Practical details

panchanne01.jpg

Bishoujo Celeb Panchanne is a live-action mahou shoujo spoof in which a former magical girl, now a happily married mother, is persuaded by a rather seedy kami-sama to wear the short skirt again. I’ve only seen the raw for the first episode, so I don’t know what the silly/stupid ratio is, but it looks quite cheesy, as Pixy observed. It’s also very low budget: the alien space ship looks curiously like the device I use to steam peas and corn. It does feature one element of realism missing from every other mahou shoujo show I’ve seen: we get to see Panchanne’s costume designed and constructed. ((Cardcaptor Sakura is a special case, and I don’t think we ever actually see Tomoyo sewing.)) (She still undergoes the usual magical transformation when it’s time to face the monster of the week.)

Silliness

wellber01.jpg

Ludicrous though it is as Shakespeare, if you ignore the characters’ names, Romeo x Juliet becomes a generic fantasy action show, a bit slicker than most but otherwise of no particular distinction. If it’s something truly ridiculous you want, I recommend Sisters of Wellber. In the first episode we have swords, guns, sword-guns, plate armor, a fairy, cigarettes, facial markings, a guy named Galahad, artificial intelligence and a tank that talks too much. There’s also mention of a “Killer Bee Man.” This isn’t schizotech; this is just plain silly. I suppose it’s part of the writers’ strategy: if anything can happen, you don’t have to worry about consistency. What’s frustrating is that there might be a decent story about interesting characters here — the principals are a princess who may or may not have killed a prince from a different kingdom, and the thief who becomes her protector — but it’s lost under all the senseless gimmicks.

“There can be a Last Judgement …

… but no last non-judgementalism.”

This is not to say that great art and writing requires Christianity. Far from it. But I think that art beyond a certain level requires belief in something beyond the everyday material reality. Homer wrote great poetry because he wrote of the struggles of men against fate and the caprices of the gods. Virgil dealt with the conflicting moral claims that resulted from an emerging sense of objective, philosophically-based morality vs. a lingering conviction that it was necessary to do the will of the gods. Norse mythology dealt with a pantheon which was itself doomed, and yet that sense of looming destruction also held out hope for a world reborn without the pain and conflict of the present one. All of these can inspire great art.

Perhaps because it is such a modern, urban, middle-class phenomenon, the current round of strident atheist writers project instead a sense of inward-looking self satisfaction. A smallness. How could someone produce much interesting in the way of art who adhered to Richard Dawkins’ “secular commandments” which include things like “Do not indoctrinate your children” and “Enjoy your own sex life (so long as it damages nobody else)”?

Movies and dreams

Here’s an interview with Satoshi Kon. There’s nothing particularly startling or revelatory there, but one of my favorite writers does get a mention:

As far as Phillip K. Dick is concerned, I haven’t read all of his works but I have read several. He is one of the authors that I prefer to read and it is also similar to the Kurt Vonnegut situation in that before I read the novel I saw the movie Blade Runner. I am very interested in the nightmare image. That is the influence I have from him which I have been saying that quite a bit in my interviews. Last year at the Hawaii Film Festival that was held, and the small synopsis they had in the program with Paprika said is was like a collision of Hello Kitty and Phillip K. Dick. I felt that was correct.

Awakenings

Very quick first impression: I just watched the first episode of Toward the Terra. It’s potentially first-rate, but I’m reminded strongly of RahXephon. This is not necessarily bad. The first half of RahXephon had some serious flaws ((The most annoying was the profound incuriosity of the protagonist, who never asked the obvious questions.)) but was quite watchable, even with the damned mecha. It did eventually collapse into pretentious twaddle, though. I hope the people behind Toward the Terra have thought their story through.

Wabi Sabi has begun a weblog devoted to Toward the Terra that might be a useful resource.

The closing song is just enough like Pachelbel’s “Canon” to be seriously irritating.

Booked

MamaT has begun the project of taking a picture each day for a year and posting it on her site. This could be fun, and I already carry a toy camera with me everywhere I go, so why not? Here’s the first in a series of 365:

pic042507.jpg

This is the stack of books on the chair next to my bed. (There are additional piles under the chair and spreading across the floor, but this is representative.) The visible titles are:

Fuyumi Ono, The Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Shadow
R.A. Lafferty, Iron Tears
Novala Takemoto, Kamikaze Girls
Joshua Elder, Mail Order Ninja
Caryll Houselander, Catholic Tales for Boys and Girls
Terry Teachout, All in the Dances
Nicholas Slonimsky, Lexicon of Musical Invective
Jorge Luis Borges, Selected Non-Fictions

The other books in the stack are:

Robin McKinley, The Blue Sword
Thomas J. Craughwell, Saints Behaving Badly
G.K. Chesterton, Four Faultless Felons and The Flying Inn
Robert Benchley, The Benchley Roundup

Some of these are old favorites. Others are potential gifts for nephews and nieces I want to read before I mail. The rest were recommended by various people or just looked interesting.

