Friday, December 31, 2010

Noir Year's Eve, again (and again and again)

Going back to some older posts, I see that I'm always saying that I approach a Noir with "trepedation", "reluctance", "anxiety" et al. And this year is no different.

In fact, I've been on the edge of ditching my "tradition" entirely and settling in to my bluray set of Deadwood instead. But I'd rather milk that one for a while, actually... And heck, how can I go against the strength of such a pun: "Noir Year's", ha I'm so clever! *smirk*

No, no, I'm going through with it, though I'm going to skip around a lot so I can try to wrap up early (and maybe hang around on the BTF chat for a bit of virtual partying). So it won't really be a proper "marathon" anymore, and that's fine.

UPDATE: Fell asleep during the tea party. *sigh* Oh well, I was having trouble deciding what to skip around, as I was enjoying it too much. I just was enjoying what I was drinking just as much, I'm afraid...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Legend of the Galactic Time Suck (and more)

I've in the latter half of my 2 weeks of "use it or lose it" vacation, and instead of doing something smart and adventurous like a road trip to a sunny southern clime, I've been unproductively frittering around the house. With the exception of my usual Thanksgiving turkey-plus-MST3K ritual, I can't say I've accomplished anything other than catching up on a few (hundred) hours of anime.

I had actually started Legend of the Galactic Heroes about a month or so back, watching a couple here and there. It's a lot of stiffly animated foofy-haired guys talking a lot and flying around in space for over a hundred episodes (plus prequels and sequels that I'm in the middle of now).

And it's really, really addicting.

It's a modestly epic-like space opera, with gigantic fleet battles that last for five episodes, countered with geo-political machichinations in all their minutae. Political Philosophy 101 balanced with Intro to Sun-Tzu with a smattering of chess and poker for good luck. There are more admirials and generals than planets and battlezones. And the dozen or so main and secondary characters pretty much stick to their archetype throughout.

...And I'd say the the most addictive bits are split between the characters -- which we learn a little more and become a little more attached to, flashback by flashback -- to the detailed manouverings and tactical illustrations of ridiculously huge space battles involving tens of thousands of ships facing off in formation and blasting the bejeebus out of each other. Most everything else is pretty simplistic, though nearly always serves to propel the characters forward in whatever path they can forge, after explaining in detail the ramifications 4 or 5 moves ahead in the game for the path they choose.

Throw in a couple of "surprises" (they're more surprising if you just go along for the ride and try not to think too much), and I found myself really wanting to know what happened next. At least through the primary 110 episodes -- the "Gaiden" prequel is a bit of a step back in scale and isn't as interesting beyond some minor backstory fillers.

Of course, that hasn't entirely dominated my time. Panty & Stocking continues to be quite funny, if rather gross and simplistic. It's really just a bunch of "animators on a toot*" with a melange of homage and button-pushing, and just overall fun and experimentation. It makes it difficult for most anyone to watch objectively -- ya either love what their doing, or ya find it some combination of gross, lame, weak, messy, derivative, etc. I'm enjoying it though.

On the flip side, though still comic and silly, is the endearlingly charming Kuragehime, aka Jellyfish Princess on Hulu. A household of 20-something grrl-nerds get their lives shaken loose by a fashionably-flamboyant young transvestite (that last bit remaining hidden to all but the main character, because it's a "no men allowed" apartment). Then hijinks ensue, go figure. It's loaded with the usual cartoony deformation/overreaction and whatnot that generally annoy me, but it's made up for by an earnestness that I really like. Best part is in the OP -- after a funny Star Wars sequence, there's a couple-of-second bit from Signing in the Rain that just pops off the screen with human expressiveness that is remarkably different from most of the body-language shorthand that anime uses most of the time. Delightful.

Finally, I got the bluray sets for Xam'd: Lost Memories, and that's reaffirmed it's place in my top 10... and maybe my top 5. I'll have to re-evaluate long-unwatched titles to see before I decide... (I wonder if I have any pasta in the house?)

