Monthly Archives: August 2007

Takaki Tohno Can’t Hear the Sea


Couple days ago, I finally got to watch the Studio Ghibli work from Tomomi Mochizuki.

Ocean Waves, I Can Hear the Sea, Umi ga Kikoeru, whatever–it was an unremarkable piece that still carried the signature mix of subtlety and dramatic tension that I love about this kind of slice of life anime. Considering its vintage I would have expected something a little bit more mainstream, or something even slower, but I guess that’s what happens when you take some of the younger talents (at least back then) and give them a shot at something significant.

But it was delightful, it was something that makes you think. While the narrative was relatively brisk and overall short (and it may feel short), at the same time it avoids getting too melodramatic and remained fairly fresh over its entire course. What’s unusual about this piece as a Ghibli work is that unlike most of its other works, Ocean Waves goes off in the meta rather than on its surface. There’s a perception of depth interplaying with memories of the past. The passage of time is something that is hard to get across in a short work and I think Ocean Waves needed its audience’s help on that. The lack of moving camera shots and the properly-slowed tempo from a flashback perspective–it all adds up to things we perceive but hard to pin down, and the direction succeeded in adding tension even with such a relaxed, slice-of-life atmosphere. If you can understand the film, you can see how this kind of subtlety leave its mark, in probably in one of the better examples in anime.

When I was watching it I can’t help but to think about Ocean Waves in the context of, well, 5cm. That film was also subtle–but you probably can’t figure it out just by merely seeing and not connect some of the dots together. What was there to be perceived is not just on the screen, but also in a bit of reconstruction in seeing why–thinking between and beyond the lines, so to speak. The film’s discourse at first glance is actually rather plain and “out there” for all to see. Following the monologues and dialogs simply will give you a good idea what it’s trying to say. But to stop there is not getting it–you have to go a step further and get a good idea of what emotions it’s trying to convey. That is why the second story is about a girl who can’t confess her feelings. That is why Akari ran ahead of Takaki in the very beginning, across the incoming train, and asked if they can meet again next spring. It’s not just to highlight the symbolism of crossings (as the ending did just by repeating the setting), but to show you the premise in light of what will (or for someone thinking about 5cm after watching it–what has had) happen.

I think aside from the hidden subtleness and the retrospective construction (although 5cm isn’t a flashback for the most part), there is only one other thing remain shared between 5cm and Ocean Waves. Ocean Waves is the take of a relatively atypical high school romance and 5cm is probably the much more typical take on the same, coming to opposite endings with opposite routes. But despite the material endings of each films, both illustrate the same concept about the distances between people versus the time they spend talking to each other. It’s easier to explain it in Ocean Waves–I think Rikako actually grew more fond of Taku during their period of separation. The lingering regret both shared refined their feelings for each other. On the other hand Yutaka probably spent more time with Rikako but didn’t get anywhere. Or for that matter, Yumi probably did not know Rikako as well as Taku did. Absence makes the heart grow fonder?

Both films are gold mines, I tell ya!

Sky Girls – The Satire Within

It’s relatively fair to label Sky Girls as a typical otaku-wallet-driven mechamusume pandering ball of fuss. Just because it can carry its own weight as a character-driven story (like many others before it) and take itself seriously enough doesn’t mean it’s any good (but also certainly doesn’t mean it’s bad). All that it does is carry the tune, like a snake charmer, and people who find it appealing will tune in based on the commonly understood concept as “taste” and “whatever floats his boat” and what have you.

Despite what I may find it distasteful, Sky Girls does have a moment of clarity as the clutter floating around parts way for a ray of amusing insight to pierce its reasonable but all too predictable testimony. The fansub translates it along the lines of that these highly mobile aircraft are pioneers in a new era of aviation and the squad of girls can pursuit dreams as acrobatic stunspeople, touring the world to show off their l33t skillz. The simpler reality was that they must demonstrate their l33t skills as weapons of war to get funding from the brasses.

What occurs to me here is simply–just why am I watching (or why is the average fan who’s watching Sky Girls) Sky Girls? Would it be OK if the mechamusume fetish was stripped (/zing) of its para-militaristic bent and turned into a normal sports drama? When I was watching Ginban Kaleidoscope I recalled the former occupation of Pete was a barnstormer. That’d be a cool crossover. But why not?

And how our heroine-protagonist Otoha Sakurano wrestle her military duties with her less violent and less gore-glorious calling seemed to me just that little bit more ironic. Is the average otaku no different than those nameless (but not faceless!) military generals who oversee the Sky Girls project? Are we just predators looking to exploit innocent girls to satisfy our own needs for things we can’t do on our own by paying for it?

Moe Revisited – An Argument for a 萌え-centric Perspective

Berserk needs more Sad Girl in Snow

萌え? What is moe? Why do I think it’s good?

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Darry Buns for Everyone!

They’re the cutest, more adorable ones on the block.

They melt in your mouth, not in your hands.

They’re soft to the touch, like heaven wrapped in plastic.

They’re Darry Buns. Now available at a local anime blog near you!


Despite urban legend, these won’t last forever!

Zetsubo-Sensei? Say Goodbye to School Days…

I was thinking about School Days. As of episode 5 things were coming to a point where it actually fits the mold of a naive school story about stupid teenagers boning each other for whatever it’s worth. It’s so rare to see an anime about something that’s probably not at all rare in this day and age. Depends on how ghetto your high schools are, I suppose.

The funny thing is, while some people I talked with online say that Makoto (or Sekai or Kotonoha, for that matter) may be more like an average 16 year-old than we’d like to admit, just how often do we see that? Recalling my own adolescence, I came from a school that’s probably somewhat ghetto for an American suburban fare and I have certainly heard a fair share of these kind of things. But my impression was, like most people, I made my business to not mind these kind of business. I mean, what good does it do? In some ways the preliminary setup for School Days is just, well, setup for the outrageous crash that is yet to come. And it’s because of the crash that School Days is worth watching. The stuff before that is nice because it might be what you’ve experienced, maybe not, but it’s rather better for the dark subtext sewn into the puppy love story.

It’s good to wonder how much weight that appeal to personal experience one should give. Because, after thinking about it, there were more personality disorders that I’ve seen coming out of Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei that matched my own recollection of high school than just guys and girls having sex, and breaking up.

In fact, I recall one classmate who was like Fuura. A few Kaga were to be found. Definitely some Otonashi (boys more so), two Kaere, a Tsunetsuki, a Fujiyoshi, and even a Komori. I’m exaggerating a bit (or maybe Kumeta is rather?) but a lot of these personality flaws are more common than you think.

So nuts to people who had memories of casual, innocent sex in high school. They’re really missing out on the comedy.