Wednesday, March 30, 2005

3rd time's the charm?

Subject: Noir
Blogger has been "bloggered" these past few days, and it has eaten 2 of my attempts at summing up the other stuff I watched over the weekend. It almost completely swallowed my "Incredibles" review, but it somehow appeared out of thin air hours after I wrote it. Now that it's behaving better, I'll try again.

"Bubblegum Crisis" (original series) disc 2 -- I dunno. It just didn't seem as fun as the first disc. Nor did it seem to advance in any way. In fact, I didn't even make it all the way through all the episodes. I'm pretty sure I was in a good mood and all, but it just wasn't doing anything for me at all. I might give the next disc a shot, or I might just skip to the more recent sequel series. But overall, I'm not really interested in pursuing this any further unless I'm totally bored.

To make up for bailing out early, I dug out disc 2 of "Kino's Journey" for a quick re-watch there. Ahh, that's better.

Also on the rewatching front, since the "Meine Liebe" ressurection is still slow to get off the ground, "Tsubasa" hasn't started yet, and I'm waiting for "Madlax" to show up, well, I've gotten into a bit of "Bee-Train withdrawl". So I started rewatching "Avenger". I tell ya, this one really grows on me. I don't know when the DVDs are finally going to get released, but it's definitely on my "automatic buy" list.

And speaking of "automatic buy", I had pre-ordered "Samurai Champloo" in hopes that it would have shown up on the 29th, which was yesterday, but it hasn't even shipped yet! Argh! The Criterion release of Kurosawa's "Kagemusha" did ship, at least, but it didn't show up on time either. Maybe today.

I've got some TV program thoughts coming up next, if Blogger doesn't eat those too...

Monday, March 28, 2005

Simply F*-ing "Incredible"

Subject: Cinema
I finally got a chance to watch "The Incredibles" the other night.

Verdict: Total awesomeness!

A little side-story first: Way back before I took this boring corporate job, I was working as an animator/editor at a small, dying, local post-production company in town. During the facility's final months, I assembled everything I could into a demo reel, and started aggressively shopping it around in hopes of continuing my career. At that year's International Festival of Animation in Ottawa, I was lucky enough to meet with a recruiter from Pixar, who was aggressively beating-the-bushes for talent. We had a nice chat, I handed over my packet, and...


My attempt at a follow-up: "Thank you, we'll keep you in mind."

Translation: "You're not up to the level of talent we're looking for."

And watching "The Incredibles" made it quite obvious that they were absolutely correct. Heh. I mean, I like to think that I had a spark of something back then, but the reality was that I could only muster a beginner's level of work. I was starting to get into my groove, but I had a long way to go.

And then I wound up a corporate sell-out.

But enough of that; this movie didn't really bring on any kind of jealousy or wishful thinking to this sort of level -- I really can't complain! I mean, sure, a whole underlying theme had Mr. Incredible sacrificing his "glory days" for a stable, boring, awful day-job. But really, that's not what this post is about!

I was thoroughly entertained by this movie! The characters, the expressiveness, the cinematics, the kitschy James-Bondian designs, the audio -- oh good lord, the subwoofer channel alone was amazing! Brad Bird (previously of "The Iron Giant" and "The Simpsons" fame) did an outstanding job, and it's a prime example of the kind of quality you get when you group a bunch of extremely talented people together in a really, really cool facility, and set 'em loose to have fun.

And the evolution of the techniques for modelling and rendering 3D from when I studied it is phenomenal! Beyond the detailed expressivness in both faces and poses, you get into the details like hair and water and texture to the point that you completely forget that you're watching the product of zillions of hours of rendering time, and you just enjoy it for what it is.

So I'm gushing a bit over this one. On this first viewing, I didn't witness any flaws whatsoever. But maybe they're there, and I'll uncover them on subsequent viewings. Maybe it won't hold up over repeated watching. But I dunno, I think I can probably milk it for a couple of very entertaining repeats before that sets in.

