Monthly Archives: April 2006

Caring for Karin

Karin's Grandmother Doing a Haruko Haruhara

Sometimes an old idea just gets played out the right way. Karin is just that.

Macabre was its upbringing on print; yet the somewhat embarrassing interpretation leaves those unfamiliar with its darker shades in a better place. Alas, all of us are familiar of a romance polygon, high school uniforms, and relational trades such as home-made lunches, confessions, and walking home together.

To be fair, Karin’s vampiricism wouldn’t make a dark interview. What it would make is uncertain, but taking its fair blend of traditional ideas about vampires, Karin paints with a smart brush that leaves us with little to ponder in mechanics, and much more in a generic, plot-device sense. The familial vampire is already an oxymoron; the high-schooler vampire with a family is above and beyond.

Karin’s adherence to tradition leaves only the mechanics in the dust and cobwebs of gothic arts, thanking the morning star. Karin deploys the most expectant, comfortable, and clear methods to plot. Parallels, foreshadows, foils, monologues, flashbacks, norms, jesters, and a wonderful pace. There may be few sophistries, if any, but there is no mistake.

Just how did Karin rise above the horizon of mediocrity? One could nod at the direction of its crazy antics; the artistic rendition of the fount of life–the one that comes not from the Throne of Grace but the nose of a grasshopper? Or merely at the fount itself, as earlier alluded; convolution brings the curious much like a freakshow.

Smarter money rests, probably, on just how it channels the macabre without death and decay; a tragic Juliet in the making as opposed to merely yet another flower aside the well-tread path. Karin demonstrates that sometimes it is good to walk that path, when the sun isn’t out.

A fierce Juliet also helps. /MILF/ anyone?

Emerging Trends – Reffing On Haruhi-ism

Renton Reffing

Day in, day out, a stereotypical wage slave minds his own business. He may chat up something with his cube mate, go out to lunch with some buddies in the neighborhood or within the same company. He would probably maximize his commute from home with a nice cellular phone plan or some time to himself and his car stereo.

But for someone who watches anime day in and day out, do we even go that far? Well-off aficionados deck out their dens with HDTVs, walls of shelving, and probably a portable DVD player so they can put in the time on the mill and squeeze in something while at it. Of course, the more deranged of us probably have room full of other stuff too; figures, hugpillows, drawn porn, what have you.

That’s nice and all, but somehow I feel we need to strive beyond that. Month by month? Year by year? How long down the road do our anime sugar daddies like, say, UFOTable, timetable their projects? Long-term corporate strategies? How to become a leader in the industry? Does the various anime companies have their hands on the otaku pulse? Or are they going after the big bucks a.k.a. the Mainstream?

For those of us who feel concerned about things like that, the immediate question is, why? Do we watch American Idol, caring about the slew of reality TV shows modeled after it? What are the implications? I think indeed if I spend so much of my time and attention, it’s gotta be worth the price. After all, that’s what TV ads are paying for. I’m sure some are worried about their wallet, too. There’s also the always artistic tension that exists in a mass media format; would artists be free and get paid? Will the networks and producers get paid?

The fact that Haruhi has taken the fandom by storm is probably one manifestation of some emerging trends. It also reassures me that I’m not alone. It seems that plenty of people, consciously or not, actually do mind emerging trends. They notice how things were, and how things are.

I am not sure just how popular Negima was. I am not sure just how Gundam Seed Destiny was. I am not even aware of all the shows they watch over there. But if they’re like me at all, they’re probably pretty tired of harems. They’re tired of comedy based on the same routine they can see on TV and in hundreds of episodes of other shows in the past. They want fresh. They don’t quite want realism, because that’s everywhere; even on TV. But like everybody we want to be able to sympathize and yet surprised and intrigued. Some things works; tried and true–like team para-para. Some things always work, like top-notch animation quality.

But that’s just scratching the surface of emerging trends. Dilbert, for instance, was a successful harvest of such collage of ideas and forging an identity. While that budding force got snipped when corporate America got nailed from 9/11, Haruhi-Ism is just starting. We’re at the forefront of something, if someone took charge to tend to it; to put a name and face to it.

Someone to ref it!

