Category Archives: Honey And Clover

Music May Be a Thing

There are some spoilers, however light, in this post.

Some opinions for you to consider:

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The Melancholy of Kyousuke Tsutsumi or the Difference Between Normal and Ordinary

Lately I read a book that told the story of ordinary people doing radical things. They are not unlike you and I, with exception of their earnest belief that they are here to change the world in their ordinary capacity.

The fact that you and your neighboring commuter are traveling to work does not separate him or her from any other person commuting to work in the car or seat also next to you. What is different is beyond the ordinary–traveling to work–from the normal–that someone can tell all about you just by your commute. After all, if you’re reading this blog odds are you’re some crazy ass anime fanboy nut compared to the average person within a 50 meter radius of you. It’s not something you can easily discern usually. Yet,the cling to normalcy is a complex of an entire identity. A normal person is just that, normal. An ordinary person, however, doesn’t have to be.

Granted the distinction between ordinary and normal is nonsensical semantically, but it does serve to highlight the difference between something commonly seen versus the institution of conformity.

Ponder the following scenarios:

  • In Suzumiya Haruhi no Uuutsu, a girl who is fascinated with modern fairy tales of aliens, time travelers and ESPers, actually finds them hidden in plain sight, conforming to not just normal behaviors but stereotypes of aliens, time travelers and ESPers. Craziness ensues when male lead enters into the picture as a stereotypical, jaded audience of these modern fairy tales.
  • In ef – a tale of memories, the high school film club presses onward to produce a quality production, aiming to win a prize at a film competition. The main cameraman is seen as a person with some skill in the shots he take, perhaps impressionist, perhaps postmodern, but nonetheless draw fans and set the cameraman’s films apart from the common crop. However, rather than to be characterized through such distinctive streaks, the film club wanted to produce a popular hit with a film that conforms (realist?) to people’s sense of what is ordinary but yet captures the spark the star cameraman gives to his subjects. They are aiming for the grand prize, not one set for special but different films.
  • In Honey & Clover, an art prodigy escapes into secondary education to blossom under the care of her uncle in a university. She befriends a group of ordinary youth in a similar place in life looking for direction, for love, and for themselves.
  • In Kimikiss Pure Rouge, a 16 year old boy finds romance along with his wingman, a 17 year old girl, with another boy. Oh, the boy’s good male friend also finds his sister’s new friend somewhat cute? There be karaoke and giggles.
  • In Kamichu, an ordinary middle schooler is a Shinto deity in the flesh.

It’s ordinary, yet somewhat extraordinary. It feels attainable, its lure just within our grasp. For me it’s irresistible (at least when it’s done right).

There’s a thin line between what’s ordinarily extraordinary and what is just normal. I’m not sure where the line is, but you can tell when it stops being ordinary either by being just plain out there, or being just … a normal anime.

Capturing the tension that exists in the abnormal ordinary is a key element of a compelling storytelling style. Perhaps the biggest problem for the ef anime right now is that it is too odd to be ordinary, even if it is rooted so.

Lost and Finding Nodame

Yep, I’m sort of lost.

It’s not that I don’t know what shows to watch, but I think I might have to take a break to regain my drive to care. The new summer shows are popping up now, so maybe I’ll find a show that will motivate me.

But even before I do that, watching the end to Nodame gave me enough boost to keep going? Maybe it’s the lovely soundtrack to the show. Beethoven > most pop music, sadly still.

For a show about people getting over their memories, it was a cute and entertaining adventure with all the internalizations clearly depicted but kept quiet in favor of Nodame’s repeating antics. Like Honey & Clover, Nodame also lift in whole some of the manga schtiks to good effects. The end result was not just a mere-falling-in-love with the characters, but also getting caught up to its pace and the style of humor.

That said, the show is not a masterpiece unlike some of the music it played. There were some pacing issues and the rough spots but it was simple and I think the staff was veteran enough to dice this up despite some limitations. It ran knowing where it is going, and it took strong and steady strides.

