Archive for October, 2009

Costume Contest.

I'm not sure that I would have done better if I had been in Natsuru's place. On the one hand, girls seem to get a lot more cosplay opportunities. On the other hand, having to keep in shape has to be a lot more difficult. Presumably part of the advantage of Kampfer-ism is the ability to keep a svelte figure no matter what the circumstances.

Gender-benders with the character in question switching back and forth have that extra risk involved of embarrassment when the transformation wears off somehow with the male character now in female clothes. This doesn't often apply the other way, apart from the character shrinking a few sizes, and the Clothes A Few Sizes Too Large thing can be pulled off as a fashion statement anyway.

So far Kampfer has not gone down that route, but I find it interesting that I seem to have this reluctance to see such a thing happening anyway. It's the equivalent in embarrassment quotient of those cliched dreams (which I've never had myself, although it must be a matter of time) where one is not wearing any pants. It's a level of schadenfreude that is quite beyond my tolerance.

This, even though I am perfectly happy to see a man (be he transformed into a pretty lady) caught between several women, and the dispute is not laced with Drama and Angst, but instead Wacky Comedy Hijinks. It's not serious, the show tells us. It's okay to laugh.

Hearing Yuko Goto as the perverted assistant class rep, especially using her Mikuru-voice, probably helps in that.

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From the ending theme.

I know it's not actually a good show, and honestly speaking I can't think of a reason why I'm even watching it other than "it's good blog fodder". Or rather, blog fodder to talk about, in the sense that I can kind of discuss the stuff around the show without actually talking about the show itself.

The second season of Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu, oddly subtitled Purezza, is the sort of show that I'd be happy to watch, but do not exactly watch to be happy. It's somewhat lower than the comfort food of anime I watch; overall, it's suitable for background noise, both in the visual and aural sense.

It is not offensive to my tastes, which I admit sounds like damning with faint praise. It's not, honestly. It's kind of a non-recommendation, in as neutral a sense as I can engineer. It is not alien to me as most mecha series are, and it is not directly insulting as many anti-moe shows feel like. It simply rests in the surprisingly small pool of Okay-ish. It's there. I don't have anything else to say about it.

And yet I watch it anyway, because it is not offensive. When you want to watch something, anything, that you haven't watched before, and you're surrounded by stuff that are incompatible to your tastes, then you take what you can get.

Perhaps, if I were in another mood, I'd be more ebullient in my praise. But for now, all I can say about Purezza is that I do not dislike it. And for now, that's all I can ask for.

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From The Manga Guide To Databases.

Publisher link for the whole set, at a discount to boot.

There's something about putting entertainment and education together that seems to boggle the mind. Entertainment is supposed to be fun, and education… isn't. Therefore, "edutainment" is usually seen to be Trying Too Hard, and only the really effective ones survive.

What is effective may be a difficult question to answer. Something that is great for one person may be horrible for another, and so when I say that the Manga Guide books are Effective Teaching Materials, I can only speak for myself.

The books are set at a secondary school level: if you've studied the subject then, you probably already know all of this. In Singapore, secondary school is age 13 to 16 (you start on the year of your 13th birthday, so technically age 12), so I suppose this would be high school in US terms. Most of this stuff will probably be learned in Secondary 3 and 4, at the depth that will generally be taught at that level: you'll be introduced to, say, Newton's Laws, and learn how to apply them in simple situations, but all the little niggly details that tend to trip people up when they revisit the subject at a higher level are brushed aside, because that's not what the books are for.

They also obviously do not teach everything you're supposed to learn at that level. The one for Physics deals mostly with the whole force-and-motion thing, which leaves out stuff like circuitry and electromagnetism and thermodynamics and whatnot. (Presumably the electromagnetism bits will be under The Manga Guide To Electricity, which upon browsing I am sad but unsurprised to note does not include any form or mention of Biri-biri-san.)

For my first round, I got The Manga Guide To Physics and The Manga Guide To Databases. I did study physics in secondary school (didn't do too shabbily then), but it's been over a decade since then. I've never formally studied databases (or at least not databases as is, rather than being attached to MySQL or whatnot), but being Le Geek on the Internet means that I'm largely familiar with the hows and wherefores. So the books did not actually teach me anything new, but they were good refreshers.

And, of course, the manga portions were fun.

