Archive for October, 2010

Kuragehime – 02: the next best thing

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

I don’t think anything will beat Tatami Galaxy for me this year. It has become THE favorite anime series of mine, and with good reason (elucidated over thirty posts).

Isn't this extremely apt? The lyrics ... and the preview ...

Isn't this extremely apt? The lyrics ... and the preview ...

Kuragehime is shaping up to be the next best thing. To prove that the first episode was no fluke, the show delivered with its second episode once again. While this doesn’t rival Tatami Galaxy in terms of depth and analytical openness, it presents an interpretation of the otaku life without resorting to cheap jokes or sensuality. It paints a portrait of the irrational phobias pervading each withdrawn otaku female, and their need for isolation, as well as their defense mechanisms against reality. The second episode presented sophisticated methods in avoiding reality and beauty, and while not very pleasant to watch, is at least something that tries to be verisimilar to reality. I was amazed with the ability that Kana Hanazawa showed in her portrayal of Tsukimi this episode, especially with that funny ‘Ole’ song of hers.

Because of the early passage of her mother Tsukimi grew up to be a reserved and highly withdrawn girl. While the Amars are kindly people, they only offer her a unidimensional friendship: an intraspecies friendship, in other words. They only help her accept that being withdrawn from society is all right because she has a few companions. On the other hand, however, Kuranosuke brings a different weltanschauung into the table. He brings the other side of the world to Tsukimi, and she recoils from it because of her fears. His sincerity shines through as the episode progresses, however, and he also merely seeks an endearing friendship and acceptance that he could not get from his family: Kuranosuke sees that Tsukimi is a great girl trapped in her own fears, and slowly tries to pry her out of that xenophobia.

It’s the anime to watch this fall. Nothing else compares.

The tsundere gambit: Ookami-san

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Over the past week, I prioritized what little extracurricular reading I could do over solely watching recently-aired episodes of series I’m currently following, as I have always believed that it’s easier to watch anime than to read extraneous material during school time. Reading simply takes more time to do, as it requires more focus and forces the brain to think, at least, as compared to the more passive act of watching anime. With this reasoning, I spent a good amount of time reading.

Ami!

Ami!

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Petersburg: a city of shadows, a novel of spectres

Monday, October 18th, 2010

One of the most haunting lines written by James Joyce was a quip from Stephen Dedalus in Ulysses. Dedalus says that ‘history is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.’ It seems ironic, as it is due to the seamless intertwining of history and fiction that made Ulysses an enduring novel to many a critic. I think that the best stories serve as historical tracts at the same time, and this is especially true in novels.

Petersburg in revolution

Petersburg in revolution

Petersburg, written by Andrei Bely, is both brother and father to Ulysses. It was written earlier than Ulysses, and implements that magical mixing of mythology, history, and philosophy that was found in spades in Joyce’s novel. It inculcates news reports (history), mythology, psychology, and anthroposophy in a certain city, Petersburg, just like Joyce did with Dublin in his Ulysses.

Vladimir Nabokov and Anthony Burgess, among the most prominent writers of the 20th century, had nothing but praise for this novel. The premise of the story is quite simple: a senator, Apollon Apollonovich, was marked by an unnamed Party (note that this novel was situated during 1905 in Russia) for death by means of a bomb, which was a popular method of assassination during those times. The catch was that the assassin was going to be his son, Nikolai Apollonovich.

Bely made sure this wasn’t going to be just a rendition of Fathers and Sons. There are even instances in the novel where he parodied Turgenev’s works himself, such as mentioning a certain revolutionary who died of consumption (applicable to Fathers and Sons, as well). Petersburg was something more tasteful than that, and by avoiding being moralistic, Bely was able to elevate his novel into something much more.

The fundamental opposition of the story is between father and son. It is illustrated by the difference of their ages, but more subtly by the incongruity of their philosophies: whereas Nikolai Apollonovich was progressive and a liberal, his father was a Tsarist to the core. It was the reason why he was a high-ranking official in the monarchist government, but it was also one of the reasons why his son and him did not agree with one another (and barely even talked).

Like Ulysses, however, the relationships and references did not end there: mentions of Saturn were made. In Greek he is known as Chronos, or as the father who devoured his offsprings so as they would not be able to displace his reign or dispose of him. This is in disagreement with his namesake, however, who is Apollo, the god of the sun. There remains something that still connects them as family to one another, even in all their differences: while fond of symmetry and logic, Apollon Apollonovich was soft toward his hussy of a wife; in contrast, despite his Kantian philosophies (which was one of the reasons that led him to the madness of carrying the bomb), Nikolai was a fool in love. The idiosyncrasies of their character blur their clash of ideologies and sometimes father and son are painted as similar individuals.

