Saturday, January 31, 2009

What the fuck happened to Kiba Kouichi, anyway?

One volume of short stories done over several years (and released several years ago) is not enough.
Apparently he was working on a novel, and is now doing a cell phone comic.
And blogging a fuckload of boring crap.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Revenge of the Undeniable Truths

The ACTUAL top ten Manliest manga!

1. Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, fucking obviously. I mean, come the fuck on. Manliness just pulses off the god damn page. And it has more pages than anything else. Except maybe Golgo 13, which isn't on this list because I haven't read it. But Jojo's! I have read many, many manga, and quite a number of them were actually better, but this will always be my favorite.

2. Souten Kouro - King Gonta's epic retelling of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms from the villain's point of view is so god damn manly it makes women grow beards. Which is why it remains untranslated. They quiver in fear, the fairer sex. Quiver in awe at the sheer power contained within.

3. Giant Robo: The Day the Earth Burned - all the epically over the top retro robot kung fu hero styled madness of the Giant Robo anime, plus art heavily influenced by Jojo's. Also cuts out all that pansy ass time wasted on strong female leads. I kind of missed that, honestly, but fuck it, it has a dude with a chainsaw fighting a giant robot.

4. Kilico - Kouichi Kiba's works are always deranged - he's the manga answer to Drill Hole in the Brain's Maijo Otaro - and this is his longest, and stars a man with a really fucking big gun. Probably only ranks this low because I don't remember much about it.

5. Iron Wok Jan - You know what often defines manliness? Being a complete fucking dick.

6. Violence Jack - This probably deserves to be a bit higher on the sheer epic manliness scale, but I bumped it down a bit because I would be hard pressed to actually describe it as good. Diseased, yes. Fucking bizarre, yes. Good? Fuck no.

7. Ushio and Tora - ah, remember the days when shonen manga actually featured manly shonen? I'm trying to work out some crack about the hair extending super powers that doesn't involve me thinking about Ushio's balls, and failing. On a side note, an entire set of this is sitting randomly on a shelf in the Nintendo Starbucks.

8. Gunnm: Last Order - I think Joe already proved this point.

9. Vinland Saga - Vikings! Revenge!

10. Berserk - Phallic symbols!

I am hungry. To heck with writing more!

Shugo Tokumaru's Exit

The description of "Japanese pop" is enough for me to lose any sort of interest, but my curiosity usually gets the better of me -- thankfully, this is one of few times where I'm glad my expectations were wrong.

Shugo Tokumaru's Exit was recorded in 2007, released stateside in 2008, and I'm only getting around to giving it some justified listening in 2009. He will never be mistaken for a Tom Waits or Elliott Smith, but his sense of eclecticism and its relation to production doesn't ruin songs like, say, Animal Collective consistently do. I probably enjoy it a bit more than I should, but it's too short and fun for me to care.

Ride Back, Episode 03

I am hoping that Andrew swoops in to assure me that the manga is better.

It's an alarming sign when the most exciting bits are the shounen-inspired race scenes. Rin is passively interesting, but cannot carry the work by herself. Shouko isn't much more than a wallflower. Suzuri needs to fall off a Ride Back and break her goddamn neck. I can't even remember the names of Glasses Guy and the other one. Katoaka is the Rival and Potential Plot Device right now. Okakura is the only one that grabs me, but that's largely because he bears an actual relation to the politics and history of the world -- the draw of the series to begin with!

I also am not optimistic that it'll be satisfying if they get around to "the war shit" as Andrew has previously described. The likelihood of hurried exposition that is revealed simply when it's convenient isn't my lone worry, either -- anime just rarely succeeds in presentation of politics. The only titles that meet that level have been made by Kenji Kamiyama, Mamoru Oshii or Satoshi Kon. Just about any other attempt either makes a superficial protest (Kamichu!, Now and Then, Here and There) or else becomes too apologetic (Gasaraki, Zipang).

Maybe Hideki Arai has spoiled me with The World is Mine and Kiichi!!, but that's still no fucking excuse for this apolitical attitude that Japan apparently has in their graphic mediums.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Jonathan Clements is better than you

There's no shame in it, just accept it and move on. And buy his books.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Undeniable facts

No book by Kia Asamiya can ever appear on a top ten list of anything. Unless that list is a "Top Ten Shittiest Things Ever Drawn" list. And he will undoubtedly be all ten fucking entries.
There is nobody worse. There never will be anyone worse. All his works should be burned, and his hands should be cut off and fed to his children.

Especially do not include one of his works on a top ten list of manly manga that does not include Jojo's Bizarre Adventure.

Jojo's Bizarre Adventure is required on just about any top ten list, particularly ones involving words like "Manly", "Awesome", "Fucking Awesome", "Orgasmic", "Genius", "Virile", "Oddly Gay", and "Fucking go read this now".

Zoo Finale: In the Falling Airplane

Nastily funny black comedy to wrap things up; rivals Seven Rooms as the best story in the book. An apologetic student hijacks a plane after failing the Tokyo University entrance exam for the fifth time. Any number of passengers try to stop him, but invariably trip on an empty soda can and get shot.
Meanwhile, a suicidal salesman is attempting to make one last sale - the poison he'd planned on killing himself with. Haggling furiously with him over the price is a woman on her way to get revenge on a man who did something unspeakable to her in high school. (We're not told what, but both the salesman and the hijacker nearly throw up when she tells them.)
Very dry all the way through. "Do you believe in the prophecies of Nostradamus?" is the salesman's opening line; "I'm not really in the mood to die," she explains, vaguely exasperated.
"If this were a manga, the hero would rally us together and we'd take the hijacker down. But if, for example, this were the last short story in a collection, we'd be doomed."

