Archive for October, 2011

The best of anime: non-linear narratives in Steins;Gate and Tatami Galaxy

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Before I start with the article proper, shout-out goes to Conor, Angelus, and Ryan A for sticking with me even though I haven’t been updating much lately. I really appreciate your reading my posts, Conor. I’m downloading Madoka next, Angelus.

One of my earliest introductions to classic literature was Poe’s ‘Casque of Amontillado.’ My father badgered me into reading it, and I obeyed in due time. I’m glad I obeyed, because I started reading good literature at an age significantly earlier than my contemporaries. I was about 10 during that time. When I was 11, I decided to read more of Poe’s works, because I liked the horror stories he wrote. To my surprise, however, I discovered that he also wrote detective stories and was arguably the first auteur of modern detective stories. I had heard of Sherlock Holmes, but the detective that introduced me to the mystery story was clearly Auguste Dupin in The Murders of the Rue Morgue.

Although I moved away from mystery stories and focused on realistic classics, I have never stopped appreciating the sophistication and the apollonian artistry found in the detective story. In fact, through the years I find that the classics I end up liking the most have significant elements of a detective story: there is the initial confusion and obfuscation, followed by piecemeal plot development that culminates in the story fitting everything together beautifully in the end. I certainly think this can be said about Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! and Bely’s Petersburg: while the stories are extremely jarring and disorientating early on, the pieces of the puzzle slowly fit into the big picture. When the big picture is finally seen, the scenery is explosive, moving, and cathartic.

They're so destined for one another, the space between their kiss forms a heart.

I think it’s not coincidental that the two works are also recognized to be challenging works of literature precisely because of the novels’ method of narration. Temporal shifts occur without warning, and the reader is left to figure things out with few guides. The non-linear technique further makes things difficult: much effort has to be expended to understand the flux of the plot, but there is also much reward when one figures it out, as behind the confusion lies a truly potent story.

This is where the beauty of Steins;Gate lies in, as well. I’m actually reminded of one of my most favorite series, Tatami Galaxy. And yes, while eyes of some readers are rolling, one can’t help but admit of the similarities with its methods of narration: both tell the story non-linearly, with highly intelligent and kind female deuteragonists, and initially conceited but ultimately endearing protagonists. There is the Groundhog Day rewinds found in both series, as well. Although there wasn’t a physical establishment of a time machine in Tatami Galaxy, both series tackled the immutable and tragic alternate realities suffered through by its protagonists while seeking for a solution to their pressing problems. Tatami Galaxy was simply more of a series of internal catharsis than Steins;Gate: it focused on self-transcendence and self-realization more than it did on the concept of transcendent filial and romantic love in S;G.

Steins;Gate, given that it had more time for explication, was more patient and deliberate than Tatami Galaxy. It was afforded more time in the development of its world than Tatami Galaxy: I simply prefer the primacy and immediacy of Tatami Galaxy, however; but I do admit that the execution and finesse of Steins;Gate is at the apex of anime series.

The central reason why I think quite highly of both these series, however, lies in the fact that these two execute their stories with such intelligence and sophistication without pandering to its viewers. Tatami Galaxy is the more brusque, artistic entity, whereas Steins;Gate is the more refined, aristocratic one. I prefer the rawness of Tatami Galaxy particularly because its roughness allows more interpretation within established limits: it’s more secretive and mystical than the polished, structured glamor found within Steins;Gate. It simply takes a certain kind of prescience and artistry to properly map out a series so beautifully and so accurately that everything coalesces at the end of it all. It takes even more to execute this beautifully, and both series have done so majestically without foregoing of the emotional drive that is pivotal to any series’s success.

Physics and Steins;Gate: some initial impressions

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

At first glance, people may be very mistaken about Steins;Gate. After all, it has a 3:1 ratio of ladies to men (considering that Ruka’s actuations are heavily feminine despite her sex). I’ve been among those people who have prejudged the series to be little more than fluff, as I have read about what happened to Chaos;Head. I didn’t expect anything, and I still don’t, despite countless reviews and ratings probably proving me otherwise.

I have to see and adjudge for myself before jumping to conclusions, after all. I knew it was something quite palpably good even when I followed its earlier episodes as they aired because they held the technical aspects of the show in high accord. While the physics is of course, lacking, what was presented in the show was not incorrect, at least based on my previous physics subjects. Time travel is, at this point, a parascience rather than a true science, and Kurisu’s objections were not unfounded.

Yes, please be my professor.

I may be wrong, however, seeing that it’s been years since my last physics subject. Credit must, however, be given to the show because of its attention to detail: case in point would be the possibility of time travel is black holes could be synthesized at will. While I can’t present the specific publication, I have read about that in the past. The problem with this hypothesis is that, of course, black holes can’t be made perfunctorily: they can’t be made from out of the blue. It’s these small things that heighten my enjoyment of the show alongside the highly attractive Kurisu Makise.

