The many flavors of cheesecake

To save you the trouble of clicking repeatedly on the lower left corner of Steven’s header, I’ve collected 915 of the images and assembled them into a convenient slide show.

The singer is Mayumi Kojima. She’s probably best-known in the anime world for “Poltergeist,” the memorable opening theme of the otherwise disappointing Ghost Hound.

Yoctometers, yottameters and ponies

Two weeks’ worth of random stuff.

Of all the mysteries in Mouretsu Pirates, the most puzzling, and the least likely to be satisfactorily explained, are the Sailor Moon shout-outs. This Princess Serenity is anything but a ditzy airhead.

By the way, it is impossible to watch just one episode of Shingu.

Continue reading “Yoctometers, yottameters and ponies”

A screenful of Madoka

Crunchyroll began streaming Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica today, so I watched the first episode during lunch. I was curious to see how it looked at 1080. I took several screencaps; click on them to see them full-size. They look nice, but they’re not razor-sharp. I would guess that the video was upscaled from 720. (The monitor screen is 1920 x 1200, hence the letterboxing. (The images from Madoka’s dream were letterboxed to begin with.))

More screencaps below the fold.

Continue reading “A screenful of Madoka”

Galactic Corridor West-37

Shingu had the Cat’s Eye Nebula; Mouretsu Pirates has V838 Monocerotis.

Real life keeps getting in the way, but I make time every Saturday to watch Mouretsu Pirates. So what if the premise is unlikely and that there numerous minor details to nitpick? As long as the characters are interesting and the story is good, I don’t care that miniskirts aren’t suited to zero gravity. I think the pacing is fine. Tatsuo Sato knows exactly what he is doing. Constant action is boring. I’d rather get to know the characters and situation before the battles start. I enjoy spending time with Marika, and I look forward to 20 more weekends with her and her crew.

I enjoy the soundtrack, too, and I hope it’s licensed. I apparently am in the minority on this point, but I even like the opening theme, despite the singers. It would be much better with a less cluttered arrangement — ideally, just drums, bass and Marty Friedman — and a singer who can properly belt out the tune. Can Bruce Dickinson sing Japanese?

Sato makes anime that is more complex than it at first seems and which ultimately mostly makes sense, e.g., Shingu. There’s already much speculation on the history of piracy and related matters in Marika’s universe at Steven’s place.

Just wondering: One of the spaceships is called the “Odette II.” Will there be an “Odile”?

Update: Here’s the “sailing” theme.

[audio:http://tancos.net/audio/PirateTheme.mp3]

Update II: Steven calls the tune “Odette II.” You can download a clean version from his site.

Sunday morning miscellany

Suppose the translators responsible for The New American Bible took on Shakespeare:

Existence or its opposite? That’s what I am asking myself.
Whether it be more or less dignified to put up with
The barbs and darts of brash Luck, or to use weapons
Against distress’s oceans, to stop them from happening.

More Shakespeare, sorta: What is the connection between Interstella 5555 and the House of Percy?

There supposedly is a genre of iyashikei, or “healing,” anime, such as Aria or Ikoku Meiro no Croisee. I find most such productions irritatingly bland, rather than soothing or refreshing. ((The only example of the genre I find rewatchable is Someday’s Dreamers, which has a serious story underlying all the niceness.)) If you seek therapeutic anime, the works of Tatsuo Sato are much more effective:

A rewatch of Nadesico helped me get through the first few days of living with a broken arm, and Shingu was good for a flu and high fever.

Update: I just watched the second episode of Mouretsu Pirates. It looks like it’s going to be at least as good as Nadesico. Whether it approaches the level of Shingu remains to be seen.

“You don’t have to rely on a healthy body image or self-respect any more”:

Fotoshop by Adobé from Jesse Rosten on Vimeo.

Hmm. I have Adobé, but I’m as ugly as ever.

You’d think it’s obvious that creativity requires solitude, but evidentally the fact periodically needs to be restated.

Nyamulagira continues to challenge Etna for the title of The Greatest Show on Earth:

Cooking with gas is passé. Let’s cook with lava. ((Hey, Erik.)) Here’s a recipe for pahoehoe game hen. Prefer a steak?

