September 2, 2010

If the Complete DVD Set Was Cheaper, I Would Have Bought It.

Animus are always an issue for me. I do like them, when they’re good. The problem is that there is so, so much crap out there. I never feel like I have any idea where to start when looking for the really good stuff, especially when it’s the strange, weird things I enjoy. For example, stumbling into Saki was so, so lucky for me, and I loved that show to death. The method I used, though, was just randomly checking the anime thread on Talking Time, and seeing what showed up. Somehow, I found it.

Through similar means, I decided to watch Ouran High School Host Club.

First off, just look at that picture. Look at the show. This thing looks like it should be a complete and utter disaster. At a glance, you can tell it’s full of Reverse Harem tropes and potentially horrible fanservice, each character crafted to fill a specific niche fangirl demographic. It shares so much with so much anime crap out there.

But then you watch it, and within the first episode, not only does it point out which character plays to what stereotype, but it’s a show about a club attempting to be a Reverse Harem for people, to “bring joy to the ladies” as they put it, and is, at the same time, a Reverse Harem for Haruhi, the female protagonist.
And then it gets silly.

The show’s strength is that it knows it’s completely stereotypical in a lot of ways, and decides to just go all out and over the top with it, recognizing how it works. There’s a character in the show who shows up just to berate them on how shallow their characters are, and how they’re nothing like her visual porn novels. Most characters end up having a secret, but that secret is that they harbor ANOTHER anime stereotype, like the cute boy-lolita being a tournament-grade martial artist who people come from all over to fight.

At the same time, while all this is going on, it treats its characters with respect.

Let me go on a tangent here and talk about South Park. I once watched an interview with someone, I forget who. They were talking about why Jimmy and Timmy are okay characters for South Park to have. It’s not cool to make fun of people who are disabled in some way, right? But they said that the secret to this is that these characters are just people. Sure, those qualities are made fun of, but not any more than any of the other characters. They are treated exactly the same, even though they’re different. That makes it okay.

Ouran does this, too. Everyone is weird, or has some quirk, but it’s all treated as normal, even as it’s played up for laughs. The part that really impressed me in this is that Haruhi’s dad is a cross-dresser, and works at what the show calls a “tranny bar.” (It does bother me a little about what I would call the incorrect use of the word “tranny” in the show. Haruhi’s dad is still going by male pronouns, and still makes it clear that he’s the father. However, he’s clearly transgendered in some way, but is still comfortable, for the most part, with his male body. It’s likely that’s just what cross-dressers are called in Japan, or the translator made an incorrect word choice decision, as happened in an issue of Hourou Musuko. This is all kind of a tangent, though.) However, besides maybe one second of shock when he enters a scene for the first time, it’s treated completely as normal. “Oh, you must be Haruhi’s dad. I’ve never met a real tranny before. How are you?” And that’s kind of the end of the discussion. Nobody is freaked out by how he, and eventually his friends, dress. It’s just a thing, just like how Honey looks and acts pointlessly underage and the twins are constantly romancing each other just to get attention. Al these things do get jokes made about them, of course. For example, in a later episode, they end up waking Haruhi’s dad up early, before he’s shaved, and being a bit shocked about it. However, he’s just a person. That’s certainly the right way to go about it.

Anyway, I’m two episodes from watching the whole thing on Hulu, and I’ve very much enjoyed it. It’s made me laugh a lot. If you don’t have a strong working knowledge of the various shojo and reverse harem tropes that I do from reading tons and tons of manga back in the day, it might not be for you. Additionally, I hear the original manga isn’t nearly as tongue in cheek as the anime is, so that might not be a good choice too. But hey, it’s free on Hulu. Give the first episode a watch if you like this kind of stuff. I certainly enjoyed it.

October 6, 2009

The end of Lesbian Mah Jong??!?

So, Saki is over.
Well, for the season, anyway. It was very vague on whether or not there was going to be more. I certainly hope so, as I am a sucker for lesbian high school girls playing Mah Jong in a dramatic fashion. Mostly for the dramatic Mah Jong thing. Not the lesbian thing.