Zoo 09: The Word of God

Big return to form here. Narrator is not a pleasant individual...and he has the word of God, the power to make anyone do his bidding. But with one catch - he can't ever reverse the effect.
This starts out innocently enough, with his mother no longer being able to tell the difference between the cat and a cactus, but soon progresses to his father losing all his fingers, and concludes with the narrator discovering he has already murdered the entire population of the earth, and has used his own powers to keep himself from noticing.
Beautifully nasty.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Tokyo Gore Police cannot be summarized

... only recommended.

It's tasteless, erratic, ecstatic, and lots of other words. Only for those with a high tolerance for fake blood, rubber intestines, weaponized genitals, and the most horrific chair this side of Iain M. Banks. Familiarity with The Machine Girl a plus.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Goth: Mori no Yoru

I was more than a little surprised to see this title pop up on the novel release charts last month. Otsu Ichi is not exactly known for sequels, and Goth was written six years ago.
On closer inspection, the thing appears to be some sort of photo essay; the actress who played Morino in the movie teaming up with a photographer and Otsu Ichi to do 79 pages of text and story set a number of years after the original novel.
I'm curious, but not enough to actually pick it up...

Friday, January 23, 2009

I was totally not fucking kidding about trailer day

Goemon. Same director as Chassharn, and this also appears to be very pretty and utterly fail on every other aspect of filmmaking possible. Jesus, is that a lot of terrible fucking acting and writing. (I found the embed code!)

Yatterman. Miike Takashi on a big budget children's movie? Let's hope it's more The Great Youkai War (fucking awesome) than Zebraman (WTF happened?)
So um, neither of these exactly sold me, but they do both look batshit, which always at least intrigues.


I come once again to praise this stupid, marvelous show. Air Master 6-14 are, if possible, even more awesome and insane than the first five, if a little more shakily animated.

Episode 6's budget nosedives horrifically in a way rarely seen nowadays, but thankfully the series manages to drag itself back out of the crater in fairly short order. After that initial burp, the fights become even more absurd and brutally, beautifully kinetic, to the point where they've pretty much ruined me for other shows.

While the fights are all serious business, pretty much everything else is strange as all hell. I'm way past the point where I can take fighting-anime plots seriously, and AM's apparent allergy to coherent narrative or characterization is a refreshing change from expecting me to actually, like, respect the internal logic of the story of a teenage gymnast turned antigravity street brawler. In this series, any damn thing can happen, and usually does. In fact, this block of the series has multiple arcs that start as oddball one-off fillers that randomly just refuse to end, and derail the show for several episodes.

The other thing this run of episodes has is plenty of Kaori Sakiyama. As commented last time, Kaori is that rarest of anime characters, the comic relief "rival" who becomes awesome in her own right, mainly due to sheer psychotic force of will (and occasionally channeling Devilman Lady). She is quite probably the best character in the series to date, even beating out the perpetually hung-over invincible gigolo. Cannot wait to see how this insanity ends.

French people are awesome

Apparently it is trailer day.
District B13 was fucking awesome; District B13: Ultimatum looks awesomer.
The teaser was a little overedited, and the trailer has too many French people yapping, but fuck it, it also has parkour dude flipping onto the balcony on the floor above.

Kamui Gaiden

Co-written by Kudo Kankuro - who wrote Ping Pong and a shit load of other great stuff, but has been largely doing comedy the last few years. Nice to seem him back to drama.
The manga is...well, strictly speaking, I haven't read the manga. This is Kamui Gaiden, and I read Kamui Den I (there's also a Kamui Den II).
Kamui Den I is uh...fascinatingly erratic, although I never actually finished it. Have all three series in a pile. But it basically lurches wildly between lengthy animal kingdom specials (heavy handed analogies), history lessons so heavily reflecting the author's communist beliefs they amount to propaganda, and crazy ass ninja shit.
My understanding is that Kamui Gaiden is just the crazy ass ninja shit, the author having mellowed out a bit.
More than enough to mine for awesome.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Ride Back 02

Finally found time to watch this.
Whoever the fuck is voicing this character:

Needs to have their voice box ripped out by jackals.
Then we need to stab fucking knitting needles through the director's ears for letting her fucking talk like that and eviscerate his show.
I can't even decide if the rest of the episode was at all watchable, because every time I thought I was safe she fucking squealed like a stuck pig being roasted alive and ruined everything.
Can't get on to the war shit fast enough.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Zoo 08: Closet

Um. This one's a puzzler; Otsu Ichi has mentioned that he's a big fan of traditional mysteries, with their endless boring explanations of ludicrously involved deductive chains no actual human would bother with (we have this thing called intuition which tends to skip a few pointless steps).
He occasionally tries to write them himself, but doesn't seem to be very good at it. He likes them too much, or something; the moment he tries to write a mystery he starts writing the sort of flat, cryptic non-entities that populate most mysteries - for a writer so good at sketching strong characters in his regular work, it's baffling how something like Closet, where you know nothing about the lead, and nothing about the detective other than "she has pale skin" which he keeps repeating, like it will help us care.
And while the parameters of the mystery did shift nicely at one point in the middle, the logic ultimately failed to add up, unless I was just past caring and missed a bit. I mean, we've proven how the killer left the room, so how does that lead back around to him still fucking hiding in the closet?
The most entertaining thing about this was that I totally misread the katakana for the victim's name, Ryuji. Everything was quite a bit stranger when I thought he was Luigi.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Disappearance Diary

"This manga has a positive outlook on life, and so it has been made with as much realism removed as possible."

