January 2005

Anime update: R.O.D The TV disc 4

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.

Dear Apple,

Please take the iPod Shuffle design, and replace the headphone jack and shuffle button with a small microphone and speaker. Record in a standard audio format, save in a standard FAT32 file system, and please don’t make it a multi-function device. Just record voice memos really really well, for playback on any computer.

And make it a different color, so people don’t confuse it with the Shuffle.

Connect:Direct for Dummies

I’ve been roped into supporting a project that requires the use of Connect:Direct to transfer data to an external partner. This product is vastly overcomplicated for the use we’re putting it to, and the documentation feels like it was written as an ad for the vendor’s training courses.

I have no interest in becoming an expert Connect:Direct administrator. I want to do two things: configure the Unix command-line client to connect to our partner’s server, so that we can send a file to them, and configure the Unix server so that the partner can connect to us and send the processed data back.

This is turning out to be surprisingly difficult to do. A lot of it is the documentation, but a disturbing percentage of the problem is the near-total lack of information available from our partner. You’d think that a large company that required their customers to purchase and set up a specific software package (that they had no other use for) would supply a one-page cheat-sheet, but these folks haven’t even managed to cough up the userid and password we’re supposed to connect with. For more fun, they say there’s a guy in their security department who knows all about Connect:Direct, but he’s not allowed to talk to external customers.

So, anybody have a friend who knows something about this stuff? Bonus points if you can guess the name of the company we’re trying to connect to. :-)

Update: After giving up on their documentation and our partner’s knowledge pool, I opened a support case with the vendor. Their tech support called my office at 6am this morning, not realizing what time zone I was in. Fortunately, my office phone forwards to my cell, and I was actually awake at the time. Five minutes later, I not only had the original error message deciphered (XSMG242I, which can mean any of “bad permissions”, “config-file syntax error”, “missing remote record for local user”, and others), but had an understanding of their security and connection models that could not be obtained from their documentation. Thank you, Moniram. When our contact at the partner woke up a few hours later, we were able to successfully test file transfers in both directions.

I mentioned my intention to clean up my notes into a “Connect:Direct for Dummies” guide that could be used to rebuild our servers if I were unavailable, and our partner has expressed an interest in acquiring a copy. They’d like to help other customers cut down the setup time from weeks to minutes…

Burn-Up Scramble, disc 1

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.

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