Monday, December 27, 2010

The Devil Asks 100 Questions

Virtually all of Kadono Kouhei's books have had a healthy dose of philosophical meandering buried somewhere between the supernatural stuff. It was only natural he'd eventually find the time to explore that side of his writing in a little more depth, but I'm a little bit shocked how well the book turned out.
Kuzuha Momiji becomes internet famous for basically no reason -- her corrupt businesswoman mother is being hounded by the press after a particularly splashy failure, and Momiji happens to snap at the reports on live television. Shortly after, her mother comes to her with an offer -- they've got the best fixer in the business ready to bail her out, but only if Momiji agrees to talk to him. A man they all call The Devil -- Shaman Simpleheart. Who never once speaks to Momiji, or even seems aware that she is there. All interactions she has with The Devil are through a marionette named Hazure-kun -- a marionette who it is increasingly hard to believe is really being controlled by the man.
Hazure-kun insists he doesn't want to talk to her at all. He's being forced to do so by his masters. He doesn't expect much out of her, really; he just wants her to be stupid, to be the kind of useful idiot who can ask a simple question that inadvertently leads a genius like him to a breakthrough that can change the course of human history. For the rest of the book, he peppers her with questions -- one hundred in all, helpfully laid out for us in the table of contents -- and she tries to answer some of them, is utterly baffled by others, and angrily ignores even more. Sure, occasionally buildings catch fire, drug dealers are beaten half to death, and Momiji accidentally stops a madman from turning a wedding into a bloodbath, catapulting herself from internet famous to actually appearing on TV regularly, and a few guest characters from other Kadono series pop in to make the ending totally batshit for anyone who read this book first, but the core of the book is two people attempting to discuss the nature of the universe, and more often than not failing to understand a thing the other says. Yet this is somehow fascinating.
It's easy to talk about the slightly off-kilter sensibilities that make Kadono such a unique writer; occasionally it's nice to be reminded that there's quite a bit of craft supporting that.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Guardian of a God/Nekomonogatari

Double volume double review time.
The fifth and sixth volumes in the Moribito series, Kami no Moribito sort of flips the first novel, with Balsa looking after a girl possessed by a spirit that actually is evil, and pursued by people who want to kill the kid for it. While the Balsa bits were as gripping as ever, the cut-aways to the court brought the novel to a screeching halt and it wound up not really justifying the double length...and she never quite conquered the been there, done that feeling revisiting her earlier storyline brought. This isn't to say the books aren't pretty damn good anyway; they're only disappointing in light of what she'd accomplished before this.
Nekomonogatari may be more of a test of Nisio Isin's powers than additional volumes prompted by the blinding success of the anime really should have been; Nisemonogatari, while fun, was significantly less substantial than the first three books, and the more he insisted he was just having fun with them the more they felt like a cheap cash in. Nekomonogatari Black, like Kizumonogatari, is a prequel, revealing the events of Hanekawa's first encounter with the cat over Golden Week -- which have been hinted at from like, page five of the original novel. So you'd think he'd have had more of a plan.
Nekomonogatari Black is sort of a trainwreck, though; the entire first third of the book is wacky comedy hijinks with Araragi and his sister discussing the pros and cons of different underwear colors; it has its moments, and Araragi's attempts to figure out if he was actually in love with Hanekawa were the one moment in this volume that felt genuine. Once Hanekawa herself shows up things just fall apart completely. Nisio clearly decided he'd run out of things to say about her, and decided to get meta and explode the doormat archetype. This leads to a somewhat unconvincing series of tiresome speeches about how her perfect niceness is actually deeply terrifying, instead of merely really dull. The spectacular ending, where Araragi wins by hiding a fucking sword inside his own body so she cuts herself when she chops him in half, almost redeems it, but it's objectively the weakest book in the series.
So I started Nekomonogatari White with fear in my heart, but the first damn line proved singularly reassuring -- Hanekawa narrates. By moving things away from Araragi's increasingly cartoonish point of view, he manages to make Hanekawa into a real character again, and actually SHOW us all the things he was vainly trying to tell us in Black. He very smoothly fleshes out her character in ways we haven't seen, and then makes the plot of the book hang on her finally coming to terms with her own fractured personality. Having this narrative happen at the same time as the next few books in the series while cheerily omitting several dozen chapter numbers that cover events from those books is a neat conceit; hopefully he hasn't written himself into a corner. Having a decent chunk of the book narrated by the fucking cat was definitely on the painful side (meow) and Hanekawa's baffling decision to write a twenty page letter of rambling exposition right when the story seems ready to take off was definitely him showing the weaker side of his style, but for making me like the least interesting character in the series again, and for totally nailing the ending, I wound up really happy with White, and extremely hopeful for the remaining five books.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Gosick trailer released

So a trailer for Gosick has been released on the webbertubes:

It... kinda makes it look like boring crap. I hear Gosick's supposed to be great, though. Andrew had lots of good things to say about it, so maybe he can predict whether the trailer just sucks (like most Japanese trailers do) or if the anime seems to be missing the point.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Stabbing, shooting, and carving turkeys

Welcome to Round Two of Funimation x Yoshihiro Nishimura, this time reunited with Machine Girl director Noboru Iguchi to tell a story of arts, dance, tengu ninja squads, cybernetic sibling rivalry, and buildings full of blood.

(I love that they used part of the temp voiceover on the title drop)

Like most of their movies, RoboGeisha is kind of review-proof; you probably know if you're in the target audience after seeing the trailer, although it is worth noting it's much less malevolently warped than other Nishimura posse joints. This is a definitely a camp comedy with oddball special effects, as opposed to a full-on fake-blood extravaganza, and the over-the-top inane dialogue is usually as or more bizarre than the SFX work.

I admit I was hoping for another full-on brain-buster like Tokyo Gore Police, but taken on its own merits RoboGeisha's Inspector Gadget vs Terminator vibe is fun too, and I think stronger overall than Vampire Girl, or at least odder, which is really what I'm looking for. Joe Bob says check it out.