Honestly, can we talk about the lesbian thing. I mean, I am all for girl/girl romance. TOTALLY. Love in all forms is fucking awesome. But oh. My. God. At least have the romance be for the characters, you know? So often, so much of it was completely fanservice bait. It made it completely impossible to give a shit about the relationship between the characters. This is no less dramatic than in the last episode where, instead of, I dunno, playing Mah Jong, all the characters from the whole series decide they are all going to get naked in a tub and talk, sometimes about their feelings and sometimes about Mah Jong, and it’s just about the worst fanservice ever. Way to ruin the ending of the series. Good job.
The place where I get these episodes, which is… here, has a comment thread, and I made the mistake of looking. All throughout the thread are people talking about how hot the show is. Seriously? That’s why you’re watching this? You do realize you are on the internet, right? You can watch girls, anime or not, doing much sexier things RIGHT NOW. You wouldn’t even have to slog through all the playing of the Mah Jong. Hell, you could probably find a comic with the characters OF THE SHOW doing such things. Why are you even watching this? Ugh.

Anyway, that rant over, the show was really good. Well, in the way that any show about playing a game is really good in my eyes. It probably isn’t as good as Akagi, so if you’re going for only the top notch, I would probably suggest watching that. But it is certainly better animated than Akagi, is more over-the-top, and is really just a lot of fun once they get to the Mah Jong tables.
Everyone has some sort of crazy “Mah Jong” power. Some people control the “flow” of the tiles, some people have extra strength in various situations, such as during the East round or while on a Hell wait. Some players, such as the main character, Saki, have a specific hand that they can manifest at will. These powers don’t ALWAYS come into play, and are not specifically called out as superpowers. But they are used, fairly often, to really ramp up the tension in a way that someone who doesn’t know the game of Mah Jong can understand. It may require a lot of explanation by the narrator in Akagi before I can truly get what he did, but in Saki, it’s explained in much clearer anime terms: I have to do this to block her power from going off. It’s understandable, even if you don’t enjoy the game, and it is enjoyable.

Anyway, it’s a very silly show, but I enjoyed every moment of it. At the end of the last episode, they showed this sort of… montage of the teams they would be playing against at Nationals. I’m unsure if that was throwing the fans of the manga a bone, or if that was an indication that they’re working on a second season. I certainly hope it’s the second season. I would love to watch more.
Whether or not you’d like to watch it really depends on if you can stomach blatant, painful fanservice and enjoy silly game-based shows as much as I do. I think, just by reading a quick description, you’d know if you’d get a kick out of it or not. If you think you would, let’s watch it together or something. It’ll be awesome.

July 25, 2009


Something was wrong.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya pretty well single-handedly got me back into anime. The first season was so excellently put together with a splash of well-applied avant-garde that really drew you in and made you interested, not to mention welcomed multiple viewings. And dammit, I did watch it multiple times, I picked out all kinds of little things in it, and then I sat back and I said “Woah. Here is something great. Here is something that not only lives up to the incredible hype and fandom it has, but in some ways even surpasses it. Amazing.”

Then there was a season 2, and it started sneakily, in the middle of reruns of season 1. Ha! It was back!

And then came Endless Eight.
It started out innocently enough. A rather boring little episode. But then it aired again, only a little different. And then again and again and wheeeee, Endless Motherfucking Eight!

I’m not going to argue for or against it. I’m sure internet people are doing that all over. But fuck, my blog is so insular. So fucking insular. No, I want to figure out why the fuck I keep watching it, and why I have the reaction to it that I do, and that reaction is…
Well, no reaction.
Honestly, I don’t much feel one way or another on this one. It’s not that I have some endless trust of the people making the show. They had a lot of trust, but by the fourth time I was watching the same episode remixed, that has been completely squandered. I can’t even imagine a way in which this stupid stunt could pay off, much less pay off in the same way that the awesome stunt of Season 1 did. It’s not that I think it’ll be worth it.
And it’s certainly not that it’s entertaining. So little changes from episode to episode that it really doesn’t seem worth my time.

Yet I watch and I watch and I watch.

I love these characters, and I love the world, and the show is really well animated. And I mean, it’s not like they’re reusing shots or anything for these episodes. I keep watching to see what happens to them. I keep going because I want them to break out of this stupid plot bullshit that the animation company has set them in and get back to what made the series great. Honestly, I highly doubt they won’t, after this, come back, in “apologetic” fashion, with something full force that will wow me.

