Category Archives: Black Lagoon

Looking at Anime in More Ways than One

I’ve been swamped with work lately, and the Burning Crusade makes it even more difficult to put in some quality think time about this whole deal, let along writing it. I have some ideas floating around that I failed to write down, but just as well ideas that I did. Like that excuse that I just wrote down about work and gaming.

Sort of to bounce off on the Futakoi Alternative bad rap: just as we all hate to be bored while watching anime as a way to entertain ourselves, we hate it when the anime “goes out of bound”. In saying so I’m trying construct a framework to explain how I see anime–that I put on different hats watching different shows.

I’ll go through some example to explain.

Tweeny Witches. This is a curious little show that is full of visual flare and in a way it oozes a lot of “coolness.” But like Studio 4C’s shorts you have to take them straight on. In some sense you can live without the subtext and background information that the equally visceral Satoshi Kon works live within, but unlike those things Tweeny Witches is asking its viewer to be ready for it, rather than trying to ease you into it more casually. As 9-minute TV episodes, it might be kind of hard to do that.

OTOH, a thing like Paprika, because it is a feature film, means its viewers enter it with the mindset of “it’s a film.” They are not only prepared, the format itself demands a tight, timely package of the full narrative experience. You don’t need a hook as much as a serialized publication would. You’re truly looking for an experience.

It’s an entirely different thing than Zero no Tsukaima. I don’t even know if just calling both “anime” reveals all there is that the two share–the basic, medium-sensitive natures of the shows. Perhaps in a greater, “modern visual cultural” context they are together like Jessica Simpson and Colin Powell are both widely-recognized names in American culture. A rigorous dissection quickly reduces Zero as a parade of troupes hung on the skeleton of a simple yet charming juvenile high-fantasy. And because this is so, it is easy to enjoy and require little effort otherwise.

A little more can be said of something closely related, Suzumiya Haruhi no Uuutsu. What it has over Zero is rather unclear once deconstructed. Perhaps the best way to distinguish the two is in the hype and in the production quality: not only in the animation but in the direction, acting, and thoughtfulness to details. It goes farther to bring you more than just the same, tried tale using the same tried devices, even if it does that for a good bit. Perhaps the “Kyon order” of the story is its greatest blessing.

And there is more. Mushishi was a big thing for me. It’s a well-crafted show (although still using some common troupes, despite unusual for an anime) because it manages to package something very good around a form that I normally dislike in a way that I do like. The catch here is that while you can enjoy Mushishi as casual enjoyment, you have to be in the mood, so to speak. To me what makes Mushishi special, aside from the production value and submergence, is what it actually is–a consistent unfolding of themes upon human imperfection resulting from a lack of understanding, but ultimately bound by the ties that makes men and women who they are. Still, what is troublesome is the unwrapping–for the longest time I cannot just sit down and watch this show, even amply prepared.

I wondered why. I think aside from my own personal nitpickery and strangeness, I felt I just had to be in a certain state of mind, with a certain amount of empathy mixed with apathy. A show like Black Lagoon did well for me because it works both when I am emo-blue as well as when I’m cackling with glee. The show itself is a mix of many different things, and while the inconsistency can be a bit off-putting for someone looking for just one thing, it manages to deliver plenty of, well, a lot.

On the flip side is Futakoi Alternative. To make no mistake, it has great production values. However it’s also a little dry, it suffers from having too little spanned across too much time. The direction is also more fitting of a film format even if it took advantage of the serialized, TV format in some of the episodes, to deliver that slice-of-life feel. A lot of the show worked, but a lot of it didn’t either. It gave us a variety of things, but I don’t know if those things worked well together.

Just like some shows are seasonal, some are equally best-tasted when you’re in the right state of mind. For some, it may means until they’re old and tired; some when fresh and not jaded. Others still just needs to have a fresh day to look forward to, or with the right company.

Of a Dying 2006 Pancake Jamboree

This is the season to bake a cake
With our Queen of all pancakes
Her batter is first-rate
But one thing we all hate:
Skip her jam; your life, it’ll take.

