Posts Tagged ‘review’

TLDR — Anime I never finished, Fall 2017, part 3

November 2, 2017

Sometimes anime are not bad, they just don’t hold my interest. Somewhere around mid-season I wander off and don’t come back. Herewith a few of those:

Elegant Yokai Apartment Life: Not bad, but I thought it had a reasonable closure at the end of the first cour, and couldn’t think of a reason to continue. I kept it in my queue for a while and then gave up on it.

Kino’s Journey: I watched much of the first season, back when, and had the same opinion: the show has a little too high of an opinion of itself. It’s like one of those artsey foreign movies you watched back in college. Pretentious.

Blend-S: A one-trick pony, and that one not very interesting

Code:Realize: What did I tell you about anime with Code: in their names? Just couldn’t get interested in cute guys doing cute things with steampunk. Must be my finger-length.

And then there’s a couple of others that are not new this season but which I tried because various reviewers seemed to like them. Various reviewers are apparently not within three standard deviations of my demographic.

Yuki Yuna is a Hero: Girls in a middle-school Hero’s club become actual magical girl heroes and protect the Earth while passing all their tests. Importance of ともだちがい and がんばって and clap if you believe in かみさまs.

Tenchi Muyo: AKA 天地無用, which can be variously translated as No Need for Tenchi, or this side up, depending on context. Since most of the episodes are titled No need for xxx, that’s probably the preferred reading. Tenchi is a typical ultra-dense protagonist who manages to have a bevy of beautiful space aliens fall in love with him.

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TLDR: Anime I never started

October 14, 2017

Sometimes you don’t have to watch even the first episode. Sometimes you happened on the first volume of the manga. Here’s two.

Inuyashiki: From the creator of Gantz. Actually, that tells you all you need to know. Old guy and young punk are reincarnated as robots. Old guy becomes superhero. Young punk becomes supervillain. Much bloodshed and dismemberment, most of it gratuitous. I dropped the manga after the first volume.

King’s Game: Normally a slightly racy kids game. Whoever is ‘king’ gets to tell the others what to do (“kiss the person to your right”). In this one, everybody is out to kill everybody else, because some ‘king’ made that decision. I don’t even…

This is why one reads manga.

 

 

TLDR — Anime I never finished, Fall 2017, part 2

October 6, 2017

Three up/three down – the off-puttingness continues. This started off being a potentially busy season, with twelve anime that I was considering watching. Fortunately, seven of them blew up on the pad. So far.

The first two in this listing could easily be swapped and few would notice the difference.

1. Dies Irae: Godlike beings fight grotesque monsters for obscure reasons during the latter days of the Third Reich. Too much shouting, fighting, and dismemberment for me. Later episodes will, I think, shift to modern day Tokyo. It won’t help.

Everybody wants to be Wolverine

2. Garo – Vanishing Line: Grotesque hero fights even uglier monsters, assisted by his talking motorcycle. Too much shouting, fighting, and dismemberment for me. This is not a Kino spinoff.

I guess they forgot that modern cameras have a ‘red eye’ setting

3. Taisho Mebiusline Chicchaisan: The title is longer than the episode. Country boy and his sword come to Tokyo to study and get away from the grotesque spirits of the dead that only he can see. On his first day there, he gets turned into a chibi figure. Nobody notices. First episode was about three and a half minutes longer than it needed to be.

They just happened to have a yukata his size

 

TLDR — Anime I never finished, Fall 2017, part 1

October 4, 2017

There are some anime that are so off-putting that there’s no reason to invoke the three episode rule. Here’s three four that fell at the first fence.

1. Sengoku Night Blood: Young woman is whisked into an isekai by a wonky smartphone app. Said world turns out to be filled with bishies who are historical figures who are vampires. We good? She may or may not be rescued by a talking tanuki who isn’t Shimogamo Yasaburō.

2. Black Clover: Remember how Tanya the Evil was raised in an orphanage and used her magical abilities to claw her way to the top? Why don’t we have twins, raised in an orphanage. One is calm and competent and is gifted with the way to the top. The other, the protagonist, is an incompetent, unmagical, spiky-haired loudmouth who plans to shout his way to the top. With a first episode like this, everyone who watched it thinking it was the second season of Honey and Clover is sure to be captivated!

3. Juni Taisen: A collection of twelve psychopaths, representing twelve different families of psychopaths, representing twelve psychopathic interpretations of the twelve signs of the Chinese Zodiac, takes part in a psychopathic death match anime. It’s like Fate/Stay Night with worse costuming and no cute girls.

4. Urahara: Three girls in a dress shop fight to keep UFO’s from stealing Japanese culture. Squeaky voices. Kids book style backgrounds. Best part was Rito-chan coming to work on a skateboard. Then a Japanese expat from America, who appears out of a giant nursing bottle, turns them into magical girls, who can fight for justice and the nihongo way.

Did I mention there was a talking tempura shrimp?

 

Tanya: Someone is wrong on the Internet

July 25, 2017

It’s always painful when even the supporters of a show get it wrong. The latest misinterpretation of Tanya is by Nick Creamer, over on ANN, and it looks like none of the commenters has any concept of WW’s I and II beyond watching Thomas Kretschmann movies. Herewith, seven key points to keep in mind when reading any of it:

  1. The Empire isn’t imperialist. They never invaded anyone that didn’t invade them first. When the not-Scandanavians invaded the Empire, everybody’s reaction was WTF? Who would do such a stupid thing? The narration at the end of the series points out the irony that all the Empire’s actions were out of fear of their neighbors.
  2. The officers aren’t Nazis. The talk of serving the homeland appears on both sides in the anime, and is no different than what you would have heard in any military headquarters in our Europe in the early 1900’s. The counter-invasion of not-Scandanavia horrified the generals.
  3. Nobody’s a good guy. Soldiers on both sides did terrible things, because that’s what one does in a war. At the start of Episode 1, the not-French were killing not-Germans who were disorganized and fleeing, and doing it with a smile. In Episode 2, Anson Su, lead element of the invasion force, did his best to kill a young girl who was merely acting as an observer. Yes, she turned out to be a fierce fighter, but that was later. As far as he knew, she was like his daughter.
  4. Nobody’s a bad guy. These are military professionals, engaged in high-stakes, high adrenalin actions. They are excited in their work, and proud of their accomplishments. If they sit and mope and come all over angsty about their actions, they do it after the battle, when such thoughts won’t slow down their reactions. Tanya does it on the train. Su does it, a little bit, right before the fjord raid kicks off.
  5. Tanya isn’t a sadist. Throughout the series, none of Tanya’s actions were, as far as I can tell, violations of the rules of war, either in her world or in ours.  None of her acts involve inflicting pain without purpose, and at least twice she says she hates killing. The guy she fired in Episode 2 failed to show for work on time, and failed to respond to training. Tanya’s only “sin” was in not feeling any emotion about it. Her approach to training was similar to that used by the US Marines and the UK Commandos. She thought it would drive them away. Instead, it created an elite unit. On at least two occasions, Tanya changed her approach to a problem in order to minimize her casualties.
  6. Tanya isn’t power-hungry. Here in our world, and in the new one, her goal is to achieve a quiet life. All of her actions point in that direction. Play by the rules, and do your job well, and you will be on the escalator to a good position and a quiet life.
  7. Being X isn’t God. Maybe he’s A god (responsible only for reincarnation, in a Japanese division-of-divine-labor sort of way), but in Episode 2 he complains of being unable to handle so many billions of souls. To which Tanya replies that overwork is an indicator of a failed business model.

If you want to develop a less biased view of Tanya, when you watch it, imaging that it stars Sylvester Stallone, instead of a 10-year old girl.

TLDR: Anime I never finished, Summer 2017 – 3

July 16, 2017

I’m crying here. I was going to have just two TLDRs this season, but sometimes one has to reopen the books for new challengers.

Shining Tears X Wind: Pronounced crosswind. STxW (pronounced stew) is a Crunchyroll re-release of a 2007 anime based on a Sega mobile game. Parallel worlds. Multiple handsome heroes. Multiple ornamental girls to fill out the handsome heroes’ harems. The girls also act as …ah… receptacles … for …um… magic swords … that the heroes store in their oppai, bosoms, chests. King Arthur it ain’t.

They wanted to copy the tank chase scene from GaruPan, but didn’t have the budget

Graphics and animation appear to be done using the same 8-bit technology they used for the game. If you liked the game, then (A) you will like this, and (B) we can’t be friends anymore.

True Tears: Crunchyroll re-release of a 2008 anime. High school boy lives in the same house as a cute classmate who he thinks likes him but she really likes the brother of a girl who he also thinks likes him but all she wants him for is his bodily fluids.

Trust me, it will all end in tears before bedtime

None of them are very likeable. Well, there’s the girl standing on the beer crate.

TLDR: Anime I never finished, Summer 2017-2

July 11, 2017

And the losers keep straggling in.

Konbini Kareshi: Grand Hotel, the anime version. Six couples and how their lives are changed by their experiences at the local Lawsons. The boys are the type I spent my high school days avoiding. The girls are the type who spent their high school days avoiding me.

I wonder if I’ll find the girl of my dreams in there. They carry everything else.

Fox Spirit Matchmaker: Fox maiden vows to excel at matchmaking despite the urgings (threats) of the sexy head of her powerful fox clan, all the while avoiding marriage to a jerk who is also a powerful priest who is attempting to avoid marriage despite the urgings (threats) of a bunch of gunsels from his powerful human clan, all the while fending off attacks from a different fox clan, along with some nefarious plots by a fat underhanded plotting priest. Got that? Feels like the producer just threw everything he could think of into a pot and called it stew.

This picture sums it up: One third sexy fox ladies, one third chibi fox follies, one third assholes

Aho Girl: Aho is the word for idiot. It’s for when you’ve already said baka. Our protagonette is an aho. Bright, cheery, infinite mood swings, no short term memory, banana fanatic, zero common sense. Her neighbor (one can’t say ‘boyfriend’, he tells her mother she’s a monkey — her mother agrees) keeps her in line through force and violence. All the girls love him.

The carrot banana and the stick

Katsugeki TOUKEN RANBU: Bunch of guys with swords, who are swords, fight demons, who are time travellers, with the aid of a fox with a computer. Running with swords. Fighting demons. Bantering with the guys. Running…

With a thousand years of experience, you’d think they’d find a better way to run with a sword

TLDR: Anime I never finished, Summer 2017 – 1

July 6, 2017

Two days into the Summer Season and already the rejects are piling up.

Saiyuki Reload Blast: AKA Saiyuki Version V. Latest in a long line of anime adaptations of a long line of manga. Based on the Japanese version of the Chinese compilation of the Buddhist folktale collection called Journey to the West. Bad art, ugly characters, poor acting, static fight scenes, and a stupid AI jeep (Kino should sue).

Which one is the monkey?

Netsuzou Trap: Girl sexually molests another girl. Other girl not sure she objects. Does that make it right? Did they limit the length to 9 minutes because they ran out of body parts to fondle?

French kissing while hanging off an apartment balcony three stories up and she’s afraid her mother will walk in and see them

Knight’s & Magic: Programmer dies and is resurrected in a magical fantasy world with knights in shining mechas. Develops new magical apps by applying good coding practices to existing magic. The weak spot, of course, being the lack of code comments and documentation. Unless maybe the extraneous comma in the title means that everything that follows is a comment.

Patlabor it ain’t

 

Tanyastuff — 2

June 24, 2017

This is Part 2 of an on-going analysis of The Saga of Tanya the Evil. Subsequent entries will look at the story as laid out in the light novels.

A major factor in the rollout of Tanya’s War, and one I hadn’t considered earlier, is the structure of the Empire itself. In Tanya’s world we have a unitary Germanic empire. In our world, Central Europe was occupied by the German Hohenzollern Empire, and the Austro-Hungarian Hapsburg Empire. It was the interactions between these two empires (plus the interlocking treaty obligations on both sides) that allowed what should have been a relatively minor Balkan skirmish to spiral out of control.

In our world, for a number of reasons, Austria wanted to expand its influence in the Balkans. They were afraid that Russia would actively oppose them, and asked Germany for support in preventing this. Germany gave them the famous blank check approval for any of their actions.

The first problem is, given the technology of the day, whoever mobilizes first can destroy their opponents, even if the opponents are part way through their own mobilization. So mobilization is essentially a declaration of war. The second problem is, once a country has mobilized, essentially all their neighbors are at risk. So Austria sent an ultimatum to Serbia. Two days later, Austria, Serbia, and Russia all issued mobilization orders. Three days after that, Austria declared war on Serbia, and a week later, Germany (rejecting Russian protests that they were mobilizing against Serbia, not Germany) both started mobilizing and declared war on Russian. Roughly two weeks from assassination incident to WWI.

In Tanya’s world, the Empire isn’t dragged into a war by treaty obligations. They were engaged in an on-going border dispute with Legendia, part of the Scandinavian Entente. The Legendistas invade and are stopped by the the Imperials, including the newly-arrived reinforcements. So we have at least a partial mobilization aimed at the North. In order to permanently suppress the threat, the Empire goes to full mobilization and conducts a counter-invasion of the Entente. We could think of this as similar to Austria invading Serbia, except that the ‘pretext’ was a much more serious incident. In essence, the Empire gave itself a blank check.

At this point, of course, not-France also mobilizes, and invades the Empire. We are not told if this is a treaty requirement, or mere opportunism. The result is a slow-rolling development of a border skirmish into a world war.

The rest, as they say, is isekai.

 

TLDR — Gantz

June 19, 2017

Here’s how to watch Gantz: watch Episode 1 to convince yourself I’m right, then fast-forward through the rest, stopping only if the screen turns red, or black, or pink, depending on your interests.

Gantz is a two-cour anime from 2004. An alien-in-a-sphere makes copies of people as they die, and forces the copy-people to fight and kill things. That’s it. Collect people, put on fighting suits, go kill aliens and each other. If the screen is mostly black, that’s the fax-folk running around in their combat suits, looking for aliens. If it’s mostly red, they’ve found the aliens, or undeserving humans, and are eviscerating them, or maybe being eviscerated, it varies. If the screen is mostly pink, then it’s naked scenes, which don’t happen nearly often enough to make up for the red and the black. The rest of the time, the characters are shouting at each other about the morality of killing monsters and why aren’t the others doing more to help. Not enough pink to make up for that, either.

Red and Black
(At this point there’s about five minutes of yelling)

Gantz is available on Crunchyroll. In fast-forward mode, it’s about six minutes of play time between thumbnails, and about two and a half minutes of real time per episode. That means you can get through all 24 episodes in about an hour. Not counting pauses for pink, of course.

…and Pink
(Some more yelling here, as well)

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Spring 2017 Part 2

April 10, 2017

I tried some other shows, when Crunchyroll finally broadcast them. Some didn’t fare as well as others.

Hinako Note: Country girl comes to the big city to go to high school. Is better at talking to animals than people, and has a tendency to freeze with her arms out straight, like a scarecrow, when flustered. Sounds like a good way to get your pockets picked. Meets four other girls in her dorm and at some point they will decide to put on a show (it’s too far to use my father’s barn). Would have been a soothing slice of life, if it wasn’t for the eternally squeaky voices and the stupid scarecrow shtick.

Eromanga Sensei: Japan is full of middle- and high- school students making a living as light novel authors and mangaka, which is good for their futures because I’ve never seen one do a lick of homework. Even primary school girls can make it big, drawing erotic art for magazines and LNs. Presumably, they get their subjects from various online websites — although some 12 year olds take selfies of their butts and use that as the basis for drawings they post online, and tell me how that doesn’t violate half a dozen laws.

It should not be all that rare, then, for the 12 year old little sister to turn out to be the one who is drawing erotic art for the 15 year old big brother’s best selling novels. Think, Oreimo with a business relationship.