To sum up: Top notch! Glad I bought it sight-unseen.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

ANN "Sunday Spotlight": Yuki Kajiura

Subject: Music
The Anime News Network has started up a series of interviews called "Sunday Spotlight" -- in their premiere issue is a short Q&A with Yuki Kajiura. Good stuff, go read!

Friday, March 25, 2005

An actual "real people" film for once...

Subject: Cinema
...gritty-real, in some ways.

I dipped back into my foreign movie shelf and finished up the "I Am Curious" duo. I started "Yellow" a couple of months back, and finished "Blue" last night.

Sex mixed with politics mixed with filmmaking. Mostly politics and filmmaking. I'm sure the "sex" part was all very shocking in it's day, but it's rather tame now.

A mix of real-people interviews, fictional scenarios, and many layers of "what is the story" with "what is the film" -- due to the fact that they continuously cut to the crew filming what they just did. It weaves a bit of a complex narrative that way, which is all well and good. But I'm not really a "thinker" when it comes to movies, so I haven't really analyzed it to any level just yet.

It's very, very, uhh... 60's. And very, uhh... Swedish -- whatever that is! But this must be it. Or at least pre-Ikea Swedish.

It didn't rock my world, but I figured I'd at least quickly log that I watched it. The individual characters and their performances were pretty well done and carried it through well enough that I could finish it. Though I sure left a long time between "episodes".

"Tsubasa Chronicle" preview video!

Subject: Noir
Ahhh, Bee-Trainy goodness!

(via "bads182" on the AnimeSuki Tsubasa thread)

(can you tell I'm "working from home" today?)

"Stelllllaaa" uh... I mean: "Stellvia"

Subject: Noir
I watched disc 1 of the "Stellvia" series last night. It was okay, though aimed a bit "young" for my tastes.

Note that it's "young", not "immature". I think I've made that distinction before; I'll have to go back and dig up that post someday so I don't keep repeating myself.

Anyway, like "Uninhabited Planet: Survive", the characters and the situation make up for its intended age bracket enough for it to be watchable. Heck, the opening shot is a supernova-induced apocalypse ravaging the Earth. Ah, the apocalypse; there's a good ol' Japanese animation cliche that never goes out of style! If it weren't for that or some sort of "amnesia" plot, all that would be left would be "high-school". Of course, "Stellvia" has plenty of "high-school". Well, okay, "Stellivia" is a high-school, but it's a high-school facing the apocalypse at least.

Okay, okay, like I said, it's aimed at a younger audience, so it's not exactly breaking any new ground.

Anyway, I might continue renting, though I'm not going to prioritize it in my queue. If it were on one of the cable networks, I'd probably DVR it for occasional viewing a la "Big O" or ".hack//Legend Yada Yada" But for me, it's not a "buy".

Oh, and speaking of "high-school", out of some sort of morbid curiosity I tried the first episode of "Cromatarie High School". Uhhh. Oooo-kayyy. Yeah, I can see why people would think it's funny, but I'm really, really not the target audience for this one. Even though I'm old enough to have listened to Queen when they were actively releasing albums. No biggie, I'm sure it'll appeal to somebody. But if I wanted to see something manga-style, I'd read manga. And I don't.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

But then again...

Subject: Noir
Looks like I might have spoken too soon. The trip has been postponed indefinitely.

So maybe I'll just tell everyone I'm still going on the trip, but stay at home watching Madlax over and over again...

Uhh.... no.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Oh dang!

Subject: Noir
I just realized that the Madlax DVD release is April 12th, and I'm going to be on a business trip then.

Gah!! That means it'll be days before I get to watch it!!

Madlax dub review

Subject: Noir
AnimeOnDVD has a quick review of the upcoming Madlax dub. And a bit of a perspective from someone who apparently hasn't watched the subs, which is interesting to read (being so far removed from that state myself).

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Continuing the continuation

Subject: Noir
A couple more discs this weekend:

"Irresponsible Captain Tylor" OVA disc 3 -- The last 2 episodes, continuing the style and tone from disc 2. That is to say, it's a much different show in spirit than before. And no sign of Mashimo in the credits.

