Pick six

Steven’s challenge:

Six episodes, plus maybe one extra, for your sampler disk to a newbie with the intent of getting him interested in the form.

I would tailor the sampler to the particular recipient. My friend Bill would probably be most interested in series with distinctive art, so for him I would choose such shows as Mononoke and Kaiba. John would be more intrigued by complex stories such as Serial Experiments Lain. Deborah has a taste for grand fantasies, so perhaps the Ah! My Goddess movie would appeal to her. And so on.

For a potential anime fan whom I don’t know, the following might might constitute a decent introduction to the charms and range of the medium.

Angelic Layer, episode one — Cute kids, dolls, fighting, high tech, problem families.

Azumanga Daioh, episode twelve — More cute kids, high school, sentimental comedy. (Better this Chiyo-centric episode for starters than the first, which has too much Tomo.)

Dennou Coil, episode one — Not-so-cute but very three-dimensional kids, affinities with both Miyazaki and Ghost in the Shell, high tech, mystery, humor. It also illustrates the shortcomings of the licensing non-system: it’s one of the best shows of recent years, yet it may never be legally available in region one.

Mushishi, episode one — For sheer strangeness.

Paranoia Agent, episode eight — For the exceedingly dark humor. (Kon’s series is for college-age or older viewers only. If the prospective fan is a youngster, substitute an episode from your favorite comedy.)

Seirei no Moribito, episode one — Fantasy adventure, court intrigue, a strong female lead, outstanding animation.

As an extra, I’d include a CD of music from Cowboy Bebop.

It’s impossible to represent all the salient aspects of anime with just six examples — there are no magical girl or space war shows listed above, for example — but these might give the viewer some vague idea what anime is capable of.

Oh yeah, there’s always the first episode of Haibane Renmei.

Addendum
Speaking of Dennou Coil: it’s Halloween weekend, which is a good time to mention Miss Michiko.

20 essential series

Essential: Haibane Renmei
Essential: Haibane Renmei

Joe Carter posted his selection of “20 essential animated television series.” It’s a quirky and eccentric list (Rocky and Bullwinkle is only #20 (and is “completely unwatchable”), while The Flintstones is #2? Nonsense), but its main failing is that it only includes American shows. Naturally, I had to compile my own quirky and eccentric list of 20 essential anime series. Note that “essential” does not mean “historically or culturally significant.” Sailor Moon, for instance, is of great interest as a cultural phenomenon and for its influence on later anime; but, the show itself is not exactly a great work of art, and I don’t recommend it unless you have a serious interest in the history of anime, or in long legs and short skirts.

The following series I can recommend to anyone interested in animation, television, inspiration and craftsmanship.

20. Azumanga Daioh ((Included because of Osaka, Chiyo, Yomi and Sakaki. (I can hear Astro shouting “Yukari!” off in the distance.) In last place because of Kimura.))
19. Animal Yokocho
18. Mononoke ((Or at least the “Bakeneko” arc of Ayakashi: Samurai Horror Tales.))
17. Princess Tutu
16. Jubei-chan: Secret of the Lovely Eye Patch
15. Divergence Eve ((Including Misaki Chronicles.))
14. Paranoia Agent
13. Petite Princess Yucie
12. Noir
11. Kaiba
10. Kino’s Journey
9. Sugar, a Tiny Snow Fairy
8. Oh! Edo Rocket
7. Ghost in the Shell: Stand-Alone Complex
6. Crest/Banner of the Stars
5. Shingu
4. Cardcaptor Sakura
3. Dennou Coil
2. Serial Experiments Lain
1. Haibane Renmei

This list is somewhat tentative. I still haven’t seen much of Gurren-Lagann yet, or any of Dragonball, and there are probably some classic series that I’ve missed or don’t properly appreciate. ((The omission of Evangelion is deliberate.)) There are also cases to be made that Moribito, Nadesico, Slayers or Utena are as essential as others on the list, and that there should be something to represent Rumiko Takahashi. Nevertheless, I think my quirky and eccentric list is as at least as solid as Carter’s.

Optional: Sailor Moon
Optional: Sailor Moon

Fifteen in fifteen

Blame John Salmon and Terry Teachout for this.

The rules: Don’t take too long to think about it — choose fifteen albums you’ve heard that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. (These aren’t favorite albums, necessarily, just the fifteen that will always stick with you.)

Mahavishnu Orchestra, Birds of Fire

Chopin, Waltzes (I forget who played on the first recording I heard. It was a record I found in the University of Dallas library back in ancient times.)

