Monthly Archives: December 2012

Year in Review 2012: Together with That Moe Koe of Yours

This funny picture is f unny

I think a part of me died when I published this post with that title. Anyway, two parts to this post.

1. Like I said, and others have said the same many times, 2012 will be known the year where a ton of notable seiyuu got married. Of course, I only have what I know to go on, so there might have been some other year where more seiyuu got married, but 2012 is the one I do know. These voice talents often do not have the kind of publicity in the old days as they do now, especially since social networking is a great way to promote yourself and more people flock to it as a mean to promote their work. As a result fans (and everyone else on the internet) get a better look at the personal lives of these celebrity-types. Entertainers.

Oh, well, let’s see–

And as a related note:

  • Tsuyoshi Koyama got married on valentine’s day. Mikuni Shimokawa also got married on valentine’s day.
  • ZUN tied to knot, too.

Well, congratulations to all the new couples in 2012 and I hope they stick till death do them apart.

2. I think it probably marks the 2nd or 3rd year that I’ve been posting and toasting over here. It’s probably the third year for this guy, too. Recently I tried to cross post some stuff over at Pinterest, but it’s still just an experiment at the time. I’m not so much on chronological landmarks but I do appreciate all the work, for years(!), a few people put into posting these seiyuu shots on the web in a way that’s easy to access, so cheers to that!

Up next: I feel fine.

PS. That XCOM game is still ongoing, but progress is very slow given that I haven’t touched it in a while…

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Year in Review 2012: Music

I haven’t written much about music in 2012 compared to years past, for whatever the reason. It’s kind of something in and out of my consciousness. I still listen to a fair share of it. Finally equipped with a multi-disc, mp3-capable CD player in the car, I have this rotation of music that seems to never end. It feels inadequate only if I count things by the album. Of course, I also don’t drive very much.

The truth is I’ve hit a snag in the workflow between the music and my ears. I do most of my exploratory listening either on youtube or on my phone while I’m out of the house. Youtube is pretty straightfoward and direct. Music on the phone is a trickier matter. Thing is, it’s too much of a pain in the butt to download music/rip the music, unpack it, check if it’s tagged right, tag it, rename the stuff, delete the added files I don’t want to put on my phone (like scans), and then copy it to my phone. Maybe I’m just lazy. I wonder how many albums/singles I can do in an hour.

Merry Christmas!

For sake of simplicity I’ll just list a bunch of items, in bold:

By and far away Chihayafuru was my favorite soundtrack of the year. I asked Morio about it at an AX panel and he said he wanted something that’s modern and appeal to young people. I’m not sure if this was it but sure appealed to me!

I didn’t like the first CD, but the second soundtrack released for Last Exile: Fam hit the sweet spot. They were packaged just like the original Last Exile. I probably should finish watching this show huh…

Beyond “Her name is Koko, she is loco” I think Taku Iwasaki’s more world-music-influenced style simply fits the sort of story that is Jormungand. I guess I am also partial to his stuff, it’s just a lot of fun to listen to. It’s not as whacked as Ben-Tou, but it doesn’t have to be.

Tsuritama – Kuricorder Quartet does not disappoint. And what’s up, Sayonara Ponytails! I think them butchering a great song is rather appropriate and I think it’s a good thing for these post-modern weird bands to try such things. At any rate I appreciate Spitz double-teaming with Yuki (in Moyashimon S2 OP) for noitaminA nostalgia power hour.

Tari Tari Music Album – Yeah, I like it for the glee club crap, but otherwise it is thematically impressive, almost like Yoko Kanno’s Macross albums, minus the thick, moody feels. It’s just a seaside adolescence story here.

Aquarion EVOL doesn’t disappoint; it’s just as fun as the original Aquarion but with more refinements. It’s not all Yoko Kanno, but overall it works just the same.

Sakamichi no Apollon is not really worth mentioning for the name brand, but rather for the musicianship. I think I should at least give prop to a track labeled as “My Favorite Things~Someday My Prince Will Come~Moanin'” especially when it’s the emotional climax of the series, because, LOL. JOSEI ALRIGHTY. The OP and ED are p. nice.

