Tuesday, July 31, 2007


I finally watched all of the 2004 BeeTrain anime Madlax. This is from the same studio that gave us the anime Noir and .hack//SIGN

In short:
• Long and drawn out story, could of been done in 13 episodes rather than 26.
• Action was not as interesting or creative as "Noir" and for being second in a set of three "girls with guns" anime (following "Noir" as the first), there wasn't near as much gunplay - it was very secondary to the plot.
• More characters than "Noir" with more intwined connections. Much more complex plot than "Noir".
• Music was a cross between "Noir" and ".hack//SIGN" and not as good as either though it's by the same composer
• The ending was lackluster and didn't make the journey seem worth it.

The story
We first meet Madlax, the title character. A 17 year old assasin-for-hire in the fictional, civil war-torn country of Gazth-Sonica. She's supernaturally good at what she does but is also a kind, almost light-hearted person. She doesn't remember anything from before 12 years ago and is searching for her father. The first word she ever remembers remembering is "Madlax" which she takes as her code name.

The second episode (and for a few eps onward) we meet the other main character, Margaret Burton. Margaret is a 17 year old school girl, who looks much younger than Madlax, who also cannot recall anything from before 12 years ago - the first word she also recalls is "Madlax" but doesn't know what it means. She's kind, very gentle, and kind of eccentric and has a paranormally accurate "gut feeling" about things. She is an orphan and lives alone with her ever-protective maid, Eleanor. Margaret is also good friends with her next-door-neighbor/tutor, Vanessa. They all live in the fictional Paris-like country of Nafrece.

Margaret has a book written in some bizarre symbols she cannot read. She doesn't know why but this book is very important and she doesn't let anyone see or touch the book. However, her book is missing some pages and she is compelled to find a whole copy. This leads to an underground mafia-like global organization, Enfant, to learn about the existance of her book - and they want it BAD.

Margaret has dreams or visions and gut feelings that often are connected to what Madlax is doing or feeling and we aren't sure why that is - somehow their pasts are connected by Margaret's book. But how? Why? By the time we realise the two women are connected, halfway through the series, do we even CARE?!?

Comparison to Noir and .hack//SIGN
I'm comparing "Madlax" to "Noir" and ".hack//SIGN" because they're all by BeeTrain and because they have similar elements.

Noir and .hack are extremes on a single spectrum. Noir has very little dialogue and lots of action. .hack//SIGN has nothing but dialogue and very little action at all. Both have a mystery plot. Noir's is semi-supernatural but only in the skillz of the main characters. .hack has a more interesting mystery, which is what carries the entire series - plus it has much more character development.

Madlax is somewhere between the two. It has action where Madlax is involved but a lot of dialogue about the plot as far as everyone else is concerned. It's more political stuff, which gets really boring particularly because we have no idea what is going on. There's a supernatural element which is more annoying than anything throughout the whole thing - every episode has scenes of the burned out ruins where the showdown 12 years prior had taken place and we have no idea what its about until the last five episodes. It's annoying and uninteresting to me.

Madlax has way more characters than Noir, of course, which has three, but just about as many as .hack. The characters develop to a degree but not as much as in .hack//SIGN, which concentrates on the characters' friendships and developing bonds which are the ultimate secret to unravelling the mystery in that series. I found myself not really caring about any of the characters in Madlax except for Madlax, Vanessa, and Margaret. The rest could go jump off a cliff.

The music was so-so. It was all done by Yuki Kajiura, who did the music for Noir, .hack//SIGN, and Mai-HiME. The music was way better than that for Mai-HiME and was a cross stylisticaly somewhere between Noir and .hack//SIGN. Not much of it really caught my ear the way either of those two series did and there were no single stand-out tracks as with all three of the other series I mentioned.

The animation itself was pretty good - not too many talking heads and hardly any repetition. In that respect it has Noir beat.

