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9th-May-2011 04:12 pm - Good Anime II
sea
I am told that my Good Anime post was popular in some circles/used as a reference point for people interested in geting into anime. Well, I've watched a lot of anime since then, and I have a lot to say about it, so here is a follow-up post.

I admit I have eclectic tastes in anime. My own (rather puny) collection has a little bit of everything, ranging from Noein (ruminations on death and alternate realities) to Kodocha (funniest fucking anime ever). Moribito is virtually a Japanese history piece, Nana is sex drugs and rock 'n' roll, and Cardcaptor Sakura is a kids' show. So, without further ado, more Good Anime!


Moribito

I'm not a great fan of historical dramas that take place in the times of kings and knights ... or, well, in this case, ninjas; but this excellently animated, vividly imagined, very well written, wonderfully voiced single-season anime (based on the novel of the same name) is the cream of the crop.

I personally get tired of the battle between the good and the evil/weak-willed, so it was especially rewarding to watch a show in which all the main characters have noble, if conflicting, goals and needs, of the life-or-death variety. I like a show where people are realistically weak, but it's refreshing to see a show where people are realistically strong and unyielding, clever and determined, and each in their own ways, admirable.

The wonderful strong female lead (watch in Japanese--her voice is great, tough and no-nonsense) is Balsa, a fearsome spear-wielder in a time of swords and arrows, who is pressed to save the life of the 12-year-old prince Chagum, who turns out not to be spoiled or unpleasant, but profoundly courageous himself. Chagum's life is threatened by none other than his own father, not because he's wicked but because he believes he must to save the kingdom.

In this day and age, it is uncommon to find a show that moves at the pace of an old classic book, with the same sort of aesthetic (one episode is almost entirely artful images of a metal-smith forging a sword as stories are shared), especially one done so well. You can even show this one to the kids! (Really!) And, really, don't ever show most anime to them--just 'cos it's a cartoon don't mean it ain't incredibly disturbing. To wit:


Noein

Only in anime will you find horrifying semi-religious machines from an alternate reality threatening all existence juxtaposed with a touching reconciliation between middle-school girls fighting over a cell phone ornament. Disturbing, hilarious, surreal, real, profound, simple, this show doesn't seem to have hit the spot for many, but it sure did for me.

The theme is death and its meaning in the context of existence, as multiple versions of the same characters encounter each other and war over aspects of our reality. Only the main character, Haruka, remains unchanged in every dimension: brave, whole-hearted, resourceful, genuine, she navigates life, death, and every alternate timeline to save the simple reality she values exactly as it is.

Beautiful/horrifying animation, original concept that goes REALLY deep, a script that never wavers from its purpose, fascinating characters in multiple guises, it's not for everybody, but it is a great show. Absolutely, positively watch in Japanese.


Gunslinger Girls

Also profoundly disturbing but excellent, this is an entry in the growing genre of unlucky humans (in this case, orphaned girls) being experimented on and scientifically "improved" and put to use by the government for military purposes. Why girls? Because the government's targets (usually organized crime bosses--it takes place in Italy) would never suspect someone who looks so sweet and innocent of being so lethal.

You just can't get good tragedy these days--it's fallen out of fashion--but I love a good tragedy, and this one (at but twelve episodes) never pretends to be anything else. (There is a second season, which I hear is much less good.) You are unrelentingly drawn into the stories of each of the girls and their fraught relationships with their (adult, male) "handlers," knowing that in every case, their lives will be short, brutal, and troubled. (The same technology that gives them super strength also limits their lifespans.) The show doesn't flinch from how the experience twists them (and their handlers) emotionally, either. I can't imagine that it would have been easy to maintain such a delicate balance--it could so easily have gotten either way too twisted or way too maudlin, so disturbing it renders the viewer numb or so soft it loses its impact--but somehow this one pulls it off.

I suspect this one is better in Japanese, but I saw it in English, and it was still very good.


Nana

There is much that could keep this one off the list of truly great anime, mainly that it disintegrates a bit as it nears its end and leaves a ton of loose ends for no apparent reason. It also undeniably becomes a bit of a soap opera two-thirds of the way through the entire show (it spans multiple seasons). Still, it stays with you, it has richly drawn characters and an utterly absorbing story, and fantastic original music. If you love a good rock 'n' roll tale, this one's for you.

