Friday, December 31, 2004

Happy "Noir" Year!

Subject: Noir
Like I said, I'm marathoning Noir to close out 2004 and ring in 2005.

This show had such a huge impact on me, mentally and emotionally, that I can't think of anything more appropriate to do on this occasion.

And, of course, it's proving to me once again that it's far and above any other anime out there, at least to me. Even with it's technical imperfections, the show is still, undeniably, perfect. And I've missed it so much.

Last night I finished rewatching Madlax as well. And like I've said before while it was still airing, it's a "juggernaught of awesomeness". And Noir is still better. While trying to leave these two alone for a while and try and sample other shows, I'd lost a little bit of the perspective I had. Coming back to them only proves that what drew me in was for real, not some novelty or illusion.

2005 will bring me a number of decisions to make. Short-term, they'll be simple things like what color tile for the bathroom and what light fixtures for the kitchen, but more substantially, it will be "what do I want to do when I grow up?" Noir has reawakened the deeply buried "real me" that once studied to be an animator and filmmaker. It has me questioning my values and my motivations of these past few years of corporate money-mongering and politicking.

And it has me yearning for the day that I can feel confident in abandoning the comfort of a steady income and plunge into the uncertainty of the pursuit of a creative calling; the creative calling I abandoned so many years ago.

It's hard to give up the security and steadiness of a stable career though. The purchasing power; the ability to buy whatever shiny technological toy or DVD box set I want, whenever I want, is quite an alluring state to be in. Is it any more than a consumerist trap, though? Is it a total sell-out of my soul? I don't know.

Anyway, enough wallowing in this pool of self-doubt and reflection. I still have many hours of Noir to delight in, and for the moment, that's worth everything to me!

A happy New Year to all of you, and may you have luck and peace throughout.

HD Noir for 2005

Subject: Noir

OMG!!!



"Noir [...] to be Released in Windows Media High Definition Video and 5.1 DTS Surround Sound Audio"



...but...

The HD will be Windows Media... Which is kind of lame. And the DTS soundtrack is for the accompanying standard-def DVD that will be packaged with it; DTS doesn't work with WMV.

I'd like to find out if the DVDs are going to have the video re-encoded to eliminate all of the bad flags, and maybe clean it up a tad. If so, then it's a no-brainer for me. I have the gear to play the WMV just fine, but I really prefer the sound output from my Denon 3910.

And if it weren't for the way Microsoft has locked the WMV format, I would be able to encode my own "perfect" DVD using the hi-res source. Oh well.

I should really just wait for the real HD format to be decided upon and buy it then. But if not for early adopters like me, would companies like ADV even take a chance again if this "experiment" flops? Dunno.

Well, I'm sure I have time to decide one way or the other!

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Psych-O-Babble

Subject: Noir
I watched a couple more of my GreenCine rentals last night. First up was disc 1 of "Paranoia Agent". Right from the opening animation, you can tell that it's going to be a quirky one. There are various shots of the assorted characters drawn just standing there, but their heads and mouths moving up & down like they are chuckling -- or at least like some sort of loony set of bobblehead dolls.

The stories intertwine around the characters as they are assaulted by a kid on skates roaming around and smacking folks upside the head with a baseball bat. The character style and the humorous, cartoony tone is just a mask for the sinister edge of it's psychological underpinnings. Lots of detail, and pretty interesting overall, so I'm looking forward to the next disc's release so I can rent that as well.

And speaking of psychological dramas, I also saw the movie "Perfect Blue". This one is the story of young pop star who makes the transistion to becoming an actress, and it tracks her mental state as she slowly sells-out her "pure & innocent" image for something more risque. A well-done story with a very convincing attention to detail and very good performances.

One strike against the disc, though, is that instead of being anamorphic widescreen, it was letterboxed inside a 4:3 image. Which for me means a small window inside the middle 2/3rds of my screen. And because the subtitles were mostly in that letterboxed area, I couldn't just zoom it in. Argh! I hate that! Luckily I was drawn into the story enough to get over it.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Almost back!!

Subject: Noir
So I'm physically back in my abode on the shore of Lake Ontario, but I've got a backlog of messages and email to slog through that will take me through Tuesday, I'm sure. But in the meantime, I figured I'd post an update!

Christmas day I had the misfortune of a back spasm. Think of a charlie-horse, but in your middle-lower back. It was probably a combination of driving a car for 6 hours, and the "guest" mattress that I was sleeping on, but irregardless, I was mostly immobile for the day. And on TechTV was a marathon of "Last Exile".

So I watched all of 'em. All 26 episodes.

My brain hurts.

(Okay, that's due to all the damn commercials, not because of the show! Well, not entirely because of the show)

Of course, my parents think I'm nuts (and they're worried that their mattress is at fault for my immobilatization and that I'll be less inclined to visit if all I do is experience pain whenever I'm there. Heh.)

Well, all that said, "Last Exile" was entertaining. Like I mentioned before, while it's aimed at a younger audience, it doesn't fall into a lot of the usual immature trappings that most anime does. And the style is pretty cool; kind of a 19th century Russian/Prussian military sort of thing vs. pasty-white androdgyinous sci-fi jerks. It's not high-art or anything, but it's worth watching.

And for more anime, just now on my return, there were the last 3 episodes of Hellsing waiting for me. Okay, it was a totally inconclusive we-can-easily-make-a-sequel-if-we-want-one kind of ending, but I think overall, the series gets a rating of "cool". Again, not too deep, but there are still a couple of layers to it, and the characters are intersting.

Finally, my brother sure enough returned my Noir discs to me as promised, and I'm itching to see "my girls" again. I'll be marathoning them soon. And probably "Madlax". And I've built up a bunch of "Carnivale" episodes on the DVR (no, "Carnivale" is not an anime you haven't heard of; it's a series on HBO that I'll get into later).

So, I'll have more to report, even if some of it is a bit, uh, repetitive from some of my earlier posts...

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Generic Winter Solstice Festival Greetings!

Subject: Soapbox
There seems to be some sort of flap about coming from Rupert Murdoch's media empire that "Christmas is under attack" from "secularist elements" who want to "wipe religion from our culture".

Great, another f*ing culture war, this soon after the election.

This individual "secularist element" really doesn't care what religion you are, what god or gods you worship, or what holidays you celebrate. I just don't want the government mandating one or the other. I appreciate the day off, sure! And I'll be celebrating low-key with my family, and enjoy the usual traditional trappings that come with the season (and are ironically derived from pagan European pratices).

For all of you who think I'm out to get you or that you're some sort of victim in all this because you want to put the Christ back in Christmas, I have two recommendations: 1) Read a little bit of history, particularly the bits about how the Founders of this country banned any sort of celebration on Christmas and demanded it should be a day of solemn prayer; and 2) Take a look at the consumerist exploitation of the season and particularly the consumerist exploitation done by the very same media outlets that are telling you that you should be outraged by all this!

And on that note, I'm outta here for a few days! You can look forward to my reporting on Yet Another Noir Marathon, and lots of movie watching, while I try to get it all out of the way before construction starts on my house in the New Year.

Merry Christmas, all!!! :)

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

"Miami Guns" volume 1

Subject: Noir
A quickie that showed up from GreenCine yesterday...

"Miami Guns" has two women cops and their riff-raff squad encountering all sorts of madcap hijinks... blah blah blah... Well, you can tell by the premise that it's probably a comedy. And it turns out it's not just comedy, but outright parody. A parody of just about everything imaginable.

Which I think was a bit of it's weakness -- it's darting around from in-joke to in-joke so fast that an anime newbie like me tends to miss the point. That's not to say it wasn't at all funny; it elicited many a chuckle from me. And there are plenty of bits that parody movies or TV instead of just anime. It's pretty well animated overall.

So overall, a bit of popcorn comedy to lighten things up, and worth keeping in the rental queue for casual viewing, but it's nothing I'll go out of my way for. The closest approximation would be "Gunsmith Cats", but I liked that a whole lot better (and bought it in my last round of purchasing).

