Currently Watching

Here's where I'll collect my thoughts on this season, if for no other reason that to do it.

Mezzo This is an oldie, and the dub was done by my favorite studio ADV. They are my favorite studio because their dub building is called Industrial Smoke and Mirrors (Fuck You George Lucas), and they did BGC: 2040.

Mezzo is weird in a way that is light hearted and enjoyable so far. The characters are interesting and I want to see them develop. The weakest point, however, is the clearly meagre animation budget. Episode 3 featured 5 full minutes of one scene repeating itself, which was unintentionally comedic but also a painfully obvious way to save cash. I'll likely finish it, get a few laughs, and wish that they had been given enough money to draw it properly.

Eve no Jikan It's been reviewed in a few places, and always in glowing terms, for very good reasons. The stories are short but there is no time wasted - at 15 minutes each vignette tells as much as most other shows do with 45. It works because they're told expertly, with the kind of polish and attention to detail that demands repeat viewings. The writers and animators all have my undying respect, but I do wish they would hurry the fuck up and release the rest of the show. At six short episodes there's no reason to space their release out over basically a whole year, and this might end up being my only criticism - there just isn't enough of it.

Soul Eater I want to write a little blurb about how terribly disappointing this show was. The first season followed the manga almost flawlessly, and as a result the show was witty, entertaining, and visually and auditorily unique. However, about the time the story broke off from the manga, the manga started getting incredibly stupid (gotcha!) while the show also started getting incredibly stupid. The past 15 episodes have felt like they were written by amateurs, under deadline, who had no organic understanding of the story or characters or world they were manipulating, but merely wanted to bring it to an end. And the end was utter shit. I had such high hopes, and boy did they come crashing down.

Eden of the East [gg] subbed the first episode, have said they won't be doing the rest of the series, and trolled very well by putting karoke over the OP which is entirely in understandable English, but ignoring the ED which is entirely in Japanese. WELL PLAYED MA'AM AND OR SIRS. Whoever ends up subbing it, I really really hope they do it well. The OP is mesmerizing and sets a very high bar for the show to live up to, there are elements of real mystery, teenage hijinks, and gleeful pop culture referencing. The creators took the time (at least in the pilot) to have American characters speaking American english, to the point where I think they actually fulfilled one of my long-standing fantasies of hiring Americans to do the voices.

Which scares me a bit, because again my hopes have been built up. HOWEVER if they maintain this level of quality this could easily become my favorite of the season.

EDIT: Holy shit I totally didn't recognise Oasis as the OP song, since I hadn't listened to their new album yet. Suffice it to say I think it's a brilliant move, and I hope other shows continue to do this (license good rock songs). The only other one I'm aware of is The Delgados who did the song used in the Gunslinger Girls OP. I think this one should be next.

Also if you pay attention to the series of pictures in the intro, you'll notice pictures of the NY skyline, both with the pillars of light that served as memorial after 9/11, and with the new tower that's proposed but hasn't been built yet. This is some sort of mind trip, and I want to see where they go with this.

Tears to Tiara Dropped after the first garbage episode. In case it wasn't clear, this is garbage. Painfully generic characters, painfully generic setting, painfully obvious and not even partially disguised references to standard western Arthurian lore, painfully stupid bad guy and even more painfully boring good guy. Oh, did I mention the princess / priestess who's going to be sacrificed to a demon unless her hero / prince / knight can somehow save her???

K-ON! Very strong opinions on this one from the blogs I read, either love it or hate it. I can see this going either way, if it treats the music as reverentially as BECK then I'll enjoy it fine, if it ignores the music in favor of rote teenage highschool tomfoolery I'll dump it. At that point they would basically need a Haruhi ep. 12 to redeem it in any way in my eyes.

Sengoku BASARA Only one episode in so far, but it could be promising. The animation is top notch, and it's over-the-top enough to be entertaining without being too grating. I will give it a chance, could fall under the category of RAPE or FABULOUS very easily.

I think that's it for now.


The Best Comments Page Ever

On Slashdot. To see EVE, James Bond, Cthulhu and Code Geass references living next to each other was fucking hilarious. I just had to preserve it somewhere, I don't know how long that link will live.


Xamd of the Lost Plot Devices

So I'm trying really hard to figure out why this series bugs me, and writing always helps with that. Let's start with the basics.

BONES makes some damn fine looking shows. RahXephon, which was pretty but aped Eva in too many obvious ways, Eureka Seven, why are Japanese people so hung up on Instrumentality oh right they hate their lives, Darker Than Black, the best Evil Eye character ever drawn, and Soul Eater, who else would make the Grim Reaper the hero of the show?

Bounen no Xamdou is also damn fine looking. The framerate, background detail, character designs, voice acting, all of it feels fresh and wonderful. It is also possessing of perhaps the best combination of OP and ED themes ever put into a single show, and it's the only time I can think of that I've regularly sat through both of them during every single episode, and also downloaded and listened to them on their own.

