Nobody’s favorite guitarist

Umizatou as Norio Wakamoto

While I wait to see how well Kenji Nakamura pulls everything together in the concluding episodes of Gatchaman Crowds, I’ve been again re-watching Mononoke, his first full series and still his best. Above is a screen capture from the fourth episode, in which an ayakashi with the unmistakable voice of Norio Wakamoto visits the passengers of a ship sailing seas stranger than any in Yellow Submarine.

Mononoke Crowds

Crowds: Mononoke, above; Gatchaman, below.

Gatchaman Crowds

Briefly noted

Stella 9

Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C3, is Gainax’s shameless attempt to capture the Girls und Panzer audience. It’s slightly more realistic: set in a high school that’s larger than some colleges, the girls fight with airguns rather than tanks. The first episode wasn’t bad, and the animators pointedly did not show any pantsu. I’ll probably continue watching. Update: In the second episode, one of the characters steps out of the shower wearing just a towel, and later bounces a bit; this is a Gainax show, after all. Still, it’s mild as fanservice goes. Stella etc. promises to be a pleasant entertainment featuring a bunch of (mostly) non-neurotic eccentrics, but it’s not another GuP.

By the way, if after watching Girls und Panzer you’ve got the yen to drive a tank, you can, if you’re in Georgia. (Via Borepatch.)

The Brickmuppet endured the entire first episode of Watamote and wondered where the punch line was. I only made it half-way through; this just isn’t my kind of humor.

Thomas McDonald has begun a series of posts on Tarot cards from a Catholic perspective. When I learned that il sole penetra le illusioni was a mahou shoujo series based on Tarot decks, I was curious to see how much the writers got right (very little). The show looks like it’s intended to be a dark fantasy in the vein of Madoka Magica, but between the bad botany and the middle-aged transvestite, the staff didn’t quite nail it. Still, parts of the first episode were odd enough to be intriguing, and I might watch the second episode. Or I might not.

The first episode of the current iteration of Genshiken was largely about a girl who was actually a boy. Never mind.

More screencaps from the first episode of Stella with the very long title below the fold.

Continue reading “Briefly noted”

A glance back at an ordinary year

shin19

I’m not going to make a “ten best anime” list for 2012 because I haven’t watched ten shows all the way through. Two of the year’s best best are incomplete, and there are a couple of well-regarded series that I have yet to look at (Sakamichi no Apollon and Space Brothers). Instead, this is just a casual survey of this year’s offerings that I watched.

Series I didn’t make it all the way through the first episode of: Chihayafuru, Hayate No Gotoku: Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse and Magi. The last I might give another try sometime, since the writers evidentally understand more about economics than do our betters in Washington.

Series I watched only the first episode of: Accel World, Binbougami ga, Campione, K, Nyarko-san: Another Crawling Chaos, Sword Art Online and Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai. Jonathan thinks highly of the last, and I would watch more, but what I saw wasn’t sufficiently brilliant to warrant subscribing to Anime Network. (Update: Also Ozma, Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate and Shining Hearts: Shiawase no Pan. See how memorable they were?)

Series I watched more than one episode of before losing interest: Kamisama Hajimemashita, Polar Bear Café and Sengoku Collection.

Unfinished series I might yet watch the rest of: Inu X Boku SS.

The year’s major disappointment: Moyashimon Returns. Too much soap opera, not enough craziness.

This year’s minor disappointment: Dog Days II. Entertaining, and the characters are mostly likable, even admirable; but the fanservice-to-story ratio is too high. It’s a kid’s show that I can’t recommend for kids. (And surely Leonmitchelli can find something more appropriate to her station to wear than daisy dukes.)

These are the shows that I can recommend:

Continue reading “A glance back at an ordinary year”

You don’t have to worry about a thing

A thousand years from now, technology has advanced little, if at all, if what we see in the first episode of Shin Sekai Yori is representative. Not all technology, though — genetic manipulation has produced some remarkable results in farming and perhaps elsewhere. Many people, maybe everyone in the rural community where protagonist Saki lives, are capable of some degree of telekinesis. The appearance of this power in a youngster is heralded by the appearance of a “blessing spirit” and is the occasion for a quasi-Buddhist ceremony, but it is strongly hinted that there have been generations of selection and breeding involved. And culling.

There’s also Dvorak every evening at twilight.

The first episode suggests that Shin Sekai Yori could be a complex, uncanny story like Serial Experiments Lain was and Ghost Hound tried to be. However, the summary at ANN indicates that it will go in a different direction:

In the future Japan has become a fractured country, and small towns now exist. The rulers of this world have the cursed power of Telekinesis. When an incident occurs, 5 children come to realize the world is not as it seems, and learn the bloody history behind this world. These 5 children unite and help the world as it falls into a downward spiral of chaos.