In retrospect, Nodame was the kind of show that really anchored my viewing habits. It’s like a drug–a weekly dose to keep you sane…or insane. It doesn’t get me excited, and it isn’t really experimental or out there that I have to worry about what I’m getting each week. On the other hand it’s something you can count on to entertain, and you know how much it’ll make you laugh or make you feel sentimental about your own youth.

Ahh. I feel like those old geezers in H&C again.

Trying to Get Simoun Out of My System, Attempt #2

With the shows I’ve been following coming to an end, a quick review is in order. Maybe it’ll remind me that there’s more to life than the girls onboard Arctus Prima.

If you didn't get it, it has to do with Otome

Simoun vs. Ouran High Host Club

It’s not that I am not afraid of comparing apples with oranges, but it struck me that what is missing in Ouran Host Club is exactly what makes Simoun so good.

I like to criticize Suzumiya Haruhi no Uuutsu on the basis that Kyoani, outside of maybe Air, has generally gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to adding that “feel” to a show. I have a hard time putting it to words, but it can be said that the same effect can be replicated when you cook chicken breasts the wrong way, that they come out tasting like soft chalk. Granted, the effect is nowhere nearly as bad. FMP: TSR was as bad as it gets, and it isn’t that bad at all. Maybe it’s the consistency? Does it lack “soul”?

But I feel that is exactly what makes Ouran Host Club remind me of Suzumiya Haruhi no Uuutsu. Ouran, as visually impressive as it is, fails to reach that visceral-ness Suzumiya Haruhi did. But like Suzumiya Haruhi, Ouran is a very cerebral experience, it is very smart. The characters are both flat and round in order for the gags, both visual and mental, to work, and I think the show did a decent job of that. That’s not to mention my favorite part of the show–the direction. It’s sharp and clever. Even in its weaker moments it doesn’t fail to impress. In some ways it surpasses most anime that I can remember on the technicals, even if it couldn’t hit those “we pour love and money into this episode!” peaks that shorter, TV anime this past year did.

I can foresee that in the near future I’ll come around to enjoy Haruhi again. But for now, this show is the diametric opposite to Simoun: it’s clean, it doesn’t leave you attached, it impresses visually and mentally, but leaving you a little longing inside.

Tsuyokiss vs. Simoun

In some ways Tsuyokiss only reached the first step of what Simoun did, but since it gambled all 13 episodes on that one thing, it came out pretty well when we look at Tsuyokiss on that one thing, and only that one thing. That one thing, well, it is probably best described as a dialogue the anime production people have with the audience. It tries to tease you, it tries to please you. It knows what it has to work with is crap and it doesn’t care even if it is the worse case of original-adaptation-cide ever. It is unapologetic about it, but in a way it expects you to know that much. In the end it delivers on a platter of something that is like a B- high school group project, but since you were a part of the group, you get sentimental over it.

Simoun, on the other hand, has gotten that bit over with when Mamiina broke out with fists and claws. Since it is twice longer than 13 episodes, it can’t afford to do the same either. Their first tour with Wauf was all about it.

Simoun vs. Blood+

Blood+ is a very clean show. The production value shines through. It is intelligent yet it has the pacing of a typical 90s anime that aims to dramatize. The story, in retrospect, is a powerful one. However, most of the power was robbed by its mechanical, one-fight-per-episode formula that is as mediocre as it gets. There is some sense of overall planning and vision, but on the ground it doesn’t please or tease or amuse anyone. It tries too hard being cool the whole way, when it could have gotten a lot farther by shedding the drama and just get things done, and offer up some twists.

On the other hand you can look at it as a sign of respect. Blood+ knows we know what it has up its sleeves, and it’s just a matter of waiting it out. However it feels like all this formalistic pretense just gets in the way of me trying to enjoy Saya’s plea.

Simoun vs. Honey & Clover 2

I hope Mamiina didn’t mistake rats with hamsters.

