Archive for October, 2010

Mikoto as Pikachu.

I wonder if I'm the only person who, when playing inFamous, starts imagining Mikoto Misaka (aka Biri-biri) in the role of Cole McGrath.

As far as I can tell on Danbooru, nobody's done fanart of that yet. Plenty of Pikachu references, though, as the picture shows.

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Her name is Yami, or something?

I'm well aware of the fact that To-Love-Ru is essentially a fanservice show, with little more excuse than to show cute girls in various states of undress. This is pretty much why I'm watching it in the first place, albeit only partly so: I am far more interested in the costumes, so my attraction to this sort of anime is more about cute girls in various states of dress.

Except I watched a bit of the first episode and realized that I might be getting a little too saturated with data: it has been so long since the first season that I have no idea who most of these people are.

Which is an odd complaint for a show like this: one can summarize the general plotline of an episode in a few brief sentences. The girls lose their clothes in some way. The male lead gets a good eyeful, nosebleeds. The male lead gets beaten up. Repeat, while adding in a few bits of Wacky Alien Hijinks.

But I doubt people watch this show for the plot, as much as for the characters, or at least the girls. And when I can't remember most of the female characters, not for want of trying, I begin to appreciate the little recaps some anime do at the beginning of every new season.

I can kind of remember the main female lead, the pink-haired alien girl with the very interesting outfit I kind of want to know how to design. I can remember the male lead's little sister. I can remember the Normal Girl the male lead has a crush on, and I admit she looks just as cute as I remember. I can remember some alien guy who turns into a girl or something, and I can also remember how the show (and the manga) tended to keep him in girl form for the fanservice.

Most of all I remember the blonde girl who keeps reminding me of Fate Testarossa from Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, and who is apparently also some sort of intergalactic assassin, although in Fate's case this only started after she grew up, and they don't call it that in the Nanoha-verse anyway. But names, names, all elude me, and with it comes a desire to refresh my memory by watching the first season again.

Not that I have any objections per se, but I kind of have to work on a blog post, and the last time I went on a memory-refresher binge I lost track of three days. The irony is immediately obvious.

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Don't try this at home.

There's something about this series which fails to catch on for me, and yet I keep watching, because I have the nagging suspicion that it is entirely my fault.

I'm probably comparing it unfairly to Keroro Gunsou, which is hilarious and heartwarming and does the whole Strange Animals From Somewhere Else Invading Earth Incompetently thing quite well. Keroro alone would turn annoying very quickly, but the anime wastes no time in introducing plenty of other characters to share the spotlight with. It probably doesn't hurt that the artstyle is cute (which, to be fair, Ika Musume also does well) and Chiwa Saitou has a major role.

And Keroro Gunsou doesn't just deal with slapstick comedy, but also the little things: friendship, nostalgia, the simple joys of life. All seen through the viewpoint of literal aliens, letting us experience the things we take for granted through eyes that have never seen it before.

Ika Musume feels like… something missing, I suppose. It dials the comedy up, but I keep expecting an incredibly biased narrator to start pointing out the obvious or crack some deliberately lame joke or something. Having the titular character mess up her invasion plans yet again is amusing for the first few times, but after that I get antsy: why am I not being amused? Or rather, why am I not being sufficiently amused, when it seems to share several traits with Keroro Gunsou? I am missing something; I should watch further to see what this is.

I want to say that Ika Musume might get better if the cast expands, but I'm not sure if this is what it wants to do. Maybe it's going in a completely different direction that my unfair comparisons are leading me away from.

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Lightning and Serah.

My entertainment options for the past week or so has been hijacked by my first foray into the present generation of consoles, which explains my general lack of updates or even noticing what has come to pass in the world of anime.

I got the Playstation 3 essentially for two games: Final Fantasy XIII and inFamous. With the discovery of Recettear and its subsequent devouring of my life, I added on Atelier Rorona onto the pile, and topped the list off with Bayonetta and Valkyria Chronicles. I am appalled at the amount of willpower it took me to pry myself away from my new toy.

