Most encouraging news so far this year

In TV’s worst spring in recent memory, a startling number of Americans drifted away from television the past two months: More than 2.5 million fewer people were watching ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox than at the same time last year, statistics show.

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NBC set a record last month for its least-watched week during the past 20 years, and maybe ever — then broke it a week later. This is the least popular season ever for CBS’ “Survivor.” ABC’s “Lost” has lost nearly half its live audience — more than 10 million people — from the days it was a sensation. “The Sopranos” (a show that has earned broadcast-network-like ratings in the past) is ending on HBO, and the response is a collective yawn.

Events like “American Idol” on Fox (which is owned by News Corp.) and “Dancing With the Stars” on ABC (owned by The Walt Disney Co.) are doing the most to prop up the industry. But still, in the six weeks after Daylight Savings Time started in early March, prime-time viewership for the four biggest broadcast networks was down to 37.6 million people, from 40.3 million during the same period in 2006, according to Nielsen Media Research.

(Via Chizumatic.)

Fireworks

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I could complain about the manifold implausibilites of Rocket Girls, but it would be pointless. How can you expect logic in a universe where a space agency drafts random high school girls to be astronauts merely because they’re lightweight? Instead, it’s better to focus on the incidental pleasures, such as classic calculators

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or cigarette lighters

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or girls wearing skin-tight space suits. (Never mind that the suits are basically three millimeters of silicone rubber, and the story is set in the tropics. Heatstroke doesn’t happen in anime.)

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The story zips right along, and there’s no time for teen angst. Yukari, spending her vacation in the Solomon Islands looking for her father who disappeared seventeen years ago, is variously bewildered, shocked, appalled, outraged, exasperated, disgusted and just plain angry as she learns just what her “part-time job” entails and discovers a few things about her family. If Yukari really had sense, she would run away from all these crazy people as fast as she could, but then there would be no anime. She’s soon joined by Matsuri, a native islander, and one of Yukari’s classmates from Japan should arrive on the island shortly.

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Despite all the nonsense and the bad computer animation, Rocket Girls is enjoyable. It’s partly because it doesn’t take itself terribly seriously, and partly because, although the show gets the details wrong, it gets the story right. The people who made Rocket Girls, I think, really do want to go into space.

Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo

I need to watch it again to make sure that there aren’t any paradoxes left dangling and that the writers didn’t cheat at the end, but one thing is clear: it is every bit as good as it is said to be. I doubt that I’ll see a better movie this year. The story is interesting and the central characters are three-dimensional. The production may not be as glossy as a Studio Ghibli epic, but it’s more than adequate, and the script and the acting are first-rate. I will be astonished (and appalled) if TokiKake isn’t quickly licensed, and I hope that whoever does bring it over makes an effort to market it to all audiences, not just anime fans.

Wabi Sabi comments on some of the motifs here (spoilers).

Here’s a curiosity I noticed. I wonder if it was intentional.

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Now would someone please translate the book.

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It turns out that TokiKake is not an adaptation of the novel by Yasutaka Tsutsui but is a “continuation” of it, set twenty years later. The protagonist of the novel appears in the movie as “Aunt Witch.”

Here’s Yasutaka Tsutsui’s site. It includes a profile that I hope is misleadingly pretentious and English translations of some of his short stories.

Time travel and the post office

I discovered last fall that the U.S. Postal Service can send a package into the future. Apparently, they can send objects into the past as well. Here’s the status report on my most recent amazon.com order. Just what exactly did happen on the afternoon of December 31, 1969?

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(Click on the question mark if the graphic isn’t visible.)