Saturday, April 26, 2008

Power was out...

...frighteningly accurate. *sigh*

Actually, I was getting ready to leave the house, when the power, which had been out for a couple of hours, suddenly came back on. I was literally about to put my shoes on.

Now back to my regularly scheduled programming. Yay for that.

Friday, April 25, 2008

"Kaiba" episode 3: Words fail me...

Subject: Noir
...and not because of my chronic writer's block!

I'm watching these raw the moment I get them, because there's so much going on visually and audibly that, though there's a lot more exposition in the dialogue, and I have no freakin' idea what the dialouge is saying, there's plenty to experience and revel in.

And in the sense that episode 2 went and flipped any notion of "kiddie show" on it's ear by going a bit extra-suggestive, episode 3 goes and does it and flips that one on it's ear as well, by becoming a very touching, personal little bit of drama. The key scenes hardly have any dialouge at all, and you can follow them quite clearly. And if you're not misting up even just a tiny bit by the (perfectly-executed) closing scene... well...

Anyway, wow! I adore this show. I'm exceedingly impressed. This isn't just some "anime series", this is international film-festival quality animation and story. And I don't know what more to say.

UPDATE: Words don't fail Ben at Anipages of course... (The best part is how he's able to ID the animators themselves -- so many names to learn!)

UPDATE 2: Ben's comments on episode 3 as well; not to be missed!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

"Blade of the Immortal" -- official trailer on the site

Subject: Noir
Blade of the Immortal hasn't been getting a lot of buzz just yet as everyone's preoccupied with the new season's premieres, but on a whim I took a peek at the official site...

The official trailer from TAF is up!

Quite a bloody, moody, murky bit. Some really strong animation, though.

The usual character design profiles are there as well, not to mention the airdate of July 13th @ 24:00 (That means July 14th at midnight, right? I can never remember...)

More commentary when I get some time to pay attention to it.

UPDATE: Sure enough, it's on YouTube, too:

Friday, April 18, 2008


Subject: Noir
Just as I was about figuring to turn in last night, I saw that the raw for episode 2 of Kaiba was available, and that it was downloading pretty fast. "Why not?" I thought. "I've only got 100 things to do for work first thing in the morning, what's a little indulgence?"

That's really the only thing that kept me from posting about it right away; it was getting too late. That, and... this show is quite a brainful.

This episode relies a little more on expositionary dialouge than the first, though the strong and surreal visuals tell stories unto themselves. But most striking about this episode is that, if you had any notions that this was a "kid's show", those are totally undermined. Holy cow!

I mean, it's not like it got all tentacles-and-hentai or anything; aside from some occasional bummery and overdeveloped mammary-ery, it was the actions and expressions that were more adult-oriented than anything gratuitious. Maybe the dialogue, but who knows? Still, wow. It leads to a bit of mental dissonance to try and put together the cutesy style with the subject matter, even though it hints at it in episode 1.

And it makes it hilarious that way.

And a little baffling at first. The visuals lead you to realize that our little hole-in-the-chest amnesiac is actually in another body -- his own body having been taken over for, um, a little action. A blurb of exposition before the OP describes how it happens in this world, but it's a little odd and out of character at first to see him apparently eager for duty, as it were.

There's a progression of weird and fantasical things that happen, and I'm sure even with translations, some of it will retain an amount of surreal bafflement. But there are sequences, subtle and otherwise, that are absolutely a joy to watch. Keep your eyes on one scene where the outspoken girl that our alternate-bodied hero ("Warp", he's been called, apparently) has met is at one of the ship's portals, toying with these little golden organic thingies (they're explained in the dialogue) clinging to the outside of the glass -- when they slip off and whoosh away, her hand hesitates and retracts with such a fluid, subtle but overpoweringly expressive gesture. It makes the animator in me all tingly to see how much attention was paid to such a simple little scene. *grin*

Ben over on AniPages is predictably all over this show:

I've just watched the first episode of Masaaki Yuasa's new series, and I'm still coming off from the blissful high of a new dose of Yuasa's unstoppable, mad genius. I had little doubt that I would be in for something quite unexpected, perfectly warped, strangely beautiful, and very imaginative, and this first episode doesn't disappoint on any of those counts. It renews my faith in animation, and in anime in particular, at a time when I was finding myself growing impatient with the form.