How can we skip a Otani Kou soundtrack about a post-apocalyptic world? The last time he did something like Humanity Has Declined turned out to be one of anime’s best. Granted, this is as different as it gets. Ave Maria anyone?

The Sphere anime has another nijine piece, and you might know how I feel about his stuff. It makes Natsuiro Kiseki a lot of fun.

Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere – I skimmed through season 1’s offering, but somehow I’m liking season 2’s music a lot more. It’s just as “touhou”-y as I would expect, minus the mysterious “eastern” feels. Instead it’s more like… I don’t know, I like the mix of electronic-y style in there.

There’s something in ClariS’s Birthday album. I suspect it’s MDMA for your ears. Also, my face when I heard this while combing Natsuko Aso’s discography.

She’s right–there’s just a lot more misses in Kajiura’s work lately.

The sound to Eureka 7 Ao is pretty okay, typical of what you’d expect. But I prefer Zetsuen no Tempest a bit more, and I guess that reflects on who writes it. Not sure if it’s a meaningful comparison LOL.

Having Ano Natsu de Matteru around goes to show that them I’ve Sounds guys still have the same sound, if they wanted it. Sign and Vidro Muryo are both pretty good.

Rinne no Lagrange – Marble is delightful.

I like Sword Art Online OP1, but it’s more because of LiSA than the power pop arrangement. I think LiSA really did well this year as far as winning wota hearts and wallets are concerned. Her AFA show was super good, and this is from someone watching it via Niconama.

Aya Hirano’s new album has that Pizza song on it, and I love that song. I don’t know.

If this year is the year of idol pop groups invading my anime, then StylipS is doing it right. I think none of their songs may chart on my personal list but Saki Achiga-hen OP Miracle Rush is pretty damn close.

I can count the number of Chihara Minori songs I like on one hand, but she’s got one this year in Oniai OP, Self Producer. The iM@S tie-in from the anime helps, probably.

Speaking of doing it right, Momoiro Clover Z is probably doing the most-right-eous out of them all. Besides Mouretsu Pirates (which has a pretty old school soundtrack too, including that Black Holy track–it’s even titled old school no less), Joshiraku’s tie-in with Yoshida Bros is a lot of fun.

The other ham-fisted drivel adaptation involving online gaming–err I mean Accel World to be specific–has a Sat x KOTOKO product, and I really like it. It probably helps to see it live hurhurhur. Speaking of Sat, that Decade track is pretty okay, as uh, hammy as it is.

Platinum Disco (Nisemonogatari) is no Renai Circulation. Sweets Parade (Inu x Boku SS) is no Renai Circulation, but it’s bull’s eye for Kana Hanazawa. She even goes peropero in it… Happy Ending (Zetsuen no Tempest) is no Renai Circulation either, although that one feels a little closer than the others.

Generic-template Kurinoko songs are okay in my book, but sign was a sign for her untapped potential at doing this pop stuff. She ought to do more…different. Certainly soothes the ear better than Koda Kumi’s OP in Muv-luv Alternative: Total Eclipse.

And, of course, there was iM@S.

Bonus: Do we count Guilty Crown original soundtrack as 2012? How about Penguindrum’s ARB cover album?

Next up: Loving live for you!

PS. No sharks in this post, sorry.

PPS. Last year I did a “select” playlist for 2011’s remarkable themes. I guess I wanted to do the same for 2012, so I did. Note that there’s no copy of the full thing on Youtube for some songs, so if you wanted you’ll have to assemble the whole thing on your own. The track listing (and where to find it) are:

