fyi

This came up in an email exchange with a friend. I thought that other victims of photography might appreciate it:

The default mode in all digital cameras is “caricature.” The software automatically looks for slight defects in a person’s appearance and exaggerates them. If there are no defects, it will interpolate some. (Film cameras have a similar feature.) Unfortunately, camera manuals are minimal these days and seldom include directions for changing this default. In other words, nobody looks as bad as his picture.

Tuesday morning miscellany

dmt02.jpg

Cute and silly?

One of the pleasures of Dai Mahou Touge is watching Punie and Paya-tan, her mascot, instantly transform from cutesy and playful to utterly ruthless, and back again. Paya changes seiyuus when he makes the transition. I thought Dark Paya sounded familiar, and I was right; he is voiced by Jouji Nakata, who is Giroro in Keroro Gunsou.

I’m surprised at how little attention DMT has received, despite its being one of the better examples of animated black humor. Once again, if Steven hadn’t spotted it, I’d have missed it. Why has this been ignored, while Dokuro-chan, which you couldn’t pay me to watch, has been endlessly discussed and now has a sequel?

*****

Not anime, but geeky: U.N. Secretary General or Star Wars character?

*****

Also not anime but still geeky: A new idea for a first-person shooter.

*****

And finally, a word from Shunpei:

oedomath2.jpg

*****

Bonus link: Put down the duckie. (Via the LLamas.)

*****

Update: Congratulations to Avatar.

The path to enlightenment, or how to squander vast amounts of time and money

Some bloggers recently have reminisced about the origins of their addictions. I might as well, too.

I don’t watch television. At all. Consequently, I never saw Dragonball or any other Japanese imports. I did once come across a mention of something called “Sailor Moon” in a newspaper. It sounded dumb. Nor have I ever been a gamer of any kind, unless you count chess. Final Fantasy means nothing to me. If there ever were any “good old days” of anime, I missed them.

Some years back I read a review of a movie called Princess Mononoke. It looked interesting, and Neil Gaiman had worked on the English script. I made a mental note to see it if it ever came to Wichita. It didn’t.

Time passed. I discovered that one of my musical friends was an aficionado of Japanese animation from ‘way back, and he had a copy of Princess Mononoke. (He also has an impressive collection of anime cels, including some from Porco Rosso.) The movie was terrific, even with the English dub, and I asked him for more to watch. Most of what he brought by was disappointing — e.g., Those Who Hunt Elves (not recommended) — but I did discover the original Dirty Pair and Martian Successor Nadesico.

Meanwhile, I read every entry on every anime review site I could find. After sifting through hundreds, thousands of reviews by plainly unreliable writers, I settled upon Serial Experiments Lain as my first purchase. It was as good as Princess Mononoke, and utterly different. Ghost in the Shell followed. Some time after that I discovered that Steven Den Beste also saw that Lain was something exceptional. I finally had found a writer on anime whom I could take seriously. (I’ve found a few more since then. See the blogroll.)

I eventually started a weblog devoted to anime in addition to my main one (you’re reading its successor). A little over three years ago, one of my acquaintances from the SCA organized an anime festival in Wichita and an anime club. I’ve furnished most of the videos the club views at its rare meetings.

This isn’t quite the full story, though, and Princess Mononoke wasn’t the first anime I ever saw. That title belongs to Shonen Sarutobi Sasuke, released in the USA before the last ice age as “Magic Boy.” It was the greatest movie I had ever seen. It blew away everything by Walt Disney. Then I saw Forbidden Planet, and that was the greatest movie ever made, and I forgot about Magic Boy until my discovery of Miyazaki many years later.

Random notes

Dino Squad — yet another reason to stick to anime. (Via Tim Blair.)

*****

I notice that the group fansubbing Dokuro-Chan II calls itself “Philanthropy.” That’s not the word that occurs to me.

*****

For those who regard every anime they’ve downloaded that is subsequently licensed as a an “obligation buy,” a suggestion. If it’s a lousy, trashy series, e.g., Otome wa Boku ni Koishiteru, don’t spend your money on it. It will only encourage the company to license more garbage. Instead, take that money and apply it to a good show, preferably one that is underappreciated. (My own policy is less stringent. I purchase more than I download, and if a show is genuinely good, it goes on my “buy” list, even if I don’t expect to rewatch it soon. My drive may be getting full, but my shelves are overflowing.)

