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.)