Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Torchy, Dorky, Sorky, uh...

Subject: TV
...and Icky? Hmm. Anyway, those are the four shows I'm watching besides "Galact-o-yeah" this season. A lot, for me.

"Torchy" means the premiere of the spinoff of "Doctor Who" -- "Torchwood". Thanks to the miracle of the internets, I was able to download it some hours after it aired on the BBC. The "Torchwood" organization was introduced in the recent seasons; heck, "Torchwood" is an anagram of "Doctor Who". It's the super-secret started-by-Queen-Victoria anti-alien squad, headed up by Captain Jack, of all people. Seems to be a sort of "CSI-meets-Men-In-Black" kind of concept. Anyway, it has much the same sort of attitude as the new Who, crossed with cop drama, and with the innuendo and "strong language" kicked up a notch. Fun so far; hope it lasts.

"Dorky" -- well, that's "Heroes". Last week, just as I was going to give up on it, it ended with a bit of a hook. A hook totally baited for nerd. Hiro, the irritating Japanese Star Trek fan (WTF?), shows up as his future incarnation, all dramatically dressed in black, with a katana across his back, being all intense and speaking perfect English. Then the episode ended. I blinked twice, and thought "hey, that was cool", and actually looked forward to this week.

Well, it wound up a little dissappointing, because the guy who plays Hiro (or the director, I figure) couldn't quite get the foreboding presence to carry through an actual exchange of dialogue with the emo-haircut sponge-powers kid. But, it was still enough of an entertaining twist that I was able to take the rest of the episode in stride. Even though it's rather sub-optimally written. It's very comic-book, but you really need to follow-through on-screen and with the performances if you want to pull "comic-book" off. I keep thinking that if it were animated, I'd probably not be so critical of it. Heck, to me, everything's better when it's animated! *grin*

Anyway, it ended again giving me a little bit of a chill -- the catchphrase I'm sure you'll all see buzzing around for the next couple of weeks: "Save the cheerleader, save the world". Looking back on it, that's really kind of stupid. But, it's a fun stupid. I guess I'll stick with it a little longer; if anything, it'll give me a chance to type up some classic sarcastic rants again.

Let's see, where was I? ...ah, "Sorky" -- Aaron Sorkin's "Studio 60". It seems to be turning into Sorkin's masturbatory fantasy of what he wants TV to be, combined with his schlocky nostalgia for what TV was at one point. But, it's rolled together in his trademark snappy dialogue and interesting on-screen moments, so I'm still in on this one. But I'll probably wind up complaining about it too. Or worse -- I'll find there's nothing worth writing about with it. A shame.

Finally, "Icky" is Showtime's "Dexter" -- a series that follows a serial killer. Who works forensics for the police. Who exclusively hunts other serial killers. Definitely meant to layer on the "ick" factor, but surround it with what they hope will be interesting characters. A bit psychological, a bit mystery, a bit bland in spots. Anyway, it turns out there's another serial killer that's on to Dexter, and is taunting him and trying to lead him on a chase. Intercut that with all the things Dexter tries to do to "blend into normal life", and spin out a couple of side-stories with the other characters, and, well, I guess that's about it. It's curious and all, but it seems to pretend that it's more edgy than it actually is. Still, it's on my list for a while longer.

Monday, October 23, 2006


Subject: TV
I'm a bit late with adding my voice to the buzz surround the rip-roaring conclusion of the "Battlestar Galactica" "Resistance" arc. It was completely entertaining and a lot of fun to watch, but there was something I noticed about it...

Every single thing that happened -- every plot point and twist -- was either predictable, or cliche. And yet it was still awesome! How'd they do that?

I mean, think about it: the prisoners from the cliffhanger, Tigh and his traitor wife, Apollo's solution to Adama's orders, Boomer's baby, Starbucks baby... all these things and more get shoved in your face and twisted around, and ultimately you say to yourself "well, duh!" -- yet they totally pulled it off. The performances, the reactions, the moments that occur with each of these events are what made the show. And all of the literal narrative points, as predictable and cliche as they were... each and every one was something, deep down, you wanted to happen, conciously or subconciously. And you alternatively gasp or cheer when they do.

And the icing on the cake was all the cool "blowin' shit up" space-battle FX. The way the Galactica shows up for the rescue mission. The way the Pegasus shows up to rescue the rescuers... Both enough to bring on a "Frak yeah!" in the most jaded, cynical sci-fi fan.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

And the season thus far...?

Subject: Noir

I've already meh'd "Pumpkin Scissors", "D.Gray Man" and "Death Note", and haven't bothered keeping up with any of them. I grabbed a couple of more since then:

"Kemonozume" ep 1 -- on Hayama's recommendation, I've gave this a shot, and it was different, for sure. A raw style that I think I could get used to, though the story to this point isn't all that compelling. It's more interesting than most, though, so I've downloaded a couple of more to see where it goes.