But why stick with the Eight? Why not wait until it’s over? Is it just to be part of the crowd? To be “in” on the time when they pranked their viewing audience or whatever?

Fuck, I dunno.

(If I was really stupid, I’d post this blog post with minor edits for the next few days, Luckily, I am not a complete moron.)

July 21, 2009

The ending theme is some sort of ridiculous Mah Jong Metal tune.

So hot off my Mah Jong Anime Kick, I decided to watch another Mah Jong anime. I was told that Akagi was not only better, but the best Mah Jong based show out there. (Then again, I can’t suppose that it’s too competitive a field)

My first impression was that it was going to be too manly. Instead of being about cute girls giving it their all at a tournament, it’s about some guy running the Yakuza for all they’re worth? Didn’t seem like my kind of thing.
Then I kept putting on the next episode. Then the next…

The show is actually less about Mah Jong than it might first appear. The show is more using Mah Jong as a medium for mind games, and it works really well. It has the same kind of competitive mind game back and forth that makes Death Note so addictive when it’s “on.” Because these are back alley games, players can cheat, lie, and talk their way out of situations and, as long as they don’t get caught, it’s completely legal to do so. Akagi beats his opponents by both playing skill and sleight of hand. I just sit there, mesmerized. It is so compelling, not only seeing how he wins, but watching those watching the game try to guess his weird strategies.

But man, this has to be the cheapest show to animate EVER. There is a narrator voicing over and explaining things constantly, and as he does, you’re mostly seeing still shots of people’s poker faces being panned over, or shots of Mah Jong tiles that are obviously CG, so they just rendered each tile once and kept shuffling it around. It is so clear that this is so cheap.

Still, as I said, the show is completely compelling. It is certainly working inside budgetary limitations to bring me an amazing show, and for that, I am thankful. I’m about halfway through the series now, and I am almost certainly going to finish it… however, watching it has put me so behind on podcasts, I feel like I should spend awhile catching up on those first… but soon! Soon.

July 15, 2009

I’ll be playing cards in a much more dramatic fashion for weeks.

So, there’s a thread on Talking Time. It’s called Fall Anime ’08. The title is kind of incorrect, though, as it’s much more about talking about what Animes are currently running and how they are. (I guess the title was correct, back in Fall of ’08, but it keeps being used.

In any case, I check in there from time to time. I used to be all about the animes, and I like vaguely knowing what’s going on in the Anime world. So while I’m there, I hear about an anime called Saki. It’s painfully fanservice-y, with lesbian sexual tension poured on by the bucketful, and it’s not very good.

But it’s about Mah Jong. And how winning this Mah Jong tournament is the only thing that matters. And dammit, I am completely weak by this kind of concept. The idea of these dramatic shows about board games, card games, and so on is what made me watch seasons of Yu-gi-oh. I can’t get away from such things. They are so compelling to me, even when I want to murder the animators every time they’re like “MUST HAVE THE CAMERA ANGLE SHOW SHE HAS BIG BREASTS LOL!” When you play Mah Jong like this, then I watch. I am so weak.

So yeah, that’s what I’ve been doing for the last day or two. Watching Lesbian High Schoolers Play Mah Jong show. What have you been up to?

June 14, 2009

The negative connotations to “transient” really help sell the feel of the comic.

This manga is very good. I wish it were officially translated, so I could give them lots of money.

I like Shojo manga. I mean, I do. Granted, I’m past the point where I will read most everything, much like I’m pass the point where I’ll enjoy just about any Shonen manga… though fun, especially your first one, there are definitely tropes and a set pattern to putting them together that, eventually, you get tired of reading again and again. Then you look for something different. You look for something with deeper characters than most and an interesting world, like xXxholic. Or you look for something with amazing twists, such as the intense, constant hatred and forced submission take on the standard shojo love triangle in Hot Gimmick. (Which I need to get back to. I hope it stayed as fresh as it started) Most of the time, the gimmick (which is almost ironic to say after I just mentioned Hot Gimmick, huh) is all a shojo manga has, and that isn’t enough to mask the generic, formulaic plot.