Seeing as how this is the second installment of the "girls with guns" trilogy, there were some interesting paralells. Besides the fact that there are two main characters who are girls, they both resemble their previous incarnations of Kirika and Mireille of "Noir". The seiyu for Margaret is the same as that for Kirika. The personalities are different, though both Margaret and Kirika act and "seem" younger than they are and are both spacy and quiet - AND both Kirika and Margaret are the true centers of either show. The sniper woman in this series acted like the envious Chloe of "Noir", though she wasn't near as psychotic or talkative, they both had a music-box chimey theme. And both series had books in them that were the secret to the whole thing. The book of Les Soldats in "Noir" told of the maidens of death, and the three books of truth here in "Madlax" explain the power behind Margaret and Madlax.

By far I prefer Noir. Though the first 6 or so episodes of Noir are dreadfully repetitive, once beyond that the series takes off at a good pace and has a satisfying build up and conclusion. It's even good upon a rewatch. "Madlax" dragged til the very end. It did kind of pick up a little beyond halfway through as far as the plot coming together but the action and plot development dragged horribly. The climax took about five or six episodes and the finale took two, and the very end was less than satisfying. Though it was perhaps more realistic and "human" than Noir, I by far prefer the stylistic, artistic, subtle uniqueness of Noir. And I'm not disliking "Madlax" simply because of "Noir" - I'm disliking Madlax on its own merits. And it just does nothing for me.

I mean, I can watch slow anime and be entertained -- "Aria" is a great example of a super slow-paced anime that manages to keep me engrossed. Madlax was slow paced when it felt like it should of been FAST. That's a huge difference and not a good one.

About the only thing going for Madlax was Madlax herself, the few eps of just her and Vanessa, and... uh... that's it. Thumbs down. :\


Saw the film Equilibrium this past weekend - has Christian Bale and Taye Diggs in it. Pretty good movie. NO spoilers below

Takes place after the 3rd World War, which destroys nearly everyone and everything. It was so horrible that the remaining government decided to do away with human emotions, since it was human emotions that led to the fighting and the wars - and humanity cannot withstand another world war.

So they invented this serum stuff that everyone injects three times daily or so that inhibits emotion. The city they all live in is pretty high-tech, surrounded by the skeleton buildings of the bombed out old city from the war. Everything is colorless, everyone wears blacks and greys - there's no uniqueness. Things are done for efficiency's sake. Our main character, Mr.Preston (Bale) is a Cleric - the highest order of the police/military force. Clerics are like super-assasins. Think "gunfighting martial arts" remeniscent of "The Matrix" except it's all down to a science, not gut-luck. Preston is THE best Cleric there is.

The job of the Cleric is to hunt down sense offenders -- humans who refuse to take the emotion inhibitor and who feel emotion. Some of these humans try to fake their way along with everyone else in the main city, and others live out in the 'wilds' of the dead city, collecting art and pretty things and generally trying to be human but having to always hide.

The movie follows Preston as he discovers his partner Cleric (played by Sean Bean) is himself a sense offender and must kill him himself. But not before his partner says some things that stick with Preston. Distracted, the next day Preston accidentally breaks his last remaining dose of the inhibitor. Rather than getting his dosage renewed, he for some reason decides to see what happens without it. And slowly begins to feel emotion. Is it good or bad?

You can guess where this goes.
The message is both underplayed and overplayed to a degree - kind of like "V for Vendetta" but futuristic post-apocalyptic and darker. The two films go well together, I think, both being about what happens when governments go too far in controling what makes us human, what makes us free. So the story is good, the action is good (the gunfights, once they explain why they work the way they do, are good) and definetly attention-keeping. Christian Bale did a good job with his character - particularly the subtleties of feeling emotions for the very first time. Taye Diggs, on the other hand, pissed me off - I didn't like him in this film at all. Diggs plays Preston's new Cleric partner. He seemed to show emotion when Clerics are not supposed to - although its possible the inhibitor doesn't perfectly inhibit EVERYTHING and that Digg's character was feeling anger without knowing it. *shrugs*

Anyway. Good film - two thumbs up from me. :)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A Quiet Mind


This is the site for the A Quiet Mind podcast. It's a very relaxing, quiet, meditative series that focuses on learning to quiet your mind and gain a more relaxing perspective on yourself and the world around you. It's not rooted in any particular spirituality or mode of psychology at all, either.