I don’t know if you can “cook a tasty chicken on lava”, but I know you can cook a steak of meat on an Hawaiian lava flow! I did it! You just lay a sheet of aluminium on the lava; you spread some some oil on the steak, possibly with some herbs. Then, you put the steak on the aluminium sheet and let it broil a few tens of seconds on each side. I can assure you it is delicious, all the more with a glass of Californian wine! I’m French; I know what good cooking means!!

See this for the Icelandic version.

Downright bodacious

I watched the first episode of Mouretsu Pirates twice in two days. The last series I did that for was Madoka a year ago. Pirates has a lot in its favor, including:

Space pirates.

Tatsuo Sato.

A meganekko with a hime haircut and a sailor suit.

A bunny, a ducky and a pink bobblehead pig.

An absence of in-your-face fanservice. ((No surprise, given that Sato’s Shingu featured an outstanding example of anti-fanservice.))

There are a few negatives, e.g., green lipstick, skinny ties and really bad haircuts.

The positives greatly outweigh the negatives, and Mouretsu Pirates looks like, at the very least, a fun show. With Sato at the helm, there’s a good chance that the series will be a satisfyingly complex story and not just an excuse to put pirate hats on pretty girls.

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A bit of music:

It’s not just for humans.

If French is the language of love, what is German the language of?

(The latter via John C. Wright.)

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2011 is over. Good riddance. It was a thoroughly crummy year for me, ((2011 was a good year for volcanoes.)) and I am not going to compile any retrospective posts. If you want to know about the year in anime, see Ubu’s recaps here and here.

Parachutes and bumbershoots

Here’s some music that caught my ear recently.

Kinoco Hotel has the ’60’s psychedelic sound down cold, straight from the garage.

If Chabrier and Satie formed a string band, they might sound a little like Shugo Tokumaru.

Here’s a piano arrangement of the above tune.

Pop music with a high-gloss finish: Tokyo Incidents, featuring Shiina Ringo.

I’ve also been listening to some “Tokyo virginity pop,” as Urbangarde labels their music. Imagine Hatsune Miku as a real singer in an avante garde-ish band. I don’t like any of their videos — the visuals range from pretentious and silly to pretentious and distasteful (I wonder what percentage of their operating budget goes toward fake blood) — so I’ll just refer you to their website. There are links to videos there; the music sounds better if don’t actually watch the videos but only listen.

I’ll close with another Tokumaru tune.

Cardcaptor Derpy

(Here’s a side-by-side comparison with the CCS opening.)

Is the Brony universe the American counterpart of Touhou doujin culture? Perhaps. However, the main attraction of Touhou for me is the music, and I have yet to hear the MLP equivalent of “Lunatic Princess” or “U.N. Owen Was Her.”

I found time to watch the first two episodes of Mawaru Penguindrum, and, well, I’m not at all surprised that its mastermind was earlier responsible for Utena. It starts off as a shameless tearjerker. By the end of the second episode it’s deep in WTF territory. It’s currently getting high praise around the otakusphere, but I’m skeptical that it’s better than Madoka, as some claim. I suppose I’ll have to watch the rest of it and see.

For no good reason, I downloaded a curiosity called “Ravex in Tezuka World.” I should have bailed out when I saw this

but I foolishly watched the whole thing. The planet of Reearth, whose denizens are escapees from Osamu Tezuka’s various works, is threatened by Dark Silence. However, the cheesy dance music of the Ravex trio saves the day, with some assistance from an altered Astroboy.

Not even Prince Princess Queen Sapphire can save this mess.

Heroines and heroes, and a new poll

Balsa (Seirei no Moribito) is the most heroic character in anime according to visitors to this site, followed by Simon (Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann), Homura Akemi (Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica), Kenshin Himura (Samurai X; Rurouni Kenshin) and Vash the Stampede (Trigun). Others receiving votes are Edward Elric (Fullmetal Alchemist), Nanoha Takamachi (Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha), Nausicäa (Nausicäa), Rem Saverem (Trigun), Togusa (Ghost in the Shell), Allen Schezar (Vision of Escaflowne), Yoshika Miyafuji (Strike Witches), Yoko (Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann), Alphonse Elric (Fullmetal Alchemist), Ashitaka (Princess Mononoke), Spike Spiegel (Cowboy Bebop) and Eboshi Gozen (Princess Mononoke).

