Sunday, December 28, 2008

Looking Back at Kannagi

Before the fall season started, Kannagi was probably my most-anticipated series--it's hard to believe, but it's over already, and while it wasn't perfect (for me, it comes in second to Toradora this season) it did manage to live up to the hype. It's biggest strength, to me anyway, was Nagi--she's one of the most unique and entertaining characters I've seen in a while, and I could probably watch 100 episodes of her antics and not get bored. Sometimes insecure, sometimes prideful, sometimes mischevious, sometimes serious...she has a depth of character that's too often lacking in similar roles. Nothing's more subjective than what's funny, I know, but Nagi and Jin's interactions, and the whole episode with Daitetsu's rampant imagination had me cracking up. The animation quality was also pretty impressive--try watching one of the middle episodes of a lower-budget series like Hyakko and then watch Kannagi and it's hard to believe they were produced on the same planet. The character designs, the attention to detail on backgrounds, the fluidity of motion--maybe it's just the fact I can't even draw a decent circle, but seeing animation at this level almost strikes me with a sense of awe. It's hard to put a finger on it, but the "feel" of each scene just seemed to be perfectly done to me. And yes, the Lucky Star cameo in the karaoke episode brought a smile to my face too.

On the downside, though, the supporting cast of Kannagi didn't really pull me in the way Toradora's side characters do--Zange-chan's moe-nun act doesn't do much for me, and while Tsugumi is nice and it's hard not to feel bad for her situation, she's pretty much a walking childhood friend stereotype and you could see her fate coming from over 9000 miles away. The rest of the cast gets a few laughs but really doesn't get much development (although Daitetsu can be entertaining). For me, Kannagi suffered the most towards the end, as the comedy went away, and screentime for Nagi was replaced by Jin being moody--I think when I go to re-watch this it'll be hard not to just skip re-watching the last three episodes.

Overall, though, I'd definitely put Kannagi on a list of most memorable anime of 2008--here's hoping that we do get to see a second season at some point down the road.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Long-Ass Nap of Suzumiya Haruhi

A few days ago, Hinano posted about how the painfully long wait for the second Suzumiya Haruhi anime, not to mention the 10th novel, was making it seriously hard to care:
I freaking LOVED this show. I cosplayed Haruhi, I drew a HaruKyon doujinshi. Hell it was one of the first shows that I “completed” when I first began blogging in 2006. I read all the currently released novels but now what? Cockteasing us with stupid newtype pictures with no continuation in sight. Does KyoAni think that putting “teasers” in magazines is gonna make me give a damn months later?
It does seem like they're trying their best to kill the goose that lays golden eggs here--why throw all the momentum they had after the first season out the window with such a long break? The delay in the light novels is just baffling--the 10th light novel, "The Surprise of Suzumiya Haruhi", was scheduled to come out in summer '07, but the publisher announced it would be delayed, and a year and a half later we're still waiting with no release date in sight. Given the ninth novel had a pretty ambitious plot, with two parallel universes/stories of sorts going on, I'm a little worried the author just got in over his head and has no idea how to continue the story. Or worse, the author's at some kind of impasse with his editors, where he wants to do something drastic like kill off Mikuru but the editors are petrified that'll piss off the fans.

Why Kyoani has stalled so long on the second season of the anime is a good question too--are they really making that much more money doing Key adaptations like Kanon and Clannad? Does Clannad sell so much better than Haruhi that it makes business sense to give it four cours, while Haruhi's only had one? If you told me in 2006 that we would see Munto get a TV series before we'd see a second season of Haruhi, not to mention we'd see Kanon, Clannad, and Lucky Star in between, I'd have thought you were insane. Conventional wisdom back then was we'd get the two cours of Kanon, and then another season of Haruhi soon after. Of course, back then no one expected the CEO of General Motors to fly to D.C. on his private jet to beg for money either...

I remember someone at Kyoani mentioning at one point that they wanted Haruhi to be like the Gundam franchise for them--someone needs to go to Kyoto and tell them you don't built a franchise by just sitting on a one-cour series for years and throwing out the occasional teaser. I can't say they've killed my interest in the series, because I'm sure I'll be counting the days until the next season airs regardless of if it's in 2009 or 2039, but I'm starting to wish J.C. Staff or some other studio would do the second season just to get things moving already. I guess there's the Churuya-san anime coming, but I don't think that has a release date yet either, and it's a parody, not a real continuation.

It's hard not to think that by putting a gap of geological time proportions between seasons, that when it finally comes the true second season will get a lot less attention than it would if they had aired it closer to the first. I guess the good part is if they keep delaying, my 3-week old daughter will be in high school by the time it comes out so we can watch it together.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Keroro Gunsou vol. 16

I don't read a whole lot of manga--but the one volume I buy every few months without fail is Keroro Gunsou, which Tokyopop is cranking out in the US. It's the insanely addictive story of an inept band of invading frogs and their schemes to conquer the Earth, while living with the Hinata family and getting stuck doing their household chores as a form of rent, and every one of the sixteen volumes of the manga has made me laugh out loud at least once. It's pure comedy gold--granted, no individual taste varies more than what you think is funny, but if you haven't checked it out, I'd highly recommend it.

I picked up volume 16 of the manga a couple days ago, and unfortunately found that this is the only panel Alisa Southern-cross appears in:

Why no more screentime for Alisa? I have to admit, I want to see Alisa x Fuyuki--I know this is a comedy manga, not a school love-com but I can't help it. Maybe I'm more of a sucker for twintails than I thought, I don't know, but Alisa's a great character, hopefully next volume she gets some more time in the spotlight...
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Friday, December 12, 2008

Toradora 11 Ramblings

Three great moments from episode 11 of Toradora:

First, the palmtop tiger losing traction on Aisaka's Chinese dress (in Ryuuji's imagination). I don't know why this cracked me up, maybe I'm a sucker for slapstick. Ryuuji's comment immediately afterwards that if they went with Chinese dresses for the Culture Festival he'd have to be sewing in breast pads again was funny too...poor Taiga...

Second, Ryuuji being the only one who's excited about supermarket coupons. Ryuuji is such an okusan (housewife), Taiga hit it right on the head at the end of episode 10. Toradora definitely has no shortage of unique characters, I don't think we'll ever see a leading character like Ryuuji again, a guy who looks like a delinquent but in reality is a cooking/cleaning/sewing machine.

Third, the emotional scene between Taiga and Ryuuji at the end--it's a rare series that can make me laugh and bring a tear to my eye in the same episode, but Toradora does manage to pull it off. Again, I think it's the strength of the characters that really makes it work.

Yuri-sensei was pretty funny this episode too--thanks to Kurogane for pointing out she has the same seiyuu as Maria in Hayate no Gotoku, somehow that makes her even funnier.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Are Anime DVDs Useless?

I'm really starting to think my anime DVD collection is practically useless, except as a way to support the industry in lieu of a better digital distribution method. I have over 200 anime DVDs on my bookshelf upstairs, but I haven't touched one in the weeks since my daughter was born, while I have watched a couple things either fansubbed or legitsubbed (by legitsub I mean pay-to-download like what Gonzo did distributing Tower of Druaga through Crunchyroll and BOST). For example, recently I was going to watch the last four episodes of Shakugan no Shana, which I own all the R1 DVDs for, but instead of going upstairs and grabbing the DVD, I found myself bringing up the fansubbed version instead.

