Posts Tagged “random”

From the GA ending.

For some reason, I find the GA Geijutsuka Art Design Class ending theme "Colouring Palettes" kind of catchy. Specifically, the Tomokane version has some cool guitar riffs, despite my not actually liking Tomokane (as a character) that much, at least compared to Kisaragi or Namiko (or possibly Miyabi). The song doesn't quite hit the "good gods this is AWESOME" area, but it's enjoyable to listen to, and that's probably all that really matters.

It does keep my mind off the spectacle of Baby Noda humping the teddy bear.

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Akane Aikawa, from Magic User's Club.

Now that I have actual Free Time that does not need to be taken up by worrying about what I should be doing instead of what I actually am doing, I am burrowing through my anime collection to rewatch the shows I keep meaning to rewatch. This is because if I don't take advantage of this now, I may never be able to do so, and my anime collection ceases to be of any use other than as collectors themselves, this time of dust.

It's also a good way to realign my memories of what I remember an anime to be with what it actually is. I rediscover things that I've forgotten, both good and bad, and the results can be surprising. For some reason soundtracks tend to be easier on the ears on older anime, compared to the somewhat forgettable BGMs of many (but not all) anime today. This could be sample bias at work, of course: the fact that I own these anime to be able to rewatch (and have not, say, given them away) means that they have some quality which makes them Worth Having, and good music might as well be one of them. After all, newer anime which I also own on DVD (Lucky Star, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya) also have great soundtracks.

Of course, older anime also fails in terms of technology, with bad transfers, horrible picture artifacts, indistinct and warbly audio, and the evils of Scanavo cases.

In terms of character designs and plots, I… don't see much difference, honestly. Advances in animation have let studios tell flashier stories, yes, but that's just fluff. For what really matters, I don't see any hidden and common trait to older anime which makes them inherently superior to newer ones. If it's good, it's good. If not, it's not.

Again, though, this could be sample bias. I may not be seeing much difference in, say, the amount of moe-ness, because I only collect anime which have a given amount of moe anyway: my gateway anime was Ranma 1/2, and my gateway manga was Love Hina, so I know what I like.

Nostalgia tends to exaggerate emotions and opinions in odd ways. This has also convinced me that anyone who says that anime is unconditionally So Much Better Way Back When has no idea what they are talking about.

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From the H-game Kon Neko.

I didn't really take notice of the ruling on cartoon depictions of questionable acts involving underage characters, mainly because we had just encountered another one a few months prior, and that's still going on.

In any case, I really only noticed it after Neil Gaiman pointed out that the ruling, at least as described in the article, would give fictional characters the same rights as Real Life human beings, a situation shared by the average corporation. (Yes, I know about the differences between the concept of a Legal/Juristic Person and a Human Being. Still doesn't make it any less amusing.)

No longer can we maim, murder, and otherwise mutilate our fictional creations, which is one reason why I'm not too concerned over this, since the bizarre precedent is likely to get overturned in (relatively) short order. In the meantime, the possibilities are endless. Apart from the obvious link back to a familiar issue, of course.

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From Koihime Musou.

I'd link to a Mary Sue Litmus Test, but considering the sheer variety of these out there, I doubt that any one of them is truly representative of all the rest. Considering how much they've been copied-and-pasted, I suspect that while there may be an original (for the Gargoyles fandom, I believe) and several generic ones, they all strive for some strange Platonic ideal that can be viewed, however dimly, only by taking these in aggregate. Some questions are fandom-specific, and some are not. Even those that appear out of place may need to be asked anyway, to account for the stories where the main character is a fan of some contemporary pop or rock group while simultaneously being a native of some fantastic time, be it in the far future or distant past.

I should probably mention here that I don't actually have anything visceral against the Mary Sue. I believe that all the accusations thereof can be boiled down to simple Bad Writing, which is too general a thing to be confined to a single cause. Besides, I used to be a member of the Mary Sue Appreciation Society (RIP Kielle), primarily for the reason that writing, or at least amateur writing, should be fun, and if a Sue is involved, so be it.

