Monday, January 31, 2005

"Tsubasa" plus Mashimo plus....

Subject: Noir
...Yuki Kajiura(!!)...

...equals "Yeah!"

(Credit to Maromi for his head's-up on the Oyasumi Noir board)

(EDIT: I must be blind; there's a link to the official Tsubasa site there as well!)

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Amidst the dust

Subject: Noir
I've been keeping my home-theater gear covered up to ward off all the dust that's generated by dismantling my house, but I unwrapped it Friday night so I could keep on watching stuff.

"Irresponsible Captain Tylor" OVA disc 1 -- Mashimo's only sequel gets off to a bit of an incongruous start, like the characters aren't exactly the same in their motivations and reactions from where they left off in season 1. I mean, yeah, on the surface they're the same, but something seems a little off, a little forced. At least for the first half hour or so. Then it seems to start getting back into the groove, and by the end of the disc, it feels more like a proper continuation. Well, mostly. There are a couple of spots that don't feel quite right. Like that bishounen captain's over-emotional reactions; I think he held his cool better in the first series. Otherwise it was fine.

And for those of you that have seen ".hack//SIGN", the movie "Roman Holiday" comes up again. Mashimo must be a Billy Wilder fan. Now I'm going to actually have to watch "Roman Holiday". Shame on me for not having sat through it already, but I suppose I'll atone for in soon enough.

"Najica Blitz Tactics" disc 1 -- "Oh no", you're saying. "He's going to complain about how immature it is or something." Heh. Believe it or not, I thought it was a hoot! I mean, yeah, there were panty-shot fanservice bits in just about every scene, but I mean, come on! It was a lot of fun! A bit silly, but fun!

Really, when I complain about immaturity, it's really more about the immature attitudes and reactions in a story -- like the typical wussy teenage boy who gets all extra-flustered to the point of nosebleed -- or the rampant embarrassment the girl has if a little bit of something flashes -- or worse, the oft-overused girl-accuses-boy-of-being-a-total-perv-just-because-he-catches-a-glimpse. Gratuitous panty-shots don't really bother me in and of themselves. After all, Miyazaki himself tends to flap a few skirts a little high. And as for "Najica", in the spirit of "Gunsmith Cats" and "Miami Guns", this is just a lot of good-natured fun.

Well, okay, the frequency and, uh, detail, (*ahem*) of said shots really was kind of excessive. But it was kind of amusing. That said, if the rest of the episodes keep up that pace, well, I think the joke gets old a little quickly. Still, the music, the style, and animation were really good and enjoyable.
I'll keep renting for now.

My new renovation blog

Subject: Musings
Well, I set up a secondary blog for tracking my construction project and post pictures. It's really kind of dry and boring at the moment, and more a place that I can send my immediate and extended family to go look at how it's going without having to mix it up with my geeky obsessive side.

Anyway, if you're interested, there it is! Now that it's done, I'll try to catch up with reviewing a few things that I've watched this weekend a little later today.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Construction starts tomorrow!

Subject: Musings
Well, I got a call from my contractor today asking if I was ready to start. Tomorrow! Gah!

I spent today clearing the rest of my cra... uh, excess stuff out of the demolition zones, so I'm ready. Well, ready to have my life totally disrupted for the next 6 weeks or so.

So if I don't post for a bunch of days in a row, it's because I've got no power or I've had to flee to a hotel temporarily or something. But you can all expect to be subjected to before-and-after pictures soon. I may start a companion blog just to track progress, depending how inspired I get.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Belated weekend reviews

Subject: Noir
Just a couple of quick reviews that I haven't gotten around to posting yet:

"Now and Then, Here and There" disc 2 -- Boy howdy, does the first episode on this disc takes the tone to an even darker level! Yet, as low and oppressive as it gets, that plucky little kid just explodes with purpose and motivation. I swear, even a cynical old fart like me wants to cheer Shu on!

I've complained on a couple of occasions (Gunslinger Girls and Elfin Lied) that putting little kids in tragic situations is grossly manipulative. In this case, yeah it still is, but in a way, it feels less like it's cynically engineered to evoke those responses, and more like an authentic dramatic fictional experience. I'm looking forward to seeing how this ends with the next disc.

"Bubblegum Crisis" (1987) -- Now here's an old skool series I totally missed out on back in the day. And sure enough, it's chock-full of that old-skool charm and character. And really cheesy, cringeworthy music! "Priss & Replicants", though... Great name! Heh. Anyway, good old-fashioned popcorn fun. I'll get through this original version first before trying the newer "2040" version.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Meine Liebe setback...