The above quote opens Disappearance Diary, a filtered autobiographical manga by Hideo Azuma, known for his science-fiction works and as the father of lolicon. It's not an entirely fair representation of the book -- Azuma doesn't outright reject the hardships he went through, or that he didn't endure them because of his own shortcomings -- but it's an accurate indication to the distanced tone of his two disappearances and period of heavy drinking.

This "removal of realism" is what will divide readers who will find enjoyment over Azuma's failings and misadventures and those that will come away hating the man -- neither are wrong in their respective position. Azuma's restrained acknowledgment of what he put his loved ones through, as well as his editors and readers, is only reserved for two interviews, one posted at the end of the book and the other on the insides of flaps (the reality of the situation fittingly hidden). There's a couple nods to them inside Azuma's stories themselves, though hardly to the point of warranted sympathy. ("None of this was funny," Azuma insists, as he refuses to give any details of a particular reunion with him and his wife. The incident wasn't funny for him, I'm sure.) Azuma is simply more interested in making his life's derailments enjoyable to the readers -- which, when putting any sort of ethical obligations aside, he does succeed at.

I'll admit that I rarely laughed during my reading of the book. There are plenty of scenes throughout that are obviously intended to evoke laughter, but I mostly found them either cloying or else fitting to the bouyant tone of the story. (There are a few exceptions to this, such  as the ending of his first disappearance period at a police station, where it is revealed that one of the cops is a fan of Azuma's work, and has the artist draw and sign a piece for his child.) What continually carries Disappearance Diary is the fact that the stories are simply engaging. All of the little survival pieces and advice, along examinations of his jobs and of other's quirks, strengths and mistakes -- even if Azuma only superficially alludes to his own -- drive the tale, up until the conclusion partway through Azuma's alcoholic rehabiliation.

Though, in truth, there is no actual conclusion, no sort of All Important Moral to Learn from the book. Azuma implies a continuation to conclude his diversions from reality sometime in the near-future. Even if it is a detached enjoyment, I'll be looking forward to following it.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Eve no Jikan, Episodes 01-03

Japanese animation is all too often an emotionally and intellectually shallow subset of a medium. If an anime series features young girls in contrived, tragic situations, why it must be very deep -- ask any otaku who seeks out tragedy porn that isn't far removed from daytime soap operas, save for the characters' ages. And for depth? Who needs actual examination of socially and philosophically relevent themes (any of the four yoshitoshi ABe anime or Satoshi Kon's works) when all you apparently need is a love of pastiche and superficial real-world references (Ergo Proxy, Boogiepop Phantom, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence).

In this industry of melodrama and allusions, it makes it all the more satisfying when works like Yasuhiro Yoshiura's Eve no Jikan (Time of Eve) are created.

To give a brief background: Yoshiura's first foray into anime was Mizu no Kotoba (Aquatic Language). It's a quirky nine-minute short, charming in its rough artistry and decidedly different sense of humor. This was followed by an extremely ambitious work, Pale Cocoon, which remains as the best short film that I've ever seen. Aside from an interestingly subverted cyberpunk setting and gorgeous visuals, it features satisfyingly sharp commentary on heritage and knowledge. The film is is suitably moody; while not dark as is common with these type of stories, it definitely leaves a fair bit of time for introspection, in spite of the quick editing.

It only makes sense, then, that Yoshiura follows such a weighty piece with a story that is the tonal opposite, though not lacking any of the intelligence.

The premise and concepts are hardly originally, as has been pointed out with snide remarks by science fiction readers. Yet Eve no Jikan still succeeds because of the frank, playful nature of Yoshiura's storytelling. From wink-turned-stars to thought bubbles to fast-paced sequences of overlapping dialogue to the most convincing "camera illusion" in anime, it's hard not to view the series as straightforward fun. This lightning-fast writing and wit is complimented by a simple structure of introducing and fleshing out new characters -- be they human or not -- and ideas, all in the span of 15 minutes.

In fact, the short runtime of each installment is the only major mark against it, really: the production team is the same for each episode so as to maintain visual consistency (which is well worth the effort). This emphasis on detail means a long wait between releases, with the first episode of the "second season," episode four, set to come out in April.

If there is any sort of justice in this world, then the North American anime fandom will at last catch on to Yoshiura's underappreciated genius. Eve no Jikan is accessible and entertaining enough to do just that.

Taste the Chocolate Pain

The official US trailer basically adds a fucking awesomely terrible tag line. Midnight screenings February 6th in Seattle and a few other cities; DVD on Feb 10th - did they not think this would make money? I do not understand a world where that can be right.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Zoo 07: The White Hut in the Forest

Briefly thought about combining this with the next story, since my reaction to it can largely be summed up with the phrase, "What the fuck is this garbage?"
This is just a pointless grotesquerie about a man with a hole in his head who builds a home for himself out of human bodies. There was absolutely nothing good about it, and this fucker alone makes a strong case for a more traditional, selective approach to Otsu Ichi; you'd get access to the best of his earlier work, and not have to include his oddball diversions and occasional disastrous failures.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Zoo 06: The Search for Blood!

Speaking of Otsu Ichi's less often seen sides, this is the one I'd like to see more of.
I think this is only the second thing I've read by him that was designed to be funny. He's got a very offbeat knack for it.
The narrator is a 64 year old man who can feel no pain. He wakes up one morning covered in blood, and his horrible children, senile doctor, and gold digging wife discover a knife in his side, which seems to please them all immensely.
The senile doctor has brought enough of the narrator's blood to keep him alive until the ambulance comes, but has, unfortunately, forgotten where he put it. While they search for the blood, the narrator has plenty of time to solve his own murder.

Least expected "Yes we can"

To Aru Majutsu no Index 15
I don't have particularly strong memories of the fourth novel; I enjoyed it, but it definitely was one of the lesser ones. The body swapping bit was also a fairly generic bit of comedy plotting.
It works ten times better in the anime.

