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Why I also like Rebuild of Evangelion

Just when I said I was going to write about anime, real life again interrupted. I admit, I was also lazy, with a lot of my write-ups started with fire but ending up embers.

Rei_smile_(Rebuild)

Her smile makes everything all right

It’s been almost fourteen years since I’ve become addicted with anime. From the humble beginnings of Gundam Wing, I’ve managed to watch a lot of anime into my college years. In fact, I’ve even managed to insert some anime-watching during medical school! I’ll probably never get over my love for anime.

One of the earliest anime series I’ve watched was Neon Genesis Evangelion. While I didn’t like it as much as Gundam Wing or Elfen Lied, it was among the series that made me realize that anime was so much than children’s cartoons. In contrast to the faux-happiness of series like Pokemon and Monster Rancher, it felt realistic.

It was violent. It was, at times, horrible. But it was and is a mature series. Like many other fans, I fell in love with Rei Ayanami; like them, I cringed at Shinji’s indecisiveness. I also felt flummoxed at its ending.

When Rebuild of Evangelion was announced, I was ecstatic. I wanted to see a different Evangelion: I wanted to see an Evangelion made by a non-depressed Anno, and he didn’t disappoint. The second movie was perhaps the highlight of the series: Rei had become truly human, and one of the most enduring un-realized love stories between Rei and Shinji had suggestions of actually becoming reality.

The third movie, however, was an utter disappointment in that regard. I was back to the Third Impact. I was back to the struggle against even more powerful angels, and I was back to an emotionless Rei. But I was content with this Evangelion.

Why?

This Evangelion was more realistic. I couldn’t curse Shinji anymore because he no longer hid from reality. His animus was no longer a coward. He was afraid, but he fought to make things right, in the previous movie and in this one. This was much unlike a Shinji tossed around by the people around him. This was a Shinji, at least, who chose. Even if he was distraught and devastated at the end of the third movie, Shinji chose for himself. Ultimately, that is why I like this iteration of Evangelion. These are more similar to teenagers conscious with their actions and the repercussions their actions entail: Asuka remained angry at Shinji, but she wasn’t that embittered. Even when he went against her, she still tried to save him, and didn’t physically molest him.

Rei, on the other hand, even chose for herself despite being another clone. She chose to go against the Angels. The teenagers are no longer mere pawns: they are human characters, and that is why I also like Rebuild.

Suisei no Gargantia: the first three episodes

I wanted to celebrate my return to anime by watching Mushishi Zoku Shou, as it seems to be the runaway selection for anime of this year. I have also obtained its ten episodes. I only realized it was subtitled in Chinese only when I opened it, so I have to download those episodes once more (although if you guys know where to get *.srt files of the series, please share your information).

As with most medical clerks, I have had a massive backlog of anime series, but the only complete one I haven’t touched before was Suisei no Gargantia, so that’s where I’m re-starting my hopefully more consistent anime blogging. I may not sustain this seeing that residency training or further studies lurk in the distance, but I’ll try to make up for lost time.

Suisei no Gargantia, from its first three episodes, is a generic sci-fi and mecha action series. Beyond that I really have little else to comment: I’m not watching Mushishi or Tatami Galaxy, after all. It’s not something I would recommend, but it’s not bad.

The absence explained: the journey to becoming a medical doctor

I looked at my previous posts and the last one I made was nearly a year ago. I’ve clearly put anime on the back-burner, but it’s for a very legitimate reason: the physician licensure examination began two weeks ago. There are a few things more important to me than anime, but being a licensed doctor is a lot more important than writing anime articles (for now).

I'm actually a doctor now.

I’m actually a doctor now.

In all honesty, I didn’t care much about medical school. That was primarily the reason that I was able to produce articles during the time period between 2009 and 2012. I stopped writing because I had to deal with menial work during my year in clerkship. The work was not only physically draining, however, but also mentally exhausting. At certain unlucky instances I would not have sleep for 40 hours; and particularly benign duties (24 hours long, plus 12 more hours of post-duty work) would allow me three hours of troubled sleep. I didn’t have time to watch anime, or be productive whenever I got home at the end of a 36-hour shift; and I would sleep early the next day in preparation for another 36-hour shift.