But that said, it can go either way. I am no oracle and I cannot see this bubbling wave’s eventual apex. It takes a lot of power and money to ride this kind of a wave. Not of water but of otaku mindpower and influence. Not for exhilaration (well, possibly) but for mass profit. But unlike a surfer, if you fall you’re not going to be able to just bounce back up and watch for the next Big One.

Or, rather, the likes of Kyoto Animation has been in the shallows chasing waves for a few years now. It’s just that they’ve finally tapped a new one. It’s not like Ghibli and their own private beach, nor are they Gonzo, who’s got some kind of jet ski thing going. Or Bones…I suppose they’re really reffing after FMA now, huh?

Ultimately I guess all I’m trying to say is…look at the big picture sometimes. Watching your favorite anime is not like watching Holland doing a nice drop back turn, but seeing Talho and the rest of the Gekko State doing an orbital launch. It’s a team effort–some guy out there has to have the IP bit, and everyone pitches in their work product, feeling their way. It marks the difference between an experienced, well-financed, well-managed group with a real good idea, versus anyone else.

Black Horse

You, yes you.

A curious bit about Black Lagoon is, at this point, the play around with the female archtype. One person so far have found Levi identifiable with Faye Valentine. I am not so sure about the claim’s veracity, but nonetheless it goes to suggest, perhaps, a larger picture of uncertainty and confusion.

I’ve yet to laid eyes to the manga, so I can’t say if this was something originally a part of the show. Still, in painting a realistic approach to today’s open-sea piracy, snubbing character archtypes does go a long way. Just how hot can Tessa get while still being down with the gang without losing respect? Or a mofia boss?

It’s an escapist’s ideal for the hot anime babe who is also some kind of leader. It’s no surprise in Frank Miller’s Sin City (for example), that the same idea found itself well-rooted in the arts on this side of the Pacific. Is that it, though? I wanted to find out. But where should I start?

1. The ending sequence. The sorrowful instrumental score heaps in bringing out cheap emotional responses to a, so far, straight-up babes with guns kind of affair. But look at it closely, it really tries to go for something else. Where is Lavi hiding her shotgun? Is it a ploy? Just because a girl may be stripping down, it doesn’t mean she’s packed? “Look up?” It also triggered my memories about other anime ending sequences with a similar motif. Nudity is a common thing, so I probably won’t be surprised if others were expecting “more” from Lavi. Or less.

2. The in-show characterization of Lavi. It seems to be the centerpiece here. She doesn’t get the majority of screen time, lines, or attention from the narrative. She is centerpiece only when there’s action, and oddly enough, when it comes to Rock. Episode 3 dove into a bit of her backstory, but it wasn’t much you wouldn’t expect. I had a hard time all this time, however, taking my mind off of what’s front and center–her ridiculous outfit.

Lavi's Portable Rig
Is that how she holds up her short shorts? QED!

No, really, adding music the same way as Miyamoto Rebecca would, except in a different context–that’s just my kind of fanservice. But still, fanservice? Undeniable sex appeal was something else that’s loaded like Levi’s tools akimbo. She’s a girl with many guns, yes.

3. Which brings us to the OP. It’s to tease. It’s to please. It’s to take your bank account number and make the number it represent decrease. But she’s not like that at all in the show. A laid-back mercenary who knows what she’s good at and knows that’s a big part of what she does. She’s like just another guy. Actually, she’s like the archtypical annoying guy in the team.

Beating around the bush, ultimately, is the question of what exactly is the “babes with gun” archtype? Levi is too masculine to pass for Rally Vincent. Definitely not a Faye, as I presume (but I can see how that could happen). I guess what’s masculine about Rally is true for Levi, but what’s masculine for Levi isn’t what’s true about Rally, who’s actuall a rather through-and-through 80s archtype. The 90s wasn’t too kind to the masculine anime babe all in all. Perhaps we still have Priss, but she’s not really all that masculine IMO… more like Madoka.

I guess what bothers me in the end about Lavi is still just how she can straddle the line; having the appeal, be “dumb” enough to pass for another guy yet still have some of that cuteness showing. Should it even be like that? It’s inconsistent, no? Looking at probably a more well-rounded anime character like The Major, Levi just seems odd.

Odd enough to blog about, fo sure.