Emphasis mine on that last bit, because that rings true to my heart as well. Part of why I'm sure I've been so irritable and unable to find the muse to post is that there just hasn't been anything interesting left to watch. Denno Coil was the last to do it for me.

I'm looking forward to seeing some translations finally. But I don't think I'm going to hold my breath for any eventual domestic licensing of this one -- it's totally out there to the point it would have to attract the attention of some other patron who'd bring it over for the love of it -- there's probably nothing marketable or even remotely accessable about this one. But wow, is it good!

Friday, April 11, 2008

The best animated show in 2008, no contest: "Kaiba"

Subject: Noir
So far only the raw has made it out since yesterday's airtime, but the first episode of Kaiba, even without being able to understand the dialogue, is all I could have hoped for and more.

Here's the OP:

The style and design is definitely retro-inspired. The expressions, the little hints in the animation, are all straight out of the 60's. But they're all executed with modern technology and modern capabilities with high definition and high fidelity in mind. And my eyes were wide and my jaw in the dropped position through the whole thing.

Okay, it's definitely quirky. There's some bits of stilted pacing and storyline that, if I weren't drooling over the retro-awesomeness and wonderful, whimsical liveliness and imagination, I'd be wincing a bit. Primarily because there was some narrative behind it that I wasn't able to hear. It's all got to be just as surreal and baffling as the visuals, but with it missing, it didn't hold up on it's own as well as all the other scenes.

That raw, soulful energy and authenticity in every line and brushstroke are still delightful, even when you could plainly see some "digital" shortcuts and convieniences. And the long list of Korean 'tweeners in the credits does little to dissuade the impression that this is a deeply intimate, personal execution; a lovingly-keyed classical homage to the legendary craftsmen that founded what we now know as "anime".

Confession time: I still haven't made it very far through Kemonozume, and only halfway through Mind Game. And it's not because I don't think they're well done; to the contrary, I think they're brilliantly well done. But, well... they're ugly! The art is raw and alive and full of energy, but there's a lot of gross and shocking and, well, the other raw, that I really have to be in the mood for, and can't really do to much of in one sitting. Yuasa definitely "gets it", though. I just need a little more time to work through his other works.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

"Red Garden" meets "Kamichu", and the first Roundup of the spring season

Subject: Noir
One show that wasn't on my radar, but got there when I saw a couple of quick reviews, was Kure-nai. Turns out, it's the director and designer from Red Garden behind the scenes at the studio (Brains Base) that did Kamichu. The artwork for the promotionals and the somewhat quirky plot description about a teenage boy becoming the bodyguard of an 8 year old girl really didn't say "watch me" to me. Go figure. But reading that Red Garden tidbit was enough to make me curious.

And sure enough, it would seem to be a cross between the two shows -- The dark horror edge and extreme character designs are absent, but there's still a harder, serious grownup edge and a natural, unique character style and animation to what is otherwise a show centered around a couple of kids. It's also got a bit of that improvisational edge to the dialogue, with the overlapping and whatnot, which leads me to believe that they're doing it western-style like they did with RG. The first episode is a bit of a narrative mess, though, as they really rush through the backstory and character introductions in a way that barely leaves time to set a hook; relying solely on the unconventionally dark and/or cynical confrontations to imprint impressions on you. Then it levels out a little at the end, almost anticlimatically, but not really in a bad way. It looks like it's worth giving it a few more to see where it's going.

That one was subbed already, but I picked out a couple of raws as well to see if they stood a chance of being watchable.

