Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Forgotten quickies

Subject: Noir
Oops, I forgot to mention that I also caught the latest subbed "Mushishi"; episode 5, I believe.

Of course, there's not much more to say about it that I haven't already said. Atmospheric show. Good stuff.

Also something that I don't have any more to add to is a recently-subbed episode (15?) of Mashimo's "Popliocrois Story". Kid's show. But with a neat edge.

Otherwise it's been a light week so far. "Boondocks" (which I mentioned earlier) is rolling right along with a mixture of style, shock, and amusement. "The Simpsons" aren't faring quite as well -- and this week's football game delay screwed up my DVR recording, so I missed a chunk of it. And, oddly, didn't really miss anything. Oh well.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Promises, promises

Subject: Noir
Okay, after a bit of a break from anime this week, I had a little bit of catching up to do. Nothing was much of a breakthrough, but I'll take 'em in order...

"Blood+" ep 7 -- Hrm. Kind of dull. It's trying to fill in a little more backstory, and a there's a nearly-interesting layer introduced that re-visits Vietnam, but it's really lacking that whole "soul" business I keep going on about. I haven't quite dropped it yet, but I think that might just be out of sheer boredom in general. Not exactly a compelling reason to stick with a series, I suppose.

"Noein" ep 5 -- Well, I noticed another naturally-animated shot; whats-her-name kicking the soccer ball around while talking to whats-his-name. That was a nice touch. Beyond that, even though it's kind of neat, I'm finding myself not really caring about what the heck is going on all that much. And the mix of art/animation styles and story styles continues unabated. Will it pull together any sort of focus any time soon? I dunno.

On to the DVDs:

"Chrono Crusade", the last disc -- Yeah, the final episode was a bit of a tearjerker. I kind of resented it a bit, though, because it was manipulatively so, as opposed to feeling like it was a genuine outcome of the series as a whole. Like it was trying to play me instead of bringing me to that conclusion by myself. And then, it was like that moment happened about 12 minutes too early, because then the series seemed like it was meandering around looking for a place to end after that. So much so that the very last sequence was totally "WTF". And I don't mean WTF in one of those cool, surreal mind-blowing sorts of WTF ways, but instead, one of those "um, what does this have to do with anything that you just did for 24 episodes" WTF sorts of ways. I think it's exacerbated by the fact that I remember quite well the event in question, so it makes absolutely no sense in the context of the rest of the series. Or if it does, it's a pretty lame justification thereof. Oh well. Final verdict: Fun overall, but not worth buying.

Finally, "The Place Promised in our Early Days" -- Makoto Shinkai's first feature-length film that he got the chance to do after his impressive solo effort "Voices of a Distant Star". There's a lot of the same tone and style of that work to be found in this film. The primary crux being a sort of "normal" portrayal of life, but with a wierd, matter-of-fact, almost astonishing background element to it.

So in general, it's like the usual "slice-of-life" culturally-normal, simple relationship story, but the details of the setting and the world in general that surround the characters is a bigger mystery, and has the effect of transporting you to an alternate reality. My favorite "attention-to-detail" markers are quite well represented here, and, in fact, are probably the key to making the whole story work in the first place. Otherwise, it's rather simple, and it relies a lot on your imagination and interpretation to make more of the story than what's presented. Which is something I like a lot, especially if it's something that catches my fancy.

So despite the fact that I'm growing a bit weary of the omnipresent "Japanese school-age" kind of story, this one at least had enough going for it to let me overcome that predjudice and get into the texture and mood Shinkai set up.

Also, this is one of the few discs that I bothered watching an extra on; Shinkai's interview. He's got a few useful insights that I think are worth hearing if you're interested in the thought-process behind the creation of these kinds of programs. He's also got the advantage of getting "his own way" for producing this one, though with what he says and the evidence of what he put together is enough to prove that he was probably worth the investment on the part of the production company that gave him this gig in the first place.

Tastes great, not particularly filling

Subject: Cinema
Just a couple of quick summaries for my Friday lineup...

"Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" -- Eye candy. Tasty, tasty eye candy, all the way through. It had one of my favorite ingredients: "Attention to detail". But there pretty much isn't anything more to it besides a grand homage to the old serial. Clever, amusing, but otherwise light. Worth catching, though.