Tsugumomo: The story of a mama’s boy with an obi fetish — he carries his late mother’s obi everywhere, even to school. Thirty seconds into the main story, they’ve already hit two classic anime tropes, the accidental boob clutch followed by the accidental panty shot, with extra points for chaining the events. Two minutes after that, Our Protagonist is subject to attempted tentacle rape from a marauding wig, but is saved by the Goddess of the Obi, Tsugumomo (つぐもも) which, as far as I can tell means next generation peach. She subjugates him, moves in, shares the bath, shares the bed, hogs the Playstation. Meanwhile, his little sister, who wants to share the bath, share the bed, and to hell with the Playstation, is getting suspicious.

TLDR — Anime I never finished, Spring 2017

April 7, 2017

There are some anime that are so off-putting that there’s no reason to invoke the three episode rule. The four anime that follow might not be bad, but they are certainly not my cup of tea.

1. The Royal Tutor: There’s a new tutor in town. Looks like a kid but is a grown man (there’s lots of hormonal balance mutations in Japan). Tutor to four princes, of various degrees of snottery, apparently born 9 months and 15 minutes apart. Oldest one looks like a romance novel cover, and talks like he’s lost one too many mace battles. Shorty Tutorpants will outsmart them all — and of course, that’s the problem.

2. Akashic Records of Bastard Magical Instructor: There’s a certain kind of character, with too high an opinion of themselves and hair that won’t stay off of their forehead. A simple three-finger toss of the hair and the head will unerringly identify them. This one’s an incompetent cad. Unless they are planning on doing a body swap with Oda Nobunaga in Episode 2, I see no possibility of redeeming this train wreck. Did I mention the female student uniforms make KanColle look like nuns?

3. GranBlue Fantasy: Generic girl-with-powers escapes from secret lab. Lab is in a Pilot’s Love Song-style Airborne Battle Cruiser. Girl lands near generic village. Generic boy finds her. They, and her generic (female) knight companion, are surrounded by troops from the ABC, led by generic foppish captain with a falsetto voice. Generic ending with Boy merging life forces with Girl, beating the snot out of the Troops and heading off for a Secret Location known only to everyone in the village. Generic.

Paul Robeson sang “Joe Hill” next to this cottage

4. Silver Guardian: While the scantily-clad maidens of the Maidenly Academy for Young Maidens sleep quietly in their maidendorm, a boy is fighting for their survival, unbeknownst to all but the maidenly dorm mom. When the pyramidical tomb he is guarding is surrounded and attacked by thousands of undead, he does the logical thing by taking out his magical swords and attacking the throngs in front of the stonepile, evidently forgetting that there is a back entrance. In fact, there’s a front entrance that’s left unguarded while he’s half a mile away, whacking off zombie heads. Fortunately, the zombies are missing, you know, brains.

OK, I lied. They’re bad.

Light Novels

February 26, 2017

I’ve been spoiled. Up until now, all the Japanese light novels I’ve read were ones that withstood a long and gruelling overseas licensing process. By the time a LN got licensed in the US, you could be pretty sure it met some (often low) minimum standards for story-telling and writing quality. I’m talking about things like Spice and Wolf, Kokoro Connect, and most of the Haruhi series. But beneath that surface layer you will find a lot of stuff that’s not much better than fan fiction.

It’s like UK television. All we see over here are the top end BBC works of art. When I lived in the UK, we got to see the really bad run of the mill ITN stuff. I can tell you that UK game shows are terrible, and that’s from someone whose wife watches an hour and a half of US game shows nightly. I am beginning to think it’s the same way with light novels.

You see, with the increasing popularity of LNs in the US, and an expansion of delivery modes, came a lowering of quality standards. Back when the publisher had to cough up the money to produce a physical product, they were more careful about what they would publish. Today, with digital delivery, the initial cost isn’t so high, and so publishers can take bigger chances. The best example of this is the new light novel distributor, J-Novel Club. For a monthly fee, JNC posts chapters of on-going LNs, roughly one per novel per week. When the novel is completed, it’s pulled from the website, except for an introductory first chapter and a purchase link. Currently, JNC is licensing twelve LNs, some of which are the second volume of a series. I am a member of  JNC, and I have read at least parts of all twelve. Not all of them are of equal quality.

Using these twelve as a convenience sample of what’s out there, we find that five of them are in the hero pulled into a fantasy world genre. This is not to be confused with hero trapped in a video game, because there is no indication that it really is a game world, as opposed to a world with some sort of game mechanics. Obviously, what the Japanese call isekai stories are hot this year.

grimgarln Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash: The most literary of the lot, and the only one of this genre to have an anime. A group of people wake up in a RPG style fantasy world, with no memories of their past, and find they have to fight for their lives. There’s a reason the first syllable is grim.

How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom: A Maoyū Maō Yūsha ripoff, where he’s both scholar and hero, called into a fantasy world, where his high school level skills in ecology and urban planning help defend the kingdom he was handed. “You look like a nice boy, I’ll abdicate in your favor. Here’s my daughter.”

In Another World With My Smartphone: Like it says. He’s in an RPG style fantasy world, but his smart phone works, including the maps and ‘search nearby’ functions. In addition, he finds he has other advantages. “Oh, look. I just found this new magical skill that will cure the Duke’s wife of her mysterious illness.”

Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest: He’s the low man in his high school class, but the smartest girl in the class really likes him. Suddenly, the whole class is pulled into an RPG style fantasy world. “I’ve loved you ever since I saw you getting the snot beat out of you back in middle school.”

mixedbathinglnMixed Bathing in Another Dimension: Going downhill fast here, Our Hero gets called into a fantasy world, with the one skill of being able to create a Japanese style public bath-house wherever he likes. Finds some surprisingly useful applications. After all, it’s a limitless source of clean water. Also wet naked girls.

Two more LNs brush up against the edge of this genre.

The Faraway Paladin: HikkoNEET dies and is resurrected in a fantasy world. Doesn’t really count, because all he remembers is that he was a disappointment to his parents and he wants to do better this time around. His zombie priestess mother and ghostly sorcerer father agree. Reasonably well written.

I Saved Too Many Girls and Caused the Apocalypse: Our Hero starred in too many harem adventures in too many worlds without ever choosing a Best Girl. Now the multiverse will collapse unless he solves new problems in every world, which he does, by combining solutions across worlds and letting the problems cancel each other out. Neat concept, terrible writing.

The remaining five take place in fantasy/SF versions of our world.

occulticninelnOccultic;Nine: Is the best of this lot (and already has its own anime). Everybody in it is dead, and nobody knows it. Faceless MegaCorp is trying to control their souls.

My Big Sister Lives in a Fantasy World: High school high jinks. Our Hero can see labels over people’s heads, proclaiming what they are — Class President, Her Boyfriend, Mass Murderer, etc.

Brave Chronicle: The Ruinmaker: High school boy, something, something,  is supposed to save the world, something, but only wants to protect his little sister. There’s a childhood friend.

Paying to Win in a VRMMO: Not trapped in one. Paying, not Playing. Our Hero wins all the time by finding the right in-game purchase. About as exciting as it sounds.

My Little Sister Can Read Kanji: A couple hundred years from now, his little sister is one of the few people who can still read kanji characters. She is in great demand, because everyone wants to grope her. Our Hero is fine with this. I’m not.

So that’s a chunk of what’s current on the LN front. Twelve novels, of which three are good (for a somewhat relaxed definition of the term good), and the rest are fanfic quality. I keep reading them because I hope they will improve, but they never do.

TL:DR — Anime I never finished: Seiren

February 18, 2017

A lot of anime are adaptations of Visual Novel originals. The problem with adapting  a VN into a twelve-episode anime is that they almost all are multi-track — work you way through while romancing girl A, then go back and do the same with girl B. The question for an anime studio is, how do we handle this during an adaptation?

One way is to pick one girl and follow her to the end, with all the other girls having walk-on parts. Clannad is a good example. The upside is, the story can devote twelve whole episodes to the budding romance. The downside is is, everyone who likes girl B, or C, or …. will be disappointed.

A second approach, call it the Kanon model, is to keep one girl on the main track, even if it disappears into the background for a bit, and give the other girls their own arcs, without ever promising them romance. This requires a certain skill in balancing the screen time and keeping the main heroine as the obvious favorite.

Finally, we have the omnibus approach, famous in Amagami and Photo Kano, and (this season) Seiren. Each girl gets a turn at romance, and after three or four episodes rides off into the sunset with the protagonist. Then we reset, and go through the whole thing with some new girl. It’s like a collection of short stories instead of a novel. The problem with the omnibus approach is twofold, or maybe three.

photokanogirls

First, they are short stories. There’s no depth, no chance to develop characters. The four episodes tend to run to a pattern: boy meets girl; boy and girl hit it off; boy and girl encounter insurmountable relational problems; boy and girl decide to get married.

amagagamigirls

Second, they use the same cast in different roles across different arcs. It’s kind of an ensemble production — like some of the old Murder, She Wrote programs, where the bad guy one week is an old family friend the next. It’s not just that the main heroine changes, that’s to be expected, it’s that our protagonist’s male friend one arc is a complete stranger the next one. Or maybe they play video games one arc, and the next one he’s off on the soccer team. It makes for a certain mental whiplash.

seirengirls

After a while, they all look alike

Finally, and this is a particular problem with Seiren, the protagonist might or might not be the same personality from one arc to the next. In Amagami and Photo Kano, the protagonist was the same person, with the same goals and hangups: in Amagami, he was recovering from having been stood up for a Christmas Date; in Photo Kano he was a camera nut. In each arc we get to see alternative ways he can work through his life problems. In Seiren, he’s a different guy each time.

This season, Seiren is sandwiched in between Tanya the Evil and Demi-chan, and it doesn’t really fill an anime-watching need.

TL:DR — Anime I never finished: Yozakura Quartet

February 6, 2017

Yozakura Quartet
A one cours anime from 2010. Not so much bad as very much not my demographic. Two-thirds of a century ago, maybe, but now, if I had the ability to try-before-buy (say, via Crunchyroll or Funimation), I would not have bought it.

On second thought, no — it’s bad. It’s about a group of humans and half-demons who bond socially to fight other half-demons (the anti-social ones) to drive them to the other side and to protect the six sacred sakura stumps that (sortof) guard the town from demons.

I guess you’d call this a shonen fighter, appealing mostly to middle-school boys, because every episode features a battle of some sort. The trouble is, all the fights are the same: each protagonist takes turns fighting the demon, instead of ganging up on them; everyone spends most of the time talking, and the demons spend their talk time gloating; and about a third of the combat dialogue by the protagonists involves shouting the name of one of the others (the one who is currently getting the individual snot beat out of them).

The spikey hair is a dead giveaway

The spikey hair is a dead giveaway

The art is crude, and the animation is minimalist. The funniest scene was when the womanising land god who looks after the town (but doesn’t actually do anything to protect it) visits the festival to see if there are any pretty girls to romance, and runs into a couple of 70 year olds who fondly remember dallying with him some decades earlier. Always embarrassing.

It was not available for preview on Crunchyroll or Funimation, but there had been some good reviews on-line, back in the day (and one of the characters was voiced by Sawashiro Miyuki), so when it came on sale on Amazon a couple of weeks ago, I bought it. I made it halfway through Episode 7 and gave up. Life is too short, and Amazon Prime is streaming Highschool Of The Dead.

Anime I’m watching — Winter 2017

January 17, 2017

Not counting OVAs or shorts, AniChart shows 50 anime airing this season. I started out watching 15, which rapidly dropped to eleven worth mentioning, and has now levelled off at six. Three are slice-of-life “monster” comedies, two are isekai, and one is a straight high school harem romance.

Demi-Chan wa Kataritai — Monster girls go to high school. Unlike Monster Musume, the previous entry in this genre, the girls are not part of a harem, and they are not oversexualized. The male human POV character is an adult teacher, who pretty much acts like one. The number of monster girls is limited: student vampire, snow maiden, and dullahan; math teacher succubus. So far, we’ve only gotten a look at the vampire and dullahan. They are typical high school girls, sometimes mischievous, sometimes prone to getting a crush on their teacher.

The Japanese seem to be fascinated with the dullahan concept, the headless horseman of Irish folklore. Last year’s Konosuba had one who was an evil lord*, while dullahan Celty was one of the stars of Durarara. Demi-chan treats it more like a disability, addressing questions like, what happens when your body is at home but not close to the toilet, while your head is on a date, drinking soda?

If you spend too much time saying goodbye, some of you can miss your train

If you spend too much time saying goodbye,
some of you can miss your train

Things may heat up next week, when we learn about sex and the single succubus.

Kobayashi-san’s Dragon Maid — All about, well, Kobayashi, and her live-in maid, who is also a dragon. As with few other shows, this is about adults, who work, and drink, and have a life, and don’t go to high school. The lead human, Kobayashi, reminded me a little bit of Kaoru, from I Can’t Understand What My Husband Is Saying, even though the character designs were quite different. It turns out that both of these anime were based on manga by the same author, Cool-kyō Shinja. So far, it’s slice-of-life, with dragon jokes. Also maid jokes.

dragonmaid01 dragonmaid03 dragonmaid02

Gabriel Dropout — Not exactly a monster, Gabriel is an angel, tops in her class at angel middle school, who is sent down to Earth to go to high school and live with humans and learn about them. Unfortunately, she gets enamoured of computer RPG’s, and by the end of the first episode is well on her way to dropping out and becoming not only a NEET, but evil**.

In some ways, she’s a typical high school girl who, for example, doesn’t want to leave any witnesses to an unfortunate teleportation event with her pantsus.

Collateral damage

Collateral damage

Konosuba, Season 2 — A second season for the high school boy who died and was reincarnated in a fantasy world with the mission of defeating the Demon King. He’s still teamed up with a set of companions who are powerful but useless — water goddess who can do a fan dance with water, explosion wizard who can produce only one blast a day, masochistic knight who can take loads of punishment but can’t hit anything with her sword.

The default facial expressions

The default facial expressions

Seiren — High school harem romance, in the Amagami SS tradition. It’s based on a visual novel, so there’s multiple girls to pursue. It’s in omnibus format, which means that instead of picking one girl, the way Kanon and Clannad do, the 12 episodes are really three short stories of 4 episodes each, so the protagonist can win three different girls. Think of it as parallel universes.

Three of these girls will be the lucky winner. More, if there's a second season

Three of these girls will be the lucky winner.
More, if there’s a second season

The Saga of Tanya the Evil — A first season for the salaryman who died and was reincarnated in a fantasy world after getting into an argument with God over whether he exists or not. Since he’s applying his former-life cuthroat-management techniques to his new situation, this has been called the Moshidora of reincarnation anime.

Izetta, she ain't

Izetta, she ain’t

He ends up as an evil***, magic-using warloli soldier who is trying to establish a place for herself in the rear echelon of a war very like WWI. Of course, all her efforts only make her a hero, likely to be pushed into the front lines.


* How evil? He used to bowl his head down the hall so that it came to a stop looking up a maid’s skirts. You don’t get much more evil than that.

** How evil? More evil than the demon student who threw a plastic bottle in the recycling without removing the cap.

*** How evil? Evil enough to get it into his nickname.

TLDR — Anime I never finished, Winter 2017 Part 1

January 13, 2017

So far, the Winter season of 2017 has given us a disappointment in almost every genre.

Hand Shakers — Clueless HS student forced to fight unknown enemies for unknown reasons in intersecting parallel dimension. Male combatants evoke their combat prowess by fighting hand-in-hand with a female counterpart. Or sometimes foot-in-crotch. Characters are animated in 3DCG by a team that never looked at what either the backgrounders or the special effects parts of the team were doing. Plus, they know nothing about the physics of fluid-filled spheres.