(Clem, thanks for the opportunity to participate in subbing this series. I learned a lot! I'm sorry to see you go.)

Anyway, I'm hoping this is only a temporary setback; I am still a Mashimo fan and I want to see this series through. I'm tempted to take what I've learned and at least create a parody sub, but I know it's a lot of hard work and it will take a while. I've got a lot of ideas for it though.

I'd also be willing to take on most of the work of continuing the series (timing/editing/encoding) if there are any volunteers to try their hand at translating. I'm particularly interested in getting enough out there to the fans to be able to make some sense of the show with the understanding that it won't be anywhere near the quality of an established subbers' effort. But if there are no other groups picking this up, then there's not much choice, is there?

And if any other groups are thinking of picking it up, and need a timer, I'm committed to seeing this series through, and can turn episodes around pretty quickly.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Champloo: Bebop's Madlax?

Subject: Noir
"Samurai Champloo" is awesome!!!

I made a big deal last week of wanting to buy it on the spot even though I hadn't previewed it yet. And I wanted to watch it too, but I was so tired that night that I really couldn't start it. Tonight I had my chance.

"Madlax", in a lot of ways, is considered the "sequel" to "Noir". My take on that is that "Madlax" is more fun where "Noir" is more serious. Now, seeing as "Cowboy Bebop" was already a lot of fun to begin with, it's kind of difficult to make the same parallel with Champloo. Which is pretty damn well fun too!

I suppose where I get this impression is that the two shows (Madlax and Champloo, that is) are both very much self aware -- that is to say, they both know that they're a show. They both know their medium, the language of the medium, and the buttons to push. And that makes them all the more loveable. Noir & Bebop were both different -- they broke the mold of the medium they were in; they tried and be something unique unto themselves. They set the bar higher.

But back to Champloo. Medieval Japanese Samurai action with a hip-hop beat (and a few modern character touches). It's dripping with attitude, style, detail, and character. The action is top-notch, the dialogue is tight, and the whole thing abounds with life. There's a lot going on in these scant 4 episodes, and it's a credit to Wantanabe that he could put his hooks in to me so quickly.

Since this is a modern digitally-produced show, it lacks a bit of the hand-crafted quality that Bebop had. The line quality sometimes looked a tad artificial, and there were some noticeable post-production shortcuts. But there were some totally excellent additions that technology added: primarily the camerawork. A lot of "active" shots simulating a hand-held unsteady feeling. Which I usually hate when it's excessive, but I thought worked marvelously in this context. Plus the color, mise en scene, and editing/timing is absolutely perfect. The swordfight action is fabulous, and the pacing is dead-on.

Bebop was "cool". And Champloo is, also, "cool".

My only problem is that in the liner notes, the schedule of DVD releases was displayed. The final disc will be release over a year from now!!!! Holy crap! It's going to take me over a year to work through this series?? You've got to be kidding me! I hope that was only a worst-case guess in order to cover their, uh, assets, and they are able to pick up the pace a little. This show's too good to be sitting on!

Anyway, enough gushing over this one. I think I've found my new #5!

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Quick Impressions

Subject: Noir
A few quickies, from fansub & TV:

"Starship Operators" -- I dropped it about 10 minutes in. Bunch of teenagers have to run a starship and something about needing sponsorship and whatnot. I don't care, I couldn't get into it.

"Ultimate Girls" -- I dunno why I downloaded that; it's pretty seriously immature. Duh. Curiousity sometimes gets the better of me, I guess.

"AIR" -- looks good, might be interesting, but I'm not sure it's my cup of tea. I'll try a couple of more episodes.

"Jinki: Extend" -- Young girl meets mecha, loves mecha, then some other wierd stuff happened with other characters that seemed tacked on to make you go "huh?"... Still, it had a little spark to it, I'll keep trying.

"Boogiepop Phantom" -- Cheap "Lain" ripoff. Approaches the "creep", but totally lacks the "character".

"Big O" -- OMG, it's "Batman: The Animated Series", only with giant robots! Seriously, the art style and character renderings is very very much like the recent (but not as recent as I'd like to admit) Warner Brothers TV series. It's a little cheaper in the animation quality, the lead character isn't quite as "serious" as Bruce Wayne, and the dub is kind of annoying, but it's still nostalgic enough to keep my attention for the time being.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Gmail, anyone?

