Friday, November 30, 2007

Open the Floor - Fan Service

So after my spetacular failure on this front last time, I thought I would try it again. So I'm watching Mizaki Chronicles for my next Bargain Bin Review. So I'm going to ask you what your thoughts are on fan service. How much is too much? Or is there never too much.

Leave your comments below, please, or e-mail me at

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Starship Operators finale - On the Media and War

As a wrap up to these series of posts I've made about Starship Operators, I figured I'd answer my own question that I posed earlier. What is the relationship between the media and war? And if anyone disagrees with me at the end of this feel free to post a comment.

And fair warning the following example contains a three-foot-tall working penis. If that offends you, well get over it, because war isn't hell, it's just controlled unleashed insanity. For the sake of brevity, I'm going to shorten news media to media.

Like I said before. the media and the government make strange bedfellows. A lot of conspiracy nuts on both sides of the aisle would have people believe that the media is in bed with the government. That it's either run by the military-industrial complex, or it's the tool of labor unions, Greenpeace and a bunch of pot-smoking hippies. Well, they're wrong.

The media and the government are like a fifty-year-old couple. The government is the man. He wants what any fifty-year-old guy wants - sex, football and to be left alone on poker night. But for the most part he's pretty faithful to his wife, so he only wants to have sex with her. The media is the wife. She's gone through menopause. She doesn't want sex anymore, but she wants what any fifty-year-old woman would want - for her husband to make sure that the bills got paid, for him to clean up after himself and for him to pay attention to her.

They aren't much different when it comes to war. Back in the good old days of their marriage, when they weren't tired of each other, they would work together to serve a common purpsose. Just take a look at the old news reels that came out during WWII - they are pieces of propaganda garbage.

But now, they have different agendas, but with the same common goal - to meet the needs of their customers/voters. The problem lies in the fact that they don't have the same idea about what meets those needs. To take the metaphor a step further - the public is the teenage daughter of this couple, who's a bit flighty, but loves horses and cute pictures of kitty cats.

So the government wants to protect/control his kid. He has a big stake in selling the agenda to her before she meets some transient biker and makes for the Mexico border. She loves her father, but she isn't stupid. She knows that sometimes Daddy spends all night drinking and playing poker, that he occasionally flirts with the waitress right in front of Mom.

And this is were her mother comes along. She wants to win her daughter over because of some decades long grudge match that she has going on with Dad. So she whines about his drinking, his spending and how much he doesn't do for her. But she knows that her daughter is a bit flighty and won't sit still long enough to pay attention. So she has to make her delivery thrilling or else her daughter is going to go back up to her room and chat with her Myspace friends.

Enter the next door neighbor (or whatever foriegn power you want to put here). So say the next door neighbor just strikes Dad as wrong. So he starts in on the posturing, perhaps he goes over and warns him about his three-foot tall statue of a working penis. But the neighbor just brushes him off. Then he starts talking to the other neighbors about that statue, trying to gain some support.

But in the end, he has to have his family backing him, or else none of the other families are going to buy what he has to say, right? I mean if the guy doesn't even have his own house in order, how can anyone else support him? So he starts with his wife, knowing that she can get her daughters attention. In some cases, he tells a few white lies, in some cases he doesn't have to. But lets keep going with the statue thing, because I really like it.

So he paints a pretty lurid picture for his wife. Well his wife doesn't really trust him, I mean it's only a statue, right? But Dad says he talked to the guy and he blew Dad off and treated it like it was no big deal. Totally dissed the entire family in the process. Well his wife tries to go over to the neighbors and gets the brush off too. So is stuck with her husband's story.

After a bit of hemming and hawing, she tells her daughter the story about the three-foot working penis. She keeps out the most lurid details, but it's still pretty impressive. Well she likes her Daddy, and she's kind of pissed that the neighbor's picking on them. So she joins forces with her Daddy and well Mom's along for the ride right now, because the neighbor's not talking, and she doesn't have any other information.

Now the neighbor starts to get surly. He makes a bunch of counter-accusations. Thing escalate until Dad decides to go onto the neighbor's property to destroy the penis. And then everything goes to hell. The Penis doesn't get destroyed but the fence between the properties does. Lawns get trashed. Statuary destroyed. Maybe the penis even gets chipped. The neighbors who agree are all cheering Dad on, the neighbors that don't are all complaining.

But for right now Dad's got what he wants - a war on the neighbor.

