Visual aid

Not Europe

Those following Madan no Ou to Vanadis might find a map of its world useful. I found a couple at a wiki devoted to the show. (I tweaked the contrast of the first to improve readability.)

Advice to cartographers: Legibility trumps stylishness. Pseudo-black letter might look pretty on the page, but it’s a pain to interpret. Please stick to plain fonts such as Helvetica or Times Roman.

Another map

Notes from saccharine sweet hell

A question of taste

My minimum standard for singing is Hatsune Miku. If a vocalist can’t sing at least as well as software, he has no business near a microphone. Similarly, I can define a minimum standard for art: if an artist can’t paint or sculpt at least as well as Hozuki no Reitetsu‘s Nasube, he needs to master his craft before exhibiting his efforts. If his works are easily mistaken for trash by the cleaning staff, they’re not art. ((John C. Wright: “Go into a modern art museum and look at the trash on the walls. Bomb the museum. Go back through the wreckage and see if you or anyone can see any change.”))


Continue reading “Notes from saccharine sweet hell”

100 years ago today …

… (yesterday, actually) Winsor McCay’s Gertie the Dinosaur debuted. (The live-action first half of Gertie is here.)


Today’s headline: Russia Issues Terror Alert For ‘Moose And Squirrel’


So, what is the state of animation a hundred years later? Let’s take a quick look at the winter 2014 anime season.

The only show I can recommend is the hellish comedy Hozuki no Reitetsu. Much of the humor depends on knowledge of Japanese legends and folklore as well as contemporary Japanese culture. If you’re not familiar with the story of Momotaro, for instance, you’ll miss many of the jokes in the first episode. Even so, enough of the humor survives translation, ((Sometimes excessively free translation; e.g., in the fourth episode, the rabbit’s victims are tanuki, not badgers, but “We don’t need no stinkin’ tanuki” doesn’t have the same impact.)) and this account of the life of a competent, dour oni in an underworld populated largely by flakes and silly people nicely illustrates the close relationship between humor and horror. It also features the second-most bizarre ending animation of the season, starting with the second episode.

If you’re interested in the art of animation, Space Dandy might be worth watching. (There are episode-by-episode discussions here.) The title character is an unsympathetic jerk, however, and the stories aren’t particularly interesting. It’s probably best enjoyed without subtitles and without sound.

The third episode of World Conquest: Zvezda Plot reminded me of Cold Turkey and Yasutaka Tsutsui’s “The Last Smoker,” and I wondered if it might be another Excel Saga. However, the fourth episode was merely weird, and the fifth dumb, and I’m losing patience.

Witch Craft Works has the winter’s most bizarre ending animation. It’s also the second series to feature an iron maiden (but not Iron Maiden). Five episodes in, it looks like the dweebish protagonist is caught in the middle of a war between the witches of order and the witches of chaos, and that every female he knows is more than she appears to be. It also seems that he himself has a past he doesn’t know about. I hesitate to give Witch Craft Works a recommendation. Every episode adds complications and new characters, and I will be surprised if the crew can bring the show to a satisfactory resolution in just twelve episodes. However, thus far it’s held my attention, and, despite the female lead’s over-ample bust, fan service has been negligible.

Nothing else I’ve sampled is worth mentioning.

Ten types of silliness

The human mind requires regular doses of absurdity to maintain sanity. Not just any nonsense will do, though; otherwise, you could obtain your recommended daily allowance of absurdity by perusing the editorial page of any newspaper. The best nonsense is as rigorously logical as it is absurd, e.g., Lewis Carroll. The anime industry supplies much nonsense every season, and winter 2014 looks to be particularly rich. Here’s a quick look at some first episodes to see which might be properly silly and which are likely just dumb.

A recent genre of anime is travesties involving Oda Nobunaga. There are two this time, Nobunagun and Nobunaga the Fool. One involves a military-otaku girl who wields a gun embodying the spirit of Nobunaga; the other has mecha. Both feature random historical characters, from Joan of Arc to Jack the Ripper, and both feature lots and lots of action. Yawn.
Silly/dumb rating (enjoyably absurd = 10; just plain stupid = 1): 3 (both shows)

Stuffed animal toys are power

An imperious little girl riding a pink bicycle with training wheels intends to conquer the world in World Conquest Zvezda Plot, and she just might do it. There are lots of explosions, and many strange people wearing masks run around, acting threatening and shouting slogans. So far, it makes no sense at all — which is not necessarily a bad sign, but I do expect some exposition in the second episode.
Silly/dumb rating: 7

Death bunnies

I sampled three separate shows about people with magical powers, two of them in high school settings. Magic is more contagious than the flu in Magical Warfare. Norio Wakamoto is a frog familiar in Wizard Barristers. A young man learns that he is a princess in Witch Craft Works. There are also giant armored bunnies.
Silly/dumb ratings: Magical Warfare, 5; Wizard Barristers, 6; Witch Craft Works, 5.

