Tuesday, May 31, 2005

"Madlax" disc 2 shipped! (plus more "P.N.S." and a little "Tsubasa"

Subject: Noir
Yay, DDD has shipped my copy of Madlax #2!

That means in another year, I can have a "Madlax bender"...

"Oy", indeed. There must be something totally messed up with my relationship with "Noir" if I need to build up a big Bushmills-'n-coffee-fueled party event just to be able to watch it. As if blogging about it non-stop for a year isn't messed up on its own, but still...

And as if I need to describe "watching 'Noir'" as "my relationship with 'Noir'" isn't messed up...

Anyway, combining "Post-Noir Syndrome" with recovery from my experiment in blood chemistry realignment made for very little watching of anything these past two days, but during dinnertime tonight I finally watched episode 8 of "Tsubasa Chronicle". From the forums I gather that this one was a departure from the manga, and I think the show benefited tremendously from that. Mind you, I think I've got a bit of "lowered-expectations" going into these days, but even though it was still rather subdued, it had some fine moments to latch on to. Almost entirely "Sakura moments", but moments none-the-less.

The music was very noticably ".hack"-ish with a little "Madlax" edge, but I'm still not consciously recognizing any individual songs or themes (and not really trying to), so only the familiarity of the style is standing out as opposed to the songs themselves. Not a bad thing, I suppose. Probably my recognition with the other shows stems from my constant rewatching more than any ability of mine with respect to analyzing soundtracks.

Well, tonight I don't have any "new" anime to watch, so I might just pick something light off of my "real movie" shelf as a change of pace. Dunno what yet; P.N.S. tends to make me really indecisive in that regard.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Everything, that is...

Subject: Musings
...except my liver.


A different "8"

Subject: Noir
Finally, an unbastardized release of "Tsubasa"...

And regarding the "Noir" attempt at "moderation"... ? Can you say "all-nighter"?

We'll see...

EDIT: 3AM... 2 discs left... I wonder if I can do it...?

EDIT 2: 4:02AM... Final guidance. I wonder if the neighbors can hear it. I can't help but let it rumble a bit...

EDIT 3: 5:15AM... One more disc. No problem. It's almost sunrise. "Daiske Mireille." *sniff*

EDIT 4: 6:35AM... Tea. Paris. Everything will be all right.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Other misc non-mindbending

Subject: Noir
Wow, no sign of a non-butchered release of "Tsubasa" 8. And no "Emma" for this week. So my relaxing Sunday morning was spent with the suspenseful episode 9 of "Dr. Who". I've mentioned that this is a nifty show, right? Heh.

Anyway, the other two shows I watched last night before my run-in with the metaphysical 2x4 were more entertaining than thoughtful. First was the original "Appleseed" movie. Somehow I missed this one back in the late 80's, because it would have been right up my alley for the time. Post-apocalyptic-utopian-city-police-with-battlesuits vs. cyborg terrorists and whatnot. Characters were fun and well animated, the action was popcorn and entertaining, and the story, well... I guess there must be a series or manga or something that assumed more than what the movie told, which is fine. There's also a new version of the movie out, and that's in my queue, but I wanted to see the original first.

Also, I finished off "Wild Arms" with disc 5. Still no sign of Koichi Mashimo in the credits. When they rolled the Kanji credits at the end, there was one that looked a lot like his, but was fundamentally different. I've seen that one on the ".hack" credits too, so it must be someone else. All that said, there were plenty of ingredients that were very "Bee-Train" familiar with respect to the shots and framing and overall style. So I was entertained by that at least. The story itself takes a bizarro twist that, in the context of the fact that this was really just light entertainment and nothing profound, was acceptable enough. But I really want to know what the deal is with ANN's attributing Mashimo to this one, not to mention a lot of the ADV press releases for "MADLAX" which say much the same. Puzzling.

Tonight I'm trying to decide if I want to start a more measured viewing of "Noir" or not. That is, don't marathon the whole thing (it's too late to start that anyhow), but watch a couple of discs tonight, then a couple tommorow, and so on. I wonder if I can manage that kind of moderation? After all, a good "Noir" bender now and then isn't a bad thing, is it? *Ahem*

"These are not the fansubs that you are looking for"

Subject: Noir
I downloaded the version of "Tsubasa Chronicle" episode 8 that I saw on the AnimeSuki front page only to realize that it's from the fansub group that is altering the color to make it more punchier. Which is something I don't support.

So I guess I'll be waiting until another group releases one. *Sigh*

(though I'll go poke around AnimeSuki to see if they've recanted their evil, evil ways... *Ahem*)

Saturday, May 28, 2005

W. T. F.

Subject: Noir
Y'know, I should have just driven over to Lowe's, bought a chunk of 2x4, and spent my evening thwacking myself across the head with it.

Instead, that is, of trying to figure out "End of Evangelion".

(Big surprise, huh?)

Now, the end of the series itself probably required far more drugs than I want to bother with, but this... this...

Well, this one has the benefit of trying to make it's symbolism way more obvious and literal. I mean, it takes it to a whole different level than the series ever did. It makes for some rather stunning and twisted visuals, but it also leaves me with the impression that all the fans who claim that the series' symbolism is so profound really derive most of that from this movie, because, damn, the movie is jam-packed with it.

The series, in comparison, ends far more abstractly. And in a lot of ways, I prefer it.

So back to the movie. I really liked the "resurrection" of Asuka in a way (which started in the "Death & Rebirth" timewaster I watched last night) -- but that was pretty much purely "fanservice" -- Asuka kicking ass is what you want to see, not her totally melting down into a puddle of self-loathing.

