Wednesday miscellany

Over at Steven’s place, people are listing their five favorite animes and speculating on what their choices say about them. Here’s mine:

1. Haibane Renmei
2. Serial Experiments Lain
3. Denno Coil
4. Cardcaptor Sakura
5. Shingu

Let’s see: I like science-fiction and fantasy, complicated stories that ultimately do make sense, well-developed and engaging characters, and background music that’s interesting in its own right. (Update: And also stuff that’s out of print or unlicensed. Of these five series, only the last is currently available in the USA.)


Another list I recently came across: The Top 25 Anime Characters of All Time. Yeah, right.


I’ve watched the first two episodes of Kuuchuu Buranko, or Trapeze. It’s worth seeing for the visual novelties, but the stories themselves aren’t as interesting as the art.

I may also continue watching Aoi Bungaku, of which I’ve seen the first episode, part one of “No Longer Human.” Cheery stuff, this. I am curious to see how well the crew handles “Hell Screen.”

Jonathan gave Kobato a tentative thumbs-up, and it is CLAMP, so I’ll take a look. Otherwise, the rest of the current season doesn’t interest me.

Status report

Astro Fighter Sunred

These past ten days or so I’ve spent most of my spare time digitizing old vinyl. ((Once you get a CD player, getting up every twenty minutes to turn an LP over seems unreasonably laborious. Even though I have one of the larger vinyl collections that I know of, I don’t often listen to records anymore.)) It’s been productive: I’ve got over ten CDs’ worth of newly-convenient music to listen to. I have a few more LPs I want to get into the computer before I move on to the next project. Watching videos is not high-priority right now.

Nevertheless, I have watched some anime — not a lot, but some. Here are a few very brief notes.

Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea — discussed below.

Macademi Wasshoi #5 — Just plain icky ….

… and #6 — More watchable than #5, but the show is still not back on track. I hope we don’t have another Kamichu! here, a wildly erratic series that starts strongly but goes nowhere.

Ghost Hound through #12 — My lunchtime project. With Ryutaro Nakamura and Chiaki J. Konaka involved, it ought to be good, but the plodding pace is frustrating. The eventual payoff had better be outstanding. My impression of the series the first time I tried watching it was that it was a taut twelve-episode show padded out to a draggy twenty-two, and I still think so.

Natsume Yuujinchou through #4 — A show from the summer that got relatively little attention in the otakusphere while it was airing. Another example of Shinto 101, it reminds me strongly of Mokke, both in its subject matter and in its tone. It occasionally gets dangerously sentimental, but it probably is one of the better series of the year.

Astro Fighter Sunred #1 — A very silly gag series, featuring short, absurd skits and very minimal animation. You probably need to be drinking with friends to properly enjoy the show.

I may write more about these later. Or maybe not.

A cure for insomnia

I watched the first episode of Tales of the Abyss to see if there was a good reason for eight different groups to subtitle it.

It starts off with some mythology, introducing a planet made of the seven “fonons.” After the opener, which features a whole bunch of people (you’ll probably need a scorecard to keep them all straight as the series progresses), there’s some more mythology, some history, and prophecies involving a boy with red hair. It’s all very portentous but not particularly memorable.

Then we meet a kid with red hair. He’s a prince named Luke who doesn’t remember anything before he was six. He evidently doesn’t remember much else, either, providing the writers opportunities to dump yet more lumps of exposition into the story in the form of lectures and flashbacks. I suspect that the viewer is supposed to see him as a spirited youth frustrated at not being permitted to leave the palace grounds, but he comes across more as an insensitive lout. He apparently has two belly-buttons.

There are other people, of course: the old gardener he thoughtlessly insults, his servant and keeper, his swordsmanship teacher, his parents, his fiancée — none of whom show much promise of being more than clichés. And then there is Tear, whom I wish would visit me late at night. I am a chronic insomniac, and she can sing people and monsters instantly to sleep. Tear magically arrives at the palace, where she attacks Luke’s teacher. Luke intervenes, and when their blades meet, some kind of supernatural resonance builds up and sends the pair flying out into the hinterlands. It seems that Luke and Tear are both “seventh fons” (is Luke the seventh fon of a seventh fon?). There are monsters out there, which they easily and bloodlessly dispatch, and —

The hell with it. What we have here is another fantasy RPG adaptation of no particular distinction. It’s not terrible, but there’s nothing of interest in it. I can see one or two groups subbing the series for the fans of the game, but eight? It’s squandered effort.


