Tag: anime

Poems in Motion: Your Name and 5 Centimetres per Second

Those who care about spoilers should note that I’ll be discussing the endings and several plot points of both Your Name and 5 Centimetres per Second. I generally don’t care about spoilers, but will say that Your Name is more enjoyable if you don’t know whether it has a happy ending or not (and remember, Shinkai Makoto isn’t afraid of downers) or the twist partway through. If you just want a recommendation, both are worth watching, 5cm especially.

There’s been a ton of hype over Shinkai Makoto’s most recent film, Your Name, ever since its release last year. I saw it a few days ago, and though I don’t think it lives up to the hype I enjoyed it well enough and would even say it’s Shinkai’s best movie since 5 Centimetres per Second. Thinking about the movie, though, I couldn’t help comparing it to 5cm. On the surface, they don’t seem very comparable; 5cm is a very grounded movie, and rather minimalist in its plot and characterisation, whereas Your Name falls firmly into the speculative fiction genre, and though the plot isn’t complex compared to many SF stories, 5cm could be adequately summarised in a few sentences whereas this needs quite a bit more space to explain.…

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Watamote v. 5-7 (75 Books XVI-XVIII)

Though I’ve been reading Watamote for a few years now, first via scanlations, then by importing the Japanese graphic novels, I’ve yet to write about it directly. I did talk about the anime adaptation shortly after it aired about a year and a half ago, and my thoughts on that still reflect my opinion of the first few volumes of the source material. As much as I love the early part of the comics, it is a formula that runs a high risk of growing stale – Tomoko comes up with a scheme to get popular quickly, or to impress someone else, this plan blows up in humiliating fashion, Tomoko learns little or nothing, repeat. Luckily, author Tanigawa Nico (actually a two-person writer/artist team) inserts some variety by giving Tomoko other people to interact with, early on her brother Tomoki, her cousin Kii, and middle-school friend Yuu. These volumes add another interesting dynamic by introducing Komiyama, a mutual friend of Yuu, and who has a crush on Tomoki. While we still see Tomoko making a fool of herself on her own like the early chapters, the most interesting parts tend to be those involving the trio of Tomoko, Yuu, and Komiyama. The added interactions also make Tomoko more easily relatable for those who, while uncomfortable in social situations, aren’t quite helpless as she appeared to be early on.

Now, I imported the Japanese editions so, while I think my reading skills are improving over time, getting through was still a bit of a slog. I have noticed that now, when I pick up the official English edition, it sounds a bit off to me. It’s a similar feeling to watching a foreign film subtitled, and then rewatching it later with an English dub; whether the translation is faithful or not (and doubtless the translator in this case is far, far more fluent than I am), the new voices are distracting and bothersome.

On a final note, the seventh volume also came with a DVD with one anime episode on it. My spoken Japanese is noticeably worse than my reading skills so I was mostly lost in about half a minute. Making things even more difficult for me, this seems to be an original story rather than an adaptation of a chapter of the comic, though I think I did manage to follow the gist of the story. The story’s okay, I suppose, but there wasn’t as much Tomoko as I expected, and frankly I’d have preferred an adaptation over this new material. The animation is decent, about on par with the TV anime.

I’m still continuing with Henry Kissinger’s Diplomacy, which is taking a while partly because it’s over 800 pages long and partly because of visiting relatives. In any case, I’ll also concurrently be reading my Japanese editions of Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, starting with volume fifteen.…

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A Decade’s Worth of Serial Experiments

I did make sure to put on my bear cap before writing.
This post was written with my bear cap on.

I got my first job in late October 2004; it was only as a temporary hire for a one-week special event, but for me that first pay cheque was an absolute fortune. I don’t remember what all I got with it, but do remember the one thing that mattered – a copy of serial experiments lain, which I count as my first anime.

Perhaps it technically wasn’t my first; like most everyone my age I’d been a huge Pokémon fan. I’m afraid to even guess how many hours I spent with the games, and of course I got into the TV show as well. I wouldn’t count it as a “first” anime, though, because even though I was aware that it was Japanese, I didn’t attach any significance to that fact.

