Sunday, July 25, 2004

On the small screen...

Subject: Noir
Well, the repair guy says the parts should be in Monday. With any luck I'll be back to watching real movies on a real screen and being my cinema-snobbish self again next weekend.

In the meantime, this past week I've been sampling a few more fansubbed anime series, since I can easily snag those off the 'net, and watch them on this pathetic little 19" monitor and cheesy computer speakers at my desk. (Remember when 19" was a good size for a monitor?)

I tried out "Melody of Oblivion". I gave it 4 episodes worth of chances, but it doesn't want to escape from being a cliche-ridden boredom festival from my point of view. A lot of the anime-fans on the various boards seemed to like it, but then again, they like all kinds of stuff that I can't stand, and tend to scoff at the stuff I like a lot.

I've mentioned before about "Samurai 7"; I'm downloading the 2 latest right now, but the more of it I've seen, the less enchanted I am with it. It's stylish, and has an interesting tone, but even though I claim not to be a purist, I think it's already contradicting a few of the basic premises of the original, and is left with a rather thin veneer on top. Still, it's better than most of the rest, so I'll probably keep watching for a while.

One thing I learned in my "research" is that most series are based either on popular Japanese comic books (yes, I know there's a word for that, and I'm not using it!), or Playstation games. It's actually rare that a series is created from scratch (like my beloved Noir and Madlax!). I think I've actually been able to tell the difference between a comic-y series and a film-y one (and the videogame ones are just unwatchable). And I find the comic-y ones, while usually oozing with a visual style, tend to lack the things that make it stand up better on it's own when it's done in "moving pictures".

That said, there are two more series that are based on popular comic books that I've been watching. One is "Monster", which, to describe it quickly, is like "The Fugitive" meets "The X-Files". It's a bit dark and creepy, a little mysterious, but not in a gross-out sort of way (at least not yet). I'm up to episode 9 and I'm probably going to catch up to ep 15 in the next couple of nights. It's been a long-running series on paper, so it's probably going to wind up being a lot of episodes too.

Which brings me to the much shorter 13-episode series I just finished. There's such a long gap between this post and my last one because every time I kept trying to figure out what to write about it, I had to step back from it for just a bit longer to try and deconstruct it a little more.

It's called "Gunslinger Girl", and it really got under my skin. It was a "recommended-if-you-like-Noir" series. After all, it's a stylishly done series about girl assassins in Europe. Only instead of Paris, it's in Italy. And instead of a pair of well trained young ladies up against the world, it's about a half-dozen 10- to 13-year old brainwashed & heavily conditioned little girls who had their skeletal structure and muscles replaced with carbon-fiber mechanisms, and are controlled by a secret (and likely illegal) goverment agency that roots out terrorist cells by any means necessary. Each girl is paired up with a Supervisor, who they are conditioned to obey, respect, and protect.

This one is just, how I can put it... evil. It's engineered to be so manipulatively heart-wrenching and tragic that you form a depression-inducing sympathy with these poor kids, and a terrible guilt complex when you're awed by the "cool" action sequences when they skillfully, and frighteningly, kick terrorist ass.

I still don't entirely know what to make of it. I don't think I'm going to rewatch it at all until the DVDs are released (it's been recently licensed, so you won't be able to get ahold of the fansubs anymore, at least not legitimately), and when I do, it will be with an eye to totally deconstruct it to find out just what the hell it did to burn itself onto my psyche like that.

But would I recommend it? I honestly don't know what to say. If you can take a dose of emotional manipulation that might haunt you for a couple of days (and don't mind it being punctuated with some graphic violence, which work like their own punches in the stomach in some ways), then it's really something else, and would be worth catching. But if you're trying to fight off a bout of depression or just want to live in a world where 10-year old girls are safe and happy and aren't put through hell on a daily basis, then maybe skip this one.

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