And then Mom realizes that this is all about a three-foot-tall working penis. She starts telling her daughter about all the horrible things Dad is doing to the neighbor. She's kind of ashamed that she originally told her daughter about this stuff to begin with. But Dad's at war, so he doesn't care, except when his daughter comes up to him one day and says, "I want a new Dad because your being horrible." That's when he figures out that he's in trouble, so he tries to backpedal a bit, or tries to bluff his way through, but the daughter's not buying it, Mom's not buying it, but he's at war now, so what's he going to do. So he keeps at it.

And then Fluffy the dog gets killed trying to stop the neighbor from coming over to the lawn. And things really get bad for Dad. Everyone loves Fluffy. (This is not a statement intended to say that soliders are stupid dogs, just to say that everyone likes dogs or they should.)

The question then becomes for the daughter is all of this disaster worth wrecking a three-foot-tall penis?

And that is my take on the media's relationship when it comes to war. Honestly, I think it's the only way the media can go. As long as they do their best to report the facts as they learn them, then there isn't much more they can do. And this is the relationship that Starship Operators showed. Sorry, if this all seems a bit off of the anime topic. You can leave that comment as well.

Bargain Bin Reviews - Starship Operators (TV)

Sometimes there are just shows that pass beneath my radar, or rather I get so caught up in the other stuff that I'm collecting that they get put on the backburner. Starship Operators is one of those shows.

The story follows the 73rd class of cadets from the planet Kibi's military academy. After finishing a run on the space battleship Amaterasu (pronounced Ah-mah-ter-ahs), they find their home planet is taken over by the Kingdom (the exact political structure is a bit shaky, but more on that later). They make the decision to buy the Amaterasu, and declare war on the Kingdom. But to do it they need money, so they do what any saavy group should do - they sell their story to the media.

When I first heard about this title, I was skeptical. As I mentioned before, most fiction either treats the news media as the heroes or the villians, but never really delves into the interplay between the media, the government and public opinion in a way that's really meaningful.

Also, the whole thing had another strike against it. The original idea came from Ryo Mizuno, the person responsible for the horror that is Record of Lodoss War. So, I didn't really expect much.

Boy was I surprised. The overall handling of the relationships between the government officials, the crew, the media and the public were so well done, I almost fell out of my seat. All of the sides scheme for the support of the public, and use the media and in turn the media uses them to get their show. But the media isn't portrayed as consistently money hungry, no, they're also shown as noble and compassionate at times. Those relationships were so well done, I just wish every show about the media was that intelligent.

It's too bad they didn't spend as much time developing out the characters. The story mostly follows the vice captain (and military genius), Sinon, and does an adaquate job filling out her as a character who starts off as reserved and standoffish, but becomes fully committed to winning by the end of the series. But most of the side characters get little to no development. Rather they end up being plot devices. While that in and of itself isn't necessarily bad, it makes several moments in the series that should be heart-rending simply fall flat. Trust me there is a pattern for any character that gets developed later in the series. I won't spoil it, but you'll see what I mean.

Second, much like Crest of Stars, Starship Operators avoids any exposition like it's the plague. Which is great, since we don't get lines like, "As you know, this ship is equipped with a plasma cannon." And horrible because I still don't understand the political structure of the world. And in a series that is so much about politics, that could have been really helpful.

However even with the character and plot problems, the animation and character designs were still solid. There is almost no fan service, and even with the obligatory moe design, I didn't feel put off by the artwork. The CG effects were blended well into the animation and did enchance the space battles.

The score was pretty standard fare, with the orchestral going to war sound to it. But the opener and closer were both throw-aways that really can be skipped.

All in all, Starship Operators suffers the fate of most thirteen episode series. It tries to do too much with too little space and never really accomplishes everything it should. But what it does accomplish is interesting enough that it's worth picking up.

Recommendation: I picked up the series off of Amazon Marketplace for about $20. I would say it's a reasonable price for the series. I wouldn't spend more than $30 on it.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Open the Floor - The Media and War

So the two people who have replied to my poll, said they wanted more intellectual discussion. Mostly I kind of threw that in there as a joke, but always the servant to my readers I'm going to try to accomodate them.

So what I'm going to do is present some info, and I want to hear what you, the reader, thinks about it.

On with the show -

Well, I've been watching Starship Operators, and it has started to raise some interesting questions in my mind about the relationship between the media, the government and war.