Two girls, both coincidentally named Nana ("Seven," a number apparently considered to be bad luck in Japan, but in anime you get a lot of people named after the date on which they were born, as in this case), encounter each other by chance on a train, both having abruptly left home to start a new life in Tokyo. One Nana is flighty, silly, infantile, and selfish; the other is a dark and brooding rock singer. An odd couple, they wind up living together and becoming twisted up in each other's life stories as the second Nana's band strives for success. Uncommonly realistic and very romantic, their lives proceed according to their natures, with chance throwing a curve ball now and then. Even the incidental characters are real, and their stories weave in and out of the whole series. It ain't perfect, but it's certainly worth watching.

Make a note: The Japanese dub is far better.


Cardcaptor Sakura

This is an out-of-print classic that never had an English dub (Warner Brothers bought it, chopped it up, and tried to make an American version for kids--as for why I assume they didn't just translate it directly?: lots of the gay). Still, if you can come by a copy, it is well worth watching. More than just a kid's show, it is nevertheless bound to put you in a good mood. Excellent animation, fascinating characters, great voice work, lots of heart, it simply tells a great story, and is freakin' hilarious to boot.

The first season is pretty good, the second season (the surprising and rather wrenching finale of which is carefully led up to throughout both the first and second seasons) is fabulous; be prepared for the third season to be a bit of a let-down. Still, it's nice to follow the situations and characters to their natural ends. Make a note: you will absolutely be disappointed in the final episode if you don't also watch the follow-up movie, which ties up what was artfully but annoyingly left open-ended by the series.


Kodocha (Kodomo No Omocha)

This one didn't sound good to me as described: a middle-school-aged hyperactive TV star? Sounds like it would be someone's contrived fantasy of how awesome it would be to be famous. The show's charm lies in the fact that it's entirely the opposite of a contrived fantasy.

Remember being 12? Okay, now, really remember being 12? It wasn't a bittersweet, adorable coming of age, it was a terrifying, baffling introduction to hormones, child abuse, twisted classmates, and the notion of suicide ... as well as being fun and endlessly exciting, with every day throwing up wild new challenges. Despite its surreal aesthetic, Kodocha is the most realistic depiction of modern life at that age I've ever seen, and somehow, it is also about the funniest show ever.

Definitely watch in English; the Japanese dub is okay, but this is one of the rare cases where the excellent English cast, doubling as directors, producers, and writers (!!), makes more of the raw material than the original. (Other such examples are Solty Rei and Kamichu, both fine shows, but I wouldn't classify them as "great," so they do not go on this list.) Just be forewarned: only the first two of four seasons were licensed in America, so things cut off kind of abruptly. Still, it is WORTH EVERY SECOND.
sea
It's been a while, I know.

It's been a glorious summer--FAR cooler and rainier than any summer in my memory since childhood. A cherry tree is maybe ten feet from my window. I delighted in watching every creature strip the tree of cherries in a couple of weeks--robins, other birds, crows, and one huge fat squirrel shamelessly gorging himself before the cherries were even ripe. The other day a crow dropped a cherry it had in his beak, I think thinking once it was on the ground he could eat it, only he happened to be standing on the roof, so it promptly rolled right off, leaping the gutter, as the crow looked surprised and disappointed.

I sure have been enjoying my BDSM porn--wait, did I say that out loud? I meant "True Blood."

Not a whole lot else going on. We walk to Wal-Mart frequently since I can't drive my car--thank heaven it's there so we can get groceries between times we can borrow Ma and Pa's truck. I know many people might not think frequent trips to Wal-Mart sound fun, and ... well, yeah, Mattie and I keep trying to find better times to go when it's not full of jerks and screaming children, but that's just the way it is with this one. However, we did have a very nice trip there the other night, when everyone was very nice. And it's still an experience. And the walk itself is beautiful. And we found Mattie a hat for $1! And me two sleeveless shirts for $3 each. Nope, nothing to complain about there.
15th-Apr-2009 11:24 am - Twentieth reunion
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Lately I've been getting notices for my 20th high school reunion. I always figured I'd go to my 20th reunion, especially when I didn't go to my 10th, having heard people were more interesting at the 20th, having really figured out what they want to be when they grow up, being more mature, etc. Heck, I figured I'd go to all my reunions--I was still in high school when my brother had his 10th, and when he expressed doubt over whether he should go, I talked him into it.

Now, however, well ... my feeling is that if I had an extra $75 bucks lying around that I felt would be best spent on going to see a bunch of dicks I hated in the first place, then by god I'd be there.

Keep in mind, I had a graduating class of almost 1,000 people, and the people from our class who would actually come to this reunion are bound to be among the many I barely knew by sight, along with maybe a few of the real assholes. I hung out with the freaks and the punks, and they're almost certain not to be there. There are a few people from the classes above and below me I'd like to see, but from my own class? Eh.

