May 20, 2011

Dr. Who Explained

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Dourakuoyadi(?) has added pics from two Japanese modeling conventions. The focus is mostly on the Yamato/Starblazers models but there are all types and they are gorgeous. See here and here.

This is not from is from a Fleischer Superman short that inspired Miyazaki.

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I overslept by quite a bit.  I'm running hither and yon and can't get past the feeling I'm just some rat in a maze. Now I'm am having difficulties with a prism right now and I've  made a Faustian bargain with a potato who I'm convinced is plotting against me.

Of course there have been other distractions in my life but the above has taken up the lions share of my time this week and the rest are sufficiently banal... go below the fold.

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May 09, 2011

Star Wars Day

  My midichlorean levels are embarrassingly low.

I had been completely unaware of Star Wars Day, until I saw a link to this post over at Ace of Spades. It is a good read actually, discussing the macroeconomic, political and diplomatic ramifications of blowing up Aderaan. No. Really. Read the whole thing.

Also... propaganda posters.


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May 08, 2011

K-ON! DVD Volume 1

I had planned to watch Angelic Layer this evening, but this afternoon I happened into DVD#1 of K-ON!, bought it, went to a friends house and we watched it.

This is the show that dominated its time-slot in Japan and was such a phenomenon that the 13 episode series was brought back as a 26 episode show and a series of OVAs. This show is legendary. It is considered one of the crowning moments of awesome in anime...

All that plugging however,  means that this quiet little show is so oversold that it cannot help but disappoint if one has been following the buzz.

After all the hype, I was expecting, I dunno, Lucky Star + The Simpsons + Bacon.

4 episodes in there there is no bacon.
There is however, cake in abundance.

Once you get past the hype, K-ON! is a cute, rather dry, sitcom that revolves around three of the 4 members of a music club at a girls preparatory school who try to save their club and their dreams from the clubs weakest link. The characters thus far are mostly pretty engaging....mostly.

 Ritsu Tainaka is driven, ambitious, undisciplined and a little mad. She wants badly be a drummer and ends up president of the Light Music Club by default (when she joins, she is its only member).

Mio Akiyama has been best friends with Ritsu for many years. Despite this she seems more or less sane and well adjusted.  A competent bass guitarist, she nevertheless joins the club under protest. However, she quickly becomes quite determined to make the club a success.

Tsumugi Kotobuki is rich beyond the dreams of avarice and has had a quite sheltered life thus far. This prep school is in many ways her first real interaction with normal people. Having mastered the keyboard as a child she was initially intending to join the glee club. She changed her mind when she saw Mio and Ritsu arguing. She decided that these are the sorts of dysfunctional people that get into wacky situations like on TV. She is a superb cook, has impeccable manners and a kind personality, but it is unclear if she thinks of her friends as people...or pets.

Yui Hirasawa seems to be the result of a science experiment that successfully combined the traits of fingernails, a chalkboard and ADD. An utterly unfocused spaz, she joins the club despite the fact that she can only play the castanets. She is a valued asset to the club because a minimum of 4 members are required to maintain the club charter. To that end the other members provide her with much cake. They also persuade her to try and learn the guitar.

 I'd seen episode 1 in Japanese some years ago, and had thought it had potential. My biggest problem thus far is Yui who is initially such a cringeworthy exercise in fail that I find her painful to watch at times. Note that it is obvious by episode 3 that she has a genuine problem and is trying to deal with it.

However, 4 episodes in, I'm already seeing that there is actual character development going on, particularly in Mio and Yui (who seems to be becoming a slightly less central character).

It is a cute show and I did laugh. The interplay between the characters various flavors of awkwardness is developing a comedic synergy as it progresses.

All in all, I liked it. I'm going to pick up at least the second disc. After all, it's hard to go wrong with cute girls and cake.

I should also point out that the dub on the US DVD is quite good. Stephanie Sheh in particular does a fine job with Yui, which must have been a fiendishly hard character to pull off.

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May 06, 2011

Angelic Layer

 Some time ago I picked up the box set of Angelic Layer and I recently watched the first disc. My curiosity was piqued by the fact that Chobits was sort of a sequel to this show, and while Chobits was not entirely my cup of tea, it WAS quite interesting.

Unlike Chobits, this seems very much to be a kids show, but at the end of the first disc it seems to be quite an engaging and thoughtful one. 

The place Tokyo:
The time, 20 minutes into the future (of 1999):
Misaki Suzuhara arrives at Tokyo station having come from her grandparents farm in utter sticksville prefecture.
While negotiating the multilevel maze that is the station her attention is drawn to what seems to be a female wrestling match with exquisite choreography. She is then set upon by a really creepy guy in a lab coat who explains that this is the newest sport in Japan:Angelic Layer.

It seems that a few years prior, someone carried the Tamagotchi concept to its next level. Instead of a virtual pet in an egg-shaped locket, the angels are little humanoid robots sold unformed in "Angel Eggs" and customized by their owners both physically and mentally. They can be maneuvered via a thought control interface on an appropriately equipped table and naturally  the first thing that occurred to girls all over the nation was to have cock-fights with their little humanoid robot pets. This is now a HUGE phenomenon throughout Japan, with national tournaments, prizes, and so forth.     Cyber-cafes are giving large amounts of space to Angelic Layer training arenas.

Misaki rather impulsively spends most of her money on an angel starter kit and promptly suffers a scissors mishap while styling her dolls hair. This results in it not having the flowing locks most Angels do. Still, she adores it, names it Hikaru and decides to learn how to operate it. In short order our heroine unwittingly finds herself in an official match, which she wins, and through the machinations of 'creepy lab coat guy' she is enrolled a tournament; thus begins the Angelic Layer career of Misaki and Hikaru.

This is over a decade old but it holds up well. There's a lot of depth here, both in the world and the characters. Misaki Suzuhara actually has a fairly dark back story. It is unclear if her grandfather died or is simply unable to care for her. What is clear is that her mother abandoned her to her grandparents some time ago, in any event she is now staying with her aunt. Her mother does not want to meet her daughter even though she now lives quite close to Misaki. There is also a side plot about something genuinely weird and not a little dark going on.  For all that, it is a upbeat, even inspiring show. The production values are pretty good and the world is exceedingly well imagined.

The details of the fights and their choreography are well thought out, and, this being CLAMP, there are a lot of nice touches like the fact that there is a high value placed on presentation (one is required to have a really spiffy opening monologue) The "sport" attracts a lot of young people, who, regardless of stature or physical ability, can be sports stars...vicariously...through their dolls. A lot of thought went into this.

There is a lot to like about this series 5 episodes in and while I'm not entirely sure where it is going I am very interested to find out where it ends up. I'm liking it.

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May 05, 2011

Pekoponia Shall Not Fall!

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