As someone who has been trained as a reporter, I'd really like to say that the news media and war are some sort of distantly related cousins. No one wants to think that they're the cause for continuing conflicts, or that they're doing anything more than reporting the facts.

But war and the media make strange bedfellows. Take a look at the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine if you want proof (it started the Spanish-American war). It was an accident, but because William Randolph Hearst wanted to have a war in Cuba so much, he painted it in lurid tones and made it a national tragedy. So, the media can cause war.

It also can end it. For instance, the Vietnam Conflict (and arguably more currently the Iraq War) have been largely influenced by the reporting on the conflict. How else would we know about the mess in Baghdad right now if it wasn't for their reporting. And the American government definitely doesn't want us to know what it does with detainees from the conflict. Or how poorly they're doing over there.

So here's my question to you - What do you think the role of the media should be in times of war? Should they support the government like they did during WWII, or is the current incarnation more appropriate?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Head Hurting Time - More on Fansubs and the Industry

Right on the heels of reading about the Comcast/Odex snafu, I came across this interview with Arthur Smith, the president of G.D.H Int'l on Part of me wants to agree with him. I mean, he's right. People who download fansubs and don't buy the DVDs hurt the market. As HardCheese pointed out in a recent post, it's simple econimics.

But something bothers me... What could it possibly ever be? Oh yeah, we don't actually have any real numbers. Well except for this part:

"...why the overall DVD market in US is down 15% and anime DVD market, even though interest in anime is GROWING much faster than other types of programming, is down 30%!! How can that be, if not through the impact of file sharing!?!"

Besides the extreme overuse of exclamation points (I mean how do you yell more than yelling), I'm curious about these percentages. So the DVD market overall is down 15 percent? What does that mean really? If 100 DVDs were sold last year then this year 85 DVDs are sold? Or does it mean that if the company made $100 last year on DVD sales, they made $85 this year on those same sales?

I tell you those percentages are tricky. And can you really compare a relatively small niche market to a larger mass audience market at all? It seems to me that these are alarmist tactics at best. At worst, they're downright fabrications.

On top of that, I'm having a really hard time feeling bad for Mr. Smith. It's really easy to blame the fansubs. He even says "What other reason could there be?" And then turns around an points out one of the top reasons - There's a two year gap between when the show is released in Japan and when it's released in the United States.

Let me give you another one, Mr. Smith. I just spent $30 filling up a 12 gallon tank of gas. My electricity, cable and rent are all going up, but my paycheck isn't. Oh, here's another one - the quality of your shows have gone so far downhill in the last couple of years that your company has officially been branded a laughingstock.

Oh wait. But see you can't attack those. So it has to be those naughty fansubbers that are doing it to you. For goodness sake, lay off the semantics. Yes, people who do not buy the anime DVDs (or at least rent them) are hurting the industry. But to simply throw some meaningless numbers up there and expect the rest of us to run around like Chicken Little screaming, "The sky is falling."

Well, that's just dirty.

Why not FLCL?

Wow, I don't post for a week and now I'm going to do my third post. Although my last couple were under the influence of a lack of sleep and caffiene. Oh who am I kidding, this one is too.

So, I recently exchanged a couple of emails with animesophist and he mentioned Fooly Cooly to take my number nine spot. (Go read his review, it's about as good of a review of the series that you're going to find.) But that said it raises an interesting point. Why not FLCL? I mean it has everything a discerning anime viewer like me could want: Robots, a fast moving and crazy plot, robots, a crazy interstellar traveller riding a Vespa, more robots, amazing visuals and well... stuff coming out of people's heads. Thought I was going to say robots, didn't you?

But it's really tough for me because FLCL is a good show, but...

Does anyone really understand what's going on? Because if anyone does could they explain it to me. The problem with shows like FLCL and Lain and Texnolyze is that they get stuck in their own merry-go-round of crazy themes that they really forget simple things like plots. Or rather the plot gets buried under so much other junk that it forgets what the point of a story is.

And that's to entertain. And to entertain, I have to at least have a basic grasp of the rules of the world. Even in a show like RahXephon (which I finished watching after being up for 24 hours) I understood what was happening at least on a basic level. All of the other connections and conspiracies were icing on the proverbial cake.

