Sunday, July 30, 2006

He Is My Master

(Make note that I was in a VERY lighthearted, VERY forgiving mood. I almost didn't keep watching this series, the use/abuse of the female characters is extremely terrible most of the time. Honestly, looking back I don't know how I could be so forgiving.)

He Is My Master is a 12-episode ecchi anime, based on a manga of the same name, about this rich perverted boy, Yoshitaka, who hires three girls to be his maids so he can get his jollies commanding them to do menial chores and spying on them with hidden cameras.

Sounds awful, doesn't it?
It was actually sort of funny. There's a lot of fanservice (nearly every ep has a nude bath scene), though not any of the jiggly-boob kind, which is the kind I hate the most. Basically a fanservice situational comedy with lots of ridiculousness humour, the humour making it entertaining enough. I hate to admit I got a few hearty laughs out of it.

The Story
Two sisters, Mitsuki and Izumi, run away from home in order to save Mitsuki's pet alligator, Pochi, from being put down. They end up in the service of Yoshitaka because a) they need a place to stay where Pochi can also live freely and this guy has TONS of land, b) Izumi breaks a bunch of stuff, thus owing Yoshitaka a ton of money so she's working for him to pay him off. Soon, a third girl, Anna, joins the cast as the third maid - originally after Yoshitaka himself, she becomes infatuated with Izumi and gets herself hired as a maid in order to be closer to her, even going so far as to learn Dutch and read up on the Netherlands so she and Izumi can run away there and get married. (This is the yuri content of the series - no, doesn't make it worth it).

Pochi is both disturbing as well as one of the more entertaining part of the series (we're being VERY forgiving). He's this giant cartoony alligator who does not speak. He is completely devoted to his owner, Mitsuki, and absolutely hates men and will protect the girls from them at all costs. Equally, he is obsessed with girls in skimpy clothes, especially Izumi, whom he loves to chase and rip the clothes off of. Which is totally disturbing, but it's funny when he "tastes" someone by chomping their heads/upper torsos. :D

Yoshitaka is obnoxious with his lowlife-ness and lack of decency, but what makes it better is that really, Izumi's younger sister, Mitsuki, the seemingly innocent one, is the person running the whole show. She thinks Yoshitaka's habits are silly and that anything can be fun, no holds barred - so it turns out she's using his inner nature against him for her OWN fun. O_O

The girls' parents are pretty strange. Their mother had Izumi when she was 16 and their dad is a total punk-rock lolicon. But whenever he gets out of control, the mom is there to whack him over the head with this strange statue/idol thing. The mom is strange; she thinks it's fine that the girls are living with a pervert, particularly if Izumi can marry into his money, but encourages Anna, saying to her specifically in one ep: "Anna-chan, love has nothing to do with gender, so go for the gusto, eh?" which is the greatest redeeming factor for the whole series.

Mitsuki is always having contests for things, which I got a little tired of. Izumi's protests at everyone obsessing over her got a little old, as did Pochi trying to rip Izumi's clothes off (which I never liked to begin with). Anna was great, though, in her die-hard chase for Izumi (there's one scene where Izumi tries to distract her and takes off her bra and tosses it, which Anna chases and gets, and we see her on all fours, drawn with dog ears and a wagging tail with the bra dangling from her mouth, all happy... It actually made me laugh).

Definetly not the deepest anime I've ever seen, though oddly definetly not the most shallow. It had brief flashes of heart (which Yoshitaka immediately shatters) but it's mostly about being silly anyway - I mean, it's SO over the top you almost forgive it for the awfulness. I give it 3 stars out of 5 just for Anna and Pochi. And Mitsuki - she was too diabolically kawaii. :D

Friday, July 28, 2006

Fight! Iczer One

So I've been going over and over the Shoujo ai anime list over at Wikipedia, looking for new stuffs to download. Iczer One is one of those that I downloaded. I figured, hey, it's only a 3 ep OVA, so who knows?

Yeeeeeaaaahhhh... it was bad. Mind you, this is basically a rundown of the entire plot. As if you're going to watch it, so it shouldn't matter, right? Anyway, spoilers ahead:

As an anime from 1985, it certainly looks it. Kind of dark since it was all hand-done, lots and lots of lines and details everywhere, cheezy music, cheezy sound effects... it's OLD. One interesting thing, though, is that people are much better proportioned, particularly in the weight department. Our girls have a little meat on their bones - they look HEALTHY.

