Category Archives: Scrapped Princess

Chasing Zefiris; Please! Yuti

“Is that Suppi-kun or are you just glad to see me?”

About as epic as the Gurren Lagann version IMO

So this guy has been reading the TokyoPop novels. I’ve been reading some too recently and the 4th installment of the translated light novel series from Ichiro Sakaki (and Mugodan doing the drawings) needs to come out already. I read somewhere the release date is actually the 31st of January but I couldn’t find it anywhere online the day after.

At any rate, it is a totally different kind of read than what I’ve been reading. It’s like, lol. I mean it’s not even lol like crappy Magic: The Gathering novels or stories about Thrall and LORELOL. This is Ichiro Sakaki putting forward a really darn good fantasy setting with a fairly rich story about Driving Miss Pacifica. Albeit heavy-handed at times and sort of melodramatic to a point, I’m not sure I can sift through its popular brand of justice cleanly with what’s in the psyche of the Japanese fantasy reader. There’s a crossover between the two, I suppose.

Which is to say, it’s been a long, long time since I cracked open a fiction novel.

It was a Suddenly Raquel moment, to be sure. It’s a fluffy read. Nonetheless that did not stop the rather tranquil expression I carried while plowing through the short novels in a couple hours.

What would really be a Suddenly Raquel moment is they canceled book #4 like a ninja and we had to go find this out ourselves! Grr.

So. Onto the more serious topic: licensing limbo. The thing about ADV is not really worrysome, much like how I don’t worry about Geneon’s non-distribution of DVDs. The one fact remains: there’s money to be made. The question is how to make that money. As fans, we just want to be able to watch it, to own it, to enjoy it.

We want to avoid what has happened to the licensing quagmire that is Macross. It’s just cruel to show us how good something is and then to butcher it and yank it away. And it punishes no one except those who are actually paying the buck. I hope with all these corporate back-end maneuvering we don’t orphan anything.

Fur in the Ointment

One Is Preferred than the Other

I too thought Wolf Spice (Old Spice’s traditional brand name?), better known as Spice and Wolf, an anime adopted from another light novel series, was spot on.

The right vibe is there at least in the first episode. Someone told me that it makes him think Tony Taka. Must be all that nudity. But I sort of see where he’s coming from. There’s a sense of realism in the way how character art is chiseled out of ink that is most relevant in good anime porn which, coincidentally, was also part of what made Scrapped Princess good (as in, style, feel and suspension of belief rather than “woah can you believe her boobs?”). Honestly nether show really did a great job about character design at this point, when compared to their peer. Classics like Lodoss War OAV still put the typical TV sword & sorcery production to shame when it comes to design and stills. It’s not really a minus for Spice and Wolf, at any rate, but a very good thing.

Anyways, I suppose it’s much more palatable to put human-animal lead characters in a verbal narrative than a visual one, simply because those who reads it exercise their free will to visualize what they read …or not. Put it bluntly, the freedom to selectively ignore things is one of the growing strengths of the traditional print media. I can forget that Horo is practically a werewolf in appearance if I’m just reading a book about Horo, unless the author wants to mention that she has has a tail and wolf ears hanging out to dry every time the imaginary camera in my head (as directed by the book) points her way. In a TV show or movie, I don’t control the camera so I don’t control what I see. And even if I give the show the benefit of the doubt that they want to drive this point home in the pilot episode, it’s a great distraction to an otherwise perfectly fine episode of anime.

In my own experience I think most fantasy authors do make an effort to wow their audience with a hook; but most know enough about the pop knowledge level of their readers to not make a big deal about the setting unless you are doing something really neat. I can’t decide if all that nudity and fur is there to wow the audience, or just to provide exposition and set the tone and theme for the series. I only know that it bothers me a lot. Despite my furry-phobia, I think it’s just not the best take to tell a serious story. It’s not to say that strange fantasy things and nudity can’t make a good first impression (I think Sister of Wellbur is a good example of the right first impression you can make, contrary to my feeling of that show), but it has to be used with a lot of care that I’m not sure I’m seeing right now.

How serious is Spice and Wolf going to be, anyways? The whole”moeblob” thing with today’s anime has never been better treated, IMO, than how Sutepri introduces Suppi-kun. I hope they don’t just stick that aspect of “genre norm” into the characters and rend that feeling of “immersiveness,” the distinction that separates great fantasies from forgettable ones.