On top of that, while animesophist is right, it is a show that defies categorization. It's also a show that uses and twists all of those categories it touches on. Sometimes it takes it right up to the level of a farce, sometimes it stops just short of it. So it's hard to take it seriously as a drama. It's hard to take it as light as a comedy. In fact it just muddles up all of them into one gooey mess, so that when I finished it I knew I'd experienced something. I just wasn't sure what.

And that's what lies at the heart of my problem with this kind of show. I can't connect with it. It's a good show and an interesting experience, but walking away from it doesn't leave me wanting to watch it again.

It ends up leaving me looking for something to wash my mouth out with.

Fansubs, Piracy, ISPs - Why won't the pain stop?

Recently, I came across two articles on Anime News Network. Both of which made my head hurt for completely different reasons. The first was part of the Hey Answerman! column:

".. Arent fansubs protected by the first amendment?... "

All I have to say is "What the?"Okay, so that isn't all I have to say. What bothers me isn't the fact that someone is trying to use something totally unrelated to justify downloading fansubs. It's that the argument they are using is so blatantly and unrepentently dumb? How is using copyrighted material that someone else created that you have no part in protected speech?

What bugs me even more is the fact that people need to feel that they're justified in downloading fansubs SO much that they create these fantasies that are just a few steps shy of institutional. Look, I'm not an RIAA puppet or anything, but downloading copyrighted material that you didn't pay for is stealing. Get over it. Don't try to justify it. Don't try to make it some holy mission. And definitely, most certainly don't drag the First Amendment into the argument.

There are plenty of good reasons to download fansubs: as a preview of a series, because it's not available in the United States or just because you want to. Yes, it's a good enough reason as long as you accept on some small level you are stealing.

On the other side of the court, I came across this article on Anime News Network. The part that caught my attention was: "The majority of the notices (which are similar to an unrelated one archived at the Chilling Effects website) reportedly came from Comcast, a Internet service provider in the United States, on behalf of an unnamed "copyright owner, or its authorized agent" and cited America's Digital Millennium Copyright Act."

Chilling effects is right. That goes straight past chilling and right on through to downright disturbing. Comcast can judge the materials I have stored on my computer, or that I send through their cables? Yes, I just said that fansubs are stealing. And they are, no matter which way you cut it. But there's no way I want the corporations acting as the police on what people send through their lines. Good lord, is it me or does that give anyone else the heebie jeebies?

Just imagine this scenario: I decide that I want to criticize Comcast's Anime Selects service on OnDemand. Do they now have the right to curtail my commentary? Am I going to get a notice in the mail telling me to cease and desist picking on them while I PAY TO USE THEIR SERVICE.

All I can think of is Julius Caesar at the moment: "Oh judgment thou art fled to brutish beasts and men have lost their reason!"

Bear with me - my brain is swirling in this mire of stupidity. I must pause till it come back.

Friday, November 23, 2007

On The Media

So I'm halfway through watching Starship Operators, and I'll have a review for it up pretty soon, but as I was watching it, it raised an interesting point for me.

If anyone doesn't know the idea behind Starship Operators is that there's a starship that's being funded by a news organization to participate in a war after the home world of these cadets is taken over. (That in and of itself raises some interesting questions, which I'll probably touch on in the review, but not right now).

What it reminds me of is how the media gets the short shrift in fiction. Really.

There are two types of news media in fiction: the Crusaders and the Paparazzi. The Crusaders are the noble, against all odds, fighting the man, noble types who are trying to get the truth out to the people. They embody all the noble qualities of the news media. Generally these pop up when the reporter is the hero of the story.

The Paparazzi are the dark side of all of these qualities. They're the vultures, who want to make a buck off of the suffering of others. They deride and sling mud on good people. Generally they pop up when the media is the antagonist in the story.

All I have to say is bullshit. I mean where's the regular joe who has to cover the local 4-H fair, or the fire that burned down the local drug store. Where's the normal guy who's having to shuffle through reams of agendas, trying to decipher exactely what the change in zoning is going to mean to the people living on Main Street, USA. Where are these people in fiction?

They aren't there. Why? Because it would make the media too human. And assuming that the media is human breaks the comfortable wall we've built between ourselves and what appears in the newspapers, the television screen or the front page of Yahoo or MSN. In fact, it's become the last great frontier in fiction. Because once we accept that the media is giving the audience what they want, we have to ask ourselves, "Do we really want that?"