The anime opens on some spaceship thingey on the far side of the moon. Everyone on board is female and apparently they are all named after colors. Two chicks, Cobalt and Sepia, are in a sci-fi bedroom area talking about a mission to prevent Iczer One from merging with her partner. Sepia tells Cobalt to be careful on her mission, and they proceed to make out. Oh yeah, they're buck naked.

So Nagisa is our main character, besides Iczer One. Nagisa is a schoolgirl, on her way to school when she spots Iczer One watching her from some trees. Nagisa comments to herself on Iczer's bizarre outfit before continuing on to school.

At school, Nagisa starts having daydream/nightmares as she's trying to take a test. This is when I realised this was a horror sort of anime as far s monsters go, something one should not watch while trying to eat squishy food. The kind of monsters with teeth and eyes and tentacles where those items should not be on a body. Really over detailed, slimy, and gross.

Later, Nagisa is surrounded by some masked students on the roof, falls off the roof, and is rescued by Iczer One.

Nagisa wakes up at home and the day starts as if nothing went wrong, except Nagisa's parents turn into those gross monsters like the ones from Nagisa's nightmares. I think the house turned into a monster, too, or something - I dunno, I was busy doing something else when it showed where the giant monster came from. Anyway, Iczer shows up and kills them all. Nagisa goes into a really idiotic fit about her mommy and daddy being dead and demands that Iczer give them back. Because, you know, you can raise people from the dead easy.

We keep getting scenes from on the ship on the far-side of the moon. Apparently, Sir Violet (a green haired woman with a man's voice) is in charge of the ship. She keeps talking to this giant wall of red, pustuley living tissue in the vague shape of a vulva with a really large golden transparent sphere where a clit would be. Inside the sphere is a golden female humanoid curled in the fetal position. Sir Violet does all the talking, we never hear what gold thing says.

As it turns out much later, the gold being is Big Gold (of course) and she, too, has a super deep male voice. She's in charge of this whole ship and all the beings on board. We eventually, excruciatingly, find out that their race are called the Cthulu and are very similar to humans and were apparently once part of earth before they left to... go elsewhere. Their planet is now dead and now they're back, though we dunno why. Big Gold's TRUE form is actually a building-sized super computer, as she is no longer alive. Iczer is a daughter of Big Gold or an artificial being derrived from Big Gold and just called her daughter. Who cares.

So, back on earth, Iczer is running around fighting monsters. She can shoot yellow beams out of her fists and is pretty super strong and agile. She also keeps slipping into Alternate Dimensions. To Quote Iczer, "I'm in an alternate dimension. Oh no!" Which is really pointless and dull.

She keeps trying to convince Nagisa to merge with her and fight to save the planet. Nagisa refuses. Eventually, Iczer calls upon her giant robot, called Iczer Robo, and beams Nagisa inside. While Iczer is in a pilot seat with small pink hoses hooked up to her bustier, Nagisa has to float around in a seperate compartment, buck naked, in some breatheable green liquid, with the same little hoses hooked up all over her body.

Nagisa refuses to fight.

Until Iczer brings up her parents death and suggests vengence. Suddenly, Nagisa thinks this is a hot idea and bOOM, the power of Iczer Robo is complete. By saying yes to fighting, they are now "merged" and fight as one.

And they do. And they win against whatever it was they were fighting. Oh, yeah, they fight Cobalt, who is in another robot. They rip Cobalt out of her robot and crush her.

So Iczer drops off Nagisa in her old neighborhood. The whole country has been overrun with a virus or something that turns everyone into monsters, but somehow Iczer thinks Nagisa will be just fine. Nagisa is suddenly is wearing a flashier, skimpy outfit. She asks Iczer what's up with this outfit and Iczer tells her it will protect her. Yes, of course - less clothes = more protection. Didn't we learn anything from Xena?

On her own, Nagisa goes back to her own house and finds a little girl and her mother, whom she befriends. She goes upstairs to her parents room and finds that the bodies are all gone somehow. But suddenly, monsters come out of the walls and floors and attack with face tendrils, which Nagisa's bracelet fry to a crispy pile of dust. All is saved...
... except back downstairs the mother of the girl is now a bloated monster. Nagisa toasts her, too.