And speaking of puddles of self-loathing, yeah, we get that Shinji doesn't have a grip on who he is or his relationships with other people. And so that seems to be the whole crux of the matter, doesn't it. Strip away everything else in this series and this movie, and what is being said here? Shinji can't figure out how to handle a relationship with someone like Asuka?? Is that what this whole thing was really about?

I mean, at least in the context of the movie, it's beating to death the notion of escaping from relationships, from the reality of individuals interacting with each other, and from the confusion and heartbreak and injury that usually result because of both. But was that really it? All this insanity because of that?

Well, come to think of it, that's not really so far-fetched. That's the crux of what we know and what we experience and what we're compelled to write about and portray over and over again throughout history. All the rest of the symbolism in and of itself is just a shell to cover up the raw and basic theme.

And, in a way, it's just more bullshit to try and make it more profound than it really needs to be. Yes, it spells out the problem and the issue. But the answer it proffers?...

I dunno. I obviously have mixed feelings, and am leaning to the more "ticked-off" ones at the moment. I'll let it ferment a bit and see what I come up with.

Oh, I watched a couple of other things before this, but since this one kind of trumps everything, I'll talk about those later, since they were pretty much fluff and there's not much to say. In the mean time, I'll fume over "EoE" a little longer.

"My name is Mok, thanks a lot"

Subject: Cinema
OMG, a "Rock & Rule" collector's edition disc is coming out next week!

Now, I'm rembering this one through a bit of a nostalgic haze, but this was essentially Canada's answer to anime back in the early 80's. The review I linked will give you a better sense of it than I can, but to sum up -- mutants of the future, music of the late 70's, and a helping of cheese mixed with darker themes and adult situations. I had rented the laserdisc many times in the late 80's, and saw the restored theatrical print at the last Ottawa animation festival I attended some number of years ago.

It's definitely got "cult classic" written all over it, but to tell the truth, I'm not entirely certain how well it's aged. In fact, I'm guessing that it may wind up being very "cringeworthy". That said, the pre-order is only $20 at DeepDiscountDVD, so I really can't resist adding it to my collection.


Subject: Noir
It's been so nice these past couple of days that I haven't spent a lot of time watching stuff. Nor have I been spending time being particularly productive with the work I need to do around the house & yard. Ah well, having a smoke by the lake is just as redeeming.

Anyway, I breezed through "Evangelion: Death & Rebirth" last night. I probably should have read the fact that I could have skipped it and went straight for "End of Evangelion" (queued up for tonight if I get to it), as it seems to have been half recap of the series, and half of EoE. Or something like that. At any rate, I fast-forwarded through the recap. I figure I'll report more of my impression later once I finish up the whole thing.

I also caught ep 4 of "Trinity Blood" this morning. It's still kind of hanging out in the "mildly interesting" zone; there's a tidbit here and there about the wider backstory that may wind up being a bit obvious once the pieces come together. At any rate, it's still holding my attention.

Today's not as stunning a day, so maybe I'll get some stuff done that I've been putting off. I just hope it holds off raining long enough for me to fire up the Pitmaster and grill up some burgers. Mmm.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Geekin' Out and Going Deep

Subject: Cinema
Watched a couple of recent movies last night as a change of pace.

First up was "Sideways", a little indie film adapted from a novel centered around a struggling author and his buddy taking a trip through California wine country. The author character is a totally obsessive snob when it comes to wine, and can go into great geeky detail and descriptiveness about various aspects of tasting and judging the stuff. And, of course, he's a bit hopeless when it comes to interacting with women on a romantic level, a problem which his buddy, who's about to get married, is looking to fix him of.

I just got through complaining about romance stories involving ineffectual guys in that post about "Emma", and here I am watching one with real people. *Sigh*.

Of course, the plot and the story (and the ending) wind up being totally predictable, which is usually irritating in and of itself. But this one's saving grace was that it's really more about the characters than the story, and they're done pretty well. The dialogue is rather witty and fun. And, of course, I was drinking a fair bit of wine myself while watching, so I was more receptive to letting those aspects overrule my usual distaste.

After that, I moved on to the rather quirky (and obviously engineered that way) "The Life Aquatic with Steven Zissou". A famous-though-somewhat-past-his-prime ocean explorer, in the mold of some sort of defective Jacques Cousteau, and his crew make one last expedition to hunt down and kill the mysterious "jaguar shark" that ate his friend in a previous voyage. Beyond that little blurb, it's really tough to describe this one.

There's a lot weirdly humorous bits and pieces, some less humorous than others, basically progressing one after an other. And it's rich in atmosphere and little visual touches that really give it a stylized feeling throughout. And the details often feed the humor and running gags throughout, as well.

But I can't really tell if it was intentionally trying to make something meaninful out of itself by the end (because it did tilt a little melodramatic), or it was just looking to have those moments wash over you like waves, with the story just being the convienient framework on which to hang them. Hard to say. I think I'll need to watch it again later to see if I can catch on to what it's doing better. Anyway, it's not a total waste of time, just don't go into it expecting a raucous comedy or a statement of high art. Just let the waves wash over you.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

"GITS" and "Gunslinger"

Subject: Noir
"Ghost in the Shell: Innocence" -- last year's movie that kicked off a slew of anime movies that made it over to the states. I grabbed the DVD at BlockBuster, and I guess it was worth it, but I'm not entirely enthralled with it.