"Tenpo Ibun Ayakashi Ayashi" ep 1 -- first I downloaded the raw, and gave up pretty quickly, because there just wasn't anything there to grab me, so the lack of knowing what the dialogue was about was an annoyance. When I finally got a hold of a translation, I couldn't get very far with that either. It's pretty much "yeah, whatever" for me. More "meh".

"009-1" ep 1 -- again with the raw (but no translation as of yet) -- I dunno; I fell asleep in the middle of it and don't remember anything about what I did see, besides an overall impression of not being particularly impressed yet. I'm going to wait for a translation before I give it another go.

"Red Garden" ep 1 -- probably the most interesting that I've dug up so far. I watched the raw first, and my first thought was "fashion plates" -- you know, those fashion drawings that are meant to emphasize some particular clothing style or color scheme. While I'm notoriously very un-fashionable myself, I thought it was pretty obvious that was a core design element.

That, and the noses.

Everybody seems to be talking about the noses on these characters. Basically, it's an overall departure from the usual anime ski-slopes, and I think it gives the characters more, well, character. Anyway, combined with the overall stylistic approach, and some of the overall unique touches to the technique (a character breaks into a melancholy song, and it's been reported that the dialogue track was actually recorded western-style -- that is, before the animation instead of after), is keeping this one on my "keep my eye on it" list, even though the overall animation and story (finally saw translations the other night) aren't anything special at this point.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

On the road

Subject: Musings
No posting this weekend; I'm back in Massachussetts this weekend visiting family. I'll be back some time Sunday evening, if I can get around all the foliage gawkers on my drive home.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

More roundup. Always more roundup...

Subject: Noir
Thought I had actually blogged these; guess I didn't. *Sigh*

"X" disc 2 -- I'm still kind of on the edge of this one... part of me wants to be really bored with it because the story, visuals and cinematics aren't really breaking any ground for me, and the other part thinks that a couple of the characters might be interesting enough for me to hook me into the story better. I'm still not really sure who's who; maybe that will shape up in disc 3.

"Samurai 7" disc 2 -- all of these were still retreads of the fansubs I've already seen, including the episode that's rather, uh, "raw" in style. Kind of like they had to rush an episode and dispensed with the 'tweeners and cleanup steps, and just hacked out 24 minutes as best as they could. Back when I first saw it, I was of the opinion that it had a bit of an "experimental" feel; now I'm not so certain of it. At any rate, the disc is otherwise decent enough quality, and the story doesn't quite offend me as much as it did back when I was just starting out with the whole "anime" craziness.

"Sol Bianca" disc 1 -- This one I have mixed feelings about. A direct-to-video OVA (redundant? yeah), the animation was pretty much awful in most spots. Just another hi-gloss moving manga. But the character designs and art direction were pretty good, I thought. The concept of a bunch of gun-toting pirate babes on a sleek super-ship, and the sci-fi universe it inhabits, has endless appeal to me -- that whole "what anime does best" impression I used to have way back when. Otherwise, I don't know if there's anything deeper in it for me than the entertainment value I get out of that. If the next disc opens up a little, I may even buy it. Heavily discounted, of course...

"Death Note" -- Meh. Sets itself up as a goth-wannabe's ultimate fantasy, but falls into dull monologue and dubious character motivation. All in the typical moving-manga style, and mostly void of anything uniquely imaginative. Not interested.

"Tsubasa Chronicle", eps up to 44 -- The "arc that was starting to get good again" did pretty well for itself. We see even more of Kurogane's tragic childhood, and we get to wander around in the half-completed stage that is Sakura's memories. The latter of which sets up some interesting tension with Syaoran, and eventually leads to yet another encounter with the mysterious evil-antimatter-stuck-in-a-tube version of him. Still mysterious, but not annoyingly so. But the slightly-annoying aspects return in ep 44 with a simple one-off episode, geared towards the "cute" factor. Actually, nothing was particularly awful about it, just a bit fluffy for my taste. I'll get over it.

".hack//Roots" -- got through to the end with it. And I guess I'm a bit annoyed. And dissappointed. Out of all the "//SIGN" characters they could have had cameos of, who shows up?? *Sigh*. That said, there was one little tragic bit that was unclear in 25, and actually explained (for once) in the end, about Phyllo. And a couple of other disclosures were made, but purely as factoids to set up the games. Otherwise, it was extremely anti-climactic. At least "//SIGN" had a genuine moment to it's ending of the core character storyline, even though spent just as much time setting up the games, and then going all deus ex machina all over the place. "//Roots" just relied on flashbacks of Shino to try and achieve the same effect, and it fell short for me.

Also, all the eye animations seemed totally different than the episodes to this point. I mean, really obviously off-model in ways that I can't quite pin down. I'm not sure what was up with that...

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Oh yeah! -- "Battlestar"-style

Subject: TV
Ah, the return of "Battlestar Galactica"! Having hung on to the cliffhanger for months now, it's great to finally be back in the thick of it.