Similar for Spirited Away, which I saw in theatre. Thanks to the DVD special features I even learned who Miyazaki Hayao is, and though I had a mild interest in seeing more of his work, and perhaps anime in general, I didn’t pursue that until a couple years later, in Spring 2004, when I stumbled into the manga aisle of a bookstore. That interest in Japanese comics prompted a greater interest in its animated cousin. I’m not sure how I first heard about lain specifically; probably through the forums for the webcomic Megatokyo. I didn’t know much about it going in, either, except that it was vaguely cyberpunk-ish, but then as now I don’t require much more than a few interesting screencaps and a strong recommendation to pique my interest.…

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Me and that New Genesis Gospel

ryouga_(fm59)Seeing Evangelion 3.0 made me want to revisit the original Evangelion TV series. I haven’t watched it in full since I introduced it to my sister back in early 2010, so I was about due for a re-watch, and just finished it earlier today, so I figured I’d share a few thoughts on the show.

This viewing marks the first time I’ve seen it since becoming an Eva fan after seeing 2.0 in theatre a few years ago, and is the third time I’ve seen it all the way through. I first attempted to watch the series back in high school, in 2005 or so. I say “attempted” because Blockbuster only had the first two volumes and I couldn’t afford to buy the whole thing myself (such is the life of a high schooler), so for a while I knew the story more from Sadamoto Yoshiyuki’s comic version. Even now, it takes some effort for me to remember what happens in the comic versus the anime.…

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Evangelion 3.0 – Initial Impressions

I went to see Evangelion 3.0 at the Plano Angelika theatre yesterday, and though it was less fun than it could’ve been since the person I’d planned to see it with had to be out-of-state, I still enjoyed the experience and thought I’d share a few brief thoughts about it.

The highlights: driving down Dallas North Tollway with hardly any traffic was pretty fun; the one cosplayer did a fine job as Gendo; the Angelika is probably the nicest theatre I’ve been in.

You’ll notice that none of those highlights come from the actual movie. I guess I enjoyed it, but Evangelion 2.0 is a favourite film of mine so it had a lot of goodwill from me going in, and the mostly poor early reviews had my expectations a bit low. Most of my enjoyment just came from the still novel experience of seeing Eva, or really any anime, on the big screen, and the film did do a few things right. I liked the music, and the animation is still good, though they used too much CG. I hated the English dub, but that may be because I’m so used to the Japanese cast for Eva and because I’m hostile to English dubs in general. Ultimately, though, I’m afraid that Evangelion 3.0 just isn’t a very good movie.

One common reaction I’ve seen is that the plot’s too difficult to follow, and I suppose that’s true but that’s also par for the course for Evangelion. Another criticism is that action scenes aren’t as good as in the past, and that’s also true.

Evangelion‘s biggest strength in the past, the thing that made me care about the plot and action, was the characters, and Eva 3.0‘s biggest weakness is that the characters lack any depth. In most cases, there’s not much time for development – the newly introduced Wille crew isn’t much more than a collection of names and faces, for example – whereas Eva 2.0 had several scenes of relatively quiet moments that don’t advance the plot much but allow us to get to know these characters; Rei and Asuka learning to cook, for example, or Asuka and Misato’s conversation as Asuka prepares to test a new Evangelion unit. Here, most characters can be summed up in just a few words; Asuka is angry, Misato is bitter, Rei is emotionless, Gendo is cool and mysterious, Mari is Asuka but more annoying.

That’s bad enough, but the film also throws away some of 2.0‘s development. Rei is back to her old expressionless self, for example, and Shinji is back into full-on depression by the end. In both cases there is a good reason for this, but Shinji’s case is especially demoralising. I understand what director Anno Hideaki was trying to do with Shinji in the original series, but that’s part of why I appreciate the original more than I enjoy it. Seeing this character finally do something heroic at the end of 2.0, after a full two-season TV series and three feature-length movies, was one of the most moving scenes I’ve seen in a movie, and while I obviously didn’t expect Shinji to turn into John Rambo for Eva 3.0, I was hoping we could at least get to see a moderately self-confident incarnation of this character.

I suppose I have to give Anno credit for one thing: he’s not afraid not to give the fans what they want in his movies. I just wish he’d give us a break once in a while.…

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Thoughts on Watamote


I’ve been following Tanigawa Nico’s comedic manga Watamote (short for the succinct Japanese title, translated: No Matter How I Look at it It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m not Popular!) for about a year, and like it enough that I’ve imported the first three Japanese volumes and am reading them at that slow, agonising pace that characterises my attempt at that language. When the anime adaptation was announced, I had mixed feelings. On one hand, Watamote is often almost painful for me to read because of my low tolerance for second-hand embarrassment, which is a constant in this series, and animation would likely only make that worse. On the other, some things do benefit from the switch to animation, especially if the writers try to expand on the story a bit.