Bach/Isolde Algrimm, Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I, first disc (This and the next were other records in the UD library that I frequently checked out.)

Songs by Tom Lehrer

Simon and Garfunkel, Bookends

Fairport Convention, Liege and Lief

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band et al, Will the Circle Be Unbroken?

Beethoven/Claudio Arrau, The Last Four Piano Sonatas

Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks, Last Train to Hicksville

Norman Blake, Whiskey Before Breakfast

Don Ross, Bearing Straight

Pentangle, Basket of Light

Mothers of Invention, Absolutely Free

Scott Joplin/Joshua Rifkin, Piano Rags (The first disc, with the green cover.)

King Crimson, Discipline

Blame the ducks

Specifically, GreyDuck and Wonderduck.

1. If you’d like to play along, reply to this post and I’ll assign you a letter.
2. You then list (and upload or link to the video, if you feel like it) 5 songs that start with that letter.
3. Then, as I’m doing here, you’ll post the list to your journal with the instructions.

So here are five tunes in the key of H. I’ll skip the obvious ones — you all know “Highway Star” and “Hardware Store,” right? And “Harold the Barrel” and “Happy Jack”? These you might not have heard before.

Ghost Hound was a major disappointment. I expected so much more from the Lain veterans. But the opening did introduce me to singer Mayumi Kojima. ((Some of her recent recordings can be found at amazon.com, but they don’t show her at her best.))
Mayumi Kojima, “Himawari”

[audio:http://tancos.net/audio/himawari.mp3]

The Webb Wilder Credo: “Work hard, rock hard, eat hard, sleep hard, grow big, wear glasses if you need ’em.”
Webb Wilder, “Human Cannonball”

[audio:http://tancos.net/audio/Human Cannonball.mp3]

Here are John Jorgenson, Will Ray and Jerry Donohue, and lots of guitar.
The Hellecasters, “Highlander Boogie”

[audio:http://tancos.net/audio/Highlander Boogie.mp3]

To clear your ears, here is some finger-picking from a Winfield veteran.
Pete Huttlinger, “Hortensia”

[audio:http://tancos.net/audio/Hortensia.mp3]

Let’s finish up with a classic anatidian tune.
Raymond Scott, “Huckleberry Duck”

[audio:http://tancos.net/audio/Huckleberry Duck.mp3]

Here’s a more recent recording by David Bagsby and Kurt Rongey, alias “XEN.”

[audio:http://tancos.net/audio/Xen – Huckleberry Duck.mp3]

*****

Bonus H tune: What show does this come from?

[audio:http://tancos.net/audio/mystery H tune.mp3]

Want to play? Leave a note in the comments, and I’ll give you a letter.

50 books

I came across yet another list of the “100 science fiction books everyone should read.” Like every other one I’ve seen, it’s an arbitrary selection and not at all what I would have chosen (though it does earn a point for mentioning The Fifth Head of Cerberus.) Rather than reprint that list here with the usual “bold what you’ve read,” I instead compiled my own. It’s half the length of the other and perhaps just as arbitrary, but I daresay it’s better reading.

A lot of writers you might have expected are missing. In some cases it’s because I haven’t read them yet, but usually it’s deliberate. For instance, I have no desire to re-read anything by Isaac Asimov no matter how historically important he may be, so why include The Foundation Trilogy? (And I think John Sladek is more reliable on the Three Laws of Robish, anyway.)

There are a lot of short story collections mentioned. Partly it’s because I like short stories, but mainly it’s because many writers are better at shorter lengths.

I could easily have made a valid list using just the works of Wolfe, Wells, Lafferty and Dick, but I’ll leave that as an exercise for the obsessive.

Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: the Original Radio Scripts

J.G. Ballard, Chronopolis

Greg Benford, Timescape

Alfred Bester, The Stars My Destination, Starburst

Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles

Algis Budrys, Rogue Moon

Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange

Arthur C. Clarke, Childhood’s End

Samuel Delany, Driftglass

Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle, The Preserving Machine, or any other of his better novels or short story collections

Thomas M. Disch, Fun with Your New Head, Camp Concentration

William Gibson, Neuromancer

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

Diana Wynne Jones, A Tale of Time City

C.M. Kornbluth, The Best of C.M. Kornbluth

Frederick Pohl & C.M. Kornbluth, The Space Merchants

Henry Kuttner, The Best of Henry Kuttner

R.A. Lafferty, Nine Hundred Grandmothers, or any other collection of his short stories ((If you need evidence that there is something fundamentally wrong with the publishing industry, note that The Collected Stories of R.A. Lafferty still doesn’t exist.))