There is a now poll up: which is the outstanding romantic couple in anime? I’m doing this one in two stages. Vote for up to three in the first round. The top ten will advance to the final round.

I regret that I had to disqualify a few of the nominees for not being old enough. In a few years Syaoran and Sakura, Hayama and Sana, and Haraken and Yasako will be good candidates, but ten and eleven is a little young for serious romance, no matter what CLAMP thinks.

Is there in anime no romance?

Here are the nominees so far for the outstanding romantic couple in anime.

Jinto and Lafiel (Crest/Banner of the Stars)
Keiichi and Belldandy (Ah! My Goddess)
Giroro and Natsumi (Kerero Gunsou)
Kyouichi and Harumi (Shingu)
Ayato and Haruka (RahXephon)
Shichika and Togame (Katanagatari)
Kenji and Natsuki (Summer Wars)
Tomoya and Nagisa (Clannad)
Mikiya and Shiki (The Garden of Sinners)
Renton and Eureka (Eureka Seven)
Noboru and Mikako (Voices of a Distant Star)
Lawrence and Holo (Spice & Wolf)
Shuji and Chise (Saikano)
Shinra and Celty (Durarara)
Rosette and Chrono (Chrono Crusade)
Batou and Kusanagi (Ghost in the Shell)
Ryuji and Taiga (Toradora)
Isaac and Miria (Baccano)

Surely there are more. I’m having trouble coming up with other couples, though — Marco and Gina (Porco Rosso), perhaps? There’s a lot I haven’t watched, and I have no special interest in love stories. If you know of any worthy anime couples missing from the nominations, please mention them in the comments.

Alternative animation

Ubu on $369.98 ($498.98 retail):

I refuse to apologize for bittorrenting any longer, and I refuse to feel guilty, and I refuse to buy any series from anyone, anywhere at that price. Burn in hell, Japan.

If that is indeed what purveyors of anime have planned for us, and if they do finally succeed in eliminating torrents and downloads, then anime will be dead outside of Japan. However, there are other places where good animation can be found. France, for instance. Recently I made the mistake of browsing amazon.com and found both The Triplets of Belleville and Persepolis for $7 each.

Belleville was as good as I remembered, though I had forgotten just how fat the Americans were. Here are a couple of excerpts showing the eponymous triplets in their prime and in the movie’s present.

Madame Souza, who plays the bicycle wheel in the second clip, is one of the great heroic animated characters. She would have been serious competition for Balsa in the current poll had The Triplets of Belleville been a Japanese movie.

Persepolis is a girl’s-eye view of the Iranian revolution, with an sojourn in France. Despite its subject matter, it’s often quite funny.

I highly recommend both movies.

Other bargains I spotted include Chicken Run and The Corpse Bride, each for $5. I also found a two-disc edition of Coraline for $7 at the grocery store. It includes two pairs of red/green 3D viewers.

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Looking for Christmas presents for youngsters? Petite Princess Yucie is on sale at RightStuf for $10. This is an excellent price for a very good series. (Here’s Steven’s review, with which I concur.)

Princess Tutu is on sale for $15, also a good price for a very interesting story, though not as suitable for young viewers.

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Both Jonathan Tappan and J. Greely have been posting pictures of their recent trips to Japan. Visit their weblogs and see.

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Newt Gingrich has an idea for enhancing American defenses.

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Hot stuff:

What really happened to Gollum and the ring in Mt. Doom?

A spectacular recent video of Kilauea in action.

Tristan and Iseult …

Romeo and Juliet
Porphyro and Madeline
Heathcliff and Catherine
Tracy and Hepburn
Ignatius and Myrna
Zaphod and Zaphod

These are a few of the great romantic couples of Western Culture. Who are their anime counterparts? Some possiblilties: Jinto and Lafiel (Crest/Banner of the Stars), Keiichi and Belldandy (Ah! My Goddess), Giroro and Natsumi (Kerero Gunsou), Kyouichi and Harumi (Shingu), Ayato and Haruka (RahXephon), Shichika and Togame (Katanagatari).

