I got half-way through the sixth episode of Fractale tonight and said the hell with it. Take away the Ghibliesque veneer, and what’s left is a ho-hum dystopia with annoying inhabitants. I’m mildly interested in learning just what exactly Nessa is, but not enough so to endure six more episodes of Clain, Sunda, Phryne and Enri.
Instead, I watched some more of Gurren Lagann. One indication of how busy I’ve been lately is that I started it earlier this month and am currently barely past the midpoint. It’s a completely absurd, over-the-top show with ridiculous mecha, bellowing macho men, macho women and no respect for the laws of physics, and it’s been a long time since I’ve seen anything so exhilarating.
REDESIGN YOUR FAVORITE ANIME CHARACTER ($100 in cash prizes sponsored by Karen Dick): You know what your favorite characters wear in that anime you love, but what do YOU think they should wear when they’re out of uniform (or when they get drafted into the military), or on that special date, or going to that themed costume party? Extra points for believably recasting anime characters in Broadway musicals to suit the theme of the convention.
You don’t need to be any kind of an expert costumer or an artist to enter designs, nor do you need to be able to sew. You don’t even need to plan to attend Costume-Con (I won’t be there — New Jersey is a bit out of bicycle range).
Steven declared that he couldn’t stop laughing after the second episode of Asobi ni Iku Yo (spoilers), so I checked it out. There’s more fan service than I like, and it’s a bit too off-color to generally recommend, but otherwise it’s been fun. It looks like the story is will be pleasantly convoluted, with nearly every character representing various competing secret organizations, and I’m certainly not going to object if one of the central characters is a sweet, playful and competent catgirl.
If the series gets stupid or devolves into mere fanservice, I’ll drop it. However, this is one of the very few recent shows that have caught my interest, and I have hopes that the crew can maintain a high level of complicated absurdity through the remaining eleven episodes.
How much sense Asobi ni Iku Yo ultimately makes might depend on the translators. Compare these two versions of a moment in the second episode. Eris, the adolescent fantasy alien catgirl, is speaking to her human captor, who has the scent of dog on him.
Ayako & SubDESU:
Update: Here’s the clip in question. Would someone who understands Japanese please explain what exactly Eris says?
This brave catgirl has slitted, red eyes. She has neck-length, luxurious, curly, brown hair worn in an impractacal style. Her skin is pale, and she has brown fur with orange patches on her ears and tail. She has a voluptuous build. Her ears are alert. Her fashion preferences are best described as “as little as possible.” When she talks, she tends to use a lot of big words – and know exactly what they mean. (sic)
You can find many more generators here and here. (Does the world really need a “Bishotron“?)
The first half of Osamu Tezuka’s Legend of the Forest is a history of animation. It begins with static sketches of a forest, with squirrels, birds, trees with faces, and a brute with a chainsaw. After a glimpse of a zoetrope, the detailed drawings are succeeded by very primitive animation. Gradually, the art becomes more sophisticated, wth homages to Winsor McCay and Walt Disney. At about the half-way point the film goes from black-and-white to color, and soon thereafter it completes its evolution to Tezuka-style art and animation.
Unfortunately, the man-versus-nature story is not as interesting as the art history. Tezuka has all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. I’m not going to bother summarizing it — you can glean the essentials from the screen captures below. The soundtrack is Tchaikovsky’s fourth symphony. It was not an ideal choice; sometimes it works with the animation, sometimes against it (and I’m not much of a Tchaikovsky fan anyway). Legend of the Forest is from 1987, 25 years after Tales of the Street Corner, but the earlier film was more deft.
Heavy-handed though Legend of the Forest is, it is still worth seeing for the art. However, the pieces on The Astonishing Work of Tezuka Osamu that I am likely to rewatch are the satirical and whimsical cartoons, such as “Memory,” “The Genesis” and “Jumping.” The 6:22 of the last are sufficient reason to recommend the DVD to anyone interested in the history of anime.
The script to Shoka won the grand prize in the Animax competition in 2008. I’m not sure why. While the gimmick of using calligraphy and other arts as the basis of magical combat lends itself well to animation, the story and the characters are of scant interest. Still, the piece is worth seeing for the art, particularly if you’re sick of moeblobs with insectoid faces. Screen captures are below the fold.
I also recently watched Haiyoru! Nyaru Ani and Ranma – Akumu Shunminko. The former — a series of short moe-meets-Lovecraft animations — might sound like a brilliantly insane idea, but I don’t recommend it unless you think stabbing a little girl ((She’s actually Nyarlathotep, but she still looks and acts like a silly little girl.)) in the hand with a fork is funny. The latter is part of a celebration of Rumiko Takahashi’s work. It prominently features Happosai, and demonstrates why he has done so well in the current poll. I can’t recommend it either, even if it is the first new Ranma episode in years.
The Japanese calendars I ordered last month finally arrived. The “Yotsuba&!” calendar was a major disappointment. Instead of Azuma’s drawings, what I got was a collection of uninteresting snapshots with a small sketch of Yotsuba drawn on each. On several of them she’s barely noticeable at all.