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" -- Okay, I was a really big fan of the original BBC series back before I even knew there were books. And I was a bit hesitant to go for this DVD based on the totally underwhelming reaction it had with long-time fans.

And I suppose "underwhelming" would be fair enough. My own impression was more along the lines of "missing something". I really like how they portrayed a lot of the more "familiar" items and characters. It was a very good looking show (more eye candy). And there was definitely a low-key tone of British humour throughout. But it felt a bit sanitized & "Americanized", and a few of the "classic" lines seemed awkwardly chopped to the point that they didn't have any point (even though I could remember what the rest of it was supposed to be).

Oh well, again, I'm not sorry that I watched it. Could have been worse.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Turkey-day marathon

Subject: Cinema
Back when I used to live in an apartment in the city, I had started my own Thanksgiving Day tradition of cooking a turkey and the basic fixin's that my mom usually makes (simple, kind of bland, but comforting). My own special ingredient, though, was to get a bit intoxicated, and then rip into the turkey in a sort of primal kind of feast.

Lots of fun, really. Which I haven't really had since I moved into this house, because the oven never worked, and I didn't bother replacing it until my remodelling project back at the beginning of the year.

I've been looking forward to "Turkey Day" ever since.

Of course, way back then, "Mystery Science Theatre" was still on at a regular basis, and they would yearly have their "Turkey Day Marathon" (because the awful films they showed were "turkeys"... get it??? *ahem*). Now, I have a number of "MST3K" DVDs, but frankly, I wanted to try to get a new tradition underway. This time, with the three extended-edition version of "Lord of the Rings".

It's quite a lot of film to slog through. And overall, I can't say that it's my most favorite series of movies. But something about it make me associate it with a holiday feast like I'm about to partake in (another hour roasting in the oven... tick... tick... tick... mmmmmmm...).

I guess I'm also conciously trying to avoid anime at this point. At least for these couple of days. Because I think I've been overloading on it a bit, so I want to take a break with a range of the "real people" variety.

So, I'm about halfway through the trilogy at this point. But, I really don't have a comment about the films themselves. They are what they are. Maybe when I get through the whole thing I'll have an observation or two, but right now, I guess I'm just going to keep watching into the night, and chow down on turkey and stuffing like it's the last food on earth.

Mmmm. Stuffing.

UPDATE: Mmmm, tryptophan... I can't make it to part 3, I just can't. It's too much. I'm going to bed early (and stuffed!)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

"From looney to batty"... or "Less than the sum of their parts"

Subject: Cinema
Tim Burton is an imaginative enough guy. He's pretty much capable of painting some really oddball and unusual visuals on the screen that, with few exceptions, I find rather fascinating.

But in general, I find that he really can't keep a whole movie true to that quirky vision of his. It's like he caves too easily to the typical screen-tested, conventionally-wisdomic Hollywood establishment. That, or he pre-caves, and is the go-to guy for when the establishment needs to trot out their token "wierdo" for when they feel they need to prove they're more than just a bunch of mediocre hacks.

But it's not that convincing.

"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" is definitely not deprived of quirky, oddball visuals. In fact, scene-for-scene, there's a lot to like about any particular shot or sequence. In fact, many individual parts, like the Oompa-Loopas all being the same guy, are quite hilarious. And the visuals are quite stunning and imaginative. They even got Alan Greenspan to play a role (*cough*). But when you try to put all this together in the context of a narrative, or even just a cinematic experience, it falls flatter than a 2-year-old bottle of RC Cola forgotten in the back of a Dodge minivan.

Which is a shame, but kind of predictable given his history. All his films tend to be that way ever since "Edward Scissorhands" and "Beetlejuice". The turning-point in particular, in my opinion, was "Batman: The Movie".

In the spirit of full disclosure, I was so incredibly dissappointed in that first attempt at resurrecting the "Batman" franchise. I was a big fan of Frank Miller's take on "The Dark Knight", and eagerly awaited the movie's release in hopes of it capturing that dark, angsty spirit. I even had the leaked copy of the script that was going around my film school program.

And when I finally saw it, I was so extremely dissappointed that it completely ruined the franchise for me. And what Burton did with "Batman II" was so much worse that I didn't bother watching any of the others ever again.