Surviving the weekend

afw3_683x.jpg

One of the many Chobits at Anime Festival Wichita

• I may be one of the stranger people around (though I think I’m perfectly normal, myself), but I’m not the silliest.

• There is an inverse proportion between the depth of an induhvidual’s political insights and his loquacity. There is similarly an inverse proportion between the distance from his mouth to my ear and the volume at which he proclaims his thoughts.

• There are few, if any, pictures of Narutards among those I took this weekend. There are also very few FMA characters. This was deliberate. There aren’t any Wolfwoods either, though I didn’t originally plan to omit them. However, those blasted crosses kept getting in my way when I framed shots, and I got irritated. Hint to cosplayers: pick characters who don’t carry cumbersome props.

• There were a number of SOS-dan girls, but no Kyon that I saw. There was only one representative from Ouran, and not Haruhi, either. Most of the solar system Sailor Senshi were represented; only Mercury and Pluto were missing. What most surprised me was the number of girls with Chobits ears.

• The music CDs were tucked away in an awkward spot next to the yaoi doujinshi. I’ll freely admit that by some standards I am mildly eccentric, but yaoi fangirls are downright weird and a bit creepy.

* I managed not to spend much money, but I did pick up a few CDs. The soundtrack to Utena is, um, interesting. Much of it is standard film score fare — some orchestral stuff and chamber music, some pop and rock, a bit of new-agey drivel, synths, etc. — a bit better than average but not particularly memorable. But the second half is something else. It’s been compared to the Vienna Boys’ Choir singing with Megadeth, and that’s a fair description.
I also found the soundtrack to Jubei-Chan I, which I’ve been looking for. The score isn’t outstanding, but there are a few pieces I like, and most of them are included, e.g., the full-length version of Bantaro’s theme. There is also this:

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

• “Raw” format, in which the image as caught by the sensor of a digital camera is initially recorded before being converted to jpeg, is wonderful. The “SafeSync” I ordered so I can use my old strobes with my new camera still hasn’t arrived, and I had to make do with the on-camera flash. It wasn’t up to the job, and most of the jpegs were woefully underexposed. However, I saved most of the images in both jpeg and “nef” formats (“nef” is Nikon’s version of raw), and I was able to salvage every one of the raw images, even when the jpegs were hopeless.

Request

I just a note from my brother:

I’m getting a laptop tomorrow. Any recommendations?

I don’t use laptops, and if I did, they would be Macs, which I don’t think he is interested in. Does anybody have suggestions for him?

Request

I just a note from my brother:

I’m getting a laptop tomorrow. Any recommendations?

I don’t use laptops, and if I did, they would be Macs, which I don’t think he is interested in. Does anybody have suggestions for him?

Excuse me, I’m going to go listen to The Smiths

If you haven’t finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows yet, don’t click here. (Language, etc., advisory.)

(While I’m on the topic of Pötterdämerung, let me point out that there is a Potter-related poll in the sidebar. There is a similar poll, worded differently, on my other weblog.)

Update: J.K. Rowling tells all (spoilers, spoilers, spoilers),

*****

You might have wondered where this site was this morning, and several other mornings recently. I wondered, too. Apparently, whenever there is emergency maintenance to be done at the hosting service, or an outage or a kernel panic, the server where my site is currently stored is always affected. I guess if you go with a cheap hosting plan you get cheap service. Still, none of the other inexpensive web hosts I’ve used were as unreliable, not even my original free GeoCities site years ago.

*****

sdbtemper.png

I knew Steven has a powerful mind, but I never realized just how mighty he is. According the the “recent comments” widget in Avatar’s sidebar, “… Steven Den Beste ‘… has a temper and can toss building-shattering attack spells around.'” For your own safety, do not nitpick.

*****

While browsing around the Anime Tropes Wiki, I came across this:

When A Modest Proposal was written a lot of people thought it was actually talking about eating babies.

Some years back, a friend wanted to write a satirical letter-to-the-editor. I suggested that he read Swift’s dispassionate discussion to see how it’s done. My friend mentioned it to his literature professor. The professor said, “What do you want to read that for? It’s about eating babies!” He was the head of the honors program at Wichita State.

*****

It may be a while until Guchuko plushies are available. Until then, there’s this.

Anime for grown-ups

lycorisshingu.jpg

Lycoris radiata

I’ve watched Shingu twice now, and it was as good the second time as the first, even though I knew all the twists. But I’m as puzzled as ever by the great mystery of Shingu: why has the series never received the attention it deserves? There has to be a reason beyond the lame opening. (The following is mildly spoilerish.)

