Monday, December 26, 2011

Detective Dee and the Out of Context Clues

Don't have time to give Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame the review it deserves, but this is well worth seeing, Tsui Hark brings that old wire-fu magic yet again. The translation is good enough that I could follow the plot, but not SO good that I was denied classic HK moments like the above. Perfect.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Dazzling the stage!

Helldriver is the kind of movie where, while choking her daughter to death, a woman gets a hole blown clean through her chest by a meteor, and then without missing a beat, she rips out her daughter's heart and sticks it in the smoking cavity, where her other organs start healing around it.

As you may have guessed by the fact that I'm bothering to post about it, this is another one by B-movie hero Yoshihiro Nishimura (writing and directing this time), so that happens about ten minutes in, and is pretty much the tip of the iceberg of insane special effects and high-pressure fake blood antics that I'd be screencapping like mad if I hadn't just come back from a festival screening. As usual, conventional reviewing techniques are useless against him, but this is another one deep in the "deliberately ridiculous" zone, and actually relatively restrained in terms of gore effects per se; of course, "restrained" by Nishimura standards means "when zombies get chopped into bits you usually don't see recognizable organs".

The crazy SFX is much more constant than his last two projects; in fact, there's so much craziness going on in this one that it became a bit overwhelming by the end. That's kind of all there is in this one though; the lead character is a leaden cipher (I think she only has like ten lines of dialogue, and nowhere near the screen presence to pull it off), and there isn't so much a plot as a collection of chainsaw fights, zombie dance clubs, Imperial Japan imagery, Verhoevenesque public service announcements, dozens of ways to contextually translate "-chan", and possibly the coldest open I have ever seen. I'm still waiting for another one of these movies to have the same level of overall craft as Tokyo Gore Police (come on, Mutant Girls Squad), but I'd rank Helldriver above the faintly disappointing Robogeisha and Vampire Girl. It hits home video next month, so if this sounds like your brand of cheap thrills, buckle up.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

King of RPGs Second Edition

King of RPGs volume 2 has fewer references to porno manga than the first, but since its ending seems like a suspiciously good break point if further volumes don't get greenlit, it seems like a good time for a closer look.

KORPG actually has some surprisingly complex structure given how broad the jokes are. I always get a kick out of structural metahumor; Thompson has a longtime interest in both RPGs and manga, and it's amusing how seamlessly he fits the conventions of tournament battle manga (childhood inspirations sparking lifelong obsession, villains almost more interesting than the heroes, each more powerful than the last, defeat means friendship) with the inside-baseball gamer humor of Knights of the Dinner Table, Order of the Stick, Darths & Droids, DM of the Rings, etc (satanic panics, LARPing, adversarial GMing, and some MMO stuff in volume 2). It's especially great when the two synergize, like referencing Death Note to emphasize the Game Master's control-freak nature.

The main idea of "Shonen Jump-style battle manga about Dungeons & Dragons" isn't a very pointed parody given that things like Yu-Gi-Oh and .hack have already played it completely straight, but this time there's the occasional undercurrent of absurd black humor from the tone clash of zany unrealistic plot elements uneasily butting up against the reasonably honest portrayal of the main character's emotional problems. It's either tasteless or ballsy to have the plot basically boil down to "Mazes and Monsters by way of Bastard!", but then Thompson always was fond of manga's transgressiveness, and "Jack Chick was right!" is pretty much the ultimate taboo in RPG circles.

And finally, there are lots of tiny throwaway jokes all over the place, from the blatantly referential to the obscure (like Shesh Maccabee's signature in-game weapon). The art's quite nice too; Victor Hao's got a nice, cartoony expressiveness that works well for the comedy and lends the proper flair to all the scenes and characters.

I'd be happy to see more of this, but frankly the odds seemed kind of against even getting as much as we have. I'm honestly not sure if you can fully appreciate King of RPGs without having spent way too much time both reading manga and playing RPGs (though actually we have a couple guys like that here on the blog), but if you are one of those rare no-life kings, you should definitely check it out.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Best news ever

This year being the 25th anniversary of Jojo's Bizarre Adventure and the 30th anniversary of Araki Hiroyuki's career, I was sort of hoping we might finally get a kanzenban I can't afford but would buy anyway.
Instead, we get Jojorion/Jojolion, the eight Jojo series, and a package designed for me personally -- three Jojo's Bizarre Adventure novels.
Written by Kadono Kouhei, Nisioisin, and Maijo fucking Otaro.
Kadono's, in typically eccentric fashion, apparently features Purple Haze.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Out of Context Theater Presents: Trust The Cybercactus

