Saturday, September 30, 2006

And so it begins... (September Edition)

Subject: Noir
I'm one disc into "MADLAX" for the first time in quite a long time.

I've been a little bit anxious about it. A few weeks ago, I was going to dive in and do this, but wound up chickening out. When my mom called a little later that evening, it only confirmed that I wasn't quite ready for it.

That call wasn't much of anything, but back in April, when I was going to make a try for a full marathon, and I was a disc into it, the call I got then wasn't very good news at all. A couple of weeks later, thinking everything was going to be okay, I was getting ready to try again. And then she called again, and my life changed.

So yeah, I've been a little skittish this evening.

And "MADLAX" is all Odosa-this and Odosama-that; it's a central theme in the series. But I know I love this show so much, and I really want to follow the philosophy that life's too short to be anxious about something as simple as a cartoon. I mean, really!

I'm making this a bit more dramatic than I should. Add the fact that this is my last year with a "3" in front of it, and the fact that I managed to survive yet another round of layoffs at work on Thursday, and I'm really making too big a deal out of this.

But you know what? It's kind of fun to make "too big a deal out of this"! It makes it an event. An excuse to put everything else aside and concentrate on this one crazy, over-the-top slice of pop entertainment. Enjoy it while I can. Life is too short to not be watching "MADLAX", that's what I say!

(Actually, I think I said "life's too short to not be watching "Noir"... But hey, same difference!)

What once was lost, now is found...

Subject: Noir
I had gotten in the habit of relying on for all of my Japanese bittorrent goodness. But since it was down this morning, I took a peek over at mininova, and found out that a group other than YGO had recent releases of the current season of "Tsubasa Chronicle"! Hooray! It was just starting to get good again, and it dissappeared a few weeks ago. Anyway, a search over at Mininova will be all you need to get caught up. It'll still take me a little while to get to watch them, but I'm glad to have them!

Also, the raws for "Spider Riders" had dried up (heck, now that the "WB" network has changed, even the US airing of the awful dub dissappeared!). Of course, I've complained a lot about how bad Saiyaman's raws were, and maybe that was my karmic punishment for that. Thankfully, though, a new memeber over on the 'Fan posted a link to her collection of raws. Ahh. There's some gaps, but now I've got downloaded all the way to episode 26. I'm looking forward to catching up here, as well.

Supposedly, "Spider Riders" was doing well in the "Kid's WB" slot, so it's possible that it will make a comeback. Dunno. If you watch whatever the heck the new network is called, and you want to see more Mashimo on TV, then make sure you gently bug them (ha ha, I'm so funny!) to bring it back!

Lolibots and mystery endings

Subject: Noir
I've been stocking up on pasta and pasta-related program activities.

You see, this weekend is one of those "special occasions". No, it's not because I didn't get laid off like 10% of my department did on Thursday. It's really just another marker of my advancement in eventual decrepitude. Or something like that...

Okay, okay -- my birthday is this weekend and I'm planning on watching all of "MADLAX". Can't I just say it straight-out? *sigh*

Anyway, as a warmup, besides having the OST blaring out while driving around today, I finished off a quick rewatch of "Avenger". "Finished off?", you say? Well, I did pop in disc 1 a short while back, but I didn't bother blogging about it. This evening, I slammed through the rest of it. I really missed it's wacky little insanity.

As a work of science fiction, it's really quite old-skool. As a work of animation, it's quite a mixed-up experiment on Mashimo's part. It's got to be a test of the techniques that would eventually make their way into "MADLAX". There's crazy camerawork, still frames that still move, hidden twists and last-minute narrative -- it's all there. As bewildering as it winds up being as a whole, it's chock-full of moments that are spot-on fantastic; Mashimo nails it on a number of occasions.

And the deconstructionist in me revels in the way he puts it together. The swoops, the eyes, the musical selections... It's all so inspiring, even if the narrative finds itself with a few continuity conundrums and wince-worthy WTF-ness.

Though the end may be making a little more sense each time I see it. Volk losing, and his dome sinking into the newly raging ocean is rather obviously symbolic, and no-one has an issue with that, I figure. But Layla suddenly walking off into the sunset, as it were, and dissappearing... literally dissappearing; that takes a grounding in Eastern "ghost" philosophy that I'm really not qualified to pursue. But suffice to say, after my earliest impression of this series from over two years ago, I think I've grown much more attached to this show than I did back then. And my bias on the subject makes me oh-so-much more forgiving of it's discontinuity issues.

Friday, September 29, 2006

TV Tidbits

Subject: TV
Due to the extreme lack of posting of late, I figured I'd at least post a little bit of fluff about the start of the new "season" in American television...

"Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" -- Aaron Sorkin's back, and is back to writing a TV show about a TV show. I'll spare you the summaries since you can find those anywhere, but it's probably on the top of my "watch" list until the next season until "Galact-oh-yeah!" starts up... which means, not for much longer.

Still, it's fine; the typical Sorkin-style rapid-fire dialogue, quirky characterizations, and just-short-of-preachy-but-still-mostly-insightful subject matter. I watched the early years of "West Wing" quite closely, and abandoned it when he left because of the way it lost it's insightfulness and reduced the issues to their typical cookie-cutter BS. I missed out on "SportsNight" when it aired, but saw a repeat long after starting "West Wing", and was a bit surprised to see that it was the exact same show. Much to learn, had I. However, that prepared me for being able to accept "Studio 60" for what it is.

Next up -- a little while ago, out here on the internets, a rip of the pilot episode of "Heroes" was floating around, so I gave it a quick watch. "Meh", I thought. A slightly re-edited version premiered in full HDTV glory this past week though.

And... "meh", I thought.

It reeks of "written by committee" and "dumbed-down for a general audience", which is rather dissappointing. I'll keep it on my DVR for a little longer to see if it loosens up a little, but I don't hold out much hope.

"Startgate SG-1" -- Kind of "meh", as it barrels toward it's own demise after being cancelled. The whole "Arthurian legends" thing is squeezed past absurdity, and the "situation-of-the-week" has a certain "just phoning it in" quality about it. Still, I'll stick with it until the bitter end, I guess.

Speaking of "just phoning it in", "The Simpsons" season... uh, hmm... (I think the show is almost old enough to vote...) Any way, I'm among the multitude of old cranks who think the show is way overdue for a dignified burial. It used to have a fine little subversive wit to it, but now it's just more along the lines of "aren't-I-so-ironic". Still, it's way more amusing than any other network sitcom. And that's just sad. At any rate, my DVR keeps cutting out just before the last minute or so and I keep missing the "punchline". But I'm not really inspired to go out of my way to download it, because it just doesn't seem worth the effort. Oh well.

Starting Sunday on Showtime, there's a new "quirky" series called "Dexter", about a serial killer who's also a forensics specialist for the Miami Police. "CSI" meets "Six Feet Under", I can just imagine (not particularly being a fan of either). Still I'll give it a shot, since my usual HBO Sunday night fare is long over for a while.

And, finally, I'm still watching "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report". It seems to be the only island of sanity and insightfulness about current events these days.

And that's just sad.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Anime Roundup: 7 to the X edition...

Subject: Noir
First, though, I finished up "Zettai Shonen", which was only 12 episodes, it turns out. Nothing particularly groundbreaking, and for a while, a couple of the character's "romantic awkwardness" was totally turning me off of it, but in the end, it was modestly contemplative and the story and characters made it watch-worthy enough. A very simple style overall, though probably a bit more manga-like than I'd otherwise prefer. Beyond that, any attempt at profundity was rather underwhelming.

"X", the TV version, finally made it into my rental queue. There's a "Remix" version of it that caught my eye, but I wanted to see if it's worth it first. So far, after the first non-"Remix" disc, it's inconclusive. I'm not particularly a CLAMP fan. I saw the older movie, dubbed of course, some years ago; but attempting to rewatch it -- dubbed again -- proved to be unbearable and unwatchable, and I dumped it rather early on.

The series is a little more forgivable, though I was tempted to drop it partway in the "episode 0" that opened the disc. The animation is rather stiff and manga-esque, which I suppose is predictable. But the writing and the characters overall show a little bit of potential, so I think I'll give it a little more of a try.

Another tidbit I noticed -- the color pallette and the background texture is straight out of "Noir", which has a rather unique style in that regard. Surprising, to a small extent. I checked ANN's encyclopedia, but there didn't seem to be any overlap. Still, to me, it's unmistakable. And it's something I haven't seen in any other anime. I'd be curious to know what the real overlap is.

Finally, I rented disc 1 of "Samurai 7". It was one of the first fansubs I watched after my re-introduction to the anime world, and way back then, I was a bit dissappointed with it, particularly in the way it took such obvious liberties with the Kurosawa film it takes credit for mimicing. I wanted to see, though, if a couple of years of experience in a wide variety of anime would change my impression of it at all.

And the answer isn't entirely clear. It definitely thinks that it's cooler than it actually is. And it's quite obviously a predecessor to "Gankutsou", both in character style/expression, and the overall ripoff of classic material for it's own ends. But there's a couple of interesting sparks to be seen, and I'm pretty sure I recognized it back then. And it's definitely different from a lot of the usual junk, which I didn't quite appreciate as much at the time. So I guess I'll keep renting it, as I realized I don't remember as much of the fansub as I thought I'd might, and the picture and audio quality aren't half-bad on the DVD. Plus, I actually quit watching it when the license was announced (as was the style at the time)...