More spectacular and less interesting that I would have hoped. I’ll continue watching it, anyway. It may still be the best show of the fall season.

Screen captures are below the fold.

The first episode of K is worth watching for sheer gorgeous spectacle. One episode will probably be sufficient. The characters are largely violent bishies (there’s also a creepy little EGL), and I have no interest in any of them. But the animation sure is pretty.

I also watched the brand new Hayate no Gotoku for a while, but bailed out half-way through. It was just dumb.

Continue reading “You don’t have to worry about a thing”

Let’s sing

Old Jehovah had a farm,
Ee-I-ee-I-O,
And on this farm there was a snake,
Ee-I-ee-I-O!
With a hiss hiss here and a hiss hiss there,
Here a hiss, there a hiss, everywhere a hiss hiss,
Old Jehovah had a farm,
Ee-I-ee-I-O!

(Via Jane.)

*****

Here’s what was wrong with Moyashimon Returns: it didn’t stink. There was no kiviak, no hongeohoe, no surströmming, nothing pungent at all, not even cheese, just bland grape juice.

*****

I’m off to Winfield. See you all next week.

Back to school Hell

Excel began her saga by getting hit by a truck. If the Great Will of the Macrocosm had not intervened, her story might have been something like Hells. Here are some screen captures from the first third of the movie. (It will probably be a week or two before I watch the rest of it. Right now, I’m getting ready for Winfield.)

Continue reading “Back to school Hell”

“Dosuloli”

The Japanese have a word for it. (But do the Japanese have a word for “missing nose”?)

I had some unexpected free time this weekend, which gave me an opportunity to watch some first episodes. While nothing I saw astonished me, there are a few shows this summer that might be worth following.

Continue reading ““Dosuloli””

First look, last look

I recently sampled some of the winter and spring anime series. A few are watchable, but there’s no Dennou Coil or Madoka Magica among them. Mouretsu Pirates remains the only one I can unhesitatingly recommend, and I classify it as “light entertainment,” albeit an unusually well-executed example.

*****

I picked up the first disc of the original, quarter-century-old Saint Seiya to fill out an order in one of RightStuf’s 25-for-$100 sales. I made it though the first episode. The armor was pretty and the hair impressive, but the story was pure dumb shounen. Has the franchise improved any over the years? Nope. This is as far as I got in Saint Seiya Omega:

Jack London could not be reached for comment.

*****

I launched the first episode of the new, upgraded version of Nyarko-san to see if it was any better than the abysmal Flash shorts inflicted upon us two years ago. Within five minutes, the male lead stuck a fork into the wrist of the cute crawling chaos. The hell with it.

*****

I’ve been curious about a card game that occasionally turns up in such anime as Animal Yokocho, where it is called “100 poets.” Exactly how it played is not clear there or anywhere else I’ve seen it. It turns out to be uta-garuta, one of the many forms of karuta — sort of a literary hybrid of slapjack and concentration. A hundred cards bearing the last two lines of short poems are laid out on the playing surface. Someone reads cards from a second set bearing the complete poems, and each player tries to be the first to find the card bearing the ending lines of the poem being read.

It might be a pleasant diversion to devise an English-language version of the game, if someone hasn’t already done so. Variations come to mind — silly limericks for children, other limericks for adults, lyrics from the Great American Songbook, etc.

Competitive karuta is the gimmick of Chihayafuru, yet another damned series about quirky high school students. Unfortunately, I didn’t last long enough to see any card action. The josei art style didn’t appeal to me and none of the characters caught my interest. Jonathan watched the entire show and liked it quite a bit, so I might give it a second chance.

*****

I did make it all the way through the first episode of Ozma, which apparently has nothing to do with L. Frank Baum. As with Saint Seiya Omega, the character designs are appealingly old-style. So is everything else, except not quite so appealing. It’s set in a wasteland Earth, where competing quasi-military groups are interested in a Mysterious Woman. Giant whales swim deep in the desert sands; one of the commanders relies on tarot cards; there’s lots of shouting and shooting; I’m starting to lose interest. Maybe I’ll watch more. Maybe I won’t.

*****

The first episode of Polar Bear Cafe focused on a lazy panda’s less-than-wholehearted attempts to find a job. I generally don’t find slackers amusing, and I didn’t find it particularly funny. I believe the next episode concerns a penguin with money problems. I’ll see how that is and then decide whether to keep watching. If Polar Bear Cafe does turn out to be worthwhile, it will be valuable as a show for youngsters as well as adults.

*****

Sengoku Collection is another series in which Japanese historical figures are reimagined as pretty, busty young women. It looks like it’s going be mostly silliness and mild fanservice. If it maintains its tone and doesn’t get stupid, it might stay on my watch list.