I don't remember what happens next. Sepia is super upset and distraught over Cobalt's death. But the Cthulu have made another Iczer - Iczer TWO, who takes Sepia as her partner. They go down to Earth in a super robot, Iczer Sigma, and fight Iczer Robo. They rip Robo's arm off. Then, Iczer Sigma stomps on the little girl Nagisa was trying to save. With Nagisa horrified by this, suddenly power beyond belief comes to Iczer Robo and they do something amazing and defeat Iczer Sigma.

And it turns out that Nagisa had given her bracelet to the little girl, so she survived after all. So to protect her, they take hte little girl far far away to the countryside to protect her. But while they're there, Iczer Two arrives with Blue and Red and kidnap Nagisa and kick Iczer One's ass.

Back on the mother ship on the far side of the moon, Iczer Two wants Nagisa to be her partner since she's so powerful to Iczer One (who, by the way, seems to be passionately worried about Nagisa all the time). Iczer Two has Nagisa pinned to a wall in a cell and tries to force her to become her partner by having some pod creature at Nagisa's feet sprout tentacles, which menacingly wrap around Nagisa and hover over face in a threatening bukake pose.

Interstingly, with as many tendriled monsters as there are, none of them were sexual at all the way tentacles ALWAYS are nowadays in anime. This was the only scene with even REMOTE "sexual tentacle tension" and it wasn't much at all. Which is fine, as I don't care for tentales, but anyhow.

Also odd, as desperate as everyone is to destroy and stop Iczer, all the monsters always corner Nagisa, the source of Iczer's power, and then just... kinda hover there and watch. They never DO anything! Stupid monsters!

So... Nagisa, threatened by Iczer Two and the tentacle pod. Nagisa says she'd rather die, kill me now. As the tentacles near, she screams out for Iczer One.

Iczer one is unconcious in a field. Iczer Robo appears, beams up Iczer One, who then wakes up and beams to this monolith thingey, destroying Iczer Robo in the process of smashing through the walls. Iczer One is now surrounded by monsters and fights and kicks ass, before Iczer Two appears and brings out Nagisa, who now has glowing green glazed eyes. Telepathically, Nagisa calls out to Iczer and tells her she cannot control her own body -- shoot me before I shoot you and kill you. At first Iczer refuses, she's crying and torn over killing Nagisa. But then she shoots her anyway. Nagisa thanks her, then dies and we see her spirit drift toward Iczer and apparently get absorbed because suddenly Iczer gets her second wind, has super super powers and destroys Iczer Two.

Then Big Gold kills Sir Violet And shows up to congradulate her. Now let's take over the world. Iczer One says, "never!" so Big Gold suggests they fight in their true forms. Nothing happens to Iczer One, so that must be her true form, while Big Gold turns into a gigantic pillar of golden light. Calling Nagisa's name, Iczer surrounds herself with a gold bubble, draws her blue light saber, and flies into Big Gold, which causes Big Gold and Iczer to merge into one being, but technically, Iczer is the dominant personality/apperance/etc.

Stuff blows up.

Iczer is floating around in space or somewhere over Earth, holding Nagisa's body. She's saying now she has the power of Big Gold, she's going to find the Cthulu a new home and watch over them (so they don't go bad again). She's also going to grant Nagisa's wish to put Earth back the way it was. Which she does. Next scene is basically the same scene where we first saw Nagisa, waking up and getting ready for school. And on her way to school, she sees Iczer again but doesn't recognize her, while Iczer stands there with a goofy sad smile and tears in her eyes as Nagisa takes off with her friend to get to school on time.

The end.

Really gross monsters, stupid-stupid dialogue, trite characters with no depth. Hated the animation, hated the music and HATED the sound effects. There was very little yuri. The very brief nude makeout scene at the beginning, and then Nagisa and people are naked often, but that's about it. Nagisa depends on Iczer for protection but doesn't seem to love her or anything, and Iczer is just weird. She seems randomly obsessed with Nagisa the way Najara was for Gabrielle but no good vibes necessarily.

The whole thing is a super drama, no humour at all, and no POINT at all.
There you have it.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Wolf's Rain OST

Wolf's Rain OST I and II

I've got to say, this music is really good IN the anime but outside of it, I really don't care so much for it.

