While making dinner just now, I had a truly evil thought about who should provide the voice for an Ann Coulter audiobook: anime voice actress Kotono Mitsuishi, playing the title character from Excel Saga (link goes to MP3 clip).
It’s such an appealing thought that I’m tempted to grab a bunch of video clips of Excel and re-subtitle them with one of Coulter’s articles.
[for more fun, IMDB reports that the same actress also voiced the busty assassin Christie in the two Dead or Alive Xbox games (DOA3 and DOA Xtreme Beach Volleyball), as well as the title character in Sailor Moon. Don’t go there. :-)]
Continuing my trend of finding out about DVD releases a month after they reach the stores, I tripped across a copy of Dirty Pair: Project Eden today. I practically knocked over the shelf in my haste to grab it, because my ancient bootleg VHS copy is almost unwatchable, and this is one of my favorite OAVs. There’s just something about scantily clad Women of Mass Destruction.
[The Dirty Pair Flash DVDs, and the recent graphic novel Run From The Future, on the other hand, do nothing for me; I don’t like the art, and I don’t like how they redefine the characters. The rest of the stuff is action/comedy gold, though.]
My other recent discovery was the John Carpenter cult classic They Live, best known for the lengthy and surprisingly realistic fight scene, in which two big guys beat the crap out of each other, and then spend the rest of the movie limping around like someone just beat the crap out of them. Loads of fun, and a far better alien-invasion story than just about anything else ever made in Hollywood.
None of the local retailers have They Live in stock. When I asked, one chain store manager complained “they ship me two copies of a great film, and thirty copies of crap I’ll never be able to sell.”
The local Borders cheerfully offered to order it for me, and since I’ve still got at least a dozen DVDs piled up to watch, I told them to go ahead. When I checked back today, I discovered that they expect it to take one month to get the order in, if it’s in their warehouse.
WTF? A recent release, and the best they can do is send the warehouse a polite note asking if they could pretty-please send one along sometime after Thanksgiving? Should I point out to them that borders.com is an Amazon storefront, and I could have it before the week is out?
For my recent road trip to Kirkland (which was what cut my road trip to LA short), I filled my suitcase with anime DVDs, most of which I picked up based on recommendations. Somewhere along the way, I started thinking of one-sentence summaries of the stories, for both the new stuff and the ones I’ve had for years.
Possible mild spoilers…(Continued on Page 1662)
Since he brought it up, I thought I’d give my own reaction to the endings of some of the anime series I’ve been watching. For obvious reasons, one should BEWARE OF MILD SPOILERS below.
[update: cleaned up the formatting and added a review of Please! Teacher](Continued on Page 1832)
Warning: there’s so little plot in Steel Angel Kurumi that I can’t possibly talk about the ending without revealing most of it. If you’re spoiler-shy, stop reading now.(Continued on Page 1849)
First, an annoyance. The main character’s first name is Chitose, chi-toe-say. In the dub (and the previews that appear on other DVDs), this becomes Cheetos. Everyone calls him this, even the shy class president who has a crush on him and wouldn’t dream of calling him by his first name. Other than that, the dub isn’t wretched, but it’s not very good, either, and as usual you should leave the dialog in Japanese with subtitles.
Second, a clarification. The Happy Lesson manga is proceeding more slowly than the anime, and in a slightly different direction (even the main character’s name is different, but it’s still not Cheetos), but it was the first thing to come out in English. They released the TV series next, and just recently the first three OVA episodes, but I think the latter should be watched first, since they introduce two characters who aren’t in the manga and just show up out of the blue in the TV series. The first episode of the TV series is an alternate edit of the OVA opener, but the rest is different, and develops the cast a lot more.
Third, it doesn’t really end, because they made a second season (as yet not officially licensed for US release).
With all that out of the way, what’s it like? Well, imagine a typical harem comedy where beautiful women move into a house with a hapless teenage boy and compete for his affections. Got that in your head? Okay, now throw out the romance angle, and replace it with motherly affection. And make the five sexy roommate-mothers his schoolteachers. Add in a shy-but-stacked classmate as the real love interest, two old friends from the orphanage Our Hero lived in until recently, and (eventually) a socially-phobic mad scientist, and, as they say, “wackiness ensues”.
Yes, that’s nine females fussing over poor Chitose, but their looks and personalities are distinct and interesting, and all of them get at least a little bit of character development. Another sharp departure from the harem anime tradition is the relative lack of fan-service; the women are lushly drawn, but outside of the bath, their clothes stay on, their skirts stay down, their breasts remain ungroped, and the boys aren’t popping nosebleeds all over the place in response to a quick flash.
The plot, such as it is, that ties things together is the lovestruck classmate’s attempts to both discover what Chitose is hiding about his home life and to reveal her feelings to him. It builds up nicely as the series progresses, and ends with major achievements toward both goals, which, unfortunately, are abruptly reversed in the final scene. I had that “Bobby Ewing steps out of the shower” feeling as the writers hit reset and prepared for the next season.
It’s light and fluffy, but well done, and a refreshing take on the harem clichés. I’ll definitely pick up any additional releases in this series. But I’m kinda pissed about that last scene.
After reaching the end of Angelic Layer, I found myself thinking about the unsatisfying conclusion to Mahoromatic, and I think I finally understand how it went wrong.
Warning: severe spoilers for Mahoromatic ahead. Safe for people currently watching Angelic Layer (hinthint). I’ll defer a full discussion of that ending for a while. I want to go back and watch the whole thing again first.(Continued on Page 2007)
I mentioned in a recent comment thread that I had developed some sympathy for BabelFish’s entertaining but mostly useless translations from Japanese to English.
It started with Mahoromatic, a manga and anime series that I’m generally quite fond of. The official web site for the anime includes a lot of merchandise, and I was interested in finding out more about some of the stuff that hasn’t been officially imported to the US market. So I asked BabelFish to translate the pages, expecting to be able to make at least a little sense of the results.
It was worse than I expected, and it took me a while to figure out why. At the time, the translation engine left intact everything it had been unable to convert to English, which gave me some important clues. It was also possible to paste Unicode text into the translation window and get direct translations, which helped me narrow down the problems. [Sadly, both of these features disappeared a few months ago, making BabelFish a lot less useful.]
The clues started with the name of the show and its main character, both of which are written in hiragana on the site. BabelFish reliably converted まほろまてぃっく (Mahoromatic) to “ま top wait the ぃっく” and まほろ (Mahoro) to “ま top”. The one that really got me, though, was the live concert DVD, whose title went from 「まほろまてぃっく らいぶ！＆Music Clips」 to “ま top wait the ぃっく leprosy ぶ! & in the midst of Music Clips”.
With apologies to Vernor Vinge, it was a case of “leprosy as the key insight”. It was so absurd, so out of place, that it had to be important. Fortunately, the little kana “turds” that BabelFish left behind told me exactly which hiragana characters it had translated as leprosy: らい (rai).
But rai doesn’t mean leprosy. Raibyou (らいびょう or 癩病) does, but on its own, rai is one of “since”, “defeat”, or the English loanword “lie” (which should properly be written in katakana, as ライ). So where did it come from? Rai is the pronunciation of the kanji 癩, which means leprosy. Except that it doesn’t, quite.
Here’s where it gets complicated. Every kanji character has one or more meanings and pronunciations. Some came along for the ride when the character was borrowed from China (the ON-reading), others are native inventions (the KUN-reading), but neither is necessarily a Japanese word. There are plenty of words that consist of a single kanji, such as 犬 (inu, “dog”), but not all single kanji are words.
Our friend rai is one of the latter. It has only a single ON-reading, which means leprosy, but the Japanese word for leprosy is formed by appending another kanji, 病 (byou, “sick”). So while rai really does mean leprosy, it’s not the word for leprosy. BabelFish, convinced that anything written in hiragana must be a native Japanese word, is simply trying too hard.
So what was it supposed to be? That little leftover kana at the end (ぶ) was “bu”, making the complete word “raibu”. Say it out loud, remembering that the Japanese have trouble pronouncing “l” and “v”, and it becomes “live”. The correct translation of the title should be “Mahoromatic Live! & Music Clips”; neither of the words in hiragana should be translated, because they’re not Japanese words.
In fairness to BabelFish, the folks responsible for Mahoromatic have played a dirty trick on it. It’s actually a pretty good rule of thumb that something written in hiragana is Japanese and something written in katakana is not, and, sure enough, if you feed in ライブ instead of らいぶ, it will correctly come back as “live”.
I fell for this, too, when I tried to figure out the full title of the Mahoromatic adventure game 「まほろまてぃっく☆あどべんちゃ」. The part after the star (adobencha) is written in hiragana, so I tried to interpret it as Japanese. I knew I’d gotten it wrong when I came up with “conveniently leftover tea”, but I didn’t realize I’d been BabelFished until I said it out loud.
Isn’t Japanese fun? My latest surprise came when my Rosetta Stone self-study course threw up the word ビーだま (biidama, “marble” (the toy kind)). I thought it was a typo at first, this word that was half-katakana, half-hiragana, but switching the software over to the full kanji mode converted it to ビー玉, and, sure enough, that’s what it looked like in my dictionary.
A little digging with JEdict provided the answer. Back in the days when the Portuguese started trading with Japan, their word vidro (“windowpane”) was adopted as the generic word for glass, becoming biidoro (ビードロ). The native word for sphere is dama (だま or 玉). Mash them together, and you’ve got a “glass sphere”, or a marble. Don’t go looking for other words based on biidoro, though, because it fell out of fashion a few centuries back; modern loanwords are based on garasu.
So I’m ripping the soundtrack album for Hand Maid May, and it’s got 62 tracks on it. Tracks 26 to 35 are short in-character messages by the lead voice actress, which isn’t unusual (I’ve been threatening for some time to put the answering-machine message from the Mahoromatic soundtrack on my voice mail), but tracks 36 to 60 consist of her speaking the complete set of Japanese phonemes, so you can create a “voice collage” that personalizes those messages. That’s new.
I was mostly just amused by it, and then I realized that I now had high-quality recordings of a native speaker pronouncing each phoneme, just the thing for language drills. Obviously I can’t distribute the results, and the truth is that I’m past the need for that particular drill, but I think I’ll build it anyway.
I will not, however, create a voice collage of May telling me goodnight…
Under the influence of powerful pain-killers (going in for a root canal on Monday), I spent some time this morning preparing a new music mix for an upcoming trip. It consists entirely of songs from the opening and ending credits of anime series, mostly ripped directly from the DVDs with Audio Hijack Pro (with some minor touch-ups done in the free multi-platform audio editor Audacity).
It’s only 52 minutes so far, since I’m deliberately selecting the tv-edited versions that average around 90 seconds. There are a few songs I can’t include because those discs are out on loan, but otherwise it’s a fun mix. Fortunately the person who’ll be locked in the car with me for six hours likes anime. :-)
This is actually a secondary use for Audio Hijack Pro; I bought it primarily so I could record streaming audio from Japanese internet radio stations (such as Radio Japan, Morning Freeway, and MBS Broadband). Having a variety of native speakers discuss different subjects is very handy for language practice, especially since my primary source, anime, isn’t known for its realistic dialogue and proper grammar.
Update: Mostly successful, but I have to redo many of the audio captures, because of a little feature in Apple’s DVD Player that’s on by default: Dolby dynamic range compression. It’s hard to notice with laptop speakers, but with headphones or in the car, it’s quite annoying. Good thing I picked the short versions of the songs…
Update: Ah, that’s better. No more fluctuating volume. While I was at it, I added a few more:
Update: A few more.
Okay, it seems a bit silly to review the ending of an OVA series that’s only three episodes long, but in fact the ending is the only thing that really stands out about Cosplay Complex… and not in a good way.
Based on the trailer and the fact that it comes from the director of Hand Maid May, I expected a funny, sweet, well-acted fan-service comedy with a plot that makes Kleenex look sturdy, and, sure enough, that’s what it delivers. They push the limits a bit with one character who can be accurately described as a lesbian pedophile, but while it may sound odd to American ears to say that her obsession is played for laughs, it’s true, and her most serious attempt at seduction ends in a failure that scars her for the rest of the episode.
The cosplay that is the heart of the show is taken very seriously and executed very well. The end credits are built around photos of real Japanese cosplayers, set to a bouncy ondo song that works perfectly. It’s also used for the special feature that identifies all of the costumes shown, and it’s quite a list.
The plot, such as it is? Think Major League with cute high-school girls instead of baseball players, and leave out the climactic victory. Our perky team of underdogs works to make it to the World Series of Cosplay, battling personality conflicts and bonding as a team, but we never see the payoff. We get to see a cosplay battle with last year’s big winners, but instead of the big game, the end of the third and final episode consists of events and new characters that are clearly intended to set up a second series.
Unfortunately, they really don’t have enough good material (or costumes!) to extend the story much, and the new stuff doesn’t even fit that well, so it’s unlikely that a sequel will be produced any time soon. So, if you enjoy well-drawn girls in and out of sexy costumes and don’t mind the lack of resolution to the story, it’s fun.
And who can resist Ikariya cosplay?
Random list of recent anime DVDs I plan to pick up when I see them in stores:
Further out, I’m looking forward to Daphne in the Brilliant Blue, Yumeria, Maburaho, Tenjou Tenge, Full Metal Alchemist, and the next season of Happy Lesson. Maybe Onegai Twins and Mezzo DSA, but the episode reviews of the former and the screenshots of the latter reduce my interest. I’ve heard mixed reports on Scrapped Princess, but it looks like it might be worth buying the first disc.
Update: Way, way out there in the land of things that haven’t been licensed for US distribution yet, and that I’ve mostly just seen screenshots and reviews of (here, here, and occasionally here), there’s Re: Cutie Honey, Ninin ga Shinobuden, DearS, and Tristia of the Deep Blue Sea. Gainax’s big effort, This Ugly and Beautiful World, looks nice, but sounds rather dull.
Quick takes on stuff I’ve watched in the past week.
Kaleido Star, disc 4 — Damn, this show is so good that I’m afraid to say anything that might spoil it. Just don’t read the back-cover blurbs or liner notes, don’t watch the next-episode previews or the special features, and stay away from the episode list on ADV’s web site, because they love to spoil things for you. Worse, many of their spoilers are misleading or just plain wrong. I’ll be buying the rest of the series (eight more discs!). [update: ADV puts spoilers into their press releases, too! I was just looking at a list of release dates, and wham!]
R.O.D The TV, disc 2 — Things are building up nicely, and the paper is flying. Good work on developing the relationships between the characters. I’ll definitely buy the next disc.
Chrono Crusade, disc 1 — Good stuff. A sexy, heavily-armed teenage nun who fights demons in New York City during the Roaring Twenties, leaving a trail of destruction in her wake like a one-woman Dirty Pair. The most glaring flaw is some poorly-integrated 3D CGI, but they either got better at it quickly or I got used to it by the time I reached episode 4. I’ll definitely buy the next disc.
Galaxy Angel, disc 4 — Fluff. Fluffy McFluff, with a side order of Fluff. This show goes nowhere, and is proud to admit it. If you’re in the mood for old-school anime wackiness with modern production values and no pretense at continuity between episodes, Galaxy Angel is the show for you. There’s really not much difference between the four volumes, and no matter how much you learn about the characters, they don’t actually grow and change, so you can pretty much watch them in any order. I’ll buy the first disc of season two when it comes out, because I like fluff. And Mint is evil, in a good way.
Kiddy Grade, disc 6 — Eh. Not impressed.
Ikkitousen, disc 1 — I can’t describe just how much this show sucks. I’ve read the available manga volumes, as well as reviews of the fansubs, so I wasn’t expecting it to be good, but I thought it might at least be amusing, in a “she kicks high” combat-fan-service way. It’s not. It does manage to be about 70% less raunchy and 50% less poorly-plotted than the manga, but also at least 20% more sucky.
