Monday, May 29, 2006

A coupla mo' "Tsubasa" episodes

Subject: Noir
I got through eps 29 and 30 of "Tsubasa Chronicle" this morning with breakfast (it's a holiday weekend, so I don't have to work). I guess 29, which wrapped up the race, wasn't entirely awful -- though the very, very long expository monologues were rather excruciating to sit through. Oh well.

Ep 30 returns to the world they left in ep 26, only to find they're being set up to have to watch the undoing of their previous ressurrection trick. That is, everyone's gotta die again. Another Mashimo-directed one, it is chock full of touching flashbacks, and heavy on the emotional cues. Which, frankly with recent events, I really wasn't letting myself get caught up in it in any way. Just couldn't do it. It was a bit much right now.

I mean, it was just a children's show and I've got to be 3 times the target age group, so it wasn't anything particularly tragic or painful to watch or anything, but it was trying to tap into an emotial zone, and I really didn't want to go there right now. No biggie.

I've still got episode 31 to go before I'm caught up; I figure I'll watch that with breakfast tomorrow (as I'm taking another day off so I can catch up on chores around the house). And that will pretty much wrap up my anime supply until the weekend.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Imagine my surprise!

Subject: Noir
...when I finally downloaded episodes "28" through "30" of "Tsubasa Chronicle", then fired up "28" (that's season 2, episode 2 for pendantic fellows like me), then as I fast-forwarded through the OP (which I really don't care about), I saw... incorrectly translated by DB&L-E... Koichi Mashimo's name as director!!

Whoo hoo! *grin*

It seems that he's switching off with Hiroshi Morioka and doing every-other episode. At least for the time being.

So, of course, my biases instantly kicked in and I watched the episode with rapt attention. Go figure.

I know, it's kind of lame of me to trash the first episode, then be all enthused about the next one just because Mashimo put his name on it. And I suppose I really need to decide if I actually saw a difference or not... Hmmm.

Well, the first bunch of scenes were riddled with flashbacks... Ah, that's Mashimo-esque, alright! (hee hee!) And the camera was definitely moving all over the place. And I think everyone had a much better "spark" to them. But I'm probably projecting that myself. Go figure.

Anyway, it's been forever since I watched ep "27", so everyone should really take my analysis with a grain of salt. (duh!) I'll probably watch the next couple tommorow and will attempt to be a little more balanced about my observations. (Yeah, right!)

I also watched episode 22 of "Noein", which I guess is the second-to-last one. Boy-howdy, did they kick up the melodrama in this one. All sorts of tragic forebearing of the lives of Haruka's friends in a "future of misery" scenario made for the primary plotline (though it jumped around between a few different ones), and it was definitely geared for maximum tear-jerking... or eye-rolling if one found it a tad too transparent. At any rate, it was still a nifty bit of storytelling, and the characters still were lively and interesting like they've been all along.

And speaking of "melodrama", last night I finished up a couple of nights of watching discs 2 and 3 of the "Read or Die" series. By disc 3, the melodrama setting was kicked up to "11" on the dial; most likely to set you up for the plot twist. Though in a lot of ways, it felt more like "making this sh* up as they went along", but still, it was fun enough to put that feeling aside.

I really like the characterizations in this one; everything seems almost cliche, yet there's a few touches that totally change your expectations. One example is that, at the beginning of disc 3, they all wind up at a hot springs... and of course, that usually means gratuitous bathing scenes. Which it had, sure, but it wound up surprisingly to be more of a blood bath than the typical campy titillation.

Again, though, there was a definite manipulative attempt to tear-jerk throughout. Some of it seemed to contradict some of the other backstory told in previous episodes. But like I said, it was still fun and the characters were interesting, so it's all forgiven.

Finally, I saw that ".hack//Roots" actually did have an episode this week (#8), so I downloaded it quickly and watched that at lunchtime. It would seem that the "key to the Key of the Twighlight" has been discovered, and now the series is going to focus on getting to that. Seems simple, if mildly treacherous (traps being set and all that), but overall it's a neat episode. The characters are still interesting, and the soundtrack really works pretty well -- well, despite the occasional flashbacks to "Avenger" that it evokes. Heh.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

In the middle of Even More Catching Up...

