Thursday, August 24, 2006

Who Wants to Be a Superhero?

Has anyone with SciFi been watching Who Wants to Be a Superhero?

I know it's super cheezy and kinda low-budget but I like it anyway because unlike most reality shows, these people are encouraged to be at humanity's BEST. Yes, to a stereotypical, ultra-high degree, but isn't that what classic comic books are about? It's nice to see a lack of backstabbing, a lack of taunts, put-downs and emphasis on breast/dick size. It's nice, for once, to see some people who honestly (or at least halfway) try to be good people.

I know not all the contestants have been perfect or ARE perfect, and a lot try simply because that's what you have to do to win, not because they really want to put forth the effort to be really good people. But at least the principle is there. And that's what I like about it - and its something that has been coming out more and more as fewer heroes are left after each elimination.

Sometimes I get really pissed off at the world. Okay, most of the time I am really pissed off at the world. I get really depressed about it and snarky and angry and I can be mean to those closest to me. On the flip side of that, I like to think I'm honorable, I try to be nice, I try not to judge people and I try to give the benefit of the doubt. TRY. Something that brings me down is when I expect the same back from the world and I don't get it in return. I think, either the world is REALLY shitty or I seriously have way unattainable standards and am at risk for living in perpetual disappointment.

What a pessimistic, depressing thought.
I mean, just watch the news or look at global politics. Ugh! Humans are horrible! And I nearly daily read the posts about how rude and awful people can be over at the LiveJournal community customers_suck.

But, at that same community, every few posts, people mention a good customer that gives you hope. Something that maybe gets you through the week. Nothing too huge, just someone sticking up for a cashier who was just harassed by a previous customer, maybe. That little thing might of been the thing to save that person's job that day. That's a hero. And that person doesn't even know it.

So I watch Who Wants to Be a Superhero and I think that maybe I'm not alone in wanting to be better than I am and trying despite my weaknesses. That I'm not the only one who thinks people should be better and expects that before expecting the reverse. Heroes have a thankless job, so when we do things that are nice or if we've tried to be nice to someone who isn't, at least we put forth a good try. Maybe it's overly-hopeful to some folks the way sugary musicals are, but without those hopes and ideals...

Anyway... Just kind of nice...

Monday, August 21, 2006

Kasimasi ~ Girl Meets Girl

Just finished Kasimasi today. It's a romantic comedy about a boy, Hazumu, who is permanently turned into a girl after an alien spacecraft crashes into earth and destroys his original body, and how his friends deal with the change.

Hazumu is pretty feminine for a boy to begin with so he takes to being a girl easily. The first few episodes have humerous moments particularly with his tomboy friend, Tomari, who tries to teach him how to behave properly as a girl (like not spreading ones legs while wearing a skirt. And no, Hazumu is totally innocent about the entire thing - he was very feminine and genuine to begin with and is happy being a girl, so there isn't any of that "boy gets to be a girl so he can use the girl's locker room to get his jollies" or any of that happening.

The series is alllll about shoujo-ai. Yasuna is a girl who cannot see men -they appear as a static grey to her and so she avoids them. Nonetheless she becomes good friends with Hazumu, the two of them having much in common. When Hazumu declairs his love for her, however, Yasuna rejects him. (Which is when Hazumu goes to the mountain where he was hit by the aliens). When Hazumu becomes a girl, however, Yasuna is overjoyed because now she can see Hazumu and fully love her properly. Yasuna is cool, too, because although she seems like this quiet girly-girl - she's really not. She stands up for herself and can kick butt when needed. By far the most original character in the series.

But she's not the only one. Hazumu's childhood friend and protector, tomboy Tomari, struggles with the fact her friend is now a girl and struggles with her feelings for Hazumu now that she's a girl. Also, Hazumu's best friend, a boy named Asuta, suddenly finds himself attracted to his friend.

What is interesting is how the characters each accept Hazumu's love for another girl. Some say that because Hazumu was originally a boy and his personality is largely intact, it is expected that he'd still be attracted to girls. For the most part, though, the consensus is that love is love is love and it doesn't matter who you love.

There's some obnoxious elements - Hazumu's father is a pervert who has always wanted a daughter and you can imagine why. There's this random school teacher who serves NO purpose to the story at all except to constantly pop in saying how she's been single for 35 years, and then pines over one of the aliens who stays behind to observe the earthlings. And lastly, the spaceship was molecularly re-engineered into a humanoid girl who says "puu" all the time. Agh, she was annoying. Luckily they're not around that often. And there's a large "stupid-male" element which got annoying to a degree, too, but I've seen WAY worse so, meh.