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

"La Dolce Vita"

Subject: Cinema
I know it's kind of weird that I traipse about the internet using the moniker "Fellini 8.5" and Mr. Fellini's likeness as my avatar, but the Fellini representation in my video collection is rather meager.

Fellini's "8 1/2" is my favorite film, as I mentioned very early on as one of the first posts on this site. Next would be every Kurosawa film tied for 2nd.

I'm not sure where to rank "La Dolce Vita" yet.

It's one of the great classics of foreign cinema, of course. I had seen it once a long time ago, probably on cable TV. I watched the newly remastered DVD last night, and it was excellent all around.

But it was so very long! It clocks in around 3 hours. And you feel it. Seeing as I've got the last "Lord of the Rings" extended edition on it's way, and that I'll sit for 3 times that for a round of "Noir", you'd think it wouldn't have bothered me so much.

I may have just been feeling a little impatient. There are some outstanding moments in this film where I really connected with Mastroianni's character, and where the situation he was in readily paralleled the crossroads that I'm encountering.

(Of course, I wish I had his "babe-magnet" issues...)

But for every scene that drew me in, there was another scene that pretty much lost me; not so much that it was over my head or totally incomprehensible, but that my mind wandered off to other things and it didn't hold my attention anymore. And by the end, the ebb and flow (and late hour) kind of wore me out.

That all said, I'm obviously going to rewatch this, and probably rewatch it many more times. There's a lot of layers to uncover and explore, and I may just find the right one that will carry me through all 3 hours intact.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

An "Old Skool" moment

Subject: Noir
Way, way back at the beginning of this blog, I wrote a short (*ahem*) post that tried to justify my spiral into obsessiveness, and tracked my overall history of watching Japanese cartoons.

One of the shows that softened me up for any influence the medium eventually had on me was "RoboTech", that edited/dubbed juggernaut derived from a couple of different original Japanese "Macross" series. The first couple of episodes of this have shown up on The Anime Network's On-Demand channel (which I've pretty much not bothered with because all the shows I sampled on there have been either boring or annoying). Anyway, revisiting the whole Rick-Lisa-Minme soap opera, and finding that I still remember the theme music after about 18 years has been quite a trip. I'm not entirely sure I'm going to continue re-watching it much more than for the nostalgia value, but I'll probably enjoy it on that level at least.

The big event that show softened me up for, of course, was that crappy 4th generation videotape of "Akira". Projected on an auditorium wall with a lousy, distorted mono speaker. And that completely floored me. Last night, many years later, I watched the "DTS Edition", which I picked up in the last DDD sale.

Daaaammmmmmmmnnnnn!

Outstanding picture quality, and even better, the soundtrack was phenomenal! And just watching all the various details and how the characters were designed and animated, in comparison to everything I've been watching lately, was really enjoyable. I'd say a lot of the modern stuff has a lot more technical sophistication, but Akira was packed with "life". And that's not to say that for the time it wasn't sophisticated, it sure was, but thanks to that movie, a lot of techniques it used are taken for granted. That's not a bad thing. But imagine them being used to the level that Akira did then...

Oh, wait, you don't have to imagine it for much longer...

F* yeah!

Saturday, December 18, 2004

The usual "watching" update

Subject: Noir
A few of the odds 'n ends that have been at the top of my GreenCine queue for a while have shaken loose, so I've gotten to sample few new-to-me shows again.

"RaXephon" -- Okay, is it me, or is this some sort of cheap "Evangelion" rip-off? Heh. Well, "cheap" isn't entirely fair. It definitely reminds me of the animation/art quality of "Kaze no Yojimbo", which I panned for it's mediocre quality earlier. But where I guess it differentiates itself from "Kaze no Yojimbo" is that it was a tad more interesting. It moved along a little better. It also had a really good attention to detail, which made it easier to engage the "suspension of disbelief" state of my brain and get a little more involved in it. That said, it's still a cheap "Evangelion" rip-off. I'll probably hold off on continuing it until I actually finish the real "Evangelion", which at the rate the Platinum discs are coming out, will be a while.

"Chrono Crusade" -- 1920s nuns fighting demons (with a demon sidekick). Chock full of the usual cliche facial expressions and reactions. But it was actually amusing enough to not be irritating. Not completely immature, though still a bit silly. I'm not going to put the rest of the series too high in my rental queue just yet because there's a lot more I want to either try or finish first. But it makes for interesting casual watching, and if it showed up on TV (it may have come and gone for all I know), I'd probably program the DVR for it and keep up with it.

And speaking of what's programmed on the DVR, I've tried a couple of episodes of "Last Exile", airing on G4TechTV. Unfortunately, the way the guide lists their anime block, I can only get the damn thing to record 1 of the 2 episodes each night, so the two that I've seen had a gap. And it's already somewhere in the middle, so I'm a bit lost. It's another one of those "steampunk" type of post-Victorian designs that seem to be pretty common lately, and it's kind of interesting. The dub isn't horrendous, and the animation and action are pretty good. If I can work out the recording difficulties, I might be able to actually follow what's going on.

I mentioned that I've been recording "Wolf's Rain" and "Witch Hunter Robin" as well. "Wolf's Rain" seems to be quite a few episodes along, so I don't have all the backstory -- though it's not too hard to figure out. The dub's kind of so-so, and I'm not really finding it all that compelling, so I'm probably not going to keep up with it. "Witch Hunter Robin" is a little better. I think I lucked out and caught it from the beginning. Though it keeps talking about a big event that happened recently, the way they flash back to it and are exposing the connections to it, I'm pretty sure it's just the usual Japanese style of starting in the middle of the story, and working through the narrative in both directions at the same time. Anyway, it's worth keeping up with.

Finally, a status on "Hellsing". I'm finding myself looking forward to Saturday mornings so I can fire up the previous night's recording of the latest block. It's an interesting show. It's got a "cool" vibe to it, and it's a bit of fun. If it keeps up the momentum in the "interesting" department, it may wind up being a purchase-worthy show.

One last bit to leave on, it looks like another group has started up the 1st season of "Popolocrois Story". For those that don't remember, it is very possibly the first series done by Koichi Mashimo under the "Bee Train" banner. It's a kid's show with all the childish trappings like cutesy music and whatnot, but it really is something rather neat and different.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Who's directing who?

Subject: Noir
I mentioned before that the director of "Master Keaton" is currently directing "Monster". And I'll say it again, even though I'm not anxiously drooling over every release, I really think "Monster" is excellent. I just caught up to episode 33 after letting it slip a little, and he's really kicked the creepiness up a notch.

Not that I'm particularly a fan of creepy-for-creepy's-sake, but it adds a nice edge to what is quite a literary story. Literary in that it revels in the little side-eddies and subcurrents off of the main arc. The different characters that come and go and stay for a while, or dissappear for a while then return, or are just there for a bit never to be seen again; all of them have a little something extra to them. There are some who think it meanders too much with side-stories and "fluff", but they're really missing the point, I think.

Maybe they just haven't been reading enough literature.

And speaking of discovering one director directing something else, I just learned that the director of "Kino's Journey", Ryutaro Nakamura, also directed "Lain". I was quite surprised! Actually, looking at that ANN entry, he individually directed some of those episodes, and was the overall series director. I haven't heard of any of the others before. (Though the word "sakura" keeps showing up in various series; doesn't that mean "demon" or something? I should go find my J-to-E dictionary...)

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Meine Liebe Episode 5

Subject: Noir
Is out!! Go, go, go!!

Monday, December 13, 2004

Episode 5 impending...

Subject: Noir
According to Shi-Fa's forum, there is a good chance that it will be released in the next 24 hours, so keep your eyes peeled!

Sunday, December 12, 2004

New Shi-Fa tracker

Subject: Noir
Clem's asking for help seeding; if you've got anything on that list, put it up for a little while if you can.

Backlog

Subject: Noir
I've watched a lot of stuff this past week and haven't quite cleared the fog in my brain enough to write about it. I guess I've been preoccupied with things like choosing kitchen cabinets and countertops and whatnot. But I'll give it a go!

