Posts Tagged ‘Winter 2019’

Kotobuki: Parts of it are Magnificent

April 4, 2019

Think of it as Girls und Panzer meets Porco Rosso.

In another dimension, or astral plane, or something, exists a world named Ijitsu, that looks a lot like Australia — mostly howling wilderness. It used to have an ocean, but a wormhole of some sort opened up, destroyed the oceans, devastated the countryside and dumped a lot of military technology (including every type of Japanese WWII fighter), plus curry, rice, and pancakes, onto them. This all happened courtesy of the Yufang, who appear to be alternate timeline Japanese.

A town like Alice

Now the people of Ijitsu live a hardscrabble existence in a scattering of tiny outback towns, tied together with zeppelin flights and bepestered by air pirates. The six girls who are part of the Kotobuki Squadron* fly escort off of one of the zeppelins, fighting off the air pirates and making sure their cargo, or passengers, make it through safely.

Carrier based aircraft

Unfortunately, there’s a shadowy organization, the Brotherhood of Freedom Union, led by Isao, the mayor of the biggest city on Ijitsu, a guy who can smile and joke while ordering the destruction of entire towns, and who wants to exploit any new holes that appear and use that technology to take over the world. The Union employs dozens of fighter units and is systematically intimidating all the small towns to join up. The Kotobuki Girls are not really interested in this. As with Firefly, they just want to find a job, find a crew, keep flying. Of course, they get dragged in, end up as part of the big final battle, and are instrumental in destroying a newly opened hole and the death of the mayor.

Girls at war

Got that? Good. Now ignore it. The heart of the anime is the flying, and everything else is just an excuse. Every episode has a multiplane dogfight, and every dogfight is of heart-stopping intensity. Along the way we get to see all of these WWII fighters in action, plus some machines that never made it into the sky on our timeline — the Kyushu J7W1 Shiden, of which only two were ever built, and the Nakajima G10N Fugaku heavy bomber, only ever seen on the cover of model airplane boxes.

The bomber that never was

I suspect that Director Mizushima is doing what Miyazaki was unable to do in The Wind is Rising, celebrate the warplanes of WWII without having to insert an extended apology for Japan’s role in the war. Even though he ended the film before the start of the war, Miyazaki was still criticised for not saying enough about it. But if you have Japanese fighters shooting down Japanese fighters on an alternate world on an alternate timeline there’s no way you can be guilty of glorifying the Pacific War, right?

George and Betty

Meanwhile, we have the Kotobuki Girls. Each of the six has her own personality and her own reason for flying.

Come as you are

They are portrayed in 3DCG, and are not quite ready for prime time — their faces are stiff, and their movements seem more like those of marionettes. Be that as it may, they are all individuals, and you find yourself rooting for them in all of their fights.

Fight’s on!

And the heart of the series is the dogfights. You see the action from all sides, and from inside the cockpit. You hear the clang of bullets hitting metal, and you hear the creak of that metal stressed to its limit.  At the end of every episode, I had a bad case of the leans, from following the planes as they pulled g’s.

Another kill for Kotobuki

The ending is a magnificent swirling fight in and over the capital city, and under the newest hole. Parts of it make you think of the trench run in the first Star Wars.

Turn right at the next intersection

In the end, Kotobuki sacrifices their zeppelin to close the hole,

They’ll never catch this dirigible!

the good guys win, and fly off into the sunset.

All’s right with the world

From a flying standpoint, anime artist’s license excepted, I have two complaints about the air battles.

First, it’s too hard to tell what’s going on. All of the fights are big, multi-plane furballs,  presented as a series of vignettes featuring one-on-one engagements (sometimes with a saving intervention), but there’s nothing that gives a good view of the overall structure of the battle. In Garupan, you always had the feeling that you knew where everyone was and that you knew how the fight was rolling out. Not so with Kotobuki. Now, air battles are notoriously hard to follow. You dive in, you engage an enemy, and suddenly you are alone in the sky; or an enemy jumps you, you dive away from them, and when you recover, the fight’s move on. But usually there’s some preliminary structure — “You draw off the fighters, you go after the bombers” — even if it breaks down on contact.

