What? Look, somebody's got to have some damn perspective around here.
Boom. Sooner or later... Boom!
Monday, April 24
I just finished watching this series again. I watched it when it first came out back in 2000, and I've been busy since then (seriously) so I just got around to taking another look at it. It's a charming little show, with a great opening sequence.
It also has a much more complicated plot than ten (or even eleven) episodes can comfortably hold. There are significant time jumps between episodes. This is noticeable not just in the character relationships - a startling development at the end of one episode has become part of the background at the start of the next - but explicitly in that the seasons change over the course of the series; the elapsed time must be six months at a minimum, and possibly more. So there are some things that are simply never explained.
Many spoilers follow. more...
Wednesday, April 19
Kei spends about half of episode five in her underwear. Including the scene where she is fighting the evil killbot.
Sunday, April 16
I'll need to take a break for a bit - other things I have to attend to - but I'll have some more episodes for you next week.
Saturday, April 15
You've never heard of the Dirty Pair, the hottest -
Trouble consultants in the history of history itself?
Episode One. No, not that Episode One. This Episode One.
Forums here. Or comment here. I'll be interested to know what the more polyglot of my readership think of the translation, which is not mine, but one I found several years ago.* I tidied it up, fixed the grammatical errors and some inconsistencies (the spelling wasn't too bad), and retimed everything, because the timing was kind of poopy. A tenth of a second makes a big difference, and some of the titles were off by a second or more. Um, anyway, the translation, from my limited Japanese, seems reasonable except for the opening song, which doesn't sound right to me. I have an alternate translation of the song - actually, two alternate translations - and also the transliterated Japanese lyrics, so I'll post those over at the Language Lab tomorrow.
Ooh, And It Makes Me Wonder...
One thing of interest - I'm not sure quite what to make of it - between 1997 and 1998, fifteen groups set out to fansub the original Dirty Pair TV series. Only one (Fuzzy Productions) completed the job, and they have vanished from the face of the net.** Makes me wonder if there is some kind of curse on Dirty Pair fansubs.
If you suddenly find one day that the whole of mu.nu has disappeared leaving nothing but a smoking crater and a mile-high stack of damage claims, at least you'll know why.
*Here, as it turns out.
** I actually found a copy of the Fuzzy Production version. It's a completely different translation to the one I'm using, which might be useful for cross-checking. Unfortunately, it looks like a sixth-generation tape run through a budget 1998-era video-capture card and then later transcoded from MPEG-1 to DIVX with the quality slider set to "crap". In fact, it probably is a sixth-generation tape etc etc.
Wednesday, April 12
Oh, nothing much.
(I've also started uploading some AMVs.)
You are Nemu! Nemu is kind of a big-sister figure, always overseeing things and helping raise the children. She reads a lot, and is always sleepy, but that's because she's always doing more than her fair share of work.
Take this " href="http://quizilla.com/redirect.php?statsid=17&url=http://www.quizilla.com/users/divadrummer/quizzes/Which+Haibane+Renmei+Character+are+you%3F">quiz!
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Tuesday, April 11
The original Dirty Pair opening and closing credits.
Oops. Aspect ratio problems. I'll have to redo them. Done!
Everyone seems to agree that the Sugar Summer Special was extremely well done, and provided needed closure to the series. It's one of the best anime "extras" that I've seen.
But what's the worst? My nomination goes to Fushigi Yuugi Eikoden, which manages to negate every major plot point of the series. Wonderduck suggests the Elfen Lied special (which I haven't seen).
Monday, April 10
Just finished watching this one too. (And I found time to unpack some more stuff, do the laundry, and go grocery shopping. Gotta love long weekends.)
I was absolutely entranced when I first saw the opening credits to this show, more than three years ago. Even on a crappy RealPlayer video clip the kawaii genius of the creators came through. But then, though I bought all the DVDs, I foundered on the early episodes. The first episode is wonderful, but then it gets silly for a while. If I'd kept watching just a little longer I would have gotten to the good bit - the last 80% of the show - but, well, too much anime, too little time.
