Anime

Haibane Renmei on DVD for $30


If you’re wondering where the DVDs of Haibane Renmei went, they’re being closed out in anticipation of the box set release in October. So, if you don’t want to wait six weeks for the $120 set ($90 at Amazon), and you haven’t already bought most of the discs for $30 each, you can currently get the entire series at Anime Corner Store for $30 plus shipping.

Me, I’m stuck looking for disc 2, because I already have the others…

Anime Endings: R.O.D The TV


The original Read or Die OAV was a Bond-movie spoof with superpowers. Like most of Roger Moore’s Bond films, the action, humor, and engaging characters kept you from getting hung up on the basic silliness of the plot. And, of course, Yomiko’s paper-mastery power was novel and visually impressive. I liked it.

I liked R.O.D the TV more, despite its flaws. Why? Like some of my other favorites, it’s all about the characters. The “big plot” that ties it in to the events of Read or Die is not only silly, but overexplained as well. Nearly an entire episode is wasted on clunky “as you know, Bob” exposition, and the villain doesn’t just gather the heroes for one final monologue, he gives them an open mic to all his henchmen.

The truth is, the series didn’t need a “big plot”, and it definitely didn’t need one that depended so strongly on characters from the OAV, while fundamentally altering their personalities. I like Nenene and the Paper Sisters, and I think they could have carried the show on their own. Deep down, I think the writers knew this, too, which is why the “slam-bang action finale” took up so little time in the last episode, and was followed by quiet scenes of the cast getting on with their lives. Ultimately, R.O.D the TV wasn’t about finding Yomiko, saving the world, or even paper-mastery; it was about these four women.

I knew up-front that the series would include Bond-ish clichés and a villain whose plans made Doctor Evil look sensible. I knew there’d be paper-mastery. I figured Yomiko had to show up eventually, especially when I discovered Nenene’s history in the manga. In those respects, the series met my expectations. In the way it handled the personalities and relationships of Michelle, Maggie, Anita, and Nenene, it exceeded them.

The way it presented Joker was jarring if you’d seen the OAV, but a bit less so if you’d also read the manga. Wendy’s change was poorly explained, and made even less sense if you’d read the manga. As for Gentleman, “well, that came out of nowhere”.

Things that climb trees


Update 7/9/2005: based on today’s RS lesson, I’ve decided that I misunderstood noboru-koto in this context. I’m mulling it over, and will correct and update when I’ve sorted out “koto” more thoroughly; the romanization point stands, but my first example is incorrectly analogized to karumono, and incorrectly translated as well.

Steven den Beste went looking for the meaning of 「エルフを狩るモノたち」, which is written oddly, and has been romanized several different ways. By coincidence, my Rosetta Stone lesson this morning included the following phrases:

この動物登ることもあります。
(roughly, "This animal, it's a thing-that-climbs in trees as well.")

よく飛ぶ動物はどれですか。
(roughly, "WhereWhich is the often-flying-animal?")

You won’t find 登ること as a single word in a dictionary, but if I were romanizing it, I would write “noboru-koto” instead of “noboru koto”. If I were referring to a group of cats (登ること), I’d romanize it as “noboru-koto tachi”. I think that’s the clearest way to represent the meaning of the original.

You won’t find 飛ぶ動物 in a dictionary, either. This one definitely needs a hyphen, since “tobudoubutsu” is pretty unwieldy.

The anime title that started all this would ordinarily be written as 「エルフを狩る者」. I think the simplest explanation for how it ended up being written was “the logo designer thought it looked cooler this way”.

[as for the which/where typo in the translation, I actually wrote that correctly the first time, then “corrected” myself. Proof that I shouldn’t blog in languages that I don’t speak fluently before I’m completely awake in the morningafternoon.]

Maria Yamamoto


For some of us, Memorial Day is a time to reflect on what’s really important: role-playing games and anime voice actresses. Okay, I’m kidding about that, but I did spend the weekend helping a group of friends run a large D&D adventure that used massive quantities of Dwarven Forge 3-D dungeon tiles. Also, on Saturday I slipped away for a few hours to visit one of the other conventions in the Bay Area, Fanimecon.

