Archive for March, 2011

Sundome: strangulation of the pre-climax

Friday, March 25th, 2011

I like Sundome.

It’s not the same as other people saying ‘I like ice cream.’ Most people like ice cream, and the statement does not come out as something definitive: it’s merely a weak affirmation of what most people believe in anyway. Liking Sundome is as different from raising your hand in a wave of raised hands: liking Sundome has to be a strong opinion, because there will most probably be little support coming from one’s peers. It is a polarizing, complex work that (I believe) has evolved from a manga about sex play into something much more. Liking it is akin to breaking the anonymity of silence and emptiness in a room of quietude: liking it is a statement.

The premise of the manga is extremely interesting: ‘I will not let you come.’ It’s essentially a series of psychological bondage that has its roots on weakness (for the guy) and desperation (for the girl). A girl transfers into a school and catches the eye of a pushover. She allures him because she is his ideal girl. She plays with his heart, and ultimately joins his club to continue their sexual games. Her final words during their first meeting was ‘I will not let you come.’

The manga has probably been treated by most as softcore hentai. It probably is, for the most part. But as the story progresses we learn that the sexual games by Kurumi is actually her own twisted way of forcing Aiba to grow up into something more manly. While she probably started the manipulation just because it feels good to dominate something or someone, she kept on doing it because it gave her a sense of purpose. It was eerily obvious that there was something insidious bothering Kurumi: all Aiba could do was keep on trusting her. For his part, Aiba, who was once a pushover, slowly became stronger physically and mentally because of the tortures and the twisted reward system that Kurumi implemented in their sex games.

While it was alluded early on that she had sex with different men, it was made more obvious later on that she was suffering from a chronic disease that debilitated her a lot of days in school. As time passed it was also made more evident to her that beyond the master-servant relationship, Aiba really cared a lot of Kurumi despite his perversions, and also acted accordingly. Like the telling sex scenes in Lust, Caution, the subtle evolution of their relationship from people who used each other to people who actually cared for one another despite their circumstances was something that I delighted in. I thought that the final act of Kurumi breaking her promise to have sex with Aiba in the place she wanted to be was something sad but not heartbreaking: I think it was a triumph for both of them to have become meaningful people despite their limitations. Aiba learned the pain and pleasure of love, and Kurumi found meaning in her short time with Hideo. It’s a dynamic that is better portrayed by pictures than words, but it’s a dynamic that’s wonderful to watch so long as one is open-minded enough.

Quoting Tatami Galaxy,

Watashi: ‘Why do you haunt me so?’
Ozu: ‘It’s how I show my love.’

Aiba and Kurumi were both Watashi and Ozu at some points in the series. But as the ending suggests, it was undeniable that they loved each other in their own twisted ways. It’s a great manga, but it’s something that has to be experienced rather than recommended. People may see me as perverted otherwise. 😉

A few thoughts on rubbing alcohol

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

I have never stopped writing; it’s just that I’m not really following many anime this season and the two that I follow don’t really need any writing about at that. I mean, other than some comments on a unique character such as Charlotte, there isn’t much to talk about. I mainly watch anime for entertainment during this time, although I’ll look into Madoka, since people I have a high opinion of seem to recommend it to me. I already have the first episode. 🙂

I still have some issues with esoteric beauty products and eBay, but I’m slowly weaning myself (hopefully never to be sucked back into stupidity). Here’s a recent write-up regarding my idiosyncratic nature. I hope I will become more creative in the future rather than just feature a permutation of myself, but here goes.

On Alcohol

「As her arrived from San Miguel he crossed the street to the nearby pharmacy and looked into the items sold. As it was a pharmacy that catered to the lower socioeconomic classes it was filled with generic drugs and local medicinal products. He saw a brand of alcohol he had never seen before: its brand name was Gentle Care alcohol. He bought one bottle and a local version of the well-known Vicks’ Vaporub.

He walked to the jeepney stop beside the Jaro cathedral and waited for a jeepney to his apartment. He chose a jeep that was nearly full as although he had to deal with being packed like a sardine it was certain to go faster since it did not have any more passengers to pick up. Like any businessman jeepney drivers seek to maximize their income: going fast with a full jeep is the optimal way to do it. After he paid for the fare he opened the alcohol and used some of it on his hands. He smiled when he discovered it was fragrant. He also opened the medicinal rub and thought it smelled like petroleum jelly more than menthol. It wasn’t malodorous, but it wasn’t fragrant. He would have thrown it but the economist in him prevented him from doing so: after all, he did spend some money on it. Like with many juvenile purchases, he simply sought to use it up as quickly as he could.

Upon entering his bedroom he was met with 80s video games underneath and on top of his double-decker bed as there was no one using the upper tier. He used up part of the alcohol he bought once again.