Remember, it's not assault if she sounds like she's enjoying it.

Remember, it’s not assault if she sounds like she is enjoying it.

Akiba Strip — Poor man’s Ikki Tousen. Protagonists beat the outerwear off demons from an intersecting parallel dimension disguised as beautiful girls, who then get all burned up over it. In most cases, the outerwear barely covers the underwear, so the exact destruction mechanism is as obscure as the reasoning behind the existence of this show.

Remember, it's not assault if they're demons in disguise

Remember, it’s not assault if you claim they’re demons in disguise

Chain Chronicles — Multiple multi-racial armies assault insanely-evil-mage-king’s castle in a bid to get a small group of heroes inside to kill the IEMK and recover a magical tome. Heroes choose the heroic option and attack IEMK one at a time. Heroes get their collective ass handed to them. Final tug of war between IEMK and his insanely-evil-mage-king’s-daughter over magical tome ends with the book being torn in half. After which, all the MMRAs, along with the IEMKD and the halfbook ride slowly away. To be followed by ten episodes of recriminations.

Good thing none of you is smart enough to sneak up on me through the smoke

Good thing none of you is smart enough to sneak up on me through the smoke

Schoolgirl Strikers — Not-exactly-magical girls (see Luck and Logic) travel to an intersecting parallel dimension to fight monsters that look like they were the result of a failed genetics programming algorithm for generating monster art.

We're not magical girls. Don't call us magical girls.

We’re not magical girls. Don’t call us magical girls.

Fuuka —  Group of students decide to start a band, unfortunately in this dimension. Others have done it better.

I know! Let's put on a show! We can use my father's barn!!

I know! Let’s put on a show!
We can use my father’s barn!!

Anime Postview: Fall 2016

December 29, 2016

This is not a real review of the Fall anime season. Instead, it’s a look at how well I did in my Fall 2016 Preview, which you might want to look at first.

Overall, it was a pretty thin season, with only about six out of sixty shows falling into the watchable category. No particular standouts, except that everybody but me thought that Yuri On Ice was wonderful. I thought what I watched of it was pretty good, but it just didn’t engage my interest. Maybe not enough yuris.

So, how did I do on my Will Watch group? Looks like I’m two out of three for this one, if you count meh as an acceptable rating. Touken Ranbou turned out to be SwordColle — a bunch of bishies who used to be swords.

Fast talking high school student with his own anti-occult website turns out to be a ghost who doesn’t know he’s a ghost in a crowd of other ghosts, solves a mystery about ghosts and thwarts the plots of an evil emperor to control the afterlife using ghosts. Surprisingly subdued climax.

From a straight mechanics standpoint, things went too fast for a subtitle-reader to follow. I had a choice of reading the bottom of the screen, or seeing what was happening on the rest of it. Too many expository dumps. Monogatari could pull it off. Not so the ; gang.

Otherwise, imaginative use of ghosts.

Occultic;Nine

Cast of Lost Village ends up in a library. Adds semicolons to their list of personal phobias

———————————————

Shuumatsu no Izetta

Don't worry. Love will break our fall. ———————————————

Yep, Witches und Panzers. Great premise — witch fighting WWII — squandered on poorly structured plot and non-useful fanservice, with hokey post-ending  ending. Potentially one of the best of the Season, it turned out to be merely entertaining.

After all, how often do you get to see a cute, red-headed witch flying around on an anti-tank rifle?

 

For the  Might Watch group I pulled another two out of three as well. Keijo was just too too silly, with too many butts and too many boobs, and too much sports. Probably was a favorite in the frat houses.

A random crawl through psycho-space. Think, FLCL meets Magical Girls.  Friend of a girl’s mother from her past rescues the girl from her mother in an alternate dimension that somehow interacts with this one. Probably my favorite new show of the Season, which shows you how thin the season was.

The graphics make you feel like you’re lost in Mandelbrot’s sink trap.

Flip Flappers

Girls who are too poor to own stockings, and have to dress in tea towels find happiness in floral displays———————————————

Brave Witches

Girls who are too poor to own underwear bravely fly combat missions at 25,000ft. Huddle together to keep warm———————————————

Can’t go wrong with a Strike Witches spinoff. This one is set in the NorthEast Theater and features lots of flying over snow-covered terrain in their pantsus. The character development side concerns itself with the efforts of Karibuchi Hikari to prove herself a worthy replacement for her sister.

If you liked Strike Witches, you’ll like this one. Not great, but entertaining.

As for the Won’t Watch group, I think I can say I’m three out of three. Well, Long Riders was on a different channel, and I never looked at Tiger in the Hole!. On the other hand, everybody in the world liked Yuri, but I like my yuri with more girls in it. So, maybe two out of three.

That gives me four out of six, or maybe six out of nine. The Federal Reserve should hope they get that many forecasts correct.

Not included in the Preview, because it was a sequel, was the second season of Sound! Euphonium. Excellent, but not as good as the first season. Did have a marvellous episode that was almost all straight music. Way, way too late I found this site, with commentary by a professional musician.

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Fall 2016

October 17, 2016

A second pass through the season drops some more.

March comes in like a lion: A prequel to Your lie in April, shows Arima Kōsei when he was going by the name of Kiriyama Rei and making a living playing shogi instead of being a piano player. No indication as to how many of the cute girls he’s involved with will die of AWD (Anime Wasting Disease).

March

March

April

April

Occultic;Nine: The guy who gave us the excellent Stein’s;Gate, and then missed with a long string of other semicolon stories tries again. Weird occult blogger accretes a team of weirdos to solve weird mysteries. The character designs tell you all you need to know. Weird.

If those buttons go, we're all gonna;die

If those buttons go, we’re all gonna;die

ClassicaLoid: Think vocaloids with better composers but worse directors. Beethoven, Mozart, mechas, and a construction crew all dance while their house plays musique.

You should see who's dancing with the secretary bird

You should see who’s dancing with the secretary bird

Drifters: Great warriors of history pulled into alternative afterworlds to fight the Enders. Think, Death Parade meets Nobunaga the Fool.

L to R we have: Shimazu Toyohisa, the protagonist, Oda Nobunaga, the famous pirate, and Nasu no Yoichi, the trap

L to R we have: Shimazu Toyohisa, the protagonist, Oda Nobunaga, the famous pirate, and Nasu no Yoichi, the trap

TL:DR — Dropping my shorts, Fall 2016

October 11, 2016

So, not all the mediocre, bad, or just plain uninteresting anime comes as long-form 23min episodes. Much of it now appears as short features, as if the creators knew the worth of what they were doing and wanted to minimize the impact on humankind.

Four that were just dumb:

Cheating Craft: How to cheat on exams, with the usual perfunctory "This is bad" warning.

Cheating Craft: How to cheat on exams, with the usual perfunctory “This is bad” warning.

Soul Buster: Cardfights between the souls of ancient Chinese warriors. Like Ikki Tousen without the fanservice.

Soul Buster: Cardfights between the souls of ancient Chinese warriors. Like Ikki Tousen without the fanservice.

Kiitaro's Yokai Diary: Sibling rivalry over household chores ignites demon wars. As usual.

Kiitaro’s Yokai Diary: Sibling rivalry over household chores ignites demon wars. As usual.

Miss Bernard Says: How many book references can you fit into three and a half minutes?

Miss Bernard Says: How many book references can you fit into three and a half minutes?

Two that were bound to offend somebody:

To Be Hero: Eight minutes of toilet jokes

To Be Hero: Eight minutes of toilet jokes

My wife is the student body President: Eight minutes of boob jokes.

My wife is the student body President: Eight minutes of boob jokes.

And one that could have been a contender:

Old woodblock drawings as anime. Good idea, poorly executed.

Sengokuchojyugiga:Old woodblock drawings as anime. Good idea, poorly executed.

Anime Worth Watching — Summer 2016

September 24, 2016

Amanchu
Futaba is a shy young girl who comes to a small coastal town from the big city, meets an outgoing classmate and a caring teacher, and learns to come out of her shell by learning to SCUBA dive. A quiet, feel-good, sort of an anime. Like Flying Witch, but with a little more personal drama. If you liked Aria, you will like this one — it has the same director, the cats look the same (i.e. totally un-catlich), and the lead cat is even named Aria.

Futaba and Friend, and cat

Futaba and Friend, and cat

The Ancient Magus’ Bride OVA

First of three 20-minute episodes. Prequel to the manga, which might mean we’re getting a full season anime. Chise is a young girl from an uncaring home who ends up living with a sorcerer, who just happens to have an eland’s skull for a head. Visually very pretty, with interesting magic and magical creatures. Their household is Chise, the Magus, Ruth (a black Flat Coated Retriever who eats at the table, just like humans), and a bonnet-wearing maid who has remarkable skills in tomato stacking.

The girl, Ruth, the maid, the Mage

Chise, Ruth, the Maid, the Mage

Opening scene looks like a foggy Victorian London, but in a later shot you can see The Eye.

ancientmaguslondon02

I liked the manga enough to buy the first volume when it came out. There’s two more 20-minute episodes in the OVA series, and then we’ll see.

So, there were a couple of good anime this summer, but Re:Zero was not one of them (some people liked it). I’ve mentioned it before, and I only mention it now so that I can include a picture of Rem, the Best Girl. Flawed hero learns his way around a new fantasy world by continuously being killed and respawning back at earlier save points. Falls in love with Emelia, main heroine, just because. Rejects Rem who really loves him, because he’s fallen for Emelia, who never contributes much to the story and doesn’t think much of him until the last episode, when his heroism and kindness turns her low level disdain into love, which I’m sure will last.

Rem

Rem

Emelia

Emelia

Which one would you chose?

That’s it for the summer. Pickings were slim enough that I rewatched GaruPan, Shirobako, Flying Witch, and Taisho Baseball Girls.

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Summer 2016

July 14, 2016

Tales of Zestiria the X: Is that X the unknown, or X, the queen after Zestiria the IX? Or maybe it’s a date on their calendar?

Court astronomer has been using his telescope to observe local weather, and in no way is he peering into bedroom windows. Maybe he should be the court meteorologist. Anyway, he sees an unmoving dark cloud (does that make it climate?) over in the next county. Princess sends court climatologist and her trusted companion to find out what it is, and then leads out a patrol of her own to find the trusted companion when they don’t come back two minutes later, because rulers of countries always have time to act like platoon leaders. Encounters ninja-shaped aliens. Finds out that the cloud is of geological origin, not climatological. But before she can find the court climatologist to tell him of his new title, the geology becomes a little unsettled and everybody but her dies. Then it gets weird. Later on, there may be sheep.

Normally, you build a dome that will protect all of your 100cm refractor

Normally, you build a dome that will protect all of your 100cm refractor

The acting is over-wrought, the art is crude, and the animation is clunky. And they don’t know how to build observatories.

Qualidea Code: Highly accomplished team member refuses to cooperate with his team-mates when defeating the pink, boob-shaped alien invaders because they’re almost as dumb as the aliens. Team-mates refuse to cooperate with other teams because they have other highly accomplished members who aren’t him. Competition among the teams for accomplishment points (always a bad thing) leads to the destruction of both the aliens and a vital causeway.

Because crenellated walls are the best way to defeat airborne enemies

Because crenellated walls are the best way to defeat airborne enemies

The art is OK, the characters are the usual range of emotional types (defined by hair color), and the plot is clunky.

Ange Vierge: Highly accomplished team members clash with less highly accomplished team members when defeating the black, dildo-shaped alien invaders. Spend the rest of the episode naked in the bath, naked in their quarters and naked in the office, bepestered by lens flare. Decide that the best way to improve their accomplishment levels is to break into naked competitive teams (always a good thing).

If you think the lens flare is bad, just wait for the steam

She must have very sexy elbows

The plot is minimal, the interpersonal interactions are contrived, and the camera work is clunky. The characters are well rounded.

This is the last TL:DR of the season, I swear. Next week, I answer the question every one of my reader is asking — So, what is he watching, anyway?

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Summer 2016

July 7, 2016

Sweetness and Lightning: Hey, have you noticed how well food-porn shows are doing right now? And how much people like smart, energetic little pre-school girls?  We could so clean up with a show that combined the two!

His idea of a child's balanced meal

His idea of a child’s balanced meal

Yeah, but there’s got to be more. If we don’t want to look like Barakamon with food, or Wakakozake with kids, or Gourmet Girl Graffitti with parents, we need something with an edge.

What about making it a single parent, a widower? One who can’t cook?

I don’t know, Japanese are reluctant enough to get married already. We don’t want to give the impression that marriage involves a 50/50 chance of death. I mean, think of all the other single parent or missing parent shows out there. In how many anime do you even see a parent, anyway? Whatever happens to them?

Yeah, but that gives us an opportunity to add a romance angle. You know, like, he’s a school teacher and there’s this girl who’s in one of his classes that keeps coming over to cook. Not just romance, but underage, inappropriate romance!

And she can’t cook either! And they learn together! Sweet lightning, that would work! But what should we call it?

Taboo Tattoo: Guys, what is Miyata thinking? We’ve already got Amanchu, Saiki Kusuo and Food Wars on our plate, and now he wants us to do this Tattoo thing? Even Miyamori Aoi couldn’t find enough animators to save us!

だいじょうぶ, だいじょうぶ. It will be OK. We’ll just use a generic highschool boy develops superpowers plot. Throw in a blonde foreigner and a boobified childhood friend who can cook (maybe we can recycle some outtakes from Food Wars) and the thing writes itself. No need to spend time on the animation, just use dark blobs and speed lines. This will be bigger than Dai-Shogun!!

Take that! You secret tattoo-wielder!!

Take that! You secret tattoo-wielder!!

Momokuri: OK, we’ve got one more 24 minute hole to fill in the schedule, and nobody willing to do it. TMS is busy playing mortician for D.Grey Man while murdering ReLife, and KyoAni is prepping for a second season of Euphonium. Even J.C. Staff is wrapped up in their Tattoo blockbuster thing.

What about recycling something from last years Internet-only ONA programs? Like Momokure. Yandere girl stalks younger boy. I mean, all the episodes are done, it’s cheap, it has low bandwidth, and it already has a 7.2 rating from people who watch anime on their smartphones. What more could you ask for?

Such a cute boy!

Such a cute boy!

 

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Summer 2016

July 6, 2016

The first two programs I dropped were not even on my season preview list.

D.Gray-man: Boy who hunts soul-sucking demons teams up with sister of soul sucked brother. This is a 2016 continuation of a 2006 anime. The current release starts at Episode 104, but Funimation has posted everything, starting from Episode 1, which is what I watched. Too dark (as in, no light in any of the scenes). Too cartoony (as in, everybody is overacting, even by anime standards). Too much 2006 style art (as in, c’mon, it was made in 2006!). Bottom line: I don’t plan on watching a 103-episode prequel.

Would I lie to a policeman?

Would I lie to a policeman?

Berserk: Another resurrection of an earlier era (2008), only this one doesn’t have any prequels available. Demon-haunted man with a big sword and a tiny tattoo fights skeletal demons in a dark forest. Too dark (as in, no light in any of the scenes). Too cartoony (as in, it looks like it was drawn by US comic book artists). Too much CGI (as in, c’mon, it was made in CGI!). OK, too much bad CGI.

And the skeletons move like stop action from a '60's Voyage of Sinbad

And the skeletons move like stop action from a ’60’s Voyage of Sinbad

Re:Re:Re: Only one of the next three was on the list, but that’s OK, ’cause I only dropped two.

ReWrite: Double length into to a VN adaptation because they had to introduce all the girls who are going to fall in love with Our Hero. As usual in these things, the girls are more interesting than Our Hero, but the art style is from the early naughties VN genre and the magical hijinks that are meant to be ominous are silly instead. As in, magical witch girl secretly enters Our Hero’s room at night, slides up under the covers with him, and bites him … on the arm. She also stabs him with her ribbons.