The problem is that it doesn't exist in a vacuum. As with all anime, there are so many elements of the show that are borrowed from the shows that came before it that I find myself comparing them involuntarily. Misfit crew of renegade airship? Check. Boy-transforms-into-fighting-machine-and-might-just-save-the-world? Check. Love triangle with hot high school sweetheart and jealous best friend who'll never get any? Check. Rogue military commander pursuing research into superhumans/weapons in order to win a war? Check. There's even a bevy of, bless their hearts, white haired red-eyed special religious children who go around the world seeding plot devices by blowing up public transportation. Oh, and the matronly elder woman who is somehow behind everything, manipulating people from the comfort of a stone hideout with lots of fountains.

What I can't forgive is how routine all of it feels. Everyone is going through the motions of telling a story that we've heard a hundred times before, and will hear a hundred times again. It's just like the saying in Battlestar Galactica, except we're not dealing with the rise and fall of civilizations, but merely the inability of anime producers to apply the same degree of creativity to their stories as they do to their visual designs. How long has it been since we saw an alternate universe where things were truly different, instead of just having differently shaped doors and goofy pants? There's not a single original idea in BnX that's lying underneath all that pretty paint. I have no idea what it's trying to portray, if it's not a) the folly of man reaching for power and b) the determination of a young man to find or possibly fight his destiny.

The reasons I will continue to watch it are the aforementioned OP/EDs, and a few characters that I find amusing. Akushiba needs more excuses to run fast, and he's got more personality than anyone else on that ship. Any scene with him in it is automatically more interesting than whatever came before. I do feel for Haru, she's one of the few anime heroines who is completely honest and open with her feelings from the start, and doesn't hesitate to act on them. This is refreshing, though I harbour serious doubts about her getting a good ending.

On a related note, this series has also made me realize that, being so jaded and cynical regarding the originality of anime storytelling, the thing I'm most consistently impressed by in any series is it's ability to kill off main characters and have them stay dead. Ga-Rei Zero kills a lot of people and so far that's what's made an otherwise routine magical demon fighting corps show bearable. Mai HiME killed a lot of people (before the SUNRISE LOL RESET) and that made it pretty fucking hardcore. But it saddens me that this is now the best way to surprise a veteran viewer. It doesn't help that while I was writing this I also read this review of The Sky Crawlers, which is clearly pretty contemptuous of these same trends in anime.

I think that's it.


Feeling rather savage

The third week of this infernal goddamned Joint Pain is closing, and despite my efforts at relaxing, stretching, and generally being crippled I actually feel worse overall. It is disgusting and I'm starting to wonder if they've perfected bionic arm replacements. I would gladly trade these useless skinny broken apendages for something that works.

It is 3:40 PM on a Friday, I am twenty minutes away from leaving work and my cube neighbor has finally started the Music War. We displayed remarkable restraint through this rotten day, even after the awful fat ape who works in the corner yelled out "I guess no one likes... THIS SONG." and cranked some two-minute honkey tonk number that I instantly forgot. But I guess it was too much to expect, in the end, for this man to restrain his remarkable compulsion to share Lite Jazz Hits with the entire office. It is - in his mind - a Sacred Right and Duty, and it is sanctified in the eyes of Jesus and also the President, who this man places on the same weird altar.

Well I'm not the type to tolerate that hoodoo garbage, so I crank up the classic Pumpkins and swamp the endless covers of 90s adult contemporary hits. There is not much else to do on a gray day in Pittsburgh, after all, except to lay ice on every joint on my arms and hands when I get home. The Shock Treatment - who knows? Maybe that's what I really need, just screw it on until everything goes numb. What I really want is to spend a week in the Rehab wing of a hospital, professional massage and hot tub therapies, no work and no distractions. With my luck I would end up assigned to the Large German Nurse, who would take some measure of twisted pleasure every time I squeaked in agony at her ministrations, but I would not care. Any movement is better than being stuck and helpless.

Allright, that's all for now. The hour has come and I will leave this place with a heart full of malice, which feels good in small doses. Shit, it also feels good to write, except when you have the arthritis of a 100 year-old man. Ah well.


Bromide Meter

This is a draft proposal for the Seamus O'drunky Anime Cliche Rating system. The idea is to measure the degree to which an anime series adheres to common stereotypes, and thus provide a specific way to determine their quality / watchability. The fewer the points, the more original the series.