I wonder: how would you go about making an American version? I’d probably pick characters from the Revolutionary War; the scars from the Civil War still haven’t healed. What kind of anime girl would George Washington be? Or Thomas Jefferson, or Aaron Burr? Where would you put them, and when?

*****

I watched the first two episodes of Inu x Boku Secret Service. An aloof, unfriendly girl with purple eyes moves into an apartment house for certain unusual individuals. There she finds, to her displeasure, that she has acquired an aggressively obsequious bishie bodyguard with mismatched eyes. The show poses the question: why would a multi-tailed fox want to be a dog? Also, is the dog a loyal golden retriever or a manipulative cocker spaniel? ((I generally prefer the company of dogs to that of people, but I’m not fond of cocker spaniels. I’ve been bitten more often by them than by any other breed of dog.)) I expect the underlying story to be the unspoken struggle for dominance between the girl and her bodyguard. As long as the series maintains its light touch and doesn’t devolve into kinkiness, I’ll probably watch more.

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.

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.

*****

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.)

*****

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.

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.

Last impressions

Perhaps it’s because I’m in a sour mood, but nearly everything I’ve sampled recently has bored or annoyed me.

Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera — A Go Nagai creation with a high-gloss finish: juvenile humor, mild smuttiness, a manic pace and no subtlety whatsoever. High school sophomores will love it.

Hanasaku Iroha — One narrative motif I loathe is the protagonist making a spectacularly bad initial impression on her new associates at the beginning of the story. Hanasaku Iroha might actually be a good show, but I couldn’t make it through the first episode. Update: It’s just as well I didn’t. Yeesh.

Tiger and Bunny — The first half of the first episode was fun, but then my interest flagged. The premise does have some satirical potential, and I might give it a second chance when I’m less grouchy.

Dog Days — I wish I could like this — there are dog-girls and cat-girls, all very cute, no one gets killed, and the hero actually does have some genuine ability — but it just hasn’t caught my interest. Perhaps I haven’t played enough video games.

Tetsuko no Tabi — A show about train otaku for train otaku from several years ago. Someone decided to sub it. Why?

The Epic of Zektbach — A female warrior in a land where women bare their midriffs wields a sword that makes her invincible. There is a downside to using the sword, and all ends badly. The creators tried to make the story a parable about science and technology by flashing numbers, chemical diagrams and mathematical formulae on the screen whenever the sword is drawn. It doesn’t work.

It looks like C: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control is the only spring show worth watching, and that’s assuming that Nakamura focuses on telling a story rather than editorializing.

Helvetica Standard

If Osaka was your favorite character in Azumanga Daioh, and if you thought the New Year’s Dream episode was one of the highlights, you might enjoy Nichijou, a.k.a. My Ordinary Life. The first episode was vastly better than the dull preview, and the series might be worth watching. Nonsense is hard to do well for long, though. I’m crossing my fingers, but I fear that after a few episodes the creators’ invention will flag, the sketches will lengthen and drag, and the show will become as dumb and boring as the preview.

Clockwork

Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica, episode ten: I can’t think of anything to say except “wow.”

One translation nit-pick: “Puella magi” != “mahou shoujo,” and I refuse to use the term. It should be either “magica” or “maga.” “Puella magi” means something like “girl of the wizard.” I suppose you could describe Kyubey’s victims as such, but I don’t think that’s what Urobuchi and Shinbo had in mind.

Rewriting history

The opening credits of the third Keroro Gunsou movie, Keroro vs. Keroro: The Great Sky Battle de arimasu!, recapitulate the opening episodes of the TV series. It shows Natsumi walloping Giroro with a bookbag. However, in episode four, she defeats him with a leek. Why the change? Are the writers afraid that viewers will confuse her with Hatsune Miku? (Update: I rewatched the fourth episode, and she does use a bookbag as well as a leek. Never mind.)

Continue reading “Rewriting history”

Is there fried chicken on Mars?

I don’t know, but you can get a burger on the Moon.

I thought I’d look at a few minutes of Welcome to the Space Show, the recent movie from director Koji Masunari and writer Hideyuki Kurata (the team responsible for Read or Die and Kamichu), before facing the day’s disasters. I ended up watching the whole thing.

Five youngsters rescue an injured dog near a crop circle. The dog reveals himself to be an alien botanist named Pochi, and he treats the kids to a trip to the moon. Things go awry, of course, and the quintet travels with Pochi through the galaxy pursued by interstellar criminals before they can finally return home.

It’s not a great movie, certainly not in the same class as Summer Wars — the more I think about the last quarter, the less sense it makes — but it is an entertaining adventure movie for kids, tolerable for adults.

Screen captures are below the fold. It’s remarkable how similar life in space is to life on earth.

Continue reading “Is there fried chicken on Mars?”