(* from the Italian Futurists self-descriptive quote, "artillerymen on a toot")

Friday, October 01, 2010

Best "magical girl" transformation ever?

Bwah hah ha ha hahaha ha ha hahahahahaha ha!!!

Panty & Stocking With Garter Belt sets up your expectations right away, by jumping feet-first into an extended poop joke. It can only go up from there, right?

Trashy talk and madcap nonsense pretty much sum up the "story" and "dialogue". The animation is a mashup of the thick-lined angular western cartoony style most notably pioneered by McCraken and Tartokovsky in shows like Dexter's Laboratory and Powerpuff Girls, with the kind of frenetic improbable keyframing and action of Gainax classics Dead Leaves and Gurren Lagaan. In fact, it relies a lot on rigged-model style animation constructed out of pieces-parts like most modern western Flash-based (with packages like Toon Boom) more than the more familiar fully-hand-drawn compositions that the Japanese normally still use.

Though it does revert to that for one particular scene: the magical-girl transformation. The girls are rendered in a fluid, detailed, nuanced style totally unlike the rest of the sequences. Absolutly well-crafted parody of the usual cliche.

Oh, and they're on stripper poles.

Because, like, Stocking's magical sword is formed from one of her loli-goth knee stockings, and Panty's pistol is formed from... well, you get the point.

The whole thing is a raunchy, rowdy parody/homage to cartoons of all stripes, and rife with references to native and western influences. Most of which I'm sure I missed. But there's an obvious bit of Invader Zim here, a flat-out John Krisfalusi characterization there...

But frankly, it all goes by way too fast, and I can't quite keep up with it all. And yeah, it's kind of awkward in spots, a bit forced, and more than a bit "WTF?!?" throughout. That constructed/rigged style of animation can be a bit clunky and "cheap" a lot of the time.

But I find it hilarious, and I can't wait to see what other animation tropes they drag through the... uhh, mud.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Weekend tribute pt 2: Paprika

Last night I got drunk and mourned. It was needed and necessary; a number of things that were hurting me got conflated together like I figured they would. And I felt a lot better today having gotten those out of my system (helped by the fact that it was a beautiful day).

Tonight, celebration. Paprika is a beautifully surreal film, with amazing visual actualization of some of the finest examples of human caring and empathy transmitted in the form of the dream, the fantasy projected on reality.

There are these outstanding sequences (most notably in the titles) where the dream world flows between the real and the artistic in such a seamless way that I can't help but witness it in awe of the genius that conceived of such imagery.

I watched a couple of the special features afterwards, seeing and listening to Kon describe both the process and the inspirations for the film. He's so earnest and dedicated, yet stressed by deadlines and swamped with tasks to complete. All while humble and forthwright and earnest. He's my fantasy of what I would be if I tried to continue down the animator's path instead of selling out to a lucrative day-job. I find myself wondering if I could have come even a tiny bit close to his output if I stuck with it and put the energy I did into my current "career" into my first love instead.

So I suppose a bit of jealousy, like I have when watching Pixar films, might play into my emotional responses to his films. A bit of "what could have been".

But seeing the extent of the meticulous detail he puts into the scripting and storyboarding and layout and planning; the sheer magnitude of screentime he needs to account for every nuance projected before us... I know I'm not worthy, I'm not worthy...

And I feel okay; in fact, I feel pretty good. It was comforting to watch him being so open about what he was doing and thinking and dreaming at the time. I felt the wonder and happiness that he was able to acheive so much in his tragically short life.

His death is a great loss to us all. But he was a normal, hard working human being, and his genius can't help but be a part of the next generation of artists, whenver we finally get to the point where we value that part of our global culture and stop shortchanging ourselves for a quick buck and a cheap laugh.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Weekend Tribute pt. 1: "Millenium Actress"

I'm only going to be watching this and Paprika this weekend, saving Tokyo Godfathers for it's proper place at Christmastime, and Paranoia Agent for when I have 6 hours to marathon it. (I don't actually own Perfect Blue yet because the DVD release is hard-letterboxed, which is just unacceptable).