This thing is dangerous to my productivity.

So far I've been enjoying Final Fantasy XIII. It simplifies the systems of the previous FFs, and distills it to its core essence. And while I miss the familiar tunes and themes from the earlier games, I can find no fault with the ones here. (Of course, I have the version with the Japanese voices and the English subtitles, which may be a factor.)

It even has an in-game encyclopedia/codex, with the Datalog. I'd prefer a lot more background info on the setting, but what's already there is fascinating enough.

Unfortunately, it also continues the trend of the Final Fantasy games of the recent years in being really, really depressing. I find myself gravitating to Vanille entirely because she isn't caught in the throes of despair… okay, let me rephrase that. Vanille doesn't act like she is caught in the throes of despair. I know the characters have had really bad things happen to them, but honestly it's a little difficult to handle such GRIMDARK all the time.

And Vanille looks like she has some Deep Dark Secrets of her own. I actually like the Yuffie-Selphie-Rikku type characters, which I keep feeling puts me in the tiny minority of the subset of the fandom who discusses these things on forums.

As in anime, I like the actual material, but the fandom seems to hate me. So it goes.

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Recette, master of disguise.

Yes, I'm still playing Recettear. And enjoying it immensely; it seems to have just the right amount of cheery optimism and anime cuteness and Just One More Timeslice gameplay that pushes all the right buttons, although I'd have to be distressingly vague on exactly where these buttons are.

I've even been chronicling my adventures in Pensee on my Livejournal, no doubt to the irritation of my friendslist. For a game that purports to be about a little girl trying to pay off her father's debt in a RPG-stereotypical fantasy town, there are some deep spoilers in there. There is an actual plot going on here. It is surprising and awesome.

I keep talking about how I think Recettear would make a good anime, although to be honest the actual game mechanics would probably have to be relegated to the background after maybe a feature episode or so, because the real meat is in the character interactions and events. Elan and Caillou, Tielle and her sister, Alouette and Prime, Louie and poverty, Griff and his hamminess… even stumbling-block character Euria has her own backstory happening, and we can orbit endlessly around the hilarity of most of the cutscenes. The ones which aren't hilarious are heartwarming, which is just as good.

Wild speculation has been made. We know it will never come to pass. We know it is just idle rambling. We know it's essentially fanfic. We don't care, because the idea is captivating. Fanfic it may be, but it is fun fanfic.

One thing I think would work exceptionally well is a little post-episode bit, drawn in a simpler style, of Charme dispensing mildly-inebriated advice in the Pub, which can be applied to Real Life. Have confidence in yourself. Don't worry too much about the future. Don't be reckless with people's hearts. Do one thing every day which scares you. Respect your elders. Wear sunscreen.

Things like that.

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Minette tries puppy-dog eyes.

Working through my backlog from the past season. It is strangely liberating to watch the deadlines for posting on this blog whiz by with nary a fare-thee-well.

I find that I'm far more likely to be favourably inclined towards an anime if it has little bits and sequences of cutesy art. These are usually signs of some sort of comedy happening, with the flailing arms and the blankly-panicking eyes and the snarking from the sidelines.

Shukufuku no Campanella is not going to be a contender for intellectual comedy, nevertheless, but at least it's fun. I admit this is a nebulous term defying easy description, but I can watch this show for the antics of the Tortilla sisters, or the bright and happy world Minette seems to live in, or the running gag of Chelsea's sense of direction (or lack thereof), or the various romantic misunderstandings Carina has over Leicester.

It's a good show to relax to. The artstyle is clean and bright and cute, and the characters are easy on the eyes. The setting is fascinating enough, with potential for exploration and elaboration, particularly with the various inventions Leicester produces which mimic modern-day devices, although I think a hedge clipper with a beam cannon might be a little further in the future than our present technology would allow.

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No idea who this is.

Where did the idea of magical girls being ultra-violent battle-happy beamspammers come from? This is distinct from merely being inclined to fight first and Zettai Daijoubu later; to qualify, the magical girl in question has to have their abilities occasionally defined in terms of "blast radius" and "ground zero".