  1. Kokoro no Senritsu (#6 ED version) – Tari Tari (Music Album)
  2. INSIDE IDENTITY – Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai (ED single…or the OP single has a rroooocckkking cover that is 100% times better)
  3. Mōretsu Uchuu Koukyoukyoku – Dai-Shichi Gakushou ‘Mugen no Ai’ – Mouretsu Pirates (OP single)
  4. Vidro Moyou – Ano Natsu de Matteru (ED single)
  5. Kaoru & Sentaro Duo in BUNKASAI (Medley “My Faorite Things~Someday My Prince will Come~Moanin'”) – Sakamichi no Apollon (OST)
  6. Wareta Ringo – Shinsekai Yori (ED single comes out 1/26 I think, so this is just the TV cut from the OST)
  7. Requiem – Tasogare Otome x Amnesia (It came with a DVD/BD I think, there’s a single that has it but probably not sold separately)
  8. Enter Enter MISSION – Girls und Panzer (ED single)
  9. →unfinished→ – Accel World (ED1 single)
  10. SELF PRODUCER – Oniai (ED single)
  11. signs ~Sakutsuki Ichiya~ – Muv-luv Alternative: Total Eclipse (ED1 single)
  12. Above your hand – Sankarea (ED single)

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Year in Review 2012: Hurricane Edition

I thought Tsuritama was the best TV anime this year. It turns out that we have more than fishing in common, that show and I.

It’s probably cliche to have a dramatic seaside story about fishing to conclude with a climatic storm. In real life, it’s not a cliche, especially if it wrecked things Sandy did. Hurricane Sandy itself was not particularly powerful–Japan regularly see hurricane/typhoon/whatevers of this caliber almost every year. People down in Florida see storms like this once every other year or so. What’s special is that the storm took up the eastern seaboard at around October 30th, which is quite late for a hurricane. For a point of reference, there were 2″ of snow on the ground on October 31th, 2011, on my driveway. It’s kind of weird to see a tropical storm hit this late, let alone this far up the coast. It also hit during a new mood high tide. The main thing: the US Northeast gets a storm like this once every … two decades? Certainly none this big in recorded history.

Anyway, basically I went fishing a month after Hurricane Sandy, down by the Jersey shore. Most of the good fishing spots were either closed or destroyed, so party boating was actually the best thing to do. We chatted with the captain of the boat of our choice and got the first-hand details as to how everyone with their boats dodged the storm by going around to the weak side of various islands nearby. On the way to and from the fishing grounds, we also got a very bleak, if oddly scenic, view of the devastation. It’s pretty clear that the shoreline has changed as a result of the storm. The oddly punctuating lawn furniture or marooned sailboat here and there just adds to that sense of dread, despite that most of it has already been cleaned up.

Atlantic Highlands

The weather was relatively nice for fishing; it was not totally freezing for a December day on the seas, and light rain did not fall until later in the day, sparing us from the sun. When it did drizzle, it was manageable. Instead we focused on the catches–blackfish. Or Tautogs if you’re native or a scientist. It’s not a pretty fish, nor a pretty fish to catch–certainly no match to Yuki and Natsuki’s Mahi Mahi runs, but it is complicated in its own way. If you’ve ever done bottom fishing, the blackfish is done similarly as most–using bait on a weighted rig. No need for fancy polarized glasses–I doubt you can see past 10 feet in the darkened water of the North Atlantic anyway (we actually didn’t go that far out). Making itself home among wreckage and rocky terrain, the Tautog feeds on local crustaceans, so small crabs make a good choice for bait. No–these crabs are not big enough to eat for a human, at least. Applying the bait correctly was a major aspect of a successful catch, getting the right size hook and hooking it through the right part of a piece of crab–or an whole one–is not so obvious. Streamlining the rig is also a major part, given the likelihood of losing your rig is pretty high in such environment.

There’s even a special technique to hooking. We were fishing at well-tested spots, so we were getting bites. The tough part is that Tautogs are relatively intelligent and they do not swallow on bite on contact, rather they test it using their specialized lips. Upon actually taking the bait, they chew on it using their molars, so it isn’t that easy to hook versus fish that swallow whole. On first sign of trouble the blackfish swims into the rocks, making the timing challenging. If you pull too early (or even on time) you might not get anything. If you pull too late, you’ll hook up with mother earth, or nothing at all. And you can’t really see any of this. To boil it down to “Enoshima-don” level of technique, I just counted to 3 really quick once I feel the bite. Since we’re fishing with rods, it helps to point the fishing rod down at the water so you can get the maximum pull distance, to quickly get the fish away from the stuff that’ll catch your rig at the bottom.