Subject: TV
"The Sopranos" will be wrapping up soon, but I still haven't gotten to last week's episode. I don't know if there's actually a new episode this Sunday or they're just recapping the last few, but I expect it's about to end soon. Since I'm "on holiday" right now, I'll be relying on the DVR to take care of things until I do catch up. It's hard avoiding the one obvious spoiler about Vito, though. Not that I wouldn't have seen it coming. That said, the details are still a mystery to me, and I'll get to it when I get to it.

I probably will before "Deadwood" season 3 starts up in a couple of weeks. Looking forward to that!!

"Doctor Who" just finished episode 7 of the latest season a couple of hours ago, but I'm still at least 3 1/2 hours from having it downloaded. Which doesn't matter, because I'm only up to episode 4, the one with Madame Pompadour. Another tres-cool installment -- I swear, they've got the classic formula down pat, yet with enough of a modern spin to make it emminently enjoyable. I can't wait to catch up here; maybe I'll get to the next one (with Cybermen and a whole "steampunk" feel) sometime tonight...

I had recorded "Saturday Night Live" a few weeks back because they were airing a retrospective of Robert Smigel's "TV's Funhouse" cartoons, and finally watched it earlier this week. It was a bit heavy on his "Ambiguously Gay Duo" schtick, which I suppose would be more amusing if I were 12 years old, but overall is kind of a snoozer now that I'm not. But there were plenty of other incisive gags and spoofs and satires of classic cartoons and comics that were completely laugh-out-loud fun. And I needed that laugh right about then. Especially memorable was a Disney spoof where a young girl tells a recalcitrent Mickey Mouse (explaining a lot of the not-so-positive things about Walt Disney's history): "Wait, you're supposed to be funny??" Oh, that was dead-on perfect. *grin*

(A side note: I almost had the chance to go work in the trenches for J.J. Sedhelmier animation, who was the the production company that did a lot of the earlier "TV's Funhouse" segments, but I jumped at the chance to work where I am now instead of pursing that...)

I've got a bunch of HDTV episodes of the last season of "Battlestar Galactica" sitting on the DVR that I haven't watched yet, but I will probably knock those off some time soon.

More catching-up in the Anime departement to follow later...

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Catching up a little more...

Subject: Noir
Okay, I got through ".hack//Roots" up through episode 7. It didn't really give me as much of a plot-point as I thought it would from the preview on the previous episode -- it's still all very mysterious and obfuscated. But character-wise, it's plugging along pretty well. Not that we learn much more than little tidbits there, either. But it's enjoyable nonetheless.

Also on the "enjoyable nonetheless" list was the raw of episode 6 of "Spider Riders". I really think that the fact that I have no idea what they're saying is contributing a lot to my enjoyment, because I can just focus on the character animation and screen direction. There's a lot of simple-yet-elegant things going on that I'm really getting a kick out of.

...But I've probably said that already. Over and over. Hrm.

I still haven't looked very hard for "Tsubasa Chronicle" episodes, but I suppose I'll start feeling curious about it again soon. I'm in no hurry. After ditching season 2 of "Meine Liebe", I'm not in a hurry to find myself wanting to ditch another Bee Train b-team effort. It's bad enough to be a studio-snob, but to really parse it down that finely is... Oh, who am I kidding?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Lunchbreak quickie

Subject: Noir
I managed to spin up a couple of more shows last night, though by the end I was a bit too worn out to write about them.

First up, while eating dinner, I watched the raw of "Spider Riders" ep 5. Looks like they had a little backstory in there, though danged if I know what it was. Still, it's a simple enough show that I find it watchable even though I don't understand the "plot". Also in this one, we see more of the brooding babe, who appears to be a human Spider Rider working with the evil bug dudes. I think I now have a favorite character in this one... *ahem*

Then I popped in disc 1 of "Blue Submarine No. 6", which is apparently an OVA from around 1998 or so. It's a 2-sided disc with only 30-min episode per side, which seems to be kind of a waste. It's got a Japanese 5.1 soundtrack, but the mix seems really messed up -- it might be that my setup has issues, but I really think it's more because of the mix. Plus, even though it's got decent quality design and a high framecount, it's sadly a 4:3 normal-screen presentation, so it loses a bit of it's impact.