Magical Pokan Fun of You And Me

Magical Pokan 1

I generally deplore fanservice. Only when it is done with a real reason and done smart, and tasteful enough will it be acceptable. I also don’t really like lolicon anime.

Magical Pokan has a lot of both. It has a really smart sense of style to it, and while my first reaction was “Why, this is totally what Disgaea anime should look like!” I realized this one scored home somewhere somehow. Indeed the humor and visual flourish are like that from the smash hit N1 game, but well, it’s not the game!

I am blogging about this show with a lot of things I don’t like because it’s a well-done show. I don’t think I’ll follow it until the gaggles on the bandwagon giggled enough to make me sufficiently curious. Well, if you dig either, then this is for you. The fanservice is fairly light and cute; it isn’t particularly gratuitous either. If anything, it’s smart fanservice.

Which is why I made it through the episode at all. And twice at that. I think I was amusing myself more when I was watching it detached, in the raw, while doing something else. Seemed more random that way. It’s really one gem underrated gem out of the slew of comedy this season. I think I have to thank God for making better shows to keep me away from this one as I’d get stuck with it if nothing else is good to watch in parallel…

Okane Muyo GXP – NY International Auto Show

It’s good to be home.

Fuzzy Honda Light Show
(Apologies for the crap photos. The camera I used is probably worse than most phone cams–it’s a freebie from one of my dad’s training exercise giveaway. It uses SDRAM and doubles as a decent webcam; but once you remove the internal AAA batteries, you lose all photos stored. A fine pin-hole camera, on that note, even if it overexposes like crazy. Anyways, it’s not like you need my pictures; plenty of professional images of these babies online.)

Wednesday the week after seems to be a good day to visit the 2006 New York International Auto Show. It’s becoming an annual tradition for my father and I; especially now he works in the auto industry, it’s unavoidable. A grunt worker like him actually benefits the intel, and I got a bit of his sales pitch when we were doing “how fast can you fold down the back seats of an Odyssey?” versus “LOL I can fold down the back seat of a Sienna faster than you.”

But he’s good company; his perspective takes him to a weird place that’s something between a detached critic and a zealot Honda boy who doesn’t care for things like the S2000 or the Civic, si senor? I mean, which Honda boy doesn’t? So he isn’t one. Maybe until the 4-door ones come out :).

The first vendor we hit up greeted us over the PA with slightly accented English followed by “Konnichiwa, Minnasama” and the Japanese (for service?) was pretty surreal. Sadly most of their new Nissan models were the preproduction 2007 line, so we can’t even sit in them. The new Sentra GTR is way better than what my friend Steve drives, that said. I spotted the infamous X-Box360-mobile and took a shot, failing to locate the sweet new GTR prototype… That didn’t really bother us, all said and done. Infiniti’s simple offering reveals just how badass the M35/45 are when it comes to interior pimpage. So nice. We sat in the Q after that and the design just wasn’t up to standard with the new M’s. In retrospect we should’ve came back to Nissan some more, but oh well.

Toyota and Lexus offers much the same. Avalon is still a nice old fogie car, and it really makes you wonder if getting something like the new ES or GS is worth it. They are nicer, but are they worth the tags? The new LS is definitely really nice, but I don’t know if I can really appreciate the difference. In any event you can’t help but to compare them with the Infiniti M45…still doesn’t match up. And now that there’s no more MR2 or Celica, Toyota is eh.

Of course, the bad boys of Europe still offer the most affordable (at least they let you sit in the cars), top-of-the-line luxury. The innards of a Mercedes S550 is still remarkable. The BMW 650 is nice, but not that nice; considering they’re almost the same price-wise, eh. I’ll stick to a BMW 550 or just go for the M6. Which looks just like a M5 from the inside. They really like them paddle shifters, too! It’s in like every damn car.

We grazed through some of the American offerings on the top level. Woo Pontiac. Woo Dodge Woo Saturn. Woo Chrysler. The new ‘vette is not new anymore, so that’s pretty boring. They still don’t let you sit inside the viper. The Charger Super Bee is the cutest muscle car I’ve ever seen, and I think they’re copying the interior from the Mustangs, or something.

