Let’s see …

… If I counted correctly, there are three groups subbing Clannad –After Story–, Chaos;Head, Shikabane Hime and Ga-Rei Zero. Four are working on Akane-iro ni Somaru Saka and Tytania, five on Yozokura Quartet, six on Toradora! and eight on Tales of the Abyss. But apparently no one cares about the rest of Macademi Wasshoi.

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Let’s test this new poll thingy WordPress plugin.

Mystery solved

We have the answer to one of the great puzzles in anime. Marc Hairston talked with Yoshitoshi ABe recently and asked what radio station the shopkeeper was listening to in the second episode of Haibane Renmei.

He said it was local and the antenna was inside the wall. Apparently the wall blocks any radio signals from outside Glie.

There’s also a possibility of the story continuing with an older Rakka, and ABe is working on a novel.

Briefs

I uploaded a couple of contrasting short excepts from Masaaki Yuasa‘s Mind Game to the video weblog to illustrate why I am so impatient to see Kaiba.

Although Yuasa wrote the script for and directed Mind Game, the movie was based on manga by Robin Nishi, which is also the name of the main character. I doubt that the manga is rigorously autobiographical. Nishi’s website is here; it includes a selection of his work and a gallery.

Yuasa’s credits include Cat Soup and Kemonozume, which, like Mind Game, are not for chldren. Despite the simple character designs, I gather that Kaiba isn’t a kid’s show, either.

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Quote of the week:

I will personally be nowhere near this. It sounds like my worst nightmare.

See here for context. (Hint: think blue, count a lot more than two.)

Bonus quote:

Damn ! I so wanted to make this. Oh why oh why did I plan to watch paint dry on the same days !

*****

Fuyumi Ono’s target demographic is youngsters who fantasize that they are adopted. In The Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Shadow, misfit schoolgirl Youko discovers that she actually comes from Another World, where she has a Great Destiny. In the newly-translated Twelve Kingdoms novel, Sea of Wind, a boy learns that not only does he not belong in the Japanese family where his grandmother makes him and his mother miserable, but that he is not even human.

I don’t have time to write a review — maybe later — but I will note that Sea of Wind is a pretty good story, though less ambitious than the preceeding volume. I don’t know if I ever will watch the anime based on the books. According to what I’ve read, the anime made many changes to the stories, most of which I would probably find objectionable. (I gather that the anime Youko is a much less sympathetic character than the character Ono wrote about.) However, I do plan to read all the books as they become available.

According to Nick, the book Ono wrote that led to the Twelve Kingdoms series may not be released in the USA. Fortunately for me, there is a fan translation available (though I strongly prefer to read fiction as ink on paper rather than as pixels on a monitor).

Odds and ends

Studio 4°C has posted a trailer for Genius Party Beyond. It looks like a mixed bag, but the range of styles should hold my interest. I figure that the chances of either of the Genius Parties being licensed for region 1 are close to nil.

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I used to be a busy costumer back when I active in the SCA. I sewed mainly for myself, and I still have a closet full of 14th- and 15th-century clothes, most of which I can’t fit into anymore. When I became interested in anime, I naturally was curious about cosplay.

I discovered that there are significant differences between the historical recreationist and the anime universes. Costumers in the SCA have 1,000 years of fashion to draw upon. No matter what your age or shape is, there is something elegant for you to wear in any period, and there are plenty of options for both men and women. Cosplay, however, is the province of the young and thin, and females have a definite advantage. ((I once saw a picture of an “Ah, My Goddess” group, with girls in pretty robes and a guy in street clothes. It took me a moment to realize that he was in costume, too, as Keiichi.))

There’s also a greater degree of freedom in SCA costuming. If you could document the elements and show that the combination was plausible in a particular time and place, you could design a outfit to suit your fancy, and that was fine. In cosplay, however, you try to duplicate a particular outfit as closely as possible. There’s far less room for idiosyncratic variation.