The “fortune cat” calendar, though, I am quite pleased with. I had intended to give it as a gift, but I may hang on to it.
A friend mentioned that he was curious about The Supergal, or Maris the Chojo, so I found it for him. I made the mistake of watching it myself, and I can authoritatively state that its obscurity is well-deserved, even if it based on a Rumiko Takahashi story. Unless you think that female wrestling is the apogee of civilized entertainment, skip it. Watch Project A-ko again instead. However, it does give me an opportunity to post a picture within a spoiler tag for Ubu.
The 1985 OVA Leda — The Fantastic Adventure of Yohko, which Steven recently discovered, looked like fun, so I downloaded it. ((According to ANN, it was once licensed by The Right Stuf International, but I found no sign of it on the RightStuf website.)) The story is straightforward anime fantasy: a high school girl is mysteriously transported to an strange world, where she transforms into a warrior in a battle bikini. Screen captures are below the fold.
It’s silly, but it’s not cheesy. The art is detailed, and the animation looks smooth to my non-expert eyes. Although there are characters named “Lingam” (spelled “Ringhum” in the subtitles) and “Yoni” and the girls don’t wear a lot of clothes, there is actually very little that’s off-color. It’s probably tolerable for all but the youngest audiences. If you have any interest in old-school anime, it’s worth checking out.
Update: Here are two sets of six consecutive frames. Each of these whizzes by in a fifth of a second.
Mao-chan goes on too long. It’s based on a clever notion and is executed with considerable charm, but the writers weren’t inventive enough to keep it consistently interesting through 26 half-length episodes. The story meanders through many standard anime situations: the sports festival, the beach episode, the hot springs episode, the bunny suit, the maid uniform. They’re not complete wastes of time — the beach episode is one of the better ones, in fact, though not because of the beach — but they mainly serve to let us spend time with the girls rather than advance the story, and Mao and Misora aren’t particularly interesting characters. The series would have been better overall had it been shorter and more focused.
When the Fnools invaded Earth, they disguised themselves as two-foot-tall real estate salemen, figuring that no one would take them seriously until too late. ((See Philip K. Dick’s “The War with the Fnools.”)) The aliens in Mao-chan adopt a similar strategy: by assuming mercilessly kawaii forms, the invaders make the Japanese defense forces reluctant to engage them in combat, lest the human soldiers be seen as bullies. The Japanese fight cuteness with cuteness: the head of the land forces enlists his eight-year-old granddaughter, Mao, to battle the invaders, arming her with a baton, a full-size model of a tank, and a clover-shaped pin that transforms her into a not-terribly-competent but very cute mahou shoujo. Mao soon is joined by a couple of other eight-year-old girls: Misora, representing the air force, and Sylvie, representing the navy, both recruited by their doting grandfathers. Mao and Misora are ordinary grade-school girls, as kids in anime go, but Sylvie is distinctly Osaka-ish.
Vicipaedia needs otaku who can write decent Latin. The anime and manga pages are pathetic. (I had several years of Latin, but that was a long time ago in a different century, and it would take more time than I can spare to regain competence.)
Another entry for the “ducks in anime” file:
From Negima Ala Alba OAD #2 (not recommended).
I discovered that the software used to animate Hatsune Miku is freeware, available here. It’s surprisingly capable. Here’s Miku dancing Maurice Bejart’s choreography; compare it to the final minutes of this. ((I recommend skpping the first six minutes unless you are a Bejart fanatic.)) Unfortunately, like Miku herself, it’s not for Macs.
I’ve been saving the picture in the banner each time I visit Steven’s place. Here’s what I’ve collected so far. The music is Raymond Scott’s “Celebration on the Planet Mars,” performed by the Metropole Orchestra with the Beau Hunks.
(This is probably not the final version. The software I intended to use decided that it doesn’t like my machine after all, so I had to struggle with a less-capable application with limited output options. I’m not entirely happy with the results.)
I uploaded a couple of jigsaw puzzles of screen captures from Genji Monogatari Sennenki, here and here. Assembling the pieces is easy; the challenge is to determine whether the individual pictured is a boy or a girl.
The first episode of Genji is the prettiest thing I’ve seen since Saiunkoku Monogatari, but I think I’d rather read the book, a translation of which is sitting on a shelf in the next room.
One more example why I have no respect whatsoever for American television: Moribito, which had been broadcast at an impossible hour, has apparently been cancelled. It’s a pity, because it is a good show for all ages and one of the best of recent years. Fortunately, the DVDs are being released by Media Blasters, and the book (recommended) is easily available.
I found an application that makes jigsaw puzzles from files on my computer and exports them as java applets. Eventually I’ll figure out how to embed them in my web pages. Until then, here are a couple made from screen captures that you can download and play with:
Update: I think I have the embedding working. I’m putting the picture from Rocket Girls that I filched from Steven below the fold because it is so large that it screws up the layout.
Update II: It works in Camino, but not in Safari or Firefox — you can see the puzzle, but you can’t manipulate the pieces. Grrr. I’ll have to find another solution. Until then, here’s the .jar file: Rocket girls.