Sunday, April 30, 2006

"If it wasn't for disappointments..."

Subject: Noir
"...I wouldn't have any appointments." Or so the old Smiths lyrics go.

I watched the opening episode of the new "Tsubasa Chronicle" season, and there was a surprise in store. The surprise being that Mashimo has handed the show off to one of his staff, like with "Meine Liebe". Well, I shouldn't say it's a "surprise", per se, seeing how much is going on right now with Bee Train.

I get a little bit into my review of it here. To sum up, it was kind of disappointing. Go figure.

One more mild disappointment while I'm here... I gave the first two episodes of "The Third" a spin. Actually, I didn't have any great expectations about it, but the hook was a bit irresistable to me. The hook being the lead character -- a sword-wielding gun-toting young lady. You know me and my thing for uber-skilled dames. Heh.

Anyway, while there seemed to be some potential, it really is just another silly cliche-filled run-of-the-mill manga-based show. I'll give it a couple of more if I'm bored, but if it were maybe a little more serious in both design and tone, I'd probably be glued to it. As it stands, not so much. Oh well.

Finally, just a quickie... I thought I'd take a peek at what is billed as the "shoujou-ai sci-fi" heavy-hitter of the season, "Simoun". Starting off, it seemed a bit cheap, and the design really wasn't doing anything for me, but when it got to the point a few minutes in where the two girl pilots kissed each other, then kissed a big glowing bowling ball, and then all the girl pilots for the other ships did the same thing, I just started laughing. I couldn't help it, and I couldn't stop. It was the stupidest thing I had seen in a long time. So I stopped the show right there, laughed for a good five more minutes or so, and then moved on with my life. Ay carumba!

"Doctor Whoooo-yeah!"

Subject: TV
Episode 3 of the return of the "modern" "Doctor Who" tips it's hat to the old-skool, with an awesome cameo appearance by former companion Sarah-Jane Smith and the indefagitable K-9. Obviously, the inter-companion tension between Sarah-Jane and Billie Piper's character had to be played out, and in the process, we find out that Sarah-Jane still holds a torch for the old man, and has a bit of an abandoment issue. Which, of course, being the strong sort that she is, she gets over, but it's still something to see. And The Doctor's reaction to first seeing her, and subsequent interactions, were quite nostalgic... "Tom Baker-esque", even. K-9, of course, was K-9 -- a bit rusty and clunky, but still the same "tin dog" as remembered.

Anyway, the show is still carrying on the tone of the previous season -- a bit of camp, a big dose of horror-movie, and a whole lot of character. David Tennant is doing pretty well, and the show still makes for an enjoyable Saturday night departure from the typical bunk.

In other TV news, I caught a bit of C-Span's airing of the White House Correspondents Dinner; the bits with Stephen Colbert hosting. As the kids say these days: "OMFG!! LOLLERSKATES!1!! ROFLCOPTER!!1!!!" Very funny stuff. When the man is on, he is totally dead-on. And the whole Helen Thomas bit in the video segment... Awesome.

Infinite & all paper-y

Subject: Noir
So in my waning days of exploring the enduring question "Is there actually any good anime left?", I took on a couple of suggestions and rented a couple of titles.

First up, disc 1 of "Silent Mobius". The first thing I thought was -- embarressingly enough -- "this isn't one of those hentai shows, is it?". Not because of any actual sexual content mind you... but the character designs and whatnot were kind of reminiscent of... well, the internet is a big place and sometimes a guy downloads something now and...

Oh, who am I kidding?? *cough*

Of course, it didn't help in the 2nd episode with that one demon critter and then suddenly "AND HEEERREE COME THE TENNNTICLESSSSS"... Heh.

No, really, this wasn't anything like one of those shows, except for all the parts that those shows were probably ripping off. It seemed to be decently written, and except for the rather silly episode #5, not particularly immature. Overall, though, it wasn't much more than moving manga. Better than some of the junk I've tried, but I'm not sure if I'll keep going with it.

Next was disc one of "Read or Die (aka ROD) TV", the series follow-on to the OVA I saw oh-so-long ago. I had caught an episode of this on TV a while back (dubbed), but it was pretty far into it and I didn't really think much of it one way or another. Starting from the top, I've got to admit that I found it entertaining. It wasn't particularly annoying, even though it tended to get a little silly, and there was quite a few moments that were very well animated. I mean, really, top-notch stuff there. The characters seemed alive and interesting. It's enough to keep me trying it for a while longer.