I was also impressed with the commentary of Titor (and seemingly the enactment of time travel in the series) on how people could actually meet themselves in the past because the one coming from the future is actually on a different world line. It somehow reminded me of the Schrodinger’s Cat phenomenon, that one can never really know whether the cat is alive or dead in the different universes unless one opens the sealed pillbox. Since I’m not knowledgeable at quantum physics, I hope people can explain this idea to me.

On a tangential note, I loved the idea of time-travel that The Prestige held: there was something symbolic in Hugh Jackman’s character killing his clone just to execute his trick well. His teleportation came at the cost of his soul.

I may write about characters who have situations oddly similar to Okarin’s. Seeing that I’m just in the earlier parts, that will have to wait until later on. 🙂

Who’s your type?

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

I wonder why I haven’t restarted Steins;Gate. I know it’s good, at least from what I’ve seen, and thousands of people probably have seen something good to praise the series so avidly, even going so far as naming it as truly the best of the year. I’m actually troubled because I don’t know whether to restart it, seeing as it’s been months since I’ve last seen an episode of it, or just to continue it and recall as time passes. I’m leaning toward the former, however, as it’s better to have a more solid grasp of the matter especially with series so full of information as Steins;Gate.

I have this problem with anime. It’s so hard for me to start one if I’ve stopped watching, but it’s also so hard for me to stop once I’ve started. I watched Cross Game in a span of three days in medical school, no less, so after I did my assignments I just blazed through the night, slept through the classes, and continued this for two days more. I have no doubt that S;G is going to be good, because I just had that feeling during the summer break when I was watching the aired episodes. I couldn’t continue because I had already watched everything to be seen during that week, and just put that on the back of my mind when class started the following week. It didn’t help that I busied myself with a lady, as well. 😛

Oh well – that’s all in the past now. I really just want to watch Steins;Gate because of Kurisu, as intelligent, nice, and attractive ladies turn me on in any medium. I guess that was the reason why The Return of the Native was so memorable for me; it’s also probably the reason why I’m magnetized to heroines like Jean Grey. I find myself attracted to ladies who do not make themselves up or wish to attract attention to themselves, but who are smart and most definitely beautiful in their subtility. That may be quite a bad reason to start (or restart) watching a series, but I’ve stumbled on some gems because of that.

And yes, Akashi-san is totally my type: she’s an intelligent student of Engineering who’s quietly caring for Watashi. She’s also very attractive. So who’s your type?

A bit of stalking and Penguindrums

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

I didn’t watch any anime for about a month or so, but I watched the second episode of Mawaru Penguindrum today. Were more people willing to watch anime like these, it would simply annihilate their thoughts of it targeted for children. The second episode was well-executed and quite relevant, especially with the sporadic yet prominent cases of stalking.

I would say that stalking is a relevant phenomenon in Japan because one light novel (popular enough to be featured and published by Tokyopop) discussed it in detail. The light novel is Chain Mail, by Hiroshi Ishizaki. It’s an easy read, and the translation is fluid enough that the entire novel could be finished in two hours, perhaps even earlier for faster readers. It deals with a bunch of students who have major issues in their lives that they synthesize another world together by writing a novel with different personae in it. Trouble arises (from what I recall) when a certain troubled girl ‘stole’ another character and is confronted by another lady. Everything pans out in the end. There’s nothing really transcendent about the story, but it had a character characterize a stalker very colorfully: although Ringo is indeed a lot more benign than the stalker in the novel, I don’t think her actuations are even excusable: I think stalking in that form is downright disturbing.

This was really creepy.

I may have had perpetuated actions in my failed attempt to woo a girl that seem to approximate stalking a bit, but I have never crossed the line and certainly don’t do those things. I merely ask from friends who know that girl, and just go to the place that she’s at, but never more than that. Ringo’s mode of stalking is definitely creepy. I have read that stalking is somehow more prevalent (or maybe just more reported in Japan). Is it really?

I can’t fathom how people could allow themselves to be that attached to people without really talking to them consistently. Giving gifts and waiting for the person you like is one thing, but staying underneath his house listening to the radio programs that he likes is just horribly perturbing. I guess I’ve had a few faux pas in the past but none as grave as what Ringo has done.

Looking from the bottom of a shot glass: reflections

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Yesterday, I went out for a night of coarse drinking. Ever since I totally wasted myself five years ago, I vowed never to relive the stupidity and the need for reliance on other people: I realized that I should be responsible for myself and for the others who may need my help during these sessions. I wasn’t going to reconsider it for yesterday, although because of traumatic circumstances from my recent past I may have developed more of a tolerance for alcohol. I’m still not very fond of alcohol; frankly, I drank only because people become more conversant as well as patient listeners when they have taken in a bit of alcohol, and I needed that.

I'm glad I didn't vomit, but I drank the most shots yesterday.