What really stood out for me is that it’s just sloppy, both in execution and translation. I expect Geneon to do a good job on their releases, but this back-cover blurb is actually representative of their care and attention to detail on this product:
Once again blood flows in the streets of Kanto. The eternal fate that has been handed down for over 1800 years is now being fought by ancient warriors who have been reincarnated into the students of the seven top schools. One such student, Hakufu Sonsaku, arrives on the scene and is rumored to be the legendary Shou Haou (The one who is said to be the one to defeat many in battle). But can this blonde airhead with the overly-endowed assets actually be the legendary Shou-Haou?
I originally figured it was just a case of putting the junior translator on box work (like the charming example in Hyper Police where the box-cover claimed a character “begins acting like a little child”, but in the actual episode he becomes a child), but no, the subtitles are just like it. And I have to say that the show doesn’t really deserve better. Anyone who thought that Agent Aika’s panty-flashing was obtrusive or that Mahoromatic was in some way misogynistic should stay far, far away from this turkey.
Actually, everyone should just stay away. This show makes Amazing Nurse Nanako look wholesome and well-written. I won’t be buying disc 2.
Next up: 7 of 7 disc 1 (fluff), 50 Years of Playmates (the Playboy box set), and something called Star Wars. I think it’s a comedy. Or maybe a tragedy, the way Lucas keeps pissing in his whiskey.
Next potential purchase: Gokusen disc 1.
This is a fluffy, squeaky clean little series about a teenage girl named Nana and her six personality-differentiated clones, who appeared after an accident that involved her mad-scientist grandfather, his latest experiment in high-tech prisms, a microwave oven, and a cherry tree. Our Heroine has one goal in life: to pass the high-school entrance exams so she can get into the same school as the boy she has a crush on. Unfortunately, her new sisters share that crush, and that’s not all…
It’s almost painfully cute, with an opening theme to match. Disc 2 just came out, and I’m going to have to buy it.
Update: apparently the associated manga is a bit more fan-service oriented. Obviously I’m going to have to confirm that…
Update: Oh my, yes. The manga version is definitely aimed at a male audience.
Update: Just finished watching disc 2. It’s still cute. I’ll buy the next one.
After watching discs 1-3, I described this as one of the best anime series currently running. Disc 4 cemented that opinion, and was so good that I didn’t want to say anything for fear of spoiling it.
On disc 5 it gets better.
Much of what happens is expected, and some of it is even predictable, but in the final scene of the fourth episode on the disc, they casually drop a bombshell that has the potential to change everything. And it makes perfect sense.
The only thing that kept me from spraying my drink across the room in surprise was the fact that I’d just finished it.
I finally started watching Noir, and just finished disc 5. Great stuff that carves out a new niche in the “pretty girls with guns” genre, so much so that it’s not really part of it. Sadly, in the weeks between now and the release of Kaleido Star disc 6, the last two volumes of Noir won’t be enough, so here’s what I’m ordering today from Robert’s Anime Corner Store:
Going into December, it’ll be Galaxy Angel Z, Tristia of the Deep Blue Sea, and of course more Kaleido Star and R.O.D The TV.
Worth every penny I paid for the seven DVDs (but I am not, repeat not, buying the Noir otaku soap). There are a lot of things I could say about it, but I think it’s sufficient to say that the ending is driven entirely by the way the characters were developed during the course of the series. Nothing has to be explained in terms of “the director added it to make the plot work out” or “they needed a cool fight scene here, so X did Y”.
The plot does work out, and you definitely get the cool fight scenes, but it’s because the heroines and villains are doing what they should do, given the sort of people they are and the situations they’re in.
You know, I originally started buying this series on a whim, thinking that it might be amusing, well-drawn, cheery fluff. I figured that it would be entertaining, but not good enough to justify the pre-release hype.
I was wrong.
In any sort of fiction, the people who get the most out of it are the ones who come to feel for the characters and their situations, and this requires placing a lot of trust in the creators, a faith that the story will continue to be told well. All too often, this faith is misplaced, and the ending hits them like a slap in the face. In anime, it’s usually called “the Gainax ending,” named after the company who seems to hit fans the hardest. Evangelion and Mahoromatic seem to set the standard for this sort of ending, although they came painfully close to finishing Mahoro’s story well before pulling a Zeist at the last minute (apologies to anyone who was trying to forget that Highlander 2 ever existed).
The creators of Kaleido Star never abuse the fan’s faith in the story. They make a lot of promises early on about the people, the place, and the plot, and they keep those promises, episode after episode. The result is a show that keeps getting better, building up to a climax that is both surprising and pleasing. Even if you failed to avoid the remarkable number of shameless spoilers put out by ADV, Newtype, and everyone else in the business, you’re still in for a treat. It’s so good, even a publicist can’t ruin it.
Season two? I’ll buy the entire thing, sight unseen.
After I finished watching this series, I started imagining how they came up with it…
(warning: some spoilers included)(Continued on Page 2231)
At some point in every series, there’s a need for a chunk of exposition. Handled well, it fleshes out the story without interrupting it. Handled poorly, it’s episode 14 of R.O.D The TV.
I like the series. The characters are developing nicely, and disc 4 has some terrific action scenes, but when it came time to reveal what was really going on and how it connected to the original OAV series, they resorted to one of the clunkiest infodumps I’ve seen in years: the bad guy’s secretary spends the entire episode writing a report that summarizes everything that’s happened to date, talking over clips from previous episodes and the OAVs.
It’s a classic “As you know, Bob…”, telling characters things they already know but the audience doesn’t. The worst part is, it doesn’t work. If you haven’t seen the OAV series, it doesn’t give you enough information about the characters you’re starting to meet, and if you have, it’s mostly redundant, with the added negative of handwaving away significant changes in some OAV characters.
After this mid-series train wreck, they get things back on track by fleshing out Wendy and Junior, and finally bringing Yomiko and Nancy into the story. If they can avoid another jarring interruption, the rest of the series should work out nicely.
On a side note, fan-service in this series is primarily limited to the enthusiastic bouncing of large breasts that have never known the confinement of a bra (only one pair of which are ever seen bare), but they’re a bit less restrained in the mini pencil boards that ship with the DVDs. The Maggie pin-up is well-done, if a bit out of character, but the “candid” pin-ups of Nenene and Michelle are just awkward. Anita gets a pleasant, non-sexualized portrait, but the big surprise is the utterly gratuitous “please molest me” panty shot of Hisa-chan included with disc 4.
Yep, Anita’s shy, bookish, young schoolgirl pal is lying on her back, knees up, skirt up, school uniform rumpled, looking like she’s just auditioned for the little-sister role in a hentai game. Definitely not the way I expected that character to appear.
I ordered this disc based largely on the screenshots and comments at Momotato Daioh. I didn’t have high expectations, especially after my last adventure into “combat fan-service” (the utterly wretched Ikkitousen), but it looked like it might be, well, funny.
It is. In fact, the humor and the character interaction remind me a lot of The Dirty Pair (as presented in the OAV series and the Project Eden movie). The character designs are nice (especially Maya), the voice acting is surprisingly good, and the storytelling neatly captures the old-school charm of “screw continuity and character development, let’s just have some fun”. And, yes, it’s a universe where every woman under the age of 40 is quite implausibly stacked, and the female police uniforms were designed by the folks at Trashy Lingerie.
It’s not for everyone. The animation is at best fair, the only decent music is in the end credits, main character Rio is just a little too bubble-headed (bubble-everything, really), there are a number of shots frequently reused to further shave the animation budget, and there is basically nothing original about any aspect of the series. I haven’t seen any of the three previous incarnations of the Burn-Up franchise, and I’ve skipped a lot of the other recent “girls with guns” series, so I’m not burned out on the basic concept. Your mileage may vary. Me, I watched it twice in one night.
It’s definitely not the sort of series that can be used to draw someone into anime. After two of my friends watched the first episode Saturday, they begged me to put in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, a film that ranks just above Highlander 2 on our list of “movies we like to pretend were never made”.
I’m going to buy the second disc. Hopefully Maya will get more screen time.
Side note: while looking for reviews of the different incarnations of this franchise, I discovered that the previous one, Burn-Up Excess, was directed by the same person as Hand Maid May, one of my favorites. I guess I’ll have to check it out.
Not as amusing as the first one, but lots more Maya, which is good. It feels like they were trying too hard to make it silly, with three of the four episodes stepping outside the basic premise. The result is that we learn that Lilica is a cheap date, Maya enjoys spinning yarns, and Rio should never sleep with the television on. These episodes aren’t bad, just a bit flat, and are redeemed by the costumes (Naked Apron Lilica, Attack of the Fifty-Foot Rio, and pretty much everything they dress Maya in).
In other news, the people responsible for the credits have started to figure out the miracle that is anti-aliasing. They’re not using it consistently yet, but one can hope they’ll continue to improve. Of course, they’ve only got one more disc to practice with…
Eiken, for its horrible voice acting and attack-of-the-killer-blob “breasts”. I have finally found fan-service that is not only unappealing, but actively repulsive.
I wasn’t expecting it to be good. I wasn’t even expecting it to be okay, given the screenshots and DVD cover art, but I was curious to see where the current trend toward breast-inflation in anime is going, and I figured I could put up with the ridiculously oversized boobs.
Unfortunately, not only is the voice acting awful, the… things attached to the girls’ chests don’t even qualify as breasts, of any size or provenance. Thank goodness there was no actual nudity in the few minutes I was able to force myself to watch. Amazing Nurse Nanako and Ikkitousen put together couldn’t suck as hard as this disc, because no matter how terrible they were, they at least had something going for them besides the character designs. This show has nothing; if a masked psycho had started murdering the cast on-screen, I’d have cheered her on.
After my positive experience with Burn-Up Scramble, discs 1 and 2, I decided to check out the previous instance of the franchise. Multiple review sites suggested that Excess was the best of the bunch, but I like Scramble better.
Why? Everything about Excess is self-consciously wacky. The character designs, the bouncing boobs, the nosebleeds, the dialog, the action, etc, etc. There are some nice moments, and it’s still a well-polished, amusing product, but I really don’t care about the characters, who are pretty much cardboard cutouts with simple labels attached. The voice actors do a decent job with the material, but it’s all surface. In Scramble, on the other hand, Rio and Maya are interesting people, and their relationship has some depth to it.
Perhaps the best way to summarize the difference between the two is to compare the “Maya goes home to see her family” episodes. In Excess, she’s reunited with her crazy father and his goofy minions, and ends up on top of an exploding dirigible in a Playboy bunny suit, with a belt-fed machine-gun in each hand, madly spraying ammo; in Scramble, she’s sitting in a bar with Rio and Lilica, telling them about her childhood, her reunion with her foster father, and a terrific Noir-ish battle scene, with (occasionally silly) visuals as imagined by the gullible Lilica.
Both incarnations of Maya are gun-crazy, but in different ways. In Excess, it’s clearly sexual: she visibly suffers when she can’t bang, and goes wild when she finally gets release. In Scramble, Maya is the (relatively) sane, mature member of the team, who derives as much pleasure from collecting guns as from shooting them; she’s obsessive about it, but otherwise stable.
If you haven’t caught on yet, I really like Maya in her Scramble incarnation.
Okay, the gameplay looks pretty standard. The graphics are colorful and well-rendered, though, and one of the screenshots suggests that you’re not limited to (literally) pedestrian locations, but that’s not what won me over about this video game based on the R.O.D The TV anime series.
It was the title, ElePaperAction.
I finally got around to watching the last volume of the first Ai Yori Aoshi series, which is a mostly-successful romantic comedy in the harem genre. The art and animation are quite good, the music works, the voice acting is excellent, the antics are generally amusing, and while the characters are built on common genre stereotypes, most of them manage to grow into interesting people over time. The reason it’s only mostly-successful is that the core romance moves forward at a glacial pace, but this is largely an artifact of their attempt to remain mostly consistent with the original manga.
The only real twist in this “nice guy ends up living in a house full of beautiful women who want him” story is that the childhood-friend/first-love character bags him before any of the others ever have a chance, but must keep this a secret to avoid a family scandal. This leaves the rest with the impression that his heart is up for grabs, and, as they say, “wackiness ensues”.
The female cast provides plenty of variety for a “who would you pick” poll, but the series is so popular (as both manga and anime) that I feel no need to create another one. Instead, I’ll give my own impressions of the cast, and focus on something that I found flawed in the setup of the story, namely the way the “big secret” is constantly compromised by the way certain characters address each other.
(spoilers of various degrees follow; now updated with links to larger screenshots)(Continued on Page 2253)
Take an ordinary teenage girl. Bright, clever, slender and pretty, with a pleasant but not exaggerated figure. Now shrink her down proportionally until she’s about four feet tall, then stretch her vertically until she’s back to her original height. Perform the usual big-anime-eye surgery, and reshape the rest of her face until she has a chin that could cut glass. Throw in a haircut that further enhances her resemblance to a puppy-dog, and finish with one of the goofiest-looking dresses ever. You’ve now created Maia Mizuki, heroine of Daphne in the Brilliant Blue.
With that out of the way, she’s the star of an action/comedy series, so set the tone by putting her through The Worst Day Ever. Go wild here; we want her to be about ten minutes away from peddling her cute little ass on the street in exchange for a stale ham sandwich and a dirty patch of floor to sleep on.
In the second episode, we’ll start introducing the rest of the cast, consisting primarily of a conveniently color-coded set of gun-toting women with lush figures and fashion sense that rivals Maia’s. Don’t worry, their chins are razor-sharp as well, so Our Heroine will fit right in. Which one’s Daphne? Well, none of them, actually; we figure that will be covered on disc 6, which comes out next January. You didn’t realize that we’re releasing each of the seven discs two full months apart? Sucker!!!!
Now, for the fan-service, we want to do something a little different. Boobs are great, and we’re always glad to show that our girls have them, but we want to stand out from the crowd, so this show should be all about the ass. No, not the panty-flashing thing, everybody does that. Cheeks. Bare cheeks. Bare cheeks in the water, bare cheeks on land, bare cheeks in combat, cheeks, Cheeks, CHEEKS!
Why? Well, it’s for the fans, really. It catches their eye when they’re changing channels or walking through the video store, and the promise of more cheeks will keep them watching while we set up the plot. It’s not for me, certainly; I’m not one of those, y’know, ass-otaku. Okay, maybe a little. Or a lot. Just don’t ask me why I lock my office door when I’m “reviewing” the storyboards.
Moment of sanity: yes, I’ve now seen the first four episodes of this show, and I’m sufficiently amused that I’ll pre-order disc 2. The character designs grow on you, and the cheeky fan-service is something that just blends in after a while, helped by the fact that no one else ever notices it. Seriously. Maia and Shizuka casually walk through a crowded casino while carrying huge pistols and wiggling their bare asses, and it’s like they’re invisible. Until Shizuka starts shooting up the place, that is.
In vaguely related news, the English translation of the Tenjou Tenge manga has been chopped to bits by a publishing company that’s terrified of sexual references and exposed nipples. Um, hello, did you actually look at the product before you licensed it? Did anything about this series say “kid-friendly”? Did no one mention to you that the sexy girls are pretty much the primary draw, here?
Based on the ham-fisted editing they’ve done with volume one, I don’t even want to think about what they’ll do to the Chiaki/Aya bathing scene in volume two. If they feel the need to draw in bras and delete sexual references in the dialog, they’re going to really butcher a lesbian seduction that shows one girl sucking on another’s tit. And as for the dialog that goes with that scene, brrrrr.
