Monthly Archives: July 2007

Make Anime a Part of Your Balanced Diet; Or NANA Ends! Blurring the Line Between Hip and Horrid!

Yep, that's Viral

I know what I was going into when I popped in Nana on the tubes, and I got pretty much what I expected: a trashy shoujo romance story that reflects well with its audience while being glamorous and exciting. When the anime ended it didn’t really make any impact for some reason. I’m not sure why.

Earlier before I finished watching those illicit fansubs I was thinking about my own obsessions. I think it would be fair to say that anime and game takes up a large chunk of my “mindshare”–I think about anime and games often. Perhaps it’s because I do a fair amount of both, but I think it’s more because I’ve structured my life around these two things too much, in a way that’s unhealthy. I guess I believe there’s a thing as “too much anime.”

There’s not much similar between a boring otaku’s life and a slutty rock n’ roll lifestyle. They are thematically similar in that there is some kind of balance that’s at the core of it. Nana is a show with a lot of strong and passionate characters who go a little too far and suffer as a consequence. I guess I have nothing to say about that aside from it’s a fun take for a 21st century Japan’s view on glamor, while trying hard to not stray from the poetic, karmic expectation for Newton’s Second Law.

But are we so strained by this reoccurring force of nature that we cannot enjoy our fantasies outside of this expectation? When you realize you’re spending more time playing games and watching/writing/reading/surfing/talking about anime than the necessary and proper things you ought to be doing, it’s a sign that you’re doing it too much. But when you realize you’re obsessed with someone that you lose sight of what’s best for both of you, is it really okay, in a fantasy, to indulge that even at all? What if Nana wasn’t about friends and lovers, but about spending 14 hours in the office to make big bucks and be a power spender? Would it just be Speed Grapher without the LOL superpower nonsense? Isn’t Lucky Star just Nana with a fangirl?

Maybe I should watch less shows like Nana and do more important things.

5cm: When the Distances Between Hearts Become Quantifiable

Mayama is a better man than Takaki Tohno!

The “jist” of 5cm is really summed up by an analogy of distance and quantifying the things that we can’t say.

In short, 5cm is about people being able to love and come to embrace each other in an ever growing-closer (or farther) circle-strafe dance of understanding each other. If we were to talk about UT2004 deathmatches, words are like bullets and rockets–it’s always good to throw a lot of them at your opponent, but it doesn’t mean you will “get through” to the other side. In Makoto Shinkai’s masterpiece, this is really the same analogy he is drawing except with physical distance.

Yea, bear with me for a second, because distance is both the ammunition and the representation of how close the hearts are between our main character and what his heart longs for. Sometimes it doesn’t take much but a timely-delivered snailmail letter. And ironically 5cm refers to thousands of text messages! Ahh don’t you like that little nod at Hoshi no Koe? I did.

But I suppose most of you reading this post probably hasn’t seen all three episodes of 5cm? Or maybe you have? Subs of it are on the usual pirate-y places now with the R2 DVD release only a couple weeks ago.

The one thing I would rail on is that despite the fact 5cm is clearly drawn up to be 3 separate parts connected by a chronologically consistent main character, the last piece doesn’t quite deliver because the narrative was a bit unclear. We see the “very end” in the first part of the third episode, then we see some of the “beginning” time-wise for episode 3, then we get a musical montage which explains how it all relates to each other, and how the first 2 episodes relate to episode 3.

Sure, if you take a second to think about it, you know what is happening. But considering how episode 2 spins out, the way episode 3 comes about goes against what you are expecting to see. It would’ve helped a lot to make it simple for the viewer if they just bother to explain it for us more, I guess. Overcoming poetic denial? Plus, the ending song doesn’t really hit home for everyone. It wasn’t too bad for me, but some of my companions didn’t connect with it.

In a way, I feel the same about this film as the film itself–words just don’t do it justice. Shinkai’s work this time is not merely a bubbling surge of rushing emotion but a calculated narrative of forward-moving regret. 5cm carries a heavy burden on its shoulders, but when you look as awesome as 5cm, you’re willing to both forgive it and let it take you to wherever it’s going. It’s definitely a more mature piece from Shinkai, and for that he deserves a lot of props.

And boy, is it beautiful. Don’t just watch it on DVD. Go see it on 35mm, you’re going to regret it otherwise if you know how shockingly awesome it is suppose to look.

Mamiko Noto Likes You!

That is NOT me--I did take this picture

Anime News Network sort of dropped a bit of the ball in their Q&A report from Otakon Friday, but it still is a good read if you want to find out all about Mamiko Noto. If you noticed from that interview’s discussion link I also posted some errata there. Keep on reading here–you’ll see at least my notes from the Saturday panel as well, mostly below.

