Category Archives: Kanon

It’s Football Season

This is how I feel when Shannon Sharpe (Hall-of-Fame NFL pro and now commentator) this morning mentioned that the “Ravens will be better served with a little less Flacco, and a little more Rice”:

SUPAISU futasaji keiken shichae
dakedo genkai  karasugite… mou DAME
Ohnono nono nono no nonono

OK, yeah, actually I laughed at Sharpe (who’s known to have a mouth, so to speak) for about a minute. Then again, this is how I feel about Ray Rice generally. It has a lot to do with my Rutgers upbringing but he’s the man to electrified a local football program (along with now-NFL coach Schiano).

This post is brought to you by the strange realization that playing Space Chem from 12:30 AM to 3:30 AM makes the sunlight’s glitter just a little off.

Looking forward to MNF, though. And I’ve re-uploaded those “Asadayo~” tones. Help yourselves.

A Girl’s Last Regret

…is not getting to know November 11 a little better.

Eternity approaches. The feeling of solitude escapes its frail shell through the cracks of the oncoming holiday season. Weather changes from warm to chilly; perhaps your coworker has caught a cold and you try your own best to beat the bug. At any rate, all of this is to pass through the flight of time. In a blink of eye we will be reading Jeff Lawson’s post about his favorite anime being better than yours, along with everyone else that partake in the half-trollish, half-festive tradition. The urge to recall what happened early this year fills you invariably with happy and sad memories at the same time, or worse, a chilly void of “wow, what have I been doing with my life?”

Eternity is here, in some sense. For girls like Chihiro Shindou eternity has been severed into pieces; each night’s sleep leapfrogs her from one small reality to the next, guided by written continuity from the hands of an equally fragmented author. A little sheep grazes at the lawn it is chained, perhaps, to its eventual death. However, what that little sheep fails to realize is that life keeps going. She may be limited by her chains but the sum of herself is more than the recollection of self. It’s the fact that eternity is here. It’s the story about memory, and how we perceive them and express them.

Pop quiz: Why did Nayuki asked Yuuichi if he remembers her name?

Answer: Kanon 2006 FAILS.

But good o chap Jack Simon will live on with those who remember him. And I think even if he doesn’t exist as a real person, he is pretty inspirational as an icon of those who can keep his cool all the while doing the thing he has to do.

Canonical Kanon

Wake up girl, time to face the music

To contrast, for some, the dream is finally over.

I think before we even go into things like optimism, open endings, or every other thing that has been said about Kanon over the past 7-8 years, I am glad to see it reanimated. Studio Kyoto Animation has done an admirable job, and it’s opening doors that most thought would have never opened. Bravo to whoever that made it possible.

In fact, I want to talk about more good stuff about Kanon just so you don’t get the wrong idea. Kanon 2006 is very heartful in that it delivered the things that made the game great. It pretty much covered all the basis, I think. If you liked the sentimental aspects of the show, well, awesome, because I did too. It’s sappy, but that’s just a tough-man excuse for “I lack the ability apperciate this.” I enjoy all the “service” bits, basically every moment when Nayuki or Akiko is on the screen, or you hear her cloying alarm, and so much more.

Looking back, a year ago I was writing about Canvas 2, which is another multi-path visual novel / bishoujo game that was adopted into anime form. I wanted to think about it partly because it was one of the first moving anime I’ve blogged here, but also because the similarity it shared with Kanon. I suppose it serves as backdrop for this post.

I wanted to talk about focus.

When I say focus there are two things I mean by that. One is literally what you and I focus on when we watch the show. In that sense, Kanon has a very different focus; one that probably ultimately undermined its anime adaptation. In short, it’s the moe-pandering. Unavoidably there is 7 years worth of fanboy gunk accumulated onto the Kanon franchise. As a late-night otaku slot candidate on the air, it had to home in to popular homages, screen us those precious in-game CG that now has the breath of life, and vibrantly so.

But that’s not what really did Kanon in. It’s in pandering to the more intangible, emotional story aspect of Kanon. Invariably so, the 2002 Kanon rendition recognized this so they did their best to keep the drama tense and break it open at the end. In 2006 Kanon broke open 3 times before episode 18… but what does that leave the viewer and fans of Nayuki and Ayu? A wonderful epilogue?

Alas, that’s no grounds for complaints, in my opinion. What’s sacrificed is the show’s pacing consistency. Pacing sucked for the last third of the series, and while the message and meaning of the last 6 episodes are especially touching, I wonder how many people even gotten it (well, some at least), as we’re all too focused on the strange dramatic crap that went on in the guise of building tension.

The other thing I mean by focus is related to the story. It is what the story wants you to look at. When it comes to fanboy pandering, a lot of it is in the eyes of the beholder. But in Kyoani’s Kanon we are focused, and sometimes I wish less so, on the character drama. In a show like Canvas 2, that was fine because character drama was 80% of what the show was about. In Kanon, however, maybe 80% of Shiori’s story was about character drama, but that’s really it for the most part. Kanon is a story that focuses much, much more so on character motivation (as with a lot of Japanese stories?). Understanding what Shiori, Mai, Makoto, Nayuki, and ultimately Ayu feels and think and the places they came from should be the climax of each of their stories. In Shiori’s case, being mostly an enigma we understood her feelings through her drama and interaction with Shiori and Yuuichi. That is fine. But how are we suppose to understand Mai without that wonderful flashback? Or Nayuki (at all?) and Ayu?