I will so report you to the teacher!

I will drop you from the Konohana Lucia path and force you into the Bad Ending

ReLife: NEET takes a pill that makes him look young again. Re-enrolls in high school, and immediately forgets how to behave. The only saving feature is that the representative from the company that talked him into taking the pill (as an experiment), looks like Koizumi Itsuki from Haruhi Suzumiya, so it’s nice to see that he got an interesting job after college (probably still working for the Organization). I tried reading the manga, and dropped that too.

My Organization wants you to take this pill

My Organization wants you to take this pill

ReZero: This started in the Spring season, but it’s a two-cour, so it still counts. NEET gets transported to a fantasy world in the first of a double episode (1A, 1B) opener. Keeps getting killed and respawning back where he first appeared, but it takes him a while to figure it out. In fact, at the end of 1B he still hasn’t. Since the respawn point is at the same time as well as the same place, it’s like a time loop anime as well. So everything he does based on prior knowledge means the future is different from that point on. Impresses the girl, gets killed; misses meeting the girl, gets killed; catches up to the girl, she doesn’t know who he is.

Three minutes in and already he's adapted

Three minutes in and already he’s adapted

 

This is the only one I’m continuing to watch.

 

Anime Postview: Spring 2016

July 3, 2016

This is not a real review of the Spring anime season. Instead, it’s a look at how well I did in my Anime Preview.

Of the ones that I said WILL WATCH, I’m two for four.

Screenwriter Okada Mari said that “It’s a show that should give rise to the reaction What the hell is this!?”, and it does. Lots of folks didn’t like it (and some do), but lots of folks don’t have the patience for a show where half the fun is in the way this totally incompatible group starts off discussing a plan, and then spin off half a dozen conversations with no relevance to the plan, or anything else. If you’ve ever been in a business meeting, you know what I mean. BTW, mayoi is the same word that Monogatari uses for Hachkuji Mayoi — the lost snail.

2. Mayoiga The Boys on the Bus, headed for the Hotel California Directed by Mizushima

2. Mayoiga
The Boys on the Bus
 Headed for the Hotel California
Directed by Tsutomu Mizushima

My candidate for best show of the season, and possibly the year, is a feel-good, slice of life anime. No conflict. No drama. No plot. You just find yourself smiling at the end of each episode. It’s based on a slow-output manga, and they used up perhaps two-thirds of the existing source, so it will be a couple of years before a sequel. That’s OK. I’ll wait.  

4. Flying Witch But it’s so much more comfortable to take the bus (Have you ever tried sitting on a broomstick for four hours?)

4. Flying Witch
Have you ever tried sitting on a broomstick for four hours? I’ll take the bus

The other two in this category were on feeds that I don’t get, so they don’t really count, right?

In the MIGHT WATCH category, I’m one for four.

Bakuon was not strong enough to maintain my interest, Kumo Miko died even earlier, and Kiznaiver was just bad. The only one I finished was the non-harem (he’s already got the girl) gamers in highschool. He should have known they were females from the beginning, when they all stood around gossiping while he was being pounded into thin paste by a monster.

4. Negote no Yome... Magical girl goes to high school, decides to start her own SOS club

4. Negote no Yome…
Highschool boy finds that all the guys in his MMORPG are girls, and they go to his school!

Of the shows that I said that I WON’T WATCH, I didn’t, and I’m glad. So I’m four for four there.

Meanwhile, there was one show that that I didn’t list that I DID WATCH and I’m happy I did.

Steampunk. Zombies. On a train. With old fashioned samurai. What’s not to like? This one turned up on my Amazon Prime list. Good thing it was subtitled, or I wouldn’t have watched it.

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress

So, I guess you could be conservative and say I’m three for seven. Interestingly, all of them except Kabaneri are on Crunchyroll.

TL:DR — Anime I never finished (and don’t intend to), Spring 2016

April 19, 2016

So here’s my first cut at cuts. One or two eps was all it took for these to drop off the radar.

Anne-Happy: Three girls try to find happiness in a class full of losers. Too much ‘cute girls doing cute things’. What the British would call twee.

None cuter, and we know it

None cuter, and we know it

Twin Star Exorcist: A pair of high-powered 14-year old exorcists get told they need to start making babies to save the world. He’s a whiner. She’s inept. Chief exorcist is a con-man. Strange mix of well done backgrounds and secondary actors, combined with cartoony main characters.

More like grade-schoolers

More like grade-schoolers, really

Pan de Peace: As I thought. Cute girls doing cute things… with bread … manages to be boring, even when limited to three minutes.

There's another three minutes of this

There’s another three minutes of this

High School Fleet: GaruPan meets KanColle. High school girls operate automated warships, get involved in some sort of high level government plot. Alternates between too many shrieking adolescents on the bridge, and not enough really good CGI warship shots. I continue to watch, but I fast forward through the dialogue.

The fleet sorties!

The fleet sorties!

Anime Postview, Winter 2016

April 17, 2016

This is not a review of the Winter anime season, quite. Instead, it’s a look at how well my preview of the Winter season worked out. TL:DR is that I scored 3 out of 4 on all three areas, sortof. Here they are, under their original headings:

WILL WATCH: Shows I planned to watch, based on the cover art alone. I got three out of four right. Gate, Dagashi Kashi, and Phantom World were all good, or at least watchable. Haruchika, not so much.

MIGHT WATCH: Shows I thought might be worth watching. Three out of four again, except that I dropped the ball on two of them. The ten-episode Wonderful World was watchable, in much the same way that Phantom World was — they were both well executed examples of standard anime fare. Erased and Rakugo were widely praised, and I really liked the first episode of each, but I just never was in the mood for watching the rest.

WON’T WATCH: Shows with off-putting cover art or storylines. Yet another three out of four. Of course, it’s hard to say that I made the right choice in not watching something if I didn’t watch it and so can’t tell if I shouldn’t have watched it or not. Number four was Oshiete, Galko-chan, and I did watch it and it was funnier than it had any right to be, given the fact that it was built around girls talking about stuff that embarrasses guys.

ALSO WATCHED: There were a few shows that didn’t fit on my Winter preview that I ended up watching anyway. I guess I’m also three for four on these.

Aokana, the high school flying circus, I will discuss elsewhere. Good, solid anime, with some fun flying scenes. Recommended.

Tabimachi Late Show was a four-episode, seven-minute, minimalist series. As one commenter said, he’d seen manga that had better animation. To me, it looked like they just used the key frames, with no in-betweening, but that’s because I’ve been watching too much Shirobako. In any event, they were four unrelated stories that were by turns some combination of sweet, spooky, and enigmatic. Recommended. Episode 3 highly so.

She and Her Cat, as told by the cat. Another four episode, seven-minute series, but with much better animation and an actual story line. Bittersweet ending (watch through the end credits). Recommended.

Ojisan and Marshmallow was yet another short, about a fat, middle-aged guy who likes marshmallows, and a cute girl who likes him. As bad as it sounds. Why did I watch it? I don’t know. The harder question is, why did I admit to watching it? I don’t know. Stop asking questions. Go away. Go make some s’mores.

Yokohama Shopping Trip

March 31, 2016

From 1994 to 2006, Hitoshi Ashinano wrote 140 chapters of a manga titled Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō, or Yokohama Shopping Journal, known in the West as Yokohama Shopping Trip. It’s set in a Japan of the far future, when sea levels have risen to cover most of today’s cities and humanity has declined to a tiny remnant, quietly living amidst the ruins.

The water's gotten higher since last time

The water’s gotten higher since last time

Strange creatures have appeared — fungi with human faces; flying fish adapted to life out of the water; the Mikago, a human-female-seeming creature that lives in the coastal forest and appears only to children, and the Taapon, a never-landing stratospheric flyer. In addition, there are robots, what would have been called androids, before Star Wars perverted the label. They are constructed humanoids. Indistinguishable from humans, they eat and sleep and excrete and are immortal. Yokohama Shopping Trip is this new world as seen by one of the early model robots, named Alpha.

Alpha's world

Alpha’s world

The story is best described as a post-apocalyptic  slice-of-life. The pace is calm, slow, lethargic, even glacial. A whole chapter might be dedicated to making a cup of coffee, or driving to the seashore to watch the street lights light up along a highway that is now under water. Alpha runs a coffee shop out at the end of a disused road through an abandoned countryside.

At the end of a disused road.

At the end of a disused road.

Every now and then there’s a visitor. Every now and then she hops on her scooter, and drives into what’s left of Yokohama (the hillside suburbs, mostly), to buy more coffee beans.

Yokohama Shopping Tower

Yokohama Shopping Tower

Her friends include a couple of other robots, an old man who runs a nearby gas station, and his grandchildren. There’s no drama to speak of.

At one point, she decides to see more of the world, and spends a year walking around central Japan, rarely getting out of sight of Mt. Fuji. In the end, she returns to Café Alpha.

Café Alpha

Café Alpha

Wikipedia says there were two OVA series, released under the title Quiet Country Café. The disc labelling is obscure, and even the sellers are a little confused about what they have. I have an all region copy of the second OVA, with English subtitles (ISBN ending 5045). The copy I have is a single disc, two parts, each of four x eight-minute segments. That’s 64 minutes total, or about three regular anime episodes. I also have a Region 2 copy of Part 2 of that OVA, Japanese, no subtitles (ISBN ending 003997). Finally, I have a Region 2 copy of the first OVA, Japanese, no subtitles (ISBN ending 704054), also about 60 minutes. So I have one more disc than I need, and one of the discs I do need for a full set is Japanese only. Fortunately, it tracks the manga very closely, and so I can get the gist from there.

The sources selling them are not always clear if they are selling the Region 1 version, with English subtitles, or Region 2, with no subtitles, so be careful.

The anime is just as slow as the manga, and even more enigmatic. There’s no overlap between the two OVA’s, and because of the slice of life format there’s not much continuity within them. If you haven’t read the manga, you will miss out on half the references. Minor characters from the manga (Taapon, Misago, the pilot) make cameo appearances, seemingly for the sole purpose of satisfying the fans.

The Taapon gets a cameo

The Taapon gets a cameo flyby

Other elements are touched on, but not developed (in the second OVA, we don’t find out that Alpha is a robot until the second half, her friendship with Kokone is never expanded), or ignored (Who/where is her “owner”? What does ownership mean under these circumstances?).

The artwork gets a B. It looks like watercolor on textured paper. The colors are muted. The depth/distance effects are often based on multiple layers, like an elementary school paper art project. It would make a nice wallpaper, but it doesn’t make the countryside a character, the way Non Non Biyori does.

The music is mostly acoustic guitar

The music is mostly acoustic guitar

It’s been compared to Aria as a feel good anime, but I think it’s closer to Non Non Biyori. It’s very quiet, very rural, and, to the extent that there are characters, character-based.

Friends

Quiet friends

Shirobako, the Blu-Ray

February 21, 2016

Sentai Filmworks has released Season 1 of Shirobako on blu-ray and DVD. I am a big fan of the series (I’ve watched it four or five times now on Crunchyroll) so of course I pre-ordered it, and just now finished my sixth runthrough. It’s interesting to see the Sentai translations compared to Crunchyroll’s. At the start of Episode 1, for example, Taoru* describes the first episode of Exodus, the anime-within-an-anime as being a purification for the director, while the Sentai translation says it’s a clean slate. The reference being to the director’s previous disaster with an anime titled Jiggly Heaven, and the actual word, I suspect, having some sort of Buddhist association. On the other hand, Sentai translates  one character’s pronunciation of our protagonna’s name, Myamori, as Meow-mori, which it definitely is not (besides, in Japan, cats say nyan, not meow). Once nice addition is that Sentai provides translator’s notes, explaining some of the in-jokes (and there are many).

The story is, of course, great. It’s about adults, solving adult problems. It’s a primer on how anime is made. It’s directed by my favorite director, Tsutomu Mizushima (of Girls und Panzer fame). So what’s not to like? Well, the story is great, but the delivery leaves something to be desired.

First of all, it’s subtitled only. I don’t mind, but my wife (and other acquaintances who are not so much into anime) much prefer dubbed. Second, surprisingly, the video quality is not as good as the Chrunchyroll SD transmission. I paused both on my home television, and switched back and forth. The Blu-ray is noticeably fuzzier than the streamed version. It’s not so bad as to be unwatchable — in fact, it only detracts if you’ve seen the streamed version — but it really is inexcusable, particularly for a product that costs $60 for a one-disk program. Unfortunately, we are at the mercy of the marketing companies, and the only alternative is to not own a copy.

Season 2 is scheduled for release in May, 2016, and I’m going to pre-order that as well.

*Unlike many first names in this series (Aoi means Blue, for example), I can’t find a meaning for Taoru, but Taoru-san is how restaurateurs refer to cockroaches when the customers are listening.

TL:DR — The Muv-Luvs

January 15, 2016

Once upon a time, almost fifteen years ago, there was an adult visual novel called Muv-Luv (マブラヴ, although in one place it’s reported as 真愛, or True Love)* Originally, it came out in three vaguely related parts. Muv-Luv Extra is a straight highschool harem VN. Muv-Luv Unlimited has the protagonist wake up in an alternate world where Earth has been invaded by aliens. Muv-Luv Alternative is Muv-Luv Unlimited with the protagonist sent back in time to save the Earth. Got that? Good. Now ignore it.

We're the girls who play high-school sports

We’re the girls who play high-school sports

We're the girls who fight

We’re the girls who fight

The franchise spun off a bunch of manga, which inspired a couple of anime — Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse, and this year’s prequel, Muv-Luv Schwarzes Marken (Black Mark, as in blotted your copybook). I started watching M-L:TE because I read the description of M-L:SM which said it was set in the GDR in 1983, and that sounded interesting. Boy, was I wrong.

We're the girls who defend the Earth

We’re the girls who defend Asia

We're the girls who defend the GDR

We’re the girls who defend the GDR

Both are straightforward mecha vs alien anime. In both, the aliens — that look like mecha/monster hybrids — cover the earth from horizon to horizon and are pretty much immune to all weapons except those on the mechas.

<rant>And why doesn’t anyone think to retrofit existing systems with mecha-grade weapons? If armor works on a mecha, it can be bolted onto a tank. And if a mecha can carry a blast-o-matic beam rifle, why can’t one or two of those be stuck on a tank? Or a fighter jet? And another thing. Why aren’t we just using nukes on the screaming hordes of godless aliens? It’s not like there’s anything left once they’ve overrun a patch of ground. And it’s not just these shows. Most mecha combat anime have the same problems.</rant>

The big difference between the two anime here is that M-L:TE is trying to be a romance between the Japanese protagonna, and the Japanese-American assigned to her unit, while M-L:SM is a mystery about a girl who looks like someone’s little sister. Oh, yeah, the Stasi are every bit as much a threat to our protags as the aliens are. In any event, there’s lots of shouting and angst and going off the deep end half cocked. It confirmed why I don’t like these shows.

I watched through seven eps of M-L:TE while waiting, and then one of M-L:SM, when suddenly I realized that I needed to prep for my colonoscopy.
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*The name is a little confusing. マブラヴ transliterates as maburavu, which could be mab love, whatever mab is. 真愛 translates as true love, which is pronounced ma ai. I should note that the original author is notoriously bad at English.

Wakakozake Season 2, The Live Action Drama

January 12, 2016

I loved Wakakozake, the anime short about an office lady and her after-office love affair with food and drink. Two minutes was just the right amount of time to introduce us to the context, the food and drink, and the pshhhhuu!