And the answer is an emphatic, "YES!" Yes, we want to know about Britney Spears drug addictions and self-destruction. Yes, we want to know about the hummer Bill Clinton got in the Oval Office. Yes, we want to know about the 20 car pile up on the local intersate. And hell if we can get a close-up on the left arm of that young mother dangling lifeless out of the car than more power to us. We want that.

Now most of you are probably saying, "Oh he's full of it." right about now. But ask yourselves, why is the National Enquirer have a larger circulation than any other newspaper in the country? Why are shows like Survivor and American Idol and Entertainment Tonight and E! so popular? Why do more people know about Lindsay Lohan's police record than know about George Bush's education bill?

Because people eat that up. But it's an uncomfortable fact. It sits in our guts like leftover fruitcake making us wish we'd done something else with it.

But until we're willing to accept that about ourselves, we'll keep shuffling the blame off onto the media. We'll keep either villifying or glorifying them until we can accept that maybe, just maybe they're giving us what we want.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Initial Impressions : Blood + ep. 1-5

Synopsis : Saya is a fairly normal high school girl except that she can't remember the last year of her life. Meanwhile, a serial killer has been going around draining the blood of various victims. When Saya has a run-in with this monster, her entire life gets turned upside down and she finds out that she's the only person who can kill these creatures.

Review - First, I have to say I went into this series not expecting much. How much more can the Japenese do with vampires that they haven't already. Especially when it involves people mutating into monsters. They've done it well (Elfen Lied) and they've done it poorly (Knight Hunters).

Boy was I surprised how good it was. Based on the movie Blood: The Last Vampire, the story continues where I presume the movie left off. There's so much that happens plotwise in these first five episodes that I can't even say without ruining it. Needless to say, there are enough creepy people and plots and counterplots and brooding angst to power a spy novel.

Even better than that, the story takes place in Okinawa. Any anime series that manages to not be based in Tokyo scores points with me, but Okinawa is probably my favorite hot spot for political tension. And this show uses it to good effect, showing the problems that exist between the base and the citizens of the city.

The animation and character designs are also interesting. The fight scenes are fluid and dynamic and don't have any really long pauses while the two characters size each other up. The Americans look like Americans, the Okinawans looks like Okinawans (yes there is a difference) and except for the super-pale creepy guy there isn't the same "stupid American gaijin" stuff that you see in shows like Ghost in Shell: Standalone Complex.

The soundtrack also is really amazing too. Adding creepiness to the scenes that need to be creepy and not killing the tension at all.

Initial verdict: If you can't tell by now, I'm really excited about this one. I just want Sony to bring it out now!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Who's afraid of Little Red Riding Hood?

"The words themselves aren't bad. Who you have to worry about is the racist a**hole using them"
George Carlin, on racial slurs.
So I'm confused. What exactely is moe? According to The Anime News Network's lexicon, Moe is "a Japanese term used in connection with manga or anime to describe the ideal of youthful and innocent femininity. Written with the kanji for "to bud or sprout" (萌), the concept covers a narrow range of ideal behaviour for youthful female characters in manga or anime. To be properly moe, a character must be eager or perky, not overly independent, and call forth a desire in the viewer to protect them and nurture them. "
But every where I go, moe is tossed around like it's a horrible, horrible genre and that I must be a sick pervert for even considering watching a series that has a moe character, let alone liking it. WTF?! Granted, I've said that fantasy writers aren't allowed to use Elves any more, but that's because they are overused, and badly overused. Granted, I'll give the detractors that the prevalence of moe characters is really high, but that in and of itself is not a reason to toss an anime out.
I mean there are so many BETTER reasons to dislike a series, like plot, tension, character interaction, soundtrack, general direction, theme, whether or not the pictures on the box are pretty or not. Really, I consider the artboxes more important than whether a character appeals to some person's inner fantasy to have a baby sister.
And before anyone gets all high and righteous on me, and starts saying something like, "Well it's become cliche." All I have to say about that is that those same people don't complain about the Chars or the Roy Fokkers or the Alex Rowes or the Spike Spiegels. They don't gripe about the twentieth time they saw another incarnation of Amaro Ray climb into another copy of the Gundam.
Then why are they afraid of another incarnation of little Red Riding Hood?
The obvious answer is that they aren't. They're afraid of the Big Bad Wolf. They're afraid of the people who have body pillows and even more the people who take their obsession to the next logical step. Again from the ANN lexicon, "There is a lot of debate over the crossover between moe fandom and lolicom. While the crossover exists among fans and products the two genres are not synonymous."
Now, I'm not going to argue with whether they're synonymous or not. The fact is that I find THAT idea disturbing. But judging a series because you don't necessarily like the people who might like the series is like not using shampoo because you don't like people who use shampoo.
And even more, it marginalizes people who actually like series with possibly moe characters. I enjoy Shakugan no Shana, not because there's a cute girl with big eyes and childish features. I don't feel any need to cuddle or nuture them (I'm dead inside, cute does nothing for me). I like it because it's got some interesting (if somewhat cliche) plots, some neat character designs and can work up enough moral revulsion for the bad guys and enough cheering on of the good guys to keep me involved.
I really like Eureka 7, even with having the basic starting point of any mecha show, and a moe character, because it's got an interesting world, a good plot and a lot of gray area for the characters to mull around in.
Sure, there's some credit to the argument that if you hate a character then it makes the show less enjoyable. But to hate the show just because it has a moe character (or even a moe character design) makes as much sense as judging a series on it's artbox. And judging the people who watch those series as pedophiles, just pushes the real bad guys further into the shadows.