Which brings me to my second complaint about the flying. There’s no sign of any real teamwork. In WWII, the US developed a number of leader/wingman concepts, which gave us a significant advantage over the Japanese, even though our fighters were outmatched by the Zero, one on one. In Kotobuki, everyone piles in on their own, and if they see a chance to help a team-mate they will. That’s good team spirit. It’s not good team work. As a result, The Kotobuki Girls are protected mostly by plot armor.

 

Preflight check

From a drama standpoint, if I have one complaint, it’s that the action is all bloodless, at least on the Kotobuki side. Josh Whedon once said that if you have a fight and nobody important dies, people just say “Oh, look. They’re shooting.” That’s the way Kotobuki is.

Despite that, I’d still call it magnificent.

*Kotobuki, 寿, A Yufang word meaning good fortune, congratulations, or long life, but we don’t find out about that until the end.

Domestic Girlfriend: A well-done anime about stupid people

March 31, 2019

Domestic Girlfriend (Domesutikku na Kanojo) is predicated on a set of ridiculous coincidences. High school boy has the hots for one of his teachers (as often happens). He also pulls a one night stand with a HS girl he met at a karaoke party (and where were those girls when I was in HS?). Shortly thereafter his widowed father re-marries and brings into the household a divorcee with two daughters — an older one who teaches HS, and a younger one who goes to karaoke parties. Spoilers follow.

Meet your new family

The inevitable happens, and the boy starts an affair with his teacher-sister. Twelve episodes later the inevitable also happens, and they get outed. Meanwhile, he’s trying to kickstart a career as an author. Meanwhile, the younger sister is developing feelings for him.

At the end, the older sister has to quit her job and move to a different school to avoid a scandal, despite which they still have feelings for each other. Meanwhile, the younger sister declares that she is going to go all out to win his heart. Also, he wins a writing prize.

On the good side, studio Diomedéa handled the story very well. This could have been treated as a harem romcom, or as some sort of operatic high drama. Instead, it was more like a soap opera, and I say that as a good thing. What was bad were the people.

Let’s start with Hina, the older sister. She’s in her second year as a teacher but she still has the mannerisms of a student — flirting, slapping the boys on the butt, getting drunk in the evening. Unable to control her emotions, and despite being quite aware of the suicidal consequences, she enters into a relationship with a student maybe five years younger than her, and ends up having sex with him (BTW, in the course of the anime we find out that she previously had an affair with a married man, who she thinks about when masturbating with her bedroom door open, so there’s a pattern here). In this case she is incredibly lucky, and when they get caught she just gets shunted off to a different school, presumably in a different prefecture. In the real world such actions would get her jailed, or at least fired and barred from teaching for life. Her life is going to be a series of bad decisions, and there is no way she should be a teacher.

That’s “Hina-sensei”

Then there’s Natsuo, her underage paramour. Like many high school boys he thinks with his crotch and has zero concept of what the word consequences means. Whether it’s attempting to kiss Hina when she’s drunk and unconcious, grabbing her in the school hallway or at a festival, or concocting a story to cover his visits to her apartment without coordinating with the guy he’s using for cover — twice — he demonstrates zero ability to think beyond the end of his dick.

Yes, we’re at school, but no-one will notice if we duck down like this

At the end of the last episode he claims he still has feelings for Hina but does nothing to reject sister Rui when she gets physical. He’s the kind of guy who is likely to have his head turn up in a school bag.

Maybe she overpowered him

Finally, we have younger sister Rui. Same age as Natsuo, member of the same HS writing club (once she changes schools), made a straightforward and unemotional decision to lose her virginity with a casual meetup. Shy and retiring, she has the most rational and straightforward personality of the bunch.

Yeah, that relationship

When Natsuo executes a standard anime trope and inadvertently walks in on her in the bath, she simply says “You’ve seen me already”, instead of screaming and throwing things. Her major flaw is getting romantic feelings about Natsuo, despite his obvious chasing of her older sister.