From Splatter: Naked Blood, which is actually less exploitative and more disturbing than you'd guess from the title. It's very Cronenberg actually, with a very sterile-surreal medical ero-guro vibe going on. It's unsettling in the way I was kind of expecting Lychee Light Club to be. I found it quite harrowing to watch, actually, don't let this benign cactus-voyeur interlude lull you the way it did me. BuyerNetflixer beware on this one.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

So-so Gothic & Lolita

After watching both Psycho Gothic Lolita and Geisha Assassin, it seems clear that Go Ohara is better at coming up with catchy, trashy titles than he is at directing the movies he puts them on. I'd hoped he'd avoid repeating Geisha Assassin's mistakes, but no such luck. In fact, I think this one may even be a step back.

Like Geisha Assassin before it, this is a revenge movie; our heroine wants payback, and spends just about every minute of screen time pursuing it. It's basically Kill Bill wearing more black lace, but unlike that flick, the tone is all over the place. The movie clearly wants to be goofy (like, there are cartoony zoom noises when severed heads go flying), but none of the gags are actually funny, or even jaw-droppingly tasteless enough to get laughs of disbelief. On the other hand, it also fails at being dramatic; it hits classic beats like the idyllic flashback shattered by violence, and the heroine confronting the monster that chasing revenge has made her, but those scenes are so lackluster that they don't add anything to the film besides putting another mark on the genre checklist. I'm not even going to get into the completely random twist in the final act, beyond saying that the nod to it on the cover makes it look much more central than it is.

Also, the budget is clearly super, super low. Certainly not a hanging offense, but it sure doesn't help either; at least one of the sets is very conspicuously re-dressed, and the splatter effects are pretty unimaginative despite being "supervised" by the mighty Yoshihiro Nishimura. There's a little wire work, but not only is it not very good, it's an integral part of what is hands-down the worst scene in the entire movie, a hellish combo of so-so action, mediocre special effects, and terrible, interminable humor. That scene is pretty much the entire movie's sins in microcosm; it tries to make up for its visual shortcomings with campiness, but it's not actually funny, so it just ends up being doubly painful. I'd actually prefer it if they'd just stayed sincere instead of trying to win audience sympathy with cheap laughs... which is actually what Ohara did in Geisha Assassin.

In the end, Psycho Gothic Lolita is a run of the mill B-movie, uninspired on every level and middlingly executed. There are crumbs of fun here and there (like the gunfighter who constantly talks on her cel during a running gun battle, and the multiethnic team of super acrobat delinquents), but this film is in dire need of a better script, direction, acting, and action scenes. I kind of hate to dump on Ohara, because he is clearly trying to make the kind of dumb-fun movies I like seeing, but I have flat-out been bored by both of his. I gotta recommend everyone avoid this one.

And speaking of cheap shots, I can never resist poking Media Blasters for their omnipresent typos. At least this time it wasn't on one of the menu options.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Light and fruity

I've been a fan of Usamaru Furuya for a long time; or more accurately I've been a big fan of Short Cuts, since until recently only that and maybe five pages of his other surreal gag series Palepoli were all that were available Stateside. But we seem to be coming up on a nice boomlet of his work in translation, so let's check it out.

A casual reader of this blog will notice I'm no opponent of excess for its own sake, but Lychee Light Club's earnest transgression seemed a bit pedestrian. Or maybe I'm just jaded. I'll just crib from the back cover in lieu of summing up the plot, since Vertical sells this better than anyone short of Carl Horn or Stan Lee:

For the sooty industrial town’s lads there’s only one point of light: the Light Club, a secret brotherhood they’ve organized in an abandoned factory. They’re on the verge of booting up their crowning achievement, a “thinking machine” fueled by lychee fruits. At the same time, the middle schoolers’ cooties-fearing solidarity is devolving into a downright National Socialist muck of murderous paranoia, perverse aestheticism, and (not always) suppressed homosexuality. Cult favorite Usamaru Furuya’s most flawlessly realized work to date, here is Lord of the Flies for our new century— a text, however, that will never be assigned in schools.