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Wind’s Twelve Quarters

Stanislaw Lem, Solaris, The Cyberiad

Barry Malzberg, The Best of Barry N. Malzberg, or whatever else you can find ((It is not required to read a lot of Malzberg; a brief glimpse of his universe will suffice for most readers.))

Walter M. Miller, Jr., A Canticle for Liebowitz

George Orwell, 1984

Frederick Pohl, The Best of Frederick Pohl

Rudy Rucker, Master of Space and Time, or any collection with Harry Gerber stories

Joanna Russ, The Adventures of Alyx, And Chaos Died

Mary Doria Russell, The Sparrow

Robert Sheckley, Dimension of Miracles, or any collection of his short stories

Keiichi Sigsawa, Kino no Tabi ((Good luck finding this one. The contract to publish the Kino stories in English fell through shortly after the first volume was printed. You can get a taste of Sigsawa’s work by watching the animated series Kino’s Journey, which heads my short list of anime for people who think they hate anime.))

John Sladek, Tik-Tok, Mechasm

Cordwainer Smith, The Rediscovery of Man

Olaf Stapledon, Star Maker

Neal Stephenson, The Diamond Age

William Tenn, Immodest Proposals, or any other collection of his short stories

James Tiptree, Jr., Ten Thousand Light Years from Home, or any other collection of her short stories

Yasutaka Tsutsui, Salmonella Men on Planet Porno

Jack Vance, The Dying Earth

Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan

Ian Watson, The Very Slow Time Machine, or any of his early novels

H.G. Wells, The Island of Dr. Moreau

Gene Wolfe, The Island of Dr. Death and Other Stories and Other Stories, The Book of the New Sun

John C. Wright, The Golden Age trilogy

Yevgeny Zamyatin, We

Odd and ends

Since there is a series of Sailor Moon Gundams, it’s inevitable that there would also be a Gundam Sailor Moon. This is one of the entries in the current Sailor Moon Redesign contest. The styles and quality of the entries vary wildly, but some are quite eye-catching. I rather like this Sailor Mercury:

*****

Recent searches:

japanese duck cosplayers — 11 times.
inhaling the universe
tancos ???? — (Chinese for “Air Force Base”)
3d stereoscopic cross-view babes — I recommend anaglyphs instead, like the ones in this classic Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition.
this is not fun anymore in japanese — It probably isn’t much fun in English, either.
is daffy duck a boy or girl
lain piano sheet music yoshitoshi abe — I don’t think ABe did the music for Lain
raymond scott lain — I don’t think Raymond Scott did, either.
serial experiments lain the three stigmata of palmer eldritch — There’s a term paper there.
adopt a miku hatsune
shoujo anime 2008 they put milk in a saucer
kawaii gif queen of dorks
utena gnosticismo
adults that watch kaiketsu zorori — Hey, it beats these.
hatsune miku christmas album — Probably more listenable than Sailor Moon’s, or Bob Dylan’s.
guu hale feminist
kawaii critical analysis
anthropology kawaii
horror kawaii — Look here.
ouran satire not — Ouran, satire, is too.
priss asagiri armpit

*****

Toon Zone is publishing a series of posts on animation during the past ten years, including anime. I would have chosen Kaiba over Kemenozume, but I fully agree with the #1 choice on this list of shows that ought to be licensed.

*****

For any Chestertonians out there, here’s G.K. Totoro:

… or is that Totoro Roosevelt?

(From here.)

*****

Gaining something in translation.

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.

Mao-chan, Miku, etc.

When the Fnools invaded Earth, they disguised themselves as two-foot-tall real estate salemen, figuring that no one would take them seriously until too late. ((See Philip K. Dick’s “The War with the Fnools.”)) The aliens in Mao-chan adopt a similar strategy: by assuming mercilessly kawaii forms, the invaders make the Japanese defense forces reluctant to engage them in combat, lest the human soldiers be seen as bullies. The Japanese fight cuteness with cuteness: the head of the land forces enlists his eight-year-old granddaughter, Mao, to battle the invaders, arming her with a baton, a full-size model of a tank, and a clover-shaped pin that transforms her into a not-terribly-competent but very cute mahou shoujo. Mao soon is joined by a couple of other eight-year-old girls: Misora, representing the air force, and Sylvie, representing the navy, both recruited by their doting grandfathers. Mao and Misora are ordinary grade-school girls, as kids in anime go, but Sylvie is distinctly Osaka-ish.

Continue reading “Mao-chan, Miku, etc.”