[update: I picked up the Japanese version of volume one today and examined the pages in question. The folks at ListerX underplay some of the edits, neglecting to mention that they’re changes to a rape scene. I’m not a fan of using rape to show that villains are villains, but from the description, it sounds like the edits attempt to reduce the severity of his crime, which leads to more edits as the characters react to what happens, etc, etc.
Either way it’s not critical to the story, but this kind of tinkering tends to snowball. It’s the same sort of “mother/editor knows best” attitude that led Eric Flint to “modernize” elements of James Schmitz’s Telzey/Trigger stories when he assembled the new editions (because, after all, modern audiences would be blasted right out of their immersion by the concept of a man offering a woman a “friendly cigarette”, and in an aircraft, of all things!). At least Flint was trying to guess what the audience wanted to see; DC is apparently trying to guess what the local Soccer Moms Against Fun committee will complain about.
If the only thing they’d done was downgrade a violent rape to a violent assault, I’d be able to understand their reasoning, but I’d still be annoyed by it. It’s not that I want to see Chiaki shriek and cry while some leering clown slams her into the wall and gets off on her pain; no, not at all. I’d much rather see her smiling and laughing in the arms of her loving boyfriend, but they hacked up those scenes, too. Because her tits were showing.]
[Update: Adding insult to injury, someone pointed out this statement on the DC/CMX web site: “And it’s pure manga — 100% the way the original Japanese creators want you to see it.” What a shame they don’t read their own press releases…]
…then it’s hilarious. I haven’t been following the new Battlestar Galactica series, even though it’s getting lots of good reviews, mostly because I simply haven’t been watching much television at all. However, while looking at the fan sites, I noticed that Grace Park’s character, Boomer, is a Cylon disguised as a human being.
Boomer. Cylon. Where are the Knight Sabers when you need them?
Disappointing. Why? Because the series up to this point has been straightforward action/comedy with a dollop of fan-service and plenty of cartoon violence, and they inexplicably turned serious on this disc, dropping the comedy and making the combat bloody and lethal. Previous incarnations of the Burn-Up franchise are reported to have had the same problem, but it really looked like they’d decided to keep this one light.
Nope. Of the four episodes on this disc, only the first matches the tone of the previous stories. In episodes 10 and 11, Our Heroines take on a pair of powerful, brutal “replacements”, and the losers end up on life-support, while shadowy figures pull the strings. There’s some good character development mixed in, and they partially redeem themselves with the final episode (despite the baggage left over from the two-parter), but based on the first two-thirds, this wasn’t the sort of series where you expected to see one of the good guys lying in a pool of her own blood. And I counted at least two arms being graphically broken in ways that don’t heal quickly, which was two too many.
I don’t get it. I thought they’d done a nice job of setting up a world and characters that would support several series of light-hearted action, with sexy heroines and a slapstick supporting cast. I assumed that was what they were shooting for, but even though the last episode leaves room for more adventures with these characters, they left the shadowy string-pullers pulling strings.
So, either they ran out of ideas, they didn’t really want to continue writing an episodic comedy, or they were seeing how an “edgier tone” would play with the fans. Well, I’d have bought five discs like the first one, or at least three like the second one, but I don’t want any more like the story that dominates the last one. Not even with Maya in a bikini.
For some of us, Memorial Day is a time to reflect on what’s really important: role-playing games and anime voice actresses. Okay, I’m kidding about that, but I did spend the weekend helping a group of friends run a large D&D adventure that used massive quantities of Dwarven Forge 3-D dungeon tiles. Also, on Saturday I slipped away for a few hours to visit one of the other conventions in the Bay Area, Fanimecon.
They had a dealer room that probably looked impressive to people who didn’t live near San Jose, but all it offered me was the chance to buy DVDs without paying sales tax. However, their web site also mentioned that popular singer and voice actress Maria Yamamoto would be present, so I figured I’d make a quick pass through the dealer room and then try to find her autograph session. Eventually, I succeeded:
She was very friendly and sweet, and if I had been permitted more than 30 seconds of her time, I’m sure I’d have enjoyed it. As for Fanimecon in general, I’ll be kind and say that I was unimpressed with their organizational skills, and that nothing could persuade me to ever attend another of their shows.
Update 7/9/2005: based on today’s RS lesson, I’ve decided that I misunderstood noboru-koto in this context. I’m mulling it over, and will correct and update when I’ve sorted out “koto” more thoroughly; the romanization point stands, but my first example is incorrectly analogized to karumono, and incorrectly translated as well.
Steven den Beste went looking for the meaning of 「エルフを狩るモノたち」, which is written oddly, and has been romanized several different ways. By coincidence, my Rosetta Stone lesson this morning included the following phrases:
(roughly, “This animal, it’s a thing-that-climbs in trees as well.”)
(roughly, “WhereWhich is the often-flying-animal?”)
You won’t find 登ること as a single word in a dictionary, but if I were romanizing it, I would write “noboru-koto” instead of “noboru koto”. If I were referring to a group of cats (登ること達), I’d romanize it as “noboru-koto tachi”. I think that’s the clearest way to represent the meaning of the original.
You won’t find 飛ぶ動物 in a dictionary, either. This one definitely needs a hyphen, since “tobudoubutsu” is pretty unwieldy.
The anime title that started all this would ordinarily be written as 「エルフを狩る者達」. I think the simplest explanation for how it ended up being written was “the logo designer thought it looked cooler this way”.
[as for the which/where typo in the translation, I actually wrote that correctly the first time, then “corrected” myself. Proof that I shouldn’t blog in languages that I don’t speak fluently before I’m completely awake in the morningafternoon.]
The original Read or Die OAV was a Bond-movie spoof with superpowers. Like most of Roger Moore’s Bond films, the action, humor, and engaging characters kept you from getting hung up on the basic silliness of the plot. And, of course, Yomiko’s paper-mastery power was novel and visually impressive. I liked it.
I liked R.O.D the TV more, despite its flaws. Why? Like some of my other favorites, it’s all about the characters. The “big plot” that ties it in to the events of Read or Die is not only silly, but overexplained as well. Nearly an entire episode is wasted on clunky “as you know, Bob” exposition, and the villain doesn’t just gather the heroes for one final monologue, he gives them an open mic to all his henchmen.
The truth is, the series didn’t need a “big plot”, and it definitely didn’t need one that depended so strongly on characters from the OAV, while fundamentally altering their personalities. I like Nenene and the Paper Sisters, and I think they could have carried the show on their own. Deep down, I think the writers knew this, too, which is why the “slam-bang action finale” took up so little time in the last episode, and was followed by quiet scenes of the cast getting on with their lives. Ultimately, R.O.D the TV wasn’t about finding Yomiko, saving the world, or even paper-mastery; it was about these four women.
I knew up-front that the series would include Bond-ish clichés and a villain whose plans made Doctor Evil look sensible. I knew there’d be paper-mastery. I figured Yomiko had to show up eventually, especially when I discovered Nenene’s history in the manga. In those respects, the series met my expectations. In the way it handled the personalities and relationships of Michelle, Maggie, Anita, and Nenene, it exceeded them.
The way it presented Joker was jarring if you’d seen the OAV, but a bit less so if you’d also read the manga. Wendy’s change was poorly explained, and made even less sense if you’d read the manga. As for Gentleman, “well, that came out of nowhere”.
If you’re wondering where the DVDs of Haibane Renmei went, they’re being closed out in anticipation of the box set release in October. So, if you don’t want to wait six weeks for the $120 set ($90 at Amazon), and you haven’t already bought most of the discs for $30 each, you can currently get the entire series at Anime Corner Store for $30 plus shipping.
Me, I’m stuck looking for disc 2, because I already have the others…
I’ll be watching it through again once I’ve recovered from the first time, but meanwhile I can’t help thinking about it. Much of my speculation is sure to change as I watch again and argue with others (coughcough), but this is where I’m going with it now.
Beware! Spoilers abound.(Continued on Page 2388)
Maburaho, Daphne in the Brilliant Blue, and Haibane Renmei. What do they have in common, apart from seiyuu Junko Noda?
Not much, really, except that I was watching them at more or less the same time. Maburaho is a pretty standard harem comedy, with lusciously drawn girls, some good voice acting, and a plot that falls apart if you so much as look at it. The director knows his fluff, though, and the show makes no pretense of being anything more.
Daphne is equal parts action, comedy, and fan-service, with a plot that could actually be pretty good if they shared it with the viewers. It has the potential to be more than fluff, but the first-time director has pretty much blown the pacing. The first two discs are spent introducing the cast, and a good chunk of the third is consumed by two lengthy, apparently-unrelated expository lumps (one of which is both dreadfully boring and immersion-breaking). Maia is an engaging heroine, and some of the other characters are nicely rounded (yeah, that way, too), but the plot crumbs are just too scattered right now.
Haibane Renmei is so good it hurts, literally, which is why it’s nice to have some fluff around when you need to recover your equilibrium. To discuss it is to spoil it. You just need to set aside an evening or four, relax, and let the story unfold.
What’s bad about them? Beware spoilers!(Continued on Page 2397)
Stop me if you’ve heard this before:
How does Girls Bravo differentiate itself from this basic formula? Lots of bare tits, plus more than the usual complement of bare asses. The animators pushed it so far that the Japanese TV networks made them add fog effects to cover the girls up a bit. The fans knew what they were missing, though, so the DVD releases are fully-nippled and unfogged.
DearS tries a different approach, taking its basic setting from the film Alien Nation, replacing funky-skulled humanoids with half-dressed hotties, mostly female. Where most of AN’s slaves wanted freedom and equality, though, the DearS are conditioned to need masters, something they try to keep from their new hosts on Earth. One would think that the prominent dog collars they all wear would be a dead giveaway, but a year after arrival, it’s still a secret. Until the night a “defective” DearS is accidentally released into the wild, or, more precisely, Our Hero’s apartment…
OH apparently spent more time watching V than Alien Nation, so he is perhaps the only teenager in the world who distrusts the motives of the cuddly aliens. This, combined with a hint of moral fiber, keeps him from taking advantage of his willing slave girl.
Clichés aside, are they any good? Both are generally well-drawn and well-acted, with a good mix of humor and fan-service. Girls Bravo is plot-free episodic comedy that makes no attempt to explain the “other world” or its magic; Miharu (DG) and the women of Seiren (SCGs) are from somewhere else, they have a way to get to Earth, and that’s that. The manga it’s based on doesn’t seem to have any explanations to offer, either; it’s just not important.
DearS, on the other hand, has plenty of story potential, and at least tries to set up and explain some mysteries associated with the setting. They rearranged the first three volumes of the manga to come up with a relatively self-contained storyline, while leaving plenty of things to explain in a second season.
They didn’t get a second season. Girls Bravo did. Such is life.
On the whole, I prefer DearS. It’s frequently compared to Chobits and accused of blatant, vicious misogyny, but neither comment makes sense to me. The two women who create the manga know that they’re writing for a mostly young, mostly male audience, but their slave girls aren’t helpless naifs used and abused by their captors (those anime usually involve tentacles…). They’re slaves put into a situation where they’re forced to confront their conditioning.
Ren (DG) is a person with a stunted sense of free will, who rapidly adapts to her new life; Chobits’ Chii is not quite a house pet, not quite a person, and she’ll never really change. Ren, Takeya (OH), and Miu (SCG) all grow and change, and they’re all moving away from master/slave stereotypes. Neneko (GND) grows up a bit, too, although she starts out way ahead of the others.
Girls Bravo is amusing fluff, and based on the fansub reviews, I think it will deliver what it promises. DearS is a promising start at telling a story that will only be finished in the manga, but it’s still a good show, and I honestly like the major characters. As an added bonus, the end credits sequence more than satisfies my dancing-chibi fetish, accompanied by a painfully cute j-pop song.
Let’s recap. Disc 1 introduced a spunky teen heroine, ruined her life, set up a plot, and began introducing the rest of the cast. Disc 2 followed her through her new life and finished introducing the cast, tossing out the occasional plot crumb. Disc 3 was stuffed with plot crumbs like you’d stuff a turkey for Thanksgiving, not entirely to its benefit. All three were amusing and entertaining, with the exception of one infodump that’s badly delivered by a throwaway character.
In an ordinary plot-driven anime series, self-contained episodes that don’t advance the plot are often regarded as filler. Sometimes they contain important character development, but far too often they add nothing, not even decent art. With Daphne’s scattershot approach to plotting, at least 10 of the 16 episodes to date would count as filler, so it’s either a terrible attempt at a plot-driven series, or the plot is just a backdrop for the comedy. I’d prefer the former, since they worked so hard at the beginning to make me care about Maia and her problems, but with only two discs to go, it’s not looking good.
Disc 4 is a plot-free zone. It’s fun even when it’s predictable, and includes just enough plot crumbs to keep you wondering if they’re ever going to tie things together, but that’s it. Judging from the fansub reviews, this trend will continue until episode 21, after which it’s wall-to-wall plotty goodness until the end. At least one reviewer thought the ending made up for the show’s flaws, so I’ve got my fingers crossed.
File under peculiar the fact that the box set for this series is sized for seven discs, but the series is being released on only six. My guess is that Geneon originally intended to put only three episodes on four of the discs, but market conditions and fan feedback led them to shrink it a bit. As good as the music CD is, it won’t quite fill the remaining space in the box, but I can’t really complain about a consistent 4-episode-per-disc release.
I can see why a lot of reviewers find it easy to pan this series. High-school loser hero? Check. Missing parents? Check. Dream girl who suddenly appears from another world and moves in with him? Check. Girl-next-door type who can’t confess her feelings about him? Check. More strange cute girls showing up? Check. Insane teacher? Check. Color-coded fighting team? Check. Based on a PS2 game? Check. Fan-service? Check, check, check.
If you’re looking for truly original ideas, compelling plots, and genre-breaking characterization, you’re in the wrong place. Yumeria is an ecchi harem comedy with a touch of sentai and a dollop of sci-fi, nothing more. It’s a fun show, though, with excellent character designs, good voice acting, and a story that’s just big enough to last a dozen episodes. And Mone.
Mone. Mone mone. Monene. Mone? Mone! Mone mone. Mone.
If her remarkably expressive one-word vocabulary doesn’t drive you insane, Mone will kawaii her way into your heart.
A few of the in-jokes are a bit forced, and the insane teacher is particularly gratuitous, but most of the humor flows quite naturally from the characters and the situation. I see no reason not to buy, and enjoy, the rest of the series.
On Tuesday, a server we rely on that’s located in another state, under someone else’s control, went *poof*. They have another machine we can upload to, though, so I changed all references to point to it.
All the ones I knew about, that is. A little-used script in a particular branch of our software had a hardcoded reference to the dead host, which it used to download previous uploads to produce a small delta release. The result, of course, was a failure Wednesday that left the QA group twiddling their thumbs until I could fix things. In the end, other failures turned up that prevented them from getting the delta release, but they could live with a full release, and that’s what they got.
That was my day from about 7am to 2pm, not counting the repeated interruptions as I explained to people that the backup server we were uploading to had about half the bandwidth of the usual connection, so data was arriving more slowly.
Things proceeded normally for a few hours, until the next fire at 4:30pm. A server responsible for half a dozen test builds and two release builds had a sudden attack of amnesia, forgetting that a 200GB RAID volume was supposed to be full of data. A disk swap brought it back to life as a working empty volume, but by that time I’d moved all the builds to other machines. I’ll test it today before putting it back in service.
Just as I was finishing up with that mess and verifying that the builds would work in their new homes, our primary internal DNS/NIS server went down. The poor soul who’d just finished rebuilding my RAID volume had barely gotten back to his desk when he had to walk three blocks back to the data center. Once that machine was healthy again, I cleaned up some lock files so that test builds would resume, and waited for the email telling me what was supposed to be on the custom production CD-ROM they’re shipping overseas today.
