Monthly Archives: April 2007

Seiou Gakuen Live

Did I mention I really like Manabi Straight?

What prompted me towards this entry isn’t the mysterious episode 10 sub, but my friend’s little concert in celebration of his first CD release. In America, indie musicians are not exactly rare and one thing I found out in the past few years is that an exorbitant amount of indie music are categorically pop–in the sense that what you’ll find playing on the radio is often not unlike what you’ll find in indie club venues. For my friend Dean, it’s more than that however. Well, he explains it better than I can. [/shameless plug]

But what’s interesting is that it really doesn’t take a whole lot to be “good” live. Sure, that’s not to downplay the countless hours that goes into the hard work everyone puts in, but everyone puts in a lot of hours in something like that; far majority of the serious musicians do it, first and foremost, because they love to do it, and it’s their calling in life.

When you see them perform live, rather than some constrained studio recording or even a candid YouTube video, their passion speaks much louder; their playing much more expressive; and like how a typical face-to-face conversation is 40% body language, a live performance is easily an extra 40% more enjoyable, if not more.

Much like Suzumiya Haruhi’s performance in ep 12, Manabi’s performance highlights the climax to the series. It’s like seeing Kotoko’s backup dancers splitting her costume asunder during her Winter Tour shows, except you’re a measly 10 meters from it. It’s like going uphill on a rollercoaster, and anticipating what comes next; and then enjoying what does come.

Megumi Hayashibara sang the OP/ED to Manabi Straight (resurrecting words from the legacy of Ritsuko Okazaki (we miss you!)); she also recently released a new solo album. Hearing her familiar voice now pitched in a matured arrangement is pleasant, to say the least, but the live disc that came with it had caught only a little bit of that “extra 40%.” Still, that was probably worth the price of admission alone. Feel Well and Watashi ni Happy Birthday was ;_;

What else can I throw into this post that’s remotely related to Manabi Straight? Yui Horie‘s performance itself was fairly standard studio fare, so I’m not sure what to say about that in this context. However watching the video sequence is something else. Part of it is the rollercoaster effect, but you can feel some of the love and detail to attention (like the guitar pedalboard). Maybe it’s the animator’s”extra 40%”coming in?

Anyways; it’s a pity that not more of it is subbed timely. I hope people get around to watch the last two episodes, when that happens. Or check the raw like I did :)

Top 10 Reasons Why I Am Still Watching Lucky Star Despite Not Having Finished Hidamari Sketch

She has three things

Ok, so it’s more than 3 things.

10. Loli Otaku Girl and the moe factor.

9. Humor.

8. You can download it real fast-like.

7. A Kyoani anime.

6. Pop-culture references that are not rebranded!

5. Hear songs from other anime.

4. It’s what people are talking about, you want to stay in the loop.

3. Serafuku FTW (the OP).

2. I need fansubs for Hidamari damn it!

1. Lucky Channel.

Running With Fleeting Spring

My blog is totally seasonal.

The wave of new anime, the sweeping change of weather, the longer hours under the sun–as much as a person is in tune with his surroundings changes along with his environment. A new but familiar light shines on the things he sees and in return, he expresses himself in a new yet familiar way.

The anime scene, too, is seasonal. Speedsubbers change gear as some study for their collegate finals and relocate to their summer residences while others find extra work and slack to pick up on the new wave of anime coming this current season. The American fan circuit buzzes with anticipation for the summer con season while raging over their hormone-driven moe obsessions in increasing intensity. Fans, like lovers, find new affections while settling their older, character-defining, past follies in the niches of their personal histories. Perhaps it will make them wiser rather than more jaded?

It’s time to change your desktop wallpaper?

For many it is also a numerical change; like a sinusidal wave, the amount of disposable income for all of us weans and surges. Some are finally recovering from their End-of-Year tallies; others are already tapped out from the few first-big-sales they ran across this year. Many more hold on, for better or worse, in anticipation of something more beautiful coming this year.

In the never-ending circuit of screen caps, figure reviews, and new announcements it really pays to take a step back and breathe. Get lost in something else; refresh yourself with a cheaper pasttime for a short while. And I say this with less figurative speech than you think.

Take a clue from Sola’s Matsuri (and I suppose also the Seiou Seitokai, if you’re a night person) and just lay back and enjoy. It’s good for you, and probably good for everyone around you, too.

Sexy Confusion

I think Touka Gettan wins for this season’s most thought provoking anime for me.