It's touted as a great example of the combination of 2D and 3D animation, but frankly, 10 years ago that would of been the case, but now, it's kind of "meh" in that department. A bit overblown and overly gothic in many ways. The plot, well, it was okay, but nothing special. Dialog was a total quote-fest -- practically every scene they had to quote something or another to make their point. There were some neat touches which mainly revolved around the use of Basset Hounds as the sole remaining dogs on the planet, but otherwise, well -- "meh". Could've been worse, could've been a lot better.

After that, I finally made myself crack open disc 1 of "Gunslinger Girl". Way back last year when I was first trying to find out what I was missing in the recently-released universe of anime, I commented on my impressions of the fansubs of the series:
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've since made the distinction between this "evil" and "Elfin Lied" "evil" -- GSG is very artfully done in the way it takes my heart and crushes it into a fine pulp. I still choke up when the OP starts. It's a very serious and well-executed series. But it's oh-so-very evil.

My prediction back then that I wouldn't rewatch until the DVDs were released came true -- not that I didn't try on occasion, but I could never get past that OP when I did. Now that I have the DVD and I'm forcing myself, I have to admit that I can get through it a bit easier now, but it's still pretty darned harsh. Putting little girls through this kind of shit, then "glorifying" it; that's quite a bit to take on. But, still, it's something you can't help but watch, because it's pretty darn well done.

Anyway, I'll keep buying the rest of this, and will probably complain a couple of more times about just how much this is fucking with my psyche. Luckily, I think I'll get over it... Heh.

First BBQ!

Subject: Musings
What an excellent day to begin my vacation!

After a week of rainy cool weather, the clouds parted, and the sun came close to warming things up here by the lakeshore. It didn't really get above the low 60's, but the sun helped it feel warmer that it really was.

So I finally fired up the old "Pitmaster" and bbq'ed up some chicken. And smoked a nice cigar. Aaahh. A fine evening.

For entertainment, I'm going to give "Ghost in the Shell: Innocence" a try. I remember that I couldn't quite make it through re-watching the original movie (dubbed on cable TV) because it just kept talking and talking, but I figure it's worth trying the sequel. Besides, the "Stand Alone Complex" series wasn't too bad, even dubbed; so I should be able to deal with it.

Last night I finally caught up with "Monster" -- damn, this series keeps getting stronger and stronger, even after a year's worth of episodes! More interesting twists to the characters and the story reveal themselves. And just when you thought Johann couldn't be any creepier... well, watch it and you'll see! Heh.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Bunches more

Subject: Noir
Here's a bunch of quickies about the other stuff I watched recently:

"Nadia of the Blue Water" disc 2 -- I had left this one kind of low in my GreenCine queue for quite a while since I saw disc 1, but it was pretty easy to get back in to it (they re-cap quite a bit at the start of each episode). Still a light, entertaining show, a good adventure series, with characters that are lively and interesting to watch. I can't say I'm all that compelled by any of the mysteries behind who's who in their world, but it's fun to follow along anyhow. And there's nothing here to make me want to buy it, but I'll keep renting.

"Twelve Kingdoms" disc 2 -- Also a series from the depths of my queue that I have a big gap for. This one took a wee bit longer to re-orient myself and remember what happened previously, but I got the gist of it pretty quickly. It is a unique and interesting universe they created, and the story, while simple overall, is compelling enough to keep me watching. Also, in a small way, it kind of reminds me of an ex-girlfriend... she liked to proclaim that she really didn't belong to this world either, and this sort of story would have been right up her alley. I know that if I had seen it 20 years ago, it would have blown my mind. Now, it's just clever and interesting.

(and the DVD quality still sucks. Oh well.)

"Saber Marionette" -- I've been watching bits of this at a time at the urging of MartAnimE, and it's light and entertaining and maybe mildly annoying with the whole "jealous harem of robot chicks" thing, so I've put it into my "Saturday morning breakfast" timeslot, which is my traditional time for vegging out to cartoons, of which there aren't really any on TV that I watch any more. So this is filling the gap pretty well.

"Futakoi Alternative" -- okay, on Maromi's suggestion, I've seen the first 2 of these, and... I dunno. I can see that it's a campy, loony, over-the-top romp with cutie twins and all, but in a lot of ways, the "cutie twins" aspect of the show crosses the "pervy" line for me -- they're just to young. I guess I'm just not comfortable with that, and there isn't much else to the show to at least rate it as a "guilty pleasure", so I probably won't bother continuing.

"Trinity Blood" -- Lainthro wanted me to consider helping to fansub this one, but I really wasn't that interested in elaborately-costumed vampires-in-the-future stories; at least not enough to spend a couple of hours a week hunched over SSA to stick dialogue on it. Still, out of curiousity, I decided to at least try watching it. It's kind of like a cross between "Last Exile" and "Hellsing" -- well, on the surface, at least. It starts off with the Earth blowing up in an apocalypse (as all anime sci-fi should!), and sets the story up that there are alien vampires vying for control over the remains of the planet against the remaining, technologically-challenged-and-baroquely-costumed Terrans under the control of the Vatican. Led by a child pope being manipulated by his advisors, no less. The main character comes across as an affable-if-dorky priest, but is really a vampire-eating vampire. Ooh, didn't see that one coming! And a lot of dirigibles and trains as primary transport.

Overall an interesting atmosphere to it, and the main characters, as well as the side characters that come and go, are actually kind of lively and a bit compelling to watch. I'm not entirely attached to it, but I'll keep it on my "try to keep up with it" list to see where it goes.

That's about it. I've fallen way behind with "Monster", and I've had the 1st "Gunslinger Girls" DVD still wrapped up on my shelf for days. Oddly enough, I started both of those around the same time last summer, so maybe I'll watch them both together. Hmm.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Weekend update

Subject: Noir
So I was thinking "Tsubasa Chronicle" ep 7 came kind of close to slipping back into "standing around" mode, but it managed to redeem itself with a few involving moments. Then I think I figured out what gave me the "standing around" impression overall in this series. Actually, it's two things.

