Saturday, June 23, 2007

Long-belated "Anime Roundup" revisited

Subject: Noir
Compared to the early days of this site when I was nearly overwhelmed with quality titles to watch (in order to catch up for years of mostly ignoring it), the anime pickin's of late have been slim. As have been my DVD rentals thereof.

Last night I tried an old-skool OVA "Five Star Stories". The style was kind of a mixed-bag (I'm not that into the "pointy" character designs it was using), but the animation was pretty good overall. And that old-skool storytelling style, while fractured and incomplete, was still entertaining. Beyond that, whatever.

I got "Tsubasa" disc 1 a while back. Weeks ago, actually. The disc was reasonably well done, and the dub was actually tolerable (though I didn't watch more than 2 out of the 5 episodes that way). But, admittedly, my enthusiasm for watching those episodes again was a little muted.

It's been quite a while, sure, since I saw those first 5 eps, but there wasn't a whole heck of a lot to them. There was Sakura, of course, who was the most lively and interesting character in the bunch (even though she was in a coma for most of this disc). And there were a few of those noted "Mashimo moments" that I like so much.

But in a way it was foreshadowing my current frustration: "El Cazador". There just wasn't much "there" there. The lighter "comic" moments seemed a bit out-of-place, the serious moments seemed not-very-deep, and and there were an awful lot of animation shortcuts and static dead spots that I had a real hard time keeping in the moment during.

But my expectations weren't all that high at the time, and I was fine with the moments that were there and I enjoyed both seasons far more than the usual CLAMP fan, for sure.

I'm not having as much luck with "El Cazador".

I was a little bit premature with my previous "happy dance", as episode 12 was about as weak as they've been this season. When I watched the raw, I couldn't help but post my frustration over on the forum, and I wasn't holding out too much hope for the subtitled version helping any. Well, I was definitely premature there, too, because once again, the little gags and side commentary were quite amusing once I understood what they were saying. But if I could find an untranslated "Spider Riders" visually interesting, amusing, better animated, and tells a better story than the much-anticipated third "Girls With Guns" installment, then I think something is wrong. The "Mashimo moments" are few and far between, and the animation and editing in this episode was mostly abysmal and mediocre.

I'm cursed with noticing those things. But there was no way of getting a coherent visual story out of it, so I had to fall back to the gags in the dialogue (and the tiny bit of plot exposistion scattered therein). So I was frustrated, and I looked longingly at the top shelf of my DVD collection at the "Noir" and "MADLAX" boxes, tempted to just escape into them again and confirm that what I saw there wasn't actually an illusion or something. Ah well.

At least I've been getting my "quality animation" fix elsewhere this season. "Denno Coil", of course, is a story about schoolkids and has a lot of classroom scenes and other such things that I normally try to avoid, but because the story and setting are interesting, and the character animation is delightful and lively, and the overall production quality is above par, I really enjoy it. I'm not expecting any particularly deep themes or high drama, but I'm sure as heck entertained.

Also entertaining, with decent storytelling and imaginative design and lively characterizations is "Romeo x Juliet". It's entered a high-schmaltz zone in eps 11 and 12, but though I'm generally fidgety during romantic moments like those, I really appreciate the tone and innocence they're setting with it. Again, I'm not looking for anything deeper here (though I'm certain Gonzo is sure as heck going to try beating me over the head with their attempts soon enough), but I really enjoy the qualities it has.

Of course, is it wrong that I'm rooting for the end to be a proper true-to-the-source tragedy? Well, it's not that I want them to die; I just want to see how well the creative team can handle standing up to the intent of the original.

The only other anime on my plate is "Emma" season 2, and that's progressing along sort of predictably, but the attention to detail and the competent storytelling are enough to keep me with it for whatever Sunday mornings a fresh fansub is available. Honestly, it's not much beyond moving-manga, but it's decently done to the point that I really don't mind.


Anonymous said...

The big difference between "X" and "And" is the extra political baggage of "X". In other words, Romeo and Juliet can't just die for each other's sake, because that wouldn't end the Duke's tyranny.

If Romeo and Juliet die here, they have to die for the cause. Perhaps, acting in concert, they kill the Duke in such a way that they die as well (trapping him in a burning building, for instance). If the Duke publicly executes them, that might spark a popular uprising, but dramatically that would suck, because there'd have to be another one or two episodes after the protagonists die. Another possibility is that they sacrifice themselves to restore Escalus, that big tree the Duke visited an episode or so ago. (I'm not sure what role Escalus plays, though. Is it connected to the emotions of the people, or just to the current ruler?)

One consequence of their death would be that Juliet's house would be de-Capulated, and Romeo's would also lose its head. While this could result in the fall of the class structure, that seems unlikely in the short term, and again, would mean that important issues would need to be resolved in extra episodes.

Anyway, mutual suicide based on bad timing and misinformed teenage angst simply won't do here. It's hard to see how the story can end with their deaths.

Accordingly, the most satisfying ending (for me, anyway) would be that the Duke dies, and Romeo and Juliet take up leadership, instituting social and political reforms that would lull the commons into accepting the rule of the nobles for a few more generations.

Well, OK, maybe that last part would also require extra eps....nevermind. Let's just have the whole society collapse in fiery chaos, and be done with it.

I think I should go now....

Fellini 8.5 said...

I see you've thought this through... Heh. :)

The whole though of "extra" eps to resolve one thing or another is an interesting perspective though, because frankly, I'm not always as gung-ho about tying up the background elements as much as a lot of folks. R & J's tragedy can still serve a noble purpose one way or the other at any rate.

There was almost a glimmer of regret in the Duke in that last episode, so for all I know, it's possible that something unexpected happens with him as well.

Hard to say what they're up to, though. But an R&J story without a tragic ending is like a Soprano's finale that