Also, you know, if it was a school-sponsored event, I'd think that was cool, but the fact that my high school sold my name and address information to a private company to make money off of people's desire to see what's become of their old classmates, which will be held way off school property (aptly, at a comedy club, though they don't seem to get the irony), only stokes the sense of apathy and indolence.

Still, I have this feeling I might end up there somehow.


So ... do you have any good reunion stories for me?
4th-Jan-2009 05:45 pm - Curiosity
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So ... now that I actually have a little bit of time to breathe from the crazy pace of the holidays, I guess it's time to write a little blog post!

My sister visited over the holidays. A squirrel decided to jump down our chimney and hang out in our fireplace. There is nothing quite like looking through the glass doors of your fireplace and seeing a giant squirrel standing on the grate looking interestedly out at you. There is definitely nothing like having it reject your carefully laid plans A, B, and C and dash all about your house with its sooty paws getting on the white carpet. But I digress ...

One of the things that made this holiday season so crazy paced is that apparently we're going to be moving in about 11 days.

Mattie and I realized we would surely have to move once she got laid off. We could barely afford this place as it was (literally--every month we had just enough to pay for necessities, if that, and we couldn't save at all), and we knew that between the uncertain job market, the economy, and all the usual factors, we could not possibly count on having the same, uninterrupted income we had before, when even that wasn't enough. It would suck more to move if we hadn't already been planning on moving. We haven't been happy here for quite a while. So yeah, moving sucks, but I guess it was inevitable, one way or the other, and maybe this was simply the impetus. I only wish we had better options in what we're moving to ...

The main thing about right now is I have no idea what's coming. Usually I have a feeling, any kind of feeling, but this time it feels all new, like a new era is beginning in my life. Excited might be too strong a word, but I do feel ... curious. Who knows what will come.
16th-Dec-2008 04:17 pm - Good anime I
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Well, apparently it is time once again for my quarterly plea on behalf of anime, as it recently came to my attention that people seem to have a very different image of anime than I ever have. It's not like I'm out there watching Speed Racer and Pokemon.

There is a ton of crap anime. A TON. I have been extremely fortunate in that the person who introduced me to anime has screened every one of the shows we watch ahead of time and culled the crap; thus, I have seen only the good stuff. I have, however, recently seen ads for bad shows (we always check out the previews for other shows when we pop in a new disk), and I am becoming aware of the large stinking pile of awfulness that lurks out there to torment the unsuspecting viewer. Thus, I seek to provide you with the same kind of benefit I have had, and give you a list of only recommended anime, which I have already seen all of, and which I think virtually all of you would enjoy.

Yes, there will be giant robots, but you'll get used to it ....


Cowboy Bebop (the series)

It is my opinion that if Cowboy Bebop had been the first anime everyone saw, as it was mine, everyone would love anime. It's cool, sexy, sometimes funny, and modern, with good animation, good voice work, and a GREAT soundtrack, with all different genres of great music, some of the pieces familiar, some not so much. I.e., it has EVERYTHING.

The Dealio: If Han Solo never met Luke and Leia and all the good guys in the rebellion, if every person in the show was an antihero and a mercenary, and if it were a lot rougher and edgier than Star Wars ever got, this might be what came out of it. I wouldn't say its vision of the future is dystopic, but it ain't pretty.

Giant Robots: Incidental, although their rickety old ship, the "Bebop," could count as a major character.

Other Notes: It's dark and gloomy, and it doesn't have a happy ending ... but in a good way. It takes a little while to get going--give it a couple of disks. Actually, that holds true for a lot of them.

Marriage-obsessed cat ballet instructors ...Collapse )
21st-Oct-2008 04:50 pm - Halloween egg nog is EEEVIL all right
sea
I was so excited to see "Halloween egg nog" at the store (jack-o-lanterns all over the container and everything) that I just bought it, not realizing until I got it home that it has high fructose corn syrup (i.e. PURE EVIL!) in it. So, I'm still drinking it ... and getting a headache ... but I think it's worth it.

Man, it was so fun reading you guys' responses on romance. It's not something I ever thought about specifically before, only knowing I loathed the ads aimed at people who apparently think diamonds and flowers and chocolates are the only acceptable ways of being romantic (and that February 14th and certain other dates are dates when it's supposed to be required). When I tried to think about what I would truly find romantic, I realized it would be something, however small, that showed a fella had paid attention to things I said I liked, and provided them now and then without being asked. It seems like you all feel similarly.

