone that close to me, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be back to cracking jokes in the very next episode like nothing happened, but maybe Yuichi's just a lot more resilient. And if he spent the next 10 episodes getting over Makoto leaving--well, the series would be almost over.

I still picture Yuichi as Kyon and half-expect to see Haruhi dragging him down the hallway by his collar, but I guess that just shows how much I want to see Haruhi second season.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Top 5 Anime...of 2007

It's almost the end of 2006, and any respectable anime blogger would post something about the top X series that he or she saw in the past year. Unfortunately, this blog has long since fallen into disrespect, with monthly posts at best and a sorry lack of that whole "content" thing that makes reading other blogs worthwhile. But They say blogs are so 2004 anyway, so I might as well spew another entry into the ether. Instead of listing my favorite shows of 2006 though, I'm thinking outside the box, ending up a few beers short of a six-pack, and I'm going to list...(drum roll) favorite five series--of two thousand SEVEN. How can I do this? Simple--I can see the future. Hell, Mikuru can do it, and Mikuru's not exactly Mensa material, so I figure I can do it too. By the time the end of 2007 comes around, no one will remember this post anyway.

So without further ado, here, beyond any shadow of a doubt, are what will have been the best five anime series of 2007:

#5 - Zero no Tsukaima, Season Two: More of the Louise tsundere goodness of the first season, with enough screentime for Seista to satisfy her fans too. The wedding scene at the end was great, although the whole thing with Guiche, the horse, and the love potion...that's thirty seconds I wish I could erase from my consciousness forever.

#4 - Nagasarete Airantou: This really could have been the #1 series of the year except for the animation quality--not Yoakena bad, but just average. If Kyoani had done this, it would've been a contender. Yui Horie as Suzu was awesome, but I'm still picturing her in my head as blond, not brunette.

#3 - School Rumble, The Final Chapter: I was hoping for a third season and not a movie to wrap it all up, but the movie to end all Sukuran was still surprisingly good. I can't believe in the end Harima ended up with Napoleon and not Eri or Yakumo, but the backstory between the two of them really erased my doubts. That Napoleon would go through so much for Harima's sake was really moving. That'll do, pig.

#2.5 - Manabi Straight: Ufotable is just awesome, and with Manabi Straight they finally recaptured the batshit insane comedy of Shinobuden and Dokkoida. I can't wait until 2035 so I can get a scooter like Manabi's. Too bad by then I'll probably be too old to remember to wear pants.

#2 - Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu, Season Two: More Haruhi awesomeness--it was a really tough decision between this and the #1 pick. Evil Mikuru was a highlight, I knew she wasn't quite as stupid as she looked/acted. I can only imagine what Haruhi and Kyon's kids will be like, will they be demi-gods? Will closed space appear if they don't get to eat any more cookies before bedtime? The mind boggles, whatever that means.

And the best anime series of 2007 is...

#1 - Da Capo II: I was sure they were going the Yume route, but no, they picked Otome, and I couldn't be happier. Kyoto Animation really outdid themselves too, I have no clue how they finished Kanon, did a second season of Haruhi, AND did DCII all in the same year, but they pulled it off. I used to think it'd be impossible to level up from the drama at the end of the original Da Capo, but I was wrong. The scene in DCII where the sakura disappear and you-know-who vanishes with it (no, I'm not talking about freaking Voldemort, I'm trying to avoid spoilers here) was just perfect--I cried like a little girl, and I'll admit it with pride. In the end, this was a worthy sequel, proving that game-to-anime conversions can be done right.

Yes, I made all that up. But if I had to guess now, I would really expect those to be my top 5 next year (although Da Capo II is pure wishful thinking on my part, I don't think an anime series has even been announced yet...and ditto for more Sukuran). Part of what's awesome about being an anime fan though is that seasons are short, and the odds are no one has heard of the best series of 2007 yet. Hell, did anyone last Christmas expect that Haruhi would take 2006 by storm? I don't think it was even announced then, I know I didn't hear about it until only a month before it aired.

