Category Archives: Red Garden

Of Choco Coronet and Porche 911 – New York International Auto Show 2007

Growing up in the United States means that what’s native and comfortable for me is, well, what’s around me and not what’s not around me. But my slightly more complicated life circumstances as a Chinese-born American (still nothing compared to Manabi’s travels) may make me more accustomed to yakitori and some strange Asian pastries as well.

But nothing about my middle-class upbringing will dim the shine off a showroom Porche 911 Targa 4.

Some breed of Porche 911

Well, that’s not quite the car Misaka Kirihara drives (is it?), but you get the idea. (By the way I :wub: the Cayman, it’s probably the dream car in my overly practical imagination).

When the Taiyaki Thief made her rounds, some people were cheated this staple snack for young people (I’ve never seen an old person eat a taiyaki, now come to think of it). It’s a pure coincidence that after doing my annual visit at the New York International Auto Show that I went into a bakery and see, for sale, choco coronets. What’s odd is that the store is more than half way across town from the Javits Center, and yet, fate would have it that I stepped into it, unplanned.

The auto show is a fun fare. It’s definitely something you take your kids to, and for people looking to buy a car, it’s the sort of research opportunity that you shouldn’t pass up. I mean, you really could compare side by side something like an Audi S6 next to a Caddy CTS V, then plant your butt inside a Ford Fusion because the line for the Shelby 500 is a bit long. All for fun and not for any kind of chance of buying those cars (well, this year’s Ford Fusion is a nice pick if you’re looking for a new car I suppose).

Highlights (no pics because, well, didn’t really take many):

  • The new Sienna is like the old one, but with a lot more juice; too bad you can’t tell sitting there. The new-new Town and Country, though, wow. Dang. That is pimp.
  • The prices for those overly expensive Ford pickups are going down, which is good. Honda’s Ridgeline is still the top pick for mid/full size “refined” ride, although I can understand why you’d buy an Avalanche.
  • The new Acura RL channels a lot from Mercedes, and for the price it’s quite the luxury.
  • But for some more, the Infiniti M45 is still tops. The new G37 is, well, rewarding for those who are patient; it really blows the G35 away as far as interior and, most importantly, body styling. If you think the G35 coupe is sexy, well the G37 is way sexy. Too bad I dunno if I could say the same for its new 3.7L engine.
  • The two Nissan/Infiniti concepts, Rogue and the EX, respectively, is going to cater to your Murano-buying crowd without the excessive price tags. Look for them probably late this year.
  • Surprisingly, BMW manages to wow me with the 3-series convertible. It is very sweet if you are looking for that kind of experience. If you like the VW Eos and wanted something more luxurious, this is worth looking into. Speaking of which, the Eos and the GTI (I like the pimped out one on the floor…forgot what special name it had) were nice, but Rabbit totally disappointing.
  • Which is a lot more than I could say for Mercedes this year. You go, woah, S67 AMG. And like, move on to cars they actually let you sit in? If I wanted to stare I’d go stare at the very sexy Lexus LF-A concept or the Ford Interceptor concept; or the Audi R8 which was out a year ago but didn’t make the show last year.
  • The new Audi S5 gets me excited. Being a minor fan of Audi’s designs and looks for some time now, seeing the RS4 repackaged in a more reasonable (but probably still overpriced for its lower-than-expectation performance) S5 is something to hope for, as more data roll out for the new car slated for later this model year.
  • Miscellaneous things…well, the new Accord 2-door reminds me a lot of a much better looking Altima for some reason (with a dash of Toyota’s FT-HS prototype mixed in). Hopefully this is the new “break” they need. Funnily enough the Altima 2-door concept is going the same places. The new Saturn Astra looks less ridiculous than the prototyped(?) Scion xD, for what it is worth. Subaru, this year, really toned it down; the Tribeca and WRX for 2008 both looked much more “normal” and less oddball. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing but I don’t hate it. I did really like the Demon concept. Very sweet.

The day ended for me with some powerwalking to both catch restaurants that closes too soon and trains that didn’t leave too early (thankfully). I went into a Nathan’s by the train station and had a chili dog with a corn dog (no pictures necessary I hope). Cheers to some Coney Island memories.

…..Right. Back to the choco coronet: it is what you think it is; a bread outer structure that is then filled with some kind of chocolate filling. As with most Asian pastry, the filling isn’t very sweet, so the chocolate-ness isn’t overwhelming with the fairly light bread. I was surprised that I wasn’t totally disgusted with it. Maybe because the place I got it from was Korean, but there was a lot of filling which made eating it the “smart” (by Lucky Star’s standards) way not very practical, as soon you will be licking both sides. In the end, I’m with Konata; head first.

Sort of like this post.


Red Garden Salad

She's not Alice

Red Garden is a very much, mixed bag. To get it out of the way, you should know that the 22-episode TV run does not resolve the story entirely, and it continues on in OAV form slated for August of this year.

But I think I was pretty satisfied with the run. It didn’t stray from my expectations, and it was an entertaining climb to the climax when the series shifted gears at around the half-way mark (accompanied by a new ending that clued us in as to its theme).

Actually, if I had to draw comparisons to Red Garden, it would be with Gilgamesh. If you enjoyed Gilgamesh, you probably will enjoy Red Garden as well, I guess; the persona of Kiyoko is split amongst our four protagonists, and you get the Countess in all of the female cast put together.