This is an adaptation of a stage play, and it definitely bears the signs of it, particularly the extreme parsimony of characters and location; the Light Club themselves are pretty much the only characters with speaking roles (and most of them get like five lines at best) and almost all the action takes place in the basement of their clubhouse. This does work pretty well for evoking a seething inbred hothouse of festering emotion, but on the other hand, the delicately cruel bishounen aesthetic of the character designs tends to make their ranting come off as overly mannered, whereas I'd imagine an actual actor performing the lines would give them some appropriately manic delivery.

There are occasionally moments of gonzo, and some genuinely wince-inducing moments (man, poor Tamako), but overall I kind of feel Lychee Light Club didn't provide much I couldn't have imagined just from reading the back cover. This is a strange thing to say about a story that involves a fruit-powered robot kidnapper, but I was expecting Furuya to bring more originality and genuine surreality to the basic Clockwork Orange/Lord of the Flies youth-gone-wild setup. Well, OK, he does add explicit gay sex, but that's not too unusual in a manga context (or if you know anything about Yukio Mishima). Actually, that's the problem in a nutshell; I can see this story being audacious and disturbing in live-action (Organ is uncomfortably coming to mind, and actually now that I think of it, Kei Fujiwara worked with the Tokyo Grand Guignol, didn't she?), but as a manga it invites comparison to some of the world's most infamously upsetting and nauseating imagery, and Furuya just didn't step up his game enough to compete. Better luck next time.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Media Diary: Utena Interlude

Here's some more stuff I did instead of screencapping Utena.

Star Driver has some of Utena's campy charm, but inherited almost none of its strengths and actually managed to worsen its flaws. Takuto is an even more one-dimensional and boringly invincible protagonist than Utena: once you get used to the Zero Time set design the fights stop being interesting to look at, and his constant victories feel completely unearned. Forget physical danger, he's never even in emotional jeopardy. The supporting cast can't pick up his slack either, there are so many characters fighting for screen time that people vanish for long stretches of the show, or get written out entirely if they threaten to become too interesting. Sugata in particular is just criminally underwritten, which actually totally sabotages the ending.

I enjoyed the pirouetting robot kiss through the glass goofiness for a good long while, but the show lost all goodwill during the final stretch, when it went into serious business mode without bothering to build to a climax or shed any light on the cryptic backstory or jargon, and actively going out of their way to avoid having a final villain with any kind of dramatic weight. You can't expect me to care about characters you forgot to characterize, guys. This show plays out like a first draft, and I got annoyed watching it just flounder around bungling basic story beats until we hit episode 24 with characters and plot that'd barely progressed since episode 4. I was fine with Star Driver not having a brain, but it turned out to not have a soul either. I expected better.

On the other hand, I had much lower expectations of Afterschool Nightmare, and ended up pleasantly surprised; I can see why this was a darling of the manga-friendly comics blogosphere. This one also brought Utena strongly to mind, with its highly symbolic fight scenes, deeply damaged characters, and sex & gender fluidity; the main character is intersexed, and the center of a love triangle between a boy and girl attracted to opposite sides of his/her nature. It also shares one of Utena's primary flaws, in that the protagonist is the least interesting character in the entire story. I like Utena herself fine, but Mashiro here is really more interesting as a piece of symbolism than a protagonist.

I want to kind of damn this with faint praise; the story tends to stay within the bounds of heart-tugging shoujo melodrama, but manages the occasional genuinely nasty moment. Similarly, the art is not especially great on the whole, which makes the more imaginative visuals all the more striking. So overall, there were just enough interesting bits to keep me reading through to the end, which is where Mizushiro really steps up her game, and manages to explain just what the hell was going on in a way that makes perfect sense of everything. Afterschool Nightmare isn't going to be one of my all-time favorites, but it does have that special something that keeps it on my mind, even if I'm not entirely sure why. Check it out.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Dororon Enma-kun

When I saw the names Go Nagai and Yoshihiro Yonetani together, I figured they'd produce something absolutely batshit.
Was not disappointed.

I'd seen the recent Enma-kun OAV, which was a fairly disastrous attempt to gritty up the property; Yonetani, naturally, embraces Go Nagai's penchant for cringe-worthy humor with such gusto that I found it hard not to laugh, even when the heroine is doing a pee dance, or the old lady at the sento is swinging her tits around. And the monster of the week spawning a giant metal cock for Enma to sword fight is pretty much awesome by any standard.
Objectively, this is not at all a good show, but the unique energies of these two madmen seem to feed off each other fairly well; if the opening above gets you wet, then FUCK, watch it.