I’m not all that young and skinny anymore, so, rather than turn stomachs, I stick to photographing good costumes. (It’s probably just as well, though I’d be interested in sewing for someone with a better figure if I could find a willing victim (and the time).) I enjoy good cosplay photography, so I was interested to learn today that the cosplay magazine Cosmode has announced a bilingual, sorta, online version. There’s a preview here. The gimmick is that, although the Japanese text remains unchanged, you can read translations by positioning your mouse over a block of text. I don’t know if it’s worth the subscription price, but I’ll probably check out the free first issue.

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Today’s quote:

Anime titles are eminently sensible, fairly representing their content. I mean, who can look at titles like these without knowing exactly what they’re about: DearS, Angelic Layer, All-purpose Cultural Catgirl Nuku-nuku, Bubblegum Crisis, FLCL, Chobits, Cutie Honey, Green Green, Bleach, Kiddy Grade, Divergence Eve, Dirty Pair, Hyper Police, Happy Lesson, Club-to-Death Angel L’il Skull, Mysterious Hats of Twin Princesses, Excel Saga, G-on Riders, Lime-colored War Stories, Gals!, and of course, Mai Highly-advanced Materializing Equipment. (only four of these are translations, the rest are the original titles…)

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A few non-anime links of note:

Blogging is a hazardous occupation.
The patron saints of graphic design.
The fifty most powerful blogs (yeah, right). None of them are about anime.
(Via TSO and MCNS.)

This might work

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). My first download was the iPod-ready version of the The Tower of Druaga‘s initial episode. There were problems. My first attempt to download the file last night stalled at 56 megabytes. I tried again this morning and got the entire 84 megabytes in five minutes. However, the episode wouldn’t play in VLC or QuickTime; according to the former, there was a “moov box” missing from the file. Grrr. I wrote a couple of sarcastic paragraphs about BOST earlier today, but before posting them, I downloaded the PSP version to see if that would play.

I’m relieved to note that it does work in VLC. The image size is 480 by 272 pixels, not generous, but large enough so that subtitles are easily readable. Hitherto, legal downloading schemes involved DRM and were Windows-only, both deal-breakers. $2 for a freely-watchable mp4 I can live with. Now let’s hope BOST offers shows that are worth watching.

Oh, yeah, about The Tower of Druaga. The first episode is apparently a one-off spoof of RPGs. I found it rather tedious, but if you are a gamer with an encyclopedic knowledge of ’70’s and ’80’s anime, and if you find girls and tentacles an amusing combination, you might enjoy it more than I did.

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Shamus (whose Chainmail Bikini and The DM of the Rings satirize RPGs more entertainingly than Druaga #1) recently posted several classic — if that’s the word — annoying videos. Click at your own risk. Shamus did have the decency not to include badgerbadgerbadgerbadg…. Unfortunately, one of his commenters was not so considerate.

Update: Someone had to go and link to the rathergood.com kittens. At least he didn’t bring up their viking cousins. The miscreant also mentioned this old favorite that I hadn’t seen in years, so I might forgive him.

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If The Kawaii Menace were the name of a book, it would have a 69.0% chance of being a bestselling title, according to the the Lulu Titlescorer. I tested a few other names:

Wonderduck’s Pond — 76.9%
The Ego’s Nest — 69.0%
Mahou Meido Meganekko — 26.3%
Haibane Renmei — 35.9%
Martian Successor Nadesico — 10.2%, 26.3% or 41.4%, depending on how you describe the title
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World — 26.3%
Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, in Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of several Ships — 8.6%

(Via Frëd.)

Oddments

Media Blasters has rescued Seirei no Moribito. Further good news: the first novel in the series that Moribito is based on is scheduled to be published in June. The series also will be shown on Cartoon Network. I look forward to apoplectic reactions from the “meat is murder” crowd when the twentieth episode airs.