Until tonight, when I watched "Batman Begins".

It was touted as "a good 'Batman' film". And, you know, in a lot of places, it was pretty darn good. It definitely captured a lot of what I had hoped for in the Tim Burton effort. But still...

I hate to say it, but even though individual scenes and moments did pretty well on their own merit, and had some excellent castmembers, the whole thing tied together fell flat. Yeah, that flat.

It could be that some of the key parts of the actual comicbook narrative were totally tossed. When Bruce and his parents were out on the town, they were supposed to see "Zorro", not some stupid opera with bats in it. The young Commisioner Gordon wasn't some nerdy wimpy guy.

And, the most heinous transgression -- the same transgression that Burton made in "Batman II" -- is that the "leading lady" is given Batman's identity as Bruce Wayne. I mean, really, WTF?? The whole point of being a shadowy costumed vigilante is that you have a dark secret that you can never share. Yet, in Burton's folly and in this one, you might as well tell the whole f*-ing world.

There are other flaws too. Enough that it kind of took me out of the whole story and made me think that this was just another "cave-in to the Hollywood mainstream" at the expense of what was really a pretty good story to start with.

So for both movies, I really did enjoy certain specific aspects, but as movies on a whole, they really fell short. Dissappointing, but not particularly surprising.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

When in Rome...

Subject: Cinema
...do like the Romans. Well, some Romans; others, maybe not so much.

The Romans to "do like": the ones who cavort all day with runaway princesses eating gelato on the Spanish Steps, buzzing around on a Vespa until stopped by the police, and dancing on barges on the river until a fight breaks out and someone gets dunked in the Tiber. Good times, I'm sure. At least, "Roman Holiday" made it seem that way.

Granted, all the principle characters weren't actually playing Romans, but hey, when in Rome!

I hadn't ever seen this quintessential classic proto-"chick flick", oddly enough. And really, the only reason I did finally get around to it is because it was specifically mentioned in two of Koichi Mashimo's shows, "Tylor" and ".hack//SIGN", which can only mean that he must really dig it. So, I needed to see what the fuss was about for myself. Especially now that I know the difference between "Holiday" director William Wyler, and same-era, similarly-named director Billy Wilder.

Wyler is apparently infamous for making his actors go through dozens of takes for particular shots, with precious few hints beyond "it stinks, do it again". However archaic that technique may sound today, it seems that he gets results from it -- I was able to get caught up in the characters, and actually be drawn into the story through them. It was all very basic, simple, and straightforward.

And, of course, the best parallel I could find for what I think Mashimo has been trying to do: the story that's being told with just the eyes, the facial expressions. In fact, with the whole climax at the end, on the surface is the scene and dialogue of a stuffy royal press conference. But the real dialogue was actually in the eyes of Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. Good stuff.

In general, though, it is a rather dated bit of historical curiosity. There's a pacing and an overbearingly glossy sheen that are unmistakably 1950's Hollywood. And I can't say that I'm really the sort that takes to light romantic comedies very well, no matter what era they're from. But there's good things to learn from it, so I have no regrets with my purchase.

Now, on to the other kind of Romans. Or, at least a continuation of the Rome theme with -- go figure -- the season finale of "Rome". HBO's short "Sopranos-in-a-toga" epic finishes up with a bang... or, perhaps, a squishy thwump. In that the obvious historical climatic event was enacted in its full knife-wielding bloody-frenzy glory. Jealousy, betrayal, remorse and revenge are all packed together in practically every shot. Despite the series' slow start, and a few overall imperfections, it really did build up a nice bit of tension, bring a nice depth to most of the characters and to the world they inhabit, and it really played up the details to make for an involving texture and mood.

One thing particularly outstanding with the climax, though, was how it played out. We all know Julius Ceasar is going to get it. But in a lot of ways, we have a lot of expectations as to how that happens, mostly set up for us by William Shakespeare and Cecil B. DeMille. So when the actually flurry of flashing knives starts, the bloodlust of the conspiring senators overcoming their initial trepidation is shocking -- animalistic and brutal, even. Brutus, destined to play the role of his lineage as "Tyrant slayer", is palpably shocked along with the rest of us. When he's finally thrust forward to finish the job on a bloody, thrashing, desperately dying dictator, the two look each other in the eye.

