Archive for December, 2009

I've been looking for a video that I can't remember the source of, but I know I've seen it before.

It's basically just a trailer for Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou. What differentiates it from the results I get upon searching Youtube for "kare kano trailer" is that the ones I can identify as actual trailers all use the opening theme for KareKano, whereas I'm looking for the one using the ending theme.

I'm not sure why it stuck in my mind so clearly. The trailer was one of those that came before the anime itself on the DVD, although I can't remember if it's a skippable one. I never did end up watching KareKano, nor did I really have much of an interest in it, since apparently any discussion of the anime itself is inextricably linked to the fortunes of Studio Gainax at the time, which was a link through the fourth wall that I was not entirely comfortable with. It's the feeling that Real World problems have intruded into my escapist fantasy.

Anyway, the only visual part of the trailer I remember is the main female lead Yukino turning around. This may not seem like much, but it's a comedic sequence, where she goes from a regular hardworking high school student to a darkly determined demonic… I can't think of anything fitting that continues the alliteration.

It was just timed so well with the music that now, several years later, I can still remember it. In fact, I was so enamoured with the trailer that it was the only reason I got the song itself; I'm certainly not going to spend more effort in looking for the show. I can't judge the show without having seen it, but it's fairly low on my list of priorities at the moment.

It also got the song "Yume no Naka e" ("Into the Dream", approximately) into my favourites. I'm aware of the 1972 original by Inoue Yosui, and I actually like the various covers of it by many different artists (among them I've heard from the KareKano leads, obviously, as well as from Haruko Momoi in her Best Densha album, from the schoolgirl group ZONE, and something chiptuney). Again, I'm not sure why I like it so much, but considering it's a popular song in Japan, I imagine I'm not alone.

I know the trailer is in one of the anime DVDs I own. I just can't remember which.

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Yes, I realize that I should probably have said something or posted something, but Real Life has a way of sneaking up on people. Sorry.

Anyway, I don't actually have access to all my saved pictures, and I'm not going to browse imageboards on this netbook, so the next few posts will be picture-less. Just a heads-up.

(Contrary to rumours, my existence is not so linked to Tokyotosho that when it goes down, I suddenly cease to exist.)

I've been reading Yotsuba&! lately, and I fear to think what code parsers will make of that ampersand-bang combination. (For those who are not familiar with the series, it's pronounced "Yotsuba-to", with the "-to" meaning "and".) This was mostly sparked from the Nanako& parodies of Persona 4 I've seen on imageboards.

I'd not gotten around to reading this manga until very recently, and I must say that while I appreciate it as a great series, it's not one of those I was kicking myself for not encountering earlier (unlike, say, Zettai Karen Children). This could be because of the very nature of the series: you can marathon it and it is a perfectly valid method of reading, but for the full effect, it's best to take it a few chapters at a time. Slowly, savouring it, and thinking back on what has gone before.

It's not exactly Deep or Intellectual. It's just the story of a little five-year old girl who Enjoys Everything and has an inexhaustible supply of energy, possibly like real five-year old girls. It's held at arm's length, like Calvin and Hobbes: we can enjoy and laugh at Yotsuba's antics, but we are saved from cleaning up her messes. The fun without the price.

Most of the comedy comes from the reactions of those around Yotsuba, rather than Yotsuba herself. The characters need to explain stuff to Yotsuba, but they have to dial it down to a level a five-year old can understand. In turn, they have to try understanding how a five-year old thinks; the audience gets to join in, although we get the advantage of context.

Do I like Yotsuba&!? Compared to Azumanga Daioh (which many people like to compare it to), certainly. Compared to all the stories out there, though, I do like it, but not so much that I'd follow it closely; the re-read factor is slightly lower, since it is highly suitable for a pick-and-choose of your favourite chapters, leaving the others kind of in the shade. It is a great palate-cleanser, a superb accompaniment, but not a full meal. Good to read in addition to another story, but not really something I would take alone.

Character-wise, I suspect I am basically Jumbo (aka Takashi Takeda), which makes it quite suitable that my Favourite Character (so far) is Asagi Ayane.

Note: This will likely be my only post for the week, unless something changes. I might make another one if the stars (and my hard disk) aligns, but no guarantees.

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Masumi laments her lack of screentime.

I admit I laughed. (For the right reasons, I assume.)

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Kanaru Morimoto.

While I'm pretty sure most of my readers are sick unto Evoker usage of my incessantly going PERSONA PERSONA PERSONA SOCIAL LINKS SOCIAL LINKS SOCIAL LINKS, this does have something to do with anime.