The rest of the cast is mostly good people, who help Natsuo out probably more than he deserves: best friend from middle school, gay yakuza coffee shop owner, only slightly creepy writing club advisor, shy girl and flirty girl who both fall for Natsuo (maybe it is a harem anime). Their parents are typical good parents (atypical for anime), concerned about their children and willing to sacrifice to make sure they are happy. Yes, OK, there’s also the totally pointless and irritating American transfer student. Is this the way we look overseas?

You sometimes hear an anime described as a trainwreck. This is an anime about a trainwreck, about how two flawed people imperiled their lives and futures.

Close the drapes, damnit!

The story is handled well. The ending is not as solid as it might be, but that’s because the source manga is ongoing. Judging from descriptions of the source the ending is probably the best possible, under the circumstances.

If you like well-written drama that doesn’t involve mechas, spikey hair, or lots of shouting, and you don’t mind having to read three layers down in the character list to find someone relatable, then you’ll probably like this anime.

Wildlife in Cheney

March 11, 2019

You know the weather’s been inclement when the deer come into town to forage. Right at sundown yesterday we had eight does and one buck eating the grass under the trees at the end of our block.

As long as one walked quietly and didn’t pay attention to them, they didn’t spook. Finally, a dog started barking, and they strolled off down the street.

Of course, some people take this as a bad omen.

Me and Myeloma

February 12, 2019

The January tests are in, and they all look really good. Everything is pretty much in the normal range (and those that aren’t are just on the edge), with no sign of the myeloma.

Here’s the deets:

  1. M-spike. There’s this thing called an M-protein spike, which measures certain proteins in the blood, ones that shouldn’t be there. It’s one of the prime indicators of myeloma. It’s been “not observed” now for six months.
  2. Kappa/Lambda Ratio. KLR is another protein measure. Normal range is .25-1.6. Mine was around 1.5 last time, and is now 1.4. So, in the normal range. Note: both the kappa (10.0) and the lambda (7.3) are also in their normal ranges.
  3. Immunoglobulin G (IgG). IgG measures immune response. High IgG says your body is fighting a disease, like cancer. Normal is 700 -1600. Mine started at 3000 a year ago. Then, with the chemo, it plunged to 230 and came back up to 250. This time there’s a new assay method, which says that there’s no significant difference between all those ultra-low values. Mine is currently <320. So, still low.

As I said before, I think if I hadn’t been diagnosed with MM earlier, someone looking at these results would say I was basically healthy, albeit with a suppressed immune system. We check again in July.

TLDR — Anime I never finished, Winter 2019 Part 3

January 25, 2019

The final three, or is it twelves?

The Price of Smiles. Price, not Prince. Country S is run by newly-anointed 12 year-old Princess Yuki, who wants everyone on the planet to smile. Country G is poorer and militaristic and trying to conquer country S. Twelve year-old Princess Yuki sends her childhood friend to the front line to try to negotiate a truce, so of course he gets deaded. Lots of death. Lots of mecha fights. Very little to hold my interest. Did I mention that the 12 year-old protagonna is only twelve?

All I want is smiles

Endro! Apparently, Princess Yuki has a second job, as a the hero Yulia. She and her band of merry heroines want everybody to be able to smile, so they exile the Demon Lord (Momonga, working his second job) to a distant place and time. Actually, they just sent him a few years back in time, where/when he becomes a cute female teacher at their school, where he tries get her and her friends, now 12 years old, thrown out. An original anime that looks like it was inspired by a battle card game.

All I want is smiles

Dororo. Yet another zombie reboot. Based on a 1967 manga via a 1969 anime and a live action movie from twelve years ago. Dororo is a young boy (who may be a girl in disguise, depending on what you use as a source) assists a young man named Hyakkimaru (AKA 100 demon circles) who is looking for his missing body parts what were sold to demons to finance his father’s political career (so, a lot like the GOP today). There are lots of people who like this one but I find it’s got too much blood and angst and everyone has a past that comes back to haunt them. There’s not one normie in the bunch. To make things worse, Dororo isn’t even twelve.