Goodbye, 2008

… and good riddance. It was a crummy year, and I generally had other things than anime on my mind. Consequently, there won’t be any Kawaii Menace awards for 2008; I haven’t watched enough to choose the year’s best idiot or worst computer rendering. Instead, I’ll borrow a meme from Mark and Amy to review the year at The Kawaii Menace:

The gist…Retrieve and share the first sentence [or two, or three] of the first blog post of each of the twelve months of (r.i.p.) 2008.

January: In the recent Kino no Tabi movie, The Land of Sickness — For You, Kino visits a country that seems mostly deserted.

February: I’ve been studying yet another treatise on father-daughter dynamics, Petite Princess Yucie.

March: Yeah, it’s been quiet around here. I haven’t seen much anime lately, and what I have watched have been mostly old favorites, such as the first disc of Haibane Renmei last night.

April: When I read that BOST is offering DRM-free downloads of their shows, I figured I ought to check it out. So I registered and purchased the minimum quantity of BOST “points” (a disorienting process: the PayPal page was initially specific to Japan, but I live in Kansas, not Kansai).

May: The good news: Not only can I walk (albeit slowly, and with a cane), but as of today I can ride my bike again.

June: How Obama can win:

Hey, McCain has been ignoring the catgirl vote throughout the primaries, I say Obama should take advantage of this. As a matter of fact, a strong anti-tentacle monster platform would bring in both the catgirls and the Lolis.

July: I’ve been doing my bit to support legal anime downloads by keeping up with Strike Witches at BOST.

August: I just watched the first five minutes of Strike Witches #5, and the hell with it.

September: Sailor fuku … American style.

October: The “Touhou Project” is a family of shooting games. According to what I’ve read, they are mostly the work of one person, “ZUN,” who, as “Team Shanghai Alice,” writes the code, draws the art and composes the music. They are noteworthy for their complex bullet patterns and large casts of pretty girls.

November: Sailor Moon has her own orchid, a distinction she shares with Dracula and Kim Il Sung.

December: If you were planning to tour Venice this week, you might want to cancel your trip and visit Neo Venezia instead.

Finally

What I saw of Hare & Guu left me indifferent, but this ending is an outstanding production number. It’s my pick for the best anime ending, at least for today.

[flv width=”640″ height=”480″]http://tancos.net/flv/wp-content/uploads/GuuDlxEd.flv[/flv]
Jungle wa itsumo Hale nochi Guu Deluxe, “Fun Fun and Shout” by Sister Mayo.

You can see the videos in full size at my video weblog, and you can compare my list with Astro’s.

Almost there

Number two. Astro and I have very different tastes, but we agree on this one:

[flv width=”720″ height=”480″]http://tancos.net/flv/wp-content/uploads/Maromi.flv[/flv]
Paranoia Agent, “Shiroi Oka – Maromi no Theme” by Susumu Hirasawa.

Merry Christmas, everyone, and I hope you didn’t get Maromi plushies among your presents.

Now see if you can guess what number one is. Go on, I dare you. I will be astonished if anyone comes close.

At the midpoint

Number three:

[flv width=”640″ height=”480″]http://tancos.net/flv/wp-content/uploads/ExcelEnd.flv[/flv]
Excel Saga, “Menchi Aishou no Bolero” by Excel Girls. I’m not posting the clean version because the words matter, and because some who frequent this corner of the otakusphere might recognize one of the names in the credits.

Counting them down

Number five on my list of best endings:

[flv width=”704″ height=”400″]http://tancos.net/flv/wp-content/uploads/oedo-ending2.flv[/flv]
Oh! Edo Rocket, second ending, “I Got Rhythm” by Natural High.

[flv width=”704″ height=”400″]http://tancos.net/flv/wp-content/uploads/oedo-ending1.flv[/flv]
I like both endings, so here’s the first as well: “100 miles~Niji o Oikakete” by Santara.

Wasting time

I came across yet another damned book meme over at Robbo’s, and I thought that adapting it for anime might be a pleasant way of spending a lunch hour.

• What anime are you watching now?

The only current series I’m following is Macademi Wasshoi, and if there are more episodes like the fifth, I’ll drop it, too.

• What is your favourite time to watch?

Evenings, after dinner.

• And your favourite place?

The only available place is the uncomfortable chair at the computer.

• Who is your favourite auteur?

The snap answer is either Yoshitoshi ABe (Haibane Renmei) or Mitsuo Iso (Denno Coil). However, each has really only one show to his credit. ((Lain was a group effort, and while NieA_7 is based on characters created by ABe, someone else wrote the scripts.)) Perhaps Junichi Sato or Akitaro Daichi, or maybe Masaaki Yuasa? I think I’ll go with Satoshi Kon for now.