Anyway. The main reason I brought up the Litmus Test is that their degree of usefulness can be determined by reversing the purpose, and testing the tests themselves. The example character to put through the questions is not some canon or well-accepted character, but yourself. As in, your Real Life self.

If you've existed for a sufficient period of time (late teens or so) and had a somewhat varied life, chances are you'll score at least in the "Danger" section, and very likely in the "Outright Mary Sue" category. The (un)luckier of us might even reach "Uber-Sue", the highest goal that may be achieved. The points come from surprising places: for example, if I discount my scattershot knowledge of Japanese (as well as my efforts at Klingon), I am still relatively fluent in three languages (English, Mandarin Chinese, Bahasa Indonesia), which is apparently a Sue trait, despite also being part of my cultural heritage. In fact, simply being Asian (the tests seldom distinguish between East Asian or South Asian or whatever) is worth Sue points. Considering the overall population of the world, this has always struck me as odd.

On an intriguing tangent, anime fanfiction fandom in general reverses this: in a standard Japanese setting, a "foreign" character (often labelled "gaijin", or "outside person"/"outsider", which is one of the many Japanese terms made popular in Anglophone communities by anime fandom, despite the more appropriate "gaikokujin", or "person from another country") has the same connotations as "Asian" characters in more Western fandoms. Exotic, different, special… basically a "look at me!" attention-grabber, which is, at base, the point of a Mary Sue.

I've always held that the Litmus Tests are originally meant to be jokes. Unfortunately, I've met both creators and takers of the tests who treat them with the utmost seriousness, so apparently I am mistaken.

The point of all of the above ramblings is that as an audience, we tend to have strange definitions of "realism" when it comes to characters. I submit that we do not, as such, want "realistic characters". Instead, we want simplified versions of what we believe to be realistic characters. (Yes, I know about exceptions. I'll get to them in a much later post.)

A passage in The Science of Discworld II alludes to the idea that while we place our own freedom of will pretty importantly, socially we don't expect anyone else to have any. This can be seen in the phrases "not himself" and "out of character", which we often apply when a character is acting in an unexpected manner, and our reactions and expectations of the reasons behind those actions. We're happiest, the book notes, when the explanation turns out to remove the element of free will from the situation (doing it under duress, or doing it for a bet, or whatever). Of course, the question I'm interested in is not that we don't expect others to have free will, but whether we have free will in the first place, especially if we do have it, but our choices are constrained by what other expect us to act like, or just our own mental and moral boundaries.

Therefore, an actual "real" person would be far too complicated to present to the viewer. This is partly a limitation of the sense of narrative which a work of fiction has to establish: yes, I can speak three languages, but that is not always relevant to whatever story I might self-insert myself in. A viewer expects not to see a person, but a bundle of character traits mushed together, the same way we see everyone else around us.

And the average viewer will probably have some character traits they like, and some they don't. Thus, the more "complex" (ie the more character traits they have) a character, the more likely that one of these undesirable traits will sneak inside. Sometimes these are excusable, or easily overlooked in favour of the more welcome traits, and so they get filed away under "bad, but trivial, habits", or some such. After all, we do the same in Real Life every time we meet someone new.

A "realistic" character is thus someone who presents to us the right number and type of character traits, that we may assign them some convenient mental labels in the same way we do in Real Life. The difference is that the Real Life version tends to have more, while the character can be a mere hollow shell in comparison. There is, after all, no need for further expansion of the character, without going into irrelevancies: we know quite a lot about Nanoha's character, for example, but we don't know much about her opinions (if any) on the Hanshin Tigers. Mind you, our beliefs intertwine and affect each other to a large degree, so Nanoha's views on, say, the global economy may be influenced by her general political views, and knowing those would help us write her "in character", even in non-political situations.