Yoko Kanno is a phenominally talented composer, having done the scores for "Ghost in the Shell" and "Cowboy Bebop". Some songs in the Wolf's Rain OSTs I really like but for the most part, it's just not my cup of tea musically. Jazz-based with lots of accoustic guitar, there are wonderful songs - I can appreciate the technical beauty and style of all the songs... I just... not for me, thanks. The songs I do like are the accoustic guitar instrumentals - those are just... wow. Like "Hot Dog Wolf".

I think Yoko Kanno writes technically more traditional, more complex music than Yuki Kajiura but she definetly writes the music as a soundtrack/score. Meaning the albums don't stand on their own very well, the overall flow feeling disjointed as is my issue with most soundtracks/scores.

Noir OST

I love this set of soundtracks, really just one split into two volumes on two discs. Yuki Kaijura is brilliant - she's done the soundtracks for .hack//SIGN and Mai-HiME as well as many others.

Several of the tracks stand out as songs that don't SOUND like they came from a soundtrack - always a mark of a good composer if the music can stand alone without having to rely on the imagery remembered from the series/film it was scored for. :) These songs exist because the director at BeeTrain asked her to simply write what she wanted - entire compositions, no holds barred, and that he and the animation team would then later work them in as needed. This is opposed to an artist writing a piece that is exactly a minute and some-odd seconds long to fit a certain scene. The result is that her soundtrack work sounds great as stand-alone music - it also shines through as one of the best element in any anime her work appers in.

Kaijura's work often sounds kind of new-age ish though for Noir there is a French tinge in many of the tracks. A mix of sounds smoothed over with the same flavor makes for a dynamic set - and I'm proud to say I own the actual CD's. :D (got them for $10 at a Sam Goody's that was going out of business.)

Years after watching "Noir" I still find myself listening to the soundtracks as stand-alone music. This is significant for two reasons: 1) I rarely like soundtracks and 2) I'm usually into a soundtrack simply as an extension of the movie/series it was from, not for the merits of the music itself.

Haibane Renmei OST

Three soundtracks worth of music, light and airy, countryside kind of music with both middle-European and Japanese influences, accoustic with harpsichord type strings, guitar, flute, tambourine, harp, violin... very light and relaxing, nice to listen to first thing in the morning when you want some tunes but nothing heavy or too driving.

I haven't listened to all of them all the way through yet but I really like what I have heard so far. :D The three soundtracks are called:
Haibane Renmei Soundtrack: Hanenone
Haibane Renmei: Petitnone ~Out Of Tracks~
Haibane Renmei Image Album ~"Sei naru Shoukei"~ (an image album, of course, being songs inspired by the series but were not IN the series... I think.)

The opening theme is, of course, the best but there's a wonderful song called "Wondering" off the first soundtrack that will bring tears to your eyes (well, it will if the anime moved you at all). It's a beautiful, wistfully sad song with Uillean pipes that would go well with Celtic Christmas music. ;)

Bakuretsu Tenshi OST

Bakuretsu Tenshi (Burst Angel)

I FINALLY got this! I had to track down people on some torrent boards and beg them to seed it - crazy.

It's two discs worth on just one OST. It's got a "good, bad, & the ugly" dirty electric guitar western kind of theme but with a modern beat and some futuristic sound effects for ambience. Definetly has a "ride to the sunset" mood. It's funny because I really didn't recall the music from the episodes all that well at all. Then as I listened to the soundtrack, I found msyelf recognizing most of the 46 tracks. O_O; :D

Good background music, fun to listen to. Nice to have but not as much of a keeper as, say, soundtracks by Yuki Kajiura. ;)


Earthquake this morning:
Local Date: Thursday July 27th, 2006
Local Time: 05:18 AM AKDT
Universal Time: 07/27/2006 13:18:00.556 UTC
Magnitude: 4.89 ML
Latitude: 61.1494
Longitude: -149.5856
Depth: 15 miles (25 km)

And it was only 35 miles from here (12 from Anchorage) which is super close for an earthquake. We've had 5's before that didn't feel as strong simply because they were further away. I was so tired, though, from being up half the night in pain that I fell RIGHT back asleep before comitting to memory how the quake had felt. So all I remember is that it was a hard one, that I heard it coming louder than any quake I'd ever heard, and that it happened. lol. My friend Cassandra sleeps through most quakes (they always seem to happen at night) but my family and I must be pretty sensitive because the sound always alerts us enough that we are awake to gauge the severity of the quake (i.e. duck and cover or not) until it is over and we roll over and fall asleep.