And now, because you might have missed it, and even if you didn't you were probably--like me--laughing so hard you missed a lot of the lyrics, here is the rap Amy Poehler did very well and gangstery for Sarah Palin on the last episode of Saturday Night Live. It's not flattering, though Palin didn't seem to be aware of this. shoot a muthafuckin' moose eight days of the weekCollapse )
20th-Oct-2008 03:52 pm - "Your romance"
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Here's a question I've been thinking about a lot lately, and I wanted to get the thoughts of all you fine folks:

What does romance mean to you? What's the most romantic thing anyone's ever done for you, or that you wish they'd done?
12th-Sep-2008 01:00 pm - PSA: I insist you be entertained
sea
I often hear people say something to the tune of, "I'm not interested in anime." This only confuses me. You don't like ... art? Drama? Moving pictures? Original ideas?

Once upon a time, I wasn't interested in anime, either, but that's because I hadn't even watched any. After seeing the light thanks to a good friend who has great taste and who loves the stuff, I'm here to say, it's worth giving a try.

There seems to be some idea that anything animated is kids' stuff, yet who hasn't seen the Simpsons or South Park or Family Guy? And we know well (hopefully) that most of that's not for kids. The vast majority of anime is even less for kids that all that stuff. In fact, some of you porn-lovers out there would find much to love, as would those of you who loathe anything of the sort; there are as many different shows and kinds of anime as there are kinds of people, and there's something to please us all.

Much anime has come a long way from the Transformers and Pokemon, in terms of concept, art, script, and production values, and a lot of it is available for rent from Netflix.

Granted, there is a ton of crap anime out there, but then, there's a ton of crap everything. As always, you must separate the wheat from the chaff.

The most original ideas out there are happening in anime. There's a lot of great stuff happening in television in general, especially cable productions (I'm thinking the new Battlestar Galactica, all the wonderful HBO shows from Sex and the City to Entourage, etc.), but if you're looking for original, mind-bending ideas (as I always am), forget sci-fi/fantasy novels, which as far as I can tell have been rehashing the same old concepts for twenty years, and have a look at some anime.

Go on. Watch some cartoons.
20th-Jul-2005 11:29 pm - I hate when this kind of crap happens
sea
So, late this afternoon, I was sitting in my room in the air conditioning (we broke the heat record that had been held for well over a century today, at 105 degrees).

I heard the frantic squeal of brakes outside my window--bad enough that I thought, "That sounds like pre-crash braking." Then I heard the crash. RIGHT outside my window.

I sprang up and looked out. I almost couldn't comprehend the scene before me: There was a car on the sidewalk right in front of my house, maybe 20-25 feet away from where I was in my bedroom.

This wouldn't be quite so strange except that 1) I wouldn't think there was even enough room for a car to be on the sidewalk in front of my house, since our lawn slopes steeply right down to the sidewalk with about a five-foot-tall hill a car could never drive around on. 2) It can't possibly have been partway on the street, because on its other side was the large SUV owned by our downstairs neighbor parked on the street. And, 3) IT WAS MOVING.

As I watched, this strange car quickly drove down the narrow strip of sidewalk, continuing (as I later found out) immediately right from where it had impacted without shifting into reverse or anything, and out to the street between my car and said neighbor's. There was a gap not quite one car's length there.

I watched, horrified. I was certain that anyone high/drunk enough to crash at high speed in broad daylight AND KEEP GOING was going to cream my car.

Oddly, and amazingly, it proceeded right between the cars without touching either of them, and raced on down the street.

Yeah.

The whole episode must have taken fewer than fifteen seconds, beginning to end.

Mattie and I went out to look. Astonishingly, none of our cars were damaged, including our downstairs neighbor's. A woman who lately has been living next door came out and asked if we were the neighbors, and explained what happened. She had been about to turn into her driveway; he had been behind her and apparently didn't see her slow down, and he slammed on his brakes and swerved around her. She too seemed bemused by his quick getaway. She thought he had clipped her car, but she wasn't sure; there was little or no damage.

We compared notes, walked around the scene, and finally saw what he had hit: a low cement wall on the property line between our two properties (that holds up the dirt from the steep slope where they've planted bushes on the line). In addition to the parking light plastic in white and orange we'd already found, now we saw a big smear of paint from his car on this wall.

I guess he managed to avoid hitting any people or cars, smashed into the wall, for some reason really didn't want to talk to the police, and just kept on a-going. In a way, I have to say I'm impressed. I mean, who thinks this fast??

Anyway, I'm still really freaked out.
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