We also checked out the first episode of Tiger and Bunny, which was fun; let's hope they don't hit the workaholic dad has no time for his kid cliche too hard, because the corporate sponsored heroes working for points on a reality TV show premise is working for me better than I expected.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Media Diary, "Reminded of Better Shows" Edition

Not much I've seen lately excites me enough to muster a real post, but let's do a quick rundown to keep the blog from getting any dustier.

Peacock King (aka Spirit Warrior) is far duller than you'd expect from a show where Neo-Nazi black magic cultists discover they are actually robots with false memories of being human. Possibly because at least half of the first episode is wasted on tedious mumbo jumbo made up mysticism plot exposition, and then episode two slams through about 3-4 episodes' worth of plot and apparently ends with the hero sacrificing himself to restore world peace. You would wonder how there can possibly be another three episodes, and the answer is "by pretending the first two never happened and starting over, with a lower budget." Overall, I'd say any jones for watching Rintaro-directed magic dudes blowing shit up would be better satisfied by X, even the hilariously abridged movie version.

I was hoping STRAIN might be entertainingly bizarre thanks to the "vaguely based on A Little Princess" thing, but it ended up as yet another smoking wreck of wasted potential. All the ingredients for a decent show are here, but that show is called Gunbuster. I did think GB was a bit rushed at 6 episodes, but Strain spends most of its 13 just spinning its wheels; the situation and character dynamics are set into place fairly early on, and the show basically wraps up the way you think it will. On top of that, the nasty GONZOish CGI mecha ruined the fight scenes for me, and the interstellar telepathic hivemind of naked little girls makes me want to bang my face into a desk forever. It is also probably not a good idea to name your main antagonist "Ralph" if you want to give him any gravitas at all. I kind of respect the show's perverse commitment to making the heroine completely PTSD and unlikeable, and the blank-eyed doll constantly staring at her during the space battles is sort of hilariously creepy, but on the whole this is a very skippable series.

Geobreeders is sadly not as good as I remember it being. The characters are still pleasantly eccentric, but the run-and-gun-and-explode action is only OK (and they sort of forgot to put any in the sequel). Perhaps my bar for breakneck setpiece silliness has been raised since the '90s.

Evangelion is awesome as always, glad I waited to see 2.22 on blu-ray, blah blah blah. At this point there's just not much left to say about Eva that hasn't been rehashed over and over since 1995. I am a little annoyed that people are praising this movie as an unprecedented emotional lightening of the series and not remembering that its happy characters and awesome robot fights were pretty much all already in the TV episodes it's riffing on (admittedly with a lower budget, but still pretty great-looking), but that's nothing new either. I do wonder what Mari's deal is, but there's just not much to go on; she barely appears in the movie, and most of her scenes rehash things Asuka or Kaji did originally. I suspect she may be some kind of subtle taunt to the Shinji-haters, since she's pretty much his direct opposite but her hot-blooded piloting style fails completely (and in ways that directly reference two of Asuka's notable failures).

Actually, I probably can get a whole post out of Key the Metal Idol, I mainly just wanted to post these screengrabs while I still thought they were funny. It is a pleasing strain of David Lynchian crazy, even if JP Meyer hated it. Just watch out for all the talking in that first movie.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Alien vs Ninja

Exhausted after work, beer in hand, browsing Netflix for something crap to watch, I found this. Wasn't expecting much -- was pretty sure Joe had actually given it a negative review here a few months back -- but man did it ever entertain.
Particularly the Japanese Sean Bean.

Not a good movie -- all scenes with talking are so bad they're funny again, and the dub actors not being able to decide if the lead chin beard is Yamada or Yamata just adds to the 'fun' -- but the action scenes are all pretty fucking great. Very much hits that sweet spot of stunt actors in the woods with props made of tinfoil making the movie they always fucking wanted to be working on. As much as I'm looking forward to it I doubt Sucker Punch will contain anything as gleefully over the top as the bit where the token girl ninja fist fights the alien with tin foil gauntlets.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Mayoi Kyonshi.
So, Hachikuji Mayoi on the cover.
One would expect she might be in it, right?
I was honestly wondering if they'd swapped manuscripts with Shinobu Time somehow. After all, 99% of this book is Araragi and Shinobu fucking around with time travel.
For the glorious reason that he has not done his summer homework, Araragi and Shinobu travel back in time.
And try to stop Mayoi's death.
And return to the present to discover the world has been destroyed by a zombie apocalypse.
It was about this point that I realized I have absolutely no fucking clue where the book was going, and began to enjoy it quite a bit. He pulls a genuinely great ending out of his ass, too. I won't say the first half wasn't meandering and pedoriffic, but if he could just focus a little, I'm pretty sure Nisio could still write some genuinely great books.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

An amazing turnaround, but still too little too late

So I was watching Alien vs Ninja, and not even planning to post about it since it was so
mediocre, and then all of a sudden this happened.