They had a dealer room that probably looked impressive to people who didn’t live near San Jose, but all it offered me was the chance to buy DVDs without paying sales tax. However, their web site also mentioned that popular singer and voice actress Maria Yamamoto would be present, so I figured I’d make a quick pass through the dealer room and then try to find her autograph session. Eventually, I succeeded:

Maria Yamamoto at Fanimecon 2005

She was very friendly and sweet, and if I had been permitted more than 30 seconds of her time, I’m sure I’d have enjoyed it. As for Fanimecon in general, I’ll be kind and say that I was unimpressed with their organizational skills, and that nothing could persuade me to ever attend another of their shows.

Burn-Up Scramble, disc 3


Disappointing. Why? Because the series up to this point has been straightforward action/comedy with a dollop of fan-service and plenty of cartoon violence, and they inexplicably turned serious on this disc, dropping the comedy and making the combat bloody and lethal. Previous incarnations of the Burn-Up franchise are reported to have had the same problem, but it really looked like they’d decided to keep this one light.

Nope. Of the four episodes on this disc, only the first matches the tone of the previous stories. In episodes 10 and 11, Our Heroines take on a pair of powerful, brutal “replacements”, and the losers end up on life-support, while shadowy figures pull the strings. There’s some good character development mixed in, and they partially redeem themselves with the final episode (despite the baggage left over from the two-parter), but based on the first two-thirds, this wasn’t the sort of series where you expected to see one of the good guys lying in a pool of her own blood. And I counted at least two arms being graphically broken in ways that don’t heal quickly, which was two too many.

I don’t get it. I thought they’d done a nice job of setting up a world and characters that would support several series of light-hearted action, with sexy heroines and a slapstick supporting cast. I assumed that was what they were shooting for, but even though the last episode leaves room for more adventures with these characters, they left the shadowy string-pullers pulling strings.

So, either they ran out of ideas, they didn’t really want to continue writing an episodic comedy, or they were seeing how an “edgier tone” would play with the fans. Well, I’d have bought five discs like the first one, or at least three like the second one, but I don’t want any more like the story that dominates the last one. Not even with Maya in a bikini.

If this isn’t a coincidence…


…then it’s hilarious. I haven’t been following the new Battlestar Galactica series, even though it’s getting lots of good reviews, mostly because I simply haven’t been watching much television at all. However, while looking at the fan sites, I noticed that Grace Park’s character, Boomer, is a Cylon disguised as a human being.

Boomer. Cylon. Where are the Knight Sabers when you need them?

Daphne in the Brilliant Blue, disc 1


Take an ordinary teenage girl. Bright, clever, slender and pretty, with a pleasant but not exaggerated figure. Now shrink her down proportionally until she’s about four feet tall, then stretch her vertically until she’s back to her original height. Perform the usual big-anime-eye surgery, and reshape the rest of her face until she has a chin that could cut glass. Throw in a haircut that further enhances her resemblance to a puppy-dog, and finish with one of the goofiest-looking dresses ever. You’ve now created Maia Mizuki, heroine of Daphne in the Brilliant Blue.

With that out of the way, she’s the star of an action/comedy series, so set the tone by putting her through The Worst Day Ever. Go wild here; we want her to be about ten minutes away from peddling her cute little ass on the street in exchange for a stale ham sandwich and a dirty patch of floor to sleep on.

In the second episode, we’ll start introducing the rest of the cast, consisting primarily of a conveniently color-coded set of gun-toting women with lush figures and fashion sense that rivals Maia’s. Don’t worry, their chins are razor-sharp as well, so Our Heroine will fit right in. Which one’s Daphne? Well, none of them, actually; we figure that will be covered on disc 6, which comes out next January. You didn’t realize that we’re releasing each of the seven discs two full months apart? Sucker!!!!

Now, for the fan-service, we want to do something a little different. Boobs are great, and we’re always glad to show that our girls have them, but we want to stand out from the crowd, so this show should be all about the ass. No, not the panty-flashing thing, everybody does that. Cheeks. Bare cheeks. Bare cheeks in the water, bare cheeks on land, bare cheeks in combat, cheeks, Cheeks, CHEEKS!