Earlier today during breakfast, I watched the latest raw of "Spider Riders" -- episode 4 -- and I really didn't get into some of the exposition I'm sure was going on in the dialouge. But on a purely observational level, this isn't all that bad of a show, if only to see how the shortcuts and tricks-of-the-trade play out in such a simple, clear, for-kids fashion. Not bad, or at least, I can find enough in it to be entertained at some level.

That reminds me, "Tsubasa Chronicle" season 2 started up this morning! I'm downloading the speedsub of it now, which means I can resume my Sunday morning tradition. Yay!

I watched a bit of the latest ".hack//Roots" for the eye-candy, but I really want to see the subs for it, because we're at the point where the dialogue is really getting into the meat of the matter. It's still awesome looking in HDTV, and I really find Ali Project's soundtrack growing on me, but without understanding Japanese, I'm still mostly lost, despite what the visual narrative is telling me.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

"Heavy Meh... - tal"

Subject: Cinema
On my DVR was the recently-aired HDTV-remaster of the 1981 animated cult favorite "Heavy Metal". It's probably been at least 15 years since I last saw it. And if it were any more difficult to get a hold of other than just clicking a button on my remote, I probably wouldn't have bothered.

Even back then, I wasn't all that impressed with it. Of course, I was an animation student at the time, so every little frame that strayed from the "basics" that I was learning stood out like a sore thumb, and let me put on my snobby "oh, even I could do better than that" act. Now-a-days, I'm a lot more forgiving of the obviously stylistic choices they made at the time, and am sympathetic to the fact that some of the groups working on it were actually rather small teams for such an ambitious undertaking.

That all said, I'm still not all that impressed with it.

It was really just so much fan-service for the aging 70's rock & hallucenigen crowd; the cynical & burnt-out inheritors of the legacy left by the mellow Robert Crumb stoner-peacniks of the 60's. It's not without it's moments of course. But it's dated for sure.

Technically, the imagery in hi-def was pretty reasonable, though the choice of colors and some of the designs were rather bland and indicitave of the era and the budget. The audio mix, for a show that is purportedly all about the rock music, was rather weak, with no oomph or immersion into the soundstage. A missed opportunity, for sure.

I've never seen the more-recent followup "Heavy Metal 2000", and frankly I'm in no rush. If it shows up on the DVR some day, sure... maybe.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Subject: Noir
Once again, far too many days have passed between posts. Not too much to talk about, and things have gotten busy enough at work that I'm worn out and computer-phobic when I get home. *Sigh*

But, again, a quick run-down of the few things I saw:

I had started to follow-through on my idea on Friday to watch a bit of "MADLAX" for the heck of it, but that was interrupted in a way that really took me out of the mood. Oh well.

My rentals for the week were the last disc of "L/R", and disc 4 of "Texhnolyze". The way "L/R" started made me realize that I really didn't remember how the previous episode went at all. It was almost as if I had missed an entire disc or something. That said, it wasn't that hard to figure out what was going on, and the last stretch was entertaining enough, though rather predictable. Overall, not bad. "Texhnolyze" continued to trudge along, and I guess I pretty much stopped caring about what was going on and just wanted to get through it. I think I fell asleep entirely by the last episode on the disc, which is for the best, I suppose.

Not much more to say besides the fact that I did watch episodes 3 of both the "Spider Riders" raw and ".hack//Roots" fansub over the weekend, but I really didn't find much worth posting about. Nothing really to complain about, but nothing really to add to what I've already mentioned. New raws for both should be out tonight, and hopefully there'll be at least a ".hack" fansub by the weekend -- I can handle the former in-the-raw because it's simple enough, but ".hack" will be ".hack" and rely on a lot of expositionary dialouge to get through it. So I'll wait.

Friday, April 21, 2006


Subject: Musings
In the never-ending quest to cheer myself up of late, I decided at the last minute to take advantage of the mid-60's (F) weather and haul the grill out of storage and clean it up. In a few minutes I'll start the happiness known as "grilling steak". Mmm.

Now if there were only a hi-def fansub of ".hack//Roots" episode 3 to go with it... (checks tokyotosho... nope. darn.)

(Oh, and my MP3 player has been telling me all week that I should watch some "MADLAX". It's telling me that right this minute. Mighty tempting...)

