Archive for August, 2010

With respects to Satoshi Kon

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

I haven’t really been a fan of Satoshi Kon. I’ve seen parts of his movies, but I have never fully seen any movie of his, and for that I must be crucified. It speaks volumes, however, when one of his films was used by no less than Christopher Nolan himself in the creation of Inception: I have read that Ariadne was very similar to the psychologist in Paprika.

What he has done is no small feat: he was able to create visionary pieces of art that have transcended even the boundaries of anime, being appreciated by mainstream film critics like Roger Ebert (for Paprika), as well as people who have the fortune of watching one of his films.

I know I haven’t enjoyed him in his lifetime, but I will certainly watch all of his movies in the future. I’m currently downloading Perfect Blue.

Thank you for your contributions to anime, Mr. Kon, even to a non-fan like me. You will be missed, not only by hardcore anime fans, but by everyone who cherishes a good movie and a good story.

Anime Love Hardcore: good songs made great

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

We cannot deny that music is always an integral part of anime. The best anime series often have great music in them. Tastes for music, however, differ from person to person, and in that sense I’m pretty much open-minded. I have appreciation for the various kinds of music, from slow and pensive mellow, to uppity and happy rock. When I was thus given a chance by Pete of Diskowarp Records to review an album with techno remixes of popular anime songs, I was happy to oblige him. I have a fondness for well-rendered remixes, especially if the remixes are more upbeat techno or electronica renditions of their original songs: I preferred Kamisama no Iutoori’s Z80 remix than its original version, after all.

Rock on.

Rock on.

Overall, I think the album deserves to be bought because of two songs: Sobakasu and Moonlight Densetsu. The rest of the album contains good renditions of their respective classic anime songs, but these two are in my opinion the best remixes of these seminal songs. I didn’t expect Sobakasu was capable of being remixed into something more happy hardcore, since it was already, in and of itself, pretty upbeat. Pete and the album have done so successfully, in my opinion, and it’s pretty difficult to believe that the singer is a foreigner, because she hits the notes very well, and it complements the entire song.

In addition to that, I think the album’s Moonlight Densetsu is the best remix of the song, even trumping that of Nana Kitade’s. It’s really just upbeat and was successfully transitioned into a very upbeat song. I thought the original Moonlight Densetsu was great, don’t get me wrong, but the remix is just the kind of song I want to dance to any time of the day. It really picks one up, and is really just a great song. The same singer (Diana Garnett) rendered the song, and she hit the notes very well.

The rest of the album are made up of decent to good songs, but these two take the cake for awesomeness. The album was able to successfully recreate two great songs, made it totally different, and so much better. I would rate it an 8.5/10 overall, and a certain BUY. More information about the album can be found here.

On House vs. Blackjack (mostly about the former)

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

I just finished marathoning the final four episodes of House, and the trigger for that was this short advertisement crossing House and Blackjack’s paths as medical doctors. The advertisement was amusing, but I wanted to see a real anime with these two seminal characters. The advertisement is below:

I really like House not because I’m also (with providence and luck) going to be a doctor someday, (there are a lot of glaring medical errors in house, although I don’t even recognize most of them), but because Hugh Laurie is a great actor to watch. While the first and second seasons have been the most consistent and believable medically speaking, the recently ended sixth season I feel is my favorite. I like it not because of the medicine, but because of House’s gradual development as a person. I like it because of the soap opera, but I like House a lot more than series like Grey’s Anatomy because it at least places focus on the medical aspect on things, and not just entirely on the emotional aspect, like the latter.

House still isn’t your lovable guy, but in this season one can see that he really tries to be a better person. His snarkiness remains, as well as his blunt and offensive demeanor, but in his equivocation and his fakes one can see that he is actually trying to do right by the people he cares about, no matter how serpentine his actions look. Although the season didn’t deal with Chase and Cameron’s break-up well, the final episodes of the season more than made up for the middling episodes. The change was most clear in the penultimate and ultimate episodes of the season, where House helped his friends in the plodding and only way he knew how. He convinced Wilson to put his foot down at times; he forced Taub to choose just one option, and he faced his demons with the final episode.

I was glad about that lone twinkle in the sky of darkness that pervaded him especially during the final episodes. Wilson was sincerely trying to live his own life, leaving House dangling; Alvie, his roommate during institutionalization, was now able to cross the states as there was now proof he was a US citizen. Cuddy was going to be married – and he was still alone. That vicissitudinous reversal at the end of the season, and his unwillingness to give up on himself even when it seemed too late, I think, was an apt way to end the season. It offers hope for House and for his growth as a person, which is the primary reason I still watch House nowadays. The medicine may be wanting, but the engaging escape certainly isn’t.

Like the IGN reviewer, I recommend the sixth season of House for those who have watched the other seasons primarily because of the final episode. It just lays the foundation of the show’s conclusion. I also recommend watching Blackjack, as it’s a good and entertaining show.