• Your favourite OST?

Still Haibane Renmei‘s, though that of Oh! Edo Rocket, swing ripoff though it is, has been frequent listening for over a year now.

• What is the most difficult anime you’ve ever watched?

Serial Experiments Lain. I could also mention Angel’s Egg and Cat Soup, but I don’t think either adds up to much more than what you see. (I read somewhere that Oshii himself doesn’t remember what everything signifies in the former.) ((Incidentally, Angel’s Egg is the reason I started downloading torrents. I had read about it and was very curious, but there was no legal way to watch it.))

• What was the first anime you remember watching?

Shonen Sarutobi Sasuke, in the theatre in Brigham City, Utah, on a Saturday afternoon with my girlfriend Gloria a long, long time ago. Many years later came Princess Mononoke.
Update: Here’s a trailer for Magic Boy, as Shonen Sarutobi Sasuke was called in the USA, and here’s a website with screen captures.

• Do you have a comfort show that you re-watch?

Random episodes of Cardcaptor Sakura or Animal Yokocho.

• What is the most erotic anime you’ve watched?

Not Divergence Eve. Nothing much comes to mind; that’s not what I look for.

• Which classic should you have watched?

Monster, I suppose, or Legend of Galactic Heroes.

• Which series did you never want to end?

A good episodic series like Mushishi or Galaxy Angel A could be spun out indefinitely as long as the creators have ideas, but in general, a show isn’t good unless it ends well.

• What is your most overrated anime?

Neon Genesis Evangelion. I watched the first disc, and that’s two hours of my life wasted that I’ll never get back.

• Which character could you have an affair with?

This isn’t the sort of thing I fantasize about lest I end up like Sidney Kugelmass, but perhaps Lexshue from Crest of the Stars.

• Who is your favourite character?

Isako, from Denno Coil.

• Which character do you most dislike?

Kimura, from Azumanga Daioh.

• Which character do you identify with most?

Reki, from Haibane Renmei.

• Which anime changed your life?

None.

Update: Jumping on the bandwagon are Steven, Kiriska, Wonderduck and Mark. And Pixy. And Aziz. And Evil Otto and Nick. And Astro. And Ken the Brickmuppet.

The list of lists, etc.

40 Signs of the Mike World Order:

27. New TV show: Pundit Deathmatch! Reigning champion – Ann Coulter!

How to identfy the Antichrist.

The upsides to an event earlier this month (you may need to scroll down a bit):

#7: Conservatism is inherently a tradition of complicity, satire, internal conflict, and cynicism. So with the Messiah as our next president, we’re in like Patricia Quinn!

A couple of jokes, one mathematical, one theological (the latter via René’s Apple).

Snape paper dolls to download and print. You can play with them while you read Joseph Bottum’s suggestions for revising the canon of children’s literature.

My Saturday feeling

An early appearance of the leek in anime (Keroro Gunsou, episode 4a (2004)). This antedates “leekspin” by two years.

The anime I’m interested in is generally very different from the shows I used to watch on Saturday mornings many years ago. Serial Experiments Lain, for instance, has nothing in common with, say, Yogi Bear beyond being animated. ((Unless you count Lain’s pyjamas.)) Sometimes I’m in the mood for something silly and trivial, though, which brings me to my next list:

Anime like Saturday morning cartoons

Ramen Fighter Miki
Animal Yokocho
Galaxy Angel A
and Z
Keroro Gunsou
The Adventures of Mini-Goddess

All of these consist of short episodes with no long-term narrative once all the main characters have been introduced. (Galaxy Angel makes no pretense of continuity at all.) They’re generally okay for kids. They are best taken in small doses; trying to marathon any of them results in indigestion. None of them approach the level of the best of Chuck Jones or Tex Avery, but they all compare favorably with the typical Hanna-Barbera offering. (The writing in Animal Yokocho approaches Moose and Squirrel level.)

Bonus list: Outstanding anime battles

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, episode ten (broadcast order) — one of the very few alleged “crowning moments of awesome” that actually is just that.

Denno Coil, episode four — defines “pwned,” except that the term will be obsolete slang in Isako’s day.

Seirei no Moribito, episode three — one of the rare conventional battle scenes that holds my attention …

… because, in general, fight scenes bore me. That’s why this list has only three items. I could add the fifth episode of Crest of the Stars and the last third of Banner to make five, but I think I’ll leave it at three.