To continue the theme, Himetsu Top Secret seems to be Meine Liebe meets The Bourne Identity, but pretty much in the "bad way" (as if there could be a "good way"). The production quality seems adequate, but it's pretty much like I figured: yaoi-y borefest. I suppose the only thing it had going for it would be that there weren't any damn schoolkids in it, and I suppose if I stuck with it, there might be a decent spy story behind it or something, but otherwise, not my style.

If Tim Burton watched Gurren Lagaan and decided to make an anime, it would probably be Soul Eater. Though it wasn't on my radar either, I saw the trailer, and that was enough of a hook to get me to take a look. Sure enough, the visuals are quite striking and rather imaginative, and the overall art direction is tight and well-crafted. The characters have a decent spark to them, and some of them might be rather enjoyable to watch. The animation in the action sequences is quite excellent, and the pacing is well executed.

But then it goes and devolves into that same ol' cliche manga-toony slapstick that really gets on my nerves when there isn't anything else to balance it out for me. And unlike the zaniness in Gurren, the rest of this one was kind of flat for me. It may partly be because of the lack of translation, but I think mostly because it's not really trying to be anything more than a generic fighting show, albeit with a high budget. That said, there's some characters in the previews that I want to see, and maybe, just maybe, I can overcome my irritation. I kind of doubt it, but since it's decently crafted otherwise, there's the slightest chance it might.

Allison to Lillia is supposedly Kino's Journey meets... oh, I dunno, Porco Rosso or something, but really, it's not much of either. I dont' understand Japanese, but I can swear that for the first half of it, I have seen the exact same annoying scenes over and over again. With one difference: the character animation, while mostly a bit stiff and under-tweened, had some rather subtley-natural poses and gestures during key sequences. Kind of like with Emma And from about the middle or so, it seemed like there might actually be an interesting story buried in there somewhere. Or at least the potential for one. So, I guess it's worth keeping my eye on just a little longer.

Finally, the Ghost in the Shell series meets, uhh... Jacques Cousteau or something -- that is to say, Production IG's big-budget production of Shirow's cyberscubapunk* latest: Real Drive (aka "RD Sennou Chousashitsu"). And sure enough, it's got all of the strong production values of GiTS:SAC -- if anything, kicked up a couple of impressive notches. Aaand, it's brought along a lot of it's endless, endless talking. Blah blah technobabble blah. From what I've been reading about the dialogue, the fansubbers are going to have a heck of a time trying to plow through all of that for translation. Still, it's really quite good looking, and if the story holds up to all the narrative burden Shirow is putting on it, and the characters wind up interesting, then it should be a decent successor to GiTS.

One other thing that I read was comments about how the girls at that "facility" all seemed to have rather "chubby" thighs. The first thing I thought of when I saw it was that they were animated a lot like the girls in Windy Tales. There's not enough staff data over at ANN yet, so I don't know if there's a direct connection, but I'd wager a little bit that there is...

(* Yes, I am going to keep using this joke. It's mine! All mine!)

Friday, April 04, 2008


Subject: TV
Galactica's back! Galactica's back! Galactica's back! Galactica's back!

Woo hoo!

A few months back, there was the release of that "Razor" side-story, but that really didn't quite do enough to alleviate the void between the last "season" (are there really any TV "seasons" anymore?) and this long-awaited jump into the finale. Heck, I almost forgot that it was supposed to be back by now, if it weren't for a few well-placed banner ads. Even my DVR forgot about the show.

Still, I wound up actually watching it live, instead of waiting for the DVR to accumulate enough to let me skip the commercials. I never do that anymore!

Gladly, they dive right back into the insane awesome. Without most of the "Emostar Crylactica" that it indulged in for a bit. We're back on the rollercoaster, and about to barrel on down to the grand finale that will either be awesome, meh, or piss everyone off (especially me). We'll see, but frankly, it's better to just turn my brain off and have a blast.

When I finally get to watch all of this again in full HDTV glory, then I'll turn my brain back on and see what I missed...