Subject: Musings
I've got 3 extra invites for Gmail! If any of my faithful readers would like one, email me at

(EDIT: 2 more left... tick. tick. tick...)

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Weekend's watching

Subject: Noir
Watched a variety of stuff this weekend (though I should have been doing more around the house... oh well!):

"Paranoia Agent" disc 2 -- hot off the presses, I lucked out with GreenCine and they shipped it the day it released. The show continues to be quite entertaining, and almost everything you're set up to believe at the end of the 1st disc gets upended during this one. Though I have to admit, I'm getting a little more lost as to what's going on as well. Still, it's a decent psychological drama with a surreal edge and no easy answers, and it's worth the wait between releases.

"Beserk" disc 1 -- Medieval badass dude with a big sword against demonic overlords and a mercanary pretty-boy. Maybe I'll nickname this one "Bore-serk"... Okay, that was mean, but really, there wasn't anything in this one that I could latch on to, and I gave up 3 episodes in. Maybe I was tired or something, but really, the quality was mediocre, the characters were so-so, the action was okay but nothing special, and there was really no dramatic hook whatsoever to compell me to continue. This one usually gets good reviews, so there's probably some redeeming qualities to it somewhere, but right now I just don't have the patience for it -- I've got a lot more programming queued up to sample.

"R.O.D." OVA version -- A nice light bit of entertainment. A bookish, clueless girl totally absorbed in her own little world turns out to have a special power that lets her do anything with paper. Shields, blades, giant paper airplanes (?!), she can do it. Of course, she's part of a super-secret organization of, get this, librarians, who are out to save the world against someone making evil clones of historical figures. Kind of a wierd premise, but there's a neat spark of life to the characters, and since it was only 3 episodes, it was worth sticking around for. I've added the DVDs for the series in my GreenCine queue to see if that spark carries over there as well.

I finally DVR'ed an episode of ".hack//Legend of the Twighlight Bracelet" just to see what it was like. Sure enough, without the Yuki Kajiura music, and the fact that it's a bit less mature and a bit less deep doesn't really compell me to want to go out of my way to see it. Bee Train's B-team aren't any slouches, but it's a whole different intent and target audience for this one, and, like with "Arc The Lad", I'm not falling into slavish fanboydom over the studio as a whole (even though Mashimo runs the place).

Speaking of Bee-Train, you've probably noticed a lack of activity with Meine Liebe. Episode 10's raw just showed up on Saiyaman, though no sign of 11 at this point. And no scripts have come my way since episode 6. Obviously with the holidays, everyone's busy, so I don't want anyone to rush on my account. And since Meine Liebe doesn't exactly have me on the edge of my seat, I can be patient. If this were Madlax, I'd be frothing-at-the-mouth insane right now, though! Heh.

But anyway, I think enthusiasm has been waning for the show overall; there's not much activity in the various forums besides fanfiction, and I'm not particularly interested in the particular flavor of fanfiction that this show inspires. ("Not that there's anything wrong with that.")

Still, the show's nearing the end in Japan, so I hope things get back on track before my own life gets totally disrupted with remodelling and demolition and whatnot.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Battlestar Galact-oh-yeah!

Subject: TV
So the new, improved "Battlestar Galactica" series has finally made it over here. It's been airing in Great Britian for a while now, but finally we get to see it over here after having seen the pilot miniseries a long time ago.

It's pretty cool.

Okay, it's not high art or anything. But it's a far more twisted take on the ancient cheesy late-70's staple of bad special effects and cliched storyline (which, of course, I watched religiously at the time, bought the toys, and wince at when I see re-runs of). It's quite entertaining. Some of the trappings of the old series are still there in the form of old technologies (like the fact that communications are done on old phone handsets) because the newer, "scarier" (and in a couple of instances, "sexier") Cylons are able to completely disable "modern" technology with viruses and whatnot.

"Boomer" and "Starbuck" are now women. And both are totally *hawt*! Starbuck still smokes cigars, too. Heh.

There's one thing that bugs me though. I really want to tell the director of photography: "Get a F*-ing tripod!!!" The handheld camera thing is way overdone. The space sequences where it gets a kind of documentary look is pretty cool, but when every damn shot is bouncing around, well, that's overkill.

Anyway, this is pretty enjoyable, even though the crappy analog cable channel doesn't look particularly good. So I'll look forward to the day that I can see this in a better quality format. Until then, I'll enjoy the chance to watch something rather unusual as far as TV is concerned: an original remake! Who'da thunk it?!

