Thursday, November 02, 2006

From feudal to brutal

Subject: Noir
Just a few things passed my way in the anime department these past couple of weeks. It seems that the shows I'm most interested in aren't getting the subbing attention that the usual clichefests get. Go figure.

"Bakumatsu Kikansetsu Irohanihoheto" eps 1 & 2 -- kind of generic looking, and borderline boring, but this might have enough interesting aspects to the characters and stories to make me stick with it a little longer. It's a period drama set in late 1800's Yokahama, where Western merchant traders were contained from "contaminating" the rest of Japan. An uber-skilled brooding ronin-type meets up with a kabuki theatre troupe bent on revenge. The troupe is bent on revenge, I mean. Actually, the ronin dude may be, as well, but he's brooding, so we can't really tell. Also, there's a Very Serious dude associated with the troupe who seems to be controlling a lot more behind-the-scenes. And he kind of looks like a generified Ludwig from "Meine Liebe". Anyway, mix that in with a few mystical powers for the "blowing shit up" factor, and that's about it.

"The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya" eps 1 & 2 --- Uhhh, ooo-kay... Yeah, it appears that I'm a latecomer to this particular party, and I'm not entirely surprised that I overlooked it. I am a bit surprised that I'm still thinking of downloading more. The first episode was a spoof of a psuedotypical student/amateur fan film, playing up the usual cliche elements in that sort of thing. Girl-in-a-bunny-suit seems to be the operative gag here. Though the thing that caught me entirely off-guard, and may wind up being the hook that reeled me in, came towards the end. And it's kind of silly.

There was this monotone-spoken fake witch character, who had a cat on her shoulder. It was amusing enough when the cat would fall asleep and start slipping off, prompting her to jack him back up there. But then there was this moment when the cat started to actually talk. And talk in the typical "magical animal explaining powers" kind of voice. And the "witch" shut him up amid a brief bit of surprise and confusion.

Like I said, rather silly. But something about the whole timing around the gag really hit the right notes. "So what the hell, I'll watch another one", I figured. The second (first?) ep introduces the characters' off-camera personae, centered around Haruhi Suzumiya, it would seem. A couple of seconds into her initial ranting, and I realized "Hey, I dated that girl!" Well, that didn't last all that long, because she wound up being way more overzealous... and then they introduced the girl under the "witch" hat; a nose-in-her-book ignore-the-rest-of-the-world sarcastic talker, and I realized "No, wait, that's her..." Hmmm. Okay, so maybe a combination of the two.

Anyway, my subconcious nostalgic connections aside, there really isn't a whole lot of redeeming value for me in the show, but I can sort of see it being one of those sorts of things I can't bring myself to give up just yet. And for some reason I wrote more than a quick blurb. What's wrong with me??

And speaking of "wrong", "Red Garden" ep 3 was probably the most brutal episode I've seen of anything in quite a while. "Elfin Leid" was brutal, but bluntly, over-the-top brutal so you couldn't take it seriously. "Speed Grapher" was just a fugly grossout. This was more a serious dramatic manipulation that was really, really harsh. More of a "natural" brutality, if there could be such a thing in anime. An unreal real.

No singing in this one like there was in the first 2. But the voice performances, and the way the characters are written overall, have much more nuance than any other show out there. And that probably plays the most into that impression I'm getting, since it seems that their reactions are a lot like what you would expect from real teenage women when stuck in a horrifying situation like that. It's not the same as melodrama. It plays more on fear than emotional empathy.

And yet, it hasn't driven me off. It's got a good balance of that horror with suspense and characterization. That does a good job of overcoming what may very well be a dumb, or at least blunt, storyline. So I guess I'm sticking with it. I hope the one sub group that's doing it will agree.

Finally, "Kemonozume" ep 2 -- There's a few harsh bits about this one too. Some of the violence is quite over-the-top in trying to push the "ick" buttons. But that raw, kinetic art style, high-end jazzy soundtrack, and really tight animated moments make up for that. And the rather disjointed-seeming storyline. It also helps that I'm checking out the HDTV version, so I see more of the nuance in the lines and colorations. Anyway, this one is worth me catching up with, though hopefully it doesn't find itself needing to ratchet up the "ick" more and more each time.

This weekend I have more "Eureka 7" and "Fantastic Children", finally, as well as some catching up to do with "Tsubasa Chronicle" and "Spider Riders".


Anonymous said...

"And for some reason I wrote more than a quick blurb. What's wrong with me??"

A convert to Haruhism is approaching!

Seriously, bear with it. It starts slowly (not that that's a word you can apply to Haruhi Suzumiya herself), but by the end, you're wanting more. A LOT more.

There IS a point, by the way, to the episodes being out of order.

Fellini 8.5 said...

There IS a point, by the way, to the episodes being out of order.

Yeah, I'm cool with that aspect of it, as long as it's crafted well. What concerns me more is that I'm a grumpy old man and allergic to the typical anime schoolkid scenarios. It's going to need to break through into something unique pretty quickly.