"Hellsing" -- This has been showing up on the Encore Action network late at night; thanks to the Anime on TV list, I was able to remember to actually set my DVR to catch it from the beginning. I'm up to about episode 7 so far. It's a "fighting-vampires-with-vampires" story set in London (so the dub has a lot of fake British accents, but it's otherwise not too bad). An agency known as the "Hellsing Organization" has a "real" vampire helping it hunt down and "silence" a rash of humans-turned-vampire with some sort of implanted computer chip. A young woman police officer gets caught in the middle of one battle and winds up choosing to become a vampire and joining the organization herself, as the alternative to getting killed.

It's a pretty seriously cheesy premise, sure, but there's a glimmer of interest sustained through it, especially thanks to the characters and the dialog. No silly cliches is a bonus. Stylistically it's very comic-book dark and rather sparse, as is the humor. The soundtrack is pretty good. So while I probably wouldn't have bothered buying this one, it's definitely worth making the effort to DVR it and make time to watch it. Good popcorn entertainment.

"Master Keaton" disc 2 -- This is definitely still a charming show. If the DVD quality weren't so mediocre I'd probably just go ahead and buy it right now. As before, it's a number of individual stories with no real arc connecting them, and each story showcases a new talent of Keaton's -- the guy can do most anything it seems, and he's got a sort of dorky panache as he's doing it. There's nothing particularly outstanding about the design or animation, it's all competent and, well, average-to-cheap, but it's the stories and the characters that drive this one. I will continue renting.

"FLCL 3" -- Yes, I finally finished this batsh*t crazy romp through the media-saturated addled subconcious of Japanese anime & manga subculture. I know I didn't quite know what to make of it at first, but it really grew on me (even though it's only 6 episodes total). There's a lot of references I didn't get, but some of the ones I did surprised me. Yeah, there was an obvious "South Park" bit, but the John Woo stuff really got a laugh out of me (especially with the doves flying out of the TV after it got smashed). Anyway, this stuff comes at you so fast-n-furious that you've really got to just latch onto something and ride it for what it's worth. I think I'll be buying it after all, because I think a re-watching will help a lot.

"Neon Genesis Evangelion" discs 2 & 3 -- Okay, I made it through disc 2 just fine; I guess the last time I watched it I was irritable or something; this time I was way more tolerant of the more juvenile cliche aspects and was able to enjoy the other qualities of it. And there's definitely something deeper brewing in the story. So I'm glad I decided to go ahead and buy the "Platinum" edition. Disc 4 is due out in a couple of weeks and I've got it on order. Disc 5 probably won't show up until the beginning of February. I'm guessing there will be 7? I should look that up, but I think the box holds 7. So it'll be next summer before I finish it. Then there's the movie and all the other variations that I have to read more about to see if I want to bother with them.

Hmm, not much else, I guess (though that was a lot!). I tried "Full Metal Alchemist" for another episode, and while it seemed a little more interesting than the other Cartoon Network showings, I'm not going out of my way for it. Oh, except "Ghost In the Shell: Stand Alone Complex" -- the English dub is pretty lousy, but it's worth casual watching at least. I'm going to DVR "Wolf's Rain" and "Witch Hunter Robin" to see if they're watchable.

I watched the Saiyaman raw for Meine Liebe 6, but there's no script yet, so I was pretty much lost. It's Issac's episode, though, and I suspect there's quite a bit of exposistion for what the plot may actually be about. And I'm guessing episode 5 hasn't been released yet because a of problem with the tracker Shi-Fa was using, so hold tight for that.

Enough for now!

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Beginning of the end for fansubbing?

Subject: Soapbox
My my, I sure wrote an alarmist headline there!

Don't panic yet.

Here's the skinny: Media Factory, Inc., a Japanese anime studio, has requested that AnimeSuki cease and desist linking to fansubs of their series. AnimeSuki is, of course, complying with the request.

Now, in all the forum discussions that have cropped up about this, there are two prevelant themes coming from the fans: "Don't they know that fansubs are what generates an American (if not worldwide) market for their series", and "This must be a conspiracy with ADV to quash the fansubbing community entirely".

Well, frankly, it's a lot simpler and less sinister than all that. Well, less sinister than conspiracy, but I'll get into that in a bit.

In my boring day-job, one of the aspects I deal with are the various legal ramifications of the things we do and display on our website. I am not a lawyer by any means, but we've got some sharp lawyers who were able to concisely explain certain concepts to us. And the gist of what's going on is this: If a company doesn't actively defend it's intellectual property rights, it's exposed to the risk of having that property diluted, and not having any grounds for actively pursing any truly aggrevious transgressors.

(I'm pseudo-lawyering the lingo here to make it sound like I'm an authority on the subject. Is it working?)

So in other words, there's the risk that they will not have as solid a case against the real menace -- pirates who burn and sell DVDs for their own profit -- if they don't actively attempt to defend their intellectual property against even the most harmless offenses.

Now that we've established the rationale, let's take a quick look at the reality. After all, why doesn't every company go after fansubbers and fansub sites then? Well, for one, the volumes hadn't really been all that significant compared to legitimate DVD sales.

Well, historically. If you look at the download statistics for the latest episode of Naruto, you'll see there's over 20,000 active users sharing it! That adds up! It puts us 1000 or so Meine Liebe downloaders to shame.

And does this fansub activity really promote or detract from DVD sales? Dunno. I don't have the numbers. In my case, fansubs have me lined up to make 3 purchases once they come out: Madlax (which in fact I've bought some R2 as well!), Avenger, and Gunslinger Girls.

But, also in my case, it could be said that I will not be buying Samurai 7, Beck, Mai HiME, etc. that I sampled and dropped. And I probably won't even rent them. Which is what I do now and would continue doing in the absence of fansubs. I might watch them if they were on TV and I had nothing better to do. And I'm certainly not doing the companies that want to license these titles any favors by saying this on the internet where anyone can Google it at will, because it might sway another potential customer to not bother either. The "word-of-mouth" kills the buzz before they even have a chance to generate it with their marketing machines.

But is that really statistically valid? In some ways, you'd think these companies find this sort of word-of-mouth extremely beneficial; it's a free market-test to find out what the audience will gravitate to and what is worth investing in. Granted, it's a rather fixed-niche audience who's tastes don't necessarily indicate mass appeal, but it's still a lucrative and growing audience.

And to get back to the main point, honestly, I think this is the core rationale, historically, for having allowed the practice to continue. The exposure to risk regarding intellectual property was weighed against the potential benefits of exposure to a wider market via word-of-mouth. But, as those Naruto statistics indicate, the balance is tipping. There's a lot more broadband availability out there. There's a lot more tech-savvy users out there. And there's now one-stop shopping like AnimeSuki where you don't have to be a rocket-scientist to figure out how to get a hold of this stuff. I went from "total n00b" to addicted downloader in the matter of days. It's about to become totally ubiquitous.

So as far as Media Blasters was concerned, they felt they had to do something. It was low-hanging fruit to ask what is essentially an ethical site to stop, because they obviously would. Was it a warning shot from the entire industry? Are other companies watching carefully to see what happens next? Do other companies have similar challenges lined up already and Media Blasters were just the first ones done? Was there some article in "Anime CEO Magazine"* that made everyone over there panic? I couldn't tell you.

(*"Anime CEO Magazine" copyright 2004 Kineska Publishing Enterprises, Ltd. *wink*)

So what's my opinion? Personally, I believe that there are aspects of copyright and tradmark law that are totally out-of-tune with how they were historically intended to function (at least from a USA perspective). At it's simplist, copyright was a way to ensure that a creator of a work had a fair chance to profit from it and be recognized as it's actual creator. And after that period was over, and it's origins firmly established in history and society, the works would become part of the public domain for the benefit of everyone.

But now that principle has been skewed in favor of mega-corporations who are looking to milk every penny from their "properties" in-perpetuity. And so smaller companies and individual creators are pretty much forced to go along with it regardless of their feelings on the subject, because those very same mega-corporations who are so adamant about protecting their property are more than capable of undermining another's if the profit potential outweighs the risks.

