Archive for February, 2008

This entry is part 2 of 43 in the series Nanoha GamerS

Just a teaser image.

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This entry is part 1 of 43 in the series Nanoha GamerS

Just a teaser image.

Read the rest of this entry »

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You may have noticed that I haven't been updating all that much lately.

Or rather, to be more specific, I've been following the same Two Posts Per Week schedule which I had set for myself when I started this blog, but these posts seldom have any true substance. Instead, I seem to be making up ramblings extempore which have only the most marginal relationship to anime, and the subset of fandom which involves blogging about it.

This sort of thing happens in cycles. Sometimes I am brimful of brilliant ideas which I cannot wait to share with the world at large, and I trumpet these thoughts out in the space allotted to me here on this blog. At other times, I have nothing to say other than a simple "mrph".

For the past few weeks, I've been working on my Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha fanfic. Most of the time spent on this endeavour is on discussion with other fans, rather than actual writing. I had been burned badly on this very fanfic, where an ill-explained piece of canon was slightly better explained in an out-of-series source, which nevertheless struck down the edifice of theory I had so carefully constructed and built my story around. And so I make sure that everything I intend to put into the story does not contradict canon, which is no mean task when canon itself contradicts common sense. (Seriously, it's a mess.)

All this came to a head when I took a look at the calendar, and realized that it's Wednesday. I'm supposed to write my Two Posts Per Week, and I haven't even started on picking the topic. Well, a Card Captor Sakura episode summary always seems to go down well. I found the disc and popped it into the drive.

About ten minutes into the episode, I found myself looking at the clock. I was considering leaving it for tomorrow, but no, I'd mess up the screenshot order and I'd have to start all over again. I was trying to psych myself into a less melancholic mood, without much success, which boded ill for the actual episode summary, since I'd probably fill it with forced and unfunny jokes.

And then I realized something: I was watching my favourite anime ever, in order to comment on it as I have done many times before, all for the sake of a hobby blog, and I was not enjoying myself. I was forcing myself through it. Haven't I heard about this from other, more experienced bloggers before?

This is burnout!

Yes, I actually said that out loud to myself. It was that startling of a revelation. I didn't have anything compelling enough in the world of Anime Suitable For Blogging that I immersed myself in the far more interesting world of fanfiction, and when I had to pull myself away to discharge my obligations onto this blog, it was akin to being separated from a favourite toy. It may be an immature reaction, but one can hardly expect me to approach the responsibility of the blog with anything resembling good grace.

Besides, this is a blog about Japanese cartoons and the cute girls therein. I think I'm entitled to be immature, if only for the sake of consistency.

I'm not sure what I should be doing to solve this conundrum. I could bring my fanfictional ramblings into this blog: after all, it's an anime fanfic. I also seem to remember a few conversations over on #AnimeBlogger which were unexpectedly encouraging about the discussion of fanfiction on anime blogs, possibly for variety. However, fanfiction also appears to be something of an Acceptable Target for jibes and barbs serious enough to leave wounds.

I could also just grab random screenshots from random anime, and give them incredibly discreet one-line captions with painfully understated jokes, just so that it would be as obvious as SCREAMING IN YOUR FACE, except approached from the other side.

The choice is yours. Unless I don't get any responses at all, in which case I'll just run head-first into a wall or something until another idea pops out.

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Fure Fureppon Pon, from Goshuushou-sama Ninomiya-kun.

My excuse for not updating much this week.

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But where's Kuroha?

You know, the weird thing is that I had to stare at this poster for the longest time before it dawned on me that technically speaking, they were right.

Technically my favourite character from Rental Magica is Manami Kuroha, but she seems to get unusually short shrift in terms of screentime and characterization. A pity for a character so interesting.

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Yutaka bopping with headphones.

"I never got into drama CDs, so I don't care who's in the cast. If the voices match the characters in the original series, I'm okay."