So yeah, unless you've already gone through all the Nishimura and Iguchi you can I wouldn't recommend seeking this out, but if you do, definitely just skip ahead to about the 56-minute mark. I am interested in seeing if Seiji Chiba can make a flick that's ninety minutes of buried-the-needle stupid/awesome instead of 30, though.

Actually, the very best thing on this disc was seeing a trailer for Mutant Girls Squad, so hurray for a hopefully speedy release.

Nominated for the 2011 Gendou Ikari Memorial Excellence In Parenting Award

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Out Of Context Theater Presents

From the first volume of sexy pseudomedical thriller Ray.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Kiba Kouichi is something of a legend in my mind, and it was not too long ago I was writing about how sad it was that a talent like his had vanished into the wasteland of the unappreciated and unemployed. But it turns out he did have a job at last, serializing this Olympic Gold Medalist track star becomes a cop manga.
So, um, yeah. It's not particularly memorable, sadly. Something I never really thought I'd say about a Kiba manga. It very much feels like him playing it safe, and trying to get something just mainstream enough to not get canceled. As far as I know it still hasn't been, so yay? The premise is decent enough, and he certainly has the artistic dynamism to sell her breaking into a run. But the first three stories feel like really cookie cutter cop plots with only a couple of oddball notes added in. The moments of forced comedy tend to undo whatever hope the weird moments create.
The only thing that keeps me buying the second volume is the fourth story, which features a seriously amazing moment where a smarmy politician's son (the mythical type of politician's son that the police can't even attempt to arrest even when he's running over policemen in the streets for shits and giggles) puts his arm around her and she projectile vomits in his face. In a two page spread. I can't say this was a moment for the ages, but at least it didn't feel like something any other manga artist could have done.

Ben Tou

Late in the evening, supermarkets across Japan reluctantly mark unsold bento down to half price. The moment that discount sticker goes on, an army of hungry, penniless students descends, battling fiercely for the glory of a cheap meal.
As the ludicrous premise suggests, Ben Tou is primarily a comedy, but I was pleasantly surprised to find it neatly avoided a lot of light novel comedy traps. The author's note suggested he'd never tried his hand at comedy writing before, so the more dramatic scenes have a nicely understated naturalism to them, a more effective yang to the comedy yin than the usual overwrought melodrama (see Kore wa Zombie desu ka, which shits itself to hell the moment they stop with the jokes.)
This is a book where the male lead is neither a sarcastic Kyon clone or a personality free stand in for the reader to project his fantasies on. He's certainly a wise ass, but always motivated by an excess of enthusiasm. He describes the onigiri he's eating as "A classic Yamato Nadesico, her black seaweed underwear peeping out from under her sexy cellophane clothing." He makes a reference another character misses, and comments, "Oh -- she'd never read Jojo's Bizarre Adventure. She was missing out on 30% of the joy in life." Every attempt at thinking hard results in lengthy tangents about his father's retro gaming hobby, horrible things he did to a classmate in junior high, or completely non sequitors like his impromptu desire to become a true jazzman.
The three other major characters are all girls, of course; and each of them initially seems like a standard light novel type. First impressions tend to be misleading here. I'm not sure the violent (possibly lesbian) student council president ever developed into anything believable, but the narrators inability to resist gleefully pushing her buttons was much more relatable than the standard "accidental" misunderstandings. The cover girl is introduced as a tsundere, but quickly sidesteps either half of the term and becomes an altogether more likable mentor figure. The third girl ended up being the most entertaining of the three; she initially seems like a standard doormat, shy, totally insecure, and stammering a lot. Then she approaches the bento battles by role playing as a macho cop. Then they find "Muscle Cop", the hard core yaoi rape novels she's writing based on each battle. And the reactions to that are just different enough from what I've come to expect that I wound up impressed despite myself.
Ben Tou stumbles a little in the final act -- in search of an ending, he winds up setting up a choice so obvious the main character's hesitation just makes him seem embarrassingly dense -- but I came away feeling like this is the next big thing. Hopefully it'll get an anime that understands the material.