Why watch an .avi when you own the DVD? Too many 5am feedings turning my otaku brain into mush? Maybe my situation's unique, but in my case there are a couple things that are steering me towards watching fansubs/legitsubs over DVDs:

#1: Fansubs/Legitsubs are more convenient

For me, the "double-click and two seconds later you're watching it" convenience of fansubs/legitsubs makes up for any quality gap with a DVD version right now. To watch a DVD of everyone's favorite flame-haired sword-wielding tsundere, I have to do the following:

- put my daughter down in the Pack-n-Play
- run upstairs and grab the DVD
- put DVD in laptop
- wait for DVD to spin up and launch WinDVD
- navigate to the menu
- pick subtitle and language options
- navigate to play the episode
- pick daughter back up

Compare this to what I have to do to watch the fansub:

- while holding daughter in right arm, use left hand to double-click a file (and to paraphrase Inigo Montoya, I'm not even left-handed)

It's just a lot easier to start/stop watching something with a fansub or legitsub.

#2: Video Quality's Not That Different Anymore

As Stripey mentioned in a recent post that got me thinking about this, with fansub/legitsub video quality going up, an HD fansub looks pretty darn good compared even to a DVD release. The blocky yellow subtitles that are a hallmark of DVDs also start to look pretty hideous after a while, even compared to simple subs like what Gonzo used on Tower of Druaga. Part of the reason the video quality isn't much of an issue for me since I watch all my anime on a 14-inch laptop screen with a 1024x768 resolution, not a home theater system or something where I might notice the DVD difference more.

Translation quality is the other reason DVDs are generally better, but in my case being Japanese-impaired what I don't know generally can't hurt me. I'm also not convinced DVDs always have better translations, given I've noticed plenty of typos or things a spell check should have caught on commercial DVDs (granted, mostly older ones), or really bad translations that even I can tell are off (I'm thinking of Moldiver here, again an older release, but I swear they went with dub-titles and just ignore what the characters are saying in Japanese some times)

I've long been hoping for a world where every anime series is distributed exactly like Tower of Druaga and Strike Witches, probably since back in 2000 when I was watching crappy Love Hina fansubs on my iMac back at the dawn of the decade. For Druaga, for just $2-3 an episode, you could download a DRM-free copy, subtitled, that's available practically the same time as the episode airs in Japan. That model just makes the most sense to me--you get the immediacy of fansubs, you cut out the physical media of DVDs and the annoyances that come with that, and you get to support the industry to boot. I have no innate desire for shiny discs, hell, earlier this decade I ripped the tracks off every CD I owned to my laptop, threw out the original CDs, and now I buy all my music through iTunes digitally.

Until that all-digital world arrives, though, I'm sure I'll still be buying the DVDs for anime that I really like and that has lots of re-watch potential, solely because that's the only way I can support the industry. I already feel guilty not doing as much as Adun did recently to support the hobby we all love, so I'd feel bad if I stopped buying DVDs completely. Still, for series where I have both the fansubs and the DVD, it's funny that I've been finding myself watching the fansubs instead. Has anyone else found themselves gravitating to a fansub for convenience's sake?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Why Stop Anime Blogging?

(Hosaka, because it's the closest anime picture I can think of to represent middle-of-night feedings)

I realized I haven't posted *anything* here since June, which is kind of sad--I can't say that I'm completely retired, but I think it's pretty safe to say I'm on some kind of semi-hiatus. It's definitely nothing to do with my love of anime, which is still going strong, but although I can't imagine anyone bookmarked this site given my sucktastic writing skillz, I feel like I at least owe The Internet an explanation for why I'm not exactly cranking out posts anymore.

So without further ado, here's why this blog has gotten even more dame-dame than usual lately:

1. Real life, not to mention just watching anime, always takes priority over writing about anime

My wife and I were fortunate to have a beautiful baby girl recently, and between 4am feedings, changing diapers, trips to Babies R Us, posting pictures and videos for friends and family out of town, and just spending time staring at her, one definitely have to prioritize one's free time. For the record, the first anime she ever watched was episode 10 of Toradora, although since she was sleeping in my lap at the time, I'm not sure she sees how great a series it is :) To me, with less time for my anime hobby, actually watching it takes priority over writing about it, and that means less bloggage.

2. There are 8.9 million anime blogs out there already, and most are better than this one

This is probably the most daunting thing about anime blogging for me--in the old days, when BlogSuki fit a couple days worth of posts on one page, if you wanted to write about a series you didn't have to worry about writing up a post only to find someone else has said exactly what you wanted to say, only far better. For example, my favorite series this fall is Toradora, but the post at Anime Diet recently extolling its virtues did so far better than anything my sleep-deprived brain would be able to conjure up.

3. In some ways, I like forums better than blogs anyway

For D-list blogs like mine, you don't get the same conversations going that you get on more popular blogs or on anime forums like AnimeSuki. I don't know any anime fans in real life, so for me blogs and forums are a great way to have those conversations with other fans about series that we like, a substitute for hanging out by the water cooler talking about this week's episode of Two Tree Hill, Gossip Guy, or Dancing With Convicted Felons.

I'm not quite prepared to say I've given up blogging, but just wanted to explain the reason is not the anime burnout you sometimes hear about--I've been lucky in that each season without fail brings me something to really enjoy. For winter, I'm guessing that will be the new season of Minami-ke Okaeri, but the Anime Gods may yet surprise me.

(One side note now that I have a baby myself--the more I think about it, there really are no babies in anime at all, unless you count baby Jinto and Lafiel in the ED credits of Crest of the Stars. 80% of the anime population's high-school age, and the rest are lolis.)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto (Someday's Dreamers): Long Title, Good Series

In a few weeks, the Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto sequel of sorts starts airing (although with a completely different cast) and that reminded me that I'd started watching the original series that aired in '03, only to drop it a couple episodes in. I don't remember why I dropped it, but on giving it a second chance I ended up marathoning it, and was pleasantly surprised that it was much better than I remembered. Maybe my tastes have changed or I was just watching too many other series at once when I watched it before, but on second viewing the story, characters, and atmosphere pulled me in, and I think it's worth checking out. It was licensed in North America by now-defunct Geneon so the DVDs may be out of stock some places, but Netflix has it, and if you can't get Netflix it's up on Veoh as well. Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto translates to "what's important to a mage", but the English subtitle is "Someday's Dreamers", which is what the DVDs in region 1 were released under.

The story focuses on a high-school age girl, Kikuchi Yume, who is moving from the countryside to Tokyo for her magic training. She has an idealistic view of what it's like to become a mage and help people, but as her training progresses she finds herself grappling with the realization magic can't always fix everything and doubting whether or not she can pass her certification exam to become a mage. There's a solid supporting cast as well, from her teacher Masami, whose tragic past haunts him and keeps him from moving forward in life, Milinda, who works at the salsa bar Masami runs and has a crush on him, Kare, who also works at the bar and grew up in an orphanage, Angela, a fellow mage-in-training in the Nagato Yuki mould, and an elementary school student who loves traditional Japanese comedy.

The world the series is set in has a pretty realistic view of what the world would be like if there were some people born with the ability to use magic but the majority of humanity couldn't--there are strict rules on when magic can be used, and all requests to use magic are routed through a government agency. Becoming a licensed mage who's able to respond to requests processed by that agency requires training under a more experienced mage/teacher and then passing a certification exam.

The atmosphere of the series is done really well, with JC Staff doing a solid job both on the animation and on the background music (although I hated the OP and ED). The setting is based on real-life locations in Tokyo, and if you've ever been to Japan the feeling of the area Yume lives in will probably make you nostalgic for it. Atmosphere is one of those qualities that's hard to define, and requires the right backgrounds, music, pacing, and so on to pull off well, but I think JC Staff nails it right on the head here. The animation when magic is used in particular is very well done, with each character having a distinct animal or object that represents their magic, somewhat like the 'patronus' in the Harry Potter series. The character designs aren't bad either, no rainbow of bright hair colors like in Shuffle, they're more subdued and true-to-life, but each character is distinct enough and easily recognizable. Yume has not one, but three hairs sticking straight up off her head, which you'd think would be enough to make her wear a baseball cap or buy some gel or something to keep those suckers down, but although it looked odd at first I got used to it pretty quickly.