So, our protagonist is Kuroki Tomoko, just beginning her first year of high school and optimistic about her prospects for enjoying her school years. Unfortunately, she also has to deal with more than her fair share of social anxiety. For example, she struggles in things as simple as returning a “good-bye” to a teacher, and congratulates herself for navigating an interaction with a convenience store clerk when buying snacks. So, at first glance, she seems like a rather sympathetic character, especially for those of us who were rather shy and introverted in high school, ourselves, and she’s not totally friendless; she does occasionally meet with a middle school friend, Yuu, who went to a different high school. Watamote‘s catch, though, is that many of Tomoko’s problems are her own fault, and though I wouldn’t call her a bad person, the show is frank about her other problems – she’s judgmental, a bit lazy, jealous of others’ success, and occasionally dishonest.…

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The Aristotelian Argument for Animation

I’ve touched on why I like animation before, but I’ve been wanting to expand a little on why animation is particularly worth following, even if it’s less accomplished than other media (e.g., literature or painting). In particular, I find myself returning to near the end of the Poetics, where Aristotle considers whether tragedy is superior to epic poetry. He answers “yes,” in part because tragedy can use any of the same techniques as epic, right down to using the same poetic metre. This puts them on equal terms, but tragedy also has “a substantial role for music and spectacle, which engender the most vivid pleasure.” Aristotle stresses this vividness, and I’ll add that this vividness works to enhance whatever effect an artist wishes to impress on his audience, whether that be a feeling of horror, comedy, and so on.

This argument in favour of tragedy also applies to animation, which possesses most of the same tools available to other arts, e.g. live-action film, comics, and literature, but in addition is capable of a level of spectacle that no other form can match.…

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On the Hobby of Collecting Hobbies

One consistent problem I’ve had throughout most of my life is that my principal hobby is collecting hobbies. Almost everything is interesting to me, and my shelves are stuffed with books of literature, history, philosophy; DVDs and glorious blu-rays of film and animation; plenty of music and comics. If I had the time, I’d get into even more – theatre, fine arts, sports, cuisine, and who knows what else.

So much dabbling does have its advantages. There are few people with whom I can’t find some common interest, provided it’s not too obscure – and even then, there’s a decent chance I’ll at least be aware of what they’re talking about. Having a wide field of reference also helps when dealing with authors or directors who also have a wide field of reference, whether I’m reading through T.S. Eliot’s tangles of allusions or Tanigawa Nagaru’s off-hand references in the Haruhi novels.

It also allows me to be especially selective as far as what I read and watch. The majority of the books I read, the films I watch, the albums I listen to, and so on, are at least memorable. Of course, it’s also possible that I don’t have as much appreciation for the excellent since I don’t have as much mediocre content to compare it to, but for now I’m content with the selective approach to media.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of free time, so even though I have a working knowledge of so many topics, that knowledge tends to be fairly shallow. So, for example, I watched Puella Magi Madoka Magica as it came out, and though I enjoyed it, much of the discussion of the show centred on how it relates to other magical girl shows. I had nothing to say on that, because I can count the number of magical girl anime and comics I’ve experienced on one hand. I did catch the Faust references, though.

I’ve occasionally considered focusing my attention almost entirely to just one, maybe two fields, but have never seriously attempted this. As much as I respect those who have an encyclopedic knowledge of a particular subject, I find the world too fascinating to devote myself to just one aspect of it. So, I continue to run about in circles, in a mental equivalent of getting a free sample of every item at the supermarket without actually buying enough of any one thing to make a full meal.…

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Impressions of Interstella 5555

Me being such a fan of animation as animation, Interstella 5555 is a film I should’ve watched a long time ago. It’s compelling and there’s little else quite like it, and even the background of its production is interesting. As Daft Punk were producing their second album, Discovery, they hit on the idea of setting a story to the album’s music, and wrote up a plot outline. Being fans of Leiji Matsumoto’s anime Albator, they got in touch with him and he agreed to take on the project of creating an animated film set entirely to Discovery‘s music.


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Why I Watch Anime: An Internal Dialogue

In short, why do you watch anime?

A few reasons. One is that I enjoy the community. A few problems aside, I like exchanging thoughts with other fans on blogs, forums, and Twitter. Conventions and podcasts can be fun, too, and it also gives me something to share with my little sister.

Of course, there’s also my interest in Japanese culture generally; I’ve studied Japan’s language and history, and seek out Japanese films and literature. Primarily, though, the medium of traditional, 2D animation fascinates me, and Japan is the only nation that produces a lot of it.

What is the appeal of animation, then? If there’s a relative lack of material in that medium such that you have to go halfway around the world to find much of it, why not focus more on, say, its cousin film, which has a greater quantity and quality of work?

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