So take a bundle of character traits, and make that bundle bigger. Add in more traits, more aspects, more personality parts… and you'll find yourself ticking off plenty of Mary Sue traits in a Litmus Test. Whereas if you have just a few character traits in that bundle, the character is accused of being "bland" and "cookie-cutter". Their bundle-ness becomes more pronounced and obvious, rather than hidden behind the mask of being a character.

This isn't a one-dimensional sliding scale, or any scale of any sort. The Mary Sue is unwelcome not so much because they can do everything (to exaggerate the position), but because they do everything, or at least the major stuff. It's possible to have an Uber-Sue according to the Litmus Tests and have a bland, cookie-cutter character who doesn't register on the narrative at all; if the character doesn't get a chance to exhibit all that competence, there's no spotlight to hog.

It's an interesting balance, different for every character and every viewer. This is why some characters can seem like two-dimensional cardboard cut-outs to some fans, and also well-defined, realistic epitomes of what a character should be designed as to others. If all else fails, there is always the equally human tendency to project our desires and hopes onto a relatively blank slate, writing narratives in our heads for what an ill-described character should be like. Frequently-encountered tropes help with this: recall Konata's insistence that the twintail hairstyle is a common feature of tsundere characters, and vice versa.

Or, of course, I could just be talking out of my arse.

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From Otoboku.

I know that I'm supposed to be working on all sorts of posts right now, but after hammering away at my NaNoWriMo for the whole month, and especially this past week, I've been too drained to think of much of anything. (No, really. You try writing ten thousand words of story in one day and see what that leaves your brain as.)

The problem I face, however, is that now that I don't have to work on the specific story for NaNoWriMo, I am assaulted by plot ideas for other stories, fanfics of various familiar series. The primary one I'd like to start on is yet another Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha original character tale, which sends me back to my old nemeses of Poor Canon Logic and Vague Background Information. Somewhat more relaxing is a random idea I had for The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, or rather its genderbent version, which will probably not survive more than a single scene without collapsing under its own triviality.

People keep asking me why I write fanfics. The answer I always give is that it's an addiction: rather than being addicted to nicotine or caffeine or the Internet, I pretty much have to write. It's that, or my head asplode.

I am spending my downtime browsing the various HCGs I've collected over the years, and carefully removing all the H parts. Possibly this defeats the purpose somewhat, but I like the artstyle for some of the games, and it saves me from having to trawl imageboards for suitable pictures every time I want to talk about something not directed at a specific anime.

It's another sign of how my view of the world is off-center, I suppose. I like pics of cute anime girls (or at least cute anime people who look like girls), and seeing them in various ero-scenes just feels more than a little tacky.

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Where Beauty is the Beast.

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Random pic from Danbooru.

A little late for Halloween, at least from my time zone. I've been spending the last few hours preparing for the month-long mad rush for fifty thousand words that is NaNoWriMo. I pretty much had to, considering I am going into this with almost no preparation whatsoever.

One wonders what the moe-fied anthropomorphic personification of Writers' Block would look like.

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Nice axe.

One of the things I've often been told to capital-C Consider is my capital-A Audience, which means you. You, the reader, and those who, like you, are reading this blog at this moment for whatever reason, all lumped together in one statistical bundle, where you might find yourself sharing your personal space with people who do not yet exist, mere hypotheticals who may or may not read these ramblings in the future, but have the potential to do so. Like Schroedinger's famous feline, we will not know unless we actually take a look.

When I started this anime blog, I had in mind an Audience of One, namely myself. This was supposed to be just a repository of all the random thoughts about anime I happened to have, where I can actually wax enthusiastic about my primary hobby and interest, without appearing too creepy to the non-anime fans on my Livejournal friendslist. (There are a few, surprisingly enough. They know of anime, but they're just not interested, and I can understand entirely.)

Almost twenty months later, I have to finally admit that there are actual flesh-and-blood people out there who are interested in what I have to say. I'm not sure what you see in this blog, and I'm not sure what I'm doing right (or wrong), but it's pretty good for my ego.

