Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Fansub roundup

Subject: Noir
I've been a bit busy these past few days, but I've accumulated a bunch of fansub episodes to report on.

First up, "Akagi" (formerly known as "Mahjong Legend Akagi") -- I posted about the raw I snagged early on because I read about the unique style. And "dramatic writing", though I found it incomprehensible overall. Now that I'm able to give the subs a chance, I found it a whole lot more interesting!

Which is really, really weird. Because it pretty much takes place in a claustrophobic little smoke-filled room in 1950's Tokyo, and it's a kid playing mahjong against a bunch of yakuza. With a static, comic-book, low-frame-count kind of style (though the camera is really making up for it in a lot of places). I mean, the characters look totally unlike anything else I've seen out of Japan.

It dives really far into a lot of the details of the finer points of the game, all of which are completely over my head despite the flurry of otherwise helpful translation notes. But really, that's almost beside the point, because now that I can actually follow the dialogue... well... it works! Crazy, but it works!

Anyway, it amuses me to no end that it does, so I'll keep following it as long as I (or the fansubbers) can stand it.

By contrast, I thought I'd give "Fate/Stay Night" a try. It's been getting a bit of hype, but I know nothing of what it's based on or the history behind it. All I know, is the first thing I said was "worst Apocalypse opening ever." After a couple of minutes, I just had to hit "stop". Bleah. Same old crap, no life to it at all. It kind of reminds me of "Blood+", only weaker and far inferior animation/art direction.

Speaking of which, for some reason, I'm still watching "Blood+". And at about episodes 12 and 13, it turns into "Blood++" (<-- ha ha, a JavaScript joke!) and kicks up the gratuitous gore and ick-factor. Only it really didn't have anything particularly shocking behind it; it's just trying to say "oh look at me, aren't I so gory, and aren't you soooo scared by it??". And, to that I say "meh". Predictably, in a pinch, whats-her-name goes all catatonic and useless instead of fighting monsters. Then she turns into a superfreak (which they deemed to be "sooo incredibly gory even we're not going to show it to you"). But then she's "brought back" because her little brother yells out her name. *Sigh*.

No, that's not a spoiler -- I think that's the plot. That's all they ever do in this show.

Now, in contrast once again, "Noein" seems to be building it's plot by improvisation every episode (I'm up to 12). And from what I was reading over on AnimeSuki, the animation direction and creative teams are constantly changing. And they're all being allowed to do their own thing. So it winds up rather uneven.

But you know what? Once you get past it's uneveness and accept that it's one big experiment, it really has it's moments. Like I mentioned when I first saw it, often the animation has a certain naturalism and life to it that is really missing in most anime. Then the next shot it'll be kind of typical. Then the next will mess with perspective, or throw around a lot of 3-D effects. Then there'll be a really rough, raw, but completely vibrant action sequence -- like they just ditched the inkers and the inbetweeners and brute-forced their way through with all the scribbles and squiggles intact. Where it works, it's pretty cool. Where it doesn't, it's no particular transgression, and is generally forgivable.

And Haruka's character is probably the best-portrayed young girl in recent anime, especially with all this over-cute saccharine junk going around. Very determined, hard to phase, but also quite human.

The story threads are okay, nothing special. It's kind of neat seeing how all the characters tie into their "alternate timespace", and the things that haven't been revealed yet about what is supposed to happen have a decent mystery to them with little bits being uncovered at their leisure. Though the quantum physics lesson was a bit much (as amusing as the Schroedinger's Cat sequence was). And Yuu and a couple of the other characters get rather irritating. But overall there's enough there to keep it interesting.

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