There's not a lot I like in the present anime season (Karin being the prime exception) so I've finally been catching up. And no doubt about it, Sugar is a gem. Highly recommended.
Some spoilers follow. more...
Sunday, April 09
Speaking of which: She's not invisible; she's got a natural SEP field.
Y'know, I thought I had more DVDs than that.
To explain: I moved house twice last year. Once by choice (mostly), once not. So my smaller possessions are rather scrambled right now. Last move I filled two large-ish boxes with DVDs, and I had unpacked those (to the extent of sticking them all in a closet, which at least gets the boxes out of my way). But that only produced four of the six Sugar DVDs - specifically 2, 3, 4 and 6.
But when I was packing books (I have about 3000 of the blasted things) I would often fill a box part-way with hardcovers and then top it off with paperbacks or CDs or tapes or DVDs - the boxes get too heavy otherwise. So I started pulling every box open just to see if that one had DVDs in it. I found Sugar volume 1 pretty quickly, but no volume 5.
I did find lots of other things, though, including DVDs I'd forgotten I had (I haven't seen all my DVDs since, oh, last May). The most recent box contained ten volumes of Encyclopaedia Britannica, and piled on top of those, four stacks of twelve DVDs. Let's look at one stack:
Haibane Renmei volumes 2 and 3. I bought the box set last year thinking I only had the first volume; looks like I may have two complete copies.
Inu Yasha volume 12.
Nuku Nuku Dash volume 1.
Futurama season 2, disc 2.
Jawbreaker (No, I don't know why.)
His Girl Friday
Yamamoto Yohko: The Perfect Collection
The Avengers '63 disc 4 (Honor Blackman as Cathy Gale)
Monty Python's Flying Circus disc 5
Magic User's Club disc 5
Volume 5 of Sugar was in the next stack. Unopened, like volume 6.
I'm trying to turn them into AVIs so I can easily watch them on my notebook, but my computer isn't co-operating. I might have to live with DVDShrink, which works just fine.
And I still have 30 boxes to open.
(Also found: Two cartons of wine, which may or may not be drinkable; the keyboards for my SGI and Sun workstations; the mouse for my Wacom graphics tablet; my N64 and Playstation (one) and their respective controllers; a whole lot of SCSI cables; the grand unified remote control collection; The Maltese Falcon; a pretty complete set of AD&D 2nd Edition rules (about 40-50 volumes); a 120GB hard disk, which I assume doesn't work; my toaster; the controller for my Logitech speaker system (which has led a rough life this past year); my Sony Vaio; a pair of binoculars; my Dalek apron; a Sailor Mercury doll; a Life on Mars Lego set; my spare pair of glasses (and a reminder why they are my spare pair: instant migraine); and 125 blank DVD-Rs. Oh, and rather a lot of books.)
Update: Ooh, Pom Poko!
Okay, I just finished watching it, and then read Steven's too many words. (Contains spoilers.)
And I cracked up.
There's a time for analysis, and there's a time to go with the story as it's presented. Sometimes a fairy is just a fairy.
I call the Calvin and Hobbes defense here: All of it is true, particularly the parts that are impossible.
P.S. Steven, whatever you do, don't watch Mahoraba.
(Analysis of my own follows.) more...
Friday, April 07
When I first started watching anime as anime rather than as cartoons that just happened to come from Japan, one of the things I most looked forward to was the new releases from ADV every month. For a simple reason: The ADV tapes (and this was back in the middle ages, so all we had was tapes) had trailers on them.
Trailers that did not suck.
This was an art that had escaped most of the anime distributors of the time, though watching even a handful of ADV's trailers made the techniques involved obvious. All they did was take the opening theme (or in some cases, the closing theme if it was catchier or if there was no opening theme) and a selection of clips from the show. Even without a real-time NLE (which were in short supply in the 12th century) you could put something like that together in an hour or two. Add titles with your handy-dandy character generator (anyone remember the outrage when ADV changed their subtitle font?) and you're done. A 90 second promotional spot that your customers will actually want to watch made for practically nothing.