Now that I have an Audience, I must Consider this. I could just ask "so what are you here for?" and sift through the comments, but apparently this will be a biased sample, of only those who care enough to leave a comment. Also, I've been told that this method is too anecdotal. I dunno, I never scored very well at Statistics.

So we'll just have a look at what Stats tells me. This will presumably include the hits by spambots, so there's the grain-of-salt thing and all that.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Vivio Takamachi takes on the family business.

Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha has a weird place in my List Of Anime I Like. Every time someone asks me about my Top Ten (or Five or Three) anime, number one will obviously be Card Captor Sakura, and number two will be The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, since both of them made me see the world in a whole new way. (For non-anime fandoms, this also applies to Discworld.) After that, things get kind of fuzzy; I like a lot of anime, but not so much that I'd stridently defend them against all comers the way I do for my top two. For the most part, I might be sorry if they didn't exist (say, for Princess Tutu), but for all I acknowledge their quality and enjoyability factor, they didn't completely reshape my world the way CCS and TMoHS did. There'll always be something else, at least for me.

By all rights, MSLN should be the same way. Which is why I'm not entirely sure why I place it as my number three anime of all time (counting all three seasons together), but it seems right, somehow.

There are several possible reasons for this. Off the top of my head, I recently got into an argument with another MSLN fan, which would have been extended if I hadn't decided to cut it short with an Agree To Disagree clause. (I didn't feel like dealing with that person's antagonistic and confrontational debating technique. I understand that it's How They Are, but I also reserve the right to not like it.) The gist of it was that he could not comprehend why I preferred the magical girl aspects of the show, while I could not explain why I did. I've heard several independent opinions on this multi-genre appeal of MSLN, in that there's Something For Everyone, and I believe that there's some aspect of this in play here: the person I was arguing with likes MSLN because, to him, it was very little like the magical girl series he disliked, and he hopes that future seasons or productions would remove the remaining magical girl aspects he found annoying. For me, I like MSLN because despite all the cross-genre reputation, it still has magical girl aspects at heart, and I hold out my own personal hope that these will never depart from the series.

One of us is obviously and logically going to be disappointed.

And it is something in that magical girl aspect of MSLN which snagged me with a hook for fanfictional ideas, which makes it prominent among the anime I've watched: only two other anime have made me write this many stories for them, and MSLN has surpassed CCS in terms of the number of story concepts I've come up with. (The champion, if you're wondering, is still Ranma 1/2.)

A part of it could be due to the bad parts of the show. I generally write fanfic when I get either one of two reactions to watching something: "This is awesome!" and "This could have been awesome, but it's not. I can do better than this!" The Nanoha-verse is full of Cool Ideas, and regardless of how the canon characters and their adventures are protrayed, the Cool Ideas remain.

There's also my start in writing fanfiction for ReBoot. A mage and her Intelligent Device is not that much different from a Guardian and his Keytool, and the idea of freelance (or close enough to it, at least) troubleshooters with Special Powers that go around Protecting People is a strangely compelling one. Superheroes with a loose organization and official approval, of sorts.

This setup makes it friendly for original characters, unlike TMoHS, where the SOS Brigade is fairly well-formed already and any recurring additions will just seem like an intrusion, or CCS, which already has a complete uberplot, necessitating major fanfic-only characters to exist in prequels, sequels, or another continuity. And interaction with the canon cast can be dictated as simply "the TSAB told you to", which does away with the usual plot contortions to get the new character in the same general area as the canon cast, much less meeting them.

The net result is a bit like my view of Spore: if pressed, I can't say that it's good. In fact, it's a little bit shallow, and there's not a whole lot of substance in there which stands up to close scrutiny. But that doesn't stop me from spending six hours a day playing around with the universe in question.

This is likely to be but the first post in a series. So it goes.

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From the CoH forums.

It's the third time in recent memory on the City of Heroes official boards that I've come across a "recommend an anime to me" thread, and once again I find myself stumped.