So I just finished Millenium Actress. Actually, I just finished sobbing for a solid 20 minutes or so after finishing Millenium Actress. I probably should have swapped the two around and saved it for tomorrow as a fitting end to my weekend tribute. Because the very last scene... it...

I don't know the man. I never met him, I haven't been following his blog or Twitter feed (not that I could read it, but still), but it's hitting me pretty hard for some reason. This movie is perfect; every frame in it is perfect and beautiful. It speaks to me personally (and not because I'm a chunky guy with a goatee who occasionally crushes on movie stars...).

And the last scene... And the hints throughout, leading up to it...

I haven't even been able to read any full translations of his final farewell, but the excerpts were enough. He found out about the cancer in May, knew his outcome, and kept it quiet. Working right up to the end on his next movie. Worried about it getting completed without him.

In the movie, she knew what was coming, and was able to go out bravely and at peace. I can only hope the same for Kon. I suppose I can only hope the same for myself, though my fate is still many years off. Accounts of my father's end weren't so glamorous; maybe that's part of what hurts, knowing that's where I'm headed with these accursed cysts. Selfish, I suppose.

But, the true love was in the pursuit of passion... the key to it all. Can such a thing so beautiful be true? It must be. And I hope to the bottom of my heart that Satoshi Kon felt that as well.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Devestating: Satoshi Kon dead at age 47

I'm... I'm still at a loss of what to say...

ANN has what little news there is so far, and I assume they'll be the place where we can get more details in English when they come out.

...

This is about as much a shock as when another artist I greatly admired, Jim Henson, suddenly died some years back. I think I'm going to need to let it sink in for a while...

Friday, August 06, 2010

According to ANN: ".hack//Quantum" in November

ANN reports on a new .hack title.

But they also go on to say:

Bandai Namco Games announced at last September's Tokyo Game Show that a full-CG anime project from Bandai Visual would tie into the .hack//Link game. However, it has not been announced yet whether or not the new .hack//Quantum anime is the same project.


I didn't watch the 3D CGI release from the last time, and if it's more of the same, then I'm not particularly excited. The article scan in the ANN piece makes it look like it might be 2D, though. But does that actually mean Bee Train? Dunno.

Speculation and updates in the Forum, for sure.

Friday, June 18, 2010

"Mary and Max" is better than you can imagine.

I've gushed intoxicatedly many times here, but at the moment, I'm not particularly drunk at all. But I am stunned to the point of near-speechlessness.

Mary and Max is about as wonderfully constructed a film as can be made.

Visually, it's a simple but beautiful "claymation" (maybe "minuature armiture" is more appropriate) piece. The visuals are exquisitely detailed, and the texture... oh, my the texture! But that's really just the dressing for the storytelling.

Right off the bat, the narration has a poetic and rhythmic pattern that can't help but pull you in to the hilariously quirky and emotionally honest world that the characters inhabit. By "emotionally honest", I mean that you will feel the truth and the feeling of everything that transpires. Well, I did; maybe even a bit too much...

Max is an oddball middle-aged Asperger's loner in New York City; Mary is an outcast young girl in a dysfunctional family in Australia. They become penpals, but there's nothing particularly cliche about how their interaction evolves. There's a lot of funny, especially in the details -- but there's so much earnestness and sincerity that you can't help but be swept up in what happens as they both grow older.

And the ending will leave you in tears, no matter how stoically you resist. But you'll still feel good about it. You'll still feel a part of it.