Each episode is roughly around 10 minutes long - a perfect length. Just long enough to be informative and thought provoking and just short enough that you can slip in an episode before work or before bed. I've found the meditations so far to be very helpful in lowering my anxiety levels and gaining perspective on how I interact with others and with myself.

I should note that Robert Jackson, the narrator, does not sugar coat anything. AQM is not a cheerleading pep-talk about being positive. For me, a very logic-based person, this is refreshing and appeals to my idea of common sense. I think the frustrating thing about sugar-coated "You can DO IT!" therapy is that they make it sound like it should be SO easy, "all you have to do is think happy thoughts!" So the moment you fail, you beat yourself up for it. But not so in AQM. Jackson kind of tells it like it is - all we can do is to live in the 'now' and be happy with that - and he tells us how to go about this and reminds us that it takes time. It is a very reassuring, forgiving podcast and I like that.

I cannot reccomend this podcast enough.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


This is pretty nifty: SimplifyMedia

It is a plugin for iTunes that allows you to share your iTunes library by streaming your tunes to friends who also have SimplifyMedia. It's like instant messenger for iTunes in that each person makes a username and then you can add up to 5 computers under your name for sharing. You can have up to 30 friends.

SimplifyMedia is a cinch to use. I installed it at work and at home so I can stream music from my home computer to listen to at work - especially handy if I forget my iPod. I also had Trey install it on her laptop up in Fairbanks and that worked, too.

• Easy to install/set up/use
• As long as SimplifyMedia & iTunes are open and running, you can share your library with other SM friends or with yourself
• Perfect for showing friends songs without having to up/download anything
• The songs stream at the bit rate they exist in its library - they aren't down-sampled
• Private friend list so ONLY your allowed friends and you can access your tunes
• Songs can only be listened to, not stolen or manipulated or re-arranged in any way
• it's for Mac and PC and works seamlessly between the two
• it's FREE

• it IS streaming, like net radio, so the faster your connection, the less re-buffering you have to suffer
• it doesn't show playlists within the selected library
• Songs can ONLY be listned to, not copied
• it's still in beta so there's the possibility of glitches

Trey is on a bad connection plus wireless so it was a bit more difficult to listen to her library - it kept having to rebuffer all the time. So I wouldn't use this to sit and listen to her library just to be listening - I'd use SM to browse for new music from her. :) In contrast, my connection at work is really fast and my home computer connection is slow DSL but I didn't encounter any rebuffering except perhaps at the start of a new song. Otherwise it was just like listening to my native iTunes library. Very nice. :)

* Location:home
* Music:"Manakin" - Delain

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Transformers [film]

Today we went into Anchorage, spent entirely too much money (kind of) hitting every store we normally go to, and ended with seeing Transformers. The film in short (no spoilers):
• Best effects/CGI I've seen in a film, ever.
• Lots of nods to the original series - this film is geared toward adults who runneth over with nostalgia.
• Simple plot with obligatory action movie elements that always piss me off: computers and hackers not being at ALL realistic, the government and soldiers not being realistic, and humans always able to outrun EVERYTHING.
• Lots of humour - it was a lot smarter than I thought it was going to be and not at ALL "for kids".
• The film slowed down noticeably when the main human characters (Sam, Michaela) or the Transformers weren't on-screen.

All in all, I was pleasantly suprised. I only really go to the theatre to see things that a) I may never find on DVD and b) things that are fun to see really, really big and loudly, the second of which often can conflict with my low tolerance for lower-brow films. I tend to like my films to have brains. I wasn't expecting much but the film was a lot better than I thought it was going to be. And it's probably way better if you were a Transformers fan as a kid (which I definetly was - I can still sing the theme song and name half the Autobots and Decepticons). My inner child squiggled with glee when Optimus Prime rolled in to fight Megatron - I honestly felt relieved for the good guys, heh. :)

So yes. Definetly worth seeing in the theatre.