I am quite well aware that the Lucky Star dub trailer might have its status as news revoked for being past its time, thus making it olds or some such. Even so, I did not actually get a chance to watch it until very recently. If you'd like to see it for yourself (and do not trust Youtube), it's one of the randomly-displayed trailers on the front page of Bandai Entertainment.

The whole sub vs dub thing has been around for a long time, ever since the advent of anime translated, in one form or another, into English. Possibly foreign films in general have had such a situation even before then, but it was mostly the influence of highly-opinionated and loud fans, used more to passion than reason, that brought the debate into the gutter level, or even below that, into the fiery pits of Internet Serious Business. All the arguments have been raised at one point or another, whether or not they actually make any sort of sense. This is a not-very-subtle notice to commenters that if the same arguments are brought up here without anything new, I may have to take drastic measures.

All complaints about translations aside (witness the description on the official site of Kagami being "aloof-chummy"; I don't blame them, since I don't know how to translate "tsundere" for the casual viewers either), personally my view is just about parallel to Kagami's (dubbed) line used as the post quote: I can watch subs, and I can watch dubs, and for the simpler non-jargon series I can even watch them raw, but if the voices don't seem to fit the character, whether in English or Japanese, then I'm going to notice.

Now, as is often raised for the matter, if one is using the R1 US releases on DVDs, one can usually choose one's preferred poison. I almost always watch the subbed version first, because I'm used to it, no more and no less; it is a mere habit which I picked up early on, and which I do not see any need to change. If the subbed version is all that is available, I will not feel any great sense of loss. But just as often, after I have finished watching the episodes on that DVD in its original Japanese language, I will find a time to watch the whole thing again, this time with the English dub.

Call it curiosity. The days of stilted, amateur-sounding dubs have long passed, and the dub actors are quite competent, at least for the majority of cases. For a great many series, I found nothing wrong with the English voices, although, as mentioned, I'm used to the Japanese audio. But to make that decision, first I have to listen to both tracks with an open mind unprejudiced by earlier examples, which is probably why I don't feel as strongly about the whole issue.

This is not to say that everything comes up hearts, though. I've noticed, in a lot of anime, that the dubs seem to be missing something for a certain character type, or at least a certain range of character types.

Take the Lucky Star dub trailer for example. Konata and Kagami aren't too bad, in my opinion: they have the feel of laid-back slacker-ness and no-nonsense practicality respectively, which I believe English dubs have well in hand, along with the suave ladies' man sort, as well as the loud enthusiastic types (I can imagine Lina Inverse from Slayers with Lisa Ortiz's voice as easily as Megumi Hayashibara's).

But Miyuki is… off. She sounds more arrogant than she should be, which is probably a problem with the intonation. When she mentions that she can't swim well because she can't keep her eyes open underwater, I couldn't help but imagine that voice adding "but I'm still better than you, hmph!" It's especially jarring, because, as mentioned, the voice does not match the character.

I've also noticed the same thing in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, where Mikuru's English dub actress doesn't quite seem to be able to keep the high-pitched tone "cute" instead of "forced". Annoyingly cute they can manage, but sweet cute not quite. This is, incidentally, not entirely unique to English dubs. While myco has a strong singing voice in Full Moon wo Sagashite, that voice is much deeper than what 12-year old Mitsuki should have, and you can clearly hear her forcing the falsetto during the non-singing portions, especially in the early episodes.

I don't quite know why this is so, but I suspect it could be something to do with what is, at base, a limited pool range. There may be a lot of very talented voice actors and actresses for plenty of character types which they "fit", but as the character curve ascends towards the more blatantly moe, the number of suitable voices peters out; whereas in the Japanese seiyuu industry, the sugary-cute moe voice has become something of an industry, with Rie Kugimiya, Haruko Momoi, and Yukari Tamura coming immediately to mind, or perhaps Mamiko Noto, Ayako Kawasumi, and Yui Horie for the slightly less loli incarnations. And then we have the motherly roles with Kikuko Inoue, Kansai-ben with Kana Ueda, and Megumi Hayashibara Is Everywhere.