Winter here is blackfish season; the various fishing grounds we toured that day all had plenty of bites; at some of them we even saw really young ones. The government restricted limit was 6 per person per day, at 15 inches minimum. Unfortunately this means out of the 10 or so I caught in a 6-hour period I had to return 9! I think that might be for the best; one 5-pound blackfish go a long way. It’s a peculiar fish in that on the markets, it sells for anywhere between $8-15 a pound, but it also is a very local fish without a lot of commercial exploitation as it’s not a fish you can readily find at supermarkets. So maybe the supply and demand are both small. Anyways, it tastes pretty good, as you’d expect of a fish that eats mostly crabs and clams, without the more fibrous texture associated with fluke or flounder.

And this is where I kind of raises an eyebrow: where’s all the fish-eating love in Tsuritama? This is Japan we’re talking about, right? Okay, sure, shirasu is fish, but it’s not freshly prepped catch of the day! Okay, yeah, maybe it can be kind of morbid given the whole Haru and Haru-sis’s angle, but that would be the one weird, Nakamura-ism that I would have expected in an anime about the culture of fishing. I respect and enjoy that there’s this polite environmentalism about catching and releasing, about not eating your trade away, what have you. But that is not the reality Japan (and rest of east Asia) faces. Playing it safe is like dropping the nine tautogs I caught back into the sea. I respect that, and I wish those lucky escapees nothing but the best, so they may it end up on the hook of another angler, another day, a few inches larger than I first met them. That’s when humanity’s best intentions coincide with nature’s.

It’s just that, sometimes, nature’s intention yields to no one. I was fortunate to survive Hurricane Sandy with no loss, just power loss for a couple days and lack of internet for about a week. It was an opportunity to snuggle up at night with a handheld game. It was also an opportunity to help each out.

Up next: I also caught a dogfish. These things are vicious and a fun catch.

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Year In Review 2012: A Sengoku Collection Episode Collection

Sengoku Collection is a 26-episode TV anime. Read this review for a good idea what it’s about. Actually, given I have yet to come across a Sencolle review that I disliked, you can read any review out there as long as it’s written by someone who has seen the whole thing.

The pure episodic nature of this series makes it difficult to characterize on a level where the typical anime-viewing, English-speaking public can relate to via another series–most people haven’t seen Seraphim Call or Kita E. Regardless, the nature of the show enables selective viewing where you can jump around and hit the “best” episodes without much of a loss. Here’s my list. The idea is that, yes,  you can just watch any of these episodes at your fancy with total disregard of the previous ones. I would even go farther than other people who enjoy this show and say that you can even ignore episode 1.

I tried to write this post about 3-4 times. It started this summer and it did not finish until winter. I don’t know why it took this long, but I think part of it is that there were some grand ideas in the show that I had a tough time getting a handle on, and at this point someone else would have already written about it at some point. Like this awesome write-up. So I don’t have to. It goes over not only the films Sencolle cops from, but the whole epic structure, the Greek chorus, and all that jazz.

Also, go read the staff interview, generously translated by 8c, here.

Sengoku Collection and the films it copies from

TL;DR – this guy wrote the kind of post I wanted to write, all that lead-in with < 200 words. However, the following are my own take. List, yes, the list. Bolded episodes are the ones I recommend, if you must pick and choose. But really, anything is fine. If you ask me, I’d say just watch everything; skip this list and let the show surprise you. If all else fails, click on the image above and watch the corresponding episode to the film you like.