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Quote of the week:

As regards Go Nagai, I’m not sure that the creator of Kekko Kamen and Cutey Honey is really the father [of anime] we want to acknowledge. He’s more like the creepy uncle who goes around wearing the trench coat.

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So far, the only upcoming series I plan to watch is Allison to Lillia. The main reason, of course, is that it is based on books by Keiichi Sigsawa, the creator of Kino no Tabi. I recently discovered that the opening and closing themes feature the Kuricorder Quartet, who, as the Kuricorder Pops Orchestra, did the music for Azumanga Daioh.

Update: Astro has posted the opening.

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A few notes on the Anime Blog Awards before I drop the subject forever:

1. As I mentioned before, Rule #10 disqualifies me from participating:

10. You do not have to nominate blogs for all the categories. However, you are required to fill in at least 9 nominations in 9 different categories in order for your nomination to be accepted.

Let’s see: I don’t read manga; I don’t obsess over particular seiyuu; I’m not interested in fan art, doujinshi or visual novels; I don’t collect figurines; my main sources of anime news are not blogs; and, for humor, satire and comics, I’m too spoiled by David Burge, Randall Munroe and their peers to have much interest in their otakusphere counterparts. That leaves at most eight categories in which I might be able to make knowledgeable nominations. Owen, in a comment on my earlier post, says

I got clarification: it’s a guideline, not an absolute rule. It was made in order to scare off those who’d vote in like 1-2 categories for 1-2 people or something. Perhaps you have like 5, 6, 7 potential nominations? That’s fine.

That implies that there are two sets of rules, the official ones posted on the site, and the real rules, which are secret. If that’s the case, then I’m really not interested in being part of this.

2. The categories are rather arbitrary. I can think of several not included that I would rather have seen than some listed, and I expect that you can, too. The worst omission: there should have been a category for “best reviews.” The single most useful service an anime blogger can do is to identify what’s worth my time and explain why. Those who are good at it deserve recognition.

3. The list of blogs nominated so far suggests that the inhabitants of this region of the otakusphere are rather parochial. The awards are popularity contests and you’re inevitably going to see the same sites over and over, but I expected a broader range of nominees. Many of the sites I find most interesting were still missing from the lists last time I checked. Surely I’m not the only one who finds the infrequent updates at AniPages Daily worth the wait. There was exactly one nomination for a mee.nu blog. There is one site in particular I have in mind whose absence from four of the listed categories is inexplicable and renders the competition meaningless (not that that particular blogger gives a damn).

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Nick has posted a collection of short works by Makoto Shinkai on his site.

Spice and Bear

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Satoshi Kon and Yasutaka Tsutsui

Some good news: Andrew Driver, who translated Yasutaka Tsutsui’s Salmonella Men on Planet Porno, is currently translating Paprika. It should be out next year. I wonder if anyone is working on Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo?

In case there is anyone here who hasn’t yet seen the movie, here are the opening credits of Paprika, perhaps the best part of the show.

*****

N.Z. Bear has been making adjustments to the TTLB ecosystem. I discovered today that The Kawaii Menace has vaulted into the “Large Mammal” category, even though it ranks only #7,097 (or #7,111, depending on where you look) at this moment. My first, now defunct weblog ranked much higher several years ago but never got beyond “Adorable Rodent” status. This all means almost as little as Technorati “authority.”

Thank you …

… Bandai, for simplifying my winter viewing. As a matter of policy, I don’t download series once they’re licensed. ((I’ve only made one exception, Seirei no Moribito, and that was just as well, since it’s now in limbo with Geneon’s departure from Region 1.)) I don’t need to worry any more about Shigofumi or true tears. In fact, I probably will never see them at all, unless Bandai changes its insane pricing.

I may take a look at Hakaba Kitaro or watch a few more episodes of Spice and Wolf, but more likely I’m going to skip the current season entirely and view some of the DVDs I’ve bought that I haven’t yet watched. Or I might just listen to Bach. In any case, posting will continue to be spasmodic.