Season 1

Season 1

In “Season 2” it’s now ten times as long, and it’s live action.* How do they fill the extra minutes? Well, they do two cafe visits instead of one, they show the details of how the food is made, and they are visiting actual cafes, ones that a tourist could hope to find. Outside the food arena, they felt they needed to bump up the “drama” aspects, so we see more of Wakako’s travails at work, and some chef/apprentice interactions, as well as some footage of her walking to wherever she’s going.

Season 2

Season 2

It’s…not bad…but I don’t think I’d continue to watch it if I hadn’t seen Season 1 first. The premise really isn’t strong enough to hold up a 20min show, and pshhhhuu! doesn’t work as well when it’s a real person saying it. On the other hand, one can learn about Japanese cafe etiquette, and there’s some nice short cooking hints on how to dismember a mackerel and respectfully hash a daikon, and who doesn’t need to be reminded how to do that now and then?
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*The manga came first, in 2011. Then Season 1 of the live drama, in January, 2015. The anime ran starting in July of 2015, so the two are essentially separate.

Anime for the new year: Get in the robot, Shinji!!

January 1, 2016

NGE-EVA01_in_TokyoThe Fall and Winter anime seasons that we are transitioning between right now mark the 20th anniversary of the TV debut of Neon Genesis Evangelion. Our Internet was out over the Christmas break — snow broke the DSL phone line* — so I hauled out the DVDs and did a marathon rewatch. Actually, it was mostly an original watch. I had viewed the first few episodes some years ago, but dropped it because of excessive angst. I also watched the first of the theatrical reboots, Evangelion II.5, You Can(Not) Be Serious, and didn’t bother to buy the second one. Now I am older, with more intestinal fortitude. Also, the snow is hip deep on a tall giraffe, and there’s nothing else to do. Well, cable is still working, so I guess I could have watched the Harry Potter Möbius reruns. But I didn’t.

The 1995 ** series is important in the history of anime because it changed the way we looked at giant robots, red-headed tsuntsuns, and damaged girls with blue hair. There’s been a whole generation of comment between then and now, and there’s nothing new I can add. So I will content myself with recording my impressions.

Just a flesh wound. I've had worse.

Just a flesh wound. I’ve had worse.

Starting with characters, we learn in the first five minutes of Episode 1 that Shinji is an insecure whiner with daddy issues. And after ten hours of alternating robot fights and whining, we get two episodes of pop-psychology designed to drive home the fact that Shinji is an insecure whiner with daddy issues. To top it off, the final four episodes show us that it’s not just him. Evidently, a job skills requirement to work at NERV, particularly as an EVA-insert is that you have parental abandonment issues and deep feelings of insecurity. None of the people involved could have passed the clearance requirements to be groundskeepers at NSA.

From a visual standpoint, even after twenty years, the series holds up surprisingly well. The future technology (2015!) still looks OK** and the robot fights were good (while Gainax had the budget to produce them). The artwork gets a B by today’s standards, which is pretty good for a series that’s older than most people watching it. The animation budget obviously ran out towards the end, and we were presented with minute after minute of stills-with-voiceovers. In one scene, in Episode 22, they evidently ran out of money even for seiyus, so Asuka and Rei stood ignoring each other in an elevator, silent and unmoving in a single still frame, for a timed 51 seconds — an eternity in a 25 minute anime.

I don't know, what do you want to talk about?

I don’t know, what do you want to talk about?

The ending was disappointing. Yeah, Shinji saves the world by grabbing the boy he loves in his EVA-fist and thumb-popping his head off like it was a matchstick, but that was episode 24, and we had two more that were presumably intended to be about the triumphal Human Instrumentality Project and the Third Impact, but instead sputtered out in a pop-psych post-amble. Not only did HIP-3i not happen in the anime, it didn’t happen in real life, either.

NGE should be required watching for anyone who complains about Western films and books appropriating other countries’ culture and symbology. The whole pseudo-mystical reasoning behind the existence of the Angels and the EVAs and the NERV organization and the Human Instrumentality Project is one giant raid that runs through Western religious tropes, looting and pillaging. From the Prophecies of the Dead Sea Scrolls to the Martini Fork of Longinius, director Anno picked whatever sounded good to him and stuck it in. Not that I’m complaining, mind you — sauce for the goose, and all — it’s more feeling embarrassed for him. I guess that’s much the way members of non-Western cultures feel when watching a Swedish actor playing a Chinese detective in a film story by an American from Ohio, or watching the fake kung fu in old David Carradine TV reruns, or listening to Yoda’s fake Asian sentence structure. To top it all off, the sound track is all Western classical music, mostly Beethoven.

To Conclude: I enjoyed the robot fights. I suffered through the mysticism. I gritted my teeth through the angst. But the part that made me smile was five minutes of the last episode, the ones that showed Shinji what an alternative world could be like, with childhood friend Asuka, new transfer student Rei, and sensei Misato. I’d watch a full season of that any day.

Late on the first day of class!

Late on the first day of class!

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*Obviously, it is working again, but it went out on Christmas Eve morning, and the phone company doesn’t work on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Saturday, or Sunday.

** Also the year that the anime movies Whisper of the Heart and Ghost in the Shell came out.

***Except for the mobile phones and the cassette tapes

Twelve Days of Anime 5: Revisiting Haruhi

December 18, 2015

The Suzumiya Haruhi franchise is now 12 years old, and Haruhi herself is approaching 30: an early Millennial, soon to be middle-aged. It’s one of my favorite anime, and I thought I’d revisit it as part of my 12 Days essays.

Kyon, Haruhi, Time Traveler, ESPer , Alien

Kyon, Haruhi, Time Traveler, ESPer , Alien

For those of my reader born this Century, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is a 2006 two-season TV anime plus movie, based on a series of ten light novels that started publishing in 2003. Haruhi is a high school girl only interested in the exotic — aliens, ESPers, time travelers and the like. She starts a club to search for these, roping in our POV character, Kyon (his nickname, which is the name of a miniature Japanese deer), as well as … an alien, a time traveler, and an ESPer. It turns out that Haruhi is some sort of goddess unknowing, whose merest whims can turn pigeons white, cause cherry trees to blossom in January, freeze time, and threaten to destroy and rebuild the universe; or call forth aliens, ESPers, and time travelers to play with. The first half of the first season is spent learning these things. The next season-and-a-half, plus movie, is spent with the members of the club frantically trying to head off her whims and keep her distracted.

The start of the second season was interesting, because KyoAni Studio tried something different: they reran the episode about the world being caught in an endless time loop eight times in a row — the infamous Endless Eight. They didn’t skimp on the work, however, because they animated eight different episodes around the same, or nearly the same, script. It was a bold artistic experiment, that didn’t work. Most fans hated it, and ragequit both the franchise and the studio forever. Or at least until Hibiki! Euphonium came out. The reason for the time loop, BTW, was that Haruhi was having so much fun with her friends that she didn’t want Summer to end. They could have called it Endless Summer, but I think that one was already taken. It took another three years before KyoAni was ready to reboot the franchise with the movie Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya.

Time Loop 15,876

Time Loop 15,524

Time Loop 14,782

Time Loop 15,498

Now, about Suzumiya herself. Dangerous as it is to apply Western demographic labels to the Japanese, it looks like the Millenial label — in several of its different interpretations — might fit her quite well. According to Wikipedia, two conflicting descriptions of Millenials is that they are both civic-minded and narcissistic. I think this fits Haruhi exactly.

She is as self-centered as a gyroscope, interested in things that interest her, and totally oblivious to the rest. In the making of the student movie The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina, when Asahina’s Mikuru Beam slices a lightboard in half, she gets irritated with the film club (who she stole it from) for buying such cheap stuff. Later, when the beam chops down a chain link fence, she just assumes it was badly maintained. On the civic-minded front, aside from a personal desire to meet time travelers and aliens, etc, her life goal (as we learn in the later LNs) is to become a philanthropist and make lots of money so she can give it away.

Her oblivious enthusiasm was fun at the beginning, but got old after a while, and the series was right to center on the activities of the other members of the SOS Brigade as they worked to keep her both happy and in the dark. What saves the anime from becoming boring are the soliloquies of Kyon, the self-deprecating POV character and the only normal person in the group. In fact, the whole series should have been called The Melancholy of Kyon Haruhi’s-Helper.  Kyon isn’t particularly attracted to Haruhi, he’s more interested in Mikuru’s chest, and Yuki’s intellect. He’s there probably because goddess Haruhi wants him there, and she isn’t sure herself why that is (or why she gets irritated whenever he spends time with one of the other girls).

Kyon under observation

Kyon under observation

On the one hand, it’s unfortunate that the franchise hasn’t revived, because there’s at least one more season’s worth of material in the light novels. On the other hand, it’s not all that unfortunate that the franchise hasn’t revived, because the material in the light novels isn’t that strong. It involves an anti-Haruhi storyline, where alternative versions of all our characters appear to contest the validity of Haruhi as mediator of the universe. The story arcs are interesting, but the ending is unsatisfactory.

The animation was done with KyoAni’s usual insane attention to detail. One blogger has pointed out that items, like the Tanabata bamboo, were included (unremarked) in the background of Season 1, because they’d be important in Season 2, if there was one.

Checkov's Bamboo

Checkov’s Bamboo

All in all, I consider The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya to be a minor masterpiece, and I’m glad to have a chance to write about it again.

Twelve Days of Anime 4: TL:DR, Anime I never finished, 12 Days Edition

December 17, 2015

Most of my TL:DR’s are about anime that couldn’t pass the three episodes rule, ones that were bad enough that I didn’t want to watch a full season. What I’m writing about here are those anime that were enjoyable enough to watch the first season of, or the first cours, but not engaging enough to be worth watching the rest. Sometimes these are streaming anime, other times they are DVD’s that I bought but couldn’t be bothered to put in the second disc. All (well, most) are kirai jianai — I don’t dislike.

 

Twelve Kingdoms: A collection of stories. The first, and longest, is about a young girl who is kidnapped from the coast of Japan and ends up, not in North Korea, but in a different world. She has an extended series of tribulations, which she barely manages to survive (all the while crying the Japanese equivalent of Auntie Em! Auntie Em! There’s no place like home!). She is befriended by a large rat, who helps her be reunited with her kidnapper. Said kidnapper turns out to be a Kirin (Chinese dragon/giraffe hybrid that looks like a unicorn here), who has decided she should be the Immortal Queen of one of the Twelve Kingdoms.

It was a nice enough series, but it falls into what I call the costumed-period-fantasy category, and those have a hard time holding my interest. I stopped watching at the end of the first season/DVD.

Got to Episode 13 of 45

Got to Episode 13 of 45

 

Polar Bear Cafe: Slice of life about a slacker panda who hangs out with a love-struck penguin in a nice little Applebee’s-like cafe run by a polar bear. Gilligan does Friends. It’s very cute, and I enjoyed every episode, and I didn’t drop it so much as wandered off. It’s still in my Crunchyroll queue, but I haven’t touched it for months.

Episode 28 of 40

Episode 28 of 40

xxx-Holic: Spirit-bepestered student works for a witchy-woman. Slice of life/spirit of the week. No over-arching plot, so no reason to tune in next week, but unlike say, Non Non Biyori, most of the individual episodes are not strong enough to stand on their own. It does have its moments, like Episode 5’s description of Shiritori as a game you play to keep the monsters away. Like Polar Bear, it’s a wandered-away-from.

Episode 10 of 24

Episode 10 of 24

Sword Art On-Line: Trapped in a MMORPG. The art work was good, and the fights were interesting, but I had the same problem a lot of others did: the hero was too heroic. That is, the hero could never lose, except emotionally. I got surprisingly far into this one but didn’t bother to finish it.

Episode 16 of 24

Episode 16 of 24

Log Horizon: Trapped in a MMORPG. Better characters, better plot, more gaming-related lore. Still, it couldn’t overcome it’s costumed-period-fantasy core. I watched the first season, and bought the DVD, but didn’t bother with the second.

Episode 13 of 24

Episode 13 of 24

A Certain Scientific Railgun: Extra-special-talent girl at a school for special-talent students. Can accelerate metallic objects using her electric personality. Not exactly slice of life. Not exactly danger-of-the-week. Not exactly strong on plot. Did I mention that her little sister has a totally unhealthy obsession with? Kindof fun, but a little went a long ways, and I didn’t bother to follow up on the second half. I must say it’s a better series than A Certain Index — that one is awaiting a true TL:DR.

Episode 12 of 24

Episode 12 of 24

I bought the DVD, but that was more to show support for the industry than any desire to have a family treasure to mention in my will.

Twelve Days of Anime 2: Rewatching Maoyu Mao Yusha.

December 15, 2015

Maoyū Maō Yūsha (Demon King and Hero) is a single cours 2013 anime based on a light novel series. I first watched it when it streamed on Crunchyroll, bought a cheap Malaysian ripoff when it looked like it wouldn’t get a US release, and just now got the official version off of Amazon. That, of course, required a rewatch. Like many anime, it doesn’t fare quite as well the second time around, but “not quite as well” doesn’t mean “not good”.

Demon Queen is hornier than she looks

Demon Queen is hornier than she looks

Wrong sword, Hero

Wrong sword, Hero

The story is simple: Demon Queen convinces human Hero to join her in a quest to end the interminable demon-human wars. They do so by bringing modern agriculture, education, and technology (all supplied by the Demon Queen, who is really a Scholar) to the humans, thus breaking down the economic reasons for continuing the war. Subplots include the Queen/Hero romance, the unrequited love of the Lady Knight, and the education and liberation of Big Sister Maid. Note that no-one has names, just job titles. Fortunately, the cast of characters is small, otherwise we’d be having to sort out who Head Maid of Another Minor Noble of Southern Mountain Country is.

The Queen is enamoured of the Hero, based, as far as I can tell, on magical images in her demon scrolls. Unfortunately, he spends most of his time away, troubleshooting, and is as nervous as a teen-ager when in her buxom presence. The Lady Knight (voiced by the incomparable Sawashiro Miyuki) is an old companion of the Hero. When he left her on his mission to kill the Demon King she was so distraught that she entered a nunnery. The Big Sister Maid was a serf who fled her abusive master, was hired by Head Maid, trained and educated, and who (disguised as the Crimson Scholar, which is the disguise the Demon Queen uses in human lands) gives an impassioned Rights of Man speech after being arrested by the Church for heresy. Is everything clear now? Good.

Head Maid can do everything from cleaning silver to leading armies

Head Maid can do everything from cleaning silver to leading armies

but Big Sis Maid can inspire revolutions

but Big Sis Maid can inspire revolutions

Why I like it: I’m a sucker for a good romance. I like anime that makes you think. I like the characters.

What’s wrong with it: It’s punching far above its weight, trying to fit two or three seasons worth of ideas into a single season anime, and trying to do it with a half-season budget. The animation was so-so at the beginning, and went downhill from there.

The Triune Mage

The Triune Mage

One result was that there was little time to devote to secondary characters. Female Magician, for example, appears to be three separate personalities, who devoted years to storing up spells to help Hero in his hour of need, but we never learn how her personalities work or why she stored the spells. Likewise, none of the demons gets much more than a walk-on part. The South Arctic General (a giant walrus), for example, takes half an episode to die of excessive speed-lined stills. The Princess Fire Dragon gets a few cameo appearances, and that’s it.

Pretty Dragon Princess

Pretty Dragon Princess

Finally, the ending was rushed. How rushed? Think of a history of WWII that starts out with a detailed discussion of the reasons for the war, a good discussion of the invasion of France and the Battle of Britain, and ends with the line: Then the allies prepared to invade Normandy and occupy Berlin, after which, they would drop a couple of bombs on Japan. None of the major plot lines, either personal or geopolitical, was resolved.