The concluding 12 episodes of Honey & Clover was rather good, I thought. But the break between episodes 26 and the recapping episode 27 really spoiled things. As here we were, all ready to accept things as it was with how the first 26 episodes ended (and it was a decent way to end something that “doesn’t end” I thought). Yet now there’s real closure.

Of course, by episode 26 you get a good idea how Takemoto is going to take things, and what happens between Rika, Mayama; Yamada, Nomiya; and obviously Hagu… Can’t say I am NOT surprised but somehow how it ended felt right; things ended as it should (save for the little oddness with Hanamoto-sensei that will boggle and mislead a bunch of fools).

But was it all just ending for having an ending’s sake? Is it really just a long-ass ending thing? It would certainly make Honey & Clover one hella unique anime. Not only as a romantic comedy it was rather unconventional, it has the longest ending sequence ever.

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni vs. Simoun

Satoshi visits the Spring, only to realize boycotts and local conspiracies murdered Onashia and her relatives over dam construction at the ruins. Add drugs, dogfighting, gruesome torture, and identity crisis. Tempus Spatium makes a guest appearance in the form of Mion’s tatoo.

Higurashi was great up to episode 5. From then on it tries to explain and continue to add more to the wholesome mix of loli horror, but it never quite reaches the same peak. A mostly linear downhill ride, I’d say. Admittedly this genre is fairly NOT my bag of tea but I enjoyed what little there was to enjoy about this show. The OP itself was awesome for setting the mood and all.

Bokura ga Ita vs. Simoun

One makes me feel gay, the other doesn’t? And while I think I would be pretty comfortable watching Bokura ga Ita with other, non-anime people, I wouldn’t feel comfortable with myself watching Bokura ga Ita even if I was by myself. Those times I wish I was watching Ouran High instead. Less yucky, more pretty.

But nonetheless it’s a nice, alternative take to the same genre. I’m just not sure if I can take it…period. It drives me insane.

And let’s not forget. I’d rather have other people walk in on me watching Neviril kissing some other equally “moe-looking” chick than stick-figure Yano and Bokura ga Ita’s simple visuals. It’s that bad. Or it’s that good? I suppose that’s shoujo anime in its bare form.

Simoun vs. Coyote Ragtime Show

I’d be pretty happy if Angelica hooks up with Amuria or Onashia or something. She is a pretty, enlightened, old fashion gal and I think without her the Coyote Ragtime show would be only a shadow of its current self. I enjoyed the show, that said, because it has this die hard feel to it. Too bad objectively the show kind of tanked in some major aspects. I blame it squarely on Katana, Bishop, and Mister themselves. Being such important aspects to the show they are really pretty … lame. Swamp, being the token black guy, at least did his job well enough. Considering we have three (to 4 to 5 if the Coyotes break up) narrative perspectives, at least 2 out of 3 involves something less lame, like the 12 Sisters or Chelsea and Angelica, the show wasn’t too terrible to watch. But as a proof of concept I think it fails terribly. Maybe it would have been better if Bishop and Katana had more going on rather than being sidekicks.

Simoun vs. Aria the Natural

An episode of Aria is like an episode of Simoun once you remove any trace of conflict. The girls do not kiss each other, but they might as well. I think what really makes Aria works is the SD. I hated Aria-prez when Aria first got animated a while back, and now that’s all but a remote memory–it shows just how powerful your brain is in ignoring or filtering out stuff that it really doesn’t like. And that can include those girl-on-girl kisses. It would be just as an irritant as Aria-prez’s incessant whining.

And some might even like that!

For the Pursuit of the Perfect Union

I think subs are a crutch.


I mean, closed captioning…that’s what it’s for, right? If you are deaf, you can read and find out what they’re saying. If you can’t speak the right language, you can find out what they’re saying. It’s a crutch.

