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


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!


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


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....


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