Of the flame of wintry passions
Few hotter is an odd fusion
Of sickeningly cute “moe”
Mixed with a rarer, “moe”
An odd 萌え 燃え confusion?

Makoto, right before the snow
covers her, as if winter knows
that next year,
like every year,
again, memories anew will grow.

But what of tears under half a moon?
Of wishes undying, lovers swoon
to an eternal pledge
and they jump off the edge.
No, I’m not laughing at Black Lagoon.

But of kisses, war and boobs;
Fewer confuses more n00bs
than the trap gallery
on board the flying gallery
of Arctus Prima, the shoujo test tube.

Still there is no understatement
To fandom’s greatest testament
When the morning comes
And your alarm hums
Nayuki’s trademarked statement.

Still, it’s better to sing a song
Even if you get it all wrong
Like a undine
With a karaoke machine
to where the tone-deaf have gone.

If all of that is a pain
Then watch some Soukou no Strain
It’s serious as pie
And full of oppai
It belongs in its own domain.

But of wrecks this year
Perhaps none can possibly compare
To a sequel
With no equal
Because, she sang, life is a canvas.

And with a strong kiss, she landed.
Smitten, like heavy irony, candid
Of Paprika
As Hayashibara
Daughters of moe have commanded!

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
When Renton did his flying round
For love
Kind of?
Death rained down all around.

If “pancake” was a code word
In this theater of the absurd
It’ll spoil the story
Of Jesus’ destiny
Savior of many, head of his herd.

Because we go to war over it
And idol singer acts for it
Awesome cameras
For positive otaku karma
Will FLAG as a banner, fit?

This deadly note must stop
But only because to slumber I drop
You can lament
In my comments
It’s a grand criticism swap.

Time to Engrish Forever, Baby?

“Sorry to keep you waiting Jumbo, I brought you your prom date”? LOL. This is so dying of a Yotsuba& parody.

Got Rice?

The muse that is Black Lagoon resurrects in the form of LOL I am Chinese so I got the slanty eyes? Or is she just evil?

I’m glad the show flexed its muscle at this critical episode, 22, because so far Second Barrage is heavy. The middle 3 episodes with Mr. Benny’s Good Fortune capped a good, refreshing break, but it was also the low point in the series when it comes to production quality and direction. Mr. Chen worked in season 1, and not so much here. It’s a welcomed distraction to the drama and inter-relational conflicts.

I mean, did you really need me to tell you Revy-Ginji is a foil for Yukio-Rock? Surely not.

But the Japan arc continues into 23, which means it’ll likely to continue into the final stretch of these 24 episodes. I think that’s probably best, but not knowing the manga (and I imagine so far it’s a faithful adaptation) I’m not sure if the pacing works out. When you don’t have that bang-bang-bang pace to bring the plot forward, you use those bang-bang-bang scenes. But what happens when you can’t use either?

Is that when I point out that Omi Minami, Miki Nagasawa and Houko Kuwashima are all in the cast this season? I’m glad that Kuwashima got Yukio–lots of great dialog parts for this part-time character. Speaking of the voice acting, if you’re still hung up on the Engrish, you might want to do see your doctor and schedule for an “am I a Weeaboo” examination.

One last thing–the bird/angel allegory continues!

Pleats rocks

Otakon 2006: An Average Story about a Convention

If words were enough to describe this convention, I wouldn’t need pictures. Even if words were enough, I’d still use pictures because I am lazy.

I was a Harutard

But some words are necessary. Like tags. Could be chronological:
Hot Thursday prereg, drinking, dinner, drinking; hot friday lineup, ticket, sat in line and watch anime, dealers, eat, Nobuteru panel, Madhouse panel, eat alone, concert, karaoke; Saturday ticket, dealers, Kawasumi panel, autograph, karaoke, fate meet, concert, mt meet, Geneon, Hellsing, dinner, art gallery, 4chan, Geneon panel; sunday karaoke, art gallery, hotel crap, karaoke, lunch, karaoke, home.

