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Monthly Archives: January 2011

The Three Episode Rule 2

It appears I was right. The third episodes of the respective winter noitaminA anime have been strong, with one of the said shows kicking into high gear. I’m sure you already know which show I am talking about, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. All I’m going to say at this point is that it surely made the biggest splash this week, in terms of content and graphical presentation. Now, enough about that. Recently, I just caught a trailer of the newest noitaminA show set for spring, and I thought I would talk about it a little first.

 

[C] Control: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control (Tatsunoko Pro, Kenji Nakamura)

After two years, Kenji Nakamura is back with a new original anime project since Trapeze. Big news for Nakamura fans, the fans of his Toei shows (Mononoke, Trapeze), and just noitaminA fans in general. His shows have always been a pleasure to watch; his off-the-wall directing combined with well-placed CGI backgrounds provided a real spectacle, almost approaching the psychedelic. 2007’s Mononoke showed his technique at its best, expertly dividing limited quality of animation with occasional bursts of pure energy in animated form. On the other hand, 2009’s Trapeze was more experimental, fusing together live-action frames and actors with textured colorful backgrounds. Frankly Nakamura’s effort on that show was hit-or-miss, but I respect what he tried to accomplish stylistically. If anything, that show was a needed and highly refreshing change of pace. The show itself showed flashes of brilliance when it did hit the right notes.

Anyway, judging from the trailer for his new anime C (I still don’t know why they chose that terrible title), it looks like a departure from his past efforts. There doesn’t seem to be the layered backdrops with the trademark artsy texture common to his past shows, but it appears to have a more fluid and grounded look, with just enough Nakamura inflection. It looks to be more streamlined than his past shows. The show itself was said to have a lot of focus on action, which is itself another difference. I’m looking forward to how Kenji Nakamura juggles this seemingly new smooth approach, with his trademark loud and flashy presentation. His effective and informed approach to storytelling and directing plus this show’s socially sensitive topic should be a very interesting combination. Early on, I am hopeful for this show–it probably won’t be able to stop noitaminA’s recent ratings slump that’s been going on for some years now–but as a Nakamura fan, I’m happy (curiously enough, Mononoke was one of the highest-rated and best-selling noitaminA anime in the slot’s run).

[C] Staff:

Director: Kenji Nakamura (Ayakashi: Bakeneko arc, Mononoke, Trapeze)

Series Composition: Noboru Takagi (Baccano!, DRRR!!)

Original Character Design: mebae (Tailenders)

Animation Character Design: Takashi Hashimoto (Mononoke, Trapeze)

Chief Animation Director/s: Takashi Hashimoto, Akira Takada (Haibane Renmei, DRRR!!)

The show drops on Fuji TV’s noitaminA slot this April.

 

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Eat Your Veggies, Kids

Just got the single for Monochrome, the first insert song/battle theme for Bones’ anime Star Driver, sung by Haruka Tomatsu (who voiced the character Sakana-chan, or “Fish Girl”), and I’ve got to say it’s a good enough listen. It was a neat little battle theme during the first arc, with its symphonic sounds exuding the necessary sense of urgency fit for a fight song. Though it is a bit disappointing that they turned it into a more Jpop-sounding song in the full version, but at least they kept the original song used in the show. The latter version was superior in more ways than one, anyway. After a while I just can’t help but compare it to the main battle theme used in Star Driver’s spiritual cousin, Kunihiko Ikuhara’s Revolutionary Girl Utena, though. Now I do like Monochrome, but I have to say I found Zettai Unmei Mokushiroku as the definitively superior fight song (even if it was only an introduction of sorts). It sounded fresh, and it never really got old no matter how many times it was used. The lyrics were very strange at that, which gives it a feeling of weird depth–like it held much deeper meanings or something (though they probably didn’t). All the battle songs in Utena had really strange lyrics, come to think of it. Maybe that’s part of why I love that show so much.

Speaking of music, I’ve found more enjoyment listening to this record, Club Jazz Digs Lupin III, which is a cover album dedicated to the classic anime Lupin III. The record was mostly filled with different covers of Yuji Ohno’s legendary OP theme for the show, but they all had their own personal touches to distinguish one from the other. As an added bonus, the band Soil & Pimp Sessions contributed their own version of the song (the first one in the list). I first came across them in Manglobe’s 2008 offering Michiko e Hatchin, as they did the OP, and I liked what I heard. So it was a nice surprise to see they included the full version of the OP theme, Paraiso, in their latest (?) album, 6. It’s good to know that Lupin remains relevant today, being the original “cool and jazzy” anime and all. Cowboy Bebop itself had some definite Lupin influences. If you give Spike a beard and a cowboy hat, he’d be Jigen.

That got kinda long. Well, anyway, it seems that I’ve neglected manga for a long while now, so I decided to look back into a little something I’ve read some time back.