Mamoru Oshii Bores Again

So there are these four people who play an MMO about shooting sandworms in the desert, right? And one day a game master suggests they should team up to take out the boss of the zone. So they think about it for a while, and eventually they do.

That's it. That is everything that happens in Assault Girls. It loses nothing in the telling.

I just don't understand this movie at all. I don't understand why it was made, or what Oshii meant to convey. It's not exciting and it's not interesting. I don't understand why it seems to be in continuity with Avalon, and I don't understand why 90% of the dialogue is in Engrish. I especially don't understand how this failed to make the movie more entertaining.

This movie is barely an hour long, and had to be padded out with pointless, wordless desert montages and glamour shots of snails to get there. Also, no basset hound present, but there is an Akita, and a surprise cameo by Sontoku Ninomiya. Avoid, avoid, avoid.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Reading list

With my lengthy bus commute giving me tons of time to read but no time at home I'm not exactly up for full reviews of anything these days. Time to bust out the media diary format again.

Town of the Noisy Dead
Sequel to Gentle Purgatory, a collection of mystery short stories by the author of Crest of the Stars, set in a virtual reality populated by the backed up memories of dead people. While Morioka seems quite keen on the idea of the world itself changing significantly between each story -- crime is made possible in the latest patch just before the beginning of this volume -- and he adds a new character halfway through in a game attempt to compensate for the lead's total lack of personality, ultimately this series just isn't particularly memorable.

Labyrinthine Linkage of Maze-Prison
I'm on a bit of a Kadono kick now (already onto Repent Walpurgis 3) and this is the third book in his Soul Drop series, about a pair of insurance investigators (one a robot) on the trail of a mysterious killer who steals utterly insignificant items that happen to be more valuable than life itself to their owners. I continue to be surprise that having a robot detective is not the selling point but merely an extra bit of nifty in stories that are already extremely compelling on their own. This one involves the ghost of a prisoner helping a young runaway run a con job on the insurance company and two branches of the rich and powerful family backing the insurance company.

Dulalala x8
An extremely satisfying book considering it failed to resolve even the actual plot of the volume, and seemed to be trying for some sort of record as far as setting up entirely new plot threads to carry the series forward forever. Narita is going to die without wrapping up a single series.

I'm also watching anime again this season. Largely Guder's influence.
I have a vested interest in this, having translated the first two novels. There are some books that just can't be made into a TV series, and I'm not sure this is one of them, but the anime staff certainly didn't figure out how to do it at all. The pacing is just a mess, and none of the beats are given room to play out properly. Shame, since the actress playing Victorique seems to have landed perfectly on the fine line between Victorique's character and what anyone would actually want to hear that design sound like. I assumed the first episode was rushed to get to the meat of it. With the second episode I can only assume they're doing some sort of Cliff Notes version of the story. Can't recommend.

Madoka Magika
The first episode proved way more entertaining than I'd have expected. Something about the way she woke up from the opening nightmare made me crack a joke about how it was her brain dealing with the trauma of sexual abuse. The actual fights with witches are then accompanied by imagery more commonly associated with psychotic breaks than magical girls, as if Terry Gilliam had taken hostages in the Shaft control room and insisted on animated half each episode himself. I suspect in the long run it will just be a decently written show in a genre I'm not big on, and I'll be skipping ahead for the witches.

Level E
I'd read and liked the manga, but also totally forgotten it, so this was a pleasantly awesome surprise. Far and away the best show this season.

I had some hopes for a Noitamina original sci-fi show from the director of Haruhi so why was the first episode one cringe worthy characterization cliche after another? I gave up halfway, convinced Noitamina has completely lost their way.

Kore wa Zombie desu ka?
This is not, by any means, a good show. One could even call it a text book case of everything wrong with anime (or at least a collection of the symbols of what is wrong with anime, rather than the actual problems seen in shit like Fractale) but somehow it manages just enough laughs to keep me watching. Second episode far less successful but the breakdancing bit was still the hardest I've laughed in a while.

Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva
Anyone who's played the games knows they've managed some impressive writing and animation, but I didn't expect them to hit the same levels in a 98 minute feature film. But the result was pretty fucking great. Some nice nods to the games, particularly musically (hearing the title screen music segue to a full orchestral surround sound version was particularly bad ass) and the climax features Layton engaged in a sword fight on top of a giant robot while solving a puzzle. I think this could actually be a cross over hit if someone positioned it correctly; particularly lined up with the fourth game's release (which they haven't even announced yet, so...)