Right about this point I was realizing that his cousin (as played by Misaka) is absolutely going to give any number of moefanatics a stroke, and those that survive will undoubtedly be undone by Touma's mom (as played by Index) and her teeeeeeny tiny bikini. The sheer calculated malice behind this due of nuclear punches to the more pedophilic segments of his audience definitely gives them an extra layer of hilarity, and he's not done there.
Each transformation manages to be absolutely appalling, the characters mapped to produce uncanny chills.
And the anime even put in a little topic joke of their own.

This absolutely destroyed me, and damn near destroyed my laptop, since I had just taken a big gulp of rum and coke. I'm glad J.C.Staff are aware that this is inauguration week, and decided to give the President props by turning him into a lesbian schoolgirl.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Zoo 05: Zoo

Ever notice how the title story in short story collections is never particularly memorable?
Not that this one is bad - it was a fun/fucked up little idea, and he got more out of it than I'd have expected, but it is clearly a lesser work.
Zoo is the simple tale of a man desperately searching for the bastard that killed his girlfriend...while fully aware that he killed her himself. He just can't admit it. So he pretends to search; every day he finds the evidence of their final trip together in his car; every day he follows it to the cabin where her body lies. He then pretends to remember the truth, pretends to reel in shock, and lies to himself that he will turn himself in. Then he takes a picture of her rotting corpse, and puts it in his mailbox. In case he forgets again.
Then he wakes up in the morning, finds the pictures, pretends to wonder who could be doing this, scans the picture, opens up a movie making software, and adds it to the end of the reel depicting her corpse as it rots away, twelve days a second.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Zoo 04: Hidamari no Shi

The last man on earth builds a robot to bury him, and spends his last month alive teaching her the meaning of death.

One of the worst things Otsu Ichi has ever done; I defended him a couple of posts earlier for doing his own thing even after success, but this reads like a bizarre attempt to channel Bradbury while aiming it squarely at the cell phone novel market. Stylistically precious, the entire affair reads like a fucking Hallmark card, and the lessons are every bit as pat. All the flaws of that awful third story in Calling You, but without an interesting gimmick to give you hope early on. Took me all weekend to plow through the thing.
If you thought Ballad of a Shinigami was high art, this will utterly blow your mind, but I see this much sentiment and puke.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Tamil is part of Asia, right?

Deserves some sort of award for most absurdly turbocharged trailer ever.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Black God vs Kurokami

What do you call a comic made by Koreans, published in Japan, then adapted into anime? Depends on who's publishing it.

As translated by Yen Press, Black God is by frequent collaborators Dall-Young Lim (writer) and Sung-Woo Park (artist), who actually have a surprising amount of work available in English, mainly via Infinity Studios. As Bandai Entertainment renders it, Kurokami is another interesting response to the changed and struggling anime marketplace, aiming for a more or less simultaneous broadcast in Japan, the US, and South Korea. I have a soft spot for Park's art, so I figured I may as well post on something topical I actually have an opinion about.

The basic plot revolves around doppelgangers, though not quite in the way you might expect. In this setting, every human being has two identical duplicates living out separate lives somewhere, and if two meet they are both fated to die, leaving the third as the only survivor. The Mototsumitama are higher beings in charge of keeping this cosmic order running, but apparently have become corrupted by their power and exposure to human society. As in most fight manga, this is all basically a justification for people to whomp on each other with super powers. Our main characters are average dude Keita, who saw his mother meet one of her duplicates and die, and Kuro, a rogue Mototsumitama, weiner dog enthusiast, and token invincible fighter girl.

Anime adaptations are rarely an improvement on their source material, and Kurokami's first episode was no different, with a number of puzzling changes that make the series more generic. Most obviously, Keita has been deaged several years, and changed from a slacker/aspiring game developer to an angsty high schooler. This also changes his relationship with older friend Akane from possible love interest to surrogate mom.

The pacing is also way off compared to the original. Black God basically gets the backstory out of the way once, right at the beginning, but Kurokami repeats it over and over, inventing several new characters just to exposit about it. This eats so much screen time that it interferes with the plot; the first manga chapter ends on a kinda gory cliffhanger the anime actually rewrites the first fight to avoid... so they can insert their own, different one.

The production values are OK at least (the character designs are a decent adaptation of Park's work, but don't quite have that same something that caught my eye), and the fight they get around to is decently animated, but watching it so soon after Air Master didn't do it any favors. The dub is all right. I didn't think any of the performances were particularly noticeable, but none were particularly horrible either.

It's too early to make an ironclad judgement on this one, but going by the pointless changes to the basic setup, it looks like we're on course for a fairly flavorless adaptation of a decent but unambitious fighting series. The novelty of the simulcast will probably keep my attention for another couple weeks, but unless it seriously picks up, I don't see it being worth much time; just read the original instead.

"The structure of ‘The Tale of Genji’ is essentially the same as a cell-phone novel.”

The New Yorker talks about cel phone novels.

Elsewhere, one of the Toastyfrog/Gamespite crew posts about an Ico novel.

Ride Back 01


There's not even any point in complaining that the entire first half is slow as hell, since that is what every damn anime in the world does, and I don't think they padded it all that much, anyway.

The moment the first Ride Back pokes it's head out the door, things start moving, and before you know it the show has become absolutely exhilarating.
Spectacular first episode, damn glad they're doing the manga justice.

Where Martial Arts And Hip-Hop Collide

I saw Volcano High a couple years ago (what the hell is up with Wikipedia calling this a film noir?), but I decided to rewatch it in the MTV dub version, on the theory that everything is better with Tracy Morgan. It is both better and worse than I expected.