Friday, November 9, 2007


So to my one reader out there, I just wanted to say hello. Oh wait, I'm just talking into the darkness. Well find then, I'll just keep talking then.

Anyways, I've actually got some interesting segments coming up. I'm thinking about making the Op/Ed thing a permanent feature. Just because I'd like to share my own opinions about stuff too. As far as a schedule, I'm still kind of floundering on that one. (I mean with work and everything.)

As far as the segments, I have worked out those. I'm going to keep with the Initial Impressions Reviews, and I'm going to introduce my Bargain Bin Reviews. Anyways, if I haven't scared you all away by now...

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, November 8, 2007

New York Anime Festival

The New York Anime Festival, held on Dec. 7 through 9th has released their schedule of events. This is the first year for this convention which is held in Jacob Javits Center. More information is avaible at

Seriously, there are some really neat panels there, like retailers guide to selling anime. Fricking shit, I wish I could go to this thing. Is anyone out there in New York? And if you are could you send me back some footage or take some notes or let me know what they said. Thanks.

Op/Ed: Thank you ANN

I realize that I haven't given out a whole lot of information on myself. And mostly I'll admit it's laziness, and the realization that no one really cares. But for any of this opinion article to make sense I have to give you a little background.

I went to college for journalism and wrote more than 300 articles for my college newspaper, The Daily Evergreen. If you don't believe me just Google Cameron Probert and it'll show up. (Yes I do vanity searches, I'm not too proud to admit it.)

So that said I've had a three year long love/hate relationship with Anime News Network. It finally came to a head about a year ago when they printed a rumor that Otakon was going to shut down/restrict the Artist's Alley.

And they were wrong.

Now that wouldn't have been so bad, if they hadn't then turned around and said "Well we thought it would be better if we printed it now." They didn't apologize for being lazy. They didn't say "Oh wait, we were wrong to run it." They didn't even do it right the first time. It was one of the worst pieces of reporting that I've ever seen. So bad in fact that it almost made me start my own blog to counter them. That fell through, but my general distaste for the Site didn't fade much.

Until yesterday. When I read Zac Bertschy's interview with Eric P. Sherman, the president of Bang/Zoom!, I thought I was going to fall out of my chair with a heart attack. It is the single best piece of reporting that I've seen come out of that Site. Not only did he bring up important questions about the state of the R1 industry, but he also took the company to task for its handling of the AnimeTV program. And when Sherman tried to dodge the question, he kept at it.

Seriously, it's so good that I whole heartedly reccomend it. It's made me believe that reporting CAN be done in this industry, if people are willing to try hard enough. That Blogs and News sites can disseminate useful and illuminating information and maybe, just maybe, I can stop resenting Anime News Network for having the ability to do these things and just dropping the ball.

Thank you ANN

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Initial Impressions: D. Gray Man ep. 1 and 2

So I managed to find some fansubs, and I figured I'd give my initial impressions on a few series. Well one at a time that is. None of these are meant to be endorsements or rejections of series. Just an initial opinion.

So here's my initial impressions of D. Gray Man, based on episodes one and two.

Synopsis - D. Gray Man is set in an alternate European history and follows the adventures of Allen Walker, an exorcist, as he hunts Akuma (demons). These demons are souls tied to machines and put into the bodies of people who've suffered some grief.