Thursday, January 13, 2005


Subject: Noir
So whadd'ya all think? Should I just go ahead and buy "Samurai Champloo" cold? Without having seen it? It's at the top of my rental queue, but I'm guessing it will be perpetually unavailable for a while.

Everything I've read about it tells me that I will like it a lot. Bebop's director & creative team... samurai... hip-hop soundtrack... story more about the journey than the destination... and did I say samurai?

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Gratuity not included

Subject: Noir
So I've been trying to figure out what to say about "Elfin Lied".

After the first couple of episodes, it does get a little compelling. But I think more in the way that you feel compelled to slow down when passing the scene of a car accident than for any intrinsic value in the narrative.

Well, okay, that's a little harsh. But really, this show is an assemblage of gratuitous violence, gratuitous blood, gratuitious nudity, gratutitous child torture, gratuitous child molestation, gratuitous innuendo, and gratuitous emotional manipulation. It is a harsh show. I feel like I've been repeatedly assaulted by a blunt object.

And not really in a good way.

I'm not a particularly squeamish or prudish guy. I've revelled in the ballet of violence in John Woo's "Hard Boiled", and didn't blink at all at the mass nekkidness in Greenaway's "Prospero's Books". There's plenty of compelling and redeeming uses for all kinds of horrible or disturbing subject matter. In "Elfin Lied", though, they're used as a club to beat you over the head, to ham-handedly steer you as to how you should feel about this or that character or situation, often to just set you up one way so they can turn around and knock you down with a so-called twist.

A long while back I posted about "Gunslinger Girls", and said:
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.

...and I liked GSG! But little did I know that I'd run into another program that more aptly fits this kind of description. Except for one thing. I wouldn't call "Elfin Lied" "evil". Instead, I'd use the word "wrong". Just... "wrong". "Evil" was an artful stilleto jabbing stealthy incisions into my heart. "Wrong"... well, "wrong" is a splintery two-by-four smacking me across skull. Blunt force trauma.

Another element about it is that it seems to be a construction built of bits and pieces from other shows. It's like they took a bunch of scenarios, characters, plot points, cliches, and attitudes, put them in a box, and shook it up. It's just another thing that lends to the "engineered to be manipulative" sense that I get from it.

And that's about it. I guess this just goes to show that I shouldn't go watching these sorts of series sober! If I had a few drinks, maybe I would have said it was "fun" or something... (Heh.)

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Vive la difference!

Subject: Cinema
Tonight I finally watched the "Triplets of Bellville".

Like I've mentioned before, I went to grad school for animation (though I never quite finished), and I've seen quite a bit of independent work. I used to go to the International Festival of Animation in Ottawa every other year for a number of years.

And I've missed it.

There's a wonderful, magical realm of independant animation and storytelling that really pushes the boundary of storytelling and the overall way we identify with what we see on the screen. "Triplets" had that in spades. It's such a delightful work, and purposely communicates most everything with nary a scrap of understandable dialogue (most of the spoken parts are French-ish gibberish). It's very tight, and very much an entertaining endeavor, and it speaks volumes in every shot.

Which is very much reminiscent of the short, non-commercial, but very much entertaining films that were shown during the festivals I used to attend. There were ingredients present that have been missing not only in the TV and mainstream movies I've been watching, but also all that garsh-dang anime I've been obsessing about.

So it's a good thing that I've finally watched (and enjoyed) "Triplets". It's letting me bring back a level of perspective that I feared I might be losing due to my unrelenting quest for unique and interesting Japanese programming!

Friday, January 07, 2005


Subject: Noir
Okay, it's been a bit since I posted last; my apologies!!

First up: My favorite Portuguese Pen Pal recommended that I give "Elfin Lied" a chance. Okay, I'm giving it a chance. But I have to say, after just two episodes, it's going to be difficult. There's a lot of same-'ol-same-'ol cliche going on. First is the excessive, pointless gore. Yeah, real shocking. I have seen "Akira", y' know!. Anyway, I'm not a fan of excessive gore.

Second: clueless cat-girl. Well, okay, the cat-girl's alternate personality is a badass superpowered chick who causes most of the pointless gore so far. But her other aspect is that of the "doesn't-understand-the-language-and-just-says-"nyuh"-all-the-time" fanservice-bait.