But what about my personal activities that run counter to that? Is it because I want to subvert the "System", that I'm some sort of rebel? Do I just want to leech freebies and never have to pay for anything? Obviously, the answer to both is "uh, noooo." Here's how I see it: My fansub watching is essentially the same as if I were able to tune in to Japanese TV and actually understand the language. My MP3 "collection" is essentially for me to be able to listen to a radio station that doesn't actually exist in my market.

In this "connected" world, the old geographical boundaries are breaking down. It's now possible for a person who's physically planted here in Western New York to watch Japanese TV, read UK newspapers, and hear French chill music -- all practically on-demand. I'm finding it exciting and invigorating, because I'm woefully underserved by what's available by "traditional" channels. I am the proverbial "niche market". And I don't give a damn about legal constructs built soley to protect profits, so if you want to make money off of me, you'd better figure out how to get me what I'm looking for. Because, in all honesty, you can make a ton of money off of me! Heh.

Funny how I didn't actually answer my original question, and turned this into a rant about how the corporate world doesn't revolve around my every whim. Hey, it's a blog! What did you expect?

Monday, December 06, 2004

Meine Liebe ep 5

Subject: Noir
I just finished timing ep 5. Without spoiling anything, Sir Issac has a line towards the end:

"The action has finally started."


Heh. We can only hope...

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Finished Bebop, restarted Eva

Subject: Noir
Wow.

I mean, like, wow.



"Cowboy Bebop" just kept getting better with every episode. I've mentioned before how much I liked the attention to detail, the overall atmosphere. The characters' performances, though; that really makes the whole thing come alive. And I don't just mean the voices -- I mean how the animators make the movements, gestures, and expressions of each character work. It's very tight. And the timing is dead-on.

A really good example (without spoilers) is the change in Faye in the last disc. The change in her expression, her walk, the pacing of her scenes... Excellent.

Any drawbacks to the show? Not particularly. Narratively there were some weak points, but nothing glaring or distracting. My only real beef is with the picture quality -- it's a bit crummy in the brighter colors, and it has the usual deinterlacing problems that most anime discs have. The stereo soundtrack is pretty darned good, but comparing it to the 5.1 remaster done for the Best Sessions (and upcoming R2 boxset), well, it can get even better. Which is why I'm holding out on buying it just yet.

Speaking of which, part of my latest haul included discs 1-3 of the "Platinum Edition" of "Neon Genesis Evangelion". I mentioned earlier that disc 2 was about to lose me for being so god-awfully immature, but I thought about it and figured I may have just been cranky. And while I haven't rewatched 2 (or seen 3 at all) yet, I did rewatch 1 and I remembered that I actually did like it.

And the "Platinum Edition" means cleaned-up video and, most excellently, 5.1 audio.

(Me and that "5.1, 5.1, 5.1" -- like a broken record, I swear!)

Anyway, having a pleasing audio/visual experience (and, admittedly, a couple of drinks) really helps smooth over some of the irritating parts. So I'm looking forward to grabbing the rest of the Platinums as they're released.

Well, I'm half way through timing Meine Liebe episode 5. I can't seem to find any torrent links for the raw yet, and it hasn't shown up on Saiyaman. There are Chinese-subbed versions floating around, but I figure you should be patient and keep your eye on Saiyaman. It'll likely be there soon enough!

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Windy Tales

Subject: Noir
What a nifty little story! Young girl takes pictures of clouds; but she's really taking pictures of the wind. Meets a flying cat.

Oh, heck, go watch it; I can't quite summarize it. (I recommend the A-Faith/Shi-Fa version, as the other version has a bad reputation.)

Friday, December 03, 2004

The "Not Too Distant Future" of the "Not Too Distant Past"

Subject: TV
Back at the turn of the '90s, there was this late-evening gem of a show on what was, at the time, called "The Comedy Channel". A poor schlub named "Joel" trapped on an orbital space station, forced to watch really awful B-movies by a pair of evil scientists, who can only make it through them by making wisecracks with the help of two robots he built.

Okay, a rather uninspiring description for those of you who've never heard of this show, but for those of us in the US, "Mystery Science Theatre 3000" was a staple of college-student-weekend-TV-and-drinking fun.

And it lasted for a number of years. However, at one point, the key central character, Joel, left the show, to be replaced by the head writer (and annoying occasional screen presence), Mike. Well, the show was definitely different after that. As in, the humor just wasn't quite the same. Compound that over a short period of time with other changes in characters and staff -- and a move to the Sci-Fi network (where it's still endlessly re-run to this day), and I eventually drifted away from it.

One particular negative about the show's move to a different network is that all the older classic "Joel" episodes were not getting re-run along with the newer ones. So, it's been a number of years since I've seen any of them.

Until this week!

Part of my huge DDD order included a handful of box sets and individual episodes of MST3K releases. And I only bought the ones that had mostly (or all!) "Joel" episodes.

I've had the chance to watch two of them (plus a bunch of shorts) so far. My first reaction was -- wow, the pacing was really a lot slower back then! I mean, it was really laid back, slow-paced, and very simplistic. But, all in a good way! It's just an adjustment to make after being bombarded with so much (comparitively) rapid-fire media of late. Kind of like watching one of those classic 70's crime dramas. You find yourself fidgiting a bit while you wonder when things are going to pick up a little.

That said, it's still as funny as all get-go. And surprisingly, though I can't muster any particular memories of any given episode when I start it, all the great lines come flooding back, as does that feeling of "OMG, I actually did see this crappy movie before!"

"It's got nothing to do with 'pods'. It's got nothing to do with 'people'. But it's got everything to do with hurting." Heh.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Meine Liebe episode 4 is out!

Subject: Noir
Go get it!

It's much better written than episode 3, I think. A good episode with funny moments and touching moments. And a few more clues about the characters and the world they're in.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

The next one from Bee Train?

Subject: Noir
Ooh, two posts in a row!!

Anyway, news I found in the AnimeSuki forum: Bee Train's next one is going to be a series based on some manga called "Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles".

Which I know absolutely nothing about. Something to do with "CLAMP". Which I know nothing about.

And supposedly it will be Koichi Mashimo directing.

Which, hey, if the fact that he's directing something has me watching foofy-haired guys posing angstily and running around in capes, it'd probably get me to watch freakin' Pokeman episodes for all it would matter.

(Though please tell me it won't be like Pokeman! Pleeeeaaaasssseee!)

Tylor continued

Subject: Noir
As I mentioned before, "The Irresponsible Captain Tylor" is a "fun" show. It's amusing and lighthearted, but there's this sort of campy seriousness to it. Now that I've seen disc 3 (which means up through episode 20 *!* -- they really pack 'em in on these discs!), I can say with confidence that it has entirely grown on me. I think I'll be looking forward to that new box-set that's supposed to be coming out in the spring.

The characters, settings, and narrative elements all set themselves up as being some cliche, or spoof of a cliche, at first. The whole thing is a sort of satire. And if that were all, that would be all well and good. But as a whole, for light fare, it weaves a compellingly involving tale (helped by the fact that in disc 3 the episodic nature of the earlier episodes gives way to a more obvious story arc). It's interesting.

Often times I overlook the value of simplicity in entertainment. Mostly because the common mass-consumption-oriented entertainment industry's notion of "simplicity" is "simplistic" -- not the same thing. "Tylor" keeps it pretty simple, and it's good.

Anyway, there's still one more disc in the first series, then a 3 or 4 disc OVA to follow on, and I'm looking forward to finding out just what Mashimo does with this next.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

You say "Bakuretsu", I say...

Subject: Noir
So a ways back I briefly reviewed disc 1 of "Sorcerer Hunters", which is one of Mashimo's pre-Noir comedy/action series. This weekend I gave disc 2 a spin, as I promised.

You know, I'm not sure if maybe I was in a better mood, or if I've lightened up overall, but, you know, it wasn't all that irritating this time. In fact, it had some rather interesting moments. I may have... *gasp*... actually liked it. It may have even made me laugh.

It is still cheesy, over-the-top, mysoginistic popcorn. But in a way, it's more of a spoof of cheesy, over-the-top, mysoginistic popcorn. And there's a darker underlying arc developing. And, shockingly, a bit of character growth and development happening to the cheesy, over-the-top, mysoginistic "hero".