If you've never heard an earthquake, there is no real way to describe it. It's vast, mile stretches of hundreds and hundreds, maybe thousands of feet of rock, gravel, dirt, and who knows what, sliding and grinding against itself. But it's SO huge that you hear it where it starts and then as the earth around the epicenter shifts in domino-like fashion, outward like a ripple, you hear the sound get closer and closer, increasing in volume until it hits YOU. And that all happens in less than a second.
Sometimes the vibrations come casually, like a train rolling by, the ground and everything in the house (and the house itself) starts shaking.... dah-dah-dah-dah-dah-dah-dah dah dah dah dah DAH DAH DAH DAH DAH DAH DAH DAH DAH DAH DAH DAH DAH dah dah dah dah dah da da

Or sometimes you hear it and then BAM!!! it hits and everything is shaking in a sneak-attack quake. Sometimes it is so fast that you don't hear anything at all until it hits.

But the sound itself is SO vast and so deep... It's like a sound that you aren't really hearing - you are hearing it with your body, with your skin, and with your 6th sense, not so much with your ears. The sounds are too high and too low. You know how sometimes in good silence, your ears can create roars that are only happening in your head, except that you can TELL they're coming from your head. It's almost like that in that you know you are hearing this sound, that it does exist, but it's not coming from somewhere normal or it's not being picked up in a normal way. And it's SO vast and SO heavy, it's literally the entire world. It is directional, for sure, you can tell where it is coming from, and the oscillation of sound can be different depending on the speed of the quake.

And this quake was particularly loud, probably because it was so close, and maybe also because it was on land rather than out in the inlet like they usually are.

I hate it when they have earthquakes in movies - most TV shows do a good job and I think it is precisely because of the low budget. Movies make the jolting too... I dunno... perfect and crumbly. Yeah things CAN crumble, I'm sure, but they just have the movement all wrong. They're loud but it doesn't seem like much is happening. Everything seems detatched from the sound that is occurring, and even though you're in it and things are moving and you can feel it, it feels like the quake is flowing AROUND you. Like standing in a river - you feel the river, it affects you, it jostles you, but it flows around you. And maybe because it IS -- the vibrations from a quake are directional, they are going by, not happening RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE - and that's how movies always make them seem. Bah. :P

So yeah... earthquakes... :P

Monday, July 24, 2006

Bakuretsu Tenshi (Burst Angel)

In short:
Awesome animation with smoothly integrated cgi, beautiful to look at. Cool character designs and fun spaghetti western genre/mood/palette. Fights can be repetitive but aren't dull and have some cool moves, good music, story could be better but there is a plot throughout (not the best, not the worst), psycho-bezerker killer bounty hunter chick (Jo)

Lots of people think lots of different things about this anime. Here's what it is and isn't:
• It does have an underlying plot throughout the entire series - even if an episode *seems* like a one-shot. Plots are not as twisted as GITS:SAC, but you might not realise they're related until maybe halfway through. There are some very superficial elements and some really superficial stories that, while they DO tie into the major plot, they still seemed kind of pointless. The story overall isn't the most stunning, but it isn't totally boring - and like most anime gets better past the halfway mark.

• It does have lots of fighting, but I found the fights way more interesting than, say, Kannazuki no Miko. Maybe not the most creative fights ever, though there are definetly some cool moments that had me saying, "Oh, wow!" out loud, heh. For the most part, if a battle got dull, I'd just admire the animation.

• The animation is beautiful. They use a lot of CGI but it's so well integrated that it doesn't stand out at ALL. Best integration I've seen so far in any anime. I love the western sunset palette.

• Fanservice: Not quite to a disgusting degree, but some of the female characters do have some amazing breast activity *rolls eyes*, and there are lots of panty shots. Not tons, but enough. Oddly, they manage to smooth it into the whole world so that I wasn't overly bothered with it at all.

• The theme of the series, the mood, is a WESTERN. The way stories unfold, the fights, the clothing - it's a western. And it's FUN. The end of the series is also totally so very spaghetti western in style. I love it. Though don't let me fool you - it takes place in a futuristic Tokyo filled with high-tech gadgetry. The attitude (and tons of guns) and the other things I mentioned make it a western in everything except tumbleweeds, horses, and saloons. Although, there is *one* horse...

• Some things seemed pointless, like Kyouhei, or whatever his name is, the chef. He had no purpose. I think originally he was going to be there for the whole harem-style group of characters with him being the fish out of water norm-boy, but that definetly died a quick death within 3 episodes.