I think if I had to pick a top 5 for 2006, it'd be Haruhi, Negima, Kanon, Sukuran, and Zero no Tsukaima, with Haruhi getting top honors and the others close behind. It's been an awesome year for anime though--the fact there's always something new really keeps it from getting stale, and I expect next year should be even better. But if I had to ask for a Christmas present from the anime gods, it'd be getting to see the Da Capo II anime in 2007.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Back from Japan

I'm back from vacation in Japan, which was just awesome in spite of the fact that believe it or not, I didn't go to Akihabara and saw very few signs that anime even exists while I was there (one of which was the poster above on the street leading to Kyoto University). Part of me did want to go to Akihabara and take out a second mortgage on the house to make our living room look like Tsuyoshi's room from Densha Otoko, but I wouldn't do that to my wife, so I restrained myself.

I remember before my first trip to Japan, the Most Holy City of Mecca for all anime fans, I half expected to see ads for Love Hina in the subway and subway stations named after all the girls from To Heart, but quickly saw that anime's not really all that mainstream there either. You have to look for it, or you won't see any signs it even exists. This trip, I think the only anime-related ads I saw were a poster in Shinjuku for the PS2 versions of Fate/Stay for the Evening and Yoakena, and a couple posters for an upcoming Precure movie. Oh, and I saw a poster for Kirarin Revolution. No huge Kanon banners hanging from the rafters at Narita airport, no train conductors wearing Keroro Gunso kigurumi announcing "sugi wa Kyoto de arimasu~!", although if there had been that would have been really cool. But I'm not really complaining--anime may be a niche even in Japan but that doesn't change the simple fact it beats the crap out of most mainstream "entertainment" in my book by a mile.

If you ever go to Japan, I can't recommend going to Kyoto highly enough--even if it's just for one night, there's so much to see there it's amazing. This was our third trip, but we still found lots of places to explore that we'd never been to before (no thanks to guidebooks, though, which only give a handful of temples and shrines to visit--googling the places on the Kyoto taxi site and then finding them on our map gave us much better and sometimes well-off-the-beaten-path suggestions). Kyoto in the fall is simply the most incredible place I've ever been, as I've blogged about before in the 2nd half of this post, so I'd recommend going in mid/late November, but it's impressive any time of year. If you don't believe me, here are some pictures from last trip.

A few more pieces of (completely unsolicited, of course) advice if you get to go to Japan:

- Go to Kyoto. Or if you're on a business trip to Tokyo and you really don't have time, go to Kamakura which is the next-best thing, with lots of old temples (and it's only an hour outside of Tokyo, versus Kyoto being 3 hours by shinkansen).

- Take Japanese first. Just a 10-week, one night a week class at a community college or extension is fine, but it really makes a difference being able to order food semi-competently, and most importantly, understand how to ask "how for the love of Haruhi do I get to X from here" and then understand the words for "straight", "left", and "right". Plus there were a surprising number of people who started talking to me in Japanese, even though my butt-white ass doesn't look like I should know a word of it, I think when you're off the beaten tourist path people assume you must have some fluency (which in my case is dead wrong). It's really cool somehow to be able to communicate in a foreign language, especially in America where most people can go their whole lives without ever really needing to. Plus as an anime fan you're more likely than most to keep your Japanese skills up because you can listen to the language every day.

- Go to Kyoto. Did I say that already? Maybe temple gardens and fall color aren't your thing, but there's still a lot to see there regardless.

- Learn hiragana and katakana. If you take a class, they'll probably cover this--it's a pain to learn them, but it's also worth it. Going to a restaurant with no English menu and not having to resort to going outside and pointing at the plastic food because you can tell the Japanese menu says "mozzarella and tomato pasta" gives you a feeling of accomplishment you just can't get pointing and grunting " of these". It's probably how you felt as a 3-year old learning to read, but you're old enough now to have forgotten so this is a one-time chance to relive the experience.

- Use the internet to help find places you want to go. Japan guidebooks are OK for the big tourist attractions, but not so good for finding the more out of the way places that can make your trip really worthwhile.

- Go to Akihabara. I know, I said I didn't go there this trip, but that's because I've been there before, and They say that you can't enter Otaku Heaven unless you go there at least once in your life. It's somehow cool to see what the world would look like if anime WAS mainstream.

- Bring plane socks. Wear a second pair of socks on the plane instead of wearing shoes. It somehow makes the 10+ hour flight more bearable. If you're lucky enough to fly business class the airline actually gives you plane socks.