The love triangle that forms between Hazumu, Yasuna, and Tomari, becomes very melodramatic but in a very realistic way. And it really keeps you guessing as to how this is all going to work out. Overall, the story (12 episodes) is so fluid that I never noticed the passing of time - it kept me into it and before I knew it, I'd watched it all. *pouts*

Overall, good humour, interesting character development with some realistic character interaction. There's several kisses and none of them felt fan-servicey, they felt genuine (yay!). The animation is good and the music didn't bother me, either. Thumbs up. :D

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Dancer in the Dark [film]

Have you ever seen Dancer in the Dark? "The one starring Björk," is how a lot of people describe it. :D

(no spoilers)
It's the story of a woman, Selma, who dreams of being a dancer in a musical. She is from Czechloslovakia and is a single mother of a 12 year old boy. She works two jobs, one at a factory making ?sinks? and an at-home job putting pins into cards, one crate at a time. She's a dreamer but well loved by everyone. Thing is, she's going blind and won't tell anyone for fear of losing her job and place in a local production of "The Sound of Music". A LOT more happens but it'll spoil the film. The signature of it, though, is because Selma's so preoccupied with musicals, periodically, the sounds of things around her - the factory, a passing train, office scribbling - turn into a Bjorkish industrial musical piece, and everyone breaks into choreographed dance and sometimes help in the singing. Sounds weird but it actually works.

It was a compelling blend of documentary-feel camerawork, a story of humanity, a glimpse into a person's psyche and their view of the world as a musical (hence the musical moments)... Just... At first I thought it was kind of strange (the opening music bit with the never ending frames of random art splatters was wayy too long for me, but very much what musicals used to do), but the characters lives grabbed me. It was shot so intimmately with the hand-held camera work and the grainy film put it firmly in its era, making you really feel like you were back in the day (50's or so) - but still every shot was composed so beautifully... You knew when a musical bit was going to start because the camera became stock-still steady and the framing was super-composed, every single shot could be framed and hung on a wall. Colors and focus became sharper, too.

Be warned, though, as it is an extremely moving film toward the end. There is a violent scene (I dunno how bad - I didn't look) and a super sad segment. But just so artistically well done I am glad I saw it. :D

I thought the acting was very good - I liked Bjork's acting a lot, too. Not something I'd sit down and watch any day or often but if you're a film buff or want to see something new and different, then here you go. :)

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Mai-HiME Soundtracks

I got this weeks ago but didn't say whether or not it was any good.
I actually obtained ALL of the Mai-HiME soundtracks, every single one, and not all of them are by Yuki Kajiura - same goes with the .hack//SIGN soundtracks, by the way. The only soundtracks I'm going to talk about, however, are those by Kajiura.

Chronologically, of Kajiura's soundtracks that I have, Noir is first, then .hack//SIGN, and lastly Mai-HiME. All three come in volumes of two, one for each 13 eps. Both Noir and .hack are very solid for the most part but I found there to be big gaps in Mai-HiME's soundtracks with songs that just... didn't fit.

Mai-HiME does sound like Kajiura's work - it has that ancient/new age/European sound that is especially envoked when the female vocals start in. Examples are "Canta Per Me" (Noir), "Key of Twilight" (.hack), and the "Ensei" songs (HiME), usually sung in either English or Latin. The good songs on the soundtrack are VERY very good. But the not-so-good songs on HiME's soundtracks are very very bad. More so than the other two series there are a lot of filler tracks, probably because HiME was not created by Bee Train - while Bee Train's director gives Kajiura free reign to do what she likes with the music for their anime, she probably had tighter restrictions for HiME.

Also, there is a WAY more lighthearted side to HiME, so there are a lot of those goofy, lighthearted sorts of songs that just don't withstand listening to outside of the anime environment. And perhaps the biggest thing that seperates HiME from Noir and .hack is the battle-tournament nature of HiME. While Noir has a MUCH higher body count, the gunfights were poetry and the music reflects this. HiME, however, serialized the fights and the music also reflects this with intense, heavy beat, electric-charged theme songs for the opponents. Also not quite withstanding listening to outside of the anime environment for the most part.

There are a ZILLION songs on these soundtracks, too! While there are 32 tracks between the two volumes of Noir and 39 between two volumes of .hack, there are 58 songs between two HiME albums. Again, much of it is filler.