Boy, I must have been in a better mood or something if I saw that in Sorcerer Hunters! Or maybe I was in that slightly intoxicated state I mentioned where even "Lost in Translation seems like absolute genius". Heh.

I think it may have been that I was able to get past the irritation-factor on this one, this time. So now it rates a 3rd chance with the 3rd disc (4 total). Still not "purchase-worthy". But definitely rateable as "better than a lot of the crap out there."

Tonight I've got "Captain Tylor" disc 3 lined up. I wonder if I'll be surprised by this one as well? We'll see...

Monday, November 29, 2004

Productivity, production values, and product placement

Subject: Noir
So, I didn't quite accomplish everything I hoped for over the extended holiday weekend despite having my brother around to help out. My basement isn't entirely cleared out. I didn't get all of the stuff in my spare bedroom packed up and into the attic. I couldn't find my stash of old artwork. Not a particularly productive stretch of time.

But I did manage to get my brother hooked on Noir. Go figure. It's a little obvious with a cursory scan of my DVD shelf (especially since that DDD shipment arrived) that I've picked up a bit of an anime obsession since he last visited. Add to that the fact that I have Kirika and Mireille on my various computers' wallpapers, and other assorted trinkets and OST CDs around the house, he was sure to be wondering just what the heck all that was about. And after a few episodes, he actually seemed interested in seeing more.

So with some trepidation, I've loaned him the whole box set. Not "trepidation" in that I don't trust him with it or anything, but more "trepidation" in that I won't be able to see the girls again until after Christmas! I can't even just take a peek at a couple of episodes here and there. *Sigh* But at least he'll get to watch it without me saying "Dude, check this next bit out!" every couple of minutes.

He also dug Cowboy Bebop; between the "Best Sessions" discs I have, and one of the rentals from GreenCine, he got a pretty good taste of it. One of the first things he did is go and download the OP theme from iTunes.

Well, at any rate, I hope I haven't instilled any extra obsessiveness on the topic in him, because buying lots of DVDs is the last thing he can afford right now, doing that struggling-college-student thing that he does.

Well, I've got a handful of reviews lined up, mostly to revisit a couple of reviews I've already made based on further watching of those series. And I've got a huge stack of other movies to watch (particularly Kurosawa movies; I've almost rounded out my collection with nearly every disc available). And since there seems to be a number of you checking every now and again to see if I've posted something new, I'll do my best not to dissappoint. *wink*


Saturday, November 27, 2004

Almost back...

Subject: Noir
I thought I'd give a quick update before I get a chance to resume my usual routine...

(Of course, for most of you who are following this page, this will probably be old news...)

ShiFa has released the Meine Liebe Episode 3 fansub: Their tracker

And there is a Saiyaman raw out for episode 4 (and as I'm told by those "in the know", that site doesn't give you the best source material to work from).

More to follow!

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Thanksgiving holiday

Subject: Musings
Well, the long holiday weekend is here. My little brother is coming up to help me work on the house for a couple of days, so I'm going to take a bit of a blog break until Sunday. My DVD order just showed up, so I've got a metric s*-load to watch, which means the reviews will hopefully start coming on a regular basis.

In the meantime, keep your eyes open for a possible episode #3 release...

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

How very "Irresponsible"

Subject: Noir
So when I was building my order for that DeepDiscountDVD.com sale, I was already itching to try to get a hold of "Irresponsible Captain Tylor". It was one of the series that Mashimo did shortly before "Noir", and it has a good reputation. It's also the only series he did a sequel for (and no, "Madlax" doesn't count!).

The first couple of discs had been sitting at the top of my GreenCine queue for weeks. I was getting to the point that I actually scanned the shelves at Best Buy to see if I could get an instant fix. And when the 20% discount opportunity showed up, one of the first things I put in the cart were the two box sets. Then I got the notification email from GreenCine that the first two discs were actually shipping! So I decided to wait for them and actually watch the series before plunking down (well-discounted) cash.

I'm glad I did, because I removed them from my shopping cart.

(Ooh, I made that sound waaay more negative than I meant! Just being a little dramatic; sorry!)

Okay, seriously, it is a fun show (there's that "f" word again!). Funny characters in an old-skool spacecruiser setting. Well animated. A bit of a lack of depth to the plot, but an interesting undercurrent that spans across the episodes that I need to see more to be able to put my finger on it. All-in-all entertaining despite the fact that I was rather irritable last week. And I'll continue renting it.

But why'd I drop it from my purchase? Well, I think I need to see a little more before I decide if I want to rewatch it enough to actually own it. And more importantly, the picture quality of the discs was rather poor. It even caused my mighty 3910 player to labor at correcting it. And from what I hear, there's a new "ultimate edition" (or whatever-something-definitive edition) coming out in the spring of 2005.

So if that new edition is actually remastered, and I find after watching more of it I like it, then it'll be a no-brainer. If I'm not so thrilled with it, then no big loss.

And speaking of adding a series to that shopping cart and knocking it off again, I almost bought all of the "Cowboy Bebop" discs too. But then I read that there's a super-deluxe box set coming out right around Christmas that should have all of the episodes' audio remastered at the very least, and hopefully (though not confirmed) the video will be cleaned up as well. Of course, it's a Japanese R2 set, but it's also rumored to have English subtitles! Of course, these are all rumors, and I'll wait until there's confirmed accounts on the trusted sites -- then I'll spend a ridiculous amount of money to get it shipped to me.

Especially if the Dollar keeps sliding against the Yen. *sigh*

Monday, November 22, 2004

I have a new roof!

Subject: Musings
Another update I didn't give last week is that my home renovation project is underway. My contractor's crew came out last Wednesday, tore off my old roof, and put on a new one:



Granted, it doesn't look like much in this shot. It's 30-yr architectural shingles in a dark brown. Next is the siding, windows, doors and deck. As well as the kitchen and bathroom inside. A huge project, and it probably won't be done until March.

And if you're wondering why I'm bothering putting that kind of money into this dumpy little shack?



Let's just say this is the one investment I made during the tech-bubble that's paying off for me. *grin*

Meine Liebe Episode #2

Subject: Noir
It's out! Go!

(Also out is a sub of Zipang, which I'll comment more about after watching...)

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Bound by an especially twisted thread

Subject: Noir
It would seem that the sure way to make me do something is to proclaim, here on this page, that I will not do something.

Not an hour passed after I said I wasn't going to watch the Chinese-subbed version of episode 3, and I watched it anyhow. Didn't understand a word. Of course! Duh.

But I also made a big deal out of the fact that, because I really want Noir to be something special to me, that I was putting that away and not watching it for a long time. Last night I was a bit moody and agitated, and tried watching an old Jean Cocteau film. And I totally didn't have the patience for it. So I put that away and scanned my shelves for something else. And my eyes kept coming back to my Noir box. So I caved in and grabbed disc 5 (I've figured out if I start disc 5 at around 8pm, I'll wrap up just after midnight) and fired it up.

And I'm really, really glad I did!

And it's not just that I missed "my girls" so badly. I've been sampling and scrutinizing so many different series and movies lately, that I was starting to feel a little jaded about the overall quality of anime, and was starting to suspect that maybe, just maybe I was seeing something earlier that just wasn't there. Was I coming to the end of my little anime "distraction"? Was this blog about to become just another set of stuffy art-house film reviews?

I'm happy to report that Noir is just as amazingly stunning and wonderful to me as it ever was!

Good gracious, I love this show! It's so simple yet so complicated at the same time. Every glance, every nuance, every color, every cut... all of it communicating its visual music to me on a myriad of levels. And though I have every scene all but memorized, I cling to every line, every action, every resounding Wather PPK shot thumping from the subwoofer; I'm glued to the screen and taking it all in like I'm seeing it for the first time.

Noir is unlike any anime series before it, and no anime since has approached it. No, not even Madlax. I've thought before that Madlax rivaled Noir, but now I'm certain that it doesn't. Mind you, Madlax is very, very good, and I can't wait for ADV to get the DVDs done so I can see it at it's very best. But Noir is clearly superior.