Update: Pete and Avatar comment.

Miscellany

kino02.jpg

In the recent Kino no Tabi movie, The Land of Sickness — For You, Kino visits a country that seems mostly deserted. The traveler and motoradd eventually find a hermetically sealed city, where they are treated quite well. Kino is invited to tell travel stories to the ailing daughter of a hotelier. There is a disease in the land. The inhabitants desperately search for a cure and hope someday to reclaim the rest of the country outside the city, and they’ve made some progress. However, there’s a dark secret for Kino to discover.

I’m relieved to say that this movie (if you can call a 28-minute show a “movie”) is a vast improvement over the earlier movie, Life Goes On (recommended only for Kino completists). Ryutaro Nakamura is back at the helm and Chiaki J. Konaka wrote the script. It seems like an slightly extended version of a television episode, but that’s not such a bad thing when the show is Kino’s Journey.

*****

kz02.jpg

It looks like Kaiketsu Zorori may finally be fansubbed. The series concerns the adventures of the scapegrace fox Zorori, whose ambition is to be the king of mischief. In the first episode he plots to win the hand of a princess using a mechanical dragon, but things don’t go according to plan. If the first episode is representative, this could be a good series for children and tolerable for adults.

*****

I’ve now watched all of Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei, and I dunno. It started off well, but it peaked at the second episode by my reckoning. Once all the girls were introduced, it became hit-or-miss. Sometimes it was pleasantly absurd, but just as often it seemed the creators had only one joke and were mechanically working out every possible permutation to fill the time. It’s probably the year’s best black comedy, but I’m not really looking forward to the second season.

*****

For the heck of it, here’s my top ten for 2007 as it currently stands.

1. Denno Coil
2. Oh! Edo Rocket
3. Seirei no Moribito
4. Mononoke
5. Baccano!
6. Mokke

Yes, that’s only six. I haven’t seen everything and I’ve probably missed a few of the best. Perhaps I’ll eventually fit ef and Gurren-Lagann somewhere on the list, but I have to watch them first. Ditto Bokurano and Manabi Straight. Perhaps also Moyashimon. Or perhaps not, if the eighth episode is as horrifying as rumored.

*****

When I was at the hospital last week, I acquired not only a cast but also a virus of some sort. While I’m not quite sick enough to stay home from work (darn), I’m usually dead tired when I get home. Posting will continue to be spasmodic until I feel better.

Random notes

Some good news for Steven: it looks like there are plans for a Strike Witches TV series. I’m ambivalent, myself. The eight-minute OVA was perfect in its way (and perfectly absurd); a regular series, even if done well, is going to seem diffuse in comparison.

*****

I’ve got the week off. I’ve been reading Diana Wynne Jones rather than than watching anime, though, so I don’t have much to report. I have noticed that many recent visitors find this weblog through searches involving the terms “gothic,” “lolita,”, “Kei” and “Moyashimon,” which makes me apprehensive about the second half of the series. I suppose Kei does look a bit girlish, but I doubt that he’ll be as charming as Aspergillus. (If I were to tell a young woman that she’s as cute as a fungus, would she understand that I mean it as a compliment? Probably not.)

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We have an uncommon event here in Wichita: a white Christmas. That happens maybe once in ten years.

I considered posting a tune from the Sailor Moon Christmas albums today, but I’m not sure that punishing your readership is a good idea. If you would like to hear some less-familiar Christmas carols, there are some MIDIs on my other weblog.

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Not anime, but geeky: mathematical needlework; crocheting a Sierpinski triangle; a how-to book, with projects and papers. (The first link may be slow to load.)