Or more descriptive:
Haruhi-tard, ETERNAL BLAZE, Hottest. Otakon. Ever., Kawasumi Ayako, Lafiel, Mahoro, Trap-chan, Raptor Jesus, Getsumei Fuuei, MUCC, fatigue, NO U, Free Stuff, Mihata no Moto ni, Pictochat, Geneon, Dan Kim, Futakoi Alternative, Touhou, Ever17, waiting in line, Nobuteru Yuuki, Nakazawa Kazuto, God Bless…

There were the usual amount of cosplaying. Without beating around the bush anymore, you can click on these links at your own risk. Traps, you know. I think the variety this year matches more my expectation from last year than this year.

A good meme from the con to recall is Web 2.0. It’s amusing how much I’ve changed in doing an otakon write-up over the last 9 years. And yet I’ve done it every time save my first Otakon, in a blog form. Instead of AMVs maybe I’ll do a trip down memory lane kind of thing. Some things, despite age, just don’t change time and time again.

Like hitting traffic on the NJ Turnpike.

But there are still stories left to be told of our battle last weekend. Yours and mine. Like how karaoke post MUCC concert means you can’t hear the monitor too well. Or our Canadian friend makes one helluva Trap-chan. Or how 4chan manages to transform time and space and bring anonymity to a convention line. Or how the panels I missed out I wish I could attend, or watch videos of. Or how I asked about Lafiel, and made a fool out of myself at the Kawasumi panel. Or how people should do more Nana Mizuki songs at the karaoke. Or just how much fun we had, or how we wish you were there, too.

I was actually looking for Os on Friday–imagine we were all in the Mad House panel

Perhaps one more notable point to it all is how my friends played into the picture. There was a major blurring between my RL friends, different circles of RL friends, internet friends, and random people. It’s good to know people who know people but knowing so many people can make things difficult. This year marks a good, sharp distinction between people who I consider “con buddies” with “visiting friends” and “groupies.” It’s so important to have all three. Just don’t mix them up in the wrong categories… And keeping the right kind of stories to the right kind of crowd :)

And on that note, I wish you all would show at Otakon next year, because I have high hopes…

The Spilling Ink Pit of Fanservice Looks Like a Black Lagoon

Comiket Is Ground Zero For Cosplay Indeed

I sort of went over services in general, so I hope you understand how I use the same idea here is rational, in that it is rational to pander. It is a no brainer that there is a maid bloom over at Akiba, and it is not really news–it’s just an obvious trend. People squirm, either in displeasure or euphoria, for whatever reason, at the obviousness of it all. In the grand scheme of things, it’s very Japanese.

Looking back at Black Lagoon, it is a rather Hellsing-esqe series where the key difference is only in the original concept. As much as it doesn’t look it, Black Lagoon has some kind of core, character-driven story idea behind it; Hellsing only gives us that initial setup which carries it until the mangaka figures out something better and more interesting later on.

What do I mean by Helling-esqe anyways? Cool action, old school wetworking? Maybe. Badasses, girls with guns? Lots of other stuff have that too. In as much as ink is black and most manga are inked, the paintbrush of what is cool and what are services to the audience is really broad, after you’ve been at it for a while.

In that sense, it makes Black Lagoon the anime so much sharper and powerful than Hellsing the anime. Re-scrambling, we now have the Hellsing OAV which recaptures what was euphoric about that delightful coolness which surrounds the manga series. I am guessing that was the difference.

Perhaps it is good to step back and realize that a good story is still the bedrock foundation of good telling of stories? I’m not a big fan of calligraphy, but to me that’s high art; yet the same ink, the same words, the same people use the same tools to communicate the most mundane things. No matter if you’re a doujinshi artist, a race queen, or MAKO doing a sitcom skit over the internet, it’s the same rationale going forth. Without that bedrock, it’s just spilling ink in vain.

Where fanservice intersects with narrative, there is hope, love, faith for the genre and goodness. Anime is now Japanese, omo gets excited, money exchanges hands, blog posts written. Lesser is when a story exist in vacuum–it becomes something you google up, and maybe read once, or hear others retell it better. Worse is when fanservice exists in a vacuum: it’s pornographic, cheap, boring, and beneath notice.