(though if you are are looking for something that will befuddle and revolt you, I recommend Bad Biology.)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Several Layers of: Wait - What?

Apparently Battle Royale is getting a 3D make-over for it's 10th anniversary, and it's finally being licensed for the US.

It hadn't been released already? Even the book came out here.

3D? Really? How is after-market 3D going to be anything other than an excuse for a re-release?

And holy shit, it's been 10 years already? Insane. I still remember how excited we all were when we first saw the original movie. It really was incredible...

Now I just feel old.

Twitch Film

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Revenge of the filler post


Another luscious-looking film from Makoto Shinkai

Makoto Shinkai (of Voices of a Distant Star and Place Promised in Our Early Days fame) has a new film coming out and a trailer's been released:

As expected, Hoshi o Ou Kodomo (Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below) looks gorgeous. The backgrounds and environments are alway stunning on his projects.

He's also a master of atmosphere, but can sometimes be a bit lacking in an actual plot. The trailer hints are more action than is typical for his work, and the character designs seem much more polished, moving past his sometimes-charming amateurish style.

I'm hoping that suggests this one will be a bit more of a complete package, instead of just an incredible and immersive atmosphere with a very thin story.
Anime News Network : YouTube

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Raging Phoenix

Most of us here were pretty big fans of Chocolate, so the second starring vehicle for that actress (they should really settle on a name for her one of these days) has been on our radar for a while.
This is very much a movie of two halves. The first half is a highly entertaining plotless drunken capioera/break-dancing kung fu show reel, and the second half is the most embarrassing implosion into nightmarish suck since Dog Bite Dog.
They had a good thing going with the minimalist plot; after being targeted by kidnappers, a girl reinvents her ruin of a life by joining forces with a group of drunken fu dancers who are out for revenge. Had enough of a character arc on her to make us buy in; a touch of comedy, a touch of backstory for the guys, and a lot of really entertaining fighting.
Then the plot demons set in, and it turns out some women give off a pheromone so powerful it makes people obsessed with sex and the kidnappers have sniffers on the street to target women with this pheromone so they can make them really sad and harvest their tears to turn into perfume. Sex perfume.
Not content with jumping the shark the movie then gets eaten by the shark, in a dizzying whirlwind of CG brick slides, sets from National Treasure that make no sense and don't even work well as settings for increasingly boring and incomprehensible fu fights, and a villain doing her best Grace Jones imitation, in tights that make it painfully obvious when her stuntmen take hits for her.
At one point during the meltdown I yelled, "Fuck you, Thailand" at the screen, and meant it. Fuckers didn't even have the courtesy to include a god damn outtake reel.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Filler post

I try not to do these too often, but JP Meyer is always pretty great when he gets going.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Here, here! It is the buckling of these hideous pants!

I have no idea why this character's first appearance on the blog is still getting hits to this day, but let's see if she works her magic again.

This time out, Princess Resurrection takes a bit of a break from the Universal/Hammer motifs as they encounter a Shinto god, pay tribute to "unstuck in time" flicks like The Day Time Ended, and make a detour into giant robot vs Godzilla-alike.

The overplot advances incrementally once again, but on top of that Mitsunaga's developed a habit of glossing over the actual fighting; his interest seems more in the weird set-piece/homages rather than turning the book into a dedicated battle manga. It doesn't do any special harm to this volume, but we may not get any kind of payoff at all; this seems to be the last English-language installment for the foreseeable future, since this came out about a year ago and future releases appear to be caught up in Del Rey's closing down/relocating their manga operations. Here's a provisional eulogy, then, in case we never see another volume: Princess Resurrection peaked early (volume 3 was definitely the best) and never quite lived up to the "invincible corpse-fighter" legacy of 3x3 Eyes or Hellsing, but it was always an amusing, cheesecakey trifle. I'll miss it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pinky Pinky Love

Welcome to Round One of Funimation's double-barrelled load of Yoshihiro Nishimura, Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl, which is probably his most mainstream movie yet. Mind, that's an extremely relative term, as much of the humor involves self-mutilation and some truly grotesque blackface.

I actually don't have as much to say about this one as I'd have liked, it's basically a sappy/campy romance of the kind Andrew likes to rail against, only with occasional scenes of extreme(ly hilarious) gore. It has a fairly charming candy-colored pop aesthetic going on, but there's not that much happening underneath; calling it a parody would be giving the script more credit than it deserves. You can kind of tell this was based on a manga because the focal point of the love triangle is an annoyingly bland milquetoast, but then I guess that's why his name isn't in the title, he's just a toy for the eponymous duo to fight over.

The male lead's charisma vacuum is only a mild problem, the big one is that the movie is almost paced in reverse; the most effective/random sequences come up front and things sort of gently peter out as it goes on. A shaggy-dog twist at the end almost justifies the actual plot, but not quite.

After letting it sink in for a few days, I think VG vs FG dethrones Samurai Princess as the weakest Nishimura production I've seen, if only because it's the least audaciously weird (although I should repeat that we're grading on a pretty strong curve here, we do still have Kabuki Frankenstein running around). It's fun to see once, but nothing's really stuck with me. I still have high hopes for RoboGeisha, though!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Baccano 1710: Crack Flag

Baccano 1705: The Ironic Light Orchestra was one of the better books in the series; a tightly focused book with an unusually small cast for Narita: three characters, two we already knew, and one who clearly did not end up becoming immortal. Indeed, later books reveal that she died in 1710, so this book was always going to be the story of how she met her end.
Narita admits in the afterword that he found it incredibly difficult to kill her off, and declares that he will never do this again. It really sounds like he wrote himself into a corner he couldn't get out of. He doesn't seem to have had any actual story to go with what we already knew, so this book ends up like an insanely boring Cliff's Note retelling of something like two years of disconnected scenes that never add up to anything. It felt like the plot didn't actually gel till page 282, and it ended another twenty pages later. The embarrassing framing device involving this narrative retold by a poet drives home just how tedious and leaden the whole affair is, and the M. Night Shyamalan worthy series of bad idea shocking twists towards the end makes this the single worst thing Narita has ever written. Hopefully he knows it and will avoid ever forcing himself to write a book he has no interest in actually writing.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Strange Tales of Del Rey part 2

I'd figured the omnibus releases were just cutting losses on less-profitable titles, but it looks like it was foreshadowing them getting out of the biz entirely. Except, sort of not at all? As he so often does, Chris Butcher lays everything out cogently.