Compare with the Old Man voice roles in Japanese being almost entirely taken by Kenichi Ogata, Mugihito, or, if they are badass enough, Norio Wakamoto. The pool is also weighted, but just differently.

This would probably be something for a more dedicated scholar to research, since there are just too many variables for me to think about at once without getting a headache. We could look at the moe-less Cowboy Bebop and its fan-acclaimed English dub, and we can look at the very moe Card Captor Sakura and its equally fan-despised dub, but then that would ignore the different approaches to adaptations, where Cowboy Bebop is supposedly kept very close to the original during the transition to English, while Card Captor Sakura was the result of a Macekre into Cardcaptors; perhaps the dub actors and actresses were chosen based on those.

And of course, it could very well go both ways, and some English-language series could have received less-than-stellar dubs in Japanese. But then that is way outside the scope of this blog.

I'm actually looking forward to the Lucky Star dub, because a series with that much talking should provide lots of dub material to compare to the original. Considering how much I've already watched the series (fan)subbed, I'm tempted to jump right into the dub. I might not like it, but at least I'm willing to listen.

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As per the events in volume seven.

So I've been busy these past few weeks with preparations for and the actual celebration of Chinese New Year, as well as my sister and her husband visiting from the US. That's right, not only do you, gentle readers, get an improbably weak excuse for my lack of anything truly substantial, but there will be an accompanying pointless ramble to fill the blank white space on your screen with Big Words of Little Consequence. These may even be sesquipedalian.

Also, some random picture(s) from an imageboard or other. This is a blog about moe, after all.

Now, I will be raising various seemingly unrelated points, and then joining them together into what I hope would be a vaguely coherent whole by the end of the post. Therefore, do please bear with me while I jump from topic to topic.

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Ayumu Nishizawa, captured.

I am, as the evidence in the blog archives can painfully attest, not very good with self-induced blogging deadlines which approach me stealthily like some sort of dastardly rogue bound and determined to use all those extra Sneak Attack dice, leading to a desperate last-minute rush to hammer out a post extempore.

Plenty of other blogs have, by now, wished one and all a Happy Chinese New Year, or some equivalent sentiment, and I see no reason to be any different. Much has also been made about the zodiac animal baton being passed to the Rat, ranging from the direct reference to Yuki Sohma from Fruits Basket, to ranging further afield with rodents in general, featuring Chamo the ermine from Mahou Sensei Negima or Yuuno in ferret form of Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha. I'm sure that there are other rat-like beings or characters associated with such in anime which I am blanking on at the moment.

And of course, the title picture is Ayumu Nishizawa from Hayate the Combat Butler, whose attachment to Rodentia is what appears to be her nickname and animal totem, the hamster. Said hamster was the embodiment of her fighting spirit, albeit for the very brief time it was around before Nagi's dragon ate it.

Nishizawa has vowed revenge. Possibly this may involve radioactive hamsters from a planet near Mars.

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The stats of Yuki Nagato.

I had a much longer post prepared for this topic, but then I realized how much like work it would turn out to become. Therefore, you get the shortened digest version. Be thankful.

I've been around fandoms for about a dozen years now, and I say this not to establish any sort of position of superiority other than that of personal experience, which I can point to in order to convince others that this is not an isolated incident. In any case, one of the things I've caught a surprising amount of flack for is that I tend to nitpick.

I'm sure that a great many of you have already seen or heard of the meme interdicting the discussion of real physics in the world of anime, threatening catgirl genocide for the temerity of the supplicant wondering how a certain plot point works. The implication is that we, as viewers and consumers, are not to examine all this closely.

Now, for some of these works, the examination can, in fact, be done, but not too closely, since the finely granulated inspection and the pulling of loose plot threads might cause the whole thing to unravel like a bad sweater. But for some series, we may not examine it at all, for, to continue with the sartorial similes, they have more holes than chain mail.