It goes without saying that the entire soundtrack has been replaced, but the dub cast is surprisingly faithful and restrained... even Tracy Morgan! I was expecting a lot more moments like when the evil female substitute teacher calls this character Bacon-head. The worst I can say about it is that it commits the classic dub error of being terrified of silence. Since the main character doesn't actually talk that much, this means there's pretty much a constant flow of his internal narration, like a wire-fu version of The Wonder Years.

On the other hand, the actual film footage has been kind of butchered. We lose about forty minutes overall, and some of the surviving scenes get shuffled around, most notably moving the lead character's traumatic flashback to the very beginning and cutting out about half of it, including my favorite joke in the movie. They also omit the whole kung-fu cliche plot about the secret scrolls, but let's be fair, the plot is not exactly the reason to watch this.

On the whole, I have to give MTV and Fox some respect for putting both versions of the movie on the DVD, so I can laugh ruefully at the iffy Americanization without actually feeling screwed over. If only all companies were so generous.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Kemono no Souja Erin

This one almost went under my radar - I remember reading the news that a novel by the author of Seirei no Moribito was going to be animated, but I had no idea they were burying it in the winter season.
Then I looked at the staff, and understood. The director of Library Wars. Seriously? The only reason I didn't complain more about how shitty the first episode of Library Wars was was that I watched the first episode of Real Drive immediately afterwards and concluded that Production IG had managed to destroy all value their name brand had at Wachowski speed.
So I downloaded this wondering if Nahoko Uehashi's skills were enough to make them rise again, like the phoenix, as the Wachowski's did with the undeniably awesome Speed Racer, or if we'd have to wait for them to go crawling back to Kenji Kamiyama in the spring.

Sadly, I think I'll be reading the novel instead of watching any more.
You can definitely see traces of what must have been a very interesting story, but the director's instincts are those of a die hard hack. Possibly one who wants to be more, as the awesome choice to replace the violent animal attacks with crayons shows.

But the majority of the episode was a collection of little things that annoy the piss out of me with anime. Little kids who speak in an adorably retarded fashion I know Uehashi would never dream of writing. The way people smile, and the unnatural beats of conversation, the overdone voice acting, even a few artificial bits of body language. It all just amounts to a pile of bad habits anime directors have developed over the years, and that the best of them manage to avoid, and I've just watched too much anime to be able to tolerate this crap.
And the music is seriously fucking terrible.

Shame, because I really like the backgrounds, the adult monsters are suitably ferocious looking, and the story itself certainly finds an unusual place to begin, leaving several promising threads for the show to follow. Since most people can't read the novels, and probably aren't as sensitive to certain hackwork directing tics, this entire review may well be a sort of backhanded recommendation.

Friday, January 9, 2009


I managed to show an episode of this to Joe a while back. He watched it for a while, and then gave me a bemused stare. "So they just snark about trivia?" he said.
But they do so very well.

Sixth season started properly today; moving up in the world to BBC1, apparently. I don't profess to understand the rankings of the BBCs, but the higher the number, the more shit the show. BBC3 makes Torchwood, so I can only assume BBC4 is for the mentally ill.
The format is utterly simple; Stephen Fry hosts, Alan Davies loses, and three other guests from an extended company of comedians all do their best to avoid letting Fry ask another impossible question. The extended riff is the single greatest type of comedy, and the least likely to be actually written - it only happens when people with the right type of mind get in the same room and attempt to make each other fall off the couch. Every episode of QI consists of nothing but these riffs, which make it the greatest game show of all time. Even if (or especially because) no one gives a flying fuck who wins.

Summon Plasma

To Aru Majutsu no Index 14 wraps up the third and best storyline from the novels I've
read. Best largely because Accelerator is fucking awesome.
His power is both simple and yet ludicrously limitless when it comes to creative uses; he'd fit right in as a Jojo's Bizarre Adventure lead, and probably without needing all that much personality change. Sure, he's a totally vicious self-centered asshole, but that never stopped anyone in anime from becoming a hero in the next storyline. Or the one after that.
Nobuhiko Okamoto is worth name dropping; I think the voice acting in this is generally quite good, sounding like mainstream anime acting with a little more range, but this dude - who doesn't appear to have done much before - really goes to down. The fucking bizarre laugh, the downright glossolilian gurgle he gives before summoning the plasma beam - shit is worth of a Baccano! character.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Japan Discovers Minimalism

Japanese movie trailers are, in general...not good. Awkwardly edited, and prone to slapping a drippy pop song all over the last half instead of making you care.
So the following approach must be taken as a positive sign:

God damn you, Dragon Dynasty

I am trying to save money here. Releasing Supercop this month and My Father is a Hero next month is killing me.
I had just about talked myself into not buying Supercop, but even if you lying fucks are calling it The Enforcer, My Father is a Hero is still close to the best thing Jet Li's ever done.

Gentlemen, Behold! moe Watchmen

Even the Watchmen are not immune to Japan's adorable obsession with making everything cute as possible.

I demand a re-shoot of the movie, and a re-issue of the graphic novel, stat (but maybe with a better artist).
via MangaBlog

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Zoo 03: SO far

SO stands for Significant Other, apparently, making for a fucking horrific title.

The five year old narrator is sitting on the couch, watching TV with his father. His mother comes in. "Watching TV all by yourself?" That's weird, he thinks. Dad gets up and walks out of the room, and the boy plays cards with Mom. Then his father comes back in. "Solitaire?"
That night, Mom makes dinner for two. Dad brings home a couple of meals from the bento shop.
Neither can see the other. Both claim the other died in a train accident. Only the boy can see them both.

