Requiescat in pace

A long, long time ago I came across a humorous/satirical website called The Lemon. It’s long gone now; as far as I can tell all that remains is the panel reproduced here. It was the work of Shamus Young, one of the crew who hung around Steven Den Beste’s place. He was perceptive and insightful on gaming, anime and whatever else caught his attention. Over the years he focused increasingly on gaming, but even so he was still worth reading. He wrote well, and his detailed analyses and critiques of games were interesting even to non-gamers like me.

And he was funny. The Lemon may be gone, but DM of the Rings, the one good result of the Peter Jackson catastrophe, is there to read on his website, as is Chainmail Bikini. It is not necessary to have played D&D to enjoy them.

Shamus’s autobiography worth reading, too. His account of his ordeals in grade school is sufficient reason utterly reform or just flat eliminate the education establishment. It starts here.

Shamus Young died Wednesday. Please keep him and his family in your prayers.

In the cards

While I have little interest in most anime-related products, there are a couple of categories that I have found worth looking for. I’ve occasionally mentioned my annual searches for Japanese calendars. I also have a small collection of anime playing cards, which are much cheaper than figurines and more useful.

Unsurprisingly, the cards from Studio Ghibli are the best, both for the art and for the substance of the cards. Each card has a different picture, all printed at high resolution, and the cards are durable and easy to shuffle and deal. I have decks for Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke, and I’ll add others when circumstances permit. Right-click the images and open in a new window to see at full resolution.

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Lost years found

For quite a long time, the four years from April 2012 to April 2016 were missing from the archives of Pixy Misa’s mee.nu weblog ecosystem. A few days ago Pixy ran a script to restore the absent pages. At last one can once more read everything that the Brickmuppet, Wonderduck and similar eccentrics posted back then.

I am particularly pleased to be able to read all of Steven Den Beste’s Chizumatic again. Finally I can review his observations on Mouretsu Pirates, Girls und Panzer and Gate, as well as the frequently extensive discussions in the comments. There are also occasional trenchant remarks on the political clownshow mixed in with the anime cheesecake. The restored pages start here and run through here.

The end of anime

Crunchyroll has changed its policy on watching shows for free. Hitherto, those without accounts could see episodes of current shows after a week’s embargo, albeit with six minutes of dumb, loud commercials inserted at awkward moments. Since there are too few good new shows to justify spending $95.88 plus tax for a year’s membership — in all of 2021, I found only two worth watching all the way through — that was acceptable. However, Crunchyroll recently changed its policy. From the spring season on, people without paid memberships can watch only the first three episodes of any new show some new shows. The hell with it.

Since I no longer download fansubs1, this means I won’t keep up with what’s current. Yeah, there are plenty of older series on Crunchyroll and elsewhere I can still view (with commercials), but while the online collections may be more extensive than mine, they’re mostly junk. My own library is better. I will keep an eye out for further work by Masaaki Yuasa, Hiroyuki Imaishi and Kazuki Nakashima, Kenji Nakamura and a few others, and purchase hard copies when they are available for reasonable prices2, but at this point I’m pretty much done with Japanese animation.

My streaming history does end on a fairly high note. Miss Kuroitsu from the Monster Development Department is the funniest show since at least Endro. There are screencaps below the fold to suggest why I found this study of tokusatsu and corporate cultures from the point of view of the bad guys so entertaining, despite its limited animation budget.

(I can’t quite give the show an unreserved recommendation. One of the characters is a wolf boy who is stuck in a girl’s body because of executive meddling. The writers spend too much time finding ways to make him blush.)

***

I also watched the rest of Life with an Ordinary Guy Who Reincarnated as a Total Fantasy Knockout. It never quite fell through the thin ice it skated on, and some of it was clever, but despite better animation, it was not in the same class as Kuroitsu. It’s a tolerable waste of time, and that’s it.

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Art and entertainment notes

I’m down to two shows, which is still twice as many as I was following at this time last year. The best remains Miss Kuroitsu from the Monster Development Department. However, despite its squicky premise, Life with an Ordinary Guy… hasn’t made me throw up yet. It helps to know your isekai clichés.

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Catching up: anime

Exaggerated and unfair, but true.