It's actually not an entirely profound intellectual exercise, for certain. I mean, yeah, it's totally turning certain current-events-inspired scenarious upside-down and drawing you into them as sympathizers. Not a difficult or deep thing to do, but maybe it's a little gutsy. There's a bit of complaining that it's "never been this blatantly political" -- my response is, have you actually been watching the same show?? It's been political since the beginning! But instead of preaching, it just simply puts a human face on it, and goes beyond the rhetoric into the red meat of the thing.

It's all very simple. Very straightforward. And that's what's so subversive about it. It has very little of the "designed by committee" stink on it, that it's free to assemble all the usual cliches, fling them at you with razor-sharp precision, and still come away with the feeling that you've actually shared the experience... or at least went along for the ride.

This is really the one show of it's type that I don't mind not watching in crappy standard-def NTSC -- soon enough the Hi-Def Dolby-surround versions will show up on UniversalHD, but I want to see what happens now! It's that enjoyable.

In other TV-watchin', "Heroes" seems to be just the opposite. Very, very, very much steeped in "designed by committee" stink. Like the attempt at something quirky as done by a team of marketroids who market-tested what quirky means to average mallrat teenagers. I'll give it a little more of a chance to see if it's just early-episode stiffness or whatnot, but I figure I'll drop it before too long.

It also is the lead-in for "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip", which I'm still following a lot more closely. Though despite Sorkin's talents, I'm thinking it has a touch of early-episode stiffness as well. Of course, it's a show about the "designed by committee" stink, so it's kind of hard to tell where the fictional committee ends and the real committee begins. And while it's blatantly trying to call on stereotypes and cliches and upend them, it seems to be doing that in a rather stereotypical and cliche fashion. If you watch it, you can probably tell what I mean.

The only thing I wish the show would do is to have actually funny comedy sketch snippets, instead of the accurate-though-awful mimicry of the typical "Saturday Night Live" fare. *sigh*

Friday, October 06, 2006

The new season upon us...

Subject: Noir
The last half-season from Japan didn't yield much of interest to me, though frankly I didn't try very hard to look for stuff. I may or may not have missed something. I never did try "Chevalier" beyond the first episode, or "FLAG" beyond the second. I can't remember what else I looked at, but there wasn't anything in particular that I would have considered expending any effort on.

The latest season just got underway, and some early subs are starting to trickle in. So far, I've only sampled two: "Pumpkin Scissors" and "D.Gray-man". The latter I stopped about halfway through because I really wasn't in the mood for it. It's kind of like "Trinity Blood" in it's alt-goth 19th-century supernaturalism style. The characters didn't quite hook me right away, and overall it wasn't anything special -- moving manga as usual.

Same goes for "Pumpkin Scissors", though I actually sat through the whole episode. The storyline might prove to be a little more unique, though. And it's in an alt-universe World War I style. I might give it another go if I'm really bored, but otherwise, like I said, nothing special, moving manga, yadda yadda.

On my list-to-try (though I don't really remember why for any of these, besides the slight possibility that they're be suitably different:
  • "Red Garden"

  • "009-1"

  • "Bakametsu Kikans"... uh.. "Irchani"... uhhh... I can't read my handwriting. Something historical with swords, I think

  • "Tempouib"... uh... not again... "Ayakashi" whatever

  • ...and maybe "Death Note"

I'm not holding out too much hope for any of them, but out of the huge list of what's premiering, those are the few that stood out.

On tap for the weekend, I've got discs for "Sol Bianca", "X" and "Samurai 7". Otherwise, tonight -- the return of the return of "Galact-oh-yeah!" Oh yeah!!

Monday, October 02, 2006

And now for this month's bout of "Post MADLAX Syndrome"...

Subject: Musings
I'm not entirely certain when I finished last night, but when I woke up just before dawn, on my chair, on the screen in front of me was a half-finished blog post. Or, I should say, an intoxicated rambling that was even more incomprehensible than the one I judiciously canned the last time I did this.

Something about "ancient rocks" and voting in "national elections" or something. Yikes!

Anyway, I have today off, and it's really nice out, so I'll work on clearing up the ol' syndrome with a nice drive along the lakeshore, I think.

Almost done...

Subject: Noir
I really can't say enough good thing about "MADLAX"... really!

There's so many layers of awesomeness going on that I can't even describe how great I feel watching it. Color, timing, character... all the things I've gushed about in the past still play on full-force after these last two years.

And I have one disc left to go. The tears have been shed, the fears have been shelved, and... well, I'm out of puns I can use to make this paragraph rhyme... No matter; I'm still enjoying this evening; 39th birthday notwithstanding...

Anyway, enough wasting time... let's bring on the rest of it already!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

And so it continues... (October edition)

Subject: Noir
I only got halfway through disc 3 last night; right after Vanessa arrives in Gath-Sonika. Seems to be a good place to start up phase 2!

I'm not 100% sure I'll make it all the way through the rest of it tonight, but I'm going to give it a go. If I don't make it, the rest will have to wait until next weekend, I figure. Time enough.

Oh, and I made way too much pasta! I'll be eating that stuff all week... *sigh*

UPDATE: One more disc to go. I'm a total wreck even after seeing what happens for many years now. Vanessa, I will miss you... *sniff*