Maoyū is often compared to Spice and Wolf, with S&W being microeconomics, and MMY macroeconomics. If they’d had three times the budget, and better writers, they might have pulled it off. Arms, the production company, had done good work before (Genshiken), but I guess they were saving their budget for their masterpiece pair, Samurai Girls/Samurai Bride, and looking forward to this year’s Valkyrie Drive.

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*The Japanese title (まおゆう魔王勇者) is a little confusing. As far as I can tell from the online dictionaries:

まおう = demon king
魔王 = demon king
勇者 = brave person = hero

So it’s demon king demon king hero? Like duck, duck, goose? There’s a lot I don’t know about Japanese.

Anime worth watching, Summer 2015

October 21, 2015

The Summer crop of anime was particularly good. Of course, there are always the ones that just don’t hold my interest, or that never piqued it in the first place. Some I watched because they were on on nights that nothing was on. Programs like Monster MusumeActually, I am a Vampire, and Wagnaria all held my interest, but only enough to watch to the end. Not enough to rewatch, or recommend. What was good, by my standards?

Gate: A Connecticut Akihabara Yankee Otaku in King Arthur’s Emperor Augustus’ Court. Medieval fantasy world invades Japan through an interdimensional gate (NFI). JSDF strikes back. This could have been a modern-military-overruns-peasants snoozefest, but instead it concentrates on the adventures of an otaku recon team leader (it’s not an otaku recon team, he’s an otaku who leads a recon team, which isn’t otaku, except for maybe one, or something) as he deals with the elvenmaids, catgirls, and combat bunnygirls of the fantasy world. There’s an interesting fight between a flight of F-4’s and a dragon.

JSDF cultural exchange program

JSDF cultural exchange program

Non Non Biyori, Repeat: Does it again. In an interesting twist, this isn’t a “sequel”, nor is it a “prequel”, it’s a “parallelquel”. The original NNB took place across one school year — city girl comes to a one-room schoolhouse in the country, learns that things are different there. NNB-R takes place across the same school year, but covers different events. Think of it as the original covering the even-numbered days and NNB-R covering the odd-numbered days. In any event, it’s a simple, believable, charming slice of life program that’s even better than the original. The Japanese countryside is a major character all by itself.

Lost in the landscape

Lost in the landscape

School-Live: Stay’in alive. Not sure how long one is supposed to protect the key suspense element on a show like this. Suffice to say, it’s a combination of slice of life and horror, with a nice balance between the two and a well done ending. Come for the cute girls doing cute things at school. Stay for the cute girls doing what they need to do to stay alive. If you are new to the program, don’t read anything else on it. Go watch Episode 1 now. I’ll wait.

Looking for a lost dog

Looking for a lost dog

Overlord: Trapped in an RPG. Another take on a minor sub-genre. MMORPG is shutting down, and the nostalgic guild leader hangs around until the clock counts down to zero — and then starts counting up again. Unlike Log Horizon (where everyone is trapped and they spend a certain amount of time wondering how to get home), or Is it Wrong to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon (where it’s not really an RPG, it just acts like one, and adventurer is just a job description), the protagonist in Overlord is the only PC in a new world of newly-alive NPCs. Once he figures this out, he shrugs his bony shoulders and decides to keep playing.

My NPCs are now alive, time to conquer the world

My NPCs are now alive, time to conquer the world

Wakakozake: Another food short. Office Lady stops at various Japanese fast food places to try their combinations of food and drink. At three minutes, it covers just enough information to be interesting. Unlike, say, this season’s short, JK Meshi, which discusses food in the last 45seconds.

Potato salad and Oolong tea with saki, only 500 yen!

Potato salad and Oolong tea with saki, only 500 yen!

It is voiced by Sawashiro Miyuki, sounding like a real OL, and nothing like her usual sultry anime persona.

The Princess and the Pilot

October 9, 2015

In the Winter of 2014 there was an anime series titled The Pilot’s Love Song, which featured a romance between a commoner pilot and the daughter of a lordly house. That was embedded in a plot best described as “society puts all it’s useless aristocracy on the Golgafrincham B-Ark and sends them to find the other side of the sky.” There were some good flying scenes at the start, but they grew fewer as the ‘plot’ progressed. Many people compared it, unfavorably, to a 2011 anime movie The Princess and the Pilot. I just watched TP2, and I agree.

Surprisingly, TP2 is set in the same universe as TPLS. It’s a better show, overall, but it still demonstrates many of the flaws of the series.

There’s a war on between two countries, let’s call them A and L. Country L evidently doesn’t have enough good pilots, so they hire mercenaries, one of whom is an A/L half breed, called a bastid or some such. He, of course, is the best pilot in the sky, but is hated by all the L-sians. Nonetheless, he’s the one chosen to haul their princess from the island she’s on, surrounded by A-ish forces, to rendezvous with the L-sian flying fleet, or what’s left of it, so she can marry The Prince.

The Boulton-Paul SantaCruz

The Boulton-Paul SantaCruz

The story deals with their three day flight in a seaplane/recon fighter that has to stop every evening to refuel with water. The Prince of L-sia is evidently just as bright as the rest of the aristos, and sends a telegram to her in a breakable code, giving her itinerary. Think Yamamoto shoot-down — for a while I wondered if it was deliberate. Naturally, the entire A-ish flying fleet is out after them. They almost get shot down several times, and do get damaged badly enough that they have to hide out on an island for an idyllic several days while they fix the plane, and install a new cockpit canopy (he carries a spare). She becomes enamoured of him (as castaways on desert islands are wont to do, and the whiskey might have helped), but he’s a true gentleman, and politely rebuffs her, maintaining his stoic acceptance of the status quo.

Not a flight of Kyushu J7W1 Shinden

Not a flight of Kyushu J7W1 Shinden

The airplanes are cool, mostly. The seaplane/recon fighter has fully retractable floats and an overdrive function that won’t quit. It also has stowage in the back for an 8-man raft, a full first aid kit, and seven suitcases, plus stowage in the front for various spare parts, like cockpit canopies. One wonders where the fuel goes. While we’re on design flaws, it’s a little disconcerting to see that their recon bird doesn’t have any forward firing weapons, but it does have a rear seat with a rear seat gunner, reminiscent of a Boulton Paul Defiant. The enemy fighters all look like the Sanka Mk.B from Sky Crawlers.

The flying scenes are great, but the actual flying is terrible. The A-ish fleet does an open ocean search by flying in close formation with wandering searchlights, like they were the Goodyear blimp at a football halftime, rather than spreading out in a line. Even Admiral Nelson could have run a better air war. All of the encounters take place in broken clouds, but The Pilot doesn’t think to just jump into a cloud and stay there — he’s always on top of the cloud, where it’s easy to see him. He also doesn’t even consider the possibility of flying at night.

Do you think they're looking for something?

Look sharp! The Sea Gals are about to take the field!!

The A-ish fleet has some sort of homing missile, probably a heat seeker, but they seem to be barely faster than the seaplane, and the L-sians haven’t invented flares. The A-ish fighters have radios, but don’t seem to coordinate their attacks very well — The Pilot gets down on the deck and they line up to take turns missing him. In the final combat, the A-ish fighter gets on his tail and drives up to within pistol shot, so The Princess sprays him with the tail gun. Her sustained burst, pointed right at his aiming reticle, manages to saw off the outer two feet of one wing. She’d have done better by pulling the pintle off the tailgun mount and letting the whole rig fly backwards into his cockpit.

Can you see me now?

Can you see me now?

The animation, by studio Madhouse, is not up to KyoAni standards, but neither is it 90’s cartoon level. Character art is OK. Flying art is good. From a performance standpoint, the characters themselves are mostly cardboard. The aristos are the worst caricature of prejudice. The bastid Pilot remains stoic in the face of prejudice. The Princess is the only one to grow. She starts out as a silent cipher, with three maids and seven suitcases of minimum wardrobe, and ends up as a tough flying partner, one who hacks off her hair when it gets in the way, and runs around in a halter and rolled up trousers, rebuilding airplanes on desert islands. On the way, she shoots down an enemy fighter. Hooray for her, but she’s the only one.

This old thing? It's my islandwear.

This old thing? It’s by Islandwear.

It runs 104 minutes on Crunchyroll, including a good ten minutes of credits. It’s worth watching, if you like flying films, and you can always fast forward through the character development.

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Fall 2015

October 7, 2015

Not much to talk about here, because my in-depth  cover art analysis already filtered out a lot. But not everything. And one still wants to spot-check the discards to make sure one was right. On the other hand, some of these might not be appearing on either Crunchyroll or Funimation, and it appears Funimation is getting a late start on the season (only one new series posted so far), and I don’t want to wait for fansubs, or for Funimation to finish resting their server hamsters, so not everything on that list is covered here.

Will Watch second thoughts:

Beautiful Bones (AKA The Corpse Buried Beneath Sakurako’s Feet): Rich scientist helps police with their inquiries, whether they want help or not. Her connections help.

Obviously murdered. I'll take it home for my collection

Obviously murdered. I’ll take it home for my collection

An uneven start. Interesting premise. Very well done art. Strange plotting and characterization. Sakurako drags high school kid around to her bone digs. Finds 100 year old skull. Doesn’t bother to look for the rest. Stops at police crime site. Insults local police inspector. Points out why supposed double suicide wasn’t. Tries to steal the skull. Feeds boy Alaskan shrimp (AKA あまえび, sweet shrimp).

The bones tell me things

The bones tell me things

The boy, shonen, is a typical insert-self high school student — observer, commenter, inept assistant. Her character is all over the place — arrogant and insulting, interesting to the point of being lyrical when speaking of the bones, childish when trying to keep the skull. The show has promise, it’s just hiding it well. I’ll give it another couple eps.

Might Watch results:

Turns out, The Empire of Corpses and Miss Hokusai are both films.

Young Doctor Frankenstein Black Jack: He’s young. He’s a medical student. He has a huge collection of body scars. He’s there when the ward is overwhelmed by a mass casualty accident. One of the casualties is a kid on a gurney with an arm and a leg torn off. Despite the fact that someone helpfully stuck the limbs into an ice-filled bento box, the cartoonish senior doctor wants to just clean up the stumps and send him on his way. Something, something, triage. Young Frank Jack, jumps in, and with the help of an intern (who for some reason reminds me of Ghost Hunt’s Taniyama Mai), races the kid out the door and down the street and an unknown distance through the city to a sleazy clinic run by a self-doping doctor who will let him do the operation there.

We turn left at the first dark alley

We turn left at the first dark alley

What was the result? I don’t know. I tuned out at the break, while the intern was admiring the top half of Young Frank Jack’s collection of body scars.

Perfect Insider: Very much an introductory episode, in that you have no idea where the story is going after this. POV character Nishinosono Moe, is a young woman (old enough to drive, young enough to wear motley tights) with a crush on a slightly older professor. The Maguffin seems to be another woman, Dr. Magata, a genius (Ph.D. at 11, murdered her parents at 13 [maybe], currently hidden away on an island to do her [unspecified] research). Everybody is asking the big questions about the whichness of what.* Moe-girl has Skype-interviewed Magata, who talks about things like why seven is the loneliest number, just like B and D.

Why yes, I've seen Neon Genesis Evangelion. Why do you ask?

Why yes, I’ve seen Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Why do you ask?

Moe-girl and professor and his students decide to go camping on Magata’s island. Blurb says they find a corpse and solve a mystery. Not sure if this will be a corpse of the week, like Bones is shaping up to be. The ED looks like a fractal version of Conway’s Game of Life, with Unix-like terminal windows floating around (looks like they were programmed in Borland C), and finally resolving into a CGI image of Dr Magata.

This is trying to be an anime for thinking sentients. I think. I’ll watch at least one more episode, just to see what happens. It might be a keeper.

*As Douglas Adams said “Why does man eat? How does man eat? And, Where shall we have lunch?”

And how did my rejects do?

Heavy Object: After seven minutes of pure expository lump with no end in sight, I bailed. Right after the invention of the snowplow.

And I wonder why it's only two guys to clear 3km of runway

And I wonder why it’s only two guys to clear 3km of runway

Gaukusen Toshi * (AKA Asterisk War): New kid with natural dueling ability transfers to school where winning duels is the primary goal, meets high powered but obnoxious red-headed girl, semi-powerful but obnoxious musclebound guy, garterbelt-wearing Student Council President who has great tracts of … boobs …, the better to massage his shoulder blades with, and helpful, M-1 standard issue sidekick guy. Fights most of a duel. Dodges assassination attempt, finds embroidered hanky, sees angry redhead with her trousers half off, and finds that his missing sister is remembered mostly as a corrupt data file — not necessarily in that order. Oh yeah, his goal in transferring there is to find himself. I lasted the entire episode, but only because I was hoping to see Miss Garterbelt again.

...always get this treatment from the President of the Student Council

… is that a sword hilt in your pocket or did you just notice my hemline?

Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry: Kid with natural dueling skills. School that emphasizes dueling. Powerful but obnoxious redhead.  Magical duel…. You know the drill…. Redhead wears the garterbelts.

Lance N’ Masques: Modern day knight. As in, it’s modern days, and he’s still running around in armor, with a cape, a domino mask, and a big magic lance. He rescues tiny girls who fall off their playground equipment, and high school girls getting hit on by high school boys. After which, he kisses their hands and gives a creepy speech about protecting them forever. The youngsters are charmed. The ones old enough to know better run away, shouting hentai! I’m surprised he isn’t in jail. Did I mention that he has a magic horse that transforms into a chibi girl? And that the whole administrative staff of the worldwide association of creepy knights is run by maids? Life is too short, and I am too old.

... my lance extended to its full size and I just had to come ... rescue you

… my lance extended to its full size and I just had to come … rescue you.

Girls und Panzer, the Anzio OVA

October 2, 2015

I finally got to see the Anzio battle via an English fansub. The DVD I’d purchased off of Amazon was from Japan and didn’t have subtitles. I knew that when I bought it, and I said at the time that that wasn’t as much of a drawback as one might think, and this experience proves it. There was a little bit of Anchovy’s speech at the start, the girl spilling all Anzio’s secrets while she served up some omupasta, and a couple of one-liners here and there* that were better for having a translation available, but mostly it was sight gags and character reactions.

Thanks, but we figured that out already

Thanks, but we figured that out already

So my original recommendation remains — it almost certainly won’t be released in the US, but the Japanese version is still available. Buy it, you won’t regret it.

* And for those who didn’t pick up on the European names during the meeting at Hippo House where they mention famous opponents, Joe Ekins was a Firefly tank gunner in France who destroyed four tanks in one day, including three Tigers. One of his opponents on that day, 8 August 1944 near St. Aignan de Cramesnil, France may have been the German tank commander, Michael Wittmann, the 4th top scoring tank ace in history

Anime worth watching, Spring 2015

July 28, 2015

I watched a lot of anime last season, most of it unmemborable. Some of it unmentionable. Only two worth repeating. There were a number of disappointments. The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan was worth watching, once, if you are a fan of the original. There’s a good drinking game to be had, picking out the callbacks to the original (“Kyon-kun, denwa“). The ending was a disappointing cop-out, possibly because there’s another three volumes of the manga yet to be written (see episodes 23 and 24 of Shirobako). Everybody else liked the second seasons of My Teen RomCom SNAFU, and Nisekoi. They were reasonably well done, but I thought they overstayed their welcome. So what two made the cut?

Sound, Euphonium:  響け! ユーフォニアム (hibi.ke! euu.fuo.ni.a.mu), perhaps better translated as Resonance! Euphonium. Overall, Eupho is the best anime of the season, and firmly ensconced as one of my all-time favorites. In some ways, it’s a typical sports anime, another going to Koshien series, where the underdog team fights its way to the nationals. Only the sport is high school concert band.