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Not a healthy pace

Subject: Noir
For a variety of reasons, it's been a mostly-crummy bunch of days since my last entry. But a couple of things managed to cross my path at certain times, so I'm just going to catalog them quickly.

"Zone of Enders" disc 1 -- Meh. Thought it might be a little more mature sci-fi, but it was kind of lame. I gave up at 2 episodes.

"Noein" episode 20 -- Neat. I'm really just watching it for the experimental value rather than the plot, which kind of meanders.

"Windy Tales" episode 10 -- Yay! More "Windy Tales"! Though watching an episode about snow was in direct conflict with the fact that it's been quite wonderfully sunny and warming up of late...

"Meine Leibe" episode 3 -- Yuck. Okay, I decided to jump ahead of where Shi-Fa was at, because all of these Bee Train series showing up all at once had me itching to watch more. But, alas, by trying to introduce some semblance of a "plot", it only makes it all the more cheesier. And all the Mashimo-esque qualities that would at least give me something to study are pretty much missing. My bias + new "Meine Liebe" = Bo-ring!

"Captain Harlock" episodes 1 & 2 -- Kicking back old-skool with a series that I'm pretty sure I saw some of back in college; a lot of it seems quite wince-worthy, or downright unintentionally hilarious, but there's nothing like some nostalgic charm to let me forgive a show's transgressions. Another bias, it looks like...

On the TV front, the newest season (and incarnation) of "Doctor Who" started up on Saturday. There's something addicting to being able to watch a show that aired on the BBC a mere 4 hours afterwards. They get it at 8pm GMT, and I was viewing it by 7pm EDT. Almost like going back in time... Anyway, I wasn't sure if I'd dig the new new Doctor, but he's doing alright.

Finally, one movie: "Robots" -- the computer animated release from last year by the folks who did "Ice Age". Eh. It was okay; just a string of gags and a lot of shiny objects. Not much else in the "redeeming value" department. As I've said before, if this showed up years ago, I'd have been ga-ga over the technological accomplishments. Now-a-days, I expect a little more.

New raws for "Spider Riders" and ".hack//Roots" showing up now, so if I get a chance to watch 'em, maybe I'll say something about it over on Bee Train Fan...

Friday, April 14, 2006

Oscillazione di umore*

Subject: Noir
One of tonight's rentals was "Night of the Galactic Railroad", a 1985 Japanese animated feature based on a short story from around the turn of the last century. It's set in Italy (sort of), and the primary characters are all anthropamorphic cats. It's a tale for children, though from an American perspective, it's rather sad and comtemplative, and maybe a hair too deep for the typical American juvenille audience. Well, that is, if you don't give the kids any credit for having any intelligence whatsoever... *sigh*

It's a very simple presentation, yet there's a lot of subtle things going on. The symbolism isn't particularly difficult, but there are a number of elements that don't quite map to western experience. Which is okay; it's still quite involving.

One bit that struck me was the main character's (Giovanni's) expression -- there was a sort of pervasive "WTF-is-going-on" feel to his look. But when you think about it, he looks exactly like a cat would look. So even though they do ascribe a few more familiar emotional cues to him (and Campenella and the other cats involved), you find yourself needing to adjust your reactions to their, well, reactions as if they were coming from a cat.

Some of the reviews I've read complain about the pacing, but if you keep the whole "cat-ness" aspect in mind, it helps a lot. Throw in a bit of old-skool, and you've got it all covered.

Still, there was quite a twist to it, and not a particularly happy one. You're clued in that something bad is happening, but you're also misdirected as to who it's happening to. But it's still very thoughtfull overall; reflective in how the conclusion arrives. There are no answers, though there is a lot of symbolism; Christian or otherwise. It's also quite a departure from the usual anime fare, and that's just the sort of thing I'm seeking out right now.

Anyway, it was still rather sad, and it wasn't quite the way I wanted to end my Friday evening. So I decided I'd follow up in the "Anime-meets-Italian" vein and rewatch my favorite "Porco Rosso". Nothing much more to gush about that beyond what I have already, but I definitely feel a lot better now that I watched it again.

"A pig's got to fly."


*(thanks, Bablefish! Even though that probably doesn't make any sense at all...)

AnimeOnDVD final "MADLAX" review

Subject: Noir
The final review for the series, a quite a while after the DVD hit the street. He harps on the first episode again, but otherwise is quite positive.