But if there was one thing to take away from meeting Noto-san, it’s that she is one…very model seiyuu idol. In fact, it’s pretty amazing how she pulled it off without even a tint of creepiness. Well, not going to debate what is ideal for you or me or any kind of objective/subjective view on it, but if there was someone who is very positive, very earnest and modest, and smiles and “LOVES” and also happens to act for a living, well, here we have it. A walking yamato nadeshiko-type.

She said, repeatedly, she would love to give stage acting a shot, and while I can’t say if she’ll be good at it, she will definitely do it with a lot of pure positive energy.

Since this is not quite intended to be a profile post, I won’t go into her background too much–which is good because I don’t have the research! What we do know is that as she grows in prominence (thankfully, largely to her charming personality in connection with her cohorts as well as her fresh voice), she worked her way through the minor roles but really struck gold with some of her bigger roles–but not like a lead sort of thing, rather as co-leads in the many shows she co-leads. In fact I think outside of Jigoku Shoujo, it has been kind of odd. Or Girls Bravo, if you want to go that route.

But what can I say? I think her voice is one of the biggest reason she’s on the spotlight at all, especially when she didn’t do that many big roles for a long time. It definitely helps that she’s strikingly hawt with that black dress she sported on Friday, plus her very good complexion (as you can see in her PVs), but it’s never what made people like JAL pay attention to her in the first place.

Actually, now that I’ve poured over my notes for a while, it seems easiest if I just nail them one by one rather than to weave a narrative.

1. Someone asked what kind of anime personality archetype she was (clutz, level-headed, smart, etc) and she said she was a notenki. Maybe in a few decades she’ll publish her own book?

2. But this means she had to dodge when someone on Friday asked about her “affair” with Hitomi Nabatame, or as she calls her, Nabachi (on her own)! Well she dodged that cleanly, so there’s not much to report here. (As an aside: Last year Otakon had Ayako Kawasumi. This year it was Mamiko Noto. Next year…Nabachi?)

3. When the Marimite Kids came up to the front of the panel on Saturday and asked questions, that was easily the highlight of Otakon for me. SOOOO CUUUTTE. Too bad I was right in front of them so I couldn’t get out of the way fast enough and get some camera action going. The kids asked some simple questions, but one of them asked “do you do it as a hobby or as a job” which wasn’t taken the wrong way–I figured it’s something she probably asked a dub actor, as a lot of them do it part-time. Needlessly to say Noto-san looked puzzled and sad at the same time and said what she said (“it’s a paying job”). Maybe she’s not quite the “onee-sama” yet.

3b. And as asked Friday, she’d pick to act Sachiko, no question asked–if she had the choice. And I think she’ll do a good job with that too.

4. Poetry reading. She likes poetry and reads Kotaro Takamura‘s stuff. She actually would read from Chiekosho if we had a copy there, but she couldn’t do any off the top of her head. I suspect this is just “fanclub” information but the attempt to coax more voice acting out of her fails in a good way when the one fan asked.

5. The Seki connection was a little obscured if you didn’t go to both of their panels, but someone asked Noto-san about her impression of Seki, and then asked her to try to do an impression. She gave a fairly typical opinion out of respect but couldn’t even imagine how to do a Seki impression. On the other hand Seki pretty much pinned her down as anyone would (ahem) and even did an impression. You can see it here.

6. Well, yea, she cooks, but it seems that she’s most confident with … something that I didn’t write down, which is a dish that involves daicon. Yea, I know there’s a lot of dishes involving daicon, sorry…

7. There was a bit of a theme with some of the questions random people asked, and I jumped on the wagon as well. Basically it’s the type-cast question people want to know about but asked very differently. In a way, while Noto’s voice is very fresh in terms of everyone else’s, the roles she gets selected for (and for her) are too often out of her control. In fact, someone asked just how she gets her roles. But now that she has a little more sway and has demonstrated some of the extends of abilities, Noto would like to do more boisterous and obnoxious roles as well. Maybe she enjoyed her stint in Ah My Goddess? I don’t know. But when I asked why she wanted it, it’s not so much because that she is more confident about her abilities, but she wanted to do harder roles (which earlier in the panel, as asked, are roles she has a harder time imagining and finding a connection to) as to improve herself, and to see herself do more challenging roles. Maybe she’ll have more confidence!

Let’s see, some of the shorter stuff:

8. Hit wo Nerae – she just stuck to the script and didn’t have real life influences. Drats :/

9. She found doing Yukinari challenging, and had to do the whole “hard to confess as a boy” feeling thing. Follow-up sort of question was actually about Kazuma from FMP, and she said it was a lot more wild doing a high school boy.

10. She would like to start a family somewhere down the road.

11. It takes her 30 minutes to do a prep for her radio show

12. A Masane question – aside from the mother angle, she was also this sensual monster thing. Was hard because it’s obviously not something natural to her.