Not to spoil things too much, but while at first the series seems like it will just be episodic, towards the end the plot does go more into motion, with Masami's and Yume's characters in particular getting a lot of growth and development. Don't expect much on the romance front though--if I had to pick my biggest complaint with the series it'd be that it leaves that pretty much completely unresolved, which is a shame, but this was still a solid series and it ended on a good note.

Overall, I'd probably rate this a "B" title--I can't picture it being something I'd buy on DVD and watch over and over, but having said that I'm still glad that I finally watched it since it has a likeable cast and a good message. And at just 12 episodes, it's really not hard to marathon either. It badly needs a short nickname though, as long as the title is...

I think Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto ~Natsu no Sora~, the sequel of sorts with a new cast, could surpass the original based on what I've seen of the manga--I posted a summary of what I've read of the manga at AnimeSuki in this post. It manages to pull off an even longer name than the original, which probably sets some kind of record for longest name in an anime series, but it looks to have an interesting cast and more romance elements to it than the original, which could make it a winner. It starts airing July 2nd, definitely looking forward to the summer season more and more now.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Most Under-utilized Side Characters

I was thinking as I watched Yami's debut in Toloveru the other day that there are a lot of anime series that have really appealing side characters, but due to their side character status they end up suffering from a lack of screentime compared to the main heroine. The most recent example I can think of is Hinagiku, who in spite of winning the Best Moe tournament still found herself consigned to just a half dozen or so episodes out of 52 where she got to take a leading role, but there are plenty of other examples. In no particular order (and I'm sure I'm forgetting plenty of other good examples) here's my list of the most under-utilized side characters in anime:

Katsura Hinagiku (Hayate no Gotoku): The most obvious choice--in spite of leading the manga popularity poll, in the anime she didn't end up getting a whole lot of chances to shine, even getting cut out of the class trip to the beach, create-o. Although at least she did get to show up in that episode in the eyecatches. If you asked otaku to vote on the 'side character you'd most like to see in their own spinoff series in a lead role', Hina-chan might well win. Personally, I'm still rooting for Hayate x Nagi since they have more history and I think more of a bond between them, but it's hard not to root for Hina too.

Yoriko (Da Capo): Yoriko could carry her own series with the holy triumvirate of nekomimi, maido, and doji-ko on her side, but aside from just being a moe character, as Stripey recently mentioned she has one of the more emotional scenes in anime towards the end of the series. If Da Capo ep 22 doesn't bring a tear to your eye, odds are it's because you're too preoccupied with the rising cost of the oil that pumps through your cold, black heart.

Kotori (Da Capo): Kotori's a character that in almost any other bishoujo series would almost certainly be the winner, by a mile--but in Da Capo in terms of screentime she's really in third or worse, well behind Nemu and Sakura. Even in DCSS, she starts out looking like she'll be the star, only to lose the screentime battle, badly, to Aisia of all people. Kotori truly has no luck in love or the limelight, but at least she can console herself with the fact she has legions of fans who wish there was a Da Capo: Kotori After Story animated.

Kyou and Tomoyo (Clannad): It figures that when Key finally breaks out of its tendency towards needy, emotionally stunted heroines, and produces Kyou and Tomoyo, they then end up completely getting the shaft on screentime in favor of characters like Fuuko. Fuuko's a good driver, I'm sure, but come on, who would you rather see a multi-episode arc feature, Fuuko or Kyou? Then Kyoani teases us with Tomoyo's Sunohara ass-kicking at the beginning, only to forget she exists for half the series. I'm holding out hope that one day, Mahou Shoujo Kyou will become a truly epic Clannad spinoff, but no, looks like we get more melodrama and death instead. Damn you, Key/Kyoani.

Machi (Nagasarete Airantou): Machi deserves her own series--with her ku-ku-ku she's like a female version of Kururu, always with some evil scheme underway. That and her use of Akane voodoo dolls is responsible for a lot of the laughs in the series, for me anyway. It's too bad with a cast that seemed to grow every other episode, Machi didn't get as much screentime as I'd have hoped.

Kiyone (Tenchi Muyo): The ultimate tsukkomi character, paired with omega baka Mihoshi for all eternity--sadly, it's been long enough there's no way she'll ever get a Space Detective Kiyone spinoff. What about Sasami? Sasami has so many spinoffs I don't think she counts as a side character anymore, between Pretty Sammy OVA and TV, the more recent Sasami Mahou Shoujo Club, she actually made the side character->main heroine transition other side characters can only dream of.

Multi (To Heart): Last but certainly not least, Multi is possibly the most popular side character in anime history--granted she gets a lot more screentime in Remember my Memories (which most people would rather forget), but in the original To Heart a two-episode appearance turned into fame for Hocchan, a million Multi references in other anime to this day, and figures, doujinshi, and other goods that probably add up to half of Japan's GNP. To this day when I pick a broom it's hard not to yell 'Doryaa!' and start running down the hallway.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Speaking of Anime Awards...

How is Wakamoto Norio not designated a Living National Treasure? If you can't tell from the screenshot, I'm re-watching 2x2 Shinobuden now, and if there was an Oscar in the anime world for Best Male Seiyuu in a Series That Will Make You Soil Yourself in Laughter, he'd have to win it hands down.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Spring Season Rambling

The spring season is more than halfway over already, and I haven't really posted much about it--part of that is blogging falls in my "do if bored at work" category and work has been somewhat busy, but another reason is the spring season just seems kind of underwhelming for me compared to fall/winter. No more Kimikiss, no more Minami-shimai, no more Hayate, no more Spice and/or's kind of depressing when you list out all the good shows that ended. But that's not to say spring is bad, it's just there aren't as many series that I'm eagerly waiting for each week.

Random thoughts on what I'm watching so far:

Tower of Druaga
When I first heard about this, I was excited by the 21st Century Digital Boy approach to distribution--English-subbed episodes up streaming at the same time as the series airs in Japan, officially sanctioned by the animation studio. It's like I fell asleep, slept through a decade of wars between anime producers and fansubbers, and woke up in The Future. But when I heard about the source material, it was hard to stay excited--is there any worse source for an anime series than a dungeon crawling RPG? Maybe a toaster oven's instruction manual would provide even less riveting plot points, but it's a close call. Having said that, ep 1 was truly epic and had me laughing out loud, and although since then it's been more serious than comedy/parody, so far I like the cast of characters and there's just enough comedy to keep me watching. With ep 10 things are looking much more serious, but at this point I've come so far I have to see where it ends. Although I don't get why with ep 10 they decided to try to drive everyone watching it on YouTube to Crunchyland with a big ass banner taking up the top half of the screen.

I've been waiting for this ever since they announced the game, and having read spoilers for the game I went in to the first season of Da Capo II expecting a solid, dramatic story--and instead got Koko looking worried, Minatsu going down on choco-bananas, and Yoshiyuki acting like an even more clueless version of Junichi. Yoshiyuki's still clueless in DC II Second Season, but at least DC II SS is finally delivering on the dramatic story part, and we're getting the spotlight on Otome, Yume, and Sakura where it belongs. Although as little personality as Yoshiyuki has, he's less deserving of the bishoujo who like him than Junichi was. I'm still a little worried FEEL will botch the ending, or that like DCSS, it won't have the same dramatic impact as the original Da Capo, but it's still fun to watch so far. As usual, Stripey has a better post on the subject than what I could write.