It also went beyond merely a crutch. Liner notes? Maybe. It’s not a matter of a dub versus sub argument; that’s like trying to choose Al Gore over GWB; many think neither would do a good job. But yes, they can cram 2 lines, maybe 3, at font 24 or 30 or something, adding up to maybe 80 characters total or so. Those of us who are accustomed to reading subtitles can handle it. Subbing Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex necessarily means you need to cram a ton of technobabble in a small space. That we have done and have seen.

We also have done liner notes as liner notes, live subs. Excel Saga’s ADVidnotes, for instance. Drop-down liner note boxes in fansubs are not unheard of, even if generally they suck as far as having to read them on top of whatever conversation that is going on, having to pause playback half the time. Not-so-live liner notes as subs can be bumpers and trailers to an actual episode. I remember reading Silverwynd’s liner notes, commonly referred to as excessively long yet educational and stuff you use the FF buttons for.

I think in the great divide between dub and sub lovers, subbers have grown dependent of subtitles. In as much as I admit in the greater scheme of things, subtitles are my personal preferred method of translation for an audiovisual work, there are little reasons to have them when I don’t need them. Even as some sickly twisted people who prefer super-literal translations and only really subs can deliver them live, there are plenty of other ways to translate the same things word-by-word, sentence-by-sentence, thought-by-thought, or anything by anything else.

What do I mean dependent? It’s a kind of dogmatic comfort. A psychological force of habit. Irrational only to the degree that it is empirically unsubstantiated because it made logical sense. In some respect it is like the child, learning to ride a bicycle, but is more comfortable with the training wheels on than off. In as much as they would never watch anime raw as a result–it feels unnatural, impossible to understand to a satisfactory level.

But is that really the case? In my own experience of letting go the edge of the swimming pool, I realized by far that it isn’t nearly as scary as it could have been. I also realized over the years that as someone who doesn’t speak Japanese there is much to learn, and more often than not I have to run to a translation aid anyways.

The worse of it all was in two folds. The first way it sucked was in how sometimes, as ignorant as I am, I get the wrong first impression. This was the case with a couple shows–like Soul Taker–in that without the visual familiarity I was drowning in a sea of exorbant colors and …Italian direction? The result was me being turned off and not watching it ever again until a friend persuaded me otherwise, which I now end up having them on DVD as I enjoyed it so much.

But the second fold is this: there are so many shows that I enjoyed, watching them raw, that I couldn’t share with my friends because they are left untranslated. My friends either lacked the werewithal to actually being able to understand the show, or they’re stuck on their crutches–and I think in some respects it might be better off to let these unpopular, untranslated beasts lie.

Well, I am kind of kidding about the second part. But no matter how you couch the term–preference, aid, necessity, “how else am I going to understand it,” or whatever, remember anime isn’t meant to be watched subtitled (unless you’re Pedro’s son or watching Crest of the Stars). A perfect dub is still better than a perfect sub in every single way unless you’re a sick person who wants extra-literal translations like me ordering at KFC. Or if you’re a sick person in as one who is deaf and cannot hear my words of reason…

I mean, there is freedom in Christ. You can download your raw anime, watch and fast forward to the action bit if you want, and consult the internet for translations and notes or even manga translations. You can even rewatch it. Time is a problem, sure, but it doesn’t have to if you don’t let it. If you’re still stumped, there’s always that fansub at the end of the day, maybe.

In retrospect today I think over the years I accumulated so much anime-watching “skills” that raw anime don’t seem as opaque as they first did when I started it years ago. Maybe my Japanese comprehension went up; maybe my Japanese cultural comprehension went up too. Maybe I understood the artform better today than before. Or maybe I just watch really-easy-to-understand shows. But regardless of what and why, I am still a Japanese illiterate weaboo not unlike many of you. I just came to appreciate how viceral, visual, and vivid anime is as a storyteller. It really does transcend language boundaries and appeal to us beyond merely words. Maybe it doesn’t present to us a whole range of human emotion and experiences, which is partly why it’s not all so hard to understand (well, a large % of them do take place in high schools…), but I’m sure once you include shows that are opaque to me there’s something of a whole range.