Science Fiction Anime

You can always fit a mecha in any anime

There are a lot of anime with a sci-fi backdrop. And I mean a lot. Some are silly little things like Aria and Manabi Straight. Some are long and grand like Legend of Galatic Heroes and all those Gundam shows. Some are sort of pandering like Vandread or Gravion. Every once a blue moon we get a mind twister like Serial Experiments Lain or Megazone 23. But more interestingly, we’ve got everything in between as well, as anime in a science fiction setting.

Trying to pin it all down is sort of hard, at first glance, but somehow it feels like they fall into three, non-exclusive, all-encompassing categories:

1. Drama-oriented. I’d squarely put shows like Manabi Straight and Gundam in here. Often times the plot revolves around some sci-fi/fantasy device based on the setting (eg. hijacking a school-wide video podcast or fighting some never-ending war between Earth and the Colonies), but for the most part the viewer can give a damn about them. In other words, these are the same old stuff, but lightly flavored to give us something special and neat. Some other examples would include Utawarerumono or Eva; LoGH is totally a space opera show, for obvious reasons. Tenchi Muyo is a franchise that, for practical purposes, is a Star Wars rip off…and no one cares. We just care who gets to sleep with the guy.

2. Setting-oriented. To be fair, setting here includes also the subject matter for discussion. Feeding the gnome-sized Tom Clancy fan in me, GITS:SAC is a whole lot of fun because of that elaborate geopolitic backdrop in a what-if future that’s all too humorous. It’s what makes Starship Operators so awesome, partly because of the politics but also of its focus on low-tech space warfare. Everyone’s favorite PLANETES does this very well. Last Exile has cute characters and developing personalities, but the steamy setting takes your breath away. Early and late episodes of Evangelion really hones in on this as well.

3. Idea-oriented. Here I’d categorize any show that harps on the idea over the substance of its setting, and the expression of the central idea(s) shadows the character drama. GITS is a bit in this realm, especially if you’re talking about the theatratical films. Serial Experiments Lain seems apt. Bubble Gum Crisis, maybe; but it really relies on the setting as well. Maybe the Eva movies.

Some anime are really strong in all three departments, but I think all sci-fi shows fall into at least one category. Just to practice on a few, something like Haruhi Suzumiya would be sort of setting and drama oriented, even at heart the show revolves around one idea. The plot as a juvenile sci-fi mystery focuses on “what happens” but the viewers are also concerned about “who and who’s” relationship. Eva is in all three categories, but it really focuses on the drama to get its basic ideas across. When it does, the show goes postal. A show like Scrapped Princess is also very similar, structure-wise. It has a simple theme so it didn’t have to beat you over the head. The elaborate setting, like Eva, is to just reel you in. Ergo Proxy, Solty Rei and Kurau all have that fantastic setting to get you started but those shows are just character drama with a sci-fi mystery plot as hook.

I guess I’m just trying to say that all these three things are while present in the genre categorically, they serve very different purposes. Asking for one is not likely to help you satisfy the want of another.

Buyer’s Regret Strikes Back, Too

Maybe watching that expensive brick oft called “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya” volume 1 special edition from Bandai Entertainment USA can put Manabi Straight away for a moment. Oh how ironic that I turn to gnostic pleasures to forget my higher calling…? LOL.

Anyways, this post is sort of a review of that brick that got here. And in short, it is so not worth spending nearly 3x more money on the expensive brick. To put it in perspective, the limited edition episode 00 R2 DVD (volume 1) was 4600 yen, volumes 2-5 were 6600 yen each for the limited edition, and volume 7 LE was 4600 yen. If we exchange 110 yen per dollar, that’s only about 60-70 dollars to match MSRP of $64.98 times 4. Even if volumes 2-4 of the R1 release is $5 less, it makes you wonder if you get what you paid for.

Maybe I’m just slow on the uptake, but when Bandai reneged on the broadcast order thing, either I heard about it and paid it no mind (forgetting I pre-ordered the box), or just entirely forgotten about it. I was even looking forward to that…

Anyways, yea, buyer’s regret. But the main source of it isn’t because the DVD and R1 release was crappy (as it wasn’t–in fact I liked the dub a lot (but still hated Ryoko’s voice though…) and the production was solid). The extras was good and the box was…neat. What I hated about it was its … how should I put it… lame design. There’s no mind paid to how the box art should look, or the purpose of this luxurious box. Hey, it’s got magnets, yay. So I spent an extra $30 on that? It looks like someone went and designed a neat box mechanically and some doof just plastered official images all over it (when some of them I’d fully consider as SPOILERS?) paying no mind of the overall vibe the box gives off. I hate it.