And it's quite a powerful moment. I think it's made even more powerful by the expectation in the back of your mind for that one little famous line that everybody associates with the event: "Et tu, Brute?". But, obviously, Ceasar can't actually say it; he's gurgling and convulsing and staring Brutus in the eyes with a mixture of fear and shock and betrayal that's just heartbreaking. And the look in Brutus' eyes as he finishes the deed... heartbroken, horrified. The dialogue between them is all in the eyes. Brilliantly done. The entire sequence.

So there you have it! I actually managed to draw a connection between a 1950's light romantic comedy and post-modern graphicly-depicted shock-drama. Tune in next week when I expose the obvious parallel between Frank Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life", and David Lynch's "Blue Velvet", just in time for the holidays!

*cough*

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Misc. Saturday

Subject: Noir
Just a few things...

"Twelve Kingdoms" disc 6 -- I really don't want to resort to calling this show the "Twelve Boredoms", but I think this set of episodes treaded dangerously in to that territory. It could have something to do with my moodiness of late, but it probably has just as much to do with the fact that it's starting another long arc, and I'm feeling like there's nothing really interesting happening. The machinations of the plot are getting a little too intricate and I'm really not hooked in to seeing where it's all heading. No biggie, I guess; I'm too far invested to drop it now, but I guess this is a warning to anyone starting: It gets slow.

(Thank you Captain Obvious!)

"Chrono Crusade" disc 6 -- the setup for the "final battle", I would venture to guess. The comedy is pretty much gone entirely now, and the show kicks into an insane jumble of magical battles, possessed characters, and "where the heck did that come from??" flashbacks. Don't get me wrong; it's lively stuff, but it's really pushing the absurdity envelope. Well, moreso than the show itself has been doing to this point, I guess. Again, maybe it was my mood, but it really felt all over the map. Almost like the writers were winging it by the time they got to this episode or something. The last disc will be coming soon so I can get it over with. We'll see how it finishes.

"Irresponsible Captain Tylor: An Exceptional Episode" (OVA disc 1) -- Yeah, I bought the OVA boxset that just came out. Despite my earlier dismay at finding out that the latter episodes weren't Mashimo-directed at all, the first OVA (2 45-minute episodes) was, in fact, his work. He even wrote and storyboarded it. And my original review of this one pretty much stands. Captain Dom was too emotional, and the beginning seemed a bit off, but overall, it was a far more "authentic" Tylor experience than the rest of it.

Oh, and in that old review, I made the mistake of thinking "Roman Holiday" was by Billy Wilder, when it was in fact by William Wyler. Quite a dumbarse mistake for so-called film-school grad. But in my defense, my professors were more in to the independent and experimental stuff, and so my knowledge of classic Hollywood is rather lacking.

Hmm, y'know, I actually bought "Roman Holiday" during the last DVD sale. *Looks at DVD shelf* Hmmm....

Friday, November 18, 2005

"This isn't baseball..."

Subject: Noir
"...this is madness!"

"Samurai Champloo" disc 6 showed up this week. So I dialed back to disc 4 for a bit of a mini-marathon. Made for a fun evening, for sure. I just wish disc 6 had more episodes, because 3 wasn't quite satisfying enough. And it'll be a couple of months before the final disc arrives. *sigh*

There's not a lot more that I can say about this series that I haven't said already. It's still really cool. There's a lot of great things going on under the popcorn-action exterior. Artwork, animation, camerawork, music: all the techniques are top-notch, even with the various shortcuts and budget constraints. But the gem of it all is the character performances. They're so alive, and that's really the core of the whole thing. Even a silly ninja-baseball episode can't derail the coolness that our trio brings to the screen.

I'm glad I pegged this one as a "buy" instead of just renting it.

Fansub roundup

Subject: Noir
A couple of releases this week in the fansub department, so I figured I'd sum up my status.



Eagerly watching:
"Monster" -- of course. Though it's been a little while since the last release.

"Mushishi" -- episode 4 this week. Somber mood, great storytelling.