When I finally graduated in medical school I decided to properly prepare for the boards. I may not have had the passion for medicine as most of my peers, but I had enough responsibility to stick by my decision, which was to become a medical doctor, and I was going to be a medical doctor out of gratitude for a damn fine father. Gratitude is miles different from love, however: even now, I still honestly cannot say I love medicine.

I got my backlog of classic novels out of the way during the first two months of my post-graduate internship, and then started to prepare for the licensure examinations as rigorously as I knew how, which was to read as many reviewers as I possibly could with my spare time from duty. I had that much to catch-up to: all those barely passing marks came to bite me in the back, and I had ‘studied’ medicine for four years without really learning anything much. I’d say I cruised through it, rather than really studied it. I wrote a lot of articles about anime, and wrote pretty consistently because I spent time doing things other than studying. I could have passed as a part-time writer, DotA player, and overall bum, but not as zealous medical student. That description was for my classmates.

In the ten months I had left prior to graduating as a post-graduate intern (or PGI), I slowly culled the classics and literary reading from my backlog and kept on adding medical reviewers. This determination reached its apex during January through April this year, where I would read reviewers every spare time I had in between duties. My parents also acquiesced in enrolling me in a review center, just to bolster my chances of becoming a medical doctor.

The reader may think it quite queer for someone to be so determined at something one does not really love: I think this can be explained by my personality quirk which is the possession of an intense fear of failure. I think I am a serious person for the most part because I have this fear, as I don’t want to disappoint myself and others important to me.

When the formal review started, another four months passed with nothing more than reading through the different subjects. The breaks I allowed myself were: first, between five to six hours of sleep; and second, occasional excursions to the nearby mall for some novel food.

I could not allot any time for anime during all this time, and the reasons why are now quite obvious.

The results of the licensure examinations came out yesterday, and I am now a licensed physician. It’s time to start writing about anime once more. 🙂

Psycho-Pass: just when I thought I didn’t like anime anymore

In great examples of media that feature an opposition of ideals, the villain (or antagonist) is just as important as the hero. The Dark Knight is one of the more recent examples of this: although Christian Bale’s portrayal of Batman was cerebral and well-acted, it was undoubtedly Heath Ledger’s Joker who stole the show. He was irrational, brutal, and yet extremely effective. I even sincerely believe that as far as villains go, his was the best (and consequently, the worst): most people would agree, as he had won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. An actor portraying a supervillain winning an Oscar was unprecedented, yet most people were in approbation of the choice. The Dark Knight was nominated as one of the best pictures of 2008, and is recognized by many to be one of the best, if not the best superhero film of all time.

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Psycho-Pass possesses the same dynamic: in a futuristic world that is half-Neuromancer and half-1984 (as Makishima connotes), crime is prevented before it has even occurred. The series undeniably borrowed elements from The Minority Report (written by Philip K. Dick, and also alluded to by Makishima) as well. The story begins relatively innocently, with an intelligent rookie joining the Public Security Bureau. As the crimes progress in severity and brutality, however, the idea that a mastermind acts as a puppet-master to all the heinous crimes recently committed surfaces. As the story unfolds, he was a familiar figure in Kougami Shinya’s past (the Batman of this series).

Makishima (or the Joker) is a bit of an anarchist, although like Joker he enjoys destruction in and of itself. The whole series is essentially a cat-and-mouse game between these two characters. Like The Minority Report, however, the Sibyl System that holds together the society that everyone currently enjoys actually comes from dubious sources. The question of ‘free will’ looms over the characters, and like Louis Salinger of 2009’s International, Kougami has to go beyond what is defined to be ‘law’ in their place to actually enforce justice.

I love the literary allusions, from Rousseau, Kierkegaard, Foucault, and even Jeremy Bentham. Is it truly all right to sacrifice one man for the good of mankind? Is he not a human being all the same? The series offers no easy answers, and the ending, while by no means surprising, is actually a revisit of the themes that pervaded Nolan’s Dark Knight: sometimes, the only ones who could dispense justice are the ones that go beyond the law.

It’s a brilliant series that has restored my faith in anime once more. It’s been a while since I truly wrote about anime, and while not as special to me as Tatami Galaxy, Psycho-Pass is a great anime to watch, to think about, and to enjoy.

I’m coming back

I think Summer 2013 will force me to return to watching anime.

I’ve ignored anime for too long.