The sun is also a symbol of the Ego’s progression in anthroposophy, which compounds the story further. While they are seemingly just caricatures, their personalities and characteristics disallow easy generalizations, and in this regard they are just as dynamic as real people. The best thing about this novel, however, that for me made it better than Ulysses was the fact that it actually told a highly engrossing story despite its wordplay and complex narrative. Whereas Ulysses was one large sex joke hidden in magical prose and complex storytelling, there was actually an engrossing story in Petersburg. This alone made it a much better read and a much better novel, in my opinion, than Ulysses: it told me that reality and fiction can be intertwined in creative ways while still being able to tell a wonderful story.

Kuragehime: the barriers of reality

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

I’ve never wavered when I said the anime to watch this fall season is Kuragehime, even when people were saying that Panty and Stocking was the fall show. After seeing the first episode, I really think I’m right. People have already mentioned its similarity with Kimi ni Todoke, although in contrast to that this possesses a more realistic bent: there may be iridescent facial expressions, but there isn’t a plethora of sparkles and bubbles that characterize the shoujo genre. Instead of a reticent and misunderstood yet beautiful lady, there’s Tsukimi, who’s great at drawing, yet is not quite as beautiful. She isn’t as socially disconnected as Sawako is (explained by her understanding that the social beings, ‘princesses,’ are just altogether from a different world as she is), but she seems to be just as nice. [If you guys have ever heard of Janis Ian’s At 17, I recommend you listen to it. I think it’s more apt as OP than Chatmonchy’s song. The video is below.]

[I learned the truth at seventeen: that love was meant for beauty queens … ]

Like Sawako, however, she is quite reclusive: she is a lover of jellyfish, and she is quite lucky to be with persons with focused, passionate interests (read: otaku). They all look like social misfits, with Tsukimi being the least abnormal-looking among them. She nevertheless struggles with the normal social rigors people face in their daily lives: going to a popular spot (Shibuya) is a chore for her. Life normally went on until she saw an Aurelia jellyfish admixed with spotted jellies: knowing that the substances that Aurelia secrete usually kill spotted jellies fast, she tried to rectify the situation but failed due to her nature. She was helped by someone who seemed to be a beautiful princess, but in reality was a handsome transvestite.

I’m not fond of doing summaries. I can honestly say, however, that it was the most interesting first episode among the anime I have seen aired this season, and it caters to me particularly: it is focused on characters that are both unique and open to development; it represents the beauty and sadness of reality; and it values character interactions.

I don’t think Tsukimi is an ugly girl. When someone mentioned that Kuragehime was the mongrel of Ugly Betty and Kimi ni Todoke, I think he was more in the right than in the wrong: I frankly don’t think Tsukimi is an ugly girl, although she has to deal with societal withdrawal and issues of letting go. Among the different boarders of their fangirl apartment, she’s the one who looks the most decent among them. I think she could even be pretty, and the transvestite will probably help her in that journey to self-acceptance in the same vein that she will help him accept him and the rest of the boarders for who they are. I’m not saying she’s going to be a fashion model, but her mother was pretty attractive.

She isn't bad-looking.

She isn't bad-looking.

I can’t wait for the next episode: this may not be rife with symbolism like Tatami Galaxy, but even from just the first episode its emotional thrust is palpable, and that’s really just what I need. I didn’t like the OP as much as their Shangri-la ED from Hataraki Man, but it was decent. The ED by Sambomaster was awesome.

Eve no Jikan Gekijouban: humanity in inhumans

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

I had the first net episode of Eve no Jikan on my PC ever since March this year. Due to forgetfulness or responsibilities, I never watched it. I was reminded of its existence when the net episodes were compiled, beautified, and was made into a full movie, with additional scenes. I promised myself to watch it, but never really had the time to until today (it’s the start of our short semestral break).

I love Tex.

I loved Tex.

I now understand why it is very highly ranked in different anime database sites. It built up on the premise of Mizu no Kotoba, and expatiated on it in such a brilliant manner, asking fundamental questions that consume entire lives of prominent philosophers such as Heidegger: what does it mean to be human?

I, for one, am still in the dark. I really don’t know, and the director doesn’t seem to, either: the whole movie engages the question without giving any of its answers, as there really isn’t one that’s categorical. The answer differs from person to person, and that is what makes every one of us uniquely ourselves. The question is compounded by the existence of the humanoid robots, who, while following the three cardinal rules of robotics, are developing human emotions more and more, as well as by the humans who have to cope with their evolution.

There is violence in the film, but not of the overblown and gory sort that could be found in bathetic movies such as The Expendables. It is the violence of a personal struggle, of coping with growing emotions towards what is considered inhuman, and yet, paradoxically, are more human than some humans in the film. It does not provide easy answers, but it is blessed with lovable characters, both human and non-human, who make the film just a joy to watch. Let me just warn prospective viewers that it is not a film about romance in the traditional sense: it is a film about love that transcends human barriers, and is a celebration of it. It is a beautiful film, and it is next to Tatami Galaxy as the best anime of 2010, at least for me.

Although the romantic in me wished for some romance between Sammy and Rikuo or Nagi and Rikuo (ew, I know), I’ve enjoyed the Time of Eve, and I believe you will, too. Just between humans. 😉

Otome Youkai Zakuro: first impressions

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Technically, the last true season of the year has begun. While it doesn’t seem to be as impressive as the offerings of the spring season, there are quite a few anime that I have decided to give chances to, and one of them is Otome Youkai Zakuro.