First is that Syaoran has this tendency to square off against threats with this stoic, but completely unreadable stance. I mean, Mashimo gives us lots of rather, uh, steady expressions in his series, expressions locked in an unblinking gaze that gives us viewers the opportunity to project a few of our own emotional responses and empathies behind their eyes. And usually, there's enough of a hook there to let you do it. But with that particular Syaoran pose, it's almost totally blank! He's not like that with Sakura. And Sakura is most definitely (and ironically) not blank. Even when she's, uh, staring blankly.

I may be missing something in his expression; maybe something my Western upbringing hasn't exposed me to. But I swear, I want to holler at the screen "do something already!" Heh.

Anyway, the other bit is when Syaoran actually does start doing something, suddenly we cut away to the other nearby characters who start discussing something else entirely, in a tone that makes it seem like maybe they're in the next room or something and not even aware that the Big Fight got underway. This time it was Sakura and whats-her-name-the-girl-they're-staying-with; last time it was Kurogane and Fay -- "hey, Mr. Cameraman, the action's back over there! Hello?!"

Oh well. Overall, this episode did alright I guess. I was pretty darn dark, to boot. But there was that little glimmer in Sakura that, even though she's doomed never to remember her previous relationship with Syaoran, she's still attracted to him. And that's cool. Have I mentioned that I like it when Sakura's eyes sparkle like that? *Ahem*

Since it was also a mellow Sunday morning, I decided I'd actually catch up on "Emma". In highschool, I was somehow fortunate (or was it unfortunate?) to have missed out on the usual Austen-Brontë-Eyre assignments, and while this story doesn't seem to be like Jane Austen's novel of the same name, it definitely seems to be an adaptation of the tone and subject matter of 19th-century romantic fiction, at least to the very shallow level that I know anything about it at all.

I was about to drop it after the first two episodes mostly because, as moody as I've been lately, romance stories kind of get on my nerves, and I really haven't had the attention span for them. The situations that the typical characters get themselves into, particularly the rather repressed/uptight/staid sort of inability to express themselves or their feelings, is the sort of thing that I've had enough of a "been there, done that" in my own life to the point that I know full well that the remedies often proffered in these sorts of stories don't actually work that way in reality. So more often than not, "these sorts of stories" are more frustrating than entertaining to me.

That all said, a mellow Sunday morning with a nice cup of tea (orange pekoe!) makes me a little more receptive to leave behind my own predjudices in the matter and I gave it a whirl. And you know, once I got past what I thought would be the stereotypes of the main characters, they really became a little bit more alive than that. Just a bit. I mean, it's not like every character, and every situation, isn't some sort of stereotypical 19th century romance novelization. Even down to the humorous foil that Hakim, the outlandish Indian prince, provides the story (his harem totally cracks me up with their straight-man expressions masking the comedy in their body language). The themes are straightforward, and are obviously using Victorian England as a parallel to the structures and strictures of Japanese society.

But along with the fact that I actually like the characters, there's a neat attention to detail, which is something that I'm always a great fan of. And unlike 98% of anime, this is a much more mature series. Granted that the thematic depth of it is still very much at a young-adult level, but it's refreshing nonetheless.

I've got a couple of more, but I'll follow up with some quickie reviews of those later after I watch another disc or two I have laying around.

Like clockwork...

Subject: Noir
...I awaken on a Sunday morning, and "Tsubasa" 7 is up and ready for downloading.

I suppose I should set up that Azureus plug-in that automatically starts downloading the shows I want when they appear, then it could already be sitting on my drive instead of needing to wait an hour or two, but hey, it's Sunday; I've got the time. Heh.

A report on it, and a couple of other shows, later today!

Saturday, May 21, 2005

"First Post!" ("!!!111one!1!1!!OMG!", etc.)

Subject: Musings
On this day, one year ago, I dipped a toe into the Blogger pool, and have managed to keep at it with at least one post a week since then. Reading those first few weeks of posts in the archive, I'm amused at just how quickly I shook off the notion that I wasn't actually some kind of nerd and all but immersed myself in my own off-kilter brand of fandom instead.

And the foreshadowing of this one little solitary quote:
"More about my obsession with this show later."

And how.

PS: Of course, I'm not the only one dragging on the obsession -- AnimeStuff-R is still playing the "Noir" OSTs -- they just keep changing the end-date every week, it seems. Thanks to them, I bought them for myself. Keep up the good work!

Thursday, May 19, 2005

A finale or two

Subject: TV
(I know it's a little late to be talking about last weekend, but I figured I needed a "filler episode" because my anime-watching has been a tad light this week...)

Well, May is traditionally the time when my TV-watching (what little there is) draws to a close as the shows I watch end for the season. Ending for more than just the season, though, was "Star Trek: Enterprise". And I guess, like millions of other viewers, I probably won't miss it too much.

I mean sure, over the past few years, I kept watching it regularly. It was kind of out of habit. When I first moved out here, it was in the middle of both "Deep Space Nine" and "Voyager", which though I was watching those regularly beforehand, I could no longer receive the broadcast for it because I was too far out of town, and I picked a satellite provider instead of cable for my TV. So I pretty much missed the second half of both of those. (I did happen to gain the early Showtime airings of "Stargate SG1, though, so I didn't miss Trek all that much).