Each book is illustrated by a different artist (or set of artist-and-writer). There's the manga sections which deal with some situation arising which requires knowledge of the subject to solve, and there's the big explanatory blocks of text-and-equations after the manga bits which go further into the concept. The manga is read left-to-right, which caused me a small amount of difficulty at first.

MGTPhysics deals with one Megumi Ninomiya, who is not very good with the subject in question, and her role as Simplicio is further reinforced in my mind by her mild resemblance to Yui Hirasawa. Megumi has been beaten in tennis by Sayaka, who is pretty much the ojou-sama tsundere archetype, due (somehow; it's presented as "it bothered me during the match, so I couldn't concentrate") to the counter-intuitive nature of Newton's Third Law (the one about equal and opposite reactions). So she enlists the help of her classmate, "International Physics Olympics Silver Medallist" Ryota Nonomura, to figure out the mysteries of Physics. It's done in a school-life slice-of-life kind of way, with Megumi occasionally flirting with Ryota, presumably just to break up the tension and Walls of Text.

Meanwhile, MGTDatabases is set in the Kingdom of Kod (somehow), a fantasy kingdom deriving its revenue from sales of fruit (somehow), and Princess Ruruna and her personal assistant Cain are visited by the Database Fairy Tico to help them organize their kingdom's fruit sales. Somehow. It gets a little odd, with various NPCs dressed in medieval court clothing typing away at modern computers. There's also Prince Raminess from a neighbouring kingdom, who is FABULOUS enough to probably be voiced by Daisuke Ono. It's a more shoujo art style than MGTPhysics.

The MGT books are probably not the most efficient way to present information, but by going back to the dialogue method of instruction and adding the familiar anime-esque style of humour, it's a lot less dry than a textbook, at the trade-off of taking up more pages to explain stuff. This is perfect for revision, rather than teaching; the books appear to be for reading on your own, and maybe asking a friend for help if you get stuck, but in a classroom it's basically the teacher's job to do what the manga sections are doing: give examples and explain the concepts in a more interesting manner. (The fact that this does not happen very often is kind of sad.)

Should you get it? If you are taking the subject at that level right now, certainly. If you want to brush up, it's great. If you already know all of this, though, then the only appeal will likely be the manga sections, which are good for a few minutes of entertainment, but probably not worth the price.

Personally I'm happy with these because I have learned that when writing fiction, you never turn down knowledge of any sort, and revising always helps. Also, I am an inveterate fanfiction writer, meaning that already I am speculating on the possibilities in the characters.

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It's actually quite good.

Publisher link.

The twintailed blonde girl is tsundere.

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Natsuru piinchi~

Kampfer has been getting… well, not rave reviews. It is, in fact, getting slammed pretty hard, in the way just about every show I like has been slammed at one point or another (the sole exception is Card Captor Sakura, which appears unslammable). The difference is that after all that slamming, if the slammer is still around, the disclaimer invariably appears: "it's bad, but I can't stop watching it."

There are apocryphal stories of Ranma 1/2, often cited to be the most popular gender-bender anime series among Anglophone audiences, being a sort of gateway to the realization of gender dysphoria among some viewers. Occasionally I suspect that the reason I keep playing as female characters in games is due to Ranma 1/2 being my very first anime. I don't think I have Gender Identity Disorder, because despite my interests and what I have been told is a disturbing lack of Internet Testosterone, I do still like looking at cute girls. Then again, you never know.

In all the male-to-female gender-bender stories that I have viewed, read, or otherwise experienced since then, assuming the story was made for popular consumption and not, say, a deliberate subversion (which to my view is good only for a one-shot gag, and quite unsustainable through an entire series), one truth appears to be unquestioned: the former male is certainly going to turn into an attractive female. It is a convention as established as drawing characters with the usual number of limbs and appendages.

Being that Kampfer is not the sort of show to troll viewers with a subversion in this, Natsuru appears to follow this trend. In fact, she (changing pronouns as appropriate) follows it too well, and I half-expect some sort of psuedo-scientific explanation of why she seems so popular among the female students. Perhaps Girl-Natsuru is seen to be more manly than Guy-Natsuru? It is a mystery.

And then there is the tradition of giving the genderbent-into-female character even larger cup-sizes than most of the rest of the cast, for no conceivable reason. (Well, other than the meta-reason of fanservice, which is always a good reason.) Presumably back problems are avoided by turning into girl-form only occasionally, but having those assets without any real need for them seems a little odd. Not unwelcome, just… odd.