The production values for the first episode were awesome. Let's see how far this quality gets.

The production values for the first episode were awesome. Let's see how far this quality gets.

As I expected nothing whatsoever from the anime, I was pleasantly surprised by its first episode. While I was expecting violence from the blurb on the Fall charts, it was actually relatively peaceful, as it dealt with the interchange and coping of humans with their youkai counterparts. I do believe that people who are quite fond of action will be turned off by this series, because it is essentially another slice-of-life show about the struggles of a growing interspecies relationship between the main characters.

Well, I liked that. It was very different from what I imagined it would be, but with seemingly top-notch production values and lovable protagonists the series would be a very good way to waste one’s time. It probably won’t provide much food for thought, but its first episode was a delight to watch and the interactions between beast and human were just priceless. Whether it shifts into high gear with palpable tragedy (unlikely) or just breeze its way through maybe three hours of the viewer’s life, it’s something innocuous and may even be precious later on. Essays probably won’t be made on its content, but it will make some people smile.

I certainly did. 🙂

The return of disequilibrium

Monday, October 4th, 2010

I love The World God Only Knows and Good Ending. These are the manga series I follow week in and week out because I’m a sucker for good and funny love stories. While Good Ending is currently middling, The World God Only Knows is at an arc where the wheels really turn and the plot is bounding forward: in the recent chapters another goddess is discovered among Keima’s capture targets, and because she recalled everything that happened between her and Keima she turns to him for help as she’s chased by who seems to be the first real enemy of TWGOK. This shocks the classroom, especially the girls who were the past targets of Keima.

I love the sweetness between them.

I love the sweetness between them.

That’s not the only thing to be celebrated, however. One of my favorite romance manhwas, Unbalance x Unbalance, has returned to serialization and is approaching its ending. I’ve always been intrigued by a teacher-student relationship especially when the teacher is significantly older, and Unbalance x 2 has realized that desire of mine in a well-done manga. I pertain to well-done not in the sense of having flawless writing or plot, but as being good all-around. Jin-Ho is a very likable guy with a one-track mind, and the women in the series are very attractive, as well. I’m glad they’re finally going to properly end it.

Chapter 72 could already have served as the ending, but there was something missing, and that is the closure that the recently released chapter is building up. While Hae-Young has already confessed that she likes Jin-Ho properly despite the taunts of Jin-Ho’s senior, it was done under duress. I do believe that his confrontation with his senior was the climax of the story, with the following chapters setting up the denouement of the manhwa. I’ve been thoroughly entertained during the time I read it, and I can’t wait for the ending so that I can read it again.

There’s something I can look forward to once again.

Occult Academy: one of 2010’s best

Friday, October 1st, 2010

I’ve read somewhere that Occult Academy was the last project of Anime no Chikara. I’m not certain about the veracity of this claim, but if it were the last series under the block, then at least the block ended beautifully: I just watched the final two episodes of the series, and it has more than made up the weak episodes in the middle. The series also has the cohesion and the integrity that I found wanting in the previous two projects.

Maya does not approve.

Maya does not approve.

It’s already too late to do a summary, but I admired Bunmei’s transformation from a wuss into the hero of their time: it was a great sacrifice on his part. I loved the fact that there were no obvious confessions in the show. The romance between Fumiaki and Maya developed without any explosive event between them specifically: one just saw the growing discomfort Maya had whenever he and Mikaze were together, and after Maya’s catharsis in the tenth episode it was really only him who was there to console her when she realized she made a mistake about her father. One could see the culmination of their relationship in the later episodes, but one could never expect what Bunmei did to restore the integrity of the future world. After finally deciding by himself and for himself, he regained the self-confidence and responsibility that he gradually lost through his own weaknesses of character, and decided to battle the aliens with his regained powers. While he died in the process, he was able to restore the world back into its normal state: it was his crowning moment of awesome, and while it was only short, it was a joy to watch.

Although the series is not a masterpiece (the weaker middle episodes attest to that), it was a well-made and very good series. I absolutely loved how they were able to develop Maya and paint her as a character that wasn’t really tsundere, but just someone who tried to be in grips with her guilt and sense of loss. Her anger towards the occult was her reaction towards what consumed her father and dissipated his love for her, and her hatred towards Bunmei was (justfiably) due to his incompetence and weakness. Once she discovered the reasons to their status, however, she loosened up and slowly became like who she was before: she loved the occult, and showed the caring and concerned person she always was.

Aside from her subtle progression as a character, I loved the dynamism of her facial expressions in general. I have never seen a character evince so much emotion as Maya. From her anger and disdain to her joy and happiness, the uniqueness of her expressions were also one of the reasons the show was good: it clearly showed effort from the creators. While I would have liked to seen her as an adult, I found solace in the quality of her feelings for Bunmei: she was faithful to his memory and to her promise to the future him to take care of the present him. What a great show.