We open with the end of the concert season at a middle school, where the graduating senior
Ōmae Kumiko (our POV character) sees her band take a ‘dud gold’. They won a gold, but didn’t get selected for the nationals. She moves on to high school and joins a lackluster band that decides they really do want to go to the nationals. The rest of the story is about the struggles of the band to come together, the internal politics to smooth out, and the individual relationships to jell.

A girl and her horn

A girl and her horn

As with all good stories, it’s about the characters, and it does a good job of highlighting the personalities and desires and struggles of a good number of the band members, even those that drop out early, or don’t make the final cut. There’s a number of budding romances, some of which are nipped in the bud, and Kumiko unexpectedly finds herself smitten with another girl, trumpet player Kōsaka Reina, and they provide one another much needed emotional support throughout the second half of the season.This not being a romcom or fanservice anime, the relationship never goes beyond mutual declaration, but some of the scenes are emotionally intense, in a quiet, understated sort of way.

Declaration of love

Declaration of love

The studio is Kyoto Animation, KyoAni, which means gorgeous artwork, expert camerawork, and excellent pacing. KyoAni is famous for attention to detail. For example, in episode eight, the one where Reina declares to Kumiko, they’ve decided to walk up a local ‘mountain’ instead of going to a festival. It’s really just a tall, steep hill at the edge of town, with steps and handrails and benches at the top. Reina, who never does things by halves, has dressed all in white, with high heels, as for a date. At one point, the camera zooms in on her feet, and we see that the straps have rubbed her heels raw. Show, don’t tell.

The pain is worth it

The pain is worth it

The sound track is, well, concert band, and very well done.

Our final goal

Our final goal

Blood Blockade Battlefront: 血界戦線 (ke.kkai sen.sen). A literal translation of each kanji is blood.boundary.war.line, and the last two characters are a good example of how two Japanese words can sound alike but have totally different meanings, depending on the kanji.

Gate to the netherworlds opens up inside a bubble enclosing New York City, which becomes overrun with weird beings. Young man sneaks in to make his fortune.

If you can't make it here, you can't make it anywhere

If you can’t make it here, you can’t make it anywhere

Meets up with group of human superheros called Libra, each of whom has a weird power (e.g. Zip can turn his blood into a sword).

The Libra Dancers

The Libra Dancers

Frantic, frenetic hilarity ensues. Monster of the week format, with nonstop action and good jazz BGM. You have to watch each episode two or three times or you miss stuff.

The only way to win is not to play

The only way to win is not to play

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Summer 2015

July 11, 2015

We are two weeks into the season, and the shows are dropping like exhausted fruit flies.

Danchigai Slice of life HS kid lives with four sisters, two older, two younger, one a tsundere brocon. Parents traveling overseas. Etc. Very generic. Very vanilla. Very uninteresting.

Castle Town Dandelion  Eleven super-powered children of a middle-class king vie, with various levels of enthusiasm, for a shot at the next kingship. Not…bad…just not compelling. Or interesting. Second show this season where people with superpowers have just one, and that very restricted.

Shimoneta: A boring world where the concept of dirty jokes doesn’t exist  In a 1984-style Japan, everyone wears dog collars, that detect whenever the wearer uses sexually related words. Even soft-core porn is prohibited (the episode starts with a SWAT team raiding a bunch of teen boys with girly mags), and children grow up with no understanding of the birds and the bees.

Naturally, there’s an underground resistance, led by the vice-president of the Student Council of a highly moral HS. She does things like prance around the roof of a train station wearing only a robe, shouting subversive cries, like “c**k a doodle p***y”, or whatever that is in Japanese. Her disguise is a pair of (hopefully, washed) panties, worn over her face. She recruits our male protagonist, and proceeds to hijack a student assembly with slides of two fruit flies going at it, to the sounds of off camera moans.

Hilarity ensues. Well, onscreen. Offscreen, the best I could do was mild smirking.

This is most likely a reaction to the Tokyo Metropolitan law called Bill 156, and other laws that  attempt to let bureaucrats define what constitutes pornography (particularly child pornography), showing what happens “if this goes on”.

Not enough redeeming social value, although I suspect there’s a whole lot of culturally relevant nuances I’m missing, or that got translated out (e.g. the show’s p**is-substitute word in Japanese is mushroom, subtitled here as cucumber).

Prison School Mizujima Tsutomu, what’s happened to you? How could you go from directing Garupan and Shirobako to this? Bad art, bad acting, stupid premise (roughly – boys imprisoned in an all girls school). Admittedly, a premise is only stupid if it’s executed badly. Garupan, after all, was about girls driving tanks on giant aircraft carriers. This was executed badly. How badly? After ten minutes of P-School, I flung the controller across the room and ran, weeping, out to the back deck to teach the local mosquitoes about the effects of gin on the human bloodstream.

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Summer 2015

July 10, 2015

Ranpo Kitan (Ranpo Mystery Stories)
Based on the works of mystery writer Edogawa Ranpo. Emotionally stunted HS student (“Wow, a dismembered body, life is no longer boring”) goes to work for brilliant crime-solver, who is also of HS age. Think “Ghost Hunt”, only with dead bodies instead of dead souls, and an off-putting male POV character, instead of a sympathetic female.

Chaos Dragon
Based on a D&D game, and these never turn out well. It’s like you’re watching somebody else play. Now I know why gamers don’t have nongamer girfriends.

My wife is the student council president
Plot line 1: Innocent girl wins election as student council president by throwing codoms into the student assembly, and promising free love on campus.
Plot line 2: Innocent girl student council president moves in with the vice president as his wife because of an agreement their parents made sixteen years earlier. Finds out all about first base.
For the first time I know of, CR is broadcasting both a censored and uncensored version, (because it does need censoring). Why couldn’t they have done this with Highschool Of The Dead? Oh, yeah. That had a plot.

Aoharu x Machine Gun
Hey, guys! Looks like anything featuring cute girls with guns is a hit (Sabagebu, Upotte, C3-Bu) these days, but what can we do to up the game? How about making her a HS student with a strong sense of justice? Sounds good. Yeah, and she could be ultra-strong! Great! …and a cross-dresser! Now, you’re talking! And, and — you’ll love this — her love interest in the paintball club is an obnoxious guy who…who…works at a host club!! The fans will go wild!!!

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Spring 2015

April 16, 2015

We’re into Week 2 of the Spring Anime Season. Here’s some more shows I’m dropping. The first two aren’t bad out of the gate (the first one is rated highly by the aniblogiscenti), but I don’t think they’ll sustain my interest.

My (Love) Story: The (Love) is in parens because the actual title is simply Ore Monogatari (おれ ものがたり), or My Story. I guess a Western audience needs a little less subtlety. Gentle giant befriends young girl, thinking she has a thing for his friend when she really has the hots for him. Too, too treacly sweet for my taste.

Arslan Senki: AKA The Heroic Legend of Arslan. The Japanese sure can pack a whole paragraph into one kanji. It’s high fantasy, much like 12 Kingdoms, or Yona of the Dawn. For some reason, these kinds of stories don’t (usually) hold my attention, unless they have some redeeming feature, like Grenadier did. I quite liked 12 Kingdoms, but not enough to actually load the DVD with Cour 2 on it. I liked Yona, but not enough to actually order the DVD. It’s not them, it’s me. Well, it’s partly them. Anyway. Arslan is another of this ilk, only somewhat more clichéd than most.

The rest would have made last week’s list if only they had aired soon enough:

Gunslinger Stratos: Students from a future school where grades seem to be based on paintgun duels, fall through a crack in reality and come out in what might be present day Tokyo, where their dopplegangers use real guns.

Denpa Kyoshi / Ultimate Otaku Teacher: Otaku NEET slacker teaches school. As bad as it sounds.

Show by Rock: A rock show. For the pre-teen female demographic. Cute, in small doses. Like, one episode per season.

Rin-Ne: Girl can see ghosts. Not that girl (Re-Kan), the other one. Gets involved with cheapskate supernatural being. Not that supernatural cheapskate (Noragami), the other one.

Mikagura School: Flaming yuri enrolls in magical school because she likes the girl on the cover of the catalog. Her magical power is pointing her finger, flexing her thumb, and saying ‘bang’.

TLDR — Anime I never finished, Spring 2015

April 9, 2015

The Spring Shows are just starting to bud out, and I’m doing some early pruning, based on the first episode alone. There may be some series that I’ll reconsider, if the popular acclaim is loud enough. I doubt these are them.

Seraph of the End: Vampires enslave children after everyone over 13 dies in a plague. Group of kids from an orphanage gets a vamp-gun and a tourist map showing routes out of the underground city and decide to make a break for it. Everybody dies.

Overly evil bad guys. Good backgrounds, but mediocre character art and animation. It’s dated 2015, but it looks like something from the 90’s, and the lead-in shows the now obsolete logo of the six-years defunct Geneon corporation, as if this was something they found in a back room storage bin.

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls In a Dungeon?: In this case, yes. Clueless, over-eager (but sensitive), n00b adventurer gets the hots for a 5th-level combatrix from an insufferably powerful family, followers of the god Loki. Our adventurer is the only follower of the goddess Hestia, who looks and acts like the traditional anime childhood friend and is totally smitten with her oblivious follower. So, he’s off getting damaged by demons in a dungeon when he could be at home, snogging with a goddess. It’s like a spin-off based on one of the less interesting side characters from Sword Art Online. So far, the only appealing character is Eiefull-Halfelven, his local guild mistress. To add insult to injury, Wikipedia says this all takes place in Baltimore.

Food Wars: Hey, guys! Did you see how well Gourmet Girls did last season? I’ll bet we can do better than that! Instead of middle school kids, we’ll have high-schoolers, and adults, because the foodgasms can be that much more explicit, and we can have nudity and peanutbutter-lubed tentacle rape! Oh, oh, and predatory land developers, with bigger boobs than in the manga, of course! And then, and then — wait for it — we can send him off to a pathologically intense cooking school where we can subject him to arbitrary demands and unreasonable conditions while not teaching him anything! It’ll be like a combination of Game of Thrones, and Iron Chef America, with a touch of American Gladiators thrown in! There’s no way this can go wrong! Eat your heart out, Ed Wood!!

Triage X: Boobs, blood, and bombast. If you like nudity, car chases, explosions, and extra-judicial murder justified by pseudomedical bafflegab, this one’s for you. Otherwise, it’s something that followers of Highschool of the Dead would turn their noses up at. Follows the manga quite closely (you say that as if it was a good thing). CREDITS: Miss Sagiri’s boobs were played by two sumo wrestlers, who appear by special arrangement with Nihon Sumō Kyōkai.

Anime Worth Watching, Winter 2015

April 5, 2015

Shirobako: A two-cour series that started last Fall and ended last week. Almost everyone raved about it and said it was great. I think it’s greater than great. I think it’s…it’s…whatever comes two levels above great. It’s in the same class as Girls und Panzer, which isn’t surprising, given that they’re both from the same director, Mizushima Tsutomu. I’d clamour for a third season in the Fall (there’s enough narrative space for four more seasons, plus a couple of spin-offs), but Mizushima is busy making another GaruPan movie. I’m torn.

It’s an anime about making anime. It’s full of adults, with adult jobs, and adult job issues. It touches on every discipline that uses teams of creative people to produce a product. Any software developer or aeronautical engineer, or movie fan, will recognize it. As with any team project (and few anime) it has an enormous cast, so many that we have to have a nametag popup every time they appear, and yet Mizushima makes it work.

This is what it takes to make an anime

This is what it takes to make an anime

By the time the show is done, you know every person in that picture, and you care about what happens to them, and what their day is like, and you no longer mind paying Japanese rates for anime DVDs. You will also learn a lot about what goes into making an anime. Here is a glossary.

Saekano: A harem show about a high school boy making a Visual Novel harem game. The zeroth episode was shamelessly fanservicy, but after that it calmed down and became more plot oriented.

Unlike most harem shows, the male protagonist isn’t a clueless wimp, he’s a driven otaku, one of the three best known people in the school (OK, so he’s clueless about that), and his goal is to have his dating sim game done in time for the Winter Comiket. All the girls on his team, except the one he recruited as the heroine (pronounced he-roine, rhymes with he-groin), are equally accomplished (as in, they include the other two of the three best known students), with outside creative careers of their own. They are all drawn into his orbit by the sheer force of his desire to make this game. Well, since this is a harem anime, those two are really only concerned with one thing.

Well, I've made a decision... [interjections]...I will build this game

Well, I’ve decided … [interjections]… I will build this game

The heroine is a perfectly normal, down to earth girl, who is a lot smarter than she sounds, and drops amazingly funny lines in a totally deadpan voice.

Saekano1

The fact that it’s a computer game within an anime allows them to constantly push up against the 4th wall. A scene will start with a monologue that sounds like it’s talking to you, the anime audience, but turn out to be a discussion of the game. The tropes that play out in the game, also play out in the anime, and the characters (otaku all) recognize them when they happen “How can I compete against her, a childhood friend born on the same day in the same hospital?”.

Saekano

After the usual travails (see: Shirobako) the final episode arrives, and a final burst of energy delivers…the first full path through the game. The game’s not done. The harem situation is unresolved. There has to be at least one more season.

Saekano2

Gourmet Girl Graffitti: It’s been described as food porn, but it’s more than that. It’s food porn plus! Young girl, living alone since her grandmother died, discovers anew the Joy of Snacks when her cousin comes to stay for weekends while going to cram school with her. Both of them have a tendency to orgasm over good food, and Studio Shaft is there to document the phenomenon.

What's for Lunch?

What’s for Lunch?

There’s more to it than that, of course. This is a story about family, and growing, and eating and recovering from grief, and preparing for highschool and the explosive wonderfulness of a mouthful of omurice as it bursts across your taste-buds and… Sorry.

The Well-Cooked Bamboo Shoot...

The Well-Cooked Bamboo Shoot…

On the way, you get a series of one-minute demonstrations on how to cook these delicious meals, and you’ll end every episode hungry for fresh bamboo shoots, or smoked mackerel, or whatever the food of the day is.

I wish I could chew on it forever

…makes me wish I could chew on it forever

The art is good, and the animation is acceptable, the character designs are spot on, and somehow the girls look a sultry ten years older whenever they slide a forkfull of food into their mouths. Good job, Shaft. Good job.

KanColle: The Japanese love their military, and they really love their Navy, even though it’s still not politically correct to admit it. 2013 gave us Arpeggio of Blue Steel, featuring an alien fleet of intelligent ships styled after warships of WWII, crewed by artificial intelligences in the form of young girls. 2015 brings us KanColle, originally the browser based cardgame Kantai Collection. Here, an alien fleet is opposed by a fleet of young girls, imbued with the souls of IJN ships of WWII, and rigged out with equipment that’s reminiscent of those warships. So, the destroyer girls carry hip-mounted torpedo racks, and the carrier girls have bows that launch squadrons of fighters, and shields that look like, and act as, carrier decks.

Twerking Torpedos

Twerking Torpedos

The plot tracks the events of WWII, opening with an attack on island “WI”, continuing to a big carrier battle off the “Coral Islands”, and ending with Operation MI, AKA the Battle of Midway, with the big question being, can the girls avoid the fate that awaited the IJN at Midway?

The problem is, the show doesn’t know if it wants to be an ad for Kantai Collection, a comedy, a tragedy, a buddy movie, or an echo of WWII, so it tries to be all five. It probably could have pulled off two of them, but it just ended up being inconsistent, incoherent, and scatterbrained. A lot of things are insider jokes for Kantai Collection players, or for WWII buffs. One aniblog found it necessary to post multiscreen summaries by two different authors, detailing the game and war references after every episode. There are, I am told, over 60 ships in the game, and the anime tried to shove as many of them as possible across the screen. Mizushima Tsutomu might have been able to pull it off. KanColle couldn’t.