I hope to god this more or less ends up as Del Rey taking over Kodansha USA's publishing instead of the other way around.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tell me what, Tell me what, Tell me what you want

Looks like the beloved classic Berserk is getting a new anime project. Sankaku Complex reports (the site is NSFW) that the latest volume of the manga includes a note simply saying that "a new anime project has begun."

Rumors have been flying around about a new season of the Berserk for the longest time. I've spoken with folks at Media Blasters who would have been more than happy to put up a pile of cash to make it happen, but it just dragged on. Apparently there were some leaked images in 2009 (Sankaku Complex - again, the site's NSFW) that not only looked nice but apparently hinted at some involvement from Studio 4C, which would be a dream come true for me.

The Japanese website for Young Animal has a number of very suggestive dates: 9.30, 10.1, 10.2, 10.4 & 10.5. The English phrase "commercial film" makes me wonder if this anime project is (or will include) a movie.

Few details. Lots of possibilities. I guess we'll have to see what happens over the next few days, but I'm pretty excited.

Just remember: put your glasses on, nothing will be wrong.

Pretty much all gleaned from Sankaku Complex (links above) and a pointer by a friend

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"I understand. Your only choice is to revolutionize the world."

Now THIS is the Utena I remember.

Ikuhara is fully in his occult-opera groove, and mmmm, that is some glorious nonsense. It's
downright magical. My desire to blog wars with my desire to not ruin anything for anyone lucky enough to not have seen this yet, so I'll just stick to the big picture.

So, after the student council spent all of last arc trying to break Utena's will with their own, we switch tactics from the overt to the repressed... and make a clean break from their themes with a remix of "The Revelation of Absolute Destiny", themed dueling arenas, and the infamous Elevator of Emotional Torment.

The Black Roses' schtick is creating duelists from that old Jungian anime favorite, the shadow. In response, Utena starts relying more on her own "higher self", Dios, to win battles, rather than her own skill, or even luck.

Not that she seems aware of this. The Black Rose antics provide the first overt "magic" we've seen that isn't dismissed as a trick of some kind, and while Utena doesn't seem too shaken up, she does turn to another character to stay centered. We'll see how this works out.

Amazingly, the dub is actually sort of good here! The always magnificently-hammy Dan Green and Liam O'Brien foreshadow their yaoistic pairing in Descendants of Darkness with Mikage and Mamiya, and Akio's fiancee totally sells her trip through the Elevator. Shame the rest of the cast is as awkward as always.

So yeah, the Black Rose arc is full steam ahead for loopy greatness. Utena's particular charm is the way it totally wears its heart on its sleeve, but isn't above blowing off some steam by going even further over the top to poke fun at itself (which is to say yes, there's another Nanami comedy episode on this disc, and it's actually one that gets directly referenced in the movie). I genuinely have no idea how much of my love for this show is totally legitimate and how much is camp value, but the series definitely swings both ways.

I felt it important to note

This thing totally exists.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Halcyon Lunch

The more things Hiroaki Samura writes, the more convinced I am Blade of the Immortal is his least interesting work. He's been writing the final arc of that manga for as long as I've been reading it, so either he was crazy wrong, or they won't let him end it. (I think it and Oh! My Goddess sell more than all the other titles in Afternoon combined, so this would not be surprising.)
But they have begun letting him run two books at the same time. He's done some work for the art porn magazine Erotics F, and now he's doing Halcyon Lunch, a launch title for Afternoon's new spin-off, Good! Afternoon.
He's been, apparently, drawing sketches of this girl since 1997, but largely unconnected to any actual stories. He seems to have vaguely intended it to be some sort of magical girl series, which is pretty far from what he ended up with.
Instead, Hiyosu is an omnivorous prepubescent space alien hanging out with a homeless dude and pot-growing hippie girl. She can and will eat anything, and vomit it back up. But once she vomits things back up, they generally get recombined into hideous monsters.
The presentation is even more dense and meta than Ohikkoshi was; the first chapter alone has a Find the Differences in These Two Panels puzzle and a shot demonstrating the dangers of lazy video game camera programming. A shot of Hiyosu bursting into the bath is handily covered by a postcard soliciting reader comments, and one chapter is riddled with insipid comments from an off-screen character's Twitter account. It is very much the sort of manga filled with lines like, "Oh no! He's imitating Unit-01 while reciting the names of train stations on the Hachinohe line! His mind is gone!" are very much par for the course. The zombie dog is even retconned as the dog from the cover of Jojo's Bizarre Adventure vol 1.
I suspect it will be criticized for lacking any real semblance of a narrative, but I'm predisposed to enjoy books with an insane thing on every other page.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

When? Where? Who? Which?

So, thirteen episodes into the Utena rewatch, and I find myself curiously dissatisfied. It's not like this stretch of episodes is bad or anything-- sure, two of the six episodes are taken up with a Nanami comedy episode and a recap, but we do get four episodes of Touga in full manipulative bastard mode, along with an expanded version of Utena's rescue by the prince that toys with dramatic irony and unreliable narrators.

It's good stuff, and finishes establishing the characters and obsessions the rest of the series will be riffing on, but somehow it's just not hitting me like it should. The only part that seemed especially Ikuhara was the the hilarious bit from Miki's two-parter where he remembers Touga's dialogue much more homoerotically than he actually said it.