That, of course, was IT’s cue to take down the mail server for maintenance. Planned and announced, of course, but also open-ended, so I had no idea when it would be back. Didn’t matter, though, because then my DSL line went down. I’d never made it out of the house, you see, and was doing all of this remotely.
The email I was waiting for went out at 9:30pm, I got it at 10:45pm, and kicked the custom build off at 11pm. It finished building at 12:30am and started the imaging process, which makes a quick query to the Perforce server.
Guess what went down for backups at 12am, blocking all requests until it completed at around 3am? Nap time for J!
At 4:45am I woke up, checked the image, mailed off a signing request so it could actually be used to boot a production box, set the alarm clock for 6:45am, and went back to sleep.
This was not a day for deep, thought-provoking anime. It was a day for Grenadier disc 2 and Maburaho disc 4 (which arrived from Anime Corner Store just about the time the mail server went down). I considered getting started on DearS disc 2 and Girls Bravo disc 3, which also showed up, but decided instead to make a badly-needed grocery run.
…but I don’t think Christian manga has much of a chance in the current market.
Admittedly, putting a cute girl on the cover with the subtitle “bad girl in town” will pull in some eyeballs, and it’s a good time to release anything called “Serenity,” but the interior art is crap. Perhaps if you’d hired the person who drew the cover?
If it shows up at local bookstores, and it’s not shrink-wrapped, I suppose I’ll look inside to see if it’s done well, but I have a hunch the writing is heavy-handed and the art is weak, a sure way to sink this new venture.
…how about this video that mixes equal parts Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Michael Jackson’s Thriller video, and nekomimi chibi joshigakusei.
For offline viewing, there’s a torrent available.
Update: Google video may be short on dancing chibis, but at least they’ve got Morning Musume making cat noises.
[From Steven Den Beste, originally posted in my comments]
So here I am in beautiful downtown Beaverton OR, leeching internet connection off a free public WiFi system in the Beaverton Mall. I’m living in a motel, and I’ve found an apartment, but I can’t move into it until Feb 3, and won’t have internet connection at home for another couple of days after that. So until then I have no web site and no email, and decided that the only way I could offer an update to interested parties was by abusing J’s hospitality – or at least, by abusing his comment system.
After I got up here, I spent a week trembling and shivering and sweating because I had no internet connection at all. So I finally broke down and bought a notebook computer, which has built-in WiFi. First thing I did was spend an hour uninstalling all the sample programs and suchlike which Compaq polluted the hard disk with, and deactivating features in XP Home that I didn’t want. I’m sure I didn’t get them all, but at least now when I boot the computer I only have to kill one popup balloon in the tray instead of six.
When I was shopping for laptops I went into BestBuy here in the Beaverton Mall and discovered that they sold DVDs. Not only that, they actually have a small section of anime DVDs. I saw the first Bottle Fairy DVD there, but not the second one, alas (which I think just came out, and which I’m really looking forward to). I did end up buying about four DBZ DVDs I didn’t already have, and, well, on the shelf there was a copy of Eiken. I swear, it just popped off the shelf and landed in my hands, and… well, I bought it.
I’m so ashamed.
Words cannot describe how bad it is. In the teaser for the first episode our hero ends up groping the tits of one fabulously overendowed young woman (who, oddly enough, doesn’t react strongly to the experience by screaming or hitting him or contrariwise with deep passionate moans) and then ends up with another preposterously overendowed young woman sitting on his face – after which the credits roll. But that was enough for me. I’ll never doubt J’s judgment again when he says something stinks.
BestBuy also had the first three DVDs (eps 1-14) of the Ah! My Goddess TV series, and I was curious, so I got them too. They were an extremely pleasant surprise.
The art is fantastic. It’s a pure digital animation so everything is clear and clean. The original voice cast is back again, so there are no jarring changes there.
In general it feels a lot more like the movie than like the original OVA. But there are noticeable differences. The original OVA was a romantic drama. The movie was action-adventure. But the TV series is a romantic comedy, and it’s played a lot lighter. It covers some of the same basic material as the OVA but only in gross terms; in fine it’s nearly entirely different. For instance, in the OVA Belldandy and Keiichi find the temple empty and abandoned and move in. Keiichi asks if it’s OK and Belldandy says she has permission – presumably from Kami-sama. That whole section of episode 1 takes about three minutes. In the TV series there’s actually a priest there, and he gives them permission to say. Then, for reasons I won’t go into, he decides he needs to go on a pilgramage and leaves them to live in the place alone. The whole story about finding the temple and being left there to live takes a full episode.
They’re taking their time unfolding the story. Megumi doesn’t show up until ep 5, and Urd until ep 7. In ep 11 they introduce a character which is entirely new to me: Mara. She’s a demon. Skuld shows up in ep 13. On the other hand, we get to see Holy Bell in episode 3. (IIRC, none of the three goddesses summon their angels at all in the OVA, though they all do in the movie.)
Of course, the danger of “taking their time” is that it could feel padded, the way the El Hazard TV series feels padded, but so far this doesn’t. It does feel a bit leisurely, but that’s not the same.
By far the biggest and most pleasant surprise was Belldandy herself. She doesn’t show up until the last few seconds of the first episode, and it’s the strong, determined, self-confident Belldandy of the movie, not the quivering, self-pitying sobbing wimp of the OVA. In the 14 episodes I’ve seen so far she only outright sobs once, and it’s actually legitimate – and it doesn’t last long. In general, what with the overall much lighter touch to the story telling, the level of angst is much reduced, to the point where it isn’t a throbbing headache.
Another pleasant surprise is that there’s a lot of magic in the series. Belldandy and Urd (and Mara) all use magic quite a lot, and it’s a rare episode without at least one spell being cast by someone. The magic is fun, though it seems as if they’re all a lot more limited than I would have thought goddesses (or top-bracket demons) would be. Fact is that Sawanaguchi Sae or Kikuchi Yume could leave any of them in the dust as far as spell casting is concerned, and they aren’t even supernatural beings.
Skuld moves around using water, just as expected. Urd can transmit herself through electric lines and pop out of any TV screen. Belldandy turns out to have a thing for mirrors, and that’s how she moves around when she wants to get somewhere fast. Of course, Belldandy and Urd can also fly. Skuld, on the other hand, doesn’t appear to know any magic yet, but her gizmos are living up to expectations.
Megumi is the only character they really didn’t change from the OVA, and she didn’t need to be changed. She’s still strong, self-reliant, worldly. She still loves her brother and fully approves of him shacking up with Belldandy. She’s not omnipresent but she’s in a lot of the episodes and plays a major part in about four of them, and every time she’s on the screen it’s good. Her reaction to Urd and even more so to Skuld are wonderful.
I’m pretty sure that the three DVDs I’ve got so far are the only ones out, so I still don’t know where it’s heading, but I have suspicions. The last story arc in the OVA involved Belldandy being ordered back to heaven because her presence on Earth is causing problems. They’re laying groundwork that suggests that they’re planning on a similar ending to the TV series, but because they have more time they’re not forcing it. I hope they don’t wallow in it the way the OVA did, but I’m not too worried because so far the TV series hasn’t been wallowing in anything. (Another pleasant surprise is no two-part stories being told; they wrap every story up in a single episode, which also helps to keep things from getting too deep.)
The two strange seniors from the car club keep making appearances, and in the first episode they were thoroughly annoying – which was, in fact, a plot point. But later on they end up mostly being used for comic relief and mostly in small doses. Occasionally they get used for purposes of deus ex machina (e.g. when Mara appears). In the movie the segment they appeared in was easily the worst part of the film, which I invariably skip when I watch it. In the TV series they’re actually not annoying after the first episode.
There’s so much that’s different between the OVA and TV series that it makes me wonder how closely either of them follows the manga. In the OVA, the episode where Urd appears involves a trip to the beach. That’s not the case in the TV series; it happens in Tokyo. There’s no love potion that misfires, and no real misunderstanding between Keiichi and Belldandy – or rather, there is one, but it only takes Belldandy about five seconds to figure out what’s going on, and she doesn’t collapse in tears. Instead, she says (paraphrased) “Urd, get your butt out here.”
All in all I really like what I’ve seen so far, and I can’t emphasize enough just how beautiful the animation is.
Going forward, mostly I’m treading water until the apartment becomes available. I’ve also rented a garage and THAT I can use immediately. Not that I’d want to sleep in it, mind, but I can start buying stuff and leaving it there for when the apartment finally becomes available. It’s all paperwork and legalities at this point. The previous tenant moved out a week ago and went to New York, so it was empty when they showed it to me last Friday. Yesterday when I went over there to put money down on the place, the maintenance guy said he was painting it. They’re going to replace the refrigerator in the next couple days. A rational person would expect that I could move in this weekend. But it has to stay vacant until Feb 3 because the previous tenant paid the rent until then, even though he’s been sleeping in New York for a week. Hooray for rules, regulations, lawyers and bureaucrats.
It’s alright. I’ve got a lot of stuff I need to pick up, and it’s nice that I won’t have to rush. The motel I’m staying at isn’t ridiculously expensive and I’m managing reasonably well. And I think I’ve done more walking in the last week than I had in the previous year.
I don’t yet know what I’m going to do about a net connection. The big remaining puzzle is whether either Comcast or the phone company (ADSL) are willing to give me a permanent IP and let me run a server. I should be able to find that out in the next couple of days, though, and with two throws of the dice I think I have a good chance of hitting at least once at a halfway reasonable price.
Anime News Network is reporting that Green Green has finally been licensed for US distribution. This is an ecchi fanservice comedy from mid-2003, in which the creators compensated for their inability to show hardcore sex by cranking up the wackiness and perversion. Based on a dating-sim game, of course.
From what I’ve seen, it’s well-drawn, with some decent voice actors and a catchy OP song, but when your comic antics include “male supporting character raped by bear” and “female supporting character kidnapped and molested by pack of monkeys” (both mostly off-camera, thankfully), it’s understandable that it wasn’t at the top of the list for licensing.
Force your audience to listen to these video game dubs first…
[Cross-posted in Pixy Misa’s Language Lab forum.]
Update: My original version is now below the fold. This is the update. I have some ideas on a version that reads better in English, but I wanted to get a reasonably precise version up before I attempt “creative adaptation”. My rationale for using “I” for all of the omitted pronouns is here.
This is a work-in-progress, mostly-literal translation of the opening song from the Dirty Pair TV series. I got the lyrics from here, corrected a few errors based on the original subtitles here, repeatedly listened to the full version of the song here, got a bit of grammar advice from my Japanese teacher (who, in true teacher form, made me do the work myself and come back for help later…), and here we go!
Love without risk is boring,
“kake no nai koi nado tsumaranai”
I need excitement and thrills!
“itsumo harahara/dokidoki-sasete yo”
When I’m bored, I’m easily seduced.
“taikutsu-na toki ni wa sasowarechau no yo”
My wicked heart can’t stop.
“warui kokoro ga tomaranai”
Every time I hold this cold-steel magnum,
“nibuku-hikatta magnum motsu-tabi”
a chill runs down my spine.
“hosoi line ni denki ga hashiru wa” – literally “electricity is running in a thin line”
イチかバチかで アナタを 虜にするまで
Risking it all to capture you,
“ichika-bachika de anata wo toriko ni suru made” – ichika-bachika = literally “one or eight”, apparently derived from an old gambling game, and commonly used to represent a 50/50 chance. Edict gives it as “sink-or-swim”, but in this context, the gambling interpretation makes more sense.
私 危険な ロシアン・ルーレット
for me, there’s only a dangerous Russian Roulette.
“atashi kiken-na Russian Roulette”
“kakugo wo kimete”
[repeat first box]
Russian, Russian Roulette
I’ve gone too far, there’s no turning back.
“koko made kitara ato ni wa hikenai”
[repeat second box]
[repeat fourth box]
[repeat third box]
“kakugo wo kimete”
[repeat third box](Continued on Page 2523)
Later, I’ll be making a major revision of my translation of the Dirty Pair theme song Russian Roulette, but there’s something I want to get in writing before I forget it.
When I started going through the lyrics, I felt very strongly that the omitted pronouns should be “I”. Discussing it last night with my teacher, we disagreed on a few of them, but I still believed that I was right.
While working out this morning, I realized why: the singer is speaking for Kei and Yuri; she’s a woman pursuing a man romantically, but the life she leads forces her to describe the chase in terms of a secret agent hunting an enemy. Everything in the song is about her; her life, her risk, her heart, expressed to him the only way she knows how.
He’s the listener, addressed directly – “anata” – but never the subject.
Today I did my part to keep the Cha-Cha Maru afloat. No, I didn’t send Robert a box of Chachamaru cookies, or a case of Chachamaru for kitchen. I just ordered a few more anime DVDs to add to The Great Unwatched Pile on my coffee table, which I hope to make at least a small dent in soon.
I think I’m way overdue for twin posts on music and manga, especially since I just finished region-converting my dozenth Hello!Project DVD. The latest one is the concert video Folk Songs 3, which not only has the usual cute jpop idol girls, but an older male vocalist whose work I’ve acquired an interest in recently, Gen Takayama.
And I’m still trying to relocate the reference in one of my books to the original Cha Cha Maru. I’m sure the ship in Plastic Little played some part in the naming of the robot girl in Negima, but the name 茶々丸 goes back at least to the Ashikaga period. Tea cookies, kitchen cleansers, pet hunter ships, and robot girls are an odd group to be tied together by a name, and I just want to know how it got started.
[ah, there he is! I knew I’d run across a Chachamaru in the Ashikaga period. Turns out he was even in the Ashikaga family, and a rather ruthless fellow. I doubt there’s anyone named after him.]
[…and another Chachamaru reference in anime: apparently it’s the name of a bar in Maison Ikkoku]
It doesn’t appear that the Mai-HiME manga has been licensed for the US market yet, despite the expected popularity of the anime. Pity, really, because I’m curious how the usual hack translators would deal with the last page of the first volume. A Strange Cute Girl (one of many) has just entered Our Hero’s dorm room, stripped off her panties, and pushed him to the ground. The volume ends with a full-page panel of her straddling him, speaking the line:
Our Hero seems more shocked than excited by this statement, but it’s understandable, since he’s still discovering just how peculiar his new school (and its girls) are. Unfortunately for him, I’ve seen enough spoilers from the (very different…) anime to know that neither shock nor excitement is the right response to a bold invitation from this girl. “Fleeing in terror with his manhood protected by a sturdy shield” just about covers it.
My other response to this scene was “hey, I just read that, and only had to stop and think about one of the kanji” (鍵, which I haven’t gotten to in my writing practice yet; I know the word, and they provided furigana that made it clear). Okay, the others are extremely common, basic kanji, but the point is that I was reading rather than deciphering.
Of course, to truly pilot this mech, she should be wearing a sailor suit…
From reviews and pictures, I’ve become interested in the recent anime series whose title translates fairly well as The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Recently, I’ve seen some comments from fans lamenting the fact that it hasn’t been licensed yet, despite its obvious popularity. Indeed, when I was in the Seattle Kinokuniya recently, there was a display table covered with Haruhi novels and tie-ins.
While watching a few good AMVs, I realized they’ve got a serious problem, and it may not be possible to license the series in the US in its present form. Why not? Because Playboy’s lawyers have no sense of humor.
That’s not just any bunny-girl costume, it’s the Playboy Bunny costume, and it’s covered by a registered trademark in the US. I looked it up, and Playboy still has active marks covering the bow-tie bunny girl; they’ve never stopped using it for promotions, and with their recent activity in Vegas, it’s becoming more visible again. And, yes, they care about things as minor as short animations produced for a con, and one of the US Dirty Pair comics was retouched to put Kei and Yuri into generic cocktail-waitress outfits.
Anime-themed motivational-poster contest over at Riuva. Why not?