A bit of good news: the second episode of Macademi Wasshoi has finally been translated. It’s as frenetically silly as the first episode, albeit raunchier.

Where “nerd” is a job title

From the Icelandic film Astropia, here is a brief apologia for anime. Flóki is a clerk at the titular comics/DVD/RPG shop and Hildur is the innocent new employee.

Flóki: Here we have Japanese Anime.

Hildur: Why aren’t they in the Asian section?

Flóki: Because I say so. They’re special cartoons. Some people like anime, but never watch Asian cinema. And vice-versa. Here we have some great titles, like My Neighbor Totoro, Akira, Howl’s Moving Castle, Ghost in the Shell.

Hildur: And grown-ups watch this?

Flóki: — Oh yeah. You’re just thinking of the Disneyfication of animation. Anime has much more to offer.They’re not all family films, but they respect their audience. They’re open-ended and multi-layered.

Disney has bought and hidden away many of the jewels of Anime to keep them from western audiences. To make a buck off The Lion Kingdom of the Mouse House.

Astropia is available for the reasonable price of $18.10. Unfortunately, shipping from Iceland is $32.99, so I hope that the film soon finds an American distributer.

Bonus link: My familiar is a purple snow leopard. The election as a RPG campaign. (Via Naked Villainy.)

The score so far, and dorks and damsels

Thumbs tentatively up:
Kannagi — Hoping that Hideyuki Kurata writes consistently well this time.
To Aru Majutsu no Index

Thumbs emphatically down:
Hakushaku to Yousei (Earl and Fairy) — There’s a vast literature about the collision of the human and faerie realms, from “Tam Lin” to Jonathan Strange. This promises to be the one of the lamest examples.
Kuroshitsuji — It could have been a decent horror series, but the stupid comedy kills it.

Decision pending second episode:
Macademi Wasshoi
Kurozuka — This could be spellbinding, or it could be a bloody mess. ((Kurozuka features the protean Romi Paku in yet another role completely unlike anything else I’ve seen her in, as usual. I would never have guessed that Nayuta, O-Ise, Haraken and Kuromitsu were all voiced by the same actress if I hadn’t looked at the cast lists.))
Chaos;Head — The usual description is Welcome to the N.H.K. as done by Satoshi Kon, and that’s about right. It could be a good creepy show if it doesn’t fall apart. It also could degenerate into a bloody mess.

Waiting for subs:
Mouryou no Hako — currently downloading
Michiko to Hatchin

Thus far this fall, nothing has gripped me like the first episode of Denno Coil.

Update: Okay, so I watched an episode of Hyakko. It may be comedy gold, but I didn’t smile once.


I almost never see movies in theaters. The last one was Persepolis (recommended) back in February. This is partly because it’s a blasted nuisance for me to get to the cinema and back, but mainly because few films that do make it to Wichita look even slightly interesting. Nevertheless, there are some out there that I would like to see. For instance, Astropia. Faintheart is another. Will they play in Wichita? I doubt it.

Brief notes

I shot about 1,500 frames of dance last night, and it’s going to take a few evenings to go through all the pictures, selecting and editing the best. That and some projects for work mean that I will continue to be scarce here. I’ll be back eventually, but don’t hold your breath.


I watched the first episodes of a few recent shows. Surprisingly, most didn’t stink and might be worth a second look. Let’s see ….

Macademi Wasshoi — It’s energetic and entertaining, but I would enjoy it more if the characters looked older: neotenous faces and fanservice is a distasteful combination. If future episodes emphasize humor over fanservice, I might continue with it. By the way, I’m not convinced that we actually have a dog-girl here. Her tail doesn’t wag properly. ((If you want a true dog-girl, albeit without the tail, see O-Nui in Oh! Edo Rocket.))