Having second thoughts:
"Noein" -- eps 3 & 4 this week. The animation style keeps changing, the story keeps jumping around between bits of action/sci-fi and schoolkid/slice-o-life and "detective", and I'm starting to lose faith in the characters' possibility of having any substance under the surface. And I thought "Gankutsuou" was unfocused! In the "plus" column, though, there's still some bright spots in the animation, and a few of the scenes are done pretty well in and of themselves.

Drifting away from:
"Blood+" -- up to ep 6 so far, it almost hooked me despite my original "Sucksus Suck" observation, but it's losing me again. 6 was kind of weak. And I think I'm overdosing on "schoolkid" shows.

In limbo:
"Windy Tales" -- No new subs in a while, but that's understandable. I really think it's a charming show though, despite it being yet another schoolkid series.

"Popliocrois Story" (1998 version) -- Koichi Mashimo's kid show, also charming, though you have to skip the cloyingly sweet OP & ED. These get an occasional release, but it's been a while and I have no idea if there'll be more.

Dropping:
"Kamichu" -- I only started it because of the "HDTV" versions, and now it seems the fansub groups are hanging back to wait for the DVD versions before continuing. It was a cute & clever show, and if it's ever licensed, I'll continue it then.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

A texture that might rub the wrong way

Subject: Noir
Yeah, I'm referring to "Gankutsuou" disc 1 -- big surprise.

I remember seeing the textured-clothing gimmick before. One of the countless dozens of foreign and independent short animations I saw either in a festival or in a lecture definitely used the exact same effect, only instead of using modern CGI, it was all done by hand. I'm pretty sure it was either French or Eastern European (though it could very well have been Canadian), and somebody on the Gonzo creative team must have seen it, because it was the same thing. Googling for it is proving impossible.

At any rate, that texture business really turns off a lot of people. Since I'd seen it used before (and remember people complaining about it), I was more prepared for it, and, in and of itself, knew I wouldn't have a problem with it...

...if there were more to the show than a bunch of disjointed artsy gimmicks.

Well, maybe not so much "disjointed" as "unfocused". It's like they're taking the old Disney/Pixar maxim of "overloading" -- where you keep adding elements and detail to the background of scene -- but instead of loading up with gags like Disney/Pixar does, they load it up with psychotropic cyberpunk. And then instead of just being the background, it kind of becomes the entire thrust of the image. To the point that whatever's going on in the foreground is often lost in the cacaphony of clashing color and clutter.

Which, I suppose, could be cool and all; I've seen plenty of that sort of thing in my day. But the foreground that escaped the clutter didn't prove to be much in the "compelling" department. The craze over Dumas' original novel was after my time, and I only half-payed attention to the movie adaptation from a few years ago, so besides knowing the general thrust of the typical "revenge plot", I didn't take any baggage or expectations about this adaptation in to it. And on the surface, it seems creative enough. But it falls flat for me. I don't hate it yet, but it's kind of reminiscent of how I perceived "Samurai 7" way back when -- having a "thin veneer".

But, it's the first disc, after all. We've only just set the ground rules for the universe, and introduced the characters and the targets of the "revenge" plot. Will it wind up being as predictable as I think it might? Or will it just throw around more funky hallucinations disguising typical anime character performances and veer off into whatever direction seems cool at the time? Or will I finally catch a glimpse of a spark of life or a genuine moment that escapes the oh-so-clever trappings it's gone and wrapped itself up in? We'll see once the next disc is out!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Last night...

Subject: Noir
...I didn't watch a whole lot. Got one more episode of the dub of "Avenger" out of the way so I only have disc 3 to go. I was supposed to have gotten my rental of the recently released first disc of "Gankutsuou" so I could finally see what the fuss about that one was, but it didn't show. I guess I'll watch it Monday.

In the "new-to-me" column was disc one of "NieA Under 7" -- another Yoshitoshi ABe work I'm trying in the hopes of "widening the net" for interesting series. Right off the bat, there was a lot of commonality to "Haibane Renmei" in terms of character and vibe. But then it also wound up throwing around a lot of silly, super-deformed hyperactive comedy into the mix. Which kind of annoyed me. It wasn't the usual immature stuff, but it wasn't exactly mature either. Still, there's that whole "discovering the rules of that world" thang going on, like what "Haibane Renmei" had, so there may be enough of a balance between the intriguing bits and the annoyances to get me through it. I'll give the second disc a go.