I missed watching Persona Trinity Soul the first time it came around, mainly because I saw the whole "Reverse incident" (ie people being turned inside-out) thing and went "… ew." There was no name recognition, and since I prefer to have my entertainment actually entertain me (rather than gross me out), there was no incentive to watch it. I put it on the backlog of "stuff to get around to whenever, just to say I've seen them". (Those who know me in Real Life: that is the main reason why I've seen so many anime. Collect first, watch later.)

Fast-forward just under two years to the present day, and my infatuation with all things Persona (and by faint extension a lot of other Shin Megami Tensei works, although usually I rediscover why I didn't like them all that much before) made me wonder: what was Persona Trinity Soul all about?

From the first six episodes, apparently a lot of Dramatic Pauses and Significant Glances and a few references to the game, but not as many as I had hoped. It's kind of fun to identify not only the tunes from the game playing as in-universe muzak (Changing Seasons, Want To Be Close, and When The Moon's Reaching Out Stars), but also which arrangement (mostly from the Persona 3 Reincarnation album).

The primary criticism I seem to hear about PTS is the relatively slow pace for a show about MUUURRDERR and battle by supernatural forces taking the form of mythological beings from people's brains (quite literally, it seems). There is a huge emphasis on Character Drama, mainly by the secrecy required in doing stuff related to said brain-gods. This is because if you know about Personas, other people will come around and kill you. It's a common plot point in order to justify the masquerade, although it seldom sits well with the Freedom Of Information philosophy espoused by many, including myself at times. (I remember the debates on the finer points in-character during World of Darkness games, although most of the time the debates progressed predictably to rolling initiative.)

And possibly a concern for those who watched it for the name of Persona: there is actually very little tying this show in to the games. Apart from the whole brain-gods idea, I haven't seen a lot of themes from the games make it into the anime. Yes, it's only been six episodes (out of 26), and episode six itself is fairly entertaining filler, but I'd have expected some mention of the Tarot motif that first differentiated Persona from Shin Megami Tensei (more specifically Shin Megami Tensei: If). The closest is the term "Reverse", which sounds suitably Tarot-y, even if it doesn't seem to have anything to do with the concept of reversed cards. (If you're wondering, the "Reverse Social Link" idea in Persona 3 and later is "Commu(nity) Break" in Japanese.)

Maybe I'm just too early in the show. Besides, I keep complaining about shows that expect the viewer to know all the arcane and obscure stuff alienating new viewers, although that's more of a complaint on presentation than content. After all, Persona 3 and Persona 4 required no prior knowledge of previous games, but if you've played them then you'll recognize the references.

In the meantime, I get to connect dots that were never there in the first place. Itou and Narasaki are like proto-Dojima and proto-Adachi (from Persona 4), albeit probably without the DRAMATIC PLOT TWIST of the game. Takurou plays the same role as Junpei Iori in P3 and Yosuke Hanamura in P4: the comic relief male classmate character. I admit Shin Kanzato is more active than the silent protagonists of the games so far (with the possible exception of Maya Amano in Persona 2: Eternal Punishment), but his older brother Ryou Kanzato is almost entirely Katsuya Suou from P2 (both sides).

And when Ryou puts on a bear mascot costume, I find myself unable to stem the tide of Teddible puns.

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Natsuru silhouetted.

/headtilt

Eh, I'll take it.

From all accounts, this is the last actual episode of Kampfer, with the next one being a bonus episode. The Internet has been… less than impressed, I should say, with the conclusion of the story. Back when I mentioned Kampfer being my favourite anime this season, reactions went "but it's not over yet", and there was the implication that I would be held to that statement.

Honesty compels me to admit that this ending was not one that I had expected. Nevertheless, the judgement still stands: Kampfer is still my favourite show this season.

I could go into a long spiel about why, but it's all mostly in that post anyway. When the White Kampfers were still doing their character tics (and now I know Hitomi is supposed to be a Bokukko, ie a girl who uses masculine word forms), I had the impression that this was Not A Serious Battle, which may have insulated me from the RAGE that many others seemed to have felt. And the plushies growing in size to sing Beethoven's 9th called back on stuff like the ending of Mai-HiME: a reminder that Action and Drama are not the point of the show.

The point of Kampfer is fun.

So, overall, do I like Kampfer? As I said, it's my favourite show this season. Do I want a second season? Most certainly.

Do I think things could have been done better? Some parts, yes. Mikoto did not get nearly enough exposition, and I'd have liked to see more of the Wacky Romantic Comedy Hijinks between the Kampfers. Which is why I said I wanted a second season, since that would probably solve my complaints with the show.

Favourite character of the show? For some reason, I find myself fascinated by Masumi, despite her status as a background character. I have no idea why.

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Natsuru faces the consequences of her actions.