While Max is an illustration of a rather extreme situation, I can't help but identify with him in many ways; as if he's a gross exaggeration of my own shortcomings and quirks. And yet, so is Mary, and I identify with her as well. There's so much basic human pathos and mentality being explored, but so simply and effectively, that it can't help but have every moment ring true. And funny. And sad-funny. And true-sad. And true-funny. And that makes it beautiful.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Missed my blogiversary...

...which is par for the course, I guess. Maybe 6 years is *too* long?

Token watch report: saw Ponyo last night. Beautifully done, some outstanding animation in both characters and effects sequences.

Friday, April 23, 2010

"Tatami Galaxy" -- Yuasa is God

Tatami Galaxy is the best thing out of Japan since... well, Kaiba!

Funimation is actually streaming it! Hooray!

(well, except for the fact that Flash videos are blue-screening my HTPC right now... Boo! But I'm about to spend $$ to fix that...)

At any rate... the dialogue is rapid-fire. Crazy insane rapid-fire that even Excel Saga couldn't compete with. Which makes it really hard for a poor subtitle-reader like myself to follow -- I want badly to watch the visuals, but I want to know what's being said too! Yeesh!. C'mon Masaaki, don't dis your gaijin fans like that!!

In the OP, there was a brief flash of a character wearing a Fellini's 8 1/2 t-shirt. Hell yeah!

And the "female interest" thus far -- when I first saw her I was like "whoa"... but I couldn't figure out what I recognized her from. Then it hit me: Rei Ayanami. Only wacky. Seriously.

So, yeah, this story violates my "loser guy can't ask a girl out" distaste... but it's got a twist that breaks the cliche that I dislike so much. I'm totally sold.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

"Summer Wars"

Summer Wars is probably the most entertaining movie I've seen in a long time.

The excellent animation, artwork, characterizations, and attention to detail are totally beside the point. Most of the time I didn't notice that and just watched the movie! Been a while since I've done that.

The second I can get a hold of it on BD, it's mine.

Friday, April 02, 2010

A truly, truly unprecedented early BBQ...

It reached 80F today. The lake is still around 45F, so it's supposed to be cold and rainy this time of year. But nope, it's practically summer-like!

So hell yeah, I'm grilling steak! Hooray!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Was I actually right all along?

Remember when I mentioned how wrong I was to be believing Mashimo-related rumors on the internets?....

From AnimeSuki (by way of the MoonPhase Diary) today:

The shounen manga Mirai Nikki (未来日記) by Esuno Sakae will be getting an important announcement.


I guess we'll find out if I was actually right on March 26th. Heh.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Soronowoto update, continued.... ?

It's weird, but a post-apocolypse moe show gives me the warm fuzzies.

I was rewatching a couple of random episodes, and just thought I'd mention that.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"Soranowoto" update

I think this show is coming along pretty well...



(Actually, even with this, it's not quite what you'd expect. It's not "K-On-in-the-army", by any means. And not quite Haibine either. But it's not bad.)

UPDATE: Then it goes and devolves into an extended "gotta pee" joke in the next episode. Oh well. At least there was a tiny nugget of plot-point buried in there.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Must be outage day

Not only is the Bee Train Fan server down, but so is a critical server at work. I'm not having a good day. :(

No TBD on either, and nothing I can do about either, either. *sigh* I should go back to bed.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Unconfirmed rumor: Mashimo to direct next "Digimon" season?

I know, don't trust everything on the internet, as my previous rumormongering lead to embarrassing failure... *grin*

But somewhere in Japan it was posted, then quickly yanked, that Mashimo was now on the Digimon project. Which the fan forum post goes on to debunk (as well as provide some poor "facts" on Mashimo, but whatever).

So, we'll either know in April that it's true, or that I'm chasing old rumors around again...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Unexpected potential "hidden" gem this winter: "Soranowoto"?

So this Soranowoto show is kind of surprising...