Hourou Musuko is formulaic, in ways. It’s got your love triangle action. It’s got kids growing up and finding themselves. And, honestly, it has a gimmick. But that gimmick is that two of the main characters, Shuichi Nitori and Yoshino Takatsuki, are transgendered. Not only does that idea change the tone, the plots, everything about the manga, but it does so in a realistic way, which characters true to life that it can bring me to depressive tears. Sure, there is the standard awkward romance stuff in there, and perhaps some of the things that occur is a little unrealistic, (The schools they go to seem a little too eager to put on many plays where guys and girls switch their roles, for instance) but that stuff is always fun, and the comic doesn’t let it stop this strong look at how kids dealing with knowing their body is wrong try to figure themselves out. So much of what they say to themselves, at times, seems like things that have come out of my own mouth. Their problems are realistic.

And hell, it even does a very admirable job of dealing with how their friends, who know about their issues, deal with them as well. I think Saori is a pretty fantastic character. She’s in love with Nitori, but doesn’t know how to deal with the fact that “he” is leaning towards Takatsuki. Is it because Takatsuki is really a guy? Or does “he” like girls and is just not interested in her? Her dealing with these things in anger, in religion… it’s pretty intense as well. I love it.

I also think it pretty great (although another one of those crazy coincidences that seem unrealistic, but you let it go because it works so well in the story) that Both Takatsuki and Nitori end up meeting and befriending an adult named Yuki, who turns out to be an MtF transsexual. She’s a very awkward character in many ways, oddly sexual with these young kids, for instance, but at the same time, she too is a complete character, and not a stereotype. We see her family situation, the good and the bad, and we see how she views gender, which to her is kind of invisible and inconsequential. It’s also nice for the characters to have someone to come and ask for advice, which makes her a good plot helper, as well.

Anyway… this comic is the real deal. It’s very well written, moving forward at a slow, but purposeful pace. I’m not done with everything translated on the website I linked up there, but it’s been nothing but great so far. I am a fan. I think the fact that it affects me so much just says how well it’s put together.
I highly recommend giving it a chance. Highly.

December 23, 2008

Random Humor: A Quick Theory

So, the other night, after showing Jessie Left 4 Dead and having a good time at that (though she obviously isn’t a shooter player. It shocks me that she beats games like Silent Hill that frustrate me. She must either be better at them than me or have extreme patience) we went looking for something to watch, and, after looking through what I had, we ended up trying some Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei. I’m happy to report that it hasn’t lost any of its humor from the last time I watched it. It’s still got such intense randomness combined with horrible stereotypes. Heh. It was, you know, good times.
About halfway through, though, I remembered a series that relied on random humor that I hadn’t seen in an eternity and got out the DVDs. That series is Excel Saga. Going back and watching it, I barely remembered much about it. I feel like it doesn’t hold up quite as well as back then. It’s still totally random, of course, and the humor comes from that randomness (Space Butler!) but it’s significantly less character driven. There’s all kinds of random shit happening, but Excel is just this crazy person who does crazy things as opposed to a character, really, and stuff just… well… happens. Like I said. Yeah.
Basically, mulling these things over, I think I’ve kind of figured out what makes randomness work so well, and that is an adherence to a strong internal logic, even if the events don’t make any sense. Granted, Excel Saga is purposefully lacking an internal logic because they change everything around every episode to spoof various styles and whatnot, but that’s also hindering it. No matter what fucked up things happen in Mr. Despair and his class, they are still internally consistent, even if their characters are kind of expanded stereotypes. Each member of the class is going to react in a logical way, given what you know about them. It gives the wackiness some grounding, a baseline to compare the craziness to, and that just makes it more funny. Right?
That’s the theory, anyway.

September 18, 2007

It’s a beautiful world.

It’s time to test blogging from Flock on the new system. If you’re seeing this, it’s working! SCORE!

So now, I’m going to review Kino’s Journey, the anime, also known as Kino No Tabi. I’ve got two episodes left. Short version, it’s really good. I’m happy to have paid money for it.

