Archive for January, 2008

Mahou Shoujo Kyou!

Kalium gave me this.

Blame him.

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Image completely unrelated.

I have no idea what to do for the one year mark of this blog's existence, and so I shall ramble aimlessly on nothing in particular, until someone either suggests something satisfactory, or comes to take me away for the good of all humanity.

Apart from the period of time when I did not actually have a computer upon which to make posts, I have kept my goal, admittedly not especially demanding, of two posts a week, until the day I die. Remember that I only promise two posts a week, without any mention of the substance therein, which you, gentle readers, may have to create for yourselves from out of the aether, in violation of the conservation of mass, save for arguments involving hammerspace, and possibly its close cousin hammertime. That, as has been noted before, is the sort of thing which we cannot touch.

In this year of blogging anime, as well as blogging about anime, I have learned a great many things about the hobby which I decided about one year before to engage in. For one thing, it requires a passion for both anime and writing which cannot be faked: I actually enjoy writing up these little posts which may not necessarily be read by anyone save myself, and I might well consider this blog a massive success if it merely stands as an archive of Card Captor Sakura episode summaries for my own perusal. Further experiences in blogging showed most indubitably that it also requires a good spam-blocker, because, in an unexpected application of a variation on Sturgeon's Law/Revelation, ninety percent of the Internet sucks.

Most of all, though, I learned that I hate writing episode summaries, due to reasons of sloth.

For all that the subject of editorials vs episode summaries come up, I've found that writing an episode summary, even just a bland recounting of what happened in the episode in question, is much more difficult than writing an editorial. It could be just me, since I tend to be more than a little opinionated on certain subjects, and I have a great deal of experience in using far more words than necessary to pad out a single statement into a post two thousand words or so long.

Even so, perhaps "difficult" is the wrong word to use; "tedious" might be a closer approximation. I have mentioned before that content may elude me occasionally, but structure is a constant thorn. All I want to do is write something, anything, but before I can, first I must take screenshots and resize them and hammer out the IMG tags and make sure that they all point to wherever they're supposed to and carefully arrange everything artfully and try not to stretch the blog too much and keep everything XHTML-compliant and so on and so forth in the manner exemplified by this inexcusably prolonged sentence.

When I write a Card Captor Sakura episode summary, it takes me about four hours from "I should write a CCS episode summary" to "okay, it's done". About half an hour is taken watching the episode and taking screenshots, and half an hour is spent writing up the actual text of the summary. The other three hours are spent trying to decide which screenshots to keep and which to discard, as well as resizing them and renaming them (thank you IrfanView) and then placing the skeletal framework of the post into the text editor and editing it all into something which works for this episode but which will need to be edited again for the next episode, and then carefully altering stuff like image file names one at a time, until my eyes glaze over as I realize how all of this seems very suspiciously like work.

In other words, one quarter of the time spent on an episode summary post has to do with the content, while the other three quarters have to do with making the post look pretty. This strikes me as an unfortunate and yet ineluctable state of affairs.

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This entry is part 18 of 20 in the series CCS Episode Summaries

Title Screenshot

The problem with writing Card Captor Sakura episode summaries is that I cannot exactly be objective about it. Since it's my absolute favourite anime of all time, I have to rely on my passion for it to draw out each and every summary which you have seen thus far in this category. Emotions, however, are fickle things, and easily influenced by outside interference.

For the past two months, I have been suffering through renovation works on the apartment below mine, which means that very loud drills and hammerings have been a constant accompaniment to the hot and muggy climate filled with all sorts of unpleasant polluting particulates. This is not a conducive sort of mood to review an episode of my favourite anime with anything resembling rational thought. Instead, I have become a sort of slightly crazed caricature of my usual mellow self, filled brimful with undirected bile which cannot be siphoned off without a week or so of blowing things up in violent games.

But I have this anime blog to feed, ravenous beast as it is. Open wide…

As mentioned in the last summary, the in-DVD extras for the fifth disc of Card Captor Sakura is another art gallery, filled with line art of Meiling with various expressions, a bit of Yamazaki, a few of Sakura's battle costumes (not necessarily from this DVD), and assorted inanimate objects. This would probably be a lot more interesting to me if it weren't stuck at its current resolution size.

Episode 18 of Card Captor Sakura, "Sakura, Yukito, and the Summer Festival", is one of those Requisite Anime Settings for any series of significant length per amount of plot set in Japan: the natsu-matsuri, which translates quite directly to "summer festival". For the most part, these have a set of components that are available more often than not, to be put together however the plot wishes. We have the noise, the heat, and the crowds. We have the stalls, some of which sell food, some of which offer games of alleged skill. In the more specific sorts of summer festivals, we have the bon-odori. Occasionally there are even fireworks.