(and speaking of that, the awfully-acted dub takes some... interesting liberties with the dialogue here and there. I can't imagine the rerelease will keep that. Almost a shame)

Are operatic swordfights just not enough to hold my attention any more? That seems doubtful. More likely, I've just watched and rewatched this opening stretch too damn much for it to have any impact any more, which would make sense considering the first thirteen eps were all CPM had for like four years thanks to some poorly worded contracts. I believe the movie actually came out here before the Black Rose arc, which is probably the worst possible way to see that film, but more on that much, much later.

Anyway, we're finally out of the setup phase and headed into the meat of the show, and hopefully towards the amazing, lush lunacy that made me remember it so fondly. I never did actually watch the Black Rose sequence in full, hopefully that'll shock me back to life.

Mysterious Girlfriend X 6

Idol Master, scourge of the manga industry, has claimed yet another victim.
Volume five already had me worried that he was being led astray, abandoning the hints at a larger mystery in favor of more conventional romantic comedy plotting, and this volume entirely centering on a The Prince and the Pauper storyline involving an idol singer that looks exactly like the mysterious girlfriend is not really qualming those fears.
Not that he does this in any normal way, of course. Urabe is completely against the idea of replacing the idol singer, obviously. And the idol singer herself wears a bizarre set of bondage gear under her skirt to prevent her from losing her temper and flattening people with a high kick. (She's gotten pretty good at undoing the spring.)
The early stuff works best, before the idol fetishism comes into play, and the scissors versus high kick fight is entertainingly id-riffic. But the whole idol thing has pretty much always left me cold, particularly when they aren't exploring how fucked up it is.
Even beyond the idol thing, however, this plot line feels like a tangent on what I really want out of the book. Even if she'd been a normal actress or something, I'd have still wondered why he was so obviously avoiding following up on the foreshadowing about Urabe's identity, and her family. Perhaps he started to actually break that storyline and it didn't work, or felt like too much of a departure from the twisted romantic comedy early on, but unless he cracks it soon, I'm worried the series will peter out.
Then again, the increasingly terrible Seattle Kinokuniya stocked a huge pile of it, suggesting this approach has boosted sales quite a bit. So what do I know.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Satoshi Kon dies

From here.

Got a text about this a few minutes ago, and it still doesn't feel real. Don't know what to say...

Monday, August 23, 2010

New Policy: I Only Post About Series Beginning With U

So we all know Makoto Shinkai, right? Well, think of Kazuhiro "Romanov" Higa as his evil twin. They both have a rep as one-man anime studios, but Higa's muse leads him to ridiculous, rip-roaring pulp action instead of emo teenagers. His output may look like a PS2 cutscene (which is in no way an exaggeration; he worked on the two Gungrave games), but you can't fault him for sheer, demented charm.

I first heard of him from his unbelievably random English-language magical catgirl '70s gun-fu epic Catblue Dynamite, and he also did some kind of Dominion Tank Police reboot called TANK SWAT that I can't find ANYWHERE, but today let's chat about his earlier time travel adventure Urda.
The plot is insane. I'll just say it involves a bioroid space loli from NASA's warp drive project falling through a wormhole back to WWII, as long as you understand that this is just BEGINNING to scratch the surface of the awesome/dumb here. This is basically one plot twist after another, sandwiched by random ludicrous action scenes. It's only about half an hour long, and circumstantial evidence on the DVD leads me to believe it was originally webcast in five minute chunks, which does the already scrambled narrative no favors.

But if you're going to watch this, it's not going to be for the plot, it's going to be to see someone have a hand-to-hand rocket launcher fight with a Nazi cyclops on top of a speeding Jeep. Urda is not "good" in the conventional sense that refers to quality, originality, or cleverness, but it is "good" in a WHOO HA HA DID YOU SEE THAT way. The fun is in the actual animation, so it doesn't screencap too well, but if you liked any of the other stupid things I've posted about here, I recommend tossing this one on your Netflix queue.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Has it really been a decade since I last saw Revolutionary Girl Utena? Time to fix that.
Quick primer: Utena Tenjou is basically a good-natured shounen adventure protagonist hanging out in a boarding school melodrama. While going about her business of cutting through all the histrionic bullshit making everyone's life miserable, she falls into yet another genre, a fighting tournament to rescue a princess of sorts. Hmm... when I lay it out like that, I recall that Bryan Lee O'Malley has admitted to liking Nana, but I wonder if Scott Pilgrim isn't a little influenced by Utena too.

Either way, this is very much a sister show to Evangelion, exploring and exploding the tropes of its chosen genre (I'm particularly fond of the unusually literal version of the all-powerful student council). Utena usually wins her fights by refusing to play along with everyone else's drama and applying out-of-context solutions to the problems presented, and now that I think about it she only seems to fail when her enemies trick her into questioning her own judgement and thinking inside their boxes. Let's see if my memories are correct; so far I've only rewatched the first seven episodes, and Utena hasn't really started relying on her customary tactic of winning by exploiting the opponent's psychological flaws, or just cheating with the power of Dios. So far they're pretty much just establishing all the characters they will later tip over like dominoes. Well, episode 7 is one of my all-time favorites, but then I always was very fond of Juri.

I think I probably will rebuy the Right Stuf version, if only to be rid of CPM's horrible old policy of "we will give you one chapter stop every fifteen minutes and you will like it" (and the hardsubs on all the dueling songs). Of course, you shouldn't be skipping past anything anyway; the show has a lot of ritualistic elements (the shadow puppet Greek chorus, the fight songs and catharsis during battle, and and of course the ascent to the dueling arena and drawing of the Sword of Dios) and as far as I'm concerned sitting through the opening and ending is just another one. Besides, those songs are awesome.

If I end up rewatching the whole thing, maybe I'll finally write something about the alchemical symbology that seems to underpin the whole series (the Rose Bride being a dark girl dressed in red that everyone abhors but wants to possess is extremely suggestive). I wonder sometimes if Kunihiko Ikuhara did this deliberately or just backed into all this Jungian stuff by being his weird self (I never actually watched his Sailor Moon work so I can't say if it was any more blatant there), but he'd certainly never say even if you asked, saucy bitch that he is. It's a shame he never really did much else after the Utena movie.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Also, I give up

I'm officially enjoying this inane, insane show. I only wish I knew why the hell they only animated half an episode last week.

