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...)