Faux-Bushido and "it's all Wong"

Subject: Cinema
More recommendation-action for more Wong Kar-Wai brings me to "Fallen Angels", which is considered a "sequel" to "Chunking Express". Probably because it has two disconnected-yet-connected stories, and involves mostly-psychotic babes and totally clueless dudes.

There's a bit more of a John Woo edge to this one. Well, actually, an almost outright John-Woo-ripoff at the beginning. Part of it is the overall Hong-Kong-thang that shares a common attitude amongst all the various gangster films of the 90's. But with the two-fisted gunslinging and the very same birdcage cafe from "Hard Boiled", it's hard to deny that there's at least some sort of connection between the veteran (Woo) and the newbie (Kar-Wai).

Kar-Wai misses out on the whole "violent ballet" aspect of Woo's classics, of course. Slo-mo and moody lighting doesn't make up for it in the slightest. However, once you zoom in to his characters, that's where you find the strength of his work. Simplicity for sure, and overall quite interesting. Though his women in both "Chunking" and "Fallen" tend to be a bit over-the-top psychotic. At least in "Fallen", he balances it with an over-the-top psychotic male lead as well. Though his "father dies, time to grow up" bit towards the end kind of made me wince. But I guess I'm a little sensitive to that this year. *sigh*

Another one out of the GreenCine queue was the Criterion release of "Le Samourai", a French noir classic from the year I was born (which means it's getting rather old, don'tcha know). It struck me right off that this was probably the inspiration of Jim Jarmusch's "Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai", though there's only a tiny bit in common. Otherwise, it's definitely a time capsule from another cinematic era in another cinematic culture. It gets mired in to the details of the game between police procedure and professional Parisan assassin. It's a neat enough story, though, and worth sticking with, though it's more fascinating in an historical context than it is from any modern perspective.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Bee Train Fan temporary outage.

In case you haven't noticed, Bee Train Fan isn't responding; my webhost says they fixed everything as of 12 minutes ago, but obviously they didn't get it quite right.

*Sigh* At least it's cheap.


Subject: Musings
I just noticed that it's been almost 2 weeks since I posted anything.


I don't really have much of an excuse this time. It seems to be a confluence of little things -- the end of summer, uncertainty at work*, or, more significantly, the total lack of inspiration. I've got a couple of things added to the "watched" column since my last post, but none of it really seems to warrant a post of it's own, and I definitely can't think of anything much more than "meh" to say about them.

I guess I must have lost the right balance of beer and motivation with respects to my viewing time. I should probably work to correct that...

(* rumored layoffs hitting next week, the word on the street says... That would give me lots of time for blogging!)

Sunday, September 10, 2006

This week in anime

Subject: Noir
Well, I've racked up a number of odds 'n ends that haven't really been worth commenting about individually, but I figured I should at least aggragate them now...

".hack//Roots" eps 21 & 22 -- So we find ourselves with still more new characters popping up out of nowhere! *Sigh* At least 21's character involves a bit of an Avenger reference to her, though it isn't particularly gratuitous (and a bit mis-translated at that). 22 gets a bit more into Tabby's character, though that involves a bit of silliness as well. Otherwise, I still have no clue about what's going on, and I suspect everything is just going to hang in the air as setups for the game. At least in "//SIGN", there was closure of the main thread. In this one, I still don't have a good sense what the "main thread" is about, and it's only a few episodes away from it's supposed conclusion. Oh well.

"Tsubasa Chronicle Season 2" ep 14 -- These are only getting sporadic releases, so it tends to lose it's momentum with me. That said, compared to the previous few outings, this episode was quite excellent. Simple storyline, a bit over-the-top with the melodrama, but really effective. We get a flashback on the life of Kurogane as a child, and it's quite a heartbreaking bit of tragedy. Anyway, it makes up for the previous arc, thankfully.

"Popolocrois Story" ep 21 -- can you believe that I've been dragging this one out for 2 years now? Geez. Anyway, nothing too exciting, but it's still a clever little kid's show. Seems like something important is about to happen though. I figure it'll be another month before seeing that.

"Mushishi" ep 25 -- More of the same. Which means a cool story and a neat episode, but it's hard to figure that we're almost done with the next episode, as there isn't really an "arc" so to speak. Supposedly there's a live-action movie either making the festival circuit, or about to be released or something. I've got to pay more attention...

"Windy Tales" ep 13 -- the final episode, finally. Though I really didn't follow it very well. Still, like "Mushishi" & "Popolocrois", it stays much the same as it always has, and it's quite charming. It all comes down to the care and effort put into the otherwise simple and slightly-abstract technique. It makes it more "real", if you can imagine that.