Continue reading “Anime for grown-ups”

Gripe, gripe, gripe

• The third most annoying detail of Shingu, after the opening and closing: the sub consistently uses “I could care less” when a character means the opposite.

• The greatest weakness of digital photography is that it is too easy. Back in ancient times, i.e., five years ago, after shooting a roll of film, I’d either have to develop the film myself or drop it off at the lab. Then I’d scan the prints and spend several minutes on each image cleaning up the scan and tweaking the curves before cropping and resizing it for the web. While not a difficult process, it was laborious enough that I selected only the best or most interesting images for my websites. ((It’s amazing how complicated photography used to be, and how much good work was done in spite of the difficulties. In the 19th century, Matthew Brady and Timothy O’Sullivan worked on battlefields and in the wilderness with portable darkrooms to develop their glass negatives. The most elaborate large-format projects I’ve ever done are trivial in comparison.))

Nowadays, it is possible to take five hundred or a thousand pictures in an afternoon and upload them all, unedited, to a photo-sharing site in the evening. Too many kids with cameras do just that when they attend conventions. I like to see pictures of well-made costumes, but I don’t have the patience to plow through hundreds of mediocre images, fifteen to a slow-loading page.

• I hate MKV. About half the time I can play a Matroska video with one of the versions of VLC that runs on my ancient Mac, ((The most recent versions don’t work on my setup because of a conflict with Quicktime)) but even then the subtitles are often screwed up and the video is jerky. (H264 doesn’t do me a damn bit of good, either.) Someone has finally subtitled the third and fourth episodes of Oh! Edo Rocket, and I can’t watch them. Grrr. (Maybe I can see them during lunch at work tomorrow.) ((Don’t tell me to get MPlayer. I’ve tried installing it several times, but I’ve never been able to get it to work.))

• I dread all nifty new video software. That elegant new codec may work beautifully on a brand-new machine running Windows or Linux, but it chokes my old Mac (which I can’t afford to upgrade at this time). ((Even if the codec does work on my Mac, the people encoding the fansub need to know what they’re doing, too. While I can watch the first episode of Master of Epic easily with either VLC or Quicktime, the second works only in Quicktime for me. To watch the third at home, I have to run VLC and Quicktime simultaneously, the former for the sound, the latter for the video.)) Memo to fansubbers: I don’t need high definition. XviD avi files 640 pixels wide are fine, and there is nothing wrong with a hard sub.

Update: I really hate MKV:

mkv.jpg

Exceedingly random notes

I’ve watched very little anime recently, mainly because I’ve been playing with my new toy. It’s as much computer as camera, and learning everything it’s capable of is a major project. (Not that it’s hard to use — put it on “auto” and it is a superior point-and-shoot.) I’ve been posting some of the pictures on my other weblog, starting with “90/365.”

*****

The third episode of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei doesn’t begin with an attempted suicide, which is a bad omen for this black-humored satire. This week’s flakes are a blonde with a dual personality and an illegal immigrant. Unfortunately, Itoshiki disappears in the last third of the show, and Kafuka doesn’t have the same chemistry with obsessive-compulsive Chiri as she does with Mr. Despair. While tasteless humor is to be expected in this sort of show, some of the gags cross the line, notably a brief allusion to pedophilia. Although SZS remains the least unfunny of the current comedies that I’ve seen (Oh! Edo Rocket is something more), I’m still underwhelmed. I watched it a second time, pausing to read all the graffiti on the blackboard, and it wasn’t worth the effort.

Otherwise, I’ve been rewatching Shingu. I’m half-way through and, once again, I’m in no hurry to finish it. I may make some time this week to get caught up with Denno Coil; four new episodes were posted in the last three days, after a three-week dry spell. I may also take a look at Mononoke.

*****

A couple of weblogs that might be worth keeping track of:

FictionJunction J-music — Julien writes about and posts samples of anime soundtracks and other Japanese music.

Japanese words of anime fans … — Discussion of Japanese terms of interest to anime viewers. Many of the words I would prefer not to learn, but it is a potentially useful site nevertheless. (Via Wabi Sabi and Nick.)

*****

Sailor Moon remains a constant menace. Usagi Tsukino and her cohorts currently pose two fresh threats. First, there is a “Sailor Moon” game in development for the Wii. Fortunately for the West, it will probably be region-restricted to Japan. And if that isn’t frightening enough, Usagi herself is poised to strike Japan as a major typhoon:

tsusagi.png

I hope Ken is packing an umbrella.