Review - If it sounds like you've seen this show it's because you have. D. Gray Man has the same initial set up of a dozen other shows (most notably: Chrono Crusade). The first couple episodes are the obligatory setting everything up episodes. So the jury is still out on whether this is going to rise above these humble roots and become something good, or whether it's going to just follow a pretty humdrum, one combat tournament after another type of formula. I'm still hoping for the former.

The characters are pretty standard so far. Allen is the plucky hero with the dark history trying to make right. The other members of the Dark Religious Order (that is how it was translated on the fansub) seem pretty normal - the crazy captain, the mysterious leaders, the soft-spoken sister - but none of them are offensive. My only nitpick is that this is set in England, so why the hell is there a Japanese member? And why does everyone have Japanese names, except for the one person who is actually from another country? I really hope that it gets explained because that's enough to wrankle me right there.

Really, the selling point of this show right now is the animation. It's really spectacular, and the character designs also are really interesting. That right there is enough to reccomend the series. It's such dazzling eye candy that I could forget anything having to do with lame characters.

So, initial verdict - Watchable, but I'm not expecting much from it.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Why not Record of Lodoss War OVA?

Up and to now most of these Why Not segments have focused on anime that I like, and that except for the flaws in them really aren't that bad of shows. But this time I'm going after a show I hate: Record of Lodoss War OVA.

Seriously, why does anyone like this show? It's horrible. It breaks almost every rule of good fantasy. First, it's based on a D&D campaign. Granted, I might be able to forgive it for that. I mean the Dragonlance Chronicles was based on a D&D campaign and that was actually pretty good. But it was based on the old, old D&D - the one where Elves were a character class, and there was almost no originality needed to create a character besides the ability to add die rolls. And to top it off all of the characters are the stereotypes for their character class. The wizard is an academic. The fighter is brash and impulsive. The Elf is attuned with nature. The Dwarf is a Dwarf. And so on and so forth.

That right there is enough to make me want to cry into my pillow, while screaming, "Please no more." But add to that the second sin of modern fantasy. It has Elves. Come on people. Elves went out of vogue with Terry Brooks. The only writer who is allowed to use Elves right now is Tad Williams and no one else. Even Margaret Wies and Tracey Hickman have their Elf priviledges revoked after the monstrosity that is The Death Gate Cycle.

That's it. Right here and now, I'm declaring war against anything with Elves. Nothing good ever came of them and they are filled with suck. Even if they're hot Elves wearing revealing outfits. Nope, they die too.

To top it off the OVA has the worst, hackneyed, uneven and generally incomprehenible plot ever. It starts off bad and only gets worse. It glides so quickly through anything with any kind of meat to it that I find myself searching for a rope to hang myself with.

This show causes genocidal urges and suicidal tendencies, that's how bad it is.

Please, if you like your friends and want to keep them don't show them Record of Lodoss War OVA. Show them anything else. Hell, show them La Blue Girl. At least then they would think you're just a pervert and not someone who enjoys horrible, horrible shows.

Seriously. It's that bad.

Review - Kaze no Yojimbo (TV)

So I'll admit that I don't like Kurosawa movies. They tend to be hideously over-acted, generally hard to follow and for the most part pretty lame.

But I love remakes of his movies. Odd, huh?

Kaze no Yojimbo isn't an exception to that rule. The story follows George Kodama as he journeys to Kimjuku to find out what happened to his brother fifteen years ago. But instead of an idyllic country town, George finds himself smack dab in the middle of a gang fight. The two sides are headed by the old money Tanokura, who pretty much controls the town power structure, and the Ginzame gang, who are pretty much young upstarts who just happened to roll into town.

There really isn't much to dislike about the characters. Kodama is probably one of the most interesting protagonists that I've seen in anime. He's a punk, dislikes authority, stands up for himself without being hot-headed, and in general is coolness personified. But more in the Steve McQueen tough guy way, than the tall, dark and silent way that most anime is so fond of. The other characters stand on their own, and with the exception of the teenage daughter of Tanokura, they're actually pretty interesting.

The plot unfortunately is uneven. The first part of the series moves pretty quickly, throwing out enough loose ends to keep the viewer involved. But the middle of the series is a bit sluggish, while it bides its time to work up to its really good conclusion. And the best thing about it - it doesn't leave any questions unanswered. I'm so excited about that, I could spit.