"Ghost in the Shell - Stand Alone Complex" 1st season, disc 1 -- I saw some of these dubbed on the Cartoon Network, and I thought I'd give it a try subtitled and in surround sound, and rented the first disc. Hmm. Well, it's a well-crafted show, but like I said about the original movie, it just talks and talks and talks. Blah blah blah. I guess I was hoping for an excuse to actually buy it or something. I dunno. Maybe. And I still haven't seen any of the 2nd season yet.

"Planetes" disc 3 -- It seems to take quite a while for me to get from disc to disc with this one, even though I keep it at the top of my rental queue. It was long enough this time that it took me a while to try and get my bearings again. I've probablly commented before that I like the style and the attention to detail -- bordering on obsessive in some ways. Story-wise, though, it started getting mired in the usual cliche awkward-budding-romance thing, and I'm not very patient with that. Still, I managed, and it wasn't without its moments. But otherwise, nothing very compelling, but nothing so aggregious that I would drop it either. I'll hang on for a while longer.

"Eureka Seven" disc 2 -- Well, by the end of this disc it started to try and take a turn to the dramatic, though it took a bit of silly annoyance to get through to get there. I'm not entirely swept up in it, though. It's acceptable enough, but I'm not feeling much of a hook. Still, I'll keep on with it for a while longer.

That's about the extent of it...

Saturday, September 09, 2006

"Nobody ever called Pablo Picasso an asshole"

Subject: Cinema
I started the evening with an attempt at watching Lars Von Trier's "Dogville". That was still in my rental queue for some reason, even though I was pissed at him for that movie with Bjork and all, but still, I wanted to keep an open mind.

And I've got to admit, the concept was interesting. It takes place on a soundstage, with the streets and the floorplans of the few buildings of the tiny town all just painted on the floor, with very few props. But it's one of his mostly-improvised experiments, too. And I really really wasn't in the mood for it. So I gave up shortly after Nicole Kidman's character showed up. Maybe I'll give it another try someday, but right now, it just wasn't what I wanted to see.

After that, I scanned my DVD collection looking for something, anything that might do the trick. My big frustration right now is that I'm kind of tired of re-watching stuff. Especially anime, but also in general.

That said, I finally latched on to a recent purchase that, while I've seen it a few times before, I hadn't seen it in quite a while -- the recent DVD remaster of "Repo Man".

That provided the amusing escape I think I needed right about now, so it was definitely a bit of fun. Nostaligic fun. It pretty much encapsulates that whole late-80's psuedo-punk cult humor that was targeted directly at me and my age group at that time in college, and it proved to stick quite prominently in my head ever since. Even though it's a rather simple bit of fluff. But it is chock full of great one-liners, and the soundtrack is still a feature in my MP3 mix (most of the tracks which I actually manually converted from my vinyl LP some years ago).

As a DVD, the transfer is quite excellent, and looks much sharper and cleaner than all those years of laserdisc and VHS viewings I did (I missed out on seeing it in the theater). On the whole, though, I wonder if the film could ever possibly translate itself to current times... I mean, quite a few of the themes are universal, and/or repeated in the current era. But the details, and the tone; all of those are steeped in the whole coming-of-age-in-the-Reagan-presidency mood and environment. It's all a sort of time capsule. It's the sort of thing us old-farts like to quote or refer to in order to seem hip or relevant. But is it really just my generation's "Mother, Jugs & Speed"? Hard to say.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Messing with Blogger

Subject: Musings
There's a new version of Blogger, and I figured I'd give it a try because there's some new features. It'll take me a while to restore the old CSS I used, so hang in there if you find this look as irritating as I do.

Update -- Hrm. One of the new features I want is the ability to label subjects, and it works, but I have to manually edit over 550 posts! Yikes! I'm wondering if I should just go spend the time porting this thing over to WordPress instead...

There's an RSS feed feature too, but I'm pretty sure WordPress has that too. I guess I'll think about it...

Update 2 -- I've reverted back to the old template for now while I mull it over. Ahh. That's better.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

"Howl"-ing again

Subject: Cinema
I was on the verge of gearing up for an all-nighter of "MADLAX" when I chickened out. I figured I was a bit too tired. Oh well.

I did watch my recently-aquired DVD of "Howl's Moving Castle", which I saw in it's theatrical (and dubbed) run last year. This time, in Japanese. And since it really hasn't changed, I can't say that I got anything additional out of it. As it was when watching the dub, I was able to figure exactly which of the simpler Japanese familiar phrases were being said at any given time, so I don't think anything was added or missing one way or the other. Quality work all around.

One of these day's I'll start watching the extras on all these Miyazaki discs I have, but for now, I have nothing more to say.