Monthly Archives: February 2008

Tragedy of Incompletion

When people talk about shows that are based on on-going manga series and ends when the manga has no end in sight, what do they say?

The classic example in my mind is Karekano. I’m too wussy to read the manga because I just can’t stand that kind of writing and shoujo-y nonsense that tend to gush out like quasars and black holes. The monologues really killed it for me. On the other hand I love the anime and I think it’s one of Gainax’s best shows ever. Well, until it ran into problems in staffing and pacing and how it explodes into a mess. But even so.

Just how would you honestly rate it? Karekano TV is really just too unique to be objectively graded (meaning given an assigned numerical or alphabetical rank). It’s not saying you can’t, but it is quite misleading. And as a result, how do you recommend it to a potential viewer? It seems to be the type of show where it’s easy to pick out who will hate it and who will like it, but why? And when I mean unique, I don’t mean it in a good way…

I’m at a similar place now. Marathoning shounen anime is really the only way to do shounen anime. I love cliffhangers and I enjoy them for the suspense and the emotional ride that pushes you to anticipate the next episode. At the same time I love ending cliffhangers by grabbing the next episode! And coincidentally if a shounen anime can’t stand up to a marathon it probably sucks, or is made for the whole family.

But with marathons, things end before you can really appreciate the whole length of the journey. As I approach the end of Ookiku Furikabutte, I’m forced to reflect on what has happened the last 20 some odd episodes. And here’s why it’s sad that it is going to end the way I think it does:

1. Foreshadowing and laying the foundation for a shounen series. If you’ve been watching and reading shounen crap for a while you would realize that a well-planned series starts out with a simple plot and a straightforward narrative without giving a lot of the full setting at first. My favorite part of the series is not just the baseball (which is well-covered, and really the heart of the show IMO), but Momokan. It has nothing to do with her obnoxiously large boobs which projects the logo of her uniform very well. It has everything to do with the mystique behind her. Repeatedly the show makes a point to lift her out of the large cast (we have a baseball team after all) and say “hey she’s a woman in a man’s world” or “why’s she so young and spending her own money and not a teacher” or “how did she hit that ball” or “when did she get there”? I want to know her past, her motivation, and all that juicy flashback material. I guess that’s being saved up for later. For that matter, how about Shinoouka? Or Ruri?

2. The baseball. It’s actually refreshing to watch a sports anime about the sport that is totally focused on the sport. It’s not “sports coated yaoibait” but “character driven sports drama.” Such a fresh breath of air. Even if at the end it’s still the same old thing. The mangaka’s meticulous research shows off.

3. The show is just gorgeous looking. I wish stuff like Princess Nine was even a fraction as good looking as Oofuri. The direction is good. So is attention to detail in general. Granted the fansubs floating out there is pretty crappily encoded it doesn’t do enough to hide the quality behind the production. Solid footwork by this crew.

But it’s going to end! After their first big game! What the hell! It makes me approach the last few episodes with a lot of reservation. If I was going to turn what has transpired in the first 21 or so episodes of Oofuri into a Hollywood movie it’d be only an hour and 30 minutes long, as it hasn’t reached its primary climax yet. That’s what happens when each episode averages to about 6 outs when they’re actually covering a game. And a game has an average of 57 outs. Ugh.

It also doesn’t help that these kids are all first-year (10th graders) and they have full careers ahead of them, let alone the current school year that they started off in.


Well, maybe I will check out the manga after all.

He’s Going the Distance

I blame my recent addiction to Rock Band in bringing back to my mindscape all these 90s recycled radio hits. And promptly stuck there until I master them at the appropriate difficulty (which is currently somewhere between medium and hard on the drums). Been tempted by the downloadables too. I hope they rotate in some Hootie & the Blowfish (although a Stone Temple Pilots is fine too I guess…or, lol, Cake)…

But these temporary distractions are just that. I’m not at all like Jeff Lawson on his fairly busy life. I got a ton of crap to do too but somehow I’m dedicated enough to squeeze anime in there. It’s as if my life has, somewhere down the road, been retooled to be a mean anime viewing and chewing machine. I’m not going to say I’m trying to make my life interesting; rather, I’m just doing what my fleshly desire is pulling me, in its eternal tension against the forces of good and what is proper.

In a season of lull it may very well be sensuality and its usual tricks pulling me to one crappy anime to another. But in the midst of nonsense fanservice I always trip over some nugget of worth. It’s like spotting a coin in the gutter. Or a gem in the rough. And that’s what keeps me watching anime all year long, year after year. It makes a lot of sense to me why the Japanese otaku subculture is so keen on the lolicon–that tension between what is good and what is better but worse. I’m just thankful that sometimes anime is not so pandering, and is rather mature without being mechanically dry. At times it can be refreshingly naive, or surprisingly cunning. There’s still 10% of the good stuff even if the other 90% sucks with a vengeance. And even so the vengeance (sometimes) comes with good action sequences and nice butts.

Contrary to popular belief, I believe people who do watch a lot of stuff don’t often get jaded. Critics do because it makes them more credible, I believe, and also as you accumulate experience it becomes easier to be critical. Being critical, however, doesn’t mean you have to look down at something or have an excuse to be harsh. Some people do get jaded after watching anime after a while, but I don’t really think these folks have really seen all that much. It is better attributed as another form of burnout.

One thing we all have to realize is that anime, historically, is young. Many people credit Astro Boy for being the first “anime” as we know it, but that’s barely 50 years old. Seeing just how many anime titles are being pumped out of Japan today we need to also realize there’s more anime on the air, on DVD, and on the internet now than ever before (and how few there were back in the days). If you are new to this fandom (in the past 5 years) then you need to know that the past 35-40 years worth of anime history has been compressed, filtered and condensed to a tee in the form of cultural history and knowledge. Yesterday’s best is still today’s classics, but last year’s crap is forgotten. As a result when we see today’s crap, we need to take the right perspective. Sometimes this means to revisit old shows.