I went to all the trouble of doing this in Illustrator before I discovered that Despair.com has an online generator. No biggie.
San Francisco is looking to invigorate its Japantown with an infusion of pop culture. I’ve been insisting for a while now that Otaku Tokyo is one of the few colorful themes left unlicensed for a major Las Vegas casino, so perhaps this will help show the money-men the power of kawaii.
Wandering through Kinokuniya today, I saw something in the light novel section that stopped me in my tracks. Adjacent to the ten volumes of キノの旅 was 学園キノ:
I found a blog with a larger photo. I couldn’t resist buying it, so I’ll see if I can get a decent shot of the interior color illustrations. For those fond of Kino’s Journey, I’ll mention that the first chapter is titled “Here comes KINO”, and the last is “Last Man Standing Got Milk”. Don’t ask me about the story; light novels usually have some furigana, but even for the kanji I know I have to look up a lot of words.
Apparently the author also has another series called アリソン, about a young woman with a Broomhandle Mauser and an early-20th-century fighter plane of some sort.
[Update: Just noticed the text on the little wrapper: この作品は「キノの旅」なんかじゃない。, roughly “this book is nothing like Kino’s Journey”]
What does the artist who created the Eiken manga do for an encore? Zokusei, with the thoroughly-anonymous 〇〇くん guiding the “reader” through first-person fanservice-y encounters with every bishoujo cliché in the book. He still loves supsersizing, but unlike Eiken (the anime, at least; I avoided the manga…), the things attached to the girls’ chests are probably breasts, and some of their figures are not alien to this species. Being manga, you’re also spared the sloshing-mudsack animation that helped make the anime completely unwatchable. Their eyes tend toward the psychotic, but other than that, most of the art’s actually not bad.
Okay, I wouldn’t have bought it if I’d noticed the small print at the bottom that said “from the creator of Eiken”. I thought one of the girls on the cover looked cute, it was only $5, and it promised 「美少女２０人大集結!!」.
Each chapter is devoted to showing off a different girl, with just enough story to accurately classify her (tsundere, ojou, meganekko, iincho, Yankee, American, etc). All of them have names, ages, blood types, heights, weights, and measurements. For educational purposes, I’ve calculated the average statistics of the girls, excluding the 5 teachers and the little sister: 16 years old, 5’3”, 101 pounds, 34E-22-33. Note that the mean cup size is skewed by three mutants: 2 I’s and a J; the rest average an overstuffed C. The five teachers average 39H, a sure sign that this comic is set on a low-G planet.
Oh, and it has furigana, so I can officially consider it study material.
I got an Xbox 360 at a nice discount (Microsoft Company Store holiday deal), but I’ve only picked up one additional game so far: Dead or Alive Extreme 2. The English dub is painful, so I switched it to Japanese (I had to get through the first virtual day to reach a point where I could disable the supplied music, which is pretty awful, but you can get rid of the dubbing once you finish enjoying the title movie a few times).
From previous games, I expected to hear some familiar voice actresses, but new character Kokoro sounded very familiar. I heard Mahoro in that voice, and I was not mistaken.
Sadly, the creators of the DoA franchise do not value Mahoro-like figures, so all of the girls are rather generously endowed. Said creators are proud of the fact that each breast is animated independently, but I think they should have spent a few minutes with an honestly-gifted nude model to learn precisely how large breasts should be animated. Tip for the day: when she turns rapidly at the waist, they should indeed move, but not so much, not for so long, and not up-and-down. Virtual implants might tend to stay more centered on the chest than Ma Nature’s Own, but if they’re loose enough to move that far up, they’re going to sway back and forth as well. [back and forth, back and forth, …]
But enough about breasts. What image have they attached to Mahoro’s voice?(Continued on Page 2653)
A while back, I mentioned that I was tinkering with jQuery for updating my pop-up furigana. This dovetails nicely with my attempts to improve my Japanese reading skills, which currently involve working my way through Breaking into Japanese Literature and ボクのセカイをまもるヒト.
The first one is a parallel text with all vocabulary translated on the same page. I wish he’d formatted it a bit differently, and my teacher isn’t pleased with some of the translation, but it’s a useful learning tool, and there’s a free companion audiobook on the web site.
The second is the first in a new light novel series from Nagaru Tanigawa, also responsible for The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, and it includes furigana for almost all of the kanji. My goal is to read it, not translate, but I have to look up an awful lot of vocabulary, and there’s not enough room on the page to annotate.
So I’m typing it in, and using a Perl script to add my shiny new pop-up furigana.
(and, yes, I’m deliberately over-annotating; I don’t actually need many of those annotations, but someone else might, and it’s not that much work)
[Update: I should mention that I’m using Jim Breen’s translation server to speed up the glossing process. The parser gets lost occasionally, but it’s still very helpful, often finding idiomatic phrases that cover several words.]
Oh, here’s the cover, courtesy of Amazon:(Continued on Page 2658)
Just search for it on Google and Youtube. It’s terrifying, in a “do I really need a Japanese Xbox 360 right now” kind of way. If you find yourself downloading the 720p version of the trailer from that German torrent site, all hope is lost.
[Update: this site seems to have the best set of screenshots showing the gameplay. I like the dialogue in this one:
…dogs are howling in pain from the sound of her voice.
Kusumi Koharu can’t sing. Here’s proof. There’s plenty more where that came from, but it should be watched with the sound off, because while she’s a really, really cute teenage girl who can bounce around cheerfully with the other girls in Morning Musume, she’s painful to listen to.
It’s not that all of the other girls in the Hello!Project empire were chosen for their vocal talent; the majority will never “graduate” to a solo career, and you’ll only hear them solo individual lines in a group performance (sorry, Tsuji, but with Kago’s permanent departure from the organization, your career is screwed). It’s just that Koharu stands out for pushing the cute/voiceless trend to a new extreme.
Although from the audition video, at least one of the two Chinese girls who were just added to the group might actually be a worse singer…
…shot down by a definitive quote. In Hand Maid May, the genius cyberdoll who applies rigorous logic to all actions (including how much salt to add while cooking) is named Kei, and unlike the title character, gets a -san from everyone. Kei-san = 計算 = “calculation”.
Except the creator came right out and said that she was named after Robot Detective K, who isn’t nearly as photogenic.
[…and on an unrelated note, I had no idea that someone was planning a TV spinoff of The Terminator, called The Sarah Connor Chronicles.]
Recently, Steven said:
After you’ve finished watching Misaki Chronicles, what becomes clear is that the story tellers had a really good story to tell, and knew they did – but didn’t think they could sell that story on the merits, either to their studio or to an audience. So they had to hide it, disguise it, attach things to it. Like huge boobs.
In the interests of clarity, I want to say that when it comes to the new manga series HEAVEN, creator Aoi Nanase has not gratuitously added large breasts and panty-flashing in order to market a serious story about the nature of good and evil.(Continued on Page 2748)
A historically-accurate Yagyu Jubei isn’t nearly as much fun as the anime version…
I found G-On Riders amusing, and I’d like to own a legitimate copy. The problem is, it’s not $333 amusing, and that’s five years after release. Even online, Japan just hasn’t caught on to the concept of discount pricing.
The only way to get a good deal is to buy used, and Amazon Japan has plenty of dealers eager to sell used manga and anime… if you live in Japan. I haven’t found any yet that will do international shipping.
I’m still planning to spend two weeks in Japan this fall, so it looks like the thing to do is order a whole bunch of stuff a few days before I leave the US, and have it all shipped to my hotel in Tokyo. After I get there, I can repack it all into a single box and put it on the slow boat to home. The savings on just a few items should cover the shipping costs.
Not all Japanese DVDs are quite as ridiculously packaged or priced as anime, though. Where an anime disc typically has an hour of content for around $50, live-action series do a lot better. A show like 銭湯の娘!? gives you two hours for $32, and Amazon does discount the box set, bringing the total cost down to $261, a merely painful $14 per hour.
…but I could get it for half that price, if I had an address in Japan to ship it to.
Sadly, while buying used products feels better than downloading them for free off the Internet, it’s not really any better at rewarding the creators for their work. Legitimate digital distribution would do a lot to solve that problem, but so would discounts, thinpaks, direct sales, etc.
This series appears to be a pure fan-service vehicle, with only the flimsiest excuse for a plot, and likely no depth to the characters at all… :-)
[and I’m too lazy to plug in the scanner right now, so you get a cropped snap from a digicam](Continued on Page 2760)
If the Haruhi-fan dance video hurt your eyes, this should help them recover. The actual voice actresses doing the song:
via Japan Sugoi
[Update: Nice t-shirt, Haruhi.]
[Update: nice trailer]
In the commercial for your upcoming live-action show, you say “I’ll use my magic to make my students happy”. Having read the comic, I’ve got to tell you, it ain’t your magic they’re after.
So, there’s an upcoming tv anime series based on the manga Rosario + Vampire, and they’ve put up a promo site that makes it look like a fan-service comedy with schoolgirl vampire hunters. This has a certain Buffy-esque appeal to it.
Except that I own one volume of the manga, and it’s filled with blood and murder. Also fan-servicey schoolgirl vampire hunters, but the bad guys aren’t at all cute, and neither is what they do to their many victims.
Even if they tone that down for the anime, I don’t think I’ll be looking forward to this one.
For quite a while now, a fair percentage of tv anime series have been based on porn games, sometimes scaled down into a simple harem comedy, sometimes left raunchy. I’m thinking that this one (NSFW! NSFW!) will end up going straight to DVD, with no attempt at a tv-safe version.
Anime producers have managed to tone down “screw the schoolgirl” stories before, but when the declared bust sizes range from A to P Q and a number of them are equipped with 母乳, well, I don’t think it’s destined for television.
[and, yes, it comes from a company called SQUEEZ (NSFW! NSFW!)]
[I think the title 炎の孕ませ同級生 should actually be translated as “inflamed knock-me-up classmates”. By the way, the subtitle makes it clear that you’re supposed to impregnate all of them, which means that the 母乳 is just there to add a bit of flavor to some of the sex scenes.]
[no, after waking up, it’s not the imperative -mase, it’s the stem of the causative -maseru, so “knock-them-up”]
[Update: Apparently you’ve got your work cut out for you…(Continued on Page 2798)
The Yurikamome line is short, and its elevated train cars are completely automated. And the announcements at each station are voiced by anime voice actors. First column, first row: Masumi Asano. First column, second row: Maria Yamamoto. Fourth column, third row: Mikako Takahashi.
Steven has declared a unit of measurement. Sometime during the blur that was my vacation in Japan, I found something that I think measures up:
In addition to her high-school uniform, she enjoys busting out of a yukata, a miko outfit, frilly western dresses, and lacy lingerie. She’s the oldest of four sisters, and their Parents Are Traveling Abroad. And Our Hero has just moved in with them, having been Sent Down From The Mountains by his father to Become Stronger in the ways of the samurai.
She’s his new teacher.
Less than an hour after moving in, he manages to get into a Compromising Position with all three of her younger sisters at the same time.
Second sister is a bleached-blonde modern girl who’s sensitive about her small bust. Third sister is a sexually aggressive busty meganekko Gal doujin manga artist and junior high-school student. Fourth sister is a fourth-grader, who doesn’t appear to be a harem loli, fortunately, even if she does get dragged into the Wacky Hijinks.
The purpose of subtitles is communication. This is particularly true of song lyrics, where “karaoke animation” is intended to help people sing the words at the correct time. This means using crisp, high-contrast fonts, and visually indicating the current word in a way that makes it possible to read the entire line.
This does not mean setting them in a hot pink cheesy fat-face font and then exploding each word as it’s sung, leaving behind only a low-contrast pink-on-pink version that’s basically invisible. It also does not mean spinning words that are repeated more than once. It doesn’t matter if the song is called “peach-colored unrequited love” and the entire set of the video is pink. In fact, that just makes it worse.
You are not an artist. You are a tagger, and your work should be scrubbed from the video with the same vigor that a business owner scrubs bad graffiti from the side of her store.
[and I’ve ordered the DVD so I can watch a high-quality version of the video that doesn’t include your “contribution”. I’m doing this despite your efforts, not because of them; don’t pat yourself on the back and think you accomplished something for the artist]
One of the highlights of a visit to the Studio Ghibli Museum in Mitaka is the chance to see an original short animated film produced to their high standards. Currently, it’s Hoshi wo katta hi, a story that becomes only slightly less incomprehensible if you can pick out some of the Japanese dialog.
If you go there while it’s still running, there are two things you should know. First, it’s based on the surrealist paintings of Naohisa Inoue, specifically his Iblard fantasy world. It doesn’t make a lot of sense because it’s, well, surreal.
Second, in the final scene (spoiler warning):(Continued on Page 2834)
Based on the complete lack of results on Yahoo, Google, and MSN search engines, I hereby claim credit for coining the term “glompire” to describe the aggressively affectionate blood-sucking fiend who is the heroine of Rosario+Vampire.
Not that I expect there to be very many of them, but you never know. It could catch on.
[Q: does Moon Phase’s Hazuki ever glomp Kouhei? I don’t remember.]
This is the entrance to the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka.
The false entrance, that is. The real one’s over here:
Sadly, not only can’t you buy a ticket from Totoro, you can’t get one at the real entrance, either. Domestically, they’re only available at Lawsons convenience stores, and they sell out weeks or even months in advance. There’s a block reserved for foreign tourists, fortunately, but you have to order them through specific travel agencies.
Please skip directly to chapter 35. No one will object. Continuity be damned.
[Update: I was going to add a comment to Ubu’s discussion, but it’s fallen off the front page. He poked fun at the R+V manga fanboy who whined that the anime was ruining a “serious romantic story”. Now that I’ve read up through chapter 40 (volumes 1-10, with ~80% comprehension), I think I’m qualified to answer that. Or, rather, I’ll let Tsukune’s poor, bewildered cousin Kyouko answer for me:
For the kana-impaired: “Kono gakuen no shoutai, sore wa… fuuzoku ne!!!? Ecchi-na o-shigoto no senmon-gakkou nan deshou, koko!”.
Translated: “This school’s true character, it’s the… sex trade, isn’t it? This place is a dirty-job vocational school!”.
Admittedly, by showing up unannounced during the school festival, she’s gotten a slightly skewed view of things. Fortunately, she wasn’t there when Kurumu’s mom met Tsukune and offered him private lessons…
On a related note, following the usual shorten-to-four-mora pattern, Jump Comics refers to the series as RozaBan. Respectfully, I submit that it should be RozaPan. There’s not a panty-shot in every frame, but there are plenty to be found, and alt-Moka’s pantsu-fu fighting style guarantees that they show up even in the middle of the most serious battle.]
[Update: Note to people following the scanlations: chapters 39 & 40 will feel like an abrupt end to the series. 39 was in fact the end of its original serialization, and 40 was a one-shot. It started up again recently in a different magazine, Jump Square, as “season 2”. My guess is that the next collection will show up around May.
Meanwhile, the DS game will be out in March, based on the anime character designs. The screenshots make it look like a dating sim (surprise!). The title (「七夕のミス陽海学園」 = Tanabata no Miss Youkai Gakuen) suggests a beauty contest, with Tsukune picking the winner. And it’s set during the “star-crossed lovers” festival…]
If ANN’s episode titles are correct, it looks like…
(no fancy spoiler tags here, so below the fold it all goes)(Continued on Page 2912)
I’m not sure which is worse: having their system recommend a z-grade porn cartoon, or recommending it because I liked the Mahoromatic Summer Special.
[Update: More oddities: the “better together” section says that if I buy a really nice men’s watch, I can get a great deal on another really nice men’s watch. Of course, the price is exactly the same as if I bought them separately. Sadly for them, I bought a really nice men’s watch about ten years ago, and it’s still going strong. (and, yes, it’s a Citizen Eco-Drive in titanium; definitely worth buying, but one should be enough)]
[Update: Oh, my, this one really says something about… something:]
Many fans of the Rosario+Vampire manga really hate the anime series. Gonzo is adapting it rather freely, emphasizing the series’ light, fluffy side at the expense of the manga’s occasional plot. Episode 7 did the most serious continuity damage so far, bringing one of the girls into the story long before she should appear, in a way that would make it difficult to get back on track.
If, that is, they have any interest in using the slow-developing, dark and bloody manga plot. I don’t think they do. Here’s my evidence:(Continued on Page 2924)
[Update: No, I can’t figure it all out. The onomatopoeia is common in Japanese web pages, but not in anything I’ve got, and I basically gave up on the “mean-spirited trick” line. I got the gist of the “sinful whisper” verse, at least. Also, is there a word for a 1.5-entendre? Kurumu’s not exactly being subtle, here. No wonder they call it a “character song”: prehensile breasts, mesmerizing gaze, aggressive affection; yup, that’s our succubust!]
Feel free to sing along…
あなたが好きと ときめくフルーツが ビキニから はちきれそう ぷるん ぷるん ぽろん あなたのハート ひとり占めしたくて 気づかないフルで チラリと きわどいポーズ なのに… こっちを見ないシャイネスボーイ 決めました 強引にいっちゃう! やっふ やふふーっ SUN SUN SUN パラソルの下で 髪の 星のリボンをほどいて 刺激的な 秘密あげる NON NON NON はずかしいけれど いいの あなたをトリコにしちゃう ちゃんと 瞳を見て 恋してる 私 渚のデカメロン とくべつ甘い 真夏のスイーツは いかがでしょ 抱きついたの ぷにん ぷにん むぎゅん あわてた顔が なんだか憎らしい もうすこしワルイ いじわる 仕掛けちゃうから だって… 恋人ライン 越せずに 好きなのに くちびるが遠いよ やっふ やふふーっ SUN SUN SUN わざとケンカして 逃げる 波打ち際で もつれて 濡れた素肌 つかまえてね NON NON NON ふるえているけど 平気 あなたの自由にしてと そっと 吐息でいう 耳元で 罪な おしゃべりデカメロン やっふ やふふーっ SUN SUN SUN パラソルの下で 髪の 星のリボンをほどいて 刺激的な 秘密あげる NON NON NON はずかしいけれど いいの あなたをトリコにしちゃう ちゃんと 瞳を見て 恋してる 私 渚のデカメロン
There are five Kiki novels? Thanks to Amazon’s sudden shift to Miyazaki-related recommendations, I just found out about the translated edition of the first one. The cover has that accurate-but-hideous look common to children’s books (completely different from the pen-and-ink interior illustrations), but the translation is apparently decent.
Not something I’d buy, but still interesting.
By coincidence, volume 1 of the manga arrived at my house a few days ago. I was putting in a large order with Amazon Japan, it popped up as a recommendation, and looked like an amusing ecchi fan-service comic, so I threw it in. Sadly, it’s aimed at a slightly older audience than usual, so there’s no furigana, which will significantly slow down my reading.
So, bearing in mind that I can’t just skim through it and get the gist of the plot, I would describe it as “the bastard child of DearS and Ikkitousen”. I’m not sure which parent it got the brains from, though.
Note: the heroine is Rushuna-scaled, enjoys bathing, and repels fog and other obscuring effects.
[Update: I just skimmed through the raw of episode 10 on youtube. They found an unanticipated way to trim Rubi’s story, and solved the continuity problem by quickly moving on to the next scene. The fight apparently used up the last of their budget, however. Wow, I’ve never seen character art and animation go downhill that fast. I notice that they worked Rubi’s song into it successfully, though.]
Continuing from where I left off, the last three episode titles have been revealed. It looks like:
So, 3.5 chapters of Rubi’s story will get crammed into episode 10, and whatever doesn’t fit will spill over into 11 along with however they resolve the continuity break at the end of episode 9. They’ll swipe the ending from chapter 19 to bring Rubi back in at the end of episode 13, which will put them on track to start a second series at episode 20 or 29.
The phrase “voted best punk band by Shoujo Beat” pretty much sums up this song by Ketchup Mania. I think it’s a bad sign when you can listen to punk rock and visualize the anime series that it would make a good opening-credits song for.
[Update: animated music video for another Ketchup Mania song.]
[Update: holy crap, they’re doing a second season. WTF?
… Okay, having followed the scavenger-hunt instructions on ANN, the only verifiable fact in their story is this line on the next-to-last page of the just-released chapter of the manga: 「ＴＶアニメ第２Ｓ制作決定!!」, which does in fact say “tv anime #2S production decision!!”. Their “announcement” link just goes to the publisher’s flash-based home page, which doesn’t seem to mention this. I’m wondering if it’s just obsolete news based on the publishing cycle of a monthly magazine.]
[Update: nothing on the anime’s staff blog, but there’s a similar one-liner on their news page. Also, a lot more merchandise, including an original novel, a school uniform, and a special edition of the DS game that comes with an original comic. Again, WTF?]
Out of morbid curiosity, I downloaded episode 13. Pretty thorough spoilers follow:(Continued on Page 2962)
I just finished chapter one of the first 魔法戦士リウイ novels, in Japanese.
[Pardon my shouting: I just read thirty pages of Japanese prose written for a native audience!! Ahem.]
The anime adaptation opened with the experienced adventuring team of Genie (amazon warrior), Melissa (priestess of the war god Mylee), and Merrill (thief) finding a magically-sealed door in a ruin. They headed to town to recruit a mage, preferably female, but the only one that seemed interested was Louie, a brawny goofball who had already “rescued” Genie from a fight and pantsed Merrill while being chased by a mob of angry women. Later, he accidentally blew up a bar trying to prove himself to them, and then while being chased by a mob of angry priestesses, destroyed the roof of Mylee’s temple with his magic, inadvertently revealing himself to the (naked) Melissa as the hero her god had chosen for her to serve. By the end of the first episode, Louie was firmly established as a drunk, a womanizer, a careless street brawler, and a terrible student, with no real interest in or aptitude for magic.
The novel starts out a bit differently. Louie is being congratulated by his classmates for finally mastering enough magic to earn his mage staff, making him the fifth to succeed out of the hundred apprentices that their class had started with ten years earlier. The next day, the others are all nursing a hangover from the party, but Louie cheerfully heads off to the entertainment district in pursuit of wine, women, and trouble. The sound of a tavern brawl draws him in from a distance, and he pushes through a crowd of onlookers to find two apprentice knights fighting three women (guess who?), and the women are wiping the floor with them.(Continued on Page 2982)
[This quarter, I’m taking a class that’s focused on reading authentic Japanese text. Everyone finds something short to read, makes copies for the entire group, and prepares a vocabulary list. Well, we’re supposed to be making vocabulary lists, although so far I’m the only one to do so. Two of the pieces I’ve brought in have been from illustrated books, and it seemed wasteful to photocopy the whole things, so I typed them in and added some furigana.
The first one wasn’t really authentic Japanese, being from the ASK reader series, but the teacher really liked that author and wanted us to read it. The second is more contemporary, and I thought it might be of general interest. It’s the latest short story from the Kino’s Journey series. I’m just posting the first scene, since it’s both illegal and darn rude to reprint the whole thing. If you like the story, buy the book, which also includes a DVD of the second Kino movie.
I’ve added a lot more pop-up furigana (with English translations) than I need myself, to give more people a chance to work through it.](Continued on Page 2987)
In the Kino’s Journey short story we’ve been reading in class, the following line appears as Hermes the talking motorcycle is introduced as a “Motorado”:
Translated: “Note: two-wheeled vehicle. Refers only to non-flying ones”.
The origin of the word appears to be German: “motorrad”, as in BMW Motorrad, makers of fine motorcycles. All the Japanese search engines I’ve checked turn up lots of links to Kino, followed by a few to generic motorcycle discussions.
So why does the author feel compelled to point out that Hermes can’t fly? I just spotted the exact same phrase while skimming through the first Kino novel, in every story. Where’s the ambiguity? If motorado isn’t in common use in Japanese outside of Kino and motorcycle fans, why stress the fact that Hermes is a non-flying two-wheeler, every time?
After eleven novels, two spinoff novels, an anime series, and two OVAs, isn’t someone who picks up a special-edition Kino book going to be pretty clear about at least the non-flying part? The novels are really short story collections, originally published individually in a magazine, so I can see the first half-dozen or so introducing unfamiliar katakana words like モトラド and パースエイダー, but doing it every time is either an editorial standard or a stylistic choice, and just calling it a “two-wheeled vehicle” is somehow insufficient.
Following up on earlier discussions of the trainwreck that was the anime version of Rosario&Vampire, I recently picked up the latest issue of the magazine that’s running the manga, Jump SQ, and learned that:
I know there have been a few “serious” chapters in this second series, but they don’t seem to have advanced the overall plot significantly. No matter what happens, Tsukune won’t change in a way that will prevent his harem from glomping him at every opportunity. He can’t leave the school, he can’t stop being at least partially human, and he can’t commit to any one girl. Similarly, Alt-Moka must remain constrained by the rosario, or outer Moka will effectively die.
The mangaka might want to break out of this genre, even if he doesn’t have a real long-term plan for a serious story, but he’s trapped. There’s too much merchandise that focuses on the harem side of the series. Maybe he can work out some of those issues in the light novel, but I think the manga’s future is clear.
One of the other students in my reading class brought in the first chapter of the One Piece manga, which we finished a few weeks ago. Towards the end, there’s a scene in the bar where the villain Higuma is laughing with his gang about how pathetic Shanks and his pirates seem to be. One line in particular is noteworthy.
To set the scene properly, the teacher is a rather attractive woman “somewhere past age 30” (coughcough), there are two male students in their early twenties who are big Japanese pop-culture fans, and a basically-bilingual female student who’s about 19. And me, the big hairy over-40 otaku. We were translating as we went, and I had just finished reading the following speech bubble:
This loosely translates as, “they didn’t even complain when I threw a drink in his face!”, but before I had a chance to say that, the teacher launched into an explanation of the verb, which she was sure we wouldn’t know: bukkakeru.
All three of us guys were trying hard not to say anything, or look at each other. We just let that one go quietly by…
Despite the fact that I poke fun at Amazon’s recommendation system a lot, I respect the amount of work they’ve put into solving a really hard problem. How do you classify how “similar” two items are? How can you tell the difference between classes of items that you want more of and classes where one satisfies the demand? When should you consider two items too similar? Etc, etc.
They’re mixing a lot of variables together, and trying hard to sort something to the top that will be interesting. Sometimes, they sort too many of the same class of item to the top. Sometimes, they come up with surprising, apparently insightful associations. Sometimes, they just goof.
And sometimes, I have to stop and try to figure it out. Today’s link goes from a lighthearted relationship comedy to a hardcore rape cartoon. The anime series Please Teacher is certainly suggestive at times, but it’s really a story about two misfits who accidentally marry and try to make it work. The only disturbing elements are the age difference and power imbalance between the couple: she’s his high-school teacher (and an alien with a powerful spaceship), and his physical maturity is below average for his age (especially compared to her height and lush curves).
Because I’ve told Amazon that I own one of the DVDs in this series, although I haven’t rated it, it recommended something called Perverted Thomas, which is apparently about a guy who learns an “ancient Chinese secret” that lets him force any woman to have sex with him. I’m pretty sure it’s not Calgon.
I think the link actually runs backwards, because on that page, Amazon reports that people who bought Perverted Thomas also bought animated titles like Night Shift Nurses, Maid Service, Xtra Credit, Mother Knows Breast, Anyone You Can Do I Can Do Better, Hot For Teacher, and … Please Teacher.
Boy, I bet they’re going to be disappointed.
[The also-bought list also included Cutey Honey, Appleseed, Please Twins, Elfen Lied, and Witchblade…]
ANN says Queen’s Blade TV anime series. I expect well-rounded character designs with paper-thin personalities, bound together by fate in a by-the-numbers plot.
…Sekirei trailers (Windows drm-laden-player only) and the announcement that the Mahoromatic manga artist’s current step-incest comedy, subtly titled kissXsis, will be animated soon.
ANN reports that the upcoming Strike Witches anime will be streamed worldwide via Youtube and Crunchyroll.
[Update: er, that is to say, officially :-)]
With my mind already broken by the folks at H!P, today was not the day to confront me with a contradiction. I give you メロンパン風 Flat Pretz:
Yes, these Pretz possess both delicious flatness and melonpan-fu. The mind boggles.
In the Yumeria anime, Mone, the #1 Strange Cute Girl, has a very expressive one-word vocabulary. It never occurred to me, however, what a pain in the ass that would be in the associated adventure game.
Apparently the competition was just too fierce in the adoring-little-sister cafe market, so Nagomi has gotten tough: it’s now a tsundere cafe.
(once the pretty-girl commercial is over, skip to about the 50-second mark)
If you like anime, and you plan to visit Tokyo, you’d be a fool not to visit the Studio Ghibli Museum. Just make sure to buy your ticket before you get to Japan, to avoid the weeks-to-months waiting list.
In the land of Your Mileage May Vary, I found this music video so cute that I went to Amazon to look for the CD/DVD single, and was saddened to find that it was a very limited limited edition.
But I have to say, I wouldn’t drink her milkshake. She has excellent taste in potato chips, but that’s just not how you’re supposed to eat them.
[this is the OP song from Kannagi, by the way]
Coming to Japanese tv in January: Asu no Yoichi, a fish-out-of-water harem comedy about a young swordsman who ends up living with and studying under a Rushuna-scaled high-school girl.
The manga is up to seven volumes now, so perhaps it’s developed a solid story since I commented on the first one. At the very least, there’s enough material that they shouldn’t have to resort to random filler episodes.
Bare-bones home-page here.
I can’t think of a better summary of a major genre of anime and manga than this:
She is a princess of loving mischief!
He is a dull boy who is not at all lucky!
They are really close couple
though they have a lot of problems.
This comes from the front cover of the groundbreaking new manga series きつねのよめいり, featuring the fresh imagination and original story-telling of newcomer Sato Takagi.
Naaah, just kidding. I’m sure it delivers exactly what it promised on the cover (seen here on Amazon). The title, and perhaps a few tiny nuggets of the story, are based on classic folk tales about trickster-fox brides, but I’d be stunned if it rose above genre clichés.
Morning Musume’s least talented singer gets her sixth solo single (video here). And people wonder why I call her Satan.
This time, Our Favorite Monster Girls are releasing a cover album of well-known idol songs. And, yes, they’re singing them in character.
(note that the second season had seven CD singles)
Spam headline: “This is the solution to all your ED woes”.
J’s first thought: “ED’s are pretty dull; I usually just watch the OP”.
From Costumes, Inc., we have this little gem:
“Go Grease Lightening with costumes from Grease.”
The NSFW teaser trailer is out for Fight Ippatsu! Juuden-chan. Youtube has already removed at least one version of it, so that link might not last long (now updated with alternate site…). The show is either going to be much less revealing than this clip, or heavily censored for broadcast, but that’s not what I’m going to talk about. Instead, let’s look at the relationship between heroine Plug Cryostat and her rival Arrester Blanket:
After her intimately-detailed transformation scene, Plug intrudes on Arrester’s intro and holds up a sign reading 「メガネ乳女」, “megane-chimé”. 乳女 is not a word you’ll find in dictionaries, but it’s in common use on the Internet, which shouldn’t surprise anyone who recognizes the characters for “breasts/milk” and “woman”. Clearly she feels comfortable enough about her own figure to tease her top-heavy senpai.
[You’ll also find the characters in the other order, 女乳, read as めにゅう, “menyuu”. Searching for either one will bring up lots of sites featuring women possessing Arrester’s bustline, if not her glasses. The odds of those sites being worksafe are very, very low.]
Koutarou Nanbara says:
I’m halfway through an attempt to read the first Hand Maid May novel without a dictionary. I’m missing quite a bit this way, but I know the story well enough to fill in most of the missing pieces, and 100 roughly-understood pages are more fun than 10 carefully-translated ones. When I go through it the second time, the story will be fresh enough that stopping to look things up won’t interrupt the experience as badly. I tried to do this with the Louie novel last year, but I was missing too much grammar and vocabulary.
Mikako Takahashi is one of many voice actresses (Kasumi Tani from Hand Maid May, Rushuna from Grenadier, etc) who also sings. I’m rather fond of her ED song from HMM (Honto no Kimochi, “My True Feelings”), so when I noticed that she released two albums last year, I added them to my list for a future purchase from Amazon Japan.
I finally got around to buying them, and while my initial impression of the songs is mixed, I can find nothing to dislike about the pictures…
Especially the red dress and the bikini…(Continued on Page 3372)
When I reached the hot-springs scene where Yuki and Yayoi lick melting ice cream off of Sela’s body, I had to go look it up to make sure it wasn’t a doujin parody comic. No, it’s legit, and it’s ecchi, and in the final battle, every female character in the series is completely naked.
Yes, them too.
You don’t see a lot of this in Japan: thinpack re-releases of anime series at a less-than-rapacious price. Usually you have to buy the N-year-old DVDs at their original insane price with little or no discount, unless you have a reshipping service to handle used-goods dealers who don’t ship internationally.
(ah, turns out there was an earlier box set for about twice this price, and a recent Blu-ray set for about three times this price)
1. Hire a live-in maid/cook/combat android.
2. Hide porn in your bedroom.
I’m not the first to think of it, although the execution leaves a bit to be desired…
Next time, please start with a femtrooper, preferably one built along the lines of Lynette Bishop or Shirley Yeager…
Stumbling across this screencap from the current Strike Witches 2 episode, I found it curiously Kino-esque.
One wonders if her legs talk.
Just spotted on Amazon: Kaleido Star: Season Two with Bonus OVA
Nice to see a box set with the OVA, but that’s not the fun part. This is:
Frequently bought with…(Continued on Page 3656)
Live-action adaptation of Noir in the works. I have mixed feelings about this, but as long as they don’t use that damn song, I’ll give it a shot.
Pete reminds me that I haven’t recently expressed appreciation for the talents of Haruka Tomatsu, who caught my attention not for her voice-acting in the popular anime series Kannagi, but for her insane cuteness (or cute insanity) in the music video for the OP.
Then I saw the ED…
Sadly, some of the songs she’s recorded for other series aren’t as good as either of the Kannagi songs, but they seem to sell well, and her pretty-seiyuu singing group Sphere seems to be successful. She makes a darn nice bikini model, too.
[side note: the embedded video neatly demonstrates why most fansub “typographers”/”typesetters” should be bound with duct tape, sealed in a barrel, and dropped off a cliff. The whole point of supplying karaoke-style romanized lyrics is so that someone can sight-read them to learn the words. Gratuitous animation (bounce! bounce!) significantly reduces readability. Use a crisp clean font, with good contrast and the entire phrase displayed at once, and save the special effects for your MySpace site.]
Unrelated: A shrine maiden, a buddhist nun, and a “catholic” nun walk into a bar, and…
No, wait, that’s not a bar, it’s a porn novel. My mistake.
I am compelled to make the following observations about the first novel in the Asobi ni iku yo! series.
1. The series title is given a wonderful Engrish translation as furigana: “Us It goes to play in Your house”.
2. The compound noun 食料合成機 (literally “food synthesis machine”) has the following pronunciation as furigana: ソイレント・グリーン.
For the kana-impaired, instead of shokuryou-gouseiki, it’s to be read as soirento gureen. Not having seen the anime (yet), I do not know if this joke was carried over.
“Shut up, kid; that’s the way I tell it.”
There’s a fresh manga adaptation of the original Dirty Pair SF novels running in Japan (via The Leaning Tower of Damocles). I will cheerfully confess that I didn’t like the illustration style used for the novels, but I’m not sure this is an improvement. I’ll take the Eighties anime & comic versions, please; these are a bit over the top.(Continued on Page 3722)
In Kino’s Journeys, the title character is a teenage girl who travels the wilderness on her talking motorcycle, stopping only briefly in each isolated city-state she finds, observing life while reserving judgement, surviving unpleasant encounters using her wits and pistols.
Gakuen Kino is a parody spin-off, featuring magical girl Kino and her talking cellphone strap, fighting monsters in a not-so-ordinary high school.
I’ve read several of the Kino stories, and have finished about 33% 68% 98% of the first novel, but I found the mere existence of Gakuen Kino so amusing that I bought it on sight, and hope to read it at some point. Sadly, while it has been scanned in, no OCR’d, proofread edition is available, so I can’t run it through my scripts to speed up the reading experience. It will have to wait.
I grabbed the scans to get the interior illustrations, but I noticed something a bit unusual about them. The zip file correctly lists it as 学園キノ by 時雨沢恵一, but when you unpack it, the directory claims to contain 面白くないキノ by オナニ沢ケーイチ.
For the kana-deprived, the title has been changed to Omoshirokunai Kino (Boring Kino), by Onani-sawa Keiichi instead of Sigusawa Keiichi. Onani means masturbation. The scans match my copy of the book, so it’s just editorial commentary rather than vandalism, but still a bit of a surprise.
Anyway, here’s one of the color plates from inside the book. No onani, please!(Continued on Page 3728)
…a little Eineus must fall.(Continued on Page 3733)
Merrill reflects on Ila’s qualifications….(Continued on Page 3741)
Nearly three years ago, I had my first real success at reading Japanese prose written for a native audience. Getting through 30 pages of the first Rune Soldier Louie novel was a big accomplishment, given that I had to look up more than 600 new vocabulary words by painstakingly writing the kanji on my DS Lite or looking them up in printed dictionaries. It took nearly a month, an hour or two at a time.
That was before the demise of my group reading class, and my Japanese hasn’t improved very much since then. I’ve been treading water while waiting for Ooma to grow out of the startup lifestyle, and, yeah, that ain’t happened yet. My new scripts made it possible to read a complete novel in a reasonable time, but while the Rune Soldier novels have been scanned in, no one has gotten around to OCRing them. So I’m doing it.
That said, I successfully OCRd and proofed those same thirty pages that I read three years ago, ran them through my scripts, and read the story. It took about two hours to prep, and another two hours to read. I found some more errors that need correcting, but the first pass was perfectly readable.
I’ve also formatted and re-read Nishimura’s Ame no Naka ni Shinu, and the Kino stories Kioku no Kuni and Watashi no Kuni. I’m going to hold off on OCRing the rest of Rune Soldier 1 for a while, though, and focus on reading what I’ve got, which includes the second Kino novel and Tsutsui’s well-known Toki o Kakeru Shoujo. Oh, and I just remembered that copy of Kanjousen Pete typed in; that one’s already prepped for formatting.
As part of my spring cleaning this year, I decided it was finally time to clean out the mess of obsolete AV gear in the family room. Two 200-disc CD changers? Gone! Laserdisc player? Gone! Original Xbox, DXS, Slink-E, 100 Mb/s switch, DishPlayer, S-VHS player? Gone, gone, gone! 32-inch, 185-pound television set and bulky stand? Oh, that is so gone (and carried out of the house by someone else). Actual television service was gone several years ago, when Dish Network stopped supporting the WebTV DishPlayer, and I really hadn’t missed it.
But now that things have settled down in HD-land (apart from the 3-D nonsense that I want no part of), I decided I could safely buy a decent LED-backlit HD TV and Blu-ray player, and find the least-outrageously-overpriced TV service to subscribe to that included TV Japan (which turned out to be Dish Network again).
But of course I needed something to watch in HD. My Blu-ray collection is small, and the expensive but poor selection at Amazon Japan suggests it will remain so for some time, but there’s still some anime getting released in the US, so in addition to the AsoIku OVA, I now own a copy of Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou.
It’s not bad at all, and I certainly don’t regret the purchase, but my primary reaction to it was “I’d love to see the story this highlight reel is based on”. Compared to AsoIku, it feels incredibly rushed: the relationships, the escalating situation, the development of the supporting cast. It just rips through the material at a breakneck pace, leaving very little time for the viewer to connect with any of it.
Both series are based on roughly the same amount of original text. Daimaou is, as far as I can tell, based on the first five novels in the series. AsoIku is based on the first four novels, plus the end of the sixth and a standalone story pulled from the ninth, and some scenes that appear to be completely original. Light novels are short, episodic, and dialog-heavy, making it reasonable to convert one book into 2-3 episodes without losing too much, so why is one so much more coherent than the other?
Focus. In AsoIku, they trimmed and consolidated the cast to focus attention on a small band of heroes facing a single villain; there are some dangling plot threads and mystery characters, but they round out the world without distracting from the core story. In Daimaou, not so much. I lost count of the factions, and couldn’t tell you who fought who for what reason. Or, really, when and why Junko fell for Akuto. Honestly, unless I’m in the mood to take notes, I think my primary motive for rewatching it will be Peterhausen.
Well, that and the fan-service.
[I am sufficiently intrigued that I’d consider reading the novels, but I’d have to do the OCR and proofreading myself, since all I’ve found are scans. If I’m going to do that much work, I’d rather do it for a story I’ve already spent some time on, like Rune Soldier. After I finish with AsoIku, of course, which is now in unexplored territory; among other things, book five appears to be building up the tie-in to the author’s first novel.]
Clearly, the oracular bird at the school lied to conceal the identity of the demon king.(Continued on Page 3826)
So, if buying the DVDs of a show you’ve already downloaded is a Guilt Buy, what do you call downloading something you already own on Blu-ray, because they left out features included in the region 2 release?
Rage Torrent, perhaps? :-)
Still “no thanks”, except maybe for pictures of the actress playing Kasumi.
One of the things I discovered on my recent trip was that there were ten OVA episodes for Stratos 4, continuing the story. They were subbed by SS-Eclipse, whose torrent is still seeded, but since I discovered this by finding the DVD box set at a decent price, I only needed the softsubs, which were also floating around out there.
Digital first, apparently, with DVDs to follow. A very pleasant series, but the decision seems to have a lot of folks scratching their heads.
For anyone who might be interested in a top-level view of how Sato is adapting the Miniskirt Space Pirates novels for anime, here are the chapter titles of the first two books, along with the volume titles of all seven.
Mild spoiler potential, of course. If they keep the current pace, I’d expect book 2 to take the series up to around episode 9.(Continued on Page 3975)
The latest episode of Bodacious Space Pirates wasn’t up yet when I started my morning workout, so instead I sweated to the first two episodes of Angelic Layer. It’s a fun series that I haven’t seen in quite a while, but this time, I noticed something.
Spoiler alert: it’s an old series, but if you haven’t seen it (and you should), stop reading now.(Continued on Page 3984)
Someone liked the style of the Index and Railgun logos so much, they made a generator page.
This turned up in an image search for 死屍累々 (“heaps of corpses all around”; sadly, not everything that search returns is so whimsical), which is a tag on Pixiv that also turned up this bit of Railgun fan-art.
Lots of links to footage from the PS2 game and the earlier short animation, but it doesn’t look like there’s a trailer or site open yet.
I must say, given the increase in the amount of Hoihoi-san merchandise recently, I’m not surprised.
You can also get a Chiaki-chan, a Lamp House waitress, and a Hakuou schoolgirl. And, coming soon, this.
(somewhat unexpectedly, Nyaruko has more merchandise)
Captain Marika Nendoroid in October.
(via the never-safe-for-work Sankaku Complex)
General-purpose android for lab work. They named it Mahoro. No word on the lifespan.
Not spam, but a challenge: ツンツンしてた小悪魔妹が嫁になるまでデレた理由
Breaking that down:
(((tsuntsun shite-ta) koakuma-imouto) ga
((yome ni naru) made) dereta) wake
(Note: the last word is the kanji for riyuu, but as you can see on Amazon, it’s glossed wake; both mean “reason/explanation”, but at the moment I can’t really explain what difference in nuance they’re playing with here)
Stripped to essentials, the base sentence is imouto ga dereta, “younger sister was ‘lovestruck’” . This complete sentence modifies wake (as what’s often called an attributive verb; your textbook may vary), making it “the reason younger sister was lovestruck”.
Now for the rest: koakuma “little devil” modifies imouto, or, more precisely, I think it should be read as a compound noun koakumamai, “little-devil younger sister”. Tsuntsun shite ita, “(someone) had been ‘aloof’” is another attributive verb, modifying our complex little sister. That leaves us with the particle made, “until”, which provides the condition that ended her tsuntsun nature: yome ni naru, “(she) becomes a bride”.
The base sentence is past tense, so the awkwardly-precise result is: “The reason my used-to-be-aloof-until-she-married little-devil younger sister became lovestruck.”
In more natural English, perhaps “How marriage made my bitchy little sister sweet”.
[Update: I read a bit of the back cover blurb, and the protagonist says his ideal bride is a not-related-by-blood little sister, so given the genre and the cover art, perhaps that should be “How marrying me made my bitchy little pricktease of a step-sister put out”.]
As a contrast to the previous grammatical mouthful, I offer this novel: 妹!妹!!妹!!!, read as “Mai! Mai!! Mai!!!”, neatly stripping the genre to its essential truth: “Little Sister! Little Sister!! Little Sister!!!”.
Having nothing to do with trains is 妹ChuChu, read “Mai Chu-Chu”, for “Little Sister Kiss-Kiss”.
Opening a different vein, we have ツンマゾ!. Read as “Tsun-Mazo!”, for “‘Aloof’ Masochist!”; just in case you miss the point, the theme is clearly explained in the subtitle. And the cover art.
Longer, but spelled out in phonetic Engrish for the benefit of the younger reader (or, well, not), is ミルクプリンセス ラブラブにゅ~トピア, or “Milk Princess Love-love Nyuu-topia” (nyuu being the reading for the kanji 乳, “breasts/milk”).
They’re universes where the Boy Scout virtues work. They follow the rules of Boys Adventure, not Gritty Realism. Dog Days mixes it with a healthy dose of cheesecake, but the key word is healthy; there’s shock and embarrassment when a special attack manages to destroy a female character’s clothing without harming her in any way, but there’s no fear, no leering, no dominance, nothing negative. It’s all good clean fun.
I think the closest Hollywood has come to this (the feel, not the special attacks; pity) was the 1996 version of The Phantom, featuring terrific performances by Billy Zane, Kristy Swanson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Patrick McGoohan. It tanked, of course; too wholesome for the market.
[Update: …except for poor Becky, who’s strayed into the world of Men’s Adventure.]
…starting Friday, the Seiyu Cafe in Akihabara has a Mouretsu Pirates theme.
…apart from the fact that the show is actually pretty good, that is. First, the animation team from Mouretsu Pirates. Second, the voices of:
And the show’s actually pretty good, just in case I failed to mention that. Even the episodes without Haruka Tomatsu are decent. It helps to be familiar with MMO tropes and player stereotypes, and of course there’s a certain WSoD required to accept not just a virtual-reality MMO with real-life death, but, more significantly, an online service that manages to stay up for two years with no maintenance.
The “emptying trash” sound on a Mac somehow gets Konya wa Hurricane running through my head. Often.
So, I guess what happens in Aincrad, stays in Aincrad.
An amusingly trollish article at Sankaku Complex suggests that the end of the first arc in Sword Art Online has angered all the folks who thought they were watching a different story. Yes, it’s true, they didn’t meticulously document the leveling grind, the steady attrition of the player base, or the ruthless boss fights, and we’re all better off for it. As Kirito said, 「他人のやってるＲＰＧを傍らから眺めるほどつまらない事はない」, “there’s nothing more boring than watching someone else play an RPG”.
In related news, desperate Democrats are imagining an Eighties-movie training montage set to the theme from Fame in which Barry the underdog overcomes all the weaknesses that got his ass kicked up between his ears in the first debate. Unfortunately for them, the real soundtrack may end up being Scandal’s Goodbye To You or Johnny Hates Jazz’ Shattered Dreams.
If the anime concludes with the Fairy Dance arc, as it appears it will, I will be very disappointed if it doesn’t snow in the final scene.
(based on comments about how it ends and the presence of Kanae Itō in the cast…)
[Update: in vaguely-related news, AsoIku book 16 came out last week. I really need to catch up on these.]
That’s not the only Asuna merchandise available, of course; you can get figures and coffee mugs and cellphone straps and keychains and iphone cases and posters and coasters and throw pillows and t-shirts and dog tags and cosplay outfits (starter, endgame, and post-Fairy Dance) and sword and wig and tote bag and wtf is all this shit?!?.
Okay, sorry, had to get that out of my system. I wouldn’t object to the Immortal Object t-shirt, though, if it came in XXL (which, being Japan, it doesn’t).
When engineers sleep,
catgirl breeding runs amuck;
Steven, get well soon.
Yes, the ultimate panty fight will be live on stage in Tokyo from November 30th to December 9th, with the role of Hakufu played by a talented thespian most recently seen here hawking whipped cream and jello, Shizuka Nakamura.
A modest sample of Shizuka’s qualifications for the role is presented below; more here, if your heart can take it.(Continued on Page 4115)
Here’s what I like to imagine Stephen’s post-stroke physical therapy is like:
Meet Ren. She’s an alien slave girl with a brain the size of a walnut and a heart the size of, well, something big and chest-related.
This is one of the postcard-sized bonus items included with the deluxe edition of the DearS PlayStation 2 game. Notice anything odd about it, besides her rather distorted anatomy?
Let’s take a closer look:(Continued on Page 4126)
So, a trope-aware Magical Girl-Girl show where the lead character channels Recette? I’m in.
…and she gets it from her mom.
I had planned to wait until the second Bluray arrived before re-watching Bodacious Space Pirates, this time with a big screen and a decent sound system, but I’ve been sick all week, and I couldn’t hold out any longer. Marathoning the first arc was a wonderful way to cheer me up, and the surround sound really, really works. The excellent background music fills the room, and even the OP song is now tolerable with the chorus balancing out the screeching of Momoiro Clover Z.
(and it’s still streaming for free on Crunchyroll…)
Not quite a year ago, Steven found some rather puzzling geometry on the Bentenmaru’s bridge. As I continued to rewatch on a big screen tonight, I spotted something: the bridge isn’t just two levels, it’s two parts, and the upper part has a very good reason to be mobile.
In episode 7, around 10:30, the Bentenmaru is cruising at FTL on its way to a Perfectly Ordinary Mission (coughcough); the level that the captain’s chair is on is much higher than the other, and you can see lovely streams of hyperspace through the giant wrap-around windows. Just after the eyecatch, around 11:40, they come out of warp and go to battle stations, and the top half of the bridge sinks into the body of the ship, covering the windows and bringing the two levels much closer together.
So, the normal exterior corridors either reconfigure themselves with the upper bridge, or else are blocked off to lock down access. And, of course, battle stations is precisely when you’d want it to be easier for someone on the lower bridge to directly reach the upper.
It’s still possible they failed to animate it 100% consistently, but they definitely thought about it.
Interesting that the Golden Ghost Ship makes an appearance in this size comparison (part of announcing the 1/40000-scale model of the ship), right up there with the Enterprise, the Yamato, Laputa, a Star Destroyer, etc.
The way this season’s going, though, I’m surprised it doesn’t include Gargantia. :-)
Not just the same seiyuu, pretty much the same personality as well.
So, in addition to Preferential Measure Organization Stella Women’s Academy High School Division Class C3 (which apparently flopped as a manga, but is one of the few watchable anime this season), there’s at least one other schoolgirl survival-game manga running, this one successfully: Survival Game Club.
I had happened to pick up a volume of this one when I was Osaka, and while the general idea is the same, this one opens a bit differently, with New Girl At School getting her introduction to the world of survival games by being rescued from a train molester by a stylishly-dressed but mildly insane blonde schoolgirl carrying what looks like a Beretta 9mm pistol. …who is promptly hauled off by the station employees, to her loud protests. Of course, this is the beginning of a new life for Our Heroine, in more of a wacky-antics universe than C3.
I was reminded of this series when I happened to click the Google translate button while looking at reviews of C3, and saw a more hilarious than usual mistranslation. The official title of Survival Game Club is さばげぶっ！ (saba-ge-bu). Google helpfully translated this as “Sabage Bukkake!”. I can only be grateful that they didn’t go with “savage”.
“If it weren’t for her plump breasts, most opponents would probably mistake her for a man. Therefore she dressed daringly, exposing most of her flesh. Her skin was swarthy, with a strange design inked on her left cheek. An informed observer would recognize the design as a warding spell of the Arido hill tribes.”
That settles the question of why competent women in fantasy show so much skin: they’re feminist pioneers, working twice as hard to prove they’re just as good as men!
[this message brought to you by my attempt to figure out the word 呪払い, which apparently should be read as “noroibarai”; it’s not explained anywhere, but is in common use in the online fantasy community to refer to warding magic. See also here.]
Will more cosplayers choose LOAD-kun or Utsutsu-chan?
(setting aside the issue of being arrested for faithful Utsutsu-chan cosplay…)
The Gatchaman Crowds Blu-ray box set is currently the best-selling anime on Amazon Japan, and the ninth best-seller in all genres. Four months before it comes out.
Interestingly, the only merchandise available besides the music CDs are cosplay school uniforms and wigs. You too can be Hajime or Sugane, or have hair like Joe. A “design works” book is coming in October, but the usual quick tie-in merchandise is missing.
I hereby predict that the unbeatable Berg-Katze will be undone by…
(…poor man’s spoiler-hiding ahead…)(Continued on Page 4306)
While checking up on Mouretsu Pirates movie news, I happened to spot director Sato’s twitter profile pic.
Via the never-safe-for-work Sankaku Complex. It would be nice if they could skip the jarring tone shifts of the first one. Our Hero deserves a break, and his new home could use some more exploring. If they pick up after the end of the first series, I suspect they’ll try for something like Watt-Evans’ The Wizard and the War Machine.
Apparently the number one problem with the show was that there wasn’t enough fan-service in the opening and end credits.
They fixed that.
[Update: speaking of fan-service, Nova, Lore, Elza, and Lam are not in the novels. Lore is anime-original, and the other three were added in the manga. Actually, it looks like there are two different manga running, one a straight adaptation of the novels, and the other with extra service. Airi’s bunny-suit is straight from the books, though, and “somehow” Fino and Sara both end up in them as well.]
Crunchyroll reports that they’ll be simulcasting the Sword Art Online Extra Edition special episode, in which sister/cousin/haremette Leafa/Suguha learns to swim in the real world, so they can do an underwater quest in the virtual world.
No doubt the next special episode will send the girls to an onsen so Liz can overcome her fear of steam.
They could have animated the one-and-only story with Asuna as the protagonist, but no, they went for the fan-service.
[Update: I just bought the second volume of the straight adaptation. I hope they do this properly in the anime, because there’s a real story going on, and I quite enjoyed the revelation of how the Demon Lord was defeated.]
So I picked up the Kindle editions of the first volume from both of the Yuu-shibu manga. The one that’s actually called Yuu-shibu is the extra-ecchi version that adds Elza, Lam, Nova, and a lot more fan-service, while the one that shares the novels’ full ridiculous title looks like a more direct adaptation. The anime is using a lot of material from the ecchi manga.
The simplest way to explain the difference is to show the Witch’s Arms… (NSFW!)(Continued on Page 4333)
After looking at both manga (which I’ll just call Straight and Ecchi, to keep it clear), I think I know where the anime is going, and how they’re going to get there. They seem to be mostly following Ecchi, and usually toning it down a bit (manga: Nova trips and plants her crotch in Raul’s face, Lam flips up Elza’s skirt to show Raul her sexy panties, tentacles are very ecchi, etc; anime: magical bukkake). Character design is pretty consistent across all three versions:
Both manga follow more or less the same path so far, with volume one ending soon after the Witch’s Arms incident. There’s some young Fino flashbacks in Straight that set up the big reveal in volume 2, but nothing comparable in Ecchi.
The big reveal in Straight comes less than halfway into volume 2, before Amada appears on the scene. Volume 2 of Ecchi isn’t out for another six weeks or so, but I’m guessing they do the same.
I think the order of those events is what they’re changing for the anime. Speculations and spoilers below:(Continued on Page 4335)
No Bodacious Space Pirates were harmed in the production of these books.
As I feared, they’re setting up the Amada arc to finish out the season, and the final scene makes it clear that they’ve merged it with the plot of book 1. They now have four episodes left to bring it all together, and while I appreciate the eye-candy and the culturally-acclimated evil genius that is Lamdimia do Aximimor, I wonder if they can finish the story properly, or if they’re too busy setting up “buy the BluRay” scenes.
The revelation of how the Demon Lord was defeated should still be worthwhile, but I worry that the actual resolution will be over-shadowed by the cheesecake. I think they’re going to try to have all the girls there for the big finish, particularly Lore and Lam. That will involve some rather contrived plotting unless they move it to the Leon store.
Not that the novels are short on cheesecake…(Continued on Page 4341)
[Update3: just rewatched the episode and there’s another translation that doesn’t work; I didn’t comment on it earlier because at the critical moment, I wasn’t looking at the subtitles. At 17:35, Elza flirtingly asks Raul to take her picture, insisting he’d do a better job than the customers. But what she says is “you’d take me properly, wouldn’t you?” and “(I) want you to take (something)”. His blood-starved brain wasn’t capable of handling the omitted word “photographs”, which explains his panicked reaction, something that the translation obscures. You can see that she’s being “haha, only serious”, but his hysteria doesn’t make sense if you follow the subtitles.]
At 15:15 in episode 8, Lam announces her intention to help improve sales, translated by Crunchyroll and those who copied their work as “Lamdimia do Aximemor will just have to get hot and heavy…”. Raul then says “hot and heavy?” while looking her up and down, which leads her to clobber him. Unfortunately, the “hot and heavy” choice doesn’t really work for either her meaning or Raul’s misinterpretation. It’s easy to forgive, though, because it’s a bit tricky to match the idiom.
Her exact words were “hitohada nuide”, from the verb 一肌脱ぐ = “to pitch in and help”, but literally a compound of hitohada (skin) and nugu (to undress). Raul, dazed from the heat (or a lack of blood flow to the brain from all the eye candy), heard only the literal meaning and gave her bikini-clad body the once-over.
[Update: to clarify, there are two different words read as “hitohada”: 一肌 and 人肌. The first (“one+skin”) means to help out, the second (“person+skin”) means skin. JMdict doesn’t list 一肌 as a standalone word, and uses both versions for the compound hitohada-nugu; my good dictionary separates the two. ]
I think I might have gone with “give it her all”; it changes her intended meaning a bit, but works in both contexts.
[Update2: Actually, it looks like the key piece of the idiom is hada-nugu, 肌脱ぐ; alone, it means “to take your shirt off” or “to work with great effort”, and in addition to hitihada-nugu, there’s also katahada-nugu, 片肌脱ぐ “to bare one shoulder” or “to lend a hand”. Lam-chan’s shoulder was already bare, so that expression wouldn’t have confused poor Raul the same way.]
It is now obvious how Lam-chan fits into the ending. Also, I was right about Blaze and Klein, Raul’s former classmates that were added for the anime; I didn’t want to say more at the time, but it should be pretty clear now.
They’re definitely tracking the Ecchi manga, despite things being reordered to accomodate the Amada story. They even had Lam flip up Elza’s skirt to show off her sexy panties, although they changed the reason and the audience.
It looks like I was wrong about Shell, though; he’s in it pretty deep.
Well, that’s not how Mom tells it. But at least I can say that they came up with something different, and didn’t waste the entire episode talking about the fight they were going to have (which I more than half-expected). And they found an amusing way to work Elza into it.
A really long clip episode with a standalone Alfheim adventure tacked on to the end, framed by mild fan-service, with a “surprise” announcement of season 2 at the end. Not bad, but not worth 100 minutes of my time; fortunately, I could leave it running in a window while working, and look over when something happened.
I have no intention of watching the second season, however. Gun Gale Online is pretty much a Kirito solo adventure with a new girl, leaving Asuna and the rest of the gang as spectators in the real world. The (still-unfinished after N volumes) Alicization arc that follows that is even more so, although apparently Asuna gets to do one small thing each book.
From the blog of Muku Flooring comes this charming picture of the statue outside Iwakuni High School Memorial Hall, a kendo dojo. It most likely predates modern anime, but would fit right in…
[Update: It’s Sasaki Kojiro, the opponent in one of Musashi’s most famous duels, the one that gave birth to the popular “carved oar” heavy training bokken. The statue is apparently a bit of a tourist attraction.]
…it would mix footage from Re: Cutie Honey with this song:
Given the mid-August release, I’m guessing we’ll be seeing a Blu-ray of the movie around then.
Also, in November, Marika bikini figure.
…it was just one of those random moments of googling, and I was saddened to discover that while there are plenty of panther-claw t-shirts, there are no Panther Claw t-shirts.
Hmmm, what about a nice “Keep Calm and Honey Flash” poster?
Coming in January:
Y’know, I was just thinking that there isn’t enough terrible anime on the shelves any more…
(direct link for those whose ad-blockers won’t show Amazon iframes)
Perhaps someone will want this to help make 2015 brighter…
Not to be confused with siscon, lolicon, or any of the other fetish-con constructs in Japanese (in which case it would be “tiger complex”, which could get messy fast). No, I was suddenly curious to see if the original Dirty Pair novels used a kanji compound for the “Trouble Consultant” job title used by Our Heroines. Nope, it’s トラブル・コンサルタント, or トラコン for short.
Update: scrolling through the vocabulary list generated by my scripts, I was amused to discover that the words ホットパンツ and ジェノサイド appear exactly the same number of times. In fact, you could pretty much subtitle any discussion of the Lovely Angels with the phrase “hotpants and genocide”.
I vaguely remember hearing something about this “coming soon”, but I happened to be browsing torrents and they’ve released an extended cut of the last episode of Gatchaman Crowds, which ties up all the loose ends.
The episode title is “Embrace”. The rest of the series is still on Crunchyroll, but it doesn’t look like they’ve licensed this, and of course the US box set was released a long time ago, so there’s no alternative to torrenting it.
The new series “Is it wrong to try to pick up girls in a dungeon?” has the look of a very predictable harem comedy. Indeed, it probably is a very predictable harem comedy. Our Hero is a typical hapless loser, who’s not only in over his head, but who almost loses it on the first level of the local dungeon until he’s rescued by the girl of his dreams, a sexy swordswoman. Over the course of the first episode, we’re also introduced to his big-sisterly advisor, his cute waitress, and his (platonic) live-in busty goddess.
After watching the first one on Crunchyroll, my quick judgement is “competent but uninspired”. For amusement, hapless loser-boy is the voice of Kirito, but Haruka Tomatsu is not voicing the sexy blonde swordswoman; she’s handling the big-sister role.
It was a pleasant enough diversion while I was on the elliptical, so I’ll likely watch the second one.