Category Archives: anime

Filling the Monster Shaped Void in my Heart

I absolutely adore GeGeGe no Kitaro.

For those who don’t know, GeGeGe no Kitaro is a long running media franchise about  creepy-cute Yokai having adventures while  helping out humans and trying to fit into modern Japan.  It’s  a cultural institution at this point, with creator Shigeru Mizuki’s hometown even  dubbed “City of fish and  Kitaro.”  For the past year or so, I’ve sought out as much of it as I could find, but given the deadly combination of it being super long (5 series of ~100 episodes each, several movies,  2 live action movies, tons of manga ), an actual kid’s series, and super Japanese, the amount of subbed material available is next to nil.

So what’s a cartoon monster fan to do?

The most obvious option is to check out Hakaba Kitaro, a 13-episode series frin 2008 based on the original series of Kitaro comics .  It aired in the Noitamina slot and has a sweet OP, which are good indicators of its quality.   It’s a lot different from GeGeGe — the atmosphere’s more gruesome and dark, Kitaro’s  a creepy weirdo who doesn’t particularly care for humans,  Neko Musume’s sexy, etc — but it’s a lot of fun in that sort of cheesy, old school-horror manga way.  There’s even a meta-episode about Mizuki finding out his creations are real, for God’s sake!  The only real problem I have with the series is that it had to end so quickly.  As Hakaba Kitaro’s recent, there’s no problem finding it online, so getting your fix is quick and easy.

Want more of a challenge?   Then try your hand at tracking down episodes of Vampiyan Kids, a more light-hearted series about a vegetarian vampire trying his damnedest  to scare kids and failing horribly.  The 20 minute pilot directed by Masaaki Yuasa (!) is fairly easy to find.  The animation is great and really cartoony (a character escapes by the power of farts, how could you not want to watch that?),  and the character designs ooze cuteness and fun.  The 2001 TV series is less dark, in both color palette and sense of humor, but the sheer fun of the pilot is still there.   It’s unfortunate that I’ve only been able to find the first four episodes subbed, and even though it looks like more were subbed, those downloads have long dried up.  It seems the entire series is available in Italian (I have no idea why), but I don’t think I’m hardcore enough to watch it like that.

So far those are the only monster anime I’ve been able to find, but I really hope I’m missing something.  I’ve tried my hand at western monster cartoons as well, but those are exploits for another post…

The BL Big Bang — Les Amitiés Particulières

Ah, BL,  the central tenant of female otaku fandom.   The proud, slashy tradition of squeeing over male-male love has seeped into the anime mainstream — shonen doesn’t seem to be made for guys anymore, Gundam has had to separate its fangirl friendly continuity from its die-hard one, and there are even guys in Idolmaster now.  For original BL work,  there seems to be no stopping the genre on either of the Atlantic,  and the trend of “real gay” stories seem to be infusing the genre with artistic merit.  But regardless of how popular BL has gotten…isn’t it kind of odd?  How does a genre like this get started?

Well, BL year zero was 1970, when  Keiko Takemiya came out with the one-shot In the Sunroom.  Sometime in 1971, she showed her flatmate/ similarly esteemed shoujo mangaka Moto Hagio the French film Les Amitiés Particulières. Hagio came out with the one-shot November Gymnasium that same year.  The floodgates opened when  Hagio  came out with  the three volume Heart of Thomas in 1974 and with Takemiya’s seventeen-volume-long epic The Song of the Wind and the Trees in 1976.  I can’t make any assumptions about In the Sunroom, because no information about it exists in English, but the latter three  share similar settings — all-male European boarding schools, just like in Les Amités. Not only that, but the multi-volumed works and the movie share tragic plot points, such as suicide and sexual abuse.  Clearly, without this movie, BL would not exist.  With this in mind, I felt it my duty to investigate further.

Les Amitiés Particulières came out in 1964, and is based off of a novel, which was a thinly disguised autobiography of the author’s experiences.   It takes place around the early 1900s in a Catholic, all-boy’s boarding school.  If you haven’t guessed already, the story revolves around “special friendships” the boys have with each other.   At it’s heart, the film is a pure love story, with the boys focusing on love letters and finding secret places to meet up with each other than sex — the two mains don’t even kiss once.  Given the specter of religion over the story, though, you can bet that things don’t end well.