Kamen no Maid Guy
The whole concept of a Maid Guy, with rippling biceps and a maid's uniform, seems like something I'd rather stick my face in a fan than watch, but while it's 50% fanservice the comedy part can be pretty hilarious at times. Maid Guy Badges kick ass, although I sure as hell never want to go through what's required to earn one.

Kyouran Kazoku Nikki
I was really looking forward to this before the season began, since it seemed like the kind of comedy I usually love, with Galaxy Angel-like insanity--but while it definitely has its insane comedy moments, there's a serious side to it that kind of jars with the comedy, like it can't make up its mind what kind of series it wants to be. It's still fun to watch though, and some of the dramatic parts it does well--they definitely have guts trying to mix comedy and drama this way, because it's clearly not easy to pull off. Teika has to be my favorite character so far, he'd knock Simba on his sorry ass.

Penguin Musume
Not all that entertaining for me, but it's so short I can't help watching it anyway. I wish they'd parody some *real* anime and just beep the names out like Hayate, versus whatever made-up mahou shoujo series that Penguin watches. If nothing else, I learned from this series that "nankyoku" means "South Pole".

Needs more Mikan. But other than that, it's like watching a more-ecchi remake of Urusei Yatsura, which is nothing I'm going to complain about. Although I hope the voice actress for Lala uses a different voice for Nagi when Kannagi airs this fall.

Zettai Karen Children
Not quite as funny as Hayate, but it has its moments. Part of me hopes it'll run into a second season, part of me hopes it goes off the air soon so we can get Hayate back, since it's done by the same studio. They may be zettai karen, but they're not Hinagiku.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Finished watching Manabi Straight yet again, and 'chubby rori' character designs or no, I love this series. Although this time I noticed Mikan's wearing a different hair pin right before going off to Oregon...but then when she's back over the summer she's back to the normal one so maybe it doesn't mean anything.

Also, on Ufotable's site they have a 'Ufotable cinema' image with Manabi at top left, although I'm not thinking the movie posters are for anything they're really working on. I would love to see a movie called Dokkoi vs Onsoku though...nothing's more subjective than what's funny, but both of those series make me laugh every time I watch them. Although Mei getting the cicada to "SHUT UP" in Manabi Straight is pure hilarious too.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Kill Time Reading at Work #2: Toradora

Toradora is a light novel series that's going to be an anime series at some point in the future--and unless the B team from Doumu gets a hold of it, I definitely sense a winner. The first four chapters have been translated at Baka-Tsuki, and in the interest of lowering productivity a little while back I went and read it at work, and it's amazingly good so far.

The male lead of the story is Ryuji, a guy with fierce-looking eyes that make it look like he's glaring at the world--and accordingly he's outcast because almost everyone assumes that looking like that he's a dangerous delinquent. On the inside though, he's actually a nice guy, a really good cook, is great at cleaning and sewing, and no, that doesn't make him a hanayome trap (I think). The main female character is Taiga, a short girl who at a glance seems cute, but in reality is quick to snap at people and has earned a reputation as the fearsome "Palmtop Tiger." She has a crush on Ryuji's best friend Yusuke, while Ryuji in turn likes Taiga's best friend Minori--but through various things that happen Ryuji and Taiga end up teaming up to help each other get to be with the one they like. The smart money says Ryuji and Taiga will end up liking each other instead, but even if that path's predictable it should be fun to read.

Where I think Toradora has a lot of potential for greatness is the interaction between Ryuji and Taiga--the dialogue between them is really well written, and even through only four chapters, it's interesting to see them getting to know each others' true selves behind the perception that everyone else has. Taiga in particular has Saimoe Champion written all over her--she's got a complex personality in that she definitely has a fierce side, but can also be clumsy and painfully shy around the guy she likes. I'm sure she'll be labeled a tsundere, but I don't think that's an accurate label for her--she's definitely difficult to approach for most people, and can swing from homicidal to vulnerable, but she isn't tsun-tsun around the guy she likes at all. Ryuji is also an interesting character in that his home life makes him fulfill the stereotypical 'mom' role to a large extent, and he has Iron Chef-level cooking skills--unlike, say, Junichi in Da Capo, who no matter how bad Nemu's cooking is never entertains the thought that maybe his ass could cook something (unless Nemu's coughing up sakura petals).

I'm hoping that more companies will bring light novels over to the US, because I'm pretty much a sucker for them. Light novels fill a gap between manga and full-length novels that I'd expect would be popular on this side of the Pacific too, especially since we live in a short-attention span world where not everyone wants to or has time to read 800-page novels they can barely lift.

There have been a bunch of light novel-to-anime adaptations I've liked lately, from Suzumiya Haruhi to Shana to Spice and Wolf and others I'm sure I'm forgetting--here's hoping Toradora will also be a really good anime series.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

It's Good to be an Anime Fan: Narue no Sekai

At first glance, Narue no Sekai ("World of Narue" in Region 1) looks like it's going to be a pretty typical anime romance/comedy series--there's your average otaku-ish male lead, Kazuto, and one day he encounters a half-alien girl, Narue, and falls for her. You'd expect that from here he'd dither about asking her out for 3/4 of the series' length, try to confess to her six or seven times but always get interrupted, have his harem expand without his realizing it, and so on--but in a refreshing twist, none of those things happen. Instead Kazuto and Narue are basically an established couple from the first episode on--and instead of going down a harem path or throwing in a love triangle or rectangle, the series just focuses on their growing relationship and while there are obstacles that they overcome together, there's no doubt Narue and Kazuto like each other.

I think it's a pretty gutsy approach, when you consider you can usually get a lot of mileage out of romantic tension, and by having them start dating in the first episode they threw all that out the window. The most famous example of what I mean is probably Moonlighting, which had great ratings when Cybill Shephard and Bruce Willis sniped at each other (the cover of Newsweek even speculated on when they'd get together on the show), but as soon as they actually hooked up and became a couple no one watched it anymore. Or imagine if in the first episode of Kimikiss the main couples all started dating and you knew they'd be together throughout--the series would basically be over before it started.

But Narue no Sekai manages to work even without the 'when will they become a couple' angle, mostly thanks to a genuinely likeable cast. Narue herself, voiced by Mamiko Noto in a more energetic tone than most of her other, more reserved characters, is easy to root for, and Kazuto, while nowhere near GAR-level like Nagasumi in Seto no Hanayome, is still a genuinely nice guy who shows some guts when push comes to shove. The supporting cast is solid too, from UFO-addict-turned-friend Yagi, the obligatory sidekick Maruo, Kanaka, Bathyscape, and the rest.

The overall plot isn't anything spectacular, the animation won't make your jaw drop, but it's still a likeable feel-good type series, with a good cast and good character designs (except for the bad guys, but who am I kidding, it's most important to make the bishoujo look good). While the more cynical would probably find it crosses the line to cornyness at times, to me it stayed on the good side of that line. Yes, there are some very generic, badly developed bad guys ("terrorists" that don't want Narue to live on Earth, for reasons that aren't ever well-explained), and there are some solutions to problems that just seem too convenient (I'm especially thinking the end of the episode that introduces Haruna), but this doesn't detract from the series' enjoyment overall. There's a little fanservice thrown in, but not anything that would get you dirty looks if you're watching it in a middle seat on a full trans-Pacific flight. Overall, Narue no Sekai is just a fun series to watch when you want to relax, kick back and watch something that will put a smile on your face. And as a bonus, in region 1 the box set of all 12 episodes isn't expensive--despite being a bit of a cheapskate herself, I think Narue would approve me picking it up.

Monday, April 07, 2008

In the Wake of the Week: A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words Edition

This is possibly the only way Kyoani can top Hare Hare Yukai.