 

Nasu (Kuroda Iou, Afternoon Comics, Kodansha)

Actually, I chose to read it again after a few months since I’ve forgotten what it was I understood from it. My memory needed refreshing. The manga itself didn’t have any bold catchy hooks, no fancy gimmicks, and no flashy tricks. However, what it had was a defining unifying element which is present through all three volumes: the eggplant. Kuroda manages to weave little episodes here and there which revolve around or at least involve the plant in some way, and that’s part of what makes the manga a good read. From the past to the present down all the way to the future, the eggplant remains a fixture throughout the characters’ many different episodes. Some things just never die.

 

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The Three Episode Rule

We’re already a month into the winter anime season, and it seems as if it’s going the way I expected it to go. Nothing spectacular, albeit there are a few neat surprises here and there. I’ve been following about five or so TV anime, but I’m close to dropping one. It’s embarrassing to say that the said series was one thing I expected to be a personal surprise hit. Oh well, it can’t be helped. Anyway, most other anime bloggers have written about almost every airing series out there from episode 1, but as a staunch follower of the “three-episode rule”, I refused to do the same. Normally a TV anime series has its quality or enjoyability factor decided by episode 3, so I’m going to start judgment from there.

This is also why I’m not going to write about the current noitaminA series until their respective third episodes have aired (or if they strike me enough to write about them).

 

Puella Magi Madoka Magica #3

This show still isn’t the dark and brooding subversion of the mahou shoujo formula which some people have been hyping it up as, but it has shown signs. The show does have potential, and it is expressed here in the latest episode. Not only because it has an instance of character death done in a semi-grisly manner, but also because I feel that it finally began to settle into its own element here. It’s hard to tell if the show will build on that and become a more-than-average show or fall flat on its face later on, but the third episode is a good enough start. I’m eager to watch more.

 

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Spotlight: Yasuhiro Aoki

I’ve been hearing a lot of exaggerated statements such as “anime is dead” or “so-and-so-trend is killing the industry” from fans or by the industry people themselves (supposedly) from time to time. People also say that creativity in anime is dying, and that there’s nothing good that would come from it, aside from the more well-known creators that put out work. It’s an exaggeration, sure, but sometimes I get the feeling that some of us fans are underestimating the creative powers of the industry. Understandable (I’ve felt that way sometimes), but after thinking about it for a while, I find this thinking to be quite narrow. Say what you want about the conventions within anime, but there is also great, highly creative work being done outside their spheres.  Good animation work can still be found in the traditional framework of anime; it’s just depends on where you look.

In TV anime alone, there is the talented Ryosuke Nakamura who has taken control of mystery anime Mouryou no Hako and stamped his inventive personality into it which made it a great show. There’s also Kenji Nakamura who transformed Mononoke and Trapeze into highly energetic and psychedelic pieces of animated films. Some great animators-turned-directors also made some great productions in the recent years, such as Mitsuo Iso (Dennou Coil). There is a rich supply of talent hidden deep within the anime industry, but it seems as if they just aren’t given the chances they deserve. Only a peep into their real capabilities are oftentimes shown, as if teasing people. Shinya Ohira, for example, has shown that he not only has amazing talent and skill as an animator, but he also seems to have talent as a director, as shown by Genius Party Beyonds Wanwa the Doggy. As one of the best and most individualistic animators in Japan, he should be given a larger chance to fully express himself. But he hasn’t. This is also true for one of Studio 4C’s best directors Yasuhiro Aoki. I’ve mentioned him in passing in my rambling a week ago, but this time I wanted to highlight him and his work (the few that I’ve seen, anyway).

 

Kung – Fu Love (Studio 4C, Yasuhiro Aoki)

This film, had it been fully realized, would have been one of the best animated feature films in a very long time. I would even venture to say that this would have been on the same level as Yuasa’s masterwork Mind Game. But alas, that did not happen. Knowing the supposed circumstances behind this short only depresses me nowadays, especially after watching it more than a couple of times. Apparently Kung Fu–alongside Daisuke Nakayama’s Global Astroliner–was planned to be a full-length feature film, with completed storyboards and script and all (Aoki completed the storyboard for the entire film), and this short was its pilot. Unfortunately, some problems arose (most likely they didn’t find any willing sponsor) and the film never left the ground. As such, both this and Global Astroliner were crammed into another 4C omnibus, Amazing Nuts. Yet another injustice has happened. This was a legitimately great film, which had a ton of creativity and quirky fun infused into its short run time of 10 minutes.

 

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Madhouse Miracle v1

It’s always a treat seeing an anime or a manga do the low-key character drama every once in a while. Most of the time both media involve fantastic adventures derived from the realm of the imagination, and the most by-the-book of them almost always involve magical beings–girls–suddenly appearing from the sky and falling onto our high-school aged protagonist’s lap. Add in a few archetypes–tsundere, kuudere, or whatever–and you have your basic outline. It soon will be smooth-sailing from there, as it doesn’t really need a large effort from the creators. Those kinds of stories basically write themselves. Of course, some stories are much more imaginative than that, and even if they don’t really succeed most of the time, they are commendable nevertheless.