  1. Sweet Little Devil — This episode would be nice to watch if it wasn’t the first one. As is, it’s a play on first impressions, which hopefully I have completely ruined for you by this post. Skip, but you might appreciate watching it going into the series blind.
  2. Peaceful Empress— I’m not sure why people hate on this episode (or episode 3 for that matter) because I think it’s one of the best, because it gets at the point with subtlety. I think it’s also the sort of bias that people who went into the show blind might have, because nobody knew what the show was about by this point yet. Anyways, one of my favorites.
  3. Pure Angel— This episode is great for people who like yuri, but otherwise it’s kind of dull. I enjoyed it because of the strong seiyuu bias, but also the story is kind of the Sakurasou-esqe thing you find in a lot of eastern lit (eg., Hyouka).
  4. One-eyed Dragon — There’s a follow-up to this episode, but otherwise it’s pretty okay. Definitely the first episode that changes the tone. Watch it if you like sengoku genderswap noir swap-in where a good guy is tied to a criminal gang.
  5. Sword Maiden— This is the episode that clued me in, since it plays on Bowling for Columbine. I’d recommend it just to get a sense of how silly things can get–it gets worse later. And of course, you should watch it because it is an anime about Bowling for Columbine. Com’on.
  6. Knowledge Master — I didn’t get this episode after initially watching it, but it made a nice revelation later on. It’s not a great one by itself but it builds some foundation in terms of the attitude of the generals, and it kind of deviates from the previous few. Also, great for Back to the Future fans.
  7. Refined Bard — This is probably the best overall episode in the show, hands down, because it talks about haiku all throughout the episode. The idea is how poetry transforms the lives of the people who live with it.
  8. Regent Girl — The Alice-in-Wonderland … homage, although it is more about putting imagery into visuals, the practice in making sense out of the absurd is always fun to see.
  9. Ambitious Princess I — The first episode of the first two-parter. It’s kind of so-so because the story doesn’t quite wrap up by the second part. Instead, it wraps up in the very last episode. Watch it if you plan to watch episode 25 and 26.
  10. Ambitious Princess II — See above. Rough school factions fight each other, et cetera.
  11. Brutal Maiden — If you enjoy that slinky noir stuff. Fun episode about fallen people.
  12. Dancing Blossom — This is more of a straight-up homage than most, but it is kind of fun. Nice one-shot about a night rider.
  13. Silver Hornet — Introduces Ageha, which is probably my favorite side character in this series, and the 2nd best side character.
  14. Novel Deciders — If you can handle the inane comedy. And, yes, they’re the Shinsen Gumi.
  15. Annihilate Princess — It’s a follow up to a previous episode in a way, but short of spoiling it is about a haunted house.
  16. Blade Adept — More inane comedy, but easier to follow this time.
  17. Sunshine Ruler — It’s another nice one-shot, a little touching. And yes, that “sengoku general” is Chinese, I think.
  18. Four Leaves — Great visuals (well, low-budget) in this episode, aside from the touching story. Also a quality one-shot.
  19. Vengeful Fang, IS — Second two-parter, sets up the turning point for the main plot with Nobunaga and Mitsuhide. You can skip it, but it’s a pretty good example of the Japanese murder mystery genre.
  20. Vengeful Fang, OS — See above.
  21. Cavalry Queen — Not only it’s the 2001 Space Odyssey homage, it introduces the best side character in the series, if not this year.
  22. The Splendor — Follows up on Masamune’s episode 4, with a nice ending. Only watch if you’ve seen episode 4.
  23. The Dune — Children manipulates children in a sandbox analogy, where the analogy is the reality. It’s the one that stayed with me the best.
  24. Peaceful Empress – EX — Related to Ieyasu from episode 2, but also a stand-alone media-in-media homage to an 80s french film.
  25. Marshal Princess — A warlord goes fishing, but also is related to episodes 9 and 10, as well as the final episode in a way. I’d say watch it for sanity’s sake, since it explains some things.
  26. Sengoku Collection — Helps to wrap things up, definitely worth it if you’ve seen any of the episodes that are not pure stand-alone.

Yep… I’m recommending half of the series to you. Why even bother? Just watch everything. If you just want a synopsis, there’s Wikipedia.

The other note most people left out is the seiyuu ensemble behind this show. It’s nuts. You know how some anime have a huge cast? This one has a huge cast. It’s a bunch of independent people that has little or nothing to do with each other, but there they are. I mean, Aipon had a great role in episode 7; Kugyuu and Mariya Ise were a riot in episode 23. I already mentioned Ageha. Ai Shimizu goes finishing? LOL. Ayumi Tsunematsu is great as usual in those sulky voiced roles. You get the idea.

To end this I’d like to quote my favorite anime shill:

…there were some fantastic episodes in here overall with striking and appealing animation throughout. I really enjoyed this show thoroughly and hope to explore it again some day.