Even A Fortean Can Draw Anime

Presented more or less without comment.

Actually no, I do have one comment. How is it that Chiaki Konaka is somehow not attached to this project? I actually find it kind of hard to believe given that he seems to live and breathe Forteana.

Red Eagle

Remember Tears of the Black Tiger? Director has a new movie.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Cat Shit One

I've never wanted to see something dubbed so much in my life.
Cat Shit One (aka Apocalypse Meow) is basically a hard core war action movie done with adorable fluffy stuffed bunnies. (You can see the stitches in their feet.)
Japanese hard core military jargon, however, is so riddled with terrible Engrish that I found it really detracted from the intended experience; now matter how intensely you growl, "You copy?" it doesn't sound at all bad ass.

The short film is a fucking blast, though. Never read the manga -- I think my impression was that he drew bunnies because he couldn't actually draw at all. But I appreciate the idea, and hope this does well enough to encourage more.

Friday, July 16, 2010


So Maijo Otaro wrote the story for a movie. I didn't really think there were many people capable of tapping into his unique wavelength...

...but I am entirely unsure how they managed to make something with that much Maijo insanity clearly evident still look really generic. The Japanese film industry is kind of a meat grinder. Throw anything into it and it will shit out a wacky comedy or a weepy melodrama.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Full Redline trailer

Now with more Engrish.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Occult Academy 2

Think I'm ready to commit to this being pretty dang great. Time Agents sent to save the future FROM ALIENS, Nostradamus, ghosts right out of The Haunting, and the pace just keeps things moving at exactly the right speed.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Hey, maybe Princess Resurrection won't suck this time

The first anime was a fucking disgrace, but the new OAV at least has loads of blood!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Shiki Ep 1

A lot of what I was afraid of is certainly true, but it's also way more faithful than I expected. Generally, I think the structural changes are very smart decisions, compressing the first volume or so heavily -- without really feeling like they are -- and focusing on a single character's story, ending with something like a hook.

The aesthetic, however, is more of a problem. The more conservative designs are generally working fine, but Fujisaki is not exactly known for conservative design work. What the fuck he was thinking with Atsushi's ugly gorilla design is beyond me, and turning Megumi into a pink haired goth loli is pretty typical of the exaggerated approach to her character they've taken. All of the beats of her personality and arc are identical to the novel, but instead of playing these realistically -- making her a painfully naive, hopelessly lost kid -- they've turned it into generic Asuka-inspired anime yelling. This works better than it should -- it's probably a good sign that she managed to still be a little bit sympathetic despite it all -- but coming to this directly from the novels I couldn't help but feel they'd done her a disservice.
There were enough moments in this that did capture the original tone that I'm planning on watching a few more episodes, and will keep my usual bile in check. Basically reserving judgment for later.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Nurarihyon no Mago

Or, how not to fucking do anime.
I swear to god, I actually saw someone claim this show was original because the lead character is not a swaggering cocky stock shonen lead. Yeah, wimpy Megane-kun -- the second most popular one-note terrible shonen cliche protagonist -- is SUCH an improvement.
It is very, very, very hard to convince me anything with yokai in it is worthless after only one episode -- I stuck with Kekkaishi, after all, and that manga has a terrible opening.
But Nurarihyon not only has not a single original idea, it doesn't even use GOOD cliches! Every cliche it uses is SHIT! When it even bothers putting in enough work on characterization or plot to rise to the level of cliche!
Most of the fucking characters don't even get sketched in enough to actually become cliches! The entire plot of the episode consists of what any show not written by fuckwits would do as SET UP in the first five fucking minutes, but instead of paying off the set up they just abruptly end the episode as tediously as possible!
Characters that have special powers and want to be normal has always been one of the fucking stupidest cliches out there -- has anyone alive ever fucking been able to identify with this shit? -- but usually they at least both giving a fucking reason, explaining why this character is so desperate to be normal. Nurarihyon clearly has a reason -- Negima...whatever his fucking name is says something about deciding this a long time ago, which will presumably involve a tedious flashback to something really not interesting at some dire point in this dire show's future, but such an impossible stupid cliche really needs to put that stupid fucking reason front and center or the entire show collapses like a pack of cards. Likewise, if the main character's awakening is going to be a central point in the show, maybe it should fucking happen in the first episode. That might be a decent starting point for your stupid story, hacks! Instead, he starts to awaken, and they stop him for no apparent reason! They actually start to introduce the fucking hook, and then decide it's too soon!
Jesus Christ, this better be raping the fuck out of the manga, or I have no idea how the fuck it ever survived in Jump when Jump's fucking canceled everything worthwhile they've had for the last four fucking years.
If you liked this episode, you officially like shit. You eat shit for breakfast, you fucking fecalpheliac. Get away from my blog.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Double Zombie Fun Time

High School of the Dead is blast. Normally I'd be turned off by this level of fan service, but they manage to hit the proper Crank-like tone to make it all seem like part of the gratuitous package, and the episode just flies by. If they can keep this kind of pacing up through the whole season, great. If they feel the need to slow things down and focus on the characters, it might fall apart; I think the character stuff in this episode was one step more complicated than it needed to be, which made it feel interesting in the minimal time it got, but I doubt it was original enough to stand up to actual scrutiny. Bonus points for actually using music from 28 Days Later.