And of course, we have the sight of characters in yukata, which, as Konata notes in Lucky Star, would probably trigger a flag in dating sims. Presumably this is akin to seeing someone in a formal tuxedo or evening dress; we see them every day in more casual clothes or uniforms, and a switch of attire to something more fashionable may be a welcome change in scenery.

This episode is rather slower in pace, but heavy with portentous foreshadowing. It is as though this is an intentional decision to best portray the lazy days of summer holidays, all while carefully not thinking about the sullen, looming pile of summer homework squatting in the corner like some infernal harbinger of despair.

Such as it is.

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Riot Zanber.

One of the issues often raised is how much anime blogs, at least in the rather incestuous community which the Popular Anime Blogs are mostly a part of, tend to focus their sights on the Newest Anime, currently being broadcast at this very moment in Japan. The lament is that people who don't keep up with the newest and freshest feel left out in the cold, with nothing to inform them on what they can actually obtain in a wholly legal manner. (Rant excised For Your Convenience.)

I've gotten several compliments for my episode summaries for Card Captor Sakura, by no means a new series. On the flipside, I've also been the target of several puzzled looks and questions on why I am spending my time with older series, which everyone can presumably watch for themselves. I remain peacefully in my zen of simultaneously Doing It Right and Doing It Wrong at the same time.

And since it's been a while since I had the time to sit down and watch some anime for the sake of personal enjoyment, rather than as a prelude to some blog post in the near future where I wax sesquipedalian over what would invariably amount to an incoherent fanboy gush over a female character or other, I have taken the opportunity to finish up watching a few series which have not actually obtained the distinction of being old enough to get a DVD release with subs, but which are nevertheless not new, and not of this current season.

It's a refreshing feeling to be able to make all the usual comments about a plot development without having to write it down. Although I have to admit that the primary purpose of this post is entirely so that I can use that joke.

In about a week (the 26th of January, to be precise), this blog will hit one year of active operation. I have no idea what I'm going to do for that; suggestions would be welcome.

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Shocked Maria.Shocked surprised Maria.
Resigned Maria.Troubled Maria.
Niko-niko Maria.Suspicious Maria.
Excited Maria.Slightly embarrassed Maria.
Terrified Maria.Angry Maria.
Scared Maria.Happy Maria.

While I don't really get a lot of the references in Hayate no Gotoku, at least there's still a reason for me to keep watching.

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Konata and Kagami on DSes.

For the most part, I'm not keen on having a fellow co-blogger, since I have such a formidable raft of criteria before I can even consider anyone else writing in this blog.

Oddly enough, there aren't even that many rules to follow. Be polite, be civil, don't snark at other people, have good spelling and grammar, focus on what you love rather than what you hate, and always remember that this is supposed to be fun. I'm sure that there will be some loophole in these six rules (which I've been trying to follow myself ever since I started blogging, sadly not without lapses) that would infuriate me into tacking on all sorts of caveats and addenda, but if one takes the general view, there's really only two things I'd demand from a co-blogger: Be coherent. Be nice.

When I outline this to other bloggers, they tell me that I ask the impossible. The thought that they might be right is depressing.

Having said that, I am sorely tempted to seriously consider asking for another blogger to share the burden, except that the burden I refer to is that of the technical side of blogging. In other words, someone to take care of all the stuff related to making sure the blog is actually there, before any content can be put in it. Someone who has an aesthetic sense which extends past my current "um, it looks good? I dunno, maybe it doesn't". Someone who doesn't need to actually write anything in the blog, but to whom I will be grateful to if they only keep the blog running.

When I started this blog, I thought that my greatest fear would be Blogger's Block, but now I know that few things hold as much terror as the little message when I check my blog informing me that I will have to update my WordPress installation again.

And after I do that, I have to look for a theme which looks good but not too crowded, easy on the eyes, simple to navigate, distinctive enough from other well-known anime blogs to be relatively unique, supports the current WordPress version, brings out a sense of peacefulness, so on and so forth. Then I have to actually update the installation and edit the sidebar and check that the plugins still work and see if any of them need updating and update those that do and disable those that died and come up with header images and suck horribly at image editing and throw it all together and GOOD GODS PEOPLE DO YOU SEE HOW MUCH TIME I'VE SPENT ON THIS I JUST WANT TO WRITE ABOUT ANIME DAMMIT and then I hide in a corner of my room curled up into a little ball weeping quietly for the death of my hopes and dreams.