In my darker moments, I often wonder if the joke about breasts being good flotation devices would preclude the existence of the Jusenkyo Spring of Drowned Girl, unless she was not as well-endowed as her spiritual descendants turned out to be.

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Minato and Minako, official wallpaper.

You can kind of tell how busy my week has been or is likely to be by checking when I post to this blog. As I keep saying, two posts a week without guarantee of quality. If both of these appear on a Sunday, it is a sign that the schedule of my life is going to be a pain for the next two weeks, and I will have to post again on a Saturday.

I've been trying out roleplaying on a MUSH. A PersonaMUSH, as it is so named. The general world of the Persona-verse as described in Persona 3 and 4 (and only as described there, since I've never played any other Persona games) is one of those, like the Negima-verse and the Nanoha-verse and the ZKC-verse, where I like to create characters in.

I've never MUSHed before. This is a learning experience, and the lesson that is being pounded into my Skull Of +5 Thickness is that I am in entirely the wrong time zone.

Most of the basic character concept comes from one of those discarded bits of proto-characters that always turn up when I am in the midst of storycrafting. (I realize this sounds a lot more formalized that it really is, but I can't think of any other term.) A useful trait of all these settings is that it's all magic, even if it's actually science fiction or superpowers or whatnot. Essentially, things that cannot be done in Real Life, but can be done in that setting because it's cool.

Unfortunately, I have to keep the aspect of Coolness subordinate to the aspect of Consistency, mostly because I like characters who find new and creative ways to use what powers they already have, and I can't do that if I don't know what these powers actually are. This may be why I get accused of being too much of a killjoy when it comes to Cool Things Happening.

At least in this MUSH the powers are already defined, in that they are the best approximations the MUSH can do to the game powers. Everything else is roleplay.

I must admit that the primary reason I'm in PersonaMUSH is because I can't wait for Persona 3 Portable, and the opportunity to play a female protagonist. I have made this point before, but I can't quite be bothered to search for the relevant posts, so you're on your own there. But my character's appearance was first inspired by that of the female main character, popularly named "Minako" (or alternately "Misato"), and then altered to be less obviously ripped-off. Her personality gains some bits from both the proto-character (formerly a researcher from the Nanoha-verse), as well as the manga depictions of Minato Arisato (aka Male Main Character of Persona 3) translated into girl-form. Her character story arc stems from Doctor Faustus.

So it goes.

If you do wish to drop by PersonaMUSH, it is at rpg-works.net, port 2012. Shiori Hibiki will be there, likely whining to what few may listen about how annoying it is to have to live life Out Of Character at GMT+8.

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Are girls more flexible?

City of Heroes has a number of dance emotes, for a given value of "dance". This is because the animator who first manipulated the game model frames for this purpose based the moves off his own flailing attempts, and I use these less-than-flattering words because I am quoting to the best of my knowledge the man himself.

One of these dances, known among players as the Hyperactive Monkey, requires such great movements of the abdomen that when I introduced a friend to the game, she noted that doing that dance in real life would likely rupture something important.

Watching the ending animation for Kampfer, I cannot help but think of that phrase.

Kampfer has been billed as a "guilty pleasure", if it has been billed positively at all. While I am certainly going to be following this show, assuming it does not deviate too far from the source, I cannot quite call it a "guilty pleasure", as I feel refreshingly free of guilt.

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We'll keep on trying. We'll tread that fine line. We'll keep on trying, until the end of time.

I admit that I didn't expect Marina Inoue to voice both versions of Natsuru. When I read the manga, Guy!Natsuru seemed like he'd be voiced by a Standard Harem Comedy Protagonist Voice Actor. I shouldn't be surprised, considering some small plot points hinged on Girl!Natsuru sounding a lot like Guy!Natsuru.

Speaking of which, the fourth-wall-breaking voice actress jokes in this episode fall just short of excessive. Yukari Tamura got the longest mention, which is a little brain-breaking in her role as a foul-mouthed plush bunny post-ritual disembowelment. Yui Horie and "the original Shizuka" (Michiko Nomura; reference to Doraemon) were also mentioned. One gets the feeling that the writers felt like being a little too clever.

This can also be seen in the vast amount of double- and single-entendres which pass for much of the comedy. I cannot find fault in this, seeing as I usually do much the same thing anyway. Clearly this is not a show to be taken seriously.