Who knew Swedish dance music and anime was more addictive than crack? Mad props to whoever did this for even including Tsuruya and Asakura Ryoko...Itsuki is having WAY too much fun though.

Apologies to Kawasumi Ayako, but Horo > impassable wall > Chizuru.

Who knew tanuki went into heat?

Yeah, just keep telling yourself that, chief...

Best love confession ever. Or at least the funniest this season.

2,015 Best Moe Tournament voters want to be Hina-chan's boyfriend...

After spending every week for 52 episodes with the cast, I'm really going to miss Hayate no Gotoku. I can't even think of the last 52-ep series I saw, but I think I could watch another 500 episodes and still not get tired of this cast.

Are you related to Tina Foster?

OK, this is why people think anime is all about the biant goobies. Was I the only one half-expecting Lala to start adding "-da'tcha" to the end of her sentences? Although Lum's outfit was more fanservicey than Lala's...

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

My Vote for the Next Shakugan no Shana OP

I think the rest of the anime world discovered Caramelldansen about 600 years ago in internet time, but I'm a late arrival and damn this song is addictive. After dropping 99 cents on iTunes and having it on endless loop for an hour, I have a vision of an entire office standing up in their cubicles and busting out this dance until the men with white coats take them away.

To make this at least partly anime-related, what's up with Bel-Peol and company getting away again in Shana II? I've having flashbacks to the end of every episode of Inspector Gadget. "I'll get you next time, Shana...NEXT TIME!"

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Killing-Time-at-Work-Reading-Volume-Nine of Suzumiya Haruhi

What the hell did people do on slow workdays before the internet? I guess they probably hung out by the water cooler and actually conversed with other people about the travails of hunting stegosaurus and such, but since my workplace is largely deserted today, I've been reading volume 9 of the Suzumiya Haruhi novels online instead. I'm waiting for the dark day when web filtering hits my workplace, crushing my diversions with the dark fist of productivity, but fortunately that day is not here yet.

But back to the novels--I don't really understand why these aren't out in the US, hell, I'd buy them in an instant, and given the DVDs seem to have sold very well I've got to think I'm not alone. I'm not going to spoil anything for those who have just watched the anime, but with every volume of the light novels I read I'm convinced that Haruhi season two and beyond is going to be amazing. There's just a lot of really good material to animate in the novels. Sometimes authors have a great idea but then down the road you can tell their best ideas have been used and they're just stretching things out--the last few volumes of Love Hina come to mind (although to be fair to Akamatsu-sensei, I remember reading in an interview that his publisher pushed him to make it longer than he'd originally intended, and that's where the Kanako arc came from). With Suzumiya Haruhi, while there are times I wish things were progressing a little faster, it seems like the author isn't running out of tricks up his sleeve.

It does worry me a little, though, that Suzumiya Haruhi volume 10 was pushed back and doesn't seem to have a release date yet, although months have passed--is the author having trouble figuring out where to take things? The author's taking the story in a turn his editor doesn't like, or that the publisher is afraid fans will hate? He's made so much money that he's spending his time in Waikiki downing mai tais at House Without a Key instead of in front of his laptop?

A lot of stories you can predict the ending of halfway through easily, but that's a lot harder with Suzumiya Haruhi. Is a 'happy ending' where Haruhi loses her powers and lives as a normal girl, dating Kyon? Just imagine if they have kids who are gods/goddesses too, if Haruhi's mental state isn't always even-keeled, a two-year old would blow the universe the hell up every day. By the end of the series, the author has to somehow explain what's up with Asahina (older version), what exactly happened three years back that gave Haruhi her powers (assuming Haruhi really is the center of everything), and a million other plot points--I can't imagine how he'll tie everything up in the end. I just hope we don't get an ending like the Yokohama Shopping Log manga, which didn't really explain anything at all, like the author had just picked an arbitrary point and decided "the story stops here." If that happens with Haruhi, there'll be riots in Akiba--although as long as it sells well, I'm sure the publisher will try to get the author to stretch Haruhi out to volume 95 or so, so I can't picture it ending anytime soon.

Come on,'s hoping season two of the anime starts this summer...

Monday, March 24, 2008

Why I'll Miss Kimikiss

* heavy spoilers *

So after 24 episodes, several kimis getting kissed, and probably the most complicated relationship chart ever for a bishoujo series, Kimikiss is over--Asuka and Yuumi fans will surely disagree, but I still think Kimikiss was one of the best anime series of its genre I've seen in a while. What made the series unique to me was the way it took the old "Everybody Loves Juinchi/Yoshiyuki/Yuichi/Tomoya" formula we typically see in harem anime and threw it out the window and into the wood chipper. Having multiple male leads made the relationship chart a hell of a lot more interesting--it was such a simple move to make, and I wish that other anime would follow the same example. Yes, it makes the story diverge from the source material, but since I don't play the games these series are based on, I don't have any predisposition to a "route" or "flag" that I want to see animated just so--if it's a good story, I really couldn't care less if it follows the game's path or not.

Here are the things I liked the most about Kimikiss:

* More than one lead character - I generally like most bishoujo-game-to-anime series because I'm a sucker for any series with a romance angle to it, but in a lot of examples of the genre it's insane the sheer number of girls that you have after a single guy. I've mentioned this before with Da Capo--while it's one of my favorite series, at the same time the sheer number of residents of Hatsunejima with crushes on Junichi defies belief, and hints at darker forces at work. But Kimikiss broke the lead role up into Kouichi, Kazuki, and Kai, with even Hiiragi, who by any measure is a side character, having his day, a day that you know will never come for Sunohara in Clannad... It immediately breaks the "let's go through each girl's route" formula you come to expect, and while I think Mao and Futami were front-runners from ep 1, it also introduced enough uncertainty to where you could realistically see Asuka or Yuumi getting the win in the end instead. Compare this to Clannad--did anyone think it was going to end with Tomoya x Fuuko, even for a second?

* Great Cast - This is 9000% subjective, but personally I thought Kimikiss had an excellent, very likeable cast. No, they're not all perfect--as Stripey has pointed out before, there's nothing more cruel than stringing people along in the name of not wanting to hurt them, and Mao and Kouichi were definitely both guilty of this to a point. And yes, around episode five I wanted to put the damn frogs in a blender and set that sucker on 'frappe'. But at the same time, the characters' emotions, their struggles as they come to grips with their feelings, it all came across as very real, and I can't think of a single character that I really disliked. You know from the outset some people at the end of the series will be together and some will be left alone but hopefully better from the experience, and while if I had to vote I'd have said I was rooting for Futami and Mao, I can't say I dislike Asuka or Yuumi, far from it.

* Story - While lacking the drama of say, the last episode of Da Capo, the story was well-written overall, I thought--it didn't feel like there was much "filler" to speak of, and thanks to the multiple love triangles going on, there was always some advancement in the plot and a dramatic moment to end each episode on. While not everyone may be happy with the "winners", I think they did a solid job showing Kouichi and Kazuki's feelings and why they make the choices they do. As good a character as Asuka is, after Kazuki spent 23 episodes chasing Futami, there was just no way in hell she could plausibly get the win, and while Kouichi seemed more torn with Yuumi, there were plenty of signs he was looking more Mao's way, especially after she confessed.

* Character Designs and Music - It didn't hurt that I really liked the character designs (when they were drawn on-model anyway) and the OP and the ED (for the first half) quickly found themselves spots on my playlist.

Of course, nothing's perfect, so moving on to the parts I wished had been better:

* Animation Budget - Let's just say, this isn't Clannad...even ep 19 of Clannad with the ef-like distance shots was better than some of the distorted facial expressions we got in Kimikiss. Given all its strong points, I'd still buy Kimikiss on DVD in a heartbeat, but I'm hoping the DVD version they fix some of the more glaring issues.