Varia

If you see a “Tancos” in the comments at Chizumatic or other mee.nu weblogs, that’s me. There already is a “don” registered at mee.nu, so I’m using my Martian Hungarian alter-ego. I registered mainly so I can comment on the weblogs that require it, but as a consequence, I now have a mee.nu site of my own. I probably won’t post there often.

(Incidentally, the post editor doesn’t work in Safari (Macintosh OS 10.3.9). It works fine in Firefox, fortunately.)

*****

Wonderduck recently posted a quiz in which the viewer is challenged to identify Kyoto Animation characters by their eyes. If you find it easy, you might want to try this and this, which draw from all of anime. Good luck.

*****

More reviews of Shingu: Civilis and Jeff Lawson. I watched the first disc of Stellvia some months back and couldn’t decide whether to watch the rest. Maybe I will, after all.

Moving pictures

I’ve started yet another weblog. This one is exclusively for posting videos. YouTube is handy, but the quality is lousy. I’d like to show things I find interesting at larger sizes and higher resolution. So far, all that’s there is the opening of Denno Coil, which is one of the better examples from recent series.

For those interested in the technical stuff: The Flash player is WP-FLV, which is based on the JW FLV Player.

Update: Getting the quality I want is going to take some work. (Is it even possible to make a .flv file that isn’t jerky?) In the meantime, you can download a higher-quality Quicktime file here (12 megabyes).

Miscellaneous notes

I had planned to wait until after The Major Purchase before ordering any more DVDs, but I really want to know how the Divergence Eve saga ends. Then Steven has to go and find another damned four-star series, grrr. So I’ve got an order off for Misaki Chronicles and Shingu now.

I had already added Shingu to the “maybe” list, but I never saw much information about it. As Steven notes, the series received virtually no attention. I did a little browsing last night to see if anyone besides the not-utterly-reliable Chris Beveridge has reviewed it. There was a “B+” review of the first disc at Anime News Network, and that’s all I found at a half-dozen review sites. If Shingu is as good as Steven says it is (and he’s never been wrong on a four-star series), then The Right Stuf did a lousy job of marketing their edition, and reviewers did not do their job at all.

*****

aziztrip.jpg

Fledgling Otaku is moving house, from Texas to Wisconsin. The Google maps route passes near Wichita. I doubt that he’ll have time to stop, but if he takes that route, he can imagine me waving as he drives by.

*****

Discovered while looking at my site statistics:

Avatar, a frequent commenter in this corner of the otakusphere, has his own weblog now, The Ego’s Nest. There’s also a nikonian’s blog, featuring photography and anime as well as current events in Bangladesh. Finally, there’s StarShipSofa, with podcasts on science fiction writers. Search string of the week: “pachelbel dog the bounty hunter.”

*****

A couple of occidental movies might be worth trips to the cinema: Ratatouille and Surf’s Up.

Update: Here’s another review of Surf’s Up.

Bleah

Posting will resume when I’m less frazzled by construction, bad weather and bad smells — remodeling and plumbing problems at work, roof destruction and replacement during unstable weather at home. Until then, here’s Yukari and Matsuri from Rocket Girls.

rgs01.jpg

*****

Today’s word: “Waffo!” (Yes, the Right Stuf order arrived in less than a week.)

Favorite voices

sailorexcel2.jpg

Bishoujo Senshi Excel Excel

Recently, a number of people have been making lists of favorite female seiyuu. Although Megumi Hayashibara and Kikuko Inoue have been mentioned, the lists generally focus on recent favorites, e.g. Aya Hirano. Here is a trio of experienced voice actresses who would be on my list.

Kotono Mitsuishi — One of the great comic actresses. Besides such silly roles as Usagi Tsukino and Excel Excel, she also is effective in straight roles such as Ginger in Sugar and Mireille Bouquet in Noir.

Aya Hisakawa — Outstandingly versatile. Her roles range from the demure Ami Mizuno in Sailor Moon to the anything-but-demure Mune-Mune in Abenobashi, not to mention Kerberos in Cardcaptor Sakura and Chloe in Noir.

Houko Kuwashima — Another versatile actress, when she isn’t stuck playing yet another emotionless girl. Her roles range from the ditsy Yurika Misumaru in Nadesico to the spirited Shuurei in Saiunkoku Monogatari to the tough Isako in Denno Coil. And, of course, there’s the definitive emotionless girl, Kirika Yumura.