Kannagi — There’s an opportunity for easy but effective parody and satire if this divine Galatea continues to learn about the modern world from television. Otherwise, the series looks to be mildly amusing and bland. Update: Hideyuki Kurata is responsible for the script. Expect wildly erratic writing.

To Aru Matjutsu no Index — Promising, and that’s about all I can say at this point.

Detroit Metal City — Cute premise, but romangst and death metal are unlikely to wear well. Pass. (I would like to see the live-action movie, though.)

Yakushiji Ryoko no Kaiki Jikenbo — “Sexy adult women in anime.” ’nuff said.


A few links:

Pixy recently posted some of his collection of openings and endings. N.B.: Dokuro-chan is not recommended.

Neojaponisme. (Via Eve Tushnet.)

Japanese matchbox art, ca. 1920-1950. (Via Lynn.)


I didn’t recognize the reference, but a bit of searching did turn up this:

Bewitched: I got four kings.
Bothered: I got five — all hearts.
Bemildred: One a’ you is mus’ be cheatin’, ’cause I never had no kings of hearts in no deck of mine.

A shounen action series …

… about baking bread?


Serious baking is not for the faint-hearted.

Azuma Kazuma, the protagonist of Yakitate!! Japan, is a sixteen-year-old with an immense talent for baking. He’s bumptious, naive and not terribly bright, but he is extremely dedicated to his craft. He has a special gift, “solar hands” that make dough rise unusually fast, and he has a quest, creating the bread that will allow Japan to take its place among the great bread-making countries of the world. The first episode relates Azuma’s introduction to baking; the second concerns his come-from-behind victory in his first competition at the major dojo bakery he hopes to join.


Azuma is the one with the brown shirt. It’s not clearly visible in this screen capture, but he’s wearing a pink hairband. There’s a good reason for it.

The premise sounds ridiculous, but it works. Kazuma is a typical shounen hero, but not to an obnoxious degree, and the other characters introduced so far have possibilties. The show is energetic and done with a light touch. Whether there is 69 episodes’ worth of story there is another matter, though, and I’m not sure that I want to invest that much time in it.

If what I’ve seen is representative, this is a good show for all ages.

Is there a musicologist in the house?

Does the background music to this clip from Strike Witches sound familiar? Steven thinks that it’s 19th-century, but I don’t recognize it. My guess is that the tune was composed specifically for the show.


(Yeah, I hadn’t intended to watch any more of Strike Witches, but Steven’s note piqued my curiosity and I had enough left in my BOST account to download one last episode. Unless I hear that there is a quantum leap in quality in the second half of the show, this is as much of Strike Witches as I’m going to waste time on.)

A world without skirts, etc.

I’ve been doing my bit to support legal anime downloads by keeping up with Strike Witches at BOST. I’m still not convinced that the series really needed to be made. Conceptually, it’s delicately balanced on the borderline between absurd and dumb, but, as Steven says, you’ve got to embrace the stupid. If you can overlook the manifold impossibilities and a few other problems, it’s fun.

It’s not great art. I don’t have much of an apetite for fan service, and the constant panty shots quickly become annoying. However, I’m more irritated by the protagonist, Miyafuji. In the first episode she’s an idiot pacifist who refuses to fight even the aliens attacking the Earth. In the second episode, she shows her quality by disobeying orders and getting in the way during battle. ((Miyafuji hadn’t enlisted yet, so it’s not actually insubordination, but it was still inexcusable. In a more realistic setting, it could have been disastrous.)) Of course, the battle is won with Miyafuji’s help and Sakamoto tells her that she did well, but it’s hard to enjoy a show when I’m constantly muttering “idiot.” It doesn’t help that the token meganekko is a snotty French twit.

On the other hand, the flying scenes are exhilarating and the battle in the second episode is genuinely exciting. Also, there’s no Rachmaninoff. I still prefer the original OVA, though. (Speaking of the OVA, here’s yet another example of why I don’t take most reviewers seriously.)


