Some Random Thoughts

(edited for spelling and clarity)

Lately, its not been that I have had nothing to say, I simply haven’t had the motivation to say it. Wait, I said that already. Ok, fine, so here we go on another stream-of-alleged-consciousness post about anime.

Jason, proving it’s not to late to do a 2009 anime post, picked Bakemonogatari as the #1 series of the year. Damn straight; it wasn’t even close. The unique art, the stories, Shaft finally reining itself in (mostly), and most of all, the characters and dialogue made this one of the best shows I’ve seen in a while. Senjougahara might be the most terrifying girlfriend in existence, but she will also be the most loyal and fierce one. While she is the most unique of the girls that dominate the show, she’s definitely not alone in her quirks.

If you haven’t watched this show, you have really missed something. Word of advice: Don’t be put off by Shaft’s tendency to throw hyperfast text at you; go to the effort of stopping the frames and backing up to read it. There are many, many clues to the most important, but hidden, fact in the entire show. I missed it completely until I read a partial translation, and then I went “D’oh! How obvious!” You probably shouldn’t read this, you know. Fine, be that way. Ararararararaggi (oops, I misspoke) is not just a slacker, not just alienated by the tension between him, his parents, and his sisters… he’s actively suicidal. It’s not just his compassion that drives him (though he has some); it’s that helping the girls brings some manner of meaning to his (as he sees it — wrongly) godawful life. Part of the reason he throws himself into at least two situations is that he’s hoping to die. And he very nearly succeeds both times. Once was before the opening of the series, when he voluntarily decided to become vampire food. That’s not evident from the show (got it from the translation), but he planned to die in order to save the blond vampire. And the other time…is chillingly, violently graphic even in distorted colors. Still, even if you’re slow like me, this show is a tour-de-force. It does not follow any expected path, and the author has a spectacular touch with dialog.

Oh, and if anyone knows where to find a decent fansub of episode #14, tell me. I got [pen]’s but the sound de-synchs almost immediately, and is several seconds off through most of the show.

Second place, if I give it to 2009, when it started, would be A Certain Scientific Railgun. It wasn’t original enough to beat out Bakemonogatari, and it didn’t have the snappy dialog. Worse, it had a pronounced slump from ep. 15 through 20. What it did have was a great central quartet of girls, and when it slumped, it was because the attention was elsewhere or the arc’s development wasn’t obvious. Still, even when it didn’t seem to be going anywhere early on, it was actually laying some necessary ground work. I do so want to see the Sisters arc made into a movie.

Moving to 2010, in fact, this month, I grabbed Mazui’s fansub of the Haruhi Suzumiya movie. That was the most godawful camrip I’ve ever seen. People pay for this crap in parking lots all over the U.S. I’m told, but damn if I would. Even free… well if it hadn’t been The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, and have some positive buzz, I’d not have touched it. Now having outed myself as a total anime whore, I have to agree: it was good. It wasn’t good enough to make up for 15,532 repetitions of the same two weeks as told in eight episodes, but it was very good. Kyoto isn’t quite back to their A-game as we saw in Kanon and Clannad, but it was still above average, artwise. They had to spend a little too long on the prologue, given that not everyone might have seen the series, but the climax and ending were bang on. I mean, I knew when, where, and from whom the knife was going to come, and it was still a shock.

The only thing I think they changed was when and where Kyon told off the Data Entity that made Yuki Nagato; it was moved to a building rooftop so they could do the whole sad girl in snow bit. It worked, and was a good move, because the underpinning to the story, which Kyoto played up, was that Kyon wasn’t just choosing between realities… he was choosing between girls. Though, it did continue a trend that I didn’t like in the later stories, in which Yuki increasingly becomes an object of pity. Or at least, a pitiable object.

They kept the series OP and BGM, but the ED was a new totally solo a capella song, and I didn’t really like it. The melody didn’t carry at all; it felt like “Sing a line. (pause) Sing another line. (pause) Then sing the next line. (pause)…” You get the picture.

Recapping the prior season, I’ve watched very little anime. Probably half of Seikon no Qwasar, despite despite my bagging on it. Contrary to the PV, it’s more sex than weird violence. (But still not enough of the former and too much of the latter.) Let me put it this way… I’ve watched the episodes that I have seen in almost random order. Who cares about the story anyway? If you’re watching it, you’re watching for the near-porn (or sometimes, drop the “near”), not the story. Breast milk vampires who suck titty to power up their control over…elements? Iron, Copper, Sodium…and Roentgen? Episodes 4 and 10. Girls with ridiculous boobs (we’re talking 0.95+ Rushunas here). Doms and subs. Girls in bondage being tickled. Nuns being raped and snuffed. (Yes, ewww.) Girls who start off flat-chested and become busty (it’s not the art…it actually happens in the show.) Let’s face it, the show alternates between “Schwing!” and “Ewwwwww! Gimmie the brain bleach!!”

The other vampires, the dancing ones (Vampire Bund), lost my interest. Nice first episode, and a delicious payoff, knowing that all the posturing in the bad game show was going to be for nothing because hey, vampires are real. Maybe if they’d emphasized the vampire maids more early on… Or if these vampires powered up off of soma instead of blood too? Dunno.

Baka to Test.… good OP, cute concept, eventually got tired of it. Not quite “just another harem comedy” thanks to the ridiculous secondary pairing (I swear, class A’s prez stole the show every time she appeared).

Oomomori Himari was the only show from the last season that I watched all the way to the end. They had to tweak the plot somewhat to fit it into 11 episodes and then do a special, which unfortunately didn’t allow for the villains to develop properly, and ruined the final fight. They also toned down the male lead’s bursts of common sense and played up his naive “can’t we all just get along?” side. That ruined one of the major attractions of the manga for me.

I need to check the seiyuu list on ANN because the male demon reminded me strongly of Friagne from Shana. A little too talky, but I got the same “I am utterly but quietly, homicidally insane” vibe. (Well, I looked…nope). Himari’s seiyuu, on the other hand, has a long resume of 2nd tier roles, and a couple more notable: one as a fierce rebel half-Eleven known as Kallen “Bunny Girl” Stadtfeld, and another as Takuto, in Macademy Washoi. In this role, she gets to play the sexy temptress to the hilt. Sadly, my cat still remains a cat.

As for this season, Angel Beats has a terrific OP, but I’m not sure where this weird mix of comedy, pathos, and shoot’em up violence is going. You know there’s going to be a mind screw somewhere in it. I am enjoying Lesser Haruhi, though it’s going to be difficult for this character to escape her “older sister’s” shadow…

Then there’s Arakawa Under the Bridge. It’s funny, its delightful, it approaches Bakamonogatari in dialog (bear in mind that’s like saying Triple-A baseball approaches Major League baseball…), but in the end, I can’t get past the total contrivance by which an insanely rich heir ends up living under a bridge. Hell, I can’t get past the question of what he was doing walking across it in the first place. If he’s really the heir to the largest of Japanese corporations, even with his weird dad’s philosophy, he wouldn’t have been there. Make that “especially.” I also have a problem with comedy built around batshit crazy people. I’m all “get back on your medication or get away from me, dude!”

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