The obvious source that comes to mind is Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, but like all obvious sources, it feels a little too obvious. I'd accept Nanoha as having popularized the concept into the mainstream, but I'm interested, in an academically-fascinated kind of way, if there was something earlier.

Despite my love of the genre, I don't actually know a lot about the history of magical girls. My interest can be traced quite directly from Card Captor Sakura (the best anime of all time, OF ALL TIME), and then expanding silently and insidiously to other examples of the concept, such as Minky Momo and Akazukin Chacha and suchlike. I suspect there may be an element of wish-fulfilment in these shows for their target audience: wouldn't you want to be someone with Special Powers just for a while? And since anything in life that comes free is viewed with perhaps justified suspicion, the price is having to keep it secret, or having to fight against the forces of darkness. Good, clean motivations, without much moral ambiguity.

Gigantic energy beams of annihilation might fall under the Special Powers category, but I'm not sure if they're as clear-cut in wish-fulfilment. This seems to be more or less the domain of action-adventure stories, particularly since these beams do damage; a lot of "classic" magical girl deals with "purification", rather than "beating the stupid out of". Here is an Enemy: would you rather use your powers to make them a Friend, or to blast them into the bedrock?

(Yes, I know Nanoha and others of her stripe tend to do both at once.)

Interestingly, apart from Nanoha herself, I haven't seen many straight examples of the beamspammer magical girl, and certainly none that come to mind right away. Most of the examples I've seen are one-off parodies in other anime, which focus both on the damage potential of the character of the show-in-a-show, as well as the fanservice and its effects on fandom demographics. The male late-teens to early-twenties anime fan is a frequent target of derision, particularly if they're seen to be interested in a show that is meant for a "purer" class, like the actual preteen girls the shows were originally said to be for.

Which makes it all the more stranger when the show is deliberately aimed towards these male anime fans, often to the direct detriment of the preteen girl demographic, and yet makes fun of its fans. Maybe we are assumed to be able to take a joke.

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Gendou in his trademark pose.

I'm back from Reservist training, and have been for most of a recuperative week. Part of the recuperation is in finding out what I missed in the two weeks I was essentially incommunicando.

Apparently a new anime season is starting up? This is not news, to be sure, but it does place me in a strange position: an anime blogger who has no idea what the new season brings, and is finding it increasingly difficult to care.

Which isn't to say that I have suddenly burned out on all anime ever, of course. Rather, I'd like to just pause the world for a week or two (perhaps to make up for the time I was gone), in order to catch up on the last season's anime.

Blogs have certain expectations of them, if they want to retain interested readers. If we blog about the latest and newest anime, it's understood to be our raison d'etre, and will obviously raise no commentary and eyebrows. If we blog about older anime, perhaps those of a few years past, it's "rediscovering" or "rewatching" or whatever. Slightly more unusual, but also no big deal.

But a blogger who goes through an anime series episodically one or two seasons behind the curve is… slow. Focusing on olds, rather than news, which in the case of a new media outlet like a blog is a cardinal sin.

Admittedly, this focus on the Newest And Latest can be waived to a certain degree: one aspect which differentiates a blog, particularly a hobby blog, from an actual Serious New Site is the element of activism that underlies everything we do. We post because we want to get our opinions out there, and because we think what we post is worth posting, by the low pandemonic standards of the Internet. We say what we say in front of an audience, however silent and unresponsive and imaginary.

And I keep thinking that I'll have things to say about the anime season that has already passed. I didn't get a chance to do more than a cursory glance at the first few episodes of Shukufuku no Campanella and Ookami-san to Shichinin no Nakama-tachi and there's even Amagami SS which I've only seen the first episode of, and already now there's The World God Only Knows coming out and dammit I just want to watch anime, is that so hard.

It's getting harder and harder for me to start caring about keeping up with the new anime coming out in Japan, but increasingly I want to watch the anime which I already have but haven't had a chance to go through. I wonder if lagging behind the curve by a season or two is acceptable.

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