Relics of a less-sensitive past

At WalMart today I spotted a collection of 150 Cartoon Classics in the $5 DVD bin. It’s, um, educational. Here are two before-and-after pairs of screen captures from “Redskin Blues,” a Tom and Jerry cartoon from 1932:

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(Sorry about the quality. The DVD’s menus don’t work in VLC, and the Apple DVD player won’t allow screen grabs (thank you very much, Steve Jobs), so I had to snap the monitor screen with my toy camera.)

Testing, testing …

I haven’t been able to get the mp3 player that Astro uses to work, so I’m experimenting with the 1 Bit Audio Player. Here’s a piece from the Denno Coil soundtrack. There should be a little speaker icon after the link. Click on it to hear the tune. If you don’t see it, or if the music doesn’t play, please let me know.

Kodomo no Asobi

Here’s another possibility:

[mp3]http://tancos.net/audio/09-Kodomo-no-Asobi.mp3[/mp3]

Rocketeering

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In the summer of 1842, anything that’s fun is illegal in Edo. This includes all forms of entertainment, technological innovations and, in particular, fireworks. The policeman Akai assiduously enforces the law with a particular emphasis on the Furai terrace house, whose inhabitants include the fireworks artisan Seikichi and his mathematician brother Shunpei. One day, after an unpleasant encounter with Akai, Seikichi returns to his room to find a strange, pretty young woman with stars in her eyes (literally) and blue hair who tells him to call her “Sora.” She has a modest request for him: can he make a rocket that will go to the moon?

Oh! Edo Rocket is a collection of disparate elements, starting with the character art. There are at least three distinct styles represented. Seikichi, Shunpei and Sora have classic anime big eyes and small (but definite) noses. (Their mouths are larger than is standard nowadays, though. Seikichi’s is downright big.) Akai, the locksmith Ginjiro and other older characters have normal-sized eyes and relatively realistic faces, and they are considerably taller than Seikichi. Finally, there’s a collection of cartoony grotesques who could have stepped out of a Jay Ward production. These all are as short as Boris Badenov, barely reaching Ginjiro’s knee, with oversized heads. (I posted a portrait gallery earlier.)

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In addition to these, there are strange creatures lurking about. One of these is a pale “sky beast,” apparently intelligent, and capable of zapping its enemies with electrical discharges. The magistrate Torii and his secret police pursue the creature, but as of episode two they have yet to capture it.

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Other elements include a jazz soundtrack, frequent anachronisms and breaks in the fourth wall. There’s a self-pitying effeminate bishounen whom nobody notices. There aren’t any meganekko or nekomimi so far, but there is Onui, the “watchdog for public morality,” who is distinctly puppyish. There are giant rabbits on the moon.

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Oh! Edo Rocket is mostly farce, but there’s menace under the comedy. The inventor Shinsa is hauled off to jail at the end of the first episode. He returns in the second, covered from head to toe with bandages because he refused to inform on Seikichi. The heavily armored secret police are absurd — one travels by turning cartwheels so quickly that he is a blur — but they are also scary. The regular police seem as competent as the Keystone Cops, but Akai is observant enough to be dangerous.

Whether the show’s creators can pull all these heterogenous elements into a unified whole remains to be seen. A stage play, a novel and an earlier television series preceeded the anime, so presumably the writers have some idea of where they’re going with the story. There’s nothing else much like it, so I’ll probably continue to follow it.

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Other matters, and the lady or the tiger?

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Inevitably, plushies of Denno Coil creatures will soon be available in Japan. Owners of the Densuke doll will be one-up on Yasako, who doesn’t know what her cyberpet feels like. (But where are the mojos?)

*****

After some experimentation with ffmpegX, I managed to encode a watchable flash file of the opening to Animal Yokocho, which I’ve posted on the video weblog. Apparently, the quality of the playback is more a function of the computer it’s viewed on than of the size of the file. On my aging Mac at home with its antique video card, playback is annoyingly jumpy, but here at the office (it’s lunchtime) on my newer, faster machine, it’s acceptable. Though it’s hardly a classic, the AniYoko opening does its job quite well, with cheerful, energetic music and imagery that advertises that anything can happen. Animal Yokocho deserves more attention that it gets; it’s a kid’s show that adults can enjoy as much as their children. It’s a pity that it will probably never be licensed. (For more on the joys of working with Flash, see Astro’s account of his experiments.)

*****

The thirteenth episode of Seirei no Moribito was the first that disappointed me. It’s a good story, and the fight scenes were every bit as spectacular as those in the third episode, but the script was clumsy. The symbolism, not exactly subtle to begin with, was highlighted, then underlined, then explicitly explained as if the viewer were in a ninth-grade English class. The rampaging Balsa deserved better. Perhaps not coincidentally, this was the first episode with an unequivocally evil character.

The other Haruhi and other nonsense

A bunch of stuff was recently licensed. The most interesting news is the title that wasn’t there. Ouran High School Host Club, in my opinion the outstanding show of the non-banner year 2006, has still not been licensed. I presume that it’s a matter of money; otherwise, it is incomprehensible that dreck like OtoBoku gets a region 1 release and Ouran doesn’t.

Random notes on some of the other shows:

The original Genshiken was okay, but just okay, and the three episodes of Kujibiki Unbalance were all that was necessary. The additional episodes will likely demonstrate that “more is less.”

Darker Than Black is a possible buy, but I want to read some reactions to the complete series before I invest time and money in it. Is there substance under the glossy finish?

I watched half of the first episode of Victorian Romance Emma and, well, I was bored. I daresay I would find it fascinating if I could get into the rhythm. It can wait.

Gurren-Lagann is another possible buy. Again, I’ll wait for reports on the entire series before making a decision.

The first three episodes of Nanoha seemed to me to be an inferior version of Cardcaptor Sakura. Things start getting interesting in the fourth episode with the appearance of another mahou shoujo, but by that point I was thoroughly repulsed by the transformation sequence, which was storyboarded with dirty old men in mind. I never thought I’d say this, but I am not interested in watching any more of Nanoha unless it’s censored.

*****

Today’s Words of Wisdom: Too much Freud is bad for you.

*****

The first episode of Sola has two things going for it: a photographer, albeit a flaky one; and, the three inches between the hem of the girl’s very short skirt and the top of her stockings. ((This motif turns up a lot in anime, e.g., Yomi in Azumanga Daioh, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a real-life example.)) Astro gave the series a “B,” so I may watch the rest sometime, but it’s not high priority.

*****

None of the summer’s series look particularly promising. I may watch the first episode or two of Tetsuko no Tabi, which seems to be the least stereotypical offering. If the characters are interesting, it could be fun.

*****

I see that Gedo Senki has been fansubbed. I will not be downloading it. I like the books too much.

Good!Snape …

Evil!Snape.

(Via Galley Slaves and Ross Douthat.)

*****

Jonathan Last on Transformers:

Now that I have some distance, it occurs to me that Transformers is actually important in that it does something that’s never been done before–it is not just critic-proof, it is judgment proof. Michael Bay has created a work which simply cannot be held to any sort of standard: artistic, logical, moral, critical. He has made a movie which simply is. This is the Holy Grail of modern moviemaking, I think. It’s Hollywood’s version of a perpetual motion machine.