The slow-burn nuanced character-oriented anime have been done before, and some of them have been hailed as classics of Japanese animation, with Isao Takahata’s Toei Doga/Studio Ghibli works and the early NHK World Masterpiece Theater shows by Nippon Animation (some of them were done by Takahata at that) coming to mind. Let’s not forget manga too, as it has produced its own formidable line-up of the stuff, with Fumiyo Kouno’s Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms and Asano Inio’s Solanin as a few examples. Inio’s stuff tend to have a darker, more psychological slant to them (Nijigahara Holograph, Oyasumi Punpun), but it’s in Solanin where we see his skill at character drama. As for this season’s anime, there is AIC’s  Wandering Son (Hourou Musuko), which should be another treat for me.

 

Mai Mai Miracle (Madhouse, Sunao Katabuchi, original novel: Nobuko Takagi)

This was one of the movies I was looking forward to watching, along with Redline, Colorful, Space Show and the rest of the stuff. I’ve been thoroughly disappointed with King of Thorn and unconvinced at Loups=Garous, but I have had higher hopes for Mai Mai since it apparently received rave reviews from most people. However, with my lousy Japanese, I was forced to wait for a whole year just to watch this one with subs, and if that’s not bad enough, the subbed version that eventually came out was filled with almost incomprehensible gibberish that looked like it was machine-translated. I shouldn’t be one to say something about it, but movies like this getting unjustly overlooked is an injustice. Rintaro’s Yona Yona Penguin was also supposedly released back in 2009 too, and I’ve heard nothing about it since. Learning Japanese just to watch anime/read manga may not be that bad of an idea now.

 

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Return

Not that I think anyone would miss me or anything, but I was gone for two days because of an unfortunate hardware problem. I don’t think I’ve missed anything substantial though, except for the news about the Berserk movie project that was supposed to come out on January 8. Initial word about it sounded awesome–a straight-up adaptation of the whole manga into a series of animated films–and the first one of the series was supposed to be slated for release this year. They were talking about “expanding it worldwide” or something like that, and I’m curious as to how they will go about that. A worldwide theatrical release of an anime film is quite unlikely, so I think they’re going to use the internet for it. But whatever they do, it will be one of the events of 2011, that’s for sure. And oh yeah, rumors have long been circulating which say renowned artist studio Studio 4C will be in charge of the whole project, which is all the more awesome. Though I wonder how they will handle a project on such a scale as this. True, they’ve been around the world, but Berserk isn’t exactly a kind of project you’d expect them to tackle. If it really is true, then I hope it wouldn’t conflict with production on Koji Morimoto‘s new film (if he still is making it, that is). I, for one, am hoping for Yasuhiro Aoki (Kung-Fu Love, Batman: Gotham Knight’s In Darkness Dwells, Tweeny Witches) to take charge of this. He is one of the most promising directors in the industry today, and goodness knows he deserves a big break. And what could be a bigger break than a Berserk movie?

 

 

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Pardon My French

As I was looking through the list of anime last year for my recap post a few days back, I noticed there were a number of titles that flew under the radar throughout the duration of the year. There were a few TV anime, and also a few OVAs/specials/movies. Some of those titles sounded like throwaway animated fluff (like video game/card game adaptations) but the rest actually seemed interesting.The movies were of particular interest. Obviously the means of obtaining these are different from that of normal TV anime and I felt then that it was regrettable not to be able to watch these movies due to over-reliance on fansubbers and such. Fortunately some of them eventually got released–though I wasn’t really that overjoyed after watching.

I have pretty high expectations of the other yet-unreleased films (Space Show, Redline, Colorful, Mai Mai) and I hope they deliver when they finally get out on the DVD/BD market. Mai Mai Miracle was shown on theaters way back in 2009, but I still don’t see any decent release yet, which is a travesty.


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Recap

I mentioned a few posts back that I was planning on doing a 2010 anime recap of sorts. Actually I wanted to do it before the new year starts, but the schedule of anime wasn’t really cooperative. I wanted to wait until I watched all the final episodes of all the anime I was still keeping up with, so I got late again. Why wait, you ask? Well, sometimes a good anime that has been consistently fun to watch during its run can suddenly turn sour at the very last episode, and at worst cases it can even diminish the overall impact of the anime. Normally these are brought about by untied loose threads and abrupt cliffhangers for sequels that probably won’t get produced until a few years later (I’m looking at you Kaiji).

Luckily the fall anime season wrapped up this week, and I finally watched the ends of all my shows. As always, things like this are only based on personal enjoyment and preference, but differing opinions are still welcome. In fact, I’d like to hear them.

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