Archive for March, 2009

Hatsune Miku in a field of green.

Earth Hour has been accused of being a symbolic gesture and nothing more, and dark rumours have been bandied about regarding the actual net reduction in emissions, and whether Earth Hour is worse for the environment due to actions taken because of it, rather than during the event itself.

Of course, if I truly cared about the poorly-verified negative opinions of others, I wouldn't have begun a blog about moe.

Earth Hour 2009 begins on Saturday, the 28th of March, at 8:30 pm, or 2030h for less ambiguity. This is in local time, which brings to mind the image of a band of relative darkness traversing the globe. It lasts, as its name suggests, for an hour, and thus will end at 2130h, 9:30 pm. I have to be especially clear about this because you would not believe the kind of questions I get sometimes.

Apart from the obvious stated benefit of Reducing Carbon Emissions, even if only for a while, I'm taking the opportunity to spend some time chatting with my family, instead of all of us going off to our various personal entertainments. Since I'll have to talk to them for an hour, this is a good opportunity to learn how to enjoy the good bits of the conversation, and let the annoying bits slide.

Unlike other events highlighted on this blog, I'm not going to insist that you participate. Do it if you want to, but never mind if you don't. Spend the time talking to friends, family, and loved ones. Meditate. Go to sleep. Stargaze. Have a candlelight dinner. Read a book, also by candlelight. Make sure not to let the pages get too close to the flame.

I'm mainly posting about this to explain why I won't be working on a blog post tonight, as is my usual habit. That, and to post some vaguely nature-y pic.

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Felli failing to cook.

It has been several weeks since I've had the chance to sit down and watch anime, or even to keep up with anime news of any sort. I have been collecting episodes, much as that figurine you thought was such a bargain before you realized that you had no more space to put it collects dust. I am dimly aware, through the random osmosis of the anime blogging community and its associated aggregators, that various series (Clannad After Story, Toradora) have ended, and some (K-On) will be starting. The details will have to be left to others paying more attention than I have.

I have, however, managed to sneak in glimpses, furtively seen, of bits and pieces of episodes; never enough for a full digestion of the events therein, but sufficient to abate the hunger. Some Sora Kake here; a taste of Zettai Karen Children there. Occasionally I may dip into the gumbo of Maria Holic, steeped in strangeness and substances only legal by technicality. Haruhi-chan already comes in handy bite-sized chunks, and although it is enjoyably fluffy, it is correspondingly not quite filling.

As for Chrome Shelled Regios, what samplings I have partaken of have made me curious about the nature of this dish: on the one hand, it has the heavy hints of angsty backstories and circumstances that may border upon the bitterness of emo, along with a sour frisson of convoluted conspiracy plots. And yet, Regios also features liberal servings of comedy, super-deformed moments, and even moe. I am unsure if I can help myself to the funny bits, while carefully setting aside the emo bits like unwanted asparagus. I've always been a picky eater.

The show also has little to do, as such, with the preparation and consumption of food. I'm just overusing the culinary metaphors because I haven't had a proper meal all day, and so now I go to raid the kitchen.

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This entry is part 33 of 43 in the series Nanoha GamerS

Just a teaser image.

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Sayo in full colour.

I still like Sayo Aisaka, even though she seems to have undergone some sort of… well, it's character progress, I suppose, except that I'm not entirely certain it's towards anything other than comedy. Nevertheless, we make do with what we have.

Negima is one of the few manga series I will buy the volumes of when I see them on the shelves. Specifically, the Del Rey translations, since I like it better than the various Singaporean translations (in English or Mandarin). It has a reputation of having something for everyone, or at least every male; my attraction to the series is entirely due to the cute girls. The action, I can skip.

Come to think of it, the perverted pantyshots and such I also skip. I think it's more that I really like seeing the fashions Akamatsu comes up with for the girls, and how good they look in them.

As with any series with a large cast, there are inevitably character rankings. I have been, and likely will always be, a fan of Nodoka Miyazaki, mostly because her character just clicks almost perfectly with my tastes. I'd appreciate it if she were a bit more assertive, but there's still time for that. The list after that gets murky, since I've not had the chance to go through the entire class (and beyond, for Anya's case), but I honestly don't think anyone is in a position to dethrone Nodoka.

If nothing else, she looks really cute in a White Mage outfit. That particular costume has not been animated in any detail yet, but hope springs eternal.