Why does this happen? Why does that happen? How can the Clow Cards of Card Captor Sakura so easily disregard the laws of conservation of mass and energy, creating and destroying it as they see fit without the resultant complications and the tearing of reality along that perforated line? The flippant answer given in this case is that A Wizard Did It. That, I would retort, is precisely the problem.

While there may be other fandoms which have a much worse track record of having things make no internal sense, the fandom I've been poking at these days is the Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha fandom, entirely because I am still working on that fanfiction since pre-StrikerS days (although not before the actual announcement of the then-future existence of StrikerS). Now, among other things, the discussions with like-minded fans on the matter have established that the creators (Seven Arcs) have no clue what they are doing, and just want things to look really cool.

On a tangent, and you may skip this paragraph if you wish, I've noticed that during said discussions on how the world of MSLN (which I call the Nanoha-verse, although I'm not sure who came up with the name) works, things get heated very easily, with the participants insulting each others' intelligences and observational skills. I was told that this was Standard Debating Form, which might explain why I get all sorts of dirty looks when I mention that I'm a nitpicker. Of course, considering the link fanfiction has with slash fandom, or the recent sexualized reputation of moe, this is not a new situation for me.

I should probably mention that just because I nitpick does not mean that I dislike the series in any overall sense. Yes, I may be frustrated by the inconsistencies, but I am perfectly capable of sitting back and enjoying half an hour of not thinking, which should be obvious considering that my anime genre of choice is the harem romantic comedy.

However, when I say that I nitpick because I love, I mean it. If I were uninterested in a series, or worse yet actively unimpressed, then I would not bother to nitpick, since to nitpick would require me to spend a great deal of time and effort with the very thing I do not like. When I find a show I like, though, I tend to obsess over it, and thus break the aforesaid rule of not examining it too closely. And when I find a discrepancy, I try to find out as much as I can about that aspect of the fictional universe, just so that I can try to explain away the plot and backstory holes to my satisfaction.

There is a relatively established term for this, common among most fandoms, called "fanwanking". Fanwank is the direct cause for those The Science Of Star Trek books, or indeed most The Science of books in general. The whole exercise involves a hefty amount of time and effort for a result that does not exactly matter to anyone other than oneself, which would explain the masturbatory metaphor.

Another skippable paragraph: this is the reason why I am still working on the background for my Nanoha-verse fanfic: I had a theory about the Infinite Library, which is astonishingly poorly-explored in the canon, and despite asking a great many people whether this theory could hold water no less than three times, it was only after I had actually implemented that theory deeply into my fanfic that someone pointed out a glaring contradiction. I blame this mostly on the confusing morass of information on the Nanoha-verse, spread out over so many sources that I could not have guessed that one panel in a side-story extra manga chapter (which I did not actually have access to) would deal the fatal blow. I am still seething over that, mostly because I had thought that the legendary faerie method of due diligence in asking three times would have been enough.

But really, it's fun. That's right, it's actually kind of fun to come up with all sorts of bizarre theories to patch up all those plot holes with what amounts to duct tape and chewing gum, since one never knows if one can come up with an elegant explanation for all the weirdness. It's just one of the ways I enjoy a show, all in all.

It helps to keep chanting "Suspension of Disbelief" over and over again, mind you.

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Screenshot from the game.

I'm sure that you may have already seen this from other sources, but in case you haven't, the PS2 game Suzumiya Haruhi no Tomadoi (which gets translated to "The Perplexity of Haruhi Suzumiya") was released, and with it was the Hare Hare Yukai dance with the CG characters from the game (wearing their Dragon Quest parody outfits). (Standard Youtube disclaimer applies.)

The main reason I'm posting this is to post the Nico Nico upload of the video (registration required), which should be seen if only for the way the comments go nuts when Koizumi appears. He is, according to the comments on the Livejournal community entry from whence I found the video, so very swishy.

(If that doesn't do anything for you, how about the CG MoHS characters in the Lucky Star opening? Nico Nico available.)

(Also for the curious, Nico Nico gameplay footage.)

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