Maburaho, Daphne in the Brilliant Blue, and Haibane Renmei. What do they have in common, apart from seiyuu Junko Noda?

Not much, really, except that I was watching them at more or less the same time. Maburaho is a pretty standard harem comedy, with lusciously drawn girls, some good voice acting, and a plot that falls apart if you so much as look at it. The director knows his fluff, though, and the show makes no pretense of being anything more.

Daphne is equal parts action, comedy, and fan-service, with a plot that could actually be pretty good if they shared it with the viewers. It has the potential to be more than fluff, but the first-time director has pretty much blown the pacing. The first two discs are spent introducing the cast, and a good chunk of the third is consumed by two lengthy, apparently-unrelated expository lumps (one of which is both dreadfully boring and immersion-breaking). Maia is an engaging heroine, and some of the other characters are nicely rounded (yeah, that way, too), but the plot crumbs are just too scattered right now.

Haibane Renmei is so good it hurts, literally, which is why it’s nice to have some fluff around when you need to recover your equilibrium. To discuss it is to spoil it. You just need to set aside an evening or four, relax, and let the story unfold.

What’s bad about them? Beware spoilers!


Tentatively, Haibane Renmei

I’ll be watching it through again once I’ve recovered from the first time, but meanwhile I can’t help thinking about it. Much of my speculation is sure to change as I watch again and argue with others (coughcough), but this is where I’m going with it now.

Beware! Spoilers abound.


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:

(roughly, "This animal, it's a thing-that-climbs in trees as well.")

(roughly, "WhereWhich is the often-flying-animal?")

You won’t find 登ること as a single word in a dictionary, but if I were romanizing it, I would write “noboru-koto” instead of “noboru koto”. If I were referring to a group of cats (登ること), 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?

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