Which of course leads to third: the typical awkward teenage boy who now needs to care for said fanservice-bait clueless catgirl. And be all embarresed and stammering over the inevitable nudity that ensues. I mean, yeah, when I was that age, I probably would have been all embarrased and stammering if I had to deal with a nekkid catgirl, but at my age, I really don't need to see it again. And again. And again. *yawn*

Fourth: Setting up the inevitable jealousy triangle with the unrequited-love character. I'm really tired of that too.

But, there was a bit of a twist at the end of #2 where a second catgirl gets introduced, and it was just barely enough of a hook to keep me going. That, and Ms. Pen Pal's encouragement. I hope she heeds my advice about trying Monster out. I think that's a much more superior show, and I hope she likes it better!

Anyway, on to my Friday DVDs! "Irresponsible Captain Tylor" -- the last disc of the first season. I am very impressed with how this series wrapped up. When it started, it seemed kind of shallow albiet entertaining; in this last disc, there was ample evidence for a deeper layer behind the otherwise amusing and simplistic surface. This show is definitely a keeper, and I'm looking foward to not only seeing the second season, but buying the up-and-coming "perfect collection" in the next couple of months or so.

Finally, my pre-order for "Neon Genesis: Evangelion" disc 4 arrived, so I rewatched #3 (because I was probably a wee bit intoxicated and didn't quite remember the key happenings) and that one.

I've got to say, in #4, the writing was very, very tight. Impressively so. It covered a lot of deep ground, yet it held up even in the brevity of the English subtitles. Despite some of the more "filler" types of shots, the dialogue still left an excellent impression, and what these paltry 3 episodes revealed proved to be quite a turning point in the series thus far. I'll admit that I caught a bit of a spoiler in one of the forums (before I tried to back out and block out the memory of seeing it), but it still works quite well even though I know what I know.

Anyway, despite the cliche relationships and other nonsense, the animation and story quality definitely rate it as a "top-tier" program. And while it may not quite be in my "top ten" (and I don't yet have ten programs to fill those slots), it's still pretty darn good. I'm still happy that I'm buying the "platinum" version (which, like I've mentioned before, looks and sounds excellent!)

Monday, January 03, 2005

What's good for the gander

Subject: Musings
Six weeks ago I heard the inevitable honking of a group of Canadian geese making their yearly southward migration over the lake. That was supposed to mean that in 6 weeks, that is to say, now, we'd be in our first big snowstorm of the season.

Well, for some strange reason, exactly 6 weeks later, it's around 50F degrees, and there are a heck of a lot more geese flying overhead tonight. I mean, it's been going on for hours.

So I guess the first storm will be in mid-February? Hmm.

What if they're all flying back to Canada?? Yikes!!


Anyway, I hit the New Year in a busy way, mostly with remodelling preparations as opposed to real work, so posting might be light as I haven't been able to watch anything yet. Maybe I'm overdue for a music post?

Sunday, January 02, 2005

The post-Noir fog

Subject: Noir
One of the other side effects of late-night Noir-marathoning, besides posting song lyrics, is the lingering haze my brain struggles through over the course of the next day or two. I find myself unable to concentrate, unable to make decisions, and totally unmotivate to take care of mundane household tasks.

Well, moreso than usual...

And, of course, it doesn't help that I have a Noir + Madlax playlist on my MP3 player -- it just prolongs it.

And one other side effect: I don't have the patience to sit through any other anime, or any other show for that matter. I'm back to my "quick-to-judge-too-harshly" mode where I have a hard time just letting go and accepting a program for what it is. And it doesn't help when it's got a mediocre dub, too. Case-in-point, I had DVR'd the original "Ghost in the Shell" movie, and decided to give it a try. And stopped about halfway through; I couldn't take it anymore. "Blah blah blah" and a plot and characters I didn't give a s* about. If I saw it a week ago I probably would have said it was "fun" or some such thing, but right now I'm just annoyed by it.

And I couldn't bring myself to watch the "Triplets of Bellville" disc that showed up from GreenCine. I just knew I didn't have the patience for it, and I'd rather judge it on it's own merit than through my Noir goggles.

I'm hoping that today's mental break of trying to pick out bathroom fixtures and flooring will let me ease back into the state of mind where I can do some casual watching tonight. Though I really should be working on clearing all the stuff out of my kitchen before demolition starts...

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Kirei na Kanjou

Subject: Noir
The soft touch
Finally made me notice how cold my cheek was

Like waking up in the morning
And noticing the birds chirping for the first time


I don't know anything yet
What my heart is seeking
I don't know

I was always looking up at the sky
Like this, since who knows when

I would send my thoughts
to right below that cloud.