Why? Well, it’s for the fans, really. It catches their eye when they’re changing channels or walking through the video store, and the promise of more cheeks will keep them watching while we set up the plot. It’s not for me, certainly; I’m not one of those, y’know, ass-otaku. Okay, maybe a little. Or a lot. Just don’t ask me why I lock my office door when I’m “reviewing” the storyboards.

Moment of sanity: yes, I’ve now seen the first four episodes of this show, and I’m sufficiently amused that I’ll pre-order disc 2. The character designs grow on you, and the cheeky fan-service is something that just blends in after a while, helped by the fact that no one else ever notices it. Seriously. Maia and Shizuka casually walk through a crowded casino while carrying huge pistols and wiggling their bare asses, and it’s like they’re invisible. Until Shizuka starts shooting up the place, that is.

In vaguely related news, the English translation of the Tenjou Tenge manga has been chopped to bits by a publishing company that's terrified of sexual references and exposed nipples. Um, hello, did you actually look at the product before you licensed it? Did anything about this series say "kid-friendly"? Did no one mention to you that the sexy girls are pretty much the primary draw, here?

Based on the ham-fisted editing they’ve done with volume one, I don’t even want to think about what they’ll do to the Chiaki/Aya bathing scene in volume two. If they feel the need to draw in bras and delete sexual references in the dialog, they’re going to really butcher a lesbian seduction that shows one girl sucking on another’s tit. And as for the dialog that goes with that scene, brrrrr.

[update: I picked up the Japanese version of volume one today and examined the pages in question. The folks at ListerX underplay some of the edits, neglecting to mention that they’re changes to a rape scene. I’m not a fan of using rape to show that villains are villains, but from the description, it sounds like the edits attempt to reduce the severity of his crime, which leads to more edits as the characters react to what happens, etc, etc.

Either way it’s not critical to the story, but this kind of tinkering tends to snowball. It’s the same sort of “mother/editor knows best” attitude that led Eric Flint to “modernize” elements of James Schmitz’s Telzey/Trigger stories when he assembled the new editions (because, after all, modern audiences would be blasted right out of their immersion by the concept of a man offering a woman a “friendly cigarette”, and in an aircraft, of all things!). At least Flint was trying to guess what the audience wanted to see; DC is apparently trying to guess what the local Soccer Moms Against Fun committee will complain about.

If the only thing they’d done was downgrade a violent rape to a violent assault, I’d be able to understand their reasoning, but I’d still be annoyed by it. It’s not that I want to see Chiaki shriek and cry while some leering clown slams her into the wall and gets off on her pain; no, not at all. I’d much rather see her smiling and laughing in the arms of her loving boyfriend, but they hacked up those scenes, too. Because her tits were showing.]

[Update: Adding insult to injury, someone pointed out this statement on the DC/CMX web site: “And it’s pure manga — 100% the way the original Japanese creators want you to see it.” What a shame they don’t read their own press releases…]

Ai Yori Aoshi: honorifics and sex appeal


I finally got around to watching the last volume of the first Ai Yori Aoshi series, which is a mostly-successful romantic comedy in the harem genre. The art and animation are quite good, the music works, the voice acting is excellent, the antics are generally amusing, and while the characters are built on common genre stereotypes, most of them manage to grow into interesting people over time. The reason it’s only mostly-successful is that the core romance moves forward at a glacial pace, but this is largely an artifact of their attempt to remain mostly consistent with the original manga.

The only real twist in this “nice guy ends up living in a house full of beautiful women who want him” story is that the childhood-friend/first-love character bags him before any of the others ever have a chance, but must keep this a secret to avoid a family scandal. This leaves the rest with the impression that his heart is up for grabs, and, as they say, “wackiness ensues”.

The female cast provides plenty of variety for a “who would you pick” poll, but the series is so popular (as both manga and anime) that I feel no need to create another one. Instead, I’ll give my own impressions of the cast, and focus on something that I found flawed in the setup of the story, namely the way the “big secret” is constantly compromised by the way certain characters address each other.

(spoilers of various degrees follow; now updated with links to larger screenshots)

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