One week behind, but catching up. I actually did giggle (creepily, as any guy like me would giggle) at the various discussions on how many points or flags triggered each of the Kampfers have with Natsuru. Does it say something about me that I was far, far more interested in the Love Comedy Wacky Hijinks than in all the drama about Kaede trying to make Natsuru her mind-puppet?

Of course, from the books I've read before, which are not precisely high-brow, this is basically what every woman in the world is capable of doing, as a sort of default feminine skill. Most of these books are written by men, although supposedly with their wives or some other female acquaintances giving input. There is the implication that True Love can turn guys into mind-puppets, willing to go through any lengths to fulfil any request, in expectation of… well, not exactly sex, but more affection. I know it's meant for humour, but this is Love Comedy.

And with a blog name like "Moe Check", it's not as though I have any moral ground to stand on.

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Shizuku sees you.

I think part of the reason I like this show so much is that like Zettai Karen Children, it doesn't take itself very seriously, but it's also not over-the-top wacky comedy all the time. There's a nice balance with the scale pegged at the Comedy area of the spectrum, but not jammed right at the edge. There's a coherent story to be told here, but it's not so deep and portentous that all joy is lost in the morass of Serious Business.

The formal introduction of the rest of the White Kampfers is a good example. The moe archetypes displayed are so obvious that they have to be affectionate parodies. We saw the standard genki-cheerful loli-type with Rika Ueda ("If you think I'm just a kid, you'll get burned~") in episode 7, and here we have the tsundere ("It's not like I'm telling you my name because I'm interested in you as my enemy!") Sayaka Nakao and the yandere ("You won't die if we cut your ears off, right?") Ryouka Yamakawa.

I'm not sure whether there's a term for Hitomi Minakawa's character type, other than "normal and competent" ("The mood is gone. Let's just go."). She's not quite into snarky territory, since she hasn't snarked yet (at least in this episode), so she's not the Straight Man/tsukkomi of the group in the usual sense.

Anyway, their introductions and their character tics are so ridiculous that one can't really take them very seriously, and they patiently wait while Natsuru and Akane go through a Humourous Intermission of Silly Arguments. And yet they're still presented as a serious threat, especially when Shizuku shows up to be Serious at them. Laugh at them, but don't deny their skills.

This may also explain why I am not Filled With Fury over wasted opportunities or whatnot in Kampfer. It's entertainment that doesn't require me to do anything particularly strenuous, but still surprises me with its humour, while not actually leaving my comfort zone of the familiar. It's a very nice feeling, and unless something drastic happens in the last four episodes or so, Kampfer deserves its place as my favourite anime of this season.

(What? My standards are my own, I say.)

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Masumi in her element.

I shall just say that the temptation to post up some sort of hiatus notice is immense, but I have seen where that road leads.

Since the past few weeks have been quite busy with one thing or another, though, I haven't actually had the time to watch anime. Any anime. (Although now that I have a PSP, I should probably look into that; the problem is often not free time, but free time in front of a device capable of watching anime.) So now I'm going through the anime I didn't have the chance to watch earlier.

Remember: two posts per week, regardless of post quality.

This episode of Kampfer is a little different in that Girl-Natsuru does not make an appearance. Instead, the entire episode is spent with Guy-Natsuru going on a date with Shizuku, resulting in expressions of despair and rage from many bloggers, according to the reactions I have read. The most common criticism is that here is a beautiful girl practically throwing herself at him, and Natsuru ignores her for the most part to obsess over some ulterior motive that she might have.

On the one hand, I can understand where Natsuru is coming from. Shizuku Sango, Student Council President, has been shown to be a trickster type, revelling in playing pranks on Natsuru's situation. From Natsuru's point of view, the most important thing they should be doing is researching the White Kampfers, not go on some date; Shizuku's sudden request is therefore not what it seems on the surface, or so he thinks. And he's already in love (or at least a crush) with Kaede, however illogical it may seem (love is blind, can't choose the person your heart follows, so on and so forth). Shizuku knows that, and so her date request is a bizarre non-sequitur at best.

On the other hand, Natsuru does act truly blockheaded. Even if he believes that the whole thing is only subterfuge to draw out the White Kampfers, he does not act appropriately. He apparently sees himself as an outside observer to the mission, rather than an active participant. He doesn't even try to play along with the date, until Shizuku pretty much has to pin him down to do so. Instead, he makes commentary about how This Is Not A Date, and The White Kampfers Must Be Out There, and generally being too obvious for the White Kampfers to want to make a move.

Unless, of course, his blockheadedness is only a ruse to show any watchers that Natsuru is still himself: how suspicious would it be if Natsuru, a known Kaede fanboy, was seen out on a happy date with Shizuku?

Plans within plans, wheels within wheels.

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