Who else? Please post your nominations in the comments. If there are enough couples, this will be the next sidebar poll.

A couple of arbitrary restrictions:

• No children. Syaoran and Sakura make a cute couple, but they’re way too young.

• Heterosexual couples only. No yaoi/yuri, please, and no harems.

Oh yeah, anime

I used to write a lot about Japanese animation. I haven’t lately, partly because my obsessions vary with time, partly because I haven’t had opportunity to watch much of anything at all, animated or not. If nothing else goes wrong, ((While my luck isn’t Brickmuppet bad, the past 18 months have not been pleasant.)) there is a good chance that I will finally have my place back to myself again very soon, Then I will finally watch the rest of Dog Days and some more of Hyouge Mono, and see what else might be worth my time.

I don’t know if I will be able to afford maintaining an interest in anime, though. Katanagatari, a show high on my to-buy list, is offered in two Blue Ray/DVD “premium editions,” each containing half the series. These sets are available as “weekly specials” at RightStuf for $52 each. Katanagatari is good, but it’s not $100+ good. It wasn’t a Suzumiya Haruhi-level megahit, and I doubt that it will ever be released in an affordable DVD-only edition. Ditto Arakawa Under the Bridge, a series on my to-investigate list. Such prices seem to be what we can expect for most interesting series licensed during the next several years, until Blue Ray discs drive DVDs out entirely. When that happens, this might be what to expect. If so — well, good bye, anime.

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In other anime news, Dennou Coil remains unlicensed in America.

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Feline stroke of the week:

Gingrich, who would have made a marvelous Marxist ….

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You can read the grim details and take the quiz yourself, if you dare, here.

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Fear the Death Note.

Miscellaneous notes

I discovered this downtown this past weekend. I’m not sure what it is, but because it is big, prominent and ugly, it’s probably art.

Some perhaps not-unrelated art news.

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Chinese science education might not be quite as rigorous as thought.

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… Studio 4C has taught me that, if it’s pretty enough, I won’t mind if it’s nonsense

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Election notes:

I like his attitude.

End post-mortem discrimination.

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For guitar aficionados, a proposition from a thread on Roy Buchanan and Danny Gatton:

Roy’s playing: like a funeral. Danny’s playing: like a carnival.

If Buchanan’s playing is funereal, it’s one hell of a service.

Bonus video: a twelve-year-old Joe Bonamassa plays Gatton’s telecaster.

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The idea of a maid café is a bit creepy, but this one might be worth visiting for its name.

(Via dotclue.)

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A couple of notes for volcano watchers:

There’s a natural jacuzzi near El Hierro in the Canary Islands.

Nyamuragira in the Congo is putting on a nice display of lava fountains.

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Altogether ookie

Some favorite spooky, creepy anime-related tunes and videos for the Halloween weekend.

Ghost Hound was a major disappointment, but the opening song, Mayumi Kojima’s “Poltergeist,” is terrific.

Here is Susumu Hirasawa’s “Parade” from Paprika, illustrated with scenes from the movie.

(Although Hirasawa may be best-known to anime fans for his soundtracks to Satoshi Kon’s work, he’s had a long and interesting career stretching back to the ’70’s. Of particular note is his influential synth-rock band P-Model. Look for the first album, In a Model Room (good luck finding it), and see where Hiroyuki Hayashi really got his ideas. (There’s also a K-On connection, which you can discover for yourself.))

Here’s the cheerful, upbeat ending song to the heartwarming series Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei (So Long, Mr. Despair).

The opening of Hakaba Kitaro (Graveyard Kitaro) was storyboarded by the spasmodically brilliant Kenji Nakamura in Shigeru Mizuki’s style.

Here’s something you might remember from years gone by.

Let’s end with a tender lullaby by Hirasawa from Paranoia Agent. ((If you want something a little livelier, try the opening.))

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Bonus link: Jack Chick meets H.P. Lovecraft.