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This entry is part 32 of 43 in the series Nanoha GamerS

Just a teaser image.

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Kino no Tabi poster.

Previous posts on this blog have mentioned my belief in the simplification of characters required for them to be considered "realistic". A more recent post on the Tsundere archetype has made me aware of some underlying principle, hidden in the mists of Cannot Be Bothered To Research This Academically. (Hobby blog, remember.)

There is a scene in Evangelion (one of the earlier episodes) where Touji and Kensuke show rather more insight than they do later in the series, at Shinji's complaint that Misato is a slob at home. The gist of it is that Misato is comfortable enough around Shinji to show him her more embarrassing habits. This was the first thing which came to mind when I read the comments on my posts on tsundere characters, and the point about them showing Another Side to the viewpoint character was brought up. There is the sense of trust placed into the protagonist, a heady feeling. A resonance is struck: we all have our public personas, perhaps more than one depending on the circles we go around, and a private one, which we only show towards family and the closest of friends. Perhaps there are layers even deeper, a truly private self which we show to nobody but ourselves.

Watching the commentary of other fans on the characters we observe, there appears to be this desire for everyone to have at least two personalities: bonus points if the private one justifiably leads to the public, dissimilar though they may seem at first. A perpetually cheerful, genki, happy character who brightens the lives of all around her will probably be labelled as "boring", if not worse epithets, unless she is also revealed to have a "hidden side", something tragic or otherwise not happy in her personal life. While this is not the only backstory we may assign to her, it does seem to be the most common and easily-conjured. For some reason, the other way around (happy home life, tragic public persona) is not as believable, save in comedy.

Tragedy appears to draw our interest, as soap operas have profited from. A depressing public persona with an equally depressing private life will likely have more fans than happiness both ways. I forget which Russian author it was who started a story (a famous one, even) with a line about how every happy family is happy in the same way, but unhappy ones are unique in their specific unhappiness. I think it's an overgeneralization for poetic value, but the point has been made.

Yet, too much tragedy, too heavy-handedly, and we say that the show has achieved Emo. This is a term that, up until very recently, I have not heard of before; the root of "emotion" is easily inferred, but the apparent definition, as seen on the Internet, of being too sad for realism I have to guess from usage rather than any reasonably professional dictionary.

I would personally draw the imaginary line of Too Much Angst at the point where it becomes annoying, where the character's options for conversation or even life choices revolve around it. After that point, it starts to feel like the creator is just piling on the horrible stuff wantonly, for no reason other than to make the character more "sympathetic". It feels gratuitous, tacked-on, and, more to the point, unrealistic.

But this point of line-drawing varies between viewers. Perhaps I just have a low tolerance for this stuff, since I consider myself to have a happy life in general, certainly not wanting for anything essential, as is obvious from my ability not only to acquire entertainment options at all, much less from Japan, but also to ramble on about it on a blog. Watching the lives of others less fortunate is not exactly distasteful, but seeing into their private lives, the lives they are obviously keeping hidden with their cheerful facades, feels a bit… I don't know. Voyeuristic, somehow.

This could be why I like watching comedies: the Hidden Sides of a character tends to lie in their interests and hobbies, which are embarrassing to proclaim in public, but Not Really That Bad, for the sake of ratings. Since the medium in discussion here is anime, there are a surprising number of cases of covert fans, be it of anime, gaming, or the stereotypical female interests of cosplay and yaoi. (I know that they are common interests among people whom I know to be fans, but since I know they are fans, they're not exactly hiding it. Also, over-generalization is discouraged.)

And yet, Character Simplification comes into play here too. Two sides to the personality, and no more; these sides may have nuances and variations, but they can be distilled into just those two sides. I suspect that main characters can get away with more, but they had better be significant to the story.

Which is probably the reason for the simplification: as an example, a character who is a loli of the maidenly, pure type can also turn out to be a highly-trained assassin. But then she is also the illegitimate child and potential heiress to a fortune, who relieves stress by secluding herself in her room, and is capable of the highest tiers of snarky comments. She also has eyes of a different colour, is extremely forgetful, wields a scythe, wears cat ears… after a certain point, we as viewers simply stop caring. It's all fluff, extra words tacked onto the character description, all for someone who appears for maybe half an episode.

Incidentally, if you were wondering, the above character was created entirely according to the dice. I love that game.