It's got the same characters, and more or less the same universe, but everything's off a bit. And it's like they totally missed the point of Captain Tylor's character. I dunno. It has an interesting look, and there are some good moments, but it falls flat overall. I think when the new discs are released, I'll just be buying the first series and leaving the OVAs on the shelf.

"Master Keaton" disc 4 -- Continuing the episodic saga. Excellent characters and interesting situations as usual. Again, it's a bit too sedate to watch all at once, but it works really well an episode at a time.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Eva 6: Whoa.

Subject: Noir
Dang, this show just gets more intense as it nears the finish, doesn't it.

It's quite an intricate story. And the characters really put their hooks into you and drag you down into the abyss with them. Not to mention all the crazy revelations it makes with regards to the backstory and "truths" behind what's really going on in the narrative. Impressive. And involving.

So enough has been going on with this one to totally overcome the more "immature" elements that I wan't particularly fond of in the early episodes. It's got "psychological", "dramatic" and "sci-fi" all rolled up together in a very compelling package.

Now, I can't say that I'd recommend this to friends, or even move it close to my all-time favorites, but it's a very well-done series and I'm enjoying it immensely. I'm on the edge of my seat for the finale, and I'll continue to post my impression when the final disc is released.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Clark '08?

Subject: Soapbox
Well, no, just "WesPAC".

It's good to see that he's staying involved. The man has the sharpest, most insightful way of cutting to the heart of what has been missing from American politics for a while now: common sense. Listening to him speak, it's actually possible to imagine a day when our leaders spend their time leading, instead of bullshitting.

If you're interested, go read some of his speeches and read the interview transcripts and whatnot.

Oh well, enough of that. Back to our regularly scheduled escapism!

"Official" MADLAX site

Subject: Noir
Doesn't quite seem to be finished yet, and it doesn't have all the hidden-link goodness of the Noir site, but there's something there, at least!

That means it's getting close!!

(credit to MartAnimE via AnimeSuki for spotting it)

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Rumor confirmed.

Subject: Noir
"Meine Liebe" subs will resume shortly.

You heard it here first!

Sunday, March 13, 2005

And now the rest...

Subject: Noir
The other two discs I watched this weekend:

"Paranoia Agent" disc 3 -- Once again, GreenCine sent me the disc so I got it right when it was considered "released". And once again, Satoshi Kon weaves his psychological twists and turns. These three episodes seemed to be outside of the "main" characters' stories, and were more like individual side-stories involving Shonen Bat in one way or another affecting different parts of society. And they were funny as all get-go! Yet deeply, darkly twisted. I don't think I can adequetly describe it. But I think I'm just about ready to rate this series a "buy". I'll let it digest a little more first.

"Sorcerer Hunters" disc 4 -- The end of this earlier Mashimo series. Quite a melodramatic ending considering all of the sophmoric lead-up. In a lot of ways, if this darker thread were more dominant throughout, it might have been a rather gripping series. But as it stands, it just seems a little difficult to swallow how the lead character Carrot was so central to everyone's devotion and machinations. I mean, yeah, I get what it was saying but because he was so over-the-top ridiculous, it makes it all seem rather trite when it comes down to it. Still, it didn't totally suck, as it were. But I don't think I'll be buying it, Mashimo or not. Unless I find a really really cheap set. But probably not.

That's it for now. The interior work on my house is almost done, so I'm going to finally get to work on resuming a "normal" life around here. Woo hoo!

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Porco Rosso...

Subject: Noir absolutely awesome! What a fun, detailed, and alive movie.

Delightful. Absolutely delightful.

It's very simple, but it has such a wonderful texture to it. And for once in an anime film, I've got to say that the scriptwriting has wonderful, magical subtleties in it, even in translation. And the characters -- they have such life to them. And there's, unmistakably, Miyazaki's love behind it all. It's coarsing through the very veins of every shot, every sequence. The flying, the characters, the women...

Anyway, that's just a quickie for now. I've got a couple of more to write a blurb or two about, but I figured this rated a post of it's own.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Another "Tsubasa" update!

Subject: Noir
So it looks like they pulled that other picture that showed all the characters, but started fleshing out the site a little. There's an episode summary page with the description of the first episode, and a character page with descriptions of the two leads.