But with the coming of Tsukihime, and even a new season of Spice and Wolf and the last season of Full Metal Panic, plus great manga adaptations such as Otoyomegatari, Yankee-kun to Megane-chan, and Yotsubato, I don’t think I can hold myself off any longer. Of course there’s also a new series helmed by Shinichiro Watanabe, and a new season of Sailor Moon.

OMG IT’S JUST LIKE 2010!!!

Rants from a Moribund Man: the Powerpoint pen

Yesterday, I had so much to say about different things. I guess after running on a day and a half without sleep, what I had to say condensed itself a bit. Perhaps these may simply be rants, but I hope it makes sense to someone who’s reading it.

I developed a recent hobby after saving for and purchasing a rare Casio console roughly three years ago. After receiving the item I bought on eBay, I was exposed to its beauty and madness. I honestly still wish to purchase certain items, although I’m still sane enough that I can hold myself back from emptying my savings on an obsolete video game system.

I think my last chance was with someone who sells these systems with a fair price. That’s extremely rare, but it is possible when the magic of video game collection fades to become mere embers dovetails with the pragmatism of saving space and breaking even. I found someone like that who had sold a rare cartridge of a rare system for a fair, even cheap price, but sadly he hasn’t replied recently and I really don’t have much time to wait anymore.

I could try and return to pining for tees but then again a lot of the good ones still end up very expensive, and I get outbid most of the time. One tee that I kept on my watch list ended up selling for 50 dollars. That’s as expensive as brand new original Adidas shirts. I tried looking for alternatives. I’m just searching for stuff to bid for to transform boredom into pining.

And I found it in ballpens.

I had initially sought to purchase a Parker Jotter in violet, as that’s my favorite color, but then the curious part of me managed to end up interested in a Papermate Powerpoint. Currently, that’s what I’m bidding for. I never said it was sane, but people in such tiring and stressful situations such as I need something to run to aside from their friends and family. I have my chess and my video game collections. Seeing that both have slowly been taken away from me because of a lack of free time shared with friends, I decided to go with the name that was eponymous to an office program that has so many uses for a medical student. I’m hoping that I could win the bidding so I’ll probably increase my bid a bit more, but if I lose I will simply stop and look for other alternatives. Here’s hoping get to bid for a cheaper one.

I was interested in the pen because of its ability to write in any position, but I was interested primarily because of its amusing videos despite the pen’s age. Here’s one among them:

At the end of it all at least I’m no longer spending thousands on extremely obsolete video game systems. It saves me a lot more money, so I have to find even cheaper alternatives.

(Yes, it’s obvious that I didn’t even have energy to edit my sentences properly. Forgive me.)

Lupin III: The Woman Named Mine Fujiko – 02

I probably won’t be able to write tomorrow seeing that I return to duty, but I like the new Lupin series. I didn’t even know Takashi Koike was involved, but I was impressed with the first episode, so I decided to keep watching. The second episode didn’t really let up in terms of quality, either. I hope the series keeps up the grit I’ve been seeing the past two episodes, because it is something one rarely sees in a Lupin III series.

I watched some Lupin III episodes back when I was younger, and I wasn’t impressed with the bungling misadventures of Lupin and his friends. However, in stark contrast to that, Lupin was a competent and intelligent thief in the very first episode of this Mine Fujiko series: his verbal fencing with Mine Fujiko and their maneuverings throughout the episode were fun to watch. The series seems to retain the insouciance of Lupin without making him seem like a joke character, which was what the original manga was all about anyway.

The second episode didn’t have less of that grit. Although it dealt with Jigen this time around, the story was actually quite captivating: it wasn’t until the end where Cicciolina’s motivations were cleared up, and it turned out to be no less than a tragedy.

I often feel empathetic toward stories that have one character seek their inexorable damnation through the people they love the most. I think I love the duality between love and sacrifice that evince itself through these situations: that’s probably the reason why I like the Cowboy Bebop movie quite a bit, because Vincent Volaju was a bit like Cicciolina.

This season has been quite a pleasant surprise.

Sakamichi no Apollon – 01: two words – WATCH IT.

There’s always something in a first episode that insinuates greatness in an anime. It’s difficult to describe, but it’s akin to a sliver of pain and happiness that touches the heart. I felt that from the very first minute I tuned in to Sakamichi no Apollon. Perhaps it’s because it’s been years since I heard YUKI in an anime series; perhaps because it’s been years since I’ve seen Shinichiro Watanabe direct an anime, or perhaps it is because of a multitude of factors combined.