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Yuno and the lightning rod.

I've been rewatching Hidamari Sketch, as well as its sequel Hidamari Sketch x365, the title of which brings up the obvious question of leap years, but I digress. Anyway, even now, I'm not entirely sure what to say about it.

It's a happy series, to be sure. It's the brighter, fluffier side of SHAFT and Shinbo, the part concerned with nothing more earth-shaking than the lives of an Azumanga-esque group of girls, each slightly odd, and the rather odder people around them. It's slice-of-life, a slice of a life none of us live, and yet a life all of us find familiar.

Art with a capital A is the primary impression one gets from the show. It makes use of plenty of clean, simple motifs, the sort which presents itself as being unpretentious: the pieces are there to create an overall feeling that is easily accessible to one and all, and yet each part may be examined in detail at leisure to glean further insights.

Character-wise, I'm not sure which of the four main girls (or the various side characters) to award Favourite Character to. Yuno is arguably the main main girl, the primary protagonist, and the anime is an exploration of how she matures as time goes on (anachronically, it should be said), but she doesn't set off my "main character not as interesting as side characters" biases. Maybe it's because she is one of the purer strains of moe, in the sense that she seems like she should be hugged and cuddled and protected from the big bad world out there.

Miyako is an odd case. In another anime, she would be the annoying, over-loud character whom I'd much prefer would settle down (like Azumanga Daioh's Tomo). But in Hidamari Sketch, she's not only tolerable, but she's close to becoming my favourite character. Part of this, I think, is because despite her actions, she's talented. I think she canonically has the most raw talent and ability of all the Hidamari girls, being able to instinctively work out the most creative way to interpret a subject. Add in a heart as big as a very big thing indeed (the episode with Yuno's fever dream is heartwarming), and Miyako is someone I'd be happy to call a friend, Hiro-annoying aside.

Speaking of whom, Hiro and Sae are kind of… there, I suppose. They're great characters, and I don't dislike them (apart from Sae's transparent claims to be Experienced In Love), but they rank below Yuno and Miyako in the character tiers. Possibly they just need more screentime before I can get used to them.

And yes, Yoshinoya-sensei is hot.

What pushes the series from "well done" to "one of my favourites", I think, is the music. This is a common requirement for series which I consider to be among my top anime: Card Captor Sakura, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Read or Die. In fact, good background music can make up for a lot of series sins; I'm not really impressed by the plot of Read or Die, but the soundtrack I listen to often.

Unfortunately, I'm not exactly trained to critique music, and so I can't say anything substantial apart from "it's good and I like it". How it is good, and why I like it, are mysteries answerable only with "because".

I've mentioned before my love for the opening themes of both seasons, which are cheery and bouncy and happy. The ending themes are more sedate, with a touch of melancholy, but the sort of melancholy that you smile with, as you might smile at a parting: it is a Goodbye, but with the hope of See You Again. The warm, comfortable evening glow, perhaps, compared to the bright promise of dawn of the opening themes, completing the motif of the sunlight of Hidamari Sketch.

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Uno in uniform.

It's been around a month or so since I was firmly told to leave the Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha Original Character community. The reasons are… not so manifold, if it comes down to it, but the net effect is that I've been working on other things apart from MSLN-related works now, since the burden of expectations has been removed. I'll still be writing OC fanfic, since otherwise my head will asplode (a feeling many writers will find familiar), but I have no illusions that anyone other than myself will be interested, and I am an easy audience to please. I would be lying if I said that I wasn't at least slightly annoyed, and it is this annoyance which proves that the problem which necessitated my exit lies with me.

So it goes.

What was introduced about two-thirds of the way of the first season of Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha has thoroughly assimilated the rest of the series into itself by season three: a sideways genre shift from a Magical Girl show into something more military.

I have mentioned before that I like the magical girl aspects of MSLN, which puts me somewhat diametrically opposite from a great many of the series' fans, who make their displeasure at my tastes very well known. This does mean that I have a reluctance to explore the military aspects of the Time-Space Administration Bureau, and since those are what many of the fanfic writers exploring the Nanoha-verse focus on (if they're not writing romance stories), I have somewhat free rein over pretty much everything else.

I'm getting tired of searching for suitable and relevant pictures to break up the Wall of Text. So I'm going to try not bothering this time, and see if it's especially jarring.

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