The story is a tale of a youngish girl named Kino, who rides around to all these various countries that are stora like City-States, on her talking motorcycle, Hermes. She’s got two guns and she sometimes kill people, but that’s not the point of the show. Basically she just goes and looks around, talking to people, and finding out how they live.
Most of the characters Kino meets have a decent amount of depth to them. They’re interesting, which is good, because a lot of the episodes involve these people just telling their tales. These tales are happy, these tales are sad, these tales are infuriating. Most stories don’t seem to have a point or a moral, they just how things are. It’s just sort of reporting on how things are in the world the show takes place in, and thus talking about how our lives work.
Most of the emotion, though, is very detached. Kino herself is a very deadpan, detached person, probably because of her past, and all the death she’s experienced. She’s a good person, but she does kill when she feels it appropriate. The book opens with her asking Hermes if she’s a bad person for all the people she’s shot. She’s not, really, but at the same time she shows very little remorse for the death she causes. The most remorse and sadness she’s shown in the show, really, has been over the deaths of three rabbits she killed to make food for some travellers that are stranded. The fact that most of the deaths are fairly graphic and not obscured combined with this sort of “That’s how life is” additude the show has towards death is kinda… refreshing and interesting. There are no dramatic deathbed speeches or crying over dead bodies. They’re just dead.
The whole show feels detached, and it leads to a more… distant feel than most shows. You really do feel like you’re, I dunno, looking through a camera at all this, and aren’t really a part of it. Even when Kino is involved, doing things to help, she’s very clearly just passing through. It’s just a small stop, an interesting story to tell others, and after three days she’ll be gone and likely never have any effect on these people. You watch, and very emotional things happen, and the show has real emotion behind it, but you can barely feel it, because you’re so far away. It’s like a little quiet echo of feeling. It’s kinda unsettling, but it fits the series perfectly. I might be over dramaticizing what I feel here, of course, but it’s a hard thing to explain.
In any case, I suggest you watch it if that sounds like something you could enjoy. The Light Novel this is based on is amazing too, which I think I’ve written about before. It was the reason I bought this, and I’m going to buy the rest of the Light Novels as they come out. Brer claims that the show is similar in feel to The Little Prince, which is something I’ve always wanted to read but never got around to it. I trust that he’s right, as he’s watched a couple episodes with me (though it didn’t keep his interest) so that might be a good thing to keep in mind if you’re thinking about watching it.

There you go. Another rambling review done. Man, I feel exhausted for no real reason… I should go take a nap.

September 17, 2007

Now I know why I’m never rewarded. I’m a damn twisted person.

Okay, I have minutes before class, and I’m going to do a quick review of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, because I’ve been watching it.

Short Version: It’s really weird, but the kind of weird I laugh at. For example, see Youtube video of the opening.

Long Version: It is a story of a man who is over-dramatically depressed. When you write his name sideways, it says “Despair.” Apparently one of his brother’s names, written that way, is “Death” as well. He’s a doctor.
Anyway, he’s a school teacher, and he has a class full of female stereotypes: Panty-shot prone forgeiner. Shy Text-messager. Anal-retentive leader-type. Stalker. Hikkomorri. Etc, etc. All of them have very punny sorts of names that reflect who they are. Although all of these characters are fairly one-dimentional, it’s just silly to watch them all interact together in one place. You add this sort of feeling to the incredible randomness of the people making the anime (every time the camera cuts away from a blackboard, it says something different, and what it says is almost always pointless and unrelated. They also use this head of someone I assume is on the anime team all over everywhere. It’s even in that opening I linked.) and you get this sort of crazy humor which often appeals to me. It’s not going to break any sort of new anime ground or be art in any way, but it’s an enjoyable show. About how I feel about Lucky Star, actually, now that I think about it. Not going to become fanatical about it, but it’s entertaining enough to make me want to keep getting new episodes to fill my time. I suppose that’s all most shows can ask for.

In non-review related news, apparently Ecks was not insane, and the title of my blog is cut off when you’re viewing it with Vista’s version of Internet Explorer (I’m on a Vista PC at the computer lab at school right now). I’m not going to worry about it, it looks pretty fine anyway, but that’s really weird. I guess that’s just more proof that Vista is not something you really want to be near right now. Give it at least another year for Microsoft to hammer out a lot of the suckiness, yeah?

Okay, class time. Trying to catch up on reviewing all the stupid things I’ve been consuming. Up soon: Invincible, Metroid Zero Mission, Metroid Fusion, Kino’s Journey. I’m sure you don’t care, but stay tuned for thoughts on those anyway.