Takes place at / main characters attend a High School
Involves Giant Robots
- Robots are humanoid
Involves Magic
Involves Cybernetics (specifically, neural machine interfacing)
Begins on land and concludes in space

Male lead is romantically desired by at least two females
(Add one point for each scene where females fight each other over lead)
- Lead displays little interest in or actively attempts to repel females
- Lead develops feelings for female who displays little interest in or actively attempts to repel him

Male lead possesses unique ability
- Allows piloting of Giant Robot
- Required to save mankind

Female lead / supporting role enjoys cooking
- Starts with no cooking skill (add bonus point for awkward first tasting scene)
- Wishes to improve cooking skill in order to please male lead

Female lead is a combat expert (one point for each weapon specialization)
- Lives in constant danger yet wears tight revealing clothing
- Has implausibly sized breasts

- Put female characters in compromising position

Humanity in danger of extinction
- Threatening entity is one superconsciousness
- Humanity "trapped" in cage / underground / otherwise restricted

Ancient / Alien device discovered
- Lead character is only one who can control it

Power Battle
- Between lead and main antagonist (one point each time they fight)
- Lead is saved from death at last second (bonus point if saved by female lead)
- Fighting Spirit allows lead to win final battle

Alien / Magical Emissary
- JUST SO HAPPENS to take the form of an attractive human female
- Blank slate - must learn human norms / behaviours
- Returns to original race / form
- Fights with lead characters until remembers time spent as a human

Reset Butan
- "I wish we could go back to the way things were" said at some point
- Things actually go back to the way they were

That's what I have so far. Let's apply this to two shows, the older Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040, and the newer Solty Rei

BGC 2040
Setting (3) Does involve giant robots, however they are generally not humanoid. Person sized robots feature prominently, and Cybernetics is also a key plot device. Story begins in Megatokyo, and reaches it's conclusion in space.

Character (5) Females lead the series, and while they are not combat experts with normal weaponry they each use cybernetics to fight. Only one case of genuinely unreasonable breasts. Clothing is surprisingly pedestrian.

Plot (7) Humanity threatened by superconsciousness. Only one real "Power Battle," which is won through force of will. Avatar of superconsciousness based on a lead character, who JUST SO HAPPENS to be an attractive female.

Overall (14) Despite relying on some very old ideas to form the core plot, BGC 2040 happily avoids most of the stereotypes we associate with scifi thrillers that explore the "line between man and machine." Thanks to realistic and well paced character development and good (for the time) production values, it's one of the few series that I watched then immediately decided to own.

Solty Rei
Setting (3) Again, involves giant robots, but not prominently and not in humanoid form. Cybernetics again heavily involved in plot. Begins in an unnamed city and ends in space.

Character (6) Female lead wants badly to cook to please male lead. At least one awkward tasting scene. Lives in constant danger, but does not wear oddly revealing clothing. Male lead refreshingly normal and flawed.

Plot (12) Humanity lives in one city beneath an impenetrable aurora. Existence later threatened by ancient computer. Lead is an emissary for this computer and JUST SO HAPPENS to be a fit attractive female. Major reset butan pushed.

Overall (21) Solty Rei thrilled and disappointed me in turns. It did a few things that were bold and fun to watch, that tugged at the ol' heartstrings and exposed some genuine human emotion. But then it reset a great deal of what had taken place, which always leaves me feeling cheated. Male lead is pretty powerless, actually, however this bumps up the number of times he has to be saved at the last second by the female lead. I enjoyed watching it, and some of the english voice acting is top notch, but I won't be adding it to my library.

Edit: I can't believe I forgot about tentacles. Noob.


The Fountain

Evidently wrecked my friends and roommates when they viewed it. I came away largely unscathed, and it took me a while to puzzle out a possible reason for this. Simply put, I've faced that kind of loss before. And when your loved on is lying in a white bed surrounded by tubes and beeps and every time you leave their room you turn around because this time might be the last time you see them alive at all, you learn how to accept it. Hence our hero's journey. I've followed his path before, but not over the brink. My loved one survived on 1:10 odds.

But the time comes, when everything that can be done has been done, and you just have to accept whatever happens.



is finally working for me, so I've got a plan for cruisers, engineering basics to 4, and a few gunnery/missile support skills. With the learning (which I'm knocking out now, as it takes me no time at all) it will all be done in about 11 days, which fits neatly inside my 12 remaining days on this account.

Derek Facepunch

is the n00b character I made in EVE so that I could better acquaint myself with the trials and tribulations of new players in re: fitting ships, optimising skill training, etc. It has been informative already, as my ship does not have enough CPU left to fit the two PDS I want. Nor the skills to do so, at least not yet. This is my starting info:

Brutor Slave Child, Military Career, Special Forces specialisation.

In order to kill some time with long skill training while I'm away, it's to be the Learning skills I already have, and the basic Engineering / Electronics / Mechanic. The frigate, gunnery, and nav skills are all sufficient for now. First order of business has been to train Energy Grid Upgrades to at least 2 so that I can fit those PDS and a small shield booster on my Breacher, the Mississippi Queen. Since EVE Mon is not working at the moment, I'll have to wing it in terms of what to keep training, but I think a few more missile and sensor skills should round out the Breacher for now, so I can start spending time on the lvl 1 missions that are available to me.

Ruri has also been kind enough to donate some starting isk, and a few ships that I'll be using later on. My ultimate goal is to see how far along a set path one can get in the two week trial period. It's oddly tempting to spend some good grind time with Ruri to get the cash so I can keep Derek in space without having to pay real-world dollars. We'll see.