What are your picks for Fall 2010?

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

The Fall line-up has come out. To be entirely honest, I wasn’t too pleased with what fall is offering, although as it is with every season, there are anime that could become one of the sleeper hits of 2010. Potential is very different from reality, however.

The fall chart

The fall chart

There are really only a few shows that I think deserve mention. Since I don’t want to reiterate what other people said for the most part, I’m trying to keep this post short and succinct. Panty and Stocking is obviously a lock, because it’s going to be done by Gainax. Gainax has this strange capability to make seemingly banal premises become awesome stories through the course of the series. For most people, all bets are off when it comes to Gainax.

Kuragehime is probably another series I’ll be following to the very end because it goes against the grain and is going to be directed by Baccano‘s director. I’m also probably following Bakuman because I like Kasai Ken’ichi, since he directed Honey and Clover. The World God Only Knows will be one of my more mainstream choices for the next season, because I really love the manga. I’m not expecting a proper ending, but I do hope they’re going to end at a point where there’s at least some closure.

That’s it. I’m not fond of following a lot of series (I think five is a lot as it is) because I don’t drop series and if I leave some of them in the dust the catching up just becomes more and more difficult to do. If word-of-mouth praises certain anime, though, I may just pick them up.

I also don’t know why, but I feel Kimi wa Petto vibes from Kuragehime. I haven’t read Kuragehime yet, mind you.

A matter of perspective

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

I know this isn’t the Chicken Soup for the Soul website, but I just wanted to share something personal today (it also ties in tangentially to my dearth of updates within these past few weeks). I was never a moralistic person, but I just wanted to share a part of myself today.

I have had a rough week.

Nah.

Let me be entirely honest: to say that I have had a rough week is a little bit of an understatement, as it has only been one interminable disappointment. Imagine passing through a well-cemented road for the better part of the month only to transition, without any warning, into a pockmarked road with pebbles and rocks as its pimples.

I think it came to a head yesterday evening: I promised to swear myself off eBay and shifted my pastime into once again enjoying DotA, when I checked my e-mail a little into today’s early morning hours. What I saw was an absolute steal: there was an auction for untested Super Micro cartridges (yes, the system that I have been bragging about and obtained with the help of Crusader and Angelus), and they were all only for 15 dollars. I thought that was a very justifiable reason to break my avoidance of eBay as I have hunted for those cartridges for quite some time, only to discover that when I clicked the buy-it-now (about an hour and a half passed) it was already sold.

I was devastated, to say the least.

I really thought it was going to be the break I needed from all the disaster I have experienced in the past few weeks. On the contrary, however, it just added to my disappointments. I had a hard time sleeping and was very depressed: I even hoped that it would be resold for a still affordable price; I hoped that the systems didn’t work (since I think they were included too), but it nevertheless really struck me that I was just an hour and a half too late. I could have checked my mail at that exact time it came out, but I didn’t, and it just ate on me.

I am trying to be more mature as a person, however, and as such, I wanted to move on. I wanted to curse God yesterday, but it wasn’t His fault; I wanted to curse myself, but I could never know what was in store in my e-mail, and I really can’t fault happenstances as well. They just happen, whether one likes it or not.

The incident soured my mood the entire day, but I had already coped and moved forward somewhat by sharing this individual, but stupid plight to my friends. Having an emotional net of support is one of the best ways to cope, and I utilized it during the day.

I stopped think about the innocuous failures of my week, however, when one of my friends told me that one of my other friends’ grandmother killed herself. I was so malcontent with the accumulation of my little failures that I couldn’t even celebrate my health, the circumstances I was living in, my triumph against pneumonia little more than a month ago, and just life in general.

She was suffering from a terminal disease in her lungs. She probably couldn’t have borne it any longer, because she killed herself. I can’t imagine how shallow my devastation was compared to my friend’s disintegration. There will be the questions, but there will never be the answers, or they will never be answered completely, and that’s more tragic than any fucking vintage video game I want to collect. I felt so stupid when I knew this.

Don’t get me wrong, I would have loved to have bought that game lot cheaply. But beyond these material pursuits, beyond even one of my most outstanding pursuits, wisdom, I think one idea should be pursued above all the rest: it is the idea of perspective. Man was born to be discontented and incapable of enjoying what he currently has. He always forgets that every day he lives is another gift of fate, or God.

All he needs, however, is a matter of perspective: some people are worse off than us, even if we feel that we have had the hardest luck at that specific point in our lives. I think that if everyone imbibed and live this idea, there will still be discontentment and disappointment, but everyone can move forward in their lives and accept the good as well as the bad.

No life is ever rose-colored, whether it be from the campus or the real world. Some lemons are just lemons. But at least you even have those lemons. Some don’t even have the chance to have lemons. Some don’t even have the chance to live.