The entire thing looks like it had a budget that came out of the bottom of a washing machine. Generally the animation is chunky and uses way too many shortcuts to really be interesting. But the framing of the scenes does cover for a lot of it. There are a lot of points where the show will use a close-up on a character and make the background fuzzy. (I'm assuming this is to save on the cost of having to animate the entire scene.) It's a trick that gets old after a while. But honestly, if you're watching this show for the animation then you're watching it for the wrong reasons.

The soundtrack makes up for the lousy animation though. It's a combination of a single guitar, or a flute or sometimes an orchestra. But it really helps to build the mood of the series. And this series is all about mood. The dub on this is actually really good at capturing the combination of hidden secrets and conflicting agendas.

In the end, Kaze no Yojimbo isn't for everyone. If you're looking for boys crying out "I want to be stronger" or girls pining over milquetoast heroes or giant robots or anything else that's been done to death, then this show isn't for you. But if you're looking for something different, albeit a little slow, then Kaze no Yojimbo is a good buy.

Cleverness - 4 out of 5
Characters - 5 out of 5
Plot - 3 out of 5
Acting - 4 out of 5
Technical - 2 out of 5

Saturday, November 3, 2007


So I still haven't quite decided on a schedule for what I'm going to post when. I may end up having one, I may just do this haphazardly. I don't know yet.

But that said, I kind of wanted to set out the type of stuff I'm planning on reviewing. Mostly, I want to review the type of shows that you might pick up on the cheap from Amazon marketplace. The ones that Anime News Network doesn't really do full reviews of. Mostly I plan on reviewing the entire series and unless there's a major hue and cry, it'll probably be the dub only, unless I've watched the sub.

If anyone has any series that they'd like me to review, or has any comments on what they want to see, please let me know - either here or at

Oh and if you just happen by this way and feel so inclined, please leave a comment. I'd like to know what is and isn't working for you as a reader. And any improvements that you'd like to see.


Why not Cowboy Bebop?

Okay, so I can hear the collective gasp of the masses going up now. All of them saying "He isn't." And me saying, "Oh yes I am, so suck it."

But to be fair, there's a lot about Cowboy Bebop that is good. Honestly, it's the most accesible anime to an American fanbase out there. If there's a quintessential starter anime then Cowboy Bebop is it. For those people who managed to trip onto this site, let me give you a run down of what the series is all about.

Basically Cowboy Bebop follows the story of three (and later four) bounty hunters as they journey across the solar system hunting bounties. It's done in a very neo-noir style, complete with a jazz opener and soundtrack, seedy bars, bright neon signs and stories that make you wonder whether there really is a good guy in all this. The characters for the most part are fairly accesible and generally cover all of the stereotypical noir type characters: the repentant criminal, the disillusioned cop and the femme fatale. With a child computer genius and a really smart dog thrown in there for comic relief.

For the most part the episodes stand alone and can be watched in any order (and are probably better if you don't watch them in the original broadcast order, but that's up to you).

So what's not to like, right?

Well lets start with the fact that it's episodic. Really, I'm going to throw something out there that will probably tick off a few more people. Anime can't do episodic well. Granted Bebop does it better than say Revolutionary Girl Utena (I'm still trying to forget that heaping pile of crap), but the episodes are way too uneven to really be enjoyable.

For instance there are some great episodes - A Waltz for Venus or Ganymede Elegy come to mind - that hit on all cylinders and really do all of the things that noir does well. And then there are episodes - Toys in the Attic - that after the first time you watch them you might as well never watch them again because you simply won't enjoy them as much. All in all, it leads to a series that is enjoyable about half the time.

Add to that, a kind of overarching plot that spans oh, five episodes that is good, but never seems to reflect back on the series.

And now let's talk about characters. They don't change. They occasionally grow, but only when it's convienent for the episode that they're in. In fact, they remain static enough that it makes them a bit uninteresting. I want my main characters to struggle, to change, to learn to adapt to new surroundings, to DO something other than serve the plot. Which is all the characters in Cowboy Bebop do.

Seriously, in comparision to similiar American TV series' , it holds it own against something like Cold Case Files, but just barely. And that's what makes it sad, because it is a great idea. But in the end, it's emminently forgettable.

Well except for the next time you're at a party and you happen to mention that you watch anime. And some guy (or girl) wants to be cool, or relate and says, "Oh, I've watched Cowboy Bebop."

And if you're like me, you pause for a moment, bite back that comment, and say, "Oh gee. That's nice."