I've since caught up with "Deep Space Nine" (though not "Voyager"), and when "Enterprise" came out, I thought it would be a decent enough idea to generate some interesting escapism. And it was, well, "okay". I'm usually pretty forgiving of plot devices and mediocre performances if there's enough other stuff going on to let me suspend my disbelief. And "Enterprise" pretty much did the bare mininum to do that. It was also disadvantaged by the fact that the local UPN network is a low-power little mom-n-pop operation that had a lousy picture and sound quality (which, as you know, count for a lot with me).

This last season, I had discovered that it was pretty easy to obtain HDTV versions via Bittorrent, so I started watching it that way. I'm not sure that helped all that much, but it was still worth trying. But it also made it easy for me to fall a few episodes behind, so after the last two aired, I had a total of 4 to get through on Saturday.

And now it's done, and it was kind of a cheesy way out (I half expected Riker and Troi to wake up in bed and Riker exclaim "Honey, I just had the strangest dream..."*). And I probably won't miss it. Oh well. There's a new season of "Galactica" coming up, so I'll have plenty to occupy me.

Other finales included Sunday night's "King of the Hill" (more of the same, a couple of good laughs though), and the "Simpsons" (almost funnier than the rest of the season -- yay! -- but mostly because I went to a Catholic high school too, not to mention that it mocked the all-to-real evangelical attitude towards the papacy that's so very much glossed over in the media these days).

"Deadwood" wasn't quite at the finale yet (that's this coming Sunday), but it was a weird mix of tragic-sad and crazy-funny that is really quite a spectacle to see.

Finally, not a finale either, I'm almost caught-up with "Dr. Who", and it's definitely got this charming wit to it underneath the cheesy premise and simple suspensful creepiness. I think there's only a few more episodes to go with this season, but I'll probably scatter it through rainy summer days and not really keep up with it real-time. Still fun, though; I hope it makes it over to the 'States for real instead of just via bittorrent.

*(Some of you might be a little too young to remember that this is a reference to Bob Newhart. Some day you'll understand. *grin*)

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

AnimeOnDVD reviews "MADLAX" disc 1

Subject: Noir
...for those of you who missed it.

Overall positive, but he seems to have gotten confused by a couple of details (Madlax has a "fondess for alcohol"? I think he means pasta!).

".hack" movie??

Subject: Noir
From the ".hack//info center":
Update: 5-08 According to Moon Phase, there is talk about a .hack movie in the works. The movie is currently in the very early stages-- ie: just talk. 劇場版 .hack- 総監督 : 真下耕一 / 制作決定 ?

So, just talk, big ol' rumour. But that little bit of kanji I bolded is Koichi Mashimo's name, and the Google translation is:
Theater edition.hack- entire supervision: Koichi under truth / production decision?

("Mashimo" translates to "under truth", as far as I've been able to tell from my various translation attempts.)

That site also mentions a new ".hack//GU" game, but not being a PlayStation guy, I didn't really read it that closely.

".hack//MOVIE"... hmmm...

Sunday, May 15, 2005

From the queue...

Subject: Noir
Oh yeah, I had a couple of GreenCine rentals this weekend as well, so quickly:

"Miami Guns" disc 3 -- Still more of the same. A couple of more genres to parody, a couple more jokes, but overall, more of the same. It's mildly entertaining, but I hope there's not too many more episodes left. I think there's just one more disc; I should check.

"Master Keaton" disc 5 -- Also more of the same. But in this case, "the same" is pretty awesome. More great little stories, little insights, little treasures. The show is very accessable and could easily have a broad appeal to a variety of audiences, yet it's still entertaining. I'm looking forward to more discs arriving soon.

Oh, and that reminds me, I've fallen a bit behind on "Monster", and I really should get back to it. Maybe this week. I promised MartAnimE that I'd give "Emma" a chance as well, so I suppose my week's programming is pretty much determined. :)

As an aside, I didn't get much of a chance to get any further with my new sites; it'll probably be a while. I think for this blog, I will be porting it completely over there and enhancing it a bit (and hopefully keeping a mirror of it here), so be prepared to change your bookmarks in the next couple of weeks!

"Tsubasa Chronicle" episode 6

Subject: Noir
Ah, that was a much better episode!

Of course, at the start, it was still pretty much continuing the "standing around" in 5. And when the first volley happened, then it'd cut away to Fay and Kurogone standing around. I was like "uh, the action's back over there. Hello?" But some of the quirks like that aside, I got caught up in it a lot better from that point on. Much better action-reaction in the characters' faces, and the animation was really quite detailed.

And finally, at the end of it all, they're moving on to another world. And Sakura is going to stay concsious for it! Yay!

(Though, like Margaret, she's still "a bit sleepy"... Heh.)

One other observation, the music was all over the place at the start as well. It started with this really funky off-meter jazz bit that I really liked, then it dipped into a bit of ".hack//SIGN", then over to something that was practically lifted out of "Madlax". Then back to ".hack" again. But then I got caught up in what was going on and the music blended in to the whole atmosphere of the show again.

Anyway, I'm glad that the show's made some progress.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

My new #5?

Subject: Noir
"Paranoia Agent" ends on an amazingly powerful note!

While at first I thought of the series as "a quirky one", it definitely grew on me more and more. And the end -- well... wow.

I guess I didn't entirely know what to make of it at the time when I first popped disc 1 in my player. But as you can read in that post, I was only just introducing myself to the world of Satoshi Kon, and now that I've seen more and understand more, the series takes on so many excellent layers that I can help but think that it's outstanding.