Also, it continues to prove my old axiom "higher framecount does not mean better animation", though really there wasn't a lot of glaring problems with it like other shows. But there was enough wooden lifelessness or awkward stiffness to warrant that observation. The gratuitous use of 3D CGI was okay and wasn't too distracting, but like I said before, the impact was a bit lost in the smaller screen format.

I did like the characterizations overall, even though they were more-or-less stereotypical archetypes. And despite some of the animation flaws, there were still a couple of sparks of life to be found. Particularly with the sea-creatures' "women" -- of course, they're the fan-bait that the whole show probably hangs on, so it's not surprising that some attention went into them.

Oh, and the soundtrack was pretty good. Quality stuff. I'll probably rent the rest of it, though it's a shame that such short discs will waste slots in my precious GreenCine queue. Oh well.

Finally, I managed to get through one more episode (#5 or 6? Hmmm...) of ".hack//Roots". I was in a better mood, and it was enjoyable enough, with enough of a minor twist/exposition to interest me, but boy-howdy, that last "confrontation" scene with the scary player-killer chick from the other guild was excruciatingly painful to sit through. The timing of everything was so glacial, the sense of distance between the characters so overblown... it was completely irritating.

Of course, it may have been a rather accurate portrayal of an MMORPG combat scene from what I've witnessed of the real thing... Heh.

Anyway, it looks like the next episode will reveal some more about the real "plot" for this series, which I'm looking forward to. Maybe I'll have a chance to watch it tonight.

I'm way behind on "The Sopranos", though... And "Doctor Who" for that matter... Decisions...

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Short resumption

Subject: Noir
Well, last night, I just rewatched the end of "Batman Begins" on HBO and went to bed instead of getting back into the anime thang, which was for the best, as I was kind of worn out.

This morning, I went for ep 21 of "Noein" for Sunday breakfast, which went alright as far as easing me back into it all. Nothing particularly gripping, yet nothing off-putting either, so that was okay. I guess it's approaching the finale, but I really don't know where it's going. No biggie, though.

I saw that a preview episode of ".hack//Online Jack" was available, so I grabbed that and watched it before resuming my place in "//Roots"... and was kind of dissappointed. It's just a promo of the OVA that will be included on the games, so I'm not surprised, but it was kind of lame in the animation department. It also gave away what I'm guessing is going to be a critical story element, so I'm not sure I should have watched it before getting further along on "//Roots" -- oh well. Again, not that it was a big surprise or anything. I'll get to that whenever I get further along.

I only got as far as episode 5 of ".hack//Roots" today, but I have 6 and 7 downloaded. 2 in a row was about as much as I could sit through. A couple of new locations were introduced, and a couple of more "rules" of the virtual universe they inhabit were illuminated, but so far it's still continuing it's vague obfuscation game. Which is fine, but I guess I'm feeling a little more impatient than usual. The characters seem to be developing pretty well, and they all have their little sparks of "life" to them. But I guess I'll just take a little break before I try and catch up with the remainder.

I grabbed the raws I didn't have yet for "Spider Riders". Unfortunately, only Saiyaman is providing those now, so I held my nose and grabbed them anyhow. I'm not sure when I'll watch 'em, but for completeness' sake, I at least have 'em.

I haven't gone looking for "Tsubasa Chronicle" episodes yet, though there didn't seem to be any recent releases anyhow. I guess I'm not really in a hurry for that, but I suppose I'll get around to those soon enough. For completeness' sake. *cough*

One final note: It's my blogiversary! Exactly two years ago, I went to Blogger and started this whole mess. And a handful of you keep coming back and reading it all, even though I haven't been particularly inspired in my writing of late. Thanks for sticking with it, though. Hopefully the cloud that's been over my head this year will clear up soon and I'll be able to pick up the pace (and mood) around here a little.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

"Normal" TV

Subject: TV
Now that I'm back, I have an open evening to watch whatever I want. But I'm still not quite ready to watch any of my anime backlog yet; something that probably will evaporate by the time the night is over. I'm behind on "The Sopranos", so I watched one of those. I think I'll save my comments about that until we get to the end, which is coming up really soon.