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From Koharu Biyori

One reason I haven't been as enthusiastic about updating my blog recently is because I have once again been bitten by the fanfiction bug, which bears an uncanny resemblance to the Common Plot Bunny, thus creating a sort of horrific entomological lagomorph, otherwise known as Bugs Bunny.

Bear with me, I'll get to the point soon enough.

In the long, rambling thread in the Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha subforum about Original Characters, which has long since mutated into something only barely recognizable as a sounding board for said fanfic original characters set in the universe and is now mostly a Random Discussion area, there were three Youtube videos posted, which were supposed to be the 2ch-voted Best 300 Anime Songs (OP, ED, Insert, Image, whatever) of all time. (If you're wondering, number one is "Cruel Angel's Thesis", the OP from Neon Genesis Evangelion, at over 1600 votes. I'll get to this later.) If you have a Nico Nico Douga account, the videos are here, here, and here.

Somewhat coincidentally, I came across a post by 0rion over at Epic Win which discusses something very relevant, which is: what makes a good anime OP?

Now, I'll take a cue from him and narrow the focus down to OPs only, since if we open it up to EDs and Inserts and Image Songs and such, my brain will explode. Even then, I'm nowhere near an expert in something like this, since not only am I relatively ignorant when it comes to the huge amount of anime that has ever been released, but I also have a very bad memory, and I'm sure that after I post this, someone will comment with an example which makes me go "WHY DIDN'T I THINK OF THAT" and then I have to go on a training death course to redeem myself.

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The show even has Norio Wakamoto in it.

What is with the fascination in anime to make the characters from Romance of the Three Kingdoms into girls?

And no, this isn't a complaint about "OMG they're moe-fying everything". Instead, it's a complaint from the other direction: why RoTK? There's plenty of other source material to draw on. I don't think I've seen an adaptation of Sun Wukong (or Son Goku, in the Japanese translation) featuring lots of girls, that one episode of Love Hina notwithstanding. Yes, there's Saiyuki, and the more famous but less faithfully-adapted Dragonball, but those contain very Manly Men of varying degrees of homoeroticism.

Another story I can think of which gets immense attention in anime off the top of my head would be the amalgamation of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll, which also gets plenty of mention in non-anime stories. I wonder if there's another reason for their popularity other than simply being familiar.

I wonder how anime would handle, say, the stories of Sherlock Holmes as depicted by cute lolis.

(After seeing how Marvel and DC adapt their own creations without regard for continuity, or more to the point Disney and its interpretations of classic tales, I apologize for nothing.)

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This entry is part 17 of 20 in the series CCS Episode Summaries

Title Screenshot

You have no idea how deep I had to dig through the strata of books and DVDs to find this one. While I accept part of the blame for accidentally messing up not just order but also series, I have to frown significantly at Pioneer, or at least the ghost of what was once Geneon which was once Pioneer, for not including numbers on the CCS DVDs.

The… fifth? Yes, I think it's the fifth… DVD of Card Captor Sakura is titled "Vacation Daze", in the predictable pun about how three of the four episodes in this disc deal with Sakura's summer vacation. I suppose that one is more likely to remember the more hectic parts of one's holidays, as evidenced by the blurb:

Summer is nearly over but Sakura's tests never end! Sakura's school stages a test of courage in some scary caves, but when the Erase Card makes her friends disappear, Sakura and Li rise to the challenge! Then, The Glow Card creates a romantic mood with Yukito, only to have it spoiled by Li, Toya, and her undone homework… If only The Move Card would leave her books alone! Finally, Li's cousin, Mei Lin, arrives from Hong Kong to help Li capture the Clow Cards, but she thinks Sakura likes Li! No way!

Way.

I'll leave the in-DVD extras for next time, but the out-of-DVD extra consists of a postcard of the CCS girls on the beach, meaning Sakura, Tomoyo, the trio of Chiharu, Naoko, and Rika, the soon-to-be-introduced Meiling, and the definitely-not-introduced-yet Kaho Mizuki as the only adult present. The caption is "Fun In The Sun", and all this would probably be more appropriate if I were reviewing it half a year from now, when it's actually summer in the northern hemisphere.

For now, we'll deal with what would technically be the staple beach episode of the series (well, this season anyway), entitled "Sakura's Scary Test of Courage", referring to the kimodameshi activity which happens on lonely, spooky nights, usually organized by friends of a certain couple trying to get them together. If anime is to be believed, summer is a time of beach excursions and scary stories.

Also, natsu-matsuri, but that's the next episode.

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