The core theme of the whole thing is escapism. And the different aspects of how that manifests, and the consequences thereof -- they're fascinating and disturbing and completely baffling at times. But it still comes around to human emotion and the powers within us to affect our perceptions of reality vs. desire. And the layers and levels that this series exposes one by one really make it an outstanding piece of work, and completely different than most of the stuff that you find in the anime "mainstream".

So I'm gushing a bit. I've got to say, I'm really pleased that I stuck with it, because these kinds of unique gems are why I'm letting myself indulge in this little obsession of mine. Or, you could say, this year-long bout of escapism...

Hmmm.... (*THWACK*)

One backlog down: "Speed Grapher"

Subject: Noir
After 5 episodes, I'm still not quite sure what to make of Gonzo's "Speed Grapher".

I've got to admit, the whole 80's vibe -- replete with the opening using Duran Duran's "Girls on Film" to drive that point home -- has that kitchy nostalgia that has no small appeal to me. But in other ways, it's gone a bit overboard with a mishmash of different dark, gritty, icky, dystopian ingredients ripped of from dozens of different sources to the point where it's a jumbled mess more than it is a vehicle to become any sort of "cool" underground cult hit. It's obviously trying to fit that mold, but it begs to be seen if it'll actually acheive it.

That said, it's still got that kitchy nostalgia to it. As "icky" as it's gotten, it still hasn't totally offended me yet. So I'll stick it out a little bit more to see if there's any actually interesting turn of events.

In other news, I ordered the whole set of "Paranoia Agent" along with disc 4, and that just showed up today, so I'll be watching disc 4 tonight, I hope. My pre-order of "Gunslinger Girl" disc 1 is on it's way as well!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Still brewing...

Subject: Musings
I've been spending the last half-dozen hours or so trying to figure out "Mambo" as a platform for at least one of the new sites. "Drupal" is my other candidate.

While I build websites for a living, I don't really want to be manually slinging code around on my "fun" time, so the investment in time I'm doing now will hopefully pay off later.

Plus, sadly, my day-job involves a lot of Microsoft-based platforms, so it's like a n00b all over again with respects to Linux + PHP. I s'pose I'll get the hang of it one of these days.

So, not much else to report. I probably won't have any real progress on at least one of the sites until over the weekend. And I fully intend to take a break long enough to watch a DVD or two, at least!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Brewin' up trouble...

Subject: Musings
So I've been toying around with ideas for a couple of web sites.

I've been researching shared-hosting providers for a while now, and I've been torn between about 4 of them, when I discovered a major-league amazing deal at DreamHost*. It was a total no-brainer. I couldn't help but on that grenade.

So stay tuned. Once my new DNS entries propagate, and I get some of it set up, y'all will be the first to get a sneak-peak at what's coming!

(Hint: one of them will be a Bee-Train fansite... go figure!)

* before clicking on that link, note 3 things:
  1. Full disclaimer: that link has a referral code from me which means if you go for one of their plans, I get a kickback to help pay for the new sites. If you go for it, you can get kickbacks for referrals too (and I get further kickbacks for your referrals).

  2. There is a promotion code -- "777" -- which if you go through the long laborious sign-up process, you'll see that their "Crazy Domain Insane" plan is -- get this -- less than $10.00 for the year. Yes, year With a free domain name. And all the other numbers you see on that plan. I don't know how long the code is good for, I found it in this forum.

  3. The numbers on that plan, for this price, means they're probably over-selling, and they will likely penalize you for sites that use too much processer time and whatnot even if you don't come near those limits. Which might ultimately cost you (and me) a whole lot more. And it might mean some growing pains for the company. And I'd bet next year it'll be back to full price in order to renew. Poke around that forum I linked to so you can get a sense how shared-hosting works and what the pitfalls are.

UPDATE: Nothing to see here. Or here. Move along, move along... Heh.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Sunday night was TV night

Subject: TV
I still really don't watch much along the lines of "normal" TV.

But last night was pretty much all non-anime, non-movie programming for me; a rare occurance lately. First up, I got a little closer to catching up with the Dr. Who episodes, and watched the one titled, obviously enough, "Dalek". That was in some ways totally unexpected -- no, not the fact that there was a Dalek in it, but how it was actually a bit intense. Sure there were cheesy moments, and like I said before, it's a bit over-the-top, but it's still rather entertaining.

Becoming less entertaining, unfortunately, are "The Simpsons". *Sigh*. I really don't have a lot more to say about it than that. There's still some clever bits, but overall it still rings rather flat. "King of the Hill" is still holding up a bit stonger, but it's running out of ways to keep itself moving forward as well, it seems. Still a rather under-rated and under-appreciated show, though.

Finally, "Deadwood" gets a little bit closer to the season finale. The lyrical linguistics are totally headspinning, but there's even so much more to be had by the performances and the direction. The progression in this episode towards it's unavoidable conclusion was really something. The reactions and body language of everyone in those last shots -- excellent work. Two more episodes left in the season!

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Madlax OST licensed

Subject: Music
Old news again, but it seems that the first Madlax OST has been licensed in the US by Geneon.

Which means for some, it'll be cheaper than importing it from Japan. I wonder if there'll be anything special in the liner notes? Though even if there is, I have no real need to double-dip.

You know a show is kind of slow...

Subject: Noir
...when it makes the first disc of ".hack//SIGN" seem like "FLCL" in comparison.

I mean seriously, I'm at a loss for how I can explain what I, a fellow who usually finds Mashimo's slow-paced expositions "exquisite", see as being a stilted effort at best in these first 5 episodes of "Tsubasa Chronicle". .hack had a lot of "standing around and talking" (oh, so much talking), but here, it's a lot of "standing around" and, well, standing around! And when there is "talking", it's either somewhat-forced backstory, or rather inane quips that maybe seem a little redundant at times (particularly when it's pointing out something that white furball is doing).