I couldn't help but get a serious Jojo vibe off this - Otsu Ichi is not only on record as a huge fan, he wrote the fucking awesome Part 4 novel. Something about the uncanny situation here really showed the influence.

Unfortunately, it also showed up Otsu Ichi's one real weakness - he occasionally fails to come up with endings worthy of the rest of the story. This tends to lead to him trying for a dramatic twist, unsupported by the story - as in Goth's Dog - or one that simply feels like a lame ass cop out. Wish someone had had the sense to cut the last two pages.

Flying the sky

Doc's comment on America's shameful lack of pulp manga is correct. Most manga and anime that come over here are the ones deeply immersed in the tics of their medium, the rote, predictable shit that Kentaro Takekuma so ably skewered in Even A Monkey Can Draw Manga.

Which makes me all the happier that I never once guessed what the hell was going to happen next in five episodes of Air Master.

Air Master is pretty much all about the fight scenes. Not boring posedowns or ritualized fighting tournaments where every showdown lasts five episodes, just insane acrobatic beatdowns and a stream of dementedly themed opponents. I'd almost forgotten that anime fight scenes were allowed to be kinetic, though the rest of the episode often pays for it with lots of time killed on still shots and cityscapes.

That said, the first episode is actually kind of misleading, as AM has a lot more intentional humor than, say, Ring ni Kakero. The first ep is practically film noir compared to the increasingly surreal follow-ups, culminating in the astonishing iron pimp hand of Julietta Sakamoto.

I dearly wish this was available here past the 2 or 3 discs Toei tossed out and forgot about a couple years back, though it looks like they might end up streaming it. I think what I love most about this show is that it has enough confidence in its insane convictions to just throw out an idea and see where it goes. It absolutely delivers in a way too few shows do. Is it good? Beats me. Is it entertaining? Oh hell yes.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Zoo 02: Seven Rooms

The ten year old narrator and his sister wake up in a concrete room. The door is tightly shut, and a single slice of bread is delivered with a saucer of water in the morning. A trench runs through the middle of the room, filled with filthy, putrid, insect infested water.
The boy is small enough to fit through the gap in the wall, and swim upstream. He finds three more rooms, each with a woman locked inside. Then his path is blocked by iron bars.
He heads down stream. In the fifth room is another woman; the sixth is empty, and in the seventh, a lady who claims torn up bits of bodies come down the trench every night at six.
They watch that night, but see no bodies. But next day a new woman is in room six, and the lady in room seven is gone.
And the day after that? The woman in room one comes floating down the trench, teeth first.

This is a fucking nasty story. Gripping as hell, but still...I can't believe they fucking filmed it. Or more accurately, I can't believe anyone let their kids read the script...

Why Aqua Knight is better than Battle Angel

I see Joe is thinking about Battle Angel again - which reminds me that he once promised to explain just why he erroneously believes it to be the superior brand of Kishiro madness.
I remember a friend running out excitedly to buy the first issue of Aqua Knight - back in the days before real bookstores - and having no idea whatsoever how to deal with the issue largely consisting of a small feral child waving his wang around.
Kishiro's career has pretty much always veered wildly between the sublime and the what-the-hell-was-he-thinking, and the latter can be particularly distracting if you are at all inclined to wonder just how much time went into digitally pasting screentone onto to the child's Johnson.
But in my book, the one wrong thing Aqua Knight ever did was not be named Aqua Knights. I keep getting it wrong and have to look it up.
There is a simple reason why.
Steampunk kicks the shit out of cyberpunk.
Cyberpunk is inherently pessimistic: all that crazy shit that comes pouring past Kishiro's dementia filters is ultimately going to lead to depressing, miserable events. The only good thing that ever happens in Gunnm is that Gally fails to die. But in Aqua Knight, no matter how sinister or twisted something initially appears to be, it ultimately ends up redeemed and sympathetic, or at least comically unsuccessful. The wandering genius begins as a sadistic, arrogant, deluded man messing in what he cannot hope to understand, and ends up exactly that but largely justified, fairly sympathetic, and capable of learning from his mistakes. The king with a magic sword that turns him into a giant crab monster ends up with his back against the wall begging his minions to stop pushing.
And we don't really get a lot of pulp manga. We don't really get a lot of stories this flamboyantly creative at all. I mean, the world of Aqua Knight is covered in water, broken only by tiny scattered islands - which means knights wear giant contraptions, half diving suit, half suit of armor, and ride on killer whales. One of these, a beautiful female knight, washes up on the shore of an island populated only by the penar flashing child, Ashika, and his crazy father, who believes himself to be married to the magic ball of light in the lighthouse. No sooner has the knight made Ashika her squire than a super genius inventor arrives to steal the light and kidnap the boy. While he rides off into the sun set singing his own theme song, Death arrives to claim the father and give the knight a magic sword. And that is only the beginning of the awesomeness!
One assumes. In fact, the three volumes basically wrap up act one in style and then the whole shebang got put on hold for Last Order. Aqua Knight was conceived as an epic saga on a grand scale - the first volume contains a lengthy promo piece he did for the series, which contains at least three character designs that never show up. Or only show up in crowd scenes, if you look carefully. While he has promised to come back when Last Order is finished...Last Order has turned out to be rather long.
Since Kishiro's manga seem to be entirely whatever amuses him this year, there is every chance his whim will not bring him to dust this off. This would be a tragedy. I can only do so little to ensure it is not forgotten.

Why Battle Angel Alita: Last Order is the worst best a comic I read

Monday, January 5, 2009

Red Cliff. Discuss.

So, anyone seen this? Any good?