What makes this set worthwhile, for me anyway, is the "Ensei" series of songs. I haven't seen HiME in over a year so I can't recall what it is the theme for, but there are 7 distinct versions of it between the two albums. "Ensei ~Omou Kokoro~" fits right in with the Noir soundtrack and indeed when I first started collecting anime music last year, I thought it WAS from Noir. Love this song! MMM! Also nifty is the "It's Only the Fairy Tale" instrumental version, without the awkward Engrish singing of the Alyssa Sears character - which can be endearing at times but sometimes you want to mix stuff together in a serious manner and this verison does the trick well, a classical guitar replacing the vocals.

So there you have it. While I still HIGHLY reccomend Noir above all else for soundtracks and .hack follows close behind, I found this set a bit disappointing for the amount of tracks there were, though there are a few jewels to round out any good Kajiura/anime soundtrack collection.

Thursday, August 3, 2006


No spoilers in this post. But do NOT read the Wikipedia article - it is FULL of spoilers. I will tell you what you need to know.

Basic Info
.hack//SIGN is a fantasy/sci-fi/drama/mystery/adventure made by Bee Train (Noir, Madlax, Tsubasa Chronicles) that ran 26 eps in 2002, followed by three episode-sized OVA's that act as tag-along episodes, from what I can tell. The music is by the ever famous Yuki Kajiura (Noir, Mai-HiME, Mai-Otome), considered by many to be some of her greatest soundtrack work to date.

Basic Story
The entire series takes place in a massive online multiplayer role playing game, sometime in the very near future. The World, as it is called, is extremely immersive that people use virtual reality headsets to play in. Tsukasa, around whom the story pivots, is mysteriously stuck in The World, unable to log out. We mostly follow the actions and conversations of a group of random players who come together over their concern/interest in Tsukasa's predicament. As the story unfolds, we slowly find out more about each character, including a little of their Real Live selves. To what extent is it "just a game" and to what extent do they take responsibility for their actions and for eachother as real humans? And how serious is Tsukasa's plight in The World - for him it's not much of a game as it is a Reality.

Other Commentary, Notes & Comparisons
.hack//SIGN could be the polar twin to Noir. While Noir has very little talking and TONS of action, .hack//SIGN has tons of talking and very little action. For being inside a video game, it is amazing at how little action takes place. Despite that, the element of the story taking place INSIDE a game is pretty novel. The game-slang is there, complete with acronyms (BBS - bulletin boards, PC - player character, etc) and the way people refer to the world around them verses the Real World.

That's probably the most interesting thing to me -- the divide between the game and the Real World. It's not so different from the Net world of LJ and email versus the "Real World". The circumstances between people meeting is different in both a game and the Net in general than from Real Life, but it all boils down to words and people, and that's the same no matter what the environment or mode of communication. This is something I think about all the time and it is a common theme in this series.

The story was a little hard to follow. I think this was largely due to the variety of subs I have in my episodes, though I downloaded all of them in one giant torrent. It may also just be due to the way characters say things in highly philosophical terms - characters in Noir were a little like this, kind of hard to follow in some of the brief things that were said or in how the plot was unfolding. Could just be a Bee Train thing. ;) The gist of it was enough to follow, though, so if you watch it, don't get too stressed out over missing a sentence or not knowing exactly what a character meant by such-and-such.

--Ohh, some fun trivia: one of the main-main characters, Mimiru, is voiced by seiyu Megumi Toyoguchi, our very favorite "Satou Sei" (MariMite) -- also "Meg" of Bakuretsu Tenshi, "Alti" of Simoun, and a ton of things most of us haven't seen. ;) I should of noticed as she uses her "normal" range, the same range she uses for Sei (she was unrecognizeable as Meg).

There is VERY much an underlying yuri theme but it isn't a main focus or a fanservice element at all (there is NO fanservice whatsoever). It just happens to be there. I can't say more as it's toward the middle-to-end and I don't want to spoil. Just know it'll get there eventually. You don't see anything, nothing physically happens - nothing like that. But it is very human and that makes it that much more special. Brought tears to my eyes twice. :')

In case I didn't mention, the soundtrack RAWKS. Miss Kajiura was allowed free rein on .hack//SIGN (and probably for Noir, as well). The director of Bee Train trusts her completely and just lets her compose whatever she wants - even with vocals, which is a rarity among in-episode soundtracks and she's one of the first to really do it, too. The result is that many of the tracks stand alone very well as just beautiful music.

Definetly a memorable anime. A second watch will probably reveal a lot more layers, particularly with the characters themselves moreso than the story. Has a ton of heart; isn't superficial at all or silly and though it can be dramatic it is never heavy handed. Kind of inspiring and uplifting. It's super heavy on the dialogue and light on the action and ALL about the mystery, which kept me hanging til the last second -- finding a place to pause between episodes was killin' me! Most certainly goes into my pile of favorite anime. :D