• Music is good. I like the "bad guy is coming, we're gonna fight" theme. :D

• It has humour that isn't obnoxious or over the top. Kick-ass type of humour, not goofy humour.

Yuri content: is there or isn't there?
Ok, I don't know WHAT people are talking about: they say they watered it all down from the manga and hid all the subtext between Meg and Jo. If that's so, then I must have super yuri-goggles because I got a lot more than I was expecting. Sure, there are obvious outright occurences (well, one) but these women live for EACHOTHER and they say as much. Often. Kind of a Xena/Gabrielle type thing where you know they are 100% loyal to one another and live for one another, though you could argue wether or not they are actually in passionate love. More than best friends, less than lovers. Yikes - I do sound like a hardened Xenite, adamant in the relationship. Maybe that's where I get my ability to find subtext. ;)

More yuri than: Noir, ROD the TV, GITS:SAC,
Less yuri than: Marimite, Strawberry Panic, Simoun, KnM

Perhaps less in terms of obviousness, but I say the quality and pervasiveness of it makes it way better than, say, KnM, Noir, and Strawberry Panic.

Meg and Jo
Meg and Jo are the most fun duo since... since I dunno when. Very Xena/Gabby in that Meg is always getting kidnapped and Jo is always going bezerk, killing a zillion people and going through anyone and anything to rescue her, even if its good guys. Gotta love that kind of devotion (otherwise it'll annoy you to tears that Meg gets kidnapped so much). And they go back a little ways, which is what the manga is about (which has been liscenced and will hopefully be available soon as there are no scanlations). Also in the Xe/Gab fashion, Jo is the dark warrior who has obviously seen a LOT whereas Meg is more happy-go-lucky, "let's have fun". (Ok, think early Gabrielle...). Though Meg DOES have the capacity to kick butt (wish we'd see more of that).

Other stuff
Other characters are fun. Sei is cool - her breasts get huge in some eps which annoys the hell out of me, and some people rather hate her reverse-cleavage outfit but I rather like it. Her character gets more interesting as the series progresses but we don't find out enough. I don't think they really plotted her character too deeply though they easily could of. Kind of like Youko in Marimite. Amy is the computer hacker kid and she's so-so. I don't care either way about her character.

Some of the one-shot-ish stories were really fun; I particularly liked the girls school ep. and the obvious backstory eps. :D

All I can say is I want the damn OAV to be released! I dloaded the artbook, too, which has all the episode commercial cut-shot art in it, too. Some good stuff!

Quote that made me laugh: "Those who jump over people's backs don't live very long." -- Jo (it was funny at the time...)

Conclusion: It's a fun series - Watch it for the prettyness and for Meg/Jo slashyness. And possibly the fights, though as far as sharpshooting goes, as good as Jo is, she doesn't hold a candle to Kirika. You may have to leave your brain turned 'off' for chunks of it - it's not a particularly smart anime and is low on character development or deep, emotional plot. In the way that I prefer deep, requires-lots-of-brain foreign films, I do still like to watch fun action flicks. That would be Bakuretsu Tenshi.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Haibane Renmei

No spoilers.

I just finished watching all of Haibane Renmei. Wow.
First off, it's beautifully drawn. If anything, watch it for that.
Secondly, what a wonderful story. Just... It's not goody-goody, but it's not overly dark. Nothing happens beyond reason - as in, there's no drama for drama's sake, so by that I guess I mean it's very life-like. Which is funny coming from me, since I tend to *like* drama. :D

I tell you, though, the first episode right off the bat punches you in the gut. My eyes went wide, "I didn't know Haibane Renmei was like THIS!!??" heh. But nah, that's just... well... you have to watch. Just watch it, dammit!

Anyway, yes. 5 stars out of 5, possibly the best anime I've ever seen - yes, maybe even better than Maria-Sama ga Miteru (gasps, I know, beat me with a stick for saying so!) - but I say that on grounds that Marimite's animation wasn't always evenly done across the board, and it isn't a finite story (yet). But still...

The kind of thing that leaves you not knowing if you want to smile or cry. :')

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Devil Wears Prada [film]

In short:
• good acting
• 3-D characters
• story that could of been ultra cliché was not cliché at all.

