July 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.]

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]

The true villain of Daimaou

Clearly, the oracular bird at the school lied to conceal the identity of the demon king.


Wait, someone needed instructions for this?

Tip for the day: if you’re an underage cigarette smoker, and you need to search a wiki for instructions on how to sneak a smoke at home without getting busted, consider getting out more. This also applies to the entry on how to bum a smoke

And this is why we can't have nice things

From the Denver Post:

A Colorado teen is recovering from serious burns he suffered when the fireworks he was attempting to mix in a coffee grinder exploded. ... the teen had read online about how larger fireworks could be made from smaller ones

Perhaps he should have stuck to online tutorials about how to smoke at home without getting busted?

Dear Savinelli,

Please hire someone to clean up the hilariously bad computer-generated translations on your US web site. Trust me, there are plenty of recently-graduated liberal-arts majors eager to work with prose more complicated than “do you want fries with that?”.

When the pipe is running, you are holding in your hands every now and slowly count to six. If you succeed you can safely continue to smoke a pipe, otherwise you must stop until the pipe cools. Long waits are not necessary: it takes typically a few seconds of interruption and in most cases not even need to turn on the pipe. however, if the pipe were to be shut down, never mind: you again. Many burns are caused by smoking because they fear that the pipe goes out and then suck up too often.

The modern newsroom

While giving me a tour of their new place, Beth sat down to play with Google+ for a few minutes, and said, “uh-oh, new 7.0 earthquake in Japan”.

We spent at least five minutes hunting for details beyond what the USGS site had, veryifying that it was indeed off the coast of Sendai where the monster had hit, but unable to get any solid information on possible tsunami impacts.

Five minutes after that, the story reached CNN. They knew less than we did.

[Update: tsunami heights of no more than 50 centimeters were predicted for the region, with the actual results being closer to 10cm in several port cities. Good news for now, but the big one in March had a 7.2 foreshock two days before, so keep your fingers crossed for a week or so.]

Bubble (K)Pop

Catchy and eye-catching. Who cares what she’s singing about?

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.]

The Inverse Guilt Buy

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? :-)

Oddest thing I've heard on TV Japan

Now that the TV is capable of something more than movies and games, I’ve been leaving TV Japan on in the background to improve my ear. This works well enough that I occasionally have the urge to walk into the family room to see the images associated with something I think I just understood (such as the interview with Donald Richie, the continuing news about Fukushima, or the gradually-lengthening promos for Deka Wanko).

[Best so far was hearing a young woman walk in and tell her mother she had something serious to discuss, and then saying “I’m pregnant and he doesn’t want to marry me”; I understood the whole scene, and followed along fairly well when the mother tracked down the offending boyfriend and he confessed that while he loved her, he was an orphan with no family to offer her. Mom said, “just like me”]

But sometimes it’s just goofy. The kid’s shows are painful, most of the daytime stuff is aimed at housewives, and I swear that almost all female announcers and narrators drink the same kool-aid that powers Nina on The Good Night Show.

And then, Sunday afternoon, I heard a hoarse, heavily-accented voice shout, in English:

"I.... Can.... Speak.... Dutch!"

AsoIku book 6 quick notes


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!]


Slow-smoked beef

Whimsy - because dignity is overrated

Yes, they sell them. I think this would be the perfect tool for L. Neil Smith’s “niccer” movement.

"Please, stop looking at those pictures"

Photo © Jenya Marmeladova
(photo by Jenya Marmeladova)

Think of the kittens!

Especially when viewing suggestive photos like this. If you’re concerned about work-safety, click this one instead; it has another cat.

(honestly, I think every picture on the Internet has now been featured in at least one themed Tumblr photoblog)

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.

The Lion Speaks (Japanese) Tonight

The new Mac OS X release includes an optional Japanese voice capable of reading any text in phonetically accurate Japanese. Lovers of the emotionless anime girl will enjoy Kyoko’s flat affect, but they may be a bit puzzled by her odd reading choices. In a quick sample, I found that 一人 is always “ichinin”, and 行って is always “okonatte” (which made the “how to get to the gas station” example I fed it quite entertaining).

Still, it’s a decent voice, and Apple once documented how to embed pauses, pitch, speed, and phonetic hints in a string to be read by their speech synthesizer. Unfortunately, the only info I can find at the moment goes waaaay back. You could get the old Macintalk to sing, but the voices were pretty crude, and every phoneme had to be encoded by hand to get it to create plausible Japanese. Perhaps they’ll release some documentation on the modern system.

Dear TakeShobo, Inc.,

The mimetic word “puruun”, used to describe the sound of bouncing breasts, should never be written as the English word “prune”. Changes the tone of this DVD title completely.

(and for those who are wary of youthful-looking Japanese models, the back cover claims she was 20 when this was shot two years ago. It also claims a 40-inch, J-cup bustline and height just under 5 feet, so her future plans include back surgery)

Today's song...

Running through my head today, for entirely non-political reasons:

He said the Captain lied when the Captain cried,
"There's none of us here can save her.
Let her go down, swim for your lives.
Swim for your children, swim for your wives,
but let her go down."

No, really, not related to current political kerfluffles at all. Over the weekend I pulled up Steeleye Span’s Portfolio to share their version of New York Girls, with Peter Sellers on ukelele and whimsy, and then remembered some other songs I was fond of.

When Apple's not suing iPad competitors...

…they’re strangling e-book competitors:

The store was removed because Apple rejected any updates which included it, period. They also rejected any updates which stated that Apple required its removal, or indeed any mention of ‘compliance with App Store guidelines’. It was further rejected for the cardinal sin of allowing users to create a Kobo account within the app. Then it was rejected for providing a link to let users create an account outside the app. Then it was rejected for simply mentioning that it was possible to sign up, with no direction on where or how one could do that. Then it was rejected for making any mention of the Kobo website. Then for any mention of ‘our website’ at all, in any language. We additionally cannot make any assertions that Kobo provides content for sale, however obliquely.

(from this review of the crippled app)

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!"

“Need a clue, take a clue,
 got a clue, leave a clue”