Zombie Sue and Vampire Maris

A friend mentioned that he was curious about The Supergal, or Maris the Chojo, so I found it for him. I made the mistake of watching it myself, and I can authoritatively state that its obscurity is well-deserved, even if it based on a Rumiko Takahashi story. Unless you think that female wrestling is the apogee of civilized entertainment, skip it. Watch Project A-ko again instead. However, it does give me an opportunity to post a picture within a spoiler tag for Ubu.

Spoiler

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An ordinary girl

The 1985 OVA Leda — The Fantastic Adventure of Yohko, which Steven recently discovered, looked like fun, so I downloaded it. ((According to ANN, it was once licensed by The Right Stuf International, but I found no sign of it on the RightStuf website.)) The story is straightforward anime fantasy: a high school girl is mysteriously transported to an strange world, where she transforms into a warrior in a battle bikini. Screen captures are below the fold.

It’s silly, but it’s not cheesy. The art is detailed, and the animation looks smooth to my non-expert eyes. Although there are characters named “Lingam” (spelled “Ringhum” in the subtitles) and “Yoni” and the girls don’t wear a lot of clothes, there is actually very little that’s off-color. It’s probably tolerable for all but the youngest audiences. If you have any interest in old-school anime, it’s worth checking out.

Update: Here are two sets of six consecutive frames. Each of these whizzes by in a fifth of a second.

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Unified Defense Force

Mao-chan goes on too long. It’s based on a clever notion and is executed with considerable charm, but the writers weren’t inventive enough to keep it consistently interesting through 26 half-length episodes. The story meanders through many standard anime situations: the sports festival, the beach episode, the hot springs episode, the bunny suit, the maid uniform. They’re not complete wastes of time — the beach episode is one of the better ones, in fact, though not because of the beach — but they mainly serve to let us spend time with the girls rather than advance the story, and Mao and Misora aren’t particularly interesting characters. The series would have been better overall had it been shorter and more focused.

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292 pictures

[flv width=”320″ height=”240″]http://tancos.net/flv/wp-content/uploads/sdb01.flv[/flv]

I’ve been saving the picture in the banner each time I visit Steven’s place. Here’s what I’ve collected so far. The music is Raymond Scott’s “Celebration on the Planet Mars,” performed by the Metropole Orchestra with the Beau Hunks.

(This is probably not the final version. The software I intended to use decided that it doesn’t like my machine after all, so I had to struggle with a less-capable application with limited output options. I’m not entirely happy with the results.)

Random notes

I uploaded a couple of jigsaw puzzles of screen captures from Genji Monogatari Sennenki, here and here. Assembling the pieces is easy; the challenge is to determine whether the individual pictured is a boy or a girl.

The first episode of Genji is the prettiest thing I’ve seen since Saiunkoku Monogatari, but I think I’d rather read the book, a translation of which is sitting on a shelf in the next room.

*****

One more example why I have no respect whatsoever for American television: Moribito, which had been broadcast at an impossible hour, has apparently been cancelled. It’s a pity, because it is a good show for all ages and one of the best of recent years. Fortunately, the DVDs are being released by Media Blasters, and the book (recommended) is easily available.

*****

So there is a live action Cowboy Bebop with Keanu Reeves in the works. I’ve never seen Reeves, so I don’t know how much of joke that is, but if the music is not by Yoko Kanno, then I don’t give a damn about the movie.

*****

Update (1-21-09): I’m going to be away from the computer for a week. Things will continue to be quiet here for a while.

Fish story

Someone smuggled a video camera into a showing of Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, and thus I was able to take a look at it last night. It’s not first-rate Miyazaki, but it is much better than Howl’s Moving Castle. ((The book, Howl’s Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones, is excellent. Give copies to all the youngsters on your Christmas present list, and grab one for yourself. But don’t waste your time on the movie, Miyazaki’s worst.)) It will be worth seeing on the big screen when it’s released in the USA.

The good news: the core story, about the fish who wants to be a human, is something Miyazaki is good at. Ponyo, the magic goldfish, Sosuke, the boy who finds her, and Lisa (or Risa), Sosuke’s mother, are believeable, sympathetic characters. Some of the scenes reminded me of Totoro ((There is a significant parallel to Totoro in that Sosuke’s other parent is absent and, in the latter half of the movie, at risk.)) and Kiki. Ponyo’s first evening as a human in Sosuke’s home is as charming a sequence as Miyazaki’s ever done.