First off, Meryl Streep was awesome. Her character is such a bitch but Streep manages to bring humanity to her character. Even though this woman is a complete devil, she's got emotions and she has motivations for the way she acts and you do see it slip out here and there, but not in a cheesy way, either. Very subtle. Streep is amazing to watch anyhow; she can convey so much with just the twitch of an eye, for goodness sakes.

The gal who plays the main character did a good job as well. I had seen her in The Princess Diaries and was afraid she might bring a bubblegum cliché performance to the film but she did not. She was human and she does evolve but while staying true to herself.

Which is what the film is about - staying true to oneself. So many films are about some girl starting out frumpy, heading for sucess, and along the way they're taught how to be fashionable and how to get the cool guy or whatever -- like in films like She's All That or even in the Princess Diaries - and dozens of others. And our main character, Andy, *does* start out frumpy and heading for sucess, and she does learn how to dress fashionably and gets to be cunning at her job. And in the end when she realises that there are limits to what she'll do before she's no longer being herself, it's a realistic realization. There's no huge change -- she keeps what she likes about what she learned, like keeping some of the nicer clothes for instance, but it's toned down. Just... more "normal". And she gets the kind of job she wanted in the first place - she doesn't settle, but she's equally not going out there for some hot-shot position for the status or money of it.

And the romance in the film is treated the same. It's just all very human, with humour, style, and then some. It may not be blockbuster-stuff, but it is a smart film, intelligent, with little trace of bubble-gum, if any. I found myself on the edge of my seat, rooting for Andy. And if a movie can do that, if it can make me really care, then I give it a thumbs up. :D

Thursday, July 6, 2006

3 new anime

So I started in on some new anime today:
• 3 eps of Simoun
• first ep of NANA
• 6 eps of Strawberry Panic!

I read about this at Okazu and have been interested in this series since then. The background on this over at Wikipedia: Simoun (anime) tells a bit about it better than I can. To be very basic, the story happens on a different earth-like world where the people have very different technology from us - very stylized/art nouveauish in a way. Anyhoo, the people of this world are what is left of a very powerful, ancient people and they don't know how to use any of the technology that still survives today. The one kingdom that has all the technology protects it with the use of simoun, an aircraft powered by the ancient technology that is flown by a pair of pilots.

The people of this world, though, are all born female and they do not settle on a gender until they reach the age of 17 at which point they go to this holy spring to either stay female or become male. Due to the technology of the simoun (aircraft), however, only non-adults can be pilots.

I only saw the first three episodes. Basically we learn about the star lead pilot, Neviril, a girl who loses her copilot while attempting an extremely difficult defensive maneuver. The pair were definetly romantically involved - and that is NOT subtext, no yuri-goggles required. The ancient technology is partially powered spiritually -- pilot/co-pilot pairs kiss the green orb that powers their ship before taking off in order to turn the orb on. Neviril and her original partner unintentionally started the trend of kissing eachother before kissing the orb on their simoun craft. So though their kiss was genuine and passionate, not all the other pilot pair kisses are.

So far the series doesn't seem to be *totally* using the yuri angle as fanservice. Everyone is kind of ambisexual all around so there isn't that "service" tension so many other series have. The gender ambiguity is refreshing to me, particularly because even the gender of adults is difficult to determine as female seiyu voice the male characters, who are also drawn rather femininley.

The animation itself is pretty good, though I'm not a huge fan of combining traditional and digital animation unless it is seamless. I like the style as well -- the not-so-technologically-advanced peoples seem to have a kind of 1920's/30's level of technology which is inventive - I'm a sucker for old-fashioned/steampunk technology. :D


NANA is about two girls named Nana who seem to be total opposites whose paths keep crossing, leading the two to become roomates - and most likely eventually friends as well. I only saw the first ep so it's hard to tell.

I'm not sure how much yuri content there is going to be. There's enough for the ol' yuri-goggles as far as the "normal" girl oogling the cool and dark girl but that's all I've seen so far and it's not enough to make a person watch it just for yuri content.

The animation is clean and angular, the music so far is pretty good as well. The opening credits make the series seem like it's going to be much more serious than it is - goofier than Marimite, slightly more serious than Azumanga Daioh. Both Nana's are 20, which is refreshing, although the regular-girl Nana looks younger than she is, which is getting old (WHY can't people be drawn their age?!?)