For some reason, I seem to be perma-banned from their forum. That, or my ISP actually has a DNS issue and I can't get to their pages. I don't know if it's because I got caught up in a block of IP addresses, or I got a little too overeager with mentioning Bee Train Fan, or whatever. No big deal, but there was some good info in there from time-to-time and I miss that aspect a little. Oh well.

Anime News Network also had a review of both discs 6 & 7, which was also positive. Though for some reason they rated the animation & art as just "B+". Maybe they weren't watching it on a big enough screen...

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A little bit of catch-up

Subject: Noir
Just a couple of bits and pieces from where I last left off; I should have written them back then, but it just wasn't to be...

I re-watched episode 1 of ".hack//Roots" in the HDTV version (and after a couple of beers) and I enjoyed it much more this time around. Between the picture quality, and not having to worry about reading the dialogue to compete with the picture quality, I was quite happy with the results. That said, I am looking forward to some translation so I can get a better grounding. I'll probably keep downloading HD raws, though -- I can't help myself.

Speaking of "can't help myself", seeing the early teaser page for "Black Lagoon" (the teaser had the lead girl-with-gun-smoking-a-cigarette character as its, uh, primary visual...), I kept my eyes peeled for the raw and watched it when it arrived. I actually didn't expect a lot from it, and so far it doesn't seem to be anything beyond what it appears to be on the surface. Fun, maybe a little campy, and not particularly annoying. Not mind-blowing or really cool or anything. But it seems like it'll be worth sticking with. That said, it seems to be pre-licensed by Geneon already, so I don't know if I'll bother with fansubs or not -- I'm already going to be draining my karma with the Bee Train offerings this season as it is.

In the "I wish this was licensed so I can buy it" category, I caught up to episode 20 of "Mushishi". Excellent, thoughtful, serene series, with sharp, simple, rich storytelling. Gotta have it! I found out that this is actually being aired in "Hi-Vision" (Japanese HDTV), and there were HD raws at one point -- sadly, none of those links are active anymore. The series is on hiatus and will return in May, and I'm looking forward to it. If it's actually released in an HD disc format in Japan someday, I may find myself very tempted to import it. More like this, please!

Finally, I needed some cheering up on Saturday, so I re-watched Satoshi Kon's "Millenium Actress", which I realized I hadn't seen since I first tried it over a year ago. I don't have a lot about it that I can put into words right now, but I really, really like it. After that, I popped in disc 1 of "Paranoia Agent", but after the first episode I realized that I just wasn't in the right frame of mind, and decided I'll revisit that one another time.

Saturday, April 08, 2006


Subject: Noir
No, no, no... it really doesn't "suck-o". But it still is a "cacaphony of clashing color and clutter" like I surmised on my first viewing way back when. Disc 3, while it advances the story quite a bit more than you'd think, doesn't really escape it.

And like I said about disc 2, there are still "sparks" to be found. I'm still a big fan of Eugenie, though her character loses a bit of that independence I thought I felt in that moment I mentioned in disc 2. And the story itself seems to be progressing, and I'm still interested in seeing where it's going.

I want to be clear here: I appreciate the effort and design that's going into this series. It's got a lot of unique elements going for it, and I'm all for experimentation. But overall, I still feel that it's missing a big opportunity to break free from the "typical" anime trappings that it is otherwise beholden to once you shake loose the veneer of the "artsy" stuff. But I've already complained about the "veneer" business. Oh well.

Friday, April 07, 2006

"Planetes" disc 1, plus a small discovery

Subject: Noir
Well, my first impression of "Planetes" was -- "L/R" in Space...

So I went and looked it up on ANN, and there really wasn't much of a connection. I learned a little something about "L/R" that surprised me though; but I'll get to that in a minute...

"Planetes" was really quite charming in and of itself. My "L/R in Space" impression is mainly due to the character design and details of the setting. Very, very similar. The overall animation is devoid of the usual manga-style gags & deformations, and I rather like the characters overall. The stories are a little bit on the simplistic side, but there are also ingredients that are definitely anime's strong point, as opposed to the usual western pablum. Nothing grounbreaking, but like I said, "Charming" none-the-less. I'll keep renting it.

Now, about "L/R"... Looking it up on ANN, I discovered that it was directed by Itsuro Kawasaki, who's name rung a bell. As you can see by his ANN profile, he worked with Koichi Mashimo in the early days of Bee Train, assisting with "Popliocrois Story", and directing "Wild Arms" and "Arc the Lad". More recently, he directed the "Tsubasa Chronicle" movie, and though it's not listed, I've read that he was involved in "Windy Tales" as well. I was surprised to see that he directed a number of episodes of "Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex" as well.