The only exception is when there's an exchange with Sakura. She's the beacon of hope I'm clinging to in this show, because she's 1) adorable, and 2) the only one so far who's "alive". Which is ironic as she's spent most of the series totally comatose so far, but really, when her eyes are open, they're sparkling and engaging.

Syaoran is probably a distant second on the "life-o-meter", and that's only when he's interacting with (or watching, or thinking about) Sakura. When he's in every other situation, he's rather flat. Even when he's supposedly "intense" when squaring off against those so-called opponents (and some of the dumbest magical powers ev-ar), it really doesn't go anywhere. It comes across as "standing around". "Staring". And that's about it.

.hack at least had the advantage of not being quite so "kid's show" with its incessant talking and talking. Tsubasa's plot and dialogue is just aimed at a lower common denominator it seems, and it's suffering because of it. And I don't think that it's a translation issue, either.

I am going to see this one through, though. Something's got to happen one of these episodes!

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Utena vs. Kino

Subject: Noir
So I guess I really am obtuse when it comes to "Revolutionary Girl Utena". And I'm probably not the first guy to admit it. I mean, really, I sort of appreciate what's going on, but as far as "getting it", I'm as clueless as I am when I'm totally sober.

An interesting sidenote that I haven't mentioned before -- Utena looks a lot like a woman I've known for a number of years (she's even worked for me), so I have that little bit of "OMG, it's her" going on; particularly during that damned repetitive stair-climbing sequence...

Anyway, the Utena style just doesn't catch me. I can deal with the fact that it's really quite unique in the anime (let alone anything else) universe, but that doesn't mean I have to be able to get into it. But, alas, I will still rent it until the end to find out just WTF is going on. Not that I expect any answers...

As for my other viewing of the evening, I had a "Master Keaton" disc available, but I decided instead to go for the last disc of "Kino's Journey", which I've seen a couple of times already. And I've got to say, "getting it" or not, I'm completely taken away by these episodes. Particularly the tragic circumstances of the last episode, but all of them are very much excellent. Lil' Sakura in the last episode is so adorable that it makes the overall conclusion that much more emotional and involving.

Overall, it's rather simple, straitforward. Which is probably why I can sync up with it much more than I can with Utena. I really can't say that I've claimed to be a particularly sophisticated viewer, despite my overall snobbery. But I still stick with the things that click with me, and "Kino" clicks with me far more than "Utena" could ever hope to...

"Tsubasa Chronicle" ep 5 is out

Subject: Noir
In case you weren't paying attention to the usual sources.

(Not that I know anything about what that would be like; oh no...)

"Warmed up"

Subject: Noir
I'm about to start on the next Utena disc, and this time I'm not totally sober...

Wish me luck!

UPDATE: Not sure if it helped... more later...

Nothing like a little "Champloo" to clean out your head.

Subject: Noir
Okay, so after a week of studiously avoiding any of the Noir OSTs, and putting the DVDs away, I managed to actually get through an evening of watching anime without being all irritable because it wasn't anything like Noir.

And you know what? It wasn't just because "Samurai Champloo" is pretty good. I actually watched disc 2 of "Chrno Crusade" first. And I survived it!

It's actually been quite a while since I saw the first disc (and the stupid search engine isn't helping me find what I wrote about it at all, so no link), so I sort of forgot most of the details behind the characters upon starting the 2nd. No big deal, though, because it's not a particularly complicated show. Anyway, it was fun enough popcorn escapism that I didn't mind continuing it. I kind of like the premise (early 1900's New York City convent fighting supernatural evil -- in other words, "nuns with guns"). But over all, it's just more fluff. I'll keep renting.

Then I moved on to "Champloo". Disc 2 had finally, finally arrived about a month after it was released (so much for pre-ordering!). So to re-cap, I started with disc 1 and watched them both in a row. It's continuing to be immensely enjoyable and entertaining. An early description of the series was that it's more about the journey than the destination, and it does a totally excellent job living up to that.

And it's just dripping with "cool". A very worthy successor to "Cowboy Bebop", I'd say.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Intrigue from Japan: 'Paranoia Agent' (on NPR's Fresh Air)

Subject: Noir
This link has already been going around the usual news sites, but I figure I'd blog it here as well. Here's the blurb:

Critic-at-large John Powers tells us about the Japanese TV animated series Paranoia Agent by Satoshi Kon. It's now out on DVD.

One thing this segment does is confirm what I've been thinking: there's a demand building up for this kind of grown-up alternative programming, and it's quite possible that this may be the "ground floor" opportunity to get a piece of the action in the non-otaku-oriented anime niche. It's difficult to find reviews and information about little gems like "Paranoia Agent" from the perspective of mature crossover audience.

And maybe it'll be a short-lived trend, but one way or another I want to cash in... uh... participate! Heh.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

"Madlax" -- "Director's Diary"??

Subject: Noir
On the "Surveillance" tab on ADV's official site, it now says:

Stay tuned for Director's Diary, Audition photos and other cool extras!

Oh boy oh boy oh boy [...]

Uh, I mean... "I, for one, am greatly looking forward to seeing these upcoming features heartowith and theretofore, etc., etc."

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Not a cure...

Subject: TV
...but "Dr. Who" at least provided a bit of escape. I'd fallen a few weeks behind, so I fired up one of those episodes, and...

Man, what a cheesy show! The CG-generated rubber-suited aliens, the "cheeky" dialogue, the corny premises...