And isn’t it true? And on the subject of endorsement, here is a better one:

Sengoku Collection is a hidden gem. On the surface, it’s a story of cute girls living their lives in an ordinary fashion. And it is. Upon deeper inspection, it gets its warring states history right, and expresses it in unique ways, like turning the steed Matsukaze into a motorbike. Upon further deeper inspection, it’s a cinephile’s dream, covering every conceivable genre of fiction in the last fifty years. It’s science fiction. It’s fantasy. It’s comedy. It’s drama. It’s allegories and dreams and arthouse and mainstream all in one, and every element reinforces the other.

Perhaps more importantly are these:

You should watch Sengoku Collection! Yes, you!

I decided to include this Sencolle post as a part of my year in review because, well, I could. It also deserves the honor for the singular 2012 title that I keep bring up as an example that fulfills a lot of specific requirements. Which anime had a car chase? Sencolle. Which anime had gambling? Sencolle. Which anime had Russia? Sencolle. Which anime referenced Kafka? Sencolle. Which anime had a strategic map? Sencolle. Which anime had a hot water bottle? Sencolle. Which anime had strong female characters? Sencolle. Which anime had underboobs? Sencolle. Which anime features time travel? Sencolle. Which anime featured after school teatime? Sencolle. It is the Swiss Army Knife of anime.

Up next: Which anime had fishing? Sencolle, of course!

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The Cocoon of Chuunibyou

Kumin was the best

There are a lot of different things one would and could say about “chuunibyou,” or literally translated as the 8th grade disease. In the anime adaptation of Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai, it paints a story about the pain of facing reality. But I think it’s just a story about growing up, where the subject matter of said disease is akin to a cocoon.

In fact, thematically, Haibane Renmei is the one title that comes to my mind as the closest associate to Chuu2koi. Unfortunately there is nothing as elegant and thoughtful as what 00-era masterpiece had, that could be found in Kyoto Animation’s last TV anime. On the flip side, Chuu2koi is not a dreadful inquiry about life and death, but a cheeky remembrance of something more of us can get behind–the things that occupied our playful imagination from our early days.

After all, children play; adults don’t. It’s not so much something we hold true today but it’s a stereotype of considerable heritage. We occupy ourselves without the cares of the world, and instead things that are simply otherworldly. In the case of chuunibyou, the term otherworldly is no longer a figure of speech. The connection between that we know as chuunibyou and the innate flights of fancy all of us take at various points in our lives is a nice hook, but maybe that’s not enough for some of us.

The finale to Chuu2koi felt like an all-too-earnest Japanese indie flick. I don’t think that is problematic per se but it misses the opportunity to explore in profound ways on why we dream. It could’ve gone deeper, I guess. As much as I might like to explore how Rikka’s disease is similar to someone’s imaginary friend, it just wasn’t “koi” enough for the story. Will it be the force of reality or the lifeline of romance that pushes Rikka out of her shell? Will she turn out to be a butterfly? I think some of us was cheering for that monster from Shin Sekai Yori? I am trying to not make a Mardock Scramble joke.

And that is the Achilles’s Heel to Chuu2koi. It’s like multi-classing in D&D; there are some inherent synergies but overall is not where the smart money is. In the end Rikka had some personal difficulties and Yuuta helped her to deal with them. The colorful ways these kids expressed their youthful lives was what got us interested in the show, but I don’t know if I would’ve stayed over for dinner. Or rather, it’s like eating too much candy before dinner and how that kills the appetite. Most of us were left wanting to see more Kumin or Dekomori, these adaptive changes that were not in the source material. Even the final scene upon the “Eternal Horizon,” while evocative and reminded me some of the better confessions under similar, starry circumstances, felt closer to a lovers’ double suicide than the emotional capstone that sates and empowers viewers as they walk away from the show. Like Rikka, I preferred the Dark Flame Master that carried the show, not the full-of-starch Yuta Togashi; and like their delusions, these moments of joy were equally fleeting and leaving us wanting. It was not for lack of drama, it just wasn’t as good as the stories beside it.

Maybe that is some form of satire? Just like how we don’t want to settle for the ordinary in Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions? I guess we’ll just have to settle for this pedestrian TV animation.