On Geneon

shelf.jpg

My middle shelf, where I keep the top-shelf anime

To put the recent news concerning Geneon in perspective, here are some of the titles on my shelves with a Geneon (or Pioneer) label:

Haibane Renmei
Serial Experiments Lain
Cardcaptor Sakura
Someday’s Dreamers
Sugar, a Tiny Snow Fairy
Paranoia Agent
Ah! My Goddess Movie
Kamichu!
Magical Project S

… not to mention Bottle Fairy, both copies of which I bought I sent to nephews and nieces, and others on my shelves I haven’t watched yet.

That’s three of my personal top five and many more of my favorites. Geneon peddled a lot of crap, but the number of first-rate titles they released more than compensates for the garbage.

I wonder if the “pre-licensed” Seirei no Moribito ever will actually be available in America?

Haibane Coil II

From the Old Home Bulletin Board:

BTW, ABe shares our good taste. ^_^ At AnimeFest this weekend someone asked him what current anime series he likes. He said he didn’t get to watch more than a few because he is very busy, but the best one that he always watches is Dennou Coil. He said he was very impressed with the story, the animation, and the voice acting. Later in another panel he listed it as one of his three favorites of all anime. The other two were Miyazaki’s films and Ghost in the Shell ….

Exceedingly random notes

I’ve watched very little anime recently, mainly because I’ve been playing with my new toy. It’s as much computer as camera, and learning everything it’s capable of is a major project. (Not that it’s hard to use — put it on “auto” and it is a superior point-and-shoot.) I’ve been posting some of the pictures on my other weblog, starting with “90/365.”

*****

The third episode of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei doesn’t begin with an attempted suicide, which is a bad omen for this black-humored satire. This week’s flakes are a blonde with a dual personality and an illegal immigrant. Unfortunately, Itoshiki disappears in the last third of the show, and Kafuka doesn’t have the same chemistry with obsessive-compulsive Chiri as she does with Mr. Despair. While tasteless humor is to be expected in this sort of show, some of the gags cross the line, notably a brief allusion to pedophilia. Although SZS remains the least unfunny of the current comedies that I’ve seen (Oh! Edo Rocket is something more), I’m still underwhelmed. I watched it a second time, pausing to read all the graffiti on the blackboard, and it wasn’t worth the effort.

Otherwise, I’ve been rewatching Shingu. I’m half-way through and, once again, I’m in no hurry to finish it. I may make some time this week to get caught up with Denno Coil; four new episodes were posted in the last three days, after a three-week dry spell. I may also take a look at Mononoke.

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A couple of weblogs that might be worth keeping track of:

FictionJunction J-music — Julien writes about and posts samples of anime soundtracks and other Japanese music.

Japanese words of anime fans … — Discussion of Japanese terms of interest to anime viewers. Many of the words I would prefer not to learn, but it is a potentially useful site nevertheless. (Via Wabi Sabi and Nick.)

*****

Sailor Moon remains a constant menace. Usagi Tsukino and her cohorts currently pose two fresh threats. First, there is a “Sailor Moon” game in development for the Wii. Fortunately for the West, it will probably be region-restricted to Japan. And if that isn’t frightening enough, Usagi herself is poised to strike Japan as a major typhoon:

tsusagi.png

I hope Ken is packing an umbrella.

Varia

If you see a “Tancos” in the comments at Chizumatic or other mee.nu weblogs, that’s me. There already is a “don” registered at mee.nu, so I’m using my Martian Hungarian alter-ego. I registered mainly so I can comment on the weblogs that require it, but as a consequence, I now have a mee.nu site of my own. I probably won’t post there often.

(Incidentally, the post editor doesn’t work in Safari (Macintosh OS 10.3.9). It works fine in Firefox, fortunately.)

*****

Wonderduck recently posted a quiz in which the viewer is challenged to identify Kyoto Animation characters by their eyes. If you find it easy, you might want to try this and this, which draw from all of anime. Good luck.

*****

More reviews of Shingu: Civilis and Jeff Lawson. I watched the first disc of Stellvia some months back and couldn’t decide whether to watch the rest. Maybe I will, after all.

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.