There's a sort of balance one has to achieve when recommending an anime to someone who's not quite convinced that they should be spending their Copious Free Time watching it. Too enthusiastic, and we may well end up putting them off. Too many caveats, and it'll sound like we're asking them to watch something we're not even sure is good.

And for someone like me, who has been in Deep Fandom for over a dozen years, there is always the risk of alienating the supplicant by sheer unsolicited geekiness. I may wax eloquent on the virtues of the meganekko, and how the twintails on a character marks her as a tsundere with a propensity for zettai ryouiki, while the nekomimi dojikko speaking in kansai-ben is clearly quite moe, because snorfle garumphagus rethornicum, for all the sense I appear to be making to someone unfamiliar with the terms.

Were I to describe the appeal of Pani Poni Dash to the Casual Fan, I will effectively be speaking in gibbering infernal tongues that drive mere mortals mad. Or in C++, which amounts to the same thing.

There are always the "safe" anime to recommend, which seem to have a wide appeal. Cowboy Bebop is bandied about often. Evangelion, Elfen Lied, Ghost in the Shell. The field appears dominated by Fighting Action or Deep Serious Contemplation, which strikes me somewhat as an attempt to introduce anime as something that is Mature and For Thinking People. And not just for people who can Think, but people who can Think and look impressive while doing so. Something you can write a thesis about, possibly.

On the other side, we have the Shounen Action approach: Rurouni Kenshin and Trigun for the classics (making me feel at least a little old), Bleach and Naruto (admittedly, most of the Naruto recommendations specifically mention Shippuden or something) for the more recent series. There's probably a reason why these shows are particularly popular, but I haven't found the common factor yet. (For example, I like Rurouni Kenshin, but dislike Bleach. So it goes.)

And I am left with a stupendous list of anime which I'd like to recommend, but which I am painfully aware are considered at least somewhat niche. I could hold up Card Captor Sakura as my all-time favourite, but I then have to admit that it is technically aimed at little girls, albeit with a sizeable bonus for older viewers. (Also, it's out of print.) I could mention The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, except that to really appreciate the humour, one has to be passingly familiar with certain anime tropes, or the reason Haruhi forcibly recruits Mikuru into the SOS Brigade might turn out to be incomprehensible. And if one isn't really interested in romantic dramas, then KyoAni's Key adaptations oeuvre is pretty much out of the running.

Gods forbid I even think about Lucky Star or, as mentioned, Pani Poni Dash. I suppose Dokkoida isn't that obscure to the average viewer, or perhaps Sgt. Frog (aka Keroro Gunsou), but the element of risk remains.

I should probably compile a list of "safe" anime to recommend whenever the topic comes up. Obviously only titles licenced in R1 are valid, since not everyone is willing to deal with all the issues inherent in fansubs. (And for the most part, R2s probably won't be of much help.) Despite what I mentioned earlier, I'd still throw in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya into the pile, since one can look at the pretty animation, if nothing else. And then there's Read or Die for the superheroic feel, this being the City of Heroes forums. Card Captor Sakura gets mentioned for those looking for something kid-friendly, which leads to Princess Tutu. If they're interested in slightly more action of the tournament variety, Angelic Layer might be a good bet. For something magical girl but with a little more bite, Lyrical Nanoha (as I'm told Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha is being marketed in R1). Fantasy-wise, Slayers (specifically Slayers NEXT) is almost always welcome. Soft science fiction would suggest Stellvia, slice of life brings up Azumanga Daioh.

And if they express even the tiniest hint of interest in high school romantic comedies, oh, what fun we shall have.

About the point I would have to bow out of the discussion is if it turns to talk of dark (invariably with the additions of "bloody" and "gory") anime, or of Mecha. My interest in such may be measured with negative scientific notation, much less my experience and knowledge.

Nevertheless, the recommendation of anime to another sentient being remains, as always, a black art, based largely on gut feeling, and mechanically quantum: after all, despite known tastes and suspicions, nobody knows if they'll love or loathe an anime, until they actually watch it.

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