I had been touting Sakamichi no Apollon as probably going to be the year’s best even before I saw one episode of it because of its staff, and after the first episode, it seems that I’m not wrong. Although quite unlike Watanabe’s previous two series in that it’s not rooted in action and violence, the characters and the dialogue remain to be sparkling yet minimalistic at the same time, approximating Hemingway’s works. It’s beautiful, in every sense of the word, from its fluid ‘action’ scenes to its character build-up.

It’s so good that to even attempt to summarize it would be to do it a disservice as words cannot, at least for me, express how beautiful it coalesced the characters and the plot together. But if one were to watch only one series this year, I suggest one watch this. I doubt that Watanabe would let up with his excellence, as he had never done so with his two previous masterpieces.

Final words on Ano Natsu: sorry for the delay

I actually finished Ano Natsu de Matteru weeks ago. Sadly, however, I haven’t been able to log on for quite some time due to issues with my connection. It ended very well, save for the Men in Black hijinks, but it was a nevertheless very well done series. The video of the friends spending their summer together despite their separation with Ichika was honestly tearjerking, and the uncertainty and sadness with Ichika being spirited away from Kai was quite overwhelming.

This was my feeling when I finished Ano Natsu. 🙂

I was happy with how it ended, though, and how it subtly showed Ichika’s return. I had no expectations whatsoever with the series, but it was honestly one of the best Winter 2012 had to offer. I honestly doubt it would end up as one of the best of the year, however, especially with the strength of the Spring season. It was a series one could say little about, but it was a great series simply because it did everything in its ability exceptionally well. It was great with its handling of its characters; it was great with evocation and although the plot was barebones the rest were enough to carry the series beautifully.

And yes, it was better than Ano Hana. Any dissenting opinions? 🙂

The beauty of simplicity: Ano Natsu de Matteru

I guess I was raised to value the complexity of intelligence and the intelligence of complexity that it reflects in my passions and wishes in life. I have been quite vocal regarding undeserved praise towards pedestrian novels such as the Twilight saga, and I admit that my favorite novels are those that are either ignored or willfully unread by the hoi polloi. I know that what I read are classics, although they are currently rather ignored. Among my most favorite novels is William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom, which jarringly shifts through time and person to tell a story that coalesces upon itself at its end. In the same vein is the symbolist masterpiece, Petersburg, by Andrei Bely.

I think the same could be said with regard to my choice in movies. I don’t seek to be idiosyncratic, but I prefer The Killing to any other movies by Stanley Kubrick, and sincerely wished that Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy replaced an undeserving Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close in the recent Academy Award nominations for Best Picture. I love watching films that so beautifully invoke the tip-of-the iceberg image by Freud: there is an elephantine mass gurgling and burbling beneath the surface that is up to the viewer to decipher, enjoy, and decode for himself, with so little to see on the surface itself. I was never fond of the easy way out in the things I loved.

Because this show is that awesome

I think that I have been consistent, even in relatively lesser media such as anime. The Tatami Galaxy was a masterpiece of prognostication, multiple viewpoints and intertwining realities, but it took rather astute observers to appreciate its nuances. Steins;Gate was also masterful because of its ability to connect and twist the story to become esemplastic, and it was reminiscent, at least for me, of The Sound and the Fury.

While I prefer the complex and intellectual examples in my favorite media, there are exceptions to all of them, and the most recent one is the series Ano Natsu de Matteru.

The series is not complex: it does not require multiple re-watches to understand the story, but like the simple and yet beautiful Mice and Men novella by Steinbeck, it simply and incandescently gets the job done. It is a bildungsroman of a certain Kaito, who, like most of us back when we were in high school, sought his own identity in the context of his society. While the story is essentially a rehash, the characters that interact with one another make it one of the better, if not the best examples of anime, because it has characters that are essentially human but also essentially good.

While most people would probably be unimpressed with the flow of the plot, I simply found the empathetic characters to be among the best-written among the series I’ve watched. We all have to admit that it was Lennie and George who made Of Mice and Men, after all. Anything can have a barebones plot, and as long as the characters that pepper that story are rife with life and color, it would be at the very least good. I think Ano Natsu approximates that.