On Left 4 Dead, the anime

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

As I have said in my previous posts, I really haven’t intently followed any anime series this season. First, nothing really ever caught me the way that Tatami Galaxy did last season, and second, I was feeling the rigors of medical education more and more to really mind. (I have a pending exam in Microbiology as I write this.)

It shouldn’t come as any surprise, thus, that I have not really been consistently watching anime this season. High School of the Dead didn’t occur to me as my cup of tea as well, as I am more oriented towards well-written romances rather than actionfests. I really didn’t plan on starting it in the first place, but certain denizens of /a/ have called to my attention the recently-aired sixth episode and how it was effusive with huge, nearly naked breasts.

Best friends for -

Best friends for -

I had to watch it, of course. I did, too, on raw.

I must admit that I was aroused with the different women, and I hope that the DVDs arrive sooner rather than later. I hope they’ll also fix the animation of the breasts so as to make it look more real, but beyond the aesthetic and sensual appeal of the different girls in various states of dishabille I also appreciated the emotional impact of the episode from what I understood of it. These were indeed teenagers thrown into an unpredicted and grisly situation, and while Takashi and Saeko exhibit a lot of maturity (from what I remembered in the manga, anyway), their ages still show. I especially liked how different Saeko, Rei, and Shizuka flirted with Takashi: it’s obvious that nearly all the girls in their group are attracted towards Takashi, but Saeko is a lot more subtle than the rest.

Of course parallels can be drawn between the Left 4 Dead franchise (great games, by the way) and this series. There’s a group of people that have little to do with each other (although it was taken to the extreme in Left 4 Dead games) who have to work together to live through an apocalypse of zombie infestation.

However, I appreciate the emotional core of this show more than its novelty in its genre, the women, the violence, or the badassery. In the sixth episode, the girls were drinking to at least be able to forget the reality that they currently face. When one is drunk the ego is somewhat dulled, and the id has a tendency to rear its ugly head (I think this is one of the foremost reasons why I never want to be drunk. People act stupid when they are, and while they are entertaining spectacles to watch, they are not to be emulated). Rei was the most obvious perpetrator of this, clearly affirming her desire for Takashi, although he didn’t even kiss her.

[Most of you may notice that I’m not as specific as my Tatami Galaxy posts and am more topical than exegetical. I merely enjoy watching series like HOTD and don’t really think of them as food for thought, which is the reason that the posts are more diffuse than those in the past. ]

Seikimatsu Occult Academy: a snapshot of humanity

Saturday, August 7th, 2010

I was and am unimpressed with most of the anime offerings this season. Among the shows I do follow, however, I think Occult Academy is one of the more entertaining series. There is little that is novel in this series: Maya is just another permutation of the tsun archetype, but it helps that she is empowered as a woman and is proactive as well. She is not someone most people would like, but she is someone most would respect.

She smiles in this scene.

She smiles in this scene.

One cannot deny the coarseness of her character: she is often violent and feisty. Yet it also cannot be denied that she has strength of character, plodding on her quest for truth despite the different obstacles laid out on her path. I have caught up with the latest episode, and I can say that the story became fluctuant when it no longer focused on Maya. To use a recent analogy, Maya is highly comparable with Evelyn Salt in the eponymous Salt: both are creative flights-of-fancy, but both are very entertaining primarily because both are carried by the strength of their corresponding female leads. Removing the focus on the central character would have made the examples mentioned both bores: Salt was smart enough to obviate this, but Occult Academy wasn’t. I think this was one of the major reasons that I thought the past three episodes were weak compared to the explosive and extremely enjoyable beginning. Instead of focusing on the tribulations of Maya towards her discovery of Nostradamus’s Key, it focused on characters like Bunmei and Kozue. The two are interesting, but it’s very difficult to emotionally connect with someone who is the sublimation of cowardice, and an apotheosis of stupidity.

I think most of Maya’s anger and vexations are justified: Bunmei really is a coward; he is also a self-aggrandizing bastard as he pursues the love of Mikaze. By displacing the focus from an admirable adolescent struggling with her father’s death and the impending end of the world, to a conceited coward whose only concern is himself, the series I feel went away from what made the viewers empathetic toward it in the first place. Most people can appreciate perseverance in the face of difficult odds; on the other hand, most people also hate overblown cowardice.

What a human scene.

What a human scene.

One of the best scenes of the show is that candid scene with Maya and the cellphone of Bunmei. Beneath all that forthrightness and doggedness still lay a teenager who wanted to look good and who liked to take pictures of herself. After her triumph against the supernatural during the first episode, it was still a nice glimpse into Maya for the viewers: one is reminded that while her visage reflects her knowledge and bitterness towards the occult and that while she is smart beyond her years, she is still a young woman. I loved that snapshot of humanity, because it colored Maya’s character a bit more.