Occult Academy sort of surprised me. Since the Anime no Chikara original anime series initiative was zero for two -- I'm not the target audience for Sora no Woto, and Night Raid took an interesting concept and put the audience in a coma -- and this had really drab character designs and a generic sounding concept, I barely even mustered the enthusiasm to give it a shot. But the actual show sort of took me by surprise. I'm having trouble telling if it was actually good or just Kuroshitsuji style unhinged enough to be entertaining, but it never quite went the direction I thought it would, and really sold several big moments. The headmaster accidentally resurrecting his own corpse at his funeral via a tape of his last message to the student body was pure Ghostbusters, and there's an amazing bit with an axe that made me wonder if they'd played Deadly Premonition. And the live action end credits featuring dead children lying in a field is just mind-boggling. Let's hope they're actually going somewhere with this.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Kimi to Boku ga Kowashita Sekai

Recap: In Kimi to Boku no Kowareta Sekai, Hitsuuchi Samatoki's romance with his sister Yoruichi is interrupted by MURDER. The case is eventually solved with the help of Byoinzaka Kuroneko, who attends school in the nurse's office because she is pathologically afraid of people. She also sleeps with anybody who asks her to, a fact Nisio appears to have conveniently forgotten in the five years between these two books.
In Bukimi to Soboku no Kakomareta Sekai, Kushinaka Choshi's sister is murdered, and he sets out to solve the mystery with the help of Byoinzaka Meiro, Kuroneko's cousin. Meiro does not talk, but communicates volumes of exposition through facial expressions alone. Kuroneko herself makes an appearance near the end, to tie up some loose ends and make sure we all understand that Choshi is the creepiest fuck Nisio's ever created.
The third novel finds Kuroneko (narrating) and Samatoki on an airplane. Kuroneko's distant relative, Usui, has funded a trip to London to help out an old friend of his -- a mystery novelist who believes his new novel is cursed, and anyone who reads it will die. Their flight is interrupted when the man sitting next to Samatoki is murdered.
Chapter two kicks off with Samatoki (now narrating) reading the short story Kuroneko wrote on the plane, in which the man next to them is murdered. They meet with the mystery novelist, and then make a beeline for 221B Baker Street on the grounds that this is clearly the first place anyone in their right mind would visit in London. (Samatoki would have preferred to see the Rosetta Stone.) Along the way they solve the mystery of how the mystery novelist faked his wife's suicide.
Chapter three kicks off with Kuroneko narrating again, and pointing out that the previous two chapters were actually written by Kushinaka Choshi, who actually accompanied her on this trip. And of course, the mystery novelist's wife actually died in a plane crash. As they tour the British Museum -- or rather, Kuroneko does, since Choshi refuses to stop staring at the Rosetta Stone -- they solve the mystery of the mystery novelist's agent's suicide.
Chapter four kicks off with Samatoki narrating, and demanding to know just who the hell Choshi is and why Kuroneko replaced him. Of course, the agent actually died of a heart attack, and the only thing they've been sent here to do is prove the novel isn't cursed, which is why Kuroneko just finished reading it. In the morning, Samatoki finds her dead, with an army knife through her chest. He goes to see Phantom of the Opera, but fails to solve her murder.
Chapter five kicks off her absolutely furious with him for killing her off in his chapter of the novel they're writing, particularly since he failed to actually come up with a solution to the mystery. She didn't read the novel, but instead pointed out that it couldn't be cursed if the novelist himself was still alive. At this point Usui calls their room and tells them the novelist has been found dead...and the time of death is the day before they actually met him.
The epilogue has them both at the airport ready to go to London. Usui -- who is actually Kuroneko's father -- paid for the trip in return for their feedback on the novel he'd written. The trip is then canceled due to terrorism in London.
Gloriously meta from beginning to end. I'm clearly going to have to go get the fourth book in the series now.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Summer anime part 1

I normally only sample a couple of anime a season, and then don't finish watching those.
But this season I have discovered that watching this shit on Himawari Douga improves it immensely. Having several thousand Japanese otaku watch the thing and mock the shit out of it can make a certain level of garbage palatable.

Ookami and the Seven Counts of Plagiarism:
I think this was supposed to be the big name light novel adaption, and it seems to be hitting that audience. Who needs original ideas when you carefully cut and paste proven character types from other series wholesale? If this was at all self-aware it would be a parody, a sort of light novel Murder by Death, but it doesn't really seem to know how derivative it is. The tumbling sequence was nicely animated, but the show is mostly a testament to how willing people are to respond to even bad shows as long as they follow the formula.

Amagami SS:
Five girls share one character design! And it isn't a good one.

Legend of a Legendary Hero:
Wow, it's like the 90s again, only shit. I remember when you still had to beat people with a stick for trying to pretend Lodoss was good, and Slayers seemed like a breath of fresh air at the time. It didn't age well. So a series that basically is a giant rip-off of Slayers with less personalities, even more one-note gags, a director who can't film action, and a script that thinks lurching between boring heroics and the kingdom of the bishonen will do anything but prevent either of them from being interesting...well, I'm amazed anyone finished the thing.

I watched the whole thing after they busted out the Battle Royale music early on, but there was very little else of note. I suppose they think they're fighting the lolikon menace by making everybody fat? Or are they catering to the chubby chaser pedophiles?

Shukufuku no Campanella:
Suddenly I found myself longing for the thrills and excitement of Legend of the Legendary Hero. I literally stopped listening to the opening monologue halfway through, and was equally unable to make it through any further dialogue without my brain just refusing to process any more language. When entire conversations receive the presentation of a budget rpg -- character picture moves in from the right, other character picture moves in from the left, alternate -- you know this is made by people who have given up on life.

Kuroshitsuji 2:
Fucking bad ass. I had no knowledge of the original at all, but the kid stabbing his maid's eye out with a finger for looking at him was the most over the top shit since Elfen Lied, and following that immediately with the butler tap dancing on the balcony to Mozart before swinging on a chandelier, yanking the carpet out from under the table so it flew into the air, and then setting it while wall running around the walls of the room pretty much sold me for life. Apparently it is actually about two other characters who are far more boring, which is a shame. I dug this enough to go back and watch the first season, which has just enough crazy to hold my attention, but nothing that even came close to the sequel's level of batshit. Hopefully the sequel keeps this shit up. It would be a shame to regress immediately.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Proof there is no god

Spaceships! Melodrama! Amazing hair! YAMATO!