There are two things I feel I have to point out.  One, the movie treats its subject  realistically.  It never feels like the film makers are exploiting the idea of a gay romance, or being voyeuristic about it. While the movie has its cute  moments,  the romance part is overshadowed by how restrictive religion is regarding love and homosexuality.  Even though most characters in the film act gay,  there is the very real threat of being kicked out of the school in being outed, and a few are kicked out over the course of the film.  Two, the second half of the lead couple is a pre-pubescent boy, which I was not expecting, and filled me with squick.   While his age was a good way to convey several ideas — that youth are capable of making their own decisions when it comes to love,  the beauty of man, etc — it was still pretty creepy.

The most obvious way Les Amitiés influenced early BL was through the sheer beauty  of the setting.   There’s androgynous, well-behaved pretty boys, ridiculously elegant buildings, and even beautiful language.  It was  as otherworldly  in the 70’s as it is today, and lent itself well to shoujo settings and art styles from that time.    Pluck out the too-realistic elements (religion, people getting punished for being gay, self-conflict over being gay), and you’ve got a good escapist setting for a love story.   The works I mentioned even keep the cultured air the film has by making references  to literature, music, and poems I had to google  to understand.

So even though by ’76, there was several types of BL out at that time, such as gag  comedies and action series (I have no idea how that stuff got started), it was the inspiration that Takemiya and Hagio got from Les Amitiés that really gave the genre that initial push.  If you like Heart of Thomas or The Song of the Wind and the Trees, I definitely recommend it, as all three have the same feel to them.

I Now Pronounce You Woman and Pillowcase: A Look at Official Male Dakimakura

I’ve lamented it many times before, and I’m sure I’ll be whining about it for years to come– girls just don’t get enough anime merch.  Companies are happy to churn out a million Yoko figures and hugging pillows for even the most obscure bishoujo show,  but when it comes to pandering to female audiences, the machine comes to a screeching halt.  As a result, the only option we have to satiate our wish to collect is to turn to doujinshi and buy the occasional trading figure.  That’s not good enough!  Doujin stuff is great and all, but I want acknowledgment from the animation companies themselves!  I want them to tell me, “You have [sick and twisted] desires, so we will satisfy them!”

So that’s why I’m glad for those rare times a full-sized (none of that jumbo cushion crap)   fabric representation of a male character comes out.  They may be sold out before I even get to think about them, but dammit, it’s something!  Here’s a run down of all the official releases that I know of.

These came out in 2007, and are actually bedsheets, not dakimakura.  Gintama seems like a weird choice in terms of content, since it’s a long-running comedy/action Shonen Jump anime.  It’s very popular with fangirls though, so I imagine it must have been doubly so in 2007.

Anyway, these bedsheets are rare in loot pictures.  Actually, I don’t think I’ve even seen a picture of these, since every picture of these has the Gintoki one as a pillowcase.  Unless these people are skilled at turning bedsheets into pillowcases, I think its safe to say those are bootlegs.

The Simon dakimakura came out in 2008, but I don’t think it actually exists.    For one, this is an utterly bizarre character choice.  If Gainax wanted to whore off one of their male characters, wouldn’t Kaworu be the more logical and profitable choice?  And if this was meant to ride the Gurren wave, wouldn’t it make more sense to make one of Kamina?  Or even adult Simon?  But even if we lose the bishonen angle and go with the idea that this dakimakura meant for cross-gender appeal, that still doesn’t make sense.  He looks like a boy, not a trap, as seen in his prominently-displayed chest.  So who in the world was meant to buy this pillow?

I’ve also never seen this dakimakura in a fan’s loot picture.  Ever.

This Rippongi pillow isn’t due until next month, October.  If I’m not leaving anything out, that’s a full two-year gap between official male dakimakura releases.  Anyway, Miracle Train is an amusing show, but don’t think it set the fujoshi world afire.  Still, the Miracle Train committe has pulled out full stops to appeal to them (off the top of my head, there was a yaoi café event and the creation of the Ikebukuro station — I’ll have to write another post about that later), so a dakimakura seems like the logical conclusion.  Picking Rippongi makes sense, since he’s the most popular character on the show.