13. She, likewise, wants to stage act a more lively role. If that ever happens.

14. Monster – she reads the manga and sticks with the cast ensemble.

I think between this blog post and the ANN panel recording, that should leave you oversea Mamiko Noto fans enough to think about. I think there’s a lot to be said just being able to be near her and hear her talk, see her do her thing. It’s kind of like that. I think I got so wrapped up in it, I got some flowers for her on Saturday and gave it to her during autographs. I think another fan gave her a bunch of sunflowers, as well. She’s just that sort of a charismatic, captivating person.

I’m just going to end with a shoutout to Otakon and all her fans there who made it possible, who asked good questions, and kept things fun. A double amount of thanks to Noto-san’s entourage for letting her grace us with her superlative presence and photo ops, and a lot more thanks to Noto-san herself!

Otakon 2007 Wrap-Up

Mental alacrity rarely follows with a post-convention state of mind. But still, the tenacious otaku must continue on! Who else is going to tell you the little stuffs that happened when reality crashes with surreality in a massive geek party?

TL;DR warning!

Continue reading

Otakon Blogging Day 3 – Eminence Song Selection Attack Is Super Effective!

Well, to do this right let’s get some facts out there first.

1. Eminence is the premier, world-wide, anime/game orchestra in that for this purpose they have came together to perform. At least that’s how they hold themselves out to be. First in the market? In any event, despite their hokey website you can find out more about them using the usual means. Like, Eminence is actually short for Eminence Symphony Orchestra.

2. They are based in Australia. Yea, sort of far away–but the good thing is probably just that; it’s cheaper to raise a pool of international musicians in Australia than in Japan (or even in the US)? And it’s not too bad to travel to Japan or other east Asia locations for their shows, if you’re already on that side of Earth.

3. Actually what’s more notable for me is that Eminence is a high profile group that would play anime music. Game music has gotten its spotlight and is still getting more, but outside of Japan I’m out of luck with those nice, Kanno-esqe BGMs short of something like the RO2 show in Korea…or an Eminence performance.

Still, that leaves us American sods in the dust, until now anyways. We were lucky to have PLAY and the FF concert series, for whatever that’s worth. I do think the geek market is ready to support this kind of thing. So was Otakon 2007 responsive?

In short, yes.

I’ll say this, now that I’ve gotten home from Otakon: the actual playing was rather lackluster because of various reasons–atmosphere, level of expectation, fatigue, lack of practice, windy stage…and so on. But what really hits home isn’t that they’re capable of, but what they actually do! A bit of show and tell? Some preliminary videos on youtube for your sampling.

This one really got me going: Hisaishi’s Kimi wo Nosete from Castle in the Sky. Of course all of their Hisaishi pieces are home runs, even if they’re rough from having to reduce the arrangement to fit what they have. The Legend of Ashitaka is a good example, from Mononoke Hime.

Since Hitoshi Sakimoto was at the con, and they know each other and work together, Eminence played some of his hits, like LOL Odin Sphere theme. Plus bunch of his RxJ stuff.

I’m not a huge Kajiura fan, but it might work for you. They performed quite a few pieces from her. Most memorable for me was canta per me, and their rearranged version of Anna ni issho Datta no ni from Gundam Seed.

But what really did me in was Eminence’s rendition of “Beyond the Clouds” from…yep, you may have guessed it – Makoto Shinkai’s Beyond the Clouds, a Place Promised. Tenmon is really, by all means, an indie composer who works the otaku circles. To pick a song from them really means something–not only it’s a beautiful piece, but it’s the kind of thing that sets your emotions aflame, knowing where your weak spot and punch it with super professional symphonic powers!

Thankfully that wasn’t all there is to them. This crowd also knows how to have fun too.

Anyways, that’s it for Otakon 2007. For you that just means you’ll have to suffer a week or two more of me talking about it on the blog, LOL.

Oh, before I forget, a tentative play list. This is from memory and I definitely missed a few (which are noted). There were no official set list because they didn’t get it together until LAST NIGHT. Help me fill it in? You can find a thread here (some anecdotes included during the MC session. Most notable to me is how Eminence’s recording session was LOL geek when Sakimoto showed some of the footage to the orchestra ahead of time, where as a normal orchestra would sit in silence.). And here for panel stuff.

1. Tuning
2. Romeo x Juliet song (??)
3. Canta per me (Noir – Anime)
4. Not sure where this is from
5. Odin Sphere Main Theme
6. Mononoke Hime theme
7. Laputa theme (Kimi wo nosete)
8. Totoro theme
9. Ferris Wheel – Lia, composed by Sakimoto.
9. Romeo x Juliet song – They gave the title but I can’t remember, it sounded like Orgesomething.
10. Anna ni Issho Datta no ni
11. Beyond the Clouds (Tenmon, from Shinkai’s film)
12. Romeo x Juliet Song
13. Romeo x Juliet Song
14. Romeo x Juliet Song
15. Hako no niwa (Rakugaki Oukoku 2)
16. Can’t remember
17. Thanatos (Evangelion)
18. Pain?
19. Radical Dreamers.


20. Super Mario Brothers medley
21. Scars of Time (CC)