All one-hundered percent classic "Dr. Who", just the way I remember it. *grin*

Well, there's no scarf, but despite the layer of cheese, there's still a bit of tension and surprise and interest -- enough for a campy, mindless fun bit of escape. Which is soooo incredibly far removed from those two young ladies I'm obsessing about, I actually managed to be distracted by it long enough to feel a little less grumpy.

Now to see if that's enough to get me through another day at the office. Hrm.

What is it about "Noir"...

Subject: Noir
...that it totally sears itself into my synapses and echoes around my head for days and days after watching it?

(that's a rhetorical question, if you couldn't tell... *ahem*)

Day 2 of "post-Noir syndrome", and sitting in my office, or trying to concentrate in a meeting, and it's all Kirika-in-the-cemetary and "Canta per Me" and Walther P-99 reports going off in my head. I try to start working through my backlog of recorded (and downloaded) shows, and I'm just so irritatable and aggravated that I just hit the "stop" button and stare at a blank screen in frustration.

Only Madlax comes close to giving me this kind of agitation, and that's only because it might as well be "Noir Part Deux"!!

I got it baaad... The only thing I want to do right now is go watch it again. Which will just perpetuate the cycle.

Maybe I should go read a book or something. (Yeah, right!)

"Meine Liebe" mini-site

Subject: Noir
For ML fans, there's a site set up with info & screencaps and artwork and whatnot. Go and take a look!

(Oh, did I mention that ep 9 was out? Oh I guess I didn't... D'oh!)

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

News I missed: "Avenger" DVDs announced

Subject: Noir
While I've been, uh, distracted this past weekend, Bandai announced at the Boston Anime Convention that they're releasing all 13 episodes of Avenger all at once in a collector's tin for $30 US.

Wow, that's pretty cheap... I wonder how that bodes for the disc quality. Hrm.

No word on a release date. But I s'pose I'll start making room on my shelf for it now!

Monday, May 02, 2005

A "Happy Noiriversary" after all?

Subject: Noir
Well, sorta...

I rewatched the last three discs without the aid of even a drop of saki.. uhh, sa-ke (*ahem*) because there was no way in heck I'd be able to get through the rest of the week without "closure". Not to mention the fact that I'm supposed to be flying to Oregon on Sunday, so I really wouldn't have had the time to try it again.

So now that I managed to complete it in much the fashion I did a year ago (reading that old post reminded me that I kind of over-did it then, too), it's time to contemplate a bit about what this year has brought me.

"Noir", for better or worse, marks a strange sort of turning point in my life. Tracking through my blog archives, you can follow my early attempts to hide from it, to not admit it. And it really didn't last long...

Though I bet if KT hadn't steered me towards "Madlax" fansubs, I may have gotten to the first disc of ".hack//SIGN" and completely given up then! And just watched "Noir" exclusively forever after, thinking all other anime is a waste of time.

And if "Madlax" were as difficult for me to get into as "Tsubasa Chronicle"... Well, let's not think about that, shall we? As it stands, the anime shelf for my DVD collection now takes up more space than my foriegn movie shelf, and more is on the way.

While I managed to hold on to my sanity and get through that inital "crisis", or, at least, not quit my day job just yet, I have to wonder what the next year has in store for me. After all, my remodelling project is culminating in more than just a new kitchen, but a little studio of my own.

And coming soon -- two new websites, that, if I can pull it off, will be a lot more in-depth than just my random ramblings here on Blogger. Not that I'll get rid of this little bit of rambling; it's kind of fun. *grin* But I think I've got some ideas that might help me transistion towards something that might be more than just a hobby; maybe something self-sustaining, even.

All because I stumbled on a beautiful, colorful bit of action & drama one day over a year ago. All because two pretty girls with guns stole my heart.


"Happy Noiriversary" indeed. Now back to our regularly scheduled snobbery & angst!

Some "Noiriversary" that was...

Subject: Noir
Oh well, that didn't quite go like I planned it.

And I planned for a little while now that I'd celebrate the first anniversary (a couple of days early, though) of my aquisition of the Noir box set by trying to reproduce the original event. It started off pretty similiarly; the same chilly drizzle, the eager anticipation...

But then I guess I got a little too, uh, enthusiastic with respect to the different kinds of saki I bought to go with the sushi take-out from Wegmans. I never even got to the Chincano Anejo, but the array of "dead soldiers" of wasabi-encrusted sushi plates, saki bottles, Guinness cans, and half-bottle of Bushmills that I found on my countertop the next morning attest to the near-Hunter-Thompsonian carnage that must have ensued somewhere after episode 11 and before I came to in my bed the next morning.

I really only have memory fragments. Somehow I made it to disk 7, as that's what's in the player still. But how I got there, how late I managed to stay up doing it, and how I manged to neatly get everything stacked up in the kitchen and get to bed totally escapes me.

Which is kind of too bad. While I was never really prone to "blackouts", still, this would have been called a "successful" party in my younger days. But these days, I'm a bit too old for that kind of "overdoing it". And I spent all day Sunday paying for it, as you can well imagine. I suppose any of you former psychology students out there might be able to draw connections between my binge-behavior of marathoning the episodes with the expression of that binge in sushi-and-saki form and all the other mumbo-jumbo that goes along with it, and you may have a point.

And that all said, I still haven't acheived a proper "Noiriversary" celebration. I may have technically "watched" all of it, but I sure as heck didn't "see" all of it. It's completely unsatisfying and unsatisfactory to me.

So I guess I'm going to have to try again next weekend! Heh.

EDIT: Or maybe tonight... Hmmm...