All I want is my left leg

TLDR — Anime I never finished, Winter 2019 Part 2

January 23, 2019

Another day another drop. Or three.

Grimms Notes the Animation. So, there’s these four adventurers/superheros, in storyland. In storyland, everyone has their own storybooks, that tell them what their life will be like. And no, you can’t change what’s written there. In one part of storyland, Red Riding Hood is more of a job description, and generations of women have gone out to be eaten by the wolf (it says here) and then rescued by the Hunter. But someone is changing the stories, and the current Red Riding Hood doesn’t want to get on the cart.

Enter Our blank book Heroes, who convert to their superhero form — Cinderella, Robin Hood, Alice, and Goliath (Goliath? In plate armor?) — defeat the foes (for now), reset everyone’s memories, and get li’l Red to agreed to be et.

Episode 2 has Our Heroes meet Don Quixote and his waifu Rosinante.

It feels like the director just picked up whatever fairy tale element looked good and slapped them on the wall to see if they made a storyboard.

While on the road to grandma’s house, Red Riding Hood meets four suspicious strangers.

Date A Live. Season 3, I think. Seasons 1 and 2 only available on Funimation, I think. I watched one of them some years ago, probably.

Our Hero is the on-the-ground agent for a secret organization that’s protecting the city, run by his lollipop-sucking loli sister (lol). The SOtPtC has a futuristic control center, with controllers sitting at control consoles and providing surveillance of just about everything. Our Hero’s job is to find the invading spirits (all girls, of course) and ‘seal’ them by getting them to fall in love with him. So, just your everyday true-to-life anime. This season’s maguffin is a shape-shifting spirit who is disappearing all the girls in his life, one by one.

Too, too, generic characters and harem situation. Plot is silly, even for anime.

It’s probably best that they all go away.

Saint Seiya Santia Sho. Another zombie blast from the past that just won’t die. It’s based on a 2012 reboot of a 1989 anime from a 1986 manga. Rebooted again this year. Magical girls without the sexy transformation scenes. Jojo inspired art and a daytime anime vibe (Yes, kids! You too can own the Santia Shyoko action figure with golden trident!). Wrong demographic, wrong aesthetic.

Never trust a character with tentacle hair.

TLDR — Anime I never finished, Winter 2019 Part 1

January 21, 2019

This season I had 16 new programs to watch, 15 on Crunchyroll and one on Amazon Prime (have you noticed that AP’s offerings have trailed off since they closed Anime Strike?). I got a slow start because of the Panama trip (see sidebar), but it gives me the chance to work my way through, two or three episodes at a time.

So far, I’ve watched eight, and am dropping four.

My Roommate is a Cat. Writer takes in a stray cat, and they bond. Except that the cat doesn’t think or act anything like a real cat would: Oh, he’s passed out on the floor. That’s like my siblings did when they starved. I better push my food bowl over to him. Plus, I’m not a cat fancier.

catpic
I am a cat. Of course I’ll share my food

The Promised Neverland. Bunch of 11 year-olds escape from an orphanage into a world of horror. Or something, I dropped it as they went out the gate. I’m not interested in characters that young.

kids
Here’s some kids. If you like them.

Lord El-Melloi II’s Case Files. Confused plot and uninteresting characters. Later, I found out it was a Fate/xx spinoff, which explains it.

cast pic
Not one of these characters is worth caring about.

Rinshii!! Ekodachan. Very strange anime. Protagonist is a dirt-poor Tokyo working girl who spends most of her on-screen time naked. If it weren’t for the minimalist art style, that might be exciting. It’s twelve episodes by twelve different directors and 12 different seiyuus. Kindof like Space Dandy, but without the budget. What drives it over the edge is the fact that each standard 24-minute episode consists of 4 minutes of anime, and 20 minutes of discussion with the director and seiyuu. Might be worth four minutes of your time.

Oh, I’m so bored