Around the bend and through what’s left of Saab is the land of Ford. Well, besides THEM APPLES. Mmmm apples. The A3 is as expected, and if you can bring the price tag down by a few notches it would really be a nice car to own for yuppies. Yuppies with paddle shifters and DSG and nice zoom-zoom…hmm. The Q7 is crap, that said; you would expect a high-end consumer label from Europe to pimp their ride better.

Before I forget I should also mention we breezed through Honda somewhere back there. We played black magic with the Fit’s back seats and we did the same with several other hatchback small-fries. I think a couple other cars came pretty close, like the A3, but dang, the Fit is Go–go stuff the hell out of it. Then again, the Aveo still starts a couple G’s below (even if it evens out once you add the safety options).

But yes, the land of Ford. And there is like, 20 Mustangs out there. All it did was confuse me because they all look different, some are even modded. I was like, “zomg where is the Shelby Mustang?” Oh, not that. Well, not too much excitement; we spent more time looking at the new sedans. Mazda wasn’t too exciting either; sat in the Shinka and the MX-5… it is more refined. I was kinda surprised at the Pontiac Solstice; the GXP model has like 350HP or something, and it looks just like a meaner MX-5 (with hardtop!) that cost just a tad more. It’s definitely an American alternative. Copying? It’s always good to have options at that level; even if when the newer cars can also be like crap (relatively), like the Saturn Sky Redline. All the more makes this really pretty baby hopeful. Com’on Mazda, you can do it!

Volvo is still boring, that said. I sat in a Lincoln Town & Country for a breather. Then I realized luxury only makes impression when you can excel at something truly special. Like having a mad amount of interior room; or awesome console design and ergonomics? Super leather work (yeah, Jag XK is badass)! Which automatically brings me back to the M.

Downstairs are where the trucks and SUVs are, plus some of the other vendors like Mitsubishi, Kia, Subaru, and VW. We did the tour fairly fast; played backseat magic with Sienna and Odyssey. And then there was ZOMG WHAT THE HELL IS THAT? The boothlady was doing a spiel on the new Dodge concept, which seemed to be the way they’re going. It’s basically out-Ridgeline the Ridgeline. Now that’s free market economics at its best. If you’re a car critic that rated the Ridgeline to be some badass thing even if everyone else you know bought a damned Avalanche, thank you. I look forward to hearing about the Rampage.

Some other notables include the VW Eon. It felt like something in between a Jetta and a low-end Passat. I guess if you think the TT isn’t for you, this will fit the bill. And yeah, paddles and DSG… Speaking of which, the GTI interior is rather nice, so if you’re looking to do that, you have my blessing.

The new WRX is more refined; but that doesn’t mean very much. The new Eclipse is also more refined…and that also doesn’t mean very much. The other surprise, as far as refinement goes, is the Subaru Tribeca. I always despised the car because it’s got an ugly rear, but the inside is really pimp. It almost reminded me some of the German copycats like the Mercedes R. For 3 and a half grand it’s a good deal. On the other hand the Kia Amanti went up in price but dropped a bunch of interior niceties. It also marks the first time I put my butt in a Rio. It’s not too bad.

We looked at some pickups, walked inside a Sprinter–my dad has some weird attachment to that car–took some pictures at the Toyota Nascar thing (just for you Zek!) and call it a day. We’ll skip the marketing up on the third floor and head home. Well, that’s not before stopping by Scion (they always have fun prototypes) by parking my rear in a tC and the Mazda thing outside across the street from Javits Center.

Kero-Chan Check style list:

  • Best Luxury Offering: Infiniti M45. Sweet design wins the day.
  • Most Innovative Vehicle: Dodge Rampage. Hopefully beating the Ridgeline
  • Best Prototype: Mazda Kabura. I want it already~
  • Biggest Crowd: Ford. People like them. They be from da hoods, yo!
  • Best Value: Pontaic Solstice, Porche Cayman S. I didn’t know they were so “cheap”!
  • Coolest Car: Audi RS4. Dang, man.
  • Interesting New Pick: Acura RDX. It’s CR-V Si.
  • Best Looking Car: Charger Super Bee, Audi S4. I’m a sucker for classic.
  • What’s In: paddle shifters, GPS
  • What’s Out: gadgets, exotics and pure sports.
  • What’s missing: Nissan GTR prototype, the new Lamborghini