When I was back in Massachusettes, I watched a few shows I wouldn't have otherwise seen, so I thought I'd make a few quick blurbs about them:

"Bones" -- sort of a "CSI" wannabe on Fox, about a woman who specializes in reconstructing a person's identity based on their skeletal remains. What a poorly written pile of crap! Bleh. And the political BS that seeps into it, the shoddy strawmen of the actual arguments and issues; it was so hilariously typical for Fox that I was pretty much dumbstruck by it all. Literally. Struck dumb. *sigh*

Another wannabe is "Jag", about Navy investigators solving crazy crimes and trying to prevent terrorists from wreaking havoc, but finding that the system is just set against them because of some sort of political correctness run amok. Not on Fox but CBS, and still just as jingoistic. *sigh*

And speaking of "CSI", I don't remember which ones I watched (there's like 3 versions or something), but boy-howdy, if you haven't been following it enough to keep an interest in the characters, the whole execution of the thing is really shoddy. The production values are pretty good, but the writing and performances were pablum. *sigh*

That was about it for the networks. I watched a lot of my mom's favorite home remodelling shows on HGTV, DiY, and the like, and they're all a blur. I also watched quite a bit of the various versions of the History Channel and saw enough Civil War reinactments and "DaVinci Code Debunked!" programs to last me the whole summer.

Out of the whole soup of cable-surfing, there were three intertesting programs I thought I'd mention in closing:

"The Dog Whisperer" on the National Geographic network -- neat, it's about a guy in LA who shows owners how to manage their dogs, especially if they're troublesome. He's able to take really difficult personalities and bring about some common sense about how to be the "pack leader" and stop transmitting your own anxieties on the pets. A lot I never realized. Makes me a little more comfortable with the idea of possibly owning a dog of my own someday.

"It Takes A Theif" on Discovery -- a couple of reformed theives recruit hapless homeowners to allow them to "test their security", essentially by setting up a bunch of hidden cameras and then breaking into their house and stealing their stuff. Of course, it's followed by them giving the stuff back and hooking them up with a brand new spiffy security setup. But it's crazy -- they totally trash the places just like they would if they were on a real caper. It's a little bit over-sensationalized in that the odds are the "victims" probably wouldn't have been robbed otherwise, but it's still fascinating. And unfortunately a little paranoia-inducing.

Finally, "Cash Cab", also on Discovery -- seems kind of silly: a game show that takes place in a New York City taxi cab, where the driver surprises their fares when they sit in the cab, and has them answer silly trivia questions to run up the meter in their favor while they ride to their destination. It's such a simple formula, and it seems so novel, that I got hooked. It's not my usual "fare" (*cough*), but it was pleasantly entertaining and distracting during the past couple of weeks.

That's about it for now. I still haven't decided what to watch yet, but I'll probably be going to bed early, so it won't be much. The MP3 player was playing a lot of the "MADLAX" OST once I got closer to home, so I was tempted to go there. I don't think I'm quite ready for that kind of commitment yet, though. Maybe just this "Read Or Die" disc that showed up while I was gone. Or some of the ".hack" backlog... Hmmm...

Friday, May 19, 2006

Coming home

On Saturday morning, I'll be driving back home to Greater Metropolitan Pultneyville. I'm looking forward to sleeping in my own bed and not breathing whatever pollen it is around here that I'm allergic to.

And having a little time alone. It was important for the family to be together, and I've been doing a lot of work to make sure my Mom is set with all of the insurance paperwork and legal stuff, but now I need to recharge. And try to get back to my own life. And try to come to terms with what happened.

This next part gets a little personal. I'm writing it more for me than anyone, so feel free to skip it.

Dad's condition had been deteriorating more quickly in the last few months than it had the past few years, but it was always assumed that he'd be moving further up on the liver transplant list, and would potentially undergo surgery some time this year. His liver was riddled with fluid-filled cysts and had swollen to over 120 pounds, and it was very difficult for him to move. But he was functional, alert, and able to get around with the help of a scooter.