***

The car over the harbor show

I finished OddTaxi. Noir with (mostly) cute animals works pretty well when the writing is strong. It likely is the best show of the year, though I can’t say for sure because I haven’t watched more than a few episodes of anything else. Considered as anime, it’s something out of the ordinary and worth sampling if you have an interest in animated storytelling. Considered as noir, I’m not so sure. My knowledge of the genre doesn’t extend far beyond “Watching the Detectives,” and I suspect that connoisseurs might find the ending unsatisfyingly upbeat. Iniksbane has mixed feelings. Nick Creamer discusses the first episode in detail here.

And that’s it for 2021. Nothing this fall looks interesting, so I’ll pop in a disc of Hozuki or Humanity Has Declined when I’m in the mood to watch something.

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Heavy and cute

Is it still noir if someone uses the word “codependent”?

So, is Odd Taxi really noir? Let’s check with Roger Ebert.

Film noir is . . .

1. A French term meaning “black film,” or film of the night, inspired by the Series Noir, a line of cheap paperbacks that translated hard-boiled American crime authors and found a popular audience in France.

Nearly every scene in Odd Taxi takes place during the evening or night. Check.

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Thirty years ago

I recently unearthed Richard’s box of Japanese magazines and scanned a few more. This batch is from the February 1991 Newtype. It provides a snapshot of what anime was during the age of the laser disc. (The magazine pages are a little larger than my scanner can handle and there are missing edges.) These are big scans, so right-click and open in a new window to see every detail.

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Geology and furry noir

The second season of Yuru Camp concluded with a four-episode trip around the Izu peninsula south of Tokyo. It was mostly more of the same — girls go camping in cool weather, and nothing much happens. Which is fine; spending time with the introverted, independent Rin is enough. (The next hard drive I buy will be named “Rin,” joining the company of Kino, Marika and Isako.)

Among its other virtues, the show was almost entirely free of common fanservice — the beach episode lasted maybe ten seconds and occurred only in one character’s imagination. However, there was plenty of scenery and food porn. One unexpected pleasure was the show’s awareness of the geological history of Izu. Although Japan has numerous volcanoes, some very active, they rarely figure in anime.

Columnar basalt

If you’d like to see the real-world counterparts of the locations in Yuru Camp, infinitezenith has you covered: one, two, three, four, five, six.

Here’s one reason for Yuru Camp‘s success:

Business Insider interviewed Laid-Back Camp producer Shōichi Hotta, where he shared some of the secrets behind the hit anime. He said that although the manga is published in Manga Time Kirara, which tends to be associated with slice-of-life stories that emphasize cute girls, Laid-Back Camp has some slightly different nuances to its appeal, and he wanted to ensure that this was captured by the anime. Specifically, there were two things that he set out to avoid:

1. When a character praises another one of the other girls, don’t make them say “You’re cute.”
2. Don’t let them get touchy-feely so easily.

He explained that doing so would pigeon-hole the genre, and also that these kinds of depictions weren’t in the original manga to begin with.

*****

I’ve been checking out first episodes of the current season on Crunchyroll as they become available to non-subscribers. As usual, I rarely can tolerate more than five minutes of most, but I did watch the debut of OddTaxi twice. It looks like a kid’s show — simple art, anthropomorphized animal characters — but it has a satirical edge and looks like it could get quite dark. The central character, a walrus who drives a taxi, is blunt and cynical. There are strong hints of police corruption and various nefarious goings-on, and probably everyone has a secret. Despite appearances, it’s not for children. What the central story will be isn’t clear yet, but I will probably continue to watch this.

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Additional views of Mt. Fuji

Crunchyroll has discontinued the obnoxious politicized ads that repelled me last spring, and merely dumb ads I can endure, so I am able to watch the occasional show now. The second season of laid-back Yuru Camp through the first six episodes is much like the first. Girls with hair in unnatural colors go camping, and that’s about it. The installments focusing on solitary, self-reliant Rin are a pleasure to watch. Nadeshiko is also pleasant to spend time with, but the other girls in the camping club quickly become annoying.

A moment from the third episode:

Is “loneliness” an accurate translation? “Solitude” or “isolation” would fit the context better, at least to me.

The distortions of extreme wide-angle lenses are sometimes tolerable in photographs but look weird in drawings.