* Mitsuki - Not a bad character and I have no problem with her personally, but why was she in this again? I thought for sure given the time they took to show her background and introduce the whole "engaged since she was little, but has never fallen in love" angle, that they'd explore this a little more, but nope. In the end, she doesn't even wind up with Hiiragi, since he seems to prefer tsunderes.

* The Play Within the Play - While the end was good, I was surprised they didn't use the student movie to better advantage--I was thinking we'd see at least part of it, that watching it all in edited form would be the catalyst for Kouichi running after Mao or something, but nope. Poor Hiiragi had to suffer all that time editing for nothing...

* Udon and the Frogs - I'm guessing both were more or less there for comic relief but...not nearly as funny as say, Tomoyo vs Sunohara in Clannad. But I hated the frogs, so I'm pretty biased...

In the end, I think Kai should get some kind of award for being the Martyr/Catalyst character--he was right on in his observation Mao and Kouichi were actually very similar. Mao lied to herself about how she felt about Kouichi, and Kouichi did the same, telling himself it was for Yuumi's sake. The scene with Yuumi and Kouichi in the end I thought was really well done too--Yuumi knew, as it'd be hard not to given Kouichi's expressions when he saw Mao, and clearly she'd prepared herself for "the talk" well in advance since she didn't shed a tear. Askua it's hard not to feel bad for since if she'd realized she liked Kazuki before he met Futami maybe there could have been something there--but to Kazuki's credit, he was consistently chasing Futami the whole series and not about to change his mind at the 11th hour.

In the end, I'm happy for Mao and Futami--Mao because while it took her a while to realize her feelings she clearly did love Kouichi and did the right thing breaking things off with Kai once she realized that. And in Futami's case seeing her progression to dere-dere mode it's hard not to be happy for her landing Kazuki, and somehow, to me those two make the cutest couple in the series. Futami's stubborn "I'm not crying" when there were tears rolling down her cheeks is one of my favorite anime scenes from this season.

Before the season started I didn't have much of any expectations for this--but if anyone from JC Staff is reading this, thanks for a series that I'm sure I'll be re-watching down the I just have to hope it makes it to DVD over here someday. Also thanks to BSS for subbing this at epic, blazing speed.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Spicy Tears Okawari

Ah, winter--a season where here on the Left Coast it's sunny and in the mid-70s. When the weather's like it was this weekend, watching Kanon felt like I was watching a madman's depiction of some alien, impossible world, a world where frozen water falls from the sky and piles up everywhere, and just for fun people build vaguely humanoid forms out of the stuff. I hear it's called "snow" and I vaguely remember it from the dimmest recesses of my memory, falling outside as I sang "searching for a distant star; heading off to Is-can-dar!" I'm not sure it's real, it's been a while since I've actually seen it fall from the sky, but Kyoani does make it look damn good.

So the winter anime season is halfway over, which is hard to believe--then again, I can't believe checks don't have "19" on the date line anymore, so maybe my internal clock's just running a little slow. Usually in winter the voices of Blogistan start to complain that there's nothing good out, can't wait for spring, etc., but this winter has been amazingly good, for me at least. Not only are Kimikiss, Clannad, and Bamboo Blade still running from fall, but three of the winter anime series in particular have just been awesome. And this is their story.

Spice and Wolf: Best ED ever. Peanut butterflies? I don't know if having the official lyrics makes it more comprehensible, but it's good to know there's still a big market in Japan for teaching English in case the US economy ends up in an implosion of debt. Speaking of the economy, if you told me a couple months ago that one of my favorite winter series would have a plot straight out of a medieval edition of the The Economist, a heroine with ookami-mimi, and a male lead who answers to Lawrence, I'd probably have said you should really lay off the crack, but that's where we are. Horo is just a great character overall, with more emotional range than the entire cast of Girls Bravo combined (OK, bad example, so does Gumby) and after episode 6 Lawrence gets some major points for guts. He really dodged a bullet with Chloe--I'd bet if he'd ended up with her, she'd have killed him in the middle of the night for leaving the toilet seat up or something.

Minami-ke Okawari: I know, it's different from the first season. The characters look different. Chiaki has bad gradient hair. In one scene the bastards drew the kitchen partition differently or something. Seriously, in the name of the Holy Bleeding Eyes of Jesus, what Unholy Monster, what freaking Hitler of the Anime World could commit such crimes?? (<-sarcasm) I honestly like the new character designs better, and while part of me wishes Asread went in a totally different direction and had Kana and Chiaki jumping out of an exploding E-3 with a giant squid on it, Okawari does a good job of putting a smile on my face, as much so as the first season did. While a lot of the reaction on the web seems to be negative, leading to a couple weeks' lag before subs appeared, I love it so far--and if Asread had gone first I wonder if Okawari would still be getting as much hate. Mako-chan is even funnier this season, Chiaki is still awesome--but they could run this series for a dozen seasons, with a different studio every time, and I probably still wouldn't get sick of it.

True Tears: Awesome animation (not a fan of the CG background characters, but otherwise looks really good), a likeable cast (except for the evil mom), and the drama is kicking up with episode 6--I'm surprised Hiromi's revelation came this early on, but the second half of the series should bring some really good drama. I'm wondering if the story would be better without Ai-chan, though, since zettai ryouiki or not she has a snowball's chance in hell and doesn't seem to be adding much to the story so far, but maybe they'll work her into things in a convincing fashion later on. Shinichiro's mom and the Evil Grandpa from H2O need to be sent to a deserted island somewhere with no food, just to see how long they can live on their own bile.

Even with all the good winter anime, my favorite series I'm watching right now is still Kimikiss--go Mao-neechan! Yuumi's nice and all, but she still doesn't seem to have much personality to me, aside from being rabu-rabu for Kouichi. If he does break up with Yuumi I'm thinking she'd sublimate on the spot.

P.S. As I go to actually post this it's raining and 40-something out...that's what I get for extolling the weather here...

Monday, February 11, 2008

Upcoming Anime: Kannagi

I don't read manga all that often, but for some reason (very possibly connected to the fact I had nothing to do at work Friday afternoon) when I saw this news brief on Anime News Network, I decided to check Kannagi out. After looking at the official website and the thread at AnimeSuki, I went to to find scanlations and ended up reading the first eight chapters--it's possible I'm just easily amused, but I loved it: it has some great laugh out loud moments, a likeable cast of characters, and while the premise makes it sound like another To-love-ru, it doesn't resort to blatant fanservice to draw in readers. There's no release date for the anime yet, but when it does come out, I have high hopes for it now.

The premise sounds completely generic at first--Jin is a high school guy living alone (doesn't anyone in Japan live with their parents?) who carves a statue out of a block of wood from a sacred tree for an Art Club assignment (since the tree was cut down to make way for new development.) As he's getting ready to go to school, his statue comes to life, revealing Nagi, the goddess of the land for the area, who's shocked to find her sacred tree has been cut down (probably to build a Wal-Mart--everyone blames everything on Wal-Mart these days.) With her tree gone and her powers weakened, Nagi needs Jin's help to catch 'impurities' which she can then purify in mahou shoujo-inspired fashion. There's also the mandatory osanajimi character thrown in to the mix, and Nagi turns out to have a sister, who takes after Momoka from Keroro Gunso a little in the personality department.

What makes this a lot of fun to read (and hopefully will make it a great anime series as well) is the characters--Nagi is just awesome, and Jin and the supporting cast are really good too. There are some great moments with her and Jin, like how Nagi tries to pass off accidentally gluing something to the dining room table as the work of her other personality, only to trip herself up in her lie later. Or the cooking contest she wins easily, showing she really can cook even though Jin's been making all their food.