There’s a different side to drinking that I have subtly enjoyed, however: once people have taken in enough alcohol, the inhibitions begin to pale away and their true nature is often seen. From that singular experience of being totally drunk I find myself a quiet man with an imposing superego, something that has been quite consistent with my quotidian existence these past few years. In short, I’m no fun when I’m drunk. I may burst into song, but for the most part I’ll stay quiet and wait until the heaviness and the languor get washed away by my body or by water.

I enjoy drinking as a spectator sport, however, because the mask of propriety falls off from people and their true colors come to the surface. People with hidden ‘wild sides’ allow these to come alive when they have taken in enough drink; people who are silent become uncharacteristically vociferous; and the men with rather untamed libidos have these rise to the fore. I’m just glad that my parents have raised me quite well to be scrupulous even in times of mental laxity (and chemical inebriation), and I am glad that they teach by example (although I make a few mistakes time and time again).

I wasn’t shortchanging myself yesterday, too. I think I probably had two bottles of beer, four shots of tequila, and the world spinning around me. Yet I could never find myself to be improper to ladies or to even be an ass to some of my friends (some even deserved it!). I could be an ass and am a big one at times, but these are often precipitated by my scruples and not by drink. While I was in my drunken stupor I was just wondering how painful it must have been for Yamada to never have gotten out that she liked Mayama after all that time: I knew that despite the watercolor backgrounds, Honey and Clover‘s relationships and characterizations were seated in real life, and that truly, especially after yesterday’s party, it really does break down some internal barriers and inspires a chemically-induced blase attitude as regards societal standards, even if only for hours. I didn’t really appreciate it back when I was still a true teetotaler, but I do now.

I admire her, however, for saying it even though she knew it would lead nowhere. I probably couldn’t do what she did even if was dead-drunk and vomiting like there was no tomorrow. She’s a bit pathetic: despite knowing she’s chasing air, she nevertheless admits to herself that it’s what she wanted, even if she hurts herself time and time again. But she’s also quite courageous for finally admitting to herself that she liked him despite everything. I have seen people tear their shirts off in public: I have even stuck my head in a freezer because I felt so hot after one time, because there was no water around, and I think I’m a bit allergic to alcohol. Only few people could compare with her feat of honesty and daring, however: to be courageous when defeat is imminent is a trait found mostly only on heroes, whether fictional or historical.

The blogger’s new clothes: a self-reminder

Monday, October 17th, 2011

Two years ago, it was all about headphones and vintage video games. A year ago, it was about soap. Recently, it has been all about clothes.

I find that I’m still quite an impulsive person driven by compulsive behavior at times. Despite this, however, I am seeing an improving trend. I am shifting towards items that offer more use to me in my day-to-day activities: whereas vintage video games and vintage soap aren’t very useful in the circadian rhythms of man, a well-chosen and fashionable wardrobe is quite important and beneficial to most people. I do agree that there is some truth in the aphorism, ‘Clothes make the man,’ because I frankly see it in myself as well. Two years ago I was content to wear shirts and pants that were one or two sizes too big. But when I made the effort to dress sharply, I also found myself to have increasing confidence. When one is in command with what he desires to wear, one tends to feel more confident: he has chosen that specific shirt for his wardrobe, and he is wearing that shirt precisely because he is comfortable with it.

I have purchased shirts left and right for the past three months; it has taken a toll on my savings. Unlike my previous obsessions, however, my pursuit of well-made shirts has an advantage: I actually use the shirts daily. While it is, of course, no excuse to purchase them profligately, as I have done, I find myself being drawn to the variegated choices of the tees that are all around me. I’m quite partial toward Adidas tees, however.

I’m writing this post because I want to stop myself from purchasing more shirts: I think what I have right now is enough. Since my Internet connection has finally returned, I am telling myself that there are tons of anime to watch. Aside from the newly released UN-GO and Last Exile 2, I’m sure there are still more hidden gems lurking around. That way, I can enjoy myself and still save the money I have used up these past few months.

I am back, and this time I’m on a paid server!

Monday, October 17th, 2011

It’s been pretty much a wild ride as regards my past semester: I’ve been on the ropes with my Orthopedics subject, and I think I’m on the ropes right now as well. That’s probably because I sleep seven hours a night on average as compared to most of my other classmates who make do with three to four a night. But I don’t think I would change anything, because this has been an enjoyable first semester to my final academic year of medicine.

And I still can't stop myself from using this!

I haven’t been updating recently on this blog because it has been down, and I have been told that the AB network has had difficulty procuring the necessary resources to keep it alive. While I’m not affluent, I have been fostered and taken care by the network for more than five years, so paying for the hosting that the network may continue is just a small price to pay (although I have to take care not to spend a lot on food now). At least I would have fewer downtimes in the succeeding year.

The last anime I have finished was still C, and the last episode I have seen was the sixth episode of Blood-C. I think that will continue for one more day, because I still have final exams on our Pathology lectures tomorrow, although I’m still quite tempted to just sleep and throw caution to the wind for tomorrow.