(The secret part that most of their competitors didn't get was what they didn't do. No voice-over. They let the anime speak for itself.)
Well, that's what I want to talk to you all about; endings.
I love the opening and closing sequences of anime shows because this is exactly what they are designed to do. They have to sell the show, and they have just 90 seconds to do it.
The job is very different to the opening credits of most western TV shows. Look at something like, say, Buffy or Stargate. Yes, you have theme music (or in the case of Buffy, a crappy pointless noisy riff), and you have some action shots, but the big point is to show and name the cast. Because... Well, I don't actually know exactly why. But that's what they do. With a live-action show, the cast is important; not many TV series can get away with replacing their stars (Dr Who being the notable exception).
Live action TV shows live or die to a large degree by their casts. The stories are secondary - which is why so much of what we get on our screens is crap.
Animation doesn't. I might be interested if a series has a character voiced by Megumi Hayashibara, still a favourite of mine, or if it has music composed by Yoko Kanno. A film from Hayao Miyazaki is a must see. But for the most part, the names of the seiyuu (voice actors), composers, directors, and writers don't register all that strongly. It's not about the stars.
Now, endings normally happen at the end.
It's about the story. Most anime is developed from existing manga*, comic books, and manga are usually the work of just one or two people. They're almost always black-and-white, so there's not even the need for the type of teams of artists that produce many Western comics. (Does Rumiko Takahashi have an inker and a letterer? I have no idea.)
And when a show is story-driven, what you have to do is tell the story. If you have 12 episodes worth of story, you can't run the series for seven years.** So next year, next season in fact, you have to come up with another story to tell.
And you have to persuade people to watch it.
And you have ninety seconds to do so.
You have ninety seconds to say, these are my characters. This is my artistic style, this is my animation, this is my music. This is my story. Please watch it so that the advertisers will keep funding me and I can afford something more than instant ramen now and then.
But as we all know, endings are just beginnings.
Given that requirement, it's not surprising that a lot of thought and effort goes into the opening and closing credits in anime. I have a couple of laser discs (uh, somewhere) of the credits for all the seasons of Urusei Yatsura and Ranma ½. That such a thing could be produced and sold means that I'm not the only person to notice this.***
My friend (a 2nd generation Japanese) who has seen far more anime than all other people I know (and myself) combined, has come up with an heuristic for judging whether something is worth getting an actual viewing. There are far too many series around competing for attention, even more so for him since he can watch region 2 releases (no need for English). Time and resources are finite, so some sort of prioritization must be used. Basically it is this:It doesn't always work, of course. The opening theme to Aishiteruze Baby was some appallingly dreary Suzanne Vega-ish thing, but I liked the show a great deal. And they can be terribly misleading (Narutaru, I'm looking at you).
Watch the opening and the closing.
- If both are good, then the series is, more likely than not, also good and worth watching.
- If one is good but the other so-so, then the final opinion could go either way. (Openings are worth more points.)
- If both are bad, don't watch.
But it works - for me - far more often than not.
And that's why I'm archiving them here. A reviewer can tell you that the animation is fluid (or stilted, as it may be); the music joyous or inspired or achingly beautiful or, well, none of the above. But in ninety seconds, you can determine that for yourself.
* Most anime series that aren't adaptations of manga are adaptations of computer games. But they almost invariably suck, so I'll ignore them.
** Ranma ½ notwithstanding.
*** And if you thought that the closing themes for Popotan or Happy Lesson were ear worms, just writing the name of Urusei Yatsura has got Lum no Love Song stuck in my head.
Hoshitachi ga kagayaku yofuke
Yumemiru no anata no subete.
Aishite mo anata wa shiramburi de.
Imagoro wa dare ka ni muchuu.
Oh yes, here, in case you were wondering.
And set to purÃ©e for five and a half hours.
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