Using Bablefish, it seems that this show is going to be about archeology. No, seriously!

And since my most favorite "real people" show of the last few years (when I can catch it) has been "Time Team", I'm indeed thrilled! Heh.

I can't make much else out -- remember, I don't read manga, let alone CLAMP manga -- except in the overall plot synopsis, it looks like -- wait for it...

Their memories have been taken away and they're trying to find them again.

I remember reading somewhere that amnesia plays a big role in Japanese storytelling because it plays so well into the "start in the middle, and work your way in both directions" narrative structure that Japan is famous for. But boy, howdy, there sure are a lot of amnesiacs in anime, aren't there? Not to mention in Mashimo's anime.

*Disclaimer* -- I just pumped this through a machine translator. I have no idea what's really going to be in this show. But isn't speculating fun?

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

"Big O"-ooohhh, WTF was that?

Subject: Noir
Okay, so the Cartoon Network finished up their run of "Big O" and I caught up with what I had DVR'd. This whole "second season" was a bit disjointed in a lot of ways. And finally at the end, they really just kind of throw a bunch of crazy clues at you in the end to infer something that should sooo obviously be profound and all.

Okay, okay, I'll lighten up (especially for those of you who are glaring at me saying, "Uh, Madlax?"). It was still entertaining and all -- a fun bit of distraction to watch while eating dinner. And yeah, I get what they were saying; I just didn't find that as interesting as the neat little moments of interaction between the characters. Particularly the R. Dorothy & Roger exchanges. "You are such a louse, Roger Smith." Heh.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Pause button

Subject: Musings
Been a bit worn out these past couple o' days, and haven't been in the mood to spend the kind of time on the computer I need to post anything interesting. So hang in there, I'll be back with more soon enough.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Weekend watch report

Subject: Noir
Well, I still haven't had much more time to go on about that Newtype article. And really, besides the "hospital" metaphor about what the studio is, there isn't all that much more to it. Well, a couple of good lines about Madlax, maybe. I promise I'll get to it soon!

But I figured at least I'd quickly summarize my ongoing adventures in anime samplin'.

Myazaki's "Castle in the Sky" -- Gorgeous! The intro by John Lassiter (the lead director over at Pixar, who I met way back when in their "Luxo Jr." days -- a story for another time) says that it's his favorite Miyazaki film. And I can see why. It's got a great "scale" to it. Miyazaki does "vast" and "huge" very well. And the character performances are so lively and engaging that you can't help but be drawn in to it. Is it my favorite Miyazaki film? Well, maybe not, but it's damn good! And I still have a few more to catch up on before I can decide. Heh.

Satoshi Kon's "Millenium Actress" -- Oh, I really, really liked this one! It's a wonderfully executed homage to cinema. I mean, it's so detailed, so meticulous in it's treatment. The performances are completely convincing and realistic despite the rather fanciful premise. It's such a gushing show of love for the medium that I can't help but find it totally endearing.

I think I'll be buying both of these!

More later! Tonight is the premiere of season 2 of HBO's curse-tastic "Deadwood"; I can't miss it!

Rumor: "Meine Liebe" subs restarting?

Subject: Noir
As they say, "Developing..."


Saturday, March 05, 2005

A couple of Newtype tidbits...

Subject: Noir
Okay, I don't have as much time today to dive as deeply into this article as I thought I would, but I figured I'd throw a few tantalizing bits out there for ya...

From the short Kouichi Mashimo profile on pg. 10, confirmation of his background:
"Many people who entered animation around the time had been doing manga before, but for me it was photography and films, so the learning curve was about three times as steep as it was for everyone else."

And on pg 13., a stunning revelation:
Mashimo tells us that though the titles aren't directly related, he's always envisioned Noir and MADLAX as part of a trilogy of works featuring pistol-packing babes. He tells us that he already has a successor to MADLAX in mind. (Though judging by the double takes all around the table, it has yet to be confirmed -- you heard it here first...)


Also on pg. 13, in a sidebar, Mashimo says about Yuki Kajiura:
"She's a storyteller who just happens to know how to write music."