Finally, disc 2 of the "Cowboy Bebop" remix finally arrived, so I recapped a bit of disc 1, and got through part of disc 2 before I realized I was actually kind of worn out. So I'll have to revisit the episodes on disc 2 again later. It's a fun, enjoyable, immensely cool series; it's only fair that I watch it when I'm more alert.

Surprise!

Subject: Noir
"Meine Liebe" episode 13 is out!

Back in February, I posted my observations about the series. With the translations bringing the elusive explainations of the "motovations" (and "whatnot"), I can't say that I've gained any particular increase in satisfaction with the series. It seems to be another case of the literal narrative playing a secondary role to whatever else it was that Mashimo was trying to acheive here. I speculate that it's probably a character-study more than anything, and there's probably a bit of experimentation with technique.

But unlike my experience with "MADLAX" the other night, I'm not particularly hooked here at all. And with regards to the sequel, it's not even going to be Mashimo's, so my enthusiasm about it isn't entirely, uh, enthusiastic.

Friday, November 11, 2005

The failure of "Dub Night"

Subject: Noir
I tried to do a pure "dub night" tonight.

I started off with disc 2 of "Avenger", while I prepared a pasta dinner.

Yeah, the "pasta dinner" was for that reason...

I only got through 3 episodes before dinner was ready. But I really, really cringed a lot during the presentation. As little a role as the narrative and dialog play in "Avenger", the dub just makes it all the more painful.

But that's no match to the "MADLAX" dub. I've been in a cranky mood lately, so I thought I'd at least let myself watch the most recent disc (4) while indulging in a bit of a pasta dinner. And I thought, for experiment's sake, that I'd watch the dub this time, in hopes of being able to report on any insight or other relevation that it might help with.

That lasted exactly 5 minutes and 23 seconds before I switched it back to the Japanese track with subtitles.

I mean, really: the dub sucked. It sucked like no other suck. It makes the "Avenger" dub look like A-grade Hollywood actors coming together for a labor of love.

*Sigh*. There's a lot of people who actually like this dub. And from all anecdotal evidence, the talent involved are really into it and trying really hard. But I honestly, truly, sincerely can't get into it. In the slightest. I wanted to try and give the English V.A. talent some credit, but I just can't.

All that said, watching it naturally with the Japanese track made me very happy. It was such a pleasure. I wish that I went back to disc 3 to try this experiment instead of just settling for the scant few episodes of disc 4. But I'm glad to be reminded, at least, that there really are series out there that can make me fall in love with them.

"Noir" is set up to make you fall in love with the characters. "Madlax" has me falling in love with the whole freakin' series!

DeepDiscountDVD -- It's that time of the year again!

Subject: Cinema
DeepDiscountDVD's usual, occasional "20% off" sale is here again. Generally, these yield some of the better prices, so it's worth slogging through a slow site to get them.

Promo code: "SUPERSALE"

I'm kind of at a loss as to what to buy as I've gone overboard on previous sales, and everything else I'm buying has been pre-ordered already (and the sale doesn't count towards preorders). Maybe a couple more copies of the "Kino's Journey" box set for gifts... Hmm...

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The other animation

Subject: TV
So a new TV season got underway, and that means more new American cartoons, for once.

I've been watching "The Simpsons" since day 1, of course. So, it's been a little hard to watch it these last few years. The rewarding moments have gotten fewer and farther between. It's still not an entirely unredeemable show yet. But I definitely just DVR it and watch it whenever; I don't wait anxiously for Sunday at 8pm like I used to.

And speaking of which, I've also been watching "King of the Hill" since it started. And though a lot of people don't like it, I really enjoy it. Though I also think it's getting a little long-in-the-tooth. Rather predictable. But it'll be on the DVR right along with "The Simpsons" until the day they give up.

I occassionally pick up, and then drop, and then pick up again, "Family Guy". There's some outrageously funny bits there, and then there's just some plain ol' stupid stuff. I watched this past weekend's "FCC" episode, the first one I've seen in a while, and, well, yeah. Some funny bits, some stupid stuff. But I'll probably let it start accumulating on my DVR again, at least.

Finally, an actual new cartoon for once: "The Boondocks". I've been reading Aaron MacGruder's comic strip for a while now. Growing up a white, suburban New Englander doesn't provide me with 100% of the context I'm sure would help me with some of the references, but I still find it pretty funny anyhow. And the cartoon has a lot of promise as well.