It's not all comedy though, and there's definitely the potential for some more drama, especially if Nagi starts to like Jin or vice versa, although there's no overt signs of this so far. The relationship chart's pretty straightforward--Jin's osanajimi likes him, but it's not clear who Nagi likes and I'm sure this is something that will get developed more as the series goes on. It looks like the first four volumes are out in Japan, so I'm guessing this will just get a one cour run (12-13 episodes) but we'll see.
A-1 Pictures (sounds more like a steak sauce...) is the studio behind this, and the director also did the first four episodes of Lucky Star for Kyoani. Fortunately, I'm thinking there's no way in hell Kannagi can start out with five minutes discussing the right way to eat choco coronets. Here's hoping this will be a great anime series that lives up to the manga--if it does, Nagi-sama definitely has the potential to go far in Saimoe.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Kimikiss Rambling/Predicitions

The relationship chart for Kimikiss is still a mess, but things are getting a little clearer as episode 17 levels up the drama. As Stripey has pointed out it's hard to choose who to root for, knowing that either way a character you like will be heartbroken in the end. Other than the frogs, who I'd love to see boiled and served in some kind of reduction, I really like the whole cast, which makes it hard to pick who to root for.

I'm sure I'll be wrong on most of these, but just for the hell of it, here are some predictions/rambling thoughts on each character (spoilers for through ep 17):

Mao-neechan: While you can argue Mao's been stringing Kai along, I don't think it's fair to slam her for finally realizing who it is she really loves--I think Mao likes Kai well enough, but it's taken time for her to realize it's not the same as the way she feels about Kouichi. I feel bad for Mao because she's in an impossible position--she's finally realized she loves Kouichi, but she knows he's with Yuumi and believes he's happy with her. So what can she do? To put it in RPG-like terms, she has three choices: Do Nothing, Fight (confess), or Run Away. The first one's untenable because it's already causing her a lot of pain, which you can see in her avoiding Kouichi and being down all the time. The second I don't think she'll do either, unless it's in a moment of weakness, because she'll see herself as a nuisance to Kouichi and Yuumi's relationship and she'll want Kouichi to be happy, even if the result is heartbreak for her. So my best guess is she'll pick door number three and get on a plane back to France, and then the big question becomes does Kouichi finally figure out he's the reason she's been acting funny all summer and go after her?

Kai: Kai is the real wildcard in Mao x Kouichi--now that Mao's broken up with him, he can just go on with his life, try to win her back somehow (I'm picturing the scene with John Cusack holding up the boombox playing 'In Your Eyes' for some reason, but that'd be OOC for Kai...), or he can accept defeat and for Mao's sake try to push her to confess to Kouichi. I think Kai's smart enough to figure out that Mao does like Kouichi, the question is if Mao won't confess, will Kai do it for her? I can picture Kai confronting Kouichi, and telling him he's the reason Mao has been down lately--or in reverse, Kouichi could notice Mao is even more depressed than usual, mistakenly think Kai is the cause, and then confront him and have Kai tell Kouichi that way. Kai seems like a good guy, and seems to genuinely like Mao, so I'm thinking knowing he can't make her happy he'll try to push Mao x Kouichi along, but we'll see...

Kouichi: He's probably the biggest mystery--he seems to like Yuumi and clearly had a crush on her from the beginning, but at the same time he worries about Mao a lot, even when he's with Yuumi. Does he really like Mao, but has just put that thought out of his mind, seeing her as unattainable? If he knew Mao liked him, would he stay with Yuumi anyway out of guilt, or apologize to her and go after Mao? Or does he genuinely love Yuumi and Mao's just a childhood friend? I honestly have no clue what Kouichi will do--you can make a really good case either way based on his actions so far.

Yuumi: OK, Yuumi is easy to read--she likes Kouichi, period. That may make her a less interesting character, to me anyway, but she's definitely loyal to Kouichi, so I shouldn't fault her for it. Maybe she'll shock me and go rabu-rabu for the girl with the weird udon fixation, but I don't see Yuumi's feelings changing. Unless Kouichi shows signs of liking Mao, and Yuumi decides to fall on her sword since she's moving away anyway, but that doesn't seem likely.

Kazuki: I'm a little disappointed in Kazuki--Eriko dumped him over the phone, sure, but he doesn't at least go try to confront her in person? Then again, he probably doesn't know where she lives.

Eriko: It's hard to tell what Eriko is thinking, but I'm guessing when she went and saw Kazuki at the soccer match, seeing him celebrating with Asuka just made her feel like her and Kazuki were just too different to be together, and that he'd be happier with Asuka, so she bowed out of the race. I don't believe for a second that she doesn't like Kazuki--the scenes with her and Kazuki at Mitsuki's mansion seemed to pretty conclusively point the other way. Will she realize her true feelings and go after Kazuki? Or will Kazuki try to change her mind once school starts and they see each other again? I'm hoping she does end up with Kazuki--Asuka's a great character too, but Kazuki and Eriko just feel like a better couple to me, even as different as they are.

Asuka: Seeing how depressed Kazuki is will be a big test for Asuka--does she try to reconcile Eriko and Kazuki somehow? Or go the more selfish route, and take advantage of her chance? I don't think she's completely fooled by Eriko's exterior cool, deep down I have to think she believes Eriko does like Kazuki, and it's obvious the reverse is true. I'm guessing she'll fall on her sword and try to help set Eriko and Kazuki back up, believing Kazuki can win her over. In any case, I feel bad for her because it's clear she likes Kazuki and Kazuki only has eyes for Eriko, and most of us have been in her situation at least once in our lives, so it's easy to relate to her.

Mitsuki: Why did her character get introduced again? Is she even still in this show? I can't believe they'd introduce her and set up the whole "arranged marriage vs true love" thing without actually giving her the "true love" part, but she's gotten less screen time than the damn frogs. I was thinking they'd go Mitsuki x Hiiragi maybe, but I've seen zero sign of that so far. Seems like she's been condemned to Minor Side Character Hell, which I guess is fine given how the relationship chart for this series is complicated enough already.

Maybe it's just me, but I can't get used to the new ED--somehow it seems wrong not hearing "koware sou de..." start up at the dramatic moment at the end of each episode...

On an unrelated note--hopefully I'm not jinxing them saying this, but Spice and Wolf and True Tears are just awesome so far. I know as a Kyoani fan it's blasphemy for me to say this, but I'm looking forward to those two every week more than Clannad. I might just buy True Tears even at the insane prices Bandai USA wants to sell it for, provided the ending doesn't go all Mahoromatic Season 2 and turn into a trainwreck or something. Spice and Wolf continues to be impressive too, with Horo one of the more complex, interesting characters I've ever seen anywhere.

Monday, January 28, 2008

MST presents: Clannad ep 13

Nice Weeds.

My apologies to Mystery Science Theater...

Crow: Is he *weeding*? What the hell is going on here? Tomoya's doing freaking lawn work so Kotomi gets the hell over her parents dying ten years ago already? Is this a "very special episode brought to you by the Garden & Lawn department at Wal-Mart" or something?

Joel: Well, if he recreates her backyard like it used to be, and has the birthday party he missed a long time ago, maybe she--

Crow: Then she can relive her seventh birthday, and mentally regress even more? Oh, wait, she *already* acts like she's seven. Actually, I've heard seven year olds play the violin better than Kotomi.

Joel: Yeah, but I'm pretty sure *I* could play the violin better than Kotomi too, and I've never touched one...