So that was a neat surprise. I'm still not done with "L/R" yet, but I'm glad to see that I was able to spot that it had some familiar talent behind it.

Back to "Planetes" for a sec... On it's director's credits, there's not much that I'm familiar with, but those which I am, I'm not much of a fan of. "Planetes" is different enough from them, though, so I can deal with it on it's own merits.

"Spider Riders" first impression

Subject: Noir
"Kid's show"

(...well, duh!)

I'll post more details and a couple of screencaps over on Bee Train Fan a little later when I get a chance...

Thursday, April 06, 2006

"Spider Riders" licensed by Funimation for US distribution

Subject: Noir
My Google News search for "Bee Train" has been turning up a lot of "Spider Riders" press releases, but this one from Animation World Network (a great site for animation-biz stuff, by the way) mentions way down toward the bottom:
Funimation has also joined the burgeoning SPIDER RIDERS family and hold rights for U.S. video distribution.

Also a lot of quotes regarding being "thrilled by the extraordinary work achieved by Bee Train" and such.

Standard dose of hype, sure, but what isn't these days?

Discussion and info, as always, can be found on the Bee Train Fan forums...

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

".hack//Root" First Impressions

Subject: Noir
Now that the site is back up, I've posted links to raws, and my first impressions of what just finished downloading for the first episode of ".hack//Roots".

Quick summary: looks great (once I got a hold of a decent raw) ....and I couldn't understand a thing. Go figure.

Also posted is a link to an HDTV version of the opening, which means there must be HDTV raws afoot. Must have. Must have. OMGHDTVLOL!

Bee Train Fan host issues

Subject: Musings
I'm not sure what's going on, but none of my sites on my web host are responsive right now. I've been tweaking code on one of them, but the way they're seperated, there shouldn't be anything I did to bring them down. Might as well just sit tight and try again later.

Frustrating, though, because I thought I was finally making some progress.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Another fifteen minutes of hate

Subject: Noir
Well, okay, not "hate" per se, but like last week, I found myself not being able to get more than 15 minutes through the first episode of another series.

This time it was "Fushigi Yugi", which I suppose is an innocuous enough title. It was reviewed as a "predecessor to 'Twelve Kingdoms'"; you know -- school-girl falls into alternate fantastic reality, and all that. But from the get go, unlike "Twelve Kingdoms", it was full of those silly comedy cliches that I rather dislike. And while I've been better at getting past that sort of thing, I could pretty much tell that, even if this one had a decent story eventually, I really wouldn't particularly enjoy the journey to get there. So I decided not to waste my time with it. Oh well. That's the point of sampling these, after all.

Also in the "not hate per se" category is disc 3 of "Texhnolyze", which I've already complained about previously. I really want to like this series, as it's got a glimmer of a complex story and an interestingly detailed little universe, but it's really just one big drag otherwise. The whole thing is dreary, without letting you connect with it's dreariness. It's characters are probably complex on paper, but on-screen they're just so many dead-weight puppets with pretensious dialogue. And I have a hard time getting past just how inadequate, and sometimes outright hamfisted, the animation is handled. No life at all. Neat soundtrack, though.

I can't help but imagine what my reaction would be if the exact same script, heck, the same voice talent and character/scenic designs, were handled by an animation team not so stuck in the manga world. Mashimo, Anno, Kon, Wantanabe -- just picturing the possibilities of how they would have approached this material drives even more of a wedge between what it is now and how I imagine it should have been done. Oh well.

There's still 3 more discs of this to go. I'm not all that certain I want to bother, but like with the gap between the last time and this viewing, I'm sure I'll probably start to think "well, it wasn't all that bad now, was it?", and just go ahead and rent another one. Which means I'm probably not done complaining about it yet. *sigh*


Subject: Musings
Has it been a whole week? Sheesh.

The sun came out and it warmed up a little this week. Somehow sitting with a computer was the last thing on my mind after coming home from work. Plus it seems that my internal clock has already adjusted to tonight's switch to Daylight Savings Time, and I've been waking up too early in the morning (and, conversely, going to bed too early in the evening).

Anyway, looking around the internet, I would seem to have a lot of catching up to do.