The style and characterizations are excellently executed; they're using a very anime-like shading which sets it apart from most other American work. The animation varies from really good to some slightly stilted "shortcuts". The acting will take a little getting used to, especially the boys' voices (both voiced by the same woman), and the grandfather's character isn't quite what I expected. And the writing? While some of it is a little surprising at first, and I'm sure some of it is more over my head than I realize, it really was very funny.

So I'm looking forward to where this one is going.

A couple of fansubs...

Subject: Noir
I caught up with "Blood+" eps 4 & 5. Not too bad; a little more watchable than the previous ones. Episode 4 in particular had the classic elements of "chase" and "ticking clock" which managed to hold on to my interest a little. So I guess I'm not quite dropping this one yet.

The highlight of this week's fansub downloading, though, was episode 3 of "Mushishi". Great show. Understated, kind of "sublime". Simple. I can't say it's entirely enthralling or mesmerizing or anything, but it's a nifty story. And it's different. I like that.

"Meine Liebe... wieder"

Subject: Noir
No, that's not about the boys from Kuchen eating to many of the pastries their odd little land tends to employ in their mapmaking -- "wieder" means "again".

As in, a sequel to "Meine Liebe".

According to AnimeOnDVD forum poster littleharlock, it will be, in fact, a Bee Train production, only this time directed by Shinya Kawazura, airing January 22nd, 2006. I've asked for a link to a source; I'm guessing it's over on Moonphase or some place that I can't read.

Oh my.

UPDATE: From www.animenewsservice.com --
Konami is cooking up a major cross media project called Ginyuu Mokujiroku Meine Liebe Wieder. This will be a sequel to the 2004 Meine Liebe fantasy genre TV animation. Broadcast has been scheduled for Animax starting January 22, 2006. Much of the staff and cast from 1st TV series will return. Directing will be Minako Shiba (Noir), Series Script is by Akemi Omode, Original Character Designs based on those by Kaori Yuki will be carried out by newcomers Shiba Minako and Yamashita Yoroko, Concept Design is by Koezuka Seishi and Mari Yuuichi. Animation Production is by Bee Train, Konami and Rondo Robe. Cast includes Takahiro Sakurai as Orpherus, Tomokazu Seki as Eduard, Toshihiko Seki as Ludwig, Souichiro Hoshi as Camus, Akira Ishida as Naoji and Takehito Koyasu as Sir Isaac. Game and comic adaptations of this same property will be forthcoming.


...as found on the LiveJournal Meine Liebe board...

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Ongoing...

Subject: Noir
Not much if any new ground broken this week in the "watching" realm. Which I guess has me kind of listless and irritated. Which is why I haven't been particularly inspired to write about it. So, at least, here's a quick run-down:

"Mushihi" episode 2 -- still good stuff, a neat exposition of another aspect of the story's universe, but overall, mellow and ambient as far as tone goes. In other words, I'm not exactly on the edge of my seat over it or anything. Still, it may be the only show this season I'll probably wind up sticking with.

"Escaflowne" disc 6 -- after the intial episode filled with excessive "bad guy" monologue to explain the crux of the conflict, it managed to salvage itself enough to keep some semblance of forward momentum. Though it did tend to go a bit more deeply into to the whole game of "who loves who" and the awkwardness that tends to go along with it, I didn't find it particularly off-putting like I normally would. In fact, I think the writing and the characters' performances really kept it from being entirely trite or boring. Still, though; no great breakthrough for me as far as developing any attachment for the show beyond just continuing to rent it.

"Chrono Crusade" disc 5 -- Not much more to say about this one either, except that it continued to tip it's balance from comedy to drama, little by little. It gets a little darker, and a little tiny bit more serious. But, as with "Escaflowne", nothing about it is particularly making me feel like doing anything more than renting it at the pace that I am now.

That's about it... I'm in the middle of going through "Avenger" with the English dub in order to try and hopefully inspire what I want to write about it a little more. But despite my previous "neutrality" about the dub, I'm finding that it's starting to grate on me a little bit. In a lot of spots, it's like the VAs were just phoning it in, so to speak. Kind of like "let's hurry up and dub this so we can release it and move on to the next thing". At any rate, I can only take that dub in small doses.