I only have the first 5 eps out of something like 26 I believe, so who knows. I'll watch the rest and then decide whether I want to bother with the rest. Wikipedia makes it sound like there's hardly any yuri to be had, and while that's not my only criteria for an anime, I certainly relate more to queer characters and I've got enough yuri-endowed anime that I could be watching instead. ;)

Strawberry Panic!
Fun seiyu facts:
"Etoile" Shizuma is voiced by Hitomi Nabatame (Eriko in "Marimite")
Nagisa Aoi (our protagonist) is voiced by Mai Nakahara (Mai in "Mai-HiME") who sings the opening theme

There's good and bad for this series. And mixed, too, I suppose.

First, the main "pair", Nagisa and Shizuma, are a Yumi/Sachiko, Yumi/Sei, Himeko/Chikane, any famous kohai/sempai rip off. Nagisa is like a slightly more mature Yumi but with more confidence and never cries (so far). She, like Yumi, gets chastised for running in the halls, learned piano years ago and can sort of play now, and isn't too sure about her feelings for a certain sempai but is in deep nonetheless.

Shizuma is a perfect cross of Sachiko, Sei, and Chikane. She talks JUST like Chikane from Kannazuki no Miko and has a wild mane of lion-like hair like Sei. She's happy in the presence of Yumi/Himeko/Nagisa but has some kind of sad past, sad eyes, mysteriousness - like Sei and Chikane. Also like Sachiko and Chikane, Shizuma is great at piano and is the star of the school. Similar to Sei (at least in reputation), Shizuma is a playgirl, making out with girls left and right, never keeping one for more than a month apparently.

This, and other elements, lead to total element ripoffs from Marimite. For instance:
• Nagisa's first stunned run-in with Shizuma that leaves her heart blindsided and stunned
• Shizuma fixes Nagisa's crooked tie - ever so Marimitely (except Shizuma tries to kiss Nagisa after)
• Middle-ground in the greenhouse. Just like Yumi/Sachiko in their greenhouse, and Himeko/Chikane in their secluded rose garden.
• Piano duet! Complete with Nagisa messing up her part, just like Yumi
• It's a Christian/Catholic type school, complete with prayers and a Maria-sama statue!

Shall I go on?

Despite the fact that this series is a total rip-off of so many other anime before it, there are elements keeping it interesting. Like, if you ever wanted Yumi to have more guts, then you'll appreciate Nagisa. Or if you wanted Sachiko to kiss all the girls, you'll like Shizuma. There's a ton of "loser-fangirl" service moments, too. Apparently half the school (all-girl, mind you) is sleeping with one another - there's lots of sex in the manga, apparently; the anime focuses more on relationships. But Shizuma tries to kiss Nagisa at least once per the first three or four episodes, sometimes more than once in an episode. With such a strong start, the 4th-6th episodes were boring as hell with the highlight being some of Nagisa's friends cleaning stairs and having a tea party. Yay. (sarcasm)

The animation is similar to Kannazuki no Miko only less colorful. The plot is only interesting when Shizuma is involved (well, for me). A lot of the characters are a little over-the-top -- "ohhh!"ing girls with high pitched voices, a school prince who is VERY Rei-like... It really makes Marimite shine even more in comparison. So I'm going into this focusing on the fanservice, because being shallow is about the only way to make it through this series without melting my brain.

I'll definety watch the four other episodes I have and I'd probably want the rest just so I can see where this thing with Shizuma and Nagisa go, because they're hinting that Nagisa is more than a fling for Shizuma. Perhaps high drama will ensue. Woo.

Edit to add...
Oddly, a bonus for me in Strawberry Panic! is part of the dynamic between Nagisa and Shizuma. Whenever Nagisa catches Shizuma's gaze, she completely freezes, can't talk, can't think, can't move... totally stunned. I used to think this sort of thing was silly until I had the very same experience with a girl myself -- I did the exact same thing around her (well, I could move...). It wasn't any one thing in particular about her. I generally can't shut up around people and can usually speak in an orderly, concise fashion. Not around this girl, however. I'd get around her and I couldn't think of anything to even think ABOUT, I couldn't speak - and when I'd try it came out very badly, and I am uber-concious of my body and movements. Of course, we've since had a very bad falling out and I know she's no good for me at ALL, but I can't help but still feel some of this if I'm around her. Grr. How very Phèdre/Melissande of me.

So, um, yes. Though it pains me, I relate. Shizuma better treat Nagisa right or I'll smack her both sides up and down. XO