Finally, we have these lovely Durarara bedsheets, which are slated for release in November.  Very similar situation with Gintama bedsheets– same company, same cross-gender appeal, same crazy fujoshi fandom.  Admittedly, I haven’t seen Durarara yet, so I don’t know what the fuss is about yet, but I’ve seen these guys everywhere since the show’s aired.   And looking through the character goods, I’m led to believe that these guys are the main characters, and the show’s about their homosexually-charged rivalry.  Is that correct?  Hahaha.

Anyway, that’s about it for the body pillows.  I really hope I’m missing some.  There are a few cushions of male characters, but those are mostly just promo art pasted on a small pillow.   It may be a little something, but it’s a cop out.  I’m sick of cop outs– just give us what we really want!

Underrated Anime Butler Time

 

Name: Raven
Series: Earl and Fairy
Age: 18
Occupation: Butler/Bodyguard

I never understood what it meant to watch a show for a character until Earl and Fairy.  It’s a good show, with lots of bishonen, a strong female lead, and an interesting fairy folklore angle, but I’m not so into  domineering male love interests.  Ordinarily this would mean watching one episode and keeping the show on hold indefinitely, but this was different.  This show had The Greatest Butler.

It’s a bold claim, but I think Raven deserves the title.  He meets all the standard requirements:  says little, keeps to himself, and does his job well.  With his battle skills and half-demon powers,  he may seem awfully similar to thatother butler, but unlike Sebastian, Raven has no ulterior motives.   He’s just that loyal.   Raven’s  sense of duty ties into his tragic back story, which involves him being enslaved and forced to become an emotionless battle machine until, of course, he’s saved and given a reason to live.  Cliche, but effective.

There’s just something about how dehumanized Raven is that really appeals to me.    Not just in the pity aspect, but in seeing him overcome it as well.  It’s a slow process, but when he shows even just a hint of emotion, it warms my heart.   Raven’s cold personality also acts as a foil to pretty much everyone else in the show, which is a welcome relief, considering how hot-headed and impulsive the other characters are.  He spouts some great deadpan lines, and is probably the only anime character that hasn’t freaked out upon seeing a girl changing.

Lastly, there’s Raven’s skin color.  No getting around it, the man is tan.   Very tan.  And he actually has black hair.  It’s wonderful.  Usually tan bishonen aren’t so tan, and have blond or silver hair as a racial cop-out.  Then again, Raven isn’t completely off the hook in that aspect, considering his green eyes and straight hair.  I still have no idea what race he’s supposed to be  (it doesn’t help that his twin sister’s bone-white either),  but hey!  Tan bishonen!  The world needs more of those!

So is Raven original?  Not exactly.  Is he a great character?  Definitely.  He’s a wonderful combination of traits, and I don’t think Earl and Fairy would have been half as entertaining without him.

Too cute for words.

The movies man, taking over my life

I  can’t really sit down and bang out a blog post like I’d like to, so here’s a re-post compilation of slightly-edited movie impressions from my tumblr.

The 400 Blows

Amazing.  I have to thank Murakami for namedropping this film a million times in Kafka on the Shore, because I would have never bothered to check this out otherwise.  I honestly think this the one alienation-themed story that’s affected me the most.  I mean, Gregor and Mersault are too old and mature.  Holden Caulfield and Donnie Darko are too painfully close to my age and mentality for me to take seriously.  But Antoine?  There’s something powerful about seeing a twelve-year-old smoke, drain a bottle of wine, and desperately clutch a bottle of stolen milk as if a hobo with booze.  There’s not all to the movie, of course, but those images are burned into my mind forever.

500 Days of Summer

I avoided it for about a year because I thought it would be on of those “look at me, I’m so unique and quirky!” indieshit things.  I was so wrong.

I definitely get an Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless vibe  from the lighting and shots, which were freaking amazing.   A scene that stands out in this regard is when Summer kicks Tom out of her apartment– minimum lighting, stark shadows, and cool colors make the scene feel cold, you can feel the failure creeping into the relationship.

The romance and character archetypes are exactly what you’d expect, but it works because the characters are  likable.     They’re not reference-spouting hipsters being oh-so-quirky, they’re just a couple of twenty-somethings fumbling around in love.   There were some pretty obnoxious reference drops (they start dating because he finds she likes the Smiths, are you kidding me), but it becomes endearing as the movie moves on.  The scene where Tom sings the Pixie’s “Here Comes Your Man” was particularly moving.

It may not be perfect, but I love this movie.