But unlike its post-apocalyptic slosh of Babylonian decadency, Red Garden paints a very…weird picture of upper-class NYC urban utopia? I suppose having first and second-hand experience with a lot of the stuff in the show makes me look at it with a particular bias, but I think it’s quite safe to say that don’t believe a thing from Red Garden that actually is true in New York. Heck, I’m not even sure they got Coney Island right, and that they can just mimic from actual films!

Aside from the general dysfunction and failure for a Japanese anime to mimic American urban life (looks like they just used Tokyo urban life for the average Japanese and added a few NY quirks to it), the show has a bit of pacing problem. Part of it comes from its unusual homage to musicals, music, and the dramatic. For one, what the hell was with breaking into songs in the first 4 episodes? I guess, sure, music does play a big part in the show, in setting the mood, in cluing us in from the OP and ED themes, and some of it is even substantive (like in episode 23), but…? I don’t get it.

Well, enough slamming. I thought the show ended much like how a classic tragedy would. Once they opened up the can of feuding clans and ancient curses, I didn’t expected much aside from a classic, Shakespearean brawl (complete with tragic dying speeches) to put it to an end. It was amusing, it was dramatic, it was a bit of a farce (but not as bad as Gilgamesh), and it was solid entertainment. Nothing less for Tomohiro Yamashita I guess.

And not only that, it’s well-decorated. The JP site has some sets and designs for you to browse through. Just how many outfits did Claire go through in 22 episodes? God knows. I can really dig some of those Homepage illustrations though… Hrm.


What’s Truly Ugly at Midnight in the Red Garden of Teen-Angst City

Liz's blinking! SPOILERZ!

Red Garden continues to be a compelling watch for me. I admit, I have a soft spot for angst-girl protagonists. I’ve been always a huge fan of girls like Priss and Robin…

But Claire, Kate, Rose and Rachel are not really like those prima-donna lead figures. In fact, I think they’re really the split personalities embodied by a Priss-type character. The interpersonal drama and the internal drama going on between the gang as well as with each gang member seems to be the expository pie we’re served.

With Rachel acting like this, she’s definitely leading the pack in … something.

So what’s ugly? It’s the fight scenes. Remember Uchuu no Stellvia? There’s this awesome episode about 2/3 of the way through the show, where the girls have a pow-wow and cried a lot? Now imagine that, but you have it every episode, and instead of self-acceptance and coming to terms with one another, you have psychotic terror involved with life, death, and coming to terms with existential implications.

It’s way worse than any complaint you can leverage against its visual style or art form, IMO. In episode 4, Rachel goes nuts a bit; that’s as expected. But episode 6? Sigh. The only relief I have is that they’ve gave away to that Gantz-like, shock factor; the subtle conspiracy is beginning to set in, and aside from the incessant wailing it is actually not too terrible.

Sigh, who am I kidding? It’s still over the top. Like their dresses.


The Curse of Un-Moe

When I read a typical figure review at RIUVA, for example, I get bothered by the shameless, fiery passion some people get with whatever the latest polymer idol being reviewed. I think that’s just a fact of life. It’s like talking to some colleagues to kill time, and they go on about something you either dislike talking about or disagree–for example, “Jessica Alba is hawt.” But who am I to say no? I have my own eccentricities as well, and they’re probably less commonly shared than popular idols and actresses.

But what bothers me is how anime fans, by and large, falls into very predictable herds when it comes to “liking” a character design. The oldest memory I have of this was from Escaflowne, and this complaint repeats itself with Nobuteru Yuki’s other works. “Who cares about their noses,” I thought. My opinion of his stuff is pretty high–at least, until he started to recycle his Hitomi designs. Many of them looks full of life, and his faces are expressive because the various elements work together. That’s on top of the fact that his designs are more detail-oriented.

In the age of moe, inoffensive, cookie-cutter designs are the way to go. No one complaints about droopy eyes. Or lacking lips. Or having no nose (this one is kind of across-the-board). Or zettai ryouiki overload. Or having little detail on the rest of the character outside their hair and eyes. Gotta pander and make your show accessible, after all?

So when I tell people “Red Garden is gorgeous!” I actually get weird looks. Pretty? Yeah, it’s by far the prettiest anime this season (Kanon not withstanding). The colors are strong and that highlights its goth-emo tendencies (the Rozen Maiden team is on it, after all). The heavy lines, the angle used (most evident in those scenes when the characters walk down the hallway), the shameless pandering to mood with sweeping landscape shots of the upper east side?

Well, ignoring two very serious problems with Red Garden–its overly superficial take on American school life and excess emo–it has one very interesting packaging. As of 3 episodes I can’t say much about the rest of the show and the depth of it, but even now having seen episode 3 and by rewatching the first two, I am already picking up points of internal consistencies that I missed the first time around. It is meticulous.

But of course, God forbid the use of thick lines in character art in anime. Even more so having to animate something without the use of moe dynamics. I think it’s more than just preferences and eccentricities when something that’s honestly quality gets slammed for being different.

Rocking for Red Garden to Rock the Status Quo? Rock the LM.C!


I’ve Fallen And I Can’t Get Up, Get Off of Me New Anime!

I’ve fallen over from watching new anime blind.

That calm, deep blue. High-pressure Autumn air clusters. North American life. A suburbian existance characterizes the later part of my childhood. And not just any suburb, but one closely attached to a big metropolitan area. I’ve done this, just not during recess.

And I can’t get up. Out from the pit that Red Garden has got me. Like a dominatrix with her hand around your balls? Innocent lamb in the jaws of Satan? No, more like escapism and someone who wants to run.

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