But that’s no compare to what actually is contained inside the box. I never was a big fan of “worthless trinket” like the iron-on or the ribbon, although I’m partial towards the ribbon. Art collections like pencil boards or post cards are more my thing, but even then that just “tickles” my collector’s senses and unless you’re Range Murata you’re not going to see me jump after them. After opening the box I scratch my head, trying to ease that sensation of “I just got sooooo ripped.” It was just sad how, not unexpectedly, this fanboy got played.

To be fair, Bandai did one thing awesomely as far as the packaging: including the CD single AND ALSO RELEASING IT FOR INDIVIDUAL SALE at the same time. I’m so happy about it I bought the Hare Hare Yukai US release separately, because it was cheap and LOL, I’m just happy that this was possible.

Because it totally removes any reason whatsoever to buy those crappy boxes with nothing good in them.

Sigh. I wish more things were released like Scrapped Princess. Now those limited release box sets rocked the house. If you want my otaku dollars, you can’t just bank on the lame-ass collector’s mentality that too many of my peers suffers from. I’m more than ready to buy volume 2 in its simple, DVD-only form.

Popular Science

Schrödinger's Inspiration

Having an undergrad education in physics meant many things. I’ve remember seeing college football players in NCAA majored in the same topic and I wondered if they can not only score hotter girls than I can, but crunch gaussians better and faster.

Jokingly aside, I’ve always been troubled by my natural ineloquence, let alone when attempting to explain to people the fundamentals of particle physics and what little of the standard model that I know. Forget about telling people what the hell chiral symmetry means in application to QCD–I barely remember what it means myself. Having lacking formal education on modern physics made things difficult to some degree. Quantum math notation looks familiar but means little more than gibberish to me.

Well, that’s not the worse part. If you are asking me to explain these things to you, it probably means you are even worse off. Trying to explain the basic idea of M-Theory isn’t out of my reach, when I’m talking to my friend who has a PhD in chemistry. Trying to explain why photons have no mass is a magnitude harder when I’m talking to my sister, who barely passed high school math. Why do I lament? Or bother in the first place? Because theoretical physics is wonderful.

When Makoto Shinkai teased about teleportation of matter off our 3-brane in his wizardry, ivory tower in the trailer for Beyond the Clouds, I was excited. In fact, knowing his shtick it was the only unexpected element in his then-new film that left me curious plot-wise. It’s a terribly uncertain plot device, and for good reasons.

And it was to good effect for those who know. I fear that’s not a large group. However now that I’ve given some thought as far as if some breed of M-theory were to debut in popular fiction, this is possibly the most elegant and mood-matching way to do it. For starters, it is just nigh impossible to even come up with an abstraction that we can visualize. PBS’s series on string theory tried pretty hard and it works for the most part, but that kind of luxury is reserved for documentaries. Even if in reality all that wonderful science served not much more than wallpaper for background scenes, evoking the proper subtext to uphold (at least) my suspension of beliefs was a treat of a lifetime. Or at least I hope as it being the first of many to come.

But to be fair the quantum divide is not new. John Bell‘s entanglement experiment is marvel, and you can read about it even in science fiction books (or catch Noein). One could even consider Rahxephon in such a light. Granted, the show itself didn’t at all evoke the science, but the science fits the show to a tee. From the divide of Tokyo Jupiter to its liberal aural allogories, it all draws from the same spring physicists draws their inspirations.

Einstein did say imagination is more important than knowledge.

I sort of miss the days when science fiction was the predominant form of geek entertainment. It’s not to say the old days were better than the new days, but in our pursuit of the Good Story or Perfect Flair, we can forget that details may warrant our attention in as of itself. Neon Genesis Evangelion is one of such example, and the details were what made its equally compelling drama credible. It is the glue that allowed for a harem with giant robots to be taken seriously. I can say even more about Serial Experiments Lain–some of its fans are fans only of its subject matter. Even a show like Scrapped Princess relies on its careful symphony of pressing the right sci-fi/fantasy buttons in order to take us the whole way through Pacifica’s philosophical dilemma.

It matters.