Current viewing

Some comments on what I’ve recently watched.

Claymore — The first episode features the grossest scene I’ve endured since the first Alien movie. There isn’t anything as grotesque in the second episode, but it’s no milder. Houko Kuwashima departs from her characteristic role as an emotionless girl by playing an emotionless woman (well, half-woman). ((Kuwashima is a versatile actress, but about half her roles are silent, withdrawn characters, notably Kirika Yuumura. She does them well, but I like her better when she plays vivacious women such as Shuurei in Saiunkoku Monogatari.)) Despite my distate for gore and horror, I’m curious to see what kind of story emerges in the series. I’ll continue watching as long as it doesn’t try too hard to gross me out.

El Cazador de la Bruja — Thus far, the most interesting show of the spring, and I definitely will be following it. The challenge for me will be to not constantly compare it to Noir. There are many similarities — it’s the third of Koichi Mashimo’s informal girls-with-guns trilogy — but Ryoe Tsukimura is not involved this time and I don’t expect the overwhelming intensity of the earlier series. What I do expect is a complicated plot involving conspiracies within conspiracies, and a lighter, occasionally humorous tone in this tale of Maxwell’s Demon in Latin America. I hope Mashimo can pull it off without too egregiously violating the laws of physics and probability.

Hayate no Gotoku, or Hayate, the Combat Butler — The English title is the best part of the show. The series itself is lightweight, formulaic comedy, entertaining and nothing more. It’s not good enough to pay money for should it be licensed, so I’ll probably skip the rest of it.

Kami-chama Karin — I think of Koge Donbo as the cheerful Japanese counterpart of Margaret Keane. Her art is off the scale on the kawaii meter. Unfortunately, she’s not as good a storyteller as she is an artist. Kami-chama Karin is her idea of a mahou shoujo story. The principals are cute, but I get very irritated with them. Novice goddess Karin doesn’t ask the questions she should, and Kazune, who should be her coach and mentor, is more likely to lose his temper than explain what she needs to know. If you need a kawaii fix, watch Sugar again instead.

Murder Princess is potentially good, lurid fun, and I’m impatiently waiting for the second episode. Monster Princess, on the other hand, is just trashy.

Grey and green

Kansas, according to L. Frank Baum:

When Dorothy stood in the doorway and looked around, she could see nothing but the great gray prairie on every side. Not a tree nor a house broke the broad sweep of flat country that reached to the edge of the sky in all directions. The sun had baked the plowed land into a gray mass, with little cracks running through it. Even the grass was not green, for the sun had burned the tops of the long blades until they were the same gray color to be seen everywhere. Once the house had been painted, but the sun blistered the paint and the rains washed it away, and now the house was as dull and gray as everything else.

When Aunt Em came there to live she was a young, pretty wife. The sun and wind had changed her, too. They had taken the sparkle from her eyes and left them a sober gray; they had taken the red from her cheeks and lips, and they were gray also. She was thin and gaunt, and never smiled now. When Dorothy, who was an orphan, first came to her, Aunt Em had been so startled by the child’s laughter that she would scream and press her hand upon her heart whenever Dorothy’s merry voice reached her ears; and she still looked at the little girl with wonder that she could find anything to laugh at.

Uncle Henry never laughed. He worked hard from morning till night and did not know what joy was. He was gray also, from his long beard to his rough boots, and he looked stern and solemn, and rarely spoke.

Kansas, according to Oz no Mahou Tsukai:

oz04.jpg

I’ve lived in Kansas for the larger portion of my life, and I’ve never seen Baum’s grey Kansas. During tornado season (March through June), it’s mostly green. Although joyless grey people do exist in the plains states, they can be found anywhere. They’re not specifically prairie phenomena.

Here is a more representative Kansas farm couple:

oz05.jpg

Only the first episode of Oz no Mahou Tsukai (1986) has been subtitled. It’s watchable but not outstanding. If a group decides to fansub the remaining 51 episodes, I’ll probably download them for my nephews and nieces, but if they remain untranslated, it will be no great loss.