But sometimes it means to leave them. Old shows are just that, old. New shows are not. It’s sitting there to be discovered. To appreciate the ongoing evolution and the dialog between the audience and the creator, we have to move on. I’m still haunted by the awesome dialog at the start of ef episode 6. Isn’t that the heart of the matter?

And too often we’re just haunted by mere burning memory, running in an empty arena, driven by the burning longing of something past but hoped for. Don’t fall into that trap. Take your anime as they come to you. Real burning passion is not a passing fad. Kamina died for not just you, but also those who have yet to come. Even for the passionless they can just enjoy anime as it is, and not as some kind of thing bigger than just the show and culture that surrounds it. Love your Evangelion-sized gravitas but don’t forget it’s not a serious business. Feelings are uncontrollable but actions are controllable.


He’s going the distance
He’s careless about speed
We’re not alone
Cuz we got all we need!

Omedetou Kazuki!


Humans are social creatures. Those who are watching Shigofumi get a good examples of this in the school bully episode. But what’s just as important to the courage to confess or the strength to overcome rejection…is the ability to say what you want to say.

It’s saying what you want to say. One of the fundamental problem with Rahxephon is how it doesn’t do a great job saying what it wants to say. I think that particular problem is a result of lacking the talent necessary to do the job; but that’s not what I really want to talk about. It’s a good example how you can have a fairly polished thing but have it botch the more substantive aspect of a good TV series.

The flip side is also true. Sometimes it’s a pain to get your viewer to understand something because they’re stuck somewhere else. Simoun is a good example. Even some of the most prudent and wisest viewers will have trouble seeing through the lesbian fanservice and strangely Korean style of animation.

Still, when there’s something interesting to say, people run the gauntlet of misunderstanding and potential disappointment because it’s worth saying whatever it is. Some do it with a little bit of help, like Shigofumi riding on Jigoku Shoujo’s coattails. Tatsuo Sato is a trickster like that sometimes, and he does this with some regularity.

Speaking in the same language is one way to reduce misunderstanding; but at the same time speaking in the right language, too, can do the same. It’s like how ef a tale of memories played off like a teroge harem but it’s actually a Shinkai-ish, artisan orgy. Soul Taker gave life to Komugi but did anyone else cared about that piece of artwork?

But even so there’s something to say about the sort of misunderstanding of watching Ookiku Furikabutte and being mistaken for a BL fan. Not that has happened (or should, IMO). I mean, I guess I can do the same and insult people who likes Touch. But not Prince of Tennis. Or Ippo.

Anyways, in good, earnest fun, I thought Shigofumi so far is doing a decent job telling both sides of the story. It’s what anime has always been keen to do. Go go ambiguous villainy! Maybe that is why people are quick to mark the “anime” thing as gore and porn in the west, because the rest of it is speaking in a foreign language. Its fans are naturally good at handling being misunderstood, am I right?

Pillows And More Pillows

March 22nd is the world pillow fight day. You can read all about it on their website, which is pretty simple and straightforward. I mean, it’s a flashmob armed with pillows, exercising their freedom of assembly as strangers and comrades in arm, may it be feather, cotton, or something else more sinister. Or oops, not a flashmob. Just a bunch of people doing something people don’t do.

What’s more interesting for me is March 21st. The Pillows is hitting up Anime Boston that weekend, a con I never bother to visit and is sort of kind of a local thing for them anyways. On Friday March 21, however, they’re playing a gig in New York City, where Ryusuke’s friend died. I guess.

Having been to a prior show with a similar lineup (Noodles, the Pillows) back in ’05, I can say with some confidence that this is a pretty fun gig that you don’t want to miss if you’re at all a weeaboo, or otherwise have affinity with this breed of rock.

Speaking of that breed of rock, I just got Rock Band the other day and it’s a pretty addictive and fun game. Especially with a group of folks. Kind of like this picture.

The Flight of Toilet Princess or Why Everyone Should Watch Piano no Mori, and Not Just Stuck Up People

I think my overall impression is summed up well here.

But there is still something to the theater. Things like home video, internet video, and the bicycle treadmill are not substitute for a wholesome, family night out at the movies. At any rate I caught it at the Kennedy Center this past morning, and it is always a pleasure to watch movies with an audience like that, seeing the director introduced the film for us.

You should ignore reviews like this entirely.

But how can you not talk about Piano no Mori without mentioning the Toilet Princess? That’s like talking about Nadesico without mention Ruri, or not use the letters “f,” “u,” and “n” to spell “funny.”

Honestly there are a lot of lack in Piano no Mori, but without reading the source material I can’t say if this for-the-family rendition on the silver screen is lulz, or merely a good balance between what’s funny and entertaining and what’s charming and endearing. It’s not an epic thriller nor is it a gripping tale of a Fugitive. I’m not even sure if it is slice of life.

What I am sure, is that Piano no Mori appeals very widely. There’s some merit about the complaint regarding lackluster character development for some of the more stoic characters–namely Amamiya. But for the rest of its cast, Piano no Mori does a splendid job of making the audience care about everyone else. How can you be not endeared to the likes of Takako or Rei-chan? But they are by all means minor characters, foils and mirrors for our protagonist. It seems incredibly potent, and the show makes good use of that power on its minor characters.

Maybe that’s why the movie seemed shallow and generally not something that’ll bring you to tears…unless you subscribe to the same sense of humor most of us does, then you might squeeze one out with the help of our Toilet Princess.

She still needs rainbow colored unicorns!