Zoo 01: Kazari and Youko

"When my mother kills me, how will she do it?"
Among the more gripping first lines I have encountered.
Zoo is a short story collection by Otsu Ichi that slipped out as the first book from Viz's new novel imprint. Naturally, this popped it right to the top of my to read pile. As soon as I got over being jealous. Otsu Ichi is extremely satisfying to translate; his better stories fit together with a mathematical precision you only really notice when inching through them at a snail's pace.
Youko and Kazari are twins; their mother is not a nice person...but her abuse is entirely directed at Youko. She dotes on Kazari. While clobbering Youko over the head with an ashtray for an imagined infraction.
Bullying is obviously a big issue in Japan, and's become a bit overdone. Hell, I bailed on the otherwise fascinating Mitchko and Hatchin largely because of the bullying in the first episode. I'm just bored with it. You'd think it would have taken some measure of trust to get through this story - because I've read Otsu Ichi before, I'm willing to take the time and see where he's going with it.
But no - that first line grabbed me, and what he followed it up with was so intensely inside the character's head that I didn't even stop to think "Oh, bullying motif, hrm," until after the story had moved on. Much like the chillingly amoral narrator in Goth, Youko's way of seeing the world is so convincing that you don't question her choices, and you don't wonder why she doesn't just tell someone. (Also, her mother stuck her hand in the blender and threatened to turn her arm to juice if she didn't keep it secret. Persuasive.)
The second act involves Youko's friendship with a lonely old woman - the first person she's ever been able to trust. They grow closer, the old woman loans Youko books, and gives her a key to her house. A potential path of escape. Then Youko's mother finds the books and takes them away - the key pressed between the pages of one. Youko sneaks into her room to get the key back, and Kazari comes home unexpectedly. Youko hides, and Kazari manages to spell a vase of water on their mother's laptop. And shows her true colors - she takes the books from the room, framing Youko. Youko flees...only to find out the old woman died that morning.
This sort of thing really makes me want to analyze the plot - so many points of tension and suspense built up that we don't see the old woman's death coming, even though it was telegraphed as clearly as Kazari's betrayal. (She had a cough.) And even if we did see it coming before we got wrapped up in that drama, we're too caught up in it to see what's coming next.
In a fit of desperation, and taking advantage of Kazari's own panic, Youko manages to persuade Kazari that mom already knows who really broke the laptop, and the only way to spare Kazari a beating is to switch places with her. They can pretend to be each other - they're identical twins, after all. Just for the night. Then she stands outside and chats happily with a neighbor while Kazari's body splats off the pavement next to them. Exactly as she had predicted her mother would murder her.
Of course, there's no forced happy ending here - Youko knows she can't fool her mother forever, and slips out of the house that night, clutching the key for comfort.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Trying to play Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine...

I've taken a dark turn in my life, as I've decided to finally jump into an MMO, a genre I usually dismiss with more than a little scorn (they just never worked for me, combining the worst elements of table-top gaming with the worst bits of the Internet). I was more than a bit skeptical when they announced a Shin Megami Tensei MMO, but I really enjoyed the PS2 games I played so I figured I'd apply for the beta and see what happened.

Surprisingly, I got accepted into the closed beta, but it ended before I actually got around to installing the client (which makes me wonder how much of a beta it was vs. a publicity stunt). Thankfully they opened the public beta shortly after that and I finally got around to installing it tonight.

Sadly, haven't had much luck getting it to work yet, despite a few hours of work.

I should say that I'm running Windows in VM Ware Fusion on a Macbook, but I wasn't expecting this level of difficulty. The program crashed immediately on startup when I changed my screen resolution, then it crashed my entire computer (automatically forcing a reboot) when I tried to log in. Then, after getting it all back up and running, it just told me that the server is full and I should try again later.

I just got it working now, actually, and I don't think this is going to fly. Doesn't look like my laptop has the chops to deal with the graphics, sadly. I technically got it running, but even the character creation screen was basically unintelligible.

This is definitely why I usually stick with console games.
Official Site : Wikipedia

Xiong Xin Xin gets no love

Dude's been around, and awesome, in the background of Hong Kong flicks for ages. His trademark shiny bald head got him called a "Mr. Clean motherfucker" in the hilariously profane English dub of Black Mask; and he was Jet Li's main side kick in a bunch of the Once Upon a Time in China movies - even dueling him in the showstopping fight halfway through Once Upon a Time in China and America. And he's now directed a movie.
Yet I go looking for any clips of this cavalcade of awesomeness, and find not a god damn thing. Only thing with his name on it is some shitty TV thing with Donnie Yen.
Seriously, if there was any justice in the world, I would not be decorating this post with a badly encoded clip from a fucking Jean Claude Van Damme movie.

Akiba-chan, episode 1

As opposed to the otaku adventures of a moe anthropomorphication of Akihabara as the title might suggest, Akiba-chan is instead a bizarre mix of half-hearted figure stop-motion and (often jarringly) cheap CG. Akiba is a cute, pink-haired girl living in an apartment house with several other cute, soft-spoken and bumbling girls. Hilarity ensues!

Or, at least, it's supposed to. The first episode is a wacky adventure trying to bake a cake. The girls having no idea what they're doing - and taking time to remind the audience of just how klutzy they are - so of course things get out of hand and the microwave explodes.

The show's completely vapid content aside, it's the style that appears to be the actual draw, such as it is. Much of the show is done with pose-able figures in little play-set locations. While actual stop-motion may be employed from time to time, most of the time it looks like someone filming themselves playing with their dolls. The obvious joints and seams may make it difficult for many people to get into it.

Dark Helmet might be able to keep an audience's attention when playing with his action figures, but with literally nothing going on beyond "Look! Moe girls try and fail at every day household tasks! Aren't they just adorable?" there is precious little here. Akiba-chan might be impressive as an amateur YouTube series, but as a professional production both the mediocre writing and bargain-basement CG squander what minimal novelty the "figure-mation" brings to the table.