The Fleet Girls in Action

The Fleet Girls in Action

Still, it’s a fun bit of popcorn, particularly for WWII buffs, and you don’t often get to see formations of archer-maidens roller-blading across the ocean.

Yona of the Dawn: I know, I know, I gave it very short shrift last Fall, when the first of the two cours started. And I stand by what I said. The heroine (spoiled daughter of a soon-to-be-murdered king) was a brat, and the script exploited the “talk is free” loophole shamelessly.* But Fem over at FemService convinced me to try it again, and I have to admit it was quite good.

It turned out to be both a quest and a journey of discovery. The script settled down, and didn’t involve quite so many villainous speeches. Unfortunately, the art and animation weren’t all that great. Fortunately, the characters and their interactions more than made up for it. Yona plays off of each of them, and they play off each other. Side characters are constantly upstaging her, and that’s OK. Along the way, she grows, and becomes stronger and tougher. Early on, she escapes a captor who has grabbed her by her long red hair, not by stabbing him with the sword she’s holding, but by using it to cut off her hair.

The True Leader Does What is Necessary

The True Leader Does What is Necessary

At the end, she’s willing to use deadly force to gain her goals. Since the season ends with her finally putting together her team of “dragons”, after cleaning up a seaport that has become a hive of scum and villainy, I wouldn’t be surprised to see at least one more cour. After all, there’s a murdered king to avenge.

Yurikuma Arashi: Lesbian teddy-bears infiltrate a girls’ school and eat the lilys.** This is another show that popular acclaim forced me to reconsider. Gorgeous art. Excellent framing. A complex story about genderness and bullying and rejection and acceptance. Complex on many levels, with tropes and symbolism that are orthogonal to this old white male’s weltanschauung. Starts off slow, and never really picks up speed, and you need a flow chart to track the character interactions. Multiple flashbacks; multiple POVs; multiple reveals. Not particularly fanservice oriented, unless the sight of intertwined naked middle school girls turns you on, in which case you are either too young to be reading this blog, or you need to schedule your analyst for some serious overtime. Marvelous ending.

YuriKuma01

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*The Talk is Free loophole says that any fight, or any dramatic moment can be paused indefinitely while the characters spend any amount of time exposiating, with no penalty on either side. This is similar in concept to German separable verbs, as described by Mark Twain.

**For those not plugged into the proper argot, yuri (百合, ゆり), is Japanese for lily, with a more recently added meaning of female homosexuality.

The Wind Rises

March 18, 2015

The Wind Rises (風立ちぬ /Kaze Ta chi nu, with the nu being a somewhat archaic verb ending implying that things are happening, so perhaps The Wind is Rising), is the last anime movie directed by Miyazaki Hayao before his [current] retirement. It’s interesting because of the subject, the sources, what’s in it, and what isn’t in it.

At the highest level, it’s Miyazaki’s dream of airplanes. He loves airplanes, particularly seaplanes, particularly Italian planes (his studio is named after the Caproni Ca.309 Ghibli). What I consider his best film, Porco Rosso, was about seaplanes flying in the Adriatic between the World Wars.

Dream Planes

Dream Planes

Next level down is his dream of the life of Horikoshi Jirō, designer of the Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter. I say dream here, because Horikoshi’s life wasn’t anything like the movie, as we’ll see. And finally, it’s about Horikoshi’s deams of designing and building airplanes. And within those dreams? Horikoshi dreams of meetings with Italian seaplane designer, Giovanni Battista Caproni. Even the aircraft in the anime are dreamlike, with engines that sound more like a skilled ventriloquist mimicking their noise.

The movie has a long introduction and a short epilogue, with the twin-themed main story bookended by identically portrayed disasters. In the introduction, young Horikoshi has a dream in which he meets Caproni and decides to become an aeronautical engineer. The first disaster hits as he’s on the train back to Tokyo University, where he’s working to make his dream come true.

The Quake

The Quake

It’s the September 1, 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake, which pretty well leveled Tokyo, and then set fire to the ruins. The earth shakes, the houses collapse, and soon there is a pall of fire and smoke above the entire city. The portrayal of the earthquake is the best I’ve seen in any movie.

The Fire

The Fire

On the train, he meets his future love Nahoko Satomi, and helps rescue her maid after the earthquake. Ten years later they meet again, fall in love, and are betrothed. Unfortunately, Nahoko has tuberculosis, and wants to wait until she has gone to a sanatorium and is cured. This being anime, that, of course, never happens, and they end up marrying once they realize that she’s going to die. After a brief but happy interlude, she slips away to the sanatorium to die, so that he will remember her as healthy. This is the dream part of the biography. Horikoshi’s wife didn’t have tuberculosis, and she and their two sons survived the war.

The Wedding

The Wedding

The story, and the anime title, were adapted from a 1937 psychological/autobiographical novel by Hori Tatsuo, about a man visiting his fiancée in a sanatorium. I have read translated excerpts, and it is as dull and as interminable as you might imagine a novel on that topic from that period (There’s an example in a collection of Japanese literature available through Amazon books. The interior link is on page viii of the Contents, and the story itself is on page 376).

There's many more pages like this.

There’s many more pages like this.

I suspect this story was included because they felt they needed a romance aspect, and the only romance more boring would be “engineer meets girl; engineer marries girl; girl keeps house and raises a family while engineer goes to work.”

The sort of novel a young girl in love might read

The sort of novel a young girl in love might read

The second theme is Horikoshi’s efforts to design beautiful aircraft.* Unfortunately for him, the only people buying aircraft between the wars (Japan is suffering from both the earthquake and the Great Depression) is the military. His experiences are about par for the course for aircraft designers of that era –they crashed more often than a Monty Python castle. The first plane he contributes to the design of crashes, and Mitsubishi doesn’t get the contract. He’s the lead designer on the second plane (Mitsubishi 1MF10), which does well in its initial flights but we later see the wreckage in a hangar (and the contract is cancelled).

The Second Failure

The Second Failure

It’s this discouraging development that causes him to take a vacation in the mountains, where he renews his acquaintance with Nahoko. Finally, he has success, designing what will become the Mitsubishi A5M (Claude), but that success is bittersweet, because it is while he is at the first test flight of the new aircraft that Nahoko dies.

The A5M

The A5M (with cherry blossoms)

The ten years from that first flight in 1935 to the end of WWII are skimmed over in about six chords of doleful music, and the main story ends with Tokyo again in flames, with the pall of fire and smoke above the entire city looking much like the aftermath of the earthquake. This time the disaster is due to B-29 raids.

The War

The War

The epilogue has Horikoshi walking through the wreckage of airplanes up to another dream visit with Caproni, and a brief encounter with Nahoko, who tells him to live. Horikoshi’s crowning achievement, the Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter is relegated to a walk-on at the very end, when a flight of twelve zooms through his dream and up into the stream of pilots and planes in aeronautical heaven, a direct reference to a similar scene in Porco Rosso.

The Zero

The Zero

In addition to its biographical aspects, the story is a snapshot of Japanese society between the wars. Horikoshi starts out as a young boy, sleeping under mosquito netting, wearing a yukata at home and a haori and hakama with getas at school, and ends up in Western dress, with coat and tie and fedora. Servants run around in their blue haoris with the house emblem on the back. Everybody smokes (although the real Horikoshi didn’t). Almost every outdoor scene has people pulling and pushing carts and riding bicycles and hand-carrying loads.

The Transport

The Transport

The complex contradictions within Japanese society between the wars is illustrated by the fact that the new aircraft are hauled to the test airfield using oxen.

Slow and Fast

Slow and Fast

What’s missing from the anime, as many have pointed out, is any sign of remorse for the use to which his airplanes were put, or for Japan’s role in WWII. Horikoshi, or rather, Japan, is chided gently by the German he meets in the hotel — Japan has forgotten that it started a war in China, that it established Manchukuo, that it left the League of Nations and allied itself with Hitler. Horikoshi himself was responsible for hundreds of deaths by way of his aircraft. The anime acknowledges this through no more than a nod in that direction, and many people have a problem with this.

Miyazaki sidesteps the issues by ending the story in 1935. At that point in time it was still possible to admire the European dictators. People might not like them, but they seemed to be winning the battle of the Great Depression. Hitler had been legally and democratically elected two years before. Mussolini had been legally, if somewhat less democratically appointed Prime Minister twelve years before, and if he was a dictator, he at least made the trains run on time.** Indeed, in 1932 it was possible for P.G. Wodehouse to modify the words of a Cole Porter song (to make it more understandable to posh audiences in the West End) by writing “You’re the top, you’re Mussolini…” Hitler was not yet revealed as a monster, and the world had not yet descended into the hell of WWII. So, many of today’s complaints are a projection backwards of today’s morality, using 20/20 hindsight.

To me, Miyazaki just wanted to write an anime about airplanes, and an homage to a great aircraft designer, without having to shoulder all of Japan’s post-war guilt. In a way, Horikoshi comes across as a lot like Wernher von Braun, another engineer who was dedicated to his craft and who made a deal with the devil in order to practice it.

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* Note the impact America was already having on the world. The wing design for his first aircraft project uses a US National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics cross section.
**Actually, he didn’t. Trains were notoriously bad in Fascist Italy.

Standing Desk 2

March 4, 2015

In my first installment, I mentioned at the end that balance might be an issue. It is. There’s two problems. First, at full height, the VariDesk frame is cantilevered well forward of its stowed position, such that most of the load is no longer over the desk, but is hanging out in open space (I have the additional handicap of setting the 24″ legs on a 20″ desktop). Second, my rollaround computer desk was designed with a pull-out keyboard shelf. That’s because there’s no place to put your feet if you tried to use the keyboard directly on top of the desk. And that means you have to pull the VariDesk an additional twelve inches or so forward of where it wants to be.

I did that, and found that the whole frame got very tippy when I did so. As in “whoa, let’s push this back”.

As Lenin might say, what is to be done? There are several options. The first one, rapidly rejected, was to buy a new computer desk. The fuss and bother and drivings about were bad enough that I relegated that idea to the Last Resort folder.

Another possibility was to drill holes in the quarter-inch thick steel frame and screw the frame to the desk. Probably the second-best idea, and the second-worst inconvenience.

C-clamps on the back wouldn’t work, because there’s no room for them when the VD is in it’s stowed position. That leaves some sort of extension to the front of the desk to support the legs. If the legs had been the width of the desk apart, it would have been easy — an L-shaped shelf-holder would work — but as it was, there was no place to attach a support, other than on the front of the 1″ thick desktop itself.

Or on the top. The cleanest solution would be to buy a slab of quarter-inch plywood big enough to hang over the edge of the desk, screw it on, and stick the VD on top of it as if it was made for it. But plywood is expensive, and I was looking for a more minimalist solution.

Like, suppose you put a slab of plywood on the desk, and then cut away all the plywood that wasn’t actually holding stuff up. And suppose you substituted a steel plate for the remnant of plywood, on account of as how it was both thinner and stronger. To the Hardware Store!

Support Plates

Support Plates

Three trips later (did you know bolts came with both coarse and fine threads?) I had two lumber beam connector plates bolted to the desk, with the VD sitting atop them. It was still a little bouncy, so I went back (fortunately it’s less than a mile away) and bought longer bolts and some very large washers. The washers hooked over the edge of the base plate, and the bolts — two on the front side of the plate and two on the back side — went through the desk and held everything in place. To give myself some additional peace of mind, I stuck an old UPS that I was going to recycle on the bottom shelf of the desk, to supply some additional weight on the back side of the Center of Gravity.

Baseplate

Baseplate

This kind of setup undoubtedly voided my warranty, is probably dangerous, and certainly isn’t something that a sane person should try at home. If you try it, and your child gets crushed, well… post something on your Facebook page and I promise I will tag it with a Like.

Standing Desk 1

March 1, 2015

I’m typing this while standing up. My feet hurt. My back hurts. There’s a pain in my left leg just above the knee, and a tingle in the nerves of my right thigh. Obviously, I have things to learn about standing desks.

I decided to get a standing desk a month ago. That was about a year after my body decided it had fulfilled its evolutionary duties and could now coast downhill to retirement. My weight went up, my blood pressure went up, my aches and pains went up. This, despite the fact that I eat healthy, have no more than one or two bottles of wine at dinner, walk half a mile to class/meetings five times a week, and average an hour and a half per school day on my feet, lecturing. When the weather is good, most of the Summer and parts of the Fall and Spring, but none of the Winter, here in the NENW, I put in an additional two miles per day in walking. Doesn’t help. Or, no longer helps. I don’t mind the thought of me retiring, but I’d prefer that my body didn’t retire first.

Considering that I spend probably ten hours per day at the computer — in a little one-Starbucks/high-scabland town like Cheney, there’s not much else to do — anything I can do to increase my activity level there should be worthwhile. Yes, I’ve got a treadmill, The Imperial Walker, and yes, I’ve tried working on a laptop while walking, but it just didn’t work out. For one thing, I had trouble figuring out where my lap was.

Enter the standing desk. Reportedly, they give most of the benefits of a walking desk, while being much cheaper and more compact. Of course, cheap is relative. Amazon carries a motor operated, dual-surface, multi-monitor, medical workstation for $12,000, and a crank-adjustable work desk for $4500. I wasn’t that unhealthy, so I settled for a $350 VariDesk Pro Plus: a spring-operated, desk-mounted rig that was wide enough to take my two monitors. Ordered it last month, got it last week, put it up last night.

The way we were

The way we were

Here’s my original setup. Two monitors on a twenty-year old rollabout computer desk. Keyboard almost in my lap. Room at the top for my books and speakers. Room at the bottom for my UPS and NAS. The screen and keyboard to the left are for my Windows machine, which I bought to run school software on but otherwise keep in the closet. We won’t speak of it again.

Adding the standup feature was simple. (more…)

Anime Worth Watching: Mononoke

February 15, 2015

Demon Girl

Not Her

Demon hunter

Him

The title makes you think of Studio Ghibli, the protagonist is a more colorful version of Mushishi Ginko, and the stories are something that Alfred Hitchcock might make.

Mononoke are vengeful demons, not wild girls of the forest. They are hunted by a medicine-seller, otherwise nameless.

The stories are all ghost stories, in one way or another. A haunted room in an inn, the curse of a murdered sister, a murder mystery on the first subway out of Edo. As with Mushishi, they examine the depths of the human condition. Likewise, they are strong on atmospherics.

The presentation is … colorful. Changes of scene are marked with the closing and opening of sliding panels, as if in an old play. The colors are pastel, but the painting is sharp-edged. The music is minimalist, austere, traditional. The twelve-episode series is well worth watching (it’s currently on Crunchyroll).

A subdued riot of color

A subdued riot of color

Girls und Panzer – The Anzio OVA

February 4, 2015

Last summer saw the release of “This is the Real Anzio Battle!” Original Video Anime, a double-length episode that falls at the end of Episode 7 in the TV series. I, of course, ordered it, despite the minor problem of it being all in Japanese, with no subtitles. It came this week.

First thing I noticed was that it was packaged for the Japanese market. That is to say, no security tags and no impenetrable seals. Break the flimsy plastic wrap and you’re in. Additional swag is minimal — a book of screen-shots and tank specs, and another one of character pencil sketches.

Watching it in Japanese without subtitles was fun, and frustrating, because I can only pick up one word in twenty or thirty (OK, forty). On the other hand, this was GaruPan at its finest, and much of it didn’t need translating. The one place I missed it most was the meeting between Suzuki Takako (AKA Caeser) the Roman history expert and gunner/loader for the History Club’s Hippo Team and Hina-chan (AKA Carpaccio), a childhood friend with a similar interest in things Italian, now attending Anzio. Her full name might be Tsukoda Hina, if I heard one discussion correctly.

I won’t go into a lot of detail, because spoilers, but (more…)