Yukito Kishiro vs. the PC police

Battle Angel: Last Order has apparently gone on infinite hiatus.
According to Kishiro's blog, as he was busy drawing the 100th issue, and the accompanying magazine cover, he received a phone call from an editor asking to make three small changes to dialogue in the upcoming reprint of the original Battle Angel series. Specifically, to instances of the word "hakkyo" (to go mad) and one use of the English word "psycho." Their reasoning being that these words were associated with schizophrenia. Kishiro asked if they realized that this request could lead to him missing his deadline for the 100th issue, and refusing to allow them to reprint the old series. His editor said yes. Despite this being a work that has already been published twice, this was considered important enough to overturn all the publication plans. Kishiro decided to be professional and meet his deadlines, and allowed the changes to go through. He now regrets it, but admits he would have regretted not allowing them too.
Either way, he posted on his blog that there might not ever be an 101st issue.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Return to Zaregoto

Thought I'd use the bunko cover, just for variety.
After wrapping up the Zerozaki novels in style, I thought I'd head back to where it all started and reassess.
I've often stated that I liked the first enough to buy the second, and the second enough to buy everything he'd written at the time.
A bad mood could have changed that story. Man, does the opening to this book drag. I'm not saying everything before the first murder is dire, but it is certainly a focus-free meander, vaguely trying to introduce his cast but none of them really managing to make of an impact. Except for Kunagisa, who...hasn't aged well. Treating a character with a litany of moe traits as if she were a legitimate character was relatively novel then; I'm not sure it's been all that widely imitated even now, but the louder moe traits have come to grate a lot more, and I wound up finding her a lot harder to like.
Nisio's explained at some length that this first book was the toughest novel he's ever completed; something like three page one revisions that dramatically changed the book, shifting it from a novel intended to launch a series of mystery novels with Kunagisa as the detective, to an oddball sort of fake mystery novel that accidentally reads more like a character study of Ii-chan. Every now and then they sit down and make charts of alibis or attempt to solve locked room puzzles. He has a few amusing stunts hidden here -- the three puzzles ascend through the dimensions from paint on the floor, to a high up window, to an incident that could not have happened at the time it happened -- but by and large these bits accomplish little, and are there to be skimmed till something more interesting happens.
Ii-chan initially presents himself as minimally as possible; he's almost a mute video game protagonist, he has so little personality, and so little involvement with anyone he talks to. The people around him are complete in themselves; they could have the same conversations with a stump, and be just as happy. Even the few bits of personality he does show off just encourage us to identify with him; he's befuddled by the crazier things people say, capable of making the odd self-deprecating joke, and resigned to letting himself be led around by everyone else.
It's a trap, of course. A disquieting flash of anger from him at dinner is the first sign that he might have been lying to us. With increasing frequency, the other cast members stop talking to stumps and start projecting themselves onto Ii-chan's careful blank slate. Each of them believes themselves to be describing his personality, and Ii-chan agrees -- or tells us he does -- with every scathing evaluation unleashed on him. That these descriptions contradict each other doesn't seem to bother him.
The climax to this reading of the novel comes well before the mystery is resolved and the killer caught; the emotional climax of the book comes in a scene where a berserk bodyguard triplet maid breaks her omnipresent silence, drags Ii-chan into a room, feeds him a pack of lies a mile high -- lies so ornate he can't even begin to work out if there's a kernel of truth to them anywhere -- and prompts Ii-chan to take what feels like the one moment of genuine emotional honesty he displays anywhere in the volume. He asks her a question -- a question phrased as a metaphor, the subject of the metaphor ambiguous, his meaning buried in a lie. The closest thing we get to peeling back the layers of what he tells us and seeing what he's trying so hard to keep from us, and it makes no damn sense at all.
Coming back to that scene after the whole series and it blew my mind again. There's something hidden at the center of this inexpertly presented, amateurish, awkward first novel that rewards rediscovery.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sympathy for Mr. Vampire

So I'm flicking through Netflix's streaming catalogue, and see a vampire movie by the director of Oldboy. I bet that'll be really visceral and extreme! Wow, I could not have been more wrong. Thirst turns out to be inspired less by Rice or Stoker than by the Coen Brothers and Zola (Emile, not Arnim or gorgon-).

Apparently I sold Chan-Wook Park's range short; Oldboy had moments of black humor, but there's a definite Raising Arizona or Big Lebowski quality to the proceedings here. Perhaps I should have remembered he directed a romantic comedy set in an insane asylum.

I don't think I would have enjoyed Thirst as much if I hadn't gone in cold, so I won't go into much detail, but it's definitely worth checking out.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

I'll chop your head off! And then eat it

So yeah, Toriko is pretty much the Axe Cop version of Yakitate!! Japan, just a pure unfettered appeal to the oral stage id. Of course he lives in a house made of candy and eats chocolate bannisters for breakfast. Of course he's the biggest, strongest dude in the world who can beat up anything with knife-and-fork style kung fu. Why wouldn't he be?

The main thing this has going for it is the pure, absurd, manic energy. The actual plotting and writing is the same thing we've seen before in a thousand other rowdy shonen series, and the art is just crude enough to look unpolished, but not crude enough to actually look like a deliberate style (and the fact that Shimabukuro can't seem to decide if he's channeling Go Nagai or Tsukasa Hojo doesn't help). Based on this first volume, it's not the kind of thing I'll be rereading like Yakitate or Iron Wok Jan, but I will probably keep an eye on it.

Friday, June 11, 2010


Embedding is disabled, but shiiiit. Now angry that the lame ass Seattle Film festival failed to book this AND Yatterman.

Gantz live action

It has to be better than the Gonzo version, right?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I need a consult here

This can't possibly be as amazing as it sounds, can it? Because it kind of sounds like Iron Wok Jan with even more actual animal murder. Either way, sounds like I need to check it out.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Never Forget

Professor Go is completely useless.