Space Boobies Dandy is nothing like Cowboy Bebop. The first episode was pure farce. This could be fun if the writers are deft, but Dandy is a flake who could easily become tedious. I suspect the dub is unwatchable.
Silly/dumb rating: 6

Robot Girls Z

Robot Girls Z is an improved Love Pheremone (not recommended), in which the not-quite-competent heroines present a greater threat to their city than do the villains they fight. It could be fun, but the third short episode was too off-color for my taste.
Silly/dumb rating: 5

In Tonari no Seki, a student maintains his sanity at school by undertaking various complicated projects at his desk in the back of the classroom, such as building a Pythagoras-Switch arrangement using erasers as dominoes. This annoys the girl at the next desk over, and she annoys me. The best part was the music, which reminded me of Masaki Kurihara.
Silly/dumb rating: 4

So cheerful

Hell is a complicated place in Hozuki no Reitetsu. Hozuki is the demon king’s right-hand oni, handling crises, solving problems and raising goldfish flowers (which are nothing like Nematanthus). I usually find “slice of life” series tedious, but this slice of afterlife has promise.
Silly/dumb rating: 8

I’ll probably watch more of Hozuki no Reitetsu and World Conquest Zvezda Plot, and maybe Space Dandy and Wizard Barristers. The rest — meh. At least there’s more Kill la Kill.

Submarines, rabbits and ogres

I’m not compiling a top-ten list of this year’s anime because I didn’t watch ten series all the way through. These are the shows that I started and didn’t quit watching in disgust or boredom.


Armed and dangerous

I Couldn’t Be a Hero, So …: It sagged badly in the middle, and there was more fanservice than I care for throughout. However, Yu-Shibu pulled itself together for a satisfying grand finale. Also, any show that espouses the free market deserves credit.

Continue reading “Submarines, rabbits and ogres”

Today’s mystery

[ASFS] Kimi no Shiranai Monogatari – (Bakemonogatari ED) from jacklong on Vimeo.

Why is “Kimi no Shiranai Monogatari” the top seed in the Anime Music Tournament? It’s not bad; the arrangement is solid, if a bit overwrought, and the recording demonstrates that Ryo can work with real singers as well as Hatsune Miku. It may well be one of the better songs in the tournament. But I don’t hear anything remarkable in it. I’ve listened to it several times, and as soon as it ends, I can’t remember a single phrase well enough to hum.

I’ve gone through all the tournament entries now, and what I said earlier stands. (I’ll admit that I didn’t listen to each and every one all the way through. Sometimes, if a song didn’t catch my interest after the first verse and refrain, I skipped to the middle to see if there were any surprises there. There weren’t.)

A few further notes:

1. Radiohead? Really? Gah. At least Yes is worth listening to. Radiohead is allegedly brilliant, but whiny twit Thom spoils everything they do.

2. The more homogenized, pasteurized pap I hear, the more I appreciate forthright rock ‘n’ roll like “Ride on Shooting Star.”

3. Evidently Ali Project is out of favor these days. I expected at least “Coppelia no Hitsugi” to make the cut.

4. While the majority of the nominees were new to me, most of the ones I judged to be good I was already familiar with. I did find a few songs worth adding to my playlists, though. “Forces” sounds like Karkador-era P-Model — no surprise, since it’s by Susumu Hirasawa. I might have to track down the Berserk soundtrack. “Hanaji” has a pleasantly trashy psychobilly feel, and “Shoujo S” (which reminds me of The Monkees for some reason) rocks nicely.

5. Curiously, the opening and ending themes for The Tatami Galaxy sound better separated from the animation. The wispy vocals in the latter song, “Kami-sama no lu Toori,” are peculiarly effective combined with the spooky synths.

From the chariot boudoir

If you can’t find the video you want on YouTube, look elsewhere. (This is the complete recording of the song, not just the excerpt included in the eighth episode of Girls und Panzer (and censored on Crunchyroll). The missing section of the anime begins around 1:50.) ((Though the censored section is back on Youtube for now.))

So we’ve had girls with guns, girls as guns (or is that guns as girls?), girls with mecha, girls as combat aircraft, and now with girls with tanks. ((It’s actually not that new. See Those Who Hunt Elves — on second thought, don’t. It’s lousy; not even Kotono Mitsuishi could redeem it.)) It’s probably all just pandering to otaku, but perhaps there is something more sinister going on. If anime reflects reality, Japanese young men generally are either hapless dweebs or sparkly bishies and crossdressers. If you want to form an army, they’d be useless. You’d be better off drafting young women, who in Japan have talent for using the tools of war, and often magic, too. Girls und Panzer may be just the latest in a series of entertainments designed to accustom the Japanese to the idea of women as warriors.