Not recommended: only for those in desperate need of fresh cliched fuel for their moe fires. Perfect for anyone who combines the moe disease with some kind of figure fetish, however.
based on one episode : Wikipedia

Kiss×sis, episode 1

The premise is familiar and worn: a young man living with beautiful "sisters" to whom he bears no actual blood relation. They are sisters only by virtue of their parents' marriage, and the girls stir conflicting emotions deep within the young man. How can he ever resist their seductive allure?

Kiss×sis pushes the envelope with remarkably explicit dialogue and parents that cheer the kids on ("Your sisters are girls too!"). The sisters (twins, really) leap upon their brother (and each other) with wanton abandon, proclaiming that they want to "rub his thing too" or taking advantage of him in the morning. Their constant competition for his attention and affection ends up being a softcore arms race with their hapless brother caught in the middle.

Despite the premise, the blunt dialogue and the sometimes over-the-line situations, the show never actually takes the plunge into hentai territory, much to it's credit. Instead it walks the tight line of titillation and provocation without getting bogged down into the service requirements of actual pornography. The audience is allowed to laugh at the absurd situation and enjoy the blatant sexual pandering without the taboo taint of sitting through actual sex scenes.

It's really the fact that this show goes just a bit beyond the usual boundaries of panty-shot filled cheesecake shows and yet not so far that it becomes something better watched alone that sets it apart. Well animated, it's a pleasure to watch and doesn't take itself too seriously. Kiss×sis knows what it is and feels no shame in it; just sit back and enjoy the fan service.

This first episode was an OVA bundled with a volume of the manga, apparently, perhaps explaining both its budget and what it was able to get away with. With any luck, it'll be pretty successful and lead to a full series.

Recommended to anyone who loves panty shots but want something a bit more than the usual childish taunting without either moe bullshit or actual hentai content.
based on one episode : ANN : Wikipedia

Fashion imitates anime

In the continuing saga of "Why We Love Japan" comes some incredible new jeans.

Apparently this is actually old news (circa 2007) but it's just came up on Attack of the Show and it's news to me: a company in Japan is offering a pair of jeans that doubles as underwear - apparently women were having trouble keeping their low-cut jeans from falling down, so a designer decided to just attach the jeans to bikini bottoms and the outfits of many an anime heroine was brought to a department store near you (in Japan).
Sanna's via Attack of the Show via Weird Asia News

Revenge of the mini-skirt pedo nun

To Aru Majutsu no Index 7 is, hopefully, the worst book in the damn series, committing a litany of sins that essentially define everything wrong with the series and why I am forced to refer to it as a guilty pleasure.
* Pedo miniskirt nun. Pander more, I dare you.
* Virgin porn - accidentally stumbling into the bathhouse, waking up to find her sleeping on top of his futon in her underwear. Less and less tolerable as time goes on. Seriously, can we just have some fucking once in a while?
* Exposition from hell. I swear, virtually nothing happens for half the fucking book while all kinds of shit gets explained at great length.
* Purple prose attack. While ridiculously obvious psychological attacks being the single best way to make a character's feeble mind crumble is a long standing tradition in Japanese fiction, Jesus Christ does that shit get laughably overwrought in this fucking series.

But damn were the good bits fun. Sure, I really hope the balance tips back towards the good in the next volume, but even this, the weakest volume so far, had oodles of awesome.
* The Amakusa style - Japanese Christians forced to adapt their magic to be undetectable by opressive rulers, so all their spells consist of sitting around and eating hamburgers or chatting with friends or fiddling with their hair. All precise ritualistic symbolism that even other magicians would never notice.
* Index's new bad ass attack (the fact that she's useful at all now is already a big step forward) involves calculated undermining of the mob mentality of fanatical true believers, and is so effective the army of evil Catholic nuns are forced to poke out their own ear drums to fight her.
* An army of evil Catholic nuns
* And said pedo mini-skirt nun, who does a hilarious about face from virgin porn bait to Hellsing level psycho religious nutzoid: "Marrying a heretic is a sin akin to bestiality!" she says, viciously kicking the other nun on the lying liar of a cover.
But I think it is definitely time for me to read something with actual merit for a while.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Ride Back

Few genres are as beholden to their traditions as mecha; few genres are so heavily represented in anime and disastrously represented in manga.
The traditions of both super robot and grim robot shows don't seem to work well on the page, and few people even attempt it.
Likewise, political manga seem to be a dicey proposition in Japan, particularly since the publishers are only too ready to cave in and censor/cancel the series the moment anyone protests.
Except for Ride Back.
Ride Back is both a mecha sci-fi action spectacular, and a political thriller.
While the ballerina heroine is discovering the joys of making ride backs dance the way few others can, she's also getting mixed up in student protests against the new world government.
It has a very late sixties/seventies feel to it - nobody really has protest marches any more. We just have riots.
The ads for the Ride Back anime, which debuts next week, are focusing heavily on the first chunk of the story - the upbeat robot riding college is fun section.
Much like this image, they aren't exactly representing the series accurately.
Few manga transform themselves completely as regularly as Ride Back does; every volume or two it seems to smoothly change genres completely. The rather simplistic understanding of the politics involved that the characters have as students lasts no longer than the cherry blossoms; people diving into the series for cute girls driving mecha around are going to be in for a rather brutal shock.
I'm looking forward to actually being able to talk about the later stages of the series in depth. This new website may be a blog, but we definitely want it to engender discussion. Ride Back is a series worth talking about; hopefully we can do that in the comments below.