Tom Servo: I think this where we're supposed to gasp at the awesomeness of Kyoani's animation--I mean, look at the detail on the roots that Tomoya's pulling up, on those weeds. It's amazing--

Crow: When Kyou is onscreen, I'll admit it's awesome. When it's the Tomoya Weeding Show--kill me. Speaking of characters that don't suck, where the hell is Tomoyo? Is she even in this series any more? I'm pretty sure the retard with the starfish fetish talked to her once, what was her name again...

Joel: Wow, I'm sensing a disturbance in the Force here...too much hate for Fuuko and Kotomi...

Tom Servo: Crow hates everything, it's like his mission in life... But I have to agree Kotomi's arc's not really striking me as a masterpiece. I mean, yeah, what happened was tragic, but what kind of parents would leave a seven-year old Kotomi home *alone* while they leave the country? Who exactly has been raising Kotomi since they died?

Joel: Not to mention, what's with Key and every time something traumatic happens to their male lead, they just completely forget people around them exist?

Crow: Oh, great, here comes Nagisa. "Okazaki-san~! I just came to help because I want you to knock me up!"

Joel: Not a Nagisa fan either, I see...

Crow: Please, between Kyou, Tomoyo, and Nagisa, who do you think would get ranked dead last in any kind of popularity poll? That's what I thought. And don't get me started on Ryou.

Tom Servo: You know how they detect planets around other stars? Planets are so small and faint that they can't be seen with even the most powerful telescopes--so they have to look for the slightest changes on the star they orbit, either from gravitational force or the planet passing between the star and Earth. Ryou's the planet and Kyou's the star.

Crow [heavy sarcasm]: Yeah, I got it--and thanks a lot for the astronomy lesson.

Joel: It is kind of sad, Ryou coulda been a contenda in any other series but here...she's forever going to be Kyou's sister, background character. "Do you want me to tell your fortune?" Kind of moe but...yeah, she's not going to Hollywood.

Tom Servo: If this was Minami-ke Okawari, Ryou would be black...

Crow: So that's the end of the episode? They're all weeding together? Wow, this is great stuff. Good thing you had the bright idea to wait for the widescreen version, because I'd hate to only watch people weed a lawn in 4:3. God, that'd be a freaking crime.

Joel: Seriously, I don't think this episode was *that* bad...Kotomi's story may not be the greatest, but you've got to be a cynical bastard to not at least tear up a little at what Kotomi had to go through.

Crow: Sure, but it was like ten years ago! They should have arrested her parents for child abandonment, running off saying "invite your friends over and party without us--oh, and don't stick scissors in any electrical outlets while we're gone." Didn't that happen in real life when some dumbasses bailed on their kids to go to Mexico for a week, and they got five years in jail?

Tom Servo [sweatdropping]: I think we're done here...

For the record, I am enjoying Clannad so far...but yeah.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Keroro Movie 2: The Deep Sea arimasu

Wow--just watched Keroro movie 2, and the easiest way to describe it is to say it's 77 minutes of everything that makes Keroro Gunso awesome. Natsumi reaches truly epic levels of moe-ness, Giroro gets the "twirled around by the evil magistrate pulling on the obi of his kimono" treatment, there's action, drama, family, friendship, afros, even Moa-chan unleashing Armageddon twice. The only thing that could have made it even better is if they'd somehow worked in Giroro being forced to say "Natsumi, my love--kiss me tender, and hold me tight forever" like in episode 38. Giroro is forever the king of GAR in my book for being able to say that twice without dying of embarrassment on the spot.

The plot revolves around two new aliens, Meru and Maru, who kidnap Natsumi to be their "princess". There aren't really any "bad guys" in this to speak of--while Natsumi does get kidnapped, the kidnappers are really just kids, and at first she ends up being more like a mother/babysitter to them. The core cast is all involved, and get at least some screentime--although Natsumi is definitely the star of the movie, which is a definite plus in my book.

With movies based on a TV series the most common complaint I hear is "it just felt like a really long TV episode", but I think this avoided that fate. Scenes like the creation of the underwater city, or the swim Meru and Natsumi take in the ocean, just had that cinematic feel to them where you just look at it and part of your brain can't help going "wow". I think Deep Sea Princess succeeded much better on this note than the first Keroro movie did.

I do feel a little bad not waiting for ADV to release this before watching it, but since they have yet to release even volume 1, the smart money says I'll be wearing adult diapers and re-living 1977 by the time they actually do get around to putting this on DVD. But assuming I'm still alive and mentally competent by the time it hits R1 DVD, this is definitely getting a place on my bookshelf. I'd highly recommend it for any Keroro fans--although if you're not familiar with Keroro Gunso, this probably isn't the best movie to start with, since it doesn't do much to introduce the characters.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Minami-ke Okawari: First Impression

Haruka-nee: No Mercy

So it's not subbed yet, but I was looking forward to this enough to watch the first episode raw. Trying to watch anime raw is something that always sounds like a good way to test my Japanese skills, but inevitably it just serves to remind me that no matter how many people you meet on vacation in Japan who say you're all jozu and shit because you can say 'koko...doko desu ka? Kyoto desu ka? Eeh? Hokkaido? maji?' I am still not ready for prime time. Watching this I'd catch a word or a fragment here or there, but to be honest they could have discussed particle physics, choco cornets, or anything in between and I'd have missed 95% of it. Having said that, based on what I've seen Okawari so far lives up to, and has the potential to exceed, the first season of Minami-ke, although I'll have to wait for the subs to say if the dialogue is as good as its predecessor.

Nintendo Power

The first episode goes right into the OP, and the OP is well animated, catchy, and while the new character designs take a little getting used to, the animation quality looked good to me, equal to or better than its predecessor. Okawari is being done by Asread, the same studio that did Shuffle, but it's not obvious--there aren't the talking heads that Shuffle had, and while there's an onsen scene with some fanservice, we're not talking anything like the Asa-senpai wardrobe malfunction at the beach.

There's already a better first episode summary than I could write up at Subculture Anime Blog, so I'll just restrict my rambling to a list of pluses and minuses:

(+) It's Minami-ke. It keeps the same spirit and sense of humor as the first series, and it's good to see the cast again, even thought it's not like there's been a long wait since the first season. Honestly, I was about to drop the first season after episode 3 or so, since I was suffering from a Kana overdose, but the longer I watched it the more the cast grew on me and it ended up as one of my fall favorites.
(+) Animation quality. It takes a little adjusting to, but I think I like the character designs and animation better than the first season.
(+) Haruka-nee + onsen = why the hell didn't the first season's studio think of this? It's not rocket science, people!
(+) Ahoge in Motion. Chiaki's ahoge actually moves now, like Tenma's hair in Sukuran. Brilliant.
(+) OP and ED. They'll be finding their way into iTunes as soon as I post this.
(+) Snow. Maybe because I watched volume 1 of Kanon and I live in a city more likely to fall into the ocean than see snowfall, but it was cool seeing snow in the second half of the episode.
(+) Haruka-banchou showing no mercy at ping-pong, even against Chiaki.
(+) Fujioka's face when he sees Kana.
(-) Eyecatches at the CM break. Somehow it doesn't seem right without someone saying "Minami-ke!"
(-) Asread fails at gradient hair. Badly. Chiaki's hair is kind of gradient hairing to brown towards the bottom which just...looks weird. They need to watch Manabi Straight over and over until they learn how to do gradient hair right, then give it to the whole cast and not just Chiaki. Night Wizard had gradient hair down well too, now that I think about and learn, Asread.

Yes, I am way too lazy to screencap a whole episode myself.

Overall, Okawari exceeded my expectations--I'm also looking forward to more H2O (preview Engrish notwithstanding it didn't "rock my soul" but it was a solid first episode), and to seeing True Tears once it's subbed, but right now Okawari has pole position for the winter season for me.