And I'm glad I took the opportunity to remind myself of that.

But this time, I'm putting it away again for a little while. Maybe I'll watch it on New Year's eve as a way to ring in 2005!

(Oh, and I'm not going to scrub my bathtub tonight. And I'm not going to rake leaves tomorrow! Let's see how that works... *wink*)

Quickie update...

Subject: Musings
Sorry I haven't posted for a while; this grey gloomy weather hasn't done a lot for my inspiration these past few days. But I've got a couple of topics queued up in my head that I want to explore, so you can figure hearing from me later tonight.

And if you're wondering why I haven't posted a link to the latest Meine Liebe raw, well, that's because there isn't one. At least as far as I can find. There are a couple of Chinese-subbed copies out there, but no sign of an actual raw in the few places I know to look. Hmm. So I haven't watched it yet, and won't until there's a script ready for me to time.

More later!

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Am I famous yet?

Screencap of OP

(One of these days I'll actually watch the show instead of watching obsessively for screenbleeds!)

Monday, November 15, 2004

Molasses

Subject: Musings
I've been working on two things today that are about as speedy as a snail stuck inside a sloth swimming to Slovenia:




1. Downloading the Meine Liebe sub.

2. Building an order at DeepDiscountDVD.com.


#1 is stuck at 133.3MB out of 140.

#2, I'm up to about $700 before the 20% discount.

Oh, right... Hey everyone, there's a 20% discount until November 20th at DeepDiscountDVD.com; coupon code of "SUPERSALE" (and it's really, reeeeeaaaaallllly sloooooowwwww right now!)

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Right before my eyes!

Subject: Noir
I just finished posting that little "something's up", and sure enough, something was!

Enjoy!

Compare and Contrast

Subject: Noir
I watched those two discs like I said. I'll start with "Now and Then, Here and There" briefly (because it doesn't quite fit into the theme I'll be writing about today): I liked it. The characters' attitudes and the odd situation gave me something to latch on to and want to know more about what happens next. The artwork is otherwise rather simple and there doesn't seem to be a lot of "scale" to it, but I can see it growing on me. I'll continue renting it, and see if Maromi's review from the previous thread holds true for me as well. Stay tuned.

But on to today's theme.

My regular readers may remember that I panned "Kaze no Yojimbo" for being a bit cheaply animated, with not much compelling to keep my interest. The cheapness in fact detracted from it enough to make me not bother continuing with it. "Twelve Kingdoms" is another cheapie. And the DVD looks pretty bad (my setup really amplifies crappy video). It's plot seems a tad formulaic, and the animation isn't anything special.

But the characters were kind of interesting. The mythological elements had me curious. The storytelling had its moments.

Mind you, it's no masterpiece, but there's enough there to overcome my initial reaction to the overall quality. Which "Kaze no Yojimbo" couldn't pull off. So I'll keep this in my rental queue as well. I may wind up finding that it gets tedious later, or it may open up a bit. Don't know. But it's worth finding out.

Now there are two other shows in the current-season's fansubs that would otherwise share the same laundry list of drawbacks, but I'm finding I actually like one but not the other. With "Mai HiME", I said "I really wanted to find it funny, but frankly it's a juvenile quagmire from which no redeeming qualities can escape." You know, all the teen-girl fanservice and panties and nosebleeds and boob jokes and shojou-ai teasing. I dropped that after that stupid underwear episode.

But I just happened upon another one: "Kannazuki no Miko". Again, high schoolers with lots of fanservice and giant robot fights and weird mystical powers. And really overt shojou-ai fanservice at that. Which, of course, I like, but that's besides the point. With this one, again, the characters had something to latch on to. There's not anything particularly groundbreaking or unique about them, and a couple of them border on annoying at times, but there's enough there to make me interested in what they're going to do next.

And maybe, just a little bit, I recognize Chikanake's facial expressions. That sort of "noble martyr" thing. The internal struggle against jealousy. Painfully existing in the "Just Friends" zone. If it were a male character like that, I'd probably be put off by it and chalk it up as another damn wimpy ineffectual anime teenage boy. But in this case it's a girl, and it seems to resonate a lot more with me. I'm way more sympathetic. And I identify with her a lot more closely. Odd.

Again, I may wind up bored with this one after a while. But it seems to have enough to it to keep me following it.

Well, that's enough of that.

BTW, keep your eyes on that ShiFa tracker... I think something's brewing...

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Waiting for an update? Well, nothing yet.

Subject: Noir
I know some of you are on the edge of your seats waiting for the first episode of Meine Liebe to show up. And unfortunately I can't help you. It's almost unfair that I've already seen the initial translation of episode 2 in context with the show. Almost. Heh. But like I said, there's a place to keep your eye on to make sure you can be the first on your block to get it!

Unless you're on my block. But I suspect you're not. (I'm really rubbing it in tonight, aren't I? *grin*)

Last night I rewatched Madlax episodes 21 & 22. My good friends (who are now hooked on the show) got to #20 and are about to go careening down that particular rollercoaster that all you Madlax fans know so well. So I figured I would refresh my memory.

And when I did, I realized that my earlier statement about Madlax being better animation overall than Meine Liebe was pretty much out-and-out bunk! An interesting phenomenon: when something completely has you in it's spell, it can do no wrong, you can see no flaw -- it is the essence of perfection. Replace "something" with "a certain woman" and "it" with "her/she", and you'll probably see the resemblance to that most peculiar of human responses: The "crush". I had (well, have) such a crush on Madlax that I ascribed a number of qualities to it that really aren't there.

And anyone following along these pages all along is probably saying "well, duh!! I could have told you that!"

So the summary is, the animation quality of "Meine Liebe" is just as good as Madlax!

That's not to say that it's somehow poor or substandard. It's just that the shortcuts and methods used that I was a little oversensitive to are normal and to be expected, and that there are other elements that make up for it overall. Hell, even Noir took a lot of shortcuts!

(What am I saying?? Me, finding fault with Noir?! *Gasp*)

Seriously, though. The second episode of Meine Liebe is packed with character exposistion and dramatic tension. It tells a whole Russian novel's worth of intrigue and betrayal in it's short 23 minutes.

And, here's the big spoiler: There is now a female love interest! Who doesn't die within 15 minutes! Huzzah!

(And she kind of looks like Margaret...)

Oh, sorry, I forgot, some of you haven't even seen episode 1 yet, and here I am spoiling episode 2. Heh. Heh. Heh.

Well, I've got some rented DVDs of more series to go watch. "Twelve Kingdoms" and "Now and Then, Here and There". I don't have the slightest idea what to expect, but you can expect a review sometime soon.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Meine Liebe Raw #2!

Subject: Noir
It's out, go have fun! I'm trickling it down right now so I can time it, so give me a few hours before you choke the poor seeder's bandwidth! (and by the looks of it there's probably just one...)

I don't know when the sub of #1 will be out, but I bet it'll be very soon. Keep your eyes peeled!

My initial review of #1 was another example of "PWI", but I think it's grown on me a little more now that I've seen it translated (and sober). I'll post a re-review once I've gotten through #2.

Besides the AnimeSuki and AnimeNation forum discussions on the show, there's a LiveJournal group as well, including a post with a ton of screencaps of episode 1 (with a promise to screencap more).

I know I haven't posted in a while; I've got a backlog of stuff to rant about, but I figured I'd get this late-breaking Mashimo news out to my loyal fans... All three of you. Heh.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Other stuff I watched... (aka Utena continued)

Subject: Noir
Since Meine Liebe is just a half-hour show, obviously I must have been watching other stuff this weekend.

Well, this round of discs from GreenCine was a couple of Revolutionary Girl: Utena discs. Namely disc 2 of the series, and the movie.

I mentioned a while back that I didn't particularly like disc one of the series. And that continues with disc 2; in fact, disc 2 seems even worse. The first episode on that disc was particularly absurd (the elephants and the curry and other inanity). I mean, I know it was supposed to be funny and all, but it was just too ridiculous. If it were merely absurd, I could more forgiving. But overall, the series really doesn't do a damn bit of anything for me. I really don't like it. I don't like the art, I don't like the animation, I don't like the characterization. The few moments of dramatic interest to be found just don't make up for the tedium of what it's wrapped in.