At least one Chinese writer sees “evil intent militarism” in Girls und Panzer, though it’s difficult to follow the argument as interpreted by Giggle Translate. ((Giggle Translate insisted that the original language of the linked page was Irish.))

A glance back at an ordinary year


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”

Annual task

What anime calendars are available for 2013? I did a little searching at YesAsia and found a few:

Mouretsu Pirates
Natsume Yujincho (times three)
Inu x Boku SS
To Aru Kagaku no Railgun
Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica (times two)
Sword Art Online
Accel World

Osamu Tezuka
TV Anime

… plus the usual Naruto, Gintama, Bleach and One Piece products, and of course multiple Totoro calendars. There are also Hatsune Miku and Mount Fuji. I didn’t see any Strike Witches or Dog Days calendars; maybe next year.

And then there’s Karel Capek. In the western world, Capek is known for such works as R.U.R., War with the Newts, The Absolute at Large and The Insect Play, but in Japan, “Karel Capekmeans tea.

Seasonal yawn

Gee, it’s summer already, and I haven’t yet finished ignoring the spring anime season. Is there anything coming up that’s worth my attention? Let’s see. Moyashimon Returns and Dog Days’, probably. I might check out Sword Art Online, Joshiraku and Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita (Humanity Has Declined), ((Speaking of decline ….)). And that’s all that looks even slightly interesting.

Out of morbid curiosity, I watched fifteen minutes of Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse. Pros: Girls in skin-tight uniforms. Cons: Everything else.

I did watch the first episode of Chouyaku Hyakunin Isshu: Uta Koi all the way through. The art is low-budget but pretty. It looks like the emphasis of the storytelling will be on romantic intrigues, which is not of great interest to me. What did catch my eye was the botany in the opening, in particular what looked like Epiphyllum hybrids. This is curious, because the parent cactus species come from Central American jungles and were not likely to have been cultivated in 13th-century Japan.


I recently finished the first season of Dog Days, by the way, and it was good. I wish I could recommend it for youngsters, but there is a little too much fanservice.

I also finished Soul Eater, finally. At the two-third’s point, it looked like it was going to be a very good series, with Vast Conspiracies Revealed at the end, and Everything Explained and the World Put to Rights. But the plots fizzled out, and the rest of the show ended up being mostly just a lot of fighting.

Which is not to say that it’s a bad show. It is always entertaining, with effortless transitions between violent action, horror and farce. It just could have been more.


I see that Haibane Renmei will be available in September for a very good price.

Sailor Pirates

This was sent to me by a malefactor whom I won’t identify (his name sounds something like “sick puppet”).

Who would the outer senshi be? Haruka and Michiru are a little too obvious, but whom would you pick for Hotaru and Setsuna? Also, is there any guy as dorky as Mamoru, or any girl as annoying as ChibiUsa?

Update for those who have not endured watched Sailor Moon: the pirates and their sailor senshi counterparts have very little in common. Gruier’s hair deliberately imitates Usagi’s, but she is nothing like the stereotypical blonde that Sailor Moon is. Chiaki and Rei are probably the best match: both are black-haired and short-tempered and sometimes wear miko outfits. In each pair, the pirate is the more interesting character.

Still, Sailor Moon is the gold standard for mahou shoujo costumes. I’m always pleased to see pretty girls so attired, even though this is otherwise a crossover that shouldn’t happen.

Make your reservations now

The organizers of many smaller anime conventions, such as Anime Fest Wichita, are often slow to update their websites. This is inconvenient for those who prefer to plan ahead, so I’ve compiled information for a typical regional convention. This is by no means complete, but it should give potential attendees an idea of what to expect.

Classes, workshops and panels

Anime Taxonomy
The traditional division of anime and manga into the categories of shounen, shoujo, seinen and josei is of little use to the serious student of anime. We’ll develop an alternate classification scheme using as parameters magnitude of breasts, intensity of angst, quantity of blood, diameter of eyes, presence of kemenomimi, frequency of panchira, and potential violations of child pornography laws.

The State of Anime I
A discussion of the problems facing anime in the West and its chances of survival. The presenters place the blame squarely where it belongs: the insane Japanese system for financing anime, and the greed and paranoia of the license-holders.

Anime and the Significant Other
How to introduce that special person in your life to your obsession; tips on which titles to watch together first, what plushies are suitable gifts, how to suggest cosplay, and when to bring up Evangelion.

Continue reading “Make your reservations now”