When he suddenly got overwhelmed by a blood infection that shut down his over-stressed kidneys, he spent three agonizing weeks in the hospital, only to be told that his condition was now too serious to get a transplant. That's when my mom first called me and told me the news that he wasn't expected to survive much longer than a month, and I started packing to come home.

When my brother picked my mom up at the hospital to bring her home to get some sleep, my dad gave up. My mom got the phone call the minute they got in the house. Mom had told Dad we were all on our way and would be there in the morning. I'm pretty sure that the last thing he would have wanted was to have a roomful of us watching his last moments. So he gave up.

I had called him on his birthday a few days earlier, and he sounded awful. I was so alarmed, I couldn't think of anything to say, and there was a long awkward silence, and I broke up a bit before saying goodbye. I keep feeling like I should have gotten in the car right then and there. I should have gotten in the car when he first went to the hospital.

I'm going to have a lot of "should haves" and guilt going through my head for a long time. I'm also going to keep dwelling on what must have been going through his mind in his final minutes. There's a lot of my dad in me, and I can't help but project a little. It's not particularly comforting.

But I promised him a long time ago, when he first had surgery to attempt to correct it, that I would absolutely make sure that Mom would be alright. That's been my job #1 these past 2 weeks. And I've done right by him; I know I have. There were loose ends, and a lot of things they never got around to discussing (avoiding it, I'm sure), but every issue has been identified, and all the processes are underway to make sure all of the hard work he did to provide for her for the rest of her life will not be wasted.

Mom's been really strong. She's had to face this possibility for some years now, and those last weeks in the hospital brought it pretty clearly into focus for her, even though she wouldn't let on over the phone during that time. Yet, there's a lot of my mom in me too, and I can catch a few things about her that tell me that it's still going to be a long road. So I'm going to be worried about her. My brother will be moving back into the house, and she'll be taking care of his dogs when he's working, so she won't be alone. Financially, she won't have any worries at all, though there will still be some uncertainty for a while until everything comes together in the next month or so. And I'll always be just a phone call away to help there.

But I'm still going to be worried about her. But I'm pretty sure she'll be okay.

So now I need to get back to work and get my life in order. There is a lot I need to learn from all of this; obvious things, simple things. My priorities and motivations will change. And hopefully, I will continue to do right by my father.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Thanks, everyone

I want to thank everyone for your words and notes; while I'm not much of one for sentimental stuff, I've discovered it really does help. A lesson I'll file away for the future, I'm sure.

Everything is going smoothly, and I expect that I'll return in another week or so. I'm actually downloading some more ".hack" overnight, and will probably watch it at some point as a distraction.

I've definitely got some issues that I have to work through in my head about this. Duh. A couple of them are sticking rather hard. But that's normal and natural, and will be helped with time. I think by the time the next week is up, though, I'll be ready to try and get back on track with my life. And I suspect I'll be at least a smidgen more inspired to live it a little more fully.

Sunday, May 07, 2006


Sorry to leave everyone on that note. The post I mentioned was my rumination on the news that I had gotten earlier in the evening that my father wasn't expected to survive his current hospitalization. At that time, the news was that he maybe had a month at the outset. So I was still kind of philosophical and not really quite grasping the reality.

Then I got word an hour after that he died suddenly, and the reality came rather quickly.

My brothers and I are all here with my Mom, and things are going well. My Mom's a strong lady, and we're all working together and taking our individual roles. Between us, and with the extended family's support, it looks like this will go alright. I know I feel a lot better than I did during the 7 hour middle-of-the-night drive back here to Massachussetts.

I will probably post more later, more to log it for my own purposes than for any weird need to expose my personal life to the rest of the internet. But I expect I'll be back to the usual reviews-n-ruminations format sooner rather than later.

Friday, May 05, 2006


I had a post here earlier ruminating on a personal subject. As of 11:30pm, it just got rendered totally meaningless.

I'll be away for a while. I don't know when I'll be back.