I mean, yeah, on the surface, it looks like just another saccharine "moe" schoolgirl romp. But it kind of isn't, either. For one, they're conscripts in the armed forces, tasked with defending a little out-of-the-way town. Why such young girls are in such a situation is not quite revealed. For two, the world they're in has a lot of undiscovered mystery, isolation, and backstory, and you just don't know the "rules" behind everything, even though it's wrapped in familiarity.

From the Animesuki discussion, the general suggestion is that it's sort of a combo of Habine Renmei meets Now and Then, Here and There, mixed with K-On (which I haven't seen due to my overall allergy to that sort of show...)

(...which, considering some of the shows I've been watching lately, I can't claim any kind of purity in the matter. But that's a discussion for another time...)

Anyway, yeah, weird. But add the fact that the art is quite lovely, there's a fine use of soundtrack, and (my favorite) there's actually some decent saguka-list-worthy animation... well, I'm sold!

I mean really, though there are some gaps, there are some scenes that have such a wonderfully natural weight and timing to the characters, that I thought there may have been some common-ground with the staff from Xam'd: Lost Memories. Alas, not. But whatever, "spark of life" is totally there, and the "moe" be damned! This has potential, if it doesn't devolve into total pandering to fanboy fetishry. Fingers crossed!

UPDATE: Okay, it's a lot like K-On in the animation and details. It was recommended that I give it a look-see, and I was pleasantly surprised. But... Soranowoto looks like it has much better potential for depth, discovery and a possible big twist, whereas K-On probably stays with the slice-of-life moe comedy antics.

(...and I might wind up watching that too... *sigh* What's wrong with me??)

Monday, January 04, 2010

Resolve?

I'd like to say that I've made a New Year's resolution to start trying to write again. And by "write", I don't mean "rant about cartoons & TV while intoxicated" like I've been sporadically doing here for the last couple of years. Heck, even my earlier posts, sober or otherwise, while better, really weren't all that either. But at least I was more thoughtful (or at least less incompreshensible) at the time.

I suppose it was easier to find subject matter then; after all, I just "rediscovered" a whole medium, and had hundreds of opportunities to find new and delightful things. So how could I not have been enthusiastic? Lately, aside from the few gems here and there, it's been a little more of a grind.

I have recently stumbled into the world of web comics. Well, actually, I've been kind of avoiding them for a while. I figured it would be too easy to get sucked into the countless pages upon pages of archives, and I didn't want to commit the time.

Well, I was right. I find myself wasting hours that I could be doing chores (oh, poor me) catching up with series like Girly, Flipside, and The Abominable Charles Christopher -- and probably soon to be a few dozen more.

I started diving in because, for a while now, I've been thinking of starting a couple of projects of my own. My long-standing Blank Page Syndrome aside, I think it would be fun. Some of the other titles I've been stumbling upon started out very simple and personal, and you could see the artist grow in talent and creativity as they progressed. Some will get tired and move on, but that's okay. I shouldn't worry about that; I should accept it.

So what exactly is my Resolution out of all this? Go figure, I can't commit to one. But it's what I've been thinking about. Since there are no new anime series on the near horizon, I guess I'll have more than enough time. At the very least, maybe I'll start reviewing a few web titles, and figure out what I like and don't like.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Finale. Noir Year style.

I've made it to the last disc of Noir. I was going to try to skip a few episodes in hopes of wrapping it up in time to sleep (and not keep the neighbors awake with gunshots and whatnot), but every episode, flaws not withstanding, is perfect. There's no escaping it.

This time around, Mirielle is my favorite. But I still hurt when Kirika goes "dark". Someday, maybe Chloe, or even Altena, will rate the center of my attention, but it's not as likely. They're not as bad as we are led to feel; they're just warped. But Mirielle and Kirika, they're the ones we have to love and want to protect. Or want to protect us... they're rather badass after all! *wink*

Enough of that. Time to finish it, and time to move on to a new 2010. It'll be another year before I do this again. And that's fine. I'm glad I brought myself to do it again, and I hope that I'll always feel this magic every year when I return to it.