I'm not normally big on writing about half remembered books read six years ago, but there's enough misinformation running around about Shiki I felt the need to try and get things straight somewhere. Shiki is a novel -- not light novel -- by Fuyumi Ono, author of the Twelve Kingdoms books (which were actually light novels. Confusing!) The hardcover edition was two massive volumes, and the bunko edition was FIVE volumes, each of which ran for five hundred odd pages. It took me two months to read (although I was reading other books in between each volume of Shiki to keep myself from getting burned out.)
Fuyumi Ono intended Shiki to be an homage to the Stephen King novel Salem's Lot; the story is essentially a Japanese version of that basic concept. A very old fashioned, traditional Japanese mountain town is plagued by a mystery disease; it eventually transpires that the new residents in town are vampires, and are attempting to convert the entire town in the hopes of creating a safe haven for their kind.
While the story is an ensemble cast, and frequently changes the point of view as different characters play their roles -- I wound up writing down people's names and roles in a massive map scrawled all over the book cover, just trying to keep it all straight -- the two primary characters are the town doctor, and a Buddhist monk who writes surreal fiction in the style of Edogawa Rampo.
The novel is a very slow, creeping dread that takes a thousand pages to even reveal the vampires and goes on for another volume well after the point you'd have expected it to end. Ono's dense, literary prose can be a bit of a slog at times, but incredibly evocative at others, and it's well worth a read if your Japanese is up to it.
It's a very strange choice for a manga and anime adaption. I haven't read the manga, but it's by Ryu Fujisaki. I read the first volume of his Hoshin Engi and found it pretty dull, but at least coherent; I then read his Waq Waq when it ran in Jump and found it completely unintelligible. While his design sense can be extraordinary at times, the flow from panel to panel is gibberish, and he's prone to fits of stylization so extreme you can't even figure out what he intended to depict in individual panels. He's an incredibly poor choice for the material, and the garishly lolita gothed out character designs are about as far removed from the source material as it is possible to be. Judging from the ads from the Shiki anime, and the covers of the manga, he's also shifted the focus to the two high school characters; relatively major characters among the supporting cast, and if the storyline in general were stripped down to just their stories it would probably still be a coherent whole. I'm cautiously voting this as actually a pretty smart move on Fujisaki's part. I'm definitely curious about the Noitamina anime, and hoping they can manage to meld the manga art style to some of what made the original novel work for me, but it's very much an unknown quantity at this stage.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Monday, May 31, 2010

Still Not My Cuppa

So, you might have noticed we're a little divided on the subject of Akiyuki Shinbo. I'm generally in the "hate him" camp; I've always been fond of Tenamonya Voyagers, but SoulTaker's unrelenting visual noise made me angry and Le Portrait de Petite Cossette actually gave me a headache and I had to turn it off after five minutes, so I avoided everything else he did until Bakemonogatari. But I did genuinely enjoy that, and it seemed much less pointlessly difficult to parse than his earlier work, so I figured I should look back at the early stuff and see if Shinbo really has calmed down since I last checked, or if I've just gotten used to his style.

Turns out I was right the first time.

Cossette is a pretty simple story at its base; guy who works in an antique store falls for a ghost, then discovers why those romances tend to end badly. It probably could have been condensed from three episodes to one without losing any actual story, but this gives Shinbo and crew an opportunity to go mad with the visuals... to the overall detriment of the show, I'd argue.

Case in point; the opening of the very first episode was like the director sticking his finger into my eye. The show basically dares you to make sense of a very uncomplicated scene among friends in a diner, by opening cold into the middle of a conversation in progress, constantly cutting between extreme close-ups of four different speakers, only one of whom gets named. The direction is less chaotic after that scene, but front-loading the most aggressive visual editing right when the viewer most needs to be eased into and sold on your world is a questionable decision; it certainly didn't add any information or texture to the scene.

The rest of the show alternates curiously between gothic lolita moetry and B-movie grotesquerie; the lead spends a lot of time hallucinating idle conversations with his dream lover, who occasionally transfers him to an alternate dimension of heavy-metal-album-cover torment where he gets tortured, shoots out hilariously excessive blood geysers, and turns into Devilman, a visual metaphor that is only explained, like, halfway through the third episode.

There are seeds of an interesting plot in Petite Cossette, but the relentless visual chrome actively prevents me from spending enough time with one idea or image to really engage with it. It's to the point where I can't even appreciate the visual composition, it's all so anarchically busy. It seems like half the time this stuff doesn't even signify anything, so it literally only exists to clutter up the shot. I mean, can anyone explain why there are a bunch of laser tripwires here?

Still, there are a couple small bits that even I enjoyed; I really liked the local psychic consulting with a doctor to figure out if the lead's malaise was physical or spiritual, and I can't bring myself to entirely hate any show gonzo enough to reduce a fight scene between an exorcist and an evil lightning-shooting grandfather clock to background color. This is also a pretty distinctively Japanese ghost story, despite the French-loli trappings; the whole Shinto-animism-Buddhist-doll-burnings thing is key to later goings-on, and I can't actually recall any Japanese myths or traditional stories about a beloved dead person coming back as anything other than a monster.
On the other hand, the show kind of lost me at the very end, for reasons I will heavily spoil, so anyone who cares should stop reading until they see little fluffy clouds.

Maybe it's just me, but I fail to perceive a real difference between falling in love with a ghost (by definition, a pale imitation of the living original), and loving the embodied spirit of a portrait depicting that same person. The lead does justify his preference for one over the other as rejecting the art of an evil man, but it still seems like a pointlessly fine philosophical point to quibble over if we're going to accept the premise at all.

So I was right: it's not that I've gotten used to Shinbo's directorial style, but that he's calmed the hell down over the years and actually cares about conveying information to his viewers. Or maybe there are some external factors; I can't help but note that he no longer works with the screenwriter that did Cossette and his other early eyesore, SoulTaker.