It's odd. I mentioned before that uber-skilled women really draw me in. And if they're really leggy and attractive, all the better... (heh) But this just didn't do it for me.

But on to the movie. Wow. I can't say it was a totally different experience or anything, but it was definitely different nonetheless. Classic surrealism. I mean really, actually, somebody-studied-surrealist-artists surrealism. And, not being restricted by TV censorship, it was a bit, uhhh... hot. (heh) Yuri city.

I don't think it was entirely as pretentious as the series, though it was very much similar in a lot of ways. At any rate, I found it a bit more enjoyable, even though there was quite a bit of "What the f*" going on; which any classicaly surrealist work is supposed to invoke anyhow. It was still more fun. Not purchase-worthy, but more fun.

And, uhhh... hotter.

The second Meine Liebe review (this time mine)

Subject: Noir
Yes, the very moment the raw was finished downloading, I had to watch it.

I've picked up a little tiny bit of Japanese dialogue. I can catch a couple of words here and there.

I don't have the slightest idea what the f* this show was about.

Okay, sure, I could figure out that there's a rivalry between the purple-haired guy and that other guy, and that there's a short femme kid who likes flowers, and any girl has maybe 15 seconds of screen time before she's dead. There's one teacher with big glasses, and the school admin is hairier than I am.

Beyond that, my first impressions:

It looks like it's a lot "cheaper" than Madlax. In that the animation quality is a little stilted. The camera isn't moving all over the place, the "celwork" (which is now all done digitally) is sparse and over-econimized, and overall it's kind of static. It's a little dissappointing because I was working on a theory that even with a low budget, Mashimo would be all over the cinematography aspect of one of his series. That's not to say that the camera angles and shot compositions aren't quality, but they don't quite go as far as his previous work.

It looks "cheaper". Period.

Still, the characterization is very good, the art is very good, and it conveys a good sense of drama visually. A lot is communicated despite the shortcuts taken, and despite the fact that I can't understand a f*ing word they're saying. So I still hold out hope that I'll find this watchable through all 13 episodes.

But like I said in the various forums I've posted about this, I reserve the right to make fun of those foofy outfits. And now that I've seen more, the propensity for the male leads to wear mascara. Whassup wit dat? (heh)

EDIT: Okay, I re-scanned a bit through the episode, and it would appear that I wasn't quite right about the camera being too static; there's a lot of movement, and some of it is subtle but pretty good. There were a few parts though where they're using some weak compositing techniques for the "multiplanar" moves (different layers moving at different speeds to give the appearance of depth) which aren't done nearly as well as those in Madlax. Plus the mouth animations are a bit weak in spots. Thus my assessment of it seeming kind of "cheap".

Well, Shi-Fa is going to give it a go with subbing this one, and I'm going to help out for as long as they can stand me. Stay tuned for further reviews, as I'll essentially get to see it translated before most anyone else. Hee hee!

Friday, November 05, 2004

The first Meine Liebe review

Subject: Noir
No, not my Meine Liebe review; I still haven't found a raw yet. Kisaragi on the AnimeNation forum posts his first-impressions of most every show that airs, and he's posted his for Thursday night's premiere. He's also posted a LOT of screen-shots. Click that link now and take a look!

UPDATE: Episode 1 Raw (bittorrent)

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Enough.

Subject: Soapbox
I'm turning off the TV and going to bed. I've had enough with trying to follow the election results.

As an independent-minded moderate, I wasn't particularly happy with the choices to begin with. But I'm particularly less happy with one choice than the other. And I have a hard time fathoming the depth and temerity of the bullshit sophistry that choice is wrapped up in.

Last summer I had spent a lot of time reading up on the history of the early days of the American republic, and so I can't really say that the level of discourse we're stuck with these days is anything particularly like the lowest point this country has ever been in. In fact, the nostalgic illusion of civility and intelligence of debate that may or may not have happened in the past generation or two may just be an anomaly in our history. But one thing's for sure, the level of discourse today is completely, utterly, frustratingly....

vapid.

I'm tired and I'm going to bed. Don't bother telling me who won, I don't care.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

"See you, Space Cowboy!"

Subject: Noir
I got through disc 4 of the "Cowboy Bebop" series last night. It's quite entertaining. A self-proclaimed genre-buster, it's a witty blend of action, drama, and sci-fi, with an edge of both camp and grittiness, simultaneously.

It's dripping with "cool". "Hip". Homages of everything from blaxploitation flicks to space operas. A diverse and often surprising soundtrack. And an attention to the little background details that really communicate a lot about the universe they inhabit without needing to go into a lot of backstory.

I said before that I would probably rank it a distant #4, but I think I can confidently say that it's now a tighter #4 instead. I'm holding out on buying it just yet, though. Supposedly there's a version totally remixed in 5.1 sound being released in Asia. If that's coming to the US, then I want it. I've got the "Best Sessions" disc, which has a DTS 5.1 Japanese soundtrack, and it's absolutely excellent (especially with the Denon 3910 doing the decoding).

So I'll probably still just rent the remaining discs to find out what happens (yes, I've already heard the big spoiler, but I don't know how it happens), and then keep my eyes peeled for any further rumors. If it's a no-go, then I'll just buy what's available now. It'd still be worth it.

In other watching news; I'm rewatching .hack//SIGN (though not in a marathon; just a disc at a time). I think I discovered which character I like best: Mimiru. Yeah, I was surprised too. She seems annoying at first, but there's this wonderful spark behind her eyes at times that I find enchanting.

I'm definitely dropping Mai Hime. I really wanted to find it funny, but frankly it's a juvenile quagmire from which no redeeming qualities can escape.

I'll hang on to Beck just a little bit longer, but it's all pretty much slice-of-life teen angst with a garage-band soundtrack, and completely lacking in any compelling drama or characterization that I have any desire to get aquainted with. I'll give it a little longer to develop something.

I caught up with eps 26 and 27 of Monster. This is a slow-paced show too, but it's a lot more compelling and interesting. It makes for good watchin'. But like I've said before, I'm not clinging to every download waiting for it to come out. I'll watch it when I feel like it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Huh? They won?

Subject: tv
I was born in Salem, Massachussetts while the Red Sox were in the middle of winning the American League championship in 1967. I mean literally during the game. That was a big deal.

Of course, in the World Series that followed, the Sox lost. Not that I knew, but I was alive for it at least.

And then there'd be more dissappointments over the decades.

And then I finally gave up in 1986. I just didn't want to follow it anymore.

Tonight, I fired up the HDTV and watched the Red Sox for the first time in 18 years. And they won the World Series? Hmm, I guess they actually did.

I'm not sure what to make of that. I'd been so detached from it, that it doesn't really seem real. Maybe it wasn't.

Still, I couldn't help but mist up a little. Wow.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

More sampling (bits 'n pieces)

Subject: Noir
I've checked out a couple of new (well, new to me) programs in my quest for quality. I figure it's time to give a quick rundown:

"Gungrave". Caught an episode from G4TechTV that I DVR'ed. The animation quality was way too cheap for my taste, and everything about it was rather cheesy. I should probably give the Japanese track a try before passing final judgement (it was dubbed for TV), but there just wasn't anything compelling about it. I think I'll pass on this one.

"Detective Conan: Case Closed". Recorded off of the Cartoon Network. Didn't really grab me either. It's a bit immature for my tastes. I might give it another episode or two, but right now I'm not going out of my way to watch it.

"Kaze no Yojimbo". I mentioned way back that, when I first heard about "Samurai 7", I really wanted to see what other Kurosawa-based programs were out there; and here's one. And sadly, as with Samurai 7, I was pretty dissappointed in it. Again, the cheap animation quality really detracted from it. Story-wise, I thought it was a much more interesting adaptation than what S7 did, but it really wasn't very compelling. A bit too formulaic, and because it suffers so much in it's overall quality, there's nothing to hold me to it. I probably won't bother renting the rest.