Or maybe it's just that I've been in such an irritated mood. Hmm, that may be more likely...

Friday, November 04, 2005

"Brazil" meets "The Matrix" meets...

Subject: Cinema
...well, "Labyrinth", I guess. But without David Bowie and all the clever Muppets...

Actually, "Dark City" is rather less than the sum of all of those; in fact, it's a bit less than any of those individually.

(Well, except maybe "The Matrix"...)

Still, this is an older film that I've finally gotten around to watching. I picked it up on a bargain sale at one of the online DVD shops I frequent. I rented it a long time ago, but finally watched it tonight. I guess you could say that I was in the mood for watching a little Jennifer Connolly. Pre-anorexia and pre-boob-job, that is. But post-jailbait; otherwise I'd have watched "Labyrinth"... *ahem*

At any rate, though, this movie really is rather fun, and quite captivating. Though entirely, obviously, staged. A big sci-fi stage-play, but with explosions. It's got a definite Eastern European feel to it, with a dash of the French "City of Lost Children", but is somewhat watered down by an American production's "sensibilities". Which makes it more accessable, but not neccesarily "artsy" like you'd expect an Eastern European flick to be.

Don't get me wrong, there are some very cool concepts in this film. My favorite is when Keifer Sullivan inserts himself into the memories of our lead; that struck me as a particularly intriguing sci-fi plot device the first time I saw this film. And overall, though it was a tad on the thin side, the sci-fi premise was still deeper than most to be found in television dramas over the last 20 years.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

"I feel the earth... move... under my feet"

Subject: Musings
Holy crap, that really was an earthquake on Monday!

A tiny, silly, weak excuse for an earthquake. With weak sauce.

But, hey, that's a little unusual around here.

I know what it is, though! Someone's blasting out an under-sea grotto so they can dock their submarine for nefarious purposes and disrupt... uhh...

..oh, I don't know, whatever you can disrupt on Lake Ontario. Cement barges or something. *sigh*

A few quickies

Subject: Noir
Sorry I've been so quiet lately; as it turns out, I've been making progress on the code for Bee Train Fan, and I may be able to have the functions I want, and shiny new templates done, by next week or so.

At any rate, regarding my long-awaited, long-promised "Avenger" thesis -- I'm not ready. I'm going to have to give it another watchin', and try to collect a few links to stuff I found out that might be relevant. Not that the show warrants a lengthy dissertation, mind you. But I think there's something I could say for once besides "wow, that was cool"...

And with respect to my "watching" of anything else, there's only a few that I got to for me to comment on:

"Mahjong Legend Akagi" -- I grabbed a couple of raws for this one, because I was reading a few forum reviews that, for an anime about playing Mahjong, it had a unique style, interesting animation technique, and great writing. Well, the style is unique for certain, particularly the character designs. The animation technique, well, it's kind of static, though the camera flies around a lot a la my favorite Mashimo technique, though it's not entirely working for me. And finally, it relies a lot on the dialogue regarding the game-in-play, and despite the "great writing" aspect, I can't understand a word of it! So, obviously, it's totally lost on me. I guess I'd give it another chance if it's subbed, but overall, I'm really not going to be able to stand it.

"Blood+" episodes 2 & 3 -- I tried to give this another chance. I guess it doesn't entirely suck, but it's really not doing much for me. Kind of bland, and kind of "trying too hard". Yet, "not trying hard enough". I'll probably check back again on it, but won't follow it.

"Monster" episode 66 -- Ooh, more tension, more history, more answers, more questions! I really want the rest of these, and soon!

Finally, "Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water" disc 7 -- *sigh* more of the so-called "forgettable" episodes. Definitely the show takes on a childish, simplistic tone, and then, to pretend to be serious, it starts getting in to the whole "learning about relationships" kind of story. Bleh. That all said, there were a couple of mildly amusing moments that got a chuckle out of me, and while most of the animation tended to be obvious el-cheapo shortcuts, every now and then there'd be an old-skool well-done lively sequence of character animation that you rarely see in today's work. So I guess it wasn't a total waste of time. Hopefully, we move back in to the "interesting" part of the story soon.