To that end, I think the biggest culprit is the pacing and length. Kanon would have been better if it spent more time after Shiori’s story getting itself back together, and less before Makoto’s arc (although those were some of the more delightful episodes). Yuuichi holds the key to unfold all the stories, and we should be focused more on him than the girls. Perhaps that was all impossible, because ultimately it was enslaved too mechanically to the multi-pathing plot of the game.

The irony, for you to take home, is that Kanon was a revolutionary bishoujo game because it broke rank and file not only with respect to the nature of its pornographic content, but also one that delivered its touching story in a parallel, nonlinear visual novel format in which you don’t have to befriend and solve (and bone) every girl’s problem by the time you get to the end. On the other hand, Kanon anime 2006 was enslaved to that very concept of “freedom” and as a result suffered for being the thing its original version tried hard to avoid.

And somehow, I think this is one strength and flaw Kyoani consistently displayed…

Altered Reality

I read an article on BBC about Steve Jobs and his amazing power to alter people’s perception of reality. The details are not important but it got me thinking.

People Who Think Red Garden Is Ugly Needs To Learn What Ugly Is

KyoAni’s Kanon does very much the same things. Once you boil it down, Kanon is a protoharem, and many games (and ergo, anime from eroge) follow its footsteps. There’s not much magic once you get past its sad-girl-in-snow exterior and see what it is for yourself:  a parade of angsty pitiables that gives the audience what they want, with enough ambiguity and implications that drives the mind and satisfies the flesh.

And like reality, while footsteps in the show is clear and distinct, they’re too often just messy trails of indentations and slush. The successors don’t get it quite right. What is behind Yuuichi’s gradual recollection, Nayuki’s two famous lines, and Ayu’s plushie is not merely poignant plot devices that twist the dagger sticking out of the hearts of its audience. They’re ways in which the storyteller alters the perception of what is really going on.

To use a more concrete example: Mai and Shiori. We’ve seen how both of their stories unfold. The two makes good examples because they are both characters looking at the same kind of tragedy unfolding in their lives; one is someone directly influenced (in fact, Sayuri is easily the Kaori-equavalent in Shiori’s story), the other is a bystander but key to fulfilling the dying’s wish. Yet, why does it feel so different when Shiori reveals her inner struggle with us at the last moment, versus Mai revealing her inner struggle with us? Or if they feel the same, why doesn’t it feel different? After all, Mai came into the picture without her mother where as Shiori is literally dying.

Perhaps I ask these questions to try to figure out why I feel better about Mai’s story and feel worse about Shiori’s story? Shiori is the girl with all that she has to lose. Maybe it just means I feel better about Yuuichi and Kaori after seeing what Shiori had to go through?

At any rate, to take a step back from that, again, you can see that in reality the two are one and the same, but if you put aside your personal feeling about Mai or Shiori (as in, don’t think with your groin), we’re revisiting the same theme over and over again. What makes this repetition exercise fun is the Kyoani Reality Distortion abilities, and Kanon itself.

Much like how gentle but unending snow transforms the mundane landscape into “winter wonderland” and makeup can turn geek to gorgeous, such is the art they practice. The artisan makes not just footprints, they make pristine footprints. They don’t just make an alarm clock, they make an alarm clock that is more moe than the stash of anime porn you got hiding under your bed. They may lift real life landscape into their animation, but they transform the nine-to-five into five-to-nine.

Ginko, on the Mushi “Weeaboo”

With the licensing of Mushishi manga and anime, a slightly successful trend of animation in the west continues. Invariably when introducing people to Mushishi, comparisons are to be made with Kino’s Journey and other, episodic exhibits of theme and aloof travelers. The limited success of these shows here and there bodes well for this sub-genre’s vitality. Certainly if others to follow are of the caliber of Mushishi, I think we all are going to welcome them in open arms.

The magic of the show is subtle. But somewhere, somehow Mushishi accomplishes for me in what others have failed: that kept me entertained from start to finish.

It’s a bug. Sure, the anime doesn’t really explain how Ginko’s western wear play magic to the new viewer in setting their expectation of a fusion of settings. This is just another part of the whole experience of seeing the worldview-shattering introduction that later plays on the subtle heart strings in exploration of Ginko’s own story.

But unlike Kino (and like others like it), Mushishi has a more sustained theme going on. The traditional Japanese setting, the elegant yet thankfully fleeting reliance on character archetypes to get the story across drives the tone of each Mushi-struck heartstring from one episode to the next. It’s like playing Okami. Well, okay, maybe not, but the appeal may be the same.

And thus, the Weeaboo takes root in the space between the two halves of the brain, summoning from the twisting nether strange sensations that elate its host yet slowly reducing its host into a gaggling fanboy/fangirl. Sadly, such is not my condition after finishing watching all of it just yesterday; perhaps it’s just latent?

Post-script: sometimes the Weeaboo takes shape of a pair of thigh-highs. Prescription: finishing watching Kanon 2006, and Mushishi. I guess that means I won’t be cured for another 2 months?!