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.)

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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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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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Strange sights

I recently hooked my old turntable up to the computer and have been industriously digitizing ancient vinyl, from Rare Air to P.D.Q. Bach to Allan Holdsworth. The most recent batch included a collection of medieval dance tunes, the cover of which deserves to be in any collection of classic album art.

Right-click on the image below and open the link in a new window to see all the little details in the drawing.

Wondering what it sounds like? Here is “Nota,” a thirteenth-century “danse anglaise.”

W. Heath Robinson expects an apology

Spare room

In a Heath Robinson device, everything has a clear purpose, no matter how strange it appears. For example, there is a clearly discernable logic to the profusion of cables, pulleys and bellows in his “Spare Room,” above, from this year’s HR calendar. It may not be realistic — I wouldn’t want to sleep in that bed — but everything makes sense. (The same is true of the inventions of Heath Robinson’s American counterpart, Rube Goldberg.) Comparing Neil Ferguson’s incomprehensible mathematical model to a Heath Robinson device slanders Robinson.

Bonus calendar picture: Uncle Lubin in color.

Uncle Lubin

Miscellaneous artsy-type stuff

Many years ago, Daniel Pinkwater and Tony Auth colloborated on a newspaper cartoon, Norb. It did not catch on and disappeared without a trace. I recently stumbled over a collection of its Sunday strips, which you can view here (start with page one). It’s an absurd serial, somewhere between Terry and the Pirates and Firesign Theatre, but sillier.

Gahan Wilson, whose macabre cartoons were the best feature of many editions of National Lampoon, passed away last month. There’s a memorial here with a selection of his work. You can find much more online.

Robert Samuels’ analysis of a still life including a chessboard, carnations and a lute leads him to observe that

… both fields [chess and music] have become so professionalised that their function as social activities is easily lost or forgotten. In an age when my performance of a Bach Prelude and Fugue can be immediately compared by anyone with a mobile phone to that of András Schiff, and when my playing of a complex chess endgame can be immediately shown to be full of errors by chess software on that same mobile phone, we need (or at least I need) reminders that music and chess alike are ways of interacting with other people. They are, properly, the pursuits of friends. Our play is part of our human flourishing.

I came across a tribute to dancer Herman Cornejo, who amazed me as Puck in The Dream, Frederick Ashton’s version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This particular video is useful in that it slows the action down to show the viewer exactly what impossible things Cornejo is doing. It demonstrates that a good dancer is among the very best athletes of any kind.

(It also demonstrates how bizarre ballet can be. Many years ago my aunt was mortified at a performance of Le Spectre de la Rose when her then-boyfriend bellowed with laughter at the appearance of the “Rose.” I can’t say that I blame him.)

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Miscellany

Chainmail Bikini is back online.

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Art or garbage? It’s hard to tell sometimes.

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Derek Lowe recently added nitro groups to his “Things I won’t work with” category. You don’t need to be a chemist to enjoy his Lowe’s appreciations of azides, FOOF and other exceeding noisy or smelly substances.

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William Briggs:

“Any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing.” This is, as everybody knows, Conquest’s Second Law. It is a true law, as all modern experience shows. But it says nothing about the pace or rate of the flight from Reality and Tradition.

A rock thrown upwards at the top of its flight is stationary. For a moment it neither goes up nor down. Then, a fraction of a second later, it begins it descent, but slowly, slowly. The speeds picks up, the rocks plummets faster and faster. It eventually crashes to the ground.

That’s the progress of rocks, a good but imperfect metaphor for the “progress” of human institutions. The imperfection comes in recalling a law Conquest didn’t mention: motus in fine velocior. Things accelerate toward the end. A falling rock has constant acceleration. Human failure is a force that feeds on itself.

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100 things Mark Evanier learned about the comics industry….

93. If your character wears a cape, it should be more or less the same length in every panel and it should not get shredded more than twice a year.

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Dr. Boli has completed his serial, Devil King Kun. From the 20th installment:

“Actually,” said Weyland, “good people generally don’t try to conquer the world. It’s not done, you know.”

“But if you don’t conquer the world, then won’t the evil people take over every time?”

“We generally prefer to let people choose their own government, and trust them to make the right choice.”

“Well,” said Miss Kun, “I’m willing to be good, but I’m not willing to be an idiot….”

The story begins here.

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Saw Ginger Baker’s Jazz Confusion a couple of years ago and when a bloke in the audience shouted out for ‘Toad’ Baker asked if he’d ever had a drumstick shoved up his nostril.

The lovable Ginger Baker has been hospitalized, critically ill. Here’s an 1970 interview with the easy-going drummer, and a more recent look at the gentle soul.

Update: Ginger Baker has died at the age of 80.

Professor Mondo, a drummer himself, on Baker in 1990:

The other thing that struck me was that Ginger looked like a mad wizard from a fantasy novel, impossibly aged, but terrifyingly powerful. He was three years younger than I am now. I think both his mistakes as a human being and his phenomenal talent aged him in dog years.

See also Shabby Road for an overview of Baker’s life.

Have a Spoonful of Cream.

Lord of the Haggis

I’m in the middle of one of my periodic re-readings of The Lord of the Rings. While looking for a large, easy-to-read map of Middle Earth, I came across a map of Scotland done LotR style.

If you are looking for a detailed map of Tolkien’s lands, this might be what you need. Here are some notes on maps of Middle Earth.

I came across a short biography of Pauline Baynes, who illustrated several of Tolkien’s works. She also did the pictures for the Narnia books, though she didn’t have the same rapport with Lewis as with JRRT.

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After a long day of storms, the clouds to the west are starting to thin out. I just looked out the front door: the setting sun colored the overcast sky a dull, glowering red, perhaps a bit too appropriate to my reading.

The kawaii demon lord

Ken the Brickmuppet wondered a few weeks ago if there are any current shows worth watching. I’ve only found one tolerable this winter, Endro! The series starts with the hero and her companions defeating the regional demon lord. However, they bungle the forbidden spell and send their opponent back a year in time instead of sealing him away. There/then1 the demon lord finds himself in the form of a little girl, albeit one with horns and reptilian wings. She obtains a job teaching at the local school for adventurers, where she hopes to end the hero’s quest before it starts. Things don’t go according to plan. It’s silly, lightweight fluff — the hero reminds me of Milfeulle Sakuraba — but sometimes silly is exactly what I need.

Screencaps are below the fold.

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