Gender-bender premises, especially aimed at the male demographics, are a fascinating source of observation for the reactions. We've seen it in action with Mizuho in Otoboku and Jun in Happiness, as well as unofficially with Kyonko. Anime, already a commonly-used art style for good-looking characters in general, is able to sidestep all the messy biology inherent in the problem.

And so we end up admiring what is, to all intents and purposes, a cute girl, while still knowing that there is still a technical male presence in that picture, be their magical transformation sequence ever so pretty and sparkly.

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Mikoto demonstrates her abilities.

Kuroko is not the first teleporter who gets that onomatopoeia stuck in my head. Chances are I've used this reference before, and I will use it again.

My primary familiarity with A Certain Scientific Railgun is from the manga version. Well, obviously, since the anime just started airing. Despite the title, I have the impression that this show will not exactly be a shining pinnacle of accuracy in physics.

I'm not as familiar with the original source of A Certain Magical Index, having read the first few bits of the manga until what I think could be counted as the end of the (relatively long) prologue, but my impression of the male protagonist, Touma, is that while he has a special power, it is nowhere near as powerful as pretty much everyone else in the show. Touma gets to be the main character through a combination of luck, some skilful use of his abilities, and the sheer bloody-mindedness that is available to every male shounen series protagonist.

However, in Railgun, he's Mikoto's kinda-sorta rival, in that no matter what Mikoto wants to do, he can one-up her without even breaking a sweat, largely because his Imagine Breaker power is a great deal more general-purpose than her electromagnetism.

Same character, two different viewpoints. It's not a huge revelation. I just found the plot quirks interesting.

As for the actual episode itself, this is probably one of those series I'll be following if I remember to, since a) I already know the story, and b) I know there will be some measure of faux-philosophical angsting in store.

I wonder if it says something about me that the yuri-ness of Kuroko is amusing, but not especially titillating. Is this a special case, or have I changed my tastes?

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Consider every joke made.

I've never liked Neon Genesis Evangelion. This isn't to say that I hated it or anything, but more that it failed to fully elicit any sort of severe response in any direction. I didn't hate it, and I didn't like it; I was just not interested in it.

Which, I suppose, is sort of the problem, and worse than active dislike of the series: Evangelion failed to interest me, and so the only emotion I drew from the series itself (distinct from the emotions I have towards the fandom, which ranges from polite attention to eye-twitching irritation) was boredom. The series failed to engage me at any level. I've been classified as a hater of the series because of this, which I think kind of misses the issue: I don't have the passion to hate Neon Genesis Evangelion. It's just there. You may as well ask me what I think about the cultivation of yams.

From conversations with people who are fans of the series, it appears that a common thread (but by no means universal) is the ability to identify with the main characters, most often Shinji. (Occasionally Asuka is held to be the identifiable character; sometimes Misato.) They see themselves in Shinji, and they can empathize heavily with what he is going through.

Or maybe not, and I am completely misunderstanding the situation. I can kind of see it academically, but I cannot quite grok it to the fullness of understanding. This is because the three main characters, Shinji, Asuka, and Rei, are thoroughly unidentifiable for me. About the closest character I can empathize with is Rei, since she's quiet and unassuming, but I hear that she's not supposed to be empathizable, so I apparently have been suckered in or something.

I'm pretty sure I was never like Shinji or Asuka. This is not a boast, since it's entirely likely that I was in some way worse. But I didn't have parental issues, and I grew up in a happy home environment. There is just nothing connecting me with people who went through what Shinji and co. did. It's kind of like a cultural gap, except not exactly cultural, but more circumstantial. I recognize that it is a valid personality type; it's just not mine.

I think the character who would have the same sort of reactions I would might be Maya Ibuki. Her actions seem kind of natural, at least.

And since I can't empathize with the main characters, my other option was to watch them from the outside, seeing how they act from the viewpoint of an invisible observer. Considering my usual tastes in comedy and lighthearted fun, however, Evangelion held no joy for me.

I can understand that it is significant to the culture of anime, as well as its enormous influence. But I just don't like it. This has no bearing on its quality or its importance; just my personal tastes.

I should probably be spending more time on this topic, but not only do I not have the time or inclination to do so, I also don't think there is anything more that has not already been said by many others far more eloquent than I am.

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