His alcohol dwindled as the days passed, and this was sped up with his friends asking for some. He sought to replenish his supply with the same brand despite knowing that it was probably going to be the last bottle of that brand he was going to see in his life, and so he decided to use up the last drops of his second bottle with a bang: he decided to have an alcohol bath, and he did. He then turned the alcohol bottle into a piggy-bank as remembrance for having used that brand.」

And in case you guys were wondering whether this is a true story or a cool story,

Sometimes I hate myself.

I was so bored with studying I kept on thinking about how I used up my rubbing alcohol and wrote that last week. I should watch more anime. Don’t worry, my next post would be less of a reflective catharsis than a proper write-up.

What makes Infinite Stratos special

Monday, March 7th, 2011

A good amount of people who have consistently read my posts probably wonder why I anticipate every forthcoming episode of Infinite Stratos as well as why I write about it. Let me shine some light on the matter.

First, I am not following IS because of its meaning or its depth: it’s actually the quintessential harem series filled with cliches and recognized character archetypes. Other than being set in a world that has shifted towards matriarchy, there isn’t anything novel with the story. The characters are, for the most part, cut out from the regular storyline of a harem series. Houki, for example, is the typical childhood friend and tsundere; Cecilia is the haughty and rich snob who falls for the certain rustic graces of the protagonist; Fan is the fanged character of the show, most certainly relegated to a supportive role, as most fanged characters in most series are; finally, Laura is that troubled lady who doesn’t seem to have matured because of her past burdens. It’s very typical of harem shows and IS offers only permutations.

She's honest with her feelings.

Charlotte Dunois, however, makes the series special, just the same way that Saeko did for High School of the Dead. Because as much as men like us deny it, we would prefer our women to be holistically beautiful: we like a balance between intelligence, kindness, and beauty. If one were missing, the woman wouldn’t be ideal. I don’t pertain to intelligence as being book-smart, however: I pertain to it as a smartness and sharpness that arises from the cocktail of knowledge and common sense. Knowledge is nothing if it is not applied properly. In a survey taken from followers of IS, she ranked as the most popular female character – and I don’t blame the voters. I would pick her above her fellow pilots anytime, as well.

Her personality, first and foremost, is a bubbly, caring girl who has had to undergo a lot of suffering being unloved. This is not akin to the haughtiness of Cecilia, the bitterness of Houki, or the puerility of Fan and Laura. She is arguably the most mature among her fellow female leads, as she was the only one among them extremely upfront about her newfound feelings for Ichika. Once she realized Ichika was an extremely kind guy, she made it known to him personally that she liked him and would like to keep on being with him. This is in stark contrast with the schemes of Fan and Cecilia, the childish behavior of Laura, or the ‘subtlety’ of Houki.

Cute.

She’s also the most mature among the girls, recognizing Ichika’s criminal insensitivity to the hearts of women, and attempts to understand it while not forcing anything. Even if she sometimes is perturbed by his impregnability, she enjoys his presence. That maturity coupled with her brimming intelligence and beauty makes her, at least to me and those people who answered the survey in her favor, one of our favorite characters in this series.

She recognizes that she has a lot of rivals for his heart, but hangs around with him and enjoys his company.

Kara no Kyoukai – 08: the philosophical epilogue

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

I’m usually fond of anime that a lot of people would call pretentious. I can often appreciate the drive of the plot despite the graphics. Sometimes, it’s even the graphics that bolster the OVA or series for me, like Tatami Galaxy and its art. I can sincerely say I am grateful for the epilogue to arrive.

She's going to kill you.

I like philosophical talk within anime. It often reminds me that anime is not merely a medium for entertainment: it also tackles issues with the self. Great anime do so successfully. The first seven episodes of this series integrated philosophy and psychology well into its action-packed storyline. While I also liked the epilogue, I do recognize other people’s claims of it being soporific, as it really did bid me to sleep. The epilogue should have been shorter, as I feel the latter half of the episode was just a different permutation of what was mentioned during the first part. It’s not that I didn’t understand the episode (I re-watched parts that sped by too fast for me), but it could have done much with editing.

It’s an epilogue that identifies the origin of Shiki, and reflects upon the quotidian existences of most people. It’s little more than that, although I loved that touch by Void Shiki on Kokuto at the end: I think she fixed his limp, as there were already two set of footsteps instead of one. It could have been shorter, however. Even without the epilogue, we’ve already established Shiki’s fondness for Kokuto. It probably just rubbed off on her primordial existence, because even she has a fondness for Kokuto.

Void Shiki’s decision to sleep until Shiki dies is quite reminiscent of Arcueid’s decision to sleep so that she would no longer harm other people as her vampiric desires were awakened due to her fights. Overall, it was decent closure to the series, but it didn’t possess the quality its predecessors have, not due to the absence of action, but due to the poor editing.