The Melody

Reeling from the shocking brutality of Bokurano, I think I’ll stick with joking incestuous references and gender-bending dimensional stone swords and frilly girl-on-girl action if I wanted to be confused and disturbed at the same time.

Episode 3 had an impact on me. I think partly because how it reminds me of Melody of Oblivion at some of the key scenes; partly the musical score reminded me some of the best stuff that came out of the entire YamiBou thing (namely this somewhat-indie album released in 2002 for the game). It really captures both the oddish feeling you get when you’re just totally lost in a self-sustained universe where our familiar rules don’t apply, and something grand is happening and you just don’t know what it is?

But really, let’s talk about spreading body fluids with people you shouldn’t spread body fluids with. In some ways tackling social taboos are one simple ways to get some sort of message across. In Utena and Melody, it’s pretty clear. Yamibou had the same element but it wasn’t really a driving force. In some ways the anime unfolded in a much more…sane way that the message made sense rather quickly as the story unfolded.

Not so with Touka Gettan. And it’s exciting to see all that ground work already. Too bad it’s way confusing without giving us the focus at the same time.

And is it me or Momoka is like…Mamiko but isn’t?

Random Musing on Intellectual Property, Franchising, Aya Hirano’s Non-Stick Pantry, and the Un-Mainstream

This rant is brought to you by my drive to find the reason why some people care about Lucky Star the extent that they do.

One thing that keeps me glued to my computer & fansubbing is that every 4 months we get a wave of entirely new shows, new concepts, new set of characters, new setting, and a chance for the various studios and production companies to slug it out for our attention (and eventually our money). From a money & business perspective, this is shooting yourselves in the foot. Free market & competition aside, it makes a lot more sense to just find one winning formula, milk it as long as possible and run with what you’ve got as far as you can. That’s what Shounen Jump does (and how they’re losing subscribers is just natural), and generally what franchise management focuses on. This doesn’t mean you keep a show on the air or manga in publication as long as you possibly can, but the longer you do it the more economical it becomes, in a lot of ways.

And that’s true for a lot of the media we consume in the US. It’s only with the influx of new sources of revenues (like home video sales, network television) that we’ll see more divergent shows catered for a new market, and as a result a more diverse set of shows.

Don’t get me wrong I’m making no comment on the quality of shows that are short or long; in other words, it applies to every show out there. Also, there’s a sense of emotional and time investment with the typical shounen jump formula. Once you become intimately familiar with a series, you now have an emotional stake in the story, and you will come to like it forgive it more. You will also become easier to amuse by the said show.

But on the flip side, there are always things that defy these explainations. Lucky Star is probably something that sort of does. While once you crack its crazy-sugary candy shell laced with loli, the content is really not at all different than the relatively-sane competitor Hidamari Sketch, strength of the Kyoani Brand coasting on the good will of its success with Suzumiya Haruhi, Kanon and Air go a long way to explain (at least, one of several possibilities) the situation we have right now.

Oh wait, I’m suppose to explain how it defies that? I guess that’s the question I have that I can’t answer. Perhaps this is all just me trying to grapple with a psychological complex. Like how people who invest in mutual funds should have invested in, say, index funds instead. Or how the only subber for Hidamari Sketch is 2/3 of the way through the half-season series but there are almost as many releases of Lucky Star episodes one and two combined. Or is it just an omen that only one or two group will finish off this average slice-of-life 4-komi comedy fluff show, once people realize Lucky Star is, lack of a better word, average?

But I don’t think average is really the right word. It does have Aya Hirano (so what?). It is a show by Kyoto Animation (okay, that’s a bit more relevant…). It’s got a darn catchy opening sequence with an equally odd (but grows on you…like fungus) song to go with it. It’s got no taint of TEROGE so the lolitastic character designs don’t get its way (but somehow it bothered people in Manabi Straight? WTH?). Some of us who are more “LOL otaku” laughs at the fanboy jokes and enjoy Konata’s mythical incarnation (she’s a sphinx–aside from being a permanent loli x otaku), but the otaku jokes and references are the stupid-funny kind of references (and lame; real otaku do it PPD way). I guess that’s why people get those jokes.

Perhaps that’s the rub. Lucky Star (and to some extent, most of the other Kyoani works) is like teflon. While it’s unclear as to how the mechanism works and the reasons why, our expectation when we think about, watch, or discuss a Kyoani work is different than how we would talk about someone else. I don’t believe this myself, but when you watch Lucky Star the negative expectations just don’t stick. The very good production quality coupled with a very solid execution helps to give you that near-perfect first impression, especially if you walk into the show without prior expectations.