The bad new: the outer story is a mess. It’s a mixture of fairy tale, science fiction, paleontology, celestial mechanics, fantasy and deep ecology that doesn’t immediately add up to anything coherent. (I suppose I should be grateful that there isn’t a war going on.) Perhaps the symbolism will click after several more viewings and all will be clear and logical, but I doubt it.

Ponyo is not prime Miyazaki, but half of it is very good, and all of it is pleasing to the eyes, if not to the mind.

Incidentally, I was surprised by the quality of the video, both image and sound. There were very few clues that this was a surreptitious recording.

Screen captures below the fold.

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Strangeness and charm

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Isn’t she cute?

A few notes on the first episode of Kaiba:

• It’s dystopian science fiction. In this world, minds can be separated from bodies and stored on conical “chips.” There’s a market for memories and bodies, and young bodies fetch good prices. The rich, who live above the electrical clouds, can avoid death by obtaining fresh bodies. It’s a dangerous world for the commoners, who are constantly beset by automatons.

• The first episode was mostly scene-setting and action, and I don’t have much sense of the characters yet. The main ones so far are “Warp,” a boy with no memory who has a locket with a girl’s picture, an emblem of three discs on his abdomen, and a hole through his chest, and Popo (voiced by Romi Paku), who seems to be a streetwise kid, perhaps with radical political connections (though we don’t know that much about him yet).

• The art and animation are more interesting than the story and characters so far. I’ve posted some screen captures below the fold, and there are a couple of excerpts on the video weblog illustrating the quality of the animation and the strangeness. The electronic music soundtrack might be worth tracking down when it’s available.

• Visual novelties and energy can carry the show for a while, but whether Kaiba is ultimately a triumph or a disappointment depends whether it tells a good story. For now, it’s at the top of my watch list.

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Anime history: classic schlock

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Private investigator Rem Ayanokouji can enter into other people’s dreams, where she battles demons who cause nightmares and steal dreamers’ life force. Her activities were chronicled in several Dream Hunter Rem OVAs dating from 1985 to 1992. According to the Wikipedia article, the first episode was originally hentai, but it was so popular that the makers skipped the pornography in subsequent episodes to appeal to wider audiences. The first episode was re-released in a cleaned-up “special version.”

Only the later version of the first episode has been fansubbed, and it may just be the first half of an hour-long episode. ((I did come across a listing of another episode, but it was labeled “hentai,” and I’m not that curious.)) It’s not exactly a masterpiece, but it does have a certain creaky charm.

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Monet meets Roger Dean

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Here’s a curiosity: Iblard Jikan. It’s a Studio Ghibli project based on the paintings of Naohisa Inoue of the imaginary world Iblard. There’s no story; instead, it’s thirty minutes of looking at surrealistic paintings. It’s not as dull as it sounds. The paintings are enhanced with discreet animation: rivers sparkle, waves roll up beaches, trams glide on tracks, girls fly. There’s no dialogue, just instrumental music (mostly bland, but a few of the pieces are listenable). If you pay attention to the backgrounds when you watch animated features, you might find Iblard Jikan worthwhile. There are more screen captures below the fold.

Those who enjoy jigsaw puzzles will want to visit this page.

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Princesses and knights

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I’ve been studying yet another treatise on father-daughter dynamics, Petite Princess Yucie. Steven liked it and it sounded promising, so I ordered it last week, along with Magic Knight Rayearth TV (which Jonathan Tappan reviewed positively). I’ve watched four of the five discs in the thinpak and will probably finish tonight or tomorrow evening. It is pretty good — it already has the distinction of being the first Gainax series that I watched more than the first disc of — and if it ends well, it will be a show I can recommend to almost everyone.

The primary pleasure is in the characters and their interactions, but there is much else to enjoy, such as the utterly terrifying Demon world.

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Update: Finished it: thumbs up. I may write more later, but I’m going to be away from the computer for a few days.

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Traveler from Tortalia

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Some time back Wabi Sabi mentioned The Diary of Tortov Roddle. I recently came across a torrent. It’s an odd little series, consisting of nine short episodes. Seven concern Tortov Roddle, an etiolated traveler with a stovepipe hat exploring the northern plains. These are brief, surrealistic stores told without dialogue. In the first episode, for instance, Roddle sees a town on a hill and hopes to find an inn there. However, it turns out that the town is on the back of a gigantic frog, which leaves the hill for a lake populated by other frogs with towns on their backs. The penultimate episode, “Fantasy,” is a collection of brief vignettes too slight to summarize. The last is “The Apple Incident,” in which giant apples fall from the sky.

Rather than try to explicate the imagery, I’ll just post some screen captures below the fold.

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