Evangelion 2.0


Holy fuck.  Exceeded my expectations.  I’m so glad I watched this before it got spoiled for me.  It’s very difficult to talk about without spoiling it, so all I have to say about the mech scenes now is that they’re  amazing.  From Eva Unit 02’s new introduction to the final battle scenes, I was filled with a burning glee.   I can’t really articulate the feeling,  but they made me so ridiculously happy it hurt.

Speaking of changed scenes, the retooling of the episode 12 battle was epic, while the modified episode 18 was probably a million times more heart wrenching than the original.   The changes I loved most, however, were the ones that fleshed out Tokyo-3 and the Children’s school days.  I think the scene that encapsulates these changes is when Tokyo-3 “wakes up”.  It’s an amazing sight, and really captures this homey feeling that the original series never had for the city.

I don’t like Mari though.  Her introduction shook me out of my happiness for a while.  Not only that, but we’re subjected to her tits after a particularly bloody and angsty scene.  She does cool things at the end of the film, but for the most part, her existence is jarring.

Regarding stupid fangirling:  I’m so glad Anno has finally decided to see it Sadamoto’s way.  And by that, I mean SHINJI x REI 4EVA!!!11!!!!

But seriously, Asuka’s already been the “true” end for two endings already.  I don’t know how it’s gone in the manga after volume four, but it’s obvious Sadamoto clearly favors Rei (see- Der Mond art book).

And Rei is so cute in 2.22!  I didn’t have strong feelings for her one way or the other in the TV series/End of Eva, but I really like the direction the movies are taking her.  Her and Shinji both, really.  The passive characters are really getting a chance to shine.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World cliffsnotes review

Pros

  • Fucking sweet fight scenes
  • special effects are top-notch
  • side characters are hilarious
  • genuine love for old nerdy things
  • good condensation and rearrangement of comic’s elements
  • over the top things (i.e. Patel’s song and dance, Vegan police) translated awesomely to the big screen

Cons

  • Micheal Cera.  Scott’s awkward, but not Micheal Cera awkward.  Didn’t help that Micheal Cera was even more awkward than usual.
  • shit characterization for the main characters
  • Simply not enough time.   There’s never any downtime for the awesomeness of a fight to sink in and be processed before another one on the same starts again, nor is their any time for the audience to even understand why Scott is fighting for Ramona. Definitely a lot of information overload.

Essentially, the comic’s weak points (weird pacing, not so likable mains, paper-thin line between referencing things for humor and referencing things because there’s nothing better to say) are exaggerated in the film, not remedied.  It made me sad that the characters never really get to hang out, because it was those scenes that endeared me to the comic.   I’m disappointed, but I still want to give the movie another chance.   You know I’m getting this on DVD.

Evangelion 2.22 and “inappropriate music”

What infuriates me most about some of the criticisms of 2.22 that I’ve read so far is the claim of “inappropriate music” during fight scenes.  Seriously?  It’s a great technique.   When done right, it emphasizes the monstrosities that occur on-screen, and affects the viewer more than if so-called appropriate music is used instead.  And even if it fails, you’ve got a hell of a memorable scene.

I’m no film buff, but I’m sure one of the most famous examples of this technique is in the imminent rape scene in A Clockwork Orange.

I guarantee that in a conversation about the film, this scene will come up first.   It’s violent, disturbing, and makes it so you can never think about “Singing in the Rain” without thinking about rape — and that’s why it works.   Even if you forget about the movie’s message or even what the film is a about, this scene will still be buried in your brain, affecting you.

Another example of “inappropriate music” I’ve recently seen appears in Kick Ass, in Hit Girl’s timely first appearance.

At 0:55, after stabbing the shit out of some guy, she turns to Kick Ass and smiles.  The rest of the scene is just good fun, but  something about that one shot, with those la-la-la’s in the background, makes my skin crawl.  I don’t know if that was the point, but it works nonetheless.

Anno fucking loves this technique. It’s used a lot in the TV series and the movies.   So the scene in 2.22 where the dummy plug and the  Unit 03 duke it out is just continuing the long, proud tradition of messing with people’s emotions.   I don’t remember the corresponding scene in the TV series, but it had a million times more impact on me than it did before (one of the things I love about Rebuild).   2.22 does kind of push it by using the technique twice, but it pulls it off, so what does it matter?

Happy birthday Shinji!

Because the only people willing to do something like this are me and mai rival: