Thursday, April 14 2011

The “bu” is silent, y’see

Why is it that the slender, flat-chested girl is always named Futaba? Because that’s what the name means: 双葉 = bud, sprout.

With that out of the way, perhaps a better question would be why busty, unable-to-confess childhood friend Manami’s last name is written 金武城 but pronounced as if it were simply 金城 (which, incidentally, is a word meaning “impregnable fortress”). It’s unusual enough to get furigana in the original novels, since if you were to use the likely reading for all three kanji, it would be Kin-bu-jou, but it’s simply Kin-jou.

But it turns out you can read 金武 as Kin. And there’s a city by that name in Okinawa, that happens to be the location of the US Marine Corps base Camp Hansen. Surely this is simple coincidence, and has no connection whatsoever to Okinawa gun-nut Manami, who was training to join the CIA…

And is it wrong for me to want someone to make a Jens figurine?

Sunday, April 17 2011

Tropical Squadron Shureio

Okina Kamino, the author of the Asobi ni Iku Yo! novels, has released the full text of his first novel online. It apparently has mechs and magic in an Okinawan setting, as well as an earlier version of the character Ichika who crossed over into AsoIku. I don’t know if it’s any good, but a non-DRMed ebook is a lot easier to work with for someone whose Japanese is not fluent, and this one is just clean HTML (er, make that “slightly crufty HTML”) with furigana.

[note that when I say “his”, I’m relying on Wikipedia’s gender identification. “Okina Kamino” is a pseudonym, and while Okina is usually a feminine name, in this case it’s written in katakana, and the author is apparently the only native Okinawan light novelist.]

While I’m linking, the illustrator for the AsoIku novels posted some character portraits on his blog, including a school-swimsuit shot of the captain and doctor in which they shatter the Rushuna barrier (amusing, but not as pleasing to the eye as the Chaika/Melwin picture).

[Update: I sanitized the HTML so I could preserve the supplied furigana when importing into my scripts, and was a bit surprised not to find anyone named “Ichika” anywhere in the book. Searching for cat ears located the character, but she must be called something else.]

Tuesday, May 10 2011

Catgirls at play

The AsoIku web site has finally been updated to reflect the real release date of the OVA, and also finally includes a description of the contents (as well as extras available if you buy through specific dealers).

What’s the focus of the story in this special?

(Continued on Page 3782)

Thursday, May 19 2011

Sprint, shoot!

The author of Asobi ni Iku Yo! has another active series of novels, Hashire, ute!, which has a manga adaptation running, and given the subject matter, likely an anime series in the works. Judging from the cover art (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), the genre is “military moeblob”.

Book five has a “look inside” link, and the random page it selected for me featured a phrase glossed with the katakana マジノ・ライン …

His most recent release looks to be the start of Yet Another series, Cattail Output!, the cover of which features two schoolgirls with very short skirts, one with glasses, the other with a handgun.

Monday, May 23 2011

Tales From The Dog Side

Presented without comment. It just sort of popped into my head while driving to work…

(Continued on Page 3792)

Saturday, May 28 2011

Anime Pop Quiz

Of the two people in this picture, which one is the alien? The sexy half-naked catgirl yawning and stretching on the bed, or the teenage boy who is calmly sitting at his desk reading?

Kio, oblivious

In discussion at Ubu’s place, I settled on “baffled” as the best way to describe Kio’s lack of response to the three beautiful young women who want him. He clearly likes girls, he has an extensive stash of girlie mags under his bed, he enjoys the sight of poorly-concealed girl parts, and always gets a good look before turning away embarrassed. He just doesn’t understand how they could possibly be interested in him.

But what the hell is he doing in this scene? He’s known her for less than 24 hours, she’s curled up on his bed in his dad’s favorite shirt (well, it is now!), and he’s calmly reading. Not sweating and shaking from the effort of not turning around, not nervously sharpening pencils until they’re worn down to nubs (not a euphemism), not reacting at all to the sound of his bedsheets rustling as she stretches, not thinking about the fact that she was perfectly happy sleeping next to him last night in that same outfit. Twelve hours earlier, the sight of her glued into that shirt freaked him out, and now it doesn’t even rate a peek? The boy’s not human.

Wednesday, June 1 2011

Asobi ni Iku Yo! book one

ネコミミ・ノート
Notes taken with a 1.8m catgirl.

[6/4 minor update to 4.1 (Jens)]

I’ve been keeping detailed scene-by-scene notes on this book, largely to check my comprehension (it’s harder to read than Kino), but I thought it would be amusing to post them to allow a better look at how the series was adapted for anime, and to fuel speculation on possible future animation. The numbers will not be useful for anyone who doesn’t have my copy of the marked-up text file, though; I did some cleanup on the version I downloaded, to clarify section and scene breaks compared to my print copy.

Warning! This is not only chock full of spoilers, it’s also quite long. And there are pictures.

(Continued on Page 3802)

Monday, June 6 2011

Any Japanese cinema buffs out there?

In the second AsoIku novel, chapter two opens with Aoi dreaming. The first part of her dream features her oldest memory, of sitting on her father’s lap watching a movie and laughing together. She was very young, and this is almost all she remembers of him. It’s also one of the few happy moments in her life.

They’re watching an old black-and-white film, based on a television show that was a big hit before he was born, a comedy period piece. The lead actor, who later was known for a role as a long-faced, hard-boiled (すっかり渋い) detective, sang and danced, making funny moves and gestures. Without understanding much else, that was enough to amuse her.

The movie could have been shot in black-and-white as an artistic choice, but the wording suggests that both the original TV show and the movie were B/W, so no later than the mid-Sixties. Since the book was written in 2004 and set in 200A, and Aoi is sixteen, that works even if Dad was in his late twenties at the time.

I crossed my fingers and hoped that a “big hit” TV comedy would have a video or DVD release, and Amazon Japan allowed me to come up with a short list (rant about the difficulty of setting up the search left for another time…). Of those, exactly one early-Sixties title was a B/W period comedy, with a B/W movie adaptation, and a search for the first actor in the cast turned up a hard-boiled detective role. He even has a long face.

So, have I guessed correctly that her movie is Tenamonya Sandogasa, starring Makoto Fujita, who later went on to play the lead in the film Hagure Keiji?

[The exact identity of the film isn’t critical to the story; what’s important is that after a miserable youth being trained to become a cold-blooded killing machine, one night she saw this film again on a hotel TV, and remembered, and cried. So, her interest in movies is at least in part a way to connect with her father, and if she hadn’t seen it again by chance, she might never have become a movie maniac, met Kio, and broken away from her old life.]

Tuesday, June 14 2011

Asobi ni Iku Yo! 2: Operation ‘Unyaa-kun’

[prologue through chapter 6 (of 11) up now, catching up after being diverted by a fresh batch of naked catgirls…]

General note: the first book was adapted almost shot-for-shot into the first two episodes, with the notable addition of Aoi’s opening action scene. Some minor characters were eliminated, consolidated, or set aside for later use, but almost everything else appears, in the exact same order.

This book forms the basis of episodes 3-5, but the order of some scenes were rearranged, some were omitted, and some new ones were created using material that was presented differently in the book. Many of the changes are improvements; for instance, there’s no need to show great-aunt Ushi giving Kio and the Assistoroids a lesson in how to make yakiniku. Others were done simply to emphasize the harem comedy side of the story, such as having the catgirls use their bells to change clothes in front of Kio, giving him an eyeful. The small joke about two #17 Assistoroids is anime-only, and in any case, they got their numbers in book 1.

(Continued on Page 3807)

Sunday, June 19 2011

Lost in adaptation…

…at least for now. I’m still finishing up my notes on book 2 of Asobi ni Iku yo!, but I’m also enjoying book 3. I’m about halfway through chapter 6, and I’ve now had four pleasant surprises in the development of minor characters.

First, Ichika has a much larger role, and doesn’t just appear out of nowhere on the beach. She had an interesting scene in book 2, but she’s fleshed out a lot more here. Her home, her friend/ally Tabito, her work as a model-maker, a hint of her power as a sennin, the lack of any attempt to hide her ears and tail in public, and the reason she went out to the beach to check up on them in the first place, after she meets up with our second surprise development, Assistoroid #6.

When the assistoroids were introduced in episode 2 of the anime, one of them behaved slightly differently from the rest, in what seemed to be a small bit of visual comedy. That wasn’t mentioned in the matching scene in book 1, but in book 3, it’s revealed that #6 is definitely different from the others. When house-sitting Chaika orders them to take a break from their work, the rest do normal things, but he goes off exploring the neighborhood on his own. He’s just normal enough to pass all the usual diagnostics, so neither Eris nor Chaika has realized that they have a unique individual on their hands. He ends up playing games in the park with Ichika and a group of small children, and comes home with a resin model of himself that she made for him. As the kids head home for lunch, we finally learn her name, as they call out a happy bye-bye to Ichika and 6-chan.

The third surprise is in the scenes between Jens and her new assistant Muttley, assigned to her in the epilogue of book 2 after her failure on Antonia’s ship. She had asked for a full squad of reinforcements, and she got him instead. Their relationship is different, and in particular, he’s a much better tactician, spending a merry day slaughtering her in various wargame scenarios before relaxing in front of the TV to watch anime.

The most recent surprise (and I suspect not the last) is who else showed up on the beach: campy film director Kawasaki, who came to Okinawa looking for Manami and Aoi, to show them the rough cut of his latest movie, featuring them. The sight of a crazed pervert running across the beach leads Maya to order the maids to open fire (while Manami frantically tries to intervene in time), but he evades their hail of bullets with the grace of a ballerina, and when Maya orders the maids to shoot again, he not only evades, but ends up behind her, admiring the fine muscle tone of her buttocks and thighs.

Maya loses it at this point and fires wildly, until Antonia rebukes her for putting everyone in danger. After that, things settle down, and Kawasaki gleefully pulls out a portable DVD player to show off his movie, to the admiration of the film-club members. But a bit later, talking alone with Manami, he drops the act and gives her some serious advice about fully enjoying this too-brief time in her life. When others start to join them, he camps back up and heads off into the sunset.

Wednesday, June 22 2011

Best line in book 3

The morning after all the excitement, the film-club beach trip comes to an end, with Antonia’s maids frantically pestering their chief Maya with questions and problems. Most are trivial, but they’re driving her nuts because her assistant Sara is nowhere to be found. Their biggest problem:

摩耶様、テントの中でカントクさんが起きてくださいません。下品な寝言を言いながら股間を……

Translated, “Maya-sama, could you please go into the tent and wake [Kawasaki] Kantoku-san? He’s talking dirty in his sleep, and his crotch is…”.

Where’s Sara? On cloud nine. Something to do with the assistoroids calling her “Mommy” after she came to their rescue inside Unaa-tan…

[I’ve finished the book, and I think I’m going to start book 4 rather than writing up book 3 right now. Book 3 covered the same timespan as episodes 6-8, but some significant differences are starting to appear, and I want to reach the point where the anime ended. Book 4 covers the attack on the Catian mothership, including Kio’s command decision, but does not include the arrival of the Christmas Tree; that shows up at the end of book 6. Other material was rearranged and compressed as well; for instance, Manami hasn’t thrown her hat into the ring yet, so only Aoi and Eris are openly competing for Kio’s affections right now. (that is, we haven’t been shown that Manami wants to compete)]

Tuesday, June 28 2011

Gained in adaptation…

[Book four finished; I think I’ll go back and review for a few days to clear up some rough spots, then spend the holiday weekend reading book five]

“Splendid villain! Very exuberant!”
    ―Uncle Max, from Zot

“As evil plans go, it doesn’t suck.”
    —Wesley Wyndham-Pryce, from Angel

In the anime version of AsoIku, Jens is a terrific villain. Smart, tough, competent, dedicated, and ruthless. At first, she has a bit of a chip on her shoulder about pathetic humans, but then, the only ones she’s really spent time with are pretty slimy. She’s the sole member of her race currently on Earth, and she runs the whole operation with her aide Muttley: smuggling alien technology, manipulating governments, planning covert operations, and leading full-scale military assaults. She’s good at it, and once she starts taking them seriously, Our Heroes need brains, skill, guts, and luck to overcome her.

Her motives make sense. Her actions make sense. Her final plan is brilliant and vicious, meticulously planned and expertly carried out, and if it had succeeded, it would have accomplished exactly what she wanted. She’s head and shoulders (and bust…) above the usual Bad Guy in anime.

In the books, Jens and Muttley play catch with an idiot ball.

But first, a cast picture, and a spoiler warning…

(Continued on Page 3817)

Thursday, June 30 2011

AsoIku manga note

Incidentally, the manga scene that Pete mentioned back in April is from book 4, and takes place during the flight to Russia to acquire a rocket, immediately after Manami confronted Kio about Aoi’s feelings. The key difference from the anime is that he didn’t miss Manami’s point; he’s gone off alone to figure out what to do about his romantic entanglement with both Eris and Aoi, and Maya turns up just at the point where he needs advice from a grown-up.

(and almost certainly delivers better advice than he’d have gotten from Uncle Yuuichi…)

Given that volume 7 of the manga came out the same month that issue was released, either it has a lot of side stories, or they’re doing a more leisurely adaptation of the novels, or both.

Sunday, July 3 2011

Dear AsoIku Production Team,

If you are blessed with the opportunity to make a sequel, please include the following scene from book 5, chapter 4:

Chaika is house-sitting while Kio and the gang are off at the school festival’s opening parade. Ichika comes over to hang out with her pal 6-chan, but he and all the other assistoroids are helping with the festival, and won’t be back until late. Easy-going Ichika pulls out a bag from the local convenience store and suggests they share the contents. Which includes beer…

When the gang gets home, they find two dead-drunk loli catgirls surrounded by empty beer cans and snack wrappers, singing “That’s The Way” by KC & The Sunshine Band. Blues-style.

The Demon King in the Editing Room

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.]

Tuesday, July 5 2011

AsoIku book five quick take

Every school festival should include clever little robots, sinister secret agents, heavily-armed maids, crazed cat-ear lovers, surprisingly-capable friendly strangers, and several dozen flying catgirls.

Lots of little bits of character development, mostly in the supporting cast. Jens, Muttley, 6-chan, Sada-yan, Kuune, Chaika, and Director Kawasaki all get some very interesting moments, and Team Ichika is building up into a major mystery. Jack shows up but doesn’t do much; in fact, Aoi’s old handler Endo has more of a part than she does.

There’s no obvious organized opposition in this volume, just the inevitable consequences of having A Real Live Alien at a high school festival. Plenty of build-up for the next one, though.

Goofy, but what would you call it?

Pete has shared the good news that Asobi ni Iku Yo! has been licensed for a US release. Also the bad news that it will appear under the title Cat Planet Cuties. This is not necessarily more accurate than the title Crunchyroll chose to stream it under, Bombshells from the Sky, but it’s definitely not worse.

Given how little is left of the R1 market for anime, I’m surprised they didn’t just go with the original title, though. Cat Planet Cuties has a certain pulp SF sound to it, perhaps leaning a bit more towards Leather Goddesses of Phobos than Flash Gordon, but I don’t see it drawing in more potential customers than the original. Perhaps the best solution would be to use both.

Could be worse, given the history of anime in the US; we could have ended up with Fur-st Contact! or Tails From Outer Space!

[At the moment, Funimation’s site is just a cast picture, with a release date that suggests a dubbed box set, hopefully including the OVA]

Thursday, July 14 2011

Old School

Obviously, he’s headed off to meet up with the Cat Planet Cuties…

Then again, with a name like Alan Shepard, perhaps he’d be more interested in Jens…

[Updated with a static image after I discovered that Life Magazine has removed it from their archives. Pity, since you could buy a nice print from them.]

Tuesday, July 19 2011

AsoIku book 6 quick notes

Finished!

A lot happens in this one, ending with the arrival of the Christmas Tree. Excellent character development for Itokazu-sensei and Antonia, plenty of action (including a sadly-offscreen ass-kicking as Maya takes on Jens and her assistoroids), and a new villain who’s so nasty you want to take Jens into your arms, pat her on the head, and tell her it’ll be okay. Should there be a second season someday, I don’t think they can use the bulk of books five and six, but they’ll need to at least use major elements from them in a recap episode or two, to clear up the continuity a bit and introduce Nirumea.

And now I really have to go back over the previous books to clear up a few sections. After that, I think I need to read his first novel, just to be a bit less in the dark about the rather significant contribution by both Team Ichika and Team Kantoku. Ichika and her gang are definitely the core of the Shureio novel, but they have some sort of shared history with, and feel quite comfortable working alongside, wacky-pervert film-director Kawasaki and his associates.

[Spoilers, ho!]

(Continued on Page 3838)

Sunday, July 24 2011

The Catian’s other secret weapon…

[Update: I just noticed that the artist faithfully reproduced some details described in the book. For instance, take a good look at the ship identified in the picture as #3. It’s a faithful replica of a well-known US aircraft carrier, scaled down for assistoroids.]

In the contest to win over humanity, the cheerful, good-hearted, gorgeous alien catgirls have a significant advantage over the secretive, militaristic, manipulative Dogs, whose presence on Earth is still known only to a few well-placed military organizations and government agents.

I’m referring, of course, to assistoroids. Before I started reading the books, I found a picture of the Space Elevator Escort Squadron, but at a casual glance, it didn’t seem to be a real part of the books. No, it’s real.

Book seven opens with the aftermath of the arrival of the Christmas Tree, with every available navy streaming to its location with the goal of controlling access to Earth’s newest and most valuable resource. The Catians had originally planned to station a squadron of their own crew at the bottom to protect its neutrality, but Kio persuaded them to let the assistoroids handle the job in their own unique way. They were dubious at first, but after a month of watching the sailors of half a dozen countries melt under the sheer cuteness of the tiny cat-robot navy patrolling the sea in its whimsical vessels, they were glad that they listened. The initial tension of the multi-nation standoff is rapidly changing into a tourist attraction, and nobody wants to be the first one to open fire on an assistoroid.

Also, Manami is almost ready to throw her hat into the ring.

And it turns out that First Officer Melwin is as young as she appears. She’s just that good.

Thursday, July 28 2011

Kittens have claws…

…and other discoveries. [Updated (again)]

Finally reached the scene in book 7 where Kio and Aoi discover that Chaika has three kids.

It begins with Kio, Eris, and Aoi walking through the Catian ship. They’ve just dropped 6-chan off at an assistoroid maintenance depot (long story), and are looking out over a park, when out of nowhere, a cobalt-blue-haired three-year-old catgirl comes zipping out of the park and runs into Kio. She falls down and starts crying, and as they’re calming her down, her teacher catches up. She’s about to lead the girl back to her pre-school group, when little Raama notices that Kio and Aoi don’t have cat ears or tails.

She’s fascinated, and attaches herself to Kio so firmly that they have to accompany her back to the school, where the other children are still in the middle of their nap. In baskets, four or five kittens per. As soon as Raama is back in the basket she snuck out of, she falls asleep, and Kio and the gang are led to another room where the grateful teachers serve them tea. To Kio’s surprise, one of the teachers is the first male Catian he’s seen, who mentions that there are thirty females for every male. Also, Aoi notices something odd in the school, and Eris confirms that they’re scratching posts; until age 4-5, little Catians have claws.

They have a pleasant chat with the teachers, and miss their chance to escape before all of the kids wake up. Naturally, they all respond the same way Raama did, swarming Kio and Aoi, even flipping up Aoi’s skirt to confirm her lack of a tail. They’re rescued when Eris, the teachers, and the assistoroids roll in balls of yarn for them to play with.

After their escape, they hang around the park for a while, and see the kids being led home by assistoroids, with only a few parents able to get away from work to pick them up in person. Kio is surprised by how young the parents look, and asks if all Catians marry so young. Eris explains that usually they settle down and start raising kids around age 40-50, and then realizes she’s never told him that their lifespan is 200-300.

Then Chaika shows up, and (re)introduces Raama as her youngest. Even Eris is surprised.

Other notable moments:

  • Eris’ girlfriend Seshimi is working at the repair depot, and as they greet each other with a big hug, their tails entwine.
  • There are currently ~30,000 Catians on the ship; it’s standing-room-only, almost, as additional staff are preparing for the second stage of relations with Earth.
  • Eris says the ship normally has 20,000, which conflicts with the 3,000 claimed in book 2.
  • I’ll have to go back and check, but I don’t think the ship was originally 10 kilometers in diameter. It was always a classic flying saucer shape, but I think the author must have forgotten that he originally had it park in the air above Naha…
  • The total number on board is around 1.5 million, but the vast majority are in cold sleep (冷凍睡眠状態にして), stored in imaginary space (虚数空間に格納して).
  • Kuune mentions the crowding when Eris asks where Kio and Aoi will be staying for this short visit, and ever-so-casually announces that they’ll be sharing Eris’ room, of course.
  • The official excuse for the trip is for Kio to get a genetic checkup to make sure he’s back to normal, and for Aoi to give a lecture on Earth weapons and combat. Unofficially, Kuune is also trying to move things along in the romance department.
  • So far, the most significant thing that Jens has done this book is take out the trash. This is not a euphemism.
  • Little sister Ryunnu still doesn’t know that Jens is on Earth, and is out exploring Tokyo. No mention of Nirumea, or any hint of impending doom.
  • Kuune isn’t the only one pushing things; Eris’ parents just shuttled in from 300 light-years out, and are looking forward to interviewing their daughter’s bride (嫁御殿) and groom (婿殿), before Eris finds out they’re on the ship…
  • Dad is tall, blonde, and slender, Mom is a short, voluptuous redhead. He’s a computer systems engineer, she’s an archaeologist. (I originally had him as a geneticist, due to an error in the transcription. The printed book has denshi, which somehow ended up as idenshi in the unofficial ebook; I just found updated versions of several of the books, which I’ll need to download at some point)
  • Okay, the big threat this book is the ship overheating due to a small accident in the assistoroid maintenance depot (not involving 6-chan), leading all the catgirls to convert their skinsuits into string-bikini mode. Poor Kio is having enough trouble finding a safe place to look with Eris and Seshimi around, but when he gets a look at Kuune…
  • A slightly-jealous Aoi, who isn’t really having a problem with the heat yet, uses her emergency suit for the sole purpose of putting it into string-bikini mode.
  • Alone among the bridge crew, Melwin insists on keeping her suit in its normal configuration, stoically ignoring the heat.
  • When they finally get things back under control, she’s found babbling recipes for cold noodles and shaved ice, and how they could be used to cool down the bridge, leading Doctor Dyureru to shout, “Get a stretcher! Mel’s broken!”.
  • (rather loosely)
    Eris: “Mom!! Did you actually read my letter?! I meant isosceles triangle, not equilateral!”
    Mom (re-reading letter): “Oh, dear, have I done it again?”
    Dad: “Well, you cant blame her; there was that time at school…”
    Eris: “Not helping!”

Saturday, August 6 2011

AsoIku 8, random notes

Just finished chapter 3, and things are heating up. Kio has persuaded the others that it’s time to go on the offensive, and stop just reacting to their opponent’s machinations. And it’s time for a permanent embassy. Also, it’s almost Valentine’s Day, so chocolates are being acquired and/or assembled for delivery, especially by Sara, who has a lot of assistoroids to bake for.

Jens is settling into her exile, working as a waitress at Colonel’s coffee shop in Tokyo. The neighbors have long since become accustomed to the local Dogs and their assistoroid, and accept Jens without hesitation.

Ryunnu is horrified to discover that she’s one of the bad guys. She’s a very good analyst, and her research programs managed to assemble scattered facts that revealed some very unpleasant truths about their actions on Earth. The alliance of three outlaw races hasn’t just been illicitly engaged in mining and trade, they’ve been deliberately interfering in international relations to keep Earth divided and controllable. She thinks of her race as honorable, proud, and noble, and wishes she could talk things over with her big sister. She settles for Muttley, swearing him to secrecy.

Mamami, who wasn’t on the ship last book to meet little Raama, gets a shock as she meets Chaika’s oldest daughter Seruka, a quite tall, gray-clad, short-haired (lit: ベリーショート), reserved catgirl about Eris’ age, who seems a bit embarrassed by her mother. Her reaction to mention of her father suggests that he’s a bit of a character as well.

The way to Seruka’s heart is to show her your wood. Apparently she spent her childhood on a forest planet that Chaika used to be stationed on, and has found artificial wood a poor substitute. She practically snuggles the wooden posts in Kio’s house.

Seruka is helping with the embassy move (from the Wikipedia entry, I gather she becomes the security chief there), and has an assistoroid with her who shows that Earth culture is definitely having an impact on the ship. Last book, the only custom models were seen at the repair depot, with the rest being standard models that varied only by color.

Seruka’s wears a beret, a leather jacket, and an eyepatch. When instructed to gather data on the layout, contents, and wiring of Kio’s house, he pulls out a recording device (which looks suspiciously like an old 8mm film camera) and begins moving around in a crouch. When Sada-yan asks him why, he answers “low-angle is the man’s angle” (lit: ろーあんぐるはおとこのかくどだ)

His name? Snake.

Friday, August 12 2011

AsoIku book 8, finished

Sada-yan gets all the girls. Chiba-chan and Kin-chan get some maid-time as well, but Sada-yan is The Man.

And they did what with the space elevator?

And gosh, where-o-where did that third box of chocolates come from in Kio’s bookbag? Is it finally time for a third confession?

Also, the Americans-as-bad-guys thing is getting old. Yes, the villains have been pulling their strings for a very long time, and it’s the country they draw most of their local resources from, but it feels like there’s a bit of authorial axe-grinding mixed in. Given the post-war history of Okinawa, I can understand it, but I find it more distracting than perhaps the Japanese audience does.

If I were assembling a second season of the anime, so far I’d have two episodes to hit the highlights of books 5 and 6 as a recap and new-villain introduction, three for the mix of fun and non-enemy-driven crisis in book 7, and two or three for book 8, leaving room for some filler before the big action-packed finale. What I don’t know yet is if book 10 can be that finale.

Book 9 is side stories, one of which was already used (quite well) as episode 9 of the first series. From a casual skim of the pictures and contents, book 10 has major conflict, but I don’t know if it will make a satisfying finale, and a lot of the things they changed or skipped for the anime will make it hard to adapt. Director Kawasaki has a significant role, and Jens-in-exile is a much more sympathetic character (which will take a lot of work; anime Jens is about as warm and cuddly as a hacksaw). And then there’s The Ichika Problem; she’s hooked into the story any number of ways, and the OVA’s casual revelation that no one is surprised she’s a catgirl is problematic. They definitely shouldn’t bring in the Shureio crew at this late date, but they still have to explain how she’s connected to all the players, and spend some screen time getting the other Catians familiar with her (pleasepleaseplease use the drinking party with Chaika).

For good filler, I want Aoi’s family history, which I only know about through the Wikipedia entry. Unfortunately, that would bring in a good chunk of books 12 and 13; to make it work, they may need two episodes, and I’m not sure they can fit it into the continuity. That might also make a good OVA, if they never get another season.

Am I still enjoying the books? Yes, but their serial nature is a bit annoying sometimes. If I could read them at full speed, the developments among the supporting cast wouldn’t seem so agonizingly slow, but as it is, they tend to show up for one or two scenes, have an interesting moment, and then vanish again without resolving any of the open questions. For instance, I have a real problem with Ryunnu still not knowing that Jens is on Earth. Not only are they both running around in Tokyo, but Ryunnu has been hacking around behind her boss’s back to find out what’s really going on, and Muttley is now her assistant and confidant. I know this all comes to a head in book 10, but a lot of their actions are driven by their connection as sisters, and it’s been months.

…and now book 9 is nothing but side stories. Good ones, I expect, but still, it will drag things out for me. Grumble.

Sunday, August 14 2011

AsoIku book 9, struggling

[Update: Momiji’s opening action scene from episode 1 was also adapted from book 9, but more loosely. More on that after I finish it.]

This book takes place at two different points in the timeline, identified as “winter break” and “after spring break”. Book 8 ended with Valentine’s Day, so the first part is flashback. The framing story is Ichika sitting at home on New Years Eve, playing mahjongg with Ichika, Ichika, and Ichika. I get the impression that the other three are from parallel universes.

Chapter 1 is an end-of-year party at Kio’s house, featuring the first real appearance by his parents. (Dad had previously shown up just long enough to offer Eris a beer in book 1).

  • Mom isn’t quite as bad as Sara when it comes to assistoroids.
  • They return the ridiculous rent Kuune paid for use of their house as the embassy. Kio hadn’t known about it, and was shocked at the amount.
  • Mom gives it back to Eris in the form of a bank account in the name Eris Kakazu. Kio and Dad exchange uneasy glances, recognizing Mom’s not-so-subtle matchmaking.
  • Uncle Yuuichi and Itokazu-sensei are dating (thanks to the events of book 6), but currently keeping it a secret.
  • Sara’s been busy making formal new-year outfits for all of the assistoroids. She enlisted Ichika’s aid, but this apparently happened before the other three Ichikas showed up.
  • Timing issue: before they show up, Kio and Eris talk about having already met her parents. Also, when Aoi shows up, her thoughts seem to match up with that, and later Kio reflects on having been to space three times (first time to save the ship, second time to get his genemods reversed, third time for book 7). The problem is, book 6 ended on Christmas Day, and then I’m pretty sure book 7 was nearly a month later, based on the amount of time the various world navies had to get used to the sight of the assistoroid patrols at the space elevator. Oops?

Chapter 1.5 is a collection of secret documents and conversations covering the government reactions to events from the initial reception of messages from the Catians through the end of the year. Lots of stilted official-style writing and vocabulary, so I’m sure I missed some things in here.

Chapter 2 is the last remaining major item that was used in the anime, Lawry’s visit to Earth. This is something I want to read carefully. As adapted for the anime, it fleshed out the Catians and Eris nicely. Also, while it seems to be a standalone piece, there may be a significant bit of foreshadowing for the conflict in book 10.

Sunday, August 21 2011

Momiji in action

For some time now, I’ve been wondering if the opening action scene in episode 1 was taken from somewhere in the novels. Yesterday morning, I found its origin in chapter 3 of book 9.

The day before Lawry arrives on Earth, Aoi finds the key to a post-office box that was used to contact her back in the bad old days when she was a secret agent. She goes to the post office intending to just drop it off, but before she has a chance to say anything, the employee has gone off to retrieve her box. Inside, she finds a variety of messages related to her former career, none of which matter to her at all, and one foreign letter, in English (yes, this is how it’s printed in the book…):

Hello momiji.
Do you remember me?
I am “Burning rose”.
Woman into whom life changes thanks to you.
…wish to express our gratitude to you by us.…
I want to meet one of these days if it is good.
Let’s meet by you in the Yogi park on February xx day if this letter is read.

It returns if not coming…………

The date? Tomorrow. In flashbacks, Aoi remembers a certain night mission, from a time before she met Kio. It’s basically the same battle at sea against smugglers, up to the point where she’s disposed of the crew and is alone in the cargo hold. In the anime, she heads up to the bridge and confronts the last survivor, and the scene ends when he blows up the ship to kill them both.

In this version, while down in the hold, she’s attacked by a powerful pyrokinetic, Burning Rose, a former CIA agent turned mercenary. There’s no contraband in the crates; the whole thing was a setup to take her out, and Rose has the upper hand. It’s a deathmatch, both of them armored from head to toe and heavily armed, and in the end, Aoi seems to be the only survivor, pulled out of the sea by her support ship. Yeah, the ship still blew up, but it was more of a side-effect of their fight than a deliberate act.

Aoi remembers the soulless fighting machine she was back then, and wonders if she’s still strong enough to take on an enemy from her past. She hides her concern from her assistoroids, afraid more of what Rose’s powers could do to them than for herself, and cheerfully gives them permission to spend the day with Lawry. She carefully checks out the rendezvous point in advance, then prepares her weapons and heads out.

It’s a very public place, and she’s not sure what the trap will be, but when she gets there, all she finds is a lovely young American woman sitting on a bench, casually reading a book for newlyweds. Scanning the area for threats and not finding them, Aoi calls out, “Where are you, Burning Rose?”. The young woman on the bench stands up in surprise and asks, “Are you Calamity Momiji?”. (yup, the kanji 悪縁紅葉 (“Evil-Destiny Momiji”) is given the furigana reading カラミティ・モミジ)

Rose is honestly thrilled to see Aoi, and embraces her so quickly that she forgets about her weapons. Rose is so happy that she’s practically babbling as she talks about trying to find a good way to reach Aoi to thank her. Why? Because after her half-dead body washed up onto a nearby island and she was nursed back to health by the Intern who found her, she discovered that her powers were gone.

She could be a normal woman, escaping the lonely and dangerous life of an esper. She feels like she’s been born again, and hopes that Aoi’s new life is going well, too. And then she runs off to greet her husband (a certain Intern), leaving a bemused Aoi waving as the happy newlyweds walk away.

Wednesday, August 31 2011

AsoIku book 9, finished

(and, actually, book 10 started; I just didn’t have time to write anything about it earlier)

(Continued on Page 3870)

Sunday, September 4 2011

Maybe Eris’ Mom was right…

In book 7, Eris’ slightly-ditzy mother misread her letter home, and got the idea that she was in a serious relationship with both Kio and Aoi. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” and Mom went so far as to reassure Aoi that Catian scientists had plenty of experience helping interspecies gay couples have children together. Cue blushing all around, and stammered explanations of the actual state of affairs.

Except… Aoi really is developing feelings for Eris that she doesn’t understand, and that her emotionless-killer childhood hasn’t prepared her to deal with. It’s a tangled-up mess of friend, comrade, big sister, little sister, rival, and, most recently, as she helps Doctor Dyureru give a feverish Eris a sponge bath, “wow, she’s hot”.

Where’s it going? No idea. At this rate, I think we have to wait for Eris to go into heat again for anything to happen in this relationship. Given that the good doctor grins to herself when she sees Aoi’s reaction, and also listens in approvingly a bit later as Aoi pulls back just before blurting out to Kio that she wants to be his wife, I suspect she won’t be providing any heat-canceling pills next time. And since Captain Kuune is also gleefully shipping this trio, Kio and Aoi will probably find themselves locked in a room with a horny catgirl and a week’s worth of food.

Note that despite my expectations that book 10 will have major plot-advancing action, as of the end of chapter 5 (of 9), Eris’ sponge bath is the most significant event.

“Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”

Thursday, September 8 2011

AsoIku book 10: “finally, some action!”

[Update: finished, and while it doesn’t resolve the 30-day challenge, it does wrap up a lot of dangling plot threads, with a surprise at the end suitable for ending a season (should there ever be one…). Some of the threads don’t make a lot of sense, though, and I don’t think it’s incomplete understanding on my part; they just were never adequately explained.]

With two chapters to go, things are finally heating up. If they ever make a second season of the anime, it looks like book 10 can be the climax, and the reason is that Kio “gets a grip”. A very senior, and very scary, Catian official pushes him hard to defend humanity, and when he stands up to her, issues a challenge; if he fails, they’ll leave Earth forever and never come back. He has 30 days, and, fortunately, the help of some very talented women.

(actually, this was in the first half of the book, so technically the sponge bath wasn’t the most significant thing that happened, but I didn’t want to change the subject…)

Meanwhile, the opposition is planning a decisive strike, and for reasons of their own, two Dog deserters want to stop it. The gang is stunned when they show up and tell their story, and when Kio reports it all to Captain Kuune and asks if they should be trusted, she forces him to make the call. With a wink and a grin, she puts her faith in him. If it’s a trick, the lives of all her crew could be lost, so, y’know, no pressure. All he has to do is…

(Continued on Page 3882)

Monday, September 12 2011

AsoIku book 11: WTF?

I have no idea what’s going on in book 11. That is, I understand the individual scenes, but have absolutely no idea where the story is going.

The latest bafflement is Jack showing up at Kio’s door and introducing herself (apparently for the first time) as a new neighbor, wearing her trademark barely-there cowgirl outfit and giving a completely different name that nonetheless has the initials JACK. This is minor compared to the literal catfight between two previously-unmentioned culture professors on a Catian space station, over who gets to go to Earth as part of the exchange program. And then there’s the teenage goth-loli MI6 agent who collects assistoroid plushies and just moved into the house formerly occupied by 6-chan’s friend Mahiro.

All of which seem positively normal when compared to Kuune holding a reception on board the ship (currently parked offshore from the new embassy) for a collection of Earth’s kami.

Dramatic paws

The four AsoIku drama CDs that were made before the anime (which can be seen at Geneon’s Embassy of Kya-thia stub page) obviously had different voices for the characters. Folks you might have heard of: Eris, Aoi, Manami, Jens (who ended up playing Sara in the anime), Maki, and Ichika.

Tuesday, September 20 2011

AsoIku book 11: progress, still WTF

Finally had time to do some more reading, and the story remains chaotic. I’m currently about halfway through chapter 5 of 10.

(Continued on Page 3891)

Monday, September 26 2011

AsoIku 11: still not done, still WTF

Several times now I’ve had to slow down and re-read sections of this one, because of either vocabulary overload or a grammatical dogpile that blocked understanding of a scene.

That is, after Arkamatsu (elderly Catian Earth-culture scholar with a special interest in crime, illicitly exploring Earth with the help of his old-fashioned assistoroid Igor) rescues Black Amarylis (teenage goth-loli secret agent with a cybernetic heart that gives her bursts of super-speed) from other spies, he requests her assistance in robbing a bank. Suddenly, they’re joined by “veteran bank robber” Annie (who looks precisely like the richest girl in the world wearing a domino mask, down to the cat-ear headband), whose partner (a child-sized figure wearing a paper bag over its head) rescues them all from an incredibly lethal attack by spies wielding Metalstorm launchers. Annie then leads them to a secure hideout (Ichika’s home and studio) to relax and plot their crime, gleefully incorporating late arrival Sara, who had finally stopped panicking when she realized that she could track down her wayward mistress by getting another assistoroid to locate Heihon.

The teenage cyborg goth-loli secret agent is the most normal person in the room.

Thursday, March 29 2012

Relief!

Amazon Japan just sent me a notice that Okina Kamino has a new novel out,Tarot Knight. My first response was that AsoIku was dead for good, since he’s got three other series running now; my second thought was suddenly aborted when I clicked through and saw that the “customers who bought this also bought” linked to AsoIku book 15. And it’s not just a repackaging of the short stories that were included with the BDs; it looks like Aoi’s half-sister is coming back with marriage on her mind (ah, but who’s the lucky one…), and Chaika’s other two daughters are sneaking out to play on Earth.

Guess I should finally finish book 11 and catch up.

(as for Louie, well, I hit the first honest-to-gosh Stupid Thing and set it aside for a while; the worst part was that it wasn’t Louie’s bad idea, it was Merrill’s. It’s a bad plan, honey)

Monday, April 29 2013

Fun with automatic translation, AsoIku edition

Some days, Google auto-translation just charms me. Eris’ race is キャーティア, “Kyaatia”. Google reliably translates it as “aiiieee tear” or “aiiieee tier”.

…and now I need to read Cat Tail Output!, because it turns out to be a spinoff series where the schoolgirl heroine’s deep dark secret is that she’s Melwin.

Saturday, May 18 2013

Catian cultural assimilation

Speaking of hanko, I just reached a scene in AsoIku book 12 where the stress and long hours involved in getting the exchange program started have caused Kio to pass out from exhaustion, with Eris not far behind him. After a scolding by Doctor Dyureru and Melwin, they’re sentenced to a full day of bed rest. The medical assistoroid pulls out a square hanko and stamps them both with the image of a cartoon Dyureru whose speech bubble reads 絶対安静 (“Zettai ansei!” = “absolute rest”).

In typical Catian fashion, the ink actually consists of medical nanomachines that will help restore them, and then fade away when the job’s done.

By the way, Melwin was sleeping over at Kio’s place, wearing one of his white shirts as a nightgown and cuddling her personal assistoroid as a teddy bear. Sadly, they did not choose to illustrate this scene. Fortunately, someone else has illustrated Dyureru in a half-open white shirt, putting even more stress on the fabric than Eris does.

Next chapter, it looks like Aoi’s busty half-alien younger sister finally shows up. (although I don’t think she reveals her identity until the final scene)

[Update: no little sister yet, but just in case there was a shortage of hijinks coming, it was decided that Kio’s replacement on the Catian ship will be Antonia. And she’s bringing Sara along. Chaika will be subbing for Eris, leaving her younger daughters unsupervised… (no, wait, that’s just foreshadowing for book 15; the kids who run off in this book are Aoi’s assistoroids, who end up in Tokyo busing tables at the coffee shop run by Jens and her little sister).

The kidnapping/assassination plot that sets everything in motion doesn’t make much sense, since the perpetrators don’t seem to be working for any of the usual bad guys, but the teenage cyborg goth-loli secret agent (back from the previous book…) somehow knows about it anyway. The book ends on a cliffhanger, with Aoi’s little sister revealing her identity and challenging her to a duel. That should be interesting, since sis is a big, strong, tough, ruthless mercenary lizard-girl, and apparently Aoi’s apporting power runs in the family.]

Friday, May 24 2013

AsoIku book 13 girl-fight revelations

The prologue of the book is a quiet scene of an unnamed male staring out the window of a spaceship as his female companion reflects on what he’s feeling. Spoiler: it’s Aoi’s dad and his alien second wife, Rauva of the lizardlike Gaavuru race. It doesn’t tell their full story, but does reveal that at the end of their epic duel N years ago, he was near death, and she took him away from Earth as much to get him properly healed as to claim him as her mate. She even returned him to Earth five years later to search for his wife and child, and his belief that they were both dead allowed him to move on and accept his role in her society.

Their ship isn’t far from Earth, and he’s not just thinking about the old days; he’s also worried about his second daughter Sawori’s official first hunt. Neither one of them knows that Aoi is alive, or that Sawori has chosen her half-sister as her target.

Aoi needs the full power of her Catian-provided battlesuit to survive the duel, and barely manages to win by outthinking lil’sis just before collapsing from exhaustion. A bit out of sorts, Kio manages to deeply offend the Gaavuru observers, but is rescued by the unexpected arrival of Uncle Yuuichi and a strangely familiar gorgeous blonde catgirl in a red china dress.

Familiar to the Gaavuru, too, since it seems she beat the crap out of a whole team of them 50 years ago. By the way, when the Gaavuru were being explained to Kio and company at the end of the last book, it was casually mentioned that in their last duel against Catians 20 years ago, the targets were Kuune and Chaika, who also wiped the floor with them. Clearly lizardfolk should steer clear of anything with cat ears.

Hot blonde catgirl turns things around, and gets them to explain the whole little sister thing. Sadly, they teleported out with Sawori right after dropping the news about Dad being alive and well.

Hot blonde catgirl is of course Ichika, but all grown up and looking very different. Seems her magic extends to shape-shifting, and this was the body she’d been wearing way back in book 2 when she helped Kio rescue Aoi from Antonia’s ship. He’d been so busy at the time that he’d forgotten about that little mystery. I hadn’t realized there was a mystery, since the description was pretty vague.

In any case, it came as no surprise to the reader in this book, since she’s normal-Ichika when she hitches a ride with Yuuichi, and china-dress-hottie when they reach the scene.

[I don’t know if they’re done with Sawori for this book now, but I do know she comes back soon, having gotten the idea into her head that losing the duel with Aoi means they should marry. This includes the sight of a lizard-girl in a maid costume.]

Monday, June 10 2013

AsoIku book 13, finished

This one took a while. Not because the story was as baffling and filled with nonsense as book 11, but mostly because a lot of characters talked funny. Lizard-girl Sawori’s accented Japanese is indicated with katakana and the occasional mispronunciation, much like American cowgirl CIA agent JACK, who’s also in this book, with more dialog than she’s had in the last six books put together. Then there are the various international spies and government agents pretending to be exchange students on the Catian ship, whose mostly-fluent Japanese tends toward the official, and the bonus pile of new vocabulary used to explain Gaavuru culture. Add to that the usual fun of figuring out the childlike writing of the assistoroids, and it made for a bit of a slog. There are sections where my comprehension was maybe only in the 60-70% range.

Much is accomplished, however, including the most significant plot development in the entire series: Kio finally stops addressing his junior girlfriend as Futaba-san and starts calling her Aoi-chan.

(Continued on Page 4253)

Monday, June 17 2013

AsoIku book 14, halfway point

This book returns to the main plotline, with the good guys working to advance diplomatic relations between Earth and Catia, the bad guys trying to sabotage them, and the author frantically trying to remember all the stuff he threw into earlier books as well as the things he forgot to mention in them.

In other words, it’s a mess of PoV changes, as-you-know-Bob, and whoops-forgot-about-this-bit, with the honest-to-gosh Pope in the middle of it all. When his interest in meeting the Catians was mentioned at the end of the previous book, I confess I was worried. The handling of Christianity in anime and light novels isn’t known for being particularly… “faithful”.

So far he’s only had one brief appearance in the book, since the whole point is for the bad guys to plot to prevent the meeting, but he was handled surprisingly well, coming across as a gentle, kind, sincerely devout religious leader. Also, when Antonia lectures the others about him and his potential to influence world opinion, it works; in this area, at least, the author has done a bit of homework.

Our Villain is of course Nirumea, evil-angel alien with a sweet tooth, whose failure in book 10 has left her with nothing but a burning desire for revenge and the remnants of former assistant Ryunnu’s super-special operational support and prediction computer. And junk food; the hikikomori lifestyle has turned her into a slobby little blimp, but nothing matters to her except wiping out Cats and Dogs. Some angels just want to watch the world burn.

Officially, both Nirumea and Ryunnu are MIA, with Ryunnu at least presumed dead since Dogs prefer death to captivity. In what will apparently be their last official meeting, the head Dog and Angel warily discuss the recent departure of the Lizards from their little alliance, and on hearing that the Orsonians are waking up, the top Dog starts making plans to abandon Earth as well, remembering what happened the last time the Orsonians caught them being naughty. (short version: their civilization was set back 300+ years in an instant, with ships destroyed and minds scrubbed of advanced knowledge, and “do it again and we’ll wipe your minds completely”)

Nirumea is using her computer to stir up all sorts of violent extremist groups, as well as manipulating at least one “christian” CEO into building a private army that will do her bidding. The good guys have noticed the uptick in anti-alien sentiment, but haven’t identified a specific cause. Ryunnu, however, has spent the last few months attempting to resurrect the core of her special system using primitive Earth technology bought in Akihabara, and has finally gotten it working well enough to spot the clues, and after a late night at their coffee shop, shares her suspicions with big sister Jens.

But none of that is important. If you go by page count, the single most significant thing that’s going on is that Manami is thinking about how much Kio has grown up into a smart cool guy, and how she feels like a fifth wheel, and how the presence of real pros supporting the embassy has her feeling unqualified, has started moping so much that everyone is noticing and wondering about it, and has now confessed to Aoi that as soon as this operation is over, she’s going to quit.

Monday, July 1 2013

AsoIku book 14: Pope cinema

Work has kept me from finishing this book, allowing me to defer the decision of what to do next, since I haven’t found OCRd copies of books 15-17 to run through my scripts, and I don’t feel like scanning and OCRing my own copies. Back to Kino? Back to Louie for another book and a half? Make an attempt at Haruhi, Dirty Pair, Tsutsui stories, Nishimura stories, porn novels (lots of new vocabulary!), or go back through and reread without the crutches? Haven’t decided yet.

Anyway, continuing with AsoIku 14 from where we left off, chapter five ends with our favorite teenage goth-loli cyborg MI6 agent kicking the asses of the same domestic terrorist group she slaughtered in her first appearance, who have been nudged by Nirumea into hating alien catgirls. This leads to a short discussion that there are so many violent fringe groups trying to get into Japan to stop the Pope from meeting with Catia that the Japanese agencies are merely coordinating the cleanup, requesting that each country take care of their own whackos.

The chapter ends with the revelation that this historic meeting is scheduled for 清命祭 (read as Shiimii in Okinawa), a Buddhist ceremony honoring one’s ancestors, or more importantly, exactly one year since Kio met Eris.

Chapter six finally brings the Pope onto the field. Antonia dispatched a private jet to Italy, and to save time, Kio is teleported there to meet him at the plane, as are the Catian escort craft, which consist of Eris and Manami in Ruros and a squadron of assistoroids in tiny little F-22s that leave their feet dangling as the landing gear. The Italian Air Force provides a more conventional escort, but of course the assistoroids steal the show, neatly diverting the reporters until the Pope is aboard.

While they’re waiting for him to show up, though, Eris has Manami trapped on her ship, and forces her to admit that she still wants Kio. Eris being Eris, she offers to share, and assures her that Aoi will agree. Manami denies everything, of course, until Eris reveals a secret she’s been hanging onto since book 8: 6-chan spotted her sneaking a box of homemade chocolates into Kio’s house for Valentine’s Day. Eris had also tried to question Yun-fa, and discovered that his memories of that period were quite thoroughly locked down out of loyalty.

I can pretty much insert the scene from the anime where Manami fought back against the idea of such a relationship by referencing Earth law and custom. It works about as well here, with Eris hand-waving it all away. Eris’ trump card, though, is a guilt trip: if the meeting with the Pope tips the balance enough to normalize relations between Earth and Catia, it wouldn’t be a first-contact situation any more, and she’d be recalled to the homeworld for extensive debriefing and retraining, and wouldn’t be back for 1-3 years. Left to themselves, Kio and Aoi won’t move their relationship forward; they need a sparkplug like Eris, or a pushy busybody like Manami. Or both.

Meanwhile, once they’re in flight, the Pope strikes up a conversation with Kio (in fluent Japanese), leading off with his favorite Japanese movies: Kurosawa’s Yojimbo and Sanjuro, and Yoji Yamada’s Love and Honor. Thanks to movie-buff Aoi, Kio is well-prepared to discuss these films and how they reflect Japanese character.

Monday, July 22 2013

AsoIku book 14, finished

[actually, finished over the 4th of July weekend, but I’ve been distracted recently]

When we left off, the Pope was talking movies with Kio, and Eris was talking harem membership with Manami. With Kio put at ease, the Pope spends the rest of the flight politely grilling him for details on how he met the Catians. All offscreen, so we’re left guessing just how much detail is involved.

Meanwhile, Eris is still wearing down Manami’s resistance, bringing up the whole “Kio gave up on her because he thought Jack was the name of a boyfriend”, and quoting a proverb: 焼け棒杭に火が付く (“Wood half-burned is easily kindled”). Unable to flee, Manami resorts to obvious lies, insisting that the Valentine’s chocolates were store-bought, not hand-made, with her voice getting louder and her face getting redder. Overwhelmed, Yun-fa hides by climbing back into her sports bag and zipping it shut from the inside.

[Side note: Manami uses 出来合い (dekiai = readymade) to describe the chocolate, but it turns out that this word has a second meaning: “common-law wife”. Coincidence, I’m sure.]

The long, long flight finally ends, with the Pope literally kissing the ground and Manami feeling like doing so as thanks for getting away from Eris patiently steering the subject back to the harem no matter how hard she had tried. In the end, Manami had agreed that she wouldn’t leave, but insisted that she’d never join the harem because “I’d never get a confession from Kio… ohshit”. Eris, true to her nature, pounces on that line. With the last of her willpower, Manami gets Eris to agree that Kio has to bring it up, and nobody gets to “help”.

Now back to Jens and Ryunnu. Tokyo is not quite under martial law due to the influx of terrorists and other violent protestors, but most people are staying off the streets. Jens heads out for an unspecified meeting that ends her involvement in this novel, while Ryunnu sits at her computer and does her best to take over Nirumea’s computer network and eliminate all of her online resources.

Meanwhile, our favorite teenage goth-loli cyborg MI6 agent has teamed up with Jack, who springs into action for the first time since book 1. They bust in on a high-class hotel suite and discover that their targets, the radicalized animal-rights group Noah’s 11th Grandchild, who had recently staged a flashy-but-inept protest as a diversion to cover the arrival of their real operatives, has managed to assemble their secret weapon and escape to parts unknown. Their secret weapon is a pair of 分子振動砲 (molecule+vibration+cannon), able to wipe out a big chunk of Tokyo. They call Aoi to alert her that the bad guys are on the loose, and she heads out.

Antonia and her maids run a shell game on the press corps, allowing them to round up all of the heavily-armed terrorists embedded as cameramen and reporters. They’d set up a large number of phony locations for the big meeting, while the actual location was quietly arranged by someone with no public connection to the group: Ichika.

The bad guys have been tracked down to the sewers, and when she reaches the scene, Aoi is surprised to discover that another team got there first: a squad of three Unatan powered suits, sold by Antonia to the JSDF. They take out the first cannon and mop up the minions while Aoi goes after the second. She slices it into tiny harmless bits with a special weapon provided by the Catians, a two-meter-long vibrating katana with a one-meter hilt. Somehow she even manages to cut gyakukesa with this monster, despite its ridiculous size.

With the terrorists disarmed, the meeting proceeds, and Kuune chats up the Pope. They get in one brief exchange on-screen, and then we cut to the epilogue. To no one’s surprise, the Pope gives a big thumbs-up to the alien catgirl invasion, and diplomacy proceeds to the next level. Also, Aoi welcomes Manami to the harem (pending a confession from Kio, of course).

I’ve left out a lot of little things from this one, but that’s because they’re just random details. Ichika teasing Jens about a boy who’s sweet on her. Kuune teasing Melwin about not finding a boyfriend during the exchange program. Aoi’s sexy former combat teacher who now runs the alien-relations agency, who in the text strongly resembles Kuune in looks, attitude, and bustline, but in the picture is just a hot milf with A-class zettai ryouiki. Ichika’s apprentices at the studio, who are also earthborn catgirls and catboys (with the girls in army gear and the boys dressed goth-loli). The cyborg goth-loli MI6 agent quoting Anne of Green Gables after she takes out a group of terrorists. Etc.

The action had a rushed, inevitable feel to it. There was no real feeling of threat or menace, and Nirumea, still on the loose even after losing the cyberwar with Ryunnu, has been reduced to a joke of a villain. And what’s the main focus of book 15, which I’d have to either scan and OCR myself or try to read raw? Aoi’s half-alien little sister returns to try to marry Aoi.

I think it’s time to take a break from this series.

What’s next? Tentatively, I’m OCRing one of the few series that I have decent scans of (1000x1600 PNG is adequate for a page of Japanese text; the more common 800x1200 JPG is not), for two reasons. First, the proofreading process forces me to improve my kanji recognition without the crutches provided by my scripts. Second, it’s Miniskirt Space Pirates.

I spent several hours this weekend tweaking my copy of FineReader Pro for best results and proofing the prologue, which taught me something interesting about how Abbyy handles vertical Japanese text: they rotate the page and treat it as rows of left-to-right horizontal text with rotated characters. This explains some of the more surprising recognition errors, such as the way “一” is sometimes recognized as “I”, and why it has difficulty figuring out the difference between full-size and small vowels, often inserting gratuitous font-size changes instead. These problems would be less common with a higher-resolution source, but running the books through my Lego DIY book scanner would add as much time as it would save.

Oh, and how does book one start? With the staged duel between Marika and Kane.