I also watched the first episode of Birdy the Mighty: Decode. I don’t think I panned the earlier OVA as severely as Steven remembers. It actually isn’t too bad; the main problem is that it ends just as the story gets interesting, and for that reason I can’t recommend it. Decode is slated to run thirteen episodes. That might be long enough to tell a complete story about the high school boy and the interplantary policewoman sharing the same body.

The new version makes a lot of changes, which are not necessarily improvements. For instance, Birdy’s uniform is now symmetrical:



Death the Kid might approve the new design, but I prefer the earlier version.

Birdy maintains a low profile on earth by disguising herself as a model whose image appears in magazines and on billboards. ((It makes as much sense as the Sailor Starlights’ disguises as members of a boy band.)) Tsutomu’s parents leave town for several months in the first episode, and his annoying sister has her own place, leaving Tsutomu alone at home. This is convenient for a young man apt to change into a woman at awkward times, but it sacrifices opportunities for both developing Tsutomu’s character in the context of his family and for embarrassing moments. The new Birdy is played by Saeko Chiba, who tries hard but isn’t Kotono Mitsuishi.

It’s not awful, but it doesn’t look to be an outstanding series. Perhaps I’ll watch more; perhaps not.

Update: Ubu has a fairly positive take on what he’s seen so far of Birdy.


When Geneon abandoned region one, not only did we lose a lot of anime, but we also lost the principal source of anime OSTs. I just scanned through the musical offerings at that other dealer and spotted no new soundtracks, unless you count the Suzumiya Haruhi spinoffs. This is a pity. Often the soundtrack is the best part of the show, e.g., Cowboy Bebop, Azumanga Daioh, Spice and Wolf. The remaining Geneon titles are cheaply priced. If you still don’t have a copy of the Haibane Renmei soundtrack, grab one while you can.

Revoke that library card


Truth in advertising

I finally watched the first episode of Toshokan Sensou, a.k.a. Library War. It looks like my spring viewing will be Kaiba, Allison and Lillia, Real Drive and maybe Kurenai, ((I had some problems with the first episode of Kurenai, but so many people have declared it to be one of the best this season that I probably will give it a second chance.)) with Soul Eater and perhaps Wagaya no Oinari-sama for essential fluff.
But not Toshokan Sensou. I could tolerate the absurd premise — the brain police (i.e., “committees of Media Improvement Act”) raid bookstores and confiscate such dangerous literature as books of fairy tales, while a branch of the military defends libraries — if the anime has compensating virtues. And it is a Production I.G. series broadcast in the Noitanima timeslot, so I would expect the show to be better than average. However, the protagonist is a hot-headed fool, too thoughtless to be sympathetic. Toward the end of the episode she rashly attempts to halt a bookstore raid by invoking her authority as a “Private First Class Librarian,” unaware that she needs to be at least a lieutenant to do so. At that point I quit watching. Toshokan Sensou may be intended to be part comedy, but Kasahara is too dumb and annoying to be funny.

Strangeness and charm


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.

Continue reading “Strangeness and charm”

Anime history: classic schlock


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.

Continue reading “Anime history: classic schlock”

All this, and Houko Kuwashima, too

… not to mention Romi Paku. Now I’m really impatient to see Kaiba.

Update: Really, really impatient.



Psgels gave Demashitaa! Powerpuff Girls Z the surprisingly high score of 88/100. Last night I was in the mood for something silly and frivolous, so I watched the first few episodes. Well, it’s really silly and frivolous. How silly is it? The girls, Hyper Blssom, Rolling Bubbles and Powered Buttercup, and their arch-enemy, the talking monkey MojoJojo, interrupt their battles for ice cream breaks. Tomboy Buttercup catches a cold from wearing the mahou shoujo short skirt. I posted an excerpt from the first episode on the video weblog that might give you an idea of the show’s flavor. It’s not something I could stand to watch much of at a time, but in small doses it’s agreeably ridiculous.


I also posted a four-minute excerpt from Iblard Jikan, which I mentioned earlier.


I spent the morning at the hospital getting a three-inch screw removed from my ankle. I can now put weight on my left leg, and this afternoon, for the first time this year, I walked. It will take a few weeks to regain full use of the ankle, but at least I can return the wheelchair to the shop now.