"Master Keaton". Finally, something interesting! From the director who's currenly doing "Monster", this show is a little lighter, but has a similiar look and feel to the characters. Keaton is a very likeable character with an honorable demeanor and an earnest attitude, with interesting little nooks and crannies to his past -- and, for that matter, his present. It's slow-paced, episodic (as opposed to a long story arc like Monster), and pretty reasonable storytelling. The other characters he meets are interesting in their own right. I think this one is worth renting, though I don't think I find it particularly purchase-worthy.

I've finally got more Bebop discs showing up from Greencine for next weekend, so I may be able to form a more solid opinion about that one. In the mean time, I've pretty much run out of stuff to watch. I'll continue to give "Beck" a couple of more episodes, but I'm losing interest in it. "Mai HiME" is losing me fast as well. There's not much else on the current fansub list that strikes my fancy, so I guess I just have to hang on until "Meine Liebe" shows up.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Adam Sandler sucks, except in....

Subject: Cinema
I'm a lifetime member of Match.com because I signed up just after they started. I've had a number of blind dates via that service, but nothing really went anywhere with them, contrary to their advertising and hype.

My most recent blind date involved going to the movies (actually, all my blind dates usually involve a movie, go figure). At the time, there weren't a lot of choices for a film snob like me to go see. Luckily at the local artsy cinema, there was one film called "Punch Drunk Love". So I convinced my blind date to meet me for this one.

I won't get into the various reasons why the date in and of itself didn't work (let's just say that my attempts like this rarely do). But regarding the movie, she wanted to see an Adam Sandler film. I wanted to see an "arty" film. It seemed like there was a chance that it would work out...

Well, for those of you who've actually seen "Punch Drunk Love"; if you're an Adam Sandler fan, you were probably greatly dissappointed. My date sure was.

I really despise Adam Sandler and the films he's in. But this one held a lot of promise. And sure enough, I thought it was awesome, despite the fact that it was Adam Sandler as the lead. I think he did an excellent job.

Everything else I've seen him in, I hate. I mean, really, viscerally, hate. It's always that stupid immature stuff I rail against. I really don't think he's funny.

My blind date at the time was really dissappointed in this film. I was very much surprised by it. I thought it was excellent. She didn't like it at all.

Needless to say, it didn't work out.

One of the first wave of DVDs I bought was "Punch Drunk Love". But I hadn't brought myself to the point of watching it until tonight. And boy, howdy, I love it! What an excellent film! It's a lot to say when I can identify myself with an Adam Sandler character. There's just so many levels going on that it's hard to describe, but I really get into it.

It's no real surprise that the date didn't go anywhere; it's a mega-quirky film. And it's no surprise that dates before this went nowhere. I always seem to insist on films that are a bit unusual or daring in their own right, and they never really fit in with the normal expectations of a normal night out (I took dates to see Akira, for goodness sake!!). As much as I'm aware of this, I don't really want to change.

After all, my taste in films is the one differentiator I have.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Thursdays seem so empty now.

Subject: Noir
Has it really been this long since Madlax ended? I got a lot of amusement out of anxiously anticipating the appearance of the latest-greatest fansub, wondering which group would release theirs first, and hoping that I'd get lucky and be able to download it fast enough to see it by the time the day was over.

And when that episode would end on it's typical cliffhanger, I'd start the anticipation all over again.

And now it's done.

*sniff* I guess Thursday is no longer "Madlax Day". It's just another day.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The brief return of Farscape

Subject: Television
A new piece of gear I got last week finally got put to good use.

The local cable company finally rolled out their hi-def digital video recorder. AKA "DVR", aka "Tivo" -- but without the actual quality of a Tivo, of course. So now I can enter the wonderful world of "time-shifting" TV programs. Of course, I haven't really been watching much TV. Because there's been nothing on!!!

But there are often surprises. Like the fact that there was a special 2-part "return to Farscape" on earlier this week. A pleasant surprise, but enough of a surprise that I wasn't going to be able to catch it. Well, miracle of miracles, I punch a few buttons on the DVR, and I schedule them to be saved for me to watch whenever I want.

And go figure, it actually worked!

I had first caught Farscape pretty much right after it started. I was skeptical at first, but I started recognizing something special about the "creatures" that made up the various characters. I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Then the credits rolled -- "Directed by Brian Henson". "Jim Henson Productions".

Jim Henson. That man was a genius. He had such a depth of imagination and a command on creativity that is so rare in the mass media. I remember when he died, my housemates and I watched my laserdisc of "Labyrinth" twice that night.

With Farscape, Brian and the company managed to keep the creative spirit going. The show was tremendously entertaining. Silly, serious, action-packed, dramatic, titillating, sobering. Completely absurd yet deeply involving. While I was sorry to see it go, I was glad it managed to end before it went "over the top" one time too many. Because it sure did go "over the top" a lot!

This brief return was a bit odd; I found it hard to get back into sync with it. Everything and everyone seemed a little "rusty" at first. But it was still good. I'm glad I was able to catch it. I hope that it was successful enough in drawing an audience such that more studios take chances on other quality-yet-quirky programs. I might watch more TV (and balance out my anime consumption a tad) if there was more out there that was this creative.

The next one from Bee Train

Subject: Noir
So with my obsession over Noir leading to an obsession over Madlax leading me into the acceptance that I am a ranting obsessive about the work of Koichi Mashimo, I was eager to find out whatever I could about just what in the heck was in store from him for the fall season.

And when I found out about this one, that old familiar "What The F*" expression crept on my face. "Meine Liebe". A bunch of pretty-boys with gothic capes and cravattes and foofy hair and whatnot.

Now, I'm an open-minded guy; I watch and appreciate a lot of "sensitive-male" Euro-films and appreciate good period-pieces and costuming and whatnot. But just looking at these guys... It's... well...

...Kind of silly.

Of course, I've since learned that this sort of style, the whole "bishonen" genre & look, is rather popular with the ladies. This show in particular is based on a supposedly popular "bishonen dating sim" video game for girls. In fact, it's quite possible that there aren't any female characters in this show whatsoever.

Now, there a lot of strikes against this one for me on the surface. "Foofy hair & capes" aside. First: no female characters? I've said many-a-time that I'm drawn into a series mostly if there are independent and/or skilled and/or intensely dangerous women involved. Next: based on a video game?? I've mentioned before that in my sampling, the video game-based series tended to be the worst of the bunch. (No, .hack//SIGN does not count; it was about a video game, and the resulting actual video game was part of the overall multimedia delivery strategy. The .hack followons, though, I think prove my point!). Finally: oh, please, not another boarding school!

But here's the thing. It's one of Mashimo's. It's aimed at women. I get the very strong sense that, at least starting with Noir, Mashimo has been specifically developing shows with women viewers in mind. I mean, yeah, there's been some really sexy, leggy, busty gals, but they've been rather tastefully (and sometimes playfully, but never immaturely) drawn. Not to mention that they've been strong, vital human characters. And I suspect women viewers don't get the same kind of "WTF" look when seeing a pretty gal onscreen the way some guys (*ahem*) get a "WTF" look when encountering, well... this. (No, there are no girls in those shots. Really.)

Actually, I took a second look at that particular page, and noticed all the eyes. Really intense, dramatic stuff being hinted at there. That's the other hope I have for this show. Mashimo knows his cinematic language. He's able to build a solid dramatic arc and follow it through. He's able to make his characters seem alive, deep, and worth watching; all with an economy of framing and timing. The looks of these characters are very, very much a signature of Mashimo's work.

He's making a serious dramatic series for women. Which, considering the sheer amount of juvenile bouncy-boobs-and-panties junk (*cough* Sunabozu *cough*) aimed at 15-year-old boys (and college-age American fanboys of the same mentality), is quite remarkable.

And for these reasons, I'm really looking forward to seeing it.

Note: again on that last page, it looks like there are only going to be 13 episodes, a la Avenger. Beyond that I've had a hard time gleaning any sort of detail at all about the show. I'll keep my eyes peeled for more information and point to it as I find out more.