Finally, in the part of the artcle focused on Madlax, pg. 16, Mashimo discusses the development process and how they developed a complex plot aimed at a "sophisticated and well-read audience", my favorite part:
The trick, he says, is to go out drinking and shoot the breeze. "After all the meetings and serious discussions, just put it out of your mind. A little drunkenness and small talk brings out incredible ideas -- just in the course of normal conversation -- and they aren't the kind of ideas you get by planning or thinking logically."

Hero. Absolute f*ing hero! *grin*
And on that note... (*sound of beer-bottle opening*)

More to follow...

PS -- back on page 10, Kirika's age is confirmed. 16. (yikes!)

Friday, March 04, 2005

March's "Newtype": Bee Train & Madlax

Subject: Noir
Someone on one of the forums mentioned that Bee Train had a short write-up in the latest Newtype magazine. A magazine I never really bothered with, but I just happened to be near a bookstore this evening and went looking for it.

Sure enough, on the cover, Madlax & Margaret! *Yoink* -- I grabbed it.

I just quickly read the article, and I'm almost tearing up with joy. It's mostly an interview with Koichi Mashimo (along with his lead character designer, animator, and producer). And everything in the article completely confirmed my suspicions about what was going on over there, and reinforced my opinion of him.

The man is now officially, totally, my hero.

When I questioned earlier "does Mashimo get it?", what has happened since is that I got the sense that I was the one who got Mashimo. And I'm overjoyed to see that I was right!

I'll spend some time this weekend excerpting some of the key parts of the interview and commenting on them. It's absolutely fascinating!

(Well, it is to me, at least...)

Thursday, March 03, 2005

OMG, Shonen Knife is in town!

Subject: Music
Way before my current obsession with Japanese cartoons, I had a thing for a couple of Japanese bands.

One was Pizzicato Five. Fun loops and tunes with a lounge-y kind of feel that fit right in with the "bachelor-pad" resurgence a few years back.

The other was Shonen Knife. An all-girl punk trio with a real Ramones-meets-pop kind of sound that was just awesome. And they'd been around forever. And tonight they're playing at a little quirky alternative club in town! Yikes!

My little lakeside getaway is a fair bit of a drive outside of town, though. And now that I'm getting older, I find that I can't really do the late-night-partying-then-get-up-at-6AM-for-work thang that I used to be able to do. And it's a tiny little venue that's usually jam-packed with people...

Excuses, excuses. I really should go. I don't think I'm going to though. *sigh*

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

I guess I just don't get it... (Utena re-revisited)

Subject: Noir
So I'm still trying to work my way through "Revolutionary Girl: Utena". Disc 1 was "a bit of a dissapointment", disc 2 "was just too ridiculous". Okay, I thought the movie was "hot". *Ahem*.

Disc 3, well, it wasn't as ridiculous... excepting the "cowbell" episode... but I don't think I'm particularly getting it. I mean, I "get it", in that I understand that there's all sorts of symbolism being thrown at me and there are layers of meaning and whatnot behind everything, but I'm really not grasping any of it. Well, not any significant amount of it for me to be able to grab hold of and ride through to the conclusion.

I think this show wants me to think too much up-front. I think I tend to prefer to first enjoy "thinking" shows and movies -- as opposed to fun, casual "popcorn" watching -- in a state we called in film school the "suspension of disbelief". That's the state of mind where you're sucked into the universe being presented on the screen -- it's rules become your reality for that moment even if it's totally fiction and maybe even impossible. After I get through it that way, then I'm drawn even deeper into the experience and start deconstructing it and getting at the layers beneath. It's kind of like letting my right brain absorb it all first so my left brain can parse it and explain it afterwards.

"Utena", for some reason, isn't letting me cross over into that state at all. It wants left-brain attention first. Even though it's totally laden with surrealist symbolism which is supposed to be all kinds of right-brain stimulus. Or maybe I'm just dense and not all that well-read.

There's a lot more episodes to go, so I'll keep trying. And yeah, probably I'll keep complaining. But hey, at least it's got me writing more than once a week!